A/N: This is a very complicated, sciency sort of chapter, and it is, I must confess, a little boring. Sorry. -Sky.

Chapter 20 - Da Rules

As Vicky slipped her black jeans over her hips, her breath fluttered from her mouth like gasping butterflies. The idea that there even was a Fairly World, let alone the notion that she and Timmy were about to visit it, had filled her with some sort of ludicrous joy. It was as though her prayers had been not so much answered as redirected by an inept God, one who was not able to solve her heartache but that could distract her from it for a little while. Of course, she didn't believe a word of it, but at the same time she felt a little strange, almost criminal. It was as though she and Timmy had been speaking in code, and now they were about to visit some dank and dangerous jail, to spring a man who had committed a terrible atrocity. The absurdity of it all had been nearly enough to rouse her from her depression, pulling her from her own dark mood and reminding her that though it may seem silly, it meant a lot to Timmy, and the fact that there was something painful in his life gave her an almost animal hunger to do something about it. She tugged her t-shirt over her head and glanced at herself in the mirror, an action that made her wince.

She knew quite well that months of heartache to the point of insanity coupled with an absolute disregard for her self image had tainted her looks somewhat, but until now, for some reason, she hadn't realised how much. Her hair was broken and messy; it looked as though she hadn't combed it for weeks, and with a rather embarrassed little feeling, Vicky wondered if that was really the case. She was so skinny now she was gaunt. There were dark shadows under her eyes and in the hollows of her cheeks. Her t-shirt no longer clung to her body like it used to but instead lay baggy against her skin, completely obliterating the last of her semblance of a figure. She felt, though she hated to think it, ugly, and though she didn't care as much as she might once have done it still hurt. Not much though, she thought, turning away from the mirror with a shrug. She had no one to be beautiful for anymore.

However, just before she left her room, she picked up her hairbrush which was lying on her carpet by the door and raked it through her hair until all the knots had been untangled. It took a while, and she knew that she was both keeping Timmy and wasting time, but for some reason it seemed important. Her hair was a little greasy, but it still fell softly about her face and shoulders, and it made her feel a little better, a little more ready to go out into the world and tackle that which had presented itself. The whole escapade of rescuing Timmy's condemned godfather was the first thing Vicky had actually done in months, the first time she participated in anything outside of herself, and she wanted to go at it with a semblance of normality and tradition about her. She dropped the hairbrush back to the floor and left her room, shutting the door behind her as she did so.

Timmy was no longer in her living room but waiting at the bottom of her stairs when Vicky emerged, bouncing anxiously on the balls of his feet with one hand curled around the banister. Vicky quickened her pace as she descended the last few stairs, sensing something in Timmy's manner that demanded she did so. He didn't seem angry with her, as such, and made no comment on how long it had taken her to get ready, despite the fact that they knew they were working to a deadline. Instead, Timmy just seemed nervous, a combination of insistence that they get going, coupled with a hesitation spawned from the idea that the sooner they left Vicky's house, the sooner they might find out that there was nothing they could do.

"So," Vicky said, turning her eyes away from Timmy as she felt herself suddenly feeling a little embarrassed. "Where first?"

"We should go see Wanda," Timmy replied stoutly. Vicky nodded to the carpet, and Timmy, obviously brimming with eagerness, lead the way to the door. On the way to his house Timmy attempted to explain a little more of what Cosmo had really done, and of what had now befallen Wanda. It was as complicated as he had said it was, and before they knew it Timmy was at the foot of his garden path, his urgency having caused him to proceed a few steps in front of Vicky, while her thoughtfulness had caused her to lag behind.

Timmy pushed open his gate and strode up his garden, and it was only his fumbling with his front door keys, out of anxiousness more than anything, that allowed Vicky enough time to catch up with him. He finally managed to slide his key into the lock just as Vicky came to a halt by his side, and was mid-way through turning it when he felt Vicky's hand on his wrist.

"Wait," she said quickly, which Timmy found himself doing immediately, and not all together surprisingly.

