Usagi's Birthday Special
mostly by Becky Malsin
June 30, five o'clock AM. Across the soundstages and offices of the Sailor Moon Expanded Backstage, everyone seemed just a touch more animated than usual. Pun intended. Even the few live-action folks were affected, hurrying about making preparations for the Big Event:
Tsukino Usagi's twentieth birthday party. And Chibi-Usa's negative-nine-hundred-and-eighty-third.
Youma, cardians, droids, and other crunchies swarmed the central stage, frantically decorating under Minako's manic direction, while at a nearby bar a fight was brewing.
"TREK!" Pyrite argued.
"B5!" Mike countered.
"What about Star Wars?" Chrysolite supplied
"Or Quantum Leap?" Brendan added, "Maybe Lost in Space or Forever Knight? Ever seen Battlestar Galactica? There's always Mission Genesis too."
"NO!!!!" The two responded, resuming their "discussion."
Chrysolite and Brendan desperately surveyed their squabbling supervisors
and sighed. This _sucked_. The quartet had Decorations in the bag . . . then Pyr and Mike had to start arguing again. The group was judged unfit, and here they were. Left sitting on barstools to watch Minako drape the hall with cutesy crap. Damn. It needed a cyberpunk edge. Some chrome columns or _something_. Or at least a giant neon Yoda . . .
Six o'clock AM. Andy walked over to the catering section, where Makoto and Sam presided over a bustling horde of cooks-mostly human, as far as he could tell. A few dishes were already set up on the first buffet table-one bubbling vat of chili drew his attention, its aroma just begging to be sampled.
He ladled a small scoop into a bowl. On closer inspection, Andy's Texan sensibilities rebelled-the stuff was mostly _beans_, which had no place in _real_ chili. Still, the smell was irresistible-he picked up a spoon-
"ANDY! DON'T DO IT!!"
He froze in mid-spoon as Sam rushed up, a look of pure panic on his face.
"What? I was just going to taste it-"
"Those are SENZU beans!" the Lurker explained. "And you're not injured- one bite, and..."
Andy shivered. Ten days worth of food per bean, five in the spoon... he'd have wound up like that girl from 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!' "Shouldn't you have some kind of warning up?!" He put the bowl down, very carefully.
"We _did_," Makoto cut in sourly. "This is the third time it's been knocked down-I'm beginning to think someone's doing it deliberately." She set the sign back up:
For Saiya-jin, Spiegelians, and Saotomes Only
Sam nodded. "I'm hiring them for heavy labor. It'll wreck our food
bill but in the long run things'll get done faster. The statue of Usagi in potato latke is for them as well." Andy shook his head, trying to restrain from facefaulting.
"Hey, Andy!" called a familiar teenager, "We need you for some schematics over in desserts!" The fearless leader of SME started jogging over to the pastry section. It certainly _smelled_ good. Somebody had put on music to work to: U2's _Joshua Tree_. They were currently still on "Where the Streets Have No Name."
"This is pretty much aesthetic . . . but should we put Chibi-Usa on
the birthday cakes? I mean, she's of negative age and the cakes would kinda look cluttered. Or maybe we can just give her her own cake . . ."
Andy thought for a second, "How about that last option?"
"Cool. We'll give her the one with raspberry filling. Pumice, get to
work on the CU decorations next!" Becky hollered back into the kitchen. She turned to explain to Andy. "Ron volunteered her up. It seems that all that make-up fiddling gave her a head start with frosting. I'm a bit worried about him-he's been fooling with those electric clippers too much for my taste. And did you ever really look at his hair?" she shivered.
"C'mon . . . just because he's Hawaiian doesn't mean he'll Kuno-out on us. He's just having a perpetual bad hair day!"
"I know, I know . . . I've been bribing him with coconuts for insurance, nothing more. Really."
"If you say so," Andy replied, looking around the whole food service operation. "Nice place you've got here."
The teenage ninja grinned. "Thanks, but I'm not really that important. Mako and Sam are the ones who run it, not me. Ti handles youma cuisine and Rhi commandeer human victuals. Me, I bake. It's my specialty, and I help organize the other bakers. Of course, everyone chips in on everything." She led Andy down a table, chattering.
"In this bakery alone there's a contribution from all of us! Mako baked a cherry pie, Rhi made some of her mom's Strawberry Pizza, Ti made Dark Kingdom Chocolate Surprise Cake-it's the surprise part that bothers me-and . . ." Becky whizzed down the line, pointing out contributions from Kasumi, Mrs. Moriboshi, and Ikuko Tsukino. Andy was drooling until they reached the end of the table.
"What the hell is that?" It looked nothing more than, well, something unmentionable. Was it cake or what?
"Oh, that's Death by Ugly Chocolate. It's got enough cocoa in it to give Margrave a three day hangover. I know, it kinda looks like fermented graxat offal-that's why we serve it with youma milk. Inside joke there, never mind. Believe me, it tastes better than it looks. Sam and I spent all last night making it." Becky blushed.
"He stayed at your place overnight _again_?" Andy raised an eyebrow.
"Stop thinking that, hentai!"
Six-thirty AM. Around the corner, Ron was mulling his fate.
"Games! Why did it have to be games?" he lamented to no one in
"Because you agreed to it, sir!" barked out Boxite.
Ron massaged his forehead. "Oh, thank you, Boxite," he replied
sarcastically, "somehow I forgot."
"You agreed when Minako grabbed you and requested your assistance.
Your exact words were 'Wha? Uh .... Well ... But ... Sure ... WAIT!
ARRGH, why does this always happen to me?!?'".
"Will you stop that! I KNOW what I said!"
"But you said ..."
"Silence! Just keep quite for one minute."
Ron steadied himself and took a deep breath. If only there were
some way he could make Boxite stop following him around like a lobotomized puppy. Fortunately, he'd already palmed off Pumice on Becky. He looked at Boxite. Boxite was starting to run out of fingers, toes and guns with which to count to seconds.
In flash Ron realized, *My goodness, he must know there are 60 seconds to a minute!* Though shaken by that revelation, Ron quickly recomposed himself and addressed Boxite.
