The courtyard was taking slothful repose from the day and its boiling sun.
Crono reclined against the sleepy birch, having found a comfortable niche in the streamlined contours of its bark. Although the air was still and hot, the leaves above fluttered listlessly in their own private breeze. An occasional bird would pause at its branches, take a breath of rest, and flit away on its errands. Grasses partaking of the shade were prolific and tender, like a range of soft green hair. The lonely tree was a verily a serene oasis amidst the sun burnt landscape. Crono could understand why Booger liked to sit here so much.
As the youth mulled the day over, he began to understand many things that were mystifying to him just this morning. He threaded a strap of his headband over his shoulder and fingered its tapered end while contemplating the rights and wrongs of things.
He had his belongings returned to him, which was his primary objective, but in some inexpiable way he felt like he had failed. After all that preaching this morning about standing up for what's right and giving Billy "what's coming to 'im," the final confrontation turned out to be just another fiasco. His courageous ranting dissolved into a frantic escape. All his righteous convictions meant nothing when he was nailed to the wall, facing his demise.
The boy frowned. He was disappointed--not merely in the outcome, but in his own conduct, as well. He should have handled things differently. He should have faced Billy alone. If only those other two goons weren't there, then he would have...
He would have... what? What was he thinking? Would it really have been different if there were three of them or just one? He wasn't a match for Billy on any day of the week. Even if, by some miracle, he had won over the bully... what then? Would things have changed? Would Billy magically reform, and recompense his victims for his wicked ways?
The more Crono criticized it, the more his crusade appeared ridiculous. Maybe Joey was right, in the end: there would always be people like Billy, who lived by coercion, just as there would always be people like Booger, who lived under it. That's just the way the world works; there was nothing he could do to change it. Perhaps that was why, in the end, he let the "terrible trio" walk away without further opposition.
Rationalizing it really didn't pacify his conscience, however. He still felt like a coward. And worse, the one who had to pay for it was Booger.
Crono sighed. 'All this trouble's my fault... I'm the reason Booger got hurt.'
The battered girl lay at his feet, tame with sleep. Perhaps when she wakes up, he'll apologize. It was the only thing he could think to do. Since the young boy arrived in this new, big, strange town, she had been at the heart of his mischief, and hardships. It was hard to imagine how such a docile creature could inflict such chaos in a matter of two days.
However, he had a feeling that the entire calamity was a mere sample. It was only a taste of something that Booger endured every day. Quietly. Almost unflinchingly, and with nary a complaint. It was belittling and exhausting and fruitless.
It was her life.
How could someone stand to be that way? How could anyone tolerate the way Billy and his thugs treated her, day after day? Did she care? Did she even notice? Such musings followed the gossip that assigned her to the Omega ranks in the first place: She's a retard. She's too slow-witted to understand.
He reflected on Billy's words. 'Retards don't have feelings,' he said.
Maybe so. Maybe...?
They were at the fence, and she was holding it open for him. She looked right at him. She spoke to him. She spoke. The mute had a voice... for him? To save him? 'Go now,' she said.
Crono wondered. He could see it in her, then, when she looked at him like that... She was scared. He found her afterward, bruised and beaten. She cowered at his feet, like an abused dog. She cried...
It couldn't be right, he figured. If she didn't care... if she was really so dumb to her environment that the pranks, and the teasing, and the poundings were inconsequential... she wouldn't have helped him. She wouldn't have thanked him. He wouldn't have felt her fear. In that respect, she couldn't be retarded.
So, what, then?
Crono didn't know. He only knew that, until she recuperated, this tree was the right place for her--just like it was for him, the day before.
He tried to calculate how long he'd have to wait, but with so many unknowns, it was a figure out of his grasp. To bide his time, he swayed back and forth on his hands and scrutinized his charge. The cursed girl was a morbid novelty to him, like a infant bird that dropped from its nest. The urge to test a poke at the fledgling's feathers was almost irresistible.
He tentatively reached out, pinched a fold of her long shirtsleeve, and rubbed the fabric between his fingers. It was a baggy, stuffy thing to wear in such a sultry climate, but it was threadbare with use--perhaps it was cooler than it looked.
