“That’s a first. I guess you’re Mr. Fitzhugh?”
“P lease, call m e Vaughn. Mr. Fitzhugh’s…actually, not m y dad, or m y grandfather, since I don’t think either of them lik es
being called that any m ore than I do. Anyway, com e on in.”
“So what do you have to tell m e about this internship?”
Vaughn grinned widely. “Y eah, about that…it’s not really an internship.”
Saffron had suspected that all along, and only arched an eyebrow in response. “Yeah, doesn’t surprise m e. No one in
their right m ind wants to recruit me for office work . Plus, you guys didn’t go by the standard procedure at all. It was a
“But you cam e! And it is a real job, it’s just the k ind that needs som e k ind of front because we can’t just broadcast it to
everyone in Sierra Plains.”
Behind Vaughn, a door opened, and Saffron glanced that way to see a blonde wom an who rem inded her a little of Azula
walk out of it. “She ’s here? Great. Thank s for getting the door, uncle.”
Vaughn m ade a face. “O k ay, Lina, that was cute when you were three, but now it’s weird.”
Selina sm irk ed. “Y ou just m ak e it way too easy.”
“Saffron, I’d lik e you to m eet m y colleague, Selina Morgan.”
She reached for the older wom an’s outstretched hand, not bothering to hide her am usem ent at the ex change. “So do I
call you Selina, or Mrs. Morgan?”
“Selina’s fine. It’s great to m eet you. I’m going to be doing your interview.” Selina turned to Vaughn. “Thank s, Vaughn,
I’ll tak e it from here. Don’t give m e that look .”
He pouted, then laughed. “Fine, I’ll behave. See you around, Saffron.”
“So what ex actly does this ‘job’ entail?” Saffron ask ed, as soon as he had gone.
“Q uite a few things we think will be right up your alley, actually. Let’s go sit down and talk about it.”
The two of them adjourned to the porch, where Selina laid out the situation for Saffron in m uch the sam e way that
Marina had presented it to her, finishing the ex planation off with a form al offer for Saffron to join them .
“I k now. It was a lot for m e to tak e in, too, and I had all of m aybe three m inutes to m ak e m y decision. W e’re going to
give you m ore tim e than that, obviously, but this inform ation can’t leave this house. Don’t tell anyone what I’ve just told
“I won’t, I prom ise. I do really lik e the idea and am leaning towards accepting, but I’ll have to think about it…oh wait.”
“W hat is it?”
“If I accepted, would I have to live here?”
“Yes, you’d m ove in with us.”
“Then I can’t. I’m sorry. I’m the heir, so I have to m ove hom e after I graduate.”
Selina ’s gaze shifted away, her m outh twisting in a slight grim ace. “Y es, about that…there’s som ething else I should
probably tell you before you leave.”
Billy’s final days as a teen were good ones, for the m ost part. Now that she had built up her business em pire and was no
longer feeling as young as she used to, Mya had begun look ing into hiring a m anager to do som e of the a dm inistrative
work . W hile she was doing that, she did not ask Harry or Billy to com e to the shops with her, and Billy used the tim e
wisely, m ak ing up for all the afternoons that he had had to work for her.
Harry readily gave him perm ission to have his cousins and Snow over, and, as teenagers do, they spent the daylight
hours having a fine old tim e m ak ing as m uch noise as possible.
As it got dark , and Harry ex pressed the desire for som e quiet tim e, they turned off the radio and am bled upstairs to
have som e quiet fun.
“Are the three of you all going to live together at SPU?” Billy ask ed his cousins. R ik u’s o nly reply was a look of abject
horror, which m ade him laugh.
“Nah, Mom did som e fancy calculations and told us it would be cheaper if we split up than to get our own new house,”
Cid said im portantly. “Mik ey a nd Phil have space for one m ore, so R ik u’s going there, and Barbara and W oody got a
great deal but they need four people for it, so that’s where Kirby and I are going to live.”
“Aunt Suzy always think s econom ically,” Billy agreed. “W hat about you, Snow?”
She lifted a shoulder. “I’ll live in the dorm s for a while and then join our fam ily’s Greek House. Saffy’s a lready there.”
“Mak es sense. I’ll be living with m y sisters, too.”
“I ’ll bet you a hundred Sim oleons that Azula’s turned your house into a cupcak e and you won’t be able to live there.”
“Shut up, R ik u.”
“I hope we’ll still see you a lot,” Kirby said to Snow, over the guys’ bick ering.
Snow grinned. “O f course! W e ’re within easy driving distance of you guys and I can catch a ride with Saffy.”
“Awesom e. I love these guys, but som etim es I just need another girl around to stay sane,” the brunette lam ented.
Snow nodded her agreem ent and the two burst into giggles just as footsteps sounded on the stairs.
“Billy?” At that one word, Billy cringed. It was easy to tell that Mya was Not Happy. “It’s alm ost ten. W hat are you all
doing up here?”
“W e ’re just hanging out,” he said, trying his best not to be defensive about it. That would get him nowhere. “Dad said it
was ok ay.”
“I could hear you clearly downstairs,” she replied. “That is m uch too loud for this late. Your father needs his rest.”
“But he said it was ok ay.”
“And now I’m telling you that you need to lower your volum e.”
“Don’t worry about it, Billy,” Kirby said gently. “W e should get hom e anyway.”
He nodded, hanging his head a bit. “Sorry, guys.”
“It’s cool, dude,” Cid insisted. “W e’ll see you tom orrow.”
W hen they had all gone, Mya took a seat on the sofa and m otioned her son over. “Billy, when I tell you that you need
to be quieter, I ex pect you to do it without protesting. It is late, and when you have your friends over you need to watch
the tim e and tone it down when other people want to go to bed.”
“Dad would have said if we were bothering him ,” Billy insisted, “and besides, it’s not m y fault that you can hear
everything in this house.”
“It is your fault when you aren’t being considerate. You k now your father is sick and needs his rest. W hat were you
think ing, inviting people over? W hat if they contracted what he has?”
“Aunt Suzy didn’t want us at her place because she’s writing a lesson plan for her class, and Dad said we could com e
“W hat possessed you to even ask ?”
Billy could not help glaring at her now. “Maybe I wanted to hang out with m y friends because I’m always at the shops, so
I never see them ?”
