DISCLAIMER: Characters are not mine…dammit. Dialogue is kinda mine…you'll see.
The twist in the storyline…it's all mine.
Written for the Academy Solstice Challenge: “Baby, It's Code Outside.”
Pairings used: 2 (well, only 2 count)
Code words used (and underlined): 26
Setting: (GL) Springfield , just about a month or so after the flash forward ending.
A Mid-Winter's Solstice Night's Dream
*actually, it's early winter but that just didn't have the same ring to it*
“Are you sure?” Olivia spoke into the phone as she walked over to the window. She pulled the curtain aside and winced at the newly falling snow. Is this Springfield or Quebec ? “Yeah, I would feel much better too. No need going out until the plows come through.” She paused. “That would be Buzz's doing.” The hotelier chuckled. “Thanks Blake, we owe ya one. Next time at the farmhouse, ‘kay?” Olivia hit the disconnect button and returned the phone to its cradle.
A devilish grin crossed her face and she rubbed her hands together in maniacal glee. She quietly moved to the kitchen doorway. She peered around the corner and spied Natalia still at the kitchen sink. She was humming. Olivia grinned when she realized just what she was humming - the theme from Romeo and Juliet... awwww.
The blonde watched as Natalia shut off the water and reached for a kitchen towel. She threw herself back against the wall, just off to one side of the doorway opening. She quietly waited. As she heard the approaching footsteps on the hardwood floors, she got ready to spring into action. As soon as Natalia cleared the doorway, Olivia grabbed her around the waist.
“Whaaa!” Natalia squeaked out.
“Lookie what I gots here....”
“You're talking funny again.” Natalia placed her hands over Olivia's, which were sitting around her waist.
“Whimsical charm... it pops out when you least expect it.” Olivia turned Natalia around to face her. She curtsied and held out her hand. Natalia took it and found herself dancing around the room.
“What are we doing?”
Natalia popped Olivia on the shoulder. “I know that. Why are we dancing?”
“Because roller skates would ruin the finish on the floors.”
Natalia pretended to think that one over. “Oh, okay... lead on.”
Olivia spun Natalia out and then pulled her back in. She did it again and this time Natalia ended up with her back to Olivia's front. Olivia let her arms circle Natalia's waist. They swayed in place.
“Blake is going to keep Jellybean until the snow stops and they clear the roads. She said Emma was teaching Clarissa how to play poker. I think Blake is going to have a few things to say to Buzz the next time she sees him.”
Natalia pinched Olivia's hand. “You know darn well that Emma wouldn't be a card shark if you didn't practice with her all the time.”
“Blake didn't need to know that.” Olivia kissed Natalia's temple. “Where was I... oh yeah - Francesca is at Papa Frank's for the weekend. We have a foot of new snow outside, a roaring fire in the fireplace....” She twirled Natalia out again. When Natalia was pulled back into her arms, Olivia grabbed a flower out of the vase on the end table and playfully offered it to Natalia. Natalia put it in her teeth. Olivia took this as a cue and they changed positions. The duo tangoed from one side of the room and back. When they returned to where they started, Olivia twirled Natalia out again.
Natalia took the flower out of her mouth and threaded it through her hair over her ear. “So, we have the farmhouse all to ourselves, hmmm? Whatcha want to do tonight, Brain?” she asked mirthfully.
Olivia pulled her back in and dipped her on her right. “Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Pinky?” She tweaked her nose. She then pulled her up and repeated the motion but to the left.
“All right, but where are we going to find circus monkeys and a fifty-five gallon drum of peanut butter at this time of night?”
Olivia stopped for a second as her brain mulled that thought over. She pulled Natalia up into her arms. “Very funny.” Natalia threw her arms around Olivia's neck and Olivia's arms circled Natalia's waist. “I was thinking more along the line of a little music....” She swayed back and forth. “... a little candlelight, a little bubble bath and maybe if you are really good....”
“I'm always really good,” her voice purred deep, like smooth whiskey.
Olivia grinned widely. “You are exceptional.” She then leaned Natalia over the back of the couch. “If you are really good we can....” Her attention was drawn past Natalia's face to the magazine sitting on the couch cushion. “Oooh, Xena marathon on Bravo.”
“What?!?” Natalia scrambled to get back upright. “We have the whole night to ourselves and you want to watch TV.”
“Not just TV... a classic. Xena: Warrior Princess.” She pulled her close and whispered in her ear. “Please? It's almost never on anymore. Plus we have... ” she checked her watch, “at least 3 hours before it starts.” Olivia turned on her best pout and let out an exaggerated sigh.
Natalia just shook her head and kissed the pout until she could feel it change into a
smile. She broke the kiss and ran her fingers down the older woman's cheek. She smiled and flashed her dimples, then entwined their fingers. She gave the hand a little squeeze. “Okay but - last one upstairs brings the peanut butter.” Natalia bolted for the stairs.
Olivia stood dumbfounded for a minute her eyes glanced between the kitchen and the stairway that her love just departed up. When a shirt flew down the stairs, Liv's mind was made up and took the stairs two at a time.
Olivia stomped her way back down the staircase. “It is sooooooooo noooooooot my faaauuuuuuuult.” She plucked at the maroon material of her sweatpants. “I can't believe you bought us matching jogging suits.”
Natalia was a couple of steps behind. “It is too your fault. Those were supposed to be a Christmas gift.”
“Well, you shouldn't have left them out in the open for anyone to find.”
“They were in the top of our closet in a box marked sewing supplies. How was that ‘open'? Unless you have x-ray vision that I am not aware of.” She stopped short at the bottom of the stairs. Olivia had reached the landing and turned back to look up the stairs. “What exactly were you looking for, Miss Curious Charlie?” the brunette asked.
“I needed thread to sew something.” She fibbed; her eyes wouldn't meet Natalia's.
“Exactly. So what. It's not like I can un-see them and besides they are kinda cute.” She gestured between the two of them, then Olivia straightened the collar on Natalia's top. The blonde tilted her head to one side and grinned. “Choo look mah-vellous.” She waggled her eyebrows.
Natalia narrowed her eyes. “Uh huh,” she said dismissively. “How many other hiding places did you find already?”
There's more...?” Olivia moved past Natalia to go back upstairs.
“Come back here.” Natalia grabbed the back of her sweatshirt.
Olivia took a couple of steps backwards. “Yeah, you're right. It's only late November , I still have a few weeks before Christmas to find them all.”
