Return to Villa Welc0me
Title: Return to Villa Welc0me
Fandom: All of them
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Also, all of them
Summary: Kalloway and Sprink return to the Villa Welc0me in 2008 and have to deal with cleaning up the place.
Notes: Unfinished, will likely never be finished. Written as a serial, January 2008.
Both women stared at the building for a minute before reaching for their respective door handles and easing out of the strange little car that had mysteriously appeared only hours before.
"Ready?" the one with the purple hair asked as she stretched.
"I've forgotten how long that car ride is," the other replied. "Except... it shouldn't be, right?"
"You never know with trans-dimensional stuff," the purple-haired one replied. "Besides, we each had to come a little farther. And I don't mean physical distance."
"We going in?" The faintest glimpse of elf ears was visible in the moonlight.
"Just wanted to see if the car would turn into a giant robot or something..."
They both turned to stare at the car, which did absolutely nothing other than sit there, dark.
"Sprink, let's do this," the purple-haired one said as she held up the keys that had come with the car. A full ring, including some which brought back a wealth of memories.
"'Kay. But we're going to do it right this time." Sprink paused. "Right, Kalli?"
Kalloway nodded as she stepped towards the door.
They both looked up at the sign over the door. It badly needed a fresh coat of paint but the words were still visible - 'Villa Welc0me'.
There was a noise behind them and they both turned. And looked up.
"You guys have a garage or something? It's January..."
"It begins..." Sprink grumbled.
"It begins," Kalloway echoed with a wicked grin before frowning. "And apparently it begins with remembering which of these keys are for the garage."
"That was totally your fault," Sprink said as they made their second attempt at entering the main building.
"Me?" Kalloway asked as she found a key that finally turned in the lock. "We totally had the same childhood. Well, the same last twenty years, at least... I suppose your childhood stopped at about 150, huh?"
"Something like that," Sprink agreed as they stepped inside. She reached over to simultaneously flick an entire panel of light switches that should have illuminated the massive main waiting area and surrounding hallways.
"I didn't do that, either," Kalloway said quickly.
"I didn't blame you," Sprink retorted. "But... it's really dark in here."
"Because it's the middle of the night," Kalloway reminded her. "We at least had the sliver of the moon to get... Dude, I just realized something."
"We were so singing on the way here. Like, loud and to DDR songs."
Sprink winced in the darkness.
And then they both started laughing.
"You think the main breaker is off?" Kalloway asked a moment later. "I seem to remember being told to turn everything off and close everything up."
"Put the chairs on the tables and sweep," Sprink added. "Did you turn the main breaker off?"
Kalloway shook her head. "I had Riku do it because all that stuff is in the basement and the basement..."
Sprink shuddered. Or shivered. There didn't seem to be any heat, either.
"Okay," she said quickly. "To the basement. The creepy dark basement that we never went into and didn't clean and is probably teeming with monsters or something."
Reaching down her shirt, Kalloway rummaged around for a minute before pulling a sword from her hammerspace.
"Turn-based or ATB?" she questioned. "You think we'll have to move on tiny, invisible squares?"
"Real-time melee?" Sprink suggested as she made a small fireball appear and disperse between her hands. "Or real-time strategy?"
"Shouldn't we have a third party member?" Kalloway questioned. "Or did we just park him in the garage?"
"Nevermind that," Sprink replied as she made a ball of light. For the first time, they were clearly able to see their surroundings. "You remember where the basement is?"
"So... if we run into a monster and you have to cast a fireball, that'll null the ball of light and we'll be in the dark, right?" Kalloway asked as they headed down an ominous flight of stairs.
"Not exactly," Sprink said. "Whatever I hit with the fireball had better damned well be on fire."
"Point," Kalloway noted as she got to the landing. Instantly, something moved in front of her.
"What was that?" Sprink asked, glancing off into the darkness.
"Wanna light it on fire?" Kalloway questioned in response. "I don't know. But it was kinda small."
They both took a few steps and glanced around again.
"Breaker box would be on a wall, right?"
"Yeah," Kalloway replied as another mysterious creature bounded out of the fuzzy path of their light.
"Shouldn't there be walls?" Sprink asked as they walked.
"It's hollow," Sprink said quickly. "Underneath. Even the courtyard. Maybe even under the pool area. We came down near an inside wall, so we're at least a hundred feet from a wall."
"So technically, we could be utterly surrounded by monsters and we've been walking and have no clue where the stairs are," Kalloway concluded.
"Pretty much." Another blur darted by, just brushing against Kalloway's boot.
"I know what those are," Kalloway said after another few steps.
"Do I want to know?"
"I think they're a hybrid," Kalloway explained. "Maybe if we get the lights on, I can be sure."
"Yeah," Kalloway said. She stabbed her sword once into the darkness. "The last one went over my foot and a split second later I found myself thinking about this story I was working on back when we lived here the first time. I think I left that story here. I haven't thought about it..."
"They're a cross between plotbunnies and dustbunnies!" Kalloway announced. "The basement is full of them."
"I would rather the basement be full of walls so that we could follow one," Sprink noted. "Though..."
One of the dust-plunnies ran straight into Sprink and lingered there, dazed, while both women stared at it.
"I just remembered this idea I had for Gundam Wing," Sprink said before wincing.
"We need to find that breakerbox," Kalloway said quickly.
"Or a notebook," Sprink countered. "It really was a good idea..."
The main breaker made a loud crack as Kalloway forced it on. A trail of bare, dangling bulbs turned on almost simultaneously in a twisting path back towards the staircase.
Sprink let out a breath that she didn't realize she was holding and then let her ball of light dissipate.
"One task complete," Sprink commented. They both watched for a minute as the dust-plunnies scattered for the darkest corners and beneath piles of debris. "So... first thing we do once we can get manual labor is see what's down here?"
"Yeah," Kalloway replied. "I don't know what any of this mess is but we don't have time now. We still have the furnace to find, right? And maybe a water main..."
"Where does the water come from, anyway?" Sprink asked as they began walking back towards the stairs.
"Or the power, in a town devoid of any occupation other than ourselves?" Kalloway asked with a half-smirk. "I don't like asking these questions. They ruin all the fun. Too much explanation ruins the fun."
"True," Sprink noted. "Then there's nothing for us to imagine."
"Maybe it's a robotic giant hamster running in a giant wheel!" Kalloway exclaimed before pointing. "And over there, that's a furnace, right?"
"Did you hit your head?" Sprink asked before tromping over towards the hulking mass of shadows that Kalloway had pointed at. Every few feet she pulled at a cord dangling from a bare bulb, turning it on. "Though yes, I do believe you located the furnace."
"Oh good. So I'll take care of it and you can go find the water..." Kalloway smiled as she bounded over and began looking it over. "Just need to turn on the gas and light the pilot."
"You think I trust you with a..." Sprink paused as if to weigh her options. "I'll be on the other side of the basement looking for where the water comes in. I'll bet it's by the pool which is far enough away that I might not be blown to absolute smithereens."
"Watch out for the dust-plunnies," Kalloway warned as Sprink headed off. "If I get this done and find you halfway to nowhere writing about Koji and Ryo from Generator Gawl, I'll..."
"You'll what?" Sprink called back, snickering.
"Read over your shoulder because hey, we'll have heat!"
"We'll do it together," Sprink grumbled before marching back over to the furnace.
"Write Gawl fic?"
"No, get this place running," Sprink corrected. She had her hands on her hips. "I don't trust either of us to head off alone."
Kalloway shrugged before kneeling down and turning the gas on.
"I dunno," she said. "We could get some great fic out of it. Or explore the mystery of how we have power and gas and water..."
"Giant farting robot hamster?" Sprink asked before she started laughing.
Kalloway closed her eyes and touched the button that was supposed to spark the pilot light. Energy crackled around her and with a satisfying whoosh, a small flame jumped to life.
Sprink raised an eyebrow.
"You aren't the only one who's been practicing," Kalloway said as she stood up. The blowers came on and the massive furnace sprang to full life. "Now then, we have a water main to find."
"It's two in the morning," Sprink noted as the pair tromped back upstairs. Everything that could be turned on had been turned on and was working as well as to be expected after years of disuse. Nothing seemed particularly dirty or dusty, though, but that might have been a result of the some five hundred dust-plunnies that Kalloway had been trying to count (when not recounting stories she'd never written).
