[SHC] — “The Covered Box”


[This is a Super Headcanon Support “Official Fanfic” as suggested by a $30 Patreon patron and written by the author As a Fanfic it is canon in our hearts, but perhaps not in the actual story. The prompt was: “Madiha and Parinita go on a date and see a movie.”]

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When Madiha received a call to attend a sudden meeting belowdecks she had imagined a very different scene than she found. She imagined maps; she imagined radios and encryption equipment and a line to Solstice; she imagined stacks of documents to sort through in preparation; and she imagined that she would find more than one person in the room when she arrived. However she had also erroneously imagined that the room would be able to support more than one or two people at a time in the first place — when she pushed open the door into the specified quarter, she found that it was smaller than the size of her office in Bada Aso.

In a corner of the room she found Parinita hard at work and was puzzled as to the occasion.

“Is Captain Monashir coming? What about the lieutenants?” Madiha asked.

Parinita quizzically raised her head. She was crouched near a box and picking through its contents. There were film reels scattered on the floor. A projector was installed near the door, and a film canvas had been stuck to the opposing wall. Madiha surmised then that the strategy meeting might involve brushing up on basic concepts through educational films. Given the generally haphazard quality of their training, the basics could not be emphasized enough.

But there were only two chairs in the room, set side-by-side just off the projector’s path.

“Why would they be coming?” Parinita asked. “I, I mean– they’re too busy, and um, so–”

“Oh. Alright. Well, I suppose we don’t need them for a high level meeting.” Madiha said.

“Not at all.” Parinita said through a slight stutter. She then smiled a little. “It’s just us!”

Madiha tried to smile and diffuse any awkwardness in the same way that Parinita always liked to do, but given her own stolid and unlively nature, she did not think it was as effective.

“So, what is on the agenda?” She asked, trying to sound casual as possible.

“Well, see, there’s not so much an agenda. Give me a second here.” Parinita stood up.

Something smelled like a bundle of flowers. Madiha caught a sudden whiff of perfume.

When Parinita approached to greet her properly there were other new things to notice. She had her light strawberry-colored hair up into a high tail wrapped with a black ribbon, and a dab of bright lipstick on her lips. There was a slight brush of blue pigment over each of her eyes. Her light brown skin was smooth and looked soft. She seemed as if fresh from a bath.

Also quickly noticeable was her full dress uniform — coat buttoned halfway to the chest, white buttoned shirt with a black ribbon tie, pencil skirt, and sheer, ribbed black stockings with black pumps. Her coat and skirt were flat a muted green, freshly cleaned, pressed, perfect.

Madiha felt felt a little taken aback; she looked stunning. There was a sense in which she had always thought Parinita looked rather comely, but this was quite a different set of feelings.

Parinita looked down at her own shoes for a moment, rubbing her forearm. “Look, um, Madiha, I don’t want this to seem dishonest of me. I just thought it would be nice to watch a movie together.” She raised her eyes to Madiha’s, and repeated her words a little. “Watch a movie and relax together; you look like you need to relax! You’re always so stiff and tense. You need time for you! So that’s why I called this ‘meeting’ with you. I hope you do not feel mislead.”

“Not at all.” Madiha said. She was still a little caught up on Parinita’s attire, on her pigments, on her lovely hair. It was hard to argue when she had gone through so much effort.

“I’m glad. It might not be nighttime, but let’s have a real film night, with actual film! It’ll be just like going arm-in-arm to a theater.” Parinita replied. “I even dressed as nice as I could.”

“Did we get issued new uniforms?” Madiha asked. She was dressed only in her combat jacket, shirt and pants, frayed and torn and ripped all over from the many tribulations in Bada Aso. Though she had certainly frequented the shower rooms in the Revenant since they arrived, she did not have any cleaner attire to commit to the occasion; so she felt a little self-conscious. Had they gone arm-in-arm to a real theater Madiha would have looked rather off-putting.

