DISCLAIMER: The D&D lot aren't mine. But what they do, and the other bits are!
STORY: Written as part of the DDCC 2007 for Random Scribbles as a Dream made Real (or as real as fanfiction gets!). So the basic idea is from her, and much cheering and fish is being sent her way!
Also written for the ff100 LJ community - with the prompt "Time"
THANKS - Tang appears with special permission from NeilG - thank you for letting me borrow him :)
'Dungeonmaster! What's happening? Dungeonmaster?'
'What's going on?'
'Where are they? I don't know what's…'
There was a familiar voice in the maelstrom.
'Do not worry my children, you are confused, I know. But be assured that your friends are safe. For the moment.'
'What's happened to them? Where have they gone? How can we get them back?!'
'There is only one way to help them. It will not be easy, but it is the only way. If you should fail…' Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring.
Diana was asleep, but not deeply enough to ignore the sound. The ringing continued for a few moments. She recognised it, but it was a noise from long ago and one she hadn't heard in a long, long time. But it was still familiar…Ring, ring. Ring, ring.
Her eyes snapped open: It was the sound of a phone ringing!
Even as she sat up, she already knew she was home. She sat in her bed and looked round her room with her mouth open, staring in astonishment.
Everything seemed exactly as it should have been, exactly normal, except it was the best sight in the world! Her trophies were on the window sill, her pennants on the wall, the familiar smell of washing powder and perfume from her cupboard. Over by the window were her clothes in a pile, lovely REAL clothes that could keep her warm, her school books on the table, her homework…
She was home!
For a few moments, she just stared around her, confused. She was back at home.
She was really home!
There were muffled voices outside her door and she sprang out of bed. Mom and Dad!
She yanked open the door, looking around still in shock and amazement.
'Guess who was on the phone!' came a smug voice from close by. 'Dad was talking to him!'
David was standing there, her cocky little brother, his arms crossed and looking about as smug as little brothers could get. She didn't know whether or not to chase him or hug him. For a moment she just stared at him, then she grinned.
'Where's Mom and Dad?'
'Downstairs with breakfast,' he said, a little confused. 'And Dad's on the phone… to him!'
Diana really didn't care what David was getting at, so she just turned away, part of her knowing that her indifference to his hints would be infuriating.
She bounded down the stairs, running her hand over the cold banister, looking round at her house and feeling wonderful that she was actually home!
Part of her didn't want to believe it had all happened. She knew it had, even though now it seemed like a dream. She could vividly remember their adventures, she could still remember how it had felt to hold a dying Kosar in her arms, she could still remember looking through all those portals and never finding her way home. And now… she was back home.
For the first time, she frowned. It was strange; she couldn't actually remember how she got here. She could remember something about a crystal and magic and change, but it was all hazy, as if part of her didn't want to remember.
She paused on the stair and looked around at her house. It looked the same, the same colours on the wall, the carpet was the same, and the pictures, and the furniture. It sounded the same as well, the soft hum of the air conditioning, and faint sound of the radio from the kitchen. She could smell breakfast, orange juice and toast, and the furniture polish, and the subtle smell that was just her home.
This is real and not a dream, she could feel it. It was as real as the Realm had been. Still, something felt a little odd. It was almost as if…
'Hey there, superstar!' said her Dad, appearing out of the kitchen door.
She didn't expect the feeling of relief and overwhelming happiness at seeing her Dad. He was just standing in the doorway smiling at her as if nothing in the world had changed.
Diana jumped down the last few steps and threw her arms around him.
'Hey, hey! What was that for?'
'Nothing, Dad, just for being you!'
The moment of blissful relief was broken when her Dad said:
'So this has nothing to do with going to the Amusement Park, then?'
'W-what do you mean?'
Her Dad was looking at her his eyebrows slightly raised. She knew that expression so well. God, how she had missed him!
'I know that young man wants to take you this morning, but I'm still not happy about it, Diana. I haven't said yes, yet.'
Her expression must have betrayed more of her confusion than anything else as her Dad's smile softened.
'You're a good girl, Diana. You work hard and your training is going just fine. I suppose one day off won't matter. Just don't make a habit of it!'
For the previous months, Diana had lived and survived off her instincts, and just at that moment they hit red. Something was wrong. Really, really wrong!
This was something she'd done before, but slightly differently. Her Dad had said those exact same words to her, the day they had gone to the Amusement Park. The day they had all gone to the Realm. The day it all changed!
And yet here she was, back before it all happened.
'Diana, are you ok? I said yes, is that such a surprise?'
She smiled up at her Dad and gave him another hug, burying her head in his shoulder and trying not to cry. Oh God, she was home and she didn't have to go to the Realm.
'Hey, hey, superstar,' he said gently, rubbing her back. 'It's ok, it wasn't that big a deal! Go say good morning to your Mom and get some breakfast!'
Diana looked up, through the doorway into the kitchen beyond. Her Mom was standing in the kitchen, moving the glasses of orange juice across to the table. She was dressed in her plain top and trousers (her favourite pair), she was wearing her familiar earrings and the watch that her Dad had given her on their silver wedding anniversary. Diana almost missed her step as she moved, and then she ran over to engulf her Mom in another hug.