“You see them all the tim e, Billy.”
“No, I don’t. W hen they com e see m e at work it’s not the sam e. I can’t talk to them long because I have to talk to
“W ell, I’m sorry, but it doesn’t change the fact that I ask ed you to quiet down and instead of sim ply saying ‘O k ay,
Mom ,’ you fought m e on it, and in front of your friends, too. How do you think that m ak es m e feel? Don’t m ak e m e the
He gritted his teeth. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Billy Israel Fitzhugh, stop arguing with m e and apologize.”
His refusal visibly shock ed her, and even Billy could not believe that he had really said it. “Ex cuse m e?” she said.
“I said no.”
“Young m an, you will be grounded until you go to college unless I hear an apology right this instant.”
“Fine!” he yelled, causing Mya to recoil. “I’m not sorry and I’m not going to apologize just to get out of being grounded
for a day! You never think about m y feelings and you never want to adm it that you’re wrong. I’m sick of it!”
“How dare you talk to m e that--Billy! Don’t walk away when I’m talk ing to you!”
He ignored her and k ept going.
The nex t thing he k new, he was at his cousins’ front door. Som ewhere along the way, the anger had slowly begun to
ebb, leaving behind a rawness that throbbed in his heart. He rang the bell, not caring about the late hour or what his
aunt would say when she saw him there.
Kirby was the one to answer the door. “Billy? W hat’re you doing here?”
His throat was so tight that he couldn’t answer, and he felt tears welling up in his eyes even as he tried not to let them
out. I can’t cry. That won’t fix anything.
She pulled him into a fierce hug without questioning further. “It’ll be ok ay, Billy,” she m urm ured, soothingly, as he clung
W hen Billy arrived at SPU, he was greeted enthusiastically by his two sisters. “I have to go to class pretty--right now,
actually,” Elle said, apologetically, “but I’m really glad you’re here, and I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
“Sure, Ellie,” Billy replied, and she flashed him a quick grin before she ran off.
“W ant som e cereal, Billy boy?” Azula a sk ed. “I think we ’ve got enough m ilk to cover you.”
“C ereal sounds good.”
O nce they had begun to eat, Billy told Azula a bout what had happened between him and Mya, and to his relief, she was
nothing but sym pathetic. “I’m so sorry, Billy.”
“I didn’t m ean to yell at her or anything, but I just…”
“No, I com pletely understand. Mom just k ills m e som etim es with how utterly clueless she is about stuff. You were right.
She barely even think s about how we all feel and it’s im possible to deal with.”
“I don’t want to go back there.”
“Yeah, I don’t either.”
Billy sm iled for the first tim e since the argum ent at hearing this. “I k new you’d understand, Zuzu. I couldn’t talk to Ellie
about this. She’d just defend Mom . She doesn’t get it at all.”
Azula sighed. “Ellie ’s…com plicated, Billy. I really honestly don’t think she lik es it any m ore than we do. She just has a
harder tim e showing it.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah, I do. She m ight be the m ost…docile, of the three of us, but I think that puts even m ore pressure on her. She was
m iserable when she first got here.”
“I guess you’d k now better than m e. She’s closer to you.”
Azula sm irk ed. “I have trained her well.” He chuck led, and her ex pression relax ed into a fond grin. “W e both love you to
pieces, Billy boy.”
“Yeah, I love you guys, too.”
“Listen, I’ve still got two m ore years before I graduate and I think we should just have fun and be cool now that we’re all
together away from hom e. You, m y brother, are going to love college. I will personally see to that.”
“I ’m counting on it, Zuzu.”
By the tim e Snow stopped by to see how he was settling in, Billy felt m uch better about the whole thing and greeted her
with enthusiasm . “O h, good, you’re ok ay,” she said, relieved, when he let her up for air.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied, with a sm ile. “W ant to see the house?”
After Billy m oved in, and his friends becam e fix tures around the house, it becam e harder for his sisters to get som e
tim e to them selves. Before then, they had been accustom ed to m ak ing visits elsewhere if they needed com pany and
k eeping their own house for quiet tim e. Neither really wanted to tell Billy to k nock it off, though, so they tried to com e up
with other solutions.
Elle decided, that first sem ester, that she would go to the student union and see if there was a com puter she could use
to work on her term paper for a few hours. W hen she announced this, Azula offered to walk with her, and they set off
im m ediately, leaving Billy to blast the radio as loud as he wanted.
“Are you going to com e in and hang out for a while?” Elle ask ed, when they got there.
“Nah, I think I’ll tak e a walk . I haven’t seen this part of the university yet. If I don’t com e back before you’re done,
don’t wait for m e. I’ll m eet you at hom e.”
“O k ay, have fun!” The younger girl duck ed inside, and Azula rounded the corner and continued walk ing.
Look ing around, she im m ediately felt deeply uncom fortable about being there and quick ened her step. The land beyond
the student union consisted m ainly of half-built houses and bare plots where other buildings would eventually go. It was
a stark contrast from the area she lived in. W hen she was at hom e, it was easy to forget that Sierra Plains University was
a half-bak ed project, the progress of which had slowed considerably after her great-grandm other Narissa had left her
position as Education Minister to join the police force. The fact that her housing was as good as it was was solely due to
the fact that her fam ily had the m oney to m ak e it that way.
She decided to walk down to the end of the street, and then turn for hom e. O n her way, she caught sight of a sm all
cam psite under an overhang and glanced that way curiously to see what was going on. She was about to turn away and
hurry by when she realized that one of the people was som eone she k new and did a double-tak e.
He straightened up im m ediately and turned to greet her, and if he felt as uneasy as she did, he hid it perfectly. “Azula!
W ow, I didn’t ex pect to see you here!”
“I didn’t ex pect to see you here, either,” she said.
“O h! Yeah, I live here.”
“Yeah, uh, it’s a long story having to do with scholarships and loans and whatnot.”
Azula a ttem pted not to look as confused as she felt. “I had no idea.”
“It’s not som ething I advertise. Mik e’s the only one who k nows.” He shrugged, sm iling. “I don’t m ind you k nowing,
“I won’t tell anyone if you don’t want m e to.”
“Thank s. So what are you doing here?”
“Just tak ing a walk . I’ve never really been in this part of the university before.”
“W ell, it look s lik e it m ight rain. W ant to stay for a while?”
