Title: Golden Apples at Their Feet
Rated: PG-13
Characters are not mine I am just borrowing.
Poetry is mine.
Shoujo-ai content.
A/N: Originally written in 2003 or 2004. Somehow I never managed to repost this fic after I came back to in 2004.

Juri watched the two girls by the fountain embrace, and, save an eyebrow arching, her expression remained as it usual was, stoically cool. She did not linger in her spot, but resumed walking after the near shock of the scene settled into her system. Her shoes silently clicked along the walkway until she arrived at her destination.

There were an innumerable amount of secluded and secret gardens, ponds, fountains, and other patches of quiet scattered about the immense campus of Ohtori. She had a very peculiar knack for finding the best of the hidden places, and her favorite was the garden that was not, filled with flowers and pretty plants left to the wild, to grow as they would. Juri sat on a small patch of clover and grass that was being intruded upon by a raucous band of violets and tiny yellow flowers she could not name.

She took a deep breath, and, opposed to what many thought her character, she laid back, folding her arms behind her head as a makeshift pillow. The air was always awash in the thick sent of roses, though there were none around her. But, then, all of Ohtori had that scent, sweet and decayed by the fall of too many petals. Swept to the wind and lost, like innocence or faith. Juri tried not to linger on thoughts of that kind. Instead she shut her eyes and considered what she could do with what she had seen on her walk.

She knew what others would do with the knowledge she had. They'd use it to advance their own wills and desires. Crush the unsuspecting two with rumors and the giggled whispers of classmates. The image played through her mind again accompanied by the brief remembrance of what the one had said to the other. It had been the kind of romantic sentiment that made her teeth hurt. Not because it was overly sweet, which it was, or because the words were stated falsely, far from it in fact. No, the words were just filled with the type of complete faith and devotion that seemed to have left her long ago, and she envied it. The very notion that love did not have to bruise and kill did not seem possible to her any longer. And yet, there they had been, locked together in a picture perfect embrace, a kiss and whispered promise of never parting leaving both their lips.

Hazel eyes opened slowly. The scent of something smoky and spiced approaching caught in her nostrils and she wanted to grin. She repressed it though. Juri feared being too content with the person approaching. Dreaded what would ever happen if she cared for another as she had once cared for Shiori. She didn't want to wear another chain around her neck.

The smell of spice and smoke grew accompanied by the sound of a soft footfall moving through the grass. Juri's eyes shut again. She took in regulated breaths and attempted to slow the increasing beat of her heart.

Secluded places are best

For things like this

And quiet thoughts

Are so swiftly excited

By the closeness of something approaching

One untamed

Untouched by boundaries and chains

One who knows too well

The name I wish to live up to

One who can take too often

What I offer with purring gratitude

And I am undone by her very will

To leave me breathless

Tear away the angel wings

Crack the marble exterior of my existence

Make me stalk after her as prey

And take and taste and live bare in the wild

Juri felt the girl creep up next to her, heard the swish of a school skirt against the grass. The hint of smoldering spices collected in her nostrils. And then, there was the slow press of the girl's weight as she straddled Juri's waist and leaned forward, touching noses. Juri opened her eyes to meet with the blue above her. The girl grinned and pulled back.

"I saw something very interesting on my way over," the girl beamed and then moved back to her previous position, lips seconds from those beneath her. "Did you?"

"Nothing spectacular," Juri commented, "just a prince and her princess."

"So civilized…What kind of sterling metaphor would they use if they saw us, Arisugawa?" She planted her hands on either side of Juri's head, resting her weight and leaving her vulnerable.

Juri took quick advantage, reversing positions, the girl, now beneath her, growled almost happily, and seeing the content Juri dipped forward, her long auburn locks veiling the quick kiss she left upon the girl's lips.

"They'd be too speechless to call us anything, Kozue. But maybe we're a fencer and her fan girl, or angel and a devil. Or… maybe… a panther and her-"

"If you call me prey I'll leave so many marks on you there'll be no more questions as to what you prefer."

The panther chuckled releasing her hold and rocking back onto her knees, "I was going to say mate, but somehow I think you'd equate that word to prey." She watched blue eyes narrow and resumed her position on top before Kozue found the gumption to pounce.

