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Once upon a night in Unicorn Lane

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Kate’s left pinky itches, and no matter how much she rubs her hand against her thigh, it just won’t stop. The last of the parents and kids are filing out of Cutting Edge, paying their respects to Curran as they leave. Raphael is helping Doolittle stash away his equipment, while Andrea is pacing furiously in the corner, gesturing to herself.

There’s green goo and bits of plant everywhere, and Kate isn’t really sure why this has to be her life. You’d think that she'd deserve a little peace and quiet now that Roland has been dead for a year, but alas, that’s not her luck. She got herself a kid.

The kid in question is silently huddled against the wall with Ascanio, avoiding everyone’s eyes. Julie looks a fright, she has a bruise on her cheek that’ll probably end up being one hell of a black eye, her clothes are so shredded they're basically rags, and she’s head to toe covered with goo. However, Doolittle assured her no real damage had been done, so Kate’s not about to pity her.

When Jim and Derek enter the office Julie makes herself even smaller, but Jim ignores her and hands Kate a piece of paper with a phone number and 'Call the School Director' in big black letters on it. Kate shoves it in her pocket while Derek closes the door and takes post against it. He’s favoring his left leg a little, and Kate frowns. For him to show he’s in pain it must be killing him, she’ll have to force Doolittle on him later.

“Everyone is accounted for and on their way home,” Jim says, tone very, very neutral. “We’re ready to go back to the Keep when you are, Consort. You should call the school director when we get there.”

Ugh. The fact that he’s addressing her and not Curran means he figures this is her party, and expects her to deal with the mess. She ignores the whole phonecall thing for now. She looks at Curran, but he just arches his brow and grins at her.

“This one is all yours, baby,” he says. No help there.

Time to smack some teenage heads around. She rubs her hand against her thigh.

“Julie! Come over here.” Julie stands up and shoves her chin forward. That’s her girl, not backing down, even when in trouble. “Alright, care to explain how all this,” Kate waves her arm at the mayhem around them, “happened? The short version, please.”

“There was a bet at school, Ashlyn got dared to go into Unicorn Lane. I told her not to go, Unicorn Lane is dangerous, and I know it’s stupid to go there, but they all went anyway, and then I had to make sure she was okay, so I went with them. Ascanio had nothing to do with it really -”

Ascanio interrupts, “I -” but Kate doesn’t let him finish.

“Ascanio, take a look at your Alpha. Does Andrea look happy to you? She doesn’t, does she? Do you know why? That Ya-te-veo took one of her Sig Sauers. So if I were you, I’d think very carefully about what you’re going to say next. Do you still want to say something?”

Ascanio takes one look at Andrea, who looks positively unhinged by now, and shakes his head.

“Good. Julie, where were we? Ah yes, your friends decided to risk their lives, and instead of warning your school, or their parents, or us, or you know, anyone who could help you keep them safe and kick some sense into their heads, you thought 'I can kick ass, I’ll keep them safe on my own'? And since he was around, you took Ascanio, who doesn’t even go to your school, with you?” Julie starts to get red, but she still doesn’t back down, just nods.

“Okay, what happened in Unicorn Lane?”

“We didn’t go in very far, but we bumped into the Ya-te-veo, and that’s when Peter came up with the bet. Ashlyn had to let it take something, and then get it back.”

“I’m guessing that didn’t go well?” Julie blushes even harder, and takes a deep breath before she straightens her shoulders and continues.

“It didn’t take the bait. Ashlyn tried to feed it her belt but it grabbed Ashlyn instead. So that’s when -” Julie pauses and her eyes dart to Ascanio, who’s still sitting silently against the wall.

“I’m guessing that’s when you came up with your plan?”

Julie gulps. “You know it was my idea?”

Kate nods. "I'm all-knowing, Julie."

Julie rolls her eyes, but continues. “It was a very young Ya-te-veo, so I figured if we overloaded it, gave it too much too handle, it wouldn’t be able to really hurt anyone, or get around to actually eat anyone, so I made everyone jump at it. That’s when Ascanio went looking for help. And then you showed up and rescued us.”

“Yeah, that sounds like about it.” Kate rubs her hand over her pinky, and looks at Curran, who’s just grinning at her. Bastard.

“Okay, let’s see what the results were of your little escapade. Doolittle?”

“No permanent injuries, seven broken bones, 23 strained muscles, a lot of bruises and cuts, and one highly pregnant mother who didn’t need the stress of her oldest kid nearly being eaten by a plant. Since I still have to check on you and you,” Doolittle points at Kate and at Derek, who growls a little at him, " the list of old injuries that were unduly stressed will have to wait for later." Julie's eyes widen, and she sends Derek a couple of worried glances, but he ignores her.

