AN: *bows* Thank you very much for the wait. I cannot stress enough to everyone that I will not up and leave Aria hanging. (Well, unless I get into a horrid accident and, um, die. But then we'll all be sad for that.) I know it was pretty slow going, but such is my way of writing. Thank you all for being patient, and thanks for the lovely reviews and encouragements. :)

Len having low blood pressure is merely a guess. Yuki from Fruits Basket was also groggy in the morning, and I've seen people irl act the same. None of Len's official health status has been revealed in the manga/anime/game so far, at least none that I know of. Although at the very least, I know he wears glasses. ^^ He's mentioned in-game that he usually wears contacts. Thanks to the La Corda D'Oro Community for helping me out with that tidbit.

**Len's penthouse: If anyone is interested, I drew up a blueprint for his condo. You can find it here on my lj: insaneteacup .livejournal .com/ 4876 .html (without the spaces)

Dedication: To RainnSnow for being fantastically supportive and boosting my deflating ego, to kinaree for reminding me to get my butt in gear, and to yumerin for just being awesome.

Warning: Contains lime. If you are underage or cannot stomach such scenarios, please stop while you're ahead.

Recommended: No songs in this chapter.

Disclaimer: Kiniro no Corda is the property of its respective owners (Koei, manga by Kure Yuki-sensei, anime by TV Aichi). The OCs Taniyama Haruka, Edward Kaufman, Ken-san the bartender and Yuki-chan the waitress, as well as this story, plot and all, was created by me.


Aria, Con Amore

Chapter 3: Calando



adj. & adv. (ca-lan-do) 1. becoming slower and softer; 2. in a slower, softer manner


Sunlight trailed in through the floor to ceiling windows and flooded the room, waking Kahoko up from her peaceful sleep. Wincing, she tried to burrow deeper into her cocoon of blankets, wondering idly as to where her drapes could have disappeared to.

She wrapped her arms tighter around her source of warmth, snuggling closer for a more comfortable position. It was a Sunday and her day off. She was determined to sleep until late and get back to that wonderful dream she was having. Something about being held by a loved one, and feeling safe and secure... A memory from childhood, perhaps? Smiling contentedly, she let the combined sounds of her pillow's heartbeat and breathing work in tandem to lull her back to sleep.

'...Breathing?' she thought dazedly, completely at ease with being gently rocked up and down by her pillow's movement. She started to doze off once more, the rhythmic heartbeat against her ear a calming lullaby. She never knew falling asleep with someone could be so-


Amber eyes snapped open, the words "sleep" and "someone" jarring the redhead wide awake. The events of last night came flooding back in and Kahoko groaned quietly.

It had been a stupid, stupid thing to do, getting drunk like that and then allowing herself to get carried away. What had she been thinking? But then again, last night had been completely unexpected. She'd never in a million years thought that she'd be having drunken sex with Tsukimori Len of all people! And for her first time, too. She could only be grateful she hadn't made an ass of herself. It was actually a miracle that last night hadn't been full of awkward moments. In fact, quite the opposite...

Kahoko's face burned as she thought back on every word they'd said, each touch they'd exchanged, all the kisses they'd shared. She'd been drunk yes, but not enough that she'd easily forget what had happened. She remembered Len's passionate embraces and the heat of his touch, how he'd lavished attention on her, even going so far as to take it slow for her sake. She remembered how he'd caressed her with his hands and mouth and tongue, how he had felt when they were finally joined together, and her own fierce response to the intensity of his lovemaking...

Embarrassment crept in at the memory of her actions, and for a moment, Kahoko tried to hide her face against the chest she was on before finally realizing whose chest it was. Even worse, the realization brought a more alarming matter to the forefront of her fuzzy brain.

She was nakedly cuddling with an equally naked Len.

Immediately, Kahoko froze in place, even holding her breath to stop the rise and fall of her chest. They were mostly under the blankets and there wasn't much that could be seen, but now that she was more awake, she was more aware.

Legs tangled together, with their hips flush against each other and her draped on top of him, Kahoko could feel every firm inch of the man lying beside her. Her face flamed to even higher degrees when she finally recognized which warm part of him was snug against her stomach. Though they had done a lot more last night, to be actually sober and lying down naked next to Len like this still felt too intimate for Kahoko.

Slowly, she tried to detach herself, wincing as she grazed a sensitive part of him while she maneuvered her weight off of him. Having to move slowly was forcing her to feel even more of Len, and by now her face was a bright red. She'd never really paid attention to guys before, and now here she was getting intimately acquainted with a grade A sample. Though undeserved, she couldn't help but feel like a total pervert.

Kahoko tried to lift herself up from Len's torso, muttering insults and derogatory terms to herself, alcohol, and the stupidly attractive man beside her. She was cut off mid-rant when Len called out her name softly, shifting her even closer to him.

Tensing, she lifted her gaze to see if she'd woken up the violinist, but Len remained oblivious in sleep. Kahoko sighed in relief, just now remembering how Len had trouble waking up in the morning during their training camp. It had been a useless information at the time, but she was thankful for it now. It'd be appalling if he woke up while she was trying to get away from him, not to mention very awkward. She withdrew from him quickly and in a smooth motion, pausing only when his arm around her tightened briefly before he let go, sighing.

Kahoko sat up, shifting so she could watch Len as he slept, taking the time to marvel briefly at his good looks. His blue hair was tinted a lighter sky blue by the sunlight. From last night, she remembered that it felt just as soft and silky as it looked. He had enviously long eyelashes, almost as long as Shimizu's. He had a patrician nose that fit in perfectly with his proud personality. Even his lips looked thin and strict, though she'd found they were in fact rather soft and warm. His skin was smooth and pale, but she was surprised to see that his muscles were toned. Kahoko remembered vaguely wondering last night if he worked out. He didn't seem the type, but then a lot might have happened in five years.

