Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shipping Contest: PetexCharis


The pictures taped haphazardly to the briefing room's front wall were all charming, in a way.

The back view of a girl as she watches a boy across the expanse of the Library floor.

Two blushing faces close together over hands reaching for the same book.

Matching expressions of peace on a couple of sleeping faces.

The boy waiting innocently outside a room as the tip of a shoe indicates someone's about to leave.

Two silhouettes stealing a kiss.

"I think this content is too mature for me. I'm not old enough to get past the mushiness of kissing."

"What? I swear you're 16. And I thought you liked romances – you're always swooning over the little boys in the fandoms you like."

"Correction. It's Lela who likes the little boys in that way. I just happen to develop a fondness for them that's only befitting the main characters of those series."

"Uh-huh." Chloe's tone made it clear that she didn't believe her companion.

"That's neither here nor there! Even if I were accustomed to flagrant PDA, that doesn't mean I have to enjoy seeing my sister caught in such compromising situations. This is uncomfortable!"

"I think you're just sore that you didn't get these pictures first, for blackmailing purposes."

"Look who's talking, Tyler," Karissa shot back. "These photos would have been worth a ton of chocolate for you – or in my case, a month off dishwashing duty for me. I also could have persuaded Charis to make a cool new gadget for me."

"Charis has said she's run out of ideas for more gadgets, actually. Either that's the truth for the moment or just an excuse to spend more time with Pete," Jared smirked.

Karissa spluttered in an attempt to come to her sister's defence; no one could tease her sister but her.

"Silence in the boardroom!" Out of the blue their leader Harriet's voice entered into the chatter. Harriet's voice preceded her as she walked into the room flanked by Emily. "Cease all your side conversations at once, and someone pinch whoever's making that unseemly noise!"

"Hey– ow!"

"Harriet, wait!" The late arrival of another Agent smoothed over the muffled laughter from Karissa glaring hurtfully at Jared while he nursed a sore hand that had been slapped trying to pinch her. Unlike Harriet, Marcus' voice arrived with him, panting but not too dishevelled from having chased her all the way from the Occult section.

"Have a seat, Marcus. You're just in time, we've barely begun. Alright everyone, we have gathered here to discuss–"

"What, exactly?" Marcus quickly interrupted Harriet before she could get much further. "You sent out invitations for this meeting to barely half our Agents, and you didn't issue an agenda beforehand. Forgive me for being curious, but what is this about? Adrian, Tash, Michael, Claire, Miri and Aster aren't even in the Library right now."

"I know that," Harriet said with a frown. "And I didn't want to trouble the Agents who aren't present now because this matter isn't that important – or I mean, no, this is a very important matter!" In the face of several confused faces she made the decision to contradict herself generously. One had to make your Agents feel like they were wanted for a purpose, after all.

"This is the reason we're here!" Harriet stabbed a finger dramatically at the picture nearest to her. Due to the angle at which she stood, nobody could see exactly which picture had earned the Society founder's ire. But Harriet kept on speaking so as to enlighten them. "A romance that started up most unexpectedly! It flourishes upon tired romantic techniques such as the Comedic First Meeting and Hey, It's YOU! Again! Its characteristic calling card is a blush seared into burning cheeks. We were all delighted to notice the appearance of this romance, but if asked beforehand none of us would have ever admitted to thinking that it would work out."

"You don't mean...we're speaking about Charis and Pete?" Karissa breathed out in horror. She was shocked despite the fact that she had been peeking at the incriminating evidence only moments before.

"Do I need to give you any more hints? Yes! As cute as the shipping is, it is so cliché! And we are the ANTI-Cliché and Mary-Sue Elimination Society. We CANNOT stand for this sort of thing happening inside of our ranks. For the sake of our reputation, we must split the offending couple apart!"

"Or we could just validate their relationship by asking the Author to go easy on the clichés in the future," Chloe suggested.

The shuddering of the Fourth Wall should have been expected, but Harriet's expression made the tremors seem like an extension of her outrage, and therefore infinitely more terrifying. "ABSOLUTELY NOT! What would be the fun in that?" She broke off with a small frown. "As of this time, 18:00 GMT, Operation 'Break Up Techshipping' is in effect. Get creative, people, and tell me how we can bring this thing to an end."

