Categories > Anime/Manga > Princess Tutu > Princess Tutu and the Secret Six


by paladin313 0 reviews


Category: Princess Tutu - Rating: PG - Genres: Crossover - Published: 2009-05-29 - Updated: 2009-05-30 - 15884 words - Complete


The time was closing in on the show, and although they were getting things down, Billy seemed to become more irritable than what would be expected for a show. The only thing that they could discern was the pressure that he must have been feeling in rehearsing for a ballet, a play, helping to put together some numbers for the variety show, and normal class work. Added to this was the pressure to do well, as the week of performances that happened right before Christmas break acted as an ersatz homecoming for the school. The reason for the pressure was the fact that some of the alumni had indeed made it in the business as big names, and they had connections. If they could impress them, they had an opportunity to be something big, even before they graduated. Although Billy was technically not the leader of the Secret Six, (a role that was slowly being taken over by Ahiru when she was in the form of Tutu,) he still felt himself responsible for making sure the act side of things went well, for all this had been his idea, and he had, in a sense, roped everyone into this act. This caused him to snap at his own friends when they were not as precise as they could have been. In this frame of mind, he was becoming an over-perfectionist. Even Mr. Katt had to pull him aside a time or two and calm him down. He even told Billy once, in a moment of frustration, that if he had been a girl, he would have had him married to him immediately. He was even getting snappy with Ahiru, and she did not like this one bit! He tried to say that he was sorry right away, but it did not seem to halt his rants. This did not help her, as she was already feeling enough pressure from having the lead in the show, (and Mr. Katt threatening marriage if she messed up their pas de deux,) and having been selected to be the soloist on “The Gift.” Something had to be done.

Ahiru had been spending some time learning Beatles songs in order to impress Billy, and now she felt that they needed to do a song for Billy that she knew would get his attention. Then they had to get him to take a break before he burned himself out. The others helped her in learning the song, and were prepared to act. About two days before Christmas exams, Billy was up in his room, going over and over his studies, his head moving like a bobble head doll. It was starting to get to him, and he slammed down his books in frustration, as if he was about to cry. He was so frustrated, that he did not even hear the approach of his roommates from behind. One blindfolded him, and another gagged him before he could say the name. He started to fight, but Mytho said, “Relax: you are being taken hostage into a place where you will be forced to enjoy yourself and veg out. You will be returned unharmed: fear not.”
One had him under the shoulders, and the other had his legs as they carried him down to the dayroom. They plopped him down on a comfortable chair, and took off the gag and blindfold. When he regained the focus on his eyes, he saw that the rest of the six had come over, bought a few pizzas and sodas, and put a sign that read, “The De-burdening of Billy Day.”
He laughed a bit at this, and was about to get up, and say, “Guys, I really don’t have time for this,” but the other five had their instruments out, and began to play. Ahiru began to sing the song entitled “I’m Looking Through You.” The opening line of the song dealt with someone telling another that they had had a solid love, but now the other had changed somehow, as if she were not even there—invisible. What he thought he knew was not what he saw now. Suddenly, this was not so funny anymore. Billy knew the song well, and knew that it was a bit of a stinging song for which it was meant. Since it was Ahiru singing the lead vocals on this, (wearing the same outfit she had worn at the first dance, just to get her point across,) this had an extra large slap, especially when she got to the lyrics that say that one needs to be careful, knowing that love can be quite ephemeral if not treated right. He now fell silent and hung his head as Ahiru hit the part that gave the sense of the singer saying that the person he thought was above him now was quite below him, and really had no real place in his life anymore. By the time they finished the song, Billy was deathly quiet, and wanted to get ill. He began to tear up, but tried to suck it up, and was not doing very well. “Have I been that much of a dirt bag?” he muttered. The others looked at each other, and then looked at him as they all said, “Um, yes.”
“Ahiru, baby duck, I…”
“Yes, Billy?” she cut in.
“Please, forgive me: I’ve been so mean to you,” he said, not even able to look her in the eyes. Ahiru noticing this, said, “Then, please look at me.”
He looked up at what he did not want to see, and that was a pair of very accusing eyes. Mary was giving him the same stare, but not as severe. She leaned over and whispered to her, “Be firm, but be careful: he has to learn how to treat women better, but he is very naïve at the whole thing. Don’t go at him like a normal boy: be very frank, firm, but try to sound a bit caring as you do.”
She then looked dead at Billy and said, “Billy: I did not appreciate the way you spoke to me these past few days. You act as if you care about me and love me. Well, if you do, then you had better change your recent attitude, because just as quickly as this relationship sprang up, it can also go away. I can insure that you and I never speak again, except for certain obligations of which we know well, and I know that is something you do not want. You cannot speak to us girls in the same way that you speak to guys when things are not going well, because, for us, that carries different meanings. Those words hit us as hard as a slap, and they hit me that hard. You hurt me. I do not appreciate it.”
Up to this point, she had been speaking in a matter-of-fact voice, and had not been building in rage at all. However, at this point, there was a quiver in her voice, as if she was going to cry, and a few tears did roll. She continued, “You take so much on you, and that is not good. It makes you hurt people, and you need to learn your limits. I am willing to forgive you, and let this go, and I can act as if nothing happened between us. But, understand, William—and I am not saying this in a hateful or accusing way, but I need to say this—if you want this relationship to continue, you are never, ever to speak to me in that way again. If you do, then you will have shown me your true character, and that I can no longer trust you to be the man I need you to be for me. After that, you will not hear from me unless it is strictly business. I will not even speak to you in casual conversation, lest I risk being hurt again by you, and you will have earned that.”
With that, she stood up and approached Billy, who now had hot tears of regret pouring down his face. He wanted to hug her, but she put her hand on his chest. “No!” she said, “And those tears are not going to garnish any sympathy from me, for I will not change what I said. Unless you can say something right now to change things, you are not to even touch me, or get close to me until you have proven to me that you are sorry, and you are the gentleman that I met when school started. Is that understood: I need to hear you say this—is that understood?”
This hit Billy harder than anything did that had yet been said or done. There was a look of terror on his face: something that Mary had been gunning for, as she now knew he understood fully the gravity of the situation. He needed to shape up, or it was all over. The sense of utter loss Mary considered good, because this would stick with him forever, and he would thus ever be careful before he acted like this again. She could only imagine what things could have been like if he had been Captain Marvel in this state of mind. This was why this needed to be as plain and blunt as possible, but not with a lot of lecturing and scolding, showing that there was indeed love and care motivating the proceedings. Billy finally had to man up and say, “I understand, and you are right.”
She, very matter-of-factly said, “Yes, I know that I am right. Is this all you wanted to say,” knowing that his response now would tell her what steps to take next. Suddenly, Billy began to turn to a gelatinous mass, collapsing to the chair, and now bawling uncontrollably, as if someone had told him that his father had died. “It’s happening again!” he exclaimed, “It’s happening again: oh God no!”
“Uh-oh!” Mary thought, “This was not what I expected.”
Ahiru looked back at Mary for advice, and all she could do at that moment was grit her teeth and shrug her shoulders. Ahiru walked over, and said, “Now what?”
“I don’t know,” said Mary, “I’ve never seen anything like this!”
Billy kept muttering between sobs, and they decided to let him vent. It was better than holding it in, because he had been under a lot of stress, and maybe this was what he needed to vent. However, what he was venting was disturbing. “I don’t want to be alone! I do not want to be alone again! Mom, Dad, Jimmy, and Cissy, now this: what do I do?”
All the boys could do was sit there silently, they being at a complete loss as what to say. Rue looked very serious and concerned. Now Ahiru feared she may have gone too far, and Mary knew what was going on: Billy still had a lot of unresolved baggage that was now surfacing in all the stress that he had been facing. She came up to Ahiru, and whispered, “I didn’t know he had so much baggage.”
“What do you mean?” Ahiru whispered back.
“There is stuff that he has buried that he hasn’t really gotten over,” she whispered, “It’s now coming to the surface, and this ripped off the scab.”
Billy continued, “I did this to Cissy: she couldn’t cope with my shyness, my splitting time between her and Captain Marvel. Why do I lose all that I love? I can’t take this anymore!”
Ahiru felt she had no choice. She asked, “Is anyone watching?
They all shook their heads, and then were surprised as she did her change right there in the dayroom. “What are you doing!” exclaimed Rue.
When she emerged as Princess Tutu, she said, “The only thing I know I can do.”
Billy was surprised to look up and see Tutu standing before him. In this state, all she could do was be sympathetic, and especially now, when there was someone hurting like this. She rotated her hands over her head, as she was wont to do, and then extended the hand to Billy. Billy had never experienced something like this, but considering the situation, he knew nothing else to do. He took her hand.

