Return To Form

Angelica Pickles let herself back into the room quietly, deciding to let her companion rest. He had been through a minor crisis this morning, so it felt right to help him out in his hour of need. It wasn't her normal routine, concentrating on the needs of others. But for some reason, she just...sometimes felt a little maternal around the red-head. It was a sensation that had been lingering ever since they were kids, and she had begun to assume that it would never go away. She didn't really know why. He was an easy target, that's for certain. But he was always hanging back. Maybe that was why she never fully let go of him. He had never belonged with the babies. He was older, bigger. He should've been her friend instead. The places she could have taken him, helped him meet the right people. But he always insisted on hanging back, on being a baby. And that trend had continued throughout their childhood. He was always with them, never willing to take his rightful place in the pecking order, making himself less instead of more. "I guess that's just how he survives." She muttered, letting her eyes wander towards his form as it slept on the bed in a tangle of covers, most of the light still being blocked out by the curtains. She wondered how much of her tormenting had molded and shaped his personality. A lot, she expected. Her actions, along with Tommy's friendship, had forced him on numerous occasions to face his fears and overcome them. In her own way, Angelica was proud of this achievement. He was a better person because she had terrorized him. It gave her a somewhat unique perspective. "It's just like I said, kid, I'm your Frankenstein." Angelica crossed the room to the bed he was laying on, sitting on the edge apprehensively. "And I guess that makes me partly responsible for you." Her right hand reached out hesitantly, her fingertips brushing against his hair. "You're kind of peaceful when you sleep." She grinned to herself, a small smile playing at the corner of her lips. As though becoming aware of her actions, her hand snapped back to her side. "Why am I telling you this anyway?" She asked harshly, knowing she wouldn't get any response if he was awake, certainly less then that since he lay there sleeping. "Wake up Chuckie!" She called loudly, this time using her hand to shake him.

A groggy, unhappy sound emanated from the slightly younger boy as he was roused by his nemesis. "Ugh, am I home again?"

"No, you're in Las Vegas. Congratulations, Chuckie, you've survived. So far."

"How long have I been asleep?" He asked, rubbing his eyes.

"About six hours. Enough time for me to hit the pool and enjoy the spa. The sauna was good for my pores, and the Jacuzzi was to die for. Let me tell you something Chuck, if you can't unwind here, then you really are about as hopeless as they come. Anyway, some rest was probably good for you, you didn't look so good this morning. Speaking of which, let me get a look at you."

Reluctantly, Chuckie pulled the covers off of himself, revealing his pale looking body, clad only in a pair of red shorts. He was still rather scrawny and looked like someone who didn't get a lot of sun, but then, seeing the sun's effect on him from this morning, that might have been a good thing. "Do I look alright, Angelica?" He asked tentatively, not certain as to what she was looking for.

"Eh, it's kind of a relative term where you're concerned, but I don't see anything that has me too worried." Angelica reached out and grabbed the bottle of sunscreen, squeezing some into her hands to reapply to his back. "Still, I think we should keep you inside where it's cool. Besides, we can always go out at night. It's what they do here. Last time I came, my mother wouldn't let me wander the streets by myself." She rolled her eyes.

"Isn't that kind of dangerous?"

"Not really." Angelica shrugged, working the lotion into his back and shoulders. "It's probably safer to walk the streets here than back home, as long as we stay on the Strip."

"Gee, your hands feel so soft Angelica, what did you do to them?"

"One of my many indulgences at the spa." She smiled. "My mom usually gets them done too...of course, her skin isn't nearly as young as mine, so it doesn't last long." She smirked. "Anyway, I think you're going to be just fine. How's your stomach feel? Can you eat? Because I'm starving!"

"I think I might be a little hungry. I feel kind of weak."

"Probably because you haven't eaten in close to twenty-four hours." Angelica explained. "You've been kind of weak since the car ride. I never knew you had trouble with the sun, Chuckie."

"I haven't really spent a lot of time in the desert either." Chuck offered. "The last time I remember being out in one is when we all went on that big RV trip in junior high."

