Subaru huddled next to Seishirou in the elevator, shivering. He was more than a little damp, and cold...and for reasons he didn't quite understand, he was wearing only underwear.

He was wearing...he was wearing /women's/ underwear.

He was still struggling to figure that one out.


Two Casts...

One Stage...

And It's the End of the World!


Presenting the Rocky Horror Picture Show,
as performed by the cast of X


Part 3: "Oh, Rocky!"


By Natalie Baan



Nervously Subaru swallowed and his eyes flickered from side to side as he looked at the other people in the elevator. To his left, the teenaged girl who'd been introduced as Satsuki brushed at her wig and then gave him a moody stare. Subaru flushed, clutching at his pocketbook. On his other side, the ungendered bioroid playing Columbia swayed vaguely with the elevator's motion, its orange-dyed hair tumbling about its face as it gazed straight ahead. A bioroid...he'd never even imagined such a person...and then, leaning up against the side of the elevator, the tall, slightly hunched, and improbably hunchbacked figure of the young man who was cast in the role of Riff-Raff. Light flickered through the elevator's wrought-iron gate, throwing weirdly moving shadows across that angular face. And his name...hadn't his name been given as...


Inexplicably Subaru shivered, a chill like a cold draft fingering its way up his spine. He wondered if he was going to have to stay in these skimpy things for the rest of the show. Being practically naked in front of all these was awful, and the only thing sparing him any measure of embarrassment was that at least he wasn't the only person who was dressed like this. There'd been a girl and a boy of about his own age on the competing side, and they hadn't looked too happy either at having their clothes stripped away. The boy in particular had glared at the man in the maid's costume who'd been solicitiously "helping" him remove his pants...and then as the two of them were herded into their own elevator he'd flung a frantic glance toward Subaru. A glance of wild appeal, as though hoping for some gesture of recognition....

Why did that boy keep looking at him with such pleading eyes?

Seishirou nudged Subaru and he jumped, remembering that he was supposed to be delivering one of his lines. Only...he wasn't quite sure to which person he should be saying it. The script he'd been given had definitely been less than clear about a lot of things. Hazarding a guess, he turned toward the bioroid, stammering, " Is he your...husband?" The bioroid looked at him expressionlessly and there was a dry chuckle from the girl.

"The Master is not yet married, nor do I think he ever will be," remarked Kamui languorously. "We are merely his..." a pause, those dark eyes sliding to scrutinize Subaru as the audience screamed out [sexual!], "...servants."


The elevator rose the rest of the way in silence.

As they came up through the fifth floor's shadowy half-light and into the brightness of the laboratory, Subaru blinked, then flinched. A ring of black-suited men surrounded the room, standing at precise intervals along the rail of a raised platform, their mirrored sunglasses trained down on the elevator's arrival. The lift jolted to a halt, and as Kamui rattled open the gate Subaru saw Kanoe's statuesque form looming at the far end of the room. She had on a pale green hospital gown worn backwards over her costume so that glitter and black vinyl flashed between the gown's thin sort of defeated the purpose of wearing such a thing, which ought to be to cover oneself up. Her gaze traveled over Subaru lingeringly, and Seishirou had to nudge him once again, more forcefully this time, to make him leave the protection of the elevator. Subaru sidled out, trying to cover as much of himself as he could with his purse. As Kanoe--no, Frank--took a glass of wine from her "servant" and began undulating across the room toward them, Subaru fought the urge to cower back against Seishirou. He had the sinking feeling that even more embarrassing things were going to happen to him tonight: things he didn't have a clue about and couldn't possibly begin to imagine.

One thing he did know for certain, though: if Hokuto were here, she would be laughing herself sick. And she never would let him forget about this, either. In fact, he was kind of surprised his sister wasn't at the show. Maybe she'd been concerned that it would spoil her reputation and then she'd never be somebody's bride...yes, maybe that was it.

Only...shouldn't he be surer of the reason?

