This story is a sorta sequel to my earlier story called 'Happy Happy Joy Joy'. It's not necessary to read that story in advance. This one's a bit more serious than the first one, though there's still plenty of silliness. It takes place some 2,5 years after the Anime. Of course, there are spoilers for the entire series.
I've taken some liberties with Shizuma and Nagisa's families for this one, because the Anime's a bit vague on the parenting department. All I had to go on is that Shizuma is from a prestigious family and is obviously not wanting for money, and that Nagisa's parents are often abroad and possibly quite distant.
Kaname and Momomi will not appear just yet, but they'll be here eventually. They're always there. Watching and plotting. :) I hope you'll enjoy the story.
Edit: Disclaimer : Forgot to mention last time that I don't own Strawberry Panic! and that this story is shoujo-ai/yuri. Though both are pretty much self explanatory. Besides, if I did own Strawberry Panic!, I'd have give the series a better credit sequence.
prologue: A day in the life
Shizuma stretched as the morning sun poured in through the shades of their bedroom. She smiled to herself when she felt the warmth of the girl she loved as she pressed against her. She slowly opened her eyes to the vision of loveliness in front of her. Nagisa looked so cute when sleeping... Then again, Nagisa always looked so cute.
They'd come so far since those first days at Miator. Back then, Shizuma had merely seen Nagisa as another pretty thing to cross her path. Now, they were in their very own apartment, very happy and very much in love, enjoying the aftermath of a romantic dinner for two. Gentle lovemaking had been the perfect ending to a perfect evening. In fact, some stings in her head and a few missing memories lead Shizuma to the conclusion that she might had dipped into the wine just a tad too much last night.
Nagisa snuggled against Shizuma in her sleep while she lay there awake, taking in the sight of her beloved girlfriend. Being her together was pure bliss... until her eyes happened to drift in the general direction of the alarm clock. It read: '8.45am. Monday'. It took a few moments for the dulled synapses in Shizuma's brain to start processing this information.
"Chikushou!" Shizuma exclaimed as she realized she was going to be late for class... again. She literally jumped out of bed after carefully disentangling herself from Nagisa and raced to the bathroom. Shizuma jumped in and out of the shower, gathered some clean underwear and tossed on a pair of jeans and a sweater.
After that, she ran to the kitchen to fetch herself some breakfast only to find... empty shelves. She sighed when she realized they hadn't bothered to do groceries this weekend. Shizuma raced back to the living room where they had had their romantic dinner last evening, only to find they had been quite thorough and hadn't left anything edible on the plates. After some searching, the only thing she could find were two small pieces of fried chicken left from their Saturday take-out. She sighed, popped one of the pieces in her mouth and rushed to the door after picking up her bookbag.
Just as she was about to leave, she stopped dead in her tracks. Shizuma smiled to herself: she'd forgotten something very, very important. Shizuma returned to the bedroom and gently tucked in the still sleeping Nagisa. She took a moment to brush a lock of hair from Nagisa's gentle face and knelt down to kiss her softly on the lips. Nagisa stirred and pouted slightly after Shizuma withdrew, obviously wanting more kissage.
"Enjoy your day, Nagisa-chan," Shizuma whispered... before running out the front door and belting down the stairs. She ran and ran to the street corner where she usually parked her car. Shizuma panted heavily when she took out her carkeys and... ended up holding them outstretched on car-door height above an empty parking space.
"Huh?" Shizuma blinked. Until she realized her car was actually in the shop being fitted for a set of new tires.
She cursed under her breath and started running again. Brushing past pedestrians, she finally reached the tubestation three blocks away. She felt elated when she saw the tram already parked at the station. With grim determination, she picked up the pace and literally jumped through the doors, her momentum causing her to crash into the other set of doors on the other side of the tram.
Embarressed, yet satisfied, Shizuma picked herself up and took the nearest seat where she tried to recover from the adrenalin rush. But, oddly enough, the tram's doors weren't closing, and the tram wasn't leaving.
"Uh, miss?" said a kindly looking businessman. "This tram won't leave for another five minutes or so."
Shizuma blushed and avoided attracting any further attention to herself. 'Damn,' she thought. 'I could have still be kissing Nagisa right now'.
By sheer dumb luck, Shizuma made good time and actually arrived just as class was starting. She took a seat in the back of the class and took out her notebook. Advanced French Linguistics was a difficult subject, but ultimately a rewarding one. Still, after such a hasty start of the day, it took her some time to get in the right mood for studying.
University couldn't be more different than life at Miator, but it was refreshing that she was no longer the center of attention. She was no etoile here, which meant no paperwork, no boring meetings and no dull mandatory luncheons, leaving her with a whole lot more time for study and, more importantly, fun.
No more school uniforms... that was the one thing she had to get used to the most. Right now, she was just wearing jeans and a sweater, but despite that, she carried herself with the same grace and style as when she had been Etoile of Miator.
Being part of a mixed gender school was new to her as well. Because of Shizuma's great beauty, she had and still tended to attract plenty of attention from boys of all years. When it became known that she was involved with another woman, that had become less of a problem. Of course, it had only shifted attention from one group to another: most the school's lesbian community was actively trying to seduce her.
