Full Metal Panic Fan Fiction ❯ Popularity Problems ❯ Chapter 1

[ P - Pre-Teen ]

Popularity Problems
By: Logistikill
Disclaimer: Whoever owns FMP, it is not me!
Kaname Chidori moved briskly through the halls of Jindai High School, her arms loaded down with papers and notes. As both the Inchou of her class and the Student Council Vice President, she had a lot on her plate. And even more was being added to her workload as the school year drew to a close, and with it, the approach of the year-end festival. The young woman sighed as she mentally reviewed her schedule.
“Kaname?” came a soft, deep voice from right behind her. And that would be Sosuke. she thought, a wry smile touching her lips. Wherever she went, he was there. It had taken her more than a year before she fully accepted that he was there to guard her. For all that, he seems to be a lightening rod for mishaps. she thought to herself. Since he arrived on the scene, I have been kidnapped, roughed up, made to run for my life and generally been put in situations that no high school girl should be put in more times than I can count! Kaname felt his eyes resting on her, and realized that she hadn't answered him.
“I'm fine, Sosuke.” she said. “It's just that with this extra work from the year-end festival, I'm running around like mad and don't have any time to relax.” she explained. Sosuke nodded.
“Understood.” he said softly. “I will have a word with…” he began. Kaname's growl warned him not to continue that thought.
“No more `talking' with people!” she snapped at him. “At least at gunpoint!” she amended. His last `talk' with a guy who had been persistently asking for her phone number had resulted in a trip to the hospital for the guy, ten rounds of 9mm fired by Sosuke, and a rather awkward visit from the police, who were trying to find out what had happened. Kaname had gotten so used to covering for him that she had already fed the cops a cover story and sent them on their way before she thought twice about it. “When are you going to learn that you can't run around like a loose cannon in a war zone?!” she asked him, exasperated.
“I won't let anything harm you, Kaname.” he replied as if that were a universal pass to do anything he deemed necessary. A half groan, half sigh escaped her lips.
“Have you ever thought that you're the greatest danger to me?” she muttered. She hadn't meant for him to hear that; not really, anyway. But, he had.
“Do you really think so?” he asked, sounding surprised. “I have gone to great lengths to ensure your safety, Kana.” he promised her. She snorted derisively.
“Sure you have!” she said sarcastically. “Like when you threw me out of that plane over the south pacific?” she offered.
“I was attached to you in a tandem parachute rig, and we had to board the De Danaan en route…” he began his defense. Kaname was having none of that.
“How about the time when you drove that stolen bike off the hill and made me jump half way down with that psycho cop on our case?” she prompted.
“We were under a tight time schedule to prevent your being penalized for my oversight, and…” he began again, but was once more interrupted by the long-haired girl.
“And let's not overlook that little `hostage' issue.” she noted.
“The risk-versus-reward assessment…”
“Or the entire North Korea incident.” she interrupted.
“That was not my…”
“Whatever, Sosuke.” she said, once more interrupting his attempts at defending his actions. “I've got a lot to do today, so let's just leave it at that, shall we?” she said, entering the Student Council room, Sosuke just a step behind her. Seated behind the desk was her `boss', Hayashimizu and his assistant, Orin. Dropping the stack of papers in front of the white-suit clad senior, she began to separate it into stacks.
“Kaname.” greeted the man politely. “I see you have already picked up the form from the administrators. Excellent.” he commended her. Kaname tossed her head, causing her hip-length hair to dance briefly. Thought Sosuke would never say as much, he really liked the way that Kaname's hair suited her. A black so dark it shone deep, rich purple in direct sunlight, it hung to the bottom of her highly-toned ass, though she preferred to tie a bow around the bottom quarter, creating a sort of super-long pony tail effect.
His musing was interrupted by a stack of papers being shoved into his face by the girl with object of his attention. “Sosuke, take care of this.” she ordered him. Taking the papers, he studied them briefly.
“The objective is to distribute these mission files to the appropriate units, correct?” he surmised. Kaname nodded.
“Yes.” she said simply. He saluted her.
“Roger that.” he said crisply. Kaname turned, making a point of establishing eye contact with him.
“That does not mean using your gun or grenades or knives or any other `special' gear you might have. Understood?” she said, her tone dark with promised pain if he didn't comply.
“Understood.” he said tightly. Kaname broke eye contact, turning back to face the President as they prepared to discuss the planning and financing of the festival. Sosuke took a moment to make sure that her bracelet was on her wrist as he exited the room. With the MITHRIL device in place, he could still protect her even if he was delivering the mission packets to other classes.
