Angelica Pickles cut the engine on her Accura and peered into the old coffee house from afar. As she surveyed the place, she was happy to note that it seemed devoid of customers, as she had expected. This was an occasion where having an audience would only have hindered her performance. Angelica got out of her car and stepped purposefully towards the entrance of the Java Lava. Heel, toe. Heel, toe. Heel, toe. High heels were such a cramp to walk in, especially when your feet were already tired. She had left her sandals in the car. The heels were the perfect accent for her current outfit, a purple skirt cut about two inches over her knees and a patterned, form fitting blouse which brought out the color in her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she swung the door open and walked over to the bar, planting herself on a stool and announcing her presence. "Hey, barkeep! How about a little service here!"
The response to her query came in the sound of a frustrated groan, followed by a moan of pain as the person behind the counter hit his head on something. "Ouch!" Charles Finster rubbed his forehead as he rose to his full height several feet away. "Oh, it's you, Angelica. You know, closing time is at ten on Sunday nights."
Angelica looked over at the clock on the wall. 9:54PM. "Well then, it looks like I'm just in time."
Chuckie looked at the clock as well, sighing. "Right. So what are you having?"
"How about a strawberry cream smoothie?" She asked.
"Oh come on, Angelica, I just cleaned the blender five minutes ago!" Chuckie protested.
"I guess that will teach you not to start closing the place until you're actually closed, won't it!"
"Can't you just have a coffee?"
"Sure, Finster. I drove all this way to pay five bucks for something that's been sitting on a burner for the last two hours. Now make me my smoothie!"
Chuckie sighed in acquiescence, reaching for a large pitcher. There was never any point in fighting Angelica. At best, you only delayed the inevitable. At worst. . .he didn't even like to think about Angelica at her worst. Already he was working faster, spurred on at the thought of her wrath coming down on him. His frantic pace caused him to spill quite a bit, making a mess for him to clean up. He was grateful not to have a whipped cream mishap. Finally, Chuck placed the tall, plastic cup with its pink and white contents in front of Angelica and handed her a straw. "That'll be $4.17." Chuckie held out his hand. Angelica passed him a twenty, and the redhead came back with her change moments later. What Angelica did with it made the boy take a step backwards, and he bumped into the countertop, rattling the machinery. Chuckie's eyes widened as all of the money he had just given the girl fell into the tip jar. He had known Angelica all his life. There were many, many words he would use to describe her. 'Generous' didn't make the list. As always, she had an angle, and the Finster boy feared that he was about to find out what it was.
"It's not polite to stare, Finster." Angelica smirked as she sipped from her drink, rocking her crossed legs slightly.
"I've just never known you to be so charitable."
Angelica snorted. "There's a lot about me you don't know. I can be impulsive when I want to be. And I'm feeling generous today. Is that all right with you?"
"Okay, that's it. You're up to something and I want to know what it is!" Chuck insisted.
"You really don't know what today is, do you? Angelica's lips parted slightly. "I must say, I'm disappointed."
"Life can sometimes be full of disappointments." Chuckie crossed his arms.
"Often." Angelica nodded. "I'll drink to that." She raised her cup and pressed her lips to the straw in an exaggerated motion, and Chuck began to get the impression that she was putting on a show. When Angelica had finally extricated herself from her beverage, he found himself receiving a look from the Pickles girl that frightened him to the core. Over the years, he had been on the receiving end of so many different looks from Angelica that he had developed something of a mental scrapbook of the girl. The fact that he couldn't accurately place this one was alarming. Then he seemed to realize the meaning of her gaze. Angelica wanted something, and she was going to get it, as she always did. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But you really forgot, didn't you?"
"That this is the end." Angelica leaned forward, placing her elbows on the bar. Chuck tried to ignore the way her top fell open just enough to offer the temptation. She wanted him off balance, which meant that he was in worse trouble than he had thought.
"The end of what?"
"Of everything!" She threw her arms up in the air. "I'm leaving, Finster! Come morning, I'm driving off to college. This is the last time you'll be seeing me for a long while. Try to hold your applause."
