A/N: I do Not own Skip Beat or the inspired song.

This was a request from Kanaki Renouko Knight for the song "Never Gonna Be Alone" by Nickelback.

This ended up rather long. So I'm sorry to those that prefer shorter stories. I just got so caught up with the first line, "Time, is going by, so much faster than I" That I created this long story that explained a change and this long background. The song doesn't really come into affect until the end. Now I created this story before watching the real music video. I found out rather late that it was a sad music video. This isn't a sad story. It's rather fluffy actually. I hope I still did okay with the song. I usually just listen to the song until a story develops into my head then write it for you here.

I had a lot of fun writing this. I hope I didn't let you down Kanaki Renouko Knight.

"What did you get her?"

Ren glanced down at the beautiful young raven haired woman who appeared out of no where to stand beside him. She wasn't looking at him, but it was obvious that her question was directed to him. Kanae had a little smirk on her lips as she lightly swirled the ice in her drink. There was a hint of smugness and challenge in her voice when she asked her seemingly innocent question.

"You'll find out soon enough, Kotonami-san," his voice was nonchalant but he couldn't help but smile at the little game they were playing. It was a game that happened only once a year, and he didn't know he was playing it until her 18th birthday.

Kyoko's 18th Birthday

He wasn't really thinking about anything but her that night. Eagerly awaiting the time when he would be standing next to her, ready to give her his gift, ready to see that bright smile that always seemed to melt the world away. As soon as the clock hit midnight, he wished her a happy birthday and presented her with his gift. Kyoko looked at the object in hand and blushed with such a sweet smile. She carefully unwrapped it and inside was a rather old large book.

"It's the complete collection. I hope you like it," Ren told her as she examined her gift. It had a dark purple cover with Hans Andersen beautifully printed on it with what looked like gold ink. She opened the cover up gingerly and on the first page was beautiful classic artwork and text written in old English.

"Fairy tales by Hans Christen Andersen," Kyoko read out loud in awe, and quickly looked up at Ren with the most breath taking smile. "Tsuruga-san, thank you so much." Ren simply smiled happily down at her as she ever so carefully touched her new book. But that was only on the outside. Deep inside the smiling man was the strong urge of possession for the little woman in front of him. He desperately wanted to take her into his arms, especially after the way she looked up at him. However, Ren had to swallow that urge, no matter how much his body hummed with need to act. Instead he swallowed his desires and continued to talk about the one thing that was safe - his gift.

"It's all in English so if you like we can read it together so I can help with the translation," he offered with hope in his voice.

"Oh I couldn't bother you with such a task," Kyoko immediately declined him. "You already bought me such a wonderful gift. I know some English, so I should be alright. I'll treasure it forever." She finished with a bow and he inaudibly sighed. Ren was hoping to spend time with her even if it is merely reading classic fairy tales, but it seems like his plan backfired. He should have known that her English would be good enough to read children's stories. As he nursed his wounded heart, Kyoko was stolen by her friend.

"Happy Birthday, Kyoko," Kanae said with a bored tone but her body was nervous as she handed her the gift. It was a long thin white box with a small bright pink ribbon that tied it together. Kyoko set his book down on the table closest to her, freeing her hands to open the little jewelry box.

"MOKO-SAN," She exclaimed as she pulled out a white gold charm bracelet with a bunch of different charms already on it.

"It's beautiful," Kyoko squealed as she looked at the bracelet. One end of the chain was a little heart with half of its shape filled with small diamonds which curved to become the hook end of the clasp. The chain was made up of three really small links followed by one larger ring then repeated - three small links and one large one - all the way around. On each of the larger rings was a charm already attached. Kanae was thrilled with her overly enthusiastic reaction to the piece of jewelry, and she wanted to roll around in the glow that she induce; however, her impatience got the best of her.

"Yes, yes. Here," Kanae stepped forwards eager to show her best friend how much thought she put into this gift.

"This is for your movie," she explained as she held out the first charm of an angel wing. Kyoko character's name was Angel but her role didn't match that name. It was the most recent role she had accepted. Kanae continued and held up the next charm which was a microphone. It had a silver handle and small dark gems making up the head. "This is for Natsu in Box-R." Next she held up a little crescent moon with a small sparkling diamond in it shape and said, "This is for Dark Moon."

"Then for our commercial together." Kanae held up a little bottle of soda with the letters AB on the label. Kyoko was so close to tears as Kanae explained what alll the little charms meant. Kanae held up a small charm of a chicken, and Kyoko started to panic. Kanae and Sawara-san promised to keep it a secret but she got worried. She didn't dare look up at Ren but was instantly calmed at Kanae's words, "This is for… well you know what that one is for." Kanae winked at her and she flushed with relief.

"The rest are silly things until you can replace them with new roles or other things," her best friend finished. The rest that she was talking about was a charm that had Kyoko's name on it, another that had Moko on it, and a LoveMe logo.

"I'm never replacing anything! I love it! Thank you, Moko-san!" Kyoko was practically jumping up and down with Kanae trying to shove her off.

"And you got her an old expensive musty book. Wow," Yashiro's sarcastic voice floated up to Ren's ears as they watched the two girls in front of them.

"It was a first edition, of course it was expensive. She is worth it," Ren responded.

"Yes, but I bet you anything that the charm bracelet she got didn't cost 430,000 yen," Yashiro hissed and proceeded to take another sip of his drink. (About $5,000 US)

"It doesn't matter, as long as she is happy." And happy she was. So what if she didn't understand the value of the book. It was one of the reasons he got it was so that she would accept it. No doubt she probably thought he got it at a cheap used bookstore.

Ren was willing to let it go and simply enjoy the evening until Kanae glanced his way. She was gloating as Kyoko talked non-stop about the little charms. Kanae had this look on her face that made him stand there in shock. It was a game to her. It was that look of triumph on her best friend's face that actually made him want to try harder this year.

"There really is no point hiding it. The outcome is going to be the same as last year and the year before." Kanae's voice was full of confidence as she walked away. She knew her best friend more than anyone, and she enjoyed proving it every year against her rival for Kyoko's attention.

Ren watched her go with a sigh. Kanae was able to buy anything she wanted for her friend, and Kyoko would accept it with few objections. If he bought her what he really wanted to buy her, she would flat out refuse it. They've known each other for almost three years now. She had to accept a real gift from him by now.

He could see his manager's feathers ruffle as she left their side. He was actually surprised Yashiro kept his tongue while she was toying with him.

"That woman," Yashiro said with what sounded like frustration and intrigue at the same time. Ren raised an eyebrow in curiosity as he glanced down to the older man watching the barely legal teen sashay away.

"Don't worry. My sources tell me she bought her a kimono. Granted it is a very expensive and custom made one but just a kimono. You still have the ring?" He glanced at his younger charge as he asked.

"Of course." It was currently burning a hole on the left side of his chest in his jacket pocket. Ren could feel the weight of it grow heavier and heavier as time passed. He didn't understand why either. It wasn't THAT kind of ring. Yet somehow he still felt like it was something huge, something life altering.

They were at another joint birthday party with Maria. Kyoko and Maria enjoyed the first party so much; they decided to make it into a tradition. Ren couldn't help but wonder how long that would stay true. He would like to spend her birthday alone with her some day. Perhaps Maria would grow out of it when she turned 16. Granted, his love was 19 or will be in a few minutes, and she still loved the idea. Maybe when Maria turned 20 then. Until then, he will have to be happy sharing the stroke of midnight with the rest of the world.

Unless she could learn to love again, that is. Three years has passed, and he has made some small milestones. Nothing his friend and manager is proud of but he is very please with them. Anything to keep her with him and he will stay patient no matter how long it takes.

"It's almost time! Do you see her?" Yashiro whispered harshly interrupting his thoughts. He was trying to look around for the copper haired angel in the mist of the large crowd.

"Yes, 11 o'clock towards the stairs." Ren could find her in a second. No matter how packed the room was or how dark, she shined like a beacon to him. His eyes were naturally drawn to where ever she was.

"Then go! Go! I'll distract Kanae-chan," Yashiro cheered him on and started to look around in the room for the raven hellcat and smiled as he fixed his tie.

