Dean walked quietly through the house. It was empty. "Oh, god. Now I've done it," he whispered to himself as he opened the back door and proceeded down the stairs to the only place left that his wife could possibly be.
He walked to the beach, the sand leaving tiny scratch marks on his shoes. Bathed in a small pool of light was Miranda, her eyes fixed on the distant horizon. "You weren't inside." Dean remarked quietly. "Neither were you," came the response.
Damn, Dean thought, shaking his head. All of those were actual words. I'm totally screwed. He sat beside Miranda. "I had to go." "Why? Because you figurated that Voice's friend was your Voice?"
Dean's jaw dropped as she continued, "After all this time, you still thinkinate that you're the only one who's brainerdier than they seem?"
"Randa, I-" "And have you taken one minute to think about the fact that I might become a worrywartasaurus when you just boltinated like that? How rash that is?" "I'm trying to figure things out Miranda. I'm looking for answers. Doesn't it matter to you at all that some 'all-powerful' being is manipulating our lives?!" "NO, IT DOESN'T DEAN!! Not as long as I still end up loving you. You are everything I love and I don't really care how I came to be with you as long as I'm with you. And if you need to figure stuff out, maybe you should do it with the person you promised you'd figure stuff out with. Remember? Your wife?"
Dean stood agog at Miranda, feeling guilt wash over him. "No? FINE!"
Miranda turned angrily to walk away. He grabbed her. "Let go of me, Dean." She sobbed.
He pulled her close. "Randa-" "Let go." "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry…"
"You guys have a real nice house, Eustace." Ripp said excitedly. "Thanks." "And I get to stay over all night?"
Eustace made a face, "Yeah, dude. That's what 'spend the night' means. Haven't you ever slept over at someone's house before?"
"Not really, no. We-uh-we move around a lot. Anyway, I'm glad that I'm here, because otherwise I'd be home with Buck and the stupid babysitter-"
"I thought your brother kept you when your dad's outta town." "He does usually, but tonight he's hanging out a friend's house." "He's a teenager. I'll bet they're having the best time."
"So, uh, great movie, huh?" "Whatever." "Whatever."
"Whatever, we're going to have a better time than them. We're going to have the best time." "How's that?" "I dunno, but we're gonna have it."
"Lillith?" "Yes, my master?“ “ I am bored.” "What is your will?"
"Send out someone to fetch me a present.”
“It will be my pleasure, my master.”
"YOU SACRIFICED WHAT?!" Lucas shouted at the top of his lungs.
"It's not that big a deal." "Not that big a deal? This is our child we're talking about-"
"Exactly!" Stacie exclaimed. "Yes. What?" "We don't have a child, Luc. Therefore, we are talking about nothing. No harm, no foul. We just choose not to have children in this dimension."
Lucas' face softened, "Oh my God. You don't even know, do you? You've been too caught up in all of this to pay any attention. You've been sick every morning. You can't drink half a glass of water without going to the bathroom. I figured you were waiting for the right moment to tell me-"
"No, Luc. No way. It's just the dimensional shift from our realm to here. It takes time to get used to-"
"Stacie, how many times have I been sick since we got here?“ Lucas asked, trying to manage a half-smile.
The goddess paled. "No. I couldn't be-" But she knew that she was. The child growing inside her was well on its way to becoming a person. And Stacie knew that in her act of kindness to her humans that she had branded her own flesh and blood with the mark that stains every human existence: Mortality.
"What are we going to do?" " We will do nothing. Only I can speak with him on our behalf." "But-“ "You must go. Tell the others of my kind to get out while they can. I can't guarantee their safety while I'm gone and I will not have my friends' blood on my hands." Lucas swallowed, a look of resolve forming, "I will give them the message, but I am waiting for you."
"I am waiting for you." Stacie nodded, giving her love one last kiss before heading out the door.
"I hate when she sends us out like this. 'Bring me a present. Fetch me a virgin. Tonight I dine on the blood of kings.' What IS that? She's out her gourd, if you ask me."
The other vampire shuddered, "Well, I didn't ask you and I don't think you're so bright to be asking yourself. She's not some regional magistrate who can be questioned. She's something greater than that and I'm not going to be one to cross her." "Greater than Eleonora?" "I make no suggestions either way for fear that the wind may carry my blasphemies to one or the other." "You're a superstitious old fool."