"Ugh, not exactly one of my prouder moments." Angelica fanned her right hand in a dismissive manner. "I think I sported some of my worst looks ever that week."

"But you had a fun time, didn't you?"

"Hmpf." The blonde exhaled through her throat. "Apparently there's some new definition of fun that I haven't been made aware of."

"I don't buy it." Chuckie smiled as she finished with his back and moved to his shoulders. "You're not that heartless, Angelica. You may talk a good game, but deep down, I know you like us."

This comment was met with the kind of uproarious laughter that wasn't often heard from Angelica Pickles. She pushed him forwards out of reflex, and his nose instantly hit the mattress. Righting himself, the Finster boy turned to see his partner continuing to guffaw with ecstasy. Chuckie immediately decided that there was something a bit cruel and evil about her laugh...and yet something beneath that which made his heart beat faster. "Laugh all you want, Angelica, but we've all been through a lot together."

"We...we have..." Angelica nodded, her words coming in between giggles. "But that doesn't mean I like you. I'm Tommy's bossy older cousin." She folded her hands in a manner that looked somewhat sinister to Chuckie. "And our families have become so intertwined that that practically makes us all related to each other anyway, in spirit if not in blood. You see, that's the thing about families, Chuckie. You don't get to choose them."

"Maybe not, but like you're so fond of pointing out, Angelica, you made me. Nobody forced you to push me so hard. You did it because you wanted to."

"Don't flatter yourself." Angelica snorted. "I did it because it was fun. You're such an easy mark, it's simply too tasty not to give you the business. You make it so enjoyable."

"I'm glad one of us found it enjoyable." The redhead rolled his eyes."

"Don't try to hold a pity party. What have I ever done to you that was so bad? Embarrassed you in front of your friends? Called you names? Let you take the blame for something?"

"You were way worse to us than that when we were little, me most of all."

"I never did anything to you that you didn't let me do. That you didn't want me to. You never asked me to stop, I told you so earlier. It's not me that you're obsessing over. It's you. Because you have to look inside yourself and figure out why."

An uneasy silence grew between the two of them as Chuckie pondered her words. They were powerful and strong and forced him to consider some things that he wasn't particularly fond of in himself. "Do you really think that's true?" He said after a minute after Angelica failed to break the silence for him.

"Chuck, does it really matter what I think about this?" Angelica massaged her temples.

"I don't know." He sighed, rolling over on the bed to stare at the ceiling.

"Then you're thinking way too much. We need to get you out of this room. The sun's going down anyway, time for you to witness the glory of neon. " She smirked, crossing over to the window and opening the tick curtains. The sight that greeted the boy made his eyes go wide. Off in the distance, the sun was setting over the horizon turning the sky a mixture of black and purple as it fell beneath the rocky vista. But the mesmerizing sight lay in front and slightly below the window—a colossal, reflective pyramid, lit up from the top as it seemed to rule over the road it connected to, which itself was aglow with flashing neon lights and spectacles the likes of which the boy had never seen. It was more impressive than any amusement park, and it beckoned to him.

"Wow…" He said with the sound of wonder in his voice, rolling off the bed and running to window to press his face against the glass. "Angelica! It's…it's…"

"Pretty cool, huh? And to think they dumped all of this in the middle of the Nevada desert. Talk about man's triumph over nature." The blonde smirked, enjoying the view herself, though it was of course much more familiar to her.

"It's like…a party!"

"Oh, you don't know the half of it. This is it, Chuckie. The shows, the restaurants, the sights...the shopping! I mean, it's no Rodeo Drive, but still…beats our backwater mall back home. And its way more exciting, you never know when things are just going to, well, happen!"

