>> Friday, July 15, 2011
If you are interested in reading this, start here or, even if you're a fan, you'll get confused. Note that the disclaimer and introduction still apply.
Disclaimer: these characters and scenarios are based on the work of Nakamura Yoshiki and I'm just speculating on what might happen later in the story. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not an original work and I will never try to market or profit by it in any way. The manga is rated "Teen" but this is probably closer to "older Teen" 'cause, unlike the manga, there's actual sex.
Her blush intensified, but she held her head high as she brought her supplies to the kitchen. "Should I cook later or...?"
Now that he had himself in hand, Ren found himself amused at her confusion. "Let's eat like civilized people and talk."
"Will you kick me out as soon as you've eaten?"
Ah. Her mind, so facile. He'd done that to her before. "I will drive you home when you're ready to go. You can stay as long as you like in the mean time. Or return any time. I can get a key made for you tomorrow if it would make you feel better."
She pulled out green onions and began to chop. "I don't understand you. I thought... You seemed... Now, you're so calm."
He nearly laughed aloud. "You are still desirable. I've just regained my equilibrium. And I'm not scared out of my mind. I'm happy. It's been a long time since I felt so happy."
She set rice cooking, then looked at him suspiciously. "I've never seen you like this. I can't believe you were afraid I'd turn away from you. Even if I didn't love you, I wouldn't have cut you from my life. I've depended on you from the beginning."
"I feel like it was the other way around, that you were supporting me." He slid around the counter and took up her knife. "Here, I can chop these. I just can't be trusted with the actual cooking."
She didn't argue and that made him laugh again. It struck him how comfortable he was cooking with her, working beside her, eating with her, talking with her. His fear of losing her had been undermining his enjoyment of her. Stupid. "Thank you for coming. That chicken was right. I should have told you how I felt a long time ago."
"I can't remember when you seemed so open," she said, with an expression that said she wasn't sure she liked it.
"I'm going to celebrate not scaring you away by getting rid of all my secrets. Ask me anything and I promise to answer truthfully."
The look she gave him was so sly, it reminded him forcefully of Mio. But the question seemed innocuous enough. "You say you've loved me a long time. When did you first start to love me?"
Ah. Was she ready for that, the truth behind her Fairy Prince, "Corn?" Was he? But he couldn't lie. Better address it slowly. "I think I"ve loved you from the first moment, the first time I saw you."
He laughed, having expected that response. "No, truth, but I didn't know I loved you for a long time. I sometimes think I was the last one to know."
"Not hardly. You didn't love me from the beginning. You hated me."
"You mean, when you first joined the agency? I didn't hate you," he said piously. "I disliked you intensely."
She snorted. "Same thing."
"Not the same thing, but that's why I think I loved you from the first. You pulled a response from me, a strong one, instantly. You've seen me work with many people, some of which were nowhere near as professional as they should have been, as you are. Have you ever seen me treat any of them like I treated you?"
"No. Never," she said at once, in a voice that didn't sound convinced.
He shrugged. "My point. I actively didn't want you in the agency, pushed you away with harsh words when you were nice or open with me, more so as my respect for you grew. Why was that?"
"You hated me."
"If I'd really hated you, I wouldn't have had to push you away. I would have stayed polite and distant. I didn't want to fall in love or become attached to someone. I instinctively knew you could undermine my resolve, so I tried to push you away, but I couldn't stop myself from seeking you out either. Even when you tried to avoid me."
Her spoon clattered to the countertop, her face blank as it frequently was as things fell into place for her. Or she was just shocked. "That's right," she whispered. "You were mean to me, but you were kind to me, too. Rude and considerate by turns." She picked her spoon back up and shook it at him. "You were very confusing."
"Yashiro caught on right away. What are you making?"
"With a fried egg on top. I remember." It was the first meal they ate together. "Yashiro became positively obsessed that you were important to me from the start and began scheming like a professional matchmaker. Just like he did tonight. Let's not tell him for a while. Drive him crazy."
Color had crept into her cheeks, but she laughed at that. "So, when did you know?"
"Well, I got some hints from a chicken about love, some hints that I might feel that way about you. That's right, chicken. You know that chicken from Yappa Kimagure Rock?"
"Bo," she said automatically.
He glanced at her in surprise. "She did say she knew you." Her cheeks flamed further. She must know the chicken girl pretty well. "She got me thinking and I was all torn up trying to figure out my Katsuki at the time. I didn't know how to express that kind of forbidden love because I hadn't felt it, except 'Bo' said maybe I had. I was still trying to deny it when I had you over that night to help me find Katsuki."
"And you found him."
Ren put the knife down. "Because I found you. Because I found out what it was like to hold someone and not be able to let go, to be so driven to touch them that all your logic and common sense were worthless. When I had you in my arms, I literally couldn't think about anything else but holding on to you forever."