Regardless, he really was a beautiful man. Still, she doubted he'd be happy to be complimented so. Kahoko smiled at the thought. Whoever was unfortunate enough would find themselves the recipient of the prodigy's scathing glare.

Laughing quietly to herself, she reached out to brush a strand of hair away from his forehead. The usually uptight violinist looked so peaceful asleep. In truth, part of her wanted to go back to sleep, tempted to surround herself in Len's warmth and just lie beside him. She wanted to feel what it was like to fall asleep with his arms around her, to feel safe and secure right beside him, to feel what it was like to be loved.

Her smile waned and she drew back, hugging her knees to her chest. "I'm an idiot," she whispered, drawing some of the blankets around her.

Last night had never been about love, she knew that. She'd been tipsy, and had most likely been dissuaded a lot easier than if she was sober, but she'd known what she was getting into. Len had asked this of her, and she'd agreed willingly. He hadn't even asked her to do anything specific for him, and instead had focused on making her feel good. Compared to all the other drunken sex stories she'd heard, last night had been a dream.

He had been a very gentle and attentive lover. For a one-night stand, and her first time, she couldn't ask for a better partner. So why did her heart hurt? And what exactly was it she was longing for?

Kahoko pressed the palms of her hands to her eyes to prevent the tears that had gathered from falling. She refused to dwell on such thoughts and what they might mean. Yesterday may have been a mistake, yes, but everything could have been so much worse. Instead, she'd been taken care of almost lovingly, and she'd gained a tender memory to cherish. Len had ensured that. She can't want for anything more.

'I will not regret anything,' Kahoko resolved, wiping the tears away and nodding resolutely before she moved to get up from the bed. She needed to get cleaned up and dressed so she can leave for her place. She grabbed his dress shirt from off the back of a desk chair and slipped it on. Pausing from her way to the door, she turned back to take one last long look at Len.

Though she'd have thought before that Len would be the type who'd be frowning even asleep, his features were relaxed in slumber. It struck Kahoko how odd it was that this was the most peaceful she'd ever seen him. He'd never looked so at peace even when he was playing the violin.

Stepping closer, she ran a hand through his hair briefly, before bending down to kiss him gently on the lips for the last time.

"No regrets," she murmured, smiling gently at Len before she straightened up and exited the room.


Len woke up with a simple opening of his eyes. He stared up at his ceiling and blinked, his thinking process starting up slowly. The fact that he was so useless in the mornings made him rather irritated at times, but it couldn't be helped that he inherited his father's low blood pressure.

He turned his head and looked out his windows. So much sunlight... It was already this late in the morning? He'd never been one to oversleep. He'd always thought it was overrated, and had made sure to wake up at dawn everyday. Even though today was his day off, it was still no excuse to sleep in. ...It was Sunday, right? He closed his eyes briefly and tried to remember.

Yesterday, the crew had been rather eager to leave after practice, and he vaguely remembered Edward dragging him out somewhere to drink. They usually never go out for alcohol if there was practice the next day.

Right. So it was Sunday then.

Len made to sit up, and the motion had him groaning as his head protested the movement. Well, at least he knew who to blame for his hangover. He'd only ever gotten hangovers like this when that stupid guy was involved. He held his liquor rather well unless goaded into drinking an exorbitant amount, usually by the blond idiot.

Sighing, he lifted a hand to rub his eyes, wishing he'd been coherent enough to take out his contacts before sleeping. He must've been really tired last night. Still, it didn't explain why his left shoulder and arm felt sore. Had he slept on it weirdly? What else had he been doing last night?

Slowly, memories from the night before started trickling in. There'd been an argument, and he remembered being frustrated and angry, then... Dancing? He remembered feeling at peace, moving languidly as the music flowed around them. Light laughter and soft smiles. And then she had... And he had...

Groaning, he let his head fall down to his hands, elbows braced on his knees. He remembered everything clearly now. The sweet taste of apple and caramel, the silky soft texture of her skin, the way she'd kissed him back, had let his eyes and hands and mouth explore... He remembered how she'd responded, her cries and moans as she arched into his touch, remembered how tempting she looked lying down on his bed, long red hair splayed on his sheets, remembered how good it felt to be inside her, joined with her...

"Kahoko," he whispered against his hands, remembering how it felt to say her name so intimately, how it felt to have her call him by his first name, like they belonged to each other.

She'd kissed him goodnight, as if they made love and went to bed regularly, like lovers, and he'd felt content falling asleep with her right beside him.

For the first time, in a long, long while, he'd felt peace of mind.

He turned around to lay his hand on the side of the bed where she'd slept, a pained look creeping into his face. No matter what he'd felt, he'd still been out of line, asking that much of Kahoko. He let out a harsh sigh, running a hand through his hair in frustration as he stood up. He was angry with himself, at how fast his self-restraint had seemed to melt away last night.

"What's wrong with me? I thought I had more control than that."

He ducked into his walk-in closet and angrily jerked on some pajamas before walking out of his room. Berating himself wouldn't erase what had happened. Not that he wanted it to be erased, anyway. But there was the matter of apologizing to Kahoko. How do you apologize to someone when you don't feel like apologizing in the first place? He was angry at his lack of control, yes, but it was more to do with how everything had started. He didn't regret that they'd actually made love, but that it had to come about when they were both intoxicated.

He stopped at that thought, laying a hand on the antique mahogany bureau plat in front of him to steady himself. What did it mean, that he wasn't sorry about sleeping with Kahoko?

