Butterfly Photographs

Author's note: This story isn't meant to have a lot of hefty action. Expect tongue-in-cheek humor, lots of busty beautiful IC girls, hotrods, and other happy normal-life randomness. I'm writing it because it's fun. Enjoy, and I hope you laugh.

Chapter One: Intrepid Rescues

Peppy sighed, leaning on the counter of his bathroom and staring in the mirror as if he had the will to change what he saw. Oh, he saw something different then six months ago, sure. Seeing himself on television had been more then enough. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had dessert, or something other then a light beer. He'd been busting his ass in the gym daily, counting calories, changed his lifestyle completely. And here's what it came down to.

Twenty pounds that would not leave him.

Oh, his doctor was happy. Freakin' ecstatic. He'd stripped off all the dangerous weight in a time that borderlined fanatical, and he had to admit he was somewhat content with the results. The muscle definition of his earlier years had returned, he wasn't Fox or Falco, but he felt he was edging back toward being the military powerhouse he'd once been.

Except for these freaking twenty pounds that he couldn't be rid of. His weight hadn't changed an ounce in two weeks. His doctor had said he may never get rid of that weight, but he was out of danger for heart attacks and the like: his blood pressure was nominal, as was his cholesterol and everything else of importance. But stuck overweight? Not if he had anything to do with it. He huffed in annoyance, pulling a shirt on and slinging his exercise bag over his shoulder.

He paused at usual in the indoor garage, looking at the covered car next to the one he drove and renewing the vows, made daily and ignored, that he'd fix it, get it back to the glory it was before he'd plowed it headlong into a telephone pole. He'd lived without a scratch… the car had been gored, bumper and engine shot, and on his paycheck it had been towed back to his building and covered, left as a reliquary. He shook his head wearily, sliding into his sedan with a huff and starting it, telling himself to quit lingering on the past. You couldn't change it after all. Move on.

Half an hour later, he had parked behind the gym, in the secluded parking lot the gym's owner had told him about. There was a main parking lot, but people who got pestered because of fame or other reasons were allowed to park in the back and enter through the back door. He'd been added to the list after the war, and he was grateful for it. He'd met an assortment of interesting folk as well. He climbed out of the car, and…

Hand slapping across his face, cry caught in his throat, and fear, trapped with his back against his car, a young man with some pretty clear intent staring at him…

Peppy staggered, catching the top edge of his car door and shaking his head, one hand to his temples. "Not me." He grumbled. "That wasn't me." So, what then? His ESP had fired off, what was it showing him? A flicker of past, future, now? He finally gained his balance and looked up and down the narrow back parking lot. Just one long parking row really, cars parked herringbone style, back ends toward each other. Well lit… but lots of obstacles to look around, and a lot of noise coming in from one of the main drags.

Ok. Go over the flash again. It had been a woman, a woman younger then him. The car he'd been trapped against… he couldn't put his finger on the color, but it was a roadster of some sort. The young man… mid twenties? Badger? Again, the ESP fuzziness… there'd been a truck behind him. A big… bright red truck?

Peppy looked up and down the parking lot again, and smiled. There were only two trucks, and only one red. He stuck his keys in his pocket and wandered up the way toward it, slowing his pace as he went, the track shoes hushing his step to nearly nothing. Once he was close, he heard the two voices, one feminine and upset, the other male, angry, but coaxing.

"Ahem." He leaned on the back edge of the truck, crossing his arms and taking in through his own eyes what'd he'd seen through the girls. The girl—mid twenties? Gorgeous—was trapped against the driver-side door of her baby-blue roadster, in exercise clothing, hands up to defend herself. She was struggling to put on a brave face, but obviously had no way to defend herself, her purse lay knocked away near the rear fender of the roadster.

The young man, indeed a badger, with the bulk of a bodybuilder, startled and looked at him, one arm leaned on the roadster next to the woman. "Just speaking to my girlfriend, old man, none of your business. Move on."

Peppy ignored him, looking past him at the girl, who stared back at him, shivering. "Miss? Are you all right?" When she didn't answer, just stood there shivering, he sighed, straightening from his lean. "I think you need to step away from her. Now."

"She's shy. Leave, old man, before you bite off more then you can chew." The badger had turned toward him fully now, and Peppy could see the gleam of steel in one of his hands. Butterfly knife, pocket knife. Something small, concealable.

