She was so stupid for not jumping off her bike right away when she found herself hurtling towards the black and yellow gates. She wondered if she hadn't been so stupid, if he would have stayed.
Some days, she feels utterly run-down. Some days, she gets off from a long day at work, rides the packed subway, and comes home to an empty apartment. Some days, she doesn't even bother to make dinner, only crumples onto the mussed bedspread and sleeps until the exhaustion has run out. On those days, she dreams of him. On the days after, she smiles and resumes life with a lissome bounce to her step, until the next time the weariness overcomes her.
The floor lurches beneath her. Makoto shrieks as if her life is ending and falls to her knees, the railing clamped betwixt her vise-like digits.
"Whoa, that was unusual," pipes Chiaki. "Does this always happen in your era?" She peels open an eye. It's dark, but there's still an emergency bulb that shines dimly on the two of them. She watches him bend forward a little to examine the control board of the elevator. His features twist in befuddlement. "How do you call for assistance?"
Makoto carefully gets to her feet, eyeing the whole contraption warily, as if it will drop them to their deaths at any given second. "Oh, here it is." He presses down on an unused red button, and instantly an irritating alarm signals their wholly undesirable situation.
"We could have just called for help, Chiaki."
He shrugs. "Just speeding things along."
She shoots him a narrow-eyed pout. "Going to visit Kousuke was your idea."
Chiaki laughs good-naturedly. "Yeah, it was," he concedes. "This is still interesting, in my opinion. It's not every day you get to get stuck in an elevator."
Makoto's foot taps against the grimy floor impatiently. His calm and unaffected manner is at odds with her need to panic and lash out. It's all Kousuke's fault. Why does the idiot have to work on the eighteenth floor?
Chiaki leans easily against the elevator wall, watching her slow-boil in aggravation. After a long moment of what Chiaki guesses must be mental cursing, Makoto lets the mess of a glare unwind from her features and digs a hand into her bag. She produces her phone, flips it open, and presses the number 8 on the speed dial pad. A small grimace appears on his lips. He wonders which number he is; he decides it should at least be 7.
"Hello? Kousuke, I'm stuck in an elevator with Chiaki." And this is really all your stupid fault remains unsaid, but blatant from her tone and word choice. "You can hear the alarm? Yes," she rubs her temple in distress, and Chiaki wonders if it's a habit she's picked up from Kousuke, "Chiaki pushed it." A pause. "Oh, really? That's great, then. We'll see you as soon as this thing gets running. Okay. Bye."
She turns to him, a trite merrier. "Kousuke said they're sending someone on their way. We should be out in no time!" Chiaki nods, but says nothing. She doesn't quite like the intensity of the stare he's giving her. "Are you feeling okay?" she asks.
"I'm fine," he replies, so she relaxes. "I was just thinking; you look nice today." Her stunt with relaxation grinds to a halt.
Her oak-colored eyes snap to him. "Don't get any funny ideas!" she warns apprehensively, wheedling inconspicuously into the farthest elevator corner, which, she bedamns, is not very far at all.
A quick and sly smile quirks his face. "What ideas?" His voice is mellow and light, and he closes the dismal distance between them in two long strides.
Makoto's pupils dilate and her mouth stretches and thins into a frown of displeasure; of discomfiture, once he's close enough to breathe on. She has to force herself to think and not sound like a moron. "Those ideas," she ducks her head and lets the declaration cede into a whisper, "that you're thinking right now."
Chiaki chuckles because he feels rather victorious. "What do you think I'm thinking right now?"
Makoto's expression strains to be one of pert discontent. "I'm thinking," she announces, pressing a hand against his chest in a mild attempt to push him back some distance (but she feels the heat from his skin through the shirt and immediately drops her hand away as if it's been singed), "you're thinking—nevermind." His fingers find and curl over hers. She gasps, as if it's never occurred to her that he's genuinely serious. Right here? Right now? "Chiaki, we don't have time for this—the elevator people will be here any minute!" Her squeak, it appears, does nothing to dissuade him.
He grins into the corner of her parted mouth. "We have all the time in the world."
Her eyelids flutter closed instinctively.
For some reason, it doesn't surprise her that the day she finds ladybug crap on her time tattoo is the day he returns to her.
Her nails tear bloody crescents into his skin. Her knuckles have gone bone-white, and her eyes burn through him like chemicals through steel. For a moment, the murky, desperate haze of in her eyes clears, giving him an uninhibited look into dizzying irruptions of pain. Her spindly fingers clamp down impossibly tighter, teeth clenched and enamel squealing in protest.
"I," she begins with ragged difficulty, clammy sweat plastering her bangs to her sallow face, "hate you."
The smile gutters pathetically on his lips until it drops into a painful grimace. "Makoto." He gives the hand he can no longer feel a reassuring squeeze. "I'm right here." A terrible scream rips out of her. He can feel her body quivering and tense, and her eyes leave his to seek refuge in the emotionless ceiling. With his other hand, he gently tilts her head toward him. "Makoto, look at me. I'm here."
She glares at him, every feature on her face contorted in pain. He brushes the stray bangs out of her eyes, and feels assuaged somewhat that she has enough strength to lean into his touch. "You're almost through, Makoto," exclaims the nurse, voice ripe with mild encouragement. "You're doing great. Just a little more."
Chiaki's eyes brighten at the news. "See, it's almost over. I'll get you that key-lime pie you wanted in no time."
Makoto winces, and a tear escapes from her lashes. "I hate you so much," she hisses. "With fudge, okay?"
He nods, glad he hasn't lost her completely to the monstrosity of excruciating pain. He lifts his bruised right hand, which she still possesses in her vise-like grip, and kisses her bloodless knuckles. "Of course. With fudge." The doctor, Chiaki swears, is grinning through the mask.
