*          *

          Hotaru regarded Chaos, who, for once, seemed speechless. Not that she blamed him. The whole point of the Fanboys universe was supposed to be that they were immortal avatars. To find out that their future was so...the thought still made her cry.
          He seemed to notice this, and quickly squeezed her hand reassuringly. He always noticed when she was feeling bad, and always made it his top priority to make her feel better.
          It was one reason why she was hopelessly in love with him.
          "Cheer up, Hotaru! Um..." His attempts at cheer fell flat. It was clear to her that the whole thing had shaken him more than he wanted to admit.
          "That's another reason why we're here...so I can talk to you like this."
          "Like what?" Chaos asked.
          "Like we're doing now. No rapid dialogue, no asides to the audience; this universe is realistic. Be honest, Chaos, do you normally think about your future like this? Back where we live? If I'd told you there, you'd just have screamed and run around the room a lot."
          "I would not!" Chaos protested.
          She stared at him, an amused smirk on her face.
          "Well, only until I used up all my breath and passed out," he then muttered.
          "It's peaceful here. I like it. I know we can't stay forever...but I want us to be here for the next few days. To talk."
          Chaos made a face at that. "Where will I find that much conversation?" he whined.
          "Improvise," she shot right back at him. "How often do we talk, Chaos? Really, truly?"
          He rubbed the back of his neck. "Um...give me a moment."
          She shook her head. "Not just your fault. I was just as bad, Chaos. I was acting like a lovestruck Anime girl...and a perverse one at that. But seeing what happened to everyone changed that. I can't let it happen, Chaos. Not just for us, but for everyone. I don't want to see any of them die. Not you, or Mayhem, or Pesti- chan. Not even Hysteria."
          One of Chaos' eyebrows went up.
          "Yes, even Hysteria," she stated. "We have to be able to change this. And that's why I changed."
          Chaos was looking fairly stunned by all this information coming in at once. Hotaru supposed it explained a lot of things about how she'd been acting these past few weeks.
          She leaned into Chaos, putting her head on his shoulder. She'd discovered that she could do that without incurring too much wrath, as long as she kept her hands away from his. She liked the feeling. It felt good, like she was taking strength from him.
          "I'm sorry I kidnapped you the way I did, Chaos. I was scared. Scared you wouldn't listen to me, or would freak out. Scared that I wouldn't have anyone to turn to. You mean everything to me, Chaos, and I don't think I could bear that."
          She was moving too quickly, she knew. Chaos was starting to twitch again, and she knew that if she made one false move, everything would be ruined. But she was telling the truth. Fear drove her as much as love did. That was why she was so nervous about it all. She wanted to do this for all the right reasons...but wasn't.
          Chaos swallowed. She could tell he was finally getting the courage to ask what he'd been assuming.
          "Hotaru, did you bring me here to tell me about what happened to you?"
          "Yes...that was one reason."
          His eyes widened, and he gulped again. "Were there others?" he squeaked.
          She nodded, and moved over to take his hand. He didn't twitch, and she smiled. Little victories, that's what she had to concentrate on.
          "Chaos, it's my birthday today. I would have been 17. And considering that I'm pretty much all grown up now, and that I went from 14 to infant to 12 to 16 over the course of two years, I think I need to simply go with that as the date."
          "Happy birthday, Hotaru!" Chaos said with attempted cheer. She grinned once more.
          "I want a present from you this year, Chaos...a very special present. It's something I've wanted for a while, but it's never been for the right reasons. It still isn't. But I don't care anymore."
          Chaos seemed content to let her speak....either that or he was slipping into a coma. She continued regardless.
          "When I first met you, it was my first really big crush. I used to look out my window at night and dream of the two of us going out to ice cream shops, or to the movies. Then as I got older, I was sure that it had gone from a crush into something deeper. I still looked out that window, but I imagined us kissing...and other things. That might have been one reason why I grew up so fast...I simply couldn't wait to get old enough to be with you."
          She turned over on the couch, so that she was kneeling on it, and brushed his hair back, moving her hand down to his cheek. He seemed riveted.
          "And now I've seen the end of our lives. And it hurts me so much. I want a future with you in it, Chaos. I want to get married to you. I want to love you forever, in this life and the next."
          She was starting to cry, but carried on. "The past few weeks have been hell, Chaos. I can't go back to the way I used to be...but I see everyone still acting the same. Everyone's still treating this like a silly game, and I've seen what happens when that goes on. We die. All of us."
          "It can't just be me, Chaos. I need you to change. And I need to help the others to. Because otherwise, I don't think I can go on."
          She sat there for a moment, trying to get control of herself back. She was worried about Chaos. He'd been very quiet through the whole thing. That was so unlike him that she was afraid that none of it was sinking in. She loved Chaos. But could she break him free of what he was? Even just a little bit?
          Finally, he breathed in and spoke. "I don't know if it's possible, Hotaru. You're dealing with some of the most obsessive, single-minded otaku in this or any other universe. Especially me. But...if it stops you feeling this way, I'll try." He smiled, and it didn't look forced this time. She almost fell on top of him with relief.
          "Thank you, Chaos," she said softly into his shoulder.
          "Anything for you."
          She looked up at him. He seemed serious. "You mean that?"
          He nodded. "Seeing you upset...bothers me, Hotaru. I'll do anything to change that."
          She could ask him now. Something in her ached to. But he'd never do it. He was still too scared. She had days, she couldn't rush things. Not for something that meant so much to her.
          Slow. Slow and loving worked better than quick and horny. Especially with Chaos. She honestly did think that he loved her...but he didn't trust her. And without trust, that love might as well be a thousand miles away.
          She got up, leading Chaos over towards the kitchen. "Let me show you something. My friends hooked this up...she said you'd probably never relax without some sort of proof. So we have this."
          Chaos looked at the device with a raised eyebrow. "A television set? I was admittedly thinking we'd be getting something like the Wiseman's orb, but a television set?"
          Hotaru grinned. "Ah, but look what program we're getting."
          She turned it on...