"Are you sleepy?" Kalloway asked. She kinda really wanted to write a Gargoyles fic, of all things.
"A little," Sprink admitted. "I kinda want to wander around a bit. I mean, obviously nothing has changed, but..."
"It's so big and empty," Kalloway interjected. "Before there was always someone, even if it wasn't someone really important or someone with a lot to say or whatever. Just... I could wander out in the courtyard and just chat about how to fix up the courtyard or..."
"The library," Sprink said. "It was the place to be. There was always something new to be catalogued or read or just enjoyed. We should go there first."
"But we're still the only ones here," Kalloway commented.
"Then we'll have to bring everyone back," Sprink replied before pausing completely and glancing around. "Which way is it again?"
Kalloway sighed. "We took down all the posters and everything. Even I used them to navigate. I dunno... I figured we'd never be back and this place would be used for something else. If I'd known it would just sit empty..."
A stray dust-plunnie ran between her legs.
"Empty other than those, I mean," she said flatly. "And yes, to the library... I need to check a few details for characterization since it's been awhile, but I think I still owe someone a Pretear fic or two."
Sprink laughed and pointed down the largest hallway. "So we're going this way?"
"I guess so. We'll get there eventually." Kalloway yawned. "And when we do, I think I'll curl up on one of those nice sofas and take a nap. You'll probably have computers to set up and everything."
"You think I can get upgrades for them? We had Windows 98 back then..." Sprink lamented.
"For all I know, the dust-plunnies have chewed them to bits," Kalloway said as they turned a corner. She thought they were in the right area, but truthfully everything looked the same. Finding the basement had been difficult enough and they'd started from the entrance. The place was definitely larger than she remembered.
"There!" Sprink cried and ran a couple of steps ahead to a set of double-doors. She threw them open only to find herself staring at a vast selection of mops, brooms and one lone feather duster. A dust-plunnie ran out from between her legs.
"Excellent," Kalloway deadpanned before frowning and then smiling. "But... at least we know where the broom closet is."
"Hand me a broom," Kalloway said. "And you take one, too."
Sprink smiled and grabbed a pair of brooms. "Okay, so we're flying to the library?"
"No, no, but we're not going to get dust-plunnied, either."
"Hmm?" The elf glanced over at her companion as they continued down the hallway.
"Why did you pick a push-broom and why are you actually sweeping?" Kalloway asked with a sigh.
"Might as well," Sprink replied. "Someone's gonna have to do it eventually."
A dust-plunnie chose that moment to dart out in front of them and before Kalloway could shake her broom at it, Sprink was pushing the poor, dazed creature along.
"We're not any closer to finding the library," Kalloway noted, half-tempted to rescue the poor creature but equally afraid that it would cause her to sit down and write epic Dragonball Z smut.
"How can we not find a room we pretty much lived in?" Sprink asked as they turned a corner. The dust-plunnie ran off in the other direction and both women were spared. "I mean, I got up, got breakfast, went to the library..."
"Right," Kalloway interjected. "So we need to find either your room or the kitchen. You almost never came to the lobby."
"But you did," Sprink grumbled. "And you're not exactly being useful!"
"Neither of us is!" Kalloway snapped back. "We're literally getting nowhere. I don't know why..."
She froze. Sprink looked at her oddly for a moment before nodding.
"Sorry," she said.
"No, I am," Kalloway replied. "We're not supposed to fight. And besides, technically we came from the basement and neither of us was too sure where that was."
They kept walking, opening every door on the way and peeking inside.
"I know where we are!" Sprink announced after they turned a corner again.
"That's because we were here about five minutes ago," Kalloway noted as she pointed at the fresh sweep-marks on the floor. There was a bit more dust upstairs - but not as many dust-plunnies.
"But we were following... Do you remember if walls used to move and stuff before?"
"Walls did not move and stuff before," Kalloway said.
Sprink frowned and let her broom rest against the wall. "How can we be lost in a place we used to live in?"
"Because this place is huge," Kalloway reminded her. "I think one time I sent Sora to count rooms and he came back after ninety-nine because he'd maxxed something out."
"So we're better off finding somewhere to sleep?" Sprink asked. "I don't have pajamas. I didn't know we were coming here. I don't even have..."
Kalloway shook her head. "I just got in the car. Seemed like one of those things that I just had to do."
"You think we're not supposed to keep exploring?" Sprink questioned. She yawned.
"Next room we find with a bed big enough for us to share, we're crashing," Kalloway concluded.
"Sounds good to me," Sprink agreed with a nod. "But we'll have to sweep first."
"And make sure the door is shut tight," Kalloway added. "Can you imagine what would happen if we woke up covered in dust-plunnies?"
They both shivered. And it had nothing to do with the heat.
"You do realize that this is just going to get worse before it gets better," Sprink noted as she and Kalloway disentangled themselves from one another and sat up on the almost-big-enough bed that they'd found. The sun was shining, still low in the sky, and the place was as quiet as it could possibly be.
"We don't have food or clean clothes or anything," Sprink explained. "No towels, no shampoo, no deoderant..."
"I think there might be towels," Kalloway said. She closed her eyes for a few seconds. "I can't remember. I might have given them away."
"I hope you gave all the food away," Sprink added.
"Twinkies would still be good," Kalloway commented as she blinked and stretched. "So maybe we can go see if our robotic vehicular friend would like to drive us back to the real world for supplies."
"Yes, and we'll pay for them how? I know you'd moved in with your brother to save on rent but I'm about as paycheck-to-paycheck as anyone can get. My savings consists of laundry quarters." Sprink sighed. "I suppose I could ask Mom. But she's probably sick of paying for us."
"How did we pay for things before?" Kalloway asked, mostly rhetorically. "We had these mystic bank cards, right?"
"Yes. 'Had', as in the past tense of 'have'," Sprink deadpanned. "As in we do not currently have them."
"We will," Kalloway said as she jumped from the bed and rushed to the door. "We always found things outside the door, remember?"
Pushing aside the two brooms they'd propped up just in case the dust-plunnies had learned to work doorknobs, Kalloway opened the door and looked down. And blinked again.
"I don't hear a triumphant whoop of triumph," Sprink said as she got to her feet and walked over.
"You missed a spot while sleeping," Kalloway grumbled as she stalked back into the room. "Maybe they're at the real front door. Wherever that is."
"I suppose we should figure out where we are," Sprink commented as she looked out into the hallway.
"Not that way," Kalloway said as she pointed to the window. "This is what we need."
A moment later they were both staring out the window at the impressive but completely rundown courtyard that formed an open area between sections and wings of the massive building.
"I know where we are," Kalloway said. "We're in the part that we never ever used."
"Yeah, because the pool is over that way." Sprink pointed off to the left. "So the library and our rooms and your office and everything else is about as far on the other side of this place as it can be."
"We got lost."
"I should have twenty dollars," Kalloway said as she dug into her pants pockets. "We can at least get breakfast and decide what to do. I mean, if there's an actual decision to be- Huh?"
"What?" Sprink asked.
Kalloway pulled out a crumpled mass of singles, receipts, fast food coupons and one mostly-shiny bank card.
"Sneaky," she commented. "Check your pants and see what you have."
Sprink fished around for a moment before pulling a card of her own from a back pocket.
"I get the odd feeling that this is the only free pass we're ever going to get."
"I thought you said we were almost at the lobby," Sprink grumbled. She'd given up on her broom and had been dust-plunnied for three seperate Ronin Warriors stories, all of which Kalloway had to listen to her ramble about. Both women were in a bit of a mood.
"We are," Kalloway replied sharply as she pushed through one last door and then pointed across the lobby to the main door. "Door's to your left."
"Fine, fine," Sprink said as she stomped across the lobby. "I am completely and utterly ready to go back to my miserable apartment and half-miserable job and..."
"Are you really?" Kalloway asked as she leaned against the door frame. "It's your choice, of course, but I'd miss you."
Sprink slumped a bit and then flipped one of the lobby chairs down from where it had been stacked on another. She sat down and was quiet for a few seconds. Kalloway just watched. She understood. Sometimes the urge to just walk away was a really strong one. But the people who'd be left behind - well, they were very real too.
