TWO & A HALF HOURS AGO…
"Ah-hem!" Daphne said, and nodded with her head towards the phone. Shaggy looked at her, then the phone, and back to her. "Yes." She said, nodding her head.
"Alright," Shaggy muttered, "I'll call her."
"And it's tonight."
"I know, I know." Shaggy grumbled. He poured the coffee, and went over to the pin bord on the right side of the fridge, and pulled off a piece of paper. Then, walked over to the phone. Picking up the phone, Shaggy headed into the living room.
The paper held the number to Ellen's mobile. He'd used it during his time at the airport to contact her without using the loud speaker. For some reason she'd never given him her pager number, she'd always preferred vocal or facial contact.
He hesitated, unsure that this was the right thing to do. He glanced around the corner, to see the backs of Daphne and Velma. They were discussing things to do for the day. He then left, and sat down on the couch, the phone in one hand, and Ellen's number in the other.
He so much wanted to tell Daphne the truth. But how do you tell someone, for the first time, that you're in love with them?
He let his head drop as he moaned in frustration. Twice he'd had the opportunity to tell Daphne his true feelings, and twice, he'd chickened out. VanGhoul was right; he still was that cowardly teen deep at heart. Just like all those years ago, he never had the back bone to admit his true feelings.
He leaned back, sinking into the couch. From the moment he'd first seen Daphne come of the plane, he'd wanted to tell her how much he really did feel for her. However, time dragged on, and before he knew it, Ellen was there. He moaned softly. Daphne was right. If he didn't move fast enough, he would never get another opportunity again.
He turned around at the sound of footsteps. He saw Daphne walking up the stairs towards the second floor. Obviously, she was going to get ready. He looked back down at the phone again.
He glanced up at the stairs, but Daphne was gone. Velma came out, and walked up the stairs.
Damn it! Why couldn't life be so much more simpler?
Daphne jerked her arm back from the shower before the freezing water reached her hand. She took her rob from under her arm, and with a practiced toss, she threw it at the hook on the bathroom door. It caught on the hook and remained suspended off the floor. Steam rolled out of the shower as the water started to heat up. She wiped off the quickly fogging mirror and looked at herself as she kicked off her slippers. The green-eyed woman in the mirror made a rude face, then laughed.
She shook her head and stripped off the rest of her clothes, laying them in a neat pile on top of Shaggy's hamper basket. She didn't dare place them in the basket, because of the smell coming from it. Man, who often did Shaggy do the laundry around here?
She grinned at herself, and let a small chuckle escape from her lips. She couldn't believe the conversation that had gone on between her and Shaggy. That'd been twice he'd been there to comfort her. If she didn't know any better, she'd swear that he was…
A quick rapping at the door derailed her thoughts. "I would like to use the shower today, if you don't mind," Velma's voice called out.
"Alright," She responded. "I just had to let the water heat up. No need to rush!" Then she turned toward the steaming shower.
Whatever notions of morning grogginess left in her mind where erased as she stepped into the shower. She leaned against the wall, delighting in the feel of the hot water enveloping her and washing away the anger. Closing her eyes, she stepped forward and dipped her head into the water to let it run through her tangled hair. Above the showerhead, Shaggy had installed a waterproof radio and she reached up to turn it on. It was the ending music to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'.
*Speaking of thrillers…*
She smiled to herself, remembering the adventures she used to have, so many years ago.
"Time to wake up, all you lazy bums!!" The DJ announced over the radio. "It's all request FRIDAY!!!! And our next song goes out to a very special lady in Seattle's Lower West side...Gina, I hope you're listening, cause this one's for you, doll." A slow beat and some simple chords floated from the radio. Daphne recognised the song as 'Truly, madly, deeply' by Savage Garden.
I'll be your dream, I'll be your wish, I'll be your fantasy.
I'll be your hope, I'll be your love, be everything that you need.
I'll love you more with every breath, truly, madly, deeply do.
I will be strong, I will be faithful, cause I'm counting on a new beginning,
A reason for living,
A deeper meaning, yeah.
Daphne reached up and turned to another station. The last thing she needed was to be reminded of love. 'Wherever I may Roam' by Metallica broke clear of the static as she searched, and she grabbed her conditioner. She didn't give too much thought to this new age music.
*Oh well, it was better than that last one.*
She closed her eyes and leaned back against the shower wall, as she worked the conditioner into her hair. Soon, the words of the song became nothing more than another background sound, as she stood there, the water soaking her skin, warming her body.
Suddenly, the sound of banging woke here with fright.
"Daphne?" Velma's irritated voice called out. "How long are you going to be in there!?!"
"Just a minute!" Daphne called back. Jesse. She'd never had to share a bathroom for a long time, since from the time when she was on the road.
She chuckled, as an old memory surfaced, that reminded her a great deal of what was happening.
"Daphne!?!" Shaggy's voice called out as the banging on the door intensified, "How long are you going to be in there!?"
