Author's Note: Thanks to Flip, who gave me the idea late one night! You're the greatest girl! One other note, this takes place after the Ninja Encounter, but before the Power Transfer.
Rocky grinned as he spotted his friends sitting under their favorite tree. It seemed they had a special spot for everything they did, and he liked it that way. "Hey yourselves." He replied, plopping down on the green grass.
"Wheres Mr. T?" Adam asked.
Rocky shrugged. "Moms taking him to the vet. Yearly checkup and all that."
"Whos Mr. T?" Kim asked, snuggling up against her boyfriend.
"Probably the dumbest dog on the face of the planet." Aisha promptly replied. She ducked as Rocky swiped her. "Its true!" She protested. "Your dog is the only one I know that hits cars."
Kim sat up in surprise. "Your dog got hit by a car?"
Rocky shook his head, a grimace on his face as he remembered that particular incident. "No, he hit the car "
"Mr. T!" Rosa groaned as the rather large Great Dane flopped on top of her. "Rocky, get your stupid dog off of me!" The nine-year-old complained as she tried, unsuccessfully, to push the dog off of her.
"No way! Then youll make me and Adam play Barbies or something. Forget it." Rocky retorted as he and his best friend made their way to the back yard where they were having an epic battle between good and evil with their green army men. Aisha was away at Girl Scout camp and the two of them were reveling in guy stuff.
"Moooommmmm!" Rosa yelled, hoping her mother could coax the dog off of her. Before her mother could try and get the dog to mind her, Mr. T bounded up and raced down the road. She rolled over onto her stomach and watched the dumb mutt that was the center of her older brothers universe. *Hes probably just chasing a squirrel or something.*
She wasn't particularly inclined to try and stop Mr. T; the first time she'd done that the Great Dane had bowled her over and went after the bird anyway. This time, though, it was a bit different.
"Rocky!" She yelled again, a bit scared as she realized that Mr. T had found something new to chase.
Rocky sighed, but obediently rounded the corner again. Since his dad had died two years ago, he'd become a surrogate father for his younger siblings. Usually he'd ignore Rosa, but he heard the note in her voice. The one that he was finding out was hard to ignore.
"What!" He yelled, and stopped. Mr. T was running full tilt down the road after an older brown car.
"Mr. T!" The twelve-year-old yelled and began chasing the dog, Adam and Rosa right behind him.
The driver must have noticed the three kids chasing after him, or the large yellow dog, because he slammed on the brakes. Unfortunately, Mr. T didn't.
Rocky, Adam and Rosa all winced as the dog slammed full tilt into the back bumper of the car he'd been chasing. They slowed and warily approached the man that had hopped out of the car.
"I'm so sorry! I didn't even really see him back there. Is there anything I can do or " He trailed off as Mr. T got up and hobbled back toward the house.
Mayra DeSantos walked down the road, holding the youngest of her brood on her hip. She shook her head, silencing the man's babble. "It's all right. Mr. T, get in the house." She commanded.
Mr. T ran back into the yard, any trace of a limp gone.
"He's fine." Mayra told the other man. "He's just a big faker is all."
"As long as you're sure." The man started again.
"Don't worry about it. Mr. T is always running into stuff." Rosa added, with a grin as Rocky glared at her.
Kim gasped as she tried to get enough air in her lungs; she was laughing so hard. "Ican't believeyou're dogreally did that." She said between gasps.
"I'm sure you guys got some pet stories of your own." Rocky grumbled. He admitted it was a hilarious story about his dog, and he was one of the first to admit when it came to chasing stuff Mr. T wasn't the smartest, but he was still a great dog.
Jason shared a look with Zack. They had some great stories, but they were more about what they had done to their pets than anything else. "When I was younger, I had a painted turtle I called, Flash."
"Oh man, yeah Flash. He was great!" Zack crowed. "Remember, Jase? We used to race him against Chester "
"Ladies and Gentlemen, fans of all ages, welcome to the bestest"
"I think you mean greatest"
"greatest sporting event ever! Tonight, you will see the most spectacular event as Flash and Chester compete for the all important title!"
"The fastest pet!"
Zack pushed his best friend. "That's my line. We agreed, I get to do the introductions around here."
