DISCLAIMER: Olivia/Natalia/Emma/Rafe/Francesca (and those mentioned but not heard from--Ashlee/Doris/Frank) originally belonged to CBS, Telenext and Guiding Light. Now that the show has been cancelled... they are free to roam happily through fanfictionland. Trust me... they are a whole lot happier now. They will be treated with respect and given decent storylines.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is set, in October, approximately four years after the show's flash forward... see I told you it was a Halloween story. Nyah. The nickname given to Francesca is actually one that my family uses for my cousin Frances. Francesca Frances close enough. Plus there was no way on this earth I was going to refer to that kid as 'Frankie'... ewwwwwwwww. Thank you to The Goddess (Crystal Chappell) and Dimples (Jessica Leccia) for bringing these characters to life and for dazzling viewers with your incredible chemistry AND to the folks putting up the vids at You Tube so we all could watch (and rewatch) them shine a few bazillion times. Big THANKS to Darth Beta... you know what you did (and do). DB:Drive you nuts?
FYI: This is a Halloween story. Really. Okay, so you have to squint really, really hard. And close one eye. Eh... maybe both. No, no, no wait. That won't work. Go back to one eye. BUT it is kinda cute... shouldn't that count for something?
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
There's No Place Like Home
Olivia exited the kitchen carefully balancing a tray full of goodies. Her socked feet silently padded over the hardwood floors. Seeing her destination, she smiled broadly. She set the tray down on the edge of the end table and offloaded its cargo.
"Soda, diet... check. Bag of super salty chips...." She popped one in her mouth and crunched. "Check." She reached into her hoodie's pocket and pulled out a bag of M&Ms and tossed them onto the table. "And the all important chocolate... check." She grinned. "Yup, snackage is present and accounted for, Sir." She mock saluted the table of goodies and set the now empty tray under the coffee table.
Emma keyed the lock and quietly opened the door just enough to peer inside. Determining the coast was clear, she entered the farmhouse kitchen. A small step to the side allowed her companion entrance past her. The teen raised a finger to her lips to indicate they needed to remain silent. She quietly made her way down the short hall to the living room. Observing the actions of her mother, Emma stopped dead in her tracks. She crouched down to watch. A glance over her shoulder told her companion to stay put while Em began a slow crawl.
Olivia fluffed a pillow for her back - positioning it just so - and sat at the end of the couch. Her feet made their way to rest on top of the coffee table. She wiggled her toes and laughed. She glanced at the throw on the back of the couch, then picked at the material of her sweatpants as she pondered. She dismissed the necessity of the blanket with a curt shake of the head. She squirmed a bit to make herself comfortable. Looking down the couch, her eyes grew predatory as she spied her quarry sitting quietly just a few feet away, near the other end of the couch.
"C'mere you." She leaned over, grabbed it and tugged. "Y'know, you and I don't get much alone time anymore. But... heh... today you are all mine." She gazed adoringly at the object of her affection. "The kid is upstairs napping and probably dreaming up ways to take over Springfield." She snorted. "Emma is out with her friends and probably plotting to take over the world." She grinned proudly. "Go, Jellybean." Olivia sighed. "So finally, alone, together... just you and me." Her eyes gazed lovingly, she raised her hand to her lips and....
"Hey Mom!" Emma cried out loudly as she jumped up from behind the couch.
Olivia hands flew up; startled at her daughter's appearance, the remote in her hands got tossed over the couch. She glared at Emma and then placed a hand over her racing heart.
Emma was chuckling.
"... what are you trying to do, kill me?"
"Oh, please you're healthy as a...."
"Finish that statement," Olivia dared and arched an eyebrow, "and see if you get that raise in you allowance you wanted."
Emma retrieved the errant remote from the floor behind the couch, then leaned over and kissed her mother's cheek. "You are a healthy, vibrant, beautiful, loving, forgiving woman and I love you to pieces." She paused for a moment, then added with an exaggerated batting of her eyes, "Mommy."
"Yeah, yeah." Olivia cuffed her daughter's head playfully. "Whatcha doing home so early? The Halloween party isn't for hours yet."
Emma made her way around the front of the couch; she set the remote on the coffee table and sat down. She turned to her mother and entwined their hands. She took a breath and schooled her features. "I found something outside."
