Author's Note: Um…sorry for taking so long on the update. Truly I am – and I did want to thank everyone, especially the ones that sent notes, left reviews, just checked on me, etc. That did mean a lot, and it encouraged me to (eventually) keep writing. And I hope it is not anywhere near as long before I post the next chapter (and the side story; seriously, the whole 'paintball' thing is not forgotten, its coming).

Plus, I have a new beta. After 37 chapters, DancesWithCorpses has decided to move on, so once again, send her your thanks for all the hard work she did making those chapters readable. And now, send your thanks to LittleTiger488 – she had to do a ton of spelling/grammar checks on this – being my beta isn't easy guys.

And now, the chapter for those who are interested; I hope everyone enjoys it.

Chapter 38 - Communication

July 22, 1996

What is that idiot doing now? I shouldn't have asked if he could come; should have just told him to go home because I knew he'd be bored over here with no video game or something to mess up…

Instead of getting annoyed, Wakko decided his safest bet was to ignore Plucky; if he didn't, he'd just mallet him and make Foghorn angry. The stupid duck was supposed to be throwing all the trash in the truck away, but instead he was wandering around the garage making comments on everything. Wakko glanced over at Foghorn who was crouching beside him. The rooster was still working on removing the broken taillight from the truck; every time he touched it, a small cloud of rust would poof out. Wakko was happy he was doing that; the rusted license plate had been enough work. His fingers still felt cramped from straining to remove the tight screws.

Wakko glanced up at the rusted out hull of a truck that Foghorn was referring to as their 'project', along with the matching truck beside it in the garage. When he had seen it at the show, even with all the other excitement going on, it had caught Wakko's eye and he had to show it to Foghorn. The rooster had approved, pleasing Wakko immensely; he had just thought it was cool, but he wasn't expecting it to actually be 'the project'. Foghorn had haggled and bargained before finally purchasing it at the end of the show and hauling it back to his house on his trailer, leaving a trail of rust flakes down most of I-5.

After that, it had sat around for a while in Foghorn's garage and Wakko had worried that it was going to sit there and rust away, especially with Globe making trouble for everyone. But now everyone seemed normal again; Yakko said Globe had been talked into 'retiring' from journalism. He had said while he might hear some bad comments from people who were rude or didn't know better, for the most part it was over. He added that he expected Wakko and Dot to use common sense if they were approached, find an adult if they were uncomfortable, but they should continue with their friends like before.

Wakko was glad everything was over, just because everyone was happy again. Yakko was relaxed and golfing and driving every car someone would let him drive. Bugs wasn't stressed out and crunching on carrots every ten minutes. Dot was normal too, even with all the trouble she got in, though Wakko had enjoyed sneaking around and trying to cheer her up when Yakko wasn't watching; she seemed to appreciate his efforts.

Wakko was glad that Yakko was in a good mood again; he had kind of wanted to talk to him about some things, but hadn't been able to because of the mess everyone's lives had been. Now though he was afraid to try because if he did, he might put Yakko back in a bad mood. As stressed as he had been, Wakko did not want to be the one responsible for upsetting his brother again, not when he had important things coming up.

But, at least Foghorn was back to the way he should be, laughing and joking and actually talking to everyone instead of just avoiding them. Plus now he said he had a few more parts for the truck because he had been ordering them. And he had called today to state it was time to stop eyeballing and talking about the truck and start doing something with it.

Foghorn said it would take years to actually complete this project; he called it 'frame off restoration'. Wakko had no idea where they were even going to find half the stuff it needed; as far as he knew, finding stuff for a 1959 Chevrolet Apache was going to take a lot of searching. Foghorn said that was half the fun; Wakko thought it was just an excuse to go to more car shows to look for parts, but that was OK with him.

The Apache had a good frame but it needed a lot of work. The original engine and transmission were long gone, and the hood was so rusted it had holes in it; if Wakko stood over it he could see parts of the floor below. The interior was trashed, with sharp rusted springs and mold-grey foam spilling out from the muddy brown fabric and magazines so mildewed he couldn't tell what they were scattered among the leaves on the floorboards.

The bed of the pickup wasn't much better since it had a coating of dirt, leaves, sticks, and tons of cans and broken bottles. Wakko knew it was a project car, but he would have thought that someone would have cleaned it up a little bit before they sold it. Now they were going to have to do it and he wasn't looking forward to that.

Foghorn said they would pull off what could be re-chromed; then they take off what was good, like the passenger door, to repair. But, he added they would still need to find a lot of parts. He had already managed to find some; Wakko had been surprised to see a second truck, wrecked and battered but of the same year in the garage when he arrived. He glanced at it; the roof was caved in and almost every piece of glass was broken out on it, but it did have a good step-side bed, door, and the dashboard wasn't in danger of collapsing. It was sitting on jack stands beside the truck they were currently working on; he wondered what else was useable on it. He thought Foghorn would just -

"Hey Wakko!"

Wakko, startled by the yell, dropped the screwdriver he had been holding. Annoyed, he looked around the rear of the driver's side of the truck to see Plucky standing at the front bumper, wearing a bright lemon-colored motorcycle helmet that was two sizes too big for him. He shook his head, annoyed with himself. Plucky had been at Bugs' house with him playing when Foghorn had called, inviting him over to train and start work on the truck. Yakko and Bugs had thought it was a fine idea – they said getting them out from underfoot would be gift enough. If he could actually do any training with Wakko while he was there was a bonus, but definitely not a requirement.

And while he wasn't too excited about the prospect of training, Wakko had wanted to go; he picked out the truck after all and was excited to see what they would actually have to do to it. He had said yes, and then had glanced over at Plucky standing beside him. The duck had looked upset he was leaving, and Wakko had decided he was worried about being bored. Buster was doing something with his father, Max was at a doctor's appointment; even his little brother was busy doing an audition for a part on some up-and-coming show. Wakko knew Plucky had a ton of other kids he could have hung out with, but he had come over to Bugs' to see him and he felt like he was abandoning him or something.

After an almost pleading look from the duck, Wakko hesitantly asked Foghorn if Plucky could come too. Surprisingly, the rooster agreed. And the more he thought about it, Wakko realized it was a good idea; maybe Foghorn wouldn't want to train too much if Plucky was there. Foghorn had been enthused, which was nice; Plucky really liked him a lot. His mother had been OK with it; Plucky had said that anything that kept him around a star was all right with her.

But now…Wakko had no idea why he had invited him, why Foghorn was letting him run around the garage like a fool, or why Plucky had even bothered to tag along. The duck knew very little about cars and wasn't exactly helping them. He was obviously bored; as much as Wakko liked Plucky, he secretly wished the duck would call his mother and go home.

Having the idiot there hadn't even slowed Foghorn down on trying to train him. 'Animaniacs' would begin filming the fourth season soon, and he had already seen enough of the scripts to tell Wakko they would have to be doing a lot of work to get ready. Not as much as Yakko though; because he had aged and was taller Foghorn said he was going to have to work harder and wear more makeup and learn different techniques to look a little younger like before –


Wakko stared at Plucky, wondering what he found so fascinating about a stupid helmet. He crossed his arms and huffed; and people said he got distracted easy.

Plucky puffed out his chest and flexed his arm, asking, "Look what I found! What do you think?"

"Well, Max always said he thought you were the type that should wear a helmet - "

"Shut up," Plucky grinned before looking down at himself again. "I look like Evil Knievel!"

"You look like a tool Plucky, and this garage is full them; we don't need more," Wakko replied, rolling his eyes. "Watch the TV or something if you don't want to help."

The duck had been watching the TV, flipping through the channels at lightning speed. Wakko had been trying to pay attention when he had the Olympics on, since it was basketball, but as soon as he got really interested in it, the duck had changed the channel.

The toons didn't compete in many sports with humans; Wakko had been told that some of them would have an unfair advantage. Instead, the toons had their own sport teams that competed against each other. Plucky had found the game between two toon basketball leagues – the California Shakers against the Mexico City Marauders – but had flipped after about five minutes. Wakko could tell Foghorn had been annoyed about that.

Then someone was talking about the movie 'Independence Day' and he tried to listen; Yakko didn't like it as much as he had, but he figured his brother had weird tastes. Plucky had changed that channel too. The duck had also found an episode of 'Baloney & Kids' which had caused him to yelp and drop the remote. Wakko had begged him to change the channel; he was just starting to recover from that trauma.

After that, Plucky had come across a ToonTown channel playing 'Tiny Toons' and had chatted constantly about the filming of the episode while watching himself on the screen. Unfortunately, after 'Tiny Toons' the channel had started playing 'Doug' and that started Plucky channel-surfing again, not that Wakko blamed him. He didn't know anyone who wanted to watch a boring kid pretend to go to school. Max knew someone who worked on the show and even he wouldn't watch it.

Wakko had given up even trying to listen to the TV after that, even though Plucky had flipped back to the basketball game; the Marauders were still winning.

He gave one final look to Plucky who was now eyeing the inside of the truck through the open driver's door and instead turned back to Foghorn. The rooster had finally removed the shattered taillight and was looking around for the giant grey trashcan. Seeing it near the door that lead into the house, he pulled his arm back and threw it; when it landed in the trashcan, he hooted and pumped his fist in the air like he just scored the winning shot in the Final Four.

Laughing, Wakko asked, "Now what?"

"Now we gotta – I say – now we gotta start removing the trash." Foghorn looked briefly into the bed of the pickup, grimaced, and then grabbed a big orange bucket from behind him and handed it to Wakko. Looking up at several loud crashes he asked, "What's that boy up to?"

"He's looking through a pile of stuff on the floor," Wakko said dismissively, cringing when he heard something else smash before Plucky laughed. "Sorry he came," he added with a shrug.

"Don't be like that to your friend, Socket," Foghorn said reproachfully while he turned to grab a shovel. "The duck's – I say – the duck's all right." At Plucky's laughter echoing around the garage he shook his head, adding, "Boy's more hyper than a spider monkey guzzling Mountain Dew. Forget it, you and me, we'll just…do…uh…"

Curious, Wakko looked at Foghorn as he trailed off. After a second, he glanced up, surprised to see the truck rocking back and forth while loud 'vroom-vroom' and screeching sounds emitted from the cab. Every few seconds Wakko caught a flash of yellow as Plucky hopped up and down on the seat, one green hand reaching up now and then to hold the helmet on his head while the other jerked the steering wheel.

Eyes wide, he exchanged a look with Foghorn, who grinned and motioned him to stay quiet before pointing to the front of the truck. When Wakko nodded, the rooster crouched down and crept up the driver's side silently. Wakko placed the bucket down and followed him, amused and a bit embarrassed about his friend. Plucky was so bored now he was hopping around in a dirty truck; if the idiot wasn't careful he was going to jab a rusted spring in his big webbed foot.

"Boy – I say – boy, what are you doing?"

Plucky stumbled in his jump, tripping over a piece of foam in the seat. He yelped while tumbling face-first out of the truck, trying to hold on to the helmet. Foghorn laughed but managed to grab his shirt and save Plucky from a nasty fall. Wakko snickered at the chagrined look on his friends face; served him right.

"Looks like you were in the final lap of the Daytona 500! Acting crazier than a sprayed roach. I thought – I say – I thought you were gonna find a bucket and clean up the floor of the truck."

"I was," Plucky gasped out as Foghorn put him on the floor. Grinning he pointed to the helmet perched crookedly on his head and added, "I found this!"

"Useful as a glass hammer," Foghorn snorted under his breath. Turning to Wakko he asked in a louder tone, "You wanna help him clean out the floorboards?"

Wakko wrinkled his nose. It smelled in the truck, but obviously Plucky wasn't going to do it on his own. It needed to be done, and he had wanted to be useful to Foghorn; he hadn't forgotten his worry at the car show about someone else taking his spot even if it was a ridiculous fear. Besides, he did like being helpful…

He still gave a long-suffering sigh as he nodded his head though. Maybe Plucky would help…looking up, he saw the duck had already wandered off and was staring at the television. On the screen, the cheerleaders were firing t-shirts from hand-held cannons into the crowd. Wakko squinted, watching as a lioness shot a t-shirt into the stands; it was caught by a human toon as the crowd erupted into cheers. The camera focused in on the cheerleader, who smiled broadly and started jumping around while waving the cannon.

"Look at that," Plucky said in a low breathy voice, gesturing as Wakko and Foghorn walked up behind him. "I want one!"

"Me too boy, me too," Foghorn agreed with a large grin. "Like to find me one myself."

Wakko frowned at the television, shrugged and asked, "Why find one? We can just make it. That would be easy."

"How you gonna – I say – how you gonna make…Oh, the cannon." Foghorn looked confused for a moment, then grinned and shrugged, turning around and heading back towards the truck. "Yeah boy, defiantly be simpler to make that; not as much fun though."

Wakko blinked at him, wondering what he was talking about; it wouldn't be all that hard. He was pretty sure he could make one, or something similar to it, just with the parts around Foghorn's garage. A quick scan showed that he could mostly do it with pieces within reach of him. Plucky was there so he had plenty of hot air, but he was going to need compressed air…

"You can do it?" Plucky asked, whirling away from the TV to look at Wakko. "Make one of those?"

"Sure, yeah I guess," Wakko shrugged, not very interested. He wasn't sure why he wanted one; knowing Plucky, he probably wanted to launch t-shirts with his face on it at people. "Wouldn't be too hard - "

Plucky went into Toonspeed, surprising Wakko just because the distance was only about ten feet. He didn't move in time and Plucky slammed into him, almost sending him crashing to the floor.

Clutching him with one hand, Plucky yanked off the helmet and hissed excitedly, "Let's do it now!"

Shaking him off, Wakko asked, "Huh? Why?" After a second he asked suspiciously, "Have you taken your medicine?"

Plucky got weird when he didn't take his medicine; thankfully that rarely happened, though he had heard some stories. Wakko looked around the garage, worried. Foghorn had a lot of sharp objects, electrical things and plenty of room for the duck to get really hyper. The whole district could be in danger -

"Look, I've got - "

"No you idiot," Wakko cut him off. "We're supposed to be working on the truck, remember? Being useful?" Crossing his arms he added, "Not that you ever are -"

"Hey, I'm useful!" Plucky argued. "I fixed that remote you broke!"

That was true. Wakko hadn't meant to break the stupid thing, but who knew they were so fragile? It was Dot's fault he broke it anyway. She was still babbling about how she was going to cream them all in paintball, and he had laughed at her since she was still in a cast and he wasn't afraid of her crappy aim. He wanted her to be quiet; they were trying to watch some show Plucky recently got hooked on called 'Kenan and Kel'.

She just kept talking. When she had said if Wakko actually ran as much as he ran his mouth he would be in better shape he had grabbed the remote and thrown it at her; she ducked and it hit the wall, breaking into several pieces. He had been pretty sure his life was over. Yakko would kill him – or Bugs would; he thought the remote was the best invention ever.

Wakko had panicked; his original plan had been to toss the pieces in his HammerSpace and just pretend it was lost. Even Dot had been worried; no one really wanted to tell Bugs they had broken his remote. And if they didn't want to tell him, they really didn't want to tell Yakko.

Plucky had looked at it and shrugged before smirking and saying he could fix it. Then he had sat on the floor and managed to shove it back together. It actually worked, relieving Wakko and Dot. If anyone inspected it closely there were cracks in the case, but he doubted anyone would. He hoped.

Dot had promised not to tell, though she laughed at Wakko again. Even with all his practice, he apparently had crappy aim too. To top it off, he never got to watch the end of the episode.

"Faboo, you were useful…once." Wakko gestured towards the truck and added, "Maybe if you did it again I might think about it."

Plucky glared at him and Wakko hesitated; the duck was occasionally useful, and even if his ideas usually got everyone in trouble, they always seemed like good ideas…when he said them. He shook his head, resolved to attempt to do what he was supposed to and decided to try a different tactic.

"You said you were going to help me clean - "

"I don't want to clean; I thought you said we were going to work on that hunk of junk-"

"We are - after it's cleaned out," Wakko clarified. "Foghorn said getting the trash out is more important so -"

"I don't want to pick up trash; I thought I was actually going to be doing something worthy of me," Plucky retorted, looking down his beak at Wakko. "I want to do more than clean out trash."

"So do I, but this is what we're supposed to be doing," Wakko argued.

"Since when do you care about that?" Plucky asked, momentarily looking confused. "This is stupid, we can do - "

"Fine. I'm not building some stupid t-shirt cannon," Wakko answered flatly. "I do it and you'll just find some way to get me in trouble anyway."

With that, Wakko turned and walked back to the truck, ignoring Plucky who was still hissing about his wonderful idea. If he caved and listened to his idea, he might actually think it was good. Then he'd never get anything done. Besides, maybe if he started doing something, Plucky would actually come over and help, a thought that cheered him up.

And picking up the trash would at least keep him out of whatever scheme Plucky had dreamed up now. Every time Plucky had a 'great plan' or 'wonderful idea' or 'killer prank' and he went along with it, it always backfired and got him in trouble; he wasn't doing that in Foghorn's garage.

His latest 'great plan' had happened earlier in the day, when Plucky thought he could improve the sound output on the speaker system at Bugs' house. When he and Plucky had left, the rabbit and Yakko were still trying to figure out how to reconnect all the wires for the entire entertainment system. Wakko had been happy to leave; his brother had looked like he was either going to brain him with his mallet or strangle him with the cord for the cable box.

Plucky would have hooked them back up if they had given him time, he even offered, but Bugs had practically pushed them both out the door, saying 'its fine doc, it fine; go be a menace over there for awhile'. Dot had thought it was hilarious and laughed so hard she fell off the couch into a big pile of plush animals; then she whined about it. Yakko had blamed him for that too.

He glanced over his shoulder, hoping his plan had worked and the duck had followed him, but he hadn't. Instead, Plucky was staring at several mechanical parts scattered on a workbench against the wall with an intense look. Wakko shook his head, annoyed; he'd be getting no help from Plucky. Huffing as Foghorn patted him on the head and he grabbed a bucket, Wakko wondered again why Plucky had even come.