"You're taking too long. It'll be bedtime before we even get anything done!" Jason retorted. The two boys were sitting in the living room of Zack's house. Down the middle of the carpet, running about half the length of the room, were three strips of masking tape denoting the racetrack. At one end were two small cat carriers and at the other two small dishes of food.
"Ok, ok." Zack retorted a quick grin graced his face. "You're dead meat now. Chester is the fastest animal there is."
"On three, one, two three!" Jason yelled as they simultaneously opened the two cages. Two animals made their cautious way out of the pens and out onto the racetrack.
"Come on Chester. Look see the food?" Zack yelled as his long fuzzy pet sniffed around.
"Come on Flash. You can do it." Jason encouraged as the little turtle made it's way out of the carrier and onto the track. "Ha! Flash is faster."
Zack rolled his eyes. Chester had to beat Flash. It would be dumb if he didnt. Ferrets were way faster than turtles. "In your dreams!"
The two boys cajoled and cheered their pets onto victory. However, race was called on account of Chester finding something more interesting to play with. The heating ducts.
Zack chuckled. "Man, I spent the next 4 hours trying to get him out of those ducts. Mom was furious, and she wouldn't let us race anymore."
"Andy wasn't all that thrilled either. Didn't Chester end up his bed or something?" Jason asked.
"Yeah, making a mess of everything. He threatened to disembowel my poor Chester."
"I remember when Kenny would chase our two birds around the house." Kim told the group with a smile. "Poor Kenny, he loved those birds, but they couldn't stand him. They bit him more than once. Then there was the time that they got out "
Kimberly looked over at the door where her brother, Kenny, was standing looking like he'd just got into trouble.
"What is it, Kenny?" She asked, as she hopped off the bed and went over to her little brother. Her parents were out for the evening and she knew that while Kenny was ok with the idea of a babysitter, he wasn't comfortable going to them for help.
"I was just trying to pet the birdies, I didn't mean for them to get out." The shrill voice told her.
"Uh oh." Kim said, echoing Kenny's thoughts. Their parents had told Kenny more than once that he wasn't supposed to try and pet the birds unless one of them were there. Kenny often forgot.
"Where are they?" She asked. Kenny was only 10 months younger than she was, but because of his Down's Syndrome seemed so much younger.
Kenny, his face lighting up at the prospect of his older sister Kimmy helping him, quickly took her hand and dragged her down to the den, another area they weren't supposed to be unless their parents were with them. "There. They're up there. I chased them inta here, cuz I couldn't get them down." He said pointing upward.
Kim looked up and saw Alfi and Zaida flapping up near the ceiling. "Quick, close the door so they can't get out."
Kenny nodded and did as he was told. "Now what?"
Kim chewed on her lip as she tried to decide what to do. Shauna was probably watching TV. She hadn't seemed all that interested in playing with either of them, and she didn't like the birds at all. "I don't know." She said quietly.
She watched as her brother's face crumbled. He was counting on her knowing everything, on her being so smart. She wasn't smart; she was just average, but she was determined that Mom and Dad wouldn't find out that Kenny did it. If necessary, she was ready to take the rap for her brother, not that Kenny would let her. Even at 6, Kenny wouldn't lie or let her lie even to protect him.
Kenny screwed up his face and went over to the cabinet. Kimmy might not know what to do, but he saw the shelves that lined the den and he was determined to get those birdies back. Grabbing onto the third shelf, he put his foot on the lowest one and began to climb.
Kim looked over at her brother and gasped as she saw him climbing the shelves. She watched on baited breath as he got near the ceiling, and began to call to his winged friends.
"Here, Alfi. Come on birdies, I won't hurt you. I just want to pet you." Kenny said as he reached out a hand to the fluttering birds. Zaida landed on the bookshelf to the left of Kenny, and the little boy smiled brightly as the he reached for the bird.
Kim watched frozen as Kenny's fragile balance on the shelves came undone. The little boy was still firmly anchored to the shelves, but when he shifted to reach for the bird he tipped the bookshelves.
The seven-year-old girl's brown eyes went wide as the bookshelf and her brother both bore down on her.
"Was anyone hurt?" Aisha asked as she and the rest of the group winced.
