Explotaro: Stepping up first is in my little series of stories is the Mangaquest duo, Gold and Crystal! It's a little long so make sure you have some time.

Story One: Picture Perfect

Crystal was being as quite as she could, not making a sound as she packed her bags. She needed to get away from them. It was suffocating to be around two people always telling you what to do, how to act, what to eat. Crystal picked up her old-fashion clock, where the time read 6:58 A.M., and stuffed it into her suitcase. She looked around, checking to make sure that she wasn't leaving anything important behind. She had packed enough clothes to last a week, anything that had sentimental value was also packed, her favorite books that she couldn't afford to leave behind, and of course her camera and supplies.

Everyone had always to her that she had talent, that her pictures seem to move and breathe with life. Everyone that is, except for her parents. To them, her dreams were nothing. To them, Crystal was the next head of their family, the next head of their multimillion dollar corporation. A life that has been laid out for you, a life that you have to follow without question…that was not the kind of life Crystal had wanted to live. She wanted to be free, to make mistakes, take chances...fill that void that had always been in her heart.

She needed to hurry. Her parent would be up any minute. Their motto: Time wasted sleeping is money wasted sleeping. Crystal was about to zip her suitcase closed, when the plushy on her desk caught her eye. It was a Chikorita doll. Crystal walked over to it and picked it up. The fabric was worn from years of playing and sleeping with it. She had originally planned to leave it behind when she left. After all, an eighteen year old who had just graduated from a private high school shouldn't still be holding onto a child's toy, should she? But then again, he had given it to her...

A knock on the door distracted Crystal's thoughts and she quickly shoved the plushy into her suitcase. "Crystal, is that you?" Her mother's voice came through the door. Crystal said nothing, a frown on her face as she slung her backpack over her shoulders. The door opened and Crystal's mother walked in.

"Crystal, what is all this?" She asked, seeing the packed suitcases.

"I'm leaving." Crystal replied flatly, pushing past her mother with her suitcase.

"What do you mean?" Her mother asked, her voice rising. "You don't start college for another month."

"I'm not going to college." Crystal said. She wasn't even looking at her mother as she walked down the long hallway.

"What?" Her mother said shocked, quickly following her daughter down the hallway. Crystal kept on walking, only stopped by her mother at the top of the grand staircase. "Stop and talk to me!" She demanded.

Crystal frowned. "I can't keep living a life that's already set out for me. So I'm going to Italy to be a photographer."

"Have you gone insane?" Her mother cried. "You have to stay here, take over the family business!"

"What's going on out here?" Crystal's father came out of one of the many doors along the hallway.

"Our daughter decided she's just going to leave and go to Italy!"

"What?" Her father asked confused. "You can't go out there. You can't live by yourself. You don't have access to your trust fund until we're gone."

Crystal was getting pretty furious, "Do you really think I spent all that time after school studying? I've had a job and private bank account since I was twelve."

"But still," her mother objected, "that won't be enough to start a new life by yourself!"

"I'm not that stupid." Crystal pushed past her mother and started down the stairs. Her parents followed after her. "Didn't you find it a bit strange that Harvard asked for four years of tuition as a down payment? You always told me to be the best, I have to be tricky dad."

Crystal's father stopped still, shocked. "B-B-But," he stuttered. "Who else will take on the family name? Carry out the family business?"

Crystal stopped in the grand entryway, turning to face her parents. A great number of the servants had peeked out from around the corners and doors of other rooms. "The maids hear everything. I know you're pregnant mom." Crystal turned away and headed for the large front doors.

"But what about everything you're leaving behind? You'll have so many regrets!" Her mother said, running after Crystal.

Crystal opened the door and looked back. "The only regret I'll have is leaving my baby brother or sister alone to deal with monsters like you two." She turned away for the last time and walked out the door.

When she was halfway down the very long driveway, her father's voice came from the house she would never lay eyes on again. "If you take one more step, you'll never see a penny of that trust fund!" He yelled.

And Crystal, just kept on walking. Not a single fiber of her being ever felt so alive.

"If you become suspicious of any person or item, please notify airport security." An overhead voice said. Crystal turned a page in her book, only half listening to everything that went on around her. It would figure that her plane would be the one to be delayed.

The chair next to her was suddenly occupied, but Crystal paid no attention. She was just trying to get out of this country before her parents had any stupid ideas to bring her back. "So did your plane get delayed too?"

Crystal looked up from her book and turned to the person who sat down next to her. It was some guy who looked about her age. His black hair was sticking up a bit in the front and Crystal couldn't help but stare at his strange, golden eyes. "Yeah." She said looking back down at the book.

"Yeah, I'm waiting for mine to leave. I just can't wait to get away from my parents." He said. "I've even got a job waiting for me when I get there!" He put his hands behind his head and smiled at Crystal.

"That's nice." She said, still trying to focus on her book. The man continued to chatter, going on and on about everything about his life and what he couldn't wait to try. Crystal continued to ignore him, reading her book as best she could with a very annoying voice chatting her ear off.

After what seemed like hours, a female voice came from over the intercom. "Flight 17-G to Rome is now loading. All passengers please head for the loading gate."

Finally. Crystal thought, closing her book. She stood up and so did the annoying man next to her.

"Hey, you're going to Rome too?" He asked excitedly.

"Yeah." Crystal replied, trying to hide her annoyance.

"That's great," He said, heading for the gate with her. "Maybe we'll see each other around!"

You wish. Crystal thought. "Oh hey," She said innocently, "I just realized I left my book back on the seats."

"Oh, well I'll see you later." The man said.

Yeah right. Crystal said. From their one-sided conversation earlier, she could tell he would be one very annoying person. Crystal reached the seat she had previously been sitting at and sat down. I'll let him get ahead of me.

After about ten minutes, a female voice spoke over the intercom again. "Final call for flight 17-G to Rome." Crystal stood up and calmly walked over to her gate. She handed her ticket to the flight attendant at the gate. The woman smiled at Crystal and told her to board quickly.

On the plane, Crystal looked for her seat. Sixteen 'G'. She thought over and over to herself. What she found, she did not like. That same, annoying man was sitting in the seat, next to her. He looked away from the window to her and grinned. "Hey! I thought I lost you!" Crystal said nothing as she sat down. "By the way," The man continued. "I never introduced myself. I'm Gold. Gold Reginato."

Gold put out his hand, expecting a handshake. Crystal didn't take it, only she figured she might as well give her name. "I'm Crystal." She wasn't going to give her last name, just in case he connected her to her family. Crystal looked around, hoping to see an open seat she could take instead. To her dismay, she could see none.

"So," He continued, "You never said why you were going to Rome."

"I'm following my dream." Crystal said. Looking at him again she was memorized by his golden eyes. She looked away quickly, not mentioning that the real reason she was leaving was to get away from family.

Gold smiled. "That's pretty cool. So what's your dream?"

Luckily for Crystal, the pilot spoke over the intercom, cutting her and Gold's conversation short. "Attention passengers, this is your pilot speaking. It is currently three a.m. in Rome, our flight will be approximately nine hours, and with the time change it should be seven a.m. when we land in Rome. I hope you enjoy your flight and thank you for choosing JFK Airlines as you choice of flight. Please buckle up as we will be taking off shortly."

Everyone on the plane buckled up and Gold started to speak, but Crystal cut him off. "Listen," She said," I'm sure you have some great stories, but I didn't get much sleep last night. All I want to do for the next nine hours is sleep."

Gold frowned, looking a bit like a little kid. "Aw, but I didn't bring anything to do."

Crystal looked at him perplexed. "You got on a nine hour flight with nothing to do?"

"Well, I was planning on talking to my seat buddy the whole time." Gold smirked. "But I never planned on her being so cute."

Crystal blushed slightly, but reached down into her bag and grabbed the book she was reading. "Here," she said handing it to him. "try reading a book."

Gold took the book and read the cover. "Crime and Punishment? What no Harry Potter?" He joked.

"Fine, don't read it then." Crystal tried to take the book back but Gold moved it out of her reach.

"No, I'll take it!" He said, "Seeing as you're going to be ignoring me."

Crystal rolled her eyes and reached down for her IPod and put in her ear buds. She closed her eyes and let the sounds of the sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra flood her senses.

"Excuse me, miss?" Crystal opened her eyes sleepily. The flight attendant was shaking her awake gently. "You and your boyfriend need to wake up. We'll be landing soon."

"Okay…" Crystal yawned, and the flight attendant walked away. Strangely enough, Crystal didn't want to wake up. She felt so comfortable, so warm, and she nuzzled into the musky smelling neck her head was resting on.