"Dammit, Em," Olivia tugged on their joined hands. "You bring one more strange creature in this house and Natalia will make you live in the barn."
"Hey," a deep voice came from the direction of the hallway, "I'm no stranger than most." He grinned.
Olivia looked up, smiled back and then looked between her daughter and her son. "I dunno about that," she joked.
"Okay," Rafe conceded, as he approached the couch. "I'm no stranger than you."
Olivia bit her bottom lip and pretended to mull that over. "I gotta give you that one." She stood and took the final step toward Rafe. She pulled him into a hug.
"What are you doing here?" She loosened the embrace enough to lean back to see his face.
"I'm on my way to a new duty station and they gave me a little time off. So I figured...." he shrugged as his voice trailed off.
"Your mother will be thrilled. Why didn't you call us from the bus station? We would have come to get you."
"I got in kinda early and didn't want to wake you up." He stepped back out of the embrace, and then started walking around the room absently looking at all the knickknacks and photos decorating the room.
"Early?" She looked at her watch. "It's three in the afternoon."
"I got in this morning." He mumbled as he picked up a recent picture of his two sisters. He smiled and set it back on the mantle.
Emma stood up, walked over to her mother and slid an arm around her waist. She playfully bumped her with her hip. "I'm guessing loverboy there was spending time with the honey."
Rafe turned and glared at Emma.
"Ooh, I'm right." Emma said smugly.
"And who is this... honey?" Olivia grinned, mischievously.
Rafe rubbed his chin nervously; his hand partially covered his mouth. "... Lee."
"Lee?" Olivia, puzzled, turned to Emma. "Lee who? You brought someone with you? Where did you meet her? When are we going to meet her? Is it serious? Where is she now?" Olivia fired off the questions.
Rafe gave Emma another glare and waved his finger at her. "Oooh, Munchkin, I'm gonna...." Emma responded by sticking out her tongue and hiding behind her mother.
"Geez, slow down Olivia. I didn't bring her with me. She lives in Springfield. You already have met her. I dunno yet and she's at Mayor Wolfe's house."
Olivia's brows knit. "I don't know any.... Waitaminute, why is she at Doris'?" Her eyes opened wide as the answer dawned on her. "Ashlee? Your honey is Ashlee?"
Rafe grinned sheepishly. "It just kinda happened. She wrote to me the entire time she was at Berkeley and she came to see me a couple of times during spring breaks and well...."
Olivia turned to question Emma. "How long have you known about Rafe and Ashlee? Why didn't you tell us?"
Emma guiltily looked down at the ground. "Ashlee told me little while ago." She looked back up at her mother's scolding eyes. "It wasn't for me to tell you...."
Olivia's heart melted at the look of regret in her daughter's eyes. Her tone lightened and she jokingly chided, "Geez, you know this really cool secret and you kept it. Sometimes I wonder if there is any Spencer in there at all."
"Besides, I figured I could use the info to blackmail and torture big brother here."
"Now, that's my girl." Olivia laughed; she grabbed the teen in a one arm hug and kissed the top of Emma's head.
"Olivia?" a voice called down from the top of the stairs. "I heard voices. Who are you talking to?"
Olivia looked at her kids. "Ah, one of my sleeping princesses awakens." Louder she called up the stairs, "Em is here. She brought a new... ahem... stray home." She turned and grinned at them both.
"Oh Bean," footsteps could be heard coming down the steps. "Not again; we had that chat."
"But Ma," Em interrupted, "He's kinda cute in a scruffy way." She ducked a tickle feign by Rafe. "I know you'll just want to keep him once you see him."
"You can't save the world, Emma." Natalia was still looking down as she negotiated the last few stairs.
"No, that would be my job."
Natalia's head snapped up. "Rafael!" She hurried over and grabbed him in a fierce hug. "I missed you."
"Ma. Ma. Ma!" He made his voice sound strangled. "You are going to miss me more if you kill me. I can't breathe."
Natalia let go and took a step back. She examined him from head to toe. "What are you doing here?" She put a hand on his cheek. "Are you okay? Something going on with Ashlee? Why didn't you tell us you were coming?"
"You know about Ashlee?" He asked incredulously.
"I suspected," Natalia answered with a grin. "I'm a Mom; I know EVERYTHING." She tilted her head to one side. "Honestly, I just suspected but it's nice to finally get confirmation. You could have told us you know."
