Story: Kaleido Stages of Love (all chapters)

Authors: HuntressDarkmoon

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Chapter 1

Title: Stage 1: Crawl

[Author's notes:

Heya! This is my first fic to go public.  I hope it's received well, even though it's kind of short. No worries, tho', because I have two more chapters lined up for this series.

 Timewise, this takes place just after the first season of Kaleido Star ends.  Layla's injuries from training have not healed and Sora is getting used to a Kaleido Stage without her idol in the limelight.

This chapter is light romance, mainly. However, each progressive chapter will see an increased rating.  So be warned.  The T rating on this fic does *not* stand for the following two chapters.

Please note that I do not own any of these characters and am not making any money from this fic.  Please don't sue me. I have no money, anyway.

That's all for now.  Enjoy!


High above the floor, a single tightrope stretched across the length of Kaleido Stage’s center ring. Only a few feet beneath it were two more tightropes, each two feet to the left and right of the main rope above. Far below a safety net lay in wait as a small figure leaped and danced high above, oblivious to everything besides her and the tightropes.

Sora, hard at work practicing a new routine, had her mind focused on every move, every turn that she had programmed into the show. She, Anna and Mia had carefully choreographed every move to make the most out of Sora’s talent. Even after her final performance with Layla, Sora still needed a lot of practice, so when the new program had been approved, she had spent many of her waking hours practicing. It’s what Layla would do, she told herself.

Stopping on the platform at the end of the highest rope, Sora stared wistfully out over the Kaleido Stage. It was only a month ago that she and Layla had performed in front of a sold out house. Only a month since Layla had confessed after that performance she could never perform again. After months of trying to gain Layla’s friendship, Sora had been devastated to find that they would only be partners for that one shining night.

Staring across the empty rows of seats, Sora could still hear the cheering of the crowd that night. She could still feel how her entire body had tingled and thrummed as she and Layla had floated high above the crowd. Sora shivered from the memory and wrapped her arms around her shoulders.


The cry from below brought Sora from her thoughts back to the present. Down below, Marion and Jonathan, the tiny seal who had become something of a mascot, cavorted around. Actually, it seemed as if Jonathan was doing the cavorting and Marion was doing the chasing. The two of them scampered beneath the safety net, causing Sora to suck in a frightened breath and then bite back a sharp warning. However, as soon as they had come, they had gone.

"I wonder what that was all about?" Sora mused aloud to herself. She stretched a bit and got ready to continue with her practice.

As Sora prepared to continue with her practice, she didn’t notice that Jonathan’s flipper had tangled in and pulled loose one of the safety net’s ropes. The baby seal, knowing nothing more than something was pulling at his flipper, had yanked the rope hard with his teeth and scampered away, leaving the safety net teetering precariously to one side.

Unaware of this danger, Sora stepped to the edge of the platform and gingerly slid one foot onto the main tightrope. She began her routine again, leaping between the three ropes, going over the music and timing in her mind, all the while, unknowing of the potential danger below her. As she landed on one of the bottom ropes, Sora turned to leap to the higher one again when a sudden clank from below caused her foot to slip.

"Aah!!" Sora cried out in surprise as she leaned backwards and her remaining foot slid from the rope beneath it.

Looking below her, Sora tried to position herself toward the center of the net, which is when she saw the support pole in one corner of the safety net had fallen to the sawdust strewn floor below. Her blood froze as the hard floor came at her at dizzying speed. Sora was sure she would impact at any second when she suddenly felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her just before she hit the floor. The pair was jarred to the floor by Sora’s speed and they let out a chorused ‘oof’.

The fallen safety net lay around the pair on the floor. Sora was almost afraid to open her eyes and see who had broken her fall. Perhaps Ken? But the arms that had so carefully caught her did not feel like his. She slowly opened her eyes and found herself staring into the crystal blue eyes of Layla. In order to catch Sora, the former star of Kaleido Stage had freed her wounded right arm from its sling, which now hung limply around her neck. The pair sat in a heap on the floor of the stage; Layla’s face twisted in pain and Sora somewhere between shock and relief.

"Layla!" Sora got to her feet as soon as her senses allowed. She kneeled beside the former star and bowed her head. "Thank you so much. You saved me! I didn’t know. . .The net. . ." She looked up and saw Layla gingerly setting her arm back in the sling.

Although it had been a month since Layla’s injury had ended her career, her shoulder had not healed enough for her to go without the sling for very long. Sora realized Layla may have just re-injured her shoulder for her sake. She blushed, embarrassed, and looked up at Layla shyly from under her bangs.

"Are you okay?" Sora asked hesitantly.

Layla rocked forward onto her knees and nodded. A drop of sweat crept down her temple and Sora knew she was holding her pain in again. Adjusting her wounded arm in the sling, Layla carefully got to her feet. She reached down with her uninjured arm and pulled Sora to her feet.

"What happened?" Layla demanded.

Sora shrugged. "I. . .I don’t know. The safety net just came loose. I’m sorry."

Layla lay her free hand on Sora’s shoulder and a faint smile broke through her pain. She looked up at the three ropes, nostalgia passing across her eyes like a cloud. She tore her eyes away from her former playground and looked back at Sora. "New act?"

"Yes." Sora nodded with a grin. "I’m still practicing. But I hope you’ll see the show when it’s ready."

No sooner had she said that, then Sora realized how dumb it sounded. Of course Layla would watch the show. She always watched the shows, even though she could no longer participate. Sora groaned at her own ignorance and leaned over to grab her towel from a nearby barrel. Draping it over her shoulders, Sora dried her damp forehead quickly. It was then she noticed Layla still gazing up at the tightropes.

"Um. . Layla?" Sora began, hesitantly. For some reason, she always became tongue-tied in the woman’s presence. The blush in her cheeks grew and Sora averted her eyes.

"Hmm?" Layla looked away from the stage with a sigh. As she turned toward Sora, a shock of pain shot up her shoulder and she was nearly brought to her knees. Only Sora’s quickly lent arm gave the older woman the support she needed to stay on her feet.

"Oh, you’ve hurt your shoulder again," Sora worried. "It’s my fault, Layla. I’m so sorry.

