Hank 7: And all who sail in her!
A Whateley Academy Tale
And all who sail in her!
by Phoenix Spiritus
Sunday Morning, September 9th 2007
Holographic Simulation Center, Whateley Academy
"I am Super Girl!"
Mule glared at the blue and red flying bundle of joy as he came into the Sim debriefing room. The small flying miniature Nikki had been a major pain in the ass to contain, it's very existence in the Sim coming as a complete and utter surprise. It had single-handedly almost cost them the win, not to mention been heavily involved in the surprise trap that had removed him from the Sim.
"What is that!" he growled pointing.
Hank gave him an apologetic look. "Ah, that's my brownie, Leanne," he admitted.
"It's Hank's House Elf!" Jade proclaimed excitedly.
Mule winced. Wondercute’s performance yesterday against Outcast Corner and Wild Pack should have warned them, but he and the Grunts had persisted in their belief that Team Kimba would still be suffering from the effects of the end of term breakdown everyone couldn’t help but have seen them having before leaving for the summer break. All but loosing today’s Sim had robbed them of that delusion in a hurry.
All the Grunts stared at the miniature flying Nikki circling above them, Mule shivering and silently thanking God when three pixies in Christmas dresses appeared and starting flying in formation with the brownie, he was so glad they hadn't been part of the Sim too.
"Everyone take a seat!" Gunny Bardue growled, marching into the room and coming to a parade rest, glaring as the Grunts quickstepped to their places while the flying brownie and pixies settled onto the backs of seats, people's shoulders or, in the case of Leanne, Hank's lap.
"Grunts I gave you all the advantages in this Sim. You knew exactly who you were up against, where they were going to be, I even gave you time to position yourselves before they appeared!" Bardue paused to glare at the rigid students, each sitting ramrod straight, staring straight ahead.
"Fey, Phase, Generator! Surprises, holdouts, the complete unexpected is Team Kimba's stock in trade, how can the addition of a single brownie have caused you so much trouble? How could you have so poorly planned for what you knew must have been coming? How could you have relied so totally on such inflexible strategies and tactics when going up against a team renown for always having that 'one more thing'? That last 'rabbit out of the hat'? The game winner no-one saw coming?" Gunny glared at the Grunts before settling down to ripping to shreds each member of the team for every mistake they had made, individually and as a group, over the entirety of the Sim match. Finally he dismissed them and the Grunts marched silently out of the room.
Turning to the remaining students, all but one of them sitting comfortably in their chairs patiently awaiting their turn, Gunny grunted. Glancing at the wide-eyed fearful stare of the brownie in Hank's lap, slowly calming down again as Hank comforted her, Gunny turned his gaze one-by-one to each of the members of the notorious 'Team Kimba' training team and grunted again. "I suppose that was deliberate?" he growled finally.
"Sir?" Hank asked innocently, giving him a puzzled look.
"Don't play dumb with me," Gunny growled. "You had the Grunts on the ropes as soon as your brownie threw their plans into disarray. I’m not blind! You were leading them around by their noses nearly the whole Sim. They won because you wanted them to win!"
Ayla calmly returned Gunny's glare, but the evil smile on Gunny's face became wider and wider the more the rest of Team Kimba squirmed.
"Good, we understand each other,” Gunny purred. "You want a losing Sim record? I want hard training for my top teams! From now on you lot are officially on Zeta track, that means hard Sims against top teams with all the odds stacked against you. You're my new favourite 'red' team since the Outcasts up and decided they want to be on the rescue and response track and behave like heroes. I don't want to hear a single whine about Sim loads, impossible scenarios, always being the bad guys or any other crap. You play games in my Sims and you will reap what you sow. The Sim planners and I will be in contact with Phase and Lancer about your Sim schedules and what we expect from you in each of your upcoming matches.”
Gunny favoured Team Kimba with a truly terrifying smile, one Carroll’s Cheshire Cat would have been ashamed to produce. “You want to lead fellow students around the Sim by their noses? Fine! You'll be doing that now to our scripts. Follow our instructions and I can promise you you'll get the Sim scores you want and the training you need, all lulling the stupid and the gullible into thinking what you want them to think, while still allowing you the training you need to handle those that see through your subterfuge."
Gunny glared at each member of a Team Kimba in turn, until each of them gave him a nod of acceptance. Grunting, Gunny waved to the door. "Dismissed!" he barked and watched as they slowly rose and made their way out. Turning with a military precise about-face, Gunny marched back through the door and into the Simulation control room.
"Well done Gunny, how did you know they were doing it deliberately?" Sam asked from her comfortable control chair.
Gunny smiled easily as he slid down into his own chair and reached out to take a sip of coffee. "I didn't, well not until I saw them all sitting there happily watching Hank's brownie and those pixies fly around. What we saw could just have been leftover coordination issues from the breakups and breakdowns at the end of last term / beginning of summer. But when I saw them all laughing and smiling at that brownie's antics, it suddenly clicked that they were as together as I've ever seen them. There may still be issues they're working through, but nothing big enough to have caused that cluster-fuck of a Sim. No, that's when I knew it was deliberate. They've decided they no longer want to be the unbeatable, unstoppable 'Team Kimba'. They want to disappear into the woodwork, be less the targets they became last year."
"And that ultimatum you forced them to swallow?" Sam queried.
Gunny smiled beatifically. "You know as well as I do that we don't get to run the best scenarios as often as we like because of the difficulty of gathering enough staff to run the 'red' teams. Well now we have a highly capable student team who'll run the red teams for us, and who'll have no issues with the other teams believing it was a staff team they were up against rather then them. Team Kimba want to be seen as not as good as they are, this way they can be. Lose as themselves, cut loose when they are the 'unknown' red team. Win-win for us and for them."
Sam studied Gunny Bardue thoughtfully for a minute before nodding agreement. "We'll need to lock down solid their identity when they're playing red team for us," she noted finally.
"I'll leave that in your capable hands," Gunny smiled smugly.
Team Kimba filed into Ayla's room for their standard 'after action' review of the Sim match, but they were unusually somber. Settling into their preferred hammocks, beanbags and chairs, everyone turned to Nikki and waited for her to complete her spell of misdirection before as one they turned to Ayla.
"Were we right to agree?" Hank spoke for all of them.
Ayla nodded slowly, he had been thinking carefully ever since leaving the debriefing room, all the time while they had changed and then walked back to Poe. "I believe Bardue has guessed correctly what we wish to do, and moreover, he agrees. If Admiral Everheart agrees, we'll have the support of Hive and the whole of the Simulation staff to further the subterfuge."
"And 'Zeta Track'?" Nikki questioned.
Hank winced. "Supervillain Track," he admitted. "It's one of the 'hard' tracks for training teams, the same one Outcasts were on last year."
"Hard tracks?" Billie enquired softly.
Ayla spoke up before Hank could reply. "Whateley Sim matches are required curriculum for Sophomore students and older, but students who are intent on pursuing careers in 'the business' can request 'hard track' Sim matches, it increases the tempo and severity of their training, and they tend to go head to head more often with the other 'hard track' teams. The hard tracks are 'Alpha' for future heroes, 'Beta' for those who wish more search and rescue type careers ..."
"Like the Outcasts do," Toni noted.
"Exactly, 'Omega' is for military careers ..."
"Grunts," Hank murmured.
"And finally, 'Zeta' is for the supervillians."
"And that's what Bardue has us on now?" groaned Nikki.
"Why?" Jade asked curiously. "Why not the superhero track?"
Hank smiled. "The Outcasts swapped from Zeta to Beta tracks. They were a top three Sim team, now all the top teams are on the hero tracks. Bardue wants another top team to push the heroes hard. It's actually a compliment, Bardue must believe we could be a top five team too."
"Yeah, but why does it matter?" Jade pressed. "Hero or villain track? It's all just Sims."
"To us, yes. 'Heroes' on the other hand fight poorly when made to play the 'villain' roles," Ayla explained softly. "A team like us, who is only in it for the learning not because it's a career we wish to pursue, will fight better in the ‘villain’ roles then any of the wannabe heroes could."
Jade sniggered and everyone turned to stare at her. "What? It's funny! Can you really imagine mister straight laced here as a supervillin?" she pointed to Hank. "Or mister 'I can't hurt my friends! I'm not going to play Dark Phoenix even if you kick me from the team' over here being the bad guy in a Wondercute Sim?" she nodded to Phase.
"Maybe Lily can give Hank acting lessons?" Nikki suggested with a smile. Nobody commented on whether or not Ayla could actually overcome his reluctance to hurt his friends or not, though everyone gave him worried looks.
"So we're really doing this?" Hank questioned softly.
"It's even better than what we'd planned," Ayla admitted. "Just losing a lot in the Sims isn't going to give us the chance to actually improve our skills, whereas this does. And it will still seem to everyone that we are stagnating."
"How's that going to work?" Toni asked curiously. "We'll still be Team Kimba even when we're the bad guys. Wouldn't Bardue be wanting us to beat the other teams? How are we going to be doing that if our 'skills are stagnating'?"
Hank shrugged. "I imagine he'll setup some secret other team for us to be while playing the villains."
Ayla sat thoughtfully for a moment, before a smile took over his face. "Ayles?" Nikki growled. "What are you planning?"
Ayla looked up and smirked. "Who wants to bet sometime soon a 'teachers' team is added to the Sim schedule?" he asked. "A team created so that a rotating cast of teachers can provide the completion our top teams are so sadly lacking?"
"We get to pretend to be teachers?" Jade gasped wide-eyed before squealing in joy. "I wanna be The Fabulous Imp!" she declared as Nikki, Ayla and Hank all face-palmed and groaned.