It was through tugging at the loose material that he uncovered a curious blemish. A red spot blossomed on the ecru dye. Wary of the stain's root, Crono folded up the girl's sleeve and unearthed a nasty abrasion. He couldn't imagine how she acquired it, or why he didn't notice it before, but Crono temporarily put away his speculations to focus on a remedy. Without something to staunch the flow, it would keep bleeding...
He perused the grasses, skimming for a bandage. When nature supplied nothing, his left eye caught a clean strip of cloth, dangling over his ear. The lad took the end of his bandanna into his hands with a grudging smirk.
"Oh, all right," he muttered as he reached behind his head, plucked the knot apart, and sacrificed the keepsake for the cause. It was more than adequate, he discovered, and after tying a snug wrap around the girl's elbow, he sat back and admired the job.
'That should do it.'
As if to agree, the little girl in the grass stirred. Crono was instantly at attention, ready to be unprepared. Judging by the episode prior to her collapse, her temperament could fly anywhere from here. He sat patiently in her field of vision as it opened slowly, like a heavy door. Crono held his breath.
She blinked dazedly into the foliaceous mesh overhead, before discerning a bleary splash of color outside the rim of her glasses. She bolted upright in a flurry and turned to it, markedly alarmed.
"Hey there!" the redhead caught her, albeit with a curbed tone to his voice. He hoped that his dulcified demeanor (however forced) was contagious, and she would catch calm instead of flight. Perhaps it was, to a slight degree, for she clung to the earth and didn't move to vanish... yet. The roused girl clutched the grasses beneath her knuckles with a rigid death grip and locked her widened gaze onto an arbitrary spot on the boy's shirt, having only dared to meet his eyes for an instant. As he watched her breath flicker with the want of escape, Crono realized that his next words could make or break the ice. The boy sighed, collecting the wind of what he was trying to express.
"Listen, I don't want to hurt you, okay?"
It wasn't okay. He hadn't yet inflected a question on his sentence before she scurried behind the tree, as if she were allergic to his voice. Crono rolled backwards in a reaching dive, not willing to let her go without a fight. Matt's keepsake continued to bless him, and his grasp tagged the white bandage. "Got'chya!"
Spread on his backside, and thereby disoriented, he saw an inverted half of girl whirl around the edge of the birch and treat her captor with a stunned gasp. She had the nerve to struggle, but when the identity of her leash registered with her, her agitation melted into subdued horror.
"Please," Crono pleaded, his hold not relenting, "I... I just wanna talk. Please don't run away."
She swallowed a gulp of air and relaxed, finally appearing to heed him. Encouraged by this, he released her and righted himself. It was a flimsy armistice, but Crono would take what he could get. He shuffled over the nubs of buried roots and sat before the mute, his mind compiling the questions that had accumulated throughout the day and loading them at the tip of his tongue, ready to fire away.
...Where should he begin? As he watched her guiltily twist the strap of her bandage between her digits, he dimly recognized the source of her acquiescence: the bandanna. It was this that led him into his opening argument.
"So, it was you," he vaguely stated. Booger looked at him sideways, not in accord with his meaning.
"It wasn't Billy--it was you yesterday who took my bandanna, wasn't it?"
She flinched and squirmed in her place, her gaze sinking into the dirt. He had struck something. He dug deeper, toiling to extract the truth.
"And you came lookin' fer me after class, right? You wanted to give it back."
Her countenance didn't shift. Crono's questioning persevered.
"...And that's when you saw me wid Billy."
A fleeting glance connected with the boy, and Booger opened her mouth as if to explain herself, but the most that was said couldn't fill a thimble. Her face fell away from him and she shrank into her silence.
Crono read these reactions, and understood. It was all true, then. He knew, now, who had carried him to this birch tree and cleaned his wound. He knew, now, the transpiration around his precious bandanna, even though it was a little too late to make a difference, and just enough to make him feel responsible.
