Strange Love: After Hours - The Introduction
It was a quiet afternoon for the authors in Random Suite Publishing Company (a division of Tipton Industries). It was one in a long line of quiet afternoons which the authors had been taking advantage of and writing up many stories and sharing ideas amongst themselves.
But this afternoon would be different.
This afternoon, things would change.
For this afternoon the League of Under-Appreciated Characters was making its move.
Several authors sat around a conference table in the large break room situated in the back of Random Suite Publishing, chatting, laughing, and scribbling notes.
Lodylodylody tilted her head, "Do you hear that?"
"What?" Tiger002 asked as he, too, tilted his head.
"That—Is that thunder?" Lody replied.
Woundedhearts got up from her seat and looked out the window, "Not thunder, there's not a cloud in the sky…"
Wyntirsno, also at the window, nodded her agreement.
Waldojeffers sipped from his cup and crossed his legs, "I'm sure it's nothing. Probably just those maniacs on the fourth floor playing 'Red-light Green-light,' again." He leaned back in his chair and picked up the crossword he'd been working on.
"No," said Snapplelinz quietly, "I don't think it's those weirdoes this time. Listen, there's chanting, too."
James Doyle went to the window beside woundedhearts and opened it. He leaned out and looked both ways. "I don't see anything out here."
"But the noise did get louder when you opened the window," Elianna22 pointed out.
"MA'AMS! SIRS! THERE'S A RIOT OUT FRONT!" Kirby, the security guard, ran into the room shouting. "The League of Under-Appreciated Characters has come! And they've got signs! And bullhorns! And the lady in front is scaring me!"
Tiger was calm, used to situations that demanded action, questioned the frazzled guard, "What did the signs say, Kirby?"
"Booty or Bust! We Will Not Be Ignored! Spread the Love! We're Not Sloppy Seconds! There's so many signs sir, so many!"
James slapped the man's back and pushed a glass of water into his hands, "Drink this." He struck a completely inappropriate dramatic pose, "Wait here ladies! We'll handle this!" Then he left through the door pulling a reluctant Waldo behind him while Tiger followed shaking his head and pulling the door shut.
"I've a feeling this is not going to go well," Ellie said.
"No," Snapp replied, "Things always go wrong once someone says 'we'll handle this'." She sighed and shook her head sadly.
"What about those signs?" woundedhearts asked, "Don't you think those are funny things to say?"
Lody nodded, "What do you suppose they mean?"
The other ladies all shrugged and anxiously watched the door.
They weren't kept in suspense long as their three friends burst back in; slamming their backs against the door once they were all inside.
There were several thumps against the door, and disturbing howls. The guys kept their backs pressed to the door, keeping it shut.
"I was wrong," James panted, "We couldn't handle it!"
"What did I tell you?" Snapp directed at the other ladies raising her brow, then she pressed the men, "Did you at least find out what they're after?"
Waldo nodded shakily, "Love. They want love and they want it NOW." He shuddered, "So many girls, so much cleavage. Tiger, have you got any brain-bleach?"
Tiger shook his head and looked to Lody, "It's the minor characters, Lody. They're pissed. They're demanding to star in more fics, more romance, and they want more mature content."
"Wait, didn't we just write a bunch of romance stuff for them? Wyn, isn't that what we put up on your page?" woundedhearts said not looking for Wyn's nod, "And now they want more? What're we going to do, Lody?"
"Hey, whoa, wait a second." Lody said, raising her hands in defense, "Why are you all looking at me?"
"Because," Ellie explained patiently, "You're the one that organizes the events. You're the ideas girl. So, think up an idea. Quick. They're breaking down the door!"
Lody had no time to think of anything as the door busted inwards, tossing the male authors to the floor, and the room was flooded with all the minor characters of the Suite Life sitcoms.
Emma Tutweiller was first through the door, hair in a wild halo around her face, and a bullhorn clutched tightly in her hand. She pointed an accusing finger at Lody. "YOU!"
Lody flinched back, "Me?"
"You! You like me! You think I'm pretty! Don't you? Don't you like me and think I'm pretty?" Tutweiller advanced slowly upon the hapless author.
Once she saw the look in the crazed teacher's eyes she hastily nodded while trying to back away. "V-V-V-Very pretty, M-Ms.T-T-Tutweiller…"
"Then why, by all that is good and holy, am I not getting sex?! I am a fully grown woman! I have NEEDS!" She had dropped the bullhorn in favor of shaking Lody by the shoulders. "I NEED TO GET LAID!"