"I knew I shouldn't have let you sign up for that arts class," Billie muttered.
"But Imp is awesome!" Jade enthused. "She said learning to paint will help me with my Japanese and Chinese calligraphy, and learning to draw will help me with my device diagrams and circuit layouts and all sorts of things!"
"I can't believe she talked all of Wondercute to sign up to do an arts class together," Billie muttered.
"I can't believe she turns up to teach a class with all of Wondercute in it!" Nikki exclaimed.
"Imp's awesome!" Jade repeated with a huge smile.
Sunday Afternoon, September 9th 2007
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Leanne carefully peered out from Master’s room and quickly checked the corridor. Master was with Mistress and Leanne had not heard movement in the corridor for a while. Confirming it was empty, Leanne crept down the corridor, deliberately avoiding the hidden ways so that no one would detect magic being done in the corridor.
Pausing beside a certain door, Leanne all but stopped breathing as she carefully laid her ear against it, only to squeal in surprise as the door was abruptly pulled open to allow two shapes to flow out and encircle her.
Toni and Jade smiled down at the surprised brownie trapped between them when they had jumped out from Toni’s room, shared by Toni with Nikki and Nikki’s own brownie, Koehnes.
“Now Leanne, you wouldn’t have been trying to sneak up on Koehnes again would you?” Toni drawled.
Leanne glanced back and forth between her two captors, before she opened her eyes wide, put on a delightfully innocent expression and bravely shook her head no.
“Ohhh, good puppy dog eyes!” Toni congratulated her. “Now just a smidgen of mischief to go with that innocence and you’ll have perfect Jade worthy weapons of mass deception!”
Leanne blinked at Toni in surprise as with a laugh the hyperactive girl gave a sort of vaulting leap and with a wave to follow her danced off down the corridor. Jade gently nudged Leanne to start walking and the two of them set off down the corridor after Toni, the Cabbit in Jade’s arms giving Leanne a friendly wave of welcome.
“So Shortstuff, I heard you’ve got all Hank’s martial arts knowledge?” Toni called back as she casually jumped to touch the ceiling, then ran along the wall for no apparent reason. “Jade here says you know quite a bit, but your punches and kicks lack power. If you’re going to fight brownies and Grunts and keep joining us in the Sims, we need to do something about that!” Toni stated as she casually jumped up onto the handrail of the stairs, before disappearing as she surfed her way down them.
Jade rolled her eyes and led Leanne down the stairs by the normal means, turning the corner in Poe’s basement to find Toni doing a handstand as she waited for them beside the open door to the Poe Martial Arts practice room.
Inviting Leanne inside, Jade put her Cabbit down and it ran to the centre of the mats where it bowed to Toni who bowed back. Waving Leanne to join the Cabbit in the middle of the room, Toni followed her in before bouncing on the balls of her feet and smiling at her. “OK Leanne, show us what you’ve got!”
Leanne frowned at Toni, turning to Jade with a puzzled look. “Just show her what you and Cabbit have been practicing together,” Jade prompted as the Cabbit assumed the basic stance on the mats. With a shrug Leanne also assumed the stance and together they ran through the practice routine Hank usually started his BMA sessions with while the suddenly statue still Toni studied them intently.
“So?” Hank asked Toni quietly from the door where he had sneaked it to watch as his brownie and Jade-as-Cabbit sparred.
“She needs practice, lots of practice,” Toni replied softly, leaning against the wall and contemplating the two small figures dodging and weaving on the mat. “She knows the moves and is doing them right, but there is no power behind her punches or kicks, and she lacks stamina.”
Hank nodded, noticing Leanne’s laboured breathing “So, leave it in the hands of the Cabbit?” Hank suggested.
“Leave it in the hands of the Cabbit,” Toni agreed with a smirk, before bouncing over and correcting the stance of the little brownie that was the object of their discussion.
Hank watched Leanne spar with the Cabbit for a bit, smiling in delight at the joy on his brownie’s face, exchanging smiles with Jade who also was watching. At a beep from his pocket he removed his b-phone and absently glanced at it, suddenly frowning.
“What is it?” Jade asked concerned. Hank showed Jade his b-phone and waited for her to read the email from Gunny before Jade glanced up at Hank and giggled.
“Jade!” Hank chastised her.
“Oh don’t worry so!” Jade laughed at him. “Come on, let’s go find Ayla. He’ll be able to give you a proper rundown on the Ghost Walkers and help you figure out a strategy for them. As promised, Gunny has given you the complete run down of what he wants from you for this Sim, and now it’s just a matter of you and I building the perfect Supervillain for you to rock as you fight them!”
Hank glared repressively at the hyper-excited Jade before shoulders slumping he gave her a wain smile. “Thank you Jade,” he finally said, remembering all the Sims she’d already done as Supervillain and how creative and well, great she’d been at it. “I guess I could really use your help.”
Jade smiled triumphantly and started dragging Hank for the door. “This is going to be amazing!” she cried as Hank suppressed a grimace and followed her.
Breakfast Monday Morning, September 10th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
“So Hank, Toni tells me Jade is now helping your brownie with her Martial Arts,” Nikki stated as they all sat down at the Team Kimba table, well all but Jade and Leanne who had split off from the rest of them after the checkouts and were now enthroned at the nexus of mayhem that was the Wondercute table. “Seriously, aren’t you worried about how much time Leanne is spending with Jade?”
“No, Jade’s very good with Leanne, so are the other Wondercute girls,” Hank answered with a shrug, holding out a chair for Lily to sit. “They’re not treating her as a doll or a baby or anything like that, they are just inviting her to hang out with them and do things with them, like watch movies and TV shows. Also Jade’s been helping Leanne’s training and the like, practice her martial arts, hang out with her while I’m in class, that sort of thing, and it’s not like Lily and I don’t know where Leanne is at all times.”
Behind Hank’s back Toni turned to Ayla and mouthed “Lily and I!” with a huge triumphant smile, Ayla merely gave her a warning glare.
Nikki raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure Jade and Leanne together is a good thing?”
“Very,” Hank replied firmly. “Jade’s been helping Leanne as the Cabbit to practice with her, BMA and the like, get better at defending herself.”
Nikki frowned. “Isn’t Leanne still linked to you? Can’t she still share memories with you? Couldn’t she just learn BMA that way?”
“She can can access my memories, yes.” Hank agreed. “But she still needs to practice the moves, build up her own stamina and reflexes, just because she knows the moves in her mind doesn’t mean her body knows them,” Hank cautioned. “Jade’s been helping her practice that.”
Nikki just stared at Hank before sighing and asking bluntly. “Is Jade really the best person for Leanne to be around? I mean, Leanne is still very naive and Jade’s well Jade! Are we sure what Jade will be teaching her are good things for her to learn?”
“Come on Nikki, it’s Jade! I trust her! Besides, Leanne is just a brownie, how much trouble can they be getting into?” Hank answered with a laugh. Even Lily gave Hank a disbelieving stare at that declaration.
Hank looked around the table, hurt by all the stares. “I believe in Jade!” he defended their pint sized companion. “Her heart is in the right place and she’s always ready to help! Unlike the rest of you, who all sniggered about Gunny ordering me to be a Supervillain, Jade has been very helpful to me in perfecting a Supervillain persona!”
“Wait, what? You’re playing a Supervilllian?” Lily asked Hank stunned.
“You asked Jade to help you be a Supervillain!?” Nikki exclaimed, eyes wide in shock.
“Like really? Supersuit and all?” Toni asked, a bubble in her voice which broke out in delighted laughter when Hank glared at her. “Oh this I’ve got to see!”
“You’re playing a Supervillain!?” Lily repeated loudly, causing Hank to wince and turn to her.
“Ah yes. For the Ghost Walker Sim tonight.” Hank confirmed. “Gunny asked me.” Hank glanced quickly at his Kimba teammates, silently pleading. With rolled eyes and many smirks Nikki and Toni nodded silently, agreeing to drop the subject so Lily didn’t ask why Gunny was asking Hank to play Supervillain, though the smouldering look Lily was giving Hank promised he hadn’t heard the last of it from her when she had him alone.
Leanne watched Master wave farewell to her before he disappeared into the throng of students making their way up into Kane Hall for classes. Once Master and his friends had disappeared from view, Leanne stepped back into the bushes and returned to Poe, running through the garden beds and wooded sections surrounding the paths and quadrangles of Whateley Academy without so much as a leaf or branch swaying to betray the passage of the quickly moving brownie.
Approaching Poe Cottage, Leanne kept herself hidden all the way up to the very walls of the Cottage, even slipping through the magical wards around Poe without disturbing them. With Master across the campus taking his classes, Leanne no longer had access to his PK field to allow her to fly up and reach door handles, but it didn’t matter. The Queen’s spells infused Poe Cottage, seeping into the very bones of the building, and not all of them were protective. Tapping into the domestic spells infusing Poe for this very purpose, the brownie activated the Servant’s Entrance and slipped into the building, smirking once again that the spells meant to allow her nemesis to better serve her Queen worked just as well to allow Leanne to serve her Master.
As a matter of courtesy, Leanne slipped through the ground floor, keeping to the hidden routes until she found Mrs. Horton. Waiting politely for Mrs. Horton to finish what she was doing, Leanne stepped from the shadows and waved shyly to the house mistress as she turned. At Mrs. Horton’s acknowledging smile, Leanne smiled shyly in return herself before slipping back into the shadows and racing for Master’s room. Leanne carefully confirmed the corridor was empty before climbing the doorframe, touching her thumb to the reader plate and slipping through the door at the click of the lock.
