It was impossible to tell the time. Her eyes fluttered awake, aware only of the darkness of the room and an addicting warmth surrounding her body. The comfort she found herself in disallowed her from moving even an inch in her semi-awakened state; though the gentle, rhythmic rise of the pillow she rested her head on did prompt her to at least take stock of her surroundings. Kyoko took a deep breath, immediately recognizing the compelling scent that hit her nose. Again, her head lifted with its cushion and this time the soothing beat of the heart beneath a broad chest made itself known. The young actress didn't panic; instead, she found herself smiling in contentment as she recognized the body wrapped so snugly around her own.

Though little light was afforded to her golden eyes, Kyoko could make out the peaceful countenance of Ren's slumbering face. Dark hair swept across his forehead, raven lashes lay flush against his pale cheeks, his lips were parted just so, his breath coming out in soft sighs. The young woman surprised even herself by not flying into a panic when she realized the comprising nature in which she awoke - wrapped tightly against his chest, half laying across the popular actor. Instead of the panic and embarrassment she would have felt a few months ago, Kyoko found herself cherishing the intimate nature in which she had slept so comfortably. While his suggestion had stunned her the night before, Ren had stayed true to his word and simply held her close as they fell asleep. She was more than grateful for the opportunity to do so; the conversation they shared the night before frightened her immensely. It wasn't the volatile emotions Ren let loose that scared her; it was the fear that Ren would turn away from her, reject her after knowing the intimate positions she had found herself in with Sho. Even when her mind argued that it was nothing more than acting - and therefore her job - Kyoko couldn't help but worry about her new found lover's reaction to that news. Especially knowing how much Ren despised her childhood friend.

So much happened between them lately that Kyoko found herself more than willing to spend the night comfortable in Ren's arms - even with her initial hesitation. He discovered the secrets she kept from him, had looked past those facts not shared, and still seemed happy to have her in his arms. The young woman smiled and burrowed her face against the warm skin peeking through his partially open bed shirt. Ren moved slightly, adjusting himself around her lithe figure, but didn't awaken at her movements. Kyoko was glad for the continued privacy and took the time to truly revel in the knowledge that certain thoughts she never believed to be true for her lot in life had come to pass.

She was wanted.

She was cherished.

She was loved.

While their romance had been a far cry from the seemingly perfect fairy tale scenarios she once dreamed about in her childhood, it was real and that alone brought tears to her eyes. Surely all the pain she suffered in her short life had been her penance to pay for the happiness she felt at this moment. Being able to be with him like this was more than her tarnished heart ever hoped to dream for. With that thought lingering in her brain, Kyoko drifted into the nothingness once more.

Surely not much time passed before Kyoko felt herself being drawn into consciousness once more. The room was still bathed in the dark of night and her eyes opened readily to the movement around her. She felt the soothing motion of a large hand rubbing small circles into her back. The camisole she'd kept on when they readied for bed left her upper back and shoulders exposed, so the pads of Ren's calloused fingers grazed her flesh every so often. The motion was comforting, calming, and had her humming in delight.

"Sorry," his deep voice rumbled quietly above her. "Didn't mean to wake you up."

"It's fine; I was just napping. I already woke up once."

"It's still real early. There's plenty of time to still sleep."

The rather baggy pajama bottoms she borrowed from Ren twisted around her hips as she tuned into his body, wrapping her arms around his torso and getting comfortable once more. "Good, I don't wanna get up."

Ren lifted his other hand, brushing the hair away from her face and neck. She felt him move, his warmth coming closer to her own until she felt his lips brush against her temple. "Thank you for staying tonight."

The clean, woodsy scent of his shampoo still clinging to his hair filled her nose as he continued to brush kisses along her jaw. "I should be thanking you for letting me stay."

The hand on her back slowed to a stop, resting between the bare flesh of her shoulder blades. His free hand moved beneath her jaw, tipping her eyes up to meet his own in the darkness. "Why do you say that?"

Kyoko hesitated before finally admitting her fears. "I thought you'd be so mad at me you wouldn't want to see me for a while."

"Over the video?" he asked, an incredulous tone filling his voice.

