R: Yup, that's another part done. Aren't you proud of us?

L: *snorts* We turn out a part of this every couple of weeks! Our fans know that (all 5 of them!). Now, you really want to impress them? Finish one of your fics! Or, if I finally finished Chap. 11 of Betrayals, now that would be really impressive!

R: Shameless plugging? I like it, I like it!

L: I do what I can to get others to read, literacy is an important thing in my life.

R: *snorts* Uh-huh. Anyway, to get on with this... If you've made it this far in the story, you know who belongs to us and who doesn't. Don't sue us for using the ones that don't, after all we're not making any money off this.

L: *laughs* Don't I wish! Well, let's stop bugging the nice people and get back to the story! I'm dying to find out what happens with me and the Arcadian Knight! Or Andrew! Or any of the hunky blonds in the story!

R: *growls* Hey! One of those hunky blonds is mine! You can't have them all!

L: Why not? I'm cuter. I have the dimples!

R: Lauren.... *A not-so-mock fight ensues*

*Zalisite steps out from backstage and stares at the two fighting Moon Mages, then realizing that he gets to finish the introduction, leaps about for joy for a moment. He calms down and faces the readers.*

Z: Remind me again why they get to win? *He frowns and sighs* Oh well. I guess I get to say it! ^_^ Live from your computer, it's Misdirections - Part 9!! BTW, did you notice that these introductions get longer and longer every time?

*The Moon Mages, finally noticing his presence in their introduction/disclaimer thingy, jump up, growl and chase him off the stage as the readers breath a collective sigh of relief.*

And now, on with the show!...

Part 9 -- A Romantic Interlude
by Renee-chan and L.M. Griffin

(What did you say? This is self-serving of us? Hell yeah, it is! *^_^* You didn't expect us to be all mushy for every one else and leave ourselves single, did you? Deal with it!)

-The Moon Mages Emerald and Sapphire

The Scouts and company all walked out of the restaurant. A waiter stood dumbfounded in the doorway, holding a wad of 22 single American dollar bills in his hand. Strange people. Who would have thought that that little girl could eat so much by herself? He shook his head in amazement and counted the 22 dollars again, But they sure tipped well! He smiled and walked back into the restaurant.

Outside, the afore-mentioned little girl was leaning against Darien and holding her stomach. "I think I ate too much..." she moaned.

Lauren sweatdropped, "Ya think!!?? I thought I ate a lot, and I only had seconds! You had sixths! Plus the two ice cream sundaes! No wonder your stomach hurts!"

Darien frowned at Renee who had a clamped over her mouth trying to hold in giggles. He picked Serena up in his arms and said, "Come, my Princess. Allow this unworthy knight the pleasure of escorting you home."

Serena's eyes turned into hearts and she murmured, "Of course, my Prince. It would be an honor." With that she snuggled close to her love, still held secure in his arms - her upset stomach forgotten.

The other Scouts and Mages shared a glance. A collective "Awwww..." was pronounced by all. Then Mina sighed, "Doesn't it suck to be single?" Everyone else heartily agreed.

Checking to see that no one was around, Darien shifted into his tux and cape, and making sure Serena was secure, leapt onto the roof of the building. He turned back to the group, "See you all later!" With one mighty leap they were away into the night.

Lita muttered, "Definitely sucks to be single."

Renee echoed her, "Most definitely."

Just then a young man walked down the street. Lita's eyes turned into huge hearts and she drawled, "He looks just like my old boyfriend!!" She started to trail after him and was soon out of sight around the corner.

Ami and Rei shook their heads - some things never changed. Rusty looked alarmed, "Uh, guys? Shouldn't we go after her?"

Ami blushed a little and said, "No. Lita is a big girl who can definitely take care of herself. She will be fine." She looked down at her watch and gasped, "But I will not be if I don't get home and study for that test! It's only three weeks away and I am only 5 chapters ahead!" She stared at the others who had all sweatdropped, and said hastily, "Sorry! I have to leave!"