“You are incorrigible.” Natalia pecked her on the lips.
“And cute - don't forget cute.” Olivia stood with her hands in her pockets and rocked on her heels.
“That too.” The brunette pinched her butt.
“Ow.” Olivia mockingly scowled and rubbed the affected area.
“Yeah, yeah. Okay, you get the fire stoked back up; I'll go make some popcorn and we'll sit down and watch your cheesy show.”
“It's a classic.”
“Aged cheese is still cheese,” she mumbled and waved her off as she made her way to the kitchen.
“I heard that.”
Natalia just giggled.
Natalia chewed another piece of popcorn. “Okay, that one was kinda funny. The way the day repeated itself....” Her voice trailed off when she looked over at Olivia. The older woman was asleep. Her head lying awkwardly on the back of the couch; quiet snores came from her open mouth. Natalia shook her head. Trying her best not to wake her, Natalia carefully pulled Olivia down to her lap and smiled lovingly. The brunette pulled the throw from the back of the couch and spread it over the sleeping woman. “Pleasant dreams, baby.” Natalia pulled the blanket up a bit tighter on the sleeping woman and then wiggled herself a bit more comfortably into the couch. She began to run her fingers through the dark blonde hair.
Natalia froze when she thought Olivia was beginning to stir. Olivia didn't wake but she did put her thumb in her mouth. The brunette listened as Olivia mumbled.
“Oh dat neber gets ol....” Olivia just snuggled into Natalia's lap.
<>wavy lines—dreamscape time<>
The barn door swung open with such force that it banged again the nearest stall. Sunlight streamed in.
“Rise and shine; rise and shine!” Froxer bellowed as he stepped into the barn. He was wearing armor made out of cooking utensils and a grin made out of missing brain cells.
Xelivia sleepily rose out of the hay and flung her chakram at his chest. She smiled as it buried itself with a thunk. “Oh, that never gets old.” She then closed her eyes again, burrowed back into the hay and pulled the blanket up snugly. The warrior put her thumb in her mouth and went back to sleep.
Natrielle jumped up out of the hay she was buried in when she heard the body hit the floor. She crossed over and looked down at Froxer, then looked at Xelivia.
“I... buh... you... he... you killed... ohmigods... you... he....” She continued to stammer as she gestured frantically back and forth between the two. Then she tried to remove the chakram. Eventually, she resorted to putting her foot on his chest as she pulled, but the chakram wasn't budging. She had only managed to lift his body slightly off the floor. Then she heard a very low voice singing.
“Xe?” She let go of the chakram and the body fell. She winced at the sound. “Sorry.” She turned her attention to the warrior.
Xelivia, without opening her eyes, threw part of the blanket back and began to sing in a very low voice.
Froxer, the stoopid
Not a warrior, more a cooper
Always a big party pooper
Crushed on Natrielle
Xelivia just rang his bell
He's now dead and laid to rest
With her shiny chakram in his chest
She's Xelivia -- she's Xelivia, the mighty
Xe, without moving, opened one eye and looked at Natrielle. She patted the hay in invitation. Natrielle took one more look at Froxer's body and shrugged. She crossed over and lay down next to Xelivia who threw the blanket over both of their heads.
“Xelivia” Natrielle sighed, breathlessly.
Xelivia, the mighty
Natalia carefully extricated herself from the blonde octopus in her lap. She straightened the blanket on the older woman, then grabbed the portable phone and made her way into the kitchen. She punched in a familiar number.
“Hi, Blake. I'm just calling to make sure that Emma hasn't driven you nuts yet. I know she's a handful.” Just like her mother.
Blake sat down on the top step of the staircase and looked down into her living room. Her voice was low. “No, I just left Clarissa's room. My daughter threw in the towel after Emma managed to win a couple of weeks' worth of allowance and her Sierra rag doll. They are playing Monopoly for fake money now.” She paused and laughed. “Yeah, Emma told Clarissa that she was going to show how her how a real.... How did she put it? A real business mongrel plays the game.”
“We keep trying to tell her the word is mogul. But yeah,” Natalia agreed, as she scratched her nose in amusement, “she's a bit competitive.”
“No? Really?” Blake replied with mock surprise. “I wonder where she gets that from?”
“I'm guessing the little business mongrel puppy doesn't stray far from the big business mongrel mama, huh?”
“You are not going to hear me call Olivia a mongrel. Business or otherwise. I like breathing too much.”
They shared a laugh.
“So, other than Emma teaching Business 101, are you okay being snowed in for awhile?”
“Yeah. Mike, y'know the city's snow plow guy, will come through here first thing in the morning. It's good to have important guests.”
“ Doris is here. Actually,” Blake looked down again into the living room. “She's sleeping on my couch at the moment.”
“Really?” Natalia's voice held a hint of mischief.
“She came over to catch me up on Ashlee news. She was upset that Ashlee told her she isn't coming home for the holidays. She got an internship at the San Francisco Register, so she'll be working.”
“Oh, that's too bad. I know Doris misses her so much.”
“Yeah, she does. But then she got a call just a little while ago, right after we had dinner. It was Ashlee's reporter mentor at the paper. I'm not sure exactly what she said but I do know that Doris couldn't really get a word in. She managed to convince Doris that Ashlee would be taken care of for the holidays. That... I'm trying to remember the exact wording she used. Oh yeah, her ‘Club' would make sure that Ashlee had a plenty of company and fun for the holiday. Must be a nice club.”
“That's good. I'm sure it helps to know that there are people looking out for Ashlee like that.”
“Yeah, she was more like herself after the phone call. We sat down to watch a Xena Marathon.”
“Oh, not you too?” Natalia chuckled. “Olivia wanted to watch it and she's missing most of it, snoozing away as we speak.”
“Same with Doris . But - and I will refute saying this to my dying day - she looks so much freer and lighter when she is sleeping. I hate to deny her the peace, y'know?”
“She's growing on you, isn't she?” Natalia asked. It was just too bad Blake couldn't see the definite twinkle in her eyes.
“Yeah, she is. Doris is turning out to be a good friend.”
“I'm glad. You can't have too many....” Her voice trailed off wistfully. “Look, I'll let you get back to your warrior film fest. I do not know what Olivia finds so fascinating about a leather bustier wearing brunette.”
“You don't, huh?” Blake snarked. She bit her lip in contemplation. Oh why not? “Natalia?”