She nodded against the hand still holding her jaw. "That...and Sho. Working with him again; doing the things I had to for..." A gentle kiss to her lips silenced her.

"That's for your work, Kyoko. When you're in front of that camera, though it may be your body, its the character you've created that's performing the actions. I could never hold anything you do in your acting against you. Now, the fact that it's...him," Ren spat, his eyes darkening before he drew a calming breath. "Doesn't sit well with me, but there's nothing to be done about that." Molten eyes softened under her gaze; his thumb slowly stroked across her bottom lip. "I lost my temper yesterday, lashed out in front of you, and you can't imagine how much I regret doing that."


"My anger wasn't directed at you," he interrupted. "It was at that bastard, and at myself. I get frustrated, mad when I have to face my own shortcomings."

Kyoko stared at him wide eyed for a moment before she let out a sigh, her warm breath gently blowing across his face. "Didn't I already tell you last night? You do not fall short to Sho in any way!"

"On that..."

"No!" It was her turn to interrupt the actor. "You're not allowed to argue about this." Perhaps it was because her eyes and voice held such conviction, but Ren found himself unable to hold onto the depressive feelings that normally settled onto his shoulders when thinking along these lines. Instead, he surprisingly found a chuckle working its way out of his throat. This woman, would she never fail to surprise him?

"I'm not allowed, am I?" he asked, a note of humor lacing his voice.

"No," she stubbornly insisted. "You're just going to have to accept that I'm right on this."

He marveled at the fierce flash of emotion turning her golden eyes even darker before he could stand the temptation no longer. Ren rolled her slightly, rising above the petite woman on his elbows. "Will I?" he asked, his mouth slowly curving into a smirk that made her stomach clench.

"Y-Yes, you will," she managed to reply after finding her voice around her suddenly dry tongue. Eyes that adjusted in the dark room afford her a clear view of the devilish spark in Ren's eyes. While she wasn't afraid - being caged under his larger body - Kyoko was acutely aware of the weight his frame placed along her. Even more worrisome was how anxious it made her feel.

"Well," he began, one hand dancing down the length of her arm, fingers intertwining with her own. "I suppose I'll have to take your expert opinion on the matter."

Surely the magic Ren possessed wasn't intended for humans. Kyoko felt hopelessly caught in the spell he weaved right before her. The very air surrounding them seemed to charge with an electricity she could feel at every point they touched. As his lips met hers, she felt that charge amplify, shooting through her body and setting her skin afire with his presence.

Kyoko breathed in his scent, a weakness taking hold of her limbs as she willingly submitted to his dominating presence. His tongue swept into her mouth, claiming the space and searching out all her secrets. The coil twisting in her belly tugged straight at her spine, bending and curling her body against his own hard lines. Confusion and fear of the unknown battled with an instinctive want coursing through her veins. Neither gained any significant ground, leaving Kyoko to merely latch onto Ren's shoulders and trust him to guide her through the turbulent wave of emotions crashing over her.

Large, strong hands stole under the thin camisole she wore, fingers pressing paths of breath catching heat into her smooth belly. Ren groaned above her, relinquishing his hold on her lips and burying his head into her shoulder. Kyoko thought he might have mumbled something against her skin, but the loud beating of her heart drowned out his low voice. She could, however, hear the strangled moan escape her own lips as his tongue and teeth attacked the sensitive skin of her neck. Her legs moved restlessly against his own as her body began chanting for something she couldn't name. His weight settled more firmly against her, one of his legs slipping between her thighs.

Her curious fingers began searching his body, tired of their purchase on his shoulders. She gripped his strong arms, squeezing the flexing muscles beneath his thin shirt. Her fingers threaded through the soft, raven hair atop his head, tugging at the locks until he followed her direction and took her lips once more. Only when his hungry lips were possessing her did Kyoko no longer feel lost. Even through the restlessness, anxiousness, and stabs of hot pleasure racking her body, Ren's hold on her was the only anchor she had in this turbulent sea.

Her hands had taken a life of their own, wandering over his body and pushing annoying cloth out of the way until they found only warm, bronzed skin greeting them. Kyoko's hands skittered over his ribs, dancing between each defined line, marveling at the play of muscles reacting to her touch.