"Just wait your turn, Shaggy," Daphne called out, as she pulled her head out from under the shower head, "Beauty isn't made in five minutes you know. It takes time."
"Yeah," Shaggy called out, "Well, by the time you're ready, I'll be ready, like, for a pension."
"I here ya knock'n but you can't come in!" Daphne sang. "Come back tomorrow night and try me again." Despite the running water, she heard him grumble and leave. She chuckled moderately, as she rinsed out the last of the shampoo, and gargled some water.
Finally, she came out of the shower laughing deviously at herself, she walked over to the bathroom sink, brushed her teeth, and combed through her hair, leaving it down to dry.
The sound of dogs barking came to her ears as she walked back out of the bathroom. "I guess that means they're up," Daphne said to herself. She rolled her eyes and smiled to herself. "And probably hungry, too." She headed toward the stairs to her room as two brown furry figures with black spots bounded into the room, taking out the gangly man in the green shirt.
"Scooby-Doo," Shaggy cried out as the big Great Dane hit him square in the chest with his front paws, knocking him to the ground, and proceeded to lick at his face until Shaggy was covered in slobber. "Like, Good Morning to you too, buddy," Shaggy replied between licks.
Scooby then raised his head, as he delivered his trade mark laugh. Another shape then jumped up and landed on Shaggy's chest.
"And don't forget me! Scrappy-Dappy doooo!" He let his voice trail out in a long howl.
"Like keep it down guys," Shaggy warned, picking Scrappy of his chest, "There are other guests here you know."
"Yeah," Daphne added from the stairs, "You don't want to get us thrown out of here like the last hotel?"
"Ruh-uh!" Scooby replied, sitting up straight and shaking his head.
"Good boy," Daphne said, scratching Scooby behind the ear, "And if you continue to be a very good boy, I'll give you a special something later on."
"A Rooby snack!?" Scooby cried out, as his tongue fell out of his mouth.
"We'll just have to see," Daphne replied, scratching him again, and headed up the stairs.
"Ro boy!" Scooby cried out, and jumped onto the couch, sitting up straight, and picked up a newspaper and started reading it like a gentleman. Daphne couldn't help but laugh as she climbed the stairs to her room.
She could here Shaggy get ready for his shower, as she closed the door, and started to get changed. As she did, she turned on the radio. It was a man's voice, speaking with a deep tone, and he didn't sound like a DJ.
"My God," She whispered, "That's Richard Nixon." She turned to face the radio, as he spoke. What he said, she mostly didn't hear, only the next sentence he spoke, reached her ears.
"We today, have concluded an agreement, to end the war, and to bring peace with honour, in Vietnam." The President spoke.
"Wow," she muttered, pulling on her shirt, "It's finally over." Eventually, the speech ended, and the DJ came back on.
"Wow, isn't that great news, folks," the man said, "Anyway, let's celebrate the good news, as we continue with the top 40 countdown. This is Casey Kasem, and you're listening to…"
Daphne turned off the radio.
She sat down on the bed, silent as a ghost. Over. The war wasn't the only thing that was over. She shed a tear, as she gripped the bathrobe tight.
It was just over a week, since Fred had left her to go to collage. She was crying before she even realised it.
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a soft knocking at her door.
"Daphne?" Shaggy asked. "Are you all right in there?" She didn't answer. "Daphne?" Shaggy asked again.
"Sorry, Shaggy," Daphne squeaked. "Please, come in." The door clicked, and it slowly opened. Shaggy's head appeared from behind the door, a look of concern on his face.
"Fred getting to you again?" He asked. She nodded. "Do you feel like talking to me?" He asked.
"About Fred?" Shaggy nodded.
"What happened between the two of you?"
"Please, Shaggy," Daphne moaned, "I don't want to talk about that. Anything but that."
"Well, how do you expect me to help you, then?" He asked, throwing up his hands. "I don't have psychic abilities." Daphne looked into his eyes, then turned away. "Jesse, Daphne," Shaggy said, putting his hands on his hips, if you don't feel like talking to me, then like, why did'ja invite me in for?"
Unexpectedly, she leapt forward, and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face into his chest. Shaggy was stunned, and for a second didn't move. Then, he slowly raised his arms, and comforted her in response.
*She needs you close,* he thought. *Don't pull away.*
Daphne held on for what seemed like an hour, before finally pulling herself away. He looked down at her tear soaked cheeks, and smiled. She smiled back.
"Thankyou, Shaggy," she replied. "Thankyou for always being there for me."
"I'll always be here for you Daphne," Shaggy said, and for a moment, their eyes locked in a passionate stare, and they leaned in closer towards each other's lips. Suddenly, Shaggy blinked, and seemed a little flustered. "After all," he quickly said, "That's what friends are for, eh?"
Daphne just nodded.