None of the five Agents on the receiving end of her speech made any moves to volunteer. "What exactly does she expect us to do?" Karissa wondered under her breath.

"What? Has nobody watched a romantic movie before, or at least picked up and skimmed a romantic novel? Think like the bitchy ex-girlfriend; think like the evil ex-wife. How do we go about destroying a relationship?"

To everyone's surprise, it was Emily who spoke up first. "Play them off against each other," she said firmly. "If there's anything Pete and Charis dislike about each other we should bring it out into the open and make them question why they put up with it."

"Oh, that's smart," Harriet admitted appreciatively.

"One of them has to cheat on the other," Jared added, contributing his part.

Chloe pragmatically recommended trying to convince the pair that they weren't right for each other – if it was true – in which case their bond would naturally, peacefully fall apart.

"If it's true? You're giving them the benefit of the doubt." Harriet again picked up on Chloe's strange reluctance to intervene in matters.

"Stranger things have happened than two seemingly random people falling truly in love."

"I'll believe that when I see it happen, in this case, before my very own eyes. Next! Back to the evil plans."

Tyler stuck a hand up. "Well, it's simple, really. Two words: Edward Cullen."

It took Harriet too long to control her laughter, while around the table other Agents twitched a little spasmodically at hearing the Twipire's name.

"The best way would be to make sure Charis has a lot more fun while she's away from Pete," Karissa said barely audibly, as if she were still thinking to herself. "If she didn't perceive any benefit from being in a relationship then maybe she wouldn't stick around with him."

"Spoken by the person who knows Charis best," Harriet mused meditatively. "I can't say that would be more effective than any of the others' methods, but it bears keeping in mind. Huh, this is a pretty nice set of strategies we've concocted. How improbable is it to say that we can finish carrying out all of these acts before midnight strikes?"

"It sounds doable," Jared replied, thinking what a shame it was that his little green army men weren't quite ready to be tested in terms of how much havoc they could wreak... yet.

"We'll definitely be done before midnight," Tyler affirmed, thinking of the doubtless booby-trapped cookies that he would be free to search out once this assignment from Harriet was over.

"Let's get this over with," both Chloe and Karissa sighed, for different reasons.

Emily returned to Harriet's side as they collectively prepared to leave but Marcus remained frozen in place at the back of the room. "Are you sure we should be doing this?" he asked a little nervously. "If you need someone to blame, strictly speaking it was one of my selves that caused Pete and Charis to be lumped together. The root of their affair isn't actually impossible to trace back to a source."

By now Harriet cared more for the effect rather than the cause of her little game. "You're blocking the exit, Marcus," she said, not unkindly. "What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. If Charis and Pete are meant to be, nothing we do will ultimately change that."

"C-can't it?" Thought Marcus stuttered as he split in half to allow the rest of the group through. Emotion Marcus just sniffed in disdain at his more sensitive counterpart and followed the others out the door. "W-wait for me!"



"Charis, what exactly do you like about Pete?" For a good half hour Karissa had circuitously led the conversation round and round the topic of boys – feigning interest in one herself, and asking her sister for advice – before she finally broached the topic of her sister's own love life. "I've heard that opposites attract, of course, but just as many people say that 'When we fall in love, we're just falling in love with ourselves.'"

"That's not a quote, Karissa. That's a lyric from Keane's Spiralling song," Charis criticized absently.

"Well it could still be true, can it not? I'd always thought someone like Himuro might be more your type. Smart. Techno-savvy. Good with his hands."

Charis giggled. "How would you know if Pete is all of those things or not? In my honest opinion–"

Karissa gagged.

"Pete is more than capable, and that is that."

"Ahem. Well, to rephrase my question, if you can't answer me what you like about Pete then why don't you like Himuro also? Why don't you love him like you do Pete?"

"Himuro is nothing like Pete, even if he is his alter-ego."

"Is there anything you dislike about him – them – Pete, I mean?"

"No, not really."

"Oh, well that's good, I guess."


Tyler was direct and to the point, egged on by Jared while Chloe stood rolling her eyes from a distance away in the background.

