Fan Fiction - Written by Doug Fowler - Television Universe

I Want To Be A Part Of It
Written by: Doug Fowler

I'm really busy now, I might not write much on *this* site for a good while, but numerous requests for a sequel to the Cosby/Full House show led to this. Since she doesn't appear a lot it was hard to pinpoint Gia's character, but I think I did okay. Hope you like the Cosby-espue "The Watchman" that Cliff does. I wish I was half as good as Cosby, The Master of Comedy, though.

Stephanie Tanner, thirteen, picked up her bag and motioned for her sister Michelle, eight, to follow. Stephanie's friend Gia Mahan walked beside Michelle. The large family of travellers - ten total - disembarked. "Well, Gia, here we are. New York City!"

"Thanks for inviting me, Stephanie. I was going to be bored with my mom having to care for my aunt this week. Now we can see great stuff, and most importantly, shop like crazy." Gia smiled as she grabbed Michelle's carry-on. "Here, I can carry your bag, too. That's probably heavy for you." Michelle rolled her eyes at the overly sweet, condescending tone.

"Gia, Michelle can handle that," Stephanie lightly scolded her.

Gia relented and let go as the family walked into the terminal, and then waited as the men went to get their luggage. "I know, Stephanie. It's just that I've learned so much from you since we met. My mom's right, though I'd never admit it to her. I've stopped smoking; my grades are better, I actually passed seventh grade, finally. But, you know what's most important?"

Stephanie glanced at her curiously and brushed back her long, blonde hair. Gia wasn't often very introspective, so this was quite interesting. "What?"

"I see something in how your family cares about others. Especially you and your sister. I hung around you at the hospital that week she was in because I cared about you, and wanted to support you while she recovered. But, I also wanted to know more. I really want to know what it feels like to be a big sister," Gia explained.

Stephanie nodded and smiled. Her friend had seen something different in their families, and she wanted what Stephanie had - unconditional love and compassion. And, she was getting better. "Gia, you're doing a fine job. Sometimes you sound overprotective, almost worse than my dad. But, you're getting there."

"I hope so. It's just Mom and me at home since the divorce. That was really hard, and it was hard for me to respect and care about others for a while. But, also, I've never had siblings. I want to see what it is that makes you want to hang around siblings and family."

Stephanie's Aunt Becky grinned. "Don't force the issue. You'll understand someday. You spent time there instead of doing stuff yourself, and self-sacrifice is important. But, don't expect to just understand everything you friend feels right away," she summarized.

Gia hummed. Perhaps on the outside she was getting to be like one. But, she was just copying her friend when she did that. She wanted to know more.

Suddenly, their hosts arrived. "Hey, Rudy," Stephanie said warmly, as the girls embraced. Rudy was sixteen. "Rudy, this is Gia, my friend from school. Gia, this is Rudy. Their family is almost as big as ours, so don't feel bad if you get confused this week."

"I've already got name tags written up at home," said Rudy's dad, a black man in his fifties.

Stephanie snickered. That sounded like one of her dad's jokes. "Gia, this is Dr. Cliff Huxtable, our families met when he appeared on my dad's show, Wake Up, San Francisco.' This is his wife, Claire, their youngest daughter Rudy, their daughter Vanessa, who just finished college, and their son Theo." She wondered why Theo looked a little worried. "Dr. Huxtable and his wife have a couple older kids who don't live with them."

Her attention quickly turned to a black girl with a pony tail nearly identical to Michelle's. She was talking to Michelle while trying to keep a toddler from squirming out of her grip. "That's their granddaughter Olivia, she's Michelle's age, and their grandson Jackie, who's two and a couple months. Their parents are out of the country; their dad's in the navy."

Gia was amazed. "So all of you live together. That's almost as big as Stephanie's family."

Stephanie's dad, Danny, stepped forward. "Oh, Steph, there's the reporter I wanted to see. I'll be back in a minute." He left as Stephanie explained about the show he and Becky were going to co-host with a New York reporter.

Gia's head spun as she pulled out a pen and paper from her purse. "I'm going to have to start taking notes."

Becky's husband, Jesse Katsopolis, came back from the restroom. His three-year-old twin boys, Nicky and Alex, held his hands. "Hey, Dr. Huxtable, did you get the Met tickets my wife called about?" he said enthusiastically.

Dr. Huxtable grinned. "They're in my office, all ready for tomorrow evening."

Becky grinned at her husband. She was pleasantly surprised. "Jess, I'm impressed. I didn't think you'd be this excited about tomorrow evening. This isn't usually your style."

