Disclaimer: Yoshiki Nakamura owns Skip Beat, Company of Thieves own "Oscar Wilde", and Margaret Mitchell owns Gone With The Wind. The only thing I own is my obsessed, impatient mind.


Ludwig's Metronome

Chapter One—An Unforseen Overture

To Tsuruga Ren, Japan's inimitable actor, illustrious model, and man Entertainment Tokyo voted most likely to have women claw each other's eyes out in a struggle over his discarded gum wrapper, time was to be stretched like candy in a taffy puller. Yearning to separate himself from his guilt ridden past and aspiring to a bright future where his existence could never be questioned, Tsuruga Ren stretched every moment in his life with over packed schedules, hectic drama shoots, exhausting photo sessions, and incessant interviews. He ate and slept just enough to fuel him for his next day at work. He avoided attachments but, instead, focused himself entirely in rising up in the entertainment world. Friends, romances, uninterrupted sleep, and the opportunity of being able to waste away an evening pondering on the meaning of existence and other life puzzles would have to wait until after he had accomplished all of his goals. Someday he would once again stand on American soil, this time as a respected American actor. He would leave his Japanese persona behind and call out the name of his beloved mother and father. …And perhaps in this future Mogami Kyoko, the girl he unintentionally fell madly in love with despite his attempts to live as a specter in Japan, would finally look his way and see him as something more than a coworker and mentor.

Perhaps it is the destiny of every aspirant young man who has a clear vision of his future and the confidence that he could achieve it to discover that Fate has a twisted sense of humor. It was this particular day that Fate deemed it necessary to give Ren a wake up call. The job was given to Ren's Timex silver and black atomic alarm clock, the same alarm clock that abetted Ren in his stringent manipulation of time since the first morning he woke up as a Japanese. If the thing had any loyalty, it would have forgotten to ring that morning and let Ren postpone his fate for a brief respite. But instead, as it scrutinized the sleeping body unaware of the circumstances it was in, the callous clock rang in at full force.

"…orcelain teacups decorate tables and the conversation. Beauty pageants, all the time. It's running out, the time is running ou…"

Ren groaned in discomfort. Normally he was used to waking up and getting out of bed in the early hours of daybreak, but this particular morning his body ached and a dull relentless pain fogged the front of his brain. Surely being asleep would be a better remedy for his pain than being awake.

"…are all our own devil. We are all our own devil. And we make this world our hell…"

Eyes still stubbornly closed, Ren flipped over to his stomach. He reached his left arm out to his alarm clock on his nightstand and smacked his hand around in hopes of pressing the snooze button.

"Grrrhhhhhrrrr."

Odd. His hands were hitting something soft. He slowly opened his eyes and found he was hitting a large lump that was beside him in his bed. Experimentally he hit the lump again.

"Mmmrrrraaaahhhhhhhhrrrr."

Why in the world was there a vacuum cleaner in his bed? Perhaps to clear his torpid mind or simply to appease the childish impulse to see if he could make a different sound come out, he hit the lump a third time.

Instead of a groan, a sigh came out of the lump, and, much to Ren's astonishment, so did a slender arm, which grasped his wrist and promptly dumped his arm back on his side of the bed.

Ren was now fully awake. An arm. That was a girl's arm. Panic mixed with utter confusion rose in him. What the heck was a girl doing in his bed? He racked his mind for memories of the night before. Nothing unusual happened. He came home from work late, had a glass of wine and a Twinkie for dinner, set his alarm clock, and went to bed. Nothing that would give him any clue as to what was happening here... Maybe a fan prowled in here while he was asleep and snuck into his bed with some deluded fantasy that he would not mind her company. Odd that the building's security had not stopped her. Keeping unknown people out was why he paid the ridiculous amount of rent to live here.

Ren, somewhat perturbed, sat up in his bed. Just as he was about to give the girl an overly warranted reprimand, something else caught his eye. This was not his room. Instead of his spacious, sophisticated, but somewhat austere bedroom in his penthouse, this room was much smaller and was decorated in the oddest mesh of styles. Gossamer curtains with dangling fairy ornaments and an intricately carved bed with fancy overlapping drapery seemed to come out of a fairy tale. A crudely carved wooden chair was placed in the corner along side a traditional six-foot daruma statue owning only one eye painted on. On the wall was an odd art piece made of voodoo dolls and pins. The surface of the table held a ridiculously garish neo-Rococo vase that seemed strangely familiar to Ren. The cabinet across from his bed was the only thing that seemed normal. It was a piece of modern furniture with sleek lines and an unadorned surface, but its effect was broken by the sight of a raggedy gray tabby cat sprawled out on its top. At least Ren thought it was a cat. It looked a good deal like road kill or a meatloaf gone moldy, and Ren was not quite sure it was alive. It was missing an eye, two back paws, an ear, and large patches of hair. If this room was the craft of an interior designer, the designer would have been taken out back and shot by his or her peers, but somehow the extreme mismatch in styles gave the room an intimate and comfortable feel. It seemed to be endowed with a soul of its own. Ren forced his concentration from the room back to the girl. Surely it was not possible for a girl to drag him from his apartment and bring him to this place without waking him up. The lump looked much smaller than him. How in the worl…

