Chapter Twenty-One:

The Chokes

A few weeks later...

"Salem, I just got off the phone with one of the bands. There front man just died and we need to figure out what's going to happen. Want to tag along and bounce around some ideas?" Vince asked with a smile on his face.

Salem looked up at him, bags had formed under her eyes from staying up all night being sick.

"I don't think that's wise, love." She said standing up. Her head spinning, she quickly braced herself against one of the displays of the shop. Vince rushed over to her, placing his hand on her back and rubbing it soothingly.

"You look pale. Maybe you should go see a doctor?" He said, taking her hand and helping her to a chair. She sighed, looking into his eyes and nodded.

"I made an appointment for later this morning, I can't be feeling down when there's so much to do." She said, feeling guilty.

"Your health's more important than a small bump in the plans. Do you want me to take you?" Vince asked.

"No, dear. I'll manage to get there and back. You go on and figure out what the band wants to do." She said with a weak smile. Vince looked skeptically at her.

"Are you sure? I mean, the shows not that important... we can always-" He stopped when she held up her hand.

"I'll be alright, love. You go on. I'm sure I'll be feeling better after seeing the doctor." She said smiling, kissing his hand. Vince nodded and walked out of the door.

Vince had photo shopped his head over the front mans' to see how it would look to the group of pipe legged musicians.

"Well, you've got the look Vince, but your legs look like you play fut ball." One of them said.

"Well, yea." Vince said smiling. The band all commenting on his muscular legs, and how they had a specific look.

"Tell you what... If you can fit into these by tonight, you're in." One said, gesturing to a pair of small, pipe legged pants.

"Alright. See you tonight." Vince said, taking the pants and leaving the group.

Salem sat on one of the exam tables, a patch on her arm from having blood taken for testing. She drummed her fingers nervously, waiting for the results.

"Ms. Sterling?" The nurse called, entering the room. Salem sat at attention. The nurse gave a kind smile at her.

"It isn't serious, is it?" Salem asked, her mind jumping to the worst possible scenario. The nurse giggled at the young womans jitters.

"No, Ms. Sterling, I have good news for you." She said, smiling brightly. Salem looked at her confused.

"Ms. Sterling, you're expecting." She said. Salem smiled weakly, feeling her head spin once more.

"Ms. Sterling? Ms. Sterling!" The nurse called out to her, bracing the young woman with her arm.

"I'm... pregnant..." She said, the nurse smiled and nodded.

"That you are deary, now let's get you set up with a specialist. You'll want to keep the baby as well as yourself in top condition..." The nurse said. Salem smiled and nodded. She had wanted children eventually, and though it came as a surprise, she couldn't have been happier.

"How am I going to break this to Vince?" She thought, following the nurse to set things up.

Salem walked through the door of Nabootique, a folder sticking out of her bag slightly. She saw Howard lounging in a chair behind the counter, watching a documentary.

"Hey, Salem. Feeling any better? What did the doctors say?" Howard asked, turning away from the small t.v. Salem smiled and put her hand over her lower stomach. Howard watched the small gesture and smiled.

"Really?" Howard asked. She nodded and smiled brightly, before holding a finger up to her lips.

"I haven't had a chance to tell him yet." She said in a hushed tone. The pair jumped at the sound of loud crashing noises. Vince came in, driving a battery powered wheel chair.

"Oh my god, Vince! What happened? Are you alright? What in the-" Salem began flipping out, examining his body for any damages. Vince laughed and grabbed onto her shoulders.

"I'm fine, I'm just trying to wither my legs down a bit to fit into those pipe legs." He said, pointing over to the case holding the very small pants. Salem let out a sigh of relief, then giggled.

"You're fine the way you are, Vince." She said, placing a kiss on his cheek. Vince smiled.

"I know, but I really want to make it in this band." He said, taking her hand in his.

"You're not going to fit into those pants, and using a wheel chair will not wither them down by tonight." Howard stated.

"It's already working, I've gone down 2 sizes already." Vince defended. Salem rolled her eyes with a smile.

"What ever makes you happy, love." She said. Vince smiled, eying the pants. Howard began trying to tell him the same, only for the two to start an argument. Salem tried to tune them out, rubbing her temples. She caught something about an actor named Jurgon Haabenmaaster, and Sammy the crab, Vinces' phone ringing. She then heard something about there being a small open slot and Howard begging to perform. The argument continued until they finally dropped the subject.

"So, how are you feeling?" Vince asked, turning to face her.

"I'm feeling fine..." She said.

"How did the visit go? What did they say?" He asked. Salem took a deep breath.

"The visit was fine, they took some blood for tests, and... well..." She began to trail off. Vince opened his mouth to say something when Bollo came down the stairs.