Rei said, "Hold on, Ami - I have to get back to the temple, too. I'll walk back with you." The two headed off, leaving the rest of the Scouts and Mages standing there.

Mina looked around and realized that she was the only Scout left, except for Artemis and a very sour-faced Luna. Mina picked up Luna and said, "Come on Luna, I'll take you home."

Luna meowed, plaintively, then groaned, "Can't I just stay with you?" Artemis' ears perked up and he got an eager expression on his face. Rusty let out a lewd chuckle. Luna, suddenly realized that staying with Mina would mean sharing a cat-pillow with Artemis, said hastily, "Uh, actually I think I'll take a rain-check on that. Serena feeds me very well, and what will the poor girl do without me to toss off the bed every morning? No, Mina, it was nice of you to offer me a spot in your home, but I really think you should take me back to Serena RIGHT NOW!!"

Mina paused for a second, not remembering offering Luna a place in her home - after all, what would her parents think if she brought home another stray cat that just happened to have a yellow crescent moon on it's forehead? She shifted into her old Sailor V uniform, giving the Mages a V-for-victory sign and leapt up onto the roof to race off after Darien and Serena, the two Moon Cats bouncing on her shoulders.

Renee, who had raised a finger and was sighing, "But- " put her finger down.

Lauren stuck her hands in her pockets and said, "I know what you're thinking. The only people we know in this city just left and we's gots no place to go!"

Renee slumped, "Something like that."

Rusty looked up cheerfully, "We could go sleep in the park!"

Renee and Lauren's heads jerked up. Simultaneously they screamed, "THE PARK??? No way!"

Lauren continued, "I have no intention of being eaten alive by rabid squirrels and birds and plant monsters and-"

Renee cut her off, "Nephlyte's dead, Lauren. He's not gonna send that plant monster after us, OK? But still, we'd have to worry about someone falling out of the sky on us!" Then she looked slyly at Lauren and said, "Or trying to get up on the wrong side of the dock and falling into the lake!"

"You're cruisin' for it, Renee, you're cruisin' for it," Lauren said darkly. "Don't make me give you a formal introduction to the fish!"

Renee "eeped" and put on an angel face. Just then, Lita walked dejectedly up from the other side of the street. The Mages looked up and immediately winced in sympathy. Renee said, "He has a girlfriend?"

Lita stuck her tongue out and said, "No. You know how I said he looks like my old boyfriend?" She made a sour face, "Well, it was my old boyfriend. That creep dumped me in the middle of pouring rain in the park. Stupid schmuck."

Lauren winced and then brightened up, "Could you use some cheering up? We could go back to your place and have some chocolate cake or something! Or we could watch old movies - you know, have a girls' night in!"

Renee looked confused, not quite catching on. Lauren jabbed her in the ribs with an elbow. Renee yelped, "Oh yeah! It'll be great! We can have a sleepover and everything!" Lita looked like she was seriously considering the idea. Then Rusty perked up, "Um guys, if you're having a girls' night in, where do I sleep?"

Renee and Lauren linked elbows with Lita and started to walk off. Renee tossed a comment over her shoulder, "Since you're so fond of it, why don't you sleep in the park!" Then they rushed off down the street, giggling like little girls the whole way.

Rusty stared after the three girls in shock, "Fine! See if I won't! But if the animal keepers at the zoo there see me and lock me up, don't feel bad or anything! I'll make sure to send you a card from jail and let you know!" He hung his head, "They left me. I don't believe they left me. Renee, my Renee. She left me. I don't believe this. Women." Just then he noticed a rather mangy looking poodle-mix staring lustily at him from across the street. A shiver of disgust and fear slipped up his spine, "Hi. I don't think you're really my type."

The poodle barked, "You look just like my old boyfriend!"

Rusty, suddenly no longer happy that he understood normal dog talk, yelped and hightailed it to the park.