The dance ensued, and everyone cleared out enough area for Tutu to do her wizardry. “Billy, how can you think that you were to blame for losing your parents?”
“It’s not that, it’s just everything I have ever really loved is either taken from me, or I lose,” he answered.
“Who is Jimmy?” she then asked.
“He was a homeless kid,” he said, “He and I lived in the same abandoned subway. He went to school, and covered for me. The state was looking for me, and I didn’t want to go back, because I didn’t want it to happen again: they placing me with another monster.”
“I thought that he said you were dead?” she asked.
“He did, but it didn’t work,” he answered, “They soon found out the truth, but he skipped. Sups and I took care of it later, but I just didn’t trust the state. How could I?”
“Billy, thank you for telling me that, for that was needed,” she said, “But I also think you are blocking a bit. What happened to Jimmy?”
Billy was crying uncontrollably again, but this did not stop the dance. It only added poignancy to it. Of course, no one could hear a thing, but they could only guess what was being conversed at that point. “Oh, Jimmy, I’m so sorry! How could I be so careless? I wanted to protect you, and I couldn’t even do that!” said Billy, as he now was, in a sense, being forced to relive that event by Tutu, because she knew that he had to face this. “What happened, Billy?” she asked.
“I can’t! It hurts too much!” he shouted.
“There are things you haven’t dealt with yet,” she said.
“I KILLED HIM, OKAY? I KILLED HIM!” he thundered.
The dance took a notable and pregnant pause. Tutu could not believe what she was hearing. “How did this happen?”
“Gunmen came, looking for me. They saw me witness something with Dr. Savannah. They came to rub me out. I changed. I tried to block the bullets, but they ripped Jimmy apart!” said Billy, in one continuous stream of sentences. Then Tutu asked, “How was it that you did this?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “Maybe I didn’t get in the way? Maybe the bullets bounced off me and into him. I should not have been so cocky in thinking I could protect him. I just did it all wrong!”
“Billy, how can you think you did this?” she said, now trying to be as encouraging as possible.
“No, I’ve got to turn it into something else,” he suddenly said, but Tutu would have none of it.
“Billy, no,” she said, “not this time. You have to face this. Those gunmen would have done this whether or not you had been there. You did what you could. You did not do this. Would you have felt better knowing that your friend would have been guaranteed killed had you not been there? With you there, at least he had a chance, and some chance is better than none at all.”
Everyone watched as Billy’s dance began to calm, and become more flowing, and peaceful. Now, the dance was becoming more of a pas de deux than it had started. They assumed it was the love between them that started it, but in reality, Tutu had gone one to another subject. She asked, “What about Cissy?”
“My being Captain Marvel kept getting in the way. We would start to get close, and then I had to go. I didn’t want to lie to her, but she would not have understood. I don’t think she was ready to handle it, because I was still trying to get the hang of Captain Marvel. What would that have done to her?”
“Could she be trusted?” she asked, “I mean, was it that you did not trust, or that she was not trustworthy.”
“She was always suspicious of me,” he said, “even if…” and he trailed off. Then, after a pause, he said “…even if I had not been Captain Marvel.”
“How did this get in the way of telling her the truth?” she asked.
“If I had told her,” he reasoned, “then every time I went on a call, the tension would have grown, I think.”
“I do not think that you are far from the truth in this,” said Tutu, “In fact, it seems then that there was already tension: you were unsure of yourself, just entering back into society, you were uncertain around girls, as you were around me, and she wanted someone more certain, as any girl does. However, if she truly loved you, she would have trusted you. She would not have gotten mad for your dashing off. If she had known, would she have not used this as an excuse against you for doing one thing or another? Billy, none of these things is your fault. It seems that they all resulted from your circumstances, and not your choices. Even if you have made a few bad choices, it is time to move on. We can never change the bad choices of the past, but we can change how we deal with them, and change the choices from that point forward. Now, here, at Kinkan, and with us, you have a completely new life. You have friends, you have a new family, and you have a girl that loves you dearly. What you have been trying to do is be so in charge that there would never be a chance that you would lose anything again. Yet, your way of handling it almost caused what you tried so hard to prevent. Please, Billy: stop hurting yourself, and stop kicking yourself for things that you could not control, or for choices that you now cannot change. For if you do not stop hurting yourself, you will hurt all those that you love, and lose all that you truly desire. Make this a whole new day, Billy. Be reborn, and let this day be your new starting point. If you do, I will walk the whole way with you, helping you stay on the road.”
At this, they kissed, as everyone applauded to the sight, and it was quite a passionate one at that! When they separated, Billy fell back into the chair, this time with tears of joy. This time, Tutu verbalized, “Besides, consider that part of all your presents.”
This snapped him out of it, and he said, surprised, “My…my presents?”
Mary interjected, and said, “Billy, you have been pushing yourself so hard that you forgot that today is both our birthdays!”
Now Billy looked shocked! “Oh, Mary,” he sputtered, “I didn’t get you anything, I…”
“Stop right there,” she said, “I got you as a brother this year, whereas before, I had none. What better a present could I have asked for?”
With that, Ahiru reentered the day room from the RD’s desk, (having already transformed back into Ahiru,) and retrieved the birthday cake from the desk, after having the RD light the candles. At that, they all sang “Happy Birthday” to the birthday siblings. Mary held up a glass of soda, and said, “To my womb mate!”
They all had a good laugh, and proceeded to have some fun. Eventually, the rest of the dorm heard the goings on downstairs, and came down to investigate. By this point, the six had gotten their instruments out, and were trying to work out some carols, since it was the yuletide season. The music students then fetched their instruments, and began to play with them, as well as aid them in learning their instruments better at the same time. Then, someone suggested that the six of them join them for a Victorian celebration in town the coming Friday, and sing with them, and play. They could also do a bit of dancing, if they liked. A few in the theatre department said that some Victorian garb was being made available for use in this, and they were welcome to all of it. Indeed, this would be a fun lead up to the week of Holiday Extravaganza.

