I'll Always Be Here For You

Sometimes 'happily ever after' just isn't in the cards. It's a good thing he has Kyoko to soften the blow. (Dedicated to Felicity Dream in answer to the 'Rare Kyoko Love Fest Challenge'. Kyoko x Kuu. Rated T for implied mature themes. No explicit content.)

Disclaimer: I do not own Skip Beat or any of its characters… But you all knew that anyways.

A/N: I tried to proofread this story, but I'm only human. So please forgive any errors.

Just after 6pm in the Hizuri home…

Alone. Again. Julie glanced down at the delicate silver watch on her wrist. It was dinner time. And her husband was nowhere to be found. Again. Considering how much the man loved to eat, it was amazing that she hadn't managed to have a single meal with him in the last 6 weeks. Julie was starting to grow accustomed to the loneliness.

It wasn't like they were any busier recently, they had just stopped making time for each other. It gave Julie time to reflect.

Kuu was… Well, Kuu was like the most intoxicating wine. After she got her first taste of him she couldn't stop drinking him in. Their early years as a couple had gone by in the blink of an eye, both of them so wrapped up in each other that they didn't even notice time passing. Then they had Kuon, their precious baby boy. If Kuu was wine, Kuon was oxygen. From the first moment she laid eyes on their little green eyed baby, Julie's world was forever changed. She didn't know how much you could love someone until she held their baby in her arms.

The next few years had passed quickly too. Being a model and a mother was hard, but Kuu supported her every step of the way. That was when Julie had started to design some of her own clothes. It had started out as a fascination with making adorable outfits for her little boy, but she quickly gained recognition. Kuon had just turned 3 when she launched her own fashion line and took the fashion world by storm.

Kuu's name was also steadily becoming more and more recognizable. He had shed his stage name, Hozu Shuuhei, just before they got married and he was finally coming into his own as Kuu Hizuri. Hollywood couldn't seem to get enough of Julie's husband. Unfortunately, that meant she and Kuon commanded less of his time. At first that was fine. Julie was still drunk on Kuu's love. She could go for weeks without seeing him and still be happy. After all, she had her own work to focus on. And it wasn't like Kuu was negligent of Kuon. Kuu was the most doting parent anyone had ever seen. That love even overflowed into his relationship with Julie.

Kuon was 7 when Kuu burst into the staging area for Julie's biggest fashion show ever and demanded to see 'the most beautiful woman in the world'. Julie had blushed spectacularly as Kuu, accompanied by Kuon, had told anyone that would listen that it was nonsense that Julie wouldn't be wearing the finale dress on the runway. She had been doing photoshoots intermittently as she focused on designing, but Julie hadn't set foot on the runway as a model since Kuon was born. Later that night however, she walked to the end of her own runway in a dress that had left even Kuu speechless.

The gown had gone from fierce to feminine in the blink of any eye when a little blonde boy hopped up on the end of the runway. Kuon looked up at Julie with all the love she had ever showered on him reflected in his eyes. "You really are the most beautiful woman in the world Mom." From that night on, that was what the media called her. It caused some animosity of course, but no one could argue with that little boy. One of Julie's longtime rivals even called her later that week to congratulate her. Not on her new title, she was sure that would fade away with time, but on being a wonderful mother.

Three years, 27 fashion shows, and 6 blockbuster movies later, the entire family needed a vacation. Badly. They were seeing even less of each other. Kuu was always filming somewhere and Julie had lost track of how many plane rides she had taken in the last year. Poor Kuon never seemed to know where his parents were, let alone when to expect them back. Kuu's manager and Julie's assistants tried to keep the 10 year old boy apprised of his parents' situations, but it didn't always work out.

So despite numerous complaints, they decided to take a month off to reconnect. That had been the plan anyways. They went back to Japan. Back to Kyoto. Kuu wanted Kuon to see where his father was from.

For the first week, they spent every waking moment together. For Julie, everything was perfect. She was drunk on Kuu and high on Kuon.* The rift that had been slowly forming inside the family seemed to be mending.

The next week Kuon asked to go explore the woods on his own. Julie told him no. It was supposed to be a family vacation, so they should stay together as family. But Kuu quickly changed Julie's mind with a few choice words in her ear. Had it really been 4 months since they had some 'quality time' between the sheets? Kuu assured her it had been. And maybe it was Julie's endorphin saturated brain, but Kuon seemed happier when he came back to the inn that night.

A week passed like that. Kuon running off to the woods and Kuu pulling screams of ecstasy from Julie's lips. Then Kuu's manager called. And the next day, so did Julie's assistant. Their family vacation was cut short by nearly 2 weeks. But it didn't matter. Julie was satiated.

The next 5 years were much like the last. Kuu was home every few weeks. Julie was home even less. And Kuon was… absent. Between his school obligations, launching his own acting career, and spending time with his friends, Kuon seemed to spend even less time at home than either of his parents. That probably should have been a sign.

Julie was remiss to admit that she didn't really know her son by the time he turned 15. It wasn't for lack of trying, but Kuon seemed to be slipping away from her. She told herself it was a good thing. Kuon was growing up. He was becoming a fine young actor just like his father before him. How could the world not love Kuon? In Julie's eyes he was more magnificent than any other man alive; his father included.

That was probably why it hit her so hard the night she picked Kuon up from the police station. Her vibrant, bright, loving boy looked like a corpse. Maybe not an appropriate choice of words considering Kuon's best friend, Rick, was sitting on a slab in the morgue. Julie couldn't get a word of explanation out of her son. If the police hadn't explained to her that Rick had been run down in the street in front of Kuon, Julie never would have known. It shook her to her core to hear that Kuon was probably the intended target.

After that both Julie and Kuu took time off of work. Even if he was technically healthy, Kuon's condition seemed to be deteriorating. They tried everything they could think of, but Kuon wouldn't budge. He seemed hell-bent on collapsing in on himself.

It had been two weeks since the accident… Julie couldn't think of it as manslaughter. If she allowed herself to think that way she had to accept a terrifying truth; someone had tried to kill her son...

Two weeks after the accident Julie flew to Milan for work. It couldn't be postponed any longer. If she thought her presence would have helped Kuon, she would have thrown her entire career away, but she didn't seem to be helping.

When she got back Kuon was gone. And it was all Kuu's fault. That was the first time Julie ever HATED Kuu. He had sent their son off to Japan to start a new life with Kuon's godfather, Lory. It was for the best, but Kuu hadn't let Julie say goodbye. She felt like she was dying inside as he calmly explained the steps he had taken to erase Kuon Hizuri and give their son a fresh start as Ren Tsuruga. He told her that Kuon would come back to them when he was ready, but until then… no visits, no letters, no phone calls, no interactions at all. Julie and Kuu Hizuri had no relation to Ren Tsuruga. Not even professionally.

After that, the Hizuri's pretended to be Ok. Someone once said, 'fake it until you make it' and that was exactly what they did. Kuu doted on Julie twice as much as before. Every ounce of affection he would have spent on Kuon was directed at her. And as angry as she was, it was impossible to stay mad at Kuu. Little by little she forgave him as they watched their son grow into a man from 6,000 miles away.