He knew the mallard had other skills and interests besides running his mouth and video games; Wakko had thought that he might actually be somewhat interested in cars. Plucky had been fascinated by the winch and wanted to know all about the fuses and how things worked, and Wakko had been delighted. It would be nice to have someone else to talk to about cars, even if it was on a much lower level of knowledge than he had. Sometimes the others got involved in their own conversation about topics he had no knowledge of; if Plucky had some working knowledge of cars though they would have something to talk about on their own.

Obviously he had been wrong. Plucky was always complaining that no one ever gave him credit for all his wonderful skills and talents. But how could they? When it came down to doing actual work he was worthless.

Wakko started grabbing trash and rotted pieces of material, deciding to just ignore Plucky before the duck put him in a bad mood. Instead, he started listening to Foghorn, laughing at the jokes he was making as he huffed and grunted in the bed of the truck. According to the rooster, there was going to be a skit coming up where they were going to be working with Dr. Scratchansniff – and they would have to briefly clog dance. Wakko snorted; he bet Dot would love that.

And they were going to work with Taz; Wakko grinned at that. He didn't see him often, but the devil was always friendly to them. Apparently he would be working with them in a parody of a Disney movie and Dot was going to be a princess or something silly like that. Wakko rolled his eyes again; Dot was going to just love this season.

When he got the floorboard somewhat cleaned, Wakko reached under the passenger side of the seat, feeling more leaves and rotted magazines. Sighing, he pulled them out; as he turned to throw them in the almost full bucket, he noticed that one of the magazines was a 'PlayBoy'. He threw his head back and laughed; he had heard about these types of magazines and always been insanely curious about it. With its reputation he had never expected to see one, especially in a beat-up old truck.

He studied what he could make out of the cover; it didn't seem to warrant much excitement and he felt a bit let-down. The magazine was stiff and it made cracking sounds when he tried to bend it. The cover was partially obscured by dirt and mold; all he could tell was the lady probably had brown hair and the date was 'April 1988'.

There was a bunch of writing on the left side of the cover, mostly hidden under a layer of dirt and grit. When he scrubbed at it with his glove, he saw some names begin to appear. He didn't know who 'Tom Clancy' was, but he could just make out the names 'Jay Leno', 'Harrison Ford', and 'Michael Jordon'. He grinned; Jay Leno was a car nut, and everyone loved Indiana Jones and Michael Jordon. And the new movie with Jordon was coming out soon…

Interested in what Michael Jordon was doing back in 1988, he tried to peel apart the pages, coughing as mold spores and dust flew up in his face. The pages had mildewed so badly it seemed like the entire magazine was one solid piece of paper. He kept pulling, hearing the pages cracking but he was pretty sure he'd never get the pages apart without tearing -

"Boy, give me that!"

Wakko jumped as Foghorn came up behind him, snatching the magazine and lightly smacking him on the head with it.

"Foghorn! I wanted to read the articles - "

"That's what they all say," Foghorn answered back, rolling his eyes and throwing the magazine in the trashcan. "Don't even ask – I say – Don't even ask why the pages are stuck together."

"I wasn't going to! I just wanted to - "

"Just knew you Warner boys were both alike."

Wakko had no idea what that even meant, but decided to take it as a compliment. It was always nice to be compared to Yakko.

"And where's that other…boy what are you doing now?"

Wakko hesitantly looked around Foghorn, almost afraid to see what Plucky was doing. He had been too quiet and probably ended up rewiring the garage door opener or something. The idiot was never going to be invited back here; Foghorn was almost as crazy about his garage as he was about his truck.

Plucky was sitting on the bench, grinning broadly and holding up something. Waving it at them, he looked at Wakko and said in a smug tone, "I decided to be useful."

"That's a first," Wakko muttered, moving forward with Foghorn for a better look. After a minute, he recognized it as the speedometer out of Foghorn's old Henry J that was sitting under a tarp out in the backyard.

He frowned, studying it; the pieces had been scattered on the bench…and Plucky put them together? With no begging or bribe or anything? He wondered if he even put it together right.

"You put this together?" At Plucky's nod, Foghorn grinned and clapped the duck on his back so hard he almost fell off the bench. "Here I thought you were a dime holding up a dollar! Saved me an hour or more worth of work!" Taking it from Plucky he added, "Hate working with – I say – Hate working with those tiny pieces, never remember what order they go - "

"Only took me a couple of times to figure it out," Plucky bragged.

Wakko grinned at him. He was still annoyed that the dumb duck couldn't help him pick up the trash, but he had helped…kind of. It wasn't exactly helping like he was expecting, but at least the stupid duck had shown he could be useful.

And now Foghorn was happy. The rooster was grinning like he had his very own pit crew as he surveyed the speedometer, saying it looked right and why didn't they go wander out in the back and put it in the dashboard to see if it worked.

Wakko decided to be happy they were getting a break; the garage was getting hot. Besides, if it worked, maybe Foghorn would drive the car; he hadn't even ridden in the Henry-J yet.

Following Foghorn out the backdoor of the garage, Wakko looked over at the still-smirking Plucky, who was now signing to him about how he had proven he was useful – way more useful than just picking up trash. Now, why couldn't he stop being a stubborn pain in the ass and do the same?

When Wakko gave him the finger, Plucky dared him. After a second Wakko shrugged and grinned; it was a dare, and this one would be an easy one to win. Besides, even though he just knew he was going to regret it, he'd listen to Plucky's great idea. It might actually be decent since the duck was so excited about it. Maybe for once it was a great idea that wasn't going to get him into too much trouble.

But…a cannon could be fun; he was already envisioning what they could do with it.


August 7, 1996

You'll do fine doc; just make sure you're not speeding. And wear your seat belt. Oh, and check the mirrors; they love seeing that. Don't start the car and take off before they tell you to either…I did that once…Never mind.

Those mirrors are not there for vanity Master Yakko –please only glance in them. Also, do not adjust them to stare at the girl behind you.

Keep an adequate space cushion between your vehicle and those you are following…

Pretend – I say – Pretend you're the quarterback on the football field! Scope out everything; don't just eyeball the guy in front of you! You listening to me? Turn your head boy!

You'll be faboo Yakko!

Yeah Yakko! Molly already said she'd hire you to be her chauffeur!

Clutching the steering wheel so tightly he was afraid he was going to leave imprints of his gloves in it, Yakko took a deep breath and tried to release it slowly as he maneuvered the Camry down Western Avenue, three miles under the speed limit.

He knew he would be nervous, but he hadn't expected it to be this bad. This eclipsed stage fright; that had been a few butterflies compared to this. He could almost feel himself getting light-headed and his throat tightening up. If he didn't calm down he was going to do something stupid like hit the car in front of him or pass out, and he was almost certain he would fail the test if he did that.

Yakko cut his eyes to the DMV tester beside him; he couldn't even remember the guy's name he was so nervous. The guy had briefly quizzed him on some random information about the car that he had been fortunate enough to actually know the answers to. Surprisingly, he had also not completely choked when asked about a few road signs. Then he was told the real test would begin.

Yakko had been so jittery when they had eventually started driving that his right leg had been shaking, making him press on and off the gas pedal. He was terrified that from the outside it looked like the car had hiccups when they were sitting at traffic lights. Thankfully the man did not seem to notice. Yakko figured it took a special kind of insane to willingly volunteer to ride with untested drivers anyway, so maybe the guy just didn't care.

Of course Yakko wasn't sure what the man noticed since he wasn't giving him any indication of his thoughts. All he did was spit out directions in a flat voice.

And write. A lot.

He tried to both listen to and ignore the ranges of advice and well-wishes that were crashing around in this head. Everyone had wanted to give him suggestions or wish him luck, or, more depressingly, tell him not to get upset if he failed. He had a several fans on the street in the last few weeks come up to him with their own advice, wacky stories, or well wishes. Even Plotz had tersely wished him 'happy birthday and good luck' while also adding that he hoped Yakko did nothing that would cause him to regret his moment of insanity in allowing this to happen.

Sadly, the media found his attempt to get his license worth mentioning; The Leica Reel had a small segment on their previous weekend wrap-up show in the 'upcoming highlights' section. The StoryBoarder had a short write up on teen drivers in general which had mentioned his name.

He thought that was the absolute worse; the segments were not long and did not focus on him; he was hardly the only toon turning sixteen. Even Kit had been mentioned on The Leica Reel, but since he had already passed they had been offering him congratulations.

But just the mention - that had been enough to add to his anxiety. He felt the small headache he had begin to build and desperately wished he could reach into his HammerSpace for some aspirin before it blossomed into a raging migraine. But, even if he could have managed to pry his hand off the wheel to reach into it, he was nervous enough he would probably just fumble around his back, not find the opening, and the tester would think he was scratching himself.

Bugs told you to concentrate on what you're doing…you don't want to tell him you failed…

If he failed, he bet that would be mentioned on The Leica Reel. He scowled as he looked in his mirrors; it would be annoying, but he thought he could handle that. Compared to some of the stories that had been printed in the past about him that would hardly be the worst one.

What he didn't want to do was face his family or friends and tell them that despite the hard work – theirs and his own – he had bungled it. That would be the worst. He could almost imagine them later, at the birthday party that he told them every year not to throw but they did anyway. Everyone would all be there, telling him he could try again because there was no rush while attempting to hide the pitying looks on their faces and shove cake at him.

Of course, photographers had been known to crop up in unexpected places; look at the mess he had gotten himself into at the mall over Dot. He was just waiting for the repercussions of that to bite him in the ass; he inwardly cringed as he remembered that Rannva had already been in contact with Bugs and the contest for his play date was going to be announced in the October issue.

He wondered if any photographers were out now…just waiting for him to drive by with a terror-stricken look on his face…

In a slightly panicked manner, he scanned the street, fearing that paparazzi were standing on the corner waiting to take pictures of him. He had the same fear when he was sitting in the line to take the test…hell he had the same fear when he woke up this morning and was driving to the Maxes' place with Bugs.

For one of the first times, he was actually annoyed he was a well-known star; if he was just the average sixteen-year-old toon no one would care what he was doing. He felt the headache finally build into the migraine he had feared it would as he slowed for a car that changed lanes in front of him without signaling.

He inhaled, telling himself to just keep breathing. He was being ridiculous; he rarely cared if he was photographed. His friends had done everything in their power to see that he was prepared for this. He even realized he was making a bigger deal out of it than it really was; if he failed…it wasn't exactly the end of the world. It would just really, really suck if everyone knew about it.

No one understood what he was talking about; Bugs, Slappy…most of the adults he was routinely around had gotten their licenses long before the advent of the junk-food tabloids, entertainment shows, and the instant news sources of the internet. Hell, he wasn't daring enough to say it out loud but he was pretty sure a few of them had gotten their license before the television was a standard household item. None of them had been first; not in an age where the world would be told they had screwed up before they even got home.

The younger boys and girls, Wakko and Dot's little friends…they weren't thinking about this, not that he routinely talked to them about things that troubled him. Half thought it was amazing he was going to get his license and wanted to know what sort of car he was going to buy. What would they say if he failed? He was often told they all looked up to him and he was their big role model and they all wanted to be like him; how would he even be able to face them?

And Wakko and Dot – they'd be so disappointed in him…

Wakko and Dot…he decided to think about them. He was doing this for his siblings almost as much as for himself. Even if he didn't like it and was scared and nervous as hell, he was going through it first, so he could help them later when their turn came. Besides, he was going to get custody of them when he was legally able to. Having his license, showing that he was responsible enough to get it would help him be one step closer to that goal. Anything he could do to show he was able to take care of them would help a custody case…even if it was two years away. He wanted to do this right the first time.

Sometimes it was hard being the oldest. He had to be the first for this and every other teenage milestone all on his own. All he could do was blunder through it and try to remember the experience enough to help them when their turn came.

He flexed his fingers, trying to work the stiffness out and calm himself. He was almost done; he had to be. He pushed all the other thoughts out of his mind; all he was doing was getting himself more anxious and making his head throb. The headache had settled behind his left eye.

Instead, he raised his ears slightly when he heard the tester clear his throat and glanced at him. Big surprise; the guy was staring at his clipboard and still writing. The tester had not said a word the entire drive except to tell him where to turn. All he had done was write; the scratching of his pen against the paper on his clipboard had at first annoyed Yakko. After a few minutes, it had made him uneasy; how much could there possibly be to write down? He glanced at the clock on the dashboard of the Camry; he had been on this little trip for seventeen minutes and he had barely stopped writing.

The only time he had stopped writing was when he instructed Yakko to parallel park on the corner of San Fernando and Western Avenue. At first Yakko, surprised and worried, had thought the man just failed him and was going in the Del Taco to call for a ride. Come to find out he just wanted to watch two men argue on the corner. He made no comments about it – the parking or the fight. Yakko had actually asked him how he did, but had cringed back when the human just looked at him and blinked for several seconds with his watery brown eyes.

Then he had looked back at his clipboard and began to write again.

Yakko had been so on edge he had almost excused himself to run into the restaurant's bathroom to throw up. Bugs had never warned him about random fights happening on a road test. He guessed it wasn't too common; after all the rabbit would know – he had been forced to take more than one road test in his lifetime.

Yakko had tried to make a few attempts at small talk; Bugs had ordered him not to, but he had been desperate to fill the silence in the car and ease his own worries. He eventually gave up and just nervously clenched the wheel instead, figuring at least he wouldn't lose points because his hands had left the ten-and-two position.

Bugs had warned him to be polite and mature no matter what happened. The rabbit had drawn up a whole list of things not to do and he had made Yakko memorize them: no needless conversation, no using his tail to shift or pull the turn signal, no jokes, no comments about the hot blond walking down the street, and if the tester was female he was not to flirt.

He had muttered something about definitely not complaining about the judge who was requiring he retake the road test, but he refused to repeat or elaborate when Yakko asked. Bugs said just drive, remember what he had told him, and do what the tester told him. And he barked all these orders while marching back and forth in front of Yakko while he was seated on the couch. If he hadn't known better, he'd swear Bugs was more nervous about the test than he was.

"Go under the overpass and take the right hand ramp. It's a cloverleaf onto the Golden State Freeway."

"Ehhhhh…Right. OK," Yakko muttered, startled by the man's voice. It was only the fifth sentence he had spoken the entire trip.

Yakko heard the tightness in his own voice and willed himself to calm down as he grasped the signal indicator and pushed it up. Bugs had said there was a chance he would have to drive on the interstate; when the rabbit told him that, he had blown it off. Foghorn had taken him out several times on I-5, in all different traffic situations. He had thought he was comfortable with it. He had done fine, and that was with a six-foot tall rooster yelling comments and jokes in his ear. He had believed if he could handle that, he could handle anything; now though he was regretting that he had not driven farther, longer, or more often.

Traveling up the ramp and making a conscious effort to get his leg to stop shaking, he pressed on the gas, turning his head briefly to watch traffic. A glance to his left told him the guy was still writing. Yakko wondered if he would let him see what he wrote when the test was over; he had to have written a damn novel at this point.

"Take the second exit. North Pacific Avenue."

Yakko nodded, too nervous to even think about answering and just tried to concentrate on breathing normally. He made an effort to nod his head, but wasn't sure what the attempt looked like. More than likely it was a harsh jerking motion; the throbbing was starting to get worse.

He wanted to ask where they were going, or how much longer it was going to take. He had thought he would be done within twenty minutes; Bugs said they were rarely long. Stopping to watch the fight for a few minutes, not to mention traffic and getting held up at lights was dragging the test out, and he wasn't sure how much more his nerves could take. He wasn't sure how much more the steering wheel could take.

At least the man had let him borrow the car. Out of everyone he knew Jeeves' car was the smallest, he was comfortable in it, and it was not 'flashy'. Yakko had been offered the use of Foghorn's behemoth truck and Slappy's attention-grabbing Mustang. Porky had even offered the use of his land yacht of a car even though Yakko had only driven it twice.

Yakko hadn't known whose car to take; they all offered and were being nice, so he did the only logical thing he could think of – he asked Bugs. After listening to him, Bugs' had told him to hold the thought, made a phone call, and then informed him that they would take the butler's car. They had switched out this morning; Jeeves had said he had even gone over the car himself to make sure every light was working and all the fluids were filled.

Yakko glanced up and to his right; he was passing the first exit, 'Commercial Street'. In his peripheral vision, he could see the man still writing. Yakko tapped a finger in annoyance on the steering wheel briefly, wanting to tell him to knock it off. Didn't he realize how nerve-wracking that was? Was he trying to make people nervous during the test?

Biting back the comment, he instead pulled down on the signal switch as he neared the ramp for the exit. He wished he knew where he was; he thought the test was just a basic drive around the block. How long was –

"At the bottom of the ramp there is a traffic light; go straight."

Yakko jerked his head again in acknowledgement while wishing the guy would put some inflection in his voice. The monotone was making him uncomfortable.

He had briefly thought the man may be scared of toons. Yakko knew there were humans out there like that; he had seen an occasional one. They would stop and stare, like they couldn't believe that toons really existed; then they would cross the street or duck into a store. He figured they were usually from out of town; if they lived in California, especially around Burbank, it would be hard to leave the house and not run into a toon at some point.

There were a few humans who actually did not like toons, and Yakko started to feel a new sense of dread. Maybe this guy was one of them; it would explain the lack of emotion even better than fear. He turned his head briefly to look at the man; he didn't seem especially frightened or angry. In all actuality he seemed bored. He was a younger man, tanned; Yakko wondered if he was more annoyed that he was out testing toons for their license instead of on a beach somewhere.

Yakko told himself he was being stupid; this human may be uninterested, but he wasn't fearful or hateful. He couldn't be – the tester would have had to volunteer for this position.

Bugs had made the appointment months ago. While it was not a requirement, it was requested that for toons, a courtesy call be placed. With the occasional human frightened of toons, the California Department of Motor Vehicles appreciated the notice, so they could schedule an appointment with a tester that did not mind being in a small enclosed area with a being they were uncomfortable with.

Yakko pointed out that it sounded like some sort of segregation. When he said that, Bugs had used that opportunity for an impromptu history lesson. Bugs had said it used to be worse, many years ago, when ToonTown was nothing but a bunch of dirt streets and grand plans. With a few toons still running wild while everyone else was attempting to be civilized, the humans had been displaying a wide range of emotions regarding them: accepting, amused, befuddled, or frightened. It had been decided after many discussions and high-profile meetings by several prominent humans and toons that courtesy calls be placed if toons were going into certain situations that could make humans 'uncomfortable'.