"Kotonami-san, she yelled at you last time for calling her Kanae-chan," Ren reminded him. She really did. Somehow it didn't seem like she really meant it but he didn't want to chance any bad luck in reaching his goal with Kyoko so he would call her anything she wanted.

"Bah. I'm her senior, and I don't think she meant it." Yashiro ran his hand through his hair and Ren couldn't help but smile a little in wonder. Does he…?

No, he shook his head. He wasn't going to meddle in things he had no business in. Yashiro was his own man and his personal life was no concern of his.

Ren moved when he saw Yashiro stop Kanae in mid-step with a promising director in tow. Ren had to hand it to him. Yashiro knew exactly how to deal with people. Kanae looked ready get physically violent until Yashiro introduced her to the director. He watched her change as soon as she was presented with a career opportunity. She was all smiles and eagerness now.

Operation: Distract BFF – Complete.

Now Reh wove his way through the crowd, avoiding those who made a gesture towards him or made eye contact for a chance to speak with him. They had their chance, now was his turn with his girl.

Kyoko was on edge. She knew what was coming and could barely contain herself.

Her eyes kept flickering to the clock on the wall as two people chatted to her about random things she had no idea what was going on. All she knew was that in a few minutes, something she was looking forward to all evening was about to happen.

She was finally going to get a chance to speak with him. All night she has been pulled left and right and up and down from people everywhere. She wasn't even cooking this evening, and he arrived early for once. She thought perhaps they would get a moment to talk but nothing. She was able to say hello to him as he came in before he was summoned and then she was pulled away.

Finally, only two minutes before midnight, her eyes caught sight of him. Kyoko swallowed a lump in her throat and then smiled politely to the fellow actor and producer she was speaking to, in effect excusing herself from their conversation. She stepped away, turning towards the man walking to her with the most dazzling smile and she had to relearn to breath.

"Kyoko, I hope you are enjoying your evening," his deep smooth voice filled her ears blocking all of the sound in the room. He smiled down at her in such a way that made the area around them feel warmer. Kyoko licked her lips and summoned all her strength to start a conversation.

"Yes, I love being able to celebrate Maria-chan's birthday with everyone like this. I think it has helped her a great deal." She paused and blushed slightly, "Are you enjoying yourself, Ren-kun?"

Yes. That was one of the milestones he was granted. While she wouldn't drop the honorific, she allowed first names. Ren was permitted to call her simply Kyoko though. She said she didn't mind and he didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable with just Ren. One day, he will make her say only his name, his real name too.

"Of course, I wouldn't miss this for the world," he replied honestly. His eyes soften at her as she looked away. She blushed so beautifully. He took this opportunity and took out the small black box.

"Happy Birthday, Kyoko," he announced suddenly, giving Kyoko a little shock. She looked back at him and then the clock, sure enough it was midnight. Her eyes flickered to the box in his hand and she smiled a tight smile. She didn't really care about the present. She was overjoyed by the fact that he even remembered.

"Ren-kun, you really shouldn't have. I told you a simple "Happy Birthday" is perfect for me," she repeated those words again to him. How many times had she told him that, and how many times did he listen? Deep down she knew better and was actually really excited to see the gift. She wove her fingers together in front of her chest in nerves and delight. Her eyes flickered down from the floor to the box in his large hands.

"I wanted to. Please accept it," Ren pleaded softly and lifted his hand to her chin, making her face turned up to his face.

"Please," he added and Kyoko nodded. He smiled brightly, showing his whole heart in that one smile. She looked down, away from his face, before he could see the expression that look of his caused within her. He opened the box for her and inside was a ring.

It shined as it was being held snuggly in black felt. It was made out of platinum. The focus of the ring was a small cluster of bluish purple stones that made up a little flower head. A delicate stem curved down slightly and curled up from a point into the band of the ring all the way around to the other side where it curved around the flower head like an arch.

"Oh, it's beautiful. It reminds me of Corn," Kyoko said softly gazing at the ring.

"It should. It's the same type of stone." His voice and words made her glance up at him with her heart pounding.

"It's too much. You shouldn't spend money on me like this," she stated almost seriously. She looked at him with a mild frown but honestly she was touched. It reminded her so much of her little purple stone and now she felt like she could carry it with her forever.

"I'd buy you all the stars in the sky if it made you happy, Kyoko," Ren whispered as he took her right hand and slipped the ring on her third finger. Oh how he hoped that one day he could do the same to her left hand.

Kyoko's heart was pounding as he slipped the ring on her finger, the symbolism not lost on her; however, the words he said, everything about him tonight made her question things. How did he know what stone Corn was? Why did this make me feel so very nervous yet so extremely happy?

It didn't last very long as her best friend came rushing forward.

"Happy Birthday, Kyoko," Kanae proclaimed in a forced enthusiasm, trying to swallow down the frustration she just faced. She walked up and hugged Kyoko with an envelope in her hand. She looked up and glared at Ren as Yashiro stepped up next to him with a satisfied smile.

"Thank you, Moko-san!" Kyoko said with the cheeriest smile as she hesitantly pulled away from Kanae.

"For you." Kanae presented her the white envelope, and Kyoko eagerly opened it without hesitation. Ren sighed internally.

"Where is the kimono?" Yashiro whispered harshly, and Kanae grinned nefariously at the two men standing beside them.

"OH, MOKO-SAN! Tickets to Tokyo Disney! Two of them. Moko-san, are you coming with me?" Kyoko was looking up at her friend with the biggest eyes she had ever seen.

Kanae knew if she gave her this gift that she would be forced to go. Deep down she knew she was digging her own grave but she prepared herself for this. She knew and practice saying yes to her and preparing herself mentally and physically for her reaction. She took a deep breath and braced herself.

"Yes," Kanae answered with certainty.

"KYAAAAAAA!" Kyoko screamed and everyone around them felt their ears start to bleed. She threw her arms around Kanae, and they just about collapsed onto the floor if it wasn't for a hand at her back. Kanae turned to look at the person who saved her to find Yashiro with his fingertips lightly between her shoulder blades.

She glared at him but then smiled a small smile in thanks. Finally Kyoko let go and so did Yashiro. Kyoko ran over to Ren who wasn't that far away and showed him the package deal that Kanae bought for them, two nights and three days of hell… of entertainment at the park and the surrounding parks. Not to mention a lot of fattening food and Kyoko probably wanting to go to every single little event and play dress up. Kanae sighed.

"Was it worth it? You do realize that children, families go to that park year round," Yashiro warned her.

Kanae blanched at Yashiro's words. "Damn it. I thought they wouldn't come around this time of the year."

"Nope, the water park will probably be closed, but the main one will still be open to everyone."

Kanae sighed as she looked at Kyoko's face and eagerness, "Yes. It is worth it, and I'm not sure when we will be able to go anyway. I bought the tickets to be extremely flexible. We might end up going later next year with the way our schedules look. I would like to make the most of it, so I will never have to go again. Perhaps waiting for everything to be open would be best."

Yashiro had to ask, "Where is the kimono?"

"Kimono? Oh the one for Maria-chan?" Kanae turned a sly smile to him. "I gave it to her already. She looooved it." She stretched out the word love, teasing him to no end that she fooled him completely.

For Maria! It was for Maria! This woman was so cunning. It made his blood boil. He watched her glance up at him, licked her lips and then nodded once.

"Try harder next time, Yukihito-kun." She walked away as her voice carried his name through his body.

Kyoko was raving to Ren as President Lory came up with his yearly contribution. Everyone cheered and clapped and sang to the blushing birthday girl and Ren couldn't help but hope that she would enjoy ever year just as much as this one.

Things were dying down but the guests were not. Kyoko stuck close to Ren, and Ren refused to leave her side. Maria-chan was the first to give Kyoko her gift.

"It's a magic powder set. I got a sampling for you. Each one has a special purpose. See like this one is for money, this one is for protection, this one overcomes feelings of angst, this one drives away your enemies and this one…" Maria smiled, "This one is to attract the man you want. All you need to do is put a little on the man you like and he will come to you."

Kyoko blushed and laughed, "Maria-chan, why would you get me that one?"

"Because you are always alone, I want you to find someone. I'm ten now. I understand that by that age we should have a boyfriend. I want you to be happy," Maria explained honestly.

