I've got more to say at the end, so for now I'll just say, it's been a blast writing this story, and I'll see y'all at the end for the kiss and cry!
"...and then, after the war was over, the laser princess of Epsilon 22 and the lost prince of Riverwood rode off into the sunset in his Chevy Impala to live happily ever after," Kyoko finished, somehow keeping a straight face to the end of the most bizarre story she'd ever read. Was it just her, or were fairy tales getting more and more ridiculous? What in the world had happened to children's literature?! "And that, my little munchkins, is the end of the whole book."
"Noooo! One more pleeeeease!" piped up Alice, the little two-year-old girl snuggled into the crook of her left arm, throwing her tiny adorable hands into the air to reach out for the fairies flying around on the ceiling. "Read the one about the hip-hop banana princess again!"
"Not that one!" protested Fret, one of the six-year-old twin boys using Kyoko's legs as pillows on either side of her. He snuggled his buzz cut head (with a blue arrow dyed into it...he was apparently going through an anime phase) into her thigh. She had pointed out to them that they were literally lying in a bed made of pillows many times, but they insisted on laying on her instead, despite the fact their strange hair styles tickled her legs through the artfully torn parts of her jeans. "Dad always reads that one for you, Alice! Read the one about the windmill king!"
"Yeah, read The Evil Windmill King of Cancer and Headaches, or Space Cats go to Six Flags!" piped up his twin, Jasper, the calmest of the three, despite his purple mohawk. He was also the only one of the three siblings who remembered and insisted on using the actual story titles. Kyoko suspected he could be one hell of a writer someday. Or correct people's grammar constantly. Or hell, probably both.
"Where the heck did your dad get this book of 'fairy tales', anyway?"
All three of them shrugged like the Americans they were, despite being half Japanese. It was Fret who answered. "A fan sent it to him. Isn't it great?"
Kyoko looked at the colorful clusterfuck of characters bursting out of the admittedly beautifully drawn cover and nodded. "Yeah, it's really...something."
"Another, another, another!" Alice chanted, hitting her hands down on the pillows and Kyoko's arm with each word, making her wince. Thankfully, she was saved from the adorable, curly-headed tyrant by the creak of a set of heavy boots on the stairs leading up to their magical woodland sanctuary.
"Kyoko? You guys up here?"
All three heads popped up at the sound of his voice as a blond head appeared over the edge of the floor and turned blue eyes on them.
Luckily Sho knew his children well and had just enough time to make it up the stairs and away from the edge before his brood flung themselves at his leather-clad legs. Kyoko sighed in relief and got to her feet at a more leisurely pace, brushing off cookie crumbs from her jeans before pulling out her phone to check the time.
"Wow, I didn't think it was getting to be so late already! How was your meeting?" she asked her oldest friend as he hiked his youngest up onto his hip and rubbed noses with her. Kyoko couldn't help but smile at the sight. If someone had asked her ten years ago which single girl was capable of having Fuwa Sho wrapped around her finger, she never would have guessed it would be his daughter.
"Eeeeeh…" he hedged, avoiding her eyes.
Kyoko frowned at him and crossed her arms, switching to Japanese, since the kids weren't fluent. "Oh God, what did you do?"
"Hey! It wasn't my fault this time! The little bastard they want me to collaborate with is so full of himself we couldn't get anything done!" he replied defensively in the same language.
"Now you know what it was like dealing with your ass at that age."
Sho rolled his eyes and fondly ran a hand over Fret's buzz cut before Jasper successfully evaded a similar attack on his 'hawk', as he called it. "Yeah, yeah. Whatever. There's no way I was this bad. He showed up with an entourage of fangirls and ended the meeting by trying to throw a chair through the window. Thankfully he's fucking weak and it barely chipped the glass, since we were on the 27th floor."
"Yikes. That is worse than you."
"Yeah. The kid could really use a mouthy best friend to put him in his place," he said fondly with a grin, subconsciously taking off the dangling diamond skull earring Alice was trying to grab and sticking it in his pocket.
Kyoko smiled at more than just his words as she watched him interact with his kids. He showed them affection and kept them from choking hazards as naturally as he breathed. It had been years since he'd become a father, but she never got used to seeing him in 'Dad-mode'.
"Maybe you're just the man for the job. I'm sure he only acted that way because he was terrified to be meeting with the legendary Sho Fuwa, so he tried to look cool and important in front of you. At least, that's what you would have been doing at that age…"
"Well...you might be right about that. But if he does this again tomorrow, I'm gonna have to put the fear of Sho into him a bit." he grinned and formed a fist with the hand not holding his daughter, showing off the tattooed kanji poking out of his sleeve.
Now it was Kyoko's turn to roll her eyes. Every time she thought he'd grown up, he said something like that. "I think you two will get along just fine once you get to know each other. And it's great they were able to reschedule the meeting so soon. Are you gonna need a babysitter again?"
"Naw." He purposefully switched to English. "Their mom will be done with her gig by tonight, so she's gonna take them to Disneyland tomorrow while I'm at my meeting."
"REALLY?!" The three kids immediately turned their big blue eyes on their father in excited adoration.
"Whoops, guess I let the cat out of the bag…" he said with a remorseless grin. "You guys better act surprised when Mom tells you or your dad will be in big trouble, 'kay?"
Alice nodded enthusiastically and threw her tiny arms around his neck in a tight hug that almost cut off his air supply as the twins whooped and raced around the elaborately painted room, talking over each other as they started listing off all the rides they could remember from the last time they went.
"Thanks for watching them, Kyoko. They always look forward to staying with you when we come to visit, but the boys were particularly psyched to see you after we saw that movie where you voiced Lego Mulan. I swear to God, they've watched it a hundred times. The other day they actually got into a fight over who was going to marry Aunty Kyoko when they grow up." Sho grinned, remembering Kyoko telling him at the same age that her dream was to be his wife. If only he'd taken her seriously then.