Bugs said that time had mostly past; he admitted he wasn't even sure how many humans actually were like that anymore. Now, he said it was not so much 'segregation' as it was more a toon 'tradition'; it reminded everyone of what things used to be like, and how far things had come. He called the same office in ToonTown that would have been called in the 1930's to notify them that a toon was going for a motor vehicle test and requested a date. That office would call the California DMV and schedule the appointment for them, and send a notice informing them of the date and time.

Bugs did make a good point; while not many humans were scared of toons anymore, they were scared of everything else. Dogs, tigers, bears… The rabbit had lectured that if a person was scared of dogs, it wasn't going to matter how nice a dog toon was, someone with that phobia was just going to be uncomfortable. That was another reason for the courtesy call.

Yakko stopped the car at the bottom of the ramp somewhat smoothly for the red light, happy his jitters seemed to be lessening and traffic seemed to have lightened. He glanced over at the tester, who was still looking down at his clipboard and scratching away. Yakko hoped he got a writer's cramp.

"Keep straight four blocks; you will see Glen Oaks Boulevard. Turn right back into the lot, park the car in any available space and turn off the engine."

Yakko just nodded as the light turned green and he pressed on the gas pedal. He had no idea how well he had done, but for better or worse, at least it was almost over. He still wished he could pick up some sort of indication from the guy on how he did.

If he did well though, wouldn't the guy give some sort of hint that he was pleased? A smile, a nod, maybe a small bit of variation in his tone? At least a grunt instead of cold silence? If the guy felt comfortable with him being on the road, he would probably have said something…

Damn. He wondered if that meant he failed. Would he have let him continue driving if he failed? Yakko began to feel hot and wished he could turn the air conditioning up but was afraid to take even one hand off the wheel to do that. He was afraid to take his hands off the wheel for anything; his gloves were damp and he was afraid to even try to wipe them on his pants when they were sitting still.

He noticed he was tapping one finger on the wheel in agitation and stopped himself as he continued to look around him, hoping the guy at least noticed that he checked his mirrors regularly. Maybe he would get bonus points for that. He looked; the guy wasn't writing anymore. Yakko was bewildered for a moment and blinked, worried; was it a bad sign that he had finally stopped?

With a small sigh and a huge feeling of relief, Yakko saw the DMV on the right. Happy they had managed to avoid any red lights or other reasons to prolong this agony he put the signal on and turned.

He slowly drove through the parking lot. This was it; he saw several spaces near the side door and he prayed no one came out from between two cars or a squirrel ran out in his path or something else stupid. He eyed the spaces, wondering which one he should take; did the guy have a preference? There was one he could simply drive into – that one would be easy…maybe too easy? Should he back in? Or should he go for the one that would be the most difficult to get into so he could show off his hard-won parking skills?

Yakko shook his head; he wasn't great at backing in and this probably wasn't the time to show off anyway. Sighing, he decided to just go for the easiest space he could spot; it was a bit late to display his skills now. If he had passed, he had no reason to; if he had failed, nothing he would do now would change that.

He pulled in, very slowly, in his haste to end the test he was afraid he might panic and run into the car parked in the next space. Coming to a rougher stop than he would have liked, he finally managed to peel his hand off the wheel, grimacing at the dampness of it. Putting the car into park, he inhaled and exhaled sharply before he turned the key, hearing the engine shut down.

Swallowing, he turned to the tester, wondering what he was supposed to do now. He assumed the guy would tell him if he passed or not…

He was writing again. Damn it. He really hoped this guy got a permanent case of writer's block.

Annoyed that he didn't even have gripping the steering wheel to distract his hands any longer, Yakko rubbed the bridge of his nose and looked out the driver's side window. Across the small lot, he could see other teenagers, both human and toon, milling around or sitting in cars, ready to go through the same ordeal he had just undergone. He wondered if all the testers were like the guy he got stuck with and wished he could warn them about the oppressive silence; that was the worst part.

He saw one teenage human toon girl getting out of a green Saturn, crying and wiping her eyes. He winced in sympathy; he felt like doing the same thing. Another older human male was climbing out of a white station wagon, smiling like he just won the lottery –

Yakko jumped slightly when the man snapped the clip on his board, and he turned, hoping he would at least tell him what to do now. If he failed, he'd like to know, so he could just go find Bugs, tell him what happened, and go hide in his room and figure out what he was going to tell everyone else.

Taking out several sheets of paper, the human began scribbling quickly on one, holding it separate from the rest of the stack. He looked up and asked, "How do you think you did?"

Yakko blinked at him; was that a trick question?

Mentally telling himself not to give a smart-assed reply, he shrugged and asked, "Good?" When he got no response, he added a bit more hopefully, "Great even?"

"Go with good," the guy said in the same monotone voice, handing him several bright yellow sheets of paper. "You passed Mr. Warner. Make checking your mirrors more often a habit; you lost several points on that section. You lost additional points for rough stopping; work on making it smoother and safer. Please take those papers inside, find your parent or legal guardian, and proceed to the desk where you signed in. From there you will be directed on the next steps. Congratulations Mr. Warner and thank you for a most amusing ride; I have never had a toon almost hyperventilate during a test before."

With that, the man snorted and got out of the Camry. Surprised, Yakko blinked rapidly several times before he cocked his head like a curious kitten at the now empty seat. During the entire spiel he didn't even think the guy had breathed. He looked down at the papers, figuring he should at least know who to thank for saving him from having the worst birthday possible. Mr. Christopher Williams.

Fine. Mr. Christopher Williams; he had the same personality as a loaf of bread and never did show him what the hell he was writing, but who cared? He passed. Even if he didn't drive a car for the next two years, he had it.

And what did he mean 'check your mirrors more often'? Yakko thought he had, if only because his head had been throbbing from the back-and-forth motions; if he checked them anymore he would never have looked out the windshield. He shrugged it off, telling himself to keep it in mind; everyone was always harping about looking in the mirrors.

Besides, his headache was now a dull throb. He could actually get to his aspirin since this was over with and try to get rid of it. If his throat wasn't so dry he would probably start singing on his way into the building. This was almost as satisfying as when he found his HammerSpace.

With surprisingly steady hands, he grabbed the key for the Camry, spinning it on his finger briefly and grinned, wondering what the hell he had been worried about. He was Yakko Warner, it was his birthday, and he was a licensed driver in the state of California – he hoped a photographer showed up to take his picture after all, now that he knew he wasn't looking sick from nerves.

As he gripped all the papers and walked back inside to look for DaDoo Rabbit, he wondered at whose house his non-surprise party was going to be held at this year. He'd have to make sure wherever it was that both Bugs and Jeeves got plenty of thanks and the biggest slices of cake.


"Kit just shut up. It's not that funny!"

Yakko glared down; Kit was still curled up in a ball on the floor, laughing. Occasionally he would look up, see Yakko, and laugh some more.

Not bothering to look at him again, Yakko crossed his arms and sighed to himself. Kit would be worthless for awhile, but hopefully he'd keep this to himself. With a grimace he reached up and took off his birthday hat; Dot wasn't around right now so she wouldn't know he wasn't wearing it.

He looked at it for a moment, wondering if Dot really thought these things were great or if she purposely picked the most wacked-out headgear she could find. He didn't even know why he had been surprised to see it; it was practically a birthday tradition at this point.

And this one…he shuddered. It was the most obnoxious one yet. It looked like a giant upside down ice cream cone with 'Sweet 16' emblazoned on it. Strawberry ice cream, just so the color really stood out from his fur. Plus, just like always it had the elastic band under his chin that everyone had been just dying to come up and snap.

He was also the only one older than ten that had been bullied and cajoled into wearing a stupid hat, so that tradition had been observed, along with everyone's astonishment at it. The others had looked at his hat, pointed and laughed, and made damn certain they were absent when Dot and Molly were running around screaming and trying to put them on everyone's head. He didn't even know what they were objecting to; at least those were the normal conical party hats and not the monstrosity he had.

He still allowed her to put it on his head though, just as he always did. She seemed so happy about it, and was so crestfallen that only she, Molly, and Skippy were wearing the other hats that Yakko didn't have the heart to refuse her. As good as his mood had been he figured he could put up with a silly hat for her. Knowing her penchant for finding the most ridiculous ones available, he was already mentally steeling himself for whatever she would pull out for next year. In reality, if her managed to survive the night, the hat would be the least of his concerns.

"Oh man…Mom is gonna kill you for this," Kit whimpered from the floor. "If she finds out it was you and that crazy old squirrel that pumped Molly full of it…"

With a final glare when the bear burst out laughing again, Yakko slumped against the wall, hoping Kit would shut up soon. At some point someone was going to figure out the Kit was laughing at more than Molly's antics and Yakko's stupid hat. He turned instead to survey who was left at his party.

A portion of his party guests were running wild through The Harnell, one so unnaturally hyper he prayed security had been warned. No doubt the other tiny-terrors were petrifying the customers and earning themselves lifetime bans. Some of the adults had rounded them up and banished them to the arcade in an attempt to keep the mayhem contained to one level. Of the five guests left, one was currently dying of laugher, and the other four were relaxing in the private dining room at Tony & Joe's, drinking coffee, eating cheese, or talking while eyeing their cell phones. Everyone expected calls for assistance would be coming.

Yakko had not been surprised to find out a party had been planned; he had been a bit taken aback at how grandiose it was. He was expecting a small gathering at the tower or maybe Bugs' house; that was his normal party. Hell, he liked those parties; quiet, uneventful, calm, and with no chance of his impending demise.

This one had not been bad at first; he had arrived with Bugs to see the private dining room decorated nicely, if a little brightly, with streamers and large handmade 'Happy 16th Birthday' banners strewn about. Molly had even made him a special banner since he got his license; it was about 2 feet long and she had glued so many toy cars and glitter to it that it ended up being too heavy to hang. Kit said they tried and it kept ripping; he had finally given up and just laid it out on the floor in front of the table. Wakko already stole most of the cars.

It was as he expected; Dot had gone out with Porky to arrange the event. Apparently the pig had pointed out to her that a sixteenth birthday was extra special, so she wanted somewhere grand and not 'the usual boring thing'. After much discussion, she and Porky had decided the Italian restaurant fit the situation and had booked the room. Dot had also decided to give herself the duty of drawing up the party list, inviting the usual guests along with the addition of Brain, Gadget, and Jeeves. Yakko had also been informed by Jeeves that she had even graciously consented to Max being brought, as long as he 'wouldn't be a butt'.

Wakko was once again tasked with finding the cake, and surprisingly had not gotten one with cars or motorcycles on it. He had actually picked out a chocolate sheet cake with a golf scene, complete with a border of marshmallow golf balls around the base and the thickest layer of frosting he had ever seen. Yakko had scowled slightly when he spotted the little figure that looked a lot like him in a sand trap on top. Yakko wondered if Wakko had picked it out or if Foghorn helped steer him in that direction.

Unfortunately, sixteen small lit candles randomly shoved around the green cake had made it look like the poor figure was playing a round of golf in hell. Kit had pointed it out then laughed his ass off.

Dinner had been pizza for the younger members of the party, most of whom turned their noses up at the fancy pasta dishes. The older members had ordered them instead, claiming they dined on pizza enough during a regular meal with the children and wanted a break.

Presents had been a delightful mix of the usual and some highly unexpected, less juvenile presents of years past. Books, gift cards, sheet music, and CD's were stacked on a table.

Jeeves and Foghorn had gifted him with his own set of golf clubs to his delight. He knew the brand was Calloway and was a complete standard set. Both adults were trying to tell him how great this set was and how it was one he could grow with. He would have loved to have looked at them more, but for safety's sake it had been decided to put it away for the time being. Dot and Molly had been using a nine-iron and the putter as swords. Buster and Wakko had been trying to cram Skippy into the bag that Max had been conveniently holding open for them.

Bugs had gotten him a membership to Lakeside – and Yakko didn't even want to ask how many strings the rabbit had pulled to manage that. He knew little about the club beyond his few visits with Bugs, but it was a known fact that getting a membership almost took divine intervention. Hell, he still had to be voted in – this membership was just provisional until approved. Rumor had it that a membership cost upwards of $100,000; he hadn't even wanted to accept it. Bugs had stopped him though; it didn't cost him anywhere near that much and he had considerable pull 'behind-the-scenes' at the club.

With a shrug, Bugs claimed it was linked to his membership; he considered him family enough to do it. He also added that Yakko was growing up and would eventually need a place to retreat that didn't include pizza and video games as its main sources of food and entertainment. Yakko had been thrilled and almost broke the rabbit's ribs he hugged him so tight.

Wakko had listened to that, wrinkled his nose and gone back to eating cake and probably destroying his glucose levels for the rest of the week; he was so hyper that he had ignored Yakko and his reminder that he shouldn't eat more than one piece. Yakko had gestured to Slappy, who nodded and he took some comfort from that; she or Foghorn would check on him and make sure he didn't go into a sugar-shock. He could tell from the taste the cake was not diabetic friendly.

Dot had not even been listening to anyone; she was too busy eating the little marshmallow golf balls around the base of the cake while talking to the two mice. She seemed to have taken a real liking to Gadget; Dot actually gave her one of the marshmallows. Brain had always respected her after her mini-strike regarding the earthquake song last year and had sat beside them, munching on small slices of Parmesan cheese and chatting.

Yakko pinched the bridge of his nose, looking around. Mr. Bunny and Buster had gotten him a coffee maker, a gift he was wholly appreciative of and Bugs had a few choice comments about. After this night though, Yakko wasn't sure if he wanted to drink coffee again.

Definitely not espresso.

Slappy had seen the coffee maker and started talking about coffee to Yakko, telling him all the delightful combinations and concoctions that could be made with his new machine. He knew she liked her coffee drinks despite the fact that most were about as diabetic friendly as his current birthday cake. When he had yawned, she had raised an eyebrow and asked if she was boring him or if he was so old now he couldn't manage to stay awake past dusk.

When he told her he was just tired from not sleeping the night before due to nerves, she had told him to eat the cake since it was making the kids wired. When he confessed it was too sweet for him, she claimed she knew a treat he'd like; not overly sweet but would be a real kick in his khaki pants. The next thing he knew she was shuffling out of the dining room and heading to the bar with a determined look in her eye.

Yakko had been surprised when she had come back after a few minutes carrying a glass of something she said would take care of his fatigue. She called it affogato; a fancy Italian beverage that entailed taking a scoop of vanilla gelato and drowning it in a shot of espresso. Since he was tired, she had them put a double shot in. Handing the rapidly-cooling concoction to him, she warned him not to tell Bugs. He might have lightened up on coffee but she didn't think he'd be nuts about double espresso; with a shrug she said she didn't feel like listening to his mouth tonight.

Kit had looked grossed out while Yakko eyed it suspiciously. After several minutes Yakko had dared to try it. It ended up on the table beside him; he was no stranger to caffeine and it was too strong even for him. He had forgotten about it, even when Dot, Molly, and Skippy wandered over and quizzed him on what the 'icky' stuff in the big glass was.

He pinched the bridge of his nose again, still hearing Kit's laughter beside him. How the hell was he supposed to know Molly would try it behind his back and like it enough that she would drink almost the whole damn thing?

Before he could even register that a normally hyper nine-year old just drank a double-espresso on top of ice cream and cake, all hell broke loose in the dining room. Molly had been running and jumping around enough even the boys were taken aback. Ms. Cunningham had tried to calm her down, but Molly was having none of that. Hands shaking and laughing, Molly jumped on Porky's back, getting a very brief ride from the startled pig. Before Ms. Cunningham could grab her, Molly surprised everyone again by jumping from the pig so high Yakko actually thought the espresso had granted her the ability to fly.

Landing with a thud in a pile of wrapping paper on the table and sending both Brain and Gadget scrambling for cover under a party hat, Molly had declared she wanted to sing him a birthday song, belting out a few verses for 'C'Mon 'N' Ride It – The Train', which Yakko was convinced was a shoe-in for most annoying song of the year. Molly didn't do awful – she certainly had volume – and she was able to project right over the quiet Italian songs being played by the restaurant. She even had a few of the dance moves right and the ones she didn't she had no problem just making up.

Yakko knew at that moment Dot and Skippy probably had at least a few tastes of his abandoned affogato since they were her eager little backup dancers. Dot's cartwheeling and high kicks showed that her physical therapy had been successful. While she was excited about returning to work and her horseback riding, she had seemed strangely subdued about returning to her dance lessons. He supposed tonight was a return to normalcy for her since she had seemed so happy to be dancing again.

While the three younger boys had looked on in fascinated wonder and a bit of envy, the adults had simply blinked at the display. Ms. Cunningham and Porky did try to stop the concert, but unfortunately, they made the mistake of saying 'no one in the restaurant wanted to hear that song'. So she had started the 'Macarena' which Yakko thought would probably take the number one spot on a list of most annoying song ever.

When they pointed out that no one wanted to hear that song either and the people eating outside didn't know it was Yakko's birthday, Molly had screamed 'oh-sorry-hey-I-got-a-great-idea-Mommy-I'm-gonna-tell-'em!' before she jumped off the table. No one had been quick enough to grab her before she opened the door and dashed out of the private dining room to the public one. That's when the real show began.

Almost everyone had barreled after her, mostly stunned with the exception of Kit, who was practically crawling he was laughing so hard. To the astonishment of everyone enjoying their dinner in the dining room, Molly grabbed a breadstick off of a server's tray, jumped on an empty table, and announced that it was Yakko's birthday. Then she began singing along with the current song playing, 'That's Amore'.

She had enthusiasm and a surprising amount of the words correct, but she was so hyper she was about fifteen seconds ahead of the song and sounded like a Chippette. Yakko had to hand it to her though; she was really rocking out while using the breadstick as a microphone.

Ms. Cunningham had been running around the table, trying to grab her and apologizing to the people watching. She shouldn't have been worried; the restaurant was not full, and several of the diners were clapping and expressing their approval of the show. Dot and Skippy had joined in the singing and dancing, Porky trying to contain them as well.

