AN: In the interest of not delaying this post further still, I've given this chapter fewer read-overs than I ought to have - so I apologize if there are any glaring grammatical errors. (Feel free to point them out.)

On the subject of pointing things out - please review! Please, please, please. On anything, no matter how general or specific. The major events that follow are coming out a little earlier than I anticipated, so hopefully you at least have something substantial to which to react. (But small things are fine too.) So please review... Most appreciated.

That said, you might hate me before this is over - but I suspect you'll love me first. Heh^_^;

...

Chapter 7 – Life is a Cabaret

"Fraulein Sally Bowles!" Thalia and Cressida flanked Glinda, as they were wont to do. She had learned not to allow herself to become flustered.

"When are you going to let us put you in one of our shows?"

"Life is a Cabaret, old chum." Cressida pursed her lips with deadpan seduction.

"Come at the Cabaret." Glinda caught out of the corner of her eye as Thalia gave a spasmodic thrust of her hips—or his… The blonde had not yet keyed into the correct use of pronouns when the queens were away from the club.

"Down girls," Elf cut in, putting a protective arm around Glinda's shoulders. "Leave her alone. Or I'm going to have to quit bringing you out in public."

"And isn't it a charming little ice cream parlor?" Thalia tossed her hair. "So old fashioned."

The old-fashion proprietor looked distinctly uncomfortable.

Cressida leaned over her partner's shoulder. "Darling, let me have some of your butter-pecan."

"Back off, bitch! You're the one who wanted fudge mint chip."

Elf shifted and gripped Glinda's shoulder more tightly. Glinda looked over at her but could not catch the chocolate-brown gaze that was so often so soothing. "Something wrong?" she whispered.

Elf's eyes darted about. "I'm not very comfortable… in public places."

Glinda only stared blankly. "I met you in a crowded bar."

"That was different."

The blonde laughed quietly. "Because there you didn't stand out?"

"Not as much as you did," Cressida cut slyly into their conversation.

"Really, you must perform for us!"

"We're not above begging."

Thalia clicked her tongue. "In fact, I always let begging have the top."

"Slut," Cressida gibed.

"I know, right."

Glinda lifted an eyebrow. "I appreciate the offer, but I hardly think I'd pass as a boy."

"No, no, darling!" Thalia exchanged a sympathetic look with her counterpart.

"See, it doesn't have to work like that," Cressida explained. "Look cute and give them a good show—that's all they care about. Get someone in drag in on the act, and no one gives a shit who's the lead. As long as you razzle-dazzle." The glint in her eyes was conspiratory.

Glinda furrowed her brow when Elf cut in. "She doesn't want to. Leave her alone."

"I can decide if I want to, thank you." Glinda said icily and shrugged away the green arm, to Elf's surprise and discomposure.

"C'mon, this is silly," the king whispered. Blue eyes narrowed, though before the blonde could formulate a response, the queens interrupted with a squeal.

"Mr. DeMille, she's ready for her close up!"

A pair of hands gripped either of Glinda's arms, lifting her from the seat. "My house," Cressida said, "into makeup."

The blonde blinked, suddenly overwhelmed, glancing nervously back at Elf. The king shrugged—not quite helplessly: distinctly letting the kidnapping occur without intervention. Glinda glared again, remembering why she was annoyed, and allowed herself to be led along with a dignified pride.

"This will be just like that scene in Mrs. Doubtfire!" Thalia trilled.

The queens made their exit with a chorus of "Matchmaker," captive securely in tow.

OZ

"Ladies," Glinda managed when the queens released their grip on her face for a brief moment, "I do have my own makeup."

"Nonsense, this is stage makeup," Thalia said with a wave of her brush.

"She does have a softer complexion than you or I," Cressida allowed. "No, no, perhaps darker on the lipstick, darling."

"If the lips are too dark, they won't offset the eye shadow."

Glinda was no stranger to makeup—she had well mastered its subtle allure. Even still, she had some concept for the stage's necessity for overstatement. Yet she had never felt her pores so thoroughly smothered. A mask might frankly have been lighter.