Peppy shrugged, crossing his arms. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size, squirt? Slapping a girl, that's hardly polite." That was more then enough to make the badger lunge for him, and he sidestepped, grabbing the badger's lead arm in passing and letting his hands move automatically. The badger screamed, his knife dropping and clattering to the cement, and in the next move Peppy had him on his stomach on the ground, leaning one foot on the back of his neck. "I suggest in the future you consider who you pick fights with." He remarked scathingly, leaning more weight in until the badger protested about his ability to breathe, and then turning his eyes to the girl. "Miss. Are you all right?"

"I am now." She retrieved her purse, hugging it to her chest.

"Care to tell me what was going on?"

"He's been stalking me." She admitted. "I put a restraining order on him… but…"

"Restraining orders only work on law-abiding citizens." Peppy shrugged. "I'm glad I came along when I did."

She smiled and nodded, and he let himself stare for a moment. Gorgeous, not the right word, she was borderline beyond that term. Mid twenties, long hair. Raccoon? Build was wrong… ring-tailed raccoon, that was it, a relative of the more known version. "Should I call the cops?" She asked brightly, holding up an extremely cute flip phone from her purse.

"No, I will." Peppy dipped in his pocket for his own phone, hitting speeddial absently and listening to it ring through. "Hey. Tony!"

"Tyler, you bastard, you haven't called me since our last poker game!" The voice on the other side laughed.

"You took me for two hundred bucks, you jagoff! You really expect me to call you for social reasons anytime soon after that?" Noting the badger beginning to struggle, he leaned in harder, and said, "Keep doing that, kid, and I'll dislocate your other thumb."

Tony paused. "I heard that right?"

"Indeed. I have a bastard here who broke through his restraining order. Unlucky for him I was nearby and defanged him for a bit. Could you come get him?"

"Where you at?"

Peppy gave him directions and hung up, smiling at the girl. "So. What's your name?"

"Erin. Erin Mai." She replied, slowly edging up and offering her hand. He shook it easily, then flipped his hand around to peck the back of it, drawing a blush. "And I'm in debt to you it seems."

"You can buy me a cup of decent coffee. This kid may be body building… doesn't mean he knows shit about how to handle knives, or fight." Peppy eyed the subject under his foot, who glared at him. "Of course, the fact that he picked a fight with a military man doesn't help."


"Air Force, but I've had a lot of self-defense and martial arts training." He shrugged. "And I suggest you take some self defense training sometime soon. If you're in a position that gathers stalkers, especially."

She held up a can of mace from her purse. "He smacked it away from me…"

"In this environment, you probably would have hit yourself as easy as him, and a guy like this, probably would have just pissed him off more then anything else. I suggest a tasier."

"Dude. I realize I'm not in a position to complain…" The badger grumbled.

"Well, good for you." Peppy replied.

"Look, my point is, will you at least stop flirting with her?"

Erin giggled as Peppy coughed and glanced away, finally trying to shrug it off. "I'm old, not dead, kid."

"Oh please, you're not that old." She replied, sitting on the hood of her roadster. "You never said your name."

"Oh, my apologies, that was slack manners on my end. Tyler Hare, but my friends call me Peppy as I'm an optimist."

She sat there for a moment, then stared at him. "Peppy Hare? Wait a minute…"

"Holy mother of God." The badger moaned. "A Star Fox member did NOT just kick my ass."

"Yes actually I did, and look at it this way, at least the other boys in jail can't blame you for not winning." Peppy replied, and twisted, pushing his left sleeve up to show the Star Fox insignia tattooed on his upper arm.

"So, you're not Air Force. You're a mercenary." Erin stated.

"Yeah. Does this mean you're going to cop out of buying me coffee?"

She laughed, and he joined her, unable to help it. "Are you KIDDING? I'll be able to tell the girls about this at work, they'll be jealous as hell about it!" She grinned at him, arms crossed over her chest in a somehow defiant pose. "Hell, I think I'll buy you lunch."

"I guess I can deviate from my diet for a day." He replied easily, looking down the line of cars and smiling when the cruiser pulled in, lights on but sirens off. He lifted a hand in devil-horns to it, the cop returned it through an open window, easing up and cutting the engine. "Hey, Tony."

"Hey, Tyler." The two clapped hands, and the cop studied the scene: the badger still pinned on his stomach, one hand obviously not how it should be. "So, who wants to explain?"

