"The Not-So Permanent Hell"
By Cousin Tser  and Bonnie Rutledge

People and characters used with permission.
After "Ashes Where Once Fire" and "Revenge Is A Dish Best Served With

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Why should we strive, with cynic frown,
To knock their fairy castles down?

                                ~~ Eliza Cook

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat ran from the Nick & Natpackers' theatre as
though the hounds of hell nipped at her heels. After several blocks, she
realized that it wasn't hounds from hell nipping her heels, but her
stylish black pumps. She slowed her running down to a trot, then finally
paused to yank the offending shoes off and toss them in the trash with a
sob. The wedding ring didn't even merit the trash, she ripped it off her
hand and threw it in the gutter.

She leaned both hands against the trash receptacle, feeling the urge to
retch swell up again from the depths of her soul. She recognized that
feeling, she'd known it before. It was betrayal.

He'd done it again. Wined, dined, and charmed her until she was dizzy,
lost in those incredible eyes that had seen the rise and fall of
civilizations for two thousand years, yet still had the power to look at
her as though she was a creature more fascinating than time itself. It
was a lie, though, just as much of a lie as the full moon frozen
overhead, behind a blanket of somber clouds. If he wasn't full of deceit,
why had he said all of those things then drugged her drink, leaving her
to wake up with her world crashing about her all over again?

Nat began to pad down the lit boulevard, paying no heed as her stockinged
feet waded through puddles or stepped on trash. She was thinking back to
that first time, when she'd groggily opened her eyes with the stark
realization that her heart and mind revolved around him. Everything she
did was to see, hear, feel LaCroix, but she had just been a pawn to him,
a weapon that would get even with Nicholas. She was a pawn. She was an

 Images of a thousand worlds in
which every single one held a Natalie alone and rejected, stranded with
nothing but wistful memories and dreams, stretched before her. She felt
hot tears splash down her cheeks once more.

She still had no regrets about striking out at Natalie and Nick's
champions. Painting their theatre in frosting and candy, turning it into
a fantasy house was the most honest thing she'd seen in this world since
she'd arrived. That Tasha person might be happy, her Nick lover might
truly care for the vampire version of herself, but that wasn't for Nat.
Her love was an illusion, an obsession. Poignant and real, but never
holding any real hope of being fulfilled.

She sniffed ruefully and hugged her sides. The problem was, everything
reminded her of him. She was an addict from her toes to the roots of her
hair. Nat started slightly to realize she'd managed to grab her purse as
she flew from the theatre. She hadn't been consciously thinking about it.
 Nat snapped it open, and the familiar black and red of her Official
Nunkies Drool Cup leapt out at her. She slipped it free, fingering the

Nat was coming up on another trash can, so she made a break for freedom
and jetted the cup through the air. She'd aimed long, and the thick
plastic tumbler clattered as it hit the ground and rolled to a stop a
hair's breath from a shoe. Nat stared blankly at the black Italian
leather, knowing with that strange sixth-sense that true addicts seemed
to have to whom the shoe belonged, she gradually let her eyes drift
upward along the black suit, mentally cursing herself all the while.

But addictions are not always good for a person, not when it's all they
have that separates them from nothing, so Nat's gaze kept moving upward.
They reached his neck and jaw, and she noticed his skin appeared somewhat
ashen, and his cheeks seemed gaunt. She took a ragged breath, then a
plunge, letting her eyes meet his. Their blue was stark -- lost, lonely,
almost needy -- but always infinitely strong.

Natalie's heart melted all over again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tser's LaCroix had walked out of CERK without telling anyone again, but
this time, he made sure the Cousin at the reception desk -- Denese, he
believed her name was -- had made note of his leave.  Much as he
cherished his aloof independence, he knew he was causing the Cousins
enough pain as it was, and he realized how much Cousin Tserisa worried
about him.  He smiled at that thought.

The night was dark, the sky having mostly clouded over.  He looked up,
and his teeth clenched.  The cloaked sky, the eternal night -- it was too
close to those years beneath the veil of dust the comet left behind.  The
night was without cycle, without the feeling of reality to it, unnatural,
like after the star-sent apocalypse.

At least he had survived to see the moon again.  At his side, his hands
clenched, while his face remained a mask of indifference.  How unfair it
was to those who died as if already dead, beneath a shroud of ice and
dust and fire and death.  Janette, Natalie, the countless others whose
immortality couldn't save them.

He walked aimlessly.  In the back of his mind, it occurred to him that he
should be finding more non-native material.  To try to preserve his own
existence.  But he didn't feel much like robbing anyone any more.  It
felt beneath him.  Especially after his encounter with the Dream LaCroix.
 He was still unsettled by the encounter.  His hand went to his inside
pocket, and he pulled out the watch, gazing intently at the silent,
motionless face.

"Two days slow," he whispered, "but only the best kind of butter."

He put the watch away, and continued walking aimlessly, his mind far
away, not paying attention.  Suddenly, he heard the sharp, shuddering
clack of plastic hitting the ground.  A cup with the CERK logo had landed
at his feet, and he looked at it for a second, then his eyes moved
upwards to the feet of the person who had thrown the offending mug.
Shoe-free feet, in soggy, dirty socks.  His eyes trailed up, and he
listened to the mortals heart beat.  A familiar heart beat.  His eyes
trailed up her azure dress.  He saw her curly, light brown locks, and his
eyes moved up her neck to rest on her's at the same moment hers rested
on his.


* * * * * * * * * *

LaCroix hadn't yet seen a Natalie in his time in this reality.  He'd seen
a Nick -- a rather inebriated Nick -- and several LaCroixs, and the
Divia.  He grimaced.  But no Natalie, though he heard one was there at
CERK.  One who in her reality, was *married* to LaCroix.  He didn't think
of Natalie as a wife or a lover, but as a daughter, and, even more, as a
friend. A friend he'd known for far too short a time.

He hadn't realized how much he'd missed her, until he looked into those
eyes again, red and puffy with holding back tears.  He could almost feel
that part of him that had turned to ashes so long ago stir again.  But it
wasn't his Natalie... no matter where he went in the future, he would not
find *his* Natalie, because she had been lost long ago.  His quest had
lost meaning to him.  He couldn't use these people again.  That meant he
would have to go back, and she would be lost again, along with Nick,
Janette, his other people, the Cousins -- he was surprised how much that
part hurt.

"Is something the matter?" he asked quietly, his face calm and
emotionless.  Funny how well he had that perfectly mastered.

Natalie swallowed, helplessly lost in his eyes.  She saw something there
that she wanted to turn away from, something so tortured it hurt her,
because it was in the eyes of the object of her obsession.  But being
addicted, she couldn't, never had a chance of thinking straight.

 the logical part of her brain screamed.
The reflexive part spoke, too. 


Somehow the concern in his expression registered in her muddled thoughts.
There was almost a glaring sincerity to it. An honesty. Nat's mouth went
suddenly dry, and she squeezed her lids shut. When she opened them again,
she felt strangely calm, strangely sober.  "Everything is wrong, or
hadn't you noticed?" She thought she saw him flinch, and a pang of regret
shot through her like an electric shot. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to
sound so cold."

"Cold?" LaCroix's lips twisted bitterly. "That wasn't my impression. I
was merely considering how *perfectly* wrong this world is."

Nat frowned. "You like this place better than your home," she stated.

"Oh, yes. There is no fathomable comparison."

Her eyes turned bleak, and she turned her head away as more tears boiled
forth. "Then I'm sorry."

Those three words caught him. It was as though she knew what he suffered
without his saying a word. That empathy touched him and struck a spark
against the ashes of his soul that he struggled to smother. This would be
a friendship made to lose. For a man who so recently knew and accepted
that he had nothing. The temptation of companionship, of assuaging the
loneliness, was becoming too much to bear.

His Natalie had shown more joy, more brightness at the world than this
one, even after the meteor struck. Standing before him, shoulders
defeated, she reminded him of an orphan, like a child with no place to
belong. He felt an urge to reach out, to rescue a friend.

"Why would you have reason to be sorry?" he said softly.

"Because this place, this rift, is a hell." She shook her head
frantically.  "Don't you see? It's a hell of hope. Thousands upon
thousands of alternate realities scrounge around this city. You find
yourself clinging to them, searching for some kind of dream, some kind of
fantasy or desire in their faces. You fool yourself into thinking that
you can take advantage of this world, making everything that you want
immaculately real, but it's not.  Everything is an illusion, a momentary
toy that will -- poof! -- in an instant pop back into its box."

"Where it belongs, you mean," LaCroix murmured distantly. "Yes, I've
heard that before."

"Then you understand how interacting with this world can only lead to
despair when it's gone. It's not permanent.  Pretending that it is,
indulging yourself, it only makes you a fool."

LaCroix paused for a moment, then placed a comforting hand on her arm.
Her head jerked sharply to stare at his fingers, and she slowly looked at
him with a shadowed wariness.  "I see that something has already happened
to you that made you feel foolish. You have my sympathy."

"And I almost believe you. Of course, I can be very gullible," she said.

He raised an eyebrow at the discovery. "So you were deceived by someone
you trusted."

Her gaze burned with fevered earnest. "By someone I believed in with all
my heart."

LaCroix found the emotion emanating from her eyes disturbing, yet it
somehow compelled his interest. "And?" he coaxed.

"It was a lie to lull me into a false sense of security, and then, when I
next opened my eyes, everything was a nightmare. But, you know, " Nat
confided, "the worst part was when he saw how miserable I was, he smiled,
and all I could think of as I ran away was how much I adored him. I
wanted another smile, even if it hurt."

"This man," he asked in curiosity, "tell me, is he someone I know?"  She
looked torn for several moments, then opened her mouth hesitantly to
speak, but LaCroix cut her off abruptly.  "Suddenly I feel as though I'm
better off not knowing the answer. I gather you wish to return home like
all the others."

Nat shrugged. "It really doesn't matter. I don't believe my home and this
place differ in any way I'd consider important. I'm still alone."

"I assure you, my dear," LaCroix said harshly. "You haven't the faintest
idea what it means to be alone."

"And you do."

He gave a stiff nod, eyes slightly narrowed.

"You would keep the rift open so you can have company?" she asked

"My reasons are not trivial," he bit out angrily.

Nat drew herself up, feeling suddenly ashamed. She knew that. She'd seen
his reasons already, shuttered in joyless eyes. "I apologize. I spoke
without thinking. I wouldn't want to be mocked either. So, do you have a
plan to preserve this forever night?"

He looked at her for a moment, his tendencies to be vague and secretive
warring with his need for trust and companionship.  Finally, he decided
it didn't matter.  Either the plan would work, and all would know about
it, or it wouldn't, and after a while that wouldn't matter, either.  "I
have collected a few items not native to this universe, hoping to prevent
their return to their proper worlds."

"You think that will keep the rift open?"

"I'm desperate enough," LaCroix seemed to have trouble sharing these
words, "that I have to try."

Nat nodded, then bent down to swipe her drool cup from where it still lay
by his shoe. "Then take this. I brought it from my universe. You can add
it to your assortment."

A whisper of a smile graced his lips. "Trust me. It is."

Nat gave a full, but rueful, smile in return. "Silly me. I can't imagine
not trusting you."

His long fingers wrapped around hers as she handed the cup over, and Nat
released a labored sigh. "Are you certain that you want to give this up?"
LaCroix asked insistently.

"Why do you think I threw it on the ground in the first place? I was
aiming for the trash. I promise," she assured him, letting go of the cup.
"Besides, it's just plastic. I'm flesh and blood. One makes no difference
to the other."

"Are you so sure? There could be something in this world for you yet. I
know you must have friends, followers even."

"Please don't. I don't think I could handle you sounding remotely
optimistic," Nat said as she moved a step away. "I do understand
loneliness, you know."


She backed away further, saying, "You see, a person with no future is
always alone." Nat took two more steps back, then turned and ran into the

LaCroix watched grimly as she slipped away. It was a harsh blow to have
one of his children, or even an alternate representation of one of his
children, share those words. He cursed the day he learned them for
himself -- the first day with no Nicholas and no Janette. The first day
with no Natalie.

Sliding the cup inside his pocket, LaCroix began to move in the opposite
direction of the recently departed Natalie. He tried to tell himself that
it wasn't to stay the temptation of following and keeping her secure. He
knew that was a lie.

* * * * * * * *

continued in part two


"The Not-So Permanent Hell"
By Cousin Tser  and Bonnie Rutledge

Permission acquired for people and characters used.

continued from part one
* * * * * * * *

Jan and Heather heard a banging on the warehouse door and went to
investigate.  They heard Natalie's voice faintly call to them through the
reinforced panel.

"Guys? Let me in! I don't have my Drool Cup!"

Heather turned to Jan with a doubtful frown. "Didn't she have it with her
when she left?"

Jan, who'd helped N-S-V-V Nat get ready to go out with the LaCroix the
Nick&Natpackers had brought over, nodded. "I saw her slip it into her


They'd gotten a call a few minutes earlier from Heather Markle, saying
Nat was on her way home, and that she'd had a bad shock. They'd been 
waiting here at this door for her to return, but now caution held them 
back. This might be a trick.

"How do we know you're our Nat? Most of you sound the same, you know, and
we're not supposed to let non-members into the Shrine."

"Saying so doesn't enforce the rule -- *doing* it enforces the rule," the
dampered voice said on the other side of the steel entrance.

"Well, that sounds like something she might say," Jan offered.

"What we need is something only Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Natalie would know
about," Heather insisted. She thought for a moment, and, with brightened
eyes, she called across the door once more. "Hey, Nat? We just want to
make sure it's you. Can you complete this sentence in an NA manner for
us? 'I'm not crying...' "

There was a pause, then Nat replied faintly, "My eyes are just drooling."

"It's her!" Jan cheered as she pulled open the door.

Both her and Heather's faces fell when they got a look of the
Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat. Her face was drawn, she was bedraggled with a
wrinkled dress and torn, stained hose, and she had tearstained cheeks.

"Nat! What happened?" Heather exclaimed as she rushed to give the woman a

Jan joined the huddle. "Are you alright? Can we help?"

Nat clung to them for several seconds, then pushed them away with a tight
smile. "I'll survive," she promised.  Shutting the door behind her, she 
announced, "Before I say anything, how about we find the others? I don't 
want to have to repeat this more than once."

Both of the other addicts assured her that they understood, then followed
as Nat trudged into the Shrine. Shele, Sharon, Kim and Susan were playing 
five-card stud for confections.  Kim had an enormous pile in front of her, 
where the other three had tiny mounds.  "I'll see you one Chocolate 
Nunkies," Shele was saying, "and two marzipan busts of the Gen'ral."

"I'm out!" Sharon replied, throwing her cards down in discuss. "All I
have left are two rock candy rings and a toffee sword pin."

Susan folded, too. "You think that's bad? Count it -- one licorice
Armani. Period."

"Heh, heh... I'll take that bet, and I call," Kim said greedily.

"Another full house?!?" Shele yelped in disgust as she saw her
three-of-a-kind bite the dust.  "Impossible!"

Kim hugged her pile of Nunkies candy to her chest and murmured,
"Possible. Oh, so very possible."

Nat smiled faintly at their antics before Susan caught sight of her and
leapt off her lounger.  "You're back! We were so worried when we got the
N&N Pack's call!"

Nat raised an eyebrow. "They called, did they?  How considerate."  She
did not sound sincere.

"They said you'd had a huge shock -- what happened?" Sharon asked in a
concerned voice.

"It was a trap," Nat confessed, "and if we weren't all such a bunch of
addicts, it would have been obvious. The dinner was just an excuse to
drug me again." The other addicts let out of a string of curses. "When I
woke up, they had me in bed with a *Nick* reading poetry. He said that we
eloped during the night, and LaCroix was there too, to congratulate me.
Needless to say, I didn't react well."

"Oh, Nat! That must have been horrible for you!" Jan wailed. "I know it
would have been horrible for me. Blech!"

Kim spoke over a mouthful of chocolate. "I think I could've handled it."

"Yeah, Kim," Heather teased. "You would've handled *him* until he ran
screaming from the room!"

"Can I help it if I'm a vampire slut?"

Despite herself, Nat started to laugh. "Kim, you are shameless."

"I know," Kim said saucily, "I'm a lawyer."

Nat swiped at her eyes with the back of a hand as she chuckled. Shele
noticed and said, "Are you having a bout of 'eye drool'?"

"Nope," Nat replied. "Wet laugh. I'm going to go take a shower -- there
wouldn't be a fuzzy, pink chenille robe in the Wardrobe room, would

"Don't think so," Heather said. "There's a couple silk ones, though.
Somebody went charge happy with the new VS catalog."

"Hey, guys!" Sharon mentioned a few minutes after Nat headed for the
Sacred Cold Shower. "She didn't say how she lost the Drool Cup!"

"Or her shoes," Jan said.

When Nat returned some minutes later in a pale pink, polka-dot robe,
rubbing her hair dry with a towel, they asked.

"Uhm... I threw the shoes away. They were blistering my feet, see?" Nat
wriggled her toes.

"But they weren't your shoes! They were Annie's! Aaaahhh!" Susan howled.
"And I told you to use them -- she's going to kill me! I'll be banned from 
the Video Room for a month!"

Nat grimaced. "I feel bad about that. I tossed them just before I came to
the stark realization that nothing here *is* mine. Then I sort of... met 

"Is that when you lost your Drool Cup?" Sharon asked.

"Well, I didn't lose it as much as I gave it away."

"You what?!?" The addicts' startled voices raised in unison.

"But it's a door key!" Kim protested. "Was it a new recruit?"

Nat appeared mischievous. "Not exactly... It was a Lacroix."

"Not the one from the N&N Pack, I hope?" Susan said.

Nat shook her head.

"That certainly explains why you gave it up," Shele said. "But why did he
want it?"

Heather and Kim began to dribble. Their fervent hope was that Nat would
declare he intended to sneak in here and ravish them all.

"It was something to do with the rift," Nat said vaguely. "He needed
objects that weren't native to this universe."

All of the addicts except Sharon shrugged at that explanation. They
weren't physicists or experts on temporal/spatial disturbances like Tser. 
They didn't intend to struggle to understand when they could be playing 

Sharon scooped Sidney the Cat into her arms while swiping the portable
cell phone. Slipping into the Laboratory/Kitchen, she set Sidney atop the
island counter and said, "Well, what do you make of that?"

Sidney licked a few stray hairs into place. "Gwendolyn suggested he may
strike again," he mentioned idly.

Sharon Lee turned towards the door.  "I'm giving Cousin Tser a call."

She shifted through her purse, trying to find the small slip of paper,
until she found the one with Tser's cell phone number.  She dialed the
numbers and waited tensely.  The phone rang several times before it was

"Tserisa," came a distracted voice.

"Um, hi, this is Sharon Lee," she said softly.  "I needed to talk to you
about your LaCroix, at least, I think so."

"Oh, hello," Tser said.  Suddenly, her voice was loud but muffled, as if
she covered the receiver with her hand.  "HEY!!!  Moses, I said *stay*
*off* *the* *bed*!!  Don't you glare at me.  I ought'a get a LaCroix over
here to whammy you into behaving!"  Her voice returned to normal.  "Sorry
about that, iguana problems.  My LaCroix you said?"

Sharon Lee paused.  "Um, yeah, I think.  He... well, an alternative
Natalie said she ran into a LaCroix on the street.  It might be a lead."

"Oh, no, I forgot, I meant to give you a call," Tser said sincerely.  "He
came back.  I asked him about the collar, and he said --" Tser swallowed
audibly, "that I was mistaken.  I still don't know if he has it.  Not
like I was about to give him a strip search...."  Suddenly, a detectable
NA sigh came over the phone.

"This just happened.  So he's back at CERK, and it must have been another

"Actually, he left...." Tser said.  "It could be him," she finished

"Come down to the NA HQ," Sharon said.  "Maybe you could talk to her."

"Be right there -- HEY, I SAID NO! -- right there, 'kay?"

* * * * * * * *

Tser grabbed her Drool Cup and scooped up Gwen.  "Cousine Moses," she
promised the glaring she-iguana, "this war has not and will not end
today!" and rushed from the room.

"Hey, where're you heading?" Denese called as Tser sped through the

Tser shrugged.  "Need a walk," she said vaguely, flashing her Drool Cup
to the fellow NA member as she disappeared into the night.  Denese smiled
and nodded knowingly, turning to the phone, which was ringing once again.

"Hello? ... Sorry ma'am, but goats are out of our jurisdiction. ... uh,
no, I don't know a good goat repellant....  No, I don't think garlic
works against *goats*...."

Tser walked quickly down the street, carrying a protesting Cousin Gwen
and her Drool Cup.  She activated her Drool Cup Open-Sesame function and
slipped into the building.

"Tser," Sharon Lee said softly, and motioned her into the Shrine.  Tser
let Gwen down onto the ground and glanced around at her fellow addicts.
Suddenly, her eyes fell on one of the tapestries of Lucius languishing in
his toga and her eyes started to glaze over.  At her feet, Gwen, who had
not been able to grab her own Cup, was forming quite a dainty cat-drool

"Hello, Tser," Kim said cheerfully, still hugging a large pile of
goodies.  "Hello?  Wow, she's been without the Shrine far too long."

"Think I should get the V-8?" Susan asked, tempted to poke Tser in the
shoulder and see if she fell over.

"Nah, don't think she's under *that* deep," Nat said.  "I think a good
slap will bring her out.  The cat, on the other hand...."

Sharon shook her shoulder.  "Tser, hey, Cousin...."  Tser shook her head
to clear it, sighing happily.

"Whoa, I needed that," she said.  "I can't drool over my *own* alternate
LaCroix... it wouldn't be proper."

Kim's mouth hung open.  "Your *own* LaCroix?" she asked jealously, a bead
of saliva forming at the corner of her mouth.  "How'd you get one of your
own?  Where'd you find him?  What's he look like?" she asked eagerly.

Tser looked down at Cousin Gwen and nudged her with her foot... no luck,
too far gone.  She slipped her own drool cup underneath her muzzle and
left her that way.  "Actually," she said softly, "I didn't find him.  He
found me.  I was supposed to be his lunch, but Patt knocked him out."

"PATT WHAT?" six voices yelled in unison.  Just then, Tser saw Natalie
and her jaw dropped open.

"Hi, I'm Natalie," she said, smiling, offering her hand.  Tser took it

"Uh, Tser," she said.

"I know," Natalie said.  "There's one of you in my reality too."

"Lunch for Nunkies," Shele sighed dreamily.

Tser looked at her blankly.  "Its not all Jeweled Peaches and devonshire
cream," she said, "though it hasn't cured my Nunkies-ism.  I should tell
you, this LaCroix -- he's not dangerous, but I wouldn't suggest you meet
him.  Your heart might not make it."

Susan and Kim looked at her silently.  Sharon fidgeted slightly.
"Natalie said she met a LaCroix, and it sounds like the one who took
Sidney's collar," she said.

Tser turned to Natalie.  "He took something of yours?" she asked softly.

Natalie looked at the exhausted looking Cousin for a moment and shook her
head.  "No, I gave my Drool Cup to him," she answered.  "Was it your

Tser looked at her dumbly for a minute.  "His eyes," she said simply,
voice choked.  "You'd know.  He's been through... a lot," she said with
meaning, knowing if it was *her* LaCroix this Nunkies Addicted Natalie
had encountered, she'd know what Tser meant.

Natalie nodded.  "It was him," she answered.

"He also has Sidney's collar, I think," Tser said.  "Who knows what else
he's gotten without anyone knowing or realizing it was him?  I don't
blame him though.  He doesn't want to go back and I don't want to let
him."  Tser turned at sat on one crimson upholstered bench.

"Back *where*?" Shele asked.

"To hell," Tser answered bitterly.  The word had become all too common in
her vocabulary.  Suddenly, she couldn't contain it anymore, and all the
tears she'd held back poured down her face, and she was wracked with

"Eye drool," Jan said softly.  The six other addicts looked at one
another, then immediately rushed to comfort their sister in distress.
Nat sat starkly to one side, leaning against one of the loungers.

Tser's tears passed quickly.  She was too tired to cry.  But then she
noticed Gwen -- her Drool Cup was beginning to overflow.  "Better bring
her out of it," she suggested, and Kim went to get the improvised
Super-Duper Kitty Anti-Nunklear Meltdown device... Sidney the dog.

The sheepdog bounded in and, sensing kitty, bounced over to the small
tortishell.  He nosed her eagerly in the side.  Unblanced, she slid
forward on her own over-flowing drool and went sliding.  She uttered a
very human-like screech that sounded like "Yipes!"

The other addicts looked startled at the human-sounding verbalization,
except for Sharon, who tried very hard to look like she hadn't heard it.
In fact, Gwen seemed to be muttering under her breath,
"darnmutt,worsethanmedlingtwo-legs...." which *all* the addicts tried to
not hear.

Tser took in a deep shuddering breath as Gwen stormed into the lab.  The
other addicts looked at her expectantly.

"I suppose you're wondering what I mean," Tser said softly.

The other addicts nodded.

"Well, you know the comet which was supposed to smash into the world in
'A More Permanent Hell'?"

The other addicts nodded, this being one of their favorite episodes.
However, they all had apprehensive looks on their faces.

"In my LaCroix's reality, the comet did hit," Tser whispered.  She
watched as shock registered slowly on her friends' faces.

"Oh my," Susan said softly.

Nat stood up, swallowing hard.

"There's no one, in his reality.  It's been over a half century since the
comet hit, and no one survived.  He was barely living for who knows how
long," Tser said.  She looked at the stricken looks on her friends'
faces.  "Oh, God, I'm sorry," she said.  "I didn't mean to darken your
lives with this."

"No," Kim said.  "You needed to tell someone, and we Nunkies Addicts are
always here for one another," she said, giving Tser a hug.  Nat slipped
unnoticed from the room.

"Thanks," Tser said.  "I probably should be getting back to CERK.  I have
a lizard problem," she explained, "and I wanted to look some stuff
over....  Where's Gwen?"

"I think she went in there," Sharon said, pointing to the Lab.

"Do you guys mind if she stays here?" Tser asked.  "I don't want to
trouble you, but I have my hands full at CERK.  There's a lot going on,
not just my LaCroix."

"Sure," Jan said.  "You get some sleep, okay?  Dream of Nunkies!"

Tser smiled widely.  "That'd be a nice change of pace from the dreams
I've been having lately.  See you all!!"  She retrieved her Drool Cup
(rinsing it quickly in the Lab's sink before going, and waving bye to
Gwen, who was sitting on the counter, looking for all the world as if she
was having a conversation with Sidney the cat) as they said their
Nunkies-addicted goodbyes, and headed into the night.  Perhaps she'd stop
by someplace to eat (CERK wasn't a really good place to get proper food).

* * * * * * * * * *



"A Discussion Over a Plate of Gyros"
By Cousin Tser  and Kristine (Die-Hard Co-Leader)

Permission for all the included gotten.  Thank you!
Takes place after "Three Women (and a Fishbowl)" and right after "The
Not-So Permanent Hell"

* * * * * * * * *

Cousin Tser decided to head over to the Happy Souvlaki.  It *felt* like
it had been a long non-time since she had eaten, but all-in-all she just
had to guess.

She entered the restaurant and headed for a table in the back. Polka
music was playing cheerfully on the Juke, and Spifff was keeping busy
filling orders.  Her eyes took in the room... mostly FoDs, of course...
but her eye caught something.  At one table, where no one was sitting,
was a rather large plate of heaping souvlaki.  Next to the plate was a
rather defeated looking, kinda squooshed, banana yellow, but still very
much a rubber duckie.  She did a double take.  The fairly flat plastic
duck looked like it was about to chow down on the souvlaki.  Cousin Tser
shook her head in confusion and continued towards the back of the Deli.

She noticed a woman alone at a back table, eating a gyro very, very, very
slowly.  Tser thought she recognized the woman... ah ha, Kristine, the
Die-Hard Co-Leader.  She walked up to the table of the Neutral Leader and

"Hey, I'm Cousin Tser.  Mind if I sit?" she asked.

Kristine swallowed a bite of the gyro she had been nursing.  "Sure," she
said, "go ahead.  Have a seat and make yourself comfortable.  Want some?"
she asked, holding out the limp sandwich.

Tser looked at the proffered victual and replied, "No, I'm going to get
some of my own in a minute.  Thanks anyway.

"I just wanted to say how much I loved you guy's museum.  Especially the
Lucius exhibit," Tser said, sighing, as she remembered the knees on the
toga-clad statue.

Kristine sighed sadly, tired exasperation creeping into her voice.
"Thank you, I'm glad you liked it.  We established it in the last War.
But no one's safe," she said, her voice quavery.  "Not even in the
museum," she moaned.  She set her gyro down and cradled her head in her

Cousin Tser didn't know what to do for a minute.  "What happened in the
museum?" she asked, not mentioning that Kristine had just gotten some
gyro dressing in her hair.

"One of my Fish was desecrated," she said, still upset over the disaster.

"Fish?  In the museum?  I don't remember any fish there when I went,"
Tser said confusedly.

"It was my alternate VachonFishes.  They came through the rift into my
bathtub.  And as if it wasn't bad enough the LaCroix Penguin got a
couple, someone got in during the redecoration of the Die Hard HQ," her
voice grew irritated at the mention of this event, "and someone CUT OFF
ITS VACHON-HAIR!" she wailed.  Tser was afraid she was going to get up
and jump up and down.

"Well, I can imagine haircut pranks against Vaqueras," she said, "but you
guys are neutral!  That's terrible."

"You're telling me," Kristine said, her voice more normal now that she
had someone understanding to discuss the event with.  "The other Fish
scorned the Shorn One.  He had the most terrible looking buzz cut...."

Tser paused.  "Are you sure it wasn't a LaCroixFish if it had a buzz

"It USED to have long, wet, locks of curly brown hair," she sighed.
"Hair looks rather nice underwater, even if it does clog the filter.  And
a LaCroixFish wouldn't blink so much."

"You're right, LaCroixs generally glare and stare, rarely blinking," Tser
confirmed, nodding.  "Any ideas who did it?"

"No," Kristine said.  "Except that the perpetrator came and went
silently, unbeknown to the Die Hard in the building."

"What happened to the hair?" Tser asked, a sinking sensation in her

Kristine replied with a confused expression on her face, "I don't know.
It just wasn't there anymore."  The gyro in front of her was forgotten,
and Kristine was slowly ripping a paper napkin to shreds.  "It's just so
weird. I mean, why cut its hair off?  Why only one of them?  You have to
admit, cutting off a Fish's hair is odd, even for this War."  Her mouth
moved in a slight smile.  "Not that it really matters to me anymore, I
just gave the VachonFish to the Vaqueras.  They're better off over there,

Kristine continued, noticing the lack of surprise on Tser's face.  "I see
that you're not too surprised over the fact that the hair is gone.  How
come?" She took a big sip of her Coke.

Tser nodded.  "I have an idea, but I'm not sure.  I can't really say any
more than I think it might have something to do with the Rift."

She took a deep breath and picked up her own napkin to begin shredding.
"I'm not exactly sure what caused the Rift," , "but no
matter what caused it, the result is an instability in Space-Time -- the
anomaly which is bringing the alternate forms into this reality.  They're
all from universes that are different from this one," .

Tser placed the tattered remnants of napkin on the table.  "And all the
different people and things that come through the Rift have a different
quantum signature, unique to their own reality."

Tser paused.  "This 'trading of matter' may or may not have caused the
Rift.  All I know is, unless everything goes back... all the Vachons, all
the Screeds, all the Divias, all the Liams, all the
Nameless-Blonds-of-the-Week, all the LaCroixs...." Tser stopped, her
voice caught in her throat.  "They all have to go back for it to be
stable.  The main reason being, there can't be *two* beings of one exact
quantum signature in one reality.  That would cause the most instability
in the Space-Time Continuum, and then... well, it'd probably happen all
over again."

Kristine shuddered.

"That would be a big problem, the two identical beings.  But any amount
of foreign matter could -- irritate -- the wound in the multi-verse, in
theory.  I sort of suggested that to my LaCroix," Tser said guiltily.

She continued, "And for very good reasons, he doesn't want to go back.  I
think he may be trying to procure non-native material and keep it in this
reality, so the Rift won't close.  It's a long-shot, and I'm not sure
it'll work for him.  It's causing problems in the meantime.  If that's
what happened to your VachonFish I'm really sorry," Tser said sincerely.
"But really, I don't blame him, and I'm not confronting him about it any
more.  He really doesn't deserve the punishment of being sent back,
though I see no way around it," Tser said slowly.

"Anyway, the Rift may or may not have anything to do with these
instabilities.  The instabilities are, more likely, caused by the Rift
than causing the Rift.  But because they're there, they irritate an
already irritated anomaly.  I think most matter should be procured and
sent back, if possible.  Most alternate beings are going to want to go
back, some will just go back without doing anything.  Some... some will

Kristine sat back in the booth, totally overwhelmed.  "Wow."  As her
brain couldn't come up anything much more eloquent, she said it again.

Tser nodded.  "Yeah, it's something, isn't it?  It's the only thing that
could possibly explain this.  But how to actually *heal* it?  I don't
have the vaguest idea.  Just how to help it along and make sure it
doesn't happen again.  And causes... well, there's always the paradox
theory.  Or the overactive gland theory, take your pick."

Kristine started to dig in her purse for some money to pay for the gyros
that she was ordering to-go for the rest of the Die-Hards.

"This is amazing," Kristine said.  "Do you mind if I tell the rest of the
DH?  We've been sort of wondering, and Ron has taken off to the
University to see if he can figure it out."  She stood up, and Tser did
too.  "I've got to go, I'm sure everyone has been wondering where I am,"
she said, having nursed her gyro through several stories.  "Thanks again
for telling me, it's a really big help.  Being a scientist, I'd hate to
think that this sort of thing would happen randomly for no reason.
There's a reason for everything.  Or at least I believe it to be so."
She smiled, more easily this time.

Tser smiled sadly.  "Maybe some things don't have reason," she said
softly, thinking of her LaCroix.  There was no reason she could think of
that a comet should destroy everything he had, and so many lives.  "But,
yeah, you're right.  Everything has a causal agent.  It's hard to find,
sometimes, though.  Well, Happy Warring," she said sincerely.

"You too," Kristine said, grabbing her bag of gyros-to-go.  "Bye!"

Tser smiled and waved as the Die-Hard Leader left.  There was a pitiful
squeak as Kristine stepped on the already squooshed rubber duckie, which
had somehow gotten on the floor.

Tser turned and ordered a vegetarian gyro with tofu and extra onion.  She
munched on it thoughtfully, and walked from the Deli, oblivious to the
loud sighs from Spifff when he saw the table she and Kristine left, a
half-chewed pita sandwich, two torn up napkins, gyro sauce and a few
drops of cola littering it.


War:  I Love a Raid...I mean a Parade.  01/11
Written by Cousin Cherri with creative consultation by Senara

All the people and characters in this story was used with permission.

CERK LaCroix, Darth LaCroix, Mortal LaCroix, LK LaCroix, Dark LaCroix,
Brother LaCroix, Flaming Uncle LaCroix, Divia, Tigger Vachon, Elvis Vachon,
RollerHockey Vachon, JoePimpReese and Tracy, Psycho Vampire Slayer used by
permission of their Alternate Universe creators.  No infringement of
copyright laws of Forever Knight/the Forever Knight characters, or
Sony/TriStar is intended.

Thanks to all who beta read and appeared to these stories.
Cousins Senara, Chase, Joni, Michele, Annie, Bonnie, Patt, MaryG, McLisa,
LaurieCF, Tok, Corie, Heidi, Robi, Joni, Efery, Sun, Rust, Mariah, and Roni.

And Special thanks to my Vaqueras(os) friends for allowing us to have a
little fun.
Donas Cindy, Jean, Jill, Crystal, Teresa, Heather, Tracy Sue, Maria,
Kimber, Denise, and last but not least, Don Hunter-D.

Please Refer the following for background leading to these stories:
War5:  Onward and Upward, The Kidnapping
War7:  COWS: "Udder Revenge", COWS: "Udderly Revenge",
            WAR: The Cowleaders Cry of Surprise, WAR: VAQ: Vachon In Udders?

Cherri yawned.  Even though it was still midnight Friday, she had been in
Toronto for hours.  She knew she would need to sleep soon but she had been
doing some important planning.  What seemed like days ago, she had cornered
one of the LaCroix's at CERK HQ and found out to her dismay that the only
thing this LaCroix wanted to talk about was his NightCrawler radio show.
After several attempts to get CERK LaCroix to listen to her, she finally
shouted, "LaCroix!!!  If you don't listen to me, I'll...I'll...I'll NEVER
listen to your program again."

He stared hard at the Cousin.  "What do you mean, you'll never listen to my
show?  The information I impart is vitally important."

"LaCroix, I have been trying to tell you that I heard a rumor that the
Vaqueras want to put me back in the cow costume.  You told me...or at least
the LaCroix from my time told me that I was never to be caught again.  I
need to raid the church to steal the costume in their shrine."

"You are very resourceful, my dear.  You can find a way without my help."
His smile would have frozen ice cubes.

Cherri gulped then quickly explained.  "But LaCroix, I know how much you
enjoy setting up your stereo equipment.  How would you like to set up a
system in several rooms at the parade warehouse then drain the city power
surrounding Vachon's church to power all the equipment?  Afterwards, you
could come to the church to add your special equipment so that you could
pipe your Nightcrawler program directly into the Vaqueras Headquarters.
You can run archived shows through the system when you are not live.  If we
do it right, you could probably make a few converts into Cousindom before
they found the equipment you've installed."

LaCroix contemplated a moment.  "Your plan does have possibilities.  What
do you have in mind?"

"Could you get the necessary Toronto authorities to sign the numerous
permits required to run a parade?  The smile on her face scared one of the
Cousins who sat nearby.  **Cousin Michele**, she thought her name was.
Cherri made a mental note to recruit her into THE plan then looked at the
Cousin in question again and smiled.

Just then Senara entered the room, saw the expression on Michele's face
then went to her.  "Michele!  What IS your problem?  Don't let the General
see you like this!  Remember, you're a Cousin!!!  Face Cherri and don't let
her intimidate you."

LaCroix glanced at Senara to warn her not to interrupt but the Cousin just
glared at Cherri.  "Will you please stop the games!  We have work to do."

The former CERK mascot frowned.  "Oh...all right." She looked at the newbie
Cousin."  You know, I'm not really that bad.  So relax.  I don't bite.
Besides, I need you.  Are you ready for some action?"

Michele nodded her head enthusiastically.

"Great!" Cherri turned back to LaCroix.  "As you can see, we...meaning
Cousin Senara and I...already have several recruits."  Just then, the
Cousins plus Darth LaCroix, LK LaCroix, Divia, and JoePimpReese filed into
the room.  "We are going to have a parade, but to do that, we need the help
of CERK.  Don't you think the Vaqueras deserve to be **in** a parade?  And
after the Vaqueras start down the parade, you can fly me to the church so
that you and one of the Cousins can set up your equipment."

CERK LaCroix's pleased look spoke volumes so Cherri turned to the waiting
Cousins.  "We are here to declare war on the Vaqueras.  I know that they
want the real Vachon's guitar back but I recently heard that they want to
put me BACK in that cow costume.  This cannot be."

