...yeah, I'm probably supposed to be working on "Welcome to the Arena", but I'm getting a little burned out on that one. Spending a year and a half on the same story is bound to do that. I WILL finish it, I swear, but before I go back to it, I need to get some other stories out of me first. And since I kind of miss Olympia... here we go. Bringing her back into the fold.

Some characters are mine, some are Doug Tennapel's. You should know by now which is which.


HOME

Challenge: A Place To Belong

Timeline: After everything so far

Required Reading: Strays

Rating: PG

The summer sun was finally beginning to set, allowing some mild relief for the calico as she made her way down the city block on all four paws, unaware of her whereabouts. She had been wandering since the sun had risen enough to provide sufficient light, and would likely continue until the last of that light had gone. She knew what she was looking for, but where she was headed, she had no clear idea; she simply hoped she'd know it when she found it. What would she do once it was found? Again, the calico wasn't sure; all she could do was hope she'd know. It was the only thing on her mind, and had been for... weeks? Months? How many months? How long had she been out there? Another thing she couldn't recall. Life had been a haze since that day, however long ago it was. She thought she had finally found her salvation, her freedom after those events... but instead, she was more lost than ever.

Hunger. She stopped for a moment, too weak to continue for the time being, knowing that soon she would have to return to moving, but now was not ideal. Her paws simply refused to budge due to her body's weakness, no matter how much she willed. Her body drooped slightly as she whimpered... this sort of hunger was something she hadn't experienced during her original imprisonment, but now that she had gained so-called freedom, it had become a regular staple in her life. Sure, she'd spent most of her life hungry, but at least she once knew WHEN she would receive her meager scraps, her poor excuses for meals... nowadays, she was lucky to get that much.

"Home..." she whispered to no one in particular. "Please... somebody hear me... I just... I just want to go home..."

"You have no home, Olympia. No one wants you. No one ever would," a voice rang out, venom dripping from every word.

Olympia stiffened, a sudden chill overcoming her entire body. "Not you..." she pleaded. "Go away, Camilla, please... please leave..."

"You COWARD!" Camilla hissed, appearing in front of Olympia with a loud snap. Her ghost looked identical to her body the day she died, down to the four deep gashes her sister had raked across her throat. "Honestly, Olympia, I thought you'd changed a LITTLE if you had the courage to do THIS..." she still hissed her words, pointing to her neck as she spoke. "You killed me to save those stupid Quid brats... and now this. You're reduced to the sad little thing you always were, unable to even stand the sight of me... you're pathetic, Olympia."

"...no," Olympia replied quietly. "No I'm not..."

"Oh, come ON!" Camilla snarled. "Here you are, wandering the streets, subsisting on handouts and rain puddles and sleeping in alleyways! Just what did you get out of killing me, Lym?! At least with us you had food! You had shelter! You had protection! What was the point?!" Olympia didn't respond to this; she simply recoiled in fear from Camilla's insults.

"And you're still afraid of me..." Camilla scoffed. "I can't even lay a paw on you, I'm DEAD, and you're still afraid. I mean, watch..." She swung her ghostly paw at Olympia's face, claws extended, fully expecting nothing to happen. Against all rational logic, Olympia flinched at the approaching attack. Predictably, Camilla's paws passed right through her...

...but she still went rigid, a horrible, icy cold filling her blood for a brief moment before fading. As short as it lasted, it felt like an eternity and couldn't have ended soon enough.

"Hm?" Camilla made a slight noise of intrigue. "What on Earth..." she swung her paw again, this time causing Olympia to make a small, pained squeak as the chill returned.

"Well... that's certainly interesting," Camilla chuckled. "Didn't know I was still capable of inflicting pain..."

"Stop that!" Olympia shouted, raising her voice a bit more than she normally would. "Don't do that anymore!"

"You don't tell me what to do!" Camilla hissed, swinging her claws again and snapping Olympia back into silence. "Remember your place! The fact that I'm no longer alive doesn't change a thing!"

"...yes, Camilla," Olympia muttered, her entire body drooping. The effects of Camilla's swipes weren't simply physical; her mind, too, was completely numbed. Oh, what she wouldn't give to just find a corner to sleep in and just stay there... give up this ridiculous wild goose chase for a home... Camilla was right, she HAD no home...

She's lying.