Len shook his head, wincing as it pounded in retaliation. He wasn't coherent enough for this. He needed a tall glass of water to clear his head. He moved to continue on to the kitchen, but the realization of where he was standing made him pause. To his right was a long study desk framed by large French windows. A multitude of music sheets, writing utensils, and music scores were neatly organized into piles. His sleek black desktop computer sat quietly to the right, beside which sat an equally dark printer and slender phone/answering machine. It was a familiar sight, one he was used to seeing everyday. Common and unassuming, it usually wouldn't have made him pause.

Except that he'd propped Kahoko up against it last night as he kissed his way down her body, and he couldn't stop himself from reliving the memory.

With supreme effort, Len jerked his thoughts back to the present, turning his back towards the desk to help get himself under control. Something was seriously wrong with him. He'd never indulged in such thoughts before. Granted, it might be his hormones were just acting up from lack of use, but it still didn't explain his total lack of control last night and the disturbing thoughts he'd been having since waking up.

He shook his head once more, extremely irritated at himself, and continued on his way. He was so preoccupied with keeping his mind carefully blank that he almost didn't notice the slightly ajar door of the half bath to his left. It wouldn't have mattered, except that the light inside was on, and as he opened the door to switch the light off, he was stopped by an arresting sight.

Kahoko looked up at him dejectedly from her kneeling position on the bathroom floor, amber eyes glistening with tears she had yet to shed.

Her long red hair was in disarray, splayed out around her and spilling on the floor, and his too-long shirt hung precariously on her shoulders with the sleeves covering her hands. Even disheveled as she was, she was still able to make him feel strange without the help of liquor...

Len had to fight with himself to keep his thoughts focused. He crouched down in front of her, hands hovering over her shoulders, unsure what to do. "Kaho..." He stopped, corrected himself. "Hino-san, are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?"

Kahoko let out a small laugh at his inquiry, the sound conveying both sadness and startled hilarity. "'Kahoko' is fine, Tsukimori-kun. After last night, I think you're entitled to call me by my first name."

"Then call me 'Len.'" He deliberated for a second before cupping her face with both hands. "...What's the matter, Kahoko?"

She shook her head, a bubble of that same hysterical laughter rising out of her. "Last night..."

Kahoko took a deep breath and steadied her voice. Her gaze was pleading as she stared straight into his eyes when she asked him.

"Last night, we didn't use any protection, did we?"

Shocked, Len fell from his crouch to sit on the floor, the marble tile feeling so cold as his bare hands braced against it. He tried to remember hard if he had, knowing all the while that the answer was no. Though he'd received condoms from Edward as prank gifts in the past, he'd always thrown them away in disgust. He'd never had the need for something like that. Indeed, he had deemed them completely irrelevant. After all, he'd never felt the need for such things, had never entertained the thought of pursuing a sexual relationship with another person, so focused was he on his music. ...Until last night.

He shook his head harshly, whispering the answer that Kahoko already knew.


Kahoko nodded, eyebrows drawn tightly together as she lowered her eyes, fighting to keep her tears at bay.

Len could only look at her helplessly, angry at himself for causing this. Why couldn't he keep from making her cry? And this time around he'd done something even worse on top of everything.

"Kahoko..." The anguish in his voice made her look up, and the self-hatred so clear in his eyes broke her heart to see. "I'm sor-"


Startled, Len could only stare dumbly at Kahoko, the warmth of her fingers against his lips effectively stopping any words and thoughts.

"Don't say it. Don't apologize." Amber eyes gazed at him, earnestly imploring him to understand. "I don't want to regret last night. It was my first time, and you took such great care of me. It's a memory I would like to cherish."

She withdrew her fingers slowly and folded her hands on her lap, embarrassed to have been so bold as to stop him that way. "So please, don't apologize. Besides, I was the one who decided to stay."

"I was the one who asked you to stay in the first place." Kahoko frowned and was opening her mouth to argue with him when he cut her off. "Alright. I understand."

She gave him a small smile then, and whispered a soft "Thank you."

"It was my first time too, you know," Len replied, voice a little gruff.

Recalling what he'd told her last night, Kahoko laughed weakly, voice still a bit wobbly. "Yes, I remember."

He colored slightly at the comment, remembering the same thing she was as he ordered, "You should completely forget that part."

"I don't think I can," she smiled, a little wider this time. "It's a precious memory."

Len stayed quiet as he let her tease him, glad that her tears had gone. A few minutes of comfortable silence passed, both of them preoccupied with their thoughts, waiting for the other to speak up first.

It was Len who broke the silence. "What are we going to do now?" he asked, voice quiet. He had a few possibilities in mind, but he wanted to see what Kahoko had thought of first.

"It's not as if it's already certain that something will come about from this." Kahoko lifted her eyes to the ceiling, brows furrowed in thought. "Still, certain or not, right now we're both too young to have such a responsibility." She gazed down at her stomach, a hand almost subconsciously moving to lay against it. "Though I'd love to be a mother and have kids someday."

"Someday," Len echoed softly, the sight of her tenderly smiling down at her stomach causing a strange twinge in his chest.

Kahoko shook her head, lowering her hand back down to her lap. "I'll make an appointment with a doctor. I'll have to ask Haruka-sensei to help me out with the particulars."

Len nodded, sensing they'd reached the end of the conversation. He desperately tried to forget the image of a little girl with red hair and a cute little frown on her face as she called "Papa!" out to him impatiently; never knowing that a similar image, of a boy with sky blue hair and a sweet smile, had flashed across Kahoko's mind as well.


Kahoko grimaced as she stretched her legs, her body still sore in quite a few places. Mind preoccupied with what they'd just discussed, she didn't notice that Len had seen her and was frowning at the awkward way she held herself.

