butterfly in nine laps : touga

Court: Don't ask. Utena movie spoilers. Some squick.

Butterfly in Nine Laps was originally a nine-part Utena movie fic. Because of FF.net's stricter guidelines, not all chapters can be posted here, so only the finished non-explicit parts have made it up.

The timer's clock ticked over the twelve mark; the sound rang like a shot to nerves primed for the tiny click of the seconds hand sliding into home to start all over again. He slid into water that was only a fraction off the shade of warm, arms twisted and extended above his head as if he were praying to such an extreme deity that they required absolute humbling of their servants.

Touga's hair came matted across his face when he rose from the shallow dive, rose rolling, burgundy and wine pressing itself to his skin upon surfacing. It could drown him like that--had, in the past, or had tried, the thought is corrected swiftly, it had tried. Strands which had mermaid-grace when buoyed by liquid only became crippled when they left it. Vengeance drove them to slap netted across his nose and mouth until he broke from his swimming to claw them out of his vision, and free.

He used to be much better about tying them back.

He used to be much better about caring when he was interrupted while in the water.

No one was there in the pool to see his indignity, and Touga tread upright for a time as he let the panic of his breathing die down, exhaling enough to lower himself to finally slip beneath the skin of the water. This time, Touga chose to avoid thinking about the matter by kicking out with his feet to resume the lap.

The clock drolly informed him that it had taken over ten minutes to make the other side. He had remained underwater for as much of the way as he could, seeking to limit the number of times he had had to surface and seek air, fingers already in place in a protective mask about his nose to shield it from becoming filled with water and strand alike. Idiots swim like you do, Touga reminded himself as he clung to the plastic lining of the walls of the far and equally deep end, fingers puppying over the tiny flaws in the surface in search of traction. It was hard to find support. Too many bumps in the material would provide safety for those who might have to grip it, but it lacked what some would call beauty; form over function ruled Ohtori, but function had very little place in the school to begin with.

All these years, and no one had wondered why they had not slipped and cracked their skulls open in a glory of fracture and coma.

He hitched himself up, fumbled with the wet strands and made an impromptu knot of the whole. This way, his hair was docked like the tails of horses--he could have liked horses once, maybe in another world where the feeling of them standing close behind and blowing hot breath onto his shoulder, into his ear, did not bother him so and made him step away and refuse the creatures.

Animals that were smaller than he was appealed to him because they did not often overpower, though occasionally he was surprised by a neighbor's particularly unruly dog.

Back into the water he went.

He could never be a Prince. Princes had to be capable of riding their stallions, not stepping away uneasily whenever the shadow of the beast overthrew them.

Juri never had a problem with them.

Touga turned over in his lane, silvery in the moonlight like a fish.

No, Princehood was for her--Juri would straddle her mount without a second thought and peer down at him far below, ask, why was he such a fraidy cat, ask, why don't you come up, he won't let you fall. And after that, Touga, I won't let you fall, just climb up.

It had never been romance, not like that--Juri, he knew, did love that which was fragile but despised it in what she equated to herself, and he knew that she ranked him the same and was frustrated when he did not reach out to measure up in a dare. To her, boys should tussle and tumble and get just as many skinned knees as she, even if they were preferred to have their slacks neatly pressed at all times because dirt on another's hands displeased them.

It had been love in another way with another girl, who had seen him as strong and for a time, while her eyes were upon him, he could be.

The end of the bob kept grazing the tops of his shoulders; the pressure was uncomfortable in a way he did not know fully how to describe, the grazing of his skin by his bound hair feeling like the touch of something else altogether. Attempts to keep his head bowed forward meant that he began to thrash in his lane, unsteady in his strokes, flailing suddenly then in a panic he could not explain any more surely than he could define what about that patch of skin was so reasonlessly sensitive.

When he reached the end this time, he took his hair back down.

"Why does that cat always watch you swim?"

The question startled him, treading awkwardly in the deep end as he ripped at his hair with both hands. He inhaled water, then remembered to cough.

Touga had used the pool before while others were there, even daring a class once when Akio had been in a particularly perverse mood and had challenged him to it. Only those close enough to accepting death could remember him long enough in their heads, pick him out from a wall; he had woven his body through the obedient lines of students and yet had seen only the eyes of Akio upon him laughing.

The chances of anyone actually noticing him specifically were minimal. He had learned this by the times he had stood by Juri close enough to smell the shampoo of her hair and have it linger for hours.

It was never romance; it was never like that.

Equally, he knew that Juri would never reach that point, there was too much fire in her still, skinned knees and grass stains. There was stubbornness and temper and--

"I asked you a question, mister."

The voice had a certain petulance to the last word--a young teenager resentful of status in accordance to age and only using the word as a threat. Touga focused on the speaker at last, forming the outline of the body in contrast to the rippled mirrors of sky. Stick-like but with curves coming in as tentatively as latecomers tiptoe to the assembly meetings. A girl.

"Speaking to me?" In event of the illusion having a hallucination himself.

A snort returned itself to him; third strike out then, and he'd proven to the girl-child that wit dwelled nowhere in his skull and did not deserve continued conversation.

The creature she was referring to padded across the benches near the exit, delicately aloof from the puddles that traced snail-marks up and down the tiles.

"Is it yours?"

Halfway through his deliberations of whether or not to try making it across again, and he had enough grace in him this time to not thrash in surprise. "I don't take care of it, if that's what you mean."

"It was on my bed," snapped the girl. She punctuated the statement with a sharp jerk of her foot through the water, sending up an arc that turned staccato on its way back down to earth. "I don't want it getting near my brother's. Do you understand me, mister?" The look she gave him could have crushed him against the side of the pool if she'd the power to back it.

"It doesn't have fleas," Touga found himself protesting with a laugh. It went unheard from his guess; the girl, he saw, was rubbing at her leg as if the skin bothered her. Her hand moved from there to her side, then her stomach.

Fingers ran up to her throat, and her lips parted as she breathed through them. Her palm rubbed hungrily at the side of her neck before pulling back and letting it just barely brush her skin; the motion repeated, setting up a rhythm in accordance with how her breathing began to speed.

He could not bear the water's touch any longer, and pulled himself out.