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06 September 1998 @ 07:48 pm
Drabble Dump - non-Heroes and crossovers  


All of the drabbles, WIPs, short stories, and snippets I can find on my LJ to date that are NOT Heroes (some are Heroes crossovers, though). For purposes of indexing.

I’ve been to parties with him before, and last night was no different. He glided in wearing a tuxedo and a cool smile. People gravitated around him, drawn in by the stories he denied about himself. “Oh, come on,” he’d say. “I’m not that kind of guy. And what was your phone number again?” Still, there it’d be in the tabloids the next day. Caught with a starlet. Hot tub party. Jilts congressman’s daughter.

But the other night I had a close encounter I didn’t expect. And now there are a thousand blinking question marks in my mind.

I was in a hallway, getting away from the noise and trying to enjoy nearly flat champagne. And he came out of the restroom, adjusting his cuffs as though he’d just washed his hands. I called out his name, and in the instant before he turned around to wave at me, I saw three things that worried me.

One: he wasn’t smiling.

Two: there was a cut just below his cheek, and it was still bleeding.

Three: he turned around almost before I called to him, and so quickly I was startled.

So I’ve started this blog to keep track of my observations. There’s more to this man than meets the eye, and I’m in a unique position to keep tabs on him. You’ll hear more from me as I discover more.

From: brucewaynewatcher.blogspot.com


Sousuke had seen him in an alley, interrogating a yakuza thug, and it had been love at first sight.

Here, at last, was someone he could relate to. A man of honor, of convictions and courage, who knew at least as much as Sousuke did about battle, sticking to the shadows, defending innocents and targeting miscreants.

Once he had tied up the heavy and left him for the police to find, the man looked around suspiciously, as though he suspected Sousuke's presence. Might as well bite the bullet, Sousuke thought, and padded briskly toward him, introducing himself and his specialties and asking several pointed questions about the techniques he had seen his fellow soldier use.

"...I beg your pardon?" Batman said.

"Fumo!" said Bonta-kun.

<largo> j0.
<piro> So what's the problem?
<largo> ...
<largo> My 3quipment malfunctioned.
<largo> ...
<largo> say sumthin
<piro> this is about your computers?
<largo> ...
<largo> n0
<largo> lemme restart
<largo> erika
<largo> she um
<largo> 4ppr04ch3d m3
<largo> um
<piro> hayasaka approached you? About what?
<largo> i m34n
<largo> she 4tt4ck3d
<largo> there was much k1551ng
<largo> my 4rmor wuz remove
<largo> it was
<largo> .
<largo> g00d
<largo> but then we went to the b3d
<largo> And I started th1nk1n
<largo> whyz she d0in th1s
<largo> why m3
<largo> and thatz when my 3quipment
<largo> went down
<largo> .

"OK, this is officially a disaster." Niki put her head in her hands. "What the hell was I thinking, coming here?"

The bartender raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. "Oh, don't look at me like that! I just miss my kid," Niki said plaintively.

"All right, I'll bite." The bartender was a platinum blonde just like Niki, but with a little bit more curve and muscle to her. She poured tequila into a shot glass and sent it down the bar to a customer with a wink and blown kiss. "What's the story with your kid?"

"I'm working for this company in exchange for some... health care," she answered. "And it's best if Micah stays with some relatives for now, but damn, I miss him. It's just now this company's got me in a stranglehold. I can't move without them looking at me. They're going to rope me into doing some of their dirty work sooner or later, I just know it."

"Being watched all the time?" The bartender's lips quirked. "I can relate to that." One of her earrings, an odd circular shape, glistened in the dim light. "What kind of company is it?"

Niki paused. "I guess you could say it's a biopharmaceutical manufacturer."

"Oh?" The woman paused, and then muttered under her breath. Something that sounded vaguely like "I know! What do you think I'm doing? "

"You hear voices?" Niki grinned, knocking back the shot she'd been served. "I've been there."

"Oh, not voices plural," the woman said blithely. "Only one. But damn, she won't ever shut up."

"Bloody hell."

They said it at the same time, slammed their drinks down at the same time, stared at each other at the same time.

"What the hell is your problem?"

"Ah, just a pity party. The rest of the gang doesn't know I exist."

"I hear you there. And without me they wouldn't even be here!"

"It's the soddin' truth is what it is. Let's all pay attention to the newfangled golden boys and never mind the bleach-blond puppetmaster behind the scenes!"

"God, what I wouldn't give to go back where I came from."

"I'll drink to that."

