Title: Mutability, or, Twenty-five Things You Thought You Knew About Naoki but Didn't Really.
Characters/Pairings: Naoki/Kotoko. Like, duh.
Notes: It's fluff. Unadulterated fluff, written after gorging myself on the anime, the Taiwanese dramas, and whatever bits of the manga that are scanlated. Spoilers through the end of the series. Reviews make me happy, so please, feel free to leave one.
1. Naoki considers himself a creature of logic, but the girl living across the hall is anything but. She is chaos personified—unstable, a whirlwind of frenetic energy—and he's not quite sure how he should deal with it. He rolls a stiff shoulder, stretches, and turns off the light. Night, he believes, is for sleeping, and apparently, it is also the time Kotoko scrambles around her room and very noisily stubs her toes.
2. The toast is burnt. Yuki is complaining. Okaa-san is having a fit. His father is attempting to mollify her. And Kotoko is in the center of it all, a bumbling conductor with a spatula for a baton.
3. She really is horrible at math. When she blackmails him into tutoring her, he wonders with honest amazement how she managed to make it as far as she has. Before he can ponder it any longer, she looks at him with furrowed brows and sticks out her bottom lip. (They are very pink, her lips.) It doesn't add up, she says, peering at the numbers she's hastily scribbled. He feels a tightening in his chest and finds that he agrees.
4. He finds her simple-mindedness—not, not fascinating, exactly, but worthy of his interest, only because he cannot comprehend how she functions when she's such a walking disaster magnet. At least, he thinks, it's mildly entertaining.
5. He enjoys teasing her, partly because he likes the shade of pink her cheeks blush but mostly because he enjoys the amount of backbone she displays.
6. What frustrates Naoki the most is her ability to browbeat him into doing things he would never do otherwise—utterly stupid things, like tutoring her moronically loud classmates.
7. He should make her get a tattoo, he thinks. One that says she'd love him forever, because isn't she his now? So when she says that she's sick of loving him, he tattoos her, only he uses his lips.
8. He turns that kiss over and over in his mind that night. At three in the morning, he's resigned to becoming a raging hormone. It should be alright, he tells himself, as long as he's back to being rational by breakfast.
9. Yuuko, he knows, is a perfect match for him—aesthetically and mentally. But all of Yuuko's brains can never compensate for Kotoko's insight—she sees him clearly, clean though the layers, down the very heart of him. (A few words, nonchalantly, idly, spoken, and then he suddenly has a direction in life.) It's ridiculous, but then, so is she, and somehow, that's just fine with him.
10. The thing with Sahako, it's tearing her every which way, he can tell. (He has always been able to tell: her face is as bright and clear as a dawn after a storm.) But then, there is love and there is his father's life.
11. But that still does not excuse her for twisting her fingers in that Neanderthal Kinnosuke's jacket and walking away without so much as looking him in the face. It angers him, frustrates him, and twists his guts in nauseating spirals. (So when she comes home, he tells her, mockingly, that he didn't think she'd come home that night.) He hurts her, cruelly, unjustly, right where it's going to sting.
12. Life would indeed be quieter without her around, but he finds the silence sickeningly deafening.
13. When Kotoko's friends tell him that Kinnosuke proposed, he understands for the first time in his life what people mean when they say that the ground under their feet fell away.
14. He spends the evening in waiting in front of the station, holding his breath for a flash of brown hair.
15. No matter what she says, she is his. (He had never thought of himself as a creature of passion, but she is always teaching him new things about himself.) Her lips are as soft as he remembers, tasting like rain and love. This time, he makes sure she'll remember.
16. His wedding and honeymoon are not exactly to his liking—how could they be, with his family in those ridiculous wigs bobbing all over the place and Mari's very obvious and very irritating agenda—but Kotoko's smile is searing and her laugh tangles itself in his veins and her hand is his to hold whenever he likes. (He has spent the last half hour obliquely admiring the play of light and shadow on her neck.) There are, he supposes, worse things.
17. One of the most adorable things about her, he's noticing, is her obsession with his hands. When they cuddle at night with her back to his chest, she likes to fiddle with them. She runs her fingers over his knuckles, touches the soft pads of his fingers with her own, strokes his palm.
18. When his mother announces that Kotoko is pregnant, fear streams down his spine in lightning-fast waves and pools in the region of his small intestine, but when the doctor announces it's just a case of upset stomach, he doesn't realize until much later that the dark edge on the flood of relief is disappointment. He would have very much liked to hold a small Kotoko—all toothless smiles and sticky hands and gossamer-fine hair.
19. When he sees Keita leaning over Kotoko in the hospital, he wants to kill the bastard with his bare hands. The dark urge is primal and primordial, and almost frightens him in its intensity.
20. Their relationship, he's beginning to realize, is largely lopsided: she gives and he takes. There are a million excuses, of course, but the question remains: what fool of a husband would miss his own wife's capping ceremony?
21. Kotoko canoodles him into agreeing to a date, stands him up, and runs into the restaurant covered in blood hours later. Really, if she wants to permanently freeze the blood in his veins that badly, then he ought to oblige and get her a damn cryogenic freezer. (His lovemaking that night has an edge of intensity that is not like him—but a small part of him is not quite convinced that that blood is not hers. Her skin is so soft, webbed with delicate blue veins, so easy to bruise, to break, to draw blood, and dear god let her be whole and alive and in his arms forever.)
22. In the beginning, Kotoko's pregnancy is an easy one. Her cravings are neither too farfetched nor difficult to satisfy, except for that one time when she woke him near dawn, mewling for chocolate icing on chocolate cake, and could he please get them for her?
23. Mostly, however, his parents and her father take care of those, as his thesis expands and takes up his life and narrows his field of vision to an unforgivable degree: he's never been more disgusted with himself, never so felt so inadequate, as when he thinks of his wife—the love of his life, the mother of his child, the one whose head is nestled below his chin night after night and who presses kisses on his nose whenever she finds the chance, who is strong and kind and almost cripplingly compassionate—in discomfort, in pain, crawling on a subway platform, nearly unconscious, heavy with his child—and how he let her go, uncaring and unknowing and blind.
24. Yuuki thinks he understands, and perhaps the not-quite-brat does. He would ponder their conversation later, but right now, Kotoko is alive, their child is fine, she just needs to stop working—but she is alive, and she smiles at him, and all he can think is that he's one undeserving bastard of a husband, but he's never, ever giving her up.
25. In the end, Kotoko goes through labor and gives birth to Kotomi on her own. He couldn't be prouder of her—for being so selfless, so giving, so determined—but that doesn't do much to slow his footsteps, to slow his breathing, to still the mad, mad thudding of his heart. The baby's cry is ringing in his ears, ricocheting in his chest—and he bursts through the doors and into his wife's arms.