“Are you sure about this, Sweetie?” Angela asked as she and Cameron took a seat beside Bones in the food court.
Bones looked at her with a frown on her face. “Of course I'm sure. Angela, I thought you'd be glad about this.”
“Oh I am, Sweetie – you don't know how much. It just took me a little by surprise, that's all.”
“Me too,” Cameron offered just as they were joined by their impromptu companions. “Good morning,” she greeted as the women of NCIS took their seats at the table. They returned the salutation and everyone tucked into their food for a few minutes before Kate decided to take the initiative.
“We appreciated the invitation this morning.”
“Well, Angela has been after me to ‘loosen up', and I had a good time singing with Ziva last night, so....”
“Either way,” Abby cut in, “we're glad you asked.”
“Um... excuse me,” a lightly accented voiced interrupted. “I'm sorry to intrude, but would you mind if we took the two chairs on the end of the table here? It's fairly crowded in here and you're at least familiar looking faces.”
“Sure,” Angela offered before anyone else could speak. “Please join us.”
“Thanks. I'm not sure with everything going on that we were ever introduced during the conference - I'm Kate... this is Emma, by the way.” Introductions were made around the table.
“I thought the two of you were absolutely brill last night,” Emma commented. Bones and Ziva exchanged grins.
“It was... fun,” Ziva commented without cracking a smile.
“Oh, c'mon Ziva; you enjoyed yourself,” Kate said with a sly grin.
“I admit nothing,” causing smiles to ripple around the table.
“Well, I thought the whole thing was outstanding. I'd sit through being a murder suspect again just for that,” from Angela.
“Except next time, we just turn the forensics experts loose to start with,” Bones said wryly.
“I'd vote for there to be no next time,” Scribbs spoke up. “At least so far as the whole murder thing goes. The rest was fantastic, and I certainly wouldn't mind another trip to Disney World,” added with a genuine smile. “That's the best!”
“Speaking of - what are we going to do today?” Cameron asked, glancing around.
“I'd like to go to Epcot,” Abby replied instantly. “Although Sea World's a good choice too. Or maybe....” She looked around the table. “What do you guys think?” directing her question at Ash and Scribbs.
“Um... dunno that we should have an opinion on where you all are going,” Scribbs said after a moment of stunned silence. Abby blinked.
“Why not? Aren't you going to join us? Oh sure... why not? It'll be fun!”
And before they knew what had hit them, it was all arranged – the going all-together part anyway. The where was still up for debate when the CSI crew entered the food court just a few minutes later.
“You're sure?” Catherine asked as they made their way through the maze that was the food court's seating area towards the registers. Wendy nodded as she handed the cashier her room key to pay for breakfast.
“As sure as we can be without DNA testing. It makes sense, anyway.” She crossed the threshold and waited for Sara and Catherine to join her. “I invited them to breakfast this morning.”
Catherine's brows went into her hairline. “Will they be able to find us in all this?” as they stepped outside to find a table that overlooked the small lake.
Wendy chuckled. “I think they already have,” motioning to the couple who was waving them over. “C'mon... I wanna introduce you to my sister and her partner.”
They made their way over to the table and Wendy performed the introductions before they all resumed their seats. It was a little awkward for a few minutes as they each tried to find something to break the silence. Then Sara jumped in with both feet.
“We could do a DNA test if you wanted... I mean, just to make things official.”
Catherine snorted. “Sara,” she said dryly. “Look at them,” motioning to Nikki and Wendy who were sporting identical blushes. “I think it's pretty official.” She saw Sara's shoulder's slump and narrowed her eyes. “This is about testing that new field kit of yours isn't it?”
Sara shrugged but kept her eyes on her plate. “Figured we could kill two birds with one stone – kind of a win/win.”
“I think it's a great idea, actually,” Nora piped up. “It would give us irrefutable proof to show to Arthur when we introduce Wendy to him.”
“Intro...” Wendy sputtered. “Wait... WHAT??” snapping her head around to look at Nora.
Nikki chuckled and covered Wendy's hand. “Sugar, that's one reason we want you to come visit us in NOLA. You need to meet Daddy.”
“Meet Da... holy shit! I hadn't thought about... shit,” she muttered again, causing light laughter to run around the table. She jumped when she felt an arm land on her shoulder, then looked up into Claire's compassionate eyes.
“What are you doing to this poor woman? I heard her squeak when I stepped out the door.”
“Long story,” Catherine replied. “Would you like to join us?”
Claire let her glance encompass everyone and nodded. “If you're sure I won't be intruding.”
“Not at all,” Nora assured her, seeing Nikki nod her head in agreement. She looked over the patio area. “Where's the rest of your group?” Claire laughed.
“Jill finally got her voice back last night, so she also got a date. I haven't seen her since the talent show ended. The other two I'm not as sure about. I'm sure I'll hear from them eventually,” shaking her cell phone before placing it on the table in front of her. “Now tell me what caused you to flush such an interesting a shade of eggplant.”
Not even the noise of a bunch of boisterous DEBS and their significant others headed out for Epcot could distract them from their discussion.
“Who's got the passes?” Max asked as they crossed the foyer area of the lobby headed towards the front parking lot.
“I do,” Scud replied, pulling his wallet from his pocket. “I've been the only one able to use them til today, remember?” holding Max's eyes until she shrugged.
“Whatever,” she answered, taking her card from him without quite snatching it out of his hand. He rolled his eyes. “It is just way too weird not to be wearing plaid,” motioning to the atypical shorts and t-shirts she, Janet and Dom were wearing. Amy narrowed her eyes at the outfit.
“Max, you're not carrying, are you?” biting her bottom lip when Max glared at her. “MAX! You can't go around Disney World carrying a gun. It's *Disney World*!”
“And your point?” said dryly.
“My point is you can't carry a gun around Disney World. Pretty sure those two lovely detectives who were asking questions all weekend would be more than happy to come out here *again* and explain to you *exactly* why you can't carry a gun here – right before they took it away from you.”
