Four Years and Running

by Duann Cowart

Standard disclaimers apply. This is a follow up of sorts to Briny Deep and Zoo Day, both of which are archived several places, the first url coming to mind being:

Be warned, this is a sillyfic and a little mushy, just because I felt like it. So there.

Today is a good day to die.

Famous saying, that. It's most often heard growled through clenched teeth of a hulking hardbitten warrior type right before the Final Battle. It isn't always the right thing to say, though. Such kamikaze fatalism isn't exactly inspiring for the rest of the crew, or the party, or the company, or whatever. Most of them have plans beyond the Final Battle, like that party next weekend, or Mom's apple pie on Sundays, or the third date with that hot chick in accounting.

Come to think about it, 'today is a good day to die' really is a stupid saying, isn't it? Yeah. It is.

Let's start over.


Today is a good day for a birthday party. (Not quite the same ooomph, but much better suited to this story, really.)

It is, of course, a good day for a birthday party because it is someone's birthday. Today, the birthday girl in question is Miss Alfred Tallullah Wilson, four year old daughter of Madelyne Pryor and Wade Wilson, terror of her day-care, and the future human host of a slightly confused- and very naughty- Phoenix Force.

That, however, is another story for another time. The today in question happens about twenty years prior to our heroine's launch into celestial avatarism. For the present, and the purposes of this tale, our story opens the morning before her long-awaited birthday party. . . .


Allie Wilson zoomed through the halls and rooms of her damnably child-proofed house, deftly eluding the monstrous tables and chairs and sofas that were her mortal enemies only to be stopped only by the inescapable invisible field that blocked her passage into her back yard. She almost ran into the sliding glass door, but fortunately stopped herself before bumping her head on it *again*.

"Poo," she cursed vilely, extremely put out by its most inconvenient presence.

Backing away, she scowled at it, then sighed. At least she stopped herself before she could leave handprints all over the clear glass. Dr. Bong, Daddy's old enemy and their current housekeeper, fussed about her messes, but then again, Dr. Bong fussed at everything. Mommy said it was because he was a recovering Freudian, but Daddy said he just wasn't getting any.

Allie didn't know what he wasn't getting, but she thought it had something to do with him losing his sigh-ki-a-tree license and coming to work for them. At least he still had a shiny gold helmet, though, which he was very proud of.

After all, Dr. Bong wasn't *all* bad. He kept laying booby traps for Daddy in his work shed, the place Allie Was Never Ever Ever To Go, but Mommy said it was just a game they played and it kept Daddy on his toes so he wouldn't get bored. Everybody got used to all the *BONG!* sounds eventually, and he gave Allie cookies when she was good.

Allie grunted, and bright green eyes narrowed in consternation as she returned to the task at hand. Chubby fingers pried at the inlaid handle to the locked sliding-glass door, straining to open it just enough to escape the oppressive constraints of her prison. Face pressed against the glass, she threw caution- and Dr. Bong's admonitions- into the wind and beat at the door with her fists, trying break through the thick glass barrier that kept her from her technicolor prey.

There was a party outside, you see, *her* party, and her viciously cruel parents had locked her inside to keep her away from the booty that was rightfully hers. Their back yard was full of tables and ballons and party favors, and she thought, she wasn't sure, but she thought, she'd heard Daddy talking about Nate being a pussy about the party. Despite her annoyance at being kept from her prey, she smiled. That was silly. Nate was her brother, he wasn't a pussycat.

OOOH! Maybe Daddy meant that Nate had got her a kitty for her birthday, Allie thought excitedly, mind whirling with possibilities. She loved kitties. Loved their soft fur, their little toes, their noses, their whiskers, their tails. She didn't too much care for their poo, but then, who did, except for nasty old dogs looking for kitty treats?

Dr. Bong's poodle-dog Rupert Bong probably didn't like kitties, but Daddy had started making him keep Rupert in Dr. Bong's upstairs garage apartment last month after Rupert started hugging Daddy's leg so much. Mommy thought it was really funny when Rupert grabbed on to Daddy's leg and moved up and down so fast, hugging him, but Daddy didn't like it too much.

Allie didn't particularly care for Rupert, either. Dr. Bong had him shaved in funny shapes all the time, and his fingernails painted, and bows in his hair, but something in her distrusted any animal that wore more makeup than Mommy did.

