Authors Notes: This was one of the many ideas that I never got around to writing about a couple years ago and now it's popped up and made itself known. Within this story Misao speaks only in Japanese and Aoshi speaks in English. She doesn't understand him in English (though he very much understands her in Japanese) and she also doesn't know who he is or anything about the newspapers with regards to Tomoe and him. I made her one with nature, as she doesn't watch TV or read gossip magazines/newspapers. She after all works at a Hot Springs Resort…

'Text in here is Misao speaking in Japanese – though it's written in English because I'm too lazy to bother about translating it into Romanji.' It was also used for the past tense as well.

"Normal text like this is Aoshi speaking in English."

I hope you enjoy!

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Romancing the Artist

By: Shin Sankai

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A sigh omitted from a tall man as he stood on the end of a platform looking over a lake. His green eyes, half covered by jet-black bangs glanced over his shoulder to look back at the house and the vast amount of forest surrounding it. It'd nearly been two full weeks since he'd hunkered down in his Uncle's vacation home, shying away from all the media that had wanted comments from him about his famous wife…or soon to be ex-wife. His divorce to her was currently in the process. The only way his lawyer could get in touch with him about the progress of the divorce settlement was sending letters to the Hot Springs Resort down the mountain, the owner of it being on close terms with his Uncle and she would always ask one of her workers to drive up and deliver it. The lake house had no electricity and the current occupant, who turned away from the serene fresh water lake heading back to the porch, relied on the plentiful wood stack by the side of the rickety home. He noticed that the stack was diminishing fast and so he made a mental note to chop wood later.

Dressed in black sweat pants and a grey sweater, Shinomori Aoshi, renowned for his scenic paintings, his bold drawings of the human flesh, his pristine clay pottery (taught to him by his Uncle, the famous potter Hiko Seijiro) and his provocativeness to capture tragedy and romance using historical periods within several novels he had published stood on the porch once more, leaning against the post, drifting back into how he'd come to reside here.

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Yukishiro Tomoe, a very exquisite and beautiful popstar in Japan, had visited Aoshi's first exhibition. She'd come with an entourage and had specifically requested to meet with him. He'd never been fused about the entertainment industry or the media for that matter and had only complied when his Uncle commented that it would be good for business. Pictures had been flashed of the two of them walking around, softly speaking to one another as they passed several of his paintings. Instantly it had hit the tabloids that they were together and Aoshi had frowned at the newspaper that Hiko had thrust in his face the next morning.

Weeks passed and he'd not seen Tomoe since that time and had quite frankly forgotten all about her until one afternoon he was walking towards his apartment block and before heading inside, a black Mercedes pulled up along the curb. The tinted back window wound down and there she was, dressed provocatively in a tight satin devil red dress that rested mid thigh against her long white legs. It was strapless and a set of diamonds hung around her neck and a matching pair of earrings was attached to her lobes. She'd asked him to get in and for the life of Aoshi he hadn't understood why he did.

Though Aoshi had never been fused about his attire, he did feel quite odd when the two of them arrived at a 5-star restaurant and he was dressed in jeans and an untucked grey polo shirt while Tomoe had all eyes trained on her voluptuous body. They sat near the window, overlooking Tokyo and had a five-course meal. Tomoe would sip seductively at her overly expensive bottle of red wine, licking her ruby coloured lips every so often while he stuck to his water and had his eyes trained to the sunset streaming through the passing clouds outside. Not much was voiced during the evening, the meal was placed on some tab that Tomoe had here and they left, heading towards her suite and before Aoshi knew what had happened he was in bed with her. It was like she was some sort of aphrodisiac that had just snapped into his life, turning on lustful senses that had never been there before.