Spike and Riff Raff toasted their underratedness, then turned in surprise to see a black-haired gent chatting up a woman with a shock of red hair. They both were laughing hysterically for no reason whatsoever.

"What the fuck?!" they both said.

"Get your paws off my sister!" Riff Raff seethed, and for lack of a candelabra grabbed a pool cue from the wall.

"Your sister?! That's my... what the hell are you to me anyway?" Without the words, Spike figured he'd better go with the pool cue too.

Xander and Magenta looked at each other, then looked at the advancing men with their pool cues, then gulped down their drinks.

Twenty minutes later they were all naked and bombed out of their minds; half the bar was dead, and Magenta was humping the remainder of the pool cue. "Can we take this one home, brother? Please, please, please?"

"You remind me of Drucilla," Spike drawled, kissing her neck. She squeaked.

"And you," Xander said into Riff Raff's ear, "remind me of... well, you remind me of Principal Snyder, but let's not go there."

It was a long and definitely dark night.

Peter met her at a bar in midtown and was drawn to her immediately. She didn't even tell him her name; she just slid into the seat next to him, no-nonsense, a beer in one hand. Her hair was cut short over her ears and her eyes were distinctly Asian.

"Hi, I'm Peter," he said, smiling his best come-on smile.

She looked him over and replied, "And I'm going to fuck your brains out."

It was devastatingly good sex-- she raked her nails like claws along his back and screeched violently when she came-- but Peter was disappointed at the end. He was an emotional sort, and she seemed to just want to get what she came for and go. Eventually he coaxed her into staying in bed, and they fell asleep.

When he awoke, she was gone, and he felt as though he'd been sleeping on uncomfortable, lumpy blankets. He raised a hand to his face to rub his eyes and nearly sliced his own face through.

He regenerated the damaged eye and sat up. His nails overnight had sharpened and grown. And it wasn't until he felt their fluttering like wind against his face that he realized he had spread his wings.

The mugger had caught her by surprise, that much the man in the shadows could see. He'd been tailing this "St. Joan" after hearing rumors of her skills. He'd had a suspicion about her, but it proved to be unfounded. She had some mimetic muscle memory, but that didn't make her the same as him. She didn't have the instincts.

In a way he was relieved, but he also feared for her slightly. A girl could get killed doing what she was doing without the proper training. And was about to, if the way the hood was advancing on her was any indication. Enough. He stepped in, and the mugger she'd been fighting went against the brick wall of the alleyway, crumpled.

Monica gaped. It was like a bigger version of herself. Hood. Cape. All black. Moving on what seemed to be sheer instinct.

"Meet me back here tomorrow night," he said in a voice like stone and blood. "You've got to learn some strategy to go with your technique."

He expected her to protest, but what she said caught him off-guard. "What about right now?" she demanded. "Why wait until tomorrow?"

He turned back to face her, and she caught a glimpse of a sardonic smile beneath the hood. "I can't," he said. "Promised my husband I'd be home by midnight."


"Fuck," said Jessica Sanders.

"Double fuck," said the girl beside her.

For a moment, Jessica thought Niki had somehow managed to appear outside the mirror. But no, it wasn't a complete body double-- this woman was older, and her hair was straighter and a shade darker. But from a distance it would have been hard to tell the two apart.

Jessica sucked on her beer. "Triple fuck and a bag of chips."

"They're all a bunch of fucking wankers," said her companion. Hard to miss the accent even without the swear.

"What, you thought they'd be better in America?" Jessica raised an eyebrow.

"They're all the same no matter where you go," the blonde said, taking a drag on a cigarette. "And when they're not wankers, they're bleedin' sops. Talking about changing the world, but they wouldn't know how to even begin."

"Should change themselves first," agreed Jessica.

"'Zactly." The woman snapped her fingers and pointed at Jessica. "You know the type. Don't have the stomach for what needs doing. They should be a man and face it or just sod off."

"In the end, if you want something done right...?" Jessica left the rest of the cliche unsaid. The woman nodded and reached for her Scotch.

It is the night of the Star Festival and it seems everyone is hurting. Miaka is hurting from being unable to summon Suzaku. Tamahome is hurting from being unable to comfort Miaka. And Hotohori is hurting from being unable to be Tamahome. Nonetheless, Nuriko and Tasuki are able to get their spirits up enough to comfort their priestess. Hotohori watches them and envies them. He wishes he could forget everything and run through the town and have a wonderful time.