Taking a deep breath in satisfaction, Leanne smiled and quickly climbed onto Master’s desk, making her way to the TV-cum-computer display attached to the wall over the desk. Picking up the remote, Leanne tuned to Master’s favourite radio station, one of many from all over the US, indeed the world, that could be accessed through the Whateley campus cable system. Jumping down, humming to the music, Leanne all but danced across the dorm room floor as she picked up the discarded clothes of Master and Kitty, folding them and neatly laying them in the bottom of their respective laundry hampers ready to be washed latter.
Leanne continued humming happily along with the radio as she stripped the two beds and remade them with clean sheets, even doing the same for her own hammock. She tucked clean pyjamas for Master and Kitty under their pillows and smiled in satisfaction. Climbing up onto her favourite ledge to look out the window, Leanne grimaced at the dust in the corners. With a stern glare Leanne jumped down to gather up the cleaning products Master had bought her for this very job, happily humming to herself as she continued cleaning Master’s room.
Leanne was still humming and occasionally swaying to the music an hour later as she polished the dust off Kitty’s desk. Her task was interrupted when an oddly muffled thump caused her to stop and turn to the door. Leanne stared at the door puzzled when the thump repeated itself. At the third thump her curiosity got the better of her.
Leanne jumped down from Kitty’s desk and made her way to the door, after the next thump she opened the door and glanced out. With a squeal of terror Leanne slammed the door shut again. Leanne leaned against the comforting solidity of the closed door and panted, a renewed muffled thump causing her to squeal, jumping away from the door and to back away from it warily.
Leanne fearfully watched the door, whimpering slightly as the thumps continued, slowly, methodically repeating until suddenly they stopped. When they didn’t resume Leanne whimpered again and crept back to the door, opening it a crack to fearfully glance outside.
Across the corridor, pressed right up against the far wall and crouched down low against the floor, the white lion plush toy that had carried her away screaming as it ran through Poe Cottage pressed itself flat against the carpet, somehow managing to look sorrowful and pleading.
Leanne regarded the lion warily, finally remembering what Master and Mistress had tried to explain to her about it after the last time she encountered it.
“Jade?” Leanne questioned cautiously. Jade had visited her a few times as a Cabbit to spar with her, but this was the first time she’d seen the white lion since that traumatic white knuckled ride through the corridors of Poe.
“Wrowr!” The white lion growled, fiercely shacking it’s head and striking a pose, head up wind ruffling its fur.
Leanne squealed, flinching back before she recovered her composure a little and stared at the fierce toy, swallowing hard. “Master and Mistress said it was you, Jade, animating the lion?” Leanne quavered, squealing when the lion darted at her, pushing through the door and jumping high over the her head as she trembled below it.
Landing on Hank’s desk, the lion reared up on its hind legs, using a front paw to worry at the DVDs stacked neatly on the bookshelf above the desk until it managed to pull one down. Using its nose, it pushed the DVD off the desk and onto the floor, jumping down beside it to again strike a pose.
Cautiously, Leanne stood and crept closer to the lion until she could see the DVD on the floor, when she did she giggled and smiled up at the lion. The DVD was the one Hank’s friends teased him about the most. “You want to be called ‘Kimba’?” Leanne asked the posing white lion toy who nodded regally at her. “But you’re really Jade right?” Leanne whispered hopefully to the lion.
The white lion stared regally at her for a moment, before it looked around furtively and leaned closer to give her a wink. Giggling Leanne crept closer, bending down to pick up the DVD and cuddle it to her chest. Smiling at the white lion, once again regally posing before her, Leanne sighed in relief. “You’re Master’s friend, you wouldn’t hurt me.” Stepping forward Leanne reached out to pat the white lion.
Squealing in terror, Leanne tripped backwards onto her behind, then flat on her back as the lion roared and pounced on her, flattening her to the floor beneath itself as its mouth attempted to chew her head and its paws battered away the flailing arms Leanne was using to try and protect her head or push away the roaring and growling lion.
Leanne was screeching and flailing for some time before she realised that the biting, clawing lion wasn’t hurting her. She stared up in fascinated horror as the furry mouth of the Kimba white lion plush toy chewed and worried at her arm, held protectively before her face, with all its might, it’s soft furry mouth doing little more than tickle her. Eventually hysterical sobs of laughter replaced Leanne’s screeches, turning to real peals of laughter as the white lion abandoned its game of ‘mauling’ her and settled down to tickling her for all it was worth.
Leanne had resumed cleaning Master and Kitty’s room, humming happily to herself, glancing occasionally back to where the white lion roamed, happily sniffing out and exploring the corners and hidden places of the room.
Leanne was standing contemplating the window with a frown when the white lion jumped down from the top of the wardrobe it had been exploring and padded up to contemplate the window too from beside Leanne. Finally Leanne sighed, turned to the white lion and shrugged.
“I’ll suppose I’ll have to wait till Master comes back tonight so I can wash the window,” Leanne murmured wistfully. “I can’t fly at the moment, and I doubt Mrs. Horton would help me with a ladder.”
The white lion looked at her then suddenly it started butting against her, trying to squeeze under her legs.
“Go away Jade!” Leanne exclaimed with a laugh. “Just because I can’t wash the windows doesn’t mean I’m finished cleaning!”
At the mention of “Jade” the white lion roared and pounced on Leanne, busily exploiting all the ticklish areas it had found last time they wrestled, in no time reducing Leanne to helpless giggling and wriggling on the carpet.
“OK! OK! I yield!” Leanne finally called out gasping for breath. “Kimba! Kimba! I promise not to call you Jade again!”
The white lion gave Leanne one more soft-as-silk chew on the face before jumping off her and letting her get up. After Leanne stood up once more, the Kimba plushie casually strode for the window, apparently placing its feet firmly on thin air until it turned and regarded Leanne regally from its place standing mid-air before Master’s window.
“You want to help me clean Master’s window?” Leanne asked slowly. At the toy’s regal nod, Leanne squealed excitedly, quickly gathering her cleaning gear before scrambling aboard the back of the white lion.
“My goodness! Is that Jade’s white lion plushie you are riding?” Mrs. Horton asked Leanne in surprise as the little brownie padded up to her on Jade-as-Kimba.
Both the lion and Leanne nodded mutely, before Leanne pointed to the door and cocked her head questioningly at Mrs. Horton.
“Well, I suppose it is nearly lunchtime,” Mrs. Horton murmured. “But are you sure Jade is OK with you taking her things to the Crystal Hall?” she pointedly looked at the white lion Leanne was riding.
Leanne looked down to the vigorously nodding head of the white lion before looking up again questioningly towards the Poe housemother.
“Well OK dear,” Mrs. Horton agreed. “But I’m not sure how I feel about you traipsing about campus like Sir Didymus,” Mrs. Horton drawled, smiling at Leanne’s shocked surprise at the Labyrinth reference. “I know you’ll keep an eye out for the flags, and they are flying green at the moment anyway, but I’d really appreciate it if you could try and avoid being seen by any guests to the Academy?” Mrs. Horton asked Leanne. “We don’t need rumours spreading around of Jim Henson creatures taking over the campus now do we?” she finished with a smile as Leanne shook her head ‘no’ in agreement.
With a wave goodbye Leanne and the white lion bounced through the door and off through the bushes towards the Crystal Hall and lunch.
Walking down the path towards Crystal Hall, a tawny blur darting across the path between the bushes quickly followed by a white blur joyously shouting “Kitty!” stopped Hank dead in his tracks. Hank blinked in astonishment and stared into the bushes.
“Ah Hank,” Ayla interrupted his bemusement. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that your roommate disappearing into the forest as a female mountain lion?”
“Yes it was,” Hank agreed.
“And chasing it?”
“Ah, Leanne,” Hank mumbled hesitantly.
“And she was ...?”
“Mounted on Jade’s Kimba the White Lion plush toy.”
“OK ...” Ayla joined Hank in contemplating the bushes they’d disappeared into. “Well, at least we know Jade is keeping an eye on Leanne like she said she was going to,” Ayla gave Hank a comforting pat on the back, before “Hank ...”
“I know,” Hank winced. “She’s mounted on a white steed and following this year’s bully magnet.”
“Don’t forgot,” Ayla added wearily. “Her ‘steed’ is Jade, probably with a Spot ready to call in all of Wondercute ...”
“... and the Cutettes ...” Hank muttered.
“So really, ‘how much trouble could Jade be getting her into’?” Hank winced as Ayla repeated his unwise pronouncement from this morning’s breakfast.
“Cheer up,” Toni said cheekily, patting Hank on the back as she arrived in time to hear what Hank and Ayla had been discussing. “Even security thinks Wondercute versus school bullies is nothing more than a spectator sport of the first degree!” Hank groaned and facepalmed, slowly trudging after Ayla and the laughing Toni down the path to the Crystal Hall, maybe lunch would take his mind off Jade and his Leanen Sidhe’s activities, though something told him he'd be hearing all about it soon.
Arriving at the Crystal Hall, Hank smiled to see Lily waiting for him on the stairs. Pausing to give his girlfriend a kiss, he ignored the catcalls and whoops of his friends as he escorted Lily into the glass-domed building and started towards the food lines. At the cry of “Master! Mistress!” not just Hank and Lily, but everyone with them turned towards the Crystal Hall doors.
“Now that doesn’t look like She-Ra at all!” Toni giggled as Leanne’s clothes morphed into the long white flowing dress over supersuit that Lily was experimenting with today, creating quite the impression as the miniature Fey in a now flowing white dress cantered along on a pristine white lion between the legs of the students entering the cafeteria.
“She-Ra had golden hair!” Lily murmured, blushing a little.
