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by Craig Rettig

Alex woke up, his arm still hurting. Damn, he thought, it had been three weeks since he had been shot by that Stormkiller bitch and he still hadn't fully healed. He looked over at his jacket, admiring the two bullet holes in it. "Lucky, punk," he said to himself. "Lucky."

"Hell," he cursed, suddenly realizing he was alone. "Rachel must've left during the night again. Could've used a quickie right about now." Alex corrected himself in his mind. No, he couldn't think of her just in that sense. She was the best thing that's happened to him in a while. She was intelligent, yet she liked him as he was. It was basically that whole thief thing. What was he supposed to do about that? He didn't like the fact that she stole ninety percent of the money she had, yet she was a kind thief for the most part. She just took the cash out of a wallet she lifted and then dumped it in a mailbox so the person wouldn't have to replace all their IDs and cards. She only stole from people who looked like they could afford it. Except him, of course—no, he had intrigued her, so she took his wallet just to find out who he was and where he lived. "Geez, ya smash a car with no hands and a girl gets all impressed and everything," Alex chuckled to himself.

Even after that first night, when I had shot early because it had been so long I'd been with anyone physically, she'd stuck around. Dang, gotta stop playing those death metal tapes when I bring a chick home at night, he thought. Realistically, I'm pretty sure a girl isn't expecting Bolt Thrower when she goes to bed with someone. It was pretty cool with her, though. She really liked that Realm of Chaos album, especially when "Drowned in Torment" started. I gotta update my music collection, maybe some classic rock or something. All I've got is thrash and classical. I think even Rachel got a little worried when I got really into it when I put Gwar's Scumdogs of the Universe album on. Next paycheck, I'll look into a little Clapton or something. But boy, does she love Danzig's first album though...mmm...

As usual, work sucked. On top of it all, he had practically mugged some woman he thought was with Stormkiller. Alex threw himself on his chair and reached out with his Omega to turn on the TV. Without missing a beat, he also opened the refrigerator and pulled out his last bottle of Michelob Classic Dark. Lighting up a Marlboro, he sighed. "Ah, this is the life. Omega powers—Not only can it change the channel, it can fetch you a cold'un while it's at it."

The phone rang—and during Animaniacs, too—that should be a crime. Alex grabbed it with his Omega and brought it to his face. "Hello, Cox Abortion Clinic—No fetus can beat us," he said straightfaced.

"Bwahahahahaha!" Alex heard on the other end.

"Doug?" Alex asked.

"Sorry," replied Doug, composing himself, "where'd you hear that one?"

"Some guy at a bar told me it."

"Why am I not surprised," Doug remarked sarcastically. "Hey, man, why haven't you called?"

"Couldn't pay my long-distance bill, so they turned me off," Alex replied.

"Again I say, why am I not surprised. I suppose you got shot in the arm, too, and couldn't write."

"Uh...yeah...sumpthin' like that."

"You lazy piece of crap, I guess you ain't heard then."

"Heard what?" Alex asked, sitting up slightly in his chair.

"It's your mom," Doug replied, a serious tone in his voice. "She's in the hospital..."

"For what?!" Alex interrupted.

"Well, official report says she fell down the stairs, but..."

"Dad." Alex said, as he started to feel a headache coming on.

"That's what everybody thinks, too. Problem is, no one can prove anything. Shoot, you know how far apart everyone lives here. No witness, no crime."

Alex just sat there fuming. He should have known, as soon as he left...

"Alex?" Doug asked.

"Sorry, just brooding. Look, I'll be up in the next few days. I don't know how, but I'll be there. Think I can crash at your place? Dad probably won't let me in the house, and I'm not sure I want to be there anyways."

"Sure, man," Doug replied. "Mom'll probably be on my butt for the next few days, but 's'okay, I've survived worse. Know when you'll get here?"

"Depends on whether or not I get a ride. If I can, it'll be in the next day or two. If not, long does it take to walk from there to Cincinnati?"

"Well, the average human being walks at a pace of four miles an hour. Lessee, it's about 150 miles...How many hours can you walk a day again?"

"Shut up, you friggin' math major, you. I ain't in the mood for word problems right now."

"Sorry, just trying to lighten your mood a little." Doug replied. "Just give me a call at least an hour or two before you're planning on arriving, so Mom doesn't throw a total fit."

"I s'pose I c'n do that." Alex said, realizing that his hick- town accent was starting to come back already.

"All right, I guess I'll talk you you later then. Call first, remember."

"Okay, Doug, thanks." Alex replied.

"No prob, later."

Alex hung up the phone—rather loudly. "SH*T!" he yelled, and slouched down even further in his chair. Just then, the door opened.

Rachel bounded in, as happy as could be. "Hey, lover!" She practically bounced over to the TV and turned on the VCR. "Let's watch a movie and cuddle, I'm in the mood! Let's see...Predator, no...Big Trouble in Little China, definitely not...Batwing, not again...Hey, what's this, Hot Staff of Love? Ooh...sounds interesting. What do you...What's wrong?" Rachel finally asked, a serious look on her face.

"My dad beat my mom up. I'm not there anymore to vent his frustrations on, so he switched to Mom. I need to go home." Alex spewed out, without even changing expression. "I need to prepare myself for a long walk."

"Ya know, we could just drive instead," Rachel quipped. "It's quicker and a lot less tiring."

"You have a car?" Alex asked.

Rachel shook her head. "What a close relationship we've developed. We've been 'dating' or whatever for four weeks, and you just now found out I have a car," Rachel retorted.

Alex could see where this was going. "Umm...look, I really don't need this right now. Is there a chance I could bum a ride off of you? I'll pay for gas, since it's kind of far."

"Right," Rachel snuffed, "like you can afford it. Tell you what, this trip's on me IF you promise to make it worth my while in the bedroom."

"Tonight?" Alex asked wearily.

"Not tonight." Rachel had strode over behind Alex and was lightly playing with his hair. "You got too much on your mind right now. Sometime when you can get a lot of sleep the night before, and aren't out getting yourself shot up," she said, with an almost evil grin on her face.

"Now look..." Alex jumped in.

"I know, I understand. I'll let you go on this one. When do you want to go?"

"How's tomorrow morning?" Alex asked. "I need to call Rob, a.k.a. 'Mutant squick victim,' in the morning and get off work for the next few days. After that, I can leave as soon as you're ready."

"Good enough," Rachel answered. "Lord knows, I can take a day or two off," she said, giggling slightly. "Sorry I'm in such a good mood. You'd be amazed how many wallets you can steal by going into a college bar and acting drunk around a bunch of fraternity guys."

"I won't ask."

"Good, 'cause you'd probably get pissed off anyways," Rachel added, changing the subject quickly. "Look, I'll go home and get some stuff tomorrow, and then we'll leave."



"Have I ever told you how great you were?"

"Only when we were both breathing heavy, does that count?" Rachel said, smiling brightly.

"Not exactly, but..."

"Don't say it," Rachel said, putting her index finger against his lips. "I'm gonna tuck you in and cuddle up next to you. In the morning we're off to...Where you from again?"

"Findlay, Ohio."

"Uh...yeah," Rachel said confused. "Where's that again?"

"North, about 150 miles, on I-75."

"Ah...No problem, then. Now, off to bed with you."

"Yes, dear." Alex smirked.

"'Yes, dear' me again, and I'll slap the living sh*t out of you." Rachel said, a devilish look in her eyes.

"Ooh...promises, promises," Alex retorted, forgetting about his troubles for at least the time being.

Family Ties continues!

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