To my beloved Cassie,
Happy belated seventeenth birthday sweetling!
I wish I could have been there for it!
Instead I'll have to settle for dedicating the very last (and extra-long) chapter of Liberated Aficionado to you. You better treasure this!
Love forever,

Chapter Twenty-Six

Daine had the impression that this was her own personal Wonderland.

Fucking A.

'Daine in Wonderland' sounded so much cooler than Alice in Wonderland. And she wouldn't go around acting like a stuck-up bitch to everyone as well.

Dude, the prissy slag even passed up an obvious stoner tea-party. And all she did was look for a rabbit-thing and hang out with a pussy. Ha. Fucking dyke.

Speaking of which; Daine's fucking weird-ass alter-ego person, Verali was dragging Daine round by the hand. Daine pondered to herself exactly why she was allowing this before stopping point blank.

She watched in amusement as Verali continued to scamper along for a few more seconds before realising she wasn't going anywhere.

"Come on, Daine!" She whined loudly, tugging at Daine's arm like some sort of annoying little dog-creature. "We're late!" She abandoned tugging and started to swing Daine's arm around as if she was hoping it would fall off and she could be on her merry way.

"Dude, let go of my arm." Daine snapped and yanked it back, causing the younger girl to stumble forward. Daine caught her in annoyance as she was about to hit the floor. "Tell me where we're going or I'm going to stay right here. This is my head; I've got all the time in the world."

"But you don't, Daine. That's why we're hurrying!"

"Eh?" Daine tilted her head in confusion. "Sprechen Sie English? Or Pig-Latin; I speak that shit too."

Verali huffed in annoyance. She couldn't pull it off as well as Daine could, Daine decided.

"Um...Urry-Hey...Or-Ray? Ou-Yay Ill-Way E-Bay Tuck-Say Ere-Hey Efinitely-Inday!" Verali finished triumphantly.

"That was abhorrent Pig-Latin." Daine informed her snootily. "And where did you learn a word like indefinitely? I sure didn't know it when I was twelve."

Verali sighed again and began to tap her foot erratically. Daine found it super annoying. "I'm a figment of your imagination, stuck in a form you know and trust. I know everything you know."

"Except good Pig-Latin apparently." Daine muttered. "You should stick to English."

Verali growled something under her breath.

Daine looked at her in amazement. "Did you just say a swear?! Ooh! I'm telling."

"Tell who? In case you haven't noticed yet, we're all alone here and it's going to be like that for a while unless we go NOW!"

"All right! All right! You don't have to yell." Daine threw her hands up. "Lead the way, clone."

"I'm not a clone!" Verali hissed at her. "I'm a figment-"

"I don't care what kind of mint you are." Daine interrupted. "But time is a ticking, Cloney McClone."

Verali stomped her foot several times in irritation before letting out a calming breath. "Alrighty! Let's go!" She said, returning to her uber-hyper persona.

Daine felt proud for having made her crack. There's nothing like mocking a twelve-year old to make you feel better after all.

"Nuh uh-uh." Daine yanked her hand away before Verali could grab it again. "I can walk totally fine beside you. I don't want your grimy little paws leading me around like a freaking labradoodle."

Hey, no one ever said she was good with kids.

"Odds Bobs! How did I ever grow up into you?" Verali asked the ceiling.

Daine decided that was close enough to be aimed at her. She was, after all, taller. "Well technically, sweets, you don't grow up. You are just a fig-flavoured mint of my fabulous imagination." Daine said with faux sensitivity.

Verali scowled at her.

Daine strolled past casually, pausing before a turn in the hallway. "Hurry up, Fig Mint."

Upon learning of her foster daughter's condition, Thayet Conté, long learnt in the ways of multi-tasking as is any woman, left a hysterical message with her husband's secretary, instructed her eldest son to look after her daughters and sped out of the driveway, breaking several traffic laws in her hurry to get to the hospital.

She wasn't surprised to see Miri there; despite her best efforts the girl had always managed to get to Daine's side one way or another, using involving seducing someone. That girl was just so...common.

She was however, surprised to see Numair there. Especially since Daine had appeared to have gone off him and when Daine didn't like people, she really didn't like them. She was even more surprised to learn that Daine had named Numair as her new emergency contact. Thayet couldn't imagine why Daine had replaced her in that regard.

Perhaps she had been angry at Thayet for something and did it in a fit of anger? Yes, that was plausible.

Thayet decided to move on to the next item on her list; shaking the doctor and screaming in his face exactly why her kid wasn't fixed up and ready for Thayet to dote upon. The young doctor – actually he looked more like an intern, Thayet decided – looked about to wet himself in the face of a hormonal screaming woman.