Angelica was positively beaming, and while Chuckie knew her reaction had little to do with him, he found he still enjoyed it. While he had never been particularly close to Angelica, and their paths crossed less and less as her high school career wore on, the one thing he noticed was that it was rare to see Angelica looking truly happy. There was just something different about her, something more than her antagonistic, aggressive nature. She was a different kind of girl than any other he knew. Even in his few encounters with Charlotte, Angelica's mother…the differences between mother and daughter was apparent. Charlotte was a woman of direction. She knew exactly what she wanted out of life and she wasn't afraid to run over whomever or whatever she had to in order to get what she wanted. Angelica had a similar attitude—but she lacked the direction of her mother. While she was just as tenacious and strong willed, she didn't have the same clear objectives or plan for her life. Angelica was more the type who just let her life unfold, instead of having a clear plan or goal to work towards. But then, he didn't have any serious plans for himself either. He hadn't even given college any serious thought yet. Sure, he had taken his PSAT a few months back. It had been his second time through, but infinitely more comfortable than it had been the first time, as he had Tommy, Kimi, Phil, and Lil each going through their first take on the exam. It was nice to have a support group of friends to suffer through the interminable test with, and he hadn't at all been surprised by the forty point gain.

That thought made him wonder how Angelica had fared on her own PSAT and SAT exams back when she was taking them. Angelica was never much for study. While she was by no means stupid, she was incredibly lazy—until something would miraculously motivate her to give her all and crush any who opposed her. As frightening as she could be in those moments, those were also the times that Chuckie admired her the most.

"Cosmic thoughts, Chucker?" She asked, sneaking up from behind and placing her hands on his shoulders. She grinned triumphantly as the boy was startled from his reverie by her. Angelica caught their slight reflection in the window, predator and prey, the expression on his face one of fear and confusion, yet also acceptance; though it remained largely obscured by the view outside of Las Vegas night life.

"I was just thinking of how there are fewer days ahead than there are behind." Chuckie sighed, blowing out a breath he hadn't realized that he'd been holding. I mean, for being a kid. The next school year will be my last one before I graduate."

"And I already did." Angelica added softly, her voice sounding deflated.

"So what are you doing next?" The boy asked.

"Apparently I'm going to Las Vegas with a complete doofus." She rolled her eyes, releasing her hold on him and turning away from the window. "I'm going to get changed into something more appropriate for the night, so keep your keester out of the bathroom until I'm finished."

"Okay, but what should I wear?"

"Black pants and a short sleeved button-down." The blonde replied effortlessly, opening her suitcase and looking through the ensembles. As she rejected each one, she hung it in the room's small closet, before finally smiling at the seventh outfit she had come across, a pleasing light blue blouse with a rather short, violet skirt.

"I don't have any other clothes, remember? You told me you would buy me some when we got here!"

Angelica separated her selected outfit from the others and moved the rest of them into the closet, leaving her assorted jeans, shorts, socks, and undergarments for placing within a drawer later. "Oh yeah, I did, didn't I? Well then, I guess we'll have to make that our first order of business!" Angelica paused midstep as she was headed for the bathroom. On second thought, maybe you should freshen up. Why don't you take a shower, Chuckie, and I'll change out here instead.

"But Angelica, isn't it a little late to take a shower?"

Angelica rolled her eyes, mentally biting her tongue to prevent herself from saying something mean. "Will you just trust me already? I said this city never sleeps and I wasn't kidding. Trust me, you'll see."

"But the kinds of places that will sell me clothes won't be open all night!"

"It's not a problem, trust me. Look, we still have a few hours. All we need to do is hit Caesar's Palace. Their stores will be open late enough to pick you up a few outfits. I'm the leader on this dance, alright? I know what I'm doing."

"Okay…but what about dinner?" Chuck pressed his hands together meekly.

"We'll be able to eat anywhere! There's always some place to get food. Think of how many people spend the entire night gambling! You don't think all these casinos would let the high rollers go all night without food and drink, do you?"

"I don't know, I mean, I never thought about it. This isn't exactly my scene, Angelica…"

"Oh yeah? Well, then we're just going to have to make it your scene. You need to learn to have fun, Chuckie. You can't just depend on Tommy to bring meaning into your life!"

"Oh, so now I have you for that?!"

