"Songbird in a golden cage,

She'd prefer the blue."

"My Songbird"

–Emmylou Harris

(≠)

01 - Comfort

He wanted so badly to comfort her.

02 - Kiss

Really, their first kisses were bruising blows; after Yaone truly kissed him for the first time, lips to lips, Hakkai expected his mouth to bleed.

03 - Soft

His hair was ridiculously soft.

04 - Pain

When Yaone was thirteen, leggy and still clumsy with it, she tripped over nothing, spilling a mortar full saffron across the floor and her father slapped her so hard that she half-believed that her jaw was broken; following her guide towards Hyakugan Maoh's lair, Yaone remembers that moment and thinks, if I weren't a coward, I would have run away then.

05 - Potatoes

"Look, I'm not saying she's not bangable but you might want to consider crushing on someone a little more accommodating," Goyjo remarked; Hakkai didn't dignify that with a retort and continued to hold ice against the potato-sized lump on his head.

06 - Rain

Yaone is curled up in her window seat, cocooned in a blanket when the storm hits, rain coming down to quench the earth; she unlatches the window and lets it swing forward– the sound of the falling water grows clearer and spills into her room like a soothing lullaby, and she sinks deeper into dreams.

07 - Chocolate

Yaone remembered the exact moment she realized Cho Hakkai's hair was the color of good, rich, theobromine-laden chocolate, the kind she hadn't been able to taste since the merchant who she procured it from went insane from the Minus Wave and slaughtered his family, and she noted with irony how helpful her mind was- it paired all the things she couldn't have together.

08 - Happiness

Beating Lirin at mah jong, the tingle in her fingers when she knew one of her concoctions was perfect, waltzing with Kougaiji, the warm feeling in her stomach when Dokugakuji clapped a hand over her shoulder like the brother she'd never had: Yaone never expected seeing a man's eyes fill with desire would make the list.

09 - Telephone

"Let me get this straight, Sanzo, I'm afraid I'm a little confused- the waitress at the last hotel told Goyjo that it seemed as if I was involved with someone and Goyjo mentioned this to Goku who brought this concern to you?"

10 - Ears

Yaone nibbled on his ear, mouth hot against cartilage, teeth worrying gently at his power limiters, and the combination of the softness of her lips and the almost-metallic clinks her teeth made against his earrings shouldn't have been as arousing as it was.

11 - Name

It took an instant for the Sanbutsushin to judge him; an instant where the silence between his heartbeats felt like death and he welcomed it, an instant of being stripped to the bone, to the soul, an instant which tasted like blood and pain and loss and he was regretful when his heart beat again (after that, his new name was barely worthy of mention, and he really hadn't been Cho Gono since Kannan put a knife to her throat).

12 - Sensual

She breathed deeply, letting her body sink lower into the sinful froth of bubbles and scalding water; she was slowly running her foot along the edge of her bathtub when Lirin burst in arguing frantically about something, Lord Kougaiji responding in kind, until he realized where his little sister had led him and choked.

13 - Death

Yaone never feared death; to her that final farewell was a seductive whisper that had murmured in her ears many times.

14 - Sex

To Yaone, sex was a weapon that was used against her: there are reasons why she hates to sleep in beds.

15 - Touch (see 'Fear')

She was always so careful when she touched him with affection; he wanted to tell her that he wasn't made of glass and wouldn't break.

16 - Weakness

The second night after Kougaiji saved her, when she returned to the room he'd given her, Hyakugan Maoh was in her bedroom– she requested that he leave and he only backed her against the bed: centipedes were crawling through the white sheets like little bits of corruption, and he told her of all the things that he'd done to other woman and would be doing to her the minute Lord Kougaiji got bored– and he doubted it would take long.

17 - Tears

Yaone cries beautifully -her eyes don't redden, her nose doesn't run, her throat doesn't fill with phlegm- her eyes just fill, wet and luminous, while bright droplets slide down solemn cheeks.

18 - Speed

She pivots away from a bolt of his chi, and the ends of her hair snap like battle-flags.

19 - Wind

Sometimes she feels hollow, like one day she'll dry up and blow away.

20 - Freedom

In her weaker moments, Yaone dreams of freedom, dreams of traveling, of vanishing into the distance, of making choices for no one but herself– then she thinks of existing with no one to love, no one to protect, and feels the ach of loneliness like a wound.

21 - Life

As a child, she'd thought of pregnancy the way most starry-eyed girls do; by the time she reached adulthood, the thought of a life growing inside her was revolting, and when one of her female acquaintances mentioned that she was with child, it was all Yaone could do to offer her congratulations instead of condolences.

22 - Jealousy

Kougaiji mentions idly that Yaone has been smiling a lot recently, even after losing eight inches of her hair to Cho Hakkai's chi and feels a flash of something hot when Dokugakuji looks at him with an expression quite close to pity.