Late at night, Nuriko approaches him, drunk and slurring his words. "Your Highness, I brought you back some quality sake from the village. I thought maybe you wanted something of a souvenir," he says. Frighteningly enough, Nuriko looks even more feminine when he's drunk. His hair is disheveled, he's got a swing in his walk, and his robes are loose and drooping around his shoulders.

Hotohori takes a tentative sip. Pig swill. Worse. He grimaces.

"Oh, don't give me that look, darling!" Nuriko plants himself down next to Hotohori. "So it's not a very good souvenir. Souvenirs are to rebem--" he stumbles over the word-- "remember. This stuff only makes you forget. Oh well. 'Least I thought of you, right?"

His head tips onto Hotohori's shoulder, more in exhaustion than flirtation. Hotohori really wishes he didn't looks so damn feminine. It's very easy to forget when he's around. Doubly so with the alcohol.

He brushes his lips against Nuriko's hair, too quickly for the besotted courtesan to feel it. And he takes a huge swig of the sake. "It's just what I was wishing for," he says.

(Give a character from another fandom a Heroes power)

Tsukushi was frustrated. So frustrated. Ever since she got the red tag, it had been nothing but merciless teasing. And when she got home, her parents were still the same old sad sacks, sniping at each other when they weren't laughing their butts off about something utterly inane. And still her mother was insisting she go to Eitoku, out of some misguided fantasy about her meeting some dream boy and marrying into money. Tsukushi couldn't break her heart, so she never told her that the dream boys were too busy throwing garbage at her to consider proposing.

It was enough to make a girl want to punch something. So she did, slamming a fist into the wooden panel of her door.

It shattered, and she found herself gazing through a hole into the kitchen, where her family was blinking back at her, surprised.

She was quite sure the construction wasn't that shoddy...

Why had Eiri gone out that night? He couldn't remember exactly. Was it just to get some fresh air? Had he been heading to the store? He had a vague feeling he had gone out to get something. To find something he had run out of, something he'd been missing. What was it?

Not that it mattered. He had found something that night. It just wasn't what he'd been looking for.

Then again, maybe it was.

Their breathing is ragged. They're sweating. Their muscles are aching as they collapse to the ground.

"Fuck, but that's a good workout," Faith says.

"Yeah." Buffy tightens her ponytail, tosses her hair, and sticks her stake back in her bag.

"I think I'm still coughing up that last vamp," Faith complains, pounding her chest as she coughs and chomps on her gum. Is she ever not chewing gum? wonders Buffy idly.

"The undead should definitely not allow themselves to get obese," she agrees, stretching out a crick in her neck and pounding on it with the fist of her other hand. "That much dust's a public health hazard."

"Spoken like a true model citizen," Faith laughs derisively. "Here, let me get that for you."

"Get what?" Buffy starts, but then Faith is behind her, kneading her shoulders. A wave of relaxation rushes at her and her eyes roll back in her head.

Faith is breathing on her ear. The gum chews become a sort of soothing rhythm. "Ya know what's special about this feeling, B?" she says in a throaty voice. "We're the only two people in the world to get to experience it. You and me. That's it. Nobody else can share what you and I share." It makes Buffy shudder a little to hear her say it, and all the while the strong hands are working her shoulders, making her pliant and half-hypnotized. She nods mutely.

Then Faith's arms are around her in a backwards hug and the breath on her ear is even closer. Buffy's heart is racing. "Just you and me, B. Against the world."

"You mean the underworld," Buffy says, trying to lighten the mood, but as she turns to say it wet lips are suddenly on hers and that lump of gum is in her mouth, along with a slick tongue, and she doesn't even know what she's doing as she moans and shifts further into the other girl's embrace, hands finding her face and hair and falling into an eternity of endorphins and the smell of Faith's perfume, which is surprisingly floral, she realizes, and her breasts are pressed against Faith's and it all feels far too good, comforting, like she's being mothered somehow.

Then there's another demon in the shadows and they're running and fighting again. Buffy stares at Faith as she kicks at the vampire's chest and knocks him backward against a headstone.

"Just you and me, B," she says with a wink. Buffy knows then that she'll never tell anyone, that that stolen moment and others like it are, like everything else that comes with being a Slayer, something she can never share with the outside world.

And somehow that's a comfort, too.