"Reennn…Turn off the alarm," said the lump with an exhausted and slightly pained voice.

"…Time keeps on ticking away. Always running away. We're always running from time…"

Ren stared at the lump, anxiously searching through his head for a way to explain this situation. Although a bit slurred, that was definitely a female voice.

"…on ticking away. Always running away. We're always running in time…"

Another sigh from lump girl. The covers rustled as the girl pulled them back from over her head, revealing a petite face with golden eyes and mid length black hair. Raising herself on one arm, the girl moved herself over the frozen Ren so that her body, covered only with a thin, gauzy, pale pink slip, slid against his chest. She reached her arm out to Ren's left side and snatched Ren's alarm clock off of the nightstand.

"…We are all our devil. We are all our own dev-" The song came to an abrupt end as the girl, somewhat aggressively, slammed down the snooze button. She slid back off of Ren and under the covers with movement that resembled lethargic jello more than any human.

Ren was still frozen in the same spot for a good twenty seconds before he could get his mouth moving.

"Mo…Mogami-san?"

The girl pulled the covers away from her face. "Mogami-san?" she questioned. Her countenance revealed a look of mild confusion as she struggled to keep her eyes open.

Ren struggled to find his voice. "Wha…What are you doing here?"

The confusion on Kyoko's face became more overt. "…We agreed last night that you were making breakfast this morning…Don't tell me you are backing out now."

Ren simply stared at her with a stupefied look as he struggled to find any semblance of sense in the situation.

Kyoko yawned. "Stop being so lazy… Go make me an Osaka Dump." Wrapping the blankets tightly around her so that she resembled a cocoon with her arms pinned closely to her body, Kyoko rolled into Ren and pushed him right off the bed and onto the floor. Seeing that she was successful in her bulldozing efforts, she settled herself into his leftover warm spot.

Like a robot with a circuit malfunction, Ren awkwardly picked himself up and started heading to the bedroom door. Surely things would make more sense when he was out of this crazy room.

When Ren was almost to the door, Kyoko, still in cocoon form, lifted her self up to sitting position. "Wait, Ren," she called out. "I forgot to give you something. Come here." She struggled to pull her arms of her casings.

Ren's body, still on autopilot, drifted to Kyoko's side. When Ren was close to her, she deftly gripped the sides of his neck, pulled his face down to hers, and placed a tender kiss on his lips. When she pulled back, she wore a small smile on her face. "Good morning," was all she said, and then she swiftly fell back down already half asleep.


After walking into two closets and a bathroom and tripping on the staircase, Ren at long last found himself in the kitchen. He stood in the small room with a dazed look frozen on his face and with his hand barely touching his lips. It was, however, another ten minutes before a coherent thought finally squeezed its way into Ren's mind.

"What in the world is a Osaka Dump?" he wondered aloud.

No...THAT was not the issue right now, he chided himself angrily. What the heck happened last night, and why can I not remember it? His mind raced once again to the night before. There had to be something…something he was missing. He went through the door. Did he lock it? Aahhh…his head still hurt and thinking this hard was not helping. He walked in, took off his shoes, put the keys on the table, went to the kitchen. He was depressed that Kyoko had once again ignored his subtle, halfhearted attempt to confess to her…nothing out of the ordinary. Throb. Ren's eyes jolted up. Maybe the issue was not what he remembered but the fact that he could not remember. He knew this equation from when he was a rebellious teenager. Headache plus memory loss invariably meant that a heavy amount of alcohol was consumed. He must have woken up and gotten madly drunk and forced himself onto Kyoko…Why was Kyoko there? Ren thought of this morning. Kyoko looked different. She must have been wearing a wig (her hair was not that length), and she looked more mature. Her face looked slimmer somehow. Ren sighed. Kyoko always did have the habit of showing up at his apartment at odd hours of the night when acting was involved. She must have had some issue with the part she was playing and came over for advice. The change in location and the heavy drinking must have somehow been related to that…and then he attacked her. As Ren felt the guilt start to crush him, he attempted to turn his thoughts to other things.

