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A Question of Time by Rosemary Beard ©1997

Time: after "Night in Question".

Cinderella's glass slippers are used with the permission of Mel Moser.

The characters are the property of TPTB.

It had been a month since the war and Rose sat at her desk, working on the story challenge for Soulseeker's wedding. She hadn't participated in the war as much as she had wanted to, and she missed her LaCroix. Only the night before she had mentioned this to Mel.

"Why not use the slippers?" Mel asked. "You can bring LaCroix back and spend some time with him."

"That would be great! Could I borrow the slippers for a few days? I'll send them back as soon as I'm done."

Rose smiled.It would be fun, now that she was finished with school work, to take a break before she started looking for a job. It might be good to get away from the story for a while too. It wasn't going well. The doorbell rang and Rose got up to answer it. It was a courier. Mel had sent the slippers priority mail. Rose quickly signed for the package and closed the door. Her heart was pounding as she ripped the wrappings off the box.

Carefully, she lifted the lid and peeked inside. There they were, the slippers that had sent LaCroix back to his own time. Tucked into one of the shoes was a folded piece of paper. Rose picked it up and opened it. It was a note.

Rosemary,

The slippers adjust to fit the feet of the wearer. Just put them on, close your eyes and click the heels together. Wish for your LaCroix, and when you open your eyes, he'll be there.

Mel

PS. I want DETAILS.

Rose smiled as she read the note. The slippers were even more beautiful then she remembered. They sparkled like diamonds and there was a slight glow as she lifted them out of the box. Gently, Rose placed them on the floor. They looked so small.

"Mel will kill me if they get broken." she said.

Taking a deep breath, she gingerly stepped into the shoes. She stood there holding her breath. She could almost feel the glass expanding and reshaping itself. Rose stood there for a moment, staring down at the shoes.

"They fit!" she said in amazement.

She couldn't wait to try them out. Closing her eyes, she clicked the heels together and said

"LaCroix. Show me my LaCroix."

A loud noise, like a gust of wind, filled the room. The lights flickered and the noise grew louder. Rose opened her eyes and watched as a spiral of lights appeared. The lights seemed to dance around her. There was a flash and a shimmering, glowing oval appeared. Rose could see through the oval to another place and time. It was night, but a full moon lit what appeared to be a garden.

"How lovely." Rose thought.

Looking into the portal she could see masses of rose bushes in many colors. There was a fountain nearby and in the center of the garden was a long, stone bench. Standing off to one side, near a wall, was her LaCroix. She called out to him. He turned his head and saw her. Smiling, he moved toward her and extended his hand. Rose was overjoyed at seeing him, and reached for his hand. Suddenly she found herself being pulled toward him. Something was wrong. She was being pulled into the portal!

"LaCroix, help me!" she shouted and then darkness engulfed her.

************************************************

Rose opened her eyes and looked around. It was dark, and her eyes needed time to adjust. She could see lights reflecting off a lake nearby. Squinting, she could make out the shapes of some of the buildings. LaCroix, standing next to her, looked a little puzzled.

"Where are we?" he asked her.

"We are in Toronto, I think." she said."But this doesn't look quite the same as last time we were here."

"Why did you bring us here?" he asked. "Is there another war?"

"No, I mean, I don't know. I didn't bring us here, it was the magic slippers. I only wanted to see you again. I missed you." she told him.

"And I, you. I have often wondered about you and my friends from your time." he said, putting his arms around her, "I have much to tell you. But first we need to find out why we are here."

Rose spotted a newsstand and hurried to it. Picking up a newspaper she scanned it. Maybe it held a clue. Then she saw the date.

"1995?" she mumbled.

Why had they come to Toronto, and why 1995? This hadn't happened when they used the shoes before. There had been a rift then, maybe that was the cause. Taking LaCroix's hand she closed her eyes and clicked her heels.

"Take us home." she said. "Take us to 1997."

Rose opened her eyes. Nothing happened. She closed her eyes and tried it again. Still nothing.

"Why isn't it working?" she said aloud.

Perhaps there was a reason she and LaCroix came here, she thought. Maybe there was something they needed to do.

"Nah, that's too much like Quantum Leap." she said, shaking her head. "That's silly."Rose started laughing. "And this isn't?"

