Alternate Ending. List of Little Things.
There were certain things about Kanda that, to a stranger, would be startling, but to a familiar, were simply things about Kanda that one merely had to accept in order to be able to deal with him. His crass tongue, his stubbornness, his overall inconsideration of others' feelings. She was ultimately used to all these deficits in Kanda's personality and had developed a particular immunity to it, one that had been essential to develop over the course of five years of dating.
Then there were certain things about him that always took her by surprise, despite the fact that she'd known him for so long. Like his beauty, which never failed to stun her and the rest of the modeling community. He was now in his late twenties, years of youthful maturity, and a cool, statuesque presence now accompanied him whether he was in front of the camera or not. There was the refinement of his movement, his quiet demeanor that had supplanted his years of frequent angry outbursts. There was the comfort he felt with silence.
And with that silence, there came the subtlety of his consideration.
When Rei thought back to it, she should've seen the proposal coming.
Kanda hated Valentine's Day, and the fact that Rei's birthday fell on it hardly changed things. For the last five years, they hadn't celebrated her birthday. Rei honestly did not mind—Kanda was not someone to expect sentimental gifts out of, and oftentimes Rei felt that the only reason he could tolerate her was precisely because she didn't expect anything. But days before Rei's twenty-sixth birthday, Kanda had offhandedly suggested that they go eat at an expensive Italian restaurant that they had gone to for Allen and Lenalee's private wedding reception.
"Italian?" said Rei.
"I thought you didn't like European food."
"Then we don't have to worry about it. We can just stay in—that's what we've been doing for the last five years."
"But you like it," said Kanda with a tinge of impatience. "Don't you?"
"I mean…yeah, but really, Valentine's Day is a lot of trouble—don't worry about it, especially if you don't like Italian. And they have like a two month waiting list for reservations—"
"I've already made the reservation. We're going."
And so they went, much to Rei's unspoken delight, for the restaurant was really quite lovely. Unsurprisingly, they bumped into Lenalee and Allen, who were, much to Rei's amusement, on a double-date of some sort with Cross and Anita.
"I'm shocked," said Lenalee teasingly. "Who knew Kanda would venture out of the house on Valentine's Day."
"I heard from Walker that this restaurant did a decent job keeping out unwanted paparazzi," said Kanda shortly.
"Or are you just getting nicer?" laughed Anita. "Finally celebrating Rei's birthday? About time."
"You wanna join us?" said Allen.
Rei looked at Kanda in inquiry, but Kanda shook his head.
"I'd rather not," he said curtly.
"Jeez, just a suggestion," said Allen, rolling his eyes. "No need to be so…rude."
"I wasn't being rude," said Kanda tersely.
"Oh, right, you were just being Kanda."
"Allen," said Cross.
Allen stiffened immediately.
Cross waved Rei and Kanda away in dismissal. Once they were out of earshot, Rei touched Kanda's shoulder gently.
"What?" said Kanda.
"You okay?" she asked. "You seem…out of it. Something wrong?"
"…No," he sighed. "I'm fine. Let's sit down."
But throughout the rest of dinner, Kanda was quieter than normal, leaving Rei to break the silence with occasional and light conversation; business discussions, how their latest photo shoot had been received, how having Lavi model for Illusion for another year might not be a bad idea.
There was no response.
"Kanda?" she sad again, reaching over the white tablecloth and tapping his hand, which was resting beside his untouched entrée.
Kanda jolted out of some reverie and looked at her.
"…If you're tired, we can just go home," she said gently.
"No, you haven't even eaten."
"Kanda, you must've gone temporarily blind. I've finished my dessert while your plate of fettuccini sits unscathed—if you want to go home, we can leave now and I'll make something for you when we get back."
"I'm not hungry," he said irritably.
Rei frowned but did not prod any further. "All right, then. Shall we leave?"
It had been an utterly unspectacular dinner, for though Kanda was normally quiet, rarely was he this sullen. Rei attributed it to stress from work, as bad press always revolved around their relationship—how she shouldn't be dating someone she was economically tied to, how she was only attracted to him for the money, how Kanda himself probably had multiple girls on the sidelines, for the prospect of such a beautiful man being monogamous seemed absurd. They'd gotten to the point where it hardly bothered them anymore, but Valentine's week was always worse than normal.