Angelica growled under her breath, strands of her blonde hair billowing from the burst of air that escaped her lips as she reined in her temper. "While we're here, I suppose. But I am not going to be your tour guide through life, Finster. It's your responsibility to find your own happiness. Not mine. Not Tommy's. Not Kimi or your parents'. You have to decide what's right for you. All I can do is try to show you how to have fun.

"What if we don't have the same idea of fun?" He asked under his breath, wondering what he had gotten himself into. There had been trouble on this trip so far, but overall, it was manageable. And while Chuckie didn't enjoy admitting it, Angelica had been pretty decent to him. He glanced out the window again, taking in the scene of the night life below. Why was he here? What did he hope to accomplish, either with himself or Angelica, that he wouldn't have been able to do from home? And speaking of Angelica, what exactly was she trying to accomplish? It's obvious she wasn't playing a prank on him; she didn't even a big enough store of patience or a long enough attention span to keep things going for this long. But Angelica never did anything without an angle, an ulterior motive. She hadn't asked him for anything or manipulated him any more than usual, so what was her game?

"Are you going to get freshened up or what? I'm not going to walk the strip with you looking all disheveled and dumpy. And don't give me any lip because I've seen Kimi reprimand you far more over far less!"

"Okay, okay, I'm going."

"Good—oh, wait! Angelica dashed forward, running into the bathroom and rifling through the tiny complimentary bottles that were arranged on the sink. "Here! Herbal shampoo! It's time we made the red mop of yarn that you call hair live up to its potential. And conditioner!"

"Conditioner? What do I need that for?!"

"Look Charles, it's very simple. You wet your hair, you take the shampoo, you wash it, you rinse. Then you do it again. Then you mix in some of this conditioner."

"Angelica, I didn't go through this much trouble for my junior prom!"

"You didn't even go inside! You sat in the courtyard and wrote your term paper on a laptop!"

"Who told you about that?" The boy asked, beginning to get defensive.

"Harold. He said you looked pretty pathetic. He was concerned about you. For what it's worth, it worries me too. These are the events that only come up once in your life, you know. You can't make up you junior prom in summer school or something. If you let yourself miss out on it, it's gone forever."

"So what difference does it make to you anyway?" He had meant to say the words with some bite, but instead they were deflated, coming out as a sad and defeated sentiment.

"Look, Chuckie, do what you want. But if you keep passing up on every one of life's opportunities, you're going to miss out. And there won't be a second chance."

"So what am I supposed to do, be more like you?"

"Me? Face it, Finster, there's only one Angelica!"

"Thank goodness for that!"

"Ha, ha, hilarious." Angelica scoffed. "Fine, don't listen to me. I was only trying to help."

Chuck titled his head to the side, staring quietly for a few moments. Finally, he sighed. "I'm sorry, Angelica, it's just…since when do you give me advice? It just…feels really weird."

"So I figured that if I'm stuck with you for a few days that I might as well try to make a difference. If you'll stop and recall, my tutoring has served you well before. You have the power to be cool and sophisticated when you want to be. So why don't you let it out every so often? Why does it always have to be one or the other?"

"Because I don't like to move out of my comfort zone! You of all people should know that, Angelica! I've been this way since I was a toddler!"

"Tell me about it, and its wasted potential, Finster. Look, we don't have to reinvent the wheel here. All I'm saying is…try a little."

"Fine, I'll try. Just don't get your hopes up." Chuck sighed, admitting defeat.

"We're talking about you here, Chuckie. It's not as though my expectations were stellar to start with." She quipped, spinning on her heel and walking out of the bathroom. "Twenty minutes, so don't think you have all night. We've got shopping to do." The blonde commanded, shutting the bathroom door behind her.

Chuckie ran the water for the shower and began to disrobe. He shook his head as he got a glimpse of himself in the mirror before removing his glasses. "She does it every time."

"So what are we doing about our common problem?" Kimiko Finster asked as she sat at one of the Java Lava's larger tables, her circle of friends seated with her, save for Lillian Deville, who was ensconced in her extra curricular studies. Lil's mother, Betty, was following a flow chart attached to one of the coolers to try and figure out exactly which one her daughter was doing at the moment.