"You did want to kiss me," she accused as meat sizzled.
"I did. Desperately," he agreed, beating back an urge to do so again. One should never distract someone at the stove. He picked up the knife again and began to slice some pickled daikon so he wouldn't be too tempted.
Neither of them said anything for a moment. Not until she was frying eggs did she speak. "That's when I first decided never to play a romantic role with you, even though I admired your acting."
"What?" he asked, so shocked he managed to cut himself on the knife. The salt stung and he had to bite down on a curse.
"You should be more careful," she said calmly, rescuing the eggs before taking him by the hand to the sink and running the water to wash away salt and blood. "Let me explain. I saw you with Momose-san, your face, your expressions and I saw her reaction. She didn't want to, but she fell a little in love with you, even outside the role. But, outside the role, you felt nothing for her. Director Shingai said you did that to your co-stars all the time."
"I don't understand."
She turned off the water, but retained her hold on his hand. "I knew you could make me fall in love with you, even if you felt nothing yourself. I didn't want to love someone like that again, love someone who would never love me. Do you understand?"
He wanted to protest even the most indirect comparison to that guy but she brought his hand to her mouth and touched her lips to the tiny nick on his finger. Everything else evaporated from his mind. He gripped the counter on either side of her and bent his head, kissing her as he'd wanted to kiss her in the kitchen that night
The kiss was sweet, soft and undemanding, but he could feel the warmth building. When he would have retreated, she tipped her head up, her hands sliding against his shirt, but not to push him away. Instead, she gripped his collar. His heart began to pound as his breathing quickened. It was a miracle; she was here in his arms. He cradled the back of her head with his uninjured hand and let himself delve deeper, let her feel a little of his heat, his yearning.
But only a little. He pulled back and smiled at her. "I looked that way because I was thinking of you, imagining you. Do you believe me?"
"You look like that now."She shook her head and gave him a little push. "It seems impossible. We should eat before it gets cold." She gathered up plates and headed to the table.
He took a moment to plate the takuan before bringing it and the tea to the table in her wake.
"Why impossible?" he said after they were seated.
She shrugged. He remembered her doing that before when she didn't believe he could desire her. "You could have anyone." She studiously didn't look at him and began to eat.
"That isn't true," he said at once. "And I can explain why, but that's not the important part. Say it was true, so what? If I could have anyone, why wouldn't it be you?"
She reached to her neck to where Princess Rosa hung.
"It's not Princess Rosa. It's not the make-up. It's not the costumes. Though you wear them all well. Inside you, there is this light. Not just guts, not just brains, though you have more than your share of both. It's not just your imagination though yours continues to awe and inspire me. Not just a good soul that always gives even when you're determined to look out for yourself. Even the core of wisdom and nobility that takes my breath away. It's the combination of it all, I guess, or just your unique spirit that amazes me."
She'd stopped eating, staring at him, open-mouthed. He couldn't help laughing. He bent to his own meal so he wouldn't say more. After all, her self image was not going to be healed in one day.
She shut her mouth with a snap, blushing. "I feel like this is a dream. No one's ever talked like that about me."
"That's not true. Many people have noticed your talent. The president was so impressed, he made that section just for you. Director Shingai and Director Ogata have both told me how professional you were, how they were anxious to work with you again."
"They were just—"
"They were not just being polite or nice any more than Kijima-kun or Murasame-kun were flirting with you out of kindness." He couldn't overcome a lifetime of abuse in a night, but, as long as she saw herself as nothing special, she'd never really believe he loved her. She'd always think he'd wake up one day and leave her behind. How could he explain it in a way she'd accept?
He fixed his most innocent look on his face and began to eat. "You know those stories you love, with oppressed girls transformed into beautiful princesses to win the heart of the handsome prince?"
"What?" Her glance was sharper than he expected, but he knew how to play this particular part. He kept his face bland as she asked, "What are you talking about?"
"Stories like that. Cinderella. They're all wrong."
"Wrong?" He could see it, now, the anger swelling, her aura beginning take on the edge of rage. She really was something special.
"Wrong. Obviously," he said in his most patronizing tone, lifting a finger for emphasis. "Completely backwards. In the story, the girl is misused but ordinary and must be transformed by some outside magic, right? Magic wand? Magic potion? And only after she's been transformed, the prince recognizes her beauty and falls in love, right?"
"You needn't sound so condescending!" she snapped, eating with determination. She was so cute. She didn't want to start a fight.
Ren said nothing but kept eating, enjoying his food as he did only when she ate with him. It wasn't just the food she cooked, though he'd yet to eat anything she didn't make delicious (well, maybe that horrific energy drink when he was sick). It was her company. He wondered how long he would have to wait...