They left through the back exit, where the limo was already waiting. Kanda climbed in first and Rei followed; she shut the door behind her, shivering slightly, and turned to him, only to find that he handing over his coat.
"It's fine," she said, "the car's heated and you're not wearing a lot."
"Rei," he said, annoyed, tossing it over her. "You're wearing a nearly backless dress. Use your common sense and figure out who needs it more."
Smiling slightly, she slipped over her front and shifted so that she was sitting closer to him. Checking his face for his reaction, she let her head rest on his shoulder lightly. When he remained impassive, she spoke.
"Thank you for taking me out," she said. "I know how much you hate anything that's not Japanese food."
She glanced his way. "…Last time, I promise. You sure you're okay?"
There was a rustling sound, and she straightened up to find a bouquet of red roses thrust in her face. Bewildered, she took them and stared.
"I was going to get you white ones," he said, "but then I remembered Mikk gave you those back…a long time ago, but it still pissed me off, so here."
"I thought you hated flowers," she said, completely thrown.
"I do, but I know you like them."
"…Kanda, are you sure you're okay, I mean if you're sick—"
He grabbed her left hand and she felt something cool be slid onto her index finger. She looked down.
It was a ring, and it was beautiful. Embedded with emeralds all around the band that converged into a single diamond that looked like the center of a flower, it was a work of art.
It took a long time for her to process. She didn't know how much time had passed until Kanda's hand slipped around her waist, pulling her near so that their faces were mere centimeters apart from each other.
When he spoke, it was soft, and the words were so uncharacteristic of him that she nearly wanted to believe that the entire night had been a delusion.
She would've never thought that Kanda would want to get married. It just wasn't him. And she herself had never considered it—after everything, after her father, his remarriage, and then everything with Tyki, she'd found herself not taking marriage seriously anymore, and to think that Kanda…
It was terrible timing. She and Kanda had been dating for five years already; she had seen Tyki only twice over that time period. And yet, she could not help but think of him now, of the cards that never failed to reach her on every birthday and holiday, the ones that said nothing more than "Happy Birthday, Rei. Love, Tyki." No explanation, no elaboration. It was inappropriate, it was unnecessary, it was unfair. But that was over, that had been over a long time ago, back when she really had been dating Tyki and came to the conclusion that they could never work out in the end.
"…Rei," he said quietly.
Rei blinked rapidly.
"Who are you thinking about right now?"
"No," she said quickly.
But Kanda was already retreating from her, his lips curled in a derisive scoff.
"After five years, Rei, I don't get it at all—"
"Kanda, I want to marry you."
"It really doesn't seem like it—"
She set aside the flowers and scooted across the seat to corner him against the door.
"You're right," she said. "I was thinking about Tyki."
Kanda's eyes narrowed.
"But I haven't seen him in years," she said seriously. "And honestly…I was thinking how I didn't want to get married. Because of everything that happened with him." Her hand slipped into his, and she was glad when he didn't pull away. "I've gotten to the point where I don't take marriage seriously anymore, Kanda. That's all I was thinking. But…but with you, it's different, and…I honestly do, Kanda, I know you—"
He grabbed her by the shoulder and kissed her, and in the contact was an unmistakable relief, an urgency, and she met him fervently and completely willingly.
It hadn't been a proposal by normal standards. He hadn't gotten down on one knee, there had been no declaration of undying love, there had been no immediate and simultaneously joyous answer.
But he'd gone out on Valentine's Day, he'd made a reservation for Italian, and he'd bought roses.
These were the times that never failed to surprise her, but it was always and only the little things that mattered with Kanda.
"I don't understand," said Kanda sourly, picking up an envelope and sealing it. "Why do we have to do these manually? Why can't we just send invitations through the email or, better yet, not invite anyone at all?"
"We don't have that many guests, Kanda, stop complaining," she said, writing an address down carefully on the front of an envelope.
