A/N: I just reuploaded the chapter with all the corrections made by Amir Jan. Thanks for betareading dear. :) Finally, we're done with 'Strings'!
"Can someone please give me some gel? I need to fix his hair."
"Mother, it's okay. My hair looks fine. You don't have to fuss over such a small detail."
"But your hair is sticking out all over the place. I need to tame it a bit." The older woman had her hand settled on the teen's right cheek to keep him steady while her other hand worked on his hair.
"Mom, I swear, my patience is thinning. I'm no kid okay? I can take care of myself. And, I told you, my hair is fine. It's the latest hair style guys wear on campus!"
She clucked her tongue in dismay while trying to keep the spiky hair down.
"Well, I think your hairstyle is too rowdy for my taste."
The boy grumbled.
"Kaho, I believe it would be better if we let your son do what he wants. He's thirteen after all." A man clad in a formal black suit came inside the dressing room. To Kahoko he looked perfect in his suit, showing his boyish charm yet exuding a sophisticated aura at the same time. "And may I remind you that this is his solo debut. Let him do as he pleases."
"That's exactly why I'm trying to make him look, at least, presentable in front of the audience… and sporting this ridiculous hairstyle is nowhere near 'presentable'!" Kahoko felt her head hurt for a moment, thinking about how much stress she had gained from preparing for her son's violin solo debut. "And, for your information, he is our son. So you should be, even for a bit, concerned about his well-being."
"I am concerned about his well-being, Kahoko. That's why I'm letting him make his own decisions."
"Will you two please stop your bantering? I know you both are going to make up anyway after all this bickering and I rather not see you two display any lovey-dovey affection in front of me right before my concert. Sheesh." Keiichi said before he proceeded to a table where his violin lay. He needed to polish it again before the concert starts. They heard the younger man mutter something like 'parents', 'impossible' and other unintelligible words under his breath.
Kahoko looked at her son and sighed in defeat. She turned towards Len and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Are you really serious about letting Keiichi walk on stage with that look?"
Len could only chuckle while shaking his head at her.
"You should have a little more faith in him. Relax." He placed his hands on either side of her waist leaned his cheek on top of her head. "I'm sure he'll do fine and I bet he'll capture the audience's hearts even with that hairstyle. He's too charming for his own good."
"Keiichi-kun!!" an excited squeal was heard from the doorway which revealed a girl with light brown, curly locks. She held in her hand one of the latest digital professional cameras and her face was sporting a huge grin as she darted towards Keiichi and started to take photos of him.
Kahoko saw Len give her a look that said 'see what I mean?' and then she rolled her eyes at him.
"Fine. You win."
"Keiichi-kun! Come on! Just one. Please?" the girl begged while poking the young violinist, trying to make him strike a pose for her.
"Mika-san, please. I have no time for such nonsense. I need to concentrate before the concert starts." Mika, Amou's 12-year old daughter sighed in frustration.
"But, Keiichi-kun, your mom assigned me to document this event!" Mika whined. "Right, Aunt Kaho?"
Keiichi looked incredulously at his mother.
"Mom?!" Keiichi moaned in irritation.
"What? It was Mika-chan's idea. I just went along with her." Kahoko gave him an innocent look.
"You know Mika-san has this stalker-like approach when it comes to taking photos of me." Keiichi complained as he settled the already clean violin on the table.
"I do not!" Mika said while still taking frenzied photos of the boy. Keiichi rolled his eyes and nodded towards the young girl to prove his point.
"See what I mean?"
Len chuckled and went towards Mika. He placed a hand on her shoulder which made her stop what she was doing.
"Mika-san, I believe Keiichi needs his privacy as of the moment. Maybe we can do this right after the concert." He gave the girl a small smile which made her blush and nod in embarrassment. She mumbled a "fine" and zoomed out of the door.
"Gee, thanks dad. You are a life-saver."
"Son, you should cut her some slack. She likes you and she's a big fan of yours, that's why she is doing these things for you."
"Eww! Mika? No way!" Keiichi made gagging sounds. Kahoko and Len could only chuckle at his childish behavior.
