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Sparks of Shadow and Flame

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Shiori didn't like sitting so close. She felt trapped and in a way she was, she always was, unable to move and under something eternally more spectacular than she could ever be, as if she were just a shadow and not a real girl at all. The compact seating was unavoidable though, and the gymnasium was overrun with students who had no hope of escaping the high school assembly. Even the more delinquent students could not seem to squirm free from the mandatory meeting. She couldn't remember what it was for though. She'd lost the little yellow piece of paper that listed the events that were to take place. Someone was sure to give a speech addressing something dismissive like curfews, or dating, or staying off the college side of the campus. Things no one listened to, but, apparently, needed to be said so that the faculty would feel better about themselves.

Looking around the gym Shiori noticed that none of the classes were sitting together. Freshmen were filtered in with seniors and sophomores. Out of the corner of her eye she recognized the boy next to her as a lower classmen and suddenly felt undignified. She attempted sitting up straight and looking esteemed, but in the end, to outside observers, she was a girl pretending to look important. And she knew it deep inside, because, honestly, how could anyone think that she, Shiori Takatsuki, was anything but ordinary and unworthy, weak.

Her violet eyes suddenly focused on a stoic looking young woman sitting across the way. Watched the auburn haired beauty sit perfectly erect and confidently, hazel eyes coldly assessing everything around her. Shiori was suddenly very irritated.

Juri didn't count, she thought, Juri doesn't count because she is just as fake as I am.

She nodded her head quickly to confirm the thought, violet locks falling out of place and into her eyes. She brushed them aside with her petite fingers and went on observing those around her.

The assembly organizers were fussing over the sound system. They'd tap on the microphones and then a shrill wave of feedback would echo out of the speakers causing everyone to wince, except those students who were too graceful and suave to be bothered with the noise. Like the student council president, and- The girl next to her.

Shiori was suddenly very aware of the girl next to her, the way she slouched defiantly, the tilt of her head, and a scent of some sort of spice. With a deep breath she inhaled and wondered how she could have ever missed that scent. She knew the girl next to her, the reputation and that scent that was never the same. It changed perennially from ginger and Clove cigarettes, to cinnamon, cedar, or anise. Was wildly abundant and unwaveringly intoxicating, exotic and…Erotic?

No, she shouldn't think that. It was wrong to think that way about another girl, to think of someone the same way that Juri thought of her, or maybe she didn't anymore. It didn't matter. She couldn't bare the thought of being precious to someone. She wasn't special. She just was.

Her heart was pounding though. She knew it was, and she was such a small girl she was sure that the boy next to her (who was fidgeting constantly) could see it trying to burst from her chest. Her eyes shut, and she focused on making her heart slow, opening them again only to be met with hazel eyes from across the way. She purposely refused to look annoyed, pretending to be disinterested instead.

And it was then, just as the sound system clicked on and the speeches about chastity and dignity began, that Shiori realized Juri wasn't looking at her. She followed those overly concerned and wanting hazel eyes carefully, and, to her absolute horror, found them locking onto and pleading with the wild and erotically scented girl sitting next to her. Shiori turned her head to look at the girl, and was instantly greeted with dark untamed blue eyes.

In that second of looking there was clear understanding, a story unfolding in the blink of an eye, and Shiori knew that Juri wanted the girl next to her, and that the girl wanted Juri but was not in anyway opposed to wanting and taking Shiori as well. Shiori was frightened and disgusted with herself. It was sick, ill, and diseased to think of girls that way. But her hate for what she wanted, and what she was slid away with the hope that she could finally get what she desired.

Today, Shiori noted, Today, she smells like cinnamon and mulled wine. And she must taste like Christmas.

Shiori wanted to know what that was like. She wanted to have a moment that she could hate of herself forever, before trying to pretend, once again and always, that she was a normal girl who wanted a boyfriend and then a husband. Instead of being what she actually was, a cruel little butterfly seeking to be devoured by women who tasted of chaste holidays and over grown herb gardens.

The moth don't care when he sees the flame
He may get burned but he's in the game
And once he's in he can't go back
He'll beat his wings till he burns them black

Kozue stopped behind the fencing hall, hopping up onto a small wall that bordered an abandoned flowerbed. It was an odd thing to find at Ohtori, there seemed to be flowers and plants everywhere she walked; making a jungle of the school and increasing her belief that she was a creature of the wild, not human, not tame, but ferocious and predatory. But more and more she felt like a puppy waiting for her master to return, and at the same time she felt as if she were just expecting another member of her pack. It liked to confuse her, so she tried not to think of it too much.