"I’m okay," Layla lied around another wave of pain.

Sora took Layla’s free arm and guided her out of the arena. "No, you’re not. Come on, you need to rest."

Providing no resistance, Layla followed Sora from the arena. "Fine. But not here. There are too many people who would fawn over me right now. I want to get both me and my injury away from here."

Sora nodded, bit her lip and decided on the dorms. She walked Layla back to the area where most of the cast members of Kaleido Stage lived and helped her up the stairs to the room where Sora lived. Upon entering, Sora set Layla in a chair and hastily scoured the small apartment until she found Fool, lounging in the bathroom, no doubt awaiting Sora’s return.

"Ah, Sora, you have retur-."

Fool didn’t have time to finish as Sora scooped him up in one hand and bound him with a roll of dental floss that had been peeking out of the medicine cabinet. Protesting, Fool soon found himself tossed under the sink to land ungracefully between a sponge and a bottle of cleaner. The cabinet door closed and Fool could only wonder what had prompted Sora’s sudden actions against him.

Returning to Layla, Sora smiled innocently, hoping the older woman had forgotten about the pesky spirit of the stage. Layla had barely noticed Sora’s absence as she leaned back in the chair Sora had placed her in. She had untied the sling and now rested her right arm on the table. Moving beside Layla, Sora looked at the discarded sling.

"Um. . .I’m sorry," was all Sora could bring herself to say. She cursed inwardly at her cowardice. She had Layla in her room and all she could do was apologize? These two had shared one of the most intense training regimes ever seen in Kaleido Stage and Sora still acted as if Layla was some unreachable goddess. Hadn’t they trained side by side for those long months? What couldn’t Sora get out anything but apologies, then?

Sora’s answer came when Layla turned her blue eyes to her. Suddenly lost in those crystalline depths, Sora felt herself falling forward, wanting with all her being to be closer to the blonde woman. She caught herself staring and averted her eyes in shame again. Some things never changed, she though bitterly. Sora would always turn into a weaker version of herself when caught in the even gaze of those strong eyes.

"Sora." Layla’s soft voice brought the younger of the two back to the present. "You can relax."

"But-" Sora protested.

Layla held up a hand, a faint smile playing across her face. "I’m fine."

"Well, at least come sit on the couch. It’s more comfortable."

Sora helped Layla to her feet and helped settle her on the couch. It was a new addition to her small room; Anna and Mia had helped Sora drag it into the room a few days ago. Now Layla sat on it and Sora didn’t know if she should join her or not.

"I’ll, uh, get you a drink." With that, Sora busied herself with glasses and ice. Anything to keep her mind from wandering back to the radiant beauty sitting in her room that moment. When she returned with two drinks, she passed one to Layla and then took hers to stand by the window.

Layla looked up at Sora, slightly confused. "Sora?" She smiled and patted the couch cushion beside her. "Why don’t you join me?"

Gazing back at her idol, Sora’s throat went dry and she gulped. Her body began to shake despite every attempt to make it stop. She moved slowly over to the couch and lowered herself to Layla’s left. Silence prevailed for a tense moment until Layla spoke up.

"So, are you ready to do it?"

Sora jumped and jerked her head toward Layla. "What?!"

"The show?" Layla quirked an eyebrow at Sora’s reaction. "Are you ready to do the new show?"

Once Sora’s heart settled back in her chest, she managed to nod. "Uh, yes, I think so." She paused and noticed a sad expression cross Layla’s face. "You really miss performing, don’t you?"

"Hmm. . ." Layla closed her eyes momentarily before looking back at Sora. "I do. At first, it really hurt to watch the shows going on and realize I was no longer a part of them."

Sora lowered her eyes. "I’m sorry."

"Don’t be," Layla said. Her left hand trailed to Sora’s knee and her eyes softened. "It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to."

"Layla. . .if it hurts so much to watch the shows, why do it?"

The gentle hand on Sora’s knee tightened briefly. "One reason." Layla’s blue eyes caught Sora’s amber ones and conveyed the answer wordlessly. Layla took her hand from Sora’s knee and gently caressed the girl’s cheek.

"Layla. . ."

"You’re so much like I was when I first started out," Layla said, resting her hand on Sora’s cheek. "And I can see the potential in you to become the next star of Kaleido Stage. That’s why I still watch."

Sora blinked. Feeling Layla’s hand on her cheek made her flush and her heart pound in her chest. "Because. . .of me? Layla. . .I. . ."

"Shh." Layla laid her finger over Sora’s lips and smiled, her eyes holding Sora’s gaze firmly. "You were never just my partner. You were always so much more to me. I just never told you because of my stubborn pride."

"Told me what?" Sora managed to whisper from her dry throat.

Layla’s hand slid back to Sora’s cheek and she tilted the girl’s face up toward hers. Slowly moving forward to gauge Sora’s reaction, Layla let her lips brush gently against Sora's. "Told you that I loved you."

In that instant, it seemed that everything Sora had ever wanted had just been handed to her on a silver platter. She stared at Layla for a moment, hoping this was not some kind of cruel dream. When she found the look in Layla’s eyes to be nothing but sincere, Sora felt a tear escape her defenses and trace its way down her cheek. The more she tried to hold back her joy, the more the tears came. Finally, Sora threw herself forward into Layla, wrapping her arms around the older woman tightly.

A little unsure of Sora’s reaction, Layla sighed and rolled her eyes patiently before laying her left arm across Sora’s back to sooth her. As much as her right shoulder was bothering her, Layla refused to give into the pain at the moment. It had taken her so long to realize her feelings for Sora, she was not going to let physical pain interfere with the moment she had chosen to confess. She gently stroked Sora’s back as Sora sobbed with relief against Layla’s chest. It wasn’t long before Sora’s crying subsided enough for her to regulate her breathing again. Sora hiccuped once and laid her head on Layla’s chest while Layla continued to stroke her back and hair.

"You’re serious?" Sora ventured in a quaking voice. "This isn’t some kind of joke?"

"No joke," Layla said. She leaned down to kiss Sora on the top of her head. It was then that her shoulder twinged and she drew in a sharp breath.

"Oh." Sora sat up, realizing Layla had been putting weight on her injured shoulder. "Your shoulder."

