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Romantic Chaos: Shall We Dance?

a CAPOW tale

[Dot wrote:]

        Washuu typed into her floating keyboard at a speed that would havemade Akagi Ritsuko jealous. "There!" She exclaimed triumphantly when she finished. "They're all in place."

        "So how does this work?" Talon wondered, looking at the display of the Convention Center's layout.

        "Well..." Washuu smirked. "Why don't you test my system out by attacking me? You'll very quickly become acquainted with that pond outside."

        Talon raised an eyebrow. "Uh-huh."

        Washuu sighed. "Just take my word for it that it works. After all, I am the Universe's Greatest Genius!"

        Samui bowed. "Thank you very much, Washuu-san. This will save us a considerable amount of manpower."

        "Oh, this is nothing!" Washuu replied with a casual flick of her wrist. She then shook a finger at Samui. "But this doesn't mean that you can skip out on this dance thing!"

        Samui nodded. "I will be attending, of course, as extra insurance."

        Washuu hit her palm to her forehead. "I don't mean that! I mean," and here Washuu gained a conspiratorial look, "you should ask some cute guy to go with you."

        "Well, I don't know if he would say yes or not," Samui replied, blushing slightly.

        "You'll never know unless you ask," Washuu pointed out, grinning ear to ear.

        The next day, the news spread to every universe: the CAPOW Convention Center was hosting a formal dance on Valentine's Day. Of course, everyone was overjoyed by this news...

        "Oh, Mamo-chan, a Valentine's Day dance! How romantic!"

        "What do you mean, Tenchi's going with YOU, you withered up old monkey? Tenchi's going to invite ME!"

        "A dance? How marvelous! This will be my chance to win Ranma-sama's heart once and for all! O~HO-HO-HO-HO-HO~~~!"

        ...then again...

[Dare wrote:]         Lyta offered a cup of green tea to Kimiko which she accepted with a smile. She took a sip, put the ceramic tea cup on the table and pulled out her laptop. "Lyta, do you guys have a phone-jack in this house?"

        Lyta blinked. "Phone jack? Ahlen, do we have a phone jack?"

        The swordsman came into the room of their small house beside the Shin Muchitsujo shrine. "Phone jack? What does it look like?"

        It was Kimiko's turn to blink. "You don't remember what a phone jack looks like?"

        Ahlen shrugged, then thought for a moment. "Oh, I remember! Uh.. no phone jack in this house. No phone lines were ever strung up here. Why?"

        "That's weird," Kimiko commented, "Oh well, no.. well I just wanted to plug the laptop into the wall instead of using it's own remote battery, but I guess that's not possible." She put away the extra phone cable and powered on the laptop. She clicked on her email icon to see if she had any new messages.

~Dearest Kimiko-san,
        It would be my pleasure if I could take you to the Valentine's Dance at the Capow Convention Center. Please meet me there. You will recognize me by the purple rose on my lapel.
         An admirer. ~

        "Ahh! There's a Valentine's dance?" Lyta exclaimed. She turned to Ahlen and began tugging on his sleeve. "Are you going to take me, hmm, Ahlen?" She fluttered her eyelashes.

        "Uh.. I.. sure, you wanna go?" Ahlen floundered.

        She frowned. "Is that how you're going to ask?"

        "Okay, would you like to go with me to the Valentine's Dance?"

        "I dunno, I'll think about it." She grinned, turning away.

        "You'll think about it?!"

        "I'm teasing, silly! Of course I'll go." She gave him a quick hug. "Are you going too, Kimiko-san? Looks like you have a date as well."

        Kimiko was still staring at the screen. "Who the hell would send this to me? Oh, sorry, Lyta? Go? I don't know... I don't even know this person. And it's anonymous. Great, I have a stalker. Isn't that creepy?"

        Lyta laughed. "Oh just go for the fun of it! Who knows, he might turn out to be a nice guy. When's the last time you went out on a date?"

        The walls started coming up. "I've been on plenty of dates," Kimiko responded.

        "So this won't be any different."

        "I don't know, I've got things to do..."

        "Kimiko-san! C'mon, you have to relax a little! If there's one thing I learned from my mother, it was to take time off when you can because you never know when you have to go off saving the world. She also said the next meal might be your last, so you might as well eat your next meal's worth right now. Uh.. I'm not sure how that last one applies, but it seems to be a thing with my family. Anyway, you have to come and at least enjoy yourself. You're a world-class agent with top-notch fighting skills. Are you afraid of some guy?"

The gauntlet had been thrown down. "Oh, all right, I'll go," Kimiko conceded. "But I still think it's creepy."

[Keon wrote:]         "Oooh, that little rascal!" Dachend rumbled as he stomped down the street of Capow. This, however earned quite a few confused looks, as the curse was accompanied by a wry smile. Very [different from] the usual scowls that followed along with Dachend's common verbal or physical outbursts.

        Dracho'xian chuckled. "Oh, admit it, Dachend, you really do want to go to that ball with Katt."

        "Bullshit! I [may] like Katt a lot; dancing with her is one thing, but going to a goddamn ball with her! Sheesh, I'll bet my left nut that it's expected that one shows up in some sort of shit, all itching-tight-uncomfortable-crawl-up-your-ass-constantly sort of clothes."