Kyoko felt so touched that someone wanted her to be happy that she almost started crying again. "Thank you, Maria-chan, but I am happy. I have all my wonderful friends with me here to celebrate our birthdays. I couldn't be happier."

Ren eyed the little set and wished it worked the other way around instead. It wasn't men that had she had a problem attracting, it was her being attracted to men, specifically him. In fact the whole night proved exactly how much she didn't need that little pouch of magic powder.

Kyoko was 19 now, no longer a high school student and doing exceptionally well in her career. She also seemed to grow into a much more beautiful woman every year. The Ishibashi group came up to her next and presented her with a collaboration gift. It was high end digital camera. Ren remembered them the last two years too but really didn't understand their connection with her. Still they spoke to her like she was an old friend. He thought everyone in LME was invited so it made sense that they were here but not as to why they treated her so well.

Especially the eldest, Ishibashi Hikaru, he stayed behind and presented her with another gift while the other two left but only a short distance away.

"Hikaru-san, you already got me a gift. I don't need another. You three being here is enough already." Kyoko didn't want to take the other gift.

"Ah, it's nothing. I remembered the other one breaking and I saw this one so I got it. I can't return it so you have to take it." Hikaru smiled and held the box to her again.

"Oh, ok then, but next year nothing. Ok?" She made the man nod and smile. Ren didn't like the way Hikaru kept looking at her and knew he was lying when he agreed to her terms. He would too if she made him agree to such a cause. He bought her a watch. It was a simple dainty bangle bracelet watch with a light pink face and four small diamonds that marked the main positions.

"It's very pretty. Thank you so much Hikaru-san." She bowed as the man blushed and returned to his friends.

Her landlords came by and gave her a new purse. Next were some actresses from her show, Box-R, who gave her simple accessories for her big sister outfits since that's all they see her in. Then an actor Ren didn't know came by and gave her roses. He was followed by another one who gave her a gift basket. Ren didn't recognize any of these men on her shows or from anywhere.

"Who was that, Kyoko-chan?" Yashiro was the one to voice Ren's question.

"Oh that was Daikichi-san. He is the camera man from Box-R." She replied cheerfully. Another man came up and gave her another gift. More from every direction came and gave her small tokens, flowers and treats.

"You know all these people?" Yashiro once again asked as the table and Ren's patience was growing entirely too small for the onslaught of male well wishers.

"Sort of. Most are crewmen and some are acquaintances I met through interviews or other social gatherings. I didn't realize that President Takarada would invite so many people. Still I don't understand why they bought me a gift. This was meant to be a gathering not a gift giving party. I don't expect anyone to give me anything," she said almost exasperated.

Kyoko looked stressed and Ren didn't like it. She was gracing everyone that approached her with a smile and a kind word of thanks along with her displeasure of them buying her a gift. Still the moment she sat down at their table she frowned and put the newly unwrapped gift with the rest.

"I don't understand how you do it, Ren-kun. This is exhausting with everyone knowing your birthday. I don't have any fans like you do so it must be ten times as difficult." Kyoko glanced around the room making sure no one else was coming by.

"I have Yashiro-san to help me with that time of the year. I'm sure we can ask the agency to help you next year. You will no doubt become more popular each year," Ren said with a forced smile. All these damn men coming up to her with a smile and a gift trying to buy her attentions was driving him up the wall. He even overheard several of them ask her out subtly. When did this all start to happen?

He watched her flush slightly at each of the men's advances and politely turn them away by either ignoring the question like she didn't hear it or simply thanking them and dismissing them. Somehow though she didn't seem taken aback from it, it was almost like she was getting use to it.

Was she getting asked out more often? She never spoke of dates or of boyfriends or anything of the sort. In fact, it felt like they were the best of friends talking and sharing everything with each other so she would mention those sorts of things. Right? He watched her stand up and both Ren and Yashiro stood as well.

"Please excuse me, I'll be right back." She bowed slightly and walked towards the restrooms.

"She is getting extremely popular," Yashiro said casually.

Ren's attention was brought back to Yashiro in which he hesitantly agreed with.

"We've been lucky so far that no one has caught her attention yet. Apparently, she has been getting quite a few invitations for dinners."

"Hmmm," Ren sounded his displeasure. Yashiro knew about this? Since when? He was usually the first to announce something that Kyoko did and yet he never once told him that she was being asked out left and right.

Yashiro sighed. "You're so boring. The woman you love is being asked out non-stop tonight and you just sit there drinking your damn drink. Do something! Ask her out! You gave her a ring and she has been wearing it all night. That is a sign."

"She is also wearing the bracelet Kotonami-san gave her," Ren added to disprove the argument.

"Yes, but she didn't put on the watch or the hair clip things or either of the two necklaces the other boys gave her." Yashiro stressed out the word boys. They weren't all boys, some were around Ren's age. "She is only wearing your ring and her best friend's bracelet. She isn't wearing a necklace or a watch. She could have put those on right away but she didn't."

"They don't match her dress," Ren said numbly.

"DAMN IT REN," Yashiro yelled in a hushed but forceful voice. "Look. She is talking to another guy right now." Ren glanced over to her and he was right.

"She's blushing…" Yashiro's commentary was pissing him off further.

"OOOH he is touching her!"

Ren set his glass down before he broke it. He took a deep breath but couldn't tear his eyes away from the scene before him. She didn't flinch away from his hand as it slid down her arm and then held her fingertips lightly. She was blushing and looking very shy. She bit her lip like she was nervous or unsure and glanced back at their table.

"She's looking over here. Perhaps she is talking about you," Yashiro stated. More likely she could feel their eyes on her and was starting to make her feel uncomfortable. What were they talking about? Kyoko looked back at the younger boy waiting for her to say something. Finally, he saw her nod and the man smiled brightly at her.

"Oh she agreed to something." Ren didn't want to look anymore. He didn't know what they were talking about but he felt something inside of himself constrict painfully.

"She is still talking to him," Yashiro continued and Ren wanted another drink. "Oh, she's coming back."

Ren looked up and noticed that she wasn't really happy. Perhaps it isn't as they thought but the boy looked entirely too happy for it to be anything but a date that she accepted.

"Who was that, Kyoko-chan?"

Ren wanted to kick Yashiro, but he too was curious of her answer.

"Oh, umm…. That was Takashi-san. He is one of my co-stars in the new series I'm doing. I told you about that, Ren-kun." She looked at him and she could feel how upset he was. She didn't understand why though. He was in a good mood earlier.

"He is going to play a class mate of mine. It isn't a major role just a friend of the love interest."

"Oh. A new actor. That means you are his senpai. I bet that feels interesting. What did he want?" Yashiro smiled nonchalantly at her like they were having a normal conversation.

"Uh..." Kyoko's eyes flickered over to Ren. She didn't want to say anything so personal right now, but she felt like she had to answer honestly. He was so upset. If she lied to him, he would probably get more upset.

"He wanted to take me to dinner," she answered and couldn't look at them, preferring to play with a ribbon on the table, "as a date."

Both Ren and Yashiro looked at her in shock. She didn't have the heart to look and finally Yashiro broke the silence.

"A date? And you said yes?" He asked with an interested boredom. She nodded.

"Well good for you Kyoko-chan. Is this your first date?" Yashiro's words gave her a little shock. She was about to say no but then thought about it. She glanced up at Ren for a moment and then back down. Everything up to date that she has done have not been considered dates with anyone.

"I guess so," Kyoko replied softly. Ren watched her, trying to control his outrage. He has taken her out on lots of dates. How dare she say this is her first?

"See it's not so unusual for a senpai to take out their kohai."

Kyoko looked up when Yashiro spoke. He said it to her but somehow she felt like it was not directed at her. What did he mean by that? She looked over Ren for a moment who was taking a long drink from his glass. Then she let his words sink in. She hasn't been anyone's senpai before. She doubts she will ever be as good as her senpai, her friend now.

"A senpai," Kyoko said as if testing out the word. "I guess I am even if he is a year older than me. He did start acting last year, but I'm not good enough to be his senpai."