Cousin Annie exclaimed. "We'll protect you!"  The rest of the Cousins
chimed in to agree.

"I know, and thanks, please raise your hands, but I thought we might hedge
our bets while committing a little mayhem.

"If you are interested in only the church raid, please raise your hands."
Cousins Chase and his Darth LaCroix, Bonnie, Patt, Annie, Corie, and Heidi
and her JoePimpReese all had an excited look in their eyes as they

"I guess that means that Cousins Michele, Tok, LaurieCF, Robi, Joni, Efery,
Sun, Rust, MaryG, and Mariah want to **ah humm** PLAY with the Vaqueras
before going to help out with the church raid.

"It's the least that Cousin Tok and I can do." Cousin-leader LaurieCF spoke
up.  "And Cousine Celeste would be there as well, if she weren't otherwise
occupied.  It's a matter of policy.  Factions who go against one of our own
will not be taken lightly.  Our support of poor, abused Cousin Cherri will
be noticed by the other factions and will demonstrate what happens to those
who take the risk.  The Vaqueras are going to get exactly what they
deserve.  Cherri's plan is the perfect retaliation."

Cousin Cherri blushed.  "Thank you Laurie and Tok.  You have no idea how
much your support means to me."

She hesitated then asked Laurie.  "Could you find out what music each
Vaquera hates and match that information with Cousins who love the same
music?  I think the music will be just the right kind of motivation that we

Laurie's sly grin was unnerving even to Cherri.  "I'll see what I can do,
I'll meet you at the warehouse as soon as I've compiled it."


"Next point of business.  Does anyone know how we could get an elephant?  I
thought we could use some of the white spray paint the Cousins have
recently acquired to create one.  That should draw a crowd and call
attention to the Vaqueras in costume.  I think the paint is water soluble
so it should be fine to use on animals."

"So far, so good except...." Cherri's voice held disbelief.  "McLisa left
the CERK van at the zoo.  Cousin Mariah:  your first job is to go to the
zoo and get it.  Make sure, it has plenty of gas then bring it back as soon
as possible.  When the chocolate arrives, the plan will be set in motion
and I don't want running out of gas as an excuse for delaying the fun."

"Cousin MaryG:  I believe that you know the company which makes the big 14
oz Chocolate Cow Pies that was sold at Sam's Club(tm),  Cousin Joni:  Call
Godiva(tm) and order a solid milk chocolate life-size Vachon.  Both of you
remember to tell the chocolate companies that we will pay them a bonus for
prompt, fast delivery.  Money is no problem.  CERK LaCroix is paying for it."

CERK LaCroix started to say something then let it slide.

"Cousins Roni, Rust, and Sun:  Buy the world's supply of superglue solvent
but make sure you give two bottles of it to Cousin Senara.  She's going to
hide it during the church raid.  If the Vaqueras(os) want out of their
costumes they are going to have to work for it."

"And finally, as soon as the church raid is over, meet me on the
waterfront.  Cousin Efery has a card with the exact location.  Cousin Tok:
Can you bring matches and some fuel?  We are going to have a bonfire."

The faces of the Cousins lit up.  Cousin Heidi asked, "Can we bring some

"We can roast marshmallows only if we make a second fire.  I'm afraid that
the costume materials will release toxins but if you really want to, I have
no problem with that but you will be in charge of acquiring some of
LaCroix's specialty so everyone can party."

Cousin Heidi bounced a bit until Darth LaCroix turned to her.  She gulped
and stilled without a word from him.

"Cousins Bons, Annie, and Patt:  I need you to get a picture of Vachon's
guitar and make a life-size poster of it."

Cousin Cherri stopped.  Her eyes glazed over a bit then asked her fraction
buddies. "Also, could you get copies of the photos that the NAs use?  You
know the ones, 'NiR".  It might be fun to hang a few on the walls."  

The three of them looked at each other then broke out in huge grins.  "No
problem Cousin."  Bons practically bounced then thought better of it.

"I think we have the bases covered.  We're going to trap Dona Jean with the
Chocolate Vachon.  I'm working on a deal to assure that trap is thoroughly
sprung.  Cousins Michele, MaryG, Mariah, Robi, and Joni:  Meet me at the
CERK van in about two hours....I know...I know... The clocks have stopped.
Use your best guestimate.  I think that is about it.  Cousin Senara wants
me to announce that her team is to reconvene in the small meeting room down
the hall."  Cherri grinned at the group.  "Now go out and be Cousinly."

As the group was breaking up, Cherri looked at Cousin Michele's beaming
face.  //Yeees.!  That Cousin is going to turn out just fine.//
Cousin Cherri 
In this ever-changing world that we share, only one thing is truly
permanent....ME...  he..he..he..he..he..he..he   
FK War 8


Pout For Me, Baby (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Time: Immediately after 'I Love a Raid...I Mean, Parade' Part 1/11
Modeling by Vachon's Guitar
Lighting & Mood Music by The Fanfic Fairies
Makeup by Bons

     "Cousins Bons, Annie and Patt: I need you to get a picture of Vachon's
guitar and make a life-size poster of it."

     Bonnie forced herself to keep smiling as she heard these words. Instead
of listening to Cousin Cherri's other ideas, she grinned like a happy twit
and let her brain scream in denial.


     When Bonnie conjured up the terrible, awful, no-slacker-will-ever-
think-of-this hiding place, it was with the certainty that when the time
came to pick it up, it would be someone else's problem. She wouldn't be
involved. She wouldn't be forced to suffer. Cherri could suffer. Jules could
suffer. Annie or Patt could suffer, but not Bonnie. Uh-uh, no way.

     With Cherri's request, however, the realization dawned on Bonnie that,
at the moment, she was the only one who knew where the guitar was. She would
have to lead the others to it. 

     Then, when Cherri's pep talk was done, Bonnie looked up blankly to see
her two supposed partners-in-Polaroid handing her a camera and car keys.

     "There ya go!" Patt said.

     "Have fun, Bons!" Annie echoed, then quickly scooted away.

     She watched Annie disappear from sight with growing dismay. "But...
but - aren't you coming with me?"

     "What?" Patt replied. "And ruin the mystery? It won't be a secret
location if you tell anyone. Even me."

     "Yeah, Patt, and you stopped being nosy, what, five minutes ago? Give
me a break."

     "I is hurt," she said, pouring on her I-Am-An-Innocent-Gal-From-
Louisian'-Where-They-Don't-Teach-Us-Nuthin'-'Bout-Grammar-Or-Secrets act,
"that you trust me as much as a crawdad with eight legs."

     "Crawdads are supposed to have eight legs, Patt. They're arthropods."

     "Oh," Patt replied. "Look! A dinosaur!"

     Bonnie turned around, fully expecting in this time of temporal space
rifts to see a giant purple reptile with Schanke's face. She saw no dinosaur
- nada, niente - and when she turned around again to tell Patt she should
wear her no-line bifocals more often, the Third Cousin was gone.

     Bonnie sighed and clomped to Patt's truck by herself.


     She pushed the final stack of papers away, then peeled off her
blindfold. Bonnie grabbed the guitar and leaned it provocatively against 
the now-bare wall. Suddenly, the techno sounds of Erasure started pumping
through the room, accompanied by the appearance of two giant backlights.

     Bons leaned back and studied the guitar critically. She snapped a few
photos, then paused to frown. "Lean to the left a little for me, babe. Work
with me now, work with me!"

     The guitar didn't respond.

     She put the camera down, muttered under her breath about temperamental
models, then manually tilted the Gibson to her satisfaction. She backed up
slowly and primed her camera at her target while giving instructions.

     "Okay, babe. The look we're going for in these picture is 'desire'. You
have to be desirable to these Vaqs. I want you to look like you haven't been
played in months, and you're just dying for someone to lay a few chords down
- a riff or two. Can you do that?" Bonnie crouched and leaned to the right
as she clicked several more frames. "Great stuff! Now...I want you to look
haughty. Pout for me now. Pout, baby, pout!"

     She click-clicked a few more shots before giving Vachon's guitar a
disconcerted look. "You've got a smudge. You need a touchup." Bonnie
squatted next to the instrument, gave a hearty spit, then shined the
offending area of lacquer with the inside hem of her mini-skirt. "There,"
she said, smiling with satisfaction. "You're gorgeous, babe."

     "Okay, For the next bunch of shots, I want you to pretend you're in 
the forest..."

*click-click*...*click-click* ... *click-click*...*cli*...*cli*...

     "Oh, redrum! Out of film! Sorry, babe. We'll have to call it a wrap."

     The lights and music disappeared as suddenly as they arrived. Bons
returned the guitar to its hiding place, put her blindfold back on, then
began moving all the paper stacks back into place.

     As she left, a dull looking man in a drab suit and wingtips asked her,
"Are you sure I can't answer any questions, miss? I could go over your -"

     "No, I don't think so," Bonnie interrupted. "I don't even live in this
country, much less work here. Nighty-night."

     The trip back to CERK was uneventful, and Cousin Cherri liked the final
life-sized product.

     "I've never seen a guitar pout before."


Title: I Love A Raid... I Mean A Parade 2/11
Author: Valerie J. Gilson (Cousin Senara) with creative input from Cousin
Cherri and
Cousin Chase
All permissions have been obtained.
Time: concurrent with  Just after I Love A Raid - I Mean A Parade 1/11

Special Thanks to Cherri, Michele, Joni, Chase, Lisa, Cousin Tok and
everyone who I might have forgotten to name who helped with beta reading
and planning - this wouldn't have happened without you!  *hugs*

Cousin Senara led her team into the adjoining room. "I realize that this is
going to sound a
little like Mission:Impossible," she began as Cousins Chase, Corie, and
Robi sat down on
various articles of furniture. "We have to find all the cow costumes that
the Vaqueras might
have hidden around the church."  Bons, Annie and Patt nodded in agreement
while Heidi
filled in the importance and the history of the cow to Joe Pimp Reese.

"Any ideas where all of them are?" Cousin Efrey piped up.

"Knowing the leader, she will have required each and every one of them to
bring one to
Toronto."  Several Cousins tried to count the number of Vaqueras they had
seen running
around.  One of them whistled under her breath.  "We can guess that the cow
suits are
secreted in the living areas.

"That's quite a lot of cow costumes.  Are we it for the raid?" Chase asked.
His Darth
LaCroix was quietly memorizing the map of the church.  At least he wasn't
anyone by talking.

Senara unrolled a map of the church. "At least one of them will be in the
 I'll handle searching that area carefully . It's a sure bet that Cindy has
one wherever she is
sleeping - underneath her mattress, that sorta thing.  Check around their
living areas."  She
looked at Chase.  "No, we aren't it for the raid.  We will have help."

The Cousins clustered around the map and planned their raid on the
Vaqueros' HQ. Every
so often a chuckle and a giggle of mad glee escaped one of the Destroy The
Cow Suit
Team, DTCST for short.

to be continued

Cousin Senara

War:  I love a Raid....I mean a Parade.  03/11
Written by Cherri L. Munoz

See part 1 for the disclaimers.  All characters used with permission.

The meeting had broken up and Cherri was hungry, tired, and in need of a
walk.  After assuring herself that CERK LaCroix was arranging for the sound
equipment and acquiring the appropriate parade permits, Cherri slipped out
the door.

As the cool, summer night air hit her face, she inhaled deeply then let the
tension drain out of her as she exhaled.  Looking up, she contemplated the
moon at midnight and its surrounding clouds.  White and dark swirls cut the
brilliant sphere making it a glorious ball of mystery and intrigue.  The
sight made her feel wonder and safe.

She chose a direction and started to walk, knowing that she shouldn't be
out alone at night in a place known to have vampires but she needed the

Suddenly, she realized that she was in front of the Happy Souvlaki.  Just
as her memories of the place was bringing a Cousinly smile to her lips, an
irritated voice brought her abruptly back to reality (if you call being in
a Space-Time Continuum reality). "What..." the voice emphasize, "are you
doing out here alone?"

"I..." Cherri turned around and her jaw dropped.  "Tracy? You're Tracy
Vetter, aren't you?"

"Never mind about me."  The woman withdrew a wooden stake from her jacket,
crouched down, and looked around in challenge.  "There are vampires out
here.  We're in danger."

Cousin Cherri just looked at her.  "So. There are vampires but I'm a
Cousin.  No vampires who value their undead lives would dare touch me. Hey!
 Wait!!  You KNOW about vampires?"

Trace look nonplussed.  "Of course I do, I'm a Slayer."

"A Slayer?  A Slayer of what?"

"Of vampires, of course."

"So which vampires do you slay?"  Cherri inwardly groaned at her question
and decided that she really needed to catch some zzzz's.  This was too
unreal.  She was glad to finally meet Tracy but WHY did this Tracy have to
be a Vampire Slayer.

Tracy held up her stake again. "I prefer to stake Vachon. I've already
killed one of them but Partly said that was back in my own time dimension.
There seems to be a lot of them around here and I have a stake for each
one."  Her evil grin sent a cold chill down Cousin Cherri's back.

Cherri looked towards the Happy Souvlaki to avoid Tracy's eyes then came to
a decision, if Partly couldn't keep the Slayer under control then the
Cousins could take full advantage of the situation.  "Tracy.  I just might
know where one of the Vachons is located.  Want to come with me for a while?"

The Slayer's face light up as she threatened the air with her stake again.
"Lead the way."

Cousin Cherri smiled and turned towards the radio station.  This kidnapping
was going to be a piece of cake with a  cherry on top .
  She pulled out her cell phone and called CERK.  "Mary?  Listen and don't
ask questions.  Has Godiva delivered the 'item' yet?  Great!  Money always
talks.  Heh! Heh!  Get the team together including the quote unquote",
Cherri looked at Tracy, "changeable" Nick.  If he isn't already there, he
should be there shortly.  Make sure he is Nick before you and the team meet
me at the CERK van.  Mariah did get it back, didn't she?"  Cherri listened
then exclaimed, "Oh good!"  The kidnapping of the Vaquera leaders is going
down now and I'm bringing Tracy, the Vampire Slayer with me so make the
appropriate arrangements."

Tracy was ignoring the one sided conversation, but Cherri decided to play
it safe.  "Heh! Heh! Heh!  That's right.  Tracy the Vampire Slayer.  Just
make SURE he knows who he is.  I KNOW....I KNOW but it can't be helped.
Just take precautions and everything will be fine.  We'll be there shortly."

Cherri punched the off button as the two of  them continued on their way.
Cousin Cherri 
In this ever-changing world that we share, only one thing is truly
permanent....ME...  he..he..he..he..he..he..he   
FK War 8


War:  I love a Raid....I mean a Parade.  04/11
Written by Cherri L. Munoz

See part 1 for the disclaimers.  All characters used with permission.

Tracy jerked her head in the direction of another non-existent sound making
Cousin Cherri jump again.  "Relax Tracy.  We're almost there.  Look.
There's the CERK van and the Cousins waiting for us."

Only glancing at the van for a second, Tracy continued her visual sweeps.
"Are you sure there are not vampires among you?  I mean...Have you seen all
of your team during the day?"

"Although I knew some of the members before this rift, look around you
Tracy, it's still midnight and has been for days."

"I guess you're right."

Cherri caught the eye of Cousin Mary and waved her over.  "Tracy, this is
Cousin Mary.  I've known her for 18 years.  She is definitely mortal.  Why
don't you talk to her for a few  minutes while I go brief the other team
members?  I won't be long."

Tracy glared at her as if assessing the situation then nodded her acceptance.

With a sigh of relief, Cherri quickly entered the van in search of the
WereVachon.  "Nick?  Or should I call you Vachon?"

"That's me."  The man with Nick's face said just before he enveloped her
into his arms and gave her a long and passionate kiss.

Cherri finally broke free and breathlessly asked, "What was that for?"

He blinked.  "Because I can."

"Nick or Vachon or whatever you call yourself.  I came to warn you.  I
found Tracy, the Vampire Slayer and decided to bring her along.  You must
stay as Nick or you're toast."

"Tracy, the Vampire Slayer?   I've heard about her.  You know that as soon
as the moonlight touches me, I change.  I have no control over it.  Bonnie
just said that you needed me and that I should help out, but she didn't say
anything about Tracy coming along.  In fact, I doubt she would've agreed."

"True, but it was a last minute decision.  Besides, we need her... I need
her and it will make the job that much faster."

"What is this about anyway?"

"We're going to have a parade Nick, but the participants are shy.  You're
going to **help** us convince them that it would be fun.  You like a
parade, don't you?"

Nick raised his hand to his head, frowning with old memories.  "Am I going
to have to go to the parade warehouse?"

"Not at all.  In fact, we're going to need your expertise where we
encounter our participants.  After you help us, we'll need to find some
offensive material at their home.  You will help, won't you?"

Scratching the back of his head, he finally agreed.  "And what about Tracy?"

"Just stay in the back of the van away from the moonlight until we get to
destination and everything will be OK.  Got it?"

He grabbed her hand, rubbing the top of it with a thumb and allowed a
gentle smile to cross his handsome face.  "Got it," he said softly.

Hesitating for only a moment, Cousin Cherri reluctantly pulled her hand
free then hopped out of the van.  A huge Godiva (tm) truck had pulled up

while she'd been talking to  WereVachon and Cousins Joni and Robi were
directing the delivery men.

The size of the box reminded Cherri of Han Solo (tm) frozen in carbonite;
long, thin, and the width slightly bigger than a man's chest.

Tracy held up a cross in the short delivery man's face just as he turned to
Cherri.  Voice shaking, he nervously pointed to his manifest.  "I need you
to sign my papers agreeing that you took delivery and that it's undamaged."

"Satisfied Tracy?"  Cherri asked as she signed one of the lines.  The
Vampire Slayer approached the other Godiva (tm) worker as he looked
nervously to his partner.

Cherri turned back to the man with the documents. "She's harmless, just a
little nervous tonight.  Now, let me see.  I've signed on this line but the
other will have to wait until after I've see the product so...open it."

The men were obviously wanting to get out of Tracy's way so the two
produced knives to slice open the box.  Michele and Mariah had just come
out of CERK when all three sides were neatly cut, the cardboard fell to the
ground.  Cousin Mary's eyes widen at the cellophane-wrapped chocolate dream
sculpted to look like Vachon.

"aaaahhhhheeeeeeyyyyaaaaa"  The sound ripped through the night and suddenly
a wooden stake was embedded in Vachon's chocolate heart.

Faces ashen, the men dropped their knifes and fled.

Michele put her hands on her hips.  "Tracy!!!!  Look what you've done.
Save the stakes for the real ones.  Gee!  Now pull that stake out and let's
get out of here.  It's getting late."

Tracy pouted as she did what Michele asked.

Mariah and Cousin Michele entered the van first and grabbed the chocolate
shoulders while Joni and Robi had the feet.  Once loaded, Tracy piled in
the slightly damaged goods as Mary shut the doors behind.

 "Hi Nick.  Glad you're here."  Mariah greeted then continued on her way to
the cab before he had a chance to say anything.  Cherri heaved herself into
the passenger's side as the young Cousin started the engine.  They were
finally on their way to the church.  //Thank goodness it's still midnight
or the Vaqueras would see the hole and suspect a rat...or at least Cousins.//
Cousin Cherri 
In this ever-changing world that we share, only one thing is truly
permanent....ME...  he..he..he..he..he..he..he   
FK War 8


War:  I love a Raid....I mean a Parade.  05/11
Written by Cherri L. Munoz

See part 1 for the disclaimers.  All characters used with permission.

Cousin Cherri pulled out her cell phone and dialed Vachon's church.

"Church of the Vaqueras?"  The tired voice made it more of a question than
a statement.  "Home of the CERK Cow Costume Shrine."

A growl almost escaped her throat.  The Vaqueras were gonna pay BIG time
for this.  "May I please speak with Dona Jean?"

"One moment."  Cousin Mariah glanced at her leader and smiled.  The
operator hadn't asked who it was.

"Hello?  This is Jean."

Cherri smirked back at Mariah.

Using a nasal voice, Cherri began. "Jean...this is  an independent company
informing you that you have won the GRAND PRIZE which will be delivered to
your door step immediately.

"What?  what?" the Vaquera repeated.

Cherri modulated her voice to sound pleased and excited.  "And your Grand
Prize is.....a life-size chocolate bar designed to look like the man of
your dreams!!!

"Chocolate?"  The voice indicated that Jean's eyes was probably glazed
over.  "WHEN!!!!  When do I get it?"  Cherri could hear the computer chair
squeaking from Jean's bounces.

"Simply greet the van which is coming to your door and the prize is yours."

The phone clicked dead.

Cherri pressed the off button.  "In the immortal words of Darth...'All too

Mariah and Cherri cackled as the van made a turn and continued down the
road towards their destination.

In Vachon's church:

Jean hung up the phone.  "I won....I can't believe it....I won."

Jill noticed the leader's behavior and immediately screamed, "Cindy!!!!"

"Wha.." Cindy tried to understand what was going on through her
sleep-deprived mind.

"It's Jean.  Look at her."

"I won...." the Vaquera leader babbled uncontrollably.  "I can't believe
it...I won....All I have to do is meet..."

"Do you know what happened to her, Jill?  The Vaquera leader was instantly
awake with worry.

"Not really.  I came in to use the phone.  Jean was just hanging it up, and
that's when she started babbling."

Cindy thought a moment.  "I smell a rat...."  She pulled her co-leader's
chair around to face her then shook Jean's shoulders to get her attention.
"What, Jean?  Tell me!"

Jean's words were slurred.  "I won."  She looked at her friend.  "I really
did it.  I won tons and tons and tons of chocolate.....in the shape of...."
 Her eyes got as big as saucers.  "...the man of my dreams!   Ahhh!!!!!!!"

Suddenly, she leaped out of the chair and ran for the door screaming,
"Chocolate!!!  Vachon!!! Chocolate!!! Vachon!!!"

Dona Cindy and Dona Jill realized that there was something definitely WRONG
with this situation and scrambled after the crazed Vaquera but Jean was too
fast.  Elvis Vachon noticed she was leaving and followed, catching up by
using Vampiric speed.

Tigger Vachon and RollerHockey Vachon, never far from their very own
personal Vaqueras followed as well.

The rest of the Vaqueras were wakened by the noise, but since most of them
were asleep, they were too slow to react to what was happening.

Jean practically tore the door open and there....just pulling up to the
curb...was a van.

As the sliding back door opened, first the feet then rest of Vachon was
revealed.  She didn't know where it came from but Jean heard a voice say,
"Congratulations on your chocolate prize.  Please come in to sign the
release forms."

Jean quickly climbed inside.

Cindy and Jill looked at the chocolate figure version of their favorite
vampire and
decided that they wanted a piece of that fine figure as well.

Tigger Vachon, Elvis Vachon, and RollerHockey Vachon started to protest
until Tracy stepped into the light.  Seeing Tracy, they decided that the
van wasn't such a bad idea after all and flew towards it.  Unbeknownst to
the other team members, CERK LaCroix had flown ahead and was waiting to
spring the trap.  As soon as the leaders, their Vachons, and the other
Vaquera was safely inside, he snapped the door closed.

Seeing Vachons, Tracy readied her stake.  Cousin Cherri was right.
Vampires... Vachon Vampires, too.  Just what she wanted.  Just what she
needed.  This was going to be a great night.

Suddenly, Tracy was shoved through to the cab and locked in by an
unforeseen force.

As the unforeseen force flew to Cousin Senara's van, Vachon thought that he
should check on Katrinka's condition instead of helping the Cousins but the
Angsty Nick portion of him refused to break a promise.  He was glad that
Tracy was now Mariah's problem because he was only too happy to be done
with that crazy Psychopathic Vampire Slayer.

Mariah screamed, "Shut up Tracy!  Cherri told me to tell you, you want
Vachons, you got them...plenty of them.  There are only three in the back."

Tracy's eyes widened.  "That's enough for me."

"Think Tracy.  At this point, almost all of the Vaqueras have there own
Vachons.  We have the Vaquera leaders plus one AND their Vachons.  The rest
will come to rescue them.  That is when you'll get your chance.

Tracy's eyes narrowed.  "I'd better."

"You will."

Tracy was still suspicious.  "Where did Cherri go?"

"Not to worry.  CERK..."  Cousin Mariah started to say who then thought
better of it.  Instead, she gave the Slayer the minimum information.  "She
had to go ahead so that she could do the final preparations at the parade


Loud banging could be hear in the back of the van along with sounds of
intense pleasure.

Tracy realized who and what they had in the back of the van and was
concerned.  "How are you keeping them back there?"

Mariah giggled.  "The Cousins are in the back right up against this wall."
She tapped the wall behind her as she drove on.  "They have crosses and
holy water.  The vamps aren't going anywhere.  The Vaqueras are closest to
the back door.  What are your bets that anybody, including a vampire, could
get past those Vaqueras?  Jean, Cindy, and Jill are having a feeding feast
back there, and no one or no 'thing' can get past a Vaquera in chocolate
lust...especially if that chocolate looks like Vachon."

Tracy listened for a minute. "You know.  I think you're right!"

The two women, one human who was very Cousinly and one who was a Vampire
Slayer, laughed and giggled at the thoughts of even Vampires getting past
those three.

By the time they arrived, Mariah and Tracy both had tears in their eyes.
Cousin Cherri 
In this ever-changing world that we share, only one thing is truly
permanent....ME...  he..he..he..he..he..he..he   
FK War 8


War:  I love a Raid....I mean a Parade.  06/11
Written by Cherri L. Munoz

See part 1 for the disclaimers.  All characters used with permission.

As soon a CERK LaCroix released Cousin Cherri, she dialed the number of
Vachon's church.

"Church of the Vaqueras?"  A different voice from the last time she had
called greeted her with the same irritating question statement.  "Home of
the CERK Cow Costume Shrine."

This time, she didn't contain her growl.  "I have your leaders, one of your
members, and three of your Vachons.  You want them.  You tell your faction
members that they had better come get them.  They are at  "insert address",
the parade warehouse.  If all your members are not here to retrieve them, I
will let Divia **play** with them.  So hurry!"

Cherri clicked the phone off before the Vaquera on the other end could

"I trust that it went according to plan."  LaCroix said in his light but
deadly voice.

Cherri beamed.  "Like a charm."

"But why, pray tell, did you threaten them with Divia and not myself?"

His crystal-blue eyes chilled the Cousin, and she only hoped that her voice
didn't shake when as she answered him.  "The Vaqueras heard that Divia in
another time dimension killed Vachon so I thought that she would be a
better threat."

"You are devious Cherri. Very, very devious."

"Thank you, LaCroix.  I try.  Let's go look at your handiwork."

After they walked to the back of the building, LaCroix pointed out his
modifications in one of the parade dressing rooms.

Cherri was excited.  "Excellent!  This is exactly what I had hoped for.
When the time comes, I'll tell you which music goes to what room then we'll
wait and see."  An evil grin spread across her face at the thought of the
coming events.

The sound of police sirens filled the air.  "What.....?"  Cherri ran.

Just as she emerged from the building, an elephant with what looked like
McLisa, her cat, Tizzie, and a cooler on top of its back, ran by and around
the corner.

Police cars screeched to a halt and confronted the Cousin.  "Where did the
elephant go?"

Cherri blandly looked at the police officer.  "What elephant?"

"The one that......"

CERK LaCroix stepped in.     "There is NO
elephant, officer.  You are here solely to direct the parade.  You and your
fellow officers are to wait by your vehicles until the parade is ready to
begin, then you will direct traffic accordingly.  Is that understood?"

The man walked back to his car.  "Direct traffic...parade...fellow

Trying to act casual, Cherri asked, "Where'd you get the elephant, McLisa?

"Joe brought me here."  She indicated the large animal using the hand
holding a glass.  He wanted to keep me close because he likes Zombie
Beachcombers, too."

"Do you think he could lead the parade?"  Cherri looked as the elephant's
truck inhaled McLisa's legendary drink.

McLisa smiled and pointed to the cooler.  "Suuuure.  Put the 'never runs
dry Zombie Beachcomber (Because of the time space rift, that cooler's
connected to every other cooler of Zombie Beachcombers in the universe.)
cooler' in the back of a truck.  Joe will follow it wherever the cooler goes."


Cherri thought a bit.  "Do you think he would stand still while we painted
him white?  A white elephant would draw as big of a crowd as the Vaqueras
in costume."

"I can get Mortal LaCroix to keep him still while Cousins Rust, Roni, and
Sun do the job.

Cousin Cherri hugged McLisa.  "This is going to make the parade a work of

>From over McLisa's shoulder, Cherri spotted another member of her team.
Releasing the be-elephanted Cousin, she gave her a look of confidence then
called, "Rust!  I have a job for you."

Rust's face lit up with anticipation.  "What can I do?"

"I want you to map out a parade route which passes by every McDonald's (tm)
in Toronto, but don't make it more than 5 kilometers long.  Have the route
end at Vachon's church."

"Oooooooh.  That's a great idea."  Rust almost bounced but the Engineer in
her quelled it just in time.

"One more thing...since you will know the route, you drive the truck.
You're going to have to pace the parade so that Joe, the elephant, doesn't
get into the cooler, the Vaqueras don't get too tired, and the crowd gets
to enjoy themselves.  Can you do it?"

"Don't give it another thought,"  Rust enthused.  "I'll get CsnSun to ride
with the cooler.  When Joe gets too close, she can cover it up.  That
should slow it down.  When he gets too far, she can uncover it.  What do
you think?"

McLisa spoke up.  "It might work but only if you allow Joe to drink some
along the way periodically.  Parades are drying work."

"Sure.  We can do that."

Cousin Laurie appeared just as Cherri confirmed.  "Then it's set.   Now all
we need is the matching music list.  Laurie, do you have it?"

Laurie waved her paper in the air.  "It's ready."  She handed a different
list to CERK LaCroix.  "This is a list of music required for our little
project.  I've indicated which rooms should have what music playing.  I
made up signs to tape to the doors.  As soon as the Vaqueras arrive, all we
have to do is find the door with the Vaquera's name on it.  Have the
costumes arrived?"

Cousin Roni spoke up.  "They have.  I'll just follow Cousin Laurie and
place the costume you've specially selected for each Vaquera and each
Vachon.  I even have a few extra in case other Vachons have appeared since
I compiled the list."

"Great!" Cherri bounced with excitement.

"Cherri!!!!" the Cousin Leader exclaimed.  "Stop that.  Bouncing is for the

Cherri hung her head a little.  "Sorry.  It's just that... I've been bouncy
all my life.  However, being Cousinly always overrides my bounciness.
After all, I've been planning this for months."

"Well, try to contain yourself."

Suddenly, the van could be heard entering the parade warehouse.

All the Cousins turned towards the vehicle and smiled evilly.

Cousin Cherri 
In this ever-changing world that we share, only one thing is truly
permanent....ME...  he..he..he..he..he..he..he   
FK War 8


War:  I love a Raid....I mean a Parade.  07/11
Written by Cherri L. Munoz

With many thanks for letting me still a piece for a Nunkies Anonymous story
by Beanie Babies are copyrighted by Ty Inc.  No infringements are intended.
See part 1 for additional disclaimers.  All characters used with permission.

The van pulled up then backed in so the loading door was facing the
dressing rooms.  CERK LaCroix, LK LaCroix, and Dark LaCroix were ready.

As soon as the doors were opened, the Vachons had grabbed their humans on
the way out but escape was impossible.

Dark LaCroix grabbed Elvis Vachon and his human Dona Jean.  Elvis started
to sing.  "You're cheating heart..." while Jean was screaming, "Let ME
GO!!!!  ARE YOU CRAZY!!  YOU MADE ME DROP the CHOCOLATE index finger Vachon
uses to hold his guitar pick.  You idiot..Let me go!!!  I have to find it!"
 CsnSun held up the piece in question then ran towards the room with Jean's
name on it.  When Jean was inside, Sun slammed and locked the door.  That
chocolate morsel wouldn't latest long before the Vaquera leader realized
where she was and what was going on.

In the meantime, Dark LaCroix had the singing Vachon mesmerized into
putting on his parade costume to please his human.  Elvis Vachon was ready
to follow Dona Jean anywhere.

Dona Jill started to struggle then stopped to watch Cousin Joni's Father
LaCroix rocking and rolling with RollerHockey Vachon.  Tears of laughter
ran down her face.  Cousin Tok was barely able to hold her up as she guided
Jill to her destination.

Dona Cindy wasn't so easy.  CERK LaCroix had no problem separating Tigger
Vachon from Cindy's arm and mesmerizing the younger Vampire/Tiger into
obedience, however, when the Vaquera leader spotted Cousin Cherri, Cindy
realized the danger. "YOU!  Dona Cherri!" she screamed and insulted. "LET
ME GO!!!!" She struggled against Cousin Rust's arms.  "That's it!" Cindy
continued to scream as Rust escorted her to the awaiting room.  "The
Vaqueras are on the war path and YOU'RE the target.  You'd better be
watching your back because we will be there!"

Cherri laughed evilly. "Sure, Cindy.  Whatever you say but just remember,
the Cousins have you now and we have plenty of LaCroix's and even a Divia
to back us up."

Cherri followed Rust and Cindy down the hall to the room with her name on
it.  After locking the door behind the Vaquera leader, Rust and Cherri
waited with great anticipation.  This was the moment that everyone had been
waiting for.  Cherri didn't look back but she knew that all the Cousins and
all the LaCroixs were behind her.  All except CERK LaCroix, who was in the
control room waiting for Cherri's signal.

"eeeeeeEEEEEaaaaAAAAAAooooooOOOOOO!!!"  The deafening sound came from
behind the door.

The Cousins giggled.

"WHAT  IS  THIS!!!!"

"Cindy."  Cherri couldn't contain herself any longer.  "It's a beanie baby
costume.  I heard how much you just LOOOOOVE beanie babies and this one is
special just for you.  It's the Daisy the cow(tm) beanie baby costume.  Put
it on."

"No way!"

"But Cindy.  I selected the theme of the parade just for you.  Don't you
like it?" Cherri made her voice sound hurt.  "You'll look just lovely
wearing it in the beanie baby parade.  I know how much you ENJOYED selling
them at work."

"There is NO way you can make me put this on!  Now let me OUT!!!"  Cindy
pounded on the door emphasizing each word.

"Have it your way but don't say I didn't warn you.  When you decide to put
the costume on, let me know and I'll let you out of the room."  Cherri
giggled in anticipation as she signaled CERK LaCroix to start the music.

A faint sound with a syrupy, sycophantic tenor oozed from the other side of
the door.

      "I Love You,
       You Love Me,
       We're a Loving Family
       With a Great, Big, Hug
       And  a Kiss From Me To You -"

Cherri could just visualize Cindy with her fingers stuck in her ears, eyes
squeezed shut in horror.

"Aarrgghhh! Sppfftt! MAKE IT STOP!!!!" Cindy screamed and sputtered in

"Only you can make it stop, Cindy.  Now put on the costume."

The screaming continued, followed by some whimpering.

Cousin Joni was standing by.  She was immune to Barney so had been elected
to be Cindy's caretaker.

Down the hall, the Cousins could hear similar banging and agonizing to the
faint high mountain sounds of Peruvian Folkloric music created by the
ancient musical instruments of the samponia and the cana.  Cousin Annie was
waiting patiently, enjoying the sounds of South America while Jill was
making up her mind to wear the Goldie the fish(tm) costume.

Jean was the first to break from listening to Stevie Ray Vashawn's Greatest
Country hits.  She banged on the door.  "Let me OUT!!!  I have your stupid
costume on."  Cousin Tok, upon getting the signal, entered and smiled at
the Chocolate the moose(tm) Jean.  The Vaquera's scared look said that she
had not realized what was yet to come.

Cindy broke moments later and Cousin Joni walked in singing along.  "I love
you, You love me...."

"You said you'd make it stop when I put this THING on."  Cindy took her
fingers from her ears to pull at the offensive costume then quickly
replugged them against the strains of the dinosaur's wailing.

Joni removed the tiny plastic cap and started to gently squeeze until a
long drop filled the end.  "We will, but first you must hold still.  This
won't hurt a bit."

The Vaquera eyes widened as she realized that the term 'Turnabout's fair
play' was about to come true.  Cindy closed her eyes so she wouldn't have
to watch as Joni liberally applied super glue on the costume's zippers.

Joni giggled.  "What a fine figure you present.  Maybe I should give you to
CERK LaCroix.  He's been moaning about the loss of his Mascot.  You'd make
a fine replacement."

Cindy growled her words out in a deep throated sound.  "Cousin Cherri WILL

"We'll see, Cindy.  Just remember.  Cherri doesn't just have one LaCroix
protecting her, but many."

Cindy stopped talking but the glare in her eyes said it all.

Shortly after the Vaquera leaders were released, the Vaqueras and their
Vachons began pouring into the warehouse.  They were curious about the
beings in the funny wear but didn't disturb them as they searched the
building for their leaders.

One by one, each Vaquera and Vachon was captured and placed in their
designated rooms.

In the country music section, strains of Stevie Ray Vashawn was
caterwauling while Cousin Tok, enjoying the music break and one of McLisa's
Zombie Beachcombers, waited patiently, playing with the tube of super glue
in her hand.

Just down the hall was McLisa listening to the soothing strains of muzac,
CsnSun enjoying opera, Rust pretending to play the drums to the beat of a
Heavy Metal band, and Cousin Efery, who had arrived from the church raid
and would stay only long enough to complete her special task of super
gluing the costumes of the Vaqueras who deplored rap.

Tracy Sue started pounding her door.  "Let me OUT!!! I have this stupid
Alli the alligator(tm) costume on.  Now hurry before I DIE."

McLisa started to enter the room but before she could Dark LaCroix plucked
her drink from her hand.  "You wouldn't want Tracy Sue to stain her costume
as she grabbed your glass, an object which very well may be used against
you or, if she considered it, may decide to drink for herself."

Dark LaCroix's raw desire at Cousin McLisa's neck made her decide that she
simply wanted to get away.  Without a word about her lost drink, she
entered Tracy Sue's room.

As the Vaqueras were being handled, the LaCroix's were taking care of the

One of the LaCroix's would grab a Vachon, catching the younger vampire's
eyes.  "You will protect and stay with your human.  To do that you must put
on the costume that one of the Cousins hands you and you must not let the
Vaquera leave the parade route before she has arrived at your church."

Each Vachon would blink at the suggestion then quietly go with the Cousin
which waited for him.

At long last, all the Vaqueras and all the Vachons were costumed and ready
for the parade.  The truck with the Zombie Beachcombers was in the lead;
Joe, the elephant was painted white; the police had their lights flashing
in readiness; and the Vaqueras were lined up in two rows.  Each Vachon
stood next to their human.  Instead of the party atmosphere which usually
accompanies a parade, the mood was dark and menacing.

Cherri climbed onto a raised platform.  "My dear, dear Vaqueras.  The
Cousins have bought the world's supply of super glue solvent.  You will
notice that an envelope has been attached to the Joe's hardness."   She
gestured towards the elephant.  "Can you see it?  It's right behind his
neck.  The Cousin wickedly smiled.  "In that envelope you will find the
location of the super glue solvent.  You must find a way to get this
envelope or you will be unable to remove your costumes."

