It was another couple of days after Cain and DG's trip to see the Grey Gale before Lyle recovered enough to do magic. Zack was ready to go. Being in the Palace seemed to have everyone but Glitch, Az, and Hal on edge. DG's parents seemed to approve of Cain as a son-in-law, but had no idea how to relate to him anymore than they did DG. At least, Cain didn't wear his gun to the family meals. Zack figured that was huge progress, especially with how well he was taking Other Side fashion advice.
DG and Zack had tried talking to him separately, and they tried together. He wouldn't budge. Where he went the fedora, the duster, the gun belt, and the vest went too. DG finally threw up her hands in disgust and declared Cain would just have to see for himself, but she wanted an apology before she would conjure any clothes for him to wear. Lyle stayed out of it while laughing at the participants.
Lyle turned a gateway arbor in the Palace's garden courtyard into a portal to Earth, so the good-byes were said outside. Zack thanked DG's parents for their hospitality before turning to those he had journeyed with. Glitch and Az were first. "Well, I'm certainly going to miss the way you could get under his hat," Glitch grinned. "It was entertaining to watch you two. Gorgeous, did I tell you how he flipped Cain right off his feet?"
"Yes Ambrose, three times." She clasped Zack's hand between her. "Take care of them in your city. I know they're capable, but…."
"Big sisters worry, trust me I know that one. Take care." Zack turned to Raw next.
"I will miss your quiet mind, Zack." Raw held Zack's hand between his. "You will be a good father for your children of the flesh and not."
"Thanks, Raw. Take care of this gang."
Chelsea and Hal were last. "You were the best imaginary cousin we've ever had. See you down the road." She pumped his arm.
"Same here." He tickled Hal on his side, and stepped through the portal back into the library's lobby.
DG and Cain stepped out of the stack of books and the glow faded. "Oh, that is so much better than a travel storm!" She chuckled looking around in amazement. Cain even pushed back his hat.
Lyle shrugged. "I don't recommend squeezing through one as a dragon though. They don't expand much. Here." He handed her a brown accordion file.
"What's this?" She flipped the papers inside, but didn't pull any of them out.
"It should make things on Earth easier for you. It's the least I could do after causing so much havoc. Now, I have to go face my mother." Lyle shuddered before waving a hand at the door. The doorframe glowed purple, and he clasped Zack's forearm. "We will meet again."
"Why don't we try to make it without the mortal peril next time?"
Lyle grinned. "I wish. Your nephew has a hard time distinguishing friend from foe." He sauntered out of the door and vanished.
"Nephew?" Cain asked.
"As far as I know I don't have one yet." Zack shook his head. "So where to first? It's almost closing time for the library."
DG grinned. "I'd like to meet your sister. Plus we need some place quiet to look over these papers." She tucked the folder under her arm.
Zack felt his stomach sinking. Every self-preservation instinct he had was screaming bad idea, mayday, abort! But he couldn't come up with a plausible reason as to why they couldn't meet Allie. "Looks like the magic is gone. Let's go." He led them out of the library and down the steps onto the street. The nonstop stream of cars ineffectively honked to make the traffic go faster, and people drifted up and down the sidewalks in and out of the shops and restaurants. Zack took a deep breath and relaxed. He was home. He turned to see DG and Cain nearly clutching at each other, and Cain's hand hovered over his gun. Self-preservation instincts flew out to be replaced with protecting his friends. "This way, Allie's brownstone isn't very far."
He didn't have to worry about losing them. Cain kept hold of DG and stayed as close to Zack as he could without walking on him. A couple of blocks north and they got away from the heaviest auto traffic and the pedestrians thinned out as they went deeper into the residential area. Cain drew up next to Zack. "How many people live here?"
"Over eight million."
"That's more people than in the entire Zone!"
DG sighed, "Wyatt, I told you the Other Side is bigger. You'll like Kansas better. The people are more spread out."
Zack stopped in front of the brownstone in the center of the block. 'Samaritans, Inc.' was painted in the center of the first floor bay window and on the door. He paused on the steps up to the door to dig in his backpack for his key ring.
"Samaritans, Inc.?" DG asked, looking over his shoulder.
"That's Allie's business. She helps women and children get out of abusive relationships."