"Boxite. Doug has been assigned the task of providing entertainment for the party. Because that is such a dangerous task, I'm officially detaching you to work under him for the duration of this emergency!"
Boxite continued in his attempts to count.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Belay my last order on keeping silent."
"Yes, sir!" barked Boxite. "Honored to serve, sir! Permission to
report to Doug immediately, sir!"
Boxite marched off in a flurry of dust and exclamations of "Hep,
hep, hep, hep, hep!"
Ron heaved a sigh of relief. *One less problem. Now what to do about
party games? This is a perfect time to apply Ron's Rule #34, 'When the going
gets tough, the tough delegate!'*
Ron's thoughts were interrupted by a sweet voice, "Excuse me sir, but maybe you can help us."
Ron turned around and was confronted by a pair of lovely animates; specifically a red-head and a brunette.
"My friend and I have arrived to take part in Usagi's birthday
party. We were wondering if there was some way that we could, you know, help out," the brunette asked.
Ron looked completely mesmerized.
"Oh yes, well, there's the party games that need to be organized ..."
"Great! We'd be glad to take care of that!"
"Really? Sure, but ..."
"Thanks! You won't regret it! We'll get on it right away!" the brunette gushed while rushing off to parts unknown with the red-head in tow.
It took a while for Ron to regain his wits. He wished he didn't go into brain-lock when confronted by beautiful women, but at least this time it seemed to have worked out.
Ron took the time to recline among the coconuts that Becky had thoughtfully provided. Selecting one, he expertly snipped the top off of one to provide a refreshing drink. Sipping on coconut milk, he daydreamed of Usagi's long tresses and the truly fascinating haircuts he could do with them if only given the chance. His reverie was interrupted by a disturbing thought: Who were those two animates anyway? They seemed awfully familiar. Ron shrugged his shoulders and went back to sipping his coconut milk.
"See, Kei, wasn't that easy? If you just ask sweetly, you don't have to yell and threaten to shoot someone to get your way."
"What do you mean? I don't go around threatening to shoot people. Well, at least not in the past ... umm ... 36 hours. Anyway that's besides the point. Yuri, we've got some serious party games to plan ..."
Seven-forty-five AM. "Another birthday party? We just shot the last one!" Mara groused.
"Sister dear," Leia replied, "that was Usagi's twenty-third. This is her negative nine-hundred-and-eighty-third."
"Yeah, yeah. Don't look now, but Romeo's on his way."
The twentysomething bounded up next to the sisters. "My lovelies, I was looking for thee. Thy sisters and brothers are yonder with the other bratpackers, save our princess. Come, I will lead thee!"
"Ummm . . . sure," Leia nodded. She next found herself and her sister being hauled by Alan in the direction of Burger Kingdom.
"Leia, what are you saying?" that sister hissed.
"Hush, Mara. Let's try to be polite."
"Polite my ass! This is Alan we're talking about."
"It's Usagi's birthday. We'll suffer him for her sake."
The Alan Express came to an abrupt stop just inside the burger joint. After pausing a second to catch their breaths, the female two-thirds of the triplets scrambled to the other end of the counter, where they hoped they'd be safe.
Alan's assertion that the entire pack was there wasn't exactly true. Technically, the youngest McIntyre-Murainos (Ben, Anakin, Jacen, and Jaina) were at home, being babysat by a not-too-happy Ruby. It was just as well, they did have the tendency to get underfoot.
"So . . ." Threepio started, trying to assume the task of organizer, "What have _we_ done for Usagi? She's our co-bratpacker; we have to do _something_!"
"I'm writing a sonnet," Alan volunteered. "To wit 'Oh how I wish to stroke your hair so pink/and stare into those bottomless red eyes./A princess not just by blood I would think/but knowing you it is not a surpri-"
Threepio cut him off, "Very good, Alan. Anyone else have something to contribute?"
"How about a hollow cake with a G-string-wearing Helios in it?" Artoo joked, then noticed the expression on her twin's face. "Threep, I was _kidding_. You aren't taking me seriously, are you? THREEP!"
"Why not?" Luke asked, "I think it's a cool idea. And he'll agree to it if it gets him back into her good graces." The others all nodded.
"If people have hollow girls in cakes," Sylvite argued, "why not guys? We're supposedly liberated. What better way than throw a doe party?"
"Doe party? As in videos of Chippendales? Let's just keep with the hollow cake, Syl-chan."
"Anyway, we'll have to do something that can be part of the main event," Kodachi interjected, "Much as I hate to say it, the boy's right. So, you in, R-ko?"
"But where will we get the cake, Koda-chan?"
"We'll ask your mom and Aunt Ti. They'll think the idea's a gas, and, anyway, they're doing baking. Okay?"
Artoo sighed. "Okay."
Eight o'clock AM. On the other end of the SME compound a rather gangly man was directing a battalion of Miscellaneous Anime Extras through the task of unloading a shipment of food supplies. "Verdammt..." Berk muttered, peering over his glasses for a moment. "I can't believe they cooked up all the food for this. Not a stocked larder in the compound...
HEY TENTACLE-FACE, GET TO WORK!"
The critter slithered up to the smaller man and whined. "But but but..."
"I don't care if you got a call from your agent for a walk-on-role in the next OVA of Lady Blue. You'll *work* while yer on my time and *not* try to jump the other workers!" Berk seemed to vibrate with suppressed rage as his skin turned bright red and his eyes went bloodshot.
The monster rushed away in sheer terror.
Berk slumped against the wall and opened up a small bag of M&Ms, downing the whole thing. "Watch the blood sugar, Berk... Hypoglycemia's a bitch..." He staggered over to a chair and sat down. He rummaged around in the green backpack by the chair and pulled out Lunatic Party Book 1.
The monster accidentally drooled on Berk's 4th Armored jacket.
Berk intentionally clobbered the monster with the Ultimate Idiot
Nine o'clock AM. A young man who bore a remarkable resemblance to Boy George was standing just outside of Doug's auditioning space. In fact, he claimed to be descended from that musician's brother. Whatever his descent, he was currently staring long and hard at a tall Latino woman. She in turn was staring back at him.
"I'll tell it to you straight, kid. My clients are going to play, not yours. You might as well get out while the going is good."