Wayne Wormser wormed his way over to Snapp, somehow managing to sneak behind her and curl his fingers around her arm. He breathed in her ear, "Wayne's ready for love."
"Oh," Snapp felt a cold chill work its way all the way down her spine and whimpered, "Ew." She shuddered.
"You leave her alone, Wayne!" Sweet natured Corrie told him sternly as she slapped his hand away. "She's not going to write about you! She's going to write about me! Right?"
Snapp's eyes widened, "Uh, sure?"
Corrie stuck her tongue out at Wayne, and giggled.
Arwin picked Tiger up and slung a friendly arm around his shoulders, "Tiger, buddy, pal. You could do old Arwin a solid couldn't yah? Write one little story for me?"
"I don't really do romance, Arwin." Tiger said regretfully.
Arwin sagged, defeated, "Won't you try? It doesn't have to be great. It's just…I'm so lonely!" he sobbed, "I've been waiting, and waiting, and no one gives me a chance! I know I'm just the handy man, I know I'm a failed inventor, but I'm a nice guy! Don't nice guys deserve some love, too?"
A little misty eyed Tiger said, "You're right, Arwin! For you, I'll give writing romance a try!"
"You would?!" Arwin squeaked, "Aww, shucks Tiger, you're the best bud a guy could ask for!"
James stood uncertainly looking in the sea of bodies now filling the once serene break room.
"This is madness!" he cried.
"Madness?" Esteban and Ilsa Shickelgrubermeiger-Von Helsing der Keppelugerhofer queried at the same time, turning to James, they shouted in unison, "THIS IS SUITE LIFE!"
Wyn had tried to hide under the table but Mr. Blanket had found her and was spouting some philosophical reason he should be included in a sordid tale of love and lust.
Luckily, Wyn was rescued from any further horror as Lance the Tipton lifeguard pulled her out from under the table opposite the side where Mr. Blanket was traumatizing anyone within hearing distance.
"Hey," he said, shooting her a charming grin, "Maybe you could work me into a story, huh?"
Wyn practically melted into a puddle of goo, "Uh huh," she nodded.
After recovering from being knocked to the floor, Waldo tried to sneak out of the room.
He was unsuccessful.
Brandon, the candy delivery boy, and Kurt had spotted him and pounced.
"Y'know," Kurt began, "I may be the twins' father but I'm still a stud, don't you think?" Brandon nodded at him, "I mean, come on, I'm a rock star. Shouldn't I be in a more mature set of stories?"
Brandon jumped in, "I know you didn't see me much, but I'm a handsome guy, right?" Kurt gave him a thumbs-up. "So, I should be in more fic, y'know? Right?"
Waldo was speechless looking between the two attractive men. Ideas suddenly flooded his mind. He nodded absently and sat down and immediately began to write.
Over his head Kurt and Brandon shared a high-five.
Connie stood against a wall and sighed sadly.
When she looked up her eyes locked on Ellie and she spoke a question she'd had on her mind for a long time, "Why is my boyfriend always so awful? Couldn't someone, just once, write me with someone nice? Couldn't I have a happy, fulfilling sex life? Don't I deserve that much?"
Ellie, who had no idea Connie's love life had been so awful, nodded sympathetically. "Why don't you come over here, sweetie, and we'll see what I can do about that awful boyfriend of yours, hmm?"
Connie, in better spirits, sat next to Ellie and they began to plot.
"Hey!" woundedhearts tried to be heard over the loud characters, "Wait a second every-" she was interrupted.
"I'm 18!" Cried Agnes, "I'm all grown up and I've got a body made for love! Find me Zack or Co-"
woundedhearts shook out her fist as she said, "Hush, you sexual predator. You won't ever get your hands on my boys, foul temptress!"
The riot of secondary characters quieted in shock, looking from the unconscious Agnes to the still glowering woundedhearts, their silence giving her the opening she needed.
"Now, look, I know you're all upset and that you all want to feature in more sexy pieces. But there are only so many of us. Not all of you can be taken care of. I'm sorry. But we'll do our best in getting you more sexy fic. Please, give us a chance to work something out."
The characters grumbled, but remained quiet. The authors were able to gather, once more, around the table.
"So," Ellie said, "ideas?"
Lody nodded. "Just one. A collection of love stories. We'll randomize the pairings to give everyone a fair shot."
Emma, who had been eavesdropping, said "Acceptable. We'll wait here while you work on them."
The authors thought briefly of protesting, but the characters had all settled in for a long wait. Looking between each other they sat down and began to write.
And now, on to the stories...
Note: If you'd like to write a story for this collection, PM Lodylodylody for details.