Fic: Something Rotten

Saturday, April 30th, 2011 05:18 pm
uakari: (Doumeki glasses)
[personal profile] uakari

Title: Something Rotten

Rating: PG-13

Summary: There is something rotten in the Academy of Horitsuba, but is it the doomed festival play, the chairwoman's pilfered alcohol, or the threat of a malfunctioning Mokona costume hanging over the staff's heads?

A/N: This fic was written for Arachne_13, who won my fic offering on the Help_Japan auction and very generously donated to the cause. Her request was for Horitsuba crack with every single pairing imaginable and a couple extras added in for fun :D It, um, kind of turned into a long-form project because I am disgustingly verbose and can't do anything simply... But! I hope you enjoy, Arachne_13, and thank you so much for donating! Here is chapter one...

 

 

 

The small stream of light spilling out from the propped door of the home economics room was the only guide Fay had as he stumbled down the long, dark hallway of Horitsuba Academy. The pre-dawn hours had never been his finest, and today – young though it was – was proving the rule rather than the exception. He swiped irritably at his eyes, knocking away the last stubborn remnants of sleep, and flung the door fully open.

 

Inside the classroom, Yuui started at the noise and spun to face his brother in a whirlwind of flour and sugar. Fay raised a sleepy eyebrow as Yuui's metal whisk slipped from his fingers and clattered to the floor with a dramatic splashing of batter across the counter. "Do I look that bad?" he mumbled as he heaved himself onto one of the counter-height stools that littered the classroom and draped his torso across the worktop, chin balanced precariously atop an upturned palm.

 

"Good morning to you, too," Yuui chuckled, quickly sopping up the spilled batter before gesturing over his shoulder. "I made some coffee for you. If you could just-" he paused to watch Fay stagger toward the percolator with outstretched arms, "-give me a hand once you've got some…"

 

"Mmm," Fay mumbled absently. The mug waggled in his shaky hands as he poured himself a cup and duly loaded it to the brim with sugar and powdered creamer. He sniffed suspiciously at the mixture – coffee had never been his drink of choice, but, with the right amount of doctoring, the caffeine would be more than welcome at this loathsome hour. It wasn't so much that he begrudged his brother his assistance, or that he even minded being woken before dawn, but this was technically a festival prep day, which meant thattechnically he should have been able to stumble into work a few hours later without class prep work, and that technically should have placed him in his very warm bed, sandwiched between a snoring lump of gym teacher and the obscenely large, fuzzy bunny Yuui inevitably slipped between the sheets when he hauled himself up and out to take care of…whatever it was he did so blasted early in the morning. As it was, he had been rather pointedly shoved off the mattress when the third alarm had gone off and his bunny usurped by a decidedly cranky and overly muscled demon who had stared at him through burning red eyes and silently threatened death should Fay to attempt to wrangle his frigid limbs back into the bed. He had tried pouting, pleading, and – in a moment of desperation – offering up various uses for his mouth, but all to no avail. All he had received in turn was a muffled grunt and possibly an obscene gesture (Fay wasn't sure about the latter as the fourth alarm he had set chose that exact moment to start chirping away and he had quickly scurried to shut it off before the "muffled grunt" grew into the more dangerous "haggard growl" that usually accompanied the fourth and fifth alarms.)

 

And so he had ended up here, slightly later than he had promised, but here nonetheless to help his twin with preparations for the Academy's annual bake-sale fundraiser. The sale had been a staple of the spring festival for as long as Fay had been employed by Horitsuba, but this year the chairwoman had made it known that she expected Yuui's extensive experience with European-style pastries to bring in a pretty sum. This, naturally, had set Yuui off onto a week-long experimental baking spree (fueled largely by adrenaline with just a splash of angst over his job security mixed in for good measure) which had not only wreaked havoc on their tiny kitchen, but practically suffocated everyone in a five room radius with the cloud of flour and sugar that choked the air (though Fay had been more concerned at the time that there wasn't enough air in the world to begin with to support both Yuui's hyperventilating and Kurogane's shouting – he'd been proved wrong almost immediately upon mentioning this to the duo, however, as both the shouting and the hyperventilating had increased exponentially without catastrophic loss of life). Yuuko had graciously offered the full use of Horitsuba's cooking facilities after several other faculty had complained of their tea being sweeter and far more viscous than normal that afternoon, but these naturally came with the complication of being in use during normal hours, thus leaving Fay sleep-deprived and reliant on this bitter brew to survive the early morning preparations. He sipped carefully at his over-full cup, then splashed a generous amount into the sink and added an extra few spoonfuls of sugar.