Philip Deville spoke up first. "Not to be harsh, Kimi, but how is this thing our common problem?" So Angelica and Chuckie ran off to Vegas for awhile. S'not like they're getting married or anything." He shrugged.

"And how do you know that? This is Angelica we're talking about!"

"Which proves his point, don't you think?" Susie Carmichael interrupted. "When have we ever known Angelica to willingly associate with Chuckie, let alone want to date him? Or even anyone like him. I'm sure she has some scheme, but I think you're overreacting Kimi."

"You should have heard her on the phone!" Kimi protested. "It was like he was eating out of her hand!"

Tommy tried to rein the situation in. "I don't think Angelica has all that big a scheme. Look, I'm her cousin, I know here better than anyone here except maybe Susie. And I think she's just being her irresponsible self. She's always enjoyed doing stuff to Chuckie. I guess none of us ever stopped to wonder if he liked it too. Besides, we know they're okay, we've talked to them. Well, you guys have anyway."

"Don't make excuses for her, Tommy. " The Finster girl bristled. "It's easy for you! She's not alone with your brother for indistinguishable reasons in a city of unquestionable morality." Her breath came in huffs, and her fists clenched. "Look, it's not as though I think she's stealing him away forever. And I don't really think they're getting married. Like Susie said, it doesn't fit Angelica's M.O. But there's something we're all missing, some reason why they went off together. When is my brother so irresponsible that he would abandon the coffee shop late on a Sunday night—on Angelica's whim, no less! It doesn't add up! All I know is that they're a few hundred miles away, and whatever she's doing, Angelica's taking some measure of pride in it. I'm not just going to let her sit back and do whatever she wants. Even she isn't naïve enough to think that the world revolves around her at that level."

An uncomfortable silence seemed to pass around the table, and Kimi appeared spent, the sum force of her anger having been forced out of her. Tommy said something at last, feeling it was his responsibility. "Let me try talking to her. I'm her cousin, maybe she'll listen to me."

"Or you could let me try." Dil finally spoke up, the endless back and forth beginning to bother him. "I think I've got a pretty good handle on the situation."

"Dil," Tommy whined, "you know it can get pretty intense with Angelica."

"Yeah, but that's what makes her special. Besides, I'm not referring to Angelica. I was thinking about Chuckie."

"What about him?" Kimi asked.

"It's simple. Going through Angelica isn't going to get us anywhere. Chuckie, however, is a more reasonable guy. And if we appeal to him, maybe he can convince Angelica that it's time to come home."

"Assuming she'd be receptive to it." Susie added.

"Assuming she'd even want to." Phil clucked his tongue.

"Assuming we can even get through to him without going through Angelica." Kimi massaged her temples.

Tommy sighed. "That's a lot of assumptions to make, Dil. And even if we did get to Chuckie, we're still assuming he'd want to come home. I mean, isn't it possible that they're actually having a good time together?"

There was another brief pause, and then the table exploded with laughter, as each of them tried to imagine the odd couple. Susie had tears in her eyes. "I'll bet she's drawn a line down the middle of their room!"

"And Chuckie's barricaded himself in the bathroom!" Phil laughed, pounding the table.

"Probably holding Angelica's makeup hostage!" Kimi sniffed, feeling profoundly better about the entire situation after gaining a little perspective on the entire thing. "Thanks you guys, I really needed this."

Tommy grinned at his best friend's sister. "Hey, it's okay; we know how much he means to you. But honestly, Chuck can handle himself. He can even handle Angelica. We all know when it comes right down to it, she's all talk and bluster. We should give the guy a little credit. Would you want to be stuck on a road trip with Angelica? He must have thought he could handle it. I'll bet that by the time he gets back, he'll have so many stories to tell that we'll get tired of hearing about it."

"I hope so, Tommy. But, I think I'll just settle for having my only brother back." Kimi stood up and walked behind the counter, heading into the back room. No one followed her.

