Thursday, October 30, 2008
Here is a famous scene from the Academy Award winning film by Ang Lee - "CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON":
"CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON" (2000) Video Clip
Here is the VIDEO CLIP featuring a fight scene between Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Here is a "CHARMED" fanfic I had written nearly five years ago. It is an Alternate Universe story set in Season 5:
"TWO THUMBS UP!"
SUMMARY: Old and new movies become a topic for Cole and the McNeills, and in turn, he rediscovers an old favorite movie series. Set three days after "Neighbors".
FEEDBACK: email@example.com - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Cole Turner, the Charmed Ones, Leo and other characters related to Charmed belong to Spelling, Kern, Burge and WB. Dammit!
NOTE: I suggest that you read "Neighbors", to get an idea of how Cole became acquainted with Olivia McNeill and her family.
One stream of bright light flickered inside the wide room, located on the ground floor of the McNeill manor. The light came from a large television set, situated on one side of the room. It seemed almost as large as a movie screen. On the other side, the McNeill family and two guests occupied seats and the sofa, as they watched the movie being shown on the television screen. An old movie called SUNSET BOULEVARD.
Cole Turner held his breath, as he watched the final tragic moments of the movie played out before his eyes. Once it ended in its famous fade-out, he let out a gust of breath. Someone turned off the television and the CD player attached to it. Another switched on the lights.
A deep sigh escaped the mouth of the 78 year-old Elise McNeill. "Great movie, wasn't it?" she said to no one in particular.
"Are you kidding?" Cole replied. "I've been a fan of SUNSET BOULEVARD, since I first saw it over fifty years ago." All eyes focused upon him. "What?" he demanded. "That's when I first saw the movie."
A cross between a smile and a smirk touched Olivia McNeill's lips. "I suppose that you also saw Gloria Swanson and Bill Holden at the premiere."
Cole rolled his eyes. "Of course not," he retorted. Then he paused dramatically. "But I did appear in a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. One of their early ones called THE GAY DIVORCEE."
The McNeills, much to Cole's amusement, stared at him in shock. Olivia's dad, Jack, was the first to recover. He added sarcastically, "Now that I have got to see. Who did you play? One of the background dancers?"
"No. Just a guest at the seaside resort, in the second half of the movie. You know, during 'The Continental' dance number."
Jack chuckled slightly. "Next thing you'll be telling us is that you were an extra in BEN-HUR - both the 1925 and the 1959 versions."
Cole smirked. "Sorry. I have never developed a taste for Biblical movies. Not quite my forte."
The McNeill matriarch looked upon her guest with envy. "Well, I'll be damned. An extra in an Astaire-Rogers movie. You lucky man." She sighed. "They certainly knew how to make movies, back then."
Groans from the other McNeills filled the room. Doubt creased Cole's forehead. "You think so? Hollywood movies haven't really changed much, as far as I'm concerned. Just the usual batch of good movies, along with the usual crap. Both then and now."
"Are you serious?" the elderly woman demanded. She stared at Cole, as if he had just committed sacrilege.
Cole opened his mouth to speak. Fortunately, the youngest McNeill sibling came to his defense. "Oh, c'mon Gran!" Harry cried. "You're not going to start that 'they don't make movies like they used to' stuff again, are you? I can think of plenty of old movies that you don't like!"
"Oh? Name one."
Harry replied, "I'll name more than one. GUNGA DIN, CIMARRON, STELLA DALLAS, BACK TO BATAAN, STRANGE CARGO . . ." A long list of movies continued to roll off his tongue. He added, "And I can think of many recent movies that you love. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, all of the Indiana Jones movies, X-MEN. . ."
"Wait." Cole faced Mrs. McNeill. "You actually liked X-MEN? I didn't think it would be your type of movie."
Mrs. McNeill shot her younger grandson a dark look. "Actually, it's not bad. It could have been longer. I thought the theme of bigotry was interesting. And I found it interesting that the characters had powers similar to ours, while being called mutants."
Bruce McNeill, who was Olivia's older brother and a younger version of Jack McNeill, added, "Oh yeah. Olivia has red hair and telekinesis - like that Jean Grey character. Mystique is a shapeshifter, like Dad and me. Storm has electokinesis, like Mom. And like Gran and Harry, Professor Xavier is a telepath, who can control the minds of others. Come to think of it, you have that power, right?" he said to Cole.
The other man nodded. "But I can't read minds. Only send telepathic messages."
"And don't forget that you have a self-healing power as well," Olivia added. "Like Wolverine."
Bruce rolled his eyes in mild disgust. "Oh Lord! I wondered if you were going to bring up old Wolvie. I forgot that you're a big fan of his."
An indignant Olivia shot back, "I happen to be a fan of the actor who played him! Hugh Jackman."
"Who?" Cole asked. "Are you talking about the guy with the sideburns and claws, who dresses like trailer trash?"
Chortling, Harry replied, "That's him!"
Cole grunted. "Huh. If you ask me, I think they chose the wrong actor to play this Wolfman. In the comic books, he was at least 5'3" tall."
"His name is Wol-ver-ine!" an irritated Olivia retorted. "Not Wolfman!"
This time, Cole snorted. "Wolfman, Wol-ver-ine, what's the difference?"
"Has anyone ever told you that you might be perverse? The difference is that Wol-ver . . . I mean, Wolverine is not a character from a Universal horror movie!"
Cole rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Like I said, the guy in the comic books is at least 5'3". This Wol-ver-ine who's in the movie," he ignored Olivia's dark glance, "is at least six feet tall."
Olivia added with more enthusiasm than Cole cared for, "Six-feet-two-inches tall. Hugh Jackman is 6'2" and is from Australia."
"Really?" Cole replied with a small smirk. "I didn't realize you had a thing for 6'2" Australians. Since I'm the same height, would it help if I adapt an Australian accent?"
Staring pointedly at the half-daemon, Olivia shot back, "Unless you happened to be a shapeshifter and can morph into Hugh Jackman, you would be wasting your time."
Cole responded with another smirk.
"Maybe if Hugh Jackman had been in THE ENGLISH PATIENT," Harry added, "Olivia might have actually liked it."
Mrs. McNeill shook her head in disbelief. "I really don't understand you sometimes, Livy. You can't stand THE ENGLISH PATIENT, but you're crazy about LOVE STORY?"
Olivia retorted, "LOVE STORY doesn't put me to sleep. And THE ENGLISH PATIENT does. I mean, c'mon Gran! It's so damn long!"
"Long movies don't bother me," Gweneth McNeill commented, in her soft Welsh voice. "If it's done properly, that is. Like LORD OF THE RINGS. This first one - FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING." Sighs of deep satisfaction from the McNeills, filled the room. Joined by Cole's own contented sigh. The middle-aged version of Olivia stared at him. "Oh. I didn't realize you saw that movie."
Cole replied, "At least five times. I've also read the Tolkien novels, and once met the author at Oxford, back in the late 40s."
Bruce asked, "What about the others? Your in-laws? Did they liked it?"
Cole hesitated as he remembered. "Well, both Paige and Leo loved it. Especially Paige. She saw it seven times. Phoebe . . . like it a lot. At first. But after two times, she got tired of it. And as for Piper . . . well, I don't think she really cared for it. In fact, I don't think she liked fantasy movies that much."
"Rather odd for a woman who reads fairy tales to her unborn child," Olivia commented dryly. "At least according to Leo."
"Perhaps impending motherhood has made her changed her mind," Cole said with a shrug.
Bruce added, "Makes me wonder how Piper felt about the latest STAR WARS movie."
Surprise caused Cole's heart to leap. "New STAR WARS movie? I had heard about it, but I never got to see it." He added wryly, "Considering I was trapped in the Wasteland at the time."
"You're a STAR WARS fan?" Bruce stared at Cole.
Bruce's father nodded. "That's right! Now, I remember. When Gwen and I were trying to keep that amulet from Cole back in '77, we had a friend trail him all over London." Jack turned to Cole. "She told me that you saw the original STAR WARS four times."
"Wow!" The word came out of Harry's mouth like a gunshot.
Incredulity was stamped on Cole's face, as he stared at Jack McNeill. "You had me followed? How?"
"Oh, due to an associate of yours named Orobas. Of course, he was in human form at the time we had captured him." Jack continued. "Oddly enough, he didn't really put up a fight when we . . . uh, persuaded him to tell us about you. In fact, he didn't even bother to lie."
Cole rolled his eyes in disgust. "Damn Orobas. He always prided himself on being honest. That damn honesty of his nearly got me killed." Then he asked, "But how was your friend able to . . .?"
A knowing smile stretched Jack's lips. "Teleportation. Our friend possessed it. She blinked. Made it easy for her to track you. And no, she wasn't a warlock. There are a good number of witches who can blink. Like Olivia's friend, Nathalie Green."
"Unbelievable," Cole murmured with disbelief. "By the way, speaking of that new STAR WARS movie . . ."
Olivia spoke up, "ATTACK OF THE CLONES. It had been pulled out of the regular theaters, last August."
Disappointment reflected in Cole's voice. "Oh."
Olivia continued, "However, it has been re-released in the IMAX theaters. Just recently."
"Really?" Cole failed to repress the hope in his tone. "Is uh, is anyone in the mood for Jedi Knights and the Force, tomorrow night?"
* * * *
The last strains of John Williams' score filled the dark theater. Cole stared at screen, still in a trance over the movie he had just watched. After the last credits disappeared, the lights brightened the theater. Cole heaved a long sigh.
"What did you think?" Olivia asked. She, along with Bruce, Harry and Bruce's fiancée, Barbara Bowen, had accompanied Cole to the movies, tonight. The entire party of five stood to their feet and edged their way toward the aisle. "Did you like it?"
Another gust of breath left Cole's mouth. "Are you kidding? I loved it! How many time have all of you seen it?"
"Bruce and I saw it three times, before tonight," answered the blond and gregarious Barbara. She linked arms with her fiancé.
Harry added, "This is the sixth time I've seen it. And for Olivia," he nodded at his sister, "this would be her ninth time."
"Tonight would be my seventh time, moron." Olivia gave Harry a quick jab in the arm. "Learn to keep count." Then she turned to Cole. "As for you . . . Dad wasn't kidding. You really are a STAR WARS fan!"
Cole explained that the second movie in the series, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, happened to be his favorite. "But this new one might turn out to be my second favorite. A very close second. I think for the very first time, I'm really beginning to see both trilogies as one continuing saga. And that actor who played Anakin Skywalker . . ." He shook his head. "Whew! That was some scene when he confessed to that massacre."
"Wasn't it marvelous?" Olivia cooed. "Hell, I didn't know whether to be frightened out of my wits or feel sorry for him. Maybe a little of both."
Barbara added, "I've heard that a lot of fans couldn't understand why Padme Amidala would marry Anakin after that confession."
