A Villainous Apocalypse - Episode 19


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A Villainous Apocalypse - Episode 19

  1. 1. Smoothie Sims, Inc. is proud to present… A Villainous Apocalypse Episode 19 - “Pleasure To Meet You”
  2. 2. Hello, readers! Marina here, speaking to you from the barren wasteland of New Sierra Plains. That’s right. New Sierra Plains. See, when a Sims neighborhood hates its Creator very much, it decides to get corrupted and make said Creator swear a lot and rebuild the whole thing from scratch. I ’m not really sure what happened, but after discovering a serious glitch in my game I did some investigating and found that Sierra Plains was very quickly going to be unusable for good because some file or files in the neighborhood folder had gotten corrupted somehow. So I had to take all my Sims and recreate them in a new neighborhood. Storywise, they won’t be the wiser, but I would just like to take the opportunity now to issue a disclaimer. 1) I wrote down all the skills, jobs, badges etc. that everyone in the neighborhood had and cheated them back once they were all safely in the new neighborhood, so everything is exactly as I left it. Likewise, the main house was rebuilt to be exactly the same as it was before. 2) Any and all costume changes that happen mid-chapter are due to the rebuild. If a Sim did not get the clothes they were wearing before, it is most likely because I did a complete overhaul of my Downloads and decided not to re-download their outfit. 3) I got a new computer, and have had to adjust my picture-taking as the screen is not centered the same way as the old one. Please bear with the less-than-stellar framing for a little while.
  3. 3. 4) I’m also including a recap, since it’s been a while. I also apologize for the quality of those pictures as they were taken in a smaller size and thus get a bit blurry when put on SlideShare. From now on I am taking pictures in the largest size with the quality all the way up. Hopefully that will help. I hope you all enjoy, and I’ll see you on the other end of this monster! ~Marina ***
  4. 4. Previously on A Villainous Apocalypse… “W hat do you need m e to do?” “Entertain the custom ers. Gabriel and I have tick et sales covered, so you can do whatever you’d lik e. Just m ak e sure the custom ers are com fortable and having fun.” Azula grinned. “I think I can handle that.”
  5. 5. “My teacher said to tell you I m ight need glasses.” “R eally?” She nodded. “My eyes hurt when I read.” Harry frowned. “How long have they been hurting you?” “A while,” she said vaguely. “I didn’t wanna say anything, but m y teacher caught m e squinting and holding m y head during m ath today and she said to tell you ‘cause I m ight not be able to read at all som eday if I don’t have glasses.” Harry studied her for a m inute, nodding slowly. “O k ay. I’ll find you a pair.”
  6. 6. “I thought you had glasses now.” Elle was still in bad hum or from the night before, especially because Billy’s apology had been insincere. “I don’t wear ‘e m to sleep, dum m y.” “I ’m not dum b,” he protested, glaring at her. “Yeah, well, it hurt m y feelings when you called m e a Four-Eyes, and you didn’t even apologize right!” “I said I was sorry!” “You didn’t m ean it!”
  7. 7. “There are a lot of m en out there who wouldn’t lik e putting everything else aside to help their wives a chieve their dream s, and this isn’t a sm all thing. It’s a full-tim e job with a lot of hard work and not as m any benefits, and it’s only going to get harder from here, Harry. W holesale businesses require a lot m ore patience and attentiveness. The custom ers won’t always be as nice as they are right now.” “I can handle it,” he said. “Honest, I can.”
  8. 8. “W here ’s Gabriel at?” “He’s m ak ing up som e tulip and rose bouquets so we ’ll have plenty to restock with when they run out,” Mya e x plained. “He’ll com e down when he’s done.” “O k ay. W hat do you want m e to do?” “There are a lot of different things that need to be done, so we ’re all going to switch off doing them . Harry and Elle will start on the cash register, and you and I a re going to be on the floor doing sales.” Mya grinned. “I’m counting on you to m ak e the custom ers buy us out, princess. Think you can do it?” “O h, yeah, not a big deal,” Azula said, waving a hand in dism issal.
  9. 9. W hen they finally closed down the shop and headed hom e, the two girls were ex hausted. “You said it would be fun,” Elle grum bled. “The first one was,” Azula m uttered, collapsing against the bedpost. “Ugh, that was a whole pile of ferm ented suck .” “I don’t think I’m going to be reproducing. Ever.” The younger girl rubbed her diaphragm unhappily, trying to concentrate on her book , but unable to. “And we have to go back tom orrow.” “Don’t rem ind m e.”
  10. 10. As soon as Cid was gone, R ik u got right back at it. “No, seriously, who are you. You say you’re m y cousin? W hich one?” “Billy, I told you.” “S’a t m ean you’re Azula’s brother?” Billy nodded, and R ik u’s e x pression relax ed into a grin. “Azula’s cool. I lik e her. You can stay, I guess.” Billy stared at him . “I was gonna stay anyway. I have to til m y parents get hom e.” “Yeah, whatever,” R ik u snorted, waving a hand in dism issal. “R ik u, be nice to your cousin or you can’t play with any of the water balloons I just m ade,” Jon called from the stairs, where he was lugging down a tub full of them . The two boys instantly forgot about any altercation that m ight have arisen and ran to grab a balloon.
  11. 11. “W hat is wrong with you?” Azula cringed; she had no problem s with raising her voice, but Mya rarely spok e in anything rem otely close to yelling, and when she did, it usually m eant som ething unpleasant. “Azula Fitzhugh, I am your mother, and when I say no, I ex pect you to tak e it graciously. Stop arguing with m e.” “It’s not fair,” Azula repeated, in a sm aller voice, feeling about to cry. “Look , princess,” Mya said, in the ‘be reasonable about this’ tone of voice that was even m ore rare than yelling and so, so m uch worse, “I need you to help m e today. I’m sorry. I will plan a day off soon so you can go have fun with your friends, a ll right?” “W hatever,” Azula m uttered, turning away and running up the stairs.
  12. 12. “Hello, General,” she said politely. “Mrs. Fitzhugh,” he said, with a sm ile. “This is a lovely place you have here.” “Thank you. Can I help you find anything?” “Not just yet, thank s. I’m just check ing to see that everything is on the up and up.” He indicated the shop with a sweep of his hand. “I think you’re doing great things for our com m unity, really. I just need to m ak e sure there aren’t any illegal activities going on, you understand.” “I can assure you everything is perfectly above the table,” Mya said calm ly.
  13. 13. “I ’m going to college tom orrow, by the way.” “Already?” Elle ask ed in surprise. “Yeah. I’d com pletely forgotten about it, but I talk ed to the others today and they’re all going tom orrow, too. That’s why they can’t hang out. Last-m inute scholarship prep.” She lifted a shoulder. “I already have all of m ine because Gram pa m ade m e get them early.” “O h.” Elle wasn’t sure what to say to that, either, other than You can’t leave me here by myself, which she k new Azula would not tak e well. Azula seem ed to understand, though. “I have to go, Ellie. Not just ‘cause it’s tim e but because I can’t stand it anym ore. I’m tired of the businesses. I’m tired of Mom ’s wants m ak ing m ine com pletely unim portant. I need to have m y own life.” “Mom had to wait a long tim e to get what she wanted, too, you k now,” Elle said. “I ’m not going to wait that long.” * * *
  14. 14. W hen it cam e tim e for The Littlest Fitzhugh’s teen birthday, he found him self surrounded by his closest friends--the three cousins who were closest to him in age, as well as his sisters. He had never adm itted it, but he loved those five people best of anybody in the world. The fact that they were all there to see m ade him happier than he had been in alm ost his entire life.
