As always, thank you to all those who have reviewed, placed this on alert and/or placed this in their favourites.

Theme 20: Silence/Mugon
"The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence." – Marianne Moore


Toshiro sighed. He didn't have to wait for the rest of the sentence. The way she drew out her 'O', the slight hesitation between her words and the coy tone she employed – Toshiro knew exactly what she was going to say.

And he knew exactly what he would reply.

"Momo…" he began wearily, "didn't we talk about this just last week? My answer's not going to change."

"Why not, Toshiro?" Momo demanded, her tone turning defensive. She jumped off the couch, planted her hands on her hips and glared down at her boyfriend. "Why are you so dead set against it? It's completely ridiculous-"

"Calm down, M-"

"No! I won't calm down." She jabbed her finger dangerously close to his face. "You listen here, mister. We've been together for ten years already! We've dated, we've moved in together and I've even gotten you to-"

"Don't bring that u-"

"-sing karaoke!"

Toshiro buried his head into his hands. Every time they talked (or rather, argued) about this matter, she would always dredge up that horrid memory. He honestly didn't know how she managed to talk him into it (he presumed he was under the influence of a few spirits), but what he did know was that this was a catalyst for-

"If you love me enough that you would completely embarrass yourself in front of a group of strangers singing Yui Horie's Life, then I would think that you would love me enough to propose to me! Is the thought of spending the rest of your life with me really that horrible?"

Her eyes were glistening, holding back angry tears as she tried to keep an intimidating scowl on her face. If the situation wasn't so serious, Toshiro would have laughed – that scowl wouldn't have scared a squirrel. Momo just didn't have it in her to be truly terrifying. But, he wouldn't put it past her to give him a few good slaps if he mentioned that now, so instead, he patted the cushion next to him and stared into her eyes, asking for the storm to calm. After a few stubborn moments, she relented and lowered herself back onto the sofa. He took her hands into his.

"Momo," he began as he rubbed his fingers in gentle circles on her skin, "believe me when I say that I love you. It was true when I first said it back in high school and it will always be true. What I don't believe is how society thinks I have to get down on one knee and say a few soppy words for it to be accepted that I love and want to spend the rest of my life with you. Would I have moved in with you if I didn't seriously think that?"

Toshiro slid closer and tilted her chin up so she had no choice but to look at him. "Would I seriously have let you use my toothbrush if we weren't going to spend out lives together?"

"Oh, Toshiro!" Momo pushed him away, trying to hide the small smile that formed despite her frustration. "That's not fair! It was Christmas night and all the shops were closed! And if I remember correctly, it was your fault that my toothbrush fell into the toilet in the first place!"

"Maybe if someone wasn't standing right behind the door she wouldn't have tripped and dropped it," Toshiro muttered, but she heard all the same.

"Well maybe if someone had some manners and knocked before he came in I wouldn't have tripped," she replied.

They laughed a bit, each reliving that one day before falling into a contemplative silence. The heated atmosphere in their modest apartment sixteen floors above the streets of Tokyo diffused and became genial once more. The afternoon sun streaked straight through the open window, across the carpeted floor and up the kitchen counter, where a small garden of herbs was sitting. The mix of furniture and embellishment clearly revealed that two very different souls resided in this apartment, but the way in which the seemingly mismatched pieces melded together in such a seamless fashion told a stronger tale of soul mates: a dark, varnished wooden dining table with soft white cushions upon the matching chairs, a semi-firm king bed with an equally large and downy quilt and a kettle next to a water cooler, both plugged in.

Walking around, there was something no one could escape: photos. Frames of all shapes and sizes, from store bought with gold rims to hand-made with spare buttons. They hung from the walls, lounged on shelved and perched on the mantelpiece. Some were faded, showing a little girl with her hair pulled into two pigtails and surrounded by her two older brothers and sister, or depicting a small boy dressed in a suit while his parents stood behind, equally impressive, waiting for the photographer to take their annual formal photo. Others captured the excitement of the teenage years: pulling faces at the camera with all your girlfriends or being reluctantly dragged into the picture of the giant keg of beer the guys couldn't go without.

Most however, showed a black-haired female and a white-haired male; worlds apart and yet together and smiling. The photos told their story: they grew up playing in the local playground; their first date was at the aquarium where they were stalked by their friends; right after completing their university degrees they went to England for their sixth anniversary and just last week they went out for Italian.

Not every day was smooth. They've fought, yes, just as fire and ice do, but neither would have it any other way. Finding warmth any other way would just be impossible.

"I'm feeling kind of sleepy." A yawn escaped from Momo's lips, as if to prove her point. "The sun feels nice here."

"Don't get too comfortable. We're going out for dinner tonight, remember?" Toshiro replied, prodding her to get up. "It takes an advance booking of at least three months to reserve a table at Seasons at Tokyo."

"Yeah, yeah," Momo muttered in reply, but rising up all the same. She began to make her way towards their bedroom when Toshiro grabbed her hand, stopping her. She looked back, eyebrow raised, inquiring.

"You know I love you, Momo. Do I need to say those words to you with a ring for you to believe me?"

