A/N: Wow...this story has been "on-again"/"off-again"/"ignored-again"/"rediscovered-again" on my hard drive for the past TWO YEARS. Just thought I'd bring that up, because that fact terrifies me.
Anyhow, judging by the story summary, you'd think I'd have some pairings to disclaim. Well, I don't. Part of this story is about the "romantic mystery" involved—who in this messed-up love scheme is going to end up with who, or if anyone's going to end up with anyone else at all, or what have you. So I'm not going to spoil anything for ANYONE by revealing information.
...But, since I realize that some people don't like to read that sort of thing, I'll put out this warning right now: there WILL be some slash innuendos. Nothing obscene or over-the-top, and mainly in the interest of comedy, but they're still there. Just saying it now to avoid badly-shocked, disgruntled readers later on.
Oh yeah, and any similarity between elements of this chapter and the episodes "Samson's Mail Fraud" and "The Engagement" is entirely coincidental, as I wrote this chapter over a month before either premiered. (See the first sentence of this author's note.) And as for "Wedding Bell Blues"...(twitch). Personally, I shall forever maintain that that episode was a dream sequence, but, for all intents and purposes, THAT. NEVER. HAPPENED.
...Well, without further ado, on to Chapter 1.
If I'm In Love, Please Shoot Me
(by The Illustrious Crackpot)
Chapter 1: There's A New Squirrel In Town
"Oh, yes, of course!" chirped Squirrel Scout Denmother Jane Doe into her pastel pink telephone, twisting the cord around her fingers as she spoke. The blonde deer was extremely excited, and her eyes kept flicking back to the magazine open on her desk. "Don't worry, sir, your daughter will be fine. I promise you she's going to have a WONNNN-derful time here at Acorn Flats this week!"
The troop of Squirrel Scouts stood rigid before their Denmother's desk, hanging on to the audible side of the conversation with bated breath. At the front of the crowd was a mongoose with poofy pink hair, who was wringing her fists as she hopped up and down on her tiptoes.
"IS SHE COMING?" Patsy squealed. "IS SHE? IS SHE?"
Beside her, Gretchen, a lemon-tressed alligator, rolled her eyes and gave a quiet snort. "Cool it, Patsy. It's not that big a deal."
She was loudly contradicted on this point by the other Scouts, and a fistfight might have broken out if Miss Doe hadn't waved her hand frantically for silence. "Yes, sir," she continued brightly to the person on the other end, "we have plenty of room to accommodate her. No, no trouble at all, sir; after all, she is a Squirrel Scout too, and we never turn away a sister! ...Yes, I assure you that she will find the facility very comfortable, and all of the girls are SO excited to meet a real live celebrity!!!"
All the Scouts except Gretchen nodded vigorously on this point, practically salivating.
Miss Doe let out a tittery laugh, the kind which, when heard, makes one think that the person making it is either ridiculously happy or missing some gray matter up top. "Ohoho! Oh, yes, sir, I'm sure she will...Of course, you wouldn't want her to stay in a hotel all by herself while you're preparing for your business meeting...You're certainly welcome, sir!"
She hung up to a loud and enthusiastic cheer from the assembled Squirrel Scouts, who began gossiping at the speed of light about what they were going to do during the coming week and how exciting this whole thing was. After a moment, Miss Doe turned in her seat to face them, taking in a deep breath to steady her heartbeat, and proclaimed as though none of them had heard a single word:
—Three days later
If you were looking to advertise Camp Kidney as a "fun and exciting retreat for Bean Scouts", the advice you'd probably receive would be to enter extensive therapy. What nobody would bother to tell you, though, is that all you'd really need to do would be to set up some cameras on Mail Day.
