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Moira smiled at the scathing remarks Elena put out about her. "[divine]Darling, my hedonism is anything but amoral. You can check me.[/divine]" She lightly put her hand on her chest, "[divine]Scout's honor.[/divine]" She was no scout, but she was hardly amoral. Sure one major she had one major slip up before. But aren't heroes supposed to be forgiving, if anything? Elena could have called her a dirty slut and it would have cut just as deep. Though it played havoc with Moira's emotions she didn't let it show. Edone was having a field day in her head with this. Well, that and Jack was acting put-offish now. Maybe she could save this little rendezvous? She went to Jack and whispered in his ear one last time, "[divine]Please forgive me if I've embarrassed you. Hopefully we can talk later when there's less people around.[/divine]" She smiled and winked at him. She happily nodded to Elena and took a step back from Jack and then walked back in the house.

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"And my manners have deserted me completely. I apologize, ladies, for my, ah, distraction." The athletic young man accepted the proffered hand. "Jack, Jack of all Blades."

Elena's eyes widened briefly. [bg=#BF0000]"Oh. Oh. Of course. I should have deduced that via simple process of elimination. We've met, actually. If I'm not mistaken, we're both...hockey fans."[/bg] The petite Latina in the scarlet dress shook Jack's hand, smiling, while caressing her golden scarab beetle pendant with the tips of the fingers on her other hand. [bg=#BF0000]"You acquitted yourself well, even surrounded and outmatched. Your footwork on the ice is impressive. You know how to handle a stick. I'm glad Freedom City has...players like you on their team."[/bg]

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Talya shook hands as the group widened, her smile going soft for a moment at Elena's very public declaration of affection and she reached up to give the other woman's fingers a small squeeze. Her eyes crinkled at the corners as Elena went off and she shook her head, giving the hand another fond pat as she remarked, "As if the moralistic speeches weren't a dead give-away to your identity, darling. Fortunately, you do always look stunning in scarlet."

She shook Eli and Colt's hands with a polite smile but that widened into a wicked grin when Jack announced his name, "Oh, we've met as well, actually. Midnight rooftops and black leather and all that. I do love this era."

Talya offered her hand to him, her blonde locks slipping down to obscure one eye as she went from polite charm to full on flirt with Elena's hand still on her waist. She wasn't trying to make the other woman jealous. The idea Elena might be jealous was so patently ridiculous to Talya that it never even flickered through her surface thoughts and if it had been suggested, it would have made the blonde laugh. It had never worked on Alexander after all and lord knew she'd tried it often enough in the early days of that relationship. So she simply winked at Jack with the one visible blue eye and reminded him, "We played a little game. You won."

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Clearing her throat self-consciously, Jill changed the subject, "So, how did you do that thing with the tree? Is it like a 'bigger on the inside' deal?" Her tone was genuinely curious, and youthful excitement continued to slip through her cynical facade.

"No, not exactly," Stesha told her. "I can travel through plants, start in one and pop out of another one anywhere in the world. All plants are connected, through the roots or the stems or even through the memory of being connected to other plants." She shrugged cheerfully. "It's a little metaphysical and I can't say that I'm totally sure how it works, but it's very useful, and fun too. Would you like to try?" Stesha reached out a hand to Jill invitingly.

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"Yer gonna let't sit? I reckon ya got more will power'n I do. I always go'n tear mine right open." Colt smiled at the compliment, "Thanks! Y'all c'n kiss th' cook if'n ya'd like."

The birthday girl rolled her eyes dramatically.

"Well sure, when you put it that way." She peered over at the parcel; it certainly was intriguing... "Y'know, I was trying not to be such a little brat today, but you do have a point. Back in a jiff!" She gave Colt a quick mustardy kiss, then eagerly scampered over to the package.

Oddly enough, the return address was from a New York law firm called Fries, Slade and Darcott, located somewhere on the Lower East Side; intrigued, the shapeshifter dropped down to her knees and hefted the package. It felt solid, like maybe it was a book, and nothing rattled when she shook it. Sitting there in the grass, she sighed deeply.

"Oh, what the hell."

Out came the claws, and with near-surgical precision, she deftly opened the package; in an instant, a flood of smells wafted out, and the memories they stirred up shook Lynn to her very core. Staring down at the bundle of papers through eyes wet with tears (for the second time that day!), she could barely say the words.