"Maybe they can't understand that she loves him, no matter what," Olivia replied, drawing stares from the others. Especially Cole. The five people stepped out of the theater and into the night. "Padme seems like the type who's willing to accept others for themselves. And she's very compassionate and forgiving. There aren't many people like that in real life." Cole frowned, as he found himself musing over Olivia's words.
A wry smile touched Bruce's lips. "I forgot that Anakin Skywalker happens to be Livy's favorite character."
Olivia gave her older brother a knowing look. "Qui-Gon Jinn from THE PHANTOM MENACE is my favorite character." She paused. "Anakin happens to be my second favorite."
"Well, he happens to be my favorite," Cole interjected. He smiled mischievously. "Even when he was Darth Vader."
Cole, the McNeills and Barbara reached the theater's parking lot. They exchanged goodnights, before Bruce, Harry and Barbara entered the former's dark-blue Jaguar. Seconds later, Cole and Olivia climbed into his black Porsche convertible. As the Porsche sped along one of the streets, Olivia asked Cole how long since he had been back from the Wasteland.
"On a permanent basis? Since last September," Cole replied. "Why?"
The cool wind ruffled Olivia's red hair. "I don't know. I wondered how many summer movies you may have missed, this year. I mean, we had SPIDER-MAN . . ."
"I saw it," Cole said, interrupting her. Olivia stared at him. "Right before I had been vanquished. Wasn't bad. The drama was better than the action."
A quirky smile stretched Olivia's lips. "It was also the number one movie, this year . . . believe it or not. And it's on video and DVD. So is that new Jack Ryan movie, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS. Now that's pretty good, although most critics had put it down."
"What else did I miss?" Cole asked.
"Well . . ." Olivia rambled off a list of movies, including SIGNS, and MEN IN BLACK II. So far, there have been two new spy movies - a new version of THE BOURNE IDENTITY and XXX. And a new James Bond movie is supposed to be released in about a week. DIE ANOTHER DAY, I think. And there was ROAD TO PERDITION." She heaved a heartfelt sigh.
As the Porsche reached an intersection, Cole eased it to a stop. He glanced at his companion. "I take it that you enjoyed that very much."
"Hell, it was great!" an enthusiastic Olivia crowed. "It's a gangster movie with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. Set in the early 1930s."
Cole wondered if he had heard right. "Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in a gangster movie?"
"Yep. Hard to believe, isn't it? Hanks played a hitman for the mob. He turns against his boss, Newman, after his wife and younger son is murdered by Newman's son. Real nut case, by the way. I loved it! Very complex."
Cole murmured, "I've got to see this. Unless . . . it's out of the theaters by now. Right?"
"Well, I know it's still playing at this theater in Sausalito. We can go see it tomorrow, if you like."
For a moment, Cole hesitated. ROAD TO PERDITION sounded interesting, but he still had another movie in mind. "Sounds great," he said. "But can it wait until we see ATTACK OF THE CLONES again?" He stared at Olivia. Who stared right back. Then she smiled. "What?"
"You should see the look on your face right now. You look like a young and very eager Anakin Skywalker," Olivia replied, the smile still fixed on her face.
Cole grunted and the light turned green. He stepped on the gas and the Porsche shot forward. "Funny that you should say that. Because you also remind me of someone from the movie."
From the corner of his eye, Cole saw Olivia frown. "Padme? Anakin's Padme? I don't see how. I'm not exactly the reserved type. In fact, I can barely keep my mouth shut."
Cole smiled. "Maybe. But like Padme, you've got a very big heart. What did you call her? Compassionate?"
The Porsche approached another intersection and stopped. Cole turned to face Olivia. Thanks to the street lamp above, he noticed that her face nearly matched the color of her hair. "Are you . . . blushing?" he asked.
Her eyes fixed on the street light, Olivia quickly shot back, "I'm not blushing! I'm . . ." She glared at Cole, who allowed himself another smile. A huff escaped her mouth. "Oooo! Never mind!"
"If you say so."
Seconds later, the light turned green. Cole allowed himself a private smile, as the Porsche quickly roared into the night.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
"CAPTAIN BLOOD" (1935) Review
Based upon the 1922 novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini, the story of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” centered around an Irish-born physician living in an English town, who finds himself in trouble with the Court of King James II after aiding a wounded friend who had participated in the Mounmouth Rebellion of 1685. The 1935 film, released by Warner Brothers and First National Pictures, featured the first collaboration between stars Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, and director Michael Curtiz.
When Jack Warner and studio production chief, first made plans to film Sabatini’s novel, they had planned for British actor, Robert Donat to portray the Irish-born doctor turned slave and pirate. But Donat proved to be unavailable and the then unknown Flynn ended up with the role. As everyone knows, not only did ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” prove to be a hit, the movie made instant stars out of Flynn and De Havilland.
Many years have passed since I last saw ”CAPTAIN BLOOD”. Which would explain why I have never developed any strong feelings for this particular film, in compare to certain other Errol Flynn movies. After watching it recently, my opinion of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” has improved. Somewhat. Basically, I feel that it is a first-rate story filled with excellent characterizations, a strong narrative and some decent action. But I do not know if I can say that I love ”CAPTAIN BLOOD”. The movie is not exactly Flynn, De Havilland and Curtiz at their best.
Once Peter Blood finds himself a slave in Jamaica, he plots with his fellow prisoners to escape the island via a ship. Before he can make his escape, Blood falls in love with his owner – Arabella Bishop, the niece of the planter he and his fellow slave work on. An attack by a Spanish pirate ship allows Blood and his friends to finally make their escape. They form a crew to become one of the most formidable group of pirates in the Caribbean. Blood eventually befriends a French pirate name Levasseur and the two become partners – an act that the Irishman comes to regret. The two eventually come to blows over Arabella, who has been captured by Levasseur. Accompanying Arabella is a royal courtier name Lord Willoughby with some interesting news for Blood.
One problem I have with the film is the lack of balance between the dramatic scenes and the action. Quite frankly, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” came off as a bit too heavy on conversation for a swashbuckler. I realize that screenwriter Casey Robinson was trying to stay faithful to Sabatini’s novel. But I suspect that this attempt may have slightly reduced the movie’s pacing – to its detriment. And most of the action sequences did not strike me as that impressive. Mind you, the sword duel between Blood and a French pirate named Captain Levasseur (portrayed by the always competent Basil Rathbone) over Arabella Bishop, Blood’s owner, struck me as impressive. Well . . . somewhat. Actually, I have seen better swordfights – especially those featured in 1938’s ”THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD” and 1940’s ”THE SEA HAWK”. The most impressive action sequence in the movie featured Blood’s sea battle against two French ships attacking Port Royal in the movie’s finale. I have to give kudos to Curtiz for directing an action sequence that struck me as surprisingly realistic.
Another problem I had with "CAPTAIN BLOOD" was its portrayal of slavery in 17th century Jamaica. I found it amazing that most of the slaves in Port Royal were white. I am well aware that white slaves - or indentured servants - existed throughout the British Empire during that period. And I am also aware that those rebels convicted of treason against King James II during the Monmouth Rebellion, ended up as slaves in the Caribbean. But what happened to the black slaves in this movie? Jamaica and other British controlled islands in the Caribbean had received more African slaves than any other part of the Empire during the late 17th and 18th centures. I did managed to spot one or two amongst the slaves on Colonel Bishop's estate. And he did have house slaves that were black. But at least one of them spoke with an American South dialect, prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries. I realize that "CAPTAIN BLOOD" is a Hollywood film. But since most of the movie managed to either be historically correct . . . or at least close to being accurate, why did it fall short in its portrayal of Caribbean slavery?
On the other hand, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” featured some excellent dramatic scenes. And the best of the bunch featured Flynn. I was especially impressed by the scene that featured Blood and his fellow prisoners being sentenced to slavery in Jamaica by a very hostile judge, Blood’s hostile reaction to being purchased by Arabella, his discovery of the body of his friend Jeremy Pitt, the fallout between Blood and Lavasseur, the revelation by a royal courtier that the hated James II had been replaced by his daughter and son-in-law – Mary and William of Orange, and especially the last fight between him and Arabella before she is sent ashore to Port Royal near the end of the film. And Flynn was ably assisted in these scenes by De Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander and Henry Stephenson.
Speaking of the film’s performances, ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” possessed a number of good, solid performances by a supporting cast that included Guy Kibbee, Forrester Harvey, Frank McGlynn Sr. and Robert Barrat, who portrayed members of Blood’s crew. Also portraying a member of Blood's crew was Ross Alexander. Many critics have claimed that if Alexander had not comitted suicide over a year following the movie's release, he might have become an acclaimed screen actor. Quite frankly, I do not know. Alexander's performance in "CAPTAIN BLOOD" seemed personable and competent, but I never really saw the magic. Although the cast members portraying Blood's crew had their moments of humor, the prize for the funniest performance belonged to - in my opinion - George Steed as Jamaica's Governor Steed, who suffered from a gouty foot.
Basil Rathbone only appeared in a handful of scenes in "CAPTAIN BLOOD" and was clearly not the main villain. But his performance as the lusty and avaricious Captain Levasseur was extremely memorable. More importantly, his Levasseur struck me as more human than his roles in both "ROBIN HOOD" and "THE MARK OF ZORRO". I wish I could say the same about Lionel Atwill. Mind you, his performance as the brutal Colonel Bishop was solid, but there were times when it came across as unoriginal.
Olivia DeHavilland was superb in her first leading role as Arabella, the brutal Colonel Bishop's niece and Peter Blood's owner. Her character did not have a great impact upon the plot - aside from her capture by Levasseur leading to a duel between him and Blood. But her Arabella was no limpid damsel-in-distress, whose only role was to be the object of Blood's desire. DeHavilland projected a great deal of energy, fire and wit into her performance. No wonder she and Flynn had such a strong screen chemistry.
But no matter how good the cast was, the real star behind "CAPTAIN BLOOD" was the Tasmanian born Errol Flynn. Jack Warner and Hal Wallis took a great chance in casting him in the lead, considering that he was a virtual unknown. And that gamble paid off tenfold. This is the fifth Flynn movie I have watched in great detail. To this day, I do not understand the old prevailing view that he was not much of an actor. Peter Blood was his first major role as a film actor and if I may be frank, Flynn gave one hell of a performance. Aside from a hammy moment when Blood finally declare his love for Arabella, Flynn's acting was very natural. And like DeHavilland, he portrayed his character with a great deal of fire, energy and more importantly, anger. Flynn's portrayal of the hot-headed Peter Blood is probably one of the better debut performances in Hollywood films.