"What's wrong?"

Startled out of her musings, she looked up to see the concerned scowl on Len's face. "Hm?"

"You've been wincing." Worry crept in and softened his features. "...You are still hurt from last night."

Smiling at his concern, Kahoko shook her head. "I'm fine. Just a little sore, I guess." She tried to stand up to prove she was okay, but she was emotionally and physically drained. She ended up slumping back down on the floor for her efforts.

Len raised an eyebrow at her attempts, clearly unimpressed. "Just a little?"

Kahoko could only laugh embarrassedly in reply.

"Just give me a few mo- What are you-? Tsukimori-kun!" She had to grab onto his shoulders to steady herself as Len lifted her into his arms.

"'Len.'" He corrected her, adjusting his hold on Kahoko for a moment before he walked out of the half bath in a determined stride.

"Len," Kahoko amended, "where are you taking me?"

"I'll prepare a hot bath for you" he paused, a little unsure. "As an apology since you won't let me say the words."

Kahoko blinked at him, surprised. "You don't have to. I was on my way home after I cleaned up anyway. I just couldn't find where my clothes were..." She trailed off a little at the end as she blushed, both of them remembering where exactly her clothes had ended up last night.

Len paused by the bureau to look back at the empty floor of his study. "Elizabeth-obaasan must've cleaned up this morning." Even with a slight blush, his voice retained its cool quality.

"'Elizabeth-obaasan?'" Kahoko echoed curiously.

"Our helper. She's been with the family since Father was young." He continued on his way into the bedroom, deliberately ignoring the memory of having carried Kahoko in a different state last night. "Your clothes are probably being washed right now. They'll be returned to you later."

"Please, there's no need!" She shook her head, flustered at having someone clean up after her. "I just need a change of clothes and I'll be on my way home."

Len's hold on her tightened, and he stopped to give her an irritated look. "Humor me. Besides, it's better if you go when you're not tired. You don't have any work or classes for today, do you?"

Kahoko shook her head meekly, wide eyed at how adamant he was being about this.

"Good. Then we don't need to rush." He dropped her gently on the bed, leaving for the door to his en-suite bathroom after telling her to stay put and wait.


After a moment of stunned silence at Len's departure, Kahoko took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. She was still here, sitting down on the same bed they'd slept in last night, waiting for Len to finish preparing her a bath of all things. With this morning's revelation, and last night's insanity, it's a wonder her head hadn't exploded from having so much to take in.

She heaved a sigh and winced, massaging her throbbing temple. Maybe she should just really go. She'd been resolved to leave in the first place. If she hadn't broken down in the bathroom, she'd have been on her way, and Len wouldn't have caught her in such an embarrassing moment.

Kahoko stood up, making up her mind to just ask for a change of clothes so she can leave. Surely, Len would even be relieved to have her gone, once he gets past his unnecessary gentlemanly behavior. She trudged across the soft wool carpet, only taking a few steps before she stopped to remember which door he'd gone through. Her mind was so fuzzy right now... She'll have to make something for her hangover when she gets back home.

Her legs still wobbly and unsure, she placed a hand on the desk to her side to steady herself when her fingers met with the taut strings of a well-kept bow. Kahoko withdrew her hand as if burned, turning swiftly towards the desk to face the offending object. With everything that was going on this morning, not to mention the things they've been preoccupied with last night, she hadn't really been able to take a look at her surroundings. Otherwise, she would've surely noticed... He was a violinist after all. She should have taken better care to avoid...

Her mind whirling, she stepped closer to the desk in front of her. The hand she had held back moved once more to hover over the objects on the desk, not quite daring to alight on one. On the tabletop, various cleaning cloths and chemicals stood propped on the far edge against the wall. The bow lay innocently on the table to the right. In the middle, snug inside its open case lay Len's golden violin, the morning sun casting highlights to its glossy varnish.

It was the same violin she'd seen countless times before, made of the light wood so different from her own cherry red violin. Unbidden, memories of its music floated through her mind, of the light sound of his Ave Maria opening her ears to the joys of music... of the soulful Vitali that reverberated throughout a lonely stage... of the sweetly piercing harmony of two violins joined in a duet under a moonlit sky, weaving their own version of Ave Maria, so rich and seemingly whole...

The sound of a cabinet door closing jolted Kahoko out of her reverie and she stumbled back, letting go of the breath she'd been unconsciously holding. Her gaze remained locked on the violin for a few moments but she refused to come close to it again. It was a temptation she couldn't risk. Having looked at it, less than a foot away, had already been too much.

Kahoko closed her eyes and turned to the bed. She climbed in to lie down in the soft mattress, resolutely keeping her back towards the desk. Whatever Len was planning he was welcome to it. For now, she was just going to lay her head down for a little while to rest. She'd been having stressful days and restless nights, constantly plagued by old memories and regrets, and she was so very, very tired.

She clenched her eyes shut tighter and curled up into herself, fighting to keep the memories at bay until she fell into a fitful slumber.


When Len finally walked back into his bedroom after filling the bath and found Kahoko asleep, he wasn't surprised. After last night, followed by this morning's events, as well as the lasting effects of the alcohol they'd both imbibed, it was only a matter of time that one of them would give in and crash. He was a little grateful that he could take this time to sort himself out. Truthfully, he couldn't quite make out the strange emotions he'd been feeling. He still felt some mild irritation left over from when she kept insisting on leaving, but that was quickly erased by the tired look etched on her sleeping face.

And then there was that strange pain in his chest when he'd seen her look so sadly, so longingly at his violin.