Angelica stood in front of the mirror, having changed her outfit for a night on the town. The dresser was plenty large enough to hold various items from her makeup bag, and she was now hard at work on giving her eyelashes more curl, her eye shadow already in place. There weren't any blemishes on her face, but she prided herself on a history of few zits. It wouldn't have fitted her stature in high school, and Angelica had always believed that it was worth forfeiting some sleep to make herself look her best. Satisfied with her curling, she blinked her eyes a few time, and finished her work by applying dollops of lotion to her arms, legs, and face; giving herself a somewhat enticing scent while also ensuring that her skin didn't look dry. Overall, she was pleased with herself. A day at the spa had paid off, considering she hadn't been able to take care of herself to her liking while traveling here. All in all, she looked pretty good. Probably too good, considering her companion for the evening, but Angelica didn't mind a little attention. Quite the opposite really, she craved it.

Lastly, Miss Pickles removed a clear plastic bottle from the bag, popping the cap and removing two pills. Her good pal Cliff had thankfully kept her in good codeine over the years, a little arrangement between the two of them. Angelica never talked about assisting with medical procedures she had no business being a part of, and Cliff made a bottle of codeine disappear from the hospital pharmacy, a bottle that always found its way into her purse. If she ever moved, she'd probably have to get him to start sending her prescriptions. They didn't interact much, but then, few words had to be spoken. Angelica knew Cliff was a relatively broken doctor who was just going through the motions. He cared, and he even had some skill, but he had let his demons devour him long ago and he was just on auto-pilot, waiting for that day when he would make a fatal mistake and get drummed out of his profession.

Angelica, on the other hand, didn't have nearly so difficult a life. She just had a tendency to get overwhelmed easily. Taking the pills had become something of a crutch. It was never a craving, so much as it was a distraction. Throughout senior year, she dimly remembered taking them more often than usual, but there was this difficult part of her that had really begun to hate her final year of high school. Sure, it was fun, she went to parties, she was popular, and she was reveling in being a teenager. But it was all coming to an end. And now that it had, she had no idea what to do next. Where was life going to take Angelica C. Pickles? What were her plans for the future? Her mother planned on enrolling her in college. Fine, but what did she want to study. In the end, what did she really want to do with her life? Was there even a point to any of it? Graduating high school had completely robbed her of her identity. And now that it was gone, the only person she had to turn to was the one who knew her the most. After all, she had antagonized him ceaselessly when they were children. They knew each others' strengths and weaknesses. The big difference was that Angelica was willing to use them…while Chuckie would forever be like a deer in her headlights.

Shaking her head, Angelica popped the cap on the room's bottle of Evian water, poured herself a glass, and downed her pills. Swallowing, she looked at herself in the mirror again. Still perfect. Still Angelica. Still exactly what the world expected of her. As for what she expected of herself…well, that's what the pills were for, the cure for too much reality in her life. There was undeniable placebo effect just from swallowing the medication down, and she began to feel a little more at ease, and care a little bit less about the consequences of her blank future. It was the release that mattered, like the liberated feeling she had felt when she decided to barge in on Chuckie several nights ago and turn his entire world around. That one shining link to her past when her life was so uncomplicated, when her schemes only involved acquiring chocolate chip cookies and new accessories for Cynthia. Charles Finster was the least changed from those carefree days, the closest thing she had to a living link. Something about him gnawed at her, like a bad habit she couldn't let go of. Funny, it had always seemed easier in high school. Her extended family were people that she could let in and out of her life at will, like actors in a play, moving across the stage of her life. Resources to be harvested and disposed of. Though she could be loath to admit it, they cared about her. For reasons she never fully understood. Maybe she was just a part of them, a pattern on the tapestry of their lives, her influence just another part of their personality makeup. And her influence could not possibly have been felt any better than on Chuckie, that weak branch, blowing in the wind, and she was the gale. But it was the force she had applied that had made him stronger. Perhaps that was why he had come. Some part of him recognizing her potential to make him stronger and more successful than he could ever hope to become on his own.