"How did it all happen?" Sprink asked. "It was such a blur and we were gone..."
Kalloway shrugged as best she could for being half-propped in the doorway. "Less patients - less people to help. Shops closed, everything came to a stand-still. I'll never forget the last time I sat out in the courtyard with Sephiroth. We didn't do counseling shit - just talked about what we were both going to do."
"We faded away," Sprink summarized. "We fucking faded away. What the fuck?"
She got to her feet and reached for the door.
"So... breakfast and shopping and whatever else we need to make this mess our home?" Kalloway asked with a smile as she strolled over to Sprink.
"Yesh," Sprink said with a matching grin. She opened the door and they both reached out to grab the envelope tacked onto the outside.
"About time," Kalloway said. "Pesky Great Will of the Multi-cosm."
Sprink nodded and opened the envelope, holding the paper inside so that they both could read it.
'Dear Miss Sprink and Miss Kalloway,'
"This isn't from Will-chan," Kalloway said quickly.
'You're probably wondering why you've been called back here. But first, let me introduce myself.'
"Huh?" Sprink frowned.
'I am the Son of the Great Will of the Multi-cosm, Will Jr. But you can call me Will-kun. Mother had some business to attend to and never came back, so I took over. And in reviewing her records, I came across the Remote Transmissions Project and the two of you. Your work at the Villa Welc0me was and still is unprecedented and was so overall successful that I don't understand why the project was terminated to begin with.'
"This is the weirdest thing I've ever read," Sprink commented.
"You've never read the Venom Cock book before, have you?" Kalloway asked. "Or the one with the elven vampires? Or..."
"Back to the weird letter," Sprink interrupted before yanking the letter away and just reading it out loud.
"'I hope you don't mind my placement of your fund cards - if I had not placed them on your unique persons, I feared that the odd creatures that have took up residence would have carried them off.
"'Use the next week to make any preparations needed and then you are back in business.'"
Sprink winced. "And then there's a smiley emoticon. And he signed his name 'Will-kun.' We pick the nicknames, dammit."
"We have a new boss," Kalloway said with dawning realization. "We have a new boss!"
"Yay," Sprink deadpanned.
Kalloway shrugged. "At least someone around here finally got into our pants."
Kalloway leaned back in the booth of the diner, wondering how on Earth she'd ever forgotten about it. They were on Earth - back on Earth, that was - for the moment. For the record. It was a nice diner, not to flashy and the food was cheap and not so greasy. Small - for all the times that she and Sprink had been there, the staff hadn't altered from one bossy blonde cook and one ridiculously friendly black-haired waitress.
"So you think Will-kun was just sick of wangsty bishounen and stuff?" Sprink asked as she avidly sorted the sugar and various not!sugar packets out of their holder and into piles on the table. "I mean, this is totally out of the blue."
Kalloway shrugged. "Isn't this how everything began to begin with? I mean... it was late and we needed a remote control because I'd broken your television... which makes it sound like everything is my fault."
She frowned and went back to her leaning. They'd already ordered and there wasn't much to do other than nervously glance out the window at the nice blue sportscar that was behaving just like a normal car should in January. Other than the occassional shiver, that was, and that could probably be passed off as wind gusts or something.
"I spent so long wondering just how we'd failed and then, just when we'd both completely moved on - for the duraring of this paragraph I will assume you've moved on - bam, we're brought back into the thick of things and have to rebuild our damned empire. What the fuck is up with that? It's like the universe is messing with us," Sprink grumbled.
"Um, Sprink... the universe is messing with us," Kalloway reminded her. "Like, that's the entire point. The universe is messing with us and we let it because we've got absolutely nothing better to do with our lives."
Sprink opened her mouth to speak but was silent for a few seconds. "Oh yeah," she finally said. "Right."
"So what do we do first? Hit a grocery store? Get towels? Go home and..." Kalloway froze mid-sentence. She slumped in her seat. "I'll have to tell Ryan that I'm going away again."
"I suppose I'll have to get a storage unit or something," Sprink said with a frown. "Last time we had some damned warning. This time we have... a week to be ready for everything, not even a week to get ready to be ready for, um, what were we supposed to be ready for?"
"Everything," Kalloway mumbled. "This sucks."
She glanced out the window. Their car shivered as another gust of wind blew snow down from the roof of the diner.
"Can't bring the real world with us," Sprink said a minute later, the barest hint of resolve creeping into her voice. "We're residents of fantasy land and... Hey!"
"You know..." Sprink said with a wink. "Remember your budding romance with a certain Seeker of Darkness?"
The waitress sashayed over with an armload of plates.
"Indeed," Sprink said with a wicked grin. "Eeep."
"You two need anything else or does this look good?" the waitress asked as she set everything down and politely smiled.
"Looks fine," Kalloway managed with a fake smile plastered on her face. Sprink returned it and nodded.
"Just call me over if you need to," the waitress advised before wandering off to clear away dishes on a recently vacated table.
"You know what we need?" Sprink asked as she watched Kalloway poke at her breakfast. "A plan. A detailed plan. Possibly a detailed plan involving detailed miniplans."
"And probably a wedding dress..."
"Towels," Sprink read off the list as Kalloway pulled along an already overloaded shopping cart. "Hmm. What color?"
"Black," Kalloway replied. "Goes good with almost any kind of dirt that I'll end up getting covered in, as I always get covered in dirt for some strange reason. Or ink. Or grease. Or oil."
Sprink snickered. "Well, I suppose black does go with everything, too. Maybe. The bathrooms never were a particular strong suit, anyway."
"Don't tell me you're thinking of redecorating..." Kalloway frowned just at the thought.
"I was thinking more of adding little maps to the backs of the doors," Sprink admitted. "We used to tease the residents when they got lost."
"Did we have a map or something?" Kalloway asked curiously. They neared the towel section.
"Nah," Sprink replied. "It's not that bad. We were just forgetting to re-center the camera or something."
It was Kalloway's turn to snicker. "Point."
Sprink grabbed a handful of towels and lumped them on top of a mound of ramen and toilet paper.
"Okay," she said as she consulted the list. "Next on the list is a universal remote control."
They both frowned.
"That had so better be a joke," Kalloway mumbled. "I have, like, seven of those in my hammerspace. And by the way, all this stuff is going in your hammerspace because we totally put the useful contents of both our living spaces in mine and I feel about three thousand pounds heavier than I'd like."
"Well, I suppose I didn't need the sewing machine just yet," Sprink said with a sigh. "If it's really a bother, I can take it."
Kalloway shook her head. "It's okay. I mean, our carrobot didn't complain so obviously he didn't notice."
"He was too busy complaining about the weather and leering at every feckin' car on the highway," Sprink grumbled. "You know who he is, right?"
"Yeah," Kalloway said. "I don't know where Will-kun gets off saying that we have a week. We already have one impatient patient with a serious fetish waiting for us to finish grabbing random essentials."
Sprink stopped and Kalloway crashed into her. A split second later the cart hit both of them and they went crashing to the floor.
"Universe is messing with us, universe is messing with us, universe is messing with us, universe is messing with us," Sprink mumbled as she got up. "Please tell me that you didn't just explain that our car has some sort of..."
"Don't worry," Kalloway said quickly as she held a hand up for Sprink to pull her. "Nothing to do with us organic creatures. Though a few of those exist too."
Sprink shook her head and pulled Kalloway to her feet. "We'll have to find a way to do something with them."
Kalloway shrugged. "What about your mom?"
"Dude, your mom?"
"No - your mom. As in, your mother the somehow highly talented mystic elf with all sorts of super-special magic powers," Kalloway stated. "If we give her some vague terms, maybe she can make us a spell and we can cast it..."
"No spells," Sprink said. "That's like asking me if I'd like to go fall off a roof or something. We could do a powder or crystal or ward or something, but no spells."
"No powders," Kalloway reminded her. "Remember that one time she was using old pixie stix straws for rationing out..."
"Let us not speak of that," Sprink interrupted. "Let us get shampoo, conditioner, and something that says 'sorry for being such an untalented useless daughter'. Then we can get out of here and go see Mother."
Sprink's mother, the esteemed Spreenka Sprik, frowned upon hearing the odd request her daughter and her daughter's friend put forth. But many hundreds of years ago, she'd been taught not to turn away those in true need and deep inside, she knew they truly needed help. Or perhaps she needed a bagel. Bagels were, by far, one of the best things about Earth. Bagels and daytime television.