“Not to mention the big sword and her white steed was a winged Pegasus,” Jade agreed, though there was a thoughtful look to her face as she watched Leanne on her Kimba plush toy thread her way between the legs of their fellow students. Finally Leanne rode up to Hank and Lily with a huge grin on her face, staring at them eye-to-eye as her mount casually walked up an invisible staircase to stand before them in mid-air.
“Sausages?” Leanne asked hopefully, causing Hank to burst out laughing.
“Don’t you ever want anything else?” he asked his brownie, linking an arm with Lily’s and turning towards the food lines as Leanne on her white lion padded along in mid-air beside them.
“Sausages are delicious!” Leanne defended her choice.
“Lots of things are delicious,” Lily pointed out with a smile.
“I know, I don’t only eat sausages,” Leanne pouted.
“No, just mostly,” Hank teased her as Leanne blushed and sunk down a little on her lion mount. “Where’s Danny,” Hank asked Leanne curiously.
“Kitty,” Hank corrected himself with a smirk.
“Kitty ran away,” Leanne sighed.
“I bet he did,” Lily murmured with a smile, before turning and fixing Jade with a glare.
Jade blandly smiled back at Lily, holding the expression until Lily shook her head in resignation and turned back to her boyfriend. Jade returned to regarding Leanne riding along in mid-air on her White Lion steed. “She-Ra?” Jade mused as she followed along behind them, carefully studying the brownie, a maniacal smile slowly taking over her face as a delicious idea formed.
Monday Afternoon, September 10th 2007
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Hank glanced up from the strategy Ayla and he had come up with for the Ghost Walker Sim to see his brownie, Leanne, standing beside his desk. “Yes?”
“The Queen asked me to tell you she’ll be in the Grove, in case anyone is looking for her,” Leanne informed him all prim and proper, exactly like a maid to her master.
Hank blinked. “Nikki asked you to tell me?” Hank was unable to keep the surprise from his voice, nor the unvoiced “and you did it?”
Leanne blushed and looked down ashamed. “The Queen was ... upset,” Leanne explained reluctantly. “Crying, and her friend, the Naga lady...”
“Sandra?” Hank guessed.
Leanne nodded. “Sandra, she ... reminded me that you like to know where the Queen ... where your friends are ... when they’re troubled ...” Leanne stood miserably before him, hands clutched together as she stared at the ground.
Hank sighed. “Thank you Leanne, I’m very glad you told me,” Hank told the brownie, forcing a smile when Leanne looked up at him in delight. With a glad cry she dashed away and Hank sighed again, leaning back in his chair and staring up at the ceiling of his room. Nikki was more and more often going to the Grove when she was upset, and more often then not coming back from there little improved.
Looking down at the Sim strategy, Hank frowned and tried to concentrate on the words. Finally giving it up as a lost cause, Hank sighed and stood up. Striding for the door Hank decided a walk might be good for him.
Coming into the common room, Hank watched as Ayla marched past on his way to his own room, body language, well to his friends at least, screaming at how upset and angry he was. Frowning Hank stood and studied his friends back before inspiration struck and he went looking for gossip girl in her fortress of solitude.
Hank found Toni right where he expected, running an impromptu martial arts training session in the Poe basement Martial Arts room. Toni and Chou had practically taken over the room, setting it up almost as though it was their own personal dojo.
“So, what’s up with Ayla?” Hank asked after Toni finished correcting the stance of one of the other students practicing there and stepped over to the door where Hank waited.
Toni smirked. “Ayla's not enjoying his advanced history class,” she explained with a laugh.
“In what way? I thought an in depth study of world politics of the twentieth and twenty-first century would be right up Ayla’s alley?”
“Apparently Ayla has been having some near screaming matches with the teacher.”
“Ayla?” Hank checked surprised. “What about? Who is this teacher?”
“Mr. Williams, Ayla and him disagree on the importance of the United States in the world during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,” Toni explained.
“What? We won the Space Race and the Cold War! How much more important can we get?” Hank asked confused.
“Actually, I think Ayla’s mostly upset that Mr. Williams hasn't talked about any country except the United States, and Ayla was kind of expecting little things like Nazi Germany and the rise of communism to be covered in a history class on ‘world politics’ … and the A- Ayla got today in his essay on World War One might also be contributing to his mood,” Toni finished with a shark’s grin.
Hank rolled his eyes and shook his head. “How do you find these things out?” he asked Toni curiously.
“What? Mr. Williams announced the scores to the whole class, and everyone got to see Ayla go all stone faced and passive glarey at him. You know, that whole ‘you're beneath my notice but I'm keeping an eye on you’ look he has? The story was all round the school practically before the class ended!”
“‘Glarey’ is not a word,” Hank declared firmly.
“They why are you using it?” Toni replied with smirk. She stood up, ready to return to helping the students practicing, when she suddenly stopped and turned back to Hank. “Have you talked to Nikki?” she asked softly.
“Nikki? What about?” Hank asked surprised.
Toni looked at Hank expectantly then sighed and leaned in close. “I don’t think Nikki’s gotten over what happened in Washington yet,” she admitted. “She hasn’t come right out and said anything to me, but often I catch her looking at you and ...” Toni stopped and grimaced, reaching up to grab Hank’s shoulder. “Just ... find some time to talk to her, OK?” she begged.
Seeing such a serious expressions on the normally hyperactive Toni, Hank sighed and nodded. “I’ll try to talk to her before my Sim,” he promised.
“Sim?” Toni asked puzzled, then started smirking. “Oh, that’s right!” she giggled. “Your debut as a Supervillain against the Ghost Walkers tonight! Did you and Jade ever agree to a script?” Hank glared at Toni. “We all can’t wait to see you tonight as a Supervillain!” Toni fluttered her eyelashes at him as Hank glared at her, finally turning and stalking from the room with Toni’s delighted laughter following him.
Late Afternoon, September 10th 2007
The Grove, Whateley Academy
Leanne pushed as far into the Queen’s Grove as she dared, with the Queen upset the Grove was agitated and Leanne dared not venture far into it, but Master had looked so sad when she’d told him of the Queen’s tears, so Leanne had come as far as she dared and now settled down to wait patiently for the Queen.
Eventually the Queen appeared, slowly wandering down Paths that appeared before her and were absorbed back into the Grove after she left. The Queen looked so sad, against her will Leanne’s heart was moved. Sighing Leanne ghosted after the Queen, searching the forest as she silently followed, eventually finding what she was looking for.
Crouching down Leanne carefully teased the soil free, being very careful not to harm either plant or animal as she worked, for that would bring the Grove’s wrath down upon her. Finally she had a handful of what she sought, carefully cradling the soil bowl to her chest, Leanne ran to position herself ahead of the Queen.
Sighing Nikki let her hand stroke over the leaves of a bush as she meandered by, when a movement ahead caused her to blink and a stare in surprise. Emerging from the forest shadows, completely unseen until she stepped out in front of her, Hank’s little brownie, Leanne, stood before Nikki, eyes wide and fearful, a bouquet of flowers held shyly out to her.
Smiling at the unexpected gift, Nikki knelt and accepted the bunch of flowers, smelling them and considering the source of them with a puzzled gaze.
“I thought you didn’t like me?” Nikki finally asked, to which the little Leanen Sidhe shrugged, not looking at her. “You won’t follow my orders, especially when I order you to leave my Attendant alone,” Nikki pressed softly.
At that the little brownie finally looked up, glaring defiance. Nikki couldn’t help it, she laughed. Nikki had become used to tiptoeing through a minefield of politics, sycophants, horny teenagers and the very few who knew what the Sidhe actually had been and were terrified of her. It was refreshing to see something as normal as the evil eye Hank’s brownie was giving her.
“Why is it you and Koehnes are so different?” Nikki asked with a smile when she’d again composed herself. “According to Kodiak, you should have been born with all the knowledge of a Sidhe Attendant, why is it you and Koehnes cannot get along? Shouldn’t she be your closest companion?”
Leanne fiercely shook her head, and when she realised the Queen was genuinely confused by it she frowned up at Nikki. When Nikki stayed crouched, head cocked, considering her with a puzzled expression, Leanne sighed and turned, waving the Queen to follow her.
Backtracking to where she had waited for the Queen, Leanne pulled a woollen blanket from the personal Hidden Space she always carried with her. Spreading the blanket on a log that lay along the ground, Leanne invited Nikki to sit. As Nikki sat puzzled, Leanne busied herself lighting the tiny fire in the well sheltered fire-pit she’d made almost by habit as she’d waited for the Queen.
“Is this why Koehnes and you don’t get along?” Nikki asked as she watched fascinated while Leanne made the small campfire before pulling a small caldron from her personal little pocket dimension and set it on the fire she’d made, quickly filling it with water from a leather flask Leanne also pulled from her personal storage space. “You’re an outdoors brownie and Koehnes is an indoors one?” Nikki guessed.
Leanne scowled, continuing to make tea in the caldron without answering Nikki.
"You’re both?" Nikki guessed again.
Leanne turned to Nikki and nodded firmly before returning to her fire and the tea she was making.
"But for the common solder, not Royalty?” Nikki whispered softly.
Reluctantly Leanne nodded acknowledgment of Nikki’s statement.
"You don’t care that Hank’s human, you really love him and Lily don’t you?" Nikki barely breathed the question and Leanne shyly smiled, glancing up at the Queen, her whole posture confirming the Queen’s surmise.
Nikki sighed. “Hank’s lucky,” she murmured. “He can give you his full love in return, without ever needing to wonder at your loyalty, wonder if it’s him you serve or the memory of someone else." Nikki sat back and stared off into the Grove, sadness again closing over her features.
Seeing the Queen’s melancholy return, Leanne turned back to the fire, pulling a tin mug from her hidden place she poured tea into it before silently offering it to the Queen. When the Queen ignored her, seemingly lost in the depth of her own thoughts, Leanne slowly widened her eyes, let her face go sad and extended the cup to the Queen in a pleading gesture.
