"Hey, watch the nails!" complained Kimmy, although the girl was a bit more subdued than usual in her protest. Perhaps this had something to do with the maniac gleam in the eyes of her friend's father, as he vigorously scrubbed her fingers nearly raw with an antiseptic wipe. Or, maybe it was due to how Mr. T (as Kimmy liked to refer to her next door neighbor), was currently dressed.
The brash young lady knew that this man was a total clean freak obsessed with keeping his house neat and tidy, but it seemed going a bit too far for him to put on protective goggles and a face mask, a rubber apron and elbow-length gloves of the same material, and finally, a plastic hairnet. Just so he could wipe clean her hands after she'd dumped her ruined birthday present onto the kitchen table. While she was thinking about this, Kimmy managed to miss how the rest of the family, even Michelle with her incessant curiosity, stayed as far away from this table as they could possibly get. Though, even if she'd actually noticed, Kimmy would have just figured they knew better than to get near the big guy when he was on a dirt-destroying crusade.
At last satisfied, Danny let go of Kimmy's fingers, as she then grumpily snatched back her hands. He went over to the kitchen table and dropped the used wipes onto the small heap of black clay fragments lying there. The head of the Tanner household next strode over to the basement doorway, where a truly out-of-the-ordinary electrical appliance leaned against the jamb. This strange object had a handle sticking out of the top of a long metal cylinder with a wide nozzle at its other end, plus it was studded all over with more switches and buttons than the cockpit of a modern fighter jet. Danny picked up his top of the line vacuum cleaner with the serene grace of a samurai warrior drawing his sword and about to begin a battle to the death. Without a word to anyone and also without a single glance back, he descended to his destiny.
"Your dad finally gone crackers, Deej?" was Kimmy's sarcastic comment, as she stared after a hairnet disappearing out of sight downstairs.
Hearing that impolite question, Stephanie promptly huffed, "How rude!" as she stood by the kitchen oven. This middle child was holding onto Michelle, so when that annoyed rejoinder was sent over the head of the youngest girl in the room, that provoked little lady confined herself to sticking out her tongue at Kimmy.
Before a noisy quarrel could actually begin between her friend and her sisters, Donna Jo tried to head things off by hastily changing the subject. "Kimmy, what'd you mean, your birthday present? Your birthday was, uh, five months ago!"
From the rear kitchen corner where he'd been comparing bruises with Joey, Jesse looked up and sourly contributed, "Or, as I like to put it, 'The Day That Shall Not Be Spoken Of Ever Again.'"
Kimmy cheerfully rebuked her favorite enemy, "Hey, shampoo boy, I told you to look out where the rental elephant my mom hired for the party had been!"
Joey glared back at the sniggering girl, growling, "That was a five-hundred-dollar pair of boots I had to throw away, because I'd never get them clean again! I still think you waited until the very last second before warning me!"
A little desperately, Donna Jo tried again, "Kimmy, present?"
"Oh, that." As Kimmy opened her mouth to continue, she had to momentarily pause, as a bone-shaking whine like the Hoover Dam turbines running at full power came from the basement. Everyone in the kitchen then had to grab hold of something fixed to the floor in order to keep from being pulled towards the basement doorway by the sudden suction coming from there. Raising her voice over Danny Tanner's robust vacuum cleaner that was evidently operating at its highest level, Kimmy half-shouted, "You remember my Uncle Melvin?"
Next to Jesse, Joey perked up, as he enthusiastically called out, "You mean the guy who's a sailor, with all those tattoos and a great story for every one of them?"
"Yeah. I don't know if he forgot or if it got hung up in the mail, but a week after my birthday, a package came from him, all the way from the Far East. Mom put it on my bed, but she never told me, so I must have shoved it over the wall side, out of sight, that night when I went to bed." Kimmy thankfully went back to her normal speaking voice when the vacuum cleaner downstairs finally turned off and the air in the kitchen stopped rushing down the basement stairway. "I didn't find it until today, when I went looking under there. Say, did you know that if you peel off the green fuzz on top, a really old pizza slice still tastes pretty good?"
Donna Jo tried to ignore the simultaneous gagging of the rest of her family. Frankly, she'd heard weirder stuff from her eccentric friend. Waving a hand at the kitchen table, the oldest Tanner daughter persisted, "So, what was it anyway, your birthday present from your uncle?"