"Half these people are people we see everyday," muttered Kanda. "Why don't I just walk next door, find Bookman, and tell him when and where the wedding is?"
"He'll give you hell for that," she murmured.
"It's just not the way it's done, Kanda."
"I don't give a damn how it's done."
"Shut up and seal the envelopes, you whiny idiot."
Surprisingly enough, he did.
They were making compromises already.
"What are those?" said Rei testily, eying the sizable stack of invitations and envelopes that Kanda placed on the table. "I finished all of them already—no thanks to you, Mr. Sleepyhead."
"I wasn't sleeping," he said. "I was doing some research. These are the addresses to all of Mikk's villas around the world. Since we don't know where he is, I figured we might send one to all of them."
Rei stared hesitantly at him. Kanda arched an eyebrow.
"What? You'd expect me to not notice that you didn't send him one?"
She didn't reply. Sighing, he sat down across from her and handed her half the stack.
"Start writing," he said, picking up a pen himself. "There's like thirty of them. And stop looking like that—I know you want him to be there, so just send them out."
"But if you don't want him there, that's—"
"Don't want him there?" smirked Kanda. "You think I'd pass up the chance to rub this in his face? Yeah, right. Now write."
"You look beautiful, Rei."
"Bookman, what are you even doing here?"
"Bored. Women take so long to get ready—thought I'd come bother you." Lavi sat down easily on the couch in Rei's dressing room.
"Shouldn't you be with Kanda?"
"I'm rather bitter towards Kanda right now," said Lavi. "To think—Allen over me? Since when were he and Allen best mates?"
"They have a strange…relationship," said Rei. "They're quite good friends—it just doesn't seem like they…get along."
"Weirdest friendship I've ever seen," said Lavi dryly, looking at her up at down. "Your hair's great, but when are you changing into your dress?"
"When you get out," she said primly.
"C'mon, it's not a big deal."
"Are you serious?"
"We've seen each other naked before—"
"No, we have not."
"Givenchy photo shoot?"
"Wrong person, Bookman."
"Oh. Right. Damn. We'll have to organize a naked shoot then."
"Go bother Mira."
"No fun," he said. "We always end up getting into an argument."
"Go find Anja."
Lavi snorted. "You kidding? Woman hates me."
"Bookman, why is it that no one likes you?"
"Absolutely no idea," he said breezily. "But you do, right? That's all that matters?"
"No. Go away, I need to change."
There was a knock on the door, and Lenalee poked her head in, her hair and makeup already impeccable.
"Hi," she said. "I'm finished—do you need help, Rei?"
"I may once Bookman leaves," she said. "Bookman."
"Fine, fine, on my way," he yawned, kissing Rei and Lenalee on the cheek before idling out.
Lenalee helped Rei into the dress, an Illusion creation, though it was one that Anja had designed. Kanda had originally wanted to be the designer, but of course that would've gone against every superstition of marriage possible, and thus he'd backed down in the end. Anja had done a splendid job, though, with a laced collar and floral patterned bodice before the dress flowed to the ground with a sizable train. It was slightly ornate, and Rei knew that once Kanda saw it, he would have an infinite number of critiques to make, but it hardly mattered; in the light of things, the dress was only a small part of something that seemed ultimately surreal.
"Does that fit?" said Lenalee, tucking the train under one hand.
"Yeah, we can just zip it up now."
There was another knock, and Rei let out a frustrated growl.
"Bookman, for the last time, go bother Kanda—"
The door creaked open. It wasn't Lavi.
Dressed simply in a suit and an underlying black vest with one single gold chain dangling on the side, Tyki appeared at the entrance, his smile faint, his presence very much real.
Rei could not help but stare in utter shock.
"Hello," he said, nodding to the both of them. "Rei. Lenalee."
"H-hi," said Lenalee, bewildered and glancing quickly at Rei for her reaction.
She was speechless.
"I know it's a bit unprecedented," said Tyki, "but…Lenalee, would you mind if I had a word with Rei? In private?"
