Fan Fiction - Written by Paul Austin - Sam Series

06 * Samantha Goes to Paris
Written by: Paul Austin

Needing a break, Samantha goes to paris, w/Stephanie, D.J., Kimmy, & other chaperones. The relaxing trip soon turns into The Love Boat, though.

A/N: Though D.J.'s ball isn't mentioned much, a number of books mention the Tanners give a lot to charity, and a couple mention the children' hospital specifically. Also, the consensus is Michelle's accident isn't as bad - just a slight concussion like you see a football player get with her out a couple seconds and no amnesia. Part of it's her going to D.J. instead of Jesse for advice, but also other stuff, as you'll see briefly mentioned.

Michelle Tanner, nearly fourteen, observed the pretty birds soaring above the lush, green meadow in which she was riding. "It's so peaceful."

"Yeah." Samantha Burke, who had just turned thirteen a couple months before, shuddered slightly. Her horse had stopped suddenly and shook his head noisily, trying to get a fly out of its eye. "Hey," she said to the horse.

"They eat all the time in the barn, your horse doesn't need any hay now," their friend Elizabeth cracked.

Samantha scolded the horse, "Just for that, you're walking back to the barn!"

"Yeah, with you on it, right, Sammie?" Michelle asked. When Samantha nodded, Elizabeth joined in complimenting her on the joke.

"Old Penny's a nice, gentle horse. But, she can still startle a bit sometimes."

"Lizzie's right. You seem a little tense, for the fact it's summer and we don't have school." Michelle realized that Samantha had been a little nervous when joining her friends in riding horses years back. But, she had grown used to the tame ones, like Penny; though she wouldn't ride any wilder ones.

Elizabeth noticed, too. She knew what tension felt like - she and Michelle had both felt too much pressure to win five years ago, during Michelle's first jumping contest, when Elizabeth had won three in a row. They'd heard their parents arguing enough they took the advice Michelle's oldest sister D.J. had given, and pretended it was a normal riding and dressage competition. It was just like Michelle and D.J.'s middle sister, Stephanie, had done when Danny Tanner, their dad, had pushed her too hard.

"You're not going to start singing one of your sings from when you play 'Annie' when you're supposed to do a commercial, are you?" Elizabeth joked, recalling that time.

Samantha laughed. "That would be silly. No, Stephanie wouldn't push me like that. She's what a real mom should be like."

"I know," Elizabeth said. "My mom's a lot better than that one time, though." Her mom didn't pressure the future Olympic hopeful to win after that - and Michelle's dad, Danny, didn't pressure her, either. But, Elizabeth still enjoyed the informality of rides like this, along with the fact these friends were willing to call her the very informal Lizzie. Like Samantha with Michelle calling her Sammie, Michelle and her friends were the only ones Elizabeth wanted to call her Lizzie.

Michelle was willing to say what Elizabeth wasn't sure about, only knowing the general background with Samantha's past. Miss Jean always enjoyed hearing how you're doing; so does your maid," she commented.

"I know. It's a shame Miss Jean was in the hospital so much her last year." One of the only steady daycare workers where Samantha had been, Jean, had died a few months ago. Samantha parents paid no attention to her; Stephanie was the closest thing Stephanie had to a mother; and, Michelle was just like a sister. Samantha hadn't known her that well, or missed her that much, but still thought of her as a good elderly friend, just like the family's former maid. "She got to see a tape of me performing as 'Annie', anyway." Samantha was small for her age, and so because of her singing talents, she had been able to portray the lovable orphan on stage. "And, the maid can come see my dancing, still. And, my soccer." She was also a gifted young ballerina and had won numerous trophies in soccer. "I guess I push myself like that, even if Stephanie doesn't," Samantha admitted, as she considered her incredible number of activities.

"Hey, don't burn yourself out," Michelle counseled her, understanding the problem now.

"That's why I love it out here on the trail," Samantha said. They came out of the hilly part of the meadow, and approached a few logs. "The scenery is so fabulous. It really relaxes me." Because of her size, being on a horse also made Samantha comfortable because she was up a lot higher than usual.

"Well, you can't be on a horse 24 hours a day, though. For one thing, you have to take breaks to go to the bathroom," Michelle said.

"Yeah, or you get like Rachel - full of it."

Elizabeth was referring to a classmate of Michelle's, Rachel Tilly. Her family and the Tillys were rather rich, and traveled in the same social circles. So, though Elizabeth was a year older and attended a private school, she was acquainted with Rachel, who went to the same public school as Michelle and Samantha. Rachel had only moved into the area before fourth grade, however, so she didn't have the advantage of one of the teachers of lower grades at that school encouraging the kids to see everyone as equals. And, of course, Michelle's accident had forced Elizabeth's mother to re-examine her priorities a lot herself, even though it hadn't been that bad.

Michelle was the middle class girl of the group. Her sister, Stephanie, and she had helped Samantha become a very nice, caring young lady, even though Samantha's extremely rich parents paid no attention to her at all. Samantha saw her as a big sister. Michelle knew Elizabeth from where they were now, Golden Gate Stables, and especially from horse jumping contests. These had begun in 1995, and had turned by 2000 into a spirited yet friendly rivalry. In the five years since, each had won two, with someone different winning one year. Elizabeth had won the three years prior to '95, the youngest jumping champion they'd ever had. She'd been six when she won her first contest!

"You don't try to do all that to make other people proud, do you? Because, we'd be proud of you no matter what," Michelle pledged.

"Thanks; I know," Samantha said with certainty. "It helps me if my mind isn't idle." This was an allusion to how sad she'd felt about being so alone for so long, till she met Stephanie when she got to Kindergarten, and Stephanie was a fifth grade Principal's Assistant. Her parents were never there emotionally, and the maid and Jean had only been able to do so much; Jean had been an older volunteer in a very overcrowded daycare. "Plus it's fun to do stuff. I do like encouragement. Of course, your mom goes way overboard with you sometimes, Elizabeth, even though she doesn't push you anymore."

Elizabeth laughed. "You said it. My mom went from always bragging about my jumping skills to bragging about my so-called 'heroic, life-saving skills.' Your horse was antsy and got spooked and stood while we were just walking our horses around the pavilion. But, now my mom says she figures I could have run my horse to the shed for the paramedics if we'd been out on the trail." Inside she knew she could have, but much more modest than her mom, so she didn't say anything more in that area. "I'm just glad you were only out for a few seconds. You were even moaning a bit when your dad and everyone got to you; I think you were there too, Samantha."

"Yeah, I was. That was scary, just seeing her fall like that, and knowing when asked where she was, all she could think of was 'California.'"

Michelle tried to lighten things for a moment. "Well, I was right; if I'd said someplace I've never even been, then you'd know I had problems." She had recovered within a couple hours, though she didn't remember that time, just like a football player who might lose a few plays from memory, or even a whole game in worse concussions.

The other girls laughed, as hoped. "I guess it wasn't that bad. I don't know why, but I think about that more lately," Elizabeth said.

"You do have such a full schedule, Steph said lately she thinks she's going to hear it belch," Michelle joked.

"Now that's what I call a full schedule," Elizabeth commented, recalling some of Samantha's accomplishments. "Of course, you were great as 'Annie,' I came to see it." Samantha recalled. "And, your soccer team sure loves you." Samantha had won playoff MVP in her league in third grade, after her tonsils had been taken out and she missed part of the season, and had been on a state title team for her age level last year. She'd been on a couple All-Star teams, because of her athleticism, too.

However, dance was Samantha's main interest. Samantha knew Stephanie had talked about delivering an ultimatum about soccer, saying she had to cut back. And, privately, she welcomed it, wanting to avoid being overscheduled as some girls get. This would be her last year of playing soccer as more than just a hobby.

On the other hand, what Samantha wanted most was just a vacation from every activity.

Michelle agreed that Samantha should take a break. As they rode back toward the stables, she asked, "Is there someplace special you'd like to go on vacation? You really could use some time off from all this."

"Well...I heard Rachel boasting about her dad's trip to Paris, where they were starting their first international bakery." Rachel was pretty friendly now, but still rather vain at times. Michelle was just glad Rachel had grown to be nice to her and her friends. "It sounds like a really romantic place."

"That would be cool. D.J. and Steve were talking about a vacation somewhere; they're not engaged yet but I bet they're close." D.J. was Michelle and Stephanie's oldest sister, now 23. Steve was her very steady boyfriend. "And, Steph's been wanting to do something special with you before she starts college in the fall." Stephanie, the middle of the Tanner sisters, was eighteen, and the closest thing Samantha had to a mom, given her inattentive parents. This was ironic because Stephanie only vaguely remembered having a mom; the girls' mother, Pam Tanner, had died in an accident when Stephanie was five. Their Uncle Jesse and dad's best friend Joey had moved in to help raise them then.

"Paris would be great. You need to take a break sometimes, Samantha."

Michelle concurred. "I don't do much jumping, usually just at this one because it's my home one. But, I do a lot of other stuff, and even without doing only one thing, I need time to myself, too."

"And we both know you've got talent for ballet like I've got for jumping," Elizabeth said, trying to encourage Samantha. She knew from talking to Michelle that Samantha was normally pretty cheerful, but could sometimes start to feel quite down about herself because of the neglect. "But, I've learned two important things about wanting to be an Olympian. One, I need someone to push me a little. The last five years, I'm winning big at more and more jumping contests, but I always have trouble at this competition." The girls giggled as she looked at Michelle. "And when I think I can beat anyone and I can relax, I remember you're out there."

Michelle blushed as she laughed. She wasn't nearly that good.

"What's the second?" Samantha asked.

"The second is, I can't be jumping every minute of the day. I need breaks sometimes, so it stays fun."

Michelle could sense that Samantha wanted her to tell her to go, so she did. This seemed to be one of those times when Samantha felt down enough that she wasn't really able to rely on her own feelings enough. "I'll be in Washington, D.C. with a group from school for a while soon, but I'll talk to Steph about it. We'll see what we can do about getting you a vacation from all your dancing and stuff; she and D.J. and Steve and maybe Kimmy can chaperone."

