Title: Something Rotten, Act II
Warnings: alcohol, drugs, colorful language
Summary: There is something rotten in the Academy of Horitsuba, but is it the doomed festival play, the charwoman's pilfered alcohol, or the threat of a malfunctioning Mokona costume hanging over the faculty's heads?
Subaru tipped his face forward into his palms, the rickety auditorium chair beneath him groaning as he slumped. He was seated too far back to see explicitly all the details of the scandal acting itself out, undirected, on the stage, but still had enough of a view (curse that demon chairwoman and her extensive remodeling of the academy’s performance centers… “No bad seat in the house,” indeed) to make out the more excessive breaches of decorum.
He huffed, embarrassed, into his hands. Probably, he ought to have excused himself as ill this morning. It is, after all, what most normal people would have done upon finding a box of fancy, foil wrapped chocolate hearts in their pigeon hole…only to discover upon popping one carelessly into mouth that there was no chocolate involved and that chicken livers tasted even more foul when they hadn’t been cooked. The attached note (“For your health, Subaru-kun. You’ve been looking a bit anemic lately – enjoy the iron! Yours, Sei-chan”), scrawled with loving affection though it may have been, did nothing to ease his mind, or his violent retching. Luckily, he’d been able to quiet himself before the chairwoman clip-clopped past him on her way to the head office; he certainly didn’t want to be responsible for yet another faculty meeting to discuss “appropriate” inter-co-worker interactions, “proper” displays of affection, and “why” the sharps container in the nurse’s station was not an acceptable place to bend your lover over during third period (he knew they ought to have been more discreet about that, but how could he have possibly have known that the Li twins would have chosen that exact moment to collide on the pitcher’s mound during gym class?).
If he had chosen to react like a normal person, instead of a glutton for punishment whose devotion to his students and capacity for making excuses for his…friend (lover? stalker? over-amorous acquaintance?) exceeded all reasonable thresholds, he might have been spared the post-dinner digestive pyrotechnic extravaganza that exploded throughout the auditorium that evening. (Several of the girls had brought rice balls for the rest of the cast, and no one had apparently thought to check the “use by” date on the can of salmon they’d opened. There were whispers floating around that it had once again been Himawari to bring the tainted rice balls, though Subaru was more inclined to blame a certain cooking teacher for not keeping a careful eye on his supplies…) Had he missed out on the digestive pyrotechnic extravaganza, he would almost certainly not have found himself here, set as far back from ground-zero as the auditorium allowed, watching the stand-in “Rosencrantz” and “Guildenstern” make out, center-stage and under a full, glorious spotlight, while the remainder of the cast (those who hadn’t needed to be rushed off to the nurse) stared with a mixture of shocked disbelief and outright horror.
“Can we just-” he started to yell at Touya and Yukito, and cut himself off as he realized he was mumbling into his palms. “Can we PLEASE get back to rehearsal now?” Why? Why couldn’t he just yell and tell them how terrifically inappropriate this all was? They were only college students – the academy was paying them for their work! They were meant to be constructing sets! He was grateful they’d offered to stand in for the ill students, but this was too much! This was-
“I’m sorry, I need them that way,” a sharp voice broke into his stream of silent complaints. Yue dropped down from the lighting rig to land with a thud on the stage and glared back at Subaru. “I need the subtle movements of their faces to ensure the lights are properly placed. Without that, I can’t guarantee your audience will be able to see the difference between vowels when your….er, actors speak.”
Subaru balked and tapped the script against his forehead. “Can’t they just…talk?” he said at last.
Yue raised an eyebrow as he considered this. After a long moment, he folded his arms across his chest, “No.”
“Fine,” Subaru pinched his temples, “But they can’t do that here. This is a high school, not a burlesque show.” He was quite proud of himself for the strength in his voice, just there. “Why don’t you go work up the lighting rig backstage if you absolutely must have them…moving like that.” Kissing seemed to be the wrong descriptor here, as there were most certainly roaming hands involved, and at least one knee…
“What,” Yue scoffed, “And drag it all back in here once it’s done?”
Yue sneered at this, but sighed resignedly and stalked offstage, muttering to himself about not appreciating his artistic vision. It was all a rather moot point, though, as “Guildenstern” chose that exact moment to slump unceremoniously to the stage floor and commence snoring.
“Never mind,” Subaru called, grinning despite himself, “Just get Yukito someplace where he can rest. Let’s go from Hamet’s entrance – he should have woken up by the time he’s supposed to be onstage again. Where are Polonius and Hamlet?”