 

"So, then," he mumbled quietly with a quick glance over Yuui's shoulder, "What's on the menu for this morning?"

 

Yuui set his wisk to rest in the bowl and turned to face his brother, clapping the excess flour from his hands as he surveyed the open counters. "I've got shortcake started here, so if you could slice those strawberries," he pointed to a large crate at the end of the counter, "And whip the –"

 

Fay stared expectantly at his twin, eyes growing wider with concern the longer and more pregnant the other's pause became. "Whip the…?" he finally prompted.

 

"Huh? Oh. The cream," Yuui looked anxiously about the classroom, "Didn't you hear that?"

 

Fay cocked an eyebrow, "Hear what?"

 

"That…that whining?" Yuui quickly stepped around Fay and stalked to the door to peek his head around the frame.

 

"I didn't hear any-"

 

"Shh! There it is again!"

 

Fay listened more closely this time, straining his ears against the overwhelming silence that blanketed the darkened hallways. He glanced at Yuui, whose eyes were wide with intent and his head cocked at an odd angle in concentration, and redoubled his efforts. And, sure enough, there it was – barely audible above the sound of his own breathing – a faintuwaaaaah wafting down the hallway.

 

Fay laughed.

 

"What are you…?" Yuui rounded on his twin with narrowed eyes. "Why are you laughing?" he demanded, fear rippling through his voice.

 

"It's just the pipes," Fay laughed and slung an arm around Yuui's shoulders, "God, your face…ahaha. What did you think it was, the Soggy Specter?"

 

"It wasn't-" Yuui snapped to attention, "The Soggy what?"

 

"Specter," Fay let go his brother's shoulders and danced back to the crate of strawberries. "It's one of the Seven Wonders stories the students tell," he explained as he set about unloading the fruits.

 

Yuui traipsed slowly back to his mixing bowl, eyes warily tracking Fay's movements. "Why is it soggy?"

 

"It's a terrible story," Fay sang, waving a paring knife haphazardly above the strawberries, "They say a girl drowned in the showers here and is now cursed to wander the hallways for eternity in search of a towel – drip…drip…drip…"

 

Yuui grabbed his whisk back up irritably. "She drowned."

 

"Yes."

 

"In the showers."

 

Fay frowned and picked up his neglected coffee mug. "I didn't say it was a good story," he mumbled, cradling the mug against his chin.

 

"No," Yuui laughed, "In fact, you said it was terrib-"

 

It was a much louder UWAAAH that rang through the classroom this time, punctuated at its end by the impressive CRASH produced by Fay's coffee mug as it shattered at his feet. The brothers looked at each other in silence for a moment, each searching the other's face for some reassurance of their own sanity that was not forthcoming. Cake batter dripped and pooled at Yuui's feet while Fay tried desperately to ignore the burn of coffee seeping into his socks.

 

"Ah…ahaha…" Fay finally broke the silence, "It's just the pipes!" He kicked at the ceramic shards littering the ground about his feet.

 

"Yes," Yuui quickly agreed, racing to the door, "Just the pipes." He slammed the door closed and leaned back against it, breathing far more heavily than the short jaunt across the room should have necessitated. "I think…" he paused, eyes darting quickly around the room, "I think we should finish these up quickly and call it a morning, don't you?"

 

"Best idea I've heard in days."

 


 

"What art thou that usurp'st this time of night, together with that fair and warlike form in which the majesty of buried Denmark did sometimes march? By heaven, I charge thee, speak!"

 

"Excellent, Watanuki!" Subaru called from the front row of the auditorium, "But you still need to seem more scared. You're talking to a ghost in the middle of the night – you need to be terrified!"

 

Watanuki paused to consider this for a moment before turning back to Subaru with a pained expression. "But you told me to tone it down. How am I supposed to…?"

