Summary: A harmless prank nearly ends in tragedy when Ralph realizes that his life in the suit might affect someone he loves. Set after "Vanity, Says the Preacher."

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It was a cool Thursday afternoon in October at Whitney High School. The students were buzzing with excitement, as the next day was the homecoming game and it was against one of Whitney's biggest rivals Burtonville High School. This year's match was especially exciting as this would be the first meeting of these teams since Burtonville beat Whitney out of the district championship last year.

Ralph Hinkley, principal at Whitney walked down the hallways between the last class change of the day and smiled. The hallways were decorated with blue and gold signs, footballs and streamers… the whole nine yards. Several of the students even took part in dressing up in school colors most of the week. …

"Though some go overboard," thought Ralph with a smile as he saw his goddaughter, Aidan, putting up her books for the day in her locker. She had indeed gone a tad overboard with her outfit. Aidan wore a Whitney High School volleyball shirt, slightly cropped pair of jeans dyed in the school colors of blue and gold, giving a slight tie-dye effect to the jeans. Colorfully stenciled footballs and pompons had been added to this unique display topped off with blue and gold socks that peeked just over a set of old lace up boots - complete with blue and gold pompons and shoelaces - she found at a thrift store.

Ralph chuckled to himself as he continued towards his goddaughter when he saw she even managed to make the blue and gold crow bead anklet wide enough to go around the boot. He had to give her some credit though at showing some restraint and didn't wear her hair in puppy dog ears and pompons like she did her junior year…

"Last year," he thought with a slightly wistful smile. To him, it seemed almost yesterday the young woman had moved from Casper, Wyoming to Los Angeles to live with him and Pam after her parents died. While the couple adopted Aidan, to Ralph she was his little girl. And now, he sighed, with her being a senior, it was not too long before graduation and then…

"Hello, Ra… uh Mr. Hinkley," said Aidan quickly correcting herself and snapping Ralph out of his thoughts. He hid his embarrassment at being caught daydreaming by running a hand through his hair and looking at his feet then back up at the teen standing in front of him. Ralph had to smile at Aidan's slight mistake; he knew she always had trouble calling her godfather by his title at school, as he did not want the students to think he was playing favorites.

"You doing all right?" Aidan asked slightly concerned. Anytime he seemed lost in thought like that, it usually meant her Uncle Bill was not that far behind, ready to pull her godfather off to another "errand" as he put it. She never understood the friendship between the two. How did a school teacher, now principal, and an FBI agent become friends anyway…

Aidan shook the question and any thoughts of Bill Maxwell away when she heard Ralph laugh. "Yep, just admiring your… outfit," he said waving his hand at the odd display of clothes. "I'm surprised Pam let you get away with this. Or even out of the house for that matter."

Aidan laughed. "She almost didn't, but with some negotiations tactics she did and I won…but with one stipulation."

"Oh you did huh…and what was that?" Ralph asked raising his eyebrows and smiled knowing Aidan was as good as Pam in making deals and pleading cases.

Aidan gave a smug smile pretending to have made the deal of the century while placing the last of her books in the locker. "Yep, Pam agreed to let me out of the house as long as I didn't wear my hair up in puppy dog ears," she said, smiling.

Ralph chuckled as the young woman closed the door to her locker. "Besides, that's for tomorrow before the game," Aidan said with a chuckle and turned the combination lock. She then turned back to face the man she loved just as much as her real father. "Well I'm done for the day. Was there anything you needed help with before I started work on the last banner for the pep rally tomorrow?"

"Nope," Ralph shook his head looking at his watch before looking back at Aidan, "I have a meeting in about 10 minutes and need to talk to the security for tomorrow's game," he said as the class bell rang. "So, do you have your mum yet?"

"It's still at the florist's, but it looks great. Thanks for getting one I could wear on my arm this year," she said. "I had too much trouble wearing the corsage one last year in the mascot suit."

Ralph nodded as the two started walking toward the gym. "You're welcome Ade, though I have to admit it was rather … graceful when our mascot pranced around after a touchdown only to trip on the mum streamers and crash into the megaphones," he laughed. "But I'm sure our senior mascot won't do that again this year?"

"Nope, not with it on my arm," Aidan chuckled stopping in the breezeway between the buildings and looked at her watch. "OK, I'd better get a move on here. Have fun in your meeting."

"Oh… I will," said Ralph, rolling his eyes slightly. Aidan smiled and, after giving him a brief hug, headed toward the gym.

Watching his goddaughter enter the hallway to the gym, Ralph rubbed his hands together and raised his eyebrows with a slight mischievous grin as he thought about "the meeting." The "important meeting" was not anything in regard to the welfare of Whitney High, instead, it was with three students from Burtonville High School and a certain prank the rival schools played every other year.

This particular prank involved the "kidnapping" of the rival's mascot and holding them for ransom before the game.

According to the unspoken rules set up between the principles Burtonville and Whitney, the day of the game the "kidnappers" from both schools blindfolded the other mascot and drove them to their school, then held them in a room until an hour before the game, when they'd be brought to the stadium. The principals would then pay off the kidnappers with pizza or whatever food they wanted and at the half, the two mascots returned safely and relatively unharmed, to their proper sidelines.

Walking toward his office, Ralph smiled at how he set this up with his fellow principal at Burtonville. Ralph made it clear that because Whitney's mascot was female - not to mention his goddaughter - this year there had to be at least one female kidnapper to keep an eye on her. Burtonville's principal agreed, and arranged for the Burtonville kidnappers to be members of the student government instead of football players, which was usually the case.