Kim shook her head. "Just a few bruises, but we had plenty to explain to both Shauna and my parents. Kenny was scared out of his wits, and the birds got away." Kim smiled a bit ruefully. "Shauna never did baby-sit us again. Something about us being too reckless for her I think it was."
"Wow, you were lucky no one was hurt." Trini said quietly. She met Kim a little after Jason did, and never had a chance to meet Kenny.
Kim nodded, and then looked over at Adam. "What about you, Adam? Did you ever have any pets?"
Adam dropped his eyes to his lap. He had been dreading that question. Yes, he had pets, and to him they were immensely cool, but to explain them involved opening himself up to all sorts of humiliation.
"Adam has fish." Rocky answered, giving his best friend a sympathetic gaze. He knew exactly how embarrassed Adam was talking about how he'd gotten into his fishie world.
"What kind?" Billy asked, curious. He could never imagine owning any of the slimy creatures, but he had to admit that he enjoyed watching them swim. Many were actually very pretty.
Adam shrugged. "I have a betta, 4 guppies, some small neon tetras, a frog and 2 crabs."
"You forgot about the African Butterfly." Rocky added.
Adam smiled. Lorca was the newest addition to his aquarium. "Yeah, Lorca. He's so cool. I had to get a new tank for him, because he's fairly aggressive. He would have eaten the others."
"You name your fish?" Tommy asked, a little surprised.
Adam winced a bit. No, this was definitely not the time to bring up his first fish, Bubbles the Ferocious Goldfish
"Adam? Are you going to be okay tonight, Sweetheart?" Naomi asked her only son.
Adam looked around the room and shakily nodded his head. He wasn't going to be he knew that, but his mom had stayed with him for the past few nights and while he always felt safer, he couldnt keep doing that to his mom. She was tired, and she should be in her own bed. He was 8 years old; no 8-year-old boy was scared of the dark.
Naomi turned on her way out the door. "Are you sure?"
Adam wanted to scream that no, he wasn't all right, and he would never be all right. He didn't want his mom to go; he wasn't sure he'd survive the night without her there, but he said nothing, just nodded once more.
Naomi gave her son a brave smile and then shut off the lights. "I'll leave the door open for you." She told him as she left the room.
Adam hunched down, burying himself as far underneath the sheets as he could. He kept his eyes tightly shut, as if he could shut out all the evils lurking in the dark. A fearful whimper escaped his lips, and he cowered even further down into the sheets.
The next morning Naomi found her son again sleeping in the hall in front of their bedroom door. Fighting back tears she picked up her little boy and gently put him back in his bed.
"He slept in the hallway again." Her husband, John, said as he joined her in the boy's room.
Naomi nodded, wiping away the tears that threatened to run down her face. "I just don't understand what's gotten him so scared. God, John, he can't even sleep in his own bed without being terrified. Adam can't go on like this."
John put his arms around his wife. "I know, Nomi. I know. We'll find something, Adam will beat this Sweetheart, I promise you."
It was 6-year-old Katie who finally found the answer. She had won a goldfish at the carnival and had proudly displayed it to her family before giving it to her older brother. "Here."
Adam, bewildered, took the bag with the fish and waited for what was coming next.
"He'll protect you from all the bad things in the dark. His name is Bubbles, and he's the most fiercest guard goldfish ever!"
Adam watched the little fish racing through the water in the plastic bag. "Are you sure?" He asked, giving his little sister a doubtful look.
"D'uh!" She retorted, climbing up and onto her brother's lap.
Doubtful, but willing to indulge his little sister, he looked at the goldfish again. He did seem pretty strong and the way he was swimming around in the bag, he was fast. Maybe Bubbles was a guard goldfish. Still
"Dad? Are there such things as guard goldfish?"
"So let me get this straight. Kim can name her birds, and Jason his turtle, but it's stupid for Adam to name his fish?"
Adam tuned back into the conversation, a small smile on his face. They had gotten a small tank for Bubbles, and between the comfort of the light coming from the tank and the fact that Bubbles was a guard goldfish, he slowly got over his fear of the dark. Bubbles lasted for almost 4 years before he succumbed to old age. He'd had fish ever since.