"Grampa Lou?" :cry:

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"Grim?" Colt called across the yard after he heard the paper shredding, "What was't? Some'thin' good?" Colt could barely take his eyes off the grill for a second, but the second he spared was all hers. Through the connection the two of them had, he knew something was wrong. Why else would she have been sitting still for the past few moments. She never did that when she was happy. "Grim?" he called out. "Ace, y'all c'n flip them burgers fer'a minute, can't'ya?" He thrust the spatula into Ace's arms, his tone brooked no argument. He jogged, to Grim's side, "Grim? What's wrong, hun?"

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Derrick nodded in thanks to Jack before Stesha dragged him further into the party. He noted the few familiar faces that he hadn't seen in a while like Ace and Elana. He hadn't had a chance to say hello. He'd have to make sure he did. It had been too long. But for now he followed his fiance around quietly; he wasn't really very good at these party things anyway. He nodded in greeting to Jill with a smile but let the two ladies dominate the conversation.

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Jill bounced upward on the balls of her feet, stopping just short of clapping her hands. "Seriously?" The broad, lopsided grin that spread over the teenager's face evidently ran in the family as well. She shot a quick glance over to her brother, but seeing him in conversation with several attractive women simply rolled er eyes before returning her attention to Stesha. "So much yes."

As the conversation turned into a series of dramatic reveals, Jack's eyebrow's raised in incremental notches. "You... and you're... and... haaa..." the fencer let out a long breath as he kept his nonchalant smile fixed to his face. Well, I was waiting for that other shoe to drop, he thought glumly. Alright Espadas, you're the other woman to the most powerful telepath in the world. What do you do?

Taking Talya's proffered hand, his smile reflexively matched the blonde's tone as he bowed low. "I find myself chagrined twice over, then," he told them. "Masks or no, I pride myself on never forgetting a beautiful woman, let alone two." As Colt handed his spatula off to Ace, Jack resisted urge to smack himself. What? No! What'd we just get finished talking about with the redhead? Hitting on both of them is the opposite of a good plan! It's an antiplan. You fail at plans forever.

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"You... and you're... and... haaa..." the fencer let out a long breath as he kept his nonchalant smile fixed to his face.

Taking Talya's proffered hand, his smile reflexively matched the blonde's tone as he bowed low. "I find myself chagrined twice over, then," he told them. "Masks or no, I pride myself on never forgetting a beautiful woman, let alone two."

Elena laughed, letting her eyes close and her face fall as she shook her head. [bg=#BF0000]"I think he's talking to you, Dear."[/bg] She kissed Talya on the cheek. [bg=#BF0000]"I'm not exactly Helen of Troy compared to the company I keep. Especially when Helen herself happens to be standing right over there. Well, not technically Helen, but another avatar of the same Olympian deity...I'm sorry, where was I?"[/bg]

She turned back to the alternatingly flustered and flirtatious swashbuckler. [bg=#BF0000]"Oh, of course. Jack, let's not pussy-foot around the subject. It doesn't take a five-thousand year-old telepath to figure out that something happened between you and Talya. That's fine, really. Neither of us is what you would call 'the jealous type.' Time has a way of opening one's mind. I don't own Talya or her sexuality. She's free to share it with whomever she pleases."[/bg] Elena reached over and squeezed Talya's hand. A smile crept across her entire face, as wide as it was relaxed. [bg=#BF0000]"I'm just happy that one of those people is me."[/bg] She brought Talya's hand up to her lips, kissed the back, and then let it go.

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Eli kind of went all deer in a headlights for a moment there. A few bombs had just gotten dropped. Time slowed down as Eli needed some alone time to start processing everything. He remembered reading the newspaper with Tayla's name, meaning she was Bombshell and Elena was Scarab. It had finally sunk into Eli's rather thick skull who exactly he was sharing this little back yard birthday BBQ with. To say he felt like the odd man out was a bit of an understatement. Not finding an easy solution, Eli leaned up against a tree, his mind racing, while outwardly, Eli was just zoning out.