"Mmmmm...God, Kyoko," Ren groaned against her lips, his breath stuttering as her hands fluttered over the hard lines of his chest. The actor moved back a fraction, just enough to rip the shirt from his back before taking her lips once more. The warm, naked skin pressing her into the mattress shocked her. Kyoko's hands went still against his chest while he continued to creep up her slim torso. Fear was winning the war waging inside her mind...until she felt the fast thrum of his heartbeat against her fingertips. No matter how astonishing it was, his frantic pulse matched her own. Was he as nervous as she was? Scared? Excited?

The thin silk of her bra did nothing to shield her tender skin from the raw heat of his large hand. Kyoko could barely recognize the wanton moan that tore from her throat as her own voice. Lips danced down the ivory column of her throat, tongue blazing a trail over her collar bone, as Ren's nimble fingers brushed over the ever hardening pebble beneath his hands.

"R...en," her broken voice bounced off the walls. Kyoko's fingers delved into his hair, her spine bending off the bed - pushing into him against the blinding pleasure he was invoking in her lithe body. His hips pinned her back to the bed, grinding against her while his own groan was drowned out in her alabaster skin. Though the heat blossoming inside her gut was nearly overwhelming, the hard, thick length that pressed against the apex of her thighs had her eyes flying open.

"Wa...wait a minute," she panted, her hands pressing against his broad shoulders. "Ren, stop, please."

His hands halted their ministrations on her smooth flesh. The actor rose above her; lust still lingered in his dark eyes, but he gazed at her with concern. "Wh...what is it?" he panted.

Shaky hands wiped down her face. She drew several deep breaths before pulling herself up in the bed. "I'm sorry," she whispered in the silent room.

He looked on, confused. "For what?"

"I's, it's too much." Kyoko glanced at his profile, hesitant in her words. "I can't."

He sat for a moment watching her, his labored breathing slowly returning to normal before he drew his hands down his face. " I'm the one who's sorry, Kyoko. I never meant for things to get so out of hand. I didn't..." a drawn out sigh of obvious frustration passed his lips and he moved to sit beside her. He grabbed her hand, simply holding the tiny appendage within his own. "I'm sorry."

Kyoko hated the bit of self-loathing she could hear slipping into his voice and curled her fingers around his. Her cheeks began to flush before she could even speak. "It's's not that I didn', enjoy it," she murmured.


She stole a glance at his profile, blowing out her breath as she gained the strength to repeat such an embarrassing fact. "I said, it's not that I didn't enjoy what we were doing." At this, that devilish smirk re-appeared on his face. She lightly smacked his arm in retaliation. "I'm just not ready for anything more than this." She finally met his dark eyes, her nervousness apparent on her pale face. "Is that okay?"

He smiled, tucking her hair behind her ears and pressing a gentle kiss to her forehead. "Of course it's okay," he assured her. "I would never pressure you into doing something you weren't ready to do. I really am sorry, Kyoko. I already knew you weren't ready for...this, but I got carried away. Can you forgive me?"

Kyoko laid her head against his warm chest, letting him wrap her in his arms once more. "There's nothing to forgive," she mumbled against his skin. She kept her face hidden from view as she felt the prick of tears behind her eyes. Struggling to get her emotions under control quickly, Kyoko could only mentally thank her good fortune yet again for having Ren in her life. For him to be so understanding about her hesitations with intimacy was simply one more reason she loved the man holding her. Ren's fingers slipped beneath her chin, tilting her head up to press a gentle kiss to her lips.

"It's still a bit early, but should we go get breakfast somewhere?"

"That sounds good," she agreed.

"Alright. Why don't you rest a while longer though; I'm going to get a shower." Ren gave her another brief kiss when she nodded her acceptance and hurried to grab a change of clothes on the way to the bathroom.

Ren stared down at his traitorous body as the warm water of the shower fell over his shoulders. There was no sense in running the water cold - he was far past the point of that helping his problem.