"I, I think I'll go and have that shower, now." Shaggy quickly chuckled, and left the room. Daphne just stood there for a few moments, before lowering her head, and heading over to the cupboard to collect her clothes.
Daphne sat on the bed in the room Shaggy had given her, drying her still damp hair with a towel. She couldn't help but wounder. Why? Why didn't they kiss that time?
Then she found herself asking, what life would've been like if they had? Would she still be alone? What would Shaggy's life have been like. What if, what if. So many what ifs. Life could've taken a much radical turn if that moment alone in the bedroom had developed into something much more.
Twice, in the small time since their reunion, they had the opportunity, and twice they'd let it pass by. Why? Why didn't Shaggy do anything? More importantly, why the hell didn't she do anything?
Well, she was planning on doing so, but she screwed that up, by forcing Shaggy to call Ellen what's-her-name? Now, why in God's name did she do that instead of going with her feelings? It was the perfect moment, and she blew it.
Just like Fred.
Her face screwed up with rage, and pounded the dressing table beside the bed with her right fist, making the small bed lamp jump into the air by an inch, knocking over the small framed photo that was beside it.
It fell over and landed face down with a 'Clack.' She carefully lifted it up, and sighed when she saw that the glass wasn't cracked, and just as carefully, lowered it back down to lye face down again. She turned to look at it again. She'd put it face down last night, before going to sleep, so who put it back up?
Shaggy, most likely.
The photo was of her, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy, before Flim-Flam joined them. Come to think of it, that photo was taken not long -- just a few days -- after that morning in the bedroom with Shaggy.
"Oh, what the hell,"
With a smile, she rushed out the door, and down the stairs. As she got near the bottom, she could here Shaggy talking to somebody.
"Yeah, well, that's great!" She heard him say. She paused and looked around the corner. She could see Shaggy sitting on the couch, talking into the phone. "How about, let's say… 8?"
Daphne's hart sunk. Shaggy had already called Ellen. She would be coming around at 8 tonight. Slowly, she trumped back up the stairs. She hadn't been quick enough. Once again, she'd done nothing, and not only had she lost Fred, but now, Shaggy.
Shaggy leaned back on the couch, completely unaware of what just happened behind him. He frowned, and turned around, looking at the stairs. He sworn he'd heard some one go up the stairs. He shrugged and turned back to face the front.
"Well, it's been nice talking to you, Lisa," Shaggy said. "And remember, tell Ellen to ring me tonight at 8 o'clock when she gets home from work. I need to ask her something." He paused while Ellen's roommate, Lisa Chapel, said something else. "Yeah," he replied with a shrug, "I don't understand how she could leave her mobile switched off ether. Thanks for taking my message. Bye."
He hung up and placed the phone back down on the couch. Well, he'd finally built up the courage. And Ellen wasn't there. He turned back to the stairs, and looked up at them.
Was this the right decision? He wanted so much to ask Daphne out, but he blew his chance. She'd told him to ask out Ellen. Did that mean she didn't feel the same why about him, that he felt about her? He turned away from the stairs, as he looked down at his own feet. How could she ever love him?
Way back when they were teenagers, Shaggy had always had a secret crush on Daphne, but he'd always been to shy, or scared. Besides, she was in love with Fred back then. Fred was hansom, tall, athletic, smart, and the captain of the football team.
And what the hell was he? He was tall, but as skinny as a rake. His hair was so untidy, he could never remember a day in his young adult years when he was clean shaven. He had nothing to offer her.
Even when Fred left the group, and it was just him and Daphne. He'd never tried anything with Daphne. He scratched his chin. Well, there was that one time just a few days after Fred had left, but he'd been too scared. It'd all happened so fast that he didn't have time to realise what was happening, and he did what he'd always done in his life.
He chickened out.
And what had he done, 29 years later when he had the opportunity to set things right? Nothing. He'd chickened out once more. Well, Daphne started it, subjecting that he call Ellen.
But he should've stepped in and said something. Anything. But he didn't. He was so taken back by what she'd said, that it dropped from his mind.
Daphne was also right about her. He did feel something for her. She reminded him so much of himself. You could almost say she was a female Shaggy. She did make him feel happy when they used to work together.
"Arrgh," he groaned, clutching his head. "What the hell do I do, God Damn it!?!" Ellen, Daphne, it was so confusing and frustrating. He couldn't have both, one would have to the right girl for him.
So who was it!?!
He sighed in frustration, as he pulled out the book VanGhoul had given him. "You know, I used to have a nice stable life, till I meet you." He looked down at it, waiting a response. None came. "Well, what do you have to say for your self, huh?" Still no answer came. "What the hell are you anyway?"
He tried the buckle once more. He still could not open it. Was it even meant to open in the first place? Maybe this thing was just one big fancy paperweight.
