Title: The Only War
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Category: romance, humor
Characters: Yukawa Manabu/Utsumi Kaoru, Kuribayashi Hiromi
Summary: Negotiating a relationship takes work, honesty, and communication. Or, the story of how Yukawa and Utsumi decided to get married. 1969 words.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Notes: Lyl inspired me to write this, uh, two or three years ago, and she made it a hundred times better by being a phenomenal beta reader. Sorry I couldn't work the proposal in there, but it is implicit. The title comes from this anonymous quote: "Marriage is the only war in which you sleep with the enemy."
She'd said, "I want to get married."
He stared at her, sitting across from him at breakfast, her face expectant, and said, "What?"
"Don't act like you didn't understand. I said I want to get married."
"I'm tired of waiting. You won't ask, because I know you." She held up her hand and started ticking points off it by bending subsequent fingers. "It's not necessary. We're better off not dealing with the paperwork. It's a silly tradition. Getting married just makes problems."
He couldn't say anything to that, even though he opened his mouth as if he wanted to. Nothing came out, which was just...fairly normal for them, especially when dealing with such things.
She nodded, anyway, as if he'd answered her. "See," she said.
How odd, that she could reduce him to no words at all. It was not the first time.
She said, "When should I pick out the wedding dress?"
"Wait a minute. Kaoru -" Something occurred to him, and, being the only thing that had a faint semblance of sense, he blurted it out, "You do mean me, right?" Faint semblance disappeared immediately like a puff of smoke. What a stupid thing to say. Illogical, even. What a mess she made of him.
She smiled, and he knew that his stupidity hadn't gone past her. She said, "You want to wear the dress? All right, that's fine with me."
He ignored that for the derailing ploy it was and said, "You want to marry me, is that correct?"
"No, I want to marry your lab. Yes, you, baka!"
She got up from her chair and went into their bedroom and he knew that was the end of the conversation. He blinked to himself, as he cleared the table, before going in to find her getting ready for work.
He said, "But what we have between us is fine as it is."
"No, it's not. Stop talking to me." She turned her back to him. He stared at her, watching how she carefully avoided looking at him. When she shut him out like that, well, that was the end of that. So he said, "Have a good day at work."
That was the morning. The rest of the day, much the same. She'd never answered her cell. Not the most desired of situations, considering what happened the last time.
The apartment is dark when he opens the door, later that day. And, that's just what he was expecting. So much for fulfilled expectations. A note on the table is all he finds of her presence.
He sits down and pulls it to him, not quite sure he wants to read it. It's terse, and infused with her displeasure at him, and he can almost hear her voice when he reads, 'We're not done discussing this. I'm out with Sakurako, and my cell is on, but don't bother calling. Fix your own dinner.'
After ordering in, he sits at the table and methodically chews his food, trying to figure out what to do next. Nothing occurs to him.
He wakes up in the morning to her giving him a kiss on the cheek, and saying, "I'm off to work."
He props himself up on his elbows, confused, and says, "Kaoru, ana -"
She doesn't look at him, busy with putting on a suit jacket. "Don't even start."
Endearments do not work when arguing with Kaoru. "Ah, so despite the kiss, you're still angry."
"That's right." She sits down on the end of the bed, and slips on her shoes.
"Why? Why do you want to get married?" 'To me' goes unspoken. He watches her, trying to see if anything she does will clue him into what she really wants, because he's thought about it and he has no reasons for why it would matter.
She stands and turns to look at him, tipping her head to one side, a gentle smile on her face. He doesn't think she means it nicely.
"Yukawa. I don't have time for this. I need to be at work, and so do you. I know you can figure this out; I made myself clear. Just think."
He knows better than to say that, no, he's still confused. She's still at that stage where she won't listen. She walks out of the bedroom, and seconds later, the door to the apartment opens and closes.
"Think, she says." Saying it aloud doesn't really help. He sighs and gets up. She's right, of course. Work awaits.
Once he reaches the lab, he tries to reach her by texting just as he did the day before, and just as the day before, all attempts to reach her go unanswered. He finally texts, 'Anata,' - he has to try - 'if you are going to continue this silence, maybe I should just find another place to stay.'
Kuribayashi comes in as he's typing and greets him. When Yukawa only nods at him, he makes a disgruntled face and disappears to the back of the lab.
'If you still haven't figured this out,' comes her response a few seconds later, 'you need to try harder, Galileo-sensei.'
He responds, 'Are you still angry with me?'
A loud clatter and a muffled curse bounce off the ceiling. Yukawa doesn't look away from his phone. As expected, it chimes.
'A little,' he reads. He thinks that's the end of the conversation, and puts the phone down, only for it to chime a few minutes later. Her message reads, 'Make it better.'
He looks up to see Kuribayashi staring at him, holding a steel basket of equipment. He looks away as soon as Yukawa looks at him, and takes a few steps closer to the large table across from Yukawa's desk, placing the basket of equipment down on the large table.