"Well, what's not to be excited about?" He tossed his head back a little. "I mean, this is the type of thing a father does with his family. I love doing things with you and the boys."

"The boys? you really think they'd appreciate it?" Becky asked haltingly, trying to discourage him.

"Aw come on, Beck, of course they will. They're our boys," he said proudly.

Becky rubbed her chin. "Well, I don't know. I'm just thinking, that's a long time to be in one place for a three-year-old," she mused aloud.

"Aw, I got that taken care of, too, Beck. I packed plenty of coloring books and stuff.."

Becky smiled. "Well, okay. I guess it could work."

D.J. Tanner, Stephanie's eighteen-year-old sister, ran into Danny as he returned. She was glad her boyfriend, Steve, hadn't come along. If he had, she'd have had no time to shop - all he'd want to do would be eat. So, it was just as well that he was back in San Francisco, where they would be in colleges near each other. "Dad, can I go with Vanessa now? We want to see Tiffany's right away."

Danny nodded. "Okay, but be back by dinnertime. And don't spend everything in one place."

Vanessa looked strangely at him. "Mr. Tanner, I just graduated from college. She's just going this fall. We don't have the kind of money to buy anything at Tiffany's."

"Yeah, Dad, we're just going to look. We'll make sure you max out your credit cards at Macy's." D.J. gave an impish grin as he began to sweat. "Just kidding, Dad. See ya."

Danny waved goodbye, then turned to Dr. Huxtable. "I guess Pam was that way, too," he said, referring to his late wife. "I forget about it sometimes, though. It's been eight year now."

"That must have been hard," Gia commented.

Danny breathed heavily. "On the local show we'll be doing, they have an Emergency Heroes segment, where they interview people who have saved lives. Not just with the police and fire departments, though they're the greatest heroes of all. But, ordinary folks. And, the person they'll feature tomorrow..." He sniffled as he grinned.

Stephanie understood why her dad acted this way. "Michelle's life wasn't really in danger when she fell from her horse. But, there's this girl who rode with our Uncle Jesse to get help, explained what all happened, and came to tell us while he went out to the trail with the ambulance. Is it her, Dad?" He nodded.

Michelle snickered and turned to Olivia. "Boy, she said her mom went from always bragging about her horse jumping victories before my accident to bragging about her life-saving skills afterward. Poor Elizabeth will never hear the end of it now."

Theo suddenly stood up and walked over to Joey Gladstone, a professional comic. Joey and Danny's brother-in-law Jesse had moved in to help Danny raise his girls after Pam died. Later, Jesse met and married Becky, and they had two boys. All nine lived in the same house. "Joey, you guys used to do advertising, didn't you?"

"Yeah, me and Jess had quite a business out of our house for a while," Joey answered.

"Phew, thank goodness." Theo explained as relief passed over his face. "Look, one of these kids I used to tutor, name's Devon Barber, he decided to go into business for himself, and he bought this bakery. But, he's used so much of his loan getting everything together, he doesn't have any money for advertising. Could you guys put together an ad campaign and do the ads while you're here. Please," he begged.

"Sure, we'll come up with something," Joey agreed quickly.

"Anything to help someone. I know from my dad's experience and mine how hard it is to start in business," Jesse said.

Becky sidled up to him. "Jess, you promised to spend time with the boys, remember?"

Jesse looked lovingly into Becky's eyes as he placed his hands on her shoulder. "And I will. What can be the harm in letting them help their dad with his work?"

"Well, a lifetime of cavities for one thing. It is a bakery," Becky remarked.

Stephanie smiled. She knew her uncle liked to indulge his boys. He was so incredibly proud of them. "Hey, go for it. Maybe you'll find a cute way to use them, like when I did my Oat Boats' ad when I was in Kindergarten."

"There, see, Beck. We'll find a way to work them in. That way you can do your show and not have to worry about them. Cause I know D.J.'s probably going to want to shop all day," Jesse said.

Stephanie nodded slowly. Claire Huxtable was a lawyer, so she and her husband would be working. She'd probably be stuck babysitting instead of shopping tomorrow, before their real sightseeing began the next day.

However, Gia quickly offered to help. "Steph, you go out and shop with Rudy tomorrow. I'll stay home and watch the others. I can learn more about being big sisterly then."

Late the next morning, Gia walked in the front door of the Huxtable household. By leaving early with D.J. and Vanessa, she'd gotten some shopping in before her babysitting duties began. Now, she observed as Stephanie and Rudy walked downstairs.