Seishirou stepped forward, distracting Subaru from trying to remember when it was that he'd last spoken to Hokuto. For some reason the memory seemed vague. Seishirou seized Kanoe's hand in a firm grip and pumped it with enthusiasm. "Hi! I'm Brad Majors, and this is my fiance, Janet Vise!"

"Um, Weiss." [Tight as a vice and twice as nice--and an awful lot nicer than Weiss!] Subaru flushed hotly red as Kanoe freed herself from Seishirou with some difficulty. Smiling, she turned toward him; lifting one hand from his pocket book she raised it toward her face....

[Say something in French!]

"/Enchante,/" she murmured. Pressing her lips against the back of his hand, she ran them across his skin, her tongue darting out to lap between his fingers as he struggled to keep his eyes from popping out of his head. Seishirou coughed discreetly and Kanoe straightened up once again. "Well," she breathed, flicking a strand of hair over her shoulder and uncovering a little bit more of her breast, "how nice. And what /charming/ underclothes you both have." Taking a pair of lab coats from her Riff-raff, she thrust them toward Subaru and Seishirou. "Here," she instructed, "put these on." [Dijon?!] shouted the audience. "They'll make you feel less--" [naked!] "--vulnerable." And as her eyes wandered amusedly up and down their bodies, Subaru was reminded of the one thing that he'd been trying to forget. Not only was he practically naked, but Seishirou was too, wearing just socks and a pair of briefs.

Seishirou and himself both undressed together, both seeing each other like this....

Subaru flung on his lab coat in record time.


* * * * *


Sorata had been absorbed in the spectacle of Karen vamping on Arashi and Kamui--lord, what a sight *that* had been!--but now he looked up in surprise as Yuzuriha stepped into the backstage area. "Yuzu-chan, what the heck're you doing here? You're supposed to be out on stage!"

"It's all Brad and Janet right now, so nobody'll even notice that I'm gone! I don't have anything to do until the tank scene anyway--besides, I'll only stay for a second. " Yuzuriha was tying on her surgical mask as she spoke. "But Sora-chan, I just had to tell you--I've had a really good idea. You know how the Dragons of Earth have been doing all this sneaky stuff, trying to make poor Kamui get upset?" The teenager's eyes gleamed above her mask, her cat ears perking forward. "Well, I think it's time we do something sneaky right back!"


* * * * *


Matters had improved at least a little, and Subaru sighed in relief. For one thing, Kanoe had finally left them alone. At the moment she was posed up on the speaker's platform, delivering Dr. Frank's big speech. Everything seemed to be going fairly smoothly, and he was much more comfortable now that he had his lab coat on...Subaru wrapped both arms around himself, enjoying its warm, pleasantly protective embrace. And the shifting of those satin underthings against his skin--er, *what?*

Subaru blinked in sudden, vague anxiety.

With a shuddering cry and a cacaphony of applause and noisemakers from the men in black, Kanoe abandoned the stage, diverting Subaru--fortunately--from his train of thought. She strode toward the large red-covered object that loomed against the back wall, drawing on her gloves as she did so. Flinging out one arm in a dramatic gesture, she paused, shouting, "You see! You! are! fortunate!" [And *you* took classes at the William Shatner School of Acting!] "For tonight," she continued, "is the night..that my beautiful be...!" The audience yelled something obscene about destiny, drowning her out. Then the sound of the noisemakers fell silent, even though the men in black were still whirling them around, as Satsuki and Nataku gathered up the ends of the cloth that covered the hidden object. At Kanoe's signal the two of them lifted it, sending the crimson silk billowing into the air. It fell back in rippling waves, revealing a strange sort of tank with glass sides, suspended in which was a human figure wrapped entirely in bandages.

Subaru blinked yet again.

Kanoe began shouting orders to Kamui, who manipulated levers and control panels with a darkly sinister grin curling across his face. Lights began to flash and a large piece of machinery descended from the ceiling. It was strangely shaped with a number of odd, round protuberances and suspended among its wires was, of all things, a very big sword. Subaru thought he heard a muffled yelp from the other side; he glanced over, but couldn't tell who that might have been. An identical device was descending toward the other Frank's uplifted hands, and that side's Janet had her arms flung about her Brad's neck. "Oh, Brad!" Subaru gasped, reminded of his own line then, and Seishirou's arms slid around him, drawing him close--

"It's all right," the man murmured breathily against Subaru's ear.