Other reviewers of ”CAPTAIN BLOOD” have commented favorably on Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score. Honestly? I did not find it that memorable. In fact, I cannot remember anything about it. Just a lot of horns and strings. I am not carelessly putting down Korngold's talent, because I was very impressed by his "ROBIN HOOD" score of three years later. I simply cannot say the same about his "CAPTAIN BLOOD" score. However, I was very impressed by the movie’s cinematography shot by Warner Brothers' own Ernest Haller and Hal Mohr. I have mixed feelings about Anton Grot's art direction. Granted, I was impressed by the sets for the Port Royal sequences. But the art design for the English sequences resembled fake set designs for a play and the sets for Blood's ship lacked the claustrophobic feel of a real ship.
Granted, "CAPTAIN BLOOD" is not perfect. It has flaws that include an uneven pacing, questionable action sequences and an unmemorable score - at least for me. In fact, I have seen better blockbusters that starred Errol Flynn during that period. But I must admit that it is still a first-rate movie, even after 73 years. And it made for a dazzling debut for the Australian actor.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
"ONCE MORE FROM LIEUTENANT FUSCO"
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Sequel to "Anthony's Doubts". Anthony Fusco expresses further feelings on the Danny/Evelyn relationship and Rafe.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, "Pearl Harbor", belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.
A hell of a lot has happened in the past two months since Danny and Evelyn began dating. A lot. And it happened - well, not exactly as I had imagined. But it all came to shit, anyway.
What am I talking about? Lieutenant Danny Walker of the U.S. Army Air Corps and Lieutenant Junior Grade Evelyn Johnson of the U.S. Navy, of course. You see, about two months ago, my friend and fellow pilot, Danny, began dating this nurse. I'm talking about Evelyn. Who happened to be (or should I say, used to be) the girlfriend of another pilot named Rafe McCawley. Who is now dead. Or was dead.
Okay, let me start from the beginning. Nearly a year ago, Rafe had received permission from the Army to volunteer for the Eagle Squadron in England. The Eagle Squadron was a group of American pilots who had volunteered to help the Royal Air Force fight the German air force. Last July, we received word that the Krauts had shot down Rafe over the English Channel. As far as the RAF and the U.S. Army were concerned, Lieutenant McCawley was dead.
Both Danny and Evelyn had taken the news pretty hard. I know that Danny did. He mainly kept to himself, during off duty hours. Then three months later, he and Evelyn ran into each other at a movie theater at the Kai Kai Korner in downtown Honolulu. I wasn't there at the time, but Billy, Barbara, Red and Betty saw them at the Black Cat Café. Three or four days later, Danny and Evelyn had become an item.
No one really saw anything wrong with a guy dating his dead buddy's girl. Well, no one but me. Hey, what can I say? It's wrong! Okay, maybe it was okay for Danny to date Evelyn, but couldn't he have waited until poor Rafe had been dead for at least a year? Red said that at least Danny was around to take care of Evelyn. Hey, I see nothing wrong with that. But jeez, he doesn't have to romance the woman! Wouldn't a simple friendship suffice? You know, it seemed to me that both Danny and Evelyn thought they had fallen in love. Or called themselves moving on, after Rafe's death. Yeah right! That's what they and everyone else wanted to think. But I knew better.
Danny seemed convinced that he was in love with Evelyn. I don't know. Maybe he was. I remembered that he seemed to be walking on air, following his little plane ride with Evelyn. But I also remembered that scene I had witnessed, the following day. It happened at a park near Wakikki Beach. There I was sitting on this bench, while trying to think of ways to convince Sandra O'Connell to date me. Jeez, I must be pathetic! It had been nine months since I had first asked her for a date and she still wouldn't give me the time of day. Maybe I should just give up. Hey, there are plenty of women who would love to get their hands on an Army flyboy. Why, I know this waitress at . . .
Okay, I'm veering off course, here. Anyway, there I was, sitting on a park bench and wallowing in misery, when I heard two familiar voices from behind a hibiscus bush. Danny and Evelyn. When I heard the words, "I had a wonderful time last night," and "too fast," I forgot about Sandra O'Connell and everything else. Being nosy and proud of it, I began to wonder what happened after their little plane ride over Wakikki. Danny wouldn't let her finish. Instead, he went on about how he watched the sunrise this morning and that he didn't care what others thought, and about liking her. Jeez, what the hell happened between those two? And the poor schmuck looked so desperately happy, it was pathetic.
Evelyn caved in, of course. Who wouldn't after that performance? And so, their little romance began. The rest of us didn't see much of them during off duty hours. After striking out with Sandra O'Connell so many times - God, I hate admitting that - I met this waitress from the Black Cat Café named Marie Blake. She more than made up for my failure with "youknowwho". Marie and once came across Danny and Evelyn, on this half-deserted beach, one Saturday afternoon in early November. One look from them and Marie and I got the hint. Danny and Evelyn wanted to be alone. Danny wanted his ladylove to himself that afternoon. And Evelyn - well, she seemed embarrassed to see us. See me. Gee, I wonder why. She had no reason to feel embarrassed. Did she? Realizing that we weren't wanted, Marie and I left and found our own private spot.
Danny and I never spoke about what happened that day. I guess we both felt too embarrassed. Especially since I never bothered to hide how I felt about him dating Evelyn. Besides, other events began to occupy our thoughts. For one, the peace talks between our government and the Japanese hit a snag. The Army and Navy bigwig placed all military personnel on alert, in case of an attack by Jap fifth columnist saboteurs. Naturally, nothing happened and the talks continued. And Washington cancelled the alert. Then one week later, the shit really hit the fan. And I don't mean from the Japanese.
Trouble arrived in the form of one Lieutenant Rafe McCawley, back from the dead. Jesus, it was a shock seeing him in our barracks, dressed in his uniform. We were all so happy to see him that we didn't notice the sour mood on his face. Well, Red and Billy didn't. But I did. I wondered what brought on his bad mood, until Danny arrived a few minutes later. The look that Rafe gave Danny could have left that poor bastard's body decomposing six feet under ground.
Somehow, Rafe must have found about Danny and Evelyn. Danny tried to talk with Rafe, but no dice. Rafe kept ignoring him.
Since Rafe appeared out of nowhere, he had no quarters assigned to him. Billy and I led him to a little motor court not far from the base. Rafe didn't talk much. Very unusual for a guy with a motor mouth like his. We also invited him for a little celebration at Hula-La bar. He wasn't in the mood and asked if we could postpone at least until tomorrow night. Billy and I agreed and left. On our way back to the barracks, Billy wondered out loud if the war had done something to Rafe. I told him, yeah. Because of the war, he had lost his girl to Danny. Being one of the idiots who pushed Danny into going after Evelyn, Billy didn't take my remark very well.
I had planned to spend the following day with a ride around Oahu with Marie. Remembering that Rafe was alone in his hotel room, I asked her if it would be okay to invite him. She didn't mind and Rafe seemed glad to join us. It was a different man who rode with Marie and me that day. I swear, Rafe couldn't stop talking. And he talked about everything - well, almost. He talked about his home and parents in Tennessee, his childhood, England and even the girls he had dated. But not once did the subject of Danny or Evelyn ever cross his lips.
Marie had to work that evening. Which meant I was able to join the others to celebrate Rafe's return at the Hula-La bar. The place was really jumping that night. No big surprise, considering it was Saturday night. The entire squad was there - including Danny.
Red got really excited . . . and drunk. Like the rest of us, he wanted to know what it was like fighting the Krauts in Europe. So Rafe told us about the R.A.F. and the German air force. He also told us how he got shot down and how members of the French Underground found him and nursed him back to health before sending him back to England. Thank God that Rafe seemed occupied, because for a while, it seemed that he had forgotten Danny. That is until Walker arrived. The moment he entered the bar, I could feel the hostility pouring out of Rafe.
So naturally, our luck didn't hold forever. Soon, Rafe began talking about tactics that include shooting from behind. Yeah, he was also talking about Danny. Things were starting to get really uncomfortable, but Gooz saved the day - somewhat - by offering Rafe his shirt. But it didn't last, because Danny had to talk to Rafe. The damn idiot could not see that his timing - as usual - was off. Danny practically begged Rafe to understand what happened between him and Evelyn. Yeah, right. Like that was gonna happen. And sure enough, it wasn't long before a fight broke out between the two. Which led to a major brawl in the bar.
The MPs and the Navy's shore patrol soon arrived to break up the fight. I don't know what happened to Danny and Rafe. But Red, Billy, Joe, Gooz and me hightailed it out of the bar before we could get arrested. We all headed for the beach and scattered. After the military police left, we returned to the Hula-La. The place was a wreck and there seemed to be no use in hanging around.
Red wanted to know what happened to Rafe and Danny. Gooz speculated that the MPs caught them. But Joe told us that he saw them take off in Danny's Oldsmobile. "Probably to talk about that nurse," he added. That was when I told them that the whole mess was their fault. For encouraging Danny to run after Evelyn. Except for Gooz, everyone protested, claiming they had no idea that Rafe would return from the dead. "Even if he had remained dead," I continued, "it would have been a mistake. You don't go after your dead buddy's girl. Especially if your buddy had only been dead for three months! What the hell were you all thinking, giving him stupid advice like that?"
The boys all grumbled, claiming they had thought the idea of Danny and Evelyn was not so bad. But I could tell they were beginning to think otherwise. Gooz, however, suggested that Evelyn might have fallen in love with Danny. I shot down that idea the moment it came out of his mouth. I remembered that moment in the park. In love, my foot! Even a blind man could see that although she obviously had a lot of affection for Danny, love wasn't it. In love with Danny. Yeah right!
By the time we returned to the barracks, I was dead on my feet. It didn't take me long to fall asleep. It's funny. One day we were all recovering from Rafe's sudden reappearance, and the next day we were at war. Hell, I was barely awake when I heard planes flying over the barracks. My first thought - those damn Navy flyboys were buzzing us again. Goddamn Navy jocks! I tried to return to sleep, but I couldn't. Not with Red sounding like a stalled engine. Dammit, couldn't he just shut the hell up and let a man sleep?
Then two words finally tore out of Red's mouth and woke me up. "The Japs!" That and the bullets that were whizzing over us. After that, I was wide awake and ducking under my bunk. What had happened? Well, it seemed the peace talks between the Japanese government and ours had fallen apart. Which led the Japanese Navy to attack our military bases, here in Hawaii. We were at war. Rafe and Danny soon arrived in the latter's Oldsmobile. Poor Billy got blown to bits because he wouldn't get away from that delayed bomb. And when Danny drove us and some photographer all the way to Wheeler Field, Jap planes followed us all the way. Shooting bullets at us, of course.