"They do realize I'm already married, right?"
Sho shrugged, switching back to Japanese. "Yeah. But given my and their Mom's situation, they don't really see marriage as an irrevocable obstacle."
He didn't tell her what else he'd told them...that if she ever did get divorced, they'd have to get in line behind him first.
"How are you holding up? It seems like you guys are at least on good terms," Kyoko gently pried.
He shrugged again. "It was a mutual split. It turns out we fight a lot less when we aren't married to each other, so I think getting a divorce was the right choice for everyone involved. Honestly, it's kind of a relief not having to worry about disappointing her anymore. And it means I can focus on being a better dad instead."
"You're already a great dad." Kyoko felt her smile slip a little, crossing her arms over her chest, suddenly feeling exposed. She looked at her feet. "You were totally on top of it from day one, even. What's your secret?"
Sho's eyes narrowed slightly at her sudden shift in tone, but didn't call her out.
"Heck if I know. Some days I feel like I'm barely keeping my neck above water. Especially when I'm on tour. But it helps having such great kids. And good friends to help me out." He reached out a hand to muss up her hair the way he had with his kids, then pulled back. That was all the contact he allowed himself with her these days. The last thing he wanted was for her to feel uncomfortable around him and stop letting him have even that. "Thanks again for letting me crash with you while I'm in town. The kids love getting to see with their mom, but I think if I had to stay in a house with that jackass she's dating now I'd end up punching him in the face."
"Completely mutual, huh?"
"Shut up. I don't feel that way about her anymore, but she's still the mother of my kids. I don't particularly wanna see her sticking her tongue down the throat of some punk barely out of high school."
Kyoko wrinkled her nose and nodded in sympathy. "You know you're always welcome to stay here, even if we're not in town. We've got more than enough room and it's a heck of a lot more private than some hotel."
Sho nodded in agreement, remembering the fiasco she had gotten into right before she got engaged. He vividly remembered throwing his guitar into a flat screen television when he happened upon the article.
"Well, between the possible collab and their mom being here for the foreseeable future, I might just be looking at investing in some California property of my own," he smirked, a little of his old competitive nature showing through the subtle layers of maturity fatherhood had bestowed on him. "I saw one the other day with a pool that would even have your pretty boy drooling."
"I'm sure you did, but don't you dare go pointing that out to Kuon! If you goad him into another remodel with your stupid rivalry, I'll never forgive you." Kyoko pointed an accusing finger at him and started heading downstairs, attracting the attention of the twins like magnets as they rushed to follow her.
Sho followed her down, still carrying Alice, who had started to nod off against his neck. "Hey, I'm not the one that convinced him to put in a basketball court. That was all Koga."
"Ug, don't remind me," Kyoko replied. "Between the two of you and your stupid bets with my spend-happy husband, I'm never going to stop living under a constant layer of construction dust!"
"Aw, don't be such a stick in the mud. Just think of it like fairy dust and you won't even notice it!" Sho teased, saying 'fairy dust' in English, the way Kyoko had as a European fairy tale obsessed kid.
"FAIRY DUST!?" Alice cried, suddenly wide awake as she popped her head up, Sho narrowly avoiding a broken nose with a quick dodge.
Kyoko sighed. "See what you did?" She turned to the little girl. "The fairy prince isn't home right now. But you can go flying the next time you come to visit, okay?"
Sho cocked an eyebrow. "What is this now?"
Kyoko grinned a little too sweetly back at him, remembering the hijinks Kuon and Julie had gotten up to while performing for the Fuwa children the last time they came to visit. It had almost made the mounds of glitter the maids were still trying to get out of the carpet in the living room worth it. "Oh? You're not familiar with fairy dust? I guess I'll have to send some home with a certain little princess so she can show you how to fly at home…"
Alice's eyes got huge. "Really?! But how can I fly without Prince Corn?!"
"I'm sure your daddy will help you fly if you ask him really nicely. And sprinkle him with enough fairy dust…" Kyoko made a mental note to buy the biggest bag of glitter she could find to give to Alice before the Fuwas headed back to New York. Sho had relocated there permanently shortly after his world tour where he'd met his ex-wife and purchased his perpetually under construction penthouse apartment. If time had mellowed anything, it hadn't been Sho's taste for the finer things in life.
"But Daddy isn't as tall as Prince Corn!"
Kyoko could swear she saw steam coming off of Sho as his daughter unwittingly lit the flames of paternal jealousy, causing at least three grudges to pop out of her head just to see what was going on.
"Corn might be a Prince, but Daddy is a King, so he can take you flying anytime and anywhere you want!"
Alice's eyes sparkled as she looked at Kyoko with a cheeky grin her Daddy couldn't see. "YAY! KING DADDY IS THE BEST!"
Kyoko bit her lip to keep from laughing. Unless she missed her guess, Alice Fuwa was going to turn out to be even more trouble than Maria Takarada had ended up being.
Which reminded her, she needed to make sure the bed in the other guest room was made up for the 17-year-old (WHEN THE HELL DID THAT EVEN HAPPEN?) LME heiress. She was due to visit right after Sho left.
More importantly, she had to stock Maria's guest bathroom with condoms so that the little vixen didn't steal all of Kuon's again. The last thing they all needed was Maria getting herself pregnant because she still didn't understand that condoms were not, in fact, one-size-fits-all. That had been one of the more awkward conversations of Kyoko's life. But while buying condoms for her sexually overactive little sister wasn't the most guilt-free decision of her life, it beat the hell out of catching her doing it with the pool boy without any protection at all.
Which had been the trip before the condom stealing one.
The situational irony of her of all people being Maria's condom-dealer almost made her want to laugh.
