Tress MacNeille Corey Burton Tress MacNeille Jim Cummings
Jim Cummings and Peter Cullen
By The J.A.M. (but please call me J.A.M.)
First of all, I do NOT want ANYONE to consider me a leech, or someone who's feeding off others' fanfics. I have more than thoroughly spoken with Mr. Grissom about this and he was more than happy to let me do this. While I enjoyed "Consummation" extremely and could not get enough of it, I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that things could happen a LOT differently on the basis of a few slightly different decisions made by the characters. So, as the ideas ran through my head, I pondered on the possibility of writing a la Marvel Comics' "What If". After considering various scenarios, I chose one which I believed to be just right for a tangent fanfic. Or, more than a tangent, I guess I would call it "a slightly different view", but call it tangent, or even "satellite story", if you wish. And while this is not the first fanfic I ever write, it *is* my first one ever posted on the Internet. I hope to one day soon get my own PC and pour out both tangents *and* J.A.M. originals.
Second, it is not my intention to "outwrite" anyone. I will try to keep the style according to the original author's style, and if you happen to like this fanfic better than Mr. Grissom's, let me be the first to say that it is not my fault. I, for one, don't know the strength of my own talent. . .
And if you DIDN'T like it, well, then, I guess that's good news for Mr. Grissom. . .
Enough with this already, and let's begin:
"Who knew slightly different decisions could make such big differences?"
WARNING: This fanfic will NOT make any sense at all if you don't read CONSUMMATION first.
*. . .with my apologies to Mr. Grissom. . .*
I would probably rate this PG-13.
Let's pick it up from. . .
** During this time Foxy had recourse to Gadget's sage advice on many occasions, but Gadget's advice to her was of no help in getting Dale to pop the long-awaited question. Still though, Gadget always assured her that Dale did indeed love her and she need only be patient. **
OK, then, let's just see one of these occasions:
Foxglove entered Gadget's room, and to her suprise, and relief as well, she was still awake, sitting on her bed and reading one of her tremendously technical manuals, *again*. She looked up and greeted her,
"Oh, hello, Foxy. How was the movie?"
"Oh, it was fine, I guess--" the bat trailed off with mild frustration.
"A real bomb, right?" asked the mouse, noticing the frustration.
"Uh, well, no!" replied Foxglove, trying to bring her mind to here and now. "Actually, it seemed preety interesting--" Gadget put her book down, stood, and walked over to Foxglove. Looking into her eyes, she calmy asked,
"Foxy, what was the title of the movie?" Somewhat surprised at this more-than-obvious question, Foxglove was about to reply when she realised that her mind was totally blank concerning this. Trying to blink her memory back on line, she ransacked her brain in search for an answer,
"Uh-uh--it was a monster movie, again, I know that. It was called--it was called--" No use, she had been too busy noticing something *else* to notice the title of the flic. Gadget tried something easier,
"What was the movie about? Godzilla, again?" Foxy thought for *sure* she had the answer to this one, and she *knew* Godzilla was NOT in the movie, but as she tried to recall the plot, she was again lost. Covering her head with her wings, she trembled momentarily. An uncomfortable thought crossed Gadget's mind, though she already knew what the answer was. "Dale DID see the movie, I suppose?" Foxglove sagged. She walked over to the bed and slumped to a sitting position.
"Yes, he saw every second of it. And he enjoyed it completely. AND he even yelled on the scary parts, even though that was the *eleventh time* he sees that movie!" Covering her head again, Foxglove wondered if she should cry at his point. Gadget sat next to her and put her paw on her shoulder. "You know," sobbed the bat, suddenly straightening up and startling Gadget, "Dale has a one track mind. And I love him for that, too. Once he sets out to do something, he does it, and nothing else. I mean, he asks me out on a date to see a movie at the drive-in, and I am more than happy to do so. And that is exactly what he does: *See the movie*!!" Clearly frustrated now with a touch of anger, Foxglove wringed her wings in front of her. This was not the first time, but Gadget could see that Foxglove was getting more than slightly annoyed every time this happened. Foxy turned to her roomate and continued, "He *really* likes monster movies. I mean, why should he think *I* don't? After all, he *does** invite me to see them with him, especially the premieres, and I go happily along. Why should he think I have something *else* in mind when I make us sit WAY in the back? And echosounding him throughout the whole thing, that is really something. You know, Gadget, you should really invent a sonar machine to echosound him yourself. I think only THEN will you be able to see what you missed. You really blew it by not choosing him. And--he also enjoys his junk food, too. He loads himself up just before the movie starts, and again in the intermission. And he shares his food with me. That's very romantic, don't you think??!!" Gadget was about to console her when she continued, "And what is even *more* romantic is the fact that when he gets scared, he jumps and puts his arms around me!! You can't get much more romantic than that, can you???!!!" Breathing quite audibly now, Foxglove waited for the usual reply.
"Foxy, you know this doesn't always happen. After all, if Dale *really* enjoys his movies, he also knows you are very special to him by the fact that he wants you to see them too, *with* him. I guess he also respects you very very much, despite the temptation you set up for him every time." Foxglove pondered on this point, and replied,
"I don't understand: I love him, he loves me, we love each other, we practically *live* with each other, and he just doesn't seem to get the hint. He respects me, I know--he's a REAL, wonderful, caring, loving, HANDSOME, [gritting her teeth] RESPECTING gentlemunk--and I love him for that, too, and--*I* respect him, too, but it just seems that he is perfectly happy and satisfied with the way things are right now and doesn't want anything more. We kiss, but I wouldn't mind him stealing a kiss from me once in a while. It's almost as if--as if he finally put me in a little corner of his life, along with his love of movies, comic books, TV--as if *I* don't rank beyond those--those--THINGS!!!" Foxglove cried openly at this point, and Gadget calmy put both paws on her trembling shoulders.
"You know that's not true, Foxglove, he loves you very much, even more than those things. He wouldn't enjoy them without you, not in the least. And you've *had* romantic dates, too. *Without* movies, comics, or TV."
"Those don't happen very often, you know," she replied, getting just a trifle more upset. "And I want *more* of that, more of when he holds me in his arms and looks into my eyes, and I feel his heart and not just hear it, when I echosound him to his face and hear his face--have you ever HEARD someone's face in your face, Gadget? That is really something you should do with Chip--"
"Foxy!" cried the mouse, unsure whether she *should* build a sonar machine at this point.
"Sorry. And he doesn't resist me anymore, but I *do* wish that he'd take the lead more often. And I wish *those* dates would never end. I know he loves me more than anything, Gadget, and I *know* he is romantic, but it looks like that is ALL our relationship will ever amount to: Romantic Dates, one lived happily, the other in frustration, ever after, the end." Gadget gathered her thoughts for a few minutes, allowing Foxglove to continue purging her eyes, and explained,
"Foxy, you remember how difficult it was for Dale to admit his feelings for you. Just imagine how difficult a time he must be having right now, to admit he too wants more. And do you think that it is easy for him to hold himself back simply out of respect for you? He's a *male*, and it *is* spring, you know. I mean, if it was difficult for him to behave himself when he was in love with me--" The bat looked at the mouse's eyes, clearly communicating that she did NOT want to hear this part of Dale's life.
"Sorry, Foxy. But please understand how *he* feels, and what he is fighting against. I'm sure he wants more out of this too, but he needs reassurance. In the meantime, he needs you, Foxy. He can't live without you." Foxglove looked into the distance, as if she were looking at Dale in the living room.
"Do you think he loves me enough to marry me, or just enough to have me as his girlfriend?" That was a tough one for Gadget, but she quickly replied,
"I've never seen anyone fall in love as suddenly as he did with you. He wants you badly, but I guess he thinks he's not ready, or he's afraid of how you'll react."
"Oh, why can't *I* be the one who has to ask the question?"
"He needs a little more time, Foxy. Just wait, and I'm sure he'll pop the question when you least expect it." Foxglove looked at her roomate again and sighed,
"Well, thanks, Gadget. I guess I feel a *little* better."
"I'm always here for you, Foxy." Foxglove stood, dried her eyes, and stretched,
"Well, I guess I should let you go to sleep then. I think I saw a few moths outside. Yummy!" Foxglove was about to leave when Gadget asked,
"Did Dale land the Ranger Plane where I told him to? I don't want it to get in the way of the other vehicles again--"
"It's parked just fine, Gadget. He's not exactly a slob anymore, you know." With a sly grin, Foxglove left. Gadget felt just a trifle guilty for asking that last question. Dale *had* changed a lot since last June, and he was a lot more responsible with the vehicles. Still, sometimes he *did* park the planes right in the middle of the hangar, blocking the way out for the other vehicles, a big no-no in case of an emergency. But that did not happen often now, and all the Rangers were glad because of this. So, exhausted after yet ANOTHER emotional bout with Foxglove, Gadget put on her nightgown and fell asleep.
We then move on to:
** Meanwhile Chip, Zipper, and Monterey were doing their best to talk Dale into being confident enough to make the proposal. **
Foxglove entered the living room and saw the boys watching TV. Still keeping that sly grin, she walked behind the couch, and kissed Dale on his head. Surprised, and feeling more than slightly self-conscious, Dale whirled and gasped, but calmed down when he looked at Foxglove's eyes.
"I'm glad you enjoyed your movie," she said, with just a slight hint of sadness. "I'll see you tomorrow, Cutie." With that, the bat walked out the door, took off, and began feeding. Smiling happily to himself, Dale settled down and continued watching the late news with the others. The others, unfortunately, had noticed something wrong with Foxglove.
"Um, Dale, tell me, how was your date?" asked Chip.
"Oh, it was wonderful! We went to see 'Attack Of The Giant Newts IX'! It's about a bunch of mutant newts that attack Rio and start eating everything--"
"Uh, pally, how did Foxglove take it?"asked Monty.
"Foxy? Well, she loved it, of course! She just sat back and enjoyed the whole thing. Never said a word, except a scream or two on the scary parts. Ah, I love that bat."
"Did you tell her that?" asked Zipper.
"What? That I love her? Well, no, she already knows that, but she did say she had a good time. You know guys, maybe we could *all* go watch it next time--"
"Dale," said Chip. "Have you noticed something about Foxy lately?"
"Noticed? Noticed what?"
"Well, take just now. Didn't she look a little sad to you?"
"Well, no. And why would she be sad? We just had a great time, I tell you! And you know, I think she is actually starting to calm down. She didn't make a single pass at me tonight. Or, not any that I noticed, anyway." Chip thought for a moment, trying to figure out the best way to break this to him.
"Is tonight the first time she is actually on her best behaviour?" Dale looked at his best friend for a moment, not quite sure what he meant by this, and asked, rather upset,
"What do you mean 'best behaviour'? She's not a delin-delinq--criminal anymore, you know." Chip rephrased himself,
"I mean was tonight the first night she didn't make a pass at you?" Thinking for a moment, Dale replied,
"Well, she's calm only at the drive-in. Ironic, isn't it? Naturally, there *are* those dates in the park--" Dale got a dreamy and blissful look in his face at this moment. Frustered by the fact that Dale just couldn't get it, Chip blurted,
"Dale, I think Foxy wants more out of you than just dates and insipid movies and comic books!"