Blinking, Nikki found herself drowning in the pleading, anxious, puppy-dog eyes of the brownie and smiled in spite of herself, taking the cup then staring in shock at the delighted, smug expression that immediately replaced Leanne’s puppy-dog eyes.
“You little minx!” Nikki couldn’t help laughing at the antics of the brownie. “Those puppy-dog eyes are as fake and manipulative as Jade’s!” With a mischievous glint in her eyes, Leanne ignored the Queen and turned back to the fire, putting it out now that the Queen had her tea and doing her very best to erase all evidence that it had ever even been there.
Nikki blinked at the thorough job Leanne made of erasing the small fire-pit, drinking her cup of tea and watching in bemusement as the little brownie ran around brushing away even their footprints as she erased the existence of the campsite. When the little brownie stood before her expectantly, Nikki smiled and stood, drinking the last of her tea and offering the cup back to Leanne with a smile.
With a shy smile of her own, Leanne accepted the cup and whisked it and the blanket Nikki had sat on back into her Hidden Place, then she turned back to the Queen and shyly waited, glancing towards the Grove’s boundary, up at the sky with it’s setting sun and then quickly back to the Queen.
“Oh very well minx,” Nikki laughed again. “I suppose it is getting late and close to the time for Dinner, isn’t it?” Nikki smiled and held out her hand to the brownie.
Smiling in delight, Leanne skipped down the Path that seem to grow from nothing before them, leading towards the edge of the Grove as Nikki laughingly led her out.
Hank hurriedly scanned the boundary of the Grove again and sighed in relief as he spotted Nikki finally appearing at its edge. The time for dinner was fast approaching and Hank had been waiting far longer then he’d expected for Nikki to appear.
When Leanne had told him that Nikki had gone to the Grove, sad and upset at something, Hank had nodded, knowing that Nikki liked to visit the little sapling she’d named Aunghadhail in remembrance of her mentor spirit. He had decided to give Nikki her solitude, but had come out to the Grove when the time for Nikki to return had stretched longer and longer, especially with the request from Toni to talk to Nikki still ringing in his ears. Nikki had been in the Grove for nearly twice as long as Hank had ever known her to be in there before, and with the time for dinner fast approaching Hank had become increasingly concerned.
Smiling in relief to see his friend striding from the Grove, Hank waved to let her know he was there, glad to see her smile back and wave in return before changing directions to walk towards him. Hank was relieved to see Nikki smiling and laughing as she hurried to him carrying her brownie, then blinked in surprise when he realised it was not her brownie Koehnes she was carrying, but his brownie, Leanne.
“What are you doing with Leanne?” Hank asked Nikki as soon as she came close, giving his brownie a puzzled glance.
“Leanne waited in the Grove for me, so she could make me some tea and cheer me up with flowers,” Nikki explained giving the brownie in her arms a hug and a thankful smile.
Nikki looked back up at Hank and transferred Leanne to his arms, giving him a quick hug as well as she did so, before looking mock sternly at the brownie in his arms. “You’re a wonderful brownie with a tender heart, Leanne, but you’re spending way too much time around Jade!” she admonished the brownie who smiled back at her. “Those puppy dog eyes of yours are way to potent to be in the hands of a complete fraudster like yourself!” Nikki finished as Leanne just poked out her tongue at Nikki in reply.
Laughing Nikki stood up and smiled at Hank, blinking when the complicated, embarrassed, blushing expression on her friend’s face registered. Nikki regarded Hank with a puzzled look for a few moments when suddenly realisation dawned and she stared at Hank in wide-eyed disbelief.
“They’re your puppy dog eyes!” Nikki gasped in shock. “Leanne’s puppy dog eyes have nothing to do with Jade at all, she learnt that from you!” Nikki squealed, amazed at the revelation. “You ... you! Words fail me! No wonder your brother was such a brat if you pulled tricks like that on your parents to get your way! Hank Declan I’m shocked at how insincere and manipulative you are!” Nikki berated her friend.
Hank stood there blushing brightest red and tried to avoid returning Nikki’s accusatory gaze. Finally he couldn’t help himself. “It only worked on Father,” he all but whispered in his defence.
“What?” Nikki blurted, confused.
“It only worked on Father,” Hank repeated louder. “Mother was immune.”
Nikki stared at Hank in shock before suddenly she started giggling. “Oh no!” Nikki stated firmly as she grabbed Hank’s arm and started walking back towards the main Academy buildings. “Your mother was anything but immune, I bet she was just more practiced at hiding her capitulation from you then your Father was.” Nikki laughed and gave Hank a punch to the arm. “You know, I think I finally understand what happened with you and your family! The difference in behaviour from the bubbly, flirty, manipulative Hannah they expected, like Leanne there,” she pointed to the brownie in Hank’s arms. “To the stoic, brooding Hank we all know and love must have been beyond a shock to them!” Nikki giggled. “They must have thought some pod person had stolen their daughter from them and replaced her with this fake, emotionless robot they found in her place!”
“I’m not emotionless,” Hank mumbled as Nikki laughed at his automatic deflection of a personal subject, before with a sigh Nikki stopped Hank, waiting for him to look her in the eye and took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” she apologised softly to him.
Hank blinked. “You don’t scare me Nikki,” he told her firmly.
Nikki raised an eye. “I saw your dreams, nightmares really,” Nikki whispered softly. “In Washington, when you were in the hospital. You ...” Nikki stopped and the tears started flowing as she lost control.
Hank reached out and touched her. “I don’t fear you Nikki, not now,” Hank assured her. “I did, you’re right.” Nikki’s eyes widen in surprise and Hank blushed. “Blame Lily’s Mom,” he mumbled. “She has some unusual reading material, lots of folktales, including Irish and Scottish ones. I, ah, may have read about the Sidhe in them while I was staying with Lily for Christmas.”
“You don’t still fear me?” Nikki asked confused.
“You got better,” Hank responded with a shrug. “You’re no longer the scary Elf Queen of the tales are you?” Hank smiled at Nikki and awkwardly gave her a one armed hug as he cradled Leanne with his other. “Please don’t make me remember that ever again!”
“I promise,” Nikki hugged Hank back tight, gratefully accepting his strong comforting presence. Reluctantly Nikki let go and stepped back, turning to walk back to the campus, Hank falling in beside her. “No more scary Elf Queen,” she promised. “Well, outside of Sim matches of course,” she giggled, winking at Hank.
“Well, of course outside of that!” Hank agreed with a laugh of his own. “Nobody expects you to be all touchy feely about nature and the universe in a Sim match after all!” Laughing together they made their way unhurriedly towards Crystal Hall and dinner.
Dinner, September 10th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
“So, I heard you got an A- on your history paper today,” Jade needled Ayla as he sat down with his dinner at the Team Kimba table. “What happened? Did you quote mister unhappy pants some French General again all in French and forget mere mortals need that translated for them?” she asked curiously.
Ayla glared at her, before deliberately reaching out and touching the gem Nikki had hung on the condiments, even going so far as to glance towards Nikki and wait for her OK before talking.
“I merely pointed out in my excellently referenced essay that while materially and, more importantly, psychologically, the entrance of the United States had a profound impact on the end of World War One, Militarily, far from ‘winning it for the Allies’, the US was less important to the fighting, even after they finally got troops to France, than such relatively small countries as Canada or Australia.”
Jade carefully studied Ayla for a few seconds. “Yep thought so, you forgot to put the English translations in again.” While Ayla spluttered and the others at the Team Kimba table struggled to keep a straight face, Jade turned to Hank. “Where’s Leanne? I wanted to invite her to our movie night!”
“Wondercute’s having another movie night?” Toni moaned. Jade gave Toni a puzzled look. “You already had two on the weekend, and it's only Monday! Isn't it a little early in the week to be doing it again?”
"Don't tell me you're going to torture Danny again?" Hank groaned. "Hasn't he had enough of Wondercute and your anime marathons?"
"At least you and Lily can have some privacy for playing kissy-face tonight," Nikki suggested wickedly.
"Lily has a single, we don't do that in my room anyway!" Hank protested. “And besides, I have a Sim match after dinner.”
Nikki raised an eyebrow and snorted. "Since when? You two kiss all over the school! In public even! And don’t tell me Lily isn’t going to want some ‘private time’ with you tonight after you go all ‘bad boy’ in the Sim!” she smirked.
Toni glanced wide-eyed in surprise between Nikki and Hank as they bantered, before with a smile she gave Hank a wink and a whispered ‘thank you’.
Jade ignored Nikki and Hank’s banter and shrugged. “Molly went a little insane while Chou was in China," she explained to Toni. "I think she was worried about her soulmate, so she did a lot of shopping to distract herself. She bought loads of new boxed sets …”
“More than you?” Toni demanded disbelievingly.
“… and we’re taking the opportunity before classes start getting really insane to watch them!” Jade finished in a superior tone before turning back to Hank. “So Hankster, where’s Leanne?”
Hank shrugged. “I got ambushed in the dinner queue and Fey’s Fairy Princess Fan Club swept her away to the underdog tables.”
“She’s with Anna?” Jade exclaimed excitedly before jumping up and running to the railing, looking down and waving excitedly to someone below.
Toni turned to Hank with a raised eyebrow. “You sure it's OK to let Leanne run around by herself like that?” she asked worriedly. “I know you've been trying to dream her up-to-speed with the modern world and all, but she's still not what you'd call a ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’.”
“I can’t believe you watched that!” Hank muttered.
“It's one of your DVDs!” Toni reminded him as Hank blushed.
“You only watched it because it starred Julie Andrews!” Nikki accused Toni.
“Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way!” Toni returned serenely before turning back to Hank. “All that's besides the point, the point is letting Leanne run around the school alone when you know how strange everything is for her!”
“Let? Who says I let Leanne do anything?” Hank protested. “And besides, she's not alone. Anna and her friends stole her from me, they’re not going to allow Leanne to get into trouble. The Underdogs are good at avoiding the bullies.”
Bunny and Rip both burst out laughing. “More like the bullies will avoid Leanne!” Rip snorted.
“Yeah, it's hard to look tough when getting beat up by a brownie!” Bunny sniggered. “Just ask the Grunts!” Hank winced and Bunny patted him on the back. “Mule still giving you the cold shoulder?” Bunny asked concerned before giggling again. “Man that Sim was epic! The whole school are laughing so hard! Especially at Mule getting taken out like that by an itsy-bitsy little brownie!”
Hank just glared at the laughing Bunny and Rip as they giggled over the normally stoic Grunts reaction at the appearance of a ‘small flying Nikki Reilly” in Team Kimba’s last Sim.
“Relax Hankster,” Nikki smirked. “Leanne has access to all your eight tons of weightlifting, can fly and is protected by your PK field, she’ll be fine!”
“The PK field doesn't work away from me!” Hank reminded Nikki.
“How far can she get from you and still have access to your PK field?” Toni asked curiously. “Did you and Ayla ever work that out?”
Hank shrugged. “It varies,” Hank mumbled shortly, avoiding looking at Toni. Puzzled Toni turned to Ayla.
With a smirk to Hank, who blushed freely, Ayla explained. “In places like Poe or here in the Crystal Hall, I’ve seen Leanne using Hank’s PK field ten, fifteen feet from Hank. Whenever we’ve tried to test these limits however, outside or in one of the training arenas, Leanne barely gets out of arms length of Hank before she mysteriously floats back to him squealing in surprise.”
Toni snorted. “Yeah, tell me that's not psychological!” she laughed as Hank blushed brighter still and shrank down in his seat.
“And that homing pigeon thing?” Nikki asked. “You and Leanne still able tell where each other are?” For answer Hank pointed through the floor, directly at the place Jade was still waving to from the railing.
Toni considered Hank for a while then smirked. “Hey Hankster, humour me,” she called out. “Point to where you think Lily is.” Puzzled Hank frowned, then pointed towards the escalators, eyes widening in surprise as Lily appeared at the top of them. Toni laughed and shook her head. “You're gone Hankster, when Lily works out she can do the same to you, your cheating days are over!”
“I've never cheated on Lily!” Hank protested, before standing and pulling out the chair next to him for his girlfriend, happily returning the kiss Lily offered in thanks.
Toni just shook her head and sighed. “Totally gone Hankster,” she stated to the knowing nods of Rip, Bunny and Nikki. Ignoring them, Hank sat down and hugged his girlfriend close.
Evening, September 10th 2007
Area 99 change rooms, Whateley Academy
Hank was still smirking as he exited the change rooms after his Sim Match against the Ghost Walkers, the expression on Gunny Bradue’s face had been priceless, everything Jade had promised it would be. Glancing up, Hank was surprised to see Lily waiting for him holding Leanne in her arms.
“‘Balls of Power’?” Lily drawled with raised eyebrow once she’d given Hank a kiss. “You know how bad that monologue was don’t you?” she pressed as Hank sheepishly grinned at her.
Shaking her head Lily sighed and fell into step beside Hank, linking arms with him as they started back to Poe. “All respect to Jade, she did an great job with your costume and all, but next time, I’m doing the Supervillain dialog for you, that was embarrassing! I’ve got a reputation with the drama club to uphold and I can’t have my boyfriend hamming it up like that! It just looks bad!”
Hank laughed along with Lily, slipping his arm lose to put it around her shoulders instead, hugging her close and sharing a smile with her as they walked along, thankful that the awkwardness of him playing the Supervillain had passed and Lily was now able to laugh with him about it.
Tuesday Morning Before Breakfast, September 11th 2007
Kane Hall, Whateley Academy
Mrs. Carson sat behind her desk watching as Team Kimba, including Hank's brownie, were escorted into her office and lined up before her. As Ms. Hartford closed the door behind herself, Carson slowly stood, making her way solemnly around the desk until she was standing in front of it. With a glare she begun addressing them.
"Do any of you want to guess what this is about?" she asked in an ice cold voice that could freeze water.
Jade glanced back and forth amongst her friends before turning back to face the Headmistress. "Dinosaurs?" she guessed giving Carson a wide smile.
"Amongst other things!" Mrs. Carson growled fiercely, causing Jade to 'eep' and lean backwards. "In addition to Miss Sinclair's and Miss Goodkind's trip to France, there is Miss Chandler's adventure in China, not to mention Miss Wilson's excursion to the Pentagon of all places. Miss Reilly here took a nice trip to the Dakotas then decided to pre-empt the delicate balance of international politics for the entire world!"
By now not just Jade was leaning back from their furious Headmistress, most of them were, Leanne had even scurried behind Hank's legs. As Leanne carefully peaked out from behind Hank’s knees, a fuming glare from Mrs. Carson caused her to whimper and cower again.
Taking a slow calming breath, Mrs. Carson turned and returned to behind her desk, where she opened a drawer and removed an enormous folder from it, slamming it on her desk before opening it.
"Los Angeles, Dunwich, Colorado Springs, Kansas City, Boston, Boston again, and again!" at the mention of each city Mrs. Carson removed a report from the folder and slammed it onto her desk. "Baltimore, Washington, South Dakota, France and then China!" Mrs. Carson snapped a particularly fierce glare at Toni
Mrs. Carson slammed the last report onto the table and leaned forwards smouldering at the students before her. "You lot haven't just flagrantly and repeatedly disobeyed the rules regarding underaged superheroing, you’ve done so in ways that endanger the secret and existence of this very school! To top it off, you've done it across three continents! If there is a more pressing threat to the continued existence of this institution than you lot, I cannot imagine what it could be!"
Carson stood there leaning on her desk glaring at Team Kimba and breathing hard. "No Miss Goodkind," she held up her hand, forestalling an interruption from Ayla. "All these incidents have been thoroughly examined by security using testimony from witnesses who were there, and I'm entirely uninterested in your excuses or justifications. It has become painfully obvious to every one of your teachers that you lot simply cannot follow the simplest of precautions to protect either yourself or the secret of this school, as such drastic measures are called for."
Gathering up the reports on her desks, she returned them to their folder and the folder to her desk drawer. Sitting down she picked up a set of papers and proceeded to place them one-by-one at the edge of her desk closest to the Team Kimba members.
"Here is you official notification of entrance to the 'Alpha' track of Sim matches," she stated, indicating that Team Kimba should step forward and gather them up. "If you cannot be told the dangers of Superheroing, I will simply bury you under so many Sim matches that eventually even Al Gore would give up saving the world and find a new way!"
Waving her hand in dismissal, Mrs. Carson watched as each member of Team Kimba silently stepped up to her desk, grabbed a piece of paper and filed out the door being held open by Ms. Hartford. Once they had left Mrs. Carson quirked an eyebrow at Ms. Hartford. "And our gossips?"
"Ready and waiting right here," Ms. Hartford assured her.
"Very well, bring them in. I'll deal with that lot now," she growled, fixing her glare on the campus 'Information Merchants' as they were marched in to stand before her.
Breakfast, Tuesday September 11th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
“What was that about?” Jade moaned as soon as Nikki finished placing her gem amongst the condiments at the usual Team Kimba table in Crystal Hall and all the members of Team Kimba had reached out to touch it. “Delarose already roasted us about our trip to France! Both by phone when we called him after the museum, and then again in person when we arrived back at school at the beginning of term!”
Toni looked thoughtfully towards Ayla. “Was that Carson stamping her approval for Gunny’s plan?” she queried him.
Ayla nodded slowly. “I believe so, you noticed the campus information merchants lined up waiting as we exited? Perfectly positioned outside the door to hear every word of what Carson yelled at us? Carson was making sure that her performance would become widely reported.”
“Performance?” Jade demanded. “That was a performance? It felt real to me!”
“It was a performance,” Ayla explained to Jade. “And it wasn't. She really is upset at us, it's just Mrs. Carson's main audience for her shouting wasn't us, it was the rest of the student body through the campus grapevine.”
“So she's not upset at us?” Jade asked hopefully.
“Oh no Jade, she's definitely still upset at us too,” Toni smirked as Jade wilted.
Hank grimaced. “It was both,” he explained to Jade. “Mrs. Carson really is upset about us endangering the secret of the existence of Whateley as a school for mutants, but she's also using those feelings to serve a wider purpose.”
“Yeah, putting us in ‘Alpha track’ Sims isn't her real punishment,” Toni teased Jade.
“It's not?” Jade squeak wide-eyed. “What is?”
Hank scowled at the smirking Toni. “I suspect it's going to be something in one of those Sims she signed us up for, I'm sure she's thought up a way to really hammer home her point to us and is just waiting for the appropriate time to deliver the message.” Jade wasn't the only one to wince at Hank’s prediction.
“What’s this about ‘Alpha’ track?” Nikki asked frowning at her copy of the paper Mrs. Carson had given them. “I thought Gunny said we were on Zeta Track, the Supervillain track?”
Ayla pointedly looked to Hank, reminding Nikki of last night’s Ghost Walker Sim where Hank had played the Supervillain. “I believe Mrs. Carson and Gunny are keeping it secret we’re on Zeta Track. Putting us on Alpha track signals we’re doing ‘hard’ Sims, without giving the game away that we’ll be Gunny’s preferred ‘red team’.”