There were planes, and our mechanic, Earl, waiting for us at the airfield. But we couldn't get near a plane thanks to the Japs. And although Danny was our squad leader, we ended up following Rafe's lead. Hell, he was the only one with combat experience. In the end, only Rafe and Danny managed to get in the air. Poor Joe was killed before he could take off. Rafe and Danny ended up shooting down seven Jap planes, while Earl managed to shoot down one from the tower.
All in all, it was quite a shitty day. The Japanese Navy came close to destroying the Navy's entire Pacific Fleet. Came close. If they had made a third strike and destroyed the aircraft carriers, they would have succeeded. Many of our own planes had been destroyed. And I heard that the Japs also struck the Philippines and Guam. The next day, Congress declared war on Japan.
Both Billy and Joe were dead. And Red's fiancé, Betty, had been killed when the Japs struck the Navy hospital at Pearl. Poor Red. I don't think he has been the same, since. As for Rafe, Danny and Evelyn, they all survived. Which meant they would have to settle the mess between them, sooner or later. They certainly hadn't, two days later, when we all went to say good-bye to Billy, Joe and Betty. Both men kept their distance from Evelyn.
Not long after the memorial service, the remaining pilots in our squad received new orders. We were to report to our old commanding officer from Mitchell Field, Colonel Doolittle. He was now in California with a new mission for us. It seemed someone back in Washington had thought up a way to strike back at the Japs. It was a plan that Army pilots would participate in. We didn't know the particulars, but considering that that the Japanese were in the process of taking over the Pacific area, I had the awful feeling we were about to take part in a suicide mission. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to get back at them for Pearl Harbor. But I had a bad feeling about all this. A very bad feeling. I told Marie that I was leaving. She didn't exactly feel easy about the whole matter, herself.
Several days later, an Army transport plane awaited at Wheeler Field, to take us to California. On that day, I finally learned what happened between Rafe, Danny and Evelyn. She was there, dressed in black for Betty. Gooz, Red and the rest of us boarded the plane. Only Rafe and Danny remained outside. Rafe barely acknowledged Evelyn's presence. She did the same. Instead, it was Danny that she talked to, while Rafe headed for the plane.
Then she kissed Danny good-bye. I couldn't believe my eyes! Had I been wrong all this time? Had the others been right? That Evelyn had fallen in love with Danny? I almost believed it myself, until I saw something very curious. While she was saying good-bye to Danny, Evelyn shot a quick glance at Rafe. It was so quick. One would barely notice it. But I did. I also noticed that look expressed her true feelings. She was still in love with Rafe.
I didn't get it. If she was stil in love with Rafe, what was with the big production number with Danny? What's with the public kiss? And why didn't Rafe put up a fight? I thought long and hard about this, while the plane headed down the airstrip. Danny and Evelyn had dated for about two months. I recall the ecstatic look on Danny's face after his little plane ride with Evelyn. I remembered Evelyn's comments in that Honolulu park about moving too fast. I was still stunned on how Rafe gave her up so fast. And that look she gave him, while saying good-bye to Danny.
Then it hit me. It finally hit me as the plane lifted into the sky. Evelyn was pregnant with Danny's baby. How else could one explain why she would choose Danny and not Rafe? Sometime between that plane ride and a month before Rafe's return, Walker had knocked her up. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What a goddamn mess! That is, if my suspicions were true. And I usually have pretty good instincts.
As our plane flew east over the Hawaiian Islands, I glanced over at both Rafe and Danny. They sat next to each other. Interesting. Danny looked happy, but anxious. And Rafe? Hell, he mainly kept his eyes glued to the window. I got the feeling that he didn't want to talk to or acknowledge anyone. Especially Danny.
So there we were, a handful of Army pilots flying toward California to train for some dangerous mission against the Japs. If Danny survived, he would return to Evelyn and probably marry her. But I couldn't help but feel if that happened, both of them would be making an even bigger mistake than the one they did back in October. I could be wrong. I hope I was wrong. But I rarely am. I guess I would have to wait and see after we return from this mission. That is, if we return.
POSTCRIPT: Lieutenant Anthony Fusco and Captain Daniel Walker were killed in action on April 18, 1942; following a bombing mission over the Empire of Japan.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Below is a gallery of photos from Episode 1.08 of "MAD MEN" called "The Hobo Code":
"MAD MEN" Photo Gallery (1.08) "The Hobo Code"
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Here is the conclusion to "Neighbors":
"That was a delicious meal, Mrs. McNeill," Cole commented to Olivia's mother. "Especially the London Broil. I haven't had a meal like that since . . . well, in a long time." Over eight months ago, Cole privately calculated. Since the night before he and Phoebe had first moved into the penthouse.
The half-demon and the McNeills had gathered inside the large, well-furnished drawing of the McNeill manor. They just completed one of Gweneth McNeill's succulent meals.
The red-haired and still beautiful middle-aged woman flashed a bright smile at Cole. "I'm glad that you enjoyed it. And you might as well call me Gweneth. It's a shame that you didn't try a slice of my six-layer Eggnog cake."
"Yeah," Harry added, "it's one of her specialties. And it's a big seller at Morgan's bakery."
Cole promised to sample a slice of the cake before he left. "I noticed that Olivia didn't eat a slice, either." He gave his neighbor a sly smile. "On a diet?"
Olivia wrinkled her pert nose in protest. "You're a real sweetheart, aren't you, Turner? If you must know, I barely had any room in my stomach to finish dinner. It's what I get for not eating, today."
"Busy day?" her father asked.
A sigh left Olivia's mouth. "Are you kidding? Captain McPherson has started this major investigation on the Tower Bay Company. It seems no one can explain the sudden disappearance of the company's employees. Or the disturbance reported by some patrolman."
Jack McNeill's eyebrows quirked upward. "Really? Is it a bit premature to say that the Crozat Coven is gone for good?"
"I don't know," Olivia said with a shrug. "My friend in Seattle told me that the Malehex Corporation was in the process of moving its operation to San Francisco. And there is still that warlock whom Cole had turned into a pebble. I haven't been able to find him, today."
Cole spoke up. "The pebble . . . I mean, he's probably still there. I'll help you try to find him, tomorrow. However, I wouldn't dismiss the Crozats so easily, if I were you. Although much of the Source's old council had been destroyed during the last coronation . . . " Cole paused, as he realized that he had just referred to his unborn son. Then again . . . maybe not. He continued, "I suspect that several members might still be at large. And I've been keeping an eye out for any of them. And members of my old order, the Brotherhood of the Thorn."
Elise McNeill eyed the half-daemon with interest. "Now, I know that not all upper-level daemons were part of the Brotherhood." Cole stared at her, impressed that she knew that much about his former organization. "I'm simply curious as to how YOU became a member. How old are you, by the way?"
A hesitant Cole answered, "Uh, 117 years old."
The McNeill men whistled in appreciation. Olivia and Gweneth's eyes grew round. But the old lady did not seem that impressed. Interesting. "Really?" she said. "Not exactly old for a daemon. Most daemons join the Brotherhood at an older age. How did someone of your age managed to join?"
Again, Cole hesitated.
"You might as well tell her," Olivia told him. "You've told me."
Gweneth perked up. "Really? When did that happen?"
"Last Sunday," Olivia replied.
Cole added, "I suppose you want to hear the whole story."
In her blunt manner, Mrs. McNeill replied, "Dear boy, we've been dying to hear about your life story. Ever since Olivia first met you."
"Well, it's the truth!" the elderly woman protested.
Cole could not help but smile at Elise McNeill's bluntness. She reminded him of Olivia. "That's okay. I don't mind," he said. "But it's a long story."
"Don't worry about that. Telepathy has a way of making a long story, short," Mrs. McNeill said with a smile.
His eyes widened immediately. "Telepathy?"
"Of course." Realization lit up the elderly woman's gray eyes. "Unless you have a problem with me reading your mind."
Cole's first instinct was to reject her offer. He valued his privacy too much, to expose his thoughts to a telepath. But he had been a lonely man for the past several months. Meeting Olivia and her family made him realize that his two years with the Halliwells have made him long for company. And the opportunity to tell someone about his problems. His revelations to Olivia had seemed like a relief. Maybe he would feel an even greater relief once the McNeills learned what led him to becoming the Source. And to his break-up with Phoebe. If there was anything Cole now longed for was the load off his shoulders.
"Okay," he finally relented. "I guess I wouldn't mind."
Mrs. McNeill nodded her head. "Good. Bruce honey, bring that chair over here so that Cole can sit in front of me." Olivia's older brother did as he was told. Once the chair was in place, Cole sat in it. "Now, just relax and allow your memories to be released," she added. "As they come to me, I'll project them to the others. If you don't mind."
"Good." Mrs. McNeill's hands hovered over Cole's temples. He took a deep breath and relaxed. The next thing Cole knew, his memories of the past two years rushed back to him. Everything. Well, except for those more intimate moments with Phoebe, thank goodness.
When it ended, Cole took another deep breath. The McNeills did the same. "Well, that was certainly interesting," Mrs. McNeill said in a breathless tone. "As Harry would say - wow!"
Jack McNeill added, "It would make quite an interesting story. A bestseller on the Wiccan literary underground."
His wife added, "Including what happened to Ed Miller." She gave Cole a pointed stare. "So you were the one responsible for his disappearance. I guess you paid for it."
A hot flush washed over Cole's face. Memories of Phoebe's reaction to that little incident returned to him in full force. "Not exactly one of my finest moments, I admit."
"Well, vanquishing him did seem a bit . . . drastic." Gweneth McNeill continued, "What you should have done is ask Leo to give him memory dust. Or turn him into a dog. And drop him in the middle of on-going traffic."
Olivia cried out in protest, "Mom!" Even Cole felt shocked by the older woman's remark.
Gweneth shrugged. "You all know how I felt about Mister Edward Miller. The man was a bloody rotten berk. Did you know that a young boy had died in one of his buildings, after being bitten by a rat? And that bloody . . . that bastard managed to avoid prosecution by blackmailing several city officials. Everyone knows it's true, even though no one would prosecute him."
"She has a point," Elise McNeill added. "What you did was wrong, Cole. And you paid for it in true Wiccan style, I gather. Considering what you endured afterward. But I must admit . . . what happened to Ed Miller was poetic justice. He avoided responsibility of a death through blackmail. And because of blackmail, he was killed." She shook her head. "Poetic justice." When Cole saw that the other McNeills nodded in agreement, he realized that they possessed a moral code that would appall the Halliwells. Although it did suit him.
Bruce turned to Cole. "Uh, there is one other matter that I'm curious about."
Feeling somewhat uneasy, Cole asked, "Like what?"
"What in the hell made you think you could trust the Seer?" Bruce demanded in astonished tones. "Don't take this personal, but were you that stupid?"
Once again, Olivia defended her friend. "Okay, Bruce. That's enough!"
"What? Don't tell me that you didn't find what he did, stupid? I certainly did."
Jack McNeill piped up. "I have to admit, so did I."