Max glared. “Nobody touches my gun.”
“Then I suggest you go put it away,” Janet spouted. “I mean if you want to.” Max held her eyes for another minute before turning on her heel and back the way she'd come.
Dom checked her watch and huffed. “I have a date, so if you'll excuse me....” heading out the door before anyone else could make an objection.
“Okay, so...” Lucy said, clapping her hands together and giving a sly smile. “We can scoot out of here with no one the wiser, right?” she asked, her eyes twinkling.
“What? I'm just saying....”
“All right, all right – Jesus! We'll wait.” She cut her eyes at Amy. “You're taking all the fun out of this ya know.”
“S'okay,” Amy said with a grin. “I'll make it up to you later.”
“Oh will you two get a room already?” Max complained as she came around the corner to catch them in an embrace. “Well, c'mon already. We're running behind already and I wanna ride Test Track. So let's go, people! Move it!” snatching the keys out of Scud's hands and heading out the door.
“Hey! Hey, waitaminute....” he called, clambering after her and pulling Janet along with him.
Lucy and Amy just watched their antics, exchanging grins and enjoying the hug they'd never broken, despite Max's caustic words. Then the door slid open and Max stuck her head in again. “Will you two hurry the hell up?” rolling her eyes and dramatically flopping her arms as she turned back towards the car. Lucy and Amy just smirked and loosened their embrace until they were holding hands, then they followed Max out to the car, not noticing Melinda Warner and her family followed out behind them.
“Okay, so whose idea was it to have tear-away clothes?” Serena asked Liz and Tracey as they rode the bus towards the Hollywood Studios. Kelly tentatively raised her hand. Serena's brows jumped into her hairline. “Excuse me?? Really?”
Kelly glared. “Yes, really,” her tentativeness lost in the belief that she wasn't smart enough to think of something like that. “When Tracey backed herself into the proverbial corner, I volunteered to help, but honestly, I can't dance if the steps are laid out for me. Jud... Liz overheard us and offered to help, but only if we kept it a secret. So....” Kelly shrugged.
“So it was pretty clever,” Serena confessed. “I enjoyed it a lot.”
“I thought the whole night was a hoot,” Liz said.
“Yeah, but I gotta tell you – I'm glad I don't have to keep up with that Emma kid. I have a feeling she keeps her moms on their toes.” The rest chuckled and nodded their agreement to Tracey's words.
“I want to know how Barbara did that mentalist thing. That was uncanny.” This from Kelly.
“Maybe she could tell us where the rest of our little entourage disappeared to this morning,” Serena commented. Tracey just snorted. “What?” in an aggrieved tone.
“Oh honey... do you *really* think we'll see Cabot and her detective or Carmichael and Novak after that performance last night?? And Doc Warner was headed out to the Magic Kingdom with her family this morning.”
“All right... fair enough,” Serena said, turning the shade of a pomegranate. She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “I forgot about that.”
“Been a while, has it?” Tracey teased.
“I'm not gonna answer that,” Serena growled.
Liz bumped her shoulder. “If it makes you feel better, I'd forgotten about it too until Tracey mentioned it,” giving Tracey a look before she could offer a retort. Before anyone else could make another comment, she looked around the bus and discovered several faces she recognized.
The bus came to a stop and slowly they departed and headed for the gates. “So,” Liz said, causing three dark heads to whip around in her direction before they gave her tentative smiles. “Are any of you trying American Idol today?” chuckling when three heads shook vehemently.
“Are you two?” Jordan asked, pointing at Liz and Tracey.
“Heaven forbid!” Tracey exclaimed. “Once of that was more than enough for me, thank you. I prefer to limit my appearances to a courtroom.”
“Me too,” Mac agreed, “though I'm pretty sure they'd be jerking me off the stage with a hook if I even thought about trying to perform.”
“That bad?” Diana asked.
Mac snorted. “Some people should never be anything other than an audience member. I accepted a long time ago I was one of those people.”
“Me too,” Kelly concurred.
“We all have to be good at something,” Mac smirked. They walked through the turnstiles and grabbed a map. Serena just kept on walking, and the rest followed as a matter of course.
“Where are we headed?” Jordan asked.
“Toy Story Mania,” Serena said. “Fast passes there first, then we can go ride Rockin' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror.”
“You sound like a woman with a plan.”
“Best way to get things done,” Serena replied with a smile.
“I'm not sure this is the best way to get this done, Nat,” Tootie offered as they walked up Main Street. “It's not that I don't like her, but....”
“But she hasn't been one of us for our whole lives?” Natalie asked with a wan smile. “That's one of the things that makes her perfect for this, Tootie. She's an award-winning journalist....”
“So are you!!” said with a hint of angry confusion. “Nat, you've been doing this since before she was born. I don't understand why you think you need a kid like Cindy Thomas to help you write your own story.”
“For that reason exactly, Tootie. I'm too close to this and it's very likely I'd screw this up by making it too personal. Cindy's not gonna write it *for* me – we're collaborating. She'll help keep me on track. This story is too important for me to do less than the best I can for it.”
“And you think collaborating with Cindy Thomas will make it the best it can be.”
“I really do.”
Tootie sighed. “All right. I do still get to proof the whole thing, right?”
Natalie grinned. “Absolutely. That hasn't changed in twenty-five years. I'm not starting now. Now come on. I wanna go ride Space Mountain before the line gets too long.”
“Are you sure about this Cindy?” Lindsay asked as they made their way towards Big Thunder Mountain. They were going to meet the rest of their party for lunch, but they had the morning to themselves to play. “It's a big commitment.”
“It's a huge commitment,” Cindy agreed, “but I want to do it. I *need* to do it, Lindsay. It's important.” She paused and cracked open the water bottle Lindsay handed her and took a deep draught. “You heard the story.”