This whole situation was comical. Here she was, standing on the lakefront in Toronto, in the middle of the night, wearing cut off jeans and a T-shirt, ankle socks and crystal slippers, holding hands with a vampire from the middle ages.

"Why are you laughing?" LaCroix asked, looking at her strangely.

"Oh, nothing. I'll explain later. We need to find Nick and Nat and see if they know what's happened. Come on."

Rose started walking toward the center of town, her hand still holding LaCroix's. He seemed to be in no hurry. It was all she could do to keep him walking.

"What are you doing?" she asked, becoming annoyed. "If we don't figure this out, you'll never get back to Fleur."

"I am trying to find Nicholas." he said, removing his hand from hers. "If he is a vampire here, I should be able to feel his presence, perhaps even contact him, but you must keep still."

"Why didn't you say so." Rose asked.

She stood there and watched as LaCroix closed his eyes and concentrated.

"I feel his presence here, but the bond between us is weak. He is after all not MY son. He belongs to the LaCroix of this time." LaCroix told her, his eyes still closed. "This way." he said, hurrying toward the city.

"Wait for me! I can't move at vampire speed, remember? I'm just a lowly mortal." Rose yelled as she struggled to keep up.

An exasperated sigh escaped LaCroix's lips. He turned and scooped her up in his arms and took to the air. Rose put her arms around his neck and placed her head on his chest. Smiling to herself, she held on and enjoyed the ride. LaCroix touched down lightly in front of a large building.

"He's in here." he said, untangling her arms from around his neck.

Stepping into the shadows, he pulled Rose back against him.

"Someone's coming." he said, holding her close so she would not be seen.

Her face reddened.

"Shame on you." she thought, as she pressed herself closer to him.

LaCroix looked down at her, a strange look on his face. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the door opened and a figure stepped out into the night.

"Nick." Rose whispered.

LaCroix reached down and placed his hand over her mouth. Rose really wished he wouldn't do things like that, surely he must be able to tell how her heart beat rapidly when ever he touched her. Nick walked quickly away from where they stood, oblivious to their presence.

LaCroix took his hand from Rose's mouth and motioned for her to follow him. Silently they slipped into the building and activated the lift. Using his great strength, LaCroix opened the door and together they walked into the room. Rose stood there looking around.

"Of course Nick would be here. This is his loft." she said aloud. "He lives here."

"Then we have only to await his return." LaCroix said as he walked around examining the room, opening and closing doors and peering inside cabinets.

Walking to the fridge he pulled open the door. Taking out a bottle he pulled the cork and held it to his nose. "

This is just what I need." he said, and raised it to his lips. "Ugh, this is pitiful." he growled, wiping his mouth in disgust. "I had forgotten that in this time he drinks cow's blood."

Rose stifled a giggle and sat down on the couch.

"How is Fleur?" she asked, not really sure she wanted to know.

"Ah, Fleur." he said, his eyes growing softer. " My precious Fleur is alive and well and waiting for me. We were married shortly after my return. Nicholas and I came to a bit of a compromise. She remains a mortal and I remain with Fleur. It isn't the solution I had hoped for, but her love is still mine."

"Married." she repeated to herself.

Rose sat there feeling a little sorry for herself, she had hoped that LaCroix would have grown tired of Fleur by now and that she might have a chance with him. She shook herself mentally. That was not why they were here. She needed to find a way to return them to their own times. As Rose sat there pondering their situation, they heard the lift activate. LaCroix stepped back into the shadows. Rose got up and hurried across the room, frantically searching for a place to hide.

She had only just made it to the staircase when the door opened and Natalie stepped into the room.

"Who are you and what do you want here?" she asked.

"I, uh, I'm Rosemary. I'm waiting to talk to Nick." she stammered.

"Does he know you're here?" she asked, scanning the loft. "Is he here?"

"No. He left before I arrived. I, uh, we let ourselves in." Rose gave LaCroix a pleading look.

"WE?" Nat said. "Who else is here?"

LaCroix stepped out of the shadows and walked to where Rose was standing.

"You!" Nat gasped. "What are you doing here. Haven't you done enough already?"

Turning to Rose, she said angrily,

"How dare you bring him here." Rose looked at Nat.

"It's not what you think." she started. "He's not..."

LaCroix touched Rose's hand.

