Thanks for being the first to comment, James. You so rock.

Utena and Wakaba's day started out late. The two had slept until eleven and after waking had proceeded to waste a good amount of time straightening Utena's hair. By the time they were on the road Wakaba had begun to worry that the Academy would be closed before they reached it.

"It's going to take at least another hour before we get to Ohtori University. Maybe we should go another day?" implored Wakaba.

"I'm telling you, Wakaba, it isn't like High School. Classes go until eight at night so I'm sure someone will let us look around the place," said Utena, assuring her friend for the millionth time.

Wakaba sunk down in her seat and returned to flipping through the radio channels without any hope of finding a station to call home. Although Utena's car had air-conditioning the girls had chosen to keep the windows down because Utena liked the fresh air and the wind thrashing around her face. Wakaba's chestnut locks hung out of the window like streamers, her doe eyes glazed over in boredom.

By the time they reached Ohtori Academy Wakaba was up and passionately singing along with the radio, belting out the tune with a smile on her face and not a trace of the gloom and doom that had plagued her earlier in the car ride. Utena never understood the mood swings that many of the girls her age bullied through but she had learned to handle Wakaba's like an expert.

"I feel like such an adult!" shouted Wakaba as they walked up the academy steps. "No uniforms, no getting up at seven in the morning, and I won't ever have to take another math class ever again!"

"We should have parked further away; some douche is going to scratch up my car," said Utena.

"Nobody is going to scratch your car, Utena. Your love affair with that thing needs to end anyhow," said Wakaba. She stuck her tongue out at the parking lot in the direction of Utena's GTO.

"I'll have you know that car revolutionized the auto industry and anyway she's my baby! How could I ever leave her?" asserted Utena.

"Nnngg," said Wakaba sticking her tongue out further.

"You nut," said Utena.

The two were greeted by a friendly secretary and given a quick tour of the university before the offices closed. They decided to stay longer so that Utena could get a better look at the sports facilities. Hungry, they grabbed sandwiches from the cafeteria that looked just as dismal as any school food they had eaten all their lives. Utena took a turkey sub and picked off the lettuce while Wakaba stuck with a simple egg-salad sandwich despite protests from Utena that she'd end up with salmonella. The girls strolled leisurely around the sports grounds and gymnasium, taking in the atmosphere and the muted scent of old sweat that smelled like home to Utena.

"Look, they have a kendo team. I've always wanted to try that," said Utena right before a dangerous growl erupted from Wakaba's stomach.

"Oh no, Utena. I need a potty right now!" cried Wakaba.

"I told you that sandwich was full of germs," said Utena.

"Ah, bathroom now," groaned Wakaba. The girls shut up and ran looking for a restroom. When they found one Utena left her friend to her privacy and waited nearby. In their urgency they'd managed to find their way up to the second floor of the building. Utena lingered in the corridor and stared out the floor length windows of the hallway onto a conservatory complete with an ornate gazebo and an odd trellis or two. It really was a lovely grounds for a school.

Movement below caught her eye. A golden skinned girl with hair as dark as a raven's wing was wandering among the roses. Here and there her fingertips brushed against the spring buds. She was the most beautiful girl Utena had ever seen. The body of her was lithe like a dancer, her movements like a bird conquering air. Utena was unable to look away.

The girl below was startled by something. Unable to see what it was Utena craned her head about in time to see a stately boy about her own age stride into the arborium and begin arguing with the girl. He stuck his hand out and struck the golden-skinned girl hard on the cheek. Utena clenched her fists in response to the anger welling up in her own body.

"I feel so much better," said Wakaba emerging from the restroom.

"Good," said Utena. She relaxed her body but could not look away from the couple in the garden below.

"What are you looking at? Oh," said Wakaba, falling silent at the sight of the garden.

"Do you know them?" asked Utena at the look of acknowledgement on her friend's face.

"That's Saionji, he's in our grade at school," said Wakaba.

"I don't like him," said Utena. She did not give an explanation as to why despite the fact that Wakaba had missed the violent encounter. Wakaba for her part did not ask why.

"C'mon kiddo, let's get out of here," decided Utena. She took her friend's hand and they retreated back to the parking lot in silence. Each girl had something on their mind.

Upon arrival at the car Wakaba said, "Utena, you're going to be mad."

"What, why?" asked Utena a little dreamily.

"Some douche did scratch your car," answered the brunette. Utena walked around to Wakaba's side as her friend pointed out the mark. It was a deep scratch and one that had slightly dented the car door. The culprit had long since vanished, leaving two parking spaces berth between the GTO and the next car.

"Well, I've been wanting to paint it pink anyway," said Utena, surprising herself that she was taking the blemish so well.

"You nut," said Wakaba. The girls were cordial with each other on the ride home although Utena suspected that Wakaba's mind was as far away from the conversation as her own.

That night Utena dreamed.

She was standing in the garden she hadn't entered the day before. The air was alive with the smell of lilies and lilac, roses and honeysuckle. She breathed in the air and a hint of lavender hit her tongue.

The golden-skinned girl was there amongst the vines. She turned and smiled at Utena. Her dark hair rose in the night's wind prickling Utena's arms, turning them to gooseflesh.

"Who are you?" said Utena to the night.

Before the girl could answer the loud striking sound of footsteps came up the path of the garden. The boy-Saionji-strode up and hit the golden-skinned girl on her plush cheek. It welled up like the pink petals of the surrounding peonies.