*          *

          All was not well in the world of the Fanboys.
          Sure, there was another apocalypse about to unfold right on top of the hapless Tokyo Tower. Sure, there was also that demon invasion due right after the evening news. Sure, Red Queen Kasumi had just released a lemon fanfic starring ChibiChibi, Chibiusa and Pegasus in: 'The Winged Horse Whisperer.' And sure, SMAP was about to release another album (Naoko help us all). But all of these terrible, horrible, bad-Anime-no-biscuit things paled greatly in comparison to the crisis happening inside the fanboys' apartment.
          "We can't be out of whipped cream!!!" Havoc exclaimed, sticking his head out from the cupboards as he tossed more pans and dry goods out onto the floor. "I refuse to be standing in an apartment that has a zero stock of whipped cream!"
          Carnage cracked his knuckles as he eyed the messy kitchen. "Oh, if you stand still for a few seconds, I think I can remedy that for you, Havoc...."
          "This just can't be happening," Haruka said as she sat on one of the living room couches, shaking her head. "How can our Hime- chan have possibly thought it a good idea to run off with that cross-dressing, cross-gender idiot?"
          "That's a lot of crosses," Pesti-chan remarked.
          Haruka nodded her head. "I suggest we nail Chaos to one of them when we find him."
          "Well that's good and all," Dark Mayhem said, and then deployed his umbrella. Seconds later, a large Sploot! from the kitchen covered Haruka and Pesti-chan in Cream Lemon.

Demolition: [shrugging] "Well, on the plus side, you can't see the mess Havoc made anymore."

Riot: "Hai hai. Instead we can only see the *new* mess Havoc most dishonourably made."

          "But," Dark Mayhem continued, closing his umbrella back up and setting it aside, "there's the problem of figuring out just where the little self-inserted moron managed to insert himself into this time around."
          "So long as he didn't insert any part of himself into Hotaru..." Michiru said, a dark expression over her face.
          Haruka blinked a moment and turned to her lover. "Ano...Michiru darling, just how exactly did you manage to avoid getting hit by all that Cream Lemon? You're sitting right next to me on the couch."
          "Oh, that?" Michiru said with a coy grin. "I just let the yaoi ninja here take the brunt of it."
          And with that, she gestured to Ruckus, who was grinning mightily as he was licking large gobs of white cream off his face. "It's like a bring your own bukkake night," he said, "only without the spurting--"
          He was immediately punted by SD Pesti #6.

SD Pesti #6: "Keep your phalluses out of this, yaoi-boy!"

SD Pesti #4: "Ano...isn't it phallusi?"

SD Pesti #6: [eyebrow twitch!] "Could you come over here and say that again? I didn't quite hear that."