Layla shifted on the couch until her shoulder relented and the pain died to a dull throb. "It’ll be fine." She drew the back of her hand down Sora’s cheek and smiled. "Nothing can hurt me now."

Sora took Layla’s hand in her own and held it against her cheek. "Me too."

To Be Continued in "Stage 2: Walk"

Chapter 2

Title: Stage 2: Walk

[Author's notes:

Same disclaimers as before.  I don't own these characters, ect, ect.  All I can take credit for is the plot.

This chapter gets a slightly high rating than the previous for minor sexual content, but nothing severe. . .Yet.



The backstage area of Kaleido Stage was alive with activity that night. As patrons filed in to their seats, actors, costumers and techies scrambled around to get the finishing touches ready for the night’s show. It was the opening night for their new act and everyone wanted it to be perfect. Everyone, including a tense young woman who stood as still as she could while a seamstress repaired a rip in the costume she wore.

"Honestly, Sora, can’t you keep still for two seconds?" the seamstress asked. She pulled the needle and thread taut, made a firm knot and then severed the thread from the garment with her teeth, lacking scissors.

"I’m nervous," Sora admitted. "It’s a new show, after all. What if they don’t like it? What if I mess up?"

The seamstress shook her head and threw her hands up in the air. "What if the sky falls down? You worry too much, little Kaleido Star. Now, get ready to show them what you’ve got."

Sora nodded and joined Mia and Anna, who were almost finished warming up. Still bouncing on her toes, Sora looked over at her friends, wondering if they were as keyed up as she was. Opening night was rough on everyone, but for some reason Sora always felt as if it hit her the hardest.

This night would be especially nerve-wracking for her. Not only because it was a brand new show, but because she knew of one person who would be watching her alone. Layla. The thought of the tall, blond woman with her cool blue eyes made Sora’s knees weak and she subtly stabilized herself on the edge of a table.

"Sora," Mia said firmly. "Calm down, girl! You’re making me jumpy."

Nodding, Sora tried to calm her thoughts. It had been barely a week since she and Layla had shared their true feelings for each other. Barely a week since Layla had first kissed Sora tenderly. Sora’s stomach still fluttered when she thought back on that moment. Since then, the pair had been kept apart, due to scheduling mainly. While Sora’s training schedule kept her tied to Kaleido Stage, Layla had been out of town to answer a casting call for a new movie. Sora hadn’t seen Layla since that night, nearly one agonizing week ago. However, tonight that would change.

Sora peeked out to the stage and watched the crowd gathering slowly. She knew she’d never be able to pick Layla out of such a huge crowd. People pressed in on each other, finding their seats and sending people out one by one to get refreshments for the group. The house was packed that night and everyone knew it. Still, there was only one that Sora wanted to see.

"I don’t see her. . ." Sora sighed. She turned to the backstage area to come face to face with Mia and Anna.

"Don’t see who? Hmm?" Mia asked with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

Sora waved her hands in front of her and shook her head. "Uh, no one! No one. I’m just. . .Uh. . .Nothing."

Mia and Ann shared a knowing smile and Mia patted Sora on the shoulder. "Well, it’s almost time for the show to start. We’d better get to our places." The pair walked off to find their places and make any last second preparations.

Lowering her eyes, Sora let out a deep sigh. She had hoped to catch a glimpse of Layla before the show, but that didn’t look like a possibility at this point. She leaned her back against a large backdrop and clasped one hand at her chest. The others around her were taking their places and Sora knew it was time for her to get to her position, as well. She pushed herself forward and opened her eyes, lifting them from the floor to find Layla standing before her, holding a bouquet of flowers. Her right arm was still in its sling, even though Layla was healing remarkably well.

Sora’s breath caught in her throat and she found herself unable to speak momentarily. Layla smiled down at her. "Shouldn’t you be in your place?" The blond woman asked with a sly smile.

"Layla," Sora breathed. "I was just going, actually. I. . .didn’t expect to see you."

"I told you I’d be here, sweetling," Layla said. "My flight was delayed, so I’m a bit late. Now, go. I’ll see you afterwards. We’ll celebrate."

Layla cupped Sora’s cheek in her palm and bent down to gently kiss her on the lips. Sora’s heart begged to stay there for just a moment longer, but she knew where she had to be at that moment. And Layla had promised to see her after the show. Drawing back, Sora smiled, nodded and took off to take her place before showtime.

The show went well for its first night. Any performing and technical issues seemed to have been caught before the first show. Cues were made on time. Props were where they should have been. Things could not have gone better than they had. As the show wrapped up, the audience leaped to their feet, clapping and cheering wildly. The cast of Kaleido Stage bowed, each of them worn to the bone, but surging with a pride known only to actors. One by one, the cast left the stage as the audience members began to file out of the arena.

The hyper trio of Sora, Mia and Anna came bursting into the female dressing room, giddy from their success. They talked back and forth, commenting on each others successes and trading little foul ups that the audience would never know about. Just inside the dressing room, Sora came to a halt; Mia and Anna running into her from behind.

"Hey!" Mia cried. "What’s up, Sora?" She and Anna looked around their friend to see Layla. The former star sat in the dressing room, waiting, a bouquet of flowers on the table before her. Mia and Anna exchanged confused glances. "Wha-?"

"Layla!" Sora leaped forward suddenly, leaving Mia and Anna standing, confused, in the doorway. Sora nervously approached Layla and the blond woman reached up to take Sora’s hand in her own. "So. . .What did you think?"

"Marvelous," Layla said with a smile. "You truly shone out there tonight, Sora."

"Uh. . ." Mia came forward, casting a bewildered look between Layla and Sora. "Sora. . .umm. . ."

Anna, catching on to the situation, took Mia by the shoulder and pulled her toward the door. "Come on, Mia. I think we forgot some of the props on stage."

As Mia was dragged out the door, she kept her eyes on the odd pair at the table. Anna gave one last tug and Mia disappeared from the door before it shut, leaving Sora and Layla alone.

Once they were alone, Sora fell to her knees before Layla and lay her head in Layla’s lap. She snuggled against the older woman, breathing in her light scent. Layla smiled down at Sora, placing her hand on Sora’s head. The pair stayed that way, enjoying each others company, for a moment. Then Sora looked up to meet Layla’s eyes.