  15. 15. So when his cousins all tactfully turned their heads im m ediately after, it confused and annoyed him . “W hat?” “Blue ’s not your color, Billy boy,” Azula said cheerfully. “Don’t worry, bad clothes happen to the best of us.” “Ex cept m e,” R ik u com m ented. Cid snorted. “Yeah, right. You grew up in that nerd tie with the soc--” “HUMINAHUMINAHUMINASHUTUP” “R ight…I ’m just going to go find som ething else now.” And Billy left the room , leaving his guests to entertain each other.
  16. 16. “I ’ve been a teenager for two days and it’s already so boring I could k ill som ething. C ollege better be m ore interesting than this.” Azula sm irk ed. “R ik u, because I have been at college alm ost a year, I can safely say that you only get out of it what you put into it.” “That sounds lik e som ething Susan would say.” “W ell, it’s the truth. Have you always referred to your m other by her first nam e?” “Yep. Her reaction whenever I call her that is hilarious. Never gets old.”
  17. 17. Though Elle would not have said it the way R ik u had, she felt sim ilarly. Hom e had not been the sam e without her sister. She was eager to get to college, and the rest of the sum m er would not pass quick ly enough for her. “I lik e your hair,” she said to Azula, a lthough what she m eant was ‘How are you? Is college fun? Do you miss me at all?’ “Thank s, Ellie,” Azula said, grinning. “You look great, too. How are things here?” “Sam e as usual,” she said with a shrug. “School. Businesses.” “Yeah, Mom told m e you guys are running a salon now. I guess you got a business nam ed after you, too.” Elle sm iled a little. “Yeah. Elle ’s Enchantm ents. She ’s also work ing on another one called Billy’s Toy Bin, so we’re all getting one.” “Toys. Nice. How’s the salon work ing out for you?”
  18. 18. “It’s, uh, it’s okay. A lot of the same, really. It’s not just a salon. We’ve got mirrors and dressers for sale, too.”
  19. 19. “Has it been harder to run without me?” “We managed. We’ve been doing mostly the same jobs. Mom’s on the register, I’m restocking…” “Ha, nothing’s changed.”
  20. 20. “Hey, if you’d been there you would’ve been proud of me. Sometimes when it was busy I had to help customers find things.” “Now that I’d like to see!” “Ask Mom. I was great. It helped that a lot of them were your friends though. They were nice and didn’t make it hard on me.” “Great! You can feel free to tell any of them that I said hi next time they come in.” “Of course I will! They keep telling me to say hi to you, too, if I see you. I don’t remember all of them but there was this one guy who came in that I knew from the flower shop who said he knew you. What was his name? Artie? He had a lot of tattoos.” Azula coughed and plastered a sm ile on her face. “That’s Archie. He was one of our best customers at the spa.” “Yeah, that guy.”
  21. 21. “Thanks for passing it on. Who’s been on sales?” “Gabriel mostly. It’s the most important bit these days with only four of us and he can go for hours.” “Aww, I miss that bucket of bolts. Don’t let me forget to say hi before I leave.” “I won’t. He misses you a lot too.”
  22. 22. “So I guess Dad’s on the chair, then?” “Yeah. He’s not very good at it. Luckily it’s not as popular as the clothes and the other stuff.” Her sister sm irk ed. “So much for the ‘salon’ part of it then.”
  23. 23. “I don’t think anyone really cares,” Elle said, with the first real sm ile she had given anyone since Azula went to college. “We’re doing well.” “I ’m glad to hear that, Ellie.”
  24. 24. “Thank s. So, tell m e about college. How is it?” “It’s good. Kind of lonely since I have the house all to m yself. Hurry up and graduate, ok ay?” Elle laughed. “I’m going as fast as I can, trust m e. Do you see Mik ey a nd everyone at all?” “Som e. O h! That rem inds m e. The twins had a thing at their place the other day and I m et this amazing guy. W e played the first non-boring gam e of chess I’ve played since I was in diapers and talk ed for a while, and then he walk ed m e hom e after.” Because her sister seem ed so ex cited, and she k new it was useless to ask Azula a nything about classes and professors, Elle decided to indulge her. “That’s great, Zuzu! D’you think you’ll see him again?” “P robably. He ’s a friend of Mik ey’s.” “W ell, great. I’m glad you’re having a good tim e and m eeting nice people.”
  25. 25. “Yeah, I think you’ll have a good tim e, too, when you com e.” “Not for the sam e reasons you are, though.” Azula snorted. “I sure hope not,” she said, tone a bit strangled. “But I am going to m ak e sure you have fun.” “Sure,” Elle said, noncom m ittally. “I am look ing forward to it.”
  26. 26. “W ell, it’s a long ride back , so I’m going to say goodbye to Billy and get going.” “Thank s for com ing, Zuzu. It’s great to see you.” “You too.”
  27. 27. “So I guess you won’t be com ing over tom orrow,” Kirby Fox stated, as she cleaned up the chess set. Her brothers were already on their way out, bick ering as they went. “Yeah, I’m probably going to go help out at the salon, or m aybe we’ll open the toy shop, I don’t k now.” Billy was definitely ex cited about finally being included in his m other’s business plans. “So I’ll be busy.” “I hope you have fun. W e’ll m iss you, though. You’ve been at our house so m uch it’s weird whenever you don’t com e over now.” He sm iled and patted his cousin’s shoulder. “W e’ll still see each other a lot. You guys live across the street. It’d be hard not to.” “Yeah, true.”
  28. 28. “Look ing good, Billy boy,” Azula said affectionately, reaching to ruffle his hair. He duck ed out of her reach. “Do not touch m y hair. I just got it to look right.” “W hatever you say, sir. Hey, I can’t stay, but happy birthday.” “Thank s, Zuzu. W ill you com e visit again soon?” “I ’ll do m y best.” * * *
  29. 29. Harry had heard great things about the local private school from his sister, Bella, who had sent all three of her daughters, but because the businesses took up so m uch tim e, he and Mya had decided not to have their children apply unless one of them ask ed to. Azula had ex pressed absolutely no interest, but it turned out that Elle really wanted to go, so shortly after Billy’s teen birthday, they took a night off and invited the headm aster for dinner. “O h, just call m e Bill,” the elderly m an said, with an enthusiastic sm ile, when Harry greeted him using the ‘Headm aster’ title. “Life’s too short for form alities.” “All right,” Harry said slowly. “My wife is fix ing us dinner. W ould you lik e a tour of the house while we’re waiting?” “O f course I would! I’m sure you have a very nice place. You m ust feel lik e you’re rattling around in it, though, with your k ids starting to go off to college.” “A bit. I am used to being full up around here, but that’s the way it goes, I suppose. W e ’re k eeping ourselves busy enough not to notice m uch. Please follow m e.”