What a shame. It was so hard to find a quality man these days. They were either fully of shit or full of adultery.

That reminded her; she needed to send Jon the papers. Thayet had no doubt that she could hand them to him and he'd sign them automatically without looking at them. She'd already gifted herself the house, the kids and a generous monthly spousal-support fund.

In her opinion they were her children. He was just a sperm-donor as far as Thayet was concerned and if he didn't like it then he could just go fuck...Alanna for all she cared.

Thayet sniffed quietly and wiped the corners of her eyes before anyone noticed. Oh well, if they did then she could just claim an allergy to the antiseptic chemicals staining the hospital air.

"Thayet!" Her head snapped up mid-wipe. Almost immediately strong arms encircled her and pulled her against an Armani-covered chest. Thayet began to sink automatically into her husband – almost ex-husband, she corrected herself.

Damn that cologne; she should have never brought it for him. It made her head spin.

"You alright, babe?" Jon pushed her back slightly so he could look at her properly. "Is it that bad? You're crying."

"Hospital. Chemicals." Thayet muttered half-heartedly. Damn, she still didn't have it in her to lie to his face.

Fucking Jon.

He raised one inky black brow. "Oh give me a break, Fifi. I know you better than that."


"They got her stable." Thayet changed the subject. "She went in for a CAT scan; they might have to drill into her head."

Unintentionally her voice broke on the last word. Jon hugged her again and the floodgates opened.

"My darling g-girl. S-She almost drowned Jon. Drowned!"

All thoughts of divorce and infidelity went out of her head and for the first time in weeks Thayet Conté was able to relax in her husband's arms.

Daine was getting bored of walking.

They didn't seem to be going anywhere anyway. The hallway seemed to stay the same no matter which was she went. Daine felt a tad disappointed; she thought her head would be more...imaginative than this.

"Shouldn't my head be like full of sparkles and glitter and shit?" Daine asked Verali who still seemed a little sulky. But at least she'd finally given up that annoying quirky persona. "I mean, I know I'm a 'colourful' character. People always tell me that when they're trying really hard to be polite. Why doesn't my mind, like, reflect that?"

"You saw your personality in that room. That's like your central brain." Verali explained.

Daine thought of the room full of awesome shit, cool music and fucking tight décor. It was fitting, she decided.

"Maybe we should go back to that place? It was mad cool." Daine volunteered, looking at the dungeon-like hall with disdain. Dude, this place was freaking medieval; there was even those fire torch things lighting the wall. "Cooler than this place anyways. Where the hell are we? I mean, maybe you took a wrong turn and went into someone else's head?"

"You can't do that Daine. Just like you can't actually project your thoughts into other people's head."

"Well, actually–"

"Telling them what to do doesn't count." Verali interrupted. "We're in the part of your head where you've been subconsciously shoving all the things you don't want to deal with for the last five years."

"Why are we here then?" Daine demanded. "I mean, if I unconsciously don't want to deal with them then why would I want to consciously?"

"Because you need to go in order to go back." Verali explained.

"The only place I want to go back to is the cool part of my mind. That place had everything!"

"If you stay there, then you won't be able to go back to reality."

"Pfft," Daine scoffed, crossing her arms. "I don't care; reality sucks. It's full of back-stabbers and friend-drowners and drink-spikers."

Verali stopped and turned round completely to face Daine. "So you don't care?" She warped slightly like she had stepped in front of a heat wave and turned into Thayet. "You don't care if you never see your mother again?"

Daine bristled. "She's not my fucking mother."

"She might as well be!" Verali warped again and turned into Kally. "Are you going to rob her of the older sister she's always wanted? She idolises you!"

"She has terrible taste. I'm like the crappiest role-model ever." Daine countered.

Verali turned into Miri. "How about Miri?"

"She's the reason I'm here in the first place." Daine rolled her eyes.

"And you're going to let her live with that for the rest of her life? Ooh!" Verali brightened and snapped her finger. A projection screen lowered down in front of them. Verali pushed Daine back into a suspended bubbly-chair, not unlike the ones in the mind-room. "I'm going to get through to you one way or another Daine. Now we're going to watch a little slideshow I put together."

The screen clicked into life and started an old school countdown.





"So this is what happens if you stay here." A picture flew up of Jon and Thayet's wedding picture ripped in two, separating them. "Thayet and Job divorce soon after it became apparent you were never going to wake up!" Verali declared dramatically. "Jon spent the rest of his days with a succession of young blonde females without ever finding love. Thayet became an alcoholic."

Daine shrugged. "Meh. It was going to happen anyway."

