Thorns Wither

by sharnii

This is the sequel to Roses Grow, (a Revolutionary Girl Utena fanfic set post-series from Utena's POV). It takes place directly after Roses Grow leaves off, and is told from Anthy's POV. Once again the focus is Utena/Anthy, but with plenty of input from Ohtori's other denizens, including some faces from the past…

The genre is the same combo of drama/romance/angst/humor/symbolic-wtf. This will be another novel, and comments and constructive criticism are more than welcome. As are fans of Utena raving about the fandom…as are fanfic-artworks which I drool over!

I reply to all reviews in the review section and will include complete Author's Notes at the very end.

There is no such thing as part freedom.

~Nelson Mandela~

Chapter 1: Home is a Garden

I remember falling.

Utena asked me about that the other day, if I remember falling. I do. I remember my hand slipping from hers, and desperation fairly screaming from her big blue eyes. I remember falling away from her, and crying out, and losing her in the moment I had found her (and found myself).

Naturally I avoided answering. I don't want to remember, to think of it in waking life when I have to linger upon it in nightmares. I don't want to talk about it and awaken the pain of her own memories, so thinly buried beneath her guileless smile. No, Utena has more than enough pain now, and I am the cause. I won't allow her to shoulder any more.

I remember searching.

I remember five long years that seemed longer than the last five millennia. Five years awake and in possession of my soul, five years awake to the pain of being separated from my meddlesome hero. The only thing that got me through (that stopped my well-beaten path back to him) was her hope. Yes, her hope blazed within me, setting my heart on fire that had never burned before. I knew I would find her.

I had to find her.

I would die before I didn't find her.

When I did find her we would be together. We would have our happy someday together. It would happen. It had to happen. It was all that there was for me, all I wanted. All I had ever even known how to want.

I remember the hospital room.

I remember staring like a dead woman resurrected at its achingly familiar occupant. Utena-sama, no…Utena, lying sprawled on the bed. I didn't know how I got to that room, to that bed. Not until much, much later.

Back then (the first time), it simply didn't matter. All that mattered was my lost prince, found. I've always been good at focusing on what counts, or what can't be changed. Leaning over Utena, pressing my hand to her breastbone, I whispered her name. The taste of it on my tongue was sweet after all the waiting.

"Utena-sama? Utena-sama, can you hear me?"

Slowly she opened her eyes, blinking sleepily up at me. I watched her closely, drinking in every expression, every beloved feature. Slowly recognition blossomed in those innocent eyes. My heart blossomed in answer.

"Utena-sama?" I whispered again, leaning closer. "Can you hear me?"

"Himemiya?" she gasped.

My smile filled my face, activating muscles I didn't know I possessed.

"Utena," I murmured and my eyes filled with tears.

The second time I knew how I'd gotten there, but it mattered even less. That time is my favorite because of what happened next. Utena's shaking hand rose to brush at my tears. Her other hand reached to crush me to her and willingly I went.

"A…Anthy," she gasped. "What happened? This already…"

"Shhh," I said, because it didn't matter, all that mattered was the fervor she held me with and the way my heart ignited. I leaned in to press my lips to hers.

It was only what I should have done five years earlier, instead of sending her out with flowers. It was only what I should have done in the planetarium, as we ate so-called poisoned cookies and drank so-called poisoned tea. Or the correct course of action on the windy balcony, as I sobbed in her embrace. Or what I should have done as we rode the elevator to the last duel.

But I'd never done it then (despite wanting to), never believed there was a point. So I did it now.

Because now I believed.

We were having breakfast with Juri and Miki, a breakfast which had been Utena's idea and at her cheerful invitation. Unfortunately there had been no avoiding it.

"More tea?" I asked Juri, hiding behind a sunny smile.

"Thank you, I will," she said coldly, and I could tell it pained her not to refuse me outright. No doubt she was determined to tolerate me civilly, courtesy of her friendship with Utena. Well, I understood toleration. I'd been tolerating arrogant pre-adults for the better part of my tortured existence.

"This tea is really good," Utena said from where she knelt beside me. She flashed her trademark grin and briefly touched my thigh under the table. My heart thawed and Juri faded from my vision. For all intents and purposes Utena was the only one in the room. I smiled back and sipped my tea. The way that Utena's lips met her teacup's rim was absorbing. Vaguely I heard the conversation still going on around us.