Inhaling, Angelica took one last look into the mirror, letting her breath out slowly, her long, bare arms trailing off into her blouse, the skirt falling over the upper portion of her legs, each strand of hair in place, bending to her will. It was a routine she had spent the better part of her life working on, and there was something exhilarating about the degree of control that she had over her appearance—something she lacked over her life at large. Smirking at her reflection, she placed the plastic bottle back in her purse along with her lotion. The rest of the makeup was left behind; she had a compact mirror and a travel kit in her purse for any minor adjustments that might need to be made throughout the course of her evening. Satisfied that the time had come, she crossed to bathroom door and banged on it loudly. "If I have to come in there after you, Finster, it's not going to play out like one of your fantasies!" She threatened. Her words obviously had the desired effect, because she was rewarded with the sound of the shower being turned off. She crossed to the bed, sitting down with her sandals on the floor in front of her, making a mental checklist of places she wanted to go tonight. It's time to see if Chuckles can handle himself in the big city.

Her wait wasn't long, and Chuckie reappeared in the suite, dressed in his usual attire, his hair still damp, but a bit more under control. "Well?" the boy asked, seeking her approval.

"Eh, it'll do for now. Wait until we get you some new threads. Then we'll see about crafting you a new look. Got your wallet?"



"What's that?"

"The electronic room key, you idiot!"

"You never gave me one!"

Angelica paused, replaying their arrival at the hotel in her head. She opened her purse, fishing around, only to find that she did indeed possess both keys. "Huh, what do you know? I should probably keep them both anyway…but here." She handed over one of the keys. The thought did cross her mind to keep both keys in case she had the opportunity to trade up, but it would be too much hassle if word got back home. Besides, who else was going to put up with her?

The blonde flipped the lights off after verifying the presence of her cell phone in her purse. "Let's go." They exited the door and proceeded to walk down the hall. Chuckie's head darted left and right as he took in the posh decorations, paintings, and luxurious carpeting. He had hardly been conscious when coming in, so he was seeing it for the first time. A man clad in a full black suit, wearing an earpiece, looked at them darkly, but said nothing as they passed. The suit made Chuck nervous, but Angelica seemed not to give him a moment's notice as they passed, entering the elevator. Angelica pressed the button for the lobby, and the doors shut quickly, ferrying them towards their destination.

"What was that guy doing?"

"Hmm?" His companion asked, then gathered his meaning "Oh, no big. It's a rather swanky hotel. He's probably just security for some celebrity or politician or something. It happens."


"Yeah, you know, famous people have lives too." She explained as the elevator came to a stop. The two of them walked through the now open doors, passing another security figure that looked as though he had been cloned from the one patrolling their floor. Chuckie was only too glad to be out of their intimidating presence as they strolled the winding corridor, passing the spa, gym and casino on their way to the front lobby. They bypassed the front desk altogether, continuing down a second hallway that crossed into the main Mandalay Bay casino and hotel, which the Four Seasons was a part of. "There's a monorail nearby we can take to save some time."

"Sounds better than walking…" Chuckie acknowledged, but still felt apprehensive as he struggled to keep up with Angelica. She twisted and turned through the corridors with purpose, pausing only to stop at another elevator, this one taking them a few floors up. "Could we slow down?"

"Can't, we've got a lot to do. Come on, we're almost there, I promise!"

"Alright…" Chuck sulked, but continued to follow her lead, Angelica grabbing his hand to pull him along until they passed through a set of tall glass doors onto a high platform. "There, you see, I told you we'd make it. " She smiled smugly, sitting down on a bench. "Any minute now, and we'll be on our way."

"You know a lot about this place, Angelica." Chuck rubbed his neck nervously.

"It's my kind of town. People here take chances and just want to have a good time. Just like me." She smiled, standing as their ride approached.

"So what should I tell my parents when I talk to them again?" He asked out of left field, as the monorail came to a halt and opened its doors, spilling out a moderate crowd of passengers from its doors."

