One Hundred Ways to Love

1 of 100: Savings Box

SPOILERS: MANGA through chapter 324

If anyone asked, she'd deny it.

If anyone discovered it, she'd lie.

Ise Nanao's moral code was bendable to the situation despite how rigid the world perceived her to be.

Her treasure, her secret, was kept discreetly in the back of her closet beneath one of her favorite velvet blankets. The black silk brocade box had been something she'd found in a vendor's booth in Rukongai during one of her walks there. Previous to that her treasure box had been an old case from the office that had once housed paper. It was only on her loneliest days that she even remembered that she had it.

Days when she knew her Captain was miles away and drunk and would never show himself upon her door.

Days when she knew he had female company other than her.

Days when she realized all too painfully she'd never be the woman at his side the way she secretly longed for.

Ise Nanao wasn't prone to moping or rehashing ugly feelings, but when she did it involved that secret box. She'd sneak into her own closet like a thief and carefully uncover that brocade box. Carefully, she handled it though it was very light weight. Retreating to her bedroom she'd sit in her favorite corner, the box in front of her, the tiny ivory clasps slid free… Within a small stack of papers would meet her eyes. It was trash to any other person. There were colored note papers, scraps of envelopes, bar napkins… Poem after poem after poem…

Her Captain had always fancied himself a writer and a romantic one at that. Over the years, positive scores of poems had drifted their way to her and no matter how carelessly she received them, taking them without a glance and filing them into her desk drawers, she always read them… and the most beautiful of them came home with her and nested in her secret box.

But it had been only once… one time alone… in the last hundred or so years that he'd given her something that stole her breath. He'd been drunk at the time, so deep into his cups he couldn't stand any longer; instead he swayed dangerously on her doorstep, his voice deeply slurred. Half of his clothes had been missing leaving him only in standard uniform, the deep black plunging low on his muscled chest. She'd gotten a dry mouth just looking at him, his hair free and wet… it had been raining.

"Nanao-chan… I wrote you a poem."

Normally, he didn't write her poems when he was at bars. On those prolific occasions he wrote them for his fellow bar flies… seeing him standing there, the rain misting down on him she'd felt obliged to take the offered paper from his hands. She wasn't sure how he'd kept it dry.

Just as she turned her eyes down to give it a cursory glance one of his hands curled about her jaw. His hands were huge; manly… all of her Captain was big, always towering over her slight frame. All too suddenly she smelled the alcohol from his breath and raised wide, cautious eyes to his face just in time to see and feel him press a neat kiss on her cheek.

She opened her mouth to chastise him when his brow furrowed at her before she'd even said a word. The fingers gently cradling her jaw suddenly tilted her whole head and those frowning lips of his …. Met hers.

It was less a kiss a more an explosion inside her. The chaste press to her cheek had not carried over to her mouth. The hand curled around her jaw dropped to find her waist pulling her as near as he could have her to his own body and still kiss her. Ardor poured from his mouth into hers, filling her chest until she ached. She wasn't sure which could make her drunk faster, his kiss or the alcohol on his breath.

"Nanao-chan," he breathed against her mouth, back lit by her front porch light. "Don't wake me up early tomorrow."

With that, he slid out of her doorway, away from her body and sauntered away into the darkness. She'd closed the door after him too overwhelmed to watch him disappear into the night.

The poem proved to be a mix of things that made little sense to her. In his drunkenness his mind had wandered too far and wide to make anything coherent but it was that poem, amongst the rest of his more beautiful composed pieces that she treasured most. It was the embodiment, the proof she'd had that night was real and that kiss he'd given her was truly hers.

So she guarded that box with the utmost secrecy and care. It was far too important to her to lose and far too personal to disclose.