"What do you mean ins-insi--what you said? That movie just *happened* to be a classic," he crossed his arms to emphasise this, "and I'll have you know she *loves* my comics, too! She *knows* they may be priceless someday. And why would she want more? More what? What *else* can I give her? I mean, I love her, she loves me, we love each other, we see each other every day, we work together, we solve cases together with you guys, we beat the bad guys together with you guys, hey we practically *live* together, for crying out loud! What more could she *possibly* want?" Getting a flashback of a commercial, Dale jingled, "Who could ask for anything more? Toyo--"
Dale rubbed his head at this point.
"That's just it, Dale," continued Chip, trying to ignore that last commercial by keeping his right paw fisted. "You *practically* live together. But--have you noticed that right now you two sleep in separate bedrooms?" Dale looked at Chip for a few seconds, trying to figure out what he meant by this question. Upon realising what the alternative was, he bonked Chip a *lot* harder that he did, messing up his fedora.
"Of *course*, stupid!!" he growled. "What kind of guy do you think I am??!!" Chip rubbed *his* head now, but before he could reply, Monterey stepped in, trying to save Chip from another bonk,
"Uh, let me put it this way, pally. 'ow close are you an' Foxy?"
"Oh, we're close. Very close. We're like this:" he showed two fingers together for all present to see.
"Uhm, let me ask this another way, Dale. 'ow close 'ave you two--er--*gotten* lately?" Dale thought about this for a moment, and that dreamy and blissful look crept onto his face again.
"Ahhh, I don't know which is better: me kissing her, her kissing me, or we kissing each other." Monterey shifted, obviously uncomfortable by the fact that they were speaking about this subject. Still, he had to make Dale see the light. Rubbing his fingers, he asked,
"Er--pally--when you do that--do you ever feel like getting--um--*closer*?" Dale looked at Monty, pondering the question and looking at him the same way he looked at Chip a moment ago. He then bonked *him* as hard as he could. Standing, he growled,
"Again with the dirty questions?" Monterey rubbed his head and fixed his leather cap. Annoyed, but concerned about Dale, he looked at him and insisted,
"*'ave* you?" Dale was more than annoyed with this interrogation, but seeing the more-than-serious look on Monterey's face calmed him down. Thinking for a moment, he quietly replied,
"Uh, well, sometimes."
"*Just* sometimes?" asked Chip. Dale, now getting more uncomfortable than annoyed, stammered,
"Well, uh, sure. It *has* crossed my mind, you know. I mean, that *happens*, doesn't it? I--It's a *guy* thing, right? It's not as if *you guys* never thought about it, right? And--and--I--I *have* felt it, but--hey, who hasn't? It--*has* crossed my mind lately--sometimes--" The insisting look of the guys made Dale even more nervous. "Okay, so it's been kinda-sorta happening often! But hey," here Dale stood straight, crossed his arms, and calmly declared, "I love Foxy, and I respect her. And I would *NEVER* do anything to hurt her, no sirree!! And I'll have you know that when it DOES cross my mind, I immediately back down and throw it out of my head! I guess it's been happening more often because it's spring, but I *should* calm down by June. At least that's what I thought last October--" Monty continued,
"Look, mate, it's great that you respect 'er, but you *do* know you've been wanting to get closer. An' by the looks of it, I think Foxy wants to get closer, too."
"She does? Well, I'm glad she shows plenty of self-control, too, then! Or what kind of girl do you think she is anyway?" Monterey rubbed one paw down his face, and "calmly" continued,
"We know she's one well bred lass, Dale, but what we're trying to tell you is that she wants both of you to get closer *legit* style."
"'Legit'? Ha! The only way *that* can happen is if we get--" Here, Dale was robbed of all manner of speech as his brain tumbled to a complete stop. His jaw sagged and his eyes nearly fell out of their sockets. The others, seeing that they had finally made Dale see the light, sighed in relief. Dale could be so simple-minded sometimes!
"She wants to get closer, mate, legit," repeated Monty. "After all, you *really* didn't expect 'er to be just your girlfriend for the rest of 'er life, now do ya?" Dale, with great difficulty, uncrossed his arms and tried to make his right paw find his head.
"Who could ask for anything *more*?" jingled Zipper. Dale felt as if the whole world had decided to lean on his back. Breathing with difficulty, as if he had forgotten how to do so, he began to stagger, trying to coordinate a trajectory to the nearest cushion before his legs shut down. Chip then stood and helped his friend sit back down. It was at this point when Chip's chest began burning. He had just helped convince his best friend that *his* girlfriend wanted to be *more* than just his girlfriend. Still, there was no turning back now. It was all up to Dale now. His powers of locution returned, but not totally functional,
"She wants--she wants----with me--only--me--" He was sweating profusely at this point, and by the way he was breathing, he appeared to have just run the Boston Marathon. Chip spoke,
"Look, Dale, we're sorry we had to break it to you this way. But, Foxy needs you, and she needs you badly. You don't have to decide this right now; you will have to think about this VERY thoroughly. And if you need help, well, we're here for you, pal. And--and--whatever you decide--whatever you two decide, I will back you up. You have changed a lot since she came back, Dale, and though it's been sorta eating at me, I see that it's all for the best of us--" For some reason a knot began forming in Chip's throat. "For the best--between us." Dale looked at his lifelong friend and, by default, "big brother". He was hurting, for some reason, from the look in his eyes. Calming down, finally, Dale replied,
"Oh, okay, Chip. I--I understand--I--think--I--think--no, I *don't* think--I want--I mean--I *do* want--but--*can* I----I mean I *can*, but----am I--am I--r--red----"
"Nobody's *totally* ready for this, pally," said Monterey. "But if you *really* know yore not, it's okay. Just be sure to tell Foxy that, mate."
"Uh--M--Monty--could you please--not use--the word--'mate'--right now?
Monterey smiled and chuckled, "Sorry, mate, won't do it again." Looking over to Chip, he saw that he was getting worried and pained about this. "Ah, don't worry, lad. Seen it a million times. Hey, this is *nothing* compared to what I went through before I proposed to Desirée."
"B-but--you did--but you never--"
"I know, Dale, but I doubt your chocolate problem will get in the way of you and Foxy. Think long an' hard about this, mate, but just don't take *too* long. I doubt she wants to waste anymore time than what she already 'as."
"Uh, thanks, Monty, and thanks--Chop--er--Chip. I REALLY have to figure this out, somehow. But first, could one of you guys remind me where my bed is supposed to be?"
A few nights later. . .
Dale was on his way down the hall, heading for Gadget's room, but just before he could step up and knock, the door flew open and Foxglove ran out, greeting him with a very interesting kiss. Shocked for one millisecond, Dale hugged her and returned the kiss. Parting 19 seconds later, Foxglove asked,
"Miss me, Darling? I could tell it was you coming just now. I just *love* the way your footpads sound when they bounce off the wood." Slightly embarrased, he replied,
"Uh, thanks, Foxy, I guess I'll never be able to sneak up on you like that. But you *do* have to stop doing that."
"Why, are you getting tired of it, Cutie?"
"Uh, no, I kinda like it, but--oh--never mind. You can sneak up on me as long as you want. Just be sure I'm not carrying explosives or anything fragile when you do that." Foxglove chuckled at this advice and replied, while scratching the top of Dale's head with her wingtips, making him giggle softly,
"You know I always echosound you before I come up to you, dear. And you know that I *like* what I hear." Blushing more than evidently *again* at this compliment, Dale tried to free himself from her wings, but Foxglove tightened her grip. "What, Dale? I *was* going to feed tonight again, but perhaps you would like *another* walk in the park?" Dale looked at her royal blue eyes and nearly fell into them. She was truly the most beautiful chiropterid he'd ever come across. And the fact that her heart was his alone was more than mindblowing. Yes, he wanted more, he knew that, but he had to do something first.
"Uh, not tonight, Foxy, I have a headache--I MEAN--no!! I DON'T have a headache! I mean--I would love to go out tonight, but, I have to do--something--and I need to ask Gadget something. She isn't asleep, is she?" Sagging slightly in disappointment, Foxglove replied,
"No, she's still awake." She then released him, and continued on her way. Noticing her disappointment, Dale said,
"But be sure to prepare for *tomorrow night*." Turning as her face lit up, she giggled in response,
"'Why, Dale, what are we gonna do *tomorrow night*?'"
"'The same thing we do *every* night, Foxy:'" and together they chanted,
"Try to take over the world!" And as was expected, they jingled together,
"They're Foxy, they're Foxy and the Dale, Dale, Dale, Dale, Dale!" They laughed for a moment, and Foxglove said,
"Well, then, good night, Cutie." She turned to leave again when Dale replied,
"Good night, Foxy. I love you with all my heart. Please don't ever forget that." Foxglove stopped and turned again. Looking at him with slight confusion, she stated,
"Dale, it's impossible for me to forget that you love me. You know that."
"Yes, I know--I----know." Dale said, slowly turning and looking at the floor. Seeing this, Foxy turned and left, and as she did, she thought, *He loves me more than anything, but he's NEVER going to propose! Never!* And with tears in her eyes, she flew away and began to feed.
Dale knocked on the door and Gadget opened it. By the way she was blushing she had obviously heard a significant part of the previous conversation.
"Y-yes, Dale?" she asked, trying to calm down.
"Uh, Gadget, could I use your workshop for tonight? I won't use any of your tools or blueprints or anything, just your worktable, and your pencil."
"Golly, Dale, I guess so, but if you just need the table, why don't you use the living room or kitchen table?"
"Well, I need to figure out a few things, and I figure, since *you* figure out a lot of stuff in your workshop, I thought maybe I could figure this out better over there." A very unusual request. Dale was most certainly *not* mechanically inclined, just *what* did he need to figure out?
"Do you want me to help you? I'm really good at figuring things out, Dale--"
"Uh--no! I kinda--need to do this myself." Reading the look on his face, Gadget asked,
"Do you think you'll need Chip or Monterey to help you?" Dale sighed and replied,
"I probably will, but I need to do as much of this by myself as I can." Gadget concluded that Dale had obviously been hit with a major equation, one that involved the HEART constant, or, *inconstant*, in his case. "Please? I promise I won't break anything. Not even the paper." She looked at him with sympathy and replied,
"All right, Dale. But be careful with my stuff, and--be careful with--your stuff. And I know you have a lot of questions right now, Dale. If you really need help with this, I am right next door, and the guys are down the hall."
"Thanks, Gadget. I'll try not to stay up all night. Good night." Dale turned and entered the workshop. *You _can_ figure it out, Dale*, she thought. *Do it for Foxy, and yourself.*
Dale looked at the large white sheet in front of him. His mind was as blank as that paper now. *Must be some cosmic joke that today is April Fool's Day,* he thought. *And nobody noticed it but me. I wonder if they actually miss my practical jokes. But to think that this just _happens_ to be the day I have to sort out how I _really_ feel about Foxy! But if I don't do this, I _could_ lose Foxy. Oh well, first thing's first:* He then scribbled his thoughts on the paper: *I love Foxy, she loves me, and she wants to marry me. Why? Because she wants "more". She wants to have my CUBS, for crying out loud! And with me, only me, for the rest of our lives. Does she think she's ready? I don't know. Do "I" want more? Well, yes. But do "I" want to marry her?*
His mind went blank again, as he honestly could not answer his own question.