It wasn't quite a voice; Olympia couldn't even begin to describe just how it sounded, whether it was male or female, whether it was even familiar... instead, it was more a feeling. Someone, or perhaps something, was putting that thought into her head.

"Who's there?" she called out, her voice quavering. "Is someone... talking to me?"

"Of course not, you foolish girl," Camilla hissed back. "There's no one around but me and I didn't say a thing. No one is here for you, Olympia. You're alone."

Didn't Daniel always tell you she was a liar? I say that you're not alone. Are you going to believe me or her?

"But I don't know who you are!" Olympia called out to whoever – whatever – was sending her these thoughts. "How can I trust you?"

I know where to find the place you've been looking for. If I show you, will you trust me?

"Can't you at least show yourself?" she asked the nothing. "How am I supposed to trust a thought?"

You already know you can't trust Camilla. What other choice do you have right now?

"Stop talking to yourself, Lym!" Camilla snarled. "Has your weak little mind broken? Is little Olympia hearing voices? Poor little Olympia doesn't even know what's real anymore, she's gone completely and utterly mad... if only she had kept to the safety of the pack and not ruined it for everyone, the poor cat could have kept her sanity..."

Don't listen to a word, Olympia!

"Then what am I SUPPOSED to do?!" Olympia cried, her voice becoming increasingly more desperate with every word that escaped her mouth.

RUN! Just get out. RUN. I'll take care of the rest.

"But she's standing right here with me! She's not going to let me escape!" Olympia continued to argue.

And she's an intangible spirit. How is she going to stop you? JUST LISTEN TO ME AND GET OUT!

Olympia gulped, a bit nervous about the upcoming prospect. Slowly, she straightened herself up to all fours, her tail and ears no longer drooping, her knees no longer bent. "I'm... I'm not afraid of you, Camilla," she announced, sounding far less impressive than she intended to. "There's... there's nothing you can do to me anymore." To further drive home her point, she pushed her front paws against the ground and brought herself up – for perhaps the first time in her life, Olympia was standing on her hind paws alone. She stumbled forward a few steps, but managed to regain her balance and stand as straight as possible. Her body still quivered from nerves, betraying the fact that her apparent lack of fear was nothing more than a facade, but the mere act of bringing herself up taller than her tormentor was bravery enough.

"What are you doing, Olympia?!" Camilla scolded. "Get back down! Traitor! That's all you are; a traitor to your kind! GET DOWN ON ALL FOUR PAWS BEFORE I -"

Before she what? There's nothing she can do, Olympia. Remember that. Go!

Olympia didn't even hear the rest of her sister's threat. Instead, she bounded forward, doing her best to ignore the hideous cold that came from passing through the ghost. Her running on her back paws was as unsteady as could be expected, leading her to drop back down before long, but it didn't interrupt her escape at all.

"Why isn't she following me?" Olympia asked. "Normally... normally she follows... everywhere I go until she gets bored... I've never tried escaping before... she'd always just follow..."

I get the idea that she knows just who you're talking to right now – maybe not exactly, but I trust she's narrowed it down – and where I'm taking you. This isn't going to be somewhere she'd like.

Olympia tried to stop running until she got some concrete answers only to make a disturbing realization; she wasn't the one moving her legs. Against her will she went turning around the corner and onto a block she had never seen before in her life. "Where am I going?!"

Home. That was the only thought she received.

"But where IS that?!"

I still don't know, exactly... but I know who might be able to help you. I'm leading you to them now.

"But who are THEY? And who are YOU?! Why aren't you explaining anything?!" she pleaded, even more terrified than she was when faced with Camilla's constant, vicious insults. She constantly tried to regain the control over her legs, but it wasn't working at all.

All right... This thought was rather hesitant, as if the being had no real desire to explain things. I guess that if you know who I am, you'll trust me a bit more. But you can't tell anyone I'm doing this. I'm really not supposed to and I could get in trouble if certain people are listening if you let word out...

The next thought sent was more in line with telepathic speech; this time, Olympia could actually hear a voice. It was a definitely feminine voice, overlaid with a strong Scottish accent that may have been totally unintelligible if it wasn't a voice that Olympia had heard steadily for a couple of years, while the speaker was still alive. She reflexively gasped in shock as soon as she recognized just who was leading her.