Wait…boyfriend? Crystal thought. Then she shot up, fully awake. She had fallen asleep on Gold's shoulder. She felt heat rise to her cheeks and luckily, Gold had fallen asleep as well. Saying nothing, Crystal stayed seated and looked straight ahead. None of the other flight attendants came to wake him up as the plane started its decent. However, the change in altitude caused Gold to start to wake up from his nap. The change in altitude forced his ears to pop and wake him up. He must be a slow starter because he was still yawning as everyone filed off the plane.

Crystal was especially fast in getting off. There was no way she was going to let that blunt and annoying man talk her ear off for another second. Crystal was off the plane and in the luggage pickup in a flash, irritably waiting for her bag to show up. Just as she spotted it, she also spotted something else. Gold had just walked into the luggage pickup. She saw his golden eyes and a spark went through her body. Quickly, Crystal grabbed her bag and headed for the exit. When she was only a few paces away from the sliding glass doors, she heard it.

"Hey, Crystal!" Gold's voice echoed around airport. Crystal kept walking, pretending she didn't hear him. "Hey wait!" He called again.

Outside, Crystal hailed a cab and chanced a look back inside the airport. Through the glass doors, she could see Gold being pestered by several airport security guards. His gold eyes locked with hers, another spark sent through her body, and he tried to break through the row of guards. However, the security took this action the wrong way and he was tackled by every uniform within five hundred feet; including one man who was larger than a Snorlax after Thanksgiving waddled over to join in the hogpile.

A cab pulled up and Crystal got in, giving the man the address of her hotel. As the cab pulled away, Crystal looked back just in time to see Gold skid out of the front doors. He was panting and was holding something in his hand. But before she got a good look at it, the Snorlax security guard sprinted as fast as he could out the doors and body slammed Gold to the ground.

"Here is your room key." The front desk clerk said, handing Crystal her key. "I hope you enjoy your yearlong stay with us, Ms. Penelope Westergard."

Crystal smiled at the man, thanking him in Italian, and headed for the fourth floor. No doubt the American paparazzi had already caught wind about her disappearance. They had to be in an information frenzy, looking for her. There was no way she would give out her real name to anyone now. As Crystal unlocked the front door to her new home, she thought about Gold again. She had only given her first name, so she should be safe…right?

Crystal shook those thoughts from her head as she got a good look around the small apartment. Immediately to her left was another door, leading to a private bathroom. It was small, but compared to the large and over pampered one she left back home, it was perfect. Ahead of her was the kitchenette and living room. There was a counter that reached halfway across the room, separating the two areas. Just like the pamphlet said, it came with furniture, updated appliances, and a thirty-two inch flat screen. The walls were painted a dull yellow, almost tan, color with a red boarder along the top.

Looking for the bed, Crystal walked past an empty bookshelf. She stopped and looked it over. There was no way the ten books she brought would be able to fill that. Maybe there was secondhand bookstore somewhere around here. She may have tricked her father out of all that money, but that was only going to last another five years. That is, if she lived on nothing but bread and water.

At the far end of the kitchenette, a door led into her bedroom. The bed was queen sized with new sheets and a comforter. There was a dresser with a large mirror situated on top of it, sitting on the opposite side of the room from the bed and a door next to it that Crystal figured was the closet. Against the wall closest to the door Crystal just came through was a small desk. Dropping her suitcase and backpack onto the bed, Crystal walked over to the far side of the room. There wasn't any furniture against this wall, just large, thick drapes. Crystal threw them back and light flooded into the room. A giant glass window covered pretty much the entire wall, and the view was breathtaking.

That's when Crystal realized a door was built next to the far side of the window. She walked over and opened it, stepping out onto the small balcony. The balcony was white, a chair was already seated at the opposite side, and there was even a small flowerbed hanging over the side of the balcony. The cool morning air was a bit cold against Crystal's skin as she sat down in the chair, but nothing could dampen her spirit. It was only eight a.m. and after she finished unpacking, there was nothing standing in her way of exploring this wonderful city.

Unpacking had been rather quick. Clothes were easily stored away in the closet or dresser, her books were sitting alone on the bookshelf, and the other small knickknacks she had brought along already helped make the apartment feel like home. She was glad she had decided to bring the Chikorita plush doll with her. It was a part of her life, no matter how embarrassing holding onto a child's toy might be.

However, the lack of books bothered Crystal and the first thing she set out to find was a bookstore. Luckily for her, there was a small bookstore that carried novels in both English and Italian nearby. Crystal was flipping through an Italian romance novel, trying to figure out if it was worth the money, when she heard an American voice. "What do you mean you don't take American money?"

Crystal looked up from her book and towards the cash register. A man with black hair was arguing with the old woman who ran the store. Crystal should have just gone back to looking at the book, but the good samaritan inside of her told her to help. She put the book down and walked over to the cash register. "Um, what seems to be the problem?"

The man turned to look at Crystal and his golden eyes sent a spark through Crystal's body. "Crystal?" Gold asked, looking both surprised and happy. But he also hid from view what he was trying to buy.

"Oh," Crystal blinked, too surprised to say much else. "Hi Gold."

Before she could say anything else, Gold dug into his bag and pulled out a worn looking copy of Crime and Punishment. "Here," He said, offering it to her. "I tried to give this back to you at the airport but I don't think you heard me and the Italian security took it the wrong way. They do their searches very thorough." Gold shuttered.

Crystal took the book back from him, a bit surprised. "Thanks...So, what's wrong?"

"This old bag," Gold gestured to the woman, "won't accept American money. Ow!"

The old bag Gold was talking about had just hit him with what looked like a dictionary. "I can understand English just as well as I can Italian!" She snapped.

Crystal giggled a little as Gold apologized to the woman. When he had finished, Crystal spoke again. "Well why didn't you exchange your money at the airport?"

Gold blinked. "You can do that?"

Crystal rolled her eyes but smiled. "Yes you can. Didn't you see all those signs that said 'Scambio di denaro in questo modo.'?"

"Scabo di what?" Gold asked.

"It means, money exchange this way." Crystal raised a curious eyebrow. "Don't tell me you don't know Italian."

"Well...I know a little." Gold admitted. "Just enough to pass for my job that is."

Crystal half smiled. There was something about him, he seemed almost innocent and carefree. "Well here," She said, pulling some money out of her purse, "Let me buy you that book."

Gold's eyes widened. "Uh, no! You don't have to do that!"

"No, I insist." Crystal raised an eyebrow, now curious. "To say thanks for giving my book back. What are you getting anyways?" She tried to grab for whatever was behind Gold's back but Gold ducked away.

"It's nothing!" He said, walking away. "A stupid book really, I'll just put it back."

But Crystal wasn't going to give up. As he turned around, Crystal snatched the book. Gold tried to get it back but it was too late. Crystal had already seen the front cover. It wasn't even a book at all. On the front cover was a half-naked woman. Gold had been trying to buy an Italian playboy.

"Porn?" Crystal asked, an anger mark appearing on her head for some reason. "You've been in Rome for less than two hours and you're already buying porn!"

"Well the airport in New York took the one's I was bringing over…" Gold muttered.

"What?" Crystal yelled. "You know what? You're the most disgusting, sorriest excuse for a man I've ever met in my entire life!" She threw the magazine at Gold's face and stomped out of the bookstore, unsure of why this rage had come over her.

Crystal kept 'that man' (the word Gold was no longer to be used around her) out of her mind by touring the city and snapping pictures. She already knew where she wanted to work. Il Immagine Perfetta, translated it meant The Perfect Picture. It was a world famous photography company with only the best of photographers. The originals this company released were easily worth fifty-thousand a piece.

Crystal's art teacher back in her high school was the one who told her about it. He used to work for the company before going on to become a teacher. Everyone always asked him why he left and he would always say, 'To find the next great artist in the world.' And it was thanks to that teacher that Crystal knew she could get a job at Il Immagine Perfetta. Not only did her pictures seem to be alive, but that old teacher had written her a letter of recommendation.

Crystal looked up at an old clock tower, the hair on the back of her neck standing up. It was, as she called it, her 'perfect picture sense'. It was one minute to six, the sun was setting behind the clock tower, casting a halo around the building, and there was a great number of birds sitting on the peak of the tower. Crystal pointed her camera up at the tower, and waited.


The clock struck six, the bell began to toll, birds took flight, and Crystal snapped her photo. Crystal put her camera down and her stomach growled, loudly. She blushed slightly and realized the only thing she'd had to eat was that buttered roll for lunch. She put her camera away in her specialty carrying bag and began heading for her apartment, searching for a place to eat along the way.

When she had almost reached the apartment, she found a small café that looked like a nice place to eat. She walked in and sat down at a small table. A man came over and handed her a menu, telling her that a waiter would be with her shortly. Crystal scanned the menu quickly and put it down, having already made her choice.