"So what do you think of our idea?" Juri was asking.

"I think it's great," said Utena, digging into her ranmen. I assumed this strange breakfast menu was a nod to another breakfast they'd shared together, else I couldn't imagine why we were eating such a thing.

"What do you think?" Utena asked me, the hand without her chopsticks back on my thigh.

I hesitated. The truth was I wasn't in the least bit interested in seeing Juri on a daily basis, not that I would mind seeing Miki so much. Their plan (if you could call it that) involved setting up an investigative agency that could continue what Miki termed Utena's princely duties. As far as I could tell it meant that Juri and Miki would bring their skills (and more importantly Juri's funding) to the table, and help Utena save poor unfortunates.

It was a charming notion, if a tad naive. Classic prince fare, I suppose. But whatever Utena wanted to do with her time was fine with me, as long as we shared our time together. At the same time I suspected Juri and Miki of suffering a bad case of hero-worship: thus their poorly concealed attempt to live with their idol. It was a regrettable development dating from just before the Duel called Revolution, involving a game of squash.

Sometimes I wished that Utena didn't play squash.

"Whatever you think, Utena," I settled on finally, watching ChuChu deliberate over which bowl of food to steal from first. He was poised in the center of the table, utterly unable to express a preference. Utena glanced at ChuChu, frowned, and turned back to try and catch my eye.

"But what do you think?" she pressed, nibbling at her lower lip. I sighed. I hated to worry her, and I knew she had a phobia of behavior she considered to be rose-bride-like. At the same time I didn't see how to gracefully get out of this agency business, and it was easier to just go along in life. I'd make do, as long as I had Utena. Making do was what I did.

"It sounds fine," I told her, nudging my bowl closer to ChuChu, so that he would come and steal from it first. With a chirrup of relief he did. Utena was still frowning, but an exultant Miki started bombarding her with set-up strategies. Luckily she was easily distracted. Across the table Juri scowled at me. With a small smile I raised my teacup to her. Her scowl deepened. I felt a little like giggling but that would never do. Quashing the desire I shifted closer to Utena, pressing our thighs together. Her eyes were on Miki, but I could see the slightest flush bloom in her cheek.

I smiled again. This was going to be a good day. Any day with Utena was.

The next week we moved in with Juri and Miki.

Juri had used her negotiating skills to obtain bottom price for a veritable mansion that was supposedly haunted. For my part I was relieved the property came with a wildly overgrown garden, which was largely because Utena had pressed for there to be a garden. I proceeded to show her how grateful I was in what was left of the broken-down gazebo.

"This is spooky," she protested, screwing up her nose as I drew her inside and pressed her down on the wrought iron bench. It already hosted a tangled vine of largish purple flowers.

"It's perfect," I corrected, sitting on her lap and weaving my fingers through her hair. Her eyes unfocused with pleasure and she made a humming sound. Half-amused I leaned down and kissed her. The moan she stifled against my lips satisfied me that I'd lost none of my lauded technique. We exchanged more kisses, soft, then passionate, then gentle again. I drew her head against my neck and enjoyed the brush of her lips against my throat.

"Thank you for my garden," I told her, also enjoying the blush tinting her fair skin as her eyes rose to meet mine.

"Oh well, y'know, it was Juri who bought it," she said all flustered. I giggled, resting my hands on her shoulders.

"Yes, how silly of me. Arisugawa-san is a most considerate host."

Utena winced a little. I smiled down at her. Of course I knew that she'd insisted on the addition for my sake; she still seemed to have an aversion to gardens, and especially to roses. I understood why, while regretting that it was so. Gardens were my freedom before I met Utena, but for her they were a thorny reminder of a schoolgirl treated like a slave.

She had never seen things the way I did. She never would if I had any say in the matter.

"Do you miss our old place?" she asked me worriedly. "I mean, you decorated it so beautifully, and now we just up and leave it…"

"You liked the decorations?" I cut in, pressing a kiss to her nose. She had the decency to blush.


"We can both decorate this place," I teased. "I know you want to put up your tasteless sporting trophies."