The lad picked a weed to sulk at and rendered an apology for the debacle his foolery incited. "...I'm sorry. You shouldn'ta been the one that got hurt. This was all my fault. If I hadn't'a screwed up, you'da..."
The girl withdrew from her reclusive habit and fervently shook her head, cutting the boy's shrift short. She shifted onto one arm and offered the other to him in pantomime. As she gesticulated around her wrapped elbow, herself, and Crono, the boy drowned in her sign language.
"Wha?" he stopped her, at length. "I don't know what you're saying."
She sighed and picked up a flustered pout. Then, making words with her actions, she leaned his way, curtly snatched his hand, and planted the loose end of her bandage--his bandanna--in his palm.
"Don't... be sorry. I... owe you."
Her words were so soft that he almost couldn't recognize their source. Crono gaped at her, astonished by the gesture. Her muted pretense foiled, he thought he saw the girl blush with embarrassment.
"You can talk! I knew it," he affirmed, as if his capacity for recall were under doubt--or rather, he was under pressure to prove her capacities.
When he doubled back on her message and deciphered the choppy statements, something else made sense. Her emphasis on his bandanna bestowed the item with a binding significance, like some childish contract. As long as she was branded with a badge of the boy's, she wouldn't break his faith with her, much less attempt to flee--not until the object of her debt was rightfully returned, at least. It was a bizarre commitment, as far as Crono could see, but it duly explained everything until this point.
"Huh," the boy chirped, enlightened with these revelations. Booger was showing more personality by the minute. And now, he knew just how to work out a deal.
"Hey!" Crono stood, rising with an idea. "Why don't you come over to my house? My ma can fix you up, and then you can give me back this." He tugged on the white cloth, calling Booger up to his level. "Then we'll be even. Wha'd'ya say?"
Nothing, of course, but a dithery nod was sufficient. Crono took the lead, pulling his companion along by the wrist like a pet. In a silent spell, the pair deserted the birch's refuge and left behind the dusty courtyard.
He was almost halfway home when a quirky notion impelled him to tackle one more mystery. The boy paused, let slip his bandanna, and faced his shy escort. "Hey, Booger?"
She blinked at him expectantly.
"This is prob'ly a dumb question, but would you happen ta know what a 'my sci key' is?"
A more bewildered expression could not have been returned. Assured of his first point, he accepted defeat with a drooping shrug. "Nevermind. I guess I should ferget it." He resumed the march home, counting on her following without his steadfast guidance.
She looked after his departing image as it continued without her. Her countenance was burdened with a period of thick musing, and the paces between the two kids stretched over half a street block before Booger ventured a step further on her own. As she made to catch up, her reply was too soft, too far, and too late to provide Crono any resolution.
"Child of fire..." she murmured distantly. "Eto... Traukee."
It was a humble dwelling, Crono's taciturn companion observed. The new student ushered the girl along an overgrown path that diverged from the main road and flowed up to a quaint cottage with a thatched roof. The insubstantial walkway would have been conquered by weeds years ago if weren't plotted with several smooth slabs of granite, like a trail of candy for a golem. Crono would now and hereafter think of elephant tracks as he skipped over the stepping blocks and approached the stubby front step.
A musical clamor escaped from inside as the boy wedged the door open with his foot. Below the pitch of ringing cups and plates Crono could descry a petite squeak and his mother's cutting voice.
"Goodness! Don't let it out!"
"Huh?" he dumbly asked as the squeak turned into the doorway and sat on Crono's foot. He stared at his weighted boot, befuddled.
"Ma, waz this?" he wondered, without the initiative to examine it first. It was like a knotty ball of orange lint, gleaned from the laundry. The fluff turned a pair amber marbles up to him and squeaked again.
"It's a kitten, silly--what else does it look like? Now hurry up and bring it back inside, before it runs away. And shut the door behind you! For God's sake, child, you're letting all of mother nature in."
Before Crono could act surprised or pleased or anything merited by the animal's presence, Booger appeared on the ground beside the furry lump, investigating it with wholesome curiosity. The kitten glanced to her and issued a poorly oiled meow.