Just as Cherri was saying, "Have fun in the parade!" another costumed
figure joined the crowd.

Upon a signal, the truck blared marching music and the procession started.
Children and their parents from around the neighborhood had been told about
the parade and were waiting for the fun to begin.

The children ooo'd and ahh'd as the beanie baby Vaqueras and Vachons came
out one by one:

Cindy, Daisy the Cow,(tm)
Jean, Chocolate the moose(tm)
Jill, Goldie the Fish(tm)
Teresa, Inch the worm(tm)
Crystal, Stinky the skunk(tm)
Heather, Inky the octopus(tm)
Tracy Sue, Alli the alligator(tm)
Maria, Legs the frogs(tm)
Kimber, Pinky the flamingo(tm) and her dog, Nanook, Flip the cat(tm)
Denise, Pinchers the lobster(tm)
Hunter-D, Chops the lamb(tm)
Tigger Vachon, Rover the dog(tm)
Elvis Vachon, Lizzy the lizard(tm)
RollerHockey Vachon, Speedy the turtle(tm)

Just as the last of the parade procession was leaving the building, Cherri
did a double take.  The last person in the line-up, the one who missed the
part about the location of the solvent, was none other than Tracy, the
Vampire Slayer dressed up as Radar the bat(tm).  Cherri giggled
hysterically.  One of the Cousins must have decided that Tracy was the
ultimate Vaquera and had her dressed for the parade.  She was very angry as
she tried her best to dart around Dark LaCroix so she could stake one of
the nearby Vachons.

When the parade cleared the warehouse area, Dark LaCroix released the
Vampire Slayer.  Tracy left muttering about having a talk with Partly about
the Cousins.

The LaCroix's flew their Cousins to the church but CERK LaCroix hovered
with Cherri for a moment to enjoy the site of the Vaquera/Beanie Baby
parade pass a McDonald's(tm).  Both kids and parents alike were cheering in
delight at the colorful parade.

Suddenly, Cherri spotted Hunter-D in his Chops the Lamb(tm) costume running
directly for the church.  She groaned as she realized her mistake.  The
LaCroix's had mesmerized the Vaqueras by saying, "...and you must not let
the VaquerA leave the parade route before SHE has arrived at your church."
Hunter-D being Hunter-D was male so the whammied hadn't worked to keep him
on the parade route.  The Vachons would only restrain the females.

Luckily, CERK had realized her mistake and sped towards the church at
lightening speed.  Cherri tucked her head into his neck and held on tight.

Beanie Babies are copyrighted by Ty Inc.  No infringements are intended.
See what the beanie babies look like at:  http://www.ty.com/beanie/list/
The costumes are a fantasy of the Cousin Cherri's vivid imagination and are
only used as a giggle for the Forever Knight war.  Although I think it
would be a great idea for the company to use as Halloween costumes.  
Cousin Cherri 
In this ever-changing world that we share, only one thing is truly
permanent....ME...  he..he..he..he..he..he..he   
FK War 8


Title: I Love A Raid... I Mean A Parade 8a/11
Author: Valerie J. Gilson (Cousin Senara) with creative input from Cousin
Cherri and
Cousin Chase
All permissions have been obtained.
Time: Concurrent with when the Vaqueras arrive at the warehouse

Special Thanks to Cherri, Michele, Joni, Chase, Lisa, Cousin Tok and
everyone who I might have forgotten to name who helped with beta reading
and planning - this wouldn't have happened without you!  *hugs*

"Are they all out?" Cousin Robi asked the Cousin hidden in the shadows.

"Yup. Off to the warehouse to rescue their leaders."  Cousin Senara
mentally ticked off the
Vaqueras she saw leave the church.  She pulled out the cell phone issued by
the leaders and
dialed CERK LaCroix.  "They are all out of the church, General.  We're all
set for the
power drain."  A pause.  "Yessir.  Whenever you are ready."  She folded the
phone and
slipped it into the knapsack she wore.

"Great. Give the signal." Cousin Senara whistled to let Cousin Chase know
that the coast,
er, church was clear. She waited another minute, and then whistled again,
just in case there
were any stragglers.  WereVachon winced as his vampire hearing amplified
the sound.

Chase heard the second whistle and stole through the darkness to the steps
of the church
with the WereVachon, now in his Vachon form, and Darth LaCroix. The other
members of
DTCST moved just as quietly. All garbed in black, everyone also wore gloves
so they
wouldn't leave fingerprints. Each of them carried a black knapsack filled
with the necessary
items for the raid.

Senara and Robi pulled up short  only a  few yards from the door.  There in
front of them
was the Nag.  "A horse?" Robi exclaimed.

"A horse is a horse, of course of course" replied Senara, quoting a lowly
seaman from a
now-deceased undersea adventure show.  "Quick, where are the carrots?  And
the oats."

"With the hair spray." answered Divia.

Senara nearly snapped for Divia to find them, but thought it wouldn't be a
good idea to
anger her.  The last thing she needed was an out of control perky vampire
on a raid of her
own.  "Why don't you feed the horse the carrots while we all make him a
horse of a
different color?  Horses and little girls love each other."  *Good* she
thought.  *I didn't
snap at her.*

Divia approached the horse with the bag of carrots in one hand and one
carrot outstretched
in the other hand.  Nag looked at her warily, and moved first closer and
then away.  Finally
deciding that the saying about bearing gifts only applied to Greeks and not
little girls, the
horse clop-clopped over to the fence and nibbled at the carrot.

The Cousins clambered over the fence and began their handiwork.  Everyone
themselves with the project.  One whole bag of carrots later (how else to
measure time this
night?) the horse was no longer one color.  Distinct white patches were now
visible over its
body.  The white hair spray that was delivered to CERK from DonCo came in
handy after

"Next step: entry." Senara commented.

to be continued

Cousin Senara

Title: I Love A Raid... I Mean A Parade 8b/11
Author: Cousin Chase with creative input from Cousin Cherri, Senara and 
All permissions have been obtained.
Time: Concurrent with I Love A Raid - I Mean A Parade part 8a/11
posting for Cousin Chase by Cousin Senara

        Chase watched everyone trying to subdue the horse with only
a small portion of his attention.  The rest was occupied watching
WereVachon inside the church, passing the dogs without a problem and
approaching the retina scans.
        Darth LaCroix stood at the other side of the door, watching
Chase intently.  It was that stare he was trying to avoid.  "Are you
sure you can handle this, Captain?"
        "Yes, my lord, I'm sure," Chase grumbled.
        "I don't want a repeat performance of the last time you tried
        Before he could ask what in heaven's name THAT meant,
WereVachon was past the scanners, and the lights clicked off.  "NOW!"
he shouted, and LaCroix kicked in the door, then took up his position
guarding the entrance.  Chase sprinted through the "entertainment
areas" of the church to the restricted areas.  Heading full steam for
the door to the control room, he prayed for two things:  that there
were only electronic locks on that door, and that they had also been
deactivated when the power had been cut.
        "WHOOF!" he heard as he went head over heals over what felt
and sounded like a large dog.  Switching on the flashlight and
scrambling to put distance between him and the animal, he saw that it
looked more confused than hurt, and he kept going, hoping it wasn't
vicious.  "Nice doggy," he said, breaking back into a run.
        SLAM!  He bounced off the still locked control room door and
climbed back to his feet.  Grumbling at the amused glance from
WereVachon, one eye on the still-dazed dog, he pulled out the battery
operated drill he'd felt silly carrying with him and removed the
door guard, then attacked the latch with his penknife, still hoping the
electronic locks had been deactivated.  He could hear the high-pitched
alarm of an Uninterruptible Power Supply slowly draining as it powered
the computers, waiting for the power to return.  He just hoped the
computers were the only things on the UPS, and not the locks, too.
        The knife popped out of his hands and narrowly missed his foot as
the dog came up behind him, growling.  Eyes still fixed on the dog, he
bent down and picked up the knife, slowly.  "Nice doggy," he said again,
frantically trying the lock.  "Nice, nice doggy.  You know, WereVachon,
you _could_ do something..."
        He did, but it was to smile and blink.  The dog didn't seem to have
much interest in taking a chunk out of a vampire, after all.
        Finally the door popped open and he slammed it behind him and
WereVachon just as the dog lunged for him.
        Dropping into a chair he opened his pack and pulled out the Zip
drive.  He uploaded the files to one of the machines, then handed off the
keyboard to WereVachon.  He turned to another console and he brought up
the ... well, he tried to bring it up.
        "What?"  WereVachon looked at him, about as concerned as he seemed
capable of getting.  "What's wrong?  Keep going!    The power will be back
on in ... well, really soon!"
        He knew that.  Absently he flipped the switch that would turn off
the cameras when the power cam back on. "Password.  How much longer?"
        "Not too much ... should we leave?"
        He thought about it for a heartbeat.  "No.  We may never get
another chance at this."  He grabbed the second terminal and logged
WereVachon into the first one.  "Just start putting in variations on words
that have to do with your life."  And besides, he didn't know which was
worse, getting caught by the Vaqueros, or having to explain to Darth
LaCroix why it hadn't worked.
        The corner of the monitor blinked as a counter appeared.  Sixty
seconds, and the room would fill with gas and they'd be screwed, along
with all the Cousins outside.
        Thirty seconds.
        "Got it!" WereVachon said.
        Chase practically shoved him out of the way and started disabling
the security measures for the church.  As fast as it went, it was
excruciatingly slow.
        The lights snapped on and the outer door almost slammed shut as the
power returned.  A flock of Cousins stood outside waiting.
        As they flooded inside, Chase slumped in his chair, breathing for
what seemed like the first time in hours.  He pulled the keyboard into his
lap and finished his job; without the new password he installed, the
Vaqueros would not only be unable to re-activate their security system,
they wouldn't be able to remove the "moo" sounds he'd planted at every
system event, or the jpegs and gifs of Uncle that replaced very system
graphic, he mused with a Cousinly grin of mischief.

Cousin Senara

Title: I Love A Raid... I Mean A Parade 9/11
Author: Valerie J. Gilson (Cousin Senara) with creative input from Cousin
All permissions have been obtained.
Time: Concurrent with I Love A Raid - I Mean A Parade part 6a/11

Special Thanks to Cherri, Michele, Joni, Chase, Lisa, Cousin Tok and
everyone who I might have forgotten to name who helped with beta reading
and planning - this wouldn't have happened without you!  *hugs*

        Safely past the retinal scans, the DTCST fanned out looking for the
cow suits.
Cousin Senara headed straight for the Shrine.  What she thought was the
shrine.  "Rats!
Wrong room", she exclaimed.  After several wrong turns, and lots of
exclamations later,
she found the room.  Looking above to the hidden camera, she noted the
absence of a red
light, then darted into the opening to the shrine and then stopped short.
"Oh my," she
breathed.  There in front of her, surrounded by candles suspended on a
frame, was The
Cow Suit.
        Darth LaCroix's booming voice traveled to Senara, reminding her
that time was of the
essence.  After blowing out the candles to reduce the likelihood of
catching on fire, she
clambered onto the altar and began removing the suit.  Soon the original
suit that Cherri,
and then Vachon, had been stuffed in was carefully folded and shoved into
the black
knapsack.  Senara had removed two objects which now lay on the floor beside
her.  The
first object, once divested of its protective wrapping, was a mug from the
Witch Museum
in Salem, Massachusetts.  Senara wanted Cindy to know who took the suit; this
remembrance of Cindy's trip to Boston would be one of the surest ways to
let Cindy know
who did this.  Just to be on the safe side, she placed the tape recorder
next to the mug and
pressed play.  The strains of the "Hokey Pokey" drifted through the room.
That was the
only song on the 90 minute tape.  Cousin Senara relit the candles and
hastened to search the
other rooms for the rest of the cow suits.  *There couldn't be only one*
she thought.

        Cousin Robi and Divia were having great luck finding cow suits.
Robi was amazed, thinking, *Man these people were thorough.*  Every third 
Vaquera, at least, had a cow suit stuffed under their mattress.  Their 
knapsack was close to bulging by the time she was finished.  That didn't 
stop them from replacing a several of the candles that decorated
the church with the musical kind.  Specifically chosen for the musical
selection of "You are my Sunshine", the candles wouldn't stop playing 
until they were snuffed. The Vaqueros would be driven batty by the time 
they figured out the impostor candles from the real ones
and snuffed them.  Divia enjoyed replacing the ones high in the wall
sconces, chuckling to herself.

        Darth LaCroix looked up from his post at the door.  He still
counted off every 3 minutes in his loud booming voice, to alert his 
minions inside of the time passing.  He could feel the approach of many 
of his kind.  Just as his mouth opened to sound the alert to
do battle with the newcomers, he recognized one of the figures.  It was
another LaCroix carrying a human in his arms.  Followed by several other 
vampires carrying humans.

        Cousin Cherri bounded up the steps to the church only to meet with
a glare from Darth LaCroix.  He decided to have some fun with these 
arrivals.  "No one will be permitted to reach the target," he boomed.  
Cherri tried to slip around him but was stopped. She looked at the hand 
blocking her passage and attempted to bat it out of her way.  Behind
her, CERK LaCroix growled menacingly.

        "We aren't the rebels."  Good thing Chase had warned them about
this LaCroix's peculiarities.  "My lord." Adding the last eased his glower, 
but still didn't remove his hand from her path.

        "Darth LaCroix!"

        The shout distracted him enough for Cherri to slip past.  Annoyed
at the intrusion,
Darth LaCroix began to vamp out.  "Enough!  We don't have time for this!"
Senara came
sliding into the hall.  "Cousin Cherri, you're here!"  Senara threw her
arms about her co-conspirator.

        "How goes the raid?" Cherri asked.  Cherri updated her friend on
the progress of the revenge  "The parade just started.  We have only 15 
minutes at most. Hunter-D broke away from the parade and began running 
towards the church.  You should expect him here sooner than the rest of 
the group."

        "Raid goes well."  Senara tucked a bit of her red hair behind her
ear.  "Chase is taking care of the computer systems.  I've taken care of 
the shrine. Everyone else is running amok to get all the cow suits.  We're 
running out of time - I'm expecting the cops to show up.  Chase mistakenly 
tripped the hidden alarm.  And the WereVachon is angsting over it.  He's 
back in Nick mode."  She sighed, and then pointed down the stairs.  "No
one's hit the living quarters in the cellar - I think the leaders are
bunking close to Vachon."

        Cherri nodded and headed off in the direction that Senara
indicated.  CERK LaCroix followed closely after, muttering something 
about a marketing ploy to get more people to listen to his radio station.  
Senara heard "Spot the Cow contest revived" before they passed out of 

        "My lord, these people are here to help us with Cherri's revenge."
*Boy would the Vaqueros be upset when they saw the church.  But there's no 
better way.* "They are loyal Cousins."  Darth LaCroix nodded and moved 
aside from the door.  The Cousins rushed into the church.

        "The Force will be with us!" he intoned as they streamed past him.
He was really starting to enjoy himself now.

        The screech of sirens became progressively louder as the police
pulled up.  A portly
man jumped out of the lead car and strode up the steps, followed by several
other police officers.  "What's going on here?" he demanded.

        Darth LaCroix scowled at the balding man while reading his name
tag.  Time to play with these mortals some more; they insisted on calling 
him Darth LaCroix.  "You will ell me Schanke, where the hidden Rebel base 
is.  This is not their true headquarters."

        "Whaddya nuts?  the Rebels?  Whodya think you are?  Darth Vader?
Man oh man you are crazy."  he turned to share his discovery with his 
fellow officers.

        "My lord, he can't tell anyone!  Do something!  This raid has to be
kept secret!" Senara hissed the final word at Darth LaCroix, hoping that he 
would get the hint.  She certainly hoped he was kidding around, but she 
couldn't take any chances.

        Darth LaCroix spoke.  "Listen to me."  Schanke's eyes glazed over.
"Nothing is amiss.  We are just having a party, and one of the guests 
tripped the alarm by accident. Nothing else."

        Schanke repeated, "Nothing...party.....accident...nothing."
Blinking he turned around and gestured to the people in blue behind him.  
"OK people, some drunken idiot hit the switch.  That's all.  C'mon, nada 
to see...  Vamanos boys!"

        Cousin Senara let out a breath she didn't know she was holding.
*Darth dude did it.*  Now the only person she had left to watch out for 
was Hunter-D.

        "10 minutes left!" Darth boomed.

        Cousin Joni fiddled in her knapsack looking for the spray paint
cans lurking in
there.  Not only was she snagging any cow suits she found - and she found a
lot of them
so far - but she was going to "cow" a few suitcases.  Spying a suitcase in
the corner, Joni
quickly went to work.  Soon three of the suitcases were sporting black and
white cow markings.  Joni smiled at her handiwork and continued moving
through the living quarters.

        Cousin Cherri found a suit that looked quite familiar in the
bedrooms downstairs.
"Eeeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkkk!  This is the leader's room!"  She left a present
for Dona Cindy
on her bed.  A chocolate treat in the shape of Daisy the Cow Beanie
Baby(tm) rested on her
pillow.  Next to it, she placed a chocolate-covered cassette player playing
an endless loop
of Stevie Ray Vachon's favorite hits.  Turning to leave the room, she spied
CERK LaCroix
stuffing her knapsack full of cow suits he found in the room.  She sighed
and headed back to the main hallway.

        Bons and Annie were busy taping a poster to the door to the room
where the dogs
were still enjoying their steaks..  It was a life-size portrait of the
guitar.  Divia was taping
the top part.   Cherri pulled out a marker and scrawled "Looking for this?
It is lovely, isn't it and it's MINE!"

        "No!  you can't!"  The WereVachon had entered the room in full
angst mode.  He
had been wrestling with the moral issues of allowing the Cousins to
vandalize the Vaqueros
headquarters.  Time and time again, he would have stopped Chase from his
work, but
somehow didn't.  Nick (for he was now Nick) would have torn the poster from
the wall
but was intercepted by LK LaCroix.  LK LaCroix restrained his alternate
son, whispering into his ear.

        "You will let them do it, because they CAN do it." He hissed the
last at his son. Cherri was sure his eyes were golden.

        Cherri stepped back just as Third Cousin Patt came running in,
backpack full of
cow suits.  "Where's Senara?" she asked.  She had a depleted roll of tape
in one hand; having hung all the pictures of NiR throughout the church.

        Patt answered, "I saw her race by me, muttering something about 
hiding something."

        "5 minutes!"  Darth LaCroix sounded off the time again.

        "HEY!  What are you doing??"

        Cherri ran to the door, beaten there by the vampires.  Hunter-D was
at the door, in
his Chops the Lamb Beanie Baby (tm) costume protesting the goings-on at the
Headquarters.  "This is an attack!  Our horse is painted like a cow!  What
did you do with
our dogs?  Why didn't the alarm go off?  How did you get past the retinal
scans.  HELP!!!
THERE'S AN ATTACK!!!'  Hunter-D already worked up, began to scream in
With all the vampires blocking the doorway, he had no chance of getting by.

LK LaCroix stepped away from the crowd at the door.  The WereVachon moved
to stop
him and then was stopped as the moon forced him to change to Vachon.  "I
grow tired of
this mortal's speech and hysterics."  He stopped when he was only inches
from Hunter-D.
Hunter started to shuffle backwards.  LK LaCroix raised his hand so that
his index finger
pointed in the air.  "This.. Never.. Happened."  Hunter's eyes glazed over
quite quickly as
LaCroix grabbed control of the mortal's mind.  "You never saw us here.  You
came outside to watch a parade."

        "Never.... happen...watch.... parade."  Hunter repeated.  Then he
turned and
walked towards the street, still under the power of vampire hypnotism.

        "2 minutes!"  Darth was still keeping count.

        "Are we done?"  Senara skidded into the doorway.  She was greeted
with full bags
and lots of grins.  "Good.  Everyone remember to leave a chocolate cow pie
in place of the
suits?"  Again, nods from everyone assembled.  Taking out the cell phone
she rang Chase in the control booth.  "Finish up.  We're out of here."

        Darth LaCroix ordered everyone to pair up with a vampire to be
flown from the
premises.  "I will retrieve my mortal," he thundered and flew to get Chase.
A moment later
they heard Chase's voice from above the church, getting farther and farther
away, yelling,
"No, my lord, please, wait, not the... oh man, I hate this flying

        "Alright.  Now onto phase three.  The bonfires!"  With that, the
Cousinly strike
team left the church.  Hunter-D didn't register the large numbers of people
leaving the church. He was too busy watching for a parade.

to be continued

Cousin Senara

War:  I love a Raid....I mean a Parade.  10/11
Written by Cherri L. Munoz

With many thanks to my NA friends for allowing me to steal a piece from one
of the Nunkies Anonymous' stories.
Beanie Babies are copyrighted by Ty Inc.  No infringements are intended.
See part 1 for additional disclaimers.  All characters used with permission.

Cousin Bons was whispering something in Cherri's ear while CERK LaCroix was
waiting close by.  Cherri nodded in understanding then Bons left.

She thought everyone had gone until WereVachon walked out dressed in a
Bessie the Cow(tm) Beanie Baby costume.  The Cousin and CERK LaCroix turned
to each other and started to laugh uncontrollably.  Apparently, LK LaCroix
had made a few more suggestions to the WereVampire than telling him to
allow Cousins Bons, Annie, and Patt to redecorate the church with NiR
pictures and a poster of the Guitar.

"Cowed again."  Cherri said then they laughed even harder.  Between the
tears dripping, Cousin Cherri gasped. "What do you think Katrinka will do
when she discovers the new and improved superglued Nikki-poo turned Vachon

CERK LaCroix wiped away blood tears.  "Maybe she'll let me use him for my
new Mascot.  We could always have two so that one can have an occasionally
night off.  I think Dona Cindy and WereVachon would make a fine pair."

"Aaaahhh.....I can't breathe."  Tears streamed down Cousin Cherri's face.

Suddenly, LaCroix sobered, gently wiped a tear from her cheek, leaned in,
and gave her a gentle kiss, as if the kiss alone would preserve the shared
moment forever.

The tender mood suddenly snapped when marching music blared and Joe, the
elephant, trumpeted, announcing the parade was just around the corner.

Since the Vachons would soon be waking up from their hypnotic suggestion
(the command that the Vaqueras be kept in formation until they reached the
church), CERK LaCroix and Cherri moved further away so they would not be seen.

Curious, Cherri pointed.  "What's Patt doing in the truck?  I thought she
had gone to the bonfire with the others?"

"No," was the deadly reply.

Cherri inhaled deeply.  Play time was over.  She wondered why the sudden
mood change but that was something that you just didn't ask LaCroix.  At
least, she would have memories of how good that one moment felt.

Finally, the truck pulled up and stopped. CERK LaCroix leaned into the cab
while Patt sat very still.  "I have a SPECIAL project for you, my dear."
LaCroix looked up.  "Rust, leave us.  Flaming Uncle LaCroix will take both
you and CsnSun to the bonfire immediately."

Cousin Rust didn't argue.  She simply told Sun they were leaving with
Flaming Uncle and in a manner of seconds, they were gone.

CERK LaCroix turned back to Patt and used his 'you will not argue with me
no matter what' voice.  "Return to the parade warehouse with the truck and
the elephant, put him into the temporary elephant stables, and give him
food and water.  To keep him happy, you had best leave the Zombie
Beachcomber cooler within easy reach or you might have a stampeding
elephant on your hands."

Patt slid over to the driver's side but before she could put the truck into
gear, LaCroix raised a finger.  "One more thing.  Muck the stalls."

Patt was horrified but she only nodded and pulled away, taking Joe with her.

LaCroix waited until he had his temper under control.  "You have yet, my
dear, explained what you required from Bonnie."

Cherri fidgeted a little.  "She told me where she had hidden Vachon's
guitar.  The real guitar.  The one which belonged to Vachon from before the
rift occurred.  She had it in safe keeping until after I had finished jury
duty.  That's over now, so I decided it was time to get it back."

"Perhaps, you are right.  What did you have in mind?"

"I could use your help.  I want to go back to CERK for my quilt.  It's
large enough to cover the guitar."

"Is that the COW quilt, the one the Cherri Mooonoz Fan Club and Merc/Vaq
Kira made for you?"

"The one and the same.  I thought it would be incredibly funny to wrap the
guitar in the quilt before I hid it again."

LaCroix took her hand. " "We shall get both, but first, shall we have a
peek at what is going on at the church?"

The sounds emanating from the church was definitely not what you expected to
hear.  "The profanity!"  Cherri giggled.  "Oh MY!"

"I think your team has accomplished their desired results."

"Oh yes."  Cherri beamed with pride at how well the team worked.  "My only
regret is that Torrey and her second lieutenant were not here to enjoy this
party. Torrey would have looked glorious in the Tabasco the bull(tm)
costume I ordered for her and her cohort's Nuts the squirrel(tm) costume
would have made them into a fine-looking pair."

CERK LaCroix eyes glazed over at vision.  "Another possibility for my radio
Mascots?"  He paused.  "No matter.  What is done is done.  Now it is time
to be on our way for we do not wish to miss the bonfire.  And I might add
that I'm getting rather thirsty.  Let's hope that your Cousin Heidi has
remembered the bottles she was supposed to bring or the bonfire festivities
might take on a nasty turn."  He then whisked Cherri into his arms and flew
them first to CERK and then to the hiding place.

With the guitar safely hidden in the quilt, they flew to the bonfire site
but soft-landed some distance away.  After a few steps, LaCroix stopped and
studied the river front, listening to the gathering of excited people, the
seagulls overhead, an owl hooting, and the gentle splash of the waves.
Cherri stood quietly next to him, waiting and anticipating his next
question.  He finally turned to her.  "Where do you plan to hide the guitar

Cousin Cherri just smiled.

Beanie Babies are copyrighted by Ty Inc.  No infringements are intended.
See what the beanie babies look like at:  http://www.ty.com/beanie/list/
The costumes are a fantasy of the Cousin Cherri's vivid imagination and are
only used as a giggle for the Forever Knight war.  Although I think it
would be a great idea for the company to use as Halloween costumes.  
Cousin Cherri 
In this ever-changing world that we share, only one thing is truly
permanent....ME...  he..he..he..he..he..he..he   
FK War 8


War:  I love a Raid....I mean a Parade.  11/11
Written by Joni Latham
With help from and beta read by Cousins Cherri, Chase, Senara, and Bons.

Beanie Babies are copyrighted by Ty Inc.  No infringements are intended.
All characters used with permission.  See part 1 for additional disclaimers.

The evening had gone quite well.  At least, Cousin Joni thought that it was
evening, it was hard to tell when you were living in perpetual darkness.
The raids and the kidnappings were a success.  By the time the Vaq leaders
and some of their troops were released from their stereophonic rooms, they
were jabbering zombies.  They probably would not even remember consuming a
life-sized chocolate sculpture of Vachon, but then again, maybe they would;
it did appear to be the highlight of their day.  All the cousins seemed to
have had a blast.  Now, they were gathering a ceremonial burning of the
dreaded cow costumes.

Joni walked alongside Father LaCroix as they made their way to the site of
the bonfire.  Most the other cousins with personal LaCroixs were being
flown by their particular LaCroix, but she much preferred to walk,
especially since she was afraid of heights.  One thing for which she was
thankful was that Father LaCroix allowed her to wrap her hands around his
arm as they walked.  All though the worst part of the raid and parade were
over, there was still a chance of retaliation by the Vaqs and she felt much
safer with him there.

Neither of them had uttered a word since beginning the walk to the bonfire.
 Just as Joni thought that the entire walk would be spent in silence,
Father LaCroix commented, "My child, this war was not what I thought is was
when you first mentioned it.  I pictured bloodshed and death..."

Joni stopped in mid-step and stared up at him.  She was a little shocked
that anyone would think that the factions would actually hurt one another.
"Father, you have it all wrong.  We don't hate the other factions, nor do
they hate us.  In fact, there are many friends between all the factions.
We just love to pull practical jokes on each other and the competition is
always great fun.  No one is ever hurt, just a tad embarrassed."

He covered her hand with his as he started them walking again.  "I see.  Do
unto others before they do unto you, so to speak."

His speech until now had been that of a regular priest, serious and full of
scripture.  To hear him crack a joke, shocked her, then tickled her.  It
took her a moment to regain her composure before she could reply.  "I
suppose that is one way to look at it."

When she looked around her, she saw that they still had a long walk ahead
of them.  She was eager to get to the site of the bonfire; she did not want
to miss anything.  She swallowed hard, then asked, "Father, would you fly
us to the bonfire, please?"

"My child, I though that you were afraid of heights," he asked, stopping
and putting his arms around waist.

"I am," she answered.  "But, I'm more afraid of missing any of the bonfire.
 It should be a lot of fun."

"Well, then, shall we go?"

As he finished speaking, Father LaCroix tightened his arms around her waist
and lifted them both up in the air.  The moment that she felt her feet
leave the ground, she clinched her eyes shut.  In just a few moments she
felt herself being lowered, then her feet touching the ground something
solid, which she hoped was the ground.

"You may open your eyes now," Father LaCroix whispered in her ear, his arms
still around her waist.

She held on tightly to his arms as she slowly opened her eyes.  After her
eyes focused, she was able to see the commotion and goings-on around her.
Many of the cousins had already arrived, but neither bonfire had been lit
yet.  There were to be two bonfires:  one for the costumes and one so they
could roast marshmallows.  Cousin Heidi had suggested that they roast
marshmallows and everyone agreed.  Since the costumes were flame-retardant
and would give off toxic fumes when exposed to fire, they had to have the
second fire for the marshmallows.

Cousin Tok was in-charge of the bringing the fire materials and matches to
start the fires.  The lack of fires caused Joni to wonder if either one of
them had made it to the site yet.  She wanted to go look for them and tried
to pull out of Father LaCroix's arms, but he held her fast.  When she
looked questioningly up at him, he smiled softly down at her.

"It has been a while since I have touched or held a woman." He said just
barely above a whisper.  "I will soon return to my dimension, everything
willing.  Once I return, I will resume my very solitary life.  I have
enjoyed your company as well as that of the other cousins, and I would
like...  I mean would you mind if I held you for a moment longer and maybe,
even kiss you."

Mind?  He wanted to kiss her, and he asked if she would mind.  "No,
Father," she said softly.  "I wouldn't mind at all."

Without saying another word, he bent over and kissed her softly on the
lips.  "You may search for your friends now," he whispered, releasing her.

"I may what?" she responded.  "My friends?  Oh, my friends!"

She reached for his hand.  She was going nowhere without him.  As long as
he remained in this dimension, she planned to spend all her time with him.

They walked through the crowded that was still assembling.  She saw Cousin
Cherri and CERK LaCroix and talking to them was Cousin Candance and Caile.
What was CERK LaCroix doing here, he very rarely left the station.

Approaching Cousin Cherri, she asked, "What is CERK LaCroix doing here?
How did you get him out of the station?"

Cherri did a few bounces before answering.  "Oh, he was so pleased with
himself on how well the parade went that he decided that he had to be here
for the bonfire.  He actually put on a tape of his show and escorted me here."

"Cool!  And, is that the Cow quilt that I see in your arms?"

Cherri bounced again.  "Yes, isn't it neat.  I have Vachon's guitar wrapped
up in it for safe keeping.  Which reminds me I have to find Cousin Bons to
thank her for telling me where it was hidden.  Excuse me, I'll catch up
with you and Father LaCroix later."

Joni watched Cousin Cherri bounce off into the darkness to find Cousin Bons
with CERK LaCroix not far behind.  She had noticed that none of the LaCroix
liked to be very far away from their patron cousin.  Hearing a commotion
behind them, she and Father LaCroix turned to find Cousin Tok and some of
the other cousins and LaCroixs unloading the wood for the fire from a large
dump truck.  Wow, this was going to be some fire!  Tok always did things in
a big way.

The wood was stacked into two distinct piles; a huge one for the costumes
and a smaller one to roast the marshmallows.  Cousin Tok was about to put
the match to the wood when they heard someone yelling for them to wait for
her.  Out of the darkness, Cousin Heidi appeared, dragging a wagon behind
her.  It was full of bags of marshmallows and bottles of blood that she
promised to bring for all the vampires.  Once Heidi was in position the
fires were lit and almost instantly went into a full blaze.

There was a small ceremony where several of the veteran cousins walked by
the larger bonfire and tossed a costume into it.  One of the female cousins
stopped in the procession and removed her shoes. With a mighty throw, she
tossed them in the fire.  It took Joni a moment to recognize that she was
Cousin Bons.  Oh, well, she always said that she hated those shoes, saying
that they were too practical.  It took about fifteen minutes for the flame
to ignite the flame-retardant material.  Once ignited, it disappeared quite

It was now time for everyone to relax and have fun.  Someone asked what
they were going to use to roast the marshmallows since spiked wooden sticks
were out of the question.  The LaCroixs would definitely frown on them.
Cousin Senara produced several bags of roasting skewers and passed them
around.  She explained that she thought that in the excitement, no one
would think to bring them.  Cousins picked up a skewer, bag of
marshmallows, and a bottle or two from the wagon, then joined other cousins
and LaCroixs waiting for them around the fire.  Joni grabbed a bag and a
bottle for her LaCroix, then they found a place to sit near a fallen tree.
Father LaCroix sat against the tree, allowing her to lean against him.  He
drank from his bottle as she looked around the fire surveying the cousins.

She finally spotted Cousin Cherri who had obviously found Cousin Bons.
Opening up the quilt, she held the guitar out towards Cousin Bons.  A smile
spread across Bons face as she reached out and hugged the bouncing cousin.
Cherri handed the guitar to CERK LaCroix, who had helped her retrieve it,
while she wrapped the quilt around her.  She looked for a place to sit, and
found that the only vacant place was near the fallen tree where several
other cousins and their LaCroixs had joined Joni and Father LaCroix.  CERK
LaCroix insisted on carrying the guitar for her until she was seated.
Instead of sitting on the ground for fear of getting the quilt dirty, she
chose to sit on the trunk of the fallen tree.  Once she was comfortable,
CERK LaCroix handed her the guitar and sat down with his bottle beside her.

A sigh to her right caught Joni's attention.  When she looked in the
direction of the sigh, she discovered Cousin Chase sitting all alone on the
ground away from the others.  He appeared none too happy to be attending
the bonfire.  Worried about him, she stood up and excused herself.  Father
LaCroix wanted to accompany her, but she told him that she would not be
long and would be perfectly safe.  Besides, he had to stay so that they did
not lose their place by the fallen tree.  He finally agreed to stay behind,
so she walked over to Cousin Chase.

"Chase," she called.  "Chase, are you all right.  And where is Darth LaCroix?"

When Chase looked up, Joni saw that there was a bruise and a lump the size
of a walnut on his forehead.  He held his hand up to his head.  "Staring at
my battle wound, huh?  You can thank Darth LaCroix for that.  He dropped me
on the way over here.  His idea of a joke, I think.  As to where he is at,
somewhere over there in the darkness," he remarked, pointing behind her.
"I really don't care, because I'm not talking to him at the moment."

"Let me see it," Joni said, removing his hand.  "You need ice for that.
I'll be right back."

Joni ran over to a cooler that one of the cousins had brought with them and
asked to borrow some ice.  She wrapped it up in one of the empty plastic
bags left over from the marshmallows and placed it on Chase's forehead.

"Now, keep it there for a while until the swelling goes down," she ordered.
 "You really should make up with Darth LaCroix, you know.  You have no idea
how long he'll be here.  The rift could suck him back to his world any

Chase smiled at her. "I should be so lucky.  'Captain' Chase or whatever
the hell the alternate me is called might be OK with him, but ... well,
I've just got a lot to think about, that's all.  Look, thanks for the ice.
Why don't you go back to Father LaCroix and enjoy the bonfire.  I think
that your absence is making him anxious.  Look at him," he said, pointing
to where they saw Father LaCroix pacing back and forth.  "I promise to
think about what you suggested."

Joni shrugged her shoulders, she knew that there was no use in arguing with
him, and Father LaCroix did look rather uncomfortable.  She said "good
night" to Cousin Chase and hurried back to her LaCroix before he paced a
hole in the ground.  When she reached out and touched his arm, she felt him
relax under her touch.  He took his place on the ground against the fallen
tree, then pulled her down beside him.  Leaning back against him, she
picked up a skewer and roasted another marshmallow as she listened to the
other cousins talking about the evening's events.

The talk was full of descriptions and comments on how well the Vaqs looked
in their beanie baby costumes, parading down the street.  Everyone had
their favorite and some cousins had several favorites, depending on who was
inside the costume.  After an hour or two of discussing the raid and
parade, the conversation died down to where the only sound heard was the
crackling of the wood.  Cousins' eyes were drooping Cousin Cherri took
advantage of the silence.  She put Vachon's guitar on her knee and began to
strum a tune, filling the air with music.

Yes, it had been a very successful evening.

Cousin Joni  joni@gte.net
Confirmed Cousin with Dark Knightie tendencies, Moriah's Mother & #2 Paramour
"If you want to run with the vampires, you gotta suck a little blood"
Rupert Smedley, CEO BligeCorp, www.nembley.com


WAR:  Three Wishes
By Patt Elmore
When:  After 'I Love A Raid...I Mean, Parade'
Where:  Becomes apparent
Betaing by the fabulous group--BonJulsey


It had been hours now since the parade.
Patt's shoulders ached.  Actually, many of
her assorted parts were throbbing, but her
shoulders were especially giving her fits.
Putting the shovel bowl to the floor, she
used the handle as a prop and leaned against

Mucking out elephant stalls was a behemoth

She looked up at the wall clock again.  At
least the instrument had stopped spinning
backwards and had settled on a nice, friendly
5 p.m.  But, Patt argued, this day had been
so long that a late afternoon time just
didn't seem right.  Using the shovel handle
to reach the clock arms, she repositioned
them to midnight.  There, she thought, at
least I can deceive myself into thinking it's

She allowed her eyes to close, just a moment.
Even bad little Cousins who helped exorcise
friends, kidnap Knighties, drool on LaCroix,
watch as Cousinly Leaders *fell* into
predicaments--even they needed a break. She
idly wondered if Jules and Bons had been
given a "special assignment" too.

Patt felt the air stir, felt the sudden rush
of gravity as her body plummeted down,
dislodged from its buttress.  She barely
avoided the need for stitches when her chin
struck the cement floor.

Jarred, her shoulders forgotten, Patt used
two flat hands to lift herself to a pre-crawl
position.  She looked around quickly,
wondering what had struck the shovel handle
and made it fall out from under her.

"That's odd," Patt said, seeing nothing.  "I
guess I must have just slipped."  She got up
and starting picking straw off her clothes.

The elephant was long gone, so Patt had been
unafraid to bring Fred, the Miniature
Pinscher with whom she shared habitation,
along to keep her company while she worked.
The dog had curled up in a clump of clean
straw, after satisfying his appetite on the
biggest pile of excrement he'd ever been
blessed to see.  The little black and rust
dog could now be heard growling in the other

Once again, Patt felt the air condensing.
She grabbed the shovel from the floor and
turned, held the tool low and menacing.
"Okay, who's there?"

No one answered.

"Okay, I know its either a Vaq or a Knightie,
so play fair and show yourself," Patt
demanded, brandishing the shovel.