Instead, as she sat (waiting for a panther, a fencer, miserably expectant and in need of elegant lips devouring her whole) Kozue thought about the assembly and Shiori. Her eyes narrowed at the memory of the girl's name, and the way it sounded almost like the hiss of a snake or the reverent beat of moths wings caught in a web.

Kozue did not care for girls like Shiori. Did not appreciate those that put on a play to try and fool the masses into thinking they were something sweet and innocent. Shiori was not sweet or innocent. Shiori was cruel and regretful. A little girl afraid of being herself because others had told her long ago that she would forever be an outcast if she in anyway did and said as she felt.

She sniffed and ran her fingers through her blue hair. A grin emerged at what she had seen hidden away in Shiori's violet eyes. All that wanting and need, the perfect agonizing lust and fear permeating the air. Kozue could smell it all, and it was a victory of sorts. Kozue wanted to teach the girl a lesson about the wild. She nodded, yes. Against her panther's wishes she would teach a lesson. Her eyes caught a petite shadow and her grin pushed back revealing her teeth.

The lesson would start on that night.

"You look far too pleased." A low and wonderful voice stated.

Kozue did not hear the young woman approaching. She had been too focused on the insect buzzing about in the darkness. She watched the tall and sleek young woman move closer, replying softly, "I am. I'd tell you why, but I doubt you'd find it as funny as I do, Arisugawa."

"Oh?"

Juri was a breath away. Her eyes failing to discover the mischief that Kozue was plotting, and before she could ask further Kozue wrapped her legs around Juri's waist pulling her closer, giggling inwardly as the panther leaned in, right knee accepting the tasking of holding her weight against the short wall. Kozue didn't waste a breath pressing her lips to Juri's, ravenously inviting the kiss to burrow deeper.

The wild child hummed happily as the fencer's mouth moved to her neck. Juri always went there after a kiss, grazing her teeth along Kozue's collarbone, to claim and possess. Kozue wanted her there, liked her there, because it proved that what she and Juri had was not and never would be tame. It would always be animalistic, and as the panther continued her venture along the wild girl's neck Kozue made a quick check to see if the insect was still around, and happily she was.

Kozue moved to take Juri's lips again, because she and the fencer had to remember to move to a dorm room before things got any hotter. They'd forgotten once or twice before and while no one ever said a word about it Kozue was sure that a good number of the students and faculty living close by heard ever gasp, moan, cry and whisper of pleasure that left her throat. It was so brilliant and perfect that Juri could make her lose control of her senses and that she could return the sentiment.

There was shift in the shadows and Kozue pushed Juri back.

"Which of us is closer?"

"My room," Juri replied attempting to catch her breath.

"Then we should go there," Kozue said hopping off the wall and running in the direction of Juri's dorm.

Juri stood for a moment subconsciously aware that someone had been watching, but her desire to continue what had been started overwhelmed any true concern. She chased after Kozue quickly, graceful in her strides.

There was only quiet in the spot behind the fencing hall, darkness wrapping around the fire that had once resided along the short wall that bordered the empty flowerbed. And then there was a soft shuffle, the bat of silken wings caught on a thorn or a spark. A cruel butterfly stepped out of the shadows she was once made of, and leaned against the wall. Felt the remaining heat as her heart began to beat in sharp bursts and her disgust and desire washed her over. She was being slowly tortured by her own mind. Shut her eyes and wished for the game to build up speed. Because she wanted, she decided she wanted both, to be consumed and ravished by a panther and a wolfish grin.

The moth don't care if the flame is real
Cos flame and moth got a sweetheart deal
And nothing fuels a good flirtation
Like need and anger, and desperation

It was a different realm for her, trying to figure out how to flirt properly with another girl. She'd always avoided it before because the thought made her stomach turn and ache. But now the thought was less sickening and more- Shiori couldn't think of a proper word. What was it called when your hate and fear of something were overpowered by an all consuming and viscous lust?

She didn't know. It would have been better if things were reversed. If Kozue was the one who made the first move and had all the want, but girls like that never chased what they knew would willingly walk up and beg to be slaughtered. So Shiori was left to ponder how she was going to approach the wild fire that was waiting for her.

Shiori stayed in the shadows watching the way Kozue moved, the way she stalked and laughed, and after too long a time observing she made her descent fluttering by the blue eyed sophomore in the library. Hoping and wishing with religious reverence that she was noticed.

And to her surprise she was.