"Sit right there and keep your heads bowed," she instructed to the two women kneeling on Eastern-styled mats in the main room of the house. "Concentrate very clearly on what result you desire and I will gather the necessary materials."
"Yes, Mother," Sprink said as she continued to stare at the carpet. Kalloway swished her tail once before curling it politely.
They both tried to concentrate but it really wasn't easy. After all, Sprink thought, what if any given creature didn't want to be shrunk down to proportions welcome in the Villa Welc0me? Couldn't they just build an addition or something? Really, it was sort of insulting. Perhaps no more insulting than the various plastic surgeries to make elves look more human or vice versa. Dammit, she just felt insulted now on behalf of everyone who might ever be insulted but not know they were.
Kalloway closed her eyes and tried to imagine a nice conversation with the carrobot on a nice February day, inside, with a crackling fire and hot chocolate. Maybe they could both wear scarves. Knitted scarves. Maybe she could learn to knit. Yes, that would be lovely. She could knit scarves for everyone, though she wasn't sure where a carrobot would put the scarf when he was back in his car mode. Maybe around his stick-shift. She tried not to giggle as she equated 'stick-shift' with male anatomy and then imagined a handsome bishounen with nothing on but a well-placed scarf. With tassles. She did know how to make tassles!
Sprink tried to ignore her companion. She was too busy feeling insulted to deal with Kalloway giggling about something completely ridiculous. They had enough problems without Kalloway losing her concentration, not that Kalloway ever had much concentration to begin with. It was sad, really - Kalloway had totally forgotten she was supposed to have gotten married. Or, more correctly, the thought had gone out of her head at the first mention of going home to her brother. Which was creepy. And also said quite a bit about the relationship Kalloway had left - two people who shouldn't have gotten married. So it was a good thing and mostly likely would have been beneficial only from a business standpoint. But if the Villa had been closed after the marriage, Kalloway would have... stayed... behind...
Kalloway wondered how long they were going to have to stay kneeling. If she'd known they'd be stuck in one position, she would have taken off her boots. Her feet were getting a little tingly and her co-ordination was bad enough without her feet being asleep. When she stood, she'd probably fall on Sprink and Sprink would get upset and they'd both grumble all the way back to the car. But Sprink was her best friend, too. They'd forgive one another for most anything in the entire universe. They probably already had. Maybe they could have noodles when they got back to the Villa welcome just to prove that everything was okay. Noodles would be good. And the carrobot could come, too. Maybe he'd turn into a pretty boy so he could actually eat the noodles. He'd definitely never had noodles before and it would be so fun to introduce him to them. Noodles and hot chocolate. And scarves.
Sprink really hoped that Kalloway was doing a good job of concentrating because her mind was really starting to wander. Kalloway had explained a bit of what their ride found sexy and it was just totally awkward. But... it just meant that he needed their help as much as Sephiroth or Albel or anyone else did. Maybe more. Maybe they were going to get more challenges this time around. They'd dealt with robots before. Of course, that had turned into more of fiasco than either of them had ever admitted. Playing matchmaker was best reserved for matchmakers and certainly they were not matchmakers. Sprink wasn't sure what they were - absolutely unemployable through natural means, she supposed. The universe liked to mess with them. She began to wonder what Kalloway was thinking about and every single thought she had was scary.
Reaching over, Sprink grabbed for Kalloway's hand.
Kalloway was a little surprised. Normally she was the one to ask for a little reassurance. But they were in Sprink's mother's house, which was making them both a little uneasy. She squeezed and held on. They'd make it through this little trial and be back to the Villa in no time. They could do anything together. They just had to actually be together, working as one entity. One entity that would trip over its own shoelaces or sleeping feet or particularly dense air or non-corporeal entities or anything, really. Well, the point was that they'd trip and get up and try again. That's what they did.
"Done!" Spreenka's voice called. Both women looked up.
"We're ready to begin?" Sprink asked with a wide smile.
"No, Daughter," Spreenka said as she held out a purple pouch. "I am finished. I made it in the kitchen. And a bagel. I made your spell and a bagel."
"So... what were we doing out here?" Kalloway asked. "Sending good vibes or something?"
"No," Spreenka corrected. "You were staying out of my way so that nothing got broken."
"So I've been thinking," Kalloway said as they headed for the portal that would take them back to the Villa Welc0me.
"Don't think when you're driving," Sprink quickly chastized.
"Um, I'm not driving," Kalloway reminded her, lifting her hands off the wheel as proof.
"Oh, right." Sprink frowned and clutched tighter onto the purple bag her mother had given her. "So what were you thinking?"
"We're going to have to spend the week getting everything ready," Kalloway explained with a wide grin.
"Yes," Sprink deadpanned a few seconds later. "We know that. Even our ride knows that. He probably just isn't too keen on the idea yet."
"I can hear you."
Sprink squeezed the seat beneath her, earning a small yelp.
"I mean, we need to prepare ourselves," Kalloway said. "After we get the toilet paper on the holders and the ramen in the cupboards, we need to set up the library. We need... to research."
"Dude?" Sprink said as she nodded. "We need to find the library first."
"Oh yeah," Kalloway said. "Right. But once we find it, we need to immerse ourselves in the basics. Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, Kingdom Hearts, Gundam Everything, um..."
"I need to watch your robot shows," Sprink noted before giving the seat beneath her a sharp poke. "Especially yours, if we're going to be putting up with you."
"Hey, I was assigned this very important mission and..."
"Can it," Kalloway snapped. "We can talk later, once we're all inside and warm and toasty. With hot chocolate and noodles and scarves."
"Huh?" Sprink looked confused. It was a natural expression.
"Nevermind," Kalloway said as the Villa Welc0me came into sight. "It doesn't matter. What matters is that we've got help carrying in the groceries."
"The groceries are tucked behind my ear. Everything else is shoved between your boobs," Sprink reminded her. Somehow talking about the locations of their hammerspace made it all the worse. Neither of them had meant to end up placing it where they did. But they were clumsy, after all, and accidents did happen.
Usually to them.
"Right then. Then inside with us," Kalloway said. "Did your mother give you instructions for that?"
"Hang it over the doorway," Sprink said. "Front doorway, I'd guess. It's magic. An elf did it. I don't know."
They came to a stop and both women got out of the carrobot.
"Up on the porch," Kalloway said, pointing. "We have to hang this purple bag that Sprink has over the door and she needs a leg up, so to speak."
"I'm not sure I'll..."
"If this works, we'll go cruising for shiny red sportscars on the internet," Kalloway said with a slight leer. "Maybe one or two will have their top down."
"Aren't you supposed to not encourage him?" Sprink asked as the blue carrobot transformed and offered Sprink one of his hands.
"Hush," Kalloway said. She thought that the carrobot smiled.
"Hey, there's a hook up here already!" Sprink called as she felt around above the door frame. "Perfect!"
A second later the bag dropped onto the hook with a soft thunk and instantly the robot beneath Sprink began to shrink and change. Sprink began falling and Kalloway couldn't get out of the way fast enough.
"Why hello there," Sprink said a moment later as she regarded the handsome young bishounen beneath her. "Mr. Side Burn, right?"
"What did you do to me?" he asked as he tried to push her off of him and look at his hands.
"Made it so I could give you hot chocolate and noodles and a scarf," Kalloway muttered from the bottom of the pile. "Now would you both get off of me? I think the sewing maching has dislodged and it's not comfortable!"
"Can I go?" Side Burn asked for what had to be the fourth or fifth time.
"Don't you like the hot chocolate?" Kalloway asked.
"Don't you like being inside?" Sprink asked as she looked out the kitchen window. "It's snowing out there, you know."
"How would you feel if you were both suddenly turned into cars?" he asked, frowning.
"Dude, I'd so race you!" Kalloway announced, raising her mug and looking over at Sprink.
"Dude, I'd so kick your spoiler," Sprink shot back with a wink. She clinked her mug against Kalloway's and they both laughed.
"I feel all... organic."
Kalloway rolled her eyes. "You look good like that and besides, did you catch the part with it snowing?"