Verali glared at her and snapped her fingers again. This time it was a picture of a bearded hippy with long tangled black hair threaded with beads and feathers. "Roald crumbled from the pressure of being the head of the family in his father's absence; he now owns a potato farm on the outskirts of Tyra."

"Good for him." Daine said.

The slide clicked to the next picture.

"Me?" Daine asked in confusion.

"Look harder." Verali advised. Daine squinted; it looked like her but at the same time...not. "Kalasin dropped out of school and got into drugs. She based her entire life on the memory of you and trying to be just like you. Well, her impression of you; a drop-out druggie with no regard for rules. She's waiting on her third court case for aggravated assault."

Daine looked impressed. "Sweet, I've only been up twice."

The frame clicked to another girl Daine didn't recognise. And she was naked. "Lianne felt alienated and neglected by the family and constantly over-shadowed by your memory. She spent her life trying to make her family paying attention to her, including but not limited to; a succession of boyfriends, each creepier than the last, prostitution, sleeping with her English teacher – and his replacement, and as you see here, pornographic photography."

"I find it moderately disturbing that your making me look at naked pictures of a baby."

The picture clicked to a picture of twin boys with dark hair and hazel eyes. "Liam and Jasson."

"Who the hell are they?" Daine asked.

"They're dead. Boy racers, both of them."

Daine raised her eyebrow. "They look about thirteen."

Verali nodded gravely. "The things you can get away with when you have almost no parental supervision."

"I still don't know who they are." Daine pointed out.

"Well you will if you wake up." Verali taunted.

Daine rolled her eyes. "Next picture."

Evin, only his hair was neatly cut in the dorkiest hairstyle Daine had ever seen. It wasn't platinum anymore; it was a straw-coloured blond and thinning on top. "Holy shit, Evin goes bald...and fat."

"He gets married and has his 2.4 children and spends the rest of his life suppressing his true personality and hating life. He compensates by over-eating." Verali explained.

She snapped her fingers again. Miri came on the screen, poking her tongue out at the camera.

"How come Miri still looks like a teenager?" Daine asked.

"Like mother, like daughter." Verali said gravely.

Daine paled.

"She emptied out the prescriptions in the bathroom cabinet. Decided she wanted to look great at her funeral."

"Oh." Daine said softly. "That's so like her." She tried to suppress the cold empty feeling welling up inside her.

"Have I convinced you? Or do I need to bring out the big guns?"

Daine knew what was coming next but it still brought a stab of pain in her chest to see Numair's grave face on the screen.

"Numair Salmalín; won a Nobel at age thirty-seven for his work in the development of technology that assisted in manipulating and influencing brain-waves in coma patients in the hopes of waking them up."

"Well I guess someone had to be doing well." Daine muttered.

"He spent seven straight years of his life as a recluse, barely speaking to anyone and barely eating. Upon receiving his Nobel, he married Varice Kingsford,"

Daine let out a gasp of horror.

"And promptly hung himself at age thirty-eight to be with his one true love."

"How romantic." Daine muttered. "Who would that be? Einstein?"

Verali groaned. "Please don't tell me you're that dumb. It's you, Daine. You're his true love."

"But he marries Varice." Daine pointed out. "He wouldn't have even tapped that skeezy cougar butt if he really loved me."

"Daine, the man spent seven years of his life immersed in his research, once he finished he had absolutely no direction in life. That's where Varice saw an opening and integrated herself into his life. He didn't even last one year in the marriage."

"I can't believe he marries Varice." Daine muttered, completely ignoring Verali.

"Daine!" Verali changed into Sarra Beneksri.

"Ma?" Daine whispered before remembering exactly who she was talking to. "Wow, cheap shot, clone."

"I didn't raise you to lay idle when there was work to be done, madam. Now you get up Veralidaine Beneksri and you get going! Like hell am I going to let my only daughter rot away in her own mind!"

"You know what?" Daine growled. "Fine! I give up. I'll go back to stupid old reality and save everyone like some sort of goddamn superhero! Then I'll write my own comic book and become super famous and even more fabulous. Then I'll save Numair from the clutches of a peroxide-head hoochie! Then I'll–"

"Move it, young lady!"

"Whatevs. I'm so over this place anyway."

"Now Daine," Verali transformed back into her young Daine self. She's also gotten back her annoying chirp much to Daine's chagrin. "You have to go the next part alone. Follow the hallway until you turn left. Then all you need to do is go towards the light."

"Wow, like that's original." Daine muttered.

"Oh, and don't look in any of the doors on your way past though." Verali warned before waving. "Bye Daine! It was super nice to meet you!" With a puff of glitter she disappeared.

"Oh, there's that resemblance I was looking for." Daine said. "Alright Ma; here I go."