"Clients? I'm their singer! And if you think you can bully me around you've got another think coming, drag queen!"
A black-haired bishonen stepped between them. "George, Miss . . . ?"
"Wilson, Tina Wilson. Who in the hell are you?"
"Daisuke Aino, brother to three quarters of the band. _Anyway_, wouldn't it be easier if both of us played together?"
The girl in a beret behind Tina glanced around suspiciously. "How do we know you won't play crap like the Spice Girls or Hanson?"
"Try us," said the lanky brown-haired lad behind George.
The man next to the suspicious one called out, "Tell us who shot
John Lennon, and who only _sang_ about shooting him."
The auburn haired boy next to brunette replied, "Mark Chapman shot him . . ."
". . . and the Cranberries sang about it on _To the Faithful Departed_," the red-haired girl on the other side finished.
"Good enough for you?" the raven-tressed girl next to her asked.
"Sure," Tina replied, "you'll do. The other members are Louis and
Angel. We're LA Tina, in Ben's employ."
"Bad pun," the brown-haired kid grinned, "I'm Motoki Aino, my sisters are Akemi and Akari, and Stephen Shadowsinger is on my right. We're Gryphon, from an upcoming fic by Becky."
Angel raised her eyebrow, "Is that your real name?"
"Actually it is," Stephen replied, "my adopted mum changed hers when she was a teenager, then foisted it on me. It was during her hippie phase, I think."
"Well, shall we be off?" George asked, "Hey, even though I'm only their manager I'm not too bad myself. Want to see me do something of my multi-great grandfather's?" Motoki started making "No!" motions. "You know, Louis, you're pretty cute . . ."
The Frenchman took it in stride. "I thank you for your compliment, George. But to your disappointment, I must declare that I am fully hetero." Then he glanced over at Angel, who looked like she was having a similar conversation with Akemi and Akari. "However, if I did swing both ways, like the lovely Angelique, you would have to share me with that lady."
At that George looked over at the three females. Louis answered the question in his eyes. "Sometimes we share, at other times the selected one is only interested in one. It is a somewhat unusual arrangement, but it works for us. Because we always return."
"Sometimes I wish for stability like that. I envy Daisuke and Stephen in that respect. Ah well, the person who I'd like it most with isn't interested beyond friendship." George looked wistful.
"Who would that be?" He brought his gaze over to Motoki and Louis followed him. "I see. You made sure?"
"I tried like hell. I had fallen in love with him the first time we met. That's not unusual for me, but I kept being in love as time went on. My karma stinks, I'm afraid."
"Then why flirt with me?"
"The basic notion of settling for less. No offense."
"None taken." Louis paused in thought. "Tell me, was this on stage or off?"
"I'd had already been rebuffed so much on stage that I figured he wasn't . . .wait! Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
The Frenchman sighed. "Try it off stage."
Tina, in the meantime, was talking to Stephen. "OK, so how are we going to arrange the numbers? Louis, Angel, and myself tend to do classic rock. But I assume that is a much larger body of music than from my time. We are mainly a cover band, but I assume you-all have your own original pieces you want to do as well."
"That's true. Is there a piece that you really want to do?"
"Yes, especially if that organ from the "Minako's Wedding" set works for real."
"Oh? What piece is that?"
"Idagada da Vida"
Stephen grinned. "Hey, ever see that episode of the Simpsons where Bart has Rev. Lovejoy play 'In the Garden of Eden' by I. Ron Butterfly?"
Tina raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know they still showed Simpsons in the 29th century."
"Reruns are wonderful things, Tina. Actually, all of us in the band have a liking for twentieth and early twenty-first century pop culture. When we do covers it's usually stuff from that era. Motoki, for instance, does a fab 'Yesterday.' I like to kid around with him that he's the reincarnation of Paul McCartney."
"He's not quite that baby-faced," Tina mused. An idea came to mind. "Since we're playing together, we might as well sing together. Want to do a duet out of Meat Loaf?"
"Sure. I can do 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' and 'I Would Do Anything For Love.' One or both?"
Eleven o'clock AM. Over at the outdoor section of the commissary Rei was wondering how exactly she had volunteered to watch the barbecues. Not only did suckling pig on a spit look a little creepy but it was taking forever and she had better things to do than watch meat cook. This was more Makoto's thing; she needed to go shopping for a new outfit for the party. Obviously she was the most glamorous of the Sailors but if she showed up wearing something old people might start taking her for granted and Ami already had too big a fanbase for her liking. What she needed was some way to speed things up.
Inspiration struck and she went into a pose.
"FLAME SNIPER .... OOOPS, NO WAIT! I MEANT FIRE SOUL!"
Too late. Rei looked up from the melted grill and a handful of ashes to see Sam glaring at her. She did the sweatdrop thing.
"Uhh ... you wanted it well done, right?"
"Say, what's going on here?"
Sam looked at the newcomers, a tall blond guy and a short redheaded girl who looked like they had wandered in from some fantasy RPG anime. From their expressions they had been lured by the smell of food. A lightbulb went off over his head.
"We're looked for someone to watch the barbecues since Rei's in too much of a hurry. You wouldn't know anyone willing to volunteer, would you? Volunteers get first choice on cuts when its done and ..." The girl's eyes lit up.
"We'll do it. Gourry, get to work."
The amiable blond guy just shrugged.
Rei slunk off and Sam headed back to the canteen. One crisis averted thanks to quick thinking but they were still shorthanded in the kitchen. So he was back inside before Lina said, "I'm already hungry! There must be some way to speed this up."
Becky noticed Sam's return and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Rei caused a meltdown and we're out a pig. Luckily I found a pair of visitors willing to take over."
"Who was it?"
"Their names are Gourry and Lina. I don't know them but ... what's with that expression?"
Meanwhile in a quiet spot ... well, quietish spot, as it was
getting crowded around the SME studios, Calcite, Tom, Magnesite and Mamoru had decided on the traditional male response to chaos like this: keep your head down and find a secluded place to drink. Apart for a nearby trio comprised of Minky Momo, Nurse Angel Ririka and Devil Hunter Yohko arguing over the qualifications of a Magical Girl, they were undisturbed.