Abruptly reminded of the recent destruction of her gift celebrating her special day, Kimmy sent a scorching glare across the kitchen towards the pair of jerks whose fault this totally was, with the oddball girl answering crankily, "It was some kind of clay statue, a really wicked ghost figure wrapped all in shadows, just the thing to creep you out. It would have been perfect on the dresser, right next to my chattering teeth and the autographed picture of Doctor Dire from the Creature Features Midnight Channel! But, no, just before I could show it to everyone, Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber there had to bust it into a million pieces!"
As an outraged Jesse and Joey were about to defend themselves, they were interrupted by a stern voice coming from elsewhere in the kitchen. Standing in the basement doorway, where he'd come up after making sure with his vacuum that not a single infinitesimal speck remained uncollected of that strangely-distressing object that Kimmy Gibbler had brought into his house, Danny Tanner firmly informed everyone there, "People, enough! Kimmy, I'm sorry about your present, but if you'd been a little more careful coming in here, it wouldn't have broken. Not to mention that Joey and Jesse and you could've really been hurt falling down the stairs. Still, everybody's okay, so let's leave it at that, all right?"
Deep pouts instantly developed upon the faces of those persons that Danny had directed his comments towards, until these expressions eventually changed into grudging acceptance. Probably because of Danny's own magnified stern look delivered through his protective goggles at the two men and the young girl. Satisfied at the grumpy silence from the others responsible for today's excitement, Danny now placed the vacuum cleaner he'd been holding onto the kitchen table, and then the man started stripping off his cleaning outfit, adding this garb to the growing pile on top of the furniture.
Watching with utmost fascination as her father finished removing what he'd been wearing to cleanse his family's home, Michelle's inquisitiveness couldn't be contained when Danny finally reached down to grab the edges of the tablecloth resting on top, to then flip these cloth sides over onto his discarded equipment. "Daddy, what're you doing?"
Smiling at his youngest daughter, Danny used both hands to grip the neck of the cloth bag he'd just created. The man then heaved up to lift everything off the table - the vacuum cleaner, his protective gear, and lastly, the black fragments of the little clay statue that had created a truly sick feeling among everyone living in their house. Grunting, their father managed to say, "I'm getting rid of all this, honey. It's going into the garbage can, every bit of it, and I'm just glad today is trash day. I might even ask for a new garbage can, too." Glancing at the other men across the kitchen, Danny added, "Guys, will you get the door and the back gate, please?"
Heads vigorously nodding, Joey and Jesse bustled forward past the girls, and they helped their friend leave the house with his burden, to then finish the job of disposing everything that remained of the unknowingly-cursed statuette that had inadvertently brought evil into the lives of the Tanner family.
Shrugging at her pal over the nutty behavior of the grown-ups, Kimmy then made a prompt beeline for the refrigerator, to hopefully check out the possibility of any yummy munchies inside, resignedly watched by the other girls who were all too familiar with this habit of Donna Jo's goofy friend. Bent over to poke through the insides of this food-chilling storage unit having had its door yanked wide open, Kimmy became preoccupied with cramming into her wide mouth anything in there she found edible, so she missed the return of the three men, at least until Danny jovially announced, "Group hug, everyone!"
Straightening up and turning around, Kimmy interestedly watched how the entire Tanner family plus the other two guys now gathered around together in a circle in the middle of the kitchen, to then put their arms around each other in a mass embrace that appeared particularly fervent to the young girl with bulging cheeks. As she munched away at her immense mouthful, to finally perform an massive gulp that consumed the entire leftovers of last night's pot roast, Kimmy rolled her eyes in exasperation at seeing yet again that wacky routine everyone in this household seemed to go through at least once every single day here.
Feeling that it was time to head back to her own home now that nobody was paying herself the slightest bit of attention, Kimmy started to leave the kitchen by the rear door, edging past the clump of people bunched up together in the center of this room. Just as she was about to make her getaway, a free arm shot out from the gathering to clamp onto Kimmy's shoulder with strong fingers, immediately pulling the young girl right into the group hug.