Still, Shizuma enjoyed the change of pace. She had made great friends here with many interesting people she would have never had met at Miator... And Miator still held way too many old and often tragic memories that tended to haunt her. Miator was a closed chapter, however. She was just happy to make some new memories for herself.
The first class ended swiftly and she moved on to the next one: Japanese Cultural Studies. Most of Shizuma's curriculum was filled with linguistic and cultural subjects, with some minors in drama, history and botany. Despite the more free environment of University, Shizuma was more dedicated to her studies than she had been at Miator. Ironically enough, her father had sent her to Miator in the hopes that they would teach her more discipline and responsibility. He certainly never objected to Shizuma's strength or free-spirited will, but he felt she needed to balance her desires better, if she were to take over control of the company when he would retire.
Shizuma did like to think she had more of a sense of responsibility these days.
'Just a bit.
No need to overdo it.'
When class was dismissed, Shizuma first went to the computer room to answer some e-mails she hadn't had time for this morning. In the inbox she shared with Nagisa, she found a lot of new mails from Tamao, mostly Kawaii-stuff and silly pictures, no doubt. After deleting some spam advertising personal organ enhancement, Shizuma noticed a mail from a stranger directed at Nagisa. Apparently, this person had read one of Nagisa's stories on the internet and had taken the time to tell her that she liked it. Shizuma smiled at that. She also found the mails from Miyuki and Chikare and replied to them.
After that, she briefly chatted with her dad on her cellphone before heading for one of the lounges. In the lounge, she found many of her classmates relaxing. Akiko, who sat in the corner working hard on giving her Gundam Deathscythe model the right colors, nodded at her while Shizuma sat down at one of the tables with the lunch she had picked up from the cafeteria. Kensuke was piddling on his guitar, working on his latest song, while Yoshi was enjoying a stack of violent manga's and Rie was meditating with her crystals. No real changes here.
"Yo, Shiz," said Takashi, a lean boy with multi-colored hair. "What up? No Nagisa today?" he took a seat at Shizuma's table.
Shizuma smiled at Takashi, a boy she had known since her first year. She and the young anthropology student had met while he had been doing research on the rise of lesbianism in Japanese catholic schools for girls. Shizuma had turned out to be the proverbial well-spring of information and they had been friends ever since.
And Nagisa... ever since they had moved in together in their new apartment, things had become so much better. They could spend so much more time together now that they both lived together and so close to university. They'd often have lunch together in the lounge or the cafeteria. Shizuma chuckled for a moment: Nagisa was so cute when she shot her patented 'Stay away from my Shizuma, you cheap hussy! She's mine! ALL MINE!!'-look at any would-be suitor for Shizuma. It was unnecessary, but still very of the kawaii.
"No," Shizuma said. "She's got no classes today and with midterms coming up, she's staying home to cram."
"In other words, she takes her studies more seriously than you do," Takashi chuckled.
"Ha. Ha. Funny," Shizuma replied dead-pan.
"Hey, hey, hey," Takashi said quickly. "Breezing through classes with maximum results for minimal effort is a trait I admire."
"You'd better," Shizuma smirked.
"Has Nagisa picked a major yet, by the way?"
"Not yet," Shizuma replied. "It's all still a bit overwhelming for her. She's still looking around for subjects she really likes. Nagisa's most interested in psychology, creative writing and history, though. Oh, hold on... I need to tell her I'll be taking care of dinner tonight."
She took out her cellphone and dialed. A recorded message from the phonecompany meant that Nagisa's phone had been switched off.
"She switched off her phone," Shizuma replied. "She probably doesn't want her friend Tamao to distract her from her studying. Tamao-chan could talk your ears off given half a chance," Shizuma sent Nagisa a text-message, hoping it would reach her in time. She wrote to Nagisa that she would do groceries after class and would cook them a nice dinner.
It was then when she spotted the bag of jerky in Takashi's hands. "Takashi, what is that you're eating?"
"Sour-cream and Salsa pork-rinds," he replied. "Want some?"
"Uh, no thanks," she said quickly. "I'm not really in the mood for pork today."
"How about you join us tonight? Akiko, Kensuke, Yoshi, Rie and myself are going downtown for a long night of culture, philosophy, fast-food, friendship and lots and lots of sake. Interested?"
"Bring her along," Takashi suggested. "It'll be good for her to relax after all that studying."
"Nah," Shizuma replied. "I'd love to, but I have to make sure Nagisa gets plenty of rest... and some real food in her stomach."
Takashi cracked a mischievious grin. "You're so whipped, girl."
Shizuma smirked back before taking a sip of her coffee. "You're this close to having this cup of steaming hot coffee poured right into your lap, Takashi-kun."
The two of them chatted for a while until it was time for classes to resume. The rest of the day was mostly uneventful and after classes were over, Shizuma went shopping for ingredients. She came home with everything necessary to make Nizakana: fish poached in sweet soy-sauce, one of her beloved's favorite foods.
