DQ's Utena Shrine

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Reaching
by Death Quaker

[Author's Introductory Notes: There seem to be a million stories about Shiori and Jury–but one more can't hurt, right? There's always more to explore in that particular pair of duelists, and I hope you enjoy the results of my exploration. I had a lot of fun writing this, and did it primarily for the challenges of 1) Trying to divine the motives of Shiori, who may be mostly a "bit" character but is an interesting one, and 2) trying to remember what it was like to be sixteen. I have learned that 1) Shiori's head is a fascinating if often highly irrational, confused, and frustrating place to be, and 2) I am incredibly thankful that, at least in this lifetime, I will never ever be sixteen again. This stream-of-consciousness narrative begins at the end of episode 29 and concludes at the end of/shortly after episode 39 (the final episode). Warning: there will be plot spoilers, for those of you who haven't seen the whole series yet. I honestly wouldn't recommend reading this fic until you have seen the whole series, or certain things aren't going to make much sense.

Notes Addenda: This fanfic has now been revised twice since I first posted it at fanfiction.net a couple years ago, the most recent revision being June 2004 (a work of art is never complete to the artist... I think it's the same for writing...). Note that THIS is the most revised version; the ff.net one is out of date, as I decided not to post any more stories there. Thanks very much to those of you at ff.net and elsewhere who offered such nice and useful comments, praise, and criticism. Keep it coming! The largest revisions have been to Part Four, where I altered the opening scene quite a bit to better fit the actual events it parallels in episode 37.

Disclaimers: Revolutionary Girl Utena and all related concepts and characters are copyright 1997 to Chiho Saito and B-Papas and Shogaku-kan and Shonen Linkai AND TV Tokyo and maybe even other people my DVD didn't mention. This fan fiction is written to provide free entertainment, primarily to myself (and I won't even go blind!), and there's no way in hell I could acquire profit from it. Chapter-specific notes, credits, and disclaimers will be found at the bottom of each section.]

Part One: For the Sky

There's a torture that I've dreamt of where your lips stay sealed forever
There's a time that I have dreamt of where you talk to me and it draws us back together
There's a threat that I will share this and you'll add it to your load as it defects
I'm looking out my window so I catalogue the sights I see that
You are looking way ahead and never turn to look at me
I will write down every detail read them to you make you see
Is it me that scares you off, or just some ghost of which I'm reminiscent?
Will there ever be a day that you'll tell me why your past stays present
in your life?

It's strange how it's very easy–and yet very difficult–to forgive someone once they're dead. Or very far away.

Even though he hurt me so badly, I hurt even more when he died... as if I'd lost someone who'd actually cared for me. I did care for him, and it hurt, in so many ways. Part of me, that silly naive part of me, hopes maybe he did care, somewhere. But I guess he did it for her... or himself... or both. And I know I got what I deserved. Maybe he showed her what I really was, but I think she already knew. He did do me the favor of showing me what I really was, and for that I will be grateful, even if it hurts so much.

I never did like looking in a mirror.

I wonder if I were dead or very far away, if she would forgive me.

I think that was my hope the first time, when I returned to Ohtori. Maybe I had been gone long enough, she had forgiven me.

But she hadn't.

And I don't understand.

Even now that I know, I don't understand. And I'm not sure if I forgive her yet either.

It's funny, after I found her locket, I don't even really remember what happened. I must have been so confused... all I remember are a series of powerful sensations... joy, anger, lust, fear. Lots of fear. I remember gloating at someone... was it Jury or someone else? I remember wanting to destroy the power of miracles, because... I don't know. Because... I wanted to destroy any hope she had stored up in that locket along with my picture. Because I wanted to destroy my own hope, because I was already scared and hurting.

It hurts to try to remember, even more than trying to remember than anything else. I must have been pretty messed up. She got the locket back somehow, anyway. I must have been the one who gave it to her. I wish I could remember what I had said.

She wore it for awhile, until shortly after Ruka-sempai broke up with me. I think perhaps she and Ruka went together to fight one of those Duels. I wonder what must have happened that someone like Jury lost, but I'm pretty sure that's what happened, because somehow I think she'd be acting differently if she'd won the power of miracles. Besides, Himemiya Anthy is still attached to Tenjou-kun, and I somehow got the impression that she went to the winner. It's weird, really.

Jury stopped wearing the locket shortly after that. Maybe she's over me. Isn't that wonderful? Shouldn't I feel wonderful? Why don't I feel wonderful?

I feel sick.

I wonder what would have happened if she had won? What would she do with the power of Miracles?

I believe in miracles, but I never thought you got them because you won a silly sword duel.

A breeze passes by me, through me, raising goose pimples on my arms. The sun is going down, slowly taking the warmth away from this place. I have been standing by this tree forever. My feet hurt, and there's a icy lump in my stomach. I'm trembling, from the wind or something else.