Mamoru had produced the presents he had bought and everyone was looking them over before he made a hasty attempt at gift wrapping. The three-foot-tall pink anthropomorphic cuddly bunny was probably cute if you liked that sort of thing, but reminded the youma present of a psycho they had known in the old country who liked tossing eggs filled with toxins and explosives. But they could all agree the jewelry box was in excellent taste. A nice mature gift.
Calcite asked jokingly, "So whose is whose?"
"This one's for Usagi and this one's for ... Usagi."
There was a short silence until Magnesite cleared his throat.
"Well I'm sure your daughter to be will love the rabbit ... what?"
"Uhm, she's getting the jewelry box as she's mature enough to appreciate it." All eyes turned to the rabbit.
"Which birthday is it again?"
Mamoru sighed and reached for the bottle. Much as he loved her, there were times he wondered if he was engaged to an eternal fourteen-year-old.
Noon. Sherlyn stared on, blasť, as the eternal fourteen-year-old and the negative-nine-hundred-and-eight-year-old girl ate in unadulterated bliss. Getting the two Usagis out of the way was proving to be _way_ too easy. But just in case, she had called Chibi-Hotaru and Jeanne for backup. Chibi-Hotaru would keep Chibi-Usa nicely occupied for the next few hours while Jeanne would be dressed in Haruka's old man's clothing. With any luck, they would be too busy to notice the birthday party preparations in Sailor Moon Expanded Backstage.
In the meantime... Sherlyn signaled the waitress.
"Give us two more plates of ramen, and one more order of tempura, please. We'll have dessert later. Oh, and clear these plates, will you? We're running out of space." The waitress nodded, openly staring at the four odangos bobbing up and down as the two demolished...
Six Chawan Mushi
Two Tepanyaki sets
One Super Sashimi set
Three California roll
Two Tempura Ramen set
One large fried soba
Seven glasses of soda
"C...Coming right up," the waitress stammered. She hastily went over to the manager, who stood biting his nails in anxiety.
"Manager-san, they want more food-and dessert too."
Thump! The manager hit the floor in a dead faint.
Usagi and Chibi-Usa looked up from their food momentarily.
"I hope he's all right." Usagi said judiciously. She did have a
'kind-girl' reputation to maintain. Chibi-Usa, who had no such compunctions, stuck firmly to the important topic.
"Sherlyn-chan, we _are_ having chocolate pudding for dessert, aren't we?"
"Yes, Chibi-Usa, don't worry," Sherlyn soothed the little girl's gastronomic apprehensions. She grinned to herself-thank goodness for All-You-Can-Eat buffets.
Two-thirty PM. As Party Hour drew closer the organizers started leaving to get dressed and tidied. The room was left in the "capable" hands of a couple dozen Bleeghian Earthworms. But wait! Who is there in the kitchens? Can it be that some participant has not left? Actually, there are two that haven't.
"Okay . . . dancing," Becky sighed, "is not as hard as it looks. Actually the hard part is being a good dancer, but being a mediocre dancer is quite easy. Since I'm no Isadora Duncan, we'll concentrate on mediocre.
"I won't teach you any fancy moves right now. Truth be told, I don't really know many myself. In fact, the only dance I know is the Funky Horah."
"The _Funky Horah_?" Sam asked.
"I invented it myself," Becky said, proudly, "See, you start off by moving your feet the way you would in a _real_ horah, only in double time. Unlike the original, this is a solitary dance so detach yourself from any circle. Then, in the rhythm of the current song, start dancing across the room, whirling and spinning. Here, I'll show you." She started humming "Havenu Shalom Alcheim" while she demonstrated.
"Interesting," was all Sam could say.
Coming to a stop, Becky grinned, "I'll teach you that another time.
Right now, fast songs. The trick of this is to remain moving without being silly. Easiest way, I suppose, is to just tap your feet or sway a little to the music."
Sam looked skeptical, "That's all?"
"With mediocre dancing, yeah. Virtuosi do a lot more. Here, we'll practice." She took his hands and pulled him near the center of the room, the scurried back to the boombox she had brought. She dug through her ever-present backpack for a tape. "There, this will help you." She popped it in, then stood back.
"First I was afraid. I was petrified," the voice of Gloria Gaynor echoed out of the speaker, "Kept thinking I would never live without you by my side."
"Is this supposed to be a hint of some kind?"
"Of course not, baka-me Sam-kun. Close your eyes. Now, listen to the music, to the throb of the disco beat. Get familiar with it. Feel it moving through your veins. It is animated. It is primal. Let it guide your body. Listen to Gloria sing her anthem. Visualize John Travolta in a bad leisure suit. We are not in the kitchen anymore. We are in Studio 54."
She surveyed her pupil. He had started to tap his feet, to move a little to the rhythm. Not bad for a first timer. Now for the fun part of the lesson. We'll give him a little to aim for, she thought. She started to approach.
Sam's eyes suddenly popped open. Becky had grabbed a hold of his shoulders. The room felt suddenly a bit warmer. "Wha . . ."
"Fast dancing for two." She started to ease her hands until they were in his, then pulling them back and forth, one after the other. She started to ease him down with her, then bring them both back up. Bring herself in, then out. "Having fun?"
"Yeah . . ." And the Gaynor played on. By the end of the song, both were tired. Slumping on the wall, he grinned. "That was strangely exhilarating."
"Thanks. I got what I was doing from watching too much daytime TV. That and trying to imitate Beth, my younger sister. I told you about her and her dance classes before." She grinned back. "Let's rest awhile, hmmm?"
After a good ten minutes worth of rest Sam asked, "So, what's next?"
"My favorite part. Slow dancing. Get back into place while I put on some proper music." He complied and a few minutes later she joined him there. "You place your hands here, and I place mine there." To illustrate she placed his near her waist and hers a little higher up. "Now we sway a little."
They listened to the music for awhile. "Hold me, hold me. Never let me go until you've told me, told me, all I want to know. And then just hold me, hold me, make me tell you I'm in love with you."
"Of course, your dancing partner might do something unexpected, like putting her head on your shoulder. Don't worry. In fact, you might want to do the same thing." She did just that, and after a second he did so too. "She might kiss you on the cheek." She kissed him there. "If you want, kiss her back." He did.