Luckily for her, Parinita’s vivacious, gregarious mood seemed to infect her, and the secretary’s warm smile diffused her concerns. Even more luckily, the secretary’s preparations did not extend solely to her own self. “Matter of fact, you did! After all, you’re a Colonel now!”

She kicked the box full of film reels out of the way, and picked up a bag from the corner of the room and handed it to Madiha. Inside there was a black uniform coat with red buttons and red epaulettes and a subtle gold trim, alongside a pair of black pants the boasted a similar use of the KVW’s colors. Her new uniform was at first wrapped in plastic, and when she ripped the individual pieces free they felt very crisp. There was also a peaked cap and a pair of shoes.

“Would you indulge me and dress up nice, Madiha?” Parinita said, hands behind her back.

“It would be a pleasure.” Madiha replied. She felt almost compelled. Emphatically she pulled off her worn combat jacket, already stripped of its pins and medals, and donned her new coat. Pants down, boots off; she slipped into the replacements with little effort. Everything measured up, as expected from the supply corps. Madiha felt almost the equal of her lovely compatriot.

“Something is still missing.” Parinita said mischievously. “Hold on just one second for me.”

Parinita approached, and seized one of Madiha’s coat buttons — she then began to close all of them. Soon she was tidying Madiha top to bottom. She stood on her tiptoes and put Madiha’s hat on her head; with a length of red cloth she did Madiha’s tie for her; using a little comb she brushed Madiha’s straight, dark, neck-length hair. Finally, with naked glee, Parinita drew Madiha’s pins and medals from her own coat pockets and adorned her chest with them.

“I completely forgot that I told you to hold on to those.” Madiha said.

“Well, there’s no enemy here to identify you by your pins, so let’s indulge.”

She gestured for Madiha to look herself over, and though there was no mirror around she nonetheless felt that she could see the entire scene in her mind’s eye. Together they stood in the middle of the little room, both fully uniformed as though the subjects of a military parade. Parinita the beautiful and dutiful secretary; Madiha the handsome and loyal strategist. She almost started pursuing that fantasy farther on — the setting was taking her on a flight of fancy.

“Now you look like a Colonel, my Colonel.” Parinita said, poking Madiha in the chest.

Her finger ran gently down Madiha’s “Hero of the Socialist Dominances” medal.

She quivered a bit from the teasing touch. Their eyes locked. Parinita had to look up a little, and Madiha down; the Colonel was almost ten centimeters taller than her friendly assistant. Madiha thought she felt a sort of spark in her chest wherever that slender finger touched. It was not uncomfortable, but it was certainly different. They had a different presence for each other here. This was not at all like their previous meetings. There was an intriguing tension, and it was not just the clothes and it was just not the room, and it was not just Madiha’s fancy.

Certainly they felt like a pair now; but a stray thought in Madiha’s mind hunted for the answer as to what kind of pair they felt like. This warm scene seemed to recall something familiar.

Parinita patted down Madiha’s chest. “Feels good to look spiffy like this, doesn’t it?”

“I feel a little strange. I’m more used to combat clothes, really.” Madiha confessed.

Parinita sighed fondly. “I figured. So; lets get that film going, shall we?” She lifted her hands from Madiha and skipped over to the corner of the room. She bent down and started searching through the box; this time Madiha joined her. There were several reels in the box, marked with the title, director and purpose. A few were marked for military entertainment, and were likely popular films outside of support org shows; others seemed educational in nature.

Together they picked through the reels, some packed into little steel cylinders, others in rounds that were ready to be stuck on a projector. Madiha did not quite know what they were looking for. She decided to satisfy her own interests, as she often did when expected to relax.

Finally, a triumphant exclamation resounded in the little room. “Ah ha! Yes! Got it!”

Raising the film reel into the air, Parinita stood up suddenly, hopping up and down.

“I knew they had to have it! I knew it! It was very popular!” She cheered happily aloud.

She showed Madiha the reel she found; it was a called ‘Inside The Covered Box.’