On Mail Day, the day that bespectacled Bean Scout Samson made his weekly trip to the Prickly Pines post office, every single Bean in camp was assembled by the flagpole, waiting on tenterhooks for links to the outside world. If any one of them received no mail that week, he would beat Samson mercilessly with Scoutmaster Lumpus's loofah until the horrified guinea pig relinquished something, be it a business magazine or just plain old junk mail. Really, anything without a Kidney stamp in the corner was fair game and, seeing as there was generally a big enough stash of unpaid bills to divide amongst the Beans, they could exercise almost inhuman amounts of patience while awaiting the delivery.
But this certain Mail Day found the Beans ravenous, nearly reverted to primal states and tearing up anything they could lay their hands on. The Bean Scout flag lay in tatters, the P.A. utterly trashed, and much of the siding to the Scoutmaster's cabin ripped off and gnawed upon. Most of the campers were running around half-naked and screaming at the top of their lungs, punting Assistant Scoutmaster Slinkman like a football. Even the normally authoritative Lumpus had locked himself in his grape-juice cellar.
Samson was LATE.
"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHH!!!!!!" screamed the guinea pig as he pedaled furiously, flames streaming behind the rapidly-spinning wheels of his bicycle. Shoving his inhaler into his mouth, Samson began hyperventilating at warp speed in an effort to keep from collapsing. He wasn't even wearing his helmet; after all, the injuries from a crash, even at this velocity, wouldn't even begin to compare with what the other Bean Scouts would do to him if he was even two seconds later than he already was. "MERP MERP MERP MERP MEEEEEEEEEEERP!!!"
The eyes of every Scout immediately snapped towards the camp gate. A pair of dung beetles dropped a bruised and battered Slinkman on the ground, where the banana slug desperately clawed his way back to the Scoutmaster's cabin.
"LOOK!!" shouted the shorter of two orange loons—Dave—who had been in the middle of viciously throttling a tetherball pole. "HE'S HERE!!!"
Immediately the deluge of campers swept over Samson like high tide, jumping him before he was even within the camp boundaries and shredding violently through the mail in his bicycle basket. After a flurry of flying letters and scraps of gray Samson fur, the tide receded and the Scouts tore back to the flagpole with their respective prizes.
"I gots me a letter from my grammy!" cried Fred, a walrus, as he used his long tusks to ravage the envelope open.
Pingpong, the taller loon, waved a brightly-colored envelope excitedly, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down like a basketball. "I MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER!!"
Four identical lemmings stampeded across the courtyard, balancing a giant package in the shape of a killer whale on their shoulders. A hippopotamus ran off with Lumpus's back issues of Highlights For Kids. And, slightly more important to the plot, a tiny albino rhinoceros—Clam—jumped up and down, clutching a pile of flyers for washing machines. Moments later Lazlo, an orange spider monkey and even more important to the plot, approached Clam, observing the chaos with a slightly detached air.
"It's so nice to see people getting excited about their mail," Lazlo remarked, sighing whimsically. Seeing as he was still fully dressed in his Bean Scout uniform, it was clear to see that he hadn't been part of the fray.
Raj, an Indian elephant, crossed his arms and snorted derisively. "I doon't see what de big DEAL ees. Eet's joost a bunch of LETTERS!!"
Clam stopped jumping and stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth, chuckling flatly. "Nice boxers, Raj."
Back at the camp gate, Samson lay twitching in a crumpled heap. He groaned, fumbling about for his glasses, and was just pushing himself up onto his elbows when a shadow stepped into his field of view.
"WHY WERE YOU LATE?" demanded a short, cream-furred platypus, glaring Spanish-Inquisitionishly down at the guinea pig. Although he had been one of the ravenous mail-cravers, he had at least maintained the dignity to keep his clothes on.
Abandoning the search for his spectacles—which were too smashed to be of any use anyways—Samson leapt to his feet, trembling violently. "IT'S NOT MY FAULT, EDWARD!!!" he protested in a panicked voice, afraid that the platypus was going to beat him senseless (even though Edward had never actually made good on any of his frequent promises to do so). "I WAS AT THE SQUIRREL SCOUT CAMP, AN', AN', AN' THEY HELD ME UP!! MEEEEEEEEEEEERP!"