 

Subaru tapped the master script against his forehead and pinched his eyes closed. He hadn't actually directed Watanuki to tone down the "scared" acting, so much as he had mentioned (very patiently) that flailing and crying didn't suit the script very well and suggested he take a slightly less…active approach to portraying his fear. He exhaled deeply and looked back to the stage – he was going to reach these children even if he had to sacrifice his sanity to do it, "Just…try making your voice a little bit more wibbly. I think that should do it." He paused as the cast reset their marks and stared blankly back at him, waiting for further instruction. He still wasn't entirely sure what devil had possessed him to take on the position of director for the production of Hamlet this year's students had been so intent on performing for the spring festival; possibly it was his love of English theater (he had spent several years earning a degree in the subject, after all), or perhaps it was his desire to establish himself as a well-respected teacher within Horitsuba Academy, or (as much as he hated to admit it) it could well have been his fear of being assigned one of the chairwoman's notoriously random and often-times nonsensical tasks (he was not going to be talked into a Mokona costume again this year, he just wasn't). Whatever the original impetus had been, however, he was quickly discovering that it had nothing to do with his innate ability to wring stage-worthy performances from this motley cast of highschoolers, who, while undeniably enthusiastic, were obviously in need of better motivation than his meager directing skills could provide.

 

"Uuuwahhh…"

 

Still, he was determined. With the proper hard work and devotion, he had no doubt they would pull off a masterful performance on the day of the festival. In the meanwhile, however…

 

"UuuWAHHH…"

 

"Syaoran, what are you doing?"

 

Syaoran froze onstage, his arms outstretched at obtuse angles and mouth formed into a wide "O." "I'm haunting," he said very seriously and flashed Subaru a confused look, "Is it wrong? I spent all last night doing research, and found that ghosts should moan and be sort of…floaty. So I thought-"

 

Subaru resisted the urge to laugh. He didn't doubt the boy really had spent the entire night before researching the topic – had probably spent all night in the library surrounded by books of ghost stories and phantom lore, as a matter of fact – but he really couldn't fathom what sort of text would suggest that ghosts moved so similarly to a seizure patient… "Yes, well, ah…" he grinned at the still-frozen boy's splayed fingers and contorted face, "You don't have to be quite so- What were you reading, anyway?" Subaru finally asked, unable to contain his curiosity any longer.

 

Syaoran twitched, but finally dropped his arms to his sides and relaxed his face into a more familiar configuration. "I didn't really read it…" he mumbled, not really wanting to explain how he had wasted several hours of his life (that were never coming back, no matter how he begged and pleaded with the Time Lords) watching Ghost Hunters for research, but in the end had given up sometime after the fourth declaration of 'JESUS CHRIST – IT TOUCHED ME!' and opted to seek out other, possibly less reputable sources… "Fai-sensei said there is a ghost that wanders the halls here at night and he did a really detailed impression for me. I guess I didn't get it quite right…"

 

Subaru felt a chuckle catch in his throat and immediately swallowed it. "No, no," he reassured Syaoran quickly, "I'm sure you got it exactly right," – that would explain the windmill arms and exaggerated flailing at any rate – "It's just that this ghost was the king and he's very angry, so you need to be more solemn and less…" he scoured his brain for the right word, but gave up as the pause became longer and longer, "Like Fai-sensei."

 

"Oh," Syaoran still seemed puzzled, but nodded just the same, "I will do my best."

 

"I know you will," Subaru smiled and stretched his arms above his head, "Why don't you four go take a break – we've been at this scene for almost an hour now. We'll work on the next scene – that's Syaoron, Sakura, Suoh, and Doumeki." He leaned back in the folding auditorium chair and checked his watch as the students shuffled on and off the stage. It was barely 10:30; they'd hardly made a dent in the day's rehearsal schedule thus far. It was probably for the best, though, as they only had a week left before the performance and an incredible amount of ground to cover…

 

He had to wonder if it was an ill portent that "Hamlet" refused to be separated from the sembei he was currently crunching down at an ear-splintering volume, even as "Horatio" batted away the falling crumbs and declared to anyone within earshot that there was indeed something rotten in the state of Denmark, and that it was clearly "Hamlet's" work ethic…

 


 

The chairwoman's heels clacked noisily down the otherwise deserted hallway as she strode with purpose toward the teachers' lounge. She desperately needed a drink; the spring festival was inevitably the busiest time of year for her, what with overseeing booth construction, decoration, and ensuring that each class's contributions lived up to the reputation for style, class, and honor that she'd worked so hard to build for Horitsuba over the years. The festival was meant to be fun, and fun was serious business. Luckily, she had stashed a serious bottle of sake away for the occasion.