Anyway, she much preferred kitties. She'd wanted a kitty ever since she'd tried petting Aunt Alfred's kitty, Leon Johnson, who wasn't a nice kitty at all. He'd bit her, she remembered, and all she'd tried to do was poke his eyeballs to see if they felt like as mushy as they looked. Daddy had kicked Leon Johnson, she remembered, and Leon Johnson had hissed mean things in kitty-talk to Daddy. Some kitties were like that.

Mama had fussed at Daddy, and Aunt Alfred had fussed at them both, and Leon Johnson had scratched at them all and run away, but Allie had cried so hard that they all took her out for some ice cream, she remembered, and grinned, but other than that they'd had fun, and Leon Johnson *had* let her pet him when they got back, even if Mama had to hold him with her 'kinesis first, and he'd run out the window again as soon as she let him down . . .

Kitties were *fun*.

Maybe Daddy had bought her a kitty for her birthday. Sticking out her fist, she curled out one finger, and then another, then then another, counting slowly. Today was her birthday. She was four today, as repeatedly noted in previous narrative refrain.

All of a sudden, a deep rumbly voice sounded down the hall. ". . . 'd damn well better be here or I'll magnetize his friggin' arm to the left cheek of his metal ass. . "

Daddy! Allie tilted her head, instinctively turning to the beloved rumbly voice.

A deep sigh. "He'll be here, Wade, he promised me. Now play nice, please."

Mommy! Hearing the familiar sounds of her parents' banter coming up the hall, Allie grinned, momentarily forgetting that her parents were vile oppressors who were taking malicious delight in keeping her from her party. quickly spun away from the door, blinking several time to forcibly turn her pout into a powerful smile. Red pigtails bobbing up and down, she turned to run toward her parents, grinning from ear to cutely freckled ear.

Clad in a Hawaiian shirt and clashing pink shorts, the former mercenary-turned-family-man Wade Wilson smiled, and stooped to pick up his daughter, his firstborn, his reason for living. "Allie! Come to Daddy!"

Madelyne Pryor-Wilson, former Black Queen and mother of two, smiled broadly at the little girl, taking her in her arms. "Sweetie, you look very nice, but what in the world could you have found to get on your face in the two whole minutes since you slipped away from us?" Turning to her husband, she murmured "Get me a wet cloth, will you?"

He didn't skip a beat. "I live to serve, O love of my life," he sketched a bow, and turned down the hall into a nearby bathroom.

Poised on Madelyne's hip, Allie debated whether or not to ask about the kitty right then. Studying her mother's lovely features, she decided against it. She loved Mama very much, and Mama loved her very much and was the best Mama in the world, but she was, well. . . Mama. Daddy might let her eat pudding for supper and watch cartoons all night, but Mama made Allie eat broccoli and go to sleep and turn off the TV *early*, and then there was that whole Inferno thing everybody kept whispering about when Mama wasn't around. . .

On second thought, maybe she'd wait to ask Daddy about the kitty, after all.

"Here, Maddy, catch!" A yellow washcloth came flying down the hall, and her mother telekinetically snapped it out of midair like it was nothing, and began carefully cleaning her daughter's smudged face.

That face split in a wide grin, and then carefully pulled itself into a sweet smile as Daddy's funny bumpy face came into her view. Daddy. Daddy was just as sweet and fun as Mama, but he was much easier to get what she wanted out of. All she'd have to do was pretend like she was going to cry, and she'd get whatever she wanted. Mama would let her cry as long as she wanted to, but Daddy couldn't stand it.

In other words, Daddy was an easy mark.

"Daddy!" She squirmed out of her mother's grasp, arms outstretched towards her father, who took her very gently in his arms. "Wanna kitty."

Wade looked at his daughter and the heart that cooly watched hundreds draw their last breath melted like Little Richard's makeup under the hot summer sun. "Ah, Maddy, look at her. She wants a kitty. Can she have a kitty?"

There was a long pause. "No." Madelyne Pryor-Wilson finally answered, checking her reflection in a hallway mirror. "She cannot have a kitten, Wade. You know very well that she'd mangle the poor creature, and then we'd have to explain why little Fluffy doesn't play anymore, even when she pokes him with a sharp stick, and I'd rather postpone that conversation for a few more years, if you don't mind terribly much."