The blonde rose and blocked eagerly groping hands with either arm. "I think that's enough," she said. "Perhaps if we three tried working in tandem? I might surprise you with my own abilities."

"Hmm. Too much," Thalia said, casually ignoring Glinda.

Cressida nodded her assent. "Start from scratch."

Glinda gratefully washed away the layers of paint. As she was dabbing at the corners of her eyes, a woman's cheery voice called—rather louder than was necessary—"Cody! Your green friend is here!"

Cressida opened the door, and Elf stepped in, a bit sheepishly.

"Excuse her lack of tact," the queen said with a wave of her long fingers.

Elf shrugged. "She doesn't mean anything. I don't mind." The king caught slight of Glinda and smirked—brown eyes implying slyly they two shared some secret. Glinda blushed, feeling her heart quicken.

"You're interrupting a work of art," Thalia snapped.

Elf snorted a laugh. "I see. I figured you two would've had her looking like a hooker by now."

"She doesn't need our help," Cressida said, to be slapped on her arm by Glinda. "Ow! That hurt, missy."

"Bite me." The blonde rolled her eyes.

Thalia and Cressida wasted not a moment in obliging, each attacking a different side of her neck. Glinda squealed.

Elf, ever the gallant knight, gently extricated the girl from the clutches of her predators. "Half an hour alone with you two and she's developed a vampire fetish."

"Mmmm. Sparkly." Thalia licked her lips.

"Bite your tongue," Cressida gasped. "Give me gothic leather or Victorian frills any night."

"Bill Compton with his Gone with the Wind accent…"

"Ooh, any man ass in True Blood…"

The queens laced fingers and simultaneously sighed, "Eric!"

Glinda shrugged and tossed back a lock of golden curls. "I've always preferred Godric personally."

The room went deathly quiet. The blonde blinked into three pairs of staring eyes. The silence stretched until finally Thalia whispered, "Ooh, our little minx has bi-tendencies."

Cressida kicked her partner. "She'd have to, to fancy this scruff of a scamp."

"You like Godric?" Elf tilted her head to the side, studying her girlfriend with a curiosity so earnest that Glinda could not help but feel deeply awkward. She leaned her head against a green shoulder and fluttered her eyelashes.

"By I love you, dear."

Elf pulled away forcefully and had disappeared from the room before Glinda had the time to feel properly stunned. She stood open-mouthed and puzzled helplessly over her companion's reaction. Elf had not been angry at her confession of star admiration, so why—

"What an emo boy," Cressida sighed. "His inner melodrama is twisted as a broken slinky."

Glinda ran out of the house to find Elf pacing and brooding across the back lawn. She was wary in approaching, unsure what might cause another hurtful and entirely baffling reaction. She did not get the chance to speak, however, as the king blurted, "Do you?"

The girl started. "Do I what?"

Elf's eyes seared into her. "Love me?"

Glinda was taken aback. Confronted with such an unforgiving question, her first instinct erred toward anger. She felt it rage in her heart righteous and hot, shielding her vulnerability. But another emotion quelled it—fear of lashing out too rashly in too tender a moment. She feared the consequence of her defensive fury more than the answer she was hesitant to give.

"Yes, I think I do," Glinda said quietly. Tears burned in her eyes—what for, she could not have said.

Strong arms encircled her, and Glinda felt a warm breath at her neck that comforted her. "Then don't say it as a joke," Elf whispered, voice trembling. Glinda raised her arms to return the embrace.

The blonde disengaged gently and gave Elf's sharp shoulder a squeeze. "If you'll excuse me, I have to go take the reins of a pair of drag queens."

OZ

"Before I introduce our next act—a toast." Chaz raised a bottle.
"There was a queen from Bellaire
Who was fucking her bitch on the stair.
The banister broke,
So she doubled her stroke
And finished him off in midair."

The crowd threw back their drinks as a unit.

"Only I lied," Chaz said. "I won't be introducing our next act. Instead I'll leave that task to our strange yet dashing one-number Emcee."