"Dear Lady." he said, his deep voice sending chills through Nat. "I am not that Lucien LaCroix. I am here to ask for your help, and in return I will help you if I can ."

"Help?" Nat said, eyeing them suspiciously. "What kind of help? And what could I possibly need from you?"

***********************************************

Rose explained what had happened. She told Nat about the shoes and the war. Rose was on the verge of telling her about what would happen between her and Nick in the future when LaCroix stopped her. Nat sat listening to the tale, not sure whether to believe what she was hearing. Nick's memory had not fully returned, perhaps there was a chance for them, perhaps these two could help. They seemed to know so much already. She was still suspicious of this LaCroix, however. The one she knew would not be so willing to help, in fact he had done everything he could to keep her and Nick apart.

"Suppose I believe you. What do you want me to do?" Nat asked.

"We need to talk to Nick. Do you know where we can find him?" Rose asked.

"No, I have no idea where he went. It'll be dawn soon. But there's no guarantee he'll come back here. Let me try calling him on his cell phone."

Nat walked over and picked up the phone. She dialed the number and anxiously waited.

"C'mon Nick, answer." she said.

But there was no answer. Nat put down the receiver. She had an uneasy feeling about this.

"He's probably with LaCroix." she said wistfully. "He's been spending a lot of time there lately."

Rose looked at Nat. She could see the tears forming in Nat's eyes.

"Why would he do that?" Rose asked. "I thought he didn't want LaCroix in his life."

"He didn't." Nat said, brushing the tears away. "But Nick was angry at me for not telling him about his past. I couldn't. After the shooting he'd lost any memory of being a vampire. He was almost mortal again."

Nat walked over to the sofa and sat down next to Rose.

"We finally had a chance for a real life together."

Tears were streaming down her face. Nat looked down and her hands.

"We even made love." she whispered.

Rose wanted to put her arms around Nat and reassure her that everything would be ok, but she didn't know herself.

"I don't know what happened." Nat sobbed. "The next morning he was demanding to know what he was, and why I didn't tell him the truth. He doesn't trust me anymore. He said that LaCroix is the only one who can fill in the missing pieces." Nat reached up and wiped her eyes. "I don't know what he has been telling Nick. He won't talk about it."

"I know exactly where we are now!" Rose thought.

She got up from her seat and grabbed LaCroix's hand, pulling him toward the door.

"I'm sorry Nat, but we need to go find Nick. We'll be back." she called out as she and LaCroix disappeared out the door, leaving Nat staring wide-eyed after them.

"Where are we going?" LaCroix asked her, freeing himself from her grasp.

"The Raven." she said.

Rose knew where to find Nick. She quickly explained to LaCroix what had happened and where they were going, the words coming so fast that he had some difficulty following her thoughts. Several times he had to ask her to repeat what she was trying to tell him. Once outside, Rose began to run toward the club.

LaCroix anxiously looked at the sky, it was beginning to lighten. Dawn was about to break. He pulled her into his arms and took flight. Rose pointed out the Raven as they drew nearer. Touching down near the door, they rushed inside barely escaping the sunrise.

"That, my dear, was too close for comfort."

Rose looked up at him. She could tell he sensed something. His eyes were rimmed with gold.

"The bond is much stronger now. Nicholas is here."

A noise caught their attention and they turned to see Nick standing near them, staring wide eyed at them both. From behind him another LaCroix stepped forward. This one was angry, his eyes fully golden. Rose quickly stepped behind her LaCroix.

"Lucien." she whispered, "be careful."

"What is this?" LaCroix growled. "Who are you?"

Lucien stepped toward his double, his eyes growing golden.

"I am what you once were." he said quietly. "I have come to help Nicholas regain what was lost."

Nick stood quietly watching the two LaCroix's face each other. Rose made her way across to where he stood. Taking hold of his arm, she drew him aside.

"Nat told us what happened." she said. "Nick, we need to talk."

*************************************************

"This is great!" Rose thought. "I'm here with Nick, the real Nick." She smiled. "I have a chance to do what every N&N Packer dreams of, help get the two of them together."

She looked up into his face. He was just as handsome as she had imagined.

"Hard to believe he'd been shot." she thought.

Nick led her into a small room. He motioned her toward a chair and sat down across from her. Looking at her, he asked.

"Do I know you?"