Alice had given a lot of thought to when their first kiss was. Rin insisted it was when he was 7 and laid the liplock on her against her will ("and if you count the gum I spit in your mouth as an indirect kiss, it's even earlier!" he insisted, laughing sharply). But Alice wasn't sure. She remembered the time he'd kissed her as she was waking in that wooden shack. She hadn't drawn back, but allowed the kiss to happen; she was so grateful to see him safe and alive, and so concerned for his welfare that it hadn't been a true kiss, not in her mind.

After much thought, Alice decided their first kiss had to be when he was ten. He'd gone off to Kyoto for the summer and come back six inches taller and with a voice that was changing. He'd croaked "I'm home, Alice," in a voice that spanned six octaves, and she'd laughed merrily as he pouted.

Later on, she'd made him udon and he'd slurped it noisily, talking all the while about how Haruhiko was a real prude about jumping and Mikuro was a bigger ass about the whole thing and for God's sake, they could do this stuff, why wouldn't they? He was talking so long and so animatedly about it that he never noticed when one of the scallions jumped from the soup onto his upper lip and hung there like a green nose ring. Alice stared at it until she couldn't stand it anymore, and finally barked, "Rin-kun, hold still!"

He stopped short at the sound of her voice.

"Honestly!" She rolled her eyes and marched over to him. Grabbing his bangs, she forced his head back and lowered her lips to the offending vegetable, sucking it out of view and swallowing hard. Then she felt Rin's hands on her waist, and melting, she settled against him. His breath was hot with the smell of noodles and his lips quivered on hers. Still, the kiss lingered, and when she finally straightened up, she frowned and said, "Much better" before marching back to her own chair and sitting down.

She went on and ate her noodles loudly as Rin leaned his chin on his upturned palm and watched her with a huge grin on his face.

At the time she denied it was a kiss. She was simply cleaning up after him, she said. She didn't make a habit of kissing ten-year-olds, after all.

But it was either that or the rather heated, borderline embarrassing way they ended the evening, complete with hands and tongues, and Alice couldn't live with herself if their first kiss had been quite so... debauched. So the udon kiss it was. Rin would have to live with that.

The thing about Newton was, it actually did feel a lot like home.

Kain knew he'd been spoiled there. It was the sheltered life of an upper-middle-class kid. Hell, he'd gone to Newton South. Thank God... everybody knew the education at South was way better than at North, even if the facilities were shit. Newton North had the trappings of luxury inside, but outside it looked like what it was-- a prison.

And the Walker home was a large one with a beautiful front yard, right on Hyde Street in Newton Highlands. There was a field across the street and it was a five-minute walk to the Highlands shops. That's where Kain would spend his nights as a teenager. High-fiving the guys, pretending to ogle the girls, slurping down buffalo wings and Mountain Dew at O'Hara's.

Even the pretending seemed a little nostalgic now, he mused as he turned off the Pike and onto Commonwealth Ave. In some very wrong way, it was easier to play charades with the world than to do the simple, straightforward, honest thing he was doing now. Driving home to introduce the one he loved to his parents.

He looked over at Mel. Sleeping, like a baby, blond hair matted down with perspiration -- it was hot in the car. Kain felt a swell of emotion. Mel was so vulnerable sometimes. How could someone who'd gone through so much still have room for vulnerability? Kain was sheltered and pampered as a child, and he still couldn't let Mel in the way he'd been let in. Mel was this angel who sparkled with constant reminders of what Kain had yet to become.

Mel murmured, and the sleepy eyes eyes fluttered. Perhaps Kain's gaze could be felt? "We're here," Kain said gently, running a hand across Mel's brow to wipe away the sweat. "Five minutes from home." As he said it, he was seized by a sudden rush of panic. They were only five minutes away from the moment of truth. The moment when Kain Walker, proud high school athlete and one of New York's Finest, walked up his parents' driveway to introduce them to the one person he cherished more than anything else in the world. Who was Mel Fredericks. Who was an absolutely gorgeous, sensitive, funny, caring young man.

It seemed a tragedy that the last word of that description was all some people could see.

Mel was looking out the window, marveling at the houses. "Jesus, Kain, you grew up in this place? These houses are palaces."

"Don't remind me," Kain groaned. "That's the one thing about this area. It's pretty..." Unable to find the right word, Kain simply twirled his finger in the air. Mel laughed and Kain went on. "I read somewhere that Newton has the highest percentage of psychiatrists per capita. It's THAT kind of place."

"No wonder you're so well-adjusted!" Mel laughed.

"That's the City Hall coming up." Kain pointed briefly at a tall, palatial structure in red brick with a gold dome. "And that's the new library. They built it after I left, and I've only been in it once. It's impressive, though. Three stories."