Army boots thunked dully, even under light steps, as a shadow emerged on cue. A stir of interest could be heard, murmurs and shuffling as the audience, both standing and lounging in dimly lit corners, shifted for a better view. As Chaz passed off the mic, white teeth grinned from the dimly lit figure made only darker by green skin.

With greased black hair and a long leather trench coat, Elf appeared strikingly imposing as dark eyes swept the hushed audience. The pause was palpable, hanging like steam in the air. Grin broadening, the king offered a sweeping gesture and shattered the silence.

"Meine Damen und Herren, Mesdames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentlemen. Willkommen—to the Philosophy Club!" The quiet spectators erupted, whistling and howling their applause. Elf commanded them. "I am your host—"

"For one number," Chaz piped from backstage, to be squealed at by Cressida and Thalia—all to be ignored by the bar's patrons, as their attention remained bound.

"And now we are proud to present, and toast"—all present were only too happy to drink again—"our shining new talent. I mean that literally, fremde, shining. So talented, so charming—only yesterday, I said to her, 'I want you for my wife.'" Elf nodded emphatically. "And she said, 'Your wife? What would she want with me?'" A beat passed for laughter both accommodating and genuine. "Thank you. I give you—and don't forget to bring her back when you are finished with her—Fraulein Sally Bowles!"

The cheers were loud, even as spectators strained to hear, hungry for music, eyes blinking widely into the dark recesses of the stage, only to squint in the flare of sudden stage lighting. Beyond their blindness, a voice spoke in sultry tones:

"Mama thinks I'm living in a convent—
A secluded little convent
In the southern part of France.
Mama doesn't even have an inkling
That I'm working in a nightclub
In a pair of lacy pants."

From the light, a new leather-clad figure in heels, fishnet, and crimson lipstick stepped forward, tossed her golden curls becomingly—and sang.

"So please, sir,
If you run into my mama,
Don't reveal my indiscretion.
Give a working girl a chance.
"

In an instant, Thalia and Cressida appeared in full makeup and padded boobs, kicking and twirling to their gay hearts' delightful content. Elf stood back to a corner of the stage, observing with a smirk that sent a flush down Glinda's scandalously exposed skin. But she only smiled dazzling and danced.

"If you had a secret,
You bet I could keep it.
I would never tell on you—
"

Glinda's backup waggled their hips and took one tip after another, snatching them from fingers and waistbands with equal vigor and flutterings of mascaraed eyelashes.

Backstage, they laughed freely and loudly. Thalia teased Cressida's ear with a crumpled single bill and giggled. "Split tips four ways?" she asked with a lick of her lips.

"Technically all tips go to the lead performer," Cressida said.

Glinda shook her head and shrugged. "I don't need it."

"Three ways then," Thalia grinned evilly.

"Hold on." The blonde leaned into Elf's shoulder with a nudge. "I think I'll give my quarter to our Master of Ceremonies."

Cressida winked. Thalia rolled her eyes.

"Playing favorires."

"It pays to be sleeping with the star."

"Hey!" Elf flicked Thalia's arm, earning a yelp in response. "A little respect, if you don't mind."

"I always have respect for sex."

"My show," Glinda said, with finality, "I choose how the spoils are split."

"And what a show," Elf said softly, kissing Glinda on the lips then drawing away, smiling. "They loved you."

"No kidding," Thalia snorted, laughing.

"The few straight men will go home weeping, the lezzies will have to scoop up their jaws—"

"And cum," Thalia offered.

"—and the gays are currently questioning their life choices," Cressida said, with a smirk that said more than Glinda could guess.

"I can't claim all the credit," the blonde said, dodging the complement. She ran a hand along the collar of Elf's black leather trench coat. "I wasn't the only one on stage who drew some eyes."

The king blushed darker green. "Yours don't count."

"She's not wrong," Cressida added with a nod. "You should dress like a terrorist more often. It's dashing."

"I dread to ask what it cost," Elf said.