The girl, to Crono's chain of amazement, returned its cry. "Mew."
After several rounds of this, Crono rolled his eyes at the conversation, bent over, and brought the feline into his grasp. 'So tiny,' he observed as his hands cupped neatly around its lean middle. Booger tracked the kitten with a blank expression as Crono took it up. Perking an eyebrow at her, he said, "Man, yer weird," and lugged the procession inside.
As Crono led the reticent girl into the kitchen, Booger's head ticked in circles like a pigeon's, absorbing the contents of the house. A vintage loveseat scarred by rough collisions watched the door from the foot of the staircase; obscure photographs floated in glassy bubbles on the wall above; a vase of daisies crowned an otherwise bare dinner table, and around this a skeletal kitchen assembled, like a compressed theater house, its audience of appliances crowded about the stage and its sole performer. A woman, presumably the boy's "ma," was framed in the window that overlooked the sink, her figure silhouetted in the afternoon.
"Where'd ya git it?" was the boy's first question as he toted the animal around the narrow aisle encompassing the dinner table and approached his mother, who hadn't yet detached herself from a stack of dirty dishes.
"Well," she explained into a tub of soapy water, "I know how much you must miss all your friends back home, having to move so suddenly and all, so when I was in town today I found a nice man giving a litter away by the side of the road. I figured it might keep you company until you make some new friends. Wha'do you think? Isn't it cute?"
"It's cool," he said flatly, not intending to reciprocate such "girly" vocabulary, nor offend her with his indifference. He had never thought about a pet before. Marriville was full of animals, but their allegiance was communal; the town's collection of dogs, cats, and pot-bellied pigs belonged to everyone and no one. They migrated from house to lawn to pasture to Town Square without a leash or a law, and ate from any plate left unattended. You could stand on the street corner and claim that the three-legged mutt that dug up the carrot patches belonged to Mister Willy until you were blue in the face; it would take nothing short of police action to make the old man recognize it.
"What's its name?" he naturally enquired.
"Oh, I thought I'd give you that honor, since he's yours. Name him whatever you want."
"All right," he cheered the opportunity.
"No bad words!"
"Aww," he whined, shot down. His furry bundle began to squirm uncomfortably, and he loosed it on the tabletop, setting it aside for later as if it were a chore.
"So, how was school today?" the woman engaged in routine chatter.
Crono practiced enjambment when prompted to recite anything, from a grocery list to his daily pursuits.
"Okay it was really hot and we did numbers in Miss Holt's class and Miss Missy made us read and Booger here got purdy banged up and--"
He rewound to the answer.
At last, she turned around, and seeing the name correlated with the place, she jumped in her apron. "Goodness!"
"She's not that scary, ma," Crono reassured her, misinterpreting his mother's distress.
She blinked at the guest and readjusted herself. "Who's this now?" she probed for a concise response.
"Her name's Booger. Least, that's wut e'rybody calls 'er."
Donning a hostess's composure and an adult's condescension, she stooped into the girl's aura. "Well aren't you a little cutie pie? Are you one of Crono's new classmates?"
Before the boy could offer Booger's voice, his mother noticed the girl's painted complexion, and instantly adopted a familiar concern. She gently picked up Booger's chin and inspected the contusions striping her cheek and brow. Crono watched the girl cringe at the touch, but it was difficult to attribute her reaction to either the sensitive bruises, the slimy detergent on his mother's rubber gloves, or sheer anxiety.
"Oh... What happened to you, dear? Those marks look terrible."
Crono had been composing their excuse throughout the trek home. "She, uh, fell."
"Just like you fell yesterday, hmm?" An incredulous smirk adorned the lady as she aimed her cynical remark at the fleshy smudge across the boy's eyebrow. "At exactly the same place, too?"
Crono faltered, but didn't concede to the truth. "Uh... yeah! How'd you know? They really should fix that sidewalk."
She frowned in that knowing way that irked the boy's confidence, and took Booger into her care. "Come here, sweetie; let's see if we can't do somethin' about your face."