"No, but I think that we could be great friends. I'm here to help you."

"What makes you think I need your help?"

There was so much hurt in Nick's eyes. Her heart went out to him. He looked so lost, so sad. Rose's voice wavered. "Nick." she said.

"You love Nat, don't you? There is a way that you can be together. LaCroix, my Lucien, can help you do that."

"That's not possible." he said. " I'm a vampire and she is mortal. I will not make her what I am. Unless you have some magical cure, we can never be together. I can not love her the way she needs.It's too dangerous."

Nick's eyes filled with blood tears, an anguished look crossing his features.

"I love her, but she can never be mine."

"Nicholas, that is not true."

Nick hadn't heard him enter the room. Rose looked up and saw Lucien standing in the doorway.

"May I join you?" he asked.

Nick nodded and Lucien entered and sat in a chair nearby. LaCroix followed close behind him, golden-eyed and clearly angry. He was not about to allow this foolishness to continue much .longer.

"What do you mean?" Nick ask him. "I might kill her. I can't take that risk."

"In my time," Lucien began. "I love your sister Fleur. You were adamant that she remain a mortal. I made that concession and we were married."

"Are you going to listen to this imposter? This is utter nonsence." LaCroix said, trying to gain control of the situation. "You know it is not true. You know I wanted to make Fleur one of us."

Nick looked at Lucien, his eyes filled with mistrust.

"You gave her up." he said, "I made her forget you."

"No, Nicholas. You made her forget him." Lucien said, pointing toward LaCroix. "I am not that LaCroix. Fleur and I are happily married. And it is a marriage in every sense. Fleur is still mortal. It is possible, Nicholas. Trust me."

"Nicholas, this is a lie." LaCroix said, his anger growing. "You know it did not happen that way."

Nick got up and began pacing the room. He was unsure of what he was feeling, or what to believe. He had hoped so many times in the past to find a way to be with Nat.

"How do I know you aren't lying?" Nick asked. "Why should I believe you?"

"It's true Nick." Rose chimed in. "I've seen his Fleur. She is very happy with him and she is mortal."

Nick looked at them. He wanted to believe them. If it were true he and Nat could be together. But he was afraid.

"Don't believe them Nicholas." LaCroix said, his voice filled with anger. "They are lying, trying to trick you. I have told you what happened to all the others you loved. Do you want your Natalie to become another of your victims?"

"Nicholas, listen to me." Lucien said. "It is possible, there is hope for you. You must let go of the past. Follow your heart. Your love will protect you."

"I just don't know." Nick said, "If I could just be sure."

Rose stood and walked over to him. She reached out and took his hand.

"Nick, do you remember the night you got out of the hospital? You and Nat were together then. You didn't remember her, but you knew that you loved her."

"But I didn't know I was a vampire. It just happened." Tears were falling freely down his face. "I couldn't live with myself if I hurt her."

Lucien looked at Nick. He could feel the anguish in him. LaCroix stood there glaring at the group. He knew he was on the verge of losing his son forever.

"You can never be sure you will not hurt her. I lost Fleur, walked away from her to prevent that. That is what you must do now. You must walk away from Natalie." he said, hoping to sway Nick's emotions.

"Nicholas," Lucien said. "Whether you remembered or not does not matter. The fact remains that as a vampire, you made love to a mortal and she lived. You didn't hurt her then. Your love protected you both."

Rose wanted to take Nick in her arms and reassure him that all that Lucien said was true. She knew that it would do no good. This was a decision he must make alone.

"Nick, do you love Nat enough to fight for her? If you allow yourself to be swayed by LaCroix, you'll become what he is, bitter, angry, filled with hate and alone. Is this what you want?"

LaCroix looked at Rose. This one was dangerous. He could see her words had reached Nicholas. He moved quickly to stand behind her. Lucien sensed what he was about to do and a low growl echoed through the room.

"You will NOT touch her." he snarled. "She is under my protection."

Rose was startled by this and clung to Nick's arm. Moving to stand in front of her, Nick's eyes turned golden.

"Stop this!" he shouted. Looking at his master, he asked, "If they are lying, what are you afraid of?"

LaCroix looked at them. He could defeat one of them, but the two together were beyond his abilities.

"Have it your way." he snarled, "But be warned. I will have my revenge."