"What?" he said, returning the lock back to it's upright position and removing his key.

"Won't they be watching her?" she asked. "It sounds as though this Fairy Council monitors every single fairy on Earth."

Timmy thought for just a second, and then stamped his foot in exasperation. "Damn!" he said loudly. "I hadn't thought of that." He wrenched his hat from his head in frustration and began pulling at it between his hands. "Now what do we do?" he groaned.

Vicky thought for a moment. "Isn't there some other way we can get to Fairy World? Some legitimate way, I mean? I know that when we get there they might be on the look out for you, but think of it this way. You're not actually being charged with anything, are you? From what I can tell they've forgotten all about you, they've been too focused on convicting your godfather for his, what was it, unwished magic?"

Vicky looked at him hopefully, but Timmy just shook his head. "The only way to get to Fairy World if you're a human is to wish yourself there, and I don't have fairies anymore, do I? They took poor Wanda's magic away from her, she can't even fly anymore."

Vicky only dwelt on the notion of fairies flying for the merest of moments, before clearing her head and setting her mind to thinking again. If Timmy had thought she would give up at the first obstacle, then he would never have come to her for help in the first place. There had to be another way, there just had to be.

"Well, do you know anyone else with fairies?" she asked in a slightly stretched voice.

"No, I-" Timmy began to reply, but then he faltered. He did know one person, but for all he knew that person no longer had his fairy anymore, and even if he did, it was highly unlikely that he would ever help Timmy. He and Remy hardly got on, after all.

"What?" Vicky prompted.

"There is one person, but I doubt he would help..." Timmy said lightly, feeling defeated before he had even had the chance to begin trying.

"Why not?" Vicky asked.

"It's complicated," Timmy said. "He doesn't like me very much, and he wouldn't be able to take us both to Fairy World. There's too much at stake for him to risk his godparent for someone he hates."

Vicky sighed heavily and sat on the ground, her elbows resting on her knees. Timmy hesitated for a moment; the issue of time was clearly still on his mind, but then he shrugged his shoulders and sat down next to her. "It's hopeless, isn't it?" he said mournfully.

"Not quite," Vicky replied in a distracted voice. It was then that Timmy realised that Vicky hadn't slumped to the floor out of anguish, but because she was thinking. He wanted to ask her what was on her mind, but, like earlier when they had sat side by side on her couch, he knew it best not to interrupt.

"They've forgotten about you," she finally whispered, more to herself than to Timmy.

"Mm?" he inquired, just on the edge of her hearing, so that she didn't have to reply if she was still thinking.

She paused for just a second, before turning to him with an air of urgency burning in her eyes. Timmy couldn't help but smile at it. He hadn't seen that sort of passion coming from Vicky for a very long time.

"Well, you said that when most kid's fairies left them, Fairy World took their memories away, right?" She was speaking quickly, almost hysterically, but her voice lilted with the good kind of excitement.

"Yeah..." Timmy replied slowly, trying to understand what she was getting at.

"But they haven't, have they?" she said, beaming.

"Haven't what?" Timmy said stupidly. Vicky rolled her eyes at him.

"You still remember Cosmo and Wanda! I mean, come on! They've even imprisoned Wanda in your bedroom. They must be relying on the fact that you know who she is for you to not freak out because she's even there! Do you see what I'm saying?"

"Er... sort of?" Timmy said, raising his eyebrows at the redhead.

Vicky stared into her lap, and when she spoke again it was with a kind of whispered awe of realisation. "It's like they've forgotten they can take your memories away..." she said hoarsely. "Or, it's more likely, from what you've told me about this Starr character, that they can't."

"What?" Timmy asked, now completely lost.

"Think about it," Vicky said quickly, looking back up and into Timmy's eyes. "Why would you still be able to remember everything? Unless, just maybe, they couldn't take it away? Maybe it has something to do with Cosmo's unwished magic, I don't know, but it seems to me as if there's something keeping your memories in your head, something that Starr can't change. Not until he takes away that unwished magic, and I don't think he's managed to do it yet. I think you should talk to Wanda, I'll wait here, but we need to find out more about what Cosmo did, and why it is you can still remember."

