Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Notes: Made for Dinpik, for the saffic Christmas challenge. Kozue and Anthy are perhaps two of the ‘darkest’ female characters in the cast. It’s sort of a given for me that Anthy would let a little of her mask slip for her, as Kozue seems to be able to know and accept quite a few of the nastier aspects of Ohtori unflinchingly.
Water slipped past her as she swam in easy strokes. She stayed underneath the water’s surface, and the lights set into the cool green tiles of the pool walls made bright and eerie ripples on the floor. She released the air in her lungs while under, in one great exhale of bubbles, and sunk quietly to the bottom of the four-foot end. She’d learned the trick when she was five and trying to look up from under the water in the swimming pool in their aunt’s house. Miki had always been afraid to try it, so she’d made sure to stay under for as long as possible when he was around. He’d always been terrified that she would drown.
Kozue was very, very good at holding her breath. Sometimes she felt she could stay under for hours at a time. There was a subtle kind of magic, something she indulged in when she felt she wanted to, in the world as viewed from the bottom of the water. It was cracked and warped into bright patterns of light, slippery images that moved with the flow of the ripples of the surface. The world split into two spaces: a cool, dark, wet expanse, and whatever lay beyond it.
At night, no light was visible save for the diamond freckles of stars and the moody, green-yellow glows of the pool lights. In an indoor pool, there were no stars at all, and the darkness was tremendous. A whole index of half-traced thoughts was on her mind, most of them hard and hateful. She swam through them all, roughly pushing through the water like it was a physical manifestation of everything she wanted to escape. Foam white and dark cerulean. Clean burning of lungs and joints, telling her of her exhaustion. Gooseflesh on her skin and the sting of chlorine in her eyes and mouth.
They’d gotten a letter. Slim and white and formal, and she’d told Miki to throw it away. The only things that came from their parents those days were money and bad news. No matter how they phrased their messages, it was obvious that they didn’t really care about what they were saying. Words with nothing behind them, and all dear mother and father truly wanted was to go on with their own lives. Not that Kozue blamed them: if she had children one day, she’d keep them a good deal further than arm’s length. Miki, however…it hurt him to know of flaws in those he cared for. She knew he couldn’t stand accepting that his father could be unfaithful, that his mother could leave them without a second glance, or that his sister had no interest to be the girl he remembered. She knew that Miki thought everything should run perfectly, without imperfections or mistakes, like one of his chemistry projects. His world was very simple and limited, and above all, very immature.
He’d opened it, of course, and made her sit through his recitation. She’d had the bitterly sadistic pleasure of watching his expression change, his voice falter, as the news finally hit. He spoke in a dry and barren voice of their father’s new wife, of how kind and sweet she was, of how he could finally overcome the pain of their mother leaving him, (written with a sort of sharp edge, an implication that it was their fault,) and finally an invitation to a marriage ceremony. He’d mentioned new little sisters and brothers, as if any of them could possibly matter. A squalling little lump for them to dote over. She almost looked forward to shredding any pictures they’d send.
Miki was dealing in his usual way: complete withdrawal. He’d shut himself up with the piano again. The night before, she could hear him playing up to the very early hours of the morning. She’d pressed her face against his pillow and breathed in his scent as she listened to the faint and distant strains of music, and allowed herself a short while to grieve for him. The new wife, who she normally wouldn’t have honored with hatred, was given a place in the endless shelf of people she loathed. At that moment, she’d felt she could have easily wrung her delicate, pretty neck with her bare hands, only for existing. Anyone who hurt Miki, even without conscious effort deserved to be hurt in return.
That morning, she’d seen him sleeping with his head down on the piano keys, sheets of piano music tangled in his fingers and in drifts on the floor. His hair was tousled and tangled, and his hand was wrapped tightly, almost desperately, over his watch. He held it like a religious relic or a rosary.
