"Part 1: What They Don't Know..."
Author's Note: This takes place when Connie and Hope are in their 'teens', and Chance is on about the level of a ten-year-old. This is a chapter story, but it's only the first story with the title "Secrets". Later on there will be a "Part 2", and possibly more, but they can't be part of the same story. Future stories that have nothing to do with "Secrets" will probably jump around the timeline a bit, since I haven't yet worked out an order I'm comfortable with, but I'll be giving you guys a heads up when something backtracks or skips ahead. I don't own the Care Bears. Soulful Heart Fox belongs to NebulaBelt, and Regal and Co. belong to me.
The Liger Twins were on their way home. Connie and Hope had a secret, one that they kept hidden from the rest of the family. As far as they knew, none of the others had any sort of special abilities. It had started out as a game, really. Something they had that was all their own. Like the rest of their Family, they could send out a rainbow-colored beam of light from their tummy symbols, and they could create things as well. Like the others, such actions soon tired them, but their endurance level expanded with practice. Unlike the others, they could do things...strange things. Connie called her 'power' Freeze Frame, and if she concentrated hard enough she could make a person stand still indefinitely. Hope didn't have a name for her ability, but she had expanded the range of her protective 'bubble' to fifteen feet.
And no one was to know about it. Connie had become aware of what she could do at a very early age, but she had said nothing about it to her sister or her parents; she hadn't even attempted to do it again until Hope came to her and told her about the incident with Beastly and the tree. This made them both wonder; was this a one-time thing, or could they do it again? They tried, and found that they could. The possibilities that came with such abilities weren't lost on them; they could use them to get certain things, or to sneak out of the house to have a little fun. But they did no such thing. Partly because it occurred to them that if they used their abilities indiscriminately, they would eventually be found out and get in trouble. Perhaps their new fun powers would be taken away somehow; after all, adults knew things that little cubs didn't. Also, they really didn't have any desire to unnecessarily frighten anyone, or at least be seen as weird. Then, as they got a little older and considered the unusual interest No Heart seemed to have in them, they realized that it was better if they didn't advertise what they could do. If any future siblings possessed a secret ability, that was something No Heart couldn't torture out of the others if they didn't know.
The less No Heart knew, the better. There was no doubt that he knew about Connie's Freeze Frame and Hope's Bubble. That couldn't be helped now. But if Chance had any sort of power, it would be better if the wizard didn't find out what it was. The trouble was determining whether or not Chance had any sort of power; if he didn't, Connie sure as heck wasn't going to tell him, and neither was Hope.
On most calm evenings, when the Missions for the day were done and the evening meal had been eaten, Connie and Hope would sneak off to practice. They had several 'practice spots', and they never used the same one two days in a row. If it wasn't for that darned curfew of theirs, they could be out doing this for longer than their allotted two hours, and practice until well after 10:00. They were already late coming home because Connie had forgotten to 'unfreeze' her sister, and had nodded off.
"I think Uncle Brave Heart's finally beginning to get suspicious." said Hope as they walked briskly in the direction of their home.
Contrary Heart chuffed softly through her nose, and snapped her fingers. "This for his suspicions."
"Con, that's disrespectful..." Hope said reproachfully.
"Oh, it's not. Has he come right out and asked you where it is we go every other night?" asked Connie.
"But nothing. All I meant was that I don't think he's suspicious at all, or if he was, how could he prove it? Hmm? It's not as if we're doing anything wrong, you know." Connie squirrelled her chewing gum to her other cheek, and kicked a cloud puff out of her path.
Hope sighed. "Whatever you say, Con..."
Connie glanced over, and nudged her. "Hey, don't look like that. What makes you think he's suspicious?"
"He gave me a funny look today. He wanted to know if we enjoyed our movie last night...you know, the one we didn't go to..." Hope glanced sidelong at her sister, who groaned, and she continued in a wry voice, "He caught me off guard, and I said 'what movie?'. I had to pass my forgetfulness off as fatigue, but I don't think he believed me."
Connie sighed, and shook her head. "Not your fault. You know it's one of their tricks, trying to catch us in a fib. You know why we can't say..." She didn't finish, but nodded significantly.
