>> Sunday, July 17, 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. And I'm really almost done with this.
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.
"It's a good thing I'd brought extra eggs and rice," she told him sternly over breakfast. "Or we'd have nothing to eat."
He noticed there was far more than the omelet in front of him, but he also knew she'd brought everything for that, too. He tried not to smile as he replied meekly. "I know. I need to stock my kitchen."
"Yes," she said firmly. "Fortunately, I have time before my shoot this afternoon. I'd rather not go to that overpriced grocery store in this building, but I suppose you'd be swamped with rabid fans if we went anywhere reasonable."
"I'm sorry I'm so popular," he said, not really meaning it. "We could call Yashiro. He could keep them back and would bust a gut with joy to see us together."
Her face flushed. With clear trepidation, she shoved herself back from the table so she could turn her body to face him. She was wearing only one of his silk robes, too big despite wrapping it carefully around her. She looked fantastic in black. "I have to tell you something. I should have told you last night and never lied about Yashiro."
He felt his body go still, his heart sinking. Too much too good too quickly. How could have ever believed it would be so tidy, that there wasn't some darkness lurking? "What?" That sounded sharper than he intended. He tried to school his face so he wouldn't scowl.
"Don't smile like that!" she begged. "That's the gentlemanly smile that hides lies and vicious retorts."
Surprise must have changed his expression. She sighed and launched into an explanation, without looking him in the face. "Yashiro didn't send me last night. I overheard that you were rescheduling everything so I came on my own."
He snorted, thinking of all the times he'd shamelessly used Yashiro as an excuse, with or without factual basis. "Is that it? Don't worry about that. I'm actually happier knowing you chose to come without prompting. Where did you hear it?"
She took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "I was in my costume for my regular TV show at the time," she said, her voice just a thread of sound.
"Oh?" he asked politely, before pieces began to fall into place. "Costume. I didn't know you wore a costume." He cleared his throat, letting his jaw harden. "Not, I trust, a chicken costume."
She didn't steal a glance. "Bo. And Bo is a chicken."
He thought back at all the times he'd talked with the stuffed chicken, from the first, the things he'd said and revealed. He remembered the dogeza the first time, the avowal that "Bo" hated him. How could he not have realized it was her? Of course it was. She'd been laughing at him from the beginning.
He could feel the anger, feel it heating him, the ugly words stealing up his throat. Before he could voice them, he took a good look at her and stopped himself. She was shaking, trembling in fear. His first thought, that this was an elaborate joke to mock him for his passion, was readily discounted. Kyoko was not a woman who took love lightly or would hurt another using it unprovoked. She would never have given herself the way she had this morning, without reserve, if she didn't love him. She would never have come last night if she wanted to hurt him, to teach him a lesson. Better, by far, to walk away and leave his heart shattered forever. Still, if she had been the chicken all this time, why had she pretended not to know he'd loved her for so long?
She was talking quickly and in a low voice. "I should have told you before, long before, so you wouldn't be mad. I wanted to thank you in the beginning because your stories of being fired really helped me when I was depressed and feeling hopeless, but you still hated me then. By the time I didn't think you hated me any more, you had told me so much I didn't want you to be angry with me for hearing you under false pretenses."
"So, it was you telling me to expand my relationship with a high school girl?"
He didn't understand. Had she been pretending not to know about his love all this time, recoiling for...what purpose? "Why did you act like you didn't know I loved you for so long? Were you playing with me? Or punishing me by telling me to pursue you when you didn't want me to?"
She looked up at that, her face appalled. "I didn't know you loved me! I never thought—never ever thought—I was the girl you meant when you said you loved a girl in high school!"
"How could you not know it was you?" he asked, his voice dripping with skepticism.
"I thought you hated me. I didn't even think about the girl you said you loved then. I just wiped that detail from mind like it had never been. When you started talking about her yesterday, my heart dropped. I'd forgotten all about her. I wracked my brain trying to figure out who you could have been loving all this time, why I didn't know her, how she could turn her back on you."
"Where was I going to fit time in my life for another troublesome girl?" he asked reasonably, trying to fight the inexplicable urge to laugh. She was so obviously sincere. "How could you not have known?"