Doumeki emerged from behind the curtain as he was called, trailed closely by Watanuki, who was, in fact, not standing in for Polonius, but was making an incredible amount of noise concerning Doumeki’s state of dress. Or at least about the dress he was wearing.
“I’m Ophelia today, too,” Doumeki reminded him, prying one grabbing hand away from his skirts.
“But you’re not Ophelia now!” Watanuki raged and dug his fingers deeper into the fabric, “There is no reason for you to be out here in public in a dress right now!”
“You didn’t mind it-”
“Shut up about that!”
“Um, Watanuki,” Subaru coughed, “Horatio is not in this scene, so why don’t you have a seat. Doumeki…” he sighed, “The dress is kind of distracting – can you take it off for now?”
“It’s stuck,” Doumeki said, tugging at the bodice.
Subaru was a bit too far back to see in detail, but the corseted top did appear to be straining against his much-larger-than-it-was-meant-to-
Not-Polonius flushed a deep shade of red and stared at the ground. “He’s, well, he had to go home early. He was looking a bit pale after all of the mess this afternoon, so I…”
Scolded him until he stormed out of rehearsal, Subaru filled in silently. It wouldn’t have been so annoying if the exact same thing hadn’t happened yesterday. Or the day before that. Or if the reason Takashi had been looking pale had more to do with illness and less to do with an over-zealous make-up artist. “It’s okay-”
“He doesn’t get enough vegetables-”
“I said it’s fine,” Subaru said firmly, and felt a bit like he’d just kicked a puppy with Kentaro staring back at him with those hopeful eyes and dopey grin. “Let’s just get on with it, shall we?” He grinned, probably a bit maniacally, but it was all he could muster at the moment. He sank back in his chair as the recital started; he was glad that they were all learning their lines so quickly, but there was something…off about the way Doumeki rattled through the script. Something…
“—all which, sir. Though I most powerfully and potently believe. Yet. I hold it not honesty to have it. Thus set down. For yourself. Sir. Should be old as I am. If like a crab you could go backward.”
“Doumeki, you have got to stop deadpanning your lines!” he shouted before his mind caught up with his mouth. He smacked the script against his forehead again – he was going to have a welt at this rate – and took a deep breath. “You’re supposed to be convincing Polonius that you’re insane – you can’t just mumble through in monotone! You’ve got to have some quirks! Some passion! You need to be…need to be…”
Doumeki’s eyebrows lifted almost imperceptibly, “More like Watanuki?”
“Yes!” Subaru exclaimed, then winced as he saw the role-model in question fly into a flailing fit of hysterics at the side of the stage, “I mean – NO. You just need to be more insane, okay?” God, he felt like crying. This was supposed to be fun, wasn’t it? Why did everything have to come crashing down so spectacularly with only the slightest provocation! This whole production was going to burst into flames by opening night – all of it, the stage, the costumes, and probably himself – and he just knew he was going to end up stuffed into that horrible Mokona suit again-
“Alternatively, you could act like Subaru-sensei, here.”
“Don’t talk about my brother that way, you over-sized pain in the ass! What are you even doing here, anyway?”
Subaru lifted his head from its unbearable nest of angst in his arms to find his brother and Fuuma standing at the back entrance to the auditorium, apparently engaged in a scuffle with their elbows as well as their words. He didn’t know what they were doing here – he’d given Kamui explicit instructions to stay away from the theater while he was working, lest his older twin indulge in another of his fits of over-protectiveness…which seemed to be exactly where this was heading.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Fuuma smirked, “Gibbering is a classic symptom of insanity.”
“He’s not gibbering.”
“I’m not gibbering!” Subaru insisted and clambered to his feet to meet them at the doorway. If he was lucky, he might be able to keep them from getting their feet in past the frame and then shut the door on them. And lock it. Securely.
“Barry,” Kamui cooed and reached out to stroke his twin’s face, “Look at yourself! You’re-”
“Don’t call me Barry at work,” Subaru hissed and poked a finger into Kamui’s chest, “What are you two even doing here?”
“We came to help!” Fuuma answered with a grin.
“How are you going to help?” Subaru wondered, staring up at Fuuma. He seemed well-meaning enough, but… “You’re a math teacher!”
“I have an artsy side!” Fuuma insisted, clamping a fist around the arm Kamui had just used to jab into his side, “Besides, he’s a philosophy teacher! Not exactly director material, either. On top of which, brother said you’ve been coming down with chronic headaches since you started this. You know how…worried he gets about you, Subaru-kun.”