Having had second thoughts on being so persistent, he'd gone to ask her one last time if she was fine with staying a little longer. He hadn't been able to move beyond the bathroom door, having stopped short when he found her frozen before his cleaning desk, a stricken look on her face as she stared at his violin. The emotions flitting across her face were painful, and he could never guess at the thoughts she was having. He was severely tempted to ask, wanting to demand answers to the endless pile of questions he'd temporarily shoved to the back of his mind, but he remembered the desperate promise he'd given her last night.

He had gone rigidly back into the bathroom, making sure to open and close a cabinet door loudly to remind Kahoko he was nearby as he tried to busy himself with filling the bath.

Len sighed heavily, running a tired hand through his hair as he stared down at the sleeping woman. All this tiptoeing around touchy subjects and secrets and unfamiliar emotions... He'd never felt so exhausted in his life. It came too close to his feelings as a child, when he was still trying not to drown in his parents' reputations, fighting hard to find his own footing. To be honest, he wasn't even sure he'd succeeded in that, but then to have to deal with this on top of that...

Giving out one last sigh, he reached down to Kahoko, debating for a moment if he should wake her up or not before opting to just tuck her in tighter. Mind still far away, one hand strayed unconsciously to lightly brush her hair away from her face, lingering to tenderly stroke her soft cheek as it followed a path it had taken last night.

The gentle movement roused Kahoko from sleep, and with a moan she turned tired eyes to the man hovering above her. "...Len?"

Len looked down at the sound of his name. "Sorry if I woke you. Go back to sleep," he murmured to her, his hand stroking her hair gently this time as he tried to coax her.

Kahoko closed her eyes obediently, her thoughts still a little hazy. "The bath...?"

"It's ready, but you're too tired-"

She shook her head slowly, forcing herself to brush the cobwebs of sleep from her tired mind. "...Don't want to impose..."

Len exhaled sharply, irritation building once more. 'This again?' He couldn't understand what her hurry was. He wasn't a monster keeping her captive. He massaged his temple, wincing as his headache came back in full force. There was no point to such thoughts. He shouldn't care if she wanted to leave as soon as possible.

When Kahoko started to sit up, he gave up and scooped her into his arms, giving her a stern look when she opened her mouth to protest. "You weren't able to walk when you were fully awake. What makes you think you're capable of it now?" was his caustic remark, and Kahoko slumped in his hold in surrender.

With the singer cradled gently against his chest, Len carried her into the bathroom. Natural light streamed in from the floor to ceiling bow windows, and sumptuous dark cherry wood accented the luxurious room. A wooden platform stood in the middle, with a large oval infinity tub in the center. Water flowed down from the ceiling into the tub as the bath oil he'd poured in earlier bubbled and scented the entire room a delicate lavender.

The extravagance was lost on the redhead who was still mostly asleep. She murmured sleepy protests into Len's neck as he sat her down on the bath counter, the dark cherry wood cool against her bare legs. Kahoko shivered and tried to get closer to Len's warmth. That he was unbuttoning her shirt wasn't helping keep the cold at bay.

At that thought, she struggled awake and blinked sleepily down at Len's busy hands. "What are you...?"

"Undressing you," was his no-nonsense reply.

Her full body blush was instantaneous, and Kahoko tried to shake her brain fully awake. "Wha- why?"

He gave her a look that clearly said she was an idiot for asking. "So you can take a bath."

The glare she gave him in response was marred by the blush that was getting heavier by the minute. Her sleep-hazed brain wasn't helping matters either. The most she could do now was clutch at the shirt to keep it closed.

Len sighed and stepped away. He was done unbuttoning it anyway. "I don't know why you're being so stubborn about it now. You were perfectly fine with it last night," he scolded her, rummaging in the drawer to her left.

Ignoring her embarrassed spluttering, he found what he was looking for and turned back to pry her grip away from the clothes. When he placed a yellow rubber ducky in her hands, Kahoko blinked, surprised, and all the tension in her body melted away at the unexpected toy. She squeezed the duck experimentally and blinked some more at the high-pitched squeak it gave.

"To calm you down," Len murmured at her questioning look. He took advantage of her preoccupation with the toy to slide the shirt open and down her shoulders.

As it hung down from her elbows, Kahoko looked up at him and Len was struck with wide amber eyes filled with a hesitant trust. He closed his eyes against the delectable picture she made, innocently wide eyed, with the shirt and her long red hair framing her naked body. He gently bumped his forehead against hers, opening golden eyes to look deep into amber ones as he allayed her fears. "We won't do anything. Didn't I prove to you last night that I don't break my word?"

Kahoko nodded slowly. She realized how careful he was being with her and was very grateful. Making up her mind, she lifted a hand to his cheek and gave him a sweet albeit small smile. "I trust you."

Len nodded back at her words, and for the life of him, he couldn't stop the blush that took over his face. Determined at least to keep his features impassive, he proceeded to get rid of the damned shirt and gently carried her to the tub.

As he lowered her gently into the steaming water, he saw the yawn she was trying to suppress. "Still sleepy?"

Kahoko nodded. "The water feels really nice, though. Thank you." She closed her eyes as she let the hot water relax her tired muscles. She was so warm and comfortable, and Len's words had calmed her down considerably. The thoughts that had been plaguing her constantly the last few weeks disappeared as she basked in the security and comfort she was feeling right now.

Crouching down to the knobs on the floor to turn off the water, Len watched carefully as Kahoko's breathing deepened. It wouldn't be long before she slipped completely back into slumber. He shook his head. Well, it can't be helped.