Samantha chuckled. "Kimmy? I know what Steph will say. Even though she's not too bad anymore, Steph will still be like, 'We'd better be careful she doesn't book us a trip to Paris, Texas.'" Kimmy had always been very dumb. She'd improved quite a bit in that area since learning she had dyslexia after leaving high school. But, the best friend of D.J. Tanner still was quite strange, because of a family that could basically be considered inner city hillbillies.

"Or Paris, Ohio, yeah," Elizabeth said. "Either one would probably be really small."

Michelle agreed. Stephanie's reaction to a vacation would be that it was a great idea. Going to Paris? That would be rather odd.

"You think we can take off for Paris just like that?" Stephanie said hours later as she sat at the desk in her room. "Somehow I get the same feeling Colonel Hogan must have when London gave him a seemingly impossible mission on Hogan's Heroes."

"Come on, Steph. It's not that hard. For one thing, we're not stuck in the middle of a prisoner of war camp while doing our missions," Michelle noted, referring to the show. "Samantha could get her own way paid, I'm sure. And, her parents are rich enough, they'd probably foot a lot of the rest of the bill, too."

Stephanie walked over to her bed, sat down, and put an arm around her little sister. "You always have this incredible faith. I just hope you're not so blunt you'd come right out and suggested that to her parents if you saw them."

"Probably not. But, I don't know. It all depends on whether I thought they'd want to help."

Stephanie smiled. Sadly, they probably would, but not for the reasons Michelle thought. It would be for selfish reasons - wanting to be sure their daughter didn't burn out so they could keep showing Samantha off and boasting about how they were parents of a super pro ballerina someday.

"Hey, Michelle," Jeff Farrington said as he stepped into the threshhold and leaned against the door of Stephanie's bedroom. The tall, brown-haired boy was wearing another of his silly shirts - it had a bunch of gnus standing around a Pepsi machine, and said, "The Choice of a Gnu Generation."

Michelle burst out laughing; she'd never seen that shirt before. Jeff grinned. The young teens liked each other, and this was one way the class clown had found was perfect for getting her attention.

Finally, she said, "What's up, Jeff?"

"Well, first I wanted to see if you thought I should wear this shirt on the plane."

"Only if you want the pilot to fall down laughing."

"Hey." Jeff pretended to take offense. "You'll need someone to take reporters' minds off you in a few years when Elizabeth makes the Olympics. She already says you're the only one who can beat her at jumping."

"Yeah, right, like I have a lot of talent."

"Hey, come on, Michelle, it happens to every great athlete. Every great batter has some mediocre pitcher that just gives him fits, and every great pitcher has some stiff who saves all his big games for matches against that pitcher."

Stephanie leaned forward and cocked her head slightly. "Uh, Jeff, you just called your girlfriend mediocre at best and a stiff at worst."

All three were laughing quickly, as Stephanie rapidly joined the others. "Hey, don't worry, Steph," Michelle said. "I know he didn't mean anything bad."

"Me, too, Michelle. We've known him since he was five. But, still, I wouldn't exactly want a guy saying that about me." Stephanie wasn't worried. In fact, she knew that Jeff had matured quite a bit in the last few years. But, she'd still wanted to make that point. It was part of the protectiveness that came from being a big sister.

The comment reminded Jeff of the main reason he'd come. "Hey, speaking of guys who don't know how to treat girls, I did you guys a favor today." He sauntered into the room and explained. "It all began when Samantha and this guy were out walking by John Muir's football field..."

Samantha was walking around the school's track with Larry Birch. It surrounded the football field, and now that Samantha was accustomed to the middle school, it was a great place for her to ride her bike, walk, and either think or talk with boys who had been out ther playing. In a way, it was a little like the playground her the elementary school. The game were just much more organized, and at times rougher.

Samantha enjoyed hanging around boys, though she was still a little nervous, not certain if she wanted to be alone with one or not. Her glossy black hair and her fine as china looks had really started to blossom in the last year and a number of boys had started to take more of an interest in her. Quite a few of those boys had decided to act on that, but when they tried to, they found themselves blocked by either Courtney, Michelle or Jeff and his friends. A number of them had gotten frustrated but a quiet word from Stephanie to their parents quelled that little matter.

Larry was one who had decided to. "Hey, how come you're not wearing that top you had on the other day?" he asked. "I like those ones that show your belly."

"Stephanie doesn't," Samantha said, making a face. "She said if people were meant to show their belly buttons, God would have given them some real purpose, like He did with our noses or mouths."

"Is that all?"

"Well, she said a bunch of other things, too. In fact, I was ready to call the folks at Guinness to see if she had set some kind of record with that lecture. There's a senator who filibustered for days, though. I don't think even Stephanie could do that." She paused. "Then again..."

She supposed Stephanie could talk for days on something. She had certainly had a lot to say about Samantha's alluring attire when she'd learned about it. Samantha always struggled to feel accepted, and several girls had pushed her to become part of the "popular clique" at John Muir by dressing in clothes with...well, what Stephanie had rightly said was 'sex appeal." Even though Samantha knew she shouldn't be doing that now or at any age. But, it was just one of those phases where she'd felt the need to belong, and thought that being like those girls would do it.

"Oh, come on, I'm sure she has no idea just how beautiful you could really look - not that you're not gorgeous now," he said as they stopped and he began visualizing her in one of those very immodest pieces.

Samantha sneered. While she liked boys to pay attention to her - sometimes too much - the way he was staring at her was freaking her out. "Stop looking at me like that," she said angrily, walking away in a huff.

"Oh, I'm sorry, babe," Larry said, jogging after her.

She looked ready to accept his apology and continue to walk with him, as this boy seemed to like her - as long as he wouldn't ogle her like that. However, as she turned around, Jeff came walking up to them. "Hey, this happens to be a human being, not a hamburger," Jeff joked.

"Hey, why are you defending her? We all know you like that Tanner girl."

"It doesn't matter if she's not my girlfriend. She is still worth a lot more than just her body; she happens to be a wonderful human being onthe inside."

Larry laughed. "Aw, come on, I'll pay attention to the inside sometime; but that outside, you have to admit, is so lovely."

"Why should I admit that? Even a pet, you care about the inside and not the outside. Pet rocks may have been big twenty years ago, but anyone with half a brain would have preferred a loyal dog who would wait for them at the bus stop rather than a rock with no personality. And, she may not be my girlfriend, but she's one of my best friends who is a girl because of who she is inside!" Trying to interject a little more humor into the lecture, he finished by saying, "No matter how beautiful it might be, I doubt you'd want to have a rock hanging around you all day. They just aren't very much company."

After they talked for a few more minutes, Jeff finally got Larry to agree to leave Samantha alone. She thanked him as they walked back to the ball diamond where Jeff had been working out before coming over there.

"Oh, don't worry. It's my pleasure." He didn't want to remind Samantha of her family problems, so he didn't say it. But, he considered that even if she wasn't practically a sister to Michelle, he'd still care about her, considering how much she'd been through.

Michelle smiled thankfully. "Thanks. I really appreciate it, Jeff," she said lovingly.

"Me, too. It's great to know we have such a great team helping Samantha," Stephanie said.

"She's had quite a few boys after her, it seems," Michelle remarked. "This stage is really nuts."

"We're lucky we've known each other for so long," Jeff agreed.

Stephanie emphasized that, "Even if Samantha had had a normal childhood, what you two have right now is a very special friendship. It might stay only that."

"Or, your prediction about us going to the senior prom and marrying could come true," Michelle said hopefully.

Stephanie smiled guiltily. "Or that, you're right. Just don't be too anxious. Let things develop. Because, I do see some great things happening," she finished. She'd wanted to ensure that her younger sister didn't expect too much, too soon out of that bond she had with Jeff. They were just now starting to think about love, after all. They weren't close to saying they love each other. But, still, that prediction she'd made back when she was their age and didn't know any better kept rearing its head.

Oh, well, she knew Michelle wouldn't get carried away with Jeff or anyone else. Samantha, however, was a constant concern, because she tried too hard to find love. The neglectful past meant that Samantha often looked for something to fill that void, even if that something wasn't really helpful and could in fact prove harmful of Stephanie, Michelle, Samantha's good friend Courtney, and others didn't watch out for her.

"Michelle suggested that I go with Samantha to Paris while your class is off in Washington, Jeff. It felt great being volunteered to host that fourth grade class Valentine's Day party, but I doubt many mothers have been volunteered to go to Paris," Stephanie quipped. "Still, I would like to do something special with Samantha. She thinks of me as a mom, and I'm not going to have as much time as I did once I'm in college. So, this works out pretty well."

"Paris. Wow. You'll have to get passports, shots, all kinds of stuff."

Michelle gave Jeff a look. "Shots? They don't exactly have malaria outbreaks there." Jeff laughed and agreed that they likely didn't.

"Well, I'll check with D.J. a while later, I bet we can manage. It should be lots of fun."

Stephanie found D.J., Steve, Kimmy, and Duane lounging in the bachelorette pad in the Tanners' attic, the place Jesse and, later, Jesse and Becky had lived with their kids till moving out a couple years back.

"Deej, I wanted to ask you something about, well, a trip Samantha was going on. And, I'd kind of rather not ask in front of Kimmy. I mean, you could probably afford some of the cost if you and Steve went along as chaperones; the exterminating business he got from Grandpa is doing really well, after all, and you'll have quite a bit of money saved up from your job, not having to pay rent."

"Come on, we've known each other since you were wee little. Anything you want to say to D.J., you can say in front of me. Besides, Duane's plumbing business is pretty good, too. And, I have some time off from my job at the mall's salon coming," Kimmy said.

Stephanie decided that she should. "Okay. Samantha wants to go on vacation to Paris."

Kimmy smiled. "Paris. Wow; that would make a great honeymoon. The City of Lights. The City of Lovers. Sure better than one night in a cheap motel in Sausalito like we had, huh?" she asked Daune. He shrugged.