Time had ravaged the house the young woman walked through, her bare feet leaving little patterns in the dust. Cabinet doors hung open, tilting from their hinges. The pictures that once decorated the white walls had fallen to the floor, the shattered glass of their frames littering the hardwood. Furniture sat covered in dust and unknown stains from years of decay. Along the base of the windows, ivy grew unchecked from the broken frames, branching out until the bright green leaves tickled the edge of the base boards.

The young woman and her companion were careful to avoid all the dangers as they eased their way around the house, heading towards their singular destination. He sat on the arm of an old chair, his own bare feet dangling above the littered floor. His long chestnut hair was unbound, some of the light strands draped over his shoulder. Within his hands lay an old cracked frame - the subject of which he studied intensely, seemingly oblivious to her approach.

The young woman's companion let out a short whine, a call for attention to the humans near him. Her fingers reached out, trailing through the thick, gray fur covering the older wolf's body. The soothing motion pacified the beast and he stayed close to her, following until they stood before the man. She spoke no words, simply gazed at his handsome face until he met her vibrant, violet eyes. Her face asked the question her mouth had no need to speak, but he only smiled and shook his head, laying the picture back on the table.

She stepped forward, bringing her body to rest between his knees. Golden hair flowed down her back, curling near her hips. His long fingers brushed against the ivory skin of her collar. The dress she wore clung to her skin, bathing her in the hues of an autumn forest. She gave a smile to match his own as her knuckles gently caressed his cheeks. While the two sat entwined, their bodies speaking to one another through gentle caresses - a touch to the arm, her fingers trailing down his bare chest, foreheads pressed together - the gray wolf left their side and explored what was once the living area.

His sensitive nose scoured the room - searching the old cushions of the couch, the corners of the room, the ivy growing down from the cracked windows - until he found his human's scent on the items scattered across the table. The camera followed his movements, slowly cataloging each weathered item left behind. The worn, cracked frame of the picture came into view - dusty streaks left behind from his attempt to wipe it clean. The couple staring back into the camera were smiling blissfully. The love they shared for each other, captured in that single moment, transcended the ravages of time surrounding them.


Kyoko had all intentions of quickly removing herself from between Sho's legs, but with the first step back, he pulled her tightly against his chest. "What the hell, Sho?"

"Quiet!" he ordered, his tone leaving no room for arguments. She was surprised enough to comply with his instructions.

"What?" she whispered.

"Don't move until the trainer has come for the animal," he replied, his tone hushed.

She lifted her head from his chest and cocked a dubious eyebrow at him. "You, your manager, and the director all said he was a trained wolf and I had nothing to worry about."

"Baka," he spat, pulling her close once more. "That doesn't mean it isn't a wild animal; you can't treat them like pets. Just trust me on this, okay? I've worked with animals a few times before. It won't take long until the trainer has him off the set."

Kyoko hated to admit Sho was right, but she had no experience working with animals in any setting. So, for the time being, she grit her teeth and dealt with being flush against his bare chest. Her nose inadvertently rubbed against his warm skin as she moved away from the tickling strands of his long wig. When the all clear signal came, she ripped herself out of his arms and hurried away from the set.

"Kyoko-chan!" Asami-san waved her over to a small monitor set up near the director's chairs. "Would you like to see the final take?"

"Of course."

"You looked great, Kyoko-san," one of the camera men said as they watched her character walk on screen.

"Thanks," she said, almost in after thought, as a critical eye raked down her on-screen figure. Sheer professionalism kept her from squealing aloud at the picture she presented. Walking with the gray wolf at her side, the muted colors she and Sho wore, the wispy strands of her hair catching the light - it felt so ethereal to her that she could easily see herself as a sprite exploring human territory. Her fingers unconsciously fiddled with the end of her forest green dress as they watched the rest of the take.

"Good work everyone," Asami-san called out. "I think we got it." She turned to the young actress. "Kyoko-chan, take a fifteen minute break, but don't change just yet. We need to do a photo shoot for the promotional posters."

"Thank you." Kyoko took her leave from the director and headed towards the small table in the corner filled with refreshments for the cast and crew. A single bottle of water was all she took and found a chair near the set to rest in. Kyoko was glad for the momentary respite; keeping up the facade of a loving partner was hard enough, but in Sho's arms it was sheer torture. She would take every break she could manage to get.