For some reason Subaru's heart began to hammer in counterpoint to those weirdly flashing lights.

There was a burst of fiendish laughter, and Subaru wrenched his attention back to the tank. Kanoe was twirling open spigots on her apparatus, letting washes of rainbow colors spill into the tank and mix together.

[Is it soup yet?] the audience shouted.

[Not yet....]

The opposing Frank twiddled knobs with glee, a maniacal smile on her face.

[Is it Suoh yet?]

"It's always been Suoh!" volunteered the opponents' Riff-raff. Subaru wondered vaguely what a "Suoh" was. As quickly as they'd turned them on the two Franks started switching off their machines. Just as they finished there was an intensely brilliant flash of light...and as Subaru's vision cleared he saw the shadowy figure in each tank rise to a standing position. There was an eruption of synchronized applause from all the men in black. Each Riff-raff climbed onto a tank, leaning toward the now-upright figures...they grabbed the bandages covering the figures' heads and tore them off....

[Oh, Suoh!] half the audience screamed deliriously.

So *that* was what a Suoh was....


* * * * *


In their viewing box, the judges leaned forward to inspect the newest characters. One was blond, the other was in fact blue-haired, but both were suitably handsome. "So far so good," remarked the older judge reflectively, and the younger judge breathed a sigh of relief. He'd been worried that the blue hair would mean points off for his side.

"Although the Rocky for the Dragons of Heaven does look a bit grim," added the older judge.

"Um...let's see how he does with the song,"the other suggested weakly. Maybe he'd been relieved a little bit too soon....

The second half of the audience members had answered the first with [Oh, Yuuto!], starting a war of exchange that swiftly devolved into chants of [Tastes great!] [Less filling!] as the two Riff-raffs hoisted the Rockys into the air. Nokoru was wearing a grin of devilish mischief; Black Fuuma's expression was more of a sneering smirk. Dangling from the mad scientist's apparatus just shy of the ceiling, the Rockys gazed about themselves, Suoh in particular looking as if he wondered what the heck he was doing there. Then the two of them began to sing.

"The Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head," sang Suoh stiffly. [No! It's a Shinken!] The judges exchanged a glance, and then the older one shrugged.

"Series in-joke."

"And I've got the feeling someone's gonna be *fucking* the dead...."

"Ick," complained the younger judge, and the older one shrugged again.

"So Yuuto knows the audience participation lines," he said. "It's allowed, remember? And that's probably not the worst we're going to hear tonight."

"But it's not really in-character, is it? I mean, Rocky's supposed to be...well...innocent. Sort of. At least to start."

The blond judge considered this. "Good point," he admitted finally, watching the two Franks hurry to the wall and kick their respective Riff-raffs. There was a decidedly malevolent glitter in Black Fuuma's eyes as he picked himself up and began lowering the Rocky of the Dragons of Earth. Nokoru, on the other hand, managed to look rather charmingly chastened. The two Rockys descended to land on the edge of the tank, and then sprang to the floor.

"I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer!" Yuuto caroled, looking annoyingly pleased with himself.

"You're right. But," the older judge added warningly, "the other one's not much better. Look." Suoh was glaring defensively about himself as he sang, and when Yuzuriha and Akira finished removing his arm bandages and began snipping the ones enclosing his thighs he blushed furiously crimson. On the other side, Satsuki jabbed at Nataku with her scissors as the bioroid's hand accidentally came to rest on the wrong portion of Yuuto's body. Yuuto appeared either smug or oblivious. It was hard to tell which.

"This isn't a contest for the end of the world," the older judge said with mild disgust. "It's a damned zoo. Where did they find all these wackos, anyway?"


[Do the Transylvanian Twist!]

Suoh and Yuuto spun slowly across the stage, their torso bandages unwinding behind them, line by line revealing their well-shaped bodies.