Their laughter soon faded when Len noticed someone peeking from the side of the doorway.
"Speaking of fans, someone's here to wish you a good performance." Len said as he smiled at the little girl with long dark brown-red hair tied in pigtails. She had on a cute frilly white dress with puffy sleeves and she was wearing a big smile once Keiichi took notice of her.
Keiichi returned the smile ecstatically and kneeled with his arms open.
"How's my number one fan? Come here and give me my lucky hug!"
The three-year old girl ran past the two adults and straight into Keiichi's embrace, wrapping her little arms around his neck. She then giggled when Keiichi carried her as he stood up.
"Is onii-chan nervous?" the little girl asked, her innocent eyes staring worriedly at her older brother.
"Not anymore, Kioko-chan." He smiled at the girl which the girl responded with glee.
"Because Kioko-chan is lucky! Right, onii-chan?" She clapped.
Kahoko had a soft smile playing on her lips as she gazed at her two children talking animatedly with each other. She wrapped her right arm around Len's left arm and leaned her head on his shoulder.
"Is something wrong, Kaho?" Len asked softly as he placed his warm hand on top of hers that was clutching his arm.
"Kei-chan can be very insensitive with other people, even with his close friends. That's why I'm still surprised whenever I see these moments. He's very caring when it comes to Kioko-chan. He spoils her more than we do!" she joked. "Boys his age do not treat siblings the way he does. I sometimes I wonder if I dropped him when he was little."
Len's laugh was music to her ears.
Four years ago…
"Oh! Have you heard? Fuyuumi is having another baby!"
Kahoko looked at the informant in surprise. Of course, Fuyuumi was still young, about 30 years old. But still, who would want to raise a kid until their fiftees? She peered at Fuyuumi who was quietly giggling and blushing at the attention she was getting from the three other married women, namely Amou, Mio and Nao.
"Well, you're going to make me the godmother, right Fuyuumi-chan?" Mio insisted.
"And I'm going to do all the documentation with my Mika-chan!" Amou exclaimed excitedly.
"Eh? What's the documentation for?" Nao looked at Amou with an amused expression.
Kahoko sighed. After she and Len got married, they never talked about having another baby. They didn't plan on having one being satisfied with having Keiichi was enough for both of them. She thought it was okay and thought it was normal just to have one child (Len is, after all, an only child) but seeing Fuyuumi with her third child (I know, it's really unexpected of Fuyuumi-chan and Keiichi-kun to have three children! She mused), made her wonder what it would be like to have another child to love and be part of the family she has now.
But, of course, there's the part about morning sickness and back pains which she does not want to experience again anytime soon.
I think I'll just stick to one kid, Kahoko thought.
"So, how long have you been pregnant?" the question rang and Fuyuumi blushed once again before answering.
"About two months."
"Well, that's just seven months away before we see another Fuyuumi-chan or Keiichi-kun running around the house! This is so exciting! Right, Kaho-chan?" Mio gushed.
Kahoko, surprised at the sudden shift of attention to her, merely nodded and went back to drinking her tea which lay untouched for the past five minutes or so.
"I'm home." A man covered in his trench coat called out as he entered the mahogany doors.
"Hey dad!" Keiichi greeted while playing his PSP on the couch in the living room.
"Keiichi, greet your father properly." Kahoko warned whilst in the kitchen making dinner.
"Sorry, mom… dad." Keiichi looked at his father apologetically. Len gave his son a kiss and a pat on his mop of hair before playfully ruffling it. "Dad!"
Len chuckled and Keiichi returned it, giving him one last smile before returning to his PSP game. Len proceeded to the kitchen where Kahoko was busily putting the last of the pasta on the plate. His arms silently glided around her waist, surprising the woman, and kissed her bare neck. Kahoko relaxed in his arms before turning around to see his face.
"It's good to be home."
"I'm glad you're back." Kahoko smiled before giving him a soft peck on the lips. "How was your trip?"
"Tiring. I really wanted to go back home. It was a good thing it was only for a week." Len wrapped his arms around her, his lips placed on her forehead.
"Did I miss anything while I was gone?" Len asked a minute later.