Lindsay nodded. “I did, and you're right... it *is* important. I'm just not sure I understand why she wants YOU to help her tell it.” Seeing storm clouds darken brown eyes to almost black, Lindsay stumbled on. “Not that you're not fantastic at your job – I mean, you are... I KNOW you are. But so is she. So why does Natalie Green need you to help her do something she's been doing since you were in diapers?”
Cindy held Lindsay's eyes - not seeing condescension or mockery, but sincere confusion. She took a deep breath. “She needs me to keep her honest... kinda like the club does for each other sometimes.”
“For me, you mean,” Lindsay said without blinking. Cindy smiled.
“Usually, yes... but not always.”
“Fair enough,” Lindsay finally breathed as they got into line and started wending their way uphill. “Do you think I could read it as well? Just for curiosity's sake?”
Cindy blinked. “We can ask; the worst thing she can do is say no. But I don't think she will. You were there when she told the story last night.” She took Lindsay's hand in hers and tugged on it lightly. “Now c'mon, Inspector. There's fun to be had around here before lunch, and I for one don't intend to miss out on anything.”
“I'm so glad you're here, Cass,” Janet said as they waited together for Sam to ride Splash Mountain. She'd really been looking forward to it, and Janet and Cassandra assured her they were happy to wait for her to do so. So they now sat on a bench near the ride's exit, listening to the trains roll by periodically and people watching. They had both been highly entertained so far.
“So am I, Mom. This place is... why haven't we been here before?”
“That's a good question, honey. I guess saving the world every week kinda got in the way before.”
Cassie snorted. “Yeah... I can see where that could screw up your plans.”
“I don't think that's gonna be a problem for us any more, though,” Janet confided, watching another couple emerge soaking wet from the ride. Then their conversation got her attention when they stopped right beside them to try and dry off a little.
“Delusional much?” the brunette asked sarcastically. “C'mon... there is no way that's a hidden Mickey. I've been coming here for years – I would have noticed it before now.”
“The nice cast member confirmed it, and you know he wouldn't lie about it. I mean, really… why would he? There's no reason to.”
“Sure there is – dead brain cells. Acting happy all the time kills them exponentially.” She cocked an eyebrow when the blonde woman glared at her. “Besides, have you looked in the mirror?? He thought you were cute and agreeing with you meant he got to see your dimples again.”
Blue eyes narrowed at her. “Oh no you didn't.”
The brunette snorted. “Sure I did.”
The blonde held the darker woman's gaze for another long moment before she shrugged. “It doesn't matter. I told you so. I was right, and I am awesome.”
“No... you were lucky.”
“And if you want to be lucky again in this lifetime....”
“I hate you.”
“No you don't.” A beat. “Say it.”
“Say it,” the blonde asked in a wheedling tone of voice.
The brunette huffed mightily and stuffed the wet towel into the backpack she'd been carrying. “Fine – you were right.”
“You were awesome,” she mumbled.
“Yep,” the blonde agreed as they walked away from the bench. “But not as awesome as I'm gonna be later,” tucking her hand in the crook of the other woman's elbow before they moved out of sight. Cassandra and Janet exchanged glances before bursting into laughter.
“All righty then,” Janet said once they got themselves under control. “That was pretty darn funny. Actually, the whole day has been a lot of fun so far, and we just got here.”
“Yeah,” Cass agreed. “I'm glad you invited me along.”
“If we'd even been thinking, we'd have planned it all ahead of time. It's just... it's still all so new for us. But we'll do better. We just need more practice at being a real family again. We wanna be ready by the time your little one makes an appearance.”
There was silence for a moment, then green eyes met brown and held them. “Are you giving up the Air Force?” Cassandra asked bluntly. Janet blinked in shock and felt her jaw drop before she snapped her mouth closed.
“How did you...?” She shook her head. “What makes you say that?”
“A lot of little things,” Cassandra stated, “which we can talk about later,” motioning to a soaking wet Sam who was headed their way. “But I want you to know that I think this baby,” covering her belly protectively, “is already pretty lucky. Its grandmothers are amazing women and the rest of the family is pretty incredible too.”
Sam arrived right about then and was astonished when Janet turned into her despite her waterlogged state. She looked at Cass with eyebrows raised into her hairline. “You made your mother cry... at Disney World?”
Janet slapped Sam's belly gently. “They're happy tears, baby.” Then she opened her eyes and pulled her head back, frowning up at Sam. “You're all wet.”
“Yeah – they do call it SPLASH Mountain for a reason. Now c'mon you two. Let's go find something we can all do together.”
“Dad! Dad!! DAD!!!” Brooke finally raised her voice loud enough that Sam took her hand and pulled them over into a tiny alcove off of Main Street where she'd be able to hear Mike without feeling the need to yell back to be heard. Then she realized that Brooke was simply trying to shut Mike up to get a word in edgewise. Sam took the phone from Brooke before she could protest and brought it to her lips.
“MIKE!” she said without putting the phone to her ear to hear whatever he was going on about. “Be quiet and let Brooke talk,” she commanded and handed the phone back to Brooke. Brooke stared at it and Sam for a long minute before lifting the now silent device back to her ear.
“Yes, Dad... we're fine. The murder has already been solved and.... No. I mean not at all. Um hmm,” holding out her hand to study the ring that graced her left ring finger. “Other than that, um....” Brooke bit her lip and Sam wondered what Mike was saying. Then Brooke's eyes met hers and her expression softened. “No... no. Yes, I'm sure. I love her.”
Sam captured Brooke's hand in her own and lifted it to her lips. Brooke opened her hand to allow her palm to cradle Sam's cheek, pleased when she nuzzled into the touch.
“Listen Dad, we're at the Magic Kingdom, so we're gonna go have some fun now,” clearing her throat when her voice started to rise when Sam began to nibble at the center of her hand. “We can talk about this later, but nothing except marriage is gonna change the fact that we're engaged to one another. Try to be happy for us... please?” sighing before she ended the call.