SD Pesti #4: ^^;; "I'd rather not."

SD Pesti #5: [Na ni? Na ni ?] "Why?"

SD Pesti #2: "Because that would put him closer into the kill zone."

SD Pesti #6: "Well, I'm all annoyed right now, so I have to smite somebody!"

SD Pesti #2: [shoving SD Pesti #5 forward] "I volunteer Go for that!"

SD Pesti #5: o.O;;; "Kyaaaa!!!"

          [Cue SD Pesti's #2&4 saluting as SD Pesti #6 proceeds to zorch SD Pesti #5 with a Rumblequake!]

SD Pesti #4: "Such honour! Way to take one for the team, Go!"

SD Pesti #2: "We surely will not forget your valiant sacrifice...well, not for the first few minutes, at any rate."

          "This is getting us nowhere," Makoto sighed as she watched the smoking SD Pesti #5 get dragged off by Ebichu the housekeeping hamster to be dustbusted. She glanced down at her lap, where SD Pesti #1 was happily glomped onto her. "And you're not helping much either, buddy."
          "Maybe they're hiding in the fridge!" Usagi said with a grin, heading towards the kitchen. "I should double-check there, just in case!"
          "Usagi, this is serious!" Rei exclaimed after Usagi. "Now is not the time to think with your stomach!"
          Alas, it was too late, and a grinning Usagi had already reached the fridge. With a triumphant cry of "Lucky!" Usagi threw open the refrigerator door...and stared down at Desolation's severed head beaming happily up at her.

Deso-head: ^-^ "Afternoon! Say, you wouldn't mind removing the celery from the crisper, would you? It's starting to go bad."

Usagi: o.O;; "Um...Okay..."

          And decaying celery stick in hand, Usagi slowly closed the fridge door and shuddered. "That was the creepiest thing I've ever seen," she muttered to herself. "And I've read that 'Pretty Fly

For A Hentai)' fanfic too."
          She shook her head and tried to remain optimistic. "There must be something better in the freezer!" she exclaimed, throwing open the freezer door. "Wai! Popsicles for--"
          Usagi was abruptly cut off as a dragon from Lodoss sneezed a fireball into her face. Blinking in utter surprise and disbelief, Usagi stared at the pan-dimension located on the other side of the freezer door. "Ghezunteit," she said to the dragon, and slowly closed the door.
          "Oh, I should have warned you about that," Demolition apologized, hurrying over to Usagi with a damp facecloth. "He's got a cold. But perhaps you'll feel a little better...after you've seen this!!"
          Demolition tore off his shirt and armour, and flexed his manly muscles for Usagi.
          Usagi stared blankly at him. "Wha?"
          In the end, it was a relationship doomed to failure. Usagi simply took the facecloth and washed off the dragon ash as she headed back to the living room. And Demolition only managed to attract Ruckus.
          "Oh, you're getting goosebumps from being so topless!" Ruckus exclaimed as he clung to Demolition's back. "Let me warm you up, Demo-kun!"

Demolition: -.-;;; "Warm up to this: FIREBALL."

Ebichu: ^-^ "Good news, dechu! Ebichu just finished cleaning off the Go-Pesti, dechu!"

Fireball: *FWOOSH!!!*

SD Pesti #5: o.O;;; "KYAAAAAAAAA!!!"

Ebichu: ;_; "Now Ebichu has to get the scouring pad again, dechu."

          "And all these random sight gags aren't helping the cause either," Haruka lamented. "Can't you fanboys think or act seriously for once?"
          "That depends," Dark Mayhem replied.
          Haruka arched one of her eyebrows. "On what?"
          "On whether or not we actually try," Dark Mayhem replied.
          "Or if we're getting paid for it!" added Riot.
          "Or if the floor's not going to get scuffed by it!" added Pesti-chan.
          "Or if it's covered by my medical expenses!" added the Deso- head, though he was muffled slightly, being still inside the fridge and all.
          "Or if there's cute babes involved!" added Demolition.
          "Or if there's cutie bishounen involved!" added Ruckus.
          "Or if there's kawaii little cute things for us!" added Hysteria.
          "What about the Gundams?!" Carnage exclaimed, aghast. "Won't somebody think about the Gundams?!"
          Minako turned to the other Senshi. "I think we have a better shot at getting the uncut Sailorstars season released on North American television."
          Ami glanced over at Setsuna. "So you're absolutely certain that you can't find neither Chaos nor Hotaru, Setsuna-san?"
          Setsuna had been sitting on the couch armrest next to Haruka, her hands crossed over her chest as she tried to look grim and serious. This look was severely hampered by the layer of whipped cream covering only one half of her face. "Well, it's doubtful it'll work after so many previously failed attempts," Setsuna said with a bit of a beleaguered sigh, "but I will try to unearth where in space and time they've gone to."
          "While you're at it, see if you can find Carmen Sandiego!" Dark Mayhem piped up.
          Everyone froze and slowly turned to stare at him.