They were now taking rehearsals in the theatre, and on that Monday, the students working on Cinderella were in for a surprise. For, at the end of the shows the next week, many of the alumni were coming back for an ersatz homecoming show. That show would not be limited to Christmas and the yuletide season, though normally, many took on themes as such. It also attracted guest stars who had built friendships with those graduates while in the business. Some of those celebrities had already been arriving, and one of them graced the theatre on that day. Mr. Katt stepped in front of everyone, and said, “Ladies and gentleman, all this week, we have a guest coach who will be helping us with the final rehearsals.”
Some groaned, considering that, sometimes, these “guest coaches” turned out to be some of the biggest jerks and nuisances that they had ever seen. Mr. Katt, having had to deal with some bad coaches during his time coming up, said, “I know, I know, but I think you will not mind this one! Sasha, would you please come on out?”
At that, a well known Russian dancer came out of the stage wings, and warmly introduced himself to the group. Though he had his formal name, he insisted that people call him “Sasha.” He said, in his thick Russian accent, “Gustaph, it is so good to see you, old friend!”
They hugged, and then said, “Well, kids, let us see what you have.”
They then began to do the entire show from beginning to end, and they were surprised that he just sat there and watched the whole thing. After it was over, he asked the cast to sit in the seats out front, and he took his position in front of the group. He then began to deal with the show, saying, “That was actually fairly well done. However, there are a few things that I would like to address. Some of you in the intermediate level that are acting in the background seem to be going though the motions just a bit. It is not that you did badly, but I think that it is a bit of a situation where you are at a stage in your learning where you have to learn to put more passion in what you do. This will help you keep your line, and crispness in your dance. You will attack the numbers more, and you will be so caught up in what you are doing that you will not be so focused on what you are doing. In other words, you already know what to do; now you need to bring it to life. When you do, instinct will take over, and you will absolutely make the ballroom scene have the dazzle it needs to add impact to the pas de deux in that scene. Now, to the five students that are acting in the lead roles: the passion is there, yet I detect that there is a bit of uncertainty in your characterization. Who is Cinderella? Would you please stand?”
Ahiru stood, and he said, “You are doing well in your portrayal; you just need to connect to it a bit more. Where it seems that you are having problems is when you do your pas de deux with Gustaph.”
“Well, he is my teacher,” she said, “and that makes me a bit nervous. Besides, he keeps threatening marriage to him if I mess up!”
“Gustaph, Gustaph,” he said, “you still have not broken that habit, have you?”
He hung his head, a bit embarrassed. “Don’t worry,” said Sasha, “you’ll find that special someone one day. However, that is not helping her. You have to set her at ease.”
Mr. Katt stood up formally, one hand behind his back, and one on his chest, fist closed, and said, “My dear, I am sorry. Please, do not think of me as your teacher right now, but one of your fellow performers, for Sasha is technically the teacher now, and even I have something to learn today.”
Ahiru giggled, smiled, and said, “Apology accepted,” as she did a quick curtsey. Then Sasha said, “Of course, your dance with the prince is filled with a lot of passion—perhaps a touch too much.”
Both Billy and Ahiru blushed, and he said, “Ah…I see! You two are…” and he moved his fore and middle fingers up and down in an alternating fashion. He continued, and said, “Please, do not be embarrassed. In fact, because you two are this way, it does help. However, what I mean about too much passion is the fact that the two of you are dancing as if you two had known each other for years. You have to dance the dance of new love.”
Ahiru thought for a moment, and then said, “Hey, Billy, what about the first variety show: remember?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” he said. Sasha cocked his head a bit, and Mr. Katt then said, “They refer to an act that they did for our first variety show with four of their friends. One of them is working another show right now, but they have formed an act. They call themselves the Pas De Six. I’ve been helping them cohere.”
“Already forming acts are you?” asked Sasha rhetorically, “It shows in your dancing. That will really help your skills gel. Can I see what the two of you did as part of the act?”
Billy said, “I don’t have the music with me,” but the soundman in the booth hit his mic and said, “I think I still have it up here…wait, here it is!”
“I know you two are not quite in costume for it, but, let me see it, please?” Sasha then requested.
With that, they took the stage, and went through the routine once again. He then said, “Very good! It could still use some refining, but better than two students that I would guess are in the intermediate class.”
Although he had told them that it still needed work, to hear what he had said felt like quite a compliment at that moment. They came back down and took their seats, this time, beside each other. “So,” he continued, “what you just portrayed, you need to put in what you do here, with just a bit of that passion I saw earlier: two lovers, destined for one another, though they do not know it yet, but are discovering just how sweet love can be. Give me that!”
He then turned his attention to the boys, who felt uncomfortable sitting there in costume, having been in drag for the rehearsal for the first time. They wanted out of those outfits, but they had to first endure this. He said, “You two need to be more snobbish, and more like two bickering siblings.”
“I think you remember, Fakir,” ribbed Mytho.
“More than I want to,” responded Fakir coldly, but with a smile on his face.
“That, right there!” Sasha exclaimed, “That is exactly what I want, but a bit more feminine.”
They rolled their eyes, but Ahiru chirped, “You guys know: just like me and Rue,” as she turned a knowing glance her way. She curtly smiled a mock smile, which, if she had been a small child, would have been a stuck out tongue. Sasha caught this, and then said, “And you: you need to be a bit more sinister. You are the wicked stepmother, who despises the beauty of her stepdaughter, and who knows that will more than likely take the good, rich man that you hope they would one day marry. You even wish that she were dead, if that would aid your greedy schemes. In fact, in watching you, you seemed to want to avoid this. There even seemed to be a hint of you loving her. NO, NO, NO! You have to avoid this. Are you two friends?”
“We’re a part of the same act,” Rue said.
“Have you been friends for a long time?” he then asked.
She hung her head, and said, “Not as long as we should have been.”
“What happened before?” he asked.
“We were…we were rivals,” she said, “and I tried to do some cruel things. I am ashamed of that now. We never should have been rivals.”
Sasha thought for a moment, and then said, “This is going to be hard, but, at least on stage, and I do mean ‘just on stage,’ you will have to bring those emotions to the surface. You cannot avoid them. Those emotions of rivalry are just what you need for this.”
She sat their quite, and just nodded her ascent. He then said, “Tomorrow, we are going to go over vital scenes, and I am going to help some with your form, and help you to be a bit crisper, and help you to attack the dance a bit better. Then, until tomorrow, I say, ‘Das Vidaniay.’”
Everyone thanked Sasha, and then went to change. The boys began to discuss some events before Mytho lost his spiritual heart, and Billy and Ahiru began to recall the days when they had first met. However, Rue took Ahiru aside for a moment, and told her, “Look, I have not wanted to…” but Ahiru interrupted and said, “I think I know what you mean.”
However, Rue continued, “Well, please understand. For the next few days, and for the show, while we are up there, I am going to treat you as mean as I can. It is nothing personal, okay. It’s just…what did Billy call it…ah, yes: the Method.”
Ahiru thought for a moment, and said, “Then…then I will just respond like Tutu would: with love in return.”
She then leaned in and whispered to Rue, “I know that aggravated you no end!” saying this with an evil grin. Rue returned the grin, and said, “Don’t make me hurt you,” as she put Ahiru into a playful headlock. With a slight shove towards Billy, and a smile, she said, “Get out of here!”

The next day, Sasha showed that he had a lot of patience, but he also was constantly correcting and reminding as people went through their sequences. Quite often, you would hear, “Watch your line! Mind your Porte Bras! Passion: I need to see more passion!”
Sometimes, he would stop a dance mid stream and put arms and legs into the position that he thought would fit best at that moment: pulling here, and tapping there, occasionally turning a dance step here and there for them to see what he meant. Even Mr. Katt was corrected a few times, and Sasha even teased, “…and if you do not get it right, you will have to marry me immediately.”
Everyone tried to stifle the laughs, and they were not succeeding very well. If they could have seen under the fur, they would have seen him blush. However, by Thursday, he said very little, as his meanings were being understood and implemented. On Friday, they did the dress rehearsal, and one thing went wrong after another. Frustration was mounting, but Billy was managing to keep it together. However, below stage, in the dressing rooms, Ahiru was in for a shock.

When Ahiru had performed Swan Lake the year before, she did not need to make any costume changes, so she did not go back down. However, there were changes here, and she was about to get an education in the world of live theater that few know about. When it came time for everyone to change into their costumes for the ball, they rushed down, and almost carried Ahiru as if they were the tide. They descended from the side that was closest to the female dressing room, and Ahiru was shocked to see the boys go in the same door! There were those that were in various states of dress, and Rue was already down there changing. However, the boys paid it no mind, and shot straight through to the door that separated the two dressing rooms. She found it odd to find it unlocked. She stared at the now closing door bug-eyed, but Rue grabbed her, spun her around, and said, “Hey! Snap out of it! You need to get changed.”
With that, she started to unzip Ahiru out of her costume, and she took the hint. She quickly got out of her plain toe shoes, and got out of her tatters. Halfway through the job, Mytho, Fakir, and Billy all charged through the door, and sprinted for the exit. Before they got out, Rue chimed to Billy, “Say, pass me that talc, would you?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said very quickly. He snatched it up, plopped it down quickly, and took off, paying Ahiru no mind, who was now covering up, red as a beet. At that same moment, a girl, who was trying to get upstairs with them, stood in front of Mytho, with her back to her, saying, “Hey, please, zip me up!”
He zipped as they both walked, and then they both charged out when the job was finished. Just as Billy was turning to leave, Rue took the front of her strapless tutu, whipped it down, and started to pat the undersides of her breasts with the powder puff Billy had just delivered. Again, Billy paid it no mind, and really had already turned around before he could have seen anything. Ahiru was almost done, and Rue then helped her on with the “glass slippers.” Ahiru asked, “Where are my knot keepers?”
“There’s no time for that,” said Rue, who then used an old school trick, by grabbing a can of hairspray, spraying the ribbons on her ankles, and said, “It will feel a bit sticky for a few, but you’ll get used to it. Fix your makeup! I’ll be waiting upstairs.”
Ahiru was now mechanically putting on her makeup for the ball, not sure what had just happened. One thing she knew was this: for intermission, she was going to insure that the boys used their own door.