Wade grinned, and quasi-prophetically proclaimed, "Hey, with this family, the cat'd come back from the dead, probably a celestial avatar from another time line or something." He paused, weighing the consequences, and was unable to stop himself from motioning his arms up and down, mimicking the Phoenix Effect. "'I am Fluffy! Feline Incarnate! Fetch me a plump and juicy mouse, puny mortals!'"

Allie giggled delightedly at Daddy being silly, the elusive kitty all but forgotten for the moment. There was a moment of pause, and said Daddy wondered if perhaps mention of his wife's estranged 'sister' probably wasn't the smartest thing to say when she was already stressed from party preparations.

He spared a moment to be grateful that they'd spent the extra bucks to buy a comfortable sleeper couch.

"Wafer-thin ice, buddy," Maddy finally warned, eyes narrowing at her beloved. "Now shut your trap and go check on the decorations. I want this perfect for our little girl."

Allie watched her father sighed in relief. "Aye-aye, Cap'n," he saluted, then kissed his daughter on the forehead. She craned her neck and watched him leave, expression curdling as her Daddy easily unlocked the sliding-glass forcefield and stepped out onto the deck into their yard.

Wriggling to free herself, Allie batted her eyelashes at Mama in a last-ditch effort to impress upon her mother the profound importance of obtaining immediate feline companionship.

It didn't work.

"No kitty," Mama repeated slowly, but Allie sensed her resolve weakening, a sure sign that Allie was going to get her way. Maybe it was a surprise, and they'd already gotten the kitty for her. . . Her small face broke out in a wide grin. The kitty would be hers.

Oh yes, it would be hers. With that in mind, she demurely submitted to her mother's ministrations.

The childish thoughts buffeted the astral plane like a blow, and Maddie blinked at their sheer unadulterated enthusiasm. Sensing her daughter's unsubtle thoughts, the mother smiled, a slightly feral expression very similar to her daughter's.

The child got that determination from *her* side of the family.


Disclaimers contained in part one. Continued directly from previous post. _____


Later that day. . .

His party hat was crooked, sand was up his Spiderman (tm) underoos, and there was a sharp pain in his left hiney-cheek. In other words, William Randall McMurphy IV wasn't happy, and when Billy wasn't happy, nobody was happy.

"OOOOOOOWWWWW!" His loud, piercing whine filled the empty spaces between the boisterous party sounds, drowing them out completely. His mother and father, happily pleased to have the little bastard out of their hands for just a few blissful moments, blithely continued eating ice cream on the other side of the merrily-decorated yard.

Everyone else looked at each other in amazement, and some of the guests with especially keen hearing actually clasped their ears over their respective heads in pain. Dr. Bong's helmet resounded with echoing waves of sound.

"Silence the whelp," Blind Alfred muttered, backing away from the keening child as fast as Deuce the Devil Dog, who himself was whimpering like Laurence Olivier in community theatre, could lead her.

Everyone else just shrugged. This was normal for Billy, who wasn't a mutant, just an incredibly annoying child. After a small eternity, the wailing mercifully stopped and conversation slowly resumed, though the *bongs!* in the air echoed for several minutes thereafter.

"OW! That hurt!" The little boy's lower lip trembled, and he glared at the birthday girl. "You pinched me!"

Standing tall in the sandbox, Allie Wilson glared at him, undaunted by his powerful whine. Her tiny fists curled in anger, and she jabbed a pink-tipped fingernail in his face, returning back to the philosophical issue which had engendered such passionate debate. "You shut up! Powerpuff Girls do NOT suck eggs! You suck eggs!"

Allie didn't know what sucking eggs meant- Daddy called Rupert an egg-sucking dog sometimes when he was mad at him, and by the way Billy said it, she was pretty sure it wasn't good. Kinda like the way Nate talked about Poccylips, she suspected, or that time when Mr. Shaw came to visit and Daddy said *really* ugly things and Dr. Bong made her hide in the basement until it was over, or like that time Mama accidentally ran into Miss Jean and Mr. Scott at the grocery store. Kinda like that.

Well, maybe not that bad- but it sure wasn't nice.

Billy paused, then thought for a moment, composing a witty rejoinder, reaching over to yank one of Allie's pigtails in a time-honored response. "Do not!"

