All My Children

by Thea Zara and Deref

Chapter 15: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Jake

"There you are," said Willow, bending down to pick up the ecstatic pup, whose tail was beating time with pleasure at being reunited with his new-found friend. "You little devil!" she said, cradling him in her arms. "You're a bad boy! Yes you are!" She laughed as he licked her face.

Down the block, Coyote decided to head back to the car to see if anyone else had had any luck. He and Willow  turned their respective corners simultaneously, to be confronted with a scene of mayhem. Jake and Helen stood leaning against the Kombi van, their hands and legs apart, a prostrate form lying sprawled on the ground at their feet. A police officer, gun in hand, fiddled with a pair of handcuffs as a black Deputy Sherrif's cruiser took the corner hard and screeched to a halt behind Helen's car.

Coyote slowly walked towards Willow, his jaw slack with disbelief, as the patrolman climbed out of  the cruiser and walked towards the officer standing behind Jake and Helen.  "Hey Ned," the officer standing guard over Jake and Helen said. "He'p me cuff these two and git 'em in the car an' back to the station, I'll look after Billy Bob here," he nodded towards the body on the sidewalk.

Coyote and Willow looked at each other, bewildered, and started across the street as the second officer bundled Jake and Helen into the back of the patrol car and threw a plastic bag full of a green substance into the front seat before getting in.. A small crowd had gathered to watch, and Coyote turned to a hippie couple who were standing behind the Kombi.

"What's goin' down, man?" he asked.

"Bad scene, man," the hippie guy answered. "The pigs are bustin' some poor guy and his chick."

"How about the guy on the ground?"

The man the ground was starting to come round as the police officer bent down beside him. He sat up, rubbing his jaw. "What hit me? A freight train?" he said.

"The chick did it!" the hippie woman said to Coyote, admiration and excitement in her voice. "It was so cool! That guy's a pig - everyone knows Billy Bob around here - but she couldn't 'a known it. She saw him hassling her guy and she just laid him out! Pow! Man - it was incredible!"

The police officer looked up at the woman who'd been speaking, then back down at the man on the ground. "That sweet little hippie chick, by the sound of it, Billy Bob." he answered, a wry smile on his face.  "The guys at the station are gonna be real sympathetic."

The man on the ground scowled and got up. "Not if you don't tell 'em, they won't," he grumbled. "I'm goin' home."

"Okay, Billy Bob. Jes' you watch out for any o' them mean kids from th' grade school on the way home, now. We wouldn't want you gittin' hurt agin."

The crowd tittered as Billy Bob walked off.

"Okay folks, nothin' to see here. Let's all move along, shall we?" the officer said as he climbed into the patrol car and slowly drove off.

"Where's he gonna take them, man?" Coyote asked, fumbling for the keys to the Kombi and following Jake's forlorn and pleading expression as he stared back at him out of the rear window of the cruiser.

"Down to the station I guess. They friends o' yours?"

Coyote looked glum. "Yeah. Jeezuz, we're gonna have to get down there and see what's gonna happen."

"The station's just a couple of blocks over." the girl said, pointing at a cross street. "They'll probably try to get 'em in to see the judge as soon as they can. That was a big bag of weed that guy had. A bust like that's gonna be big news and they'll wanna  get things  wrapped up tight."

"Thanks, man," Coyote said to her as he turned to Willow. "We'd better get moving."

"Good luck, man," the hippie said.

* * *

"Here you go, Mister Big - a nice, comfortable suite for you to wait in."  The officer slid open the door of a gloomy cell and gently pushed Jake in, closing and locking the door behind him.

"Wait!" yelled the distressed Jake. "Don't I get a trial or something? You can't just lock me up...can you?"

"Relax," smiled the young policeman. "This is just a holding cell. The DA'll be along to chat to you in the morning. You just sit back and enjoy the first class service." He turned and walked away.

"But I'm innocent," Jake whimpered quietly to himself, knowing that he was as guilty as sin.

"We're all innocent, my friend."

Jake spun around to see that he wasn't alone in the cell. A greasy-haired chubby young man, about his own age was sitting on the lower of two bunks. "Uh, we are?" Jake said.

"As I said to Bob Dylan, the innocents are always being persecuted. It was the inspiration for Highway 61 Revisited."

"What?" said Jake. "You know Bob Dylan? No way!"

"Yes, way," said the man, smugly. "I taught him how to play the harmonica. He was so grateful that he invited me to go on tour with him, but I had to turn him down. He was devastated of course."

"Really?" Jake said, wide-eyed.

"Oh yes. I'd already promised Jimi Hendrix that I'd accompany him at Woodstock. Now, alas, it seems that The Man has stepped in to prevent that. I don't suppose you have any food on you by any chance? A candy bar perhaps?"

Jake patted his pockets. "No, sorry. But which man?"

"Pity," the man said, looking disappointed. "But not 'which' man - The Man - you know - Authority - the CIA - the pigs - the Military-Industrial Complex - the Generals - the Establishment. All the forces that are conspiring to resist the coming of the new age."

"Oh," Jake said uncertainly. "That Man."

