Notes: This was written as a late, late, late birthday gift for the wonderful Kris/Astrobright68! The fic was originally just meant to be a present of the smut variety, but as PWP is not my style, I built it up as I went along. And eventually it took a life of its own and grew to epic lengths.

Summary: Desire is a dangerous force. Even those submerged in the deepest reaches of denial can be consumed by its flames before they know it. [ FxA Mature AU - Based heavily from the fic "Running Ink". ]

YES, THIS IS EVENTUALLY SMUT. IF YOU ARE NOT OF AGE OR ABHOR SEXUAL INTERACTIONS BETWEEN CHARACTERS, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER.

There are tons of SPOILERS for the yet unwritten parts of Running Ink, as I've used frequent flashbacks to scenes and plot points I had planned in the original story. (There is, unfortunately, a good chance that RI itself may not be continued.) And as such, this could be considered a 'chapter' that could happen near the end of the fic. [ If you have no idea what Running Ink is, I suggest you read that fic, first. (It can be found on my profile.) Or this AU setting I have created may not make a lot of sense. ] There may also be some OOC-ness (what do you expect, with smut?). As stated in RI's Author notes, I have taken the liberty of changing characters' backgrounds, relationships, and have allowed them to grow and develop differently from canon. Mytho's changes are perhaps the most noticeable (again, I point to RI for further information). I still tried to nail what stands out in their personality traits, however, so I hope the characters will not be too far-fetched for the reader's liking.

Warnings: Mature themes. NC-17 material. Brief mentions of masturbation and voyeurism. Unfaithfulness in relationships. Graphic sex.

Smut ahoy~!

Disclaimer: Princess Tutu and all of its characters do not belong to me. They are the property of the wonderful Itoh Ikuko.

Dedication: Kristen/Astrobright68. Happy belated~! :D

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Playing With Fire

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The office of the CEO of Night Ink was quiet - an almost empty silence, regardless of the fact that the room was occupied.

Emerald green eyes were focused on the door, straight across from where the lone figure was seated at a grand mahogany desk. And those eyes were staring unblinkingly at the onyx surface as though waiting for something.

Or someone.

The young man immediately shook out of his daze at the thought, briefly closing his eyes as he ran a hand through his dark bangs. A petite girl smiled at him through his mind's eye, her carefree demeanor almost intoxicating to behold as she bounced around his office energetically. The redhead was always so optimistic, despite every downturn she faced and the lonely life he discovered that she was living on her own. Fakir couldn't understand it. She had no family that she knew of, she was barely making ends meet, and on top of that she had no money for further education, much less funds to invest into a better living. And still she faced every day with a raised head and a smile - a determination that never seemed to falter.

He had been wrong to judge her so quickly many months prior, based on her removal from his rival company and the timid knock that soon followed at his door. She was certainly a lot stronger than she looked at first glance. It just wasn't a strength he could fully comprehend - which was why he had turned a blind eye to it in the beginning.

Full of surprises, that girl. He had only hired her because that crimson-eyed snob, Rue, had special interest in requesting her return to Raven Ink. At the time, he could never have imagined just what an effect she and her presence would have on him and his life. After all, she started off on a bad foot, to put it lightly. Ahiru was an absolute klutz that couldn't even hold a cup of coffee without dumping it on something, she frequently lost important documents she'd been strictly instructed to keep track of, she was almost always late for work, and the moron had far too much trouble paying attention to anything for a few seconds without being distracted. From a business point of view, she was a company's worst nightmare.

And it wasn't until she stumbled upon his secret that things really began to change between them - along with his opinion of her. Even now, Fakir wasn't sure it was purely coincidence that she'd gotten her hands on that book. It wasn't an openly published piece and there were only a two copies in existence (that he was aware of), but somehow that girl knew about it. He recalled the very incident when he found out - that day he caught her red-handed at his desk with his little black book clutched between her two small hands. And he had been furious, of course, proceeding to yell at her about invasion of privacy and the consequences of digging through an employer's belongings without consent. But her following words, although guilt-ridden and timid, had ceased his next outburst before the angry tirade could even leave his throat.

"I--I'm sorry! I'm really sorry! I didn't mean to dig through your things! I--I just...I recognized the book and I just had to see if it was the same one I had!" The blue-eyed gaze was darting between the text in her hands and the livid figure a few feet away from the desk. "And it--it was! I saw the title and the author and I thought 'Oh! I have something in common with Fakir after all!' and I swear I was going to tell you right away because I was excited about it and--"

"You're lying," he cut her off, though the words released almost hitched and ragged.

Her eyes widened. "No! I'm not lying! I really wasn't digging through anything else! I just saw this book and I got really happy and my hands kind of moved on their own cause I just had to see for myself if it was the same one!"

The young CEO seemed almost frozen in place, eyes trained directly on the book. "There's no way you could have a copy of that."

She blinked, clearly baffled, and held the object tighter within her grip. "E-Eh? But I really do! It's a wonderful book about fairytales and it's so imaginative and engaging! I really couldn't put it down and I looked for more works by the author and everything! B-But I guess Lohengrin didn't write any more books after this so I was kind of disappointed 'cause I was eager to find more! And then when I saw that you had it, I couldn't believe it! I never would have thought you'd enjoy stories like this at all!"

The young man had been flabbergasted into dumbfounded silence as she rambled, his shocked gaze never straying from the bound black text in the redhead's hands. He couldn't fathom how it was possible, but it was obvious from her panicked speech that she was familiar with the book. "...Where did you get it?"

Glancing down at the cover of the book for a moment, she then met his gaze with a sheepish smile. "Someone gave it to me. It's like they already knew my tastes and everything! Strange, huh? But I never ever would have guessed that you had it too!"

He frowned, wondering who could have possibly given her the book, much less have had it in their possession in the first place. However, an odd, boyish curiosity within him prompted an entirely different question as his eyes slowly rose from their study of the storybook to meet her gaze. "Did...Did you like it?"

The redhead beamed a brilliant smile in his direction, blue eyes shining happily. "I loved it!"

Fakir could not remember the last time he'd felt his heart leap like it did at that moment. It was inconceivable, but that smile and those words gave him the sudden urge to write again. Despite all of the pain in his past connected to that very book and his writing, those simple words from someone who wasn't even aware of what she had stumbled upon gave him a sudden burst of hope and pride for something long forgotten.

The CEO's fingers tensed within the strands of his hair almost painfully, pulling him out of his inner musings. This was ridiculous. She had left to go home well over an hour ago. Why was he thinking about all of this now? About her? And why did the room seem so unusually vacant and dull long after she'd gone?

Fakir resisted the urge to bang his head off of the surface of his desk. He couldn't deny that a lot had happened between him and Ahiru since that unexpected encounter. Too much, in fact - it was as though she had infected him with some kind of disease that made his mouth looser and his mind so at ease that talking to her (which he used to avoid doing unless it was strictly business-related) became natural and almost pleasant. Plus she had that annoying sense of knowing when something was bothering him. Which was puzzling, considering she was so often oblivious to what was going on around her. But when it came to people's feelings and moods, that silly girl was as sharp as a razor.

Naturally, he shied away from her at first. He wasn't sure if her intrusion and perception were a welcome or unwelcome occurrence. The immediate thought had been the latter, of course. The young man didn't want anyone touching upon the part of himself that he shielded and hid away---his past was something he did not want to dwell on or share. There was too much hiding beyond his carefully-constructed wall of ice and even that small candle of warmth she held was dangerous to his barrier.

But that wasn't what broke the ice.

Unexpectedly, she had been the first to show trust. Instead of badgering him about things that were bothering him and making a nuisance of herself by attempting to barge into his personal life, she had been the one to open up and confide in him. And Fakir might have overlooked that as being common for her, seeing how open she was normally, but the side he had witnessed seemed completely unlike her: lost, regretful, lonely, and unmistakably melancholy.

That had been how he discovered just how strong she really was under that carefree and smiling surface. The redhead bravely faced each day and moved forward despite not even knowing in what direction she should be going or what problems she would face along the way. And it was completely unlike how he had embraced his own cowardice to run away from his personal issues. Fakir developed a strict respect for her and that sunny outlook on such a dreary life, even though he couldn't really relate to her way of handling things.

He had still been wholly uncertain as to why she had opened up to someone as serious and cold as himself, especially when he was her boss, but he was able to rule out any plight for pity. At the very least, he'd come to know her well enough that she didn't dig for sympathy from others, much less someone as closed-off and impenetrable as himself. And then she had admitted that she wasn't entirely sure of the reason herself, but that she felt like she could trust him and somehow it calmed her fears and worries just speaking with him.

Judging by the fact that nearly anyone considered him to be highly intimidating, her admission came as a shock to young CEO. But not in an unpleasant way, either. He found it strangely encouraging and uplifting that this girl he had hired on a whim of spite looked past everything she could have held against him and actually trusted him---trusted him as Fakir, and not the head of the Night Ink Publishing company.

Ahiru's lop-sided smile was grateful. "You were here for me a lot, you know." The young man merely blinked twice, unable to determine what she was getting at, and the girl giggled lightly at his expression. "You really don't remember?"

His cheeks flushed ever-so-slightly as he turned his head away. "I don't know what you're talking about."

A knowing grin continued to play on her lips as she tapped a finger to her chin in mock-thought. "Let's see... For starters, you saved me at the club that one night--"

"That wasn't for you! It was for my company's reputation!" He immediately burst out in denial, the blush on his cheeks becoming more defined.

Her expression never changed as she watched him fidget with the crest of his tie in one hand. "Really? But wouldn't you have been the one who looked bad making a scene like that? I'm sure someone would have recognized you before they recognized me."

For a moment, he looked like he was unable to process that she had actually come up with a decent argument. Then he crossed his arms and sputtered out, "T-That's... It had nothing to do with you, dammit! I didn't even recognize who---all I saw were three guys who seemed to be tormenting a young girl."

She blinked with broad, azure eyes, mouth open in an 'o' of surprise. "You really don't seem like the heroic type, though. I never would have guessed!"

"I wasn't being heroic!" He denied vehemently, face flaming red. "But I'm sure as hell not going to stand by and watch someone from my company get harassed by a pack of wild dogs!"

"But how did you know it was someone from your company?"

Realizing his slip-up a little too late, Fakir inhaled sharply. "It--It doesn't matter! I just knew! And only an idiot would walk off and leave a girl alone in a place like that!"

"So you were worried?"

"I wasn't worried! I..." His eyes rose to meet hers briefly, a scowl forming on his face at the sight of the small smile on her lips. "A-Anyway...it's nothing to get so worked up over, because it wasn't intentional."

"But you were the one getting worked up just n---"

"Just drop it already!"

She huffed, not entirely believing him due to his behavior, but deciding to let that part of the subject rest. "Alright, fine. So...what about at the joint company party then?"

His green eyes abruptly trailed off the side again, avoiding her curious gaze. "What about it?"

"You danced with me after Mytho ran off in the middle of our waltz," she stated simply.

"So what?"

"Well when the issue of 'Publishing Weekly' came out the following day, not only were we on the cover, but there was a big inside story on it."

"I told you to throw that damn issue away!"

Her small hands planted on her hips defiantly. "I took it home to read, so it's not like I was looking at it while I was working! Besides... It said some really interesting things. Like how you went to countless formal company gatherings and a lot of wealthy daughters of other CEOs and high ranked officials were interested in you, but you never agreed to talk with them and turned down every single request for even a dance! I guess that's why we made the front page, huh?"

"I only danced with you because Mytho asked me to!" He argued, though the red had unmistakably risen to his cheeks again.

"But you refused when he made that request," she responded evenly. "Then while I was watching him run off to take care of whatever his urgent business was, you just grabbed my hand out of nowhere and then we were dancing!"

Fakir was silent for a moment, recalling the event. It had been clear to him what Mytho had caught sight of and what that so-called "urgent business" was. But that redheaded moron couldn't see it and had looked so damn lost, standing abandoned in the middle of the dance floor and staring in the direction Mytho had left as though she were in a daze. Thus before he even knew what he was doing, he'd pulled her right into a waltz with him, if only to take that forlorn expression off of her face. "...Never mind that. You're looking too deeply into things."

She frowned, unable to accept his explanation, but sighed and decided to let that go as well. Crossing her arms over her chest, the young girl followed swiftly with her third challenge, "And what about that time you found me in the rain?"

"Coincidence and nothing more!"

"But you pulled your car over. And you really did seem worried..."

"Hmph. If you caught a cold, you would be absent from work and that's inconvenient for me."

Her eyebrows drew together slightly. "I could have just borrowed your umbrella and walked home then, like I planned. But you threatened to suspend my paycheck if I didn't get into your car!"

"Staying out in the rain would have made it worse, obviously. But you're too idiotic to realize that."

"Hey! I'm not an idiot! You were the one being all pushy! And I would have been just fine!"

He was quiet for a brief moment before speaking again."You didn't look like you were fine."

She blinked, slowly processing his words. "...So you were worried?"

The young man stared at her for a long moment. Of course he had been concerned. The state he found her in could almost be labeled as 'broken'. No one with a heart could leave even a mere acquaintance alone when they were drenched in a downpour and looking so pitiful and dejected. The CEO flushed at the vague implications of that thought, turning his green eyes away from her hastily. "No---Never mind, dammit! It doesn't matter!"

Ahiru seemed to muse silently to herself for a moment as she studied him. "Hmm. Come to think of it, you started asking a lot of questions once I got into the car. Then you drove me home... and you even walked me all the way to my door."

He crossed his arms, attempting to look as indifferent as humanly possible, despite how his insides were churning uncomfortably. "Point being, I had my reasons."

The redhead sighed, finally catching on to the fact that she was fighting a losing battle with the Ice King. "Maybe you did, but..."

He glanced at her, one eyebrow slightly raised in question. "But what?"

She looked down at her feet and then faced him, offering a soft smile. "Whether you meant anything or not, I still appreciate that you were there for me so many times."

And the stubborn CEO of Night Ink still hadn't been able to admit that she was right on all three accounts, even after everything else that had taken place between the two of them since. He'd been unwilling to acknowledge that she had so often wormed her way into his consciousness and that he really had been affected by her without realizing it - because he considered the entire idea of it to be ludicrous. Even the most ruthless of company officials didn't phase him in the slightest, so how could he even fathom such a young girl breaking through his defenses without even trying?

But even that, over time, had become easier for him to accept than the other issue that he constantly ignored and denied beyond anything else. There was one thing he still had trouble believing could possibly be true, even when all of his strange behavior, sudden urges, and odd thoughts all pointed clearly in a single direction.

Fakir wanted to say he was never jealous of her attentions and infatuation with Mytho. And that nothing she said or did affected him any way beyond what he assured himself was only allowed by his discretion. He had a million excuses and explanations in his mind for every situation he'd been involved in with her. But he had finally been forced to realize the truth he'd been desperately trying to avoid facing for so long, all because of that single little urge he gave into two weeks prior.

It became the first situation that he had no excuse or plausible reason to hide behind. He had similar thoughts before it occurred that he would never admit to and could easily banish those from his mind without a care, but the day he lost control and outright kissed her - not even once, but twice - put the nail in the coffin. There was no way to form a reasonable explanation for what he had done.

The young CEO could no longer deny that he was attracted to Ahiru. Perhaps even quite a bit more than that.