"Stop belittling yourself," Ren snapped."Everything around you and all the people you have met and the awards you have gotten prove that you are a brilliant actress. Modesty will only be taken so far then you are just being rude." Ren wasn't looking at her as he spoke. He was simply too shocked, too upset by the night's events to keep himself in check.

"Y… Yo… You're right," Kyoko stammered. "I'm sorry, Tsuruga-san. I am very happy with my progress to date."

Ren closed his eyes and clutched his fist in anger and frustration. She always reverted back to his last name when he scolded her or was upset. As if going back to that honorific was going to appease him. Didn't she know it just upset him further adding guilt and pain into the mix.

"Kyoko…." He wanted to scream at her, to grab her arms and knock some sense into her then hold her and kiss her all night. "The party is at its end. Let's gather everything up and I'll take you home."

"Ah yes. It is rather late but you don't have to take me home, Tsuruga-san." She squirmed in her seat.

"I… will take you home. It's no problem." He paused after the word I as he spoke emphasizing it but it was to bite back the words he truly wanted to say.

"Oh, ok. Thank you." The two men gathered her gifts as she said goodbye to the hosts. Maria-chan already fell asleep shortly after giving her gift to Kyoko. Yashiro stated he had a ride home already so it was only Kyoko and Ren in his car with a slew of items in his back seat.

He's angry. He's angry, so very angry. Why? Why is he angry? What did I do? Perhaps I didn't talk to him enough. It did feel like I was ignoring him throughout the night perhaps he thought I was too.

"I'm sorry, Tsuruga-san!" She turned to her seat and tried to bow down. "I tried to come over more than once but then you looked busy or like you were having fun then I got caught and then after midnight I was hoping to talk but then everyone kept coming over and…"

Ren smiled. "Slow down. What are you trying to say?"

"I'm sorry for ignoring you. You are my most treasured senpai and you got me this beautiful gift and I wanted to…," her voice drifted off.

"You wanted to what?" He asked

"I wanted to spend some time with you, to talk but things got in the way. I'm sorry." She tried to bow down again and she felt his hand on top of her head.

"I understand Kyoko. Parties are very hectic. I don't blame you. Please stop calling me Tsuruga-san," Ren added with a plea in this voice.

"Yes, sorry Ren-kun," she said bashfully which made him smile.

"Good. What do you have planned for the rest of your birthday?" He wanted to make her smile so he changed the conversation.

"Oh, um nothing really. I'll go to sleep and put away everything in the morning. Then maybe help at the restaurant. Nothing is scheduled to shoot since its Christmas. How about you?" she asked him.

"Nothing. Would you like to go and do something together?" Ren asked in earnest.

"Yes. I would love to but we don't have to go out. I can come and make dinner at your place," Kyoko offered.

"It's your birthday. You shouldn't do anything on your birthday. I don't mind taking you out." He didn't want her to work or do anything but be treated like a queen on her special day. Actually, he would mind treating her like that everyday of the year.

"Oh but I don't mind. I enjoy cooking for you," she confessed. She wasn't looking at him but if she was she would have noticed him stop breathing.

After what felt like days, he replied, "I won't argue with having a home cooked meal. I'll pick you up at one in the afternoon and we can go shopping for your meal."

"So early?" She sounded hesitant.

"Sure. I don't plan on only eating with you. I'd like to treat you on your day. Do you think you need more time to sleep?" It was close to three in the morning. Perhaps she wanted to sleep in.

"Oh, no. I couldn't sleep that late if I wanted to. One is fine." Kyoko smiled up at him and they found themselves at her place. He parked and helped her cart all her things to her room. It was his first time inside of the place and knew it was going to be fairly simple and very neat. It was her wall that gave him a little shock.

On it was a fairly large poster of him from a shoot and next to it was a much smaller poster of Fuwa and written all over it was "MUST KILL" in bold letters.

Kyoko didn't remember her posters. She must look like a stupid fan girl. She just thought he looked so nice in that shoot that she bought the silly poster and replaced the last one. Ren found himself out of her room and Kyoko quickly closing the door shut with the darkest of blushes on her face.

She walked him to the door and whispered, "Thank you for… everything. I'll see you later ok?" Her face was still red from the poster in her room. Will he take back his offer now that he saw her room?

"Yes. 1 O'clock sharp. Sleep well, Kyoko." He smiled at her and she felt his hand caress her hair and his thumb brush her cheek.

12:30 pm

Ren sat in his car and waited. He was early and if he were to go up and knock or enter the restaurant like so many were currently doing, she would probably be ready to go. He did say 1 though not 12:30. He had the whole day planned for them. He hoped that the public wouldn't disturb them.

12:45 pm

Ok so she was ready early. She paced in her room back and forth, back and forth for almost 20 minutes now. She was starting to sweat so she thought to walk outside; the cold air will help calm her nerves.

"Leaving already? Isn't he supposed to pick you up?" Okami-san asked as Kyoko descended the stairs.

"Ah, yes. But I thought I would wait outside. I'll see you later tonight." She walked out the door and started walking to the sidewalk. The crisp air felt good. She looked up into the clear sky and was blessed with a beautiful winter day.

"Hello, Kyoko-chan." A frequent customer was walking past heading to the front.

"Hello!" Kyoko greeted cheerily. "I hope you enjoy your meal, Shinobu-san."

"I always do. Going out?" He asked politely. She was dressed very pretty, the older man noticed.

"Yes. He should be here soon in fact." She looked at the new watch she received.

"Ah a date on Christmas. I miss those days with my wife. We are going out tonight after I get off of work. Well the whole family is. Have a wonderful date, Kyoko-chan." He smiled and walked away before she could tell him it wasn't a date. She sighed and turned around and began to walk. This wasn't a date. The Tsuruga Ren would not ask lowly Kyoko out on a date. But this brought a question to her. Why wasn't he on a Christmas date with the one he loved? She felt her chest tighten at the thought and looked up taking a deep breath. Then she noticed a familiar vision.

Ren turned at someone knocking at his window. It wasn't a fan was it? He was sitting out here for so long it was inventible. He turned to look only to find a heart stopping smile.

"Oh. You're early. I was about to come and get you." Ren had rolled down his window to speak to the beautiful woman.

"How long have you been out here for? You could have come in and waited inside at least." She held a voice of concern for him which made him smile.

"It's fine. I like being alone with my thoughts sometimes. Get in." He started to get out and open her door but she rushed to the other side and was opening the door before he could get out.

"Well, I'm glad I came out early then. What were you thinking about?" She always saw him deep in thought and always wondered what he thought about. Was he rehearsing lines? Was he thinking about his schedule or something he's read or watched recently? Even if she has known him for almost three years, he was still very much a mystery.

"Oh random things." He couldn't tell her he was thinking about her, of last night and of how much he missed. Ren realized how blinded he was being in love with her that he didn't notice the things happening around her. How could he have missed the changes and the attention she was getting from other men? Why didn't he see the changes in her approach to such delicate matters?

She so readily accepted his offer to take her out. She didn't even hesitate. Was she always like this? Today he would try and open his eyes and see her at 19, not the 16 year old he kept seeing.

"Are we not going to your place, Ren-kun?" She asked as he pulled into traffic and started going the opposite way. There was a grocery story at his place so they had no reason to head this way.

"Nope. You wanted to cook dinner, so I thought it would be fun to work up an appetite before heading there. Did you eat lunch?" He asked with a smile.

"Yes," Kyoko replied then looked at him suspiciously. "Did you?"

"Yes. I did." He chuckled at her tone. Truthfully he ate a late breakfast but it was close to lunch and he wanted room for her meal later that night.

"Hmm, Okay. Where are we going?" She asked as she looked out the window.

"It's close by but I want you to promise me something first."

"What?" She asked worried.

"Promise me that you will enjoy the day to its fullest and not frown."

She looked at him oddly. That was a silly request. "Sure. As long as you don't get angry," she added.

"If you are smiling, then I will be too." He replied with a smile and turned his attention back to the road. She blushed. He said these little phrases to her often. What did they mean and why did they make her feel so warm?

Ren stopped at a large white park. There were dozens of people walking to a large ice skating rink.

"Ice Skating?" She looked at him in shock, and he nodded with a smile.

"But I don't have skates and I have done it in years."

