Over the timeless years -- they pile up like rose petals -- Akio has tasted so many mouths, so many kisses: none of them can match the wind against his lips, the sweetness of acceleration and of forward momentum, the trembling thrill that comes just before the crash.
When he kisses Anthy, her lips are as soft as rose petals and her hair smells of roses and her skin smells of roses. Even fresh from the bath; even after a day of lessons; even early in the morning, after a night in his bed. She is his flower maiden.
"Does Utena know that story?" he asked Anthy one night.
Anthy shrugged. Her face was sealed and closed to him. "Probably not," she eventually said. "It isn't the sort of fairy story that she likes."
"More true than some," Akio said, his arm across her possessively.
"Oh yes," Anthy agreed tranquilly.
Akio raised an eyebrow.
"Witches love owls," she said. "I thought you knew that. I'm either flowers or owls, in the story. It makes perfect sense to me."
"Claw my eyes out and score my skin, yet will I still love you," Akio whispered in her ear.
She lay like a prisoner in his arms, her eyes fixed on the windows above where a thousand thousand stars flew away from him.
"What's there to answer? I cannot leave you."
"Well then, I have you one way or the other."
"And I have my thorns in you."
He smiled. "But you won't do that last thing and betray me."
Anthy shuddered. "You are the last person I would betray."
"Then you're all flowers for me," Akio said, "and we shall be happy ever after."