Over the passing months this same routine would come about. She'd have her entourage track him down wherever he was in Tokyo, have him brought to her and within minutes they'd be in bed together. When the deed was done, a light meal would be shared, as they'd sit on the balcony of her penthouse suite. There was no talking, no words of endearment, no sugary sweet kisses afterwards, just Aoshi eating, showering and dressing back into his wrinkled clothing. He would leave like usual, a blur of mixed emotions washing through him but never portraying over his face. He'd go back to his normal life of painting, sculpting, drawing and writing until it started all over again.

However on one humid day, as Aoshi left Tomoe's bed, slipping into his briefs and placing on his jeans he didn't have time to place on his white muscle shirt as a naked Tomoe pressed up against him. Her lips were at his shoulder blades while her hands pressed low on his abdomen, fingers delving beneath the waistband of his jeans to finger his cotton briefs beneath. Pearly teeth had raked across his skin as Tomoe asked him to marry her. His eyebrows had furrowed at those words, as they'd never spoken about themselves, about their pasts, their upbringings, their families and most importantly their future together. Aoshi had pondered if there even was a 'their' with them and turned to look down into her dark eyes.

'Aa…' Was all Aoshi remembered saying before her lips pressed hungry to his and they collapsed to the carpet to partake in carnal sex once again.

The wedding was large and over the top as was to be expected by a popstar. There were over 500 guests, Aoshi knowing about a dozen or so of them and wherever he looked, the media was there, snapping away hungrily. He'd not been pleased about that and thoughts about this being a marriage of convenience more so then anything began to form in his head.

The many months of trying to quench their sexual drives in the beginning of the 'relationship' and the two years they'd been married had come to a crashing halt. Aoshi had not suspected a thing, never been one to read tabloids at all, had been heading into work where he was the curator for Hiko's large gallery and instantly the media flanked him. They never had been fused with him before and he felt swamped by it all as he forced his way inside, slamming the door against their faces and locking it shut. His eyes silently met Hiko's who was leaning against the counter, sipping what he was certain was sake and flipping through the newspaper. Aoshi walked over, silent as usual and sat down on a stool. He could easily read upside down and reefed the paper away to flip it back to the beginning. There was Tomoe, his wife dressed oh so provocatively in a flimsy white towel and French kissing one of her co-workers at some hot springs resort near Kyoto.

'Your sister did tell you not to marry her.' Hiko had muttered and pulled out another sake cup and poured a small portion of his prized liquor into it just to see if Aoshi would take it.

'That…bitch…' Aoshi murmured and instead of taking the cup he took the bottle. Hiko's eyebrows had risen but he allowed his nephew to do as he wished.

Aoshi had been sick as a dog for the next two days, his head resting on the rim of his toilet seat as he foggily listened to his sister, Takani Megumi, verbally abuse there Uncle for allowing him to drink so much. When Aoshi's mother had passed away due to illness, his father had remarried four years later to Megumi's mother and their father had given Megumi her mother's maiden name as she had passed away during the birth. Aoshi had been dragged from his comfy place on the cold tiled floor of his bathroom, dressed in two-day-old clothing, by the only two relatives he had in Tokyo and was placed on his unmade bed.

'You need some time to yourself Shi-kun.' Aoshi always found the endearing nickname his younger sister had given him odd. It still surprised him, even if she used it on a regular basis. As he dozed away his headache, Megumi had packed a large duffle bag for him and demanded the keys to Hiko's vacation home on the mountain. After he had showered, she'd driven him up there. All Aoshi did was quietly stare out the window of Megumi's red vehicle while she tried to make conversation with him. The only comment that had gotten his attention was if he wanted her to inject Tomoe with a lethal drug. Megumi was currently finishing off a medical degree at University. His eyes turned to look at her, observing the way her hands fisted white on the steering wheel and her maroon orbs narrowed. A corner of his lips rose slightly at the seriousness she portrayed.

'Iie, I need the very few that care for me, to remain at my side, so I know I'm not alone.' He'd listened to her grumble that if he ever changed his mind she knew what to do. He'd been tempted to laugh, but he was never one for laughing and knew that Megumi had this odd protective streak about her, even if she were the younger sibling. He'd brushed his hand affectionately over hers, silently telling her thanks for the option.