An outraged Oliva continued, "Okay, so did I." Cole shot her an astonished look. "But he was in a desperate situation. Couldn't you see that?"
Sighing heavily, both Jack and Bruce admitted that they understood. The older man continued, "I probably would have done the same, to save all of you."
"Thanks," Cole murmured sarcastically. He turned to Olivia. "So, you believe I'm stupid?"
Green eyes radiated innocence. "Not really. Just . . . short-sighted. Rash. Besides, can you blame any of us for thinking that?"
Before Cole could answer, the McNeills' manservant entered the room and announced the arrival of new visitors. A minute later, Cole was surprised to find himself greeting the Charmed Ones and Leo. Who also seemed surprised by Cole's presence. It seemed like a miracle to Cole that he managed to remain calm. Especially with Phoebe only standing a few feet away.
"Well, look who's here," Elise McNeill greeted politely. Cole detected a touch of frost in her voice. Both Piper and Leo flinched. Much to his amusement.
Clearing her throat nervously, Piper stepped forward. "Sorry to interrupt. We, uh . . . well, my sisters and I wanted to say thanks to Olivia and Harry for saving our lives, yesterday." She shot a quick glance at the half-demon. "And Cole."
Mrs. McNeill's smile grew even more arch. "Well, that's nice of you, honey."
"And we also want to apologize," Phoebe added. "For lying to you, on Sunday. Piper, uh . . . made a cake for you."
Piper thrust the cake forward. "It's Coconut. From Grams' recipe."
Both Mrs. McNeills gasped with delight. "What do you know? Penny's famous Coconut cake!" the older one declared in breathless tones. "One of my favorites." Elise McNeill gave Piper a pointed stare. "May I assume that you followed your grandmother's recipe to the letter?" She took the cake and handed it to Davies.
"To the letter," Piper said with a smile. "I hope you like it."
"Oh, I'm sure I will. Gwen, is it okay if they each receive a piece of your cake?" The elderly woman turned to the Halliwells. "It's her six-layer Eggnog cake. One of Gwen's best."
Now, it was Paige's turn to squeal with delight. "Ooo! I used to buy a slice or a whole cake every time I went to Morgan's. Is it the same kind?"
"Of course, Paige," Gweneth replied, looking pleased. Then she ordered Davies to wrap four slices of the Eggnog cake. "Oh, I mean five. Wrap an extra slice for Mr. Turner as well, Davies."
At the mention of Cole's name, the Halliwells stared at him. The room fell into an uncomfortable silence. Then Olivia made an announcement. "Oh, I forgot to tell you all. Guess what happened this morning? Darryl and I became partners." She chuckled softly. "Poor Darryl. Can you imagine his expression when Captain Thompson told us the news? He always thought I was crazy. But now that he knows I'm a witch . . ." She broke off, chuckling again. Cole laughed softly to himself. He wished had been there to witness Darryl Morris' reaction.
Leo brought up the subject of the Crozat Coven. "The Elders heard what happened. You can't imagine how relieved they are. The Crozats were in a good position to take over the Underworld. Fortunately, it's still in chaos."
Elise McNeill grunted. "Hmmm! If I were the Elders, I'd be worried, instead of relieved."
The Halliwells and Leo frowned at the elderly woman's statement. "What are you saying?" Leo demanded. "With the Underworld in chaos, we don't have to worry about a new Source."
The old woman sighed. "Oh Leo! And I thought you would understand. Don't you get it? With the Unde. . . I mean, the Source's Realm in chaos, the balance between good and evil has been altered. It's out of whack. Surely you realize what that means?"
Paige replied with a frown, "I certainly don't."
"It means that sooner or later, the chaos in the Source's Realm will spread to other daemonic realms and dimensions . . . including the Whitelighters' Realm," Jack McNeill added. "And that can spell trouble for all of us. Unless the balance is restored."
Now the Halliwells stared at Olivia's father, as if he had lost his mind. "Wait a minute!" a shocked Phoebe declared. "Are you saying that it would be a good idea if a new Source emerged?"
"It's not something any of us relish," Gweneth McNeill calmly explained. "But with the daemonic world in chaos, all of us might find ourselves in serious trouble in the near future. Witches and whitelighters. It's important to maintain a positive and negative balance in everything. Why do you think the Hollow is traditionally guarded by two - one who chooses good and one who chooses evil?"
It seemed obvious to Cole that the McNeills' words had seriously disturbed the Charmed Ones and Leo. Cole, on the other hand, understood perfectly. He still recalled Phoebe telling him about a warlock's attempt to destroy the Elders. Such an act would have not only spelled disaster for witches and whitelighters, but trouble within the demonic world, as well. Demons, warlocks and many others would have surely fallen upon each other for control of the Whitelighters' Realm and other dimensions. And on a scale that would have meant trouble for the Source.
A troubled Leo quickly nay-sayed the idea of a new Source. "There won't be a new leader of the Underworld. Well, we almost had one," he shot a dark glance at Cole, who merely stared back, "but it didn't last. Besides, without the Grimoire, I doubt there will be a new Source. I destroyed the book, last spring."
"Are you sure that you destroyed it?" Mrs. McNeill asked in an ominous tone.
Leo firmly added, "Trust me, it's destroyed. And it's a good thing. With the Underworld in chaos, maybe evil will finally destroy itself."
Bruce frowned. "You don't really believe that, do you? C'mon Leo! You know that one cannot destroy evil. Maybe reject it or rise above it, but destroy it?"
Once again, the drawing room fell silent. The Halliwells remained rooted to floor, looking as if someone had kicked them in the teeth. And the McNeills seemed to regard them as specimen underneath a microscope.
Davies reappeared in the room and broke the uncomfortable silence. He held a cardboard box in his hands. Olivia let out a gust of breath. "Well, here's Davies with your cake. And just in time. It was about to get heavy in here with all that philosophical talk."
Piper took the box, with a polite smile on her lips. "Well, thanks for the cake. And I hope you enjoy our present."
Mrs. McNeill returned the smile. "I'm sure we will, honey. Thank you. By the way, will you be available for our next Sunday brunch?
The three sisters hesitated. Exchanged brief glances. Cole already knew their answers. No. And sure enough, Piper answered, "Uh, we're not sure. We've already made plans for Sunday. But if they fall through . . . we might be available."
"That's a no if I ever heard one," Olivia grumbled. Fortunately, only Cole overheard.
But judging from Mrs. McNeill's expression, she did not have to hear her granddaughter. The hesitation in Piper's voice and the Halliwells' expressions seemed to have made their feelings about another Sunday brunch quite clear. "Well, if you ever find the time," the elderly woman continued with a cool smile, "let us know."
The Halliwells said good-bye and immediately retreated to the door. Phoebe shot Cole a quick glance, before she followed the others out of the room. Once the door shut behind them, a sarcastic Bruce asked, "Any bets on whether or not we'll see them, next Sunday?"
Harry piped up, "I'll place twenty bucks on NOT."
Cole wondered if he should defend the Halliwells. He thought about it for a few seconds and realized it would be a waste of time. Especially since he doubted they would do the same for him.
"I think all this talk about a new Source may have scared them, Elise," Gweneth commented. "Leo too, I shouldn't wonder."
Elise McNeill snorted. "Well, they're not Jack and Penny Halliwell's granddaughters for nothing. I loved Penny like a sister, but she always did have this rigid sense of morality. Of course, in her case, she always had trouble practicing what she preached."
Cole struggled to suppress a smile. And failed.
* * * *
The black Porsche slowly eased into its familiar spot inside the underground parking lot. Cole leaned forward and switched off the engine.
"You know, you could have save some gas money by using your powers," Olivia commented laconically. "Instead of driving your car."
Cole turned to her and smiled. "You ever heard of the term - 'boys with toys'? I was in the mood to drive, tonight. Helps me relax." He opened the car door on his side and climbed out. Then he walked over to the passenger side and helped Olivia out of the car. He noticed an aluminum-wrapped container in her hands. "Is that a piece of your mother's cake?"
"Yep," Olivia replied. "Her six-layer Eggnog cake is my favorite. Although I wouldn't have minded a slice of Piper's cake." She stared at Cole's empty hands. "No cake for yourself?"
Cole coughed slightly. "I had a piece of Eggnog cake before we left. And to be honest, I never was crazy about Coconut cake. You don't know how many times I've had to keep from spitting it up whenever Piper made one."
The pair made their way across the parking lot and toward the elevator. "Then why didn't you just tell her?" Olivia asked.
"Are you kidding? The last time I criticized Piper's cooking, she gave me a look that told me I should be grateful that the family tolerated me. After that, no more complaints."
A knowing smile creased Olivia's lips. "In other words, you wimped out."
"Hey! I didn't wimp out!" Cole growled. His growl merely hinted annoyance, not menace. And it only widened Olivia's smile even further.
"Oh c'mon Cole! It's not like I don't know what I'm talking about. When Richard and I were dating, he used to tiptoe around the family, all the time. He was afraid they would reject him, because of his past." Olivia paused, shaking her head. "Poor Richard. He really had a fear of rejection. And he eventually got on Dad's nerves. I told him to stop trying to prove himself, but he wouldn't listen. At first."
A curious Cole asked, "Did he eventually stop?"
"Yeah, but only after I had another talk with him." The elevator doors slid open. Both Cole and Olivia entered. The doors closed. "When I first told Richard," Olivia continued, "I don't think he was really listening. In fact, it got so bad, Dad and Bruce started calling him Dudley Do Right, behind his back."
The nickname drew laughter from Cole.
Olivia joined in his laughter. "Yeah, I know. Can you imagine a warlock with a nickname like that?"
"No, I can't," Cole replied between guffaws.
After their laughter subsided, Olivia immediately sobered. "But after one of Richard's urges to play hero nearly ended in disaster for Bruce and Harry, I had enough."
Memories of his own decision to use the Hollow rushed back to Cole. He asked, "Did you break up with him? With Richard?"
"No," Olivia said, shaking her head. "But I told him that I wasn't interested in him playing Sir Galahad. That I only wanted him. I also told him that if he wanted to help other people, fine. But he should do it because he wanted to and not to please me."
The elevator reached Olivia's floor. Cole found himself brooding over her last words. Hell, he had been just as guilty of the same thing, as Richard Bannen. Fighting evil in order to save Phoebe and her sisters. And prove to them that he was no longer evil. He never realized how much he had grown weary of trying to be someone he was not.
"Cole?" Olivia's voice snapped him out of his reverie. "Is something wrong?"
He shook his head. "No, I was just thinking. Richard and I had a lot in common."
"Oh. You tried to pull the Dudley Do Right routine also, huh? To impress Phoebe?"