“Never heard of it, I’m afraid. However, I found quite a treasure myself. Look at this!”

Madiha had found her own reel to be happy about and presented it eagerly in kind.

Parinita leaned in and strained her eyes. “This is some tiny print you got here, Madiha.”

“I’ll read it for you,” Madiha raised the reel to her own eyes, “A Review Of Defensive Battle In The Unification War’s Eastern Front, Focusing On The Penetration Against Entrenched Forces Via Limited Mobile Assets, By Aldricht Warburg, Oberkommando Heerfuhrer, 2014.”

After Madiha read the entire thing there was a short silence punctuated by Parinita fidgeting.

“I, um, I would rather not, Madiha; I would rather not watch that.” Parinita stammered.

“Ah, sorry.” Madiha’s face turned a little hot. Her brown skin was probably flushed around the cheeks. She wondered if she had offended Parinita. Had she failed to read an implication?

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s probably interesting! But,” Parinita cast eyes around the room as if trying to find a conclusion to her sentence there, then raised her finger and poked Madiha in the chest a few times, like a teacher with instructions, “you have to relax. So no war stuff!”

‘No War Stuff’ was almost essentially saying ‘No Madiha Stuff’, but Madiha did not protest. After all, Parinita was right — certainly if they were taking time to relax, it would not do to occupy that time thinking about trench warfare doctrine that was sixteen years dated. Certainly that was not what anyone did on dates– was it a date now? Dated; date; what a progression.

“You are right.” Madiha said. She smiled and felt at ease with her partner. Her mind was in a bit of a curious tangle and for some reason she felt fond of its current place. It was relaxing.

“I think you’ll like this film if you give it a chance! Just sit back, take your mind off the current events, and open yourself to the experience. Try to capture the feeling.” Parinita said.

She set up the reel on the projector, turned off the lights, and ushered Madiha to her seat. They were very close together. Their shoulders literally brushed, and Madiha felt Parinita’s leg against her own. She took in the sweet scent; was it lilies? She found it thoroughly pleasant.

Projected on the screen, the film began, in simple, crisp and clean black and white shades.

Much of the action of the film centered around a ticket booth at a train station, where a woman ticket-taker watched people come and go. Within five minutes, a few days of the ticket woman sitting at her booth had been covered via subtle changes in the lighting, in the people standing in the scene, in the outfit and hairstyle of the ticket woman. For the first few minutes the film seemed strange and boring to Madiha, but she started to notice that one woman with a box wrapped in a blanket recurred in every quick cut of the ticket woman’s various shifts.

Soon the action of the film became clearer. Each of the ticket woman’s shifts in the film was punctuated by interactions with the visiting woman holding the eponymous covered box. At first they only caught glances of each other. First casual, then more committed; soon they actively sought each other’s eyes. Then the visitor started to stop in front of the booth to talk to the ticket woman. At different times of the day, as different trains came, they would meet. Their lips moved, but there were no sounds — it wasn’t a talkie — only the light breathing from Parinita nearby, and the distant sounds of people walking and the various operations of the warship hosting them. There were not any cutaways for dialog either. One could only infer.

Madiha felt drawn in. She wondered what they were saying. She started to think, ‘what if that was Parinita and me?’ ‘What would we say?’ Sometimes the women laughed, sometimes they looked serious. Scenes cut quickly away; in thirty minutes several weeks seemed to pass.

As the film progressed, Madiha snuck a glance at Parinita — and met her eyes again. She had been watching Madiha, stealing glances at her, perhaps to discern her reaction to the film. They made no effort to hide their conspiratorial appraisals of each other now. They smiled together.

Parinita then raised a finger to her lips, urging quiet, and then set her hands on her own lap. Madiha politely obliged, though the film had no sound. She set her own hands down and briefly brushed against Parinita’s hands. They were very soft and warm. In a moment, Madiha thought she could hear her own rising heartbeat over anything else. She tried to focus on the film.