While she waited for the waiter to show up, she pulled out Crime and Punishment, hopping to pick up where she left off. Crystal opened the book and a piece of paper fell out. After first, she thought it was a page 'that man' had accidentally ripped out, but when she examined it she saw it wasn't a page. It had a number and address written on it, as well as a little message.

Hey Super Serious Gal! Here's my number and new address in case you ever want to talk to an American! I can also cook you up something to eat if you ever wanted. Gold.

Crystal rolled her eyes, mostly at the small cartoon man winking at her on the bottom right corner, and was about to crumple up the paper when her eyes caught sight of the address, realizing exactly what it was. It was the same building she lived in, it was the same floor she lived on, and his room was the one right next to hers. Crystal's mouth gaped open and her eyebrow twitched before she crumpled up the paper and shoved it in her bag.

What am I, in a crappy romance novel? She thought bitterly as she stuffed the paper into her purse then picked up her book again.

"Well if it isn't Crystal."

Crystal flinched. You have got to be kidding me. She almost didn't want to put her book down and look up. She knew that voice and she didn't want to believe he was really there. Lowering her book hesitantly, Crystal looked at her waiter. Dressed in a black vest, white long-sleeved shirt, black pants, and a white apron was 'that man'. He was smirking as his golden eyes looked her over.

Crystal closed her eyes, wished three times it was just jet lag making her see things, and then opened her eyes. Nope, he was still there. Crap. She thought bitterly, looking back at her book. "I thought you were going to be a chief, not a waiter." Crystal commented, trying to not look at Gold.

"Yeah," Gold rubbed the back of his head, "They were expecting this old guy to retire or hit the bucket any day now so that's why they wanted me here. Apparently he's a fighter." Gold shrugged. "What are you going to do? So, what would you like?"

Crystal handed Gold the menu, still not looking at him. "Just get me a coffee and some bread to go."

Gold smiled and took the menu. "So, did you get my address and number?"

Crystal ignored him and went back to her book. Smiling, Gold walked back towards the kitchen, taking her silence as a yes.

The moon shone brightly overhead as Crystal stared out over the balcony observing the Roman nightlife. Her camera sat on the small table, looking slightly like its owner. Lonely. Crystal sighed, her breath carried away by the soft, warm breeze.

Moved out of that suffocating thing she called a home? Check.

Start a new life in a new place where she could break away clean? Check.

Fill that lonely void in her heart? …

Even with everything she had accomplished in the short amount of time, she still felt like she was missing something in her life. She had left a few friends behind, but with the technology the way it was she could easily talk to them whenever she wanted. But she needed something more. The void she felt inside wasn't something that had formed recently. It had been there since the day she was born. She was still looking for that second half of herself, the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

"Holy cow! Crystal?"

Gold was obviously not that person. The door on the balcony to her right had slid open. Crystal turned to meet that man's golden eyes once again that day. His wide grin was still visible under the pale light of the moon.

Crystal placed her hand on her hip then turned to face him. "What do you want?"

"Well when I moved in, the guy at the front desk told me a really cute babe moved in next door to me as well." Gold walked over to the edge of his balcony and leaned on the ledge. The two balconies were only separated by a foot of empty space. "I guess he shouldn't have used cute to describe you though."

An anger mark appeared on Crystal's head. "So what would you have used to describe me then?"

Gold smirked. "Gorgeous."

Crystal felt heat rise to her cheeks and the anger mark fade away. No one had ever complimented her on her looks before. In fact, high school had been a social nightmare for her. She would be told to act like the girl she was supposed to be, not spending her days getting her hands dirty in art classes.

"So," Gold continued. "You never did tell me what your dream was back on the plane."

Crystal turned away from Gold, choosing instead to rest her eyes on her camera. "You'd just laugh at it." She said quietly. Everyone did.

"I promise I won't laugh. Please?" Gold asked in a very pleading voice.

"Yeah right." Crystal remarked turning back to face the golden eyed man.

"Cross my heart." Gold said drawing a finger across his heart, "And swear to burn my porn if I do."

Crystal rolled her eyes and decided if he's willing to burn that crap she might as well tell him. "I want to be a photographer for Il Immagine Perfetta."

Gold tilted his head. "Il Ima-what?"

Crystal blinked. He really didn't laugh. "Il Immagine Perfetta." She repeated. "Translated it means The Perfect Picture."

"Oh, I've heard of them." Gold said. "They sell all that world-class photography, right? I didn't know they were in Rome."

Crystal nodded. "Back home my parents always had their pictures hanging everywhere in our house. I would spend hours just sitting in front of each one and trying to imagine what it would be like to be in that photo."

Gold listened and there was silence for a few moments before he finally asked. "So what was your family like back home?"

Crystal looked at Gold, then back out at the city. Her family...not a subject she ever wanted to talk, much less think, about again. But there was something about Gold. He had shown up in her life so much already in the last twenty-four hours, but it felt like she had known him for much longer. She couldn't tell if this was a good or bad thing. Not to mention, he had already told her his story, even if she hadn't been listening. So maybe he should get to hear hers. Even if she didn't tell him the whole truth.

"I never really liked my life back home." Crystal said quietly. Even though she was still staring out at the city she could fell his golden eyes watching her. "Everything was laid out in front of me and all I had to do was follow. I could never step out of line. I just had to follow it like a good girl. I could have anything I wanted without working hard for it."

"But?" Gold prompted after a minute of silence.

"But it felt like I wasn't living. I didn't have to do anything to get anything…I felt dead." Crystal could feel tears start to well up in her eyes as she started to recall her old life.

Gold felt the change in mood and did what he did best, lighten the mood. "Wow, that sounds deep. I guess getting away from my drunken dad that beat me every day pales in comparison."

Crystal did her best to wipe away her forming tears as secretly as possible before turning to Gold. "You're father beat you?"

Gold smiled. "Nope. I knew you weren't listening when I told you at the airport."

Crystal frowned, but was glad her mind was now off of her family. "Okay, then what's your sob story?"

Gold stood up straight. "Not really a sob story. Just wasn't living a fulfill life. I felt my calling was elsewhere and just up and left. Mom was sad to see me go, in fact security had to pull her out of the airport because she wanted to run past the metal detectors and give me another hug."

"Kinda like how you were tackled by the large security guard when you tired running after me?"

Gold laughed. "Yeah, exactly."

Something about him, well he was just the kinda guy that made you laugh. So Crystal did. She just kept laughing and laughing, she just couldn't stop. She felt so happy, like she could fly. When she finally calmed down, Gold was staring at her again. "What are you staring at?"

Gold smiled again. "Your smile." He said bluntly. "It's the first time I'm seen you smile since I've met you, and you look better smiling."

Crystal blushed again, thankful for the low light so he couldn't see. But he was right. She couldn't remember the last time she had ever smiled and even laughed as much as she just did.

Gold went on. "So what do you take pictures of?"

"Architecture, animals, landscapes mostly." Crystal replied.

"What about people?"

"If they're in the shot."

Gold shook his head. "No, I mean like just people shots."

"Um, not really." Crystal said hesitantly. Where was he going with this?

Gold leaned on the railing of his balcony. "Well how about taking a picture of me then?"

Crystal blinked as the hair on the back of her neck started to stand up. No one had ever asked for their picture taken before. "I guess it wouldn't hurt." Crystal walked over to the table on the balcony and picked up her camera. She tinkered with the setting for a minute before raising it to eye level.

"Ready any time." Gold smiled.

The shutter snapped the photograph after the flash and Crystal looked at the photo. Gold was smiling, his eyes closed and his mouth stretched into a cheesy grin. The flash had illuminated just the right amount of the stone white balcony and Gold's body to produce a ghostly effect on the dark background of the city. Usually that effect was undesirable, but Crystal liked it.

"So how'd I do?" Gold asked, trying to lean over the balcony to see.

"Surprisingly well." Crystal replied.

Gold smiled again. "Great. In that case I also do nude shots if you're interested."

Crystal's smile faded as she lifted the camera, set the flash brightness as high as it would go, and snapped another picture, blinding the pervert for the next hour.

Crystal walked up to a door, reached for the handle, and then backed away for the seventh time that hour. Her hands were shaking, her heart beating at twice the normal speed it should be, and butterflies were throwing a rave party in her stomach.

As Crystal walked away from the door yet again, she tried to calm herself. Okay, you've been here for almost a week now. Now is the time you need to suck it up and go in, get accepted for rejected, and move on. You've already sent photos to them before you even left America so they should know the kinda talent you have. You have that letter too, so surely that will boost your chances of getting hired. Crystal turned around, walked back down the street, and opened the door labeled 'Il Immagine Perfetta' and walked inside before she could change her mind.