Cole sighed. "Yeah. And it worked for a while. Until I lost my powers. And the Source possessed me. It got even worse after I returned from the Wasteland. I guess the problem is being myself didn't seem to help. Phoebe and her sisters . . . well, they're a little uncomfortable with my dark side."
A frown creased Olivia's face, as she unlocked her apartment door. "They've got a lot more to worry about than your dark side. Like their own." The pair entered the apartment. Olivia placed her piece of cake on the kitchen table. Then she faced her neighbor. "Cole, may I ask you something?"
Olivia took a deep breath. "You're still in love with Phoebe, aren't you?"
Cole felt his face grow warm. "Well . . . yeah. Yeah, I'm still in love with her." He eyed Olivia warily. "Why?"
"Because I think she's still in love with you," Olivia continued. "I saw the way she kept looking at you."
Hope fluttered within Cole's heart. But only for a moment. For reasons he could not fathom, the love he felt toward Phoebe no longer burned brightly as it once did. He still loved her - somewhat - but his desperation for her love had dimmed. "I guess she does," he quietly replied.
"But you don't seem very . . . I don't know, hopeful."
Cole let out a gust of breath. "Look, don't get me wrong. I love Phoebe. I always will. But I can't be the man she wants. Not anymore. I guess after all that has happened, I'm tired of trying to live up to her ideals."
Olivia's face almost matched her hair coloring. "Oh. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought up the sub . . ."
"No. I don't mind. I guess it was time I told someone how I felt." Cole gave Olivia a warm smile.
A red brow cocked upward, as Olivia returned Cole's smile. "Glad to be of service." Then she glanced at the clock on the mantle. "Oh Lord! Look at the time! It's almost eleven-thirty."
"I better get home. I have an early appointment, tomorrow morning."
"Before you leave, I have something for you." Olivia raced back toward the kitchen. Seconds later, she returned to the living room, carrying a deep dish pan, covered by a sheet of foil.
Cole glanced at the pan. "What is it?"
"Floating Island." Olivia lifted the foil to reveal the dessert. "After what happened last Friday, I thought we should start all over again. So here, this is my 'thank you for saving my life' gift." She held out the pan.
Unlike the first time, Cole took the dessert without hesitation. "Thank you, Miss McNeill," he said with playful formality. "And I hope it will taste a lot better, eating it from a plate or bowl than it did from my face."
Hands on hips, Olivia shook her head as she smiled. "You know, you really are evil. Maybe that's why I like you so much."
Cole gave his neighbor a winning smile, before he disappeared from her sight.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I realized that some of you wanted Cole to end up with Olivia McNeill or Phoebe. Since he and Phoebe became divorced in this story, I thought it was a bit too soon for him to end up in another romance. So I ended the story on a vague note. But don't worry. This is just the first of at least three stories featuring him, Olivia, the McNeills, Darryl Morris, Leo and the Halliwells. If you have any questions, please send me a message via firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
”ENCHANTED” (2007) Review
I found myself experiencing mixed emotions regarding Disney’s 2007 live-action film, ”ENCHANTED”. On one hand, the movie – more or less – turned out to be exactly how I had expected. The trailer had pretty much revealed the gist of the movie. Yet, when I finally saw it, I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I had expected I would.
The story is basically about an animated heroine named Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in the blissful animated world of Andalasia, where magical beings frolic freely, animals are talkative companions and musical interludes punctuate every interaction. Giselle becomes engaged to the handsome, valiant, and bumbling Prince Edward (James Marsden). Her fate takes a turn for the worse when his stepmother, the villainous Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), throws her through a magic portal, apparently to her doom, in order to keep her son single and thus remain queen. Giselle's plunge into darkness lands her in the strange and chaotic world of New York City. As the cruelty of this new place wears down the fairy-tale idealism of the once carefree princess, such as a homeless man stealing her tiara, the frightened Giselle meets the pragmatic divorce attorney Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey), who takes her into his apartment despite belief that she is a little crazy. Robert also has to deal with his own fiancée, a very attractive When Giselle’s chipmunk friend, Pip, reveals to Edward of her whereabouts, Narissa orders her henchman Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to accompany Edward and Pip to New York and prevent her stepson and the missing bride-to-be from reconciling.
”ENCHANTED” is basically a predictable story. Even before the last reel, I knew that Giselle and Robert would fall in love. From the moment Edward met Nancy at the ball, I knew those two would also become a couple. I knew that Nathaniel would eventually realize that Narissa viewed him as worthless and betray her. And I knew that Narissa would end up in New York and nearly kill Giselle. But what I did not expect was how I would enjoy the way the cast – especially Adams, Marsden, Spall and Sarandon, screenwriter Bill Kelly and director Kevin Lima poked fun at the Disney animated fantasy legacy. They did it with fun, color and gentle humor. Okay, the humor was not always gentle. Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel of ”THE LITTLE MERMAID”) caustically made fun of Giselle’s ”fairy princess”. Giselle’s talent for making friends with animals of all kinds was definitely a spoof of several Disney princesses’ friendships with . . . animals. Only Giselle may have taken it to an extreme by summoning them to clean Robert’s house. I do not know about you, but I would be freaking out at the thought of birds, mice and cockroaches inside my home. The ”happily ever after” for most of the characters seemed a little saccharine, but on the whole I enjoyed the movie very much.
I have heard a lot about Amy Adams in the past, but this is the first time I have ever seen her in action. And quite frankly, I am impressed. Not only did I admire her singing voice, I especially admired how she maintained Giselle’s perky ”fairy princess” personality up until the end – even if it suffered bumps from Robert’s more cynical views on love, her disappointing reunion with Edward and her encounter with Narissa. I realize that Patrick Dempsey’s career has bounced back with the TV series, ”GREY’S ANATOMY”, but since I do not watch the show . . . this was my first time in seeing him in action since his days as a leading man during the late 1980s and early 1990s. And it was nice to see that his talent has not waned one bit. He is still as charismatic and professional as ever. I must admit that it was a bit strange seeing him portray a character less extroverted than his roles from the past.
James Marsden. Dear James. I think his talent was wasted in the ”X-MEN” movies and ”SUPERMAN RETURNS”. He really shone in his role as the valiant, yet slightly pompous Prince Edward. Hell, the man was perfect. And he was also charming enough for me to be happy that his character had a happy ending with someone in the film. It was good to see Timothy Spall again, after his appearances in two ”HARRY POTTER” films. Actually, his role as Narissa’s henchman, Nathaniel, strongly reminded me of his other famous role – Peter Pettigrew. But unlike Peter, Nathaniel proved to have more balls . . . and something of a moral compass in the end. But his performance was thoroughly first-class as usual. And of course there is Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, who portrayed the villainess - the conniving and greedy Queen Narissa. Sarandon spent most of the movie peforming Narissa's voice in the animated sequences. But she was deliciously evil as her flesh-and-blood counterpart arrived in New York City. One could tell that Sarandon was enjoying herself. And for a brief moment, we got to see how she had manipulated Prince Edward all of those years, pretending to be his loving stepmother. I have only one complaint - I did not really care for the platform shoes she wore. Visually, it did not exactly mesh with the rest of her image.
If you are expecting surprises from this charming spoof of Disney fantasy animation, you are going to be disappointed. As I had stated before, it is a rather predictable movie. But if you are expecting first-class entertainment, laughs, music and a good story, then ”ENCHANTED” is your movie and I suggest that you see it as soon as possible.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Here is a gallery featuring photos and a video clip from the 1935 swashbuckler classic - "CAPTAIN BLOOD". Directed by Michael Curtiz, it featured Errol Flynn's first starring role and his first movie with famous co-star, Olivia DeHavilland:
"CAPTAIN BLOOD" (1935) Photo Gallery and Video Clip
And here is the video clip:
"Captain Blood - Three Arch Bay"
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Here is the second half of my STAR TREK VOYAGER story called, "Glimpses of the Future":
"GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE"
"Hey Maquis!" Ensign Harry Kim cheerfully greeted B'Elanna inside the Mess Hall, the following morning. She placed her breakfast tray on Harry's table and sat down on the chair, opposite her friend.
B'Elanna yawned and reached for her coffee cup. Harry frowned. "Wow! You really look tired! Did you get any sleep, last night?"
"Plenty," B'Elanna croaked. Then she took a sip of her coffee. There was nothing like a great cup of raktijino - freshly replicated.
Harry continued to question B'Elanna. "Exactly how much is 'plenty'? Seven hours? One?"
"What are you getting at, Starfleet?"
Heaving an exasperated sigh, the young ensign shot back, "Have you taken a good look in the mirror, B'Elanna? You look as if you've spent the last few days in hell." He paused. "And the odd thing is that you've been on leave for the past fifteen hours." Harry's dark eyes bored into B'Elanna's. "Are you having trouble sleeping?"
"Okay, so I couldn't sleep last night," B'Elanna grudgingly admitted. "Is it a crime?"
One of Harry's brows quirked upward. "No. Are you having problems? Nightmares?"
"No, I . . ." B'Elanna hesitated. Should she tell him? About the Hotak device? The knowledge of her new discovery weighed heavily on her mind. Perhaps confiding to a friend would help lighten that burden. B'Elanna took a deep breath. "Harry, how would you feel if you were able to see the future?"
Confusion whirled in the dark eyes. "What do you mean? Are you trying to tell me that . . . you're able to receive visions of the future?"
After an uneasy glance around the Mess Hall, B'Elanna continued, "Of course not! I'm not precognitive or anything like that. You see it all began three days ago. On Hotak."
"What about Hotak?" a third voice asked. Both B'Elanna and Harry glanced up. A smiling Tom Paris loomed above them, holding a tray. "Is there something special about that place?"
Fearful that the Chief Helmsman had overheard most of their conversation, B'Elanna snapped at him. "Dammit, Paris! Are you in the habit of eavesdropping on other people's conversation?"
"What are you talking about?" the pilot protested. His blue eyes radiated innocence. "I just happened to hear you mention Hotak to Harry."
B'Elanna struggled to keep her irritation in check. Ever since the Vidiians had held her and Paris captive, their hostile regard toward each other had vanished. Along with their mutual dislike and competition for Harry's friendship. However, B'Elanna still found it difficult to consider the pilot as a close friend. The problem with Tom Paris, she decided, seemed to be his cocky and somewhat shallow personality. He might be a good friend - at least to Harry - but he seemed to lack a moral center that B'Elanna found uncomfortable.
"Harry and I were having a private conversation," B'Elanna coolly replied. Her mood ruined by Paris' appearance, she sighed. "Never mind. I think I'll go back to bed. I'm still feeling a little tired."
Harry's face expressed concern. "Listen Maquis, if you still want to talk, I'll come by your quarters, later."
"Thanks, Starfleet." B'Elanna gave her friend a bright smile. "Maybe I'll see you later." She spared Paris a cool nod and quickly left the Mess Hall.