Suddenly she saw a kiss on-screen; the two women kissed! She felt suddenly excited for them. Quick cuts; the visitor leaned into the ticket-taker’s box, face to face with the ticket woman; standing apart, talking, parting; another leaning-in at the start of another day. It wasn’t explicit but Madiha was positive they were kissing each of those times. She knew those expressions!

And the box was inside the ticket woman’s booth now, the visiting woman was not carrying it anymore! And it was open now, but the viewer could not see what was in it! It was in every scene since the kissing began. Madiha felt even more intrigued now. As she came and went with the trains, the visitor kissed the ticket woman every day, and time continued to pass.

Then one scene caught Madiha’s attention — it was slower than the rest. There were no quick cuts with different lighting to insinuate a rapid passage of time. It was just the ticket woman in her post. Soon the visitor arrived. They kissed, they talked. She reached out a hand into the ticket woman’s booth; she opened the door! Hand-in-hand they walked out and took a train away. They left the box in the ticket booth. Credits rolled. That was it? Madiha stared silently.

Soon the film ran completely out, and there was only white light from the projector. Madiha stared at the canvas, and she thought there might have been more to it. She turned over what she had seen in her mind. Never before had she seen a film like that. It left an odd sensation.

She turned to face Parinita, who was clearly expecting her to, and was still appraising her.

“You said before this film was popular? I don’t know if I understand what it was about.”

“It was a film about love, Madiha; there was no sound, because the intended soundtrack was the heartbeat of the viewer, and the breath of the person they brought to the theater. And there was no dialog, but it really made you wonder, didn’t it? What they were saying? Even what their voices might have been like? I wonder if you might have thought the same about them as me.”

Parinita’s hand snuck over Madiha’s own. She beamed; her face was flushed a light pink.

“On that point; what do you think was in the covered box? That was what gave the film its name, after all. There are a lot interpretations that people have come up with.” She said.

Madiha looked down at the hands, and back to Parinita’s radiant face as if entranced.

“I have one theory that I like.” Parinita’s free hand slipped around Madiha’s cheek.

Their voices became low and conspiratorial. Madiha smiled. “What is your theory?”

Parinita giggled a little, looking flighty and giddy with excitement. “It was their hearts in the box; when they kissed, and accepted their love, then they uncovered that box for good.”

Madiha felt a powerful attraction to her partner then; she had never looked or sounded more beautiful than in that strange instant, her earnest smile lit only by the white beam of the projector. There were no more averted glances, no stammering. Parinita brushed her hair.

She leaned in; the perfume was intoxicating. Madiha felt like she would float from her seat. Parinita’s bright red lips closed with her own, and they brushed together, the briefest, gentlest touch. Their faces hovered close, lips grazing each other, tasting warm breaths at millimeters of distance; as if a magnetic force between them drew their lips slowly near.

Madiha’s mind calmed; she felt as though the touch had cleared her of every heavy thought.

She rose a little and slid closer, accentuating the difference in height. Parinita raised her head; then Madiha leaned in and reciprocated her in full. Lips spread and locked together once. They pulled briefly apart, feeling the warmth of rushing blood and breath exchanged, only to both push close again, clumsily, lips stacking and parting, sucking together. Parinita gripped Madiha’s sleeve and squeezed the flesh of her upper arm; Madiha took her by the waist and cheek. Their lips worked in a tantalizing rhythm. They moaned softly into each other’s mouths.

Only when the breath had fully left them did they pull even slightly apart, chests heaving, hands still gripping where they last held, as though they would fly apart without the link.

For a moment they held each other, gasping, smiling. Madiha felt suddenly full of life.

Parinita laughed; Madiha joined her. They giggled together like girls. Madiha’s heart was racing. She could scarcely believe what had transpired, and yet, it was so delectable.

“You don’t need audio to convey feelings in films.” Parinita said. “And I thought, that my words got hung up a lot, and I know yours do as well. But I think we’ve made it clear now.”

Madiha bowed, and she touched her forehead to her lover’s. “It is as clear to me as the contents of that box.”

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