Erin started out, explaining that she came to the gym a few times a week to exercise and that the badger had been following her around for months, and that she'd pushed a restraining order against him over a month ago. She hadn't seen him after that, until today. Then she paused, and looked at Peppy, who hadn't moved from where he was. "How did you know I was in trouble?"

He shrugged.

"Tyler." Tony, a cougar, frowned at him, pencil paused in his little notebook.

He let out a sigh. "I have ESP."

"Oh, holy shit." Erin said numbly. "Isn't that... future telling? Then how…"

"'ESP' just breaks down to mean Extra Sensory Perception." Tony replied, making a note in his binder and grumbling to himself. That meant some extra paperwork, but he didn't argue it: he'd seen the note on Peppy's IDs that he was medically certified as one. "So, legally, it broadens to cover things like telepathy, empathy, assorted other random things."

Peppy nodded. "My talent is wandering. Flickers of telepathy and empathy, flickers of the future, but the latter usually are so briefly in the future there's little to be done about it. I flashed into your head Erin, as this jerkoff under my foot slapped you."


"It was only for a split second. Don't worry, I don't think I know anything about you I shouldn't." He gave her an apologetic look, then turned to his friend. "I got the flash and took a few seconds to break it down. Pretty fuzzy, but the truck behind me stood out, so I looked into it. This jerk had her pinned against her car, and when she didn't tell me everything was fine, I intervened."

"You know, you could just become a professional hero and join the local police." Tony remarked conversationally.

Peppy laughed. "You, sir, have been reading your own billboards too damn much. So, what now?"

"Well, if he's had a restraining order already on him, he's got a record, and I've got your guys' version of it written down. I'll toss him in the back of my cruiser and take him downtown, book him for breaking the restraining order. Fair enough?"

"Works for me." Erin said, watching as Peppy moved and tugged the badger to his feet, and with a turn of his hands, popped the badger's thumb back into socket. Her stalker screamed in surprise, then became placid as he was cuffed and locked into the cruiser, Tony and Peppy exchanging another handshake, the cop heading off. She watched the cruiser leave, then turn to Peppy, who was leaning on the truck, arms crossed comfortably. "Do you really have ESP?"

He dug out his wallet and flipped it open, moving over to her so she could read the ID. "Read the medical notes." He said, handing it to her.

She did, automatically skimming over the "vegetarian species" note then lingering on the ESP lettering, turning her eyes back to him. "You're the first I've met." She finally said, handing him back the wallet.

"It's not something most people who have it talk about, myself included. That's why I didn't at first." He pocketed the wallet. "I think, statistically, about five percent of the system has such powers."

"I'm sorry I brought it up then."

"It's all right." He smiled easily. "You mentioned lunch, when would you want to do so?"

She startled, then laughed. "Well, I was honestly on my way into the gym…"

"Eh, so was I."

They looked at each other for a moment.

"My date with the tread machine can wait." She finally ventured.

"I'm sure the weight machine can as well." He agreed. "What's your poison?"

"Lord, I can't remember the last time I had pizza." Erin said, picking up the huge slice and digging in eagerly. "You sure this is all right?"

"This is about the second time I've deviated from my diet in six months, I'm sure my doctor won't bust my chops too horribly." Peppy replied, picking up his own slice. Happily, he wasn't lactose intolerant, he thought to himself as he took an eager bite. "I used to come by this place all the time."

"I would, but I'm stuck in a career where such things must be rare." She replied, slurping a diet soda through a straw. "I've got to ask. What's it like, being part of Star Fox?"

"What's it like being a girl?" He countered.

She blinked, then nodded. "Oh. Not much basis of comparison?"

"Not really. I was normal Air Force before James McCloud started the little band up and I joined. I've never held a "civilian" job." He took a drink, considering. "I mean, it's different from the Air Force is, really different. It's more casual, if anything."

"By all means tell me about it. I mean how many people get this chance? To talk to a war hero?"

"Stop that." He leveled a finger at her. "Watch the combat videos sometime. I'm not the war hero. THAT title belongs to Fox, and maybe Falco. Slippy and I, we're bystanders. Slippy wasn't even supposed to fly forward… he works on the arwings and the Great Fox and was recruited into combat flight last second. Me, I'm strategy. Fox calls me a steady Eddie. I'm always there, but I'm not fancy. I'm not hero material."