When they arrived at Hiko's home up in the mountains by the small lake, Megumi had taken him inside the unused home, made up the double bed for him and then went straight to the kitchen to make sure there was enough food supplies for him to last on for a couple weeks if need be. She reminded him that if he needed anything, then he was to go down to the resort, which was an hour or so walk away. After giving him a hug, Megumi had left knowing he'd hate for her to canoodle him anymore then she already had.

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Sighing at the memory Aoshi sat in the hammock, listening to it squeak as he placed his weight into it and decided to not think of the past. He knew Tomoe didn't love him, but that still didn't help the fact that his heart clenched at the photos of her wrapped around some other man. It might not have been love on her part, but just a little, he had thought of her as his wife and not just a convenience to have his name placed out around Japan. Photos of him had been splashed over the newspapers as well. "Shattered Husband Turns to the Bottle" is what most of them had read. In fact Aoshi had only turned to sake that one evening and vowed to never touch the stuff again. He was thankful that no one knew about this home up here, especially the media because they'd be here in a flash, smothering him once more.

Aoshi turned his head when he listened to a loud crack of thunder rumble through the dark clouds. The weather was fitting his mood entirely as he still hadn't begun to get over what had happened. As he watched sheet-lightning flash through the afternoon sky, Aoshi closed his eyes once more. Could one even place a time limit on how long it would take to move on? He'd never been serious about women, having the odd relationship here and there which didn't seem to progress further then a single month, but Tomoe had been different. The carnal lust within her had awoken his own and he'd thrown himself into several sticky situations with her.

"Idiot…" Aoshi murmured to himself as he shifted in the hammock uncomfortably. As he folded his arms over his chest, ready to snooze to the falling rain, a sound that had not been around here for a while alerted his senses. His eyes snapped open as above the rain he listened to a certain squishing noise, like boots moving over wet earth, mud making slushy noises as it drew closer towards the house. Carefully he sat up, swinging his legs over to rest them on the porch and got to his bare feet. Rising and moving towards the steps leading up to the front door of Hiko's second home, he squinted his eyes looking out towards the drenched driveway and noticed a dark figure heading this way. It wasn't a messenger from the Hot Springs Resort, for they always came in a car. As the figure drew closer, it wasn't till they were at the bottom of the stairs did he realise it was a girl. As her muddy boots clumped up the three stairs, the hood of her waterproof jacket fell away revealing a mass of blue-black hair, it trailing in a long plait down her back.

'I'm sorry I'm late.' Aoshi remained blinking down at her. She was short and petite; eyes as shockingly blue as the ocean were starring up at him, large and sparkling. He noticed that the top of her head just reached where his heart lay beneath his ribcage. 'This weather got the better of me. I didn't know it was going to rain so soon.' He observed as she took off her jacket, placing it over the rickety railing of the porch beside her and once more turned those bright eyes to stare up into his semi hidden ones. 'So where do you want me to start?'

"Start what?" He watched those eyes grow wide at his muttered reply.

'I'm Makimachi Misao.' It was almost comical as the girl before him became animated as she spoke slowly in Japanese to him, trying to make him understand her. 'I'm from the Hot Springs Resort.' Aoshi observed her point down the mountain, his eyes following her gloved hand before moving his orbs back to her freaked out ones. 'I've been hired to cook and clean for you, do you understand?'

"Hired for me?" Aoshi watched as this Makimachi Misao pulled on the end of her long plait, sighing loudly as she believed he did not understand a word of Japanese and it appeared to him that she didn't know any English. His green orbs watched her take off her gloves, placing them on her wet jacket and then began to search her pockets. It didn't take long for a crinkled envelope to be pulled out and she handed it to him. Aoshi silently took it and opened it up, eyes narrowing at the words within: A little present for you, to help get you back on your feet.