A little bell rang and the woman at the front desk looked up from a computer. The walls were painted a purplish red with dark colored flowers as the border. The walls were covered with hanging pictures of some of their most famous snapshots with the name of the picture and the photographer labeled underneath.

"So," The woman at the desk said in Italian, "finally decided to come in?"

Crystal replied nervously in Italian. "I'm just a bit nervous." She walked over to the desk. "I should have an appointment with Ms. Juniper in five minutes."

The woman raised an eyebrow and then clicked her long fingernails on the keyboard of her computer. "Well she just finished a phone conference. She'll meet you in her office now. Last door on the left." The woman pointed with a finger behind her down the hallway.

"Thank you." Crystal said before nervously walking down the hallway. It felt like a walk of shame people take when they get voted off the island. Crystal raised her hand and knocked on the closed door labeled 'Juniper,' mentally telling the butterflies in her stomach to cool the party for five minutes.

"Enter." Said a female voice from behind the door.

Crystal turned the doorknob and was slightly surprised to find an American looking woman sitting at the desk. Books and papers were scattered around the room giving the room a sense of disorderly, nothing that Crystal expected. The woman looked up, obviously surprised as well. "American?" She asked in English.

Crystal nodded. "I'm Crystal Kostoris. I sent you those photo's about two weeks ago and asked about that job."

Ms. Juniper stood up and smiled. "I remember you. In fact, look to your right."

Crystal looked right and was surprised to find a photo of the statue of liberty, bathed in an eerie glow from only moonlight, hanging on the wall. That was her picture. Crystal's mouth just hung open.

Juniper laughed at Crystal reaction. "Have a seat. I'm from New York myself. I was starting to miss lady liberty right when you sent that picture along with your resume and portfolio." Crystal sat down as Ms. Juniper continued, still slightly shocked. "I thought they had her always lit up."

"T-They usually do." Crystal replied, trying to sound as calm as possible. "But they were performing maintenance that night and had to shut all the power off on the island."

"It's beautiful." Juniper said, looking at the photo again. "Anyways, I'm going to tell you this right up front. You have a lot of talent, and what I like to call the photographer's eye. Your pictures are stills of what a lot of people only dream about taking pictures of. Plus you're a lot better than half the people I have on my payroll."

Crystal's spirit's soared, higher in the sky than any bird had ever flown. It wasn't going nearly as bad as she dreaded it could have.

"But," Crystal's spirit crashed into an airplane. "We are a small, close-nit company and we all know each other by first name. If I were to hire you I would have to let somebody go. So why should I hire you?" Juniper rested her head on her hands, waiting for Crystal's response.

"W-W-Well," Here we go, "I work great, I am always on time, and like you said, I have a great eye for photography."

Juniper raised an eyebrow. "Well that's great and all, but did you bring anything else? I fell there's a lot more you could be doing with your photos still."

"Yes, I did!" Crystal said quickly. She pulled a folder out of her large purse and handed it to Juniper, who opened it and started paging through the photos. She stopped at the last one and Crystal, with a skip of a heartbeat, realized it was the first picture of Gold she had taken. "I'm sorry that –"

"This is amazing!" Juniper exclaimed, pulling the photo out to examine it better.

"It wasn't on top?" Crystal was about to apologize and say that photo wasn't supposed to be in there in the first place.

"Where'd you take this photo and who is this young man?" Juniper asked.

"Um, I took it the night I got here on the balcony of my apartment. That's my friend Gold." Friend wasn't the first word that came to mind that Crystal would use to explain Gold, but she didn't think that the word she would use to describe him would be entirely appropriate.

"He's very photogenic, and that ghostly effect for the background, most photographers try to avoid that but in your picture you managed to turn the undesirable into the desirable!"

"Thank you." Crystal said not sure if Ms. Juniper really meant what she said.

"Oh, before I forget," Juniper putting the photo down. "You also said you had a letter of recommendation."

"Oh, yes I do." Crystal dove into her purse and pulled out the letter.

"Who wrote it?"

"My art teacher from high school." Crystal said. "He said he used to work for your company." She added when she say the raised eyebrow Juniper gave.

Juniper took the letter and started to read it. Only halfway though, she started laughing. "Wait, your art teacher was Oak?"


"And he has two grandchildren named Green and Daisy?" Juniper asked.

"Yeah, did you know him well?"

"Know him well?" Juniper laughed. "He was the head of the company before me. If he recommends you for a job, then I'm not really one to disagree with him." Juniper stuck out a hand and smiled. "Welcome aboard Ms. Kostoris."

Crystal smiled from ear to ear as she shook Juniper's hand. Her life was now of her own design.

Crystal half-skipped, half-walked home. This was easily the best day of her life; she was away from her family, she was living in a beautiful place, and she had her dream job.

Well how about taking a picture of me then?

Crystal stopped mid-skip. She had passed the café Gold worked about a block back. She turned around and thought for a moment. Maybe she should go and thank him. After all, he was the reason she got her dream job. Crystal turned and walked back down the street, birds chirping in the afternoon sunlight above her.

After a minute, Crystal was standing outside the small café. She shifted the purse on her shoulder nervously. Why was she feeling so nervous? She walked in the door and looked around for him wearing his tight black vest and his sleeves rolled up…

"Excuse me?" One of the waitresses asked in Italian.

Crystal jumped, her mind brought away from Gold's biceps. "Um, hi." Crystal replied. "Is Gold working today?"

The woman raised an eyebrow and looked Crystal over. "He didn't come in today." She said. "Something about a stomach problem."

"Okay, thank you." Crystal thanked her and turned to leave.

"Next time you see him, cover yourself." The waitresses said, stopping Crystal in her tracks. "He has a problem with keeping his hands to himself."

Crystal continued her walk home, a bit slower than before while she tried to remember what was the best way to keep perverts off was. She rode the elevator up to her floor and walked down the hallway, thinking of what to say to Gold after she knocked on the door.

Turning the corner, Crystal tried to finalize her thank-you, when she stopped. Gold's door opened and a brown-hair woman walked out of his apartment. Her hair was up similar to Crystal's, she wore heels that had to be at least ten feet tall, her clothes were wore skimpily around her body, and she had just one of those expressions. You know, like the kind of look old women have when they smell something funny.

The woman walked past Crystal, not before looking her up and down, and then continued down the hallway. Something inside Crystal ticked, but she didn't know why. What should she care if another woman came out of Gold's apartment? She jabbed her keys into her door and unlocked the apartment, immediately locking it again when she was inside. She walked over to the couch and dropped her bag on it. Then, picking up the remote, she turned on the television. She flipped through the channels.

Amazing. Just like in America there were over seven hundred channels, but nothing to watch. She stopped on something that looked similar to E! News, but only because of one reason. She had seen her own face on the screen.

The host of the show said, "Crystal Kostoris has been revealed as a run-away from her American family where her father, founder of Kostoris manufacturing, and mother are in a frantic break-down. Rumors say the nineteen-year-old boarded a flight in JFK New York Airport for somewhere in southern Europe."

Crystal clicked the television off. She had heard enough. Deciding there was nothing better to do she headed for the bathroom and decided to take a nice, long, hot shower. The cold water, quickly becoming warmer, started to rain down in the shower. Crystal dropped her clothing to the floor and stepped in.

As she washed her body, her mind wandered like it usually did. Now that she thought about it, that woman that had walked past Crystal looked a lot like her. Heck she even looked around the same age of her. What if she was Gold's one-night stand? Crystal already knew how much of a pervert he was…

Crystal jumped slightly and flushed as she ran a hand over her chest. For a moment she imagined herself with Gold, rather than that other woman. Gold's hands running delicately over her body, fondling her chest and causing Crystal to moan in her mind. Crystal shook her head and then let the water was the rest of the soap off her body. She couldn't believe it, why did that image pop into her head?

She dried herself off and then wrapped a towel around her body before leaving the bathroom. She was in a house by herself but she still wasn't bold enough to walk around naked. Her discarded clothes in her arms, Crystal walked towards her bedroom. She stopped at her bookshelf for a moment, pausing to look at her Chikorita plushy. She picked it up and added it to her armful of clothes, eventually dropping them all on her bed.

Past the window, the sun was starting to set, casting an pinkish-orange glow over the sky. Crystal finished dressing in her night clothes and fell onto her bed. Thoughts of Gold with that other woman still ran through her mind. Crystal sighed and rolled over onto her side, now looking at her Chikorita plushy. "Is it possible to sleep off horniness?" She asked it, completely serious.

Just then, a rather colorful string of curses came through the wall from Gold's apartment. Crystal sat up, listening quietly to Gold's angry rant about…cooking? Slightly concerned, Crystal got up and walked out onto her balcony.