The path is lined with zelkovas, a kind of slender elm, which reach their branches up to the sky like they're longing for something they can never touch. They look so fragile against the wind, and yet they stand there, persisting in their fruitless endeavor. As they reach, they let their leaves abandon them. The wind surrounds me with swirls of red-purple and orange (different types, the same species of tree), the leaves soon to be forgotten mingle at my feet and dance away.

Quick staccato footsteps echo down the walkway. I look up, and note with relief and another pang of trepidation that it is she, moving in her long strides toward me. I know she doesn't see me, though–her eyes are downcast, lost in thought. A rare moment when her mask is down.

Jury always wore the mask–that stony face that can put on a glare capable of turning unwitting fools to stone. The only emotion it displays is icy contempt. The difference is, when I knew her the first time, when we were friends, she wore the mask lightly. She could drop it easily among her friends, when she was with me; she only used it when she had to, to get by this bully or that teacher.

She wears it almost all the time now, save perhaps an infrequent moment when she spares a real smile for her kohai Miki-san, or more rarely, for Tenjou-kun, who has a way of slipping past most people's defenses. I envy them.

And I know I'm the reason she wears it so much. Or at least one of the reasons.

She breezes by me. Her frown is so intense, as if weights were attached to her face, pulling it downward. What is her burden today?

In a way, I don't want to bother her. Let her be free of her mask for awhile. Maybe she will remember what it's like to be herself, and not that perfect facade of strength she wears at the world. If I approach her, the mask will raise.

But I have to follow her. Summoning every ounce of willpower I have, I leave the tree I was leaning against and quickly move to catch up with her, clutching my satchel to my chest as if it were a shield, an aegis capable of deflecting her thunder.

She does not turn her head, but her pace slows for just a moment, so I fall in behind her steps quickly. I stay just a little bit behind her, maybe because I am afraid to look at her face in case the mask has returned, and I will be speaking to an angry angelic statue.

We walk for awhile, and we're almost to the dorms, when she finally turns her head slightly, just enough to indicate that she's addressing me. She speaks in the even, cool tone she uses for acquaintances and enemies. "Is there a reason you're following me, Shiori?"

All the things I want to say to her have crumbled in my mind under the weight of my fear, all of the apologies and condolences and accusations. I never used to be afraid of her, but now I am like all the others, cringing at that petrifying gaze–and I deserve her wrath more than anyone. Part of me hates myself for being afraid of her, and hates her for making me afraid of her, but I can't get angry at her, not now. I can't afford it. Not after I've already lost so much. But I try to take the energy of that anger and turn it into something like bravery, just enough so I can speak.

"He was your friend. I'm sorry," is all I manage to stammer out. It's actually been a week since, but she's been keeping herself busy, and so have I.

She stops, and I stop, and she turns to look at me, full in the face. In a moment comprising something like a tiny, weak miracle, I realize she hasn't put up the mask. Her hurricane-green eyes are shimmering, and I realize there are tears at the corners, which would indicate, if Jury were a normal girl, she'd have been sobbing her eyes out not too long ago. They are old tears, nothing I said brought them. In a weird way, I like seeing her look like this, because she looks human, not like a moving statue or a predatory feline. Her face has a hint of softness, and I am reminded a moment of the beautiful, proud girl I was so close to a few years ago, that girl that made me feel so warm and wonderful. She blinks at me, almost like she thinks I'm crazy. I wonder what she sees in my face? I might be about to cry, myself.

"Thank you," she says quietly, acknowledging my feeble gesture with a slight nod and an upturn of the lip that could not quite be called a smile.

Then the mask comes up, and the eyes turn to hard, cold malachite. She turns away, and begins walking again, though more slowly than before. I follow.

"Is that all you wanted, Shiori?" I am behind her; her back is still turned to me. Any warmth in her voice from a moment ago has dissipated.

No, of course it isn't. But when have you ever cared about what I wanted?

I swallow, the new wave of anger striking me so suddenly. I try to hold it back, but it's trying to punch its way through my chest... the part of me that wants to be near her and the part that hates her wrestle yet once again. "Why, Jury-san... why did you come to me that night?"

Her head tilts downward. "If I remember correctly, it's because I 'suck.'"

The tension in my heart twinges, the two sides of myself pulling hard, and my face grows warm with embarrassment and anger. "I was... not in a good state then. I'm sorry. Please answer the question."

"I told you, I was concerned. I thought... you might need someone to talk to." I want to believe her, but she still refuses to look at me, and her voice is still monotone.

"Why is it, that you'll only be my friend when I'm helpless?" I plead, anger and pride and desperation causing my voice to waver between a snarl and a squeak.

She begins to walk away in silence.