"Is that what you meant by she uses her violent tendencies for good?"
Zack grunted finding the right key. "Part of it. It's a good outlet for her sneaky side and it occupies a bunch of vigilantes that haven't had much to do since the Shredder died." He got the door open and ushered them inside the entrance hall between the staircase to the right and Allie's business office on the left. Music blared through the whole house system Donnie had installed for them. Zack sighed as he reset the alarm. "Somebody's home. Allie?"
I've got a southern belle too
and ruby red shoes.
With a body of straw,
are you sick of it all?
Damn, could they even hear him over the music? "Allie? Mike?" He moved down the hall toward the kitchen.
There's a man made of tin
with an oil can grin.
And I'm gonna get you
And your little dog too.
The song ended abruptly. "Hand away from the gun," ordered a familiar female voice.
Zack turned around. His blonde sister with the scarred cheek stood in her office door with her katana extended in front of Cain's neck. "Don't skewer him, Allie. He's a friend."
Allie's blue-grey eyes narrowed at Zack briefly before focusing on Cain again. "This is a rule I didn't think I needed to state. You don't bring your friends over here armed. Especially when I don't know them."
DG smirked, "See honey, I told you to take it off." Cain glared as he kept his hands raised. She turned to Allie. "I'm sorry, it's just my husband is awfully attached to his gun."
"And I'm awfully attached to Mike and don't want him to get his head blown off because my brother has gone temporarily insane."
Zack winced. "Cain's not that trigger happy, Al. I'm not shot and I gave him a lot more reason to."
DG turned to him. "That so didn't help on the reassurance scale."
"That's my baby brother for you. Still thinks putting himself in a life threatening situation and being snarky about it is a valid distraction."
"And one of these days I'm going to remember it doesn't work on you." Zack crossed his arms. "Can you refrain from going off with his head? It'll ruin their honeymoon."
Allie stepped out of the office, and the katana blade never left Cain's neck. "Okay, Billy the Kid, I'm putting your gun away for safe keeping and then we can sit down for a talk."
"Fine as long as your sword goes too."
Allie slid his gun out of the holster and stepped back into her office. "Reasonable request. Take them to the dining room, Zack." She closed the office door.
Zack motioned for them to follow him down the hall. Cain remained last but got closer to DG. "Billy the kid?"
She sighed, "A famous gunslinger in history. I told you to change. Zack told you to change. Maybe now you'll listen to us."
"You didn't trade in your pants," Cain pointed out as Zack opened the door on the right in the hallway that led into the dining room.
"That's different; I'm trying to start a fashion revolution." DG stopped barely inside the door. Zack was still holding the door for Cain and couldn't see what had frozen her. "Um, hi?"
"Come in, have a seat, I don't bite." The human-sized turtle wearing the orange bandanna mask around his eyes gestured to the end of the long table closest to the kitchen. "I'm Michaelangelo, but you can call me Mike."
"I'm DG and this is my husband, Wyatt Cain." She grabbed his hand before heading to the table.
"Pleased to meet you."
Cain seemed to be taking it in stride, but the Fae in the dungeon at least matched the Turtles in the weirdness department. DG's eyes kept darting around and she was fighting a losing battle to not ask. "Are you an alien?"
Zack resisted the urge to face palm and just run for it. He was too far away from the door for it to be a graceful exit regardless.
"Nope, mutant. The aliens are fuzzy or fishy." Mike grinned wider as he turned to Zack, and Zack knew he could sense his unease. "Stay a while, Zack. We need to chat about your LARPing. 'Cause Splinter's gonna have a heart attack if you start dressing as a vampire like those kids that got arrested in Central Park last month."
He gave in and slapped his hand over his eyes. "We weren't LARPing."
"Larping?" Cain asked DG as he scooted his chair closer to hers. They sat on the opposite side of the table where they could watch all the doors.
"I don't know."
"Live action role playing," Mike answered. He took pity on the incomprehension on their faces. "It's a game with costumes. Given how he's dressed," he gestured to Cain, "it's that or a time traveling phone booth. But no screaming or fainting, you're okay in my book. I'm sure Allie's reserving judgment. Aren't you, babe?" He grinned at the door.