 

She hummed lightly to herself as she twisted the lounge's door handle, and then a bit more harshly when it refused to move. She ratcheted the volume up several more notches as she jiggled the handle more forcefully and punctuated the softly flitting melody with several throaty grunts.

 

Eventually she stopped humming altogether and kicked the door.

 

"Yuuko-sensei!"

 

Yuuko straightened her back and quickly smoothed down her dress to face her students. She grinned upon seeing the two diminutive balls of fluff hopping about her feet. "Mokonas!" she said cheerily, "What are you doing down this way? Isn't rehearsal still going on?"

 

"Yes," Soel chirped, "But Subaru-sensei sent us all on a break while he went to go get some aspirin from the nurse.

 

Yuuko raised an eyebrow at this. The fledgling English teacher had surprised her with his sudden enthusiasm for directing this year. She'd worked hard to bury her disappointment – she'd had the Mokona costume tailored specially for him (so there wouldn't be any further embarrassing incidents with the zipper) and was now tasked with finding someone suitably tall and lanky to fill it… "Is he alright?" she asked, a glimmer of hope flickering across her eyes.

 

"Oh yes!" Soel assured her, "Everyone has been working very hard!"

 

"Well that's good to hear!" Yuuko managed brightly. Drat. Well, she supposed she employed enough other tall, lanky professors that finding a replacement wouldn't be impossible. She'd be able to sort the whole mess out over a lovely glass of sake… "Say," she said quietly, crouching down to the Mokona's level, "I don't suppose the two of you would do a favor for me?"

 

"Of course!" they chirped in unison.

 

"Thank you!" she patted Larg on the head, "Be dears and run along to Fuuma-sensei's classroom. If he's there, ask him for his lock-breaking kit," she paused, looking thoughtful, "If he tries to deny having one, tell him I have some photos I'd like to show him."

 

"Okay!" And, with a flourish, they disappeared down the hallway once again, this time toward the mathematics classroom.

Yuuko collapsed against the door with a disgruntled sigh. That sake was going to taste delicious.

 


 

"Kuro-pon-sensei~!" Fay flung himself haphazardly across the couch, "Why don't you believe us? It was terrifying!"

 

"There is no such thing as ghosts," Kurogane found himself repeating for the hundredth time this afternoon. He plucked Fay's feet up and off the cushions to make room for himself on the sofa and plopped down with a huff. It had been a long day of construction work for the trio – or, rather, a long day of construction work for Kurogane punctuated by random bouts of whining and "artistic critique" from Fay and the occasional hammering of Yuui's fingers. He made a note to keep the cooking teacher away from any power tools tomorrow, but quickly tore it up, burned the scraps, and made a second note not to mention the words "power tools" around either of the brothers, lest all three of them end up in the hospital with bloodied stumps where their limbs used to attach. He pinched the bridge of his nose and ground his teeth, "You two are just idiots…"

 

"Wah!" Fay wailed, "Kuro-rinta is so cruel!" He freed a pillow from beneath his head, only to fling it at Kurogane a moment later. "Yuui! Did you hear that? He called us idiots again!"

 

Yuui casually picked the pillow up from the floor, where it had landed after ricocheting from Kurogane's brow, and held it against his twin's mouth. He fixed Kurogane with a stern glare, "Well, then he can sleep on the couch tonight. Besides, I didn't say it was a ghost. I only said we were heard something ghoulish this morning."

 

"It was a ghost!" Fay insisted, "It was the Soggy Specter!"

 

"Oh for-" Kurogane clapped a hand against his forehead, "You're not still going on about that crap, are you? You – oh god, you didn't do the dance again, did you?"

 

"It's not a dance, Kuro-puu," Fay scowled, "Syaoran was really very eager to know about ghosts. What was I supposed to do, send him away?"

 

"You could have told him that ghosts don't exist like a sane, rational adult."

 

"Ku-RO-riiiiiin!"

 

"Fay!" Yuui snapped, rubbing at his temples, "I've got a splitting headache – can you please tone down the whining?"

 

"Sorry, Yuui," Fay frowned, "There should be some aspirin stored in the cabinets above the sink. Let me look." He dragged himself to his feet and quickly trotted across the room to rifle through the shelves.