"Although," mused the older judge, a bit more thoughtfully, "they do both fit the main requirement for the role, at least."


He shot an amused glance at his younger partner, who blinked naively. "They look good in little gold Speedos...."

There was a crash and piercing wail from the stage as Fuuma dropped Kanoe on the floor. Nokoru had somehow managed to fall underneath Karen, cushioning her landing. Now Suoh and Yuuto fled up onto the ramp that surrounded the room and began addressing the men in black.

[Remove your glasses as he passes!]

The men obligingly pulled off their sunglasses, revealing glowing red pits for eyes.

"*What?!*" gapsed the younger judge. "Those people...they're...they're...!"

"Shikigami," the other acknowledged. "I thought so."


"Shh. Here comes Frank." The judges watched those two ersatz transvestites begin chasing their creations around the room, Kanoe with predatory sinuousness and Karen with lascivious hoots worthy of Tim Curry himself. One of the men in black "accidentally" stuck his foot into Suoh's path; Suoh leaped over it and "accidentally" put his elbow in the shikigami's face, sending it over the railing. The blond judge nodded in approval. Karen bamfed in a puff of flame to balance on the head of a statue, from which she pounced down at Suoh, barely missing him. Kanoe skittered down the curving ramp after Yuuto--Satsuki, Nataku, and Fuuma making an improbable chorus line in the background--until the whole affair wound up back at the tank. Yuuto draped himself over the ladder with a great show of mock repentance.

"Oh, really!" snapped Kanoe. "That's no way to behave on your first night out!" Then, reconsidering the matter, she began to run her hands sensually up and down Yuuto's leg. "On the other hand," she purred, "since you're so...."


Yuuto grinned.

"But what about the shikigami?" the younger judge insisted as the cast members began stripping off their lab coats and plying the gloating Franks with flattery. "That *can't* be fair!"

"Why not? Pretty ingenious way to get around the casting problem, if you ask me. Considering the Dragons of Heaven have only three Transylvanians on their side...." He looked significantly at Daisuke, Souhi, and Hien, lost and rather anxious-looking among the sea of black suits. Then he sighed. "Look," he relented slightly, "if I really thought the Dragons of Earth were trying to take an unfair advantage with this, I'm mark them off in a second. But as far as I'm concerned, this is just leveling the field. You want to mark Karen off for inappropriate pyrotechnics?"


"Okay, then. Besides, the Transylvanians are only on for the rest of this scene. Let's just ignore them and worry about the human cast members, all right?"


The older judge found a carafe of water nearby and poured a glass for himself and his partner. As he lifted his glass to take a sip, he noticed the other's dark head bowed industriously over the scorecard. "What are you marking?" he asked, and the younger judge held up his card in answer.

"More points for Suoh," the boy said sweetly. "He has better muscles."

The older judge snarfed his drink onto the table.

"I think we can do better than *that*!" Karen huffed at a chastened Yuzuriha. [Let's ask Kamui and Barbie!] She grabbed Suoh by the hand and towed him over to the two younger Seals. Taking a moment to regain composure, she flung an arm around the long-suffering Suoh's shoulders. "Well," she said. [Tap, tap, tap, sniff!] "What do *you* think of my creation?"

"Well," Arashi offered apologetically, after a little pause, "I don't like a man with too many muscles." [Yatta!!] shouted a voice from off-scene. The Hidden Shrine Maiden glared poisonously at the freezer door as Suoh tried unsuccessfully to look crestfallen.

"I didn't make him for *you*!" snapped Karen. [That's okay--she gets him anyway!] "He carries the Charles Atlas Seal of Approval!"[Is that like the "Cosmic Kill Me Arrow"?] [Hey, I didn't know Charles Atlas was a Seal!]

"This audience is getting way out of control," muttered the older judge with a groan. He'd recovered from his misdirected drink, and now turned toward his partner as the two Franks launched into a decidedly steamy version of "I Can Make You a Man." "All right," he conceded, "points to Suoh for muscles. And points off Yuuto for smarminess. Are you happy now?"

"I just want the right thing to happen," the younger judge said quietly, with a not-quite-mollified stubbornness. The older judge sighed.