He thus rephrased himself, *Do I really want her to have my cubs? Am I "ready" for cubs? Am I ready to keep her and protect her no matter what, for the rest of my life? "Can" I protect her? Can I raise our cubs?*
This line of questioning wasn't getting him anywhere, so he tried another aproach: *What does Foxy see in me? She says I'm cute, I'm handsome, I'm strong, I'm funny, I'm smart, I hate the bad guys, and I have one _heck_ of an echolocation profile--hmm, I wish I could echosound her back, just once--------*
Dale suddenly shook his head, bringing his mind back on what was important at this point.
*And what do I see in Foxy? She has beautiful eyes, a great body, silky fur, a lovely voice, she's learned new languages, she _also_ fights the bad guys--good thing, too--she can see things we can't, she's sweet, she's helpful, she's funny, too, she loves my movies and comics----we're a perfect match!! So--*
His mind trailed off again, this time due to uncertainty.
*Why can't I bring myself to propose to her? Chip would do it with Gadget in an _instant_! Why? Why??!!------* His mind drifted back to his early time with the Rangers, although his memories at this point, for some reason, were *not* the pleasant ones. Of practically every single case he screwed up, of when he deserted the others back in Paris and nearly killed them through his RamDale personality, of when he cracked under pressure inside that boot: "AH! I'm no leader!", of EVERY time Chip bonked him because he said or did something stupid--
*But Foxy doesn't think I'm stupid! And Chip told me I _have_ been changing. But, is RamDale gone? Do I _keep_ on screwing up? Why would Chip do it in an instant but not _me_?*
"Who says I would?" Dale nearly fell off his chair when he heard Chip behind him. Turning to face him, he chattered,
"When the hell did _you_ get in here? And how did you know what I was thinking?"
"Well, I got here from 'echolocation profile' And you mumble quite clearly, though your pawriting leaves a lot to be desired." He looked at the undecipherable scribbles in front of him. "I know I always seem confident of myself, but I would probably be going through the same thing you are if I had to propose to Gadget. You don't know how much I envy you, Dale. You have the love of your life, and she wants you--she wants to be with you--forever."
"I know. I want forever with her too, but--I don't know if I'm ready for forever."
Chip sighed. "Dale, what is it that you need to get ready?"
Dale thought for a minute, and sadly replied, "I don't know. I guess that's what I'm trying to figure out here. I mean, if we're perfect for each other, then why can't I bring myself to ask her? Why am I so afraid? What am I afraid of?"
"Well, let me see, do you think she's going to say no?"
"Then, if you know she won't reject you, then the problem is with you, I guess."
"AND I CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT IT IS," he growled, with his paws shaking. "Wait, you said you would have the same problem with Gadget. Why is that?"
"I guess because I would be scared of the decision itself, and the commitment it brings. It *is* forever, you know."
"But how would you know if you're ready?"
"I guess that is just something I would know when it happened. But back to you, Dale, you're not stupid. You just--say stupid things once in a while. And I don't think RamDale will come back, seeing he was just temporarily programmed in you. And while you *do* tend to get a little distracted now and then, you're smart, in your particularly goofy way. You still screw up, but no more than the rest of us now. And your randomness, well, that drives the bad guys crazy every time. I'm sure that your kids--" The knot and the burning were there again, "--that someday your cubs will be glad they have a dad like you. And you *have* gotten more serious lately, Dale, and I don't know if I should be happy or sad because of that. You were--you *are* a fun guy to be with----" Chip could say no more at this point. He stood and headed for the door, trying to keep his emotions in check. Before he left, he turned and said,
"You're the best thing that happened to--all of us, Dale, and the most excellent thing that happened to Foxy. And only *you* can make it into something even *more* wonderful." Chip then left Dale alone again. For some reason, Dale felt even more confused than ever. He continued scribbling,
*I've gotten serious? Zowie, I never noticed that! I *always* thought I was the clown of this gang--*
*Ohhhh!!!!! I think that, inside, I'm still a cub myself! No wonder I don't feel ready! But still, if I *am* getting serious, then that's a good thing! So all I need to do is wait until I no longer act like a clown and *then* I'll pop her the question!*
"I don't think she can wait that long, mate." This time, Dale *did* fall out of his chair at the sound of Monterey's deep voice. He and Zipper helped him up.
"Let me guess, you came in right after 'serious', right?" he asked, as he sat down again.
"Too right, pally! Chipper here told us it was our turn to 'elp you with yer problem."
"Uh, thanks, Monty, but I think I already figured out my problem."
"No, you 'aven't, lad! You can't change who you really are inside. I know that I called you once our 'comedy relief', and I'm mighty sorry I did so. But don't go calling yerself a clown. Yer more than a clown. Yer a top-notch comedian/detective/Rescue Ranger/Romeo/entertainment expert! Per'aps yer now focusing on the detective part, but please don't get rid of the comedian part. Foxy loves every single one of those things, an' you'd not only be killing a part of yerself, but a part of *'erself* too." Zipper buzzed,
"You're just nervous about the whole thing. Just ask her!"
"Yeah? Well, I'd like to see you do the same with Queenie!" Zipper blushed for a moment, but Monterey continued,
"Look, Dale. I told you I went through the same thing with Desirée. As tough as I look, I was as weak as curds when it came to asking 'er. I was prob'ly even more scared than you are now. But I gathered my nerve, set up a romantic atmosphere, and asked 'er. It's difficult, but I know you can do it." Dale pondered some more. It all added up, so it seemed.
"All right, Monty. I guess I *am* terrified, but then, Foxy might be too. I will gather up the nerve, and then I will ask her."
"That's me pally! 'ey, do you want me to 'elp you set it up? I could cook a mighty romantic dinner for you two--"
"Uh--well, sure! But--wait 'till I ask you to. I'm gonna need some time to gather the nerve, and I'm gonna need all the nerve I can get. And when you make our dinner, *try* to go light on the cheese, will ya?"
"I will. C'mon, Zip, looks like our job 'ere is done." Monterey and Zipper left Dale alone. Dale pondered on his scribblings so much that he did not hear the high five just outside. It all added up. It was here and now, and nothing could be more perfect for him and Foxglove. It was *so* perfect.
And Dale had never felt more terrified in his life because of that.
** ...But Dale had also made up his mind to break his silence and get the suspense over with. . . **
And he did. But now let's move to the opening scene:
** Night had fallen in the park and the Rescue Rangers, who had just wrapped up a tough case, were preparing for a well earned leisurely supper. The chipmunks, Gadget, and Zipper had agreed among themselves to set to work at once in the kitchen before Monterey Jack could protest, so that they could have something besides cheese. It was while they were all busy preparing dishes and shouting among themselves in the kitchen (so as not to have to argue with Monty) that Foxglove, who had just awakened from a long day's sleep, stumbled yawning into the room and accidentally bumped into Dale. The two started, eyed each other with alarm, and hastily exited, each by a different way. **
Let's make that just a trifle humorous:
It was while they were all busy preparing dishes and shouting among themselves in the kitchen (so as not to have to argue with Monty) that Foxglove, who had just awakened from a long day's sleep, stumbled yawning into the room and accidentally bumped into Dale, *lips first*. And since both had their mouths open at this point, Foxglove from yawning and Dale from saying, "Well, I--" . . .
Well . . . it was so sudden, so unexpected, so natural, so loving, so passionate, so automatic, so *right*, that neither of them was 100% conscious of what they were doing. With all manner of logical thinking now so suddenly shut down, they instantly and instinctively locked out their audience and surroundings and began embracing. It was not until they heard four collective gasps and a cacerole clanging on the floor that they broke with a start. They eyed each other with alarm and hastily exited, each by a different way. Monterey picked up the cacerole he had deliberatly dropped and commented,
"Couldn't 'ave 'appened to a nicer couple, mates."
And now, on to our feature presentation:
** Just then the crowd heard the sound of a motor and propellers above them, and they all instinctively moved aside so that the Ranger Wing could land, with Gadget at the controls. The Rangers and their friends [were] very glad to see her, with the possible exception of Tammy. But what really surprised those who knew here was that she was wearing a DRESS!!!
"Hi, guys!" It was her usual greeting and quite fitting for the occasion, they all thought. She was introduced to Phinehas and Otis, was overjoyed to find Midge there, and made it a special point to speak to Tammy and her family. After she had made the rounds, so to speak, four more animals stepped up from the crowd.
Both chipmunks turned and gasped with delight and joy when they saw--
"Mom! Dad!" they both exclaimed, running to embrace their parents.
"Oh, Dale, we're so happy for you!" cried his mother.
"Chip, son, I'm so glad to see you again! You don't know how worried me and your mother have been ever since you took this line of work!"
"Well, 'it's a dirty job, but--' well, you know the rest, dad." They then turned to the other Rangers and made the introductions. Dale began,
"Guys, this is my father, Pierre, and my mother, Dalee." Pierre, a tough looking 'munk, had a black nose and buck teeth, with a hint of silver in his fur. Dalee's incisors were straight, but her nose was reddish-pink, and her fur was Dale's exact shade.
"Pleased to met ya, Mr. and Mrs. Oakmont," said Monterey, shaking paws.
"No need to be so formal," said Pierre. "Any friend of Dale is a friend of ours. You must be Monetrrey Jack, and Zipper, I believe."
"And this is my dad, Chap, and my mom, Nikoma." Chap was practically a carbon-copy of Chip, just more silvery and wrinkled around the eyes. Nikoma was more gray than brown, and she had green eyes. Both sets of parents had also dressed formally for the occasion.
"Mr. and Mrs. Maplewood, I've heard so much about you!" said Gadget, shaking their paws.
"Ah, the lovely Gadget Hackwrench, I presume!" said Nikoma. "Hey, son, you were right! She really IS an *interesting* item!!"
"Mother--" said Chip with clenched teeth. Both he and Gadget blushed more than noticeably.
"Uncle Phinehas! I'm surprised you made it on time!" said Chap.
"Ah, put a sock in it, boy. I wouldn't have needed to get up so early if these kids hadn't decided to have the ceremony so far from civilization!"
"Pierre, 'uh? But yore not French, I take it?" asked Monty.
"No, we're all natives. It's just that my great-grandfather had a lot of contact with French settlers, so he took their name, I suppose. Dale, me and your mom are really proud. Here you are, a Rescue Ranger, and you're finally taking the plunge. Foxglove is a really lucky bat, and from what you've said about her in your letters, you're one lucky Oakmont, too."
"And it was about time, too!" added Dalee. "ALL of our neighbors are showing off their grandcubs, making us look bad! I hope your line of work won't get *too* much in the way of that!" It was Dale's turn to blush.
"I hope so, too," he replied, sheepishly.
"Oh, Chip, NOW do you see the situation you've put us in?" asked Nikoma. "Preety soon, WE will be the only ones in our part of the forest *without* grandcubs! And with you in the line of fire everyday, well, you wouldn't want the Maplewood line to die out, would you?"