"You really enjoyed the show?"

A mischievous flash crossed Layla’s eyes. "Well. . ." she began, "there were a few areas you could have improved on." She laughed in the back of her throat at Sora’s distressed look. "I’m kidding. You were wonderful." She picked the bouquet up from the table and handed it to Sora. "Here. I got these for you."

Sora took the flowers and held them to her breast. "For me? Thank you."

Layla brushed her hand down Sora’s hair and got to her feet. "Get dressed. I’ll be waiting outside for you."

"Hmm? Why?"

"Didn’t I tell you? We’re going out to celebrate."

Outside, Mia and Anna were listening at the door. They strained to hear anything above the din in the hallways as the cast and crew continued to mill about. Finally, Mia sighed and shook her head.

"I can’t hear a thing. Can you?"

Anna screwed up her face in concentration. "No-"

The door swung open then. Too shocked to know what to do, Mia and Anna stood face to face with Layla, silently watching. The pair of eavesdroppers straightened up and moved aside to let Layla through. The graceful woman smiled faintly down at them and nodded once.

"Ladies." With that, she headed toward one of the lounges used by the cast.

Immediately, Mia and Anna burst into the dressing room. Sora, sitting at her dressing table, looked up at the pair, a broad grin nearly splitting her face. Before her on the table sat a vase of fresh flowers, oddly identical to the ones Layla had been carrying earlier. The pair converged on Sora before she could escape.

"What’s this all about?" Mia asked.

"What’s what?" Sora was no good at playing coy and it showed.

Anna jerked a thumb toward the door. "Layla’s waiting in one of the lounges. Do you know why?"

Blushing, Sora smiled at her friends but still refused to tell them anything. She continued getting changed into her street clothes. All the while she dodged her friends questions about why she was hanging out with Layla. Sora simply told them that she and Layla had things in common they wanted to discuss. However, the heated flush in her cheeks told her friends Sora was hiding something.

When she was finished changing, Sora headed to the door, waving to Mia and Anna as she left. The door shut on two very confused and curious friends. Turning toward the lounges, Sora felt her heart leap in her chest. To think that Layla was actually waiting for her made the butterflies she felt in her stomach increase tenfold.

Tentatively peeking around the corner to one of the lounges, Sora saw Layla sitting on one of the couches, talking with a few others of the company. Sora felt a twinge of sadness at Kaleido Stage’s loss of Layla as a performer. It seemed as if her fans, even among the cast, hadn’t given up on her.

"Um. . ." Sora hesitantly stepped forward. "Layla?"

Turning in her seat, Layla’s eyes caught sight of Sora and her face softened visibly. She excused herself from the others, much to the dismay of several of them, and rose to join Sora in the doorway. "Ready?"

Sora nodded, although she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be ready for. "I think so." She swallowed a lump in her throat as Layla reached out for her hand.

"Don’t be scared," Layla said quietly. "It’s just dinner at my place."

That made Sora’s heart leap again. "D-dinner. . .? At your place?"

"That," Layla began, "and I thought I’d give you a few pointers on your routine from tonight. That is, if you don’t mind being taught by me?"

Sora shook her head vehemently. "No, not at all. Please, anything you could show me would be great!"

The pair left the Kaleido Stage building where a car with tinted windows sat waiting for Layla. The driver opened the door for the pair and Sora slid into the plush leather seating after Layla. As the door closed, Sora looked around the car, realizing it was the most luxurious she had ever ridden in. She drew her hands into her lap and tried not to touch anything. With a gentle tug, the car slid into gear and they were off for Layla’s home.

The first part of the drive was slightly nerve-wracking for Sora, who didn’t know what she should say, if anything. She nervously fiddled with her hands in her lap and glanced out the window as the scenery passed by. A few moments into the car ride, Layla laughed in the back of her throat and laid a gentle hand on Sora’s fidgeting hands.

"We’ll be there in a few minutes," Layla said. She looked down at Sora. "I missed you while I was gone."

Sora’s face brightened. "Really? I missed you, too."

With a faint smile, Layla put her arm around Sora’s shoulders and hugged her. Sora snuggled against the older woman, happy just to be in her presence again. She tentatively reached a hand up to Layla’s right shoulder and laid her fingers lightly across the sling. Layla looked at her encouragingly.

"It’s getting better," she assured Sora. "I only keep the sling on when I leave the house. Too much of a risk to leave it unprotected. In fact. . ." Layla released Sora and began to remove the sling from around her neck. Finding it caught on the seatbelt, Layla sighed and sat back.

"Let me," Sora volunteered. Her nimble fingers worked deftly at the knot in the sling and she soon had it freed. Gingerly pulling at the fabric, Sora gathered up the sling and folded it neatly in her lap.

Layla seemed relieved to have the cloth contraption gone and warily rotated her shoulder twice. "It should be fine for tonight. Just a bit stiff." Her left hand strayed to her wounded right shoulder and clasped it as her eyes became distant. "I’m just lucky to have made it through my last performance. Kate was so mad at me."

Sora didn’t know what to say. She knew Layla had injured her shoulder while training in the Grand Canyon, however, she never knew that their last performance together would be the nail in the coffin of Layla’s career. "I wish it could have been different."

As the car pulled up to Layla’s mansion, the older woman nodded once. "Me too." She released her seatbelt as the driver opened the door for them. "But it’s not to late for you to pick up where I left off. Come on."

Moments later, Sora and Layla were standing in Layla’s private training area. Sora was always amazed that Layla had her own practice equipment in her house. She was even more surprised, however, that Layla had kept it all intact, even though she would never use it again.

Sora was leery of practicing in her street clothes and was relieved when Layla offered her one of her old leotards to borrow. She changed quickly, happy that Layla had something that would fit her smaller frame. The thin cloth hugged her every curve like a second skin, leaving very little to the imagination. Although used to being this exposed on stage, having a one-on-one session with Layla made Sora suddenly shy.

"Now," Layla said, as she indicated the tightrope stretched only a foot off the floor, "we’ll start here."

