Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them; any others are mine, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.

This is in response to an improv challenge at the Unbound forums; again, the first and last lines were givens.

Spoilers: none.


Bunching up her wedding dress, Sara climbed out the window. She had to balance precariously on the ledge, and for an instant the ground below wavered in her vision, but she knew what to do, and fixed her eyes instead on the narrow path she had to tread to safety.

Letting her train flop down behind her, she put one sneakered foot out on the branch and edged along. Tim's squeaky shout came up from below. "You're supposed to wait until I rescue you!"

"No I'm not!" she shouted back. "I don't have to if I don't want to."

She heard his impatient whine. "I'm a princess," she reminded him, grabbing a slimmer branch over her head and easing herself onto the treehouse platform. "I can do what I want."

A glance at the fort's door told her that the dragon their seven-year-old imaginations had created was still sleeping. She tiptoed towards the ladder leading to the ground, feeling for the stick-sword thrust through the belt on her dress-up gown. Timmy had the plastic sword, claiming that he was the prince so he should keep it. Sara had decided that it wasn't worth fighting over; it was his sword anyway. Her parents wouldn't buy her anything that looked like a weapon.


She ignored Tim, instead scrambling easily down the ladder. Her train almost tripped her when she reached the ground, but she yanked it out from under her feet. "See? I told you I could get away."

The little blond boy's face was pouting. "You're not playing right."

"Your way is boring." Sara sighed heavily in irritation. "I don't like just sitting around."

"The prince is supposed to rescue the princess, so he can marry her."

She threw up her arms dramatically. "The dragon's still up there. You can go kill him. Her." Sara's face lit up as embellishments came to mind. "'Cause if she lays eggs, they'll hatch into lots of baby dragons, and they'll burn everything up!"

Tim brightened, and headed for the ladder--a series of planks nailed firmly into the tree trunk. He had only climbed three, though, when an adult call rang out over the big yard. "Timmmyyy!"

Tim rolled his eyes and dropped down. "I hafta go."

Sara sighed again. "Okay." She picked at the grubby bandage on one elbow. "We can play again tomorrow."

"Yeah. Maybe we can fight trolls." Tim started running back home, across the wide lawn.

Sara grumbled as he disappeared. What can I play now? The late-summer heat wasn't conducive to thought. She wasn't allowed to go down to the beach by herself, and if she went inside her mom would probably make her do chores.

Sara plopped down in the shade. Normally she'd try one of her experiments, but her parents had been kind of mad the last time, when she'd mixed the paint she'd found in the shed with some cooking oil from the kitchen. I just wanted to see what happened.

She sat up at the sound of wheels crunching on gravel. A car was pulling into the bed-and-breakfast's parking lot, and Sara peered around the tree to see who it was. "Ick!"

The Mortensons and their twins. They came every year, and she hated them. Jenny and James were mean; last year they'd broken half her toys, and this year they'd teased her until she got so mad that she'd hit James. Her parents had been very disappointed in her; she'd had to stay in her room all the next day. "They're guests, Sara," her mother had told her. "We have to be nice to them."

"But they're not nice to me!" Sara had protested.

"Violence doesn't solve anything, chicklet, it only makes things worse," her mother had replied with a sad smile. She'd stroked Sara's tangled hair out of her face. "They're only here for another week. Can you be patient that long?"

Right now she didn't feel patient. The twins and their parents were climbing out of the car, back from an afternoon doing guesty-type stuff, and Sara knew that soon the two kids would be looking for her to say more mean things. They were really good at finding her hiding places, too.

Then an idea dawned.

She had to hurry. Sara waited impatiently until the Mortensons disappeared inside the inn before dashing towards the back. She knew just where she'd left her bucket. The experiment inside was kind of gross, but she decided in a sudden spurt of malice to leave it as it was. She filled it with water at the spigot near the back door, then headed for her treehouse as fast as she could without spilling.

Her dad had installed a rope and pulley so she could haul things up. Sara fastened the rope to the bucket and then hurried up the tree to pull the bucket carefully to her. Eyeing the hatch in the bottom of the fort's porch, she estimated the angles. Closing the hatch would just send the twins whining to their parents, or hers, to demand entrance. This way is better.

She positioned the bucket carefully and stripped off her gown. Then she leaned over the edge, stuck her thumbs in her ears, and took a deep breath. "Nyah-nyah!!"

The twins, already halfway between the inn and the tree, looked up in mutual outrage. Jenny was the first to reach the ladder, and they began swarming up, one after the other.

In a practiced move, Sara again swung out the window, and just as Jenny reached the hatch and received the bucket of cold water and dead worms full on the top of her head, Sara slid down the pulley rope with ease and ran for the inn, grinning fiercely at the screams behind her. Within seconds, she was at the back of the inn's private wing, and hastening up the dogwood that grew below her bedroom window. Safely inside, she flopped onto her bed, still listening happily to the outrage. "I love trees."