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Talya's grin widened at Jack's response, really both parts but she laughed at Elena's blunt speech and her nose wrinkled up in an expression of commiserating amusement with Jack as she explained, "Several millenia has made her extrodinarily blunt while that telepathy has made her uncomfortabally honest. Eventually it becomes an endearing quirk of character, I promise, once one adjusts. The important thing is to establish bounderies early and often. She does so enjoy managing people."

Talya lowered her tone to a husky whisper and added, "She's actually more shy than you'd think about herself."

Then she turned to Elena and let the finger tips she kissed brush affectionately over the Latina's cheek. "I hardly think its as unlikely as you seem to think that someone's attracted to you, darling. Not too mention there's that oh-so-male fantasy that Ace has already tossed out onto the conversation already. Thank you for that, by the way, Ace. I'll remember that later when the opportunity presents itself to get even."

Her tone was as amused as it was sincere.

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Anyone standing near the grill felt a slight, temporary sensation of vertigo. A pinpoint of blue-gray light appeared, which quickly expanded into the form of Doktor Viktor Archeville. He was dressed as he was always dressed: simple black rubber-soled workboots, khaki pants, his softly glowing gravimetric belt, a light blue (transgenic spider-goat) silk shirt, and a clean labcoat. A large cooler was in one hand, and a small envelope poked out of his shirt pocket.

"I am not too late, am I?" He flashed a warm smile to all, "I was not sure how long de party vould last, so I came over as soon as I could tear meinself avay from de laboratory."

Where's the food?

Is that all you think about?

No, I also think about-

LA LA LA I AM NOT LISTENING LA LA

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Jill bounced upward on the balls of her feet, stopping just short of clapping her hands. "Seriously?" The broad, lopsided grin that spread over the teenager's face evidently ran in the family as well. She shot a quick glance over to her brother, but seeing him in conversation with several attractive women simply rolled er eyes before returning her attention to Stesha. "So much yes."

Stesha took Jill's hand. "This won't hurt a bit," she promised cheerfully. "Be right back," she told Derrick, then touched the daisies she'd braided into her hair. Instantly, the two women were transported into a world that was nothing but the bright, growing green of new leaves in the spring, and the overwhelming scent of freshly mown grass. In a heartbeat, they were back in the real world, popping out of the bushes on the far side of the backyard from where they started. "I figured we didn't want to go too far, we're going to eat soon," Stesha joked.

She waved to Derrick on the other side of the yard and began heading back that way, on foot this time despite the crowd. "So your brother's Jack of all Blades?" she asked Jill.

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"Of course," he said. Derrick smiled as Stesha took the younger woman by the hand to travel by tree. He waved back at her from across the crowded yard. It would take her a moment to get back. Now was a good a time as any to say hi to Ace and Elena.

He stepped up to the little group, nodding to Jack since he'd just seen him a few moments ago. "Ace, how are you doing? Elena, nice to see you too. You're looking very nice today," he said with an honest smile. "It's been too long. I don't see any of you enough," he said with some lament. He looked at Elena's date curiously for a moment, figuring introductions would be coming along shortly.

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There were several beats of silence as Jack struggled to process everything that was being said to him, and the manner in which it was being said. Finally, the athletic young man broke out in easy laughter, rubbing the back of his head ruefully. "Ha, well, you pretty much just blew my mind, and it didn't even take any brain powers." He gave both women an amiable grin. "I was serious about keeping today about Lynn, but if you want to put a pin in all that... you know where to find me now, amirite?" Jack congratulated himself inwardly. Smooth. Now, go say hello to someone else before you accidentally set yourself up on a blind date with La Calavera Catrina or something. The fencer made a sloppy salute to the newest arrival. "Hey, Doc, how goes?"

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Jill hopped on one foot a few steps to the side as she hastily regained her balance as she and Stesha popped out of the bushes. "Yee-hee-hee, whoo, wow! That was so..." The teenager trailed off for a moment as she searched for the correct words, before giving up and excaliming, "So green!" Jogging forward to fall in beside the older woman with the verdant locks, Jill looked over to her brother at the grill. "That's what he keeps telling me, anyway," she confirmed.

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Not wanting to ruin the party, and in truth feeling ridiculously girly for busting out the waterworks twice in one day, Lynn had done her best to keep quiet as she studied the treasure in her hands, one that in it;s own way was just as miraculous as Elena's wonderful present. But of course, she should have know that Colt's keen 'Grimsense' would start tingling, and sure enough he was soon by her side.