"Which tells me how often you go to the library in the city," said Mel with a smirk. "If you didn't love me, I'd think you had no class at all."

"Mel!" Kain grinned and batted him playfully on the arm. They were stopped at the intersection of Walnut and Commonwealth. The hill arched up toward Newton Center ahead of them, and the road snaked out toward Newtonville on the left and Four Corners on the right. Beyond Four Corners was the Highlands, and home. Kain flicked on the right blinker with a sense of finality.

"Hey, Kain?"

Mel's voice was timid. Kain turned his head.

"Five... minutes from home, right?" Kain nodded. Mel was only half-looking at him. The silence was awful.

Then, Mel leapt into animation. "Show me your favorite place to hang out when you were a kid," he enthused. "I want to see where you used to play. Maybe I'll see a ghost of little Kain or something."

The light was not turning green. Kain checked his watch. "We're going to be late getting in," he said crossly. "I don't think we have time."

Mel's hand on his arm. "Please."

It only took a split second for Kain to see the panic in Mel's eyes. He was just as frightened as Kain was. Can't the moment of truth wait a little longer? those eyes begged.

The light turned green. Mel was still pleading with him.

In the grand tradition of Boston drivers, Kain drove straight into the intersection and, right turn signal notwithstanding, made a grand leftward sweep. "Best ice cream ever," he said as the car sped away. "Cabot's."

There is the smell of soap as I walk into the apartment and she has some soft jazz playing on the sound system she keeps in the other room. Everything's so clean here, so orderly that you wouldn't think I spent so many nights here. I rumple everything up and throw things in corners when I don't need them, but not even the curtains are wrinkled. I can hear the sound of the shower and wonder vaguely if I should slip in with her, but Michiru likes her quiet time, and I've learned to respect that. She'll be washing off the sweat of cleaning the place up so thoroughly, and when I reach out for her later her hair will smell like sweet honey almond shampoo and seaweed soap.

I hear laughter outside the window and cross the glowing wood planks to look down. There's a kindergarten class out there, two dozen identical yellow hats and braided pigtails, striped shirts on the boys and Mary Janes on the girls. "Twelve little girls in two straight lines..." I murmur, remembering a children's book I'd once read. Michiru told me once she loved that book, loved how sweet Madeleine was and how she dreamed of being taken in by benevolent nuns. I rather thought she really liked it for the two straight lines. Neat and orderly, the way she liked her life.

And yet the jazz skipped spryly in a syncopated beat, and yet she loved me. How could she stand to have that sort of chaos in her life? It was an utter contradiction. I was the antithesis of everything she strived for. I was a layabout, a slacker. A dirt bike racer, for heaven's sake! How could she love what she could never tame?

But I had despised order and logic all my life, and I loved her fiercely.

Wetness against my back now. Slender arms snake around my waist. I can see the water droplets gathering on the floor. My shirt slowly absorbs the wetness diffusing out of her tangled hair. "Michiru--" I stutter. "Your nice clean floor--."

Michiru giggles. "Awful, isn't it?" she says coyly.

I spin, grab her, hold her. "Angel," I whisper.

Akira can't go anywhere without being noticed. But at the same time, the royal guard of England doesn't have nearly enough smarts to keep her off the streets. So today the crown princess of England, Gyokurei Li Redmond, was in a dark movie theater watching a crap movie. The Island. She'd heard the plot and had to go, just to make sure nobody in Hollywood had gotten wind of her story.

Nobody had, and Akira was about ready to go take advantage of the dark theatre to sleep when she heard a loud voice declare in Japanese, "This is crap!"

The rest of the theater shushed disapprovingly. Akira burst into laughter.

In the Courtroom

It is widely known that God is the ultimate judge. Less well known--though hardly surprising--is that Satan is the ultimate lawyer.

You see, for every soul that he desires, he must argue his case before God and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the soul is tainted with a deadly, unpardonable sin. Were he not so persuasive, surely mankind would not be gripped by fear of him. But the Judge can overrule the lawyer's assertion with proof that the soul is also possessed of a holy, redeeming virtue. And were God not so fair and charitable, surely mankind would already be doomed.

Once, the judge and the lawyer surveyed a host of seven young souls: a family of three, a priestess, a genius, a celebrity, and a fighter. This is the record of their exchange.

"Look, your Honor, at the fighter. At how she pines after every young man who comes near her. To her, they are all reflections of her 'senpai,' the man she lost. She does not see them for who they are, but longs for something lost and would use them to satisfy her own needs. Is this one not guilty of the sin of Lust?"