"Yes. In fact I have it on the highest authority that The Man is going to use Woodstock to assert the power of the state over The Children. The Man will never allow His power to be challenged. He's doomed to fail of course, it's in the stars, but The Children are going to suffer first. Oh yes."

"The highest authority?" Jake gulped.

"I've said too much already. Just remember that, if you get out of here, Woodstock is probably not going to be the place to be."

Jake was too befuddled to notice the contradiction in his cellmate's ramblings - why would he be on his way to Woodstock to accompany Jimi Hendrix if he had inside knowledge that The Man was going to assert His power there, to make The Children suffer? It all made sense in a twisted kind of way.  Jake could see that he and his new friend were more victims of a massive conspiracy to persecute The Children, not simply hippies who'd been busted. "Yeah!" he said, getting angry. "Damn The Man, the BASTARD!" And suddenly it struck him! Mad Dog! The Man! They were one and the same!

"Are you sure you don't have a candy bar?" the man asked again.

"Well I probably WOULD have had one, but The Man would have taken it away if I HAD! There'd be NO CANDY for Jakey!"

"Uh, right," said the man, taking a step backwards.

"Say, what are you in for?" Jake asked, knowing that someone with such important connections would be in for something much more important than a dope bust..

"Bald tires," he said, holding his head high. "They missed the ten keys of dope, the block of Lebanese blonde hash, and the thousand tabs of acid in hidden in the door panels that I was planning to take to Woodstock. Only as a personal favour to Jerry Garcia you understand."

"Jerry Garcia! You mean you..."

"Shhhhh!" his cellmate said. "Someone's coming."

The officer who'd brought Jake in opened the door and handed them both a plate of what looked and smelled like a passable chili, and Jake's mouth watered despite his predicament.

"Um sir, Mr. officer, sir. Where did they take my friend?" 

Officer Steven Wright could have withheld the information, but the sheer panic in the guy's voice, combined with the ribbing he was going be able to give that blowhard Billy Bob, made him sympathetic enough to answer.  "Well, we don't really have a place to put ladies. She's spending the night on a cot in one of the empty offices, at least until you two have seen the judge in the morning."

Jake nodded gravely at the news then sat on the bottom bunk of the dimly-lit room to eat, comforted a little by the knowledge that Helen was probably in slightly more decent quarters. His cellmate climbed into the top bunk and ate hungrily, handing his empty bowl down to Jake to stow for the night. Soon he was fast asleep and snoring like a bear using a chainsaw. That, alone, would have been enough to keep Jake awake, but within an hour it was clear that the chili had had more than a soporific effect and that, together with his tossing and turning that shook the bunkbeds, kept Jake and his over-active imagination sleepless until morning.

* * *

Helen sat in the stark room at the station waiting and worrying. The clock on the wall said that it was ten o'clock At last, after what seemed like hours Jake was brought in.

"Oh man, Helen, I'm sorry!" he wailed. "I wasn't thinking! It must have been the damned Colorado Green! Don't worry - I'll throw myself on the mercy of the court. I'll make sure they know it was all my fault - I'll tell them that you had nothing to do with it! I don't care what they do to me! They can stick burning splints under my fingernails! They can tear out my tongue! They can..."

"Jake!" Helen exclaimed angrily. "Please--keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking."

The conversation with his cellmate long-forgotten, the seriousness of their trouble descended heavily on Jake. It was one thing to get himself busted, but he'd managed to get Helen busted too, and that was far, far worse. He imagined her rotting away in a women's prison, dark circles under her eyes, her hair (her beautiful hair) lank and greasy, her face lined and wrinkled. He saw her father, waiting for him as he walked out of the prison gates in twenty years' time, toothless, ready to take him to some deserted warehouse where a tank was waiting, full of who knows what, chains waiting for him to hang by his thumbs as he was lowered, screaming, into the bubbling, steaming vat. But worst of all he realised (again--how many times did he need to be reminded) that his father - The Man - had been absolutely right. What on Earth had let him imagine, in his wildest dreams, that he deserved a woman like Helen? If he ever got out of this mess she'd never speak to him again anyway. She'd leave with Willow and Coyote. Leave him there, watching them drive away, hoping that her father would arrive to put him out of his misery, to dissolve him. It would be no more than he deserved.

"Okay," he whimpered.

They turned as the door opened and a short man in a smart grey suit came in.

"Well, well well," he said, a bored smirk on his face as he sat down and tossed a briefcase on the table between them, opened it, and pulled out a charge sheet. "Looks like we got you two dead to rights. Assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, possession with intent to sell." He looked at them as if they were beneath his contempt. "I think the pair of you are going away for some time."

"But I didn't resist arrest,"
Helen interrupted, "and I didn't know I was assaulting an officer. I saw a man attacking my bo- my friend and I did what anyone would do in the..."

The DA, for that was who he was, stood up slowly, looming over Helen before speaking again. "Your friend there was seen talking with Peter Slatkowitz, a well known all-around scumbag. We know the two of you are moving into the area, and looking to start dealing. Maybe make some money to support your sicko hippie ways. We're not going to stand for it around here, Missy."

