First of all, many apologies for taking so extremely long updating – I'm a horrible procrastinator!!

Secondly – I love all of your reviews! I'm so happy you all enjoy this fanfiction. Please, keep sending them in! Don't lose faith in me!

--

Risa was already busy sorting clothes when Mika snuck to her station. Without having to turn around, Risa checked her watch and said, "Half an hour."

"Ouch," Mika grimaced, "Alarm didn't go off."

Risa raised her eyebrows. "Is that so?"

The blonde was silent and serious for about three seconds before smiling. "Okay, no – John stayed over. But I did forget to set my alarm." She giggled and skipped over to Risa, proclaiming, "I think he might be the one!"

"Really? More 'the one' than Lance or Riley or Dwayne?"

"More 'the one' than even Justin, Harvey, or Derek!"

"I think I see a pattern in your taste in men, by the way," Risa commented with a smirk. She stopped what she was doing and faced her friend. "Okay, what makes John 'the one'?"

"He's funny, and smart, and so crazy! Fun to be around, great body, and a huge–"

Risa blushed and held her hand up. "Okay – don't need to know that far!"

Mika popped up a perfectly plucked eyebrow. "What's wrong? You're usually okay with me stepping over moral and decency boundaries. … Did something happen between you and the dwarf?"

"Not dwarf – midget. Actually no, he's not a midget anymore … never mind, I don't want to talk about it." She turned her back, facing the window, and continued sorting.

"Aww … was he tiny?"

Risa suddenly started to cough – well, hack, really. She was choking on her own tongue, spit, air – whatever was in her mouth at the time. Pounding her chest, she faced Mika, who was smiling innocently. "I beg your pardon?" She croaked.

"Was he tiny? I know Japanese guys tend to be a bit small – that's why I date Americans. Wow, some of them are really-"

"Why must my life be pain?!" Risa cried out, collapsing on the clothes rack. Everyone in the trailer, including two models, stared. Mika waved them off while Risa continued her tales of woe. "Everyone must say, and repeat, every dreaded phrase in the Japanese language." She stood up and stared out the window. "Why can't someone say something that really is truly nice – OHMYGAWD!"

"What? What's wrong?" Mika jumped; concerned her friend hurt herself, or worse – broke a nail.

Risa leaped into the circular clothing rack and hid, whispering harshly, "He's here! He's here! Make him go away, Mika!!"

The bleach-blonde looked down at Risa. "Who's here?" She asked.

"Otani!" She reached up and pointed towards the door. "Quick! Run! Make him leave!"

Mika sighed and rolled her eyes, yet did as she was told. Risa peeked out from the clothes and watched as she reached the door by the first knock. Opening the door, she heard Otani say, "Hello – is Koizumi Risa here?"

There was silence as Mika stared. Finally she said, "Otani Atsushi?"

Risa was floored. Her breath caught in her throat and she only wished her heart wouldn't beat so loudly. She waited until one of them spoke.

"… Fukushima Mikani?" Otani asked.

Mika smiled and leaped out the door with her arms wide open. "It's been so long!" She cried happily, landing in Otani's arms. "I haven't seen you since the photo shoot last year!"

Photo shoot last year …? Risa thought to herself. She slammed her head against a metal bar. Of course! Mika went to the amateur model show in California! Ugh … just my luck!

She was brought back to reality when she heard Otani's voice again. "So … is Koizumi here? I saw her car."

"Oh, yeah – she's hiding in that clothes rack over there."

Risa made a mental note to slip some blue dye into Mika's shampoo as she quickly made the impression of being hard at work. She listened to the heavy footsteps closing in on her and waited for the dreaded question;

"What are you doing down there?" It was amused – almost sarcastic.

Think fast. "Checking for ticks," she said seriously, before standing up and continuing, "May I help you? I am hard at work."

"I wanted to talk about last night …"

"What is there to talk about?" Risa ducked down and exited the clothes rack, and walked briskly to her coat. "I think you've made your intentions quite clear." She put on the designer fancy-French-word and made her way to the front door, followed closely by Otani.

"Look, you know that's not what I meant when I said that," he said, closing his thin coat around him as the cold air rushed at them.