"Counsel is mistaken," the judge replied. "Time after time she has gotten close to these men and has chosen to withdraw for their own safety. In the end, she puts her responsibility to help others over her own desires. In fact, I would consider her the very soul of Temperance."

"Then let us look at the celebrity," the lawyer said. "Surely you cannot find a soul more tainted by Pride. Her years as Sailor V have made her conceited, boastful, arrogant. Having lost the spotlight, she desires it again and constantly seeks it out, to the point that she becomes an obsessive fan of other celebrities. How can you deny that pride blackens the soul of one who calls herself the Goddess of Love?"

"She acts prideful, certainly," the judge mused. "But I daresay she acts it because she cannot manage to be it. There is not a single choice this one has made where she chose herself over her friends-- even her rivals. She has given up the chance for fame again and again in order to fulfill her mission and take care of her friends. I see this as a selfless act of Charity."

"How about the priestess, then, your Honor?" Two souls denied, the lawyer was beginning to feel as though the court was not balanced in his favor. "Even setting aside the fact that she worships false gods-- while that is not a deadly sin, it certainly cannot endear her to you. Am I wrong?"

"Only partly," the Judge replied, amused. "After all, she does attend a Catholic school."

"In any case! Look how she treats the one she purports to be friends with! Why, when they first met, some misguided instinct from her false gods caused her to attack the girl. And I wish I could say their relationship has improved since then, but every innocent action the girl makes sends this mad priestess into a fit of Wrath!"

"Once more, Counsel has only superficially studied the matter. Who among this band of friends has more Faith in her friends than this priestess? We hold those we believe in to higher standards. Is it any wonder that she is disappointed when her friend lets her down? But still she believes, because she knows that when it counts, her Faith will win out and her friend will be there for her."

"Foolishness!" The lawyer spat the word angrily. "You think I look only on the surface? What of the genius? On the surface there is barely anything to criticize. Intelligent, diligent... yet in her heart she is consumed by Envy of everything her friends have that she doesn't. She does not appreciate her gifts, but would trade them in a heartbeat for the popularity and sociability that the others have. To wish to give away what she has been so blessed with!"

The Judge laughed. "Yes, Counsel, you have indeed looked beyond the surface. But there is more that must be considered. Dark things lurk in the hearts of every human being, and every gift can seem like a curse at times. But does she hesitate to use those gifts? Why, no. In fact, she has put herself at risk to do so. Others can act quickly or forcefully, but she takes the time to calculate the best strategy, because she knows she is the only one with that capacity. This is balance, Counsel-- this is Prudence."

The lawyer seethed. "Very well, then. Defend the friends as you might, but this family is rife with dysfunction and sin the likes of which even you cannot defend. Even the child is sinful to the point of being evil. Everything her mother has, she wants. Friends, possessions, even the love of her father-- a perverse desire, that! A daughter who has held her mother at gunpoint!"

"If a popgun counts," chuckled the Judge.

"It's Greed, your Honor! Pure, unadulterated Greed!"

"You go too far. What is greed in loving the same things? In the end, did she steal anything she did not return? Remember, she shares not only the things her mother enjoys but the challenges she faces. The two generations fight together, the younger no less fiercely than the older, despite her small size. Less power, but more determination. It seems to me to be a perfect display of Fortitude in the face of inequality."

"The father, then! The father! You discuss the mother and daughter fighting together. Where is he? Waiting until the last minute to show up and save them, when he could be there by their side from the beginning! That's just laziness. Just Sloth!"

"Is it really, now? Does he have a destiny to fulfill, as they do? Or is he relegated to giving the support he can while staying by the sidelines and watching over her? He does what is necessary to protect her. No more, no less. This is Justice, my old rival. Justice."

"That's it."

"Counsel is ready to make his closing argument, then?"

"Stop playing with me! You can't deny me this one. This girl..."

"The mother."

"If you can call her that, with the way she treats her own daughter! Look at them, fighting over the last cupcake like they were a pair of rabid dogs. I could pin any sin I wanted on her and make it stick, and you know it!"

"But you'll choose one."

"Isn't it obvious? Now, I myself don't mind the occasional devil's food cake, but this girl's sweet tooth goes beyond the pale. She's never met a dessert she didn't like, even if it's her brother's. And not just food, mind you! Her Gluttony extends to everything. She must have every new bauble that becomes fashionable. She must try out every new thing. She must be at the lead of any pack. She must be friends with everyone she meets."

