I don't usually write other stories when I'm concentrating on another (Endless Love, in this case. Chapter 3 is nearing competion, btw.), but this is just one of those stories that was just dying to be written. In this case, a Chikaru (or, as I like to call her, Miss Awesome) romantic one-shot. I hope you'll like it.
Disclaimer : I don't own Strawberry Panic and I don't own the Dead Parrot Sketch. Lines from the Dead Parrot sketch were used in this story, were written by the Pythons and acted out by Michael Palin and John Cleese. (And very much loved by this author)
Pining for the Fjords
Chikaru relaxed underneath a large oak just outside of Lulim and started to unpack her lunch. It was a traditional cold bento lunch in a nice plastic box which she had picked up at the cafeteria earlier. She slid the chopsticks out of the side of the box, but just as she was about to decide which food to start with first, she was alerted to someone else approaching her.
Always stately in her white uniform, Spica's council president Toumori Shion, approached her as if she was the white queen. Her expression was, as always, unreadable as she stopped short a few steps away from Chikaru.
"Chikaru-chan," Shion spoke. "Am I disturbing you?"
Chikaru knew that lunch was over before it had even begun, put away her chopsticks and closed the box before slowly standing up. "No, it's alright, Shion-chan. How can I help you?"
Shion sighed and produced a stack of papers from a small satchel. "There's something I want you to take a look at," she said and handed the stack of papers to Chikaru. "Official student council business."
"On a saturday?" Chikaru frowned. "You should let your hair down a little more, Shion-chan."
Chikaru flipped through the pages. "Hm, this is about the graduation ceremony for the sixth years next month."
"Yes," Shion sighed as Chikaru started to move towards Lulim and motioned Shion to follow her. "There is a problem, however. A rather unique problem."
"Oh?" Chikaru said as they entered Lulim and stepped into the hallway. "And what might that problem be?"
Shion scowled. "Not 'what', but 'who'.That infuriating Shizuma-sama, that's who's the problem!"
"Hm," Chikaru said. "Yes, it is the responsibility of the Etoile to design the ceremony, to write the opening and closing speeches and to basically direct the whole thing from ground up."
Shion nodded. "I know. We're in a transitional period right now, but Amane-sama and Hikari-chan are still being trained and they don't have the experience to put together something as important as this. And because this process was started before the Etoile selection, this duty falls to the previous Etoile."
Their footsteps resounded through the empty hallways as they continued on their way, Shion following Chikaru. "So, what is the problem then?"
"The previous Etoile told me to get bent," Shion gritted her teeth. "As far as she's concerned, she's done with the Etoile business forever. And now she also seems to have disappeared!"
"When did you ask her to do this task?"
"Day before yesterday. And it has to be ready before monday, so there was plenty of time. Why do you ask?"
Chikaru chuckled. "Well, doing this task requires a lot of work and a lot of time. And Shizuma-sama left for town friday evening to spend a romantic weekend with Nagisa-chan. I hear she's going to introduce Nagisa-chan to her father tomorrow, so this is plenty important to them. So, of course she told you to get bent! What did you expect?"
Chikaru smiled to herself. Ever since Shizuma-sama had declared her love to Nagisa-chan, the two had been inseparable. The couple used every single moment of their free time together to explore their newfound love and could be often seen softly chatting, kissing or hugging everywhere they went. Chikaru smiled for a moment. It had been a long time since she'd seen Shizuma-sama being so very happy as she had been the past couple of weeks. And Nagisa-chan, she was practically radiant. They really were the perfect couple.
Shion shook her head. "She's just selfish. This is important to the school! This is important to all the sixth years who are graduating. Shizuma-sama is trampling all over school honor, like she always does!"
Chikaru shrugged. "But you have the entire program right here, it's ready. Ah, now I get it," Chikaru grinned. "You wrote the program yourself. And if the Etoile isn't there to sign it, the signature of all three student council president will suffice as well."
Shion smiled. "Exactly. I was up half the night and worked through it the entire morning, but I wrote the entire program by cobbling together pieces from earlier years and filling in the gaps with my own ideas. Miyuki-sama already read it and gave it her blessing by signing it. Now I only need you to read it and sign it and it'll be done."