"I've heard this song before."
"'Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me.' I forget the name of the guy who sings this, although Gloria Estefan did a pretty good remake."
"Oh . . . Thanks for helping me dance."
"Anytime. After this song, though, we'll have to go. There's hardly two hours left to get ready." She thought of something. "Will you dance with me at the actual party?"
"Of course, Becky-chan. Who else would I dance with?"
"Too furry. Will you go chasing after Magnesite?"
"Nah, I'll leave him to Rachel."
The song wound to a close and they smiled at each other.
"See you in an hour or two."
"Sure. Save a dance for me."
Five o'clock PM. The bells chimed loudly as Mamoru Chiba led his two favorite girls to the giant doors. All three were dolled up, as the two Usagi had been told he was taking them out somewhere special for their birthday dinner.
The door was suddenly pulled open and the royal family was knocked over by the overpowering yell of "SURPRISE!!!" After picking themselves up, the two girls' faces lit up. _Everyone_ was there. All the authors, the entire cast, denizens of the authors' non-SME fics, a bunch of other fanfic authors with their characters in tow, other animates from different anime -- almost anyone you could think of. Even that guy Mark was always arguing with had come for the food.
The center table, three seats missing, was nearly a mile long. The senshi (Rei in her new dress) and their escorts sat there, as well as most of the main characters and authors, also with escorts except for the ones that were escorted by another of their group. In the former group, that was common, but in the latter group rare.
Minako's "cutesy crap" was festooning most of the walls and ceiling but the tables were another matter. Somehow the Sci-Fi Foursome had redeemed themselves and had been allowed to handle centerpieces. This had mixed results.
There had been some sort of disagreement so Pyrite had hung Babylon 5 action figures ... by the neck, and Mike had crucified Trek dolls. Still you had to admit it was unique. Brendan and Chrysolite's neon Yodas had been well-received, aside from one of the fanboy extras proclaiming time and again that "Yoda smokes dope!" He was promptly megamalleted.
In the center of the reception hall, the cooking staff had outdone themselves. Dozens of tables we stacked high with food. Whole tables were devoted to a specialty, be it Dark Kingdom cuisine, chocolate, potato pancakes, or pasta. It was a glutton's dream. In the center lay the multitude of birthday cakes, twenty for the elder Usagi and two (one abnormally large) for the younger.
Ferrite had finally been cornered for work and, since he needed to get away from the Unofficial Trenchcoat Brigade Fan Club (a.k.a. the female authors), had landed the job of bartender. Right now a depressed Metallia was listening to his monologue and downing CT Hall like there was no tomorrow.
"So, Ferry, how _did_ you get to be so good at mixing your drinks," she asked, trying to be conversational.
He shrugged, "I've had plenty of time to learn. Many of my past selves wound up in bars and taverns crying in their ale about their miserable lovelives, which, by the way, is your fault." He plunked a doctored glass of ale before the sorceress-cum-demon. "Why don't you try something different? Here's one I picked up in Camelot while commiserating with Arty about his wife messing around with his best friend. He also taught me this song about getting swords back into stones ... uh on second thoughts maybe I'll just hum it."
Metallia knocked the glass back and flushed. "You know, you aren't that bad looking," she remarked after studying him.
"Huh?" Ferrite stared back at her.
"You. Me. Room at the Gutted Graxat. Any questions?"
"Uh . . . well . . . Usagi's just arrived and-" The sentence was cut short by the canny demoness. "Mmm . . . perhaps just a little bit lower, Metal-chan . . ."
He really had no choice but agree to meet her after the party.
Back at the doorway the two Usagi were doing a victory dance of pure pleasure. A banquet, lots of presents, and, best of all, dessert! They hardly knew which end of the buffet to begin with. Instead, Mamoru conducted them to their seats.
Mark Latus, red-haired and, like his fellows, tuxedo-clad, stood up and began the speech they had all worked on. "Hear ye, hear ye! Today we have come to celebrate the natal day of Tsukino Usagi, elder and Tsukino Usagi, younger."
"Let it also be known that this will be the last event that our founder, Alexander 'Andy the Android' Combs will be attending before departing for RL to join his mundane girlfriend," continued that particular member. He shook his head. Andy still thought they could have included her name!
A thirtysomething man who bore a slight resemblance to Christopher Reeve spoke next. "His duties, though not his position, shall be taken up by one Frank D. Barr. Chiefly among those will be the upkeep of our webpage."
"Today's event shall be catered by a band of culinary contributors headed by Kino Makoto and William Samuel Henry Louis Ashley," the chef grimaced at the length of his full name but read on, "and including selections from Tsukino Ikuko, Titanite, Pumice, Tendo Kasumi, Rhiannon McIntyre, Kotobuki Shiiko, Steve Nicholson, and Lum."
A remarkably un-grumpy Douglas Helm spoke next, "Games shall be held between six-thirty and nine-thirty at Colonel Sanders Field, adjoining this very banquet hall. They are not mandatory but there is a limit to the amount of private rooms at the Gutted Graxat so it would do well to have a backup plan."
"If this paragraph is read than it seems Christian Gadeken decided to show up for once in his life. Wow, it must be a special occasion." SME's man of mystery threw his piece of paper down and pouted.
Ben Harrison, the Not-So-Ancient Marine, picked up where the previous speaker left off. "At ten o'clock a joint concert by LA Tina and Gryphon shall be held in the auditorium. Proceeds from the sale of either bands' albums shall be given to various charities."
The youngest member cleared her throat. "For the length of the party an official truce has been drawn. There shall be no rival author flaming, no ninja stunts, no aerial attacks, no mutilation of author by character, no knife-fights, and no grand-scale martial arts battles. This means you."
"Violations of said truce shall mean ejection from the premises by Mari and D. We make no exceptions, although if the person ejected works here they will be allowed to return after the party ends," elaborated Spotswood Berkeley Watkins, Jr. They'd have to deal with him as well.
Sherlyn Lim spoke her part: "A raffle for an autographed copy of 'Refugees' will be held at nine o'clock. Tickets are a dollar a piece. For those with different currency, that'd be a hundred yen, two zakks of lightning, three Agama dollars, or a half-pound of Spigelian blue garlic."