Bugs had just shrugged and started talking to the manager. He did get him calmed down; Yakko thought he heard there were tickets to something involved. Meanwhile, Jeeves and Foghorn were trying to control the boys, who were Fritzing roses to throw while screaming 'encore', 'bravissimo', and calling out requests. Sadly, Porky and Jeeves had to tell Slappy to stop laughing and encouraging them.

Yakko was annoyed complete strangers saw his stupid hat; a few had even taken pictures.

Mr. Bunny had watched the whole show before looking down his nose at Foghorn and Jeeves; all he said was that it was their turn. He had dealt with it the whole weekend – had to deal with it most weekends in fact. Plus he usually had the additional trauma of Plucky too – they were lucky with only these three. With that he had quickly gone back into the room, where he continued to drink his coffee and talk to Brain and Gadget, who had emerged from under the hat.

After that it had been decided to take all of the hyperactive rugrats to the arcade in an attempt burn off some of the energy that everyone was blaming on the cake. Molly had bounced out of the restaurant like she drank a quart of Gummiberry Juice, almost knocking several people over. Dot had followed, eating the abandoned breadstick and yanking on Porky's coat. The long look Yakko had shared with Slappy before she had been dragged out of the dining room by Skippy told him she probably knew what had happened; at least she didn't look too pissed. Hell, she looked impressed.

Bugs did say his sixteenth birthday would be memorable; Yakko figured it was. He didn't know anyone else who got a concert and almost had two guests get squished during their party.

Deciding to leave Kit to his hysterics on the floor, Yakko made his way over to the table where Bugs and Mr. Bunny were sitting and discussing some development at the studio with the two mice. He frowned when Mr. Bunny stopped talking and instead took his glasses off and began cleaning them. Shrugging, Yakko used his tail to pull a chair over to the table, wiping off the spilled cake before sitting.

Propping his chin up on his hand, he asked, "Private conversation?"

Exchanging a glance with Mr. Bunny, Bugs shrugged and said, "Not one you need to hear on your birthday doc. This is supposed to be a party - "

"Bugs, half of my party is burning off a sugar high; the other half is trying to keep a lid on the insanity. You four and the doofus on the floor are the only ones left." Smirking, Yakko added, "Wanna go down to the arcade? We can continue the party there; bet Molly's really gotten going by now - "

"Anything but that," Mr. Bunny said with a small shudder. Looking at Bugs as he put his glasses back on he added, "You said you were thinking about asking him. This would teach him how to behave in different situations; he's not going to learn it on his own."

"He has reached the point in his development where his cognitive abilities and maturity level will allow him to understand most of the situations around him," Brain spoke while putting his arm around Gadget. "As you are his tutor, I had understood you would be agreeable to instructing him on more than how to Fritz a pie."

Yakko raised an eyebrow, wondering what situations he was old enough to know 'most' about. Figures, Bugs was back in his 'you're not old enough' mindset; too bad, he had been great earlier after the test, letting him drive and hooting about he knew he could do it while buying him a cup of celebratory coffee. He glanced behind him, seeing that Kit had finally got himself under control and was walking out of the room holding his sides.

"Come on Bugs, I'm so old I'm craving prune juice. Maybe when I get home I'll cover all the furniture in plastic. "

"Ha ha doc," Bugs said, leaning back in his chair and stretching. "It's not that big a deal really; the merger went through - "

"What merger?"

"Between Turner and Time Warner." With a shrug Bugs added, "You know those old Hanna Barbara guys? And you know the MGM toons were under their studio label."

"Magilla Gorilla, The Flintstones, yeah," Yakko answered. "Wasn't a big fan; I liked Tom and Jerry. I did meet the Rubbles that time with you."

"They're part of us now; you'll start to see them around the lot. They'll all be working over on Cahuenga Boulevard still, but don't be surprised to see 'em show up on set to watch a filming, just to see how we do things."

Yakko shrugged; he had heard rumors of the merger but didn't see where it would affect him or anyone he cared about. At most it meant the humans would see 'Wizard of Oz' and 'Clue Club' crap next to the Bugs Bunny and 'Animaniacs' stuff in the Warner Brothers Studio Stores.

"And you know the show will only being played on The WB now," Mr. Bunny said from across the table, watching him. "Or very soon anyway."

Yakko nodded again; The WB Television Network was the network some television executive had created; Bugs had told him a little about it. He had not really understood everything when it was being planned, and Bugs had told him he'd explain that stuff to him when he was a bit older and would grasp it better.

At the time, Yakko had a hard enough time just getting used to what happened on camera. Even now he wasn't especially interested in the behind the scenes processes. And a new network…he shrugged, losing interest. He didn't see where it could be a bad thing, if for no other reason the bumpers gave Michigan J. Frog something to do.

He had been aware that eventually Animaniacs would move permanently to the new network. Yakko remembered filming some new bumpers and promos with his siblings for it. They had not had to do much though except record some new dialogue about the 'Animaniacs' returning home to the 'Kids WB'; the studio seemed happy enough to recycle footage from past shows. He heard it was doing fine; he knew 'Pinky and The Brain' was doing well on the channel.

"Is there something you guys are trying to tell me?" Yakko asked, feeling a sense of unease. "As far as I know, we're played six times a week for the human networks, and we still have our usual timeslot in ToonTown." Pointing to Mr. Bunny he added, "You said we were going to be the lead-in for that new 'Road Rovers' show next month in ToonTown. Our ratings are good - "

"They are doc, trust me," Bugs said, silencing him. "There were just some silly rumors going around that the network and studio wants to go with a different direction. We're not concerned, just commenting on the rumors, that's all."

"Please do me a favor though Yakko," Mr. Bunny asked. At Yakko's nod he said, "Don't mention it to the children; they'll worry and there's no need to cause them concern where there doesn't need to be one. The merger with Turner is fine," he added quickly when Yakko went to interrupt. "They'll certainly notice those guys, but the other stuff you hear? Some stuff doesn't need to be repeated; repeating rumors is liable to upset everyone and start more stories."

Yakko nodded again. There were always a million rumors floating around the lot; who was sleeping with who, who's show was going to get cancelled and why, who made who made angry, who pulled the latest prank. He wasn't entirely comfortable, simply because if this was 'just another rumor' he saw no big need for secrecy, but agreed that the younger children may be concerned if they heard that particular story.

"And anyway doc, the other thing we were talking about…wanted to ask you something, now that all the little heathens are out of here," Bugs said as he turned toward him.

"What's that Bugs?" Yakko asked, cutting his eyes toward him. He had been watching Brain and Gadget slow dance to 'The Way You Look Tonight' on top of a napkin that proclaimed 'Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen'.

"I got an invite to a party; big fancy shin-dig. A few of us have to go, wanted to see if you're interested in tagging along."

Yakko raised his eyebrows; 'tagging along' to a 'big fancy shin-dig' didn't sound all that appealing. Probably be better than Athena's crappy party he went to though; he wondered if there were singers at fancy shin-digs and if they were as entertaining as Molly.

"I don't know Bugs; I'm not sure I'm the fancy shin-dig kind of guy - "

"You should consider attending Yakko," Brain said as he dipped Gadget, making her hair pool on the table behind her. "This would be an excellent opportunity for you to practice your networking and social skills at an adult party - "

"Adult party huh?" Yakko wiggled his eyebrows. "Goodnight everybody – ow!"

"Be serious Yakko," Bugs said reproachfully.

Yakko glared at him while holding his head; that was harder than normal. One of these days he'd see Bugs going to smack his head and he'd duck; then he'd hit him.

"This is an adult function, I thought you'd be mature enough to attend," Bugs informed him. After another glare, he stated, "Shere Kahn is holding it; sort of a celebration for the movie, since he got the distribution rights. Plus he's trying to wine-and-dine some investors; heard he's got his eye on some new development."

Yakko raised his eyebrows, impressed despite himself. Shere Kahn was a well-known and powerful individual; no one wanted to cross him. He was a little surprised that Bugs had an invite, but shrugged that off. Bugs knew damn near everyone of importance; it stood to reason he'd know one of the richest toons in the world.

"Distribution rights for what movie?" Yakko asked, slightly confused as he leaned back and crossed his arms. If he was even tempted to at least think about going, he probably should know what the rabbit was talking about.

"Kahn has a lot of financial interest in our movie. He bought the rights to distribute it in Southeast Asia; know there's going to be a lot of foreign associates of his there."

"You should go Yakko," Gadget chimed in as she and Brain finished their dance. "Like Brain said, it's an opportunity to meet different people and if you plan on staying in this field, networking is a requirement. As they say, it's all in who you know right? Knowing the right people in Hollywood can make or break a career."

Yakko thought about that; he had no idea what career he wanted. Did he want to stay in television? Go over to movies? Did he even want to stay in any form of show-business?

He had never given it much thought; that actually concerned him when he contemplated it more. He would be a legal adult in exactly two years; would the show still be on then? Would he still have a career to make or break? Or would he be already washed up in this industry, only appearing on random 'where are they now' segments? What else could he do besides run his mouth, play the guitar, and take a photograph? His grades were excellent, he was pretty much an all around good student, but how far would an 'A' in English and Toon History take him?

Worried, he ran a hand through his hair. He knew he had plenty of money in all his bank accounts, they would be alright on what he had for awhile; he never touched Wakko or Dot's money. But, how long would they be -

"I see what's going through your mind Yakko…don't," Mr. Bunny chuckled from across the table. "You're a bit too young to be concerned about that; neither you nor the show are going anywhere, and no one was trying to scare you. But you should consider going, if only for the experience. You'll be invited to these more and more as you get older, and right now your entire experience with social gatherings is limited to functions and birthdays. Wouldn't you like to attend a party where the attendees don't get so hyper you have to worry about the mall being torn down around your ears?"

Well…actually, yes. Kind of. He had never given it much thought before, but he supposed he probably would like to see how it worked. There had been a few scripts about the Warners at parties, but those had been written with strictly comedy in mind. He would hate to admit that he actually had no idea how conduct himself at a social gathering of that importance beyond not throwing food or engaging in other overly obnoxious behavior.

"He's not all bad, given his reputation," Bugs said, drawing his attention back. "We go way back; he's a ruthless business man and we're not friends exactly, but…" The rabbit shrugged before saying, "He's not a bad one to at least meet doc. It's not like you'll have to stay with him all night."

"I've met him a few times over the years," Gadget added. "He provided most of the aircraft for the shows."

"What?" Yakko asked, bending over slightly so he could hear the mouse better. "What aircraft?"

"His primary business is aviation Yakko." Bugs sighed at his look before asking, "Why do you think he was on 'TaleSpin'?" After a brief pause he stated quietly, "No, that was when you weren't paying attention; my fault doc, you were still kind of young."

Yakko winced, mostly because if the rabbit had ever mentioned it, he didn't remember. He remembered Bugs bringing up economics several years ago after he asked a question. Despite trying to understand, his mind had wandered. At the time he had been just trying to concentrate on learning his lines and making sure Wakko and Dot knew what they were supposed to be doing. He remembered Bugs apologized for delving deeper into a topic he was too young to grasp and saying they would explore it more when he was older.

With a small sigh to himself, he pointed towards the cans of soda stacked next to Mr. Bunny, silently asking the rabbit to hand him one before he settled back in his chair. Bugs had that look in his eye that said a lesson of some sort was forthcoming, and if he had to listen to a lecture he was going to get comfortable so he could pay attention this time.

"Kahn is a businessman, and he wants to make money. He's got his fingers in a lot of pies doc, including 'Space Jam'."

Yakko frowned at him; 'Space Jam' was a Warner Brothers production.

"What does he have to do with it? He's Disney; I saw him in 'Jungle Book' - "

"No, first off, he's a businessman, not an actor. His business is to make money doc, and strutting around in 'Jungle Book' got his foot in the door with Disney. He's been working with them ever since; he's pretty much got a guaranteed contract to supply any and all aircraft they need for their shows or movies. 'TaleSpin' was just another show to him; he helped get the series off the ground; only difference with that one was that Disney wanted him to agree to be in a certain number of episodes each season. Added a sense of realism they said."

"What's that got to do with 'Space Jam'?"

"Like I said, he provides aircraft, his company designed the rocket ships used in the movie. He does a lot of stuff with the humans too; I know he has some big contract with Lockheed."

Yakko wondered if Kit knew 'TaleSpin' was nothing more than a marketing tool for Kahn. Kit had mentioned him a few times, having worked with him over the course of the series. He neither liked not disliked the man; all he said was that Mr. Kahn was polite to him and would briefly chat while they waited for their scenes. Then, with a formal 'good bye' the man would depart.

"Just think about it, you don't have to decide today. We've got a few weeks; we'd need to get you fitted for a tux anyway."

Yakko mulled the idea around in his head, wondering if he should go. A tux; it definitely would be more than the normal events he attended. It would be a learning experience, and he might make some useful contacts in the field. Everyone seemed to think it would be wise for him to at least consider going.

"Well…maybe. But, what about Wakko and Dot?"

He winced when all four adults threw their heads back and laughed.

"You're kidding," Bugs snickered. "Look, I love 'em too doc, but this is not the party for them. Dot would eat them alive and Wakko would cause an international incident."

"They would be bored and unhappy within twenty minutes Yakko," Brain added gently. "Neither of them is worrying about networking or making contacts in this field. They are too young and too well cared for to even contemplate that or their futures post-'Animaniacs'."

"You're not though, and it's always good to keep your options open," Mr. Bunny added. "Bugs will be there, Porky and Daffy. Mr. Plotz…Lola. I think even Sylvester and Foghorn are going to attend this one - "

"God help us all," Bugs muttered.

" – so it's not like you'd be thrown to the wolves," Mr. Bunny continued, ignoring Bugs' muttering. "Besides, aren't you a bit curious about what happens after you film? Distribution rights, sound and picture editing? The whole process that goes into releasing a film? The people who make that happen are the ones that will be at this type of event. There's more to working in television beyond repeating lines and making faces at the camera."

Well, he knew that. He did understand what happened in post-production even if he had no interest in it before; he was even aware of what happened in pre-production. Now though…he supposed it couldn't hurt to attend; it might be fun. He would meet some people, learn a few things; it would be different than the usual functions he always went to. Who knew; maybe he'd become a film editor when he grew up.

Bugs was obviously interested in expanding his knowledge base and contact list since he invited him to attend, and he'd rather learn it this way than have the rabbit steer him towards a book. And at least this time he asked him instead of trying to trick him, and he did enjoy himself when he took part in the more adult activities.

But, all these people were attending; Bugs, Porky, Foghorn, even Mr. Plotz…what about Wakko and Dot? He was almost positive that being a black-tie event meant it would be happening in the evening and they were both still too young to stay by themselves. Or he thought they were, at least for an extended period of time at night. If they were alone in the tower, either he or someone very close to them was on the lot. Yakko wondered if there was any other sixteen-year-old in the world that had to worry about finding childcare like he always had to.

He glanced over at the others as he thought; they had gone back to talking amongst themselves. Mr. Bunny had a small frown on his face; he reached into his HammerSpace for a notebook, and frantically began writing notes, glancing up at Yakko for a moment with a small smile. Then he was immersed in his scribbling again.

Yakko mentally went through the remaining chaperons, crossing off Dr. Scratchansniff. They would drive him nuts in fifteen minutes; he'd be better off leaving them alone in the tower. But, that still left Ms. Cunningham, Slappy and Mr. Bunny. With any of them, both his siblings would be welcome and would probably be happier than at the event. He was thankful they were liked enough they always had somewhere to go with people who wanted them around.

After a moment he smirked to himself, remembering the days when he had switched his siblings sleeping schedule so they would not be awake when he was out with their father. He still couldn't decide if that was his dumbest idea ever or a stroke of brilliance. It had worked, though he had realized it was not ideal and had actually been very dangerous; they had all been incredibly lucky.

But it also made him think; he never wanted to be in that situation again. Yakko did not foresee it happening; they were a hell of a lot better off now. He was older and wiser; they had stable lives, good friends that cared about them, and money in the bank. Things changed quickly though, and if he didn't have some sort of plan, he might find that their circumstances could change. And no matter what he did, he was always conscious of that.

This event of Bugs' wouldn't prevent anything, but he knew what networking was and he knew the benefits of it. Hell, Jeeves was always encouraging him to take every opportunity that presented itself to him anyway, and he would meet some influential people.

"Ehhhhh…OK Bugs. I'll go," Yakko said with a shrug.

Bugs looked delighted at the prospect of his company.

"Excellent doc. We'll see about you getting a tux. Probably need to go over some appropriate etiquette, right fork for - "

"Oh, I got that. Don't you remember?" Yakko jumped in, giving the rabbit a grin. Clearing his throat, he sang, "When you walk into a party it's a formal universe…so you jump up on your host and with a kiss say 'Hello Nurse' - ow!"

Yakko shot Bugs back a glare that matched his; he was going to give him a closed head injury if he kept that up. The damn rabbit needed to get a sense of humor. Fine, he'd go to Bugs' party – first chance he got he was going to smack him over the head with a hors d'oeuvre tray.


August 12, 1996

"Just hold still hun; I'll be done in a second - "

"You said that ten minutes ago. Do you have any concept of time?"

"Well. You're testy today Yakko; bad weekend?"

"Testy? You're slathering so much Brylcreem on my face that I'll spend most of the night washing it out. It's greasy; can't you at least find something water-based?"

"Sorry but the regular stuff isn't working on you. I need to use this because the wax will hold your fur out and in place better and I know it won't affect the stage lighting. Cheer up; now your fur is nice and shiny."

"A little dab will do ya, my ass."

Dot tried not to laugh at Yakko as he muttered that and then slumped in the makeup chair. Cecilia, the plump human working on him, made 'tsk-tsk' sounds as she squeezed more Brylcreem on her comb and began to place another layer on his face. After that, she smoothed his face fur down and began pulling it to even it out. Then she twisted some of it, working it into the tuffs.

