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From the Story Arc: Stumble and Fade

Next Story in the Arc: Apologies, Females by Re-Bear (Saturday, February 10, 2007)

(posted Sunday, January 14, 2007)

I know what you want. Meet me at 127 37th St, Steel Canyon, 7:00 PM. Come hungry. - Secret Admirer

Lauren read it a third time. "A secrrret admirrerr?" she purred quietly to herself. The handwriting on the card was very girly, complete with a heart over the 'i' in admirer. She picked up the dozen lilies that accompanied the note and placed them in a vase. "Canis must be trying to surrrprrise me. Or maybe it's that cute grrrrl in my parrranormal studies class. Anyhow, this is nearrrr the fancy rrrestaurrant section of the canyon! Somebody's pulling out the stops forrr me!"

She stopped a minute, wondering if it could be an ambush or a trap. It would be easy to locate a hero who stands out in a crowd, and makes no secret as to her location. Maybe it was a vengeful Ole Miss booster, or a disgruntled Auburn player?

"I can hold my own," she decided, and rummaged through her closet for something to wear.

***

It was a quiet night at the Pancake Hostel in Steel Canyon. There were the usual assortment of college kids and stoners, and a few off duty cops nursing cups of coffee and discussing arrests of the day. The waitress was distracted, doing a sudoku puzzle since the manager was distracted by the other patron, a large Russian man with a Stalin mustache and a hearty appetite.

"Sir, I told you before that you were banned from this location," the manager explained hastily.

The Russian looked up from his waffle appetizer. He slowly poured syrup onto the entire surface of the waffle before looking at the manager. "Bah! I am meeting very sexy lady here in a few minutes."

"But you were banned from this location!" The manager rolled his menu into a tight cylinder, "You are free to go to the King's Row location."

"I am taking girl to nicest Pancake Hostel in Paragon City," the Russian said, raising his voice.

An off-duty cop looked at the table and gently shook his head at the manager. Daunted, the manager sighed. "Fine, but if you cause a disturbance, I'm filing a report with the PPD. I've got my eye on you, Re-Bear!"

Bear finished his waffle, trying in vain not to get syrup stains on his white T-shirt. He made the shirt himself with iron-on transfers, so that it read '#1 Stud', a visible reminder to Bengal that he was in fact the number-one stud, based on an internal poll of Bear and his mirror. He hoped Sophia would not discover that he had practiced his ironing on one of her labcoats she left in the ship's laundry. "Bah, the burns were not very noticeable anyway," Bear mumbled.

He looked up to see Lauren walk by, looking upward at the addresses on the exterior of the granite. He began to frantically flail his arms like an epileptic break-dancer. The Bayou Bengal caught sight of him, and she froze. The blood slowly drained from her cheeks, leaving her stripes a sickly mauve. She stood there another moment, battling her flight response. This would be a far worse evening than dealing with an angry Ole Miss booster...

She slowly entered the Pancake Hostel. She was way over-dressed, or under-dressed since the revealing purple dress she was wearing showed more striped fur than would have been neccessary. She had her purse in a death grip. Bear was still flailing for her to come over to his table. She marched to it like a condemned criminal.

"Comrade Bengal! I see you have received your letter!" Bear shouted, jabbing his thumb toward the slogan on his chest.

"Thank you, Misterrr Bearr," Lauren said, bewildered, "And the flowerrs werre verry nice too."

"You like them? Excellent! I found them in the cemetary in Dark Astoria and thought of you. The were already cut and bundled and everything."

"You have verrry distinct penmanship."

Bear nodded with pride. "I have brought you two presents," he said, pulling out two pacakages, poorly wrapped in Arachnos letterhead. He slid them accross the table to Lauren. "Open the round one first!"

Lauren slowly unwrapped the first present. It was a small can, the size of a hockey puck. "Fanciful Feast?" Lauren said, puzzled.

"Indeed," Bear smiled, "Comrade Jason at Dent N' Bent Thrift Food says that it drives cats wild." He raised his eyebrows at Lauren. "I wouldn't eat it now, though, it would spoil your appetite. Don't open the other present until after dinner!"