"Leave her alone," shouted Utena so loudly that her throat felt hoarse from the first word.

"You dare to fight me for the Rose Bride?" said Saionji to his competitor. A smile played on his lips. One that said he would never take her seriously, that Utena would never be a match for him.

"Yes, I will fight you in a duel to the death," said Utena. This time when she curled her palms into a fist she found herself holding a rapier in her right hand. It felt good, and comfortable. Utena never felt more comfortable than she did with a sword resting against her gloved palm.

"Then come, Little Prince; follow us to the forest," said Saionji still smiling. He continued to believe that Utena was no threat.

In the dream world as in reality a great wood circled a part of the academy's grounds. Saionji led the way into its depths. The three followed the path as it became more overgrown by the lush forest floor. Cobblestones upturned and disappeared and then even the dirt and gravel passed away, but Saionji and the golden-skinned girl knew their way well. Utena was the only one stumbling on tree roots in the darkness.

"We leave you here," said Saionji. "If you think you can climb the steps by yourself, of course."

"I can walk by myself, of course," said Utena. He was beginning to anger her with his subtle mocking, looking at her with that smirk.

"Alright," said Saionji throwing up his hands but not dropping the smile.

"We'll see you in the arena," he finished. As they walked away the girl took a look back over her shoulder for a last glance at Utena. It twisted Utena's heart into a ball. Looking up she almost wished she'd asked for assistance on how to climb the steps. Almost.

There were steps leading into the sky. Like those of Escher they went seamlessly into the air, leading to a castle that hung in the night sky. Utena could only touch the first step with the tips of her finger when she jumped into the air.

"I can do this," she said to the forest.

Utena closed her eyes and lay down on the rocky earth. The hilt of her rapier dug into the flesh at her hip and then swung loose at her side. It was flying free in empty air, Utena had dreamed herself to the first step.

The staircase rose further and further among the stars. They blinked calmly at Utena from below her, a subtle warning as to where she was. The steps led to the top of the castle and a garden even more lovely than the first. The roses here were the fullest and most beautiful that Utena had seen. They were of every color and shade known to humanity, but it was the white ones that Utena admired the most. Their crisp purity rivaling the moonlight.

Saionji was waiting for her on the other side of the dome.

Utena's fingers literally itched. Those new to the fencing world will often move their wrists to turn the edge of a sword during a duel. This is incorrect. A true master of fencing will use their fingers to move a blade, to circle it under or over that of her opponents.

"So you made it Little Prince. How annoying," said Saionji.

"Let's get on with this, Saionji. I want to kill you before the night is out," growled Utena back to her opponent.

Saionji turned to the golden-skinned girl and bent her back over his arm. Thrusting his sword arm into her he pulled forth a magnificent blade from her. It caught what little light shown on the duelers, reflecting it to a thousand directions.

If there was a possibility that Utena could have been more angry than it had been fulfilled. The golden-skinned girl collapsed to the palace floor without a second glance from Saionji who was now admiring the blade he'd pulled forth from the Rose Bride. She was nothing but a sheath for him.

"En guarde," said the golden-skinned girl. It was barely a whisper in the dark.

Saionji danced, warming his feet. Utena needed no movement to get her blood pumping.

"Pret. Allez," came forth and the duel began.

Swiftly the gap between Utena and Saionji was crossed. She had never moved this strongly before; never this fast, this controlled. There was not a trace of doubt to cross her mind: Utena was going to win the fight.

The blades strained against each other, demanding that the other give. Utena's blade strained against the power of Saionji's blade and cracked. The rapier was nothing but a shard in her hands.

But Utena could fight with a shard.

The golden-skinned girl was staring at the blue-eyed blonde. Under her gaze confidence pulsed through Utena's veins and she took a flying lunge towards Saionji just as he did the same. Utena felt the partial blade dig deeply into her opponent's ribs. The rapier buried itself up to the hilt.

From the wound flowed rose petals. They were not red but green; a dark green that looked black like blood in the moonlight.

Saionji's body fell from the palace heights. Neither Utena or the Rose Bride saw it reach the ground as it vanished into the clouds.

"I've won!" howled Utena to the black heavens.

The golden-skinned girl waited for her to settle down. She herself was very calm, as if this was a daily occurrence for her.

"What should we do now?" Utena asked her.

"Whatever you want to do my Prince," said the Rose Bride.

"I want to do what you would like to do," replied Utena.

The girl looked around as if she was unsure of what to say. It was very possible she had never been asked this question before.

"I like my plants," she said gesturing to the roses surrounding the two. The Rose Bride picked up a watering can and tipped it over her beloved flowers. Rain poured from it endlessly.

The petals of the roses-they were heavy with droplets of water that spilled from the container the golden-skinned girl held. Each satiny fold was drenched and leaning to the palace floor. The longer Utena starred at the flowers the larger and more hypnotizing they became so she reached her fingers out and plunged them into the petals of a rose. Utena's fingers became covered in the liquid saturating the bloom. She felt electricity run under her skin. Encouraged, Utena dove her hand deeper and deeper within it's folds.

Utena awoke in a hot sweat.

For all of you who are wondering exactly what car Utena owns it is a revamped '64 model. My stepfather loves GTO's and he'd give me a little hell for not using his model but for the life of me I can't remember what year his is. I did remember that the '64 had some special engine or some bull. See, I kind of listen when people talk about cars.

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