“Is my phone gonna ring now?” Sam asked sadly, taking Brooke's hand in hers and leading her from the alcove back into the flow of Main Street once more. Brooke shook her head.
“I think Mom will talk to him first... *then* she'll talk to you. I think he's actually more upset that we didn't talk to them *before* it hit YouTube, but only time will tell.” Brooke shrugged and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “However, I don't want to worry about them today. I don't want to worry about anything. I wanna spend the day having fun with my gorgeous fiancée.”
Sam grinned. “I love the sound of that. I love you.”
Brooke couldn't help the smile that split her face at Sam's words and expression. “Not as much as I love you,” knowing it would get a playful response back and laughing when Sam's brows went into her hairline.
“Do you really want to get into THAT debate, McQueen? Remember, I'm the writer here.”
“Yes, but I'm the lawyer. I can draw it up iron clad.”
Sam snorted. “Guess we're pretty evenly matched.” She jerked her head. “You wanna ride Pirates of the Caribbean with me?”
Brooke smiled. “Love too.”
“Are you sure about this, Xena?” Olivia asked as they made their way into the castle. Emma was between them, eyes darting everywhere as she took in all the activity around them. “I mean....”
“Olivia, if you'd feel more comfortable staying with us today, or even the three of you going off by yourselves, that's perfectly okay,” Gabrielle said from just behind them. “We can arrange to have a Disney Ambassador escort you to ensure you get the VIP treatment that is part of Emma's prize.”
Xena flashed a badge and the cast member nodded her through and in a moment they had all entered the elevator. A swipe of the card Xena still held and the doors closed and it started to move up.
“We just thought you and Natalia might appreciate a little more time to yourselves to honeymoon,” Xena said as the elevator doors opened into the suite. Emma let go of Olivia's hand and pushed her forward when she seemed frozen in place. In reflex, Olivia reached for Natalia's hand and they walked off the elevator into the center of the room and simply stood still, gawking at the accommodations around them. Neither of them had ever seen anything like this.
Emma dropped Xena's hand and crossed the threshold into the room. Xena and Gabrielle stayed in the elevator watching the tableau.
“Do you like it, Mommy? Mama?”
Simultaneously, Olivia and Natalia turned and Natalia opened her arms for Emma to jump into. Then Olivia embraced them both. “We love it, Jellybean, but not as much as we love you,” Olivia said with a tickle, causing Emma to laugh. Natalia leaned forward and brushed a kiss over Emma's cheek.
“This is fabulous, Sweetie. Are you sure you don't want to stay here with us?” Emma clapped her hands over her ears.
“Mushy stuff!!” she yelled, then squealed when both Olivia and Natalia tickled her again. Xena and Gabrielle just snickered.
After a minute of giggles and laughter, things settled down again. “Now Bean,” Olivia said seriously, motioning Natalia to put Emma down and dropping to one knee to bring them to eye level. “What do you want to do? Do you want Natalia and me to go with you or would you rather go with Xena and Gabrielle?”
Emma looked between her parents. “Would it hurt your feelings if I said I'd like to go with them?”
Olivia swallowed and shook her head. “Not at all, Bean.”
“Awesome!” she exclaimed, pumping her fist in victory and causing chuckles to ripple around the room. Emma hugged Olivia, then Natalia and kissed them both. “Have a nice honeymoon, you guys,” she wished them as she ran back towards the elevator. Gabrielle stepped off just as Emma reached her and Xena and she simply nodded her head. Xena held out her hand and Emma took it without compunction while they waited for Gabrielle.
“Naturally, you can go out into the park today if you want, though once you get a good look around the room I doubt you're going to want to leave. The restaurant downstairs will provide your meals today unless you request otherwise, and they'll be waiting for your order – so you can have what you want... within reason, of course,” grinning at their flummoxed expressions. “Oh... um, we'll bring Emma by to say goodnight before we leave the park – we'll let you know when we'll be by so you can let us know if that works for you or not. And you have our numbers if anything comes up and visa versa.” Gabrielle paused and bit her lip. “Did I forget anything?”
“Yes!” Emma said from the elevator, jumping up and down in place just a little bit. “We need to go before we miss the Princesses!”
Everyone laughed and Gabrielle turned back to the elevator, only to be stopped by a hand on her arm before she could move towards it. She looked at Natalia who squeezed once before she released her hold.
“Thank you, Gabrielle... for everything.”
Gabrielle nodded and grinned at the two of them. “It's our pleasure, Natalia. We expect this to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Olivia slipped an arm around Natalia's waist as Gabrielle got back onto the elevator, gratified when Natalia naturally leaned into her. She smiled. “It already is, Gabrielle,” she assured them as the doors closed. Then Xena, Gabrielle and Emma headed out into the Magic Kingdom in search of some fairy tale princesses of their own.
“So what's the wire for?” Dinah asked as they crossed the hub area and turned towards Tomorrowland.
“Tinkerbell,” Helena stated succinctly, though she was literally vibrating with excitement. “Will you two hurry up? I wanna go ride Space Mountain and play Buzz Lightyear.”
Dinah smirked. “What are you – five?” watching Helena's eyes flash gold before they narrowed at her. “We're getting there.”
“Girls,” Barbara cut in before Helena could snipe back. “Do you think we could get a couple pictures?” motioning to the photographer waiting patiently just off the beaten path. Helena and Dinah exchanged surprised glances, then shrugged together and followed Barbara's lead.
They exchanged greetings with Jo and Blair and were introduced to Jo's daughter, then the photographer was positioning them for pictures. Jo, Blair and Jamie headed across the hub towards Liberty Square and the Haunted Mansion.
“I can't believe we've never been here before,” Jamie said, her eyes wide as she tried not to miss anything around her.
“Your dad and I never really talked about it,” Jo confessed as they walked. “We never seemed to have much time off together and when we did....” She shrugged. “There's always been so much to do at home that the subject never really came up.”