The Osaka Dump. The least he could do was to make the girl he assaulted breakfast. His mind scrambled trying to imagine what an Osaka Dump was. It must have something to do with eggs. One thing that Ren had learned about while living in Japan was that the people loved eggs…and rice. Lots of eggs and rice. Ren thought back to the time where he had taken Kyoko out to eat while she was his temporary manager. He chuckled at the memory of how she was practically dancing when she received her egg on a hamburger. Well, he could make eggs. He had watched a costar do it in a drama he was in a while back.

Ren turned on the electric stove to medium high and spotted a pan positioned in the dish rack in the sink. Not eager to fish through all the cabinets in search of a frying pan, he rinsed off the pan, wiped it off with the rag that was out, and set it on the burner.

As he waited for the pan to warm up, the thoughts he was avoiding crept back in. He thought of this morning. Kyoko touched him. She was not afraid of him. She was willing to lay on top of him to get to the alarm clock. Her silky nightwear caught on his skin while she glided across and revealed a good amount of her soft, pale br….No, now was NOT the time to be thinking about that. She was hidden in a pile most of the time, but she did kiss him. That had to mean something. Certainly, that meant that he had not ra… Ren refused to finish that word. He set down the rag that was clenched in his fist and went to the refrigerator to fetch the eggs.

Maybe, just maybe Kyoko was here on her own free will. Maybe Ren was drunk enough to tell her his feelings out right, and maybe Kyoko by some miracle accepted him. Ren just had the extreme bad luck of forgetting it all. Ren tried to calm his panicked heart as he pulled the eggs out of the fridge. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe last night was some miracle that meant Kyoko was now his to hold and to love. Maybe this was God's way of telling him that he was forgiven for his past and was now allowed some amount of happiness in his life.

No, that situation was not right at all. Even if Kyoko had accepted his feelings, she was definitely not the type of girl to stay over at a man's house the same night. This meant that either she was deeply entrenched in her role and Ren took advantage of that, or he had gotten her stone drunk with him. Ren let out a painful sigh as he rested his forehead on the outside of the refrigerator. His list of crimes kept on rising. Getting a minor drunk and then forcing himself on her. Shame his headache was going away. He would not have minded it becoming intense enough to gain a reprieve from these cruel thoughts. Kyoko would not want anything to do with him. She would despise him from now on. He would be lucky if she even spoke to him after this.

"Um, Ren."

Ren was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he had not noticed that Kyoko had entered the room. He turned his head from the refrigerator and looked at her. Kyoko was wrapped up in what looked like a men's bathrobe and had a bad case of bed head. She's beautiful, Ren thought. Her expression was unreadable, but Ren thought he saw some panic rush through her eyes. Ren braced himself for the inevitable words of rejection. "I'm sorry, but last night was a mistake", "I can't believe that you, my trusted mentor, would do something like this to me", or "I've decided to move to a small, remote island in Zanzibar to a place that has no television, magazines, or internet so I don't have to see your face ever again. Please don't contact me" was bound to be what came out of her mouth.

Kyoko's mouth was open for a moment before words came out. "You set the kitchen on fire."

That was not something he had prepared himself to hear her say. Ren stared dumbfounded at her for a few seconds before turning his head around. There on the stove was a flame two feet high that was darkening the wooden cabinets above.

In a panic, Ren ran to the stove and turned off the burner. The flame was not getting any smaller. He grabbed a snifter glass out of the sink, filled it with water, and threw it on the fire. The flame became larger. Kyoko tapped his shoulder from behind. Flustered, Ren glanced behind him. Kyoko held up the fire extinguisher she had fetched from one of the cabinets. "Electrical fires need this," she calmly stated.

Ren ripped out the pin and squeezed the lever. The flame slowly dissipated as he sprayed it with the white foam. All that remained was a smoldering rag that Ren had absentmindedly set on the burner earlier.

Ren turned around to face Kyoko. Kyoko's shoulders were trembling. For a moment, Ren was worried that the fire had scared her…or that he was scaring her. Then a snort escaped her nose, and the laughter she was attempting to suppress shot out in loud guffaws.

"I..I'm sorry, Ren," she spat out, bent over holding her stomach. "It…It's just I'm usually the neurotic one…It's funny seeing you in a dither for a change…You look like someone just hit your face with a frying pan."

Kyoko walked over to Ren, went up on her tiptoes, and pushed the few strands of hair that had fallen in front of his face behind his ears. Then she went to the stove to inspect the damage.