"Gifts, excluding that of the Bratpack to Usagi Minor, will be opened at seven-thirty. The aforementioned confectionary contribution will be brought to the princess as soon as dinner is served," Rachel "Rae-chan" Herndon commented.
The (figuratively!) serpentine linguist Aponar covered the next section of the speech: "The party may go late, so if anyone wishes to stay overnight, the Wagon Train to the Stars Campground will be able to room roughly two hundred tents. Those not in possession of tents may rent them from the Sailor Moon Expanded Hall of Childish Tradespersons."
"We would like to thank everyone who's helped with the setting up of this party. If we took the time to list you all by name, we'd never get out of here, but you are appreciated," imparted Matt Campbell.
Ron Inn summarized it nicely with his part of the speech, "AND NOW, LET'S EAT!" All cheered at that last sentence.
The next few hours can be covered best by things overheard:
"Why thank you, Helios, for coming. Truce?"
"Truce. Can I change out of this piece of cloth?"
"By royal decree I forbid you."
"Eeep . . ."
"Boxite, I don't think that when Ruby said we should toast the queen she meant you should take out your flamethrower. Put it down."
"I won! I won! Wait . . . I don't even like Latus. Damn."
"Can I have your prize, Mister?"
"No, I want his prize!"
"Hmmm . . . who bids twenty dollars? Do I have twenty dollars?"
"HELP! Yuri and Kei are going to shoot me if I don't run their obstacle course!"
"Minako and Margrave are fighting over the karaoke machine again."
"Moon Princess Halation!"
"Sorry but it's my party and I want a turn."
"Maybe making Sakuya and Vicky the DJs wasn't such a hot idea after all ..."
Nine-fifty-nine PM. The band had been doing various warm up pieces. Ben found it pleasing that they were doing one of his personal favorites, "Tubular Bells". Knowing that it was a very long piece, he wasn't surprised to see people dropping out and off stage, make a few adjustments to equipment or props, then get back up on stage; still it showed off each band's abilities and gave them a nice long warm up.
"You got it?" Tina asked the Marine in charge of the working party.
"Yes ma'am, and we got it on the stage's lift. It will be a big surprise, whatever you are using it for." The Marine had a hopeful look on his face.
Tina's "Little Stinker" face was on. "Nope, not going to tell you, but I think you will like it. But now, clear the stage so we can get to work."
The lights went down in the room, a spotlight started searching, and the commanding voice of the WWF guy boomed out, "Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time ever, LA Tina and Gryphon, together in concert!"
The by now familiar base melody of "Tubular Bells" started, gradually moving faster and faster. George walked up to the microphone. With him came a black and white piglet in a _tutu_. To those who knew of his (George's, not the pig's) singing abilities (or more exactly lack of same) were surprised that no one from either band tried to stop him (although Tina's finger did spark for a moment).
Suddenly George said in that perfect diction that many English actors have perfected: "Grand Piano."
Although Akari, like Tina was playing at a complicated multiple-keyboard setup, it _sounded_ just like a grand piano. She took the lead for a few bars until George once again announced: "Reed and Vibraphone."
Akari skillfully faded back as Tina took over the lead. On stage, the dressed-up oinker spun and whirled, an elegant if odd stage act. Then it was her turn to fade as George announced: "Glockenspiel."
It was now Angel's turn to take the melody. Then she was sharing it as George announced: "Bass Guitar," and Motoki joined her. Meanwhile the two keyboardist were flipping switches and setting the keyboards they had been playing on automatic.
When George announced "Double-speed Guitar" it was Louis' turn to shine.
And for a change he was playing a real Guitar, not his normal synth.
Then Akari showed why she had switched some of her set to automatic: she had one of her boards set to sound like what George announced was a "Slightly Distorted Guitar". Then Tina jumped in with her board set to the "Mandolin".
In the meantime Louis had set up a track keeping his former instrument's line going. Both he and Stephen had their backs to the audience so that no one could see what they were holding-until George announced "Spanish Guitar," at which point Louis turned around, and then "Acoustic Guitar" at which Stephen showed himself. The two had fun with the lead for a while until George called out: "Plus the Tubular Bells!!"
Akemi, who had been quietly working around, helping the others, suddenly took the center stage. She looked a little like her mother for a moment as she played the bells (they _are_ played by striking). Then they all gradually faded as the song came to it's close. The porcine dancer scampered into Akemi's lap. "Yes, yes, you did very well my little Franklin. Very well. We'll watch 'Babe' tonight as a treat for my baby."
The crowd applauded at the end of "Tubular Bells" while Stephen walked up to the mike.
"I bet you thought that was the opening number, right?"
"Of course!!" someone shouted from the back.
"Nope, it was just a warm up; a fun long one, but just the warm up. But before the opening I must ask for everyone to please open up the envelope you were given when you entered the performance area."
Ben opened his up. * What the ... earplugs? Why would they...* Then he put a few things together, the working party Tina requested, the fact that some of them were spotted over at the cathedral set, the fact that Tina really had one of _those_ looks on her face. "She just had to do it," he said as he put the plugs in.
Up on the stage the bands were putting on sonic protection gear. Tina had a look that Minako found both familiar and somewhat disturbing. "Have you ever seen a look like that before, Cal?" she asked.
While trying to come up with a diplomatic way of telling her that he saw it every time "Hurricane Minako" started up, he was saved by the sound of a hydraulic lift activating.
Tina had a look of glee as she approached the church organ as it was raised into position.
"Folks, an opening number should really grab your attention," Stephen said as he put on his sound muffs. "I think this will do it."
The first few cords proved his words true. In fact as the first chords of "In-a-gada-da-vida" sounded out, some people (who had foolishly ignored the black and yellow hazard stripes laid out on the floor) were literally blasted back by the volume (one was a young Marine Private, whose only comment was "What a rush"). But the young mutant showed her skill with any keyboard. The quality of her playing was truly worthy of the instrument. After she played the final chords, she bowed to the audience, a huge grin plastered across her face. There was a stunned silence, then the applause started.
After taking a few moments to catch her breath she addressed the crowd. "Well that was certainly a attention-getter. You almost have to do a softer number after that, and that is what we are going to do. But first, let's set the mood." With that she signaled the tech crews.