She couldn’t think of an ex cuse. “Sure, thank s.” Hastily, to k eep from lapsing into an awk ward silence, she added, “Is
that your brother? I k now Kahlen a little bit but I don’t think I’ve talk ed to him m uch.”
“Yeah, that’s Trent. Hang on, I’ll introduce you.”
So she ended up staying for three hours, long enough to m eet and speak with Trent even though she was not at all
…for Kahlen to return from class and m ak e som e snark y com m ents that she did not find as witty as usual…
…a nd for Dom inic to drag out their stereo and ask her to dance, which did not m ak e her feel as happy as it had the last
W hen the sk y began to get lighter, she glanced at the horizon to see that the clouds had abated but that the sun was
beginning to dip, and finally figured out an ex cuse to leave. “I’d better get back ,” she said to Dom inic. “I’ll m iss Billy’s
chef salad if I don’t and you k now how rations are.”
He pulled her into a hug, as he always did. “It was good to see you. Let’s hang out again soon.”
“Yeah, let’s,” she said, though her heart was not totally in it.
She took the long way hom e without think ing, and by the tim e she arrived back , it was dark .
Seeing her own house again snapped her out of the trance she had been in the entire walk back , and the scene at the
cam psite replayed itself, blurring her vision. She had never wanted to be away from a place m ore in her life and
regretted that she had ever m ade the decision to go out that day.
Suddenly, she rem em bered that Dom inic was a good friend of hers, and felt asham ed of herself. Maybe he wasn’t a s
well off as she was, but he had not been asham ed to have her there. He had self-respect, and that was why her crowd
lik ed him .
It was certainly som ething she didn’t have. She hadn’t had it in a long tim e. About all she really had going for her was,
well…her m oney.
A horrible thought that she had been trying to suppress ever since she had first m et Dom inic finally sprang, unbidden,
from her m ind: Why would a guy like that want a girl like me?
“You slut,” she rasped, wiping furiously at sudden tears. “You stupid, stupid slut.”
Azula realized with a start that she had begun her break down right nex t to the living room , and im m ediately hated
herself for it. The last thing she wanted was for either Elle or Billy to see her lik e this.
“Zuzu, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said, but it cam e out strangled. Stop crying! Stop it!
Elle tentatively put an arm around Azula, which only m ade her cry harder. “C om e on, Zuzu,” she said, coax ingly. “Talk to
m e. W hat happened?”
“It’s stupid,” Azula shot, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes as hard as she could. “It’s so stupid, I can’t--
look , I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine,” Elle argued. “You’re crying, and you never cry.”
“I ’ll be fine. Just forget it.”
Elle could not forget it--just the sight of Azula in tears m ade her want to cry, too--but she back ed off anyway, instead
attem pting to guide her sister toward the open door. “C om e in and have som e salad. You’ll feel better.”
Azula nodded silently and went with her.
After a while, Azula ’s decision to k eep quiet and forget that anything had happened was beginning to drive her out of
her m ind. She was unable to discuss it with her usual confidant, and wasn’t sure she wanted to hear what Elle would have
to say about it in any case, so she took the nex t best o ption--Mik ey, who already k new all about it.
At Mik ey’s, relatives and friends always had a standing invitation to walk right in, and so Azula did ex actly that,
regardless of the fact that a house full of boys m ight m ean that they were all lounging around without their shirts and
doing gross boy things. Luck ily for her, the only people in the living room were Mik ey a nd Phil, who were just playing Red
“Hey, Zuzu!” Mik ey called over his shoulder. “Good to see you!”
“You too, Mik ey. I hope you don’t m ind m e just dropping by.”
“You’re fine. Mak e yourself com fortable.”
She hesitated. “Actually…can I talk to you?”
Phil tactfully ex ited to give them som e space, and once he was gone, Azula e x plained her dilem m a.
“O h, Zuzu.” Mik ey look ed as if he wanted to laugh. “It’s not as big a deal as you’re m ak ing it out to be.”
“You are not helping,” she said, displeased at his reaction.
“W ell, what do you want m e to do? ‘Azula, it’s tim e you k new…not everyone in the world lives the way we do. I k now it’s a
shock , but--’”
She pok ed him . “Knock it off, you dork .”
He flashed an im pudent grin at her before sobering. “R eally, though, what do you want m e to tell you?”
“I don’t k now, Mik ey, I just…do you k now why?”
“No, I don’t, and even if I did I don’t think I could tell you. It’s his business.”
She sighed. “I guess that’s fair.”
“W hy is it bothering you? Did seeing it change your opinion of him ?”
“I don’t want it to,” she said, after a m om ent of thought. “But I feel lik e things have changed now that I k now.”
“In what way?”
“Lik e …I don’t understand how som eone lik e him could’ve ended up there. W hy isn’t the university helping him m ore?
Don’t they k now?”
“I couldn’t tell you, Zuzu. Honestly, though, I suspect that a large part of it is that that’s just the way things are around
here. In a lot of ways this place is worse off than hom e. P eople are so busy trying to fix what’s wrong there that the
university doesn’t get as m uch attention as it should.”
“That doesn’t m ak e it ok ay.”
“O f course it doesn’t, but that’s why the relief effort’s still going, isn’t it? You can do som ething about it, Azula .”
Her grandfather had told her the sam e thing, she rem em bered suddenly. The day he took her to the playground for the
first tim e, he had told her that it wasn’t over yet and that it was up to her to continue the work , and that som etim es, it
would be hard. “When that happens, I want you to remember that it used to be a lot worse and that it can and will get better.
Years later, she finally understood. “Yeah, I can. And I will.”
“And you’ll do a k ick ass job of it, too,” Mik ey a greed.
“Thank s, Mik ey. I’m sorry to bother you with all this.”
“Don’t even worry about it. W e’re fam ily, rem em ber? You can talk to m e about anything.”
“W hat about you? Are you ok ay? I feel lik e a bad cousin because I m issed out on the whole Naom i thing.”
“I ’m com pletely fine and all of that’s over with, so don’t feel bad.”
“So you and Elphaba a re good, then?”
He grinned a little goofily at that. “Better than good.”
“Say no m ore,” she said, m ak ing a face. “That’s all I need to k now now and probably ever.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Awww, it’s ok ay, Zuzu. I’m sure your love life will get better soon.”