"What did you mean, then?" She asked, unlocking her car (and noticed that he parked beside her). She bent over and started to dig through the many boxes.

"I just … I was …" he sighed. "I just tried to say that I still … liked you when I left."

"Oh, that's nice," she stood up and shoved a coat in his arms – the one he lent her the night before. "It's good to know that a man likes you before he starts conjuring up wild sexual desires for you." She began rummaging through her car again.

"I was also trying to say … that I liked you when I came back."

There was a loud bang!and Risa emerged from the car, staring at Otani and rubbing her wounded head. "What …?" she asked, truly believing that she had misheard. The snowflakes that had begun to fall kissed her bare skin on her hands, face and neck.

"I still like you, Koizumi."

The stopping sensation came back. Risa must look silly with one hand placed on her head, which held two very wide eyes. However, she believed she was the only one who could see, so it was fine. She took a moment to contemplate what Otani meant by "I still like you, Koizumi" – a number of things, really. He could mean that he still felt the same way he did about her before he left, but five years of feeling that way? Risa got over it, right?

… Right.

Another explanation was that he actually said "I still feel like you, Koizumi", by which he means he's still getting used to being tall, so he's clumsy. But, no – she hasn't seen him stumble or drop anything

What he must mean is that he still likes her as a friend. Yeah, it makes sense – he was acting all friendly yesterday. And that stuff about sex? Well, he is a guy, and what guy doesn't think about sex every once in awhile? After all, Risa knows she's a beautiful woman – she's been told many times!

Yeah, that must be it.

"I still like you, too, Otani," Risa said, smiling and putting down her hand.

"Really?" Otani looked astonished.

Wow – he must not have a whole lot of friends anymore, Risa thought. "Yeah! You're a great friend, you know?" She slapped his shoulder amiably.

Otani furrowed his eyebrows as droplets of rain mixed in with the snow. "Oh." He simply stated.

Risa looked at him, concerned. Putting a gentle hand on his shoulder, she asked, "Are you okay?"

He smiled. "Yeah, I'm fine." Grabbing her hand and pushing it off his shoulder, he asked. "You interested in coming to the school's staff Christmas party? I couldn't find a date."

"Of course I want to!" Risa answered. She couldn't help but wonder how such a good looking guy couldn't get a date, but she shrugged it off. Guess there's more guys than girls at his work.

"Great – it's formal, so wear something nice, okay?"

Risa laughed. "When don't I?"

"Well, considering you've looked great in everything I've seen you in …" he replied with a chuckle.

Risa rolled her eyes but smiled anyway. "So, do you want me to pick you up, or …?"

"Stop by my place on Tuesday night – we can drive there in my car."

"It's a date!" Risa proclaimed, immediately wishing she had the ability to swallow her own words – but Otani replied, laughing.

"Sure – you got it."

She watched him leave, and, after he turned the corner, slapped her face. "Beautiful job, Risa – absolutely stunning," she muttered.

--

The rest of the week came and went, and by the next Monday, saying that Koizumi Risa was frantic would be a huge understatement.

"How am I going to get out of this Mika? I can't face him – I have nothing to wear! Oh my god, am I wearing clothes today?! Oh, okay, I am. But still – I can't go through with this! I can't believe I referred to it as a date! I can't do this-"

"For crying out … – Risa there's absolutely no way I can stand another fifteen minute break listening to you whining about Atsi!" She placed another cigarette in her mouth and lit it. "Would it make you feel better if I took you out shopping tonight?" She asked after taking a drag.

Risa sighed and perched her feet up on her chair and nested her chin on her knees. "I don't think I'm going," she whispered.

"Pfft – you'll feel better later," Mika replied.

They heard a bit of shuffling from the open window above, but paid no attention. "Otani's the sweetest guy ever – but he hurt me. I'm too nervous to risk letting that happen again." Risa totally hid her face from view after saying that.

Mika rolled her eyes. "Sweetie, I think I know what your problem is."

There was silence as the blonde listened to the gears grinding into movement in Risa's head. She knew the younger girl was a bit dense sometimes, even to her own feelings. Sighing, she stood, putting out her half-done cigarette and placing it back into the case.