Nikki gave a silent ‘Ah’ of understand just as Ayla’s b-phone beeped and he pulled it out, glancing at it. “Well, that didn't take long,” he drawled, turning his phone around so the others could see the subject of his new email, Admin informing them they had a new Sim match for the next night.
“Who’s it against?” Hank asked as Ayla turned his phone back around and started reading the email.
Ayla went stony faced, finally glancing up at Hank and swallowing. “The Grunts,” Ayla informed them as Hank winced. “They've asked for a rematch, same scenario as last time, and Hank?” Ayla eyed Hank sorrowfully. “The Grunts have asked especially that you fight with Team Kimba.” Tony and Nikki winced, looking quickly to Hank who just nodded stoically, absently reaching out to hug Leanne to his chest.
Jade looked to Ayla puzzled. “Why would Admin let the Grunts have a ‘rematch’? They won! Isn't it supposed to be the losers who can request rematches?”
Ayla shrugged. “Probably at Gunny’s request, after all, he knows that the Grunts didn't really ‘win’, we just let them think so.”
“So we going to be deliberately losing again?” Jade asked looking around.
Hank grimaced. “No need,” he muttered. “I'm pretty sure that Gunny will have coached the Grunts to be able to win this time without us holding anything back.”
“Not if we …” Jade begun enthusiastically before Ayla stopped her.
“No Jade, we’ll keep the new holdouts under wraps. We’ll practice with them, but I think we should only use them after we find out how Gunny and Sam intend to hide us from the other teams.”
“But Ayla! Everyone knows all about my normal gear! If I can’t use any of my new things, how can I have any fun?” Jade whined.
Toni snorted and gave Jade a look of disbelief. “Come on, you can't tell me you didn't have fun last time?”
“Well yeah,” Jade admitted ruefully. “But that was because Mule really wanted to get me because of what I did to him in our Combat Final last semester, and it was so much fun leading him into that ambush we setup using Leanne!”
“So, isn't there something similar you could do again?” Toni suggested as Jade’s eyes widened and a beatific smile covered her face, causing Nikki, Hank and Ayla to groan.
Wednesday Morning, September 12th 2007
Once again Leanne waved goodbye to Master before turning and running through the shrubs for Poe Cottage. After accessing the servants entrance and finding Mrs Horton to let her know she had returned, Leanne slipped into the shadows and very carefully climbed up the stairs, paying particular attention that nobody saw her. Pausing outside a door Leanne patiently waited, listening at the door until she was positive her nemesis was inside and busy cleaning the Queen’s room.
Quietly Leanne slipped away, being very careful to make sure no aspect of her presence impinged on the awareness of Koehnes. Once she was sure she hadn’t attracted the attention of the other brownie in Poe, Leanne crept up the stairs to the next floor pausing outside a room to carefully check nobody was around. Once sure, Leanne activated a spell she was sure Koehnes had never mentioned to anyone was part of the package Her Majesty had infused into the fabric of Poe Cottage and used the Servants Way to slip inside the room.
Leanne contemplated Mistress’s room with a thoughtful frown. Mistress would be upset if she knew Leanne was here, she took pride in keeping her own room herself. Being careful not to move anything, Leanne set to work cleaning and polishing Mistress’s room, she even went so far as to open Mistress’s wardrobe and make sure all her clothes were perfectly folded or hung as needed, carefully separating the dresses so they hung perfectly, smoothing out wrinkles with her hands as she saw them, delighting in the sensual touch of the fabrics and the lingering scent of Mistress on the dresses. Taking a deep breath through her nose in appreciation, Leanne paused and frowned thoughtfully before a huge smile covered her face. Humming happily Leanne quickly ran over to the Servants Way and slipped from the room.
Wednesday Lunch, September 12th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Hank smiled and kissed Lily who had been waiting for him on the steps outside Crystal Hall. “You got changed?” he asked her as he took her hand and they started for the doors, even the most unobservant would have noticed Lily was no longer dressed in her usual supersuit.
Lily grimaced. “An accident. I got covered in goop when a divisor was running down the corridor and tripped, spilling his latest batch of who-knows-what all over me.”
“I like it,” Hank smiled. “It’s nice to see you not in your supersuit, like vacation again.” Hank looked ahead and sighed as he saw his team waiting for him. “You don’t mind eating lunch with your team?” Hank asked Lily, nodding ahead to where the other members of Team Kimba stood waiting.
Lily shook her head and smiled. “No, I know you have your return Sim match against the Grunts after classes and need to discuss your tactics. l’m fine, I’ll eat with Ashley and her sister.”
Hank smiled and thanked her, then leaned in and gave Lily another kiss. “I like your new perfume,” he whispered into her ear.
“I’m not wearing any,” Lily stammered, feeling herself blush.
“Of course not,” Hank answered with a knowing smile, before rushing ahead to join his waiting teammates.
Wednesday Afternoon, September 12th 2007
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Angel raised an eyebrow to Lily and accepted the invitation to enter her room. “I thought you’d be ready by now, Hank and the Kimba’s rematch against the Grunts will be packed out, standing room only. I thought you wanted to get there early to watch?”
Lily smiled at her friend as she ushered Angel into her room and closed the door behind her. “I’ve still got time, Ashley will save us seats.”
Angel raised an eyebrow at that, then shrugged and looked around the impeccably clean room of her friend and sighed. “How do you do it?” she asked Lily as she took a seat on the desk chair while Lily sat back down on her bed to finish putting on her boots.
“Do what?” Lily asked puzzled.
“Keep this room so clean?” Angel asked. “I know you have the same study load I do, if anything yours is worse because of all the Sim matches and special classes your mother’s been organising for you and your team.”
Lily smirked. “I’m not an RA, when I have free time I can use it to clean or wash or whatever I like, I don’t have dozens of rugrats and snotnoses running to me for ‘mother time’.”
Angel gave Lily a disappointed and stern look. “Miss Turner. The young ladies in my care are neither “rugrats” nor “snotnoses”. They are confused and frightened fellow students who are away from their parents and families, often for the very first time, and need our love and support, along with a little guidance and help.”
Lily stared at her friend for a moment before the giggles broke free. “You’re getting very good at that,” Lily complemented her friend as Angel’s stern demeanour cracked and she smiled at Lily. “Just a little more base and it’d be the perfect Mrs Horton impression.”
“Well some of the other RAs are nearly as bad as you are with nicknames for their charges, so I’ve had a lot of experience hearing Mrs. Horton’s admonishments.”
“I’ll bet,” Lily rolled her eyes as Angel shared a smile with her. “And it’s not as though your room isn’t clean and tidy!”
“It might be clean and tidy, but it’s not spotless like yours,” Angel retorted pointing at the desk. “There’s not a speck of dust to see, and the colour! What are you doing? Oiling the furniture?”
Lily laughed. “Like I’d oil the furniture!”
“You must be doing something!” Angel exclaimed. “Look at it! Mine looks nowhere near as good as this!”
“Well, I might have polished it a bit,” Lily admitted, reaching out a hand to caress the desk. “How could I not? Ayla got us such wonderful furniture,” Lily murmured.
Angel sighed and nodded too. “That he did, especially considering what we had before, but seriously, did you oil this or something?” Angel asked leaning over to study Lily’s desk. “I polish mine too and it doesn’t have anywhere near the sheen your’s does.”
“Of course I don’t!” Lily exclaimed indignantly when suddenly she paused, lifting up her hand to rub two fingers together and stare at them. With a frown she stood and lifted the mattress on her bed and stared down at the bed frame, reaching down to run her fingers along it before standing up again and staring at her hand as she absently rubbed her fingers together.
“What’s wrong Lily?” Angel asked concerned.
“It is oily,” Lily stated frowning, before suddenly climbing onto the spare bed, then the unused desk and frowning down in anger at the top of the spare wardrobe in her room.
“What is it Lily?” Angel asked in concern.
“It’s spotless!” Lily stated pointing down at wardrobe top. “I like it clean, but I don’t clean the tops of the wardrobes!” she exclaimed before understanding clicked and Lily clenched her hands in fury. “Leanne!” she growled fuming.
Angel blinked at her friend, before giggling and smirking as Lily angrily climbed back down. “Oh don’t be like that Lily!” she said reaching out to give her friend a hug. “Everyone can see Leanne is as devoted to you as she is to Hank, what did you expect from the little dear? She’s a Hearthwife! She exists to clean! Like she was ever not going to clean your room too!” Angel chuckled at Lily’s blushing acknowledgment.
Taking the time to give Lily a good hug, Angel breathed in the scent of her friend and smiled. “What is that new perfume you’ve got?” she asked. “It smells of flowers and the forest and it’s really delightful.”
Lily shrugged. “As I told Hank, there is no new perfume, just the same old one as always.” Reaching out to her desk, Lily handed Angel a bottle.
Taking the cap off the bottle of perfume, Angel gave it a sniff and shook her head. “That’s not it,” she murmured before carefully sniffing Lily and smiling. “I think the smell is coming from your clothes,” Angel declared, making her way to Lily’s wardrobe and opening it, sniffing approvingly. “Yep, that’s the scent!” she declared happily. “What washing powder you using? It smells wonderful.”
“I’m still using the same one you are,” Lily murmured, stepping up to Angel and taking a sniff of her wardrobe too, her eyes widening in surprise. Leaning forward she experimentally sniffed around before zeroing in and moving aside some hanging dresses and sighing at what was revealed.
Curious Angel glanced over Lily’s shoulder and smirked. In a small box at the back of Lily’s wardrobe was some dried flowers and other plants. Reaching out Angel picked up some of the leaves there and gave them a sniff, smiling in delight. “Yep, that’s definitely the scent, where did you get them?” she asked Lily.