"No, I didn't say that." Tommy backpedaled. He turned to the others. "Does anyone else have any stories?"
Trini shook her head. "My parents didn't allow us to have pets in the house. My dad is allergic to most furred animals, and my mom refused to have any reptiles in the house, and mice. She hates mice. Mom almost had a heart attack the first time Billy brought Jack over."
"Who's Jack?" Adam asked, glad to have the attention off him, and onto someone else.
"Jack is my lab mouse. A simple white mouse and I still do not understand why your mother had an adverse reaction to him being in the house. We were running a perfectly logical experiment."
"Trini, could you pass me the reward?"
Trini passed the small bit of cheese and guiltily glanced around. She knew better than to let Billy conduct his experiment here, but he had been desperate. He wanted to test Jack's reflexes and reactions in a new environment and he had no where else to turn. Jack had already been to Jason's, and Zack couldn't insure the little mouse's safety with Chester around. They both knew that while Kim would have had them over, Kenny was coming home for a visit and Billy hadn't wanted to disturb the reunion. That left her place.
"You're sure that Jack won't get out, because my mom doesn't like mice."
Billy nodded absently, his mind already spinning with the possible outcomes to his experiment. "I cannot be 100 percent sure, but it is a negligible risk."
He took the small lab mouse from his spot in Billy's pocket and placed him in the entrance to the maze. "Now we will time how long it takes Jack to get to the other end of the maze, despite the different surroundings."
Trini had to admit it was an interesting experiment. Billy had made the maze out of clear plastic, so the mouse really would be in a different environment. She watched, dutifully waiting to start the stopwatch once Jack fully entered the maze. He didn't.
"Jack!" Billy yelled as he chased the mouse around the room. Trini ran to the door and shut it, hoping that it would keep the small rodent out of the rest of the house.
"Can you see him?" Trini asked, as she passed the flashlight to her lab partner, peering under the bed.
"Negative. I do not understand how he could have escaped the maze. It is not like Jack at all. He is usually very cooperative to our experiments. Jack, come out here this instant."
Trini snorted as she tried not to laugh. The picture was funny; Billy was kneeling before her bed, a flashlight in one hand and the other was holding up her bedspread, and yelling at a white mouse. "Does it respond to commands?"
Billy grunted. "No, but it makes me feel as if I'm accomplishing something at least. I cannot seem to find him."
"Uh oh. Billy, we have to find Jack. He wasn't even supposed to here. My mom doesnt like animals in the house and especially mice. She think it means her house isn't clean." Trini said as she started to search the room for the fourth time. It was then that she noticed that the door wasn't tight against the floor. There was a small space, almost big enough "Uh Billy? Can Jack get under doors?"
Billy looked over at her and gave her a puzzled looked. "He has on several occasions, why do you ask?"
"Because I think he's really loose."
Billy and Trini expanded their search, hoping that they or Trini's younger sister found the small mammal before the Kwan's maternal unit did. Trini was getting frantic before they heard a scream coming from the kitchen.
The two preteens scrambled into the kitchen to see Mrs. Kwan standing in front a lower cabinet a dust mop in her hand. Once she saw her oldest daughter, she started yelling in Chinese.
Trini waited out the tirade and then answered each of her mother's questions in Chinese. She knew that right now her mother was too terrified, or too enraged to comprehend English.
Billy glanced at both mother and daughter. "What did she say?"
Trini looked over at Billy. "You don't want to know." She whispered back. "Jack's in there, and unless you can convince my mom that he's not evil incarnate, you won't ever see him again."
Trini's mother glared at the young blond boy standing next to her daughter. Snapping something, she stepped away and advanced on the perceived threat.
Billy retreated backwards; not sure he wanted to know what Mrs. Kwan thought he was responsible for. He had deduced that Trini had told her mother where the mouse had come from and presumably why he had brought, in her opinion, the offending animal into her house. "M-Mrs. Kwan I-I assure y-you that I h-had no in-intention of l-letting Jack get out of t-the m-maze I had b-brought."
Trini kept her eyes on the small hole between the cabinet and the wall. Last year, when they had been remodeling the upstairs, a chipmunk had found its way inside and to that very spot as well. She hoped Billy could get himself out of the situation with her mom by himself. She didn't want to see Jack go to an early grave, so she was in charge of getting him back.