"Hey Pete! How are you doing?" They had taken no care to lower their voices as they barged into his room as one. One quick glance had confirmed that they were speaking to the proper person, not Himuro's personality, and then Tyler had followed up with, "If there was anything about Charis that annoyed you, you would tell us, right? There's no harm in letting loose a little steam once in a while. Has she ever done something to make you mad?"

Pete blinked at them like they were all crazy. He might have been right. Chloe edged out of his line of vision.

"What do you say, Pete?"

"I'm not the sort of guy who would breathe a single word about Charis behind her back. But in any case, there's nothing to say."



"We'll just be going now."




The sound of laboured breathing was magnified by the loss of other senses – most importantly, sight – in the half-darkness of the room. "Straighten your spine...hold in your breath a bit'll get used to it soon."

"NO I WON'T! Get me out of here!"

"Come on, bear with it."

"I SAID NO! Argggghhhh!"

"This is not going to work, Harriet." Emily turned a chagrined face upon her mentor. "Thought Marcus is fighting back with all he can give, and we've barely gotten the corset laced halfway up."

"WHY DO I HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO DRESS UP AS A GIRL? WE HAVE REAL GIRLS!" When he was yelling at the top of his lungs Thought Marcus' stutter disappeared and he could almost be mistaken for his brash counterpart. Only, Emotion Marcus could be plainly seen, and he was currently laughing hysterically at the distress of his other self.

Harriet stepped up. "We can't ask Karissa or Chloe to seduce Pete in-character because that would ruin their relations with Charis. But if she walks in on an unknown female all snug against her man then she'll be furious! And confused. Her confusion should allow you just enough time to scarper and change out of your costume before you're discovered," Harriet explained patiently, and not for the first time.

"W-what about Emily?"

"I don't take Pete for a pedophile."

"W-what about–"

"What about me?" Harriet completed his sentence sweetly. "Surely you're not suggesting your Society founder and Leader should degrade herself?"

"NO, no, n-not at all. It would just be horribly convenient if there were a spare, mysterious, busty and beautiful woman kicking about the Library."

Emily thought immediately of her friend Phoenixia at these words, but not everyone knew – or was supposed to know – about her yet. Emily sighed as the laces grasped in her hands lost most of their tension. She had been distracted – no wonder Thought Marcus had the breath required to yell. "I vote we scrap this plan and move on to the next," she proposed reasonably. "Perhaps the others have had some better luck."

Harriet nodded slowly. "Maybe that would be for the best."

"THANK GOD! You heard her, someone give me back my coat and bandages!"



"Who will be our brave volunteer that will open a Plothole into the Twilight fandom and bring back Edward Cullen?" Plan Three was very nearly undone, because not one person raised their hand up. Yet Harriet was too sympathetic to order one of them through involuntarily.

"Why aren't those books on the Black List anyways? The descriptions of those sparkling Twipires certainly make me want to kill myself."

"Good question."

"Um, the fandom's not Blacklisted, but I do seem to recall that Adrian put some weird redirection spell on it. I don't know if we can get in with a conventional Plothole."

"No problem then." It was Tyler who announced this. "I just remembered, back in November of last year we had an invasion of Twipires. I don't know why. But they came from within the pages of the books. All we need to do is find some copies of any of the four books and I'm sure we can call the Cullen forth."

"But I thought Shirley ate all the copies of Twilight?"

"That's what we thought then. We were wrong," Karissa added darkly.

"How exactly do we lure the Cullen into our world?"

"We pretend we'd be glad to see him." Following Tyler's explanation all the Agents tried hard to twist their faces into some semblance of a smile. However, as soon as they imagined seeing the reviled Ed Cullen appear – whether he bore the semblance of Robert Pattinson or another – their faces crumbled and soon enough the only expression they all wore was loathing.

"I don't think this is going to work," Emily said at last.

"Haven't I heard that before?" Harriet wondered. "Our genius plans don't seem to be amounting to much."

"But we still have one more."