"You're really leaving!"
"Hey, we all gotta go sometime." Angelica shrugged. "And wouldn't you know it, but there was still one of you little twerps I hadn't bid a fond farewell to."
"And here I was thinking you'd be happy to cut the cord." Chuck shook his head. "But far be it for me to wish anyone ill. Have yourself a good trip, Angelica."
Angelica raised an eyebrow in puzzlement and indignation. "Have a nice trip. Have a nice trip! I drag myself all the way out here and you give me a 'have a nice trip!' You've got to be joking!"
"Um, have a really nice trip?"
Angelica growled, hopping off of her stool. "You've got some nerve, Finster! After all we've been through, after everything I've done for you, this is all I get!"
"All you've done for me!" Chuckie matched her indignation. "You mean tormenting me for the better part of my life and ignoring me for the rest of it! Why should I be grateful to you?"
"Now you listen to me!" Angelica stepped up her intimidation, leaning over the bar. "I made you, you little runt, and I damn well expect some gratitude!"
"What the heck are you talking about? You made me? Ever take a good look at my father? I'm not adopted, Angelica!"
"Your parents may have spawned you, but I'm the one who created you! I'm the one who molded the raw material!"
"You're crazy!" Chuckie waved his arms at her. "That's enough, Angelica. I'm closing up."
"You're darn right you are!" Angelica yelled, running to the door and locking it.
"What do you think you're doing! Have you lost it!"
"Sit!" Angelica commanded, extending a finger in the direction of the stool she had so recently vacated.
"No way, nuthin' doin' Angelica!"
"He doesn't understand!" She threw her arms up into the air, lifting her face to the heavens in exasperation. "Of course not. I have only myself to blame." She shook her head.
Angelica approached the bar again, taking up a stool adjacent to the one she had used earlier. "If you want to go through life as you always have, then do it. I won't stop you. But if you want to take a risk, if you want to learn something about yourself, then sit down."
"Angelica, I'm tired. And I'm opening tomorrow. I just want to go home."
"So leave. Run away. Spend the rest of your life wondering what Tommy's crazy cousin was going on about that night she waltzed in here all those years ago. Go ahead, Chuckie. I won't stop you." She smirked, the wolf circling her prey.
He looked into her eyes and knew that she had him. He couldn't run away from this one. As much as he hated to admit it, it would bother him. He looked into her eyes and saw nothing. No threat. No amusement. Only the challenge to live up to her expectations. But what did he care whether Angelica Pickles approved of him or not? He was still asking himself that question as he took the seat Angelica had indicated. She did still have some kind of power over him. He suspected it was some sort of innate fear that had been cultivated when he was very little.
"There, now isn't that better?" Angelica asked, smiling. She hoisted herself up onto the bar, kicking her legs slightly in front of her.
"You know, we have a rule about sitting on the bar."
"So throw me out." Angelica snorted. "Now then, where to begin? I suppose I should clear the air just a bit. Ever since we were kids, I've always had it in for you."
"You can say that again." Chuck sighed. "You were always on my case for something or other."
"What can I say? Having known all of you since you were babies, you always annoyed me the most Finster."
"Why? What did I ever do to you?"
"You were weak!" Angelica shook her head. "You always were. You would've been an absolute mess if it weren't for people like Tommy and Phil and the rest of your little crowd."
"So you had to make me even more scared and miserable? Gee, thanks Angelica. Where would I be without you!"
"You still don't get it! Of course I was hard on you. More than any of the others. You annoyed me so much because you had the potential to be just as strong as Tommy or Phil or Lil or Kimi or any of them! You had the potential but you almost never used it! Somebody had to give you a kick in the ass! Somebody had to see you become something! I'm your Frankenstein, Finster. I made you! I pushed and pushed and pushed some more and made you miserable because I knew you would become a better person for it! Because eventually even you would have to start pushing back!"
"So what, you're supposed to be some kind of twisted guardian angel or something?"