"Indeed--odd," a masculine voice said, "that
you can sleep through sirens passing your
home, but let your cur shift positions, and
you come as awake as a mother with a babe in

Patt couldn't see the figure, but it didn't
matter, because she recognized the voice.
She'd heard it hundreds of times.  She'd
heard it in her dreams.

LaCroix, or rather a LaCroix, stepped from
behind the stanchion.  Patt appraised him
while he watched her intently.

"So," she finally spoke.  "You're my
manifestation, are you?"

LaCroix laughed without mirth.  "So it would
appear," he said, leveling his gaze on her
once again.  "What do you think of me so

He looked like a traditional LaCroix, except
he was suited in white silk rather than
black.  His hair was short and white, but had
been tinged purple at the temples, giving his
eyes a violet cast.  The sword pin at his
throat was gold, rather than silver.  He
stood arrow straight, except for a small
downward arch to his shoulders, giving his
bearing an almost raptor-like appearance.

Patt waited a long time before speaking.  She
took a deep breath and answered him.  "You
look pretty normal to me--rather, normal for

"Indeed?" his voice held just a hint of
sarcasm and Patt began to wonder if she'd
missed something in his demeanor.  "Define .
. . normal."

"Tall, blonde, well-dressed . . . menacing,"
Patt offered the last word with a joking
quality, hoping to placate the entity
standing before her.  He made no positive
response to her jest.

In fact, he just stood there, watching her.
Very unnerving.

"Okay," Patt said finally, thinking that she
might as well get this over with.  "I know
for certain that you are not *the* LaCroix."

He arched an eyebrow, a very *the* LaCroix
response.  Patt felt her heart lurch, as much
in finally being this close one-on-one with
a/the LaCroix, as in fear.

"Explain," he demanded, moving one step
closer and adjusting his stance to appear
even taller.  This was really an unnecessary
gesture, for considering Patt's full height
was 5"3", he already towered over the little

Patt gulped.  She suddenly noticed that she
still held the shovel.  Her eyes drifted to
the bowl, which cradled traces of Pachyderm
poop.  The woman from Louisiana
looked up into the imposing blue eyes and
grinned hopefully, "'Cause you're wearing

She never saw the movement that brought him
within a taste of her, never had time to
guess his intentions and react.  She found
her back pressed hard against the wooden tie
rail, screaming from the pressure of his

He had clasped her throat with his long white
fingers, the neatly trimmed nails just
pressing into her vulnerable flesh.  Patt's
eyes made a frantic search around the stable,
hoping maybe Tser would arrive with some bar
supplies or something.  No such luck.  Patt
was alone with this maniac.

Except for Fred.  The brave little dog howled
from somewhere beneath the hay he was hiding

LaCroix looked around, amused, then returned
his glare to Patt.  "You certainly know how
to pick your companions, little Cousin," he

Knowing that she was staring death in the
face, Patt suddenly felt braver.  Or very stupid.
"Does that include you, Mr. LaCroix?"

Her response must have pleased him, for his
cruel mouth softened at the edges.  His eyes
flicked across her face, taking in her
features, studying her.  Patt felt naked.

He leaned closer, his lips to her ear.  "Do
you want me?" he asked.

Patt pulled back, staring at him.  "That's a
really dumb question," she sputtered.  "For one, it's
against the rules, and for two, it would be a very
dangerous, idiot thing for me to do and . . ."

The Louisianan noticed the puzzlement creep
into this LaCroix's face and stopped.  Her
own expression must have been equally as
perplexed because he began to smile.  Genuinely

Patt was really worried now.

He loosed her, moved away and stood, arms

"It was a foolish question, I know." LaCroix
assured her.  "How could anyone not want me."
Now Patt was past confusion.  This was worse
than the tea drinker, she thought.

LaCroix shook an outstretched hand and, with
a flash of light, he held a staff.  A wooden,
almost his height, intricately carved and
hone to a sharp point at the end staff.
Patt recognized it immediately as the
shillelagh which had destroyed her life.  She
felt faint.

"Yes," he saw her anguish and nodded.
"Beautiful and so deadly."  He hefted it and
grasped it tightly.  "In one stead it can
give peace and in the next, it can destroy
all you care for.  A potent weapon indeed."
He twirled the rod slightly and stars and smoke
spewed from its tip.

He smiled wickedly, "An apt wand for your own
personal wizard, ehhh?"

"My . . . what?" Patt gasped.  The little
guys with the nets and the funny coat had to
be closing in.

LaCroix threw back his head and laughed
coldly.  With snake-like speed he was next to Patt
again, the butt of the staff pressed against
her chest.  She screeched.

"Know your Grimm?" he asked her, his voice

"I don't mean to be," she whimpered.  "In
fact, I try to stay upbeat, go with the flow,
real type "B" personality . . ."

Fred howled again.

LaCroix shook his head.  "No, no, no . . .
not grim, Grimm.  The Germans."

Patt racked her brain until the cue ball fell
into place.  "You mean the guys that wrote
the fairy tales?" she said hopefully.  She
was rewarded by his nod.

"And?" he removed the shillelagh from her
chest, repositioning it so that the blade
pressed against her throat.

A thought came to her.  What the heck, she
was going to die anyway, right?

"You're my . . . Fairy Godfather LaCroix,
right?"  Patt closed her eyes and waited for
her position in the food chain to become
utilized.  Tick, tick, tick.  Nothing

"Drop the 'Fairy, and we can negotiate," his
voice informed her.  Patt opened one eye a

"Consider it dropped," she agreed, and he
moved away, taking the walking stick with

"So, are you pleased?  Am I what you expected
to inherit from this rift?"  He looked at her
pointedly.  "What does you psycho babble tell
you about *yourself*, now that I've come to

Patt straightened her shoulders and faced him

"That I am delusional, escapist and that I
don't get out enough," she responded.  "And,
that I need a vacation."

He laughed approvingly.  "Well said."  Again, he gave
her a pointed look.  "Is that the first of your wishes,
 then, to 'go on vacation'?"

"Wishes?" Patt said the word slowly.  He
nodded, his eyes sparking with icy delight.

"Three," Godfather LaCroix said.  "Comes with
the image."

"Three wishes . . ." Patt's eyes went wide
with wonder.  He nodded again.

While Patt was mulling this development over
a bit, the white-suited LaCroix turned and
strolled toward the stall where Fred lay
quaking.  Actually, Patt couldn't *see* Fred,
just a pile of straw shivering in the corner.
LaCroix saw it also, because he reached over
and poked at it with the staff.

"Hey!" Patt yelped, heading in his direction.
She stopped abruptly when he half-turned and
looked at her.

"You have a wish?" his smile was cruel,
unnatural.  Patt really wished that he would
go away, but that would be a waste now,
wouldn't it?

"N . . . no, no wish," she stammered.

"Well," Godfather LaCroix drawled.  "You'd
best hurry up and make your decisions, then.
The wishes can only be granted and held
during the time the rift is open.  Then," he
made a dramatic gesture with his hand,
"*POOF*, all gone."

With an identical hand gesture Godfather
LaCroix and his staff were gone.  Fred
crawled out from under the straw, his hackles
raised, and proceeded to sniff the ground
where the wizard had last stood.

Patt turned, intent on putting the shovel
away and getting the heck out of the barn,
and stepped into one of the softer
patties that she'd not yet scraped off the

She went down, face first, hard.

When Patt woke, swift, strong tongue
motions were licking her cheek and temple.
She brushed the dog away and sat up, still
confused.  The fallen shovel lay by her side.

"Must have fallen," she muttered, standing and
feeling her jawline for signs of laceration
or loosened teeth.  Satisfied that she was
still basically intact, she remembered the
strange dream she'd had during her period of

"Very weird," she muttered.  Then she looked
around the stall area.  So much more still to
do.  She picked up the shovel with a sigh and
started toward a pile of muck.

"I wish there were two of me, so that I could
get some rest," she murmured.

"That's one!" the wind whispered, but the
voice was lost to Patt in the barking din
Fred created when he spotted a rat.


Note:  I am now on vacation.  If anyone wants
to use me or my character, Godfather LaCroix,
please contact Bonnie at BR1035@ix.netcom.com
or Jules at Knightgal@aol.com.  They have my


Wonderland Bites : Bonnie Gets Nibbled(1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Katrinka's lent me her WereVachon! Woohoo!
Time: After Cherri's "I Love A Raid..." , Patt's 'Three Wishes' and the
Mercbard's "The Invitations Are Sent" and all that other schmadoodle, but
before Kat's "Shrinked To Fit".

     Bonnie was very displeased to not be one of the chosen few selected to
receive an invite to the splashy grand opening of the Elvis Museum at
Canada's Wonderland Amusement Park. It was a Paramount park, and since Bons
lived half-an-hour's drive from Paramount's Carowinds, she felt the museum
opening was like a call home.

     She was going. She would be there when they unveiled the hunka-hunka-
burning-memorabilia, even if she had to bribe BooBoo to do it. Patt was busy
scooping elephant poop in CERK's stable, so Bonnie ditched her.
Patt needed some rest and relaxation afterwards, anyway. Bons didn't need
rest and relaxation, not when she had coffee.

     As she headed out of CERK, a Beanie Baby cow fell into step behind

     "Get me out of this costume," she heard Nick's slightly echoing voice

     "I hate to break it to ya, but that whammy thing's not nearly as
effective coming from  Bessie the Cow. All that hugga-plushiness - it's 
so distracting..."

     "I'm very upset, you know," he said, stomping a soft and cuddly hoof.

     "Eh, whatever. You're always upset about something," she replied. "What
are you still doing here at Cousin Central? Why haven't you gone back to the
loft where you belong?"

     "I can't, not in this costume, it would be too humiliating to the
Knighties," Nick said morosely. "That's not even considering how crushed
Katrinka will be when she finds out I helped the Cousins. I must spare her
that pain."

     "Ooo. Too bad, Nick. Really. I feel for you, I do," Bonnie said
insincerely, "and I'd offer to be your emotional co-dependent, but," She
twisted her lips and snapped her fingers, "darn! I have plans."

     "Plans to get me some super-glue solvent?"

     "The Cousins bought up the world supply and hid it, remember? Better
luck next time! Wavies!"

     As the bovine toy watched Bons head out the front door of CERK, he
called after her, "I'm holding you personally responsible for this!" After a
minute of fuming, the cow's eyes became indignant, and he swooped out the
entrance after her.

     When Bonnie pulled Patt's truck up to the curb outside the Jeweled
Peach, he was waiting for her. "Get me out of this costume. Now."

     "Geez! What are you, lichen clinging to a stone? Go away!" Bonnie
sighed as Nick didn't budge from the warehouse doorway. She glared at him.
*Bad cow!*

     "You are a Cousin. You are a sneaky, sneaky Cousin. Sneaky Cousins have
a tendency to get super-glued into things. I bet you have a solvent stash
around here somewhere. After all, you never know when you might have a
solvent emergency."

     Bonnie tried to blink innocently. Being guilty, though, made this very

    "A-ha!" the Nick-cow said as he grabbed Bonnie's drool cup from her
fingers, unlocked the door and dragged her inside. "I knew it!"

     Shele was busy bouncing on the trampoline. "Bons! Are you bringing a
non-member into the Shrine?" she called.

     "No, Shele. I'm bringing a giant, plush cow into the Shrine."

     "Oh. Okay!"

     Bonnie pulled the costumed WereVachon  to the altar, and started
digging through the cabinet. "Let's see...duct tape...tweezers...tictacs...
brick repellent...hmm..."

     "Will you hurry up?" the plush cow snapped.

     "Hold your udders! I'm getting there! Tah-daaaa! One conveniently
placed bottle of super-glue solvent!" Bons brandished the metal container

     "Douse me!"

     Bonnie unscrewed the cap, and stepped back as she prepared to splash
super-glue solvent all over the costumed WereVachon. Unfortunately, she
stepped into a stray patch of drool at the same time. Her non-sensible shoes
slipped out from under her, and the solvent went flying. Suddenly, there was
nothing in the container, and a large, rapidly evaporating puddle on the

     "No!" the plush cow screamed, then desperately ran over to the puddle
to roll in it.



     "I think you tripped on purpose," the plush cow muttered as they headed
outside again.

     "Honestly, I didn't! Look on the bright side - you managed to get your
right hoof off."

      "*grumble* *grumble*.... Where are you going now?"

      "Away from you. I have big, excitin' plans."

     The plush cow-clad WereVachon stepped menacingly in front of her (well,
as menacingly as a plush cow-clad anything can step in front of someone),
blocking her exit from the warehouse.

     Bonnie released a long sigh. "Okay, if you must know, I'm going to
Wonderland to see the opening of the Elvis Presley Museum."

     The WereVachon lost interest and let the Cousin pass. Just as the door
shut behind her, though, he had a titillating thought. 

      Bons groaned when the plush cow caught up with her again. "You're
still here? I thought you'd given up on me helping you," she said as he
opened the passenger side door.

     "I'm tagging along," Vachon stated. Bonnie started at first - the
WereVachon wasn't using Nick's voice anymore, but the Spaniard's. She
glanced at his one, non-costumed  hand, and privately ooh-ed and ahh-ed that
the moon could still transform him.  she giggled to
herself. Then Bons remembered the WereVachon was following her, and she
renewed her Cousinly batteries. Bonnie gave the plush-cowed Vachon a 'Why?'
stare, and he released an irritated breath. "Knight wants to go see the

     "Well, I guess it won't hurt anything," she said, turning the ignition.
"I don't see why you can't fly there like a good, normal vampire-in-a-cow-
suit, though."

     "Because this way," Vachon said pleasantly. "I get to annoy you. I'm
not thrilled about those stunts at the church and this costume, remember?
You helped torment my Vaqs - you deserve some tribulation." He gave a
considerate pause. "The Gibson photo was nice, though. I've never seen a
guitar pout before."

     "Why, thank you," she said sweetly. The plush cow smirked when the
truck jerked as Bons' non-sensibly-clad foot slipped off the accelerator. He
opened his bovine mouth to make a crack, but she cut him off. "Don't say

    "Say what?" Vachon blinked innocently.

    "Say one of those comments about what a screamin' fine ride this is."

    "Never planned it for a minute."

    "Really?" Bonnie tried to raise an eyebrow, but her whole forehead
wiggled instead.

    "Really. I was going to say," Vachon motioned his normal hand to the
truck bed. "A Chevy truck might not burn rubber, but it sure can haul sh-"

     "I get it. I get it. You can stop," she groaned as the WereVachon
laughed. He continued laughing until the Cousin started to sing ABBA tunes.
Even the Knight part of him didn't like ABBA tunes. The plush cowed-Vachon
stayed quiet for the rest of the ride, leaving the cab in blissful silence.

     Because the event was so exclusive, Bonnie didn't even bother praying
to the God of Parking as she pulled into the amusement park's front lot.
She descended from the truck cab, sniffing the air with satisfaction.

     "Smell that, Vachon? That's fun in the air! Fun and... *sniff*...
Chocolate Nunkies?!?!"

     Bons began to dash madly for the entrance. The WereVachon took his
time. Plush cows and slackers never hurried.


     Bonnie was sitting in a giant bucket of saltwater taffy, happily
snarfing the remnants of a chocolate Nunkies toe when the moo-WereVachon
caught up with her. "Mmmmmm....numnum...Nunkies...."

     "You know," Vachon/Nick said as he transformed under the fluorescent
lighting. "You could've warned me that this was a 'no vamps' event. They've
got neon crosses and garlic everywhere!"

     "Mmmmmffff!" Bonnie swallowed. "Didn't know. I wasn't invited. Remember
me screaming, hanging on the front gate, clamoring for chocolate? That kind
of stuff doesn't happen to the invited folks." She struggled to push herself
from the taffy bin until the plush cow gave her a pull. "If the icons really
bother you, you sure don't have to hang around on my account."

     "Actually, I do. Vachon  wants to get even with you for luring us into
Cherri's evil clutches. He's planning to torment you."


     "Because he can. It'll be over more quickly if you just head outside,
into the moonlight..."  The Nick half of the WereVachon poked Bons in the
direction of the door.

     "Now, wait just a minute! Maybe I don't want to get tormented!" Bonnie
dug her non-sensible heels into the linoleum. "I always wind up feeling
picked on when I get tormented!"

     The plush cow picked her up and carried her bodily outside. "That's
kind of the point," she heard Vachon's voice say. Then he dumped her in a
ornamental pond.

     By the time Bonnie climbed out of the algae-infested water and pulled a
renegade koi from her blouse, she was becoming grouchy. She'd lost yet
another pair of non-sensible shoes. "Ooo! I'm getting mad! I think that fish
bit me!" she seethed as the plush cow chuckled at the water trail left on
the pavement behind her.  "Of course, now would be a good time for the log


     Bons finally gave up on rides after the WereVachon kept arguing with
the park employees about whether she *really* was tall enough for anything
but the baby bumpercars. He didn't whammy the ride technicians, just argued
with them, and, to Bonnie's never-ending annoyance, most agreed with him.

     "Ooo! I'm *really* getting mad!" Bonnie fumed as she padded her way
toward the aquarium. A stately-looking penguin passed her, then three fully
armored knights carrying shrieking Nick & Natpackers. "Whatever feeds your
goat," she muttered, then groaned because the plush cow had caught up with
her again.

     "Where to next?"

     Bonnie wasn't sure how, but the plush cow looked downright devilish.
"Fish," she mumbled, "I'm going to see fish."

     "What? You didn't see enough in the ornamental pond? We can always go

     "You're full of it, WereVachon!" she snapped. "Besides, the aquarium
has special fish."

     "Such as?"

     "Very rare piranha. Vegetarian piranha from Ecuador. I want to go feed
them banana chips."

     When they arrived, the aquarium was locked, however, and Bonnie and the
cowed-WereVachon heard the distinctive sounds of rushing water, a broadcast
that the piranhas were loose, and more screaming Nick & Natpackers.

     "I hope none of them are packing carrot sticks," Bons said as she began
to walk away. "Let's go to the museum."

     "I don't think so," Vachon replied.

     "And why is that?" she asked belligerently.

     "Because," the plush cow replied smoothly, "you've gone at least forty-
five minutes without coffee. You'll pass out from caffeine depravation in,
I'd say, five seconds. Five...four...three..."


     The plush cow grinned. "Make that three seconds."

Fin for now

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

War:  The Stuff Sandwiches Are Made Of, or, Marmite, by Any Other
Where:  CERK
Time:  After 'Wonderland Bites: Bonnie Gets Nibbled'
by Cousins Jules, Bons and Annie

     Jules sat at her desk back at CERK, twiddling her thumbs and
straightening things up for the day - er, night.  Everyone else
got plenty of free time to play in the War, but Jules still had a job to go
to every day - er, night...whatever.  She had more than that to worry about,
though:  at the back of her mind, she still wondered if the Quad's Lacroix
would ever forgive her slip of the tongue and the reference to 'Nunkies'?
 Bons, Annie and Patt had been likewise mortified, if glad they hadn't let
*the* word slip past their lips, and done their best to comfort one another.
 Good thing Lacroix didn't know anything about the High Priestess stint.
Now *that* would probably spell real doom - in all caps.  Still, if she was
lucky, she might get away with just being brought across...

     Patt slept quietly in the next room.   Jules
asked herself for the fifth time in as many hours, having found her friend
face down in a pile of hay near an elephant's stall near CERK's temporary
elephant stables, Patt's dog, Fred, yipping at her feet.

    Annie had just returned, having spent several hours looking for her still
missing tennis shoes, and Bons had mentioned venturing out to Canada's
Wonderland after she stopped by the Shrine for some new, non-sensible shoes.
 Sigh.  There was something to be said for the student life.  Indeed, she
still had happy memories - along with some not so cheery ones - of her days
as a grad student in TO:  the odd cup of tea at the long, gone Windsor Arms;
a stroll through Hazleton Lanes on a cool, spring afternoon; cheesecake at
Bregman's; chocolate croissants at La Maison du Croissants; cleaning out the
biscuit section at Marks & Sparks...

      Jules thought.    A knock on her office door brought her
back to the present, and Annie poked her head in.

     "Hellooooooo," Annie said cheerily as she sauntered in, hands behind
her back.  "Look what I brought!" she exclaimed, bringing her hands around
and showing Jules two brown paper bags.  She set them both on Jules' desk
and pulled out two almond croissants and one cafe latte, one English
Breakfast tea with milk, and one triple espresso.  "Thought you could use
some cheering up, so I picked us up a little something at Buckstars."

     "I guess this means they were all out of Prozac, huh?" Jules asked.

     Annie was not going to let Jules spoil her mood.  "Sorry.  They said
their regular Prozac shipment wouldn't be in until Saturday, annnnnnd, since
heaven only knows when *that* will arrive, I thought you wouldn't mind
something a little more delish."

     "It's depressing to realise people know me so well as to bring me food,"
Jules said as she broke her croissant in half, then took the lid off her tea
and added more milk.  "Actually, I was just thinking that I'm thinking too
much about food these
days.  But," she continued, "on another note, have you seen Lacroix lately?"

     "Which one???" Annie asked, incredulous.  "There only seem to be a
couple dozen running around the neighbourhood."

     "The *real* one, of course," Jules said.  "The same one who caught us
saying the 'N' word."

     "How do you know he's the real one?" asked a baffled Annie.

     "Hey, I work with him practically every day...er, night," Jules
replied. "Shouldn't I know?"

     "Why?  Does he have some identifying marks you'd recognise?"

     Suddenly put in mind of similar remarks made about a
Certain-World-Leader by a Certain-Woman-Suing-Him, Jules sprayed tea all over
her clean desk and turned bright red.  Annie jumped up and gave her a few
strong pats on the back.

     "You OK, Jules???!" Annie asked worriedly.

     "Oh, fine," Jules answered.  "Just

     Bonnie appeared in the doorway. She was asleep and being carried in the
arms of a man-sized Bessie the cow Beanie Baby. Jules and Annie watched
as the plush cow set the redhead down on one of the office chairs.  Bons'
head lolled back and she started to snore softly.

     "Bons!" Annie exclaimed. "What happened to her?!?"

     "Caffeine depravation," the plush cow explained. "Her body went into
hibernating mode after about forty-five minutes without it."

     "She looks a little damp and barefoot, too," Jules commented. "What did
she do before she passed out - go swimming in a pond?"

     As the plush cow seemed to be choking back laughter, Annie's eyes
narrowed. She'd noticed the plush cow had a hand instead of a right front
hoof. "WereVachon! There's not a drop of super-glue solvent to be had! How
did you get free from part of your costume?"

     "The solvent at the Jeweled Peach."

     Jules and Annie gasped in outrage. "Bons let you in? I don't believe

     "Well, to be fair," he said (and since this was a Nick-WereVachon in a
plush cow suit, he strived to be fair), "I really didn't give her a choice.
Then she slipped on some drool and spilled what solvent you did have on the
floor, so I only removed one hoof."

     "Ohhhhh," Jules and Annie said, as though talking about the wackiness
surrounding the ungluing of a cow costume was a common occurance. Actually,
in War, it was.

     The plush Nick cow's expression became calculating. "You Cousinly
ladies wouldn't happen to have anything that dissolves super-glue, would

     "No," Annie said flatly.

     "Well..." Jules countered tentitively, "I once read in one of those
household hints articles about something a bit *unusual* that's known to
dissolve super-glue..."

     "Really? What?" Annie said, surprised.  Jules didn't usually *do*
household hints.

     The plush cow-clad WereVachon leaned in closely and gave Jules an
intent stare. "Tell me."



War:  The Stuff Sandwiches Are Made Of, or, Marmite, by Any Other 
Where:  CERK
Time:  After 'The Stuff Sandwiches Are Made of, or, Marmite by Any Other 
Name...' (1/2)
by Cousins Annie, Bons and Jules

    Were-Vachon in a plush cow suit picked up the Metro telephone directory, 
ready to locate the nearest store carrying Marmite, and dislodged a 
mysterious book-shaped package. Jules' eyes widened, then she exchanged a 
secretive smile with Annie.

     "Don't look at that!" Jules shouted alarmingly.

     "What?" the plush cow looked perplexed.

     "That book wrapped in brown paper."

     "What is it?"

     "Well, it's not the Nunkies Fantasy Manual, if that's what you're 


     "I know what you're planning in that dastardly clever cow-clad head 
of yours WereVachon," Jules told him, "and it won't work!  Just because you 
want to get even with Bons for tricking you into helping the Cousins attack 
the Vaqueros, just because she dumped you into Cherri's wicked clutches and 
you ended up in a Beanie Baby Bessie the Cow  costume, and just because 
she loves the Nunkies Fantasy Manual more than coffee, it doesn't mean you 
can use it to get revenge for everything while scoring points with Katrinka 
by making me hand it over to a fine, upstanding Knightie!  Show some mercy!  
Pppplllleaasssee, don't make me give it to Bobbie..I mean, a Knightie!!"

     "Well, what would Bobbie...I mean, a Knightie, do with it?"

     "Oh! *gasp*   She would want to give it to the Vaqs! Oh, that 
would be so terrible!  Please don't make me call her cell phone number 
that's conveniently sticking up from my Rolodex there on the corner of my 

     "Give it to the Vaqs, eh?  Hmmmmm."

     "Don't even think about it!" Jules warned.  "Oh, and, by the way," she 
said as she reached into her desk and pulled out a large, dark brown jar, 
"I think I can help you."


     After Annie and Jules removed the WereVachon from the cow costume with 
generous quantities of Marmite, he left CERK, visited the local Loblaw's, 
and then headed back to Knightie Central. Annie now sought to revive the 
semi-comatose Bonnie from her caffeine deprived state by hooking her up 
to an IV filled with the triple espresso.

     As he entered the loft with a care basket filled with jars of Marmite 
slung over one arm (he would never be caught in a solvent emergency without 
it again) he called,

     "Katrinka, I'm home!"


Still back at CERK...

     After she got the IV going, Annie finished wiping up Jules' spilt tea 
and patted her once again on the back.  "There, now," she said.  "Heavens! 
I didn't mean to cause such an uproar.  Are you OK?"

     Jules nodded.  "I'll be fine, thanks.  Did you find your tennies? Or 
even a Tenny?"

     "Nope.  I couldn't find Libby.  I ran into Tenny once, but that's 
another story.  However...... I was run into by a Screed that loves Natalie 
and was told I smelled like a laboratory after he kissed me.  Then I ----"

     "He .. did .. what?!" Jules asked, incredulously.

     "He kissed me.  It threw me into a stupor." Annie sat down on the 
corner of Jules' desk.  "Robi saved me with a copy of 'Lucius in Repose'.  
It's a good thing she needed a breath of fresh air.  I still might be 
standing on the street corner."

     "Er, yes," Jules said.   Jules thought.  
She grabbed Annie's wrist and looked intently at her watch.

     "What, may I ask, are you doing?" Annie asked as she tried to jerk 

     "Taking your pulse," Jules replied.  "I think that kiss affected you 
somehow.  You're being awfully sedate about it all."

     Annie laughed and pulled free from Jules' grip.  "I'm fine.  Where'd 
the WereVachon go?"

     "Out.  He said something about having to get a grocery store.  Other 
than that, I'm klewless." Jules eyed the tote bag Annie plopped down beside 
the desk. "If you didn't find your tennies, what do you have in there?"


     Annie looked puzzled for a moment, making Jules think she might need 
to retrieve one of the Nightcrawler publicity stills to revive her fluffy 
friend.  A pretty pink light went on over Annie's head.  "Oh!  In my tote 
bag!  Oooh!  You'll love it!"  Annie reached for the bag and brought out a 
massive cross-stitching pattern and oodles of thread.  "It's my summer 
cross-stitch project," she said, unfolding the pattern in front of Jules 
and displaying the work she'd already done.  "It's 'Nunkies in Repose'! I 
did the pattern on the computer.  Isn't it wonderful?"

     Just then, someone stirred in the doorway, and a cool, strong voice 
said, "'Wonderful' is not exactly the phrase I would use to descibe it, 
my dear."  Annie and Jules turned to face the frowning Quad Lacroix.  
"I applaud your creativity, but, unfortunately, it does nothing for my 

     Annie gulped and simply said, "No, sir."

     "And did I hear *that word* again?"

     "Yes, sir," Jules answered meekly.

     "Step into my office, please," he said in that quiet, commanding 
tone the two Cousins knew so well.  Jules got up to move, but Annie stood 
still, hoping she had suddenly become invisible.  "*Both* of you," he 

     "Yes, sir," the duo responded in unison this time, while silently 
praying for a quick death.

Comments to KnightGal@aol.com

A Piece Of Future (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Time: After 'A Not-So Permanent Hell' and 'Revenge Is a Dish Best Served 
With Baklava!'

 Nat thought to herself as her stomach repeated its somersaults 
from earlier.  

Suddenly Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Natalie couldn't stay in the same room as 
the others. The addicts were obviously upset, especially Tser, and Nat 
didn't blame them one bit. She didn't know how she could help or comfort 
them, though, she didn't know how to spare them any pain. She couldn't 
even help herself.

Somehow the pain she'd seen in his eyes seemed so much more tactile now. 
To be trapped in a universe where everything was clouded and dead...to be 
that abandoned...no wonder he'd been furious when she'd belittled his need 
for company. In that context, her momentary derision seemed downright cruel.

Her personal absolution came from the gift of her cup. She felt relieved, 
almost free, because she'd done it. Whether it actually made a difference 
of not was beside the point. What mattered was her acceptance in that 
moment that, whoever he was and whatever manner of place he came from, he 
deserved to have a better one.

Nat felt a sudden power, a confidence come to her with that realization. 
She felt happy because of her acceptance. She'd shown very little since 
her arrival in this world. If fact, the only acceptance she had shown, 
period, had been to that Lacroix from a living hell. Nat supposed tolerance 
was not one of her strong points. She was of absolute mind, of absolute 
devotion. Perhaps that narrow-mindedness was to blame for a good measure 
of her despair now.

She'd begun by sneering at that Screed who'd mistaken her for his love and 
tried to kiss her. She'd acted disgusted and pushed him away, instead of 
trying to help. Thinking back, she recalled how genuinely hurt he'd been 
by her reaction. He'd deserved concern and consolation as much as anyone - 
she'd been wrong to denigrate him and think him crude. 

Then there were the Nick and Natpackers...

Nat sighed as she meandered through the Peach's main dining room.  The Nick 
and Natpackers believed in a relationship that she could not support, not 
for herself, anyway.  That didn't give her the right to punish them for 
being different. Perhaps she should apologize, or try to make amends. Maybe 
she could offer to help them clean up... Nat paused and shook her head 
ruefully. Doing that would involve seeing *him* again. She might resolve 
to be more open to this wild world that had opened about her, but she still 
had a few tiny remnants of pride. She didn't intend to face that particular 
incarnation of Lacroix ever again.

She was struck again by the same sense of pointlessness she'd had just 
before meeting that tragic, inevitably damned Lacroix. What did it matter 
if she made amends? It would all become nothing when the rift closed. This 
time spent in a mad carnival world would become a shadow, not even worthy 
of a blip in the lifespan of the earth. Why should she care? Why should she 
even bother?

Nat reached the reception area of the Peach, where she espied Monsieur 
Cabon positioning a vase of scarlet roses.

"Oh, Ma'moiselle Natalie! Zees buds are for you!" he declared joyously. 
"And 'zere is a card as well."

Nat's expression became swamped in curiosity as she saw the card wasn't 
the hand-written type of message, but a recording. She looked up 
questioningly at Monsieur Cabon, but he took her wondering expression 
to be a request for privacy. "I will not peek, but leave you alone to 
enjoy zee bouquet! I have zee paperwork to do in my office."

"You know, Cabon," she offered. "You don't have to stay here. Go home for 
some rest and relaxation, if you'd like."

"Bah! What do I need to scurry about my boring apartment for when I could 
be here, where zee ac-tion is? I have not lived such adventures until zee 
addicts took me in! I will tell you this," Monsieur Cabon confided as he 
smoothed his moustache, "I am as giddy as zee schoolboy to see what happens 
next." The restaurant manager scampered away, describing in an excited voice 
how Kim promised to teach him how to play poker, and Nat was stunned into 
silence as she watched him leave.

She then turned her gaze to the card and stared at it blankly for several 

 her mind hummed.

Open the card.

Put it away.

Smell the roses.

Let the moment pass.

Then a single thought snaked sharply out at her, leaving the others in a 
blurry background. 

She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath.

She opened the card.

//Natalie - I'm am so sorry...Lucien//

"That was unexpected," she whispered for no one in particular. She stood 
thoughtfully for a moment, then lifted one of the blooms free of the vase. 
Twirling it between her fingers, she enjoyed its perfume as she walked back 
into the Shrine, the card tucked snugly to her chest.

The other addicts were up to their usual insanity around the altar. Kim was 
groaning over Monsieur Cabon's lack of a poker face, while Heather and 
Susan ran shrieking through the room after Sidney the Sheepdog, who had 
escaped from his bath. Jan, meanwhile, was raving at them, crying loudly 
over the cacophony of barks and pleas:

"Who put Mr. Bubble in the jacuzzi??!!" 

Shele and Sharon each had a cat, whom they rubbed between the ears as they 
discussed the pros and cons of quill pens and recycled pencils while Shele 
scratched down a new poem. Nat allowed herself a small smile as she watched 
them interact. The other addicts acted no different in her world. They had 
a rampant enthusiasm for all of their hobbies - not just Lacroix.

She thought back to her conversation with the damned Lacroix, how he'd 
tried to insist that she wasn't alone, in this world or her own. 

She'd still argued after that and claimed she had no future, that there was 
nothing to look forward to in her life. Who could understand what a fool 
she was better than that Lacroix? She had wrapped the future up in bows of 
grand pageantry, leaving only the fact that she adored Lacroix and she 
didn't have him at the core, and that was why it felt so empty. The truth 
of the matter was, there is more to having a future than the realization 
of an impossible dream. The foundation of a future is built in moments, 
fractions of moments cut so small that you can't discern when they arrive 
and become the past.

She'd called this world a hell of hope and damned that as a bad thing. She 
was wrong. The rift may have caused confusion, chaos and false expectations, 
but it had also bathed Toronto in a cloak of infiniteness. From one moment 
to another, anything was possible. Perhaps the possibilities weren't so 
glaringly obvious when there wasn't a temporal-space rift throwing a 
multitude of universe variations in your face, but every world no matter 
dire of outlandish had an immeasurable amount of potential.

It was when you lost hope that you had no future. When you expect nothing 
new of tomorrow - that's when you became alone. Monsieur Cabon had known 
the answer when he said, < I am as giddy as zee schoolboy to see what 
happens next.>

Nat tapped the soft petals of the rose against her cheek as she continued 
watching her friends romp about the Shrine. They reveled in anticipation, 
dreaming up fantasies where anything was possible, and, most importantly, 
shared them without restraint. Addicts didn't *do* restraint. They did do 
trust, though, and friendship. Every time one of them wrote a new fantasy 
and told it to the others, it was a sign of affection, support, and a 
promise that they were not alone.

Nat sat down on the lounger beside Kim, who was glancing blank-faced at 
the pair of sevens face-up before her, while Monsieur Cabon twitched and 
wiggled over his possible straight. "Tell me, Kim," she asked curiously. 
"Why did the Not-So-Vestal-Virgins help me attack the theatre? I know you 
guys didn't wholeheartedly share my anti-Nick dogma."

"But the mission obviously meant a lot to you - we wanted to help out. 
Besides, it was funny," Kim said, grinning wickedly, "and how often do I 
get the chance to risk death by hanging perilously from a hot-air balloon?"

"Mmm...Every Wednesday?" Nat teased.

"Nooooo," Kim groaned with a smile, then put an arm around Nat for a hug. 
"How are you holding up after everything that's happened?"

"I'd say, better than I would have thought possible." She smiled 
secretively, then added, "Until now."

"Nat!" Shele called as she walked over holding a piece of paper. "I've 
written a new limerick!"

She looked it over, noting that the subject matter was Tser's Lacroix.

   "From hell he had had a reprieve,
     He wished that he didn't believe
         That these visions so clear
           Of those he'd held dear
  Would cause him once more to grieve."   

Nat was touched. Shele hadn't even met this Lacroix, yet she was moved 
quite deeply by his conflict. She wasn't quite sure of what to say.

"I was wondering," Shele said softly. "Maybe we could mention him to a few 
other people. We could get him some more non-natural objects, if you think 
it might help."

Nat began to twirl the red rose thoughtfully between her fingers once more. 
"I'm not sure what to answer, Shele. I want to help him - I want that more 
than anything - but what if these items *do* cause the rift to stay open? 
As frantic as we are to keep him from returning, I know that there  are 
alternates out there desperate to go back to their own worlds."

Shele sank into a lounger, the weight of the problem obviously weighing 
heavily on her conscience. "It just seems so irrevocable. There must be a 
way to change what must be, not just to help the Lacroix, but Tser, too."

"If it's possible, if there's a way for this to work," Nat replied solemnly 
as she placed the single rose on the shrine altar, "then we have to believe 
that they will find it. We shouldn't give up hope, not any of us."  

Kim finally noticed the flower and nodded her head toward the card in 
N-S-V-V Nat's hand. "Where'd those come from? I know we only keep white 
roses around here."

"They're an apology from the Nick & Natpackers' Lacroix," she explained.

"Really?" Kim's eyes flared in interest. "What's in the card?"

Nat smiled softly. Before she motioned her friends to gather around so that 
she could share the message, she whispered, "A piece of future."

Fin for now

Send Comments to: br1035@ix.netcom.com

War:  Faking It (1/1)
Time: After 'The Stuff Sandwiches Are Made of, or, Marmite by Any Other 
Name' (2/2)
Where:  An alley
by Cousin Jules and Cousin Bons
Beta read by Cousin Annie

     The night was still.  A silver moon hung in a star-filled sky.  The 
city slept, even in the present confusion.  Silently, a figure waited in a 
very neat and orderly alleyway - this was, after all, Canada - cloaked in a 
dark raincoat.  A Fedora of the same dark colour concealed the individual's 
strikingly blonde hair.  Unfortunately, the sneakers were a dead giveaway.
 The driver of the Jaguar spotted them instantly and drove closer to meet 
their owner.  Turning the key towards her in the ignition, the purring 
engine quietened.  She opened the driver's side door, allowing several 
"Kickstart the Knight" flyers to escape to parts unknown, and swung her 
court shoe-clad feet onto the city pavement.  Moments later, she and the 
dark figure were concealed further along in the alley.

     "Did you bring it?" Bobbie asked anxiously.

     "Give me the password first," Jules demanded.

     "Jules!  This is Bobbie, remember?  Bobs.  Bobbetti.  Bobiov.  Your 
fellow TEphile..."

     "Just give me the password, alright?!" her friend pleaded.

     "Alright," Bobbie replied in a whisper and with a sigh, "I'll humour 
your dramatic side.  The password is 'Marmite.'"

     "Thanks, Bobbie."

     "Of all things, why would you choose *that* word?"

     Jules paused for a moment.  "Well, it's an unusual word for you, so I 
thought you'd have no trouble remembering it."  Bobbie nodded her agreement.

     "For me, on the other hand, well...Let's just say there's no way I 
could forget anything so gastronomically disgusting."