"Kimmy?" The other main reason for Stephanie's concern came out now. "I don't know, I was thinking just D.J. and Steve as you even know any French?"

"Sure I do. Oui oui - that's French for 'I have to go to the bathroom,'" Kimmy joked. "Seriously, I do know 'yes, 'no,' and a few other things in French. Including how to ask for the bathroom."

"Which is an important phrase. I'd put it before asking where there's a good restaurant, though." Noticing odd looks from D.J. and the others, Steve defended himself. "Well, wouldn't most have restrooms, too? The ones in Spain did when D.J. and I were there after ninth grade."

"Steve has a point," Kimmy told D.J.. "I found that to be a very clever indication of where to find a restroom when our Spanish class went."

"Well, your feet already remind people of Pepe Le Pew," Stephanie cracked. Kimmy had learned to laugh at her own smelly feet early - in fact even as a young teen she'd jokingly use having to smell them as a threat with very defiant babysitting charges. "Anyway, if you would go, you'd also have to help me with Samantha. Keep an eye out for her, that sort of thing."

"Don't worry, we'd be there for you," Kimmy promised. "Right after we take in all the sites, and rate them for most romantic spot in which to kiss. Maybe I can write a freelance article somewhere."

Stephanie thought about how distracted Kimmy could get, as well as the excited, lovestruck looks on D.J. and Steve's faces as they gazed at each other and mouthed the words "Paris." Finally, she said, "I thought I would before; now I'm sure I'd better invite Allie and Darcy, too."

Her best friends Allie and Darcy had eagerly accepted the offer for a "mini-graduation trip" to Paris with Stephanie and the others. So had Courtney when Samantha invited her. As suspected, the Burkes were more than eager to pay for this excursion what the others couldn't afford, as they wanted to be able to shower all the luxury upon their daughter that they could. They had learned from friends who did attend her performances that Samantha was a gifted performer. And, they loved the recognition that came with being the parents of such a great ballerina and stage actress.

Stephanie was rather excited as the days approached. Her only concern was that Samantha might be getting a little too into the glamour of Paris. In the days before their flight, Samantha kept singing the theme song for "The Love Boat."

The group had been given a present by the parents before they left - they learned they were to be placed in a penthouse in one of the fanciest hotels in Paris. "They sure don't spare any expenses," Allie said as she considered the arrangements on the plane. "As long as they can buy it they'll do it." She didn't say it, but was saddened to think that only things obtained with money meant anything tot hem; well, that and fame. She supposed that being able to brag about "their" daughter was something that money couldn't buy. But, even that, they were paying to ensure that she could. Just like they'd paid for Samantha's dance classes, dance school, and so on.

The stewardess walked up to them, interrupting their thoughts as they relaxed in the first class seats. "Can I get you anything to drink?"

"I'll have a Coke," Kimmy told her.

"Yes, Ma'am, would you like it in the can?"

"No, I'll have it right here." The stewardess wasn't sure whether to laugh or not - had that been a joke.

Samantha wasn't sure if it was a joke or not, either. While Kimmy had become much better at understanding things, there were still times when she joked around to cover her not understanding.

So, Samantha made a joke while ordering to make it seem more like it had to be a joke from Kimmy. "I'll have a chocolate mousse, please - hold the antlers." Jeff would be impressed with how I kept a straight face, yet used a slightly comical voice, she considered. The stewardess smiled joyfully as she'd hoped.

Once everyone's order had been brought, the travelers discussed the luxury hotel and the many sights they planned to see. Between that and changing planes in New York, they were exhausted by the time they got to Paris, despite having slept some. "Wow, we're in a foreign country," Courtney blurted in amazement. While D.J. and Kimmy had been to Spain, and Stephanie and her friends had been overseas with a class once, and Samantha had been to London with a ballet group, this was Courtney's first trip outside the country. She was awestruck by everything.

"What's the first thing you want to do?" Kimmy asked her husband, Duane. "It is our honeymoon, after all."

"Oh, whatever. Rest, I guess."

"He's right, this time change has me all messed up." D.J. looked at Steve. "Though Steve's always hungry, so I doubt he'll be too confused."

Kimmy agreed. "It feels like we just had a really wacky Daylight Savings Time - we set our clocks ahead almost half a day. I think I'm going to find the Jacuzzi - is that a good French word to use here? - and get a nice, soothing bath."

Everyone thought that sounded like a good idea. While they discussed how to take turns for that, and their sleeping arrangements - Stephanie would be in the same room with Samantha and Courtney, Allie and Darcy would room together, and the couples would room together in different parts of the penthouse - Kimmy went to the hot tub.

"My name is Garcon," said an employee of the hotel who had come upstairs as Kimmy stepped into the main room of the penthouse wearing a bathrobe. "I will be at your service with whatever you need. Please, make yourselves at home."

"Don't mind if I already did. By the way, do you have any more of this Dom Perignon bubble bath? There was only enough to fill the tub halfway," Kimmy explained.

Garcon held a hand to a cheek and made a gasping, choking sound. "Please be joking," he mumbled under his breath.

"Please don't mind her, Sir. Have you ever seen the Beverley Hillbillies? Well, just think of her as one of them," Samantha explained.

"Boy, Kimmy, good thing we stopped you before you ran the water," D.J. mentioned. Garcon was relieved for only a moment. "I did that when I was three and I learned you could be made to sit in the corner with just a towel wrapped around you, from what Dad tells me." A sudden look of horror came across her as she thought she heard the faint sound of water running over something somewhere. "Uh, Kimmy, you didn't turn the water on, did you?" Garcon had already made a mad dash into the bathroom to check, while muttering something about Eloise, the extremely lively, curious child who lived at the Plaza in childrens' books, being real after all.

Kimmy looked oddly at D.J.. "Does this mean I'm going to have to sit in the corner?" she asked as Garcon screamed in the background.

"No, but the second part of her punishment will probably be in force - no bubble bath for days!" Stephanie exclaimed, as they all went to throw clean towels in to soak things up.

Samantha added, "Weeks, even!"

Darcy suggested, "A three-year-old wouldn't be expected to help clean up a mess like that as much as a twenty-three-year-old might. So, probably she could take some time off of that provided Kimmy goes in and cleans it up."

Stephanie looked at her friend and smirked. "We figured with seven females only Steve and Duane were enough as far as male chaperones, but with that comment, I feel like we have my dad after all."

"Sorry, Steph," Darcy said with a laugh. "It did sound a little over-analytical, huh?" The others nodded.

As Kimmy helped clean the mess, Samantha and Stephanie left the room. Samantha said as an aside to Stephanie, "That's probably just what you'd say and do if I did that as an accident, huh?" She had mildly been reminded of her tumultuous past with that, but she was growing more confident, and had asked this merely to reassure herself that Stephanie would have known the difference between an accident and something done on purpose.

"Oh, you bet," Stephanie said lovingly while placing an arm around her. She had learned a lot from D.J. and their dad - and even their mom through how D.J. handled some things. Although with that instance, "Our dad had trouble with us older girls, too, seeing us as big enough to punish, though not as much as he did with Michelle. Seems to me Dad said that's one of the first times he felt comfortable putting D.J. in timeout." With Stephanie, it had been easier for Danny to start punishing out of protectiveness; he'd begun using timeout with her around age 2, because of her propensity to climb.

At that moment, Stephanie's cell phone rang. Courtney plucked it out of Stephanie's pocket, as she figured she knew who would be calling that even...that late...or that did that work again?

She guessed correctly. "Hey, Mom. Yep, we all made it safely...Oh, no major problems, except Kimmy poured a bunch of bubble bath into the hot tub and ran the water, and it feels like I'm back home babysitting." A pause. "Oh, don't worry, they won't kick us out or anything." After talking for another moment, Courtney hung up.

They ordered room service for breakfast the next morning, then after recovering from jet lag - and the bubbles - they rode the elevator down to dinner at the hotel's cafe.

While waiting in line, Samantha smiled shyly behind her and cocked her head. "Hi."

"Hi. My name is Jerry. What is yours?"

"Samantha. You have a lovely accent. Are you French?"

"In a way; my family and I live in Quebec. We are here on vacation, my mother and brother and I."

"Oh, how wonderful. I'm on vacation, too." Samantha suddenly found herself and Jerry walking toward a far wall. "I'm from San Francisco."

"I hear that is a lovely city. I know I seem a little small for my age, but I am sixteen. I have been here before; I can tell you many wonderful things to see."

Samantha was excited. A sixteen-year-old! Paying attention to her! "Cool. I'm...well, I'm a little shorter than most girls my age, too."

"That's okay; nobody's perfect. My dad used to snore like a Concorde taking off, and he and my mom still fell in love." Jerry was delighted to hear Samantha giggle. He knew that story might help her feel better; he loved cheering others up. Hopefully, it would make her like him more, and his compassion would make him seem more grown up.

"I've heard there's some kind of nose things where you can wear them while you sleep and it helps that."

"Yes; I've heard about those, too."

Stephanie found them still chatting warmly after a few minutes. "That my...well, my nanny," Samantha explained. "Stephanie, this is Jerry. He's sixteen." Stephanie wasn't too shocked - she knew Samantha was starting to make friends fairly easily, just like Michelle - until her aside. "He sure is cute, huh?" Samantha whispered to her.

Alarms went off in Stephanie's head. "Samantha..."

"Oh, our reservations are ready," Jerry said. "See you later." They shared an affectionate glance.

Once he was gone, Stephanie said, "He's sixteen!"

"...And he's gorgeous," Samantha cooed. "Paris really is a city filled with cute guys. Oh, boy, wait till tomorrow!"

"Oh, brother!" Stephanie muttered.

Once their own reservations were ready, Stephanie kept trying to think of ways to distract Samantha from thinking about Jerry. Though the cafe was quite crowded, she kept casting glances in his direction, just in case Jerry looked her way.