He was not in a good mood and since he had been snappish all morning, Dot did not want to laugh right in his face. Everyone knew about his bad mood; Wakko had warned her before breakfast this morning that it was going to be a rough day. He was trying to be supportive of their older brother, running to get him coffee and telling him silly jokes in-between takes to get him laughing. Dot was trying too, giving him hugs and doing what she could to at least get him to smile. Nothing was helping much though; Yakko was just cranky.

Cecilia turned from him, bending over to rummage though the creams, eye shadow, curlers and brushes scattered on the counter. Sitting beside him in another makeup chair, Dot sat up on her knees until she was able to catch Yakko's eye in the lighted wall-length mirror. He raised an eyebrow slightly when she beamed at him; she was hoping a larger grin than normal would at least make him curious enough to forget to be grouchy. After staring back at her for a second he made a gookie face, causing her to laugh hard enough she almost slipped out of the red pleather-covered chair. After a moment he released it and grinned at her.

Dot grinned back, happy that he had a smile on his face. That didn't last long; he rolled his eyes when the woman grabbed a tube of bright red lipstick with a sound of triumph and turned back to him.

"Come on Cecilia, I don't need that."

"Just a little," she cheerfully replied, putting a small bit on a Q-tip and dabbing at his nose. "Got another pimple I need to cover."

"Probably from all the Brylcreem sweating down my face."

"Well I can't help it; I have to cover it." Waving at him she asked, "Can't you do something toony for a while to make this stop? You're doing it for - "

"Do something 'toony'?" Yakko snapped, making Cecilia roll her eyes as she turned to put the lipstick down. "Exactly what should I do? Mallet myself every time I grow an inch? I don't get to ToonSpeed away from puberty; it's not like I wanted to go through this."

Not wanting Yakko anymore upset than he already was, Dot slipped out of her chair to the floor, walking over to him. Normally he got along well with Cecilia; they all did. She had been doing most of their makeup for years and was always pleasant and chatty. Yakko was always playing with her, jokingly asking her out or surprising her by yelling 'Hello Nurse!' when he snuck up behind her. And she rarely got mad, even if he caused her to drop whatever she was holding. She could tell that he was in a bad mood and had been trying to engage Yakko in conversation when he came back, but each attempt had been met with a smart comment.

Dot knew the woman was trying to help, and she knew Yakko didn't mean to be rude to her. He was just annoyed with everyone and everything, and if he was being annoyed like that, he ended up getting annoyed with himself. She figured that was OK; it was rare he had one but he was allowed a bad day too.

She reached up to hold his hand as he huffed in the chair. Looking down at her for a moment, he ran a hand through his hair and sighed.

"Sorry Cecilia," he said, slumping lower in the chair and looking apologetic. "It's been a terrible morning."

Cecilia bent over slightly, patting his cheek and combing his hair again before saying, "It's OK hun; my son's going through it too. Not sure how it is for toons, but it can be an awkward time for us."

"It is for us too. Just sometimes, it seems like for us it's more extreme – "

"Well, now you're extremely handsome. You go find your brother so I can do a touchup on Dot."

Dot looked up at Yakko as he stood before bending over to pick her up. She smiled at him even as she mentally winced; his face looked weighted down by the Brylcreem. She couldn't blame him for being upset; it was probably sticky and uncomfortable. He already said he was jealous of her and Wakko; they didn't need the heavy pomade combed through their fur to hold it out from their faces to give it a more full and round appearance.

Yakko had grown since the last time they had filmed anything and the studio wasn't pleased since he looked older. When she had questioned him on why the studio was upset, he told her that the studio didn't want him looking like a sixteen year old. He had to look younger; they were supposed to be ageless toons. He said he was even a bit surprised; he had been hoping he was done growing taller, but he had a small 'growth spurt'. She didn't think it was that bad, he still looked like her brother, but she supposed on camera it would seem awkward.

Bugs and Slappy had been working with him constantly on it; they said there was a few tricks involved in Toon Theory that would help him appear to look more like he had before their hiatus. Slappy was actually better at it than Bugs. She had even helped Vina Walldeen do her change, pulling in wrinkles and smoothing and rounding out her flesh for short periods. Yakko didn't have to do anything very hard like that. But like with a lot of stuff relating to Toon Theory it didn't last long, kind of like a pie. Yakko finally just said it was going to be a long, long season for him.

And the studio was trying to help, somewhat. The makeup people were scrambling and trying to make him look like younger like he did before. He had been in the chair half the weekend between rehearsals as they tried different makeup techniques on him to find the best one. The film crews were trying different camera angles, compositions, and lens to hide the fact he was now even taller than he had been from her and Wakko.

She had even been told that this had happened before, that children had aged out of their role before the studio was ready. It just didn't happen as often with a toon, since their shows usually were not on as long as a regular sitcom. One notable exception was with The Simpson children, but both Bart and Lisa suffered from dwarfism and the makeup and film crew were skilled at their jobs, making it easy to hide what they needed to.

But Yakko didn't suffer from any growth condition and unfortunately makeup and camera angles weren't enough to hide everything. For certain scenes, he had to learn the new bits of Toon Theory and he said he wasn't enjoying it. She didn't understand everything, but all she knew was the he had to concentrate really hard and try to squish himself to look like he did last season. It wasn't much, he was basically condensing his body to appear a bit shorter and have his face become slightly more rounded in certain scenes, but he said it was difficult and not a comfortable feeling.

They had to do a lot more takes because of it. If he let even part of it slip the take was ruined. Plus he was wearing so much makeup and pomade that he kept sweating it off or smearing it on his costume. The Brylcreem would eventually begin to run and drip off his fur. His costume called for a white shirt that had a poofy collar that he looked really nice in. But after the Brylcreem dripped there were clear greasy stains around his neck and it just looked like he was dirty. The lady in wardrobe had been yelling and complaining about him all morning.

She didn't quite understand the whole growing older thing; she and Wakko had grown too, but a little extra makeup and some different camera angles had worked. They both looked slightly different than they had when they first came to the lot, but were essentially the same. It was the same for Mindy; a little extra effort and it was hidden. No one had to do as much work as Yakko; even the boys and girls on Tiny Toons had not had to do that much when they started getting older.

Yakko was older than any of them and had to do extra work because he had grown so much; she didn't think that was fair. She hated seeing him so miserable for something that wasn't his fault.

"Your turn sib," he said, swinging her in the air before depositing her in the chair he had just vacated. "It shouldn't take too long for you at least; you already look perfect. And I bet after lunch we'll start working on your first dance scene."

"Yeah, uh…great," Dot said cheerfully, trying to keep a smile plastered on her face. She was doing nothing to make her brother upset, even if it made her want to sigh, and she mentally thought she would probably wait a while longer before attempting to talk to him about anything that would upset him. Yakko really did seem to like watching her dance, and he had appeared excited when he saw she had a short dance scene, even if it was just dancing around a few other actors and hugging some pigs.

"Shoo Yakko; go find your brother…or better yet, go to wardrobe." At his questioning look, Cecilia pointed at his green coat and added, "You have a tear."

Looking down and spotting the rip, Yakko muttered, "Wonderful. Now I'll have to listen to her again." With a large sigh, he said louder, "I'll be back Dot."

With that, Yakko walked towards the door of the small makeup room, Cecilia waving at him with her brush. Dot settled back in the chair, hoping the lady in wardrobe wouldn't yell at him; he had already ripped his coat once this morning and he didn't need anything else to make his mood worse.

"Well, at least you're in a good mood." Cecilia grinned down at her, pushing some of her dyed red hair behind her ears before grabbing a bottle of hairspray off the crowded counter. Pulling a comb out of her blue apron she added, "That brother of yours though. I knew he had a tongue that could cut like a sword, but wow. Thought he was going to take my head off."

"The studio's mad at him because he got taller during the off season," Dot explained. "And now he's got to do a lot of extra work."

"That's just silly," Cecilia said, removing the flower from Dot's ears and running her fingers through her hair, seeming happier to chat now that Yakko was gone. "Not sure what they expect to happen to a boy that age; don't seem like they'll ever stop growing. Least we don't have to worry about that with you for a few years. And you got a dance number he said?"

"Yeah," Dot nodded, watching the woman work in the mirror. "It's a parody of 'Beauty and the Beast'; we're working in the village scene this morning."

"Well, you're cuter than Belle could ever dream of being. They say she's beautiful, but - "

"Belle is beautiful," Dot corrected her. "I'm cute. I'm still waiting for beautiful."

"Oh, but you'll get just cuter as you get older; you'll see. You'll be beautiful here in a few years." Lightly spraying the comb she was holding, Cecilia added, "You dance so gracefully already; bet between that and your looks alone, when you're older the boys are going to be lined up to talk to you."

"I hope so," Dot said. "I would hate to just sit at the functions because no one wants to dance with me."

"Pretty girl like you? Not going to happen," Cecilia said firmly, already restyling her hair. "The boys love a petite little princess on their arm. Makes them feel all strong and manly. And you already look like a real princess, like you could just walk onto Disney and demand a tiara and the lead in their next film. "

Dot thought that was nice to hear. She did try to look her best after all, but she would like to think there was a bit more to like about her than just a petite dancing princess.

"Boys will have to contend with that brother of yours though," Cecilia continued on, snickering. "Betcha he's not going to like just any ole Joe coming up to a cutie like you."

She had already found that out, though she didn't think Ocho should really count. Hopefully Yakko would like any potential boyfriends she had in the future a lot better. Maybe he would be a little mellower then. When she had asked him he said he would try really really hard; he just refused to make any promises. Yakko said he would hate to make a promise he wasn't sure he intended to keep because he knew exactly what any boyfriends she would have would be thinking.

"Yakko said he would try not to kill them, but if he felt like he had to he said he would try to make it quick," Dot said while the woman laughed. "And he said since I was smart he would try to be reasonable when it happened." Hoping for more compliments, she added, "Don't you think? I mean that I would pick a good boyfriend because I'm smart?"

"Course you're smart," Cecilia said, smiling at her reflection in the mirror. "Just look how you picked up so quickly on the dancing; I couldn't do that. And you have to be smart to take all the classes you have; a couple different dancing lessons and singing too. You've got a cute voice, plus you're a famous actress. Everyone I know likes watching you dance around with your brothers. Like I said hun, you're basically the Warner Brothers version of a princess; perfect choice casting you in their little parody of Belle."

Dot frowned slightly; she acknowledged the compliment and welcomed it. She was cute and talented and did like it when people said it. She was just used to the fact that people liked seeing her with her brothers and wasn't even fazed by that statement anymore.

But at the same time, Cecilia seemed to think she was only smart because she was a 'dancing singing princess'. She snorted; she could be just like Princess Aurora. Apparently all anyone thought she was good for was laying around waiting for someone to come by and dance with her too.

"Knew I would be finished with you quick."

Dot blinked and looked up into the mirror in shock; she hadn't realized she had slipped into her own thoughts for a moment.

"Cutie like you, there's just not much I can do to improve it is there? We certainly don't need to use all that makeup on you."

Cecelia beamed at her in the mirror, and Dot smiled back at her weakly.

"Now go on out there and find Yakko and see if you can cheer him up. He seemed pleased that you were going to be filming part of your dance number; maybe watching you will knock that frown off his face. If not, bet that other brother of yours has gotten into something that will make him laugh."

Or irritate him. Either way, he'll have something to direct his annoyance on besides himself.

Dot smiled at Cecilia again, giving her a small wave before gracefully climbing down from her chair. As soon as she turned from the woman, she felt the smile slip from her face. Once again, someone thought she was only valuable as a dancing, singing cutie. Even when she had been trying to fish for a compliment other than 'cute' it was all she ended up with. She had almost wanted to snap at Cecilia herself, but found she couldn't. The woman didn't know her that well, and like many, all she ever saw was the girl demanding that everyone acknowledge how adorable she was.

Cecilia's comments did prove one thing to her though; she desperately needed to talk to Yakko. She was more sure than ever that she wanted to get away from dance – or as much dance. She needed something smart; she just didn't know what. Yet. But, if she was so smart, she would figure something out. If she couldn't, she deserved to stay in dance and limit herself to being the cute one.

Porky was on set this morning, waiting for her to finish so they could work on some of her assignments between takes. She would try to talk to him again; maybe he would have a suggestion on how to cheer Yakko up. If she could do that, maybe he would have a better suggestion on how to talk to Yakko about all this other stuff without just marching up to him and blurting in his face that she wanted to quit and upsetting him.


"And I'm Princess Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana Fanna Fo Foo..."

Making a growling sound, Dot got ready for her big 'swearing scene'. She had been stunned to see that in the script; her lines were nothing more than asterisks and exclamation points and some of the funny little a's that had the circle around it. She couldn't remember what Yakko called it, but he said all those symbols together was basically a shorthand way of saying 'swearing' – and he said she better not use any of the things he was sure Wakko said when he wasn't around.

She had not planned on that, but she was glad Wakko had Max help her come up with some words they claimed would be OK to use that shouldn't make Yakko mad. She had her doubts though; they wouldn't tell her what some of the words meant, but with the way they were whispering, she didn't think they knew what all the words meant either.

Yakko hadn't been very happy when he saw that in the script; he had muttered something about them not paying attention when he had asked them to lighten up on her adult image. He had even tried to get them to change the line, but had been told that it was going to stay.

Porky had even tried but the studio had refused his request too. Apparently, a few of the Princess's at Disney would flub a line and have a meltdown occasionally, so her doing it on a princess parody was pointing out to them that the toons at Warner Brothers knew about it no matter how much they tried to keep it secret.

Finally, Yakko had just sighed and with a shrug told her to say darn and shoot over and over. Dot hadn't wanted to do that though; it seemed so babyish. This was going to be loads better. She hoped she could remember them all; Max had seemed honored to be asked. He and Wakko had sat on the floor of bedroom in the tower and tossed them back and forth, trying to find ones they said wouldn't get her in trouble, would make everyone laugh, and would make her sound smart. By the time they were done, they had so many they had written them down for her.

Inhaling, Dot threw her head back and scrunched up her eyes, ready to let loose.

"Wanker! You're a tosser and jagoff! And I'm gonna masticate and be cummingtonite! Sod off you…blooming…Gah you're such a bunghole! Grrrr….Crap! Oh yeah, bollocks too! Grrrr…Bloody hell just bugger off splooge!"

Clench fists, glare…Wait for Yakko before stomping off…

"That's my cute little sister who said that," Yakko sighed, putting a hand over his eyes and shaking his head. "Goodnight everybody."

"Cut, cut, cut. Nice Dot, really creative," the director, Mr. Paden drawled, rolling his eyes before turning to Yakko. "Yakko, you realize you star in a comedy right? You think maybe you try dropping the attitude and…oh, I don't know, actually be funny?"

"Did you think that was funny?" Yakko huffed, looking annoyed and jamming his thumb towards her. "Masticate?"

"It means chew Yakko," Mr. Paden sighed. "You masticate food."

"Sure, and I know that's what they were going for when they told her to say it."


"Take a guess."

Dot frowned as Yakko continued to argue with the director, and then looked at some of the stage hands, grips, and other people watching the filming. Some of them seemed to think it was funny. The others…maybe they looked a little stunned? Most had already gone back to what they were doing, moving cameras and dollies, re-adjusting boom mikes, or just walking past the set.

Porky was standing near the table with the snacks, staring at her like she had just pulled her mallet out and had begun beating everything in sight. She gave him the most winning smile she could muster; it seemed to work because after a second he blinked and smiled back at her. He looked like he was talking to someone on the table, but it was darker where he was so she couldn't be sure.

Wakko had thought it was funny at first; he had been standing off to the side quietly laughing. He didn't seem quite so amused now; he was looking around like he was trying to find the best place to hide. He exchanged a quick glance with her and shrugged.

Dot almost felt bad for him; she didn't think he had been trying to trick her…much. He and Max hadn't used words she knew were bad and some of the words were silly and fun to say. Max had said most of the words were not awful; he did add that a few were considered rude overseas, but since they weren't over there it was OK.

She had to remember some of those words; she really enjoyed the term 'bunghole' and had laughed for five minutes when Wakko suggested it. And masticate…she didn't even understand why it was making Yakko mad; it sounded more intelligent than chewing.

"Can we have a minute?" Yakko tersely asked the director.

"Sure, why not? It's not like we have a schedule to keep or anything," Mr. Paden shot back, tossing his copy of the script in the air and slumping back in his chair. Looking over at the clock he said, "Fine, its close enough. Break for lunch; ninety minutes. In time is one; be back, look sharp, and stop worrying about what she says; they're just going to put the censor beep over anything she blurts out anyway."

"Yeah, great."

"Bet those shots of you looking so horrified will go in a blooper reel; know they love to play those in ToonTown. Wish we'd play them too; some of your flubs are a riot."

"Yeah, hysterical, glad I amuse," Yakko muttered before turning to glare at Wakko.

Wakko shrugged a bit awkwardly and asked, "What? None of them are bad; we thought you'd be happy."

"Oh, I'm delighted," Yakko said grandly, grabbing his arm and walking him behind the false-front that was being used for the bakery building. "Let's go kiddo; you can tell me where you and that other ding-dong found a few of those words." Looking over his shoulder he called, "Dot, stay there; we'll be back in a minute."

Dot nodded before letting out a sigh; Yakko would likely be more than a minute. He didn't look happy; she winced when she heard him start talking louder while Wakko insisted that he had been trying to help and the words were funny. She hoped he didn't take too long; she was hungry.

She decided to go talk to Porky; she had wanted to see if maybe he had thought of a suggestion anyway. Besides, if she wandered around too much off set she'd either get Yakko mad or get her dress dirty. Since it wasn't her usual outfit, she wanted to keep it clean. She actually really liked it; Dot didn't imagine she would get to wear it again, but she figured she could enjoy it while it lasted and try to be careful with it.

Wakko was indifferent to his costume and had already spilled juice on his vest. As she had feared, Yakko had been yelled at by the wardrobe lady for ripping his coat again. It hadn't helped his grouchy mood.

She had been hoping he would feel better once they got out of makeup and were back filming. While he was cranky about that and neither of her brothers were as delighted with their costumes as she was, she knew they both were happy with the script; it was funny, they were working with Taz, and they got to sing a song together and goof around. Plus they all got to play at arguing and yelling at each other.