And Fakir was used to complicated matters, but this went far beyond a simple complication. He soon discovered that it wasn't just something he could ignore or forget about. And whenever he tried, that choice of action seemed to inexplicably make things worse. It frustrated the dark-haired man beyond belief. Not only had she infected his mind, but now even his body was responding to her in ways he couldn't fully control.

And of course, the biggest problem was the girl herself. While he almost considered it a blessing that she was unaware of his attraction, it was grating on his nerves at the same time. Part of him longed for and wanted her to respond to his subtle advances despite how he convinced himself that feeling that way toward his employee---his friend's girlfriend---was utterly wrong.

But he knew just how mistaken the part of him that believed it to be immoral---at least in the work status sense, was. In truth, it didn't matter what their standings were in terms of his company. What mattered was that he was attracted to who she was, which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she worked for him. And he was aware there were scandals and betrayal and all kinds of nonsense connected to personal dealings of that type within the walls of an office building, but those were not his problem and there was no ulterior motive present in his case.

Not that he wanted the media to get wind of his advances, regardless. They would be bound to make a huge issue out of it and likely blame it on Ahiru as trying to get her hands on money or social standing through him. And Fakir certainly didn't want to cause any undue trouble for the redhead, especially when he was the one pursuing her and not the other way around. 'Hah, would the paparazzi ever have a field day with that truth,' he thought wryly.

And then there was Mytho. He was, of course, the one Ahiru was openly dating and had been seeing for quite some time. Fakir was sure that under the public eye, they probably seemed as normal and happy as a couple should be. However, he knew the truth of their relationship. Ahiru's attraction to the white-haired male seemed genuine enough, but Night Ink's head official knew for a fact that Mytho's side of it was forced. And Ahiru seemed entirely oblivious to what was plainly obvious to him. No matter how many times Mytho had inconveniently left her hanging for one reason or another, she lapped up any excuse that he gave her happily and was willing just to let everything slide.

Well, Fakir couldn't do the same. He had already talked to Mytho about it on more than one occasion, dropping small hints of his concerns (although masked) to see how the white-haired man reacted. And if Mytho's hesitant actions hadn't already spoken for him, the way he reacted whenever the words "Rue" or "Autor" were spoken in conversation were dead giveaways to what he was trying to deny and hide from Ahiru.

Mytho was still in love with Rue.

However, both Mytho and Ahiru refused to acknowledge that fact, turning a blind eye and holding onto that little fantasy they had together. Neither would admit to just how flimsy the boards were that were keeping their sham of a 'happy relationship' intact. And it wasn't that Fakir wanted to hurt either of them, but as he grew closer to the young redhead, he became more and more aware of what she was involved in and just how fake it was. Part of him became increasingly angry that Mytho would lead her on in such a way and continually feed her blatant lies to cover for himself. And at the same time, he understood that his star employee and childhood friend was having difficultly dealing without Rue and moving past the close relationship he had shared with her.

But even after leaving them to their own devices and letting time play its part in fixing what was so clearly broken, things only got worse. And as the situation caused more tension between them, it was almost like they went out of their way to force more useless smiles and compliments and cheesy illusions of romance that Fakir couldn't stand to watch.

Both of them were clearly unhappy.

It was then that Fakir had stepped in and talked to both of them separately and at length about the issue directly. He tried to tread the ground carefully, so as not to upset either of his employees, but still get his point across at the same time. He couldn't dance around the subject anymore. And as he dismally expected, both of them insisted that nothing was wrong or strange or at all problematic in their relationship. Even when they stumbled over their responses to questions or mentions of certain people, it was all covered up by a smile or an awkward laugh and then dismissed as though it had never been mentioned at all.

However, instead of eventually coming clean about the truth behind his relationship with the young redhead, Mytho slowly began to form a growing suspicion of his own.

"Why do you care about my relationship with Ahiru, anyway?"

The twitch of the dark-haired man's leg had gone unnoticed beneath the cover of the table. "It's not care. It's concern for another thing entirely. Both you and Ahiru happen to work for my company, after all. This could come to reflect on your performance in an undesired manner."

There was a pregnant pause and then, "Since when do you call her by her name? What happened to 'that klutz', 'that moron', 'that annoying girl' and countless other ways you would refer to her in a rude manner? You don't even bring her up in conversation unless you're complaining about her. Until lately..."

"Remove any silly ideas from your head. This is a business concern and therefore names will be used."

"Business concern?" Mytho briefly turned to glance out of the window, his eyes catching sight of the competitor's large building in the near distance. He then frowned at his reflection in the glass and turned his attention back on Fakir, expression somewhat hardened. "I don't buy it. Even after all of these months, she's still working as your assistant instead of the cleaning position she was supposed to be considered for in the first place."

The dark-haired CEO straightened slightly, clearing his throat. "The problem here is that your goddamn relationship with her has the potential to be hazardous to my company. Stop trying to change the subject."

Golden brown eyes narrowed sharply. "I think you've become attached to her."

The older man's eyebrows rose almost imperceptively before they furrowed harshly over cold green eyes. "Absolute nonsense! Just what the hell are you trying to insinuate? That something is going on beneath the surface?"

Mytho's frown immediately deepened at the reaction. "You're getting awfully defensive all of a sudden." And he didn't like it. There was definitely something more that Fakir wasn't telling him. Even if he was secretive by nature, his harsh denial almost made it seem like he was hiding something important about this particular subject. "And you've never been so dead set against my relationship with Ahiru before. You tolerated it, at least, and I told you there was nothing wrong with the way things were between her and I and you accepted that before... But now you're constantly pushing the issue as though you're out to prove that my relationship with Ahiru is actually a serious problem!"

A tight fist slammed down on the table top. "It IS a problem, dammit! You two might as well be as blind as a pair of bats!"

The white-haired young man crossed his arms. "You're going to try to bring Rue into this again, aren't you? I already said that none of your suspicions hold any truth to them, Fakir. I'm well over Rue and I'm perfectly happy with Ahiru."

Night Ink's head man sighed inwardly. Of course he didn't believe that. The words were forced, practiced - all that was missing was the smile he would normally wear when declaring that everything was fine. "You're not. And I don't know what you gain from denying that or leading Ahiru on in such a manner. The two of you are completely delusional."

Mytho stood up abruptly. "We're not delusional! Maybe you just can't stand the sight of happy people or something! That wouldn't surprise me at all." His voice died down following the outburst, quieting as he watched the man sitting across from him. "For all you claim not to care, you certainly seem to care a great deal. Especially about her--"

"How many times do I have to say that it's for the sake of my company?!"

"Is she that much of a valuable assistant to you?" the white-haired man accused with a scathing tone. "Months ago you were so eager to just fire her and be done with it. What's stopping you now, Fakir? What is she to you?"

Fakir opened his mouth to retort immediately, but no words came out. His gaze traveled down to table as he collected his lost composure, swallowing the lump in his throat before continuing. "...It's not like that."

Something inside of Mytho seized violently, forcing him to catch his breath before speaking. "Move her to the cleaning position."

The dark-haired man's head jerked up in surprise. "What?"

A stern golden gaze issued a silent challenge. "That's the position she applied for. What she wanted. And with an efficiency like yours, you don't even need an assistant - much less one that you claim does nothing but screw up most of the time."

No, he didn't need an assistant. It had all been to determine if she was trustworthy in his eyes. At least, that's what it had been before. Now things were much different. But he wasn't about to tell Mytho that his suspicions had any real base. Fakir couldn't possibly explain what the redhead meant to him without upsetting his friend--or making it look like he was trying to deliberately sabotage Ahiru and Mytho's relationship for his own gain. "Fine. She'll be moved there by tomorrow morning."

"...And why do you seem disappointed by that, Fakir?"

Cursing himself silently for whatever might have shown on his face, Fakir immediately re-hardened his features. "The only thing I'm disappointed in is the fact that both of you are intending to keep up this damn ruse of a relationship and refuse to listen to reason."

And without another word in response, Mytho turned and left the conference room, doubt laying heavily on his conscience with every step. There was something more that the surly CEO was hiding, and he would find out what.

After his employee had exited, door shutting soundly behind him, Fakir sighed heavily, hands entangling into his hair as he closed his eyes and leaned forward on the conference table.


Starting tomorrow... he would be without her. Perhaps he
was a little disappointed about that. More than he thought he would be.

And the redhead's transfer to the cleaning job set everything in perspective for him. Even the first day away from her enthusiastic presence left him with a void he couldn't quite explain. And by the second day, it was apparent that he missed her. Greatly. It was ludicrous. A measly two days away from one simple girl and he felt a strange ache and emptiness deep down inside of him that he could not ignore.

By the end of the third day, she had showed up at his office by his own calling. The knock was different than it had been when she first stumbled upon his company - there was more confidence and familiarity behind it now - but Fakir still recognized it just by the sound alone. And upon giving her verbal confirmation to enter, it was as though his dull office suddenly came back to life again when she came beyond the threshold - it seemed fuller and more comfortable with her inside the enclosure again.

Ahiru appeared almost confused at the time, standing there before his grand desk. But once he had laid out the question he had been determined to ask her, the blue eyes almost lit up.

"You... You're giving me a choice?"

"That's what I said. I don't think I need to repeat myself, do I?" Despite his business-like tone, there was a definite bit of hope hidden in the distant reaches of his green gaze. "So what would you prefer?"

"I..." She bit her lip, eyes alternating between the scrutiny of her shoes and his face.

He leaned forward just slightly, but remained silent, merely watching her and waiting for the inevitable response.

"To be truthful, I... I'm not sure. I know I applied for the cleaning position when I came here and that's where my experience is, and I'm a really poor assistant a lot of the time and I'm sure you could find much better, but..."

His eyebrows raised in question, prompting her to continue with a simple echoed word. "But...?"

"I'm not sure how to put this, so I guess I should just come out and say it." Finally her gaze rose to meet his straight on as she clutched at the front of her shirt with one hand. "I...I like working with you. And I know I screw up a lot and stretch your patience, but I'm trying to be a better assistant. And you're really not a bad person at all and... and I guess those days working in the other department really made it clear. I missed talking with you and even silly things like bringing you coffee in the morning or when you'd scold me for setting the curtains wrong..."

Fakir stared, then finally released a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "You...want to come back?"

She nodded firmly. "If you think you can still put up with me, I'd rather work here with you."

Something inside of him soared upon hearing her words, but he quickly covered up any startled or strange expression on his features with a forced cough and impassive face. "Right. Well...I suppose I can allow you to take the position back. Seeing as it's still vacated at this time. And..."

She blinked curiously as he trailed off. "And what?"

The dark-haired man smirked in an almost amused manner. "No one spills coffee on my best suits quite like you do."

And it wasn't until recently after her return as his assistant that the young CEO had noticed that his own motive in his stand against Mytho and Ahiru's dating status was starting to take a selfish turn, just as his snowy-haired friend had earlier accused him. Through his scrutiny of the couple's relationship and everything that had passed between them, he began to think that the fact that they stayed together was not only prolonging inevitable emotional pain and stress, but it was also a charade he personally didn't want to continue. The bouncy girl's brief absence from his office only solidified that conclusion.

It all eventually boiled down to one simple reason: Night Ink's head man really did have his eye on Ahiru - his own employee - and he couldn't -- wouldn't -- extinguish his rapidly-growing attraction to her. Fakir didn't even like the thought of being separated from her anymore.

And surprisingly enough, it didn't make him feel very guilty to think that way at all, once he had accepted it. Even after all the time his two employees had supposedly spent together while dating, they barely got to know one another at all. He couldn't even mask the surprise on his face when Mytho had admitted how little he knew of her. The white-haired man had merely stated that they still had plenty of time to get to know each other better and that her cheerful and cute behavior was enough for him to be happy with.

The head of Night Ink knew better now. That wasn't enough. There was so much more beneath the surface of a person - the real and true roots of becoming closer and building a healthy relationship. And Mytho and Ahiru certainly didn't have that. They couldn't bare themselves openly to one another without fear or even be open about the painfully obvious issues in their current relationship. They continued to lie and insist that everything was perfectly fine while they hid behind those fake smiles.

Fakir realized that what they lacked just happened to be what he had slowly been building with Ahiru. He not only had those roots with the redhead, but they were nurtured both intentionally, unexpectedly, and were now sprouting and blooming into something far more - something deeper and more intricate than he would have been able to even imagine could exist within the mindset he held months prior.

And naturally, she hadn't noticed - at least, not the same way he had.

After she had first opened up to him, he followed her lead sooner than he expected. When she came clean about who had given her the fairytale book and innocently asked more about his opinions on it, he had decided to come out with the truth about the author of the book and the reasons why he had given up writing and entered the business world. And she had been permitted to learn much more about him through that revelation. So much, in fact, that he felt closer to her just knowing that she understood and didn't judge him or look down on him for his decisions following that life-changing event. And while she considered him a friend and someone she could trust, the difference was that he was attracted in another sense on top of that which she didn't seem to return. His roots ran deeper and more firmly embedded in what was growing between them. And the difference between their ties to the relationship began to frustrate him.

Jealousy had then decided to play a more prominent role. The way she talked about Mytho became highly aggravating, especially when the young dark-haired man was all too conscious of how buttered-up and artificial those "sweet compliments" and kind words supposedly were. He couldn't stand how she was so utterly willing to forgive and forget nearly anything bad that took place between them all in exchange for an apology and something as stupid as a pathetic little flower. Even when it was a repeated offense, she brushed it off carelessly, as though her little fake field of happiness was more important than the harsh reality her rose-tinted glasses conveniently filtered out. And if her side of the story wasn't difficult enough to deal with already, his talks with Mytho were even more trying on his patience. He was always comparing Ahiru to Rue and stressing his preferences so severely that it became crystal clear that he was only dating Ahiru as a way to convince himself that he didn't need Raven Ink's top business woman and not because he was actually that interested in the clumsy redhead. Mytho also had a habit of asking him indiscreetly about what was going on with Rue and her boyfriend Autor, claiming he just wondered how the dealings were going between companies. It was sickening to listen to when he knew the truth behind everything.

And perhaps that was part of the reason that he lost it and gave in to that undeniable urge when he spontaneously kissed Ahiru. That momentary loss of control changed everything and forced the clumsy airheaded girl to realize that her employer harbored feelings for her that went far beyond simple concern or care.

He recalled the situation almost perfectly. She had been angry--furious, even--that he had offhandedly suggested she cancel her latest date with Mytho. After all, Mytho had abandoned her in the dancing club once already and Fakir felt there was a good chance something similar might happen again, seeing as they were planning to go to the very same place. And she yelled back that it was none of his business and that the white-haired boy had promised her that he would stay at her side, therefore leaving nothing for her to worry about.

And even now, hands threaded underneath his handsome face as he mused over the past event, the young former writer was uncertain as to why he responded the way he did two weeks ago, right at the very desk he was currently sitting in.

"It is my business."

Whatever angry rant she'd been ready to release next fled her, leaving the redhead slack-jawed and speechless. It took a few seconds for her to regain her composure before she stammered out a startled response. "E-Eh? What do you mean it's your business? You aren't planning to follow me, are you? I'm not going to get cornered by some strange guys this time, I swear! And I won't get the company into any trouble, so..." She trailed off and switched her gaze to a paperweight on his desk, unable to face that unfaltering intensity in his green eyes any longer.