"Uhm, mom," he said, obviously annoyed. "I would be more than happy to give you grandcubs, but," he turned them aside and whispered, "the *other* party is not exactly cooperating at this point in time," nodding his head toward Gadget.
"Oh, nonsense, boy!" blurted Chap. "You've got the dashing looks of your sire and grandsire, you're everything you can be, and if the other *party* doesn't cooper--"
"SHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" he hissed. "I AM working on it, dad! Just be patient!"
"Patient???!!! We've been patient for the better part of two decades--"
"Anyone 'ere getting married? You'd better 'ave good food after this shindig!! An' it 'ad better be with cheese!!!" They all turned and saw none other than Cheddarhead Charlie!! He was suddenly shoved aside--
"Ah, pipe down, ya big lug! 'ey, mates, you'd better keep an eye on this bloke afore 'e cleans out all the cheese from yore tables!"
"MOM! DAD!" exclaimed Monterey, running to hug them. "But--I thought you two were in Kenya and Samoa!"
Cheddarhead explained, "Well, I WAS in Samoa albratross-wresting when a nice gerbil lass came and asked me if I was yore dad. She told me that with 'er computer she talked to someone 'ere in York and she said that a Rescue Ranger was getting 'itched. I came 'ere as fast as I could, but when I saw the papers an' saw that it wasn't *you*, I was mighty disappointed. Still, I'm 'appy for yore friend, 'ere."
"An' I got tired of playing make-the-inbred-lion-drool-oops-'e-already-is, back in Kenya, so I went to the city an' picked up a paper. Ya know the rest. Dale, me lad, I don't know whether to congratulate you on yore wedding or call you crazy for marring a bat!"
"That's all right, Monty," said Dale. "I knew there would be opinions, but I decided not to let them get to me." Canberra Kate then turned to Monty and slapped the back of his head.
"Now *WHY* can't ya be like that, Monty? If it wasn't enough that you blew it with that French lass, you look like you REALLY like to take yore time with this!! An' at this point, I wouldn't mind if you married a *lizard*, jus' as long as we knew you were in good paws!!" Now it was Monterey's turn to blush.
"Mom, dad, I'm getting to that. Really--" The parents introduced each other, and as they were doing so, a knot began forming in *Gadget's* throat now. While she was more than happy for Dale and Foxglove, the sight of everyone else's parents was almost more than she could take. With no one of her bloodline present, she just couldn't help but feel cheated, even if this was a happy occasion for the family that "adopted" her.
"You don't look too happy for Dale." Startled, Gadget stuttered,
"Huh? Oh, golly, Mr. Maplewood, uh, I AM happy for Dale. It's just that--that--"
"I know, child, I know. Chip told me what happened. I can only imagine what you went through, and what you're going through now. But, here's a happy thought: How's about you having *us* as your parents?"
"DAD!!!!!!" screamed the *other* Mr. Maplewood. Dale turned to him and whispered,
"That would then make her your *sister*, Maplewood!!" He then received a well deserved bonk for that remark.
"Now, now, son, take it easy," said Chap. "I was merely telling your friend she could 'borrow' us whenever she should need a mother or father."
"Oh, golly, Mr. Maplewood--"
"Call me 'dad'." Chip slapped his forehead and wiped his face in tremendous embarrasment.
"Mr. Maplewood, I just couldn't. I *really* appreciate your offer, but I don't think it would be convenient, for me--or Chip."
"Nonsense, Gadget babe!" said Nikoma. "While we never had a daughter, we would *love* to have you as part of the family, even if it *is* only in a 'rent-a-parent' basis."
"Just trying to help you out, son," said Chap, aside.
"Well, you're NOT," he growled in response, with one paw still covering his mouth.
"Mr. Maplewood, it's just too much, too soon, really. But I *will* give it some thought." Zipper then asked her something in his high, squeaky voice, to which Gadget replied, "Where was I all this time? Well, I realized after Foxy and I got here that I'd forgotten the cassette player and music I had picked out--and no, Dale, it's not that one--and so I went back for it. Then as soon as I got it I realized that Dale's wedding is a special enough occasion to wear something special, so I changed clothes. And as for the Ranger Wing, I needed to save time getting back here and besides, I thought Dale and Foxy could have it after the service and the rest of us would fly back in the Ranger Plane . . . if you know what I mean!" She winked at Dale, who appreciated her thoughtfulness. Then she asked something that made them all feel uncomfortable. "Er . . . where is Foxy?"
Dale immediately snapped out of his reverie and began to panic. "Isn't she with you?" he asked in a voice full of anxiety.
"No. I thought she'd be with you guys. Hmmm," she added, "maybe she's still down by the pond where I left her," and she turned her steps that way, the crowd following her. It took her no time to return to the exact spot, but Foxglove was not there. That was bad enough. But even worse was what was there. On the very edge of the pond was a flurry of footprints that could not be clearly made out, as though some sort of struggle had taken place. And on the dry ground just beyond the mud lay a very fancy envelope. Dale snatched it up at once and found "The Rescue Rangers" written on the front in calligraphy and an old-fashioned seal on the back holding it shut. He tore the envelope open to find a very expensive looking card that had "On Your Wedding" written in glitter on the front, but the inside of the card had no printed message, being one of those on which the sender writes his own thoughts. It was this that brought him to the pinnacle of despair, for on it in the same beautiful manuscript as appeared on the envelope were the words "You know the place" and a pawprint in ink. There was no doubt whatsoever about what it meant, and Dale let the card drop out of his hands and after remaining immobile for what seemed like a very long time fainted dead away . . .
* * *
. . . When Dale came to, he found himself lying face up on the couch with the other Rangers, Tammy, and Midge gathered around him with worried expressions. . . **
Let's break off to the tangent right here:
When Dale came to, he found himself lying face up on the couch with Tammy, Midge, Otis, his parents, Chip's parents, Monty's parents, and Phinehas gathered around him with worried expressions.
"Wh-what happened?" he asked in an unsteady voice.
"You don't remember?" Midge asked him. Dale knew that he was feeling terrible about something, but he just couldn't remember what it was. But when he saw Midge, Phinehas, his parents, Chip's parents, and Monty's parents, he recalled the reason for them being there and soon recollection returned in full, and with it all the emotions connected with it.
"Foxy!" Dale shouted, "Fat Cat's got her! We've got to rescue her, Chip, we've just got to--uh--where are the others?" Tammy replied,
"They took the Ranger Plane and went to rescue her as soon as you fainted. Mom took Bink back home, and Chip told us to bring you back here and make sure you were fine, and that--you--wouldn't do something crazy."
"CRAZY??!!" he yelled, sitting up and attempting to stand. Pierre and Cheddarhead held him back, though. "WHY WOULD ANYONE THINK I WOULD DO SOMETHING CRAZY??!! AFTER ALL, THE MOST EVIL CAT IN THE WORLD JUST KIDNAPPED MY FUTURE WIFE AND I PASSED OUT BECAUSE OF THAT AND NOW I AM BEING HELD CAPTIVE BY A TEENAGE SQUIRREL, FIVE OLD CHIPMUNKS, TWO RATS, AND A BLUE SWALLOW WHILE MY OTHER FRIENDS GO AND RESCUE HER AND LEAVE ME OUT OF IT!!!!!!!! YOU KNOW THAT'S NOT ENOUGH TO DRIVE ME CRAZY, TAMMY!!!!!!!!" Here, Phinehas stepped up and connected a swift back-paw on Dale's face. He was strong for an old chipmunk. Dale, having his head reinstalled by this, breathed calmly and slowly.
"Uh, sorry, Tammy, I--I--didn't mean to yell at you. And--thanks, Phinehas. Now I see why Chip left me behind."
"Trust me, sonny, this 'old chipmunk' knows that a chipmunk gone berzerk is not only a danger to others, but to himself as well."
"Oh, Dale, we're so sorry that this happened to you on your wedding night," cried Dalee. Dale calmed down at the sound of his mother's sad voice--
But then he saw *Otis* standing in front of him.
His very species brought the emotions and pain back with a vengeance.
"And what the hell are *you* doing here?" he asked insolently. Otis, feeling a trifle self-conscious, stuttered,
"Uh, well, I--sorta felt worried for you too, Dale--and seeing you would be s-s-orta joining our kin--well--it *is* our duty to protect one another. I told Chip I could round up every single bat in New York to help you guys, but he refused. The others also offered their help, but he said the Rangers knew the enemy very well, and--that we could cause more harm than good. So, instead, I asked him if I too could stay here and look after you." Dale once again felt embarrased by his incivility. But still, he knew Chip had made the right decision. They simply could *not* waste any time in rescuing Foxglove, and they *knew* all about his random behaviour, and how unpredictable he could get in such a situation like this. Even so, he just couldn't sit here and do nothing. His face then turned to stone, and in the most serious voice he had ever generated, to his surprise, too, he asked the bat,
"Otis, can you *really* gather every single bat in New York City?" Stunned for a moment at his tone of voice, along with everyone else, he replied,
"Y-yes, but I don't think Chip will--"
"How soon can they come?"
"Well--i--in about twenty minutes. But you--"
"And how long have I been out?"
"Ten minutes," replied Tammy. "Dale--" The chipmunk slowly stood and eyed the young squirrel. It was doubtful that more pain, fury, shock, terror, hatred, worry, insanity, and, why not, passion, could have come out of those eyes. She cowered as she realised Dale had made up his mind. The chipmunk then eyed each of the others as well as he calmly declared,
"Chip always told me I was the crazy one, the clown. Well, then, that cat just honked this clown's nose one time too many. Tammy, I'm gonna need your help in--"
"Sorry, Dale, but Chip told me to stay behind and prepare a bed with first ai--" Tammy choked on her own words as the full seriousness of the situation suddenly hit her. Dale continued.
"Okay, okay, you--do that. Although I hope we won't need it." He turned to the elders, "Guys, I think you'd better stay here with her--"
"Oh, no you don't lad!" said Cheddarhead, standing and locking eyes with him."Chipper told us you'd go crazy enough to do somethin' like this! That's why we're 'ere: 'e *knew* it'd take ALL of us to keep ya 'ere and make sure you didn't go bonkers!"
"That was a stupid cartoon--"
Canberra pleaded, "Please, Dale, if ya *really* love Foxy, don't run off and screw everything up like you always--" Dale also made eye contact with her. For two huge mice, they, too, cowered at Dale's gaze. So, *that* was the reason they left him behind. They knew he would try and come to the rescue, and knowing Dale, something was practically *always* sure to go wrong whenever he was involved, especially in a situation such as this. They *couldn't* let him take a risk that could put Foxglove's life in more danger than she already was--
Dale was hazardous to Foxy's health?
Enfuriating at his own clumsiness and incompetence (even though they had diminished since last year), his eyes yellowed and his fur darkened. Was smoke coming out of his ears?