While she did like the script and thought it was funny and was happy she was the center of attention, she felt it was a redo of their other scripts. Once again, it was another skit of her screaming how 'cute' she was; she felt her earlier annoyance from the makeup room return.

But, she liked the fact that for one of the first times, she actually understood what they were making a parody of. She had not understood half of their parodies or jokes, even the ones Yakko tried to explain. He even admitted that there were a few he had to either go read or ask Bugs about. Of course there was the usual 'wait until your older' excuse if it was something really questionable he didn't want to explain. But, everyone had seen 'Beauty and the Beast'; Molly had thought it was really funny when she told her.

Yakko had seemed happy with it, besides the whole meltdown scene, and had pointed out she'd get to display her dancing skills. She had almost been unable to not wince at the statement; he seemed so pleased about it. She knew he was proud of her dancing, and she knew she was good at it.

But…she was growing tired and bored of it. And she had not even realized it until she broke her leg and had sat around for awhile – that's when she realized she missed doing a lot of things - but not ballet. Not one bit. She remembered even being a little happy she was missing the lesson, so she could read, or draw, or talk to her friends…

And she knew of no way to tell him. She had been thinking about it for a few weeks; she wanted to try something different. She did like dancing; she enjoyed certain sections of her theater dance class.

The studio was being hesitant about her returning to riding due to her getting hurt and filming just staring; Mr. Plotz had spoken to her and Yakko, asking for a short delay. He was not as worried about the dance classes and had encouraged her to return.

Yakko had been trying to set up the return dates, and she had no idea how to tell him she didn't want to return; she kept making up reasons to put it off. She had tried talking to Wakko; he was the champion at making excuses and she was running out of them. He hadn't been very helpful. He said he would be bored with any of the dancing after two minutes, let alone two years, and that she should just tell Yakko.

After watching him gnaw on his lip for awhile, Dot had finally bullied him into admitting that he had been having the same thoughts; he wanted to drop a class. After two years and studying three instruments, he said he had wanted to talk to Yakko for quite a while about dropping harp, maybe concentrate more on violin. He said he had mentioned it to Wile, but he really didn't even know what he wanted to do; he was quite happy with the idea of not even having an extra class since it wasn't required.

But, he admitted that he didn't know how to bring the subject up; Yakko had spent a lot of money buying the harp even though it was used, not to mention the cost of the tutoring. He was worried that Yakko would be mad or disappointed in him wasting that amount of money when it could have been spent paying the people back they stole from or going into savings or whatever. And he was worried enough about it he said he had decided not to say anything. Wakko claimed that he was thinking it would be best to try to deal with it no matter how unhappy he was, since that would be better than upsetting Yakko over something so minor.

Dot had been delighted that Wakko was having the same problems and thoughts as her; she didn't feel so alone. She was also a bit proud of herself for noticing that if he picked up any instrument to practice or just play to relieve stress, it was always the violin. He never got as excited about the harp. She had always thought it was because it was big and unwieldy, not because he had lost all interest in it. Lately, the only time he played was when the tutor was at the tower or when Yakko mentioned that Wakko was getting lazy on practicing and forced him to do it.

She had not even thought about the money though and had been a bit worried when Wakko mentioned it. She wondered if Yakko would be annoyed about that; she had never heard him be called a cheapskate, but she didn't think he was wasteful either. And while she knew her shoes and dresses cost nowhere near as much as a harp, she assumed it was a lot of money. She never paid for them, Yakko always had, but with Wakko bringing it up, it was another concern for her.

Wakko had tried to talk her into saying something to Yakko, but she thought she was close to convincing him to do it instead. He was usually braver when it came to going to Yakko with something that might upset him just because he always seemed to be the one to exasperate him. Dot had been happy when Wakko appeared to be encouraged by her words and said he would think about it.

That had been weeks ago. Whenever she asked about it, he always had an excuse; he forgot or he didn't feel like it. Sometimes it was that Yakko was in a bad mood; other times it was because Yakko was in a good mood and he didn't want to ruin it. Wakko had used that there was something on TV, or he had to take a shot, or he just changed his mind. A few times he had told her he had just screwed something up and was about to go put Yakko in a bad mood and this would not be the best time. She knew Wakko was good at thinking up reasons for stuff he did, but she didn't think even he could dream up as many lame excuses as he had.

Dot had decided to try talking to Porky; he wouldn't tell anyone if she asked him not to so she knew Yakko wouldn't find out. Porky had seemed to understand what she was saying and had encouraged her to talk to Yakko, waving off what Wakko had said about the money. He had even offered to talk to Yakko for her since she was worried, but she had stopped him. She figured she could do it, if Wakko didn't. Eventually.

But not right now; probably not today even. She had been thinking of trying to talk to him tonight, when they were back in the tower and Yakko didn't look as stressed out, but with her idiot brother getting him mad, she didn't think that was going to be a good idea.

She should have tried yesterday, after rehearsal and when Yakko was still in a good mood. He and Wakko had been laughing and joking, since they got to sing and play around on this script more. Her brothers did occasionally sing songs together, and she was pleased when they got a short they were looking forward to. They had sounded good together; from what she understood, they would begin filming that part of the short tomorrow, since that was when Taz would be there.

She had seen him at rehearsal over the weekend, and he had laughed and joked that acting with her was going to better than anything he ever had to do with Bugs. He even held her and did his version of the 'dust-deviling', which was longer than most toons could, and faster too. It had been fun spinning around for a few minutes but she started feeling sick so he had stopped.

Dot turned, heading toward Porky; if Yakko took too long, maybe the pig would just take her to lunch so she wouldn't have to wait. Nearing him, she spied a familiar figure standing on the table in a funny outfit watching her. She hadn't realized that Brain had arrived.

She liked him; he was funny and nowhere near as mean and bitter as he appeared on his show. He had said he could rule the world better than any of the current world leaders, but as far as she knew he didn't have any plans to try it. His cold, emotionless voice and what he said usually made her laugh, plus he was really smart and never talked to her like she was a silly little girl, something she appreciated.

Since he and Pinky had gotten their own show she didn't see him as much, though she was happy they seemed to be really successful. Now they only appeared occasionally on 'Animaniacs'. And since they were gone, they had to update the theme song and sing something about income tax she didn't understand. But it was nice to update it, if only because now there was room for Lisa to be mentioned in it.

She quickly made her way to the table, waving at Porky before standing on her toes so she could see Brain better and grinned at him.

"Good morning Dot."

"Hi Brain! I didn't know you were going to be here!"

"Pinky and I are scheduled for a non-speaking cameo in this short. Now though I see my shoot will be postponed as the director has stomped off in high dudgeon. Which may be just as well; it appears that Pinky has become lost again."

"Yakko wanted a break," she shrugged. "He didn't like the words."

"W-W-Well Dot, I t-t-told y-y-you about listening to W-W-your brother a-about that," Porky pointed out. "And some of those w-w-words w-weren't nice - "

"Well, it was better than just saying shoot wasn't it? And Max insisted that these words were OK, and that Yakko would think it was funny. I didn't think he'd be mad…or if he was, not this mad."

"The use of those words did nothing but annoy him," Brain agreed. "But I must inquire; if you were aware of that fact, why did you use them?"

"Well, I didn't know what most of them meant. I don't think they knew what all of them meant either. When I asked, they either laughed or shrugged and changed the subject."

"That is plausible, as I found several of your statements amusing. I have never heard anyone claim they were going to masticate cummingtonite before."

"Brain!" Porky snapped, sharply enough that Dot jumped.

With a snort, Brain calmly said, "Ease your mind my fretful friend; neither of those words are in actuality any cause for concern. They merely sound alarming."

Dot considered what he said for a moment asking, "So what do they mean? Did I say them right?"

"Your pronunciation was correct, even if your usage was not," Brain assured her. "Masticate means chew as you now know. Cummingtonite is magnesium iron silicate hydroxide." At Porky's low groan and her quizzical look, he added, "A mineral."

"So Wakko and Max just had me tell everyone I was going to eat a rock."

Brain opened his mouth, paused for a moment, exchanged a glance with Porky, and then nodded slightly.

"Yes, I suppose that would be a very simple way of stating it. I am certain with the word choices that your brother and his friend were merely trying to annoy Yakko in a childish manner."

With a sigh, Dot grabbed her chair and dragged it closer to the table; she didn't hear Yakko yelling, but she didn't see him either. She wondered if she should go get him; if she didn't, he might talk his way through the entire lunch break. He and Wakko needed to eat too.

"Well, they managed to do that. I just wish Wakko hadn't gotten him mad now; I was going to try to talk to him. Maybe."

"I do not believe that your brother is that angry; even if he was it would not be directed towards you," Brain said. "I am positive whatever the subject matter is that you wish to discuss, he will be receptive to listening."

"I don't know Brain," she replied, sitting and smoothing her skirt out. "I don't think he's going to like what I have to say." She added quietly, "He's never quit anything."

"Dot, w-we discussed this," Porky said quietly as he crouched beside her chair. "I thought y-you w-were going to talk to him b-b-before now. Y-Y-You s-said - "

"Well, I was, but…" she trailed off for a moment before sighing again. "He's been busy, and Wakko was going to talk to him too. I told you I was waiting to see what happened, but he keeps chickening out."

"I told y-you Dot, if y-y-you w-wanted I w-w-would t-talk to him - "

She thought about the offer again; Yakko might take it seriously if Porky talked to him. He'd probably still be upset though, and he'd probably be more upset if the pig told him than her.

"No…Maybe Wakko will do it soon."

"He's not g-g-going t-to be m-mad at either of y-y-you because y-y-you w-want a change."

"Porky!" Dot shushed the pig, trying not to make it obvious as she pointed towards Brain.

"I am unsure what your conversation is regarding," Brain stated after a moment. "However, if you truly desire something, I would advise you against waiting for another to act."

"But Wakko's always the one that does this stuff; he specializes in doing things to make Yakko mad," Dot pointed out, considering the mouse. Brain was close to Yakko, but she considered him her friend too. Maybe if she talked to him he would have some better ideas. He was smart. "I wanted to wait and see how upset Yakko got with him before I tried."

"If you have developed a new interest, I find it unlikely he will be distressed," Brian stated, crossing his arms as he studied her. "Having associated with your brother for several years, he appears to embrace new educational opportunities and expanding one's intellect on almost any topic." After a moment, he asked, "If I may be so bold as to inquire, exactly what are we speaking of? A new interest can signify many things, and if I am to be involved in this conversation I would like to be informed of the subject matter."

Sharing a look with Porky, she finally turned to Brain and asked, "You won't tell him?" At the mouse's slight head shake, she said, "I…don't want to dance anymore. Not ballet. I want to take a different class."

"And that would be?"

"I don't know, that's part of the problem," Dot muttered, slumping in her chair. "It's going to be hard to tell him I want to get rid of one class and don't even have an idea of what to replace it with isn't it?"

"Dot, it's n-not r-r-required, but w-w-we can find a s-suitable class t-to replace - "

"But I don't want to replace it with just a class," Dot argued, cutting off Porky. "I want to do something that…I don't know, isn't just me dancing around being pretty. I do that enough here," she continued, waving her arm at the set. "I want to do something that shows I'm not just the girl of the group. I'm smart too…"

"You wish to be known for your mind, not only for your looks," Brain spoke, a slight smirk on his face as he folded his arms behind his back. "I cannot say I understand, nor have I noticed this particular complaint developing in one so young, though it is a grievance I have regularly heard. Your friend, Nurse Miller has frequently lamented that people rarely see beyond her appearance."

Dot nodded; Lisa always said that even though she had to train for several years to be a nurse, people were completely focused on how she looked. Dot wasn't quite sure what the complaint was – Lisa was pretty and she would think the woman would like being complimented. And she was a nurse, so everyone would already know she was intelligent. Dot thought that if she looked like Lisa and was that smart too, she would just stand around holding a needle and let people compliment her all day.

"Y-Y-You'll be r-riding again s-shortly," Porky told her. "The s-s-studio d-did not w-w-want y-you to stop p-permanently. I'll t-talk to Mr. P-Plotz a-again."

Dot nodded but didn't respond. She would be happy to be riding again; maybe she could take a few riding classes…no, that wouldn't work, not with a shooting schedule and being stuck at the lot like she was and dependant on others. She knew she was fortunate being able to leave the lot one day a week to do it. She would never be greedy enough to try to take two.

"Perhaps you should consider a music class," Brian said after a moment. "Both of your brothers play instruments and appear to enjoy it."

Dot shook her head.

"They both like it; I don't. I don't even like playing the piano; if the studio would let me, I'd quit today."

"Perhaps a different style of dance? More singing lessons? Cooking? Script writing? A language? Tennis? Painting? Gardening?" Brain sighed in frustration as she continued to shake her head at each idea. "It is difficult to suggest a subject without knowing what you wish to accomplish beyond a vague allusion to 'looking smart'."

"Maybe s-s-sewing," Porky offered. "You like k-knitting. G-G-Granny can t-tutor in t-that."

Dot thought about that; she did enjoy trying to do her knitting, even if she wasn't very good at it. Maybe if she took a real class instead of trying to remember all of what Goose told her she could finally make Yakko a scarf that looked like it was supposed to instead of a something a cat played with.

But…she shook her head. It wasn't what she wanted, even if she didn't know what it was she was actually looking for. Plus, she didn't think a class on knitting would go on for that that long; if she was right, she would be looking for a new class soon after she started and she'd have the same problem. She had never thought finding a class would be so hard.

"W-W-We'll t-think of s-something Dot," Porky said, patting her shoulder. "T-There's no h-hurry."

Dot didn't pay much attention to him; Brain had begun to pace in front of a box of cheese pastries, looking deep in thought.

"You are of course taking the entire required generalist curriculum for a child of your age," Brain mused quietly, placing a hand on his chin as he continued to pace. "Reading and writing proficiency, basic American and Toon History, beginner mathematics, geography. You have your Toon Theory tutor. You are obligated to attend piano lessons. You will soon recommence your equestrian pursuits."

Finally he stopped, turned and looked at Dot and Porky. Brain crossed his arms behind his back again and said, "In the human schools, many elementary programs for their young are severely underdeveloped in both sciences and social studies. Sadly, toon requirements for our young are no different as they are based upon that syllabus."

Dot cocked her head, looking at the mouse. She understood most of what he was saying. She mulled the ideas around in her head; he mentioned science and social studies. She hadn't even thought about them. She wasn't sure she'd like them either. Brain was slightly smiling though, and she knew he liked science. She leaned up further in her chair, resting her chin on her hands while she thought about it.

At their silence, Brain suggested, "Perhaps you may consider a basic science class. It would not be unwise to attend a class on the topic, as you will be expected to take a few courses when you are older. Early exposure would be an advantage for you. You may even find you enjoy it."

Porky put his hands on her shoulders and said, "I'm not s-s-sure if t-those w-would be s-s-s…appropriate for her age."

"Dot is not so young that she would be incapable of receiving any benefits from this subject. Developing a scientific approach to questioning and logical thought is advantageous at any age and is an important life skill."

"S-S-She's eight," Porky argued. "S-She has p-plenty of t-t-time - "

"If she is exposed at an early age, she may find she has an aptitude for it and will not be as confused once she is older," Brian countered in a calm voice, halting the pig's speaking. "I am aware that Yakko has been required to attend several modules in physical and life sciences as he has different academic obligations that must be met at his age," Brain continued on, moving his gaze from Porky to include Dot. "While he has done exceedingly well, he has expressed frustration in the past regarding many elements, as he started much of his tutoring later in his childhood and was behind in certain subject matters."

"I don't know Porky, maybe science would be good. It's not dance so Yakko might not like it, but maybe he'd be OK if it was something that would help later," Dot said, looking up at him. "You do all my basic classes now; can you do science too?"

The pig shook his head before explaining, "No…I n-never got m-m-my t-t-training certificate in that s-s-subject. I'm a g-g-generalist and Toon T-Theory tutor."

"It is merely a matter of sitting for a test to obtain the various certifications; you already posses several of them as you are a tutor," Brain stated in a matter of fact tone. "Granted the test is long, and of course a portion is oral - "

"I'm n-not a s-s-scientist," Porky clarified. "I w-w-wouldn't be a-able to p-p-pass."

"Ah. I see." Brain nodded. "That would hinder your efforts to obtain the required certificate to teach her. It can be a difficult topic to conquer for one who does not have the right mindset."

Porky snorted and muttered something quietly under his breath.

Dot ignored him for the moment; she was warming up to the idea, now that she had thought about it more. She knew Yakko took a few science classes; she didn't even realize he had many problems in them. He was smart and always seemed to breeze through every subject he took with no problems. The idea of him having problems in a class made her sad since she knew why he would be behind. Because of everything he went through when he was little, like trying to keep them together, she was able to discuss this now with people who cared about her. Maybe he was right; it probably was hard being the oldest.

But…Brain had said it was a life skill, and could help with logic and reasoning. She bet Yakko would like hearing that; he was always asking for reasons about why she or Wakko did or didn't do something. She wasn't sure if she would like it but it did sound a lot better than knitting.

"I am aware that Ms. Flemeil can tutor in a variety of subjects. Despite her objectionable personality I find I cannot fault her intellectual abilities, and she is knowledgeable in many aspects of - "

"No," Dot said firmly, shaking her head. "I want someone else. Poor Yakko and Wakko are still stuck with her, but I'm not." Looking at Brain, she asked, "What would I do in science?"

"As you are young and have no background, you would start off with basic knowledge and build upon it. Collecting data, ethics, safety, plants, animals, space, the Earth…perhaps conservation, natural disasters - "

"I know about that all that stuff. We sang ple- "

"There is more to science than singing a two minute 'ditty' regarding some theme set to a familiar tune. You would go beyond that elementary knowledge to delve deeper into a variety of subject matters."

"Like what? Wasn't all the basic stuff in those songs?"


At her look, Brain began to quickly ask her questions.

"Do you comprehend ethics and safety in a scientific setting? Data collection? Or do you understand weather; the different types? The patterns? How the environment and organisms react to stimuli? How animals adapt to their environment? The relationships of cause and effect? Water tables? Do you understand the forces acing on a ball that is thrown? Did you ever sing a song about the differences between kinetic and potential energy or friction and inertia? Osmosis? Using critical thinking skills? What a hypothesis is? The real differences between blood and blink beyond knowing it is merely 'toon blood'?"