Chikaru blinked. "You worked all night on that tedious task?"
"Tedious?" Shion frowned. "It wasn't tedious. It was an honor to write this program. I did it for the school and the students. My time was only a small sacrifice."
Chikaru nodded. "In that case, I'm not signing this..."
"What?! Why not?!" Shion shouted.
"Let me finish," Chikaru smiled. "I'm not signing this until you've had some fun today."
Shion blinked. "But..."
"Sshh," Chikaru tapped on Shion's lips with her finger. "Fun first. Signing later. You've earned it."
Shion shook her head. "Has everybody gone insane?!"
Chikaru winked and led Shion to a large room at the end of the hallway. Shion frowned when she heard some sort of silly marching band music looping through the classroom's PA system. When Chikaru led her into the classroom, she saw Chikaru's friends and schoolmates Kizuna, Remon and Kagome buzzing around what looked like a miniature set of a pet shop, complete with lovingly made and hand-painted furniture and little wooden pets. Prominently featured in the set were two six-inch high clay dolls.
Pointing at the set was a very professional looking camera and a rather expensive looking laptop connected to it.
"Welcome, Shion-chan, to Lulim's Stop Motion Animation Club!" Chikaru announced. "Okay, gals, Shion-chan is here to help us out with our project!"
"Hurray!" Kizuna beamed. "Another member for our club!"
"Welcome!" Remon added.
"Ohshibaru says hi," Kagome held up her beloved teddy-bear.
Shion was a bit overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response, but not enough to turn to Chikaru. "Chikaru, those are unregistered electronic devices. A/V devices are not allowed on school grounds! It's against the rules. How did you get those in here?"
Chikaru sighed. "I, uh, asked the groundskeeper to smuggle them in. He owed me a favor. So, what are you going to do, Shion-chan? Are you going to shut us down?"
Shion was about to confirm that, until she saw the unbelievably sad eyes of the three young girls and couldn't help but give in. "No," Shion shook her head. "No, I won't."
The cheers and positive response was again overwhelming.
"Good," Chikaru said as she walked towards the set. "We've been working for weeks on our first project and we're close to wrapping up the shoot and start recording the dialogue. It's our adaptation of the world-famous 'Dead Parrot Sketch' from Monty Python."
Shion blinked. "Dead Parrot from the what?"
Chikaru sighed. "Not another one. Am I the only one who knows the classics around here? It's a famous sketch from a British comedy troupe about a man who has been sold a dead parrot and returns to the shop to complain about it."
Kagome pushed in between them. "Have you thought about my idea for our next project, Chikaru-chan?Ahum... 'I'm Tony fu..."
"LANGUAGE!" Chikaru started and quickly covered Kagome's mouth to block out the offending word.
"...ing Montana. You wanna piece of me'?" Kagome finished in very broken English.
Chikaru shook her head. "Sorry, Kagome, but we won't be doing Scarface for our next project. You're too young to be watching that movie anyway."
Kagome pouted slightly and placed Ohshibaru on the table. "Ohshibaru. In America, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the woman."
"Things are better in Japan," Kizuna bubbled. "We skip those first two steps and head straight for the woman."
"Damn right!" Remon finished.
Accepting defeat, Shion decided to help out the girls and left her precious program to be signed later. Stop Motion turned out to be painstaking work. In order to create the illusion of movement, every still shot had to be photographed by the camera twenty-four times. After that, the clay dolls had to be moved ever so slightly and more photographs had to be made. Photograph, move, repeat. Photograph, move, repeat. As time passed very slowly, Shion could only respect the sheer dedication that these young girls had put into making this short movie. The heat of the lamps was getting to her for a moment and, in an uncharacteristic move, Shion removed her Spica jacket and laid it on the table. The black shirt and the white skirt made her look like a bit of a rebel. She sat back to take a break while Remon took her place.
Just as she had wiped the sweat from her brow, she found herself staring into the eyes of the creepy young Kagome and her equally creepy bear. "You're such a lonely person," Kagome whispered softly and Shion felt as if the little girl was peering right into her soul. Kagome simply walked off and went back to the set, leaving Shion slightly shaken.