     "So, you've actually tried it?" Bobbie asked.

     "Yes.  Once.  Nineteen years ago, after I'd moved to Scotland."

     "Wow," Bobs added, "that's some aftertaste."

     "Something like that," Jules said, shuddering at the memory, then 
reached into an inner compartment of her leather swing coat and pulled 
out what appeared to be a book in a plain brown wrapper.  "Here it is," 
she said, handing it to Bobbie as if it were a sacred object.

      Bobbie removed the wrapper and admired the intricate lock which kept 
the contents from prying eyes.  She also smiled at the initials etched into 
the leather binding and noted the smooth spine.  "What should I do with 

     "You're to take it to the place we agreed upon, and leave it where 
it can easily be found."

     "That's it?" the devout Knightie inquired.

     "That's enough," Jules responded, grinning.

     The two friends hugged, Jules returned to the Jag, and Bobbie crept 
away into the night with what was affectionately known among certain 
members of the list as the 'NFM.'

Comments to KnightGal@aol.com
"The Scorch"
By Cousin Tser 

With permission.
Beta'd by Cerberus (all three heads)

Before and concurrent with "A Short Tale"

* * * * * * * *

Tser was tired.  So tired.  But the war had been fun so far, despite...
problems.  And tragedy.

But the problem of identifying *their* LaCroix hadn't been addressed.
Every chance she got during such a busy non-time, she'd gone and spent
some time perusing the Cousinly Registry, trying to find out which
LaCroix was theirs.  But no luck.  So far, there was something *wrong*
with every one.

Cousin Zeonia's -- well, LaCroix certainly wasn't a doctor in this
reality, and neither was he a priest.  He didn't like hanging out in
malls.  Pompeii LaCroix was from a completely different time.  LaCroix
wasn't as NICE as Shelley and Arletta's LaCroix, either.  He most
definitely wasn't an angst induced hallucination (at least she didn't
think so -- ugh, headache) like the Dream LaCroix.  In every case, there
was something *different* about the alternate LaCroix's personality.

Her own Lacroix was very like the Lacroix they loved and missed.  Often
eerily so.  But his reality was so very different, it didn't even bear
thinking about.

The LaCroix of the N&Npack was too nice, while the ones with the Dark
Knighties -- Tser frowned.  Obviously the LaCroix of this reality was not
with them.  They were far too frivolous.  And LaCroix was NOT a penguin.
Tser was sure of that.  Uh, she *thought* she was sure.

As for Cousin Sun's Lacroix, he was certainly cold and vicious enough to
fit the mold of the Lacroix they had known before Nick staked him, but
their Lacroix had mellowed considerably since that time, and Sun's
Lacroix most certainly had not.

This never ending headache was beginning to be tiresome.  She didn't want
to continue taking so many pain killers for it, and she wasn't about to
go find some horse fodder for her faintness, either.

How could they separate the LaCroixs?  What if their LaCroix wasn't even
*there*?  She took a deep shuddering breath.  That she and the other
Cousins would *never* get their LaCroix back... that wasn't something she
wanted to think about.

Suddenly the War Room door opened, and she saw Cousin Sun guiding an
irate LaCroix into the room.

"But you've got it all wrong," the Dark LaCroix snarled.  "Nick could
never do *that*."

Cousin Sun was trying ineffectually to calm him.  "That's just how it
happened in *this* reality, General.  Maybe your reality was different."

Dark LaCroix sneered.  "I doubt if you suggested that fact to *any* of
the alternate LaCroixs they'd agree.  It *never* *happened*!"

Cousin Tser, who had been sitting with the Registry in the corner,
couldn't resist her Cousinly Curiosity  any longer.  "What never

Cousin Sun was about to answer when Dark LaCroix snarled, "Nick staking
me with a burning stake.  It NEVER happened.  The whelp wouldn't be
*capable* of it.  In the rec room," he said, glaring at Cousin Sun, "they
were watching a tape of a show called 'Dark Knight'," he growled.  "It
never happened that way.  And if I ever have the displeasure of
encountering that -- pitiful excuse of an imitation, I'll stake him
myself.  After that ungrateful, disobedient whelp stakes him, what does
he do but take him back?!  Behave as if all is forgiven?!  The very idea
is offensive!  Unbelievable," he growled, voice low.  "I would never
stoop to forgive such a thankless miscreant.  Nicholas would not live one
sunrise past the night he dared to defy *me*."  He cast a sneering glance
at Cousin Sun and stormed towards the Conference Room, Sun hot at his
heels.  *Someone* had to keep an eye on him.

"Not the same...." Tser said quietly.  //I seem to recall hearing that
point made before,// Tser thought to herself, recalling the perennial
arguments between the *unreconstructed Cousins* who liked first season
Lacroix and were outraged by the beginning of second season, and those
who preferred the less vicious Lacroix on display in second and third
season.  Suddenly her eyes lifted and she stared into space.  "The
scorch," she murmured, and stood, forgetting the Registry was still on
her lap.  It hit the floor with a loud boom.  Picking it up and putting
it back where it belonged, she headed down towards the elevator to search
for more LaCroixs to question.

* * * * * * * *

"Cousin Celeste?" Tser spoke quietly into her cell phone.

"Yeah?" the voice came from the Cousine's office on the first floor.

"I need to speak to the Cousinly Leaders," Tser said tensely, voice sharp
with unexpressed information.  "It's important."

There was a pause.  "Okay, I'll call Laurie and Tok and meet you in the
War Room."

* * * * * * * *


WAR: My Complements To The Artist
By Amethyst 

CERK invaded by permission of Celeste.

        While the other Knighties were trying to devise a plan of action
to repay certain people for shrink wrapping the loft, I was preparing to
repay Third Cousin Patt for making me sick with Hot Mustard.
        "Nick?  Where your from , does Mustard make me sick?"
        "Yes, it did ... does." He corrected himself.  There was
something he wasn't telling but that would have to wait.  I had to pay
Patt back, and fast now that the reason for the RitSTC had been found, I
wouldn't have much time, everyone would be trying to repair it.  I kinda
liked having a husband, especially when that husband is Nick.
        We headed for CERK with a side trip to pick up some costumes and
a delivery van.  We changed into the costumes and pulled up to the front
doors.  There was a Cousin inside, I looked back a Nick, "Keep your head
down, I don't want anyone to recognize you."
        We walked up to the desk, "I have delivery for Patt Elmore."
        "I'll take it."
        "Sorry, I was told to hand it directly to her.  She said she
would tell you guy's we were coming, did she forget?" I hope someone was
buying this, because it sounded lame to me.
        " Alright but you will be watched."
        " Not a problem." I grinned at Nick as we were led down the
series of hallways.
        "Her room is on the end, I'll wait for you here.  That woman can
be wild when she is disturbed."
        Nick and I just headed to the door.  I knocked gently on the
door and then opened and walked in.  "Yes." I whispered, she was sound
asleep, she'd never know we where here.  "Here hold this." I handed Nick
a small box, and withdrew a large furry eyebrow and applied it, then
it's partner.  "Ok your turn." I handed him a paintbrush, and backed
into the corner to watch .  Nick grinned and opened a jar of mustard.
He began to paint Patt up like a clown, using only mustard.
        //She'll never figure out I did this, since I can't stomach
being close to the sickening yellow stuff.// I thought.  Nick stood back
and mouthed, Voila.  I gave him a thumbs up and turned to the door.  I
opened and began scribbling on the clipboard I brought.  "Thanks, " I
told the waiting Cousin.  "She was thrilled."
        We returned the costumes and Van.  " It WORKED !  Yes!" I sat
back , very proud of myself, as Nick pulled the Suburban back into it's
parking place at the loft.  As we got out the vehicle , there was a
shriek that was heard around the world, " WHAT IN THE ...
        "I think Patt is admiring our work." Nick said, his eyes ablaze.
        "Oh, yes and I believe she is pleased." We laughed all the way
up to the loft.

By Cousin Tser 

With permission.

* * * * * *

"Then that's all of them.  Every single LaCroix says that in their reality, 
Nick never did it.  Never staked him," Cousin LaurieCF commented 

"In some, Nick *couldn't* and in some, he didn't even try," Cousin Tser 
said slowly.  "So I think the Scorch...."  She trailed off.  She fingered 
the edge of the Registry's leather spine.

The three thirds of Cerberus nodded knowingly.

"What about 'far too old and powerful'?" Cousin Tok asked.

"Who knows?" Celeste said, glancing over to make sure the War Room door was 
shut securely.  They didn't want this information leaking out.  "But I tend 
to agree with Tser that it is the explanation of it.  But if it is, and he 
was still here, which one?"

"None of them have personalities even *close* to ours," Cousin Laurie said.

Tser looked up.

* * * * * * * * * *


"Hope Rings Eternal"
By Cousin Tser 

Beta Reading by the Cousinly Leaders

* * * * * * * * *

Tser looked around LaCroix's penthouse.  It was the first time she had been 
there, the Cousinly Leaders having given her permission to look around.  
They agreed it was very important.

It was well decorated, beautiful in fact.  It had a very LaCroixian 
elegance to it.  Tser sighed happily.  A Cousinly atmosphere.

Over on an ancient Roman style bust of the General sat Fred the Eagle, who 
stared at her menacingly.  But since she had entered, he had remained quiet, 
simply staring.  Tser wondered idly if Fred or Cousine Moses would win in a 
staring contest.  It'd probably go on into eternity.  Funny how possible 
that seemed with the Rift and Time disturbances.

Tser looked around the room.  It *had* to be something her LaCroix had.
He hadn't brought anything with him, that was the problem.  When he had 
attacked her in the street, it had just been him, no bags, no boxes, 
nothing but what he wore.  And she was having a very hard time matching 
her LaCroix's clothes to the original's.  Perhaps the clothing he had worn 
at the time of "A More Permanent Hell" hadn't been kept around.  So there 
was nothing.

She wished she was in forensics.  Then she could find a hair or something.  
But she wasn't, and she still wasn't sure enough about The Theory to tell 
anyone else, so she couldn't ask for help.  No point lifting hopes up only 
to have them plummet to the ground if her addled mind was simply desperate 
enough to make such things up.

But her own hopes soared.  "Oh, God, please let me be right," she whispered.

She smiled, thinking of "her" LaCroix.  Funny how she could grow to like, 
respect, fear, and care about someone who had tried to kill her.  His words 
were still echoing in her mind from that night -- not so long ago.
In fact, she thought wryly, the same night as it still was.

"So tortured a being that in your feverish delusions, you can detect the 
heart beat of a non-existent mortal.  Perhaps your *hell* is not so 
permanent as once believed."

A reality where he had lost everyone.  Tser tried to imagine what it was 
like.  What *would* it be like to lose, not only those close to you, but 
*everyone*.  Not a single other being, sentient or not, to be with.  Not 
even a presence.  Nothing.  And she couldn't.  She couldn't imagine how he 
felt.  Her whole life there had been people, or pets, or someone to turn to 
when she was down.

Even when life seemed hopeless for her -- and she had felt very hopeless 
at certain points in her life -- there had been someone there for her.
Her friends.  She had some friends whom she knew would never forsake her, 
never leave her, no matter what happened.  And her sister, her family, 
they were there.  And even when problems made it so she had no one tangible 
to speak to, the people at only a keyboards distance, they had spoken and 
soothed and supported and been there for her.  She didn't think they'd ever 
know how much her friends over email meant to her, even if she'd never 
actually meet them.  When she needed to cry, there was always a shoulder.  
The problems which sometimes threatened to crush her under their weight 
seemed so insignificant next to his.

To have no one, that was unfathomable.  Tser herself was actually quite a 
loner.  She had a few very close friends close to her heart.  But she was 
human.  Humans, and vampires, she expected, needed someone to be there, 
even if only to *know* they were there.  Though Tser had felt alone at 
points in her life, she knew people were there, people would grieve if 
she was gone as she would grieve if they were.

That was one of the most painful parts of the LaCroix who found her.
Where he was from, there would be no one to grieve.  Only the grey dust 
of long dead bodies to see his passing, only a blood-red moon, only the 
poisoned air would mourn his death.  Mourn it with forever silence.  
And then there would be nothing.

This LaCroix had mourned enough for a thousand eternities.  Mourned the 
world, mourned his life companions, mourned those he'd never met.  He had 
a way of considering the deaths a personal blow.  He didn't blame himself, 
as Nick might have done, but he took the passing of his people around him 
like a stake to the heart.  He was old enough that they were all his 
"children".  He had a strong sense of community.

Whispers of their conversation passed through Tser's mind.  He never called 
her by her nickname as others did.  Most considered the shortened version 
hard enough to say, let alone the whole thing.  But he always called her 
Tserisa, never pronouncing it wrong, despite how many times she had asked 
him to call her Tser.  It wasn't that she liked it any better, but calling 
her by her full name seemed like too much of an honor, being that it was so 
hard to say.  Tser felt tears spring to her eyes.  Damn him.  Why did he 
have to show up and break her heart like this?

"My reality is hell."

She wouldn't describe it any other way.  Because, for all intents and 
purposes, his universe, long ago destroyed by a rock from the heavens, was 
hell on earth.  No one could survive long, sane, after such loneliness and 
physical distress.  He had held on.  Or he hadn't been able to let go.  
Either way, he had made it through to find a promise of hope, a glimmer of 
salvation.  Then he had learned he'd have to go back.

But he was still sane.  More sane then Tser considered herself, and she was 
quite all-there.  Sane and infinitely wise.  He had 2000 years of life as 
mortal and vampire and more than half a century of living death alone in 
hell behind him.  The fact that he was still of sound mind showed the 
strength of his being.  And after what he had been through, it wasn't a 
shock he was sagacious and enlightened to the world.

He was often resigned, quiet, thoughtful.  Sometimes sharp, cutting.  But 
all LaCroix.

Then Tser saw it.  Sitting on the desk, shimmering slightly in the light, 
as if it had an aura of its own, was *his* ring.  Not her LaCroix's, but 
*their* LaCroix's.  His ring.

Tser reached out for it hesitantly.  It didn't make sense.  She had never, 
ever heard of LaCroix taking off his ring.  But as her hand closed on it, 
she knew it was his.  It had to be, there was no doubt.  What fates had put 
it there?  Tser said a silent prayer and looked at the metal band in the 
palm of her hand.

It was the answer.  And for the first time since LaCroix had decided to 
sink his fangs into his Dear Delusion, Tser had hope.

She only hoped it was founded.

* * * * * * * * * *



by Libby Singleton
special thanks to Bonnie Rutledge for use of the NSVV Natalie and several 
really good suggestions
Takes place after 'A Piece of Future'

     Screed slunk around the corner of the Jeweled Peach.  There was a 
Natalie in the area.  He could feel it, sense it, smell it in every bit 
of his being.  He paused right outside the restaurant's exit, squatting 
down to get his bearings.  Back in his own universe, he could find his 
lady love if she were within a mile.  Here, though, things were terribly 
confusing.   Natalies were everywhere.  Honing in on one was nearly 
     The Jeweled Peach's door swung open suddenly, whacking Screed in the 
head and sending him tumbling backwards.  "Oh, dear!" a very familiar voice.   
"I'm so very sorry!  Let me help you up."
     Screed looked up at the toga clad identical twin of his own dear love.
He took her hand and climbed to his feet.  "Ya kin't be me Natsie, but ya 
sure look like 'er.  Me Natsie wouldn't be runnin' 'round in public in 'er 
     NSVV Nat's face wrinkled in confusion.  "Nightie???  This is my toga.   
You repaired it just a few weeks ago, don't you remember?"
     Screed scratched his head.  "I'm thinkin' I would if I did."
     "That's odd," Nat commented.  "What about that new suit you're making 
for me?  The one you designed yourself."  As Screed stood silently, for 
once at a total loss for words, Nat pushed him away, studying him from head 
to toe.  "What's with that horrible accent?  You really should stop teasing 
us like that.  The Southern accent was bad enough!  And don't take this 
wrong, but why are you dressed so... oddly. If this is the 'new' look, I 
really think it's going to bomb."  She started giggling.  "Sorry, but you 
look bad enough to be an anti-Nunklear device."
     "Ya ain't one o' them Monkeys are ya???  Thems tha' call La-Crow 
     "You mean Nunkies?" Natalie asked.  "Guilty as charged!  I just 
stepped out of the Shrine for a bit of fresh air.  The incense is getting 
a bit strong."
     Screed fell backwards, supported only by the building.  "E-gads!
Now I *know* ya ain't *me* Natsie. *sniffle*  I...  I canna find me Docsie 
Wocsie.  I look an' look an' look.  Libby Wibby been sayin' she'd 'elp, but 
then she blowed up the Gran' 'Igh Pooh-Bear's bath an' we all got kicked 
out an' now Libby's all worryin' 'bout tha an' stuff keeps 'appenin' an' 
*sob* an' *sniffle* I ain't never gonna find me Natsie Ratsie."
     "Oh," Nat said, full of realization.  "I understand.  You're not 
Nunkies Anonymous' clothing designer at all!  You're one of those alternate 
Screeds!  And am I to understand *you* and *I*, I mean another Natalie, 
have ... well ... a relationship?"
     Nodding sadly, Screed wiped his eyes on his sleeve, nodding.
"We'se got more than jest a re-lation.  We'se in luv, we are."
     "Poor dear Screed," Natalie said.  "In my reality, I'm afraid you're 
not...well, I'm not... your... let's just say *type*."  Having left her 
official Nunkies Anonymous Black Silk Hanky inside, Nat lifted an edge of 
her toga and wiped Screed's face.  She'd, naturally, immediately have the 
toga laundered.  "You'll find your Natalie.  If she's anything like me, 
she's looking for you too.  I mean, if Nunkies were missing, I can promise 
you I'd be looking all over for *him*."
     "Ya really know 'ow to make a Screedy-poo feel a bit more fit, ya do, 
Missy. Almost makes me wish ya were me Natsie," Screed said, managing to 
smile slightly.  "Might jest see iffen I canna get me sweetie pie one o' 
these 'ere to-ga thingees.  Meebee I kin even cross-stitch it fer 'er wit' 
a life-size pic-ture o' 'er Poo-Pants."
     "I'm sure she'll love it," Natalie said.  "Uh, by chance ...do you 
call your Natalie 'Natsie'? 'Docsie'? You wouldn't be the Screed who mauled 
me outside Merc Central a few days ago, would you?"
     Screed's cheeks (facial) became as rosy as possible for even a well-fed 
vampire, "I reckon' I couldah smooched ye in a moment 'er un-brid- el'd 
pas-see-on. I miss me Natsie summin' ter-ri-ble-like."
     "That's alright," she said sympathetically. "I wanted to apologize for 
how I reacted. You've been under a great deal of stress, I'm sure. Having a 
Natalie, even one who's not your Docsie Wocsie, be so mean to you must've 
     "Me n' the Rat'ers are usta O-pression. Nothin' broken wot kin't be 
     Nat nodded in understanding.  "I've got to go back inside now.  Are 
you sure you're okay?"
     "As fit as kin be unner the cir-cum-stancies," Screed assured her.
     Natalie kissed him, just a peck really, on the cheek (facial).  "Good 
luck!" she said before returning inside.
     Screed grinned broadly, his hand placed delicately over the spot she'd 
kissed.  She hadn't been *his* Natalie, but she was as close to the real 
thing as he'd come so far.


Comments to ALibbyp@aol.com


What Lay Underneath      (1/3)
by Kim Colley and Bonnie Rutledge
For NA: Heather P., Jan, Susan, Shele and Sharon
For N&NP: Carla, Melissa, Rosefever

"Thanks! We'll see you then, and we will be bringing our own hoses!" Nat 
said brightly into the portable phone before offering her goodbye and 
breaking the connection. As she set the receiver down, her expression 
became more drawn and uncertain.

"I'm assuming there're no hard feelings, and they accepted our offer?" 
Heather asked.

"Everything's fine," Nat promised. "Roughly six episodes worth of FK from 
now, we'll head over to the Nick & Natpackers' to help them clean off the 
theatre. I think we should all try to get a bit of sleep. This could be 
hard work..." She'd unknowingly let her voice trail off and jumped when 
Jan cleared her throat. She looked up dazedly to see Shele, Sharon, and 
the Not-So-Vestal-Virgins watching her with concern.

"You don't have to come along, Nat," Susan reminded her. "We can do the 
work with no problem."

"Right!" Kim said wholeheartedly. "You called and apologized to Soulseeker 
yourself. I'm sure that's more than the Nick & Nat Pack expected in their 
wildest dreams."

"She *was* very surprised," Nat admitted. "Soul didn't believe I was really 
the Not-So-Vestal-Virgin who'd run screaming from their headquarters just a 
couple days ago until I started quoting poetry."

"One can never quote too much poetry," Shele nodded knowingly.

"You see! You've already surpassed their expectations!" Kim insisted. "No 
one will think less of you if you're not up to facing them."

"Except myself, Kim." Nat massaged her temples with both hands, appearing 
very weary. "The only things holding me back are cowardice and pride. I'll 
survive. What doesn't kill me, makes me stronger - or at least makes me 
distrust cliches," Nat said as she struggled to fight back a yawn. "I'm 
going to tuck in - does anyone have any brilliant ideas on how to keep 
track of time so we aren't late?"

"Some of us are not going to sleep," Monsieur Cabon proclaimed. "Not-So 
Kim has promised me the chance to win back some of my losses in poker."

"I see," Nat said as she eyed the wickedly grinning Kim. The addict had 
'sharp' written all over her smile.

"Don't worry about waking up in time," Sharon explained. "Sidney the Cat 
will tell me when six hours have passed." She grimaced, realizing that 
she'd used the word 'tell', but none of the other addicts apparently 
realized she meant anything other than typical catspeak of nudges and 

Nat thanked her and wandered off to sleep, leaving the other addicts to 
amuse themselves. It only took an hour before things ran wild.

"I'm sorry, Louis," Kim said (almost) sheepishly as she laid down her 
cards. "A full house beats everything except a four of a kind."

Monsieur Cabon looked at his measly pair of Queens over Jacks in dawning 
despair. "You mean...?"

Kim nodded, a grin starting to quirk at the corner of her mouth. "I'm 
afraid so. Hand 'em over."

"But...but..." he sputtered, his face growing red as he gazed at the 
grinning addicts surrounding the table. He leaned toward Kim and whispered, 
"But these are the only pants I have here at the restaurant. All my other 
clothes are at home!" The last sentence came out in a squeak.

Heather began the chant lowly and slowly, and the other toga-ed 
Not-So-Vestal-Virgins joined in one by one.

"Pants 'em, pants 'em, pants 'em..."

Cabon rose slowly to his feet, terror filling his face and dripping off 
his curled moustache. He held out his hands in protest as the toga-ed 
women surrounded him like a nightclub full of hungry vampires.

"Pants 'em, pants 'em, pants 'em..."

"Non, non! You must not do zees thing!" he cried out, his Gallic accent 
becoming more pronounced in his panicked state. He held his hands to his 
breast before hastily returning them to his belt buckle, hanging on for 
dear life. "After all, it is I, Louis Cabon, who has helped you so much 
during zees crazy War! Please!"

Heather smiled maliciously as Susan, Jan, Shele and Sharon rubbed their 
hands together in evil glee. "Get 'em girls!" Susan cried.

"Nooooooooo!!!!" Cabon tried to run, but the Not-So-Vestal-Virgins had 
been in training for their War activities for weeks on the trampoline and 
in the Nunkies weight room. They quickly caught him, wrestled him to the 
floor, and the squirming French-Canadian soon found himself bereft of 

Jan and Sharon played keep-away for a few moments with the plain, 
polyester, black pants before tossing them to Kim. She caught them 
easily and stood grinning at the embarrassed restaurant manager.

"Well, well, Louis," she said appreciatively, "I would've pegged you as a 
boxers man."

Finally, the bedeviled French-Canadian had borne all he could. He leapt at 
Kim, who jumped on the trampoline to escape him. While the other addicts 
held him down, she bounced happily before him, his pants wrapped around 
her head like a turban.

"That'll teach you to play poker with a lawyer!" Heather laughed.

That was all the impetus Cabon needed. He broke free of the jeering women 
and grabbed at Kim's ankles. She landed flat on her back on the trampoline, 
then scrambled off quickly as he reached for her.

Screaming wildly, "I pantsed Louis! I pantsed Louis!" Kim ran through the 
halls of the Jeweled Peach, past the shrine, through the greenhouse 
(pausing briefly for a dip in the Sacred Cold Pond), and on through the 
kitchen/laboratory - Cabon chasing her, Sidney the Slobbering Sheepdog 
chasing him, and all of the other N-S-V-V's running behind.

Shele, being the multi-tasking sort, etched with her quill on a piece of 
paper while chasing the restaurant manager and orating:

      "Louis could not beat a full house
     Bout his clothes he started to grouse
             Relieved of his pants
              He started to prance
    While cursing his all-too-short blouse!"

All of the sudden, Monsieur Cabon made a veer in direction, faking the 
addicts out so they lost his trail. He ran back into the Shrine and made 
a desperate dive for the altar cabinet. The addicts caught up with him, 
brandishing the fiendish grins of tormentors extrordinaire, when Cabon 
lifted an object that made them all squeal in distress.

"Back! Back! You 'oydens!' he shouted as he unscrewed the cap to the 
bottle of disgustingly (but not quite evil) pink liquid. "Or I, Louis 
Cabon, will *coat* you!"

"Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!" The Not-So-Vestal-Virgins scattered in all directions, 
screaming in terror.

Monsieur Cabon ran after all of them at once (which took some jogging 
skill) while he sang at the top of his lungs:

       "Maman said zere'd be days like zees!
        Zere'd be days like zees, Maman said!"

The women continued to run willy-nilly, so Monsieur Cabon stopped and 
waited. Kim, looking over her shoulder for an anti-heartburn medicine-toting 
maniac, ran right into his waiting clutches.


Cabon chucked the bottles contents at her, leaving Kim covered in a 
spreading layer of pink goo.

"Coats, soothes *and* relieves!" he cackled. "Bwahahaha!"

Kim sputtered, wiping a dripping trail of Pepto-Bismol off her cheek with 
one hand while offering up the unblemished trousers with the other.

Monsieur Cabon snatched them up, saying, "Merci!" then sashayed off to his 

"Pfft!" Kim muttered as she cleaned around her mouth. "I think we've 
created a monster!"


The six hours passed quickly, and the eight NA affiliates showed up in 
their heavy chiffon togas and their shiny silver breastplates (except 
Monsieur Cabon, of course) at the Nick & Natpackers' theatre eager to 
complete the work as quickly as possible. In their arms they carried 
buckets and high-pressure hoses along with a couple giant sponges (though 
Heather would be found screaming later in the day/night, "Why does my 
loofah smell like peppermint!?!")

An equal number of the theatre's temporary residents joined in, bringing 
the hoses they used for spraying the street as well as an assortment of 
scrub brushes.

Jan inspected the current state of their handiwork as everyone present 
pulled last minute sugar rations off the building. "You know," she said, 
"they've made quite a dent in all that candy already - maybe we should 
request a kickback from a few dental associations for providing them with 
future business."

"The only thing that would've made this place tastier," Carla called, "is 
chocolate! You didn't use any chocolate!"

Wielding their army of hoses, the dozen-plus workers methodically attacked 
the exterior of the theatre, and its sugary coating gradually washed away 
under water pressure and elbow grease. Addicts dangled from the roof, 
scrubbing at the mortar, trying to brush away every trace of icing from 
the crannies of the building. Nick & Natpackers formed human towers so 
they could wash the middle of the building faces and around the marquee. 
Shele, being a poet even while she labored, composed aloud as she washed 
the exterior clean:

      "N-S-V-V Nat drew us near,
     'Ain't as bad as it may appear!
      Once the clean-up's complete
         of the theatre made sweet,
We'll return to the Shrine and our leers!' "

As the frosting drained away, and they collected the enormous fragments of 
cookies and sweets, the workers cheered to see the old theatre resemble a 
brick building once more. What's more, from the force of the water spray 
and all the scouring from the crew, the bricks didn't appear quite as dark 
as before. The theatre gleamed two shades lighter in the moonlight once 
decades of accumulated dirt and neglected were rubbed away.

They clapped each other on the back as they surveyed everyone's handiwork, 
though Rosefever exclaimed, "Call me crazy, but I feel like I've spent the 
entire war cleaning up one mess after another!"

"Tell me about it!" Melissa echoed.

"Maybe we could lend you a Fanfic Cleaning Fairy or two," Heather offered. 
"NA would be lost without them!"

"Yeah!" Kim added, "and Monsieur Cabon would hate having to wear the little 
French maid outfit!"

The manager of the Jeweled Peach let out an indignant sputter, then turned 
his water spray on the addicts full force. The Nick & Natpackers, being 
pre-disposed to water fights in the first place, immediately began soaking 
any moving object nearby. Not only did the ensuing liquid melee finish 
clearing off the sidewalk, it drenched everyone present, through and 

End of Part One
What Lay Underneath (2/3)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Tasha provided by Amythest Dragon
Lacroix provided by Soulseeker

"Okay, everybody!" Soul instructed as the wet crowd of the cleaning crew 
puddled into the theatre. "Everyone stick to the trail of towels and head 
for the kitchen! No dripping on the theatre seats!" She shook her head in 
dismay as the human sponges trailed past.  she thought, then mumbled aloud, "And who knew we had 
so many towels!!??"

Bringing up the rear of the participants was the toga-clad Natalie. She 
stopped as she drew parallel with the mumbling faction co-leader. "Hi. 
Soulseeker, isn't it?" The Nick & Natpacker nodded as Nat jerkily pushed 
strands of her curly, damp hair away from her face. "Uhm, I was wondering - 
do you think it might be possible for me to have a talk with the Lacroix 
who helped you get revenge on me?"

Soul was immediately suspicious. Her Lacroix had been wracked by guilt ever 
since he'd helped the N&NP addicts dine and drug this Natalie. She certainly 
didn't want to make him feel worse by allowing this Nat to give him a piece 
of her mind. "Why?"

"Did you know that he's already apologized for the other night? He sent me 

"No, I didn't," Soul said with growing interest. Revenge was one thing - 
romance was another.

"Oh. I was thinking that since I'm here trying make up for what I 
encouraged - well, masterminded, actually - the Not-So-Vestal-Virgins to 
do, it might be a good time for me to accept his apology in person."

"Alright. Why don't I take you to my office? It's soundproofed - you'll 
have more privacy that way."


"Here. Take two or three towels," Soul said. "No, make it four - you've got 
a lot of hair."

Nat waited nervously  swaddled in terry cloth in Soul's office. Her bare 
feet (she'd unlaced her sandals and left them to dry on a towel outside 
Soul's door) tapped anxiously against the floor as though they were ready 
to speed out of there with the slightest provocation. If this visit was 
just about Nat, she would've slipped out a long time ago.  she lectured herself.  She let out a weary sigh. 

The sound of the door opening drew her attention. Her eyes focused on his 
hand maneuvering the door handle. As she watched his long, tapering fingers, 
she thought back to Shele's haiku,  Pushing her drooling thoughts aside, Nat looked up to meet his gaze 
with a tentative smile. 

At his first sight of her, Lacroix appeared troubled and unhappy. When she 
looked up to him with welcome, however, his lips stretched in a full, eager 
grin and he rushed to greet her, leaving the door open behind. To witness 
such joy on that face (and at the sight of her, no less) had  Nat's heart 
thumping rapidly, she knew. Her thoughts blanked out momentarily. A logical 
portion of her mind had begun to regroup, however, and as he took a seat 
beside her, enveloping one of her hands within his own, she studied him 
critically. Until recently, (and this incarnation of Lacroix could take a 
measure of blame for the change) this was an activity she'd rarely pursued. 

Since the night of the prank, she'd reflected on his behavior during the 
dinner in detail. At the time she'd been dazzled and downright unwilling 
to notice any differences in the way he'd behaved as opposed to what she'd 
expected. Looking back with eagle-eyed hindsight, some things had become 
very apparent to Nat.

There had been several instances during their meal when she'd made comments 
that troubled him, whereas her Lacroix would have taken them in stride or 
shrugged them away. That honey and wine one, for example...No, Nat was 
fairly certain that this version of Lucien Lacroix had been acting a part 
that night. While he was just as incredibly handsome as the Nunkies she 
adored, while he had that voice that melted her muscles like ice cream, and 
while he could certainly lay on the deadly charm when he wanted, there was 
something completely different under the surface. It was as though he cared 
too much. Sending her an apology had been the clincher - call it excess 
pride or stubbornness, call it indifference - the Lacroix from her world 
would not have offered the token.  His behavior almost reminded her of...

"Soul told me there was someone who wished to speak with me," the Lacroix 
said in amazement. "I never dreamed that it would be you. I felt certain 
that I would never see you again. Not after..." He looked away, obviously 
ashamed by his actions of the past.

observed silently. She hurried to reassure him, saying, "I know how you 
must feel. I have to admit that my original intention was to never darken 
these doors again, but, since then, there have been certain people who 
have changed the way I look at the world." She gave a private grin. "Any 
world." She looked down at where his hands wrapped around her own, feeling 
a wistful burning in her heart, but forced herself to ignore it. She had 
another purpose for being here. "I wanted to apologize to you."

"I really don't think that's necessary. You haven't wronged me," he 

"But I have." He started to urgently insist otherwise, but Nat held up her 
free hand and said, "Please. Hear me out. It was my idea to attack the 
theatre. I orchestrated everything. If it wasn't for my actions, you would 
have never been called in to help deceive me. I suspect that your role in 
the entire plan for revenge has been a great burden to you, and I want to 
tell you that I'm sorry for bringing about that pain."

"I couldn't go through with it," he said softly. "At the end, when everyone 
was supposed to laugh at you, and they wanted me to offer my blessing at 
your *marriage to Nicholas*," he bit out the last words harshly, "I 
couldn't do that to you. They recruited one of my alternates."

Nat nodded. "I understand. Sitting here, talking with you without any 
facades, I started wondering about that. It makes even more sense now 
why you...I loved the roses and the card." She finally allowed her free 
hand to entwine with the others, then looked at him earnestly. "You have 
no idea how important they were to me. What an unexpected and pleasant 

Something flared in his eyes and Nat was suddenly positive that he intended 
to kiss her.  her addicted mind screamed.  When his lips were an instant away from her 
own, she whispered, "Tell me about your Natalie."

That stopped him cold. He leaned back, clearly discomfited, and stared off 
into the distance. "She's mortal, like you, innocent, and no doubt safer 
without me in her world."

"But, she loves you, doesn't she?" Nat asked in confusion. He nodded 
forlornly. "Then I don't think I understand. If you love Natalie, and 
Natalie feels the same way, how can anything else be a problem? How can 
that be any danger to her?"

"My feelings for Natalie are exactly what endanger her," he answered 
ruefully. "You see, the Nicholas from my world is willing to hurt anyone 
I care for. As long as I am near the Natalie in my universe, I put her 
life at risk."  Worry shone from his eyes as he continued, "I have a 
confession to make."

"Alright, confess."

"With the threat that has been lifted from my Natalie with my absence, I 
have begun to think that it might be a blessing if the rift never closes," 
he said bitterly.

Her heart twisted at his words and Nat echoed softly, "You mean you would 
give her up forever to keep her safe?"

"If necessary," he assured her.

Nat felt the suggestion rush from her lips, despite her trying to hold it 
back. It wasn't her place, it wasn't fair to all of the thousands of people 
concerned to propose such a thing, she was well aware of this, but a plea 
for the damned Lacroix overrode everything. What about fairness to *him*, 
and if this Lacroix was willing...

"There might be a way to help keep it open," she said. 

He stared at her blankly for a second. "What are you talking about?"

"I met... someone," she explained carefully, "someone who is collecting 
items that came from alternate universes. He has a plan, I'm not certain 
of the details, to try to keep the rift from disappearing. If you could 
donate something, an object that came from your world, perhaps it would 

Lacroix turned away in indecision, "To never return, to never see my 
Natalie again..."

"Don't let who I am affect your decision," Nat said earnestly. "No, forget 
I said anything. I'll go."

"No!" he nearly shouted, pulling a piece of silk from his pocket and 
pressing it into her hand. "I couldn't bear seeing another person that I 
loved destroyed, if there was something I could've done to prevent it."

Nat felt a tear swell in her eye as she brought the handkerchief he'd given 
her to her cheek. "You love Natalie that much..."

"Yes." The decision to help made, he suddenly felt the urge to be alone and 
stood abruptly. 

As he walked out the office door, Nat's voice made him pause. "If you do 
ever see your Natalie again, tell her. She needs to hear it." Then he was 

Nat wiped her eyes with one of the damp towels, then started to collect 
them in a pile. It was time for her to leave, too.

"Well, well," she heard a familiar (her) voice drawl. "I didn't think you'd 
have the nerve to come back here again."

Nat looked up, startled, to see the vampire Natasha glowering at her in the 
doorway. Nat decided that being humble would not make the best impression 
with this version of herself, so she quipped, "Why not? Wouldn't you?"

Tasha allowed a slight quirk to her lips, but the golden glitter in her 
eyes didn't fade as she closed the door to Soul's office, then locked them 
both inside. "Yes, I would, but then if anyone gives *me* trouble, I can 
always," she said, briefly flashing her fangs, "rip them apart."

Nat swallowed convulsively as she realized with a sinking dread that this 
was not going to be a pleasant chat. Tasha appeared in the seat across from 
her, her eyes an angry blood-red as she hissed, "So, before I start ripping, 
tell me how the hell you get off trying to abandon us here?!?!"

End of Part Two

Send Comments to br1035@ix.netcom.com

What Lay Underneath (3/3)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Tasha provided by Amythest Dragon

As Nat stared at her in shock, Tasha continued to talk menacingly. "If you 
wanted to plot secrets, you shouldn't have left the door open." She tapped 
an earlobe. "I bet you forgot about vampire hearing. Big mistake."

Nat shook her head as if that would clear it, then she finally found her 
voice again. "Abandon? I'm not trying to abandon anyone!" she declared 
truthfully. "In fact, abandonment is the exact opposite of what I'm trying 
to accomplish!"

"I'm not stupid! I heard what you said to that Lacroix in here!" Tasha 
roared. "You were talking about keeping the rift open - that *someone* 
had a plan to do it! That someone is a Lacroix, isn't it? Isn't it?!?" 
When Nat didn't deny the accusation immediately, the vampire growled, "I 
KNEW IT!!!" She began to stalk about the office like a caged animal. 
"You're just as bad as he is with your stupid pranks, meddling in 
everyone's affairs! If you think I'm going to let you help that 
obnoxious...*monster*... manipulate Nicholas and I again, not to mention 
every other incarnation of us running around, you've got another thing 
coming!" Tasha punctuated this declaration with a fierce snarl.

"What is Lacroix like where you come from, Tasha?" Nat asked softly.

"What difference does it make to you? You'll drool over him anyway," the 
vampire spat in disgust.

"Because I'm *trying* to understand why he makes you so angry," Nat 
explained. "Let me put it this way, in my world, I'm not married to Nick."

"Oh, big shock there," Tasha said sarcastically. "I kind of figured that 
out from the banner and frosting you put all over the theatre!"