Blue eyes watched her move away and Shiori could feel the younger girl abandoning her friends and following. She rounded a corner, a far aisle in the library unnoticed and often untouched by the students. And when Kozue caught up she reached out with both hands, grabbing at the awkward uniform tie and kissed the chuckling girl with all the force she could muster, and she wanted to die when the kiss was returned with devilish delight.

It seemed that she was moving outside herself at that moment. Her own eyes peering at her with great discomfort and appalled at what she was doing. Disgusting, she could her herself whisper even as she battled for more. Sick, she slurred as Kozue's hands slid up under her blouse and across her chest. Foul, even as she mimicked the action and loved, craved, wanted, and needed the feel of Kozue's skin against her own. If you continue, her mind finally accused, you'll be just like her. You are no better than the woman you hate. You and Juri are the same, and this proves it beyond a doubt. Sick, twisted, foul… this is not what you are supposed to want.

And it was enough.

Shiori shoved Kozue off of her and ran shouting an incoherent curse as she moved. Kozue was right behind her, a wolf on her heels. Wild animals do not like to be teased. Running only causes them to believe the game is moving, growing deeper, harder, hungry, and begging for an end that is powerfully voracious.

And because she was no more than a butterfly, an insect, Shiori quickly found herself trapped at a dead end. The scent of dusty never read books cluttering around her, slowly filled with an undertone of spice, ginger and- What else? Was it wine? Brandy? No, it was hotter, cinnamon and cedar.

"I've no time for this," Kozue said as she leaned against a bookshelf at the end of the aisle. "If you want, then want, and be happy to receive."

The younger girl was more than an arm's reach away, but she felt much closer. Shiori's eyes narrowed and Kozue could feel that mask of regret and painfully stupid need to be "normal like everyone else" crash in around what she wanted as prey. It was disrupting her lesson. It had to go.

"Just leave me alone," Shiori finally said. "I'm not like that. I don't want it. I- I hate it and you. I'm not that way."

Kozue crossed her arms over her chest and stared into Shiori for a brief moment before striding forward, ignoring the protests she received. Pinned the violet-eyed girl against the bookshelf and kissed her hard, biting at her lips as she pulled away.

"I hate you," the butterfly hissed.

Kozue sighed, she disliked to having to become philosophically rational, but there was a lesson to teach and everything else needed to be forgotten first. "It is, Shiori," the name was said with loving contempt, wings caught in a web. "The things we hate that we most fear in ourselves. And you can pretend all you want, but let's face it- You want to be just like her." A grin that was beyond wolfish graced her face as she watched Shiori's eyes go wide. "You may know what makes her weak, but you still want that for yourself, Shiori. To be noble and stoic... a panther and yet an elegant angel fallen to the earth. You want to be admired for your strength instead of being protected for you weaknesses. And all I want to know, all I care about right now, is if that is what you want why don't you just make it happen for yourself? Believe in miracles? Doesn't it ring a bell? That single line made Juri become what she is, what you want."

"I am nothing like her and I never will be," Shiori spat.

"Then prove it."

How do you prove something like that? Shiori wasn't sure. She could fly blindly into the wolf's mouth and hope that its jagged teeth would not rip into her. She could find a sudden burst of strength and brush past without a thought. But weren't those things she'd seen before?

And then she was intuitively propelled to become what she was. That thing deep down inside she didn't want anyone to see, because it was not polite or sweet, innocent or kind. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. As they opened they grew dark and she took a step forward pulling the shadows with her as if they were wings. A soft touch pushed Kozue into a bookshelf as her lips swept the pale of the girl's neck and tasted.

Love like hers
Is sticky...tastes of chewing gum
Lip smacking, glossed paradise
Soft like vanilla clouds
Every bit a poet
She'll sing with a kiss
A killing move if ever I felt one
And in the end
This stickiness
It washes off as soured sweets
Beneath the sheets and deep between
I know it like heartache
When she lets me taste
A love like hers

It wasn't a complete metamorphosis, more like watching a bug crawl out of a glass jar with a perforated lid, but nonetheless Kozue felt vindicated, a Good Samaritan of sorts. Watching Shiori find, for an instant, the creature she truly was.

The violet-eyed girl had long fled the scene though, leaving Kozue to bask in the subtle glow of what had been. She sat on her bed with the sheets pulled up around her, eyes peering through the window and wondering. Wondering what she was going to tell Juri. It wasn't as if they were an actual couple. There was nothing owed, and really Kozue didn't have to tell the panther anything. But the graceful fencer would figure it out, and what purpose would there be in delaying the revelation?