"This is the first time I've heard of a person setting a kitchen on fire while making a parfait," Kyoko said as she carried the smoking rag to the trash with a pair of tongs.

Ren looked at her. "Osaka Dump….is a parfait?"

Kyoko glanced at him with a confused gaze. "Of course…You've been so odd this morning. Sit down. You can make breakfast sometime when you aren't so dangerous."

Ren watched Kyoko as she worked her way around the kitchen assembling the two parfaits, which seemed to contain the oddest ingredients such as red bean curd, strawberries, sardines, and jello. Watching Kyoko's equable mood this morning, Ren hoped against hope that he was wrong in his earlier reconstruction of the past. Maybe the part she was practicing required her to wake up in the same bed as a man, and the two of them had really not done anything last night. A bit of a stretch but possible. Maybe this was all a sadistic dream. Eating a Twinkie before bed was not the best idea he had ever had.

Kyoko set the strange looking concoction and a teakettle on the small breakfast table and sat opposite Ren. With a certain amount of apprehension, Ren scooped up a small spoonful and put it in his mouth. It was a surprise, although he knew he should not have expected less from Kyoko. The Osaka Dump was edible…even tasty. He looked up at Kyoko to compliment the chef but noticed that she was looking at her untouched food with somewhat of a glower on her face. This change of attitude disturbed Ren, who had finally been able to calm down.

"Are…Are you alright?" Ren asked with hesitation.

Kyoko snapped out from her trance and looked up at him. She gave him a quick smile that did not reach her eyes. "Sorry, I'm just not feeling that well this morning."

Ren did not want to hear the answer to this question. "Are you tired and your muscles sore?" he mumbled.

Kyoko thought for a moment. "That among other things. Bon Appetit." Kyoko unenthusiastically began to eat. Ren noticed that the confection on his tongue had somehow become flavorless.

"How…" Ren cleared his throat. "How do you think your part's coming along?"

"For Winter Solstice…Well enough. It will take some interesting convincing to force the director to let me do Chouko the way I want to play her, but convincing people of things is my specialty." Kyoko let out an evil snicker. "The main actor is still a pain, though, but I'll take care of it," Kyoko slowly scooped another spoonful of the parfait into her mouth and stared into space, obviously worried about something. Then noticing that Ren was watching her, she shook herself out of her thoughts. "I'm fine. Stop worrying so much."

Ren watched her. That answer was rather vague, and he wanted to ask more about it, but there were other issues that were of greater importance.

Ren cleared his throat. Even if he was not so terrified of her response, he knew this would still be terribly awkward. "So…um…about last night…I think we need to talk about it." Kyoko looked at him curiously but waited for him to continue. "You and I…did something last night that was irrevocable. I know…that it was probably the alcohol's fault that we both lost our heads…but it was my fault that things went the way they did, and I want to sincerely apologize for-"

"Alcohol? We didn't drink any alcohol yesterday." Ren paused, unsure of how to process that statement within the larger context. Kyoko looked over to the kitchen counter. "Did you drink last night? ...Whoa. You did. That brandy decanter was three fourths full when we went to bed. You woke up in the middle of the night to have a one man drinking party?" Kyoko's expression went from reproachful to concerned. "Is there something wrong? Do you need to talk about something?"

Ren's face, which had been staring at the nearly empty decanter, flipped back to her. "Now's not the time to be asking if I'm all right. I'm more worried about you…I know that what happened last night will change our relationship drastically…I would understand if you would want to break ties with me here and now, but…I want you to know that the feelings that I had last night were not just a whim, and they won't change anytime soon—"

"What are you… Oh, you mean THAT. I didn't know it bothered you so much. I'm not going to 'break ties with you' over that." Ren looked at Kyoko with hopeful eyes. That was until Kyoko continued, "That was just a meaningless incident. It would be ridiculous to take something like that seriously. Its better just to forget the whole thing ever happened and keep our relationship as it is."

"…I'm glad that you don't seem to be hurt, but I hardly think that forgetting it would be the best solution…The truth is that I don't want our relationship to just be what it was."

Kyoko's face for some reason became tense. "NO. It's stupid to change our relationship into something so ridiculous. Let's never bring up what happened yesterday again. It was stupid of both of us to even play around with the idea last night."