"And you know nothing of the old ways."
"If you cared so much about the old ways you wouldn't be following around a demon in vamp's clothing."
Hereward grunted, "When I was made, our kind lived in shadow. We had eternal life, but at the cost of living in the light. Our only recompense was that humans lived for us. They lose themselves in our eyes and our charms. We would draw them to us. We would bed the women and slaughter the men. They were our prey and we could hunt them. And the hunt was good. Then one day, the great queen Eleonora decides upon truce. It is the "right" thing for us to do. It is the "decent" thing to do. It is fine for young vampires. For they have already all but integrated into human society. But I am well over four hundred years. I know what a human tastes like when he's been running for his life, when the blood becomes infused with the spirit of survival. Angelis allows that hunt to continue. She IS the old way."
"That's fair. Long winded, but fair. Hey, how bout that one? She’s hot." “She has more alcohol than blood in her veins. We were asked for a present, not a cocktail.” Robbie rolled his eyes, “Well, what do you suggest, a-hole?”
"I suggest a new venue of search."
"Reach out with your mind. Search for him." Drusilla growled in her frustration, "I'm trying , Eli." "You're not trying hard enough," Eli responded, patience waning. "There is no greater bond than that between vampire and sire. The commonality between you should make this easy-"
"IT MAKES IT HARDER, YOU ASS," she snapped, breaking her concentration. "I can feel him everywhere. Everywhere he's been in this room, upstairs, the coffins…it radiates him!! Last week, he touched my hair when I was crying. I feel his fingers when I try to find him-"
Eli felt his voice growing louder, "Well, you've gotta learn how to isolate it. Vamps gotta know how to track. Especially you. You gotta lot more to lose if you-”
“Hey, where you going?”
Get back in here! Dammit! MARCE!!!" Marcellus stepped out from just behind the men's restroom door. Eli began to fume, "She just-" "Yeah, I could 'ear."
"I thought tracking came instinctually." Marcellus grazed his teeth thoughtfully against his bottom lip, "Normally, it does. But she's…" he trailed off. "She's what? Weaker, more human due to her being a vessel?" "Jus' the opposite, I fink."
Eli paled a little at that, "She's stronger."
“ Can’t be sure, but I fink so. It usually takes decades to form that kind of bond wiv' your maker, or so I've 'eard. S’reason mos’ of us don’ stay wiv our maker too long at a time. Pretty soon, she'll be privy to my thoughts and emotions."
"Well, old friend. Here's hoping you ain't got nothing to hide."
"Yeah, 'ere's 'oping."
"Whatcha thinkinating, Jelly Dean?"
Dean stretched out from fingers to toes, giving a satisfied sigh. "Mostly, I'm thinking about how glad I am that we don't have neighbors. But also, I'm thinking how sometimes the worst plans have the best results. I'm lucky to be with you Miranda." Miranda giggled, taking a moment to place her head on Dean's chest and feel his heartbeat. "I wonder if everyone gets this."
"Gets what, my little awesomesauce?" "I wonder if every other-dimensiony colonizer gets to be with someone like we do." Dean fell silent.
He didn't know the answer. Did every transplant get some piece of hand-picked perfection served to them on a silver platter like he had? Or had he received the best end of any bargain ever dealt by fate? Did it really matter that this "Fate" had a name and a husband and a little house in the center of town? Shouldn’t he be comforted by the fact that there was some greater power in this vasty nothingness and that power somehow seemed to be on his side? So many questions. Only one answer.
"I love you." "I love you, too, my Jelly Dean."
No, Dean thought. He was the only person who had ever been this in love in the history of ever. Anyone else would have to deal with second place.
Cecil sat as straight as his broken body would let him at his kitchen table. It was humiliating sitting there as the woman behind him prepared his dinner. He was no invalid.
"Hope you like it." Emerald's voice chimed. "It does not smell like ramen."
Emerald smiled, "Ancient poor man's secret: Thirteen cent ramen plus a tablespoon of peanut butter and some spices equals…”
“ Spicy Takemizu Spaghetti! I used to make it in college. My boyfriend at the time would call it our 'ramen-tic' night in."