It is I, Olympia. Erika Quid, littermate of Daniel Quid.

Olympia didn't say another word after this, willing to give someone like Erika complete control. Her trust was fully in place, even as she was dragged through an unfamiliar area of the city.


The sun had set long ago, but this didn't stop Erika in the slightest. She continued to lead Olympia all throughout Bakersfield, despite that fact that Olympia could barely see where she was going, a fact made worse by her being on a side of town she had never before visited.

"Erika? How much farther is this place?" Olympia asked. "My paws are hurting really bad... I just want to rest right now..."

We're close. Look, I can see the place from here. You see that large house a few blocks down?

Olympia looked up and squinted through the dark; Erika had control of her legs but nothing else. She could just barely make out an almost-comically huge house that dwarfed everything else on the block. "I don't know how I could miss that," Olympia said. "It's HUGE! What's there that can help me?"

Didn't Daniel tell you that Audrey came from a well-off family and lived in a mansion? And when his son, Waffle, came along... didn't he mention the same thing?

"That's... that's the Cramdilly house?!" Olympia said in shock. "You're... you're taking me to..."

Yes. It's the Cramdilly house.

"Thank you, Erika! Thank you thank you thank you!" She tried to speed up her walking pace although she knew it wouldn't work; if Erika could even tell she was making an effort, she made no move to assist Olympia in running. "I'm gonna get to stay with them?!"

I never said-

The calico wasn't even listening to a word Erika was saying; she knew where she was headed and that was quite enough. "You know, I've always wanted to meet Audrey... Daniel always said she was a real sweetheart, I bet she'd be more than happy to let me stay... I mean, she'd be the head of the house now, right? Waffle told me that their human, Edna, died a while back..."

Olympia... Erika said slowly, not sure how to break the news. Olympia, Audrey's gone... she died even before Edna did. She wasn't a young cat by any means. Daniel didn't mind that, obviously, but...

"...oh..." Olympia said slowly, her enthusiasm crushed. "I'm... I'm sorry?" she said questioningly, not even sure how to comfort a ghost.

She's with us again. Daniel, Edna, and me. She does miss her children terribly, but at least she's happy where she is now.

"It makes sense," Olympia muttered. "But... that would mean those three are in charge now, right? They were from the same litter, they're the same age... so that would mean Waffle's in charge!" Her face brightened considerably. "And I know he'll let me stay there! I KNOW he will! He saved me before and he'll do it again!"

Olympia, I cannot make you any promises about this... I'm only bringing you here because they may help you find where to go next. I know you enjoyed Waffle's company, but you have to understand, he may not be the kind of cat you think he is-

"Of course he is, Erika! He as good as saved my life out there!" Olympia argued back. "If it wasn't for him, Camilla would still be alive!I'd still be trapped! I owe everything to him!"

Most of that was a fluke, Olympia, he may have set off events, but he's really not the type who can intentionally-

"HE'LL HELP ME," Olympia hissed. "I KNOW he will."

...if you're sure... Erika sighed in defeat. Well, you're about to find out. We're here.

Olympia went back to focusing on her surroundings; she only just then realized that she hadn't been paying any sort of attention to where she was going while arguing with Erika. "It looks even bigger from the yard..." Olympia whispered in awe as she eyed the house from the ground up. "There's a lot of windows... which one's Waffle's? Do you know?"

Don't you think it'd be better to ring the doorbell and go from there instead of breaking in like that?

"I WANT TO SEE WAFFLE FIRST," she insisted. "I'll talk to his brothers later, but for now, I want Waffle!"

Er... Erika caved into Olympia's demands, rather unsettled by her eagerness. Right side of the house, second floor, all the way back... I've visited here before just to see them, though I don't think they know I ever even existed...