There was a moment when they just stared into each other's eyes. A fire burning between glances waiting to erupt and when it did it was all consuming. Lips meeting hurriedly as hands clawed at testy fabric and buttons popped in a race for supremacy. The winner was never clear between the two, as the pulse of rushed sex turned to the slow deliverance of pleasure.

It is that turn that frightens me at times

I don't want your love

That word damages

I don't want you to say there is only me

That promise lies

Quickly dies with the passage of time

But aren't we doomed

When we play at not caring

Aren't we lost when we deny

Because more than I bite

I want those soft caresses you are so careful to give

I need those admired glances when you don't think I know

We are at a bend

A divide that could become too great

Do we still have a chance to confess

Or has fate left us too late

The teacher in charge of detention did a poor job of ignoring the grass stains when Kozue sauntered into the classroom to do her time, but they were hard to miss especially considering the small tears and missing buttons that accompanied them. The bite mark on the inside of her right thigh was also hard to miss as her already short skirt slid up when she took a seat and propped her legs defiantly on the top of the desk.

She sneered in the teacher's general direction as he attempted not to stare by filling out another detention slip with the new multitude of infractions Kozue had just demonstrated. His hands fumbled nervously as he tore it from the pad. Kozue flipped him off when he handed it to her and chuckled as his face turned beet red while he wrote yet another slip for her attitude.

If Kozue had been anyone other than her charming self she would have already been expelled. But she was (not only the daughter of wealthy man who made very generous donations to the school, and the twin sister to the school's resident musical prodigy) a very cunning and clever girl, despite the story her grades told. Not to mention the cluster of male and female teachers she had in a strangle hold because of their inability to, "keep it in their pants", as it were.

Her left hand brushed through her hair and she pulled out the few bits of grass and clover. Amid the small pieces of greenery was a mangled yellow flower. She brought it to her nose but it had no scent. Her eyes shut a moment, Juri's voice clear in her head, "I was going to say mate…"

Kozue didn't know how to feel about it. On one hand it pleased her greatly to be considered so wildly dear, and on the other hand she had trouble reconciling the fact that she was not at all a panther. If it were true, and it was, that she and Juri were wild creatures she doubted very much that they were the same types of wild. Different species really, so how could they ever be mates?

She shrugged and then she went over the other thing she had seen that day, the prince and princess of the school kissing lovingly by a secluded pond. It was so perfectly sweet she wanted to retch. In fact, it was almost too perfect, she wondered if there was something about the happy couple that was the least bit dark. She laughed softly, even if there was a dark past between the prince and her lover it was obviously forgotten and forgiven.

The teacher cleared his throat in an irritated manner causing Kozue to look over in his direction. He held a piece of paper in his hand, and his brow furrowed as his eyes carefully analyzing the small bit of text and signature at the bottom. Finally, he appeared to give up trying to find fault with the note and shook his head.

"Kaoru," his voice was hoarse as he ambled over to her with the paper. "Your lucky day it seems," he stated accusingly placing the note on the desk.

She merely batted her eyelashes and smiled sweetly before quickly picking up the paper and looking it over. She frowned. The teacher looked concerned but Kozue sneered at him before stomping out of the classroom.

Once lost

I am irretrievable

For I go to a place

That no one can see

That no one knows

It can be dark or filled with light

Either way I am blind

And my heart sinks so I can not feel

I could vanish and no one would know

I could fill the sea with my tears and no one would hear

For I call

Like the ocean breaking upon the rocks

A wolf to the moon

I call

And I am answered by someone most unexpected

There were very few people who had the power to pull Kozue Kaoru out of a three hour detention (for which she was two hours late), and none of them were people she was ever overly excited to see. She looked over the white sheet of paper in her hands, suppressed a growl, and tried to figure out what it was that Akio Ohtori could possibly want with her. Kozue would never say she hated the acting chairman. She just didn't trust him. He may have had a wild streak, but he was far too civilized, more of devilish king than a wolf.

The elevator ride to Akio's office was surprisingly swift and when the doors opened to the overly impressive view of the campus Kozue shrugged.

Akio was lounging on a white leather couch near the window. A smile graced his face that screamed of suave and malicious intent. Kozue really didn't feel the need to waste time.