Her mouth dropped. I couldn't help myself: I kissed her. It took awhile for her to extricate herself enough to answer.

"They're not as bad as your spooky chessboard. Do you even play chess?"

I traced her cheekbone.

"Who would I play it with?" I gazed at her meaningfully and she shifted beneath me, a motion which I think we both found pleasurable. Her cheeks flamed.

"Uh…I don't know…"

"Let me teach you," I purred, stroking the back of her neck persuasively.

"You haven't answered me," she said, eyes half-closed with pleasure and far more seductive than she knew.

"No," I murmured. "I don't miss it. I lived there far too long without you."

She nodded and bit her lip.

"Home is you," I told her, "wherever you are."

"Yeah," she whispered taking my face in her hands and studying me intently. "I know. But I just wanted to make sure you were okay with this." My hands stilled on her neck and I smiled at her warmly.

"I am."

"Okay. Okay then, that's good." She sounded relieved. My hands slid up to tangle in her hair and we went back to kissing. After a satisfying interlude we caught our breath, my forehead resting against hers.

"I feel bad," she told me out of the blue. I sat back.

"That Arisugawa-san spent money on us," I guessed correctly. Utena nodded, looking faintly surprised.

"Yeah. It's not like we can repay her."

"We can." I shrugged. "If you would like." It didn't matter to me one way or the other.

Utena looked at me for long moments, her hands fiddling where they rested on my hips. Her eyes were so guileless, so easy to read. I could see practically every thought she had telegraphed in them. First she was surprised, then she realized I had money even though she didn't, then she wondered where I'd gotten it from. Next she fretted about what I might have had to do to get it, which tangented into wondering if it was right that she accept money from me as though it was hers (which was silly. Money meant nothing to me. And everything I had was hers). Finally she stopped to realize that I hadn't offered Juri anything so far and was perfectly aware she was buying a house to double as the agency and communal home.

"Do you mind living here, with them?" she asked, choosing not to speak her thoughts. This was something new about Utena, something I still wasn't used to. It seemed to be connected to the Duel called Revolution and changes it had wrought in my prince herself. But I didn't really understand the changes, and I don't believe she did either.

"I…" I had to catch myself before I slipped into an easy lie. Utena also had an aversion to lying, and some lies were too obviously lies.

"We're living upstairs," I stated instead, "just you and I."

"Yeah," she agreed, winding her arms around my waist.

"Then it's fine," I said, knowing that she'd also insisted on this condition. Juri and Miki had separate bedrooms downstairs. It was a testament to how much Juri wanted Utena close that she'd accepted giving up the master bedroom in her own house. That knowledge disturbed me…

Utena hugged me close and I wound my arms around her neck, clinging to her like the vine did to the bench.

"Only pay her if you want to," she said, and I could practically taste her desire to ask me where I had money from, or to insist that I do what she considered to be the fair and right thing. But she didn't say it.

A tendril of something uncoiled in my stomach, grew up and stretched out as though reaching for the sun. It'd been a long time since I felt this, a kind of happiness I almost didn't recognize, a sense of freedom that made me want to run naked through a forest to music only I could hear.

Because I was free. Her claims of wanting it weren't just empty words; the proof was in this innocuous moment in the gazebo, in Utena holding her tongue. She'd meant it.

I was free to be me.

It was our first night in our new room and I'd made a special blend of tea to celebrate. Naturally Utena made cookies. We sat side by side out on our balcony, legs dangling through the bars and out over the side. Utena was gazing up at the stars whereas I preferred to gaze down at the moonlit garden. For a long while we were quiet, except for the crunch of cookies and sipping of tea. It was peaceful. Utena's hand rested on the small of my back and rubbed lazy circles. Contentedly I leaned my head against the bars.

"What are you thinking?" she finally asked.

"It's a very high balcony," I told her, "higher than I thought."

Her hand stilled.

"What does that mean?" she asked and her voice was suddenly anxious.

I blinked at her.


For a moment we gazed into each other's eyes as we tried to fathom what the other was thinking. Then I realized what she was getting at.

"Exactly what I said," I told her gently. "Nothing more."

Her hand left my back to trail down my cheek.