Kimmy noticed, too. Mindful of what Samantha had done on the plane, she decided to try a joke when ordering dessert; maybe that would distract Samantha. "What's this baked lava - did it come from an actual volcano?"

No use - Samantha chuckled at Kimmy, and she and Courtney quickly returned to nudging each other and rating the boys and college-aged young men on level of cuteness. Stephanie knew that D.J. and Kimmy, and she, Allie, and Darcy, would do the same things at that age. But, she was concerned about the young teens' excitement over boys taking away from the rest of the trip.

Kimmy caught the look from Stephanie. Her ruse hadn't worked. "It's okay, I know it's really pronounced baklava, and what it is," she said, giving the waiter an enormous sense of relief. He hadn't been sure how to explain that.

"Samamtha, Courtney, we came here to sightsee," Stepahnie reminded them.

"We sure are seeing some sights," Samantha uttered.

"Yes, but I mean things like buildings."

"Why didn't your boyfriend come?" Courtney asked.

At least she got off the subject of the ones in the room, Stephanie mused. "We went together for a couple years off and on, but things have cooled off since the prom. I guess it was like a high water mark," Stephanie explained tiredly.

D.J. thought she might have caught what Courtney was doing, something that the younger Stephanie, thinking about that relationship, might not have noticed. "You know, Samantha, Courtney has a point. Stephanie still hasn't found the right guy, and she might not for years." Courtney hadn't meant to draw the conversation in that direction, but she pretended to, to help her friend.

Samantha wasn't buying the possibility of Stephanie taking a long time, though. "She needs to look around here."

"Samantha, that is enough," Stephanie said, plopping her napkin onto the table. "Just because you saw a boy who looks really good doesn't mean you're in love, and it certainly doesn't mean I'll find anyone."

"You never know until you try."

"Samantha, Jerry is sixteen. That is not the right age for you. It is three years older."

Steve remarked that, "Even two years was probably about the max when D.J. and I met, and she was fifteen. But, I knew that when I was seventeen. He might not be mature enough to know that you're too young to be alone with him, or to go off sightseeing on your own, or something like that." D.J. nudged him. "What?"

"Steve, don't put ideas in her head."

"What, she's gotta be having ideas already."

D.J. shook her head. "Then don't encourage them. Talk about how we can all be friends, but..."

Samantha's loud sigh interrupted them. "He's leaving. Oh, well, maybe tomorrow I'll see him."

"I'm afraid Steve's got a point this time," Allie chided D.J.. "She seemed completely unfazed by his remarks."

"Well, let's hope that our tour tomorrow can put her in enough awe that it focuses her on something else."

Kimmy said the Eiffel Tower should be especially interesting. "I've always wondered how anyone could get up there, though."

"Actually, Kimmy, it's not just a bunch of iron. You can go up in elevators inside. There's lots of room for lots of people," Stephanie explained.

"Wow. So I could go up, and see all over Paris."

Courtney agreed that it should be an awesome spectacle. And, Stephanie was grateful that at least some people were not thinking about boys.

The group traveled to the Eiffel Tower amid tales from Samantha on the tour Jerry and his family would be on. "Samantha," Allie finally remarked, "You seem to know more about their tour than ours."

"Well, we're just wandering, while Jerry's with a tour group. He told me which one, and I was reading about it in the booklet they gave us in our hotel," Samantha explained.

"So you learned everything about him? Including his favorite breakfast food? And, if he were a tree, what kind of tree would he be?" Samantha passed Kimmy a weird look.

Stephanie somehow managed a cross between an odd and a grateful look at Kimmy's remark, however. At least Kimmy had, in an odd way, demonstrated just how overboard Samantha was going; she knew hardly anything about Jerry.

"Oh, don't be silly," Samantha told Kimmy as they walked toward the Eiffel Tower. "I'm just explaining to Stephanie that I am thinking about more than how cute he is. I'm thinking about where I can see him next."

Duane gave his familiar shrug, though instead of "whatever," he said, "She has a point."

"Oh, and where is this tour group going? Maybe I should call and make reservations for dinner," Stephanie said.

D.J. glanced at her - she was surprised that the comment didn't sound sarcastic, then quickly picked up on Stephanie's plan.

"It's a lovely little outdoor cafe only blocks from the hotel. With exquisitely crafted..."

"Save the sales pitch. We're going there tonight."

"What?" Allie asked, befuddled.

"Is this one of those Hogan's Heroes type plans?" Darcy asked, remembering Stephanie's earlier comparison to a mission the Heroes might undertake.

"You bet, Darcy," Stepahnie asserted, brimming with confidence. "I'm going to to talk to that family and find out more about this boy, and try to get that sixteen-year-old away from Samantha," she whispered to her friends. "Meanwhile, we can get Courtney to maybe talk about all the people who walk past, and even make a few references to the part of that show Samantha liked so well - Corporal LeBeau. So, in the end, it won't feel too bad when Jerry explains he's too old for her; she'll be distracted. You know how she always wanted to have LeBeau fix lunch for her at one of these, since Robert Clary's character was a chef."

D.J., listening in, grinned proudly. "Steph, you are so good at both protecting Samantha and devising great plans. I've taught you so well." She then cast a look to her right, and she and Steve found themselves gravitating toward a the spot that some said was the most romantic of all the lookout points, if one could be said to be more so than the others.

As Stephanie looked for Courtney to explain her plan, however, Courtney was nowhere to be found. She had seen a girl, maybe eight, who appeared a little lost in the crowd approaching one of the windows at the top observation deck.

"Hi, I'm Courtney; are you looking for someone?"

"Oui, my brother," the girl said in obviously broken English. "Parles vous Franceis?"

"Sorry, I only have a year of Spanish." Courtney chided herself. Why was she talking as if this girl had understood that? She pulled out an English to French dictionary as a handsome lad of about fourteen approached the girl.

She tried to say the words in French as he took the girl's hand. "Uh...are you...her..." At Courtney's next word, the boy and girl broke out in fits of laughter.

"No, I am her brother, not her broccoli," the boy explained. Courtney's face turned beet red. "I believe you were looking at the wrong column. But, do not worry, I speak English."

Courtney quickly skimmed down the list of "b" words - sure enough, she had messed up completely. "Oh, I am sorry...I did not mean that you looked like broccoli, you look so much cuter than broccoli. I mean..." Her face turned red again.

"Believe me, I do not like the taste all that well either, though I never considered its looks. I am Pierre Dubois, and this is my sisiter, Eliennette Dubois. We live in Paris. And, I can tell you are American."

"Only a dumb American would call a guy 'broccoli,' huh? Do you come here often?"

"Oui, it is a matter of national pride for my family to have such historic landmarks to visit." The three walked toward the window and looked out. "This is the most beautiful city in the world. And it is my hope that you will take back fond memories of it."

"Oh, I will." Especially since he doesn't mind my calling him "broccoli," she considered. "As a matter of fact, it impresses me more to see you caring so much for your sister. When American girls see boys doing that it really makes them look good. I wanted to make sure she was not lost."

"I imagined that was the case. Where in America are you from?"

Courtney was elated as the continued to speak. Samantha might have found a nice guy, if only a bit too old, but Courtney had met a boy quite close to her age who was actually French! She couldn't believe her luck! And, he seemed like a nice guy, too, the way he cared for Eliennette, the way he included her the conversation and everything just seemed wonderful!

"Pierre, Pierre," she kept singing on the way back to the ground.

Kimmy turned to Stephanie as the group got off the elevator and left the tower. "You know, I remember Michelle singing that name like that once when she was five. Of course, that was only because Pierre's is a brand of ice cream."

"Pierre said he's going to the Arc du triomphe tomorrow; just like we are!" Courtney remarked excitedly.

Stephanie merely nodded her head slowly and tiredly.

"Jet lag still getting to you a little?" D.J. asked tenderly. Stephanie agreed. "At least we didn't cross the international date line."

"That's true; there's too much dating here as it is without crossing a date line," Stephanie cracked. "I really need to split, don't I - one half to hold Samantha's reins, one half to hold Courtney's." Stephanie looked around, wondering where Darcy had gone. "Oh, boy, now Darcy's disappeared, too."

"Weird." Kimmy thought for a moment. "I wonder if it'll be like one of those movies where everyone vanishes in some eerie fog or something."

Stephanie resisted the urge to speak of the fog in Kimmy's brain. Instead, she thought she heard a pair of familiar voices. One of which was a name from her distant was so familiar. But, who was it?

Darcy was chatting amicably with Walter K. Breman, a former classmate of Stephanie's in grade school. "It's so nice to meet another American here. Especially one who's so good looking."

"Thanks. You look really nice yourself, Darcy. It's amazing, how things work," he said as they smiled and gazed into each other's eyes. "Two strangers meeting here in this fabulous place. And they learn that they were in the same neighborhood only a couple years apart."

"Yeah, what a coincidence," Darcy said dreamily. "Come on, Stephanie will be so shocked to see you." Darcy giggled as their hands touched before she led him to Stephanie and D.J.. "Look who I found. I think you remember Walter." Stephanie's mouth flew open. Of course! Her "secret boyfriend" for a short while, and good friend, in second grade!

"Aren't you the one Stephanie said she used to call 'Duckface' in second grade?" Samantha asked.

Walter chuckled. "That was a long time ago." He then looked into Darcy's eyes and grinned. Darcy beamed.

"Yeah, besides, I think 'Gopher' would be more appropriate right now," Stephanie said glibly as she observed Darcy and Walter eyeing each other. "Courtney's met a French boy already, Samantha thinks she's in love, and Steve might just propose to D.J. if he can get his mind off the fabulous French cooking. Somehow our little vacation is turning into 'The Love Boat.' With ports of call in Paris and Chicago."

"I think a plane would be easier."

Darcy noticed Walter's bemused look and explained Kimmy's comment in a whisper. "She usually tells those jokes to be funny now; she's smarter than she was. They found she has a learning disorder a few years ago." Walter nodded and said nothing further about the odd things Kimmy might say.