*Okay, next question,* Shaggy thought, *How am I going to let the guys know about you?* He held the book up to his face, glaring at it's one word title. *Question, how are they going to react to you? What are they most likely going to do?*
He scoffed loudly, as he dropped his hand hold the book to his side. He shook his head in disgust, and put it back inside his jacket pocket. "God Damn it, look at me," he groaned, "I- I'm have a conversation -- with a book!" He let his head drop into his hands, "Good God, how low can you sink."
So, was this what going senile was like? He leaned back, and sunk into the couch.
Well, going senile or not, he would have to tell the guys the true nature the reunion sooner or later. Still, VanGhould was right. Something's never change, no matter how much we'd like them too. He was still a scaredy cat at hart, and he would have a devil of a time, trying to build up the courage, epically since the last time he'd kept secrets resulted in the lose of his one and only broom, and the destruction of his kitchen window.
He turned to look at the door to the kitchen. That reminded him, he'd have to get that fixed.
He picked up the phone, and walked into the kitchen to get the phone book to call a window repairman.
TWO & A HALF HOURS LATER…
"Keep the change, buddy," Shaggy told the man, as he saw him to the door.
"Thanks very much, sir," the man said, tipping his hat, then turned around, and headed out the front door to his truck. Shaggy waved him goodbye, then closed the door, and headed back into the kitchen. The new glass window sparkled in the sunlight, as it streamed through onto the kitchen sink.
Now all that was left was to replace the broom Daphne had destroyed.
Hopefully Velma was already solving that problem. Just before she left with Fred and Daphne, there'd been a brief argument over who was going to be paying. Shaggy had given her money, she had refused, telling him shed buy it with her own money. It dragged on till Fred blared the car horn, and shouted out that they'd be late. It ended with Daphne forking over the money, after all, she'd broken it, and neither Velma nor Shaggy were willing to complain anymore.
His eyes floated over to the three chairs at the table. There was a small fold out camping chair to accommodate Shaggy, but that wasn't what was on his mind.
He lowered his gaze to the floor. "I've got so many problems guys," he muttered, "I wish you were here with me now."
So when what sounded like a chicken with an electronic voice box, being strangled suddenly exploded, it was no wounder that Shaggy screamed. After his hart rate fell down to it's normal pace, he realised it was the phone ringing, and he walked over and picked it up.
"Hello," he said into the speaker, "Norville Rodgers, speaking?"
"Rodgers," a womans voice said from the other line, "It's me, Lisa Chapel, Ellen's room mate."
"Oh, hi Lisa," Shaggy said, "What's up?"
"Well, for starts, I found out the reason Ellen's not answering her mobile, she's out of the country."
"Huh?" Shaggy said, "Come again?"
"Ellen's in Canada," Lisa said. "She was called up to Vancover suddenly, and isn't going to be back for another two days."
"Really?" Shaggy asked. He scratched his chin in thought. Was this a sign? Was he destined to end up with Daphne?
"Hello, Rodgers?" Lisa's voice brought him back to reality.
*Better think fast Shaggy,* he thought to himself. *This is it. You're not going to get another chance again. It's ether Daphne, or Ellen.*
"Yeah," Shaggy said slowly, "I'm still here." He paused, then said, "Lisa…"
Yes?" She asked.
Daphne, or Ellen.
"Disregarded my previous message," he blurted out. "I-I'll talk to her when she gets back myself. In person."
"What?" Lisa sounded a bit stunned. "Well, okay."
"Thanks, Lisa," Shaggy said, "Bye." He quickly hung up the phone. He stood up tall and proud, and closing his eyes, breathed a deep sigh of relief.
He did it. He finally did it. He'd made a choice.
Daphne was the answer.
When she'd get back, he'd tell her the truth. He'd been secretly in love with her, and that he still loved her now. He wasn't too sure how she'd react, but he'd worry about that part when he came to it. He felt proud with himself, and pulled out a beer, and drink in celebration.
"No more chicken Shaggy anymore," Shaggy replied between gulps. He then went into the living room to watch some TV.
About half an hour later, he heard the sound of a car, pulling into the driveway. That meant that Velma, Fred, and Daphne were home. He got up, took another swing of the beer, and headed for the front door. Time to confess to Daphne.
However, when he got to the front door, he didn't see his dark green '88 Ford. Instead, he saw a light blue 01' model Mitsubishi. He frowned, and slightly pushed open the front screen door.
His eyes widened, as he saw Daphne climb out of the passenger's side door. The driver's side door opened, and out came a man who looked hauntingly familiar.
But before he could contemplate the man's face, Daphne waved at him. "Shaggy," she called out, "Come over here, I want you to meet someone." Slowly, he exited the front door, and walked down to the driveway, and the car that was parked there, with its engine still running.
"Hey, Daphne" Shaggy said, "I thought you were coming back with Fred and Velma?"
"I was," Daphne said, "Til I met Manuel." She turned to the man on the other side of the car. "Manuel, this is a good friend of mine, Norville Rodgers."
"Pleased to meet you, sir," Manuel said, as he walked around the car, and gripped Shaggy's hand, and shook it hard.
