Notes and Disclaimers: The characters in this story belong to Chiho Saito, Be-Papas and their corporate representatives.
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by Erica Friedman
The sunlight slanted in through the high windows, casting a red-gold radiance throughout the room. The sky was lit in hues that might have been considered satanic, if only because they were so very beautiful; oranges and golds highlighted by the lavender-blue clouds that defined the horizon. The white tablecloth, the porcelain china, the fragrant tea within, were all tinted a delicate rose. She shuddered lightly as she turned her face away from the sunlight.
Anshi watched her face carefully, as she bowed her head. It was not like Utena to be so quiet, so...forlorn. Pink bangs, hanging low, cast her eyes into shadow - the effect was extremely disturbing. Anshi cleared her throat and affected a cheerful tone of voice.
"Good afternoon!" she practically sang. Utena did not lift her head, only twitched one hand slightly in acknowledgement. Anshi did not pretend there was nothing wrong. "Are you feeling well?" she asked, her voice full of genuine concern - this was not like Utena at all.
Anshi sat down across the table from the other woman, her head tilted slightly, reappraising her companion. After a long moment she asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
Utena's hand twitched once again, a feeble motion. The tablecloth under the hand had darkened, turning from rose to a more threatening color, a bloody red tinged with fire.
Anshi said nothing. Utena shifted in her seat and mumbled something. A moment later she repeated her thought more audibly. "It doesn't matter."
Anshi waited, her eyes fixed on the bowed head before her. She would not help; she could not. This could not come from her. At last the head lifted slightly, and Utena met Anshi's gaze. As blue eyes met green, Anshi could see the heat, the pain, the confusion, the pity, mingling violently behind Utena's outward calm.
"Anshi," Utena began quietly, then simply stopped. Tears began to fill her eyes and she was barely able to speak. "Anshi...does it hurt anymore?" It seemed the act of a hero to get the words out, and Anshi had to force herself not to recoil from them. Slowly she reached out to lay her dark hand over Utena's pale one.
As the fingers touched gently...
There had been pain. Orangeredwhite hot searing pain as the blade slid in through skin and bone and muscle, piercing not only body and stopping mind in blaze of coldheat, but taking with it soul and joy and plunging them into hell. There had been ripping agonizing biting, as every inch of skin was pierced, greedhateenvypride took every piece there was and punctured it, bit it, fed on it until there was nothing that was not horror and despair.
There had been agony as love and hope were ripped from heart and mind time after time until there was no hope, no happiness that could fill in the wounds, not even for a brief moment, no light in the dark, no song in the silence, just the shrill cries of the needs which tore at you, taking, always taking, and the lies that fed them, and the terror that fed you.
There had been grief as they died in your name, drawing their lives from your breast in an act of false bravado time after time, as their faces and names became blurred, and yours disappeared altogether, drowned in tears shed and unshed for the nameless legions of champions that had died on your quest for something you knew never existed.
There had been fear of being alone, of being not alone, of noise, of peace, of day of night, of moving on and staying still, fear of having everything taken away and fear, horrible, wrenching, nauseating, gagging, fear of gaining everything wanted.
The tablecloth was now stained the dull umber of dried blood. Anshi took Utena's hand in her own, tracing the wrinkles, the lines, the gnarled tendons of those beloved hands. The hands that had once reached out past pain and madness to give her the one thing she had lacked - the simple joy of a human touch. The hands that had clutched her when they were once again reunited after years of separation, the hands that had brought her pleasure - simple caresses, elaborate and eloquent passion.
Anshi reached out tenderly, brushing pink hair turning white away from the adored face, noting the crow's feet, the laugh lines. She remembered the day they had notice age creep up on them at last - and had drunk to the memory of a childhood lived among castles and princes and left behind not a moment too soon.
She thought about her own hair, silver streaks among the dark tresses, and all the many years that lay between them, and Anshi smiled.
"No," she said quietly, waiting until an answering smile began to form on Utena's sweet face. "No, it doesn't hurt at all."
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