"Hm… Keiichi is starting on a new piece. I don't know what it is though saying that it's a surprise." That earned a chuckle from her spouse. "Oh, I went out with my friends today. And we were just told that Fuyuumi-chan and Keiichi-kun are having their third baby."
Len raised a brow at her.
"You don't seem excited about the news. I'm sure the other girls were overly excited about it."
"Oh, it's nothing." Kahoko paused for a second before continuing. "I'm just tired."
"Okay…" Len became silent for a few seconds. "Kaho?"
"Did you ever think about having another baby?"
Kahoko choked on her spit and laughed, telling Len that that was a good joke.
It was only two months later when her four girl friends talked excitedly about having two baby showers by the end of the year.
"So, Kaho-chan, do you know the gender of the baby?"
All eyes were directed at her as they waited in slight anticipation for her answer. Kahoko merely shook her head and gave them a small smile.
"Len and I decided to keep it as a surprise."
"Aww man." Kazuki whined. Ryoutarou smiled smugly at him.
"Pay up." He said to Kazuki.
"Eh?" Kahoko looked at the two in bewilderment but was soon answered by Yunoki who was quietly sipping his tea while watching the two men in amusement.
"Tsuchiura-kun and Kazuki-kun had a bet. Kazuki-kun said that you already know about the gender of the baby while Tsuchiura-kun said you don't." Yunoki peered at Ryoutarou. "You made a good choice by not betting on gender of the baby itself."
"Can somebody please tell me who decided to have a baby again?" Kahoko breathed in and out dangerously as she gripped on Len's poor hand.
"Now, Kaho, just take quick and calm breaths." Len soothed but it didn't seem to make the very pregnant woman calm as she was going through labor.
"… Calm? HOW CAN I BE CALM?! AAAAAAH!" She screamed as she gripped his hand even tighter.
"Kaho, love, your grip's a little too tight." Len sounded pleading.
"I DON'T CARE IF YOUR HAND'S GOING TO BREAK! THIS IS YOUR FAUL—OOOOW!"
"Mrs. Tsukimori, the head of the baby is almost out. We just need two more pushes!"
Kahoko's sweat-drenched face glistened by the yellow light that was directed to her face. She glared at Len then at the doctor before turning her attention back to Len.
"This will be the last time I'll ever listen to your suggestions!" Kahoko said through her clenched teeth before making one big push.
Tiny delicate fingers reached their way up and Len's hand went to grab it with the tips of his fingers. He gazed at them in amazement hearing a light chuckle from the woman who was holding their second born. He gave her an elated grin before whispering.
"So this is how it feels to see your baby for the first time."
Kahoko merely nodded then spoke.
"Mrs. Tsukimori, your son's here to see you." The nurse said. They looked at her direction and saw Keiichi cautiously walking up to his parents with an uneasy yet curious expression. He stopped right beside his father, his mouth agape. His hands slowly went to the tiny hand that seemed to reach out for him and held them in his.
Kahoko and Len shared a smile and saw Keiichi playfully fondling the baby's hand before turning his attention to his mother.
"What's her name?"
A moment of realization hit the two adults and Kahoko laughed at their situation.
"Oh my. We forgot that we haven't settled on a name for a baby girl yet." Kahoko breathed.
"How about Kioko-chan?" Keiichi whispered low.
"No! It was just a suggestion! Um… I saw the baby names you and daddy were looking through and I saw the name 'Kioko' which means 'Happy Child'. I really liked it." Keiichi's voice trailed then he suddenly laughed while scratching the back of his head. "I mean—we can think of another name! Kioko-chan may be too—"
"I think it's perfect." Keiichi looked at his father who gave him a small smile, a hand resting on his shoulder. "Tsukimori Kioko-chan."
"Yes," Kahoko smiled at their eldest child. "Kioko sounds really nice for a name."
All Keiichi could do was smile ecstatically as he gazed at the baby while Len and Kahoko shared the same thought that they won't be the only ones who will be spoiling little Kioko-chan.
Five years ago…
"Tsukimori-sama! Is it true that you have a son? How long have you hidden this from the public?"