 

Yuui sank into Fay's empty spot on the couch and sprawled his upper half across Kurogane's lap. "What do we have on the schedule for tomorrow?" he asked, kneading his temples a bit more forcefully, "All construction?"

 

"Mmm," Kurogane grunted and shifted his hand to massage some of the tension from Yuui's neck, "I don't see why the kids can't do this themselves."

 

"They're busy!" Fay chided, returning to sit cross-legged on the coffee table in front of the duo. In his right hand, he carried a large green bottle, in his left, he pinched the rims of three strikingly plain cafeteria glasses. "Chairwoman's orders and all," he chuckled and set the glasses next to his thigh.

 

Yuui raised an eyebrow, "That does not look like aspirin."

 

"It'll still do the trick, won't it?" Fay shrugged, "I couldn't find the aspirin, but I did find this little gem." He hefted the bottle up to present the label and grinned.

 

Kurogane scowled and snatched the bottle away. "Where the hell did you get this?" he demanded, eyes raking across the label, "This stuff is expensive!"

 

"It was in the cabinet," Fay sang, swiping the bottle back and pulling at the cork, "Well, it was underneath a false floor and tucked behind some old text books, but it was still in the cabinet. So that makes it fair game."

 

"This seems like a bad idea," Yuui murmured, sitting up as Fay splashed the sake into the glasses and onto the tabletop. He took the offered glass anyway, and sniffed at the wine inside. It certainly smelled expensive, though he had to admit his tastes were not as refined as the gym teacher's in this regard. He cast a sidelong glance at Kurogane to better gauge his reaction-

 

-And immediately had to stifle the fit of giggles he felt bubbling up beneath his diaphragm at the look of utter terror plastered across Kurogane's face.

 

"Kuro-lin," Fay teased, waggling the cup back and forth in front of Kurogane's face, "Don't be such a stick in the mud."

 

"It's stolen."

 

"It's borrowed," Fay insisted, pressing the half-full cup into Kurogane's hands.

 

"Which is probably just as bad," Yuui mused, sipping at the sake, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be, as it were. Especially when alcohol is involved."

 

"As what were?" Fay looked confused as he filled his own glass.

 

"It's from the play, moron," Kurogane scoffed and leaned back into the sofa. He took a deep drink of the sake and sighed – it was good after all. He hated to think just who this particular bottle belonged to. The Chairwoman was the most obvious culprit, but he didn't really put this sort of cunning alcoholism past the rest of the staff – especially that creep in the nurse's office. He shuddered; the last time he had crossed Seishiro, he had woken up with a rash and head lice crawling in the damnedest places…

 

Yuui stretched his feet across Kurogane and chuckled, "I'm surprised you recognized that, Kurogane."

 

"What? Why?"

 

Fay's eyes sparkled, "Seems a bit outside your area of expertise…"

 

"Tche. And it's not out of yours?"

 

"Well, you know…"

 

"What?" Kurogane rocked forward in his seat and grinned ferally, "Are you saying I can't have hobbies?"

 

"Ahahaha. To thine own self be true, I supp-"

 

Uuuuwaaaaaah

 

Kurogane supposed he might have been more prepared for the flailing tangle of lanky blond that landed in his lap seconds later, but that would have required a reasonable estimate of the moron's Idiot Quotient – as the last three men known to have undertaken the calculation of such had all suffered horrible fates (far worse than rashes and head lice), Kurogane felt slightly better about dropping his glass to the floor as Fay careened into him and clutched spastically at this shirt.

 

"It's back!" Fay wailed and buried his face into Kurogane's neck "Ifsashanyspwt!"

 

Kurogane rolled his eyes and pulled Fay's head back to stare into the chemistry teacher's whimpering face. "What's back?" he demanded as Fay's eyes grew ever wider.

 

Uuuuwaaaaaah

 

"It's the Soggy Specter!" Fay cried and attempted to burrow into Kurogane's chest, "She's come back for our blood!"