That did it. "Do too!" Allie snarled, and pushed her neighbor, best friend and sometime nemesis backwards into the sand.

She had to defend the honor of the Powerpuff Girls. She loved the Powerpuff Girls, and watched them as much as she could. She loved Blossom, and Bubbles, and Buttercup, and she even loved their arch-villain Mojo Jojo. She especially loved it when Daddy acted like Mojo Jojo. Daddy could sound just like Mojo Jojo, and sometimes when Mama wasn't looking, set his Mageducer to make him look like Mojo Jojo, or Professor Utonium, or even sometimes Fuzzy Lumpkins. There was no way she would let Billy saying ugly things about the greatest cartoon of all time.

Especially at *her* party. Especially when she hadn't gotten her surprise kitty yet. In fact, she was beginning to wonder if she'd get the kitty at all, and that made for a very unhappy Allie.

Billy climbed to his feet, legs braced far apart. Sticking out his tongue, he gleefully taunted, "Nah nanny boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo, Allie smells like poo-poo!"

"Do NOT!" Allie yelled, her already less-than-quiet voice rising, and she leapt forward, jumping on Billy and pulling them both down to the ground. A whirling maelstrom of three-year-old punches and kicks ensued, until Allie found herself lifted pulled away by the strong arms of her brother. "Lemme at 'im!" she snarled, squirming and kicking to get down. "I'll make 'im sleep with fishies!"

"You've been letting her watch the Sopranos again, haven't you?" Nate muttered drolly, holding his far, far younger sibling at arms-length. Dirty arms and legs twitched and jerked as Allie tried to reach her prey. Wade Wilson, videocamera in hand like any good suburban father, walked up, zooming in on his daughter's furious face.

"Of course not. She prefers Sex in the City," A dark-haired albino woman joked, grinning at the horrified look on Nathan's 'step-father's' face. "Isn't that right, Allie?"

"Right!" Allie had absolutely no idea what Aunt Dom was talking about, but agreed emphatically anyway. Aunt Dom was usually right, and since Mama always said Aunt Dom had Nate whipped- maybe if Allie was nice to her then she'd let Allie borrow the whip so she could beat Billy up like he deserved.

Before she could say anything else, Nate colored slightly, shooting an ugly look at their mother. "Quit thinking so loud, Allie," he muttered, counting his blessings that there were no other telepaths nearby to mock him.

This time.

"Can't help it!" Allie snapped, patience eroding. "Billy-" She turned on her heel to chase her fleeing companion, but Nate held her with his k'nesis and she couldn't go.

She screwed up her face to cry, but Aunt Dom surprised her by standing up and crossing her arms over her chest, glaring at Allie's brother. "Come on, Nate, let her go. You heard what the little brat said. He deserves a good ass whippin'."

Allie grinned. Aunt Dom understood little girls, and gave the best presents, and made Nate let her watch good cartoons when he babysitted her. Most of all, Aunt Dom would understand why she had to teach Billy a lesson, and might even hold him down if Allie asked nicely.

A new idea dawned- she'd understand why Allie had to have a kitty, too. Maybe she'd ask Aunt Dom to explain it to Mama and Daddy for her.

"Want me to handle it, 'son'?" Deadpool cracked, moving through the throng of guests to check on his willful daughter. He knew he ought to, but he couldn't bring himself to punish her for fighting. After all, she got it naturally, and to be honest, the little brat *did* have it coming. The Powerpuff Girls *rocked*.

"Nah, let Nate," Domino advised gleefully, grinning at their old enemy. "It's good practice for him." She paused a moment, then stared suspiciously at her drink. "This tastes funny."

"It's your imagination," Wade mumbled, and Domino instantly put the drink down, pushing it away as if it burned.

Clearing his throat, Nathan brushed his sister off and sat her down. "Allie. It's not nice to punch your . . . guests. Now go apologize to Billy." He pointed at Billy, who had forgotten about the melee and had moved on to climb on a swingset with some of the other young guests.

"No. Not gonna." Allie pouted, expression eerily like her mother's at Not Good Times. Not the J.J. and Thelma Not Good Times, but the Onslaught and Sentinel kind. Unless. . . "Nate?" she asked sweetly, wrapping her arms around his thick neck in a tight hug, fight with Billy forgotten. "I love you."