"Yes, and I've apologized for that. What I'm trying to explain is why I got 
carried away. I mean, where I'm from, Nick and I are friends at best. We're 
more like a doctor and patient and helping him is like an experiment."

From the vampire's sudden growl, Nat guessed 'experiment' wasn't an 
excellent word choice. "You sound just like Lacroix - speaking of 
experiments, calling it helping when all you really want to do is make 
Nick miserable!"

"No. I don't want to make him miserable," Nat replied firmly. "I do want 
him to be happy - just not at my expense. That's why I went crazy about 
the Nick & Natpackers. It not that I wanted to hurt anyone, it's just that 
the thought hurt me. I know you don't want to hear it - god knows, I 
haven't handled the alternate realities well - but where I'm from, Lacroix 
isn't a saint.  He's not even really a nice person, yet I can't help how 
I'm drawn to him. I can't stop what he does to my heart any more than you 
can end what you feel about your Nicholas."

This argument gave Tasha pause, because, if there was one thing she felt 
strong about, it was her love for Nick. "Go on," she said stiffly.

"In your world, was there ever the threat of a meteor strike? One that 
would destroy every living thing on earth?"

"Yes," Tasha answered with a shrug, "but it turned out to be just a hoax. 
One that *Lacroix* set up."

"Imagine a world where it wasn't a false alarm or a prank," Nat described 
fervently. "Picture a place where everything is dead. No mortals, no 
animals, and no plants. The sun and the moon mean nothing anymore, because 
everything is coated in darkness except the blood-red sky above. Nothing 
exists, except time and vampires. But there's no blood anymore...a few 
years pass, and all the younger ones begin to starve to death - like you. 
Some would choose to end their own unlives rather than let the torture 
continue. The older vampires, like Nicholas, would last for a while, but 
eventually they would waste away, too. In a way, they're the lucky ones, 
because their suffering is over. For the oldest, there is no such luxury. 
He starves *forever*. There is nothing else. He is hungry and alone for 
eternity - abandoned in hell."

Nat's words had definitely affected Tasha. The vampire's indignation had 
faded away under the stark image her mortal counterpart had painted. She'd 
taken away the anger, and what lay underneath... "That's why you're willing 
to keep the rift open, so a Lacroix can avoid eternal damnation? And that's 
supposed to move me?" The words were not sympathetic, but Tasha couldn't 
completely shield her empathy from her voice.

"Tell me, if you were in my place, wouldn't you do anything in your power 
to save Nicholas from such a fate?" Nat's tears began to flow freely as she 
sobbed, "Could you condemn him, could you damn anyone to an existence like 
that?" She clutched urgently at Tasha's hand and asked imploringly, "Even 

The vampire looked torn for a few moments, then a scarlet trail began to 
roll down one cheek as she pulled the other woman close for a consoling 
hug. "No, I couldn't, and I hate him." After a few minutes, their mutual 
tears slowed and they moved apart, both Natalies wiping at their eyes, one 
sniffing. Tasha slipped something from her belt. "Take this," she said, 
offering up a long, thin dagger. "As long as Nick and I are together, it 
doesn't really matter what universe we're in. Besides, I've made some 
friends that I know I'm going to miss when we leave."

Nat squeezed the vampire's other hand as she took possession of the dagger. 
"Thank you," she breathed softly, then let go to wipe again at her eyes 
with a frustrated hand. "Ugh. My eyes are drooling again."

Tasha grinned, saying, "Eye drool? You Nunkies addicts are weird."

"Yeah," Nat nodded with a faint smile, "but you have to admire our taste 
in breastplates."

Tasha unlocked the office door and held it open. "That's silver, isn't it?"

"Exactly," Nat confirmed. "It's a little heavy, but we don't rust up after 
a dip in the Sacred Cold Pond."

"Sacred Cold Pond? No-" Tasha cut Nat off as she began to explain. "That's 
probably one of those thing where I'm happier the less I know about it."

"I don't blame you," Nat replied.

"If you'll excuse me," Tasha said apologetically. "After our talk I have 
this sudden urge to find my husband and hold onto him *tightly*."

"I understand completely," Nat assured her, then waved the dagger and 
handkerchief in the air. "I need to find someone myself and make a 
delivery. Would you let the other addicts know that I've gone to CERK?"

"No problem. And Nat?"


"I really do hope that everything works out."

"I know you do, Tasha. I know."

End of Part Three

Send Comments to:  br1035@ix.netcom.com

WAR: A Drool-Free Delivery

Takes place prior to Usher Me In, Usher Me Out=20 Everyone used with 

        Laurie stood in front of the Jeweled Peach, hoping Michele was 
still there. The Cousin had been staying at CERK during the war, but like 
all the
NA members,  had been visiting the shrine daily for her necessary fix.
Michele had stopped by - when? yesterday? -  to drop off the Scream painting - 
Laurie winced at the thought of her precious painting now hanging
on the GHP's wall - and they'd relaxed over a Maker's. She'd mentioned then
that Libby had been regularly stopping by the Shrine, and had agreed, after
a few waves of a Chocolate Nunkies pop, to allow Laurie to visit, 
especially since she had known the Merc was ripe for conversion.

        When Michele had called and told her Libby had arrived at the 
Shrine, Laurie had sent Wooby over to the Raven to cover security while 
she'd picked up April and made a quick stop at Merc Central to pick up a 
few things. She still had a few more errands to do before settling in to 
her new digs. Finding the Ratpackers was one of them.

        Just as she was about to knock, the door opened, revealing a toga-clad 
Michele, who gestured her inside.

        "So, Laurie, are you finally admitting the truth? =91My name is Laurie and I
am a Nunkaholic"." She attempted to mimic her friend's New York accent, but
being from Virginia, sounding like a New Yorker on novocaine.

        "Laurie!!!" Bonnie, wearing a toga decorated with quite perky yellow 
rosebuds and bouncing merrily on the trampoline, spotted her, did an 
enormous bound to land in front of them, and started patting Laurie down 
for Chocolate Nunkies pops. "Whatcha doing here?"

        "Looking for Libby," Laurie replied, slapping the hands away. She 
turned, peered around the room, caught sight of the Shrine, stood shock 
still for a second, and dropped like a brick to the floor.

        Bonnie grabbed the window of opportunity offered by Laurie's 
momentary lapse of consciousness to rifle her pockets, retrieved two 
Chocolate Nunkies pops, waved one under Laurie's nose, and then shoved 
it into her own mouth, firmly clutching the second one in her hand.

        "Does it every time. Even for non-members." Michele grinned at her 
slowly reviving friend. "Hey, maybe we should have an indoctrination 
session ..."

        *That* got Laurie to her feet in a hurry. She didn't know for 
sure what Nunkies indoctrination involved, but she did know she had things 
to do, and she needed to remain sane and drool-free. Besides, she didn't 
need brainwashing, she adored Nunkies almost as much as chocolate. 
Nunkies ...chocolate ... the two words formed in a coherent pattern. She 
reached into her now empty pocket, and then turned to glare at Bons. Bons 
totally ignored her, much more concerned with hiding the last chocolate 
Nunkies pop from her fellow addict.

        Michele, noting the glare, realized that Bons just possibly might 
have the last Chocolate Nunkies pop in the known universe, let alone the 
building. She let out an anguished shriek and jumped her.

        "Give me that!"

        "No! It's mine.!"

        "She's *my* friend!"

        "Don't care. Mine, mine, mine," Bonnie began a meltdown, just as 
Michele finally latched onto a bit of the Chocolate Nunkies pop still in 
her hand. Unfortunately, it was the stick. Chocolate Nunkies himself went 
flying across the room, followed by the two frantically scrambling women.

        "Right. I need to concentrate," Laurie said to herself, ignoring 
the tussling.  "Repeat after me. I'm here on business ... I'm here on 
business." She deliberately kept her back to the Shrine; she had no doubt 
she'd be returning for a visit soon, and she'd be able to examine it at 
length then. Especially the blow up of Nunkies in ...

        Just as Laurie started to sway again, she was distracted by the 
appearance of Libby, who bent down and retrieved the Chocolate Nunkie that 
had come to rest in front of her, holding it far out of the grasp of Bons 
and Michele, who started whimpering at her feet.

         "Ere, whatch yer doin' 'ere, Mercbard?" she asked smugly. "Come to 
beg us Ratsies to come 'ome, have you? 'Aving a bit of trouble with our wee 
friends?" She popped the Chocolate Nunkies into her mouth, ignoring the 
wails below her.

        "Nope. I'm moving out soon anyway, so the entire place can collapse, 
for all I care. I came to give you this." Laurie tried to hand an envelope 
to Libby, who was having none of it.

        "What tha'? Don' wan it."  Libby backed away from the Merc.

        "Maybe it has chocolate Nunkies in it." Bons sniffed at the envelope.
"Nah." she said, losing interest.

        "Libby, it's from the GHP. It's for John. You remember John, your 
fearless leader,"

        "K, s'long as it ain't fer me." Libby, still suspicious, took the 
proffered envelope.

        "Of course not, Libby." Laurie put on her best insincere smile. She 
knew she'd been right about the Ratsies' level of  brain power. As of now, 
she'd delivered the bill, and was off the hook with Dianne!

        Laurie turned to go. "Oops, I almost forgot. I have an invite for 
all members of NA. It's from the NNP" She pulled out the  theatre invitation 
and handed it to Michele. Or tried to anyway.

        "Oh, yuck, get that away from me!" Michele said, moving back a few 

        "Well, I'll just leave it here, you can read it later." Laurie put 
it down on a nearby divan.

        "You want to see more of the shrine, Laur?" Michele asked enticingly.

        "Well ..." Laurie remembered her mercly to do list. She had invitations to
deliver, memorabilia to steal, a move to make, a rift to close ... "Maybe some other 
time?" she replied. "But I don't suppose you'd have an extra drool cup I 
could borrow, do you? Just in case ... "

        "No way!," Michele replied, thinking to herself, "Not yet, anyway ..."

        * * *
"Getting Their Goat"
By Cousin Tser and Cousin Shelley
On behalf of all Cousins everywhere!!

With permission, of course.
Takes place after "Only One Remained" and during and after "Life is a Gift"

* * * * * * * *

goat \'got\ n, pl goats [ME gote, fr. OE gat; akin to OHG geiz goat, L 
haeaus kid] 1. or pl goat: any of various hollow-horned ruminant mammals 
(esp. of the genus Capra) related to the sheep but of lighter build and 
with backwardly arching horns, a short tail, and usu. straight hair

            ~~ Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary

* * * * * * * *

Tser moaned, her hand moving to her forehead.  Ooo, a bandaid.  Why was 
there a bandaid on her head?

Suddenly she remembered.  She must have passed out.  Tser didn't faint 
easily.  What was this, a faint of joy?  She must have hit her head on the 
War Room table or something.  She certainly had the headache to go with 

She cracked her eyes open slightly.  Yipes, too bright!!  She squeezed them 
shut.  From that short glimpse of the outside world, she saw she was back 
in her room.  She opened her eyes again, slowly, and moved her head.
 There was a large, golden, evil-looking eye staring at her.

"AHHH!" she screamed and rolled away from the offending eye.  And onto the 

"Oof," Tser grumbled.  "Moses," Tser said slowly, voice low, "get off the 

Tser stood on shaky legs, one hand resting on the snakies' cage.  She took 
a deep breath, collected herself, and headed down to the lobby.

"Hey, Tser," Denese said.  "How're you feeling?"  Tser blushed slightly.
She noticed the looks from her fellow Cousins.  Fainting was very -- 

"I feel like I just passed out, cracked my head on something, and fell off 
my bed," Tser grumbled.  She shooed one of the Cousinly Goats out of the 
way, eyeing a box near the door of CERK.  "What's this?" she asked.

"You don't want to know," Denese said, sighing.

Cousin Shelley, who was trying to tiptoe around a pile of... goat berries... 
at the last moment lost her balance and landed directly in the box.  
Pulling peach juice out of her hair, she scowled in Tser's direction.

Tser, looking apprehensively over at Denese, opened the box.  "Millions of 
peaches," Tser muttered under her breath.

"I *hate* peaches," Shelley grumbled, still covered in peach colored pulp.

They looked at each other and narrowed their eyes.  "This means war," they 
snarled simultaneously, Cousinly fire flashing in their eyes.

"Uh, you guys are late," Denese said.  "The war started a long non-time ago.  
You're behind.  By the way, that's not the half of it.  There was a rigged 
'Peaches Modern Life' tape, and, uh, enough *peach* colored linen to redo 
the whole building."

Tser winced.  Peach was so... pastel.  Blech.  Very unCousinly.  Peach 
Schnapps was good though, she thought, pulling out one of the bottles.
Hmm, and peach candy.  Not as good as chocolate, but still great in a sugar 
low.  Shelley turned a large, juicy, fresh peach over in her hand, looking 
for all the world like she wanted to throw it at someone.

"Who sent this?" Shelley demanded, eyes narrowed, as the two Cousins looked 
outside at the wall of boxes containing the peach room decor.

"Um, Nick&Natpackers, I think," Denese, who was up on all the CERK goings-on, 

Tser smiled evilly, rubbing her hands together.  Shelley returned a look of 
mischievous intent.

Tser and Shelley cackled.  "Mwa ha ha ha!!"

* * * * * * *

"Hey, off the couch!" Tser yelled.  "You're as bad as Moses.  Now come here, 
I've got to get you ready."

"I don't think they're trained.  At the first Cousinly Meeting of the War, 
it was decided training them was the Herd Manager's job, but in the hectic 
activity following the opening of the Rift, appointing one was forgotten 
about," Shelley commented.  Shelley looked at Tser suspiciously.  "And 
wasn't it *you* who had them sent here rather than the farm they were 
supposed to go to?"

Tser grinned evilly.  "Despite the irritations and inconvenience of having 
them around, you have to admit they come in handy."

"Heh heh heh," Shelley chuckled. "Yes, yes they do."

* * * * * * * * * *

"Okay, now for delivery," Tser said.  "I think that we've spent enough of 
LaCroix's money having them *shipped* here and feeding them than to have 
to spend all that money on shipping them to those who defiled our domain 
with," she said, pausing to shudder, "PEACH."

"I agree," said Shelley....  Suddenly, her patented Evil Cousinly Grin got 

* * * * * * * * * *

"Tser, he'll do it, trust me" Shelley said with a pleading tone.

"I'm not sure if it's the best idea" Tser replied, tying a peach colored 
ribbon around a very reluctant, bleating Revenge.

"Look, if the Cousinly leaders get the bill for his alcohol consumption, 
I'm up the Cousinly Creek without a paddle... I *have* to get rid of him 
somehow," she said, definitely pleading now.  "What better place to send 
him than the N&N Packers??"

Cousin Tser's face broke out into a fiendish grin.  "True," she said, "he 
*is* a handful.  Between him and the beasties...." she broke off, laughing.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"We're running low, Nick, but do us this little favor, and I'll tell you 
where to find more," Shelley smiled, trying to look sincere.

"Whysh  do Ish hafta?" he slurred out.

"This place you'll be delivering to, they bought up the entire supply of 
Bloody Marys in all of Toronto!" she lied.  He looked delighted at the 
prospect of that big a supply.

Shelley continued, seeing she had his attention now, "And Nick, all you 
have to do is deliver these couple of boxes, then go right in and drink 
up."  She suppressed a snicker.

"All Ish hash to do , ish deliversh thesh boxesh??" He asked, 
eyes wide with happiness.

"Yes, and Nat is there too," Tser chimed in.  "She's waiting to have a 
drink with you."  She was trying to sound enthusiastic, though she was 
having a hard time staying conscious due to Nick's liquor laden breath.

"NATSH?????" he asked.  "Okaysh! I'll do itsh! "

Tser and Shelley grinned at each other.  It was working exactly as they 
had planned.

"One more thing, Nick," Shelley said, holding some peach colored clothing, 
"you have to wear this uniform."

He clutched the fabric in his hand, and staggered off to change.  Tser 
rubbed her hands together and whispered, "Revenge is *peachy*, don't you 

The two cousins broke into uncontrollable laughter.

* * * * * * * * * *
continued in part two
"Getting Their Goat"
By Cousin Tser and Cousin Shelley

continued from part one
* * * * * * * * * *

Shelley loaded Nick, complete in his peach delivery uniform, into her van
and closed the door.  She walked over to Tser.  "Ready?" she asked.

"Yep, let's do it!" Tser replied and hopped into the cab of a delivery
truck they had "borrowed" earlier.

The van followed the truck out of the CERK parking lot and headed towards
the N&N Pack headquarters.  They pulled off a block away and parked the
van.  It took both of them to get the inebriated Nick out of the van and
into the truck.

"Can he drive like this?" Tser asked Shelley skeptically.  "That's
*really* dangerous.  I mean, not like he'll be bad off in an accident...
he is a *vampire*... and there's no one out tonight... but it's a
borrowed truck!"

She shrugged and said, "It's only one block, what could happen?" and
continued to load him into the drivers seat.  She gave him his last
minute instructions and handed him the official looking clipboard.  He
put the truck in gear and began to pull away.

"Remember, delivering the boxes comes *first*, Nick," she yelled after
him.  He waved at her happily, visions of an endless supply of Bloody
Mary's dancing in his head.

The theater was directly in front of him, but his vision kept blurring
and obscuring it.  Before too long, it looked ominously close and he
slammed on the brakes.  There was a small crunching noise as metal
collided with building, but Nick took no notice.  He had a job to do.

He pounded authoritatively on the door.

Idalia opened the door and was surprised by a rather drunk Nick holding a
clipboard under her nose.  "Shine here, pleash," he said, trying to sound
official.  Shelley had said PACKAGES FIRST, or he wouldn't get what he so

Idalia looked at him suspiciously.  "Sign for what?"

Nick shrugged, nearly loosing his balance in the process.  Idalia
narrowed her eyes. He wasn't a very convincing delivery man.  She looked
passed him to the absolutely huge boxes wrapped in Peach paper.

"I don' kno'," Nick said irritably.  "I'm jush deliverin' itsh! "
 He went back and began pushing one of the massive carts in the door.
"Pleash acshept this delivery," he grunted.  "Itsh a present."

Idalia looked at his rather intense, slightly golden glare, and grabbed
the pen, signing for both huge boxes.  After slipping and nearly
capsizing one of the boxes (which Idalia was sure *bleated*) Nick pushed
both the carts with vampiric speed into the lobby of the theatre.

That done, Nick pushed his way in and demanded, "Wheresh the Bloody

Idalia looked at him with an utter look of shock.  "I don't know what
you're talking about."  She turned to the boxes.  "Now," she said,
listening to the side of the box to make sure there was no tell-tale
ticking inside.  All she heard were mysterious -- cud noises.  Shrugging,
she opened the first peach wrapped box.

She nearly passed out when five goats wearing wide, peach ribbons and
peach bath towels like capes leapt happily from the crate, bleating, and
ran into who knows where in the theatre.  "AHHHH!!!!!" Idalia screamed.
"NO!!  Not goats!!  What are they going to do to the theatre??" she

Nick shrugged, this time really falling over, and fell into the box,
denting the side considerably.  Munching sounds came from within.
"Wheresh the Bloody Marysh?" he demanded.  "And wheresh NATSH?"

Idalia looked up at this, N&Npacker instincts taking over.  "Nat?  You
mean Natalie?"  Lush Nick nodded enthusiastically, so hard, he fell once
again on the already dented gift wrapped goat's crate.  "In your reality
do you love Nat?"

Nick sighed unhappily and cradled his head in his hands.  "She left me,
 she left me," he moaned, sitting on the floor.  Idalia nodded
sympathetically.  No matter the poor man was driven to drink.  "Here,
come with me, we can help," she soothed, and pulled him to his feet,
guiding him back to the other N&Npackers.

"Wheresh the Bloody Marysh?" Nick slurred, forgetting Nat for the time.

"What do you mean?" Idalia asked, completely confused.  "We don't have

"And where'sh Natsh??  NATSH?? WHERE ARESH YOUSH????" he began shouting
at the top of his lungs.

"She's --"

Nick glared at her.  "Neber mind, I'llsh find 'em myshelf ," he
replied, and
staggered off into the interior of the building in search of a drink and
still calling for "Natsh" at the top of his voice.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Shelley and Tser had pulled the van closer to the theater to watch their
plan unfold.  They chuckled with delight when they saw Nick putting the
carefully gift wrapped boxes inside as fast as he could.

When they heard him calling out for "Natsh" at the top of his lungs, they
doubled over in laughter and gave each other a high five.

"I think we ought to get out of here" Shelley said, gasping for air from
laughing so hard.

"Okay, let's go!" Tser agreed and they drove the van off quickly, still

Tser shot one last glance back as they drove quickly away.  Funny how
quickly her spirits had lifted, how quickly her Cousinly spirit had
returned.  She looked back at their handiwork and grinned.  Now that the
little revenge sub-plot was on its way, she needed to turn her mind to
more serious matters.  She knew that the War Room was the place she was
most likely to find her LaCroix, so as soon as she got back, it was to
the War Room she would head.  Like the LaCroix native to this reality,
her's liked privacy, and not having a nice private Penthouse, he spent
most of his time in the Cousinly War Room.  She shot a Cousinly smile at
Shelley as they drove.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Idalia was torn from trying to find the goats, go after Nick, guard the
second crate, or get help.  She watched Nick stumbling away, when he
suddenly crashed into a wall with plenty of force, then disappeared into
the distance.  Idalia's mind was made up when she heard "NATSH!!!!
OOOOoooo!", a sharp, piercing squeal of utter terror, then "Oh, you're
notsh Natsh," in disappointed tones.  She ran towards the sound.

Idalia felt her shoe hit something squishy.  She looked down.  "OH,
GROO-OOSS!" she screamed, and hopped down the hall.  The goats had eaten
a *lot* of peaches before delivery.

Back in the lobby, the remaining crate of goats was slowly being chewed
from the inside out.  First one little Nubian goat squeezed through the
hole, then the other four, after widening it a bit, escaped as well.  The
goats descended on the theatre and Lush Nick demanded more Bloody Marys.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Two Wishes (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Patt and her Godfather Lacroix are Jules and my fiction slaves for 
the remainder of the War
Time: After 'My Compliments to The Artist' and before Bonnie 
gets put anywhere associated with camels

There was a shriek heard around the world, or, at least, the offices of 

"WHAT IN THE....NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!"

Third Cousin Patt blinked into her conveniently placed mirror with dismay. 
She had a bright yellow clown face - from mustard! - and, horror upon 
horrors, giant, fluffy, bountiful eyebrows. Caterpillar eyebrows. If one 
of the Cerberus heads saw her like this, she'd become a main course faster 
than you could say 'etouffe'. 

Mustard, mustard, mustard. Ah, that creamy yellowish-brown  paste made from 
grinding the seeds of genus Sinapis. What bliss! Tangy. Spicy. Distantly 
related to cabbage (like a third cousin). Born to bless hot dogs and 
salads.  Patt stood arms akimbo, fuzzy eyebrows defiant. 

There was only one person in Patt's swarm of knowledge who had significant 
feelings about mustard. Amethyst. She  - *uck!* *blek!* *puke!* - HATED 
mustard. Patt had happily tormented the Knightie with hot version of the 
nummy-yum spread soon after the beginning of the War. Now she had mustard 
painted all over her face. Coincidence? Patt thought not. Just because 
Amethyst would get near a jar of Poupon didn't mean the gal couldn't enlist 
some Knightie pal to wield her condiments for her.

Patt hunched over, covering her face from passing Cousins as she tip-toed 
to the office next door where Jules was working. She rushed to close the 
door behind her, noticing only then that her only audience wasn't of the 
conscious, sympathetic sort.

"Bons!" Patt said as she shook the sleeping redhead by the shoulders. 
"Bons! Bons! Bons! Wakems! Express moral outrage!" 

Bonnie twitched, but didn't awaken. Patt finally noticed the triple-espresso 
iv hooked up to her Cousinly buddy. It didn't appear to be having immediate 
success. Patt sniffed the brew, commenting, "Costa Rican - her favorite - 
no problem there." So why wasn't Bonnie coming to? "A-ha!"

Patt sneaked outside the office once more, spotted a passing goat, gave a 
discreet peek at its nether regions, then herded it inside. With a skill 
few knew she possessed (including herself), Patt set to milking a good half 
cup from the caprine.

Bonnie always took her coffee white, no sugar.

"Brah...huh?!" Bonnie sat up suddenly, sniffed around predatorily for a 
caffeine source, then snatched the espresso hooked to her forearm, draining 
it in one gulp. She wiped the corners of her mouth clean with the back of a 
hand. "I want some more," Bons said greedily. "Kinda tastes like feta cheese, 

"That would be the goat's milk," Patt announced proudly, "I remembered you 
needed creamer."

Bons looked at the cup she'd just emptied with dawning horror. She stared 
at the goat then, who bleated in indignation. "Aaaaahhhhhh!" she squealed. 
"Patt! Do you know what horribly, nasty gross diseases you can get from 
drinking raw milk? Bleh! Bleh! I've seen pictures - it's awful! People 
looking all yellow and smelly and grotesque, just like your face!" Bonnie 
paused in her rant to eye Patt curiously. "Hey! What happened to your face?"

"Well, hon, it wasn't a makeover from a licensed cosmetologist, let me tell 

Bons swiped a finger full off Patt's faced and sniffed it. "Mustard? 
Actually, I think that's supposed to be good for your pores."

"I'm thrilled. Could you go ahead and do the part where you scream bloody 
murder that I've been attacked and share in my humiliation?"

"Why would I want to share in your humiliation?"

"Just do it!"

"Oh, alright," Bonnie sighed. "WHY?! WHY!? PATT LOOK WHAT THEY'VE DONE TO 
chorus of 'We Shall Overcome,' then handed Patt a wet nap, stating, "There. 
Are you happy now?"

"Much better," she said, after wiping all the yellow gunk away. "Hey! 
You're right! This stuff *is* good for my skin! My face feels...firmer 
somehow...after just one treatment!"

"Great! We should do an infomercial," Bons teased. "Now for those rotten 
eyebrows. Can you say 'hyperbole,' boys and girls?" She grabbed both fake 
brows by either end, and, expecting the gum resin to give way easily, 
yanked both off simultaneously.


"Bons, why do I feel a sudden nakedness above my eyes?" Patt asked calmly.

"Ohmigawsh!" Bonnie squealed. "Ohmigawsh! Ohmigawsh! It looks like your 
face wasn't the only thing the mustard firmed up...the resin hardened, 
too." She displayed the back of one of the false brows. It was covered, 
not with the remnants of sticky goo, but real hair. "You've been plucked."

Patt swooned.

Bonnie made a move to catch her friend from smacking against the floor 
(though  she new she didn't have a donut's chance in Don of succeeding),
but a pair of arms covered in white silk magically appeared, beating her 
to it. Bons looked up, startled, then let out a yelp.

"Yelp!" Bons yelped. "Ohmigawsh! Why is your hair purple?"

The Fairy Godfather Lacroix immediately turned her into a newt.

Patt's eyes fluttered open, then widened. "You! Didn't you just leave?"

The Lacroix flashed out of sight, then reappeared in a blaze of light 
crouched atop Jules' desk. "Hardly. You have a propensity for fainting 
in this War, and obviously contracted Cousin Annie's 'Really, Long, Nap' 
disease, as well. Days have passed since we last met. You do not appear 
to stay out of trouble while you are conscious, however." He extended one 
arm, shaping his fingers as though he held a wide cup.  There was another 
flash of light, and Patt vanished, reappearing with her throat within the 
clutch of the Lacroix's hand and her feet dangling an inch off the floor.

"Ac...a...a...ack!" Patt choked.

The Lacroix frowned distastefully at the conspicuous lack of hair on the 
Third Cousin's forehead. "It appears that you should use another wish. Of 
course, they *might* grow back..."

"Uh...no...wish...normal... brows ...back," Patt gasped as she began to 
turn blue from the lack of oxygen.

The Lacroix released her, and Patt crumpled to a heap, narrowly missing 
squashing a perky newt that sniffed inquisitively at the dregs in a coffee 
cup that had been knocked to the floor. He brought forth his shillelagh 
and smote them both on the brain-pans.

When they came to, Bonnie was no longer a newt, but a groggy Southern 
belle with a headache. Patt was a groggy Southern belle with a headache 
and eyebrows.

"What *was* that?" Bonnie mumbled as she rubbed her head.

"Don't ask."

Bonnie climbed to her feet, opened the office door and stepped into the 
hallway. "Okay. I'm going for some more coffee - want some?"

Before Patt had a chance to answer, there was a flash of movement down the 
hall, and someone cried in a very non-Cousinly screech:

"Hey! That speedin' slacker just tied my shoes together! After him!"

Patt noticed Bonnie was no longer in the doorway and shook her head. 

Fin for now

Send comments to: br1035@ix.netcom.com

VAQ: Vengeance Yells a YeeHaw
Written by Hunter-D, with help from Cousin Black and Crystal Guffey
All characters used with permission

Hunter nodded to the 8 Man Vachon, "I guess it's all up to you, you think
you're fast enough?"

"Heh." Vachon smirked.  He stood up, and before Hunter can blink, there was
a trail of fading sparks on the pavement heading in the direction of CERK HQ.

Hunter looked over at Vay-Shawn, who's jaw was hanging so low the 'tabbaky'
was starting to fall out.  "Come on we have to get in place!" Hunter nudged

"'Ah reckon so." Vay-Shawn said.  "That feller gives me the creeps.  No
may-shene shud be that fast."  Soon the cavalier aptly named the
'Generally' was racing down the road.

'0.0' seconds: V Man fades into sight for a brief moment as he read the
name of the building.

'0.3' seconds: Heads start to turn as a sonic boom carries through the

'0.7' seconds: CsnSun is nearly run over as he rounds a corner.  He pauses
briefly to tie her shoelaces together.


'1.8' seconds: Cousin Robi's are the last of the Cousin's shoelaces to be
tied together.

'1.9' seconds: V Man doubles back realizing he had already tied Cherri's
shoelaces together.

'2.3' seconds: A black shape with a pale blue face suddenly appears behind
the hopping Cherri.

'2.7' seconds: Cherri starts to 'Eeeek' and disappears.  Her scream carries
into the distance.

'2.9' seconds: V Man notices Divia coming his way, and instinctively feels
a cold chill run down his spine.  He decides to get out while the getting
is good.

'3.2' seconds: V Man trips over CsnSun in mid profanity, but quickly
regains his balance.

'4.2' seconds: V Man stops to look both ways before crossing the street.

Hunter had no sooner than put the car in park behind Gas station, when two
trails of sparks erupted behind him.  V Man was carrying a hogtied,
barefoot, and very unhappy looking Cherri.

"Wow.... how did you get her so fast?" Hunter asked.

"Piece of cake, doesn't appear anyone in this time can match my speed.
Fortunately, I got out of there before I saw any fangs." V Man chuckled.

Hunter quickly exchanged Cherri for the dummy and grinned, "Great!  You
know what to do?"

V Man nodded and disappeared.  Hunter handed Vay-Shawn the money, and he
ran around to the front of the station to buy his roll of 'Tabbaky'.
Hunter sighed as he looked back at Cherri. This was going just TOO well.

Hunter pulled around to the front and picked up Vay-Shawn.  "He don't
remember a thang!" the hillbilly said with a wink.  Already he was
scratching at a huge roll of scratch-off games, his 'Tabbaky' apparently

"Then lets get the stars to the show!" Hunter laughed.


Written by Hunter-D, with help from Cousin Black and Crystal Guffey All 
characters used with permission

"Vengeance will be mine!" Hunter growled.  He stepped back and smiled at 
his creations, a life-size dummy that looked like Cherri and a very nice 
3 foot long potato gun.  He quickly checked his backpack containing the 
hairspray and ammo for the Spud gun, and picked up his things to leave.

Hunter walked to the computer room, and smiled at the group gathered there.
 "I'm ready." he said.

"This is crazy!  You're never going to be able to pull this off by 
yourself!" exclaimed Charlyne.

"Don't worry, I'll have all the help I need." Hunter replied with a nod to 
his backpack.  "Just make sure Teresa's Vachon has the place ready and 
waiting.  And if I don't come back..."

"Can the melodrama, Hunter!" Crystal interrupted.  "As a matter of fact, 
I asked Vay-Shawn to help you."

"WHAT!!" Hunter stared in disbelief.

"Yep, he rather liked the idea!  I saw him walking to the parking lot a 
few hours ago.  He was muttering something about his car up on blocks 
back home." Crystal smirked.

Hunter shook his head, and wondered just who's side she was on for a 
moment, before racing out to check on his car.

"Hmmm I could have sworn I parked right next to the van.... oh no!" 
after his fifth trip up and down the parking lot, Hunter took a good 
LONG look at the car parked next to Charly's van.  It was a cavalier 
all right, and even had Hunter's special lucky fuzzy blue dice hanging 
from the mirror, but something was very wrong.  The white car had been 
painted orange, and had the confederate flag painted on top.  Hunter 
walked to the driver side door and noticed the large '01' that was 
painted on the door.

"Where's the window?.... Why is the door welded shut???!!!" Hunter started 
looking for someone to strangle.  Seeing no one nearby, he climbed through 
the window and tossed his bag onto the passenger side floor.

"At least the keys still work." Hunter sighed.

The car started up with a ferocious ROAR, Hunter instantly jumped in 
surprise.  "Oh man.... I'm scared to do this, but..." Hunter pressed the 
horn, and was greeted by the opening bars to 'Dixie'.

"Heh, at least I have a working horn now" Hunter grinned, and put the car 
in drive.  He started to pull out when he heard, "Ya 'dad-blamed sunnava.... 

Hunter slammed on the brake, and let Mr. Grade A number one redneck 
Vay-Shawn hop in the car.  "Ah wuz jest puttin' muh tools away, didunt 
think you'd be ready yet," He turned to spit out the window before 
continuing, "So wuddya think?"

"I'm not sure what to say." Hunter said coldly.  Remembering that this 
guy was a vampire was the only think keeping him from strangling him.

"Great 'Ah knew yew'd like it!" Vay-Shawn chuckled a bit before spitting 
out the window. "You don't happen to have anymore of this here tabbaky do 

"Nope, that wasn't mine.  I don't touch the stuff," Hunter replied.

"Durn!" Vay-Shawn reached to the back seat where he left his guitar, and 
started singing, "Desperado... why don' ya..."

"You don't want to strain those vocal chords before the big show do you?" 
Hunter smirked. "And if you don't, I'll buy you a whole roll of that 

"R-R-REALLY?" Vay-Shawn stammered.

"I'm a man of my word" Hunter grinned.

Someone on the sidewalk caught Hunter's eye.  He quickly parked the car 
and climbed, or should we say fell, out of the window.

It was definitely 'a' Vachon, no doubt about it, but he was made out of 
some sort of metal.  His face was a pale blue color, his arms were white, 
he had a yellow belt, and the rest of his body was black, with the 
exception of a large white V on his chest.  He was slumped over, and 
didn't appear to be alive.  His right hand was clutching a small white 
vial with a death grip.

"What luck!" Hunter laughs, "An 8 Man, or at least a reasonable 
facsimile!! Quick get that vial out of his hand!"

Vay-Shawn shrugged and started prying at the V Man's fingers.  "Lordy be 
this feller's gotta grip!" he grunted.

Hunter reached over and slid the vial out of the fingers. He noticed a 
round opening in the 'V' Man's belt, and placed it there.  It was quickly 
sucked in, and a low humming noise was heard as the white liquid was 

"EEEEEYAAAA" the V Man shouted and sat bolt upright.  "M-Must get to the 
church... I need to..."

"That's where we are from," Hunter replied.

"My name is ...."

"Vachon, we know." Hunter said in a deadpan voice.  "Now hows about you 
doing us a bit of a favor?  We'll take you back to the church with us as 
soon as we accomplish this mission."

"How do you know who I am? ...Of course I'll help, I owe you my life."

Hunter smiled and explained everything to his new friend.


Written by Hunter-D, with help from Cousin Black and Crystal Guffey
All characters used with permission

It wasn't long before Hunter pulled into the parking lot at the sold out
Molson Amphitheater, already set up for the night's live radio broadcast.
They were quickly greeted by security and taken inside.  Cherri was untied
and pushed into a small windowless dressing room.

"Eeeeeek!  I am NOT wearing any of this stuff!" she screamed as she looked
through the wardrobe.

Vay-Shawn entered the room and looked at her sternly "Now
darlin' you better get ready for our big show."

Cherri's eyes glazed over for a moment. "Get ready for the show," she nodded.

Hunter found Teresa's Vachon tuning up his guitar.  "You do good work."
Hunter smiled, "So what happened to the bands?" he asked.

"They canceled because of all the weirdness going on in the city right
now," Vachon replied.  "I'm surprised you got her here so quickly.  I
haven't even had to stall for time yet.  Did you catch them unaware?"

"Hehehe I didn't, but a new friend of mine did.  You see on the way there I
found this...."  Hunter shut up, and tried to control the laughter as
Cherri walked by in paint-splashed overhauls, a Hawaiian shirt, and a straw
hat decorated in flowers with a price tag still hanging from it.

"Purdy lil' thang ain't she?" Vay-Shawn remarked. "Fixes up right nice
like."  He had changed into fresh ripped up denims and a tee-shirt that
said 'I'm with stupid' that had an arrow pointing up.  He had his guitar he
brought from the car.

Hunter grabbed the cue cards with the lyrics for Cherri, and they headed
for the stage.  Vay-Shawn and Vachon walked to either side of Cherri,
giving her nowhere to run.  Once out on stage, Cherri's eyes were as big as
saucers.  Vachon took the microphone first.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid ZZ Top was forced to cancel the show
tonight.  You will be given new tickets or your money will be refunded," he
said as the crowd began booing.

"But if Y'all stick around a few, we'll give ya a show you won't soon
fergit!" Vay-Shawn said. "Mah name is Steevie Ray Vay-Shawn and this is mah

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek" Cherri finally screamed, the shock of the crowd was
wearing off.

"That's right, Eeek, the artist formerly known as Cousin Cherri." Vachon
added with a grin.

"Ah one, an a two, and a three...." Vay-shawn started picking a melody, and
as soon as Vachon figured out what it was, he joined in too.

Cherri just stood there, looking like she'd rather be anywhere but there.

Vachon turned to her.    "Why aren't you singing?" 

"It's beneath my dignity as a Cousin."

Vay-shawn quickly reached behind Cherri and goosed her.

"WOOHOOO!" Cherri glared at Vay-Shawn, looked at the smirking Vachon,
glanced at the cue card Hunter was holding in the wings, and reconsidered.
She started to sing, and was joined by Vay-Shawn's terrifying voice.
Silence filled the Amphitheater.  After a few bars the crowd became
restless.  After a few minutes the crowd became violent.

Before the crowd had completely surged past the security, Vay-Shawn stepped
forward.    "Y'all stay back now, ya hear!"  .
The crowd instantly quieted, cans of beer falling to the stage floor.

"Not bad," Vachon remarked.

  Ptuwii  .

"I thought you were out of 'Tabbaky'," said Vachon.

"Dat weren't no tabbaky," said Vay-Shawn.  "It's those flowers on her hat,
actin' up muh allergies."

"Let's Go!" Hunter yelled.