 

"Will you-" Kurogane pulled at Fay's arms, which were coming dangerously close to cutting off his air supply with their vice-like grip around his middle, "Stop. This. Nonsense!" He gripped Fay's wrists tightly and extended his own arms out to the sides, leaving Fay to hang between them like a limp noodle on a clothesline. Fay, for his part, whimpered softly,clearly faking the tears that were falling from his-

 

Oh for- Kurogane scrunched his face into its middle. Was the moron actually scared by this? He loosed one of Fay's wrists to relocate his grip to the chemistry teacher's chin. "Listen," he growled, yanking Fay's face to meet his own, "There is no such thing as-"

 

Driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiink

 

Kurogane abruptly dropped Fay's face and froze in position on the sofa. Fay rubbed at his abused chin and crawled over Kurogane to settle himself in Yuui's lap, clutching at him instead and finding his twin much more amenable to his needy fearfulness; Yuui ran a hand through Fay's hair and mumbled vaguely soothing noises as he stared down the door.

 

Needadriiiiiiiink

 

"I don't think that's a ghost," Yuui said carefully.

 

Kurogane's head cranked around slowly, jerkily to face the cooking teacher, his eyes round as saucers and teeth bared in a maniacal grin. "No," he agreed, "It's much, much worse."

 

Yuui nodded and scooped Fay up from his lap. His eyes darted briefly around the room before coming back to meet

 

Kurogane's. "Window?"

 

Kurogane nodded. "Window."

 


 

"Ay, that incestuous, that ADULTERATE BEAST. With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts – O wicked wit and gifts that have the power so to seduce! – won to his SHAMEFUL LUST the will of my most seeming-virtuous queen!"

 

Subaru coughed and waved his script in the air, waiting patiently for Syaoran to finish his line before shouting, "Cut!" The students on stage froze, then turned toward him curiously.

 

"That's the right line, isn't it?" Syaoran asked nervously, the angry consternation that had accompanied his…spirited recital melting from his face, "Was I still too much like Fay-sensei?"

 

"Um," Subaru wrinkled his brow. Did the kid really not realize…? "It's just… The anger is good – keep that going – but you're accenting strange words and staring off into the audience rather than looking and Doumeki and you just seem-" – a bit like Seishiro, which is unreasonably disconcerting – "It's just not working."

 

"Oh," Syaoran looked apologetically at Subaru and mumbled something that sounded like "Sorry." Subaru smiled and opened his mouth to reassure the boy, but snapped it shut again as Syaoran's face immediately hardened back into its previous icy mask and resumed its angry glaring into the audience. Subaru sighed and followed Syaoran's line of vision, wondering what could possibly have upset the normally sunny and earnest boy so badly. He'd been half expecting to find the entirety of the cosplay club making papier-mâché masks from the library's collection of out-of-print books (and possibly insulting the kid's mother), and so was mildly surprised when he found only a gaggle of players patiently awaiting their turn on the stage. They all seemed relatively mellow – especially for the death glares they were receiving – apart from several girls who were excitedly chirping over a brightly colored package that Sakura unwrapped as Syaoron looked on eagerly over her shoulder-

 

Subaru whipped his head back to the stage. Was that it? Little brother putting the moves on his girlfriend? Or maybe he was moving in on his brother's – Subaru could never keep track of which one was dating her… Possibly both of them, for all he knew – this school seemed to take identical twins and breed odd couplings and threesomes and all other manner of ridiculousness out of them like it was going out of style (probably something in the water, Subaru decided, and made a note to stick to sake – though, knowing the chairwoman, he couldn't guarantee that was safe either). He pushed the disquieting thoughts aside for the moment, however, and refocused on the stage. This was more important now.

 

"Alright, let's try that again. Syaoran – take it back to 'I find thee apt.'"

 

Syaoran nodded vigorously, shook away the stony grimace holding his face hostage, and sucked down several deep breaths before turning to face Doumeki once again. "I find thee apt," he began, "And duller shouldst thou be than the fat week that roots itself in ease on the Lethe wharf, WOULDS'T thou not STIR in this. Now, HAMLET, hear. 'Tis given out THAT, sleeping in my ORCHARD-"

 

"CUT!" Subaru shouted and slapped the script against his face.

 

Syaoran looked crestfallen. "I'm sorry-"

 

"It's not your fault," Subaru pinched the bridge of his nose, "You can't help but recite that way with the hammers banging away like that." He paused, hoping the stage crew would take his subtle hint and sighing when the background banging continued. "Guys?" he called loudly, "OI! STAGE CREW!" He bit his lip as three heads popped out around the edges of the curtain. "Can you give that a rest for a few minutes?"