"Vicky," Timmy began earnestly, "that doesn't make any sense. They're fairies, they have magic. They can use it to do whatever they want. And what Cosmo did was illegal and dangerous, so it only makes sense that they should be able to reverse it. They're the good guys in this one, if you want to look at it that way."

Vicky just shook her head in response to this. "No, I don't buy it," she insisted. "Even magic, as weird and incomprehensible as it is, has to have limits. You know, rules."

Timmy put a finger to his mouth in thought, his brain suddenly swimming.

"...and besides," Vicky continued, not noticing the way in which Timmy had become momentarily distracted, "even if to an outsider it seems as though Cosmo is in the wrong and Starr the right, that's purely from a political standpoint. From the universe's point of view, and I bet magic's as well, what Cosmo did was a good thing. I mean, Starr's a dictator for crying out loud. How can he possibly be right?"

"Rules..." Timmy murmured, apparently having missed Vicky's last speech.

"What?" Vicky turned to Timmy, pulled from her own train of thought, her face set in an expression of concentration. Timmy knew more about magic and fairies than she did, by a very long way, and though she was far more scheming than he was, she would have to listen to everything he said very carefully if she wanted to get this right.

"The Rules... there's this book. It's... well, I don't know if it's the rules of magic or the rules of the Fairy Council, but if it is the rules of magic then even Starr would have to obey them, even if he is supposed to be in charge. After all, even he doesn't have control over absolutely everything. If getting rid of my memories or destroying Cosmo's unwished magic interferes with those rules... well, I suppose there wouldn't be anything he could do about it." Timmy was speaking very quickly, obviously to himself as he was not elaborating on that which he knew Vicky would need explained to her.

"Wait, slow down," Vicky interjected, holding up her hands. "You're saying there are actual, written-down rules?"

"Yes," Timmy said, finally turning to Vicky and clearly ready to explain to her what had just occurred to him. "Every time I wished for something that wasn't allowed, Cosmo and Wanda's wands wouldn't work, and then this big book would appear, open on the right page and telling me why I wasn't allowed what I had just wished for." Vicky nodded, but she didn't speak. "Some of the rules seem a little political, like certain wishes being under the jurisdiction of certain fairies, but some of them were just plain moralistic, like the ones about not being able to use magic to cheat in a competition."

"So..." Vicky began slowly, running her fingers through her hair. "Maybe it's a mixture. Maybe it started out as being just the rules of magic, but over the years the Fairy Council found a way to add to it, to make rules more apt to the modern Fairy World. I mean, look at this way, it used to be legal to accuse people of witchcraft and burn them at the stake in this country, but that law was changed a long time ago. Maybe things became a matter of law and conscience that never used to be, so new laws had to be made and added to the book."

"Maybe..." Timmy said slowly. "I mean, it does make sense."

"And maybe Starr can edit these rules and swap them around all he wants, just as long as they aren't the original rules or whatever, and if he were to do something against Cosmo's unwished magic, he'd be going against one of the rules that the Fairy Council never made up." Vicky was speaking rapidly too now, her eyes shining with excitement. She breathed heavily for a few moments, but then turned to Timmy with a sober look in her eyes.

"Of course though, this is all guess work. We could be way off. You need to talk to Wanda about the origin of these rules before we go any further."

"Aren't... aren't you coming with me?" Timmy asked sheepishly.

"No..." Vicky said slowly, "no, I don't think I should. If Starr is watching Wanda, we don't want him to know about me just yet. I doubt there's nothing in the rules about him taking my memories away, so as long as he doesn't know that I know... well you get my point. Just get your butt in there while I think a few things through, ok?"

Timmy nodded resolutely. "Ok," he said. "I won't be long."