"That was only an excuse."

Ahiru looked up sharply, abandoning her former resolve not to face him directly. "Huh?"

His green eyes never wavered from their stare upon her. "...I don't want you to go."

"But if--then--you--why?!" she sputtered out frantically, leaning forward on his desk.

"Why?" He echoed, still strangely calm despite her obvious discomfort with the entire situation.

Unable to trust her voice to speak, she merely nodded and waited for his response, fingers clutching at the desk's edge as her blue eyes stared intently into his. And the urge that assaulted him at that moment was too much to bear -- too much to ignore. Before his mind could fully process the thought, his body sprung into action, raising up from the chair as his hands reached out and cupped either side of her face. And he wasted no time in closing the remaining distance between them, head tilting slightly as he fastened his lips to hers.

Even as horribly oblivious as the redhead was, there was no way she could misinterpret something so blatant and straightforward. And as Fakir continued to kiss her, she made no response - not even to pull away. That alone was surprising enough to the young man and provoked him to deepen the connection, hoping to somehow elicit a form of response from her. And he was soon granted his wish, though not quite in the way he wanted. As if waking up from a trance, she jerked her head away from him, pulling her lips from his as her azure eyes widened in shock and a rosy hue dusted all the way across her cheeks. "Wha---Why did you--!?"

His hands stubbornly remained at their perch on both sides of her face, eyes half-lidded and his breath releasing warm against her moist lips as he whispered huskily, "Don't go."

She tensed in his grip. "B-But I---Mytho---he'll be expecting m--"

Without waiting for the rest of her objection, he swiftly silenced her with another kiss that was far more insistent than its predecessor, his right hand threading up into her red locks in the process. In response to his bold and sudden move, she struggled briefly, his firm fingers not allowing much room for her head to maneuver and her balance only being kept by the hands gripping the mahogany wood of his desk.

And then he felt it -- she relaxed -- hesitantly and lightly starting to reciprocate the heavy pressure he was administering. The approach was very limited and timid in nature, but still undeniably there nonetheless.

However, as soon as he noted her response, she gave a giant and unexpected lurch backwards, succeeding in removing her head from his hands - but the force of the sudden arch back was so strong that the unsuspecting girl tumbled backward and right onto the floor. Their eyes met briefly as she glanced up from her prone position, and then in a flash she was on her feet and hastily retreating out the door before he could do or say a thing to stop her.

The CEO of Night Ink shifted uncomfortably in his office chair, the memory of what had happened all too fresh in his mind and teasing him indirectly. He hadn't dared to bring up the subject to her since, but sooner or later he would have to confront her about it. That reciprocation had to mean something and he even dared to hope that perhaps she was possibly attracted to him in some way too.

Just the thought itself was tantalizing: Freely kissing her as she actually kissed back, his hands roaming to touch every area of silky soft skin they could reach as hers wound around his neck, bodies entangled and passions battling in the heat of the moment, tasting every inch of her bared to view---

Fakir's train of thought abruptly ceased when the uncomfortable feeling returned tenfold, shocking his lower regions to life from the vivid imagery that his mind had painted like an elaborate landscape of desire. Glancing down, he quickly confirmed what his body already made him quite aware of.

"...Dammit."

If only it had been as simple as a normal attraction. The small urges to smile in her presence or be closer to her weren't entirely unwelcome. Even that nagging desire that had led him to kiss her had seemed chaste enough in intention. He could handle something of that caliber without too much trouble.

However, sexual attraction was in a league of its own.

Not in all of his twenty-two years of life had anything affected him in that way. The young CEO had met plenty of young women through business dealings and various mandatory formals he was forced to attend, but he had taken no special interest nor developed an attraction to any one of girls he met. And they were pretty enough by common male standards, well-off in the money department due to the fact that many were the daughters or grand-daughters of high-ranking company heads and other important people, plus they were polite and well-mannered. But Fakir found them to be more of a nuisance, than anything. He didn't care if they were models or went to some prestigious school or were considered a "perfect" match for him. As far as he was concerned, they weren't worth his time.

And then in came the short, redheaded ex-employee of his top competitor, turning his carefully controlled life messily on its head. She was everything those other girls weren't and vise versa. Ahiru had about as much grace as a newborn duckling using stilts, was hardly ever anywhere near composed in any given situation, rather plain-looking and yet didn't go out of her way to doll herself up, spoke her mind no matter how idiotic or random her comments might be, and she certainly didn't have her sights set on him, his status, or his money.

She wasn't even what most men would consider a desirable woman. However, Fakir wasn't most men. Whereas the attraction of a dark and sultry lady with an hourglass figure and a short black dress that had crowds of men panting at her heels evaded him, he was instead ensnared by Ahiru's aura of innocence and simplicity. As other men were being lured in by those elegant and mysterious seductresses cloaked in darkness, he found himself grasping for the special warm light around the simple girl that somehow beckoned to him. And the redhead certainly didn't try to stand out or attract the eye of the male masses. If anything, her lack-luster appearance and awkward behavior would generally be considered a turn-off.

And yet Fakir had never seen anything he would consider more attractive. Her curves, while subtle, were genuine and not flaunted purposely by tight-fitting cloth to demand attention. And instead of a sway to her hips as she walked, there was a bounce to her step - a bundled excitement in her movement that was energetic and somehow very appealing to him on an increasingly sensual level. Even her eyes of bright blue drew him in with ease, wide with curiosity and happiness, and so full of life that he almost felt he could drown in their lucid depths. And her complete obliviousness to all of her unusual charm just made the overall attraction much more potent and undeniable. Even as she would bound up to his desk and ramble off a mile-a-minute about something company related, she would remain completely unaware of how her small but perky chest was bouncing up and down in time with her excited rhythm. Nor did she realize that her pouty whines, small squeals of embarrassment and excitement, and little bursts of fiery anger could all be indirectly arousing to her employer.

Of course, he had tried desperately to block every part of it out and insist to himself that there was no possible way he could seriously consider the nineteen year old redhead in such a way. However, the denial made his inner frustrations surface more rapidly, blending into his behavior and speech almost on a normal basis. And as clueless as she remained to the changes, he certainly couldn't ignore them.

His struggle to hide the truth eventually paid its price. Loss of control resulted in everything being bared in the open, even to the point that Ahiru couldn't possibly misinterpret his veiled intentions any longer. And after those two stolen kisses, she haunted his dreams and occupied his thoughts constantly. It became a sensual torture he was forced to deal with, almost like a punishment for how vehemently he had been denying the attraction in the first place.

One taste just wasn't enough.

And now the dark-haired CEO had gotten to the point where he would even fantasize about having sex with her, and be forced to relieve himself as a result. Those sensual images of the redhead had infected his mind frequently, acquainting him with his right hand more than he would have liked. The thoughts he'd begun to harbor in context to Ahiru, and the actions they provoked him to indulge in made him feel dirty. His feelings for her weren't entirely pure, quite unlike the unblemished girl, herself. But despite the guilt he felt over those lustful thoughts and inappropriate glances, he couldn't deny their existence or do away with them completely. She had already wormed her way into his life and tightly nestled herself within to the point that he didn't want to remove her, even when she reached parts of him that he closed off or never dealt with. And while acting like he was indifferent to the changes on the outside, Fakir knew deep down that he welcomed her intrusion and all of the new feelings and sensations she was awakening in him. Even if he wasn't sure of it before, he certainly was now. Ahiru had changed him.

And when all of that mixed together in a swirl of emotional and physical varieties, it formed something he couldn't even assign a definite name to. It was a development that should have scared him more than it did - perhaps sparing him only through his conquer of extreme denial beforehand. And to his surprise, he considered it to be almost...thrilling. They were risks and steps he had never taken with another person, especially in a relationship sense.

However, the strength of the desire from his end far outdid her own, and that bothered him greatly. Why was it that the one person who broke down his barriers, gained his trust, and introduced him to so many things both in an emotional and physical sense, remained with someone who was clearly using her? Not to mention that sham of a relationship she had with him, if it could even be called that. She faked happiness with someone who hardly even knew her and vise versa. How could she stand it?

Night Ink's head man would never deny that he held a bit of arrogance - but in Ahiru's case, he felt it was fully justified for him to do so. Over time, Fakir had honestly come to believe that he really did deserve her more than Mytho did. And such feelings had twisted him into viewing her with a strange sort of possessiveness. Just the sight of the two of them holding hands or even talking amiably with one another made his teeth grind in irritation. He had grown to despise to see them even touching each other, not matter how innocently. And at times he had to get a grip on his own self control before he stalked forward and physically pulled them apart.

Far too many selfish, selfish thoughts he really should have been ashamed of. Was that what attraction and lust did to people? Tearing down reason, tugging on the strings of hidden emotions and clashing them against one another, infecting the mind with the previously unthinkable...was it a common thing? Fakir wasn't sure. All he knew was that he wanted her - and wanted her to notice him, to acknowledge his feelings and turn away from the relationship that was bound to leave her in pieces. If he could shatter that fragile and silly little thread that held her and Mytho together before anything worsened, then the two of them could be free from the forcing and the faking. And he... he might finally have a shot at pursuing what he had grown to desire more than anything else. It was like killing two birds with one stone.

Fakir began to wonder how she might respond if he started coming on more strongly. Would it force her to look beyond the fantasy? Shock her back into reality? It was a tempting thought. Very tempting. With any normal girl, he would think that such an approach would push them away - but Ahiru was far from normal. She needed something to wake her up and it was obvious that words weren't cutting it. Everything he spoke to her about went in one ear and out the other. That air-headed girl foolishly refused to see the truth.

However, she responded to his kiss. And he strangely felt that had to be the key to unlocking the chains that bound her to that doomed relationship. She wanted to be treated as though she was real, as though she was truly wanted - and it showed through her inexperienced reciprocation. Fakir remembered the states he had found her in when Mytho would ever so inconveniently walk out on her for any given reason. Her smile and those wide and endless blue eyes could not hide the disappointment and doubt laying beneath the surface. He could see it as plain as day. And he wanted to be the one to remove it.

Whatever it took for her to acknowledge that his feelings weren't fleeting or faked, he was prepared to step up to the plate and deliver. She had to see the difference between him and her fantasy with Mytho. And that fragile string that held things together needed to be severed once and for all. He owed it to her. After all, she was the one who opened his eyes to everything he has been pushing away and accepted him. Now he would return the favor.

...Even a few sexual favors if she wanted him to-----No, dammit. He was not going to think about that now!

The dark-haired man made a quick mental note not to engage her in a state like the one he was in currently. That could certainly lead to trouble. And he wasn't sure he could keep himself in check if he was kissing her while already aroused, which meant that testing the waters wouldn't be a smart thing to do -- especially if she started reciprocating. Even the slightest return of his attentions could serve as fuel to the fire.

...And right now, such thoughts really weren't helping with the uncomfortable tightness of his pants.

Fakir glanced at the clock on his desk, resisting the urge to groan in frustration. As expected, the moment he had a problem that needed to be dealt with, something inconveniently tossed a wrench into his solution. Those damn janitorial workers (oh the irony) would be busy cleaning the bathrooms for another twenty minutes, at least.

He would have to wait it out for the time being. Just bloody fantastic.

-------------------------------

Ahiru paced quickly back and forth along the far end of the narrow hall, eyes darting every now and then to the doors - black as night - waiting in the near distance. The area was clear of personnel (as nearly everyone had left by this time of day) and there was plenty of open space for her to walk across, but she felt strangely claustrophobic - almost as if she was sucked into a tiny space that formed iron bars on her every side.

Which was ridiculous. She was here of her own choosing, after all, and not being held prisoner. Her grip around the manilla folder in her right hand tightened a smidgen as she brought the packet into her line of vision. The seemingly-innocent collection of bound papers was her fabricated excuse for coming back long after she'd been dismissed from work for the day.

For the sole reason that neither she -- or him -- could keep running from the incident of two weeks ago any longer. And if he wasn't going to bite the bullet and explain, then she would have to confront him about it. To put it lightly, the whole thing was driving her crazy. The redhead waited for the stoic CEO to bring it up again, itching to know what he was thinking and feeling behind that indifferent facade, but he stubbornly persisted in acting like nothing had happened at all. Days passed, weeks passed... and nothing. Not a single word offered about what he had done out of the blue.

And Ahiru was sick of waiting anxiously on the sidelines for something to happen. Even if it hadn't been such a big deal to him or if he had moved past it without another thought... the kiss was haunting her. He was haunting her.

To be honest, she wasn't even sure why. The redhead was more than aware that she was dating Mytho and they had been together for months now. Ahiru was happy with him. There was no plausible reason for her to dwell on being kissed by Fakir. 'Twice,' her minded added as an afterthought, the events still fresh in her mind despite the time that had passed since. 'He kissed me twice and I...' The folder slipped out of her grip, flopping down onto the floor as her face took on a rosy red hue.

The problem was, of course, that she had kissed him back. Even though she was together with Mytho. Even though the CEO of Night Ink was her boss. Even though she herself couldn't fully understand what had possessed her to do such a thing. And now she couldn't even look at the man without something inside of her twisting uncomfortably every time those sharp green eyes met hers. Which scared her, because that uncomfortable feeling wasn't always unpleasant - the way she dwelled on his kiss - his touch - was almost filled with something anxious that was underlined with a hidden anticipation.

Longing.

And something else. Something warm that licked at her from within and made her feel restless, setting her insides on fire and making her yearn for that phantom touch more than anything. She felt ashamed of herself.

Ahiru's legs gave out on a sudden, violent tremble, buckling and sending her down to her knees beside the forgotten manilla packet on the tiled floor. It was wrong! It was so horribly, terribly wrong! She had a boyfriend! She was happy! There was no reason for her to feel this way about Fakir, of all people.

Not...that she considered him a bad person. Even if he had been very difficult to deal with at first - ruthless, demanding, condescending, constantly criticizing even the most miniscule of things - there was a lot more to the young CEO than the cold and impassive face he showed on the outside. Underneath that frigid exterior, he was fighting his own demons. And had Raetsel never given her that book or had she never stumbled upon Fakir's copy afterward... she probably wouldn't even be aware of what he was going through and facing up to every day.

However, that was not the case. And not long following the book incident, he had unexpectedly come forward and explained.

"Will you just shut up about the damn storybook?"

Ahiru blinked, and slowly her open mouth closed on the words she was about to release. A long moment passed before she finally parted her lips to speak again, her face angled toward the floor. "I'm sorry. I thought it was interesting that we had the same taste in books like that and I wondered if you knew any more about the author or where I could find other books he's written. I looked already, but I wasn't able to find anything."

The CEO's swivel chair turned to face the window, obscuring the dark-haired man seated in it from view. "That's all he has written."

"O-Oh," she mumbled awkwardly, twisting one foot on the floor. The redhead really couldn't understand why something as simple as a book appeared to aggravate Fakir more than her usual antics did. It was harmless, wasn't it? But he had been scooting around the subject every time she brought it up ever since his outburst over her finding his copy by accident. There had to be something more about it. "I didn't tell you who gave me the book that I have, did I?"

His hand gave a twitch on the armrest of the chair, interest piqued despite wishing the topic to remain at rest. "...No."