“Tell Olivia to take you shopping in the back room of Hidden Treasures. There are all kinds of interesting... uniforms and ummm, clothing there.”
“Umm... okay?” Natalia answered, befuddled at the apparent change of topic. “Bye.”
Blake hit the disconnect button and quietly made her way back down the stairs. She smiled down at the sleeping Mayor who was curled up on one end of the couch. Blake carefully settled herself in on the other end and turned her attention to the TV. She didn't see the big smirk that suddenly enveloped the dreaming Mayor's face.
<>wavy lines—dreamscape time<>
The warrior walked stealthily down the pathway - well as stealthily as you can with a nattering bard at your side. Her well-honed survival skills were on full alert as she scanned the area for baddies. Argo's reins hung loosely from her left hand, although the horse didn't need encouragement to follow.
“Why does that always happen?” Xeoris asked, seriously. “Back there with Howalia.”
“It's the blue eyes and the leather. Some women just love leather.”
“It's embarrassing. She brought me a flower.” She said incredulously. “What am I supposed to do with a flower? It wasn't even edible.”
Blakrielle laughed. “Maybe a wardrobe change is in order. You could wear chain mail.”
Argo neighed loudly in protest, her head shaking to and fro.
“I'm guessing that would be a no for the extra weight she would have to carry. Besides, that would probably just attract a kinkier group.”
Blakrielle rubbed her chin in contemplation. “Yeah, you're probably right.”
“On the other hand, I could just wear a smelly bear... no, wolf's skin....”
“That might work.”
“... and stop bathing.” Xeoris grinned. “That should turn them off.”
“Very true but then you would also be traveling alone.”
Xeoris smirked. “Are you trying to talk me into it or out of it?”
Blakrielle shook her head. “Ha ha,” she deadpanned. She paused for a second in thought. “Back to the game. Who could it be? I know... Alannis.”
“No.” Xeoris stopped walking and turned to her companion. “Why do we always end up playing a game of ‘who did Xeoris screw over in the past' when we are traveling?”
“Let's face it. With your record, the game lasts awhile.”
The blonde warrior thought about that for a second and then shrugged. “Okay, you got me there.” They continued walking.
“Besides, I sense a victory this time.”
“Dream on.” Xeoris scoffed.
“Light or dark hair?”
“Buff. Well, buff-ish.”
The warrior stopped moving as they reached the outskirts of the village. She looked around. “No. Hmmm, that's interesting.”
“Huh? What?” She waved a hand around. “There is actually something interesting about this place?” She stepped in front of Xeoris and waved a hand close to the warrior's eyes. “Hell-ooo.” Then ducked back when she got swatted at. “This is like every other village we've seen. You think, for once someone would try something new.” She sighed. “And the name – Laurel ? There aren't even any laurel trees around here. There are fields all around us.” She gestured to her right. “Plus we just passed that wonderful spring.” She cocked her head to one side. “You think they would be a little more creative in their village nam....”
Xeoris interrupted. “No, I meant, there doesn't seem to be anyone here.”
Just then a leather-clad, busty, blonde-ish woman raced out from behind a hut. She grabbed the errant lamb she was chasing. “Ooh! Frankie. Quit it! Stop wiggling, you rotten thing!”
Blakrielle stepped forward. “Hello.”
The woman looked up. Her eyes widened. “You're... you... you're Xeoris, aren't you?”
She dropped the lamb back to the ground, not caring that he scampered off again.
The woman wiped her hands on her leather skirt. It was made in almost the same style as the warrior's.
“All right!” Minlivia pumped her fist in the air. “I finally get to meet the Warrior Princess herself!” She smiled broadly and held out her arm for a warrior handshake. “I've heard all your adventures. How you unchained death and liberated Prometheus and nailed that Revallisto witch.”
“Listen, I'm just here to....”
“You are the main thing, the real deal, the big kahuna....”
Xeoris and Blakrielle looked at each other and mouthed ‘big kahuna?' They both shrugged.
“The number one attraction!” Minlivia continued. She turned to Blakrielle. “And, um, you must be... ummm, Lariel.” She leaned in close to Blakrielle's ear and whispered, “What's it like to travel with the hottest warrior in the butt-kicking biz, huh? Does she sleep in the...?”
“Well....” Blakrielle started to answer.
Xeoris interrupted. “Hey! Lady, we're on a mission.”
“And we stayed behind to help. All the other villagers - they've run to the hills. Well, except for me and my girlfriend, Howalia. You've probably met her already.” She looked around. “Where is she?”
Xeoris scratched her jaw. “Ah, she's doing me a favor. She told me about your problem.”
“Well, I want you to know, I'm ready to do anything you need. I'm as strong as a bull, and... and... I can read. That's a pretty rare combination in these parts, y'know?” She pointed to the hat on her head. “And I have the official Xeoris headgear. Just like you wear. I had to trade two goats for it. Some guy named Salbuzzious came through here a few moons back selling all the official warrior stuff.” She picked at the strips of leather on her skirt. “So, what's your plan? Your strategy? How are you gonna whip this overgrown fleabag?”
“I really don't know yet. I'm gonna have to think this one out.”
“Okay, fine. What can I do to help you concentrate?”~~~~~~~~~~~
The warrior leaned back on the walls of the giant tub, closed her eyes and sighed. She cracked one eye open to look at her companion who just joined her in the tub.
I'll go get some more.” Minlivia scrambled out of the bathing hut.
“Yeah, y'know, in case he's wearing a helmet. Like Goliath.”
“Yeah, I know. It worked. You don't have to be original every time you fight, Xeoris.”
“Well, that doesn't mean that I can't.”
Xeoris glared at Blakrielle. She scrambled back quickly as another bucket of water was poured in. “That's enough, Minlivia! Thank you.”
“Okay, I'll get them.” She turned to leave, then turned back. “Oh, lunch will be ready soon. We're having lamb.”
Xeoris nodded her head in acceptance then turned her attention to a glowering Blakrielle. “What?” she asked, annoyed
“You said, ‘for now'.”
“You're not gonna do that again, are you?”
“What?” Blakrielle mocked. “You know what. We set up a perfectly good strategy and then you go all plan delta at the last minute.”
Xeoris opened one eye and purred. “The soap is on the tub ledge.” She gave her a sexy grin.
“Oh.” Blakrielle's eyes opened wide in realization. “Ohhhhh....” She moved closer to the warrior.