Jamie nodded. She knew that much was true. The farthest her family had ever traveled together had been to Atlantic City, and both her parents had seemed content with that. She turned to Blair. “What about you, Mother? Have you ever been here before?”
Blair shook her head. “No. It's one of the few places in the world I hadn't visited. First it was because it was a family place, and my family... well,” shrugging her shoulders, then leaning into the embrace when Jo wrapped a solid arm around them. She straightened and smiled. “Then of course, I was simply too cool and too worldly for something as childish as Disney.”
Jamie's green eyes widened. “And now?”
Blair took the arm from around her shoulders and clasped Jo's hand in hers instead. “Now, I'm at a place in my life where I can appreciate the wonder and beauty found here.”
Jo snickered. “Don't let her fool ya, kiddo. When we heard about this conference being held here, Blair couldn't get us signed up quick enough. She was like a kid in a candy store with a credit card without a limit.”
“Oh... turn blue, Jo!” Blair said, dropping the hand she held and picking up her pace to move away from Jo. Jo rolled her eyes and stepped a little livelier to catch up and Jamie just rolled her eyes. Some things just never changed.
Jo caught up with Blair as they reached the line entrance and reached for her hand, only to have Blair cross her arms over her chest. Unfazed, she slid her hands to Blair's hips and stepped into her personal space, pressing her front to Blair's back.
“Jo!” Blair hissed. “You're making a spectacle of us,” trying to pull away and realizing almost immediately her struggling brought more attention to them than Jo's initial actions. She froze.
“Nah, Princess. It's still early. There's nobody much here yet to care, and those that do don't know us from Adam's housecat. Besides, it's not like we'll ever see most of these people again in our lives anyway, so why should we care?”
Blair leaned her head back just enough to catch Jo's eyes. “You really think I'm some sort of kid?”
“What?? Aw, hell no! I think your eagerness to come here was a lot like a kid's would be. And that's a good thing. The world could use more of that sort of enthusiasm and vision.”
“All right, you two,” Jamie growled though she couldn't hide the twinkle in her eyes. “Can you try to control the mushy stuff for a while? Young, impressionable mind here and I wanna have some fun!” pushing them forward just enough to get them moving into the line. Blair and Jo traded looks.
“Why did we ask her to come here with us again?”
“Beats the hell out of me, but it shouldn't be too late to send her back. Pretty sure she came with a warranty.”
Jamie glared. “No refunds. Now move it before I hafta get tough with both a you broads,” doing a credible ‘tough guy' imitation.
The three looked at one another for another long moment before they couldn't hold their laughter any longer. Then Jamie took Blair's hand and tugged. Blair caught Jo's hand and pulled her along as well.
“Besides,” Blair teased as they passed through the turnstiles. “I know you were as happy to be coming here as I was. I saw you surfing the net.”
Jo glowered, though her eyes still twinkled in merriment. “Move it, Blondie. There's fun to be had.”
Blair just grinned and held tighter to the hand she held as they passed into the cool darkness of the Haunted Mansion.
“So was it worth it?” Casey asked Abbie as they got into line to have a photograph taken with Pluto. The indolent smile Abbie gave was its own answer, but Abbie took a deep breath to reply.
“Oh yeah,” she said as they took their places on either side of the silent Disney dog. When the photographer was done snapping the picture, Casey accepted the card they offered her and they moved on to wait for a turn with Minnie Mouse. However,” Abbie continued unexpectedly, “next time remind me to keep my mouth shut around my cousin. I love Lindsay, but....”
“But I'd rather keep that private between us,” Casey offered with a squeeze to Abbie's bicep. Abbie's grin was brilliant.
“Yeah... me too.”
Meanwhile, Olivia and Alex finished their picture with Goofy and were moving on to the next character. “Can I ask you something?” Olivia asked as she and Alex found the line to have a picture made with Daisy Duck. Alex pulled her sunglasses down just enough for Olivia to see the incredulous look in her eyes before shoving them back into place. Given what they shared, Olivia had to smile. “Why did you dance with Abbie last night?”
Alex smiled. “I wondered when you were going to get around to that question,” she admitted. “I'm a little surprised it took as long as it did.”
Now it was Olivia's turn to give Alex a skeptical glance. She snorted. “You're kidding, right?”
Alex grinned. “Maybe a little,” chuckling when Olivia's eyes narrowed. The attendant motioned them forward and they stood on either side of Daisy and smiled for the camera. Then they spotted Casey and Abbie in Minnie's line and headed that way.
“So...?” Olivia prodded when Alex didn't answer immediately.
“Hmm...? Oh... um, when I first came to the DA's office, Abbie was the first person to reach out to me... to be a friend. We actually went out a few times after work and after one particularly bad day, we ended up at this Moroccan place for dinner. We had just enough alcohol in us that we decided to play along when the dancer invited us up on stage.”
Olivia shook her head. “That tells me how you learned to belly dance. It doesn't tell me why you decided to dance with Abbie last night.”
Alex chuckled. “Actually, that's *why* we decided to learn to belly dance – we never wanted to be that embarrassed again. Liv, we were BAD. Of course being slightly drunk and completely uncoordinated didn't help, although it would have made for some funny video.”
Olivia grinned at the visual Alex's words had given her. “Okay,” waving at Casey and Abbie who gestured towards the Emporium. “So why?”
Alex shrugged. “She asked.”
“Really? That's it?”
“So if I asked....”
Alex grinned. “Only if it's a private dance,” she replied and moved forward to hug Minnie before tucking herself into one side while Olivia took the other. Then they accepted their photo card from the photographer and moved off to find Casey and Abbie.
“This was a good idea, cuz,” Lindsay said as their waiter left their table after taking their orders. “I kinda like being in the John Paul Jones room.”
Abbie snickered. “That's because you were a Navy man in another life.”
Lindsay narrowed her eyes, but before she could comment, Alex cut in. “So what are we going to do after this?”