Kuribayashi says, "Utsumi troubles?"
"Yes." He might as well be honest about it.
Kuribayashi nods and continues setting up for the day's experiments.
Yukawa asks, "What's the best way to apologize for something when you don't know what you've done wrong?"
Kuribayashi considers that, pausing in placing tools in line. "Huh, well, flowers, maybe? I don't know if she's the flower type, though. Just say she's right; that never fails." He laughs; it's an uncomfortable sound, born of experience. "Whatever you do, just make sure you do that."
"Hmm," Yukawa answers, and then stands. He says, "I'll be back soon."
"Huh?" Kuribayashi says. "But what about -"
Yukawa doesn't stay to listen, confident that Kuribayashi will just deal, as he is supposed to as his assistant.
It doesn't take long to do what he has in mind. Kaoru looks up as he approaches her desk and her eyes widen, but that's the only sign that she's surprised.
"Will this do?" he asks her, and sets the plastic cup down on her desk, followed by a wrapped straw. He was very careful not to disturb the whipped cream on top.
She looks at it, then him, then around. No one else in the office is looking at them. Even though his visits to the police headquarters are infrequent, the other women learned soon enough that he was 'taken,' as they say. Now, he barely gets a glance. It still makes Utsumi nervous when he shows up, though.
"You bought me Starbucks?"
He sits down across from her, and pushes the cup at her. It's started to gather condensation, and he rubs his fingers together when he's done touching it.
"Dark mocha chip," he says. "You hate the coffee at the lab."
She reaches for the straw and starts to take its cover off. "This isn't coffee."
"No, it's not."
Using the straw as a spoon, she scoops some of the whipped cream off the top of the drink. "You remembered what I like," she says, smiling, finally, and eats the cream off the end of the straw.
He leans back in the chair. "Kuribayashi said I should get you flowers."
"Kuribayashi would be wrong, but you knew that already." She sticks the straw down into the cup and drags it closer.
She looks down, her face growing serious. She looks back up at him. "I have work to do."
He's learned not to expect more, since this is Utsumi, after all, who never says she's wrong if she can help it. He nods.
"I understand. I need to get back to the lab."
He stands. So does she. She says, "Yukawa..."
He waits, silent.
"Thank you." For most people, that would mean very little, but it's an 'I'm sorry' rolled up into 'I'm not angry at you anymore' and it's enough.
"I'll come by the lab when I'm done for the day."
He nods, again.
He goes back to the lab, where he finds an experiment has gone hideously wrong. It's not the first time, though the bubbles were more benign and amusing than what happened this time. After that, and lecturing, and lunch, the day goes by quickly. When Kaoru shows up at the lab, he's forgotten that she said she was coming by, and is deep into reading student papers.
She pulls one of the round chairs to his desk and sits across from him. When he looks up at her, she smiles a brief, bemused smile at him. He sets the paper he was reading down.
He says, "I still don't know what you want. I'm starting to think I never will. You want to get married; I don't see the point."
She lets out a breath, the expression on her face not losing much of its bemusement, but becoming more tinged with resignation. "That's the point, Yukawa."
"The point. The point is to be married. It matters to me. Besides, I want the wedding. I want to have a big party and invite all our friends. I'll wear white, you'll wear white tie, and I'll shove cake in your face." She smiles; it's mischievous and anticipatory.
"Ah," he says, understanding.
She tilts her head to the side, sweeping a lock of loose hair back, with one finger. "Finally, he gets it," she says, tone fond.
He shakes his head at her. "Why do you act like this?"
"It's fun. You like challenges. But," she looks down and moves a pen lying on the table around with one finger, "maybe if we're going to prepare for a wedding, and say vows, and everything else..."
"That we've already done."
"Yukawa," she says, sounding a little scandalized, but smiling, nonetheless. The smiles fades, as she continues, "I'm saying, I shouldn't be so petty. I'm sorry I behave that way, sometimes."
"If you weren't petty, you wouldn't be you."
She rolls her eyes. "Yet, here we are, negotiating."
He nods and says, "Maybe, if you want to give me a challenge, more clues would be better. I'm still learning."
"Yes, maybe. Me, too. I can't just freeze you out every time you don't understand. It's not healthy. Next time I'll be more clear." She narrows her eyes at him, and tosses her head back, saying, "That said, though, it serves you right, anyway. You drive me crazy. I always have to beat you over the head with things like this. You clueless man."
He nods, face serious, maybe a little too serious, as she responds by making a chagrined face at him, wrinkling her nose. It's cute, even though he keeps that thought to himself.
They sit in silence for a few seconds. Then, she smiles at him, and reaches across to place her hand over his, curling her fingers into his palm. "Let's go home," she says, "I'm tired of fighting. You can formally propose later."
"So this doesn't count."
She shakes her head, still smiling. "Of course not. But, I'll wait. I'm sure you'll do it properly."