Rusty slowly reached the relative safety of the Park. He looked anxiously behind him and sighed with relief. No sign of that mangy poodle. "Whew! What a day!" he hung his head in exhaustion. He heard a slight yapping and decided to find out where it was coming from. He followed the sound and soon came to a rather large arch with letters on top - JUUBAN ZOO. He swallowed. I wish those damn mages were here, he thought. Suddenly he heard a fearful sound - barking. And it sounded like...

"You look just like my old boyfriend!!"

"Damn mangy poodle!!" he yelled. He took off, suddenly not caring that he was running straight into the zoo. He raced by many cages - lions, tigers, bears, Oh my! - he kept running. He raced by dingos, wolves, leopards, and foxes... *pant, pant...* Foxes, wasn't he supposed to remember something about foxes?... *Run, run*... *pant, pant*...

Suddenly a voice could be heard from the foxes' cage, "Damn, dog! I haven't seen you run that fast since Prince Darien caught you tryin' to dig up his rose garden!"

Huh? Rusty skidded to a halt. *pant, pant...* "Who said that??" he yelled.

The voice answered, "Your Fairy Dogmother - who d'you think, you dumb mutt??"

"Sly?????" Rusty said, incredulously.

"Well, why don't we give the little doggy a big, huge bone? You've grown some intelligence since I saw you last!" A slim, well muscled fox sauntered up to the edge of the cage. His fur was a deep auburn, the rings around his eyes and tail were pure white, while his paws and nose were a charcoal black. His sapphire eyes burned with intelligence. But most noticeable of all his physical characteristics, was the silver crescent moon which shone upon his brow.

Rusty glared at him, "I don't remember you having such a biting and sarcastic sense of humor."

Sly picked up a paw and slicked back the fur on top of his head, "Yeah, well, being behind bars for nearly twenty years, can do things to a fox's personality - not to mention their gods-be-damned sense of humor, you dumb dog!!"

Rusty had the decency to blush and hang his head, "Well, uh, I haven't exactly been here very long..."

"Yeah, yeah - tell it to one 'o' these guys," he jerked a thumb over at the other foxes who were watching them dumbly, "I'll bet you an' the mages had a real nice setup. Great house, plenty of food, nice warm bed by the fire - while I'm stuck in this freakin' dank, drafty cage, getting fed The-gods-only-know-what kind of scraps, with roommates straight out of Lorne Greene's "New Wilderness"!! Now would ya stop mumbling and get me the hell out of here!!!!"

Rusty's head jerked up and he stared Sly right in the eyes, "Listen here, buddy. When I said I haven't been here long - I meant it! The Mages and me were only transported back to this dimension today! They find a nice, warm, cozy apartment to share - and because it's a girls night in with Jupiter, they tell me to go sleep in the park! How 'great' does that sound?"

Sly harumphed, "I've had that problem for the past twenty years. But I suppose I can't blame you, seeing as the three 'o' you were in another dimension. How the heck did that happen anyway?"

Rusty shook his head, "You don't want to know. Just say it involved Serenity, the Silver Crystal, Beryl, and Sailor Pluto. 'Nuff said?"

Sly slowly nodded. He took a moment to preen himself, "So, when are you gonna get me..." his voice trailed off as he looked up. Rusty was running away at top speed. "Hey! Wait a minute!! Where are you going?? You forgot me!! You dumb dog, don't you dare leave me here like this!! Come back here!!!!!! Rusty!! When I get my paws on you, you won't be fit to be Queen Beryl's familiar!! Get your sorry butt back here!!"

As he finished ranting, he noticed a small mangy poodle mutt streaming by his cage. The poodle (he couldn't be sure because he had never really learned pre-sentient Dog) was yelling something to the effect of, "Love bunch! Come back! You look just like my old boyfriend!"

He vaguely heard Rusty's voice drifting back on the breeze, "Sorry old friend! I'll be back as soon as I ditch the flee factory!"