The door to Gold's apartment was open and steam was floating out of it. Loud music echoed from Gold's place and tantalizing smells wafted into Crystal's nostrils.

"Grah! Why the hell can't I get that right?" Gold's voice yelled.

Crystal raised an eyebrow. She walked over and peered over the balcony, trying to get a look inside his place. Looking inside she caught a look into his bedroom. It was a mess, as she might have thought. Clothes were lying everywhere, his bed was a mess, and a porno magazine was lying on his nightstand.

Doing her best to ignore the magazine, Crystal looked into the doorway leading to the rest of Gold's apartment. She could only catch a small glimpse of the inside of his apartment before another string of curses left Gold's place.

"Gold?" Crystal called quietly, still slightly concerned for his safety.

He didn't seem to have heard her as more angry rants flew out the window. Crystal, not thinking, climbed up and jumped over to Gold's balcony. Hesitantly, Crystal walked into the open room. The music she heard before was coming from what she thought was the kitchen area. More tantalizing smells worked their way into her nose and Crystal took her final steps into Gold's kitchen.

He was standing at the stovetop wearing a kitchen apron. A cd player sat on his countertop with an Italian woman belting out some unknown lyrics. Dishes and food were scattered about and Gold was glaring at a frying pan where something was burning.

"Gold?" Crystal asked again.

The golden eyed man turned around and smiled. "Well isn't this a pleasant surprise? Crystal is breaking into my apartment. Come to seduce me?"

Crystal frowned. "Fine I'll go then." She said heading for the door.

"No, wait!" Gold said, jumping in front of her. "Sorry, I'm just surprised to see you."

Crystal rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Well with all the swearing I heard I thought you were in some sort of trouble."

Gold rubbed the back of his head and walked back over to the frying pan. "I kinda am." He said picking the pan up by the handle. He walked over to the trash and deposited the burnt object into the bin. "I need to come up with an original dish if I want to get that job as the chief. It needs to be something new, something she's never tasted before. Plus I keep getting burned by the oil."

"She?" Crystal asked, walking over to a chair and sitting down, still looking at Gold.

"Lyra." Gold explained. "She came by a while ago and told me I could have a job as head chief at a new restaurant she's opening if I can make a unique dish."

"Oh, I thought she was one of your one-night stands." Crystal said absentmindedly.

Gold raised an eyebrow as he put the frying pan back on the stove. "Why, jealous?"

"Hardly." Crystal frowned. "So what are you making anyways?"

Gold shrugged. "Thought I'd try a type of stir fry or something, but it hasn't been turning out so well."

Crystal twiddled her thumbs. "Well, something smelled good from outside. Maybe you just need a taste tester?"

Gold shot her a look. "Are you offering?"

Crystal nodded. "I do owe you after all."

"You do?" Gold asked confused.

Crystal bit the inside of her lip, slightly regretting what she just admitted. "Remember that photo you had me take of you a while back?"

Gold thought. "Out on the balcony, right?"

"Yeah. I accidentally showed it the head of Il Immagine Perfetta and…well, it got me the job." She said.

It took a moment, but Gold started to grin from ear to ear. "So that means you owe me, big time."

Crystal rolled her eyes. He was acting like a little kid. "Yes, and since you helped me with my job, I can help you with yours."

Gold walked over to Crystal and whispered into her ear huskily. "Or you could do something else for me."

Crystal flushed, her previous thoughts about her and Gold quickly returning. "Like I'd do anything like that for you, pervert." Crystal remarked quickly.

Gold smirked. "What? I was just going to ask if you would clean my apartment for me. What's so perverted about that?"

Crystal frowned and stood up. She turned on Gold, her blush now contained. "Either start cooking, or I'm leaving." She threatened.

Gold put up his hands in defense. "Okay, okay, I'll get cooking." Crystal watched him walk back to the kitchenette and open the refrigerator. She sighed and looked around. The place really was a mess, and messes bugged Crystal like a fly buzzing around your ear.

She gave in to her instincts and began picking things up, guessing where half of the object went. Gold noticed and smiled at her. "Decided to clean my apartment after all, huh?"

"It's a complete mess, and messes annoy me." Crystal retorted. She made a face as she picked up a used pair of Gold's boxers. "Ugh, seriously Gold?"

Gold shrugged. "What? I can walk around my apartment naked when I want to."

Crystal looked away, blushing slightly at the thought of Gold walked around naked. Crystal gathered up several other articles of clothing into her arms and walked into his room where she deposited them on top of a rather large pile of unwashed clothing. He apparently didn't think to buy a basket to keep them in. Crystal walked around the bedroom, picking up and adding more clothes to the pile. When she reached the porno magazine, she noticed it was the same one she had caught Gold trying to buy the first day they met.

Crystal frowned at the poorly dressed woman on the front cover, who was giving Crystal a dirty look. Only one way to solve this problem. She thought as she walked over to the balcony. Without a second thought, she tossed the magazine into the street below.

Now that that matter was taken care of, Crystal noticed something sticking out from underneath the bed. Crystal bent down and picked it up, completely shocked at the sight of what it was.

"Hey Gold," Crystal asked, walking back into the room he was in, "Who's this?"

Gold turned around and saw Crystal holding a small plushy of the Pokémon Cyndaquil. "Hey!" He exclaimed happily, "You found Explotaro for me!"

"You named it?" Crystal placed the Cyndaquil on the countertop next to Gold.

"Well didn't you name your stuffed animals when you were younger?" Gold questioned. He was trying something else now, the smell of chicken and spices coming from the frying pan.

Crystal rested her head on her hands and stared at the Cyndaquil. "Well…yeah." She admitted. "I brought a Chikorita doll I named Mega."

"Mega?" Gold questioned. "What kinda name is that for a Pokémon?"

"I named him that because the guy who gave it to me was mega cool!" Crystal yelled in her defense. Gold laughed at her and Crystal glared at him. When he finally stopped laughing, Crystal sighed. "I guess it is kinda stupid."

"Not really." Gold remarked, surprising Crystal. "It's a memento of the guy who gave it to you. Did you like him?"

Crystal sighed. "I guess I did."

"You guess?"

"Okay, I thought he was the hottest and most amazing guy there was." Crystal said quickly. "Are you happy?"

"Was he better looking than me?"

Crystal eyed the golden-eyed man. His back was to her, still working on his dish. She tried to imagine Gold without a shirt, which was surprisingly easy for her. She blushed as she replied, "Of course he was."

Gold turned around and smiled at Crystal, not believing her words. "I could always prove it to you. It is getting rather hot in here so I might need to shed some layers."

Crystal glared at Gold, "Just cook, Don Juan."

Crystal snapped a photo of a couple just as they locked lips. And from the expression on their faces, it was the first kiss they had shared. She lowered the camera and the zoom effect faded. The couple she had snapped looked like they only stood a foot away when in reality they were on the opposite side of the Coliseum.

Juniper had wanted Crystal to get breathtaking shots of the Coliseum, something never pulled off by any of her current employs. She sighed. Sure, give the newbie the hardest assignment right off the bat. Like most employees, she was starting to hate her new boss. But more than her boss, she hated her work. Nothing she took a photo of seemed to be…right. Nothing sparked her interest nor activated her little 'perfect picture sense.'

Crystal examined the couple she had just taken a picture of. The man was slightly taller than the woman. Both had brown hair, the woman's a shade darker, and were both finely dressed. There wasn't really anything special about the photo; the two were standing in the center of the arena so there wasn't any sort of special effect the sun could have added. She really had no idea why she had even snapped the picture. Crystal blinked and suddenly it was her and Gold in the loving embrace. She flushed for a moment before erasing the picture.

It had been a week since she had started helping Gold with his little cooking experiment, and these 'images' of her with him wouldn't stop popping up. She sighed, inwardly admitting what he had wrote her the day they meet was slightly true. It was nice to be able to talk with someone who could speak English as well as she did. She had made some friends, but all spoke only a little English, and Juniper didn't really seem like a good person to become friends with. If her parents ever taught her one thing, it was that you never get close to coworkers; especially if one of you has the power to fire the other.

Crystal blinked, slightly stunned at her own thoughts. Had she just told herself that she was friends with Gold? Shaking her head, Crystal headed for the southern entrance/exit of the Coliseum with a new idea for a picture. But as she walked, Gold crept into her mind once more. It seemed even when she wasn't trying to think of him, she still thought of him. None were as vivid as the one in her shower a week ago, so she tried her best to ignore all thoughts of him in hopes that she wouldn't think of him naked anymore.

Crystal reached the exit just as the sun was setting. She turned around in the tunnel, the hairs on the back of her neck starting to tingle. The sun was bathing the sky in a blood red color, almost like it was the blood of all those that had died here. She snapped the photograph and the feeling left her. She had it, a picture that represented what the Coliseum really was. A building with a history bathed in blood.