That is if she didn't feel so much like crying.
As Sho and company piled out of the house to meet Sho's ex for lunch, the cloud of devastation that Kyoko had been actively warding off since the munchkins had arrived, descended on her with a vengeance. With feet of lead, she made her way slowly back up the stairs, veering off down the familiar path to her and Kuon's bedroom, barely registering where she was going until she'd made it to the master bath.
Where they sat staring her down, just where she'd left them.
With their little paired blue lines like slitted, accusing eyes.
Eyes that could have given her mother's judgemental brow a run for their money.
All three sets of them.
They were like the trio of Fates, who had apparently decided she deserved one more fly in the proverbial ointment of her life.
How did it even happen? She took her pills religiously, and made Kuon use a condom 95% of the time anyway. There had been the weekend they went to Hawaii for Kuon's 30th birthday...but even with how drunk they'd gotten and how many times they'd neglected to use secondary contraceptives...so many, many times...she was still on the pill! Granted, she had been on the tail end of a course of antibiotics to clear up some acne she got before a shoot too...did that make a difference? She had no idea.
In the end, it didn't matter. She had been fucked, one way or the other.
What the hell am I gonna do?
"Yeah...you've fucked up pretty bad this time," Setsu-chibi remarked into her head, for once looking as serious as the rest of the round table of her characters.
Kyoko blinked repeatedly in surprise. It had been years since she'd heard her characters in her head. But then, if anything could fracture her psyche and send her searching for answers, it was this. Thankfully, most of the many characters she'd created over the last eight years weren't there, her first roles and only those within the last year each appearing in their preferred places. Perhaps it was because her first roles were still the most dear to her.
"I don't understand," Violet-chibi said in her typical monotone. "What's the problem?"
Natsu-chibi smirked. "Our girl here has gone and got herself knocked up. Despite the agreement she made with Kuon."
"Hey, it's not like she did this to herself. He's just as much to blame," reminded Tanaka-sensei, the school teacher character in the drama she'd wrapped filming for a month ago.
"But they're married," 6-Year-Old Kyoko-chibi argued with a frown. "So it's fine, isn't it? That's what happens to princesses after they get married!"
"It would be," 10-Year-Old Kuon-chibi explained. "Except they decided years ago that their careers were more important to them, so they wouldn't have kids."
"Some people just aren't suited to be parents," Lego Mulan (who was already naturally chibi-sized) agreed. "They have more important things to dedicate their lives to."
Momiji-chibi nodded beside her, but didn't say anything, feeling like she didn't have enough authority on the subject to comment. She did, however, think that Shizuma-sama would make beautiful babies. Even with Chidori. If they weren't already dead.
A dark cloud of miasma developed around the ninja.
Beside her, everyone's favorite rooster mascot held up a sign that said, "You won't know what he'll say until you tell him!"
"MRPH RRGRANNPH!" screamed a bright-red-headed-chibi strapped to a rolling two-wheeled cart, wearing a straight-jacket and muzzle. Her eyes were wide and crazed.
The council of characters went silent, a shiver running through them. After a moment, all of them pointed to their own nose. Momiji, distracted by her own depressing thoughts, didn't notice she'd lost until Lego Mulan nudged her.
She quietly got up and gingerly rolled the cart into the elevator, pressing the button to send that particular character deep, deep back down into Kyoko's subconscious.
Preferably to never be heard from again.
Some characters were better off forgotten. And that was definitely one of them. Each chibi council member shuddered as they remembered what Kyoko had had to go through to create that particular character. And the many months it had taken to dispel her from their presence when she was no longer needed.
"BUT WHAT DO I DOOOOOOOO?!" Kuon's Kyoko (who had long ago taken over as the primary Kyoko) cried out in frustration and panic. "I don't want to be a mom!"
"Don't you?" Bo-chibi wrote on his sign, staring her down with unblinking eyes under sympathetic eyebrows.
Natsu's eyebrows went up and she gave Kuon's Kyoko a loaded look. "Does he know something we don't?"
"There's no way she's ready for that even if she did!" 16-Year-Old Kyoko-chibi, bright in her pink LoveMe coveralls, cried, repeatedly hitting her head on the table over and over. "Kids are so easy to screw up! Just look at us! We know nothing about being a good parent! And Kuon's just as fucked up as us! This kid is going to end up being a serial killer or something!"
"But if Sho-chan can do it, then maybe so can we!" 6-Year-Old Kyoko-chibi piped up.
"Just be lucky you've been blessed by such a wonderful gift...not all of us are so lucky…" weeped a brunette chibi in a nondescript blouse and skirt named Amelia (she was Kyoko's character from an award winning drama about a couple's relationship falling apart after years of trying to have kids and failing to qualify for adoption). It was one of the hardest roles she'd ever had to play, but also one of the most rewarding.
Angel-sama-chibi rubbed Amelia's back. "Yes dear, we know. After all, every life is a gift."
"Like hell it is! If it were me, I'd definitely get an abortion," Mio-sama declared with an evil smile. "If only because my mother would be devastated."
Amelia-chibi gasped and burst out crying again. "You're a monster!"
Mio just looked at her. "Blame my mom. She's the one who made me this way. By being a terrible mother. Her and my dumbass sister."
Natsu-chibi rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair, looking at the ends of her hair idly to make sure she wasn't getting split ends. "If it were me, I'd get rid of it too. I can't imagine how much more boring life would be if I had to spend all my time taking care of a brat. And diapers are just...ew."
Bo hit his board on the table to get their attention, shaking it at her. "YOU NEED TO TALK TO HIM."
"It's not like there's any way Kuon would ever tell me to get rid of it, even if he didn't want it!" Kuon's Kyoko cried, head in hands. "Even if he did agree, he'd never be able to forgive himself for being responsible for taking another life. If that's what I want to do, it would be better to just not even tell him."