Nodding, Sora shed her shoes and hopped up on the tightrope. She got her balance and looked to Layla for guidance. Layla reached out a hand to Sora’s waist and began to give her directions on how to better keep her balance, especially so high above the stage. Sora listened intently, nodding to convey her understanding and asking questions when she didn’t quite get the concept.

Slowly, Layla walked Sora through her routine. She stayed directly beside Sora the entire time, her slim hand rarely straying from Sora’s waist. After a time, no matter what Layla was describing to Sora, the two of them were rarely out of each other’s grasp for more than a second. As Layla placed both hands on Sora’s waist, the younger woman paused and looked down into those deep blue pools she loved so much to lose herself in.

Their eyes locked momentarily. Sora fought to gain her breath back as it was stolen not only from the exercise but also from gazing at Layla’s beauty. Gently, Layla tightened her grip on Sora’s waist and lifted her off the tightrope to the floor. She barely made it before her right shoulder gave out on her, causing her to suck in a quick, pained breath. The pain drove her to her knees on the padded practice mat beneath her.

Sora was instantly at Layla’s side, bracing her as best she could. "Are you okay? You shouldn’t have done that."

Layla leaned against Sora’s shoulder with a look of chagrin on her face. She looked down at Sora and brushed a lock of Sora’s hair from her face. "Sorry to make you worry. I’m fine."

Smiling in relief, Sora hugged Layla and rested her head against the older woman’s chest. "I’m glad."

Layla sat back on the practice mat to let the wave of pain fade from her shoulder. She took Sora into the crook of her left arm and pulled her close, seeing the worry still lingering in Sora’s eyes. Without a thought, Layla leaned in to close the gap between her and Sora. As Sora looked up, Layla gently pressed her lips against Sora’s.

It had been nearly a week since Sora had last felt Layla’s lips against her own. Sora’s heart pounded against her chest as she relinquished control and gave in to Layla’s unspoken request. Cradled in Layla’s arm, Sora never wanted to move. She could only stare back into Layla’s eyes as they drew apart.

"Every day," Layla said. "I thought of you every day I was gone. And I wondered if you thought of me."

"Always," Sora whispered back past the lump in her throat.

Tilting her head back, Sora gave Layla access as the older woman landed a row of kisses along Sora’s throat to her shoulder blade. She leaned back as Layla pressed forward until Sora felt her back hit the padded mat beneath her. Sora looked up to see Layla, propped on her left elbow above her. Reaching up hesitantly, Sora laid her hand against Layla’s cheek and gently caressed her. Layla shivered at the younger woman’s touch and pressed her cheek into Sora’s palm.

"I love you so much." Layla whispered against Sora’s palm. "I wish I’d known before."

The fingers of her right hand traced gentle lines down Sora’s face to her throat to cup her chin in her palm. Layla leaned in again to kiss Sora’s soft lips and found Sora to be resisting less and less. She pressed in harder, trying to keep her newly released passions bridled for Sora’s sake. She didn’t want to scare the girl off, however, her body was screaming at her to continue.

As Sora gasped for breath around Layla’s insistent kissing, she felt Layla’s right hand slide slowly down to the back of her neck. Layla’s body dipped lower until it contacted Sora’s in a light brush of cloth and skin. Electrified by Layla’s attentions, Sora let a soft moan escape her lips that sounded vaguely like plea for more.

Goaded on by Sora’s weak entreaty, Layla cautiously slid her right hand down Sora's neck to her shoulder and rested it there, tantalizingly, before letting it travel to the very crest of Sora’s breasts. Layla felt the younger girl tense beneath her suddenly and held off her movement until Sora’s eyes met hers, giving her permission.

The thin material of the leotard was the only thing keeping Layla from what lay beneath. But even so, she dared not go too far with Sora so soon. She gently rested her hand on Sora’s breast but made no motion to advance as her lips found Sora’s again. Beneath her, Sora melted into Layla’s embrace, scared and excited all at once.

A sudden rap at the door caused the pair to break apart, each gasping in shock. They looked toward the door, but it did not open. From the other side a voice called, "Miss Layla, dinner is ready."

Flushed and a bit irritated at having been disturbed, Layla ran her hand through her hair with a sigh. She looked down at Sora, grinning. "I guess that’s enough training for tonight."

Sora could barely nod her assent as she gasped for breath on the floor. With Layla’s help, the flustered girl sat up. Layla got to her feet to answer the door as Sora tried to control her breathing. The emotions coursing through her system alone were enough to keep her keyed up all night. Her body’s chemical responses only added to the turmoil she now found herself in. When Layla returned, Sora was still on the floor.

"Need help?" Layla asked, holding out her left hand.

Nodding, Sora gratefully clasped Layla’s hand in her own and shakily got to her feet. She leaned forward, catching herself on Layla by wrapping her arms around the older woman’s waist. Layla placed her good arm over Sora’s shoulder and rested her chin atop the girl’s head.

"Come on, sweetling," Layla whispered. "Dinner’s ready."

As the pair somehow made their way to the door, Sora breathed, "I don’t know if I can eat."

Layla laughed under her breath. "Me neither."

"Do you. . .think we can practice again, soon?" As soon as the question was out, Sora felt a heated flush climb through her entire body.

"Perhaps, sometime soon." Layla would not put time restrictions on this relationship and so kept her answer vague. She kissed Sora’s head lightly as they headed toward the dining room together.

To Be Continued in "Stage 3: Run"

Chapter 3

Title: Stage 3: Run

[Author's notes: Well, it's finally done! After just over a year, I've finally managed to get over some of my writer's block. Enough of it, at least to finish the third part in this series. Thanks to everyone who's read it and especially to those who sent me e-mails!]

Layla sat on the edge of the exam table in Kate’s office, her right arm in its sling, even though she felt as if she could go without it. She had it on for Kate’s sake, who was already up in arms about new tearing in Layla’s shoulder muscles. The young doctor was staring at new x-rays of Layla’s shoulder, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Did you keep the sling on at all outside of my office?” Kate turned her accusatory glare on Layla.

Layla gave Kate a one-shouldered shrug and a sly grin. “Off and on.”