"Come on – let's just ditch work for the rest of the afternoon. You need some R&R, girl."

She held her hand out to her moping friend as she looked up. "Hey – you're rat poison, you know that?" Risa said, smiling slightly. "All it takes is a touch and I'm corrupted." Sighing, she continued. "Nah – it'd be best if I stayed here."

"Guhh – you need to break away and have some fun sometimes. Quit being a rule-book-woman!"

Risa glared at Mika, and then broke into a grin. "Yeah, okay – but just this once."

They scurried around the trailer and marched back inside – only to be faced with all of their co-workers standing by the open window. Mika smiled and waved, "Oh – hey everyone. How's it going?"

They remained silent, and Risa began to feel awkward. "Mika, I think something's up," she whispered.

"Absolutely correct, Miss Koizumi."

Both girls swung around to face their boss. "Watanabe-sama!" Mika cried out, masking her shock with a smile.

"Fukushima, I'm surprised with you!" He said - which everyone knew was a flat-out lie. "Skipping out work for shopping? I can't let you do that."

It was all they could muster not to cough up their hearts when the group saw Mika put on her charms. "But – Mister Boss," she said in English, "Koizumi is heartbroken and she needs the gentle love only a best friend can offer."

Everyone grimace when they saw Watanabe cave – even Risa. "Alright, since you're not just doing this to cut out of work. I understand that a woman needs gentle love in her life sometimes, and who better to give it than you?"

"Oh, thank you Mister Boss!" Mika smiled sweetly at him and dragged Risa out the door. When they were standing by their cars, and safely out of earshot of the trailer, Risa spoke.

"You're horrible, you know that?" She ducked into Mika's car, and closed the door.

"What do you mean?" Mika asked as she followed suite. "It's his fault for being a pushover."

Risa sighed. "You know what I mean. Yes, Mister Boss-san is a pushover, but you know how he feels about you."

Mika grunted as she started her car. "I'd rather not know." She muttered. "He knows what I'm like."

The way the bleach-blonde spoke, Risa knew the conversation was over. She remained silent as her friend pulled out of the parking lot.

--

"I feel like Mrs Claus," Risa snorted. They had found a beautiful red dress on Monday, with white fluff-trim around the bottom and the impression of two large snowflakes on the right hip. It was off-shoulder, which she preferred.

"Wow – your Mrs Claus must have been a hell of a lot sexier than mine!" Mika grinned as Risa pulled a face and blushed. "Come on – let's do something with your hair."

"But you cut it too short for the last party to do anything now," Risa said with a moan in her voice.

Mika smacked the back of Risa's head as she reached for her bag. "Never doubt the professional model stylist."

As her hair began to be man-handled, Risa pouted. "I'm a professional, too …" she moped.

Mika smacked her again.

--

Okay, maybe she did do pretty good with the short hair, Risa thought as she watched the elevator rise to the fourth floor. Mika had made a bun over her left ear and curled the strands left on the other side of her face.

The elevator stopped, and Risa blamed it for the flip-flopping in her gut. She walked slowly down the hallway towards Otani's room. She remembered what Mika had called him on Monday – Atsi. She couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever let her call him that.

The young woman knocked on his door and waited. She smiled, remembering the little things he did for her in high school – and how embarrassed he was to do them. She remembered the necklace he'd given her for her birthday. And … oh, that beautiful first kiss on the rooftop, away from her friends. She chuckled and blushed, before realizing the door still hadn't been answered. She knocked again and waited some more.

And waited.

… and waited.

Panic creeped into her mind; what if he was hurt? What if he forgot? ... What if he found someone else?

Figuring her first hunch was a legit-enough reason to open the door, she grabbed the doorknob and turned, calling out, "Otani, you here?"

She stepped into an empty living room. Nothing had changed since the last time she was here, with the exception that Otani and his warm feeling was missing. She sighed. Maybe he did forget? Maybe he didn't want to go with me in the first place – maybe he just wanted to see if I would come?