"Does that mean you don't want to do it?" His voice brought her attention to a sad face, and she remembered her promise. She smiled up at him and shook her head.

"Yes… I mean no. I would like to but where are we going to get the skates? Did you bring yours?" She asked. She figured if he was inviting her to ice skate he must know how to and have his own.

"I don't have a pair but we can rent some at a shop near by. To be honest, the only thing I've done is hockey when I was little. So it's been a while for me too," Ren admitted and then looked over to find a very stunned Kyoko.

"Hockey? You played hockey?" Kyoko was trying to picture him in hockey gear and her mouth went dry. Why did he look good in everything?

"Yeah. When I was around ten to twelve I joined a little league and played for a bit. I played center." He couldn't help but smile as he told her about this. It was such a simple thing and she looked like she was absorbing it like a sponge.

"Center?" Kyoko asked curiously.

"Yeah. Here let's go and get our gear and I'll answer any questions you have." She nodded and followed him out to a small housing area. He slipped on a pair of sunglasses and a dark gray beanie. She smiled never seeing him in one before but found it matched him rather well. He looked like a normal college guy. They went to a small rental shop that was currently renting skating gear but during the summer times they would provide water equipment. It was a very creative and versatile little shop.

Ren paid for everything leaving no room for argument stating that she promised to enjoy her day. They went outside and sat near some temporary benches and put on their skates. He told her what a center did which was basically followed the puck around the ice. He also played the offensive wing and told her that they were the ones who scored the goals most of the time.

"I have to admit that was more fun than being the center. Everyone loved the guy who scored the goals." He smiled in remembrance.

"Did you score a lot?" She stood up from her seat and balanced on the edges of the skate. She wobbled a little but stood still after a moment. He smiled at the double meaning of her words, but knew her question was an innocent one.

"Yes after some practice," Ren replied. "They always preferred me as the center though since I had the endurance to continuously run after the puck." He stood up now and immediately slipped back down onto the seat. Kyoko came rushing over her hands ready to help.

"Are you ok?" She was at his side with such a sweet look of concern on her face.

He laughed. "I'm fine. I doubt anyone would want me to play on the ice with how rusty I am."

"Why did you want to skate if you were out of practice?"

"I saw it and thought you might like it. Besides, I'm out of practice. It's not that I don't know how. All I need is a moment to get use to it again."

Sure enough, they both remembered how to skate and on such used ice as this. Kyoko was a little shaky at first but was the first of them to get the flow of it back. She used to skate a lot at Kyoto. She didn't have the best of skates but she loved them till they weren't usable anymore. Sho when with her once, fell and never came back out with her. She enjoyed the way she glided over the ice. It made her feel like a graceful fairy.

Ren took more time than expected and actually fell once.

"Damn toe pick," He cursed. Kyoko laughed which made all the embarrassment worth it. She helped him up awkwardly and he got back into the swing of things after a few more tries.

"It's been so long. Would you mind if I do a few laps?" He asked Kyoko and she couldn't say no. He looked like a kid eager to play outside. It was such a change from his normal disposition.

"I don't mind," she said. He slipped off his shades and handed them to her. He didn't want to lose them and he wanted to make sure his vision wasn't impaired. Her eyes followed him as he skated away from the general crowd. The area was divided into areas. The beginners would generally stay towards the front near the shop. Then couples and people who were here to enjoy themselves migrated to the sides but further way. Then you have the center which was being used by the serious skaters.

There is where Ren skated to pick up his speed, at the edges of the figure skaters that twirled around in the center. Kyoko couldn't take her eyes away from him as he lowered his center of gravity and started pushing himself faster and faster around the ice. He pumped his arms and legs and looked absolutely wonderful running laps around the ice.

So much in fact that he was getting attention from the other skaters, Kyoko started to worry that they may recognize him. After his fifth lap he slowed down and came back to her panting but with a huge smile on his face.

"I feel so out of shape," Ren panted lightly, his hot breath steaming up in the cold air. She handed him back his sunglasses.

Kyoko laughed. "You… out of shape? That has got to be the funniest thing you have ever said."

He smiled at her as they started to skate around the ice together. "I am. I work out mostly on strength not cardio. I don't have the time to run or skate or swim or ride a bike." He leaned down and nudged her lightly as he mentioned the bike. She smiled but he continued.

"So I'm out of shape. Work doesn't really ask for endurance just looks." He finished and she had to agree. All he did was stand and look handsome in front of a camera. Maybe he had to hold something for a while again that took strength more than cardio. Acting can sometimes make you run or do physical things but again it wasn't for very long, a ten second shot of you running can be taken as you running for ten minutes in the movie.

"Maybe we can get you a bike, and we can ride together sometime," Kyoko offered without really thinking about it. Then she stopped with a duh look on her face.

"Oh but then it's the fact that you don't have time not the ability. I'm sorry, that wa…Oof" A kid ran right into her and Ren saw it coming.

"Sorry!" The mother came rushing up and grabbed her son, bowing an apology.

Kyoko found herself being embraced by strong warm arms. She felt herself fall forward then suddenly stop, clinging to a thick dark blue jacket. Her cold face was pressed against his chest and she could feel his warmth envelope her - or perhaps that was just her. She took a shaky breath and looked up at her savior and with a shy smile thanked him.

"Do you want to continue?" Ren asked. He didn't want to let her go. He had her in his arms and even through all the layers of clothing, she felt wonderful. She smelled wonderful too, her scent invading his scenes as she slowly pulled away from him and back onto her own two feet.

"It is getting rather cold." She felt cold the moment she stepped away and it was started to get darker. How long had they been out here?

"How about some coffee? There is a coffee shop close by," he offered and she nodded.

He smiled at her and she felt her knees go weak causing her to stumble as they started to move.

"Are you ok?" He caught her around her waist holding her up.

"I guess I'm just tired." She gave him a weak smile.

"Here take my hand. We'll get off the ice in a moment and we can rest." He put his gloved hand in front of her and she looked at it like he was offering her some sort of precious thing or some sort of horrendous thing. He couldn't tell which but she took his hand after a moment and he felt like he was flying.

They reached the edge and fell onto the snow bank instead of a bench. Ren left for moment to get their shoes and he came back as Kyoko slipped off her skates. They made it out and back into the warmth of his car.

"Actually, do you mind if we walk? It's close by. Are you feeling better?" Ren fussed over her like she was this frail thing which made her laugh.

"I'm fine. I would love to walk. Let's go," Kyoko told him with a sparkle in her eye. He led the way, arriving arriving in a matter of minutes, and they sat at small table in the corner.

"What would you like?" He asked and she looked at the menu, something hot but also sweet. She wasn't in the mood for something bitter like coffee.

"I would like to try the white chocolate mocha, but I can get it. Do you want straight coffee? Large?" She stood up to get it but he stopped her.

"It's your birthday. You sit and wait." He started to stand but her hand on his arm stopped her.

"What if you get recognized?" She whispered. He looked around. There was probably five people total in the whole shop besides them and two of them were workers.

"Then I'll sign a few autographs and we will go. Nothing to worry about." He patted her hand comforting and left to order the coffee. He motioned towards the restrooms, and she nodded as she settled into her seat.

When Ren returned he found Kyoko at her seat with two coffees on the table, one in her ungloved hand warming up and his in the hands of another. He watched as she tried to take the coffee cup away from this stranger without spilling it.

"Please stop. That isn't yours. Just leave," Kyoko pleaded with the horrible man.

"Aww, you looked so lonely sitting alone. A pretty girl like you shouldn't be alone. Obviously this is an invitation for me to come and sit with you," the stranger said in what he believed to be an alluring tone, but to Kyoko only sounded sleazy.

"I'm not alone, and I wouldn't order two coffees to meet some stranger. Please give that back." She again tried to get the flimsy cup from his hand only to have it spill on her hand making her hiss in pain.

Kyoko nursed her hand quickly wiping away the hot coffee from her skin. She was getting so very angry at this person then she gasped in fear. Ren came up behind the stranger, no the demon lord came up behind him.

"I...I…I'm sorry!" She stammered. Ren put his hand on the man's shoulder as the stranger looked at her oddly.

"What the f…," He mumbled, looked up and paled.

