disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to les.
notes: I am so hot for Ryuko it's ridiculous.

title: you, on fire
summary: On the beginnings. — AU; Uzu/Satsuki, Ryuko, Mako.

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It was dark and hot.

The beat hit him hard, fluid and heady as the alcohol sloshing in Inumata's girlfriend's abandoned cup. They'd gone somewhere, and Uzu was alone. Lost in the crowd of people, up too close, sweet liquid tar in his lungs. And that was when he heard:

"C'moooooon, Sats, you're being boring. Come dance! That is why we're here, 'member?"

It was a girl, hair wild and short and flickering between red and black beneath the strobe. She stood tall with her shoulders throw back, all low-slung jeans and leather bandeau with something sharp between her teeth, grinning awfully at a woman with long hair.

"I didn't ask to be here, Ryuko," said the woman, arms folded across her chest.

"Yeah, yeah, I know, you'd rather be at home, doodlin' or whatever. You gotta get out sometimes, sis, you're gonna die alone and unhappy!"

"And it's your prerogative to imply that I can't do exactly as I please?"

"Ugh, whatever, be lame," the first girl sighed, after a long, drawn-out silence as they eyed each other. Even across the bar, the tension between the pair of them was palpable. "I'm gonna go find Mako, and when I get back, you better be on the dance floor."

"And if I'm not?"

The girl in jeans ran a hand through her wild hair, snickers spilling out of a shark's smile. "Then I'll make you, yeah?"

"Don't test me, sister," said the woman, eyes turned to ice.

"Don't test me," sang the girl, laughing horribly, "sister. I'll shave your eyebrows off again!"

"You little brat," but her mouth twisted fondly.

"You like me," said the girl, turned on one heel. She shot a last glance over her shoulder. "I'm not kidding, if you're not out there when I get back, I'll drag you out."

"Over my cold, dead body, Ryuko."

"Going now!" the girl—Ryuko—shouted, but she wasn't looking at the woman anymore. She disappeared into the crowd; her hair flickering in the light was the last thing he remembered of her.

The woman sank back against the wall with a sigh, her collarbones in sharp relief as light dripped over her. Uzu didn't know when he'd gotten close enough to see that, but he had—he'd crossed the room without realizing, probably glaze-eyed and stumble-footed, all for a woman whose name he would probably never know.

She was beautiful, though.

Stunning, really.

Her dress was the colour of ink, the same as her hair, high around the thighs for all its plunging neckline. She watched the world with old eyes, strange eyes, cruelty and loveliness hidden in the curve of her lip like a kiss. Light hit the glass in her hand, bright and sick, and illuminated it the colour of fresh blood.

When she drank, the lines of her throat were pale like chalk.

Something jumped in his throat, a pulse that he didn't know he had. There was a wanting in him, suddenly, burning low and furious in his stomach for need of her. She turned her head, stared off into the distance, swaying with the pulse and haze around them.

A prickle of awareness hit him, then, and he realized she was looking right at him.

(She was a bright little spark of starlight in the empty dome of the universe; he was drawn to her like a moth to flame. He reached—)

"Oh my god, I can't even fucking believe you," a voice sighed. She'd come back, one hand hooked around her hip and the other twined through a tiny turtle girl's. The sisters had like eyes, the pair of them (he valiantly tried not to feel like a creep, and failed spectacularly), the blue-white of steel and flashing cold. Ryuko's eyes were hot with annoyance, and she stomped until the woman's attention left him (desperately differently).

"You're seriously still standing there? That's it, I'm taking this out of your hands. Mako—" Ryuko dislodged the tiny turtle girl from her waist "—meet me out there? I need to get my dear sister to see sense."

The tiny turtle girl's laughter was a fall of sound that meant nothing. Uzu barely noticed her leave, and then she was gone, and it was only the three of them, again.

The music changed, turned slow and predatory.

"—come now? You like this song."

He could tell that she did.

"Fine," the woman said, frowning, the lines of her mouth pulling down. "Only the one song."

"Yes," Ryuko hissed, and slung an arm around her sister's shoulders as she pushed off from the wall. "I knew you'd give in."

"Just this once," the woman said.

She didn't look back to find him, but Uzu wasn't expecting anything so important from her. There was no one else like her in the entirety of space. That kind of matchless drive did not extend to the slums of the world.

He would watch her, though, until her consumed everyone here, whole.

For a minute, she stood on the dance floor, all alone. Her sister and her sister's friend melted into the crowd as though they'd never been, and she stood by herself, still as stone.

And then the music took her like a wave.

She moved with it like it was sewn into her skin, the bass drop a mirror for the sinuous shrug of her shoulders. Her hips were a metronome, the push and pull of the tide; arms in the air and light shivering down her hair, she danced slowly and without regard to anyone else in the room. There was a foot of space around her, golden opportunity, but no one infringed.

Her eyes were closed.

Uzu could see the wild streak in her, now; on her sister it was beacon, burning in the red of her hair and the smirk in her eyes, but on her—on her, it was different. Undulated with a different flavour, quieter but no less real.

Sweat slicked down her back. Uzu thought he was going to choke for lack of air.

The world tilted on its axis, went relaxed all thick and syrupy. He watched her as she changed beneath the light and the music, loosening into something less than entirely human. The line of her body, the sharp jut of her hip—

He didn't realize he was slack-jawed with awe until she stopped moving entirely. The music tapered off. The room breathed for her, the sweep of her bangs over her forehead, the lovely line of her jaw.

Over her shoulder, she caught his eye.

(Again. Again. Again.)

There was something there.

A maybe, he thought.

"One song, Ryuko," she was saying to her whining younger sister, from very far away. "I'm going home."

She was the swell of movement, heading outwards.

For a second, Uzu didn't know what to do.

The possibilities were endless. He should really go back and find Inumuta—but he was already following her, as she went. She didn't look back at him again, but he knew that she knew that he was there. They slipped out of the doorway, night air cool on his skin. She didn't shiver when the wind blew. Uzu already knew that he was going to follow her off the edge of the world. He was going to do it, and going to be glad of it.

Gods, he didn't even know her name.

But she was everything.

Absolutely everything.

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fin.