"No, I mean, yes, I mean…" Lenalee looked at Rei for help.
Rei nodded. "Yeah, that would be nice—I mean, fine. It's okay. I'll be out in a minute."
Lenalee nodded and stepped out of the room, shutting the door gently behind her. Rei just stared at Tyki, whose smile broadened as he stepped across the parlor so that he was abreast of her.
"It's been a while," he said. Same scent of cigarette smoke. "Couple years?"
She nodded silently. He stepped around her; she felt like she was on display as he circled her, looking at her intently.
He stopped behind her, where he looked at her through the mirror that stood across from them.
"You look stunning," he said softly.
"…Thanks," she said, uncomfortable with how close his voice appeared.
A low chuckle.
"Can't quite believe I gave this up," he said. His hands rested on her hips lightly—it was too intimate, too soon.
"Don't touch me," she said quietly.
He obliged and removed his hands.
They fell silent, each examining the other through the reflection of the mirror because direct eye contact was too intimate, too soon, because there was definitely some degree of fear and wariness between them, and it pained her to realize that this was all they'd become—distrustful, frightened, and regretful.
"I wanted to say thank you for your cards," she said carefully. "They…were really appreciated."
She began to stray closer.
"So where have you been?"
"All over," he answered. "Italy, France, Spain, Portugal for some time, then China, and the U.S.—really, all over, except for London."
"What have you been doing?"
"Working," he said.
"Rarely," she said. "There were only a few photo shoots that you consented to do."
"Mm. Well, being less available made my commercial image worth more. It's the same thing that Kanda and you do, right?"
There was a glint in his golden eyes. "Worried about me?"
She yielded room. "As always."
Another chuckle, and his hands then rested on her lower back.
"I'll zip you up."
She said nothing and allowed him to, and when the zipper stopped at its goal, Tyki's hands wandered to her shoulders and fiddled with her veil.
"You told me you didn't want to get married," he said.
He was covering ground quickly.
"Not to you," she said.
His eyes flickered to meet hers in the mirror. "Of course. So Kanda treats you well."
It was not a question; it was more of a derisive statement.
"Yes," she answered. "He does."
Tyki didn't answer immediately. His hand trailed down her left arm and stopped at her wrist, where he took her hand and tilted it upward so that the engagement ring glinted in the sunlight that made the parlor glow.
"…How did he propose?"
Rei smiled faintly. "He didn't."
"…I see," said Tyki. "
A quick knock that separated them, and then Lenalee emerged from the entrance.
"Sorry," she said apologetically, "but something came up—Rei, Cross can't make it."
"…Why?" said Rei, stepping out of Tyki's range. "I thought he was here already—"
"No, his flight was supposed to get in two hours ago but he and Anita are delayed in New York—apparently, it's storming badly."
"…Why do you need Marian?" asked Tyki.
"He's supposed to walk Rei down the aisle," said Lenalee anxiously. "Maybe I can ask Lavi to do it—and then I'll sit out so that the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen will be equal—"
"That's easily fixable," said Tyki. "I'll walk her down."
Alarm flashed through Lenalee's face. "But…"
"It's appropriate, isn't it?" said Tyki with the barest trace of a smirk. "Me giving Rei away? To Kanda, no less?"
"It's fine," said Rei, "we can just get Lavi—"
"Could you ask Kanda for me please, Lenalee?"
"He's fine with it," said Lavi's voice. He appeared behind Lenalee and patted her on the head. "I already got the memo that you were here, so when I heard that Marian wasn't going to make it, I figured you'd want to walk Rei down so I went ahead and asked for you. He's cool."
"Bookman," said Rei warningly.
"It's fine, Rei. Kanda's not that petty—besides, it's pretty appropriate, if you want to be brutally honest with yourself."
"Thanks," said Tyki. "We'll be out in a second—I have a few more things I want to say to Rei."
Lavi arched an eyebrow in suggestive inquiry. Tyki shook his head—in the end, it looked like Lavi was still the one who understood Tyki best, for he shrugged as if he'd gotten his answer and beckoned to Lenalee.