"NO," he snarled. "NOT THIS TIME. THIS TIME I WON'T MESS UP. NOT WHEN FOXY'S INVOLVED. FAT CAT, THIS TIME IT'S ****PERSONAL****. I AM GOING TO HELP HER, AND **NOBODY** BETTER TRY TO STOP ME. AND GOD HELP ME, IF I GET BUT ***ONE*** CHANCE TO KILL THAT CAT, THEN *I* *WILL* *KILL* *HIM*." Startled at his own words, Dale shivered slightly, and added, more calmly,"Er--as I was saying, you'd all better stay here with Tammy--"
"No," said Pierre, eyes flashing, standing to meet his son's gaze. "Not when our new daughter is in such danger. We're coming with you, son." Cheddarhead added,
"Well, mate, since you made up yore mind, an' if we can't stop ye, we might as well come too."
"And *we're* not missing any of the fun, either!" added Chap. "Chip always told us about the excitement of the rescue, so I think it's fitting that we experience that, too!" Dale turned to them and said,
"That's great, but the problem is that none of you know how to fly the Ranger Wing, and only *I* know how to hang-glide. I am the one with the most 'rescue' experiece here, you know. *I*--have to do this." They all looked at him with sadness for a moment, and then Pierre said.
"Okay. We will stay here and--and--help Tammy out a bit."
"Thanks, dad. Midge, Otis. . ."
* * *
It was a warm May night just past the full moon, and a night they otherwise would have enjoyed. But a single thought coursed through their minds this night, and that was to save their friend. Again no words were spoken. In this manner, and with the Ranger Plane going full speed, they arrived soon enough at their destination, the statue atop the Happy Tom cat food factory.
The decision to use the Ranger Plane had been a good one, for now they could forego landing in what might have been plain sight in favor of perching just beneath the surface of the roof, thanks to the two plungers it used for landing gear. With stealthy springs (except for Zipper, for whom such tactics were unnecessary) the Rangers were on the roof itself, Gadget leading the way with her weapon at the ready, and Monty close behind with his sleeves rolled up. And without Dale along to show off his heroics with no thought whatsoever by charging straight in right there and then, things appeared to be going smoothly.
They slowly made their way to the entrance to Fat Cat's headquarters, located at the base of the head of the cat statue. They stopped just outside the small opening and looked at one another in silence. They knew there was probably a trap inside waiting for them, but they did not want to give themselves away by speaking. After this fleeting exchange of glances they entered to meet their fate.
Once inside the statue's head they found it very dark indeed. There was some faint illumination filtering in through the narrow neck from the body, but even to rodent eyes it proved of very little use in seeing their surroundings. They knew of course that it was toward these lights that they must go; it was the place where the kingpin of feline crime held court, and they had been there before. But the darkness and silence of the place, combined with the perilous situation in which they knew their innocent friend to be, gave them all an especially somber feeling. It seemed that this time their arch-nemesis intended to settle matters once and for all.
Despite the small amount of information provided by two of their senses, a third told them loudly and clearly of the danger they were in.
"Guys," Gadget whispered, "I can smell them! They're in here!"
"Stay close to the walls, guys," replied Chip. "And don't make any sudden movements!" Slowly, they moved to the wall on their right, still headed for the faint lights.
"Can you see 'her, mates?" asked Monty.
"No, I don--"
A horrified gasp shot through Gadget's throat.
There, for all to see, not too plainly, however, was a bat hanging from the ceiling,
*held by a long, thin rope*.
Horror ripped through the Rangers' hearts at this sight. Chip could not bring himself to think what he would tell Dale, or what would have happened if he had been here to see this. Speechless, the four of them walked toward the hanging shape. A closer inspection brought welcome gasps of relief when they saw that the rope was *not* around the bat's neck. Instead, it bound the wings together, rendering it momentarily flightless.
"Looks like she's out cold, I hope," whispered Chip. "Guys, they're in here, all right, but I don't think they've seen us. They would have been all over us by now. Gadget, can you snap the rope with the plunger?"
"Sure thing, Chip. Guys, get ready to catch her and run for your lives!" The mouse raised her plunger harpoon, drew a bead on where she calculated was the weakest point of the thin rope, and fired. The plunger snapped the rope, and the bat fell down. Catching her, Chip and Monty suddenly gasped. It wasn't Foxglove. It was a rag dummy! And before anyone could do anything about this, something fell on them at this point, something elastic. Then, it was pulled up from under them, knocking them off their feet. And almost as suddenly as they had felt the net tighten around them they felt themselves lifted off the floor and suspended horizontally as wicked laughter assaulted their ears.
"Well boys, what did I tell you?" the familiar voice cooed in triumph, "the simpler the plan, the greater its chances of success!" Then the Rangers found themselves being carried into the body of the cat. Another light switched on now, and they all could clearly see Fat Cat holding them in the net with his right paw, and with an unconscious Foxglove in his left.
* * *
Fat Cat, too, knew his enemy well, and so he knew that they would come to free the bat. So even before the actual kidnapping he had already begun setting up this trap. Knocking the bat out was easy, one swift rap on the head was enough. He also knew that the Rangers would be counting on him having stashed her in a cage of some sorts, but he decided to have some fun and let them sweat at the thought he had hanged her, while he had been grabbing her all this time. There were just a couple of electrical lights here, and Wart, good climber that he was, reached them and smashed them with a small mallet. To Fat Cat's thinking they served no real purpose anyway, and their light at this time was an obstruction to his plans. If the humans thought they were so important, they could fix them later. And with all his cronies waiting for the right moment to pull on the net, it almost amazed him that this time his plan had been accomplished without any flaws whatsoever. Besides, those "Rescue Rodents" would not leave without making every attempt to free their friend. It was a weakness to be counted upon among good guys! All the same, Gadget's whisper at having caught their odor caused him much concern, but with everyone holding their positions and not making a sound, the trap was sprung successfuly. It was at this point that Fat Cat issued his cry of victory and the hearts of the Rangers fell. It seemed that they were doomed after all, the five of them, at least.
"Now, we need everyone to be fully aware of what is coming up next," said the obese feline. He stepped up to a fishbowl, and dunked poor Foxy in it. Pulling her out one second later, he shook off the excess water while Foxglove coughed and gasped her way back to consciousness. The others cringed in fear and rage at this sight. Dale was more than lucky not to be here to see this. Foxglove took deep breaths and slowly assessed her situation.
"Foxy, are you all right? Has he hurt you?" asked Chip.
"No, Chip-cough!-I'm fine, except for a headache-wheeze--!" Chip was sorely glad Dale was not seeing this. Looking at her captor, Foxglove deduced who he was.
"Fat Cat! How dare you do this to me! Just you wait, the Rescue Rangers are gonna come and give you what you--" It was here when Foxglove saw *where* the other Rangers were at this point. Gadget said,
"Sorry, Foxy, we appear to have a small problem. But don't you worry! We've been in this predicament before and we've always gotten out! We'll rescue you yet!"
"Too right!" Monterey Jack joined in, "that tubby tabby hasn't seen the day he can outsmart the Rescue Rangers!"
"I don't think so," Fat Cat responded confidently, "though I give you an 'A' for effort in trying to cheer up the young bride. You see," he continued, "I have always made one mistake when dealing with you vermin. I have always put you aside for later while attending to more urgent matters. But this time *you* are the urgent matter. And much as I'd like to exercise my creativity in designing appropriately inhumane deaths for you all, I have built my empire on one single, simple principal: never let emotions interfere with purely business decisions. So," he said, holding the helpless Rangers even with his malicious gaze, "I have decided that the only way to get rid of you once and for all is to kill you all myself, RIGHT NOW!"
"WAIT!" Chip had been silent, but now his voice rang out loud and clear. "Fat Cat, I have a deal to offer you."
"A deal?" Fat Cat asked in a tone of disbelief, "you, my friend, are in no position to offer a deal to anyone!"
"Just hear me out!" Chip said, "I think you will find it quite satisfactory!"
"Now you have me interested, rodent! What is this 'deal?'"
Chip drew a deep breath. "I'm the one you really want," he said. "I'm the leader of the Rescue Rangers. The whole thing was my idea. I'm the one who's always had to be the hot shot crime fighter. So my deal is this. Let the others go. All of them. They'll disband the Rescue Rangers and never bother you again. And in return . . ." and here he swallowed audibly, "you get me. My life in exchange for theirs. Or at least let Foxglove go. She never did anything to you. Deal?"
Naturally when Chip said this there was a gasp from the other Rangers, followed by protests from each of them. "NO, pally!" Monty exclaimed. "Chip, what do you think you're doing??!!" screeched Foxglove. Zipper buzzed in disbelief. Meanwhile Gadget turned to him with eyes full of tears and said, "CHIP! You can't mean that! We won't be able to go on without you! We . . . *I* won't be able to go on without you! Don't do this! Please!!!"
"Sorry, gang, but I'm the leader and I make the decisions!" he told them, "including this final one. Well, Fat Cat? What do you say?"
"Now that is an interesting proposition!" Fat Cat said, obviously taunting him, "let me think about it. Now let's see! Hmmmmmmm . . . NO!!! And now that we are all happily reunited, we shall *all* go down at once: the bride, the groom, the bride's mate, the best man--" Fat Cat suddenly stopped and inspected the net more closely. It wasn't as heavy as he thought it would be. Running some figures through his head, and then shaking the net and twirling it around to make sure he was counting correctly, he came to realise something. Holding up the net to his face, he growled at the now somewhat groggy and slightly bruised Rangers,
"All right, where is he??!!"
"Where's who?" asked a very dizzy Zipper. Foxglove had also scanned the net and didn't know whether she should be happy or scared at this piece of information.
"Where's Dale?" she asked.
"HIM!!" roared Fat Cat. "That vermin red-nosed groom! Mepps, Wart, Mole, Snout, search the compound! He must have escaped, somehow!!"
"All, right, Dale!!" cried Foxglove. She then echosounded the room as best she could, also looking for her mate. But when the familiar and sensual profile did *not* reach her ears, she turned to the Rangers. "He's not--" The others clumsily held their fingers to their mouths, and Foxglove held her peace. But the look on her face clearly communicated that she wanted to know where he was, why he wasn't here, and what the others were planning. After intense searching and sniffing, Mepps whined,
"Boss, I don't think he's here!"
"Oh, he's here, all right. After all, I am sure your boyfriend would more than want to be in your little rescue operation, right, bat?" Foxglove turned to her captor and looked at him with the most dangerous gaze she could conjure,
"You'll never find him. And you'd better let us go before something awful happens to you."
"My dear, the only 'awful' thing that will be happening will be happening to YOU if he doesn't show his face!!" He then stood straight and called out, "All right, you miserable rodent, we ALL know you are in here! And while you're hiding very well, I can say that it will NOT do any good for your friends! After all, you're but one and I have the rest in my claws! So, you have exactly TEN SECONDS to show yourself!! And if you don't, I am going to eat your bride right here in front of you!" This was too much now.
"He's not here, Fat Cat!!!" screamed Chip, finally. "He collapsed when he saw what happened, and we left him behind!! He'll probably be out cold for the rest of the night!!!"
"He DID??" asked Foxglove, in total surprise. Fat Cat looked at Chip with mock pity.
"And do you *reallly* expect me to believe that?? TEN--" Foxglove realised that she *had* to buy time somehow--perhaps she could bluff her way out!
"Mr. Fat Cat, you'd better not eat me," she warned.
"And why is that, Madam?" he asked in an amused tone.