 

The dark-haired one – Touya Kinomoto, Sakura's older, but no less polyamorously inclined older brother – eyed up his two silver-haired companions before frowning back a Subaru. "Well," he said slowly, "We can… But we should really keep working while-"

 

THUD

 

Subaru's eyes grew wide as boyfriend number one – the short-haired one, Yu-something (though they were both Yu-something, Subaru noted with the barest hint of admiration for Touya's consistency) – collapsed to the floor. "Is he okay?"

Touya sighed and clapped a hand against his face. "Yeah, he's just sleeping. Happens all the time. Yue, give me a hand with Yuki here, would you?"

 

Subaru watched in mild horror as the remaining stage crew gently lifted their sleeping counterpart and laid him at the side of the stage with a wadded up costume dress beneath his head. Tomoyo, who had been cheerfully gushing over Sakura's gift until the THUD, immediately leapt from her seat and fluttered off backstage, declaring she had many more ruffled fabrics amongst her mess there that would be more appropriate for a pillow. Subaru could only stare from his front-row seat with a hand clapped over his mouth. He supposed he really couldn't complain – it had been hard enough to even find three college students who were willing to build sets part-time for what amounted to peanuts. So he'd hired a narcoleptic – so what? It could be worse, right?

 

If he had been a more callous man, he might have stewed for a bit on how the application process might have included questions such as "Will you pass out while operating large, possibly dangerous, mechanized equipement; or, barring that, a hammer?" He might also have attempted to contrive a way to slip those questions past the school's absurdly inclusive hiring policies or looked for a loophole to relieve himself of this newly discovered walking hazard. As he was not a callous man, however, he merely took the opportunity to wonder why the lights in the auditorium were so bright and seemed to pulse with a remarkably steady rhythm.

 

He sank deeper into his seat, allowing the fabric to swallow him whole, and wondered just what kind of "aspirin" Seishiro had given him this time.

 


 

Yuuko carefully wrapped Fuuma's lock picking tools back into their carrying case and tucked the lovingly scrawled note he had sent with them (detailing his utter devotion both to the school and her impeccable leadership) into her shirt and looked around the teacher's lounge in disgust. She had opened the door just in time to see the last of a dark head of hair disappear out the window. By the time she had crossed over to said window, all that remained were the tips of several spikes sticking up between the leaves of the hedges below – black spikes that were making ridiculously good time in their break for freedom down the hedgerow. She cocked an eyebrow and slammed the window shut. Surely there were rulesabout teachers exiting through windows and crawling through the shrubbery?

 

But that could wait – what she really needed now was to find that bottle of sake she'd stashed away for days like today, when she was trapped here amongst deadlines and details without the aid of Watanuki to head down the shops to procure more alcohol. She ran through a quick list of her usual hiding places before remembering that she'd stashed it in the medicine cabinet above the sink-

 

The same medicine cabinet that was torn apart, with her carefully constructed false floor hanging haphazardly through the open doors…

 

Her eyes grew wide as an icy panic crept up her spine.

 

She dashed back to the window, but all traces of the dark spikes had vanished, their escape flawless and complete. With a moan of despair, she sank onto the sofa, cupping her throbbing head in both hands. Those bastards! They'd even taken the bottle with them, leaving only the three cups to clutter the coffee table.

 

This infraction could not go unpunished. Oh no – this was beyond the bounds of mere cruelty! Had they no compassion for her, in her over-worked and increasingly sober state? It was going to be hours before she could leave, and by then it might be too late; the hangover from this afternoon's imbibing would have undoubtedly set in and where would she be then? Cold, aching, and alone in this dreadful teachers' lounge – that's where! It was the worst of all possible futures…

 

Revenge. She would have her revenge upon the scoundrels who had left her so utterly high and dry. She grinned at the thought and picked up one of the abandoned glasses, careful not to set her fingers against the rim. She would need proof – engaging in this type of behavior required the proper defenses against the school board and, more importantly, the shockingly humorless PTA – but if these numbskulls had been lax enough to leave behind their glasses and whatever genetic material might have clung to them, well, they certainly had no choice but to accept the punishment dealt to them, did they?

 

She scooped the remaining glasses from the tabletop and headed toward the nurse's office. Revenge would be hers.


January 2013

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