"Nagisa?" Shizuma called out softly as she brought the fish to the kitchen, but there was no reply.
"Nagisa-chan?" she called again as she entered the living room, and found Nagisa fast asleep at the desk. Pens lay on the ground, while her head lay on the books and her pretty face was being illuminated by the monitor of their computer.
Shizuma smiled to herself and gently lifted Nagisa slightly to place a small pillow from the couch underneath her cheek. Nagisa mumbled something in her sleep and then smushed her cheek into the pillow.
Just Shizuma was about to return to the kitchen, she caught a glimpse just what was on the computer.
"Huh-huh. This sure doesn't suck, Beavis," Butt-head said as he gently rubbed his hands underneath Beavis' Metallica t-shirt.
"Heh-heh. We're gonna score."
"Oh yeah... Huh-huh-huh."
'What the...' Shizuma blinked. 'Beavis and Butt-head yaoi?!'
For a moment, she considered that Nagisa might have taken a break from studying somewhere during the day and she had surfed onto this website by chance, only to have those hopes shattered when she saw the e-mail address on the top of the page : 'Shizuma&Nagisahappyfunmail.jp'. She quickly surmised that if StrawberryRed was Nagisa, StrawberryBlue would be Tamao. At least the story was a month old, so Nagisa hadn't been wasting valuable study-time today. Still, she'd definitely have words with Tamao about this later. It was a shame to have Nagisa's talents in creative writing wasted on Yaoi... now, Yuri, that would have been a more worthwhile pursuit.
She smiled and left Nagisa to snooze just a bit longer. She turned on the lights around the house, donned an apron and started work on their evening meal. As the fish was slowly poaching in the soy sauce, Shizuma started cutting the vegetables until she heard a yawn behind her.
Shizuma smiled to herself. As expected, Nagisa had woken up as soon as the smell of food had reached her nostrils. Shizuma kept cutting the vegetables to pretend to be surprised. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of two arms wrapping around her waist, and the closeness of Nagisa's soft body.
"Good evening, Nagisa," Shizuma said softly.
"Hi," whispered Nagisa, suppressing an obvious yawn. "What's smelling so good?"
"Nizakana," Shizuma replied. "It'll be done in about fifteen minutes."
"Actually, I meant your hair," Nagisa said. "New shampoo? Uh... wait, did you say Nizakana? Yummy!"
Shizuma chuckled briefly. "Why don't you go set the table and I'll finish up here."
"Sure," Nagisa said as she reluctantly let go of Shizuma. "Better call Tamao-chan too. She's likely to call the police if she can't reach me anymore today."
About half an hour later, Nagisa sat next to Shizuma in the living room, enjoying the aftermath of their dinner together.
"You could have gone with your friends if you wanted to, Shizuma," Nagisa said. "I would have been okay."
"Nah," Shizuma shrugged as Nagisa curled up against her. "Watching your friends getting hammered is only funny so many times. Besides, somebody had to make sure you'd eat something other than stale rice-crackers and soda. Studying is no excuse to not take proper care of yourself."
For a moment, Shizuma peered deeply into Nagisa's eyes. Immediately, the other girl froze and went into a Shizuma-induced happy stupor, only break out of it when Shizuma looked away and pulled the girl to her chest. Shizuma took a moment to kiss her on the top of the head.
"Wow," Nagisa smiled. "I love how you still put me under your spell."
"Took a picture of you," Shizuma said and pointed past the piano. One wall of their appartment had been devoted to their memories together. Rather than putting their pictures in an album, they stuck the photo's to the wall to create a collage of their life together. There were hundreds of photos overlapping each other, all taken in the two years they had been together. A lot had been added since they had their wedding and honeymoon.
"Where is it?" Nagisa looked for a moment.
"It's right next to the picture we took of that weird hotel in England we had to stay when our rental car broke down. The one with the neurotic owner? What was he called again?"
"Basil something, I think. Oh, there it is," Nagisa said and saw a picture of herself sleeping on top of her books.
"Hey," Nagisa playfully batted at Shizuma. "I'll have you know I've worked hard today."
"Of course you have," Shizuma smiled. "But you just looked so cute. I couldn't resist."
"So many memories," Nagisa said.
"There'll be so much more, Nagisa," she said. "But now it's time for us to go to sleep. You need your rest, Nagisa."
Under some protests, Nagisa allowed herself to be dragged to the bedroom. While regaining the strength to head over to the bathroom to brush her teeth and undress, Shizuma told her goodnight, returned to the living room and collected the dishes to put them in the washer. Not feeling overly tired yet, Shizuma spent some time reading some of her textbooks and taking some notes here and there.
Before she knew it, it was already close to midnight. Shizuma put away her books and went into the bedroom, already finding Nagisa fast asleep. Shizuma and quickly (and quietly) brushed her teeth before joining her in bed. As soon as she laid down, the sleeping Nagisa detected her lover nearby and moved to embrace her. Shizuma closed her eyes to experience a moment of pure bliss as the girl she loved the most in the world flowed into her arms and pressed against her body.
The bliss lasted long after she herself had fallen asleep