She sighed. Complicated thing what she and Juri were dabbling with. Sex without commitment, but a deep regard and like for one another. No, Kozue shook her head, even if it wasn't what they wanted, things had gotten deeper. She cursed under her breath, not regretting. She could not regret, if she did she forfeit her title as something wild. Before she could explain to herself what it was she really felt someone rapped on her door.

She grabbed an archaic silk robe, topaz embroidered with deep violet threads woven into an indescribable pattern. With a tug she slid the door open just enough to see who was standing outside. Grinning at her misfortune, karma was so unkind to her.

"I'll come back," the fencer said swiftly.

Kozue caught her jacket sleeve. "Why?"

"You appear to have company."

"Company's left, a long while ago. Don't be difficult, Arisugawa, come inside."

The fencer stepped in slowly, eyeing the small room, and particularly the rumpled bed covers. Tensing as Kozue moved up behind her, wrapping her arms around her waist.

"You're so fun when you're suspicious."

"Am I," was all the panther could reply.

"Very…Juri?"

"Hmm." She squirmed out of the embrace and retreated to the uncomfortably plush chair that sat near the door.

"Trying to avoid a fight?"

"Why would we fight, Kozue? We are not a couple. I know I have to share you."

"You're hurt though."

Juri shook her head and sighed with irritation.

Kozue moved over to the chair and crawled into the panther's lap. Surprised when her advances were accepted, blue eyes wide for an instant when she noted the slight smudge of lip gloss on the fencer's collar. "You had company too."

"I had an encounter. There's a difference."

"Is there?" She looked deep into Juri's eyes and knew what had happened. "I think you were one step she wasn't ready to take."

"I don't want to play with her, Kozue."

"Because?" She didn't have to ask, but she liked to hear the excuses out loud. "Because you're afraid of hurting her, or having her hurt you? Or maybe falling in love with her, again?"

Silence.

"Or all of the above?"

"She slapped me," Juri confessed, her expression that of confusion. "She kissed me and then she slapped me."

Kozue shrugged and then leant in, her lips trying to encourage those below her.

Juri turned away. "This won't work. Things like this never work."

"An expert already?"

"I don't have to be experienced to know it won't last."

A topaz eyebrow arched. "That's the beauty of it, Juri. It doesn't have to. What happened in that kiss to make her slap you anyway?"

Hazel eyes shut sadly. "I kissed back."

Was it once deep?
Slippery sweet
Something of passion
Grace and wonder
A kiss of soured need
Lost under the greed
To get off a little steam
A damp spot on your tongue
Little deaths of pleasure
Dripped and wet and…
Well…
Do I still have that flavor, dear?

Shiori had been staring at her reflection for over and hour. That voice of guilt and disgust rambling on inside her head slinging accusations she could not escape. She was wrong. It was wrong. All wrong, and what had she been thinking to just walk up and kiss Juri like that?

She gritted her teeth at the memory. Such a kiss, the panther had been so surprised at first, too surprised to do anything and that was fine. It was fine until Shiori let her lips linger too long and suddenly- Her gaze dropped to the sink and she sobbed. Juri kissed her back, but that wasn't the problem. That wasn't what made it wrong.

Sick and ill to want something like that, with someone like Juri. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

She pounded her petite fists against the porcelain sink.

Her shame, her fears reemerged because what Juri gave back was too soft, too sweet, too- Shiori looked at herself in the mirror again, eyes red and wet. It had been the kind of kiss that felt like what love was supposed to be. After so long avoiding each other how could Juri offer up something so beautifully forgiving, trusting, deep, and knowing as well?

And still beyond that there was Kozue, and all she had taught. Shiori had felt so perfect when she stopped pretending and became what she always knew she was. She was reborn and free, because she had what she wanted a wolf at her door. There was heat and fire, and the poisonous butterfly could feel her wings burning away, burning yet still dousing the flame, calming the blaze.

It was gone though. It disappeared with one kiss.

She sank to the tiny patch of linoleum that served as the bathroom floor. Leaned against the cold glass door of the shower and continued to cry and mentally berate herself.

The moth don't care if the flame burns low
Cos moth believes in an after glow

An hour passed and more would have flown by if not for a knock on the door. Shiori crawled to the door opening it just enough to see and be infuriated at the person on the other side. It was terribly cosmic deja vu.

"Shiori-"

She slammed the door in the fencer's face. She had no desire to relive a conversation that had taken place nearly two years earlier over- She shook her head. It had been one of her more precious and stupider moments crying insanely over Ruka, so stupid, silly. Ill, sick, her mind chirped, that's how you felt when you let him kiss you.