Ren squeezed his hand and the man whimpered in pain. His body was slowly dipping down towards the floor trying in vain to escape the bigger man's grip.

"Apologize to my girl for burning her hand," Ren spoke in a deep deadly voice.

Kyoko blushed at his words: My girl. It reminded her of when they played siblings.

The man was on the floor on his knees and cried out, "Sorry! Sorry!"

"Take the coffee and get out." Ren pushed him slightly and the man gasped at finally being let go. He stood up and took off but didn't take the drink.

"You should have made him buy you a new one. That was so rude. He came up and took your cup like nothing then proceeded to hit on me. It was the most vulgar and rude thing I have ever seen. I'll get you a new cup." Kyoko stood up and started to walk to the counter.

"It's fine. I'll buy another," Ren grumbled still trying to let go of the anger he had for that punk.

"No," Kyoko countered. "You already bought one. I'm merely going to have them replace the one that got dirtied." She lifted the offensive cup and walked back to the counter. He watched her smile sweetly at the teen behind the counter and he quickly nodded taking the old cup away. Ren smiled at her as she came back with a fresh one and held it out to him.

"See. All better," she said cheerily. He took it from her hands and watched her sit back down finally taking a sip from hers.

"This is good. I wonder what the others taste like." She took another sip of the sweet hot drink and found Ren watching her still holding his cup.

"Something wrong? Does it taste bad?" She asked concerned. It was only normal coffee and there was nothing in it which was the way he took it.

"No, nothing is wrong. Thank you," he said softly and smiled at her. Her heart started beating wildly as he took his first sip. They started talking about little things as they drank and warmed up. It was getting dark and the city lights were starting to turn on. He glanced outside the window and noticed something interesting. He smiled.

"Come with me." He stood up and held out his hand again. She looked at him curiously but took it. He led her outside and straight to a carriage with a horse and all.

"Ren-kun, wait. That's not necessary." She was looking up at him with big bright eyes.

"It will be fun. I've never been on one before. Have you?" he asked and she shook her head.

"Then let's do it. It's your birthday. Treat yourself." He tugged her hand.

"But that's for couples or families," she countered and he straightened up stiffly. That's right. He wasn't on a date with her. They were out as friends. He felt like he just crashed back on earth and into stone cold reality. He smiled softly at her, and she could feel the change in him.

"We can head back to the car and head to the store." He let go of her hand and started to walk back. "Whatever the birthday girl wishes." He gently patted her head and started to walk back to the car.

"No! I want to. Let's go. I was just being silly." She took his arm and started stomping through the snow to the horse and carriage.

"We would like a ride," Kyoko smiled up at the driver.

The gentleman nodded as he spoke, "Hop in. I'll take you around the park and if you like we can go into the city a little."

"That would be very nice. Right, Ren-kun?" She squeezed his arm a little, and he nodded with a dull smile.

"Yes. Take her wherever she wants to go," his voice was practicaly monotone compaired to what it was before.

Kyoko swallowed tears. He wasn't happy anymore. She said yes. She was smiling but he wasn't the same. Why? He wasn't angry either though, just not the same as a moment ago. That was not his smile, the real smile she had been seeing all day.

Ren helped her onto the carriage and he sat next to her with the thick red plaid blanket keeping them warm. It had a little cover above them and made it seem very cozy, which was one of the reasons why she was so hesitant about getting on. They would look like a couple snuggling under a blanket during Christmas.

It was very quiet. The ride was beautiful but it was so very quiet. She looked up at him and often tried to come up with something to say but she was so concerned about his change that she didn't know what to talk about. She felt defeated.

You are such an idiot. You let yourself get carried away with the day and forgot yourself. This is not a date. She doesn't love you or even see you as anything but a friend. You are lucky to even be that much then you go and do silly date stuff with her, probably scaring her away. Idiot… idiot… idiot.

"Ren-kun," Her sweet voice called him from his self destructive lecture.

"What's wrong?" He looked around coming out of his daze. She giggled lightly and he turned to look at her.

"You are what's wrong. You left," she sighed.

You left. Such simple words and yet they struck a cord within him. You left. She looked up at him sadly and he knew she could tell when he stopped being himself. Since when was she able to separate Ren from Kuon? She didn't even know he was Kuon and yet she knew the moment he left, the moment he became Ren again. Hell he didn't even know when he stopped being Ren sometimes.

"I never left. I'm right here." He tried to play it off. There was no way that she could read him that well.

"Hmm. You said if I was smiling. You would smile too. I'm on a carriage ride and no matter how much I smile, you aren't." She pouted and crossed her arms as she looked away like a stubborn child.

That made him laugh softly. "I'm sorry. Look." Ren put on his camera smile and she glanced at him then looked away.

"That's your public smile," she pouted.

He frowned then put on another.

"No, that's your interview with women smile," Kyoko snapped.

Ren looked at her incredulously. "My what?"

"You smile differently when a woman interviews you versus a man," she mentioned off handedly like everyone knew this. He thought he was just smiling. He didn't even know he smiled differently to people. He tried another one.

"My Cain nii-san." Setsu smiled up at him and then wrapped her arms around his, in effect cuddling closer to him. She let her head fall against his shoulder and her hands cling to his arm. Ren could feel his heart explode as she cuddled against him then she looked up at him and smiled.

"There we go. If you want me to enjoy my birthday, you can't leave," she spoke out into the dark as they viewed the ever darkening night sky. He didn't know whether to be happy or worried that she knew him so well.

"Okay. I'm not leaving." He kissed the top of her hair lightly, and suddenly, the ride was filled with mild chatter and ended so very quickly.

They arrived at his apartment with grocery bags in tow. It took some work, but he convinced her to make nabe. There was a special reason to this however.

"Cut up everything and I'll help you carry it out," he told her with no explaination.

"Carry it out? Aren't we going to eat here?" Kyoko asked curiously.

"Yes and no. We are going to eat at this address but not inside the apartment. It's my last gift to you. Trust me." His final words made it to where she couldn't say no.

As Kyoko prepared everything, she found Ren walking back and forth carrying several things to the front door: blankets, throw pillows, an extension cord, a few thick books and his small night stand where his alarm clock and lamp sat in his bedroom. He then came over to the kitchen. Kyoko was actually chopping rather slow as she watched him and began to focus on her task as he came close. He didn't say anything. He simply walked in and grabbed a few of the plates and materials they were going to use for their meal. He set it with the other things.

"I'll be right back. I'm going to set everything up," he yelled out into the room as he was slipping on his shoes.

"Okay?" She answered still completely confused as to what he was doing. He made a total of three trips to where ever he went and finally came to check up on her. Not having him distract her made it possible for her to finish her task when he arrived.

"Ready. How are you doing?" He looked over the impressive spread of veggies and meats she cut up. She always made so much but he was thankful most of it was always meant for a bento the next day.

"I'm ready. Ren-kun, what are you doing?"

"You'll see. Let's gather it up and head over." He paused and looked at her. She was wearing a simple sweater with a knee length skirt and leggings but he was worried that it wouldn't be enough.

"One sec." He walked into his bedroom and got another sweater for her just in case. Kyoko watched him leave as she gathered all the ingredients for the nabe.

"You're already wearing a sweater. You need another one?" She was thoroughly confused.

"Just in case, for any reason. I don't want to have to come back down," Ren said as he picked up the largest tray of food and started heading out.

"Back down? Where are we going?" She stumbled after him.

"To the roof." He paused for a moment and picked up three DVDs that she didn't notice on his table top.

They took the elevator up and then had to climb some stairs where she found the exit door being kept open. Kyoko could feel the cold night air hit her face as they walked outside and then gasped in amazement at what she saw.

In front of her was a plush love seat with pillows and blankets thrown on top. Behind it was this crudely made up stand that held a projector which pointed to a projector screen that was against the wall. As she walked to the couch and looked at all the effort Ren put into it. She turned to talk but he wasn't beside her. She looked around and her breath fell short.

He was standing next to a small round table with a white table cloth draping over it. Two candles were lit next to the nabe pot that he was turning on. The extension cord was snaking its way under the table as he turned on the pot. She walked over and noticed two plate settings and on what she suspected was hers, laid a beautiful pink water lily.