Emboldened, she looked up and set her gaze on the black vinyl backing of his seat. "I only met her by accident, really. I was in a hurry to find a dress or something to wear to the joint company party and I knocked over a small display of flowers on the sidewalk when I rushed by a shop." Ahiru blushed lightly at the memory - a true display of her carelessness, right in public. "I bent down and started to pick up the irises and roses when a woman came out of the store and started to help me gather the flowers. I apologized and instead of yelling at me or something she said it was fine. I blurted out about why I was in a hurry and promised to be more careful and...when she heard that you were my boss, she looked really surprised." The former cleaning girl paused there, as if waiting for a reaction or recognition from the still man, but there was none to be found. "We ended up talking inside the shop and she even offered to lend me a dress for the formal. She really was a nice--"

"Name," the man's voice interrupted suddenly. Unseen to his employee, Fakir's brows were creased in thought. He didn't know any women that owned flower shops.

"Oh!" It seemed Ahiru, too, had just realized that she never mentioned the woman's name. "She said her name was Raetsel."

The young CEO's chair turned around so suddenly that the girl standing a few feet beyond his desk literally jumped. "Raetsel?" he inquired, voice still hard, but carrying a bit of an urgent edge to it.

Recovering from the unexpected movement, she straightened, meeting her boss's curious expression with a smile. "Yes! She was a very pretty lady with long brown hair and blue eyes."

Fakir looked down at his desk briefly before facing his assistant. "I knew her."

Ahiru blinked, smile faltering slightly. ...Past tense? She had seemed to remember him well enough. "So--"

"She gave you the book?" he cut in again, wishing to pass by the small talk and cut to the chase.

The redhead paused, teeth chewing on her bottom lip for a moment before she answered cautiously, "Yes."

He heaved a sigh, closing his green eyes from view. "I see."

Now the atmosphere was steadily becoming more tense and awkward, and Ahiru wasn't sure what she should do or say. There was definitely something unspoken from his end, whether about the woman or something else entirely. And although she was admittedly very curious, the young girl knew the risk of getting her employer irritated or angry, as the results of provoking the explosion were often very unfavorable.

After a long stretch of silence, he unexpectedly spoke up again. "I told her not to mention that she knew me." The words released in almost a hissed whisper, and more as though he was talking to himself than to her.

But they hadn't gone unheard. And to say the young girl was confused would be an understatement. He almost spoke of Raetsel as if she were some kind of past lover that he wanted to anull his connection to. Flushing slightly at the thought, she sputtered out, "O-Oh, I'm sorry! If you and her were--I didn't know, I just thought--and I wasn't sure if--" She fell suddenly silent when her gaze landed directly on him, or more noticeably, the familiar little black-bound book he was holding up with one hand.

"I wrote it," Fakir stated simply, placing the book back down upon his desk.

She stared back at him unblinkingly, mouth slightly open in wordless shock. Whatever she might have expected him to say, if anything at all, that wouldn't have even crossed her mind as a possibility. He seemed unperturbed by her shock as he continued, "Lohengrin is a pen name, or an alias I used for writing."

Ahiru's mouth twitched as she took a sudden step forward, blue eyes wide with something that resembled admiration. "Y-You're a great writer!" she burst out, making him pause in surprise. She blushed, a little taken aback by her own forwardness, but the thought didn't deter her into silence. "I...I really enjoyed your book, Fakir. Do you think you'll write mo--"

"It's in the past," he cut her off sharply, his expression clearly stating that he expected it to stay there.

The redheaded assistant bit her lip, questions flooding her mind at the speed of light, but she was unsure if he would appreciate her asking any of them. He noted her hesitance, as his calculating green eyes still had not left her form. Although he was glad that she hadn't abruptly pushed the subject further and bombarded him with the means for uncomfortable recollections... it seemed his own mind was bringing them to the surface again - unlocking them from the deepest and most forbidden reaches of his brain.

[ A young boy, shining with pride and happiness, a familiar black book held tightly in his hands--

His family standing around him, mother and father, echoing his glee in waves through their brilliant smiles, one hand each on his shoulders--

Flashing lights from cameras, applause--

A sudden incomprehensible yell, a loud bang--

Terrified screams, horrified faces, panic--

Arms wrapped securely around his form, never letting go, smothering him, blocking his sight--

Rapid gunfire - one, two, three--

Silence, slumped bodies weighing down on him - unmoving--

Screaming, distant sirens, SCREAMING--

Darkness...

Distantly he heard the book fall to the floor with a sickening thud.

No happily ever after. ]

Ahiru watched as Fakir slowly lifted his hands to hide his face - but not before she had a glimpse of the pain that shadowed over it. She took an unsteady step forward, then another, approaching him very slowly. "Fakir...?" the word released no more than a whisper as she came to the front of his desk and extended one arm, lightly laying a small hand on his shoulder, blue eyes lined with concern. And to her surprise, he didn't violently retract from her touch or yell at her in any manner, instead giving a shuddering breath that she could feel ripple through him, even through the thick material of his suit. Her fingertips lightly massaged the crisp black coat, pressure firm enough to be registered, but not at all forceful in nature.

Minutes passed, the melancholy silence only broken by the constant ticking of the clock on the far side of the room. Ahiru's hand tensed as his nearly motionless body suddenly gave a deep breath. "Fakir?" she quietly inquired once more. "Are you all right?" The dark-haired CEO shifted, fingers falling from his face, and the former cleaning girl hastened to remove her hand from its perch on her shoulder - that is, until one of his hands caught it, pulling a tiny gasp from her as he held the appendage securely in place. Her sapphire gaze widened when she noted the small slick sheen traveling down beneath his right eye, but he paid no attention to her startled expression. Fakir's green eyes fixed on the redhead as though he had never quite seen anything like her before.

And suddenly, inexplicably, he wanted her to understand. If she enjoyed his writing that much, if she could for even a moment make him consider picking up a pen again... then she deserved to know why he couldn't possibly walk that path any longer.

"Ahiru," he started slowly, voice not nearly as controlled as he had hoped. "There is...a reason I can't write anymore."

Still in her fallen position on the floor, the redhead reached out and took the envelope from the floor, absently straightening a bent edge. To think Fakir had volunteered the information himself - she still didn't understand why. Ahiru hadn't pushed him for any answers, as he quite obviously seemed pained and troubled over what he was thinking about, and yet he came forward and told her his reasoning without being prompted or coerced at all.

Her heart still wrenched as she recalled everything he had told her. Fakir had been through so much at such a young age - things a thirteen year old boy (or anyone, for that matter) should never have to experience. He had lost his parents in a shooting - one that just happened to take place when the press was interviewing him over his recent win in the Junior Writer's Challenge, which was a world-wide recognized feat for young writers. And he blamed himself for the outcome - unfairly, she thought. Any parents would have jumped in the way of gunfire to shield their child from being shot. However, the CEO of Night Ink stubbornly insisted that it was his fault that both his mother and father died that day. He blamed it on his literary talent, and his failure to consider the consequences with his choice to enter that contest in the first place. And from that point on, he couldn't bear to write any longer - it brought the memories of that horrible and life-altering event back to him full-force. It was the weight of what he believed to be his mistake - a burden she couldn't even fathom, and a depth of sadness and darkness that was immeasurable to her.

And so Fakir had said he locked it away deep inside himself, along with that desire to follow his dream to be a writer. She thought it ironic that he had come to work for a publishing company, but he stated that it was certainly no coincidence. His father's brother also had ties to the writing world, but as a back-seat driver, so to speak - the publishers, the ones behind the scenes who made others' dreams of getting published come true. And Fakir decided he could live with that, as it eased that small part of him that still yearned for the life he had given up - and if he worked hard and rose to the top, then he could at least control what went on behind the scenes. Therefore he would have the power to protect - as the CEO had security, planning, and precautionary measures all at his fingertips.

No more openings would be left for another child to be left devastated by a horrifying outcome as long as he was around. And although he felt he could never atone for what he insisted he had done to his family, Fakir at least felt he could ease the hole inside by making certain his past would not be repeated for any other unsuspecting young writer or journalist.

Ahiru's sapphire eyes softened as she looked down at the package of papers in her hands. He was kinder and more noble than she could have ever imagined, even after going through something so terrifying at a young age. Fakir...was strong. Even if he had given up writing, he planted his efforts in a new direction and walked straight ahead without looking back.

But why did that mean that he had to give up his dream? That was the only part Ahiru couldn't quite get her mind around, no matter how hard she tried. Of course, the redheaded assistant understood why he banished any further steps down what he believed to be a tainted path, but she still couldn't quite accept it. His eyes lit up when she first spoke to him about the book - before she had even known it was him who wrote the wonderful story. And at the time, she figured it was because he had also enjoyed the book as much as she had... but now it made more sense. Writing fired up something inside of him - a passion, a longing, a desire that reached far beyond the icy wall on the outside.

And that's why she wished he would follow his heart and regain that missing fire. She felt he had already suffered far too long for something that wasn't his fault (no matter how much he claimed it was). And perhaps it wasn't her place to say so - she knew that already - in the end it was his choice - but that would not stop her from at least attempting to get him to consider it.

'Fakir...' she thought distantly, running two fingers over the manilla cover. 'When did I start to think of you so much..."

Her eyebrows drew together slightly as her hand halted in its sliding movement. Fakir was... What was he to her?

----------

A hand softly impacted the back of the girl's hair in an almost chiding manner. "Don't worry. I'll wait here with you until Mytho returns. If those idiots are stupid enough to come back again, I'll make sure they regret it."

----------

"...I asked for only a drop of cream."

There was a note of impatience in the man's tone that made the redhead squirm a little from where she was standing in place. "I swear I only put a drop in! Or at least I tried to--it's black, otherwise, and your favorite brand, and the right temperature, I think, and I didn't spill any on the way up---I tried really, really hard to get it just right this time!" She paused, taking in his displeased expression and then clasped her hands in front of her, blue eyes alight with remorse. "I'm really sorry that I screwed up again! Don't get mad! Let me try again? I'll go make another one right a--"

He cut her off with one hand held up to silence her rambling, staring down at his steaming cup of coffee for a long moment before carefully raising his not-quite-so-stern green eyes to hers. "Never mind. I'll keep this one." There was another long pause before he took a short breath, turning his eyes away from her. "...Thanks."

----------

She walked to her cluttered desk with a sigh, setting herself down into the waiting chair. Upon finding a small folded piece of paper waiting for her on top of a stack of documents, she blinked. Puzzled by the appearance of the note, she picked the slip up and opened it, eyes darting over the words.

[ The left elevator at the end of the hall on this floor malfunctioned early this afternoon. There is no mechanic working on it as of yet, so be sure to take the elevator on the right or use the stairs. I left you this note because you're idiotic enough to completely miss the 'out of order' sign posted beside it, and I don't want you to get yourself injured or stuck in the damn thing. (Naturally, my company would be responsible for getting you out and that would be an unfavorable situation.)

Also, I expect that pile of publishing approvals to be stamped and placed on my desk before I return from the meeting.

...Remember, it's the left that is in need of repair, so take the RIGHT.

- Fakir ]

Ahiru scowled at the note, making as if to scrunch it up into a ball - but she stopped just short of mangling the paper, slowly opening it again and reading it over a second time. He didn't outright say it, but... her dark-haired employer seemed almost concerned for her in some strange way.

The redhead smiled slightly, tucking the note into her pocket.

---------

The rain poured endlessly, large drops hitting the pavement and drowning out the sound of her sobs with their intensity. Her hair and dress were completely soaked through, but the girl didn't seem to take any notice to her state as she stared blankly at the ground. It was only after a few minutes that she suddenly realized the rain was no longer pelting her drenched body. Blinking moisture away from her eyes, she glanced up, spying a black umbrella hanging over her head.

"Do you have any idea how pathetic you look?"

The voice was familiar, but she set her lips in a line, turning her attention back to the wet pavement at her feet. The man standing behind her shifted weight from one foot to the other, eyebrows drawing together in irritation. "People are going to stare at you, idiot." He paused, taking a small breath before he spoke again. "How long have you been out here like this?"

"I don't know," she replied simply, softly.

He released a slight noise of aggravation. "Get up. You need to get out of the rain."

"I'm fine," her voice answered emotionlessly.

Fakir frowned. Obviously she wasn't. The redhead looked as though the world had just come crashing down around her. She was completely unlike the lively and cheerful girl he had come to call his assistant. And had the obvious physical similarity not been present, he would have thought her to be an entirely different person altogether. However, seeing as it was her appearance that attracted his attention from the road in the first place, the CEO had slowed his car when he caught sight of her sitting alone in the downpour, wondering if it was really her or perhaps someone who beared a strong resemblance. But before he knew what he was doing, Fakir had pulled over on the side of the road and hurried over to her hunched form, umbrella in hand.

The dark-haired young man cleared his throat loud enough to be heard over the rain. "My car is parked just behind me. Get in and dry off."

"No," she said immediately, and moved as though to get up and leave the shield of the umbrella entirely.

Fakir's eyebrows drew together sharply, a scowl forming on his lips. He quickly followed her movement with the water-resistant cover, losing a significant portion that blocked the rain from touching him, but he ignored the cold droplets pelting his hair and clothing, focusing solely on the object of his irritation. "Get into the damn car or I'm holding your pay for the next month."

She whirled around at that, mouth open in shock and blue eyes finally showing a little fire in them again. "What is your probl---"

"You're going to catch a goddamn cold or worse if you stay out here in this weather, idiot!"

---------

Blue eyes broadened in surprise. "Did you just...smile?"

He immediately averted his eyes to look out the window. "...Nonsense. It must have been your over-reactive imagination."

"You did!" she pointed a finger at him, shock on her features. "You really just smiled at me! I saw it!"

---------

Ahiru blinked. "You're... really giving me the rest of the day off?" It didn't compute. He never gave her any excuse to miss work for any reason before. Why now? The redhead swallowed, persisting to make her point, "Normally you throw a fit if I miss even a few minutes of work from being late, or--"

"Go home and get some rest," he interrupted sharply, but the soft undertone to his green eyes betrayed his harsh words. "You look very tired. And I can't have you fainting in my office."

---------

"H--How...?"

He answered her unspoken question with a roll of his eyes. "The door was open. You really are too damn careless."

Even set up on a nest of old pillows and blankets and looking quite under the weather, she managed a glare in return for his comment, but then softened the expression with a sigh, unable to muster the energy to stay annoyed. And he was right. She should have taken care to lock the door. After a moment, she looked up at him, covering a sneeze before she asked, "Why are you here?"

Fakir's arms crossed over his chest. "No calls were getting through to you. And even if you're constantly late, you at least don't skip out on your job without any reason. I already knew the way here, so I decided to find out for myself what the problem was."

The redhead couldn't understand why he didn't simply send someone else. "Well, my phone isn't working but... aren't you, y'know...busy?"

"I had no meetings today," he answered simply, raising an eyebrow as she went into a fit of coughs. "You look terrible, you know."

She managed a slight scowl, flopping back onto her bed. "Well, you can go now. I won't miss work tomorrow. And if you wanna cut my salary or somethi----achoo! Erm...then I understand. I'll get the phone fixed as soon as I can."

Ignoring her words completely, he looked about the room with slight displeasure. "You haven't eaten anything, have you? And you don't look like you're taking care of yourself at all. Have you taken any medicine? Seen a doctor?" He turned back toward her, eying the girl with something suspiciously like concern.