“Jim?"

Jim starts listing things on his fingers. “Let’s see. Two extraction teams were sent into Unicorn Lane, where we burned down a building. In our haste in getting there we angered the PAD, acquired a car we’ll need to refund the original owners for and neglected to warn the People we were coming through. The People have been on the phone asking why we came into their territory without warning, so we'll need to politick a bit. Kate needs to call the school director." Kate keeps ignoring all references to phonecalls that need to be made. Lucky for her, Jim isn't finished yet. "Plus, I lost my coat.”  Kate has to admit that Jim's leather coat was a thing of beauty. It looked like it was made of menace and death, and no-one pulled it off like Jim. She'll miss it. Jim listing it as one of the losses of the night isn't helping her be a severe parent, though. Even if she is mostly pretending. Cats.

“Andrea?”

“Cutting Edge lost 325 bullets, 24 shockbolts and seven grenades. I lost my right Sig Sauer.” Andrea’s voice sounds slightly shrill, and Ascanio whines but swallows it in. Raphael just keeps patting Andrea on the arm.

“The thing is, this could all have been avoided if you’d just called us. In fact, if Ascanio hadn’t left a note, we’d probably have been too late, and you would have found out that even a baby Ya-te-veo can easily hold on to four kids until they tire out, after which he’d eat them one by one. You know better, Julie.”

Julie has reached beet levels of redness now, but she’s still holding her own, and Kate can’t help but feel proud of her. She never was that good at owning up to her mistakes herself.

“Alright, let’s get this over with. Julie, you’re going to apologize to everyone who had to risk their lives to get you out of there. You’re going to do two weeks of duty with everyone. That means two weeks of helping out Doolittle, two weeks of helping Jim, two weeks of helping Andrea, and two weeks of helping me. Any questions?” Julie shakes her head. “So, you’ll clean all of this up tomorrow. Now go upstairs and rinse that goo off, you’re not getting in the car like that.”

Julie starts walking towards the stairs, but then she turns around. “Kate? I am sorry. Really. But I knew you’d come for me.”

“We’ll always come for you kiddo, we'd just prefer if it’s for something you didn’t get yourself into.”

Julie nods and smiles a watery smile, and then heads up to the bathroom. Andrea huffs and walks out, grabbing Ascanio by the neck on her way and hauling him with her. Raphael salutes, adds in a “Always a pleasure, Consort,” for good measure, and heads out after them. Curran is still grinning, but now he finally comes to her and throws an arm around her shoulder.

“That went pretty well I’d say.”

Kate groans, and bumps her head against his shoulder. “What did I do to deserve this?” she asks.

“Well, she was raised by a hell-raising ass-kicker with no respect for my or anyone else's authority, and that’s only for starters.” Curran jostles her a bit.

“Shut up,” Kate replies.

“No really, it could have been worse.” 

“How, how could it have been worse?” Kate figures nothing could be worse than your kid needlessly risking her life, and only just making it in time to rescue her, again. She'd really like it if she never had to feel like this again.

“It could have been the safe-sex conversation again,” Curran says, and okay, Kate was wrong, that definitely was one of the worst nights ever parenting wise. 

“Never again please, once was more than enough,” she groans.

“I’ve heard that Clan Boudha has them once a week. It’s a bonding thing,” Curran says, and now he's just messing with her. Kate shoves Curran again and sighs, absently rubbing her hand against his chest.

“It was supposed to be a quiet day, just for us. No meetings, no drama… And then our kid had to go on an adventure in Unicorn Lane.”

Curran frowns and grabs her hand. “You keep touching your scar. Does it hurt?”

“It’s so annoying. It’s not there, but my pinky keeps itching. It’s been a year and I’m still not used to it. It’s my hand, I just expect it to have five fingers.”

Curran lifts her hand and kisses it where her pinky used to be.

“It’ll pass. What do you say to a hot bath and a hot dinner? To wash away the day.”

Kate smiles. A hot dinner, a hot bath and a hot lion in her bed sounds like just just the thing.

“That sounds great.”

“Then lets get this show on the road.”

Five minutes later they've all piled in the cars parked outside, and Curran starts the drive to the Keep. Kate looks through the rear-view mirror at her kid sitting in the backseat, and then at the man by her side. It’s not that bad, this family thing, even on days like this. It’s pretty great even.