"What happens is *not* our decision." He leaned toward his partner, catching the youth beneath his chin and tilting his face up for emphasis, forcing the other to meet his gaze directly. "We have our job to do and that's all...but you can never just let it go at that, can you?" His voice had softened almost impercptibly; intent blue eyes stared deeply into wide, sad violet ones. There was a very long moment of silence as the two of them gazed at each other across that scant breath of distance which lay between them....

"Ahh--ooh!!" shrieked both Franks in unison. Startled, the two judges jerked backward, each snapping upright in his chair with eyes locked firmly to the stage. As the red doors of the freezers tilted slowly open and then fell with a crash, the older judge cleared his throat.

"New characters."

There was a deep revving noise from inside the freezers and harsh cries of alarm rose up from the men in black. The two judges readied their scorecards, putting their moment of distraction out of mind. "EDDIEEE!!!" shrilled the Dragons of Heaven's Columbia, easily drowning out the Angel's faint cry with sheer ear-piercing volume as she flung herself across the room toward a freezer doorway.

It was the wrong freezer.

Kusanagi gaped in surprise as Yuzuriha glomped onto him, a maniacal grin on her face. Then the big, burly man grinned too, and chucked his helmet aside. Over on the other side of the room, Sorata had leaped off his motorcycle and was singing and boogying full tilt at Arashi and Kamui, seeming not even to notice that he was missing a Columbia.

Nataku stood alone in the middle of the floor.

It looked at Kusanagi and Yuzuriha.

Then it looked at Sorata.

Then it looked back at Kusanagi, an expression of piteous confusion on its face.

Obviously nobody had told it what it should do in this case.

"Points off for cluelessness and character-breaking," the older judge announced decisively. He made a black mark on his scorecard, and the younger one gave him a slight smile. Down below Kanoe glared at Nataku, and Fuuma jerked his head toward the Dragons of Heaven. Nataku turned and toddled a few steps toward Sorata just as the monk went into an exuberant saxophone solo. It stopped again and looked around uncertainly.

"*Major* points off," sighed the older judge, shaking his head.

Possibly taking pity on the bioroid, Yuzu-chan skipped back across the room just as Sorata was finishing his solo. She caught him by his scarf and winked at him, cat ears popping out from her orange-dyed hair. Nataku scuttled over to Kusanagi's side in apparent relief, although Kusanagi looked strangely disappointed.

"My head used to swim from the perfume I smelled," Sorata sang, taking off his sax and shoving it into Kamui's grasp, "my hands kinda fumbled with her white plastic belt./I'd taste her baby pink lipstick and that's when I'd melt./ She'd whisper in my ear tonight she really was mine...." He was inching closer and closer to the Hidden Priestess as he sang, and when he reached the end of the next verse he shouted "Whoo!" and pounced at her with maybe a little bit too much enthusiasm. Arashi, pushed too far, hauled off and decked him with her purse. The force of the blow whirled Sorata completely around, knocking him into Yuzuriha, and the two of them fell to the floor. Sorata landed heavily on top of the girl. The motorcycle growled at him threateningly.

The blond judge coughed in a significant way, and the other shifted awkwardly in his seat. "Um, they're supposed to be on the floor now anyway," he offered fatuously. His partner lifted an eyebrow in eloquent coment, and with a sigh the younger judge surrendered, marking a point off for Arashi.

Fortunately Sorata recovered quickly.

"Hot patootie, bless my soul!" he sang, "Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll!" Leaping up and onto the motorcycle again, he began to vroom around the room, chasing the Transylvanians with a dementedly evil grin on his face. "Hot patootie, bless my soul! Sex, drugs, and marshmallows!" Men in black scattered everywhere as he and Kusanagi played chicken with each other around the elevator shaft. The older judge looked discreetly about for any sign of wrath from the Sponsor's fan club, but none seemed forthcoming.