"What do you want," she asked coolly, hands on her hips in defiance.

"A favor."

"You still owe me for that last favor I did you."

His smile slipped to a tiny smirk, voice low as he spoke, "I suppose you are correct, what would you like me to do?"

She shook her head. "I was just gonna ask the same thing."

Akio reached into his shirt pocket and held out an envelope. "Deliver this."

"And?"

"That's it. Deliver this invitation and I'll make sure you're invited as well." He stood and approached her. "I'm throwing a masquerade as a reward for the excellent job the student council is doing. Of course other students and faculty are being invited as well. You know honor students, top educators that sort of thing."

"Sounds terribly dull."

He chuckled, "Of course, but I'm sure you'd find someone there to… keep you entertained."

"What about the costume?"

"One will be sent your way of course. Now, will you deliver this," he held the envelope up again.

She shrugged and stepped up to snatch the invitation from Akio's hands.

"You should take more care of that uniform of yours," Akio said as she walked away.

Kozue ignored him.

For every lie I've told

There is a punishment waiting for me

Something dark and slick

Cold and full of fury

I'll never escape

What this is

This affair we linger on

The hot nights

Quick afternoons

The biting air around us

It is ending

And I'll soon pay the price for what I have said

That I am not jealous

That this is only a game

And that you, my love, should treat it the same

"Kozue?"

Juri's voice was crisp against the warm night air. Her eyes caught only the darkness of her room. The girl in her arms shifted with a grunt.

"Kozue?"

"Mmm," was the reply followed by the quick feel of her tongue teasingly dart out and lick the closest body part.

Juri tensed for a moment before continuing. "I saw you coming out of the chairman's office today."

"So?"

"So what were you doing there?"

"Arisugawa, I swear to God I don't have time to put up with any jealousy crap. I was there as a favor."

"I see." Juri shut her eyes and then asked, "What kind of favor?"

"Not your business." Kozue scrambled out of her comfortable position in Juri's embrace. "I don't owe you anything, Arisugawa. I'm not your girlfriend. Now if you've you forgotten that then…"

The panther sighed, "Then?"

"Then that's it. We have sex, Juri. Really good, fucking sex, and that's it. I won't offer you anything other than that." She rustled for her clothes and cigarettes. "Damn it," she whispered.

"You're over reacting. I was just asking because-"

"I'm not over reacting!" Kozue swiftly removed herself and the door slammed behind her.

Juri stared into the darkness for a few minutes, then quietly got out of bed and flicked on the light. Her eyes squinted against the brightness but soon adjusted. She padded over to her bathroom stopping to pick up a maroon pack of cigarettes. She held the pack to her nose and inhaled the scent, burnt spice.

The shower started running after a few beats of muffled milling about and beneath the sound was the lost almost non-existent sob, "Because I worry."

One day

You'll say

This was a mistake

The biggest you'd had to make

And if you start to cry

Don't you know it's a lie

Cos this wasn't real

This love you made me feel

The foil punished the air around her in quick thrusts and brutal slices. Had anyone been on the receiving end of her sword that person would have found himself swiftly beaten into the ground. It wasn't her style to fence with such unrelenting force. Juri usually preferred to lead her opponent in a dance, but when she was upset she had little time for mercy which was why she was practicing alone and far away from her teammates.

She was fencing the shadows and as usual the shadows were winning. Juri paused briefly enough for the observer behind her to touch her shoulder. She turned with a start to stare down into violet eyes.

"Juri?" The girl could see the panther trying to focus. "Juri, Ruka wants to know if everyone can leave early."

Hazel eyes shut and then opened. "Why?"

The girl swallowed. "The um… the party that the chairman is holding-"

"They can leave early then," she started to turn so she could go on fighting the shadows but a petite hand caught her. "What?"

The girl huffed, "I think you need to stop practicing and hit the showers."

"Last I looked you weren't the team captain."

"No, but last I looked you had a much better attitude. Do you have to get this way whenever things don't work out your way?"

Juri's eyes were dark, as if she were going to unleash hell upon the girl speaking to her, but then her shoulders rolled forward and she sighed, "I'm sorry, Shiori."