"Likewise," Shaggy replied. He couldn't help but glance down at his own hand when Manuel released it. Was it just him, or did his grip feel like ice? He rubber his hand, as he looked back up at the smiling man.
And why did he look so familiar?
"This may sound crazy," Shaggy said, "But, have we meet before?"
"Well, that all depends," Manuel replied with a shrug. "Have you even been to the south west of Florida?"
"I've been to at least eight different locations in that state alone," Shaggy replied. "But then again, that was just one in many trips all around the world. Its possible one of those trips took me there."
"Maybe I'm someone you meet while down there, but only briefly."
"Yeah," Shaggy said with a shrug. "That must be it." Yet somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew it wasn't. "So anyway," Shaggy asked, turning to face Daphne, "What's this all about?"
"Oh, Daphne replied, "This is Manuel DelaSanger. I meet him down at the docks, and decided to invite him around to dinner tonight."
"Oh," was Shaggy's only reply. Unknown to all, his grip tightened on the beer bottle in his hand for a brief second.
"What time will dinner be ready?" Manuel asked Shaggy.
"About some time after seven," he replied.
"Okay, then," Manuel said, rubbing his hands together, "I'll be here at seven, then," then he winked at Daphne. "See ya then."
"Bye." She replied with a smile of her own. She waved goodbye to Manuel as he pulled out of the driveway, then drove off.
"Not that it's any of my business," Shaggy said, watching the car until it vanished from sight, "But wasn't that little… well, sudden?"
"I'm not going to spend my life sulking over something I never did, Shaggy," Daphne replied walking past him towards the house. "Say, when's Ellen coming around?"
Shaggy just stared at the grass beneath his feet. "She's out of town for a few days," he replied, "But she said she'll be able to come over when she's free."
"That's great," Daphne said, smiling at him. "I bet you two would make a lovely couple." Then, she turned around and headed into the house.
"Yeah," Shaggy mumbled, as he slowly walked towards the house. "Not as much as you and I would've." He walked in the front door, and stopped, as he leaned against the door leading into the kitchen. He glanced down at the beer bottle in his hand. There was still some liquid left inside.
*Too slow again, Shaggy.*
Grunting in frustration, he threw the bottle into the food scrap bin next to the sink. The plastic bag that ran lined the bin muffled the noise, as it landed right inside, but it did knock it over. Shaggy ignored it, as he stormed into the living room, and sat down on the couch.
Upstairs, Daphne hurried into her room, and closed the door. She then walked over, and sat down on her bed. She looked over at the photo that was on the side of the bed.
Someone had put it back up again.
Shaggy. She walked over to it and picked it up, concentrating on the image of herself and Shaggy.
"I wish it could've worked out between us, Shaggy," Daphne said. "I really wish it could." But she'd been too slow, and in her anger for Fred, had pushed him away. She'd blown her chance.
She placed the photo down, and then placed it face down. It was time to move on. Manuel seemed like a nice guy. She stood up straight and tall; as her eyes were still locked on the photo frame, face down on the side table.
She wiped a tear away from her eye. She couldn't keep dwelling in the past. Time to move on. Manuel was her future now. Not with Fred. And not with Shaggy.
She turned away, as she burst into tears.
Downstairs, Shaggy sat on the couch, staring at the TV. 'Another Day in Paradise' by Phil Collins was playing on a music cable channel. He took another swing of the brand new beer bottle he'd gotten himself.
His own face was wet. Streaked with tears.
Fred was doing some arcane sort of sit-up exercise when Shaggy walked past his door.
"Hey Fred," Shaggy said, as his voice trailed off in confusion. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Back crunches," Fred replied as he came up. "The doctor told me to do 'em."
"Oh," Shaggy replied with a slight nod, "Well, dinner will be ready in half an hour."
"Okey-dokey," Fred replied as he came back up again. "Just give me a yell when it's ready."
Shaggy gave him another nod, and headed over to Daphne's room. He knocked softly on her door.
"Enter," she called out. Shaggy reached for the doorknob, but held back. He didn't open the door.
Instead, he just called out, "Dinner will be ready in 30 minutes."
"Thanks Shaggy," Daphne called out. He lingered outside her door longer than was necessary, before heading back downstairs. Velma was still watching TV when he came downstairs, and headed into the kitchen.
The vegetables were cooking in the pot, while the roast was cooking in the oven. He dipped his finger into the gravy, and tasted it. He 'Mmmmed' his approval, and gave it a stir, before checking on the wine, cooling in the fridge.
The whole gang didn't have much of a reunion party last night, but this time, they'd really make up for it. Shaggy was preparing the meal of a lifetime, to celebrate their return. And if it was one thing Shaggy knew, was how to cook.
He turned to the kitchen table, and looked it over once more. He'd dug out an old tablecloth, and a much larger table, and some more chairs. He'd removed the good cutlery from storage, and placed some candles on the table.