"Good work today, Kyoko-chan."

The sudden appearance of Shoko-san was unexpected, but not unwelcome. "Thank you, Shoko-san."

The busty woman took a seat near the young actress. "After this next set, we're going to be done filming."

"Yes, yes we are," Kyoko replied, working hard on holding back her smile. Her eagerness to get away from Sho was difficult to hold back.

"There is still a lot of editing to be done on this particular video, so the press conference we scheduled to announce the release of the video has been pushed back two weeks."

"That long?"

"Well, this is his first international video. No one's taking any chances and everything is being triple checked before getting the okay to proceed. We don't want to hold up the release, but we also want to put out the best product we can."

Kyoko nodded her understanding and fell silent for a moment. As much as he irritated her, Kyoko understood how important this project was to Sho's career. She became annoyed with herself - understanding his problems, but, at the same time, not wishing him even more acclaim. Wanting to move on from subject, Kyoko turned to Shoko-san once more. "Actually, I need to return something to you."


"I forgot to return the necklace we used in the last scene before I left the other day."

Shoko stared back at the young woman, confusion apparent on her face. "But Kyoko-chan..."

"I know and I'm so very sorry, but I brought it back today. Oh! And don't worry; it's not damaged in the least."

"No, misunderstand, Kyoko-chan. You didn't have to return the necklace."

"I'm sorry?"

Shoko-san smiled at her; a knowing look that confused the golden eyed girl even more. "That wasn't a prop from the studio. You see, Sho bought th..."

"It figures a newbie like you wouldn't understand how this works."

The long, blond hair of her wig flew behind her as she whipped her head around to face Sho. He sauntered up to the women, his cocky smirk plastered on his face. "Excuse me?" she ground out.

"Ba~ka," he drawled, purposefully sitting across from her. "She's telling you it's a perk of the job. Keep the necklace; who else would want to wear that childish shit anyway?"

She glared daggers at the musician, but managed to hold her tongue. Instead, she turned to his manager. "Is that really okay, Shoko-san? It looks expensive."

Shoko kept casting questioning eyes at her charge, but he refused to meet her gaze. She finally plastered that professional smile on her face and waved a hand at the girl. "Of...of course it's okay. It's just a token of our appreciation for all your hard work."

The actresses eyes lit up, a smile beaming back at the older woman. "Then please accept my thanks. I'll be sure to thank Asami-san as well for her generosity."

"No!" Shoko interrupted abruptly, the flash of panic in her eyes quickly fading to what she hoped was embarrassment. "I mean...she's already so busy with the editing. Let me convey your gratitude when she has a free moment."

"O...kay," Kyoko slowly agreed, unsure of the odd flush to Shoko-san's face, but letting the matter drop easily.

"Geez...what's the big deal?" Sho questioned, crossing his legs and snubbing his nose at her. "You've gotten gifts before right? Like that one from the drama you're doing."

"You mean Box R?"

"Yeah. I've seen you wear that necklace from the show other places. So why is this so surprising?"

"Oh, that's not from the show."

Sho took care not to let his face slip at the information. "What?"

"That's mine actually."

"Really?" Shoko-san spoke up. "I've seen it before; it's a beautiful piece. Do you mind if I ask where you got it?" Her eyes slipped to her charge's profile, worry already racking her brain at the vibes his body was giving off.

A light dusting of pink suddenly covered Kyoko's face. "It, was a gift...from someone. I just thought it fit Natsu's character." She slid from her chair, bowing briefly to the young manager. "If you'll excuse me, I want to check my make-up before the shoot starts."

"Of course," Shoko mumbled, not missing the narrowing of Sho's eyes as he watched her.

Kyoko had long since slipped into her dressing room before the sound of a chair being thrown into the wall was heard.

() () () () () () ()


Happy New Year Everyone!

Sorry for the delay, but I hope you enjoy the chapter.

Thank you to all the many wonderful reviews/PMs/favs you have given! You are just the most wonderful readers!

Here's to a great new year!