Two blonde heads popped up from behind the couch. They looked at both sleeping women and then ducked back behind the sofa. Their loud whispering then started.
“You wake her up.”
“Nuh uh,” Clarissa replied and added a definite shake of her head. “You do it.”
“She's your Mommy.”
“That's why you do it. She gets grumpy when she gets waked up. She won't yell and stuff at you.” Clarissa tilted her head to one side. “You're a guest here.”
Doris grinned as she heard the kids talking. She had been aware of their presence since they had not-so-quietly made their way down from upstairs; their constant shushing a dead giveaway to their location. Through squinted eyes, she looked over at her sleeping couch companion.
“What if we wake up Ms Doris instead?”
Doris ' eyebrow arched.
“I guess that will work.”
“What if she gets all grumpy too?”
“I'll wake her up the same way Mommy wakes me up. She told me she does it that way so I won't be a cranky kitty.”
Doris crossed her arms over her chest and schooled her features. Emma circled the couch and looked down at the sleeping Mayor. She leaned in and gently kissed Doris ' forehead.
“Ms Doris. Time to wake up,” Emma whispered sweetly.
It took all of Doris ' restraint not to smile at the delicate way Emma was trying to awaken her. Doris stretched and opened her eyes. She looked between both girls.
“Everything okay, girls?” Doris sat up on the couch.
“We just wanted to tell you that we are going to bed now and wanted someone to tell us a story.”
“Oh, okay.” She mock yawned. “Did you brush your face and wash your teeth?” She grinned and reached to tickle Emma.
Emma squirmed out of her grasp. “No, silly. We washed our faces and brushed our teeth.”
“That's what I said, brushed your faces and washed your teeth.”
Emma and Clarissa both giggled.
Doris eased herself off the couch and looked at Clarissa. “Let's let your Mommy sleep, ‘kay?” She motioned for the girls to start moving toward the stairs.
“Will you tell us a story?” Emma turned back around and addressed the Mayor.
“You want me to read you something? I might have some experience in doing that. Ashlee used to like hearing all the different voices I could invent.”
“Ooh pretty.” Emma looked past the Mayor at the TV. “She's all Pink and, ummm... Fluffy.”
Doris turned to see. ‘That's Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.”
“Who's the guy in black next to her? He kinda looks like Uncle Josh.”
Doris snorted and then covered her mouth to muffle the sound. “That's her brother, Ares. He's the God of War.”
“Can you tell us a story about them?”
Doris turned back to the TV and watched for a few seconds. “I remember this one.” She faced the girls and held out a hand for each of them. They took them and headed up the stairs. “Let's get you tucked in and I'll tell you the story of an enchanted scroll.”
“What's a scroll?”
“It's what they used in ancient times to write on - before they invented notebooks.”
“Did you and Mommy use scrolls in school?”
Blake heard Doris bark out a laugh and then the voices trailed off as the three turned down the hallway of the upstairs foyer.
Blake couldn't stifle her laughter anymore. She snuggled more comfortable into the couch and turned her attention to the TV. “An enchanted scroll where anything written comes true. That could be fun.” Her eyes soon drifted closed again.
<>wavy lines—dreamscape time<>
“Xeoris, I'm not sure about this.”
“You can do it. Create some new characters, new images.”
“You mean fiction? Well, I thought about trying that... someday. Do you really think I could?”
“Give it a shot, but do it quietly.” Xeoris adjusted her blanket and rolled away from the redhead. “Good night.”
"And make someone else the hero for a change," the warrior called out over her shoulder.
Xeoris had gone fishing. The lone warrior, Blakrielle, awoke with a jerk as five scruffy barbarians rode out of the woods. Twirling her trusty staff, she delivered kicks of such fury....
She looked back down at what she'd written. “This fiction stuff can be really fun." She put her head down as she contemplated her next line and fell asleep.
"Xeoris! We've got company!” the bard said in alarm. She shook the body lying in the bedroll next to her. “Xeoris! Wake up! Wake up! Xeoris!” She kept one eye on the approaching barbarians. “Xeoris!”
Her sleeping companion finally rolled over and opened their eyes.
“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!” was the simultaneous scream.
“Hold that thought, okay?” Blakrielle grabbed her trusty staff and began to pound on the barbarians. “OK, you asked for it!” She planted the end of the staff in the ground and twirled, her feet kicking at each barbarian. “Round and up and down she goes! Where she stops, nobody knows!" Then she back-flipped over their heads and kicked them each in the butt.
Froxer caught it and immediately began beating himself with it. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Hey, stop it! Why...? OW!”
“Blakrielle, thank you very much.”
“Right. So like Blakie… ow!” Froxer grabbed his nose.
Blakrielle glared at him and feigned a move to grab his nose again. He backed up a step.
“So, did you like ask for a guy with the heart of a lion? Grrrrrr. The soul of a warrior? Let's see.” Froxer took the scroll from Blakrielle and cleared his throat. He began to read. “Xeoris had gone fi…”
“Fishing,” Blakrielle supplied.
“Are you insane?” Blakrielle shuddered. “I have to get Xeoris back here.”
Blakrielle grabbed her quill and began to write. She looked up and watched as Minlivia emerged from the tree line. “What the...?” She looked back down at what she wrote.
Leather-clad, busty warrior....
Blakrielle slapped her forehead.
“Hi Lariel. Where's Xeoris?” She looked around. “And why am I here?”
“Hello, Minlivia. How's Howalia?”
“She ran off. Left me for almost two moons. Then came wandering back into the village. She's gonna have a baby. I found out she was seeing some guy named Brian. What kind of a name is Brian? I mean really?” She put her one hand on her hip and gestured with her other to Froxer. “Who's guppy boy?”
“That's Froxer.” She steered Minlivia aside. “He's a famous warrior, from a long line of warriors.” Blakrielle lowered her voice. “And he's single.”
“Famous and lonely.”
“My favorite kind of warrior.” Minlivia adjusted the girls and then smoothed down the rest of her leather outfit. She ran a hand through her hair, checked her breath and waggled her fingers at him as she called out, “Yoo hoo, Froxer....”
“Okay, now to get Xeoris back here.” Blakrielle dipped her quill in ink and began writing again. This time when she looked up at the tree line, Xeoris emerged.
“I am so glad to see you.”
“What's going on? I was fishing and I caught this really big one, easily two kilo s and then next thing I know I'm back here.”