They'd have to have another night like this again. They'd all planed to go out on the town to a restaurant for their last night together, so they wouldn't have to fuss over dirty dishes, leaving them all for Shaggy to do when they left the next day.
Shaggy didn't mind, but they had insisted.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang, and Shaggy looked up over at the door. The porch light had been left on, and looking out the window, saw a man in a neat looking navy blue jacket, with light cream trousers standing outside with a bouquet of roses.
Manuel… whatever, was here.
Placing the wine bottle back in the fridge, and opened the front door. Manuel grinned at him in a way that made Shaggy feel uncomfortable. "I guess these are for you," he said with a chuckle in his voice, holding out the flowers.
"Daphe!" Shaggy called out, "Manual is here!" Manuel made a face.
"Man-Well! It's pronounce, Man-Well!" He snapped, "Not Manual. Man-Well!"
"Whatever," Shaggy said, as he stepped aside. "Please, come in."
"Don't mind if I do," Manuel said, taking a huge step past Shaggy into the hallway between the kitchen and the living room. Giving Shaggy a predatory wink, he then headed into the kitchen, and introduced himself to Velma.
Shaggy shuddered the moment he was out of sight. Man that guy gave him the creeps. Still, he wished he could remember where he'd met that guy before, and why he gave Shaggy bad vibes every time he came near him. Something at the back of his mind was nagging at him.
He wished he knew. It was so frustrating.
At that moment, Daphne came down the stairs, and into the living room. She wore a purple short skirt, with a creamy silk long sleaved shirt. Her hair hanging down but curled at the bottom. Shaggy almost lost himself, gazing at her. In 29 years, she was still as beautiful now, as she was back then.
His daydreaming was suddenly interrupted when Manuel came over and gave her the flowers. She was delighted with them, and gave Manuel a quick kiss on the cheek. Shaggy's own hand went to his cheek, and slowly drew it down his face.
"God," he hissed, turning away from the scene, and walked back into the kitchen, "I've got to stop this. I-I'm turning into Daphne." He could still remember the way she'd acted, angary, jealous with rage. "She has Manuel now," he said with a sigh, "I'll just have to live with that."
"Live with what?" Shaggy spun around with fright, at the sudden sound of Fred, standing at the doorway.
"Oh, Fred," Shaggy said, clutching his chest, "You scared me."
"Sorry," Fred said with a half smile. "Still, you didn't answer my question. What will you have to live with?"
"Oh," Shaggy said, looking around the kitchen for an escape, "Just… just about Scoob and Scrap, that's all," he said with a shrug, looking over at the table.
"They still are getting to you?" Fred asked.
"Seeing the old gang together, it brings back memories of the good old days. It still pains me when I think of them." Shaggy wasn't lying then. That part was true. He looked over at the oven. "The days I shared with Scooby an Scrappy were the best years of my life. The fun I had with Scoob, cooking, eating, watching TV." He chocked off as a tear rolled down his left cheek.
"Gee," Fred said in a soft voice, "I'm sorry, I should've asked."
"No," Shaggy said, whipping it away with his sleave. "You were curious. I would've been too."
"Scooby meant a lot to me too, pal," Fred said. "We all loved that dog."
"What about Scrappy?" Shaggy asked, shocked by the fact Fred had neglected him.
"Oh, come on, Shag," Fred said, "How many times did Scrappy get on your nerves. Always running off, trying to beat the living tar out of every single ghost and ghoul were chased down. How many times did he get into trouble. Better yet, how many times did he get you into trouble?"
Shaggy could help but chuckle. "Yes, I admit, he was somewhat pesky, and hyper-active, but…" He sighed, and his face turned serious. "But you never got to know Scrappy like I did, towards the end." The smile on Fred's face melted away as he realised what exactly Shaggy meant. "As he grew older, and he started to lose quite a lot of his puppy hood. He settled down, and became quite loveable." He bit his bottom lip, trying to hold back the tears. "He helped me out after Scooby left me. He became my best friend, and was always there for me. I just can't laugh at Scrappy anymore Fred. Not after what he did for me. I just can't."
He turned away, and moved to check the vegetables. Fred just nodded his head. Even though his face was hidden, Fred was certain that Shaggy was crying.
He felt like an idiot. It was then, that Fred was finally reminded on how much time had really pasted. He turned down the hallway, where he could see Velma, Daphne, and that guy with the Spanish name talking. Things have most certainly changed for Mystery Inc.
God only knew, what the future had installed for them.
Shaggy called them all into the kitchen with a triangle. He rang it three times, and then called out, "Dinner is served," in the best British accent he could manage.
Velma and Daphne forced out a few fake laughs, as everyone got up from the living room, and headed into the kitchen.
"Wow, Shaggy," Velma said, eyeing the table, and the roast dinner, "You really went all out for tonight."