Cecil took a tentative bite, visibly surprised at the pleasant taste. "It is not unreminiscent to the flavors I experienced when touring the Orient with my gr-" He stopped suddenly. "You attended some form of finishing school, then?"
"I-uh-guess that's a bit of an overstatement," Emerald recanted. "It was my boyfriend who was in college. I lived at his apartment on campus. He studied while I picked up shifts at a bar in the Green District."
"Certainly your father must have disapproved of your living in such a manner." "Not much for him to say from Gothier Greens. He died when I was fifteen and my step mom kicked me out as soon as I was old enough."
Cecil pursed his lips, "It is appalling that no man in your family took upon the mantle of securing your upbringing. Had you been born to a family of my country, you would have-" "It don't matter here about that.”
“ Nobody wants to deal with a half-prober like me." She winced at her use of the slur. "Most people take one look at my green skin and black eyes and run the other way. I took care of myself and anybody else who came along for a long time. Now Nebs takes care of me."
Cecil gave a look. Emerald responded, "Don't make that face. He ain't all bad. I got food, a job, a place to sleep at night, and if sometimes Nebs gets a little…colorful, well, who am I to say no? He even got my face fixed so I didn't look so alien. He does that for a lot of the girls. He says guys like their aliens to look as close to human as possible."
Cecil fell silent. The implication was far too unseemly for a response. This existence was as far from home as he could be and it seemed to get farther with every passing moment. This was as unclean a place as anyone could be…and he had chosen it. "What about you, Roman?" Emerald burst into his thoughts, "What are you running from?" "I am not certain that I appreciate your implication. I run from nothing. I simply felt that travel would be beneficial to my daughter's constitution."
Emerald gave a gentle look, "Who are you talking to? I know as good as anybody that if you're dealing with Nebs, you're a last resort kind of guy. “
“ Why did you really come here?"
"Grandpapa, I hope you do not entertain any serious notion that Mama will be cured elsewhere. She is not even capable of noticing any difference in her surroundings. Surely you saw this for yourself on the numerous other occasions when we took her with us to-" "I remind you that you are not to speak of that, Max, and I will not brook any opposition. You remain; Cecilia accompanies me. And that is final."
"It is late. Perhaps you should begin your journey back to Sim City. I shall call for you a taxi."
"De, you've got to hurry up with the packing. We don't have much time." Orikes shouted up the stairs.
"She just wants you guys to be safe. She's sorry she couldn't come herself."
"It's fine. I just wish there was something we could do to help." "Me, too."
A flurry of items came crashing down the stairs and Ori gave an exasperated sigh before trotting up to see what had happened.
From the kitchen, Lucas spotted Ruby trying to make her way out of the door.
"I wouldn't recommend that." Ruby froze, "I have to say goodbye."
"It's Ruby, right?" Ruby nodded as Lucas continued, "You can't go anywhere. You guys have to be gone by dawn or-"
"-and we will. I'm going to meet them at the Etherian gates. I'll be there way before the deadline. But I have to do this."
Lucas nodded and watched as she ran out of the door. As he stood there, he couldn't help but wonder if this was going to change everything.
The three teens had been watching movies for quite a few hours before Brom cracked. He was not usually an angry guy, but he had grown tired from watching his friends at odds.
"You know what? I'm sick of this. You're both my friends and you need to get over this-" "You're saying I should take being called a prober?!" Cassandra hissed. "I didn't call you that!"
Brom shook his head, "NO, Cass! I'm not saying that you should take anything! I am saying that you might want to consider that you don't know any kind of context or what Tank's dealing with, not that I know either, but still-"
He tossed his keys in his pocket. "I'm running to the store to get some snacks. When I get back, could you guys please suck less?"
Brom slammed the door on his way out, leaving Tank and Cass to sit in an uncomfortable silence. Apparently this was going to be a long night.
Emerald's taxi dropped her off a few blocks shy of the Green District. It was no big surprise to her. Lots of cabbies wouldn't drive into that part of town.
Em didn't care much anyway. The night air would do her good and Neb's apartment was well within walking distance.
She walked up the stairs and into Neb's place.
It was always Neb's place and never hers though she had lived there for years. "You're home early," Emerald remarked, a touch of nervous energy in her voice. "Yeah, you never showed tonight for your shift. I got worried."