This was the first time Ren had been shot down by a girl so blatantly, and it stung more than he thought it would. Ren lowered his head to hide his darkening expression from Kyoko. "…If that is the way you feel…"

"Of course it is. Yesterday was just some deranged passing fancy. The truth is it just wouldn't work out. Think of all the reasons against it. Reason number one is that your fans would hate it and you would lose the respect from the acting community. Reason two, you and I have too many dark sides to be taken seriously as an innocent couple in love. Number three, the height discrepancy of us is just too large to overcome. Both of us would have to be pretty insane not to notice that."

It hurt being shot down, but now Kyoko seemed to be driving a screwdriver into his heart.

"Fairytale romances belong in fairy tales, no matter how much I want it to be otherwise. The relationship we have now is stable and genuine. Changing it would just hurt both of us. Besides, I have a really hard time imagining you in tights."

Ren was falling into dark abyss, but the last word of Kyoko's utterance caught him off guard enough to pull him back. "…Tights?" he asked.

"Exactly. You are an accomplished actor and have a good ability to adapt to different roles, but I still think tights for an extended period of time would just not suit you. The dignified persona you pretend to have just won't come through the same way in nylon, and I am not too sure I want everyone staring at your well-chiseled b—"

"What do tights have to do with anything?"

"Thumbelina's fairy prince wore tights. It's in all of the artistic renditions of the story. There is just no getting away from them."

"Wha…How does Thumbelina's fairy prince's preference in leg garments have anything to do with what we are talking about?"

"…Aren't we talking about last night?" Kyoko looked at Ren's blank face. "Last night, remember? You were like 'Kyoko, there is something I need to talk about.'…with that serious voice, you know. Then I said 'What Ren?' 'Tell me…what would you change about me if you could change anything?' '…Uh, I guess your shoe size. It is nearly impossible to find you shoes in Japan.' '…I meant something I could actually do.' 'Nothing Ren, you are perfect in every way. All the magazines say so.' SLAM—This is where you slammed your hands on the table just like this. I jumped a little too—'I'm serious! What is it that you don't like about me? Is it how I get angry? Is it my messed up past? Would you like me better if I weren't an actor? If I weren't so famous? If I… never met you?' 'Whoever you are is fine with me.' 'Darn it Kyoko'—but you didn't actually say 'darn it'—'I'm running of time. You believe the best in everyone and it gets you hurt every time. You deserve better. Tell me the truth. What is it that you really want from life?' This was my dumb response. '…Well…it would be interesting if you were an actual fairy.' 'Wha…' 'Like the one in Thumbelina. I always dreamed of being Thumbelina. I have a tragic past because I'm so short and no one can see my hidden princess potential. Suddenly, you would whisk me away from being married to the ugly frog, and we live the rest of our lives in your fairy kingdom with the other beautiful fairies…Ah, a dream come true…'"

Kyoko took a breath. Ren sat there in awe. Kyoko had mimicked the two of them flawlessly. She replicated their hand motions and posture to perfection so that it actually seemed that the two of them were talking. She also seemed to have an unusually good memory to memorize such an unintelligible conversation. He must have been drunk already when he had this discussion.

"Then I just went off in my own la-la land like I usually do, but you kept asking questions about what it was about the fairy prince that I liked. You were so serious yesterday and this morning that I figured that you really did want us to act out the fairy tale in real life to please me, but…looking at your expression, I think not. How did you forget the conversation we had yesterday?"

"I was talking about the other thing that happened yesterday. A bigger change than me wearing tights."

Kyoko crinkled her brow. "I can't think of anything else but that. Yesterday was nice, though. It was peaceful spending time together."

Relief slowly permeated throughout Ren's body. He began to pick at his meal with more gusto. "So. Nothing too critical happened last night," Ren mumbled, more to himself than to anyone else.

"Mmmm. Well, except for the sex." Ren choked. "But personally I would hardly classify that as something that happened on the whim of our drunken minds. Can you pass the tea, please?"

"How…How did it happen?" Ren sputtered after he was finished coughing up the sardine he swallowed whole.

Kyoko gave him an odd look and then blushed. "Well, I can give you dramatic rendition right now if you want, but Yashiro is supposed to be here at 8:30. The tea, Ren. Oh, I'll get it myself. I know he's a friend, but I think that a certain amount of privacy should be maintained even between friends. For the good of both…parties." Kyoko's focus moved over to something behind Ren.

Now was Ren's time to blush. "Moga…I mean…Kyoko…chan…I'm really glad that you are taking what happened last night…between us…so composedly. You REALLY don't know how glad I am, but I think there are some very important things to talk about. …Kyoko-chan," Ren looked earnestly into her eyes, which were still fixated behind him, and took a deep breath. "I don't want last night to be the end of things…I…I am not worthy of deserving you yet, but still I want something much more with you…. Actually, for a long time now I've been deeply in l-."