There was another knock and Shiori swung the door open violently.

"Go away," she shouted and attempted to slam it shut again, but the fencer held the door open. She hated that Juri was so much stronger than she was.

"Shiori, stop it." It was clearly unfair that her tone should be so light and understanding.

The violet-eyed girl hopped back as Juri entered her room, shutting the door softly. She watched as the fencer looked about casually and was utterly disappointed.

"It's a nice room," Juri said conversationally. "Small, but at least it has a private bathroom."

"God damn it, Juri, don't be so polite with me. Just say what you have to and get out."

"Fair enough." She pushed back a flyaway lock of auburn hair and leaned against the door. Arms neatly folded across her chest she asked, "Why did you kiss me?"

"I didn't."

It was such a foolish lie Juri completely ignored it. She sighed and relaxed a bit confessing easily, "I'd been waiting for you to do that since we were thirteen, gave up on it ever happening. God, I used to love you." The last sentence was a whispered exclamation.

"You never- You never told me that," Shiori replied calmly, feeling for once, greatly equal to the fencer.

"No, I never did. I couldn't. I'm sorry."

"I hate you."

"Then why did you kiss me?"

"I think you should leave." Shiori tried to keep her temper. "Get out."

"No." Juri defiantly stood her ground, moving closer. "No, you haven't answered me yet."

"I never said I would."

"Shiori-"

"Get out!"

"Tell me why and I will."

"No."

"Okay, fine. Don't tell me, but you have to answer at least one thing, Shiori. I'll leave if you answer one thing."

She growled in reply.

Juri exhaled a deep breath, her eyes lost and lonely, that expression that made her look so beautiful. "Are you in love with her?"

"Get out!" She charged forward. "Get out, I don't have to answer that!"

They stood toe to toe, hateful violet stinging sad hazel eyes. Juri could feel the girl's rage and part of her wanted to just give up and walk away, but she couldn't. So she closed her eyes and whispered, "Because I think- against all better judgment- I think I love her. And if you love her too I can handle having to share her."

"Don't say things like that, Juri. Don't-" She tried not to whimper. "It doesn't sound like you."

"No?" She put her hand on the petite girl's shoulder.

Shiori shivered. "No." She looked away and stepped back. "I kissed you because I wanted to play." She grinned, sad and distant. "But I wasn't ready, not for what you offer."

"And what is that?"

"The promise of maybe. You offer up too much for something so simply given. It isn't fair to do that to someone like me."

"Shiori?" Juri stepped in closer, and at first it seemed as if she were just going to offer an embrace, but instead she leaned down, her lips resting briefly on the petite girl's forehead. She pulled away ready to leave, stopped by the feather light urgency of sweetly poisoned lips upon her own.

They would have stayed locked there in that moment, past secrets learning to live in what could have been, but there was a knock on the door that would not be ignored. Lessons needed to be concluded so that the butterfly could finally escape her chrysalis of shame and doubt.

But flames are never doused completely
All you really need is a love for heat

The room was warm, flushed with heat. A sacred fire cooling into sparks. A steady rhythm of sleep moved through the darkness. Shadows rested like wings on a petite girl's pale back, a panther nuzzled closer, and a wild child lay between them dreaming of the day that it would end, because it wouldn't last. It couldn't.

The butterfly would lapse back into her fears, perhaps.
Forget her lessons.

Or the panther would fall in love, if she were not in love already.

And the wild one? She'd fight too hard to remain as she was.

The panther stirred and Kozue stroked the back of her neck.

"Afraid," was the low whisper.

"Never," Kozue replied. Deeply, dreadfully, she thought.

"Liar."

"Of course."

"She loves you."

"I know."

"I love you."

Something painful caught in Kozue's throat, but she managed to whisper, "Since when?"

"Always."

The butterfly stirred then, her lips lazily gracing soft clove scented skin. Her wings beat and roused the flame that had been fading. Forcing the panther and the wild child to forget the decisions they were about to make.

One day, it was going to end. It had to, but how and when was a distant thing not to be thought of. In the present there was still time to play, time to teach lessons. Time to posses and be possessed. Time to watch a butterfly made of shadow enjoy her cruelty, time for a panther to decide if she could wait for a wild child to love her back. And time enough for the girl with a wolfish grin to enjoy the freedom of being so close. She liked being close, it made her feel real. The room smelled of smoke, spice, holidays, and gardens. It offered a feeling of satisfaction and the promise of what maybe, could have been, possibly was, almost true.

End.