Subaru clapped a hand over his face. Of all the times…
“He can die in a fire,” Kamui hissed threateningly and dug the heel of his boot into Fuuma’s toes, “And so can you. Now get out of here and let me give my brother a hand.”
“Now, now, Kamui,” Fuuma stealthily wrapped an arm around Kamui’s waist and hoisted him a foot into the air. He shook out his abused foot with a grin. “That isn’t very nice. I’m here to help, after all.”
“Here to help your brother torture mine.”
“What can I say? I’m a giver.”
Subaru had had enough. They had to leave. Now. “Thank you,” he growled (or attempted to growl…he wasn’t really good with growling), “But I can assure you both that I have everything under control here.” He gave them a purposeful shove backward, which accomplished nothing. “You can both go back to your festival preparations and leave us in peace-”
Kamui kicked into Fuuma’s gut, wrenching his body around in the split second of stupor this bought him and came to land beside his twin – fully inside the theater with little chance of forcing him back out. “Don’t be silly, Barry,” he smiled, “Why don’t you go have a rest. I’ll take care of things from here.” And with that he sauntered forward, a slight skip in his step as he made his way down the aisle, and clapped his hands together loudly. “Alright, you little shits! Everyone in their places.”
Subaru stared as Fuuma followed down toward the stage with a sympathetic shrug. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing they were both here, after all… And maybe seeing if Seishiro had any more of that “aspirin” wouldn’t be such a bad thing either…
Kurogane surveyed the booth he’d spent the better part of the afternoon banging together – still crouched with his hammer at the ready, nails hanging from the corner of his mouth – and saw that it was good. He leaned back onto his heels and smirked.
“Oh good lord, he’s getting that look. Kuro-sama, you’re not thinking in biblical terms again, are you?”
Kurogane twisted his feet below him, turning to glare at the bored chemistry teacher sitting cross-legged at the corner of the stall (where he’d been exiled after repeated attempts to hammer screws into ply board earlier this afternoon). Yuui was already busily clucking his tongue, reminding his twin that Kurogane was Japanese, and therefore more likely to be thinking in Shinto terms, but Kurogane ignored all that and grinned toothily. “It’s beautiful,” he insisted.
“Well, yes,” Fay grudgingly agreed, “It certainly is that. But Kuro-rinta! I’m so bored!” He pouted his bottom lip out to accentuate this point and let his hands flop to the sides.
Kurogane twisted at a nearby bolt, “S’your own fault,” he mumbled around the nails, “Just stay still till we’re done here. Wrench.” The last was directed toward the other Fluorite twin, kneeling at his other side, who dutifully plucked the adjustable wrench from its brethren and passed it off. Kurogane imagined that this must be what it was like to be a head surgeon…if all of his nurses were complete idiots who were not to be trusted with either scalpel or forceps…
Well, that wasn’t entirely fair. Yuui could at least identify most of the tools, even if their proper use escaped him more often than not (his poor, bandaged fingers spoke volumes of that failing…). Fay was…well, in all honesty Fay was probably just out to push his buttons. He knew the idiot couldn’t be that much of…an idiot. Not when he ran his own lab with all the bells and whistles he was so fond of boasting about.
“Kuro-tan is just jealous,” Fay continued, “He wanted to be the meat in the sandwich.”
Kurogane dropped the wrench. “I told you to stop talking about that!” he hissed, “Don’t you have any shame? Do you know how fast we’ll get fired if you pull that in front of the students again?”
Fay waved this away. “Nobody saw-”
Kurogane’s head slumped into his chest, “What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“Well it’s better than somebody dying, isn’t it?”
“He’s right, you know,” Yuui smirked.
“Not you, too,” Kurogane groaned and reached back for his abandoned hammer, having suddenly spotted several nails that hadn’t been beaten well enough to meet his approval. “No one’s going to die because you two can’t keep your hands to yourselves. It’s just-” SMACK “-you’re worse-” SMACK “-than the goddamned kids!” SMACK
“Now that’s not true,” Yuui said thoughtfully, catching the hammer on the backswing before it went flying out of Kurogane’s grip, “You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve caught the Li twins up to with Sakura-chan…”
“Sakura-chan would never!” Fay squealed indignantly. He seemed very sure of this, which amused both his twin and Kurogane to no end. He shuffled further back into the corner of the booth and clapped his hands over his ears. “I won’t hear of it!”
Yuui and Kurogane shared a look before mutually rolling their eyes and turning back to their task. “And then, of course, there was that business during third period last week,” Yuui continued, “In the nurse’s office. Sounded…painful.”