"I seem to have smacked a hornet's nest with a boulder." She observed.

"Bah. Maybe you're right, my apologies." He sighed, taking another bite of his pizza. "It has its fun points. Most of the time, I feel like I've adopted a frat house."

She giggled, unable to help that mental image. "Is it that bad?"

"Oh, god yes. The boys, they're teenagers, and in spite of their fame they didn't change much at all." He shook his head ruefully, picking his pizza back up. "I'm the voice of reason in the insanity I guess."

"What are they like, really? When they're not on camera?"

"Teenagers. They date, play their stereos loud, stay up late at night. They're motorheads—tuner racers, actually, Slippy's good with land engines too. But they're good boys. They'll be good men, when they finally decide to grow up a bit." He took a bite, and after swallowing, turned the tables. "How about you? What do you do for a living?"

She smiled at him. "I'm a model."

"I'll believe that." He said cheerfully. "Considering looking at you is like being smacked by a two-by-four, as far as shocks go."

"Now you stop that." She repeated the finger-leveling motion back at him. "You have no idea how much of a pain in the ass it is. It's bad for your back, the hours are grueling on shoots, and everyone who doesn't actually know you is convinced you're a pretty face with no brain."

"Seems to me you have a lot of smarts locked up in there." He replied.

"That's about the highest compliment I've received in a while. Thanks."

They ate in silence for a while, watching out the window as the city passed by them.

"I'd say this qualifies, all in all, as one of my better days this week." Erin finally said, propping her jaw on her hand and looking at him. "I feel like I've made a friend."

He grinned at her. "The feeling is mutual." He offered his hand, and they shook on it. "One thing I did want to mention though, you really should take self defense lessons."

She shook her head. "My schedule is really strange… shoots come in last minute, sometimes I'm booked for weeks solid more or less, sometimes I'm off for weeks. It's hard to fit in things like that that have regular dates of meeting. I tried kickboxing last year… had to quit because I couldn't even make half the lessons."

"Kickboxing, eh?" He sat back, considering. "I can see it with those legs…"

She threw a crumbled napkin at him.

He caught it. "Sorry, I am male, can't help some things. What I was going to say though, I'm not sure kickboxing will help much at close-quarters defense."

"What style would you suggest then, assuming I ever have the time?"

"Wouldn't suggest any style, I'd suggest finding a class that specifies in self defense, one maybe taught by some old Marine who knows five styles and every trick in the book." He paused, considering. "Hell, I could teach you a few moves that'd at least help."

She lifted an eyebrow. "You'd teach me martial arts?"

"A little, some basic moves that'll incapacitate someone attacking you. What I did today can be performed by practically anyone versus basically any attacker. It's technique, not size." He shrugged. "And it's easily fixed, so it's not something you can get in trouble for, unlike carrying a pistol or some other sometimes lethal way of defense."

"Well, we'll see eh?" She said, finishing her pizza with gusto.

"As said, just wanted to mention it again." He set his crust down, picking his drink back up, and wasn't wholly surprised when she took and ate his crust. "Damn girl, what do they feed you in modeling?"

"Not pizza." She replied. "Though they really should… the modeling company I'm working for doesn't care for stick women."

"And rightly so. It's hard to hug a twig. Are we ordering dessert?"

"They have tiramisu: yes."

"Oh, Lord almighty, I'm not going to be able to eat anything fattening the rest of the week."


Peppy jumped when another form hurtled through the pizza shop and hugged Erin from behind, babbling happy sentiments so quickly Peppy caught about half of them. Erin suffered it grandly, and after a few moments the new arrival straightened and gave him one of the most brilliant, world-breaking smiles he'd ever seen. Goth cheerleader, he pondered. A doe, unreal long legs and brilliant eyes, hair dyed black and cut about jaw length except for two long thin plaits. She wasn't wearing a lot—a dark plaid miniskirt and white button-up shirt, tied to show a lot of midriff and the sleeves rolled. Knee-high white socks and black clunky shoes completed the confusing package. As he was watching she blew a black bubble.

"I admire your choice in gum." He heard himself say, and almost clobbered himself. "And you are?"

"I'm Chelsea. I work with Erin." She replied in a bubbly happy voice.