She heard the laughter in his voice and characteristically bristled. "Well, how was I supposed to realize you could fall in love with someone like me? An amateur. Young and immature. Plain with little sex appeal. Motivated by ugly motives. And you seemed to disapprove of me. You were always picking on me."
"Because I was trying not to fall in love with you, too."
She flung out a hand. "Well, you see where that got us."
The absurdity of the discussion, her inability to see herself in his words, his opening up his heart to the woman he loved because he thought she was a chicken, was more than he could withstand and he dissolved into laughter. When she sputtered, insulted, he snagged her around the waist and rolled her underneath him so he could kiss her breathless.
Of course they both ended up breathless. He forgot how quickly the lust would surface at the slightest touch and she was kissing him more and more passionately until he could feel his control thin to one slender thread. He rolled back off her, taking her with him. "I should have known," he gasped when he could wrench his lips away. "That stupid chicken was so easy to talk to. I never talk to anyone like that. Except you."
"You kept trying to pull my head off," she accused.
"I never could understand why you kept stopping me." He set her back on her knees and sat cross-legged in front of her. Perhaps he should have worn a shirt after his shower that morning instead of just the loose pants. She felt so natural in his home, so natural, it was easy to fall into his normal routine. "Is that why you believed me, yesterday? I always thought, if I told you I loved you, you'd wouldn't believe me. But you did last night, believed me and opened up to me. Is that because you heard me tell, er, Bo?"
She blushed. "You didn't have any reason to lie to Bo and you got angry if you thought I was insulting, er, myself. I felt guilty, too, like I had eavesdropped on you when you wouldn't want me to." She looked up at that, though, her face intent and earnest. "I had all afternoon to figure out what I wanted, what I didn't want, and what to do. I know I cheated, but I'm glad I knew so I could believe you loved me. And you do, right?"
She sighed. "And you're not angry about Bo?"
She sighed again. "Good. Finish your breakfast."
He laughed but returned to his food. "I'm sorry you'll have to shop with me."
She wasn't fooled. "No you're not." She breathed in carefully, then let it out. "I suspect it's too much to have you shop for yourself, what with all the screaming fans and your inability to comparison shop. I'll just shop for you on my own in the future."
"No," he said, suddenly serious.
She looked up at that. "What's wrong?"
First topic he'd wanted to talk about. "You're a celebrity, too. You've been doing enough jobs, been successful enough, you should have a manager like I do. I can't take you everywhere with me. I don't like you going so many places alone. Since I can't always be there, you need someone. If I have to, I'll talk to Sawara and the President."
"No one ever recognizes me."
"They will." He reached over and stroked fingers along her cheek. "You're too important to be left unguarded."
"I can't afford a manager."
"I'd pay for it rather than let you roam unguarded."
"I can't let you do that," she said, blushing. Before he could retort, she said desperately, "I can't believe Yashiro cleared your whole day. What will you do with yourself?"
Fine. He'd work it with the president whether she wanted it or not. The president would be so thrilled, he'd give Kyoko anything Rem wanted. Rem was surprised the President wasn't already thinking about it. "I'm going to your shoot to watch you in action. I've wanted to do so many times but I've never had the opportunity. What's your schedule for today?"
Her color deepened. "I shoot Box R until 5, then to the TV station until 7. Then, I'd go back to Daruyuma to work. I hardly ever have the chance to any more and they've been so good to me."
"I'm looking forward to it."
She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped herself. "You'd probably find it boring."
"Never," he said, gathering up dishes. "I particularly want to talk to the people at Daruyuma who have looked out for you so long, introduce myself formally. I remember them from Maria's party."
"They are good people."
"Yes. I don't want them to worry about you now that you're with me."
"They don't have to know," she offered, following him to the kitchen where he started washing dishes.
"I'm not keeping this a secret. That's something else I want to talk to you about. I'm favoring a press release. I want people to know you belong with me. It won't stop everyone, but will keep most away. I am not someone most people want as an enemy."
"Your fans are far more dangerous than any of my mythical admirers, Ren. Really." She remembered Ren as Black Jack and shuddered. "I really don't think anyone is really interested," she said, "Except for that stupid Beagle. And he's already afraid of you."