As she turned to leave, her pocket started to sing Last Friday Night. Her phone was going off. Checking the caller id, she read 'Gold.' Crystal flipped the phone open and put it to her ear. "Hello?"

"THANK YOU SO MUCH!" Gold's voice shouted excitedly through the earpiece. Crystal had to jerk the phone away to prevent hearing loss.

Placing the phone back to her ear delicately, Crystal asked, "Thank you for what?"

"Remember that baked chicken I had you try yesterday?"

Crystal thought back, remembering that she had exclaimed it was the most amazing thing she had ever eaten. Blushing slightly she answered. "Y-Yeah. What about it?"

"Lyra loved it and I got the job!" Crystal could almost hear him grinning though the phone.

"That's great!" She said, genuinely feeling happy for him. "So when do you start?" She asked, starting to put her camera back into its carrying case.

"Lyra wants me to start next Monday as head chief. I'm going to working in Palermo as the most talented chief she's ever seen."

Crystal shifted her phone to the other ear. Palermo was in Sicily, too far for Gold to keep living in the apartment next to her. Something that had been growing in Crystal's chest, something slowly filling that empty void, cracked. She ignored the feeling and made a smart remark. "That's perfect then. You have all day tomorrow and the day after to say good-bye to all your girlfriends you picked up."

Gold laughed. "Not that I have any, but it would take way more than a single weekend to break up with all of them. Maybe you could come over and give me a goodbye present. How about a lap dance?" He sniggered.

Crystal frowned and closed her phone. He had been making smart remarks like that for the last week and she had learned to ignore them. Shouldering her camera's carrying case, Crystal walked slowly home and the reality of Gold leaving slowly sunk in.

Monday had come around and Crystal was playing with her hair nervously as she leaned against her front door. Now she was waiting for him to finish a last check of his apartment to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything. Gold was getting a ride from his new boss to the coast where they would take a ferry down to Sicily and then drive to Palermo. Being the good friend that she was, she had helped Gold pack his things (making sure to throw out any porn magazines she found) and load them into Lyra's truck. All during the packing, neither of them said a single word.

Crystal looked left as Gold left his apartment, closing and locking the door. He looked at Crystal and she stood straight, no longer leaning against the door. She held her arms behind her back and smiled sadly at the golden-eyed man, his soft eyes not sending their usual chill down her spine.

Gold was the first one to say anything. "Looks like this is good-bye, huh?"

Crystal smiled sadly at him. "I guess it is. It'll be such a relief to know that the sexual predator next door is finally moving out."

Gold laughed, his spirits raised slightly. "Ah come on. You're gonna miss me."

"The only thing I'll miss is your cooking." She admitted with a sly grin.

"I'm sure. I'm told it's almost as good as sex." He laughed.

Neither of them knew what to do now with their versions of a good-bye said and done. Gold walked up to Crystal and gave her a quick and awkward hug. Crystal blushed slightly, but had enough time to swiftly hug him back. Gold pulled away but locked gazes with Crystal. She didn't know what to do when he move closer and gently grabbed her chin.

She closed her eyes and her heartbeat sped out of control. She was at a loss of what to do with her limbs. For anyone else, she would have slapped and kneed the idiot where it hurt. But for some reason she didn't do anything at all. His lips touched hers softly and Crystal felt her cheeks heat up.

He pulled back before she had a chance to kiss back and turned away before she could see the blush on his own face. Gold started down the hallway but stopped only two steps away. "If you're ever in Palermo, come by for some food, if you want…" After what felt like an eternity of silence, Gold continued down the hallway, disappearing down the stairs.

When he was out of view, Crystal slowly returned to her own apartment. Her heart beating too loudly and her mind a jumble, the only thing she could do was lie down on her bed. She clung to a pillow and curled up into a ball, hoping that sleep would take her before those unexplained tears could break free.

Juniper looked up from her computer screen as Crystal walked into the office Monday morning. She looked like her usual self; greeting her with a smile and a polite 'Good morning.' But something about that smile and cheerful attitude seemed…forced.

Juniper flipped through the photo's Crystal had brought, impressed as usual with everything she saw. Laying the folder containing said photos, Juniper sighed. "Okay, what's wrong?"

Crystal tilted her head. "Nothing, why?"

"You don't seem like yourself. Did something happen recently?" Crystal looked slightly shocked. Was her depression really that easy to see?

"Well, sort of…"

"Ah, well I figured something like this would have happened. Don't worry, I've fired my secretary for blabbing all about you."

Now Crystal was confused. "Um, what?" She asked.

"Haven't you been watching any news lately?" Juniper asked. She turned laptop computer around and turned up the volume.

"No word yet from Crystal Kostoris who has been reported to be hiding out in an Italian hotel in central Rome." A reporter said on screen. The E! News logo was spinning in the lower left corner. "In fact," She continued, "No one has seen the run-away girl all day, but the manager of the hotel has confirmed that a girl matching her description has been staying here for the past few weeks."

Juniper paused the video and closed her laptop. "I'm sorry for this incident. I never knew that I had a celebrity working for me."

Crystal blinked, shocked at the news. "Um, I'm not really a celebrity." She said, unable to think of anything else to say. "My dad's just really rich."

"And according to this you screwed him out of a lot of money and ran away, right?" Juniper smiled and continued before Crystal could say anything. "I've been following this story for a few hours now and I've learned a thing or two." She stood up and grabbed her coat. "Now we should be going. It's only a matter of time before those cockroaches find out you work for me and start swarming this place."

"I-I'm sorry for this." Crystal said quickly. She stood up and bowed quickly as an apology. "I don't mean to be a burden the company."

"Eh, it's alright." Juniper waved off her apology. "I did the same thing when I was your age. Although I didn't stir up nearly as much trouble as this when I ran away." She smiled at Crystal as she left her office.

"So where are we going?" Crystal asked, following her boss's wake.

"I figure you need to get out of town for a little while so I'll drive by your place and pick some things up for you. Got someplace in mind?"

Crystal nearly stopped in her tracks. "N-No! You don't need to do any of this for me. I've dealt with the paparazzi before."

"No, I insist." Juniper said opening the front door. "I'll pay for everything so long as you snap some good photos. Just think of it as a company trip. So, got any place in mind?"

Crystal's mind immediately came up with the name Palermo but she was a bit slow in saying it. "Well a friend of mine recently moved to Palermo…"

"Ah, Sicily. I hear the Mediterranean Sea looks great this time of year." Juniper said as she led to Crystal to her small Sedan. "So now the only question is what room number are you in?"

Crystal sunk down onto the bed of her temporary room. Juniper had called to tell her that the paparazzi had left in pursuit of Miley Cyrus's new almost nudity stunt in her London concert. That had been two days ago and she couldn't put off going back any longer unless she wanted to risk losing her dream job.

What am I doing here anyways? Crystal asked herself. Chasing some pervert who kissed you before he left you? He kissed and left, only jerks would do that! He's just a stupid pervert that's been stalking me. I mean all he gave me was the name of the restaurant. Everyone I've asked has never even heard of it.

The bell in a church bell tower chimed five o'clock, interrupting her thoughts about Gold. She sighed and rolled onto her side to get a better look out the open window. It was actually kinda nice here. The sun was starting its decent, but it was still summer so there wasn't much of a change in the lighting. A cool breeze from the Mediterranean was blowing in and cooling the hot room. Everything looked so peaceful, soothing Crystal's broken heart, even if it was just a little.

She closed her eyes to get some sleep in. In two hours she was going to be taking a ride on a ferry to try and get a few more shots in before heading back. Something to sooth Juniper over as an apology for coming back late. She had her dream job, and that was all she need. Nothing else.

Crystal snapped a photo of the shore from the rather large ferry she stood on. Even though there was a second floor you could have gone on, there were still a lot of people standing around Crystal. A few people bumped into her and Crystal had to check to make sure none of them had tried to steal anything.

A bird cry drew Crystal attention back out to the sea. She couldn't tell what type of bird it was, but it was flying towards the ferry. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she raised her camera. Watching the bird fly closer, Crystal followed its every movement, making sure not to lose sight of it. Others had pointed out this peculiar bird and were following its movements as well. It got closer and closer, yet Crystal still didn't take the picture. Something was telling her that she needed to wait.

And so she waited until the bird flew directly overhead. Crystal had to twist her body to follow the bird, and she knew that the moment it passed overhead she would snap the photo. But as the bird flew overhead, Crystal's fingers were frozen and she didn't take the photo. Something else had moved into the photo, standing on the second floor of the ferry and staring out to sea was a golden eyed man.