"Yeah, I know. But this part, it's still kinda new, okay? And I'm gonna be relocating again."
"Does Doris know?" Olivia asked. The fleeting thought of them ending up in-laws caused a wicked grin to cross Olivia's face.
"No, Ashlee is supposed to tell her before the Halloween Party tonight."
"Is that why you are hiding out here?" Olivia joked. "I know for a fact that Doris is a horrible shot. But then again, she's awesome with a baseball bat."
"Not funny, Olivia."
"Rafe? Is everything okay though?" Natalia asked solemnly.
"I'm fine. I'm between duty stations and thought I would drop in. I really didn't know I would be coming here until last minute."
"So what exciting foreign land are they sending you to this time?"
Rafe scratched the back of his neck. "Alabama."
Natalia grabbed him in another hug. "I'm just glad you are here."
They all turned to the stairs as they heard more descending footsteps. A small body appeared, her small hand intently holding the banister as she made her way down the steps. When she reached the bottom and turned into the living room they could see her eyes were still half closed. She stumbled her way further in and collided with a pair of sweatpants covered legs. She sleepily peered upwards, silently questioning.
Olivia reached down and picked her youngest daughter up.
"Hey Lady," the sleepy voice whispered. She immediately put her head on her Mom's shoulder.
"Hey Kid." Olivia kissed her daughter's forehead. "What's a matter?"
"The nap made me sleepy." She rubbed at her eye with a closed fist.
Olivia captured the hand and kissed it. "That's the whole idea. We are going to be up late tonight, so we wanted to make sure you got some sleep and you wouldn't be a cranky goose later."
Francesca picked her head up and leaned back a bit. She looked seriously into her mother's eyes. "How come you didn't take a nap then?"
"Yeah Olivia, we don't want you to be a cranky goose later," Rafe joked.
Francesca perked up at the sound of his voice. "Ra-Ra!" She wiggled until Olivia put her down. She immediately ran over to her brother.
Rafe bent down and picked her up. He bounced her in his arms. "Hey there Miss Fancy. How's my little sis?"
"Whatcha bring me?"
Rafe looked at everyone in the room and then back at Fancy. "What makes you think I brought you anything?"
The little girl smooshed his face between both of her hands and stared at him intensely. One blonde eyebrow arched.
"Geez, Olivia," he chuckled, "You're starting her out young."
That comment got the whole room laughing and a slightly proud blush from Olivia.
"Well?" Fancy asked again impatiently, patting his face to get his attention.
"Okay, okay... I give. It's in the outside zippered pocket of my bag in the kitchen." He hung on to her tightly even though he knew she wanted to get down.
She studied him intently. "Thank you. Down, please."
"Go...." Rafe set her down and barely ruffled her hair before she was off and running into the kitchen. He stood back up, shaking his head.
Emma sidled over. "Hey, what about me?"
"What about you, Munchkin?" Rafe asked innocently.
"Did you bring me anything?"
"Aren't you a little old for asking?"
Emma reached up and mimicked exactly what Fancy did. She smooshed his cheeks together and did her best glare. He started to laugh. She grabbed hold of his ear and tugged. Hard.
"Ow. Okay, there is a concert t-shirt and a CD in the bag for you. And I have some postcards for your collection too."
Emma grinned at him. Then stood on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "You are my favorite brother." She skipped off to the kitchen.
He rubbed his ear. "I'm your only brother," he called after her.
She stopped and turned, "Yeah, imagine that." She gave him a cheeky grin and continued into the kitchen.
"That was a great dinner, Ma," Rafe stated as he limped his way back into the living room. Attached to his leg was a small dirty blonde limpet. Rafe continued to walk as if nothing was amiss.
"Are you sure you ate enough?" Natalia asked.
Olivia snickered. "Honey, he looks good; the Army isn't starving him."
"I know, but...."
"Ma, I'm fine," he paused, "except...."
"Except what? Is it your blood sugar?"
"No, my foot is asleep," he said dryly and looked down into Fancy's eyes. She giggled when he wiggled his foot.
"Francesca Nicole," Natalia chided.
"Uh oh; you're in trouble now Kid," Olivia leaned down and tweaked her nose.
Fancy let go of Rafe's leg and grabbed on to Olivia's. "Save me Lady, hide me."