She sauntered alone down the vast hallway. "What doors?" Daine asked herself. "Oh fuck, I'm speaking aloud again. Oh well, it's my head and I'll go insane if I want to!"

She walked on for what seemed like forever but in reality was probably only about five minutes; Daine had a very short attention span. Midway through her humming a Tupac song, Daine walked into a door. Surprised she fell backwards, hitting the cold stone floor hard. "Dude, that's going to bruise." Daine rubbed her behind.

In front of her was a large steel door, covered with a succession of locks and chains. To her left the hallway continued; a soft glow visible at the end.

"Well, on the one hand I can go into the light like I told myself to. But then again, in the movies that's always a bad thing." Daine reasoned to herself. "Why is there a steel door in my head anyways? I guess it's now or never to find out. I mean, how many times am do you get to be stuck in your own mind? Hmm...Choices, choices..."

Verali had told her not to go in any doors... That was the straw that tilted the scales or whatever the saying was. Like hell was Daine going to be told to do anything by an adult, let alone a twelve-year old mint.

Daine touched the door and the security measures disappeared. "See?" Daine told herself. "Obviously I'm supposed to go in here." She pushed on the door and it swung open silently. Daine stepped inside and it slammed shut behind her.

The room was alive with a picture of...something.

Pink glistening walls were pulsating around her. Then a light; bright, brighter. The light surrounded her. A giant head popped into view, a mouth covered with a mask. The bright room shifted and Daine felt dizzy until another face looked down on her. Even with her hair plastered to her sweating pink face, Sarra looked beautiful.

"Oh my goodness." She whispered. "Look Weiryn darling; look at our little girl. Our little Veralidaine."

It occurred to Daine that what she had been previously viewing was the inside of her ma's vajay-jay.

"Ew." Daine cringed.

Another face peered at her. This one with a hardcore tan and curly brown hair. "She's pretty cute." The man said gruffly.

"Da?" Daine wondered. Her mother had never spoken of her father before.

"She–" The shrill shriek of a cell phone broke through the hazy peaceful atmosphere. "Shit." Weiryn muttered.

"Weiryn, don't swear in front of the baby!" Sarra insisted.

"Quiet." He barked. "Hello? Oh darling hi. Yes...I'm almost finished with the meeting. I'll be flying back this afternoon. Yes. Yes. Of course. I love you too."

Daine had a clear view of her mother's crumbling face.

"Oh Sarra, don't look at me like that. She's my wife, what am I supposed to say? Sorry honey, I'll be late for dinner, I'm just here watching my mistress give birth to my illegitimate child." A gently hand cupped her mother's face. "Sarra, you know I love you but I–"

Sarra pulled away sharply. "No, Weiryn. I have another life to look after now. And she doesn't deserve to be second-best in anyone's eyes, much less her own father."

"Sarra, please." Daine had never heard someone speak so heartbroken the way her father did just then.

"No, my love," Daine was well acquainted with the stubborn tone colouring her mother's voice. It meant that not even the devil himself could shift her when she got that look on her face. Sarra had made up her mind. "It's best if you leave now. Don't contact me and don't contact Veralidaine. Ever."

The scene changed again to dark.

There was a crack of light and Daine had the sensation of peeking through a keyhole. Her view was small but enlarged as the view got closer. She could see her mother, red in the face again but this time from fury. Someone was yelling at her. Daine recognised her grandfather. Theyhad lived with him for a time before Sarra moved them into their own apartment in the city.

"...stupid girl. You've always been useless. Sleeping around like a common whore! And then you come crying back home with that baby in your arms. A congressman! How could you be so stupid, Sarra?"

"I don't care! I love him. I still love him and I got a beautiful child out of it!"

"Please!" Grandpa rolled his eyes. "You should have gotten that kid aborted when you had the chance!"

Daine gasped. She remembered that night; it was the night her mother moved them into a dingy motel room. The last time she saw her grandfather. Her mother wouldn't even go to his funeral.

The scene warped again into another dark room. Daine could make out the apartment she lived in with her mother in Snowsdale. The room was dark and cold and a storm blew outside.

The memory of this night came creeping back to her and Daine abruptly turned to the door. There was no handle. Daine tried pushing against it and then banging again it. "No! I don't want to be here! Let me out!"

A knock sounded on the door of her memory. The room moved towards the cream coloured door.

"Hello?" Daine heard her own twelve-year voice croak. "Ma?" The door creaked open and Daine could see a policeman standing outside, his hat in his hands and a sombre look on his face...

"No!" Daine yelled but the scene changed again. She breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't think she could bear hearing the news of her mother's death again.