“Um…Tokiwa?” came a familiar voice from behind Kaname, Kyoko and Sosuke as they ate lunch. Kaname's best friend turned to see a boy standing behind her. Smiling she whipped up her small digital camera and snapped a quick picture of the young man.
“Hey, Ono-D.” she said. “What brings you over here?” wondered the girl, absently adjusting her glasses. The blonde-haired young man took a deep breath. Kaname hid her smile behind a big bite of her custard roll. And so, it begins again. she thought, a touch vindictively.
“I was…I mean, I would like…to know if you would go to the festival.” he said, swallowing hard. Kyoko blinked at him.
“Well, of course I'm going to the festival!” she chirped. Ono-D turned a bit pale at that response.
“I mean…the festival! With me!” he tried again. “Argh! Will you go to the festival with me?” he managed, almost slumping as he finished the question. Kana snuck a peek at Sosuke out of the corner of her eye, wondering if he was paying attention. As usual, he seemed completely preoccupied with watching everyone around her. From the look in his eyes, he's deciding on who he'll shoot first if I'm attacked. she thought irritably. Why can't he be working up the courage to ask a girl to the festival like a normal guy?!
“Ok, Ono-D.” agreed Kyoko. “It should be fun!” she said. Kaname heard the ripple of murmurs from around them, knowing that the school rumor mill would have the pair fully noted before Kyoko had taken another breath. For his part, Ono-D seemed relieved and highly energetic, all but scampering off to brag to Shinji and his buddies, no doubt. Turning back to her lunch, Kyoko glanced at Kaname.
“So, Ono-D got up the nerve to ask, huh?” said Kaname, giving her friend a warm, but somewhat distant smile. Kyoko slowly nodded.
“Seems that way.” she said. “Who do you think will ask you out?” she asked. Kaname snorted.
“The same one who always does: no one.” she said, savagely biting into her custard roll. “Not that I care! With Sergeant Psycho here to keep out of trouble, I can't spare the time to go to the festival with anyone.” she added. Not too pathetic sounding. she thought to herself.
“Maybe this year will be the year.” murmured Kyoko. Hearing the bell ring, the three swiftly stood and made ready to return to class for the afternoon session.
Kaname stretched her back and yawned. It had been a long day yesterday, and she was always so sleepy in the mornings anyway. Hearing the familiar greeting from Kyoko, she gave her best friend a listless wave in greeting. “Morning.” she said, yawning again.
“Wow, Kana!” said Kyoko energetically, “you look more tired than usual! Did you stay up late last night?” she asked. Kaname shook her head.
“Not really; it was just a long day yesterday.” she said. Looking past Kyoko, she saw Mizuki approaching them. “Morning, Mizuki.” said the taller girl. Feeling a nudge on her elbow, she turned to see Sosuke holding out a cup of coffee to her.
“Here.” he said simply. “It's got cream and sugar in it just the way you like it.” Kaname took the offered cup gratefully.
“Thanks, Sosuke.” she said softly, sipping the coffee. Why can't he be like this more often instead of playing Rambo all the time? she wondered. This really is just like I like it! she thought, surprised. Turning her attention back to Kyoko and Mizuki, who had been exchanging greetings while Sosuke slipped Kana the coffee, she heard Mizuki ask the group at large if Shinji had shown up yet.
“Negative. Shinji is running behind this morning.” reported Sosuke. Mizuki sniffed disdainfully.
“How rude!” she complained. “He called me last night and asked me to meet him here at the entrance because he needed to ask me something really, really important, and now he's late?!”
“Well, maybe he got delayed or something.” suggested Kyoko. The number of students arriving picked up as the minutes counted down to the beginning of classes. With barely five minutes to go, Sosuke pointed toward the train station.
“Shinji.” he said simply. The girls turned to see the slight form of the glasses-wearing young man approaching them. Sosuke frowned. “He's moving a bit stiffly.” he noted. “Perhaps he was injured, thus delaying his arrival.” he postulated. “It is possible that he was ambushed on his way by assailants, or perhaps…”
“Shut. Up.” groaned Kana, lightly smacking his head with her free hand. “It's too early in the morning to listen to your paranoid delusions.” she complained.
“They are not paranoid, Kaname.” said Sosuke, drawing breath to explain to her why it was most logical to assume such a thing. Kana pushed a fingertip against his lips.