“This scroll - it's enchanted somehow. Whatever I write, it comes true.”
“Yeah, watch.” Blakrielle wrote a line and then showed the scroll to Xeoris.
Argo wanders back into the campsite, her coat covered in red, white and black stripes.
They both looked up at the sound of hooves and watched as a very colorful Argo ambled across the field toward them.
“Oooh, pretty.” Xeoris' eyes lit up, then realization struck. “What am I saying? Change her back; change her back!” Xeoris implored in a panic. She grabbed onto and shook Blakrielle's arm for emphasis.
“Okay, okay.” Blakrielle scratched another line on the scroll and they both looked up to see the colored stripes fade off of Argo's coat. Xeoris made her way over to Argo.
Blakrielle waved the end of the quill at Xeoris. “Y'know, sometimes I think you lo... like that horse more than you like me.”
Xeoris narrowed her eyes. “Jealous much?” She continued to stroke Argo's nose. “Sometimes you just have to have patience with the things that annoy you.”
“I never said Argo was annoying.”
“I wasn't talking to you,” Xeoris smirked.
“Oh, very funny... not.” Blakrielle quickly scratched a new line on the scroll. Then looked up and grinned.
A strange look came over Xeoris' face. She looked like she was fighting a losing battle not to say something. The warrior slapped both hands over her mouth trying desperately to hold it in. She began to pace, finally she could take it no more. She opened her mouth and one word emerged.
Blakrielle doubled over in laughter, her eyes watering. Each time she looked up at Xeoris, she laughed harder.
Xeoris walked over and pulled the scroll from Blakrielle's hand.
Xeoris acts like a sheep.
“I'm a baaaaaadasss warrior, daaaaaammit.” Then she took the quill from Blakrielle as well. Xeoris scratched out the line about sheep and then scribbled a new one of her own. “The least you could have done is make me a... a wolf or something like that.”
Blakrielle's head popped up. Her nose began to twitch. She looked around, somewhat nervously. Then her hands crept up by the sides of her head and mimicked longer ears. She began to hop. After a few moments of hopping, she managed to get close enough to Xeoris to retrieve her scroll. With one final twitch to her nose, she scratched out the line her warrior companion added.
Blakrielle thinks she's a bunny rabbit.
“That was not nice.” She looked skyward as she contemplated her revenge. Then a particularly evil though entered her mind. She arched an eyebrow and smiled at Xeoris. She read aloud as she wrote the line.
Xeoris chases and kisses Froxer.
“What!” was simultaneously heard from three different voices. Xeoris in panic, Minlivia in outrage, and Froxer in happy surprise.
Froxer disentangled himself from Minlivia, who had him pined up against a tree as she explained the merits of his moving to Fieldspring, formerly known as Laurel, to become their law officer or warrior of residence or village idiot; all three jobs were open.
Minlivia stepped between Xeoris and Froxer who were puckering up; she in a grimace of disgust and him in ignorant bliss. “Oh no you don't; I saw him first!” They kept feinting left and right but Minlivia stayed in the middle holding them apart. “He's mine; you have Lariel.”
That caused Xeoris a moment's pause. Then all three's eyes were drawn to a shower of pink sparkles.
“Hey!” Blakrielle called out as the scroll was ripped out of her hands.
Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, shimmered into view. “Oh, no.” She removed the enchantment from the scroll with one hand gesture. “It's totally fun and games until someone gnarly kisses the loser.”
“Hey!” Froxer yelled in protest. “It's not nice to call Xeoris a loser.”
Xeoris rolled her eyes.
“Ewwww - grody. I just wanted some radical entertainment, some bodacious laughs not like, torture and tragedy. This is so majorly worse than watching the Golf Channel.”
She was met with three blank stares.
“Never mind.” She crooked her finger at Xeoris who reluctantly walked over. Dite threw her arm around the warrior's shoulder and steered her to a spot a few yards away. She leaned into her ear and whispered. “You know how much I totally love that little bard and want her to be happy.” She waited for Xeoris to nod in agreement. “I gave you a bitchin' opportunity here.”
Xeoris opened her mouth to protest. But Dite silenced her with a look.
“No more enchantments, no incantations, no love spells. Just a radical opening. You are totally on your own with the rest. Don't blow it, warrior babe.” She patted Xeoris on the cheek and left her standing there as she made her way back over to Blakrielle.
“I'd love to stay and chat but I've got fab places to go and righteous people to do.” She looked deep into Blakrielle's eyes. “It will all work out, cutie - you'll see,” she whispered. She kissed Blakrielle's cheek and then winked at her. “Okay, you two -you're so with me.” She turned and pointed to Froxer and Minlivia. “Get ready to fly first class on Dite Air... radical one way trip back to idiotville.” She waggled her fingers as all three faded out in a shower of sparkles. “Toodles!”
Xeoris walked over to Blakrielle. “I can't believe you were gonna make me kiss him.” Xeoris said with distaste.
Blakrielle found something interesting to look at on the ground. “Not your first choice, huh?”
“No, actually, he wouldn't have been my first choice for anything.”
“Would you have rather have kissed Minlivia?” She asked warily.
“Ummm, no, she wouldn't have been my first choice either.”
“Well, the only other one here is....”
“Uh huh.” Xeoris said shyly and suddenly found the distant tree line fascinating.
“I knew it.” Blakrielle claimed loudly. “You are in love with Argo.”
Xeoris' head snapped back with a crack. “Wha..?!?” then realized by the huge smile splitting Blakrielle's face that it was a joke.
“Nah, she'd be my second choice.” The warrior teased back.
“Really?” Blakrielle brightened. “So, ummm....”
Xeoris leaned in and....
<>wavy lines—reality time<>
Blake?” Doris gingerly sat down on the edge of the couch. She looked down at the sleeping writer and smiled. Then she leaned down and ghosted a kiss on Blake's forehead just as Emma did to her a bit earlier. “Blake, honey, wake up.” She ran a finger gently down the writer's face. She watched as thick lashes fluttered and sleepy eyes opened. “You need to get up and go to bed. There is no need you being all uncomfortable and sleeping on the couch when it's your house.”
Blake tilted her head as she reflected upon the Mayor's words. “And you need to aim lower next time you wake me up.” She grinned.
Doris leaned back a bit in delight and surprise. “Really?” She smiled.
“Uh huh.” Blake scratched her chin in thought. “Maybe you should practice a bit?”