"Do you like it? The night is clear so we should be able to see the stars but if not the view of the city is rather nice," he stated as she appeared beside him.

"It's wonderful. Thank you, Ren." Her fingertips gently touched the flower on her plate then she looked out into city lights.

Ren. That one word made it all worth it. He pulled out her chair and she sat down with a flush. Then he looked around and already he forgot something.

"Tea. I forgot about tea," he muttered.

"Oh, I'll go get it," Kyoko offered and started to stand up.

"No," he quickly replied. "Stay. You start the food and I'll get it. Just stay warm and I'll be back." Ren quickly walked out and Kyoko sat there stunned. This was just too… unreal. She didn't know what was happening but she didn't want it to end. She looked around the roof top and her heart swelled and tears threatened to fall.

"Control yourself, Kyoko. He's being kind and celebrating your birthday. It doesn't mean anything. Moko-san did this stuff last year," she whispered herself and smiled remembering the day she had with her best friend. She stood up and started pouring in the ingredients to the pot. They went shopping and to a play together. It was absolutely wonderful and all because it was her birthday.

"He is just your friend," Kyoko reminded herself with a sad smile. No matter how you feel about him.

"Just a friend," she whispered again trying to regain control.

It wasn't long before Ren came back upstairs and found her dreamily staring off into the night. She was so enchanting. She sat completely straight, years of training in effect. Her hands lay gently on her lap and her feet lightly crossed under her seat. She was the picture of elegance. She turned around as the crunch of his shoes over rock alerting her to his presence. She smiled up at him. She was brighter than the moon.

"Your tea," he said as he presented the tea pot before her. She held up her cup as he poured it for her.

"Thank you." She took a sip and sighed as the warmth soaked into her.

"We could have done this inside you know or perhaps when it is warmer," she teased him and he shrugged.

"That's true. Sometimes I get these ideas and don't think them through." He smiled embarrassed.

"Actually, I think you thought this through completely," she said with a sigh. Honestly this was probably the perfect time of the year to do this. In the summer time, it would be too hot to get close on the couch. Kyoko blushed. She shouldn't be thinking about that. That was probably what the pillows were for - a barricade to set between them.

"We don't get many free days off so I wanted to do as much as possible while we can." He was staring into the night as he spoke, "Plus you are getting more and more roles and therefore more appearances. Soon your schedule will be as hectic as mine." He looked over at her blushing face.

"Have they talked to you about a manager yet?"

Kyoko shook her head. "I'm not that popular. Everything seems to work out that once one show ends another one starts. It seems like I've done a lot but really I only do about two shows at a time." She looked at him with a smile. "Besides I don't have a second job like you do, who models and acts."

"Maybe you should too. I've told you before you could be a model with your posture and such. I could introduce you to some people to get you started," he offered seriously.

She shook her head. "I'm not model material. I'm too short and too…." Her hands gestured to her chest and she blushed. "I don't have the figure for it," she finally said. Kyoko wanted something to do so she stood and check the food.

"We can eat now," Kyoko whispered as she picked up her chop sticks.

"I need to buy you a mirror," Ren sighed and started to grab from the pot as well.

"Why?" she froze and looked down at herself. "Do I look bad?" She thought everything matched well. Her hair was fine earlier. She wore light makeup that she thought looked natural.

He chuckled, "You look wonderful. That's why you need a mirror. So you can see what everyone around you sees." His hand reached out, taking a lock of her hair between his fingers. "An exemplary beautiful woman," he softly whispered as his fingers smoothed the strand back, caressing her ear in the process.

"Thank you," she murmured barely audible. Kyoko placed a piece of food in her mouth so she wouldn't have to talk. It was so embarrassing. Why did he always compliment her so? He was the only one to tell her she was beautiful. Everyone would call her cute or scary, never beautiful.

Noticing her discomfort, Ren changed the subject. They spoke about their current roles and they discussed the party from last night.

"How long have you known President Takarada? Has he always been like that?"

Ren laughed. "Always. I wonder if Maria-chan will pick up his habits when she gets older. She does have a certain flair for things she loves."

"She does," Kyoko agreed. "She's so cute and sweet though. She will be so beautiful when she grows up, just like her mother." She stretched with a sigh then hugged herself against the cold.

"Are you cold? Here." He turned and grabbed his sweater from his seat.

"This is for me? I thought you brought it for yourself." She held his thick sweater in her hands.

"Nope. I'm fine. Please put it on." She blushed but nodded. As she slipped it on she could smell his clean scent all over it and instantly felt warmer.

"I probably look like a stuffed animal," she laughed. She had on a long sleeved shirt, then her thick sweater and now his. She felt silly wearing so much but it was cozy warm.

Ren loved that analogy, a stuffed animal, something cute and cuddly that he could hold and sleep with all night long. He would love to take her into his arms and sleep with her throughout the night, every night for the rest of his life.

"Ah, we should do this again." She smiled as she tilted back and looked into night sky.

"How about on Friday? I'm free that night." Or he can be free. There was only one show due and he bet he could rearrange it to be earlier. He watched her start to shut down. She looked upset and worried.

"I can't. I am meeting with Takashi-san Friday night." Kyoko waited for his gentlemen like smile but nothing happened. She wanted to look up but she was scared. She was embarrassed and it felt wrong telling him about Takashi.

"Why did you say yes?"

His words made her heart constrict. They sounded so horrible. She didn't look up, her eyes focusing on her hands at her lap.

"I don't know. It was something that Maria-chan said. I looked lonely. I never thought I was showing it but recently…." She licked her lips. Recently, when I'm not with you, I am lonely. She shook her head. She couldn't say that. He didn't see her as anything, just a friend.

"Takashi-san is nice and he is nice looking. I thought it wouldn't hurt to try dating now." She laughed. "Bet you never thought I would say something like that." She finally looked up at him and felt her chest collapse.

"What's wrong, Ren?"

"You said YES!" Ren half screamed into the night. He had to stop. He had to control himself but he couldn't. He never saw her lonely. He never saw how she changed. He only saw her when she was smiling and happy. When they spoke on the phone she was cheerful and exuberant. Anytime he was near her she was fine. Why is he only finding about this now?

"I don't understand. Why is that bad? Do you know him to be a bad person? I'll cancel it if you want me to," Kyok said it innocently, but it stopped Ren completely.

She would cancel a date with another man if he asked her to? What did that mean? His whole world was crashing around him. Everything felt like it was being destroyed, he saw the last few years of the together and regretted all the different things he wish he did with her and then she said something like that and causes everything to reverse.

"Why would you do that?" He asked carefully. He was on edge.

Kyoko looked away and shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Because… I…," she paused to find a good word. She couldn't say the one she truly felt. "I care for you and your opinion. You mean a lot to me," she finally said.

"But not enough to date?"

She jerked her head up to him, and he was looking at her like she was a lifeline to hope.

"What? What are you saying?" She was confused and her face reflected his. This was too much. There was no way he felt that way about her.

"Date me. Be with me, Kyoko," Ren pleaded and fell to his knees before her making her flinch at the impact.

"Ren, don't be silly. Get up, you're kneeling on rocks. Mogami Kyoko dating The Tsuruga Ren." She tried to dismiss the idea, making her voice sound like a ridiculous idea to show him how silly it was to even think of it.

"Stop!" He snapped. "I love you." He took her face between his hands and forced her to look at him.

"Don't you realize how much you mean to me? You are the only person who knows who I am. You are the only one to see me for me. You hate Tsuruga Ren."

Kyoko shook her head. "I do not! I like you very much."

Kuon laughed and smiled. "No you don't. You can't stand him. You think he is arrogant and fake and I love it. Kyoko, you fell in love with me and not Ren."

"You aren't making any sense, Ren." She pulled away from his hands and lifted one of the tea cups. "Did you put alcohol in the tea?"

"No. I just opened my eyes and let myself see you today. I didn't want to believe it. I myself got lost and you could tell the difference so well. Kyoko. I…" Ren was scared. Scared of what he had to say. What if she didn't understand? What if she hated him for lying to her all this time?

"Ren is a persona. Tsuruga Ren is a character I created to act in Japan. Those fake smiles and that calm exterior is Tsuruga Ren."

