Kyoko honestly could not accurately recall how exactly she ended up at Ren's apartment this time. She decided to go with the logical conclusion that she helped him get home because he was not feeling well. Whether or not that was the case, she still had to address the fact that the lanky actor was sprawled beside her on the couch in a daze. Dark rings had formed around his eyes and he was actively fighting to keep them open to stare at her.

He looked about as bad as she felt. As someone who grew up always being by herself, she was taken by surprise as to the ease with which she became accustomed to sharing a bed with someone else; a habit which ended abruptly with her return from Guam. Granted, she fought hard against it at first. Kyoko was hard-pressed to let Setsu's spirit take over at night but, following her fateful conversation with President Takarada, she found that she had no need to and indulged her own undisclosed desires. Unfortunately, there was no Setsuka Heel anymore and, therefore, no reason to share a bed with anyone. However, the distinct lack of long legs and arms to pull, push, and curl around her had disrupted her sleeping pattern to the point that she was running on, at most, three hours of sleep each day.

To say that it had only recently begun to take its toll on her would be an understatement. Kyoko had resorted to the occasional sleeping pill on nights she knew she had no commitments the following morning. The grogginess that followed awakening from a drug-induced slumber lasted too long into the mornings for her to be functional in any way. She had combat practice to attend and a role to audition for and she could not let a lack of sleep keep her from advancing her career. And, speaking of sleep, she should really be getting home. Why was she even here again?

"Tsuruga-san," her head lolled onto the back of the couch. "It is late and I need to go home. I am very tired."

"Isn't that why you're here?" he peeked open one eye to look at her. She could not remember noticing when he let them slide shut. "You're tired. I'm tired. Neither of us has slept well since Guam."

"What?" she picked her head back up and stared at him. "How is my being here supposed to help with any of those things?"

"Because," he labored to get the words out without mumbling. "We've been sleeping apart this whole time. We need to sleep together to feel better."

Her voice went up an octave, "I'm not sleeping with you."

"Just sleep, Kyoko," he threw an arm over his eyes. "Just… sleep."

"Fine," she said after a long pause; he had to be either very angry or half-unconscious to say her name so easily. "But, if you try anything funny, I'm leaving right away."

"Too exhausted to try anything. Not that I would, anyway," his words slurred together.

"Of course you wouldn't," she snapped back bitterly. There was no need to remind her that he had no interest in her.

"Sleep now. Argue later," his tone was a clear indication that the conversation was over and, with a loud groan, he heaved himself up from the couch and began the trudge to his room. He stopped midway to look back at her.

She hesitated a moment further before getting up to join him. They collapsed on his bed fully clothed. Kyoko knew her waking self would be fraught with worry in the morning but she was too damn tired to care at this point. For the first time in several weeks, she would get a good night's rest; being beside the man she loved was just an added bonus. Just this once, she would allow herself to indulge and worry about consequences and propriety later. But just this once.

After the first night, she promptly awoke in the wee hours of the morning, the sun was on the cusp of the horizon and an eerie silence had settled over the city. Carefully—and reluctantly, if she was honest— extracting herself from the warmth of his arms, she quietly left the apartment and went home. She went to work that day with a smile so brilliant it caused more people to stare at her than usual. After seeing her so down for weeks, everyone took notice when she suddenly regained her usual perky demeanor. But, after the first night, the dread in her heart told her this was going to become a routine and there was nothing she could, or wanted, to do to stop it.

For the next month, they would arrange to meet periodically. Every night seemed a bit too excessive as neither of them wanted to appear too eager and, each morning, she would leave before he woke. Kyoko invested in a couple beanies and a pair of thick rimmed glasses to avoid attention should anyone take notice of her frequent visits. It was stressful and she was constantly paranoid and vigilant, but the exhilaration and relief from spending a night with him seemed to make it all worth it.

Ren had no idea how he managed to luck into this arrangement and thanked his lucky stars for the opportunity to have the woman of his dreams become the woman in his bed; even if it was only to sleep. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, he never pressed her as to why she agreed to it with so little protest. While it gave him a glimmer of hope, he was hesitant to read more into it and simply enjoyed their time together. Her concerns about discretion were well founded and he respected her requests to maintain secrecy. It helped that he found their use of 'Princess Rosa' as their code word both ingenious and adorable. They could easily slip it into conversation or a quick text message and no one would be any wiser.

He found himself holding her tighter in the mornings; wishing she would stay later rather than slipping out just after sunrise. It was better when he was still sleeping at the time she would leave as he did not feel the emptiness her absence left behind as quickly. Instead, he had to start pretending he was still asleep as he knew she was trying to avoid the awkwardness of morning conversation. He was afraid to try for anything more at the risk of pushing her away but he wondered how long he would be satisfied with the way things currently were.