"Oh, buddy. This ought to be good," Domino grinned, studied her drink for a moment, and then shrugged, downing it in one gulp.

Nate was instantly on guard. Much as he loved his little sister, she was female, and thus inherently not to be trusted. "Um. . .I love you, too, Allie."

"Can I tell you a secret?" The green eyes got round as saucers as the little girl poured on the charm.

Nate backed away suspiciously, glancing at his long-time partner for help. Said partner just shrugged and leaned forward, a gleeful glint in her eyes. "Um. . . sure . . ." Cable drawled slowly.

Allie leaned over to whisper in her big brother's ear. "I. Want. A. Kitty." She smiled sweetly. "A big one."

"Oh, is that all?" Nathan arched an eyebrow. "I can't help you with that one, kiddo. You're gonna have to ask your *daddy* about that." Behind him, Deadpool waved his arms wildly in a 'please-for-the-love-of-all-that's-good-NO! motion, and Nathan's grin grew wider. "In faaaact. . . " He spun around, and Deadpool stopped mid-wave, pretending to scratch behind his ear. "In fact, why don't you ask him right now?" In one smooth motion, he spun around and handed the child off to her father.

Deadpool thought several wonderfully imaginative curses very loudly in Nathan's direction, but schooled his face into a smile and took his daughter in his arms. "I want to, baby, but you know what your mother said," he answered slowly, face burning as his two former enemies watched him squirm with identically smug expressions on their faces.

He made a mental note to plant a fake pregnancy test in Domino's bathroom, where Cable would be sure to see it,, but there were far more pressing issues at hand. His little girl wanted something, and he couldn't let her have it. He'd rather face a thousand firing squads than this.

"Allie, we talked about this," he finally said in his very best Father Knows Best voice, which for Deadpool came out as a cross between Ward Cleaver and Vin Diesel. "One day, baby, but not now."

Allie didn't move, didn't blink, only continued staring forlornly into her father's eyes. In an alternate universe where Deadpool was an even bigger Star Wars fan than he was in this one, a branch timeline veered off when Allie whispered "Stay on target. . .almost there. . .", causing her father to realize her plan rather than continue to be fooled by her practiced cuteness as he was here.

It's funny how tiny ripples affect the timestream. In that reality, the minute discrepancy eventually caused a horrible future, where Deadpool wound up mentoring X-Force, and faked his death, and Sam Guthrie became a mass murdered and drew little bumps on his face to emulate him, in total contrast to everything ever known about his previously established character, and was eventually replaced by a silly and poorly drawn character called U-Go Girl, but I digress.

Back to the tanget. There are some who speculate, quite cleverly, that the timestream is self-regulating, meaning a change as small as this would eventually have been absorbed back into the chronal branch, but since this is a sillyfic, and we've really spent too much time on the subject already, you're just going to have to take my word for it, gentle reader. The other realities are *freaky*.

Back to our story, and Allie's practiced cuteness. Deadpool squirmed, Allie beamed, Billy annoyed nameless background characters, and Domino and Cable just circled closer, rather like grinning vultures. "Yeah, Wade?" the latter asked sweetly, savoring the look of trapped desperation on her old enemy's face. "Why can't Allie have a fuzzy-wuzzy little kittycat?"

"Because," Deadpool snapped, glancing around frantically for a lifeline. "Because. . ." Before he could answer, something cold and very wet prodded him in his unmentionables, and he yelped a very girly scream. He glanced down, and a familar furry face smiled up at him.

Allie laughed delightedly, kitty forgotten. "Deuce!" she cried happily, wiggling out of her father's grasp to stand beside her namesake and godmother's seeing eye dog, namesake and godmother right behind. Deuce wasn't like Rupert. Deuce was *fun*.

Favoring the lady with a tight hug, Allie looked up and saw herself reflected in square black sunglasses. "Can I, Auntie Al?"

Blind Alfred sighed, knowing when she was outmatched. "Don't get too far with him," she nodded, bending down to remove Deuce's harness, effectively rendering him off duty. He wriggled with pleasure, and he and Allie took off across the yard in a roiling mass of child and dog.