Sly slumped to the ground and dropped his chin onto his crossed paws, "Oh sure. I've only been waiting here twenty years. I can wait another day or two." He snorted, then unknowingly repeated Rusty's sentiments from earlier that evening, "Dumb dog. He left me. I don't believe he left me. Dogs. Stupid mutt. I need a nap." He curled his tail around his nose, trying to squelch the hope that he felt growing in his heart. Lauren...

"Come on, everyone! Rise and shine! Rise and shine!! Wakey, wakey!"

Renee turned to Lauren and peeled an eye open, "Someone tell her to shut up," she mumbled. "It's too damned early in the morning for this."

Lauren didn't even crack an eye open, "You do it. I'm not awake enough to be coherent."

"Come on girls! We have to meet Serena and the gang at the arcade! Don't tell me you want to be late? Up and at 'em!"

Renee flopped over onto her back, "Lita... Don't take this personally, but would you please shut up?"

Lita, about to break into another chorus of "Rise and Shine"s and "Wakey, wakey"s, closed her mouth. She harumphed quietly, "Well, fine. See if I'll make you breakfast."

Renee sat straight up and yelled, "French Toast??"

Lita smiled, "Sure - no problem. Maybe if you tell your friend that Andrew will be at the Arcade..."

Lauren was up and into her clothes in record time, "OK! Let's go! Hurry up! Forget the French Toast, Renee - we don't have time! Andrew's- I mean Serena's waiting!"

Lauren starting pulling a bemused Renee out the door - and walked headlong into the front closet. Renee, who had refused to follow, stood outside the closet and joined Lita in a hearty round of chuckles. "Maybe it would have helped to put your glasses on first?" she suggested, holding them out to her disoriented friend.

Lauren extracted herself from the coats and hangers, "Yes. Glasses. Good idea. Excellent. Now can we go?"

Renee stuck her tongue out, "Not unless you want me to go in my pajamas."

Lauren crossed her arms and tapped her foot - waiting not so patiently. Renee swallowed and got dressed in record time, though she didn't beat Lauren's. Lauren grabbed Renee and Lita and dragged them out the door. Unfortunately, the door was only large enough for one person to pass through at a time and she only succeeded in slamming them both into the wall. She sweatdropped, "Uh, sorry guys..."

Renee peeled herself off the wall, "Sorry this you, you...AAAARGH!!!!!!!!!!!" She chased Lauren down the hall. Lita, once her door was locked, was quick to follow.

Rei sighed as she dropped her head into her hands, "What's taking them so long? They should've been here 20 minutes ago!"

Ami looked up from her Physics text book and said, "Yes, even Serena is here."

Rei looked up, "What? No she isn't..."

Ami pointed at the door, "Yes, she is. She just walked in."

Rei turned and saw Serena, meatballs bobbing, running towards their table. Suddenly she shrieked and fell flat on her face. Rei sweatdropped, "What the heck happened that time?" Then she saw the other blond member of their team lying in the other aisle - with three sodas dripping down the front of her dress.

"You klutz!" Rei yelled.

Serena started wailing, "It's not my fault! Mina tripped me!"

"I tripped you? What the heck are you talking about? I come back from the soda counter carrying three full glasses of soda and you run full tilt into me!!! Look at my new dress!!!" Mina protested.

Serena just sat and sniffled. A hand reached down to the floor and Serena let Andrew help her up. He smiled at the two downtrodden girls and said, "Come on girls - go sit down. I'll go get some more sodas." Serena smiled and started bouncing towards the table.

She immediately noticed the absence of the two spritely Mages who had quickly become her best friends, "Where's Lauren and Renee? And Lita?"

Ami shook her head, "We don't know."

"Could they be in trouble?" Serena asked, worried.

Luna jumped up onto her lap, "Serena, they are far more experienced in fighting the Negaverse than you five - I'm sure that they will be all right."

Suddenly they heard a great commotion. Lauren came flying into the room running at full tilt, and knocking down anyone who was foolish enough to cross her trajectory. "Get out of the way! I'm in a hurry! They're after me! MOMMEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!"

The Scouts jumped to their feet, "Who's after you?" Mina yelled.