Setsu shivered. "As long as he never found out. Even Niisan wouldn't forgive me if I did something like that without even bothering to tell him."
"And what about us?"
The whole table turned to see who was talking and their jaws dropped as Julie-chibi, Kuu-chibi, and Saena-chibi approached the table, followed by chibis of Sho's parents.
"What the HELL are THEY doing here?!" 16-Year-Old Kyoko-chibi cried as 6-Year-Old Kyoko-chibi hid under the table and Young Kuon trotted up to stand next to his dad.
"We're parents, so we're the best people to ask about this, aren't we? There are more people in Kyoko's decision making tree than just her characters now!" Julie asked imperiously. "And Kuu and I say HELL YES TO GRANDBABIES!"
"FUCK YEAH WE DO! WHAT COULD BE BETTER THAN MINI KYOKOS AND KUONS!" Kuu contributed, sitting down at the table and proceeding to stuff his face with a smorgasbord of edibles that hadn't been there a moment before.
"Don't listen to those idiots! This child will ruin your career!" Saena snapped, crossing her arms with her ever ramrod-straight spine. "I should know after all, since you ruined mine."
Yayoi Fuwa nodded. "If you weren't in such a public, time-consuming career, I'd say you would be a kind and disciplined mother, but you haven't even had time to visit us! It's been more than three years!"
"I've been busy!" Kuon's Kyoko said defensively.
"Which is my point!" the Okami-san of Shougetsu-tei parried.
Her husband shook his head. "I don't know, Yayoi. This is Kyoko we're talking about. She can handle anything, given the right motivation and time. And she's got so much love to give..."
"Damn straight!" Kuu agreed in between bites, high-fiving Sho's dad.
"And we'll be here to help!" Julie added. "I know we weren't the best parents to Kuon, but being parents was the best thing that ever happened to us. We found out who we were as people when we became his mom and dad. I know your life can only change for the better if you have children!"
"But I already know who I am as a pers-"
Kyoko's head snapped up as her phone alarm went off. Hastily, she dug it out of her pocket.
"Speak of the devil and she shall appear," Natsu-chibi snickered. Julie-chibi smacked her in the back of the head without looking up from the crepe she was eating.
She turned off the reminder for 'Yoga with Julie' and frantically started changing her clothes.
Because of course all of this had to happen on a day when she was meeting with the poster child for Team Hizuri Grandkids herself. She rubbed her eyes, employing all of her not insignificant abilities to control the emotions on her face to keep the tears from leaking out.
A part of her had known something was going to come along to fuck everything up. She had never been so happy with her life before: everything was going well with Kuon, she had more job offers than she had time to fulfill, and she had finally found the perfect balance of time to spend between Japan and the US, keeping in contact with all the special people who had become so important to her with no more effort than was manageable.
Objectively, she knew deep down it was all way too good to be true.
She grabbed the judgemental little pregnancy tests off the counter, wrapped them in tissues, and pushed them under the other trash in the trash can.
No way in hell was she letting Kuon discover this before she was ready to tell him.
If she told him.
Suddenly even more paranoid, she grabbed the bag out of the can and tied it shut, carrying it down with her and dropping it into the kitchen trash as she left the house, then taking out the kitchen trash to the cans outside before embarking on the little wooded path that connected the Hizuri properties she'd spent weeks designing with Julie right after they'd moved in eight years ago.
The sunshine filtered through the branches above her, mottling the ground with subtly shifting patterns of golden light. Kyoko let her feet come to a stop as she took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. She held the breath as long as she could, listening to the wind rustling through the leaves fill up her silence before consciously dispelling the ball of panic in her chest with the breath she'd been holding.
The sounds of birds chirping around her brought a smile to her lips, reminding her of Prince Corn and his magical connection to them. She wished she could really understand what they were twittering to each other. A part of her still wondered if maybe one day she would have if she'd just kept on believing. Some days, she missed being that naive, but most days she didn't.
With her distress securely locked away and a bright smile on her face, she finally proceeded down the path.
Of all the people Kyoko performed for, her mother-in-law was the hardest to trick. If she wasn't completely prepared before they met, Julie would have her secret well in hand before the hour was up, and then the choice would be made for her, whether she liked it or not.
It turned out she was smart to take the time to settle her feelings when she did, because right through the other gate, Julie was preparing for their workout in the garden.
Or rather, two maids and Julie's physical trainer, Astrid, were laying out a spread of healthy snacks and setting up yoga mats in the grass respectively, while Julie supervised.
"Ah! There you are!" Julie called, waving as she skirted the preparations to approach her daughter-in-law. "Astrid and I were starting to wonder. You usually show up so early!"
Kyoko returned her hug. "Sorry to worry you. I was watching Sho's kids this morning while he had a meeting, and I had to see them off."
Julie frowned. "Sho is that musician from Kyoto, right? The one you moved to Tokyo with?"
As if anyone didn't know who Sho Fuwa was anymore. Her guard immediately went up at Julie's charade.
Kyoko nodded, accepting a water bottle from one of the maids. "Yeah. That's him. I lived with his family growing up, so he's like a brother to me. And I wouldn't miss seeing my little nieces and nephews for the world. I might be seeing a lot more of them soon, since their mom is living here now. Sho's even thinking of getting a house here to be closer to them."
"Oh?" Julie remarked with careful nonchalance. Kyoko's eyes narrowed slightly. She knew Kuon had told his parents a little bit about what Sho had put her through, but she didn't know how much. She herself had never discussed it with them. The last thing she wanted was Julie finding out how he'd once treated her and sabotaging his career or something. As far as she was concerned, that was all water under a bridge of fading, unpleasant memories.