  30. 30. None of the Fitzhughs really k new what to do with Headm aster Bill’s laidback attitude--Harry and Mya were used to k eeping things as professional as possible because of the businesses, and Elle, who had been so ex cited about the curriculum and teachers, was deeply confused as to how such a school could have that k ind of headm aster. But Headm aster Bill continued through the visit com pletely unperturbed. He had nothing but praise for the house and com plim ented Mya warm ly on her chef salad. “So I hear you’re a senior,” he said to Elle, halfway through the m eal. “Yeah, I am ,” she replied, nervously. “Tak e it easy, dear. That’s not bad, just interesting. I’m curious as to why you would want to switch schools so close to your graduation.”
  31. 31. “W ell,” she said, swallowing her bite of salad, “I really want to do well in college, and I did som e research and saw that the private school has a better curriculum for college prep than the public school does. Plus all m y cousins who are still in high school go, and they lik e it a lot.” “That’s fair,” Headm aster Bill agreed. “I don’t see any reason not to adm it you.” “R eally?” “O f course. You and your brother both have ex cellent grades, and we need as m any students as possible to help get the program off the ground. I’d be happy to have both of you com e.” “Thank you so m uch!”
  32. 32. “W hen can they start?” Mya a sk ed. “As early as tom orrow, if you’d lik e. I brought the enrollm ent papers with m e, so if you fill them out before I leave, I can get them to the office first thing tom orrow m orning and our secretary can have class schedules for them by the tim e they com e in.” “That would be wonderful, thank you.” “It’s m y pleasure. W e’ll look forward to having them with us.”
  33. 33. There was one person, however, who was not pleased with this developm ent. “W hat if I didn’t want to go?” Billy dem anded, the nex t m orning, as Elle began to chatter to him ex citedly about their first day. “I thought you did,” she said, frowning. “Did you ever ask ?” “W ell, no, but I talk ed about it a lot, rem em ber? If you didn’t want to, that would’ve been the tim e to say som ething.” He sighed. “You talk ed about it with Mom at the businesses when I wasn’t there, Ellie.” “O h. I guess you’re right. Sorry.” “W hatever, it’s too late now.”
  34. 34. “C om e on, Billy, it’ll be fun,” Elle tried. “R ik u and Kirby and Cid all go to the private school, too. It’s not lik e we won’t k now anyone.” “I guess. I really lik ed public school, though. And R ik u k eeps com plaining about how m uch the uniform s itch.” “R ik u com plains about everything.” “…good point.” “Besides, they don’t itch as m uch if you use fabric softener when you wash them . W hich I did. So give it a chance, ok ay?” “Fine, whatever. It’s not lik e I have a choice at this point.”
  35. 35. “W hat are you doing, Harry?” Harry glanced over his shoulder briefly at his wife and sm iled, before turning back to the im prom ptu nursery they had set up while Billy was still a toddler but now sat there unused. “I was just think ing about how m uch has changed in the past few years,” he said. “My parents are gone now, and the house look s nothing lik e it did when I was growing up. Now our k ids are starting to grow up and leave us, and we ’ve been so busy with the businesses that tim e has flown by faster than usual lately. Som etim es I just want to slow down for a m inute.” “You’re so sentim ental,” Mya said fondly. “That’s a fault I’ve always had, unfortunately.” “It’s not bad. It just m eans you feel these things m ore than the rest of us.” “I suppose so.”
  36. 36. “Do you regret any of it?” “Not at all. Do you?” “No. W e’re doing wonderfully, Harry.” “W e really are. W e’ve got three great k ids, things around here are getting easier to handle every day, and your businesses are doing well. I wouldn’t tak e any of it back .” “Neither would I. I love you.” “I love you too, Mya.” * * *
  37. 37. That sam e day, they opened Billy’s Toy Bin for the first tim e. Harry, Mya, Elle, and Gabriel had fallen into a routine and handled the shop lik e they had the last two, and they were visited by m any of the sam e custom ers that had been to the others, had becom e friends with the fam ily, and k new that the service was good. Layout-wise, the store look ed m uch the sam e as the flower shop had, but it was m uch m ore child-friendly and fantasy- lik e in décor. Though the stock was different, Mya had again decided to m ass-im port m ost of their item s and only handcraft a few. Gabriel had a gold toy badge, so every so often he spent a couple of hours on the top floor creating m ore W ater W igglers and Spin’n’Twirls.
  38. 38. The only person unfam iliar with the shop’s atm osphere was Billy, and he had a difficult first couple of hours, as Mya delegated him to the cash register right away. “Just tak e it slow, k id,” Peter Sim s advised, a sym pathetic look on his face. “Both your sisters went through this, too. You’ll get the hang of it.” “I can do it,” Billy insisted. “It’s this button. It just gets stuck --”
  39. 39. “--GO D! C ut that out, you stupid piece of--” “Billy Israel Fitzhugh--” “Sorry, Mom !”
  40. 40. After a while, Mya got fed up with his outbursts and pulled him off the register, ask ing Elle to help him get started on sales until Gabriel cam e back from crafting. “So…why is she a sk ing you to teach m e how to do this, ex actly?” “Hey! I’m not that terrible at it.” “W hatever you say. Teach m e, O W ise O ne.” “W ell, you k now what all the stock is. W hen people com e in, just ask them what they’re look ing for and then show them som ething you think they m ight want and say som ething nice about it. That’s what Zuzu used to do.” “’k ay.”
  41. 41. Billy did well with sales, and especially with sales to fem ale custom ers. Cherryh Nebula, a frequent visitor who had developed a fondness for the three k ids, usually sought him out first when she wanted help with som ething, which m ade him feel good. If he needed any help, Gabriel was usually right there to pick up the slack , and barring that, one of his parents would leave the register for a m om ent.
  42. 42. “Are you sure m y k ids will want one of these?” “O f course, Aunt Suzy! C id’s a lways com plaining about how hot it is now that it’s sum m er, and you k now how m uch they love water balloons. The W ater W iggler’s a lot less m essy. You can just hook it up to the hose, and unplug it when you’re done. No plastic pieces to pick up off the ground after.” “W ell, you k now how I feel about them m ak ing m esses. Not that you weren’t just as bad.” “Heh. Sorry.” “I think I’ll tak e one. C an I charge it?” “I think so. Ask Mom .” Just then, the ding of the elevator announced the arrival of a new custom er, and Elle glanced over, eyes lighting up. “Hey, Billy, isn’t that Saffron’s little sister?”
  43. 43. Billy turned around, spotted her, and crossed the room in a flash, putting on his best sm ile. “Hi, Snow,” he greeted her, flushing a little. A happy grin lit up her face. “O h hey, Billy. Do you work here?” “My m om ’s the owner,” he said im portantly. “C an I help you with anything?” “O h, I’m just look ing. I don’t really have any younger relatives around here to shop for or anything. I’m just think ing ahead, I guess.” “Think ing ahead?”
  44. 44. She shrugged, look ing sheepish. “Do you think it’s dum b to be think ing a bout toys for your future k ids when you’re a teenager?” “No, I don’t,” he said im m ediately. “It’s hopeful. T hat’s a good thing.” “That’s what I thought,” she agreed, and her ex pression lightened again. “Saffy k ind of think s it’s dum b, though.” Billy laughed. “Y our sister’s not the type to k eep a hope chest and plan out her k ids’ nam es early, that’s why,” he said. “That’s not bad either, just different.” He got a fluttery feeling in his chest when Snow giggled. “That’s funny. I’d lik e to see that. She would never hear the end of it.”
  45. 45. “W ant m e to show you around? You k now, for future reference and all that.” “Yeah, that’d be great.”