"Is it true that you're patching things up with the mother of the child?"
"Tsukimori-sama! Is it true that the child's mother is Aika-sama?"
"No, you idiot! Didn't you see the photos?" a reporter a hissed at the other reporter who mentioned the famous J-pop singer, Aika.
Len could only chuckle at the last question before smiling at the number of reporters tailing him.
"I apologize but I will answer all your questions at the press conference on Friday. Please excuse me." He turned towards his car before going inside.
Len tiredly sighed before telling Hiro where they were headed.
"Are you ready to face them on Friday, Tsukimori-sama?"
Len sighed again before gazing at the passing lights outside the window.
"I hope so."
Having this conference meant that he had to answer all questions and issues that have come up the past month. After reconciling once again with Kahoko and his son, he had to make sure that their reunion would not catch too much attention from the media. It would be like a feast for the paparazzi if he mentioned anything about Kahoko and Keiichi.
It was only three weeks ago when Len decided to slowly introduce the two to the media, openly going out in public places once or twice a week. But Len made sure to shield them from any chaos that may occur from these displays.
Kahoko has been receiving a lot of mail, from the post or online, when her face started to show up on television and tabloids. Letters from friends, from Len's fans (hate mail, perhaps? Kahoko would not reveal it to Len), and even from her friends back in Osaka.
Wedding bells seem to be dangling in front of the couple after much persuasion from their mothers ("Who would want to see an unwed couple with a son?"). They don't plan to have it this year but they are certainly planning to tie their relationship soon, or so Len assumed as it was his plan to propose once again to the girl soon.
A few minutes later, they parked outside of the Hino residence. Len jumped out of his stupor before taking a peek at the woman who was patiently waiting by the entrance of the house with a small yet worried smile. He went out of the car and walked towards her in calculated, swift steps. Stopping in front of her, he gave her a reassuring smile knowing what was to come next.
"I saw the news." Kahoko bit her bottom lip and peered at her fidgeting hands. "Are you sure about this?"
Len took her hands in his and pulled her into a strong embrace. He kissed the top of her head, smelled the sweet scent of her shampoo, and sighed.
"Don't worry. Things will fall into place. The media will get tired of us in time."
"But… aren't you worried about your career? Won't this ruin your reputation?" she gave him a stubborn look making Len chuckle in amusement.
"If it means to be with you and Keiichi, then it will all be worth it." Kahoko's eyes softened. Pure bliss seemed to be radiating from her face after hearing those words from him.
"The pasta was delicious mommy!" Keiichi complimented before placing a sloppy kiss on her cheek. "I'm going to bed now."
"Okay, don't forget to brush your teeth. I'll follow you to your room in a minute." Kahoko said before turning her attention to the dishes on the table. She grinned when she saw Len already piling them by the sink.
"How about daddy? Is he going to tuck me to bed?"
Len stopped what he was doing and looked at his son who was looking at him expectantly by the stairs. He smiled softly. "Of course."
Keiichi cheered then bolted up the stairs. The adults grinned when they heard him happily humming a tune in the bathroom.
"Am I doing well as a dad?" Len asked a moment later while they were cleaning the dishes like he usually does when he eats dinner with them.
They still have not moved in to one house but Len would usually stay in the Hino residence, sharing a bed with Kahoko, as he wanted to be close to them as possible. Mrs. Hino has been bugging the couple to move into Len's pad but they did not relent saying that the condominium had no extra room for Keiichi. Kahoko even added lightly on a side note that they weren't married yet so it would seem inappropriate for them to stay together separately in another house (But you three are mostly staying under the same roof in this residence! And, furthermore, that's why I've been convincing them to get married already! She thought). Mrs. Hino could only roll her eyes at them.
Kahoko looked at Len in surprise. Of course he has been a good father to Keiichi—more than she expected him to be. Keiichi loves him dearly and she—well, let's just say that their relationship with him has been nothing less than wonderful.
"What do you think?" Kahoko responded. Len's eyebrows furrowed together, clearly feeling uneasy that she did not give him a straight answer. Kahoko laughed at his ignorance before standing on her toes and placing a peck on his nose. "You are an exceptional father!"