"You've never been aware of how many people find you attractive." Time to address the next topic he needed to tackle. "You don't even think Fuwa wants you."
"He just wants to hurt me."
"He wants to control you. He only tries to hurt you because he thinks that's how to do it. Even he has learned to appreciate you as he never did when you were his adoring dupe." He chose words that were deliberately offensive because he wanted her reaction so he could diffuse it directly.
As he expected, rage flickered over her features. "That asshole."
"He is. And it's past time you let him go."
"What?" she said, the dish breaking in her hand. He removed it gently before she could hurt herself in her conditioned response to Fuwa. "What are you talking about? I won't rest until I've destroyed him."
"At this point, what you gain with your revenge is tiny compared to what you lose. And what for? What did Fuwa cheat you out of?"
"I never had friends growing up. I missed out on school. I trusted him and loved him, only to be betrayed. I couldn't love any more. I lost my home. He made me feel ugly and worthless. I never did anything for myself, consumed with supporting him."
Dishes done, Ren dried his hands then lifted a hand to count off on his fingers. "You have friends now, friends you never would have had if he hadn't ditched you. And, crappy as he was, he was your friend growing up to the best of his limited ability. You're going to school now thanks to your own efforts. He betrayed your trust, but I don't think he ever pretended to be the prince you thought he was, did he? He was deluded as to your worth and attractiveness, but you know better now and have accomplished so much that you never would have done if he hadn't mistreated you or if you had stayed in Kyoto instead. You're not ugly and worthless and ought to be aware of that, now. Now you do what you want to do for yourself and no one else, not even me. You have a home at Daruyuma, at LME, and here."
"You make it sound like he did me a favor."
"He has done you a favor, and me as well, though he did it all to suit his own interests. He hurt you terribly, truthfully, and you deserve to despise him for that. But the reason you're really so enraged is because you're mad at yourself for wasting so much of your life on him. You loved who you wanted him to be, never what he was or even what he pretended to be."
She wanted to argue and he geared himself up for the blast of vicious ire. Instead, she deflated. "So I shouldn't hate him?"
"By all means, hate him. He's a selfish toad and deserves a good kicking. He never gave a damn how much harm he did you as long as he had power over you. Still doesn't. But he's not worth any more of your energy. He can't do you any more harm and, although he didn't intend it, he made it possible for you to find yourself. He doesn't deserve the credit because you've done all the work yourself, but you've already regained everything you lost because you can love again. Right?"
She was always so open to logic. He loved that about her, even for all her emotional highs and lows. "Yes."
"Would you be happier if he hadn't dumped you, if he'd kept you, and you were still slaving away on his behalf with no school or personal accomplishments, just the delusion that he was your prince?"
She shuddered. "No."
"And you love me, I hope, and not some twisted image you think I am. You know my flaws better than anyone. Isn't it different than when you loved Fuwa?"
She frowned. "Yes. I did know his flaws, just pretended not to."
He closed his eyes as pain washed him. "Do you know how jealous I was of him?"
"Of him?" He could have laughed out loud at the horror in her voice. "Why? I hated that jerk! I wasn't jealous of all the women he was sidling up to. I just felt sorry for them."
"And the kiss he gave you on Valentine's Day?" He opened his eyes to read her expression.
Her face was eloquent. "That creep! It was like kissing my brother. Only more wet. Yuck!" She looked up at him in that way that always made his gut clench with desire. "He didn't make my heart race like you did with a look, with a kiss on the cheek."
He chuckled so he didn't grab her. "I like that much better, that he's the spoiled brat of a brother you can't see without squabbling." The last weight on his heart lifted.
He continued. "All that passion for him, so much of it. Funneled into hate but I wondered if, with a little nudge, it couldn't be turned back into love." He let himself touch her face. "I wanted your passion for myself. Or for yourself. Certainly not wasted on that little prick."
He brought his other hand up to cup her jaw. He loved touching her. "Is it wrong to want your passion for myself? I don't want to share your soul with him. Or anyone else." He slid closer and wrapped her in his arms. "I want to have a bigger part of your heart than he has. Is that wrong?"
"You do," she said, as if she were surprised.