It took every ounce of will power Helen possessed to not to either laugh in his face or burst into tears. After glaring at her form a moment or two, pausing at certain points to leer, the DA walked towards the door, "An officer will be up to take the pair of you to the courthouse for an arraignment in a few minutes. This is gonna be a piece of cake."

He closed the door as he left. Helen glanced towards Jake, looking like a deer caught in the headlights.  Just as her emotions were about to tell her how she felt about that, the door opened again. "Okay you two - you're in luck. Judge Peabody's got an easy day and we can get things movin'. Come on."

Helen and Jake glanced nervously at each other as they got up and followed the young officer, not much older than they were,  out of the cells and up a flight of well-worn wooden stairs, through a door that led them straight into a small courtroom. An elderly man sat behind the bench, peering over a set of gold wire-framed spectacles. Two old but well-polished pine tables, each with three chairs, faced the judge and, behind them, a pine balustrade separated the court from the public gallery, empty of people except for a bored-looking reporter from the local paper, notebook and pencil in hand, and two worried-looking hippies who were sitting in the gallery, watching intently.

The DA who had spoken to them was chatting to a dishevelled-looking man whose suit looked as if he'd been sleeping in it. They stopped as Jake and Helen were led in and told to stand in front of the bench. The judge looked down at them, his face, which might have seemed that of a kindly old uncle in other circumstances, was impassive.

"Mr. Morgendorffer, Miss Barksdale. You've met our District Attorney, Mister Masling, I believe. And this," He looked over at the dishevelled man and sighed. "is Mister Grant, the Public Defender."

Mister Grant walked out from behind the desk, nodded at Helen and Jake, and came to stand beside them. Helen immediately noticed two things:  he needed a bath, and he'd been drinking.

"Your Honour," the DA started, "this is an open and shut case. You've read the charge sheet. I think we can wrap it up pretty quickly."

The judge looked down over his glasses at the DA. "Uh huh. Mister Grant, do you have anything to say?" Then, quietly, and with weary disdain "Or perhaps you'd prefer to talk to your clients first?"

"Yeronner," Mister Grant started, but Helen immediately interrupted.

"Your Honour,  I'd like to act as my own council if it please the court." She smiled at the grandfatherly looking man on the bench before her.

Judge Peabody looked at her with some surprise. "Alright Miss, I don't see why not. This isn't a trial, just an arraignment hearing to see whether the charges stack up. You don't need to be formal, just address the charges and tell me your side of the story.
What do you have to say for yourselves? "

"Your Honour," Helen said, "we're both passing through Boulder, we had no plans on setting up any sort of drug business, or any intent of buying any drugs. I was looking for my friends' lost puppy when I came back to find my boyfriend here, being attacked by a large man. I saw no badge and no uniform; only a man who was attacking my friend. Who, I might add, wasn't fighting back."

Jake stared at Helen wide-eyed, intense pride in her and a deepening sense of his own inadequacy battling it out for supremacy inside.

"If it was one of your loved ones," Helen continued, hoping that the judge had grandchildren and that this would arouse his protective instincts, "wouldn't you do the same thing? Or would you wait and take down names first while someone was hurting them?"

The judge paused. He looked at Helen, then over at the Public Defender, who'd gone back to his seat at the pine table and fallen asleep, then back to Helen. "Mmm. Your point is well-taken.  I am dismissing the charges of assault on a police officer, Mr. Masling." Jake looked round to see the DA scowl. "Now, what about resisting arrest, Miss?"

"Your Honour, from the moment I realized I was dealing with police officers I offered no resistance whatsoever, and I didn't see my friend resisting at any point either."

"Mr. Masling, is the charge of resisting arrest pursuant to the assault on the officer?"

"Yes, your Honour," the DA said unhappily, "however I think that..."

"Consider that charge dismissed as well."

Masling stared at the Judge, the looked down at his notes and said resignedly, "Yes, your Honour."

"What about the final charge Mr. Masling?"

The DA brightened. "Your honour, may it please the court, I'd like to see how these two can explain being in possession of such a large quantity of marijuana." He sneered at Helen. " I assume there is some story as to how you so innocently happened upon it."

Jake spoke up suddenly. "Helen doesn't know anything about it, your Honour. She had nothing to do with it. It was my fault entirely! I confess! I bought it!"

The DA allowed himself a small smirk of  satisfaction. Helen gritted her teeth, but just as she opened her mouth to speak a bailiff rushed into the court room with a paper for the DA. Everything stopped as the DA read the paper and turned an interesting shade of purple.

"Mr. Masling, am I correct in assuming that paper pertains to this case?" the Judge asked.

"Yes, your Honour. It's the, uh, the report on the, uh, the material that Mr. Morgendorffer was arrested with."

"May I see it, please, Mr. Masling?"

The DA looked down at the paper, then back up at the Judge. "Uh, yes, of course, your Honour."

After a moment of rustling as the Judge looked through the paperwork presented to him, he looked up over his glasses at Jake and spoke. "Mr. Morgendorffer, I hope you got a good deal on your purchase."

Jake's cheeks flushed as he stuttered a reply, "Ye-e-es, your Honour."

"That's a good thing, young man, I'd hate to think you got swindled on such fine home-grown Colorado parsley."