Ren Tsuruga, as it turned out, was just as popular as his father had been in Japan. At least that was how Julie saw it. Just before Kuon's 20th birthday she reached out to Lory. She begged him to let her speak to her son. But Lory wouldn't budge and when she talked to Kuu, he took Lory's side. How could those two not understand? Her little boy was about to become a man. He had accomplished what he had set out to do. He was every bit the actor his father was. Why couldn't she talk to him? Why couldn't he come home yet? That was the second time Julie truly HATED Kuu.

Three more years had passed since then. She and Kuu had stayed busy as they kept a constant vigil on their son. Last year however, Julie realized that she was waiting in vain for something that would never happen. Kuon was never coming home. He had the career he wanted. He was madly in love with another actress. He had, without a doubt, built a life worth envying with just his power alone. But Julie's son was a coward. He couldn't accept that his star shone just as bright as his father's. He couldn't tell the woman he had been pining over for years, that he loved her. And he wasn't ever coming home.

Julie gently ran her fingers down the frame of the picture she had been staring at. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked at the picture of the happy family they had once been. She glanced at her watch one more time. Her trip down memory lane had taken longer than she thought. But she was still alone. Kuon was gone and he wasn't coming back. Kuu was gone too. She knew he had to work, but in years past, that wouldn't have stopped him from sneaking off set to join his wife for dinner.

She had told Kuu she only had 3 weeks left to live when they spoke on the phone 3 weeks ago. She hadn't seen him in person since. He couldn't be bothered to come and check on his dying wife?! Julie supposed that was partially her fault. She was known to be a little overly dramatic. It certainly wasn't the first time she had told Kuu she was dying. It was just the first time he hadn't come to check on her.

Julie let out a sad snicker. Kuu was wine and Kuon was oxygen. Wine turns rancid when it oxidizes. Didn't Kuu know that oxygen was essential to survival? Didn't he know that being kept away from their son was killing her? Of course he did. He wasn't a fool. No matter how juvenile he might act sometimes.

In a way, loving Kuu was involuntary. Just like her heart beat without so much as a thought, she loved Kuu. It was the most natural thing in the world. But tonight… Tonight she was leaving. And she wouldn't be coming back. Julie was done being alone.

She walked up the stairs to their bedroom one last time and ran a hot bath. The warm water caressed her skin as she relived the nights she shared the tub with Kuu. A sad smile graced her lips as the water took on a tinge. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep as a slightly sweet scent filled the air.

Downtown just before midnight…

The hallway was empty as Kuu made his way to the small office at the far end. The rate of his footsteps betrayed the urgency he felt. "Tell me it's not true." He pleaded as he opened the door.

Dozens of files were stacked on the solid wood desk, but only one of them interested Kuu; the one labeled Hizuri. It sat open in front of a plain looking man in a wrinkled dress shirt. The man looked up with pity in his eyes as he answered Kuu with a shake of his head. "Unfortunately, Mr. Hizuri, I can't tell you that."

Kuu dropped into the seat opposite the desk with a heavy heart. His thoughts were muddled. Even breathing seemed excessively laborious. Kuu's whole body shook as he hugged himself. Tomorrow he could bravely face the world. But right at that moment… He was just a man who had lost his wife. No. He was worse than that. He was a man who had lost his whole family. He was a man whose two most precious people had chosen to leave of their own free will.

The man across from him looked at Kuu with sympathy. "I know this isn't easy. It isn't easy for anyone who walks into my office, but you need to read these documents. If everything looks to be in order, it would be better for you to sign them now. The longer you wait…" The man fell silent as Kuu picked up the offered papers.

Distraught eyes scanned back and forth across the page. The 4 pages took longer to read than they should have. Everything was laid out very simply, but Kuu's mind couldn't seem to process the information. He reread almost every line. In the end there was nothing to discuss. Nothing to say. Kuu picked up a pen and signed the papers.

"Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?" The man asked as he accepted the papers back from Kuu.

"I don't know." Kuu answered as he stood. He trudged out of the small office with a lost look on his face. It wasn't that he didn't have anywhere to go. He just couldn't bring himself to go anywhere he had ever been with Julie.

Off he walked into the night, understanding for the first time, that Los Angeles is both the city of angels and the city of broken dreams.

The next day in a dark hotel room just before noon…

Kuu hadn't gotten much sleep. He had tossed and turned for hours, but his tired eyes refused to stay closed. Julie haunted his dreams. Running his hand through his hair he sighed. It was late enough he decided as he reached out to grab his cell phone. He dialed Lory's phone number.

"Kuu…" Lory complained as he answered the phone. "It's 5am in Japan you know. Why are you calling so early?"

The movie star almost choked on his words. "Boss. I… I… She… I need to talk to my son."

Lory was awake now. Kuu could be whiny and childish, but he never stuttered. "What happened?"

"Julie… She… What am I gonna do Boss?"

"Stay on the line Kuu. I'm calling Ren."

Ren Tsuruga's apartment 4:53 JST (Japanese Standard Time)…

The first thing that crossed Ren's mind was that he really needed to change his ringtone for the president. The second thing was that he had only managed to get 3 hours of sleep. "This better be important." He all but growled into the phone.

"Your father just called me." Lory replied.

Even if Ren had been well rested the statement wouldn't have caused much of a response. It was no secret that Kuu had been trying to get Ren to come home for the past couple of years. It wasn't unusual for him to try to reach out through Lory. "And?" Ren asked.

"I think you should talk to him."

Ren pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it with mild conern. Again, it wasn't unusual for Lory to suggest he talk to his parents, but Lory sounded more adamant than normal. "What's going on?"

"Just talk to him, Ren."

Ren sighed. "I haven't put in this much work to compromise on my principles now, President. He agreed to wait until I was ready to come home. And I'm not ready yet." Ren repeated the same thing he had said the last 5 times his father had tried to call.

"But Ren…" Lory's words were cut off as Ren ended the call. He placed the phone back on his nightstand and rolled on his side. If he was lucky he could get another hour and a half of sleep before he had to get up.

Back in the hotel room in Los Angeles…

Kuu waited nervously for Lory to come back on the line. The silence was too long for his liking. After all, given the choice, he knew Kuon wouldn't talk to him. But Kuu had needed to call and at least try to tell Kuon directly. Though if he answered, Kuu still didn't know what to tell him.

"Kuu, I'm sorry." Hearing Lory's voice made Kuu jump.

"I understand Boss." He answered in a defeated tone. Even without it being said explicitly, he knew his son had once again refused to talk to him.

Lory tried to comfort the other man. "You know you can always talk to me? Come on. Tell me what happened."

"I know Boss, but not about this."Kuu couldn't bring himself to tell Lory. Lory was a good friend. He had been a good friend for years. But if there was one man that Kuu couldn't talk to about his broken marriage it was Lory. He probably wouldn't believe Kuu anyhow. He had always said that Kuu and Julie's love was the standard against which all other loves should be measured.


"It's alright Boss, but I have another call I need to make. I'll call you back later." Lory didn't want to let Kuu go, but with an ocean in between them there was only so much he could do.