Kurogane shuddered at the memory and reset his grip on the hammer. “Alright, so maybe we won’t get fired,” he conceded (though he wondered about this school’s policies), “But do you really want to be lumped into the same pile as that nutcase?”
“A fair point,” Yuui agreed and shivered. He suddenly felt very cold, and could count each individual hair as it stood up along his neck. “Does anyone else feel that?”
“The icy fingers of death?” Kurogane mumbled, stilling his hammer, his heart squeezed with an unnamed fear, “Yeah, I feel it. Seems to be coming from…” he looked around them slowly before settling his gaze on the second story windows, “Up there.”
“It’s the ghost!”
“It’s not the ghost,” Yuui murmured, watching the curtains of the chairwoman’s office flutter closed, “But we’d probably better be on our guard anyway.”
The chairwoman let the curtains drop behind her as she stalked away from the window, her icy glare directed instead toward the pile of evidence she had collected that now rested on her desk. Three glasses, in all, fantastically smeared lip-prints decorating the rims of each. She grinned – it was all she required, and even if she couldn’t make use of the technology to process the evidence, there were plenty of people here who could. The real trick had been finding someone who would willingly turn on their fellow teachers.
There was a knock at the door and she called for them to enter. Or perhaps it hadn’t been so difficult after all.
“Good afternoon, Seishiro,” she grinned as the academy’s nurse stepped through her doorway, “Such a pleasure to see you this fine day. And so kind of you to take time away from your duties,” she lifted an eyebrow, “I trust you’ve found someone to fill in in your absence?”
“Of course, my dearest chairwoman,” Seishiro bowed deeply, sweeping his arm out in a grand gesture of obeisance. “Subaru-kun has kindly agreed to watch over things in my absence.”
“Ahh, yes,” she swept around her desk with a flourish and tapped at his lower lip with a long finger, “Subaru. I daresay he might find my proposition of interest as well.”
“Oh?” Seishiro stepped forward, a still-concealed grin teasing up the corners of his mouth, “And what might that be?”
“I imagine, with your medical background, that you’re familiar with some of the new genetic testing equipment the academy has recently acquired for the biology labs?”
Seishiro raised an eyebrow, “The electrophoresis equipment? Of course, my dear. Anyone with a background in biology has at least some experience with them.”
“Excellent news,” her grin spread from ear to ear, “Being a classics instructor myself, I can’t make heads nor tails of all this…biological hooey. I have been told, however, that you should, in theory, be able to make a match from a saliva sample?”
Seishiro’s eyes flitted briefly to the glasses lining the chairwoman’s desk. “Yes,” he agreed slowly, “I suppose I might be able to do something like that. Though I’ll require something to match.”
“That,” she said, leaning closely in, “I will leave up to you to collect. By whatever means you deem necessary, though I’ll ask that you keep your assignment to yourself. It might be…troublesome if they knew what you were up to.”
“Of course, I shall stay absolutely mum,” Seishiro assured her, “And who might my vic- targets be?”
“Have a look for yourself,” she answered, gesturing toward the window and waiting patiently as he crossed the room to lift the curtains.
“The gym teacher?”
“The gym teacher,” she moved to stand beside him, one arm draping languidly across his shoulders, “The very same gym teacher who couldn’t keep enough control of his students to keep them from smashing face-first into each other during third period last week. And the very same who couldn’t manage even a single bandage for their noses on his own…without the aid of the school nurse.”
Seishiro’s face brightened with understanding. “I see,” he said quickly, “And as there are three glasses, I expect the other two are suspected as well?” He licked his lips.
Yuuko’s face curled into a flowing grin. “Yes,” she gripped his chin and angled his face toward her own, “Succeed here, and I’ll forget all about that little incident with the sharps container. And,” she continued, her expression brightening, “I’ll guarantee that lovely Subaru-kun won’t ever have to struggle, stuffed into the mascot costume ever again.”
Seishiro’s face fell, “That’s rather a shame,” he admitted, “He did look so…ravishing, with the floppy ears and all.”
“He did, didn’t he?” Yuuko agreed enthusiastically (it really was such a loss, but if all went well here…). She dropped his chin to clasp her hands together thoughtfully. “I’ll loan it to you,” she decided at last, “But you’ll owe me pictures.”
Seishiro grinned at this and lowered himself to one knee, taking her hand and graciously pressing her knuckles to his lips. “Anything for my dearest chairwoman.”
“You are truly an asset to this academy,” Yuuko grinned as he rose, “The best of luck to you.”