"Well, don't worry, Steph," Allie reassured her. "Thankfully, I'm shier with boys, so it's not likely I'll fall for one. We'll be able to keep an eye on Samantha for you, though; it's not like we have no self-control." She turned to Walter and asked what he was doing there.

"I'm in a summer internship program that M.I.T. sent me on. I wound up skipping ahead of your class when I tested high going into my new school after I moved."

"Oh, boy; you didn't happen to do any cloning experiments, did you?" Samantha asked.

Walter looked strangely at her. "No, why?"

"Those girls...from a few hundred feet away they looked like Michelle. But, now that they're real close...well, they're not the same exact size, and Michelle's hair has always been very strawberry blonde, but..." Samantha tried to recall, but struggled. "Weren't there a couple distant relatives like that?"

Stephanie responded in the affirmative. "Their dad's your dad's second cousin. You and Michelle and I worked on a sympathy card when you got word their mom passed away, and I think you said you've written a time or two since."

"Oh, yeah." Samantha waved them over. "Bet you're glad to see someone from the States here, huh?" She introduced herself and the others. She didn't say why, but merely said, "That was a real eye opener for me, hearing about your mom dying. I hope everything's going okay."

"It is," Mary-Kate Burke agreed.

"Yeah, our nanny's along with us, along with our dad and his brother. Our nanny and his brother; they're like this close to being engaged," Ashley said, putting her thumb and forefinger an inch apart.

Mary-Kate looked oddly at her. "Actually, Dad really hired her and called her a babysitter." Turning back to Stephanie, she said, "But, seriously, do you think twelve-year-olds need a babysitter? Of course not. Now, a nanny, I can see; like you say Stephanie's kind of a nanny, Samantha, but really she's like your mom. Especially because she doesn't look that much older than us."

"Mary-Kate, it doesn't matter what you call her; the important part is, she's in love, and in a few short months, it won't matter, because she'll be Aunt Carrie than!"

"Hmm, true, I never thought of that."

Stephanie laughed out loud. "Oh, boy, everyone thinks they're in love around here. Although your nanny stands a better chance of knowing for sure than Samantha here." Samantha glared at Stephanie, who responded, "You're only thirteen, and he's sixteen!" Stephanie promised to talk to Jerry's older brother about the situation. "No sixteen-year-old needs to be hanging around you, and vice versa."

"Well, you just talk to his brother. I'll bet he says what a nice guy Jerry is and all that."

Stephanie sighed. "I hope so. We'll have to look you guys up when you go back to Chicago, we're staying in that place Samantha's parents own, that little former inn where they stay when visiting from out of town." Under her breath, she muttered, "If we ever survive this vacation."

"Hey, don't worry." Kimmy promised that not everyone would wind up marrying. "I don't ever remember a 'Love Boat' episode where everyone ends up engaged. Now, sometimes there would be two couples, but, that could always be D.J. and Steve, too."

It was Kimmy's turn to receive an odd look from Samantha. "Are you nuts? I'd never think of marriage this young. Now, my first kiss..." Samantha grinned dreamily.

Stephanie glazed skyward, looking for strength.

After their day of touring, the group went back to the little cafe Samantha had mentioned. Sure enough, there was Jerry and his family. Stephanie instantly walked over to them as Jerry came over to see Samantha before the groups sat; the sidewalk cafe was quite crowded, with all the tourists jamming it. So, she knew it might be a little while.

"Hi, you must be Jerry', I'd guess?" He was. "I'm Stephanie Tanner, Samantha's...well, her mother practically," she muttered. More loudly she said, "Officially, I'm her nanny."

"Wow, you seem quite young for that position."

"Well, you might say I've practically grown up with it."

Jean smiled sadly as he introduced himself. "Really? I know the feeling; our father was killed in a work related accident when Jerry was very young."

"Wow. That must have been hard."

"Yes, I was only nine, but thankfully, I have been able to be something of a father figure to him. Although it is a lot harder than when he was three, it seems, since he has gotten an interest in girls."

"Wait a minute." Stephanie tried to do the math in her head. "So, he's..."


"He told Samantha he was sixteen," Stephanie said, not certain if that made it better or worse; he'd lied, but he was also her age.

Jean understood. "Jerry is like that, unfortunately. He tries to act and sound older in order to impress the girls. He wants to have it like I do at nineteen."

"I can understand the temptation," Stephanie said, trying hard not to notice how cool Jean himself looked. She reminded herself to keep focused on her mission. "But, we don't always have it perfect; things sort of fizzled after my senior prom a few months ago, after all." She paused a second - they had to have proms in Canada, didn't they?

They did. Jean said his had been nice, but certainly not a Cinderella ball type atmosphere. "I am sure it will happen someday for me, settling down and committing myself to a lifetime of loving one person. But, for now...well, it is just fun meeting nice young women like yourself, and just sharing good times." He gazed into her eyes. "Especially beautiful young ladies like yourself," he said, complimenting her greatly.

Stephanie coudln't help but blush. "Thanks.

They discussed their lives without one parent for several moments, as Stephanie revealed her mother's death when she was five. It was a safe topic - they got to know each other a little better, and she didn't have to worry about falling for Jean in the City of Lovers, or about Samantha and Jerry.

After a few moments, talk drifted into Samantha and what Stephanie referred to as a 'very difficult past" which led to her being extremely protective of her. "I guess from what you say, it's okay for them to be together - as long as they're watched very closely." He agreed. "And, you need to have Jerry admit his real age before we go any further - or let them go any further," she said glibly, choosing not to admit that Samantha might not want to totally accept Stephanie telling her.

After the two walked over to where Jerry and Samantha stood, feeling the fresh summer breeze along the Seine near the cafe's entrance - Jean asked to speak to Jerry alone. Stephanie was quite pleased when Jerry accepted Jean's entreaty with only a slightly dissatisfied look.

Of course, after Jerry admitted his real age, Stephanie still had some suggestions for Samantha after their dinner, back in the penthouse. "I think when something like this happens, it's important to answer with something more than, 'That's okay, you're still real cute.'"

"But we're supposed to forgive."

"Yes, that's true. But, a boy lied to you; while I think it was okay this time, I do not want you thinking that it's okay for boys to lie to you!" she stated emphatically.

"Didn't you ever tell a lie?"

Stephanie sighed. She could just hear D.J. in the main living room - "you sound just like Dad," she'd say. But, Stephanie had to protect Samantha. "Look, this is different. Not that I want you to lie to me, bu...well, a relationship is based on trust. And, yes, you forgive, but if you detect a pattern, or if it's a big lie, then you need to consider breaking things off. Whereas you and I are just like Dad and I. We're going to be, for all intents and purposes...mother and daughter forever." She couldn't believe she had just uttered those words. The memories of losing her mom at such a young age came flooding back, and she embraced Samantha. "I love you, Samanahta. And, I just don't want anything bad to happen to you."

"I love you, too...Mom." Samantha sniffled. It was so wonderful to be able to call someone "Mom" and have that warm, tender feeling behind it. She'd longed for that for so long, and though it was a unique situation, and probably wouldn't happen too often, there were times when she could just sense that this was what a mother was meant to be. Samantha tried to think for a moment after their embrace. "I guess...a family bond has to really be strong, huh?"

"That's right. It has to be strong enough the other person doesn't want to lie. And gets that funny feeling in their heart when they do, so it makes them want to confess."

"Just like I do with you, huh?" Stephanie nodded. "Well, I think this one's okay."

"Sure it is. I've sure even George Washington told lies at times; he just avoided the big ones. Heck, if I'd chopped down a cherry tree, I'd have probably run crying to Dad and admitted it myself - and figured there was no way he could ever love me again, even though he would. Just like when I backed Joey's car into the kitchen, except without the running away part first like I did then."

Samantha giggled. "Sorry, I'm just picturing you in a 1740s outfit."

Stephanie chuckled softly at that one, too. "Just wait, pretty soon we'll be eating in a restaurant we could have eaten in if we'd lived in the 1590s! But, yeah, this one is okay, just don't let there be a pattern of deceit."

"Even if I did, you'd stop it, wouldn't you?" Stephanie agreed wholeheartedly. "I guess that's part of being a mom too, huh? But, do you have to keep control of all the elevator codes and stairwell cards?"

"I don't want you wandering around unsupervised. Besides, I don't have all the stairwell cards - D.J. can control that, too. After all, if there's a fire, and I only later learn both mine were ripped off, that would be very dangerous."

"I wish she'd give us one to use, then."

"And, I wish for world peace," Stephanie joked. "Unfortunately, neither is going to happen. You and Courtney have plenty of fun stuff to do up here." Stephanie smirked. "Admit it, you want to roam the motel because the only guys up here are Steve and Duane, and they're spoken for."

"I guess you're right. Oh, well, at least you'll let us have some fun."

"Sure. Imagine the sites we're going to see," Stephanie remarked at she walked into the living room with Samantha. "I read where the Arc de triomphe was planned to be far more elaborate in the minds of some designers - and strange. One of many plans for the Arc had it shaped like a giant elephant with ballrooms & a theater."

While Samantha chuckled, Kimmy looked up from snuggling on a plush sofa with Duane. "Wow, that really would have been cool! Wonder why they didn't do that?"

"I guess people with your tastes are few and far between, Kimmy," D.J. said, looking up from a travel guide.

"I guess you're right, Deej. I always have thought I was one of a kind."

Darcy commented that, "It would probably be a little too expensive, too. Although France was a wealthy nation, one of the top ones back then, there were limits."

"I'll bet if Louis the fourteenth had been given the plans, he would have jumped at it," Allie added, referring to the French ruler for over seventy years, who was at times an extravagant spender.

"I think it'd clash with Versailles," Duane noted, the very quiet man - when in a group, anyway - adding his own unique ideas on taste to the conversation.

"True, but the palace at Versailles is in Versailles," Courtney noted.

"Whatever," Duane said with a shrug. "I guess that's a good fit."