She turned to leave sadly, and feeling a little heartbroken. A "little" heartbroken? Risa scoffed at her own foolishness and grabbed the doorknob. But, she hesitated. What was that sound? A door?

She let go of the knob and quietly walked across the living room to a small corridor. The door at the end of the hall was open and she could clearly see it was an empty bedroom, but there was a door open to the side with the light on. She assumed it was the bathroom and made her way to it.

"Otan–"

She couldn't finish the word. In fact, all but a single little squeak was stolen from her mouth. There stood Otani, full in the nude, wiping himself down with a towel. He looked up and their eyes met. The look of shock crossed his face as he realized who was staring at him. His mouth opened and closed as Risa's lips simply twitched.

"You're early," he managed to get out, finally.

Risa was still shocked, and her eyes kept trailing up and down his body. It wasn't entirely that she wanted to just stare – it was mostly that she was panicking and didn't know what to do with her eyes. Or any of her body, for that matter. So she did the only thing her mind could conjure up;

Everything went black as she fainted.

--

Risa groaned and moaned as she came to. She opened her eyes slowly, letting the light flow in steadily.

"Gotta love those noises."

Forgetting where she was, she sat up and spun around. There sat Otani, straddling a backwards chair beside his couch (which she was laying upon) and grinning foolishly. "Welcome back to the world of the living. Have any sex dreams?"

Risa blushed and looked away. "Shut up, midget," she grunted, unwilling to let the nickname die. She glanced back at Otani to see he was fully dressed in dress pants and a black sweater with a white formal shirt beneath. He had the collar popped up, making his jaw look wider set.

"Disappointed?" He grinned and stood. "Come on, we're late." He held his arm out to Risa as she, too, stood. She held the crook of his elbow firmly, to steady herself. He caught her glance at her hair as they passed a mirror. "I tried not to ruin your hair as I set you down."

She looked at him as he looked away. She smiled slightly as his cheeks reddened slightly. "Thank you, I appreciate it," she muttered.

--

They entered the packed restaurant very late, and Risa knew Otani was slightly irritated; but he tried his best not to show it, and that's what really meant a lot to Risa. As they found their way to the table, she could already feel the eyes on them.

"Otani! Over here! Bring your date, too!" A man with spiky black hair, peppered with white waved the two over.

Risa groaned inside her head. Why'd he have to be all the way across the table? She wondered. As they passed the table, one face stuck out – a woman with jet black hair and jet black eyes, sitting next to an American with sandy hair and piercing blue eyes, who was chatting cheerfully to the man next to him. She seemed to glare into Risa's soul, making her feel the need to get away as quickly as possible.

Risa was glad hers and Otani's seats were on the same side as the woman's, so she couldn't stare. Otani pulled out her chair, and sat down next to her, already picking up a conversation with the spiky-haired man. Probably about basketball or something stupid, Risa rolled her eyes as she thought.

"Hello – are you Otani Atsushi's date?"

Risa looked up to face the woman who had spoken to her. She was a delicate Chinese woman, maybe in her mid-fifties. "My name is Liu Ping." The woman smiled as she extended her hand.

"Koizumi Risa," the Japanese woman replied, grabbing the extended hand and bowing her head slightly. As she let go and raised her eyes, she hesitated before speaking again. "Liu-san, do you know who the woman down the table is; the one sitting next to the Caucasian man?"

Liu glanced down the table and grimaced slightly. She leaned forward and lowered her voice. Risa leaned in to hear. "That's Hitoshi Junko. Avoid her – she makes it a big deal that Otani-san is hers."

Risa's heart plummeted – Otani had a girlfriend? Then why weren't they together here? As if Liu could read Risa's mind, the older woman leaned back and brought her cup of tea to her smirking lips. "Relax, Koizumi-san – your date also makes a big deal to show Hitoshi isn't his." With that, she sipped her tea.

Risa smiled and leaned back, also picking up her cup of tea and sipping. She and Liu began chatting away, mostly sharing stories of working with children and models, finding most of the issues the same – others taking others' things, bickering over miniscule things, faces being pulled … however, it seemed the children tended to share a bit more. During the discussion and laughing, Risa had finished her tea.