        If Dracho'xian had had a face, he would have been grinning from ear to ear. "Gee, poor you, Dachend. I mean, they really had you cornered back there, Katt and Teyla."

        Dachend kicked a garbage [can] halfway into orbit. "Shit straight they did, damn lousy to team up on a single guy. Should have figured that that girl was that furball Tenris's sister from [the] start, damn lowlife.."

        "Hehe, you miserable thing, you didn't have a chance!" giggled Dracho'xian.

        "Hey, fuck you very much, Dracho'xian. It wasn't like you were any damn help back there. [Besides,] what the hell was I suppose to say to them?"

        "*laugh* How about: 'No, I don't want to go to the ball with you, Katt', hmm?" hiccuped the sword.

        Dachend rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right, I'm no sadist, you dimwit."

        Dracho'xian's eye widened in mock surprise. "You aren't?"

        "Very funny, you shit. Like I could say anything like that to Katt. It'd hurt her feelings."

        "Hey! Woah! Hold on a second, since when did you start to care about other people's feelings?" Teased the sword.

        "Not people, you moron, person."

        "Oh." That earned a cocked eyebrow from the sword. Yet, Dracho'xian continued in his light chipper voice with out missing a beat. "Okay, so you said yes to take Katt to the ball. Because making her sad makes you feel bad, right?"

        Dachend mumbled something about rather wanting to have his heart torn out through his ass.

        "Okay, then, that's settled, but I still say your just pretending that you don't want to go to that ball." Dachend glared at his friend. "Okayokayokayokayallright they made you, they forced you, you didn't have a chance..." babbled the sword. Dachend looked away. "Phew! Okay, what now?" asked the sword.

        Dachend rubbed his cheek and looked across the street, the made his sly smile. "Get something more fitting to fucking wear for the occasion." He said, and crossed the street to a male clothing store.

[Dot wrote:]         Samui pulled the long white gloves to her elbows. Smoothing out her dress for the umpteenth time, she looked into the long mirror on the door. The light blue fabric complimented her skin tone rather well, and the flat cut of the sleeveless dress top was at just the right height. The body of the dress floated out and down over her feet.

        Make-up wise, Samui only wore enough to keep the glare of the lights off of face and a tiny bit of blush to accentuate her cheekbones. Now that she was getting better rest, some color had returned to her face, so she didn't need much more. A thin line of eye shadow traced the top lid of her eyes, giving it more shape. Tear-drop shaped faux-pearl earrings, courtesy of the STRA costume department, dangled from her earlobes.

        Samui looked at her watch. It was almost time. She slipped on the light blue shoes she had found at a used clothing store. It was actually designed to be worn on stage, but they also doubled nicely as formal footwear that supported her back much better than any pair of high heels. Checking to make sure that everything was in her purse, she locked the door behind her and strode purposely out of the building.

        The group of STRA agents gathered in the main hall waved to Samui as she entered. A few of them also whistled.

        "You know, you should wear a dress more often," Itsuko, who was here more to dance than anything else, half-joked. "So Talon's not coming?"

        Samui shook her head. "He said that he couldn't dance very well and he didn't like wearing such restrictive clothing." Samui decided not to mention that she frequently saw Talon fingering his Locate materia and staring off into space these days.

        Itsuko shrugged. "Well, it's his loss, then." She scanned her eyes across the room. "You think Alzena will show?"

        Samui nodded. "She wouldn't miss such a big opportunity to exercise her 'skills'."

        "Well, if you need us to back you up, just give the signal."

[Jinx wrote:]

        "I can take you, Lisbeth.." Andrew insisted, struggling to sit up. Silber moaned, her worried red eyes watching Andrew.

        "Oh, c'mon, Andy, don't worry about it. You really need to rest." Jinx smiled sweetly, and fixed the pillow underneath Andrew's disheveled but always-looking-nice brown hair.

        "Well.. all right. If I can't even sit up, I doubt I'd be much fun anyway. Are you still going to go to the dance?" Andrew dropped his hand on Silber's head and petted her softly.

        Jinx shrugged. "I don't think so. You know what I think about Valentine's Day, so it's no biggie." Jinx smiled reluctantly. In truth, Jinx was never too fond of Valentine's Day, but not because she was bitter and alone every time it rolled around, but just because it wasn't something she was taught to be important.

        Well, okay, that and she was always alone when it rolled around. But.. "whatever."

        "Well, you should go anyway, Lisbeth.. I don't want to keep you here. Today's a good day to party, and you should have some fun," Andrew insisted, smiling weakly.

        "No, it's okay. I can't just leave you here-"

        "Go on, Lissa. I'll be fine, really." Andrew waved his hand. "Besides, if I need anything, PixeL said she'd be here in a second.." He smiled a again and Jinx gave him a hug.

        "Well, all right. Washu might be wondering where I am anyway." She filled his glass with water and covered his bowl of untouched chicken noodle soup. "Get better, 'kay?"

        Andrew nodded and waved. "Have fun."

        Jinx pulled her jacket around her tighter as she stepped out of Ambrosia's.

        "No Susano?" PixeL asked.

        "Haven't seen him around," Jinx sighed. She was looking forward to seeing him today, after all.

        Silber took the half sandwich PixeL offered. "Are you still gonna go to the dance?"

        "Don't think so." Jinx shrugged. "Maybe Joseph and Anne'll be home. Have fun!"