There was a small cheer when the last photographs were taken and were transferred to the laptop for processing. It didn't take long for Chikaru to set up the microphone and hand Shion a script.
"What's this?" Shion asked.
"The script," Chikaru smiled. "I'll be the owner and you'll be Mr. Praline."
"But, I haven't had time to rehearse!"
"Just read it and let it come naturally. I have faith in you, Shion-chan."
Oddly enough, Shion found that very heartening and set to the task with fervor.
"Never mind that, my lad," spoke Shion in a stiff yet slightly silly tone. "I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique."
"Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue," Chikaru broke in, trying to sound as businesslike and apologetic as possible. "What's wrong with it?
"I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. It's dead, that's what's wrong with it!" Shion replied deadpan, ignoring Kizuna's muffled giggles.
"No, no, he's uh... He's resting."
"Look, my good man, I know a dead parrot when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now," Shion added.
"No no he's not dead, he's, he's just resting! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue? Beautiful plumage!" Chikaru almost started chuckling but caught herself just in time.
"The plumage don't enter into it. It's stone dead," Shion stamped her foot for good measure.
Chikaru really enjoyed watching Shion, the New John Cleese, perform her role. In the background, the partially constructed film was running on the laptop to give the two actresses a sense for their timing. They continued reading the script while Remon kept track of the digital recorder she was using to record the dialogue.
"VOOM?!? My good man, this bird wouldn't 'voom' if you put four million volts through it! It's bleeding demised!"
"No no! He's pining!"
"He's not pining, he's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! He's expired and gone to meet his maker! He's a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in pieces! If you hadn't nailed him to the perch, he'd be pushing up the daisies! His metabolic processes are now history! He's off the twig! He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible!! THIS... IS AN... EX-PARROT!!" Shion said, choosing exactly the perfect tone and timing to her acting.
Chikaru could see Shion was getting really into it. It was a long time since she had seen Shion this way. Carefree, having fun. She sighed sadly for a moment, and just caught herself in time to say her next line.
Finally, the recording was done. Shion put down her script and sighed in relief.
"God, I thought I wasn't going to make it," Shion rubbed her temples.
"You did wonderfully," Chikaru smiled as she sat down next to her.
Shion smiled. "I did what you asked. Now will you sign the program?"
Chikaru frowned. "What, don't you want to see the end result? Remon is inputting the data right now. We'll watch our work together and then I will happily read and sign your program."
"Fair enough," Shion smiled and sat back as Chikaru walked over to the laptop to help Remon where needed. Shion's stomach rumbled and only just now noticed that it was already getting dark outside. The setting sun left an orange glow in its wake as Shion wondered just how she had lost track of time.
Without warning, she found herself staring into the eyes of the scary little girl Kagome again.
"Ohshibaru says that being around Chikaru makes you sad," Kagome said. "Why is that?"
Shion was visibly shaken, but could not answer Kagome's question. Thankfully, she was saved when Chikaru set up the laptop and let the movie play in the editing program. The girls sat together in a semi-circle to watch weeks of hard work unfold in front of their eyes. The clay puppets moved smoothly on the screen as Mr. Praline entered holding his parrot cage.
It was strange for Shion to hear her own voice, but she could hear that she had been having a lot of fun.
"HELLO POLLY!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o'clock alarm call!" she heard herself say. On the screen, the clay Mr. Praline took the parrot out of the cage and thumped its head on the counter. He then threw it up in the air and watched it plummet to the floor. "Now that's what I call a dead parrot."
"No, no, he's stunned!" sounded Chikaru. But as Shion turned to the real Chikaru, she was surprised to see tears running over her cheeks. As soon as Chikaru saw Shion was looking at her, she rose from her seat and ran out the door.
"Chikaru!" Shion called after her. "Wait!"
Shion ran outside and found Chikaru sitting underneath the same tree she had been sitting earlier today. Silently, she walked up to the other girl and sat down besides her. Shion remained silent for a few moments before turning to Chikaru. She was about to say something when Chikaru spoke first.
"I'm sorry, I... I was just reminded of old times, that's all," Chikaru looked wistfully. "Can... Can I tell you a story, Shion-chan? It's a story I've been wanting to tell you for a long time."