Instead, there were a pair of transvestites (well, sort of) with matching savage smiles and ice picks. They chased their respective Eddies into the appropriate freezers--luckily the casts didn't get mixed up this time--and began to commit shrieking mayhem. Yuzu-chan and Nataku wailed and clutched at their ears as there was one final howl from each freezer...and then, silence.

Karen and Kanoe wobbled out of the ice and looked at the chaos.

"One from the vaults...."


* * * * *


Subaru shivered in the draft from the open freezer, and wondered once again how he'd gotten himself into this. It certainly didn't seem to be a very nice play...that poor man. And all of these strange people doing all these strange things...he really didn't understand it at all. Kanoe had shed her green scrubs and now was stalking toward Yuuto, singing, each step a deliberate strut, her hair sliding like a metronome across her back...weirdly fascinated, Subaru found himself staring at her and at the nearly-naked form of Yuuto beyond--and then, as Kanoe paused for breath, Seishirou poked him in the ribs. Subaru jumped.

"I'm a muscle faaaan!" he trilled into the pause. Everyone looked at him and he blushed profusely. Then Seishirou's arms came around him once again, embracing him, holding him close...and as music which was just recognizable as a wedding march began to play and sakura blossoms filled the air around them, it felt as though he were suddenly melting. Everything inexplicably seemed to be quite all right. Nothing bad could happen to him, not while Seishirou was at his side...only...shouldn't Seishirou be...


Subaru peered up at the man, confused.

Kanoe and Yuuto had mounted the steps at the end of the room. At the head of the stairs, they turned toward each other. As the curtains began to close there was a brief glimpse of Kanoe springing gleefully into Yuuto's arms. Then the curtains shut completely.

There was a crash and a loud caterwaul.


* * * * *


"There are some who say that life is an illusion," intoned Kusinagi in his guise as criminologist, "and reality is but a figment of the imagination." [So's your neck!] He glared the audience from beneath the slight smudge of red still marking his forehead. "If this is true, then Brad and Janet are quite safe." <Not hardly,> the soldier thought grimly, but he kept his opinion to himself. What went on in the bedrooms of this place had nothing to do with him. "However, the sudden departure of their host [and his neck!] and his creation [and its neck!] into the seclusion of their somber bridal suite--" [Don't call me sweet!] "--had left them feeling both apprehensive...and uneasy." God, he he had a craving for ice cream all of a sudden. He wondered what Yuzu-chan would be doing after this.

Assuming that there was an "after this," of course.

Kusanagi scowled more darkly.

"A feeling which grew," he concluded severely, tugging at his cravat once again, "as the other guests departed and they were shown to their separate rooms." [With their separate necks!]

And he was getting damned tired of all the neck jokes, too....


* * * * *


[Beast sees you when you're sleeping! It knows when you're awake! It'll take on your identity and slash your credit rates....]

Satsuki peered into the grainy little monitor, scrutinizing the image of the Dragon of Heaven that they'd abducted to their side. He was cowering alone behind his fragile bed curtains. At any minute Kanoe would be along to entertain him, a prospect which would probably prove to be rather amusing.

What a pity Fuuma was the one who got to play with Yuuto, though.

Satsuki wondered if there was anything she could do about that.


* * * * *


Lying face down on the enormous bed, Suoh fumed to himself. Of all the ridiculous things that Nokoru had gotten him into, this had to be the absolute worst...and it was only the fact that it *was* Nokoru who was trusting him with this and that it was so desperately important for them all not to fail which kept him from storming out in a huff of offended honor.

Only Nokoru could have gotten him out in public view in a pair of little gold briefs.

And Nokoruu was going to be paying for it.

In the background, he could hear whispers, a faint giggle, and then the soft noises of somebody sneaking up on him. The Imonoyama himself, in fact--Suoh knew the sound of those would-be stealthy footsteps by heart. Inwardly he sighed, preparing to move on Nokoru's hiss: to recoil from the brandished candle flames, break his chains, and scramble down the elevator shaft, the latter being the reason why it was Suoh and not Nokoru in this role in the first place. Just the thought of his clutzy Kaichou trying to climb down that shaft was enough to give Suoh heart failure....