The old lady stood up, wiping her hands against her sensible cordorouy pants. "Sounds like you're struggin', Wade," she murmured to her dear friend and former tormentor. "Kid's got her mind made up." Turning to Cable and Domino, she greeted the two with all the warmth of Joan Rivers on Oscar night, "Bonnie. Clyde. How go things in Dysfunctionalville?"

There was an icy pause. "Oh, look, it's the Queen Mum," Domino smiled sweetly. "How's the hip, Alfred? Those steel pins still giving you trouble?"

Cable's eyes widened, and he grunted awkwardly, "Um. . .look, there's my mother. We've gotta go." Quickly, before Domino could object, he took her arm at the elbow and led her away.

Wade watched him scurry away with great interest. "Now what was *that* all about? I've been tryin' to get rid of Junior for years, and I can't get him to leave us alone. You do the Old Lady Glare (tm) at him, and he's outta my system quicker than bad chicken."

"I make him nervous," Alfred shrugged, a tiny smile playing on her lips. "What can I say? I cornered him before your wedding and told him that if he ever caused you or Maddy any trouble that certain nekkid pictures he thought long gone would mysteriously surface in very public places."

"Ooooh," Deadpool murmured, impressed- and more than a bit disturbed. "You have nekkid pictures of Nateyboy? I'd hate to read the Braille on that one."

"Of course not," Alfred snorted. "I'm blind, but I'm not stupid." She grinned. "But *he* doesn't know that, now, does he? I bluffed, and he's been around those do-gooders long enough that he felt guilty using his telepathy on a helpless blind lady, so I've been blackmailing him ever since." She grinned, fanning her cane as she began wandering back to the party, Wade at her side. "Serves 'im right for turnin' into such a pansy in his old age."

Something suspiciously like a giggle almost bubbled out, but Deadpool thankfully stifled it in time. Seeing Maddy in the crowd, he began leading Alfred to her. Expression turning serious, he murmured, "Al, I just don't know what to do. "

"About the kitt- er, cat?" she replied gruffly, careful to keep her tough old broad image intact.

"How'd you know?" he asked curiously, head tilted at an exaggerated angle. "You start working for Miss Cleo to supplement that Social Security income?"

"Bite me," she growled pleasantly, enjoying the exchange despite herself. "Now, ain't it time to open some presents around here?"

"Good point," Wade nodded, shouting, "Allie! Time to open presents, baby!"

At the magic word "presents", Allie shot across to the gift table, Deuce the Devil Dog forgotten for a moment as the child bounced up and down with glee. Several miniature cronies surrounded her, and despite the chiding of the adults, the area was soon aflurry in brightly colored shredded paper. Moments later, now clad in a purple feather boa and tiara, the birthday girl reached for a perforated purple package in the back.

"Hey! Careful with that one," Blind Alfred shouted, acute hearing advising her of the contents within. "That's from me and Deuce, and it's breakable." Turning to Deadpool, still at her side

Ooooh, breakable, Allie thought happily. Aunt Alfred always gave the *best* presents. Ripping the wrapping paper away, Allie saw a big plastic box with holes in it. Peering closer, she first saw a tiny pink nose. Looking further, she saw fluffy white cheeks, pointed silky ears, and a pair of very disgruntled eyes.

No, not Northstar, but a kitten. A very pissed-off kitten, in fact, but that made little difference to the birthday girl herself.

It took a few moments for realization to sink in, and then the child let loose an ear splitting squeal of joy that humbled Billy's earlier wailing. "KITTY!" She yanked open the carrier door and grabbed the small animal under its armpits, squeezing it tightly to her chest in adoration.

All the other assembled adults favored each other with misty smiles at the sweetness of the scene- all the adults except two, that is. Those two swarmed towards Blind Alfred like a pair of angry heat-seeking missles.

Deadpool was closer, but Maddie cleared the yard in just a few seconds to glare angrily at her husband's surrogate mother figure. Calming herself forcibly, she growled "Alfred- Wade and I discussed this. You *really* should have asked us before giving the child a gift like this."

The old lady shrugged blithely. "What's there to ask? Kid wanted a cat, I got her a cat." Maddie opened her mouth to protest, but Alfred uncannily stuck her hand out to halt the younger woman. "I know what yer gonna say. Forget about that- she's not gonna hurt him." She glanced shrewdly at the two. "And anyway, I got 'em from the pound. He was on the Feline Green Mile. This is at least a brief stay of execution."