Anger wins, bursting through me like a popped water blister, disgusting and relieving. "Don't you dare walk away from me again, Jury!" I snap, the force in my voice startling even me. I don't let that stop me, though. I am tired of people walking away from me, leaving me in the dark, leaving me alone. I may not deserve much but I at least deserve to understand why.

She keeps trying to move on, and the desire to punish her washes over my senses like a tsunami. I grab her arm, trying to pull her around so she'll face me. "What the hell is with you, Jury? I try to start over with you, and you reject me. Then I get close to someone else, and suddenly you're hovering over me like a... a... mother hen... or a... a jilted lover! You only act when my defenses are down, you wait for me to fall, wait for me to be weak and pathetic and crawl under your wing, and otherwise treat me like dirt! Why? Why do I have to be helpless for you to love me?" Even with the hot fury, I feel tears sting my eyes.

She stops trying to pull away from me. Her eyes catch in mine, and they are quivering darkly and desperately, and I don't know whether she's feeling hatred or hurt or both. A voice inside my mind is pleading for me to shut up, wailing that I'm destroying the last vestige of hope that our closeness might still be salvaged... but Jury's jaw is locked shut, and her reticence spurs on my rage.

"Are you so pathetic and weak yourself you need someone even weaker to lean on? Or are you just looking for someone gullible to seduce?"

The confused eyes widen to a turquoise blaze. "How could you think that?"

"How could I think that? You're the one who carried my goddamn picture in a locket for three years!" Her eyes flinch. Good. I will break that mask open. The tsunami crashes, emptying out of my mouth in a torrent of feelings I can't even keep up with in my mind. "You wanted me, but you never told me... You were ashamed, ashamed of your lust, and ashamed of me, ashamed that you could feel that way about someone you once just pitied. Rather than tell me–god forbid I return those feelings–you just shut yourself off, started growing cold. I thought it was because I was getting in your way, because I thought you wanted to get closer to him instead, and so I did what I thought would punish you by taking away the person you really cared for. And the fact that you let me... means you must not have really cared at all... I was an object to you, a pet, and when I displeased you, you just let me leave you, even though I didn't understand. YOU THREW ME AWAY!" I can hardly see for fire and tears. "And, naive little girl I am, I came back to you, admitting what I'd done, tried to start over, and you rejected me again, and then you act all hurt when I try to get on with my life! Well, fuck you, Jury! You selfish obsessed little bitch!"

I pause for breath and to wonder at the things I'd just said. Tension is released, the wave begins to dissipate.

Her eyes grew wider all the while I was talking, and now she's simply blinking at me. "Selfish?" is all she says in a whuff of disbelief.

It's enough to snap my perspective for a moment. Ruka-sempai sneers at me in my mind's eye. Who is selfish? Logic faintly asserts its voice in the back of my mind: perhaps this is not the best route to take. I try to think of something else to say, but I find myself fascinated by the gymnastics of her face, eyes widening and narrowing, mouth opening then closing, and lips narrowing, then opening again. She's struggling to put the mask back on and she can't quite do it, and part of me is still delighted to have the real Jury standing before me, scrambling for her shallow defenses. It's very strange... she's pretty when she looks hurt. Almost as pretty as when she smiles.

"If... I had told you... how I felt, would you have returned my feelings?"

"How did you feel?" Cooling down, now I can fully feel the tears course down my face.

Jury swallows. Her lip trembles. "I..." The words come out as if someone were extracting them one by one, without anaesthetic. "I was in love with you."

My stomach and heart trade places, and then flip back again. "I... don't know, Jury-san," I answer mostly honestly. "But if you really had wanted... if you had really wanted to really love me, you would have at least tried to find out."

She says nothing.

It's time to finish my piece and run, my turn to be a coward and show her my back. My bare facsimile of bravery is fading fast. "You can be mad at me for any reason you want, Jury. You can hate me. You have a million reasons and they're all good. But just remember: you rejected me first."

Using the remaining angry energy within me, I pivot on my heel and march toward my dormitory. The hot tears fall anew and turn to ice on my cheeks in the wind. I am hating myself because I said things I didn't mean to say, and because I meant every word I said. Her words bounce dizzyingly through my mind:

I was in love with you...

I was in love with you...

I was in love with you...

I want to fall off the ends of the earth and just keep falling.

[Notes on Part 1: The prefatory lyrics come from the song "Baggage" by Sarah Pinsker and the copyright is held by disappear records; if you like it, check out the whole song and more wonderful things at http://www.sarahpinsker.com. As for Ruka being dead: yes, I realize that's only one interpretation and not necessarily even the best one. But I found it worked well for this particular fic.]

Go to Part II ++ Part III ++ Part IV ++ Part V

 


Death Quaker's Realm All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard. Revolutionary Girl Utena and all related concepts belong to Chiho Saito, Be-Papas, Shogakukan, Shokaku, TV Tokyo
Contact: mistress@deathquaker.org