OK All, though writing has been in my blood since I was a wee tadpole, and I am currently editing my first novel and also working on a second, this is the very first fanfic I've ever written. Having said that, I will add that I did my best to keep all the characters IN character and to faithfully portray TMS just as I and you have enjoyed it. At this point in time I still have about 1/3 of the story to write; give me a couple of days...but I noticed everyone posted in chunks, and so thought I might as well begin posting so others could read. 'Tis just for fun, but I welcome feedback. Without further ado, a wistful homage, complete with terrible jokes, to one certain beleaguered journalist... Part One She first made herself known to him the night the piano fell on him…for the fourth time. The last thing the Newsman remembered was running into the Muppet News studio, a rip-and-read sheet of news copy hot off the Muppet newsline in his hand, and announcing “Here is a Muppet News Flash” as he always did. He didn’t even remember what the report had been. When he came to, in the lower backstage area, he felt something cold on his head, and a great deal of pain, and groaned. “I’m really sorry,” someone said. He didn’t recognize the voice: feminine, alto range, soft and apologetic. He tried squinting up, but discovered his glasses were missing. The cold thing shifted on his head. Gingerly reaching up to touch it, he found a cold compress…and slender fingers. Both of them started back at the contact. “What hit me?” the Newsman muttered. He could tell from extensive prior experience that trying to sit up would not be a good idea just yet. “A baby grand,” whomever it was responded. “Figures. You’d think they wouldn’t be so quiet…I never hear them coming,” the Newsman complained, wincing. “Ow.” “I’m really sorry. Hang on…I’ll go find you some aspirin,” said the sympathetic voice. “Here…you might want to keep holding this on.” Gentle fingers grasped his, bringing his left hand up to his hairline, where the compress was no doubt helping to prevent a sizeable bump. The Newsman pressed it carefully to his head, and through blurred eyes saw a flurry of movement off to the side. He heard footsteps moving away, and tried to remain still. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any more News Flashes tonight. He waited there for some time, off and on distantly hearing applause or laughter or music, the grinding sounds of scenery being shifted over the boards upstairs, and finally the ending theme music. Puzzled, the Newsman peered closely around him for his glasses, but didn’t find them. He reached out to stop a small green blur moving past. “Excuse me…have you seen my glasses?” Robin, Kermit’s nephew, squeaked back at him, “Sorry, I think the piano crushed them. Do you want me to see if I can find the pieces?” The Newsman sighed. “No, I have spares. That happens a lot.” Before Robin could hop off, the Newsman added, “Did you see the lady who was back here a few minutes ago?” “You mean Miss Piggy?” “No, I said a lady!” “Excuse moi?” Piggy’s voice sounded from the stairs behind him. The Newsman cringed, and Robin hurried away. “What was that, concussion-brain?” “Nothing, nothing,” the Newsman quickly mumbled. He saw a large pink blur as Piggy, sniffing contemptuously, came downstairs and breezed past, heading for the theatre kitchen. He heard her bellowing for service. His head still pounded, but he found by moving…very…slowly he could at least sit upright on the beat-up couch. Shortly more Muppets came down, talking loudly enough to make the Newsman wince. No one asked how he was, everyone by now accustomed to things falling on him. He sat there, still holding the compress against his battered head, until Scooter happened to pass close enough for him to recognize the green jacket the boy always wore. “Scooter,” the Newsman said. “Yeah?” “Did you see anyone else back here tonight?” “Well, no…not unless you count the penguin infestation.” “Penguin infest…never mind,” the Newsman sighed. The last thing he needed was penguins dropping on him. They’d probably steal his cold compress. Could the voice he heard have been a penguin? Did penguins ever have gentle fingers? Maybe he’d imagined the entire thing. After all, no one had ever helped him before when something squashed him or hit him or blew him up. Maybe Piggy was right, and he was concussed. That must be it. Tired of the happy chatter around