AN:Not my characters – only fanfic. I've taken the halfway point on how much is remembered after the close of the Black Rose sequence, in that certain character interactions leave their mark, even if the context was lost. This was going to be the start of a much longer fic, but I've decided that it works better as a ficlet, and the other snippets I've written will be woven into a different story.

For my beloved Floria, who I have yet to introduce to the glories of Utena, but who I suspect will not particularly take to poor Shiori.


It had been nice being her friend again, for a while at least. Such a strange feeling, as if I had regained something precious. Like cleaning out a sink only to find your engagement ring in the sludge under the drainpipe. Until the day I screwed it up again.

We had been practicing fencing together, and she - oh, she had been so very patient and kind with me. Encouraging. But not too encouraging, oh no, because she was all too aware of the watching gallery, and the fact that she could not show me too much favour just because we're good friends now. It might embarrass her, or it might embarrass me, and there is no way a graceful woman like that would want to do either.

Kind Juri, competent Juri, almost perfect Juri. So blissfully unaware both that I knew I deserved far more censure and less praise than she gave me, as I wasn't actually trying very hard and was making repeated sloppy errors. I'm sure every single member of the audience knew exactly how badly I was fighting, and how little I was trying to do my best. The mild scolding she gave me fooled nobody but herself. Everyone realised she was going easy on poor Shiori, her little pet.

Humiliation lanced sharp in my gut. I stood there, sweaty and stinking and aching, pretending to parry her blows, and waiting for it to end.

Afterwards, she took her mask off, dark rose-gold curls darkened further by perspiration. Her cheeks were a soft rose with exertion, while mine was red-streaked and streaming with sweat. She shook her hair free of their cramped restraint, and tiny droplets threw out a shower of dew framing her perfect face. I could not help realising that even something as disgusting as sweat was beautiful if it was part of Juri. Whatever gods watched over her would tolerate no flaw in their darling.

Until that moment, I think I had forgotten how to hate her. Amazing, how easily it all came back to me. I might not be good at practicing fencing, but I was good at practicing hatred for my beautiful, my very wonderful best friend.

Later, with loathing spilling its gluey blackness over my soul, it was easy to give her what she wanted.

We were the only ones in the locker room, and my skin was still pink and damp, my own hair stringy with wetness on my shoulders in messy strands Juri's hair would never dare fall into. We sat side by side and I watched her think about kissing me. Looking down at my face… always down, and sometimes the tip of her tongue would dent her lower lip for a second and her gold spangled lashes would drop. When she lifted them again, it was always to reveal serene composure, but I knew. I understand Juri, after all. I knew that she wanted to kiss me, wanted it more than anything, and that she would not. Juri is chivalrous, after all, and self-denial is such a knightly form of martyrdom. She would not force her kisses on her best friend.

Not unless I raised my hand to cup her chin, closed my own eyes, and tilted my face up to hers.

It was effortless to make her kiss me. And there was no guilt involved for her of course, because it she had no choice. I was the one who chose for her to kiss me. At least I spared her the guilt of thinking she was molesting me against my will.

Those girls who practice fencing until all their muscles are knotted pain, who gasp "Yes, Miss Juri" and "Thank you, Miss Juri," I know they all fantasise about being seduced by their lovely captain. It wouldn't be their fault, you see, falling to a beautiful predator like Juri, it wouldn't make them lesbian at all, because who could expect them to resist the advances of someone like her? I wonder what Juri's devotees would think if they knew how tentative her lips were on mine. Would they still admire and lust after her if they knew that before she kissed me, her breath hissed between her teeth in what sounded like a terrified prayer?

Sometimes, Juri is suprisingly weak, considering that she cultivates the image of a tigress. I'm the only one who knows exactly how to cut out her claws and blunt her fangs. The knowledge cost me enough, in any case.

So we kissed… Well, what is there to say about kissing? That her lips were pliant, that her tongue rolled gently in my mouth? It's sufficient to say that it was not as bad as I had feared, and leave what I had hoped and what may or may not have been fulfilled to your imagination, if you please.

She touched the side of my face, almost imperceptibly, as she released me.

"Thank you, dear," she said softly. And I realised that she was going to leave it at that. She would dress, and leave, and we would be friends again. One kiss to cherish in her Radcliffean memories, the symbolic posy of white violets with the message "It might have been."

Fuck that for a joke.

I'm smaller than Juri, less strong, less buxom, less… everything… but I was still strong enough to press her back on the bench, straddle her as I pulled the knot of the towel I wore loose and then bend down and claim her mouth.

In the end, forcing her to take exactly what she wanted was such honeyed revenge.