"That makes me very happy." He pulled back and smiled at her. "If it makes you feel better, there is no vengeance you could take on him more effective than being successful and happy without wasting a thought on him. Being dismissed as unimportant is far more painful than being hated. Especially, if he sees you being happy and successful with me."
The smile she gave him was evil. "He really does hate you. If he doesn't want me for himself, he'd still hate that I was with you."
"Agreed," he said, trying not to smile himself. "So, we'll invite him to the wedding as your childhood friend." He bent and kissed her, certain his words were understood only when she wrenched herself away.
"Wedding?" she said, shocked, as if he had suggested more grilled frogs.
"Yes." He dropped to one knee, retrieving the box from his pocket where he tucked it after his shower. He opened it. The ring inside was white gold with an oval iolite stone circled by tiny pink diamonds. "I love you, Kyoko. Will you marry me?"
She stood, a Kyoko statue, staring in apparent horror at the ring. Fear gripped him. Of all the things he thought he could do to drive her away, he never guessed this would be the one. "I—I meant to ask you before I—I laid a finger on you, but I, um, didn't pull it off. I always wanted to marry you, Kyoko. Don't—don't be scared. You can say no. It won't change anything."
"It changes everything," she said dully, falling to her knees in front of him and taking his hand in both of hers.
She rubbed her cheek against his finger tips before touching them lightly with her lips. When she lifted her face to his, her eyes were alive but immersed in tears that poured unheeded down her cheeks. "And I couldn't possibly say no."
"Don't cry," he begged, knowing it was useless. He'd expected her to cry half a dozen times the past night, given her emotional intensity. He sat cross-legged in front of her and pulled the ring from the box, slipping it onto her slim finger. He kissed it when it settled into place, a perfect fit.
"How?" she asked, her face astonished beneath the storm of tears.
He shrugged. "I know how to make nice with the wardrobe people. All I needed was your ring size. I don't think they even caught on to the fact I was looking for it."
If her tears had ebbed with her surprise, they flooded now with renewed fervor, "You planned this. It wasn't just because... You really want to marry me?"
Her tears weren't unhappy, but he couldn't bear it much longer. His hands cupped her face, bring that face closer to his. "Why are you asking me after I've asked you, you silly girl?" He closed his eyes and whispered in her ear, "Answer me. Tell me you want to be with me forever."
He could feel the tears fall on to his hand, hear the soft sobbing breaths. "I want to be with you forever. Don't—don't offer it unless you're certain, Tsuru—Ren. I couldn't bear to be discarded again, not by you."
"Never happen. You are my treasure and I won't willingly give you up, not even if you wanted someone else. I would do everything in my power to change your mind. I love you, Kyoko. Marry me."
Instead of answering, she crawled right into his lap, straddling his hips as she plastered herself against his body and latched herself on his mouth greedily.
Lust swamped him, impossible to resist. She was only wearing his silk robe, soft and slippery against him. His hands fisted in her hair and pulled her head back so he could plunder mercilessly. Rather than retreat, she arched against him, her mouth every bit as hungry, every bit as passionate, every bit as demanding.
His hands slid down her back, taking the robe with him. He could feel her bare breasts against his chest, feel the heat between her thighs pressed against him intimately. His fists clenched along her back as he fought the urge to push and take her without restraint. His body burned to have her. Have her now.
"Kyoko," he choked, wrenching his mouth away, but she would not let him go. Her mouth wandered over his face, his neck.
"Don't tell me to stop," she panted between kisses. "Don't stop, either. I need to know what you really feel."
"What?" He felt confused, torn, desperate to hold on to what remained of his control and equally desperate to lose himself in her at last. "You don't know—"
"No, I don't know," she said firmly. "As long as you're in control, you could be acting. I know you're that good. I won't know what you really feel until you let yourself go."
"I can't," he said, as his body strained against his mind.
"Do you want me?" His body surged in response to her words, the feel of her breath against his skin. Unbidden, his hands found her breasts.
"You know I do," he groaned, holding on to his sanity with just his fingernails.
She pulled something from her pocket that she'd snagged from his nighttable. "Show me."
Lost to reason, shame or patience, he stripped off her robe and lost himself in her with her ardent cooperation.
See part five: Curtain Call
See part six: Date with Natsu
See part seven: Shoudown