"Vince, I just got off Internet. I found way to shrink your legs before tonight." He said. Vince smiled.

"We'll talk a bit later. Let's go then." He said, maneuvering the chair to follow the gorilla, Salem in tow.

Vince lay on a table, strapped down, while Bollo explained how it worked. She eyed the contraptions skeptically.

"You're sure this is safe, Bollo?" She asked. The gorilla shrugged, causing the red head to become even more nervous.

Bob Fossil walked through the doors of Nabootique.

"Well, Howard moon as I live and stink." He said, spotting Howard behind the counter.

"Fossil." Howard greeted. Salem walked into the room, head set, radios and clipboard in a bag, ready to go for the show, while Fossil harassed Howard. Vince rolled into the room, conversing with Howard and Fossil about the nights plans. Salem felt a wave of dizziness sweep over her, setting her stuff down on the counter she hurried out of the room and to the nearest restroom.

"What's her problem?" Fossil asked.

"Just ignore her, she just caught a little stomach bug. She'll be fine." Vince said, shrugging it off, as Fossil continued to discuss the poster placement and other various topics before checking the time.

"Vince, We need to get down there!" Fossil exclaimed. Salem walked out at that moment and grabbed her things.

"There's no need to rush, I can just walk down there." Vince replied.

"It's a 15 minute walk, you can't walk if you want to fit into those pants! Here, jump on my back and ride me!" Fossil said. Salem held her hand over her mouth, holding in her laughter.

"Will you be alright, Salem?" Vince asked.

"Yes, dear. I'll be fine." She said, nodding. Vince hopped on Fossils' back and they rushed out the door.

"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Howard asked, placing a hand on her shoulder. She smiled up and nodded.

"Yea, Naboo and Bollo are going to give me a ride." She replied.

"Salem, let's get going... We have to prep for the show." Naboo called for her.

"Speaking of... I'm sorry Howard, but I need to go." She said, a sympathetic look on her face. Howard just nodded and shooed her out the door.

"OK people! The seats are packed, and our first act is ready! Send out Vince." Salem spoke into the head set sending out the message to every transmitter.

She turned the spotlight on, training it on Vince as he welcomed the audience, and introduced the first act. She flipped a switch, lighting up the entire stage.

"Alright, Naboo and Bollo are on next, 5 minute warning now." She said into the mic.

Vince had gone to check on the band and Sammy the crab. While Fossil led Jurgon Haabenmaaster to Sammy and the bands dressing room.

"Hey, he's looking a little down, throw a rock in his tank will ya?" Vince asked.

"Yea, sure." One of the members said. Two of the members decided it wasn't enough and started pouring their drinks into the tank.

Vince stood back on the stage, introducing Naboo the Enigma and his beautiful assistant, Bollo.

Salem focused some extra lights on the stage, while Bollo danced. She giggled, until the radio beeped her in.

"What's going on?" She said seriously.

"There's been an accident, Sammys' flipped shit and has killed the next act." One of the security officers said.

"Is he a threat?" She asked.

"Yes and no. He's calming down and detained in a bucket." The voice said.

"Alright, keep him in that bucket until he cools off, have someone find Vince and ask if he knows anyone to fill the slot, and make sure he doesn't try and put me on." She said over the transmitters.

"On it." The voice said, clicking off.

"Vince! Sammy has flipped shit!" Fossil said.

"Well, put on the next act." Vince replied.

"We would, but they're dead! Sammy killed them. Do you know anyone who can fill the slot?" Fossil said, panic in his voice.

"I might know someone..." He answered.

" And the last sword, Bollo." Naboo said. Bollo handed him the sword and Naboo shoved it through the box containing a girl. There was a muffled scream.

"Bollo, did you make sure to grab the magic swords?" Naboo asked.

"Start pulling the curtain!" Salem ordered over the transmitters.

"Uh, what magic swords?" Bollo asked. The curtains closed right at that moment.

Salem flicked off the lights, shining a spotlight on Vince as he made his entrance.

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Howard Moon." He said, going off to the side, leaving the spotlight on a frozen Howard.

"Should we hook him?" Another voice came over the transmitter.

"Not yet, give him a moment." Salem said, and at that moment, Howard began acting.

The audience applauded Howards skills, some standing. She watched Howard take his bow, and shut off the light.

"Get Fossil to the Stage to introduce the last act." Salem ordered.

Howard knocked on Vinces' door.

"Come in." Vince called out. Howard walked in to see Bollo helping Vince into the tight pants. Howard looked at them confused for a moment.

"Hey, Bollo's just helping me get into these pipe legs." Vince said. Howard shook out of his stupor.