Casey gave her a grateful glance and picked up the ball. “We have fast passes for Splash Mountain , but I'd also like to see the Country Bear Jamboree.”
“And don't forget we wanna see Emma in the parade,” Cindy reminded them, getting affirmative nods from around the table.
“Did any of you get tickets to the dessert party over in Tomorrowland?” Olivia asked. The waiter brought their drinks and disappeared almost as quickly.
“I think most of our group that came here is going to be there,” Cindy answered. “I know Natalie mentioned it.”
Olivia nodded. “So did Jo. Maybe we can get a big group picture together,” waving her photo pass around before dropping it back into her pocket and leaning back so their server could put her food down in front of her.
“You're really enjoying that, aren't you?” Lindsay asked without a hint of mockery in her tone. Olivia nodded.
“Yeah... I really am. I've never been here before... never had this kind of opportunity. I wanna make sure I remember every single minute.”
Lindsay smiled. “I don't think this trip is something any of us will *ever* forget.”
“Me either,” Cindy agreed. “Now eat up. We still have rides to ride and a parade to watch.”
“Wow, Emma! You look like a fairy tale princess,” Gabrielle said as Emma exited the boutique. “Are you ready for your ride down Main Street ?” grinning when Emma rapidly nodded her head before remembering the piece that had been clipped into her own hair. Without warning, first Gabrielle and then Xena found themselves the recipient of a crushing hug.
“This has just been the best day ever!” she said enthusiastically.
“C'mon,” Xena said, extending her hand. “Day's not over with yet.”
“She looks like she's having a great time,” Detective Sergeant Teresa Bornlan commented to Detective Shana Kennian as Emma rode down the street in the parade. Kennian cut blue eyes towards brown without actually moving her head.
“Everyone here looks like they are having a great time... well, except for the parents of small children. They look rather miserable,” nodding her head in the direction of a bedraggled looking family. “I believe they need to return home at this time.”
Bornlan chuckled. “Or at least back to the hotel.” She took a deep breath. “This is nice though.”
Kennian turned and pinned Bornlan with her eyes. “Yes, but why are we here?”
Teresa let her brows go into her hairline. “Why not? It's a beautiful day; we have the day off and we've been working here all weekend. Why shouldn't we have a little fun here instead? It is ‘the happiest place on earth' after all.”
“You do not think the women we dealt with all weekend might feel we are stalking them for some reason?”
“I sincerely doubt they'll even notice we're here, Shana. Besides, even if they do see us, why would they care? Case closed, remember? They're no longer suspects and we're no longer investigating.” She watched as Kennian processed her words, and knew the moment she accepted them as truth. “Right,” taking her partner by the elbow. “So let's go have some fun,” directing them farther up Main Street . “Where to first?” Bornlan asked as they disappeared into the crowd.
Diana snapped her phone shut and looked around at the women she had spent a surprisingly fun day with. “I hate to break up a good party,” she apologized, “but I've got to go.”
“Problem?” Mac asked, concerned immediately. Diana smiled and shook her head.
“Not like you're thinking. Gabrielle asked me to come over to the Magic Kingdom. Apparently there's something going on she doesn't want me to miss.” The rest exchanged looks and then Mac took Diana's elbow on one side and Jordan linked arms with her on the other.
“So what are we waiting for?” Jordan asked as they started walking towards the front gate of the Studios. “Let's go.”
Diana laughed, but didn't shrug them off. “You do realize it may not be anything that interesting.” Six pairs of eyes cut her way in a patented look of disbelief and she held up her hands in surrender. “All right,” she conceded. “Just don't say I didn't warn you.”
“Helena, where's Dinah?” Barbara asked as she kept her hands folded in her lap trying desperately not to clench them together. Helena had asked to steer her chair and Barbara had graciously acceded control, though it was becoming increasingly difficult not to restrain her impulse to demand to know what was going on.
“Hmm? Oh... she went ahead to get us a good place to watch the fireworks from. I told her there was something I needed to show you first.”
A frown creased Barbara's forehead. “I thought our seats were reserved... you know, with the dessert party and all?”
“Oh, they are,” Helena granted with a nod, glad Barbara's attention was focused on her and not on their surroundings. “But there are still some places there that the view is better from than others.” Barbara nodded thoughtfully as she slowly turned her head back to the front. Only then did she notice the actual environment they had somehow managed to find themselves in.
But Helena didn't speak. She simply gave Barbara a wicked smile and pressed the button for the elevator.
Gabrielle was busy checking in the women of their group as they arrived. Thankfully, they had reserved the whole area in Tomorrowland Terrace, which was a blessing as more women arrived with Diana than she had expected. Diana gave her an apologetic look and shrugged her shoulders. Gabrielle just smiled and motioned them in. The space was filling up fast and she was glad they'd been able to accommodate all the extras that had decided to join them last minute.
Emma spotted Dinah off to one side near the front and looked around, scowling when she realized Barbara and Helena weren't with her. Before she could decide the best way to approach Dinah, Olivia Benson stopped beside her and dropped down to one knee. Emma wasn't scared exactly, but she waited for Olivia to speak.
“You're Emma, right?” getting a confirming nod. “My name's Olivia and I'm a police officer,” offering her badge. “I heard you tell your moms' story at the talent show last night.”
Emma smiled. “You have the same name as my mommy,” studying the badge and shield intently before handing it back to Olivia.
“Well, I kinda like it,” Olivia confessed with a smile. “Um, listen... I was wondering something. Would you mind taking a picture with me and my friends over there?” pointing to a rather large group of women. “I'm going to make a memory book of my trip here, and I'm trying to include as many new friends as I've met here that I can.”
Emma held her gaze for a long moment, and Olivia just let her look. Satisfied, Emma nodded. “You have good eyes,” she finally replied. “But I gotta ask Gabrielle first. Is that okay?”
Olivia nodded and stood. “I think that's an excellent idea.”