"Gia, Jackie's still down for his morning nap. Michelle and Olivia are watching a video, and Uncle Jesse and Joey just left." Stephanie grinned. She imagined that even a natural leader like Gia needed someone to inspire them. It amazed Stephanie that that someone could be her.

Rudy pointed toward the kitchen. "Numbers are on the refrigerator; my grandparents aren't too far away, they can help if you need. My mom's not trying any cases today, so you can call her at work if things get too rough. But, the girls won't give you any problems. I'll be sure to thank Vanessa for bringing you back here and taking Stephanie and I downtown."

Gia thanked them as they left. Now, what would she do? How would she act big sisterly? She wasn't sure. Suddenly, she was all alone on the lower level of the house. And, there was nothing to do.

She shrugged, and went upstairs to the room Rudy and Olivia - and, for that week, she Michelle, and Stephanie - shared. She supposed she would just watch the video and wait. Something had to happen.

After a few minutes, she heard Jackie. Her nose quickly discovered his reason for waking as she entered the room. "Oh, Jackie," she said slowly as she picked Jackie up She met Michelle and Olivia in the hall. "Did you do a little doo doo in your diaper, hmmm," she said in a squeaky voice. "Well, come here, we'll see what Aunt Gia can do about that."

"First, she can stop talking like Michey Mouse," Michelle said bluntly.

Olivia's eyes followed Gia as she carried Jackie downstairs. Her suspicious gaze turned toward Michelle. "Has she ever changed a diaper before?" she asked Michelle. Michelle didn't think she had. Olivia started downstairs and motioned for Michelle to follow. "Our video can wait. This should be interesting."

Gia hadn't noticed a changing table, though she imagined there was one somewhere. She knew, however, that Jackie needed to be cleaned. She finally stood hinm in the sink, near where there was water. That way, she eliminated lots of carrying.

"Maybe we should help," Olivia suggested as she and Michelle sat at the kitchen table.

Gia walked over to Olivia and patted her on the head. "Oh, thank you, but there's lots of germs in his diaper, and you might not be able to clean them off your hands or him well enough yet. Wait till you're a little older." Michelle shook her head. When Gia acted this way, it was almost worse than if she totally ignored her.

Gia hurried back to Jackie, who was hunched over, trying to figure out a way to get down. "Oh, no no no, we can't get down from there yet, we have to change your diaper."

Gia took his diaper off and went to shove it into the trash can under the sink. Before the could do that, though, she noticed Jackie moving his hands behind him to touch his bottom. "No, no, we can't touch back there, it has germs." She held the diaper in one hand while grabbing Jackie's hands with the other. She had to wipe him off, but now her hands were full. She had no way to get to the paper towels without letting go of his hands. As she looked around and struggled for ideas, Michelle and Olivia kept nudging each other and trying in vain to stifle giggles.

Finally, Gia said "foil, of course." She closed the diaper with one hand, held it, and opened a drawer with two free fingers. She placed the folded diaper in the hand holding Jackie's hands, reached into the drawer she'd seen used the night before, and ripped off a piece of aluminum foil. The girls laughed.

Olivia nudged Michelle with her elbow again. "I'll bet you're glad you always had experienced people changing you, huh, Michelle."

Michelle leaned toward her friend and smirked. "Remind me to tell you a story later," she muttered, recalling something her Uncle Jesse had shared with her several times.

Gia moved like a contortionist to chuck the diaper away. Then, she wrapped one of Jackie's hands in aluminum foil while keeping hold of the other one. "Hey," complained the toddler as she quickly tore off another piece and wrapped his other hand.

As Jackie struggled with the foil, Gia got some paper towels. She wet them and cleaned him off, then realized she had yet another problem. "Wait a minute, where are the diapers?"

"No diapews," Jackie insisted.

"Jackie, you have to wear a diaper. Let's see," she said, looking around anxiously. "Here, let's try some more foil." She ripped off a big piece, then gazed at it as she tried to figure out how to fold it properly. "Olivia, you wouldn't know where your grandma keeps the tape, would you?"

"Shouldn't we help her," Olivia asked, pitying the sitter as well as her baby brother.

Michelle nodded. "I think it's time to let her off the hook. Go show her the changing table."

"Oh, thianks," Gia said with a huge sigh of relief as the girls led her upstairs to the hallway. Gia began to diaper the toddler.

"Do you know what you're doing now," Olivia asked, still skeptical.

