Experiment-constructive criticism welcomed! Disclaimer: I don't own the Beano.

Beanotown just wasn't the same any more. The new generation of menaces could never live up to the ones before them. Who could deal with that kind of ancestry-Dennis, Minnie, the Bash Sts? Yeah, Bea and Ivy had done their best, and succeeded pretty well, but even Bea and Ivy were too old for that sort of stuff nowadays. Beanotown would never be the domain of the softies, but it got a bit too close for comfort these days. Walter and his ilk ran banks, taught school, made new softies. They'd had married Nice Girls who knew how to knit, and cook casseroles.

Dennis thought they were boring.

See, fifteen years on, almost everything in Beanotown had changed. Gnasher had puppies. Ivy was seeing an accountant, and Bea was doing a degree in psychology. Roger had moved to London to set up a spy organisation. Even Danny and Toots were married. Married! It was like a bad joke. Dennis had thought more of them than that. They even had a kid.

But she hadn't changed.

Well, she'd sort of changed. The black and red jumper had, somewhere down the line, turned into a minidress with the same pattern, the beret had gone, and the red hair was longer and normally scooped out of the way, but she was still the same. Inside.

Minnie, Dennis reflected uneasily, was the only person who could ever make him think deep stuff.

She was still there, though, and that was what mattered; no softy degrees for them, no accountants or Nice Girls. As long as she still turned up every weekend, catapult in hand and peashooter, he wouldn't ask questions. That Saturday, she was there, though he hadn't known it till then.

"Hey, Min," Dennis greeted her, as she swung out of the tree in his garden. "Curly call yet?"

Minnie scowled, and he ducked automatically out of the way. They had a standing joke about Curly, one that neither thought was funny, but they kept it up anyway. It felt like trying at something. "Shut it, Den."

"Any softies about?"

"You know we can't do stuff like that anymore, idiot," Minnie replied acerbically. "It's GBH when you're older. Prison, no thanks, mate."

Dennis stared moodily at the scene before him. "Yeah," he agreed. "Screw being an adult."

"Yeah, screw it." She pulled a cigarette out of her pocket, lit up, and drew on it angrily. She didn't offer Dennis one, but he lit up anyway. Neither of them liked smoking, but they did it anyway. They did a lot of things anyway.

"Skateboard?"

Minnie cracked a smile, but it wasn't an especially happy one. "Centre of gravity's all wrong for that now, Dennis."

"Not my fault you're a softy girl."

She slugged him in the arm. "And don't pretend I don't catch you staring."

"Not my fault you wear minidresses, either."

They stood in silence for a few moments, pulling idly on their fags. They were the only ones left of the old gang, the only ones who remembered, and both of them hated it, even if they pretended they didn't.

"Think we're too old for it?" Minnie asked him, suddenly.

"Yeah," he replied. "Smoking's for idiots."

Minnie glared at him-there was no way he had really misunderstood-but didn't say anything else.

After a few moments' pause, he needed to fill the silence. "Want to trash Bash St?" he asked.

"Sure," she replied, tossing the half-finished cigarette onto the ground and stamping on it. "Got cans?"

He looked at her. "Min, I ever let you down?"

"Got a week?"

Dennis, in response, stubbed out his own cigarette. "Whatever." They made their way over to Bash St school, abandoned because Teacher couldn't take any more antics. They'd heard that he'd wound up gibbering in an institution. Danny's old spray cans were still in the shed, and Dennis pulled a couple out, chucking one to Minnie. She climbed up the old drainpipe and began to spray "LOSERS" on the side, over where someone else had scrawled "DANNY FANCIES TOOTS: FACT" and Danny's not-very-polite contradiction.

"Losers? That's so old."

"Got anything better?"

He didn't reply in words, instead scaling the building and beginning an obscene limerick about the Bash St gang.

"Smart rhyming," Minnie said, with a roll of her eyes. "Think of that all by yourself?"

Dennis threw his can at her. Instead of catching it and chucking it back, though, Minnie reached for it and overbalanced; it was a long way to the ground, and he watched as she fell. He hated her, briefly, because she was making him feel softy things like fear, but that only lasted a moment. He dropped from his own perch, and landed beside her. Her eyes were closed, and she was choking.

"Min?" he growled. "You'd better not be dead, minx, and don't think I'll visit you in hospital, because I won't, and-" he broke off, and punched the ground.

Minnie wheezed for a few moments, before opening her eyes. "Not the only one who can pull a prank, Dennis; really think I fell off intentionally?" She smiled at him; it was a world-weary smile, a can't-pull-one-over-on-me smile. Inside, she shivered a little at the rage burning in his eyes. You can't do that sort of thing to Dennis. She knew that, but she'd done it anyway.

"Screw you," he said furiously, getting up and storming away.

"Screw you," she replied flatly, apparently indifferent. She sat up, then, and tossed a can at him, and he grinned.

After all, misery loves company.

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