"Them!! Them!!!" Lauren answered.

"Who's 'them them'?" Serena asked in confusion.

Lauren paused long enough to turn around and point, "THEM!!!!!" before jumping to hide under the table. Mina bent down to peer at the cowering Moon Mage, "Is it someone from the Negaverse?"

Suddenly, Mina felt someone tapping her shoulder. She batted the hand away, "What is it, Ami?" she said irritably. Ami stuttered out, "Th-th-th-them."

Everyone turned around just in time to see Renee and Lita running full tilt into the Arcade with the most vicious facial expressions anyone could ever hope to see. Renee, barely coherent spluttered, "Where is she? That good for nothing, rugrat! Where???"

Lita clenched her hands into fists and said, "She gave me a present this morning," she paused to rub a bump on her head, "And I have to return the favor." This last was said so chillingly that the rest of the Scouts shivered in fear. Suddenly a little brown blur came running into the arcade, neatly bowling over the angry Mage and Scout.

They heard a terrified voice, "She's after me!! She's after me!! MOMMEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!" The blur skidded under the table panting furiously. Lauren looked over at him, "What'd you do?"

Rusty snarled, "I'm too cute. And I look like her gods be damned old boyfriend!"

Lauren looked confused, "Eh?"

He merely lifted a paw and pointed at the mangy looking part poodle that was drooling on the floor a few feet away. Lauren scrunched up her face and said, "Ewwww..."

"My sentiments exactly, Sapphire," Rusty commented.

Lita and Renee, still sitting on the floor said to the poodle, "Get lost." The poodle got lost.

Lauren and Rusty stuck their heads out from under the table and said, "Can we come out now, or should we just chill here?"

Lita smiled sweetly at Renee, who smiled sweetly back. Lita said, "Oh that's all right, you can come out."

Lauren looked at Rusty and said, "Uh-huh. That's all right. Rusty, I think we should stay down here." Rusty nodded, and they crept back under the table.

Rei let out an exasperated sigh, "Listen, we don't have time for you guys to play hide and go seek. Renee, Lita SIT. Lauren, go order four more sodas - oh wait, Serena's here. Make that six. Rusty, park it." She sat down.

Lauren jumped out from under the table and saluted, "Yes sir, Rei, sir, uh ma'am type person, uh... I'm just gonna shut up and go get the sodas." She walked off. Rei looked over at Lita and Renee who had their heads bent closely together. She heard a whispered conversation.

Renee was saying, "...then when she turns around you grab her shirt and I'll put the ice cubes down her back..." She suddenly looked up when she noticed Rei staring at them, "Do you mind?" she huffed. Lita and Renee bent their heads closer together and continued plotting - more quietly this time.

Lauren sauntered over to the counter, and was about to order, when she noticed something was wrong with Andrew. Not like it wasn't obvious. With one hand he was holding a letter, sort of a pinkish color. Girl's paper. The other hand was pressing down the soda button - and it wasn't stopping. Soda spilled over the counter while Andrew stood there with a sick expression on his face.

Lauren raised an eyebrow, and commented, "I'm going to take a wild leap of faith here, and say something is bothering you, Andrew??"

Andrew looked up, surprised. His eyes flicked from Lauren's bemused glance, to the soda soaked counter. He gasped, and let go of the button. Putting one hand to his forehead, he sighed, "Great. This day is just going..." looking down to the letter, "Great."

Lauren hid a grin, and said, "Okay, spill it. What's the problem?"

Andrew didn't say anything, just passed Lauren the letter, and started to glumly clean up the sticky brown liquid. Lauren read:

Dearest Andrew,

I'm sorry that it took me so long to respond to your letter, but truthfully, I didn't really know what to say. I know how deeply you care for me, and I must admit that I am deeply touched. Sadly, I don't think that I feel exactly the same way about you anymore. Since coming to Africa, I've discovered a side to myself that I never knew existed, and a man who better suits me than even you do. I really don't want to hurt you - you will always hold a special place in my heart, however Dan has taken that first place that you have always held. He truly is a wonderful man - you would like him. He treats me extremely well. My first love, I am truly sorry to hurt you this way. Maybe someday you can forgive me. I look forward to the day when you and I can be friends.