* * * *
B'Elanna strode into her quarters and flopped down on the sofa. She heaved a frustrated sigh. Kahless! She felt so tired! Despite the fifteen hours of leave already taken, her exhaustion seemed to have increased. B'Elanna began to wonder if the Hotak device had anything to do with her physical condition. If so, maybe she should pay a visit to Sick Bay.
A visit to Sick Bay, she realized, would mean revelation of the device in her possession. It would also mean facing Captain Janeway's wrath. And after the humiliation of being in the Captain's doghouse, nearly five months ago, B'Elanna had no desire to face that situation again. The Hotak device, B'Elanna decided, would have to remain her secret. A secret she would no longer meddle with. At least until she regained her strength.
Having made a decision, B'Elanna decided to spend her time on other activities. She tried a small nap. Didn't work. After twenty minutes, she remained awake. Then she tried returning to her old Engineering report. Didn't work. Nor did her Klingon romance novel. No big surprise, there. In the end, B'Elanna knew what she really wanted to do - use the Hotak device. And if that meant more exhaustion, so be it. Perhaps another glimpse into the future would be worth the price.
With great effort, B'Elanna climbed off the sofa and retrieved the device from the desk. She returned to the sofa and sat down. Breathless with anticipation, she slowly opened the case. The now familiar light filled the room . . .
* * * *
Calypso music filled the interior of Holodeck One. B'Elanna sighed with satisfaction, as she made her way across the tiled terrace. Without a doubt, Neelix's Talaxian resort had to be her favorite holoprogram. Not only did she love the sub-tropical setting and the color, she especially reveled the warm sun that shined above.
Clutching the towel around her neck, B'Elanna made her way toward one of the patios. She paused and ordered the computer to summon her favorite holocharacter - a muscular beach boy she had dubbed Ricardo. Unfortunately, Ricardo failed to materialize. B'Elanna frowned. Now what the hell?
"Computer," she barked, "include holocharacter, Ricardo."
The computer's voice coolly replied, "Request denied. The holocharacter, Ricardo, has been deleted from the program."
"Unable to respond. Please restate the . . ."
Her anger now threatening to erupt, B'Elanna snarled, "Computer off!" She sighed, closed her eyes and took a deep breath." Oh well. She did not need Ricardo to enjoy her time in the holodeck. She still had the resort. And the glorious sun. B'Elanna spotted an empty deck chair and sat down. Ricardo or no Ricardo, she was determined to enjoy herself and relax.
"Mind if I join you?" A soft, masculine voice took B'Elanna by surprise. She glanced up. Her heart fluttered at the sight of one Thomas Eugene Paris, standing above her. He also wore casual clothes - deep blue beach shorts that revealed long and steady legs, and a purple T-shirt that stretched over a broad, muscular chest.
B'Elanna tried to keep her voice steady. "Wish I could say yes, but I seem to be occupying the only chair in this spot."
"Well then, I'll just share yours." Tom plopped down on an empty spot on the deck chair. B'Elanna opened her mouth to protest, but her raging hormones intervened. To be honest, she really did not mind sharing the chair. Especially with Tom. She rather enjoyed the feel of the muscular thigh that brushed against her leg. And the warmth that his skin radi . . .
'Stop it!' B'Elanna took a deep breath. She could not believe this. All Tom Paris had to do was sit down next to her for a few minutes, and already she felt excited. One part of B'Elanna's brain found the idea of her being attracted to Voyager's chief pilot, humiliating. And disturbing. Off all the men to develop an attraction toward - Tom Paris. One-time loser and Voyager's resident Lothario.
"You know," Tom began, cutting into her thoughts, "you look absolutely delicious in that swim suit." Blue eyes expressed overt admiration. "Good enough to eat."
'So do you' was B'Elanna's immediate response. Fortunately, she kept her thought to herself. Instead, she commented, "Well . . . thank you. I thought you were going to use the word, stunning. Isn't that what you told me, three days ago? At the luau? And I didn't realize you were into cannibalism."
Tom stared at her with a mixture of seductive charm and desire. B'Elanna shivered. "Actually, I didn't have cannibalism in mind," he replied softly. "I was thinking of something a lot more pleasant. And private." He whispered the last two words.
B'Elanna realized that she should get up and leave. Right now. Before she ended up throwing herself into the pilot's arms and ravaging him at that . . . Another deep breath followed. B'Elanna managed to cut short the impulsive thought with her usual ruthlessness. "That," she said in a husky voice, "will have to wait for another day."
Blue eyes twinkled deliciously. "You mean there's hope for us both?"
A retort hung on B'Elanna's lips, but she decided to keep her mouth shut. What exactly could she say to Tom? That there was no hope? Or that she had no intention of becoming his latest conquest? B'Elanna decided to nip this attraction in the bud. Fast. Before something happened that they both might regret. Or even worse, enjoy. She heaved an inward sigh and retorted, "I have no idea on what you're talking about!" Kahless, she sounded so unconvincing!
Tom smiled. "Whatever you say, B'Elanna." His eyes fell upon her tote bag on the floor, below. "Say, where's your little companion, Roberto? Isn't he usually around to give you a massage or something?"
Realization hit B'Elanna. She pointed an accusing finger at the helmsman. "It was you, wasn't it?" she growled.
"What are you talking about?"
"Cut the crap, Paris!" B'Elanna shot back. "It was you! You're the one who deleted Ricardo from the program! And his name is Ricardo, by the way! Not Roberto!"
Innocence reigned in those vivid blue eyes. "I have no idea on what you're talking about."
"You have no . . ." B'Elanna took a deep breath. Then she asked, "Computer, who deleted the character, Ricardo, from this program?"
The computer replied, "Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres."
"Please restate the . . ."
Interrupting the dry voice once again, B'Elanna growled, "Computer off!"
"You see? I told you that I had nothing to do with whatshisname." Tom leaned forward, his face merely an inch or two away from B'Elanna's. "If you need someone to give a massage that badly, I'd be willing to volunteer." His eyes now twinkled with promise.
B'Elanna inhaled deeply. Tom's scent filled her nostrils, forcing her to suppress a shiver. She wanted to say yes. The idea of the pilot's long fingers on her bare skin filled her with desire. But fear of being another notch on Tom Paris' bedpost prevented . . .
* * * *
Back in the present, B'Elanna let out a gasp and fell back on the couch. The device slipped out of her hand.
Disbelief flooded every nerve in her body. Tom Paris? B'Elanna could not believe it. Her mind refused to accept the possibility that she would develop an attraction toward Tom Paris! That pig! B'Elanna took a deep breath. Okay, perhaps the man was not a pig. He could be quite decent, as his behavior toward her in the Vidiian mines had attested. But the Chief Helmsman, in her opinion, was the last man in the universe with whom she would strike a romance. Tom Paris??
Had she become so desperate for a love life that she became attracted to Paris? Had a possible romance with Chakotay become so futile that she ended up considering just anyone?
While her dizziness lingered, B'Elanna heaved a large sigh. These dizzy spells seemed to be remaining longer, each time she used the device. B'Elanna tried taking a few more deep breaths to rid herself of them. Or meditation. But neither methods seemed to help very much. And closing her eyes for meditation only seemed to conjure unwanted memories of her and Tom Paris inside the holodeck. Maybe what she had witnessed will turn out to be a fluke. A momentary attraction that will eventually . . .
The ship's communication system beeped. "Paris to Torres."
Speak of the devil. Barely suppressing her annoyance, B'Elanna snapped, "Torres here! What do you want?"
A pause followed. Then, "B'Elanna?"
"What the hell do you want, Paris?"
A sarcastic voice responded, "So what happened to Tom and B'Elanna?"
"Okay! Tom! Now what do you want?" Another wave of dizziness hit B'Elanna.
Paris replied, "I'm looking for Harry. We were supposed to meet at Sandrine's. Have you seen him?"
"No!" The word left B'Elanna's mouth with the speed and precision of a phaser blast.
Another pause. "Okay! I guess I caught you at a bad time. Someone could sure use a few hours on the holodeck, tonight."
"Yeah, just not with you! Torres out!" B'Elanna quickly ended the conversation before the pilot could respond. Then she sighed. Her taste in men must have really sunk low, in the future. Tom Paris. She shook her head. It could not have lasted very long. Not a relationship between her and that . . . that pig!
Her eyes fell upon the device on the floor. B'Elanna frowned. Should she use it, again? Learn what will happen between her and Paris? If that seemed possible. Past experience with the Hotak device had already taught B'Elanna that it only gave random visions. Besides . . . Another wave of dizziness struck her. These damn spells seemed to be getting worse B'Elanna decided that what she really needed was a trip to Sick Bay.
B'Elanna slowly eased into a sitting position on the sofa. Instead of preparing herself to stand up, she reached for the Hotak device and opened the case . . .
* * * *
The two figures lay entwined on the floor of the Delta Flyer. Their bodies moved perfectly together, as they engaged in passionate love. Finally, heartfelt cries echoed throughout the shuttle, indicating the couple's climatic pleasure. Cries immediately became sighs and heavy breathing. Feeling boneless and slightly out of breath, B'Elanna collapsed on top of her new husband's damp body.
"Hmmm." The sound came out of her mouth as a low growl. B'Elanna glanced at the wide chest beneath her. She noticed the teeth marks that circled Tom's left nipple and giggled. "Ooops!" she said, poking at the mark. "Did I do that?"
A lazy grin stretched Tom's mouth. "You mean that after two years, ten months and ten days of dating, and three hours of marriage, you don't recognize a Torres love bite when you see one? I'm appalled."
"Oh you!" B'Elanna gave her husband an affectionate slap on the forearm. "I should punish you for that remark."
Blue eyes sparkled mischeviously. "Punish me? Hmm, I can't wait to see what you have in mind." Tom waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Inducing another fit of giggles from B'Elanna. Tom joined in the laughter.
Once the laughter inside the shuttle subsided, silence reigned. The newly wedded couple stared at each other with eyes that reflected love, desire and wonder. B'Elanna closed her in anticipation, as Tom captured her mouth for a kiss. His tongue explored the inner wetness and grazed her teeth. Finally, Tom's mouth reluctantly parted from hers and gently nipped an earlobe. B'Elanna shivered with delight.
Encouraged by Tom's kisses, B'Elanna responded by caressing his broad shoulders. Her hands strayed toward his thighs and began to massage them. She could feel him stir below. "Hmmm," she murmured, "looks like someone still has a bit of energy left." Her hands slipped between his legs. "More than a bit. Is that you, Tom Torres?"
Never did B'Elanna imagine she would find herself married to Tom Paris, of all people. And she could not have been happier. "That sounds just fine to me," she purred.
"And to me," Tom added in a whisper. He lowered his mouth upon B'Elanna's . . .