"If you eat me you'll go crazy and die!" she said, all the time thinking *I can't believe I'm doing this!*
"You look perfectly healthy to me!" Fat Cat responded, still amused.
"But it's true! It's been in all the papers," she added.
"My dear, the only thing in the papers germane to your situation is the background they all gave of you. That's how I knew how to appeal to your daughterly instincts," he said with satisfaction, not seeming to care a whit about the cruelty of his trick. The Rangers looked at Foxglove in surprise, who then explained,
"He sent me a letter that supposedly was from a bat who thought I was his daughter. I--I--fell for it." She sniffed back a tear of shame at her weakness. Gadget cringed upon hearing this. This whole situation was *her* fault! Foxglove suddenly snapped out of her reverie and continued her ploy, though she now thoroughly realized the danger of the game she was playing.
"You'd better take my advice," she said with the greatest sincerity, "if you eat me you'll die within forty-eight hours! You know how much faster bat rabies works than any other kind."
"Really?" Mepps asked, beginning to become concerned, "why is that, Boss?"
"'Cause it's magic!" Foxglove answered him before Fat Cat could respond.
"Gee, Fat Cat," Mepps said, "maybe we'd better do what she says!"
"I've done research on that, Fat Cat," added Gadget, playing along with Foxglove, hoping she could make up for her mistake somehow. "And it's 100% true. In fact, we had to give Dale an immune shot just so he could kiss her on the cheek. It took us a whole year to make just one milliliter, *that's* why they didn't get married sooner."
"Oh, shut up, rodent!" Fat Cat growled at her. Then he turned to Foxglove again. "I know what you're doing," he told her in a voice that made his displeasure quite clear, "and it won't work. I am going to eat you. Please don't bring something even more unpleasant upon yourself."
This frightened Foxy even more and made her resort to even more desperate measures. "Then after you die you'll come back and be my slave and have to do everything I say," she said. "Don't you ever watch the late show?" Meanwhile, within herself she was giving the great-granddaddy of all winces.
"*After* I've eaten you? Now you are getting pathetic! I would not have expected such illogical thinking, even from a woman with the poor judgment to want to marry one of those rodents," he said patronizingly.
She put on her best Christmas-orphan expression. "I'll make you be good," she warned.
"I'll make you be sweet."
"ENOUGH!" he roared, "My patience with you is over! You will neither save your own life nor distract me from attending to your boyfriend! Now since your job as the bait in this trap has already been completed, I advise you to be quiet! After all, I don't really need you any more! Now, where were we? NINE!!!!!"
"QUIET, MEPPS!!! EIGHT!!!!!!" Did Foxglove hear something at this point?
"B-Boss--" Fat Cat growled at the lanky cat,
"Mepps, don't interrupt me again! SIX!!!!" Snout and Wart turned pale at this point, too.
"You're as good as dead--uuuuuggghhhhhh!!!!!!" said Foxglove, with sudden confidence in her voice. The Rangers could only look in awe and surprise at Foxy's sudden change of attitude. But then they all cringed as Fat Cat eyed her and tightened his grip, squeezing nine-tenths of the wind out of Foxglove.
"No, my dear, YOU are. FOUR!!!!!!!!!!"
"Uh, Boss, I think that--"
"SHUT UP, WART. THREE!!!!!!"
"I DON'T NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU, EITHER, SNOUT. TWO!!!!!!" Foxglove now eyed him with contempt, though her eyes and cheeks were bulging due to the cat's grip. "I MEAN IT, RODENT!!! SEE, I AM OPENING MY MOUTH *REALLY WIDE*!! ONE!!!!!!!!!!!" Instinctively, she was about to bite him when they all heard,
"You're as good as dead, fatso."
They all turned and saw Dale standing behind the group. Never had they seen his face so stone-like, not even with RamDale. Dale looked at Fat Cat in such a way that it even made *him* quite uncomfortable.
"Oooh, *you're* quite a brave one, rodent," he said coolly, in a quick recovery. "And I see that you've finally decided to show yourself. That was smart of you, after all, you *really* would not have wanted your *lovely* bride to have ended up as cat food, not after all *you've* been through." Dale then began walking toward the feline, in a very definitely defiant stride.
"Fat Cat, *you* have exactly five seconds to release my friends, before a slow death comes on you and your thugs." His voice was unbelievably dangerous.
"Not now, Wart! Well, if it isn't the bravest rodent in the world, walking toward *his* own death, in a futile attempt to save his friends and his never-to-be wife!"
"Dale, get outta here!" yelled Chip. Dale ignored him.
"I mean it, Fat Cat," he continued walking. "If you don't let them go, you are going to die the slowest and most painful death possible." If Fat Cat had known Dale more personally, he would have immediately released the Rangers and Foxglove at this point. The others who did, however, knew that by the look on Dale's face, one they had never seen before, he was very much intent on killing Fat Cat, somehow. The cronies then began encroaching the kingpin, as if looking for protection.
"You morons!" he growled at their behaviour. "Can't you see he's bluffing??!! *He* can't do anything to us!!"
"B-Boss--?" Mepps whined as if he was about to be run over by a semi. Fat Cat looked at him and was about to yell at him, but when he saw the look on Mepps' face, he wondered just *what* had him so pale-scared and all. It couldn't be the chipmunk, for there was only one with no weapons whatsoever. Then he noticed Mepps was looking at the ceiling. Looking at the others, they were *also* looking at the ceiling, pale, speechless, and horrified like never before. So, Fat Cat looked at the ceiling----
Covering every single square millimeter of the ceiling, were BATS, all looking at him with dark eyes, smiling evilly.
The Rangers also looked up, and smiled.
Eerie laughs began resonating thoughout the compound, echoing in cowardly heads down to cowardly hearts.
Fat Cat was now robbed of all speech, and all his blood pooled in his foot-paws.
"You're right, Fat Cat, *I* can't do anything to you. I *can* however, order my soon-to-be extended family to start hitting you and your cronies with every drop of SPIT they have. Would you like me to do that?" Fat Cat, still looking at the sea of bats above him, very slowly, put down Foxglove and the net containing the Rangers. Foxglove fell over, free of Fat Cat's constrictor-like grip but with little blood in her extremities now. Otis and Midge flew over and helped the Rangers out of the net. Monterey and Chip ran over to Foxglove, hoisted her on their shoulders, and carried her over to Dale. Embracing her, he held her steady as she tried to catch her breath again. Her fur was damp, for some reason.
Momentarily shocked at the fact that Foxy might *actually* be injured, Dale chattered, "Fat Cat, you didn't do something as crazy as hurting my future wife, did you now?"
"Well, Dale," replied Foxy, wincing as she tried to get blood circulating in her wings again. "SOMEONE did hit me on the head, I can't say it was him, but he DID dunk me in a fishbowl and nearly squeezed the guts right out of me." Dale's eyes narrowed when he heard this.
"Oh, did he, now? Guys, could you help me, here?" The Rangers stepped up to him and he handed Foxglove over to them. He then approached the petrified feline and chanted, "Oh, Faaaatsoooo--" Fat Cat looked down and saw Dale motioning him with a finger to come closer. Trembling, Fat Cat knelt and brought his face down to match Dale's height. And though Dale was totally unarmed, the fierceness in his eyes made Fat Cat think that he was going to kill him right there and then. Dale inhaled deeply, making a growling sound as he did so. He reared his head momentarily, and then he--
(Yes, it echoed throughout the statue for a minute or so.)
Fat Cat suddenly jumped back, covering his left eye with both paws.
"Be thankful that right now I am feeling forgiving," growled the 'munk. He then walked back to the others, lifted Foxglove in his arms, turned to face the kidnappers again, and added, "And if you *or* your thugs come anywhere *near* Foxglove again, *I* *WILL* *KILL* *YOU*." And by the tone of his voice, all present knew he more than meant that. He turned and headed for the exit, the others following. The bats on the ceiling remained where they were, however.
Fat Cat sat up, wiping his face, and trembled, "I've--I've l--l--let your f-f-riends go-go-go-go----c-call--offfff--the bb-b-b-b-bats--" Dale turned to his friends and asked,
"Should I call them off?" Foxglove then leaned to his ear and whispered something for a while. He smiled. "Well, you heard her, guys!" he called to the bats on the ceiling. "But wait 'till we're outta range. C'mon guys, you don't want to get rabies, either." As they walked toward the entrance, they heard Fat Cat stutter,
"W-w-wait--we--had a--d-d-deal!!! C-c-come back!!!--C-c-c-c-call them o-o-off!!!!" The Rangers looked at the couple with wonder.
"Dale, what's going on?" asked Gadget, but Dale only beamed. When they were right at the entrance, Dale stopped and turned around again. The rest did too.
Spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spit spittter spittter spittter spittter spittter spittter--
The five kidnappers gasped in horror as a rain of saliva began pouring around them, but not on them directly. They huddled as close as they could, some tried to climb on Fat Cat, but he shook them off. Chip, seeing this, didn't know whether to feel happy and relieved or absolutely grossed out. Finally, he turned to his best friend and declared,
"I knew I could count on you, buddy. You saved the day." Dale did not reply at this, but a distant look came upon his face. "Uh, Dale?"
Fat Cat was wondering how long they would have to wait before the saliva dried out before they could move from that spot, when suddenly he heard Dale yell,
"LET THEM HAVE IT!!!!!"
And the pouring saliva now came on *them*.
Screaming with unimaginable horror, the five of them tried to dash to the nearest exit, but with the floor being so slippery they fell in a heap, struggling to keep covered, and screaming all the more. The Rangers then ran out to the roof and waited until the bad guys tumbled out. Fat Cat cried,
"Quick! We have to get to that seedy vet with the revoked license that I keep on the payroll before WE GO CRAZY!!! AND HURRY, YOU IDIOTS! YOU KNOW HOW MUCH FASTER BAT SPIT WORKS THAN ANY OTHER KIND! IT'S BEEN IN ALL THE PAPERS!" And they dashed off, screaming for the rest of their journey.
The Rangers, Midge, and Otis looked on as the cronies stumbled into the darkness. All breathed deeply in immense relief.
They were all safe now.
Dale turned to Otis and said, "Thanks, Otis, I'm glad I could count on your friends."
"You mean 'brothers', 'brother'! And I must say, you're one lucky 'munk to have a bride as great looking as *her*!!" he replied. Foxy blushed, but Dale then got that distant look again, and without a word, carried her over to the Ranger Plane. The others were wondering what was eating at Dale. After all, no one was seriously hurt, they had rescued Foxglove, and everything would soon be back to normal, wouldn't it? The bats began flying out of the statue and started circling the Rangers, obviously sharing their joy of the successful rescue. Chip stepped up to his best friend and asked,
"Dale, what's wrong?" Dale turned and looked in his eyes. Chip was now the one to see pain, for some unknown reason.
"Later," was all he said. "You take Foxy in the plane, and I'll hang-glide back home."
"Dale, what--" Foxglove was cut off as she, too, saw immense pain in his eyes. Dale handed Foxglove over to Chip, who reluctantly carried her into the plane. Dale turned to Otis and said,
"It's still a few hours 'till daylight, and there are plenty of insects in the park. I guess that's all I can give you guys for what you did."