Crono's mother hoisted the girl onto the countertop and let her feet swing over the floor as the woman filed through cupboards for some first aid utensils. "It doesn't hurt anywhere, does it, dear?"
Booger thus far had been notably passive, occupying submissive or, at best, defensive postures and holding her voice in her throat. It required a direct question to draw her silence into attention. The woman's nose wrinkled inquisitively as she pulled herself out of a cabinet and faced the girl again. "Are you all right? You're so quiet, dear. Is something wrong with your voice?"
Crono sighed. He had hoped that some maternal maintenance would have softened Booger's nerves and loosened her tongue, but the approach was to no avail. "Don't bother," he finally explained from the peanut gallery. "Booger don't talk."
The consentient kitten meowed.
"...Oh." The mother digested this, and resumed her search. "How strange," she muttered into a cobweb. She at last pulled herself upright and brushed off her gloves on the skirt of her apron. "I'm so sorry, sweetie. I can't seem to find where I put that first aid kit. I just had it out yesterday, too. This figures. Well, as long as you're not hurt or bleeding, I suppose it's alright, just the same." As conciliation, the woman reached into the pantry and retrieved a box. "You can at least have a snack, on the house. Do you like cookies?"
Positive reinforcement, Crono recalled, was crucial to an animal's training regimen. A canine recognizes keywords that signal praise, play, or food. These words are often no more profound than "fetch," or "dinner," yet they evoke potent excitement in a dog anticipating reward. Crono briefly reflected on this as Booger illuminated at the utterance of "cookie." She stiffened and her eyes bulged to fit her spectacles. She had a jubilant fit right there, kicking her feet like a diver and bouncing on the countertop as if it were an elastic mattress.
"Cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie cookie," she chanted, charmed by the pastry.
Like most of her selected outbursts, this generated a slack-jawed stare from the redhead. This girl is unfathomable! What if it was a mistake to let her into his home? She could be deranged, or something.
His mother was merely amused, as was indicated by her quick chortle. "Okay, okay! Here you are, dear."
Booger was thus treated and returned to ground level, munching happily on her snack. "She doesn't talk," Crono's mother huffed in a sardonic aside. "Don't try to pull things like that on me, Crono. Now take your little girlfriend and go play somewhere. I need to finish my chores."
"Ew, ma! She's not my girlfriend." He was offended immediately by the terminology, and belatedly by the way he was so flippantly discredited.
"Okay, whatever," she shrugged, already on task again with her arms dipped in a soup of grease and soap. "You know what I mean. Stay out of my way until I'm done."
Crono grumbled under his breath as he pulled Booger around the corner, saving meaningful speech for the moment they were out of his mother's perceptive range. "You can shut up pretty good 'til there's food involved," he remarked to his fed companion, almost disdainfully. "Don'tchya have anything ta say fer yerself??"
Booger displayed no remorse as she nibbled around the edges of chocolate chips. Crono smirked at her difficult behavior. If she had the power to speak whenever she wished, then she was keeping tight-lipped on purpose. He only needed to crack her code, whatever it was.
"Wait." He glanced into an empty corner, as if reading from it. "I've got an idea. Stay here."
Two could play this game.
Crono furtively crossed into the kitchen again. With the clattering dishes so loud and his stature so small, the boy doubted detection as he slipped towards the box of neglected cookies and snatched them. Approaching Booger again with the loot, he shook the cardboard container to attract her interest. The cookies' jingle produced a desired effect. She inhaled what remained of her baked chip and armed a plea for more. Certain that her appetite was aroused, he lured her into the stairway, where he was sure they would be removed from house traffic. He sat on the first step turning into his upstairs room and beckoned the girl that way. When she hesitated, he laid one sweet coin in the crook of the passage, and she sidled up to the bait.
"Now we can talk," he announced once she appeared comfortable, which was only after having devoured half of her second cookie. A bemused grimace crawled around the wad of dough in her cheek. "There's still a lot I wanna know," Crono elaborated, as if to quell her quizzical leer. "Are ya gonna talk ta me straight out, or do I haf ta give ya more cookies?"