Side Burn nodded. Everything about him had stayed true to his real body - his clothing had formed in shades of grey and blue and his hair was a soft blue and almost shaggy. There was something a little disturbing, Kalloway realized, about her predicition of Side Burn's human form being so dead on with what she really got. Either the universe was messing with her or she needed to mutter 'dammit, Japan' later. He had always had a rather nice face. And been a bundle of personality.
"It's an organic representation of your mechanical self," Sprink said. "You're still you, even if it feels weird."
"You can curl up into a ball or something if it makes you feel better," Kalloway suggested. "We can even call Ms. Sprik and see if there's way to turn you back in here if it's such a big deal. But you'd be stuck in one big room. Like, the middle of the library if we moved a few tables or something."
"That's where we need to go anyway," Sprink commented before finishing off her hot chocolate and depositing the mug in the sink.
"But you won't be much help as a car," Kalloway noted. "And there isn't ceiling clearance for you to transform."
"This just isn't fair." Side Burn frowned and pushed his mug away. "I don't actually get to pick the missions I'm sent on and..."
"Remind me to figure out how to call your supervisor," Sprink said with an evil grin. "And update her on how you're doing."
"Her?" Side Burn asked. "How'd you know?"
Kalloway laughed. "Girl thing. Trust me. A guy would have sent me one of your brothers."
"Wait..." Side Burn looked authentically confused. "You know...?"
"It'll make more sense once the library is up and running," Sprink said with a smirk. "You gonna help?"
Side Burn nodded, defeatedly.
"Then we can look at sportscars on the internet..." Kalloway reminded him. "And take personality tests..."
Sprink shook her head as if she was the only one who wasn't totally crazy.
"To the library!" she proclaimed, raising her fist in the air.
"To the library!" Kalloway and Side Burn repeated, following the elf into the hallway.
"I even think I know where it is!" Sprink continued as they began marching.
"We really hope you know where it is!" the other two replied in unison.
"Don't make me stop this parade and come back there!"
"Don't make us... Oh..." They marched along in silence until a familiar set of double doors appeared.
Kalloway knew they hadn't just found a closet. She was starting to get her spacial orientation back and this was a good place for a huge room.
Sprink opened the doors and let out a startled cry.
"What?" Kalloway asked, pushing past her.
"It's... so empty," Sprink stammered as she surveyed the room. Every table, every shelf was bare. The walls lacked even pictures and the sofas were missing pillows.
"Well yeah, we took everything with us," Kalloway reminded her. "It was all our stuff anyway, technically."
"But what did we do with it?" Sprink asked. "Neither of us had enough storage for..."
It was like a little lightbulb came on above her head. Actually, a little lightbulb did come on above her head and she made a quick mental note to climb up and see if it was loose in the socket.
"Side Burn, do you think you're strong enough in that body to pick me up?" Kalloway asked. "Like, upside down?"
"I can try," Side Burn replied, wincing. "Um..."
"Here," Kalloway said as she walked over to the sofa and flopped over the back, sticking her feet up in the air. "Grab my ankles, pick me up and give me the best shake you can without hitting my head on the floor."
"Just do it," Sprink said. "And... like, walk backwards too."
Side Burn nodded and grabbed Kalloway's ankles, pulling her back over the sofa and dangling her perilously over the floor. Her shirt began to lift up and she carefully tugged it down to expose her cleavage.
"Now," she commanded.
And he shook.
From Kalloway's hammerspace came a rush of books and dvds, games and doujinshi and everything else imaginable. Wall scrolls fell out along with files and folders and notebooks and a few tubes of half-used chapstick. A Dreamcast emerged and both Sprink and Side Burn had to stagger backwards to keep from getting stuck in the rush of media.
If the look on Side Burn's face was priceless, the wealth of information surrounding them was even more so.
When Kalloway glanced over at Sprink, it was little surprise that the elf was frowning and grumbling under her breath.
"Go hire someone!" the elf snapped as she continued working on shelving Playstation games. Kalloway didn't remember there ever being that many, but there did seem to be a few more Japanese ones than there were before and certainly they hadn't owned a copy of Vanguard Bandits, had they?
"Where?" Kalloway asked. "As far as I know, we're the only residents in this entire multi-dimensional non-dimensional town. Thing. Place. Wherever we are."
"How should I know where?" Sprink grumbled. "Just do it. Or else a week will pass and we'll still be right here. I don't know how you were walking around with all of this. Seriously, no wonder you thought you'd put on a few pounds."
"Out of sight, out of mind," Kalloway replied with a shrug. "So do I just start calling people up and inviting them by?"
"Can you do that? Please?"
"With what?" Kalloway asked. "My magic cell phone that can call anyone anywh--- Side Burn!"
A moment later Side Burn slogged over, trying to walk (which was already a bit of a challenge) through a nearly knee-deep mess of manga and doujin.
"Yes?" he asked. "And I think I have a paper cut."
He held up a finger, displaying a bright red drop of blood forming.
"Don't bleed on anything!" Sprink yelled.
"Oh honestly," Kalloway mumbled, jumping over to him and grabbing his hand, sticking his finger in her mouth and licking the blood away.
"This is seriously the grossest thing that's ever happened to me," Side Burn commented.
"Actually," Sprink said, "human - or humanoid - saliva has some antibacterial properties. You mean you didn't have the urge to put your finger in your own mouth after you cut it?"
"Well kinda." Side Burn said, eyeing Kalloway as she withdrew. "But it just seemed really weird."
"Shouldn't need a band-aid," Kalloway noted as she looked around. "So have you seen a cell phone around here in this mess?"
Side Burn pointed back towards the library doors. "Two. Both kinda up towards where you had me put all the posters."
"Yes!" Kalloway exclaimed before scrambling up one of the bookcases and jumping from one to the next until she reached the other side of the room.
"She always like that?" Side Burn asked Sprink. The elf nodded before going back to her current task.
"Sometimes," Sprink said a moment later, "she's worse."
"Cellphone!" Kalloway cried when she saw the first one, half buried under a tangle of Saturn cords and what looked like a printer that had seen better days. She grabbed it and yanked it out, eagerly hitting the power button.
"Side Burn!" she yelled, hoping for another speedy response. "Have you seen a cell phone charger anywhere?!"
"If you stare at it, it'll stop charging," Sprink muttered as she grabbed Kalloway by the back of the shirt and tried to drag her back to the massive pile that Side Burn was now trying to put into piles just by base media form.
"I'm trying to figure out how to give it just a little boost," Kalloway replied as she made one of her fingers spark menacingly. "I mean, without turning it into a deep friend cellphone and stuff."
"Won't work," Sprink said. "Now c'mon. Give it an hour and you should be able to call people. One more hour won't kill us."
"Speak for yourself," Side Burn replied. "I can't believe I had to, y'know, do all that, um, stuff with this body."
"It could be worse," Kalloway said with a smile. "Girls pee totally differently after they drink hot chocolate and y'know what, I'm not even sure how that all works."
She paused and looked at Sprink, who had given up and was walking back over to Side Burn and the unending pile of shoujo manga.
"Sprink, how do I pee?"
"Sitting down," Sprink replied with a groan. "Now stop traumatizing Side Burn and get over here."
Leaving the cell phone behind, Kalloway trudged back across the library and started on a different side of the pile.
"I'll pick out the Dreamcast games," she volunteered. "I mean, since we've managed to find all the cords for it and everything."
"I think we've found cords for everything," Sprink said as she pointed at a tangled mound. "And a TV. I don't even know how you managed to fit a television in..."
"Hey, how does that work, anyway?" Side Burn interrupted. "Like, I'm familiar with subspace and...
"Hard to explain," Kalloway said. "More of a variable space than a subspace. Exceptionally easy to locate at will anything dropped in and mine is... apparently inexhaustable."
"But it's not without fault," Sprink noted. "We had a choice..."
"To put it simply, you would not want to put hot chocolate in mine," Kalloway interrupted. "Sprink's, yes, mine, no."
Side Burn winced. Kalloway nodded. Sprink yelled.
"Would you two please get back to work!"
About forty-five mostly-silent minutes later, the doorbell rang.
"Doorbell?" Sprink asked, looking up from a collection of racy doujinshi.
"Doorbell," Kalloway confirmed. "Side Burn, come with us."
"Why?" Side Burn asked. "I'm not fit for combat in this form."