"Hey, what's with the 'Lady' thing?"
Olivia had picked up Fancy and tossed the giggling child over her shoulder. She opened the hall closet door and then closed it again. "Nope, not in there; she'll look in there." She turned toward Rafe. "Oh, that? That's something new that Grandpa Buzz taught her." She grinned and shrugged. "I figured there are worse things she could call me."
Rafe had to agree with that.
Olivia then made her way to the back of the couch. "Maybe down here." She dangled the girl upside down for a few seconds. "Nah, she'll look there too."
"Olivia, she just ate; if she gets sick...."
She thought for a second and shook her head at Natalia. "I know." Olivia walked over to the coat hooks on the wall. She lifted Fancy up and hooked her tiny belt on the hook. The kid was laughing. "Shhhh... she won't notice you if you're quiet." Olivia then took a hat that was hanging on another hook and placed it over Fancy's head. She pulled it down as far over her face as she could and then walk back over to the couch and sat down. She grabbed a magazine off the table and absently flipped through it. "Quiet Kid," she admonished. She got more giggles in reply.
Natalia rolled her eyes and went to fetch her daughter, who was just hanging there, kicking her legs and giggling. "This is a ritual for these two." She addressed Rafe.
She unhooked her child and set her on her feet back on the ground. She removed the hat and hung it back up. The child grinned up at her mother and then sped off toward the couch and her grown-up play toy. A few seconds later they were mock sword fighting with rolled up magazines.
Rafe rubbed his nose to hide the grin.
Emma finally made her way into the living room from the kitchen. She was drying her hands on a dish towel. "Dishes are done." She looked over at her mother and sister. "Fancy, I told you... jab, jab, parry not parry, parry jab."
"Hey, no help needed from the peanut gallery. She's already whacked me a few times." Olivia called out to her older girl.
Emma looked at the clock on the wall and then checked her watch. "We need to start getting ready for the costume party." She turned to Rafe, "You're going, right?"
"Umm, yeah, I guess. Costumes, huh? I suppose I can go dressed as GI Joe."
"No, Ma?" He turned to his mother. "It's not like I have another costume. This was a last minute trip. I didn't even know about the party until Ashlee mentioned it today."
"I have a costume for you upstairs."
"What?" He glanced around at everyone. "How?"
"I am your Mother; I know all." She walked over and hugged him. "I made everyone else's costumes we're kinda going as a related group. So I made one for you just in case." She tugged on his hand to lead him to the stairs. "You need to try it on to see if I need to do a few quick alterations though."
"Okay, okay... waitaminute." He dug his heels in and stopped moving. "This isn't going to be embarrassing is it?" He looked over to Olivia who was shaking trying to contain her laughter.
"It is sooooooooo noooooooot my faaauuuuuuuult," she tried, with her best poker face, but her mirth filled eyes contradicted her statement.
"Why don't I believe you?" Rafe questioned.
"Experience?" Emma chimed in.
"No, now stop you two." Natalia shook her head. "It's going to be fun." She started pulling him along again. "I made Ashlee's costume, and Doris' for that matter too. We all match up quite well."
Olivia waited for them to disappear upstairs and then turned to Emma who had sat down on the arm of the couch. "Five NOs."
"Six." Jellybean countered. "A buck?"
"Seven. Five, six, seven." Fancy added proudly, as she crawled into Olivia's lap.
"That's exactly how it goes, Ms Fancy Pants." Olivia tickled her. "Wait for it...."
"OH MA!" Rafe's loud voice filtered downstairs. "No way! No, no, no, no."
"Ha! That's five." Olivia held out her hand and Emma reluctantly reached into her pocket for a dollar which she handed to her mother.
"I said no," they heard added from upstairs.
"And that makes six." Emma pulled her dollar back out of Olivia's fingers.
"Rafael, please?" Natalia pleaded.
Emma and Olivia stared at each other, they knew the silence upstairs meant that Natalia was turning those brown eyes on and pouting at him.
"I can't, Ma... just no." A pause. "Stop, stop... okay, fine."
"Seven! Yay!" Fancy clapped her hands. "Gimme."
Emma handed over the dollar bill. The little girl then turned to Olivia and held out her hand.
"No pockets." She shrugged. "Em? I'll owe ya, okay?"
Emma took another dollar out of her pocket and handed it to Fancy.