Kuu hung up the phone after they said their goodbyes. A moment later he hit his third speed dial button. He couldn't talk to Kuon, but maybe his other 'son' would listen to him. She seemed to be far more compassionate than Kuon.

"Father!" An exuberant voice exclaimed in Japanese.

Kuu smiled for the first time since he heard the news about Julie. Of course she was already awake. Sure enough, just hearing Kyoko's voice, lifted his spirits. He had informally adopted her on his last trip to Japan. At the time he had challenged her to act out his son. The results had amazed him. After that he considered Kyoko a part of the family. "Kyoko-chan. I'm glad you answered." Kuu was one hell of an actor, but his voice still cracked as he spoke.

"Father is everything Ok?"

"No. Kyoko-chan. Julie…" That was all Kuu had to say for Kyoko to grasp the severity of the situation. She knew that Kuu worshiped his wife.

"What happened to Julie-san." Kyoko coaxed. A thread of fear could be heard in her voice. She had never met Julie, but she was instantly worried about her wellbeing. That was just the kind of person Kyoko was. She cared about everyone. She was probably the most caring person Kuu had ever known.

A sharp intake of air proceeded Kuu's answer. "Julie left me. She served me divorce papers last night. And I signed them." His voice was uneven.

On the other end of the phone line Kyoko's jaw fell open in shock. Her shock soon turned to outrage as she listened to Kuu's labored breathing and shaky sobs. Her own memories of abandonment surged to the forefront of her thoughts and she said the only thing she could. The thing she had always wanted desperately to hear. "No matter what, I'll always be here for you."

Kuu didn't know what he had expected Kyoko to say. What could anyone really say to someone in his situation? That they were sorry that this was happening to him? That he was better off without her anyways? That it wasn't too late and he could save his marriage if he just tried hard enough? Any of those words would have been hollow. Instead Kyoko said exactly what he needed to hear. She didn't judge him or try to pinpoint who to blame. She just let him know that he wasn't alone. The she would never let him face the world alone.

"Thank you, Kyoko." Kuu's sobs had subsided as he borrowed the emotional strength of a teenage girl less than half his age. "I needed to hear that."

"Of course father! I know what it's like to…" Kyoko's own words cut off for a moment. Some old wounds hurt even after they've healed. "It doesn't get easier to talk about though."

Kuu remembered now. Kyoko was terrified of being abandoned. Her mother had all but thrown her away when she was little. And that punk Sho… When Kuu had finally gotten an explanation about Kyoko's past with the singer… That the ass had used Kyoko as a maid, played on her love for him, and still had the gall to claim her has his after he broke her heart… Kuu's fists clenched in anticipation of beating the punk to bloody pulp if he ever met him face to face. It broke Kuu's heart a little more to realize that Kyoko didn't sympathize with his situation. What she felt was empathy.

"What do I do now?" It should have felt odd to ask for advice from someone so many years his junior, but life had taught them both very different lessons. Kyoko knew how to keep moving forward.

"First, you cry until you can't cry anymore." She told him in a steady voice. "Then, pick yourself up off the floor and smile at the world like nothing is wrong." She was nodding to herself in reassurance as she spoke. "Tsuruga-san once told me that the mark of true professional is never calling out of a job even if a family member has died."

Kuu felt a sad twinge at the mention of his real son. Ren and Kyoko were close. She considered him to be her mentor and took great pride in telling Kuu all about Ren's acting. However, despite that closeness, Ren had never seen fit to tell her that he and Kuu were actually blood relatives. "Is that so? Then I guess I should get some lunch and get ready for work."

"Yes. Exactly… Father! I never thought I would have to remind you of all people to eat!" Kuu remembered a moment too late that proper nutrition was probably the only thing Kyoko took more seriously than acting.

"I'm going to go eat right now." He replied with a little more enthusiasm than he had, had for the rest of the conversation. Now that he thought about it, he really was hungry. After promising repeatedly that he would call again if he needed anything, he finally managed to hang up the phone a few minutes later.

After a quick shower Kuu was out the door and headed to his favorite Chinese food restaurant. By luck, or maybe thanks to Julie's consideration, Kuu didn't have to work until 5pm. He would fill his stomach, study his script, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

After eating 10 servings of kung pao chicken, 10 servings of Mongolian beef, and 5 servings of combination fired rice, Kuu felt better. Physically at least. While he ate he thanked Julie for the last gift she had seen fit to give him, almost a whole day to process her decision to leave.

She had held his whole heart from the moment he laid eyes on her. Not unlike the spunky Japanese teen he had just gotten off the phone with. Somewhere along the line Kuu had grown two extra hearts. That was the only explanation, because Julie's place in his heart had never wavered. One of his extra hearts belonged to Kuon and the other to Kyoko. Though Kuu doubted he had any place left in Kuon's heart. As far as Kuu could tell, Kuon had surrendered his only heart to Kyoko years ago. Kuu said a silent prayer for both of his 'sons'. May the end of their story be happier than his and Julie's.

Eight weeks later …

News of the divorce still hadn't made it into the hands of the media. For that Kuu was grateful, but it made him realize how little time he had really been spending with his wife. No one had noticed that they weren't side by side over the past two months. It seemed that while he wasn't paying attention, he and Julie really had drifted apart.

Still the separation was taking its toll. Even though he faced the world with his trademarked roguish smile he was more hurt any anyone could imagine. He was a failure at the only thing that ever really mattered to him. He was a failure as a husband and father. He was a failure as a man. The only thing keeping him going were the weekly calls with his second 'son'. Though, he had stopped thinking of her like that. Kyoko had played the role of his son marvelously, but that wasn't who she was. She was vibrant, compassionate, excitable, determined, reliable, and sincere. All in all, she was amazing, but she certainly wasn't Kuu's son.

It was late at night on a Wednesday, or early afternoon on a Thursday depending on how you looked at it, when Kyoko called Kuu. (Japan is 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles) She didn't want to impose, but she had something she wanted to talk to her mentor about. She had also stopped looking at Kuu as a surrogate father. As kind as he was, as much as she respected him, she could tell he no longer felt worthy of the title. It seemed to pain him to hear her call him like that, so she had stopped. As a result she saw him less as a father and more like, what was the word? A friend. Right. She now had two friends. Kanae and Kuu.

She still wasn't quite sure where Ren fit in. He was her mentor too... but she didn't know how to interact with him anymore. After the horror movie Tragic Marker had been released last year, Ren had been even busier. When his role as the blood chilling villain was uncovered he seemed to have been elevated to an even higher level in the acting world. Try as she might, Kyoko just couldn't reach those same heights and she seemed to be seeing less and less of him.

Which was probably for the best. Being around Ren had become painful for Kyoko. He had blown away the locks on her box; the box that housed her fragile mending heart. She had fallen for him and it was beginning to be too painful to see him. To know that his heart belonged to someone else. Maybe that pain was what helped her to relate to Kuu in his time of need.