Crystal did the only thing that came to mind. She dropped her camera, not caring what happened to it or who might pick it up. Emotions welled up inside her as she pushed through the crowds of people, tears of multiple emotions started to work their way free as Crystal climbed the stairs. As she emerged on the second floor she saw him, his back turned to her and still looking out at the sea.

"Gold!" Crystal yelled, the tears now streaming down her face. Most of the deck had turned to look at her, but she didn't care. The only one she was looking at mattered. As Gold turned to see who had shouted his name, his eyes widened, not believing that he was really seeing Crystal standing before him.

Crystal ran to him, the people in her way moving quickly aside. Gold opened his arms wide to catch her in a hug when she finally reached him. It was just like a scene from a sappy romantic movie. Only there was one major difference.

Instead of jumping into his arm, Crystal drove her fist into Gold's gut. A few people gasped in shock. Gold was clutching his stomach now as he struggled to stay standing, the wind knocked out of him. "W-Why?" He asked.

Crystal frowned at him and bit her lip.. "Why? You ask why? I'll tell you why!" She shouted at him. "Because you're you! You're the first person to actually show any interest in me because I'm me! You didn't care about my parent's money, you actually listened to me when I talked, and you became my first real friend!" Crystal's voice grew louder and louder with each reason she listed off. "You may be a perverted jerk, but underneath that you're an amazing guy who's nice and know how to cook food that's better anything I've ever eaten! And after all that time we spent together I fell in love with you!"

Gold's eyes widened, he was completely thrown off by her earlier punch that a confession would follow.

Crystal raised her hands to her eyes and tried to wipe away the tears that wouldn't stop coming. "And then you go and kiss me and just walk out of my life! Do you know what that did to me?" She squeaked, her voice going to near hysteria.

Crystal jerked slightly as a pair of strong arms wrapped around her and pulled her into Gold's embrace. He rested his chin on her head and whispered, "I'm sorry Crys. I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have done that, but I still did. And I'm an ass for doing that to you. It's just that you're the first girl I've ever felt this way before. I…I didn't know what to do."

Crystal's heart skipped a beat and her tears slowed, no longer drenching Gold's shirt. She balled up a part of the cloth in her fist and said into his chest, "You could have stayed…"

"I should have stayed." Gold corrected her, still holding her tightly. "The moment I left I knew I had done something incredibly stupid. I'm so sorry Crys. I-"

But Gold was cut off. Crystal had pushed away slightly and brought her head up to kiss him. Not one to argue, Gold closed his eyes and kissed back. The kiss quickly became passionate after Crystal had wrapped her arms around Gold's neck and pulled him even closer.

Before it became too heated, Crystal broke the kiss and looked directly into Gold's eyes. "You shouldn't keep apologizing like that. It's not like you."

Gold laughed softly and put his forehead to hers. "I suppose you're right."

Crystal blushed before she spoke. "How far away is your place from the docks?"

"Not far, why?" Gold asked, slightly guessing what she was going to suggest.

Crystal pressed her body closer to Gold's and then brought her mouth to his ear and whispered, "Because I can't take care of that thing growing against my leg in public."

If you are offended by lemons, skip ahead to the next line break!

Gold didn't even have time to relock the front door before Crystal had already pinned him to the wall. Despite the hormones raging though his body and 'the thing' pulsing in his pants, Gold managed to push her off of himself for a moment. "So where did this whole thing come from?"

"What thing?" Crystal asked.

"One minute you're ready to kill me, the next you wanna strip me naked and have your way with me. Not that I mind." Gold said with a cheesy grin.

Crystal blushed and ran a hand down his chest. "You just do that to me."

"Make you horny?" Gold laughed and then slid his hands down to grab a part of her.

"Mix up my emotions." Crystal replied. "Like right now I don't know if I should hit you for grabbing my ass," Gold's hands left, "Or to kiss you."

Gold sighed. Feeling that the atmosphere was dying, he swept up Crystal bridal style and started nuzzling her neck with quick kisses.

"G-Gold!" Crystal blushed. "What are you doing?"

"I just figured the bed would be more comfortable than the floor." He said as he pushed open the door to his room. He gently laid Crystal down onto the bed and resumed their make-out session from the boat as he crawled on top of her. Gold ran his hands down Crystal's side, stopping at the hem of her shirt.

Electricity shot up Crystal's spine as Gold's fingers worked their way delicately up her shirt. His fingers danced across her stomach and Crystal moaned into the kiss. Gold quickly took advantage of her ecstasy and stuck his tongue into her mouth, moving it around to explore this new territory.

There tongues met, and Crystal sucked greedily on Gold's tongue, now trapped in her mouth. She brought her hands up and started to run them through Gold's hair, eventually bringing them to rest on the back of his neck to pull herself into him even more. They broke for a moment to breath, continuing to stare into each other's eyes.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Gold asked, his voice concerned and full of love.

Crystal blushed even more at the soft and loving tone he spoke in; a tone she had never heard him talk in before. "Getting cold feet?" She asked running her hands down his back, earning her a soft moan from his lips. "Surely I can't be the first girl you've ever had feeling for?"

"But you are." Gold replied, his eyes telling that he was completely truthful. "Despite my big talk, I've never actually done anything like this with anyone."

"What about all those porno's I kept finding?"

"Picture and people are two different things. And besides, what guy doesn't have at least one porn magazine lying around?" Gold grinned.

"That's gonna change if you plan on keeping me around."

"Don't worry," Gold whispered huskily, "I plan to keep you around for a long time." And before Crystal could come up with any sort of response, he captured her lips one more time. After their little match of tongue wrestling, Gold left Crystal's lips and started down her neck. He placed light kisses all the way down to the base of her neck, where Crystal had a sudden intake of breath.

Gold smirked and took the part of flesh into his mouth. Crystal moaned and arched her back as Gold bit down harder. Everything was so new to her that anything Gold did would just become sensory overload. "Oh...oh Gold!" She moaned.

Gold eventually left her sweet spot and went back up to give her a swift kiss. "You know, these clothes are starting to get in the way. Maybe we should lose them."

Crystal's blush deepened. Despite her earlier eagerness, the actual act of getting naked in front of Gold embarrassed her to death. "O-Okay," She stuttered, "But you can't look at me as I undress." She added quickly.

Gold smirked and got off of her. "You do realize I'm going to see you naked anyways?"

Crystal didn't say anything. Of course she knew that but still…

Gold got off the bed and stood up. Despite her own words, Crystal couldn't help but sneak a look at Gold as he undressed. He pulled his shirt up and over his head and Crystal blushed, not realizing before just how good looking he was. He wasn't scary thin like some of the boys back at her old high school, nor was he overly muscular with his blood veins trying to pop free. When he dropped his pants she uttered a small squeal of surprise and turned away, blushing even more. Gold's pride as a man looked like it was ready to just rip through his boxers and tear Crystal apart.

She focused instead on pulling her own clothes off and dropping them to the floor. She came to a halt when she was reaching back to unhook her bra. No one had ever seen this part of her body and now she was about to stand stark naked in front of a guy for the first time in her life.

"Need some help?" Gold's voice said into her ear. Crystal jumped as Gold wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into him. She squealed again when his manhood pressed against her back, clear that he had discarded the last of his clothing.

Crystal tried her best to keep her voice as straight as possible. "I-It's just s-sort of e-embarrassing."

"Why? You're a very beautiful woman." Gold said, causing her to blush even more. "You don't have anything to be ashamed of." As if to prove his point, Gold unhooked the bra strap and let it fall to the floor. Crystal gasped as cold air made contact with her exposed chest, goosebumps traveling across her skin.

Gold's hand moved up her body, his fingertips delicately dancing across her skin, until he reached her breasts. Crystal moaned as he squeezed, and fondled her chest. His lips came down to suck on that sweet spot on her neck again, only adding to the ecstasy already coursing through her body.

Gold's thumbs ran over her hardened nipples and Crystal rolled her head back to lie on Gold's shoulder. With her neck exposed to this extent, Gold took a chance and bit down hard on the exposed skin. A very elicit moan left Crystal's lips and Gold smiled. She was surprisingly kinky for someone so uptight.

He brought his lips away from Crystal's neck and brought them up her ears. "What do you say we move to the next stage?"

Crystal nodded hesitantly, both unable to wait and slightly afraid. She'd been told when a man enters you for the first time it was supposed to be extremely painful. She lay down on the bed and Gold crawled on top of her, delivering to her skin short but sweet kisses as he worked his way up her body. He stopped at the middle of her stomach, realizing that there was still one pesky thing separating the two.

Gold trailed a hand down her leg until he reached the lace of that annoying piece of cloth. He twisted his finger in it and gently tugged down, only to have Crystal's hand stop him.