"Then step off the porch and blast them," Sprink said as she headed for the library door. "Who would be here? Who knows we're here?"
"Girl scouts?" Kalloway suggested. "Hare Krishnas?"
"Bad guys?" Side Burn asked hopefully. They both followed Sprink in silence until they got to the front of the Villa Welc0me.
"Here goes," Sprink said as she reached for the door just as the bell rang again, loud and echoing through the mostly-empty building.
Neither woman expected what they saw - the parking lot was full, as was the porch. Aerith was holding an armfull of flowers. Tifa had a picnic basket. Sephiroth had only himself but that was more than enough. Riku had two bags of fruit. Squall had a pile of notebooks.
And that was simply the first row. Behind them stretched another couple dozen people, many with filled arms and wide smiles.
"You came back," Squall finally said after they'd all stared at one another for the better part of a minute.
"We were brought back," Kalloway said. "We left things unfinished."
"I have so much for all of you to do," Sprink said as she stepped aside. She frowned. "How did you know we were here?"
"I think we all just woke up knowing," Riku explained. "Like everything had just changed. You know - worlds being connected."
Sephiroth chuckled. Kalloway giggled.
Everyone headed inside.
"And any carrobots out there, you're welcome too!" Kalloway called before closing the door. "Just come up to the porch, 'kay?"
Once she had those straglers inside, she smiled. Sprink was already giving everyone instructions and pointing off in various directions.
The Villa Welc0me was alive again. And soon it would be open for business.
Sprink Sprik was a lot of things. She was mostly of elven descent. She was nearly 257 years old. And she was most definitely hungry.
Without being able to hunt around and find the accompanying character guides and walkthroughs in the amazing mess that the library had become, Sprink had to rely mostly on her memory when it came to assigning workers for the kitchen. There was suddenly food a-plenty. She just hadn't quite been able to remember who would be best working with it.
Still, since Kalloway had decided to linger in the lobby and play flirty with a too-young man who had likely arrived with four wheels as opposed to two legs... Whatever she saw in the carrobots, she could keep it, Sprink decided. Besides, it was her line of expertise. If either of them actually had one of those...
Sneaking to the kitchen, Sprink couldn't believe the sheer amount of activity taking place all around her. Before she'd even left the library doorway she'd seen visitors from four different universes teamed together with mops and buckets, talking about going to clean the pool before filling it.
Maybe this time around they could even get the courtyard into some form of repair, Sprink thought. Except that the courtyard was currently covered in five inches of snow. Well, someone could shovel, at least. Someone did need to shovel, but a carrobot could be tasked with that. Anything aside from sweeping the steps wouldn't involve getting too close to her mother's charm, after all.
But there was still the library, the kitchen, every single recreational area, all of the bedrooms, the offices (though only Kalloway used hers), the bathrooms... And whatever was in the wing that she and Kalloway woke up in. There was the basement, too, which seemed like a good task for Side Burn if he got any more annoying.
The sooner she could get a laptop warm and running, the better. An honest, non-Kalloway-tainted take on him would be interesting.
She paused mid-step. Did they even have laptops? Well, Kalloway had owned one once but it had blown up.
"Note to self - get laptops,' she mumbled under her breath as she turned a corner, almost crashing into Signal. Who was sweeping. Without complaining.
"Morning," she chirped despite knowing it was well into the afternoon bordering on evening.
"Um, morning?" Signal offered as he paused at his task and provided a dust-plunnie for Sprink to examine. "Do you know what this thing is?"
"AUGH!" Sprink yelled, jumping back. "Get that thing away from me!"
"It's... scary?" Signal asked curiously. "I thought it was kinda cute."
"Doesn't it do things to you?" Sprink asked as she eyed it cautiously.
Signal shook his head, his long purple hair swishing around him.
"Well, I did suddenly remember some particularly nasty things to do to Pulse while he's asleep," Signal admitted after a few seconds. "But that's about it. Though I suppose for you, it might conjure up all sorts of weird things."
Sprink nodded. "If you can find the basement, they're flourishing down there. Just... throw it down and lock the door or something."
And then she headed on towards the kitchen.
Nearly two rooms before the kitchen, she could smell whatever the occupants were cooking. The delicious scent was enough to make her nearly float down to the doorway and glance in with the proud smile of a home ec teacher when her students have finally figured out how not to burn, well, everything.
"What's up?" she asked curiously as she glanced at the menagerie of pots and pans on the stoves. Someone was even doing dishes. Obviously there were new people to compliment the old and she wished she had some idea who everbody was.
"Dinner," an attractive young man with silver hair and red tattoos replied as he looked up from whatever he had in a mixing bowl.
"We're making a little of everything," Tifa explained as she popped her head over the opened fridge door. "Mainly since we don't have enough to feed everyone the same thing."
"But it will be enough to feed everyone something," Rena added with a smile. "And we've all enjoyed learning from one another. Maybe we could run a weekly cooking seminar or something."
"Do we get to eat the results?" Sprink asked. She desperately wanted to dip a finger in something and see if the tastes were as good as the smells.
"Absolutely," Sophia replied from beside Rena. "I think it's a really fun idea."
"I'll have to run it by Kalloway," Sprink said. "I don't know if she'll..."
"Take her this," the young man with the silver hair said as he offered Sprink some sort of bun-thing. "It should help her decide."
Sprink nodded and took the bun-thing before heading out of the kitchen and off down the hallway. After turning the next corner, she took a bit. Kalloway never had to know, after all. Or maybe she could save just a bit for her best friend, even if Kalloway had a horrible habit of over-eating everything in sight when given the chance, especially and definitely including Sprink's breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There was no need to get even all at once, Sprink decided. Even though the sweet bun was absolutely delicious and practically begged her to devour all of it. In fact, she was so wrapped up in eating that she missed dodging a stray dust-plunnie and had to stop for a moment and wonder if anyone from Ronin Warriors was somewhere in the Villa. There were a few poses they could possibly try that would fit in great with this idea she'd had back somewhere in the late nineties.
Kalloway was, almost predictably, right where Sprink thought that Kalloway would be - still in the lobby and sitting down, doing nothing but petting the head of the too-young pretty boy who was half-sprawled on a sofa, his head in Kalloway's lap.
"Do I want to know?" Sprink asked. She almost popped the last bit of bun into her mouth but resisted, instead walking over and holding it out to Kalloway.
Kalloway opened her mouth and let Sprink feed her.
"Mmmpphhh-Mphhhnnnmmm-Mppphhmmmpphhp-Mmmmnnphhh," Kalloway explained while chewing. She swallowed. "That was really good. And I'd like you to meet Clocker. He's a carrobot and the poor thing has had a pretty rough time of it."
"There's a lot to be done around here," Sprink said as she folded her arms across her chest and tried to look authoritative.
"I know," Kalloway said as she reached down to pet Clocker's head again. He had his eyes closed and seemed to be almost asleep. "But Clocker recently had his, well, metaphorical heart broken by his..."
"I think you missed the part where there's a lot to be done around here," Sprink said as she unfolded her arms and let her hands rest on her hips. And then it hit her, right as Kalloway spoke-
"I know, Sprink," Kalloway said as she reached down to stroke Clocker's hair again. "I know."
She looked up and her eyes met Sprink's.
"There is a lot to do here. That's why I decided to start a little early."
Sprink nodded. "Well, dinner's almost ready."
And then she turned to go. She would do what she did best and Kalloway would do her thing, too.
Kalloway's excuse was that Clocker had splashed her first. Though truthfully she could understand the appeal - water on skin for the first time probably was pretty interesting.
They were both soaked by the time the dishes were clean and put away - they had been left, initially, in order to get rooms ready for the few who were staying and then get everyone who needed to go home back through their respective portals before they closed for the night.
"Can I put you in different clothing?" Kalloway asked as she eyed the car-turned-human.
"I don't know," Clocker admitted. Kalloway reached over and pulled up his shirt, revealing pale skin beneath. "Um..."
"I think so," Kalloway said. "Just... we'll let your clothes dry and have you change back before you go outside. Else you might end up with different paint or something."
"C'mon," Kalloway continued as she grabbed Clocker's hand. "I'll help you. I think you'll have to wear something of mine anyway. But don't worry, most of my clothing was swiped from my brother so it'll look fine on you."