"It's just that I'd feel better if John and Paul were with us, Honey," Vincent explained.

"It's just that you don't trust my judgement!" Amanda fumed. "It's NOT going to happen again, Vincent, and we DON'T have to lay this trip on John and Paul just because you're PARANOID!"

Vincent sighed, cursing inwardly and reflecting that the 'glow' that pregnant women are supposed to have was probably just the nuclear radiation caused by the destruction of their reason by their hormones. "Look, you can call it paranoia if you want. If that's what you think, okay then, I'm paranoid! You're eight and a half months pregnant! God only knows what it's going to be like at this thing - there may not even be any toilets, let alone first aid - let ALONE whatever you need for childbirth - and let me remind you that I haven't got a clue what that might be because last time we..."

"Last time we did just FINE, thank you, and..."

"And NOTHING! Listen Amanda - I'm not going to risk this. I'm going there to work, not to be a spectator. You're in NO condition to be clambering around with my gear, and I'm not going to be around to look after you if something goes wrong. Here's the deal - either Paul and John come or we don't go. And I mean 'we'. If I have to turn the job down to stop you doing something stupid then that's exactly what I'm going to do. Understand?"

Amanda looked at him and fumed, but realised that she was beaten. Not that she was going to tell him that. "FINE!" she ejaculated. "I'll call them, but if they..."

"No. I'll call them. And if they can't come then nobody comes."



Vincent walked over to the couch, sat down, picked up the telephone, and dialled.


 "Hi, John, It's Vincent."

"Vincent! Hellooooo, dear!" John adopted the 'high camp' routine that, now that they'd become friends, he sometimes affected as a comedy routine, and Vincent smiled despite himself. "How's our little mother to be?"

"Pig-headed, irrational, stubborn, misguided, wilful, inconsiderate..."

"Ah," John sighed. "Young love."

Amanda walked over and blew a loud raspberry into the phone.

"Vincent, honey, just between you and me, try to keep her off the baked beans. They're not agreeing with her."

Vincent burst out laughing.

"What did he say?" Amanda asked.

Vincent took the phone away from his mouth. "He says you're an idiot and you should do what you're told."

"Ooooh! You bitch! I did NOT!"

Amanda reached over and tried to grab the phone but Vincent snatched it out of her reach, moving it to the other ear as Amanda sat down beside him. "Listen, John, um, we have a little favour to ask..."

"Sorry, sweetie, we're broke. You know we would if we could, but..."

"No, it's nothing like that. You know this gig I've got coming up in Bethel in a couple of weeks time?"

"Woodstock? Do I KNOW it? It's only going to be the happening of the YEAR!"

Vincent was genuinely surprised. "It is?"

"You're surprisingly uninformed, dear. They're expecting forty thousand people. It's going to be quite a turn."

Vincent chuckled. "Yeah, well, see, I have this problem. It's Amanda..."

"Condoms, dear boy. Or the pill. Either one."

"John - stop it!" Vincent grinned, while Amanda moved round to the other side so she could hear what John was saying to make him laugh. "This is serious."

"Okay, I'm sorry. What's up?"

Vincent sighed again. "She wants to come. No, let me rephrase that, she insists - as only Amanda can - on coming."

"Ah. I see."

"Yeah. Well, anyway, the thing is, I'll be running round all over the place doing what I get paid to do and I won't be able to look after her and Wind, and I, that is we, were wondering whether..."

"Whether Paul and I would come and play nursemaids to Amanda and Wind?"

"Uh, yeah, basically, though I wouldn't quite have put it that way."

"Vincent, we'd love to, but like I said, we find ourselves a little financially embarrassed right now, and..."

Oh no. I can get as many free passes as I need. The Voice'll pay for Amanda's and my motel and I'd pay for a room for you too."

"We couldn't ask you to..."

"What - like I couldn't ask you to 'play nursemaid'?" Vincent smirked as he heard a snarl of indignation from Amanda, the smile only leaving his face when she threw one of Wind's diapers at him.
"Listen, John, I'd pay ten times for the peace of mind."

"Okay, if you put it like that, hold on while I ask Paul. Paul," John called, and Vincent heard him say "It's Vinnie - he wants to know if we'd like to come with them to Woodstock, all expenses paid."

After a pause, John spoke back into the phone. "He says he'll have to think about it. He's thought about it. He says 'yes'." Vincent heard the phone being grabbed from John's hand. "Vincent? It's Paul. The answer isn't 'yes', it's 'YES!'"

As they walked out of the courtroom Jake was a seething mass of self-loathing. He'd fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book, got Helen arrested, had fallen apart when it came to the crunch, and, worst of all, had been saved from the whole damn thing by the very woman he'd promised to take care of. Helen sure wouldn't waste any time in dumping his sorry ass after that whole fiasco.

They walked out into the afternoon where Willow and Coyote were waiting for them, smiling, and he dared to glance across at her to find that she was looking at him in a most peculiar way. She took his hand and pulled him down the front steps then finally turned to look at him, a smile lighting up her face.  "I've never felt so alive!  I think I know what I want to do."