Edward tapped his foot pointedly, placing both fists on his hips. "How?"
Practically entering respiratory arrest from these numerous traumas, Samson shoved his inhaler into his mouth again and took some more rapid puffs. "They were, they were settin' up for somethin', an' they said to go around, 'cus they didn't want me gettin' in the way of their float, an'—"
Whether Edward was surprised or disbelieving was hard to tell. Really, the only indication of such a mood shift lay in the fact that one eyebrow was arched higher than usual. "...Float?"
"Uh-HUH!" Samson nodded vigorously, stretching his arms out wide. "A biiiiig pink one. An' it had lotsa' ribbons on it, an' flowers an' stuff—the flowers made my nose itch, an' I couldn't stop sneezing, an' that made me late too, an', an'—"
"OKAY, shut up aw'ready!" snapped Edward, making Samson wince. He waited a second to make sure that this command would be obeyed, then went on. "Any mail fer me?"
The guinea pig was extremely relieved at the change of topic, and exhaustedly handed Edward a thick manila envelope that had somehow survived the attack of the postally-deprived Beans. The platypus snatched the package up violently, stalking back to the camp with his beaverlike tail raised high. He stormed all the way to his cabin, glaring at anyone unfortunate enough to be in his way until his door was slammed shut and he was safely inside with the blinds down.
Then he let out a high-pitched giggle.
Edward immediately dove for his bed, flopping belly-down on it and tearing open the envelope. Within moments his ratty, grayish pillow was glorified by the presence of Veronica Monthly, the official magazine for the avid Veronica Doll collector. And, if you could only see beneath Edward's bed, you'd know that he could be their poster boy.
Pulling his prized doll out of her Luxury German Dictator Suite™ (his latest purchase, only thirty dollars if you knew the right retailers), Edward greeted her with a quick snuggle and set her down on his bed, folding her legs so that she could sit up. "Hello, Veronica," he gushed, though keeping his voice down in case anyone happened to be passing by the cabin. He turned her head towards his, a wide smile on his face as he explained things to her. "I got da new magazine, Veronica. Wanna read it wit' me?"
Coughing experimentally—his voice had cracked the last time he'd tried this—Edward answered himself in a forced falsetto. "Of course, Edward! Can you read it to me, pretty please? You're so GOOD at reading!"
Edward giggled again, a fact that could have been easily used to blackmail him if anyone else had ever heard him do it. "SURE, Veronica! Anyt'ing for you!"
Flipping the glitzy, sparkly pink magazine open, Edward skimmed through the table of contents, pausing to admire the advertisements for the new Veronica merchandise. (The "Veronica Post-Apocalyptic World Fashion Mall™" was a sure buy.) However, he'd only gotten so far as the title of the first article when the cabin door flew open with a bang. Panic kicking him into action, he shoved all incriminating materials under his pillow and whirled around.
Lazlo. He might have known.
"EDWARD!" the monkey cried by way of greeting, running right inside without any further preamble. He grabbed Edward by the arm, beginning an extremely spirited attempt to haul him off his bed. "C'mon, Edward, you've gotta see this! There's something going on at Acorn Flats!"
The platypus tried and failed to yank his arm out of Lazlo's grasp. "Geez, Lazlo, don't you knock?!?" he demanded as Lazlo started dragging him towards the door. Edward dug his heels into the wooden floorboards in an attempt to resist, but Lazlo could be stronger than a bodybuilder if he really wanted something, and soon the pair was outside. "What's goin' on?!?"
The question didn't even need answering, as even then he could see a round of fireworks explode over Acorn Flats, reflecting beautifully across the murky waters of Leakey Lake. Curious even against his will, Edward allowed Lazlo to pull him the rest of the way to the shore, where the other Bean Scouts (now mercifully dressed) were gathered in awe.
"What do you suppose eet's for?" Raj asked no one in particular, shielding his eyes as a particularly bright blast went off. "De Fourth uff July was two weeks ago!"