She pulled herself out of the pool, her hair seal-slick against her scalp, water seeping and forming a puddle around her bare feet as she stepped onto the floor and stood there, dripping. No towels to dry herself off with. There was a consequence to sneaking into the school swim facilities late at night, but she could deal with the lack of access to her swimming suit and towels. She preferred swimming in the nude, enjoyed the cool caress of the water against her naked body. And if a teacher happened by, who cared? None of them would punish her, she was Miki’s sister after all. Who knew what a student council member could do if they were upset?
As if he had the balls to use his power that way.
A flash of movement caught her eye, and she caught herself staring in a mixture of bewildered horror and interest at the dark shape moving slowly, almost oozing through the water. It moved slowly, and tangled tendrils of darkness spread out and curled out like the thin, curled ends of vines. A shivery flash ran through her for an instant before she recognized the shape as human…and then it surfaced calmly and smoothly, a face rising from the water with long dark hair floating around it like an aureole. Green depths that pulled her like the centers of whirlpools before she recognized them as eyes.
“Himemiya?” she asked, not sure if she was entirely correct in that assumption. With her hair down, without the schoolgirl’s outfit…or anything else, for that matter, she looked like a completely different person. The bare beginnings of anger stirred briefly. The bitch was invading yet another private part of her life. Shock slipped away like melting sheets of ice as she focused her attention on the girl, also nude in the water. Her throat looked so very, invitingly delicate. Like any true wild animal, Kozue knew to go straight for the jugular, and she barely fought the insane urge to wrap her hands around that smooth neck and simply squeeze.
Himemiya shifted, her hair floated to the side as she raised one dripping hand and smoothed hair from her eyes. Her expression smoothly set into the blank, innocent smile that was her usual expression. She looked as though swimming after hours in the school pool wearing nothing but her birthday suit and a smile was something absolutely natural that all students indulged in from time to time. She clutched the edge of the pool, but didn’t pull herself out, as if reluctant to leave the water. “Kozue.” She said, smiling as though she was meeting an old, familiar friend. It struck Kozue that something was subtly but essentially wrong with that smile.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she asked sharply, not in the mood to mince words. “Shouldn’t you be somewhere with Tenjou?” That was another thing that seemed out of place, but not quite so much. Anthy was never seen anywhere by herself. Before it had been with Saionji, with a few other council members on the side, and now she seemed almost strictly with Tenjou. Kozue had her pegged for some kind of starfucker: someone who hung around the important people because she had no redeeming qualities of her own but the ability to lie on her back and stay quiet. Tenjou didn’t seem the type to go after that, but she just might be trying to be charitable.
“Utena-sama is sleeping,” she replied while treading water, “She wouldn’t enjoy this sort of activity, though. She’s very modest.” Unlike you. Unlike me. The words were left unsaid but tangible.
“Surprising, with those shorts she wears. They leave nothing to the imagination.” Kozue turned away and picked her robe up from where it lay on the floor. She hadn’t seen another one, or any sort of garment that would have implied that Himemiya had come in clothed. Which was ridiculous, because she couldn’t have come traipsing through the campus in the nude. A quick glance around reaffirmed her suspicions. Nothing, not even a sheet to drape herself in. “Why?” she asked. Why are you here? Why are you here swimming around naked, the same time I am? Why is it possible for you to apparently come here without getting caught and swim in the pool without even being seen by me?
“I suppose it’s because spandex is a very revealing material.” Himemiya replied thoughtfully, treading water with a smile.
Kozue gave her a long look, mouth tight as a bowstring. For a few moments she wondered how hard it would be to hold that dark head beneath the water, wait the struggles out, and leave her limp and lifeless for the teachers to find the next morning. There were no people here. There wouldn’t be time for screams. There was nothing but her, silence, and water. “Never mind,” she said finally, and turned to pull on her robe.