"Thank you." She struggled off Olivia's lap and headed upstairs. "Gotta go feed piggy."
Emma looked at her Mom. "Are you sure you aren't the Daddy?"
They both laughed.
"C'mon Bean; let's go get suited up." She held out her hand. "Give an old lady a hand?"
Emma grinned. "Find me one and I will." She took off for the stairs.
"Damn kid," Olivia muttered as she got up from the couch.
"Swear jar." She heard called down from upstairs.
"How in the hell did you hear that?" Olivia grumbled to herself as she made her way to the stairs.
"That's two - quit while you are ahead," Natalia snarked.
Emma was already in the living room, fussing with the neckline of her costume when Olivia, swinging her tail, jaunted down the stairs.
"I don't remember this costume being this itchy when Ma was working on it."
Olivia removed her paw gloves and adjusted Emma's collar. "You are the one who wanted authenticity." One final tug and she patted Em on the shoulder. "That better?"
"Yeah." She held out each arm, one at a time, for her mother to adjust as well. "Thank you."
"Sure thing, Jellybean."
"Hey," Emma noticed the band around her Mom's neck. She reached up and fingered the collar. "What's with the tag? What's it say? O-W...."
Olivia backed up a step. "It's something your Ma gave me and I promised I would wear it."
Emma shrugged. "Grown-ups... weird." She raised a finger to her ear and made a circling gesture.
"Watch it, Bean or I'll drop you in the horse pasture." Olivia grinned showing all her teeth. "Chomp Chomp."
"All right, all right."
"I can't believe I got talked into wearing this," Rafe grumbled on his way down the stairs. "It's a good thing the party is at night; the glare off this thing would blind people." He looked at the other two. "Whose bright idea was this anyway?"
They looked at each other and then both pointed upstairs.
"I dunno, Rafe; you look kinda... ummm...."
"Like one of Ma's leftovers? Like a TV dinner? What?"
"Nah, if you were a leftover, she would have wrapped you in Saran Wrap."
"Ooh, I bet Ashlee probably would have liked that, but Uncle Frank would have to arrest you for indecent exposure."
"Bean!" Olivia exclaimed and shook her head at her daughter.
"Hey, shouldn't you be hanging around somewhere else... like a cornfield?"
"Yuk it up, Tin Can. You just better hope it doesn't rain tonight; you'll rust."
"Oh, if it does storm we better make sure we walk well away from him." Olivia raised her hand as if to whisper something to Emma. "Lightning rod walking there." She pointed to Rafe.
Rafe smirked and walked closer to Olivia. He picked at a piece of something on her shoulder and flicked it away.
"Lint?" She asked.
"Flea," he deadpanned. "By the way, what's with the collar?" He looked closer at the inscription on the tag and laughed. "Shouldn't it say 'tamed'?'' He pointed to Olivia's costume.
"Laugh it up, Foil Boy." Olivia snarked, "Just wait until Ashlee fits you for one of these." She leaned closer and winked at him. "You should be so lucky."
They grinned at each other.
Just then Natalia made her way down the staircase. She stepped off the last riser and twirled around. Her blue gingham pinafore swirled. Her hair was in two braided pigtails which lay perfectly against the white blouse.
"Whatcha think?" She curtsied.
Olivia mockingly growled. "It's grrreat!"
"You look terrific, Ma."
"But Ma, I thought Munchkin here would have wanted to be...." Rafe gestured between the two.
"She did but when she found out that this costume came with a Fancy accessory...." She pointed to the stairs.
Rafe turned in time to see his littlest sister carefully making her way down. She was dressed in black - the hood had little floppy ears attached and she had her face painted to show a little black nose and whiskers. Fancy jumped off the last step.
"And a bow wow to you too." Rafe said. He picked her up then turned to his mother. "Did you make all the costumes in Springfield?"
"No, of course not. We do have a costume shop downtown. I just made ours and the ones for Doris and Ashlee. When they heard what we were doing, Doris knew what she wanted to be."
"A flying monkey?"
Olivia slapped the back of Rafe's head, knocking his funnel hat askew. Fancy giggled. "Watch it; she could end up an in-law, y'know."
"Is that supposed to be a selling point for me to get together with Ashlee or to run for the hills?"
"Rafe, behave. Doris has changed a lot since you've been away. She has been a good friend to us. She even helped Olivia pick out Frank's costume."