"You'd be less sorry if you'd listen to me. Take a shower, cool off and come to the party."

"What are you going as?"

Shiori giggled, "Something you'd find appropriate after what happened between us last year." She paused and then tilted her head in consideration. "You know, Juri, I had always hoped you would hang onto your heart a little longer before giving it away again."

"And I had always hoped that you'd be the only one to have it. Some miracles aren't meant to be granted."

"And some are closer than you think they are. Go to the party, Juri. Try to have a good time and take the chance to dance with someone."

Shiori wandered off to the showers and it didn't take long for Juri to heed the advice given and follow suit. She passed an old friend along the way. He smiled at her and she nodded back. In that moment she could hear him say what he always said when she felt as she did, "Don't worry. Why worry?"

My heart is cool

After the fire you extinguished

It is soft and fragile

All but ash in the after glow

A cinder that could spark

Or fade to nothing

And I wonder blindly

If it is truly dead

Or if it is but waiting

For you to set it alight again

The masquerade was set in the old Ohtori mansion. It was a place used to little life suddenly filled to excess, music and champagne, dancing and party games in nearly every room. The costumes were the sort of extravagance one would expect in a movie, full of glitter, gold, sparkling fabrics, and grotesquely beautiful leather masks.

She had been skirting the edges of the party since the beginning. Blue eyes peering out from behind a black leopard mask, assessing and collecting all she wanted to know. Guessing who was behind each disguise and generally being right on target.

Kozue found that while the party wasn't enough to put her to sleep it was still rather dull, too civilized and controlled. There weren't enough people taking their beastly costumes to heart. And there were throngs of various animals and mythical creatures, angels, butterflies, kittens, frogs, an assortment of knights, there was even a prince and princess.

She watched the two for a long time, eternal happiness or eternal pain? There was a sad look in both girls' eyes when she handed them the invitation, as if the world were ending and crashing all around them, leaving them separate and alone. She wondered why that was. Obviously it was to do with the chairman but- She shook her head. It wasn't her business, or place to care.

As the evening began to linger on Kozue went in search of a quiet place to sit. Her feet took her down an empty hallway filled with dusty antiques and furniture covered with sheets. Instinct brought her to a room filled with the pale light of candles and it was there that she decided to stay.

There was a mystery about the room since all the others down the corridor were shut up and unused. But despite the oddity, the room was very inviting. The soft light flickered reflecting off the gold leaf, and embroidered sofas. A rosewood cabinet sat neatly in a corner glass doors revealing crystal brandy bottles and fresh glasses. An unobtrusive mural was left cracked and slightly peeled on the far wall depicting two unhappy lions hovering over a pile of golden apples.

Kozue looked over the room quickly, then stole a small glass of brandy from the cabinet and relaxed into a sofa. Her eyes regarded the mural with modest interest as the first taste of the brandy hit her pallet, apricot. The only thing missing was a cigarette but her last pack was presumably lost amid the clutter of Juri's bedroom floor. The wild girl tired to convince herself she could live without them.

After a good ten minutes Kozue was well on her way to pouring her third small glass of brandy, when the decisive sound of good leather boots echoing down the hallway made her curve her attention. Once she was certain whom it was she shrugged, pulled out another glass and concluded pouring her drink.

"Want one?" She glanced over her shoulder at the elegant devil standing in the doorway.

He grinned beneath his cherubically horned mask. "Of course." He sat on the sofa and asked, "Is it your habit to take without asking?"

Kozue picked up the crystal glasses and sauntered over to the lounging devil. Offered out a glass and answered when he reached for it, "I take what I know will be offered."

"Not enjoying the party?"

"Too tame." She moved to a chair opposite the couch, closer to the mural.

"Too bad." He sipped his drink, amber liquid gracing lips that many thought beautiful but were in fact poison.

"Why aren't you at your party Mr. Ohtori?"

"I've misplaced my bride."

"What, that blonde? What's her name? The self important one who dotes on your every move?"

"Kanae."

"Lost her have you? I'd think you couldn't escape." She crossed her legs and pulled her mask back so it rested on her head. She wanted to think he was going to answer her honestly, but instead he merely grinned.

"I suppose… I've lost that bride as well." His green eyes narrowed behind his mask briefly before he asked, "Do I still owe you a favor?"