"Grim? What's wrong, hun?"

She turned to face him, her eyes once again puffy with tears. "Hmm? Oh it's nothing; I just keep getting these gut-wrenchingly awesome gifts today. Take a look."

She shows him the open package, which contains several interesting items, including some stock certificates, old photographs, a manuscript and a letter dated June 17th, 1996, printed on an old dot matrix printer from the look of it.

"Can you read the letter to me? I can't get past the first sentence."

Dearest Sheri,

I hope you have a happy 22nd birthday, and I wish I could be there with you to enjoy it. I think the number 22 is important to our family; my father was 22 when I was born, I was 22 went I went off to fight in the War, and even your mother started dating your father when she was 22. As you hopefully remember from schul, every letter in the Hebrew alphabet is also a word; the twenty-second letter of the alphabet is tav, which means ‘seal’, as in God’s sacred seal. Tav is also the last letter in the alphabet and in the word emet, which means ‘truth’. Is our twenty-second year the end of an old life and the beginning of a new one, like a portal sealed shut but now opened? I can’t say for sure, but forgive an old man’s indulgence.

I also wanted to tell you a secret, something I never told anyone else in the family: I met you (the future you) in 1972! Can you believe it? I’m old and my memory isn’t as good as it used to be, but I know we met, even though my memories of that day are all jumbled. I talked to someone about his sort of thing (not naming any names, of course!), and he said this sort of thing can happen with time travel: ghosts, phantom memories, that sort of thing, the kind of stuff Pop would have known about. I have this memory of seeing you, looking so much like your mother in your pretty white boots, in my store with a nice Japanese boy. I think I helped you in some way, but that’s kind of unclear.

As I type this, you’re outside at your party, playing with your brother and sister in your pretty blue dress. So strange to think of you all grown up, and me not being there to see it! Knowing that you’re destined for great things makes me so proud, just like I was of Pop and all his adventures.

Which brings me to the other reason I’m typing all this. I want to share with you some things that meant a lot to me, things my father handed down to me. I don’t know how much you know about your Grandfather Ira; I think I told you some things, but I can’t always tell when you’re listening, young lady! Pop was a great man, though he was far from perfect; he had a heck of a temper, was bad with money, and was a bit of a skirt-chaser, but he showed me some amazing things when he took me with him on his travels. I last time I saw him was on September 1st, 1957; he was on his way to Venezuela, in his pursuit of Wilhelm Kantor, one of several escaped Nazis he’d been hunting since after the War. I can only assume that he found him, and it went badly.

I better get to the good stuff before I need to change my printer cartridge; these things ain't cheap! So, your gifts for your twenty-second birthday!

First of all, I typed up everything I could remember about your grandfather, our travels together and the sad times we were apart. For the heck of it, I also typed up some things I did during the War; I’m not proud of everything I did, but I’m glad we won. I included some notes and old photos; if you want to publish our story or just keep it in the family, it’s up to you. There’s a letter from my lawyer in here somewhere (if he did his job!) explaining the copyright stuff.

Second, I’m giving you the keys and lease to my store, which should have been maintained per my instructions. Pop opened the bookstore in '46, and I took it over after he was gone. When I saw you back in ’72, you told me how much you loved it, so I can think of no better person to guard its many wonders and secrets.

And lastly, there are some stocks in here; I don’t know how much they’ll be worth in 2010 (such a thought!), but hopefully you can use them to keep the store open; I never made a penny running it, but some of my happiest memories are standing behind that counter, working the register.

Okay, I think I need to finish up, because now I’m starting to cry, and I don’t want to cry on your birthday. I just want you to know that you’re a very special girl and I love you very much. May God bless you, and I hope you and that Japanese boy are happy together.

Mazel tov!

Louis Silberman.

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Colt made a point of actively ignoring the bits in the letter about a Japanese Boy. He spared grim a look the first time he was mentioned, but after she gave a shrug, he soldiered on. The letter brought a certain moisture to Colt's eyes as well. Grim had a great family, and an actual childhood. He on the other hand was stuck in an entirely different dimension from what little family he did have. Saying that he didn't miss them would have been lying.

"I reckon this stuff all looks'a 'mazin'. Y'all didn't know nothin' bout this store b'fore? Ya never mentioned it ta me, anyhow. 'An time travel?" he questioned.