"What's wrong with that story?"
Ah. "What would be the point? A girl with no actual merit fools a credulous 'prince' through use of a subterfuge, a facade, if you will, of beauty and wealth that she does not actually possess. The prince has no particular charm other his ability to be entranced by the veneer and, of course, his own wealth, though at least his is genuine."
She sputtered for a moment, clearly wanting to argue, but her mind was too capable not to see his logic. Her eyes widened, blank, as she tried to assimilate the implications of her most favored dream being rather unsavory. "So, it's dishonest?" she asked, her voice a thin thread of sound.
He couldn't afford to wait or she would cry. "Just inaccurate. The story is true, but it's been portrayed incorrectly."
"Incorrectly?" she asked, eyes brimming with unshed tears.
"Naturally. Fortunately, the real story is so much more charming."
"The real story?" Her anger had evaporated, and her despair, leaving a face full of trustful hope.
Her naivete, though frequently frustrating, was also alluring. She needed only a story to appeal to that remarkable imagination of hers. "Of course. Because the magic was within the girl all along, the beauty, the charm, the worth. She was always a remarkable person, full of promise and intelligence and kindness, industry and wisdom. The magic potion or wand, at best, removed the layers that hid her nobility rather than created it, and allowed the girl and every other shallow observer to see the glory she'd always had."
"Always?" she breathed, eyes sparkling.
"Of course. There was no cheat. She'd was already worthy of admiration. That's what makes the story so good."
"So, it's because the prince can finally see her true nature that he falls in love with her!" she exulted, hands clasped as she was lost, again, in the fantasy he'd conjured.
"Certainly not," Ren said, finishing his hamburger and taking a bite of rice. "Such a shallow hero is no match for such a fantastic heroine."
A frown puckered between her brows. "He isn't?"
"Of course not. Who'd want to spend their lives tied to someone who only saw them as beautiful when her wonders were revealed for all to see. Such a fickle bastard would lose interest in favor of the next charming creature that happened across his path, whether genuine or otherwise because such a man is consumed with the appearance of merit, not the merit itself. That's not the man for our hidden treasure."
"It isn't?" He'd captured her imagination, if the misty look in her eyes was any indication.
"No man who needs a magic spell to see such treasure could possibly be worthy of her. Even one who can see may not deserve her, but if he can appreciate her, he can use her as inspiration to overcome his own shortcomings. That's a far more rewarding story than pairing such a paragon with a fatuous self-serving dolt."
He'd crept around the table without conscious volition so he was now within arm's reach of her. He placed his hands flat on the floor on either side of her and leaned in, careful not to touch her, but close enough he could feel her warmth as he whispered into her ear: "I don't deserve you, but I need you. Be with me."
He waited, unmoving. He began to berate himself. This is a girl who'd been recoiling from his smile the past year. What exactly was he expecting?
Just when he might have pulled back, her felt her hands on his face, framing it, The next instant she kissed him, her kiss as sweet as her first one, though not quite as innocent. As her mouth moved against his, he helplessly responded with similar passion. His arms wrapped around her, gently this time, but held her as firmly against his body as before.
He wanted her. Now. This minute. He burned for her. How easy it would be to lose himself with her so willingly in his arms. He didn't understand the change in her, why, when she'd been evading from him for months, she would return his kiss with growing passion, sink her hands in his hair instead of push him away. If he moved too quickly, would he drive her back to avoiding him? If he let her go, even for one night, would everything revert to normal?
He could give her patience. She was so innocent and she deserved to be cherished as she never had been. But he couldn't let her go, not tonight. Perhaps not ever.
He lifted his head, but didn't release her. "Stay with me tonight. I swear not to do anything you don't want, but I can't let you go. I need to hold you," he whispered into her hair. "When do you have to go in tomorrow?"
She lifted her face, her hands sliding out of his hair to cradle his face. "It's Saturday, so I don't have school. I don't have to be on set until one." She brushed her thumb next to his eyes. "Tsurug—R-Ren. You look so tired. You should go to bed right after your bath."
He looked tired. Charming. He loosened his hold on her, but didn't quite let go. "Will you stay?"
"Yes," she said without hesitation.
He didn't understand why she would, not after resisting so long. But then, he'd never understood the way her mind worked. No one did. That's what was so fascinating about her. "Thank you, Kyoko. Would you like to bathe first? I'll clean up here."
"No, I'll do it. I need to call Daruyuma. You go first and if you would..." she paused, blushing.
"I didn't bring any clothes so if you could..."
He smiled. "I can find you something to change into."
Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing. Quick as the look was, he could guess its meaning. She thought he had clothes from some previous lover hidden away. Well, he probably did, but he wasn't stupid enough to trot them out for her to wear. He'd have to make sure to get rid of them first chance he had.