“Off and on,” Kate muttered under her breath. She quickly wrote a prescription, tore the sheet from her pad and passed it to Layla. “I know I can’t keep you from moving about, for whatever reason you may have, so take this. It’s a script for some meds. It may help lessen the pain while you’re gallivanting about.”

Layla nodded. “Thank you, Kate.”

Quickly, before Layla could make a break for the door, Kate laid a hand on Layla’s arm. “Wait. Before you go. . .”


A knowing look came over Kate’s face as she smiled at Layla. “I know you’re not foolish enough to try your old theatrics. What are you doing, then, that you’ve reinjured your arm?”

Layla looked slyly at Kate. “You want to know?”

“Please.” Kate folded her arms across her chest to await Layla’s answer.

Sliding down off the table, Layla grabbed her purse and headed for the door. Before she left, Layla looked over her shoulder. “It’s love.”

After leaving Kate’s office, Layla made a brief stop to pick up her prescription. A short time later, she found herself back at Kaleido Stage. She had been going there every day since she and Sora had their private training session a few days earlier. Unfortunately, that night left Layla’s shoulder feeling sore, which had prompted her to seek Kate’s professional opinion. At this point, though, nothing was going to keep Layla from Sora.

Walking up the main road toward the stage, Layla saw Marion feeding Jonathan in his pool. Ken was fretting on the side of the pool, warning Marion to watch her footing. Seeing him brought a twinge of regret through Layla. Ken had a crush on Sora, but never did anything about it. Sighing, Layla continued up the walkway, putting Ken from her mind. His inaction was not her problem, after all.

Few people milled about Kaleido Stage that day. With the new show firmly in hand, many of the cast and crew took extra time for themselves instead of training. Layla had never been like that and never understood how people could slack off when the only way one could improve was through constant training.

Sora understood that. Layla smiled, thinking on the small, upbeat girl who had stolen her heart. And although she had first started to notice these feelings when they had been training in the Grand Canyon, Layla hadn’t acted on them until only recently. It was something she regretted.

Upon entering the main stage area, Layla found Sora on the tightropes, practicing as always. The athletic girl was high above, going over the routine that she had practiced with Layla only a few days before. Keeping hidden, Layla watched as Sora leaped from one tightrope to another, her body gracefully taking to the routine after hours of practice.

When Sora finally came to land on the platform atop one of the poles, Layla stepped forward, clapping. Sora jumped in shock and looked down to see who was watching her. Seeing Layla, the girl’s face lit up and she waved briefly before swinging down to the ladder and descending to the floor. Sora rushed over to Layla with a smile on her tired face.

“Layla,” Sora chirped happily. “Did you just get here?”

Nodding, Layla placed a gentle hand on Sora’s head and stroked her hair. “Yes. Kate’s up in arms, though. She says I have torn some more muscles in my shoulder.”

Sora drew back, worry clouding her eyes. “Oh. . .Are you okay? It’s my fault, isn’t it? Oh, I knew you hurt yourself again.”

“I’ll be fine.” Layla hugged Sora to her briefly. “I just have to watch what I do for a while. No more lifting you off of tightropes.” She winked conspiratorially.

Sora blushed. “Oh. . .I, um. . .”

Layla smiled and stroked Sora’s head. “Don’t worry about it. Walk with me?”

Sora nodded, grabbed her towel and caught up to Layla with three brisk leaps. She slowly raised her hand to take Layla’s arm, but stopped at a subtle signal from the older woman. Sora put her hands back at her sides and bit her bottom lip. She understood that Layla didn’t want to draw any more attention than they already were.

Once they had left the building, Layla seemed to relax a bit. She looked over at Sora as they walked toward the dorms. “Sorry about that. People. . .tend to talk around here, you know.”

“I know.” Sora nodded.

“So,” Layla continued, “there’s no show tonight. Have any plans?”

Sora’s heart began to thump hard in her chest and a smile spread across her face. “No, not yet. I was thinking of working on the routine for the next show. . .”

“Hmm, then I guess I shouldn’t bother you,” Layla teased.

“No!” Sora cried and then backed off, chagrined. “No, please. I don’t have plans. I mean, I can always practice tomorrow.”

Layla laughed in the way that made Sora’s knees weak. “Well, I was thinking of inviting you over to my place again. You seemed to enjoy it last time.”

“For dinner?” Sora asked innocently.

“For the night.”

Sora stumbled momentarily and fell forward, grabbing a lamppost to keep from hitting the ground. Worried she may have scared the girl, Layla stopped and turned toward her. She watched as Sora leaned against the lamppost for a moment. The younger of the two had one hand against her chest, her eyes staring straight forward. Carefully, Layla approached Sora.


Looking up at Layla, Sora’s eyes were a jumble of emotions. Managing a smile, Sora pushed herself away from the lamppost. “I. . .”

Layla bent down to meet Sora’s eyes. “I’m sorry. That may have been too sudden. You don’t have to.”

Sora’s hands twitched at her sides. Her chest rose and fell raggedly. However, her eyes finally rose to meet Layla’s. Fear played across their amber depths, but not fear for herself. Fear of what might come of Layla’s proposal.

“Hey.” Layla laid a hand on Sora’s shoulder. “Sora?” Her hand reached up to brush Sora’s cheek.

The fear dissipated from Sora’s eyes. She took Layla’s hand in her two and held it against her cheek. Closing her eyes, Sora sighed softly. “Can I. . .come over tonight?”

A faint smile played across Layla’s face. She closed her eyes and nodded once. “Of course you can.” Drawing Sora into a hug, Layla placed her chin gently on the girl’s head. “Of course you can.”

Upon reaching the door to Sora’s room, Sora found herself fumbling for her key. From the corner of her eyes, Sora saw both Mia and Anna peeking around the corner of the building. Mia waved subtly to get Sora’s attention only and then gave her a shrug as to ask what was going on. With a shy smile, Sora averted her eyes and slid through the open door. Layla was close behind and as the door closed behind the pair, Mia sighed.

“We’re never going to find out what’s going on,” Mia griped. She looked up at Anna. “What do you think?”

Anna, devoid of her usual bad jokes, could only shake her head as her cheeks burned red and her eyes remained fixed on Sora’s door. Sighing, Mia took Anna by the elbow and pulled her away.