Oh, great, another model? Wait, gothy cheerleader model? The hell? Then again… Fox would probably love this. For all Fox pretended he was a prep, Peppy had noticed his eyes wandered to follow the goth crowds at malls and such. Peppy made a note to give Fox a beer and a talking-to about being himself. "Name's Tyler, pleasure to meet you." He shook hands with her easily.

"What brings you here Chelsie?" Erin asked.

"Tiramisu." She replied, blowing another bubble. "Be dang if I let myself get sucked into the rice-cakes-and-celery diet most of you guys do at the agency."

"You get gutty, our boss is going to grouch at you." Erin flicked Chelsea's pierced navel. Peppy nearly clobbered himself again as he watched the little star dangling off the piercing bounce.

"So I model for someone else. Curvy ladies get respect too." She stuck out her tongue. "So can I sit, or what?"

"Yes. And grab three tiramisus while you're at it." Erin watched the gothic bubblehead flounce off to the counter, then looked at Peppy. "Your eyeballs are competing with saucers."

"Uh, yeah, sorry.. what or who the hell was that?"

"Chelsea. She's one of the youngest at the agency I work for… our boss is smart enough to know blue-eyed buxom blondes don't do it for everyone. She's been with us about a month now."

"Recent recruit then."

"Yeah. Adorable, kind, not a brain in that dyed-black skull of hers." Erin took a drink from her soda. "She wants to be a nurse someday."

"She'd cause heart attacks in geriatrics." Peppy said weakly. "Seriously, I nearly keeled over clutching my chest."

"You are seriously deprived the company of women, aren't you?"

He did math. "For about eight years now, yes. Dating is an issue for me."

"Well, that sucks." Chelsea arrived back, passing out dessert. "We should introduce you around the agency."

"No way." Peppy shook his head. "I might have been able to make friends with you, Erin, but you are not dragging me into an entire office full of beautiful women. I'm afraid oxygen would stop going to my brain."

"That's boy code for 'I'd embarrass myself due to uncontrollable things.'" Erin said, grinning.

Peppy picked up his fork and pointed it at her. "At least I admit it, even if it is in code. I'm deprived and I'll live with it. Thank you much."

"How'd you meet this guy anyways?" Chelsea asked, taking a bite then licking her fork off. Peppy stared at this, then shook off.

"Oh, he saved my dignity." Erin replied, taking a bite of her own tiramisu.

"Oh, that must have taken some doing."

Erin gave Chelsea a look. "I'll give you the entire story later. Ok?"

"Obie-kabie." She turned to Peppy, who was quietly taking a drink. "You look familiar."

"I get that a lot." He replied mildly.

"Really? So do I! Maybe we work in the same field?"

Erin cupped her face in her hands and started laughing helplessly, simply because there was no sarcasm in Chelsea's voice at all: she was drop dead serious. Peppy, meanwhile, managed to smile with grace. "I'm flattered, but no, I'm not a model, or an actor. I'm in the military."

"Really! Have you ever killed anyone?"

"I'm not sure that's a story to be told over tiramisu."

"Aw." Chelsea pouted, and reattacked her dessert with a vengeance.

"Hey, what's your phone number?" Erin asked, looking at Peppy over the table as she flipped through the menus in her cell phone. "Because if I let you go without getting it, I'll be abusing myself for a week about it."

"I'll give you mine if you give me yours."

There was a frozen moment, then Chelsea said brightly, "Hey, if we're going to be doing that, at least let me get a camera."

Peppy moaned, rubbing his eyes, and the nearby tables that had been eavesdropping burst into laughter and applause. Chelsea bounced to her feet and curtsied, to doubled applause.

"It's a deal." Erin finally said with a grin, and Peppy dug out his phone begrudgingly, the pair swapping phones and entering their numbers into the memories, then passing back. "You know what you're getting yourself into, right?"

"Of course I do, but if you two drive me into cardiac arrest, at least I'll have bragging rights in the hospital. Hell, imagine the obituaries."

"Military man killed dead by model's charm, filmed at eleven." Chelsea pushed her empty plate away, folding a new stick of gum into her mouth absently.

"You know considering the implants some of the girls have… hmm, is that considered bludgeoning?" Erin propped her chin on her hand, pondering.

"That's my cue. Have fun ladies." Peppy stood and dropped enough money on the table to cover most of the bill and left, walking the half-block back to his car, still shaking his head, but he was smiling.