Luckily, by then Kalloway had remembered where her room actually was and had managed to disperse most of her necessary possessions into it. She'd even put a bit of clothing in the closet, which was slightly better than having to give Clocker something procured from between her boobs.
Dragging Clocker there was easy enough, and shoving him into the bathroom with a change of clothes was easy enough, but...
Well, having to pretty much go in and help him undress and re-dress bordered on riotously funny. His poor, sweet, innocent expression was priceless once Kalloway managed to get his head through the neck-hole of the shirt was almost too much. Kalloway changed quickly, inside the closet in the dark and tried not to snicker while Clocker waited to go rejoin the small group that was spending the night.
By the time they arrived at the library, Sprink had given up on putting things on shelves and instead was insisting that everyone watch Escaflowne.
Depositing Clocker, who she'd accidentally dressed in red, beside Side Burn, Kalloway wandered off to see if any version of the Escaflowne manga was waiting on a shelf for her. She hadn't yet had a chance to spend much time with any of the angst ridden cast, but she rather thought that she'd like to. After all, everyone in Escaflowne ended up pretty unhappy. Maybe...
She closed her eyes and remembered that the Villa didn't work that way. There was no picking patients. Only patience, and whatever the universe thought was best.
Glancing back at the group in front of the television, Kalloway found herself watching them more than the anime playing. Nothing felt real yet and there was still so much to do. And there was the lingering fear that everything would be taken away again, just when it had become familiar and comfortable. It had been the worst feeling in the world back then.
She'd dressed Clocker in Ryan's clothes.... Ryan!
Kalloway dug for her cell phone and frantically dialed. After all, both Ryan and Connor hadn't been aroudn when she'd stopped by and grabbed everything she owned and then vanished. He was probably panicking. Connor was probably panicking. They both...
Ryan's cell phone rang. And rang. And then switched over to voice mail. Kalloway checked the time, hung up and dialed again with the same result.
"Ryan," she told the recording on the other end. "This is your sister. I hope I didn't worry you. Everything is fine. But... please give me a call? Oh, and that red shirt you loaned me? You aren't getting it back."
Kalloway rolled over, rather amused that it was daylight already. She barely remembered going to bed but at least she knew she was safely at the Villa Welc0me. She yawned and stretched, accidentally bumping the warm lump of blankets beside her.
"Elf?" she guessed. Hoped. Really, really needed it to be. Even though she was fully dressed in really cute pink and purple striped pajamas that she'd originally thought looked kinda like wallpaper.
The lump of blankets rolled over and Sprink glared at her as blearily as possible.
"Why are you in my bed?"
"Your bed?" Sprink asked as she sat up and looked around the room. "This is my bed."
"No it's not," Kalloway replied. She looked around as well. "I don't think this room belongs to either of us."
She paused and frowned. "No one on the other side of you, is there?"
Sprink looked. "No..."
Kalloway blinked and realized something. "Isn't this the room we woke up in yesterday?"
Groaning, Sprink nodded.
"But how?" Kalloway asked. "It's fuzzy. I was so tired. There... was a noise."
"And you were worried that someone had gotten lost and wandered off to this part of the building, which hand't been cleaned or anything," Sprink added. "And then we..."
"Dust-plunnies!" Kalloway exclaimed. "All the dust-plunnies had relocated to this wing. We were running and this was the only door that was open."
"And I was talking about Soul Calibur."
"And I was talking about Dragonball Z."
"And I wished I had a notebook."
"And I wished I had anything made of paper, ever," Kalloway added. "We were up half the night planning these ridiculous stories..."
They both yawned.
"I bet everyone else is up," Sprink said. "And they have no idea where we are."
"And I left Clocker under Side Burn's care," Kalloway said woefully. "That wasn't smart. I mean..."
"You and your matchmaker tendencies," Sprink mumbled. "You know how bad that turned out the last fifteen or twenty times..."
Kalloway nodded. "I can only hope that even as a squishie, he doesn't find other squishies attractive even if they technically aren't squishies to begin with."
"Wait-what?" Sprink asked. "Oh, I don't want to know. Let's go find breakfast."
"You're forgetting something, aren't you?" Kalloway asked.
"The two-hundred dust-plunnies on the other side of that door."
Each nursing a cold glass of Mt. Dew and a bagel, Sprink and Kalloway barely managed to look up past the woodgrain of the table each time someone came into the kitchen.
Running on even less sleep than the night before, neither was the picture of sunshine. And having to mad dash past the dust-plunnies to get back to a normal part of the Villa hadn't helped.
"Hey, remember that noise?" Kalloway asked blearily.
"Yeah, there was a noise and we went off to dust-plunnie-land."
Sprink frowned. "But everyone is accounted for and no one mentioned being lost."
"I know this and you know this," Kalloway said. She cleared a spot and put her head down on the table. "So what was it?"
"Dust-plunnie?" Sprink suggested with a shrug.
"Dust-plunnies don't make noise," Kalloway reminded her. "They're kinda... fluffy. Like, too fluffy. Like, if I was stupid enough to pick one up and then I threw it, it probably wouldn't make any noise if it hit something. And it probably wouldn't knock anything over, either. Really, I don't think..."
"Okay, okay. I gotcha," Sprink interrupted. She downed the rest of her mug of Mt. Dew and glanced over at their silver-haired cook. "You don't do refills, do you?"
"Don't you want something healthier?" he asked. He was wearing a really cute apron with plenty of pink ruffles.
"No," Sprink replied. "Actually, if you're making anything else unhealthier than this, I'll take it."
"Trust her," Kalloway said, looking up. "I'll just take an apple or something though. Do we have apples?"
Ayatane smiled and tossed her one from the counter. Despite being a little under half-awake, she caught it effortlessly from mid-air.
"Thanks," she mumbled and then put her head back on the table. "I'll eat this when I remember how. Probably after a little nap."
"You're lucky to have so many friends watching out for you," Ayatane said. "Good friends are very important."
"So why are you here?" Sprink asked. "You seem pretty with-it and you're new."
"Trust me, he belongs," Kalloway replied before Ayatane could say anything. "The universe knows what it's doing."
"Then maybe you can explain it to me," Ayatane said. "I don't think I quite understand what's going on."
"Well, we've got a new universe to deal with," Sprink admitted. "But the old one, well, the old one would send us everyone who needed help in some way and we'd help them. Mostly just give them someone to talk to, a place to go that was safe and whatever. Apparently the new universe we work for thinks that you qualify."
"Well," Ayatane said after a moment of thought. "There is a bit of a situation in my life..."
"Exactly," Kalloway said with a smile as she sat up. "We help with stuff like that. We can't just fix it, but through a unique combination of research and counseling - trust me it works - we work our magic. And if nothing else, we do offer reasonable pay for whatever you help with around here."
"And I do think you'll make a lovely chef," Sprink said as she eyed the ingredients Ayatane had on the counter.
"I don't get to say 'no', do I?"
Sprink and Kalloway smiled and shook their heads.
Ayatane didn't say anything.
Sprink looked at Kalloway.
"Hey... you remember that noise?"
By early afternoon, speculation on the origin of the noise went from occassional to constantly. No one other than Sprink and Kalloway had heard it, but no one questioned whether or not the two women were imagining things.
Since a new wave of volunteer workers had arrived a few hours previously, curiousity finally got the better of more than one of the group.
"Would anyone come with me if I went to investigate?" Squall asked as he looked around the library at the small group that was gathering.
"I'll go," Kalloway said. "So will Sprink. We're the ones who heard it, after all. And we'd recognize if something was out of place. I think. Maybe."
"I'll go," Riku added from where he was absolutely not working but instead flipping through a Japanese Ultimania book - Kalloway couldn't see the cover but she doubted it was from anything that wasn't related to his own personal journey. "Though what could possibly be in this place - I thought everything here was closed down and the entire area left abandoned."
"That was the plan," Sprink said. "Up to and including the part where you found the basement and the main breaker for the power."
"I left right before you two did," Riku admitted. "I do believe a certain someone didn't even get a chance to say goodbye because she was too busy trying to cram things into her car."
"Sorry," Kalloway muttered. "And what did I put in my car, clothing? I almost never drove myself around and I'd forgotten how small that space was..."