Kyoko's mind had wandered but Kuu sat on the other end of the line patiently waiting. Every minute or so he would call out her, but he had grown accustomed to her space cadet moments. He even found them endearing. She would come back to earth when she was ready and then they could talk about why she was calling.

"Kyoko…" Kuu practically sang into the phone. It had become a game for him to see how many different ways he could say her name before one of them finally got her attention.

"I'm SSssOOooRRrrYYyy!" Kyoko wailed into the receiver as she came back to the present. "I wasn't listening. I… Umm… Could you repeat that please?"

Kuu smiled sloppily. She was just too cute. "I was just asking why you called." He told her.

Heat surged up Kyoko's cheeks as she blushed in embarrassment. "Actually I was offered a new role today." She began excitedly. "Ayumi is a world class thief. She and her partner Daisuke are con artists. At first I didn't understand what type of art they made, but the director explained to me that a con artist is actually a person who tricks other people in order to get their money. Which doesn't sound very nice, but Ayumi is actually the protagonist. See these other bad guys killed her mother and father when she was really young and stole everything from her. She ended up in a horrible orphanage where the kids had to start stealing just to feed themselves. Isn't that horrible?"

Kuu made a sound of agreement before she continued on. "But now she taking back her family's possessions and working to drive the criminal organization that wronged her to ruin. It's going to be my first lead role in movie."

She fell quiet for a moment, but it didn't sound like she had finished her thought. "Isn't that a good thing?" Kuu asked her as the silence stretched uncomfortably.

"Well… They haven't found an actor to play Daisuke yet. The director says that I'm so intense that he is having trouble finding someone to play opposite me. I think he is over exaggerating though." Kuu swallowed a laugh. Kyoko never gave herself enough credit. Kuu had watched everything she had ever been in and he had to agree with the director wholeheartedly, Kyoko's acting was intense. If he was being honest, he figured there were only 6 or 7 actors in Japan right now that could act opposite Kyoko without being overwhelmed.

Another pregnant pause filled the air. "Kyoko?"

"I know I'm being very presumptuous, but could I… Maybe… And it's Ok if you don't want me to…"


"Could I suggest to the director that he offer you to the role of Daisuke?" She finally asked. It was immediately followed by another apology for being presumptuous and inconsiderate.

Kuu considered her suggestion as she apologized profusely. The truth was, even though he had moved to a new apartment, it was still hard for him being in Los Angeles after the divorce. It might be good for him to get out of Hollywood for a while. It might be for the best to go back home and reconnect with his roots. It seemed to have helped Kuon after all. And truth be told, he really wanted to see Kyoko. "What is it called and when would it filming start?"

Kyoko stopped mid rant, surprised by Kuu's question. He could hear her sorting through some papers. "It's called I'll Steal it Back. And it's supposed to start filming in 5 weeks." She answered.

"I'll talk to my manager about it tomorrow." He told her. "If it works with my schedule I'd be honored to act opposite a rising young star like yourself, Kyoko."

"You don't have to, Kuu-san." She insisted. She probably thought that she was imposing on him, but Kuu had already made up his mind.

"No I don't have to, Kyoko. But I want to. Someday you are going to have to accept that I want to do things for you. And Kyoko, seeing you smile is all the repayment I will ever need."

They hung up a few minutes later and Kuu called his manager despite the late hour. He wouldn't tell Kyoko, but he was taking the role even if it meant he had to cancel his other jobs. She wouldn't approve, but 5 weeks was plenty of time to make other arrangements.

Five weeks later in front of Narita International Airport…

Kuu couldn't seem to go anywhere without causing an uproar. Tokyo was the exception. Uproar wasn't a strong enough word. News of his return to Japan had spread like wildfire and he was greeted by throngs of people as he walked off the tarmac. If it weren't for two feisty young ladies dressed in appallingly pink jumpsuits, he surely would have been overrun. He breathed a sigh of relief as the three of them settled into the backseat of LME's not so subtle, neon yellow stretch limo.

He looked from one young lady to the other. "The pink curse huh?" He asked while they tried to catch their breath. The girls exchanged questioning looks.

"You know about the pink curse?" The raven haired girl asked. Her blue eyes were less than friendly, but she was quite beautiful.

Kuu's roguish smile didn't seem to have any effect on the ice princess "Kotonami Kanae-san I presume? Kyoko-chan is a good friend of mine."

Kanae's eyes narrowed slightly. Saying that she was over protective of Kyoko was an understatement. Kanae wasn't openly affectionate, but she was always on guard against any potential threats to her idiotically naive best friend. Chiori, the other girl in the car, was equally protective, but for different reasons. She more or less worshiped Kyoko's acting.

Kuu spent the rest of the car ride trying to explain to the skeptical young women that he had no ill intentions towards Kyoko. Their relationship hadn't seemed all that odd to Kuu until he had to try to explain it to someone else. Kanae had rightly questioned why a man twice Kyoko's age had dropped everything to come and co-star in a movie with her. He answered the best he could, but without mentioning Kuon or Julie, everything he said just sounded like an excuse. He hoped Kyoko could clear up any misunderstandings with the girls later.

Lory's office later that day…

"Kuu!" Lory exclaimed as he swept regally across his office to greet the international movie star. The eccentric president of LME didn't own a shred of 'normal' clothing and he had spared no expense on his latest outfit. A royal purple robe with white fur trim trailed behind him as Lory as he came to a stop. He was dressed in full plate armor from throat to toe with his ornate helmet carried behind him by his faithful squire. The men were followed by a large black draft horse that sported its own armor.

"Lory!" Kuu replied as he closed the distance between the two men. Lory's armor clinked as they exchanged a one armed hug. Stepping back, Kuu eyed the horse suspiciously. "Did you tell Maria you got her a pony?"

Lory beamed at Kuu as he launched into an animated speech about his beloved granddaughter. As they talked Lory's squire led the horse away and returned with a tankard filled with tea for each man. They clinked their mugs together as they took up residence on Lory's two red velvet couches. It took Lory 3 tries to sit comfortably in his heavy armor. "It's been too long my friend." He told Kuu when he was finally settled. "And you had me worried when you called a few weeks ago."

Kuu's smile disappeared from his face. "Actually, Boss, I've been meaning to talk to you about that."

Lory nodded as if he understood. "I imagine Julie is just getting impatient waiting for Kuon to come home. I tell you Kuu, the two of you raised one stubborn fool. I don't know what he thinks he has left to prove."

Kuu's overprotective parent instincts kicked in at the slight insult to his son. The only one who could make fun of Kuon for being a stubborn, love sick, idiot was Kuu. "Don't talk about my son like that! That's my precious little boy, Boss."

"I thought you gave up on that one? Isn't that why you adopted Kyoko-chan?" Lory asked in jest. Kuu's face fell. "Kuu?"

Lory's words weren't entirely untrue, but his casual nature was making it harder for Kuu to say what he had planned. Some weeks ago Kuu had mentioned to Kyoko that he was afraid to tell Lory about the divorce. As a long suffering member of the LoveMe section of LME, which was essentially directly under Lory's control, she understood his hesitance. Lory lived for love. Together Kuu and Kyoko had formed a plan for how to break the news to Lory. She had even acted an adorably high pitched Lory so Kuu could practice. The strategy was simple. Just say it. "Julie divorced me, Boss."