He was just tugging his pajama pants off when Kahoko was startled awake by the squeak from the rubber ducky, her fingers having twitched around it in her sleep. He could immediately guess at the thoughts running through her mind. Len sighed and kicked his pants off his legs, bending down to reach for the clothing. At least he could explain it now instead of having her wake up next to him in the bath.

"Why are you undressing?"

Her question was sleepily curious, but there was the tiniest hint of alarm in her voice. Len finished folding his pants and left them on the counter with her shirt. He looked back at her with a raised eyebrow. "I don't usually take baths with my clothes on, Kaho."

He slipped quickly into the tub opposite her. "Besides, if I left you alone, you'd fall asleep and drown in the bath."

"I'm not going to drown..." her words trailed off as he raised both eyebrows at her disbelievingly and Kahoko blushed. She sank deeper into the water as Len waded closer, shying away as she saw his hand reach for her.

He was actually reaching out for the rubber ducky, squeezing her hand gently along with the toy as he wordlessly reminded her of his promise. "I thought you trust me?"

Kahoko sat straighter at his words, rushing to console him. "I do!" she burst out. "It's just... I've never... It's all so..." She shrunk back down into the water with each word, blushing horribly for the nth time as she clutched the rubber ducky close.

At least Len was blushing along with her. "It's not like I have experience with this either."

Her muttered words towards the duck were somewhat accusing. "Could've fooled me."

Len sighed and rubbed his temples. "We're not getting anywhere fighting. Turn around. We can at least start with your hair."

Kahoko complied readily, thinking it was marginally better to have her back towards him.

She was still rather shy and a little hesitant, but Len's fumbling movements as he tried to shampoo her hair had her giggling and relaxed in no time. Despite his muttered grumbling at her long hair, he was very gentle with her and was sincerely trying to take care of her. She didn't know Len could be really sweet in his own way.

Kahoko smiled softly at the rubber ducky floating in front of her. How nice it would be if they were really together. She closed her eyes and relaxed back into Len. To have her love take care of her like this, to give her a bath after an exhausting day, to look after her... She couldn't stop herself from pretending. She badly wanted the lie, even if it was only that. Maybe, for just a little while longer, she can let herself pretend. Just until she gets back to her place and back into the real world...

With the smile still on her lips, she drifted off to a peaceful sleep, this time filled with the sweet dreams she would never let herself think of in the waking world.


Len sighed in relief when he felt Kahoko's body completely relax against him, finally asleep. This was a bad idea. This was the worst idea in the history of all bad ideas. This was worse than when Maestro and Edward found out he was a vir- inexperienced, and had maniacally brainstormed the idea of forcing him to watch porn while he trained. He'd been terribly appalled at that, but they'd taunted him mercilessly, and his pride wouldn't allow him to back down. Ergo, the birth of his emotionally scarring training.

His thoughts were cut off as Kahoko unconsciously turned to snuggle against him, arms going around his waist as she settled quite comfortably into his lap. Len winced and shifted around a little.

This was a really bad idea.

He hadn't been lying when he told Kahoko he didn't have any experience with this. Last night had been a first, but he his action had been fueled by alcohol and... something else he couldn't fathom. He hadn't had the time to pause and flail about in hysteria, so desperate was he to have her agree to stay with him. Even this morning, he'd been so focused on keeping her calm, on trying to fix whatever damage his first stupid idea had done, on not having her hate him any further than she surely already did.

Now that he didn't have to focus on those, his body had ideas of its own.

Doing her hair had been bad enough. With her back to him and her hair parted down the middle and over her delicate shoulders, her nape was sensually exposed and a huge expanse of creamy soft skin was bared for his eyes. He was instantly bombarded with flashbacks from last night, of when she had been dancing so sensuously by herself before he approached her on the dance floor, her back turned to him.

Washing her long hair had been a welcome distraction, even if he fumbled it and she'd ended up laughing at him. But when she relaxed against him, bare back resting innocently against his chest, and just now as she snuggled into his lap...

He stopped his thoughts and tried to focus hard on the rubber ducky, forcing it to serve its purpose. There couldn't possibly be a romantic atmosphere with a rubber ducky floating about in the middle of things, what with its gaudy bright color and beady black eyes. Besides serving to calm Kahoko, that was the other reason he'd brought it out from its forgotten corner in the first place.

Steeling his resolve, Len tried to continue on with the task of bathing Kahoko, violently soaping up the loofah before moving her arms from around him so he could start on her hands. He focused hard on each finger, trying to delay the inevitable, but soon he had to move on to her arms, and then to her elbows, and in no time he was soaping her shoulders, brushing gently at her neck and the marks he'd left last night...

He cursed his body and gave up, allowing himself to indulge in his curiosities but making sure to draw the line at right out attacking her while she was asleep. Or even when she wakes up, he quickly amended to himself. He'd caused her enough problems as it was.

It wasn't that he hadn't had his fill of her last night. He'd made sure to trace and map out her entire body thoroughly to his satisfaction, exploring wherever he pleased. He still remembered her features, seared as they were into his brain. It was just that he couldn't get enough of her, it seemed. He kept wanting to touch her, even casually. He hadn't even paused to consider when he'd picked her up earlier this morning. Maybe his hormones were just really depraved, he didn't know.

He'd be lying if he said he hadn't dreamt about sex. He'd never willingly fantasized about it, but having been forced to endure adult videos while training had made his subconscious entertain such dreams. And since there was really only one female that figured so prominently in his past and filled his thoughts, albeit in aggravation or anger or confusion, it was only reasonable that his dreams would be centered around her.

Last night he'd been fulfilling those dreams, having finally tasted her for real, felt her for real, joined her for real. If he seemed like he knew what he was doing it was only because he was following what his dream self had done.

But last night, he found that the illusion paled in comparison to reality.