Olympia had stopped listening as soon as she knew where to go. Having regained control, she ran to the side of the house, skidding to a stop underneath the last window. The glass portion was opened; the only thing sealing the window was the screen. The room was totally dark. After a quick glance around the wall, she caught sight of a drain pipe on the house's corner. With more physical skill than one would guess she'd possess by looking at her scrawny frame, she scaled the pipe and jumped at the window, just barely gripping the sill with her front paws. Her back paws scratched at the wall for a few seconds, her claws scraping against the brick, before she pushed herself up all the way. She gently pushed one of her front paws against the corner of the screen; to her surprise, it lifted with no resistance, having already been torn off before. Ignoring Erika's current pleading that she not sneak in, Olympia managed to just barely squeeze through the hole and drop down onto the floor. She then stood up on her back paws and, keeping herself steady by leaning against the wall, slowly fumbled around the room's perimeter, searching for a light switch. Eventually she found one right next to the door and turned it on. The room was positively immaculate; Olympia remembered Waffle saying something about having a butler, so it didn't come as a shock. The first object she noticed was a newt tank right next to the bed, filled with newts of various sizes and colors. Smiling, she dropped back down to all fours and made her way over to the tank.

"Gomez?" she asked the newts. "Which one's Gomez? I remember he was a green one, but you all look alike to me!"

Most of the newts looked at the intruder as if she was clearly insane; one green one, however, was more surprised than confused. He moved to the front of the tank and squeaked at Olympia, his head tilted.

"Gomez? Is that you? Do you remember me? It's me, Olympia!"

Gomez nodded and then squeaked out a sentence, bewildered.

"It's great to see you again, too!" Olympia answered, obviously having no idea what the newt was trying to say. "Is Waffle around?"

Gomez shook his head and said the exact same thing he had squeaked before, knowing he wasn't at all understood.

"Well, he'll be up here soon, right? I really miss him... you have a really brave owner, Gomez, you know that?"

"SQUEAK?!" Gomez's eyes widened in bewilderment. The other newts in the tank began snickering at the suggestion that their owner was anywhere NEAR brave.

"So I'm gonna wait here for him, OK, Gomez? Don't mind me, I won't touch anything!" Still not paying attention to Gomez's squeaking as he tried to figure out what was going on, Olympia stretched out in front of the tank and waited. The longer she ignored the newts, the louder they got as one by one yet another newt would start adding to the cacophony.

"WAFFLE! GET IN THERE AND FIND OUT WHAT THAT RACKET IS! NOW!" a voice screamed from down the hallway. Olympia recognized it as belonging to the little, rude, black one... Blik, was it?

"All right, all right, I don't know why they're squeaking like that, but I'll go look..." This voice was even more familiar than the last one. "Waffle!" Olympia whispered, trying not to be any louder lest she'd be heard; even with that exclamation, her only saving grace was the fact that she was drowned out by the newts.

"Why is my light on?" The voice was closer now, right outside the door. "I turned it off, I KNOW I did..." The doorknob turned, opening the door with a small click. "Come on, guys, we can hear you from downstairs, you have to be quiet, we're all about to go to bed-" Waffle stopped talking as he laid his eyes on the cat sprawled out in the middle of his room.

"Hey, Waffle!" Olympia said cheerfully, as if it hadn't been ages since she'd seen him last.

"GORDON! BLIK! KATILDA! HOVIS!" Waffle screamed. "GUYS! THERE'S-" Before he could finish calling for someone, Olympia made her move. She leaped forward, pinned Waffle to the floor, placed her paws over his mouth, and kicked the door shut with a room-shaking slam.

"Please be quiet, Waffle, I don't wanna hurt you, really..." Waffle struggled and made a few more muffled attempts to call for help before giving up, falling limp and silent. "I'll explain, I promise, but for now, you can't tell anyone I'm here, OK? Not yet... please, just let me explain..." Olympia perked her ears up; several sets of footsteps were making their way down the hall. "Don't tell them," Olympia hissed in Waffle's ear before quickly getting off of him and heading toward a closet. She managed to hide right before Gordon and Blik came barging in, Blik already in his pajamas.

"What's going on?!" Gordon shouted in a panic. "Fire?! Burglar?! Aliens?! What?!" He looked around frantically for the threat.

"It was... um... a spider," Waffle lied, trying not to look toward the closet.

"You called me out of bed for a SPIDER?!" Blik asked, crossing his arms and tapping his foot. "Waffle..." he started threateningly.

"...it was a big spider," Waffle added hopefully.

Gordon sighed heavily out of relief. "Just a spider... Waffle, please don't scare us like that again? I thought something had gone seriously wrong... but as long as we're here... where is the wee beastie?"

"I... squished it already," Waffle continued to lie.

"...Waffle." Blik said, his tone icy. "Let me get this straight. You screamed like you were being killed over a harmless SPIDER, only to swat it before we got here ANYWAY, making our running in here COMPLETELY POINTLESS?!" his voice rose to a deafening shout by the end of his sentence.