        "Working? As always!" PixeL replied sarcastically, but as always, grinning. With that, PixeL headed back inside and Jinx and Silber went on their way.

[Dare wrote:]

                 The convention center was the same as before Kimiko decided. Why wouldn't it be? The building was the same, the floorplan was the same. But somehow it looked different to her. Maybe because she wasn't a spectator like last time. A few months back, she and Ahlen were asked to check out the Magical Girl Convention. Why she chose to agree was beyond her, despite the money having been deposited just like the mysterious benefactor promised. This time was different and yet the same. Another vague Internet message and again she found herself a reluctant guest of the center.

                 The place wasn't as crowded as Lyta had said it would be. There were couples all about, dancing slowly to the music. There were tables were other couples who didn't want to dance to sit and chat intimately by candlelight. The decorations were all very ... nice, she supposed.

                 "So, see your mysterious date anywhere?" Lyta nudged her in a low voice. She actually found herself a gown to wear that required her to hike up the skirt whenever she needed to walk. It looked like a lot of trouble to Kimiko. In any case, she gave Lyta a sheepish look, one she usually reserved for Ahlen.

                 "No, don't remind me. I don't even know why I agreed."

                 "You agreed because you need some fun in your life," Lyta reminded her.

                 "No, I agreed because you sort of challenged me to!"

                 Lyta sighed. "Oh you're hopeless." She hung onto Ahlen's arm. "Come on, let's dance."

                 Ahlen felt a little hot under his tux. He tugged the collar. ""

                 "Yes, dance, you remember how to dance right?"

                 "He doesn't know how," Kimiko revealed behind her hand.

                 "What?!" Lyta was surprised. "I've seen you do those funky sword forms in the morning as practice and you tell me you can't dance? I know you Ahlen, it's not like you haven't got any rhythm or two left feet!"

                 Ahlen shot his sister a glance. "Thanks a lot onee-sama!" he glowered. He was already being led away by Lyta, who decided some emergency dance lessons were in order.

                 Kimiko chuckled, having got her little revenge for the night. She strode over to the bar. "A glass of whatever most people are having."

                 The bartender gave her a wink and responded, "Two glasses of champagne, you got it."

                 "I said a glass. As in one."

                 "Sorry," the bartender apologized. "And what will your date be having?"

                 Kimiko was about to explain she didn't have a date when a voice cut in. "Her date will have a glass as well."

                 She looked up and frowned. There he was. Handsome looking, short hair, tall. A purple rose adorned his lapel. She frowned even more. She started to leave without even taking her glass. The man chased after her.

                 "Hey, wait up, Kimiko-san! Let me introduce myself." He grabbed her elbow.

                 She pulled it away abruptly. "No thanks."

                 "Hiro Hiyashi, it's an honour to meet you at last."

                 The name sounded familiar, Kimiko thought. No, it was just one of those names she told herself instead. "So you've been stalking me huh? Listen Hiyashi, I don't like that."

                 "Please, call me Hiro, Kimiko-san. I believe we have something in common. Several cases perhaps?" That got her attention. Now the name came back to her. He was one of the new agents to the Chobetsu department. He continued. "Do these names ring a bell? Karakowa district-11. Shin-Ryuu cult. Project 451A. Agent Chu Ren-Ji. Well?"

                 Kimiko blinked. Those were names from various cases she had been assigned to within the past year that had been wrapped up before she even had a chance to work on them. "What? How do you know those!"

                 He flourished with a grand gesture. "It was only my pleasure to get them off your workload. I didn't want you bogged down with such trivial matters." He smiled warmly. "Consider it my little gift to you."

                 Kimiko, on the other hand, was fuming. "You stole my cases! How did you get them!? Did you hack into my account? Did you rummage through my files like some two-bit gumshoe?! Those were my cases and I was going to get them done! Maybe I didn't have time then but they were still my cases! How dare you steal my work!!"

                 Her voice was rising enough to attract a little crowd. They looked at her with detached curiosity. Her fists were tightly clenching her dress. Lightning was ready to shoot out from her eyes.

                 "Kimiko-san, calm down, please," Hiro held out his hands warily. "Let me explain--"

                 "Explain?! Explain?!! Nobody steals my work!!!" She started marching towards him menacingly.

                 Lyta and Ahlen made their way over and saw Kimiko advancing on some guy. She looked mad and about to throw some punches. "Kimiko-san, don't! The security!"

                 Too late. The enraged agent threw herself at the young man. Then, with a little flash of light, she disappeared.


                 Somewhere, outside the Convention Center, over a little pond where a couple was quietly engaging in romantic activity, a figure in a blue dress materialized and the effect of gravity took over. The loud splash was enough to pull the couple from their lip-lock and look shocked.

                 In the middle of the pond, Kimiko, soaked completely, wallowed in the shallow water. The cold dunk hadn't done much for the expression on her face. "HIRO HIYASHI, I'm going to make this the most miserable evening of your life, you'll wish your mother never even laid eyes on your father!" She tried to get up but lost her footing and fell back into the pond. "MOUUU!!"

[Dot wrote:]

        Alzena pushed the bulky glasses back up to her nose and thanked the powers that be that she wasn't actually in need of such horribly slippery objects in real life. Looking every bit like a shy, late-blooming teen with a serious acne problem and equally serious myopia, few people noticed her as she slipped past the STRA agents milling near the doors.