"This is our big reunion dinner, guys," Shaggy said beaming with pride at Velma's complement. "After all, it's been 29 years since we've all stood together like this. It's a special occasion, for a group of special friends."
They were all seated at the table, while Shaggy began serving everyone there. Soon, they were all talking, laughing, passing out jokes. Just like the old times. Fred wasn't the target of Daphne's wroth anymore, and that made it all, the better with no fights among them.
"Hey, Shaggy," Velma asked nursing her glass of wine.
"There's one thing I've never been able to understand."
"What's that?" He asked.
"You said you were retired at your age, 52." Shaggy nodded. "And you were head of the Customs department for 25 years?"
"That's right," Shaggy replied.
"That means that you were 35 when you got the rank. Weren't you a little young for such a position, and why were you retired so early? I mean, most people are at least a decade or two older when they're finally put out to the pasture."
"Did you guys ever here of the Triad Drug Bust of '77?" He asked. They all shook their heads, except for Manuel.
"I remember that," he said, "They seized over 100 tons of Cocaine, didn't they?"
Shaggy nodded. "You know your history, good," he turned to the others. "Well, Me and Scoob were responsible for that bust. We were state-wide hero's." He looked up at the ceiling, remembering the celebration that'd been held in their honour. "Well, because of that, I was rapidly promoted to serve under the then current Chief Customs Inspector. A move many people in the higher achy didn't like. Mainly because my promotion torpedoed their plans."
"Society is still corrupt even today," Manuel said with a shrug. "You should see some of the problems we're having down in Florida."
"So what happened next?" Fred asked.
"Well, my boss, then went on vacation, leaving me in charge. Two weeks later… he suffered a stroke. He fell into a coma, and died a week later. Because of my experience, and my position, I was catapulted into the position of Chief Customs Inspector. That move angered many people higher up than me, but because of my record, and hero status, there wasn't a thing they could do about."
"So their anger feasted silently for many years?" Velma asked.
Shaggy nodded slowly. "After September 11, quite a lot of political shit hit the fan all over the country in not just airports, but all manors of transportation. But the airports were hit the most. My enemies used my age, and inexperience at lower ranking positions needed to run my job. Lots of people were sacred, because a lot of people were getting blamed, and so, after many running battles with people I'd never even herd off, I was given only one option. I was to be let go, and replaced. It was forced retirement."
"Sorry, I asked," Velma said lowering her voice.
"Don't be," Shaggy said with a grin. "By appointing Ellen Yindle, I once again torpedoed the ambitions of many people whom I disliked. So really, in the end, it was old Norville Rodgers who got the last laugh." He tossed back his head and gave a mocking laugh.
"Good for you, Shag," Daphne said.
"Yeah," Fred said, reaching across to give him a handshake, "Well done."
"It was nothing," Shaggy said, dismissing their praises with the wave of his hand. "After all, it was like a witch hunt. You just had to start a rumour, and it could explode into grossly exaggerated proportions."
"Well," Velma said, lifting her wine glass up, "I would like to propose a toast. To Mystery Inc. Together again, at long last."
"Mystery Inc." They all chorused.
"Mystery Inc," Manuel said, raising his glass as well. "Was that a club you guys had when you were kids?"
The gang all chuckled at that. "No, not really," Fred said. "We were a detective agency, solving mysteries back in the late 60's, early 70's."
"Wow," Manuel said, "Sounds like fun."
"It was," Shaggy said. "We had the time of our lives. Busting crooks in a mask. All pretending to be ghosts to scare people away from some big treasure they were hiding."
"Those were the days," Velma said.
"Yeah," They all said at once.
"So," Manuel asked, "Why did you all decide to come back together again? After such a long time?"
"If you'd been separated from the best friends in your life for a Generation and a half, wouldn't you want to see them again?" Shaggy asked.
"So Fred," Manuel asked. "How did you meet this girl that became your wife?"
Fred looked at Daphne, but she didn't do anything explosive, and then began his story.
"Well, I met her on the football field," he said, "I got in under a football scholarship, and she was a big football fan. She came down to watch a game, and her brother and I were in the same classes together. He introduced me to her, and the rest was history."
Everyone looked over at Daphne who just shrugged.
"I'm not going to explode, if that's what you're all thinking," She said, and ate some roast. "I've accepted Fred's decision."
"Dose that mean you've forgiven me?" Fred asked.
Daphne shook her head. "No," she said, then with a smile, flicked some roast at Fred, hitting him just above the left eye. It stuck there, and rolled down his face, falling off onto his own plate.
"Yuck," he muttered, as he reached down to his own plate, and flicked a carrot at Daphne, scoring a hit on her right cheek. She stuck her tongue out him, while Fred made a face back at her.
"All right, enough of that, children," Shaggy said, "My foods for eat'n, not fling'n."
"She started it," Fred said, pointing an accusing finger at Daphne, who made face back at him.
"Fred," Shaggy warned, do you want me to seat you in the corner?" They all laughed.