As he tried to find his voice, she lunged at him.  A very shocked Jacob Morgendorffer found himself on the receiving end of a first class, grade A kiss.

When Helen finally pulled away he managed to stammer, "I... uhhh... wow!"

"Well, well. A charming little scene, I'm sure."

They looked around to see DA Masling standing behind them, his face a mixture of boredom and annoyance. "Impressive, young lady. At least impressive enough to sway an old man with a kind heart. Don't imagine that it's always going to be that easy. And you, Morgendorffer..." he looked at Jake. "Don't make the mistake of assuming it was rank incompetence on behalf of the local law enforcement rather than astronomical good luck on yours."

Jake opened his mouth to speak but, having enough sense to realise that the DA was right, closed it again.

"Still," Masling sighed, "the fact that you were dumb enough to buy a bag of parsley probably means you've never even seen the real thing, so you probably deserve to get off. It's a good thing that stupidity isn't a crime or you'd be behind bars for a long time." He looked back at Helen. "Let me give you some advice. The boys at the station had a good laugh about the way you laid out Billy Bob, and it's going to take him a long time to live it down. But don't imagine for an instant that he's the only one that's going to be gunning for you and your long-haired friends here." He flicked a glance at Willow and Coyote. "Billy Bob may be a damn fool, but he's their damn fool, and the first cop to bust you kids for a bald tire is gonna be mighty pleased. I wouldn't even be surprised if they turned up some real drugs, too." He looked intently at Helen. "Possession really is nine points of the law, Miss Barksdale, particularly when it comes to drugs. And no matter how it gets there,  if it's found in your car or your handbag...well, I'm sure you get my drift."

Helen was shocked, but the look in Masling's face was unmistakable. "Uh, yes. Thank you."

Masling paused. "It seems that you have enough sense for both of you then. Now get out of here and across the county line, and stay within the speed limit." He looked her up and down. "If you do decide to study law, you might find that there's an opening here in Boulder for a Public Defender. Not that there's much of a future in it."

Before Helen could draw a breath to say anything he'd turned and walked away.

"Best if we don't look a gift horse in the mouth, Babe," said Willow quietly. And so, without saying another word, they walked back toward the cars, got in, and drove out of town.

* * *

A red Dodge Dart and a multicoloured Kombi van pulled into a turnout just west of the Boulder county line. The passenger door of the Dart opened and out stepped a man of medium height with dark brown hair. At first glance it would have seemed to an onlooker that he was bent with age; perhaps weary of life and its cares. A closer inspection would have revealed one Jacob Morgendorffer, 18, indeed weary of life and bent with care, certain that any minute he was going to be left behind to find his way back home as best he could, tail between his legs.

His companion, conversely, alighted from the driver's side with a spring in her step, a sparkle in her eye, and body language that challenged the world to do its worst, for she was ready. Helen strode across to the Kombi as Willow wound down the window. "Well," she said, taking a deep breath and savouring the mountain air as if it were fine wine, "where to now, comrades in arms?"

"Where to?" Coyote asked rhetorically. "As if there's any option, man! There's only one place to be this summer!"

"WOODSTOCK!" Willow, Coyote and Helen cheered, Jake's voice noticably absent.

"Jake?" said Coyote as they turned to him. "What's up, man? I mean...Woodstock...?"

Jake looked up. "You know The Man's gonna ruin it," he said despondently. "Do you really think He's gonna let all the children come together for a celebration of peace and love?" He scowled, and looked back down at the ground.

"Oh - wow," said Willow, "Heavy. Do you think Jake could be right?"

"Of course I'm right," Jake muttered, a storm cloud of gloom hanging over his head. "You know where we'll end up if we head to Woodstock? I'll tell you where we'll end up. We'll end up in the slammer, busted by some bent pig is where we'll end up. There won't be any peace and love for us." The pitch of Jake's voice rose. "Oh no. It'll be 'well, well, well, what have we here? Ten keys of dope, a block of Lebanese Blonde hash, a thousand tabs of acid,' that's what it'll be! And there won't be any nice kind judge to let us go! ROT is what we'll do! Just like my old man said I would! Oh yeah. The Man'll make sure of that!"

Willow, Helen, and Coyote looked at each other, then back to Jake, at the dark circles under his eyes. "Bad scene, man," Coyote muttered. "I dunno, I mean they couldn't bust everyone, could they?"

"Uh, maybe they could, lover," said Willow quietly, turning to Coyote, "and maybe they couldn't, but I think Jake's been seriously freaked out by that scene in Boulder. Maybe the best thing we could do would be to go somewhere where we could, uh, you know, just let it all hang loose for a while and get our heads together."

Helen and Coyote exchanged glances, looked over at Jake, then back at Willow.  "Getting our heads together certainly sounds like a good idea," said Helen.

"I've always wanted to check out Yellowstone." Coyote sighed. "It's only a couple of days away."

"Oh yeah," Willow replied, smirking and putting her hand on Coyote's knee, "those great big geysers - the way they spurt like that, regular as clockwork."

Helen looked uncomfortable. "It's late. We'd better find somewhere to camp for the night." She glanced at Jake. "It's been a long day and there are...things I want to say..."