Remember me fondly,

Lauren looked up from the letter and simply said, "Ouch."

Andrew, who had been studiously mopping up the soda, slumped onto the nearest stool at the counter and put his head into his hands. Lauren looked at him in concern. She walked over and put a gentle hand on his shoulder, patting him awkwardly. He looked up, and was caught by the concern he saw shining in her eyes.

Unfortunately, the moment was soon broken. A voice broke the spell, "Hey Andrew, how are you doing? Oops."

Andrew stared at Darien, a growl forming in his throat. Darien put his hands up defensively, and started backing away, "Easy, Andrew. It's OK! I was just leaving, really! You know how Serena hates it when I'm LATE!" He yelped and ran off for Serena's table when he saw Andrew getting up off the stool.

Andrew sat quietly back down and turned back to Lauren - who was laughing. He smiled, "Am I good, or what?"

Lauren, still laughing said, "Or what," and pointed to his elbow - and his shirt sleeve which was now sucking up the soda that he had yet to sweep up. He yelped and pulled his sleeve out of the puddle of soda, blushing furiously. Oh, way to make a good first impression, Andrew! he berated himself, I doubt Serena, herself, could have managed that better! And even she has a boyfriend! Darien. Huh. Who would've thought that the two of them would ever hit it off. He miserably started trying to wring the soda out of his sleeve when he felt a gentle hand on his arm.

Andrew looked up into Lauren's laughing eyes, "Really made a fool of myself, didn't I?"

She smiled and said, "That's OK - breakups are hard. They kind of addle the brains. How about I give you a chance to make it up to me?"

Andrew nodded hurriedly, not quite believing his good fortune. I don't want her to think this is just a rebound thing, though. I mean, it is - sort of. But, she's really cute, and funny, and she's got the cutest little twinkle in her eyes when she laughs... He cleared his throat, "Ms. Griffin, if you would do me the honor of accompanying me to the park this evening, I'm sure I can scrap up some sort of entertainment for you." With that, he scooped up her hand and gave the back of it a light kiss. He looked up and saw Lauren blushing a deep red - rather like a rose. He smiled at her. I've still got it! he thought triumphantly, as she nodded.

"And now, my lady, I will get you those sodas," he said. Several more minutes saw Lauren returning to the table with six sodas and a bunch of napkins. She smiled at everyone when she dumped the napkins on the table, "I thought it would be better not to take chances..."

Zalisite poked his head through the doorway and looked at the furiously working Dark Mages, "So, how's that youma making going?"

The Red Mage looked over at him and growled. Zalisite "eeped" and said, "Leaving now!" and left the room, closing the door quickly. He turned to Faithful and said, "Think it's her time of the month or something?"

Faithful turned to him and said, with a rather sarcastic tone of voice, "My dear Zalisite, I think you've still got a lot to learn about women. With some of them, PMS is a permanent personality disorder."

Zalisite's eyes went wide and he nodded, not having much personal experience with women (aside from his nutzoid mother, who didn't count). He said, "You know what Faithful, I'm getting tired of hanging around here. Why don't we go down to the pet store and get you a new toy, or something?"

Faithful's eyes brightened, "I like toys! Toys are a good reason to go. Yes, yes, yes, let's go get toys! Toys are god - I mean good!"

Zalisite smiled, "All right, just let me go change into something a little less conspicuous, and we'll see about that toy."

After a quick change and a brief teleport, Faithful and Zalisite appeared outside a pet store in downtown Tokyo. Faithful bounded ahead and crouched down in front of Zalisite, lolling his tongue out and wagging his tail. Zalisite scratched behind his ears and grinned, "No Faithful, I'm not buying you catnip." Faithful growled and mock bit at Zalisite's hand before turning around, sticking his nose in the air, and trotting into the pet store. Zalisite laughed and ran after him.