Allie had slipped into the room silently, the trick was instinct for all of the clan now. "My grumpy demeanor is helped when my plans for the evening get completely derailed." She glared at Zack, and he scooted to the head of the table. That put Mike between him and his sister.
"Don't be grumpy. The night hasn't even started yet. Are you staying for supper?"
Zack risked a look at Allie while he took off his backpack Yeap, she had on her if-I-don't-get-answers-you-are-going-to-hurt face. "Might as well," he resigned himself. "They were suffering from Big Apple shock."
"That's a nickname for New York City," DG said to Cain.
Mike nodded. "I'll put on a second pizza. Zack will have his Dew. What would you guys like to drink?"
DG seemed to have recovered the more Mike talked. He had a great way of putting people at ease with his appearance. "Do you have Coke?"
"Sure, and for you, Cowboy?"
Cain looked around to make sure Mike was talking to him. "Coffee?"
"Sorry, we're out. Allie used the last to make sludge this morning."
Allie sat in the chair to the left of Zack with a snort. "That coffee urn is possessed."
Mike shook his head. "Try a Coke," DG suggested. Cain looked at her dubiously. "If you don't like it, there's always water."
"Okay," Mike headed out through the open archway between the kitchen and dining room. Knocking that wall down to a half-wall was really the only changes made to the dining room when they had gutted the brownstone. Mike had wanted a dining room big enough to seat everybody in the clan for a holiday meal.
DG filled the silence by turning to Allie. "We're sorry for barging in like this. But Zack told us so much about you, I wanted to meet you."
Allie smirked. "None of it can be proved in a court of law." Zack could see all of Cain's Tin Man senses go into full alert with that. "So where are you from?"
"Australia," Zack put in quickly.
"Mike is currently obsessed with the Crocodile Hunter, one who can't lie to me."
"I'm rooting for the crocodiles." Mike handed out the soft drink cans.
"Not only are the accents wrong, his gun was not made by any of the revolver makers, and he's having a hard time with opening his drink." Allie fell silent as DG just traded her open can with Cain's.
"Couldn't you for once not be hyperactive detail girl?" Zack snapped.
"Maybe if you didn't make it so damn easy to figure out something's wrong." Allie's eyes had gone stormy.
"Nothing's wrong! They wanted to meet you and I though you'd be happy I have more friends."
All pretenses of civil Allie were nearly gone. "How stupid do you think I am?"
"I plead the fifth," Zack muttered, crossing his arms.
"Like that has ever worked with me your entire life!"
"There's always a first time."
Cain's head twisted from DG to Allie, then back to DG. He smirked, "I'm starting to see the resemblance." DG shot him a dirty look and he actually grinned. Zack was surprised to see the man show his teeth.
Mike reached out and squeezed Allie's hand that rested on the table. "Zack, your sister has had a bad week. And since I don't want to send her to Japan, how about you try not to goad her into killing you?"
Zack debated just how long he could get his sister to open up with what upset her before she got back to the relentless figuring out what was wrong with DG and Cain. He figured maybe five minutes at the most. "What happened?"
"Sammie went to a family reunion, so I had to handle the courthouse detail. And it was Judge Simmons docket."
"You didn't threaten to blow up the courtroom again, did you?"
"I didn't have to, he remembered the first time. Then we must have wasted half the day on him trying figure out why I wasn't doing life in prison. The little detail of an eight-year-old finding C4 to do the job didn't seem to matter." Allie shook her head.
"He tried to split us up in the foster care system when we were younger," Zack explained to DG and Cain. "So did you have to spend the whole week with him?"
"No, small favors. It was only a couple of days." Her free hand had drifted up to run her fingers across the scars the Shredder had put on her face.
Mike sighed. "She lost a client." She jerked her hand down to glare at the Turtle. "You don't like him hiding stuff, so you don't get to either." The oven timer started beeping and he got up to deal with the food.
"Murder suicide," Allie said quietly. "So now was really not a good time to be bringing a gun around."
"Now can we find some more pleasant dinner conversation?" Mike slid the pizzas carefully on the table before handing a stack of plates to Zack to pass out. "Are you two planning on doing any sightseeing?"