"Okay, everyone, we need to be hitting the hay pretty soon, it's the Arc early, then the Louvre, then of course that fabulous restaurant tomorrow night for which I called three times to make sure they still had our reservations."

D.J. couldn't help but chuckle a little. "Steph, I hate to say it, but you are sounding more like Dad every day we're here."

"I know. I just want this vacation to be perfect. I mean, this is such an amazing highlight; a restaurant that's been in existence for over 400 years. That just fills me with such a sense of awe. Papouli was in the fittest of health right up till he died, and yet as old as he was, and as much as he'd seen, he'd only lived a fifth as long as this restaurant."

"Some of the artwork is even older than that. I wonder what the food was like back then. I wonder if the French still had those great sauces and rich flavors," Steve said.

Samantha chided D.J. that, "This is like the Love Boat all right. But Steve's got two loves on his mind; you and food."

"I'm not worried," D.J. whispered to Samantha. "He knows a bowl of crepes can't fulfill his needs like a woman. And yet, a woman can get the recipes to win her man over. If you know a boy who loves food like Steve does, that's fine - just make sure it's always your cooking he savors." Samantha got the hint; a boy could have other interests, but it had to be her alone as far as girlfriends were concerned.

D.J. considered the comment several times that night and the next day. She and Stephanie both worked - perhaps D.J. more subtly, with more experience - to help teach Samantha. It was a lot like the way she'd done with Michelle when she was little, or like her mother had done before she died, when D.J. was ten. Parenting was all about the little things - those were what really meant a lot.

As she gazed at a painting of Whistler's Mother, she pondered what she might have been like. She suspected that he must have been very proud of her, loved her an incredible amount. He'd had more time with her, of course, but when she died, he probably felt the loss just as much as D.J. and her sisters had. She was grateful to see how much of a bond had formed between Stepahnie and Samantha.

She just hoped, as Kimmy came walking up to them, that Stephanie wasn't going too far in protecting Samantha.

"Hey, just thought you'd like to know Duane and I were watching, and Samantha and Jerry looked like they had just three hands between them," Kimmy announced. Jerry and Jean and their mother were there at the same time as Stephaie's group. "Then I noticed it was an optical illusion - they had a vice grip on each other's wrists."

"They're holding hands? I used to be worried because he was older, or at least I thought he was; but this is even worse!"

"Calm down, Steph, you're really starting to sound like Dad now," D.J. advised.

"That's right, Deej. And I'm sorry I ever felt frustrated at his protectiveness."

Allie placed a hand on Stephanie's shoulder. "Hey, take it easy, Steph. She's just growing up."

"That's right," Darcy remarked. "I know, it's easy to look back to the time last year when she would watch Hogan's Heroes and want to sail the River Seine with Corporal LeBeau." The character was quite short, like Samantha. "And, she wouldn't listen when you told her the actor who played him was probably in his seventies if not older, because it was something safe to her, a fixation on a cute fictional guy. But, now she likes real people."

"That's right. But, she wasn't the only one who felt safer," Stephanie replied.

"Who knows; maybe their braces will lock together next. Good thing Duane's a plumber."

Stepahnie rolled her eyes. "Kimmy, why do you put such thoughts in my brain?" She thought a moment. "Especially because Samantha doesn't have braces."

"Now, Steph, calm down." D.J. smiled warmly while looking up a couple inches to Stephnaie's level and gazing into her eyes. "Steph, Steve and Duane are watching them. And, since they don't allow food in here, at least we know Steve will have his full attention focused on them."

"Yeah, I suppose. Was Jean in there, too?" He was. "Good. I hate to admit it, but I think I can trust him, too; he really seemed to understand me. Plus...well, okay, my face is a little red, huh?"

"Come on, Steph, just admit it. You like him," Darcy said. "I'm glad Walter's group has reservations for the same place we do."

"Okay, okay. You're right. And, Courtney saw Pierre again at the Arc and they had fun talking earlier today. But, it does seem like we've lost focus," Stephanie insisted.

Allie reminded her of why they'd come. "It's true that this is a great vacation. But, remember, Michelle originally suggested it so Samantha could rest."

"Allie's right," D.J. told her. "She's had a break from all her burdens, she hasn't thought about dance or theater or anything since we've been here. It's been a very emotionally stimulating trip. So some of her hormones get stimulated, too. I think that just helps to remind her she's a normal teenage girl. Who just happens to have a chance to become a prima ballerina."

Stephanie closed her eyes for a second, lost in thought. She imagined this was helping Samantha to feel refreshed; in fact, it was helping all of them. The trip was helping them bond more, too. Sometimes, though, it was just so hard to know how much leeway to give her.

D.J. understood as Stephanie related her feelings. "Well, Steph, I know it's not nearly the same as me with Michelle. But, in a way, it is. Because, there are just times you have to let her have some freedom. I know it's hard; Samantha's earlier life has left her really vulnerable. But, we've both put good ideas into her head. I don't think she'd ever lie to you now. And, we're all watching close enough to make sure nothing bad happens."

"You're right, Deej. I guess I can always tighten the reins when I have to."

"Sure. If things do get a little out of control, you have every right to bring them back into control. You've even talked about Samantha moving in with us, and I think it would be great if she did that before the summer's over; Michelle would love having her room with her. But, right now, you've made a friend. And, it wouldn't be right to spoil your part of the vacation worrying about Samantha all the time. Just keep watch along with the rest of us. Tell you what; let's we find Jerry and Jean's mother, and you go in and talk with Jean; he seems like a nice fellow. We can all go through the Louvre together."

"Thanks, Deej. You're right; I need to have a little fun, too." They left to join the others.

By the time they finished, the group needed to hurry back to the motel and change before going to the restaurant. It was a very elegant place that had opened in 1582. They instantly spied Walter, as well as the other Burkes - the twins introduced their nanny, Carrie, to Stephanie. "Can you believe she's a nanny at her age?"

"Wow, that's incredible. Listen, I need to get to our table - their uncle and I have a really spot for two, and I think tonight might be the night!" Carrie said excitedly.

Allie understood right away. "You mean he's going to propose?"

"I hope so. Well, actually, I know so...their dad, Kevin, almost blurted it out earlier today. I could pretty much tell it was something like that."

"Awesome!" Samantha gazed dreamily at the decor and imagined herself and Courtney in the past. "Wouldn't Jerry and Pierre make great knights in shining armor? I'll bet there were boys like them in this very place back then."

"Yeah, but with those helmets covering their heads you couldn't see how cute they looked," Courtney recognized.

Steve corrected that, saying, "This restaurant actually opened a little later than that; 1582 was well into the Renaissance Era."

"Yeah." Kimmy gazed around the packed restaurant and wondered aloud, "It's strange they don't have a sign or something saying that Leonardo Da Vinci ate here. They might get more customers that way."

"The place is already packed," Stepahnie hastened to note as they were shown to their table.

"True. But, they could stay open 24 hours a day then, like some New York places do," Kimmy explained.

"The idea of this place is to show extreme elegance," Stephanie reminded her. "I don't know if people go for that at 3 A.M.; though I guess they would go for places that advertised 'DaVinci ate here.'" She offered to help the younger girls with their menus, as she, Allie, and Darcy all had years of French under their belts from school. "This place is so fancy, they don't have water - they have dihydrogen oxide."

Duane showed one reason why Kimmy had fallen for him; he asked, "Is it safe?"

"Yeah, it sure tastes like regu-" Allie laughed. "I can't believe I fell for that, Steph."

Stephanie explained for those who didn't seem to quite get it. "Di-hydrogen, H-2. And of course, oxygen is O." She looked at D.J., and thanked her for encouraging her to have fun again on the trip without worrying.

"Okay, I get it now." Kimmmy was glad to not be the only one who'd fallen for that line.

The group observed the table where Carrie was sitting; the unmarried ones sighed dreamily as the watched Kevin's brother get down on one knee and propose. Stephanie considered what the Burke girls had said - how their dad was too organized for the free-thinking Carrie, but that after only half a year of going steady, their uncle and Carrie seemed so perfect for each other, as each was so spontaneous. It would be a wonderful marriage.

"I hope I have a guy propose to me like that," Samantha said, resting her chin on her heads.

Courtney smiled at Stephanie. "And I bet you're going to say something about waiting till she at least finishes Junior High."

"Well," Stephanie said with a grin. "Yeah. Although, D.J.'s right. I guess you do know how to take your time pretty well. I shouldn't have to tell you that."


D.J. nudged Steve slightly. She could tell he was still too taken by the food and atmosphere to think about proposing right now; but, she knew it probably wouldn't be too long. There was something about that look in his eye.

A couple days later, the couples met along the River Seine, enjoying the lovely scenery and basking in the glow of having been in another country.

Pierre strode up to Courtney as she observed Samantha and Jerry. "Thank you for letting me know you were leaving tomorrow."

Courtney grinned shyly as she looked at him. "Oh, you're welcome." She blinked once before continuing. "We've had fun together."

"Oui, I have enjoyed our time. I never got close to an American; I only knew them from the television shows and also the few tourists I would see for a moment. I always wondered what one was like. Perhaps I shall visit someday."

"I'd like that," Courtney agreed.

"Thank you also for telling me about Samantha. It makes me think about what young people are in my own country who need encouragement and love."

Courtney agreed. She hadn't told Pierre everything, but she remarked, "As long as it helps, I guess I can say knowing you was a success." There was part of her, of course, that wished it could have been a lot longer. But, she reluctantly admitted that her time would come later.

Samantha was willing to admit that, too; as long as she was with Stephanie, Jerry, and Jean. The two couples had seen several other sights together. At last, they were allowed a moment alone, though, to say goodbye. Stephanie did the same with the older boy.

Stephanie met Samantha in the middle of a bridge as the Canadians departed. "Samantha, this has been a great trip. And, I'm glad that you feel so refreshed."

"We've got Chicago to go, too," Samantha said excitedly.