        If those idiots think that I'd miss something this big just because of them, they're wrong, Alzena thought wryly.

        "Nice disguise," a voice commented behind her.

        Alzena's heart skipped a beat as she recognized the voice as belonging to Samui. "Ara...what are you talking about?" She asked as politely as she could manage, but she didn't turn around.

        "You know what I'm talking about, Alzena Pygmalion."

        Damn. Caught red-handed. "Well, I'm not exactly in a position to resist, am I?" Alzena remarked casually, loading as much innuendo into the sentence as possible.

        Samui didn't rise to the bait. "I'm officially off-duty tonight. Additionally, Washuu-san has installed an interesting device that will immediately dump me into some very cold water should it detect any kind of animosity, and I'm not in the mood for swimming. So let's call a cease-fire and pretend we don't know each other, all right?"

        Alzena brushed off some imaginary lint on her shoulder. "Fine with me." Remembering something, she couldn't help but grin. "By the way, what did you think of my Christmas present?"

        "It was...interesting, to say the least."

        It just might have been only Alzena's imagination, but she was pretty sure that Samui sounded a bit embarrassed. She grinned even wider. "Glad you liked it. Well, I'll be seeing you." With that, she headed into one of the side rooms where condiments were being served.

        Watching Alzena leave, Samui finally allowed herself to relax a bit.

        I'm here to have fun, she reminded herself.

        "Samui? Is that you?"

        Samui turned, and found a very well dressed Trunks staring at her.

        "Hello, Trunks," she greeted, smiling slightly.

        "Wow," Trunks breathed.

        Samui blushed.

        "Wow," Trunks repeated. "You look really nice."

        Samui smiled again. "So do you." She lowered her eyes. "About what happened at the Halloween party..."

        "You've already apologized enough." Trunks smirked and shook a finger at her. "Although next time, kiss somebody else."

        A young woman with short purplish hair and wearing a daring black dress came up to Trunks. "Who are you talking to, Trunks?"

        "Oh, Hotaru," Trunks pulled the woman forward and wrapped his arm around her waist. "This is Samui."

        Samui blinked. "We've met."

        Hotaru gave Samui a slightly guilty look. "Yeah, we know each other from...before."

        Trunks, however, didn't notice Hotaru's look. "Pluto said that we'll be bonded soon." He gave Hotaru a slight squeeze and smiled at her.

        Samui's knees suddenly felt a bit weak. "That's wonderful," she answered, a bit half-heartedly. "Congratulations." She pretended to notice something in the distance. "Excuse me..."

        "Come back and visit us sometime! We'll tell you everything that happened!" Trunks called as Samui disappeared into the crowd.

        Samui found a chair outside and sat down in it. She tried to will away the dull ache in her chest, but it refused to subside.

        I should be happy for them. Why aren't I happy?

        "Samui," a soft voice called. Samui recognized it as belonging to Setsuna.

        "Puu," Samui whispered, calling the Senshi of Time by the pet name that she heard Little Lady use. "Am I being selfish?"

        A reasurring hand lay on Samui's shoulder. "Not at all."

        "I always thought that Trunks was just a friend, and that it would be all right if he fell in love with someone else..." The edges of her eyes began to burn.

        "Shh..." Setsuna rocked Samui back and forth. "I know...I know..."

        After some time, Samui finally found her focus again. "Thank you," she said, standing up.

        Setsuna smiled back. "You're welcome."

        Setsuna watched as Samui re-entered the dance floor and went on as if nothing happened. She let out a breath of relief.

        All right...another unpleasant possibility averted, hopefully. While a broken heart wouldn't be as catastrophic as Sailor Saturn deciding to annihilate the entire time stream, Setsuna saw certain events in the future going one way or another depending on Samui's psychological well being. Besides, Setsuna was not an entirely cold-hearted person; Samui needed someone to comfort her, and Setsuna was the only one there who could have done so.

        After all, Setsuna also knew what it was like to secretly love someone who was destined for another.

[Dare wrote:]

        After a half hour of blow drying her hair and cleaning herself off, Kimiko was dressed back in her regular pants and shirt. She put on her jacket and went back to the entrance of the Convention Centre.

        "Excuse me," the attendant at the entrance said, "but may I see your invitation?" Obviously he didn't recognize her in her regular clothes.

        She grabbed his hand and slapped a soaked piece of paper. "Here's my invitation." She continued without letting him say another word.

* * *

        Talon Gauss sipped his gin slowly. He was sitting alone at a table in the corner of the Convention Center. Although he was uninterested in attending the dance at first, he thought he had nothing better to do that evening. Besides, he already had a tux rented that he never got to wear. However, he was once again wondering why he was here. He hardly knew anyone except Samui and he felt too old to start 'mingling'. So instead he sat back in his chair, took another sip and watched the crowd.

        "Nihao," a buxom purple haired girl asked, "but Shampoo is looking for husband, Ranma. Have you seen Ranma?"

        "Uh, no, miss," Talon responded.

        "Tsk tsk.. where Ranma run off to? Probably violent girl take him away." As she stomped off Talon couldn't take his eyes of her body. There were a lot of pretty girls around actually, he noticed.

        Talon's subconcious kick him, hard. What are you thinking? Half of the girls here could be your daughter!