Ahiru flushed, unsure of what to make of that strange stare. She thought he was just here to make sure she wasn't ditching work or something. Not to analyze her sick state. "Well... I get kind of dizzy when I try to get up, so I thought I would just rest it off."

His eyes narrowed and she started to feel a little self-conscious, immediately turning her face downward and covering her awkwardness with an oncoming sneeze. The CEO sighed, still looking about the room with that scrutinizing stare. "So you're trying to starve yourself, instead. And likely going to only end up making yourself feel even worse from what little you're doing to fight it off. How smart."

She swiftly opened her mouth to retort, but he held up a hand to stop her, his other digging into his pocket to extract a dark green cellphone. He popped it open with haste and she watched in confusion as he started dialing and held the phone up to his ear. He wasn't calling the hospital or a doctor or something, was he? She didn't have the money to pay for that! And besides... she probably only had something like a little cold. Nothing to get so worked up over!

Once he had finished speaking to whomever he had phoned and snapped the device shut, she immediately pounced. "W-What was that about?" she stammered, clasping the top blanket with one hand. "You didn't call a doctor, did you?"

"No," he stated simply.

She vaguely realized it probably wasn't her business who he had been calling, but curiosity got the best of her. "So what was that about?"

"I called my company and arranged to take the rest of the day off."

Blue eyes went wide. "Huh? Why would you do that?"

He gave her a look as if to say 'isn't it obvious?', before gesturing around him. "If this keeps up, you'll be sick all damn week."

The redhead's stare was incredulous. "You mean......you're going to...?"

A slight flush rose to his cheeks, further confusing her, but he quickly turned away to hide it. "You have no family to take care of you, right? And Mytho is away on business until tomorrow afternoon."

"I-I guess, but..."

"No arguments," he cut in quickly. "You don't want to go to the hospital or something, correct?"

"Yeah..." she reluctantly agreed, then coughed again.

He turned back around to face her, cheeks still holding just a little hint of red to them as he studied her with an almost soft expression on his normally-stoic features. "Then let me handle this. You'll be better in no time."

--------------

"...All right, so I was...concerned about you. A little."

"Whoa. Wait. You actually ADMIT it? Are you feeling okay, Fakir?"

"Just don't let it go to your head, moron."

--------------

Something in the deepest reaches of the green eyes softened almost imperceptibly. "The longer you play this game, the more it's going to hurt when you finally allow yourself to realize the truth, Ahiru. Can't you see that?"

--------------

"I...don't want you to go."

--------------

"Maybe I missed you."

--------------

"Don't go."

--------------

Something inside of Ahiru constricted tightly as her heart rate picked up again, shallow breaths releasing from her slightly parted lips. She closed her eyes and willed herself to calm down, her fingers blindly finding the edge of the envelope and pulling the packet off of the floor. Unconsciously hugging the folder to her chest, she carefully rose from the floor and inhaled deeply.

Blue eyes opened and stared straight down the hall at the waiting onyx doors, silently willing away any more hesitations she could have. If she could get the truth from him and cease this silly awkward game between them, then perhaps she could finally be allowed some peace of mind. Everything could go back to normal. Maybe they could even agree to forget all about it, clear the air, and go on being the friends she felt they had become over the months.

Each thought gave the redhead more confidence as she began stepping in the direction of Fakir's office, her pace starting to pick up with the heat of anticipation licking at her heels. In no time at all, she was standing directly before the doors that barred her from her employer, and as suddenly as it had come, the confidence completely vanished. The pounding of her heart in her ears echoed the feeling inside of her that somehow knew there would be a drastic change if she allowed herself to step inside and face him.

And change scared her. The unbalance and uncertainty... it made her very uneasy. And ironically, that's why she was here. She could wait no longer to rid herself of those fears and feelings that she was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with. There was no need for change - everything was great with Mytho. She was happy. She had a steady job. And now... she would just strengthen her resolve enough to face Fakir over the incident, get her needed closure, and run back into that sunlit field of daisies.

Uncertainty was dangerous. It put everything she worked for at stake. And she couldn't let it stay like this any longer. These feelings that had haunted her after the kiss begged to be put to rest. She would understand if it was a mistake or too sudden for him to even consider. Ahiru didn't plan on lecturing him or berating him for what he had done. After all, she was well aware that she had instinctively returned the gesture.

A mistake. A blunder. An unexpected change. That's all it was.

...Wasn't it?

Raising her petite hand to the hard surface, she knocked upon it with more strength than she actually felt inside and rocked back on her feet, swallowing roughly as she waited for admittance.

---------------------

Fakir had been so dazed staring at the blinking neon numbers of the digital clock on his desk that the abrupt noise startled him violently. Barely preventing his office chair from tipping over backwards, he grabbed a hold of his desk to steady himself and lifted his eyes to the door in disbelief.

This was the wrong time for any visitors, especially with his current...situation. And he made sure to instruct his other employees that he was not to be disturbed after hours. Nearly all of them would have gone home by now anyway.

Who would have the nerve to--

"Fakir?"

He immediately stilled as the voice penetrated his eardrums - clear, feminine, with a bit of a squeak - and he knew who that voice belonged to. The CEO never felt a stronger desire to disappear into thin air than he did now. Of all people it was her - what did he do to deserve this kind of torture?!

"What do you want?" he snapped more harshly than intended, fueled by the aggravation running rampant through his veins.

Beyond the door, Ahiru recoiled. It wasn't that she expected a warm welcome, but hadn't they at least come past the coldness already? Or was he purposely trying to push her away because of what happened? Feeling indignant over that particular thought, the redheaded girl's eyebrows drew together as she placed a hand firmly on the handle of the door---

And pushed.

Fakir's green eyes widened as the doors to his personal office swung inward soundlessly without his consent, revealing the very girl he had been contemplating in his solitude. His throat suddenly went dry as his lower body tensed further at the sight of her - hair unbound from the bun she had worn to work, but the same short skirt and long-sleeved jacket hugged her modest curves. He shifted in his seat as he attempted to look as indifferent as possible, collecting a small stack of papers on his desk and clearing his throat. Night Ink's CEO didn't dare even look up from the pointless task, desperately fighting the arousal that was becoming much worse now that temptation herself was in plain sight. "What do you need?" He nearly cringed when his voice cracked on the last word and quickly reached for his stapler, haphazardly stuffing the paper packet's edge underneath it and slamming down. "EUGH!" Fakir pulled a reddened index finger from underneath, grimacing in pain. Apparently not having paid attention to his own fingers' placement had been quite a blunder that was very uncharacteristic of him.

Ahiru blinked at the unusual spectacle from her position just inside the room, taking a tentative step forward. "Er um... Are you okay?"

"FINE!" he bit out, mentally cursing himself for his carelessness. What in the world could he say to get her out? And damn quickly? He couldn't possibly handle this problem when she was right there in front of him!

Confidence was wisping away from the young redhead again as she closed the doors behind her, turning to clutch the envelope in her hands almost like a lifeline as she stared at her employer. He seemed irritated - no, he almost certainly was. Maybe she could just drop the folder off and try again tomorrow? ...No! No, she couldn't do that. She had spent enough time stressing about this already. At least if he was already angry about something, he wasn't likely to beat around the bush.

Swallowing, Ahiru started walking toward the CEO's desk, her steps careful, but firm. And his head snapped up again as she came closer, the stapler problem swiftly forgotten as the other became all too apparent once more. He needed to think - something to drive her out, something to relieve the tension that was curling tightly around him from the inside out...

She stopped right in front of the desk, glancing down at the packet in her hands briefly before she lifted the stare to him and swallowed back any lingering apprehension before her lips parted to speak, "I... forgot to leave this before I left." Holding the manilla folder out, she waited for him to grasp it, eyes watching him warily. Just how could she bring up what she really needed to talk to him about?

Fakir nearly exhaled aloud in relief, the tension slowly easing out of his system. He should have figured it was something simple and uncomplicated - and damn, was he ever grateful for that. Taking the offered envelope, he inclined his head slightly in thanks. "This could have waited until tomorrow," he informed her with one minutely raised brow. "But appreciated, just the same."

Despite delivering what she had intended, Ahiru did not budge from her position, body standing still as a statue. Her vibrant blue eyes contrasted the lack of movement and were darting all about the room restlessly, fixing anywhere and everywhere but upon the man sitting before her. Noting with a mild inward stir that she had not bid a hasty retreat after passing the papers, the CEO cleared his throat. "Did you forget something else?"

A positively unnatural smile curled onto her lips as her gaze flicked down to meet his again. "I--I just um--" The blue eyes broke contact and resumed their relentless rapid search upon the room, until they fixed on something and widened just a tad. "Oh! Your curtains! I can draw them for you before I leave!" And without waiting for his approval, the redhead bounced over to the far end of the office where the long velvet emerald fabric was collected and tied back with a cord.

Although he opened his mouth to inquire why the hell she wasn't leaving, Fakir could not help but follow her with his eyes as the short skirt moved in time with her hips to some unheard rhythm while she made her way across the expanse of his private office. Her legs were short, but shapely and smooth in appearance. He wondered how it might feel to run his hands down the length of them and test the softness for himself...

'No,' he chided himself forcefully, wrenching his gaze from the young woman and staring furiously down at the surface of his desk. He was a powerful name in the publishing world and he had an iron will. He could not--would not succumb to such an untimely fire of lust for his own employee, no matter what she meant to him or how much he wanted her. He had control, dammit. She was not going to slip through his defenses this time, no matter how handicapped he was at the moment. There would be a time and a place for discussion and sorting things out. And now was certainly not that time.

Unaware of the utter turmoil the dark-haired man was silently drowning in, his female assistant proceeded to undo the golden ties that bound the curtains, letting the material wave free. She snatched the end without a second thought and began tugging rich fabric back the way she had come, slowly blocking out the setting sun from spilling its golden light into the room. Fakir could feel her warmth radiating as she came closer and balled one hand on the top of his desk, as if hanging tightly onto his flagging resistance. This was absurd. She was the picture of innocence and here he was trying desperately to hold himself back from grabbing her and kissing her senseless.

Ahiru dropped the plush material at the halfway point and passed right by him without a care, a hummed tune on her lips as she moved to the opposite end of the room and continued her task. A simple repeat pattern of what she had done with the other side was all it took to finish, the final flourish of the two ends meeting at the center effectively blocking the last traces of the day's natural light from invading. "There," she stated with a fake sense of accomplishment, dusting her hands in an overly dramatic manner for such a menial task.

Amidst her mind, the redhead was vehemently berating herself. Why couldn't she just come out and say it? She desired an answer - the elusive conclusion lying in wait had been driving her to very near breaking point over the course of the past two weeks. All she needed was to clear that air and then she would be free of endless dwelling on those phantom presses of firm lips to her own. She had bought herself more time with curtain escapade and yet still found herself still completely unprepared to tackle the topic that haunted her thoughts and dreams alike. Sucking in a short breath, she straightened herself and hurriedly placed her small figure before his grand desk again, clasping her hands up in front of her chest and squaring her shoulders. His head was bowed down, dark hair falling over his face in a manner that obscured his features from plain view.

She hesitantly cleared her throat to get his attention. "Fakir?"

Very languidly, his neck craned to pull his face back into her view---and when she saw the pure malice that was plastered there, the girl stumbled back a step in shock, a tiny gasp releasing from her mouth. The dimness of the room seemed to add an almost sinister appearance to the expression on his face. She was suddenly reminded of the first time they met.

"Get out," he growled low, green eyes smoldering darkly in warning. "I will not tell you again."

And she looked as though she were prepared to heed his command and flee - blue eyes broad with a mixture of surprise and a tinge of hurt from the harshness of his words. He held his breath, determined to keep the hostile glare in place and unwavering until she turned tail and ran. Explanations could come at another time. Fakir made a mental note to later apologize to her and elaborate on some simple lie reflecting a poor mood. He could mend the pieces tomorrow morning when she showed for work as usual. All that mattered now was that she didn't stray close again and didn't strain that weak and fragile thread of control he was just barely managing to keep a shaky grasp of.

Ahiru finally turned away and he let out his breath through his nose, inwardly patting himself on the back for his resolve and restraint. However, his mental celebration swooped in too quickly - she had barely taken two steps toward the exit before she halted and her shoulders rose, arms falling ramrod straight at her sides. And when she unexpectedly whirled back around to face him, his eyebrows flew up to his hair in astonishment of what greeted his sight, completely wiping the ruthlessly cruel facade from his features in one swift blow.

It seemed that his assistant had also been holding herself by a thread. One that had clearly just snapped.

Gone was the defeated expression and every trace of melancholy and fright from her deep blue gaze, replaced with a raging blue fire that froze him where he sat. Her brows were furiously drawn together, shoulders puffed up like a bird with its feathers rubbed the wrong way, and her lips pulled back in something almost reminiscent of a snarl. "Get out?" she hissed quietly, betraying the twisted visage that spoke of mauling the CEO at any given moment. "Is that all you have to say?" Her eyes blazed with defiance, not even allowing him a scarce moment to reply before she stalked forward and snatched the paper packet she had come bearing to him, carelessly throwing the folder behind her. "And what if I don't?" she challenged heatedly, her voice rising with the anger reflected in her gaze. "What if I'm sick and tired of your 'hot and cold' attitude and how you can just---just sit there and ignore whatever you want to!?"

What little blessed receding arousal had left him suddenly swarmed the startled CEO with a dangerous shower of inner sparks. The object of his fascination and desire had morphed from the naive and harmless innocent to a fierce beauty that looked ready to rage war across the scarce expanse of his polished mahogany desk. Fakir had seen her angry before, as they bantered nearly on a daily basis. There was always a note of stubborn obstinace to her that he was familiar with. But this was on a level he had never before witnessed from the bubbly girl. She was utterly alive with a fury in her gaze that set his very nerve endings exploding into flames.

SLAM. One slim and small palm came flat down on his desk, long red hair blazing out behind the young woman as she screeched, "Nothing to say to me, huh?! No more unspoken threats? No more calm dismissals of anything you don't care about or don't want to deal with!?"

He was still stunned into silence from her change, but a small speck of resentment was growing and climbing as the initial shock began to simmer. How could she stand here and so vehemently accuse him when she herself had yet to even begin to convey what her issue was in the first place?

Logical thought was lost to Ahiru. With a shrill noise, she turned on heel and sought the manilla folder she had earlier discarded and glowered down at the packet, kicking it in a childish display of temper. "I can't STAND it when you act like this! As if you had absolutely no idea that it was driving me mad! But what do you care!? You selfish---selfish man!" She twisted back around to face him, no sign of calm upon her face in the slightest. "It only matters when YOU want to take care of it! When YOU want to deal with it!"

Fakir's patience was reaching its limit. Still she had not even disclosed what the hell she was so damn pissed off about, and yet she just kept on throwing insults at him regardless. His eyebrows lowered over unamused emerald eyes which had retrieved a cold gleam of their own as they fixed on her. "Before you start hurling any more your immature nonsense, maybe you should--"

"OH, JUST SHUT UP!" she interrupted in a shout as her hands shot into the air. A messy concoction of reproach, anger, and surprise contorted onto his face as his jaw snapped shut. "I don't want to hear your excuses or your dumb 'I'm much better and smarter than you' crap! I want you to STOP PLAYING GAMES!"