“Gabrielle,” Emma called as they approached, coaxing Gabrielle around to greet them. “This is my new friend Olivia – she's a police officer. She wants to do a group picture for her memory book and she wants me to be in it with them. Can I? Please?”
Gabrielle contemplated Olivia for a long moment, then nodded her head. “I'll go you one better,” gesturing to the Disney photographer that had been assigned to Emma for the day. “How about we have Arturo take the pictures for you? Then you can be in them as well, Detective.”
“Thanks,” was all Olivia said, but it was enough. Then they started herding people together to get the pictures done before Tinkerbell arrived to start the fireworks.
Cassandra looked around at all the women gathered on the terrace as she rejoined them. It took a moment to find her mom and Sam, but when she did, the sight of them made her smile. They had found something here – something they had been missing ever since Janet had returned from the dead, as it were. She made her way over to them and took a seat.
“I'm glad you came here,” she said sincerely. “It looks like this is a good group of women to call friends.”
Sam and Janet looked around and nodded. “It is. And it's the beginning of a new start for us.”
Cassie nodded, not surprised by the statement. “Well, I for one am looking forward to the next chapter in all our lives. Going by this, it should still be interesting.”
Sam laughed. “Isn't it always?”
Dinah stood at the rail with her back turned to the castle as she searched the people lining up for the fireworks show that was due to start in the next few minutes. She knew Helena and Barbara knew where to meet her, but the way things looked, they weren't going to make it before the show started. She wished, not for the first time, that their comms worked here... especially since Barbara wasn't picking up her cell.
“Gabrielle?” Gabrielle moved closer at Dinah's beckoning and bent her head down to hear over the noise that seemed to be growing as the hour approached. “Have you heard from Barbara or Helena? They were supposed to meet me here in time for the fireworks, but....” She trailed off. “And I can't reach either of them on their cell.”
Gabrielle glanced at her watch to hide the twinkle in her eyes. “I'm sure they'll be here directly,” she responded, just as the lights dimmed and the announcer's voice boomed over the PA system. The women crowded closer so the could get a better look at Tinkerbell as she flew from the castle to start the fireworks.
Only this time, instead of being in green, Tinkerbell was in black leather. Dinah's eyes narrowed.
“Oh. No. She. Didn't.” watching the figure slide down the wire to the roof of the building just above and behind them. “Barbara's gonna kill her,” pushing her way out of the crowd to see if she could find a way to the roof.
“Barbara's gonna kill who, D?” Helena asked as she swooped in beside her from where she'd obviously been standing leaning next to a support pole. Dinah blinked and looked at her; then the roof; then Helena – then she shook her head.
“How'd you do that?” pointing to the wire. “And where's Barbara?”
Helena grinned. “Relax, Kid. I didn't do anything. And Barbara should be here any minute.”
“Wait... you mean that was... you weren't... how'd you *do* that??”
Helena laughed. “Many skills, D. I have many skills.”
“And a friend named Xena who knows people,” Gabrielle added with a chuckle. Helena crossed her arms and frowned, though she couldn't keep the twinkle out of her eyes.
“Well yeah... there's that too.”
Xena caught Barbara around the waist and eased her to a stop before she could hit the wall. Unexpectedly, Barbara threw her arms around Xena's neck and hugged her for all she was worth. Xena just held her and let her cry even as she removed the line attaching Barbara to the wire.
The moment didn't last more than a few seconds, and Barbara pulled away and wiped her eyes with embarrassment. “I'm sorry. That was....” stopping when Xena shook her head.
“Did you enjoy it?” The expression on Barbara's face was answer enough. “Then make sure you tell Helena. This was her idea; I just made the arrangements.” Xena lifted Barbara up just a little higher to give her room to work off the harness she had on.
“Why did she let me think otherwise?”
“You'll have to ask her, but I'm glad she thought to do it for you.”
“So am I... for so many reasons. This has been the perfect end to a wonderful day.”
Xena smiled. “I think it's a perfect end to any number of things, and it'll be something I'll never forget,” she added as she set Barbara in her chair and motioned them to the edge of the roof to watch the rest of the fireworks show going on around them.
“I don't think any of us will, Xena. This has been the trip of a lifetime.”
“It's certainly has.”
“Computer – end holodeck simulation,” Xena called out and watched as the Magic Kingdom faded around her and became the yellow and black grid she was familiar with. Blue eyes met green, recognizing the residual sadness she found there. Before it could cement into something identifiable, her attention was drawn to the others in the room.
Teresa Bornlan became B'Elanna Torres and Shana Kennian resumed the attributes of Seven of Nine. Katie O'Donnell shifted until she was Kathryn Janeway. B'Elanna's brows flew into her ridges and she exchanged glances with Seven to find her as flummoxed by the admiral's presence as she was.
“Admiral?? You were playing with us?” Janeway cracked a smile and pushed off the wall she was leaning against.
“Sure. You didn't think I was gonna let the two of you have all the fun, did you?” She smirked. “I was your murderer, Detective.”
Seven looked between the two of them stoically, then asked deadpan, “Should we arrest her?”
Kathryn and B'Elanna looked at her for a long moment before noting the wicked twinkle in blue eyes sparkling back at them. They burst into laughter, then turned their attention back to Xena and Gabrielle... only to realize there was someone else on the holodeck with them.
“Emma?” B'Elanna asked, recognizing the child from their adventure. “Um... how....? I mean, who...?” She looked between Xena and Gabrielle. “How'd she get here? Who is she?” knowing that while the admiral could certainly enter the holodeck while a program was in progress, there was no way an unauthorized human child could access the facility... much less get into an on-going simulation without setting off a number of safeguards and alarms.
“Oh, Sweet Cheeks,” Emma cut in before B'Elanna could trip over her tongue anymore than she already had. “Take a chill pill and relax, babe. It's all good.” Emma shimmered causing B'Elanna, Seven and Kathryn to blink. When they opened their eyes, in Emma's place stood a voluptuous, scantily-clad blonde woman.