        "Shame on you, Talon," a familiar voice said, "I expected more decency from you."

        Talon turned around in his chair and there was the little boy sitting across the table. Great, he thought, I'm seeing things again. He rubbed his eyes in hopes the little boy would go away. When he opened his eyes, he was still there. So he looked away. A familiar patch of green caught his attention, and he followed it until Samui was in full view.

        His eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets. Samui, wearing a sleeveless dress?!? All right, so the top of the dress didn't reveal that much, but Talon hadn't even expected Samui to reveal any skin below her neck.

        "I'm not going away tonight, Talon," the boy taunted him. "You forget how alcohol makes your mind duller than usual. I know you fight a mental battle everyday just to keep me out. Well, you can't win all the time. I'm back to remind you of your failings."

        Talon winced at those words. The little boy who was supposed to be dead was back to haunt him again. He tried, how he tried to save him that day in Rodick when the rioting broke out and the house caught on fire. But he was too slow, too incompetent. And the boy died because of him.

        Either I've gone crazy or I've listened to too much psychobabble, Talon thought glumly.

        "Of course you're crazy. Know any sane people that hear voices in their heads?"

        "You're not real," he repeated to the vision, the same way he did time and time again, "you're just a figment of my conscience." He didn't understand his mind. Things didn't make sense when it did this to him. The boy who died because of Talon didn't sound much like a little boy. He didn't act or talk like a little boy. His tone was always condescending and harsh. It was as if his innocence had been taken away the day he died. And it was his fault.

        "Talon, Talon, Talon," the boy said, "you know that just doesn't work anymore. You know that right? 'Cuz I'm never going away. Never, even when you die and you're burning in Hell, I'll be there to revel in your pain." He got up and walked around Talon who tried hard not to look at him. "So, how's the cushy life you're leading? Intergalatic hero huh? Made a pretty big name for yourself."

        "I'm no intergalactic hero," Talon objected. "I just do my job. It's what keeps me from drifting."

        The boy sniffed. "I don't believe you and I don't think you realize the truth about yourself. You're trying to find a place to fit in but the truth is you don't fit in anywhere. You're a loser that can't even stand up on his own. Remember Talon? Remember?"

        The background seemed to fade away and was replaced with the quaint mining town of Rodick. Houses lined the streets where people gathered angrily to protest Shinra's misuse of their hard-toiled resources. Suddenly everything was in flames. All the houses, the people were lying on the ground. "Stop it," Talon pleaded. He didn't want to see this anymore. And just as suddenly the images were gone and he was back at his table. The little boy was back in his seat, hands folded over his lap neatly. He looked past Talon.

        "I wonder how long before your partner Samui realizes what a fraud you are. Have you told her? About your past? About your mistakes?"

        "Everyone makes mistakes," Talon whispered, mostly to himself.

        "Does everyone get someone killed?" the boy asked, his voice almost angry. Then he calmed down, smiled and looked back to where Samui was standing.. "Hm. Not bad looking, I guess, but a bit low in the personality department." He leaned forward. "Is that why you chose her? So that in the end, when you decide to run away again, there'll be less hearts to break?"

        "That's not true!" Talon protested. "I'm not leaving!"

        The boy put his hands under his chin and placed his elbows on the table. "You may say that now, but in the end you'll just abandon her, like you did to everybody else you've gotten to care about you."

        "No!" Talon almost shouted. "I'd never abandon Samui!"

        "Samui?" a woman's voice asked as she was passing by. "Excuse me, but do you know Samui?"

        Talon blinked and there was a girl standing before him. She was wearing the most awful coloured dress. Her face was hardly beautiful and riddled with acne and she wore thick glasses. "Umm.. sorry, I meant, err.. atsui.. I find it hot in here." He fanned his collar to emphasize it.

        She shook her head. "No, no, I heard you say 'Samui'. Now, Samui and I are close friends, you know? In fact, you look familiar. Yes, I do believe she's mentioned you. Mr. Talon Gauss, yes?"


        "Oh, Samui has mentioned you many times. In fact, she thinks much about you."

        Talon swished the contents of his glass, blinking with disbelief. Samui mentioned him a lot? He looked back across to where Samui was standing. Except now she wasn't standing but heading right over to where he was. When she finally got close to his table, she stopped short and stared at the girl.

        "Oh, Samui," the girl said to her, "why didn't you introduce me to your friend earlier?" She latched onto his arm. "He's very handsome, don't you think?"

        Of all the years he had spent wandering through worlds and meeting a wide variety of people, Talon had picked up a good instinct to read people. A lot of times he won money by gambling at cards. He found he could tell when people were bluffing or if they were 'holding the cards' so to speak. But ever since he had met Samui, he had been unable to read her emotions. But at this very moment, he noticed--just slightly, perhaps it was nothing--that Samui's face turned a little redder than usual.

* * *

        "Onee-sama??" Ahlen asked as Kimiko found her way back to where he and Lyta were sitting. "What happened to your clothes?"

        "You know that pond outside the convention?" Kimiko said in response.


        "They really need to feed the fish more." Kimiko stood back up. "Excuse me; I need a drink."

        "I hope she doesn't try to attack someone again," Lyta commented as Kimiko left again.

* * *

        What now? Samui wondered a bit glumly. Keeping her face calm, she remarked, "Yes, you can hardly tell that he's over thirty."