Olivia shook her head and bit her lip at the word 'helped'. The older woman was sure that silence was her best chance at survival here if they would only change the topic of conversation.
"You helped Frank?" Rafe asked incredulously. "Frank Cooper?"
"Daddy!" Fancy exclaimed excitedly and clapped her hands. Rafe put her down on the ground.
"Yes, your Daddy." Natalia answered. "Your Mama helped him pick out his costume. You remember I told you that Daddy had to go away for a few weeks for the police?"
"Yes." Fancy answered seriously.
"Well, he wasn't around to pick out a costume so Auntie Doris and Mama went and got one for him. Wasn't that nice?"
Olivia gave her a half smile.
Natalia looked at Olivia, puzzled. "You never did tell me what the costume was though."
"I didn't?" She hesitated. "It must have slipped my mind."
"So what did you pick out Olivia? A gorilla suit or something."
"Don't be ridiculous, Rafe. That's so... so... childish."
"So, what did you pick out, Olivia?" Natalia asked pointedly.
"Look, it's not a big deal. Doris and I went to the costume shop and looked through all the ones they had in his size."
"And?" Natalia then asked.
Olivia looked over at her and smiled one of her patented Olivia freakin' Spencer 'I'm gonna charm you right down to your toes' smiles. Uh oh, when did these stop working on her? She swallowed hard.
Natalia put her hands on her hips but remained silent.
Olivia took a step toward Rafe, threw a paw over his shoulder and led him a few feet away. She took another quick glance over her shoulder and then leaned in toward his ear. "We made sure we rented all the costumes so he couldn't exchange the one we picked for him."
"I didn't quite catch that, dear," Natalia replied, a bit annoyed at the stall.
"I said we picked out the best one for Frank to rent, uhhh honey."
"I see and the best one was, sweetie?" She tilted her head to one side and glared.
Emma and Rafe watched the exchange like it was a tennis match.
"Well, it's a very popular - very popular - celebrity costume. A very famous... and did I tell you... very popular, darling?"
"Like a movie star, ahhhh pumpkin?"
"Not exactly, baby."
"TV personality, cuddles?"
Emma and Rafe turned to each other. Rafe mouthed 'Cuddles'? Emma mouthed back, 'Ew'. They both mock shuddered.
"Kinda." Olivia nervously ran her fingers - or rather, her paw - through her mane as she did her best to put off the inevitable. "More like a commercial image. A corporate icon, you might say...." She paused for a moment while her brain searched for an endearment. "Pookie."
"Pookie?" Natalia winced and Olivia shrugged. "Which commercial?" She waved her hand dismissively to show Olivia she had given up on the sappy nicknames.
"Okay, which huge company would that be, Olivia?"
Natalia's eyes narrowed in anger and she waved a finger at her accusingly. "OLIVIA SPENCER, you didn't. You got Frank a caveman costume??"
"No, no, I didn't... I swear. Frank is not dressing up as a caveman."
"Well, the only other Geico...."
"Yeah, that one."
"Oh, that's cold, Olivia." Rafe chimed in with laughter. "The Geico Gecko."
"Mama?" Fancy tugged on Olivia's costumed leg. "What's a gecko?"
Olivia knelt down to her level. "You remember when I showed you those salamanders out by the barn?" She waited for a nod. "A gecko is kinda like those."
"Oh." She thought about those for a moment. "Okay. Can we go see Daddy now?"
"Sure thing, kiddo; go get your pumpkin candy pail. Scoot." She gave Fancy a nudge toward the kitchen. "Shall we?"
Olivia's eyes twinkled with mischief as she held out her arm for Natalia.
Natalia's eyebrow arched. "O-liv-ia? What are you up to?"
Olivia just smiled sweetly and batted her eyes innocently. Natalia took her arm. Olivia held out her other arm for Emma, who grabbed it quickly and winked at her Mother to let her know they were on the same page. Emma in turn held out her other arm for Rafe.
"Are we gonna go see Daddy or not?" Fancy stood in the hallway with one hand on her hip.
"Olivia, oh no...." Natalia said as realization set in.
Olivia, Emma and Rafe all leaned forward and smiled at Natalia. She just shook her head, resignedly and took a deep breath.
"OH, we're off to see the Lizard...."
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