Fakir grit his teeth, uncaring of his body's persistent issue as he rose from his office chair to stand at full height. "Playing games?" he inquired incredulously, voice laced with disbelief.

"Why ELSE would you do this?" she demanded, coming closer. "I'd like to at least believe that you care a little after all we've been through! And that means you're toying with me! I just know it!"

"That doesn't even make sense!" he retorted immediately as she took another furious step forward. His own barrage of high strung emotions didn't allow him to focus on the heavy surges her behavior was sending through his form.

"Of course it does!" Her face flushed with the magnitude of her anger. "You're acting like you don't even remember what you DID two weeks ago!"

Even amidst the dangerous clash of arousal and fury, the dark-haired man was able to fit two and two together with ease. There was only one thing she could be referring to - the very incident that had been plaguing him ever since its occurrence. He stared at her, dumb-founded for a brief moment, features still screwed up with stubborn anger that had not yet dispersed. Why in the world would she be so concerned---so downright livid over what had happened?

"Oh, now you remember, don't you?!" she fired off hotly as she interpreted his sudden silence for understanding, crossing her arms and placing herself almost directly in front of him. "So convenient that you forgot all about it! Clearly you can just kiss whoever you want and confuse them and not bat an eye!"

"Stop," he abruptly commanded, and quickly held up a hand when she looked ready to interrupt all over again, solidly freezing her with his intense eyes. "Stop." He could see that she was inwardly fuming at being told to hold back, her cheeks taking on an even deeper shade of red, and he wasted no time in seizing the subject at hand. "You're actually implying that your outrageous outburst is because of that?"

"Yes," she affirmed immediately and swiveled her head to the side, mouth hanging down in a troubled frown. "I can't stand it anymore. Two whole weeks and you...you..." Unable to find the words of choice, she faced him again, blue eyes full of determination as they boldly met his own. "Just tell me that it was a mistake - that you want to forget about it or even already have!"

Masking his amazement was difficult, even though he was still visibly offended by her attitude. Why would she have dwelled on what he had done? Hadn't she simply forgotten it and lapsed right back into her ever-waiting fantasy?

...Obviously not. And it had affected her so greatly that she had all but burst at the seams right before his stunned eyes. Unbidden, Fakir felt an enormous stab of hope - and something else he dared not send a drop of attention to. Not only had she kissed him back two weeks prior, but now the entire ordeal had pulled her past the rosy fields of her doomed relationship.

She was within his reach - ready to awaken from the dream. He could feel it.

"Why won't you just stop this!?" her voice had broken almost into a plead, taking his wordlessness as a sign for refusal to comply. "Are you enjoying it? Is there something you still hold against me? Tell me!"

His words released slow and deliberate, "There was no mistake."

She blinked, regarding his expression as his creased features slackened out to an almost cool indifference. And in that same mere moment, her own ferocious intent fell to a puzzled look, the word that left her lips barely a whisper. "...What?"

"I'm not playing games, Ahiru," he clarified softly, closing one step of the remaining distance between them.

She struggled to withhold the confidence within her, but found it increasingly difficult to look angry or reproachful when he was staring at her in a manner that made her insides mesh together uncomfortably. "Then....Then why?" she inquired, her voice suddenly small.

"Do you really want to know?"

It wasn't spoken at all like a threat, but she felt that something...something she held close to her would surely shatter with the result. And yet, not knowing was ten times worse. She ached for the answer and the heat overflowing from her scornful tirade was making her deathly impatient. She swallowed and ran the tip of her tongue over her lips. "Yes."

And just as he opened his mouth to speak, her blue eyes went wide, both of her hands thrown out haphazardly in gesture to stop him. "I mean no! No..." Fakir's eyebrows drew together in confusion and agitation as he waited for her to elaborate. Ahiru looked away.

How foolish could she be? Jeopardizing everything that she had so quickly - risking it all for an answer that she knew was going to force more change into her life. Hadn't she come here to put the rightful distance back between them? First she lost her temper over his indifference and dismissal and now she was practically inviting him to screw with her mind some more. Was she a glutton for self-inflicted punishment? "I..." she started uncertainly, side-glancing at his impatient green gaze. "I'm sorry. I got...carried away and yelled I don't know why I---I'll go now." As she muttered the last bit, she shuffled her feet and moved to take a step toward the onyx doors.

Fakir acted purely on instinct as he lurched forward and grabbed the sleeve of her business jacket, preventing her escape. "Wait."

Her breath hitched in her throat, eyes not daring to stray in his direction. She could feel the firm grip of his fingers through the thin, crisp fabric of her coat and it made her heart start to thump at an unnatural pace against her chest. The resolve was quickly crumbling again. Already her feet felt too heavy to move.

"Why did you come?" he implored, not relinquishing his hold upon her.

Ahiru looked down at her feet. It was time to set things straight, like she had originally intended. No more open ends could be left to dangle. "I...I just wanted us to clear things up, so everything could go back to normal. It feels like there's a tension between us that needs to be eased." Like now, her mind added unhelpfully as she shifted her weight.

Back to normal. Back to her fantasy. Despite the needle of disappointment that lodged into him, Fakir couldn't help but feel that she wasn't being entirely truthful. If that had been the case, then his reluctance to bring up the subject shouldn't have bothered her so much. And not to full blown fury, surely. If she wanted to forget about it, why couldn't she? There was no reason for her to dwell on him of all people. And yet she asked him to tell her that it was a mistake. What could that mean?

"I...don't believe you," he spoke at last and felt her arm promptly tense under his fingertips. "You were acting sickenly cheerful and then blew up like a volcano out of nowhere. What are you hiding?"

She stiffened, throat suddenly feeling dry and scratchy. Now that the anger had receded, she felt...vulnerable. If she waited any longer, she might not even have the resolve to coax herself to leave. "I...I really should go," she croaked out, taking a hesitant step in the direction of the door and pulling the material of her jacket against his insistent fingertips.

"Don't go."

Two simple words, but they caused the girl to cease her slow retreat immediately, an audible gasp falling out from her parted lips. She remembered those words.

'Don't go.'

'Maybe I missed you.'

'I don't want you to go.'

'Ahiru...'

"Ahiru?"

Cautiously, her eyes veered back over to meet the waiting green gaze. She could see the intensity of pure emotion stirred amidst the emerald color, meshed into such an odd and burning concoction of feelings that she couldn't pinpoint or focus on just one. And it was the chaos of those eyes that made her feel as though a shield--or some protective barrier she had been holding up was peeling away and crumbling. The fields of bright sunshine and wildflowers of a dozen colors where Mytho waited with a smile all faded out into the background, a crack slicing through the perfect image and breaking it into countless pieces.

And then all that was left was him. Nothing but the simple image of a man dressed in black, dark hair tied back, eyes focused on her. And she knew the answer then---the truth. The one she had been hiding and stubbornly denying for the agonizing length of two weeks.

"I...don't want to go." The honesty of her own words stung her tongue. Only now, did she have the courage to say them, and to bear the burn of the canvas of her beautiful fantasy turning to ashes. This... was what she truly wanted.

Fakir was deathly silent for a long moment after her admission, eyes never once straying from her own. He wanted to ask if he had heard correctly, or if perhaps his own imagination had carried him too far off course again, but the words didn't form and not a single sound released from his constricted throat.

What good was denial anymore? She was here - she was real - she was beautiful - and she had just admitted to not wishing to leave him.

Swallowing the disbelieving lump that had caught in his throat, the dark-haired man raised his free hand to her face, curling his fingers into the red fringe that hung by her ear and rested his palm around the curve of her jaw. Her eyelids fluttered shut upon his touch, and that tiny gesture was it took for the remaining wall of hesitation and restraint to crash down around him.

In mere moments, his lips were pressed firmly to hers, administering a gentle kiss. The action was soft, wordlessly gauging for her reaction. He had kept enough of his restraint in tact not to scare her with the sheer force of his feelings. She had fled like a frightened animal before, and he wasn't going to risk losing her to his own impatience again.

The kiss had not taken the redhead by surprise this time. Not only had she been prepared, but she had guilty admitted to herself that she wanted him to kiss her. And sure enough, he had taken her unspoken invitation and done just as she had been secretly hoping for. Now the sensation had consumed her - the movement of his lips against hers sent a warm tingle throughout her body. No wonder it had haunted her so - nothing had ever affected her like this. As shameful as it was for her to admit, the few times Mytho had kissed her, it had been quick and left a strange void within her heart afterward. As though it wasn't... as if it hadn't even happened at all. And she didn't want to be forced to realize that Rue's presence had also always played a part. Only Fakir had tried to help her accept the truth of it all.

And she could tell that he was different. Even just the mild pressure of his lips spoke only to her--for her. And that thought--the feelings that fluttered to life inside of her... she wanted to embrace it all. She had been too adamant of her 'perfect' relationship to dare allow the real image of what she yearned for - who she yearned for - to come into focus.

They cared for one another. They understood each other on a deeper level. They fought. They shared their hopes, their dreams, and even the furthest reaches of their own nightmares and fears. It wasn't perfect, and it was always building off of every mistake, every step forward and back. It was giving and taking, selfish and selfless, everything flawed and so painfully real.

He was what she so desperately been longing for underneath the surface.

And that was all that she needed to push her forward - tenderly meeting the graze of his lips and leaning into the kiss. This time the action was deliberate and not at all an accident. He deserved her honesty. And the young man took it with pleasure. Any thought of doubt had flashed out of existence - she knew and she understood just what he was saying without the words. And she had accepted him openly. The small returned pressure of her mouth sent a surge of desire from him, hastily tearing down another shred of what held him in check. He leaned in more eagerly, mouth opening over hers to suckle her bottom lip between his own. She tasted faintly of a fruit he could not name, sweet and delicious, and leaving him craving for more.

As quickly as the kiss began, the need to breathe finally broke them apart. Hooded green met misty blue as their faces retracted, each studying the depths of the other. The dimness of the room could not completely disguise the heated flush to their cheeks, nor the obvious attraction---and even something much more than that, lodged into the crevices of the locked gazes. It was almost like a magnetic pull that begged them to come together again. And Fakir had been about to give into that aching urge - ceasing his impending advance only with a startling moment of clarity for his surroundings.

Ignoring Ahiru's blink of confusion, Fakir glanced up and furrowed his brows at the tiny red eyes strategically placed about the room. How could that fine detail have slipped his mind? Well, perhaps he already knew why... but that didn't change the fact that he had to act now while his mind was still functioning properly. He couldn't allow them to fall prey to that careless and potentially-problematic mistake. It was bad enough that the kiss had surely already been recorded. And so the CEO hastily flicked his gaze down to his desk and moved the hand from her hair, reaching for the rectangular object his eyes had settled upon.

With one silent click, the bright crimson dots faded into nothing.

His attention switched back to her with almost lightning speed, glad to be rid of such an annoying distraction from what he preferred to be focused upon. She didn't question him or make any move to flee, waiting patiently - even in what appeared to be anticipation for his return. And he wasn't about to disappoint her. "Ahiru..." he breathed as his hand sought the back of her head, cradling it to position his own as his lips descended upon hers again. A tiny noise released from her throat as his mouth closed over hers, which indirectly provoked him to kiss her more deeply. And she wasted no time and returning with the press of her own lips, her free arm coming up between them and resting flat against the crisp designer suit clothing his front. Her fingers sought the area of his heart, which fluttered and thumped tangibly even beneath the heavy layer of material.

Fakir was now positively certain, as her fingers glided over his breast pocket, that they had both been searching for and wanted this. It was apparent they both fought each other and themselves up to this point, and had now finally thrown the towel in and relinquished the desire to win a battle that had been a losing one from the start.

Never had losing been so breathtakingly wonderful.

There was an undeniable sense of belonging flaring to life between them, along with the desire for completion. They melded and fit together in the most awkward, but also the most right way humanly possible. And being this close and involved even just by the mouth - Fakir could feel that gaping maw of ache start to build and expand with each brush of the lips and every lingering taste of her on his tongue.

Oh god, how he needed her. How he wanted her.

With a shuddering intake of air, she pulled away just far enough to allow his name to slip past her swollen lips, the hand upon his jacket finding the adjoining crest and curling down to grip into it. He kissed the corner of her mouth before he moved along her jaw, briefly detaching until his warm breath caressed the contours of her ear.

"You're driving me insane," he rasped into the appendage, the hand gripping her arm swiftly relocating to her waist and tugging her closer. "I can't stop thinking about you...about touching you..."

He could feel her shudder through the small vibrations in her lower back and he bent his head to the side, teeth carefully catching the outer curve of her ear. Her little gasp of surprise sent a thrill that rattled through him to the very core. If she kept responding like this, he wasn't sure he would be able to coax himself to stop. Even his darkest of fantasies did not hold a candle, or even a miniscule spark to the reality of holding her and kissing her. It was intoxicating to the point of being maddening.

The clutch of her fingers into his coat became stronger as his tongue wandered out tease the area he had lightly bitten, leaving a moist trail in its wake. Her following attempt to lean back was accommodated by his firm clutch into the locks at the base of her head, easing slowly to allow her the room to flex. He could feel her hips move just below the position of his hand on her side, which touched against something solid, and Fakir vaguely became aware that she was pressed up to the edge of his desk. His attention, however, was still far too occupied with finding ways to make her squirm and release more interesting sounds.

"Fakir," she panted, the rush of heat from his touch upon her forcing her eyes to close to the fire that licked enticingly. Ahiru felt his lips travel down and meet the connection of her ear and neck, his nose brushing the skin as his lips moved their way across the tender area in a phantom caress. His hands were moving - digits roaming through her hair and over the slope of her hip, and she inadvertently leaned into those coaxing fingertips, wanting more.

As much of a clumsy and 'head in the clouds' ditz as she could be, Ahiru knew what was going on. Life might have sheltered her, but high school had opened the doors to what attraction and desire were. Doors she had closed out of sheer embarrassment of her own curiosity.

The memory from her Senior Prom suddenly flooded in, unbidden, as though the gates holding it had collapsed.

All she had been meaning to do was check to see that her hair had not come completely undone from the elaborate mess of red curls she had pinned it into. And the girls bathroom was just the place for touch-ups - it was a mere few yards from the opening to the gym where the music boomed and the figures danced and chatted the night away. She had slipped away from her two friends with a little apologetic wave, deciding she had better fix up her hair before the entire senior class found a layer of pins on the floor beneath their feet.

Expecting to find an empty bathroom - or at least occupied by other girls with similar concerns to hers, Ahiru had instead stumbled in on something unexpected: In the far corner of the bathroom, there were two figures on the floor, a blonde girl with her head thrown back on a moan, arms wrapped around an unmistakable male brunette with his mouth latched to her neck.

Ahiru had found herself frozen. With what, she wasn't sure, but she could not take her eyes off of the display the two were shamelessly giving in the open. A flush quickly found her cheeks when she noted that the boy's tux top was dangling from one arm, shirt partway unbuttoned, and one hand had secured around the female's tiny waist, his other lost underneath the piles of iridescent green fabric bunched around her middle. The two were clearly very involved - the top of the girl's dress was undone in folds that flocked much lower than a dress top should go and the view of her indecency was only blocked by the guy's broad shoulder as he leaned up abruptly and kissed the blonde girl full on the mouth.