* * * *
The familiar light blinded B'Elanna. She let out a gasp and her eyes flew open. The half-Klingon woman struggled to rise from the sofa. Only the dizziness made it impossible for her to sit up. After a minute or two of struggle, B'Elanna gave up and surrendered to darkness.
* * * *
Her eyes fluttered open. Above hovered three faces. Two belonged to Chakotay and Captain Janeway, and both looked very worried. The third belonged to a grim-faced medical hologram. B'Elanna licked her dry lips and took a deep breath. "What's going on?" she muttered.
"That is what we would like to know, Lieutenant," the Captain replied. "How are you feeling?"
B'Elanna closed her eyes for a brief moment. No dizziness, thank goodness. And yet, her limbs felt like lead. She murmured, "A little tired. Exhausted, actually. Wha . . . what happened?"
"I just finished operating on you, Lieutenant," the Doctor coolly replied. "To repair your damaged neural pathways."
Janeway added, "Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Paris found you inside your quarters, unconscious. After they were unable to awaken you, they beamed you here to Sick Bay."
Oh." B'Elanna tried to sit up.
The Doctor added, "Don't bother, Lieutenant. I gave you a depressant, following the operation. You needed the sleep."
Taking another deep breath, B'Elanna continued, "Can't I do that in my own quarters? I don't . . ."
Chakotay added, "I'm sorry, but the Doctor needs to keep you here under observation. He and Kes can look after you."
B'Elanna sighed with defeat. If only she had never come across that damn device. Speaking of which, she wondered if anyone had found . . .
"Looking for this?" The Captain held up the leather box. B'Elanna's heart sank. "Lieutenant Paris found this in your quarters. Apparently, seconds after he opened it, he found himself in another time frame. Possibly in the future." B'Elanna found herself wilting under the gray-eyed stare of the Captain's. "Once you're released from Sick Bay, you and I are going to have a long talk." After giving the Chief Engineer a firm nod, she turned on her heels and left. Chakotay followed, but only after he shot B'Elanna a sympathetic glance.
* * * *
The following afternoon, the EMH finally released B'Elanna from Sick Bay. The latter immediately headed straight to the Captain's Ready Room and revealed how she found the Hotak device. And her experiences in the future. Of course, B'Elanna did leave out certain details - like her flirtation with Tom in the Holodeck, and their subsequent honeymoon.
For her actions, the Captain revoked B'Elanna's holodeck priviledges for a week. The auburn-haired captain added that she had ordered Voyager back to Hotak in order to return the device to its previous location. B'Elanna received one last lecture on responsible behavior befitting a Starfleet officer before being dismissed.
Her cheeks flaming with embarrassment, B'Elanna left the Captain's Ready Room through the second door and entered Deck One's corridor. She had never felt so humiliated since the incident over the Sikiris transporter. One good thing came out of her use of the Hotak device - she saw a future that seemed destined to end in disaster. Marriage to Tom Paris? Inconceivable. Hell, she could say the same about a romance with the erratic helmsman. B'Elanna simply could not see someone like Paris remaining in a relationship with a Human/Klingon hybrid, let alone a Human female. Any marriage to him seemed bound to meet the same fate as her parents'. With her driving Tom away.
B'Elanna knew what she had to do. Make sure that a relationship between her and Paris would never happen. She had no desire to get involved with a man who would only disappoint her in the end. Resolved by her decision, B'Elanna marched toward the turbolift.
* * * *
Five years and seven months later . . .
"Good grief, Harry! You're not going to eat Neelix's apple pie again, are you? Don't you remember what happened the last time? You ended up in Sick Bay, getting your stomach pumped."
B'Elanna and Harry sat inside Voyager's Mess Hall, finishing the last of their lunch. The Chief Engineer had planned to immediately return to Deck Eleven, when she spotted the slice of "apple pie" on the ensign's plate. If one could call it apple pie. It looked more like a banana cream pie - with the filling dyed green and no whip cream topping.
Annoyance flashed across Harry's face. "I won't get sick. Besides, Neelix and the Doctor found the ingredient that made me ill. And Neelix swore that he left it out, this time."
"Yeah, right," B'Elanna grumbled.
"What's wrong with you anyway, Maquis? Got up on the wrong side of the bed, this morning?"
B'Elanna sighed. "It's nothing. We're still working on the damaged deflector dish, thanks to Chakotay. He allows the damn thing to shorten out and won't even tell me why he did it. I don't think even the Captain knows. Something about the Temporal Directive."
A frown creased Harry's forehead. "You still haven't fixed the deflector dish? It's been a week since that incident. What's the problem?"
"I don't know. Gremlins, perhaps?" B'Elanna said with a shrug. "Even worse, Sue Nicoletti passed out, this morning. Just fainted dead away. And the one thing I don't need right now is to have one of my best engineers ill."
Harry smiled. "Oh, I have a pretty good idea on what's wrong with Sue. Haven't you heard? She's . . ."
The doors to the Mess Hall opened, interrupting Harry. Tom Paris strode inside and many of the crewmen burst into cheers, whistles and applause. Then to B'Elanna's further confusion, Neelix walked up to Tom and offered his congratulations. Why, B'Elanna had no idea. She turned to Harry. "What the hell is going on?"
Harry did not answer. Instead, he waited until the pilot appeared beside their table, stood up and enveloped the older man with a bear hug. "Hey Tom! Congratulations!" he crowed. "It's not every day a man becomes a father."
A father? The moment those words left Harry's mouth, B'Elanna became ill. She felt as if a photon torpedo had made impact with her stomach. Tom Paris, a father. That could only mean that Sue Nicoletti was pregnant. B'Elanna dreaded this moment since the day her subordinate married Tom. Keeping her jealousy in check, she reacted with an enthusiasm that she did not feel. "A new father! You mean to say that Sue fainted, because she was pregnant?"
Tom smiled, causing B'Elanna's heart to skip. "Yep. She's due in another six-and-a-half months."
"Just in time for the New Year," Harry added.
B'Elanna inhaled before flashing the pilot a brilliant smile. "That's great, Tom! I'm happy for both you and Sue." Then she returned her attention to her breakfast tray, unable to say anything further.
While Tom and Harry continued to discuss the upcoming pregnancy, B'Elanna's thoughts wallowed in misery. And regret. Where did it all go wrong? She has asked herself this question so many times during the past six years. Yet, she knew the answer. Her stubbornness. Her fears. She had the bad misfortune to catch a glimpse of a possible paradise. And instead of anticipating the future, she allowed her fears to get the best of her. Push away a chance of happiness before it could begin.
After her glimpse of a future with Tom Paris, B'Elanna had done everything possible to ensure that the relationship would go no further than distant friendship. It had been simple during Voyager's first two years in the Delta Quadrant. Tom was first preoccupied with a crush on Kes, the ship's former nurse, and later, pursuit of Sue Nicoletti. That third year, however, proved to be difficult. Tom suddenly developed an interest in B'Elanna. She did her best to ignore him by ignoring his flirtations and invitations to dinner. She had even ignored Tom and Harry's offer to escort her to a luau being held inside Neelix's old Resort holoprogram. Once B'Elanna made it apparent that she harbored no interest in a relationship with the Chief Helmsman, he stopped pursuing her. And two months later, he returned his attention to Sue Nicoletti.
At first, it seemed that Tom would have no better luck with Sue than he did the previous year. However, matters came to a head on possibly one of the worst days in B'Elanna's life - her personal Day of Honor. One, a failed experiment with creating a transwarp conduit ended with the ejection of the warp core. The Captain ordered the core to be retrieved - only she ordered B'Elanna to send another member of the Engineering team. B'Elanna did. She sent Sue Nicoletti, who ended up accompanied by Tom Paris. B'Elanna had no idea what occurred between the pair on that mission. But four days later, Tom and Sue became a couple. Their three-year romance ended with an impromptu wedding, following an intergalactic race. Since of their romance, B'Elanna found herself regretting her decision to change the future. Dreams of that alternate honeymoon aboard the Delta Flyer have haunted her, ever since.
". . . have any idea why Chakotay destroyed the deflector?" Harry was saying. Apparently, both men had lost interest in Sue's pregnancy.
Tom shook his head. "I've heard rumors of something about him invoking the Temporal Directive. Whatever that means."
"Speaking of temporal anomalies," Harry continued, "do you remember that device you found on Hotak some five or six years ago, B'Elanna? You know, the one that allows you to see the future?"
Dread numbed every nerve in B'Elanna's body. Of course she remembered. There was not a single damn day when she forgot. "Yeah, I remembered," she mumbled.
Harry continued, "Now, I remember you telling me that you saw Kurt Bendara's death, a future game of hoverball between you and the Commander, and even Neelix's resort program." His attention switched to the pilot. "But Tom, you also used the device and you never told me what you saw."
Tom hesitated. His gaze dropped to the food on his tray. "It was nothing, Harry. In fact, it never happened."
"C'mon, Tom! Everything B'Elanna had witnessed came true. Right?"
Memories of that passionate moment inside the Delta Flyer flashed in B'Elanna's mind. "Right," she replied in a choked voice.
Harry continued, "So, tell us. C'mon Tom, what did you see?"
The pilot took a deep breath. "Okay. I was inside a cave . . . with . . . with someone." His blue eyes briefly rested upon B'Elanna. "From Engineering."
'He knows!' B'Elanna felt a surge of panic. Judging from Tom's brief glance, she felt sure that he knew about their life together, in that alternate timeline. She struggled to maintain a calm façade.
Harry frowned. "What cave?"
"On Sakaris IV," Tom replied. B'Elanna winced. The sight of her infamous bout with pon far. Voyager had come across a supply of gallacite and B'Elanna was ordered to form an Away team to retrieve the mineral. She had knew about Tom's talent as a rock climber, but decided to exclude him from the Away mission. But not before an emotional unbalanced Vulcan engineer infected her with pon far. B'Elanna spent her entire time on Sakaris IV longing for Tom, while rejecting any offers of help from Harry, Tuvok and Chakotay.
His frown deepening, Harry shot back, "But you only spent one hour on Sakaris IV. With Carl Ashmore and me. When we helped the Sakarians avoid further detection by the Borg."
"That's right, Harry," Tom replied. "But in my vision, I was there for several hours." Again, his eyes shot a glance at B'Elanna. "With Sue."
Harry shook his head and murmured, "Now, that's strange. Sue never made it to the surface. I guess time must have been changed."
"I guess," Tom echoed. For the third time, he glanced at B'Elanna.
"You know," Harry continued, "this reminds me of something the Captain once told me. She said that our trip to Earth's past made her realize how much temporal mechanics gave her a headache. I think she might have something, there. Right, B'Elanna?"
The Chief Engineer did not reply. Unaware of her friend's last words, she stared into space, devastated and filled with regret.