After cleaning the last plate, she dried her hands and walked towards the stairs. Once reaching the foot of the stairs, she took a glance at Len who looked like he was in a daze.
"DADDY! MOMMY!" Keiichi called from his room breaking both adults' from their reverie.
"Coming!" Kahoko replied before her eyes trailed back to Len. She smiled and held a hand out to him. "Aren't you coming with me, daddy?"
Len surprised her when he gave her one of his rarest and biggest of smiles.
The media showed no mercy as they grilled Len with questions on his relationship with Kahoko and her son. Afterwards, they interrogated him about their sudden separation five years ago and how he felt. He surprised the media by humbly admitting that he regretted his actions and is whole-heartedly willing to make amends with Kahoko and Keiichi and that he wishes to live a life with them.
The paparazzi seemed to be scratching hurriedly on their notes and murmuring excitedly under their breaths while Len looked at them with utmost indifference. His attention was caught suddenly by a blur of lilac. He felt a tug on his pants, looked down and was surprised to see Keiichi smiling widely at him while pointing at a direction that led his eyes to Kahoko who was silently looking at him with guilt.
The media seemed to have caught up as sudden flashes came in all direction and body guards stood around Kahoko to protect her while Len kept Keiichi beside him, shying the flashes of light that were focused on the little boy. Len called out to Kahoko and reached out his hand. The body guards took the signal and led her towards him. Kahoko took hold of Len's hand securely while Len took Keiichi in his free arm. He hugged them both closer to him, hoping that the sudden uproar of the paparazzi would die down.
Len heard her whisper.
"I couldn't help but follow you. I don't want you to face this alone." She paused then added with a tone of amusement. "We were supposed to just meet you at the back but Keiichi got away saying that he wanted to be beside daddy and help him."
Len smiled widely before a frenzy of lights flashed.
Yup, definitely a feast for the paparazzi.
After the commotion has died down…
"Tsukimori-sama, are you two living in the same house right now?"
"We plan to. We're just waiting for the house to be finished." Len replied while he felt his hand being squeezed by Kahoko who sat silently beside him. Keiichi, on the other hand, merely smiled at the camera. The paparazzi wanted to ask questions to the other two, especially Keiichi, but Len did not allow them to; he answered all the reporters' questions before they could direct them to Kahoko or Keiichi.
"Last question for Tsukimori-sama." Hiro said to the audience.
A man excitedly raised his hand and Len nodded to him.
"Any plans of getting married?"
"Who said we're not married?"
A/N: I apologize for the late update guys. I've been busy with school work, trying to finish my last requirements. I'm happy (well, sort of) to announce that I'm done with college and I'm officially unemployed. Haha. I guess all that hard work paid off and I'm now moving on to the "real world" as people would call it. (sighs)
A big thanks to Amir Jan for editing the epilogue at such a short notice. He's leaving out of town this weekend yet he was willing to take some time out of his busy schedule to betaread. Thank you and a Happy 26th month anniversary! We just celebrated recently by watching "West Side Story" live produced by a local repertory. It was really nice. :)
Amir Jan's teasing me about my change in writing style in this epilogue. He says that I've been (greatly) influenced by Twilight. I wouldn't say that it's close to how Stephenie Meyer writes but, yes, my writing has changed but only a bit! :p
Hm... I'm sure some of you guys were expecting either a wedding scene or a scene where all three of them play. I considered adding it to the epilogue but seeing that most of you wanted either of those scenes, I decided to go against what you're expecting. :p I know it's mean but I think that it would be too lame if you guys already expect a wedding or a concert with the trio playing to happen. That would ruin the suspense and the surprise you get when reading a story, don't you think? :)
I just want to make it clear, by the way, that I won't be making a chaptered sequel for this story. I might make a one-shot sequel if I feel like it or if inspiration strikes me. As for another Len-Kahoko fanfic... I'll think about it. I'm thinking of starting a fanfic on Ouran High School Host Club. We'll see how things go. :)
I hope you guys enjoyed this one. I'm glad I've come this far for this fanfic.
Please review! I'd love to hear from you guys again. :)