"Hey, you're practically family now. So just think of this as a family favor--" Otis could not for the life explain why even more pain came to Dale's eyes, who then shook his wing, and headed for his glider.
Dale took off, followed moments later by the Ranger Plane, and as they flew back home, they could only look in awe as they saw themselves escorted on all sides by countless bats. When they reached the park, all the bats dipped their wings toward them in salute, and dispersed.
* * *
Everyone had been up all night and had rested very little the night and day before, but their adrenaline had kept them going through the whole ordeal. Now it was returning to its normal level and their exhaustion was beginning to hit them all at once. They were also feeling very hungry, especially Foxglove, who required more food than the others to meet the requirements of her metabolism. So upon entering headquarters, much as they would have liked to go to bed, they simply had to eat. Monty insisted that he was quite capable of preparing dinner, but they all knew better. Fortunately, when they saw the shape their friends were in, Tammy, Phinehas, and the six parents had set about serving a meal at once. That was prepared previously as they had waited in extreme anxiety, and when dinner was done they had kept themselves busy by cleaning up the treehouse. And after anticipating a far greater emergency, they were only too glad to perform such a mundane task. It was only upon tasting their food that they all realized how famished they really were, especially poor Foxy, who had to have several plates of delicious mealworms and lots of water. While she was thus busily engaged she and the others looked upon Dale with pure admiration.
"Fellow Rangers, I give you the hero to whom we owe our lives--Dale Oakmont!" Chip exclaimed, holding a thimble of water aloft.
"To Dale Oakmont!" the others concurred enthusiastically, completing the toast.
Dale did not react to this complement, but still kept his pained look in his face. "Well, thanks, guys," he answered softly. "Though most of the plan was made up as I went along."
"Aw, come on, Dale!" Gadget said, "That's *exactly* what we were expecting! Your randomness! Fat Cat and his gang simply cannot figure you out! You practically had them wrapped around your little finger!!"
"I--I have never felt more scared, not only for you, Foxy, but for you guys, too." His voice was still rather distant.
"That's what a hero is," Chip said, "just someone who in spite of his own fear--and word of command--risks himself to try to save others."
"Too right!" Monterey Jack put in with enthusiasm, "That's all it takes, and that's what you've got in spades! And while yore record ain't perfect, yore more than perfect in MY book, and in Foxy's too, I take it!" Zipper heartily squeaked his agreement. Foxglove, however, began to feel terrible at this point. She lowered he head aand confessed,
"This would never have happened if I hadn't fallen for Fat Cat's trick. I'm sorry, Dale, and--I'm sorry, guys."
"No, Foxy!!" cried Gadget. "I should have *never* given that press release!! I think we were lucky *only* Fat Cat decided to show up!! Or--at least--I should have never left you alone by the pond--"
"It--it--wasn't your fault, Gadget," said Dale, still tremendously pained, "or yours, Foxy--"
"You know, Dale," said Nikoma, "for a hero who saved everyone and everything, you look as if you just killed your best friend."
*I think I did*, he thought.
"Brighten up, will ya?" said Chap. "From what Chip tells me, your 'hero moments' don't come too often!! And what else could be better now? You rescued our kids, you got your bride back, you're getting married, everyone's safe and sound--give us a smile, will ya?!" Dale looked up at Chip's father and, with great effort, smiled one half of one millimeter.
Foxglove decided to make him feel better, so she wrapped a wing around his shoulder and asked him in a sensual voice, "So Cutie, how's it feel to be the hero who just saved the day?"
Dale looked into infinity, and an infinite time later, he replied. "I feel--fine, Foxy--just--fine. I'm just so glad you're safe--" He could not restrain himself anymore. He embraced her like never before, kissed her like never before, looked away from her with the most horrified and pained eyes ever, and sobbed, "I'm-m-m--so--glad--you're----safe----!!!!!!!" He abruptly released her and ran out the door.
"DALE!!!" squealed Foxglove, running after him. Chip was about to run after them too, but a heavy paw rested on his shoulder. He turned and looked at Pierre.
"Leave him, Chip," he said. "I think I know what's wrong, and only Dale can do--what he has to." The old chipmunk turned away and held his wife. They both knew too well what Dale was going through.
Dale, meanwhile, in spite of his own exhaustion, had ran down the tree, dashed across a clearing, scaled another tree, and ran all the way out a very long limb. He dropped to his face and cried like never before. Foxglove followed, more scared than exhausted, and found him sobbing so uncontrolably that the branch was shaking in rhythm to the rodent's gasps. This was enough to bring tears to *her* eyes. Landing behind him, she quietly asked,
"Darling, what's wrong??"
Dale did not even turn around. He tried to reply between sobs, "Foxy----I--I--can't--marry--you!!!!!"
Foxglove's heart sank as horror swept through every quark of her being. "W--what??" she sobbed in reply.
"I--can't--marry--you--not now!!!! Not----after--this!!!!"
"Dale, why not??!! Fat Cat won't do this to me again!!!"
Dale looked up. His face was a total mess. "You--are--the most beautiful--sweetest--nicest--girl----ever--!!!"
Foxglove knelt beside him and held his shoulders. "Dale--"
"You--believed in me--" he turned away from her. "You--cared for me--you--loved me--more than anything----and--I----almost--killed you!!!!!!"
"Dale, what are you talking about??!! You rescued me and the others!! You saved the day!!!"
"Foxy--I----failed you!!!" The bat was a mess now, too. And she couldn't even begin to think why Dale said that. A few distressing minutes later, Dale continued, "Foxy--I failed you. When I saw the note--Fat Cat left, I fainted------I passed out--when you needed me most--that's why I failed you--I should have been strong--gone with the others--they knew better--they knew I could--screw things up----again--"
"Dale, things were screwed up WITHOUT YOU!!!!" she sobbed. "And YOU saved all of us!! If you fainted, that's okay--"
"NO, IT'S NOT!!!!" he yelled, scaring her even more. "I--loved you--I never wanted to hurt you--what if it happens--again--with you--with our cubs--!!!" Another bout of sobbing followed. Foxglove tried to find words of comfort,
"Dale, no one saw this coming!! You didn't know what was gonna happen!!! And it was ALL MY FAULT!!!!!! Please, please don't leave me!!!" Dale shook his head,
"Not yours----or Gadget's----mine--all my fault----for wanting to--marry you--Foxy--if you had not chosen me--to fall in love with--and me----in love with you--Fat Cat would have never----done this to you----to us----we have lots of enemies----it could happen again--I would faint--the bad guys would get you--our cubs--you--they--we--may not be so--lucky--next time!!!!!" Dale then sat up and continued, still not looking at Foxglove. "I am--incon--inconsis--unstable----Gadget knew that--**that's** why she--didn't choose me--and she was right--by not choosing me--why did--YOU CHOOSE ME??????!!!!!!"
Angered, she sobbed, "GADGET WAS A *FOOL* FOR NOT CHOOSING YOU!!!! I chose you because you're the mother of ALL luna moths!! And it WASN'T your fault!! This whole thing was Fat Cat's doing!! You may have fainted, but you recovered and came back with a vengeance!!!"
"My fault----I--am--cod liver oil--always was--always will--Chip knows that--the others know that--I--could have--messed up--again--even with Otis and Midge--I could--have killed you----the others--and me----please, Foxy--I love you--I adore you--more than *anything*--that's why I--have to let you go----just--call it off--the whole thing----just be friends--so you won't be in--danger--just drop the--whole thing----just--be----friends----"
Completely not believing what he was saying, Foxglove sat him up, turned him around to face him, even though he would not look at her eyes, and cried, "Dale, please don't reject me!! Not now!! Please! I've been so happy since you asked me to marry you! And since I first met you my heart's been in my throat at the very idea that you might like me. Please don't do this to me because of what some villain tried to do to us! Please! I couldn't live here anymore! I couldn't bear to see you and hear your voice and know that we'd never be anything but just friends, not now! I know you deserve someone better than me, but . . . but if you've brought me this far along just to break my heart at the last minute, then I'll hunt Fat Cat down and feed myself to him! That's what I'll do! Because if I have to go back to the life I had before I met you then I might as well be dead!" And she spoke with such intensity that it sounded as if she really meant it. Dale calmed down a bit, and replied,
"I--am the one who doesn't deserve you----or Gadget--or anyone--you think--*your* heart is breaking?" Here, Foxglove realised that the hole in her chest very definitely matched Dale's. "Figures--" he continued, "I am the biggest clutz in the universe--not only--do I break your heart--I totally pulverize mine--no clutz deserves someone like you--and--and you don't *have* to go back to your old life, Foxy." He then looked up into the dark of pre-dawn, as if looking for something. "Can you hear them?" he asked softly.
"Them. The bats. Your people. Your kind. Don't go back to your old life. Start a new one. You said you never hung around other bats, so--go. Go and live with the other bats. Maybe you'll be happier. Maybe you'll find someone--who deserves you."
"Oh, no, Dale, no----no! No! NO! NO! NO! No bat sounds the way you do!! And I *have* spent a little time with them, but no bat had what I saw and heard in you!!!"
"Otis seems like a nice guy," he stated as-a-matter-of-factly.
"For all we know Otis could be my brother!!"
"Then GO!!" Dale finally locked his eyes with Foxy's. "Find him!! Find your family!! Find your past!!! And--leave me. Leave the clutz. Leave the clown. Leave this life of danger. I--am hazardous to your health." He turned aside and commented, "You know, this wouldn't be so painful if we were still enemies."
"Dale, I'm not leaving you. Not now, not ever. Not after I met your parents. *You* are my family. You and your parents, and the rest of the Rangers!! You are my past, present and future!!!"
"Foxy, please. I am asking you to take a break from danger--from *me*--and try *your* life, even for a little bit. Please, you gave me a chance, you believed in me--and I failed you, as I have the others over and over--it has *always* been my fault, I know that now. With all the love I have for you--I am now giving *you* a chance, *I* am now believing in you. Please, give *yourself* a chance now. Find out what you have missed. You *may* like it better over there--you may like *them* better--than me." Foxglove was about to say something but Dale suddenly embraced her, looked into her eyes with pain and passion, and kissed her very deeply.
*You know, Dale has a one track mind. And I love him for that, too. Once he sets out to do something, he does it, and nothing else. . .*
And she knew he had made up his one-track mind and was saying good-bye.
Finally, he whimpered, while rubbing his cheeks with the bat's, "Please, Foxy. Just go. I will miss you, and never forget you. I will keep your ring in case you come back. I--won't use the new room. But if you *do* find someone else----drop me a line. I will feel better knowing you are finally out of danger."
With flashing eyes, Foxglove stood and growled, "All right, if *that's* what you want, *Mister* Oakmont, then so be it!! I will go, but ONLY as a favor to you!! And I WILL spend time with the bats, and I WILL prove you wrong! And I WILL come back, and SOON, mind you!! And the day I come back will be the day you will more than FEEL just how much I love you!!" It was a very strange expression that showed through her eyes: anger, torment, grief, and ecstasy combined. "You'd better have the room ready, because I MIGHT come back by sunset!!"
Dale stood and looked into her eyes. "So long, Foxy. I love you with all my heart. Please don't ever forget that."
