Family: the Ties that Bind...and Gag!

Samantha glanced up from the book she was reading, looking toward the door, and sighed. "Another one, huh? Oh, well, if I must, I must." Putting the book down, she gestured to a chair across from her, motioning for the Reader to take a seat.

"Naw, this isn't the story," she said. "My job in this unholy mess here is to handle the legal stuff." She flicked the flimsy plastic pin-on badge in irritation. "I'm the disclaimer hostess, whatever that means. Apparently my Writer's muse, Kayus, decided that even though this story, while a sillyfic, is gonna stick to canon, more or less, I still needed to be punished somehow. After all, their excuse was that they were born a Summers. I was crazy enough to marry into that family shrub."

She chuckled at the Reader's shocked expression. "Yes, yes, I know. You're not certain what my problem is, but you're betting it's hard to pronounce."

"What's hard to pronounce?" a male voice piped up, and Samantha and the Reader both turned to see Bobby Drake poking his head in.

Then the unfortunate lad blinked, and looked around, realizing a writing was in progress. "Uh-oh. Um, I just remembered I uh, left something on the err...the stove! Yes! That's it!" he exclaimed and tried to bolt from the room.

He was brought back not even a second later, kicking and screaming as a long, black, tentacle dropped him in a chair next to Samantha. The black tentacle retreated, slamming the door.

"Kayus gotcha too, huh?" Samantha asked. "About damn time. I didn't adopt you as my younger brother so I could suffer through this family thing alone."

Bobby just whimpered. "I don't wanna go to those sessions. I have nightmares about them already!"

"Don't worry. We won't," Samantha said. "At least I won't. I don't care what crazy ideas Kayus and our Writer come up with. If Scott thought talking Nathan and Stryfe into going into family therapy was hard, he ain't seen nothing yet."

"Yeah, trying to convince you that therapy might be a good thing is like trying to convince ol' Pocy-lips that his whole Darwinist theory might be just a tad overblown," Bobby quipped.

Samantha glared at him, then looked back to the Reader. "Okay. I'm supposed to be telling you things like, well, folks like Dr. Marcus -- bless his lil' ol' pea-pickin' heart -- and other various office-type people who work for him who might turn up belong to my Writer. I'm also supposed to tell you to please not use them without asking her first."

"I can't see why you'd want to," Bobby said. "By the time our Writer's through with him, he's liable to be a gibbering idiot and a permanent fixture of Ravencroft."

Samantha snickered. "Anyway, everybody else, like my dear hubby, and the in-laws that unfortunately came with him -- why does marriage have to be a package deal? -- are property of Marvel, the poor things. That's why my Writer does stuff like this. She feels that Marvel mistreats them."

Bobby blinked. "And she calls what she does to us being nice?"

"Of course not. She's an evil, cruel, sadistic, warped woman, and damn proud of that fact. But hey, she gives airtime to neat guys like 'Star, and you've even got a rep in her work as being an actual person, not just the resident butt-of-all-jokes," she pointed out.

"True," Bobby said reluctantly.

"Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. My Writer isn't getting paid for this either. She's doing this for fun. She gets her satisfaction from torturing us. But, of course, if you would like to leave to sacrificial offerings of feedback -- which works better AFTER you read the story -- and maybe some imported Swiss chocolates, just go over there." She pointed over the Reader's shoulder at a massive mailbox. Samantha looked to Bobby. "Am I forgetting anything important?"

"Let's see. Hmm. Well, it was written for the 'Cheer Up JBMcD' challenge, and we oughta make note that the XXY Universe can be found at the XXY: The Marvel Mutant Genderswap Project (, and is edited by Alara Rogers," Bobby said. "I also feel that for my own sanity, I should say that Cardboard Man's mental images have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual universe."

Samantha snickered. "True, but Nathan in drag?"

Bobby shuddered. "I'm about to take up Stryfe's example and use head-on-wall-beating as a form of therapy if I can't get rid myself from that mental image."

"Oh, and the title actually comes from an Erma Bombeck book, but it's so fitting for the Summers, don't you agree? That's about it, I believe," Samantha said, looking back to the Reader. "Behind me" -- she pointed over her shoulder -- "those doors lead into the chapters of the story of what happened when the Summers family began attending family therapy sessions."

"Abandon all hope ye who enter here!" Bobby added in a spooky voice, wiggling his fingers in a hocus-pocus style for effect. Samantha reached into the endtable drawer and pulled out a large bottle of Advil, tossing it to the Reader.

"Take it with you," she advised sagely. "You're about to explore a family shrub so complicated that it makes quantum physics about as easy to follow as Bill Cosby's Picture Pages."

"Not to mention most of the Summers family members couldn't warm up to each other if they were cremated together," Bobby supplied helpfully.

Samantha chuckled. "If you still want to risk life, limb, and sanity--"

"Proceed," Bobby said ominously, forcing his voice as deep as he could manage, trying to mimic the Cave of Wonders from Disney's Aladdin, earning him a solid, backhanded, thwap in the chest from Samantha. "OW!"

As the Reader headed to the first door, Bobby could be heard once again. "Hey, sis, wanna go play paintball?"