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#01 - Air

 

"If you like me," says Kaoruko, the irritation coming out in furious exhalations of breath; Mizuki stills, his cheek burning with the weight of her hand, and it is all he can do not to inhale the rest of her words with a kiss.

 

#02 - Apples

 

She bites into the skin neatly, in spite of her anger; it coalesces in her stomach and she'd rather let it fuel her resentment than leave her satiated, but Mizuki doesn't call her out on eating the last fruit on the table, his own kind of apology lessening some of his guilt.

 

#03 - Beginning

 

Not that he was ever sorry about anything, even before; sometimes she wonders if there's anything left in both of them but anger, and if there isn't, when will either of them tire of it and break?

 

#04 - Bugs

 

"It's an insect," says Mizuki, giving the swallowtail butterfly cupped in her hands a withering glare, "and I don't care how beautiful it is; get it out of my apartment."

 

#05 - Coffee

 

Once a year, she sends him a package; it comes two weeks after his birthday, so he wouldn't get cocky and think too much of it, but even as he considers the pack of coffee beans on the kitchen table, he thinks she still knows the things he likes most more than she cares to admit.

 

#06 - Dark

 

He catalogues her face in his mind, in the rare moments he sees her -- her hair, tied in a loose ponytail; her mouth, stained with dark chocolate; her eyes, dark, and looking at something in the distance, but never at him.

 

#07 - Despair

 

He can enumerate the number of deficiencies Takahashi Misaki has and two pages of an itemized list would be insufficient, and it burns at his pride, irritates him in a deep, profound level; he isn't asking for much, but why can't he ever get the things he wants most so easily?

 

#08 - Doors

 

"Let me in," says Mizuki, "please."

 

#09 - Drink

 

Mizuki is a realist, but Kaoruko, even without the courage of drink and the want of companionship -- she just knows.

 

#10 - Duty

 

The duty of a gentleman, she hisses, through clenched teeth even as she hooks her leg around his waist to pull him closer, is to be kind to a lady; the duty of a lady, he retorts, is to kindly shut the fuck up.

 

#11 - Earth

 

The distance between Paris and New York is 3624 miles; he could cross it over and over again and fail to let the distance between them shorten.

 

#12 - End

 

"Don't," warns Mizuki, ready to hang up, but Akihiko's voice is replaced by Misaki's on the other end of the line, and suddenly Kaoruko inches closer, seemingly revived.

 

#13 - Fall

 

"Well," says Kaoruko, regarding a disgruntled Mizuki with a hint of fondness, "I could always tell them I screwed up the measurements for the cake, but that would be lying, wouldn't it?"

 

#14 - Fire

 

"You," announces Kaoruko, gravely, "are banned from coming within three feet of the grill, no exceptions."

 

#15 - Flexible

 

Kaoruko is a romanticist; it will take more than misplaced anger and diffused tension to woo her, kindness outweighing all other considerations in her measure of a man, but for Mizuki, perhaps, she can wait.

 

#16 - Flying

 

Her elbow knocks, against his; it's the first time that they take a flight together, beside each other, no less, and Mizuki wants to stroke the back of her hand with less awkwardness and more reason, but he doesn't have the right.

 

#17 - Food

 

"Baking's different," says Kaoruko, wearily, "you have all these precise measurements, so it's harder to screw things up; not like cooking, not like life, not like love."

 

#18 - Foot

 

The heels make her more clumsy, less refined, she complains; Mizuki has to look away before she catches him watching the bare skin of her ankles, the tiny slips of toes peeking from the tips of her sandals.

 

#19 - Grave

 

"Only you; no one will ever compare to you."

 

#20 - Green

 

She takes up gardening, in her spare time; Mizuki watches, from the porch, as the greenery swallows her whole, as she walks deeper into the hedges until he can't catch sight of her anymore, and it is only then that he follows her.

 

#21 - Head

 

Suzuhiko watches his mother dance, in the balcony, with that sullen-looking relative -- some distant uncle, named Shiiba -- from America, and does not say anything to his father when he sees his mother tilt her head up for a kiss.

 

#22 - Hollow

 

He dips his nose into the hollow of her throat, kisses her skin with the laziness akin to Akihiko; he imagined more passion, but he can't muster more than gentleness, lingering, quiet, a secret for him to keep.

 

#23 - Honor

 

"Thank you," says Mizuki, catching her mid-step with surprise, "for being my wife."