"Yeah. It will be nice to see them all more often. Although, I've got quite a bit of work already scheduled this next year in Japan, so they'll probably be in California more than I am for a while. By the time I see them again, I'm sure they won't even recognize me, and I'll have to earn their trust all over again."
"You know," Julie remarked, easily letting herself be led off topic by her favorite nagging point. "You could always have a few of your own. Your career is stable enough now that taking a year off won't take you out of the limelight long enough to do any real damage, and Kuu and I are set to retire whenever our grandbabies arrive, so you'd have a babysitter any time you need one."
"I know," Kyoko replied, forcing herself to roll her eyes like she normally did when this topic came up. Which it had, pretty much monthly since the day they'd gotten married. "You've made that very clear. What I don't understand is why you'd want to spend your well earned retirement changing diapers and watching babies when you and Dad could be off traveling the world together or something. You've both had such busy careers, wouldn't it be nice just to relax with the two of you?"
Julie drew her head back and cocked a brow. "Have you met us? Relaxing is not what we do for fun. Life is an adventure, and sitting around doing nothing with it is just a waste. The closer I get to my inevitable demise, be it six minutes or six years away, the more I feel the pressure to see and do everything I can."
"That's what I'm saying! You guys should go take a cruise, or tour all of Japan's festivals, or eat your way through every Michelin-starred restaurant in the country, or something! That's certainly more adventure than babysitting could ever be."
"Oh, Kyoko, you'll never understand until you have babies of your own, but there is nothing more amusing, or enchanting, than watching a child starting to become who they're meant to be. And even more so when you yourself carried them around for nine months and popped them out over a grueling 22-hour labor. There were so many moments in Kuon's childhood that I never got to see, so I fully intend to celebrate every moment I can get when I get to be a grandma."
"...but, I've told you so many times that we're not going to have kids," Kyoko sighed as she took her place on her mat next to Julie and rolled her neck, loosening up the crick laying on the floor that morning had left her with. Even at twenty-six, she could already feel her body starting to protest things like that more and more. Sometimes she envied her sixteen-year-old self and the things she'd taken for granted. Like her ability to sleep on the floor and get up without an aching neck or shoulder. Or her anonymity walking down the street. "Kuon and I just aren't the parenting types."
Astrid settled into place in front of them and breathed deeply, signaling the start of their session to Julie and Kyoko. They faced forward and breathed with her a couple of times, centering their bodies and minds before Julie replied. Astrid ignored their conversation and started cycling into their usual pattern of poses. They always talked through whatever they were doing to work out and she had learned long ago it was easier to ignore it.
"Never say never, Kyoko dear. No one is the 'parenting type' before they have kids. You just have to figure it out as you go and pray you don't completely fuck them up. Inevitably, you'll do something that scars them for life, no matter how hard you try not to, but if you love them as hard as you can and let them know it, they'll end up okay in the end." Julie followed Astrid's example and put her palms together, lifting one foot and resting it on the side of her leg just above the knee for the Tree Pose. Kyoko was just a beat or two behind her, but raised her foot all the way to her inner thigh, relieved that her flexibility, at least, had only gotten better over the years.
"That's a lot coming from the woman who practically went into confinement when her son ran away and quit speaking to her for five years."
Julie playfully glared at her. "What can I say? With age comes wisdom. 'All's well that ends well; still the fine's the crown. Whate'er the course, the end is renown'."
"...I doubt Shakespeare had parenthood in mind when he wrote that."
"Why not? The man had three children and multiple grandchildren. I think being a father factored into more of his writing than you think. By the time he wrote All's Well, one of his daughters was of marrying age and his son was dead. How could it not influence his work?"
Kyoko rolled her eyes for real this time. Kuon had starred in a modern adaptation of Hamlet a couple years back and dived head over heels into research for the role, which meant between Kuon and his mother (who had already possessed a particular fondness for the Bard), she knew more about the playwright than she'd ever wanted to. But she had to admit, that knowledge had come in handy more than once, since American actors all seemed to worship his work to varying degrees. It was like you couldn't make it in Hollywood unless you'd starred in a community production of one of his plays at some point in your life.
"I'm sure he barely even saw his children," Kyoko speculated bitterly. "It must have been convenient to live in a time where he could help make a kid and then push them off on their mother until they were old enough to be sent away to school, while he followed his muse to the theater every day."
"You say that like it's not an option now. What do you think nannies are for?" Julie rebutted.
"Yeah, that's the way to make sure your kids don't get screwed up. Just push them off on someone else. It worked so well with me after all," Kyoko snapped bitterly.
Julie gave her a sympathetic look as they switched legs, breathing deeply when Astrid prompted them. "I didn't say it was a good, or bad, parenting method, merely that it isn't an unheard of possibility. Nannies can be wonderful or they can be a huge mistake. For a number of reasons." Julie's tone then switched abruptly. "Speaking of which, did you hear about-"
"YES!" Kyoko interrupted, for once caught up on the local gossip. "How could he? And with the nanny of all people! What an absolute scoundrel! She's the sweetest woman in the world and he deserves to be castrated."
"I know! She didn't deserve that. Men are all just dogs deep down."
"Dad is hardly a dog, Julie. He worships the ground you walk on."
"Well, yes, I know that now. But when we first got pregnant with Kuon, I flat out refused to get a nanny just because I was so sure he was going to have an affair with her while I was still all round and squishy."
"You're kidding. He would never do that in a million years!"
"Again, yes, I know that now. Kuu truly is as loyal as they come. Luckily, Kuon seems to have picked up that particular trait from his father. He never even glances at anyone but you."
Kyoko thought about all the women who still continually flocked to her husband, even more now that he was married and thirty than when he'd been in Japan and single. Time had been nothing but kind to him, and Hollywood had much, much bolder women than Japan. "Loyal or not, I'm never getting a nanny."