At the time intermission came up, Ahiru, (not quite walking right, having to strip off one shoe for the “lost slipper” to be found by the prince,) took her place by the door, looking to turn away any boy that tried to enter. To her surprise, they walked right past, not even looking at her, going to their side. Now she was really confused! Rue saw her standing there, put her hands on her hips, and said, “Hey, wake up and focus! We only have about 15 minutes!”
At that, she grabbed her arm, and pulled her into the room. “What is wrong with you?” asked Rue.
“You didn’t see that?” asked Ahiru in return, now beginning to change for the final sequence.
“I didn’t see what?” asked Rue back.
“Those boys just went through like we weren’t even in here!” she peeped, angrily, “Billy almost saw you…I think he saw me!”
“What? Oh, are you referring to…?” said Rue, and then she began to laugh. “This is your first show with costume changes in it, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, I think so?” said Ahiru.
“Trust me,” Rue said in return, “Billy took it like a true experienced veteran: he saw nothing. Even if he did, he was probably so focused on getting upstairs he probably doesn’t even remember who’s what he saw on whom.”
“But…but you just let them go,” Ahiru reasoned.
“We do the same to them, honey,” she said, “Sometimes; being in the right place at the right time can be the matter of a split second. Thus, cutting through one another’s dressing rooms are actually commonplace in the world of the performing arts, because all of us know what is at stake in any show. In all actuality, we do try not to cut through, but we also understand that timing is everything. If there is no need to pass through, then we do not. However, we also understand if someone tears through. As long as they don’t make a habit of it, and make no effort to stare, then it is something that we just have to tolerate.”
“But you had Billy stop to hand you the talc,” Ahiru reasoned, “What was that about?”
“He was closest,” said Rue, “It would have taken too long for me to get up and get, and too long for someone else. Besides, you were behind, and I didn’t want to slow you up any more.”
“But what if he saw?” said Ahiru.
“What IF he saw?” said Rue in return, “I would have missed my cue if I had waited for him to get out of eyesight, and then powder myself. If he was in his dressing room, and wanted some foot powder, sitting there in his BVD’s, I would have stuffed it in his hand, and kept going. Even Mytho was recruited. I’m not jealous. She needed help, and he was closest.”
“It still seems awkward,” she said.
“You’ll get used to it,” said Rue.
A light in the room faded in and out, and that was the indicator to be in place. Ahiru had just gotten dressed, saw this, and said, “Uh oh! Got to go!” and started for the exit. Rue, getting back into her frame of mind for the show, grabbed her, turned her around, and said, “No time: go this way,” and opened the partition door, pulling her behind. They went through as a few boys shot the other way. Rue was rushing her, and as they passed through, Mr. Katt said, “My cane: Ahiru, toss it to me!”
She took a split second to locate it in the corner, snatched it up, swung it behind her back like Bob Cousey, and he kept going as he followed behind them. Rue said, “Good, you’re learning!”

Still, the show did not go off as crisply as it could have, and most of the newer kids to this were scared that they would end up a harem for Mr. Katt. However, he laughed and wrote it off, and he said, “There is an old saying in the business: a bad dress rehearsal makes for a great show. There is truth to this, in that, we now at least know where the worst kinks in the show are, and we can fix them now. It is better here than on opening night, especially that this one show only has one performance this time around. You kids were great; it was just some cuing and technical issues. So, get some rest this weekend, and be ready for your academic exams on Monday. Once done, all we have to worry about the rest of the week is the Holiday Extravaganza, and then Christmas break.”
A collective sigh of relief came over the cast, and they all went home to study and rest. Billy, however, had to return the next evening for his dress rehearsal of A Christmas Carol. Ahiru walked back with him to the dorm, and asked, “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” he answered, “I’m just going to hit the sack early tonight, and then hit the books tomorrow, then the dress rehearsal.”
“Hey,” she said, “don’t forget to relax some, okay.”
She stroked his hair a bit, and said, “Hey, why don’t you come out at lunchtime or so, and we can play a little. I could always use the practice.”
“Kind of like when we first met?” he asked.
“Sort of,” she said, “Who knows who could show up. A good hour’s break might keep your mind fresh.”
She tenderly kissed him, and then placed her forehead on his. As this was happening, someone was playing the soundtrack to Singing in the Rain, and it reached the title track. As fate would have it, it began to rain at that point. Feeling a little silly, Billy began to sing Gene Kelly’s part, and drift out into the rain. “Billy, what are you doing?” she asked, “You’ll catch cold!”
He did not seem to care, as he began to sing the song, and do the tap dance that went with it in the movie. “Wow!” she said, “He really can tap! That has to be why he’s so light on his feet more than most guys I know.”
Oddly enough, Mr. Katt was heading off campus to his home at that moment, huddled under a large umbrella, still not liking the water. At the precise moment Kelly bumped into the cop in the film, Billy bumped into Mr. Katt, who looked amazed as his happy and soaked student. All Billy could say was, “I’m singing, and dancing in the rain!” as he bowed, and danced his way back to the dorm. All Mr. Katt could do was shake his head and go on. He rushed back to the dorm, and said, “Girl, I thought two disciplines were going to be hard, but you have breathed the breath of life into me! Thank you! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get into a hot shower before I really do catch cold. G’nite, Baby Duck! ”
With a quick peck, he was on his way. Ahiru said, “Whee!” and quickly danced her way across to her own dorm, happy as bird on the wing.

The next day, Billy woke up feeling somehow energized, and showered again, happy that he had not caught cold. That would have been a disaster for the show. He hit the dining hall, wolfed down his breakfast, and headed back to his dorm for some study. At about noon, he went to the spot on the mall where he had met her, and she was already waiting for him with a picnic spread. The others were there with them, and Rue said, “No fun having a picnic without friends!”
They all had their instruments, and they began to have an impromptu jam session as they dined. They covered some folk songs, and even covered an Abba tune here and there in those instruments, making a unique sound with the harmonies. They covered a few Irish tunes, trying to be sure that they were building an eclectic repertoire. Billy also said, “It would also help us if someone had the knack for lyrics. We could use some original songs. Is anyone a good wordsmith?”
Mary then said, “I’ve been good somewhat with poetry. Maybe I could give some of that to you, and you could put some music to it?”
“It’s worth a try,” said Billy. At that moment, the school’s pipe and drum corps was coming by, and they saw the session going on. They came up and said, “Where’s the percussion?”
“In this style, the beat is kept by the base,” said Billy.
“Aw, no fair,” one exclaimed, “Just like percussion: always pushed to the back.”
“C’mon, guys,” said Billy, “Join in on the next one.”
He then gathered them together, and whispered, “The Obvious Child.”
A few did not know the song, but the others clued them in on the rhythm, and the styling. They then nodded, and the snares started in. It sounded like a march at first, and then took off in a South American rhythm. This is when Billy tore in with his 12 string, and before long, everyone there was joining in. This began to get the attention of the people around, and they came in to see the impromptu concert going on. After the song, people applauded, and they wanted them to go on, but Billy said that he had to get back to the books. He then said, “If you want more, then I hope we all get to see you at the variety show next week. The Pas De Six will be there in full force!”
They all applauded, and went their way. As they were cleaning up the picnic, they all looked at him, wondering what that was all about. “Hey, if we are going to be an act,” he said, “then the publicity will not hurt.”
“You make it sound like this thing is already solid,” said Rue, “But three of us are graduating. How can we go on?”
Billy smiled, and said, “Leave that to me. One thing that Mr. Katt said to me about all of this was that, if we were to hit big time, then, even though three of us will still be in school, we could still be this act. Besides, he said that doing this, even though we are in school, makes a good name for the school, so the school’s cool with it.”
“So, what are going to do,” asked Rue, “open a theater somewhere around here?”
“Who knows,” answered Billy, “Even some of the great acts own their own theater to perform in when they are not touring. Anything is possible. Just keep aiming high.”
With that, he took his leave, took a short nap, returned to his studies, ate, and went to the theater.

Billy went to the theater, and Ahiru brought up the rear, she not wanting Billy to know that she was going to watch him work. This was mainly that, well, she missed him, and did not like the fact that she could not see him for but only one hour that weekend. She knew she had her own studies to worry about, but she was ready for that. Besides, she needed the break. However, she did not want him to worry himself about her and any anxieties that she may have, because she wanted to be sure that his whole mind be on what he wanted to get accomplished. Although, there were some rough spots, as would be expected in a dress rehearsal, the show went well. Ahiru was amazed at Billy’s performance, and that he had the energy to pull this off. He did so well that it did not even seem like Billy anymore. He really seemed to become Ebenezer Scrooge, and now she understood even better now how the Method worked. She decided that, when they got back for the second semester, she would look up on this, and learn as much as she could. After it was done, she slipped out before the cast took their place in the seats for the critique. Yes, Billy would be okay. It was so sweet to know she had aided her Rubber Duckie.

