Chapter One

Every year, in the first week of July, Leena went away. She didn't tell where she was going, or what she would be doing, but she always came back relaxed and smelling faintly of coconuts, so everyone assumed she went somewhere fun,

Her absence wasn't too heavily noted the first year Myka lived in the B&B, with both she and Pete otherwise occupied tracking down a gold-producing artifact and traipsing all over the hills of Ireland. The second year, they were likewise distracted by Pete having accidentally let Trailer onto the floor of the warehouse, tripping the lockdown procedure in the process. They had spent five days locked within the warehouse, unable to contact Leena to release them, and Mrs. Frederick finding perverse pleasure in their apt punishment for carelessness. It had not been a fun week for any of them, but Poor Pete had copped the brunt of all their frustration; it had taken over a month for his left eyebrow to grow back in fully.

This year, however, Leena's break fell right in the middle of a lull - and oh how they hated them. Say what you will about misbehaving artifacts and end-of-the-world field trips, at least they kept you occupied and saved you from Artie's dogmatic approach to stock take.

It took all of one day without her for them to realise how much Leena was needed. With no artifacts to track, Pete fell back on his default past time: snacking. There was no longer any food (nor even constituent ingredients - what on earth had he done with a pound and a half of flour?) in the place. They learnt that it was Leena who not only did the general housework, but who followed behind Claudia and Helena at the end of the night, collecting all manner of tinkered components and returning them to their work benches. They learnt that Pete the Ferret had an unfortunate tendency to escape and that, more often than not, it was Leena who uncovered where he had scampered off to, scooping him out of the body of the piano and returning him to his pen. They learnt that it was Leena who stocked the shampoo and sorted the mail, who sent Claudia to bed and woke Artie up. Leena walked Trailer and raked the lawn, returned library books and darned socks. Leena had, for all intents and purposes, become their mother. And with mum gone, the children were quickly becoming lost.

On the second day of Leena's vacation, Artie arrived at the B&B to a breakfast comprised of stale pop tarts, orange marmalade (but no toast), half a handful of barely cooked porridge, and what looked suspiciously like a boiled shoe. He looked over his oddly dishevelled agents (apparently it was also Leena who ensured that Pete's buttons were correctly aligned), sitting with their pitiful breakfast in the messy parlour - was that a Farnsworth component balanced against the salt and pepper shakers? - and gave a heaving sigh.

It was quickly decided that this could not continue, that if it did continue, Leena would likely return to find them all dead, or trapped in the bathroom or some other such nonsense. Temporarily hiring a replacement was dismissed out of hand - even putting aside the fact that no temp could ever come close to doing Leena's job, it turned out that there was no agency that hired out workers to super secret government organisations housed in mysterious warehouses. That something must be done, however, was evident, and as such, Helena stood and made her unexpected announcement.

"I shall be Leena." They all looked at her with odd expressions. She rolled her eyes at them. "Okay, I won't be Leena, but I shall assume her duties for the duration of her leave. How hard can it be?"

Claudia eyed her frankly. "HG. Have you met us?"

"Of course I have, darling, which is how I know that if I don't step up it is entirely likely that you will all be at each other's throats in mere days. I have experience caring for others, and have ran a household before - admittedly with a staff, but I shall contend."

Myka smiled to herself. While she did not doubt Helena's good intentions and willingness to help, she also knew that being off active duty was sending her stir crazy, and that she longed for a project - any project. Helena had been (outwardly) patient since her return, accepting her mandated therapy and off-duty probationary status with repentant grace. But inside her spirit was vibrating with pent up energy, and she ached to do something, anything, to show that she had changed.

"HG," Pete said hesitantly. "Do you even know how to use the vacuum?"

"I'll figure it out," she replied cheerily.

"What about the store? You don't even know where it is. Or what cookies I like."

"I'll figure it out."

"And what about the microwave? It's still fritzy from the last time you tampered with it, what if -"

"I'll figure it out, Peter!" she snapped.

Pete fell back into his seat, slightly shame faced. "You'll figure it out," he agreed. "You'll do great."