Gia picked Jackie up and lifted him down to the floor after finishing. As Michelle helped him get the foil off his hands, Gia knelt and looked Olivia in the eye. "Oh, you're so young, I'm sure I know more than you."

Olivia shook her head and frowned. "I've helped Grandma change his diaper, and I never used foil." She rubbed her chin and toward the ceiling. "But, you did follow what Grandpa says is the most important rule of all."

Gia was curious now. "What rule is that?"

Olivia spoke as though she were an ancient sage, and in a deep, Cosbyespue voice. "When changing a diaper, it is very bad luck to ever refer to a child as squirt.'"

Meanwhile, Jesse, Theo, and Devon met to discuss what was desired in the ads. Joey entertained the twins in the front of the store.

Joey rose to answer the door, and found Claire Huxtable. "Hi, Mrs. Huxtable, are you here to do some commercials for Mr. Barber, too? I've got a great idea for ours that I've been discussing with Nicky and Alex."

Claire sat her package down and knelt on the floor. "No, I just had a book to drop for Theo. Oh, aren't twins precious. Come here, I need another hug." The boys ran over and embraced Claire, who hugged back. "Our oldest, Sondra, who you'll get to meet tomorrow, has twins, a boy and a girl. But Jesse and Becky's boys look identical."

Joey nodded. "They are. Jesse got their socks mixed up and darn near forgot which one was which once. He was afraid he'd never be able to tell."

Claire looked each boy in the eye. "I hear you boys are going with your Mom and Dad tonight." They nodded. "You know, it'll be kind of long."

"That's okay. They have potties. We asked Daddy," Nicky explained.

Alex nodded. "And we can have some food," he added.

Claire rose slowly. "Well, maybe, as long as it doesn't make noise. You'll have to be very quiet."

"We didn't know that," Nicky said, looking worriedly at Alex.

"We can do it, brother," Alex said confidently. "Let's go tell Daddy."

Claire spoke to Joey while the twins ran back to see their dad. "You know, they're honoring Luciano Pavoratti tonight. Becky told me, she was all excited when she heard that. Do you know much about opera?"

Joey nodded swiftly. "Oh, yeah. I remember this one, where Bugs Bunny is annoyed by this opera singer practicing near his hole. So, he does lots of things to bug him." Claire eyed him strangely, but kept a polite smile, as he spoke. "I remember this one scene, the star falls into a tuba in the orchestra pit, and can't get out. Then as he holds this note at the end, it's so high or something that the whole theater collapses. That's a great cartoon."

Claire wasn't sure how to respond to that - it sounded like something a child would say. So, she just ignored it. "Yes, well, anyway, Becky is really excited. I'm amazed that Nicky and Alex would be interested in that, but I suppose there is that one in a million kid. I wouldn't take them, but if their dad wants to try, that's great. I just hope this isn't a trick to get him out of there with them."

"Oh, no, Jesse said he was determined to stay," Joey declared.

"Well, that's good. I need to get back to the office, will you give this to Theo?" Joey nodded, then went back to working on his part in the ad he was writing.

Meanwhile, Nicky and Alex had run into the office. "Daddy, why isn't he cutting your hair," Nicky asked.

Theo caught on an instant before Jesse did "Because, his name is Barber, that's not what he does. Hey, guys, listen to this, this is cool. Tell Jesse's kids how we were thinking of using them, Devon."

The young entrepeneur explained. "Little kids really do sell things. I was thinking, maybe we could have them just finishing to eat one of our pies. Then, you run around trying to wipe them off while telling your man Joey about our bakery."

"Cool," Nicky said.

"Double cool. Is that when we get to throw the pies in his face?" Alex wanted to know.

Jesse was astonished. "Pies, what pies? Boys, was Joey telling you you could throw pies in his face?" They nodded vigorously. "Well, forget it. A nice man like this wouldn't want to have something crazy like that in his ads, would you, Mr. Barber?" Mr. Barber started laughing. "Come on, that's no way to run a professional ad."

"Uh..." Theo sensed there was a little tension, and tried to calm it, lest his friend not hire these people. Theo knew he might try to go without advertising, which would be a big mistake. "Listen, why don't we hear his idea. Maybe we can incorporate it somehow. We can use it without people seeing it," he told Jesse.

"Okay, what, like you mean on radio. Maybe." Jesse turned to his boys. "But, we only eat pies, we don't throw them."

"Can we have some to take with us tonight," Nicky asked.