The terms of her compliance were evident when she withheld a reply and fixed intent eyes on the treats.
"All right, then." Crono fished into the box and prepared to barter. "How much would ya talk fer... another cookie?"
Crono threw out that much, and when Booger reached for it his hand came down, caging the cookie beneath his fingers. "Well?"
Recognizing the rules of this game, she returned, "Cookie."
"Hmm," the boy hummed, considered her for a moment, and then upped the ante. "What uh'bout... two cookies?"
"Cookie cookie," she said smartly, and no more. Something danced on her lips, like a coy smile. Was she toying with him? Was she being funny? If so, he wasn't taken with her sense of humor. He narrowed his eyes, trying to interpret her motive (more cookies notwithstanding), but staring into those bulbous glasses garnered nothing but dizziness. His best bet was to pull out a trump, and see how it played.
Crono planted the cookie box at his feet with a dramatic flourish. "What if I give ya 'em all?"
Surprised, she blinked and cocked into a cobra's stance. "Pie," she said, at length.
Crono wilted with exasperation. "What??"
She expounded on its denotation in the most rapid, yet placid, monotone the boy had yet heard: "Pi is the sixteenth letter of the ancient alphabet, used in geometric calculations to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which approximates three-point-one-four-one-five-nine et cetera, a value first determined by--"
"Whoa!!" Crono waved broadly, signaling the train of words to a halt. "Say somethin' in Guardian!"
At this, Booger cracked. She threw her head back with a rich squeal and rocked on the edge of her stair step, cackling with delight. Crono tilted forward and caught the floorboards, infected with the same laugh.
"What?" he defensively gasped, fighting to balance his wits without splitting his sides. "W-What??"
The girl sniffled and put on an effort to answer, but her meaning dissipated in another fit. The two shared a long, confused, inane laugh that rebounded through the narrow hall in shuddering echoes. It carried itself to exhaustion and left both youths panting. When Crono sat upright again and cleared his lungs with a deep breath, he had forgotten the what and the why.
"Um, heh, hey..." he tried to resume a sensible conversation. "Why aren'tchya like this, like, at school and stuff? I mean, you would have more friends if..."
The girl sobered and her focus found the floor. She whimpered dully, regressing into introversion. Crono was pricked by his tactlessness as the probable cause happened in his mind.
"Oh yeah... Billy, 'n them."
A spoken purr broke into their somber circle as a little cat squirmed up the blocky steps to find its master. Its progress was caught when it hitched a wily claw on a renegade strip of white cloth. Booger gently plucked it free then automatically related the albino stripe to the purpose of her visit.
"Oh..." She clutched her elbow, at once ashamed for retaining what was not hers. She meekly glanced up at the boy, trying to piece together a complete thought to offer him.
"Keep it," Crono finally said, something that impressed her. Having already inferred its sentimental value through his tenacious defense of it, she felt privileged to be trusted with the headband. "But I wan'it back as soon as yer done wid it, ya hear?" he stated his condition, still as possessive over the bandanna as ever. Booger nodded willingly, accepting his terms.
Seeking a more amiable topic, Crono patted the wood before him invitingly, trying to coax the kitten into his reach. "Here, kitty kitty." Booger parroted his call and took the kitten into her lap, stroking its downy coat.
"Hey, no fair," the boy objected. "He can't like you before he likes me--he's my cat. Here, kitty," he insisted. It refused to give up Booger's tender affection, however, and splayed itself over her crossed ankles. The girl feebly stuck out her tongue, flouting the pet owner's dignity.
"What... will you... name it?" Booger's voice caught up with her in time to deflect any assault.
"Huh?" The boy shrugged. "Hadn't thought none on that yet. Maybe somethin' cool, like that knight we were readin' 'bout in class. Ya know, that frog guy."
"A cat named frog?"
"Eh?" After having it spelled out to him, the notion lost its appeal. "Yeah, yer right, that sounds stupid." A light flipped on behind his eyes. "Hey wait! Wut about Cyrus? He was the coolest knight ever. I can name him Cyrus! Yeah..." the boy grinned, approving his own idea.