And still the redhead had unabashedly stared at them, hair problem forgotten and her own breath quickening as her mind told her that she should flee - but the sight of their passion kept her feet bolted to the floor. They moved in an odd and rhythmic harmony, one of her arms sliding across his back as her other hand settled on his inner thigh and rubbed, forcing a groan from the male's occupied mouth. The blonde girl squeaked and flushed when his arm twisted from its obscurity beneath her numerous skirts, his other fingers leaving the grip of her side to glide up over the fabric of her dress until it reached her bared chest.

"Ahhhh!" the girl had suddenly screamed as the young man's arm moved faster underneath her dress. And that noise had finally shocked Ahiru to her senses. With a tiny, labored breath, she turned and ran out of the bathroom, not daring to look back and see if the two had taken any notice of her presence. And she dashed all the way through the dance hall, breathing hard and clumsily tripping and bumping into disgruntled couples dancing. She wasn't even sure if her apologies had reached her lips or not - all that she had in mind was one clear goal: getting out. And fast. She felt so hot and needed to leave the clustered collection of bodies before the heat consumed her alive.

Once to the safety beyond the heavy iron doors and the cool night air outside greeting her with its welcomed blessing, she sought refuge against the shadowed back of the school, paying no heed to the group of smokers nearby that she passed along the way. Leaning up against the brick wall for balance, she brought a hand to her rapidly beating heart and attempted to calm herself, sliding down to sit on the gravely ground in her light yellow dress. She hid her face her in hands and stayed that way for a long while, knees pulled up to her chest protectively. The flaming fire in her face and neck and other places that she did not want to acknowledge had not ceased, despite the welcoming breeze that drifted by to soothe her.

She had been through sexual education, of course. Way back in eighth grade. And it was clear that the couple she found had been engaged in more than just making out. Those dumb educational videos never showed what it looked like - and she never imagined that it could be like... like that. The pair had her mesmerized with their clash of fluid and rough movements, and they were clearly enjoying it in ways she couldn't possibly comprehend from sight alone.

And with every fiber of her being, Ahiru struggled to lock away what she had witnessed that night. The innocent safety of her fairy tale books and budding romance novels washed the guilt of what she had seen away. The fantasy worlds had it right - everything was pure as pristine new-fallen snow between true lovers. That was what she would strive for. She never wanted to wonder about that heated display ever again.

Now the ribbons she had tightly bound over memory and its effects on her had come undone - unknowingly, Fakir had once again unearthed the truth hidden beneath the constructed cover. That deep, shameful secret of hers had reached light again with his touch and husky tone of his voice: Oh, how she had wanted to experience something as deep and intimate as that couple she had watched, to want and be wanted in that carnal way that would set her nerves on fire!

And that slow burn was heightening within her body now. Fakir's touches were not nearly as bold as the scene she barged in on, but she was absolutely positive that it was him who was awakening every dormant desire within her. It made sense now, why she had shied away from her thoughts of him and everything he was sparking to life. But she was done running and hiding from what she really and truly wanted.

As if to accent that very final thought, her grip upon his clothing fell slack and arched up, fingers slipping over the juncture of his neck and shoulder to curve around behind his neck. He didn't object at all to the distance between their forms lessening, and he promptly opened his lips over a patch of skin on her neck and pulled it into his mouth, savoring the sweetness of her flesh. Her mouth opened in a soundless 'o' shape, eyes wide from the wet tug of her skin beneath the closed lips, and her free hand dove into his dark locks, seeking refuge amidst the coarse layers of hair.

Fakir's remaining control over his actions was quickly failing. She was all but entirely encouraging him to continue, without so much as a word or anything that could be considered a refusal or warning to stop. Was she crazy? Did she know she was playing with fire? Her timid reciprocations, accepting as they were, spoke of her inexperience. Not that he knew everything he was doing either - but instinct, and the churning desire rippling through his veins made him more than aware of what he wanted to do to her.

"Ahiru," he murmured, tracing his tongue up the expanse of her neck in a lazy path of saliva. His hot breath passed into her ear as raised his head high enough to hover alongside of it. She gave a twitch and an incomprehensible noise through her throat to note that she was listening. "Do you want to know just how much I feel for you?" he questioned in a seductive tone, the skin of his lips just scarcely brushing her ear lobe. "Just how real you are to me... the passion I hold solely for you alone..."

As if to accent the intent behind his words, his hand released from its perch along the back of her neck and snaked down to settle over her clothed chest, kneading his palm underneath her right mound. Her hand immediately clenched into his hair, a short string of pants flowing out from her lips breath by breath. His words and actions alike excited her in a way she couldn't even begin to convey, sending a tingle all the way through her lithe body that made the small hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

"I want you," he continued huskily as two fingers tweaked the shielded peak of her breast to rapt attention. "So badly that it hurts..." And with that clearly agonized admission, for the first time, she felt his groin come in contact with the front of her skirt, the extent of his desire made obvious and sending a sudden rush of blood to her head and center area at the same time. He stilled, but kept himself in place, as though allowing her to let his intentions sink in before she could form any response.

"Please," her voice came out soft and yet underlined with a note of yearning as she clutched at him. "Oh please..."

A pleasant chill ran down his spine from the pleading tone. To think that she would ask for him... to openly and eagerly invite him to what he wanted more than anything. It was surreal in a painstakingly real way that aroused him to dangerous levels. Fakir brought his lips to hers and savagely kissed her, the lust and shower of unnamed feelings taking him closer to the point of no return. And he was determined to drag her into the all-consuming flames with him, to share every burning moment in mutual rapture. But still, the unhazed part of his mind whispered to him, begging him to make certain that Ahiru wanted to be with him before he went any further.

His voice was hoarse against her mouth as he forced the inquiry, "Do you want this?"

"Yes," she squeaked readily as he cupped the left side of her chest hard. "Fakir... you. It has to be you."

Pure unbridled desire flooded through him like wildfire. He had wanted nothing more than to hear her say that - to accept him this way, to want him as a man. His lips all but crashed upon and attacked hers, tongue sneaking out to press almost demandingly for entrance. The fingers at her hip drew possessively around her small back and carried her flush against him. She had sealed her fate. He would not tolerate anyone else touching her again - not Mytho, not anyone.

He would make her his. And he would be hers.

Having been so far lost in his tongue's exploration of her plump lips, it suddenly dawned on him that one of her hands was working to fumble with the buttons of his jacket, only so far having managed to free a single one. Reluctantly, he leaned back away from her, detaching her hands from him as he made quick work of opening his suit coat, proceeding to shrug the heavy material onto the floor. Only the puzzled luster in blue eyes met him as he rapidly followed suit with all but tearing the buttons of her pink business coat open, then pulling her arms up and removing the jacket with similar carelessness to his own. He raised an eyebrow at her expression. "They were getting in the way," he informed her with a smirk. "And you're as clumsy with clothing as you are with everything else. Clearly you needed assistance."

Her eyebrows narrowed sharply, the change unmistakable even in the shadowed interior they were within. The redhead was quite plainly unamused by his little taunt of her inabilities to perform simple tasks. But instead of opening her mouth to retort, her right hand shot out and grabbed his tie, using it to yank him down toward her as she initiated a kiss of her own.

Full of surprises, this girl, he thought for not the first time. And he was not going to utter a single complaint. If it was a battle she wanted, then a battle she would get. Using the tiny sliver of distance she had opened between her lips, he forced his tongue beyond them and entered into the waiting cavern of her mouth. He felt her hand tighten in its snare around the cloth about his neck, her own tongue lifting up as if unsure how to handle the intrusion. He slid his wet appendage against hers, testing the smooth texture and experimentally pushing against it in form of a challenge.

The sensual tease was enough to coax hers into a similar greeting, and then as if a thread holding them in check had snapped, the fight began. His head tilted to the side as he penetrated deeper into her mouth, unrelenting in his search of the moist crevices newly bared to him. The fingers wrapped about his tie clenched as she met his lips harshly, tongue wildly darting about as if to thwart the intruder. The resulting barrage was messy and slick with the heat of their mouths, only coming to an end when she reluctantly detached to gasp for the much-needed blessing of oxygen to fill her lungs.

His half smile returned as he regarded her with a playful light in his eyes, clear triumph shining from within the dark depths. Loosening his tie, which was still within her unforgiving grasp, he let it fall free with her hand. And she allowed it to flutter uselessly to the floor. "I think you've had your fair share of advantages," he admonished.

And without allowing her a even a moment to catch her breath and reply, he pulled her by the clutch around her waist, guiding her around in an arc to change their positions. Now she faced the window, the final traces of twilight slipping through the miniscule opening of the curtains to settle in a sliver of faded violet light on the crown of her hair. Still retrieving her lost breath, Ahiru could only stare at him with a forced concentration, trying to discern what he was going to do next. And he did not leaving her wondering for long. Both of his hands found her shoulders and planted firmly, applying pressure as he stepped her backward until her body came in contact with the obscured window. Then he pressed her up a little, moving the girl into a semi-seated position on the edge of the sill, the curtain taught and bunched up from the impact of her weight, and her short legs dangling down against the tall sill, feet hanging above the carpeting. Angled down, her small pair of high heeled shoes slipped right off of her feet and flopped down to the floor.

Fakir realized his office was probably not very fitting for this kind of situation - the lack of any plush furniture and abundance of hard surfaces was a drawback, but he was far too impatient to let that hinder him. The desk was also ruled out, as it was too piled up with things he wished to keep in an orderly manner. But the window, at least, was curtained with soft fabric, and the sill was a very appropriate and convenient height.

Now that she was settled, red hair laced with static and fanning about her in appealing disarray, he moved his hands and deftly went to work with freeing the front of her white blouse, eager to drink in the sight of more of her. For the moment, she did nothing to retaliate, her hands finding the edge of the sill and planting on either side of her as she watched his shoulder muscles bunch the sleek white fabric of his white cotton shirt.

How could she have been as senseless as to blindly filter out just how attractive he was? His tan skin contrasted to the plain white with its blazing copper tone, dark hair spilling just over the edges of the material around the base of his neck, mussed up and half released from its collective gathering at the back of his head - clearly the fault of her kneading fingers that had previously explored there, the lines of his jaw were chiseled, rough angles that gave his face an appealing shape, and most noticeably, his eyes were an intense green shade, now darkened heavily as a result of their actions.

Handsome did not even near cut it. He was unbearably sexy.

Coherent thought ended there - she felt the air lick in tendrils against the open skin of her chest and midriff, closely followed by strong hands that each met a bra-encased side of her chest and squeezed them simultaneously. Unprepared for the onslaught, a shock went through her system as her head fell back against the veiled window and a moan escaped her open mouth. The sensation - oh god, it felt so strange and good! This was nothing compared to how he had touched her through the barrier of her jacket and shirt.

"Do you like that?" he purred, voice saturated with wicked sweetness.

Eager to hear more from her, he pressed his palms to her breasts and pushed up, fingers curling around the meager mounds from above and applying more than enough force to be registered. A choked pant was his reward, her body twisting and knuckles turning white to keep hold of the sill they had latched onto. She felt a tug, and let her hazy gaze rest on his furrowed brows. It seemed that he had already grown tired of the lacy contraption that hid the full of her chest from his view and touch.

Ahiru fought down an amused smile. He would definitely have problems with that until she was willing to help. But before that, she saw something else that she wanted rectified. Taking the opportunity she found, the redhead's hands dove underneath his busy pulling of the unyielding bra, finding the little buttons that kept his shirt together and meandering the first two clasps open. She would certainly show him who needed assistance this time.

He caught on too fast for her liking. Once the third button was undone, she felt her hands detained and looked imploring up into the annoyed shine of dark green eyes. His expression clearly stated that he wasn't going to stand by and let her do as she pleased. He moved to return to figuring out a way to free her chest from the deceivingly innocent white undergarment and she sucked in a breath, all of a sudden realizing that he was close to seeing her front completely naked.

A late flush of embarrassment flew across her face and she tucked her arms over her chest in a criss-cross pattern, blocking his progress as she closed her eyes. She heard an aggravated grunt, which was followed by a low voiced edge on the syllables of her name.

"But you'll see--" she croaked out, afraid that she would not meet the standards he seemed to think she did. Fakir was the kind of guy who could probably have any girl he wanted. Her body did not have voluptuous curves and large breasts like countless others flaunted. She felt skinny and inadequate. "I'm not... I don't think you would want..."

"Moron," he spoke so harshly that her eyes flew open in alarm and locked with the intense luster of his smoldering gaze, and it froze her in place. "I don't want anything---anyone, but you. And if I have to prove that to you, I damn well will."

He did not come this far to be denied by her sudden shyness and doubts that he felt they had come far past already. The CEO didn't at all care that his assistant's chest was smaller than most - they fit nicely into his hands and they were soft. He wouldn't ask for more. Why couldn't she see her own beauty? Why did she have to act as though she were some kind of ugly duckling?

His patience was rapidly thinning and she could tell, especially when he exhaled in an irritated manner through his nose. With a quick swallow, she nodded, shutting her eyes once more, and reached behind and below her shirt to find the junction of her bra. With a little snap, she allowed the sides to dangle and moved her arms back in front of her again to set in her lap, the straps sliding down her arms and removing the final barrier to her breasts. Taking a preparatory breath, she cracked her eyes open to gauge his reaction and the intake caught in her throat.

Her gaze fell on him just in time to see his shirt fall forgotten to the floor, and his bare upper body now an open feast to her eyes. For a long and drawn-out moment, they stared at each other, undeniable hunger and want swimming through the recesses of their eyes. Suddenly Fakir felt inexplicably deprived, just looking at her, and moved in to grope her tender bare flesh with relish. She bit back a squeal as he teased the rosy tips to a hardened state, and quickly distracted herself by reaching fingers out to trace the contours and indents of his chest and abdomen. And what started out as a tentative touch and exploration on both parts escalated in mere seconds, his hands becoming more desperate to mold the plush mounds and her digits becoming frantic in their aimless trails on his sun-kissed skin. Ragged breaths released from both of their mouths as the seconds passed, his touch becoming rough, her nails beginning to dig into the surface of his flesh...

Ahiru squirmed in her part-seated lean against the window, feeling a damp warmth collecting and spreading between her legs. His ministrations upon her chest made her lips pucker in attempt to fight down another moan, blazing heat gathering at her core and begging for something she could not put a name to.

Ducking his head down swiftly, Fakir delved his wet tongue into the valley between her small chest, licking relentlessly at the small amount of perspiration that had flocked there. The salty flavor was somehow addicting and he lapped all traces away, proceeding to mark a path to one breast to run his tongue over the exposed nipple, pausing only for a brief breath before his lips closed over it and sucked hard.

She cried out and her fingers bent and scraped down into his front, slipping over the film that had dusted lightly over the open skin. He fought a groan and thrust his hips against her thigh, the contact of his barred erection against the lip of the skirt causing him to bite down on the nub he had captured beneath the cover of his mouth.

"Ahhhnn!" she near-shrieked from the sharp pain, one of her hands falling down and pulling on the hem of his buckled pants.

The unexpected action caused him to bite back a guttural moan, just the closeness of her hand to his bulging center nearly throwing him off the scales of what little balance remained.