Alex noticed his dad's puzzled look. "Mrs. Huxtable said we had to have quiet food. Cause we have to be quiet."

"Didn't she tell you?" Nicky wanted to know.

Jesse shook his head. "Come on, boys, we can make all the noise we want." He held up a finger. He imagined he could guess what they'd heard. "You probably heard her talking about the rude language we might hear from the crowd. It can get kind of nasty. Now, you know I don't want to hear you saying any of those words, right?"

"That's right," Alex insisted.

"All right, now no rude stuff. But you can holler and scream all you want just like you would back home," he assured them. "Well, sometimes it's a little more organized. Like when they do the wave."

Joey walked into the office with a package and a cream pie. He gave the package to Theo. "This is from your mom, it's the book you were looking for," he told him. Then, he stuck his thumb up and spoke into it, as if it were a microphone. "Hi, I'm professional comedian Joey Gladstone. I love everything about the pies at Devon's Bakery. The lucious flavor, the melt-in-your-mouth crust, the down home goodness..." He smacked himself in the face with the pie. "The texture when it hits your face."

Devon Barber was laughing convulsively. Theo was a little more controlle, but still needed to settle himself a second before he could speak. "Hey, that's pretty good. I like that."

"Don't you think people will remember it," Joey asked.

Jesse shook his head. "Come on, Joey, what could be better, throwing a pie in your face, or watching these adorable little boys and a father who's trying to wipe their mouths? I mean, people identify with trying to wipe little kids' mouths and hands. They don't identify with getting pies thrown at them." He glared at Joey as he wiped himself off with several paper towels.

Joey explained his reasoning. "First, everything's good about Devon's Bakery. Even really out of the ordinary stuff. Second, we can still use Nicky and Alex. I understand, I'd feel the same way if I had kids."

"No, you don't understand. Joey, people will be going to this bakery to eat, not to to get pies for comedy routines," Jesse insisted.

"Daddy, can we have pies to throw?" Alex asked.

"No. See, Joey, you run this pie-throwing ad, pretty soon every little kid in New Yok is going to be throwing pies."

"You know, Jesse," Theo piped in, "that would be a good diversion. If a couple of gangs were going to fight, why not have them fight with pies." He glanced at Devon. "Sure would make your neighborhood a lot safer."

Devon grinned toothily. "Clever thinking; I can see an ad based on that."

Jesse shook his head. "I can't believe you want to go with..." He sighed.

"Look, man, it's not that we don't want to use your idea. I can tell Devon likes the pie throwing idea, but maybe we can combine them." Theo stepped in between Jesse and Joey while trying to think. He was very good at creative writing. This, however, was a totally different area. Still, he thought he could come up with something. He took turns facing Jesse and Joey. "How does this sound? Joey, you come in while your friend Jesse's cleaning his boys off after their meal. You start talking about how great the pies feel. Jesse, you say a few things about the other products, and how pies are only for eating. Joey, you keep talking about how great it is to see a pie thrown at someone. Then, in the end, you're done wiping them, Jesse, and you're fed up. So you pull a cream pie out from somewhere and let him have it."

Theo waited expectantly for a reaction. A grin formed, as he could tell Jesse was aggravated. So, perhaps this would help calm him down. And, he might actually accept the idea.

"There have been a few times when I would have liked to throw a pie at this knucklehead," Jesse grumbled.

"There, see" Joey said. "You do like the idea."

Jesse looked at Joey as if he'd grown two heads. Finally, his look softened. He decided he might as well try it. After all, they were partners. "Oh, all right, we'll do it. Just this once."

"Hey, I think it'll be a big seller," Devon remarked. "We start with that, and then maybe after you guys leave we can try to get some kids from the projects to do your idea, Theo. You think maybe you two could write up a few ads to take off from this one," Devon inquired.

"Sure, I think we can do that." Jesse chuckled. Joey acted so much like a little kid sometimes, he wondered if Joey had hit his head like Michelle when he was little, only to have his injury be much worse. Michelle had recovered fully, and showed no signs of any mental retardation. But, a blow to just the right spot when little could prevent complete develoment in some areas.

Then again, Joey could be a very competent adult. For instance, Joey had a pilot's license, and had even taken Jesse skydiving on his wedding day. He could really surprise people at times. That was what made Jesse wish Joey could be that mature all the time. Things like that convinced Jesse that Joey's goofiness, his love of cartoons, and so on were by choice.