Turning on his heels he left the room. Nick stood there. His emotions torn. He feared hurting Natalie, yet he knew he could not live without her. He loved her as he had never loved another. Rose laid her hand on his arm.

"Trust yourself and your love Nick. It can work."

Nick smiled at her.

"I believe you." he said, "Both of you. But Nat has already told me that we can't have that kind of relationship. Not now."

"Nick, she loves you. Talk to her. She's afraid too. She's afraid she's lost you. She's waiting for us at the loft. Call her, tell her how you feel. It will work, you'll see."

Rose told him.

"I hope you're right." Nick sighed.

He walked over and picked up his cell phone. He dialed the number to the loft. It rang once and he heard a voice on the other end ask,

"Nick?"

"Nat" he said, "We need to talk. Can you come and pick me up? I'm at the Raven. See you in a few minutes."

Nick walked over to where Rose and Lucien were standing.

"What are you going to do now." he asked.

"I really don't know." Rose said. "Just wait until we are sent back, I guess."

"You can't stay here." Nick said, "It's not safe. I know a place where you can stay while you wait."

************************************************

Nick helped Lucien into the trunk and then climbed into the back seat and pulled some heavy blankets over him. Nat and Rose made sure he was completely covered before leaving the garage. Nick had given Nat directions to a building on the edge of town where Rose and Lucien would be staying. After dropping them off and making sure they would be comfortable, Nick and Nat drove to his loft.

Nat pulled the Caddie into the garage and closed the door. They rode the lift up in silence. Nat stole a sideways glance at Nick. He seemed different. The dark mood he had fostered after the shooting was gone. Nick turned and smiled at her.

"Nat", he said, "I have something I need to tell you."

Nick slid the door open and Nat walked into the loft. She was a little worried about what was coming. What was Nick plotting. Had Rose and Lucien come to talk to him about another sham cure? She had seen him disappointed before. Nat walked over and sat on the sofa. Nick sat on the table and took her hand in his. Looking into her eyes he saw the worried look on her face.

"Nat", he said. "Do you trust me?"

"Look Nick, if this is about another cure, I don't want to hear it."

Nat took her hand away from his. She stood up and walked behind the sofa. Leaning against its back she looked at him.

"We have been down this road too many times. I don't know what they told you, but there is no cure."

Nick looked up at her. His expression hadn't changed.

"Do you trust me?" he asked again.

"Of course I do. You know I do." she said quietly. "What is it. Is something wrong?"

"I've fallen deeply and hopelessly in love."

Nat stood there for a moment. She felt as if the world had caved in on her. He was in love with someone else. How had this happened. Only days ago they had.....

"No", she told herself, "That had been a mistake."

He didn't know who he was or what he was. His memory had returned and now she would lose him. Tears formed in her eyes.

"I'm happy for you Nick." she lied.

Nick was smiling. "She's beautiful and witty." he said. "She's dedicated to her work. I've known her for a long time, I love her completely and I'm going to marry her."

Nat felt her heart breaking. She couldn't bear the thought of .losing Nick.

"Is it someone I know?" she asked, trying to hide her unshed tears.

Nick stood up and walked to where she was standing. "

You know her very well." he said. "It's you."

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. Nat was too stunned to move. When he released her, she looked at him. Had he gone mad? How could they marry? It just wasn't possible.

"Nick, I don't understand." she said, "You know we can't. I haven't been able to find a cure for you. You said yourself it's too dangerous."

"I was wrong." he said as he began unbuttoning her blouse. "I know that now. We can and we will."

He began trailing kisses down her throat.

"Nick! Stop that! I can't think."

"You don't need to think." he said, his hands stroking her arms. "Lucien married Fleur. She is still mortal and he told me that they are married in every sense."

Nat stared at him. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"He did what?" she asked. It wasn't true.

"LaCroix walked away from Fleur. He never married anyone. You told me that yourself."

Nick pulled the blouse away from her shoulders and began kissing her again.

"Our LaCroix walked away. In his time Lucien is married to a mortal. He told me our love would protect us, just as it did that night after the shooting."

"But," Nat stammered, "Your memory of what you are was gone."

She couldn't think. He was making it difficult to concentrate.

"It doesn't matter if I remembered or not. I was and still am a vampire. Trust me Nat. Let me love you."