  46. 46. “Are you watching them ?” Mya hissed to Harry. “R elax , honey,” Harry said gently. “He ’s still doing his job, and Gabriel’s out there too. If he starts horsing around then I’ll go stop him , but he’s fine for now.”
  47. 47. W hen Snow had gone, Elle found a reason to sidle up to Billy, grinning sm ugly. “Is that why you wanted to stay in public school?” “Shut up,” he replied, though without any real venom . Yep, Elle thought, pleased. He likes her. Zuzu’s going to love this.
  48. 48. Now that they were in private school, Elle and Billy were usually allowed to go hom e for half-an-hour to an hour before going to work so that they could change and get a snack , and the nex t day, Billy figured that was as good a tim e as any to invite Snow over to hang out. He wasn’t sure when his nex t day off was going to be, and he didn’t want som e loser at the public school to ask her out before he could have the chance. She arrived pretty prom ptly, a nd he figured that would give them a good thirty m inutes of chill tim e before he had to go to work . Maybe if he was luck y, she’d even walk him there. “Hey, Snow.” “Hi, Billy,” she said, giving him one of her bright sm iles.
  49. 49. “I ’m glad you cam e over. Sorry I don’t have long to hang out.” “O h, that’s ok ay. I’m just really happy you invited m e.” “So what do you want to do?” “I don’t k now, what can we do that’s fun but won’t m ak e you late for work ?” “W ell…”
  50. 50. “You are kidding me.” W hile Billy and Snow were m ak ing sm all talk , Elle was on Distraction Duty, and so far it wasn’t going very well. “How did that happen ex actly? She’s so desperate you can sm ell it m iles away, and he actually likes that?” Elle thought Snow was very nice, and thus felt irritated on Billy’s behalf, but was too nice to say so. “Billy does lik e her a lot, and has for a while,” she said calm ly. “Sorry, Kahlen. No one else really has a chance.” Kahlen sniffed a bit. “W hatever. It’s just as well, I guess. I’m not into all that foo-foo cutsie crap.”
  51. 51. “I didn’t think Billy was either,” Elle said slowly, “but I guess I was wrong.” * * *
  52. 52. O ne evening, Billy was in the m iddle of helping a custom er when he caught sight of a wom an waving at him as she stepped out of the elevator. “I’ll be with you in a m inute,” he called to her. “O h, I’m just fine thank s,” she replied. “Don’t worry about a thing, just k eep doing what you’re doing.”
  53. 53. She stayed only a few m inutes, walk ing around the shop and observing how things were run while tak ing feverish notes, and then she quietly left. The nex t m orning, a glowing review of Billy’s Toy Box turned up in the business section of the paper and put Mya in an ex ceptionally good m ood for the rest of the day.
  54. 54. O ther than that briefly ex citing m om ent, tim e spent at the shop continued as usual, and the days began to blend into each other for Billy, who had to be switched between various task s to k eep from getting bored, and was currently work ing on learning restock ing…
  55. 55. …which allowed Elle to have frequent, lengthy break s. They were all a ble to tak e longer break s than they had before now that they had a routine and could leave the floor for longer than it took to tak e an Energizer hit. Elle was the o ne m ost often unneeded, however, so she spent m ore and m ore tim e downstairs with the snapdragons and her thoughts.
  56. 56. “So are you handling everything ok ay?” she ask ed Billy, close to closing one evening. “Sure, it’s fine,” he replied. Elle ignored the testiness in his tone and went blithely on. “Do you have anything you need m e to help you with?” “I just said I was fine.” “All right, I’m just check ing. If you needed help I wanted to m ak e sure you got it while I’m here and have tim e, because when I get to college I won’t be able to anym ore.” “I ’ve got it, don’t worry.” “O k ay. That’s good.”
  57. 57. She was about to go back to her loafing around when Billy suddenly snapped to attention. “W ait, college?” “Yeah, at the end of the season. W hy?” He shrugged. “It’ll be weird around here with you and Zuzu both gone, that’s all.” “Aww, Billy, I’ll m iss you too. You don’t need sisters, though, you have a girlfriend, and you’ll get to go soon too.” “Do you always have to be so perk y?” he ask ed, eyebrows raised. “It’s reflex now,” she replied, offering him a shrug and a sm ile. She m ade herself refrain from adding that that had becom e m ore of a reason to k eep it up than a ctually having a nything to be perk y about.
  58. 58. If he noticed, he didn’t say anything, but he did let her hug him for the first tim e without com plaining about sister- cooties.
  59. 59. The nex t m orning, there was a bit of a crisis when Gabriel m alfunctioned and Harry had to spend three hours fix ing him up, followed by the hours he had to spend recharging. Because of this, they decided not to open the toy shop that day, and when the k ids cam e hom e from school to this news, they im m ediately dispersed to do other activities.
  60. 60. “I deeply regret the unfortunate m alfunction which caused m e to believe I could fix the leak y shower,” he said, as em otionally as a robot can, to Mya a fter he had recovered. “Your setback is m y fault.” “Don’t worry about it, Gabriel. I’ve been using the tim e to work out the details for the nex t business, so it hasn’t gone to waste.” “W hat will you be requiring of m e?” “I decided I wanted to finish off with an electronics shop. You have a gold robotics badge, right?” “I have indeed been work ing toward obtaining one.” “It’ll just be the usual then. Mak ing som e things, helping with sales, etc.” “O f course, Mrs. Mya.”
  61. 61. “Is there anything you’re going to need m y help with before I go?” Mya sm iled at her m iddle daughter. “No, baby, I think your father and I have everything under control. Have you collected all your scholarships?” “Yeah, I just placed a call to SPU and m ade sure they gave m e everything I’m supposed to have.” “Do you need m e to call you a tax i?” “O h, no, I can do it.” “You’re sure?” “Yeah.”
  62. 62. “You’re a good girl, Elle, and it m eans a lot to m e that you’ve been so willing to help m e out and haven’t com plained. I’m sure you’ll do really well in college.” “Thank s, Mom ,” she said quietly. “Good luck with the last one.” “Thank you, baby.” Elle ex cused herself as quick ly as she could, called her tax i, and said brief goodbyes to everyone else in the house before she m ade her escape. * * *
  63. 63. Elle cam e hom e from class on the first day of college ex pecting to be able to curl up with a book and tak e it easy for the rest of the a fternoon. Instead, she approached the front door just as a m an she had never seen before was walk ing out of it.
  64. 64. As she stared, he brok e into an easy sm ile. “W ell, hello. You m ust be Azula’s sister.” “W ho are you?” she blurted. “I ’m a friend of Azula’s,” he replied, glancing at his watch. “I’m running late, but it’s very nice to m eet you.” “Uh, ok ay, bye.”
  65. 65. He tossed her a wink and headed off, and she hurried inside to find Azula wandering around, look ing distracted. “Azula?”
  66. 66. Her sister jum ped two feet and turned around, plastering a sm ile on her face. “Ellie. I thought your class went until five.” “It’s five after five.” “R eally? Already? I guess I wasn’t paying attention to the tim e.” “Zuzu, who was that guy who just left?” “A friend,” she said evasively. “The guy you told m e about when you cam e to visit for Billy’s birthday?” “W hat? O h, hell no. Definitely not.” “So…he ’s not your boyfriend, then.”