Wade paused, glanced between the two women, and paused again. His daughter's cries of delight filling his ears, he whispered, "Um, Al?"

"Yeah, Wade?" She murmured, head tilted to the side as she listened to her namesake squeal with pleasure as she loved on the small beast.

Wade stared at his daughter, and a familiar soppy expression came over his lumpy face. "How did you know she wanted a kitt- er, cat?"

Alfred snorted, and answered before she thought better of it. "That one's easy. Les told me last night."

Madelyne too watched the little girl, and something in her heart thawed as well. Only slightly mollified, however, she still forced irritation into her voice. "Les who?" she snapped, ready to turn on anyone at this point.

Dark glasses leveled on the two, and Alfred's voice was amused and suspicious at the same time. "You know, Lester. Dr. Lester Verde."

When there was no response, Alfred sighed deeply. "Dr. Bong? Does that . . . ring any bells?" She grinned, unable to stop herself.

"Oh!" Identical expressions of dawning comprehension touched down on the Wilsons' faces. Grinning broadly, Wade spoke first, voice laced with innuendo. "What else do you know about. . . Lester?"

Alfred grunted, a tell-tale deep red blush beginning to color her dried-apple cheeks as she realized she'd betrayed more than she had intended. "Nunya, Wade. Now shut yer pie-hole." Drawing in a deep breath, she turned around. "Deuce! Get over here, you stinkin' cur! We have places to be!" With that, she was gone, leaving only a strong coating of old-lady-rose-talcum-powder smell behind her.

Wade and Madelyne looked at each other with knowing smiles. Looping his arm around her shoulder, Wilson pulled his wife closer. "Bong's gettin' some wrinkled nooky, ain't he?"

Madelyne paused, and the brain which had borne the horrors of the Hellfire Club's debaucheries skimmed over that particular thought like a duck on an oily pond. "'fraid so, Wade," she barely managed.

There was a long pause. "She's really cute with that damn cat, Maddie," he sighed. "Can we keep it? I'll help her take care of it, I promise."

"Sure, make *me* the bad guy," Madelyne grumbled, but her heart wasn't in it. The child was remarkably darling with the kitten, and maybe the responsibility would be good for her. . .

Wade almost commented again, but wisely changed his mind. "Pleeeeeeeeeeease?"

Madelyne sighed in resignation, knowing when she was beaten. "Fine. She can keep the cat." At her husband's whoop of glee, she held up one hand. "One caveat- I don't do litter boxes. That's your job, mister."

Wade grinned broadly, and shook his head. "Nope. *Lester's* in charge of that." Pitching his voice in an eerily close approximation of Anita Ward's, he moved to tickle her, singing "You can ring my beeeeellllll, ring my bell. . ."

Madelyne, laughing, elbowed him in the ribs, and settled back down to watch their daughter properly greet the newest member of the family.


Mere steps away, Allie crouched down, kitten cupped in the palms of her hands. "Hey, kitty," she crooned softly, oblivious to the party still going on around her. Placing it on the soft grass of her yard, Allie stared anxiously, praying very hard that the pretty kitty wouldn't run away.

After instinctively licking its left shoulder to create a sense of control over his surroundings, the cat, raw terror dimmed for the moment, just looked at her curiously, then dipped its kitty shoulders in a shrug and stepped towards his fate.

Allie's entire face split in a relieved smile. She she scooped the kitten up and ran to show him off to Billy, whom the kitten, promptly named George, hissed and clawed, earning him the instant affection of the entire crowd.

And all was well with the world.

Billy went home crying, as usual. Domino and Cable went home fighting, as per usual. Alfred stayed with the Wilsons for a few days after the party, and the light to Bong's apartment went out earlier than was his custom. The romantic sounds of Gene Autry and Frank Sinatra could be heard playing early into the night, and Wade wore earplugs all night to block out the perhaps imagined squeaking coming from the garage apartment.

Allie and George became fast friends, and the kitten grew in stature and feline wisdom, and even eventually won the love and respect of Wade and Madelyne after attacking Rupert Bong, who became a recluse out of fear of encountering the fierce mad cat again.

As for Alfred and Bong? Well. . . their story remains to be told.




Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -John 14:27