However, none of this escaped the view of Edel, as her standard ravens would come back from their scouting runs, and gave their report as she used her herbal skills to give temporary ability to them to speak. She had been keeping her eye on them, as she prepared her battalion of minions. She had also managed to corrupt and convert about 10 men as acolytes to the Raven, through whom she would rule the minions. At that moment, they were working to summon a presence of the Raven himself. There was only so far he could enter into this realm, because of how he was originally trapped by the shattering of Mytho’s heart, and how he needed that, or some pure heart, to sacrifice and feed him fully into this realm, and to conquer the earth. At least this way, some form of communication with their master could be done, so that they could receive his will. As they chanted, the amphitheater in the cave within which they held court, (which was not but a mile from the school,) filled with a seeming black fog. Two red ovals formed within them, staring down as eyes amongst the group. “This had better be important,” he thundered, as a red shape formed words underneath the eye, giving the appearance of something with a beak speaking, “You know it hurts to try to cross over like this to communicate.”
“Oh great Raven,” said Edel, worshipfully, “please forgive the inconvenience, but I needed to give you a report.”
“Give it swiftly,” he said, “I already suffer pain where I am, and this does not help! When are you going to release me?”
“All is being readied,” she responded, “I am raising and preparing a battalion of raven men, with competent commanders. I must prepare for the ballet brat and her friends.”
“Really, Edel,” he said, “How hard is it to tend to children?”
“It’s not that, master,” she said, “she has recruited Captain Marvel and possibly other heroes…”
“Captain Marvel!” he thundered, “Do not tell me that the old wizard is involved?”
“Old wizard?” queried Edel, “I do not understand?”
“Shazam is getting involved!” he thundered, “You may have more trouble than you think.”
“Who is Shazam?” she asked.
“He is one of a long line of heroes,” he grumbled, “and was the one who bestowed the ability of one to become his successor: Captain Marvel. He is very powerful, and you cannot underestimate his ability.”
“Then it must have been him that bestowed the new pendants on the girls.”
“HE DID WHAT!!!” he thundered as the cave shook.
“Is there a problem?” she asked, not sure if that was the right question.
“If they have been empowered by the wizard, then there is no controlling them, as you had before,” he said, “If they ever find out their power, nay, their own true origins, they may find that power, and it will be all over for all of us!”
“What do we do?” she said, now terrified.
“Find out who is the true identity of Captain Marvel, capture this one, gag him, and insure he cannot say the wizard’s name. Cut out his tongue later, to insure it never happens again. Get the pendants and destroy them. If you can be rid of the Swan Sisters before the wizard can replace them, then all will be well. The Knight Prince and his pitiful protector would not be able to stop all that you have, and the Knight Prince’s heart will be a prime coronation meal for when I am crowned emperor of the earth. Once I have that power, then no hero on earth would be able to stop me, not even the Amazons, of whom I have battled before. Insure that Princess Diana does not get involved. She may expose the sisters to more knowledge than I would wish them to have. This would cause them to be protective of their pendants, and make it almost impossible to stop them. For now, lie low, and let them gain a false sense of security. Get their guard down, and then strike! I cannot stay. I must go. Do not fail me, and summon me not again until all is set.”
With that, the black mist vanished, and the ten priests were on their face paying homage. Thus, the first thing Edel needed to do was to send a raven to the school, and trail the kids until something exposes itself about Captain Marvel. She picked up her beloved messenger and said, “Go now, and stay with the ballet brat and her friends. If you can figure out which one is Captain Marvel, come back with word right away.”
It cawed, and flew off. “Yes,” she thought, “It may take months, but I will be ready for you all! Revenge shall be mine!”

Ahiru awoke the next morning, cuddling the plush toy duck that Billy had given to her. Her eyes opened in such a fashion that this was the first thing she saw. It was a caricature yellow duck with a waft of feathers that curled up above its slightly oversized head, an orange band about its neck, and with white and orange bands around its legs over the webbed feet. About its neck was the mock pendant. It always reminded her of him, and that night, she brought it into her bed, because she wanted him around more, and the shows were making it difficult for him to be around. This would have to do. She put on a casual dress, and decided to take a walk. She put on her hat, grabbed her purse, dressed warmly for the cold December day that awaited her, and then looked back. She saw the duck, and decided to take it with her. She had not gone far when she saw Billy exiting the boy’s dorm with his 12 string, his laptop, and a pair of skates. She was so happy to see him out and about that she rushed up and almost tackled him as she hugged him hard. “Billy, what are you doing out?” she asked, happily.
“I’ve gone over my notes so many times that, if I don’t know it by now, I never will,” he answered, “Besides, I don’t want to burn out again, and I figured that I would just take it easy today—you know: be rested up for tomorrow’s finals. Well, I guess I’ll take it as easy as one can on skates.”
“Hold on,” she said, “Let me get something.”
She rushed back to her room, set the duck down, said to it, “Thanks for your company, but Billy’s here, and I’ll see you later, okay,” giving a loving tweak to its nose, grabbed her autoharp, and went out to meet him again. Billy looked happy to see that she wanted to practice. He then asked as they walked, “Where’s the duck?”
She almost seemed embarrassed to tell him, but then said, a bit timidly, “When you’re not around, he keeps me company,” and bit her lower lip like a little girl. For some reason, at that moment, she seemed extremely attractive to him. He also liked the fact that the toy meant that much to her. He then said, “Say,” he said, “can you skate?”
“Well, I can at least stay on my feet,” she said.
“Tell you what, let’s hit town real quick,” he said. With that, they went to town, and they went to a sporting goods shop where Billy bought for her a pair of white figure skates. They then headed back to the school, and for the lake not too far behind the school wall. That small lake had just been recently cleared as safe for skating, and Billy figured that he could play for a while, and then skate for a bit. He had not expected this, but welcomed her company. As they walked to the lake, he said, “So, how’d you like the show last night?”
“Oh, it was…” and she stopped herself, and turned red. She then said, “How did you know?”
“Well, I saw someone out there, but I couldn’t make out just who. Then, as we were taking our seats in the audience, I couldn’t help but see the trail of long red hair going out as you closed the door. No one on campus has hair like yours!”
She smiled, put her arm around his, and snuggled close. He returned the favor. “Oh God,” he thought, “Never let anything come between us and separate us.”