Len looked down at Kahoko, cradling her closer as he rested her head on his shoulder. His hands gently traced her collarbones, wondering at the delicateness of her. He couldn't get over how different she felt, how soft and small and fragile compared to him. A hand dropped down, caressing the gentle swell of her breasts before cupping one fully. Though she was smaller than any of the women he'd seen in the videos, he much preferred her over the sometimes alarmingly large-busted actresses. She was just large enough to fill his hand, and that was perfect in his opinion. He squeezed the soft mound gently, thumb running idly back and forth over a nipple. When Kahoko moaned softly against his shoulder, he forced himself to stop and move on, hand stroking the valley between her breasts as it continued its travel.

He idled a little bit on her stomach, stroking the smooth skin and dipping into her navel before moving down, down... He let his fingers slip into her, her core hotter even than the water surrounding them. Kahoko moaned his name softly and he watched her with hooded eyes, wondering what dreams his actions were giving her. His own dreams from the past had been extremely fascinating, fueled by the videos he'd been forced to see. Yet they hadn't prepared him for the feel of her, wet and slick, unbearably tight and oh so warm... She'd felt like heaven and torture at the same time.

And her taste... He'd seen it done in countless videos, had dreamt of it several times, but the context had been completely lost on him. Last night he'd been driven by the urge to find out, and it had been a completely natural progression that he kiss her there. He'd been instantly addicted to her taste, and her reaction had been a pleasant surprise.

Len pushed his fingers deeper into her, thumb moving to rest on the knot of nerves he'd found last night. It had thrilled him that he could give her pleasure, that he could make their night as unforgettable for her as it was for him.

His fingers started moving in and out, thumb rubbing gently against her. Len watched as Kahoko's lips parted and shaped his name unconsciously, dainty eyebrows lifted in ecstasy. He wanted to give her the same pleasure again and again, wanted to experience that frenzy and heat they'd ignited last night. Once hadn't been enough, it seems. He still couldn't get enough of her...

As his movement increased in speed, Kahoko clutched at his shoulder tightly, gasping every time his fingers sank into her. He was ready to throw away such nonsense like honor and had half a mind to have her straddling his lap in a moment-

A muffled "squeak!" followed by gurgling stopped him cold and broke through the haze in his brain. Looking down, he saw the rubber ducky clutched tightly under the water in Kahoko's other hand, having grabbed and squeezed it in the throes of unconscious passion.

With a gentle smile, she'd said she trusted him, even when he had only asked that she believe he won't break his word.

Len sighed, forcing himself to remember his promise, and reluctantly brought himself under control. He stroked her one last time before withdrawing his hand, reaching for the forgotten loofah and readjusting Kahoko on his lap. He seriously did not know what was wrong with him. He can never seem to get his emotions properly controlled when it comes to her, and his restraint seemed to fly out the window at the same time.

Len frowned down at the unsuspecting Kahoko, but the slight moue that formed on her lips erased the disgruntled thoughts from his mind. That her frustration at not finishing was evident even while asleep was so unreasonably adorable that Len had to shake his head. He couldn't stop himself from bending down to kiss it away.

No matter that it was strange for him to act so uncharacteristically. He'd felt exasperatingly out of sorts since the moment she came back into his life anyway. He had plenty of time to obsess about it later on.

He turned back to the task of bathing his temporary charge. He shifted Kahoko slightly so he could prop her legs on the rim of the tub and he could go about soaping them above the water.

She had lithe legs, a little muscular and far from scrawny, though her feet were still curiously tiny. Len stroked each toe gently, Kahoko twitching and mumbling a bit as his movements tickled her slightly. She wasn't lilliputian, far from it, but her feet were still significantly daintier than a man's. Even her ankles seemed delicate. He scrubbed the bottom of her foot gently, feeling the slight callouses.

An image of her barefoot flew through his mind, and he remembered the first concours. He didn't know what made him follow her out the auditorium, but he'd been glad for it, having been able to berate Kahoko's accompanist. He had felt extremely annoyed at the idiocy of the girl and was all ready to tell Kanazawa-sensei what she'd done. He'd been startled when Kahoko had covered for her, essentially protecting her from punishment. He'd been and still was utterly confused at what she'd done, and he'd been sure at the time that Kahoko was going to forfeit as a result.

Imagine his surprise when she walked out on the stage, barefoot and all alone. At the time, he thought her incredibly brave, if foolish. (That Tsuchiura was the one who came to her aid of all people, like a knight gallantly striding in to save the day... Len shook his head. It didn't matter.)

Her version of Chopin's Tristesse had been bittersweet yet brimming with hope, and though she placed last during that round, her performance had continued to echo in his mind for days after that.

Len stared down at Kahoko's sleeping face, eyebrows drawn down in chagrin. To be frank, he missed her violin. She hadn't been great, but she'd been really good at it. Though, if what Yunoki-san had told him was true and Kahoko really was only just a beginner, she would've achieved a high level in no time. Still, it didn't explain why she couldn't play that time after Ousaki-san's class. He could tell she'd been earnestly trying to play. He had told her so himself.

A tiny sneeze from the redhead broke his musing, and Len shook his head. It was futile to dwell on such thoughts right now. He'd given his word to her that he wouldn't ask anything about the past, and thinking of the never ending questions would only aggravate his headache. At least it had served to take the edge off of his desire.

Len disengaged himself from Kahoko for a while as he proceeded to wash himself real quick. He gently tried to nudge the redhead awake when he was done, seeing as how they needed to rinse off the soap. Failing that, he gathered her in his arms and walked into the adjacent shower room, juggling the woman in his arms a little awkwardly as he turned the shower on and adjusted the temperature. The spray woke Kahoko up a bit, and Len was able to put her down on her feet. She was able to wash away the shampoo and the suds from her body, but she'd had to lean on the violinist for support quite a bit as she was still half-asleep.