Kathryn opened her mouth to call for security, but a motion from Xena kept her still. Instead, she cocked an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest, obviously waiting for an answer to her unspoken question. Gabrielle stepped forward.
“Kate, B'Elanna, Seven – allow me to present Aphrodite. Dite, these are some of our friends from the twenty-fourth century.”
Dite gazed at the women who were staring at her with expressions of disbelief. Then she turned back to Gabrielle. “I think there's something radically wrong with these gnarly babes. They look, you know... totally gobsmacked.”
Kathryn cleared her throat. “It's not everyday you meet the Goddess of Love.” She paused while Dite preened. “You really are the Goddess of Love aren't you?”
“Live and in the flesh.”
“And lots of flesh,” B'Elanna muttered, garnering her a glare from Seven and a scowl from Kathryn. “What?” she shrugged. “It's true.”
“Yeah,” Dite agreed without blinking an eye. “But it's luscious flesh,” giving her a grin and causing a flush of red to color B'Elanna's features. “And you,” she said, turning to Xena who had rolled her eyes behind Dite's back. “Not a word.”
Xena held up her hands in surrender, but couldn't keep the smile from crossing her face. Gabrielle shook her head – the two of them had been going at each other like that forever. She tucked herself under Xena's arm, relishing the strength wrapping around her naturally.
“Behave... both of you,” she admonished. She looked back at the three women who *had* become dear friends in this time and place. “Did you enjoy yourselves?”
“It was fabulous, Gabrielle. I'd like to do it again some time.”
“It's all there, Admiral... whenever you'd like to go again.”
“And will you be able to join us?”
Xena and Gabrielle exchanged glances, then they turned back to Kathryn. “Not for a little while. I think we're gonna go home for a bit.”
“I can understand that... we all can,” seeing B'Elanna and Seven nod their agreement. “Be safe in your travels, and let us know when you return.”
“We will, Kate – thank you.”
They turned at the holodeck doors and waved, then stepped across the threshold with Aphrodite right behind them. Kathryn, B'Elanna and Seven blinked at one another, and with a grin and a shake of their heads followed them out... only to discover all three of them were nowhere to be seen.
“Do you think we will see them again?” Seven asked as they made their way down the corridor. “They have been very good friends. I would not like to lose them as such.”
“I think we'll see Xena and Gabrielle again,” Kathryn stated unequivocally. “It may be a little while, but they'll be back. Aphrodite on the other hand...?” She shrugged.
“Do you really think that was the Goddess of Love?” B'Elanna asked skeptically.
Kathryn stared at her as she thought about the question. Just before B'Elanna felt the need to squirm, Kathryn sighed and nodded.
“I really do. After all, stranger things have happened.”
“So I totally let Diana and her Amazon babes know you two are heading her way. Make sure you give Barbara a hug from me, right? I miss those guys,” Aphrodite said somewhat seriously.
“So come with us, Dite. You know you're always welcome there.” Dite shook her curly blonde hair.
“Nah... this is something you need right now, ya know? I'll be around when something bitchin' happens. Til then, it's all good,” slipping out of sight before either of them could comment and leaving a trail of rose petals in her wake.
Xena extended her hand to Gabrielle who took it without hesitation. “Home, my Queen?”
“I'm already home, love,” squeezing the hand she held and smiling as the light in Xena's eyes grew fierce. “But let's go visit the Amazons.”
Bad Girls: Shed Productions, created by Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus
Birds of Prey: Tollin/Robbins Production, The WB, created by Laeta Kalogridis AND DC Comics
Bones: Josephson Entertainment/Far Field Productions/20th Century Fox Television. FOX, created by Hart Hansen
CSI: Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS, created by Anthony Zuiker
Charlie's Angels: Spelling/Goldberg Productions,ABC, created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
Cold Case: Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS, created by Meredith Stiehm
Criminal Minds: The Mark Gordon Company/ABC-Touchstone/CBS, CBS, created by Jeff Davis
Crossing Jordan: Tailwind Productions/NBC-Universal, NBC, created by Tim Kring
DEBS: Andrea Sperling Productions, Samuel Goldwyn Films, created by Angela Robinson
Devil Wears Prada: Wendy Finerman/Karen Rosenfelt, 20th Century Fox, created by Lauren Weisberger
Facts of Life: TAT/Embassy Television, NBC, created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon
Grey's Anatomy: ShondaLand Productions, ABC, created by Shonda Rhimes
Guiding Light: P&G/Telenext Media, CBS, created by Irna Phillips
In Plain Sight: NBCU Productions, USA Network, created by David Maples and Paul Stupin
JAG: Donald P. Bellisario Productions, NBC/CBS, created by Donald P. Bellisario
Law & Order (all): NBC-Universal/Wolf Productions, NBC, created by Dick Wolf
Loving Annabelle: Katherine Brooks/Gregory Carroll, Wolfe Releasing, created by Katherine Brooks
Murder in Suburbia: Carlton Television, ITV, created by Nick Collins
NCIS: Belisarius Productions, CBS, created by Donald Bellisario and Don McGill
Nikki and Nora: UPN Network (Pilot), created by Nancylee Myatt
Popular: Murphy/Matthews Production, The WB, created by Ryan Murphy and Gina Matthews
Stargate: Sony Pictures Television,Showtime/SciFi, created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner
Voyager: Paramount Television, UPN, created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor
Women's Murder Club: 20th Century Fox Television, ABC, created by Elizabeth Craft, Sarah Fain and James Patterson
Wonder Woman: Warner Brothers Productions, ABC/CBS, created by William Moulton Marston AND DC Comics
X-Files: Ten Thirteen Productions/20 th Century Fox Television, FOX, created by Chris Carter
XWP: Pacific Renaissance Pictures Ltd/Universal, syndication, created by John Schulian, Rob Tapert and RJ Stewart
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