The silence was palpable. Lory's eyes widened and welled with tears. He looked like he was in shock. "You two were so in love. I was the best man at your wedding. I'm the godfather to your son. I've been planning your children's wedding for the past two years. How could you not tell me!" Lory looked like he was about to go on a tirade until he saw Kuu's face.

Kuu was ashamed and it was written all over his face. "I didn't know that anything was wrong until her lawyer called me to his office. She didn't say a word, Boss."

"Does Kuon know?"

Kuu ran his fingers through his hair as irritation flashed through his eyes. "He won't talk to me remember?"

"I know you have been living in America but shouldn't this be all over the tabloids by now? How long has it been?" Lory pressed.

"Just over three months now. She hasn't said anything publicly and neither have I. I thought the media would figure it out when they didn't see us side by side anymore… but no one noticed. I don't think our relationship ever really recovered from the loss of Kuon." Kuu raised his hand to silence Lory before he could interject. "I know that he isn't dead, but being separated from our son… It was more than Julie could take. I think when we were both together, in the same room, in each other's arms, we could pretend that Kuon would come back to us. But when our jobs took us other places…"

Lory understood better than he liked to admit. His own son rarely visited, but at least Kouki didn't pretend that Lory didn't exist. Intentional or not, Ren really had been quite cruel to the parents that wanted nothing but the best for him. Lory clapped his gauntlet clad hands together. It wouldn't do any good to dwell on the past. "Unfortunate circumstances certainly, but Japan seems glad to have you back Kuu. Why did you decide to take the role of Daisuke?"

A little bit of sparkle returned to Kuu's drawn face. "Actually, Kyoko-chan asked me to."

"Oh? Your second 'son' asked you to come home huh?"

"Not exactly. She asked me to play opposite her in the movie. You've seen her act, Boss. I couldn't pass up a chance."

Lory looked confused. "Who is Kyoko-chan playing?"

"Ayumi, the protagonist. Didn't she tell you?"

A deep chuckle rolled from Lory's lips. "No. She didn't. But for some reason I'm not surprised at all. I had been wondering what poor woman was going to have to compete with your charms for the attention of the audience. But I guess I shouldn't have been worried. You'll have to be careful not to let Kyoko-chan make you look like an amateur."

Kuu joined Lory as the chuckle developed into a full blown laugh. It really was funny. When she had been playing the role of Kuu's son there had been several moments that Kuu had forgotten that she wasn't actually Kuon. Kyoko was a method actor of the highest caliber. Even if she didn't realize it herself, her acting was terrifyingly good. Kuu and Lory both knew that Kyoko wouldn't be acting out the character Ayumi, she would become her. Kuu's biggest challenge would be keeping his wits about him when she pulled him into her imaginary world.

The laughter subsided and Kuu risked asking about a dangerous subject. "So how has my stubborn, love sick, idiot of a son been doing?"

The next day at the Fuji TV studio…

Pandemonium. That was the only word that could describe the scene outside of the set for I'll Steal It Back. Kuu was acting on Japanese soil for the first time in nearly 15 years and it drew fans of all ages out into the open. Even with triple the number of security guards, the studio was having an impossible time trying to keep Kuu's zealous fans in check.

Inside the studio however, Kuu had to handle his biggest fans all on his own. He was, to this day, considered to be an acting god in Japan. So it wasn't all that surprising to see a line of actors and actresses waiting patiently outside of the door to his dressing room. Ok. He wasn't actually alone. His pink protectors were also there. One maned the door to let a few people in at a time and the other kept track of time and hurriedly excused any overly touchy visitors.

Kuu had been shaking hands and signing autographs for 3 hours when Chiori mercifully decided to stop admitting visitors. He immediately sank into the couch with a pout on his face. "I'm starving." He whined as Kanae's eyebrow twitched.

"I see why you get alone with Kyoko." She told him flatly. "You're mentally the same age."

"I don't think so." Chiori chimed in. "I think Kyoko is a couple of years older. She at least knows how to feed herself."

Excitement flashed in Kuu's eyes. "Is it lunch time?"

Chiori giggled and Kanae glared. "No. It is time to go meet with the rest of the cast." The raven haired girl retorted with a scowl.

"But I'm hhuunnggrryy!" Kuu whined as his stomach growled in agreement.

Kanae's eye twitched. Three minutes later she had herded the movie star out the door and down the hall with a combination of pointed looks and food bribes. She sighed as she pushed open the door to the meeting room. She really didn't need two Kyoko's to deal with. One of her best friend was more than enough. At least Kuu didn't scream her name and tackle her…

"MOOooKOOoo-san!" Kanae heard Kyoko's voice too late. The teen actress had Kanae wrapped in a bear hug before the raven haired actress could even brace for impact.

"MO!" Kanae half coughed as air filled her lungs again. "Get off of me Kyoko! Didn't we agree you wouldn't do this outside of LME?"

Kyoko looked distraught as she looked up at her best friend. The copper haired teen had sunk to the floor with her arms still wrapped tightly around Kanae's waist. "But Moko-san… I haven't seen you in nearly a week."

Kanae opened her mouth to tell Kyoko that a week wasn't a long enough separation to elicit this kind of response. Before she could get a word out however, she heard Kuu sniveling beside her. "But I haven't seen you in over a year." He whined as he pulled out his best puppy dog eyes.

Kyoko fell for it. She was on the ground in a dogeza before Kanae could even blink. Even if he hadn't said it that way, the guilt would have eaten her alive if she didn't properly apologize. "I'm SOOooOOoo SOOooRRrry Kuu-san." The words that followed were too rapid to follow.

The other members of the cast watched as Kuu's jaw worked soundlessly. "Kyoko-chan?" He finally managed as he looked at the actress in alarm.

"Now you've done it." Kanae accused as she tried to pry Kyoko off the floor.

"How do I fix it?" He asked with wide eyes. "She told me she was working on being less dramatic when she apologized."

"This is less dramatic than normal. See? Her forehead isn't actually touching the floor. Just hurry up and tell her you forgive her."

"Kyoko. I forgive you. I wasn't offended in the first place." Kyoko looked up at him uncertainly. "I've been living in America remember? You are going to have to try much harder if you want to offend me." Kyoko sat up straighter. "Now get off the floor and give me a hug. I missed you."

The warmth in Kuu's voice surprised almost everyone but Kyoko. She practically bounded off the floor and into Kuu's open arms. The hug was short, but it warmed Kuu's heart to see that the spunky teen was willing to hug him in front of the rest of the cast. "I missed you too, Kuu-san. I'm really glad you decided to come back to Japan for this movie. I'm really looking forward to acting with you." He believed every word. There was no way Kyoko's modesty would let her hug anyone unless she was truly happy to see them. She seemed to realize this at the same time as Kuu. He wrapped and arm around her waist just as she was about preform another dogeza to apologize to the rest of the cast for her actions.