After a brief browse down the rows, Faithful paused at a particularly nice looking rawhide bone, just the right size for his jaws. He pawed at it and whined at Zalisite. Zalisite took the hint and bent down to snag it off the hook. He heard a pair of female voices off to his left which sounded vaguely familiar. He decided to listen in on their conversation.

"...and man am I tired of shopping so much! I can't believe we bought so much freaking stuff! We've got sneakers, and jeans, and sweaters, and, but anyway, I'm glad we did all that shopping 'cuz I do have a date with Andrew tonight, and I have to look my best if I want to snare a cutie like him. I mean, he's got the best hair - it is blond after all, and the most wonderful, blue eyes, they're so dreamy! And did you see the way they just glowed at me?" gushed the first voice.

The second voice snagged his ears and wouldn't let go. It was clear and sweet and had a ring of suppressed laughter in it. Right now it said, rather sarcastically, "Uh-huh. Yeah Lauren."

The first voice, 'Lauren', Zalisite's mind supplied, continued, "Anyways, he's so sweet and charming, and, and, he's - he's like Tuxedo Mask, just without the tuxedo! And well, he's just- "

The second voice interrupted, "Lauren, look! I see dog collars over there that would be just the right size for Rusty - and that color blue, isn't it just like Andrew's eyes?"

Lauren squealed happily and said, "It is, it is! Come on Rusty, let's go see!!"

The second voice, which still didn't have a name, mumbled, "Thank you, God!" It sounded awfully close to his current position. He gripped the rawhide bone and got up, deciding to investigate. Unfortunately, the owner of the sweet voice didn't notice him get up and slammed right into him, falling to the floor. He looked down at the girl and his eyes went wide. Only one thought penetrated the sudden mush in his brain, "Whoa!!" The beautiful girl sitting at his feet, turned aquamarine eyes up at him and he felt a part of his darkened heart soften and melt under her gaze.

Renee was extremely unnerved by her sudden trip to the floor of the pet store. She'd just gotten rid of Lauren and was turning to look at the rawhide bones when she crashed headlong into someone else. Once she sorted out where she was, she turned her eyes towards the one who had caused her abrupt descent. The first thing she noticed was the pair of loafers on his feet. Her eyes traveled slowly up his legs, covered in a pair of old jeans, so well-worn that they hugged his legs rather nicely. Her eyes traveled up a little further, noticing the well-tanned hand stretched out to help her up, then the forest green shirt and brown leather bomber jacket sitting casually on his shoulders.

His face was that of a model or a Greek god, the most noticeable feature being his eyes - as unique as her own. The silver flecked, jade green eyes watched her concernedly from their place under a crown of long golden hair which was tied into a neat tail at the base of his neck. The poor Moon Mage thought she was going to die of a heart attack on the spot when her heart leapt into her throat, choking her speech. Fortunately for her, the young man seemed to be having the same problem.

Faithful trotted over to Zalisite, determined to see what was taking him so long. He found his erstwhile charge holding the hand of a young human woman and staring into her eyes. Oh bother! What stupid thing did he go off and do now? He butted his head into the back of Zalisite's knee and barked, startling Zalisite into letting go of the girl's hand. The girl looked just as startled and stared down at the sheepdog, her eyes narrowing in partial recognition. Lauren and Rusty ran over to see what was going on. Lauren's jaw dropped at the sight of another hunky blond.

Renee turned to her friend and Mindsent, ~Nuh-uh! Down girl! This one's Mine!~

Lauren grinned, crossed her arms and Mindsent back, ~I'm just looking - I've already ordered, but it doesn't mean I can't check out the rest of the menu! What's the matter, Renee, have you got a case of (as Savage Garden would say), 'Ooh, I want you, I don't know if I need you, but oh, I'm dyin' to find out?'~ Renee's only response was a low mental growl.

Zalisite muttered, "Why do all human girls have to have the "Nega-Playboy Reaction" whenever they see me?"