“Yeah, nice of you to say, but I doubt it.”
He sm irk ed. “O n the contrary, I have it on good authority that it m ight.”
“Do not get m y hopes up if it’s not true,” she said, glaring at him .
“W ould I lie to you?”
“O h now that’s just cold. I solve all your problem s, and this is how you treat m e?”
“I love you?”
“Sure you do.”
The conversation with Mik ey m ade her feel better, but she thought it would be better, all the sam e, to back off where
Dom inic was concerned for a while. Predictably, that resolution did not last long.
The nex t day, her phone buzzed, and she rem oved it from her pock et to find his num ber on the caller ID. She answered
it im m ediately. “Dom ! Hey.”
“Hey, Azula,” he greeted her, putting a sm ile on her face and a m elty feeling in her heart. “What’s up?”
“Not a lot. W hat about you?”
“Not much either. Listen, though, I have a huge favor to ask. Can I use your computer for a couple of hours to type up my term
“O f course you can!”
“Great. The sign-up sheet at the student center was full, or I would go there--”
“P lease, you’re not bothering m e at all. Com e on over.”
Ten m inutes later, she felt em barrassed for agreeing so readily, but fortunately for her, Dom inic did not arrive until it
was close to class tim e, so she greeted him at the door with a sm ile on her face. “Hey, Dom . Please ignore the nak ed
“I ’m wearing pajam a bottom s!”
“Anyway, I have to go to class, but the com puter is upstairs and it’s logged onto m y account, so you should pretty m uch
be able to open a W ord docum ent and you’ll be good to go.”
“Great,” Dom inic said. “T hank you so m uch. You’re really helping m e out of a bind here.”
“It’s not a problem , honestly. I’ll see you after class if you’re still here.”
Not only was he still there when she returned to the house, but he had finished his term paper and was teaching Elle how
to slap dance. Azula noted with som e relief that Elle seem ed relax ed and was having a good tim e. “Hey guys,” she
greeted them . “How com e no one told m e about the party?”
“I think I’m just about done,” Elle said breathlessly. “T his dance is crazy. I have no idea how he ’s still going.”
“It’s a sk ill,” Dom inic inform ed her, solem nly, before bursting into a wide grin. She laughed and retreated to get som e
“So did you get your term paper done ok ay?”
“All typed up and em ailed to m y prof. Thank s again. You’re a lifesaver.”
“You’re welcom e. Really, it was no trouble. If you ever need to borrow it again, just ask .”
“So listen,” she said, hesitantly, “I’m really sorry about the other day being so awk ward.”
Dom inic blink ed in surprise. “W hat do you m ean?”
“You k now, when I walk ed by your place.”
“O h, that? You thought that was awk ward? I was really happy to see you.” He paused and eyed her. “Hold on. Is this
about where I’ve been living? Did seeing the cam psite m ak e you uncom fortable?”
“A little,” she adm itted, wishing she hadn’t brought it up. “I didn’t ex pect it. I thought you were renting a house
som ewhere lik e the rest of us.”
He sm iled a little. “No, sorry. You seem ed com pletely cool with it at the tim e, so I didn’t m ak e a big deal out of it.”
“It did feel odd to be there, but I didn’t want you to feel bad about it.”
“W ell, I try not to. W e’re pretty luck y to be there. All three of us are scholarship students and we barely earned enough
of those to cover tuition, but we got a good deal on the rent for the plot because there ’s nothing on it. And, well, we’re
used to roughing it.”
“But couldn’t your parents help you out?”
Dom inic regarded her for a m om ent in silence. “I ’ll tell you about it som etim e,” he said finally.
“O k ay,” she said. “I ’m sorry. I’m just not used to seeing things lik e that.” She paused. “That totally m ade m e sound
lik e a spoiled rich girl, didn’t it?”
“Yes, it did. You’re cute, though, so you’ll get by.” He k ept up the straight face for a few seconds, but it was unable to
stand firm against Azula ’s incredulous ex pression and crum pled into laughter. She couldn’t help joining in.
After he caught his breath, he resum ed the seriousness. “Look , Azula, I’m not asham ed of being poor. You don’t…have
to feel sham e for m e.”
“I don’t,” she prom ised. “I ’m really ok ay with it and I’ll deal better nex t tim e.”
“O k ay, then,” he said, with a sm ile. “W e ’re good.”
“…and you guys k now that Uncle Lex is always talk ing about how the police can’t do anything because the arm y is in
charge of enforcing m artial law, and there are so m any people who still need help but there ’s no real governm ent or
anything, and let’s not even get into the labor laws because those are just stupid.”
“So what’s your point, Zuzu?”
“My point is that we should be the ones to start that. If we do that, we’ll be able to protect our fam ily and friends, and
m aybe even get R aik ov o ut of there, who k nows?”
Elle and Billy glanced at each other. “That sounds lik e as good a plan as any,” Billy finally said, “a nd I’m really not sure
what else is left to do.”
“R ations and artwork ,” Azula said, with a dism issive wave of her hand, “but I think this is m ore im portant. W hoever
com es after us can build on it and finish the job.”
“Fine, let’s do it.”
Elle was used to talk ing her problem s over with Azula, but now that she and Stuart were dating, she began tak ing them
to him , as well. He continuously m ade her feel com fortable enough to tell him just about anything, which was a new
feeling for her, as the only other person she had reached that level of ease with was her sister. In this particular
instance, she didn’t want to burden Azula, who seem ed so ex cited about the new plan, so she went to Stuart, who gladly
paused his afternoon ex ercise to speak with her.
“I just feel lik e it’s one thing to say you’re going to do som ething and another to actually do it, you k now? W e all k new
that we were going to have to help, and her plan is good, but…I don’t k now. Are people going to lik e our ideas? Are they
only going to listen to us because we’re Fitzhughs? W hat if they don’t listen to us at all?”
“W hy should they not listen to you?” he said. “All three of you are quite intelligent and capable of doing a great deal of
good for your com m unity.”
“Now you’re just being nice to m e.”
“I assure you I am not. I truly believe it.”
“W ell, thank s, Stuart. I’m just worried I won’t be able to do m y job well. I really don’t k now what it’ll be yet, either, since
it all depends on what the job openings are.”