23 - Hands

Hakkai doesn't like it when she mentions his hands, but Yaone relishes kissing his fingers, trailing her lips down to trace the lines in his palm, the way his hand curves around her cheek when her mouth reaches his wrist.

24 - Taste

Hakkai had always been a morning person, but Yaone put him to shame, rising with the sun and it was worth losing a bit of sleep to watch her take her first (sensuous) sip of morning coffee.

25 - Devotion

She was an apothecary and a healer, she knows the human body better than children knows nursery rhythms, and death was indescribably easier than failure.

26 - Forever

He'd been selfish when he'd asked for forever, he knew that, but why did the end have to be so soon?

27 - Blood

There were three times in her life that she came close enough to suicide to exchange kisses with the gods of death; after Hakkai, she swore to herself that if she ever ended up walking that road, she wouldn't use a knife.

28 - Sickness

There were some things he couldn't heal with his chi.

29 - Melody

She nervously turned the steam of the wineglass between her fingers and the tips of her claws drew a sweet melody from the glass.

30 - Star

She slid her limiter off and Hakkai watched a violet sunburst bloom on her upper arm; later, he caught himself absent-mindedly tracing the pattern along the steering wheel of Hakuryu.

31 - Home

He buried his nose in the soft hair behind her ear, drowsy and content, and thought, home.

32 - Confusion

Was the enemy supposed to act so concerned for her welfare? Yaone wondered with the fraction of her mind not terrified for Lirin; Hakkai gently unwound her fingers from around themselves so she didn't dislocate them, and did nothing to resolve her query.

33 - Fear (see 'Touch')

Every time she touched him, she half-expected him to impatiently slap her hands away.

34 - Lightning/Thunder

She stood at the window, watching lightning fork down out of the sky and rain thunder across the land with greedy eyes, and he wondered what it said that something that caused him so much pain gave her such joy.

35 - Bonds

The next night, a vision of her hanging in her bonds returned to haunt the space behind his eyelids, and Hakkai thought it was a very good thing indeed that Tongpu was several hundred miles away at the moment.

36 - Market

When Hakkai made his way through the knot of spectators he expected o find a fight of some sort - not a violet-haired young woman politely and implacably bargaining for a decent price regarding the butcher's racks of lamb.

37 - Technology

Pestles have a solid feeling in her hands, rich with physical mass and history, but Yaone has a soft spot in her heart for the things she found in Lord Kougaiji's labs, flasks and pipets and beakers of glass clearer than spring water.

38 - Gift

He'd given other paramours jewelry, clothes, riches: Yaone he gifted with science, safety, sister– even his dreams of the future, thinking she was completely different than those girls he'd known before, and it was only when she possessed more of him than she knew that Kougaiji realized that his motivations in giving hadn't been as pure as he'd believed.

39 - Smile

He's killed a great many people with a smile on his face.

40 - Innocence

She had never been Hyakugan Maoh's plaything but even so, Yaone had no innocence left.

41 - Completion

Yaone sat back against a half-destroyed gargoyle, careful of her broken ribs, contemplating the ruin of her Lord's plans and end of his hopes for resurrecting his mother, while above her celebratory shooting stars fell from the heavens like rain.

42 - Clouds

In the irrational, emotional part of his hindbrain which Hakkai preferred to pretend didn't exists, victory was hollow and bitter when it meant putting clouds in a young woman's eyes.

43 - Sky

He watched Yaone stare at the falling stars and wished that whatever she wanted would come to her.

44 - Heaven

Hakkai didn't see heaven in Yaone's eyes: he saw life.

45 - Hell

Hakkai had never wanted to love anyone as much as he loved Kannan; he'd tried to be careful of how much he cared for his traveling companions (he'd failed); with Yaone he could see Fate's cruel fingers wrapping around her from the moment she'd put a knife to her throat.

46 - Sun

He knew it was foolish, but on the long, hot days when Goyjo and Goku were squabbling incessantly, and Sanzo did nothing but add to the cacophony, and the sun managed to glare into his eyes continually, Hakkai imagined the conversations he'd have with Yaone, if they didn't have to try and kill each other every time they met.

47 - Moon

Late at night, on the cusp of dreams or waking, Hakkai could feel the minus wave pulling at him like the moon pulls the tide.

48 - Waves

"Oh, look, there's Yaone," he said without thinking, and gave a little wave; from the expression on her face, their presence was not a good thing.

49 - Hair

Hakkai clearly remembers the first time he dreamed of her, dreamed of pale skin and auburgine hair wrapping around his fingers, and woke with the taste of betrayal hot in his mouth.

50 - Supernova

The first time Yaone climaxed (his mouth and lips and fingers and oh) she bit the side of her hand so deeply that her teeth scrapped across bone (afterwards Hakkai kissed the blood away from her fingers and sealed the mark with his chi, running his lips along the edge of her hand like a benediction).