"Yes, even her enemies."


But at that, the lawyer's voice sputtered and died. He knew what he'd done.

"You know what that is, don't you, Counsel?"


"It's a belief in redemption. It's a belief that anyone can find enough virtue in their heart to overcome even the deadliest of sins. In a word, Counsel..."

"Don't say it, your Honor!"

The Judge would not be moved. "In a word, Counsel, it's Hope."

The lawyer recoiled as though stung. "Yes, your Honor," he sighed, "I thought you'd say that."

"And I have." Somewhere in heaven, a gavel boomed. "Case dismissed."

"Hey Sailor Moon!"

And she actually turned around! Shingo's heart hammered away and his fingers around his cell phone started to feel slick with sweat. "S-s-say cheese!" he stuttered, holding the phone's camera to face the superheroine.

A quick click and she was gone. Shingo stared at the picture he'd taken in awe. She looked so cool. Huge, open-mouthed grin, both hands giving him victory signs...

That pose looked awfully familiar, like he'd seen it in a million photos before. Wonder why?

Potential beginning to a Shigeru/Rui fic.

...And everyone lived happily ever after.

If everyone means Tsukushi, that is.

So here I am. O'okawahara Shigeru. Forgotten fiancee, forgotten friend. Here after the prom, in my own little post-prom pity party.

Good for Tsukushi, though. Really. When Tsukasa showed up, she shouted at him with all her usual enthusiasm and flew into his arms. The whole place stopped, watched them as Tsukasa lifted her up in his arms and they began a quiet slow dance, speaking in soft voices to each other, smiling and crying all at once. And tomorrow he goes off to New York, and from now on it'll be four years of waiting for Tsukushi.

Four more years of the supporting role for me.

Don't get me wrong. I don't begrudge Tsukushi anything. She fought like hell to get to this place and she deserves every smile, every dance, every minute of the spotlight. And I've had far too much of the spotlight as it was. Can you imagine what it's like to be betrothed to Japan's most famous son? Not that my family's any small potatoes either. I've had my share of press, believe me.

It's not the spotlight I want. It's not even Tsukasa I want (though as always, he was very tempting in that suit). Heck, I don't even know what I want.

I just know I haven't got it.

My slippers are behind me on the porch and my feet are dangling in the pond in the Hanazawa backyard. The koi aren't sure what to make of these strange pink things. Are they food? they wonder and nibble, then draw back. I watch the dancing glints of color, scales shining in the dawn light. Inside, everyone is having a good time. Hanazawa-kun and Nishikado-kun and Mimasaka-kun, and Sakurako and Yuuki and Kazuya-kun...

And somewhere else, Tsukushi and Tsukasa are...

Well. I won't think about that.

I slipped out when they weren't watching. There was drinking and laughing and good-natured teasing of everyone there. And slowly, like a stone sinking through sand, I made my way to the back of the room. Nobody's head turned as I backed through the doorway, slid the shouji closed, padded down the hall and through the corridor to the garden. And here I sit. Cold feet, cold shoulders. Forgotten.


"The fish are trying to eat your toes," says a voice close to my ear.

My eyes widen.

He's crouched down, watching the fish. His eyes don't even glance up toward me. But the sun is glinting off the top of his head and suddenly I realize the day is breaking.

"Interesting," Hanazawa-kun says.

It was dreary and musty in the library. So much so that Zelgadis even had trouble breathing through his robe. But he was sure that the old language in this book was hinting at a clue to the cure he'd been searching for so long.

So when a nearby book slammed a puff of dust into his intently staring eyes, they filled with grit and began to tear.

"Oh! Sorry!" came a familiar lilt. "I didn't realize just how dusty that old thing was!"

Xelloss put the book down and stared at him, surprised. "Why, Zelgadis! Why are you crying?"

“I’ll put on the DVD,” Tsukushi said. “You go heat up the popcorn.”

“I don’t know how to use this thing!” Tsukasa growled, staring down the microwave suspiciously.

“Just follow the instructions,” she chided, and left him alone with the accursed machine.

Tsukasa read, “Remove plastic wrap. Place in microwave for two minutes.” He did as it said, but nothing happened.

“Aha!” he cried in sudden triumph. “You have to turn the microwave on!” He punched two zero zero, then hit start.

Tsukushi had to fight her way through the clouds of black smoke to get back into the kitchen.