Picking the actress up like she weighed nothing he carried her under his arm as he moved to introduce himself to the director. She hung limply by his side as he addressed the director with a bow of his head. "I'm sorry for the disturbance. Please forgive me and my kohai."

The director had no response. Even if he felt the actors' actions were out of line he couldn't exactly do anything about it. Kuu was too big of a star to be trifled with and Kyoko was apparently close to him. Not that the director particularly minded the outburst. He knew about the actress' mood swings when he offered her the job. He had talked to several directors that had worked with her before and they all said the same thing. Kyoko was weird, but she was also the most polite actress they had ever worked with. As for the quality of her work… He felt the results spoke for themselves.

"All right then." The director announced with a clap of his hands. "Since we are all here now let's get started."

The meeting ended shortly after it began. It was really just intended to be an introduction of the cast, particularly Kuu, to make sure that there weren't any delays when they were actually ready to start filming. After they had gone around the room introducing themselves, the director gave a brief synopsis of the film along with a few character suggestions for some of the supporting characters. He made no comments about Ayumi or Daisuke. He had decided to leave Kuu and Kyoko to their own devices when developing their characters.

By the end of the meeting Kyoko felt lightheaded. Kuu had been holding her under his arm the entire time. She had figured that he would get tired and put her down at some point. But apparently, all the food he seemed to be constantly eating had given him inhuman strength. It hadn't even been Kuu's intention to hold her hostage when he first picked her up, but once Kyoko was in his grasp he just could bring himself to let go. It was only after the director dismissed them that Kuu set her back on her feet.

"Kuu-san," Kyoko started as she rocked slightly, "would you like to come over for dinner tonight?" Kuu's eyes lit up in excitement. Kyoko easily made the best food he had ever consumed.

"Absolutely!" He answered without consulting his temporary caretaker. Kanae rolled her eyes, but didn't comment, instead trying to push him out the door. Kyoko's smile was breathtaking. "Where?" He tried to ask as the door swung closed between them.

"Our apartment of course." Kanae answered him.

"I thought she hadn't seen you in a week?"

"She was filming on location till late last night. I wouldn't be surprised if she hasn't even made it home yet." Kanae answered. Then she sighed and started to grumble under her breath. Kuu listened with interest as they walked back to his dressing room and the piles of food Chiori had procured in their absence. "I've been living with her for almost 6 months, how has she not managed to mention that she is friends with Hizuri Kuu? Isn't that something you tell your best friend? I bet she doesn't even realize how famous he is. She never pays attention to things like that."

Later that evening at Kyoko and Kanae's apartment…

Kuu was exhausted when he followed Kanae up 3 flights of stairs to her apartment. The problem wasn't the stairs. Kuu was pretty sure his hand was going to fall off if he had to shake with anymore fans. Kanae and Chiori had done a spectacularly good job of keeping both the movie star and his hordes of fans in line. Although, they did have to threaten him several times to keep him from trying to sneak out. Luckily, threatening to withhold Kyoko's homemade dinner was more than enough to whip Kuu into shape. There was just something about Kyoko's cooking.

Kanae opened the door to find an extra pair of men's shoes sitting in the threshold. She recognized them immediately. "Again?" She muttered unhappily. Somehow Ren always knew when Kyoko would be home. She ushered Kuu into their apartment and slipped off her own shoes. She mentally said a brief thank you to Kyoko as she slid her feet into her house slippers and handed Kuu a spare set. She had no idea what they were made of, but the Kyoko's handmade slippers were like a balm for her sore feet at end of the day. When Kyoko was making them Kanae had wondered why she was making two sets of large guest slippers. Now she had an answer. One pair for each of the megastar men in her life.

A protective urge rose in Kuu as he looked at the other pair of men's shoes. "Whose shoes are those?" he asked Kanae as he accepted the slippers.

"You'll see." She replied as she started down the hallway towards the living room. Kuu frowned behind her back.

The two of them found the living room empty and moved on to the kitchen. Kyoko was masterfully moving about the small space, keeping an eye on no less than 5 different dishes. The portions were enormous. Kuu's stomach announced their arrival and its appreciation for the delicious aroma that was wafting into the rest of the apartment. "Kuu-san!" Kyoko chirped happily.

"Kyoko," Kanae interrupted, "Isn't Tsuruga-san here?"

"Yes." She answered as she turned away from them to tend to the food on the stove. "He should have been in the living room. If he isn't there he probably just went to the bathroom." The sound of running water confirmed her suspicions.

"He invited himself to dinner again?" Kanae asked. Kyoko nodded with her back still turned to them. Kuu couldn't help but notice the droop in her shoulders. Kyoko didn't seem all that happy to have Ren stop by. She recovered quickly enough, sending Kanae out to set the table and enlisting Kuu's help to finish cooking. He was going to eat most of the food so it was only fair that he help prepare it.

Kanae came back into the kitchen a few minutes later to grab the rice and the large pot of tea Kyoko had set out. Kuu followed her to the living room with 3 of the 5 dishes balanced on his arms. Kyoko trailed behind with the last 2 overflowing pots of food.

Ren's eyes widened as Kuu walked into the room. He had heard that his father was back in town, but he certainly wasn't expecting to run into him in Kyoko's apartment. "Hizuri-san, it's been quite a while. It's good to see you again."

"It's good to see you again too, Tsuruga-san." Kuu replied as he set the food on the low table. Both of the men smiled at each other, but Ren's smile was a bit too sparkly. Anyone who really knew him, knew that, that was his fake smile. The brighter it shone, the worse his mood was.

Once they were all seated Kanae glanced from Kyoko to each of the men at the table. The atmosphere was stifling. Kyoko served herself and Kanae reasonable portions of everything then made Ren an another plate with only 3 of the dishes. She knew by now what he liked and didn't. Everything else she slid closer to Kuu.

They ate in silence. Well, relative silence. Kuu couldn't stop himself from making happy little noises as he devoured Kyoko's cooking. Julie was a terrible cook. He recalled and set down his chopsticks. Ren, Kyoko, and Kanae all stopped eating to look at Kuu. He was essentially a human garbage disposal, seeing him leave food on his plate worried all of them.

"Tsuruga-san," Kuu began as he turned to look at his son, "You're very lucky to live so close to Kyoko that you can just stop by for dinner."

"Yes I am." The younger man answered.

"Make sure not to take that for granted. My ex-wife, Julie, was a terrible cook." If Ren hadn't already stopped eating he likely would have choked on his food. In one fell swoop Kuu had managed to issue a fatherly warning about taking good care of Kyoko and break the news of his divorce.

It took several tries but Ren finally found his words. "I wasn't aware you had gotten divorced, Hizuri-san. I seem to recall you and Julie were quite happy together."

"Unfortunately, we lost our son a number of years back. I think we had been slowly growing apart ever since. Not that any of this is public knowledge. And I'd like to keep it that way for the time being. I'm only sharing with you and Kotanami-san because you are close with Kyoko. She has been my greatest supporter through it all." Ren could only nod in response to his father's psychological jab. The guilt was almost paralyzing.

The rest of dinner was just as awkward as the beginning, but by the end Kanae had gained a sort of respect for the older Hizuri. She was still uncertain about his relationship with Kyoko, but anyone who could cow Tsuruga Ren was worthy of at least some admiration.