"Nothing ever means just nothing with you," she protested. "I've figured out that much."

I stared at her, wondering if she was right. After all I hadn't known myself for a very long time, hadn't cared to know myself. Had been utterly shocked at caring for this particular victor.

"Kiss me," I whispered, wanting to distract her, to distract myself. It worked (as I'd known it would), her eyes immediately heating, her pale skin flushing. Her eyes tracked from mine to my lips, then flickered back. I leaned into her hand. A small sigh gusted past her parted lips. Leaning in I captured those lips, not willing to wait.

It occurred to me as I kissed her that in all our time and with all our opportunities, I had yet to make her my lover. I, Himemiya Anthy, rose bride to whoever won me (with so many lovers against my will) was finally willing and longing to win this victor.

Strange urgency filled me, a trapped bird beating its wings against my ribcage.

"Utena," I whispered against her lips, entwining my hands in her long hair and pressing my mouth more insistently to hers. She gasped and melted against me. Her hands wrapped tightly around my waist as she turned toward me. Our torsos pressed together. I slitted my eyes open and saw that hers were shut, as she kissed me with all her remarkable passion.

It made me so wet.

I kissed her back, hard, moving my hands to encircle her neck. Briefly I saw her in a collar, a golden slave's collar with a rose seal stamped into the metal. I blinked back the image and concentrated on seducing her with hands that knew the exact pressure to run nails down her back. She arched helplessly against me.

"Take me," I asked, no demanded, trailing my nails down the juncture where her back met her buttocks. I relished the way her eyes snapped open, shocked. I ate up the way her scent grew stronger, arousal no doubt staining her thighs, arousal that she tried to hide from me.

"Anthy," she tried to plead with me, "you know I c…can't, you know how I feel about that…"

I was tired of this particular conversation.

"If you don't take me," I said calmly, pressing my nails into the soft flesh I could feel through her pajama pants, "I'll take you."

She simply stared at me, her lips making a small o. But her scent grew thicker.

"Is that what you want?" I purred, moving so I was pressing my breasts to hers, pressing her back against the bars. "What you need?" I nipped playfully at her collarbone. She whimpered, and moved restlessly beneath me. I moved back a little and saw her eyes were closed and she was biting her lip. She looked…impassioned. Confused. Indecisive. As innocent as only she could be and as wanton as I knew she was. I loved her in that moment, loved her even more than I had in the moment before.

Her eyes drifted open and gave me a look that was half begging, and half something else.

"Please Anthy," she whispered, and her voice was slightly strangled. I found that suddenly I wasn't sure anymore, suddenly I couldn't read her. Uncertainly my hands slid up her sides, my touch no longer so knowing. My lips hesitated over her collarbone, hesitated, then moved away.

Utena's eyes were closed again and she was fighting to control her breathing. I sighed, feeling old and tired and very much alone. I pressed a final kiss to her forehead. Then I extracted myself from our tangle of limbs and went inside, leaving her alone so she could regain the control she held so dearly.

I could hear her ragged breathing from all the way where I curled up in our bed, hiding myself under the covers. ChuChu wrapped himself around my neck and under my chin in a vain attempt to comfort. Stroking his fur I tried not to listen as Utena came inside, as she paused in the doorway and stared at me for long aching moments.

It was impossible not to be aware of her.

"Anthy," she said at last, her voice strained with worry. "You're not…mad, are you? With me?"

"No," I told her, honestly surprised, turning to look at her while ChuChu stumbled over groggily to hug her ankle. She picked him up and resettled him on her shoulder. He promptly went to sleep.

Utena sighed with relief, and came over to slide under the covers with me.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I'm just…"

I watched her, my face carefully blank.

"Don't do that," she said suddenly, rolling onto her side and cupping my cheek tenderly.

"Do what?" I asked cautiously.

"That!" She blinked, then chewed her lip in evident frustration. "Shut down on me, close up inside."

I just stared at her, not really knowing what she meant, while she looked as though she might cry.

"I do want you," she insisted, "I don't think you can know how much."

I blinked.

"I do know," I told her. And I did. Utena did everything she did obviously, and her desire for me was no secret to me or anyone else. Except perhaps herself.