"I guess the usual touristy things. 'DG answered as she put two slices of the meat lovers' pizza on a plate and passed it to Cain. "Empire State building, Statue of Liberty, seeing a show on Broadway." She picked up her slice and moaned around her mouthful. "This is the best pizza ever. Totally worth a five month wait."
Mike beamed, and Zack realized this was one of his from scratch creations. He could have sworn he saw Allie's ears twitch with curiosity just like a cat's before pouncing. "And where have you been five months out of reach of pizza? I didn't think such a place existed on Earth."
DG glanced at Zack, but Allie was looking at him too. No way was he going to crack. The last thing Allie needed was another reason to worry about him. DG sighed, "We're from the O.Z., the Outer Zone, some kind of parallel world. Actually, I was raised in Kansas and only returned there five months ago."
Zack pushed away his plate, his appetite vanished. He could feel Allie's eyes on him but he refused to look up. "Is that where you went three years ago when you got sucked up in the glowing vortex of doom?"
Now he did look up to glare at Mike. "You guys promised not to tell!"
"Well, I didn't," he answered indignantly.
Allie leaned back in her chair. "How stupid do you think I am?"
"I already pled the fifth; I'm not changing that."
She sighed. "You came back with hair past your shoulders after being missing for three hours." Zack resisted the urge to squirm. "Then Leo was impressed with your sword techniques, like you had been practicing for days or you figured out how to download the skills directly into your brain. Then Chief Sterns calls and wants to know what kind of drugs I have gotten you hooked on that those Black Knight idiots were peddling because they saw you get sucked into what they called the glowing vortex of doom. Volunteering for six months of random testing finally convinced the man that whatever was going on, it wasn't drug related."
"This focusing on every detail is not an attractive trait, Allie," Zack muttered without looking up. He might as well be yelling at a hurricane to go back to sea.
"Then a few months later, there was Ron's weird car accident."
"He was hit trying to cross the street."
Allie snorted. "He was a dead body before that car touched him. Damnit Zack, if you were trying to hide that, why stage it right in front of me? And it was after that you started wearing that triangle ring and Keno avoids being alone with you."
Zack drained the Mountain Dew can. She was still waiting for a response. "I've only been to the O.Z. once, just now. The other times were to different worlds. You can't stop it, prevent it, fight it. For some reason, I got flagged by the universe to go."
"He's a hero in the O.Z.," Cain said quietly. "He helped DG stop a civil war from starting." A compliment from Cain, who would have thought?
"Why didn't you want us to know about it?"
He sighed as he looked up at Allie. Kuso, she was trying to hide her disappointment and hurt that he hadn't trusted her. "I didn't want to get locked up in a mental ward."
Mike chuckled. "Come on, Zack. I'm with your sister, one of your best friends is a Martian, and you're going to lead a ninja clan when you grow up. We haven't locked you in crazyville for any of them yet."
"And I didn't want to freak Allie out. There's nothing you can do to stop it other than go with me, and you can ask Keno how much fun that is."
Allie wiped her mouth with a paper towel. "I have enough to deal with on this world, thanks all the same." Zack watched her warily. She smirked, "How long did you think the overprotective big sister act was going to continue?"
"Honestly? Until I died."
"You are going to lead the Hamato clan and then the Foot Clan. You have to come out of Leo's and my shadows at some point. It's a little disconcerting that you have to go to other worlds to learn how to do that, but," she glanced at Cain, "it sounds like you're doing the right thing."
"And you better stop there before you get all mushy on him," Mike advised as he stood up to get refills for everyone.
Zack chuckled. "Can you still keep quiet about it? I don't want Donnie poking me to try to figure out how it works."
"Fair enough," Allie smiled.
DG prodded Cain's arm, smiling at his empty plate. "How do you like pizza?"
"I like it better than peanut butter. Not sure about this Coke stuff yet." He took another sip. "So what's in the package Lyle gave us?"
She wiped off her hands on a paper towel, and pulled the papers from the accordion file. Stuff still rattled inside, so she reached in again, pulling out three cards. "A copy of my license; he could have updated this awful picture though. A driver's license for you," she passed the slip of laminated paper to Cain. "And a credit card; he didn't have to do that."
"It'll make buying tickets or renting a car easier though," Zack pointed out.