"Yea, I just figured I'd come and say goodbye. Jurgon saw my performance and has offered me a job." He said. Vince nodded and winked.

"Don't worry about it, after this, I won't be back either. The band will be going on tour, and Salems' going to manage the stage for us." Vince said getting the pants up.

"Ok, well then... good bye, Vince." Howard said, walking out of the room. Another knock resonated from the door.

"Who is it?" Vince asked.

"Vince, it's me." He heard Salems' voice from the other side.

"Come in." He replied. The door opened quickly, her figure emerging from the hall. She shut the door and turned to him.

"Vince, I know you're busy getting ready, but..." She started. Vince stared straight at her.

"What is it, love?" He asked, getting the pants over his hips.

"Vince, I've got something, important to tell you." She said, looking away from him. Vince panted while Bollo tried to button the clothing.

"Come on, then. You know you can tell me anything." Vince said, stopping for a moment to catch his breath.

"I'm... Vince, I'm pregnant." She said, looking up at his face. Vince went pale, his eyes rolling back into his head. He caught himself on the edge of the table, inhaling sharply.

"Vince?" She asked, moving closer. His eyes came back into focus, looking over at her.

"Well, say something, anything..." She said, feeling her nerves start to fray. Vince looked down at the floor.

"No... There's no way... We're still so young..." Vince said, starting to ramble. Salem backed away from him with fresh tears welling up in her eyes.

"I'm keeping it, Vince." She said, a tear escaping her eye. Vince looked up at her face, feeling his heart break at the sight of her tears and knowing he was the cause of them. She turned and opened the door.

"Salem! Salem, love! I didn't-" He started, interrupted by slamming the door.

"-mean it like that..." He finished.

"You in deep shit, my friend." Bollo said, going back to working on getting the pants buttoned, Vince sucking it in and panting while Bollo pulled the material close, buttoning, and zipping it up.

"It's on." Bollo said, looking up.

"Uh, oh." He muttered.

Salem ran up to the catwalk, heartbroken and defeated, and turned the spotlight on Fossil as he introduced the band. She readied the lights, as the curtains opened. She gasped, seeing Vinces' top half inflated dramatically from fitting into the pants. She watched in shock as he struggled to keep his balance, eventually falling over on the stage.

Salem sat behind one of the displays at Nabootique. She had been sulking for days. There were deep bags under her eyes from lack of sleep, due to nausea and depression.

"Salem, you need to get out for a bit." Naboo said, looking over her pathetic form. She looked up at him, a weak smile crossed her face.

"You look terrible..." Naboo said, making the smile on her face disappear. She placed her head on the display.

"I know, Naboo, but I can't sleep at night, I'm constantly hungry, but turn around and get sick every time I eat..." She trailed off.

"...Then there's the crying in agony..." Naboo said. She looked away from him. The bell above the door rang causing the pair to look up.

"Howard?" Salem asked.

"Yes. I realized I had everything I needed right here." Howard said, walking in and setting down his bags.

A few days later...

Howard sat behind the counter talking with Naboo and Bollo. The chiming at the door drew their attention. Vince walked into the shop.

"Vince? What are you doing here? I thought you were going on tour." Howard said. Vince sighed and walked up to the counter.

"I was, but they replaced me. What about you? I thought you went off to be and actor." Vince said.

"I realized that I had everything I needed right here, and that I didn't need all the fame, and money." Howard said, Vince ignoring the majority of his babbling.

"Where's Salem?" Vince asked, looking around the shop for the red head.

"She's off getting a check up." Naboo said, looking at the door as it chimed once again. Vince turned, seeing Salem walk through the door. He noticed she had bags under her eyes, showing her fatigue. She looked up at the group around the counter.

"Vince? What are you doing here?" She asked, her body going rigid. Vince walked up slowly to her.

"The band didn't work out. They replaced me... but, I couldn't do it... without you." He said, looking down into her green cosmic eyes.

"But, I thought you didn't want to be held back? You said yourself that we -" She started, stopping when Vince wrapped his arms around her.

"Yes, we are young, but I wouldn't change anything." He said, kissing the top of her head. She smiled and returned his embrace.

"So, what are we going to name it?" He asked, pulling back and standing by her side, hands entwined. She looked up at the ceiling, deep in thought.

"I haven't really thought about it... but we have time to come up with some...thing..." She said, trailing off when she felt something on her finger. She held up her hand, seeing a silver ring, with two, entwining hearts with small diamonds embedded in them on her left ring finger. She looked up at Vince, confusion written all over her face.

"Vince?" She said.

"It's a promise, that one day, we might... you know..." Vince said, feeling slightly embarrassed. She stood on her toes and kissed his cheek.

"It's a promise." She said, a bright smile on her face.