        Alzena's eyes seemed to sparkle. "I like older men," she crooned, clinging even closer to Talon.

        Samui suppressed a giggle. She wondered if Alzena realized how silly she looked. "Talon, you rascal you," she scolded with a light teasing tone. "Maybe I should leave the two of you alone?"

        Talon flushed a deep, deep red. "This isn't what it looks like!Really!"

        Alzena grabbed Samui's wrist with a surprisingly strong grip. "No, no! Stay here and talk with us! I'm sure Talon would like to find out more about you, too!"

        >o?She's not going to let me leave this table without causing a scene, Samui realized. Well, I'll play her little game...

        "Um...some introductions would be nice..." Talon began as Samui sat down.

        "Oh, how rude of me!" Alzena finally let Talon go and extended her hand. "I'm Jane."

        How original, Samui thought.

        Talon shook cautiously. "Talon." He signaled for the waiter. "So, how did you two meet?"

        "Well..." Alzena looked at Samui. "You tell the story, Samui. I always get the facts mixed up."

        Samui briefly considered exposing Alzena's disguise, but decided against it. After all, she had agreed to a truce earlier, and even if Alzena didn't intend to honor that agreement, she would. Or, at least, try to. And, hopefully, without exceeding her self-set lie quota. Maybe she could just be very, very vague.

        The waiter arrived with the drinks.

        "Well?" Talon prompted.

        Samui cleared her throat. "You could say that we heard about each other before we actually knew each other..."

* * *

        Kimiko sipped slowly, her mind more on thinking of a way to get back on Hiro than getting drunk. To her growing frustration, she couldn't find any way to avenge herself without risking another trip to the pond outside. Other ideas proved to be impractical or unfeasible.

        Dammit! Kimiko clenched her fists. There's got to be a way to utterly humiliate that jerk...

        A little lightbulb went off above her head. Not literally, [of course,] but Kimiko pictured it that way. She grabbed her special glasses from her protective case inside her jacket and put it on. They were sunglasses but much more. She had a special uplink to the Chobetsu Central Database that only she could see from her side of the lens. It had a special retina scanner that could tell when Kimiko was wearing them so that nobody else could access the sensitive info.

        "Central online," the green-haired woman greeted her. Despite her personality (or distinct lack of), Central was not some computer generated representation. Central was a real person who worked at the database centre. In fact, there were quite a few operators there for the few top-ranked agents who had access to the glasses. They were all called Central though.

        "Evening Central. Can you look up something for me?" Kimiko began to list off those cases with Hiro had stolen from her. "What's their status?"

        "Processing," Central said in a very computer like tone. "All cases you mentioned are currently incomplete."

        "WHAT?!" she shouted to the air. A few people walking by stared at her.

        "That's affirmative, Kimiko-san," Central insisted. "None of the cases you mentioned have been closed. They're still outstanding. Either you never got around to them or you just neglected to file the paperwork."

        Kimiko frowned. "Never mind, that's not your business. Anyway, that's all Central. Have a good night."

        "Logging out. Central offline." The little screen in her lens blinked out and was replaced by the rest of the scenery happening in front of her. She put away the sunglasses and stomped off to find Hiro Hiyashi.

        He wasn't too hard to locate, as it turned out. Kimiko found him standing by himself near the cash bar, sipping his champagne. The one he had ordered for Kimiko and himself. He nearly splurted when he saw her coming.

        "Kimiko-san!" Hiro said. "What happened to you? Where are your clothes?"

        Kimiko smiled. It wasn't a happy smile. It was a cunning smile. She put an arm around Hiro's neck. "Hiro-kun," she crooned, "I'm so sorry I erupted like that before."

        "Ah.. so everything is okay?"

        "Oh yes," she crooned, "yes indeed. I just realized how right you were about my cases. They were so troublesome and annoying. I'm happy that you could take them off my back. I mean, it gives me so much time to go out on dates." She winked. "I've had so many dates this past month. I didn't realize there were so many guys who wanted to ask me out."

        Hiro was visibly disturbed by that last comment. He obviously didn't like the fact that Kimiko was seeing other men besides him, even if it weren't true at all.

        "I'm glad, I could make you happy," he forced himself to say hoping to please her.

        "Well, I am happy, but I know a way you could really make me happy." She ran a finger down his cheek.


        "You could... finish my cases off!"


        "Oh come on, Hiro-kun. I can't believe you haven't finished my cases off. I mean, you saved me the trouble of having to do them but you can't even do them yourself? What kind of agent are you? You seem pretty incompetent to me."

        "Now, wait a minute," Hiro protested.

        Kimiko tightened the grip just a little. Not enough to hurt him or even make him feel uncomfortable. But enough to notice. "Oh, please, Hiro-kun. If you expect to get my attention you have to play at my level. Heck, you aren't even playing at five levels below me! I would have gotten those cases done," she snapped her fingers, "just like that. But you. Let's see, how many months have it been since I was given them? And then let's add on the time that you had them and they're still not done? Tsk tsk.. I don't know how you ever made it into Chobetsu. Maybe you should be an accountant or something."

        "Hey! I've had it with you!" Hiro began shouting. "I tried to do something nice for you because I liked you but I can see you're not going to appreciate some kindness from a fellow agent."