"You. are. impossible," he accentuated each word with a separate sharp nip to three areas of flesh below her collarbone, punishing her for the fingers that dipped to keep hold on his trousers. "And if you keep that up, I'll---Euuuuuuuuuuughhhaahh!"

His eyes shot wide open when her other hand left his stomach and descended to gently cup his arousal, curious fingertips brushing over the restrained hardness. He released a shuddering breath, a pant of desperate need falling out of his lips. Her touch there, as innocent as it seemed, was like a sexual torture that he had never experienced and he moved against her hand almost unwillingly.

"I need..." she whimpered, unable to finish her request. She knew where he would fit and her lower body tensed with just that thought.

Finally recovering from the fire she shot ruthlessly through his body, he returned the favor with haste. Impatience guided his hand directly under her short skirt and sought the moistened connection of her legs, silently marveling at just how saturated the thin strip of cloth was. His erection all too clearly reminded him of just what was waiting to slide into that passageway, but he needed to teach her not to grab him out of nowhere, first. Pressing two fingertips over her clothed opening, he heard her squeal in surprise, which only provoked his hand to start moving against the damp warmth, letting her essence coat his fingertips.

His hand then snapped up, curling into the elastic band and giving a fierce tug downward, the silk undergarment following his whim and freeing her core to his hungry exploration. Just as one finger reached her opening, he pulled his head up and assaulted her mouth with his own, ravaging the already swollen lips. He thrust one finger into her slick heat and began pumping in and out, swallowing any sound that dared to try to escape his captive hold. One finger became two and she shifted restless from side to side, muffled screeches immediately devoured by his insistent mouth.

As much as he would have liked to continue his unforgiving onslaught, Fakir's engorged manhood throbbed with the aching need to fill her. He felt her stiffen and still as he removed his fingers from her sheath and likewise freed thoroughly-kissed lips, and her half-lidded eyes watched his own as his hands busied themselves with something just out of her range of view. Ahiru whined aloud and her lips formed a pout, clearly troubled by the actions that had ceased. "Why did you stop?" she panted out, her eyebrows hitched inward.

His lips brushed the top of hers to placate her. "Shhh," he admonished with a ghost of a smile, voice deep and darkly seductive. "You're going to have more than you bargained for, so be patient. I still have something to prove."

Her blue eyes broadened a fraction as she hastily stammered out, "No no no! You really don't have to prove anything. I believe you! I was just being stupid, and---and---!"

"And it's too late for that, dear assistant of mine," he cut in on a growl, the buckle of his belt hitting the floor with a dull clank as it landed with the heap of black pants. He stepped out of them, as well as his shoes, and kicked the heavy fabric behind him."You'll never again question my desire for you and everything that you are to me. I promise that."

Her skin prickled with anticipation of the fulfillment of that promise, distracting her momentarily as his hand found the zipper on the side of her skirt and opened it with one flick of the wrist. Ahiru could feel how close her darkest and deepest dream was to being granted - with the man she was certain now she had gravitated toward unknowingly. They had played right into each other's hands, even with the vast difference of the original goals they had in mind.

And now.... now her skirt was meandered down over her knees and drifted soundlessly to the carpeted floor, displaying her naked form in full entirety to him on the backdrop of green curtains, the bunched white fabric of her shirt laying trapped behind her, and salmon colored hair spilling all around her. She could spot him suck in a sharp intake of breath and swallow with difficulty as his eyes roved over her small body, drinking in every detail from top to bottom. Ahiru could not help but blush from the heated and clearly appraising gaze and her chest heaved with shallow breaths. Just to think that he liked what he saw and that he really wanted her, of all people... it made the fire inside burn to extreme intensities that she thought would throw her temperature up to boiling point.

Unable to keep distance between them any longer, he towered down over her small figure, hands smoothing up along her sides and memorizing her unique shape with his skilled fingertips. His touch turned firm and possessive as it raked down over her upper legs and back up to her hips, gliding higher along her skin to meet her supple breasts. Fakir could hardly believe she was about to become his. And his groin quickly reminded him of just how much he was looking forward to taking her. Distracting the girl with a forceful, open-mouthed kiss, he moved his hands to his remaining piece of covering and pulled the band down, letting the boxers flop down to his feet and hissing into her mouth when the air licked at his freed erection. His fingers returned to mapping over her chest and collarbone, briefly pausing on the pulse of her neck to feel the rapid pump of her heartbeat before descending to squeeze the fullness of her breasts again.

"Fakiiiiir..." she moaned in a mewl of pleasure from his almost rough exploration of her soft form. "Please..."

Carefully, he placed his hands to hold her hips steady and positioned his waiting member at her entrance, tip just barely brushing the opening and then pausing, unmoving. Ahiru could feel him there and it was driving her near mad with impatience. What was he waiting for? They were so close to---her body was begging for him!

Searching wordlessly for the reason of his delay, her gaze found his and held it. A flicker of hesitation crossed his darkened green eyes and she blinked. What could he possibly be worried about now? And as if reading that thought, his breath came out in a whisper of finality. "You won't be able to get back what I'm about to take," he warned her solemnly as his grip on her midsection tightened - cleary his sanity was fighting for control. "I have to know that you really are all right with this, Ahiru."

The concern that emerged from the furthest reaches of his eyes and flooded the turbulent color mesmerized her. Even when they were both obviously consumed by want and burning with need from their heads to the tips of their toes, he still exhibited worry for her and seriously considered her feelings before he recklessly crossed the last barrier. She felt very special, then, and understood his promise - which she now knew he had fulfilled. Lust was only part of it - he really and truly deeply cared about her and that was where the want had concentrated most densely. His desire strung from his feelings for her and not the carnal needs of his own body.

And she felt very much the same. That's why she understood - the Fakir she had found behind the cold CEO's impassive face meant the world to her, and more. He had unlocked her hidden desires and opened her to emotions she had shut out, eerily similar to the unexpected effect she had on him. Theirs was a trust and a mutual friendship, that only escalated to an unfathomable attraction - and the need to complete the other. A wistful smile touched the redhead's lips. "I am," she affirmed. "This... is what I want. To be with you. I don't want to pretend anymore."

That was all that he would ever need to hear. With his immediate thrust forward, she cried out as he impaled her upon his shaft, and his mouth fell open as pleasure struck him like lightning bolt into the very core of his being. Oh god, it felt---she felt so... so....

Ahiru whimpered, tears collecting in the corner of her eyes from the sharp pain as her idle arms rose to grasp around his back like a lifeline. He was big and it hurt as he stretched her small opening from his deep penetration. Her eyes screwed shut as she willed pain to subside and her body to adjust to his size, silently thanking him for staying still and waiting with a patience she didn't think he still possessed.

"Are you..." he panted out, trying desperately to keep the urge to start moving in her quelled until she was ready.

Her clawing at his back finally calmed and a shuddering gasp fell out from her lips as she squirmed on the sill. The burning hurt had lowered to a mere throb, which she found plenty bearable when it was suffocating quickly beneath waves of wonderful sensations. "F-Fakir!"

Taking her plea of his name as a positive sign, he pulled out slowly and flew right back in with the aid of her lubrication, feeling her quiver around him and forcing a deep groan from the far reaches of his throat. Being inside of her tight walls was the most amazing thing he had ever experienced in his life. It was as though her velvety passage was made to fit him in the most delicious way possible. Fakir began to move in an out steadily, gasping her name out into the dark office they occupied. Ahiru met his languid pace, thoroughly enjoying his length as it filled her to brim over and over again.

And then he began to piston himself inside and out with gradually growing speed, ragged breaths catching in his throat as he felt coherent thought dissolving away into nothing, smothered out by the fires of ecstasy. She moved with his rhythm as rapid pants flew from her open mouth, all too eager for the tempo to increase and feel that amazing friction ripping her through her center with torturous intent. He moved faster and faster, forcing her back to begin slamming against the window from the sheer power behind his swift strokes. One of her arms broke away from his skin on one severely rough thrust and fell back against the curtain, upper arm smacked against the cool class that was bared between the part in the two large flocks of material. "O-Oh don't stop!" she squealed in reckless abandon, her feet climbing up around his backside to his hips and trying to hook together to form a secure hold about him.

Thrust upon thrust impaled her on his busy manhood, the clenching of her inner lips around him driving him closer to the loss of all control. Leaning his face down to her heated flesh, he paid brief homage to her perked, bouncing breasts before his lips sought hers and enveloped them in fervor, their ripened flavor and texture purely delectable on his tongue. Her screams, half muffled between their mouths, were growing more urgent with every moment that passed. He thickly growled into her mouth, the throaty sound sending a chill down the expanse of her dampened back. Their bodies were slick and saturated with the exertion as they moved in rapid harmony, limbs entangled and slipping over the skin streaked over with sweat.

"Ahiruuuu," he bit out as he frantically rocked in and out of her, the hot pleasure scorching every fiber of him from the inside out and taking him nearer to the peak of ecstasy that was almost within his grasp. Stubbornly he kept it just out of his reach, inexplicably needing to bring her to climax with him.

"I can't---I can't---!" she cried out from the overwhelming onslaught that mercilessly continued to drive her deeper and deeper, pushing her to an edge she did not know existed. Her legs fumbled and slipped to retain their snare, which became more difficult to achieve with every impossibly fast penetration of his member into her dripping core. "Can't---hold...n--need to---!"

She felt the window vibrate from the repeated smack of her shoulders against it, the hand against the window blindly seeking the curtain the gripping it with all the strength she could muster. His breathing pattern had fallen to erratic gasps and grunts, fingers near-bruising in their solid hold of her hips.

So close... so damn close...!

And then the world all but exploded. Two pairs of eyes dilated and became glassy, her sudden screech mixed into his strong call of her name, and their voices mingling together as they shook and convulsed and plummeted into another existence altogether. Words could not even describe the euphoric sensations, pleasure was literally anywhere and everywhere, covering every inch of body and soul and relentlessly attacking in tendrils of bursting flame.

Their orgasmic release was almost simultaneous - his flood of warmth filling her to the brim as hers spilled out around his shaft and dripped over the curtain beneath her. They were both too far gone to notice or care - limbs of arms and legs quaking as they rode out the final waves of ecstacy that washed over them.

And after what felt like a roller-coaster of unfathomable erotic pleasure, the pair came back down to earth, chests rising and falling and throwing their shuddering breaths out in rapid succession. He carefully pulled out of her inner warmth, the remaining essence from his spent member leaving a tiny trail of white along her inner thigh. His muscles were sore and strength depleted, but he grunged up enough to lift his hand to her face and trace the softness of her cheek, affectionately coaxing her eyes to open to him. "Ahiru..."

The blue fluttered open to meet his tender gaze and she moved to mimic his action, tugging her hand free of the collapsed folds of emerald fabric and curling her fingers around the shape of his jaw. She smiled, and he leaned in, just barely brushing his mouth to hers. And without the remaining power to bring his body away from hers again, he all but flopped on top of her naked figure, embracing the new position as his arms moved to wrap snugly about her form. With an exhausted sigh, she slid right down off of the window sill and took him with her as the tumbled down to the floor, caught in a tangle of plush material. She giggled, blissfully oblivious to the ripped curtain that was certainly her handiwork during their exercise, and moved to snuggle into his warm arms. He tucked her head beneath his chin and lifted one leg to rest across both of hers in a something akin to a protective embrace, sighing deeply through his nose.

Only one thing weighed with finality on their muddled and sleepy minds as they fell prey to the tantalizing lull of slumber:

What they had shared and experienced together meant everything.

--------------------

A beeping noise roused Fakir from his slumber on the floor, dizzied eyes slowly coming to focus as the noise penetrated through his exhausted skull. The previous night was still more than fresh in his memory, and he cast a glance down to the slim form bundled up against him and lying in the safety of his limbs. Ahiru yawned widely and curled her head into his shoulder. "M'not reahy to get up ye..." she mumbled unintelligibly. He sighed, running a hand through her tangled red locks. Her closeness and the curtain wrapped about their naked figures was certainly a billion times more inviting than the relentless and annoying bleep of his messaging machine.

Who the hell would call him so bloody early, anyway? Ignoring that thought, he turned toward his sleepy assistant and nudged her forehead with the tip of his nose. "As much as I'd love to stay right here and keep you to myself all day, we're going to be expected to work, you know."

Her immediate whine in response caused a tiny grin to curve the corner of his lips and she looked up and scowled at him. "What's so funny?" she demanded with her bottom lip stuck out in a pout. His miniscule smile morphed into a smirk. "Definitely not a morning girl, are you, my Ahiru?"

She flushed upon being called his, and quickly retorted with a snort. "Like you are?" Her features pulled down into a mock scowl as she chanted, "Hey moron, get me my damn coffee. You idiot! The curtains are all bunched up on the left. Don't just stand there! I want those papers organized and filed alphabetically before nine o'clock sharp! You can't afford to be lazy if you want to work for my company!"

He blinked at her, clearly amused, and the smirk widened playfully across his features. "Hey moron, get me my damn coffee."

And that earned him a swift swipe to his bare chest, but Fakir felt it was worth it. Even after an unforgettable night of sex with her, she was still so painfully easy to tease. He could get used to this very quickly.

"Okay," she huffed, glaring in the direction of the green blinking light. "That sound is getting really annoying. Can't you just shut it off?"

He groaned as he raised up from the floor reluctantly, collecting the curtain about him as he made his way to his desk. He paid no attention to the indignant squawk behind him as his movement with the make-shift blanket in tow clearly left a naked girl in its wake. Leaning down over his desk, he hit the offending button on his voice phone receiver.

"Message received at 6:40 AM - playback initiating," the automated voice supplied as Fakir tapped a finger on the desk. Ahiru popped up beside him and grabbed a side of the emerald plush cloth, wrapping it securely around her body and sending a glare to her employer, who was too concerned with waiting for the actual message to play through the static to pay her any heed.

"---akir? I hate to call you this early, but I know you tend to go into work by six-thirty a lot of the time so I thought I should contact you first. I...I can't seem to find Ahiru anywhere. She missed our date last night and didn't call. I'm worried about her. Do you know where her house is? I would just like to check in and make sure she's all right. Get back to me with the address as soon as you can---bweeeep."

Two statuesque figures stood frozen side by side, staring at the message receiver in dumbfounded disbelief before slowly, excruciatingly slowly, meeting the other's trepidated and wide-eyed gaze.

They had reached a new understanding with each other, accepted what they truly wanted, and shared a night of fiery passion together. But...

Oh, did they ever have a mountain of awkward explaining to do.

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Longest one-shot I have ever written, hands down. I apologize for anything that was difficult to follow or dragged on (I have been having a very hard time writing fanfiction again, since I'm used to RPing - which means I'm accustomed to handling one character while others play the rest. So it's a bit of a challenge to get out of that mindset and write full interaction this way, again.) I do greatly enjoy getting into the character's heads, however, so there was a heck of a lot of introspection going on this, coupled with flashbacks that are scenes I had planned for Running Ink. The fic really did take on a life of its own, though.

And thanks to chatting with Astro/Kristen, there remains the possibility of there being a follow-up or two to this at a later date. (Because it would be amusing for the shit to hit the fan, and for the sake of more smut, as well.) Any thoughts on that?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. Reviews are more than welcome and would be greatly appreciated, as always.

Thank you for reading.