“Good a time as any, no?” Blake placed both arms on Doris ' shoulders. Her fingers raked through her dark blonde hair.
“Hmm. I'd hate to disappoint a supporter.”
“I didn't vote for you.”
Doris bent forward, and moved so their faces were but an inch apart. “Well then, let me explain just why you should vote for me next time.” Doris voice trailed off as her lips became otherwise engaged.
One green eye cracked open. Olivia rose up just enough to look down her body to the other end of the couch. Natalia mirrored Olivia's previous position and was softly wuffling in her sleep. Olivia slowly inched up to a sitting position, carefully disentangling their legs and trying hard not to displace the blanket they were sharing. Natalia, changing position, rolled over more on her side which halted Olivia's movements for a few moments. Thinking she was in the clear, she eased up off the couch and made her way to the stairs. Cautiously, she made her way up, bypassing the third step which....
Dammit, it's the fourth step. Olivia cringed and held still. She spared a glance back into the living room.
Because the back of the couch faced the stairway, Olivia couldn't see mirthful brown eyes that were open and the knowing smirk on the brunette's dimpled face. She bit her lip to keep from laughing. One-track mind. She shook her head slightly. You'll never find them, love. I stored the rest of the presents at Blake's.
Natalia pulled the throw up to her chin and snuggled deeper into the couch. She just closed her eyes when a huge cacophony of sound emanated from upstairs. Instantly she recognized the din for what it was - the entire hall closet's contents falling on the floor; the string of curses that followed... Olivia's verbal frustration. She closed her eyes, silently chuckled and waited. The next sound was feet pounding down the stairs and she reopened her eyes in time to see a sock-footed Olivia gracefully slide to a halt by the end of the couch.
Tom Cruise has nothing on you, Liv.
Natalia went through the motions as if she had just been startled awake. “Everything okay? What happened?”
“Uh, yeah.” Olivia looked everywhere but at her. Then her eyes were drawn to the TV. “Ooh, this is a good one.”
“Then sit and watch.”
“No!” she winced when she realized how harsh that sounded. “I, ummm... have seen it a million times before.” Her eyes started roaming again. “I'm gonna just go upstairs and clean out that hall closet.”
“The hall closet I have been....”
“Asking me to clean out for a week.”
“More like a month....”
“... or two, Oscar Madison.”
Olivia stepped forward and tweaked Natalia's toes. She grinned and it was returned. “You just watch the episode. The blonde psycho should remind you of somebody we all know and loathe.”
“Olivia?!?” Natalia admonished.
“Love, I meant love.” She pointed to the stairs. “I'll just be upstairs, k?” She disappeared in a flash. Natalia heard her pounding back up the stairs and a muffled curse as Olivia barked her shin on one of the risers.
The brunette readjusted the blanket and turned to the TV in time to see the blonde warrior utter her famous line. “Oh honey,” she rolled her eyes heavenward. “Ain't it the truth.” She snuggled in and found the show could not compete with her sleepiness and her eyes finally closed as she drifted off.
<>wavy lines—dreamscape time<>
Dorlisto looked over the ruins of the former village. “Where's that lava pit you want me to dump her in? I'm looking forward to ending this.”
Xelivia pointed. “It's on the other side around that bend. There's a rope bridge over it. We need to get her there.”
“Well, that should be easy enough. She's after the Natrielle. Where she goes, Blasca follows like a hound. That leaves me free to get behind her. Wish me luck -not that you would. Oh, and Xelivia - the next time we meet, I'll be a god.”
Natrielle frowned. “She's right, you know.”
Both turned and looked around as they heard the disembodied maniacal laughter echo through the canyon.
“MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! NAT-RI-ELLE! YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE!”
Natrielle turned to make her way to the ruins. “I'm the bait.” She swallowed hard. “If it means getting on that rope bridge....”
Xelivia put her hands on Natrielle's shoulders and stopped her forward movement. Then she wrapped her arms around the younger woman's neck and rested her chin on her head. “Sacrificing you is not part of the plan... not even close. And it's not just Blasca we need to get on that bridge; it's Dorlisto as well. If I'm right, they'll be so busy fighting one another that they won't notice me cutting the ropes.”
Natrielle covered Xelivia's hands with her own. “Let's do it.” She turned in her arms and gave Xelivia a kiss.
“Everything will be okay.” Xelivia cupped Natrielle's cheek and looked into her deep brown eyes. “Ready?” She waited for a nod. “Let's go then. Hurry.”
Blasca caught up with them just as they reached the bridge.
“There you are, Natrielle.”
Xena moved menacingly toward her. Blasca flicked a finger at Xelivia and a fireball emanated. “Uh... go away.” Xelivia, stunned, was knocked back several feet by the blast. Blasca turned to Natrielle. “Now, here we are at last... face-to-face. Do you fear me, Natrielle?”
The brunette dropped her staff and backed onto the bridge. “Yes.” She swallowed hard. “I don't wanna die.”
“Hmm. Well, at least you admit it. Strange, but a small part of me doesn't really want to kill you.” Blasca advanced on her, backing the bard further onto the bridge.
“You could go with it.”
“Oh, no, no, no, no. The bigger part of me does. Yes, I'm going to kill you. You took what was mine. I am the rightful heir to Coopelosa. I may not have been born of her blood but I worked and slaved beside her to make this company of amazons work and then you barge your way in, ingratiate yourself with the others and suddenly you think you get to be queen. I don't think so.” She paused for a second. “And now it's time for you to die. Oh, it'll be too easy to kill you as a god and not half as satisfying as doing it the old-fashioned way.” Blasca pulled a knife and advanced on Natrielle. “Tell Hades I'll be dropping by soon.”
Dorlisto made her way onto the bridge on the other side. Natrielle was now caught in the middle.
“Hey! Why don't you pick on someone more your equal? Actually, make that your superior.” Dorlisto smirked.
“She's mine. What do you want with her?”
“I don't want her. I want Xelivia. There is only room in this world for one alpha warrior and that's me. I have a deal with her; I get rid of you and I get the ambrosia to go with my immortality. You are just a pesky annoyance in my way.”
“I am a goddess, you insolent creature!” Blasca threw a fireball at Dorlisto which the blonde warrior absorbed with only a slight grimace.”
“What part of immortal didn't you understand, Red? By the way, is that your real hair color?” She turned to Natrielle. “Give me my ambrosia! Give it to me!”