The face that greeted her this time was a familiar one. A thin tall body. Dark friendly eyes, a long knotted scar dragging down one cheek and ruining any chance at good looks. Daine knew by memory he was at sixteen. He was sixteen that very day in fact.

A female rushed past and the view shook a little as young Daine stumbled. The girl had short auburn hair and a plaited rattail hanging down her back. She ran to the boy and hugged him tight. "I don't want you to go." She whispered.

"Sorry Rattail, I'm sixteen, I'm getting kick out of the orphanage. It's my time." The boy joked.

When he grinned Daine could see half of his canine tooth was broken off.

"Oh pull yourself together, sister." A pretty girl with long blonde, almost silvery hair stood in the corner and rolled her eyes.

"Shut up, Frost." Rattail barked. She turned back to Brokefang and kissed him hard amidst wolf-whistles from the other orphanage kids.

Daine saw Frostfur look on with envy. "What the fuck are you looking at, runt?" The older girl turned and snarled.

"Hey, where's Daine?" Brokefang asked, draping an arm around his girlfriend and searching the faces. "C'mere pup."

The view moved through the kids until it stood in front of Brokefang and Rattail. "Hey kid," Brokefang greeted. He leant down. "Hey, don't cry pup. I'm going to be fine. I'm a natural on the street you know." He gave a barking laugh.

"But you, you can do so much more than this here. You listen to me and you listen good Veralidaine Beneksri. Get out of this place, I don't care how you do it, get adopted. Find a nice family and make something of yourself. Live your life for us, live for the things we can't have. And who knows," he ruffled her hair. "Maybe one day you'll see me heading up a gang in Brooklyn while you're passing in your limo."

Daine smiled at him. She missed Brokefang. Last she heard of him was when he rained hell onto the guys who murdered Rattail.

She doubted Frostfur cared much, she was probably glad of her sister's absence. It meant she could cuddle up to Brokefang all she wanted.

Ice bitch.

"Alright Brokefang. I'll live. I'll live for you and for Rattail. And for you, Ma." The door swung open. Daine stepped out, back into the corridor and ran towards the light.

Numair watched Daine's brainwaves spike absent-mindedly.

Three weeks ago any sign of life would have had his heart pounding but even Numair lost heart after so many false alarms. The brainwaves were just that, brainwaves. They were Daine, trapped in her head, trying to send a message to them.

If only there was some sort of machine that translated brainwaves, perhaps even influence them. Then they could even be able speak back and even attempt to wake the coma-patient up! Unfortunately no one had managed to create such a sophisticated machine as of yet.

Numair cursed the prehistoric state of medical development.

Oh well, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Ideas began to form in his mind and Numair looked around him for a pen. He ducked his head out the door and snatched one off a surprised resident passing by.

But then there was the problem of paper. She wouldn't mind, he reasoned with himself as he began sketching onto the snow-white crispness of Daine's sheets. As he began a formula right over her stomach his pen jolted, turning his Sigma into a squiggle.

"Fuck fuckity fuck." Numair muttered under his breath. He laughed quietly, that damn curse-term he got from Daine.

He cast a glance at the girl and double took at the pair of blue-grey eyes peering sleepily back at him. The pen fell to the floor ignored.

"...Daine?" Numair whispered, this was a dream. It had to be. He'd fallen asleep at her bedside again because this couldn't possibly be his Magelet back with him again.

That tickled." Daine murmured sleepily, her voice croaky from misuse. She shifted up a little so she could see the scientific scribbling scrawled across her midriff. "What you writing there anyhow?"

Numair stared at her.

She studied the symbols and said "Oh, it's a formula for the design of a machine that can read and manipulate brainwaves right?"

Okay, that just cemented the dream theory in Numair's mind. He slumped down and put his head in his hands.


"I knew it was too good to be true."

"I get that a lot." Daine joked. "But seriously, how long have I been snoozing anyways?"

"Three weeks so far." Numair answered mindlessly.

"So far?" Daine enquired. "I'm awake now aren't I?"

"But I'm not."


"This is a dream." Numair explained numbly.

"Oh, really?" Daine raised an eyebrow.

"You'd never have identified that partially done scientific formula in reality. Therefore I must conclude that this is indeed a dream."

Daine snorted. 'You're such an idiot."

Numair frowned. "Huh. You're not usually such a bitch in my dreams."

Daine glared at him. "I swear, if you say that all I do in your dreams is serve you fruit in some sort of skanky outfit then I'm going to fucking hit you."

"It's chocolate and you don't usually wear anything at all." Numair corrected.

"Fucking closet pervert!" Daine snarled and shoved him off his chair. "You don't get to have sex dreams about me when you dump me, you fag!"