Chip and Skip, the dung beetle twins, blinked slowly, one right after the other. "Whoa," stated Chip in a husky drawl.
"Yeah," Skip confirmed, his pitch rising and falling at random intervals throughout the word. Then a pause. "That looks like what happened that time we didn't use the bathroom for a month."
Anyone who had been anywhere near the Dungs quickly scooted away.
Within moments, Lumpus and Slinkman arrived on the scene, having decided that the campers were now safe to approach. "Ah'right, what's goin' on?" snapped Lumpus, a bull moose with yellow-tinted glasses. He scanned the crowd for the guiltiest face he could find—guilty of what, he wasn't sure, but there's no one who could get HIM to admit that—and settled predictably on a small Brazilian spider monkey. "LAZLO! What've you done this time?!!?"
Slinkman coughed meekly, raising a hand. "Er, Scoutmaster Lumpus, I don't think that—"
"QUIET, SLINKMAN! I DON'T PAY YOU TO THINK!!!"
"...Actually, yes you do, sir."
As this was a clear fact, Lumpus couldn't really argue with it, and so he chose to ignore it. Instead he marched up to Lazlo, getting right in the monkey's placidly grinning face. "WHAT DID YOU DO, LAZ—" he began again, but was cut off by another round of fireworks from across the lake.
"Oooooooooooooooooooooooooh..." "ooh"ed the campers in chorus. Edward gritted his teeth annoyedly, still tugging at his captured arm and shooting meaningful glares at the oblivious Lazlo.
Lumpus's eyes grew wide behind his glasses, and his arms dropped to his sides as he stared almost hypnotically at the explosions. "What're they doing, Slinkman?"
Within moments all of the Bean Scouts had turned to the Assistant Scoutmaster, as more often than not he had answers for any question imaginable—except, mysteriously, for "where do babies come from", but that was of little consequence at that moment. Slinkman's eye stalks shrank back self-consciously at the overabundance of staring, and he had to clear his throat several times before his voice would come out. "Er, I-I don't know," he replied, then with a sudden start he began rifling through the papers on his clipboard. "Wait a minute, I—" Finding the sheet he was looking for, Slinkman squinted down at it and ran over the text before turning back to the Scoutmaster. "Oh yes, if I recall, Denmother Doe informed me that a—" Another pause to double-check what he'd read. "—That a celebrity is visiting Acorn Flats this week."
The Scouts gasped collectively, awed at the prospect of a celebrity just across the lake from them—well, all except Edward, who'd finally managed to wrench his arm from Lazlo's grasp and was already starting back towards his cabin.
Scoutmaster Lumpus, however, hadn't heard a word past "Denmother Doe". At that point he'd gone completely starry-eyed, clasping his hands together and starting to squeal as his slightly-deranged mind formed its own conclusion. "IT'S OUR WEDDING CELEBRATION!!"
Slinkman cocked his head to the side, squinting one eye at the bull moose. "...Sir?"
Whipping around, Lumpus grabbed the slug by his nearly nonexistent shoulders and started shaking him back and forth, an insane grin spreading across his face. "OUR WEDDING CELEBRATION! MISS DOE IS FINALLY GOING TO PROPOSE TO ME, SLINKMAN!!!" With a sudden gasp, though, Lumpus's eyes began to bulge in dawning horror. "But what'll I wear?!!? I-I'm not READY for this, Slinkman! Coldfeetcoldfeetcoldfeet..." Teeth chattering, Lumpus jostled his Assistant Scoutmaster even more vigorously. "SLINKMAN! TELL HER TO WAIT! THE WEDDING'S OFF!!!"
Slinkman just stared at him in utter disbelief.
"NO! WAIT! I'LL GO WITH YOU!!!" Lumpus cried, voice rasping as it reached the upper octaves. Tucking the slug under his arm, the bull moose sprinted full-tilt towards the camp's rickety old dock, bodily throwing Slinkman into a nearby canoe before jumping in himself, paddling furiously with his hands. "JANE! DON'T WALK DOWN THAT AISLE!!"