"Hehe." She slouched over the bundle of fur, cooing into it, "Cyrus... Cyrus! Kitty kitty."
As she entertained his cat, Crono smiled at his fortune. Overall, this day was pretty good, he decided. He didn't get the daylights beat out of him, he got his bandanna back (sorta), he got a pet, and named it, and...
"Hey wait, I forgot! I'd been, uh, meanin' ta ask."
Booger loaned him her ears.
"Uh, yer name ain't really 'Booger,' is it? 'Cause, uh, tha'd be really weird if yer parents really did think ta name their kid somethin' stupid like that."
She emitted some bashful whisper and glanced away again, making the boy wonder if he had struck the wrong question again. He floundered to amend it.
"Uh, not that yer name is stupid, or anything. I mean, it's okay if ya don't wanna tell me, or nothin', I wuz just curious, iz'all--"
Without lifting her chin, she strongly shook her head, dispelling his insecurity. "Um... It's okay. ...No."
"Um, Booger... It isn't..."
"Ain't yer real name?" he finished her sentence. "Thin wut is it?"
Booger mumbled something into the wall.
"Eh?" Crono inched closer, prying into her personal space. Was she turning red? He couldn't be positive--her hair fell over the side of her face like a shade. "Com'on, I promise I won't tell nobody."
She bit her lip, met his gaze--she was blushing!--and then spoke. "Lucca."
"Lucca?" he echoed. She nodded. "Huh. That ain't a bad name at all. Kinda weird-soundin', but..."
The girl pouted indignantly. Crono supplied an affable grin. "Just kiddin'! I like it."
She wiggled in her place, shrugging off the miscall, and grinned shyly back at him.
Yep, today wasn't so bad at all.
Perhaps he couldn't battle the world's injustices, Crono concluded, but he could at least make a difference for one person. He decided, then, that Billy would never bother "Booger" again, as long as he could help it. So what if he got "blacklisted"? He wasn't going to let it mean anything to him. He just hoped that Joey and the others would understand...
"Ya know what, Lucca? I think yer gonna be the weirdest friend I ever had."
He had no idea.
--- (1-22-04: FIN) ---
Welp, that's all, folks. I hope everyone who took out time to read this wasn't wholly disappointed, and I'm truly grateful to everyone who left a review. Now someone else's fic can hog the top of the list, haha.
So, what? Billy gets away scot-free? Yeah, looks that way, for now. That's life--it's full of pricks. And what about that angel? And the "Mii Sci Kee"? And that book Lara mentioned? Heh, like I stated before, this is really only the beginning. Truth be told, I have considered continuing this particular fic with a second part (it would take place about five years later, in the same setting, so Crono and co. would be... what? Twelve?), but I've decided to keep that little sub-plot in my head for now. That way, I'll leave myself something to come back and work on in the event I hit writer's block... or something, while working on TPC. Until that fateful day, this will probably the be last anyone'll see of Joey, Billy, and the gang of Truce Omega, but I'm eager to move on in the "grand scheme of things."
Don't forget: if you haven't looked at the review page yet, you should check out some of the authors who were so very considerate as to critique my work. Some good stuff is to be found that way. Yep.
Xyn: Hi there! Haven't heard from ye in a while--I can't thank you enough for your encouragement when I started posting this fic--I hope you're still working on "The Stone, the Wind, and the Dreams," by the way.
Silver: NOW I can answer your questions. :-P
1) Yep--No more seven-year-olds.
Heh... if you're willing, follow the Phoenix and see for yourself.
The next story will be called "Awakening the Hero," and it takes place after the events in CT. I can't decide if I'll be posting it in the CT section or not (since there will be crossover elements introduced), so... if anyone becomes interested in keeping up with things (not that I'd blame you if you didn't), check in on my profile once in a while to find the next fic... whenever/wherever I'll end up posting it, heh.
Anyway, thanks again to everyone for reading/commenting. I'd like to think I learned a lot, and hopefully my writing will improve for the next story. I'm being optimistic.
-the neiphiti dragon