"I just…" Her hand stroked my cheek, and she looked like she was wrestling with herself. "Well, I can't just t…take you. You know why."

I did, because she'd told me the last time I'd tried to seduce her. A frown cracked the masklike planes of my face and I saw her eyes soften with relief.

"And I?" I asked, grasping that her fear was over perceived rose-bride-behavior. Honestly I didn't even realize when I was doing it. The habits of lifetimes of hiding myself remained the habits of a lifetime. I turned my head to kiss her palm, happy to see her eyes soften all the more. Keeping my voice soft I finished the question.

"Why can't I take you?"

That thick heady scent filled our bedroom once more; Utena was wet for me. Didn't she know that I knew? Her face was red, her hand was trembling on my cheek. Her breath was hitching again.

"Y…you can," she whispered, "but I'm scared. I've n…never been with a woman, and I'm scared of hurting you, and…" Her face grew redder. "Of hurting me."

"Hurting?" I asked, arching up onto one elbow so I could run my free hand down her trembling side. She was wearing a tight t-shirt and I could see her nipples standing out against the thin material.

"It hurt," she muttered, and she wouldn't meet my eyes. "With him."

I stared at her, my hand stilling. For an instant the world stopped, shifted. My heart broke, what was left of my dead and rusty heart broke for my prince. Innocent and naïve, this prince, too trusting by far. She'd brought it on herself. Or rather we'd brought it on her, Akio and I, with our plots and devil's bargains.

"Did he force you?" I asked, and my voice was calm, calmer than it should be. Utena's eyes flickered to mine immediately, looking alarmed at what she saw.

"No," she said, "He was gentle. And I've heard the first time is supposed to hurt." Her eyes searched my face with apparent trepidation. I didn't know what she wanted to see, so I couldn't show it to her.

"But he took you," I guessed accurately. "Made you his."

Her face flamed and she looked down.

"It's my fault," I said, and my voice was strange to my own ears, jagged like broken glass. I didn't recognize it. Utena's eyes jerked back to mine yet again.

"Don't be silly," she warned, a little too sharply.

"I asked you to deliver the roses."

"You couldn't have known…" she pleaded. Her heart was in her eyes.

I forced myself to meet her gaze dead on. My voice was dead.

"He asked for my help with the roses."

"But…" She blinked furiously, no doubt trying to deny my underlying meaning.

"Utena," I said softly, brokenly. "You were the roses."

I watched the comprehension dawn slowly in her eyes, and make her sick to her stomach. "Oh," she said. She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling. "Oh…" she whispered, and it was a pitiful sound.

I turned out the bed light, then rolled onto my back too, and stared blindly into darkness. I was uncertain as to why I had told Utena, as to what I'd been thinking. I'd certainly never intended to tell her, although there was every chance she might have figured it out on her own by now. But no, I knew there was little danger of that. Utena believed the best about people, and tried not to think about things she didn't like.

She had to be told the harsh truths of life.

We lay in the dark for a long time, not talking, not touching, certainly not sleeping. Finally Utena's quiet voice broke the tableau.

"Did he force you?"

I froze. Suddenly I was grateful for the darkness, grateful that I had that as an additional layer of armor to hide behind. Perhaps I could pretend to be asleep; Utena was easily fooled (or she had been once). Perhaps I could say nothing, and she would say nothing more. Would not ask again.

"Anthy?" she whispered, rolling toward me and taking my hand. I was still frozen, wanting to pull my hand back but unable. I couldn't believe she was talking to me right now, much less about this.

"Anthy?" Her voice grew anxious. She reached over me, trying to turn on the light. Suddenly my hand found strength and I reached up and caught her wrist.

"Don't," I begged, and my voice was strange to my own ears. A pause, and then she was shifting closer to me, ever so slowly, moving her body until we lay touching all along our sides. I couldn't help my reaction: I turned away from her. Another pause. Then slowly, surely, she pressed her warm body to my shivering back, and wrapped an arm about my waist.

"Tell me," she whispered into my neck. She struggled with the next words, her voice raw with pain. "I've earned the right to know."

I couldn't deny that.

"Yes," I said, my voice quite calm for all that I was shaking uncontrollably. "Yes, he forced me. Many times. Many different ways. But…not every time."