"See? It's hard to trust a man when he's surrounded by temptation constantly isn't it? Even ones as devoted as our boys."
"Well," Kyoko backpedaled, trying her best to sound like her usual self...the one that hadn't just discovered she had a pre-fetus shaped tumor in her uterus. "It's not like I'll ever need one anyway. You've got to have kids to need a nanny in the first place."
"Again, 'Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.'"
"...another Shakespeare quote?"
"Nope, that one's Michael Jordan."
"The basketball player?"
"Yep. Such a nice man. And a wonderful dancer. We attended a benefit together once, and there aren't a lot of women tall enough to waltz with an NBA All-Star, so we spent most of the night dancing together." Julie sighed happily as she and Kyoko dropped into Downward Dog. "Kuu was so jealous when he saw the tabloid pictures, he whisked me away to a tropical island the morning after."
"I'm starting to think that Dad should be the one worrying about you…" Kyoko muttered.
Julie giggled melodically. "Of course not. I might have an appreciation for tall, handsome men, but no one can turn me into jelly like my Kuu. No man has ever been his equal, and no one ever will be. Isn't that how you feel about my son?"
Kyoko smiled. "Yeah. It's been twenty years since I first met him, and ten since I fell in love with him, but all he has to do is look at me the right way and it's like I'm a teenager again, with my heart beating right out of my chest. And then the rest of the time, he's just...what makes home feel like home. Even when I don't get to see him every day, just talking to him calms me down and takes away my exhaustion or sadness."
"See? He's got nothing to worry about either, but he does anyway. It's just the nature of love and youth."
"He worries?" Kyoko asked, almost losing her balance in Warrior Pose as she whipped her head over to look at Julie.
"Oh God, all the time! You should have seen him when you attended that award show with your co-star a couple years ago. Kuu had to talk him down over the phone every night for a week. He wanted to go with you so badly!"
"But he was in New Zealand! It's not like I chose Chris over him or something!"
Julie laughed. "Honey, it doesn't matter. Insecurities are insecurities. They aren't exactly rational."
"I can't believe him! And after I forgave him for the whole fiasco when he went to the Tony awards with his costar. Please. It might have been good publicity for their movie, but that didn't stop her from trying to get him into bed! At least Chris was married. And a complete gentleman. We didn't even share a ride on the way home! Unlike the bitch he spent his evening with."
"Sorry, that bitch did what?!" Julie asked, stepping out of her own Warrior Pose to righteously plant her hands on her hips. "I didn't hear anything about this!"
"I'm sure you didn't. Kuon doesn't like to talk about it. Mostly because I get so damned angry every time. That little hussyslut tried to mount him and reach down his pants the second they were back in the car together. And she did not want to take no for an answer. He literally had to tie her up with his bowtie just so he had enough time to jump out of the car at the next light. He called me to come pick him up from where he was hiding in the kitchen of my friend's restaurant. There was so much lipstick on his collar I had to burn the damn thing."
"And you just believed him when he told you that's what happened?!"
"Are you kidding?! Hell no! I paid an astronomical amount of money for the limo dashcam footage before I would so much as say two words to him. And then I gave him the silent treatment for another week for being such a huge moron and not even recognizing the signs that she was coming onto him, let alone discouraging them. He's so used to women hitting on him, it's become his new normal. Which is why now Yashiro has to attend any event with him that I can't."
"And you're telling me, he thought I put myself in a compromising position?! What the hell?!"
"See? No matter how much you love and trust each other, there will always be moments of doubt. That's what it's like to be young. Give it another ten years and you'll understand."
"Yeah right. Like ten years is going to make women any less likely to throw themselves at him. He's been People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive for four years in a row now. FOUR YEARS!"
"What?! He got it again!? Kuu's gonna be so jealous! The most he ever got was three! That's my baby!" Julie crowed, doing a little dance.
At this point, Astrid just quietly packed up her things and left. She'd been working with the Hizuris long enough to know when getting them to focus on working out was a lost cause. She snagged a pastry from the lavish spread the two beautiful actresses didn't seem to remember was there and showed herself back to the driveway.
Kuon was slowly losing his mind.
The root of the problem was all the damned children. Or rather, not the children themselves, but that they were everywhere he went. Babies, toddlers, pre-teens, and everything in between. They were constantly running, laughing, screaming, crying...every. where. he. went.
It had started when he began filming his latest project: A Lesson in Revenge.
His character, Ryan White, was a soldier home on leave, content and happy until his elementary school teacher wife got killed in a robbery gone wrong during a school field trip to the national mint, leading him to take revenge on everyone involved. In essence, it wasn't that different from several roles he'd done before, since revenge flicks still turned a hefty profit and he did his own stunts, but the myriad of children running around set had been something entirely new to him.
It wouldn't have been such a big deal, except that his previous movie, the latest reboot of the Fantastic Four in which he played Johnny Storm, had just been released. Which meant that every kid in the place wanted every free moment they could get with him. From the very first day of filming, they had done everything they could to sneak or fight (or in some cases bite) their way into his dressing room to meet the Human Torch. After only a few days of constant interruption, he and Yashiro had decided to follow the path of least resistance and set up a schedule for the kids to spend time with him while on set during his breaks.
At first, he regretted saying yes at all, sure that he was signing himself up for days of tedious chatter to take the place of his few precious free moments of peace, but to his surprise, he found that the conversations he had with the tiny humans (most of them barely came up to his knees) were often the highlight of his day. He particularly liked talking with the boys, who always had some crazy new question to ask him. In their eyes, he was a superhero/ninja/action hero combo who knew everything cool there was to know about show business and the universe as a whole.
And he really loved playing that part for them, enjoying every new expression of amazement they came up with in response. Just being around them put a smile on his face and a spring in his step, reminding him what it was like to be that young, living in a glowing bubble of innocence and excitement, and making him feel younger by extension.