"True. Look...I know I got kind of protective, and caught up in the desire to take in every amount of awesomeness here. And, I wanted to say I'm sorry."

"It's okay, Stephanie." Samantha swallowed hard, and said, "I might not act like it sometimes. But, when you shelter me, I feel good. I need to feel protected sometimes. It just doesn't have to be all the time."

"You're right. Once we got to know him, he seemed like a very nice boy. The kind I'd feel comfortable with you e-mailing and stuff. It sounds like he learned a bit here, too. About how he doesn't have to pretend he's someone he's not to impress the right kind of girl." Stephanie put an arm around her as they looked out over the water. "And, you really are the kind of girl who, if I had a son, or, to put it better for my age, if I had a boy like him I was helping, I'd want that boy to go with a girl like you."

"Thanks, Stephanie." Samantha felt ten feet tall after that comment.

"Tell you what. You promise to tell me about what's going on with the boys you go with, and I promise I'll trust you when it comes to the boys you choose." Stephanie's face got harder, and she said, "But just remember, I need to know these things. And, if I find you going against my rules on anything - clothing, the types of boys, anything - I can tighten the reins really fast."

"Don't worry, Stephanie, you won't have to."

"Good; now, let's spend some time our last day here and in Chicago just having fun, just the two of us."

Walter and Darcy looked into each others eyes and sighed. "It's going to be tough here for the whole summer, huh, Walter?" Darcy asked.

"Yeah. But, who knows, another girl might come along who's nice. It's going to be hard to top you, though."

Darcy blushed. "Thanks."

"It was great to catch up on what's been happening."

"I know; I'm wondering if I should visit my old neighborhood when we go back to Chicago. It might be kind of fun."

"Hey, you never know who you'll run into. One of these days, you might find the perfect person for you."

"Hey, same to you; don't put so much emphasis on your work you ignore girls."

Walter laughed. "It's hard to ignore them when they're as sweet as you, Darce." They held hands for a moment, then departed.

Allie joked as they boarded the plane to return to the States that, "I'm convinced the only reason I didn't find a cool guy was we didn't have enough time."

"You never know; Darcy's going back to her old neighborhood, she might meet someone else, too," Stephanie remarked.

The flight to Chicago was uneventful. Samantha's family owned a large home about half an hour away in which the group stayed. After recovering from jet lag, they instantly began to tour the many fabulous sights.

Their first trip was to the National Aquarium. As the group mingled around the entrance with a couple maps, they heard a familiar voice. "Well, look who's here," came the very familiar sound.

"Harry Takiyama!" Allie declared.

"Is it really you?" Stephanie wanted to know. She and Allie hadn't seen him since he'd come out west on vacation several years before. He'd moved away with his family after third grade.

"Wow; we're meeting so many old friends, if we go to the right place, we might run into Chuck Cunningham," D.J. quipped, referring to the "Happy Days" character who disappeared without a trace or mention after two seasons.

Kimmy reported, "I read somewhere that he and a few other original characters who disappeared were kidnapped by aliens who experimented on them by making Elvis replicas out of them." Sensing the weird looks she was getting, Kimmy defended herself. "Well, it does explain the Elvis sightings you hear about."

After introductions were made, Darcy told Harry this was the first time at the aquarium for most of them, and she didn't think she'd ever gone when she lived there. She asked if he'd been there before.

He had. Harry explained that, "You can find some amazing stuff. Back in 1990, I remember we took a vacation to Chicago. I remember being told there was a fish here at the national aquarium that was 57 years old; my great grandma on my mom's side likely saw it when she was here in 1933."

"Wow, that's amazing," Kimmy said before pausing a moment. "That's like 28 in human years! That's...wait a minute." As the others snickered, she said, "That's not that old at all, I'm 24."

"If 57 is a really ripe old age for that fish, and 114 is for a human, you can just multiply 57 by two," Courtney explained.

"Yeah, you divided," Samantha pointed out.

Kimmy breathed a sigh of relief and joked, "Thanks. For a minute there I thought I was old before my time."

"So what brings you to Chicago?" Allie asked, grinning broadly.

Harry shrugged. "Nothing. I live here now; I moved a few weeks ago. I'm going to Moody Bible Institute in the fall."

"Shouldn't that be 'Holy Bible?'" Duane asked.

Kimmy was now bright enough to catch on to that. "D.L. Moody was the preacher's name who founded it. It's not a college for moody people, either."

"Right," Stephanie cracked. "If you only went by literal names, Joey Gladstone would be a happy piece of rock."

Samantha, eager to do some boy watching of her own, suggested, "You know, Steph, you make some pretty good meatloaf now."

Stephanie looked at her, puzzled. "Well, once I got over that catering disaster, after a while I felt comfortable cooking again, if it wasn't for lots of people. But, I'm still not as good as Darcy or D.J.; or you," she said complimenting her and also trying to figure out where Samantha was going with that.

"Oh, I think you do a great job. And, since Harry can't leave you for his mom's meatloaf anymore, maybe you can go back to his place and relive old times."

Stephanie laughed. "Of course, the play wedding." When Stephanie was six, she felt nobody was paying attention to her, and that she needed a husband to do that one day. She and Harry had had a play wedding, & he stayed until dinner, when he rushed home for his mom's meatloaf.

Stephanie looked again at how excited Allie and Harry were to see and talk to each other.

"Well, Samantha, it might be fun, but I'm not getting into an argument over how much boy watching you might want to do. It's obvious he's got his eye on Allie right now," Stephanie said, the last in a whisper so Harry and Allie coudln't hear.

Kimmy could, though. "Boy, you've gone from worrying about the Love Boat to 'When Harry Met Allie,'" she quipped.

"Not bad, Kimmy, but don't think that wasn't on at least half of our minds," Courtney noted. She'd been only seconds behind Kimmy in saying it.

Once they toured the aquarium, they agreed to meet Harry for supper at Harry Caray's, a restaurant once owned by a famous broadcaster and featuring great pasta. Then, while others went to see other sites, Darcy went with Stephanie and Samantha to visit the area where Darcy lived till she was around eleven.

It was an upper middle class neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, near Wrigley Field, the Cubs' home ballpark. Darcy began knocking on several doors. Much to her surprise, one home still contained Ned Harrington, a widower now in his middle eighties.

"It's so great to see you," Ned said. "I remember your family coming over to my house to visit all the time, especially after my wife died about ten years ago." He turned to Stephanie and Samantha and explained, "Her grandfather and I were about seven years apart, and we both moved here from down South after World War Two."

"I remember a hearing a lot about Darcy's ancestry back when we were doing reports on our ancestors for a class project," Stephanie said, uneasy about how much she should mention about that. After all, a few more generations back from these men, and both were likely enslaved.

The worry was unnecessary, however. Ned simply said casually, "Guess she told you we had ancestors who were slaves."

Samantha leaned forward and asked, "Doesn't that...hurt to think about?"

"Yeah, a little. But, I feel like we've made a lot of progress. So, I don't worry too much about the old days."

Samantha supposed that made sense. But, "Just the discrimination you must have faced down there...I mean, my own past is really painful itself, and I never faced what you did."

"I look at the bright side. I've lived to see Satchel Paige pitch when I was a kid, saw Josh Gibson hit home runs over 500 feet, saw men walk on the moon, lived to see people able to travel around the world in an instant like you just did not too long ago, going to Paris and back. It's still a wonderful life. There's some people who were probably hurt more than I was by it, sure. But, as for me, I just look at the good things."

"I try to, too." Samantha thought for a second. "It's nice to know someone who's lived through really bad stuff and survived like you."

"Sure is. Always glad to help."

After a few more minutes, Stephanie, Darcy, and Samantha left the home. Samantha felt glad to know that despite the terrible emotional neglect of her youth, it was possible to overcome. In fact, according to Ned, she already had, with her great dancing and singing skills and accomplishments.

The fun part was, she could tell him about those without feeling pressured by them. The vacation was definitely helping her feel rejuvenated.

Courtney was feeling even more excited, though. She, D.J., and Steve had seen a nice looking Latin American boy of fourteen walking from Wrigley Field back to his house when they'd gone to have a look at the old ballpark. They soon realized that he lived in the old house that Darcy had lived in before moving. By the time Darcy and the others walked up to that house, Courtney was already talking with him on the front stoop.

Courtney met Stephanie's bulging eyes by making introductions. "This is Javier Uribe, his family moved here from Mexico back in 1996."

"Hi...pleased to meet you." Stephanie looked at Courtney as if to say, "How do you manage to find boys so quickly?"

Courtney considered the events of their vacation. "Now I don't know if I want to take Spanish or French all through high school!"

"As long as it's the one I take, I'll be happy," Samantha said, anxious to have Courtney in the same class for certain at least once a day.

Kimmy raised an eyebrow. "In that case, with Samantha's friend in Paris being from Canada, maybe you'll take Canadian."

Allie giggled as she pondered aloud, "It's funny. If this were one of those silly movies, you'd have this same scene, but it would be Darcy falling in love with someone here in her old stomping grounds."

"I know, Allie; trust me, there were times back in Paris I wanted to shout, 'Cut! Let me have a look at that script!'"

"Yeah, too bad life isn't scripted like that, huh, Steph?" D.J. commiserated with her.

"Yeah." Steve looked hopefully down the road. "If life were scripted, right now I'd hope for somebody to come by giving away free hamburgers, and they'd taste so awesome; and, suddenly it would happen."

"Forget it, Steve; Michelle tried that once with the ice cream man when she was five and it didn't work," D.J. told him.

Javier's parents came back out then, and they talked for several minutes. Stephanie was actually startled to learn they were not taking in the Cubs game tomorrow - the way their trip had gone, it had almost seemed inevitable.

Courtney and Javier did, however, get together a couple times during the trip, as did Allie and Harry. While Stephanie and Samantha were really bonding, it appeared that Courtney might actually have the most exciting stories to tell when the arrived back in San Francisco.