Unfortunately for Zalisite, Lauren caught the muttered comment and her breath hissed between her teeth as her eyes narrowed. She grabbed her friend's sleeve and started dragging her out of the store, "We have to go, Renee. Now." Renee started to protest, but when she saw the fire in her friend's eyes, meekly followed her - only stopping to toss a mournful glance over her shoulder. She waved a hand at the nice young man and mouthed, "Goodbye!" He waved back at her and mouthed back, "Farewell!" and blew her a kiss. Seeing this, Lauren grabbed Renee by the ear and tugged, finally succeeding in dragging her out of the pet store.

After dragging a kicking and screaming Renee several blocks away from the pet store, Lauren finally plunked her down on a bench which conveniently appeared around the corner. Renee, by this point, was fuming. She had ceased to be annoyed at being pulled away from her new crush and was now focusing all her attention on Lauren's throat - and trying to wrap her hands around it. Lauren leaped away from the bench so quickly that Renee, at first, thought she had teleported.

Renee folded her arms across her chest and glared at Lauren, "You'd better have a damn good reason for what you just did. He was the cutest, sweetest, hunkiest guy I've ever seen! That hair, and those eyes! And those legs... But, anyway, we were well on our way to almost having a conversation!! And YOU come along and yank me away from him! What is your damage, Sapphire??"

Lauren turned to her, crossed her arms over her own chest and raised an eyebrow, "Two words for you, Emerald - Zoisite. Malachite. Put 'em together. You're a smart girl - Figure It Out!!"

Renee sat and thought for a moment, "Zoisite. Malachite. Uh... two really nasty bad guys, a bad bleach job, and nails-on-a-chalkboard laugh? Sorry, I'm not following the connection here. This has what to do with my guy?"

Lauren closed her eyes for a minute then said, "OK, think physical, Renee. Take Malachite and Zoisite and put them together. What do you get?"

Renee gave a whole body shudder, "Did not need that picture in my head, Lauren. Thank you very much. I'm gonna go lose my lunch now." She shuddered again, "Just thinking of Bleach Boy and Giggle Girl, and EEEEWWWWWW!!!!!"

Lauren smiled and made a rolling motion with her arms, "Good, we're on the right track here... Now, just keep following that line of thinking - yes, I know it's difficult. Just bare with me. Following the 'Ew' part that we really don't want to think about... what happens?"

Renee frowned as she furrowed her brow, "Well, assuming that Zoisite forgot the birth control... they'd probably have a kid. I assume this is where you want me to go with this, yes?" Lauren smiled and nodded. Renee continued, "And I guess the kid would have Malachite's looks and maybe Zoisite's hair... And eye colors mesh, so the eyes would be silver and green..." her voice trailed off. Lauren gave her a wicked smile and motioned for her to continue. "In other words, he'd look exactly like the guy we faced in the park the other day - the one with the sheepdog that said, "Tick Tock" - god I hated him for that!!" Lauren growled and Renee eeped, "Thinking! Well, the guy in the pet store looked kinda like... and he had a sheepdog... but... NOO!! Do not even say it! I don't want to hear it!!" She flipped her hand up and turned her face away from Lauren, "Talk to the hand, Sapphire, just talk to the hand!"

Lauren put her hands on her hips, attitude showing in every line of body. She was getting frustrated with her fellow Mage - Renee obviously saw the truth, she was just being stubborn. She walked over to Renee and shoved her hand down, forcing her to look up at Lauren. She said, "Fine, Emerald. You want to deny the truth - go ahead! Go enjoy your new boyfriend, but don't come cryin' to me when he blows the Earth to oblivion!" She spun around and stalked away from her friend, then paused, throwing one more caustic comment over her shoulder, "Oh wait, I forgot - he can't blow the Earth into oblivion - this one can't even close a damned Portal!" She whipped her head back around and stalked off, leaving Renee sitting on the bench.

Part 8 | The Graveyard | Part 10
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