Colt really didn't know what to make of all of this. If he'd ever gotten more than a few rifle rounds for his birthday, he counted himself lucky. This was just too much!

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"I reckon this stuff all looks'a 'mazin'. Y'all didn't know nothin' bout this store b'fore? Ya never mentioned it ta me, anyhow. 'An time travel?"

Still wiping away tears, Lynn shook her head. "Well, I never talked about the time travel thing because that was sort of my first date with said Japanese boy, and personally I think talking about your ex with your current boyfriend never ends well."

She picked up a tuft of grass and began tossing the blades aimlessly. "He died a little over a year ago, saving my life when we were living in Seattle." She laughed sadly. "He always said I was the most depressing girl in the world, and here I go, just proving him right."

Wrapping her arms around her knees, the shapeshifter rocked back and forth. "As for the store...well, the last I heard it was tied up in some legal battle; my aunt was disputing my Grampa's will, saying he was mentally unsound at the time it was written." Suddenly she stopped rocking with a realization. "That means my aunt doesn't want me to have the store. That b****!"

In a flash, Lynn was up and wending her way through the party-goers, heading for the clump of older heroes; she had the parcel tucked under one arm and the letter from her grandfather in the other. She was smiling a rather strange smile, somehow sad, knowing and proud all at the same time.

"Elena, I know you didn't think anyone could top your amazing gift, but somehow my Grampa Lou pulled it off...from the grave." She held out the letter, and turned her body to take in Tayla and Ace as well. "You guys have all been around for a long time - no offense, since you're all pretty much stunning - and I think I might need some advice from a previous generation or two. Y'know, about family histories, and the way they can turn around and bite you in the ass. Check this out."

She offered the letter to any who wish to read it; noting the arrival of her employer, she nodded and smiled at the German uber-genius.

"Hiya, Doc; glad you could make it."

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There were several beats of silence as Jack struggled to process everything that was being said to him, and the manner in which it was being said. Finally, the athletic young man broke out in easy laughter, rubbing the back of his head ruefully. "Ha, well, you pretty much just blew my mind, and it didn't even take any brain powers."

[bg=#BF0000]"...That you know of."[/bg] Elena spoke in a calm, even tone as she stared into Jack's face with a countenance so deadpan-serious it could have been carved from stone. She maintained it for about half a minute before bursting into laughter. [bg=#BF0000]"No,"[/bg] she chuckled as she layed a comforting hand on the swashbuckler's shoulder. [bg=#BF0000]"Your thoughts are your own today."[/bg]

He gave both women an amiable grin. "I was serious about keeping today about Lynn, but if you want to put a pin in all that... you know where to find me now, amirite?"

Elena slowly pulled away and raised an eyebrow at Jack skeptically. She glanced at Talya without changing her expression, then back at Jack, then back at Talya again, back and forth a few times. Finally, she shrugged. [bg=#BF0000]"I'll think about it. I suppose I've had worse ideas. But in the meantime, you two have fun."[/bg]

"Ace, how are you doing? Elena, nice to see you too. You're looking very nice today," he said with an honest smile. "It's been too long. I don't see any of you enough," he said with some lament. He looked at Elena's date curiously for a moment, figuring introductions would be coming along shortly.

[bg=#BF0000]"I agree, Derrick,"[/bg] Elena said as she shook his hand vigorously. [bg=#BF0000]"It has been far too long. I thought I should give you some space, after our...disagreement. I'm relieved to see it hasn't soured our relationship beyond salvaging. I've missed your perspective on things. I'm always telling people how much you remind me of...an old friend. Congratulations, by the way. I've only met your fiancè briefly, but by all accounts she seems like a wonderful woman."[/bg]

"I am not too late, am I?" He flashed a warm smile to all, "I was not sure how long de party vould last, so I came over as soon as I could tear meinself avay from de laboratory."