Keeping his head down, Jake peered up at Helen.  "Yeah, and I know what they are," he thought, and walked back to the Dodge.

Helen avoided conversation with Jake as they headed down the road. He was in a delicate mood, and though she had a solution, she figured that what she had to say should wait until they were in a more appropriate situation. To Jake, her silence was confirmation that she was keeping her ammunition dry, ready to let go with both barrels when the time was right, and he let the dark thoughts percolate. By the time they found somewhere to camp he was dog tired, and he set up the small two-person tent mechanically, expecting that he was going to end up sleeping under a tree, and he crawled into the tent and lay down, though there was still some light in the sky.

Helen, meanwhile, had been talking to Willow and Coyote, suggesting that they might like to park the Kombi a discreet distance from the tent. "How about some food, man." Coyote had suggested, but Helen had begged off, saying that she really didn't feel like eating right now.

By the time she got to the tent Jake was already in his sleeping bag, turned toward the outside of the tent. "Jake?" she said, taking her shoes off and putting them on the ground at the end of the tent then tying up the ties that closed the tent flap to the outside world. Jake was beginning to realise that it wasn't so much the prospect of having to go back home by himself that was bothering him. It was the thought of losing Helen, and the sting of that was more intense than the loathing he felt for himself, his stupidity, and his weakness. Amanda's place in his heart, he knew, would never fade, but the fact was that he was in love with Helen, and he just grunted, hoping that she'd ignore him, or at least leave "the talk" until tomorrow so that he could spend one last night with her. He closed his eyes and tried to shut out the world.

Helen started speaking as she unzipped her jeans, taking his grunt as tiredness. "Jake, we need to talk."

The accumulated detritus of the last twenty-four hours washed over Jake in a wave of exhaustion, but he steeled himself for what he knew was coming, and he grunted again.

"A lot of things have been rolling around in my head all day," Helen continued, as she wriggled out of her jeans and undid the buttons on her blouse. "and I've just got to get them out in the open. I - well - this hard for me, so, uh, could you just let me talk and get it out?"

"Why not?" Jake thought. "Nothing I can say is going to change anything. She's right about me anyway."

"I found out some things about myself today, and maybe I found out a little more about who I am - about who I want to be." She paused, as if she was thinking. "I want to make...changes. I want to do something that'll give me the chance to make the world better. You heard what the DA said! That sort of thing must go on all the time! And that drunken idiot - whatever his name was," Her voice had a steel edge to it now. " - if that's what people have to rely on to get justice, then there's no justice at all. And I'm damned if I'm going to sit back and let it happen if there's something I can do about it. I want to get into a good school. I want to learn what I need to learn to get into law school."

"Oh, so that's it," Jake thought, his sense of impending doom deepening. "I'm dumping you for law school."

"I know this probably sounds silly and melodramatic, Jake, but I want to make the changes. I want to...expose and weed out the people who use the system to deny ordinary people justice - to oppress instead of liberate! To make sure that the voices of ordinary people like us are heard!"

Helen paused again as she finished undressing.

"I realised something else, too, Jake," she said more quietly. "When I saw that...bastard hurting you, I realised how much I love you."

The words exploded in Jake's mind, and his heart skipped several beats. He turned and looked into her eyes. " me?" he croaked.

Her smile lifted the crushing weight from his body and his soul, and when she replied "Of course," his spirit soared. His faced changed from the rigid mask he'd forced himself to maintain to a goofy grin as he breathed out the words "I love you too."

Helen smiled at him and continued. "I realised a few other things too. There were things I was worried about, things that I couldn't get over before. But I realised they just aren't important now."

As she spoke, Jake began to relax, listening to her voice as she spoke. Instead of a declaration of his failings ending in the rejection he so richly deserved, it was the sweetest lullaby, and he listened as Helen poured out her heart. His eyes grew heavy despite the fact that the weight of weariness had left his body. He lay in her arms as she talked about her hopes, and Jacob Morgendorffer realised that, for the first time in what seemed like forever, he was home.

Helen kept speaking of the things she'd been feeling, and all the thoughts that had been doing laps of her mind all day and, as she approached the final declaration, she looked down and stopped. The man she loved was snoring quietly in her arms, the corners of his mouth turned up slightly in a peaceful smile.

* * *

"Rise and shine, man - it's eight o'clock! If we wanna get to Yellowstone maņana we're gonna have to hit the road." Coyote's voice roused Helen and Jake out of a deep sleep.

As Jake surfaced, the memory of Helen's words came back to him and he as if he'd been given life anew. He yawned, taking a deep lungful of  honey air, stretched, and turned over to see Helen beside him. He hair was dishevelled, and the way it fell over her face made her look as beautiful as anything Jake had he'd ever seen. And her smile...Jake felt that his heart would burst with happiness, and for a minute they just looked at each other, content to be alive in that moment.

The tent flap opened and Willow stuck her head in. "Come on you two!" Then, seeing how they were looking at each other, "Jeez - anyone'd think that you'd never seen each other before!"

Helen turned and returned Willow's grin. "Maybe we haven't."

It was on the road that morning, between nowhere and Yellowstone, that Helen told Jake that, if it was okay with him, she was ready.