"We're starting in fifteen—better get ready soon."
They left the two of them alone. It was awkward positioning now, without the mirror to be their visual conductor, and slowly she turned to him, slightly apprehensive.
"You don't have to walk me down," she said. "I can get Bookman."
"It's no big deal," said Tyki. "I think it'd be healthy for me. Giving you away."
"Your father couldn't make it?" said Tyki.
Rei's eyes flashed. "I don't contact him. Or the rest of your family, for that matter."
"As you shouldn't," he agreed. "In case you were wondering, though, he's doing well with Lulu, and—"
"I don't care," she said in a steely tone.
Tyki dropped the subject. "Right. Well…we only have a few minutes, so I'll go ahead and say what I wanted to say." His hand reached up and touched her cheek, tilting her head up so that she faced him. "I have missed you, very much, for the last few years. At the same time, I believe that our ending was…the better decision. A wiser decision. So…I came to say thank you, for being with me, back at the very beginning, and then again…after you came back. You probably think…that that year with me was more trouble than it was worth. And I'm sorry for that. But it was more valuable to me than you could imagine."
He paused, as if he were waiting for her answer. Rei did not have one—Tyki coming back now telling her all of this was not going to change anything. They were no longer children; responsibilities, obligations, and reality weighed more heavily on their shoulders than ever before. They could no longer act so impulsive, so unaware of who made them self-destructive, so hell-bent on keeping a relationship that made them unbelievably happy for infinitesimal moments in comparison to the long run of arguments, distrust, and hurt.
He seemed to know this, for he nodded slowly. He then bent down slightly so that their faces were level, and Rei resisted the urge to push him away.
"That's all, then. The last thing," he said huskily, "is this." He leaned close, and instinctively Rei turned to the side so that his lips grazed her cheek, liltingly, gently. The touch seemed like it took forever, too long. Too intimate, and it would always be too soon. Or too late. He hovered there, his fingers stroking her skin. His breath lilted.
"Surprised you didn't come with anyone today to the wedding," said Lavi, sliding into the seat next to Tyki at the bar.
"To her wedding?" Tyki scoffed. "As if."
"Oh, so you have matured."
"Can't help it—I'm over thirty."
"Old man," chuckled Lavi. "But seriously. You okay?"
"…Yeah. I came with that mentality to the wedding, at any rate," he said. "It's a little harder than I expected but…it's fine." Tyki pulled out a cigarette and lit it. "She looks happy."
"Yeah," said Lavi, "I think she is."
Tyki saw him glance sideways in his direction.
"Spit it out."
"I don't want you getting the wrong idea—she's happy."
"I know that. She's also married now. And on her way to Japan for the first time in nearly ten years with her…" Tyki grimaced, "husband. Believe me, she's out of my reach now, and I know that."
"I was just going to say…I think she thinks of you. Now and then. And misses you."
"Great," scoffed Tyki. "Should've told me that five years ago, when we were about to fall apart—"
"I didn't need to tell you that," said Lavi shortly. "You already knew, and you let it fall apart."
Tyki was silent.
"Look, mate," sighed Lavi. "I'm not shoving it in your face. Just…" He paused. "It's happened."
"I know," said Tyki.
"…Good for you, you know," said Lavi. "Giving her away. That was…noble."
"I can't tell if you're serious or just being sarcastic."
"No, I'm being real. I…I think it's good. Healthy for you."
Tyki rocked his glass back and forth in his hand. Rei had been glowing down the aisle, and despite Kanda's gaze clearly flickering over to Tyki, Rei seemed to have been fixated on the alter, and on her feet so that she wouldn't trip over her train. It was an unsettling feeling, to see her for the first time in so long only to give her away, permanently, to the one man Tyki had never felt more threatened by.
Because even over the course of their separation, Rei had always registered to be his girl. Far removed from seeing her and Kanda together, the idea of them dating hadn't even phased Tyki that much—it was just a stage, they would tire of each other, and Kanda was too emotionally limited to have a long-term relationship. But then he'd gotten that invitation in the mail—we cordially invite you to—Yuu Kanda—Rei Matsumomo—and then it all became very real, because only then did it occur to Tyki that Kanda was truly, truly serious. And if Rei had said yes…she was serious too.