Nearly two months later, things finally came to a head as an unfortunate result of carelessly uttered words. Kyoko was having difficulty falling asleep that night, unlike Ren who was out cold the minute his head hit the pillow. After turning over for the fortieth time, she felt the arm around her waist tighten its grip while his nose pressed itself softly against the nape of her neck. The sensation instantly began to lull her into drowsiness and she felt her eyelids droop. On the brink of sleep's abyss, her eyes shot open when she heard him mumble three words into her hair. It was the first night together in a while that she knew she would get no rest at all.

She began to avoid him and make excuses as to why she was unavailable. In the hopes that she just needed to sleep in the same room as someone else to feel rested, she managed to guilt Kanae into having a sleepover. The majority of that night, she stared at the ceiling cursing her fate. As much as she wanted to pretend the words he said that night were for her, she knew they were meant for the girl he told Bo about. Falling twice for a man who had no feelings for her did not bode well for her future prospects. She was right to swear off love the first time but she allowed herself to be swallowed whole by his kindness, smiles and gentle touches. What an idiot she was.

"We need to talk," was all the text message said when she checked her phone after Yappa Kimagure Rock wrapped up for the night. She sighed, he was right, there was no way she could tiptoe around him forever.

"We do. When and where?" she sent back.

"Tonight, if possible. My place."

"Alright. See you in 20," she did not realize how badly her hands were shaking until she pressed 'send.'

If it was any consolation, she knew Ren would at least handle the letdown as an adult, unlike some people she could mention. Steadying herself on her bike, she began the trek to his apartment. She sped through the downhills and let the rushing air whip the tears from her face as they streamed from her eyes. Locking her bike securely, she dried her face and took her time approaching the building, buying a few extra minutes to collect herself. She checked her face in her pocket mirror before knocking; the cool night air must have helped reduce the swelling as she could barely tell she had been crying at all.

Tension choked the air around them as they sat, side-by-side, on his couch. He kept opening his mouth to speak and would abruptly close it again. It was evident he was having difficulty saying what was on his mind. Kyoko stretched out her hand and placed it lightly over his. He looked at her and she smiled sadly.

"It's alright if you want to stop… what we've been doing," her voice wavered. "I'll understand."

"No, I—" she stopped him before he could say more.

"You can't—" she choked back a sob and her eyes glistened. "You can't say you love someone while you're sleeping next to someone else. I refuse to be a stand-in."

An apology died on his lips when her words fully registered in his mind, "Who did I say I love?

"Well you didn't mention a name, per se," she looked away from him, fighting back imminent tears. "But I know you weren't speaking to me."

"What did you hear me say? What were my exact words?"

"You said 'I love you,'" a tear escaped from the corner of her eye. She quickly swiped at it and prayed no others would follow.

"Kyoko, I was talking to you."

"No," she refused to believe it. He must have seen through her tears and was playing with her emotions. And here she was, thinking he would actually be mature about this.

"I love you," his eyes softened as he searched her face for a reaction. "There, I said it while awake and looking you in the eye. Do you still not believe me?"

She stared at him with eyes wide from shock. All of the blanks from the conversation Ren had with Bo suddenly made a lot more sense when they were filled with her name. Had it really been her all along?

"You love… me?"

"Yes, I do. I know you like paint me as some sort of playboy but the truth is I would never do this with anyone else," Ren shook his head seriously and continued. "I don't just casually go around asking people to sleep next to me, you know. It's only you," he pleaded. "It's only ever been you."

"I—I—" she stammers, her face an extremely impressive shade of deep red. He looked at her and waited patiently as anxiety ferociously ate away at him from the inside.

"I think… I should go home," she said finally. She needed time and she needed space.

He appeared to understand and gave her a tight smile and a small nod. Getting up from the couch, he offered his hand to her. Timidly placing hers in his, she stood and made her way to the door with him following closely behind her. Slipping her shoes back on her feet, she turned to face him once more and motioned for him to come closer. Stooping forward, he looked at her expectantly when she suddenly did something for which he was not at all prepared.

With a quick and almost feather-light touch, she pressed her lips to his cheek. She bid him a hasty farewell and slid out the door while he remained frozen in place. He continued to stand there, bent at the waist in the same position she had left him, for several moments. Still bewildered, he straightened up and staggered to his room to prepare for bed.

Ren's phone briefly buzzed in his pocket after lunch the next day. He was in the middle of a conversation with a director and ignored it until they finished speaking. It was some time later when he remembered receiving the message that he pulled it out to look. Unbidden, a smile formed on his lips as he read.

"I'm working on a new setting for Princess Rosa tonight. I would love your opinion on it if you are available."


LOOSELY BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS: My friends would laugh at me when I told them I could no longer sleep properly at night when I was alone. That is, until they found companions of their own and got married. Then it was my turn to laugh when they had to spend the occasional night alone... and they were miserable. Anyway, I've had spend last 5 days by myself and I have been nothing but wretched. So, I wrote this to make me feel better.

I hope to have another update for Fates Interwoven by Sunday, but it might be delayed due to lack of sleep. I sincerely apologize in advance if this does happen.