  67. 67. Azula hesitated. “Not…really.” W hen she received a horrified stare in response to this statem ent, she sighed, tak ing a seat on the couch. “Ellie, you can’t tell anyone about this, ok ay? I haven’t told anybody and Mom and Dad will k ill m e if they find out--” “Find out what?” Elle quick ly took a seat beside her. She sighed. “I’ve, um , dated a lot of guys since I got to college.” “How m any is a lot?” “Tristan m ade twenty.” She gestured to the door. “Twenty? In a year?” “I k now, I k now.”
  68. 68. “So does that m ean you’ve already dated that guy you talk ed about?” Azula shook her head. “No. Dom inic and I are friends and this dating I’ve been doing doesn’t m ean anything. I wouldn’t do that to him .” “But you did date that Archie guy, right?” “R ight. He was the first one, actually. He didn’t want to com m it, though, so we had som e fun and that was the end of it.” She look ed up, saw Elle ’s ex pression, and sm iled a little. “Don’t look so horrified. I haven’t done anything bad.” “I guess, but…”
  69. 69. “Look , if it’ll m ak e you feel better, I’ll stop bringing guys back here, ok ay? If I go out with som eone, I’ll com e back alone. This is your house now, too, and I k now strange people m ak e you uncom fortable. Just don’t tell anyone.” Elle sighed. “O k ay, it’s a deal.” “Thank s, Ellie. I appreciate it.”
  70. 70. “I ’m , uh, just going to have som e salad now before it goes bad.” “You do that.”
  71. 71. Azula stayed true to her word, and Elle did not see a single strange m an enter her house for the rest of the sem ester. However, Azula quick ly shifted from bringing people hom e to finding reasons not to go out at all, and Elle began to find that just as uncom fortable. Her sister was clearly not m eant to be a herm it, but she k ept it up lik e nothing was wrong. She frequently sat down to play chess with Elle despite the fact that she loathed the gam e …
  72. 72. …took obscenely long showers every m orning…
  73. 73. …a nd did all the chores, even the ones that weren’t hers, without being ask ed.
  74. 74. Elle tried to put up with it the best that she could, but by the tim e Mik ey called to invite them to a gathering at his place, she was m ore than ready for an intervention. “That sounds great,” she said, as perk ily as possible. “W e’ll be able to m ak e it for sure. See you then.”
  75. 75. “Guess who that was?” “Mm ?” Azula had been engrossed in a com puter gam e, and thus not paying attention. “Mik ey just called. He ’s having a party tom orrow night and wants us to com e.” “O h? W hat did you tell him ?” “That we’d go, obviously.” “R eally? You want to? W e could probably get out of it, if you don’t.”
  76. 76. “Azula,” Elle said, calm ly, yet with a dangerous lilt to her voice ak in to a parent at the end of her patience quota, “so help m e God, you are going to go to that party, you are going to interact with your friends, and you are going to start acting lik e you again before you drive m e to com m it fratricide.” “O h, Ellie, I just--” “YO U’R E GO ING AND THAT’S FINAL.” “O KAY, O KAY. Jeez, are you P MSing o r som ething?” “…I’m going to ignore that com m ent and walk away now.” * * *
  77. 77. Elle wasn’t sorry she had forced Azula to go to Mik ey’s party. Far from it. W hat she regretted was that doing so had necessitated her going, as well. Cousin parties were one thing, but her sister’s crowd had doubled during their first year at college, so she was surrounded by people she didn’t k now. It was alm ost worse than a day at the businesses--she was unlik ely to see m uch of the custom ers again, but her sister’s friends would be around until they graduated. She m anaged to avoid talk ing to any of the unfam iliar faces, and found a couch in the corner to sit down on and watch the proceedings from .
  78. 78. She was joined shortly by her cousin Edie. “It is hot in here,” the younger girl com plained. “Too m any freak in’ people.” “You could go outside for a bit,” Elle suggested. “Yeah, no. Callie will think I’m trying to m ak e a break for it and chain m e to som ething.” “Tough break .”
  79. 79. “You said it.” Edie glanced at her sym pathetically. “You look lik e you want to be here about as m uch as I do.” Elle sm iled. She and Edie weren’t close, but it was nice to have som eone around who shared her m isery. “You’re Popularity, though. At least you’d get the opportunity to Meet Som eone New out of it.” “I k ind of thought college would give m e the freedom to do what I wanted to do and not what m y sisters wanted to do, though.” She k ick ed at the floor. “W hat’s your ex cuse?”
  80. 80. “Azula wouldn’t com e if I didn’t and she needed to get out of the house. I’m hoping to just k ind of sit here until it’s over and not have to talk to anyone I don’t k now.” Edie nodded absently, glancing around. Her eyes fix ed on som eone across the room and a slow sm ile cam e to her face. “That guy over there who’s look ing at you will be very sorry to hear that.”
  81. 81. Startled, she look ed up and caught the eye of a tall, brunette m an standing across the room . He was, indeed, look ing in their direction, but Edie had to be wrong, he couldn’t be look ing at her…
  82. 82. “He is not,” she hissed, turning to her cousin and trying not to blush. “He so is. And now he’s com ing over, too.” A quick glance revealed that he really was. “You are just as sadistic as your sisters, you k now that?” “I speak only the truth,” Edie said righteously. “Besides, he’s really cute. At least say hi.”
  83. 83. “Ex cuse m e.” Elle look ed up into the green eyes of the stranger and alm ost forgot to be shy. The friendliness and sincerity in them seem ed fam iliar. She had just begun to feel com fortable when she noticed that Edie was right about his look s, and she flushed all over again. “I do hope I am not intruding.” “You’re good,” Edie said cheerfully. “W e weren’t talk ing about anything im portant. W hy don’t you sit down?” A warm sm ile crossed his face. “I should lik e that very m uch. Thank you.” He pulled up a chair. “Are the two of you Mr. H- --ah, Michael’s cousins? He m entioned that you would be am ong the guests.”
  84. 84. “Yes, we are,” Edie confirm ed, while Elle just listened, fascinated by his accent and m anner of speak ing. It was strange, but lovely to listen to. A k ick from her cousin brought her out of her reverie and she cleared her throat, surreptitiously shooting Edie a dirty look . “Sorry. I’m Ellie and this is Edie. W e ’re, uh, freshm en this year. Um , are you a friend of Mik ey’s?” “I am indeed,” he said, offering her his hand. “It’s a pleasure to m eet you. I am Stuart Legacy.”
  85. 85. Meanwhile, Azula chattered away with Callie, pick ing up her obligatory post-Slap Dance gossip. Secretly, she was grateful to Elle for m ak ing her com e. She had m issed talk ing with her cousins and other friends. “I don’t think you’ve m issed anything too terribly ex citing,” Callie said. “W e decided to have a girls’ night at our place nex t week and I want you to bring Ellie with you.” “I ’m there,” Azula prom ised. “A girls’ night sounds fantastic.” “Ex cellent. W hat else …o h, you heard that Mik ey a nd Naom i brok e up, right?”
  86. 86. “W hat? Really? I thought those two were joined at the hip.” “So did I. Yeah, she dum ped him . It cam e out of nowhere, as far as I k now. It really m essed him up.” Azula was now glad she had com e sim ply because it seem ed lik e Mik ey really needed the com pany just then. “I’ve been wondering why he’s seem ed so quiet. That ex plains it, I guess. Do you k now why?” “Naom i wasn’t ready to get serious and Mik ey wanted to get engaged.” “P oor Mik ey. His parents never dated anyone but each other and they have such a solid relationship. I k now how m uch he wanted to have som ething lik e that.” “Yeah, but it’s so unrealistic.” She snorted. “Says the girl who’s waiting with bated breath for her high school boyfriend to propose.” “That is not rem otely funny, Zuzu.”