“You’re hopeless,” she grumbled.

Inside Sora’s room, Layla sat on the small couch she and Sora had shared before to wait. Sora insisted on quickly showering before they left for Layla’s home, as the scent of the stage still clung to her. As Layla waited a small figure floated in from the other room.

“Ah, Layla.” It was Fool who came floating into Layla’s field of vision. “Come to spirit away Sora again?”

“Hello, Fool.” Layla did her best to ignore the spirit as he hovered closer.

Fool crossed his arms over his chest and stared at Layla. “I must know something.”

Sighing, Layla decided to humor the spirit for a moment. “Yes?”

“First, what are your intentions toward Sora? Second, can I watch?”

“Aah!! Fool!!” Sora burst from the bathroom, snatched Fool from mid-air and flung him unceremoniously out the nearest open window. “Sorry, Layla. He just. . .uh. . .Just ignore him.”

Layla’s eyes fell on Sora, as the younger woman was clad only in a bath towel wrapped around her slim frame. “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

Sora looked down at herself, blushed fiercely and quickly excused herself as she nearly fell back into the bathroom. With a silent laugh, Layla got up from the couch and closed the window Fool had flown from. She hoped he had sense enough to stay away until they left for the night. Sora seemed nervous enough as it was.

Returning to the couch to wait, Layla thought on the girl in the shower, the one who had her emotions and her heart preoccupied. Despite her willingness to accompany Layla that night, Sora still seemed nervous as to what the night may entail. Layla would have to move slowly as not to scare her younger partner. However, she also wanted nothing more than to be with her that night. The thought alone made her body quiver, just as it did at the end of a performance. It was a sensation that she had striven her entire life to duplicate.

Aside from the stage, only Sora had been able to give Layla that feeling of exhilaration. And she would do anything to keep the vivacious girl by her side.

Moments later, Sora exited the bathroom, no longer wrapped in a towel, but dressed in a light blue, ankle-length skirt and a simple white shirt with a scoop neck. She stepped forward, shyly, her hands clasped behind her back. “Will this. . .be all right? Mia picked it out for me the last time we went shopping. I didn’t know when I’d need to wear it, but tonight seemed like a good time.”

Layla looked Sora over and gave her an approving nod. She gently swiped her hand down the back of Sora’s hair, which was still damp from the shower. “You look very cute.” Holding out her left arm, Layla asked,” Shall we go?”

Unsure at first what to do, Sora finally reached her right hand out to lay it on Layla’s arm. She smiled up at Layla as they left the room and headed to where Layla had a car waiting for them. Under the watchful eye of Layla’s driver, the pair entered the car and settled in for the drive to Layla’s house.

When they arrived, Sora got out of the car first, her eyes suddenly distant and fixed on a point far in front of her. Layla almost thought she saw the girl trembling at one point. They walked into the mansion, hand in hand. When the door shut behind them, Sora jumped, her hand clutching spasmodically on Layla’s.

“Sora,” Layla said in a gentle tone to get her attention. “Sora!”

Sora jumped and looked up at Layla. “So, um. . .dinner?”

Dinner was short and full of expectation. Both Sora and Layla ate very little, spending most of the time staring across the table at each other. Sora talked about the show, mostly to fill the time than for anything else. Ever the perfectionist, Layla would throw out tips or ideas for Sora’s routine, which Sora took to like a needy child.

“I’m just worried about the next show,” Sora admitted. “The routine is not only on the ropes, but swings as well. I’m still working on some of the transfers.”

Layla got to her feet. “Well, we could always work on that, if you’d like?”

“In the training room?” Sora leaped to her feet, excited at the prospect of getting to use Layla’s private training facility again. “I just love it there.” She came around the table and placed her head under Layla’s outstretched hand like a kitten looking to be pet.

“Not really.”

Layla lowered her hand to Sora’s shoulder and guided her from the dining room to the second floor. They entered a room that was plush and well decorated. Sora glanced around and realized that it was Layla’s room. When the door shut, Sora turned and saw Layla gingerly removing her sling from around her neck.

“Can we. . .train in here?”

Layla stopped and drew Sora directly in front of her. She laid her hands on Sora’s shoulders and looked down at her with a serious glint in her eyes. “Sora. . .” For someone like Layla, to whom words usually came like water, she was having a difficult time getting her thoughts out. "You know why I joined Kaleido Stage, why I loved performing in front of the crowds. I loved the feeling I got when the excitement of the audience would charge through my body. And for a long time, nothing outside of performing could make me feel that way.

"But. . .when we were training in the Grand Canyon, I began to get that same feeling. At first, I thought it was because of the thought of performing the Legendary Great Maneuver, but it became more than that. And it's taken me a long time to figure out exactly what I was feeling."

Taking Sora's chin in her gentle hand, Layla smiled down at the girl softly. Her eyes flooded with emotion that entranced Sora completely. “I love you. More than I’ve ever loved anyone in my whole life.”

“Layla. . .” Sora’s body trembled softly, but not only from nervousness. Her closeness to Layla was filling her senses so everything was blocked out but Layla and her wonderfully deep eyes. "For so long. . .I've wanted to hear you say that for so long."

“So, I don’t want to force you into anything,” Layla continued slowly.

Shaking her head, Sora answered, “No. No, I’m fine. I’m okay. Really. I-“

Layla cut the girl off with a sudden kiss, wrapping her arms around Sora’s waist and drawing her in closely. Sora melted into Layla’s embrace, falling forward into her partner with a willingness that came from love. Still holding Sora, Layla carefully walked backwards until she was standing at the edge of her bed. She gently placed Sora on the bed before kneeling beside her, lovingly caressing her face.

“You’re so beautiful when you’re practicing. So focused,” Layla whispered into Sora’s ear.

Sora turned toward Layla and smiled shyly. “I always think of you when I’m up there. It makes me feel closer to you.”

Layla straddled Sora’s lithe body and stared straight down into her eyes. “What made you stay?” At Sora’s confused look, Layla continued. “The day you arrived at Kaleido Stage, I was so mean to you when you missed the audition. Then I challenged you to perform the Golden Phoenix. What made you hang on for so long?”