Back in the 'Generally' Vay-Shawn turned on the radio...

"Hey this is Bubba 'The Spud' Griswald comin' at ya live from The Molson
Amphitheater, where there's been some trouble tonight.  That's right Bubba,
there sure has been a lot of weirdness in the city lately, but this takes
the cake.  How true, Crankshaft Craig baby, next time I vote we leave as
soon as they announce the band ain't coming!  Who was that singer anyway
Spud?  I don't know let me rewind the tape before I burn it, Craig.  This
concert was all just a blur to me, Bubba.  There you have it folks, and you can have
it because we don't want it."

Cherri sank a bit lower in the back seat.

V Man jogged into the zoo, pursued by a large mass of angry, hopping 

"Someone explain to me why we are still chasing this guy?" asked Cousin 

"Because he's got Cherri, he tied our laces in some bizarre knot no one has
had time to pick, and it's pulled too tight to pull off our shoes!  If we
stop we'll lose them!" exclaimed CsnSun.

"Don't you think he could 'lose' us at any time?" said Cousin Efery.

"Where are all the vampires?" asked Bonnie

"Uncle said something about it being undignified being seen with us this
way." said Joni.  "I don't know about the rest," said Rust.

"He just ducked into that building!  Quick maybe we can corner him!"
Senara exclaimed.

"It's a trap.  It's just too obvious!" Cousin Chase remarked.

"Maybe that's what he's expecting, us counting on it being a trap because
it's too obvious!" CsnSun replied.

The cousins surrounded the slightly opened door.  With one great charge,
they bounded into the building.  A second later, a staggering V Man sped
out the door without the dummy, and propped it close with a landscaping

"Ugh... ...Camel building...... not cleaned... Hunter should
have warned me, I'd have turned off my vents!" V Man choked out.  "Time to
meet them back at the church, at least I hope he told me everything about
this trip."  V Man gathered his wits and took off running at full speed.
Leaving nothing but a trail of sparks leading off into the distance.



Camel Walk (1/1)
by Bonnie Rutledge
with Cousins Sun, Efery, Senara, Chase, Rust, Robi and Joni
Featuring Third Cousin Patt and her Fairy Godfather Lacroix
Time: After 'Vengeance Yells Yeeehaw'

The door slammed, plunging the Cousins into a stinky predicament.


"I told you it was a trap!" Chase said.


Third Cousin Patt took her time moseying after the Cousinly mob. Nobody'd 
tied *her* shoelaces together - what was the rush? She paused to glare at 
the elephants, and almost missed seeing her faction-mates bust into a large 
circular building. 

The Cousins ran in, and a speedy slacker in black and white tights ran out, 
propping a landscaping timber against the door before he zipped away in a 

"Hmm," Patt said as she walked to the other side of the building. "What 
have we here?"

Looking through the bars, the Third Cousin let out a sudden cackle of 
Cajun madness.


"Who just spit at me?!?" Senara shouted indignantly. 

Sun shrugged. "Nobody here except us droolers and the camels."

"We don't all drool," Joni said firmly.

"Drool-schmool! There's no reason to do it on me! It's not as if it was 
*my* idea to chase that Vachon in here... well, actually, it was my idea...
but spitting's gros-wait a sec," Senara squinted curiously at Cousin Sun. 
"Did you say, 'camels'?"

"*Ssslllluuuurrrrpppp!*" said one of the Cousins' new dromedary pals.

Senara took it well. "Ack!" 

Robi did not. "ACK!!! DOUBLE ACK!!!"

Rust, meanwhile, was trying the doorknob. "There's something jamming it 
from the outside!"

"*Plop!* *Plop!*" went one of the other camels.

"Ehhhhhhwwwwwww!" Cousin Efery squealed. "This place is *ripe*!"

"So what do we so first?" Cousin Chase asked. "Try to find a way out, or 
attempt to cut all our shoelaces?"

"Uh, Bonnie?" Cousin Joni said puzzledly as she looked at the redhead's 
feet. "Am I seeing things, or are you barefoot?"

Bonnie nodded. "Yah! I lost my non-sensible shoes in an ornamental pond at 
Wonderland, then I became caffeine deficient and fell into a coma, and when 
I woke up, one of my friends had mustard all over her face and these funky 
eyebrows, and then a purple-haired Lacroix turned me into a newt and - " 
she paused to gulp in a breath. "I was too busy to put some new ones on, 

"Why did you go running after the speedy slacker with us then?" Rust 

Bons beamed happily. "I *like* chasing stuff!"

Efery sighed, and Sun rolled her eyes.

"Camels!" Bonnie exclaimed, bouncing in the direction of one humpback. 
"They are soooo kewl! Did you know they like to chew bubble gum? Didja? 
Huh?" She began to scratch along one of their necks, cooing, "And they're 
such a pretty color! And they have fuzzy-wuzzy fur! They're fun to ride, 

"I can't believe she's baby-talking a camel," Senara muttered.

"Bonnie's strange. This should not be a shock this late in the war," 
Chase insisted. "What I want to talk about is *how* we get out of here!"


Patt continued to giggle as she heard the Cousins arguing from inside the 
camel hut. She pushed against the wooden beam blocking the door, but it 
was too heavy for her to budge.


The timber suddenly transformed into a giant shillelagh, with a giant 
Lacroix's hand wrapped about the top. Patt looked up and up and up until 
her eyes finally reached his face. "Whew! I know you're tall, but now 
you're TALL. Somebody's gonna mistake you for a giraffe!"

"Indeed," her Fairy Godfather Lacroix boomed down from above.

"I reckon' you're waiting for me to make my last wish so you can 
hocus-pocus yourself out of this world for good, huh?" Patt asked.

"With undelighted anticipation," came the reply.

"Well, then, why don't you shrink a little and I'll whisper it in your 

All at once, Lacroix was 5'3", a very good ear-whisperin' height for a 
third cousin. It also made him a good height for pushing out of the way 
so that Patt could open the door to the camel hut. The Fairy Godfather 
Lacroix growled as Cousins Chase, Sun, Senara, Joni, Rust and Efery 
rushed out into the sweet-smelling night air. Bonnie had stayed inside, 
rubbing the camels' belly fur. "I can still take back your eyebrows!" 
he threatened.

"You do, and I ain't wishin' nothing! Ever!" Patt declared.

Fairy Godfather Lacroix grimaced. "Tell me what you want."

Patt leaned forward with a Third Cousinly grin and said, "I wish I had 
camel equipment."


"I have to tell you Patt," Cousin Efery commented later as they settled 
into their saddles. "That was, without a doubt, the crappiest wish I have 
ever heard. Camel equipment!"

"And to wish us in these outfits! What were you thinking?" Robi groaned.

Each of the nine Cousins was now burnoosed and seated atop a hump. Patt 
had cut apart the tied shoelaces (of the people who had shoes, that is) 
with her pocketknife, and everyone now wore sandals except Bonnie. She 
was still barefoot, insisting that didn't make sense for her to wear 
shoes that were so sensible. 

The camels formed a caravan as they headed out of the Toronto Zoo, with 
Patt taking the lead. Bonnie had convinced the others to share their 
newfound friends with the Vaqs responsible for introducing them to each 
other. "Won't it be nice to share them?" Bonnie asked with an evil grin.

Cousin Sun held her nose as the camel she rode released a stinky belch. 
"Oh, yes. Very nice!"

They paused finally outside the old church. "You know," Senara said. 
"There's no reason why this can't be a surprise gift - we don't have to 
actually break inside to share!"

"That's right, Cousin!" Chase agreed. "Distance makes the heart grow 

"All right, everybody! CIRCLE THE CAMELS!!!"

The caravan formed a line, each saddle tied to the harness before it, 
except for the front and rear. The procession walked around the church 
lot until they'd formed a complete loop surrounding the building, blocking 
each exit with living, snorting, spitting camel flesh. Then the first and 
last camel were tied together to complete the circle.


Each caftan-ed Cousin slipped from their saddle and jumped to the ground.


Each Cousin hit a button on a tape player attached to their saddles.


They did, snickering all the way back to CERK, as the sound of a 'Southern 
Culture On The Skids' song blared in the distance.


Fin for now

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Life Is A Gift
by Bonnie Rutledge
with Thanks to Cousin Tser
for the Lacroix and her ideas

Nat stood outside the front entrance to CERK. She took a deep, shuddering 
breath and pulled the door open, then stepped fatalistically into the 
lobby as though expected an alarm to start klaxoning the second a Nat 
entered this sacred building. There was a War going on, after all.

The reception area was crowded. There were several Lacroixs present, and 
Nat examined them judiciously before eliminating them as her quarry. She'd 
been watching all the others so intently that she failed to notice at least 
a dozen alternates and their respective Cousins staring mouth agape at the 
Natalie Lambert standing before them in silver breastplate and damp 
chiffon  toga.

Nat turned and, as the crowd cleared, she recognized an NA member seated 
behind the reception desk. "Denese!" she called as she approached. "Maybe 
you can help me!"

The Cousinly addict willed herself to sink into her ergonomic chair and out 
of sight, but nothing happened. The odds of any female walking into CERK 
wearing that outfit, even Natalie Lambert, and having it be unrelated to 
Nunkies were very slim, indeed. That made for a gift-wrapped goat kind of 
situation when you were the Cousinly receptionist during a war: pretty 
packaging, but, on closer examination, it smelled.

"Uhm, yes, Natalie?" Denese said hesitantly. "What do you need? A long 
coat, perhaps?"

Nat frowned, looked down at her N-S-V-V uniform, then glanced back up at 
Denese with a grin. "You are *such* a kidder. No, I'm looking for Tser or 
her Lacroix. Have you seen them?"

Denese wanted to blurt, "What do *you* have to do with *that*??!!" but said 
instead, in a charming cordial fashion, "Nope! Haven't seen 'em! Sorry!"

Nat gestured at the stairs. "Well, can I wander around a bit and look for 

Denese wanted to shout, "WHAT?! ARE YOU *CRAZY*?!?!" , but instead she 
offered smoothly, "Oh, I wish I could, *really* I do, but my hands are 
tied." Denese waved her arms about in the air for emphasis.  She then 
noticed the Nat frowning at the incongruous free movement and quickly 
let her limbs fall to her sides. "It's the burden of security, I'm afraid. 
Tell you what I'll do - leave a message with me, and next time I see one 
or other, I'll pass it on."

"You know, Denese," Nat said, her breastplate clunking against the front 
desk as she leaned over her fellow addict menacingly, "if I wasn't trying 
so hard to get along with everyone, I'd accuse you of being difficult. 
Then, the next time you entered the Shrine, I'd have you Holy handcuffed 
to a statue of Richard Simmons and covered in mashed okra and Brussel 
sprouts. Lucky for you, I'm being nice today. I'll just say 'Thanks, but 
no thanks.' Bye!"

Denese leapt up from her ergonomic chair and watched dazedly as the 
Not-So-Vestal-Virgin strolled out of the building. Just about the time 
the Nat would no longer be able to hear her, Denese called cheerfully 
after her, "Bye, Nat! Come back soon!", then pulled out a Chocolate 
Nunkies to nibble on discreetly.


Being a Natalie from any universe, she was prone to stubbornness. Rather 
than return to the Shrine and obtain Tser's cell phone number from Sharon, 
she wandered around outside the station looking for something, or someone,
of interest. The night air was cool against her skin now that she wasn't 
walking or scrubbing down a building, making Nat rub briskly at her bare 
arms to dissolve the goose flesh.

She felt rushed and short of breath. It was strange, really, to have every 
clock within reach become a statue and the sky frozen still, yet still 
experience the sensation that time was running out. Rounding the corner 
of the building, her eyes were met by a dark figure stiffly standing next 
to, but not touching, the station wall. He appeared lost in thought. This 
Lacroix was superficially no different from three or four others she'd 
spotted in the CERK lobby. There was an aura that radiated from him, 
though, that spoke to her with absolute certainty that this was the man 
for whom she searched.

Her sandals struck silently against the pavement. He made no move of 
acknowledgment at her approach, but remained in a pose of reflection. 
When she was only a step or two away from his side, she spoke in a soft, 
clear voice, "You're the last person I expected to find willingly huddled 
off by himself."

He turned his head smoothly in her direction, favoring Nat with an 
unblinking stare. "I notice that you didn't use the word 'alone'."

"Maybe I changed my definition."

That comment earned her a raised eyebrow, but he chose to not pursue her 
meaning. "Do you think the night is quiet?" he asked abruptly.

"Right now, with no one else nearby," she answered, "and the dark almost...
soothing...to the eyes, it seems peaceful to me."

"Then you're not listening. The traffic - is that peaceful? There are 
crickets and the sounds of machinery all around. There is life everywhere - 
a tumultuous noise that you take for granted."

"Alright, I take it for granted," Nat snapped. She was irritated by what 
she felt was a personal rebuke. "I have no idea what real silence is like, 
or loneliness. I don't understand what it means to live in a true hell, 
either, but I don't believe for a second that you intend to waste what 
little time you may have left in this world describing them to me in 

"So much emotion all at once - I touched a nerve, I see," he murmured. He 
finally turned his eyes to inspect her appearance. "You have on yet another 
...interesting...ensemble. It makes me wonder how you occupy yourself in 
this 'hell of hope' that you so despise."

"Hmm. Actually," she replied elusively, "I've been on a treasure hunt. I've 
been looking for myself, and I might have picked up a piece or two of 
future in the process."

"So your trauma of the other night has miraculously disappeared?" he said 
with a slight drawl.

Nat considered that question far longer than she had considered the sounds 
of the night. "No," was her answer, "but I think I've come to terms with a 
good deal of it, mostly because of you."


"Indeed," Nat echoed, with a self-depreciating grin. "how dark can my 
existence be when compared to an eternal void?"

"You've been gossiping about me, I see," he said, watching her as though 
her response made no difference to him. "Which one of the Cousins was it?"

"Let me see...there's so many!" she teased. He refused to act amused. "Tser 
came by the place where I'm staying for a visit," she admitted, "she's 
understandably concerned about you."

"If I wasn't aware of that before, the fact that she just fainted inside 
because of something having to do with this rift made it glaringly obvious."

Nat's forehead puckered with worry. "Fainted? Is Tser alright?"

"There is nothing wrong with her that absolving a few worries wouldn't 
eliminate," Lacroix bit out. "The longer that I am here, the more desperate 
the Cousins become. It can be...disconcerting." He changed the subject 
abruptly. "Where are you staying? The apartment?"

She shook her head. "No. I'm at a restaurant called the Jeweled Peach. It's 
located where Azure used to be."

"Apparently the new owner is just as attached to colorful names," Lacroix 
observed dispassionately.

"No, I believe the meaning had something to do with life."

"Ah. As sweet as the freshest peach, as precious as a guilded jewel," he 
murmured in quiet refrain.

Nat shrugged. "That's as good of an explanation as any, I suppose. After 
all, a restaurant is about food and company. Doesn't everything in life 
boil down to the same two things?"

"Unfortunately, I have no guarantee of either beyond the moment," Lacroix 
said in a suspiciously calm voice, then watched her through measuring eyes. 
"What are you doing here, Natalie? If you've found your future, then by all 
means pursue it. Leave me to mine, or lack thereof."

"I came to see you," Nat answered. She pulled Tasha's dagger wrapped within 
the folds of the other Lacroix's silk handkerchief free from the confines 
of her side satchel. "These are to add to your collection of material not 
native to this universe."

"These objects are not yours," he stated while looking emptily at her 
extended hand.

"They belonged to another version of myself and another Lacroix. They gave 
them with their free consent," she promised.

A stubborn light flared into his eyes as he hissed, "I do not need their 
charity or *your* pity!"

"This isn't pity," she countered indignantly, "It's love, and no matter 
how you argue and try to work your way around the subject, you do need 
love Lacroix. You need it desperately! Think! Friendship, hate, passion, 
indifference and respect, they're all facets of the same thing, and they 
are all that separate you from a lifeless block of stone."

He gave a harsh laugh. "It seems you've become an emotional evangelist 
overnight. I'd be touched if it wasn't so irritating."

She sighed, giving him a full glare straight into his blue eyes. While she 
grabbed one of his hands and pressed the items into his grip, his eyes 
burned at what he considered her impudence. "I have argued for you," she 
spat, "I've bared my soul, and I've cried for you. For what? I never 
expected gratitude or appreciation or to see you fall on your knees in 
thanks. I mean, god forbid you should ever give anything away! But - 
dammit, Lacroix - I expect you to take these things. And all the Cousins 
that are upset, worried sick about what you fate might be - take that, 
too. Take what you can get while you can, and don't sneer at an earnest 
offer of help, because your only alternative at this point is nothing!" 
Nat breathed in deeply, then it out as a long sigh. "I think it's time 
for me to leave."

"I'm not stopping you," he replied silkily, his voice contrasting the stony 
glint of his eyes.

Nat's expression became bewildered, and she shook her head. "Was it me? 
Was it something I said that took your hope away?" She leaned closer, 
whispering fiercely. "I was wrong. I don't believe that you *have* to go 
back to that wasteland, but you have to be open to the possibility if it 
is going to find you."

He pushed her hand away, though he kept hold of the gifts she'd brought. 
"Leave, Natalie," his rich voice surrounded by a faint echo. "Leave, and 
forget that you ever met me. I'm simply an old acquaintance of Nicholas'. 
Unimportant, not worthy of a memory. Go." She appeared confused and swayed 
on her feet as though she'd become dizzy, but she didn't move. "Go!" he 
almost shouted.

She moved quickly then, stumbling down the sidewalk, around the corner and 
out of sight. "Find someone else to love." Would-be minutes passed, and, 
as he headed for the CERK entrance, he continued to hear her footsteps 
travel further away.

Fin for Now

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The Clock Struck Six
by Bonnie Rutledge
Time: After 'Life Is A Gift'

She walked for maybe an hour, the voice in her head saying, "Go…away…"
It compelled her to move forward, pushing farther from something , or 
someone. As the time passed, she seemed to gradually grow weary and 
her emotions became raw. Finally she stopped, and, collapsing in a heap
on a store's front steps, she began to cry wholeheartedly. The tears flowed 
freely, as though she mourned for something indistinct and unobtainable, 
but very, very painful to lose.

Time passed, and suddenly Nat came out of her stupor. She felt cold, very 
cold. The night air seemed to be touching her all over, and she looked 
down, in shock, at her outfit.

 Nat's mind whirled.  She shivered as she shook her head. 

Nat noticed the antique store she stood before, checked the address and 
decided Grenville was closer than her apartment.  

"And get some clothes on," she muttered.

Nat started to walk again, thinking about reports that needed doing and 
notes she'd made about a new procedure she wanted to try on Nick. A 
taxicab passed and she waved her arms for it to stop. As she took a seat 
in the back, the sound of a clock striking six echoed from the antique 

"Where to?" the cabbie asked, eyeing his passenger curiously in the 
rearview mirror.

"Coroner's Office."

The car radio was blaring out a song, then a faintly familiar voice reached 
across the airwaves. 

"The Nightcrawler here, and I love you all…"

Nat sighed.

In irritation.

It was getting late, and she felt tired, too tired to be taunted by the 
voice of that man who caused so many of Nick's problems. What was his 
name - Lacroix? She cleared her throat and spoke.

"Would you mind changing the channel?"


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"Days of Future Past"
By Cousin Tser 

Permission acquired for everything.
Takes place after "...And What Two-Thirds of Cerberus Found There" and
during "Toronto After Dark -- End Game"

Beta Readers: Cousin Tok, Cousin Laurie and Cousine Celeste

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.

                        ~~ Eliot

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"This is it," Tser said.  "You're going to end up somewhere between 'Dark
Knight' and 'Love You to Death', I assume."

LaCroix looked down at the charred piece of wood, flecked with dried gore
and ash.  He picked it up and turned it over in his hands.  "Nick killed
your LaCroix with *this*?"

Celeste shrugged.  "Apparently.  Icky, isn't it?"

"Quite."  He looked up.  "Cousine Celeste," he said, "I have something
for you."

Celeste glanced at her other two-thirds, who shook their heads
unknowingly.  "Uh, what?"

LaCroix smiled slightly.  "Since we've decided a small amount of
non-native matter isn't affecting Space-Time, I still have those objects
I have collected."  He reached into his pocket and pulled out the watch.
"In a very short non-time, we hope, the Rift will close and  the
alternative beings will pass from existence in this reality to their own.
 I thought you would like to keep this, and I do believe the Dream
LaCroix would like you to have it, as I no longer have use for it.  If it
stays, of course.  Who knows?" he said, a smile tugging at the edges of
his mouth.  "It could *poof* from this reality along with its owner.  But
in the mean time...."

Celeste looked at the silent watch in her hand.  "If you knew Time as
well as *I* do," said the Cousine, on the verge of tears, "you wouldn't
call him 'mean'.  Perfectly *nice* fellow...."

He recognized it as the sort of thing his Dream counterpart might have
said and smiled.  "The other things... I don't think I have time to
return them.  Well, the VachonFishHair can be thrown away," he said,
grimacing.  "The collar...."

Tser spoke up.  "Um, sir, you don't think the collar could be given to
Cousin Gwen, do you?"

LaCroix frowned.  "Who?"

"My cat," Tser said sheepishly.  "She and Sidney got along quite well,
and I'm sure that she'd appreciate the gesture if you gave it to her."
*Not to mention the fact that if it came from LaCroix she'd sleep with it
under her pillow every night,* Tser thought, *being such a hopeless

LaCroix looked at her strangely.  "The cat -- would *appreciate the
gesture*?" he asked skeptically.

Tser shrugged.  "Shameless anthropomorphism is allowed in the War."

"Well, if she really 'wants' it, I suppose," LaCroix said, still shooting
Tser odd glances.  "I don't know who the dagger and handkerchief were
from.  I got them second hand.  Cousin Laurie?" he asked, holding out the
black silk square.

Laurie accepted the soft square of fabric, looking at it curiously.
"Hm," she said.  "Just like Christmas.  Hey, look," she said, holding up
the fabric to show embroidery in red thread in the corner of the
handkerchief.  "L.L.," she said, grinning.  "Wonder who that could be."

He handed the knife to Tser.  "And the dagger, you may have, Cousin

"Call me Tser," she murmured, accepting the sharp, thin-bladed knife.

"And I know you don't want the Fish hair," LaCroix said, turning to Tok.
She grimaced and nodded.  "You may have this," he said, taking off his
sword pin and handing it to Tok, who was smiling a secretive Cousinly

"Thanks," she said, slipping it into her pocket.

Tser looked back at LaCroix.  He hadn't mentioned Nat's Drool Cup, and
Tser wasn't going to mention it either.

LaCroix hefted the stake in his hands and gazed down at it.  "I lived for
what seemed an eternity in hell," he mused.  "Then suddenly, that time
was over.  In a rush of dust and dreams, I was standing in a place that
haunted my nightmares and fantasies.  A place I thought had been forever
lost to me.  And a conveniently placed mortal walked by to feed my
starving body."  He looked over at Tser with a frown and raised eyebrows.
 "Unfortunately, she has excellent lung capacity and bottle-wielding

Tser smiled slightly.  Everyone had certainly built reputations in this
War.  Tser sighed.  She wasn't sure she wanted to keep hers.  The Goat
Girl.  The person who fainted in front of LaCroix.  Tragedy magnet,
Temporal Theorist, Nunkie's would-be lunch.  Tser resisted the urge for a
Cousinly Snicker.  Patt, on the other hand, might never live down the
fact she was the one who *hit* LaCroix.

"And then, it was discovered that I must return.  I took the news rather
well," he said, turning the stake over in his hands once more,
"considering what I had to look forward to.  And the fact that there were
a lot of bewildered and anxious Cousins running around making fools of
themselves," he said, and set the stake back on the canvas.

"This War wasn't exactly normal for us," Tok said, shrugging.  "Usually,
we're out wreaking havoc.  That's what Cousins do best."  She grinned
evilly.  "Though we did do well with the goats, I think," she said as she
shot a glance at Tser.  "But this War, we were sort of distracted."

"Which was foolish," LaCroix admonished, staring at  four assembled
Cousins.  "And undisciplined.  You *will* do better next war, I assume?"

Four chastened heads nodded enthusiastically.

"Next time, if you plan ahead, carry out your plans instead of letting
circumstances get in your way," he reproached, frowning.  "And do not let
your emotions interfere."

"Yes, sir," Laurie said.

"Though I appreciate your perseverance on my case.  I am pleased to have
you in my ranks.  I'm glad to *have* ranks," he added thoughtfully.
"It's been many centuries."  He appeared to be thinking of just what he
was going to use his "ranks" for.

"Do you feel that?" Tok asked suddenly.  The other Cousins nodded.  A
strange feeling like the fabric of reality was being tackled with a seam

"What, exactly, am I supposed to do?" LaCroix asked.

"Hang on tight to that stake," Celeste said, clutching the watch in her
hand.  She looked down at the motionless face.  "That's your steering

"Ah, yes," LaCroix said, picking up the chunk of wood.  "Let us hope this

"General," Tser said.

LaCroix turned.  "Yes?"

"If they ask you how you survived," she said, pausing to smile slightly,
"it's because you're far too old and powerful."

The three Cousinly Leaders grinned at those words.  LaCroix eyed them

Laurie grinned.  "Now click your heels together three times, and...."

LaCroix disappeared.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"To Those That Feel"
By Cousin Tser 

Takes place after "Days of Future Past".
Early Friday Morning.  The sun has risen.

I want to send a special thanks to everyone who helped me during this 
spiffy War.

First, thanks to everyone that collaborated, helped, gave permission to be 
in my stories, or beta'd for me (in no particular order): Cousin Rust; 
Third Cousin Patt; the Cousinly Leaders Tok, Laurie and Celeste; Cousin 
'Chele; Cousin Bons; Cousin Shelley; Cousin Toni; Crystal (Vaquera); Heidi;
 McLisa; Kristine (Die-Hard Co-Leader); Michele; Cousin Robi; Sharon Lee 
(FosSiL); Cousin Mariah; Cousin Joni; Cousin Senara; Cousin Zeonia; Cousin 
Denese, the Cousinly Receptionist; the Nunkies Addicts; all the other 
Cousins; Idalia (N&Np); and Cousin Jules.  Heaven forbid I forgot someone 
on that list, as I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped me, and I hope 
I didn't forget a person.

Also, thanks to the WarMistress, for a weird and wonderful War and going 
along with my wacky plans.  Thanks to all the other writers for great, 
amusing and touching stories, and thanks to those in the audience for 
reading mine.  Thanks for all the comments, criticism and praise those in 
the audience gave me.

Thanks to my responsibilities, my pets, and my Real Life  for putting 
up with me during this War.

Thanks to Milton, Dryden, Carroll, Eliza Cook, Webster's, Walpole, and 
Eliot for nifty, thought-provoking quotes.

I couldn't have done it without you guys.  You brought my work to life, 
lifted my spirits, and put up with my un-warlike stories.  Eternal 
gratitude.  Pax vobiscum.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This world is a comedy to those that
think, a tragedy to those that feel.

                        ~~ H. Walpole

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cousin Tser sat in the quiet of the Cousinly Rec Room.  It was strangely 
empty, compared to how it had been throughout the rest of the War.  She 
looked around -- it was eerie.  There wasn't a Schanke over at the 
refrigerator, or a single LaCroix sitting at a table, and most of the 
Cousins there were sitting alone, with their thoughts.

Senara sat in the lounge at CERK, frantically writing in her journal 
everything that happened to her or her friends over the long night.
Which really seemed like two weeks, but she wanted to retain her sanity.
She had met so many new people in Toronto who also like Forever Knight.
She also counted herself lucky that she was able to meet a few of the 
characters.  Ok, so maybe they weren't all part of this reality, but....
"I am not giving myself a headache over this again," she muttered aloud.  
She raided the Church, lived at CERK, raided the loft, got her shoelaces 
tied in knots, locked in a camel hut at the zoo, and lost a lot of sleep.
Tucking a lock of red hair behind her ear, she paused briefly in writing.
 The journal entry was her proof that the events in TO really happened...
not that anyone would believe her story....  Or that she could ever look at 
a penguin, otter, camel, or Beanie Baby (tm) without having her own 
personal happy flashback to Toronto during the Long Knight.

The music that played on the Exceptional Cousinly Sound System was a dark, 
deep classical piece, but Tser was too tired to place it; at any rate, it 
fit her mood.  The War had taken a lot out of her.  She was exhausted, both 
physically and emotionally.  It had taken a lot out of her... but it had 
more than enough made up for it by what it had given her.

She thought of all the people she had met -- not only Cousins, though they 
made up a good percentage -- and gotten to know, love, and respect.
And she thought of her LaCroix.  She had been angry that he had come into 
her life to cause so much pain, but now, she was sincerely glad of it.

He opened her eyes.

Cousin Tser stood, stretching languorously.  Time to start packing.  The 
War would be officially over soon, and she wanted to stop by the Jeweled 
Peach before catching the plane home to Oregon.  She still had to pick up 
Cousin Gwen, spend a few minutes drooling at the Shrine, and share one last 
melt with her friends and fellow addicts.

She headed for the elevator, her hand raised to the control panel.
Instead of punching in the floor her room was on, she pushed level two.
For a second she paused, wondering whether to correct herself.  She had 
spent so much time in the Cousinly War Room, it was a habit.  But she 
decided against it and headed to the room.

It had become her "private sanctuary" over the course of the War.  It was 
generally quiet, often empty, and had a rather elegant, Cousinly atmosphere.  
Tser entered the room and moved over to the table, running a hand over the 
dark, matte cherry finish.  Her eyes moved around the room, which was again 
empty, save herself.  Her eyes fell on the "Cousinly Registry of Alternate 

She smiled as she moved to the oversized, leather-bound book, which lay 
forgotten for the moment, on a chair in the corner of the room.  She 
wondered who had read it last.  Almost all the Cousins had perused the 
Registry at one time or another during the War, though Tser perhaps most 
of all, matched only by the Registry Keeper, Cousin Shelley.

She flipped through the pages idly.  The book had held up surprisingly 
well for being used so much.  Its pages were still crisp and whole.  The
book was of good workmanship.  Almost all the pages were used, only a few 
pages at the back were empty, blank.

Tser opened the book to the pages about the LaCroix from the comet-crushed 
reality.  Of all the biographies, those few pages dedicated to him were 
changed the most.  Tser smiled down at the neatly written words.  At the 
top, it said "Tser's LaCroix" in bold hand.  The Cousins had tried to find 
a better title for him... Hell LaCroix, Dante's LaCroix, AMPH LaCroix 
(which many called him, though not to his face), Comet LaCroix, 
Post-Apocalypse LaCroix -- but none of them had fit him, though good 
titles in themselves.  Besides, all had agreed, he hadn't needed to be 
reminded of his fate, as these names did.  So they stayed with the original 

Below the Title, in dark writing, it said "Unknown disposition.  Caution 
merited.  Violence noted."  Tser grinned.  The warning had been written 
shortly after the attack.  A warning for a LaCroix.  She thought that was 
amusing.  Looking back, wasn't caution merited around *any* LaCroix?  And 
thinking about that, wasn't it funny that you could speak and think as if 
it were possible there were more than one LaCroix?

Below that there were various notes about her LaCroix, including the vague 
words "LaCroix-like disposition".  His reality was only sketchily noted.  
It was a terrible enough place people didn't need it laid out for them.  
"Crushed by the comet that missed this Earth by an arcsecond.
There's nothing there."  That was all.  Really, that was all that was 
needed.  There were various other notes, comments, and messages.  At the 
bottom, it said, "see separate folder, 'A.V.P.H'".

Tser took a deep breath.  Most notable, about the page, were the dried tear 
drops.  A few were hers, she had no doubt.  But she knew they weren't all.  
Everyone had fallen in over their heads.

Tser closed the book, and turned to leave the room.  Then, on second 
thought, she turned back to the huge book, opening it to the last page.
She searched around for a pen, and found a couple in a small jar on a stand 
in one corner of the room.  On the blank, lonely page, she wrote, "'Alone' 
is relative."   she thought, 
smiling slightly.

She closed the book.  It contained portions of realities.  Realities which 
often reflected facets of themselves.  What was it LaCroix had said?  
"... facets of the same thing."  What had he meant?  Tser wasn't sure.  
Perhaps something from a corner of his mind?  The phrase held a lot of 
weight, though she didn't know what it meant.  It meant something to him.  
That was enough.

She wondered what would become of the Registry.  Probably the Cousins would 
keep it.  It was full of memories, a record of War Eight.  If the Cousin's 
didn't keep it, then Shelley would, no doubt.  Either way, it wasn't going 
to disappear from the world in a swirl of dust and dreams.

Tser left the War Room, with a final glance back.  An evil, Cousinly grin 
curled her lips.  Next War.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
continued in part two
"To Those That Feel"
By Cousin Tser 

With Permission.

continued from part one
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Walking down the hall, she saw Celeste and Gozer, heading for Celeste's
office downstairs, no doubt.  Gozer was grinning, and after the past
night, Tser didn't even worry about it, just let the toothy Cheshire-Grin
slide.  Celeste smiled.

"Hey, One-Third," Tser said, the evil, Cousinly grin still curling her

"Oh, hi Tser," Celeste said, a little distracted, as though she hadn't
noticed Tser there.  "It's all over, isn't it?  It was weird and
exhausting, but it's really sad, you know.  Not only saying goodbye to
the alternate characters," she said, pausing, "but bye to everyone else."

"I don't.  Say goodbye, that is," Tser said softly.  "But I will say it's
been a pleasure serving the Cousins."  Her Cousinly grin got eviller.

Celeste smiled.  "This has been one of the most educational Wars of all
time, I think.  Learned a lot about myself, and about others, and about
Dreams and Fancies," she said thoughtfully.  "And Time, learned a whole
lot about him."

"This War snapped some sense into me," Tser said.  She shrugged.  "I can
be quite sensless at times."

"One needs to take care of the sense," Celeste said idly, "for the sounds
to take care of themselves."

Cousin Tser nodded, grinning slightly.  "We Cousins are best at taking
care of havoc, which is hard, because havoc is quite akin to Chaos.  I
think we deserve some credit for that."  Her grin was Cousinly.

Celeste noticed and Cousinly fire flashed in her eyes.  "I can't wait for
the next War," she said, looking about to chuckle in a Cousinly, maniacal
way.  "Oh, the other factions will pay, they will."

Tser looked confused.  "For what?"

Celeste shrugged and Gozer grinned.  "I'll think of something."

Tser smiled at Celeste and Gozer the Everett-Cat, who she could have
sworn shot her a wink, and continued on towards her room.

In her room, she noticed Cousine Moses wasn't on her bed.  For a
stressful moment, she was close to panic.  Up until then, Moses rarely
left the bed, claiming it as her own territory.  She was about to pull
out her cell phone and start making frantic calls when she turned towards
Cousin Rust's bed, where the haughty lizard was perched on the pillow.

"Mo-ses," Tser said slowly, exasperated, rolling her eyes.  "Get off
Rust's bed.  I'm sure she does *not* appreciate that."

With a LaCroixian Glare, Cousine Moses "slithered" in a reptilian gait
off Rust's bed... and onto Tser's.

Tser just heaved a sigh, and bent over, pulling her empty suitcase out
from under the bed.  She packed Cousin Gwen's personal, private,
luxurious cat bed and Gwen's autographed Nightcrawler picture first, then
nestled Sidney's collar and her dagger among the pillows.  She picked
Dullie up and put him on one shoulder, and Jabberwock, the newly named
conure, on the other, and folded their stands to put in the suitcase.
Over that, she folded both her and Gwen's togas, then on top of those,
she disguised the entire thing with her clothes, which almost all
happened to be black.  She looked at her handiwork critically.  She still
amazed herself with her packing prowess.  She never knew how she did it,
but she always managed to get everything into one [relatively] small

She wrote a note in large hand and taped it to the Cousinly Snakes'
aquarium, stating that the three serpents be sent by first class to her
home, and that the aquarium go back in Cousinly storage with the huge
piles of pink erasers and strangely numerous cans of strained peas.  One

never knew when the 60 gallon glass container would come in handy again.

Completely packed, she called Cousin Spooky and Cousine Moses to her
side.  The two Cousinly Critters followed, or rather trailed, behind her,
while the two birds sat on her shoulders.  She needed to pick up Gwen
from the Shrine, and then she'd be leaving Toronto.  It was a rather
depressing thought.

She headed down to the lobby.  She noticed Cousin Denese, looking rather
harried, sitting at the reception desk.  She headed over with a grin.

Denese shifted back in her chair when Moses climbed triumphantly to the
desk and walked heavily across Denese's keyboard.  The four-foot iguana,
poised on the keys, turned her head to glare threateningly at Denese, who
was frozen in her seat.

"Moses," Tser reprimanded.  "Down."

Cousine Moses, who decided the keyboard was uncomfortable anyway, climbed
down with a *whump* when she hit the floor and headed over to torment a
hapless Cousin sitting on one of the benches.  Moses hid in the potted
palm near the human, Cousin Joni, who was distracted with a carry-on bag,
with an evil Cousinly light shining in her golden eyes.

"Well," Tser said to Denese.  "This is it for me.  I'm heading over to
the Jeweled Peach," Tser paused and exchanged discreet knowing glances
with the fellow addict, "and then I'm heading back to Oregon.  What a
War," she finished wistfully.

Denese smiled.  "Certainly was.  Aren't you going to stick around and say
goodbye to the Cousinly Leaders and everyone else?"

Tser smiled a secretive smile.  "Nah, I never say goodbye.  I come and go
like a shadow.  But, hey, you saw me, and if anyone asks, you can tell
them.  Or if you're exhausted," she added, glancing at the frazzled
looking Cousin, "just stick a note to the computer.  Besides, this isn't
goodbye, it's just a temporary absence.  I *do* intend to be here for the
next War."

With that, Tser turned from Denese with a smile, and headed for the exit.
 Outside, the sun shown from a nearly clear sky.  Shown for the first
time in a long non-time.  It was weird to see it, sort of eerie.  Weird
that one could think sunshine was eerie.  She had gone out, along with
most of the Cousins, when it had risen.  Just to see it, to feel it.  It
was odd, but she hadn't liked it and went back inside right away.  She
was and always would be a creature of the night. Just as she was pushing
the door of CERK open, she heard a sharp shriek behind her.

"Aieeee!" screamed Cousin Joni.  "A VELOCIRAPTOR!!!!!"

"MO-SES!" Tser sighed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Not Expected Disappearance of a Not-So
 by Heather Poinsett and Bonnie Rutledge 
With Jan, Susan, Sharon, Kim and Shele


Sharon sat in front of the shrine on the Fresca-stained lounger, 
examining her Lucky doll.  She had been able to snatch it before the 
other addicts had even noticed.  He was dressed in western duds, chaps, 
jeans, plaid shirt and a black cowboy hat.  She could hear the other 
addicts shuffling cards again and went to investigate.  Sidney fluffed 
out his tail as he awoke from his nap.  He glanced at Sharon's retreating 
figure and went back to his catnap.

Shele was working on haiku at a table opposite to the card players.
Heather was attempting to teach the other addicts and Monsieur Cabon a 
complicated card game called Shanghai.