Dot was shaking her head no so much she wanted to tell him to stop; he was making her feel stupid. A few of the words or questions she had heard, but she had no understanding of what he was asking her. The songs had been educational, but obviously she had not learned as much as she thought. Maybe she would be better off in ballet; at least she could understand that.

Porky smiled down at her before turning to back to Brain and said, "S-S-See Brain? T-T-That is g-going t-to be b-b-bey… advanced for her. M-Maybe in a few y-y-years."

"The subject was merely a suggestion, though I wish to stress again that I am alarmed that our scientific education is so lacking she appears confused by many of these simple questions." Brain shook his head and gave a small shrug. "As I am in that field, my opinion I admit will be biased. The topic can be difficult; however, Dot possesses a quick mind for her age and is naturally curious. This would be to her advantage. As she was looking for a topic that entailed her not being pretty and was instead…" He closed his eyes and scowled. "Smart…it seemed a sound proposal."

"No it is." Dot paused as they both looked at her. She was a bit flattered that Brain said she possessed a quick mind even if she didn't know the answers to any of his questions. At least he didn't think of her as just the dancing cutie. "It sounds interesting…kind of. Some of it. Maybe Yakko won't be too upset if I tell him what Brain said about it being a good life skill."

"W-W-Well, m-maybe w-we can consider it," Porky said, putting his hand on her head and sighing. "T-T-Think about it a l-little m-more b-before y-y-you decide. It's a l-lot of w-w-work. W-We w-would need to find a t-t-tutor any- "

"What about him?" Dot asked, pointing at Brain.

Brain, who had been observing their conversation with a slight smile, looked taken aback at her question.


"Yes, you!" Dot exclaimed, leaning forward in her chair so her face was in front of the startled mouse. "You're here at the lot and you know science. You could be my tutor!"

She nodded to herself, liking the idea. Brain was like a lot of the actors she knew; no matter how much he appeared on a show, he never considered himself an 'actor'. Brain always said he was a scientist first. And Brain was smart and knew the subject well; he'd be the perfect tutor for it.

And Yakko may not mind this too much, even if he didn't like science and would rather see her dancing. She would be improving her mind, and he was always telling her and Wakko to use their heads and think before they acted; usually Wakko more than her, but still. Plus some of it did sound interesting, like the animals and plants. And Yakko did like Brain, and he was always encouraging her to learn everything she could; he might be OK with her doing this.

"I confess I am overwhelmed at your exorbitant amount of confidence in my abilities. However, I am not a tutor. I do not feel that my time would be wisely spent in pursuing that field, as my personality would not facilitate a desirable learning environment."

"Sure it would!" Dot said excitedly, not understanding every word he used but able to follow the basic meaning of what he said. If she was right, he needed a pep talk, and she could do that. "Look at Flemeil – she's got the personality of a witch! She teaches and everyone hates her!"

"Dot! B-B-Be nice."

"It's true!" She insisted, glancing at Porky before returning to look at Brain. "And I know you – I'd rather have someone I know teach me than just finding some random toon to show me what to do!" When he shook his head and looked alarmed, she bent down lower so her nose was almost touching him and added, "Pretty please?"

"Y-Y-You do know the s-subject Brain," Porky cut in, resting his elbows on the table so he could look down at the mouse with a slight smirk on his face. "And y-y-you w-were the one w-w-who s-s-spoke about its u-usefulness."

"An action I am now regretting," Brain said quietly as he took a few steps back. "I do not possess the required certificates to tutor any subject - "

"B-B-But it's just s-s-sitting for a t-t-test, r-remember?" Porky questioned, arching one eyebrow and giving the mouse a big smile. "Granted it's l-long and a p-p-portion is oral b-b-but for one of the right m-m-mindset…"

"I am dismayed to find that my prior words are being utilized against me in this discussion," Brain groaned.

"Come on Brain!"

Dot jumped off her chair, crawling on the table to get closer to him; he was still slowly backing away, looking behind him as if he was trying to escape. She narrowly missed getting spilled raspberry filling on her dress, but she wasn't even worried about that now. The wardrobe lady could yell at her all she wanted – after she got Brain to say yes.

She didn't want to be known only as the 'cute' one, but she figured she was cute; why not use it to her advantage? It wasn't like she never had before to get her way, and she bet Brain was just as big a sucker as Yakko and Porky and Bugs or anyone else she decided to turn her charms on. He just might take a bit more work than them to see things her way. She had confidence in her skills and knew what she wanted. And now that her mind was made up, she wanted Brain.

"You said yourself it was a difficult subject and I had no background in it. But if you were my tutor, you would know that and could help me!" Widening her eyes and clasping her hands under her chin she asked, "And you're my friend right? I mean a good friend, not just a coworker? And if you're my friend, don't you want me to have the very best tutor I could? And aren't you the best?"

"Yes!" Brain replied loudly, pounding his right fist into his other hand to emphasize his point.

"Then be my tutor!"

"Dot, I do not believe you realize what you - "


"I would be a merciless educator and…"

Batting her eyes and flashing some dimple, she said in a quiet insistent voice, "Please? I know you'd be great and I'd learn a whole lot." Inhaling and hoping she was right on his potential to be a softy under his snarky exterior, she added, "Pretty please…with whipped cream and a cherry?"


Brain stared back at her, his eyes now so wide they almost engulfed his head. Then he glanced at Porky, who was now resting his chin on his hand and shaking his head; Dot glanced at him and noted that he looked amused. She ignored him and went back to staring at Brain with a small hopeful smile and flicked her tail; she wondered if he was weakening.

After a few seconds of intense silence, Brain finally sighed deeply and with his shoulders slumping, said quietly, "Perhaps I could assist you with a few of the basic principles in the various disciplines."

Dot grinned; she just knew she'd get her way. It hadn't even taken anywhere near as much work as she thought; she had expected to have to beg him. Porky rolled his eyes and placed a hand over his snout as he snickered quietly behind her.

"However," he said in a firmer tone, standing up taller and looking directly at her. "I am much too busy to sit with a testing board to display my proficiency in such rudimentary topics as life science for no purpose. I would only be willing to obtain the tutoring certifications required if you first to speak to Yakko regarding this arrangement. I am reluctant to pursue this without his involvement, and it will provide proof to me that you are dedicated to this course of action."

Dot nodded. She still wasn't looking forward to talking to Yakko, but fair was fair. If Brain was agreeing to go through the extra work to tutor her, the least she could do was talk to her brother. She had even found herself a tutor, so Yakko wouldn't have to do anything but agree.

Hopefully. Maybe he wouldn't be too upset…

"Do we have an accord?" He looked at her, sighed, and asked, "A deal?"


"Inform me when you have done so," Brain ordered before turning to the still smirking Porky. "I am concerned when I consider she is only eight; the mere thought of what she will be able to accomplish when she is older is disquieting." Adjusting his costume he added, "I was unaware of her skills in persuasion."

"Y-Y-You b-better g-get u-used to it," Porky snorted as he looked down at him and shrugged.

Dot smiled brightly down at the mouse; Brain was now looking confused and scratching his head. After a moment, she felt Porky gently pulling her off the table; he ended up dragging her through the raspberry filling. She grimaced; she would get yelled at by the wardrobe lady after all.

He pointed and said, "Here c-come your brothers. W-W-We can g-g-go g-g-get lunch now."

Dot looked and breathed a sigh of relief. Now that she had gotten her way and had a plan, she realized she was hungry again. And maybe she could talk to Yakko tonight after all; he and Wakko were laughing, pushing and chasing each other around. Yakko even had Wakko's cap and was holding it out of his reach and teasing him.

She nodded, pleased. He wasn't in a bad mood like she feared, her other brother wasn't in any trouble, and they could grab a quick lunch and get back to filming. Cecelia was probably going to have to retouch everyone's makeup, but hopefully Yakko would be nicer to her like normal.

And since Brain was there, she knew her brother would want to talk with the mouse. If he stayed on set for awhile, that would probably help keep Yakko happy too. If the rest of the day went well, she would talk to him tonight. With Brain making that deal, she was going to have to go first instead of waiting for Wakko. She sighed; maybe now Wakko would grow a backbone and finally talk to Yakko too.


August 14, 1996

"Yakko! Just hold on a minute doc!"

Yakko didn't even bother to look over his shoulder as he pushed open the door to the tutoring building, stepping outside and wincing in the bright sunlight. Holding it open for Wakko and Dot, he tried to hurry them out; he ended up almost closing it on Dot's tail. He had hoped the rabbit would take the hint and just try to catch him later. He had ignored him the first two times he called when he was leaving Flemeil's office.


So much for that hope. Bugs rarely took a hint; hell, if he did Yakko would be so surprised he'd have to go back and check on him. But, since he followed him out the door, he found he had a new problem; not only was Bugs not going away, he also sounded annoyed.

Yakko tried to walk a little faster; he avoided going to ToonSpeed only because that would be too obvious. Besides, Bugs would probably catch him; bet he'd be a lot more annoyed if he had to chase him around the lot. Behind him Yakko could hear Wakko and Dot whispering and giggling and struggling to keep up with his longer strides.

He wasn't going to stop. If Bugs was determined to talk to him he could follow him to the set; that had happened before. Yakko hoped to get there before the rabbit caught him; if he could he would be immersed in his work and therefore he could put off this conversation.

Hearing the rabbit coming up behind him and knowing that plan wouldn't work, Yakko stated in a tight voice, "We've got a ten o'clock call time Bugs and we're going to be late. We don't have time - "

"Well, now you're gonna make time. Stop walking."

Recognizing the tone in Bugs' voice and not in the mood for an argument, Yakko slammed to a stop so quickly Wakko and Dot almost stumbled into him. He heard Dot bump into Wakko, and they hissed a few words to each other; he noted that 'bunghole' was used twice.

This was shaping up to be one of the most unpleasant weeks he ever had, at least in recent memory, and he couldn't even figure out how it happened. He could hardly believe that it was only a week and a half ago that he had got his license and he'd been so pleased; now he was irritated and that made him miserable. He had been making an attempt to hide his annoyance with everything in general but with the way Bugs was looking at him he was aware that he probably hadn't been doing a great job.

Flemeil had already tried to jump on him for his attitude yesterday which had prompted the early morning meeting; he shut that down immediately. He may be stuck with her for the rest of his academic career, but very few people were given the privilege of lecturing him. Flemeil was not one of them, and she was not special enough that she could send a note to demand that he see her before he reported to the set. He had been tempted to pie her.

He had refrained; Wakko and Dot were with him. He was supposed to set a good example for them though he probably hadn't this morning. After a brief argument with her, he had told her that she should thank his siblings for joining him; if not for them she would have no guarantee of retaining her pastry-free status.

Judging by the way Bugs had chased them down he had probably heard the exchange. Yakko knew he shouldn't have yelled that in the hallway; sound traveled too well in there. He hadn't actually meant to say it out loud, he had just been so irritated.

At least his siblings had been amused and encouraging; Wakko begged him not to hold back on their account. Dot offered to provide the pie.

He ran a hand through his hair; he probably should apologize to the witch. He was going to be stuck with her for the foreseeable future since the studio was still forcing him and Wakko to keep at their basics with her. He wished she'd retire; he suggested it to her once but that hadn't been received well. It wasn't fair they were stuck with her; they got some say on their tutors for other subjects.

Look at Dot; she found her own tutor – for a subject he hadn't even known she had an interest in. And while he was proud of her for knowing what she wanted and expanding her interests, he was upset that she hadn't even talked to him first. She had gone to Porky.

And he didn't even feel he could say anything to her or Wakko. It wasn't their fault; he was happy they finally told him they wanted to drop a class. Hell, he had been happy to discuss it; if they were making more of their own choices and expanding their interests he wasn't going to discourage that.

What had upset him was when Wakko had casually mentioned that he had been 'worried' to tell him, Dot chiming in with the same thoughts. He had tried to prod an answer out of them and couldn't even get a coherent idea of what they were worried about other than 'you like watching me dance' and 'it cost a lot of money'.

He had absolutely no idea how to counter those claims since both were true, but they also were not important to him. He was more concerned about them being happy. They never picked up on the fact he had been confused, so he took comfort in the fact he hid that well. Mostly. He was pretty certain he had been an ass a couple of times this week; he was almost certain he had been to Bugs. And he'd apologize; he just didn't feel like discussing it with him right now.

Rolling his eyes because he knew Bugs was going to latch on to him since he caught them, Yakko finally turned to look at the rabbit in annoyance. Yakko blinked in surprised when he noticed Daffy beside him. He liked Daffy – the duck was a riot when he was trading barbs with Bugs – but he was confused about why he was there. The duck smirked at him before looking down, slapping a big grin on his beak as he crouched down to greet Wakko and Dot.

"Bugs, Paden's gonna have a fit if we're - "

"Relax doc, I took care of him." Before Yakko ask what that meant, he looked down at Daffy and asked, "Hey Daff, why don't ya visit with the kids? Know how you like to talk with 'em, them being your intellectual peers and all. I gotta talk to Yakko for a minute."

"Smartass," Daffy retorted quietly as he stood. With a snort, he pushed the rabbit out of his way, grinning broadly when Bugs' stumbled. "Come on you two," he lisped, beaming down at Wakko and Dot. Holding his hands out and gently herding both of them along, he said, "I'm desperate for intelligent conversation after dealing with this clown. Let's review your lines and then we - "

"But we already know them - "

"Then we have time to chat," Daffy said firmly, cutting Wakko off and showering him in a fine spray of spittle. As Wakko wiped his face, Daffy said, "Haven't seen you in awhile kiddo; know you gotta have missed me. Plucky said you two were building a secret weapon over at the goofy chicken's place."

"Well it's not very secret now - "

"And you Dot; Porky said you were dancing all over the place the other day, pretending to be a Disney princess. How's it feel to know that at your age you're already more talented than anything that's ever waltzed out of Walt's place?"

Yakko scowled, not pleased that both his siblings were being walked off by the duck, mostly because he was now with Bugs. Neither of the older stars fooled him; he was aware they had set him up so he could be split off with Bugs. Yakko just sighed, resigned since apparently he wasn't going to get any say in the matter. When both of his siblings turned to look at him, he nodded. Daffy could certainly take them where ever he wanted on lot and both of them looked flattered to be the center of his attention.

He frowned slightly as they moved out of sight though a group of people heading inside administration. They were gone and he no longer had an excuse to avoid a conversation with Bugs, and he already had a pretty good idea what the topic was going to be.

"Let's talk for a second doc."

Feeling Bugs put his arm around his shoulders and steering him in the opposite direction, Yakko congratulated himself on being correct about that. If Bugs was going to have a serious conversation with him – or worse, about him - that was usually the opening line.

"Bugs, everything's fine, I - "

"Didn't say it wasn't Yakko. But we just heard a rumor that you had replaced Daffy as the number one prima donna at Warner Brothers; we had to check it out for ourselves." When he didn't get a response, Bugs continued, drawling, "Daffy's jealous; you stole his shtick and you're doing a better job of it."

"I'm haven't been a prima donna Bugs."

"I don't usually hear you described as a picky, temperamental brat, so something's up."

Yakko stopped and looked up at him, surprised; he didn't think he was usually described that way either. Then again, he had thought before that he had probably been a bit of an ass. He sighed; it wasn't shaping up to be a very good week. And it was only Wednesday; he couldn't wait to see what the rest of the week had in store for him.

"Who said that?"

"Think I'm giving you names? Not on your life doc; I gotta work with 'em too." Giving Yakko a gentle push to keep him moving out of the roadway and towards a small seating area behind a warehouse, he asked, "So, you wanna talk about it?"

Did he? He probably should; he was rarely in a bad mood for long, certainly not days. He wasn't even sure if he was in a bad mood; he thought he was more agitated than angered. And it wasn't like he hadn't gone to the rabbit for advice before. If he had any damn sense he probably would have called Bugs immediately rather than try to deal with it himself.

Watching a few stagehands that were finishing their cigarette break begin to walk off from the tables, he shrugged.

"Maybe later Bugs, I really need to get back to set. Paden's been complaining that filming is taking longer than sched - "

"Paden knows you're with me; he can work around you for a while." Gesturing towards one of the benches pushed against a wall, Bugs added, "Wakko and Dot will be in wardrobe and makeup for a few minutes, we've got time for a chat."

"Not much," Yakko sourly muttered as he flopped down on the bench. "Their makeup takes about two minutes."

"Is that what your problem is?" Bugs questioned, sounding exasperated. Cocking his head he sat on the bench beside him. "All the makeup and the Toon Theory stuff? Look doc, we talked about this; everyone ends up having to do a little at some point. I told you about the guys who had to stretch their lips and necks in some of those old product-of-their-time cartoons that none of us today want to even acknowledge we made. Even I had to do some way back when; imagine how Fudd had to contort himself to appear taller or fatter or dumber than normal in some of his first shorts. If it's a kid whose grown and the show runs long, you're going to have to do a little more than before so - "

"It's not the makeup and Toon Theory!" Yakko snapped, cutting the history lesson off before Bugs went into full lecture mode; he'd talk about that all day if given the chance. He inhaled; Bugs didn't understand, so he tried to compose himself. "But trust me, that's not helping any."

It wasn't; the mental strain of trying to act, recite lines, pay attention to directions, other actors and everything else going on around a shoot on top of it was exhausting. It was a form of Chucking, though one that had to be held. Unlike Chucking, where one braced for impact and immediately released, this involved contorting, bracing, and no release. He had heard an extra one time describe it as a form of torture straight out of the medieval era, like being put on the rack fully stretched to the limits and just left. It was uncomfortable, it gave him a headache, and if he never had to do it again after today it would still be too much in his lifetime.

"So talk to me; how can I help if I don't even know what the problem is?"

"I don't have a problem Bugs, so I don't need any help."

"Oy, teenagers," Bugs lamented quietly, putting his hand over his face.

Yakko shot him a nasty look but didn't say anything further.