There was a brief distortion around her as a hologram formed around her. Overlaying Tina was now Usagi in her Sailor Moon costume. In fact, more than a few people did a double take to make sure that the real Usagi was still in the audience. Tina imitated (poorly in retrospect) some of Usagi's standard gestures then began to sing.
[Isn't love so fragile, and a heart so bold.
Then Tina sang the last two lines again, softer and softer until the song ended. In his ringside seat Daisuke mused, "Should I be jealous?"
George, who was currently sitting next to him, shook his head empathetically. "She's a _girl_, Dai. I've known Steve longer than you, and his pendulum only swings the same way yours and mine. Ten to one he was thinking of you when Tina was acting mushy."
"I hope you're right." There was a pause and Daisuke grinned in a manner not unlike his mother. "His _pendulum_, you said?"
George punched his arm. "Hentai!"
On stage Stephen also grinned, "You thought you were past the duets,
didn't you? Wrong! Here it is, from the bat out of hell himself, 'I
Would Do Anything For Love.'" The bands started up while Tina's wonderfully
deep contralto and his sweet-sounding tenor merged.
The audience cheered and whistled. Tina seemed to be amused by the reception the vocalists seemed to be getting. "That must have been pretty damn good for two people who have no desire for each other. Hmm?"
The other singer nodded, "Must have. Now who were _you_ thinking about during all that mushy play acting? That Mackie guy you mentioned earlier?"
"No! He's just a kid with a libido the size of Raging Hentai's!"
"Sorry then. Mind if I dedicate this next one to someone?"
"Go right ahead."
Stephen leaned into the microphone and started singing a familiar verse
a cappella. "'This one goes out to the one I love . . .' No, really.
This next song is by a group whose vocalist shares my name and has my
respect. That man is Steve Perry and the group is Journey. From their
album _Escape_, this is 'Open Arms' and it's all for Daisuke-kun." The
music started up, and couples flocked to the floor.
From the chairs she and Sam had ended up sharing, Becky was gazing wistfully at the dancers, glancing once or twice down at her blue and white dress and wishing she was wearing something comfortable, like jeans. If only she and Sam could be out there . . . "May I have this dance?"
She looked at her companion. Was she hearing something? Did he read
her mind? Or was he just thinking of the same thing? And, damnit, he
did look cute in that tuxedo. Like a teddy bear, almost. "I thought
you'd never ask."
The amount of people dancing was enough to cross anyone's eyes. Becky could see Naru dance with Umino, Rei with Yuuichirou, Makoto with Chrysolite, Minako with Calcite, Margrave with Magnesite, Pyrite with Azurite, Mike with B'dekka, Chibi-Usa with the now-clothed Helios, Ami with Tom, Ferrite with Setsuna, Titanite with Topass, Artoo with Kodachi, Sylvite with Luke, Rhiannon with Brendan, Alan with a 33-S Sexaroid, and, in the center, Usagi and Mamoru.
Becky attempted to make conversation. "It's too bad we couldn't have
celebrated _your_ birthday. It was only two days ago."
Becky wondered if she should kiss him. She had planted one on his cheek during the dance lesson but that was really just an example. Her conscience scoffed at that excuse. Example, her ass! She kissed him because she wanted to kiss him! She could do it then, she could do it with people around!
She had wanted to do this for over a _year_, for G.O.D.'s sake. She
couldn't let the opportunity slip out of her fingers! As sort of a test,
she held Sam tighter and leaned her head on his shoulder. He didn't
seem to mind at all. And for just this dance it felt somehow _right_.
Now or never. Sam had closed his eyes to listen to the music, she could do it without him noticing. With wild abandon she leaned in to kiss him. On the lips. Like in their lesson, he opened his eyes, surprised, and blushed. She could feel her cheeks heat up too, and broke the kiss. The music was winding down.
"That was nice," she managed to say.
Sam nodded with a hard swallow. "Yeah. Maybe we could do it sometime again."
Becky took that statement as a question. "I'd love to." She added mentally, because I think I also love . . . She didn't complete that last phrase.
Within a minute all the awkwardness was forgotten and the two good friends were back at the table, talking at a rapid pace on this and that like usual, both trying to deny what had just happened. But for just a minute back then it had felt, to Becky at least, like they were a real couple like Usagi and Mamoru.
On stage, Tina took the mike. "Now, after three love songs, let's try something fast. Something we can _dance_ to. Well, actually 'Magic Dance' to. You'll see what I mean."
Stephen elaborated. "This was my idea, as it came from one of my favorite
movies. Now if Akemi's done with Franklin . . ." Franklin the Dancing
Pig, attired in striped PJs and a bonnet ran up at full tilt. "One,
two three!" Stephen started the song again.
Franklin squealed happily as Stephen picked him up, tossing him to
George. As rehearsed, the manager tossed him to one of the Marines while
Stephen and Tina did their own dancing (fairly unelaborate on his part,
more complicated on hers), the others echoing the lyrics.
It was one of the oddest mosh pits known to man. Everyone was hopping,
while Franklin Pig, Crowd Surfer Extraordinaire, was flying through
the air, in his element. As he headed towards Yuuichirou he wished he
could do this more often.
Like before, the bands played on. Becky had dragged Sam onto the floor again for some serious fast dancing. Her co-Ninjas had kidnapped the Trenchcoat Brigade, Rachel with her coveted Magnesite, Sherlyn keeping her hold tight on Ferrite.
Other authors were partying-hardy. Andy danced with Laura, Frank with Minako, Mark with Priss, Doug with Sakuya, Ben with Fi, Aponar with Washu, Matt with Elayne, and Ron with Miss Hinako. Berk didn't care much for dancing, and so was debating security with Myuki in a quietish spot. Christian, as usual, went mysteriously missing.
Somebody spilled a cold drink and, in the middle of bogie-ing with Nabiki, Ryouga felt himself change into P-chan. Some wiseguy from Harrison's Garrison picked up the "poor widdle piggy" and soon the Eternally Lost Pig was airborne.
On stage, the dual singers chorused the question again.