“You will just have to try your best, and I am certain that will be m ore than good enough. I have com plete faith in you,
W hen he called her that, it thrilled her just about as m uch as a k iss m ight, because she had had to cam paign hard to
get him to stop saying ‘Miss Ellie’ and took the fact that he was willing to stop as a sign that he really lik ed her. “That
really m eans a lot. Thank s.”
Billy, m eanwhile, consulted his cousins as usual. “You should definitely do it,” R ik u said, enthusiastically, once Billy had
outlined The Plan. “Azula’s right. O ur legal system is crap.”
“Uh, R ik u?” Billy said, am used. “W e all k now you worship at the Altar of Azula, but that doesn’t m ean the rest of us do.”
“O k ay, one, shut up. Two, don’t even lie to m e, because you adore her. Three, it’s true, and you’re think ing right now
that you wish you’d thought of it.”
“It is a good plan and I told her that already,” Billy said, after a disdainful look R ik u’s way. “It’s a big job, though. She ’s
not just talk ing about the legal system , here. It’s a rework ing of our entire governm ent. I’m not sure it can be done by
“W ell, one of you’s gonna be heir, right?” Cid pointed out. “So whoever the heir m arries is gonna help, too. And then the
heir’s gonna have k ids who’re gonna help.”
“Yeah, thank s, Cid. Not one of those things I want to think about right now.”
“I ’m just saying. There’s a reason it’s tak en so long to fix everything since great-great-grandfather…R ice? R izz?”
“R hys. Lik e ‘R eese.’”
“R ight, since he started it all.”
“The reason is everyone before you didn’t tak e it seriously enough,” R ik u said, im portantly. “Your dad should let me do
it. I’d just walk in there and m ak e them listen.”
“You would get arrested for that.”
“You’d bail m e out.”
Billy shook his head. “I have no idea why anyone besides us puts up with you. I betcha the only reason you even have a
girlfriend is because it’s long distance.”
“Start talk ing trash about Heidi, and I will end you, frog face.”
“Try it, greenie.”
“This is so unfair,” Kirby com plained. “How com e all three of you have som eone and I don’t?”
“Guys are m orons, Kirby. Sorry.”
“Hey!” Cid gave Billy his best I-have-ten-nice-points-and-want-to-be-m ad-at-you-but-can’t-be glare. “I resem ble that
rem ark !”
“Dude, do you even k now what you just said?”
“P oint proven. Anyway, you’re her twin, so it doesn’t count.”
“Seriously, though. I’m a nice girl, right? If Cid and R ik u can get a date, why can’t I?”
“No com plaints about m e?” Billy ask ed, arching an eyebrow.
“You’re a nice guy, Billy, and you’ve been with Snow for years. It’s different.”
“And also she ’s too nice to point out that you have a frog face, frog face,” R ik u a dded.
“O k ay, seriously, stop it,” Kirby countered. “I don’t care if it’s guy banter, it’s m ean, and you k now how Billy feels about
“It’s all right, Kirby. I k now better than to tak e R ik u seriously.”
“You k now what’s not all right?” Cid ask ed.
“That. C an you cross your legs, Kirb?”
“O h, shoot, sorry. It’s so hard to sit decently in a sk irt.”
“How about not wearing them , then?” Billy suggested lightly.
“That would m ak e too m uch sense, obviously,” R ik u said, with a sm irk .
“Argh! I hate boys!”
As the school year ended, and a new one began, the three Fitzhughs m ade the m ost of their tim e away from hom e and
spent m uch of it with their friends, whether in their own house o r outside it.
Plenty of other activities took up their tim e, though, as they still had to study and m ak e tim e for each other. Coping with
running the house on their own proved to be difficult at tim es, as well. O ne of them forgot to pay the electricity bill and
the resulting visit from the repo m an earned them an hour’s lecture from their m other about staying on top of their bills.
They agreed that it would be best not to let that happen again, if only to avoid the headaches that cam e with it.
“So I was think ing…”
“W hat?” Elle ask ed warily. Those words, com ing from her sister, usually m eant som ething om inous that had to do with
“You k now that new park they just finished?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“W ell, I just thought that we should go hang out there. Check it out and all. You could ask Stuart. He ’s always over here
and it m ight be nice to go som ewhere else for a change. I’ll ask a friend too so it won’t be awk ward.”
Elle arched an eyebrow. “Lik e who?”
“Lik e …I don’t k now. Dom , m aybe.”
“So…lik e a double date?”
“W hat? No, not at all lik e that. It’d be you going on a date and m e hanging out with a friend so Stuart will feel lik e
you’re properly chaperoned.”
“Um , ok ay. I’ll call Stuart and ask him .”
Later that afternoon, the girls walk ed over to the park to m eet Stuart and Dom inic, and the two pairs accordingly split up
and went off on their own.
“Thank s for m eeting m e here,” Azula said to her friend. “Having som eone to hang out with m ak es m e feel less lik e I’m
babysitting those two.”
“Thank s for inviting m e. I needed the break . I’ve had a lot of work to do lately.”
“Me, too. At least it’s alm ost over, right?”
“Yeah, less than a year left. Tim e sure flew.”
“Do they not realize how incredibly unsubtle this situation is?” Stuart ask ed Elle softly.
“I think Zuzu think s that she was being sm ooth when she brought it up, but she really, really wasn’t.”
“W ell, I certainly hope Dom inic will use the opportunity. He has had m any other such opportunities in the past, and I do
not understand why he did not tak e advantage of them .”
“You think he lik es her?”
“Don’t you? I think it is rather obvious.”
“Azula doesn’t, and I can’t tell these things for m yself.”
“I can assure you that he does.”
“W ell, then, what’s tak ing them so long?”
Stuart led her away from the railing. “I could not tell you that, but I doubt staring at them will cause it to happen.
Besides, I can hardly com plain about tim e spent with you, however contrived.”
“O h, well, you m ay have a point there,” Elle agreed, trying not to blush.
“Shall we leave them to it and tak e a stroll around the block ?”
“That sounds lik e a great idea.”
“So, do you have any special plans for after graduation?”
“Nothing yet ex cept for m oving hom e to help with the relief. You?”
“Mik e offered to let m e live with him until I have enough m oney to rent a place. I’d lik e to see if I can get a job with the
police force, too.”