"Tell them you're seeing the world!" She laughed. "Heck, in Vegas, you can go almost anywhere the planet has to offer!"

"What do you mean?"

"You'll see." She gave him a push into their waiting ride, and they occupied a bench seat as others began to pile on, before the doors finally shut. "Just look out the window behind us." Angelica offered as the car began to lurch into motion.

They soon cleared the platform, and Chuck was afforded a bright view of neon in all its glory. There were no words that could describe what he was feeling, there were so many sights and colors and motions assaulting his view. So he simply sat with his mouth agape, finally beginning to understand what it was that enthralled Angelica with the city. "Wow…." His voice trailed off in the understatement of the year.

"Chuckie, welcome to Las Vegas. " Angelica grinned as their car moved along the track, and is the codeine in her system began to make her feel warm and relaxed, she became increasingly certain that it would be a good time.

Author's Notes

So, it's been like four years since I've updated this story. I'm sure no one's expecting it at this point. So I figured, hey, why not get it out of limbo for awhile. For the first time in a long time, I've just really wanted to write, so I got to working on some things. And slowly, over time, it expanded from more than just an idea or just a scene from an unfinished fanfic into something that made me want to pick the whole thing up again. So I did, and I've been working on this for a month or two now, picking it up and putting it down, letting it grow over time on its own, rather than just rushing it towards completion.

Standing back and looking at it now, I realize it's probably a little less than exciting. This chapter is mostly exposition, transferring this story onto a new track for its two stars. Still, it's something that needs to be done, as I can't create all the moments that will make the story work by working solely inside of the hotel room. Yes, yes, I know some of you pervy hooligans would probably rather I keep Chuckie and Angelica ensconced inside their comfy hotel room, but really, it's not that kind of a story. At least, not yet. There really is a point I will be making with this fic when I get to it, something that really defines exactly who its central characters are. I've got a lot of it all written out in my head in terms of conclusion and such, so I do know where I'm going, trust me. I guess it just means that I'll get there when I get there.

I recently went off into a long-winded tangent about my life and writing and everything when I posted Changing Faces only a few days ago. So having said all that, I'm not going to repeat it. Instead I'm just going to focus on my recent inspiration and try to get stuff done. I want to keep pushing forward with my stories when I find the time, because I feel that expressing myself creatively helps me to grow as a person. I've always had this penchant for working with the characters that strike a chord with me, for pushing them to be more than they were on my television screen, and it spurs along my desire to create. Unfortunately, the past few years have taken their toll on my creativity, more often than not, even when I feel creative, I lack the energy to do anything about it beyond a few thoughts about putting character X in situation Y. Maybe that's beginning to change, I don't know. I like to think the fact that I was able to come back and update this story means something, but at the same time, I don't want to set myself or my readers up for disappointment.

Still, allow me to reiterate that it is my full intent to finish my stories, not to leave them forever undone. That's why I'm not taking on any new projects. I want to focus on what I've done so far and get them all completed. I owe that much to the people who have given so much back, who have invested countless in reading what I've written. I can't just allow it all to come to nothing. I owe people a conclusion, and it's up to me to be responsible and provide it. I owe it to all of you, and I also owe it to the characters that I've come to care so much about. I hope that I'm successful.

In the meantime, you're all welcome to tell me how I'm doing, let me know if this chapter is even up to snuff, and generally use the review space to yell at me for making you all wait four years for this. Yes, I know. You deserve better. But I am trying. I know that you've all been beyond patient with me, but please, keep being patient, and I will finish this. And in less than another four years! I'm making that one a promise because if I can't manage to do that, then honestly, I don't deserve to write.

Of course, you can also reach out to me in other ways. I'll leave my contact information below as I traditionally do. Thank you all for reading and I expect to see you again soon for another update to this or IG. Yeah, I figure if this goes over well, updating IG will cause some kind of angelic choir to sing!

Lord Malachite


4:52AM, EST

E-mail: ranger(underscore)writer(at)yahoo(dot)com

AIM: Asukaphile26