[bg=#BF0000]"Viktor!" Elena half-smiled, half shouted as Doktor Archeville appeared. She kissed Talya's hand one final time, then released it, running up to Archeville to give him an enthusiastic hug, followed by a kiss on the cheek. "Fashionably late for once instead of just late. Seems the world's smartest man can still be taught a thing or two here and there."[/bg]

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"Hey, y'know what they say," Jack quipped to Elena, his hands held upward in a wry shrug, "once you go Jack..." Finally retrieving a condensation laden bottle from the cooler, the fencer leaned over shoulders to skim the letter the birthday girl had arrived with. The fencer let out a low whistle of appreciation. "That's some heavy stuff, Lynn." He glanced up inquisitively at Bill when he read the bit about Lynn's old squeeze, but didn't overtly comment. Popping the lid from his beer with his tarnished belt buckle, he smoothly stepped over to stand next to the cowboy. "She going to be okay?" he inquired quietly, pitching his voice to carry no further than the pair of them.

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Eli came out of his slump. They may be strange company, but they were good company. If he was to do any sort of good in this world, he would need to start having a higher opinion of himself. He could do this, he just needed to try. Figuring that Grim's past was a good enough place to get started on figuring out the hero circle as any, he followed her over to the immortals. He gave Archeville a wave, but didn't bother the good Doctor beyond that; he had glompings to deal with. He looked over Grim's shoulder, where his pupils started shaking. Those who knew him took it as a sign he was reading at super speed.

As if there wasn't already enough super history here I didn't understand. They need start to handing out pamphlets for this sort of thing. "Where is this store anyways? And what kind of store is it?" asked Dynamo, his curiosity shockingly outweighing his social graces.

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Talya gave Jack a wink as Elena rushed off and said simply, "I'll work on her. I'm very persuasive." Then with polite excuses, she followed her date over to the man in question, giving him a quizzical look. When Elena stepped to the side, she didn't hesitate to introduce herself, offering one slim hand. When she spoke it was in German that sounded more native than flawless, the accent faintly of a Berliner.

"" She grinned, her crimson smile wicked, ""

Talya glanced over as Grim came over and nodded at Ace. She'd come take a look after him.

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Archeville nodded to Jack, but before he could say anything, Grim & Colt began reading over the letter.

His face lit up, and he quickly scanned the letter. "Time travel? You haff time traveled? Dat is fascinating! Vhat vas de method employed? Vhat did it feel like? Vhen did you go, und for how long?"

Wasn't Quark babbling something about there being 'Guardians of Time' and 'Time-Keepers' that prevent riff-raff like her from bouncing all willy-nilly about the time stream?

It was most likely a predestination thing -- it happened because it had to happen because it had happened.

I hate time travel grammar.

Well, you are a Grammar Nazi, so...

Oh, ha ha.

And anyway, it seems Lynn needs advice of a different sort.

"I mean..., " he paused and cleared his throat, "I haff some experience mit family histories, und how dey can influence you, so if I can be of any help...."

Suddenly he had a not unattractive Latina on him, causing him to set his cooler down. "Elena! I must say, I vas not expecting you here!" He returned the kiss, "und, yes, I can still be taught a few dings."

Would you like to teach me some things? 5,0000 years experience, you'd probably know a few things even I don't.

Mona!

Yeah, I'd make-a her moan-a...

I think I liked it better when you just cried out 'WIIITCH!' when she arrived.

Hearing his native tongue, he turned to Talya and gave a curt bow, taking her offered hand and kissing it. "" He smiled back, ""

Mmmm...

Stop that.

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He smiled warmly. "Elena, you of all people should know better than that. Just because I disagree with you on something, that does not affect my view on you personally or professionally. I should have come by to check and see how you've been doing but I always seem to be so busy with one thing or another. I'll make time though, I promise." He smiled, just mentioning his fiance enough to provoke that reaction. "Thank you. She is wonderful. She's giving Jack's sister a ride I think; or was anyway. And she is the greatest, yeah. I am the luckiest person in the universe. This one or any one actually!"

He smiled widely as the Doctor suddenly appeared and was greeting enthusiastically by Elena. He turned to include the genius as well. "Doctor Archeville, it's great to see you. I swear, this little party is doing more for my social life than everything in the last year combined. I really should get out more," he said half to himself. "How have you been?" He glanced over at Tayla and then back to Scarab and back before shrugging and extending his hand. "It seems Elena has forgotten her manners in her exuberance. I'm Derrick. I know her from, uh, work. And stuff." Smooth. Yeah, that couldn't be anymore suspicious if I tried. I really suck at this.

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