"Are there any tea leaves in your cup?" Liu asked, arching an eyebrow and extending her hand expectantly.

"Err … yes. Do you read them?" Risa replied, placing the small china glass in Liu's fingers. The other woman smiled as her hand grasped the glass.

"I know a few things," she stated as she peered into the cup. Risa stared intently as the woman's expression changed. "Oh … oh, my … Koizumi-san, you're in for a very large surprise tonight!" She handed the glass back.

Risa looked in, as if expecting a note telling her what the surprise will be. Not finding any, she decided to ask. "Do you know what it will be?"

Liu threw her head back in beautiful laughter. "Oh, my dear! You can't expect me to tell you that!" She looked right in to Risa's eyes, her own sparkling in youthful joy. "All I'll say is that it will be a wonderful thing."

As if on cue, Risa's cell phone chimed in her purse. "Excuse me," she muttered, still dumbfounded and she made her way towards the bathroom. Before she arrived, she had the cell phone out and she was checking the number.

"Nobu-chan …?" She uttered under her breath. She answered the ringing, and greeted warmly. "Hello, Nobu!"

The voice on the other line was screeching in excitement. The only reason Risa could understand was because they had been friends for so long. "Oh, my god … are you serious?! Oh, my … no, I'm out with Otani, right now. … Shut up. Okay, what hospital? Yes, I'll bring him, too. Yes, we'll hurry. … Nobu, go help her now!!"

She rushed back to the table to Otani. She leaned over and whispered the situation in his ear, and his eyes grew big. He turned and stared at her, to make sure she wasn't going to burst out laughing. When she didn't even giggle, both of them smiled, and he stood, catching everyone's attention. "Everyone, there is a very important event Koizumi and I must attend," he said, grinning. "I'll fill you all in tomorrow."

With that, he grabbed Risa's hand (as he had done when they met at the fountain so many years before) and rushed out of the restaurant, but not before Risa could see Liu's smiling face – as well as an outraged Hitoshi's.

--

The two burst through the doors of the maternity ward's waiting room and found Nakao with his daughter Meimi sleeping under his arm. "She's in that room over there," he whispered, tilting his head towards a door on the other side of the waiting room. "I don't think she's in labor yet, so hurry over now."

Risa glanced at Otani and he grabbed her arms. "I'll wait out here with Nakao-san. Good luck." He smiled, and Risa couldn't do anything but smile back thankfully before running to the door.

In the room, she found two nurses fretting around, Nobu, Suzuki, and Chiharu, whom was looking like she was in extreme pain. As soon as Nobu noticed the new arrival, she cried out and lunged.

"What took you so long, Risa-chan?!" she demanded.

Risa smiled; she was glad to not have missed anything. "It was snowing," she replied, then directed her attention to the mother-to-be on the bed. "Is everything alright?" she asked.

Chiharu smiled, trying to ignore the throbbing pain emanating from her lower regions. "I'm fine, Koizumi-chan," she said sweetly. "Thank you for making it over so quickly."

Risa smiled. "I wouldn't miss this for anything in the world, Chiharu-chan." Not even for a date with my high school sweetheart, she thought, feeling a small tinge of sadness and guilt.

A nurse walked over to Chiharu's legs and lifted the blanket, busying herself with poking and prodding, making the pregnant woman wince and blush.

"You're at nine centimeters, so we're going to roll you to the delivery room now. The doctor will meet us there. Are you ready?" The nurse asked.

Chiharu bit her lip nervously and nodded. She held Suzuki's hand as he grabbed her suitcase and they quickly wheeled out of the room, Nobu and Risa trailing behind, soon joined by Otani and Nakao, who was carrying Meimi.

"Is she going into labor yet?" Otani asked.

"No, but she will be very soon, so they're taking her into the delivery room now," Risa replied, smiling.

She was amazed to see Otani's eyes light up. He must really like kids to be this excited about his friend's wife having a baby – or, rather, two babies in their case.

Once they saw the delivery room sign, Risa turned to Nobu and said, "You go in, I'll wait out here with the guys and Meimi."