Utena was quiet. Her arms gripped my waist tighter. When she finally spoke again her tone was indecipherable.

"Did he…hurt you?"

Shadows whirled in front of my eyes, shadows made of blood-red mist and an eternity of suffering. There was a shadow-prince in a cage, and a shadow-witch leered down at him, cackling manically. That was how he said it was. But then why hadn't the prince been the one in the cage?

"Anthy?" she prompted again, voice oddly rough.

"Yes," I whispered distantly. "For longer than memory. For longer than pain."

"He was your brother!" Her anger exploded out of the darkness, shining and self-righteous and appalled that anything could be the way I said it had been.

"He was more than that," I murmured, because it was true, the tarnished truth dripping with my tears and blood and shamed arousal.

"No," she groaned, and I felt her head shaking against mine.

"Yes," I said. And I closed my eyes as a single traitorous tear escaped. It had been a long time since I had cried over this. A very long time…

More silence. Utena's tears on my neck, her shuddering breaths warm against my icy skin. Utena's hand holding me tightly around the waist, fist clenching sporadically.

And then a trail of fire as Utena lipped and licked away the tears she'd left, kissing her way along my neck, burying her face in my hair and breathing in deeply. My breath hitched in my throat.

What was she doing?

Deft hands unzipped my nightgown, and then her lips were burning soft patches against my back. Her hand moved from my waist to slip inside my nightgown, to encircle my ribs, to trail up and over my aching breasts.

I gasped, arching up into her fingers. Desire curled in my belly, smoky and demanding.

"What…are…you…doing?" I managed to ask, shivering violently, but no longer with cold.

"Shhh," she whispered. She started to lay kisses down my spine and I bit my lip. Her fingers played insistently with my nipples, causing me to twist and turn.

"Anthy, you never deserved that." Her voice was as determined as I'd ever heard it. Her hands started to help me out of my nightgown, pulling it up and over my head. She cast it away and hugged me close, still pressed to my back as I lay trembling on my side. "You deserve this." Her hand smoothed over my belly, teased at the waistband of my panties. I shifted again, gasping in unison with her. She moved to pull them off, and threw them carelessly aside. Then she was behind me again, stroking the curve of my thighs, before entangling her hand in the wiry hair of my mound. She moaned louder than me.

I couldn't help it. I started to cry. Only one tear had leaked out for a past that was too awful to remember. Yet many tears came for a present that was too wonderful for one such as I.

"You deserve it," she insisted, somehow understanding. Her fingers traced my outer lips, as she bit down lightly on my shoulder. I arched back into her mouth and moved down against her fingers, and was unable to keep from crying out:

"I don't!" I was sobbing as her fingers dipped into my cleft, caressing my inner lips. Cleansing heart-wrenching sobs that came from the same place where desire coiled in my gut.

"You do," she corrected tenderly, and then she moaned against my back, her lust unmistakable. Her fingers slipped inside me tracing and exploring my core, finding the flood that she had created.

I wept and shook and let her take me away from everything I associated with this act, had always associated with it. There was no seduction here on my part, no power game, nothing but Utena unexpectedly exploring me. Nothing but Utena and I, nothing but her fingers inside.

Her fingers.

Her fingers.

Her fingers.

And now her thumb, brushing over my clit, causing me to jerk and cry out.

Her fingers within and her thumb without.

Her lips coasting along my back.

Her breaths hot against my skin.

"Utena!" I cried out, my body bucking violently against her hand for an instant of nothing but joy.

Nothing but her.

Afterwards I curled into myself, my body shaking with the aftershocks of my orgasm, Utena's hand sliding wetly out of place. She trailed it up my belly, then encircled my waist. I felt my own desire dry stickily against my skin.

"What is eternity?" she said dreamily, and I turned over to tuck my head under her chin and clutch at her like a lost child.

"It's you," she whispered a second later, bending to kiss the tears from my closed eyelids. Closed because I couldn't bear to look at her just yet, to look into innocent blue eyes. To see forgiveness, absolute absolution, unswerving belief in things I didn't believe in, for all that I believed in her. To see love.

I had meant to make her my lover. Instead she'd set me free all over again.

TBC in Chapter 2: Cost & Consequence