It was okay with Jake.

When they stopped for lunch and a walkies break for Leary, Willow and Coyote were entertained by Helen and Jake's antics and smouldering looks. Leary joined in the fun by attacking Jake's ankle as he and Helen played tonsil tennis, provoking peals of mirth all round, except for Jake, whose ankle was the object of Leary's tender attentions.

As dusk drew on apace, Jake's and Helen's anticipation rose along with their hormone levels and, when the camp was set up, neither Willow nor Coyote was surprised when their friends showed no interest in dinner and made a bee line for the tent. "You know," Willow said to Coyote after they'd gone, "Either they've got some new gig going that they're not sharing with us, or they didn't take my advice back at the commune." Coyote just grinned.

Helen and Jake spent long moments lying in the tent just gazing into each other's eyes, savouring the anticipation before they started the delicious pleasure of undressing each other. Neither wanted to hurry, and Helen moaned softly as they held each other close, skin against skin.  Jake kissed down her neck, sliding one hand along her side slowly.  As he did, her body quivered under him. He looked into her eyes to find they were twinkling, but she was biting her lip struggling with what looked like laughter.  He pulled back a little, his nerves getting the better of him.  "What'd I do wrong?" he asked quietly.

She let out the breath she was holding and smiled up at him. "Nothing Jakey, I'm just a little ticklish."
Relieved, and thoroughly intrigued now, he slid his hand back up and down her side.  She returned to her tensed up state, squirming under his attentions.  When he slid his left hand up her other side she lost the war with herself and peals of laughter and giggles filled the tent.  Jake joined her in laughing, his hands slowly coming to a stop.

Suddenly a howl of alarm rent the air. "OW! MY BUTT!"

Helen jerked away in alarm. "Jake! What's wrong?"

"OhmyGOD! Helen!" Jake yelled, jerking away from the side of the tent. "A wild animal's attacking me!"

Helen sat upright. "Oh Jake!"

This time Jake knew what he had to do - if it was his last act he was going to save the woman he loved. "I'll save you, Helen!" He gasped, thrusting his elbow into the back of the tent, hoping to attract the ravening beast, rewarded by feeling it attack his a arm through the canvas.  He clenched his teeth, his heart pounding, not knowing whether his arm was about to be torn off, or bitten in two, and not caring as long as it bought Helen time. "Run for the car. Dammit, Helen - RUN!"

Helen's heart leaped into her mouth and she thrust her head out of the tent flap, hoping that she could get a clear run for either the Dodge or the van. Hearing the struggle going on at the back of the tent she darted out and ran for all she was worth, pausing for only a second to look back, desperately hoping that she wouldn't see Jake being torn to pieces by a cougar or a Kodiak bear. She stopped, stricken at what she saw.

"WILLOW!" she yelled. "Come and get your damned dog!"

* * *

"GAAH!" Jake yelped with pain as the tincture of iodine that Helen, now dressed, was dabbing on his injuries, stung.

"I guess he's just not really comfortable with guys yet," said Willow, holding the wagging pup in her arms. "He must have thought you were being attacked."

Coyote laughed, spraying Jake with half a mouthful of coffee.

"Well! I think he was incredibly brave!" Helen cooed, slightly miffed with Willow. "Jake didn't know it was Leary. He thought it was a wild animal, and he was sacrificing himself to save me!"

Jake looked up at her with the same expression that Leary wore whenever Willow picked him up.

"Yeah, man! That was pretty cool," Coyote said, trying to redeem himself for the coffee incident, and partially succeeding.

After they'd climbed back into the tent, a few minutes proved that the mood had been irrevocably lost for the night, and they reluctantly clambered back outside to join Willow, Coyote and Leary for supper.

* * *

The Kombi's indicator signalled that Willow and Coyote were turning into the car park of the Yellowstone Visitor's Centre. "Dammit," Helen muttered, "more wasted time." She pulled the Dodge into a parking space next to the Volkswagen and joined the others as they climbed the wooden steps up to the log cabin-style Park Rangers centre. They pushed through the double doors into a large display area with pictures of Smoky the Bear, Old Faithful, wolves, bears, snow scenes, and the wonders of Yellowstone on the wall. A long desk took up one side of the room behind which the trappings of a park ranger station gave a feel of businesslike activity to the place. Topographic maps were pinned on the wall with coloured pins pushed in at particular points, a couple of desks were strewn with papers, and a two-way radio crackled to life from time to time with brief but unintelligible chatter.

"Afternoon, folks," said the Ranger on duty, a short, stout man, wearing the khaki Ranger uniform, his boy scout-style hat beside him on the bench. "Planning on camping?"

"Yeah," said Coyote, walking over to him. "Can we get some maps or something?"

"Oh my, yes," the Ranger said, smiling the smile of a man who loves his job. He reached over to a map rack behind him and took out a pamphlet, laying it open on the desk for Coyote to see, as the others gathered round. "Here's where we are," he said, pointing with a pencil. "The closest camp ground's here, about three miles down the road. It's convenient to some of the most popular tourist attractions, but it's fairly crowded at this time of year."