"You might." Kozue tried to look disinterested, eyes looking up into the pained face of a lion.

"Interesting, isn't it," he said smoothly. "The lions?"

"They look miserable with their treasure."

"They are." He stood and took his glass over to the cabinet setting it down gently and then turning his attentions back to Kozue stated, "They were once humans. Lovers punished by the gods to spend eternity as lions."

"What did they do to upset the gods," she asked with a subtle warning growl in her tone. She felt as if she were being threatened.

"They defiled a temple. Gods have never been known to approve of mortals having fun in sacred places."

She shrugged. "At least they're together, better life together as beasts than nothing at all."

His chuckle was a menacing comfort. "Ah, but you see the culture this myth is derived from believed that lions could only mate with leopards. Truly, a poetic punishment then." Even with the mask on he looked smug, a little too proud of the information he had just relayed, but he was not one to brag. He knew when to make his exit. "I should find my bride. Be careful not to over indulge on the brandy, Miss Kaoru."

Kozue did not find his sense of humor at all endearing. She could hazard a million guesses as to what he was alluding to, but she didn't want any of them to be true or possible.

I run in a line

Of illusion and myth

A something sweet

The kill of a kiss

And deep in the dark

Were my heart used to be

Is a siren singing in a thick black sea

It calls to the moon and the wolf and the crow

It calls for rest, for relief, a place to go

And in the end when all is lost

I find the damage hardly worth the cost

So trip up lightly to my shores

Plant a flag, burrow deep, make me wish for more

She dug through the crowds to the front door. Stepping outside and feeling relief at the cool air around her. Beneath her mask she was flushed from a torrent of dancing and one too many glasses of champagne. A quick breath left her as she pulled her mask off her face and quickly took a seat on the cold marble steps leading up to the house.

She held the black and gold lion mask in her hands. Hazel eyes regarding the façade with bruised contempt. She didn't know that she could bend to such obvious expectations. The door opened behind her and a breath of relief was offered up to the night by the new escapee, whom smelled of spice.

"Do you have a cigarette," a familiar female voice asked hopefully.

Juri never liked coincidences, but she would concede to the one before her. She reached into her pocket and held up a maroon pack of cigarettes. The girl behind her took one out of the pack and waited as Juri retrieved a lighter. The fencer felt the girl bend down to light the cigarette the sudden burst of smoldering spice filling the air around her.

"Thanks." It was said without meaning.

"You could keep the pack," Juri said. "I'm not really a smoker."

Juri didn't turn around to see what the girl's reaction would be.

"Arisugawa, don't you ever get fed up with being polite?"

"No. Besides, there are many who'd argue I'm rather rude."

There was a sniff and then the girl took a seat next to her. Juri looked over the costume she was wearing. Everyone seemed to be dressed so appropriately, Shiori was a butterfly, Ruka was an angel, Tenjou was a prince, and now Kozue was next to her dressed as a leopard.

A random fact spilled from Juri's lips. "Panthers are leopards you know."

"Great."

"Leopards born without spots." She shook her head. "I'm sorry I pried that evening."

Kozue clicked her tongue and silence washed in and then away as she said, "Juri, I can't promise not to play and you know it."

"That's fair enough, but let me ask, have you since we've started seeing each other?"

"No," she whispered, bewilderment in her tone.

They looked at each then, through the dark night air, hazel eyes calling to blue and not knowing if there would ever be an answer back.

Kozue stood up. "I don't want to love you."

"I don't want to love you either. But I don't think we've been given much of a choice in the matter."

"So where does that leave us?"

Juri shrugged and stood up. She started walking down the stairs. There was a hesitant step from behind her followed by a confident stride.

There is no chain 'round my neck

No gilded cage to keep me prisoner

Were I wander I wander on my own

And whether you want to follow

I will leave to you

I am not called or pulled by force

In your direction

There is no master waiting to reward my deeds

I play in forests, the jungles, the swamps

I wait for no one to join me

I ask for no mate

But you come by and by

Stalk close to my hunting grounds

Take a moment to read my signs

Nudge me gently so I might wake

And we are free to leave when we should like

But I don't think I'll be going

No, not ever

Especially this night

End.