I wanted to take the Animorphs and give them a break. This takes place right after the events of book #30. Enjoy!

"Okay, boys and girls…this might be our most dangerous mission yet."

Marco looked around the room at his friends, and it hit him harder than ever that these weren't just some of his pals, a casual group he had picked for a night of drinking. These were literally the only people in the world that he could trust.

And he was the only single guy at his own party.

Freakin' fantastic.

"So the objective for tonight is to get hammered out of our minds." Tobias seemed like he was surveying Marco's house with a hawk's gaze. Which made sense, of course.

"Exactly, Tobias!" Marco exclaimed. "Exactly! So glad I'm not going to have to repeat myself."

"I've never flown drunk before..."

"And you're not going to." Rachel interrupted him. "And you're not going to get too drunk, either. We have to remember your morphing and re-morphing every two hours."

Tobias rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mom."

Marco grinned. It was so much fun watching Tobias give Rachel shit. He was the only one who could get away with it without getting smacked.

"Rachel's right." Jake in full-on fearless leader mode. "We can't afford to have Tobias down for the count because Marco wanted to get drunk tonight."

"Jake's right." Of course Cassie was backing Jake up.

Marco sighed. "Nobody's right. Tobias can take care of himself, okay? We all can. Let's just cut the angst for one night and act like normal, red-blooded, shit-faced teenagers."

"I wish Ax was here," Tobias continued. "I guess maybe I shouldn't have gone into detail explaining the effects alcohol has on the human body. I think he thinks it's some kind of strange human ritual."

Cassie laughed. "It is."

Marco rubbed his temples. "I wish Ax was here too, 'cause boy would that be entertaining. Now can we please all officially declare tonight to be a night with no angst? In fact, I'm just gonna say that anyone who starts angst-ing gets slapped upside the head."

Rachel slapped Marco upside the head.

"I wasn't angst-ing!" Marco protested. "I was trying to get you guys to promise not to angst."

"Marco, what would the Animorphs be without angst?" Jake asked.

"Yeah," Cassie said. "It's not exactly like saving the world isn't an angsty job."

Marco was getting frustrated. He shot Jake a look, knowing that Jake of all people would understand why this night needed to be stress-free. About a week ago, Marco had been this close to killing his own mother. The Yeerk in her head would have died too, but the image of his mother's mouth screaming his name and going over the edge of that cliff haunted his dreams. He had spent the past week barely leaving his room, the realities of war swimming around endlessly in his psyche. He had been willing to kill his own mother. If asking the others to pretend was too much, then Marco was going to ask too much.

"Okay," Jake relented. "Let's just try to have fun tonight."

"Every time we pretend to be normal, it blows up in our face," Tobias said.

Marco ignored him. "Follow me, guys."

The others exchanged glances and followed Marco from the spacious living room of his house to the cozy little adjoining kitchen. The sight on the counter before them was truly impressive. There was a bottle of Jack Daniels, a bottle of Bacardi, a bottle of Everclear, several bottles of differently flavored Smirnoffs and a couple six packs of cheap beer.

Tobias repeated himself. "Every. Time."

"Marco, where did you get all this?" They were all two drinks deep already when Cassie bothered to ask.

"You know, I have my sources." Marco winked at everyone.

"Your dad is leaving you alone while he goes on a trip with this Nora lady, and he's buying you alcohol, too?"

Marco rolled his eyes. "You are so naive, Cassie. All I'm gonna say is my dad didn't get it for me and I have certain confidential sources. Like Superman."

Rachel snorted. "It can't be a fake ID. No one would believe you were over the age of ten. And did you just compare yourself to Superman?"

"Marco is like Superman!" Cassie giggled like a little girl. She was clearly getting drunk the fastest. "We all are."

"Super…" Jake paused while he downed some Jack Daniels. "Superman had a secret identity."

"We might as well have fake identities with all the lying we do." Rachel said darkly.

Marco slapped her upside the head and yelled "Angst!"

Rachel slapped him back. "Hey, I thought we weren't doing that anymore!"

Marco knocked back a shot and laughed. "The Animorphs without angst…damn, we would be a hell of a lot cooler."

"Wait a minute," Tobias interjected, his eyes already slightly bleary. "Name one superhero in the history of superheroes who doesn't have an angsty backstory."

"Batman!" Cassie exclaimed happily.

Jake looked stricken. "Cassie, we are breaking up."

Cassie's eyes welled up. "I was just guessing. I don't know comic books."

"No, no…" Jake laughed gently and threw his arms around her. "It was a joke."

"No drunk crying!" Marco whined.

"I love you." Jake murmured, giving Cassie a quick and gentle kiss on the lips.

There was giggling all around until Rachel burst into a gale of laughter. "Wow, you guys are going all P.D.A. now…Cassie are we going to be best friends and step-cousins?"

"Step-cousins?" Cassie looked confused. "I'm not sure that makes sense."