Dark Mayhem: [sigh!] "You mention one little non-Anime gag, and everyone stares at you like you thought the End of Eva made perfect sense."

          Setsuna turned her attention back to the garnet orb of her big-assed key. The swirling miasma of fog parted to reveal things of the past and things of the future. "Okay, let's see here," Setsuna said as she studied the events being randomly shown to her. "There's the Big Gangbang at the start of time...hmm, too far back...let's see...my panties are being stolen by Havoc...my panties are once again being stolen by Havoc...and my panties are getting stolen by Havoc again! What the hey?!"
          "Well, there is that saying about how history likes to repeat itself," Demolition said aside to Dark Mayhem.
          Dark Mayhem snickered.
          "I heard that!" Setsuna said icily, still staring into her garnet orb. "Where's a remote control on this thing when you need it? Um...ah, here we are! The future!"
          The triumphant look on Setsuna's face collapsed.
          "My panties are going to be stolen again?!" she exclaimed.
          "Let me guess," Carnage wryly inquired. "Havoc?"
          Setsuna glowered. "No. A Chibi-Havoc."

          [Cue a Chibi-Havoc-chan bounding through the apartment with Setsuna's panties!]

Chibi-Havoc-chan: ^-^ "Hotcha! And they're crotchless too!"

Setsuna: -.-;; "So much for my date with Mamoru tonight."

Usagi: [perking up] "What?"

Setsuna: ^^;;; "Nothing!"

          "How is it possible that they've escaped space and time altogether?" Ami asked.
          Chorused everyone: "How is it possible that they've escaped space and time?"
          With an annoyed rolling of the eyes, Ami turned to Michiru. "Hasn't your Aqua Mirror been able to pick anything up?"
          "Well, I probably would have," Michiru answered, her tone growing darker as she slowly turned to Haruka, "but it would appear someone pawned it off just to get her hands on a limited edition, signed Infinity artbook."
          Haruka did her best to flash Michiru a sincere smile. "I love you?"
          "You are so not getting to be on top for the rest of the month," Michiru stated, still displeased. She looked back at everyone else, only to see that they were gaping at her, sweatdrops next to their heads. "Oh please!" she sighed. "As if you all weren't thinking the same thing yourselves."
          "No, no we weren't!" Pesti-chan retorted.
          "Ebichu was, dechu!" piped up Ebichu.
          Pesti-chan glared down at the hamster. "You stay out of this! Go wash out the wrinkles on Hysteria's brain or something."
          Ebichu tipped her head to one side. "Hysteria has a brain, dechu?"
          Already looking in another direction, Hysteria tried to turn her head around and growled at Ebichu.

Ebichu: [shaking in terror, dechu!] "E-Ebichu's about to get the bejeezus beaten out of her again, isn't she, dechu?"

Hysteria: "KAWAII KILLER BUTTERFLY ATTACK!!"

          Needless to say, Ebichu was quickly rendered a large bloodsmear on the wall.
          "Wow, that was harsh!" Minako exclaimed, still recoiling in fear from seeing Hysteria's wrath.
          "I'm just impressed she was able to smite Ebichu after turning her own head a hundred and eighty degrees," Carnage said.
          Setsuna cleared her throat. "Getting back to Chaos and Hotaru," she stated. "What exactly can or are we going to do about this?"
          "I vote for violence," Carnage said, and raised his hand. "Who's all for violence?"
          Dark Mayhem lowered Carnage's arm. "Down, Carnage. Remember the fiasco that happened when you tried to open that can of tuna with a beam sabre?"

Carnage: "Before or after all those catgirls were attracted to the sound of the can being opened?"

Dark Mayhem: [sigh!] "Nevermind."

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