“I don't want to hear it.” she warned him softly before sipping her coffee again. By then, Shinji had arrived at the group. With a nearly comical look of determination on his face, he took a deep breath and forcefully exhaled.
“Mizuki, would you go to the festival with me?” he asked her, his tone a bit unsteady. Mizuki blinked at him.
“You mean with you?” she asked. Shinji managed a nod.
“Yes. As a c…couple.” he managed, his face turning red. Mizuki frowned as she thought about it. Seeing that Shinji was about to die from the delay, Sosuke shifted his weight to come to the aid of his friend, but a hand landed on his shoulder at the same time. Turning his head, he saw Kaname watching him, her warm brown eyes uncharacteristically serious. It was as clear to him that he wasn't to interfere with the two as if Kaname had yelled it at him. He held his place.
“Sure.” said Mizuki suddenly. “But you're buying the snacks!” she demanded. Shinji nearly melted with relief.
“No problem!” he breathed. Mizuki smiled. Pulling out a small notepad, she scribbled on it, then tore the page off and handed it to him.
“Call me the night before the festival, and we'll plan it out.” she said off-handedly. Hearing the bell ring, the group hurried to make it to class on time.
Kaname pulled her sleek frame from the pool and stood. It was a pool day for the girls, and she had just finished her laps. Taking her place at the back of the line for the diving board rotation, she heard the swirl of whispered conversation around her. It would seem that most of the girls have dates for the festival. she thought to herself, trying not to feel angry about it.
Hearing some wolf whistles and calls from beyond the fence around the pool, she looked over to see some of the boys ogling the girls as they waited to run their sets on the field. Kaname's eyes narrowed a bit as she saw that many of the boys were scoping out her scantily-clad form. If they want to drool over me, they could at least ask me out! she thought resentfully. Her mental ranting was interrupted by a flurry of activity as the boys at the fence ran like the demons of hell were on their heels. Kana didn't have to ask what had happened.
“Sosuke happened.” she smirked. Sure enough, the boy that had been ogling her the most openly was now pressed face first into the dirt, Sosuke kneeling on his back, his Glock 27 pressed to the back of the boy's skull. The entire school knew better than to get too forward with Kaname Chidori. If she didn't axe them, then Sosuke would shoot them. Beside her, Kyoko's wet form appeared.
“Um, Kana…” she began. Kaname didn't need to hear about it right now.
“Sosuke!” she yelled at Kana-volumetm. “Let him go, and get back to class!” she roared. Silently, the two men disappeared, though it seemed that Sosuke was dragging the other boy's body. “And no torturing him, either!” she yelled after him. She sighed. “He drives me crazy with these stupid stunts.” she muttered, rubbing her temples. Kyoko studied her friend.
“Really?” she asked. “You always have so much fun when you two are together.” she noted. Kaname turned a flat look on her shorter friend.
“Don't even joke like that.” she warned Kyoko. Hearing the teacher blow her whistle, she moved forward to do her dives.
“Here, Kana-chan.” came the soft voice of Orin as a teacup settled silently in front of the girl. The two of them were alone in the Student Council room, with Hayashimizu in a meeting with the faculty. Kana gratefully accepted the tea.
“Thanks, Orin.” she said, sipping her tea. “I could really use this.” she added. Orin gracefully sank into a chair opposite the younger woman. Though only a year separated the two, Orin had always carried herself as a self-confident, demure woman, while Kaname was still the wild young woman.
“It is my pleasure.” replied Orin. “Tell me, have you been asked to the festival yet?” she asked. Kaname grunted.
“You know how it is, Orin. `Kaname Chidori, the most popular girl you'd never date!' - that's me!” she said. “Besides, who had time with all the preparations?” she added. Orin considered that question carefully.
“I am surprised that he hasn't asked you yet.” she murmured thoughtfully. Kaname didn't need to ask who she was talking about.
“Oh, please! He doesn't even know what a date is!” she scoffed. Orin smiled a small, subtle smile.
“Maybe he'll figure it out.” she suggested. “Maybe all he needs is some help.” she said, standing.
“Well, if you would please excuse me, I have to go prepare supper for my father now.” she said. Kana waved at her.
“Yeah, I'm heading home soon myself.” she said. As soon as Hayashimizu gets back and tell me which plan the faculty decided on, that is! she thought, a bit resentfully. “Might as well relax.” she muttered, turning her chair sideways and kicking another chair into position so she could stretch out her legs and lean against the table. Turning on the small TV in the room, she tried to find a program, but nothing looked interesting.