She waited until he had closed the door behind him before rummaging through the false-bottomed drawers of her desk for a sizeable bottle of sake Watanuki had been kind enough to fetch for her on his way into campus this morning. She filled one of her own glasses generously and returned to her post at the window – momentarily, anyway. What she really needed was some ice for her drink – revenge was, after all, a dish best served cold.
He leaned back against Yuui’s chest and opened his mouth wide, pleased when his twin deposited a heaping forkful of fried noodles on his tongue. A plastic forkful, the sight of which was causing Kurogane no end of disgruntlement. Fay grinned around his mouthful. “Kwum awn, Kulo-thama-thensei,” he mumbled, cheeks shockingly full, “Juth enthoy yowa moodles.”
“Tche,” Kurogane scoffed, plucking a bite of his own noodles from the Styrofoam take-out container in his lap – properly, with chopsticks – and settling back against the wall of the booth. He didn’t look terribly upset, though, which was terribly upsetting.
“You’re getting spoiled,” Fay continued, eyebrows waggling as he swallowed, “Yuui’s cooking is much better than this rubbish-” he squealed as Yuui dug a finger into his side, “-but even a great and mighty lord of the kitchen like him needs a break! So eat up!” He opened his mouth to receive another forkful.
“We really ought to get home soon,” Yuui yawned behind him, “I’ve got to be up early in the morning again to get into the kitchens and- OW!” he dropped the fork into the food container abruptly and ran his head across his head, “Did you just pluck my hair?”
“Hmm?” Fay tilted his head back lazily, “How would I have done that from down here? I think you would have seen m- OW!” He mimicked his twin’s earlier swatting and flailing at his hair, “What in the-”
“Got him,” Kurogane said casually and yanked his arm forward, dragging a clearly off-guard school nurse barreling over his shoulders and onto the floor of the booth. “What are you doing, you bastard?” he growled as Seishiro rubbed at his head.
“Nothing at all!” Seishiro assured them with a Cheshire grin and fished through the pockets of his jacket, “I only wanted to get the opinion of such an illustrious chef as yourself,” he winked lasciviously at Yuui and Fay felt the bile rise into his stomach. Kurogane seemed to experience something similar and spat his mouthful of noodles onto the floor. Seishiro pointedly ignored this and produced three bottle of soda from his jacket, cracking the cap off of each and popping a straw into their necks before passing them around.
Fay raised an eyebrow, “You want a chef’s opinion on soda?”
“Oh yes!” Seishiro insisted, “I wouldn’t trust anyone else’s!” He squinted between Fay and Kurogane for a moment before appending, “I want yours’ too, of course. Tell me; how’s the flavor balance? Would you say it’s over-carbonated? Too sweet?” He stared, almost excitedly, as Fay and Yuui tentatively lifted the bottles to their lips and took a pull through their straws.
“It’s a bit warm,” Yuui answered flatly.
“Oh?” Seishiro didn’t look the least bit concerned by this. “Be sure you’re getting a good taste-” he pinched Fay’s straw between his fingers and dragged it in and out across Fay’s lips a few times before continuing on to Yuui’s. He looked as if he were contemplating crossing the few steps over to Kurogane, but then seemed to think better of it, his outstretched hand snapping back up toward his shoulder as he turned back toward the twins. “You know,” he said, rubbing his chin, I think these straws might be getting in the way of the full experience. Let me-” he quickly plucked the straws from each of their bottles and shoved them into plastic baggies.
Kurogane growled “What are you-”
“Environmental safety!” Seishiro exclaimed before Kurogane could even finish his thought, “We want to keep this campus clean, don’t we?”
Fay opened his mouth to agree – sort of – but Seishiro had already leapt over the booth’s serving counter and was making good time back toward the highschool’s main building. “I’ll expect a full report in the morning!” he called over his shoulder.
“I don’t see why she keeps him on,” Yuui huffed as he emptied the contents of his bottle on the dirt floor of the booth.
“Goddamned psychopath,” Kurogane agreed, chucking the whole of his bottle beneath the counter. He looked skeptically at Fay, who was still staring quizzically at the bottle in his hands, “You didn’t drink any of that, did you?”
“Hmm,” Fay smiled, feeling faintly buzzy,“I might have…”
“His pupils are dilating,” Kurogane growled, lurching forward across the booth, “Let’s get the idiot home before whatever that was kicks in fully.”
Fay only smiled as the world seemed to spin around him. Subaru was right - Seishiro really did have the best drugs...