Jesse and Joey came up with several other ideas before going back to the Huxtable household. Danny and Becky had picked up the twins on their way back earlier. The teens and young adults went upstairs to compare shopping discoveries. Joey played with the boys, Michelle, and Olivia. This left Danny, Jesse, Becky, and the Huxtables to discuss plans for the evening.

"Wait a minute," Becky interrupted, "first, you guys have to hear what Danny did today on the show."

Cliff grinned. "Heh, heh, so what happened? Did you call someone by the wrong name or something?"

"No, I just...well, I got a little carried away," Danny remarked.

Becky explained. "Before the horse jumping contest, Danny and Elizabeth's mom were arguing over which kid was best - that's why they went off onto the trail instead of jumping. Well, after the reporter tells the story, he doesn't have time to ask Elizabeth any questions about doing the Heimlich, because Danny starts speaking so glowingly about the previous time. Then, Morgan jumps in and starts praising her for this time, and before you know it, they're competing to see who can rave more about her. Meanwhile, the poor girl's as red as a tomato."

"Well, I do tend to talk on and on quite a bit," Danny admitted. "And at least this time, we weren't trying to compare anyone, or insisting that she had to do something."

Becky admitted that was true as Nicky and Alex walked downstairs. "However, you two gave that poor girl such a complex, she'll probably never boast about her accomplishments now. She'll be worried everyone's going to build her up like crazy. What is it," she asked, turning to her boys.

"Mommy, we're hungry. Can we have a snack?" Nicky asked sweetly.

"We won't be eating as late as we do at home," Becky explained.

Claire told them that, "Theo's wife gets off work about now, he called her and told her to bring pizza for everyone. Your mom told us what you usually like, boys. It'll be here in about fifteen minutes." She folded her arms and looked at Becky. "You know, sometimes going overboard like that can be a great deterrent. One time Theo wanted to move out while he was still in school, so Cliff gave him some money and asked him to think about how he would spend it. He kept asking him are you going to eat,' are you going to have running water,' things like that. He's take a bill or two away for every question. Finally, he asked if Theo was going to have a girlfriend. When Theo said yes, he took all the rest of his money. Isn't that right, Cliff?"

Danny smiled. "That's right. If you can't reason with teens any other way, you can always use the old standby. Girls and boys."

"Of course, it works the opposite with younger kids." Dr. Huxtable explained. "Take this one boy. The Watchman, they called him, because he appeared to have been hired as a lookout. He was always gazing out the window. Teachers never could keep his attention. Well one day, my boy Theo's a sub in third grade, and guess who's in his class. The Watchman." His eyes bulged for a second. "He kept looking out the window like this, with some focus, but mostly just a dreamy gaze in his eyes, as if any minute he hoped a big bird would swoop down and take him away," he said, moving his hand like an airplane.

"Well, Theo tried, but after a while, it was clear that nothing was going to distract The Watchman from watching out for whatever it was he was appointed to watch. So, Theo goes over to him, and tells him that Mariah is watching back. Well, that only sparks a hint of recognition that Theo is in the universe, so Theo goes further. He starts talking about how sweet Mariah is, how she's so sensitive, and warm, and loving. He pours it on like one of those Harlequin Romance novelists." Claire was now giggling as Cliff's story. "Well, the Watchman only now seems to sense that Theo is in the same state, but one of the other boys asks Theo if Mariah is his girlfriend."

Claire laughed in anticipation as Cliff continued. "Well, Theo turns to this other boy, and rubs his chin. He speaks slowly, to make sure The Watchman feels the full weight of his words. No,' Theo says. No, actually, I just know her from the stories on the playground.' He says it in such a way that The Watchman agonizes over leaving his post, but finally decides he can stand to listen just a little. As The Watchman turns his head. Theo moves up close to him, as if to share a secret. The whole rest of the class is listening now, as they expect Theo to whisper. Instead, he says straight out, You know, she's home schooled, so she doesn't go here. But, she loves peering at the school through her telescope.'" He made a circle and held it to his eye, as if looking through a telescope. He then bent down a little again. "Theo continued to talk about Mariah. Son,' says Theo in a luring voice, she knows you're watching. And you know what that means?"

Cliff jerked his head to the right a little. "The Watchman's all ears now, and he says what, teacher?' Then, Theo says Well, she figures you must like her if you're watching, too. And, any minute now, if you peek out that window any more, she'll be convinced that you love her. And then, she'll rush into this classroom, and plant a great big kiss on your cheek,'" Dr. Huxtable finished with a flourish.