Glinda laughed. "And you shall never know, sir."

"It's so posh having a financial backer," Thalia trilled with a delightful shudder. "I feel like a real Renaissance artist."

"So much nicer than being a starving artist," Cressida agreed.

Elf's arm had snaked around Glinda's waist, and she heard the voices of the drag queens mute to a dull patter. She nuzzled into sharp-scented leather and brushed fingertips with her own.

Before she managed to slip out the back door after Elf, to avoid adoring drunks, Cressida caught hold of Glinda's wrist. "You might not be a queen," Cressida said softly, resting a tiara atop Glinda's golden curls, "but you're a star."

Recalling two homecoming crowns past, the blonde felt a warm rush far superior to either. Hundreds of cheers from her peers at school had never matched to the screams and whistles of the clusterfuck of misfits who frequented the Philosophy Club. She wondered with melancholy if she would be crowned a third time as Homecoming Queen, but Cressida's assuring squeeze on her wrist rescued her from the bout of morbid loneliness.

OZ

The night air was cool against Glinda's skin. She listened to the chirping of crickets, the whispering of wind, and was still. Elf touched her neck gently, and she smiled.

The heavy trench coat was draped across Glinda's shoulders, offered in a truly gentlemanly fashion. It was so long on her, it touched the bed of the truck at her feet. She glanced sidelong at Elf. Her raven hair, which had been greased and tamed for the performance, was already returning to its natural mussed state. Glinda smiled and buried her fingers in it.

"I'm glad you decided to do your own makeup," Elf said with a smirk. "It's nice to be able to see you under there."

Glinda rolled her eyes. "Even Thalia and Cressida complimented me on it. I told the bitches I knew what I was doing."

"You do indeed," the king breathed, before her mouth and tongue made a valiant effort toward removing the blonde's lipstick.

Glinda felt a red blush burn from her cheekbones down to her breasts, where her nipples pressed through layers cloth against warm flesh. As Elf's lips moved past her ear to breathe against her neck, a shudder of energy coursed through her entire body, to her toes and back up. Grinning wickedly, she turned and attacked with possessive desire, taking Elf by surprise.

The leather coat discarded beneath them, Glinda straddled Elf's ribs, not sure when their legs had gone out from beneath them. But she only laughed softly and nibbled a green earlobe, delighting in the short gasps against her cheek. Her fingers wandered, adventurous, over collarbone and forearms, finding ticklish palms and straying again, playing at the hem of Elf's shirt and probing beneath, to caress smooth skin that trembled at her touch. Her hand slid upward and brushed against the binder Elf wore for her drag performances, then down to follow the sharp ridge of hipbone just below the waistband of her dark jeans. Feeling Elf's nervousness, Glinda kissed her lips gently and whispered nonsensical comforts. In the excitement and heat, she felt her own blood stilling, slowing time to savor the moments of skin and breath and sweet scent.

Glinda heard her name whispered as she kissed her way to collarbone and chest, through shirt and binding, rib by rib to the stomach exposed under the king's lifted shirt. Elf cried her name again, louder, with a buck as the blonde kissed just above the button of her jeans before releasing it.

Elf wore a packer beneath her underwear, which Glinda moved away along with the cloth above it. Elf's stomach rose and fell rapidly as the blonde's fingers reached to tease the course black hair beneath.

"Glinda," the king said again, catching hold of her wrist. Green fingers trembled as their owner blushed a darker shade. The blonde stared steadily, lovingly as dark eyes darted away. "Glinda…" she rasped, trembling, "I've never…"

With a soft smile, the blonde leaned up to silence whispering lips with her own, kissing deeper then teasing with pecks across cheeks and nose. Her fingers swirled where they'd stopped, eliciting a cry that made her own heart dance for joy. "Don't worry, love," she said quietly, drawing back. Elf shook with pleasure and nervousness. "Slow and gentle," she assured. The king watched with wide eyes as Glinda dipped her hand to her own sex and brought her fingertips back warm and wet. She touched her sticky-sweet lubricant to the tip of Elf's stiffened clitoris. Hissing through her teeth, Elf arched beneath her lover's body.