  87. 87. “Just saying. Who’s that with Mikey?” “Oh, that’s Elphaba. She’s our aunt, one of Gramma Marina’s daughters.” “…really?” “Yeah, really.” “Uh, it looks like he’s kind of into her. What if they hook up? Wouldn’t it be weird if your cousin dated your aunt?” “You know, that doesn’t really bother me. I feel like there are worse things that could happen.” “I guess…”
  88. 88. “Besides,” Callie continued, “any girl Mik ey dated right now would just be a rebound relationship.” “You’re right. I guess it’s his business any way it goes.” They were interrupted by a soft throat-clearing to Azula’s left. “Hey, girls.”
  89. 89. “Dom ! Hey.” Seeing her friend put a big sm ile on Azula’s face. “How are you?” “I ’m fine, thank s. How are you doing? I haven’t seen you in a while.” “Yeah, I’ve been busy.” “W ell, I’m glad you weren’t too busy to com e tonight. W anna dance?” He glanced at Callie. “I hope you don’t m ind.” Callie sm irk ed. “Not at all. You k ids have fun.” “Hey, just because you’re a day older than m e--” Azula began. Dom inic caught her arm . “Forget it. Com e on.”
  90. 90. She was nervous, but quick ly found her groove. It was clear that Dom inic loved to dance, but he was also very aware that he was doing it with another person and obviously wanted her to have a good tim e, too. He’s such a good guy, she thought, a little wistfully. “You’re good,” she said aloud. “Thank s. I’ve been dancing since before I could walk . That’s what m y m other always told m e, anyway.” She laughed. “W ell, with that m uch practice I’m not surprised. Ever consider m ak ing a career out of it?” “Not really. I love dancing, but it’s too…personal for that, you k now? I’d actually lik e to go into Law Enforcem ent.” “Dancing for great justice?” “Som ething lik e that,” he agreed, grinning.
  91. 91. Azula glanced over his shoulder and im m ediately becam e still m ore am used. “So, as your friend, am I legally bound to tell you what your sister’s doing with Phil right now?” Dom inic m ade a face. “No, I’d rather you didn’t. If I can’t see it, it’s not happening.” “Interesting way of look ing at things, there.” “You’re an oldest child, too. You can’t tell m e you’d want to see that.” “I ’ll get back to you when it becom es an issue.”
  92. 92. “R egalton?” Elle had heard of the place in passing, and the only thing she really k new about it was that it was a long, long way away. “That’s really far from here. W hat m ade you com e all the way out here for college?” “I was offered a large scholarship to study engineering,” Stuart ex plained. “The university here has a splendid program , and the faculty seem s eager to obtain new students.” “That m ak es sense,” Edie agreed. “There ’s a lot of outreach going on right now. They’re trying to get m ore people to com e here now that it doesn’t suck as m uch.” He nodded, sm iling. “W ell, they are certainly doing a good job of advertising. I thought that it m ight be beneficial to do som e traveling before I settled into a career.” “Do you lik e it here?” Elle ask ed. “So far, very m uch.” “I ’m glad to hear it.”
  93. 93. “And what are you studying?” “Mathem atics.” “R eally? W hat m ade you choose it?” She shrugged. “I feel com fortable with num bers, I suppose. I don’t have a career planned out or anything.” “I am sure m any people com e to university in the sam e situation.” He sm iled, and she didn’t feel asham ed of what she had said anym ore. “Y ou have tim e to decide.” “Yeah, I’m sure I’ll figure it out.”
  94. 94. “So Stuart,” Edie brok e in, sm irk ing, “do you have a girlfriend back hom e?” Elle shot her a m ortified glance, but Edie was very m uch her m other’s child and therefore not abashed in the slightest. His sm ile faltered slightly in confusion. “Ah…no, I am not seeing anyone at the m om ent.” “W hat a sham e. Good-look ing guy lik e you. I was sure you had a girlfriend.” “Stop it, Edie,” Elle hissed, now bright red. “W hat? He doesn’t m ind.”
  95. 95. Clearing her throat, Elle turned back to Stuart. “P lease pardon m y cousin. No one in her fam ily has any sham e. It’s a sick ness with them .” “I resent that,” Edie said cheerfully.
  96. 96. Stuart laughed. “I assure you I do not m ind,” he said. Elle was relieved to see that he really didn’t. She had the feeling that there wasn’t m uch that really bothered him , and couldn’t help a little envy.
  97. 97. “I should go relieve Ellie,” Azula said after a while, reluctantly m oving to disengage herself. “She cam e here for m e and I don’t think she wants to stay too late.” “Fine, if you have to,” Dom inic said playfully. He then did som ething com pletely unex pected--reached over and pulled her into a hug.
  98. 98. Azula didn’t k now what to do. She had never been that close to a guy she actually lik ed as m ore than just a casual hook - up before. Tentatively, she returned the hug, hoping she wasn’t holding on too tight or too long. “Let’s hang out soon,” he said, as he stepped back . “Yeah. I’d lik e that.”
  99. 99. “I guess I should go see if Zuzu wants to go,” Elle said, getting up. “I m ade her com e, so she probably doesn’t want to stay late.” Stuart got to his feet as well. “It was lovely m eeting you,” he said, flashing that adorable sm ile at her once again. “I should very m uch lik e to call on you soon. W ould that be all right?” “O h…sure, that would be great. W e’re in the last house on the end of the road, but Mik ey can give you directions in case you forget.” “W onderful. I will look forward to it.” She sm iled shyly back . “Yeah, m e too.” * * *
  100. 100. Having run out of children to nam e her businesses after, Mya decided to call the fifth and final--an electronics shop-- Gabriel’s Gears, as a tribute to both the hardwork ing Servo who had helped her with all five as well as the loving husband who had m ade him for her. The layout of the business was barely any different from the previous four. The downstairs housed two bathroom s and a lobby where custom ers could hang out in between shopping.
  101. 101. The upstairs was where the m erchandise was displayed. The only handcrafted item they carried were the little toy robots that Gabriel could put together quick ly at the station in the staff room . The rest, Mya im ported from dealers outside the region. The thing that stood out m ost about the shop was the wack y décor. Mya had decided to go for a futuristic flavor, and had put together a shop that her brother-in-law Jonathan could not have decorated better him self.
  102. 102. Now that he was the only child at hom e, Billy did m ultiple jobs. He k ept up with sales reasonably well and m ost of the custom ers loved work ing with him and spok e k indly of him to his m other.
  103. 103. W ith Elle gone, however, he also did m ost of the restock ing in between m ak ing sales. It was not a terribly hard job, since he had had a lot of practice at Billy’s Toy Bin, but he found it boring. More to the point, he found work ing at the businesses pretty boring in general, but he didn’t want to say so to his m other.
  104. 104. Harry k ept to the register, which seem ed to be all that he could handle, as he becam e m ore and m ore tired as the days went on. He k ept a cheerful attitude throughout the whole thing and was allowed as m any break s as he needed.