Nebs never spoke that softly to anyone and never in public. This was the only place anyone heard a soft word from Nebula Wallace and the only someone that was there with him was Emerald. She began to walk towards the bathroom to get herself a shower. "You ain't gonna say anything?"
Emerald stopped, "It wasn't my fault. You should tell your boys not to rough the guy up so much. He ain't used to that kinda manhandling-"
"Maybe what instead you'd like to manhandle him a bit-" "It ain't like that-" Nebs scoffed, "Oh, it ain't like? It ain't like you didn't get all sparked up for some reject with a fancy accent?"
"No, it ain't like that. And why should you even care, Nebs? You clearly got a lot going on with Apple-"
"Come on, Emmi. That ain't fair. You know I'm not a one woman guy and never have been. But you are my right hand girl. Apple don't mean nothing to me." Emerald's face hardened, "Yeah? Is that what you told her before you took her to bed? She's just a kid, Nebs." "Please. She's almost 21. That's older than you were when we first-"
"I know that." Emerald recalled what it was like to meet Nebula for the first time. He was so convincing. She remembered what it was like to feel his fingers trace the length of her neck before his lips followed. There was an electricity in his touch that made him irresistible. But that was a long time ago.
"What are you going to do, Nebs? She's gonna have a baby." Nebs looked away, sparking a familiar twinge of fear.
"She is gonna have a baby, right? You didn't do anyt-"
"No. God, no. We're discussing options." Nebs replied. "I mean, she's probably going to have the baby. There's always adoption. I guess I shoulda used protection, but she was real convincing."
Emerald sighed, "Nebs, I really don't want to know-" "You used to be real convincing, too." Nebs slithered over to her. "I'm not in the mood-" Emerald started. "I am."
"Nebs-" she continued. "It's been so long-" "Nebs-" The warning in her voice increased. "and you smell so good."
"Nebula-" she gasped finally as his eyes locked with hers. "God, you're the only person who says my name like that." Nebs whispered as he began to take his fingers down her neck.
And there it was, the reason for all of Emerald's suffering. The one thing that she couldn’t resist or run away from: Electricity.
She melted into his arms as he lowered her onto the bed. She could hate herself tomorrow.
For now, she could pretend that all of their problems were imaginary, couldn't she? She felt Nebs' teeth lightly graze her neck as he kissed her. Her eyes rolled back. Yes, she could pretend there was nothing to worry about as long as she kept the monster at bay. Right now, she could almost pretend almost anything
"Come on, Uncle Derrial. Just give us one more hour?"
Derri rolled his eyes. The only time Eustace ever called him by his proper name was when he wanted something. "No, Eustace. It's late and you and Ripp need to get to bed. You may hang out quietly in your room, but I won't have you running around the-"
"But nobody else is even home!! Evie's at-"
"Who could that be this late?" Derrial asked aloud. He approached the door, expecting to see his brother, who often had little enough sense and quite enough drink to not think about what time he called or dropped by… DING…DONG
… but he would be mistaken. "Derri-"
Derri's face fell into a confused mess of emotion, "Ruby, I told you that I needed time-" "Time's something I don't have right now. Please, can we talk? In private?"
Derrial nodded absently and gestured at the boys, "Eustace, go on to your room. You can take care of yourself while I talk to Ms. Ruby out back for awhile, okay?" "Okay, Uncle Green." Eustace said as his uncle exited with the redhead. "Well, this is perfect!"
"What is?" Ripp asked excitedly. "That's Uncle Green's girlfriend. He won't be back in here for HOURS! We can do whatever we want."
"Anything?" "Yeah, anything."
Ripp's face broadened into a mischievous grin, "I've got an idea."
… "So, you're not going to say anything?" "So, you're not going to say anything?" "Fine." "Fine." Tank shifted in his seat. Silence was a commodity that he was used to having in spades, but somehow it seemed to be running out quicker than usual.
He turned to her, "I know you heard something you didn't like the other day." "Is that an apology?" "No, it's not. It's a statement of fact." Cassandra's eyes flashed to his, "You called me a prober-" "No, I most certainly did not. In fact, I've never said that word. My father did. And you wouldn't have heard it if you hadn't been eavesdropping." Cass opened her mouth and closed it again.