A few days later back at the Fuji TV studio…

Kyoko paced the hallway in her skin tight black costume. She had known that there would be some romance involved in the movie, but she still wasn't ready for the day's first scene. Her first on screen kiss… She still hadn't really had an off screen kiss with anyone. Well, she had been kissed before, but she hadn't been a willing participant.

Kuu watched as she moved up and down the hallway like a caged panther. "Kyoko-chan?"

"I don't know if I can do this." She replied as she looked at him with scared eyes.

"What are you worried about?" He asked in a compassionate tone. In the past few days he had watched Kyoko absolutely dominate the stage. She made the role of Ayumi look easy. And Ayumi was assuredly not an easy role. The range of emotions and the subtlety of the changes in Ayumi's mental state made for a very demanding character.

Kyoko looked embarrassed. "I don't have any reference material for the kiss. I've tried to do some research, but… I've never had a kiss like the one Ayumi and Daisuke share. This will be my first on screen kiss too. I don't know if I can do it."

Kuu smiled at her. "I'm sure you can do it Kyoko-chan. Even if you haven't kissed someone like that, you know what love feels like don't you?" She nodded in affirmation, but looked a little bit sad at the thought. "All you have to do is let Ayumi love Daisuke and let Daisuke love Ayumi back."

The scene starts…

Daisuke leaned casually against the wall. He looked bored as he shifted his gaze from the door of the women's restroom to watch on his wrist. His eyes narrowed slightly as he watched the seconds tick past. Ayumi was running out of time. He tried not to react, but his uneasiness was growing. Every extra second felt like an eternity as he waited for another party guest to leave the hallway. Their window of opportunity was closing. If he and Ayumi weren't back in front of the security cameras in the next 56 seconds their entire plan was shot.

"Catch me." Ayumi's voice came from above Daisuke as she dropped from the ceiling. He caught her effortlessly, his face betraying his relief at seeing her safe.

"47 seconds." He told her as he pulled her slinky dress from under the back of his suit jacket. The skin tight Lycra she wore for her trip through the ventilation system helped her slide into the floor length gown. As she put on the dress Daisuke produced a pair of ballet flats from an inner pocket on his jacket. He placed them on her feet as she zipped up the back of the dress. She pulled long silk gloves over the latex pair she was already wearing and started to move towards the end of the hallway. As Ayumi fussed with her hair Daisuke picked up the thin portfolio she had dropped in her rush to change. They moved in unison towards the gallery room as Daisuke tucked the portfolio under his suit jacket and secured it with his suspenders.

"6 seconds to spare." Ayumi whispered as they stopped in front of a painting just to the right of the hallway entrance. For once she didn't have to pretend to be excited about the work of art in front of her. Her excitement was genuine. She finally had the deed to her family home in her possession. Well Daisuke's possession.

"Prefect as always." Daisuke murmured back. She couldn't see the way he gazed at her, her attention focused on the security guards that were making their rounds, but everyone else could. He looked at her like she was the most beautiful woman on earth. And in his eyes, she was. They had gone through hell together and come out the other side, beaten and battered, but unbreakable.

As the guard passed by without incident Daisuke felt Ayumi relax against him. He wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her closer. She looked up at the much taller man with tears of happiness moistening her eyes. "It's really over isn't it?"

"Yes." Daisuke answered with a smile that was sure to melt the heart of any woman within eyeshot. A second later, the smile Ayumi returned put it to shame. Daisuke's heart all but stopped as the woman he loved looked at him with real happiness in her eyes for the first time. He had spent the last 5 years working tirelessly to return that look to her face. Seeing her smile like that was worth every second spent in pursuit of her personal justice.

Daisuke's free hand cupped Ayumi's face as he leaned towards her. "I love you." He whispered just before he pressed his lips to hers. The kiss itself was tame, nothing more than a locking of lips for a few seconds. It was the look on Ayumi's face when Daisuke pulled away that made the scene. The love in her expression was so real that Kuu nearly missed Daisuke's last line. "I would do this 1000 times over, if only to earn another second by your side." After that Kuu let himself drown in Kyoko's amber eyes.

"Cut! Great job you two!"

Kyoko's knees gave out as soon as the scene ended. Her slender shoulders shook as she tried to hold in her tears. Then the dam broke. She didn't mean to, but tears fell from her eyes, ruining Ayumi's perfect makeup.

"Kyoko?" Kuu's voice was filled with concern. She had told him that this would be her first on screen kiss and that she was nervous. Despite that, he hadn't expected her to fall apart right afterwards.

The teen started bawling harder. She couldn't get the words out to explain what she was feeling. The cast and the rest of the crew were beginning to look at them with concern, but Kyoko couldn't stop her tears. She had needed to cry for a long time and now that she had started the tears fell ceaselessly from her eyes.

Kuu didn't know what to do for the actress, but if it was his fault he knew he should leave. If he pushed her too far in the scene she probably didn't want him around. He started to take a step backwards before Kyoko's hand reached out and latched onto his wrist. She looked up with wet eyes filled with a pain Kuu knew too well. He let Kyoko pull him to the floor with her.

Kyoko clung to Kuu. She wanted more than anything not to be trapped in a one sided love. She wanted to be held when she cried. She wanted so badly to be comforted. Ren had held her once, but it was an accident. She had mistaken him for her fairy prince, Corn, the only person that ever offered her unconditional kindness. It wasn't intentional, but she always gave too much of herself to everything she did. She was tired of having to do everything for herself and everyone else.

Kuu looked down at the distressed actress with her hands buried in his shirt and did the only thing he could think of. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into his chest. He rested his chin on her head as she sobbed into his shoulder. "Shush. Its Ok Kyoko. It will all be Ok." He murmured as he rubbed her back with one hand. His other arm stayed wrapped firmly around her waist.

"I want to be loved like Ayumi is." Kyoko whispered into his chest. "I want to know what it's like to be loved. I want to know what it's like to have someone love you back."

Kuu felt like he had been punched in the gut. He understood that Kyoko was averse to letting herself love someone, but he hadn't realized she felt unloved. She had been trying her very best to make sure she never got hurt again and after Julie left him, Kuu understood the sentiment much better than he had before. Still for his son… For Kuon… For Ren to have been in love with Kyoko for such a long time… For years… And to have her still feel unloved… It was unacceptable.

"You are loved Kyoko." Kuu whispered into her hair. "I love you."

"But not like Daisuke loves Ayumi." She answered.

That gave Kuu pause. He didn't answer right away. Instead he waited for her to lift her head and beamed at her. "Wrong." He said as he ruffled her hair.

Kyoko's eyes grew wide in response as a blush colored her cheeks. I must have misunderstood. She looked around to see that the rest of the cast and crew had wandered away to give them the illusion of privacy. Most of their conversation had been whispers, but a least a few people had reacted when Kuu had last spoken. "You shouldn't say such things, Kuu-san. It might confuse some people."