"Take as long as it needs," Vicky warned. "We have to know everything we can about these rules."


Wanda felt more vulnerable than she ever had in her life. There had been times, at the beginning with Cosmo, when she had felt exposed and nervous, wondering if his eyes were straying, worrying that she wasn't good enough, but that had been nothing, nothing, compared to this. This was something entirely different. Without her magic and her freedom, Wanda felt naked. She felt as though she had been laid bare before the world, defenceless and ashamed, and now all she had left was to wait for it's inevitable attack upon her virgin skin. She shuddered as she waited in Timmy's room, having left the warmth of his bed and instead slid down into the tiny gap between it and the window. She held her knees, hugged tightly to her chest, beneath which her heart thundered and shook. She had never been so scared in all her life, but this was her forever now. She wondered how long it would take for her to get used to it.

Suddenly, she heard footsteps on the stairs.

She peeked nervously over the top of the bed, scrunching the bed sheets in her fists in her terror. In her heart she knew it was Timmy, but her new situation now found her frightened of everything. She was even feeling a little guilty towards Timmy, getting into trouble such as she had, and now forcing her presence upon him in his room until the day he saw fit to leave. He was a teenage boy, she knew he needed his privacy, and his room should have been the place where he could get just that. Now she would always be there, and no amount of shielding her eyes or turning away would ever make her poor godson ever feel like he was truly alone.

The door creaked as it was slowly opened, and with another pang Wanda noted that the gentleness with which Timmy approached his own room showed that he had already adjusted to sharing it with her. Clearly he felt she may still be sleeping, or otherwise indecent, and he was gentlemanly enough not to barge in on her prison. She was overwhelmed with his kindness, and at how quickly he had relinquished the idea of it being 'his room', making way for the failed fairy that had once been his godmother. Tears filled her eyes, as they had so many times in the few hours that Timmy had been gone, but she bit them back fiercely, knowing that she had forever to mourn, but that Timmy would one day have to move on.

"Wanda?" Timmy whispered, stepping lightly into the room. Wanda rose to her feet, a sad little smile on her face, and she stepped around the bed meekly.

"Are you alright?" Timmy asked quickly, his voice frightened.

"I'm fine," she said reassuringly. "Just... you know."

Timmy nodded to show that he understood, but he didn't really know what to say. He looked to the bed, then to the door, before craning his neck to look at the ceiling, half expecting to see surveillance cameras staring back at him. Before Vicky had said it, it hadn't occurred to him that the Fairy Council probably was watching Wanda. Why he couldn't say, as it was fairly certain that their magical restraints would prevent her from leaving the room. Like Vicky said, it was more likely that they were trying to watch Timmy, for the same reasons that they hadn't taken his memories away yet, but as Timmy was human they couldn't watch him like they could other fairies.

Still, he knew it best to talk casually about the rules, to not concentrate on them, because if Vicky's hunch was right it wouldn't take Starr long to realise that Timmy had figured out why his memories still remained. For some reason, Timmy didn't think it was a good idea for Starr to know this, even if there was nothing he could do about it. He especially didn't need to know about Vicky's involvement in this, as Timmy was certain that by telling her about Cosmo and Wanda he had broken certain rules that Starr could act upon, but the fact that Starr didn't already realise that Vicky knew lead to a whole new train of thought that was too confusing for Timmy to even consider.

"Isn't there some way we could get your magic back?" Timmy asked. It would seem too obvious, he felt, if he weren't openly trying some way to rectify his godmother's situation. Wanda shook her head sadly, none the wiser as to Timmy's plans. She even shot him a warning look, something that confirmed his suspicions that the Fairy Council was eavesdropping.

"Nothing at all?" he said quietly, dejectedly.

"It doesn't matter anyway," she said, her voice bitter and spiteful. "I deserve everything I'm due to get and more. It's my fault Cosmo's going to die, after all." She threw herself onto Timmy's bed and lay there, staring at the ceiling, tears now streaming unashamedly down her temples and soaking her messy pink hair.