"So long, Dale. You are the only one I have ever loved, or ever WILL love. And I WILL come back. Please don't ever forget that." This time, *she* embraced him and kissed him deeply. Looking into his damp eyes one more time, also with pain and passion, she echosounded him from top to bottom several times, jumped off the branch, and flew off into the night.
When she was well out of range, a certain heart-disintegrated chipmunk whispered,
"Good-bye, my wife."
And somewhere in the night, a certain heart-disintegrated bat replied,
"Good-bye, my beloved husband."
*** For they both knew perfectly well that they would *never* see each other again. ***
THE END / DAS ENDE / EL FIN / O FIN / LE FIN / IL FINE / SFIRSIT / KONIEC
* * *
Sad ending, don't you think? But don't worry, I won't leave you people off with broken hearts. So, here's an *alternate* ending to *my* alternate ending.
"Foxy, please. I am asking you to take a break from danger--from me--and try *your* life, even for a little bit. Please, you gave me a chance, you believed in me--and I failed you, as I have the others over and over--it has *always* been my fault, I know that now. With all the love I have for you--I am now giving *you* a chance, *I* am now believing in you. Please, give *yourself* a chance now. Find out what you have missed. You *may* like it better over there--you may like *them* better--than me."
Dale suddenly embraced her, looked into her eyes with pain and passion and was about to kiss her, but she tore herself from his grasp. She stood and cried, "No, Dale, you're NOT going to kiss me good-bye!!" Looking at him, also with passion and torment, she pleaded, "Oh, Dale--Dale--*my* Dale--my handsome--great-sounding Dale----I want so much to marry you, to ***** love to you, to have you ***** love to me, to have your cubs, to grow old with you and see our grandkids, don't you want that?"
He stood and replied, "Foxy, I've wanted to marry you and ***** love to you since October. But--it can't happen. Not if I put you in danger because of that."
"Then if you refuse--then you HAVE failed me!! You may be the best crime-fighter in the world, but if you dump me because of this, then you have failed and Fat Cat has won!!!! He got what he wanted!!! He wanted to make us miserable and he has done it!!!!" Dale reeled at this last statement. His comeback was,
"You just don't get it, do you?! It's not only Fat Cat, it's Rat Capone, Professor Nimnul, and a hundred other bad guys!! Tonight was just a *taste* of what I would give you! Is that the life you want? Being with a clutz and in danger for the rest of your life?"
"If I have to be in danger for the rest of my life, then so be it, if that's what I have to take in order to be with *you*!! It's an 'all-or-nothing' deal; did you think I didn't know that? And--I'd rather take it all--*all* of you--danger included--than have nothing. Not even in trade for the other bats. Dale, you're *not* a clutz. As much as I've searched, I simply cannot find more clumsiness in you than in any of the other Rangers, including me. Everybody is clumsy one way or another, Chip just points it out every time it happens to you!! But if you dump me now, then you *will* be a clutz because you will have wasted the biggest chance of your life to be with someone who is willing to let you *do it* with her at anytime *you* want. And if you *still* say you're a clutz, then--then so am I!! If you failed me, then *I* have failed you, the Rangers--the whole universe!!! If it was your fault, then it was mine, too!! If you're cod liver oil, then I'm also from Norway!!! If you're a clown, then give me a rainbow wig!!"
Calming down, she concluded softly, "Dale, my dear, sweet Dale, I want be *one* with you, not just physically, but in *every* way."
They looked at each other in exhausted silence, with the torment of eternal separation fading away, to their relief. Their eyes now displayed true love, and an *immense* yearning for passion. They both wanted *more*, all right. It was all making sense now. It was all adding up.
"Dale, I love you, and I want you, and everything that comes with you, be it good or bad, for better or worse, for rich or poor, for sickness or health, *with* you, together, forever."
Dale looked at his almost ex-girlfriend with an expression of awe. "Foxy, do you *really* love me that much?"
"Well, if *you* love me so much that you're willing to let me go so I may be safe from harm, then I guess *I* can love you to the point that I am willing to be in danger, if it is with *you*."
Dale smiled, much to Foxglove's relief, "Gosh, Foxy, if that's the way you really feel . . . if you really do like me that much . . . then I say, let's go for it! And whatever danger either of us finds himself in, we'll have each other and face it together!" With this Foxy's tears ceased and her face fairly glowed. Feeling too full of emotion to say anything, she grabbed Dale and gave him a hug such as she never had before. Dale was only too happy to return it, seeing as how Foxy and he had separated themselves during the weeks of the engagement.
After an indeterminate time, Dale released her, and looked down.
"Foxy, there's one more thing," he whispered with grief rising withn him once more. Foxglove looked at his handsome face one more time and whimpered, getting scared, also once more.
"Foxy, I--I--just wanted to apologize. When I read Fat Cat's note, I fainted on you and the Rangers. I--I should have been stronger than that. I should have gone with the others immediately. I'll--I'll try not to let it happen again. I--"
"Dale," she interrupted, touching his lips with her wingtip, "You never fainted on me." Dale looked at her beautiful eyes with confusion for a moment, and insisted,
"No, I did, really. You can ask the others. I didn't mean to, you know, it just happened--"
"Dale, *you* never fainted on me." And she gave him a light kiss on his furry lips. With his mind getting more confused by this last statement and action, Dale tried once again to let her know his regret,
"No, Foxy, really! I mean, I didn't *want* to faint, I didn't even *know* I fainted until I woke up, and--and--you don't know how awful I feel about--"
"Dale (kiss), *my* Dale (kiss), my--*husband*--Dale (kiss), YOU *NEVER* (kiss) ever (kiss) fainted on me. You *never* have (kiss), and *never* will (kiss), not to me, not to the Rangers, not to our cubs, not to our grandcubs, nobody, never (kiss)." Her voice was full of forgiveness, with just a slight touch of annoyance. Dale looked at her for a while, and then, after seeing the expression on her eyes, her face, the way she held him, the way she kissed him--
--he finally understood.
With all that was said, there was nothing left for him to say. So, all he could do now was hold her tight, and never let go.
He then considered that here, in front of him, holding him, was a woman who would love him regardless of ANYTHING, with the only request that he'd love her back, and her only, forever. That she had chosen *him*, and chosen so quickly, and *fought* for him, and *suffered* because of him, and was willing to spend the rest of her life with him, and to become one with him, and him only, was WAY beyond his scope of comprehension. Thus, all that was left for him to do was to return her love, as freely and powerfully as she gave it to him.
He would never understand how.
He would never understand why.
He would never understand love.
*But it sure felt good.*
And *that* he understood more than *perfectly*.
Tears flowed freely once more, only this time, they were tears of relief, tears of joy, tears of forgiveness, tears of acceptance, tears of peace, tears of love--
--of *true* love.
And there was but one thing left to say:
"I love you, Miss Foxglove." That was the second time he called her that, and it would most probably be the last.
"I love *you*, Mr. Oakmont." And she nuzzled him softly.
After the hugging and rubbing of cheeks they merely sat and cuddled silently in the joy of each other's company.
"So," she asked, as a new day was beginning, in more ways than one. "Is the wedding still on?"
"Is it still on?!" he responded, much to her relief, "hot d--!"
"Oops! Sorry, Foxy! I mean, that is a certitude!"
This decision reached, they once again cuddled and quietly enjoyed the disappearing stars and the lightning bugs. . .
* * *
And we know the rest (a beautiful ceremony), but let me leave you off with one last addition:
. . .Chip looked at her. "Why thank you, Foxy," he said, "that's very kind of you. Yes, I must confess that it is a bit hard on me right now, but I'll get used to it. Don't worry about me."
Foxglove smiled relievedly. "Well, all the same," she said, "I just want you to know that Dale is your friend same as always. And there's no reason why he can't sleep over with you occasionally when I'm out feeding. And remember, Chip, we're right down the hall, so please don't ever be afraid to come and knock if you need anything. Okay?"
Foxy's concern for her husband's friend was so touching that Chip could not help but smile. "Thanks, Foxy," he said, "I'll remember that."
Foxglove smiled and began to close the door and take her leave, when she paused and looked in again. "Chip? Do you want me to talk to Gadget for you?" she asked.
Chip sat up in bed at that. "Foxy," he said, "you are a genuinely good and kind person, did you know that?" At this she looked down and blushed.
"Still," he continued, "much as I appreciate the offer, I'd prefer not to take you up on it right now. But I might want to some day if you don't change your mind."
"Any time, Chip," she said, "just say the word. Oh, and by the way, if you're thinking about giving up, don't. Your case isn't hopeless. Not by a long shot. Believe me. And--and--Dale is *still* your very best friend. He always will be. He *hasn't* deserted you. And he never will. You're his 'big brother', and now that we're married, well, you are now *my* big brother too, or, 'big brother-in-law', at least. And, I've always wanted one of those, besides a husband, you know."
Chip exclaimed, "Why, thank you! You *really* brightened my day--er--night, Foxy--or should I say--'Little Sis'?"
"You bet, Big Bro!" she giggled. Then she added, "Chip, you don't know how lucky you are to be Dale's best friend. He is more than any of us ever realised. And with him, *I* now have a best friend, a husband, an *incredible* lover, a last name, a big brother, and I have parents again." She sighed reflexively. "It's so hard for me to imagine that all of this--this completeness--almost didn't happen, not just during my kidnapping, but--afterwards, too. . . I always felt I was missing something, even when I was dating Dale, but now, with all that I got from him, I have never felt more complete in my life, *especially* when Dale and I--well--you know. . ." she blushed at this point, and so did Chip. "He's the bestest Best Friend you could ever have. We're married, but *we* are all still together--a family."
"And only *you* could have made it the way it is now. You've made us see wonderful things in Dale, *and* in each other. Dale is very lucky. I hope *I* get lucky soon, too."
"Oh, you will. I know you will. Well--good night!"
"Good night, Foxy. And the same to Dale."
"I'll tell him," she said, and shut the door. Chip heard the eagerness in her retreating footsteps as she made her way back to her husband, to be *complete* once again. Dale was indeed fortunate to have such a good person as his life partner, he thought, and he himself was equally fortunate to have her as a member of his family.
To say that Chip felt better now would be a vast understatement. He dared to hope that maybe Foxglove was right; maybe his own happiness was just around the corner. Buoyed by these thoughts he relaxed, closed his eyes, and was soon at last in a deep and peaceful sleep. So much so that he was unaware a few minutes later when his door again opened just a little, and another pair of eyes looked in on him, and another pair of lips smiled. **
All characters are © Disney and I don't think I have their permission. Otis and Phinehas, however, are © Roy Neal Grissom and I use them with *his* permission. The name "Maplewood" was coined by Michael "Questy" Demcio. The name "Oakmont" was coined by Michael "Questy" Demcio with collaboration from Jeff Pierce and Meghan Elizabeth Brunner. Pierre and Dalee Oakmont and Chap and Nikoma Maplewood are © The J.A.M., however.
Dedicated to our beloved "Enduring Man-Child" (whatever that means) Roy Neal Grissom, without whom this story would have never existed.
(I wonder if someone out there is right now planning a tangent of *my* tangent)
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