"You may have been only a grain of sand, Chuckie, but even the smallest grain of sand has the potential to be great. But I'm not going to be around to admire my work anymore."
"Do you expect me to thank you?"
"Not really. Maybe I don't know what I expect. Something, I guess. Let's put it this way. I expect you to miss me when I'm gone."
"Because deep down inside, you know you will."
"I do not."
"Yes, you do. I know because you never asked me to stop." She raised her cup to him and drank from it.
"Of course I did."
"But you didn't mean it. If you had, you would have found a way to make me. Think about it." She smirked.
"I'll never understand you." Chuckie shook his head.
"The one thing you should understand about me is that you'll never understand me, Chuckles."
"So now what?"
"Now we find out what you're made of. I told you I was leaving in the morning." Angelica paused to finish off her smoothie. "I lied."
"I'm leaving tonight."
"I'm leaving tonight." Angelica repeated.
"You mean you're not even going to tell anyone or say goodbye to your folks? You're just going to up and take off?"
"That's right. I've decided to take a little road trip. Clear my head, see some sights, and just be Angelica for awhile. There's still a good six weeks left until school starts. I figured I'd swing back in before the end to say a proper goodbye."
"It seems kind of cold to me." Chuck shook his head.
"It's just something I have to do." Angelica shrugged. "But I can't do it all on my own. Taking a long trip by yourself is the pits. I'm going to need someone with me."
"I hear that Susie isn't doing much this summer." Chuck offered.
Angelica rolled her eyes. "Hard as it may be to believe, I was thinking about you, Columbo."
"That's right. I figure it's time to see if all that hard work I've put in has finally paid off."
"Now I know it, you really are crazy! You're just trying to make fun of me, aren't you?"
"Believe me, I wouldn't bother going to this kind of trouble for something that simple. I can find plenty of other ways to do that which would take up far less of my time."
"Angelica, I'm not going on some kind of spur of the moment road trip with you at ten o'clock on a Sunday night!"
"Because! I. . .I just can't! I have responsibilities! I'm supposed to open this shop up in the morning!"
"So? Someone else will do it! This place isn't going to close down because Charles Finster decided not to show up one morning!"
"Maybe not, but I can't just leave my family and friends and. . .and everyone without even saying anything!"
"So you can call them on my cell phone tomorrow."
"And what about my parents! They'd kill me for doing something so crazy!"
"They probably would. And when you do come back home they'll probably ground you for your whole first semester of senior year even if you are a little old for that sort of thing. They'll yell at you a bit and demand to know just what you were thinking, and then they'll yell at my parents, who will yell at me. Am I missing anything?"
"Yes! A reason for me to do something this crazy!"
"Why do you need a reason! You don't want to do it?" Angelica pressed.
"No! And even if I did want to, I can't!"
"You can't, or you won't?"
"Angelica. . ."
"Walk with me, Finster." Angelica slid off the bar and walked towards the front door, unlocking it. She waited until she heard footsteps behind her before opening it. She held the door open until Chuckie reluctantly passed through, then let it close behind her.
"What?" Chuck asked.
Angelica reached into her purse and pulled out her keys, hitting a button on the remote control which unlocked the doors. She walked the short distance to the curb and opened her passenger door, the leather interior being revealed in the process. "Your family, your friends, this whole town. . .all of it will still be here when you get back. But this is an opportunity you'll never have again. You like to take risks? Then take the biggest one you ever have. Get in the car. Be somebody."
"Even if I did, why should I go on a trip like this with you? You'll only give me a hard time."
"Maybe I will and maybe I won't." Angelica smiled. "You've got nothing to go on but this--I came here tonight to pick you up and take you with me. That's all. Life is a risk. I'm not promising you anything except an experience you'll never get the chance to have again, and one you'll never forget, either. But you have to get in the car. I'm not going to force you." Angelica shook her head.
"I don't even have any clothes except for the ones on my back!"
"That's what credit cards are for." Angelica laughed. "Now get in. I don't have all night."