After a moment, Bugs sighed and said, "Look, you got two choices Mac; talk to me or talk to Plotz. He's heard the complaints too." Shrugging, he added, "I told Plotz to let me talk to you first and I gotta admit, I think I'm the more reasonable of your choices."

Wasn't that the truth. Yakko decided he did not feel like talking to Plotz. They didn't argue like they used to and they did hold a certain amount of respect for each other, but he simply did not see a talk going well between them right now.

"Come on Yakko. Even Daffy's trying to help; what's that tell ya? He actually volunteered to take the munchkins so I'd get your undivided attention, especially after that display in the hallway."

Damn it. Bugs had heard, and apparently Daffy too. Yakko sincerely hoped no one else had been present for his little outburst. No matter how satisfying and slightly amusing it had been; it had almost perked his mood up some. Now he wished he had pied her; he'd be in a good mood the rest of the day no matter what the consequences of that act would have been.

"Think about what poor Wakko and Dot are going through. Trying to decipher all that lisping...absolutely drowning in spittle...his ego's gonna overwhelm 'em doc. Kids will need therapy by the time he's done with 'em."

"It's nothing, I just..." Yakko crossed his arms; Bugs was trying to help, though he had a look that clearly said he might as well talk because he wasn't leaving until he did. Sighing, Yakko blurted out, "Dot and Wakko want to drop a class; they're unhappy."

Bugs, who had been smiling and trying to joke, simply blinked twice at that statement; then he reached back into his HammerSpace for a carrot. Still looking at him, he slowly took a bite. Then he chewed methodically for a few seconds before he swallowed.

"They just told me." When Bugs still looked more confused than concerned, Yakko stressed, "They just told me Monday! They've both been unhappy in their classes for awhile!"

"OK...So, did you know they were unhappy in their classes?"

"Of course not," Yakko snorted. "I don't want them forced to take a class – not because of me."

"All right…" Bugs went silent for a moment while looking at him before taking another bite of his carrot and shrugging his shoulders. "Yakko, I want to help and believe me I'm trying to understand, but you're not making a lot of sense doc. They want to change classes; you now know about it. Is it something required? Did something happen? Do you not want them to? Are they unhappy with their tutors?"

"No. There is absolutely no problem with the tutors. Besides Flemeil."

He figured he better make that abundantly clear; Wakko and Dot would run riot around the lot if they lost their beloved tutors. Bugs was used to the frequent complaints about Flemeil.

"Good to hear; so what's the problem? I know some of this is just lingering teenage moodiness that you'll grow out of - "

"I am not a moody teenager!" Yakko replied indignantly.

"Not all the time no, but you are a teenager…and do get moody." Bugs waved him off at his look. "Oh you know I'm right doc; you've been like this all week. I was content to wait until ya worked it out of your system until I started hearing complaints."

Yakko pushed off the moody comment. He knew his disposition was a bit changeable, especially the last few days, but he honestly thought he had hid it better. He wondered who had complained about him; thinking back, Yakko could think of a few people he had snapped at this week, though he had apologized to all of them.

And Bugs; Yakko rolled his eyes, figuring that the whole moody teenager thing was his fault. He knew he should never have gone to see 'Empire Records' with him at the discount cinema. He had liked the movie, dumb as it was, for no other reason than Liv Tyler in a cropped blue sweater and a decent soundtrack.

As expected, Bugs had hated it but had muttered it was 'educational'; Yakko had just hid his face in his hands. Bugs had seemed to think the movie was a partly true representation of all modern-day teenagers hidden inside a silly story, and confirmed his theory that all of them were sex-crazed emotional wrecks that would fall apart every ten minutes. After he realized that, Yakko was glad he never went with Bugs to see 'Kids'; he doubted either of them would survived the entire movie.

But, baring his ignorance of the entire teenage culture that Yakko felt he very rarely displayed any traits of, Bugs had always made an effort to understand. And now it sounded like he had saved him from getting his ass chewed out by Plotz. Even if he didn't want to admit that he missed the fact his siblings had been unhappy and disappointing Bugs, Yakko did want his help. Yakko expected more from himself; he thought he was better at noticing those things.

"Maybe start from the beginning?" Bugs coached. "Who told you they want to quit and what class?"

Sighing and slumping down on the bench, Yakko crossed his arms and said quietly, "Dot came to me in the kitchen Monday night and told me she wanted to drop ballet…or dance… I don't know, maybe she wants to drop both. All I know is that she said she was unhappy with it and I talked to her; it just seemed so farfetched. I thought she liked it."

He looked up and saw Bugs, listening intently and thoughtfully crunching on his carrot. When he nodded to signal he was listening, Yakko continued.

"And come to find out, she's doesn't, not anymore. She was just going to stay in it because she thought I wanted her to. And she didn't even tell me first; she told Porky."

"When you're not available he is the one she goes to doc; she always has. Do you want her to go to someone else?"

"No; she trusts him and he'd probably take a bullet for her. She's supposed to go to him."

"OK." Bugs chewed for a minute before stating slowly, "So, you're upset she talked to him instead of you, even though you want her to go to him when she can't talk to you."

When put that way, it did sound kind of stupid. He wasn't jealous exactly; he knew Porky watched her closely and he had never objected to her trust in him. He did the same thing with Bugs.

"So you're jealous she - "

"I'm not jealous..." At Bugs' look he admitted, "Maybe a little. She's always come to me."

"Maybe she had a good reason for going to him for this," Bugs suggested. "I like it that you trust me enough to talk about your problems, but if you decided to call Slappy for something I'd try not to get too upset."

"Just try?" Yakko asked irritably, glancing at his watch. He just knew Paden was going to bitch about how late he was and blame him he didn't care how much Bugs talked to him. He didn't want whoever had been complaining about him to have 'lateness' to add to their grievances.

"Remember, you've been with me since you were twelve; it's hard to let go of being the only source of opinions and information doc. I'm relieved that I still am, but if you did go to her, at least it's someone I trust, even if I don't always agree with her. She's too aggressive for my tastes."

Yakko snorted; Bugs had a lot of nerve referring to anyone else as aggressive. But, fair enough, Bugs was right. Yakko would rather Dot go to Porky for advice than someone he didn't know. It wasn't a slight; it was...getting a different opinion. And she did come to him eventually. Maybe he was moody, though he thought it was absolutely hysterical that Bugs would get slightly jealous if he got help from someone else. Da-Doo was just as possessive with him as he was with Dot.

"Fine, I'd rather she did that. But then when she was done, Wakko decided to come in and say he was tired of harp; he had only stayed with it so long because of me." He snorted, glaring at the ground. "And that's was fine, I don't care if they want to quit, but they both said later that they were worried about telling me, like I'd be mad."

Bugs frowned for a moment, looking like he was carefully considering his words. When he eventually spoke, he said, "They weren't worried you'd be mad Yakko - "

"That's what they said." Running his hand through his hair and inwardly grimacing at the thought of how much pomade would be put in it later, Yakko muttered, "I've never wanted them to be worried about telling me something. I should have noticed this and said something; Dot was putting off going back. Wakko never wanted to practice; I thought he was being lazy."

Bugs leaned back on the bench, crossing his legs in front of him and pulled out another carrot. Yakko almost frowned; two carrots in less than ten minutes was a sign that the rabbit was stressed or deep in thought. He did appear to be listening in between the crunches.

"They were worried you'd be disappointed Yakko, not angry." When he went to interrupt Bugs held up his hand to silence him. "Remember doc, we had this conversation before; I hear you out, you hear me out."

Yakko sighed but gave a stiff nod. He remembered that exchange well, sitting at Bugs' table last year fiddling with a fork while the rabbit just about begged him to always hear him out. And he usually tried to; Bugs listening to him had been vital to his sanity.

"I know you don't have any experience yourself with some of this, so trust me; it's normal. They -"

"It's normal for them to be afraid of me," Yakko repeated sarcastically while cutting his eyes to him. "And avoid telling me stuff. You know, you're not making me feel better."

"It's normal for a kid to avoid a problem they can't figure out how to solve. Think about it; you're the center of their universe. Approaching you about it was probably a challenge to them."

"It shouldn't have been; all they had to do was say something."

"They did, even if it took a little while. Next time it will be easier and they'll do it quicker. Look at it from their reasoning; they want out of a class, they think it would upset you, so what would they do?" Bugs shrugged and put an arm around Yakko's shoulders. "They'd both try to put off talking about it and hope the other one would say something; Dot eventually did. So let's think about this doc; why do you think they got this idea?"

"I don't know; Dot said she thought I would be upset because I like watching her dance," Yakko huffed, not really feeling better but appreciative that Bugs was listening to him and didn't seem upset. "I do, I thought it made her happy, but I don't care if she does it or not." He snorted. "And some of those recitals were so boring! But even when they were and I just wanted to mallet myself into a coma to end the misery of it I always stayed awake and told her how great they were and encouraged her - "

"Well don't stop encouraging her no matter - "

"And Wakko – I don't even know how his mind works. He was afraid I'd be mad about the cost of the harp! I've never once said a word about what anything cost."

"They're eight and eleven; they're not going to have the reasoning abilities you had to develop at the same ages. If you look at it from their mindsets, this is pretty rational."

"Oh yeah? How do you figure that?"

"Wakko still has memories of money being scarce, right? Look at it from his perspective; he'd be worried about disappointing you by seeming ungrateful or wasting money. He remembers helping you, and while he remembers it being more of a game, he also remembers you being bothered by it."

Yakko nodded; Wakko's memories were pretty hazy but he knew his brother still had some remembrance of those times. Yakko supposed if he looked at it the way Bugs was prompting him to he could see what he was getting at. Wakko had been young enough that many of his memories regarding what they had been through had faded over time, but the underlying feelings had not.

"Dot doesn't have those thoughts since she was too young to experience it, so she'd be more concerned about your feelings and reactions. She knew that her dancing made you happy and proud of her; the idea of that changing because she dropped it would worry her."

Yakko rubbed the bridge of his nose. Fine, he could see what Bugs was saying; Dot's fears were wrapped around an idea of disappointing him by dropping a subject she thought he wanted her to excel in. He remembered telling them a few times they were lucky to have the opportunity to any of these classes. Their former circumstances would not have afforded them the luxury of eating on a regular basis let alone take a class for any reason. That didn't mean he wanted them to feel forced to take it.

He couldn't even imagine being disappointed in them; they were the top two reasons he usually was so damn pleased with himself. And if what Bugs said was actually what they were thinking, he was more proud of them; it was actually pretty profound, in a completely absurd way.

"That makes sense," Yakko sighed. "I thought they knew I was proud of them no matter what they wanted to do. I'd never be mad they lost interest in something."

"They knew; but sometimes, even when you think it's known, it's still nice for the other person to hear it said out loud. What did you say when they talked to you?"

"I said yes of course; what else would I say?" Yakko asked with a frown before rubbing his temples, annoyed that he was starting to get a headache. "I just thought they knew. Now I don't even know why I was upset. I should have just called you."

"You're not required to call me if you're having a hard time. I can appreciate that ya want to figure things out for yourself, but ya know I'm always here if ya need to talk."

"I know. I thought about calling but...I didn't."

After a moment when Bugs didn't speak he glanced at him; the rabbit was giving him his own version of 'The Look', complete with raised eyebrow and the 'you can't fool me kid' stare.

Yakko almost slapped his own forehead at his idiocy; now that he'd opened his big mouth the rabbit would hound him until he said something. And the completely stupid thing was that he was worried about with Bugs was the very thing Wakko and Dot had been worried about.

Sort of. His just seemed more logical.

After a lengthy pause, Yakko muttered, "Fine. I was worried I'd lose your respect since I missed something. You always gave me credit for raising them…I didn't want to lose that."

"Yakko, look at me." When Yakko finally looked up at him, Bugs grabbed his shoulders so he was pulled around to face him on the bench. "I've told you before - you'll never lose my respect. Ever. I'll accept that some of your insecurity and nitpickiness is due to your being a teenager with all those hormones and the ungodly amount of caffeine you're probably pumping into your system. But - "

"I don't have self-esteem issues and I am not some picky caffeine-fueled teenager - "

"Doc, lately you've been as fickle as a rich fiancée. But," Bugs continued, tightening his grip slightly on Yakko's shoulders. "You didn't miss anything. They spoke up when they felt they needed to; that's what's important. Doing it now means they'll do it later too, when the problems may be bigger than a ballet class. You should be pleased with yourself that you found them people they trust almost as much as you; isn't that better than them feeling alone?"

"Yeah, I guess. I don't even know why I was upset," Yakko muttered, still grumpy but feeling his mood lighten slightly, even if he wasn't the one that actually found the tutors.

He chose to ignore that. It was nice to get a little self-confidence boost, even if he was sitting in the smoking section behind a warehouse, but he was annoyed he needed one. He wasn't some teenage soul full of tortured angst that was screaming the world was against him. He was...mercurial; maybe brooding and slightly paranoid.

Because that sounded so much more adult. Damn it. He was acting like a moody teenager, along the same lines as Katie Ka-Kaboom but with less dramatic flair and estrogen. Usually he could tell when he was out of sorts and he'd call someone, normally Bugs or Slappy. Deciding on who depended on what had happened, what advice he needed, and how much over-the-top violence he wanted to joke about. Only occasionally did he try to stay to himself; of course prior to this week whenever he felt that way he wasn't actually working and forced to interact with anyone he didn't choose to.

Fine; he was moody. He was a teenager, he was allowed to be. Yakko made the mental decision that when the day was over he was going to the tower and just locking the bedroom door – after slamming it of course. One just could not be properly 'angsty' without a good door slam.

He hadn't listened to 'Nevermind' in a while; he'd play that to set the proper mood for agonizing over life or whatever else came with all the adolescent melodrama he had apparently been engaging in. He could write bad poetry and sulk about how the world didn't understand him or whatever it was that normal teenagers did when they were feeling blue.

It was a ludicrous idea, but imagining the looks of complete bewilderment on his sibling's faces made him snort before he started to laugh, quickly stifling it when he saw Bugs look at him in panic. The rabbit already thought he was moody; he didn't have to let him think he was insane too.

"You ain't alone either. It's been years but I understand what you're going through. Puberty's a weird time for us."

Yakko groaned silently, hoping Bugs wasn't going to go into yet another lecture about it. He was living through it; he didn't need the rabbit to tell him that.

"I thought it would be done with by now," Yakko shrugged.

"Well, it's never the same for anyone. And ya ain't grown in awhile, not since after the season ended, but," Bugs shrugged widely. "You're sixteen; I think some moodiness goes along with that."

"All right, I get it. I still don't think I was that bad."

Bugs snorted before muttering, "Says you doc." Sitting back he grinned before continuing. "And before you ask, no, you weren't that bad; I've seen and heard about way worse. Cheer up; you're probably close to the tail end of it. That'll be a good thing; by the time you're finished, your brother will be in it. I can sit back and laugh while you go through what I've been dealing with."

Well damn, wasn't that something to look forward to? Yakko decided not to be too concerned; by that time he'll have just gone through it so it wouldn't be like he was too many years ahead of him. Besides, Wakko was a pretty laid back child when it came to his moods; if he got angry or annoyed he was fine five minutes later. How bad could he possibly be? At worst he'd be girl crazy and Yakko could sympathize with that. Hell, he was more worried about Dot; he bet it was the well-behaved children that were hell-raisers when it came to the teenaged years.

And even then, neither of them would have the additional stresses and concerns he had. They'd be a snap to deal with; he'd probably barely even notice a difference in them with the exception that they grew taller. He certainly wasn't worried; Bugs was being overdramatic like normal.

"I get that you want to have everything together and not need anyone's help, but trust me doc, people older than you and with less pressure need to talk. Just...I'm not pushing, but keep it in mind, OK? If not me then communicate with someone; you've got enough stress without adding more."

"Yeah, OK," Yakko muttered, feeling his normal good disposition slowly returning. At least the thought of having five pounds of make-up slapped on his face and giving himself a headache contorting his body to the right proportions to film was not irritating him as much. "I'll try to remember not to terrorize the crew; you won't get any more complaints." With a sigh he added, "I'll even apologize to Flemeil if you want, at least for threatening to pie her."

"I wasn't going to force ya but...good idea. The complaints? It was mostly people wondering what was eating ya. I was just gonna give you some time but," Bugs shrugged. "You seemed like you needed to talk, even if I had to chase ya down with a reinforcement to do it."

"Ehhhhh...yeah, sorry." Yakko muttered, leaning his head back on the wall behind the bench. At least he was feeling better; maybe the day wouldn't be a complete loss and he'd make it through it without snapping at someone. "Just with my sibs, then the shoot and the problems there, the extra stresses, then Flemeil this morning, worrying about what you'd think...I should probably go; Paden's probably foaming at the mouth at this point."

"If you're feeling better, fine. I'll walk over with you; I was going to be there later when Porky showed up, but I should make sure the kids survived Daffy. Probably have to drag him away; he does love being around a camera. Oh, and before we go; one other thing."

When Bugs paused, Yakko opened his eyes to look at him. Since he looked uncharacteristically serious, Yakko sat up, curious and a bit worried about what else he could have done.

"About what I said, hearing things out loud. Just so you know, I don't always agree with some of your choices; I've been disappointed in them because you should know better. But I'll never be disappointed in you. You're still naive in some ways, but you've already got intellect and maturity and character qualities that people decades older than you will never have. No matter what's happened, you've never quit. You never turned bitter, you never lost your dedication to your family, you never stopped looking forward or having a sense of humor. I can't tell you how proud I am of you."

Yakko looked him for a moment; surprised and more than a little pleased. He rarely had confidence issues; he could never afford to, not with what he had to deal with. Hell, there were times when Bugs or someone else pointed out he often was overconfident. He had rarely thought about the other things Bugs gave him credit for; he didn't see where he had anything to be bitter about. His siblings were safe and cared for by a multitude of people.

But, he never expected praise for it. He knew Bugs was proud of him; he had told him before, but that was different. He just said he was proud not for something he had done or accomplished, but just because of who he was.

After a moment of studying him, Yakko leaned over and hugged him tightly, feeling the rabbits arms fold around him. Staying that way, Yakko thought that Bugs was right again; even if it was understood, it was nice to occasionally hear it said out loud.

End Chapter 38