Numair felt his head where he'd hit it and looked up in confusion. "Are you sure I'm not dreaming?"

"Duh." Daine said. "That's what I've been saying all alo–"

She was cut off by Numair shoving his mouth on hers.

Daine let go whatever she was going to say in favour of pulling Numair on top of her on the hospital bed. Teeth clashing, their mouths moulded against each other with brutal urgency. They ate at each other, tongues lapping and entwining, trying to taste, to revisit everything.

Then Daine pushed him away. "Hold a sec mate; you can't just kiss me like that after dumping me."

"Watch me." Numair breathed and claimed her mouth again.

Daine shrugged and attempted to pull him as close as she could, rubbing up against him through the blankets. Love soon won out over passion and they just enjoyed their closeness, pressing small kisses on each other every so often.

"Daine," Numair groaned as she nipped his earlobe. "Marry me."

Daine froze. "What now?"

Numair blushed. "I said, um, marry me...please."

"Hell no."

"Wh-what?" Numair sat up.

Daine rolled her eyes. "I said no. Dude, I'm only sixteen."

"Nearly seventeen." Numair insisted.

"I have my whole life ahead of me, you know? I want to broaden my horizons somewhat." Daine explained, spreading her hands wide to illuminate her point.

Numair crossed his arms. "So what you're saying is you don't want a life with me in it?"

Daine gaped at hi. For fucks sake, she was talking about seeing the world or something. Not breaking up with him. Wait a second; they weren't even going out anymore thanks to Numair. Who was he to act all self-righteous?

"Well you took care of that well enough when you broke up with me. Get it Numair? We're not actually together at the moment. So you can take your marriage proposals and your sexual kissing and shove it!"

Numair looked pretty pissed off by that point. He'd gotten off her and was instead standing over her, using his height to his advantage. "Well maybe if you hadn't been snorting illegal drugs I wouldn't have had to break up with you!"

Daine rolled her eyes. "Oh like it wasn't going to happen anyways. That was just the epitome of it all. We're too different you and me. Plus you marry Varice anyways so what the fuck do I care?" Daine knew she was kind of crying at this point and slightly hysterical.

Numair just look befuddled. "What are you talking about? Varice? Magelet, you make no sense."

"Oh don't call me that, wanker!" Daine yelled at him. "It makes me non-mad at you!"

"Magelet. Magelet. Magelet." Numair taunted.

"Oh shut the hell up and re-ask me out, you ass!" Daine wiped her nose on the sleeve of her hospital gown. "And then take me shopping because this outfit is like the ugliest thing ever."

Numair stared at her before shaking his head. "Do you forgive me for breaking up with you?"

"Not in the slightest." Daine replied. "Do you forgive me for snorting cocaine in your lounge?"

"I'll deal with it in therapy." Numair retorted, the corner of his lips twiching in a smile. "Now Veralidaine Sarrasri, would you do me honour of becoming my girlfriend...again?"

Daine pretended to consider it. "Would you buy me chocolates and roses?"

"Every day if I had to."

"God, it's like you want me to get fat."

"Daine." Numair looked pained. "Just say yes so I can kiss you."

"Fine, whatever, yes." Daine giggled and pulled him into her once again for a prolonged lip-lock.


Daine and Numair jumped apart like they'd been shocked. Jon was standing in the doorway, bright red with fury. Thayet was half hidden behind him, her hand pressed to her mouth in shock.

Numair put his hands up. "Jon, I can expl–" he was cut off by Jon's fist slamming into his lower gut.

"Fuck." Numair gasped, clutching his stomach.

"Oh wow, what a cheap shot Jon." Daine chucked a pillow at her foster father. It hit him full in the face. "Ha, take that!"

Jon yanked the pillow away. "Shut the hell up for once in your fucking life, Daine!" He advanced on Numair.

"I really don't want to fight you Jon." Numair tried reasoning. Jon swung at him again, it hit his cheek. "But," Numair shrugged. "I will if I have to." He drew back his fist and slammed it directly into Jon's nose.

"" Daine stared. She hadn't the slightest idea Numair knew how to fight.

With a roar of anger Jon tacked Numair to the ground, Daine squeaked as they tumbled against her bed. "Shit! Nurse! Nurse!" She pressed the assistance button repeatedly. Instead of help, she just felt drowsier.

"Daine! That's the morphine button!" Thayet yelped.

"Haa..ha..oops?" Daine gave a stoned laugh.

Thayet stepped neatly over the two men tussling on the ground and embraced her foster daughter fiercely. "Don't you ever scare me like that again!" Then she cuffed the top of Daine's head. "And what the hell Daine? Numair?! My friend Numair? He's twice your age!"