When they arrived at the lake, various other skaters had already arrived and were spinning around the ice in various ways. They had not seen Rue and Mytho out there as of yet, but they would soon. Billy helped her into her skates, and guided her onto the ice. She took a few easy strokes in order to re-familiarize herself with skating. Billy, however, began to twirl around the ice, and did a few jumps and spins. Ahiru looked amazed, and thought, “Is there anything that he can’t do?”
She skated up to him, and asked, “Where did you learn that?”
“Well,” he said, “I’ve spent time watching actual competitors do their things, and I figured that I could just use some ballet with it. Some of the skills are the same, with a bit of modification. I still have to refine it, but it is still fun to try.”
Ahiru thought about that, then took a few strokes to get up to speed, and did what she would do to do a pirouette. Because her ankles were now quite strong, she found it easy to prop herself up on her toe. However, she also learned quickly about arms, and their location on the spin. She found that, as she drew them in, she went faster. She also discovered another problem. In spinning during ballet, she had learned that, to keep from becoming dizzy, you kept your head fixed as you spun, and snapped it forward when you could hold it there no more, and then focus again. However, she could not do this skating, because of the speed. At this, she was beginning to get out of control, and Billy quickly came up to stop her spin. As he held her, he could see her eyes spinning in her head. She said, “Stop the lake: I wanna get off!”
“You have to be careful, Baby Duck!” said Billy, “Here, let me show you a few things.”
“How do you keep from becoming dizzy?” she asked, trying to regain her composure.
“That’s just something you have to learn to get used to,” he said.
He then started showing her some of the basic moves, and then told her, “When you jump, spin, and land in ballet, of course, you will not be moving when you land. Well, here, when you do that, you’re going to keep going, so you have to watch your balance.”
At that, he took her, faced her to him, they took off, and he lifted her off her skates, and spun her away. She did a double Lutz, tried to land in an arabesque, and fought to keep her balance. She did manage to steady herself for a second before she brought her other foot down. It was a bit scary, but a bit exhilarating. He then said, “Let me get a bit of music going,” feeling it might help. He went to the bank, fired up his laptop, and, once done, he brought up “The Skater’s Waltz,” setting it on a loop, and said, “I hope the battery lasts for this.”
He then began to teach a little about ice dancing as they began to twirl about the ice. She then said, “Let’s try some pas de deux stuff in this.”
“Okay,” he said, “But remember: we’re going to be moving as we do, so take that into account for balance sake.”
Thus, they began. It was a bit awkward in the moves, because neither of them were used to doing them while moving at a decent clip. They were off balance here and their. However, they weren’t as concerned about looking good as much as they were more concerned about having fun. Eventually, they gained enough courage to try a few lifts, almost fell over once, but began to get the hang of it. Soon, they began to get a bit cold, and decided to retreat to the warming tent. It was a couple of frame tents that were surplus from the military, and were good for making a good warming shack. One of the townsfolk that ran a local coffee shop set it up yearly at the lake, figuring that skaters would always be looking to warm themselves at some point. The two grabbed their things and went in. They took off their skates and got some hot cocoa, and then were surprised to see the other four there already. “How long have you guys been here?” Ahiru asked.
“We were already here,” said Rue, pointing, at not only the rest of the six, but also Mai, Yuma, Nana, and other classmates. “I was wondering when you two would come here,” said Yuma, as she looked at them knowingly. Some of the townsfolk then recognized the six, and said, “Hey, you guys are the Pas De Six from the variety show, aren’t you?”
Others recognized them, and began to group around them. They all began to give various comments about what they liked about them, and had a slough of questions. A few even asked for autographs! Suddenly, there came a realization to the six that Billy’s words about remaining an act were gaining weight, as they began to see how the pressure of fans could shape one’s choices. They were already recognized as an act now; they all began to realize that fate would now not let them separate—either as an act, or as a super team. Some then began to say, “We saw you guys dancing on the ice, now we want some songs!”
Everyone began to cheer this on. Billy looked over, “Dancing? What were you guys doing?”
“About the same thing you two were,” said Mary, as she then leaned over and gave Fakir a peck on the cheek. She looked at him with somewhat dreamy eyes, and he stroked her chin with a tender smile. “Okay,” said Billy, “it’s been obvious that you two have been warming to each other. But, how long have you two been an item without us really knowing?”
Rue then said, “Even in love, he is the quite, subtle one, isn’t he?”
“You can’t do anything overtly, can you?” asked Mytho.
Fakir just sunk his head and sighed as he grinned, not knowing what to answer. This was as close to blushing that anyone had ever seen Fakir come to. However, people were demanding a song, and so Billy and Ahiru got out their instruments. He said, “Well, we were no Olympians out there, that’s for sure, but I hope we can sing better than we skate!”
He then said to Ahiru, “Just play the rhythm chords, and I’ll fill in the leads.”
Billy then said to the crowds, “Well, we don’t all have our instruments here, so we’re going to improvise a bit. However, this is Christmas time, so we’re going to do some seasonal music. So, everyone join in if you know the song, and let us know what you want to hear: we’ll see if we can do it.”
With that, an impromptu concert started, with full audience participation. Billy had intended to relax that day, however, though everyone would be quite exhausted by the end of the day, Billy felt more relaxed than if he had just by skating and playing around on his guitar. It was because his mind was now at ease, which was what he needed all along.

All of the six now found it easy to flow through the first semester academic exams, because they all now had such a great peace about them. Ahiru even brought her plush toy for luck, which she was now calling “Rubber Ducky.” Even though this was supposed to represent her, it represented something of him far more than what the external showed. This peace was produced by knowing that you had a future, and you had good friends with whom to share them. They did not even bother with checking the results later that day, because they knew that all would be well. They would have time for that the next day. That night, the first show took place, which was the play. Billy thanked everyone for coming, and noticed something interesting. Mai was no longer cutting her hair. It was now down past her collar, and flared out at the end. She was also wearing one of Yuma’s dresses. They were about the same size, but Yuma never foresaw the day when she would ask to borrow dresses. Yuma, when she heard this asked, was pleased as punch to do so, and even to help pick out one that suited her. She was still somewhat of a tomboy; however, Mary’s work with her was beginning to take root. She was finally beginning to find her feminine side. One thing she could not help get over was all the looks that some of the boys were giving to her. It made her feel a bit embarrassed that so many people were noticing her, but she also liked the fact that…well…everyone was noticing her! Yuma and Nana both put their arms around her, giving her reassurance that she was doing just fine, and she did not have to worry. The play went off without a hitch, and Billy really threw himself into the role. He was extremely convincing on both ends of the spectrum of the character that he portrayed. The best scenes in the show were with the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the scene in the graveyard. The effects crew outdid themselves that night, (considering that stagecraft was one thing that this particular school also offered, and the shows were something that they were graded on as well.) No one could wait for the next night. That would be the performance of the oratorio of Carmina Burana. They knew that there was going to be some ballet with it, as some places around the country do so when performing this. Following that in the same evening would be the Fawcett City Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker. Yuma did indeed wind up with the lead in that, as Mr. Katt expected, and she was looking forward to that herself. That was the first time she ever worked with a professional ballet company, and she absorbed much in the way of experience: something Mr. Katt had intended all along. The next night came, and the music and voice departments did not disappoint. However, Billy commented to the others that, though he liked the piece, he could not help but to equate the piece to a musical train wreck: you know you should not look, but you just cannot help but look. He was certain that Carl Orff was either an authentic genius or a certified whacko.

Then it came the time for Cinderella. Ahiru now had learned how to turn the butterflies to her favor, and how to apply the method. By doing so, she went out and danced as if she was possessed. The pas de deux with her teacher went better than it ever had in rehearsals. It seemed to be the atmosphere of the audience that provided the extra edge. She even forgot what Mr. Katt truly was, and she was able to relax enough to pull off the scene convincingly. In this atmosphere, she gained a new appreciation for Mr. Katt. She now realized how much that discipline of his played in. He was such a professional, he was able to set aside his position as mentor, and treated Ahiru as a peer, not as a student. After that first scene, she was fired up more than she ever had been for anything in her life. Billy had no idea what kind of trouble he was in. Although they did their scene with expertise, Billy was almost overwhelmed at the person with whom he danced. It almost did not seem like Ahiru, but it seemed more like Ahiru had taken a back seat, and all of whom Tutu truly was, was manifesting herself at that moment. The love that they had for each other, which had intensified greatly by this point, came through their dance. They were able to catch the essence of new love, but more intense than had been expected of them. The boys were also able to catch the essence of female sibling rivalry, and their portrayal of the ugly stepsisters had the whole audience in stitches!