As Claire laughed, and the others snickered, Cliff finished. "Do you know, that not only did The Watchman stop watching that day, but no boy in that entire third grade class dared to look out the window the rest of the year!"

Claire wiped tears of mirth from her eyes. "Oh, Cliff, that was great. You know, Theo did do that once, and it kind of worked, but nobody can tell a story quite the way my husband can." She looked at Becky. "Are you all ready for tonight?"

"Oh, yes, someone very special will be performing," Becky said as Danny left to clean the table before the pizza arrived.

"Yeah, I just love Elvis impersonators," Jesse remarked casually.

Becky glared. "Elvis? Pavoratti doesn't do Elvis." She wondered for a second if some eerie, misguided force had led her husband to think Pavoratti would sing songs by Jesse's favorite performer.

Cliff looked at Becky and chuckled. "Heh, heh. Well, you know, opera is always sad, so I imagine he might sing something like this." He cleared his throat, and sang in a low, somewhat comical tenor's voice while gesturing drmamtically with his right hand. "Since myyyyy babeeee left meeeeeeeee, I've found a new place tooooo dwelllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!"

"See, why can't Joey do comedy like that, instead of all that cartoony stuff," Jesse complained as Claire once again held her head while laughing.

"I don't know, Jess," Becky admitted, "but I want to know where on earth you got the idea that Pavoratti did Elvis." She suddenly looked queasy. "And the thought of him dressing like Elvis is just weird."

Jesse suddenly noticed what Becky had said earlier. "What, Pavoratti's going to be there, too? I didn't know that."

"Well, why wouldn't Pavoratti be there," Becky wanted to know.

Jesse shrugged. "About time he learned to appreciate the King. The boys'll love him too. Right, boys," he asked the twins.

"Daddy, will he sing like Dr. Huxtable," Alex wondered.

"Who, Pavoratti? I think he's just going to watch," Jesse told them.

Becky was flabbergasted - how could he not know this? "Jess, Pavoratti is going to perform. He's going to have center stage."

A sudden look of recongition hit Jesse. "Oh, you mean he's singing the national anthem?"

What was getting into Jesse? "Jess...they don't sing the national anthem at an opera."

"Yes they do, Mommy," Alex corrected her.

"They'll do it right before we start the wave,'" Nicky explained.

"Jess, you would start to do the wave' at an opera?" Becky was horrified.

Alex nodded. "But we won't use the bad language from the crowd."

"Since when do you hear bad words from an opera crowd," Becky wondered.

"Mommy, are we going to see an opera," came Nicky's innocent-sounding voice.

"I don't know what else you would do at an opera," Becky said matter-of-factly.

"What's an opera," Alex asked his brother.

Nicky shrugged. "I don't know. But Daddy says if we get there early we might get a ball."

Becky looked strangely at her boys. "'s have a ball. what you mean, isn't it? Have fun, have a ball," she said with little confidence. A feeling of dread was suddenly coming over her, and she began to sweat.

Claire decided now was a good time to intervene. "I think I see the problem here. Cliff, let me see those tickets."

Cliff handed the tickets to his wife. "What is it, dear?"

"Mmm-hmmm. Just as I suspected. It appears that my husband understood the term Met tickets' to mean the New York Mets baseball team, where the rest of our families are going," she explained with a smile. To relieve Becky's disappointment, she walked over to her desk. "I thought something like this might happen. I know him all too well." She handed four tickets to Becky. "I called them, and I was right. So, last night, I got the four of us tickets to the Metropolotian Opera myself."

" wanted to go see the opera," Cliff asked Becky. She nodded. "And, not the baseball team?"

"That's right. Don't worry, Jess. We can send our boys to the baseball game to see Elvis. Think of it as passing on something special of yours to your children," Becky suggested.

After eating late that afternoon, the families - minus Cliff, Claire, Jesse, and Becky, made their way to Shea Stadium. They found their seats as the home team began to take batting practice. "What a wonderful night for baseball," Danny said.

D.J. concurred. She and Vanessa were each carrying a twin as they sat. Vanessa would be driving the little ones home early. "Yeah, Dad. Too bad Uncle Jesse has to miss the Elvis impersonater performing before the game."

"Will he be singing opera," Nicky asked.

"No, but I can just imagine my dad doing that Pavoratti-style Elvis," Vanessa said. "He is so funny sometimes."

Alex thought about how Dr. Huxtable had sung. "Why do all opera singers sing so loud?"

"I don't know. Hey, Olivia, let's go down and see if we can get some autographs," Michelle suggested.