Bracing himself for his cue, he was thoroughly startled to feel something warm, almost hot, trickle onto his shoulder. Jerking his head around, he stared at his Kaichou in shock. A bowl of caramel sauce in hand, Nokoru smiled at him like an evil angel, those blue eyes brilliantly alight.

When this was all over, his Kaichou was going to pay very dearly, Suoh decided then.

Oh yes indeed....


* * * * *


Kanoe smiled in licentious pleasure, having finished her scene, and continued to run her mouth across the trembling body of the thirteenth head of the Sumeragi clan. She'd been waiting for a chance at him for ages. The young man was so exquisitely delicate, so adorably shy....

He was absolutely delicious.

She grinned and licked her tongue across his nipple, enjoying his squeak of shock.

And didn't she deserve it, after what she'd had to put up with already tonight! Being dropped on the floor not once but least with Yuuto she was fairly certain it had been an accident. With the Kamui of the Dragons of Earth, she wasn't so sure. Really, he didn't seem to appreciate all that she'd done for their side. All the work that she'd put in, gathering their forces for this very day...and the only thing she had to show for it now was a sore ass.

Well, she'd show *him* a thing or two, sooner or later.

Bring in another Dreamgazer, would he?

They'd just see about that.

"K-K-Kanoe-san," the Sumeragi breathed, and she lifted her head to look down at him with amusement. Those lovely green eyes were even wider than usual, dark and dilated in the shadows of the bedroom set. "You''re...smouldering."

Kanoe smiled once again with predatory lust. At last, somebody other than Yuuto who could appreciate her charms. "Thank you," she crooned, trailing one red nail down his front, "and you--do you feel that heat as well? Let me feed your fire, my darling...oh yes...*oh* yessss...."

"N-no!! Waah! I mean--that's not what I meant--!" The young man thrashed futilely beneath her and then froze, breathing very hard indeed. *So* adorable, especially since the Sakurazukamori had bespelled him to think he was only sixteen years old again.... The Sumeragi blinked at her, his eyes like those of a cute, naive animal.

"--you're on fire," he finished in a tiny little voice.


Kanoe craned her neck to look back over her shoulder. For a second she stared in disbelief at the thin trail of smoke rising from her backside. Then--"KYAAA!!" screamed the Dreamgazer of the Dragons of Earth as she yiffed herself, the bed covers and a very confused Sumeragi out of the bed and began to roll the whole mess across the floor.

In another bedroom, Karen muffled her giggles in the most convenient place.

Arashi gasped.


* * * * *


"I protest, I tell you--I protest!" Kanoe stormed. She was only getting started, but she was already gesticulating like a first-class diva, her not-inconsiderable bosom heaving. "Are you going to let this *woman* get away with something like that?!" Karen flipped her hair insouciantly and stuck out her tongue at the Dreamgazer. "Assaulting a member of the other side is grounds for immediate forfeit," Kanoe went on hotly, rounding on the two judges. "That's what the Rules say, isn't it?"

"Oh, get off it. I didn't do anything to you," Karen shot back rudely, a wicked gleam of amusement in her eyes. "And if I did, you surely couldn't prove it."

"And I should put the blame on some *other* pyrotechnic? Who exactly did you have in mind?" The two women sneered at each other, and the older judge buried his head in his hands. Somewhere below them, the other Seals and Angels were trying to stretch out the interim scenes while Kanoe had her hissy-fit in the judges' loft. An admirable effort...but he feared it was doomed to fail.

"Hah! You could've set the fire yourself, trying to frame me," Karen retorted. "And there's no way that anybody could know differently."

"Set myself on fire?" Kanoe's voice rose indignantly. "That's the most stupid thing I've ever heard! Why, I'd have to be crazy do something like that! I could've burned to death in that bed--you think I'd do something like that deliberately?" Karen snatched the end of Kanoe's robe and held it up, displaying a fingernail-sized scorch mark.

"Oh, what a deadly fire," she sniffed. Kanoe grabbed the robe back.

"Give me that!"