him, the Newsman rose carefully and walked to the broom closet which also served as his dressing-room, only to find that Beauregard had moved his box of spare glasses again. Sighing, he went to find the clueless janitor. The next night, Gonzo was coaching the chickens in a Rockettes-style line dance out on the loading dock, having been kicked out of the backstage area by a frazzled Kermit, when someone in a long tan trenchcoat slunk past. Distracted, Gonzo turned to look, his arms still upraised, and the chickens tried to follow his direction. Angry clucking and a tangled flurry of wings ensued. “Sorry, girls; take five,” Gonzo said, then approached the stranger, who was reaching for the backstage door handle. “Can I help you?” The mysterious figure started back, quickly pulling a fedora down and holding the collar of the coat up high so Gonzo couldn’t see a face. “Uhmmm…telegram for the stage manager?” came a muffled voice. “Oh, okay. I think everyone else is busy. I can take that if you want,” Gonzo offered, holding a hand up. However, the stranger hesitated. “Actually, it’s very important. I have to deliver it myself,” the voice said from within the cocoon of coat and hat. “Oh…I’m sorry, but Kermit doesn’t allow anyone backstage during a performance who isn’t part of the theatre,” Gonzo said. “Really, I can deliver it for you, it’s no trouble!” Still the figure hesitated. Suddenly the door flew open; Fozzie ran out, carrying the back end of a fire hose. “Gangwaaaaaaay!” “What is it? What happened?” Gonzo cried. The chickens scattered as Fozzie darted to and fro frantically looking for the nearest fire hydrant. “The Newsman’s microphone electrocuted him and the stage is on fire! Gonzo, get some water, quick!” Fozzie yelled. Camilla was jumping up and down on the hydrant just below the loading dock, clucking loudly, and finally Fozzie saw it and hooked up the hose. Gonzo ran into the theatre behind him. Kermit tried to stop Fozzie; he’d already sent Scooter running onstage with a fire extinguisher. “Fozzie, wait! Fozzie, no! You don’t use water on an electrical –“ BOOM! “…Fire,” Kermit finished lamely. Gonzo stared wideyed, the chickens clucking agitatedly around him, as a badly singed Fozzie came reeling back. Kermit sighed, shaking his head, and he and Gonzo patted Fozzie’s fur to smother the remaining tiny embers lodged in it. “Okay, next act – get the set onstage for Pigs in Space!” Kermit yelled, and everyone dodged around each other in the crowded wings. Order was restored in the audience, and the show went on. The Newsman blinked groggily back into consciousness in a lawn chair with cool air blowing over his face. Soot covered his hands, his face, the front of his jacket and his glasses. He started to take out a handkerchief to clean the lenses when he spotted something coming at him, and flinched. “It’s okay, it’s okay, hold still and close your eyes,” a soft voice said. “What?” the Newsman said, confused, but someone removed his glasses and suddenly a large wet washcloth covered his face. He was about to protest when he realized someone was actually gently cleaning the soot off him. “Oh…thank you,” he muttered, pleasantly surprised. “Ow…” “Sorry. I know that must be very tender. Just hold still and keep your eyes shut.” He sat motionless, feeling a fluffy towel pat him dry, and then something wet and smelling of aloe was draped over his entire face. “This has burn cream in it. Just let that soak in. I’m cleaning your glasses now.” The Newsman heard soft movements in front of him. No one had ever been this considerate to him. “Thank you,” he mumbled around the lotion-infused cloth. It occurred to him suddenly that maybe it wasn’t a consideration; what if he was being set up for something to smack him while he couldn’t see? Even a simple pie in the face, on top of the burn, would hurt like blazes. He listened carefully, but heard nothing. Alarmed, he stripped off the cloth, darting fearful glances all around, but saw nothing. No one was there. Looking down, he found his clean, shiny glasses sitting atop a small jar of burn cream. He picked them up, bewildered. Gonzo stuck his head out the back door, startling him. “There you are! Hey, no time for lounging around! A news feed just came in over the wire!” Gonzo said, beckoning him. “Coming,” the Newsman said, getting up, trying unsuccessfully to brush the soot off his ruined jacket. Then his gaze fell on a clean jacket draped over the