        Kimiko scoffed a laugh. "A fellow agent? Look at you! You've got the most wimpy body I've ever seen. You call yourself an agent? You wouldn't stand five minutes in a bar fight. Hahahaha!"

        "Let's see who is going to be standing now!" Hiro growled. Rolling up his sleeves.

        Kimiko arched an eyebrow. "Oh? Are you going to hurt me? Please, don't hurt me. Please." She was saying this ultra-sarcastically. "I don't want you to break your hand."

        "ARRGH!" finally reaching his breaking point. He decided he was going to show her he was capable of handling himself as an agent and took a swing at her.

        A bright light engulfed him and before he could connect with the unmoving Kimiko, he disappeared from the floor.

        Kimiko smiled proudly to herself. "Bye bye, Hiro-kun," she waved playfully. "Feed some of the fish while you're in that pond."

[Dot wrote:]

"The Final Number"
(or: More Cameos Than You Can Shake a Stick At ^_^)

        Edgar Roni Figaro, the Master of Ceremonies for the Dance, walked up to the microphone and he cleared his throat to gain attention. "Well, folks, seeing how late it's getting, I'll take one last request." Everyone groaned, then began shouting out various song titles. "Woah, woah! One at a time!"

        "How about 'Everything I Do, I Do it For You?'" suggested Hikaru Chisa, the singer for the event, and was immediately met by enthusiastic cheering. Smiling, she turned to the band. "All right, then, hit it!" Closing her eyes, she listened to the introduction and swayed to the beat. Bringing the microphone close to her, she began to sing.

                "Look into my eyes - you will see
                What you mean to me
                Search your heart - search your soul
                And when you find me there you'll search no more
                Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for
                You can't tell me it's not worth dyin' for
                You know it's true
                Everything I do - I do it for you..."

        Usagi let out a contented sigh and pulled Mamoru closer. "Mamo-chan?"

        "Yes, Usako?"

        "I love you. Now and forever."

        Mamoru smiled at Usagi's heartfelt declaration. No wonder she was the future Neo Queen Serenity; she had enough love and purity for entire galaxies. "So do I, Usako, so do I."


                "Look into my heart - you will find
                There's nothin' there to hide
                Take me as I am - take my life
                I would give it all I would sacrifice
                Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for
                I can't help it there's nothin' I want more
                Ya know it's true
                Everything I do - I do it for you..."

        In another corner of the room, Cloud and Tifa clung to one another, moving mechanically to the dance, paying more attention to each other than to their steps. Or, rather, Cloud was busy staring off into the distance contemplating something, and Tifa was looking at Cloud.

        "Cloud," Tifa began worriedly. "You've hardly said anything to me all night. Is something wrong?"

        At first, Cloud still said nothing, but under Tifa's relentless gaze, he gave in. "Aeris," he said, but it came more as a sigh.

        Tifa felt her heart wrench a bit, and she stopped dancing. "What about Aeris?"

        "I'm sorry, but I should have told you earlier." Cloud took a deep breath. "We, she sort of dragged me, the Golden Saucer." Cloud looked away. "And she kissed me while we were riding the gondola."

        "So why are you telling me this now?" Tifa asked, barely concealing the bitterness that she felt. She had always felt second to Aeris, both in life and in death, and Cloud's recent revelation certainly didn't help.

        "Because I've always wanted you to be my first kiss," Cloud answered softly, his cheeks turning pink.

        Tifa felt her pulse quicken. "Really?"

        Cloud nodded. "Really," he repeated. Tifa felt as if she could lose herself in his sky blue eyes. "I love you, Tifa."

        Tifa blinked. And blinked again. "But Aeris..." the name came out as no more than a whisper.

        "Yes, I cared about Aeris, but I hardly knew her." Cloud took Tifa's trembling hands into his. "You were the one that I grew up with. And you were the one that helped me find myself when I fell apart."

        Cloud didn't need to say anything more. As if directed by some unknown force, the two closed their eyes and drew into a kiss.


                "There's no love - like your love
                And no other - could give more love
                There's nowhere - unless you're there
                All the time - all the way..."

        Outside, on one of the unlit balconies, two people danced under the light of the stars. The man was a tall, skinny fellow with thin strands of hair sticking out like antennae. The woman, almost equally tall, had a much more elegant air to her, and her dark hair tumbled all the way down her back. The two held each other at arms length, but anyone watching them would have been able to tell that they were a married couple.

        "Figures you'd show up just before the whole thing ended," the woman remarked playfully.

        "I was busy," the man replied coolly. "Besides, I still have my pride. Battousai can get all mushy with his wife in public if he wants to, but not me." He gave the woman a cocky smirk. "Besides, isn't this a bit against the rules?"

        The woman smiled back. "Not tonight."


        The two danced in silence for a while.

        "So you're going to stay with 'Setsuna'?" The man asked suddenly.

        "Probably. Makes things simpler that way. What about you?"

        "Well..." the man contemplated this for a while. "'Fujita Goro', probably."

        The woman nodded in consent. "I've always liked that name." She winked. "I'll be sure to keep an eye out for you."

        The man grinned, baring almost all of his teeth. "And I'll be on the watch for that short dark green skirt of yours."

        The woman blushed, although in the darkness it was hard to tell. "You'll never stop teasing me about that, will you?"

        "Nope," the man answered cheerfully.