Hope knew. She even agreed. But it wasn't easy for her to be deceptive. Especially not with certain members of the Care Bear Family, and as she opened her mouth to reply, she heard a twig snap. She glanced over her shoulder, and when she saw Soulful Heart Fox striding towards them in the distance her heart sank. 'And here is the one who is the hardest to lie to, because he can see a lie from a mile away. And...'
"Hey, Connie..." Hope whispered, "We're being followed, and he'll catch up with us in a minute."
Connie didn't bother to look. "You know what to do."
The twins abruptly turned away from each other, as if one was oil and one was water, and they headed off in opposite directions. If Soulful Heart wanted to continue to follow them, he would have to pick only one.
Soulful hadn't suspected that they were up to something until they split up; he had only wanted to know why they were out past their curfew. But now they had his hackles raised. 'Well, well, what are they up to?' He knew exactly what their game was, but he wasn't going to just quit and go home. Who was it who was normally the ring leader? Why, it was Connie! He turned aside and followed her, jogging to catch up.
Connie nonchalantly cracked her gum, and turned on her heel to face him. "Hey."
"Hey yourself." he folded his arms, and frowned. "Where were you?"
Connie looked mildly incredulous, but she wasn't exactly an easy nut to crack. "We just lost track of time, that's all...You know how Missions go..."
The fox felt a wave of anger and resentment as he recognized a lie for what it was. "Where were you?" he asked, then he proceeded to ask several questions, one after the other, not giving her time to think of a lie. "What country? What state? What city? What was the kid's name? Was it a male or a female? What was the problem, and how did the two of you help him...or her...if he or she even exists?"
Connie laid back her ears, and cocked her head to one side. Then she stepped a little closer to him and proceeded to look him up and down. "Hmm...red, bushy tail, no stripes...You don't look like my dad to me."
Soulful Heart sputtered indignantly, mentally grabbing about for a good retort, but for the life of him he couldn't think of one. He finally said, "I changed your diapers, kid! I won't have you lying to me! All I asked was a simple question, 'where were you', and you won't answer it! This leads me to believe you were doing something you shouldn't, and I want to know what!"
"You asked more than that one question, and maybe I don't want to tell you were we were! We weren't doing anything wrong, we just wanted to goof off without having to report to someone for once. Is that wrong? Well, is it?"
Soulful was uncomfortably aware that she stood an inch or two taller than he. He looked her in the eye, and said, "Then why lie? Is this how you treat your friends, if that's even what I am anymore?"
'Oh great, here we go with the guilt trip...' Connie thought. "Look, don't give me that..." she said, "I really don't think it's anyone's business where we were, or what we were doing. I'm looking you in the eye and telling you we weren't doing anything wrong, and that isn't a lie. I'm also telling you that, friend or not, we don't want to be interrogated every time we go out. It's a little thing called privacy, ever heard of it?"
"I..." Soulful began, but he was losing momentum, and looking more and more hurt by the fact that she was refusing to tell him the truth. As contrary as she might be, why would she continue to stay mum on the subject if there wasn't something wrong or dangerous going on? Was she in danger? And her sister? A nagging feeling of dread came over him.
"I'm not a little cub anymore. I may still have a little while to go before I'm an adult, but I wish you'd let us grow up! And that's a collective 'you', for everyone here! I'm sorry if you don't like it, but that's the way it is."
Even as she said it, she wanted to slap herself. Protecting their secret was one thing, but she was beginning to see that this meant protecting it at the expense of someone's feelings. Maybe more than one 'someone', eventually. Was it worth it? She didn't know, and she was beginning to doubt it. She opened her mouth to say something else, but the fox turned to leave.
"Wait..." she began, but he shook his head.
"Why?" he asked bitterly, "Will you tell me if I do?"
Connie looked at him as he met her eyes one last time, and she felt a slow, blossoming pain begin in her chest as she said what had to be said. "I...won't."
After a long silence, Soulful Heart said, "That's what I thought." and left. Connie wanted to stop him, but it seemed that she was frozen to the spot. She wondered briefly if her power had gotten away from her, but of course it hadn't.