"Huh? But, Risa-chan …"

Risa shook her head. "They can't have more than two people in there, and you're closer friends with her anyway." She smiled, encouraging Nobu to go ahead.

Nobu bit her lip, but hugged Risa anyway. "Thank you, I appreciate it."

With that, she followed the couple and the nurses into the swinging doors, and Risa sat down beside Otani and sighed.

"You really wanted to go in, didn't you?" Otani whispered, putting his arm around Risa and pulling her close.

Risa nodded as she leaned against his shoulder. "Yeah, but I meant what I said – they can't have fifteen people in there, and Nobu and Chiharu are really close."

"I'm afraid Meimi and I may need to go home," Nakao said, finally piping up. "It's getting late, and she has school tomorrow."

Risa furrowed her eyebrows together – she hated to, but she was really tired, too … "I'll take her home with me. You need to stay here for moral support for Nobu."

Nakao looked up, concerned. "Are you sure? You're giving up a lot by leaving now."

Risa rose from her seat and kneeled by Meimi. "No, I have work in the morning, so I should go home." She patted Meimi's hair gently and looked up at Otani. "If that's all right with you."

Otani smiled. "Of course it is. We all need to get up in the morning." He, too, stood and watched as Risa gently woke the little girl.

"Hey, sweetheart, you're coming home with Auntie Risa until tomorrow, okay?" She said, smiling. Meimi nodded and latched around Risa's neck. Otani walked over and helped Risa stand with the extra weight while she spoke. "We'll get her to school on time, and you can pick her up afterwards."

"Yes, no problem," Nakao said, feeling a little nervous letting his baby girl go. He watched the three of them leave and sighed, picking up an old magazine off the rack.

--

"This blizzard is unbelievable," Otani muttered under his breath. "There's no way we can make it back to my apartment."

"Mine's close," Risa offered, feeling a little guilty. "I can just pick up my car tomorrow."

Otani nodded. "Good idea, there's no way I want to drive further than I need to in this."

Risa directed him to her apartment, and they arrive in twenty minutes, though it would usually take around five. They ran as fast as they could across the slippery parking lot and made their way sleepily to Risa's apartment. They dressed Meimi in a nightgown that would be way too short for its owner, but fit her perfectly, and decided to make the other sleeping arrangements in the other room, out of earshot.

"I can sleep on the floor," Otani offered. Risa's head whipped around from her pajama drawer.

"Absolutely not," she said sternly. "You're a guest, so you can have the bed." She walked into the bathroom to change, but left the door open just a crack so the conversation could continue.

"Don't kid around. You're the girl; you shouldn't sleep on the floor." Risa could hear the bed squeak as Otani sat on it, and squeak again as he lied down.

Risa's heart melted as she came out the door to see Otani with his arms over his face to block out the light. He's really too tired for this, she thought, smiling but concerned. She lied down beside him and watched as he moved his arms to look at her. He had dark circles around his eyes, but they were warm and caring. They smiled at each other and Otani leaned closer.

"Please don't say anything weird this time," Risa muttered sleepily.

"Can I say one thing?" Otani asked; his face was almost directly above Risa's.

"Does it involve sexual fantasies?"

"Not really."

"Then go ahead."

Otani leaned a little closer, keeping his eyes locked with Risa's. "I still really, really like you."

Risa smiled and blushed, but said nothing as their lips brushed together. So many emotions and memories crashed over her, and she had to fight he tears back. They were kissing passionately now, and she realized how much she had longed for Otani in the past five years.

Otani pulled away, realizing Risa was crying. "What's wrong?" He asked, concerned.

"Nothing," Risa replied, smiling. She sniffed and said, "I just really missed you." She laughed, embarrassed, as more tears flooded out.

Otani let out a low, sexy chuckle as he wiped away her tears. "I missed you, too," he said, continuing their kissing, and working his shirt off.

Risa had a feeling they weren't going to get to sleep for awhile.

--

I've been in a weird kind of mood lately. Really emotional, so writing about Risa and Otani kissing really helped.

Thanks for being so patient, guys. I appreciate it, and all the reviews you've sent me. I'll try my best to update this sooner – I'm sorry to have made you all wait seven months!

REVIEW!