"Foolish demon," Akira said, the deathblow shining in her eyes. Xelloss was battered and bruised. He had underestimated the demon in this woman. She fought like someone possessed. "You cleave to evil as though you have no free will of your own."

"So what are you going to do? Kill me? Go ahead!"

"I'm not nearly so kind." The glint of a smile actually excited Xelloss somewhat. It reminded him of his Mistress, when she was pleased. "Instead, I think I shall place you in the custody of your friend."

He was actually relieved until Akira said, "What was her name.... Amelia?"

Youta was happy with Ai, and Haruka was happy with Michiru. But there was a lack of femininity... a sort of ennui that led them both to the dress shop that day.

Red-faced, Youta exclaimed, "I'm not buying it for me."

Equally red-faced, Haruka declared, "I am."

"Kurz," Sousuke said, "why don't you just tell Mao how you feel and settle down already? You're not getting any younger."

"You're just jealous of my boyish good looks, Scar Man," Kurz retorted.

Perhaps he was right.

"Hey, Babs? It's me... could you check radar for me? There appears to be a giant mechanical.. dragon... flying over the 'Haven."

In an alternate universe, perhaps, Tsukasa might have fallen head over heels for Shigeru's optimism, her loyalty, her pluck. That was what Kaede was hoping when she hastily arranged the engagement. Unfortunately, she underestimated the depth of the bond between him and Tsukushi. Kaede was a woman of superb judgment and meticulous command of detail. What she had to admit was flawed was simply her timing.

"You remind me of a very young me," Nuriko said. "Oh, god, check THAT out."

Shuichi slurped his beer and peeked across the dance floor. "Is that a guy or a girl?" he wondered aloud, leaning back against the bar.

"Does it matter?" Nuriko said, her eyes glittering. "It's a hottie."

"Hey, there, baby," Maze grinned, his hands in his pockets. "What's a cute girl like you doing in a place like this?"

Usagi rolled her eyes and pretended not to notice.

"What do you say? How about a little karaoke!" He was following her. She muttered under her breath.

"Come on, you're so cute and girlish! Just my type! You know a guy like me doesn't want no tomboy. Long hair and a cute, round face. That's what I'm into!"

Finally, she whirled. "Oh, is that it?" she said, giving an innocent little smile. "Well, just give me a minute to freshen up first."

She beat a path to the ladies' room, leaving him leering appreciatively.

"Hmm... where'd I put it... ah, there! MOON POWER! Transform me into... a total androgynous tomboy!"

Maze didn't even notice the ugly, leggy girl with short hair who walked out of the restroom. But he was waiting for Usagi for a really, REALLY long time.
Dinah sighed. "If you've stolen it, Selina, I don't want it."

The woman who'd just entered the room stopped short and pouted, making a rude gesture toward the blonde's back. The necklace wrapped around her wrist cast pearls of light on the walls. "What if I told you I liberated it? From an abusive owner?"

"I'd say you're full of shit," Dinah said flatly as Selina shed her mask and crossed the room to plant herself behind Dinah on the floor. She spread her legs to enclose the other woman in a protective V, hooking her feet around Dinah's ankles. Dinah adjusted her curtain of hair to invite Selina's hands and mouth. "You'll give it back, right?"

Selina growled and bit at her shoulder.

"Right?" Dinah prodded, reaching a hand back to smooth the tousle of black curls that spilled from that angled forehead.

"If I'd stolen it, I'd say yes," Selina purred under the touch and wound her arms around Dinah's waist. "But I just so happened to see it in Tiffany's today and I thought, there's a jewel for a little bird I know."

"So you bought it. From Tiffany's."

"Yes." Lips dipped to the hollow of her throat. Dinah gave a throaty groan.

She allowed Selina to take her hand and bring it to her lips. "Selina, you're a terrific thief, but you're a terrible liar," she said.

"Prove it." Selina kissed each individual finger.

"Do you tend to come in through the window when you've just been on a perfectly legitimate shopping

Selina let her hand drop and fell backward to the floor, a groan of defeat jumping from her mouth as she hit the ground. "I hate you," she said quietly, rolling her eyes.

Dinah twisted to come down on her elbows and knees atop her and smirked. "So you'll return it?"

"Yes, you stupid little straight shooter, you. Damn it!" Selina bit her lip and murmured several choice oaths.

"Good," Dinah said triumphantly. She dipped down to take a kiss from the full mouth, then sat up and lifted her hair off the back of her neck. "But in the meantime, I might as well try it on."

Selina sat up and squeezed her around the shoulders. "Now you're talking my language."