It also helped that all the kids seemed to know each other and get along pretty well. Apparently there was a children's theater nearby and many of them had been acting together for years already. It was so different from his experience as a child actor that it gave him hope.
For what, he wasn't sure at the time...maybe the future of show business?
Then, shortly after he started spending time with his miniature co-stars, some grand, coincidental conspiracy sprung to life around him, filling every square inch of the last month of his life with children.
The photoshoots before or after his suddenly all included adorable babies. The coffee shop that he frequented incognito was taken over by moms with strollers and toddlers, when he could have sworn he'd never seen a kid there even once before. Every stretch of time spent in the car suddenly wasn't complete without passing a park where heaps of children were crawling all over colorful jungle gyms and each other like fangirls at one of his autograph signings.
But, instead of being annoyed with the near constant crying and yelling, or with having to precariously dodge itty bitty bodies as they ran amok, he found himself feeling...something else. He wasn't sure exactly what it was.
It felt vaguely familiar...but also entirely new.
And then Fuwa had waltzed into town with his crazy twin boys, and cheeky sweetheart of a daughter, and it hit Kuon like a ton of sharp, pointy little Lego shaped bricks.
He was jealous as hell.
He was jealous of the way the kids looked at their parents. He was jealous of the proud look the parents got when their kid said something particularly funny or clever. And, more than anything else, he was jealous of the soft expression he never thought he'd see on that show-off bastard's face when he looked down at his wild brood.
It still surprised Kuon how much it physically pained him to watch the asshole reach out to ruffle their soft, fine hair, or pick them up in a gentle hug.
Because it turned out, after years of not caring less whether he had them or not, he wanted kids. He didn't know when it had happened, or why the change had come about in the years since he and Kyoko had sat down and very mutually decided that babies weren't something they needed in their lives, but it was undeniable.
He wanted kids.
And it wasn't just any kids he wanted.
He wanted Kyoko's kids. He wanted golden-eyed, round-faced little angels who would believe in fairies for way longer than they should, and go from crying to laughing at the drop of a hat. He wanted to see her pregnant: with even more mood swings than usual and a huge round belly jutting out from her tiny waist like a basketball under her shirt. And he wanted to see those proud and soft parental looks he was so jealous of in her eyes as she marveled at what they'd made together.
The only other thing he had wanted this much in his entire life was Kyoko. He wanted it so much it had even started to take over his brain whenever he let his guard down, daydreams frequently causing him to forget what was going on around him.
The last couple of days had been the worst, even causing him to mess up scenes and forget lines, the daydreams twisting into pain and regret once he'd realized how much he wanted them to be true.
Because Kyoko didn't want kids.
If there was one thing she was crystal clear on, it was her complete and utter lack of wanting to have children.
He completely understood why too, because most of the reasons she had were the same as the ones he had reasoned to himself only a month before. They were practical, logical, mature reasons not to bring a life into the world that they would have to raise and nurture, because neither of them was suited for it or had the time.
In his head, he still agreed 100% with her reasons.
But in his heart, he was longing to hold a warm little bundle of chubby limbs and cheeks, and know that all ten fingers and toes were entirely made up of him and Kyoko.
Which was why he was slowly losing his mind.
"Kuon! Stop!" Yashiro yelled, barely in time to halt Kuon in his tracks, mere inches away from walking straight into a metal telephone pole and breaking his perfect nose. "Okay, what is up with you lately?! Are you and Kyoko fighting or something? Because if so, you need to apologize for whatever you did right away! This is bordering on ridiculous. You walked into a fountain two days ago. A fountain, Kuon! You're People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive! The least you could do is remember to act like it in public!"
Kuon scrubbed a hand over his currently brown buzz-cut hair (thankfully, People had done their photoshoot before he'd had to cut it for his role as Ryan) and groaned, leaning forward to rest his head on the pole, his aviators getting pushed painfully up his nose in the process.
"I can't hide it from her anymore. I'm fucking exhausted," he groaned, finally beyond caring what Yashiro knew or not.
"Hide what from who?" Yashiro's eyebrows pulled downward. "Kuon...if you cheated on Kyoko I'm going to make your life a living hell."
Kuon's head popped up and he spun to gape at his manager. "Of course not! What the hell?! How did you jump to that conclusion?!"
"BECAUSE ANY NORMAL PERSON WOULD! You've been distracted and moody for days, you've been avoiding your wife, and you've asked me to buy her flowers at least six times just this week! Which, luckily for you I haven't done, or your clear and present guilt over SOMETHING would be obvious to her too!"
"But you know I would never cheat on Kyoko!"
"THEN WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"
"I WANT TO GET HER PREGNANT!"
Kuon could swear even the sounds of the stalled traffic stopped as every head on the street turned their way. Despite his shock, Yashiro wasn't considered a super manager for nothing, and had already started pulling Kuon into the parking garage beside them, hustling him into the darkest emptiest corner he could find at top speed. Once he had him there, he took a deep breath and tried to figure out what to ask first.
"So...you're saying...do you mean...no, I mean...you're not just talking about...no, you guys are clearly still …right?"
"Yashiro, I honestly have no fucking clue what you're trying to ask me right now."
"Well, I mean...look, you're not just having a dry spell in…" Yashiro cleared his throat. "The bedroom...right?"
Kuon just stared blankly at his manager. "You of all people should know just how much that is not a problem. You're the one who almost walked in on us going at it in my dressing room last week."
"Then...are you saying you...what? Want kids now? You?" Yashiro asked incredulously.
"So? What if I do?"
"But...what happened to your agreement?! And all that stuff about your childhood, and not raising a kid in show business like you were raised? You two have some very compelling reasons not to have children. The most important one being that Kyoko doesn't want them!"