When Sosuke entered the room a half hour later, he found her slumped against the table, asleep. Turning off the TV, he gently gathered her up and settled her over his back. Moving through the door, he saw Hayashimizu approaching them. “You Excellency.” nodded Sosuke. The man glanced at Kana.
“Is Kaname ok?” he asked. Sosuke nodded.
“Affirmative. She is just asleep. These preparations have been wasting a great deal of her time.” he said, not bothering to sugar-coat his analysis of the situation. “I am therefore taking her home to allow her to rest.”
“I see.” said Hayashimizu. “A commendable and sensible decision, Sagara.”
“About the decision of the faculty…” began Sosuke.
“Don't concern yourself with it.” interrupted Hayashimizu. “I can handle it from here. Please, convey my thanks to miss Chidori for her hard work.” he said.
“Roger that.” confirmed Sosuke, making his way toward the exit to the school. Hayashimizu watched the two until they were out of sight before turning back to the student council room to finish up the last of the preparations. With no one to see him, he took off his suit jacket and put his feet up on the desk as he considered the two who had just departed. A rare smile crossed his lips.
“That is all you have to report?” asked the voice from the other end of the secure satellite phone. Sosuke had just made his daily report on his project subject back to MITHRIL. Tonight, his superior office had been in the radio room on the De Danaan to hear his report.
“Affirmative, Madam Captain.” he said crisply.
“I'm off duty, Sosuke.” came the girl's voice. “You can call me Tessa.” she reminded him.
“Affirmative Ma…I mean, yes, Tessa.” he said. It took an act of will to make himself call her by her name.
“So, are you taking anyone to the festival?” came the light voice of his Captain.
“Negative, Ca…Tessa. I have a mission to execute.” he replied.
“I'm kind of jealous, you know.” said Tessa conversationally. “When I was going to school in Okinawa, I always wanted to go to a festival with a guy, but no one asked me to go.” She paused. “Sosuke?” she said, her voice lower.
“Yes, Ca…Tessa?” he replied immediately.
“Have you thought about…asking Kaname to go to the festival with you?” said the platinum-haired girl. Sosuke blinked.
“I will be protecting her at the festival, Tessa. She knows this.” he said. Dead silence greeted that reply. Several seconds passed. “Tessa?” asked Sosuke, checking to make sure that he hadn't lost the secure link up. He hadn't.
“Sosuke,” came the voice of his captain, “going to a festival with a girl is different from being there to protect her.” she said. He thought she sounded very strange just then, like something was bothering her a lot.
“I…don't follow, Tessa.” he admitted. Silence, then a response.
“Ask her, Sosuke.” The line went dead.
Kaname dreamed. It was not uncommon for her to have really messed up dreams, seeing as she was a Whispered. Repeated exposure to that fact had finally driven the point home, and now, she just tried to live her life as best as she could with the voices in her head. Not all the voices were unpleasant, though.
Kana. came a familiar one. In her sleep, Kaname shifted, her mind busy.
Tessa? Kaname wondered, instinctively turning in the Captain of the de Danaan and her friend/rival. As a fellow whispered, Teletha Testarossa similar uncanny abilities as Kaname did, though hers were a bit different. One thing they shared was Resonance - an effect brought on by merging their minds. It had happened repeatedly over the last year and some, and now, it appeared that they would be forever attuned to each other. Honestly, Kaname didn't mind; with Tessa in her head, she wasn't alone with the whispers any more.
How are you, Kana? came Tessa's thoughts. You seem to be feeling down. noted the other teenager.
It's nothing, really. denied Kana, even though she knew that Tessa was literally inside her head and therefore knew the truth. Same old story, you know? she thought back to the other girl. Tessa pulsed understanding.
I know. came the reply. As you know, my school life in Okinawa was…rough. she alluded to the memories that Kaname shared in Tessa's mind. I never did get to go to a festival with a boy. she admitted needlessly; Kana already knew that from her memories. It would be nice if at least one of us could go to a festival with a boy. she offered.
Yeah, but no one would ask me. I guess I'm too different from living overseas for so long. she mused. All the boys drool over me, but they are all too scared to ask me out. And those that do are creeps! Unbidden, the memory of what Sosuke had done to the last `creep' that had bothered her made her laugh in her mind. Tessa joined in her laughter as she shared the memory.