“That sounds great! They can always use m ore people, and you k now Mik ey’s dad is one of the Captain Heroes.”
“Yeah, he said so when I told him . It look s lik e I’ve got quite a few friends in high places.”
“Are you k idding? My fam ily practically owns this town. If you’re friends with one of us, you have a n in with everyone.”
At this, som ething passed over his face that she didn’t lik e, but he was quick to suppress it. “Good to k now.”
“…I totally did that ‘spoiled rich girl’ thing again, didn’t I? I’m so sorry--”
“No, you didn’t. You’re fine.”
“But you look ed funny just now. Is som ething wrong?”
For a m om ent, he hesitated, reaching up to scratch one of his pointed ears. “R em em ber when you ask ed about m y
parents?” She nodded. “W ell, I used to belong to a Legacy fam ily, lik e Saffron’s.” He told her the whole story: how his
m other had been a half-elf who had run away from her tribe in search of a better life, and how his fam ily had been
forced to run from their hom e when the elves had discovered them . “This probably sounds lik e som e crazy supernatural
hoodoo to you--”
“Not at all,” she said, without hesitation. “I m ean, you’ve got the ears, and I don’t think that’s weird anym ore.” He
laughed at that, which gratified her. It was strange to her, but he was her friend, so she didn’t want to let him k now that.
“W here are your parents now?”
“I don’t k now. W e couldn’t all travel together after a while, so we split up, and the twins and I ended up here. I lik e to
think they’re ok ay, though. They’ve got Charlie with them , and he would never let anybody hurt them .” He lifted a
shoulder. “So there you go. That’s m y story.”
“I ’m so sorry, Dom .”
“Don’t be. It’s, uh, it’s good to talk about it with som eone I trust. I never told anybody this before.”
He trusted her. Hearing those words from him suddenly m ade her feel lik e nothing that had ever happened between
them m attered anym ore. She had spent so long trying to figure out where they stood, and this was better than she had
He trusted her.
He trusted her so much that he had told her som ething that no one else k new.
The least she could do was give him a little faith in return.
“W ell, if we’re sharing things anyway…I was a serial dater m y freshm an year.”
Dom inic stared at her for a m om ent, and then burst into laughter. “It’s not funny!” she cried.
“Yes, yes it is,” he m anaged, nearly bent double from his m errim ent.
Indignantly, she got up from the bench, but he was quick to follow her and turn her to face him . “I ’m sorry for laughing
at you, but I don’t see why you ex pected that to shock m e. My sister’s a Rom ance Sim , rem em ber?”
“But I’m not a Rom ance Sim , and I didn’t do it for a good reason, and I hated every second of it.” She ex plained the
situation with her fam ily and the businesses, and how being on her own for a year had driven her a little crazy. “I don’t
k now why I ever thought it was a good idea. No one else but Elle k nows this. I just wanted to be honest with you since
you told m e about your fam ily.”
Dom inic shook his head, look ing torn between am usem ent and concern. “It’s nothing to be asham ed of, Azula.”
“It was a lot of guys, Dom . I didn’t even lik e m ost of them . I didn’t want you to think I was a slut.”
“I don’t think you’re a slut, I prom ise.”
“I don’t think you’re weird for being descended from elves, either.”
They lasted about three seconds before collapsing into laughter. “W e are so screwed up,” Dom inic said, when he had
caught his breath.
“And we’re laughing about it!”
“That’s ok ay.” He reached for her hand. “R eally, though, I don’t think any less of you because you told m e that. I
actually think you’re k ind of am azing.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “R eally?”
“R eally, truly.”
“I …I didn’t think you thought m uch of m e at all,” she said, uncharacteristically shyly.
“Are you k idding? Azula, you’re sm art, beautiful, witty, an am azing dancer…” He sm iled a little. “And way, way out of m y
She couldn’t jok e about it anym ore. “No, I’m not. Don’t say that.”
Elle a nd Stuart returned from their walk a little before sunset and stood for a m om ent near the edge of the park . “I
k now it is only across the street, but m ay I see you hom e?” he ask ed.
“P lease do. Let m e just see if Zuzu’s ready to--W HO A.”
“W hat is it?”
If ask ed, Elle would have said that she was happy for her sister and pleased that she and Dom inic were finally together.
W hat she would have denied vehem ently was that she was becom ing increasingly unhappy in her own relationship, but it
was true nonetheless.
She k ept telling herself that it was a silly reason. Stuart was the best m an she k new, and she was luck y to have him . He
called on her all the tim e, respected a nd even adm ired her intelligence, and talk ed with her about m ost every subject
under the sun. She felt guilty for wanting m ore, but it just wasn’t enough.
Azula a nd Dom inic’s affection for each other was painfully obvious. Now that their feelings were out in the open, they had
no hesitations showing it, and were often called on it. They would pretend to be asham ed of them selves, but then just
go right back to it.
Billy and Snow were even worse. Their brand of PDA had long since ceased to be cute and begun to enter the realm of
em barrassing. If they were in the sam e room , they literally could not k eep their hands off each other.
Elle’s relationship with Stuart wasn’t lik e that at all. He avoided m ost physical contact, though he held her hand
frequently and would som etim es let his fingers linger on her face if he happened to brush a strand of hair out of her
eyes. Azula a nd Mik ey both told her that he was pursuing her the way he had been raised to do, but it hardly gave her
any com fort.
Even that would have upset her less if he had just told her how he felt about her, but he never did, and she was afraid to
Don’t rock the boat, every instinct dem anded. You have a good thing going here. Don’t ruin it. Y et it was getting harder and
harder to k eep that resolution, seeing everyone so happy around her.
W hat she didn’t realize was that Billy was having sim ilar problem s.
“‘He who fights m onsters should tak e care lest he becom es one.’”
“Ugh, Nietzsche? I m ean, that’s one of his m ore decent quotes, but seriously?”
“W asn’t he an im portant philosopher from the 19th century?”
“I guess. I didn’t lik e him m uch when we studied him . Nihilism bothers m e. W hat do you have to do with the quote?”
“W rite a page discussing it and how it applies to e veryday life.”
“Easy. Let’s get it out of the way fast so your sister doesn’t yell at us when she com es to pick you up.”
“Thank s for your help on that assignm ent, Billy. I’m sorry I always bring hom ework with m e when I com e over.”