"Cool," said Coyote, "we don't mind the crow-oooof"

"Is there something a little more...secluded?" asked Helen, removing her elbow from Coyote's ribs.

"Certainly," the Ranger said, pointing to another spot on the map. "This campground's quite secluded, though it's quite a way farther on. I was up there yesterday and there's hardly anybody there."

"It's perfect," Helen sighed. We'll go there."

"It's a lovely place." the Ranger said, reaching behind him into the rack and picking up several more pamphlets. "Here's some information on the Park history, this one's a list of the regulations - please take the time to read them - here's one on the wildlife, and this one tells you about the geology of the park."

"Great! Thanks," said Coyote, taking the bundle.

"One thing..." the Ranger added. "I can't tell you how important it is to be careful around the bears. The wolves aren't a nuisance at this time of year - they generally stay around the high country - but the bears..." he sighed. "The problem is that people feed them. They lose their fear of man, and they come into the campgrounds looking for food. It's a terrible problem."

"Don't worry," said Jake, unconsciously rubbing the sore spot on his backside, "there's no way that we're going to take any risks with wild animals!"

"I'm glad to hear it. I'm afraid that you'll have to keep the little feller tied up," he said, nodding towards the pup in Willow's arms.

"Oh, that's cool," said Willow. "We wouldn't want him getting up to mischief anyway."

"Yeah," muttered Jake.

Thanking the Ranger they left the station and drove through the park, slowing to look at the scenery, and in an hour and a half arrived at the campground. The ranger had been right. A couple of tents had been set up over on the western side of the campground and a family group sitting round a campfire waved to them as they drove in and headed to the relatively deserted eastern side.

"Yeah, I know, you're not hungry," Coyote said, grinning at Helen and Jake as he lifted a wicker basket out of the Kombi and put it on a wooden table next to the spot they'd chosen.

"Uh, actually," Jake said, "I've got a real appetite."

"So have I," purred Helen, grabbing a handful of Jake's butt (being careful to avoid his injuries), "but I wouldn't mind if we ate first."

It was a never-ending source of wonder to Jake that Willow always seemed to be able to whip up something delicious from whatever they'd picked up on the way, and he ate hungrily. The meal had been punctuated with little "eep"s and giggles from Helen and Jake, leaving Coyote and Willow to laugh, initially, then join in the fun. When they'd eaten their fill, Helen sidled close to Jake and nuzzled him. "I think it's time for bed, don't you, Jakey?" she said in a sultry voice.

"Oh yeaaaaaaah," Jake agreed enthusiastically. Then, looking at Willow, he added, "Uh, Leary's gonna be tied up--right?"

"No sweat, man," said Coyote, flinching as Willow nibbled his ear. "In fact, now that you mention it, it is a little late, isn't it?"

Willow just giggled.

And so both couples retired to their respective sleeping quarters.

A little way away, two pairs of eyes looked out from behind some bushes.

"Well?" said a quiet voice, the eyes peering out at the remains of the meal..

"Listen to that!" said the other as groans and a little yelp punctuated the evening air. "I don't know what those hippies put in that food, but whatever it is it can't be good. No, little buddy, this is one pic-a-nic basket we're gonna leave alone."

"You're so smart," said the first voice.

"Smarter than the average bear," said the other, as they wandered off into the forest in search of easier pickings.

After 12 hours on a bumper-to-bumper New York State Thruway, Amanda was glad to take the weight off her butt. And for a convenient toilet.

Vincent checked his gear and called the photo editor at the Village Voice to report conditions.

"Man, this is gonna be huge! One day to go and they've already tripled the forty thousand they were expecting. This is some serious shit, Vinny!"

Vincent raised his eyebrows. "It's drizzling, on and off. Damned if I know what it's gonna be like when we get our there."

"Told you, man - it's gonna be huge. Whatever happens, I want it all. I've got a feeling about this."

"Yeah, me too," Vincent sighed, sounding less than enthusiastic. "Don't worry, Richie, I'll get the goods."

"Love ya, man. If anyone can do it, you can."

"Yeah, thanks," said Vincent distractedly as he hung up. Amanda was lying on the bed next to him, clearly worn out. Paul and John had taken the room next to theirs and had come in to play with Wind. Paul was standing at the window staring out at the drizzle when he turned back to Amanda.

"Sweetie, it's not looking great out there. Are you sure..."

"YES I'M DAMN WELL SURE!" she blustered. "How many times have I got to say it?"

 Vincent sighed. "Richie says they're up to about a hundred thousand already. And it's..." he looked at his watch "...four o'clock. If the Thruway was anything to go by it could be...damn...twice that by the time people stop arriving."

"By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong,
And everywhere there was song and a celebration."

Joni Mitchell, Woodstock

Stay tuned for the next instalment of All My Children.

Disclaimer: All characters are copyright MTV except for Willy and his family who belong to us.

Special thanks: to all our beta readers:  Steven Galloway, RLobinske, NMorgendorffer, Milderbeast, Greybird, Brother Grimace, and Sleepless

Quirks: Deref, who typed the words, is an Australian, so he's used Aussie English spellings and grammar conventions. He may also have inadvertently used some Aussie idioms though he's tried to keep in culture.

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