When he arrived, Ralph saw three students in the office - two men, one woman - wearing red shirts, which clearly marked then as students from the rival school. Seeing his secretary give a slightly inquisitive look - as none of the students were allowed on their rival's school grounds during the week, Ralph gave a wink, hinting what it was about. Remembering this was an odd year, the secretary smiled and nodded.

Ralph then turned to the three students from Burtonville and smiled. "Welcome to Whitney High School. Won't you come in to my office?" he said. The three nodded and they all went into the principal's office, closing the door behind them.

Ralph then turned to the three students from Burtonville and smiled. "Welcome to Whitney High School. Won't you come in to my office?" he said rubbing his hands together then pointing towards his office. The three nodded and they all went into the principal's office, closing the door behind them.

Whitney's principal turned around and smiled. "So, you must be the kidnappers for this year right?" he asked. The three nodded and the tallest of the three teens stepped forward.

"Yes sir, Mr. Hinkley," he answered holding his hand out to the principal. "My name's Rodney Jameston, and these," Rodney pointed to the other teens "are my cohorts, Lisa Bearington and Quinton Everett."

"OK, glad to meet you all," Ralph greeted them shaking each of their hands, then leaned against the edge of his desk. "Now, as you know our school has a female wearing the mascot uniform, and yours is a male. Because this year it's a she and she's my goddaughter," he said, emphasizing the last point by placing a hand to his chest as he looked at the three teens, "I wanted to know what you had planned as well just so I know she won't get hurt."

The teens exchanged glances hesitant to reveal the plans, as they had not heard of Whitney's plans involving their mascot. Ralph, sensing the reason for their hesitation smiled and continued. "Of course, we're going to tell you what we plan for your mascot as well," he stated then straightened walking around his desk and sitting down in his chair.

Rodney smiled as he took off his jacket and laid it over a chair. He had already chatted with Ralph earlier with the basics of the setup for the kidnapping. Having seen Aidan in the hallways, even if a bit eccentric in dress, he could understand why Ralph was protective of his goddaughter. She was, in his eye, cute and obviously loved her family and school….

Blushing slightly at the distraction, Rodney shook his head, clearing it. "All right, here's what we are going to do. We plan to kidnap Aidan first thing tomorrow afternoon when she's at gym. After we blindfold her, we will take her over to Burtonville. Once there she'll stay in one of the math classrooms until it's time for the game. At that time, as you know, we will then meet back here and have both Aidan and Wes use the locker rooms near the football field so they can put on their mascot costumes, and then each will stay on the rival's side until the half."

Ralph nodded. "Sounds good, and I'm guessing you already know the ransom?"

"Yep, but we're not saying yet Mr. Hinkley." Lisa spoke up this time answering the question, knowing Ralph had yet to give Whitney's demands and none would be exchanged until one was given. "But, we also know you haven't asked Burtonville," she finished with a chuckle.

"You're right…" Ralph leaned forward onto his desk folding his hands in front of him and feigning ignorance, even though he already knew they had not given the demand yet either and hoped he could trick them into revealing more of what the ransom would be.

"Well it sounds like everything is set," Hinkley said with a sigh, satisfied that this year's Biennial Mascot Kidnapping would go off with out a hitch. At least he hoped Ralph thought, standing up from his chair. The three teens also stood up as Ralph continued. "But, just remember to check in at the office when you first arrive on campus tomorrow. While most of the teachers know about this prank, some of the newer ones don't quite get it, and might call your school - or the police - and have you arrested," Ralph finished opening the office door.

The third boy of the group answered this time "We're going to be sure everything's done properly," said Quinton. "We don't want to ruin this for future classes."

"Good, I'm glad to hear that," said the blond-haired man as he checked his watch. "Listen, you better head on out. If any of the students see you here, they might warn Aidan and she might avoid her classes tomorrow. She already mentioned she thought this was the year for the prank, and was nervous about it." He finished showing the others out.

"Don't worry, Mr. Hinkley," Rodney chuckled turning back to Whitney's principal. "Aidan will be in safe hands," he said, shaking Ralph's hand and knocking his letterman jacket to the floor forgotten by the teen and unseen by the rest of the group. After the other two students shook hands, the trio left, leaving Ralph alone in the office.

Ralph walked back to his desk and sat back down, not noticing the fallen jacket. Leaning back in his chair he looked at the photos on his desk. Some of them were of him and Pam before Aidan came into their lives, some were all three of them, and one was Aidan's senior photo in the Cavalier costume.

He smiled softly, picking up the picture of Aidan in her costume and running a hand over the edge of the frame. Ralph had to admit, Aidan was one of the few students in recent history that had a complete respect for the uniform. She would mend it if it was torn, and even offered to pay for it to be cleaned. Ralph smiled when he remembered the day Aidan had earned the position on the cheer squad and how she said she was wearing a suit of honor. …

Sometimes, he felt the same way with a suit of his own… even if he felt the green guys who gave it to him could've studied Earth better and made it something other than long johns and a cape.

"But, it's better she doesn't know about that costume," he said softly placing the photo back. While the three were close and shared many secrets, the suit had been one of the few things he had not mentioned. He did not want to ever put Aidan in harm's way because of it. So far, he had been lucky, and he wanted it to stay that way.

Ralph shook the thought about the suit out of his mind and smiled, deciding that this was a time to have fun, especially since it was Aidan's senior year. "Tomorrow will be a day she'll never forget," he chuckled, picking up the phone so he could talk with the police department about security for the next day's game.