To understand why Matt was sitting at the front door, head covered in a bucket, wet, cold glop dripping down over his face into his lap, one has to look four hours into the past...
Stay sighed deeply, her little face scrunched up as she sat on the couch, surfing through the channels on Mercy's widescreen plasma. It was a huge television but there wasn't anything on but an old Robin Hood movie and the Food network. There wasn't really much of a choice, so he punched in the channel button and leaned back to watch someone goofy-looking make an omelet.
That was a mistake. "Hungry now."
The show made it look easy so she hopped down off the couch and turned off the TV. "Mmmm... eggies." She padded into the kitchen, not wanting to disturb Archie if he was up making a late night snack. He wasn't, which meant he was still passed out on the couch. That was all right; she'd just double everything and make him something too...
Stupid smoke alarm.
Stay made sure there was no evidence of "Battle: Omelet." The stove was cleaned up, the pan was outside in the dumpster and the fire damage to the stove... well, as long as Mercy didn't move the dish towel, no one would ever have to know!
Still, the alarm had been really loud until she'd smashed it with a rolling pin. Archie should have woken up. She was grateful he hadn't, but still. Maybe he was hurt or something. She should go check up on him. Grabbing some cookies from the jar she could reach... now that it was in pieces on the floor... Stay stalked in to the living room.
The poor man was still in his suit and trench coat, passed out on the couch with one foot on the armrest and his hat perched on the end of the other one. He was fast asleep, pale in that way that meant he'd used way too much magic. Matt looked like that a lot; Stay knew the signs.
Archie was a nice man; Stay was really glad to see he'd be okay. He was just sleeping like the dead. That means he'd be out for hours still.
And that meant it was Marker Time!!!
Half an hour later, Stay stepped back away from Archie's stubbly face. It wasn't her best work but he did look a lot like a leopard now. Well, a leopard clown. She didn't have any black left after drawing zebras on the motel walls the other day, so she's had to use her other colors. There probably wasn't a orange and purple big kitty out there in the real world but Stay thought there should be. It was cute!
She was careful to put all the caps back on her markers. She liked Sharpies. She liked them a lot.
But now what to do? Stay had a feeling the Food Network was only going to get her in more trouble and black and white movies were boring. That meant nothing for at least another hour until someone got home. She knew better than to try vacuuming again.
So if she couldn't watch TV and she couldn't do chores, what was she going to do?
Then she remembered the Big Book of Fun upstairs in the loft. That was the room she was supposed to be using as hers but she liked it better sleeping in random places so Matt and Mercy would have to hunt for her. That was a fun game. The dish cabinet hadn't been too comfy but it was a LOT better than the dryer. Ouch. She wouldn't do that one again.
Of course, it had been quieter than that time she'd tried to sleep under Mercy's bed. Such strange sounds... And all the bumping. So weird. She hadn't known Archie was so religious.
Oh well. The Big Book of Fun would help! It was an activity book with crafts and puzzles and games that Matt had bought her at Wal-Mart. Well, "buy" wasn't really true. Stay had gotten bored and pushed their cart out of the store while Matt was in the office with all three of the store's cashiers.
They'd been really religious too. Weirdos.
She wasn't going to complain though; she'd gotten a whole lot of Yu-gi-oh cards that night!
But now it was time for the Big Book. Like she always did when she was this strapped for something to do, she turned to a random page and found....
What the heck was paper mache?
She read the whole page. Twice. It really just looked like a messy way to do something she could accomplish with a small ton of play dough. That wouldn't be any fun at all. Why would she do something like this for fun? A big bucket....
...and sticky flour....
Stay started smiling. And giggling.
This was going to be GREAT!
Matt stood up slowly, pulling the bucket off his head, his face covered in clumps of grey and his left eye stuck together. Greeting him was a cherubic little blond girl with a digital camera and an innocent little grin.
"Hi hi! Welcome home!"
He glowered. His one open eye started to darken. "Stay?"
She took another picture. "Yes, sir?"