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Miss Ember slowly put the newspaper down onto her desk and shook her head in disgust. "God, another one..."

Raven looked up at her from where she was sprawled on the floor of the office. "What's that?"

Miss Ember looked at Raven. "They found another body at Camel's. Someone heard a gunshot, went in, and there she was..." She sighed. "It was Auburn's sister."

Raven sat up. "Auburn's sister? The one who came by here awhile ago?"

Miss Ember nodded sadly. "Apparently, his prints were all over the gun..." She shook her head sadly. "It''s amazing how well some people live up to your expectations perfectly."




Le Rouge was filled with people, waiters weaving carefully between tables, delivering food and menus to people at the tables.

At one particular table, set in an ideal location, Gothic fiddled with his napkin before sighing and looking up at the two women with him. He took a deep breath.

"Cola asked me to move in with him."

The two women facing Gothic froze, twin expressions of trepidation on their faces.

"Well, that's...nice." Champagne finally said.

"Oh Gothic..." the other woman said. "I'm not quite certain what to think of this."

"Oh." Champagne's gaze flickered to Flaxen as she put a hand on Gothic's arm, warning him. "I'm not certain that we're people to talk to you about this, Gothic. "

Gothic nodded apologetically. "I know, but I didn't know who else to ask -- most of my friends are his friends and they're biased... "

Flaxen picked up her fork, then set it down again, giving her son a botox-enhanced smile. "Gothic, darling, you already know that I have certain issues with you dating your...friend, but I...are you sure you're in love with he-him?" She stumbled slightly over the pronoun.

Gothic raised an eyebrow. "You could just pretend he's a girl."

Flaxen shook her head. "No, because I would have to insist that you married her before you moved in with her, and that can't happen, can it?" She paused to take a minuscule bite of her salad. "I still am rather disappointed that you lived with Misty for so long. Really, Gothic..."

She waved her hand dismissively when he began to protest. "But that's neither here nor there. What matters now is you and your...friend." She paused again. "It's not as if I have no experience with this sort of thing...everyone knows that Natural Red likes his stableboys young and pretty for a reason..."


"Mother!" Champagne sniffed delicately. "Mrs. Natural Red happens to be on the board of the art museum charity!"

"Like there's anything natural about her..." Gothic quipped.

They all laughed nastily, bonding in patrician glee. Flaxen smiled, then grew serious. "Going back to the subject at hand, Gothic, you surely know that your father can't find out about this...affair. Moving in with your friend would make it that much harder to keep it a secret. People will notice, Gothic -- Some of our friends live in the same apartment building as you, and people will talk."

"It's not an affair," Gothic said earnestly. "You've met him, you know what he's like, and I..." He leaned in closer to his family. "I'm in love with him."

Flaxen looked down at the table sadly. "Oh...oh dear... People will talk, and your father will find out, and..." She picked up her napkin and delicately wiped the edges of her mouth before standing. "Excuse me, please." She walked away from the table towards the ladies' room.

Champagne looked at him angrily. "I told you," she hissed. "I told you this would happen -- now you've broken Mother's heart..."




"It's this great little place, Red. It's just outside the shopping area where Many Facets is, and it's located on all the right wavelengths, lots of good colors around it and totally free of any negative feelings. I'm going to feng shui it, and get some plants...maybe even a goldfish..." True smiled happily as she lifted another box into Red's car. "It'll be great."

Red nodded slowly. "And you can afford it?" she asked disbelievingly.

"Oh yeah!" True nodded energetically. "I totally can. There's my job at the women's center, and I'm going to start working for this psychic phone'll be easy!"

"Mm-hmm..." Red slid into the front seat. "You told Dark Red yet?"

True shook her head as she climbed into the passenger seat and closed the door. "Nope. But I'll call her from my new place. Won't she be thrilled?"

Red raised an eyebrow. "You've already set up your phone?"

"It's in this box -- I just have to plug it in, right?"

Red frowned. "What about your phone service?"

"Oh..." True blinked a few times. "Do you have to do that?"

Red shook her head.




"So, how did your date go?" Cola asked, sipping at his soda.

Spice sighed happily as she added another packet of sugar to her drink. "He's great. His name is Blackjack, he's a musician, and he's majoring in Drama. It went...mmm, it went really well."

"C'mon, details!" Blondie said, half-leaning over the bar to pay attention to Cola and Spice. "What does he look like?"

"He's a few inches taller than me, but shorter than Gothic..."

Cola smiled. "Gothic is really's nice," he said dreamily. Blondie snorted, but held his tongue.

Spice rolled her eyes. "Anyways... He's got black hair now -- it's dyed, but it looks good on him, and he has blue eyes, not green like I thought. He plays guitar and he dresses really well." She stuck her tongue out at them playfully. "He told me that he really likes me." She grinned. "It's such a nice change from all those ROTC boys who couldn't form a sentence..."

Blondie grinned. "They don't have to form sentences -- they just need to follow my orders..."

"La la la. Not listening." Spice smiled and took a sip of the fruity cocktail she was holding. "We're going out again day after tomorrow."

"Ohhh, the both of you are heading into happy domesticity...I'm jealous..." The bar door opened, and he looked up, then relaxed when he saw it was just Dark. "Hey, Dark, 'bout time you showed up. It's been dead here."


"We'll just have to do something about that, won't we?" Dark winked at them and headed off to the back room to clock in.

Blondie turned back to his friends. "So where were we? Oh, right, I was jealous."

Spice scoffed in disbelief. "Yeah right, like you want anything even resembling domesticity. Isn't your nickname is 'fuck 'em and run Blondie'?"

"What?" Blondie scowled. "People don't actually say that, do they? Bitches."

"Not to my face, anyway," Spice said, putting a hand on Blondie's arm. "And if they did, I'd kick their asses."

"Me too," Cola said.

"Oh, it's okay," Blondie said, shrugging. "I do fuck and run. It's...It would be kinda nice, maybe, to have a boyfriend or something. I don't know."

Cola patted Blondie's shoulder sympathetically. "You'll get there...eventually."

Blondie scowled again. "Gee, thanks."

Cola grinned. "Hey, speaking of domesticity, guess who asked Gothic to move in with him?"

"Oh, Cola..." Spice said, frowning. "I don't know about that..."

Cola frowned. "'What? You told me you liked him now!"

Blondie absentmindedly straightened some napkins. "You guys did just get back together...I mean, I don't have a problem with it, I'm happy if you're happy, but...two months? "

"Two months..." Cola sighed wistfully. "I just...I don't like it when he has to go to his house. And it makes sense." He looked down at his drink. "Anyway, I already asked him, so it's up to him now."

Spice looked like she was going to say something, but at that moment, Dark returned from the backroom, resplendent in a cheongsam over skinny black trousers. "Well," he said cheerfully. "Since you all are here, I have some big news."

Spice raised an eyebrow. "What?"

Dark looked around, and sighed. "Shame Red isn't here -- I guess I'll have to tell her later..." He smiled. "You won't believe what I have to tell you."

Blondie made a face. "C'mon, spill it already!"

"All right, all right..." Dark held out his right hand, letting the diamond catch the light and reflect over their faces. " getting married!"