Several screams and breathless hiccups later, the attending obstetrician announces, "Congratulations, it's a healthy baby girl."
He gets down to one knee. She stares—no, gapes—at him, jaw going practically unhinged. She knows this stance: outdated, notorious, horrifically sick, romantic—
It's the proposal pose.
She can't even summon the brainpower to think. The room doesn't go spinning on her. Her legs don't suddenly feel like jelly. Her mouth doesn't even go dry. She just gapes at him.
"Makoto," he musters, his cheeks and nose dusted a very heated pink, "will you marry me?"
His half-stammer, half-request has her synapses connecting a trifle better. She instinctively glances down at the exposed skin on his wrist. "You still have an extra leap, you know," she blurts without thinking. She immediately regrets the words. He looks as if she's just dug the heel of her shoe into his face.
He fidgets fretfully with the little diamond affair seated on the palm of his hand. "Sorry, I know this is a little unexpected. I shouldn't have surprised you; you freak out whenever I do something weird."
He shakes his head, coping with disappointment. "It's alright. I should give you some time to think about it. Just tell me on your own terms. I can wait." He begins to tuck it back into his coat pocket, when she clasps the ring box with both her hands.
"What do you think you're doing?" she stumbles, turning fire-engine-red. She really, really can't bring herself to look him in the face. She figures he's probably got this monstrously bright and cheesy grin plastered all over. She has to take a deep, controlled breath before she can say anything. "You're not even going to put it on? How stupid," she mutters, with no bite.
The next moment she's losing her balance. She clamps tight to the ring and fists her other hand into his coat, and feels herself supported precariously by the railing behind her. She glimpses twinkling, black-satin water out of the corner of her eye, and smacks him with the ring box half-heartedly. "I could have dropped this in the river, you idiot!" But he's nestled his head in the curve of her neck, and his arms are wrapped around her in a startlingly tender and pleasant way, so she forgives him a little.
"I love you," he murmurs into her skin. "Will do me the honor of marrying me?"
"Yes." She marvels at the seriousness of her response. "I will."
He kisses her, then. She squeaks out a protest of bewilderment. He chuckles. "Sorry about that. I know you hate surprises." He slips the ring on her finger.
He loves the sigh she makes when she wakes but before she's lucid. He loves the way her hand wanders across the pillow, searching sluggishly to silence the alarm clock. He loves that these habits of hers haven't changed, so that every morning, when she wakes up, he's the first to hear her sleepy sigh and feel her fingertips graze his shoulder.
10; writer's choice: fury
"You're angry," he observed mildly as he stared her down from across the countertop.
She glared at him from where she was sitting. "Damn right, I'm angry." She jerked her molten gaze back to the television, as if he were no longer worth looking at.
"Makoto," he began, testing his apology tentatively. "I—" His next words were smothered by the television's sudden boost in volume. Chiaki practically growled his mental aggravation. She was so predictable. He strolled over to her seat, sat down next to her, and wrestled the remote gently out of her clench. Makoto dutifully ignored his existence, thoroughly enraptured by the fascinatingly monotonous weather forecaster. "Makoto," asserted Chiaki, "don't be like this. Let's talk it out." Makoto swung him a cold, dirty look, before shooting up out of her seat and leaving the room.
As the door slammed behind her, Chiaki slumped forward in the couch cushion, hands fisting in his hair. He swallowed a frustrated groan. He hated, absolutely hated, getting the silent treatment from her. Her life was way too short to be wasting on petty fights like these. He realized long ago he had at least twenty years of loneliness ahead of him after the day he would irretrievably lose her to Death's bitter claws. She once said she understood, but he felt like she didn't, not really. If she really did, she wouldn't hold grudges, wouldn't play these silly games with him.
The door opened behind him, and he jolted up, feeling a swell of delight mixed with relief. Glancing hopefully over his shoulder, he only caught Makoto retreating from the bedroom to the bathroom with a bundle of clothes under her arm and a surly expression on her face. Of course, she would. She bathed when she was angry. She really was an open book.
Suddenly, an idea struck him. With a jaunty quirk of his lips, Chiaki stood up and approached the bathroom door, shedding his jacket and shirt along the way. He heard the water running, and caught the bright notes of Makoto's humming through the door. Perfect.
"Makoto, may I come in?"
The humming abruptly stopped.
He loved to see her in sleeveless tops. She rarely wore them, finding them too impractical for most days and preferring instead the safety and familiarity of ratty, old t-shirts. But today, she seemed to be in a humoring mood, sporting a red tank top that matched his. She padded barefoot across the floor boards, her slender legs marred by nothing save for a pair of gratuitously short shorts. The lazy smile on her lips appeared as naturally as her next maneuver did. He smiled as she plopped into his waiting lap, curling her tiny body into his. He dropped a kiss onto the back of her neck as she absentmindedly traced circles on the inside of his wrist. The pad of his thumb stroked the supple skin of her bare arm.
"I like it when you go sleeveless," he murmured.
"I know you do," she replied briskly, with a tiny, little smirk.
There was something inexplicably comforting about them sharing the "00" marks on their skin.
Her biggest regret was not giving him a happy ending.
A/N: And done. This may be the first multi-installment project that I have ever finished. I deeply appreciate all of you taking the time to read this and sticking with me to its completion. I won't lie; some of the prompts were so difficult to come up with something for that I wanted to yank chunks of hair out, but all in all, it was worth it. What did you think of the the project as a whole? Did you see any shifts from the first batch to the last? Did it leave a bitter, sweet, or bittersweet impression? Favorite prompts? Let me know! Comments and critique welcomed. Thank you for reading.