Natrielle reflexively touched the belt pouch where the ambrosia was being held.
Dorlisto rushed past Natrielle, knocking her down in her haste to get to Blasca. Dorlisto swung and connected with Blasca's jaw. Blasca stumbled back a few steps. Dorlisto turned back and gestured with her hand. “Give me that!”
Blasca cracked her jaw back into place. “Ah, you've gotta go.”
“Natrielle, give it to me!”
Xelivia, who had finally come to, called out. “Natrielle, give it to her.”
Natrielle untied the belt and threw it at Dorlisto. The warrior promptly opened it and devoured the contents. When she looked back up again, her eyes were like chips of ice. “Here comes trouble.” She smirked and sent a fireball toward Blasca which rocked the bridge and sent Natrielle over the side.
“Xelivia!” Natrielle fought to hang onto the rope bridge.
“Hold on, Natrielle!” Xelivia looked around for something she could use. She found a thick lima bean vine.
“I can't hold on! Hurry! Just do it! Cut the rope!”
Blasca and Dorlisto continued fighting each other - hand to hand and fireball to fireball.
“Hold on!” Xelivia tied the vine around her waist.
“Do it! Xe, I can't hold on!”
“Natrielle, don't take your eyes off me!” Xelivia pulled her sword and swung down at the bridge support ropes instantly severing them. The goddesses lost their footing and fell into the lava.
Xe dropped the sword and dove over the side of the ravine snagging the falling bard. The vine finally reached its end with a jolt. But they were safe. Natrielle climbed her way up Xelivia's body and threw her arms around the warrior's neck.
“I got'cha! I got'cha!” Xelivia assured.
Giving her a dimpled grin, “And I got you.”
Natrielle crawled onto solid ground first followed by Xe who remarked, “With the bridge out, we'll have to take the long way out of here.” She tossed Natrielle her errant staff and then picked up her sword and sheathed it. “But it's all right; we have time now.”
“How long will it hold them?” Natrielle asked, looking down into the lava pit.
“For eternity, I hope.”
“I'll save you my warrior chums!” came a cry from behind them. They looked over in time to see a warrior brandishing a sword running toward them at full speed.
“Nat, look out.”
Natrielle instinctively knelt and swept her staff across, connecting with the approaching perceived threat, knocking him off balance and sending him barreling over the edge of the cliff and into the lava pit.
“Oh my - that was... that's....”
Xelivia made her way over to the side and looked down. “That's gonna hurt.”
They both got silly grins on their faces and then slapped high five.
“Y'know what they say Xe,” Natrielle broke out in a huge dimpled grin. “If you can't be with the one you want, lava the one you're with.”
Xelivia snorted. “Froxer always wanted to be a hunka, hunka burning... lava .”
Both tried desperately to reign in their laughter.
“ Lava will keep them together.”
More giggles ensued.
“You always hurt the one you lava .”
“ Lava to lava ya, bay-bee.”
They were both bent over in laughter when the Amazon cavalry arrived.
Ephiny and Solari skidded to a halt. Ephiny grabbed Natrielle by her arms. “Are you okay?”
“I'm fine, Eph.” She grinned at Xelivia. “All you need is lava .” More giggles.
Ephiny and Solari turned to each other, puzzled.
Xelivia bit her lip to contain her mirth. “We are going back to the village to help clean up and maybe rest up for a while. Is that okay?”
“Umm, sure, sure. The Queen's hut is ready and waiting.”
“Why do fools fall in lava ?” Natrielle leaned in and half whispered in Xelivia's ear.
“What?” said the Amazon Regent.
“Can't buy me lava .”
The Amazons watched as the two walked off, laughing and talking nonsense.
Solari raised her hand to halt Ephiny's question. “I don't know; maybe the stress finally got to them.”
“What are we going to do?”
“I think we should go back to the village, help clean-up and then when night falls, we should make a run for it.”
“What?” Ephiny exclaimed in surprise.
“Natrielle is Queen, right?”
“Yeah.” Ephiny said, happily.
“And she is planning on making you do the day-to-day stuff while she roams around with Xelivia, right?” Solari continued. “And she just gets to pop in whenever she feels like it.”
“Uh yeah.” Ephiny's brows knit; she wasn't so happy now.
“So how about we take a vacation first? Let her see what it's like to be Queen for real.”
“Ooh, I like the way you think. Where will we go? Mountains?”
“I was thinking south.”
“To the shore?”
“Yeah, maybe hire a zulu boat and just sail around for a half moon. Those two Amazons from the Banyan Keep tribe that came through a moon ago were talking about a place they had been to, remember? It's real Amazon friendly down south. They called it, ummm... Veniki Beach . So, whatcha say?”
Ephiny linked arms with Solari and started walking back to the village. “Calidor…”
<>wavy lines—reality time, but a little bit later<>
“Ahhhh... ow,” Liv cried in outrage and surprise. She rubbed the back of her head.
Natalia smoothed down the blonde hair that she upset with the head slap. “Don't think I don't know where your mind just was playing. That last episode put lecherous thoughts in your head.” Natalia pinched Olivia's thigh and then stood up. She stretched; her arms raised up high caused her sweatshirt to ride up a bit. Olivia took the opportunity to tickle her exposed belly. She giggled and slapped playfully at Olivia's hand.
“Heh,” Olivia replied. “I dunno... you with an identical twin. I was just thinking about all the possibilities.” She grinned.
“Oh, please. You couldn't handle two of me.”
“But I'd sure have fun trying.” She winked up at Natalia.
Natalia stepped forward and leaned down, her face inches from Olivia's. “Really, would you like to try....” She purred and watched Olivia swallow hard. “... some banana muffins and coffee?” Natalia closed the gap and quickly kissed Olivia's nose. Then she took off for the kitchen.
Olivia sat still for a second, just grinning goofily, and then took off after her. “Bananas, I'll give you bana....”
“Nahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” The brunette screamed as she felt the car go sliding out of control on the icy road. It skidded sideways and finally game to a rest with a sudden thud.
The woman pounded on the steering wheel. “Dammit!” She shut her eyes tightly and placed a hand over her racing heart in an effort to calm herself down. Her eyes opened again in a sudden panic when she heard metal shearing. She jumped back in her seat as a shadow of something headed for her windshield. She turned and quickly covered her eyes.
Not hearing the glass shatter she carefully looked through her fingers at a.... She peered closer. A swing? I hit a frickin' swing set?