Lilly shook her head and smiled wryly. “Where do you think?” she asked rhetorically.
“Another present from Leanne?” At Lily’s resigned nod Angel smiled and returned the leaves back to their box, closing Lily’s wardrobe and smiling at her. “Well you can tell Leanne from me, she’s welcome to add those flowers and leaves to my wardrobe any time, they smell heavenly!”
“You’re welcome to them,” Lily snapped causing Angel to stare at her in surprise.
“You’re not going to do anything to Leanne are you?” Angel asked cautiously. “You know she did this because she loves you right?”
Angel watched worriedly as Lily struggled silently, anger, frustration and other emotions chasing themselves across her face before suddenly she sighed and shook her head. “I can’t,” Lily finally admitted to her friend in exasperation. “Hank loves the scent of my ‘new perfume’ too,” she admitted with a blushing laugh.
Laughing aloud at her friend’s frustrated exasperation with the little brownie servant that had wiggled its way into her heart, Angel smiled and gave Lily another hug. “Well then, what are you going to do to thank her?” Angel asked her friend.
Looking around, Lily’s glance caught the basket of bath scents Ayla had given all of them at the beginning of term. “I’m sure I could think of something,” Lily murmured, a smile of delight coming unbidden. Abruptly Lily reached out and grabbed Angel’s hand and dragged her to the door. “Come on, let’s go cheer her on. Jade’s been smirking and giggling something fierce all day, l’m sure she’s got something special lined up for the Grunts, let’s see what it is.” With a wicked smile she opened the door and pulled the laughing Angel along behind her down the corridor.
Wednesday Afternoon, September 12th 2007
Sim Suites, Whateley Academy
Toni opened the door to Hank’s Sim suite and quickly ducked inside, sighing in relief as she found Hank holding Leanne close and comforting the upset but not distraught brownie. “How is she?” Toni asked softly as she stepped up to Hank.
Mule and Bunker had ruthlessly hunted down both Hank and Leanne in the Sim from the get go, managing to corner and eliminate them fairly quickly, before they'd had a chance to make any impact whatsoever in the Sim. After the havoc Leanne had wrecked on the Grunts last time, Toni had honestly expected Leanne to be much more upset at being hunted and so quickly eliminated, but she only seemed a little sad in Hank’s arms.
Hank shrugged, standing up with Leanne still cradled in his arms. “We kind of expected this,” he explained to Toni as he stepped through the door and started making his way down the corridor, waving to let the rest of the Kimba’s know that both he and Leanne were OK. “Mule especially has been really upset about Leanne getting him in the last Sim, and it was obvious he wanted his revenge. I did a little dreaming last night to try and get Leanne ready for being hunted like this.”
“It seems to have worked,” Toni commented, carefully studying Leanne before smiling up at Hank.
“Well, Jade’s ‘surprise’ for Mule and Bunker helped" Hank grinned. "Seeing her cover them in glitter, sparkles and Hello Kitty stickers before tying them up and using them to bait a trap for the rest of the Grunts certainly improved our mood,” Hank smiled as a radiant Jade ran up and hugged both himself and Leanne, before convincing Leanne to swap to her ‘Supergirl’ costume and fly ahead into the debriefing room with her.
“Yeah, I can't wait for Gunny’s analysis this time!” Toni exclaimed in delight. “Jade single handedly turned the tide, and she nearly managed to pulled off the win as well! Gunny’s gonna be so livid with the Grunts again!”
Chuckling Toni danced into the debrief room, cheekily waving to Bunker and Mule who were glaring death rays at the frolicking duo of Jade and Leanne.
Wednesday Dinner, September 12th 2007
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
“Remember, we’ve just lost again to the Grunts,” Ayla reminded them as Team Kimba walked up the steps to Crystal Hall. “Game faces on people so everyone buys that we are upset at losing.”
“Anna!” Jade screeched loudly before running through the doors to hug the Dickinson Sophomore who had also just entered the Crystal Hall. “Guess what I did to Mule and Bunker?!”
“Or not,” Ayla muttered, fighting the need to face-palm.
“Oh wait, just a sec!” Jade exclaimed before running quickly back to her Kimba teammates, deftly plucking Leanne out of Hank’s arms. “You don't mind if Leanne eats with Wondercute tonight do you Hank?” she called back over her shoulder as she ran back to Anna. The faint call of “Thanks!” floated back to them as Jade dragged Anna into the serving area with her and Leanne.
“You know Hankster, since Leanne arrived and you were told you need to card her meals, exactly how often have you managed to do that?” Toni asked with a smirk.
“Breakfast,” Hank grunted as he made his way towards the serving lines, trying to keep an eye on Jade and his brownie while also ignoring the sniggers of Toni and Nikki as they followed him.
“Breakfast? Really?” Toni continued when both Hank and her joined the line for food. “Because as I remember Lily ate with her own team this morning, politely allowing us to discuss our tactics for the Sim alone, and we all know Leanne much prefers being with Lily to you!”
“Well to be fair, Lily’s much nicer company then Hank,” Nikki joined in the teasing. “After all, little girls much prefer to be with their mothers!” Nikki smiled innocently at Hank as he choked on that statement. Turning, Hank tried to glare at Nikki but a coughing fit overcame him.
“Hank? You alright?” Lily appeared at Hank’s elbow to comfort him, turning her own glare on Nikki. “What did you do to him?”
“Nothing!” Nikki protested her innocence. “Hank just started coughing, honest!” Lily gave Nikki a disbelieving stare, then turned back to her boyfriend.
Hank waved away her concern, leaning in to give her a kiss. “I really like your new perfume,” he murmured. “Very flowery.”
Lily was giving Hank an embarrassed smile when Toni interrupted. “I thought you were meeting us outside the Sims?” she asked Lily.
With a start Lily turned to Toni. “I was, but Mom was watching your Sim live at home, so she decided to use the video conferencing setup in the Sim debrief room to give us all a lecture on it, by the time she finished Hank was nearly here already, so I hurried to catch up.”
“Your Mom has a live link to the Sim system?” Nikki asked surprised.
Lily blushed and looked to her feet. “Um, Mom’s mentoring some students as a favour for Mrs. Carson and they set it up so she can keep up with their training.”
Nikki gave her a fierce stare before glancing at Hank. “Uh huh, sure that’s it,” she murmured as Lily blushed brighter.
Toni also smirked at Lily, but dropped back a bit so she could lean in close to Ayla and whisper in his ear. “‘Hank was nearly here’ was he?” she murmured to Ayla, eyebrows raised. “I wonder how she knew that?” she purred with a wicked grin.
Ayla rolled his eyes and shook his head, ignoring Toni and instead smiling towards the kitchen doors as one of his friends in the kitchen came through with a friendly nod to him and a plate of something special to deliver.
Dinner was over and Jade was arranging the latest Wondercute video night when Lily suddenly appeared at the table, swooping down to sweep Leanne into her arms.
“There you are,” Lily purred. “It seems you and I have some discussing to do regarding my room and how I like to keep it,” Lily said sternly as she strode away, the little brownie firmly clasped in her arms.
Anna blinked, then quickly turned to Jade who was wincing after the two of them. “Jade?” Anna asked concerned.
“I think Lily just discovered that Leanne had been secretly cleaning her room,” Jade murmured, worriedly watching Lily stride for the exit.
Anna and most of the other girls at the Wondercute table winced as well. “She ... won’t hurt Leanne will she?” Anna asked concerned.
Both Bunny and Jade burst out laughing, Jade turning to Anna with a hug smile. “Lily? Hurt Leanne?” she giggled. “When everything she does would be felt by Hank?” Jade smiled at Anna and shook her head. “Leanne has Lily and Hank wrapped around her little fingers, there’s not a thing either of them can do to her, and she knows it.” Jade laughed gleefully at the predicament of her two friends, sharing a knowing grin with the equally giggling Bunny.
Wednesday Evening, September 12th 2007
Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
“Where have you been?” Jade asked as she plucked Leanne from the air as the little brownie floated contentedly into the the second floor common area from the floor above. “You were supposed to be watching movies with Wondercute!”
“Sorry Jade, Mistress gave me a bubble bath,” Leanne replied softly, a dreamy smile on her face as she snuggled into Jade’s arms. “She even let me wash with her special scented soap.”
“Oh, wash your back for you did she?” Toni asked suggestively as she walked up to the contented brownie cradled in Jade’s arms.
Leanne nodded happily. “And cuddle up to her as we lay soaking in the scented waters,” Leanne confirmed as both Toni’s and Jade’s eyes widened in understanding, both of them starting to giggle.
“What’s so funny?” Nikki asked from where she was sitting on one of the couches, pressed up against her girlfriend Bunny as they watched the romance movie that was playing on the TV.
Toni smirked to her roommate. “Leanne just explained why it was that Hank ran off before.”
Nikki shrugged. “He’s a boy, he ran from the romance movies,” she dismissed it while giving Bunny a quick squeeze.
Toni laughed out loud. “Come on! I know you’ve seen Hank’s DVD collection! A romance movie on the TV’s not enough to make Hank run off like that! No, that was caused by Lily giving Leanne a nice sensual bubble bath!” Toni laughed throatily in appreciation. “Just imagine how that made Hank feel?” she grinned before quickly grabbing Jade’s hand and dragging her and Leanne off down the corridor. “Since Leanne here is all floaty dreamy happy after her bath, I just gotta see what Hank’s like!” Toni declared laughingly as she ran off down the corridor.
Nikki and Bunny exchanged a look before with a smirk they jumped up and ran for Hank’s room too. Toni was right, it was too much of a temptation to ignore, they had to see what a bubble bath with Lily had reduced their teammate and friend too as well.