back of the lawn chair. He held it up, looking from it to his burned clothing, then at the cloth with the soothing cream still in his other hand. Kermit popped out for an instant. “Newsman! Onstage! Now!” Shaking off his confusion, the Newsman tossed his ruined jacket on the chair, shrugging into the fresh one as he ran. “Coming, coming!” He tried to pause just offstage, asking quickly, “Did anyone see someone out back just now?” “All I saw was our Newsman taking time for a facial! Now get out there!” Kermit said, frustrated, shoving the news report into the Newsman’s hand. As usual, he began before he reached his desk: “This is a Muppet News Flash!...The water department has reported a number of water lines ruptured in the area!” he read, wishing once, just once, he could research a story instead of having to read cold copy… “Water officials say they’ll have the broken lines repaired as soon as possible, but as a precaution, the following businesses are being asked to turn off their water temporarily: the First Sharking and Loan Bank; the law firm of Dewey, Suem, and Howe; and the Muppet Theatre.” A roaring sound made him look up, just as a surging wave of water already carrying a few ducks and fish along in it slammed into him from stage left. Gurgling helplessly, the Newsman was washed through the backstage area and out the exit. The water deposited him on the loading dock again. The fish flopped away, grousing about suddenly being on land; the ducks waddled off, shaking their feathers dry with happy quacks. The Newsman picked himself up, grumbling, “Well, at least it wasn’t water first, then electrocution.”When he stood, trying to wring out the hem of his jacket, he suddenly noticed the lawn chair still standing on the platform. The dry fluffy towel had been draped over the back of it, out of the path of the water. Gratefully he wrapped it around himself, shivering, and looked around. Who was his benefactor? How did she – he was positive now the owner of the voice was female – know he was going to be soaked? “Hello?” he called uncertainly. Absolutely no one answered. The rest of the show continued inside, but out here he heard only a cricket and distant traffic sounds. He was alone. A week went by; on those nights when no news came over the Muppet newswire and the Newsman simply hung around backstage or in the crew dining area downstairs, he kept a sharp eye out for any strangers, but other than the guest stars he never saw anyone odd. Except Lew Zealand once, but Lew, the Newsman knew, was always odd. However, on the night when a report about a locust swarm left him with barely a stitch of clothing left and bugs in his hair and he ran offstage screaming in terror, he found a long plaid bathrobe and a spray-can of rose-scented pest repellent waiting for him just downstairs. (It did attract some butterflies for a while, but better pretty bugs than locusts.) The night an unbelievable story concerning an increase in the sightings of land-sharks ended with him fleeing the stage, a fin cruising along the floor in pursuit, he nearly tripped over a harpoon, and by using it was able to fight the predator off. And when a report on a typhoon in Hawaii destroying what had been a bumper crop of native fruits resulted in large pineapples raining down on his head, he wearily trudged downstairs to find a large daquiri, complete with a pineapple garnish and a frilly little umbrella sticking out of it, which no one could recall having seen just seconds previously. The paper umbrella was pink and had Newsman written on it. “Excuse me, Kermit,” he interrupted his boss one evening before the show. “Do you think we could have some security cameras installed?” “Why? Do you want to catch on tape the mysterious falling objects?” Kermit asked, making the Newsman scowl at him. “Look, Newsman, I’m just as stumped as you are. I have no idea how any of that stuff gets in here.” “No, you see, I’m –“ “Look, you can have cameras when Statler and Waldorf will their fortunes to the theatre. Now if you’ll excuse me –“ “Why would those two will us their fortunes? They hate us,” the Newsman said, frowning in confusion. “Now you’re getting it,” Kermit nodded at him, then dashed off. “Beauregard! Where are you taking that prop? The Cheese Shop sketch isn’t until after the opening number…!” Giving up, the Newsman went downstairs to find someplace out of the way to wait, and to watch for any hint of his mysterious admirer.