"I'll prove it to you." He answered as his signature roguish smile settled into place. Kyoko looked disbelieving. She clearly thought he was teasing her. "Your other sempai is the one that teases you." Kuu said as if he had read her mind.

"How?" She asked hesitantly.

Kuu leaned in to whisper in her ear. "Tomorrow night. I'll take you on a real date." Kyoko still looked unconvinced as he pulled away, but he stood anyways. If they stayed like that much longer they would hold up filming. He offered Kyoko his hand and pulled her to her feet. "Looks like we both need to get back to makeup and wardrobe."

The next evening in the living room of Kyoko and Kanae's apartment…

Kyoko paced back and forth across the tatami mat floor. She was nervous; more nervous than she had been about the kiss. After all, that was for work and this was for… What if he is just doing this to make fun of me? She tossed the thought aside. No. That was something Sho would do, maybe even Ren, but Kuu wouldn't do that to her.

Kanae walked into the room with a pair of 5 inch stiletto heels in her hands. Kyoko's eyes widened. "I can't wear those Moko-san!"

"Of course you can." Kanae snapped back. "Hizuri-san is nearly a foot taller than you isn't he? Besides I bought these shoes specifically to go with the dress you are borrowing." A light flush crept up Kyoko's cheeks as she agreed to wear the shoes. Kanae had known she would.

The doorbell rang as Kyoko accepted the shoes and she moved to greet Kuu at the door. "Good evening, Hizuri-san."

Kuu cocked his head to the side. "I insist on taking you on a date and you start calling me by my last name huh?"

The blush on Kyoko's cheeks intensified. "I'm sooorrrry, Kuu-san. Please come in for a moment. I'm almost ready." She was already backing down the hall when she said the last words. Kuu followed her, slipping off his shoes and padding into the living room.

He nodded to Kanae as he entered and watched as Kyoko disappeared through another door, presumably the bathroom. "Kotanami-san."

"Hizuri-san." She replied flatly. "No ill intentions right?"

The corner of Kuu's lip twitched up into a smile. Kyoko's best friend really cared about her. "No ill intentions, Kotanami-san." Her blue eyes narrowed. "I will be taking her to dinner. And if she will let me, I'd like to take a walk through the park before we return. I'll have her back before 10."

Kanae looked to be putting a lot of thought into her next words. "So you meant it when you told her you love her?"

"Yes." Kuu answered with conviction in his voice. Kuon it seemed, wasn't up to the task of caring for Kyoko. And since Kuon didn't want to be Kuu's son... maybe it was time for Kuu to stop being his father and take care of Kyoko instead.

Kanae stared into his eyes for a moment as if searching for some indication that his words were true. In the end she nodded and turned away. She moved to Kyoko's purse and pulled out a slim wallet. In its place she slid a folded note back into Kyoko's purse. "10 o'clock exactly." She warned Kuu.

Thirty minutes later Kuu was ushering Kyoko into a private room at one of his favorite restaurants. He ordered one of everything on the menu.

Not long afterwards Kyoko's eyes sparkled in delight as a steady stream of waiters deposited plate after plate of food on their table. She tried a bite of everything and watched with awe as Kuu quickly finished off the dishes she was done with. Dinner was filled with laughter and the ever present sound of Kuu chewing.

Once dinner was over Kyoko reached for her purse as Kuu claimed the bill that had been set on the table. She looked expectantly at Kuu to find out how much the bill was. Instead he slid his credit card into the small cardboard backed folder and placed it out of Kyoko's reach. "Kuu-san, what was my portion of the bill?"

"I don't know what you are talking about Kyoko-chan." He answered.

Kyoko frowned slightly. "I know about how much my portion of the bill should be. Here let me…" Kyoko's eyes grew wide as she found her wallet missing. She pulled a folded paper out of her purse and gingerly pulled it open. There, written in Kanae's handwriting, was one sentence. 'I took your wallet. –Moko'

The expression on Kyoko's face was priceless. Kuu couldn't help but laugh as she looked in disbelief at her open purse. "Why would she do this?" Kyoko asked in confusion.

"I don't know why you thought I would let you pay in the first place." Kuu answered.

Kyoko looked up in confusion. "I always pay for my portion."

"Your dates let you pay for yourself?" His voice was laced with the disapproval he felt.

She looked down at her lap. "Well. I haven't actually… This is my first… I haven't been on a date before. But I know that it is becoming more acceptable for women to pay for themselves."

"No." Kuu pouted like a 5 year old. "I refuse to let a lady pay for herself when she is on a date with me."


"I have not been on a date in long time Kyoko, but on this I won't compromise."

"But…" She tried again.

"I've told you before Kyoko, seeing you smile is all the repayment I will ever need."

The bill was settled and the two were back in the car a little after 8pm. Kyoko had been reluctant to drop the subject of the bill, but Kuu had successfully distracted her with talks of a 'magical lake'. He was glad to see her expectations were met as they walked through the park. They had been idly chatting as they walked along, but that all stopped when the lake came into view.

Kyoko moved towards the water's edge, absolutely mesmerized. She moved with liquid grace over the uneven ground, fireflies dancing around her; they swirled through the air, leaving trails of light behind them. Kyoko looked out over the lake and Kuu looked at Kyoko. He wasn't nearly as steady on the rocky ground, but he somehow made it to her side.

Kuu looked down at Kyoko. She was preciously cute and breathtaking beautiful at the same time. He turned to the lake, trying to see the world through Kyoko's eyes. Whatever she saw when she looked out on the water was different from his view. Nothing before him could hold a candle to the woman by his side. She was captivating.

It was in that moment Kuu realized that he had been fooling himself all along. He had told himself that this date was to make Kyoko feel loved again, but Kyoko had never felt loved. The number of people who cared about the woman grew with every new encounter, but none of them had ever told her how they felt. At least not in the right words. Kuu wanted to be the one to tell her the right words. He wanted to bask in her love and wrap her in a comfort she had more than earned. Kuu wanted a chance to love again.

To anyone else it would have been clear that Kyoko was cherished, but not to her. Not to the scared girl who had been thrown away by her mother. Kyoko hadn't tried to open her heart to the people in her life, her heart was just so big, so full of warmth and compassion, that it couldn't be contained in her tiny frame. "Kyoko." Kuu whispered.

She looked up at him, into a face filled with all the love he wanted to share with her. Sorrow crept into her expression. "Please don't look at me like that Kuu-san."

Kuu's own face fell. "Why not?"

"Because you don't really love me." She said as she turned back towards that lake.

"Wrong." Kuu answered as he cupped her face in his hands and gently turned her back to face him. "I love you, Kyoko." He pressed his forehead against hers. "No matter what, even if you don't believe me, I'll always be here for you."

A/N: So I promised Felicity Dream a Kyoko x Kuu oneshot… *Author scratches her head* This is technically a oneshot right? When I started writing the obstacles to getting these two together just kept mounting. Julie, Ren, Lory, Kanae, and Oh yeah, Kyoko. Then, when I was about 7000 words in, I realized that I could have just written in an alternate universe. *Shurgs* Live and learn.

Thoughts? Curses? Criticisms?

*Getting high on oxygen is a real thing I promise.