"How can you say that?" Timmy demanded, almost angrily. "You didn't make him create that unwished magic. In fact, if you'd have known what he was trying to do, you would have stopped him! Don't you ever blame yourself for this Wanda, never! All you ever did was love Cosmo, and that's it!"

"I should have known him better. I should have realised. I should have warned him. I should have done something. But I didn't even know. I still don't know why he had to do it in the first place."

Timmy said nothing. He wanted to somehow give Wanda a sign that Starr wouldn't understand. A sign that he was right now working on a plan to free Cosmo, with Vicky's help, and that all he needed her to do was to give him some vital information. Every impulse in his body told him to just ask her outright, but he knew that would be a mistake. Somehow, if the Fairy Council thought he was planning instead of just being inquisitive, they would do something, although Timmy wasn't sure what. Worst case scenario, they would bring forward Cosmo's execution without undoing his unwished magic. It seemed unlike Starr, a man who so believed in order and numbers, to do such a thing, but Timmy didn't doubt that Starr was also the sort of man who could snap without a moment's notice, all thoughts of tidiness forgotten in the face of cold, hard revenge.

Timmy thumped a hand down on his bedside table, jerking Wanda upright in shock. "Sorry," he mumbled, "but it's those stupid rules! They make me so mad." He was really hamming it up now, and Timmy had never been that much of an actor.

"I know sweetie," Wanda said consolingly, somewhat wary of Timmy's unnatural outburst. "But you can't change them."

"Why not?" Timmy demanded angrily, frightening Wanda more than he had meant to. He felt a small pang of guilt flash through his chest, but he ignored it. This was for the greater good, after all.

Wanda shrugged. "Well... because they're rules," she said slowly. "They just are. They always have been."

"But all of them?" Timmy shouted, trying to make it sound as though his questions weren't as well thought out as they really were. "That doesn't make any sense. Surely you can swap some around, edit them? You know, a loophole or something?"

"Timmy, I don't really know much about the rule book," Wanda admitted, her voice laced with her desire to get off the subject that was making Timmy so angry.

"It doesn't matter anyway, does it? I mean, the Fairy Council makes the rules after all, right?" he spat, flopping down on the bed next to Wanda, his rage exhausted.

"Oh no sweetie, not at all," Wanda said soothingly, patting Timmy on the arm. Timmy shot straight up.

"They don't make the rules?" he asked in a measured voice.

"No, they're not allowed to," Wanda said seriously. "It's against the laws of magic. Magic makes it's own rules, and the Fairy Council is bound to enforce them. That's it though. If fairies could make up what rules they wanted and get rid of the ones they didn't, there'd be all sorts of anarchy."

"How do you mean?" Timmy asked, frowning. Contrary to this, however, his mind was feeling a little jubilant. Clearly Vicky had been a little off, but she hadn't been completely wrong. Even the Fairy Council was governed by the very rules it upheld, so maybe it was the magic that was stopping the Council coming down hard on Timmy and taking away his memories.

"Well, before the Fairy Council was assembled, there was no one to keep fairies in line. The rules still remained, and most fairies adhered to them, as most fairies are intrinsically good. But, as you know, every now and then there is a fairy who needs a little extra guidance, as it were. One who is not entirely good."

"Starr," Timmy spat, not meaning to, forgetting who was watching. Wanda made as though she hadn't heard him.

"Of course, the rules stop this fairy from doing wrong, or at least, they try to, but sometimes a fairy can break the rules if he tries really hard and feels he has a good reason."

"Unwished magic," Timmy said simply.

"Exactly," replied Wanda, breathing deeply. "Anyway, there was a lot of this going about at one stage. Some bad fairies were training others to do the unwished magic, and it was leading to a lot of bad things, both on Fairy World and here on Earth. As well as causing trouble for the humans, some of them were starting to notice us, too. Kids with fairy godparents were getting accused of being witches, things like that. So some of the fairies who were still good decided that something should be done about the bad ones, a way to punish those who broke the rules."