The next night was the variety show, and because the classes had been done since Monday, they were able to get the rest they needed after each show to be able to perform the next night if they had to. This was the night when the Pas De Six were going to debut with instruments and singing, as well as dance. They were to lead off the second half of the show, and before it got started, they surprised everyone downstairs. They remembered the haka that they had seen, and decided that it would be something fun to do right before going on to shake any extra butterflies that they did not need. They had taken the time to learn it, and then shocked everyone by standing in a receiving room next to the understage and thundering the haka. After that, they whooped, yelled as they high-fived one another, and went upstairs to perform. At first, everyone looked askance at this, but then saw the teamwork and camaraderie that it caused, and then everyone began to applaud, as they saw its result. As they went up, a Kiwi stopped them, and thanked them for doing the haka right, and for honoring his homeland like that. This made them feel more confident than ever knowing that they were learning how to connect with all kinds of audiences. They started with the pas de six of Enya’s rendition of “Silent Night” in Gaelic. The scene was surreal, yet they were able to portray in quite a peaceful yet powerful way the scene that the words portrayed no matter in what language the song was sung. Mr. Katt wanted to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate that anyone—even those who are naïve about the world of ballet—can understand the language of dance. They seemed to succeed at this, as the audience was mesmerized by what they were seeing, and fully grasped the message of the song, even though they, (unless they were Scottish or Irish,) could not understand the words. They knew the tune, knew the English, and saw the words come to life as they danced. After that, Rue and Mary went to a discreet just off stage to do a quick change of costume as Billy spoke. Billy took up the guitar, Ahiru her autoharp, Mytho his violin, and Fakir his acoustic bass, and Billy began to introduce the next number. “Okay, this is a song that has its trappings in the streets of any city in Mexico, in more of the poorer parts of those cities. We shall see some of the traditions of the Christmas celebration of Mexico as we see the portrayal of the story of an orphan girl who receives a miracle for her simple, humble gift.”
He quickly glanced back to see if they were ready. He then continued, “So we hope you enjoy this portrayal of a song simply and appropriately entitled ‘The Gift.’”
Seeing four of them with instruments, and then preparing to sing, caught some of the audience off guard. Even though they knew that Billy could sing, they were quite surprised when Ahiru opened her mouth and began to sing, and they who were not dancing began to play. She began to sing as her sweet, lilting, and youthful voice carried throughout the auditorium as the song unfolded. Mary was Maria, and Rue played the little nightingale that she nurses back to health. In Mexico, it is tradition to leave gifts by the nativity inside the church for the Christ child, as well as give gifts to one another. In the song, everyone brought their finest to the church as gifts, but all Maria had was a small bird in a cage made of rushes and twine. She waited until midnight on Christmas Eve to go into the church, because she was so ashamed of what she had to offer, for the bird and cage was all she had. She felt her gift was unworthy of the Christ child. However, a voice spoke to her from the darkness, and asked to see the bird, if that was indeed her offering. She did as she was bidden, and the little bird flew out, fully healed, and it flew into the rafters. Just as the bells rang, the bird sang a song so beautiful that no words could have recaptured it, for its beauty was fit for a king. All this was being portrayed in dance as it was being sung. Ahiru finished the last line, and then Rue and Mary went into a pas de deux together for a spell. Ahiru repeated the last line, and closed it out as the scene had the two girls in a pose as the front lights faded, leaving them silhouetted on the background. There was about 20 seconds of silence, and they stood there, not knowing what they were thinking. “Did they hate it?” thought Ahiru, not wishing to verbalize it, or even whisper it, knowing that the ear mic was able to pick up the minutest sounds. Suddenly, the place erupted in thunderous applause. It went on for a good minute, and it seemed like it wanted to go on. Billy looked out into the audience for Mr. Katt, who gave them the indication that they should do the encore. The two girls went back and simplified their outfits, (for that is how they were designed in case this happened,) as Billy stalled. He said to the maestro, “Encore!” and said to the audience, “Okay, and for a final number, here is a song from the hit musical Rent.”
At this, they went into the number entitled “Seasons of Love.” What surprised everyone was the fact that the six danced and sung at the same time. Normally, tradition states that there is no talking in ballet. However, the Pas De Six had already shown that they could break tradition and get away with it. The audience began to thunder again, and it seemed like they would not stop. Thus, the emcee came out, knowing how to gain the audience’s attention with a few good jokes, and allow them to leave so the next act could take the stage.

Downstairs, in the receiving room, there was one big combination of a group hug, cheering, and bouncing up and down. If someone had not known that this was a celebration, one would have thought it a mosh pit. “There’s little that feels like this!” Billy shouted.
“I wish this feeling would never go away! Whee!” Ahiru gleefully added.
Fakir pulled out some bottles of ginger ale, and said, “We cannot have beer, so this will have to do,” and handed them out. They busted open the caps and Mytho said, “To the Pas De Six: to a great future and long life!”
They all tapped the bottles together, took a swig, and flopped down. Billy, to be cute, took his bottle, and tapped it directly over the mouth of her bottle, causing it to fizz over the top. She leapt up as it spilled over onto her a bit, and she plugged the top into her mouth. Everyone laughed as Ahiru said, “Why you…!” and whipped off her headband and started hitting Billy with it. Fakir then said, “Don’t worry liepshun, there is more!”
She then curled up again next to Billy, but not before getting a knuckle into his rib. They then began to chat about what they could do next, and just what the future would be. Billy said that he knew someone he could trust in the business that would not do that about which Mr. Katt had warned. “He’s a close friend of mine,” said Billy, “and he can be trusted.”
“Who is this, Billy?” asked Mary.
“Someone by the name of Mr. Tawny,” said Billy, “and I think he and Mr. Katt would get along.”
“Isn’t that the one that you said was a tiger and like Mr. Katt in the same way?” asked Ahiru.
“Yes,” answered Billy, “and whatever made Mr. Tawny the way he is has to be what caused Mr. Katt, I’m sure.”
“What do you have in mind?” Rue asked.
“I’m thinking that we can take this act on tour this summer,” said Billy.
“Whoa,” said Rue, “This is moving a bit too fast, isn’t it?”
“Hey, we gotta strike while the iron is hot,” said Billy, “If this is the way that this town and Fawcett City reacts to us, we may have something more than we realize.”
“But daddy’s not gonna want to have me gone all summer too,” said Ahiru, worried about what this would do.
“I’m not talking all summer,” said Billy, “Maybe just one half of it. That way, we can spend time with our families and still get our feet in the door. Remember: when opportunity knocks…”
Everyone then chimed in to finish the sentence, saying, “…you’d better be at home!”
“What happens after that?” asked Rue, “What if the three of us that are graduating go on to college or something?”
“Hmm,” though Billy, “That is a tough one. Unless we could own our own theater, I guess that could make it tough. I guess we can deal with that when the time comes. Whatever the case, I don’t think we should split this up if there is even the slightest chance that this could be something big. Besides, there is the other reason why we are banded together.”
He then gave them a knowing look, and then they realized that staying together was important, and the act could be a good cover for them. They had to figure it out at some point. Billy said, “Well, who cares about that right, now. Was that awesome, or what?”
They all began to cheer anew, and had not realized that the show was nearing a close. “Uh oh,” said Rue, “We need to get upstairs for the finale.”
With that, they all finished their drinks, and made their way upstairs for the grand finale.

After the show, there was a general gathering of the acts upstairs for an after-show get together. This was important, because, normally, alumni who had come in for the alumni show the next night had a chance to mingle with the students to give advice, and maybe even network some if they were close to graduation. This was held in the lobby, and in the seats. The Pas De Six finally emerged in civilian clothes, and they were wearing their finest. For Ahiru, this was her first ball gown, and she felt more beautiful than ever. She wore a drop shoulder white gown that bowed out into a bell-like skirt, held out with plenty of petticoats. Mary wore a similar light blue gown, while Rue went more for the sheath style gown, and straight black satin. The boys all had tuxedoes on, and they all stuck together as a group, each escorting their respective beaus. Sasha was there, and he was the first to meet them. “You six were fantastic!” he gushed, “I never thought I would see the day where someone could put voice with ballet like that!”
The six were genuinely shamefaced at the compliment, and thanked him graciously for the high compliment. “So,” he asked, “How are you developing this act?”
They looked askance at this, and he added, “What I mean is, will this be the format, or is there more to be seen?”
“It’s still in the early stages,” said Ahiru, who surprised everyone by her boldness to speak for the group, “but I think we are going to have fun finding out how far this could go.”
“And that is the key,” he responded, “because, if you do not enjoy what you are doing, it become drudgery, and you have come off the track somewhere along the line.”
At about this time, Mr. Katt approached, followed by alumni who had gone on to fame or success in ballet, Broadway, and suck like, who wanted to meet this sextet. They were all intrigued at them, all knowing a good thing when they saw it. Then one of them said, “We could use you six tomorrow night. Gustaph: do you mind of we borrow your kids and work the snot out of them tomorrow?”
“By all means!” he responded.
At this, they told them, “Be here tomorrow at 9 o’clock sharp! Being late in show business can almost guarantee never being able to find work, so get in the habit of being prompt!”
Ahiru cringed at this. The only reason why that had not been a problem that year was because she and the others practiced Tai Chi, warm-ups, and the act a hour before class started, so she was never late. However, this was different, and she was scared that she might mess it up again. Billy could not help but detect the slight hint of dread on her face, and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“You know my past habits of being late, right?” she asked.
“Hey, you’re going to be there tomorrow at 7, right?” he reminded.
“Oh yeah,” she said, “I forgot. I guess we can just go from there.”
“Get into regular habits, and this ceases to be a problem,” said Billy.
“Well, with that business done,” said Sasha, “Let’s have some fun!”
With that, they all went about to schmooze with the rest of the group, networking as best they could.