                "Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for
                I can't help it there's nothin' I want more
                I would fight for you - I'd lie for you
                Walk the wire for you - Ya I'd die for you

                Ya know it's true
                Everything I do - I do it for you."

        The romantic mood even seemed to affect Ranma and Akane, a little. The entire night had been more or less one disaster after another, but now, they finally got some time to themselves.

        Ranma kept his mouth firmly clamped shut as he danced with Akane, not even crying out when she accidentally stepped on his foot. Akane was actually happy. Really, truly happy. He was not going to ruin it by saying something stupid.

        Akane looked up at Ranma. "Ranma?"

        Uh-oh. Ranma gulped. "Y-yes?"

        "Thanks. For tonight."

        She smiled at him, that ultra-cute smile that always made his knees a little weak. Sure, his other 'fiancees' may be better built than Akane, but she radiated a special kind of beauty, especially when she was happy. Right now, she was practically glowing. "Um. Yeah. Sure. No problem." Mentally, Ranma winced. He still wasn't very good at this whole conversation business, was he?

        Akane didn't seem to mind, though. In fact, she smiled even wider.


        "You know it's true         Everything I do
        I do it for you..."

                 Ahlen shuffled his feet a little and swayed side to side as he held Lyta close to himself. She had her arms around his neck while his were locked around her waist. She hadn't been able to teach him much about how to dance but in the end she didn't seem to mind. They were together and that was all that mattered. Time could have stood still then.

                 They did not speak between each other, for their relationship was beyond words. It had grown to a level where mere thoughts and gestures said more than clumsily put together phrases. They knew what the other was thinking and it had nothing to do with telepathy but for them, it might as well have been.

                 Lyta closed her eyes and put her head under his chin. Ahlen tilted his head down a little so he could feel her head. He closed his eyes too. Life was good.


        "Hey, why aren't you dancing?"

        Samui didn't need to look to know who had just sat down across from her. Shelly, her former mentor. "I don't dance."

        "Why not? I'm sure you'll find a good partner." Her voice was jovial and playful, but Samui could detect a bit of concern in it.

        "Why aren't you dancing?" she asked back.

        Shelly sighed. "You don't need to emulate me in everything, you know. Especially not in being alone." She reached across the table and clasped Samui's hand. "Samui, look at me."

        Samui raised her head slowly and looked into Shelly's eyes. She always felt a bit uncomfortable looking into her mentor's eyes, because those dark wells seemed to hold so much tragedy and pain.

        "You've always been more of a daughter to me than a student, and I don't want to see what happened to me happen to you. I've lived my life the way I did because I had no other choice." Shelly's eyes dropped momentarily at this, but she looked up at Samui again. "But you have that choice, Samui. Don't give up the opportunity to love someone just because I didn't have it." She leaned forward in her seat. "Promise me."


        Talon watched the couples began dancing to the final song of the night. Well, he thought, guess this thing is coming to an end and what fun did I get from it? He missed Silmara. He wished she was here so they could dance one more time, even if he knew they weren't destined to be together.

        He noticed Jane had gone away and wondered if she was dancing with someone. That would have killed it, he thought glumly, a plain girl like her. Thinking about her and Samui, Talon glanced to where his partner was talking to Shelly, her mentor. Actually it was more like Shelly talking to her and Samui was just listening as she sipped her drink.

        Talon wondered, maybe he should ask her to dance? No, he thought, she'd probably say no or find some way to refuse politely. 'How do you know?' a little voice inside him said. 'Go and ask!' He got up slowly and walked over to where the two were standing. When they saw him approach, Shelly stopped talking and turned to him.

        "Uh," Talon started sheepishly, "I was just wondering, if you want to dance, Samui." Then he blurted the rest out rather quickly. "I mean, it's okay if you don't want to I just thought it might be nice seeing this is the last song before the thing ends and well, since we're not on duty or anything, I thought it would be fun. But I know you don't really dance anyway but I thought I'd ask." He then realized how stupid he just sounded and clamped his mouth shut. He decided he should go sit down before he really looked embarrassed.

        "Sure, I don't mind," Samui said softly without much expression. And although Talon was used to that way of responding most of the time, it was the first time he was surprised at her answer.

        She held up a gloved hand, and Talon took it, lifting her to her feet. Still holding hands, the two moved onto the dance floor and swayed casually to the music.


        Hikaru let the mike down slowly as the last notes still hung in the air. People clapped politely, but no one was willing to leave.

        Edgar took this moment to step up to his own microphone. "All right, everyone. That's it for tonight. Please exit the building in an orderly fashion." The croud lingered a bit longer before slowly filing out. Watching them go, Edgar smoothed back his hair and added, half-seriously, "And if any of you ladies would like to know me better, I'll be at the door."

A few notes:
Aeris/Cloud at Golden Saucer--Depending on what you did/said, you can go to the Golden Saucer with Aeris, Tifa, Yuffie, or even Barret. In this case, I decided on Aeris because that set up a nice little WAFFy scene. ^_^
"Mysterious" man and woman on balcony--If you haven't figured it out already, that's Saitou Hajime (of Rurouni Kenshin) and Sailor Pluto (SM). Since Watsuki-sensei has never revealed what Saitou's wife Tokio looked like, I thought a very likely candidate would be our ever mysterious Setsuna. I wrote a little spamfic putting them together, too. ^_^

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