Riku shrugged. "Anyway, there shouldn't be anything here, right?"
"Shouldn't be," Sprink said. "I mean, it could just have been something falling over in a closet or something. It could have been the Villa settling, if the Villa settling sounds like things falling and bouncing or rolling or something."
"I don't think houses settling sounds like that," Squall interjected. "I mean..."
"That's the point," Kalloway said. "Houses settling is just cracking noises. Pops. Quick noises. This wasn't quite like that. It was long enough for Sprink and I to kinda look at one another to see if we both heard it and then kinda grab for one another in case it was a monster and... you know, I think we both had a lot of odd thoughts at that moment and none of them matter right now."
"You sure it wasn't just a dust-plunnie?" Sephiroth asked from somewhere behind Kalloway.
"Dust-plunnies don't make noise," Kalloway stated. "Ask anyone who has dealt with them - they're silent beasts. And they don't really weigh anything - they're kinda... Um... more like actual manifestations of unfinished, unwritten ideas."
"Wait - you're saying that this place is full of... ideas?" Squall asked. "I don't get it."
"Have you seen them?" Riku questioned. "Little bunny things, but fluffy and they kinda... I dunno..."
"I've seen them," Squall replied. "I just... They're ideas?"
"Yeah," Sprink said. "And if you're Kalloway or myself, several hundred tend to gang up on you."
"I suppose we did leave a lot of things unfinished," Kalloway admitted. "I mean, I don't think I ever really finish anything, as far as writing is concerned. Every drabble is the potential for a new side-universe and..." She paused. "I just spawned, like, another hundred of the damned things, didn't I?"
"Maybe we do need to get some writing done," Sprink said with a nod. "Might get rid of a few. But... This has nothing to do with that noise!"
While Sprink led an expedition party off in the direction of the mysterious noise, Kalloway found herself in front of a rather nice computer that Sprink had somehow found the time to upgrade to a reasonable but not too-new operating system. She'd located Notepad, her program of choice, and had opened up a window.
And she was totally staring at the open white space, the vertical line of the cursor blinking its cruel taunt. The few daring volunteers who were working in the library were trying not to pay attention to her, but she couldn't help paying attention to them.
Everything was far more interesting than writing. Maybe it would be a good time to finally beat a Sonic game. Or get past the first level of any given Star Fox game.
"AUGH!" she cried. No one even bothered turning to look at her this time. The first dozen times, at least someone had looked. But after that, well, they kept on working while Kalloway twitched and cringed in her seat.
"WOULD SOMEONE DO SOMETHING INSPIRING?!" Kalloway yelled. Again, nobody looked.
Slumping back in her chair, Kalloway reached over to minimize Notepad and searched the desktop for anything that could potentially connect her to the internet. The internet was always inspiring. Or something. She knew that logging on would be good.
Or it would at least kill time until Sprink and the search party returned. If they returned. If they didn't return, maybe no one would care that she was spawning more dust-plunnies than she was erasing.
They'd never had a dust-plunnie problem before. Of course, there was always so much more going on... before.
And then she managed to log on.
The first thing she headed for was her e-mail. Ryan hadn't called her back and she was desperately hopeful that he'd just not been able to get through and had e-mailed instead. After all, his carrier might not be equipped for multiverses - for some reason or other. Everything else always seemed to work at the Villa.
"E-mail?" she said to herself as her inbox loaded. Somehow, 253 new messages in the last two days was not a good sign. Unless they were all from a very worried Ryan, which was most likely not the case. She was fairly sure that at one point or another, she'd wandered away for a couple of weeks to help Sprink with a project, he had barely noticed that she was gone. And Connor, Ryan's roommate/boyfriend wasn't any better.
"Email!" she exclaimed when she saw Ryan's username nestled between mailing list updates, despite the subject being an unpromising 'link 4 u'.
Kalloway clicked on the message and was soundly disappointed. No mention was made of the message she'd left or the fact that she'd packed up most of her stuff and vanished in the middle of the night on New Year's. She frowned until she saw what she'd been sent.
"Japanese fanart," she said to herself. "Japanese Transformers fanart."
Glancing around, she saw Side Burn within annoying distance.
"Hey Side Burn!" she yelled, waving her arms. "You wanna come see something you can never un-see?"
Side Burn frowned. "When I get back to my body," he said as he walked over. "I can erase anything necessary."
"Great!" Kalloway replied. "Sit down and let's go trawling for the weirdest stuff we can find!"
About a minute later, whilst staring at lovely renditions of the entire cast of Galaxy Force drawn as bishoujo, woman and robot turned to look at one another and burst out laughing.
"This is what people do?" Side Burn asked. "People do this? To us?"
Kalloway nodded. "Yeah. You make it sound weird."
"Well, what would you do if people drew weird pictures of you and put them on the internet?" Side Burn asked.
"Download them and then put them on my site," Kalloway answered, shrugging before turning back to the monitor and clicking on the next link. "Hey... is that you?"
As Kalloway popped into the kitchen to check with Ayatane and Tifa about preparations for dinner, she realized that hours had passed and there hadn't been any sign of Sprink or the Noise-Investigation-Committee.
Frowning, she decided to quickly look in the fridge to see if they happened to have been randomly shrunk and placed in there, though really she was just cruising for something to pop in her mouth.
From beside a large bowl of pasta salad, a dust-plunnie gazed up at her.
"Ayatane, there's a dust-plunnie in the fridge," Kalloway said as she peered up over the door in his general direction.
"It isn't mine," Ayatane replied. "Could you possibly remove it?"
"Are they edible?" Kalloway asked as she unwillingly reached for it. Despite her query, it jumped into her arms and she stumbled backwards, lost in thoughts of Escaflowne.
"I think they'd cause indigestion," Tifa commented as she looked down at Kalloway. "Close the fridge door, Miss Kalli."
Kalloway closed the door with her foot and got to her feet after arranging the dust-plunnie on her shoulder for travel purposes. Just as she was heading towards the hall, Sprink appeared in the doorway.
"Sprink!" Kalli exclaimed. "Do you think I could get away with VanxAllen or is Allen pretty much a default top?"
"Aren't you going to ask about the noise?" Sprink asked before frowning. "And you know, I just saw Van a few minutes ago, hanging new shower curtains. You should ask him if he even wants to be top."
"Maybe I will," Kalloway said thoughtfully as she reached up and stroked the dust-plunnie that had settled in nicely and half-burrowed under her hair. "Though yes, that's right. What caused the noise?"
"We don't know," Squall interjected as he pushed past Sprink and walked into the kitchen. "We did find a few things knocked over or askew, but no signs of what could have caused them."
"But it doesn't seem to be doing any damage," Sprink continued. "I mean, I break more stuff when I have a three-hour-stupid."
Kalloway nodded. "Gotcha. Though I suppose we should at least write down when and where we hear it. Just in case."
Both Squall and Sprink nodded. Sprink finally noticed the dust-plunnie on Kalloway's shoulder. "Hey," she began, "you have a dust-plunnie! Are those things edible?"
Everyone else in the kitchen sighed.
"No," Kalloway admitted. "Though it's tempting."
"Well, you did get some writing done, right?" Sprink asked. "Cleared up a few of these critters?"
"Er..." Kalloway glanced up at the ceiling and then over towards Ayatane. "Actually, see, I checked my e-mail to see if Ryan had noticed that I'd left and he hasn't but he did send me a link and I clicked it and Side Burn and I kinda just kept clicking links... Um..."
"Did you end up on Wikipedia?" Sprink asked.
"Then it's okay," she said. "Just... next time, more writing, less research?"
Kalloway nodded. "Right. Maybe I'll go tap away at this Escaflowne bunny while he's right here." She reached up to pet the dust-plunnie again and had a sudden realization.
"Am I on fire?" Sprink asked, whirling around.
"No... But... If I write the story, the dust-plunnie will go away, right?"
"In theory," Sprink replied. "But you haven't written anything and I haven't written anything, so we don't know."
"I'd be... killing this littly guy if I wrote about Van nailing Allen after a hot, sweaty swordfight," Kalloway said quickly, pulling the dust-plunnie off her shoulder and crushing it against her boobs.
"I think you're killing it now," Squall commented before peering over Ayatane's shoulder at what was shaping up to be dinner.
to be continued?
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!