When they reached the dance room, they were surprised to see Sasha waiting for them. “Gustaph let me know that you have an interesting way of warming up,” he said, “And I would like to participate, if that is okay.”
“We’d love it!” Billy exclaimed, “Just stand in front of us, and mirror us. Let the music help you focus.”
With that, they commenced the Thursday routine. What took them all by surprise was how quickly he was picking up on the form. Although three of them knew that they were quite good as dancers, they realized that they still had much to learn. His professionalism and knack for the dance by this stage of the game was so vast, that it seemed to be instinctive for him to gain new forms. He was not only good at ballet, but he was also very good at the modern and jazz forms as well. He was an accomplished all-around dancer, and it showed. For him, this was just a new form of dance to learn and enjoy. After they were done, he said, “Thank you. That was very relaxing, and yet refreshing as well. I feel more alert and focused. No wonder Gustaph loves it so much.”
“Well,” said Billy, “I hope that you can find other instructors that can teach you more. It really helps. Oh, and I think we still have time for breakfast before we head to the theater.”
“That sounds excellent,” said Sasha, “A good fill for energy, and then we get to grind you into the ground!”
He then followed that with an evil cackle and smile, as he rubbed his hands together. Of course, they all laughed, knowing that it was going to be a hard day, (having to prepare a show in one day,) but a fun day as well.

By 9 o’clock, the alumni that were going to participate, as well as the guest celebrities, were all gathered, kicking around ideas for the show. Everyone, including the orchestra, (who were also made up of alumni,) was contributing, as their music was just as important a contribution as what would be happening on the stage. When the six arrived with Gustaph and Sasha, everyone began to applaud. The six were grateful, but a bit confused, and genuinely embarrassed. Ahiru broke the ice by saying, “Thank you for the applause, but please forgive me if I ask why you are doing this.”
One of the dancers said, “Honey, when we see something like you guys come along, that gives us dancers all hope that ballet will never be lost.”
Another chimed in, and said, “You are a shot in the arm, and a breath of fresh air. You six have something that cannot be lost, and we want to help you all we can.”
A third said, “We’re going to teach you six a few things that you may not yet know that is going to help you quite a bit. We’re going to work you hard, but we think you’re going to have fun as well.”
Rue then said, “Please forgive me, but isn’t this your show?”
“And quite right you are,” said the maestro, “but you are the key to the theme that we have been kicking around, and yours will be just a supporting role, but a very important one.”
“Some of you will be separated for one number or another to work with the alumni,” said Mr. Katt, “but you will have a few numbers together: two in the show, and one in the grand finale.”
“Alright, victims…uh…I mean, volunteers,” joked the one acting as the director, “Step on up, and let’s get to work.”
For the rest of the day, they had them all try different things, combinations, songs, sketches, and so forth, seeing what they had, and what the alumni could use. The alumni were impressed on how quickly the kids were taking up on the work, and how much they thrived in hard work. The six were impressed on how professional these people were. They only had the better part of a day to put a variety show together, and yet, what normally took weeks for them to put together, these people were putting together in one day as if they had been practicing for weeks. By 4 o’clock, they had the show worked out. At first, the alumni worried about how well the kids would retain their parts, considering that they had not been dealing in the business nearly as long as they had. However, they did try to use things that they were familiar with already so they knew it would not be all that bad. What they were not aware of was the ability to improvise that these kids possessed, so they need not have worried. They were going to break at 5 o’clock to prepare for the show, but the alumni asked the kids for something. One of them said, “I heard that, last night, you kids caused quite a stir before you went on stage: something about a strange dance you did to pep yourselves up.”
They looked at each other, a bit embarrassed; knowing that they had done it in front of everyone else, but it was something they thought was going to stay below stage. “Yes,” said Billy, “It was the haka.”
“The haka!” said one of them with the Kiwi accent, “Blimey! I didn’t know you yanks knew anything about that! Then let’s do that, and teach these guys how to do it. Hey, this’ll get your blood goin’ as well. Let’s teach them how.”
For the rest of that hour, they leaned the haka, and were ready to go for that evening. The kids were told to bring their school uniforms as well, because that would be a key to the opening.

Right before they went on, the whole cast and orchestra performed the haka, and it was loud enough to be heard faintly through the pit floor. No one knew what was going on, and they found it odd. However, they just shrugged their shoulder, thinking it was something for the show. Meanwhile, they were all fired up for the show, and the orchestra took their place. They played the overture and the emcee cam out to introduce the show. “Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and students of Kinkan High.”
The audience applauded, and then hushed as the emcee continued, “Tonight, we have a special treat, as this year’s alumni variety show is including, for the first time in a long time, current students in its show, to help present the theme to this years show: From Yesterday to Today’s Tomorrow!”
The curtain opened to some of the actors and dancers acting as if they were walking around the campus and reminiscing about their days in the school. They talked of old times, fun times, and mentioned some of the great shows of the past. However, they also spoke of how they feared that the modern era of entertainment on video and on the internet was going to kill the art of live entertainment. They knew that the youth at this school understood the importance of what was going on at the school, but they also feared that these poor kids were going to be in the minority. They did not know how this could survive. At that point, the six came on, took seats on the hill set in the scenery, and began to mess around on their instruments. Then, they broke into a song entitled “The Irish Rover,” and sang it with all the relish that it deserved. The alumni stopped dead in its tracks as they heard the music. They turned around, quite amazed at what they were seeing and hearing. When they had finished, Billy piped up and said, “Ahiru, do the dance to the one you’ve been working on.”
With that, she stepped down off the knoll, and started her variation to “Across the Universe.” The audience now recognized the six that were on the stage, and then acknowledged who it was. They could not believe it! At first, some of the students were angry, because the six were getting all the attention, and they felt that the six must have felt themselves more important than everyone else. Then, they had to stifle that, because they had to admit that they put much into extra practice, and that was something they themselves should have been doing. Therefore, they could not hold a grudge. From there, the alumni approached the six, and complimented them on their talent. They also asked why they were banded together, and the six explained that they wanted to do something new and fresh to help the world see that ballet, and the live arts were not dead. This is when the different acts commenced, seeming to flow from one remembrance of the past to another, some of them using the six here and there, where it would be sensible to use them. It turned out to be an incredible revue of past hit shows at the school, and a fond remembrance to times of triumph that helped to propel many of them to the fame they now held. One thing that was reoccurring was the alumni’s own look into the future in that past time, and how they dreamed of a brighter future. Towards the end of the show, it returned to the school scene, and the alumni were now saying that they were quite encouraged to see that the future was actually bright. They also said for them to keep up the hard work, and for them to do all they could to keep the art alive. Mytho then said, “Oh, you mean like this?”
That was the cue for the finale, and the six then broke into a song and dance to “I Sing the Body Electric,” as they shed off their school uniforms, and revealed flashy looking silvery dance outfits underneath, as they commenced with the number. When that was finished, they broke into “This Will Be a Brand New Day,” from the musical, The Wiz. This is when everyone came on and performed. The kids were exhausted after the long week, but this moment in the alumni show made it all worth it: there was a future for them, and there were plenty of people around that wanted to see them achieve their dreams.

That Friday, they spent the day packing to return home for the Christmas break, but before they left, they all promised to go caroling with some of those in the vocal school: one last fling before going home. That, in itself, was a moment to cherish. The six felt warmness and comfort with one another they had never felt. They felt more like a family than ever before. Even Fakir seemed to melt with the warmth, now showing quite open and clear affection for Mary. Fakir had been worried about this, but he now realized that Billy felt this was the best thing that could have happened to the two of them. This put Fakir at ease, and they saw a side of him that he rarely displayed publicly. However, no one outside the six dare say anything, because they were not sure how long this would last, especially when they were certain that he could go from zero to monster in less than two seconds if he really wanted. In a sense, as they saying goes, they hated to spoil the mood! The next day, they were all at the airport. The boys were heading back to Germany, and the girls were heading back to Japan. It was a bittersweet goodbye, but not as bad as it could have been, for they would all be back for the next semester. They all wished each other a merry Christmas, and then Billy said, “Me and sis will pop by at some point. We’ll just use the communicators and make sure it is a good time for a visit.”
They all looked at them, and they were about to ask how that would happen, and then they Batsons gave them a knowing look. Suddenly, they felt silly for even thinking the question! “Yes, folks, there are advantages to being superheroes,” whispered Billy. They all laughed, and said their final goodbyes. “See you in a few,” he said to her. Ahiru then got a dreamy look in her eyes as she smiled, and then pulled him down to herself. She then planted a big, fat, tender, adult kind of kiss that would send most people out of this world. When she finished, she smiled, and said, “Merry Christmas, Rubber Ducky.”
“Merry Christmas, Baby Duck,” said Billy, giving her one last peck on the forehead before leaving. Ahiru then practically floated to the plane, as Billy half walked, half danced his way out of the airport with Mary on his arm, as he sung the song That’s Amore.
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