"W-Wait." She stuttered, "D-Don't look down there."

Gold smiled and moved up to kiss her lovingly. "Still embarrassed? You've already seen me naked."

Crystal's eyes trailed down Gold's body and her blush deepened. She brought her eyes back up to his, the golden color of his eyes charging her feelings. "J-Just promise me…"

Gold leaned in and kissed the blue haired girl again. When he broke the kiss, he placed his forehead against hers. "I promise…I'll only look at you." He said quietly.

Crystal kissed him again and removed her hand from his. Gold, true to his word, never broke eye contact as he gently pulled the cloth abomination down her legs. Crystal gasped slightly again as the cold air touched the final part of her skin. Gold tossed it aside and kissed Crystal again.

"Ready?" He asked when they broke.

Crystal nodded, but then said. "Do you have protection?"

"What, don't what a little me running around?" Gold smiled. Crystal frowned at him and he got up. "Yeah I've got something."

Crystal waited as Gold produced a foil packet from his wallet and ripped it open. As he rolled the rubber down his length, Crystal couldn't help but let her eyes travel over his body again and her blush deepened.

Gold came back and kissed her once again, positioning himself on top of her again. His hands traveled down to her legs and tickled in inside of her thighs, a way of loosening Crystal up. Crystal gave in eventually and opened her legs so Gold could position himself properly. He looked up at her again and said, "Are you ready? I've heard it hurts you a lot."

Crystal raised her hand to Gold's face and kissed him. He took that as an okay and slowly slid into her. Crystal moaned into the kiss, half from pain and half from bliss. The friction created between the two as Gold moved in ever slowly was the most wonderful feeling either of them had ever experienced.

Soon, Gold reached something that he knew would be there. Crystal jerked slightly when he reached it, breaking their kiss. He knew this would hurt her and did the only thing he knew might comfort her. He recaptured her lips, and thrust in as hard and quickly as possible, burying himself to the hilt.

Crystal almost screamed into the kiss. Gold pulled away, his eyes full of worry. "Are you alright? Should I pull out?"

Crystal panted but shook her head. "It's alright…The pain is starting to fade away. Really." She added when she saw in his eyes that he didn't believe her.

He waited for her to finish adjusting to his size. Gold placed kisses along her neck and even her shoulder, as a way to ease her pain. Her inner walls swelled and contacted around him and Gold had to use every ounce of self-control he had to not give into his savage instincts. Crystal's body was burning hot now, warming the evening air around them.

Finally, Crystal gave a nod, letting him know he could move on. Gold pulled out slowly, wanting to enjoy every second of this new sensation. He pushed back in, more of that blissful friction pushing him closer to the edge.

Crystal's heart was racing so fast she feared it might explode at any minute. Her breathing became heavy and labored as Gold discovered a pace, eventually setting a rhythm to the whole thing. Then, he hit that sweet spot. "G-Gold!" She cried out in ecstasy.

At the sound of his name, being screamed at the top of his lover's voice, Gold threw his head back and tried with all his might to not let himself go. All these feelings, the touch of skin against skin, and the way she had screamed him name was the most wonderful thing Gold have ever experienced, and neither of them had even hit the climax yet.

Gold continued at the pace he had already set, trying to hit that sweet spot of hers over and over. Crystal had wrapped her arms around his back, her nails starting to dig into his back. Although, instead of feeling pain he felt even more aroused by the act. He pressed himself even closer to Crystal's body, practically melting the two of them together. Their self-control and sanity crumbled with every one of Gold's thrusts.

The only sounds the two spoke were words of unbridled ecstasy, crying out as they did their best to retain this feeling for as long as physically possible. Gold and Crystal had locked lips again, their tongues thrashed inside each other's mouths as they wrestled and fought for gratification. Gold's thrusts were gentle and loving but also had a savagery in them, starting to give in to his instincts. Their moans became louder, becoming ever more filled with love and lust. Crystal's nails raked across Gold's back, harder this time, only fueling Gold's arousal.

And they knew that that time, the moment they had been working for was approaching. Quickly.

Crystal moaned into the merciless kiss and broke. "Oh, oh god…Gold, I'm so, so close. I…Oh Gold!"

And that was it. Crystal contracted around Gold several times as her body jerked uncontrollably with ecstasy. Her nails drew blood from Gold's back but it was already obvious that he loved the subtle pain. She screamed and moaned his name over and over, all her energy being put into this final act.

The moment Crystal yelled his name, Gold felt warmth, unlike nothing he had ever felt when pleasuring himself before, filled his loins. Crystal's name left his lips as his manhood released his juices violently. Gold's mind froze as his juices filled the rubber around his shaft. His system was overloaded with a countless number of emotions and heavenly sensations.

As the moment of complete bliss ebbed away, their lips met again. Gold continued to thrust feebly a few more times as Crystal groaned into his kiss. The lust that filled their minds and bodies were quickly fading away just as the energy that filled their bodies was. Within a few minutes, Gold stopped moving all together and pulled out of her.

He fell next to her on the bed and stared at the ceiling, panting just as hard as she was. Gold's hand met Crystal and their fingers interlocked. Crystal turned to look at Gold as he worked the rubber off his growing soft length. "Gold I, I don't want you to leave me again…" She murmured.

Gold turned and locked gazes with her. He rolled over and kissed her forehead. "Don't worry. I'm not leaving you ever again. It was the worst mistake I've ever made."

Crystal dropped her gaze and smiled. That hole in her chest, the one she had never felt filled in all her life, was starting to glow with something she couldn't describe. She nuzzled into his chest as Gold's powerful arms wrapped around her. She suddenly felt exhaustion start to take over her and she closed her eyes, listening to the steady beat of Gold's heart sing her to sleep.

Okay, the lemon's done so it's safe to read again.

It was dark when Crystal opened her eyes again. The comforter had been drawn over her and the warmth of Gold's body was gone. She sat up and blinked tiredly; the clock on the nightstand reading two a.m. For a moment she was afraid, thinking he was gone again. But then she saw him, standing on a small balcony much like the one back in Rome. He was wearing his boxers again and smoking a cigarette.

Crystal stood up, wrapping the comforter around her body. She walked over to him slowly and he turned at the sound of her soft footsteps. He smiled at her. "Look who finally woke up."

Crystal half-frowned at him and plucked the cigarette out his hand and dropped it over the railing. "Smoking's bad for your health."

"And where'd you learn that?"

"Back in the private catholic school my parents sent me."

Gold raised an eyebrow and wrapped his arms around the comforter surrounding the blue-haired girl. "Do you still have the uniform?"

"Why does that matter?"

"Oh no reason." Gold smirked at her. "I've just always found those plaid skirts sexy."

Crystal rolled her eyes but laid her head against his chest, her smile of amusement hidden from him. Gold didn't say anything, instead just started to slowly rock her back and forth in his arms. After a few minutes of the silence, Gold said, "You know, I've been thinking of heading back to Rome. I left a girlfriend back there."

Crystal smiled again. "Is she someone I have to worry about?"

"Hm." Gold mused. "Probably. She's the most beautiful person I've ever seen, and she's very good in bed."

Crystal pushed away slightly but remained in his embrace. Looking in those golden eyes, Crystal said, "Well then I'm just gonna have to be better than her."

Gold smirked and leaned in to hiss her lovingly. It was only for a few moments, and then he pulled away. "You know, I don't really know all that much about you or your family."

"I could say the same thing about you." She replied.

Gold laughed. "There's not much to tell, but if you really want I'll tell you anything you want. And I'm sure my mom would love to meet you."

Crystal smiled again. People who actually cared about her and not about her status or what she was trained to become. She liked an idea like that.

"So," Gold continued. "Am I ever going to hear anything about your past?"

Crystal sighed and left Gold's embrace to go and sit at the edge of the bed. Gold followed her and put an arm around her. "I've told you generally what my life was already like. I hated it. I…I don't think I want to talk about it."

Gold pulled Crystal in and kissed the side of her head. "It's okay. You can talk about it when you're ready."

Crystal smiled and whispered a quiet thank you. They sat there for a long time; so long that Crystal wasn't sure how long it was before she finally spoke again. "But you know, I might be able to talk sooner if you did something for me."

"And what's that?" Gold asked. He was completely unaware of what she was going to do. Crystal dropped the comforter and pushed Gold down onto the bed before crawling on top of him.

"Let me be on top this time," She said seductively. "Then I'll see what I can do about that plaid skirt."

Explotaro: I hope you all liked my Mangaquest one-shot! So what did you think, too long for a one-shot? Should I have made it multiple chapters instead? Please tell me in your review! And as the name 'Diaries' implies, there will be more one-shots, but of other Pokémon Adventure couples. Check out my profile for more information.