"...basically..." Waffle mumbled.

"But I heard a thump, as if you fell down, laddie... and you ARE on the floor..." Gordon said.

"I tripped over something after squishing the spider," Waffle explained. "I'm OK. Just tripped."

"There's nothing to trip OVER," Blik pointed out.

"I tripped over the carpet," Waffle answered simply.

"YOU- ...ugh." Blik resisted the urge to scream again and instead sighed heavily, slowly lowering his face into one of his palms. "Klutz."

"Waffle, next time you see a bug or some such thing, how about you come to us, all right, laddie?" Gordon asked. "We'll be happy to help-"

"When it's not ungodly late," Blik added, not looking up.

"It's just, the way you screamed..." Gordon continued, ignoring Blik. "I was afraid it was something a lot worse than a spider."

"I'm sorry..." Waffle mumbled.

"I'm not trying to guilt you, lad," Gordon explained. "I was just worried."

"Well, we've got this all taken care of, the stupid spider is gone, Waffle's clumsy, I don't care, I'm tired," Blik grumbled. "I'm going back to bed, telling Katilda about this stupid incident, and then going to sleep. AND YOU WILL BOTH LET ME DO JUST THAT." Blik then stomped off muttering.

"Is there anything else you need, Waffle?" Gordon asked. "You're sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine," Waffle explained. "I just want to sleep now..."

"I understand," Gordon said with a nod. "I'm going to turn in myself. Good night. Come get me if anything else comes up." Assured that nothing was wrong with his brother, Gordon also left, closing the door behind him. After giving him a few seconds to get away from the door, Waffle got up and went over to the closet. "Lym?" Waffle called quietly, gently tapping on the door. "They left..."

The closet slowly opened and Olympia slid out, careful to make as little noise as possible. "Thanks for covering for me," she said.

"What are you doing here?!" Waffle asked, still trying to keep his voice low but unable to hide his confusion.

"I can't come and see an old friend?" Olympia asked, slowly approaching Waffle. "I've really missed you, you know..."

"Um..." Waffle backed away at the same pace as her approach, slightly uncomfortable. "It's just... it's been months since I saw you, we only really knew each other a couple of days... and you kinda broke through my window," he said, indicating the ruined screen.

"You left it open," Olympia said, as if that absolved her of all guilt. "That hole was already there. I didn't put it there."

"That's... not the point..." Waffle mumbled, still trying to make a discreet escape. "How'd you know this was my room? Or even my house?"

"I just knew," Olympia said, remembering Erika's request to not be revealed just yet. "Anyway, listen," Olympia continued, ignoring Waffle's discomfort. "I've been living on the streets for months... ever since you left, I've been alone. I really need somewhere to stay. So I was thinking... could I stay here?" she asked. "You and your brothers are the only cats I know, and I DID get along really well with your father, so it makes sense, right? I could stay here with you guys! It's a big house! You've got a spare room, right?"

"I'd have to talk to my brothers about that..." Waffle said. "And I kinda don't wanna now... Blik's really cranky when he's tired."

"Seems to me like he's always cranky," Olympia said. "But you don't have to ask them NOW. I could stay in here tonight, then tomorrow morning you can act like you JUST found me in here and ask them then and then I can stay!"

"I... I still don't know," Waffle said. "And then there's Hovis... he already has seven cats to take care of, I don't know what he'll say to another one, Blik, Gordon, and I are the only ones he HAS to let stay here..."

"Seven?" Olympia asked. "I thought it was just you and your two brothers."

"Katilda moved in not too long ago," Waffle explained. "You remember her?"

"The blonde furred one? She's Blik's mate, right?" Olympia clarified.

"Yeah, her," Waffle answered. "She moved in, then she and Blik had a litter, that's three more..."

"Aw, you're an uncle!" Olympia gushed. "How cute!"

"Um... yeah," Waffle muttered. "Anyway... Hovis wasn't happy when Katilda moved in and he REALLY wasn't happy when she had the kittens, but he can't throw them all out, Blik would pitch a fit... I don't think Gordon'd be happy about it, either... and I wouldn't, they're family... so that's why they get to stay. But you..."