She was a little more awake when they'd finished but still weak and stumbling slightly. After she'd dried herself off with a towel and wrapped it around her, Len carried her again without a second thought. Kahoko automatically placed her arms around his neck in response, sleepily nuzzling the crook of his neck and shoulder. Through the haze of sleep, the thought that she'd never been so pampered in her whole life briefly flashed through her mind. Breathing in Len's clean smell, Kahoko closed her eyes once more and slipped back into the oblivion of sleep.

Carrying her over to the double sink, Len sat the sleeping singer on the counter, leaning her entire body on him as he gently combed out her hair. His mind was curiously blank right then, focused as he was on his current duty, and the quiet that surrounded them felt peaceful and calming. Once he'd gotten rid of all the tangles in her hair, he walked out with her back to his bed, removing the towel before tucking her securely under the blankets.

Len left for a moment to change out of the towel around his waist and into a new pair of pajamas, returning soon after to sit on the bed beside her. The thought of Kahoko naked on his bed did little to rouse his libido, so preoccupied was he with sorting through the confusing emotions he was feeling. Looking down at her, so blissfully asleep, he couldn't help but feel at peace along with her. His gaze lingered on her serene face, and he felt his body relax with every deep breath she took.

It was nice to not constantly be at war with her, to have her interact with him without any negative emotions hovering over the both of them. He remembered back when they'd first met how inherently happy she had been, how unaffected her mannerisms were with him. They'd bicker sometimes, and their opposing characteristics would often clash, but she'd never tried to avoid him, never shied away from him. It wasn't until that one afternoon, when he'd caught her playing so poorly and had heard that she'd always known-

Known what? What was she hiding? She'd ran away from him when he'd tried to find out. The next day, when he'd told her that even more than her secrets, he wanted to know what her attitude was towards music, she'd been painfully silent. He couldn't understand. Where was her usual passion for music? For the violin? If he'd asked her the same question at any other time before that cursed afternoon, she would have answered him confidently, with her joy for music ringing clearly in her voice.

Even when he'd tracked her down to that music room in Geidai, she'd evaded his questions as if her life depended on it. And when he'd accused her of having shallow dedication towards music, she'd reacted as if he'd dealt her a devastating blow. He could still remember the hurt so deeply ingrained in her eyes, and he'd had the strange feeling it wasn't all because of his words. It felt exactly the same as the painful look that crossed her face when she'd stood in front of his violin, hand held just above it. He realized now that she would have never touched it, even if only to feel the wood. Although it wasn't for lack of want. He'd also seen the longing shining clearly from her eyes.

Len shook his head. It didn't make sense. The only explanation he could think of for that longing was... was that she wasn't able to play anymore, that she'd had to give up the violin...

Eyes wide, he could do nothing but stare at the sleeping woman in shock. If that was the case, he could only imagine the anguish she could have gone through, that she could still be feeling. But what could've possibly happened for Kahoko to have no choice but quit the violin? He racked his brain for an answer, but he could never even come close to guessing.

Len slid under the blankets, wrapping his arms around Kahoko as he cradled her against him. He clenched his eyes shut and buried his face in her hair. All his answers were stored inside the woman in his arms, if she would only give them to him. But she wouldn't let him in, even if she was hurting so badly. His hold on her tightened at the thought, and he breathed in her scent to try and calm himself down.

He wished he could help her. He wished she'd confide in him.

'What happened to you, Kahoko? Will you ever tell me?'


AN: There was actually supposed to be more to this chapter (with Edward barging in and Kahoko meeting Elizabeth-obaasan), but I decided to cut it here. It felt right, and I didn't want to stretch it any further.

Ohoho! No one ever thought to mention the lack of birth control, and I'm assuming it's because the lemon last chapter wasn't completely explicit. I was kind of expecting it. :D *traipses about in happiness* If you think about it though, Len really isn't the type to have condoms on hand, and neither does Kahoko have any reason to be using the pills/patch/diaphragm. I did research about birth control in Japan, and you can get morning after pills prescribed to you. It's just not widely advertised, as are the patches, because they'd like to keep STD cases to a minimum.

As for the children, I wanted to explore the idea of them thinking there's a possibility of having kids, but other than that, I'm not quite sure I can include pregnancy into the plot. So that may be the last you hear of this.

...I don't know why, but I can't get Len to keep his hands to himself. *sighs* This was supposed to be completely lemon/lime-free, but alas. So much for keeping the guy in character. X/

On that note, how come no one's ever questioned the ridiculously lame excuse that started the entire LenxKaho lemon fest? I mean, seriously, a ticklish back? Granted, mine is rather sensitive/ticklish, and that's how I got the idea in the first place (because, as much as I'd like to think I'm special, I don't doubt there are other people with sensitive backs), but still. Is this evidence that we are deprived of some serious LenxKaho lemon extravaganza?



"Why are you undressing?"

"I don't usually take baths with clothes on, Kaho."

And then it hit her. He'd been saying "we" in reference to taking a bath this entire time.

She spluttered a little bit. "Wait, why are we taking a bath together?"

"To conserve water."

"You're rich enough to have an entire reservoir!"

"What am I going to do with all that water?"

"...You can drown your ego in it."

"It's not my fault you find me attractive."

"On second thought, there's not enough water in the world to drown your ego in."


Next on Aria:

"I'm kinda glad actually. I didn't think you had it in you. The only time you were probably ever aroused was that first time you were subjected to a porn film."