"Hence the Fairy Council," Timmy said blandly.

"Right. At first it was a good system. They took care of law breakers in just ways, and everything seemed to settle down. After a while, those who could do unwished magic became less and less, and it soon faded into people's memories, becoming something like a horror story for parents to tell their children to make sure they never tried it."

"If you ever do unwished magic, the Fairy Council will destroy you, that type of thing?" Timmy said bitterly.

"Yes, that type of thing," Wanda agreed in just as sour a voice. "Soon the Fairy Council began to have authority in other areas, too, like the governing of godparents and fairy schools and the such. It wasn't long before they were completely in charge, making up acts and passing laws that were nothing to do with magic. More human laws, you know? But no one really minded, because the Fairy Council was still a force for good, and everyone got along fairly.

"Eventually, though, the system started to corrupt. Only a little, with offences being ignored here and there, and people getting into power through very suspect means. It happened slowly, but the Council got to a point where it was a target for dictators... like Starr," Wanda whispered.

"But what about the rules?" Timmy asked anxiously. "What happened to them?"

"Well, the Council had no choice but to uphold them. It was either that or ignore them completely, and allow fairies to get away with things that weren't in the Council's best interests. You see, though some of the rules seem strange, they are there for a reason. Magic is incorruptible, and even the corrupt fairies are governed by it's rules."

"Are some rules... more important than others?" Timmy asked, trying to sound politely interested. He was trying for all his might to make it seem as though he was only letting this thread of conversation continue to take Wanda's mind off of things.

"What do you mean, sweetie?" she asked.

"Well, what if something wrong is justified by a rule that's more important?"

"You mean that old moral about stealing a knife to prevent a murder?" Wanda said.

"Exactly," Timmy said.

"Well..." Wanda said slowly, pondering her answer. "I'm not really sure, but I guess it would have to go to trial. The Fairy Council-"

Timmy cut her off. "I don't mean in the eyes of the Fairy Council," he said quickly. "I mean in the eyes of the magic itself. Like you said, the rules prevent the fairies from doing anything that is against the rules, but some fairies can develop the ability to break them anyway, right?"

"Right..." Wanda said, trying to keep up.

"So..." Timmy said slowly, knowing that there was no way what he was about to ask wouldn't be a blatantly obvious and pointed question to Starr or whoever he had delegated to watch Wanda. "If a fairy did some unwished magic that broke only a small rule, or only broke the rule about not doing unwished magic itself, could the Council's decision to undo it be overturned by a more important rule?"

"I'm confused," Wanda said honestly.

"What if, by undoing Cosmo's magic, the Fairy Council was itself doing something that was against the rules? Wouldn't that explain why they wouldn't be able to undo it? The magic itself wouldn't allow them, right?"

"I suppose not..." Wanda said. "After all, the magic doesn't remember who has broken the rules and who hasn't. It just has it's rules, and the rules are in every fairy's blood, holding them back from doing things that the magic judges as wrong. It may have tried to prevent Cosmo from doing the unwished magic, but he still managed it. It's just as possible that it is now working against the Council to prevent them from performing any magic that breaks any of it's rules."

Timmy's head was swimming, both with this new information and the sheer complexity of the conversation. He was a little confused, but he felt he had the general gist of it. To break it down simply, if Wanda still had her magic and Timmy wished that Cosmo's unwished magic be undone, her wand would deflate and Da Rules would appear promptly in front of her. And that was good enough for Timmy. It would be a lot to explain to Vicky, as she was new to the whole concept and had less insight than Timmy, but it didn't matter. It would be something to take up the journey to Remy's house, anyway.


To Timmy's surprise, Vicky had taken his explanations rather well, and asked him no questions when he was finished. It was remarkable that she just seemed to get it, when it was so complicated to Timmy that he had to run it through his head several times before he could understand it. They weren't even half way there when he was done, and that was even with the Fairy Council's back story thrown in. They had walked a few more yards in silence, and then Timmy had snapped.