"Yeah, we can't walk to Kansas." DG picked up the pile of papers and put them back in the folder as she recognized them. "A marriage license for us."
"You have to have permission to get married here?" Cain asked.
"Used to," Allie answered. "Now they're used for proof of marriage."
"A copy of the deed to the farmhouse, I was worried there might be a mortgage on the place. Gun permit for Wyatt, that'll come in handy. A copy of a will?" DG thumbed through those stapled sheets of paper. "My roboparents left me everything?"
"It's not like they had any other kids," Zack started eating his pizza again.
"Yeah, but a certificate of adoption for me? And a death certificate for Hank and Emily Baum." DG shoved the papers into the accordion file and looked very confused.
"Hank and Emily Baum?" Cain asked.
"Momster and Popsicle's names. How did he come up with all this stuff?" She turned to Zack.
Zack shrugged, "Lyle's magic works differently from yours. And if you're planning on going back to your home in Kansas, you need a cover story."
"Back up," Mike said, "roboparents?"
Cain almost laughed but smothered it. DG still eyed him suspiciously as she answered Mike. "My birth parents sent me to this side with a couple of robots, nurture units, and they raised me. And they are dead, so the death certificate and will makes sense."
"How fast did you leave town?" Allie collected the cleaned off plates and took them to the kitchen. "Did you tell anyone you were leaving?"
"Well, it wasn't planned. Longcoats showed up to kill me and my roboparents shoved me into the travel storm before they jumped in. But I really don't think that's the best story to tell."
"You found out you were adopted and your birth parents made contact." Allie sat back down. "Hank and Emily went with you to meet them, and they died in a car wreck. That part is easy. What you need is a cover story for your cowboy."
"What is that?" Cain asked.
"A guy who herds cattle or a football player from Dallas," Mike explained with a grin. "Now why was roboparents so funny?"
"I only understand half of what comes out of her mouth, and thought it was an Other Side thing." He smirked at DG's glare. "And I have never herded cattle."
"Then you better change your clothes," Mike said. DG laughed. Cain glared at her and she only laughed harder.
"We told him that, repeatedly," Zack explained. "He didn't trust our fashion advice."
"Even I know you're a century behind, dude." Mike shook his head.
Allie propped her chin in her hand as she leaned forward. Her inner wheels were smoking. "And I thought I had seen every variation of a cop uniform possible."
"It's Tin Man in the O.Z.," Zack corrected her.
Cain turned his appraising gaze on Allie. "You would make a good one."
"Thanks, but I don't play well with others."
Mike grinned, "And by that, she means she doesn't take supervision well."
"When you've been doing this as long as I have, being treated like a rookie is demeaning." She turned her attention back to Cain. "You retired from the force, and work as a private security consultant. Saner hours, better pay, and it explains your demeanor and why you still have a gun."
DG stopped chuckling and wiped her eyes. "That could work. But not dressed like that."
Cain sighed, long and drawn out, as he took off his hat. "Fine, you win."
DG grabbed his hand and squeezed it. "It's not the end of the world, Wyatt. And I won't conjure up anything as uncomfortable as that military dress uniform."
"Anything is better than that."
"Okay, I better get you guys to a hotel and get home. April will get worried soon." Zack stood up and grabbed his backpack.
"It was nice meeting you," DG said, starting off the good-byes. "And thanks for the help."
"Think nothing of it," Mike said as he led them toward the front door. "We like helping people."
Allie ducked into her office and came back out with Cain's pistol. "I don't recommend walking into a hotel with it dangling from your hip."
Cain's lips twitched as he pulled off his duster and took off the gun belt and baldric. He wrapped the leather around his arm and covered it with his duster, and Zack was pretty sure his finger was still on the trigger. He breathed deeply. "See you down the road."
Zack led the way down the sidewalk. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" DG asked as she pulled Cain closer.
"Mike is really good for my sis. The whole reason I didn't tell her is because I didn't want her to go crazy trying to protect me."
"Did she really threaten to blow up a courthouse?" Cain had an amused tilt to his voice.
"It was just the court room actually. We gotta saying on this side 'doesn't suffer fools gladly.' Whoever came up with it was describing Allie."