"Nuh-uh! I'm sixteen and it's a fourteen year ago gap. Duh Thayet, fail maths much?" Daine slurred.

Thayet glared at her. "That type of response just proves to me that you don't have the maturity to deal with a relationship like this."

Daine attempted to roll her eyes but instead her eyelids just spasmed a bit. "It's the morphine." She muttered.

Thayet gave her a 'look'. "Sure it is, just look at the damage you wrought!" She gestured to the wrestling duo on the floor.

Their shouts had gained the attention of hospital staff and attempts were being made by security to separate the two.

"I'm going to kill you, Numair!" Jon roared, being held back by three security guards. "You fucking paedophile!"

"Like you're one to talk!" Numair spat, his own security personnel holding his arms. "Thayet was how old when you started dating?"

"That's irrelevant!" Jon began to struggle again. "I didn't knock her up until she was in her twenties!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Numair stopped struggling and just looked confused. "Daine's not pregnant."

"I don't believe you!" Jon yelled. "I saw the pregnancy test in her bathroom!"

"This is just like a soap opera." One engrossed nurse commented to another.

Daine stared at Thayet who looked guilty.

"You impregnated a sixteen year old, you sicko!"

Someone in the crowd hissed at Numair.

"I didn't impregnate her." Numair explained. "It was a cat."

"What?" Jon paused in his struggling to look confused.

"Jon, don't you think if she was pregnant the doctor would have mentioned it?" Numair reasoned.

"B-but the test?" Jon had lost the adrenaline of the fight and just slumped, looking tired.

"Yeah Thayet, the test." Daine said loudly. Her own adrenaline had fought off the worst of the morphine haze.

"Fifi?" Jon turned his attention to his wife. "What's she talking about?"

"I'm not pregnant." Daine announced.

"But...I am." Thayet whispered.

"Ooh!" one of the nurses cried out. "Plot twist!"

Jon's face broke into a grin. "Really? Fif, that's fantastic!"

"I guess you haven't given him the divorce papers then." Daine blurted.

Numair slapped a palm against his forehead.

Jon stood up straighter. "What?" he shook off the security guards and took a step towards Thayet. 'What divorce papers? What's she talking about, Thayet?"

Thayet looked nervously at the spectators. "We're practically living separate lives, Jon." She whispered. "Me at with...Alanna."

"Bastard!" gasped the nurse from before. She appeared to be really getting into it.

Jon looked pained. "Thayet, you don't still think me and Alanna..?"

Thayet sniffed before glaring at him. "Oh don't bother denying it. I know it, you know it."

"Pretty much everyone knows." Daine put in. Numair, having shaken off his own captors, shushed her.

"Me...Me and's nothing compared to me and you, Thayet." Jon made to step towards her but Thayet flinched back.

"Jon, I..."

"So there is something between you and Alanna?" Daine interrupted.

"I...huh?" Jon turned his attention to Daine. Numair appeared to be strangling her in an attempt to make her shut up. "Let her go, Numair." Jon ordered. "What are you talking about?"

"You said 'you and Alanna'." Daine pointed out. "In the same context as you and Thayet."

"...yeah?" Jon sounded confused.

Daine sighed. "It implies that you and Alanna share the same relationship as you and Thayet. Even if you put you and Thayet above you and Alanna, you still imply that there is a you and Alanna."

Jon looked dizzy.

Numair groaned. "I'm regretting educating you."

Everyone looked at Jon who still looked incredibly confused.

Daine sighed. "I'm going to make this simple for you. Did you or did you not have sexy times with Alanna?"

"Well...yeah." Jon admitted.

Thayet walked over to him and slapped him. "Expect the paper's in the morning." She turned to leave but Jon grabbed her by the wrist.

"Jeez Fifi, that hurt." He rubbed his cheek with his free hand. "What I meant to say was that yes I have, but that was before we met, Thayet. You know I used to date Alanna."

Daine opened her mouth to point out that she was meaning when they were married but Numair clamped a hand down on her mouth. "You want them to get a divorce?" He hissed in her ear. "Stop interfering and let them work it out on their own."

Daine pouted beneath his hand but decided she didn't really want Thayet to turn into an alchy and Jon to turn into some sort of breeding ground for sexual diseases.

"...for the sake of our children and our child to come..." Thayet was saying. "I'll...give our marriage another try."

Jon broke out in a huge grin and picked her up and spun her round. The room erupted in cheers.

Daine snorted quietly to herself. "Oh whatever. This is so vomit-worthy."

"You love it." Numair said fondly, kissing the top of her head.