Within moments, the Bean Scouts were standing alone on the shore.
"Well!" Lazlo began brightly after a short silence, clapping his hands together and turning to face his fellow campers. "Want to meet a celebrity, guys?"
Edward, although he'd lingered by the shore in order to watch the full run of Lumpus's insanity, quickly became fed up again, spitting on the ground baseball-style and once more turning back toward his cabin. "Whatever, losers. I'm—"
He never got to finish that sentence, as he was soon bowled over by the mob of excited Bean Scouts in their rush to the other canoes and, unable to escape, got jammed in a small, cramped boat with at least eight other campers.
Lucky him, he was wedged between the dung beetles' armpits.
With adrenaline fueling the Scouts' muscles, they landed at Acorn Flats mere moments after Scoutmaster Lumpus jumped out of his own canoe with a somewhat nervous Slinkman hoisted high above his head. The fireworks had since stopped, and the only sign of life in the camp was the bright light shining in the windows of the Food Terrace—presumably where everyone was.
"GANGWAY!!!" shouted Lumpus, barreling towards the door of the pastel-pink building. The Bean Scouts hurried after him, once more shoving a madly protesting Edward along in their midst. "DON'T SAY A WORD TO THAT PREACHER, JANE!!!"
Needless to say, their entrance was an incredibly dramatic one.
The Squirrel Scouts were all crowded in the middle of the room, a sea of turquoise skirts and orange vests surrounding some unseeable center. Denmother Doe stood near a magenta-clothed refreshment table with Miss Mucus, the irritable warthog warden of the camp, beside her. Hanging from the ceiling was a large banner proclaiming "WELCOME TO ACORN FLATS", with all sorts of streamers flying around and the pink float Samson had seen earlier tucked in a corner by the door. And yet, even with all of these amusing diversions to stare at, all eyes were locked on Scoutmaster Lumpus.
"...Um," said the moose simply as he realized that he was not, in fact, a bridegroom. He gave an embarrassed cough, then self-consciously set Slinkman on the floor and placed both hands behind his back. Given the situation, Lumpus decided that a winning smile was the best course of action, so he attempted one, though the cracks in his teeth marred the effect somewhat. "SOOOOO...what's the party for, ladies?"
Miss Doe didn't even seem to notice any peculiarity in Lumpus's unexpected arrival, even though Miss Mucus was audibly cracking her knuckles at him. "Ohhhhh, Scoutmaster Lahmpuss!" she trilled, mispronouncing the moose's name once again as she approached him. "And the Bean Scouts! My my, what a SURPRISE!" She turned to the cluster of Squirrels, clasping her hands together warmly. "Girls, say hello to the Bean Scouts!"
"Hello, Bean Scouts," the majority of the Squirrels droned irritably—with the exception of Patsy, who waved excitedly at Lazlo. He didn't notice.
For a while there was an extremely awkward silence, accompanied by much shuffling of the feet and some angry glares at the Beans from Miss Mucus and various Squirrel Scouts. Then Miss Doe let off her trademark tittering laugh, waving a hand at some ridiculously silly oversight. "Oh, how rude of me! You haven't met our resident CELEBRITY!! Oh dear goodness me, how could I forget?" She gestured to the Squirrel Scouts to part and reveal the figure that they'd been crowding around, which they did with some visible reluctance. "She'll be staying at Acorn Flats for a week until her father finishes making arrangements for his business meeting. Oh, and she's SUCH an ANGEL!!"
At the moment that the mystery guest stepped out before the visitors, Edward had just managed to force his way to the front of the Bean Scout crowd, intending to ask Lumpus for permission to row himself back to Camp Kidney—and consequently placing himself at a perfect vantage point to see Acorn Flats's new guest.
As soon as the platypus spotted her, his face drained of all color, his eyes started to unfocus, and he could barely move his stiff bill enough to attain speech.