Tank continued, "To be honest, I don't know how I feel about aliens. I know that some of what my dad says is military propaganda. I also know that some of it might be based in fact. I know you think that makes me some kind of racist, but it's the truth. The only alien I've ever gotten a chance to know is you and the only thing I know about you is that you spend all your time looking for reasons to be pissed off and I seem to be reason numero uno. So, excuse me if I haven't gotten the best impression of your people."
"I-I don't look for reasons to be pissed off."
"Well, it sure as hell seems that way."
"You don't know what it's like to live in this skin." Tanner pointed to his camouflage pants, "Yeah, and neither do you."
The two fell silent for a long time, an understanding forming between them. It would never be easy for Tank to be her friend or for Cass to understand why he had to be so aloof, but for a moment they were at peace. They continued to watch the movie on the muted television
For some reason, Billy Crystal was running after Meg Ryan down the empty streets of the city. Sound would not have improved the film. Whatever was happening was something utterly illogical. The truth was that not every pair got conveniently happy endings…
… but one could always hope. Derrial avoided Ruby's eyes as they walked into the church. There was no way he was going to make this easy on her. "So, what do you want to tell me?" "I'm leaving." Ruby said quickly. "Oh." "It's not my choice, but it's important that I leave as soon as possible. I'll be gone by morning."
"And you're telling me this why?" Ruby winced at Derri's pricking words, "Because I needed you to know that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I lied to you, that I let things get this far. I don't have time to make amends, so I'm making time to tell you that." Derri looked away, his face hard. "Well, you've said your peace."
"No, I haven't. I still love you. And I'm not sure I ever won't. I just thought you should know." Derri couldn’t watch as Ruby walked away. She had barely turned around before he spoke again. "It's not fair that I love you." Derri started, his voice wavering. "Since I was twenty, I've done nothing without thinking about someone else first. I've devoted myself to everyone but me. You are the only thing I've ever wanted for myself. And now, you're leaving."
"I'm sorry." Ruby replied, gently wrapping her arms around his waist. "Don't go. Please." The desperation in his voice increased. "I can't stay. It would put all of us in danger."
"Then marry me right now." "Derri-"
"Don't think that I don't understand. I get that you probably have dozens of guys in dozens of 'verses, but I'm the one that loves you here. I'm never going to want anybody like I want you, Ruby. And I need you to know that wherever you are, whoever you're with, I'm still yours…even if you're never completely mine. What do you say?”
“Marry me, Ruby?"
All through the night I'll be awake and I'll be with you All through the night This precious time when time is new
Oh, all through the night today Knowing that we feel the same without saying
We have no past we wont reach back Keep with me forward all through the night And once we start, the meter clicks And it goes running all through the night Until it ends there is no end
All through the night Stray cat is crying so stray cat sings back
All through the night They have forgotten what by day they lack
Oh under those white street lamps
There is a little chance they may see
We have no past we wont reach back Keep with me forward all through the night And once we start the meter clicks And it goes running all through the night
Until it ends there is no end
Oh the sleep in your eyes is enough
Let me be there let me stay there awhile
“It’s hardly a honeymoon suite, but I’ve kept the old parsonage up for years. I hope it’s okay-” “It’s beautiful.”
Ruby turned to him in the humble upstairs of the old church, “Derrial, you know this doesn’t change anything. I’ll still be gone tomorrow.”
“Then we’ll have to make the most of tonight.”
We have no past we wont reach back Keep with me forward all through the night
And once we start the meter clicks And it goes running all through the night
Until it ends
There is no end…
"This is going to be so awesome, Ripp! I've never been to a playground at night before." "Oh, yeah, it's awesome. I come here sometimes after Tank goes to sleep."
"Hey, guess what? No waiting in lines for the merry-go-round!"
End Chapter 28 >>>
Howdy, folks! I know it’s been a long while since I last posted a chapter. As it turns out, working constantly has been quite the eater of my time!! Luckily, as I have finished my latest run of Much Ado About Nothing, I also have gotten the opportunity to finish writing the chapter that has been in my brain for months now. I hope that you enjoyed it. As always, I’d like to thank the simselves and their creations that appear in Whedonberry, specifically Orikes, De, Ruby Blue, and Cecil (on loan from Professor Butters’ Squeaky Clean Legacy.) Until next time, Happy Simming!!