This youngster's muffled squawk of alarm at that unexpected act trailed off, when a rather squashed Kimmy now lifted up her head pressed against someone's stomach, to look right into Jesse smirking down at her and still maintaining his firm grip onto her shoulder. A very bemused man then half-heartedly groused, "I've got the weirdest hunch that this is somehow totally your fault, kid, but I'm also feeling too good at the moment to care all that much. So, you might as well join in the hug, Kimmy."
A cheerful mumble of agreement rose up from the rest of the people in their close embrace inside the kitchen, causing Kimmy's mouth to fall open in absolute shock. Still, a few seconds later, she managed to recover enough to allow a feisty look of pure mischief appear on her features, as Kimmy then cooed to the suddenly-wary man holding her close, "Does this mean I can call you Uncle Jesse now?"
"Don't push it, Gibbler."
A few miles away, Faith was standing absolutely still in their hotel room, arms dangling limply at her sides, while without moving her head, she warily studied from the corners of her eyes the red hair that was currently pressed up against the side of her face.
After a few more moments, when the unanticipated, intense hug being given to herself by Willow showed absolutely no sign of ever ending, an increasingly desperate Faith finally cleared her throat, and she cautiously said to the other woman, "Uh, Red, even if we wasn't in San Francisco itself, I'd ordinarily have no prob with you gettin' your gay on with anyone else, but I think I woulda remembered ever offerin' to join in the festivities with the other ladies, what with me preferrin' guys. Did I kinda send the wrong signals to ya in the last coupla minutes?"
A merry giggle was loudly uttered right into a flinching Faith's ear, as the Slayer also felt Willow's body pressed up against her shake in laughter. As the witch at last let go of the relieved brunette and took a step back, Faith wonderingly saw Willow wiping away tears of delight, as that redhead happily confided, "Oh, Faith! Don't worry, I'm not trying to lure you from the side of the straights. It's just that I suddenly had the oddest impulse to give the nearest member of my family the most affectionate hug possible."
"Yes," nodded Willow, who went on with a very thoughtful look now on her countenance. "I think it had something to do with the Shadow Court, now that it's all over, and let me tell you, I'm absolutely positive those beings are gone forever-"
"Never mind that!" Faith's disbelieving yelp had interrupted Willow, as the Slayer now incredulously regarded the surprised witch. Speaking in a tone of absolute doubt, Faith's Boston accent became thicker in her sudden stress, "Ya really think of me as part a' yer family? After what happened 'tween us - ya an' me - in Sunnyhell? I treated ya like crap when I took ya hostage, and I woulda turned ya over to the Mayor without a second thought!"
Willow merely looked back at Faith with her face absolutely calm, as she answered, "And as Dark Willow, I would have killed everyone in the world, you included, without a second thought."
Faith had to actually think that one over. She'd seen Red there in her really scary witchiness moods a few times since rejoining the Scooby Gang, but Xander and the others had wincingly confirmed that even those specific bloodcurdling events witnessed by the Slayer hadn't shown at all what the Wiccan was capable of when truly pushed to the brink. Despite herself, Faith had to admit, "Yeah, well, I been there. And…you can be more'n that. Not just you. Me, too. Took me long enough gettin' outta the dark, and it's always gonna be part a' me. But it ain't gonna be all of me, ever again, not if I can help it."
A gentle smile slowly grew on Willow's lips, as she softly replied, "Family helps, too. Xander and Buffy and Dawn and Giles, they keep an eye on me, and I'm glad for it. I keep an eye on them, so my family gets my help when they need it. You, too, Faith, if you want it."
There was quiet in the hotel room for several moments, as Faith felt her whole world shift over what she'd just been offered. An actual family, with all of its screw-ups and love and exasperation and kindness and…everything. To be accepted by one simple act. A yearning look on her features, the brunette woman slowly stepped over to where Willow was waiting, with Faith cautiously opening her arms. Willow didn't move at all until Faith apprehensively embraced her, as with a joyous smile, the witch hugged Faith back hard.
As they remained in their embrace, Willow chuckled into Faith's ear, "Hey, sister, if we time it right, like doing this again in front of the other Scoobies at the Cleveland house, I think we can fry everyone's brains there without the slightest problem."
Faith felt a wide grin break out on her face, as she whispered back into Willow's own ear, "I like yer thinkin', sis."