He showered quickly, leaving one of his pajama tops in the bathroom for her. It would reach modestly down to her knees if not lower. Perhaps he should invest in some clothes for her here; he certainly knew enough fashion designers that owed him a favor. He would love to see her in something truly stunning beyond Setsu's particular tastes (not that she didn't look delicious in anything). Something he bought rather than being borrowed from LME or rented by some other guy. Something sexy that played up her versatile beauty.
Maybe he should have taken a colder shower.
He tidied the apartment, or meant to but she'd already left it spotless, as she took her bath. He tried not to think about her under the spray, soaking in hot water, her skin glistening with moisture. He tried not to think of the condoms his manager had optimistically snuck into his nighttable. What the hell was he going to do? He was never going to stay sane. He needed a drink or a distraction. Something. He had no idea what he was going to say to her and he knew what to say to everyone. Always. Never failed.
Except with her.
She bathed quickly. As he paced his bedroom, an untasted scotch in his hand, the door opened. "I put my clothes in the washer. Is that alright?"
He literally couldn't speak, nearly couldn't breathe. All the saliva in his mouth pooled. Her downed the scotch in two swallows to keep himself from grabbing her.
His pajama top was the sexiest thing he'd ever seen—on her. Blood red, it was huge on her, hanging down to her knees. That should have made it safe. The sleeves had been rolled up nearly to the shoulder, but they still hung halfway down her forearms, her shapely hands pale and slender in contrast. The top button hung down low between her small firm breasts and he could tell that, if she bent even a little, the collar would gape.
"Is it alright?"
"Yeah," he managed, carefully setting his square cut glass on the night table. He was across the room in two strides, cradling her head between his hands, his mouth hot and needy on hers, hungry. His hands slid down her slim back to her muscular butt. He should have given her cotton, not silk.
When her arms slid round his neck, her picked her up as he had once when she'd fractured her ankle. He managed to pull his mouth away, but told her, "I keep underestimating the temptation. Sleeping may be difficult."
"You're not the only one with desires," she said tartly.
His eyes closed as he lowered her carefully to the bed, then slid in beside her. "I can't tell you what that means to me. But I promised. And you are too precious to handle clumsily. I'm satisfied—no really—just to have you in my arms tonight." He folded her in his arms gently and breathed in her scent. His soap, of course, but he could taste the evocative scent of Kyoko underneath.
"And what about me?" she asked.
"You haven't promised anything," he said, chuckling. "You can do what you like to me." He wondered if she'd take him up on it, how she'd act. There was no guessing with Kyoko. He felt her hands feather along his face, his eyes. She'd said he looked tired.
Her heard her sigh before she curled up like a kitten against his chest. Torture, true, but the sweetest and most wonderful torture to feel her warmth against him. Just as he wondered how long it would take to fall asleep, he did so.
When he began to waken, he wondered if he were dreaming at last. His first sensation was that of a soft warm body tucked comfortably in his arm, saturating his senses with her alluring fragrance. Kyoko. As he drifted toward consciousness, he realized she was moving, her body pressing along his length, her hands in his hair, her lips along his neck and jaw. When her fingers tilted his head down so she could kiss his lips directly, he didn't hesitate to kiss her back.
He was fully roused now.
He had forgotten how very passionate she was when she pursued a path, any path, however reluctantly she might first have set forth. Within seconds she had pressed him back on the mattress, her body half-draped over his, as her mouth explored his with growing skill. Fully rested, his body responded before his mind could kick in and quickly short-circuited any rational thought processes.
He did manage to remember to be gentle and kept a tenuous hold on control, letting her take the lead and set the pace. At least for a few minutes. When her fingers began to unbutton his pajamas, he caught her hand and tried to catch his breath.
"Don't," she gasped before he could say anything, "Don't tell me I don't know what I'm doing."
"Do you?" Her eyes nearly glowed in her flushed face in the early morning light.
"No," she admitted. "But I don't want to be protected from you or myself any more. I want to be treated like a woman, not a child." Her eyes closed and she put her face next to his as he had the night before, her breath warm on his ear. "I love how you make me feel. I want to feel more."
He almost told her she didn't know what she was asking for, but then, she knew that. Shouldn't she decide for herself? He wanted to show her. But, once she'd gone down that path, she could never come back. "Are you sure? You can take all the time you want to decide. I won't push you." He would certainly try not to, anyway.
"If you want to touch me, I want to be touched. Show me, Ren."
He closed his eyes and took a moment to make sure he had himself in hand. Then, with infinite care and patience, he took the time he needed to initiate the girl he loved into womanhood.
See part four: Matinee
See part five: Curtain Call
See part six: Date with Natsu
See part seven: Shoudown