Grabbing the peanut butter from the pantry she dabbed a little on a small cracker and stretched it out to the little mouse. She hoped that past experience would be the key, and that Jack liked the sticky substance. She was lucky, he did.
"Your mother never forgave me for that. I wasn't allowed in your house for months afterwards."
"She always patted you down too. No more intelligence tests in my room." Trini added, with a small smile. She had gotten time out from TV for an entire week for that experiment. She still wasn't allowed to watch PBS or Discovery Channel.
"How about you Aisha? You had to have pets." Jason asked, knowing that the black teen often volunteered at the Animal Shelter.
"Well, not really. We fostered some kittens for a while. We had four, a mom and three babies. They were the cutest things, but they weren't very smart."
Rocky grinned; he remembered those kitties. "Weren't they the ones that got behind your speakers?"
Aisha rushed through the door, Adam right behind her. She couldnt wait to show off her kitties.
"You really have four cats?" Adam asked, as he followed her into the house. He couldn't believe having that many animals in one house.
"Three are babies. Hey Momma. Where are your babies?"
The brown queen purred and rubbed up against Adam, making friends. Adam stood stock still, not sure if the cat was going to attack or not. He'd heard and seen stories of over protective mothers of several different species that would attack anyone that came near their young.
"Relax Adam, she's a good Momma. She has yet to hiss or swat. Now, where are those babies?" Aisha looked under the couch and only saw one ball of fuzz. "Found one." She said as she wiggled a colorful feather in front of the fuzzball.
Adam sat down and watched as Aisha coaxed the kitten out from under the couch, and set it on his lap.
"Hold him, and just pet him. Be careful though, his nails are sharp."
Adam held the little kitten in his lap and gently petted it. The kitten was brown, black and white striped and had the bluest eyes Adam had ever seen. The kitten dug his claws into his skin and he bit back a cry. It hurt, but the kitten was getting away. He watched, amused as the kitten climbed over his upraised arm. "What did you call it?"
Aisha glanced up from her search and looked at the kitten. "Oh, that's Trouble. He's into everything. Goober and Squeaker are a lot shyer. I thought for sure that they'd be hiding out under the couch. I'm a little worried about them."
Aisha turned to Momma, who was lounging on the floor. "Momma, where are your babies? Do you know?"
She gave up and sat down next to her best friend. "They're such nice kitties. Very well behaved for strays. Mom thinks that Momma must have had an owner at some time. She's too neat and clean to be a stray."
Adam shrugged. He didn't know much about cats, although Katie kept begging his parents to get one. So far they had turned the 8-year-old down. "They're cute."
Aisha was watching her evening show when she heard a small "meow."
Aisha frowned. "Ok you two, where are you?" She scanned the room with her eyes. Momma and Trouble were hanging out by the kitchen table where Terry was scarfing down the Colonel's chicken, and dropping little bits on the floor to pacify the kitties sitting there.
She heard it again and tried to identify where it was coming from. None of the family had seen either of the other two babies all day and they were getting a bit worried. Twisting she discovered it was coming from the kitties favorite hiding spot, the space between the wall and the couch.
She shook her head as she looked behind the couch. Her mom had put the couch at an angle to the corner so that everyone could see the TV and there wouldn't be a glare. Terry had put his large speaker there when he moved his stereo to the family room. No kitties. Now where could they be?
Aisha frowned as she considered the possibility. They couldn't be behind the speaker, which was as close to the wall as it could get and still form a triangle behind the couch. Shaking her head, she checked just to be sure and found two pairs of blue eyes staring back at her.
"Mom? I think I found them "
"See? Mr. T isn't the only dumb animal around." Rocky declared a satisfied grin on his face.
"True, but they were babies, Rocky. Mr. T is full grown." Aisha retorted.
Tommy shook his head. "I've never had any pets. My parents moved too much to really keep one, but a lot of my family did. My grandparents had lots of dogs, they had two when I was little, but according to my parents they've had dogs almost as long as they've been married. It's funny, we tease Grandpa about loving his little dachshund more than he loves Grandma."