A deep frown marred his lips as he scrunched the letter within his hand.

"Have you read this?" He watched her tilt her head at him. It was definite now that she didn't understand him. Instead he handed her the letter and watched her shake her head, looking almost adorable in doing so as her blue-black bangs swished about her creamy coloured face.

'That's only for you to read.' He hadn't expected her hands to be so small or for them to be so warm as she cupped the letter back in his hands, pushing them towards his chest, trying to tell him with actions that this note was only for him to read, even though he fully knew what she said earlier. 'What's your name?' When Aoshi didn't so much as blink, he observed her become animated again. 'Misao…' she voiced as she pointed to herself and then pointed to him. When nothing came from his lips he watched her sigh once more. 'Okay, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to.' For several seconds Aoshi just stood there, observing as she headed inside, the screen door making a clacking sound against the frame as she disappeared into the dark house. Quickly Aoshi went in after her and had already found her standing in the kitchenette area of the house. Her hands were on her hips and her eyes glanced back at him over her shoulder.

'Man, why does such a hot guy have to be such a slob?' Misao grumbled as she looked upon the silent frowning man. He was shockingly handsome to her. She never had seen someone so beautiful before. The way his bangs fell agonisingly over green eyes chipped with ice or the way small wisps of his shiny messy black hair trailed down the back of his neck. He wasn't clean-shaven, but Misao was certain beneath the stubble there would be soft skin begging to be caressed. His physique was drool worthy as well. Lean, nicely tanned of what she could see and muscled perfectly it seemed. He was wearing baggy sweatpants and a slightly torn grey sweater that just needed to be ripped from him. Quickly turning her flushed face away, Misao cracked her knuckles and opened a cupboard in the corner of the kitchenette. It was laden with a broom, a bucket, a couple of mops and several cloths and cleaning products. She fetched everything out and closed the cupboard door with her butt.

Moving past his silent tall form, Misao surveyed every unkempt room and decided to start upstairs and work her way down. She wasn't sure how long it would take her and felt a little funny in the stomach as the tall stranger she'd been ordered to look after by her cousin Omasu (who helped run the Hot Springs Resort with her sister Okon) was following her everywhere, his steely eyes not breaking from her back.

'I do have an extra mop if you'd like to help.' Misao jokingly voiced, but when her comment fell flat she remembered he didn't understand what she was saying and began picking up his discarded clothing. She had only agreed to help out because the Aoi-ya (the restaurant she partly owned with her retired grandfather) was closed for the day because the two chefs had gone into the city to order supplies. Misao had been planning on going hiking, but Omasu and Okon had cornered her just as she had placed on her backpack. At their insistent starring, she caved and consented to going up the mountain (to them it still counted as a hike for her even if she was only walking up the dirt road) to help this guy out. She'd been told to give that letter (she hadn't read it – not caring to do so) and did as Okon and Omasu asked of her, clean and cook for him. And it now appeared there was a lot of cleaning to be done.

Misao found an empty hamper and opened it up and began throwing in his clothing. She'd no idea how long they'd be there for, didn't want to know how long and just kept throwing anything she found lying at her feet into it. It was close to overflowing by the time she finished clearing the wooden floorboards of the mess and carted it out the door and dumped it beside her new "follower" standing at the doorway.

'You know, you could go do something while I clean.' When he remained where he was Misao sighed and stood in front of him, starring up into his narrowed eyes. 'Go do something.' She gestured once more, this time patting him lightly on the chest, trying desperately to not caress the rippled muscles beneath as she lightly pushed him from the doorway. 'I'm not here to steal your things, not that there is anything to steal anyway.' Misao finished off with a grumble. 'I'm here to help you, you know, help?' When she watched him walk away, saying nothing like usual she sighed in relief. Her nerves would finally calm down and the butterflies in her stomach would disappear now that he wasn't starring at her.

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(To be continued…)