  105. 105. Gabriel’s tim e was once again split between crafting and sales, som ething he didn’t m ind in the slightest. However, a n incident that occurred shortly after the shop opened necessitated a third duty--that of Unofficial Security Guard.
  106. 106. Snow was a frequent visitor to Mya’s shops, since she and Billy were dating, and as long as he ask ed, he was allowed to spend a few m inutes chatting with her. After he had to get back to work , Snow m ight hang around for a bit and browse, or talk to his parents, a nd som e of the tim e she left to do som ething elsewhere. Billy had been worried about entering into the relationship when he didn’t have as m uch tim e for her as he wanted, but for now the arrangem ent was work ing fairly well. Som e days they even closed up early enough that he could call her before he went to bed.
  107. 107. O ne afternoon, once his break was over and Snow had gone, he went back to restock ing and was dutifully slogging through it when he felt a presence at his shoulder. “She’s really not that into you, you k now,” a quiet, vindictive voice sounded. “She ’s only going out with you because she ’s desperate. O nce she finds som eone who doesn’t look lik e he was fathered by a frog, she’ll dum p you.”
  108. 108. Billy dropped his pencil in shock . “What?” “You heard m e. She ’s too pretty for you. Everybody k nows that.” “Shut up, you’re wrong,” he hissed. The only thing that was k eeping him from straight out punching the guy was the fact that he did not want to get into a confrontation with his m other. “O h no, I’m definitely right. You’ll see.”
  109. 109. He snatched up his pencil and m oved away quick ly, but not far enough that he did not see what happened nex t. Gabriel, who had heard the entire thing, calm ly walk ed up to the boy and told him politely, yet firm ly, that he was no longer welcom e in the shop.
  110. 110. Hearing that and k nowing Gabriel would go to bat for him without being ask ed m ade Billy feel good and helped him to forget about the incident for the m om ent.
  111. 111. Meanwhile, Mya did her bit and helped out with all three jobs whenever it was necessary, though what she did m ostly seem ed to consist of supervision. “Hey, Aunt Mya!” C id greeted her, cheerfully, when he noticed her walk ing his way after a brief conversation with Billy. “The shop look s awesom e! It’s lik e a night club ex cept that you can’t dance or you’ll break stuff.” “Thank you, Cid,” she said.
  112. 112. Cid walk ed away to inspect a TV, and Mya a pproached her son. “Billy, do I need to give you a warning?” “No, geez,” he said im patiently. “I’m still doing m y freak ing job, which you would see if you were actually watching. I’m allowed to say hi to m y cousins. I didn’t do anything wrong.” “W atch your tone, young m an,” she said, sternly. He m uttered an apology and left to continue restock ing.
  113. 113. Minor incidents aside, things at Gabriel’s Gears continued m uch the way they usually did. It was the m ost successful shop of the bunch, and they attracted m any new custom ers in addition to k eeping all of the old…
  114. 114. …who in turn told their friends, which k ept them the busiest they had ever been.
  115. 115. “So this is Num ber Five, huh?” Lex a ppraised the shop with a sm ile, while Mya waited anx iously for her friend’s opinion. “It look s good, Mya. Very organized and hip. No wonder I’ve been hearing such great things about it.”
  116. 116. “I ’m glad you lik e it, Lex.” “And how are you doing, Mya ? Are you happy with all of this?” She answered without hesitation. “Y es, I am . I did what I set out to do and did it better than I ever ex pected to. This has been an am azing ex perience.” “Good to hear.” He grinned back at her. “You did good, Mya. I’m really proud of you.”
  117. 117. “Thank you, Lex. This couldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for you, you k now. I would never have m et Harry or com e up with the idea to do it in the first place. You m ade all of this possible by being m y friend.” “O h, you don’t have to thank m e.” “Yes, I do. It’s m eant a lot to m e.” “W ell, then, you’re welcom e.” * * *
  118. 118. W hen Mya told Billy that he could have a day off, he called Snow up without hesitation, and they spent the entire afternoon together.
  119. 119. He decided that it was a good thing that he would be headed to college shortly. He hated not having m uch tim e for Snow and hoped to have m ore afternoons lik e this once he wasn’t at the businesses constantly. He really enjoyed being in a relationship--especially now that he was the only child left at hom e--and felt luck y to have such a sweet, pretty girl as his girlfriend. And yet the incident at Gabriel’s Gears k ept bothering him . He would have been quite happy never even considering the fact that Snow m ight think he was ugly, or that she was using him . He did not want to talk about it with her, and so tried hard to give her the benefit of the doubt.
  120. 120. She stayed until it was past ten, and then reluctantly began to disentangle herself from his arm s. “I should get hom e,” she said. “Hold on a second,” Billy said, surprising him self. He hadn’t m eant to stop her--he k new she had a curfew.
  121. 121. “W hat is it?” she ask ed, puzzled. He hesitated, then blurted, “I love you.” A bright grin instantly lit up her face. “I love you, too!” she ex claim ed, and he k new that she wasn’t lying.
  122. 122. He pulled her into a hug, and she returned it enthusiastically. “I ’m so glad you said it,” she said. “I didn’t want to be the first one to say it.” Billy laughed, relieved. “I’m really glad you said it back . I was scared there for a m inute.”
  123. 123. Unfortunately, Harry was not having as nice an evening as his son. “Mr. Harry, that does not sound healthy. I believe you m ay have contracted a virus and suggest that you should rest,” Gabriel observed. “Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he rasped, when he had finished coughing. “I’ll sleep up here so I don’t give it to Mya.”
  124. 124. He had hoped to sleep it off, but to his dism ay, he ended up spending m ost of the nex t day in bed. It turned out that he had contracted the flu and would have to stay off his feet as m uch as possible in order to nuk e it and k eep from giving it to anyone else. “Not ex actly the best birthday present ever,” he m um bled to him self, m ore than a little upset at this.
  125. 125. “O h no, really? That’s horrible. Are you sure you don’t want us to com e?” “Positive,” Mya said, and Elle bit her lip. “You two have finals coming up and Harry wouldn’t want you doing badly because you’re sick. Just give him a call later and he’ll be happy with that.” “O k ay then. I’m sorry we’ll m iss it.” “That’s all right, baby. You and your sister take care.” “Sure. Happy Birthday, Mom .”
  126. 126. Elle went back to the salad she had just prepared, laid it out on the table, and sat down to eat it. She was soon joined by Azula, and Saffron, who was visiting. “W hat was that all about?” Azula a sk ed. “Mom called,” Elle said. “She doesn’t want us to com e tonight after all because Dad’s got the flu.” “O h, that suck s. Poor Dad. Sick lik e that on his birthday. I’ll call him after dinner.” “Yeah, I told Mom we would.” “Awesom e.”
  127. 127. “Anyway. W hat’s up with you, Saffy? W e haven’t seen you in a while.” Saffron grinned. “Not a lot, really. Studying for finals and definitely not wreak ing havoc with fire alarm s at m y dorm .” Azula laughed while Elle facepalm ed. “I thought you said that had nothing to do with you.” “W hat had nothing to do with m e?” Saffron said innocently. “I just said I wasn’t doing things lik e that. Gosh, Zuzu, I think you need hearing aids or som ething.” The blonde shoved her good-naturedly. “And you need a better short-term m em ory.” “If you two break m y dishes, there will be consequences,” Elle threatened, when Saffron playfully pushed her back .