"Doesn't it baffle you?" he asked indignantly, words shrieking out of him like bats from a cave.

"No," Vicky had replied simply, offering him an impish smile. She was in such a good mood, and she had no idea why.

"Why not?" Timmy asked, shaking his head.

"Because I listened," she replied cheekily.

"Hey!" Timmy said, but Vicky held up a hand to stem his outrage.

"I didn't mean it like that," she said, smiling faintly. "You and I are just two different people. When you were in there, listening to Wanda, I bet you were angry and afraid and all other sorts of emotions. You can't help yourself, that's just the way you are."

"What's your point?" Timmy asked.

"When you were telling me, I was just plain listening. I was thinking about the trouble we could get into, or..." she threw Timmy a heart-breaking glance, "...or anything else. I just knew that I needed the details for this plan to go off without a hitch, and that I couldn't allow my emotions to get in the way of that."

"I wish I could be as calm and cool as you," Timmy said, kicking at the ground with his sneaker.

"It's not coolness," Vicky replied sternly. "It's business sense. Do you think I could have been half as bad as I was if I let my feelings come into it? Isn't it obvious to you, especially now, that feelings are a distraction from the big prize? They hold you back, and I gave them up a long time ago. If I had stopped to feel about what I was doing, I probably wouldn't have done any of it, because I always knew that it was wrong. I always knew I was a bad person. I just didn't care. You do, and that's why you're such a good person. I didn't mean what I said about you not listening either. You do listen, especially when you know it really matters."

"What do you mean," Timmy asked, feeling himself blush crimson.

"Well," Vicky said with a shrug of her shoulders. "You always listen to me."

There was some more silence between the pair then, with much clearing of throats and averting of gazes. Then Vicky looked at Timmy until he was forced to look back at her. She had a no-nonsense expression on her face now. She was back into business mode again, back into the place where all that mattered was getting to Fairy World and getting Cosmo freed. Timmy mentally remanded himself, knowing that if he wanted to help his godfather he needed to be in that place too, and not fawning over every nice comment Vicky happened to absentmindedly throw his way.

"What's this Remy guy like?" Vicky asked.

Timmy growled. "Think 'as rich as you could ever want to, and not as nice about it'," he said levelly.

"Ouch," Vicky said, mock-wincing as they continued on their way. "And his godfather?"

"Utter beefcake with no brains, but he's crazy about Wanda." Timmy didn't know why, but he couldn't help but smile at the thought of Wandissamo's misplaced affection towards his godmother. It was absurd really, but Timmy knew that some people never gave up on their love, no matter how far out of their reach they seemed. He threw a small pitying glance at Vicky, one that he was grateful she did not catch.

"That's if he even still has Wandissamo around," Timmy continued, sounding crestfallen. "I mean, it's not likely, is it?"

"Never underestimate the power of the dollar," Vicky said, shaking a finger at Timmy as they approached a huge set of wrought-iron gates. They had large, golden 'B'sset into the centres, surrounded by carvings of small winged creatures that Timmy would have sworn were fairies on any other day. Behind them lay a long gravel driveway that stretched so far that the mansion at the end of it seemed to be a speck on the horizon. Timmy wasn't fooled though; Remy's parents would never lower themselves to living in anything but the finest house in Dimsdale. This place was miles away from Timmy's own home, all the way across town. When Timmy stood here, Chester's trailer seemed as though it was on a whole other planet.

"Nice place," Vicky said, her nose wrinkled in disgust.

"How do we get in?" Timmy asked. Vicky winked conspiratorially at him.

"Follow my lead," she said with a grin, walking over to the buzzer that was built into the high brick wall that surrounded the Buxaplenty Manor. She extended a slender digit and pushed on the shiny black button. There was a crackling of static and a brief pause, and then a posh, nasal voice radiated through the speaker.

"Buxaplenty residence," the voice announced. "What is your business?"