 

#24 - Hope

 

Congratulations, is the only thing he writes, and after that, he can't bring himself to hope for anything more.

 

#25 - Light

 

"Stop that," says Kaoruko, taking his cigarette with trembling fingers, "I can't take care of you forever, you know."

 

#26 - Lost

 

"What do you mean you lost my number," says Mizuki, voice low.

 

#27 - Metal

 

"Ah," says Kaoruko, wincing, "I suppose I shouldn't have washed the dishes with my ring on."

 

#28 - New

 

It's almost meaningless as a gesture, when Kaoruko brushes her thumb across his cheek, but Mizuki blushes, suddenly absent of his usual blustering, and Kaoruko stares.

 

#29 - Old

 

Flirtation is the oldest dance in the book; too bad Kaoruko doesn't realize it yet.

 

#30 - Peace

 

"I'm trying to think, what are you -- oh."

 

#31 - Poison

 

"You could have told me she was allergic," hisses Mizuki to Akihiko, foul mood aggravated by the way Kaoruko is still slumped on the couch, being doted on by Misaki.

 

#32 - Pretty

 

Little Usami girls, thinks Mizuki, are groomed to perfection, to look beautiful, to act like prized possessions; "No," says Kaoruko, "I just want to look good for you tonight, that's all."

 

#33 - Rain

 

"Great," says Mizuki in his best are-you-an-idiot voice, wringing out the water in his shirt, "the one day it has to rain and all you have is an umbrella made from paper. Paper."

 

#34 - Regret

 

Melt the spite and the anger and the intense dislike; stir in half a cup of jealousy, and gently fold into a hundred moments with Misaki; place in a 9x13 pan and chill for three hours; layer with an icing of regret, and savor it.

 

#35 - Roses

 

"Okay," amends Kaoruko, tucking the gift card inside the pocket of her apron, "so maybe I like roses just a little bit."

 

#36 - Secret

 

"I don't know a lot of things about you," confesses Kaoruko, "but I think I can bring myself to care enough to know."

 

#37 - Snakes

 

"If you're spying on Misaki for Fuyuhiko-jiisan, I won't forgive you."

 

#38 - Snow

 

"I'm not a kid," says Mizuki, uptight; Akihiko raises an eyebrow but says nothing, preferring to watch Kaoruko compressing a ball of snow into her gloved hands, Misaki kicking at the melted water at his feet, Mizuki clenching his fingers into a fist.

 

#39 - Solid

 

He brings her hand to his cheek with a reverence unsuited to his nature; Kaoruko wants to hit him for being so cocky, but his hand -- it's warm.

 

#40 - Spring

 

Her kimono is littered with plum blossoms; Mizuki watches them fall, with satisfaction, into a heap pooled around her feet, the obi scattered carelessly across her futon.

 

#41 - Stable

 

"I'm still working on getting him to obey my every whim," says Kaoruko, choosing her words carelessly, "but I suppose it's not all that bad."

 

#42 - Strange

 

"You've been limping lately," says Kaoruko, tone light, as if this is something she's accepted for a long time coming, "are you sure you don't have anything to tell me?"

 

#43 - Summer

 

"You could have worn a bathing suit instead of a yukata," grumbled Mizuki, but fanning her with his book nonetheless.

 

#44 - Taboo

 

"You're his cousin," says Mizuki, all spite, all defeat, "doesn't that make you feel sick?"

 

#45 - Ugly

 

Sometimes, she wonders if there's any truth in his words; when he looks at her, really looks at her, he says nothing, but even then, she's never sure.

 

#46 - War

 

"Touch me again," shrieks Kaoruko, on their way to the maternity ward, "and you die."

 

#47 - Water

 

"Sometimes I think I'm happy," says Kaoruko, waiting for the water to boil, "but most of the time I'm like this -- angry, but still waiting."

 

#48 - Welcome

 

He doesn't hold up a sign with her name on it, like Misaki would have, nor does he hide the obvious impatience in his expression, but she doesn't take as much offense as she normally would have when he picks up her luggage for her, letting his fingers linger when her knuckles brush against his.

 

#49 - Winter

 

"Hate," whimpers Kaoruko, burying deeper into Mizuki's coat in spite of herself, and Mizuki sighs, pulling her closer.

 

#50 - Wood

 

If I liked you, says Mizuki, staring at the wooden beams in the ceiling, in the reception hall of her wedding; but the thought's over as soon as Kaoruko slips her hand into his palm for a dance, her fingers light and frail, suddenly, and he forgets.