They went shopping. All sorts of shopping – window shopping, shopping for CDs, clothes, jewellery and books. They saw a movie each – Karissa chose an animated feature for them first, and later Charis preferred to watch the latest action film complete with hunky male lead. Karissa treated her sister to dinner and dessert, and Charis bought bubble tea. They stayed in the mall for a full two hours longer than necessary so that – although the lights inside the food court remained bright – outside the black sky swept over all the buildings in its path until every window they looked through was dark.

Karissa thought it had been a fulfilling night. Charis was sure to have enjoyed herself. On the way back to the Library they walked companionably in silence, but somewhere between a Plothole and an Anachronism Charis stopped and looked as if she would speak.

"You asked me some awfully odd questions today, Karissa. Are you really that concerned about how things stand between me and Pete?"

"I just want you to be happy," Karissa responded lamely.

"Is that all? Because I am happy, you know." Charis smiled to herself. "I love him. We haven't said as much to each other, but I do think that this is more than a mere infatuation on my part now. My mind has finally caught up with my heart in order that I can admit that."

"Congratulations?" Karissa offered weakly.

Charis acted as if she hadn't heard. "Sometimes I think to that day when Pete and Joe asked us for a double date. When it was first suggested I slapped him, remember? But that was out of character for me. I don't normally do those kinds of things to strangers. I'd looked in on some of Pete's missions before, but I'd never formally met him. Why was I comfortable enough – embarrassed enough – to slap him? And then the next time I saw him I couldn't stop blushing, either. I think what I like most about Pete is that he can get a response from me whereas previously not many people could. I followed along with my instincts and ended up finding that it's not wrong to fall in love with someone after only being attracted to them at first."

"Pete was the first person I got to know well after joining the Society – discounting Doug, of course – and maybe first impressions are the most important because it didn't take him long to become pretty important to me." Charis put the weight of her whole earnest gaze on Karissa's face.

Mission be damned, she wasn't going to carry on this charade anymore. "Charis, I will support you in everything you do. You're my big sister, and–" Karissa's eyes started to tear up, to her great discomfort. "I want you to continue being with Pete in the future, if that's what it takes for you to never know regret."

"Aw, thanks Kris." Charis lapsed into her favourite nickname for her little sister, one that she hadn't been using so frequently since she'd started dating Pete.


When they stepped out onto the floor of the Library Pete was already there waiting, and Charis ran to put her arms around him without any hesitation.

But at least she wasn't hiding the display from Karissa anymore.



The pictures were triple in number this time, almost as if they'd learnt to breed as frantically as the Society's ever-mounting paperwork. Whoever the anonymous photographer was, the quality and especially the composition of the shots remained stellar. Three of the most eye-catching were:

Charis laughingly ran ahead of Pete, daring him to catch up before they both missed the mission debriefing.

Pete held Charis' hand, allowing her to lean her head against his shoulder as he swung their linked arms.

Charis stood proudly next to a transformed Pete in the mirror, letting laughter overtake her as the unfortunate victim of the Genderbender looked abashed.

Karissa's mind was in a pleasant fog, seeing so many instances of her sister's most brilliant smile. She could just barely hear Harriet talking from across the table. "In conclusion, I suppose Techshipping isn't irreparably clichéd. Pete and Charis have plenty of time to develop a deeper relationship and then there will be reform. Just like an Author always has some chance to prevent his character from becoming a Sue or Stu, likewise there's hope left for our two Agents." Harriet tapped her cricket bat sharply on the wooden table. "I move to reconvene this meeting in two month's time and hear a full review of the couple's status."

Karissa's voice rode out quite firmly, "I move against that. We should just let them be from now on."

Chloe looked out at the group inscrutably before seconding Karissa's motion.

Harriet looked disappointed, but was secretly much relieved. "Alright, all in favour?" The vote came out unanimously. "Then it is my wish that Techshipping will thrive freely in the months to come. Though, if we can't interfere with Pete and Charis, can we still tease them?" She let the question slip before realizing that, as a Leader, no one here was suited to tell her what she could or couldn't do.

"I believe we shall," Karissa said anyways. She began to gather all the photographs pinned up, muttering, "An album full of these will be just the thing...we'll have loads of fun with this."


"Karissa? Where on earth did you get all these Polaroids?"

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