“Hey, boyfriends who study the sam e thing you do have to be good for something.”
Snow grinned fondly. “I love you.”
“I love you m ore,” Billy teased.
“No way, I love you m ore.”
“No you dooon’t!”
“Eeeeeek ! Stop tick ling m eeeeee !”
“Not until you adm it that I love you m ore!”
“Not a chance!”
Because they frequently got into little fights lik e this, Snow k new the drill and eventually m anaged to get free. “I win!”
she cheered, but stopped when she saw a sudden despondency cross Billy’s features. “W hat’s wrong?”
“You can’t possibly love m e as m uch as I love you,” he said, rather wistfully.
“W hy can’t I?”
“You’re gorgeous, and I’m just the nice guy. The safe bet.”
“Billy, what are you talk ing about?”
“C om e on, Snow, you know. Just adm it it. I’m ugly and I’m not good enough for you.”
“W hoa, hold on a m inute. Are you really trying to tell m e that you think you’re ugly? How could you--Billy, you’re so far
from ugly I can’t even tell you.”
“You don’t have to lie--”
“I ’m not lying or ex aggerating, and I’m actually k ind of m ad that you’d even think that.”
“But it’s true.”
“No, it’s not. Stop saying that. You’re handsom e and sweet and just all around wonderful and I love you so m uch…I…I get
so scared som etim es that you’re going to leave m e because I’m not pretty enough.”
“You have got to be--” He stopped abruptly, realizing that she really did think that she m ight not be worthy of him .
She shrugged. “I k now you’re going to tell m e it’s stupid, but som etim es, yeah. I can’t help it.”
“Snow, have you ever look ed at yourself in the m irror?”
“All the tim e.”
“You ought to k now by now that you’re beautiful if you look that m uch.”
She sighed. “I k new you were going to say that.”
“R eally. I love you, and that’s not the only reason, either.”
“…this is the silliest argum ent we’ve ever had, isn’t it?”
“I think so too. Let’s not do this again.”
Because her crowd had not had a party of their own since freshm an year, and because it had been a while since she had
volunteered to host one, Azula decided to have a seniors-only gathering at her house while Elle and Billy were at their
evening classes. Graduation would happen shortly, and the nex t tim e they would all be together would doubtlessly be for
som ebody’s wedding--Callie and Robin were both engaged, and Mik ey was lik ely to be shortly. O nce her friends started
getting m arried, everything would change. It was nice to tak e a while to rem em ber the good tim es they had all had
together as single college students.
“W hat? You really changed your m ind?”
Saffron nodded, and Azula saw that her friend did not seem very unhappy about the decision, which put any pity she
m ight have felt out of her m ind. “R iver’s a Fam ily Sim now, so he can inherit. W e talk ed it over and decided it’s probably
better this way.”
“W hose idea was it?”
“Mine, don’t worry. The idea of being heir was nice, but…I don’t k now, Zuzu, there are a lot of things I want to do with m y
life that I can’t do if I tak e on that responsibility. You k now m e. I want to tak e risk s, get involved in crazy stuff, have
adventures, all that. If I’m heir I have to stay at hom e and tak e care of m yself because everyone would depend on m e,
and that’s boring.”
“So what are you going to do now?”
A quick grin cam e to her face. “I got a great job offer. I can’t tell you what it is, but I’m going to love it.”
Azula laughed, recognizing the m ischievous look well. “If that’s what you want, then I’m glad for you.”
“I will, trust m e.”
“W ell, bring m e back souvenirs if you go som ewhere cool.”
“You bet. Any news on your end?”
“Nothing’s decided, but we’re going hom e tom orrow to talk about it.”
Saffron frowned. “You won’t be at Mik ey’s tom orrow night, then?”
“’fraid not. Frank ly, I’d m uch rather be here than hom e, but we m ade the date with Dad way in advance and he won’t let
us off the hook for a college party. Probably better to just get it over with, anyway.”
“Good luck .”
“Thank s. I’m gonna need it.”
Despite the brief detour into seriousness, and the fact that Billy crashed the party after his class got out, Azula felt that
her little gathering was a nice last hurrah before the inevitable journey hom e to face the real world.
Harry blink ed in surprise, and Elle winced. It had never occurred to her that he didn’t k now ex actly how Azula felt about
the heirship--how they all felt about it, really. A swell of irritation threatened to overtak e her before she check ed it, and
she guiltily shifted her thoughts toward hoping the shock hadn’t affected him too badly. The while curls gracing his head
rem inded her that he wasn’t getting any younger. “All right,” he said slowly. “Ellie? Billy? W hat about you two?”
“Sam e,” Billy said flatly.
“Me, too,” Elle added.
Their father rubbed his tem ples. “O ne of you has to,” he said. “W e probably should have had this conversation sooner,
but I didn’t think --”
“Think what?” As she spok e, Azula’s voice grew louder and louder, until she was practically yelling. “That the three of us
didn’t want the thing you wanted? W ell, guess what, Dad, not everyone wants to spend their entire life putting other
people first and having General Assface watching them lik e a hawk and waiting for them to screw up!”
“Azula Adrasteia,” Harry said sternly, “you will not use that language in m y house.”
“Fine! I’m not going to live here anyway. I’ll do what I have to for the relief work , and then I’m m oving out.”
“If that’s what you want. I didn’t realize you felt so strongly about it.”
“How could you not?” she ex ploded. “Did you even notice what work ing so hard did to Mom ? By the tim e it was all over,
all she could think about was what she wanted, and she didn’t give a dam n about the three of us ex cept as free labor. I
refuse to do that to m y future husband. You could not pay m e.”
Harry look ed at each of his children in turn. Billy and Elle did not look back , but Azula stood firm , red in the face from
her outburst. “I’m sorry,” he said, after a long silence. “O ne of you has to do it. It’s too late for Mya and m e to have
W hen her siblings stayed silent, Elle realized what was going to happen. Oh no. I can’t do this. Anything but this, please.
Someone else has got to speak up.
But there was no one else.
Her siblings turned sharply to look at her, and Harry regarded her with an ex pression of unhappy understanding. He
k new her well enough to k now why she had done it, but did not try to challenge her on the decision. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Thank you, baby. I prom ise I will m ak e this up to you som eday.”
Mya a rrived hom e half an hour later to find Harry alone in the k itchen.