My god! Is Sosuke that out of control? wondered Tessa. Kaname pulsed amused acceptance.
You have no idea, Tessa! she thought, enjoying the closeness with a girl who completely understood her. I keep wondering what he's going to do next! Tessa shared a warm laugh with her fellow Whispered.
You have so much fun with him, you should ask him to the festival. suggested Tessa. Kaname froze.
I…can't. she thought, apprehension thick in her mind-self. It's traditional that the guy asks the girl, and besides, what if he says no? she worried. Tessa's presence in her mind pulsed slowly, as if the other girl were deciding something.
Isn't the risk worth the reward? asked Tessa.
Morning found the girl standing numbly under the shower, trying to figure out what she should do. As she mechanically moved through her morning routine, preparing for school, her eyes fell to the picture on the corner of her dresser. Stopping her prep work, she picked the picture up and studied it.
It had been taken during that ill-fated club room issue. The Sociology Club had offered to give up it's club room on the condition that the club that would get the room win a simple Club challenge. That challenge was to flirt with girls and the ones that picked up the most would win the club room. Things had gone wrong, and in the end, as always, it had been Kaname saving Sosuke.
She had seen the writing on the wall and before she had even thought it through, she had run home to change. Her mother had left her a very nice kimono, and now that she had filled out, it was a perfect fit. When she had gotten back to the park where the contest was being tallied up, no one - not even Sosuke - had recognized her. Laying it on thick, she had softened and deepened her voice, going for an older-yet-young married woman whom Sosuke had supposedly seduced away from her husband.
That was more fun than I can remember having. she thought, surprised. The way that all the guys were looking at him with such jealous expressions, and the way that girls were glaring at me was so gratifying! The next thought gave her pause. So, why not do it again, Kaname? she thought to herself. Next year is my last year in High School, and who knows where the future lies? Why not just… she shook her head, setting the picture back down as she reached for her brush. “I'm going to be late.” she muttered.
The last day before the festival was insane, and it was well past nightfall when Kaname was able to get loose and head home. Tomorrow night was the festival, and then it was summer break. Under the bright stars and nearly-full moon, she and Sosuke walked side by side toward her apartment.
Had she not been so busy, she might have noticed that he had been acting a bit strange all day. Several times, he had started to say something, but stopped as her attention was diverted elsewhere. Even now, he was preoccupied with some thought.
“Sosuke?” said Kana softly. Seeing his eyes turn to her, she went on. “I was wanting to ask you something.” she said.
“I see. I, too, wish to ask you something as well, Kaname.” he said. A lump suddenly formed in her throat.
“Ok. You first.” she said. Sosuke nodded.
“Roger that.” he agreed. “Kaname, I would like to ask you to attend the festival with me. If we were to go together, it would be much easier to prot…” he broke off, seeing tears in her eyes. “Kaname! Are you all right?!” he asked, concerned. Nodding, Kaname brushed the tears back with a finger.
“I'm fine, Sosuke.” she said, her voice nearly normal. “Just some dust in my eyes.” she lied. Sosuke watched her intently.
“Very well. What was it you wished to ask me?” he wondered. Kaname smiled at him.
“Will you come pick me up at my place tomorrow night?” she asked him. He nodded.
“Affirmative, Kana.” he replied. “I will arrive at your residence at 19:00 hours tomorrow.”
“And don't wear your normal combat gear, ok?” directed Kaname. “Wear something nice. And normal.” she added.
“Understood.” he agreed. Guess I better call Kurz and ask what that means. he made a mental note. On second thought, I'll ask Mao. “What will you be wearing, Kana?” he asked her. Kaname just smiled.
“You'll have to wait and see!” she said, nearly skipping down the street toward her building. “See you tomorrow night!” she called back.
When she arrived home, she locked her door and stood there panting, though it wasn't from the short run. No, it had more to do with tomorrow evening. What will I wear? she wondered. Swiftly running to her bedroom, she tossed off her school uniform and all but dove into her closet, perusing the clothes there, but not seeing anything that she felt would be right for the date.
Sitting down on her bed, she thought about it. As she did, her eyes fell to the picture on her dresser. Of course! she thought, leaping back to her closet and carefully withdrawing a box from the top of it. Setting it on the bed, she opened it to reveal her mother's kimono. Well, it's mine now. she amended that thought. Gently, she pulled the silk garment up and held it against her chest. Perfect. she thought.
For some reason, Kaname began to laugh delightedly.