"You need someone to go with you," Danny said as he finally finished wiping all the seats in the two rows they had reserved. "Steph?"

"I'll go too," Gia and Theo offered at the same time.

As the group waited with a few other fans along the third base dugout, the park seemed to reverberate with excitement. The biggest amount, of course, was reserved for a player in the other league, as Cal Ripken, Jr. neared the impossible. He needed only a few more weeks to break the once unapproachable record of 2,130 consecutive games played, held by Lou Gehrig.

"It's amazing how long that Ripken's played," Theo agreed with a fellow next to him.

"Yeah, one little injury can sideline you so fast," Gia remarked. As she spoke, a loud crack resounded, as had dozens before it.

In an instant, she lunged toward Michele. "Loo-" she began to scream as she got between the ball and Michelle. She had no time to complete her thought, as she collapsed to the ground, holding her right wrist. The ball had hit it squarely, then bounced back onto the field.

"Gia, are you all right," the others all said at once. Stephanie helped Gia stand. "Don't move that wrist," she ordered. She applied a handkerchief to stop the flow of blood.

"I couldn't if I wanted to," she said through checkhed teeth. She didn't dare to look at it, but she imagined the stitching was probably imbedded into her flesh.

Theo shook his head. "We better get you to a hospital. I may not be a doctor, but I know enough from being around my dad. And, that almost has to be broken."

The opera goers quickly gathered around Gia as she, Danny, Stephanie, and Theo walked in the door late that evening. "Oh, Gia, we're so sorry. Olivia told us what happened; she couldn't wait for us to get home," Claire said remorsefully.

"Thanks, Mrs. Huxtable." Gia sighed heavily.

"Yeah, there goes your summer, huh," Vanessa remarked.

"You know, it's funny." Gia gazed at her heavily bandaged wrist. "We used Mr. Tanner's cell phone to call my mom. And, she mentioned that as the doctors told her what I'd need to have done. But, all I could think about was one thing." She smiled solemnly. "Michelle was lucky on that riding trail. She had a bad concussion as it was. If that ball had hit her square in the head, it's scary to think of what damage might have resulted from a second one."

Theo looked at Danny, who was getting a little teary. "You're not the only one who gets scared thinking about that, Gia."

"I know. I couldn't tell where that ball was for sure; maybe it would have just missed her. Maybe it wasn't even near her forehead. Still, I can't help but think. Every time I think of what I'm going to miss, I'm so glad it's me, and not her," Gia said.

Claire put an arm around Gia. "Well, you know, what you said about wanting to know what it's like to be Stephanie? I think you learned a very valuable lesson about that tonight."

Gia grinned broadly. She hadn't considered that since the foul ball struck her. But, there was something in how she felt for Michelle that did seem like what Stephanie felt. "You know something? I think you're right. Is she still awake?"

Michelle walked in from the kitchen eating an ice cream sandwich. Cliff looked strangely at her. "Did they feed you at the baseball game?"

"Sure they did. I just can't get enough ice cream sometimes." She and Gia sat on the couch. "Thanks for blocking that foul ball for me."

"You're welcome." Gia tenderly put her right arm along the back of the couch. "You know, I remember Stephanie telling me something once." Michelle wondered what it was. "She said, Gia, I never want Michelle to hate you the way I hated D.J.'s friend Kimmy. You need to learn to show her you care. Because if it comes to a choice, I'll chose her every time.' I may struggle at times, or act too sweet. But, the truth is, I'm just trying so hard to make sure you like me. Because I want to be the same kind of loving person your family is."

Michelle smiled. "Thanks, Gia. You're kind of dumb sometimes. But, you're getting better. One thing, though. Let me do it the next time a diaper needs changed," she insisted.

"Gladly." She and Michelle embraced.

Danny smiled. "You should have heard how many times I said thank you' to Gia tonight, Dr. Huxtable. I probably sounded a little over-emotional. But, that's just because of the love I have for my girls."

"You have every right to be thankful. I might be a touch different, but we both have the same thing that so many are looking for - unconditional love for our families," Cliff remarked.

"That's gotta be hard to see as possible sometimes, I imagine, Gia. After all, if your parents' divorce was that bitter, it can't have been totally pleasant in your house before they got divorced," Theo reasoned aloud.

"No, it wasn't," Gia said regretfully. "But love like the Tanners' and the Huxtables' is special. And, I sensed pretty quickly after I met Stephanie, that I wanted a part of that love."