SLAM. Kyoko's hands hit the table shaking her glass bowl so hard that it rolled off the table and crashed onto the floor. Ren, paralyzed, stared at her in silence.

Kyoko gaped at him with a panicked look on her face. "It's 7:03," she breathed.

After a few palpable seconds, Ren found his voice. "So…?"

"Yesterday we ate dinner at 7:03."

"…And?"

"So, earlier when you were burning down the kitchen it was 7:03. The clock on the wall is broken. Give me your wrist." Kyoko snatched Ren's arm and looked at his watch. "Ahhhhhhhhh. It's 8:19. Yashiro's coming over in eleven minutes."

Kyoko rose out of her seat like a geyser, and, keeping a firm grip of Ren's wrist, she rushed out of the kitchen, slid around the corner, and bolted up the stairs, taking two steps at a time. She dragged Ren, who was still unsure of what was happening, into the room and grappled with the buttons on his shirt.

"I can do that myself," Ren spoke, red with embarrassment.

Kyoko looked up from what she was doing. "You're right. You were always faster at undressing people. Hurry up with your shower." And with that, Kyoko left the room, closing the bedroom door behind her.

Ren stood there in the room for a long pause before he stirred himself into action. All this morning he had felt like he had wandered into an absurd Franz Kafka story, he standing with his mouth agape as everything around him was functioning in a logic he could not possibly understand. Finally, something he could get a grip on. Though the world be crazy around him, Tsuruga Ren was never late. Ren stripped off his clothes and entered the shower. The nearly scalding water and the hustle of getting ready on time allowed Ren's overwrought mind a small diversion.

It was exactly 8:29 am when Ren walked out of his sanctuary of the bedroom and back to the chaos that was waiting for him. He could see Kyoko's head rise to view as she climbed up the stairs.

Kyoko assessed his appearance. "Amazing! You're ready to go. You get dressed like Clark Kent in a telephone booth. Hmmm...Your hair is still a bit wet though." Kyoko reached up her hand to check the dampness of his locks.

Ren looked down at her with newly found clarity of mind. No matter what Kyoko thought of last night, he was not going to give her up. If she chose to go to Zanzibar, he would follow her there. There had to be some use for actors among the tribal members and the mongooses.

"…I found this in the house owner's closet. Luckily the size seems to fit. Do you think that it is really okay to wear this? …Besides, the style seems a bit odd."

Kyoko looked at him slightly confused. "I don't think the outfit looks that odd. Of course, fashion has always been your forte more than mine. Listen, Ren, about this afternoon, remember that you-"

"How does Yashiro know that I am here?" Ren interrupted her. Time was running out before his obnoxiously shrewd manager was coming to the door, and Ren needed to keep what happened between Kyoko and himself a secret until he could figure out exactly what was going on between Kyoko and himself.

Kyoko gave him an odd look. "Huh? Oh, Yashiro called earlier this morning about when he was coming over. It was while you were in the kitchen."

So Yashiro knows that Kyoko was with him last night. Great…How was he going to get out of this one?

"Ding dong." The resounding chimes of the doorbell resonated throughout the house. To Ren, they knelled in his impending doom.

Kyoko turned to look over the banister. "Looks like Yashiro's here. I'll go get the door."

With deft speed, Ren grabbed Kyoko's wrist. "Don't tell him about last night."

"Huh?"

"Tell him that I slept on the couch while you slept in the bedroom. Nothing happened beyond a platonic relationship between two adults struggling to do well at their jobs."

"…Why?"

"Because the news of us going around will cause a lot of publicity," Not to mention harassment from Yashiro for the next decade, "and I want us to have a good, long talk before anything gets out. Yashiro won't believe me if I am the one to tell him that nothing happened."

"…I don't see how last night will cause a lot of publicity."

Kyoko was a smart girl, but sometimes her mind did not run on the same cylinders as everyone else. Ren sighed. "Ding dong," the doorbell rang again. Time was running out. He needed to get her to cooperate fast.

"This is an acting test. Your job is to convince your skeptical audience that a completely different reality is the truth. Just do whatever you can to make him forget about what he thinks happened between us."

"I don't see the point…"

"Are you an actress or not? This is important actress training, and you are cowering away? Undedicated actors are not needed in show business."

Kyoko's skeptical stare immediately turned into a look of determination. "Of course not! An actress must be ready to perform in every situation," she asserted.

"Ding dong."