"So Velma," Shaggy asked, when they'd all settled down, "How did you meet, What's his name?"
"Well," Velma began, "Like I said, it was when I went to work at NASA. I was assigned to the satellite program. The one major thing the two of us had in common were our degrees in Mathematics. Working on the program, was were I met Mathew. He was smart, funny, and he loved mystery novels."
"It's a match made in heaven," Fred said with a smile.
"We started up swapping books, then reading together at the library. Those later turned into dates." She looked down at her ring finger with her wedding ring on it, sparkling in the candlelight.
"Wow," Daphne muttered, "That sounds so romantic."
"Well, I'm happy for you," Manuel said, "I'm glad that you were able to find true love like that."
Daphne just nodded in silence.
The evening lasted long into the night, with wine passed around the table. The gang reminisced on old adventures, old friends, and their past activities when they were on their own.
But as the night passed on, Shaggy couldn't help but shake the strange feeling he got from Manuel. He didn't like the guy. Was this because he'd moved in on Daphne? Or was it the chill he sent down his spin every time he locked eyes with him?
And his choice of conversations was rather peculiar. It was as if he was reminding Daphne of how alone in the world she really was. Getting Fred and Velma to talk of their happy lives in marriage.
Why? What was his goal?
Silently, he eyed Manuel from across the table.
*I'm going to keep an eye on you, Manuel Dela -- whatever!* He thought to himself. *And I'm going to find out just what you're really up too.*
Later that night, Manuel and Daphne asked to be excused. They went outside to be alone together. Outside on the porch, Manuel led Daphne over to the three rocking chairs, and sat down. Daphne sat down next to him, and they both looked out at the night sky. Overhead, the bug zapper occasionally sparked, while the porch light above the front door drew the rest of the night's bugs.
"Thankyou for giving me a wonderful time tonight," Daphne said as she gazed up into the sky, at the stars.
"It was nothing," Manuel said, looking up also. "That morning, when I saw you on the docks, I realised you looked very depressed and lonely." He turned towards her. "It made me think of my last wife."
"You've been marred?" Daphne asked, looking across at him.
"Once," Manuel said. "A long time ago. She was beautiful, like yourself."
"Stop it," Daphne said with a smile.
"No, I mean it," Manuel replied. "She was the pretties thing you ever saw. She was perfect for me, as I was for her." He shook his head as a smile formed on his lips.
"So what happened?" Daphne asked.
"We…" he paused slightly, "We didn't exactly see eye to eye on certain things." He started to twiddle his thumbs. "I wanted to follow one path, she wanted to follow another. There was a fight. And…" He gave a small shrugging motion. "We never saw each other again.
"What was her name?" Daphne asked.
"Isabella," Manuel replied.
"Another Spanish American?" Daphne asked.
"Yeah," Manuel said with shrug, "You could say that." He then reached across and grasped Daphne's hand. "But now, I have a second chance."
Daphne glanced down at his hand, on hers. Then, she turned around her hand and clasped his. "I could use some happiness in my life, after all the pain I've been through." Daphne spoke softly.
"Will you let me be that happiness?" Manuel asked, leaning across, his face just inches form her own. "Please?"
Daphne was silent, while she looked into Manuel's eyes. Those deep pricing blue eyes. She lost herself in the tropical waters of his almost liquid eyes. "Yes, Manuel," she said with a small smile. "I will."
Manuel grinned. His mouth threatened to split open from end to end. "Thankyou, Daphne Blake," he said, grasping her hand with both of his and holding onto it tight. "You have made me a very happy man!"
"You make me feel happy," Daphne replied, her eyes still locked on his. She was attracted to those eyes.
"Tell me that you love me, Daphne." He asked dreamily.
"I love you, Manuel." She replied, her voice slightly slurred.
"Would you do anything for me?" He asked, leaning closer to her lips.
"Anything." She repeated in a whisper.
Manuel leaned closer still. "I need something. Something that only you can give me, Daphne Blake."
"Anything," She whispered again, her face showed submission.
"There is a book. I need that book, if we are to be truly happy, my dear."
"Book." Daphne repeated.
"However, it belongs to Shaggy," his voice melted Daphne like the warm rays of the sun on snow. "Will you get me that book?"
"Shaggy?" Daphne asked.
"Daphne," Manuel said, his voice much more firmer, his grip much more tighter, "I love you now, not Shaggy, and not Fred. Manuel."
"Manuel," She repeated softly.
"Will you get me that book?" He asked again.
There was a hesitated silence.
"Yes," She stated.
"Thank you Daphne," He replied. "We can truly be happy, you and me. Till the end of time." Then he kissed her, passionately. His arms wrapping around her shoulders, and hers, did the same.
What has Daphne gotten herself into??
Who will Shaggy chose as his love???
And the mystery of Manuel DelaSanger is finally revealed!!!
All in the next chapter, of HOW FEW REMAIN!!!