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. Nat couldn't fight her feelings any longer. She no longer cared what happened to her. She wanted to be with him.

"Yes," she whispered, her mouth against his. "Oh Nick, please love me."

Nick raised his head and looked into her eyes. He could see the love and joy shining there. Picking her up and holding her against his chest, he carried her up the stairs and into his bedroom, pushing the door closed behind him.

************************************************

Rose sat in the garden thinking about everything that had happened. This was the strangest week she had ever spent. In the last seven days she had been pulled back in time, threatened by a vampire, protected by two more and been pressed into service planning a wedding.

"The wedding." she thought. "It's going to be so beautiful."

Nat had chosen the setting. Friends of hers owned a large house with an elaborate rose garden. They were only too happy to see her married. Nat and Rose had spent the last two days making sure everything was perfect. A lattice arch, entwined with ivy and white roses, stood at the end of a cobblestone path. This is where they would take their vows. Rose sat on one of the garden benches, thinking about her family and friends. Surely by now they had missed her and were worried.

"Will I ever get back?" she wondered. "And the story! She had to finish the story before Soul's wedding. Maybe I should borrow Nick's cell phone and call them." Rose looked around for Nick. "Wait." she said to herself. " I can't do that. There has to be another me in this time. What if she answers the phone. What would I say to myself? How would I explain all this? Would I believe me?"

This time traveling was all so confusing. Rose was tired and homesick. All she had wanted was to spend time with Lucien and everything had gotten so complicated.. Rose felt a hand on her shoulder. She had been so lost in her own thoughts that she hadn't heard Lucien come up behind her. Slowly she turned around and looked up at him.

"Tears?" he asked. "Is something wrong? Are you alright?"

"Yes" she said, lying badly. "I'm fine. I was just thinking about the wedding and how happy Nick and Nat are. I guess I just miss my friends and family. What if we can't get back?"

Lucien sat down next to her and put his arms around her.

"I miss mine too." he said.

Rose knew he was thinking of Fleur.

"Don't worry, we'll get back somehow."

Rose sat there looking at him. She was going to miss him. He looked deep into her eyes. As if he knew what she were thinking, he took her face in his hands and gently kissed her.

"I'll miss you too." he whispered.

Rose buried her face in his chest. This LaCroix was so caring. How she wished that Nick and Nat's LaCroix was like him. It would be hard for them at first, but their love would see them through. Rose reluctantly removed herself from Lucien's embrace.

It was time to start the wedding. She stood up and made her way to where Nat was standing. It had turned out to be a beautiful night. The full moon lit the garden with a silvery light. Nat was aglow with love and happiness as she walked down the path toward Nick. Nick stood there next to Lucien, his eyes fixed on Nat. She was so lovely and soon she would belong to him.

As Nat drew nearer, he reached out and took her hand. Raising it to his lips, he kissed it reverently and led her to where the minister stood. Together they recited their vows, promising themselves to each other.

Rose stood next to Lucien, tears in her eyes. It was so romantic. She reached out and took Lucien's hand. He pressed it gently to his lips. Rose could feel her body begin to tingle. She knew it wasn't Lucien's kiss.

"The shoes." she thought.

Lifting the gown she was wearing, she looked down at her feet. The shoes were glowing. It was time to go. Holding on to Lucien's hand, she closed her eyes and clicked her heels together.

"Home." she said.

The wind roared past them. A swirl of lights appeared and danced around them. The shimmering portal formed in front of them and they stepped through. Again they were surrounded by darkness. Rose opened her eyes and found herself standing in front of her computer. She was alone. She looked down at the glowing screen on her monitor. Lucien was there, smiling back at her. She could see the garden where he had been standing only a week before. In the distance she heard Fleur calling his name.

He waved to Rose and then turned and walked away. Rose blinked. The monitor screen was normal again. The flashing clock in the corner of her monitor caught her attention. How was this possible? She had been gone a week, yet it showed that only an hour had passed. Smiling to herself she sat down at the keyboard and called up the story she had been writing. Feverishly her fingers flew over the keyboard.

On her desk sat the box containing the Cinderella slippers. Inside she had included a thank you note to Mel. Rose would return the shoes the next day. As for the details that Mel wanted,

"Well", Rose thought, "she'll have to wait and read the story when it's written. Its only a question of time."

END