  128. 128. “So did your m other ever decide who the heir was going to be?” “O h, yeah, that was a while ago. It’s m e.” Azula blink ed. “You? Really?” “W ell, yeah.” Saffron lifted a shoulder. “I guess it can’t really be anyone else. River’s Fortune and Snow’s…well, Snow.” “And you’re ok ay with that?” “Sure. Tak ing care of everyone ’s always been m y job. I’m look ing forward to it.” “Ugh, I couldn’t even im agine it. There’s no way I want to be heir.” Saffron look ed am used. “W ell, being heir’s a little different in m y fam ily than it is in yours, Zuzu.” “I guess. Still.”
  129. 129. “Have you guys talk ed about it yet?” “No, Mom ’s been so busy with the businesses that I don’t think anyone’s really even thought about it. Have you, Elle?” Elle blink ed. She had ex pected to just sit back and listen to the rest of the conversation without being ask ed to participate in it. “Uh, no, not really.” Azula nodded and turned back to Saffron. “Dad’ll probably ask about it soon. O ne of us has to, I just don’t want it to be m e.” “Totally understandable,” Saffron assured her. “So how’s everything at hom e besides your dad being sick ?” “P retty good, it sounds lik e. Mom ’s doing well with the electronics shop, and Billy’s nuts about your sister.” Azula paused. “Actually, forget I said that.”
  130. 130. “I already k now,” Saffron said. “Snow can’t stop talk ing about him . It would be really cute if it wasn’t so saccharine.” She m ade a face. “You can tell Billy from m e that if he ever hurts her, I’ll break his k neecaps.” Azula snorted. “I ’m sure he ’ll understand.”
  131. 131. O nce they were done, Elle collected the plates and let Azula and Saffron go off to do what Saffron had com e over to do-- study. “You are in really bad shape, Zuzu,” she inform ed her friend without pream ble. Azula sm iled sheepishly. “Yeah, um , that m ight be because m y prof this sem ester isn’t as lenient as the last one.” “O r m aybe because you just don’t care.” “You don’t ex actly care either.” “Yeah, but I can pass m y classes by the seat of m y pants without ever crack ing a book , and you don’t have that talent.” “O uch.” “Hey, you’re the one who ask ed for help.”
  132. 132. “Is it just m e or does Ellie seem lik e she’s in a really good m ood today?” “She is. She’s been lik e that for a while, actually.” “O h really?”
  133. 133. “Yeah, you were at Mikey’s house party a while back, weren’t you? I forget.” “Of course. Why?” “Do you remember that exchange student who’s living with him and Phil?” “Oh yeah, that guy.” “Yeah. He and Ellie met at the party and he’s been here almost every day ever since. He’s really into her, and I think she likes him too although she hasn’t admitted it yet.” “Wow, good for her. I thought she might be too nervous to attract anyone worth having. He checks out, obviously.”
  134. 134. “Yeah, he’s fine. He’s actually more concerned about all that stuff than I am, which I didn’t think was possible. He feels a lot more comfortable talking with Elle when I’m in the room.” “…uh, Zuzu, that’s not a good thing.” “With any other guy, I’d agree with you, but Stuart barely pays me any attention. I can’t really explain it. It just seems like he’s looking out for her, which is great. Or it would be if it didn’t make me feel like I’m babysitting them.” “So what do you do, just sit there?” “And read bad romance novels, yeah.” “Yuck. I can see why your grades are suffering.” “Oh come on, that is not why. They’re not rotting my brain if I know they’re bad.”
  135. 135. They had to quiet down when Elle walk ed over to the book case to get a book . As she walk ed away, Saffron caught the title and blanched. “That is, unfortunately, m ore than I can say for m y sister,” Azula said quietly. “Is…is that…” “Yes. Yes it is.” “Why is she reading that.” “To prove that you shouldn’t own a book if you’re only going to read it once. Cal gave it to m e as a gag gift a while back . I couldn’t stand it so now Elle ’s reading it, and the worst part is, I think she likes it.”
  136. 136. “…I never thought I would see a version of Elle that talk ed to boys and lik ed rom ance novels.” “Trust m e, neither did I.” “This subject is getting creepy. Forget I ask ed.” “Forgotten.” * * *
  137. 137. Harry and Mya both grew up well despite the fact that they were unable to throw a party and only had Billy and Gabriel for an audience. It disappointed Harry not to see his daughters or siblings, but he fielded calls until his coughing got in the way and afterward sim ply spent som e tim e alone with his wife, m ak ing carefully sure not to breathe on her.
  138. 138. “You should get to bed,” Mya said after a while. “I ’ve been in bed all day,” he protested. “And with good reason. W e’re not young anym ore, Harry, and the flu is a big deal. I don’t want you getting worse. It could turn into pneum onia if you’re not careful.” He sighed. “I suppose you’re right.” She sm iled a little. “I just want you to tak e care of yourself. You’re the only husband I’ve got, you k now.” “Don’t worry, hon. I’ll be fine.” * * *
  139. 139. Author’s Note: Hello, everyone! I com e to you bearing a new update and m y deepest apologies for the following: 1) I said this was going to be a double update. As you can see, it’s a single. I wasn’t able to finish playing when I wanted to and with the rebuild and everything even finishing this was difficult. To m ak e it up to you, I plan to post 20 and 21 together instead. 2) The fact that it’s been three m onths since I last updated. See rebuild ex cuse above. 3) No detailed Author’s Note this tim e around. I have very little to say about this chapter, ex cept for…
  140. 140. MW AHAHAHAHA I DID IT FEAR ME FO R I AM AW ESO ME I am not the first person to com plete the 5 Businesses want by a long shot and I definitely could not have done it if it weren’t for the people who did it before m e and passed on ex cellent advice. (I am pretty sure I am the first person to have done this in an Apocalypse Challenge with Culinary and Politics still in place, though.) But I’m glad that I did it if only to prove to m yself that I could, and for the fact that it has provided m e with a series of ex cellent plot points. And now I will never do it again. W ell, not for a while anyway.
  141. 141. O h yeah, Zuzu’s perm aplat too. I actually rushed her and Mya through the last bits of both their wants when I k new O riginal Sierra Plains was headed for m eltdown because I didn’t want to have to do it all over again in the new ‘hood. Just seconds before she took this phone call, Azula gained her twentieth red heart, from …
  142. 142. …a guy who isn’t the one I said it was. :D Lik e I said, I had to rush to get it done, and Azula was a flirt away from red hearts with Dom inic whereas with Tristan it would have tak en m uch m ore tim e, so I went the easy route for the sak e of the m ilestone. However, I showed the guy I had originally intended for #20 anyway for reasons you will see nex t update.
  143. 143. That said, I hope you all enjoyed the update, and I hope to see you very soon with the nex t. Until then, Happy Sim m ing! --- Guest Sim s Dom inic and Kahlen Doran - The Boolpropian Round Robin Legacy Stuart Legacy - A Victorian Legacy Saffron a nd Snow Bohem ian - The Bohemian Legacy Shoppers/A spiration Fodder: Spider Jerusalem and Archim edes Vetinari (The Vetinari Dualegacy), Aylee Devereaux (The Devereaux Legacy), Claudius Caesar (The Ten Caesars), C herryh Nebula (A Planetary Apocalypse), Norris Bauchm an (The Science of a Legacy), Derrial W hedonberry (Whedonberry)