A blush crept slowly over Jake's face along with the realization that he was about to get very, very embarrassed.

"It makes sense," Rachel continued after taking a swig from her beer. "So, have you guys done it yet?"

"Rachel!" Tobias shot her a look.

"I know, right?" Marco laughed. "You can't take Xena anywhere."

It took Cassie a second to catch on. "Have we done what?...Oh….Oh!"

"Okay!" Jake broke in. "Who wants to change the subject?"

"Not me!" Marco exclaimed, feeding off of his best friend's embarrassment.

Cassie suddenly seemed pretty embarrassed herself. "Rachel," she drunkenly stage whispered, "I'll tell you about it later."

"Cassie!" Jake was bright red.

"So there's something to tell…" Marco goaded. "I must say, I'm surprised, Cassie. I mean, I always knew Jake here couldn't contain himself, but I thought you would keep him in line."

"Oh, Lord." Tobias reached for his drink and looked at Rachel. "You just love stirring up trouble, don't you?"

"You know it." She winked at him.

"How about you guys?" Jake asked, reaching desperately for something to take the heat off him and Cassie.

"Me and Rachel?" Marco grinned. "All the time. She just can't stay away."

"Hey, man, not cool," Tobias objected.

Rachel shot Marco a death glare. "Oh piss off. We all know you're not getting any."

"You most certainly do not know that," Marco shot back. "Just because our little band of superheroes are the only people I can trust does not mean that I'm not getting some nookie outside of the trust circle." He made an elaborate circle gesture with his hands.

" 'Nookie'? Really?" Tobias raised his eyebrows.

Marco nodded. "Nookie. That's the technical term for boning."

Jake sighed. "Everybody take another shot."

Tobias and Cassie were making bird gestures. For some reason that Marco and Jake couldn't quite figure out, this seemed to involve making cute little shadow hand-puppets of flying birds
and then flipping each other off. Rachel was cackling at this display of idiocy like it was the funniest thing in the history of the world.

Jake and Marco were both in that perfect stage of drunkenness; buzzed enough to feel the effects, but sober enough to laugh at how ridiculous everyone else was acting. Marco had the highest tolerance of the group and Jake, responsible to the core, was having the hardest time surrendering and letting the alcohol take hold of his senses.

Marco was still laughing at the scene unfolding in the living room when Jake pulled him aside into the kitchen. "Look, man, I know tonight is supposed to be all fun and games, but I just want you to know that I'm here for you."

Marco slapped him upside the head. "Angst!"

"Hey, too hard, dude!" Jake took a step back. "But seriously, I am here if you need to talk."

Marco sighed. He looked down at his feet for a second and then back up at Jake. "I already cried for her, you know."

"For your Mom?"

"No, for Visser Three," Marco snapped more harshly than he had intended. Then he added more quietly, "Yeah, for my mom."

"You know she could still be out there." Jake tried to sound encouraging.

"Yeah, I know, and I don't know what's more fucked up….my mom dying on that cliff or my mom living with that thing in her head. You know what, though? I've already been through the million or so scenarios in my head. I've been hiding in my room all week living off Cheetos and crappy action movies, watching her die and imagining how she survived. So right now I just need to chill out and have some drinks."

Jake nodded. "Okay, man. Wow, I really can't turn the whole responsible leader thing off anymore, can I?"

Marco laughed. "You can't. It's kind of your default mode nowadays."

Jake walked over to the counter, poured two shots and handed one to Marco. "So are you going to need to copy all of my notes for every class in case you decide to come back to school at some point?"

"Absolutely. If you didn't offer, I was just going to go through all your stuff. But it's good to know I have your blessing."

The clinked glasses and downed their shots.

Tobias found Rachel in Marco's room. Tobias's memories from the night so far consisted of laughing in between demorphing and re-morphing. He was sure other things had taken place but it was kind of nice to only remember the laughing for once. Marco might have a point when it came to the whole "let's pretend to be normal" thing.

"What are you doing in here? Everybody else is still in the living room."

Rachel was by herself, examining the collection of action figures Marco had accumulated on his bed-stand. She shrugged.

"I was just thinking."

Tobias gently punched her in the arm. "Angst."

Rachel grinned. "I said I was thinking, Bird-Boy. Not angst-ing."

Tobias grinned back at her. "I know you. Thinking is angst-ing. Or coordinating an outfit."

"Shut it. Hey, why are you human right now? Usually you only ditch the feathers when it's just you and me."

"Guess I was in the mood to feel human."

Rachel backed him against the door and locked it. She kissed him roughly and wildly, and Tobias knew she was about to push them into uncharted territory.


She interrupted him with another kiss. The alcohol in their breath mixed into a stale and sour and sweet concoction.

"Rachel," he said with a tipsy laugh as soon as his breathing returned to normal, "what are we…what are you…what are we doing?"

She laughed wickedly. "I know you spend most of your time in the woods with Ax…but do I need to draw you a diagram?"