Very slowly, as though he were resisting a greater force within himself, Chuck stepped into Angelica's luxury vehicle. She shut the door and walked to the other side, sitting in the driver's seat. She closed her own door, fastened her seatbelt, and turned the key in the ignition. "This is nuts." Chuckie shook his head. Angelica didn't respond as she put the car into gear and drove off down the road. "What am I going to say to everyone?"
"You'll think of something." Angelica said.
"Well, what are you going to tell your folks when you call them?"
"I don't know. I guess I'll have to think of something too, won't I?"
"I didn't even turn the lights off or lock the shop up!"
"Somebody will." Angelica replied. "We're not going back."
"Why me?" Chuckie asked. "Why did you want me to come?"
"Are you going to ask questions all night, or are you going to relax!" Angelica huffed.
"You knew. You knew, didn't you? You knew I would get in the car."
"I do have a way of getting what I want." The blonde smiled.
"No one will ever understand why I'm doing this." He laughed.
"You will." Angelica reassured him. "When you're ready. We've all got to grow up sometime. But between you and me, I'm hoping to squeeze a few more irresponsible farces out before I hit my twenties."
"You know, Angelica, I'm glad there's only one of you."
"I know. Too much of a good thing might ruin it for everyone." They both laughed at that. Once the laughter had died down, an awkward silence settled in. Angelica rolled her window down, which made her long hair flap around a bit behind her.
"So where are we going?" Chuckie asked.
"Some place with malls, I'd say." Angelica grinned. "We've got to get you some clothes. How's Vegas sound?"
"Vegas!" Chuckie's eyes went wide.
"Yeah. We can tear up the strip, hit the stores, stay in a first class hotel, see some shows. You know, all the usual stuff I do when I'm on vacation."
"Sounds like fun."
"Of course it will be! I'm your tour guide, don't forget. And we're first class all the way. Just remember, Finster. Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Angelica looked at him, another one he couldn't match up with his mental scrapbook. From Chuckie's viewpoint, she looked like a snake preparing to eat its dinner. He was still wondering what he had gotten himself into as their car sped off into the long night, heading towards Nevada.
I got a request for a Chuckie/Angelic fic in my e-mail over the weekend. At first, I had rejected the notion. I'm not very familiar with the source material, I'm deeply involved in Instant Gratification, I just couldn't see myself doing it. That's what I had told myself Sunday night when I went to bed for some much needed sleep. It was Monday night that I found myself at K-Mart, buying up every All Grown Up DVD they had in stock. Somewhere along the line, I guess I changed my mind. Now you're probably all sorry!
Anyhow, the result of watching a few of the episodes to reacquaint myself with characters I had only seen a handful of times over the many years since the original Rugrats debuted was this. I certainly didn't take much of a course in AGU, so I don't pretend that this is in any way a perfect story. But after rereading it myself, I just like it. No, it's not my best work, but I think it's far from my worst, and it was definitely a good diversion from the never ending work that is Instant Gratification.
And I'm no doubt guessing that the majority of people reading this story will be finding their way to it because they have me on Author Alert. Nothing wrong with that! But to be fair, this is a one-shot. I just can't get involved with anything else major right now. Maybe, if this thing is way more popular than I expect it to be, I'll write some sort of continuation of extension of it. But before I make commitments to something, I'd like to see if anyone even feels this was worth taking the time to read.
You know me, I'm always looking for reviews, but this is a case where I want them much more than normal, because I'm trying something new and untested. So if you're reading this, I'd really like to hear from you. Even if you don't like the story, that's okay, I don't take offense easily. So please, let me know what you thought of my little story.
Beta reading for this story was done by Lady Eirenna. So if there's anything in it you don't care for, I can assure you that the blame rests squarely on her shoulders. Okay, not really. But it should!
And lastly, for all my fans out there who read IG, I can assure you that Angelica is NOT dragging poor Charles out to Vegas to marry him. I already did that plot! Even so, your guess is as good as mine as to what might happen.
All right, I'm done. Send your questions, comments, compliments, complaints, love letters, death threats, marriage proposals, and ransom demands to: