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Anh Lu didn't wear anything on her sleeve. She was illusive and mysterious, everything some girls think they want to be, try to be at some time or other. The only time Anh Lu's walls dropped completely was when she had had an alcoholic beverage, and the complete lack of control and loss of inhibitions frightened her. Then again, it also gave her pause to consider things. After the first time she had a drink she rarely drank alcohol willingly again. Accidentally, she would pick up a cup of something sweet that would later prove to have been dangerous. Once she was dared into it and a hidden stubborn streak rose, refusing to be allayed by her otherwise stern common sense that told her, "Drinking turns you into an uncontrollable lecherous dyke. You should probably avoid doing that."

There were generally consequences to be faced after she had had a drink. Apologizing, in the morning to fellow students who she had playfully (in her mind at least) unrobed, kissed, or groped. She took any reprimanding of her drunken behavior well, but though she apologized she rarely regretted any of it. She looked at the things she did and realized what it was she was keeping herself from. She considered the reasons why and she found answers that were honest, and often silly.

Her destiny was never in question. Despite anything else she might find herself wanting in life she knew she would be an Otome. She was willing to sacrifice everything for that goal, and her mind being set on that one thing found her barring herself off from anything that might distract her. It was an impossible thing to limit the heart, and she found that the more she locked inside herself the worse things would be if she chanced to have a drink. So she decided there had to be permission granted from the core of her heart to indulge and occasionally enjoy her young life.

The first person she ever kissed when she was absolutely sober was Fiar Grosse, who was probably just as walled up as she was. It proved to be a mistake, but Anh couldn't regret it. She couldn't regret her mistakes because they taught her. Otome's could not make mistakes because the cost would be dear, but searching for absolute perfection led to ruin. She knew the master she would eventually serve, and he understood that. He had taught her that.

Anh's first lover was her room attendant, and it didn't really surprise her that the young woman, Shizuru Viola, who was much like herself in many ways, should be the one to cross the lines of coy and overt flirtation, making for something impossible to resist. Shizuru wore nothing on her sleeve. Shizuru wore only a mask, a charming smile that was often accompanied by a polite or teasing-tempting remark.

"One of these days," Anh said while she and Shizuru were in bed together. "One of these days you're going to fall in love."

"And who says I'm not," Shizuru asked with a devilish smirk and then rolled over on her side and said, "Well, I guess I'm not. What about you?"

"No," Anh confessed sadly. "No, but I do like you and I… I wanted you, want you."

Shizuru closed her eyes and nodded. "There are too many pretty girls for me to ever decide on one."

"You'll change your mind."

"How do you know?"

Anh shut her eyes and took a deep breath. She grimaced, a mirthless almost pained grin, and then she said, "Because I've seen behind that smile of yours. You want something you can't let go of."

Shizuru shook her head. "I want to be an Otome more."

"Right." Anh said and leaned back into the bedding.

But that conversation ended things, Anh had had a feeling it would, though they would remain close.

Anh had one night stands. Not many, but enough. Some happened under the influence of her nemesis alcohol, and others were conducted soberly and were often sobering. Amid those one night stands one always remained with her more than any other. It caught her up in regret though that wasn't quite the appropriate word for what she felt. She treasured her mistakes. She treasured the one she made on the eve of her graduation, the one she made the morning of.

Her fellow graduates wanted a night to remember. They went out to a club in the city. Anh looked at the shot of alcohol placed in front of her and raised an eyebrow finding her common sense in battle with that stubborn streak that refused to be beaten. She took the shot.

Anh never lost her memory. She never drank enough for that. She didn't need to drink that much. One was enough to lower the walls she built up around her, and one was enough to get her into trouble. Trouble was fun to get into though. Trouble was freeing and it was, after all, her last night to really be free. The rest of her days would find her tied to a master.

The night was filled with memories. There was the fun of chasing after a few of her friends. Fiar slapped her, twice, for trying to steal another kiss. Someone sang karaoke, but it wasn't Anh because she was occupied on the other side of the club. Getting tangled up in an embrace she hadn't expected and then fumbling outside so that she and the woman she had found there could get a room.

She woke as the dawn broke and faint still cool light began to chase the dark from the room. She grinned as she held her hand to her head, slightly hung over. Memory did not betray her as the evenings concluding events played wistfully through her mind, a face and a name accompanying images. She found herself blushing half-embarrassed, half-regretful (but that word never felt quite right).

She pulled herself up and leaned into the headboard. She looked at the woman sleeping by her side and wished she hadn't had a drink the night before. If only because it would be too easy to blame what happened on that. She chuckled softly and realized that there could be no blame in that single shot and so she turned slightly and trailed her fingers down the woman's back.

"Professor," she said softly.

The woman murmured and turned her head slightly.

"Youko," Anh whispered, unhampered by the need for formalities, toying with the loose curls of hair around the woman's face.

"Five more minutes, Midori," the woman said, still asleep, but the sound of her own voice and the name she uttered made her open her eyes. She hid her face in her pillow when she saw Anh and then she turned over on her back, hand over her eyes. "That was unfortunate."

"Someone I should know about, Professor," Anh asked.

"No." Youko smiled and said, "It's all…" She paused and then asked, "What time is it?"

"Six."

Youko sighed in relief. "You caught me with all my walls down last night."

"I know," Anh said, and decided she didn't want to have the usual morning conversations that followed nights of passion. She dipped down and kissed along the side of the older woman's neck. "Do you regret it?"

"No. You certainly…" She shut her eyes and took in a sharp breath as Anh reached her shoulder and took a soft bite. "This is a change."

"Is it?"

"Aren't mornings like this supposed to be filled with apologies and excuses?" Youko asked and chuckled as the young woman now on top of her dragged her hand up her side.

"Sorry," Anh said. "Forgot about that ticklish spot."

"Where have you been hiding all this time?"

"Hmm?" She was kissing down the older woman's chest, resting her head at the brunette's stomach when she felt the subtle command to pause, arms wrapping up around her back and elegant fingers drifting up to tangle in Anh's brown hair.

"Well, you take commands well enough," Youko said softly. "You know this doesn't go beyond morning, right?"

"Yes."

"No sudden regrets at the graduation ceremony? Or, predecessor forbid-"

"I'm not going to risk everything I've strived for on a fling," Anh said, and then realized how harsh it sounded. "I mean-"

"Don't apologize for telling the truth." She shut her eyes and trailed her hands down the young woman's back. "You're lovely," Youko said softly. "I doubt I'd have stood much of a chance against you even without the drinks I'd had last night."

"You sound…" She shut her eyes and nuzzled the flat of the older woman's stomach, leaving a kiss, suddenly finding herself free to continue on her original course. Taking her time to indulge in this one last affair, savoring the feel, the sounds, and the emotions of every second until they had to stop and prepare for the day ahead of them.

*****

Anh Lu smirked when she saw the Headmistress of Garderobe and the Third Pillar Shizuru Viola have an intense moment at the end of what was to become known as the Wind Incident. She didn't think she had been spotted peering at them, but suddenly Shizuru looked over at her. The Meister grinned and gently pulled away from the Headmistress.

"I've been meaning to ask you," Shizuru said softly as she stepped towards Anh.

"I think the answer is clearer than you think, Meister Viola," Anh said and was about to walk away but was stopped by Shizuru's inescapable grip.

"Anh?"

"I don't have any regrets, do you?"

Shizuru shook her head and released her hold.

"I should check in on His Majesty," Anh said and stepped away. She got about ten steps before she spied Professor Youko speaking in hushed tones with a redheaded woman from the Aswald. She paused briefly and then continued on her way, thinking herself unnoticed.

"Shizuru," Natsuki Kruger, the Headmistress of Garderobe, said to draw the woman's attention.

Shizuru turned with an odd expression on her face.

"What just happened?"

"Nothing," Shizuru replied. But that's the problem, she thought. She grinned then and asked playfully, "Hey, Natsuki, what do you say to me sewing a heart to your sleeve?"

"I… What?"

End.