"You'd fight for me!" Olympia said. "Just plead with him until he caves! If Katilda can stay then why can't I?!"

"It's just... it's a little different, Lym," Waffle tried explaining. "Can we figure this out in the morning? I'm tired."

"I'm tired, too," Olympia agreed. "Can I sleep here? Just for tonight?"

"...OK. Just tonight," Waffle agreed, too exhausted to argue with her anymore. As soon as he agreed, Olympia happily jumped onto his bed. "Lym!" Waffle whispered harshly. "Lym, that's where I sleep!"

"It's big enough," she said, moving over to one side of it and sliding under the blanket. "See? You have room."

"...I'd... rather you didn't," Waffle said. "I can set you up on the floor... not my bed."

"Aw, fine," Olympia whined. "I'll just sit here until you set me up on the floor."

Waffle nodded, went back to his closet, and pulled out an extra blanket and some pillows. He folded the blanket into a makeshift sleeping bag, placed it in a corner, and set up the pillows. "There. You can sleep there."

Reluctantly, Olympia left Waffle's bed and crawled into the one Waffle set up. "You have soft blankets," she said, wrapping it around herself.

"...OK," Waffle said, unsure of how to respond to that, exactly. "Well... good night, Lym." He turned out the light, went into his own bed, and fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillows.

"It's lonely over here..." Olympia sighed to herself, lying awake and staring at the dark wall. "I TOLD him there's enough room..." Silently, she left the area Waffle had set up for her and headed over to the bed.

OLYMPIA! Erika hissed. I've been keeping quiet about this, even though you did cross a couple lines begging to stay, but this is ridiculous! Leave the poor lad alone!

She climbed up and settled under the covers, paying no attention to Erika's scolding. She left only a very small gap between her and Waffle, who was out too cold to even notice.

"Good night," Olympia whispered before falling asleep herself.

OLYMPIA! Erika kept hissing, trying to rouse her from her sleep. Cut this out! He was generous enough to let you stay in the room! Stop abusing his hospitality! Are you listening to me?! Are you even awake?! Get back to what he set up for you! OLYMPIA!

...unbelievable...


"MORNING! MORNING MORNING MORNING!" A young, ear shattering voice went ringing through the hallway as Beth came bursting out of her bedroom. "It's MORNING!"

"Great..." Danny grumbled as he poked his head out of his own bedroom. "Good for morning. It happened again. Mind letting me sleep through it?"

"Aw, you're so LAZY, Danny! You're too much like dad..." Beth whined.

"Got that right," Danny said. "So why don't you go bug someone else? Like Uncle Waffle... he'd probably be more than happy to scream about morning with you. Just do it outside where I don't have to listen to it."

"For that I'm gonna stand under your window while I scream," Beth said, sticking her tongue out at her brother. "OFF TO WAKE UNCLE WAFFLE!" Beth rocketed down the hall as Danny slammed his door shut, intending to go back to sleep. She slowed to a creep as she approached Waffle's room.

"He's not even gonna know I'm comin'..." Beth chuckled as she slowly opened her uncle's door and dropped down to a hunting stance. Slowly, she inched toward the bed, her tail swishing. She stopped suddenly as she noticed someone turning over in the bed...

...and it wasn't her uncle. Instead, Beth managed to catch that whoever this was had white fur with orange, brown, and black patches.

"Is that... is that a girl...?" Beth wondered aloud, looking closer and managing to notice the stranger's face and its feminine features. "Oh my..." Trying her best not to wake the pair, she slowly turned around, left the room, and softly closed the door. She then got up and headed toward the stairs. She peered down at the living room through the banister; her parents and Uncle Gordon were all sitting on the couch, talking about something she couldn't hear, probably related to the newspaper Blik was paging through.

"Mom? Dad?" Beth called down. "I gotta tell you all something..."

"What is it?" Katilda called back up. "Something wrong?"

"Not WRONG..." Beth said. "Just... really weird."

"What is it, young lass?" Gordon asked.

"Your brother did something stupid again, right?" Blik guessed.

"No, it's not Danny, not this time!" Beth called back. "It's about YOUR brother! It's Uncle Waffle! I went into his room and... and there's..." She paused to take a breath, and shouted the rest of the news as if it was some sort of horrible scandal. "There's a girl in his room!"

"WHAT?!"