The car's engine was still running, so she shifted into reverse but there was no traction to be had on the icy lawn. Her tires spun wildly. She slammed the shifter into park and shut the car off.
“Great, just great,” she muttered and looked skyward for a moment. Then she unbuckled her seat belt and turned to look out all the windows. Spying a faint light, she wiped a bit of fog off the door window and looked closer. House. She bit her lip in contemplation and then sighed. The brunette looked around the interior of the car for her purse, finally locating it on the floor of the passenger side. She grabbed the strap and pulled it to her. She blindly dug around in it for her cell phone and speed dialed a familiar number.
“Hey, it's me. I'm kinda....” She searched for the right word. “Stuck?” She listened for a moment. “It's snowing here and my car kinda.... You know me - I have enough trouble with dry roads. I sort of skidded off... no, I'm fine. I think the car might have a dent or two. But then that's what rental insurance is for, right?”
She listened to the panicked voice of her assistant on the other end. “No, Chelle, I'm fine. Really. The house that belongs to whatever I hit is only about a hundred yards away. There is a porch light. I'm going to go talk to them now.”
The woman opened the door and shivered at the gust of cold air. She quickly pulled her coat closed with her one free hand and stepped out. Her foot sunk into the deep white snow.
“Aw, crap!” That exclamation sent her assistant into another tizzy.
“No, I'm not hurt. My new suede boots are ruined though.” Another pause, then she muttered more to herself than anything. “Who in the hell invented this white stuff anyway?” She started off for the house and changed the subject of her phone conversation. “So how is everything going? Did you get my latest drawings to the? Good... good.” Quietly she added, “And is she...?” She closed her eyes to mask the pain when she heard the reply. “I see.” She continued to slog through the snow. “You know me - day late and a dollar short... story of my life.”
“Okay, look - I'm at the door. I'm going to knock. No need in ringing a bell this late. I'm guessing someone is home. Lights are on.” Her brows knitted. “What?” She shook her head. She knocked on the door and then turned back to look at the car. “You are such a smart ass,” she said into the phone just as the door opened.
“True, but I like to think its part of my charm. Do I know you?” Olivia asked with a cheeky grin.
The woman turned and screamed. “What the hell?” She dropped the phone.
Olivia shrieked, “Ohmigod!” She bent down at the same time the other woman did to reach for the errant phone. They stood back up together and stared at each other.
“What? Who? Where? How?” Olivia tilted her head and squinted hard. “How old are you?”
The other woman was taken aback by the last question but answered all of them. “My car skidded off the road - over there; I hit your swing set. Gina Brogno. I'm from Venice Beach , California .” She held out her hand for a handshake. And, ummm... twenty-nine,” she replied, deadpan.
“Me too,” Olivia claimed and grinned. She shook her hand.
They circled around each other like two warriors looking for each other's weaknesses. Their eyes scanned from head to toe and back again.
“Wow!” said simultaneously.
“Except for the....” She pointed to the other woman's hair.
The brunette reached a hand up and fingered her own dark locks. “I always wondered what I would look like with blonde highlights.”
Olivia flipped her hair back. “It works for me and....” She leaned close conspiratorially. “It covers the gray.” She smirked. “You?”
“I prefer to give other people gray hair,” she replied cheekily.
“Oh... you hit Emma's swing set. Are you okay?” Olivia gushed out when realization set in.
“I'm fine. The car has added a ding or two and I'll gladly pay for any damages to the property.”
Both turned as they heard a voice through the open front door.
“Olivia, who are you talking to?”
“We have a visitor, dear.” Olivia yelled back into the house. She gestured for Gina to enter.
They both stepped into the living room at about the time Natalia rounded the corner coming out of the kitchen. She was looking down drying her hands on a dish towel. “Honey, who is crazy enough to be out on a night like...?” She looked up and her eyes widened. “Dios mio!”
Gina's eyes showed her surprise as well. “Ani?”
Olivia's attention flew from Gina to Natalia and back again.
“I need to sit down.” Natalia fell gracelessly onto the couch. She looked over at Gina and shook her head in disbelief.
“Me too.” Gina replied and edged her way around a chair and gingerly sat. She couldn't believe her eyes.
“Ummm... me three but I'm not sure why.” Olivia sat but her attention was split between the two women. She expected a reaction from Natalia but couldn't understand Gina's.
Finally Natalia spoke. “Gina, right?” She was looking down at her hands and wringing them slightly.
“Umm, yeah, Gina Brogno.” She looked over at Olivia, nervously.
“Ummm... you aren't by any chance a priestess?”
Gina's brows knit as she contemplated that off the wall question. She looked at Olivia again and saw that she was biting her lip trying to tamp down her laughter. “No.”
"Well, see," Natalia stammered, "I... I know Olivia here is a princess." She finally looked up at Gina and sported a devilishly dimpled smile. Her eyes twinkled. "So that means...."
Olivia stood quickly and moved around the back of the couch. She braced herself and started laughing hysterically as she waited for the sure to be embarrassing follow-up question. There was no question, but her eyes flew open when she heard the next statement.
“You're the fun one.”
<.whew. that's better.>
Pairings that counted: Olivia/Natalia and Ephiny/Solari.
Disclaimer part 2: Olivia Spencer, Natalia Rivera, Blake Marler, Doris Wolfe, Frank Cooper, Francesca Spencer-Rivera, Ashlee Wolfe, Emma Spencer and Clarissa Marler all belong to Guiding Light and Telenext. Gina Brogno, Ani Martino and Michelle King all belong to Venice -The Series, Crystal Chappell/Kim Turrisi and Open Book Productions. Xena and Gabrielle belong to Missy Good. Okay, okay --Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Joxer, Minya, Hower, Velasca, Callisto, Ephiny and Solari belong to Rob Tapert and Universal. Aphrodite does not belong to anyone but her own gnarly self. Been There, Done That; A Day in the Life; The Quill Is Mightier; A Necessary Evil; and Warrior…Priestess…Tramp supplied some of the storyline and/or dialogue used in this story. I'm just sayin' - If you are going to borrow, then borrow da good stuff.
Author Note: Much thanks to my beta for the bitchin' voice adjustment on you know who. Oh, and the comma vacuuming. Oh, and fixing grammar... although, I'm not sure grammar-pa was too happy with that. <.g.>
Thanks for reading. Now go home... shoo!