"Yeah, I hope it'll be good," he said.
Lavi grinned. "…Time to move on?"
Tyki chuckled wryly. "I know. I have already."
Lavi raised his glass. "I'll keep believing that."
Tyki clinked his drink against Lavi's and drank the rest in one gulp. "So will I."
"Why are there flowers here?"
"They're not from me," said Kanda, emerging from the shower. "I wouldn't get you white roses."
"…So they're from Tyki."
"I guess," he sighed, lying down on the bed. "I was going to throw them out, but I figured that would be petty."
"Why are they here?"
"Isn't there a card?"
Rei smiled slightly and left the bouquet untouched to walk over to the bed and lay down beside him.
"Grumpy?" she grinned, rolling on top of him.
"No," he said, turning his face away from her.
"Shut up, go see if there's a card."
"You didn't look for one yourself?" she asked, laying her chin on his chest so that she could feel the rhythmic beating of his heart against her skin.
"…I figured it would be something private."
She smiled again and slid up so that her face was directly over his. That was another thing to add on the list of little things Kanda did.
"You've gotten more…" She kissed him gently. "What's the word? Mature? Or sensible?"
"I got married," said Kanda acidly. "If you think I'm going to be pissed off by Mikk who you haven't seen in years—"
"Mm-hm, you're not mature at all," she said, laughing. "You're still worried. Look, I won't look at the card. You can read it first."
"Go get it."
Rei rolled off the bed and made her way to the sets of bouquets that were now filling the room with their strong aroma. It took a few minutes of shuffling around the petals to find the card; she picked it up and examined it.
"It's not addressed to me," she said, frowning.
She heard rustling behind her and turned around to find Kanda approaching her, his face already dark.
"Who's it addressed to?"
"You," she said, starting to laugh. The handwriting was undeniably Tyki's—of course he couldn't leave without the last word, and to Kanda, no less…
"Hand it over," snapped Kanda, grabbing the envelope himself and ripping it open. Out fell a stiff, white card, which Kanda picked up and read; one glance and his face color plummeted into one of darkest rage.
"What does it say?" said Rei, peering over the edge.
"He's a fucking asshole—"
"Here, here, give it to me—"
She snatched it from his hands before he could rip it up and saw the following.
Congratulations on finally getting married. I always thought I would be attending you and Alma's wedding but I guess I was wrong. Bookman agrees with me though. He's also the one who told me you hate white roses. You can blame him for the bouquets. I'm completely wasted right now, if you can't tell. Hope your honeymoon is amazing. By the way, Rei is particularly sensitive on the right side of her lower neck. And her left—
Rei stopped reading and promptly ripped the card in her hands to shreds.
"Let's get room service to take these away," she said primly.
"Right side of lower neck?" said Kanda with an arched eyebrow.
"He's just being…"
Kanda took a step towards her; she took a step back.
"What was the other part?" he breathed, cornering her against the wall. "Left inner thigh?"
She could feel herself reddening at this point. "He's—"
She gasped as Kanda suddenly lifted her up and headed for the bed.
"Kanda, seriously, it was a joke, he was clearly wasted—"
"Doesn't change a damn thing, Rei."
"There's nothing to be angry about—you've gotten more mature, right—"
"I tried," he said, smirking as he dropped her on the mattress and climbed over her. "Slight problem there. Your asshole of an ex is thirty-two years old and still an asshole. You can't blame me for getting just slightly pissed."
He placed his hands against either side of her head and began to attack the right side of her neck, causing her to gasp.
It'd been nearly ten years after they'd first met. She would've thought that they would've grown up by now.
But no, all of them were still idiots. Immature.
Yet the little list of little things was steadily growing longer, and perhaps that was why she didn't mind, because in the end, that was how things always progressed; little by little, step by step, until she looked back and realized just how far they'd gotten; how far the beginning was, but how close it was too, for the far was always near and the near was always far, and that was how it'd always been.