"I wouldn't eat it ever," Lauren thought to herself, "but poor Bear. He's trying so hard. I'll humor him until after his food comes."

The waitress, finished with her puzzle, came over to the table.

"I'll have the 'Moon Over Paragon Cheesy', two 'Timberjack Slams', a plate of waffles, a side of bacon, and some orange juice."

"I'll have the sausage links and two eggs, scrrambled," Lauren said.

"What kind of coffee goes with eggs?" Bear asked.

"Umm, black coffee goes with eggs," the waitress muttered.

"Excellent, bring us some black coffee of the finest vintage."

The waitress ambled off and Bear shot Lauren an electric smile. It was going to be a long night.

***

"And I said Aberrant Rector? It almost killed her!" Bear guffawed and pounded the table at his own joke. He reached out and touched Lauren's hand. She let it sit there like a dead mouse.

"Misterr Bearr, I have something you need to know," she said quietly.

"Bah, in a minute. Open up your second present."

Lauren picked up the second package and slowly unwrapped it. It was a long boxmade of very old wood. It was covered in Cyrillic writing, and as far as she could tell, ancient runes of protection. "Bearrr," she said, "I don't know if I can accept this."

"Bah, open the box."

She opened it to find a perfect string of pearls. They vibrated with the tiniest bit of magical energy. "Bearr..." Lauren pleaded.

"They say that no girl can refuse a pearl necklace."

The stoners in the corner all turned their heads and stared at the Bear.

"Those come from my family jewels," the Bear said, casting a murderer's stare at the stoners. Snickering to themselves, they resumed their attention to the Magic Eye poster that had their attention for the previous hour. "My mother had those, given to her by Trotsky himself, until he became a traiterous dog and had to be executed. But it was a nice sentiment at the time. They traveled with me all these years, and now, I pass them on to you."

Lauren closed the box and pushed it toward Bear. "I'm sorrrry, Misterr Bearr," Lauren said, "but I can't accept those. It's too nice of a gift. Therrre's something you need to know about me..."

"It's the toxic spines isn't it," Bear said lividly, "if you're allergic, it's fine. I have purchased a topical ointment for you, as well as an anti-snakebite kit, just in case."

"It's not yourrr spines," Lauren replied, "It's me. I guess you could say I play for the other team."

"You play for Old Miss!" Bear exclaimed, his eyes wide with shock. "I can see why that would be a life-altering secret, but I can keep it quiet. I should probably reeducate everyone here, though; I can't promise they'll be as subtle as the Bear." he pointed towards his temple and nodded sagely.

"No Bearrr," she giggled, "that's not it at all. I'm.... I'm a lesbian."

"Bah, I don't care where you're from," Bear said, "I am not a narrow Bear. I'm sure that summers in Lesbia are excellent. Where is that? By Illinois or Wyoming?"

"No, Bearrr. A lesbain means that I prreferrr grrrls...."

"So do I! We have so much in com...." The reality slowly seeped into Bear. He stopped laughing and grew very cold. "You prefer girls?"

"Yes," Lauren nodded, "If you would have asked any of my frrriends, they would have told you."

"But I bought five-gauge wire," Bear pleaded.

Lauren looked confused for a second and then shook her head. She took Bear's hand between her paws. "Misterr Bearr, you'rrre a sweet guy and some grrrl is going to be verry lucky to have you. You'rrre verrry deterrmined."

Bear smiled weakly. "Thank you, Comrade Bengal. I should have known something like this would happen. If you ever change your mind about the girl situation, would you consider seeing a certain Bear?"

"I doubt I'll everr change, Bearr," Lauren said warmly, "But if I do, you'll be nearr the top of my list."

She left twenty-dollars on the table. Bear picked it up and gave it back to her. "This one is on me, Comrade. Thank you for coming."

Bengal walked out of the Pancake Hostel. As soon as she was out of eyesight, the can of Fanciful Feast went into a nearby trash can.

The waitress came by and gathered the empty plates. Bear gave her a hundred-dollar bill, put the necklace box back in his pocket, and went home. Alone.