All three adult cats sprung up and ran up the stairs and by Beth's side.

"You're SURE about this?!" Gordon asked. "There's someone in Waffle's room? A lass?"

Beth nodded. "Not just in his room, either! She's sleeping in his BED!"

"So THAT'S what Waffle was hiding last night..." Blik said, slightly stunned. "I didn't think... I mean... it's WAFFLE..."

"Blik, somehow, I get the idea that it's not what you think," Katilda said. "You're right. It's WAFFLE. There's gotta be SOME explanation for this."

"Why do you think she's there, Dad?" Beth asked her father.

"...I don't have any idea what the reason could possibly be, not even a guess," Blik said. "Nope. Not one guess at all."

"Um... OK," Beth replied, not sure what Blik was talking about. "Well, WHATEVER it is, there's only one way to find out! Come on! TO UNCLE WAFFLE'S ROOM!" With her usual hyperactive speed, Beth rushed back to her uncle's room, the others close behind. Gordon cracked open the door and peeked inside. "Waffle...?" he called. "Waffle? Lad?" He opened the door and stepped inside a bit further. "Waffle?"

Waffle rose from his sleep, his eyes still shut, and stretched his arms up, yawning. "Oh... g'morning, Gordon," he said, not opening his eyes.
"Ah... we were just wondering... Beth tried waking you up earlier and she couldn't help but notice... um..."

"Notice what?" Waffle asked, finally waking up fully. Olympia squirmed in her sleep again; Waffle felt the bed move as she did so. "Huh? Why is the-" He turned to look on the other side of the bed and screamed when he noticed her. "LYM! Lym, I told you, you couldn't sleep there!" He moved over a bit more, trying to increase the distance between them. "LYM!"

"Wait... OLYMPIA?!" Blik sputtered. "You mean that girl you stayed with when you ran off months ago? THAT Lym?"

"Uh-huh," Waffle said, trying to nudge her awake. "Lym! Wake up!"

"Either she's just pretending at this point or she's fully capable of sleeping through an atomic explosion," Katilda said.

"YO! WE KNOW YOU CAN HEAR US! WAKE UP!" Beth shouted. "WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU HERE?!"

Olympia finally opened her eyes and sat up as well, as if nothing was wrong. Her eyes fell upon the small yellow kitten. "Oh... hello, there. You must be Waffle's niece, am I right?"

"Yeah, you're right," Beth answered. "And who are YOU?"

"I'm Waffle's friend!" Olympia answered, smiling. "Didn't he ever mention me?"

"I kinda don't like talking about the whole thing," Waffle said. "I haven't mentioned you or anyone else there since I left."

"That's too bad..." Olympia sighed. "You really shouldn't hide your friends."

"But Lym, we- ...never mind," Waffle resigned to her delusion.

"Which doesn't explain why you're in our house," Blik said. "What are you doing here?"

"Waffle left his window open, so I let myself in," Olympia said, still fully unaware there was anything wrong with that. "I've been sleeping in dirt for years... I deserve a good place to sleep, right?"

"But... how did you know who lived here?" Gordon asked.

"I didn't. Lucky coincidence!" Olympia lied. "But hey, now that I found the place... I can stay here now! I'm tired of living on the streets, and this house is so HUGE, you won't even know I'm here, unless you want to, of course-"

"No." Blik said flatly. "Absolutely NOT."

"Well, of course YOU'LL say no," Olympia said. "You say no to everything, I can tell. Gordon! You're a nice guy! You'll let me stay, right?"

"...I'm afraid we can't, lass," Gordon replied regretfully. "We're running out of space as it is... I'm sorry."

"Waffle!" Olympia begged. "Come on, talk them out of it! You have to let me stay here!" She started to shake him. "Please?"

"Lym, they're right," Waffle said. "We just... we can't right now. You seem nice and everything, but we barely know you..."

"And all of the rooms are being used already as it is," Gordon replied. "Blik's trophy room, Danny's model kits, Waffle's newt equipment... we'd have to dismantle someone else's space. There's just nowhere for you here, lass. I'm very sorry."

"...that's... that's fine," Olympia replied, her voice breaking. "If you... really can't keep me..."

"We're sorry," Gordon repeated.

"Well... if things change... will you let me know?"

"We'll try," Gordon answered, more to make her feel better than to make an actual promise. "Just not right now."