Kyoko was taken aback? If this isn't who he is then who is he? Who did she fall in lo… care for so much?

"I'm really from America. I moved here when I was 15 with Lory. My father is a native to Kyoto. When I was ten, my family came and visited and I met this little girl by a stream crying her heart out," he was rambling, so much that Kyoko was going into overload with the information.

"Stop! Wait!" She stood up from her seat and he let her. She paced back and forth, shaking her head. Her mind refused to connect the dots, refused to see the picture he was painting before her. He followed her and pulled her into his arms holding her from behind.

"Kuon. Hizuri Kuon is my name. She called me Corn," He said it - confirming everything. His heart was out for her, bare to the naked elements of the world. She would either embrace it or crush it. It was her choice.

Her body was shaking, and it wasn't from the cold. He was Corn. He was Father's son. All this time, he knew who she was and who he was and he never told her anything. Why? She didn't know how to respond.

"Kyoko, please say something. I never meant to hurt you. I was scared. Scared that you would be angry and never want to see me again. But I love you. I've loved you for so long now. It got harder and harder to tell you, more was on stake. I was happy just being your friend," he explained or tried to.

"Then I said yes," she whispered softly. His heart felt elated. She understood!

"Yes. Yes! I'm sorry for not telling you sooner. I'll spend my life making it up to you. Please say yes to me." He turned her around to face him, wanting to look into her face, her golden eyes.

"I can't." Those two words from her lips and his sky fell.

"Why? What do I have to do? How can I make it up to you? Anything, please tell me."

"I don't know you. The person I thought I knew was Ren and now you are telling me you are someone else. How do I know who is who? How can I tell the difference of who I…" love.

"You do know," he quickly interrupted, trying to convincer her that everything was okay.

"You always have. Today at the park you told me I left. You were right. When you didn't want to go on the carriage ride because you thought it would look like we were a couple, I was crushed and reverted back to Ren. You noticed it right away. The first day we meet at LME, I was so taken back at your reason for joining that I was myself and bullied you cruelly."

"Wait. So you are trying to say that you being mean to me was the real you, Kuon."

Kuon smiled at her, a bright dazzling smile. "Yes. Ren would never ever let his personal feelings go through. Ren would have been a perfect gentleman to you but your reason to join the one thing I was passionate about annoyed me so much that I got angry. Ren slipped away every time I saw you."

"So you did hate me," she said softly.

"There is a thin line between love and hate. I love you. I found out you were that little girl from my past and I couldn't help but fall in love with you as I got to know you. Do you remember when you fell in my kitchen?" He asked as he hurriedly tried to banish any negative thoughts from her mind.

She rolled her eyes. "Of course. You were so mean to me asking if I knew how to kiss and then laughing at me for saying no." She crossed her arms across her chest and huffed.

"I wasn't laughing at you," he revealed. "I was laughing at myself. For the first time in my life since I created Ren, I realized that you make me slip up. That was me. Ren would never do that. I forgot all about acting and only wanted you."

Kyoko felt his hand caress the side of her face. She looked down as his warm hands touched her cold cheek.

"You wanted to kiss me?" Her voice was soft and uncertain.

"God, yes. I still do," Kuon confessed. "Every time I see you I want to kiss you, touch you and hold you. But I was waiting."

"Waiting for what?" Her heart was beating so fast she thought it was humming.

"For you. You hated love, and I was so scared of losing you if I told you how I felt." He let out a harsh sigh. "I still am."

Kyoko thought about it and still didn't understand. She looked up at him and there was this scared man before her. He was looking at her, urging her to understand, to accept.

"Today was all you?" She had to make sure and he nodded.

"Except at the start of the carriage ride." He re-affirmed and Kyoko understood that one. Then anytime he smiled at her like that, his real smile, that was Kuon, her Corn smiling at her. All those other smiles were characters. Her mind shifted to the times she saw those smiles, as he played Katsuki, when she cooked for him, or when she did something good, he would smile at her like that.

"So than all the interviews and TV appearances you do as Ren?" She asked. She was starting to understand.

"Anytime I meet someone I am Ren yes. Lory, Yukihito and you are the only ones to know the real me. You know me more than Yukihito actually. Lory is like my second father." He thought about it. "Well Kotonami-san seems to see bits of me as well as Maria-chan, since they are around you a lot."

She smiled. "Moko-san always told me you cared for me. It seems you aren't very good at keeping in character."

He laughed. He laughed a full hearty laugh. "No. I'm not. Not when it comes to you. I think that was the first time I frightened Maria-chan. I was so upset about the Fuwa video I slipped. Fuwa. That's another person that I couldn't stay in character for."

This surprised her. She always thought he was too nice to him whenever they were around. That would be very Ren. "Why?"

"Jealousy. You thought of him so much. I hated it," Kuon confessed with a rather annoyed tone. He really didn't like to admit he was jealous of such a fool, but he already had revealed so much.

"I never thought of anything good about him though," Kyoko sneered.

"But you still think about him." more than you think about me. He smiled sadly at her.

"You were right the first time." She looked at him with a soft smile. "Thought. I don't think about him unless he is in front of me." Her smile widened. "Which I'm thankful isn't very often."

"I agree. Does this mean that…" he paused, "That we are ok?"

It was all too much. She understood that she never really meet Tsuruga Ren. The person she knew was Kuon. All those real smiles that seem to make her body hum, all those angry looks that he tried to hide behind Tsuruga Ren's smile, even those times when he looked at her like a woman were all Kuon peaking out.

"Why now? I didn't think you would see the same way I…" She stopped and looked up at him. "…do."

"The same?" Kuon smiled intensely. "You feel the same? Really? Kyoko!" He lifted her up from where she stood and kissed her. He really couldn't help himself. He wasn't thinking anymore. He was simply doing. All day he was doing what he wanted being with her, trying to get her to smile or laugh.

Her eyes widened in shock. This was her first real kiss and she was kissing Ren. No, she was kissing Kuon, her childhood fairy. She pushed off.

"I'm sorry. You have no idea how happy I am." He set her back on her feet.

Kuon looked positively exultant, like he could fly away at any moment. She was still wary. She was trying to convince herself that he wasn't anything more than a friend just a few hours ago. Then he tells her everything from I love you to he is Corn and she didn't know what to think. What does it all mean?

"What's wrong? Do you have more questions? Was the kiss too much?" He came to stand in front of her with a concerned sorrowful face.

"No. It's fine. I…" Kyoko touched her lips and felt her face heat up. "liked the kiss but…" she confessed softly.

"What?" He encouraged her to continue.

"I don't understand what this means. Does everything change now? Or does it all stay the same, and I know your secret? Do I date Takashi-san still?"

"NO!" He yelled out making her jump. Kuon looked down at her and could see her eyes start to pool with unshed tears.

"I'm sorry. But now that you know, I'm not letting you go. You said you felt the same. So that means you want to be with me, right? You said you were lonely recently. You don't have to date anyone because I'm with you. I want to be with you, Kyoko. I will never leave you."

A single tear ran down her cheek as he spoke, "I…" another tear fell, "I loved Sho and he didn't love me back. I don't want to be alone anymore but…" more tears. Kuon wiped them away as they fell.

"I love you. Even if you try and push me away, I'm still going to be here for you. Scream at me, throw things at me, hurt me and I'll take it all. Smile, laugh, frown or cry I'll be with you for it all. I'll catch you as you fall and I'll stand beside you as you stand on your own strength." He leaned down gently and kissed her lips again.

"Let me be yours," Kuon asked softly, his heated breat caressing her lips.

Kyoko couldn't help the tears that fell and chilled her heated face. She tried to speak but only a sound slipped out of her throat. She nodded vigorously and clung onto his sweater.

He smiled and kissed her once again. She closed her eyes, hot from the tears. She felt him reach for her right hand. She pulled back blinking, trying to clear her vision, to figure out what he was doing. She felt his fingers around the ring he gave her and slip it off her hand.

Kyoko tried to pull away but he held her still. She heard herself object but then he took her left hand. She looked up at him and there was this soft honest loving look on his face. His thumb caressed her ring finger and then slipped the ring on the same finger of her left hand.

She smiled up at him and threw her arms around him, planning to never let go.

A/N: I hope you enjoyed it.