"It looks like a cigarette burn," Karen scoffed. "Does your boy-toy smoke in bed? Or maybe it's that Sakurazuka guy...though I didn't think he was your type. Unless it's true what they say...that everybody's your type!"


"Ladies," the older judge began, and immediately regretted it as the two of them turned on him once more, claws still bared.

"Disqualify her!" Kanoe demanded, planting both hands on her hips with enough force to make her breasts bounce even despite the corset's embrace. "I insist!"

"I'm innocent!" protested Karen, actually climbing up to kneel on the judges' table. "She's trying to set me up! Everybody always thinks the worst of a soap girl!" Karen leaned forward beseechingly, positioning her cleavage right beneath the younger judge's nose. He had the misfortune to look down, immediately freaked out, and went over backward in his chair, arms flailing wildly. The older judge grabbed him and hauled him up again by the scruff of his neck, giving him a little shake to settle his nerves.

"'Soap girl' is an interesting euphemism," Kanoe was sniping cattily. Karen smiled like a shark.

"Not as interesting as what I hear about 'office workers'...tell me again why you have a bedroom in your place of work?"




"*Ladies,*" the older judge said more forcefully, and the two women paused to look at him. "Thank you," he said sarcastically. "Now would you mind shutting up for a moment?" He glanced down at his still shell-shocked partner. "Oi. Are you okay?" His partner blinked once, staring vaguely toward the Dragons of Heaven's stage.

"Um...should Riff-raff and Magenta be *sparkling* like that?"

The older judge followed his partner's gaze to where Nokoru and Akira were elaborating on their scene together, and promptly clapped a hand over the startled youth's eyes. "Right," he stated firmly, glaring at the two women in front of him. "There's no harm done this time, so I'm letting you both off with a warning. But any more funny business and I'll disqualify *both* sides, and we'll find some other way to settle the fate of the world." He pointed at Karen. "That means *no* more firestarting, not for any reason." Karen snapped her teeth playfully at his finger, and then sprang off the desk with an unrepentant grin. "And you," he said, shifting his focus to the other woman, "no more histrionics, no more holding up the show, and definitely no shady dealings from any of your people. Don't even try it...because we *will* find out." He gave her his best cold stare, and she flinched, closing her mouth on her arguments. "Now both of you get out of here and let us do our job--and hose those two down, will you?" he yelled after Karen.

The woman giggled wickedly as she left the loft.


* * * * *


Entering her second bedroom scene, Kanoe was seething. How dare *dare* that insufferable judge accuse her of histrionics! Really, she had perfectly good reasons to be upset about all this. And that pyromaniac bitch was going to suffer for daring to make a fool out of her. Kanoe's mind was full of calculations and recriminations as she curled herself against the Sakurazukamori, feeling his strong arm come around her and his hand caress her disguising wig. "Don't worry, Janet," the man said reassuringly, playing the role of his character--and then in a much different voice he added softly, "You know, I'd like to have a little word with you about Subaru-kun."

His hand tightened subtly upon her hair.

Kanoe's eyes went wide.


* * * * *


"But it isn't all bad, is it?" Karen murmured slyly. [This time it's all Brad!] "I think you really quite enjoyed it." She descended on the stricken young man lying beneath her, kissing her way down his front. She really hoped he wasn't the type who was given to far he didn't seem to be. "Oh," she moaned, running her tongue teasingly around his navel, "oh...*so* soft...."

The boy bolted upright and screamed, "Subaru!" Karen almost lost it completely.

"Sh!" she cried instead. "Subaru's probably asleep by now! Do you want him to see you--like this?" She flipped Kamui onto his back, legs up in the air, barely controlling her giggles.


"Master," Nokoru broke in over the intercom --early but with exquisite timing, considering that Kamui probably wouldn't hold together as anything resembling Brad for very much longer-- "Rocky has broken his chains and vanished. Your new playmate is loose and somewhere in the castle grounds. Magenta has released--" [His mothers!] "The *dogs,*" Nokoru finished reprovingly, giving the audience a stern look. Karen heaved a sigh.

"Coming!" she called out with sing-song cheerfulness.

[So's Kamui!] the audience replied.


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