Shion nodded as she locked eyes with Chikaru.
"Once upon a time, there was a girl. And this girl met another girl. Even though the girls were very different and were from different schools, they loved each other so very much. They spent all their free time together and with each other's friends. The two girls complemented each other perfectly, and when they kissed, it was as if angels carried them off to Heaven. But then, one day, the other girl was offered the position of school council president. At first, the girl supported the other girl, because she was very proud of her and because it was something that the other girl really wanted. The girl admired how devoted the other girl was to the school and to the school's reputation. But then, the other girl started to spend less and less time with the girl, and the girl became jealous. Jealous of the other girl's school, which was getting the attention the girl used to get. The girl started feeling as if the other girl was ignoring her, and it made her very sad. And also angry. There was a bad fight. And the girls who loved each other so much broke up. The girl was sad for a long time and cried a lot. But then, the girl decided she could perhaps understand the other girl better if she were to run for student council president as well. And she did and found out just how much work being student council president was. But she endured, because she could see the other girl often and found value in helping her fellow students. The girl tried to show the other girl that she was trying, but the other girl hardly talked to her anymore. But the girl was merely happy to be near the other girl again, because she still loved her so very much. And when the girl found a good balance between duty and personal time, she decided to show the other girl that it was possible to be president and still have fun. But the other girl seemed to be only interested in talking to the girl on a professional level. And the girl was so afraid that there was nothing more between them."
Chikaru leaned against the tree, having said what she wanted to say. It was strangely relieving to have the truth out in the open. When she turned to Shion, she was surprised to find the proud Spican sobbing slightly.
"I... I have a story for you as well. It begins the same as yours. A girl loved another girl so very much. The girl also respected the other girl, because she admired the other girl's warmth and caring personality, and because the girl was very rigid and proper, she wished she could be more like the other girl. One day, the girl got the chance of a lifetime, to become president of the student council. The girl accepted the role and the responsibility which came with it. The girl was saddened when she and the other girl were starting to grow apart, and she thought the other girl was selfish and didn't understand her anymore. The girl started a huge fight with the other girl at the cost of their relationship. The girl went on alone, throwing herself at her duties to cope with her terrible loss and her terrible guilt. But then the girl's heart grew cold and started to believe she was better off without the other girl she had once loved so much. Then the other girl became student council president as well. At first the girl thought that the other girl was mocking her, but soon enough, the girl became grateful that the other girl was still near her and yet so far away. And finally the girl began to realize that she still loved the other girl. But because the girl had no idea how to even start to apologize, she foolishly kept her distance. And the girl became so very, very lonely. But during all the squabbles and fights with the others on the council, the girl was so happy to see the other girl there, calm and serene. A beacon in the night. Then, one day, the other girl told her a story. And the girl started to realize just how much time she had wasted. Time which she and the other girl could have spent together. The girl lamented her foolishness, and wondered if... if it was too late to... to..."
Shion lay her head on Chikaru's shoulder and let her tears fall freely.
"Too late?" Chikaru wrapped an arm around Shion's waist and pulled her against her. "Never," she sniffed. "Never."
Shion looked into Chikaru's eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"I never stopped loving you, Shion-koi," Chikaru smiled. "But you still have to learn to have more fun in your life," she chuckled.
A rustle of leaves alerted the two soon-to-be-reunited-lovers to the presence of others. Almost immediately, Kizuna, Kagome and Remon dropped through the leaves and crashed into the ground. They scrambled up and started chanting. "Kiss... Kiss... Kiss... Kiss... Kiss... Kiss..."
Shion blushed in embarrassment for a moment, but regained her dignity. At least until...
"You've got a smear of clay on your forehead," Chikaru said and moved to remove it. "It looks kinda cute, though."
Shion smiled. "Leave it then."
"Oh, I forgot all about the program. I promised to sign it," Chikaru said.
Shion shook her head. "Forget it, it's not important right now."
"Ohshibaru says 'start kissing already'!" Kagome shouted. "The world, chico, and everything in it!"
And then Chikaru and Shion enjoyed the first loving kiss they had in two whole years. And it was magnificent.