Title: Running Away
Summary: Utena falls apart; Saionji gets to be a bit of a prince, for once. Post episode 36.
Rating: R for a couple of images at the beginning.
Notes: I like independent Utena, Utena who doesn't need a prince because she is one (check out this essay, and no, that's not a shameless plug; I didn't write it).
So I was just a smidge frustrated with myself for writing this. Why did I? Well, the Apocalypse arc is all about Utena doubting herself, her place as prince; doubting Anthy, and Anthy's friendship.
Episode 37, which this fic leads into, is where Utena decides that yes, she does love Anthy, and yes, she will be Anthy's prince. I considered writing more in that vein, but really, the series managed quite well:
The turning point is, I think, when Anthy tries to jump off the tower, and Utena, in saving her, realizes how unhappy Anthy is. Utena asks, "Are you running away?"
I think she asks this because she knows about running away.
As to why Saionji decided to be the voice of exposition and reason despite being a bastard for much of the series... I think it had something to do with him catching on to Touga being in love with Utena before Touga himself would admit to it. Saionji can be a fairly perceptive guy at times, and he does mellow out.
Anthy... and Akio. Utena felt as if the image had been seared into her eyes. It had shocked her, horrified her, terrified her to see Anthy nude, hair flowing, before her brother.
It was more than simply the wrongness of incest. It was a betrayal. Anthy knew that Utena--that Akio--that--
Utena didn't even know what she wanted of Akio, or what Akio wanted of her. She felt like she didn't understand anything.
She was fleeing. She had fled the planetarium, where Anthy and Akio were, but she couldn't seem to run far enough. In her room, Anthy's empty bed mocked her. The kitchen put her in mind of Akio in an apron, cooking, and Anthy shaving ice.
She got in an elevator--not the main one, that opened on the planetarium, of course, but one that ran down the side of the tower. She knew it went to the Student Council's platform, but no one would be there at this hour of the night. She could be alone there.
She was wrong.
Through the iron bars forming the doors of the elevator, Utena could see green hair flowing over the edge of the table. Saionji lay on his back, his long legs up in the air, over the shoulders of--
Of Touga, who had claimed to love Utena.
Utena froze, stunned. She was too numb to be shocked, or horrified. Betrayal, she felt again, but more coldly and distantly.
"Kyouichi-chan," Touga murmured in a low, slow, sensual moan as the elevator opened. His eyes were screwed up tight, but Saionji's were not.
His head dropped back over the edge of the table; his eyes open, his mouth gasping, Saionji saw her.
She pressed a button. Any button. She had to get away. As the elevator dropped, she tried to think of where to escape to. The rose garden? Anthy's--no. The dueling arena. After seeing Touga there the night before? No.
Her thoughts drifted to the Castle of Eternity, and the warmth of Dios's power. Utena couldn't go there, but maybe she could go to someone who made her feel as safe--Wakaba.
Who loved Saionji now and again. God. No.
Her thoughts flitted through her other acquaintances--Juri--Miki--who, with her luck tonight, would be sleeping together--it was just improbable enough to fit the theme of the evening--
She found herself laughing hysterically, bent nearly double, clutching at the bars of the elevator behind her to keep from sliding to the floor.
The elevator released her at the foot of the tower, and pushed herself up and ran. Her nightgown and hair fluttered behind her in the wind of her path. Campus was dark and silent. She didn't know where she was going; instinct led her.
Instinct led her to the empty East dorm that had been home to no one but she and Anthy for nearly two years before Akio insisted on them living with him.
Utena felt sick at the thought of that invitation, but couldn't run anymore. She collapsed on the floor of their bare room, chest heaving, legs starting to cramp as she curled up. Her knees pulled up, her arms crossed, she felt herself start to choke on her own tears.
Face shadowed, she lay in a coffin full of roses--
She jerked spasmodically, gripping her own shoulders, pressing her temple to the floor in denial. She would not pity herself. Maybe she hadn't felt this alone since her parents had died, but she wasn't going to--she wasn't suicidal. She was upset and hurting and--and everything, but she wasn't--she didn't want to die.
That wasn't who she was, not anymore. She would never lie there and die. She would get up and do something.
If, she thought despairingly, she had any idea at all what to do.
Maybe there wasn't anything to do. Maybe it wasn't any of her business. She should leave them be, just do nothing, just lay here and--
She had to do something. Some besides shaking. Something besides crying. She squeezed her eyes shut to keep the tears in, but it didn't work. Impatiently, frustrated with herself, she brought her left hand up to scrub her face--
And stopped as her hand jerked against her hair.
She opened her eyes, pulled her hand free, then slowly, dizzily, followed the line of her hair up, and up, and up, to where someone had laid on handful of it across his palm. She watched it slither free and fall.
The person kneeling beside her wasn't Touga, and she couldn't even say for sure why she had expected it to be. "Did we upset you so, little one?" Saionji asked softly.
"No," Utena whispered. "I was already running." She closed her eyes again.
"Will you tell me why?" he asked.
"No," Utena answered. He was silent. She had begun to hope he had left, when she felt his fingers trail down her cheek. "Wakaba would have been upset," she said.
She felt his fingers pause, then continue along her jaw and lift off of her face. "Is she unhappy with her onion prince?" Saionji asked.
"She loves you," Utena said. "I think, most of the time, she understands that you don't love her.... but I think she also thought she knew whom you did love."
"Anshi," Saionji murmured.
"Any number of girls," Utena corrected.
In the pause, Utena could almost hear his thought--But I'm not the playboy; Touga--
"So those are the sort of metaphors we are speaking in," Saionji said.
"I should have known, shouldn't I," Utena asked. "When you were his rose bride today."
He stroked his face again, this time with his knuckles. "That doesn't always mean anything. He was Juri's rose bride when she fought you last. The one she would have wouldn't be her bride."
Utena opened her eyes again, straining to see him though the darkness and wet eyelashes. "Is that why he's--with you? Because I won't--?" The night made his hair look purple.
"You were always the princess he couldn't save, little one," Saionji replied. Utena wondered at the repetition of the appellation. "He sometimes speaks of you as though you became a prince solely to thwart him."
"That's funny, I didn't think sleeping with princes was a problem for him," Utena said sharply, shying away from Saionji's hand.
"No, but much as he would like to, he cannot save princes," Saionji replied gently. "I think Touga would save Akio-san from--from himself, if he could. I know he would try to save you, if you would let him."
"Why is he that way? Why does he have to be everyone's prince?" Utena asked.
Saionji's thumb brushed her chin. "You know that he is not the Kiryuus' son by blood?"
Utena nodded. "Nanami was heartbroken."
"Nanami doesn't know the truth," Saionji replied. "She is not their daughter, either."
"They were both adopted?" Utena asked.
"Not adopted," Saionji said. "Bought."
"I don't understand," Utena said. She felt cold.
Saionji didn't explain. His fingers ran down the curve of her hair again, then he said, very quietly, "Touga was always a very pretty boy."
Utena felt like ice, shivering at his touch. "I don't believe you," she whispered, catching his hand and holding it away from her face.
"I don't know whether it's true, only that it--"
She cut him off, demanding, "Who told you that? Did he tell you that?"
"No," Saionji replied. "Akio-san told me that, and he says things for his own purposes. But Touga listened while he told me, and didn't contradict him. And it explains things about him."
"What things?" Utena asked harshly.
"The way he protects Nanami," Saionji answered. "That was the one thing he did say to me. That it never happened to her."
Utena loosened her grip on his wrist. She was beginning to understand. "He's her prince."
Silhouette of a dangling girl with red and black butterfly wings struggling against an entomologist's pin; the shadow girls in their play cackling, "And I am your--sister! I'm the only one who can't become your princess!"
Utena shuddered and was back on the cold floor again. Saionji was holding her hand. "What happened to you?" he asked.
"I don't know," she replied honestly. "Why are you here? How did you find me?"
"Chu!" cried a familiar voice from somewhere around her knee.
Utena closed her eyes in disgust at Anthy's little pet. "Why are you telling me these things?"
"Because he loves you, and I love him," Saionji told her. "He knows what's going to happen in the duel called Revolution, and he tried to protect you from that. But you would not let him take your place in the duels and you would not listen to his warning."
"Beware the Rose Bride and the Ends of the World?" Utena scoffed. "Consider the warning heeded. I am not likely to open my heart to the Rose Bride now, and I don't know any 'Ends of the World.'"
Saionji reprimanded her, "You need to hear this, little one, if you are to survive."
"Why do you keep calling me that?" Utena asked. Saionji was stroking her fingers now, and her palm. "Why are you calling me 'little one'?"
"You lay in a coffin at your parent's funeral, as a child," Saionji said.
Utena looked up at him, surprised. How had he...? "I'm not doing that now. I'm not in that coffin. I'm not."
"Whether or not you are still in that coffin," Saionji murmured, "Touga and I found you there."
"What are you saying, that you are the prince that saved me? Or that Touga was?" Utena asked. She would have snatched her hand back except that, surreally, she could see red- and green-haired boys at her side, one fingering her hair and speaking of eternity.
"I thought for years that he did," Saionji answered, "but he says not. He says Akio-san got you out of that coffin."
"Akio-san is not my prince!" Utena said vehemently, and did yank her hand away this time.
"Nor Touga?" Saionji asked, a little sadly.
"Nor him," Utena agreed, still angry.
Saionji stood and held his hand out to her. "Then perhaps I may be, this once?"
"I don't need a prince," Utena snapped. "I am a prince."
"Will you get up on your own, then?" Saionji asked, letting his hand fall to his side.
"No, I shall lay here 'til I--" Utena stopped, swallowed hard.
Saionji stood there silently, not murmuring the word, "Coffin."
She reluctantly pushed herself up, sitting on the cold, hard floor, leaning on one hand still. "Why did you say Akio-san was the prince who saved me?" she asked, looking up at Saionji.
"Did no one ever tell you the story of the duels, and the Rose Bride?" Saionji asked, then added softly, seemingly to himself, "No, not even a letter from the Ends of the World."
Utena shook her head, then said, haltingly, "The Shadow Girls--had a play--about a Rose Prince--"
"The prince who's supposed to dwell in the Castle of Eternity," Saionji told her, "the one who is everyone's prince--he is supposed to be the Rose Bride's brother."
Utena bit her lip. "Maybe she has two brothers."
"Two brothers in castles in the sky?" Saionji asked. He held his hand out to her again. "Come, get up. It's cold here, and it smells of roses."
She took his hand, and rose.