Always with You
Disclaimer: I do not own SkipBeat! or any of its characters.
Epilogue – A life worth living
It was a beautiful fall day when Kuu heard the knock at the door. Normally the butler was the one to answer, but today he had claimed that right solely for himself. He squared his shoulders, looking as grim and forbidding as his butler, and opened the door.
Standing there, bathed in the mid-afternoon sun, were the most beautiful children a man could ask for. He looked sternly at the tall blond and much shorter brunette. Then he comically peered over their shoulders, then around each one; he even got on his knees to peer past their legs.
"Dad," Ren said, as Kyoko stifled a laugh, "what are you doing?"
"I'm looking for the rest of them," he declared archly. "Where are my grandchildren?"
Kyoko blushed and Ren shook his head tolerantly. "Now dad…"
"Kuu, you leave them alone or I'll send you to bed without dinner!" Kuu gave his wife and his children a wounded puppy-dog look. He couldn't hold it when Kyoko seized him in a tight embrace, "Otou-san, I'm glad to see you." Julie stepped up quickly for her hugs.
It had been eight months since the wedding. The two youngsters were just as busy as Kuu and Julie. They had only been able to squeeze out one visit, and that had only been for two days. This visit was different; this time the Hizuris, young and old, would be able to spend ten glorious days together.
Julie and Ren were kicked out of the kitchen for the night as father and daughter clattered and clanged, chopped and blended, braised, browned, boiled, and most of all, laughed their way through the dinner preparations.
While they worked their culinary magic, mother and son visited. "Well, Kuon, how are things between you? She looks so healthy and vibrant these days."
Ren smiled the smile that could make crowds of women swoon, "It's wonderful. I can hardly believe that we've been together for a year, and married for eight months. I can't imagine life without her now."
"Lory tells me that you're the two busiest talents in LME these days. Are you able to coordinate your schedules so that you have time together?"
"Between Yashiro and Mieko, they have managed to keep our crazy schedules compatible. Other than the occasional filming trip, we spend time together every day."
"Well, that's good at least. I'm glad that you're both happy, but I sometimes wish all of us had more normal professions."
Ren chuckled, "No you don't, mom. I can't imagine you doing anything less interesting than what you're doing. And I definitely can't imagine Kyoko going back to a nine-to-five. Did you know they've started calling her "many-faces" behind her back? She's been so many different characters that people still can't get a handle on who she really is.
"There are days when she comes home before she's totally shaken off a character. It almost makes me feel like I'm cheating. She's so many women wrapped in one perfect little package."
Julie looked at her tall son affectionately, "But you found the real Kyoko, didn't you?"
"Yes. I did."
It was dark in the Hizuri's California mansion. It hadn't been easy to extract five days from Ren and Kyoko's crazy schedules, but their managers had been able to make it work. Ren had insisted, believing that Kyoko needed the break before her audition for the role that she wanted more than any other she had ever played. He knew that his parents would embrace Kyoko and help her to find her equilibrium prior to the big day. His thoughts had proven to be correct; Kyoko was refreshed again through the loving care of Kuu and Julie.
At the moment, as far as Kyoko knew, everyone else was still safely asleep. Kyoko wasn't worried about waking anyone because the grand piano was located at the far end of the mansion in the spacious grand ballroom. Still, she kept her touch light as her hands flew across the keys. Brahms floated and rolled and rippled through the pre-dawn air. She didn't hear Ren come in until he gently wrapped his arms around her waist and placed his chin on her shoulder. "You're playing more beautifully every day, Kyoko."
Kyoko had blindfolded herself as a part of her training, so she couldn't look at her handsome husband, but she leaned her head against his and shivered as his warm breath played across her neck. Despite the way her body thrilled to his touch, she somehow continued playing without missing a note.
"I think that you're ready," Ren spoke softly into her ear in a voice that sent a thrill down her spine. "And your fingers must be very tired. Why don't I carry you back to our room... so that I can massage them for you?"
Kyoko made only the feeblest of protests as strong arms lifted her from the piano bench and the Emperor of the Night carried her out of the ballroom.
"What do you think of the name Kenji?" Kyoko asked, squirming away.
They were sitting cuddled on a swinging bench in the Hizuri's garden. Ren was sneaking occasional nibbles on his petite wife's exposed neck.
Ren pulled his face back and looked at Kyoko quizzically, "I guess it was a good name for my character. Why?"
"Oh, I don't know. I was thinking of taking a break after I finish filming A life worth living... assuming that I land the part."
Ren looked at Kyoko in surprise. In all of the time that he had known her, she had never even hinted at wanting a day off except to visit with somebody important. "Uhm, I suppose, if that's what you really want… wait, what does that have to do with my character?"
Kyoko stopped playing and placed both hands on her handsome husband's face, "Well, I was thinking about trying on a new role for a while. After all, Julie did it, and look how lucky she got."
Ren looked at her without comprehension for a long minute. And then his eyes widened and Kyoko's favorite smile appeared.
"I don't know," he said, "I'm kind of partial to Nanami."
Six months later Rumiko opened her show with two grand pianos facing one-another on the stage. The two players flowed beautifully through an intricate Rachmaninoff score. At first the studio audience could only see silhouettes of the players. When the lights illuminated the players the audience was delighted to see Tsuruga Ren and Kyouko swaying into their music.
This year Kanae had settled for second place in the Japan Film Awards. She couldn't begrudge her friend and rival; even she had cried through much of A life worth living. Of course, she swore to bury Kyoko on the following year.
Rumiko was no longer in the business of zinging people on her show. She had instead become the woman that people trusted when they wanted to talk about their lives without the fear of being used and betrayed.
That is why Ren and Kyoko had chosen to reveal a new secret to Japan on her show that morning. It seems that they had reached a compromise on the whole naming issue.
The ultrasound showed that Kyoko was pregnant with twins; one of each.
Notes: There are now three additional stories either closely or loosely tied to this story. The first is Runaway Royalty, which is Kotonami Kanae's story. The second is a one-shot titled When the Cats are away, which tells the story of Yashiro and Shouko. The third story was begun, then removed, and is now being posted again. It is A Life Worth Living, and it is the sequel to Always With You. It tells the story of the movie that Kyoko and Maria made together. It also unveils the secret of Kyoko's past. Please take the time to read these stories... and please review them so that I can know what you think.