Tobias shook his head but couldn't wipe the smile off his face. "Here? Now? You do know we're in Marco's room, right?"

"I'm aware."

"You're drunk."

"So are you."

"I just…I thought we'd be sober when we…our first…"

"Okay, okay," Rachel challenged him. "We'll do a field sobriety test to determine our sober states…okay, how many fingers am I holding up?"

She held up her middle finger.

Tobias grinned and rolled his eyes. "You're funny."

"I know," she teased, "and you're not. Goes with the whole opposites attract thing."

Tobias was suddenly serious. "I just want to give you…"

"Give me what?" she interrupted him sharply and a harshness came into her voice along with the self-mocking sexiness. "A bed covered with roses? Soft music?"

Tobias didn't know what he was supposed to say here. "I…I mean…we can have all that…"

Rachel took his face in her hands. "That's not us. Come on, Tobias. We're warriors. We're not flowers and music, we're blood and battle plans. We could die tomorrow. I just want to spend the seconds in between the crazy shit loving you."

Tobias kissed her tenderly on the forehead. "I love you too." He gave her a quizzical look. "I thought tonight was supposed to be about pretending we're normal."

She shook her head fiercely. "I don't want to play pretend. I want to be real." Her eyes were gleaming with love or booze or recklessness or some bastardized combination of the three.

"We're not crazy, Tobias. We just don't need to pretend as much."

Before Tobias knew what was happening, they were on the floor next to the bed, the pleasure took over his body and even though they fumbled around a lot, it didn't feel like they were so…

"Drunk." Cassie giggled. "Drunk, drunk, drunk."

Jake and Marco smiled at each other. Jake put a hand on Cassie's shoulder, steadying her. "You okay?"

"I'm great." She stumbled a little, and Jake tried to catch her. They ended up on the couch, laughing. Jake put his arm around her.

Marco plopped down next to them and put his arms around both of them. "It's fun to cuddle, isn't it?"

Cassie nodded solemnly. "Jake loves to cuddle."

Marco burst out laughing. "Cassie is gonna give away all your secrets."

Jake actually laughed instead of blushing. "I know."

"Guess what guys?" Cassie continued as if it were the most serious thing in the world. "This is actually the first time I've tried alcohol."

Jake and Marco didn't respond at all.

"I said…"

"We heard you," Marco interrupted. "That's not a surprise."

Cassie looked disappointed. "So basically I'm just known for being no fun at all?"

"Not even a little fun." Jake kissed her on the cheek.

"Makes you two the perfect couple," Marco teased. "Hey, where's Rachel and Tobias?"

"I think they're doing it in your room," Cassie replied without batting an eye.

"What?" Marco's eyes grew to the size of saucers.

"At least somebody's doing it in your room," Jake sniped.

"Cheap shot," Marco replied. "And also, gross. I invite you people over to my home to share in my bounty and this is how you treat my castle? I didn't think I would have to worry about babysitting at a party with five people, but apparently you people require supervision."

"Who requires supervision?" Rachel asked, reappearing in the living room along with Tobias.

"You two! Burn my bedsheets for me and buy me new ones!"

Rachel rolled her eyes. "What the hell are you talking about, Marco? We were just in your room talking."

Tobias nodded in agreement. "Yeah, and we weren't on the bed."

Rachel kicked him and Marco buried his head in his hands.

"Okay guys." Marco was honestly having a hard time standing up. But interspersed with his drunkenness was his realization that he absolutely needed to cover his ass. He really was great at seeing the straight line from Point A to Point B. Even if that line was blurry right now.

"Let's make sure we clean up all evidence. My dad needs to believe that I'm still just hanging out in my room, doing nothing and suffering from an unusually long cold."

No one responded to what he said. Cassie did run to the bathroom to throw up, though.

Marco ignored this and continued. "And Rachel? Tobias? I was serious about the whole sheet-burning thing. And I accept payment for my new sheets in cash, credit, or personal checks. Actually, no. I wouldn't accept a personal check from either of you."

"Marco!" Rachel was leaning against Tobias for balance. "We told you…"

"Give it up, Rachel. They know." Tobias took a step backwards so he could grip the sofa to steady himself. This threw Rachel off balance and the two of them ended up on the floor, looking very confused as to why their feet were no longer functioning properly.

"Oh, for God's sake," Jake chided. "I guess Marco and me are the only ones who can handle our liquor. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to hurl." Jake high-tailed it for the bathroom.

"I bet he's just going to find Cassie so they can…you know…" Rachel laughed and unsuccessfully tried to get up from the floor. "Tobias, help me up."

Tobias didn't move a muscle. "I know my limitations." He laid back on the floor. "My head hurts."

Marco burst out laughing. "Yes! I am the last man standing! I am the absolute, undisputed, party king! That makes me king of the superheroes! That makes me king of…Jake! Cassie! Get the hell out of my bathroom! I need to hurl!"