"Great," Connie said to herself, "Now I'll be getting the silent treatment from him for a while..."
Coming back to herself, and realizing how late it was, she Called herself a flashlight and ran for home. It occurred to her that Soulful might blab to her parents, and then there might be an argument and an interrogation. 'I don't care,' she kept telling herself, 'I don't care...'
Stellar was waiting at the door, checking his watch and looking both worried and annoyed. He became relieved when he sighted her, and when she reached the porch he stood aside to let her pass. "Hope got in twenty minutes ago. Why're you so late?"
Thinking quickly, Connie said, "I thought I'd drop by Grams Bear's place and say hi to Tugs, but-" she trailed off when she saw Tugs sitting in the living room between Hope and Chance, "-he wasn't home, and that's why. Hey, Tugs!"
"Hey, Connie. I just dropped by to return a DVD, and your parents asked if I wanted to wait to say hello, so I did." said Tugs.
"Ramble, ramble, ramble..." muttered Chance before quailing under his sister's glare.
Connie couldn't remember having loaned him one of her DVDs, but when she got a good look at the cover she saw that it wasn't hers after all, but Hope's. 'What would she be doing lending him a DVD?' she thought, then pushed the thought away. What did it matter? He was just a friend, to both of them. It wasn't as if he was her boyfriend, or anything... "Oh. Well, hi..."
Hoping to hide her flaming cheeks, Connie retreated to the kitchen to spit out her gum and to gather her thoughts. 'This is shaping up to be a pretty crappy day...' she thought sourly as she got herself a glass of water. She couldn't account for the sudden bad feeling that came over her, and she couldn't put a name to it. It wasn't just the fight she'd just had with Soulful, though she certainly felt badly about that. Was she actually jealous of her sister, when there was no evidence that Tugs even liked her that way? Or that Hope even liked him that way? 'I hate puberty...I hate it, hate it, hate it.'
"Is there something you want to tell me?" asked Regal from directly behind her.
"Gluk!" Connie gagged, spitting her water into the sink and coughing a little. "Don't...don't do that..."
"Sorry." Regal chuckled a little, rapping her lightly on the back. "Tugs left, by the way. That wasn't much of a greeting, I have to say..."
Connie shook her head. What could she say? 'Sorry Mom, I had to leave the room because he borrowed Hope's DVD and not mine, and I was getting all jealous and freaky about it, and I didn't want him to see, and I didn't want to turn into some over possessive psycho-witch and embarrass myself. That's all.'
"I'm tired. I think I'll take a bath and go to bed." said Connie.
"Don't you want your supper?" asked Regal, looking worried now.
"Not hungry. G'night, Ma."
Regal watched her older daughter walk out of the kitchen, idly rubbing a paw over her just-noticeably-pregnant belly, and thought detachedly, 'It seems like a long time since you called me 'Mommy'...'
Connie emerged from the shower, feeling tired and strangely drained, and she could think of nothing better than a good night's sleep. When she entered her room, she saw a plate of fettucini alfredo on her desk. 'Oh, Mom...You're not going to let me rest unless I eat, are you?' She picked up the fork, and she tried to eat, but her appetite failed her. She was too upset, and as good as the food was, the thought of eating made her sick. She sighed, brought her dinner down to the kitchen, and covered the plate with plastic wrap before putting it in the refrigerator.
She went back up to her room and crawled into bed, and she was almost asleep when she heard someone whispering her name. "Hummh?"
"Connie..." Chance whispered again.
Connie opened one eye, then sighed and sat up. "What's up? Besides me?"
"I..." Chance rubbed the back of his neck, and looked down. "Can I talk to you?"
Seeing Chance acting hesitant and meek was so out of character that Connie was immediately wide awake. "Sure...what's wrong?"
"Nothing..." he shrugged, looking evasive.
"Nothing? You didn't wake me up for 'nothing', Chance. What's the matter?" she asked.
"Well..." Chance sat on the bed beside her, and swung his legs a few inches off the floor. "I don't know if something's wrong. I don't know what it is. I...I did something today with my tummy symbol. Something weird, and I can't 'splain it..."
To Be Continued...