Ren let out his breath. Things were now under control. "That's right." He glanced down at her clothing. "Now go change into something other than that robe, and do something about the wig. I'll go get the door, and you can meet us when you're ready to play your part." Ren shoved her into the bedroom and closed the door. Then he hurried down the stairs and opened the front door.

Outside was a very blue looking Yashiro. "Took you long enough," he mumbled as he forced himself past Ren and entered the house. "I don't care if they say that it's late March. It still feels like January to me."

Yashiro preoccupied himself with rubbing his hands on his shivering limbs in a vain attempt to warm up faster.

Ren was a bit confused. "It didn't seem that cold outside."

"You didn't come all the way over here in a cab with no heater. Trust me. That will change your perspective. You deserve to be tortured for all the pain you put me through. Why do you have to be so far away from the office?"

Frankly, Ren was wondering why he was in this small, secluded house as well, but he could not tell Yashiro that.

After a couple of minutes Yashiro was warmed up enough to stop his rubbing. "Where is Kyoko-chan?" he asked. "She was up this morning when I called your cell."

Ren glanced up to the ceiling. Hopefully this would work. "…She'll…be down in a little bit. She is…still…worried about the role that she was working on yesterday…with me. We practiced it all night…in a completely professional manner, you know."

Yashiro looked confused. "You practiced acting yesterday?"

"Of course." Yashiro had sounded rather skeptical. Ren hoped that Kyoko would hurry up and back up his story. "That was all that happened last night."

Yashiro began to look angry. "Ren, don't tell me that you used all of your alone time with Kyoko on acting issues. If you say yes, I'm going to strangle you, you romance moron."

"Of…"

"Of course," a feminine voice declared, interrupting Ren's. For a split second, Ren was relieved by this voice. Yashiro would believe her. That was, of course, before he glanced up and saw what Kyoko was wearing as she climbed down the stairs.

What the…She had a new wig on. It was brown and was tied up in bows, but that was not all there was. She was wearing a gigantic nineteenth century style green dress with a hoop skirt and fairy decorations dangling off of it. Wait a minute…Ren recognized those figurines and that fabric. Kyoko had somehow constructed a dress out of the bedroom curtains.

Kyoko walked down the steps with dignified grace, swinging her dress as she went along. "Fiddle-dee-dee. I have never heard of such bad taste in all my life. Me with that greedy, conniving varmint? Why Yukihito, you must be joking," she spoke in English with an American southern accent. "Mr. Ren Tsuruga slept down stairs as is proper last night. I wouldn't let him around me in a ten-foot radius as any smart women should do when he is around. He does have a way of turning innocent young girls into women with French tastes if you know what I mean."

Ren's mouth was gaped halfway open, and he was pretty sure Yashiro's was as well.

Kyoko's expression changed from contempt to affection as she walked closer to Yashiro. "Don't believe what you see, Yukihito. I love you. Love you so much that nothing in this life seems to matter anymore." She slid her arms around Yashiro's neck. "Let's run away together. I'll leave everything behind for you. You can escape your boring wife. She's no good for you. I'll love you more, and we will never want for anything as long as we are together. Why, God and the gates of hell won't be able to break us apart from our happiness. Just tell me that you love me."

Yashiro looked down at Kyoko's close face with panicked eyes and a frozen expression. If Ren did not have a suspicion of what was actually going on, he would have punched Yashiro then and there. Yashiro gulped and then stuttered the question "Wha…what…about…R..Ren?"

Kyoko flew back her head in defiant anger. "He means nothing to me. Do you hear me? He's coarse and conceited and quite capable of doing without me. Give me the word and I'll never speak to him again. Just love me. That's all I ask….Why are you silent?...Don't tell me you don't lo….No, I don't want to hear it." Kyoko slapped Yashiro across the face. "You coward. You rotten coward. Go back to your silly, little wife. I don't need you." Kyoko backed up from Yashiro to the center of the room. Suddenly, dramatic theme music resonated from the halls of the house. Kyoko raised up her arms. "As God is my witness, this is not going to lick me. If I have to cheat, steal, or use everyone for my means, I will survive, and I will come out of this happier than anyone. Do you hear me? I'll never be sad again." Kyoko hung her head back in dramatic triumph. The affect was destroyed however when after a few seconds, Kyoko swung her head back, pulled out a remote from her dress, and switched off the music.

She looked expectantly at Ren. "Well, was that okay?" she asked.

Yashiro looked from Kyoko to Ren. "What's…going on?"

"I…might have caused this," Ren stated as he let out a deep breath. How could his attempt at covering things up go so wrong?