Kissing jawbone, collar, ear, and finally again lips, Glinda traced Elf's opening before her fingers danced back up, griping and fondling the swelling bud between them.

Fingernails dug into her forearm as Elf squirmed and thrashed, finally screaming into the night at her peak as Glinda bit hard on her neck, leaving a dark mark behind. Breath ragged, Elf continued to shudder against the blonde, who had busied the fingers of her other hand at brushing damp raven locks away from misted chocolate eyes. The king kissed the hand, and Glinda giggled. "You're so calm," Elf gasped, head falling back with a thunk against the truck's bed.

Glinda breathed her lover's scent and nestled into the space between jaw and collarbone. "I just felt, I don't need to be afraid with you," she said softly.

Elf hid her face behind golden curls, laughing with embarrassment. "That makes me feel even lamer for being such a nervous wreck."

The blonde laughed. "That's nothing to be ashamed of, when you've never even…" She stopped as quickly as the words escaped, biting her tongue and wishing she could take them back.

Elf quieted, sitting up on an elbow to look Glinda in the eyes. The blonde wished she could hide. "Then what you meant by that was… you have felt you needed to be afraid, before."

Glinda's hands shook as she gripped Elf's arm. "That doesn't matter."

"Someone hurt you." The king's voice was low.

"No, it wasn't like…"

"Someone hurt you."

Glinda felt cold as she drew away. Elf almost reached out to her, to follow, but hesitated. "It was just as much my fault."

"What happened?"

Elf's voice was steady—concerned and firm. Glinda shivered. "It was all just stupid. And it's over. It's past."

"Tell me." The blonde shook her head again. Elf's eyes widened. Realization struck hard, and Glinda felt her heart-rate quicken. "It was him," Elf growled. "That jackass… he was the one. He forced you?" The blonde's guilty expression betrayed the answer she did not want to give. Elf rose, suddenly, startling Glinda. "I'll kill him!"

"No!" Glinda grabbed Elf's arm, clinging tightly, crying. "You don't understand."

"Understand?" Elf was in tears also—shaking, raging, aching.

"He was high. I was drunk. It wasn't…" Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Yes, it hurt," she admitted, "but even I didn't know how badly I didn't want it until it was too late." Elf had stilled, but the silence frightened Glinda. She sobbed, looking only down, terrified at what the night had become, terrified at the resurgence of feelings within herself. "You don't understand him like I do—he never meant… He's never touched a drug again after that, I swear it."

Elf dropped to her knees, breathing laboriously through sobs. "But how can you still… How can you even stand to be around him, after…?"

Glinda's finger's brushed at her lover's tears. "I don't expect anyone to understand. He does love me, and means best—it's difficult to see him, underneath. But no one else sees what he goes through—and no one else knows me like he has. Since we were children. Promise me—you won't hurt him, or do anything. Just forget." She stroked Elf's hair, whispering soothingly. "Just forget."

"Glinda…" Elf pleaded, crying against her neck. Her sobs were of agony, ripping into the blonde like claws.

Glinda pressed her lips against her lover's ear, singing, barely above a whisper:

"What good is sitting
Alone in your room?
Come hear the music play…"

Elf's only answer was in tears and clipped breaths, fingers curling tightly, painfully, in her hair.

AN2: I tried very hard to find the Cabaret revival cast recording uploads, but either they've been stripped from youtube or are hiding very well. So anyway, this is the best quality video I can find of the Roundabout production version of "Don't Tell Mama," even though it's not the original cast. (Liza doesn't do this one, so don't bother searching. Anyway, nothing whatsoever against her, but I kind of hate Fosse's direction.)

www (dot) youtube (dot) com/watch?v=ajrXUft8p3g

And for shits, here's the titular track, performed by Natasha Richardson:

videos (dot) natasha-richardson (dot) org/view/94/cabaret-cabaret/

AN3: Also, review plz. *Goes to hide under a rock now.*