Vicky cleared her throat, and began speaking in a tone Timmy had never heard her use before. It was very well spoken, but it was also quite authoritarian and intimidating. It was all he could do not to laugh, and he had to cram his fingers into his mouth to prevent himself from doing just that.

"Yes, my good man. My name is Victoria Raleigh-Smith, and I represent the Smithsdale School of Latin and History. I am here with my associate, Timothy Walter Jones, and we have an appointment with young Master Buxaplenty, regarding his application."

"Just a moment Ma'am, if you please." There was another crackle of static as the butler's finger was lifted from the button, and Timmy rounded on Vicky and pulled her to face him.

"We don't look anything like those toffs you just made up!" he hissed.

Vick smoothed down her hair and curled the ends around her finger, so they turned into the nape of her neck. Then she removed Timmy's baseball cap and hid it in a hedge.

"Better?" she asked, and Timmy got the creeping feeling that she hadn't actually intended for their alter-egos to go any further than the intercom. He blushed at his own naivety and lack of sneakiness.

"Not really," he said sourly.

"Fair enough," Vicky replied, before promptly pushing the younger boy into a dirty puddle of water on the sidewalk. He slipped as he tried to get up, and the sight of Vicky laughing made him reach up and yank her arm so that she too fell into the watery mess. She laughed as she did so, and then they both stood up, filthy from head to toe.

"Now what do we say?" Timmy asked in a frustrated voice.

"Frightfully rude, these Dimsdale folk, aren't they?" she said, resuming her posh tone. "Driving their garish vehicles recklessly and splashing us with this mucky water. They've completely ruined our official SSLH uniforms!"

Timmy took a moment out of his anger to be slightly bemused. "SSLH?" he asked.

"Smithsdale School of-" Vicky began, but she was interrupted by the buzzing of the speaker.

"Ah, Ms. Raleigh-Smith?" the voice intoned.

"Yes my good fellow?" Vicky replied.

"I apologise, but I appear to have no record of your appointment down I am afraid..." the butler said, with stuffy disinterest. He didn't seem to be at all sorry.

"Preposterous!" Vicky shrieked, stepping up to plate without a moment's hesitation. I telephoned myself this very morning! My colleague and I have travelled a very long way to see Master Buxaplenty and frankly, we were debating the whole way about whether or not he was SSLH material. Had it not been for Mr. Buxaplenty's generous contribution to the school, we would not have bothered to make the journey, but if you deny us entry now we may as well return to the school and shred Mr. Buxaplenty's check. I will of course inform him, however, that regardless of how important it was to him that his son be accepted into our fine institution, and I can only assume it was based on the size of the check, it was unfortunately not important enough to his staff, who have not even the wits about them to jot down a simple phone message!" Vicky was breathing heavily through her nose now, making a sound like a bull that had been shown a red cloth.

"Uh... no, no, that won't be necessary," the butler responded, miraculously keeping his composure despite his obvious panic. "I shall set up the meeting room with Master Buxaplenty at once. Please forgive my absentmindedness. I shall be with you momentarily."

"Excellent," Vicky replied briskly, all traces of rage instantly evaporating from her voice.

Timmy beamed at her, and burst into raucous laughter that was so loud Vicky felt certain it would carry to the house. She began to laugh back, quietly at first, but then snorts and sniggers began erupting from her before she could stop them. For some reason, however, it was that moment that reality decided to knock her for six. She straightened up, smoothed out her hair and brushed what slime she could from her clothes. She felt good, and she knew why. It was the distraction, and there was something so gratifying in that. She realised, in that moment, that she and Timmy had become something like friends, and as long as there was something around to keep her mind from the dull ache that penetrated her heart, she was happy in his company, and he was in hers. Suddenly everything did seem brighter, and Vicky thought of the green garden, of the feeling she had gotten while she looked upon it.

And she realised it must have been Cosmo's work.

She stole a glance at Timmy, who was doubled up with laughter as the gates electronically opened, and decided it would be better, for now, not to tell him a thing.