She sighed but smiled at him. "Yeah, I know you do, and I believe you every time you say it. I love you too, Toshiro." She bent down and gave him a swift kiss before sliding her hand away from his and walking away.

The first thing one noticed when walking into Seasons at Tokyo was its seductive ambiance. The chandeliers that normally filled the dining room with a bright light were retired for the night. Instead, the light exuded from flickering candles and moonlight that could cast its silver glow unhampered as the waiters had made sure to draw back the heavy folds of velvet curtains. Tables were mostly for two, so the air was filled with a hum of sweet nothings, each patron encased with their significant other in their own private world.

The waiter led Toshiro and Momo to a secluded table adjacent to a large window that ran the height of the wall. The view was of a black, urban sea that twinkled with lights; they were sailing upon an ocean of stars. The waiter poured them a glass of champagne and took their orders. They sipped at the bubbling liquid as they talked about things that were neither here nor there, lost in the beauty of it all.

"Momo, are you alright?" Toshiro asked, setting down his knife and fork from his main of confit duck breast. "What are you looking at?"

Momo jumped and quickly turned back to face him, picking up her fork and skewering it through a scallop. "Oh! N-nothing! I just spaced out there for a moment."

As she laughed of the moment and worked vigorously on slicing through a sliver of fennel, Toshiro stole a glance to the side. At the far end of the room sat another couple. Well, to be precise, the woman was sitting, her hands cupped over her mouth in disbelief. The man was on his knee, a small velvet box in his hand and saying something Toshiro couldn't hear. However, he didn't have to. It was obvious what that man was saying. Toshiro resumed his dinner, but from the corner of his eyes he saw the tears trickling down the woman's face as the man slid the ring onto her finger. Then, lost in her happiness, she lunged forwards and embraced him, unmindful of their surroundings. The man returned the gesture in equal bliss.

Perhaps Momo noticed the newly-engaged couple as well, but she chose not to show it. She talked amicably with Toshiro, teased him and laughed in all the right places as they finished their mains. When the waiter cleared their table and assured them that their desserts would arrive in ten minutes, they fell into another silence which Toshiro broke.

"Momo…does a marriage mean that much to you?"

She looked taken aback, but knew there was little point in denying. "You know how much it does, Toshiro," she whispered. "I know you love me, and believe me, I know it's true whenever you say it and I know that we don't need a wedding to live together for the rest of our lives, but, well…"

She glanced out the window before continuing. "I guess it's just every girl's dream. That's what we dream about when we're five. We dream about the perfect white dress, the perfect bouquet, the perfect cake…and the perfect husband. But I've got you, Toshiro, so everything's all right." She broke off with a smile. "And I suppose knowing you, you might die with embarrassment with having to profess your undying love for me in front of my parents, neh?"

Laughing, she drew back a little and shook her head. "But all joking aside, with you, silence is louder than any words, and that's what I love about you. I wouldn't want you to change. Who knows? I might find it weird seeing you propose to me!"

"You know me too well, Momo," Toshiro grinned. "But maybe not that well yet. I was thinking about discussing this whole marriage thing after we're back home."

"Ugh! Of course! Once I manage to get you to seriously consider this whole marriage thing, you want to discuss it instead of surprising me with a beautiful ring!" Momo said in mock annoyance. "I have half a mind to drag you out of this table and make you watch Lost with the Fireflies with me. Now that's what a man who wants to get married is supposed to do! He's supposed to surprise his soon-to-be fiancée!"

"Calm down, Momo. You can drag me home once we're finished with dessert. Look, yours is coming right now."

"Well, seeing as it took so long to get reservations here, it would be a shame if I-"

Momo stopped mid-sentence, the remainder of her sentence lodged in her throat as she saw what was underneath the silver cloche the waiter had just lifted. Instead of her decadent chocolate layer cake with almond praline and caramel mousse, there was small, black velvet box inlaid with a small ruby on top. For a moment, she couldn't help but think the waiter had mixed up their orders. She looked across to Toshiro.

"Toshiro, this…"

"Open it."

And she did with shaking hands. Nestled in the folds of ink-coloured silk was a thin gold ring. A modest sized ruby sat on top accompanied by two tiny diamonds on either side. She'd seen this before. It was years ago, back around their second anniversary. All this time!

"I told you, didn't I?" Toshiro whispered in her ear, having gotten out of his seat when she was still staring at the ring in utter disbelief. "I don't have to say anything to prove that I want to spend the rest of my life with you and only you, Momo."

"T-Toshiro…you idiot," she said as the first of joyful tears rolled down her cheek. "You're not even going to ask?"

He kissed her on the temple. "As you yourself put it, my silence is louder than any words."

"At least put the ring on my finger for me."

"As you wish."

Toshiro lifted the ring from is silken bed and slid it onto Momo's slender finger. The ruby, a clear unblemished ocean of red, caught the firelight and glowed with a beautiful radiance. Toshiro's hands moved to her waist and he held her close as she admired the jewel that hugged both her finger and her entire body. Finally, she looked into his eyes, a flicker of child-like stubbornness she would never grow out of. He knew what was coming.

"Fine, you don't have to ask, but I'm going to answer anyway." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him with the passion only a long-awaited fiancée could find. "Yes, Toshiro Hitsugaya, I do."