At the end of the music a kettle of hot water was found for Ryouga, while Franklin was returned to his "mommy". Speaking of parents, Stephen's adopted mum, Roberta, had gotten herself into an animated discussion on the Grateful Dead with Cosmo Hibiki, late of the fanfics of a man named _Stefan_, Gagne to be exact.
A twenty minute rest was called for recuperation from all that dancing. By the end of those minutes a picnic-like atmosphere had prevailed. Literally, since red-check blankets and baskets had been produced from somewhere. During the intermission people had been told that no, there wasn't going to be any more music to dance to, so the gathered many had run amok on the resting part.
Midway the bands emerged, clad in what is stereotypically classified as the clothing of hippies. True, a great amount of lovebeads were worn by both genders, as well as bell-bottom jeans, granny-style sunglasses, and tie-dye. Of course, none of them had actually lived at the time when all of this was high fashion. Tina had produced a bottle of Southern Comfort and that was shared by the drinking musicians.
Finally they took their places again and Tina took the mike, "As you can see from our togs, we'll be doing a couple of songs from what would be, to most of you, your parent's era, if not longer ago. The first is by one of the first great female rockers, and a fellow Texan, Janis Joplin." Tina launched into lyric with a fury worthy of the woman herself.
"Didn't I make you feel like you were the only man, yeah,
An' didn't I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can?
Honey, you know I did!
And each time I tell myself that I, well I've just had enough, But I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.
"I said come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby, Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah. Hey! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, yeah. You know you got it if it makes you feel good, Oh yes indeed.
"You're out on the street looking good, honey,
Deep down in your heart I said you know that it ain't right, Never never never never never never hear me when I cry at night. Honey, I cry all the time!
And each time I tell myself that I, well I can't stand the pain, But when you hold me in your arms, I'll sing it once again.
"I'll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby. Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, yeah. You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good - hey!
"Sing it with me!" Tina shrieked, the Southern Comfort giving her voice an edge to it, which actually helped her in her emulation. Behind her Louis, Stephen, and Motoki were doing their very best to match her fervor on their various guitars and basses (bassi?).
"Now come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Break another little bit of my heart, honey, yeah. Hey! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, You know you got it if it makes you feel good. Hey! Hey! Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, Break it, break it, break it, yeah.
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good."
The crowd cheered on for a minute or two before they got waved down. During that period of time the musicians collectively drank three gallons of water. Refreshed, they readied themselves for the next trial by fire.
Tina sauntered back up to the head of the stage and grinned, "If you
like that, you should see my rendition of 'Me and Bobby McGee.' Seriously,
our next number is from a group of people who went from airplane to
starship. In this particular song, however, Grace Slick tries to persuade
us that we all need 'Somebody to Love.'"
While Tina sang, holograms formed behind her, regaling in the psychedelic
patterns they created. A couple of the more queasy souls had to look
away as not to regurgitate the prior feast.
Artoo McIntyre-Muraino was fascinated at the twisting, writhing shapes
as she watched them from the picnic blanket she shared with Kodachi.
Snuggling up to the Aino girl, a thought began to formulate in her brain.
She called it out into the air, half-shrieking. "IT'S JUST LIKE 'ARISE,
WOODSTOCK NATION,' MAN!"
As Tina handed the mike to Stephen, she shook her head at the scene below. A food fight on a small scale had broken between the 'baka' and his accuser. Above that particular melee an oni-girl was preparing to zap members of both sides.
They let this rage for a couple more minutes, then ushered George and
Yuuichirou onstage and whispered something to them. They nodded, grinned
evilly, and started the most feared of attention-getters.
The two antisingers continued on through "Land Down Under" and were halfway through "Achy-Breaky Heart" when the collective brawlers finally stopped fighting to yell "Enough already!"
Stephen smiled, as he began his prepared spiel, "For our concluding number we'll be playing two songs, 'Brain Damage' and 'Eclipse,' that often are linked together under the name of the album they came from. In fact, the choice of songs from it could be taken as a tribute to their highnesses. The band is Pink Floyd and here's seeing you on the 'Dark Side of the Moon.'"
The two bands started those transcendental opening cords and all motion
stopped. People located a loved one, leaned against one another, and
let the song carry them away, as all great songs do even when the ones
who made them great aren't even singing . . .
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes I'll see you on the dark side of the moon."
In a conversational tone of voice, Stephen added, "I can't think of
anything to say except . . . I think it's marvelous! Ha Ha Ha!" Then,
as the music wove around, trickling through everyone's brains, he began
singing again, first by himself, then, gradually, the other musicians
. . .
Stephen shrugged as the music soared to its end, "'There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark.' Ladies and gentlemen, you've been a beautiful audience. Happy birthday, Usagi, and let's call it a night."
Shook from the Floydian trance, the assembled many did just that. Besides the bands and affiliates, soon only five people were left. Three were ninjas. "There's a Bogie movie on the tube tonight. Anyone want to come over and watch it?" Sherlyn asked.
"Sugoi!" Rachel crowed. "What about you, Becky-chan?"
The teen shook her head. "Sam-kun and I have plans."
That man was nonplussed. "We do?"
"You. Me. Leftover Death by Ugly Chocolate. 'They Were Elven.'
"Oh yeah, those plans. Shall we?"
After the two left, the remaining girls turned to their companion
but he also shook his noggin, "Sorry, sweetcheeks, but duty calls." He pointed to the duty roster. Sherlyn and Rachel nodded and left. The man in the trenchcoat grabbed a broom and sighed. "Like I'm surprised to get stuck with this."
The roster had, after all, read: "Magnesite- Clean Up."
Finis. (Until next year . . .)
A word on how this came about:
Back in April '97 Becky got the idea, it was elaborated by others (esp. Frank and Mark) and promptly forgotten until June of 1998, in which Sam wrote the opening paragraphs and everybody chipped in. Final editing and general weaving together of plots was also done by Becky, with the usual spellchecking by Aponar. (If you're bored, try figuring out who wrote which scene.)
This will probably be our last mosaic BTS for awhile, unless we try for a Christmas story. On the other hand, the final story of Sailor Moon Expanded, which is so secret we cannot speak its name, will also be a mosaic piece. Watch for that sometime in the mid-twenty-first century.