"Right." Thayet turned from Jon's arms. "Now to deal with you two." She surveyed both of them. "Daine; once you are well enough you will return home with us. And Numair..."

Numair's arms tightened around Daine.

"You will never come near my family again." Thayet's voice was clear and hard.

"Oh like fuck I will!" Daine glared at her.

"Now you listen to me Daine–"

"Why? You're not my mother and you have shit-all jurisdictions over me and who I date."

"I am you foster mother, I am responsible for you until you turn eighteen!" Thayet cried out.

"Well then I'll get emancipated. And I'll move in with Numair." Daine retorted.

"Oh, will you now?" Numair looked pleasantly surprised.

"Yes." Daine told him. "But I'm still not marrying you...yet."

"I love you Daine." Numair hugged her tight.

"I love you too."

"That's enough!" Thayet barked. "You will get the hell away from her, Numair, or so help me I will file a restraining order again you!"

"Look," Daine pinned Thayet with a frosty look. "Me and him are now a packaged deal. You can accept us being together or I can move out of your house and out of your life. Your choice."

"Jon," Thayet turned exasperated to her husband. "A little help please?"

"Yeah, Jon." Daine mocked.

"Daine, you know this will never work out." Jon sighed.

"Oh, like you're suddenly Dr. Phil?" Daine stabbed a finger in his direction. "Look at your own relationship before you try to criticise mine. Or else you might find your reunion with Thayet...short-lived." She gave a short maniacal cackle.

"Are you threatening me, Daine?" Jon asked incredulously.

"Why would you think that?" Daine asked, blinking innocently.

"We all heard it." The nurse pointed out.

"You heard nothing." Daine hissed. "But now that you mention it..." She stared at Jon and attempted to communicate with her eyes her intention to destroy his marriage if he didn't let her date Numair.

Jon looked confused and slightly afraid.

Numair let out a sigh of exasperation. "Jon. Thayet." He looked at both his friends. "I know you don't believe me and I know you think it's sick and wrong. But I love Daine."

Thayet snorted with scepticism. Jon elbowed her.

"I love her more than I've ever loved anyone in my life. I love her quirks. I...don't mind her flaws. I love her vibrancy, her life, I love her. And I don't care if I have to fight you for her...I will. Just to stay with her, I will fight."

Most if not all of the uterus-carriers in the audience 'aww-ed'. Thayet didn't look convinced.

"And I promise you can beat me up if I ever break her heart. Not that I ever will." He added.

He looked pleadingly at Thayet.

The audience looked pleadingly at her.

Daine added her own puppy-dog eyes.

She would later comment that it was her contribution that was the one that had any real effect.

Jon nudged Thayet. "Look Thayet...I don't like it. I still want to punch Numair in the wiener."

Numair winced.

"But think about it. How much better has Daine been since Numair's been in her life? She's been attending classes. Hell, she's been doing well in classes. Less partying. Less...substance abuse. She even scored herself a kitten. Now how does that compare to the Daine of last year? Hmm?" He nudged her again.

Thayet smacked the top of his head. "Quit it!" She cleared her throat. "I'm really pissed off at you, Numair." She started. "Really pissed off. I mean, you went behind out backs to date our teenage daughter! Jon's not the only one who wants to punch you in the wiener."

Numair's hand automatically went to rest on his crotch.

"But..." she sighed. "Jon has a point. You can date our daughter...on a trial basis."

The room burst in cheers.

"This means..." Thayet yelled atop of the noise until it quietened enough for her to speak. "That you will pick her up from the door and have her back at a reasonable hour. And if I see any trace of any...wanton behaviour, it's back in the doghouse for you. Oh, and Daine has to keep up her grades."

"I think we can manage that." Numair squeezed Daine's shoulder.

"Fine." Daine muttered sullenly.

"I'll be keeping an eye on you both." Thayet warned.

"Psh," Daine scoffed. "You'll be too busy with the twins anyway."

Jon and Thayet looked at each other and then at her. "Twins?"

And let's just end it on that note. I really can't be bothered putting any more into it. It's been a long run with many delayed updates and bitchin' reviews. Now Liberated Aficionado has finally been put to rest. I will still update Liberated Aficionado Love whenever the fancy takes me. After all, Miri still hasn't found out Daine's awake. And Daine will read Twilight in the immediate future. The drabbles will be in the LA universe but with no particular time-line. So if your thirst for LA continues I'd advise you to check that out. I enjoyed putting things to rest and giving you a small glimpse at Daine's past as a parting gift. A sequel isn't really in the plans at the moment; I have uni and a few more fic ideas to deal before I even consider it. But until then you have LAL. So, dudes, suck it up and deal with it.

It's been real.

Queen Cocaine.