“I guess I always was a bit stubborn,” Sora admitted. “But I felt I had something to prove. . .to the attractive woman who had challenged me.”

Leaning down on her elbows, Layla kissed Sora deeply, her eyes smiling from Sora’s answer. It was true that Sora had always met each challenge with a stubborn streak that rivaled that of Layla. That only made the young performer that much more attractive. So much so, that Layla found her body responding only to Sora’s closeness.

“Sora. . .” Layla fell silent, letting her body speak for her. She needed to be with Sora then. No matter what happened, Layla knew one thing for sure, she would always be Sora’s partner.

Reaching up with hesitant arms, Sora placed her small hands on Layla’s waist and melted into the other woman’s embrace. They kissed deeply, passionately, leaving all fears of the future behind as they drew closer to each other. Taking Sora’s cheek in her palm Layla pressed in closer to her young lover, wanting so much more. Knowing how Sora had made her entire body tingle with the same excitement she sought from the stage, Layla longed to share it with the younger performer.

Layla shifted her body closer to Sora’s and slid her knee up between the younger woman’s legs, drawing a quick intake of breath from Sora. Her hands slid from Sora’s shoulders, coming to rest, tentatively, on her breasts. Sora’s hands clutched at Layla’s waist as a sudden electric shock flooded her body. Her body shifted subtly and a small moan escaped her lips as Layla continued.

Encouraged by Layla’s actions, Sora soon felt her nervousness falling away. She own small hands reached out to her lover, exploring the curves of the other’s well toned body; still muscular even after having left the stage. Sora’s longing to be with her partner had never been stronger than now and she expressed her wish by pressing her lips firmly against Layla’s.

“Sora,” Layla gasped between kisses. “You make me feel so good.”

Layla’s strong hands found Sora’s breasts and fondled them softly, eliciting increased moaning from Sora. Her knee gently pressed between Sora’s legs and she felt the area heating up underneath her.

Cautiously, Layla began removing Sora's clothing. Although Sora was responding to her actions favorably, Layla was still wary about scaring her off. She made sure that Sora was not the only one unclothed by shedding her own clothing, as well and dropping them into a pile beside the bed. Before continuing, Layla leaned close to Sora and kissed her gently on the cheek.

"Are you okay?" she asked the younger woman.

Sora nodded. "Yes." She confirmed this by shifting her head to meet Layla's lips with her own. The pair kissed deeply and Layla balanced her weight on her knees as her hands slowly slide down Sora's naked form.

Despite what her confident actions said, what Layla knew of love making was very little. However, she could read her partner's body like a book. Sora's reactions grew and Layla continued, learning as she went. Layla knew basically what she was doing, but she didn't want her first time with Sora to be a train wreck. She moved slowly, experimenting, lightly gliding her fingers here and resting them there, finding the spots that drew the most reactions from her partner.

More and more Layla learned and more and more Sora began to writhe on the bed. The older woman then slid her hand between Sora's legs and gently explored her. Sora practically bucked the older woman from her as a shock of pleasure like she had never felt before ran through her body. Layla kissed Sora firmly and continued to caress Sora's wet mound, sliding her fingers along the aroused nub of her clit.

"Layla. . ." Sora gasped, grabbing Layla's shoulders and digging her fingers in.

She moaned with pleasure and Layla felt the younger woman was nearing the end. A few more strokes of her strong fingers and Layla felt Sora's body go rigid with orgasm. The first wave that came over Sora was enough to elicit a loud cry of pleasure that Layla was afraid would be heard outside the bedroom. She leaned over and kissed Sora on the lips to silence her, even as her fingers worked the last bits of pleasure from Sora's body.

Layla let herself fall onto Sora's body, careful not to crush her. She kissed Sora's forehead as the younger woman paused to catch her breath.

After resting for a brief moment, Sora knew it was her turn to take center stage. She timidly rolled to her side and soon found herself perched atop Layla’s svelte body. Her experience limited, Sora could only take what knowledge she had just learned and duplicate Layla’s actions. Having trained with the older woman so many times, Sora’s knowledge of the way Layla’s body moved aided in her attempt to please her partner.

Several attempts soon led Sora to the right combination of pressure and location, so Layla’s moaning became more and more intense as her body shifted beneath Sora’s slight weight. Putting her heart into her actions, Sora felt Layla’s body trembling softly, building, just as her body had, to a climax.

Layla reached up with trembling arms and embraced Sora, drawing the gasping girl close to her chest. "Sora," she whispered and kissed Sora on the forehead. "I love you. For now. Forever."

Sidling closer to Layla, Sora tucked her body against Layla's, holding the other woman's arms in her small hands. She felt Layla place her chin on top of her head and Sora smiled, contentedly. "I love you, too, Layla. So much." Suddenly, Sora yawned deeply. She blushed. "Sorry."

"It's all right, Sora," Layla comforted the young woman. "You must be exhausted from training all day. Get some sleep."

Sora nodded and curled up on her side, while Layla got up to turn the lights off. Returning to bed, Layla pressed her naked form up against Sora. She wrapped her arm around Sora's waist. Safely in Layla’s arms, Sora breathed a contented sigh in the darkness. The warmth that surrounded her came more from the events of the night than the comforter she and Layla slept under then. Her small hands came up and she wrapped her fingers around Layla’s wrists, squeezing gently.

“Hmm?” Layla moved in the darkness, laying a soft kiss on the back of Sora’s head. “Something wrong?”

Sora’s voice sounded small in the night, but she had to know one thing. “Layla, will you. . .promise me, you’ll never leave?”

There was a pause and a soft sigh. Layla tightened her arms around Sora and leaned over the girl’s shoulder. “Sora, you have so much more learning to do, not only on Kaleido Stage, but in life, as well. I would never stand in the way of your progress. So, I can’t make that promise to you.”


“But what I can do is promise you this: No matter where we go or what we do, together or apart, you and I will always be great partners. Forever.”

A tear escaped Sora’s eye and ran down her cheek. She brushed it away on the pillow and nodded, understanding what Layla was saying. “Layla, you’re the only one I want as my partner. Ever.”

“Me too, Sora,” came the whispered response. “Me, too. . .my little Kaleido Star.”


The End


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