Heather grumbled impatiently, "Louis, it's not as difficult as your making 
it out to be!  See, Kim already has out her two runs."  Kim grinned wickedly 
as she nibbled on a Chocolate Nunkies.  She had the look of a card shark, 
moving in for the kill.

"I cannot belieeve, you talked me into zees game," replied Cabon.
Heather snickered and noticed Sidney the Sheepdog, standing at the door 
whining quietly.

"Hmmm, what's the matter sweety?"  Heather went to over to scratch the 
Sheepdog's ears.

"Rar-rowf!" answered Sidney.

"He probably needs a walk," suggested Jan.  She looked down at her cards 
which were mostly junk.  Too bad she didn't have them for the previous 
round.   Jan shrugged and threw down her cards.  "I'll join you," she said 
to Heather as Susan tossed her a leash.


Sidney found himself a wee bit of privacy in the front lawn of the 
business adjacent to the Jeweled Peach.  Heather sighed and turned away. 
Jan walked down to the end of the sidewalk and noticed a lone figure 
walking by, hunched over.  The woman covered herself with her arms, 
clearly embarrassed of her appearance. A taxicab passed, the woman waved 
it to a stop and climbed inside. From somewhere, a clock chimed six.

"Hey, Nat?! Nat!" called out Jan, waving.  She began running toward 

The cab took off for its destination, leaving the Not-So's behind.
Suddenly the sky seemed to split in an enormous black crack.
Unconcerned, the taxi drove straight into it and disappeared.

"Adjectives..." Heather whispered.

"Fail me..." Jan completed.

"Ar-ruf!" Sidney the Sheepdog added.

Heather tugged lightly on Sidney's leash. "Come on, boy! We'd better get 

Once indoors, she let go of the leash and began searching frantically 
about the Shrine. The sheepdog wandered off with Monsieur Cabon to look 
for hidden chocolate reserves in the restaurant's kitchen. "Where is it?!" 
she muttered urgently.

"What is it, Heather? What's wrong?" Kim asked with a worried expression.

"We just saw a Nat - a Nat in a toga and breastplate - disappear," Jan 

"Oh, no," Susan protested.

"She's gone?" Sharon said faintly.

"No, she's not gone!" Heather defiantly held up a pale, dove-gray 
trenchcoat. "*This* is still here!"

"But, Heath," Jan protested, "we saw -"

"I know, but..." she huddled dejectedly on one of the loungers and started 
to cry softly. The other addicts, their faces taut and saddened, gathered 
around her.

Their thoughts were interrupted when they heard a crash and a boom.
Louis Cabon ran into the room in tears, Sidney the Sheepdog was at his 

"Louis, what on earth is going on?" asked Shele.

"Zee sky!" gasped Monsieur Cabon, out of breath.  "Eet has opened up!
There ees thunder and lightning and yet eet ees not dark!  Look!"

Sharon's Sidney sighed loudly, "Humans!" he spat out disgustedly.
Everyone looked at the cat, in shock as Sidney jumped off the lounger.
"You are totally useless except when we need you to feed us, change our 
litter boxes, and when we crave attention!  Even the dog probably realizes 
it's just the space/time rift opening up again!"

Sidney (the Sheepdog) cocked his head to one side as Sidney finished 
speaking.  There was a loud clap of thunder as a dark mist entered the 
shrine.  The mist solidified near the kitchen and a black dense mass 
formed.  Sidney the Sheepdog, realized  that he had never finished playing 
with Sidney and he gave a loud bark.

"Rarf!!!!"   He began to lumber toward Sidney.  He gradually began picking 
up speed and Sidney (the cat) jumped up on the lounger again, gracefully. 
"Dogs," he said disdainfully, "are only for scratching posts, and only in 
the worst of times."

Heather tried to grab Sidney, the Sheepdog but he merely knocked her over.

"Ouch!" she grumbled weepily as Kim helped her up.  The addicts looked up 
in time to see both Sidneys run into the black chasm and disappear.

Everyone left in the Shrine was numb.

"Gone? Just like that?" Sharon whispered dazedly.

"We didn't even get to say goodbye," Kim protested. "I *liked* her, 

"Yeah, I liked the way she called me 'MacIntyre'," Heather echoed.

"She gave the best compliments to my poems," Shele said faintly.

"I liked the way she laughed," Susan announced.

"And smiled," Sharon added.

Jan had a wicked smile. "And got even."

"She was not zee frightening demon from 'ell I first thought her," 
Monsieur Cabon moped. "She was a true pleasure."

"You know," Kim suggested quietly, "just because she's not here, that 
doesn't mean we can't say our goodbyes. Just because she's not here in 
body, that doesn't make her absent in spirit."

"You think we should *pretend* to say goodbye?" Jan sounded slightly 

"Look around you," Kim drawled as she gestured to the statues and 
tapestries decorating the altar room. "Are we not used to dedicating 
emotions to someone not usually present? Compared to some of our 
fantasies, this would not be such a stretch."

Everyone seemed to agree with this argument, and wandered off to gather 
farewell gifts. Heather carried a large, walnut jewelry box in from the 
Wardrobe room and set it on the altar. She gingerly folded the trenchcoat 
and placed it inside to act as a symbolic Natalie.

Shele went first, stepping up to the box and placing a book carefully 
inside.  "Just in case, you don't have my poetry in your reality," she 
began.  "This is a copy of all my official Nunkies poetry."

Susan and Jan came next, "This is an unofficial copy of the NFM," said 
Jan.  "It can help you remember what happened when you get back home, 
and hopefully you can work on it as well," added Susan.

Kim sniffed and wiped away a tear as her turn arrived. "These are all the 
stories from the Valentine archives," she said.

Sharon was next and placed the leftover firefighter Lucky doll in the 
Natalie box. "This is an official Lucky LaCroix Action Figure.  You will 
notice he comes complete with red suspenders and hat" she finished.
"Just like the fantasy."

Monsieur Cabon was not crying for a change. He was much too upset for that.  
He spoke stiltedly, with little of his normal accent. "This is the 
restaurant's recipe for tiramisu, including the secret, special ingredient."

Some of the women perked up despite themselves at those words, and they 
greedily tried to peek over his shoulder at the instructions, until Heather 
cleared her throat.

Heather coughed and smiled sadly. She was last, and even though she was 
just speaking to a box and a collection of inanimate objects, the grief 
of losing a friend seemed very real. "I don't really have much to give," 
she began.  She took her MacIntyre sash and pinned it to Nat's folded 
trenchcoat. Heather straightened out the wrinkles and continued."Here 
are my longer MacNunkies fantasies, and here's something we all worked 
on for you."  Heather pulled out a large pillow that had Lucius in Repose 
cross-stitched on the front. Heather then closed the walnut box, securing 
its lock with a tiny key. After a weary sniff, she spoke to the others. 
"Let's promise each other to never open this box, to never risk looking 
to see if her coat's still here. If we keep believing that it's inside, 
it'll be like there's a part of her that's always with us."

The addicts piled into a tearful huddle, including Monsieur Cabon. The 
Not-So's all grabbed their trademark black hankies and began wiping away 
their tears.

"There is already, you know," Shele whispered to the group. "She's in our 

Cousin Heather (heatherp@smart1.net) a.k.a. Deirdre Keeper of the 
MacNunkies Tapestry
*NA*DT cofounder*UF*CoTK*Valgal
*N.S.V.V. - Of the Ancient Order of Felidia* 

War:  NA: Conversion Night, or 
'Revival?  We Don't Need No Stinkin' Revival!'(1/2)
by Cousins Annie and Jules
Time:  Right around the time the rift is closing
Where:  The CN Tower, the Manor, CERK, and the Jeweled Peach

     From high atop the CN Tower, as they showered the city below with KtK
flyers, Annie and Jules could feel a change in the air...Friday the 13th was
*finally* starting to wind down.
     "I dare say Toronto has never *seen* such litter before," Annies said to
Jules' retreating back.  "Hey!  Where are you going???!"
     "Well *I* certainly don't want Metro Police to pick me up tonight of all
nights, do you??" Jules yelled at her above the noisy wind.
     "Tonight?" Annie asked herself.  "Oooo!  Jules!!  I forgot:  It's
'Conversion Night'!"
     "Not only that," Jules said as she continued to make a dash for cover,
"but do you really think I'm going to be able to call Nunkies and ask him to
bail me out for the second time in three weeks?!  Besides, he wouldn't do it,
and you'd be High Priestess-less."
     "OK!" Annie shouted back.  "I'm convinced!"
     Once inside, the two Cousins found a quick elevator to the ground and
made a dash for the Jag.  After about 15 minutes - for that was how long it
took them to get their hair rearranged after all the wind - they were on
their way to CERK.
     "Jules, can we make a small side trip?" Annie asked meekly.
     "Why?" Jules asked in return, taking note of the time registering on the
Jag's clock.  It was no longer 5:00 p.m., but 7:00.  Things were really
starting to move.
     "Um, because I think it'd be really neat to have some shoes for the last
few hours of the War?"
     "Wellllllll," Jules said with mock exasperation, "I *suppose* that's not
such a terrible request.  Which way?"
     "Easy.  To the Manor!!"

      The Jag pulled up in front of the Manor house.  Jules kept the car in
idle.  "OK, Cousin mine," Jules said to an anxious Annie, "go get your
       Annie turned to her.  "Don't you want to come with me?"
       "Noooooooooo....," the redhead replied.  "They're your shoes, you go
get them."
       "Wimp," Annie said, smiling sweetly at her friend.  "It's not like
you're gonna run into any AU characters in there.  Jiminy!"  She got out of
the car and trudged to the manor.
       The Manor house was a little intimidating, and Annie gave a hesitant
knock on the door.  A distinguised looking butler opened the door.
       "May I help you, Miss?" the man said.
       "Um, I certainly hope so," Annie replied.  "My name is Annie Ra--"
       "Miss Annie Raper, yes,"  Baker replied. "I've been expecting you.
 Please step inside for a moment."
       Annie complied and looked around the foyer for any signs of penguins
or kelpies.  The Manor showed no signs of any ontoward visitors. It was as if
the events of the past fourteen days had never happened. //Darn! I really
wanted a glimpse of a naked Lacroix!  Tippi always has all the fun!//
      "Miss?" Baker asked the off-in-never-land addict. "Are you quite
      "Hmm?" Annie replied?  "Oh, yes, I'm fine thank you.  You've been
expecting me?"
      "Ah, yes.  Miss Blevins left a package for you." He handed Annie a
plain, brown wrapped bundle.
      "Are these my tennies?" she asked hopefully.
      "I do not know, Miss.  Now," he gently escorted the founding Addict to
the door, "I trust you will have a good evening."
       "I will, thank you."
       He shut the door behind her.
       Annie reached the Jag, got in and ripped into the package.
       "Your tennies?" Jules asked, hopefully.
      Annie pulled out the formerly white shoes, and beaming hugged them to
her. "Yes!!!! My shoes!! At long last!!"
      "Uh, Annie, don't you think you're being a little overdramatic about a
pair of sneakers?" Jules, ever pragmatic, asked.
      "Hey!" Annie squealed.  "I haven't seen my sneakers since *somebody*
chloroformed me, dressed me in a toga, and put me -- unconscious, mind you --
on a plane for Toronto. You'd be --" Annie started to scrunch her nose in a
disgusted, but cute, Anniebug fashion.
      "Annies? What is it?"
      "Eeeoowwww!!! Ick! Ick!" Annie threw her shoes down to the floor board,
and began alternately wiping her hands on her jeans and smelling them.
 "Ugh!! My shoes smell like Screed!"
       Jules wrinkled her nose.  "Well, roll down your window....we gotta get
to CERK and then the Peach.  Hopefully the smell will dissipate."

      The Cousins finally arrived at CERK where they met up with Bons,
allowing Jules to dash into her office to find her roster of prospective NA
converts and those who had already decided to make their dedication.  Annie,
Bons and Patt (whom they'd found near a herd of camels on their way to the
station) were close on her heels, hoping to catch one more glimpse of Him
before the War ended, and they were forced to return to Arkansas, North
Carolina and Louisiana, respectively.  They were in luck.  Jules had just
locked up her desk, when a pale figure silently - and seemingly magically -
entered the room.
End of Part 1

Comments to KnightGal@aol.com or EARaper@aol.com

War:  NA: Conversion Night, or, 'Revival?  We Don't Need No Stinkin'
Revival!' (2/2)
by Cousins Annie and Jules
Time:  Right after 'War:  NA: Conversion Night, or...(1/2)'
Where:  CERK and the Jeweled Peach

Special thanks to all who have allowed us to abu...uh, use them.  We
couldn't have done it without you! :)
     "Oooh!!" Patt exclaimed.  "Was that *Him*?  Did I miss seeing *Him*
     "'Fraid so," Jules said.
     "How do you know that was the real Lacroix?" Bons inquired of Jules.
     She thought for a minute.  "Tell the truth?  I don't," she said
grinning.  "But that's OK.  After all, I'll be back here tomorrow, and *He*
will be here for sure."
     "I'm not jealous!" Annie nearly yelled.
     "Me neither!" said Patt.
     "Me threither!" Bonnie chimed in.  Her three friends looked at her.
 "Sorry.  Think I had too much espresso earlier on, even though I don't think
that's possible."
     "I'm going to miss you guys," Jules told them, then, noticing the clock
going on 8:00 p.m., reminded them, "but we'll save the crying for later.
 We're going to be late for the Conversion!!"


      The Shrine was cloaked in near total darkness.  Suddenly, a match was
struck, and a single candle lit beside a bust of...Nunkies.  In another part
of the Shrine, a second match was struck and, again, a candle lit beside a
bust of...Nunkies.  The process continued until seven busts were so
      "Why seven?" Cousin June, a new convert, whispered to Cousin Cherri.
      "For the seven hills of Rome, I think," Cherri whispered back.
      "Ah," June responded, "and here I thought it was because Bons was a
betting kind of gal..."
      "Shhhhsh!" said an NA member seated behind them in a scolding tongue.
 "You need to be quiet! This is a very sacred evening!"
      "Alright, already," June replied, then turning to Cherri said, "I
thought this was a ceremony, not the Spanish Inquisition..."
      From all quarters of the room came a sudden, "NOBODY EXPECTS THE
SPANISH INQUISITION!!" then all was silence once more.
      A moment later, Cousin Jules emerged from behind a pillar which
supported the central bust, dressed in her High Priestess 'robes':  a really
nifty - and shoulder-baring - red velvet gown and matching gloves, courtesy
of Zandra Rhodes, and a la Marilyn Monroe.  The toga-clad
Not-So-Vestal-Virgins followed behind her, and fanned out until they were
evenly spaced down each side of the assembled devotees.
      "I thought she'd be wearing a toga," June said disappointedly to Patt
who was seated on the other side of her.
      "Nah," answered Patt, "Jules doesn't *do* togas.  Not chic enough these
      "I once saw a toga in her locker," Cherri said as she leaned across in
front of June.
      "Oh, yeah, but I've never seen her wear it," Patt responded.
      "You don't think...?"
      "Get outta town!"
      "I bet *that's* when she does togas!"
      Without warning, Cousin June took out her handy Nerf bat and whacked
both women back into silence...and looked very pleased with herself
afterwards.  Jules glared at the disruptive initiates, who settled down
immediately.  Green daggers just aren't all that fun.
      "Now the seven busts of Lucius are illuminated.  Now the converts are
assembled.  Now is the time for all good addicts to come to the adoration of
their Nunkies.  Annie, will you please bring down the sacred viewscreen?
 Bons, will you hit the 'play' button of the sacred VCR, please?"
       "I wonder what *that's* for?" Patt pondered out loud, recieving
another glare from the High Priestess.
       "Shh!!" June whispered.  "Don't make me use the 'bat again.  And I
will, you know."
      Annie raised an eyebrow and gave them 'the look'.  It's the same look
your mother gave you when you had a giggle fit in the middle of Sunday
      Jules waited for the group to settle down again.  "We will now view
Lacroix at his Nunkiesest.  I ask all of you to remain silent; this is a most
sacred moment.  Confirmed members will be on hand with the necessary devices
should you not be able hold yourselves together." She nodded towards Bons.
 "Bonnuvius, will you start the tape, please?"
     Bonnie turned on the sacred VCR, and a hush came over the room as
visions of Lacroix in a toga, Lacroix suffering as Nick angsted on, Lacroix
reading Jordan Manning and making an appropriately disgusted expression.
     "Ah..... look the toga!!  I'll bring you across, Nunkies!"
     "That mean old Nick!  All his daddy wants to do is love him, and feed
him and take good care of him."
     "Nunkies *does* know what's best!"
     "Wow!! Even Lacroix thinks the guy's nuts!"


      Annie, Jules and Bons winked at each other as the piece de resistance
worked its way across the screen: The Azure Scene from Be My Valentine.
     "This will clinch the deal," Annie said with a smile.  "If there are any
non-addicts out there, this will prove it.  Too bad Libby isn't here. We
could finally put this 'I'm not an Addict' protest to bed."
     Jules shook her head.  "I agree, but I think I heard somewhere that the
Ratpackers had scurried off to Vegas.  Something about rebuilding
MercCentral." She waved her hand in dismissal.  "But you're right, Annie.
 This would prove to one and all that the MercRat *is* an Addict."
     Bons nodded.  "I'd better get the drool cups handy," Bons said and
scurried for the supply closet.

    [  ".....I was told that you were pretty, but not that you ... are...
       "Are we dining alone?"
       "I bought out the restaurant in your honor."  ]

     "Oh ... my .... goodness," Laurie said.  "*Not* that I'm going to melt
here or anything, mind you."
     "Hush!" Cherri hissed.  "You're gonna make me miss some diaglogue."
     "I agree with Laurie.....but I think I *am* gonna melt!" Patt added.
     Cousin June whipped out the NerfBat.
     Annie and Jules gave each other a knowing glance.  They had been here
before.  In fact, Annie was finding herself starting to melt.
     "Easy, Annie." Jules put her gloved hand on Annie's shoulder as Annie
began pulling the collar of her shirt away from her throat.  "Think tax
     "Don't you find it warm in here?"
     "Not at all.  Hurry to Laurie, Annie, she's about to go under!" Jules
exclaimed and pushed the NA founder towards the melting convert.
     Laurie was sitting on the edge of her seat, pulling her hair away from
her neck as she mimicked Lacroix's movements on the screen.  "OHMYGAWD!!!
TAKE ME, NUNKIES!! TAKE ME!!" she yelled, and then collapsed on the floor.
     Annie motioned for the video to stop, and knelt by Laurie. "Hey! Bons!
Get some water from the sacred cold pond.  She's gonna need it."  Annie
looked up at the new converts and grinned.  "Don't worry: it happens all the
time. If you're completely new to it, it can be quite overwhelming.  Laurie
will be alright."
    Bonnie rushed up with a wet towel, soaked full of water from the pond and
washed Laurie's face with it.  As Laurie came to, she said, "I think it's
official now, Laurie.  You *are* a Nunkies Addict.  Welcome to the fold."
    "I think that will do for now," Annie said.  "Jules? Shall we continue
with the Stations?"
    "Of course," Jules said.  She motioned for the initiates, with the
exception of Laurie, to join her at the seven illuminated busts of Lucius.
 "You have noticed that there are seven busts.  At each station, you will
complete a question about Nunkies.  If you reach the seventh one, you will be
proclaimed an official Addict and will be welcomed into the fellowship of
followers.  Are you ready?"
    June, Patt and Cherri nodded their heads.
    "Station One:  The General lived in what Eternal City?" Annie asked.
    "That's easy," Cherri said.
    "Pompeii," Patt and June interrupted.
    "Very good," Jules replied.  "You may progress to the next bust."
    "Station Two: Why is the white rose a symbol of NA?"
    "It's Uncle's favorite flower?" June asked.
    "Correct.  You may continue." Annie said.
    "Station Three:  When was Nunkies brought across?"
    "Jiminy Crickets, Annie! This is too easy!" Cherri said. Annie gave her a
withering stare.  "Not that I'm complaining, you see."
    "Nunkies was brought across as Vesuvius was erupting, in Pompeii, by his
brat of a .... er, that NA member gone bad, Divia," Patt responded.
    "Excellent," Bonnie said.  "Carry on to the next bust."
    "Station Four:  Why did Nunkies bring that other guy across?"
    "I believe he wanted a companion," June said.  "That and Janette wanted
the Nickster really, really bad.  Whatever our Janette wants....."
    "Very well," Jules smiled.  "Please continue."
    "Staion Five," began Annie.  "What purpose do the Sacred Cold Pond and
Sacred Cold Shower serve?"
    "To cool us off!" Cherri said. "Geez! I thought this was gonna be hard!"
    "OK, Smartiepants Cherri," Annie said.  "Answer this one.  Station Six:
List the Anti-Nunklear Devices.  And remember, you are answering for Patt and
June as well. Not that I want to put any pressure on you," Annie said with a
wicked Cousinly grin.
    Cherri blanched a bit.  "Lemme see.... there's Screed in Speedos.  Tax
forms.  Barney singing.  V-8 juice.  Bob Saget and Richard Simmons.  Math
Tests.  Captain Kirk.  Did I leave anything out?"
   "That's good enough," Annie said.  "Very well.  Proceed to the last bust."

   "Station Seven: Give us the history of the Nunkies Fantasy Manual," Bonnie
    The three converts looked at each other, puzzlement clear on their faces.
 "Um.....," Patt began.  "The Nunkies Fantasy Manual was begun by Jules, Bons
and Annies, as a means of relieving stress and bad hair days."
    June continued the story.  "It grew to enormous proportions, to the point
that it was necessary to bind the volume in red leather.  With gilt
embossing." Bonnie grinned.
    "The manual was taken away from Bonnies at an NA meeting, and was lost
for a time.  It was returned to  Bonnie," Cherri added, "after an incident
here, at the Peach.  I believe 'Annie Lacroix' was found written on the fly
    Giggles erupted throughout the room.  Jules smiled and raised her hands
for silence, then motioned the initiates to continue.  "The NFM was kept in a
safe hideaway during the War, so that it would not fall into the wrong
hands," Patt said.
     The confirmed NA members released an explosion of applause.  Jules
smiled and said over the din, "Welcome to the fellowship of followers,
Nunkies Addicts!  You have done well."
     "Very," Annie and Bons said in unison, then giggled.
     "Let's go to the Peach for tiramisu and cappucino," Annie said as she
looked at her watch.  "It's almost time to go home."


     After a brief celebration, most of the Addicts had finally departed for
home, wherever home happened to be.  Annie, Bons, Jules and Patt remained.
     "Well, it's been fun," Bons said.  "I even got a really cool t-shirt.
You think Sweetie will like it?" she asked as she held out her pink War
     "Uh, yeah," Annie replied.  "He's gonna love it." Annie rolled her eyes
with a grin.  She sobered quickly.  "I have to go, too.  You all in for a
group hug?"
     "You bet!"
     Three heads spun around to face Jules.  "I don't want a group hug.  A
group hug means you all are leaving, and I'll be here all by my lonesome."
     "Oh Jules!!"  The Quad fell into a hug anyway and much to do was made
over how much each would miss the others.
     Finally, Annie removed herself from the huddle.  "Well, not wanting to
throw a wet blanket on things, but I really gotta get to the airport.  Jules?
Wanna give us a ride?"
     As the Quad walked out to the Jag, Bonnie pointed to the eastern sky.
 "Oh, look!" she said.  "Look at the sunrise!  I don't think it's ever been
     "You can say that again," Patt, Jules and Annie replied, as they stared
at the rising sun and basked in each other's friendship.

The End
Comments to EARaper@aol.com or KnightGal@aol.com

The Way Old Friends Do (1/2)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Time: After Pretty Much Everything
with permission from the addicts herein

"Ack!" Tser came running out of the Sauna, Heidi and Robi hot on her heels.

Heidi stomped across the Shrine floor and demanded, "*What* kind of insane, 
depraved activities have you people gotten up to during this War??"

Kim, Heather, Susan, Shele, Jan and Sharon all entered from the Wardrobe 
room as Heidi asked the question. They all wore street clothes now (Heather 
in plaid), their heavy chiffon togas, breastplates and sandals carefully 
stored away until the next war. They were now Not-So-Not-So-Vestal-Virgins.

"Which insane and depraved activity is she referring to?" Shele wondered 

"The one," Robi fumed, "that allows Monsieur Cabon to enter the Sauna with 
just an itty-bitty towel for covering!"

Kim's eyes narrowed with devilish intent. "Heh-heh. I feel the urge to 
torment coming on - be right back." She slipped down the portico to the 

"What is she *doing*?!" Tser cried, watching Kim's retreating back. "Does 
she not understand that a nearly naked Cabon is a scary thing? I'm going 
to have nightmares!"

"I think Kim knows what she's doing," Heather said knowingly. 

"Just wait and see," Jan assured them.

They soon heard a loud hoot of outrage, followed by several squeals of 
triumph. Kim sped into the Shrine twirling a pair of red satin jockeys 
around her right index finger. "Look what I found in Louis' locker! 

Cabon came jogging after her (wearing a lovely pale pink, polka-dot silk 
bathrobe that Not-So-Vestal-Virgin Nat had used during the War), horrified 
to his very core. "Ma'moiselle Kim! Geeve me back my underwear! This 

Kim danced and sang around the altar, "Finders keepers, losers weepers!"

"And he weeps," Susan giggled,. "a lot."

Monsieur Cabon straightened with sudden dignity. "I will weep no more, my 
ladies. I have found zee new mission! To become like the Nunkies! 'Zen 
*you* will be zee ones to cry!" With that, he marched proudly toward the 

"Oh, yes," Tser announced, "we'll be crying with laughter!"

Everyone was chuckling at the thought of Monsieur Cabon  imitating Nunkies 
when Bev, Michele, Denese and Senara arrived from CERK.

"The other Cousins are hot on our tail," Bev warned, nodding at the 
'Play-Dough Roman Legion' set cluttering the altar, "so if you're 
doing anything that the Quad won't approve of, you'd better clean it up." 

Sharon and Shele rushed to clean up their toys, Shele muttering over how 
she was going to get all the blue dough out of the incensoirs before Jules 
caught her 'desecrating the stuff.' They'd gotten a lecture about that 
just last night at Conversion Night.

The phone rang. Denese immediately went on full alert, her Cousinly 
Receptionist instincts still going strong. "I'll get it! I'll get it!"  
She climbed over the loungers and peeked behind the tapestries. "Where 
is it?"

"The kitchen."

"The laboratory."  Sharon and Jan answered simultaneously. 

Denese ran in that direction on the hunt for the receiver. There was a 
*crash!* and a *blam!* then a victorious call, "I got it!"

"So...what was everyone laughing  about when we arrived?" Michele asked.

Kim displayed the red satin briefs for everyone's amazement and amusement. 
"I stole Louis' jockeys."

"Ooh, funny!" Senara giggled. "What are you going to make him do to get 
them back?"

Kim clutched the underwear possessively to her chest. "Nothing. They're 
mine now. Mine. *mine*, MINE!!!" she insisted. "I stole them fair and 

"Gee, Kim," Robi teased, "You haven't gotten *too* fond of Cabon while 
we were away, have you?"

Kim's eyes widened as she saw Heidi, Tser, and Senara move closer. "Stay 
back! I know you want them, but they're MY shiny red jockeys!"

"My, my," Heidi said as she twirled a braid nonchalantly, "maybe Kim has 
acquired a new addiction during the war - maybe she's a Louis Addict now!"

"Bwahaha!" Senara cried. "Kim has a crush on Cabon!"

Kim stopped hugging the underwear greedily and replied hotly. "I do not!"

"Do, too," Senara taunted.

"Do not!"

"Do, too!"

As this was one of the traditional Nunkies Anonymous calls to ruckus, 
very soon there were a dozen addicts chasing each other willy-nilly 
around the Shrine.

When Patt, Annie, Jules and Bonnie entered, their eyes met with the sight 
of Kim scaling one of the frescoed walls by clinging to a Nunkies tapestry, 
shiny red underpants stretched over her ears like some deranged aviator's 
cap, as she screamed, "Keep away from my jockeys, you strumpets!!"

"Or what?" Heidi nyah-ed.

"Or I'll sneeze on you all!"

"Aaaahhh!" All of Kim's chasers ran away in terror as Nunkies' Advocate 
cackled madly.

Jules had spotted some electric blue Play-Dough squashed in between 
tiles on the mosaic floor, and smoke had started to escape her ears.

Bonnie ignored them all, homing for the left Shrine Anteroom with an 
intent purpose in her eye.

Patt had spotted a toga-ed Lucky Lacroix doll and immediately peeked 
underneath, cursing, "Skunk those toy manufacturers!"

Annie frowned (good, not-so clean fun was fine and dandy, but tapestries 
were being abused here!). She tapped her finally-tennised foot impatiently, 
then placed her fingers in her mouth and produced an eardrum-splitting 

All the addicts froze, then clutched their heads in agony. This was 
especially unfortunate for Kim, who let go of the tapestry, fell, and 
went *boom!*

"Och!" Heather commented. "Her padding will be sore tomorrow!"

"Everybody quit chasing everybody and get ready for a meeting!" Annie 
instructed. "We've got planes to catch, trains to hijack, roads to wander 
by nightfall, so everyone take a seat."

Denese returned from the kitchen, announcing, "That was Amythest Dragon 
and Casey. They're on their way from Nick & Natpack headquarters."

"It took them that long to say that on the phone?" Sharon asked 

"Well, no," Denese sheepishly wiped some stray whipped cream from her 
chin. "I found the tiramisu in the fridge."

Cousin Gwendolyn came from the Green room with a white rosebud between 
her jaws. The cat methodically jumped on top of a lounger, then leap to 
the altar and let the flower fall.

"See?" Annie said. "The cat knows addict procedure better than you people 

Tser proudly picked the feline off the altar and rubbed between her ears.

Jesse and Zebella poked their heads into the Shrine, looking around Patt's 
and Jules' backs where they blocked the doorway. "Looks like there are 
some folks at home, " Jesse said, grinning at the assembled crowd.

Zebella pushed on through and trudged toward the Wardrobe room, hefting 
a suitcase filled with all the clothes she'd snatched at the start of 
the War. She planned to dump them in a pile in the middle of the floor. 
After all, who needed to hang and store when you had Fanfic Cleaning 
Fairies to pick up after you?

"We're getting ready to have a quick meeting, Jesse," Annie explained. 
"There are a few more people on the way."

The addicts took their seats and chatted about their adventures of the past 
two weeks, how much they needed sleep, and the departure of their 

"I consider myself lucky to have mine poof back home when he did," Heidi 
confessed. "CoolDaddyJoe had just finished proposing - I didn't have to 
run away."

"Yeah," Robi chimed in. "Divia dear wanted to visit another toy store the 
old-fashioned way - vandalism. I think I was pretty lucky to complete the 
war with nothing added to my permanent record."

"What's on your permanent record now?" Tser teased. "Is it anything like 
Patt's?" Senara, Annie, Jules and Michele all joined their voices with 

"The Cousin who Hit Lacroix!"

"That's *Third Cousin* to you!" Patt said as her cheeks reddened. "I'm 
never going to live that down, am I?"

"Not if we can help it," Bev laughed.

Charl entered the Shrine from the direction of the warehouse. "Hi guys! 
Long war, little see! You don't mind if I left Marl hitched up outside, 
do you?"

"That's fine!," Annie promised. "I think Tser already has a collection of 
her Cousinly critters playing in the restaurant."

As though on cue, Monsieur Cabon could be heard screaming, "Aaaahhh! 'Zere 
is zee veloceraptor in zee dining room! Aaaahhh!"

Tser stood with a sigh. "I'd better go tell Cousine Moses to stop glaring 
at Louis."

Bonnie stomped belligerently into the Shrine. "Where is it?"

"Where's what, Bons?" Patt asked.

"My Nunkies Fantasy Manual!"

"I thought you duct taped that to Libby's stomach," Michele said in 

"And have her pawn it off at some swap meet? No way! I pulled a 
switcheroo and gave her a Screed book instead," Bonnie said proudly. 
"Then I hid the real manual in a secret sneaky hiding place - but it's 

"Do you mean the empty grotto behind the 'Dr. Lacroix' tapestry?" Annie 
asked. "I knew you'd pull a switcheroo, so I took it and added it in 
with the fake copies of the NFM in the altar cupboard."

Jules gasped. "But I took one of those fakes and gave it to Bobbie to 
deliver to the - " she gulped in silent horror.

Jan looked unhappy, too. "The Not-So-Vestal-Virgins put a copy in the 
N-S-V-V Nat's Box."

"We aren't supposed to open it," Heather said. "In fact, we can't. 
I gave the key to Cousin Gwendolyn for hiding."

The cat raised her head from where she stretched on a lounger, yawned 
insouciantly, then licked a paw.

"You mean, it might be gone?" Bonnie was clearly traumatized.

"Don't worry, Bons," Annie consoled. "We'll figure out where it is by 
the time the next war rolls around."

Amythest and Casey arrived then, accompanied by Tser, and the 
Not-So-Not-So-Vestal-Virgins ran to hug and greet them, followed 
by the Cousins.

"Hey!" Charl complained. "Nobody squealed and carried on like that when 
I arrived!"

Tser laughed. "That's probably because we didn't spend the entire war 
trying to prank each other. It's time to kiss and makeup." To be fair, 
the crowd swarmed Charl's way to hug and greet her properly, too.

Once everyone had settled down, Annie moved to stand at the altar. "It 
looks like we've got a quorum - shall we start the meeting?" Cheers rose 
up from the crowd. "Hi. My name is Annie, and I am a Nunkies Addict."

"Hi, Annie," the addicts replied.

Just as Denese made the last introduction, Monsieur Cabon entered the 
Shrine with Laurie at his side. "This *MercBard* says she is a 
pseudo-member, and that she has a delivery for you."

Some addicts waved, some grinned, and some grumbled. Some were very wary.

Everyone knew you should beware a MercBard bearing gifts.

End O' Part One

Send Comments to :  br1035@ix.netcom.com

The Way Old Friends Do (2/2)
by Bonnie Rutledge
Permission granted for addicts and pseudo-addicts herein
Song lyrics by Andersson/ Ulvaeus

"She claims," Monsieur Cabon sniffed, "that she has a delivery from 
Ma'moiselle Libby."

"And it's not a small claim, either," Laurie promised. "You'd better come 

"It's alright, Cabon," Annie called. "Laurie was at the Conversion Ceremony 
last night."

Robi, Heidi, Bev and Sharon leapt up to help with the gift from Libby. 
Luckily, Laurie had brought a hand truck, so they were able to wheel the 
most unwieldy of boxes inside. The addicts ooh-ed and ahh-ed as the crates 
were opened to reveal two dozen bottles of Dom Perignon and a box of 
Chocolate Nunkies crafted by Godiva for everyone (Annie's had a gooey 

"Oh, my word!" Annie exclaimed. "Where did Libby get the capital for all 
this? I didn't realize the war had been so profitable for her!"

"It wasn't the war exactly," Laurie explained, "as much as it was the time 
rift. The Ratpackers rigged a slew of games in Vegas, and brought the 
Mercs  as they raked in the dough the second the rift closed. Libby made 
out pretty well. She's had a gold statue of Screed sent back for herself, 
but it kind of looks like an Oscar in a baggy sweater to me."

Amythest laughed and whispered for Laurie's ears only, "Are you still 
meeting me later at the theatre?" Laurie nodded in reply.

Bonnie stopped nibbling on her espresso liqueur-filled Chocolate Nunkies. 
"I have an idea! With all this champagne thoughtfully provided by Puckypoo, 
why don't we have an End O' The War Toast?"

"Ooo! Excellent idea!" Annie exclaimed. "Everybody get your drool cups!" 
She opened the Shrine cupboard (yes, it's a big cupboard) and pulled out 
glasses for Laurie and Monsieur Cabon. "Everyone can take turns offering 
a toast!"

"I don't know," Casey said hesitantly. "What would I say?"

"How about something you learned from the War? Make it in honor of a 
friend you made over the past two weeks, or anything like that!" Amythest 

"I like this idea," Jules joined in on the enthusiasm.

The next few minutes were occupied popping champagne corks and making 
comments about 'the pressure release'. *thud* -pant- ~drool~
Once each drool cup was full, the addicts crowded into a circle.

"Alright," Annie said. "Who wants to go first?"

"I will!" Bev called as she raised her glass. "To Libby, for spreading 
the wealth!"

"Here! Here!" the group cried. They worked their way counterclockwise 
around the circle from Bev, each addict taking a turn to comment.

"You can never have enough Clorox-Cleanup and too few wigs," Charl proposed.

Denese was next. "Cousinly Receptionists do not have to be receptive."

"Polyester *can* grow on you," Heidi said.

"Little girls aren't all made of sugar and spice," Robi added, "some have 

"Inspiration comes and goes," Shele said, "but the poetry remains."

"Wishes aren't half as interesting as the people who make them come true," 
Patt said.

"Goodbyes are not forever, as long as you can dream," Amythest offered.

"Never let the GHP see your paintings," Laurie sniffed.

Casey grinned. "Knowledge of Japanese anime comes in handy when you least 
expect it."

"Spiders and silence do not mix," Jesse toasted.

"You can never grab too many clothes," Zebella said, then added, 
"especially in black."

A round of approval followed, agreeing with the wisdom of this statement.

"Anything is possible," Kim announced. "Very possible."

"Animals talk to those who will listen," Sharon said.

Heather was the next to raise her glass. "Friends are never far away when 
they stay in your heart."

"Never bet you pants in a poker game," Monsieur Cabon sighed.

"Even Screed has someone who loves him," Annie said, "besides Libby."

"Raids are great fun, but camel spit is quite unpleasant," Senara followed.

"Everything is useful," Jules murmured, "even Marmite." Then a wicked 
grin spread over the cousin's face. "Oh - and I still have the keys to 
the Jag - let's toast to that!"

"Q-tips make an excellent weapon," Michele laughed.

"If you go to sleep on a trampoline, you may wake up on the floor," Jan 
said sagely.

"No fair!" Susan yelled. "That's what I was going to say! Uhm, how about - 
There's no such thing as eye drool."

"Is, too!" Kim insisted.

"Is not!"

"Is, too!"

"We're getting off track here," Annie interrupted, "and we're almost done."

Tser cleared her throat. "Gosh, I have too much to say and yet not enough," 
she muttered, then tilted her cup forward. "To the reason we're here 
together - LaCroix!"

"Nunkies!" everyone cheered.

They were down to the last toast. "I think I'll quote an ABBA song," 
Bonnie began, and groans immediately ensued. "Hey! Just give it a chance - 
I think this is very appropriate:

"You and I can share the silence,
  finding comfort together
  the way old friends do.

  And after fights and words of violence,
  we make up with each other
  the way old friends do.

  Times of joy and times of sorrow -
  we will always see it through.
   I don't care what comes tomorrow.
   We can face it together,
   the way old friends do."

As Bonnie let the last words trail off, the addicts moved to touch 
drool cups in the center of the circle, then each took a swallow to 
make the toast complete. As the night wore on, addicts departed amid 
tears and hugs, laughter and best wishes. The war was over, but they 
still had reasons to stay in touch.

The way old friends do.

Finally Fin.

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