Kim smiled at her boyfriend. She hadn't had the pleasure of meeting his extended family, but she was sure this was going to be a doozy of a story once he told it. "Really."
Tommy nodded. "Really. He calls it Liebchen. It's German for Sweetheart. The dog is so fat, it can hardly walk on its little legs."
The group tried to picture the small fat wiener dog trying to walk around and they all burst out laughing. "So does it do any tricks or anything?" Rocky asked. Mr. T could do a few, but playing fetch and tug of war were his best ones.
Tommy shook his head. "Not really. It just lounges around, but my grandparents did have this one dog, Romeo "
"Mom! Come on, we're going to be late!" Jean Housen yelled as she raced to the car. Her sister was getting married and her mom was going to ruin everything if they didn't hurry up. They'd have just enough time, by her estimations, to get ready.
"Yes, dear. Don't worry. Elaina won't let them start without us." The older woman shut the door behind her and glanced at the mutt sitting in the backyard. "You be good Romeo. I don't want to come home and hear all sorts of bad things about you from the neighbors."
The dog barked a few times, but he couldn't escape. His collar was attached to the leash that was clipped onto the clothesline that spread across the length of the yard. Romeo had full access to the yard, while not being able to leave it.
Mrs. Housen just shook her head and climbed into the car.
Jimmy rounded the corner to the backyard, determined just to check on Romeo and grab some more comfortable clothing before going to the reception. He had to admit, Elaina and Tony had really made a great couple. His little sister was radiant in her white wedding dress and Tony had actually looked distinguished in his tux.
"Hey Jimmy we got a problem."
Jimmy turned and saw his brother-in-law, Doug, holding up a chain with a collar attached. Romeo was gone. "Oh this is just great." He muttered. "Just how are we going to break this to Elaina? She's loved that dog."
"Maybe he'll come home when he's hungry?" Doug asked, but he didn't believe it. It had taken minor miracles every other time the dumb mutt had gotten out. Jean had told him that her parents were considering just leaving him the next time he got out.
"We got to get that dog back. Do you have any idea how attached Elaina is to that mutt?" Jimmy groaned.
"Guess we're going to the pound."
"Have there been any dogs taken in today?" Jimmy asked the clerk at the desk.
The clerk frowned at him. "This is the Humane Society. We get all the dogs and cats that are picked up. Are you looking for one in particular?"
Jimmy nodded. "Yeah, a mutt. He got out of his collar and took off sometime today."
The clerk shrugged. "If he doesn't have a collar we assume he's a stray. I can take you back to the cages, maybe you can find him."
Jimmy glanced at his partner in crime, Doug. Shrugging they followed the clerk to the back room.
"Oh man! How are we going to find that dumb mutt with all these other dogs?" Jimmy demanded as he and Doug searched the cages. There were all sorts of dogs in the cages, how were they going to find their one mutt.
"Romeo! Where are you, you dumb mutt?" Jimmy yelled above the din.
"ROMEO!!" Doug yelled, putting something of a musical lilt to his voice. "Oh Romeo!"
A dog howled, somewhere down the corridor full of cages.
"Do it again." Jimmy told his brother.
"Romeo, oh Romeo!"
Again the dog howled.
The next 10 minutes had Jimmy cringing at the musical rendition between human and dog. But they found Romeo, oh yeah; they found him all right. Howling away with Doug.
"So that was at your parents wedding?" Trini asked.
Tommy nodded. "I never got to meet Romeo, but man they talk about that story. I guess it was the highlight of their wedding. Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Doug got back just as the family was returning to go to the reception. Mom wanted a picture with the family, which included Romeo."
"Cool!" Zack said. "That's the kind of wedding I want to have, man. Lots of fun and excitement."
"You might want to get a girlfriend first." Jason pointed out with a smirk.
Rocky waved his hand. "Details, details!"
Jason glanced at his watch and groaned. "Oh man! I gotta get home. Gabe's coming over tonight and I promised my mom that I'd be home."
"Me too." Kim added as she pushed herself up off the soft grass. The rest of the group slowly dispersed.
"Hey, Rocky. How did Mr. T get his name anyway?" Kim asked as they made their ways home.
"That's a whole 'nother story!"