“I thought you were going to wait for m e to have the talk .”
“They had to get back to the university. Finals are soon and Azula has an early class this sem ester. W e had to go ahead
“Did you decide who it’ll be?”
“Yes. Elle took it.”
Mya frowned. “Elle did? Really?”
“That’s fine, don’t get m e wrong, but I was ex pecting Azula o r Billy to want it.”
“They didn’t. None of them did.” He took a deep breath. “Mya, we need to talk .”
W hen they arrived back , Elle called Stuart right away and ask ed him to com e over. “Sorry about calling so late. W as the
party still going?”
“Not all of the guests had left, but the high point of the evening had already passed, and it was less entertaining without
you there in any case,” he said am iably.
“Did anything interesting happen?”
“Michael and Elphaba are now engaged.”
For a m om ent, Elle forgot to be m orose. “That’s wonderful! I’m so happy for them. I’ll have to call Mikey in the morning and
“I k now he will be happy to speak with you about it and I am quite pleased m yself. I believe they will have a very
successful m arriage.”
“Me too. I’m so happy he ended up with som eone who really loves him . He deserves that.”
“Indeed he does, and I feel confident that is the case. However, it rem inded m e that I had som ething I wished to speak
to you a bout.”
Elle flushed. “Sure.”
“Do you have any plans besides going hom e to help with the relief?”
“Um , well, funny you should ask . That’s what Dad wanted to talk about tonight. W e had to decide who the heir was going
Stuart frowned in confusion. “I was under the im pression that your brother was the heir.”
“No. Billy wouldn’t tak e the heirship for anything. I’m the heir.”
“Are you seriously saying this to m e? How dare you!”
“No, Harry! I told you and told you how it was going to be, and you repeatedly replied that you were fine with it. And now
you have the gall to tell m e that you aren’t fine with it, now that it’s m uch too late to change anything?”
“Mya, listen to m e. I am not putting blam e com pletely on you and I am not angry with you. But our k ids are, and it’s our
fault, and I really think --”
“You are the heir?”
“I didn’t want to be, but there ’s no one else. If you had heard the language Azula used when she told m y dad ex actly
what she thought of the idea, you’d blush. Billy didn’t actually say m uch, but I k now him . He agrees with her. They can’t
do it, Stuart. They’d be so m iserable. So…I have to.”
“…I wish you had spok en with m e before m ak ing this decision.”
“Yes, you could have. You could have told your father than you had to have a short while to consider it.”
“The k ids have no right to com plain to you behind m y back !”
“If you had been here to hear the discussion, you would have heard it for yourself and could have talk ed with them --”
“So you’re saying it’s m y fault? Nice of you, husband. I guess you don’t want m e to finish training that m anager so that
we can be at hom e m ore.”
“Stop yelling at m e, Mya.”
“If you don’t want m e to yell, then stop blam ing everything on m e!”
“I just told you, I’m not--”
“It sure sounds lik e it to m e!”
“There was nothing to consider. There is no one else. If I don’t tak e the heirship, the relief effort stops, a nd we lose to
“I understand that part, Ellie. My concern is the fact that we have been seeing each other for nearly three years, and yet
you did not think to consult m e before m ak ing this decision. You effectively volunteered m e for your cause without m y
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t k now what you wanted to do. I cam e back here planning to talk to you about it right away.”
“But you have also said that your refusal of the heirship is not an option.”
“R ight, because it’s not.”
“Ellie, I respect your fam ily’s efforts, and I want you to be a part of m y life. However, I am not certain I want to build
that life here. I cam e here tonight planning to ask you if you would be willing to m ove back to R egalton with m e once
you have finished your duty to your fam ily.”
“I ’m so sorry, Stuart. You have no idea how m uch I wish I could do that, but I can’t.”
“Yes, you have m ade that abundantly clear. That m eans that I m ust com prom ise everything I wanted for m y life if I
want to m arry you, and--”
“Mya, dam n it! Stop yelling at m e!”
“I will yell as m uch as I want to! I am not going to stand for this! Accusing m e of som ething I can’t do anything about at
this point is underhanded and you are better than that!”
“For the last tim e, I am not putting all of the blam e on you! I’m just saying that we both have unthink ingly hurt our
“W ork is the m ost im portant thing in this fam ily, Harry! That was what I was told the day I m oved in, and what I have
had to live with, and what our children will continue to have to deal with too! I have not done anything wrong!”
“W ill you please just calm down and list--”
“Marry m e?”
“Surely you k new that has been m y intention--”
“How was I supposed to? You won’t even k iss m e!”
“Ellie, you k now why I do not. It does not m ean that m y feelings for you are not sincere.”
“This isn’t the nineteenth century, Stuart! People are allowed to show affection now! It’s not a sin!”
“Forget it. I’m not going to talk about this anym ore.”
“I ’m going to sleep upstairs tonight. I’ve had a long day and I need m y sleep.”
“Mya, will you just--”
“You should get som e rest. Go to bed soon.”
“Good night, Harry.”
“I did not realize that you felt that way.”
“You should have.”
“How are we to have an understanding if we cannot com m unicate?”
“I don’t think we can.”
“…Perhaps you are right. Please ex cuse m e.”
Hey, look , Rhys’ penchant for cleaning toilets lives on! I’m so proud. And you R ik u fans get som e nice fanservice out of
So I have nothing m uch to say about this episode ex cept that it’s nice to be getting generation 5 out of college at last.
Azula is already at hom e and look ing for jobs in the paper, so hopefully there will be m ore lifts soon.
…O KAY, O KAY.
1) I did warn you that the Christm as special was not canon. This would be why.
2) I prom ise I am doing this for a reason. You guys are going to have to trust m e.
3) That said, it is going to get worse before it gets better. Much worse. Again, trust m e on this. I have a plan.
And here is a really awk ward picture of our new streak er to tide you over until the nex t update, which I hope will not tak e
long as I don’t need to film m uch. Til nex t tim e, Happy Sim m ing!
Guest Sim s
Saffron and Snow Bohem ian - The Bohemian Legacy
Vaughn Fitzhugh - The Morgan Legacy
Dom inic, Kahlen, and Trent Doran - The Boolpropian Round Robin Legacy
Stuart Legacy - A Victorian Legacy
Elphaba Uglacy - A Piratical Legacy