'Good morning, dear,' she said gently. 'Your Dad said "yes", didn't he?'
Diana nodded, not able to say anything for fear of starting to cry. It was almost unbelievable, she hadn't seen them for months, even years and they didn't know or understand. But she was just too pleased to be home.
It was normal, it was just as she had left it. It was so… weird!
Somehow she had expected the world to have changed while she and the others were in the Realm, and life to have gone on without her. She had often lain awake at night thinking about them; how they were, what they were doing, and whether they were worrying about her, too. Now she was being held by her Mother in a loving embrace, as if nothing had happened.
It seemed that everything was the same, and all that worrying had been pointless. The trip to the Realm hadn't even happened yet. It was the same as is had been. It was exactly the same. Wasn't it?
She let go of her Mom and slipped into her usual seat at the breakfast bar. The TV was on in the corner; there was food, the usual sounds and smells. She hadn't expected coming home to be so normal and quiet. She just sat there, sipping her juice and looking round for a long while.
'You're very quiet, dear,' said her Mom at last. 'Are you sure you're all right?'
Diana nodded, toying with her empty glass and the final corner of her toast.
'I'm fine, just a little tired from… everything.'
'You have been working far too hard,' said her Mom. 'That training schedule is so strict. And I'm glad you're going out with your new friends today. You could really use the break.'
'Did you convince him?' asked Diana suddenly. 'Dad's not usually so adaptable!'
Her Mom smiled a secretive smile.
'He has his weaknesses,' she said. 'Let's just leave it at that. And speaking of which, you'd better go and get dressed! Your not going to the Amusement Park dressed like in just your nightshirt, young lady!'
Diana didn't really want to leave her Mom's company, but she was right. She had to shower and dress and get ready for meeting the others.
Her friends… she wondered how they were this morning. It seemed so odd not to be with them as she had woken up in their company every day for months.
'Hurry up, Diana!' her Dad called from the other room. 'We're going soon!'
She bounced up the stairs to the bathroom, showered and threw on some casual clothes, all the time marvelling at how wonderful it felt to be home, with warm water for a shower, soap and proper clothes.
Her Dad was waiting for her in the hall as she came downstairs and for a moment, she hesitated. It was so wonderful and so perfect that she wanted to stay there all day with her family, to keep them close.
Though part of her didn't want to go, it seemed that her Mom had twisted Dad's arm and she didn't want to seem ungrateful. And another part of her, a growing part of her was dying to go and find the other five and see how they were.
But now she thought about it, something was wrong with that idea. There was something she had to do… Everything was normal. Wasn't it?
'Diana! Time to go!'
Her Mom ducked round the door.
'See you later, dear. Don't be late!'
That sounded vaguely ominous to Diana, and she frowned.
'Don't look so worried, Diana,' said her Mom, kissing her cheek. 'I'm sure you will have a lovely time! Now, go on! Your Dad's half way out of the door! You don't want to keep him waiting!'
She obeyed, and raced out to the waiting car.
Then she sat beside her Dad in silence, watching the houses and gardens, cars and people as they drove past, finding the world and the way it moved and changed on its own it endlessly fascinating. Here there was no need to worry about monsters jumping out at you, or finding somewhere safe to sleep, and if you needed to get home, you just called your Dad!
Being in a car was strange; getting somewhere without having to walk was also strange! Just sitting back and relaxing was alien to her now and she glanced nervously around her all the time. Her Dad had noticed and commented, but had put it down to the excitement of meeting the others.
The anticipation of seeing her friends was building with every moment that passed. She didn't realise how much she had missed them, and she was virtually hanging out of the window by the time they arrived.
'Have a good time, Diana,' her Dad said. 'Remember, don't be late.'
He gave her a big smile, and she smiled back, enjoying the moment.
'Thanks for letting me go today, Dad,' she said.
'That's alright, Diana. Now get going before they wonder what's happened to you!'
She kissed him on the cheek and leaped out of the car.
Diana looked round to the Park as she heard her Dad drive off, seeing the entrance just ahead. She was the last to arrive, just like last time, and the other five were waiting for her just by the gateway. She recognised them, she recognised them all, but something was wrong.
Everything was normal. Wasn't it?
She stood and stared.
Sheila was there, her little brother a short distance away, looking in through the fence at the rides and hotdog stands beyond. Presto was there as well, and he waved at her.
But Diana didn't wave back. Instead she was staring at the other two boys, one dark haired, one blonde. She recognised them, she knew them; in fact she was going out with one of them.
But they weren't Hank and Eric!
For the second time that morning Diana was lost for words.
Then the taller boy, with blonde hair and Nordic good looks jogged over to her and took her arm.
'Hi Diana,' he said.
For a second the words still wouldn't come out. She just stared at him, her boyfriend, her mind in a whirl as she understood what had happened. She could remember.
'Diana,' he said, giving her a quick hug, 'there's no need to stare like that!'
She forced out a smile.
'Hi Joseph,' she said finally.