“It wouldn’t work, you know,” came the other girl’s voice from behind her. And this time the voice was low, a twilight dulcet. The tone, used by anyone else, could have been considered theatrical, melodramatic. For Himemiya…Kozue felt a shiver that may have been from fear or vicious desire. When she turned to look, Himemiya was seated at the edge of the water, although there’d been no sound to indicate that she had even moved. “It wouldn’t work, so you shouldn’t even bother with trying to kill me. You’re such a vicious thing, aren’t you? So very unlike your brother.”
She fought the almost mindless surge of hatred and denial that surfaced. “You knew that already,” she said tightly, and knew it to be true the instant the words left her mouth.
Himemiya shrugged, a nearly imperceptible movement of her shoulders. Her hair curled and straggled over them like thick vines, framing her breasts, trailing down her arms and pooling around her waist. “Don’t worry. I haven’t touched him, not in the way that you worry about.”
Her expression was unchangingly solemn. Kozue expected, and it was worse to expect it than to face it, some sort of smirk, a hint of mockery. Not this dry statement of fact. There was no point in asking what she meant, because of course Kozue knew. She knew that Himemiya knew, which frightened and enraged her in equal measures. At the very edge of her conscious she felt it, that somehow, this thin and delicate girl watched her whenever she bent over Miki when he slept, watched her when her lips brushed his, and knew every secret thought and dream she had. “I’ll kill you if you tell him,” she said, her voice thick with anger, “You know I will.”
Now she did laugh, humorlessly, cruelly. It sounded harshly metallic, the sound of swords scraping together. “You can try,” her expression changed, softened. The effect was like someone dropping a silk shawl over an unsheathed, twisted blade. Kozue knew the edge was still there. “I know someone who can help him,” she said sweetly, softly, “He can help your brother. I know he’s been having problems. I’ve been so worried.” The sympathetic tone sounded like a taunt in that voice.
“He doesn’t need your kind of help.”
“Is your mind still on that?” Himemiya rose in one fluid movement, “He won’t touch Miki in that way, and neither will I. Unless, of course, he wants us to. One always has the choice,” her lips curved in a smile
She was standing so close to her now, almost in arm’s reach.
“Should I show you?”
Adrenaline rose, loathing and a kind of primal fear mingled. Her instincts screamed at her to run. Deeper instincts rushed through her like wildfire, and the drums of her own heartbeat rang in her ears. BitchbitchbitchwitchwitchdamnedhatefulWITCH. Kozue’s hand lashed out at the speed of a viper’s strike and knocked her to the floor with a sickening crack and a tumble of coffee-brown limbs. She looked helpless, vulnerable, sprawled at her feet. “I’ll show you.” Kozue hissed and bent down, pinning her arms back against the tile. It struck her, oddly, that their skin was cold as she clasped her hands around Himemiya’s forearms, dug her fingernails into her skin.
And her eyes were still unmoved, cold and remote as stone.
They stayed that way for a while, neither moving, their breath the only sound. Kozue clung to Himemiya, the wildness in her building, moving…and then she felt the slow, soft stroke of Himemiya’s fingertips against her wrists, and saw her lips curve into a sensuous smile. She had been leaning closer without recognizing the difference in distance, she hovered just over her face. Another second passed, slowly.
“What are you doing to me?” she whispered hoarsely to Himemiya, which admittedly was a bizarre question to ask someone you were pinning to the floor. She released her grip, and Himemiya’s hands slid along her waist, then strayed downwards. Her skin was smooth, and she moved beneath her like a serpent. She smelled of roses, dusty and heavy and ancient.
“Nothing you don’t want done,” she replied, and she was suddenly wearing a red dress, wet and heavy with water turning to blood, and her eyes swallowed her whole and brought her to a place where she could never see the light again, and she laughed while the water swirled around her and suffocated her and her body shook as she tried to get free.
And then she opened her eyes, and she was just a girl, and her body was tingling and hot. She looked up at Himemiya, standing above her in her gown, rose petals in her hair.
“Who can help Miki?” she asked after some time.
“The End of the World.”
“What can he do?”
“Show him eternity.”
And they left, leaving nothing to show they’d been there.