Or Steve. "Steve, people are starting to stare," D.J. pointed out as he scarfed down yet more ribs at Ditka's, a steak place owned by the former Bears' coach.

"Really? How come?"

At that moment, Steve realized why. A couple boys, aged eight or nine, walked up to him and asked for his autograph. They figured since he was eating so much, he had to be one of the Bears' players; or at least one of the Cubs!

Harry chuckled at the scene as he sat across from Allie. Then, he and Allie resumed their former conversation. "It's great that Stephanie's dedicated herself to doing whatever God wants - it sounds like she's really got a great assignment in helping Samantha."

"That's right. D.J.'s being so proactive after dedicating herself to it after their mom died was a great influence," Allie told him. "I don't think she'd ever want to travel like you think about, though. I think she feels happy just helping Samantha and being ready some years down the road to help other underprivileged kids in San Francisco." She could tell he was kind of quiet, yet excited, as he ate. "Are you thinking of something like that; going elsewhere, I mean?"

"Yeah. Allie,..." he paused for a moment, more emotion in fhis face than she recalled from when they were little, though of course they hadn't known each other really well. "Allie, my parents came from Japan soon before I was born. I've been back a few times. And, it breaks my heart to see how few have that great faith that I saw in the large Eastern Christian communities in the Bay Area. Like my friends and I were in" he'd known several Chinese and Korean Christian families. "Or, like I saw in New York. I sang with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir for a couple years, and there was such a feeling that I should be helping the people back in Japan."

"I guess that's what starts it, huh? A burden for people. I guess that's what Steph's had for Samantha her whole life."

"It sounds like it."

Stephanie turned toward Harry and agreed. "I know it's exciting to think about travelling somewhere so exotic and exciting. And, Samantha and I talked about that on the plane ride from Paris. It can't just be something you think would be fun; that's what the Peace Corps is for. Sure, you'd have adventure as a missionary, but after talking with some of the people at my church, I know it takes a real burden for an area. Do you think you have that?" He did. "Well, keep in touch. It'll be lots of fun to hear about if you do decide to go there."

"We'll pray for you," Samantha said. Harry thanked them.

Allie met Stephanie and Darcy in the motel late that evening, once Samantha and Courtney were asleep. "Steph, I never told you, maybe partly because he'd been your boyfriend in that cute, first grade way before, and I thought that meant you still liked him. But, my first teensy, little crush was on Harry, soon before he moved.."

"Some of those feelings coming back?"

"Yeah, Steph...a little. And, what he was saying, well, it was lots of fun to go overseas. But, to do it and to have something so rewarding to be doing, as well. I guess it's just something I'd have to think about," Allie said. "I never thought I'd feel so good being in a totally foreign country, either. I mean, when we'd go on trips in school, I was with other people, following directions. I was a chaperone here. Not that I'm going tomorrow."

"Even Harry doesn't know for sure," Darcy reminded her. "But, if you want to transfer there, or even to DePaul so you're close, well, you can think about that after a year or two where you're going."

"You're right. I can see why you'd like to stay close to home, Steph, especially because of Samantha. But, I guess some of us just get the travel bug. Just like Darcy going down to U.S.C.."

"Although that's more like the field hockey bug," Stephanie joked. "You're right; I guess some people just love traveling. Well, Allie, all I can say is, I'm glad you've been here to help on this trip. We really have had a great time."

A couple days later, the group departed for San Francisco once more. It took a while for everyone to recover from the jet lag, but Danny prepared a huge picnic for the various family and friends involved to welcome them all back.

Danny saw Stephanie slowly coming downstairs as he made ready to carry some paper plates out to the picnic table. "Finally over that jet lag, huh?"

"Yeah. Boy, that was some trip."

"I know; just wait till December."

Stephanie paused for a second. "Wait...I know D.J. went to that debutante ball because of all the money we donate to the chlidrens' hospital." When Danny grinned, she got excited. "I guess I didn't think about it; money has to be tighter now that Uncle Jesse, Aunt Becky, and joey aren't living here. I still get to go, then?" she asked hopefully.

"Even better. Of course, you know they're mostly for the daughters of really wealthy contributors, but you're right, we gave enough D.J. was able to go then. But now, Samantha's parents are giving a lot of money in my name so it's enough for you to go - we got invitations for Allie and Darcy as guests, too, for all the help they've given!"

Stephanie was shocked. She didn't even pay attention as Danny explained that he had to still dontated some, and that he'd called the tailors and Powells to make sure they heard..

"We also heard from Elizabeth's family; apparently her dad's on the board of trustees of one of the big corporations that donates a lot of money, too. They wanted to make sure we'd heard."

"Great. Wow, a debutante. I can remember going with Samantha to one as a guest to keep an eye on her, but to actually be up!"

"Anyway, Elizabeth will be at the picnic, along with the Larkins. And, of course, Samantha's been here for a bit while you were napping, she's having so much fun telling Michelle about her trip and vice versa."

Stephanie agreed. In fact, Courtney was telling interesting stories to her own family. The "romance" with her and Javier hadn't been as exciting as the one with Pierre - Javier, after all, was an American citizen. But, both her new friendships were quite amazing.

Michelle and Samantha were up in Michelle's room discussing their vacations. Each wished the other could have been there, but agreed that the trips were still "totally awesome." Although, Michelle hadn't had any experiences like Samantha; she'd been too busy learning and basking in the history and fun of the D.C. area.

Samantha giggled. "I guess that means I'm more into boys than you, huh?"

"For now. Jeff was too busy cracking jokes pretending to confuse the elected senators with Washington's old baseball Senators." Michelle was glad to see Samantha so chipper; both knew Jeff liked Michelle, but not only was there no real romance with the two on that trip, Samantha also seemed to feel confident that she could accomplish quite a bit, even if she didn't have a boy who liked her like Jeff did Michelle. The time off had definitely worked.

"Hey, everyone," Courtney said as she popped her head in the room. "Michelle, your dad's starting the grill."

"Do you mean he's cooking food, or just cleaning it off?"

"He's cooking food."

The girls giggled as they rose. "In that case, we'd better get down there."

"Right. There's a pretty small window of opportunity there before Steve starts eating," Samantha stated, stealing Michelle's one-liner. "A couple kids thought he was a football player in Chicago!"

Elizabeth showed up in the Tanner backyard soon before the burgers began to be served. She remarked casually that she'd won another competition while the others were gone. "I'm all ready for the USET Show Jumping Talent Derby in a couple months."

"Awesome!" Michelle shouted.

Duane connected the term "derby" with the headwear of the same name. "Do you win a hat for winning that?"

"I think it's like the Kentcky Derby," Kimmy explained. Not content to sound knowledgeable, she continued. "Although I'm not sure what state the city of Talent is in."

Danny explained what it was. "It's a place for riders under 21 to showcase their skills; she finished 4th in it last year, really amazing for being only 14. I think there was a fellow who was like a year younger who won it once, too, but still, she looks to be the odds on favorite to win it this year, I'd say. Isn't this incredible? I mean, that's the kind of thing that makes someone an Olympic hopeful someday. Not that you have to be, of course, Elizabeth, but you'd won that competition at Golden Gate Stables three straight years starting at age 6 before 1995, so..." He noticed her tired look. "I'm sounding like your mom, huh?"

"Yeah, you are, Mr. Tanner." He apologized.

"You guys must have had a great time. You really look excited," Michelle said.

Samantha kidded Courtney, "You haven't stopped talking about all the guys you met. I think your parents and Hannah and your brothers could probably recite every last detail."

"Maybe. Just wait till that debutante ball Stephanie will be in in December. I bet it'll really be exciting."

"You said it."

Stephanie smiled as she strolled down the walkway with her dad she didn't even have to look to know the sentimental Danny had tears in his eyes. He was always so proud.

As the debutantes went to their respective tables, Stephanie continued daydreaming. Samantha's parents had gotten her, Allie, and Darcy invitations to this charity event, as a partial reward for her time spent with Samantha; and, Steph was actually a debutante! She really had been concerned that it wouldn't happen for her finanfically like it had for D.J..

Even Michelle, Cassie, and Mandy were there. Each debutante could invite a certain number of guests, and Steph was a debutante, thanks to a donation, partly from her dad, at least, to the university hospital.

Allie seemed particularly thrilled to be there, as did Cassie. Their parents were poorer, working class people. At least Danny was in the media. While the richer Darcy or the upper middle class Stephanie might have managed invitations if their dads had known the right people or given large enough donations to the hospital, no way could Allie have expected to come to one of these.

The most amazing part was, since Michelle was like a sister to Samantha, and she and her friends had done so much themselves to keep Samantha going and get her through things, the Burkes had arranged for Michelle and her friends to not just be invited, but to all be debutantes when they came of age, like Steph had. After all, Samantha was sure to be a debutante. Her parents were filthy rich, and they gave very generously to charity.

Stephanie pondered that Cassie probably didn't comprehend yet, at only fourteen, that she was going to be up there. As a debutante! When she did realize it, she would be really stunned!

Darcy found Stephanie daydreaming as couples began mingling and dancing. "Great place, huh, Steph?"

"I still can't believe we're here. I'll bet it's really remarkable to you, huh, Cassie?"

"Yeah. I mean, I know you get to do cool stuff becasue of needed to be with her. But, you've been at this since the first day Sam got to school, almost."

Allie agreed. "This is just incredible."

"You're right, Al. Samantha's come so far, it's hard to believe."

"Paris was wild enough; I wonder what the teenage years will be like," Darcy pondered aloud.

Mandy pointed to the dance floor. "I don't know, but they sure will be interesting."

Stephanie gazed at Samantha and a boy, probably aged fourteen or fifteen. The tune was "Three Times A Lady." And, they were not only slowly dancing, but their lips had begun to touch. And, the kiss seemed to be lasting weeks in Samantha's mind, even though it was only a few seconds in reality.

Stephanie knew that look. And, as Samantha's sensational first kiss ended, Stephanie's eyes widened and she blurted, "Oh, boy. You said it, Mandy!"