"Ren wanted me to joke around with you this morning. I'm not sure why, but it was a lot more fun than I expected." Kyoko started to unpin the wig.

Ren walked over to help her. "You didn't need to act a different character from yourself," he spoke in a hushed voice.

Kyoko glanced up at him confused. "Of course I did. The scenario for the plot did not make sense for it to be of my life, and your mention of a wig confirmed the fact that you were looking for a completely different character."

"I didn't mean…Did it have to be such an ostentatious character?"

"You didn't give me enough information about the character. It's the actor's prerogative to fill in the gaps and give the character life."

"But 'Gone with the Wind'?"

"Don't make this out to be that I am the weird one here. You are the one that has been acting oddly all morning. Oh, you forgot your coat. I'll go get one for you. It's supposed to rain later today." With that Kyoko rushed up the staircase behind her.

Ren turned to Yashiro, who was still watching Kyoko as she rushed up the stairs. There was no escaping it now. Yashiro would goad him with this for the next century. Ren was not quite sure that he could handle this with his own thoughts in turmoil right now.

Yashiro brought his attention back to Ren. "So…. Kyoko-chan seems energetic."

Ren gave him an uneasy glance. "Mhmm." Here it comes…

"Looks like your anniversary was a big success yesterday. I haven't seen her this spirited in a while. Liar…going on about acting practice. I don't see why I always have to be the butt of your and Kyoko's practical jokes."

Odd, he had not asked why Kyoko was here yet. Maybe Yashiro was waiting to attack him once they get in the ca…Wait, what did he say? "Anniversary?"

Yashiro gave Ren an odd look. "Yeah, your and Kyoko's anniversary." Silence. "Your fourth year wedding anniversary. Don't tell me you forgot, especially with that threatening note you sent to LME forbidding anyone of interrupting the two of you yesterday. Nakazawa-kun was shaking and actually made sure with his lawyer that his will was up to date before emailing you about today's schedule change."

Fourth year wedding anniversary? Ren jerked his head down and looked at his hand. There on his left hand was a simple gold band. Relief flooded into Ren's mind. Finally things were starting to make sense. It was all a dream. A crazy, illogical, wonderfully inconsequential dream. All of this was the Twinkie's fault.

Kyoko's image appeared once again as she climbed down the staircase carrying a black trench coat. "This is the best one I can find that is clean. Hopefully, it will be warm enough."

Well, if this were all just a dream, it would be better to make the best use out of it.

Kyoko approached Ren. "One of the buttons looks loose, but if you don't do anything too violent in it, it shou…" Kyoko's mouth was forced silent as Ren grabbed her face and covered her lips with an intense kiss.

Five minutes later they parted, leaving behind a stunned Kyoko, an embarrassed Yashiro, and a very smug looking Ren in its wake.

"…Looks like the anniversary went very well," Yashiro managed to say. "We… have to leave, Ren, or we are going to be late."

"Have a good day," Ren spoke in a husky voice to Kyoko.

"Uh…um…wha…bu..bye," Kyoko managed to babble out, still affected by the kiss.

Ren and Yashiro ventured out into the cold barely lit morning. As they reached the car, they heard Kyoko call out. "R..Ren." In the process of positioning his large body into the vertically challenged sports car, Ren glanced back. "Don't forget about 2:30."

Ren thought a moment. He needed to hurry. Even in a dream, being late to work was not an option. "Not a problem," he called back. Surely he would be awake by then, and if not, Yashiro was the one who kept track of his schedule. Yashiro could clue him in later as to what Kyoko meant.

Inside the car, Yashiro looked over to Ren. "By the way, why did your house smell like smoke?"

Ren had a somewhat sheepish look on his face while he turned on the car. "…I was trying to make something called an Osaka Dump."

Yashiro gave him an odd look. "You burned down the house while making a parfait?"

Why in the world did everyone know what an Osaka Dump was? "…I would hardly call it 'burning down the house'," he mumbled, as he drove out the front gate and onto the unfamiliar country road.


Notes:

New Author. I woke up one morning realizing that I could write reports fine but did not have the first clue how to write a fictional story. Figure I'd work out my kinks here.

Sorry the plot is stereotypical, but I'm a sucker for time travel, amnesia, and arranged marriage stories. I can't get enough of them. As you can see, I am long winded, and the story plotted out is lengthy too, meaning that the story should run about twenty or so chapters, in case anyone cares. I know this story had a lot of sex jokes (Its about marriage. I figured one couldn't get away from them.), but the only lemons in this story are the type you can put in a pie…the type of pie you can stick in the oven and eat with your grandmother.