"Fine..." Olympia replied, getting up and off of the bed. "I guess... I guess I'll be going now. Thanks for letting me spend the night, Waffle." She reached over and pulled Waffle into a hug, who went rigid, unsure how to react. He finally settled for patting her on the back a few times and fought back a sigh of relief when she let go.

"See you guys later!" Olympia called as she leaped out of Waffle's still open window, tearing the screen even further.

"WOW, she's crazy," Beth said. "Where'd ya meet the crazy lady, Uncle Waffle?"

"It's a long story," Waffle said, yawning. "You guys mind if I sleep in today? I'm really tired... Olympia kept me up later than I wanted."

Blik stared forward, his eyes wide open and his mouth gaped. Waffle observed in confusion. "What?" he asked. "What'd I say?"

"It's not you, Waffle, Blik's just weird," Katilda said, grabbing the practically comatose Blik's paw and pulling him out of the room. "Stop reading so much into it, Blik, he's WAFFLE!"

"I still don't get it!" Beth called, running after her parents. "What's wrong with dad?"

"...you get some sleep," Gordon told Waffle. "Don't worry about them."

"Do they think Lym and I were up... KISSING or something?" Waffle asked, cringing.

Gordon barely suppressed an amused snort. "Something like that, I think."

"Ew," Waffle said, cringing even further. "She just talked to me last night. That's all."

"And I believe you," Gordon nodded. "Just get some rest if you need it. Sorry you had to deal with her."

"She IS nice, sometimes," Waffle said. "When she's not being clingy."

"Perhaps she'll grow out of it," Gordon suggested. "I have a strong feeling you'll be seeing her again..."

"I hope she stops being crazy," Waffle said. "I like her more when she's not crazy."

"That makes sense," Gordon agreed. "I'm going to go see what's going on with Blik... you sleep as long as you need to." Gordon left, shutting the door behind him. Waffle laid his head on the pillow and closed his eyes for a few seconds...

...but after a sudden thought crossed his mind, he got out of bed, went over to the window, pulled it all the way down, and moved the latch over, locking it.


I tried warning you, Olympia...

Olympia was sprawled out on the Cramdilly's back lawn. "Warning me about what, Erika?" she asked. "I thought that went pretty well."

They told you that you couldn't stay. I told you they probably wouldn't be able to keep you... why didn't you ask if they could show you somewhere else to go?

"Hey, they didn't say I couldn't stay around here, just that they didn't have any room INSIDE the house. They didn't say anything about me staying out here on the lawn," Olympia said, stretching out further. "I'm fine with this, really. And besides, they said they'd let me know if things changed and I could stay in the house."

I don't think they're going to like this much...

"It's not like I'm taking up any space, sleeping out here," Olympia said. "If they want me to leave the lawn so they can use it, I'll go take a walk and come back when they're gone. They don't even need to know I'm here. I'd rather be close to them than go live in another house... I ESPECIALLY want to stay close to Waffle. He DOES care about me, I can tell! He let me stay in his room, after all!"

After you browbeat him into it. Olympia, you're a sweet lass, and Waffle IS a good kid, but... well, be careful. Like I told you, I don't think he's the kind of cat you think he is. You seem to be putting him on a bit of a pedestal...

"I know JUST what kind of cat Waffle is. He's nice and he's brave and he's my friend!" Olympia insisted. "I have nothing to worry about. I'm staying where I can be close to him and that is FINAL."

If you're sure... Erika said. I suppose there's nothing I can do to convince you out of this whole crazy idea, huh?

"Not a thing," Olympia said. "This is where I belong. I've found my home and I'm happy here. I'm STAYING!"

OK... but if this doesn't turn out the way you're hoping... I hate to be one who says "told you so," but sometimes it's necessary.

"I'll be FINE!" Olympia insisted. "Everything's going to turn out FINE. What could possibly go wrong?"

A number of things.

Olympia grumbled and rolled over, fully intent on lying in the grass and pretending Erika wasn't there. What did SHE know? A sudden wave of hunger crashed over Olympia again. "I never actually got any food yesterday... oh well. I'll wait a while and then see if they have any leftovers from lunch, is all. There, see? I even have meals planned out! This is going to work! Everything is going to turn out great... this is where I belong... this is home.

And not even they can change my mind."