"I KNOW! I know all of that, okay? That's the problem! I've never even thought about wanting kids until this last month, but now it's all I can fucking think about! And I know if I bring it up, Kyoko is just going to feel bad that she has to tell me no, now that I feel like this, and so I just couldn't bring myself to tell her. But I'm actually losing sleep over this now, and it's getting to the point where more than once I've actually thought about how easy it would be to switch out her birth control pills, which is definitely not okay at all. How could I even imagine doing something like that?! I'm such a terrible person. Why can't I ever just be happy with what I already have?!" Kuon seemed to collapse in on himself, ending up crouched on the ground of the mostly empty and echoing cement structure with his head in his hands. "Fuck, Yukihito, what am I supposed to do?"
Yashiro's heart ached as he looked down at his closest friend for the past thirteen years, but he maintained his composure.
Because that's what Kuon needed from him right now.
"If Kyoko still doesn't want to have kids, are you going to leave her so you can have them with someone else?"
Kuon's head shot up again, his eyes alight with rage at the very idea. "Of course not! There's no point if it isn't with her!"
"Okay. If Kyoko wanted kids and you didn't, would you give them to her anyway?"
Yashiro gave him a knowing look.
"Okay, fine, yes. Of course I would. It's Kyoko."
"And if that happened, would you resent her for convincing you to have a baby with her?"
"Never. It would still be my choice in the end, so blaming her would be ridiculous."
Yashiro drew back his leg and kicked his friend in the thigh with a significant amount of force. "Then why the hell do you think she wouldn't extend you the same courtesy?! Just talk to her, you idiot!" he snapped.
He had never met two individuals who tortured themselves in their own heads more than Kuon and Kyoko. The solution to almost every one of their problems was just to talk to each other. And he was getting really tired of having to be the one to tell them that.
Okay, fine, that was a lie. He would love being the glue that kept them from drifting apart for as long as he lived. It was the greatest honor of his life as their biggest fan.
And it was taking all of his willpower not to text their other biggest fans (AKA Kuon's parents) immediately to tell them that Operation Hizuri Grandkids just might be less impossible than they'd begun to believe over the years!
Because texting them would be wrong. Particularly without finding out how Kyoko was going to respond to Kuon's change of heart.
But, that didn't mean he couldn't feel out just how receptive Kyoko might be to the idea when he drove her to the studio that afternoon. His fanboy heart giggled with glee.
"I KNOW, OKAY?! I'll talk to her tonight."
Luckily Kuon didn't see the grin Yashiro was wearing in the face of his unnecessary internal anguish.
"Good. Now let's get you to your interview so I'm not late to pick up the lady in question."
"Don't you dare say a word to her about this, Yukihito!" Kuon stood to his full height and turned his Demon Lord face on their manager, relieved to see him shrink a bit.
"O-of course not! I would never go behind your back like that!" Yashiro forced out, as though he hadn't been intending to do just that. "Especially since you just told me not to."
Kuon leaned into the intimidation for another moment before backing off. "Let's get going."
Kyoko felt like the world was playing a massive joke on her. Why else would she be forced to listen to her former trainer turned good friend/stunt double and her manager argue over the merits of having kids on the day she discovered she was pregnant? It had to be the universe having one hell of a good laugh.
Or flipping her the double bird. Both felt equally possible at the moment.
"Claire and I have been a part of so many projects because we were able to drop everything at a moment's notice to film on location. Because of that, we've done stunts for Oscar award-winning movies, gotten to know some amazing people, and seen areas of the world most people can't dream of going!" Riley crowed triumphantly.
Kyoko silently agreed with her. She had so much she wanted to do and try still, and the baby in her tummy would only slow her down.
"Ug, babies. Who needs 'em?" Natsu-chibi groaned in her head.
"Having a kid doesn't mean you won't get jobs. Plenty of actresses have had children and continued to have successful careers!" Yashiro rebutted, pushing his glasses up his nose as he leaned into the conversation.
"True," Julie-chibi agreed, preening. "Just look at all the successful mothers in show business."
"But it makes it so much more difficult! They take up all your free time, and your money! I don't understand why anyone would want to have them." Riley dropped to the mat nearby and started stretching, preparing for the stunt she was going to be performing in Kyoko's next scene.
"For real," Setsu-chibi drawled.
"They're your legacy! Children are who you pass your wisdom down to. They make everything that has gone stale in your life feel new again. There's nothing like looking at the world through a kid's eyes!" Yashiro said, stubbornly trying a new approach. He hadn't started this conversation to convince Kyoko not to have kids, dammit!
"And they're super fun to play with!" Kyoko's Six-Year-Old self squealed from her place on Young Kuon's shoulders.
"So don't let your life get stale. Keep seeking out new experiences with all the free time you have not taking care of babies," Riley explained, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"I suggest parasailing in Aruba," Natsu sighed happily, laying on the table now with her head hanging off the side and her knees pointed upward in lithe little arrows. "I went with my parents once and it was quite diverting. Everyday life is just so boooooring."
"Or enjoy the time you have on Earth by raising the next generation of humanity, taking comfort and joy in their successes and supporting them in their failures!" Yashiro could feel sweat breaking out on his forehead as he glared at Riley. "Seek out new experiences with them instead! It's not like your life has to end when you have children!"
"Doesn't it?" Kyoko asked quietly.
Both of them turned to where she was sitting primly in costume and makeup waiting to be called on set, completely unaware of the comments being added in her imagination. Riley nodded.
"It sure as hell seems like it. Every time one of my friends gets pregnant, they disappear off the face of the planet. People forget all about what mattered to them before and morph into pod parents, obsessed with their kids and nothing else," Riley continued.
"She's not wrong," Momiji offered objectively. "Just look at Julie and Kuu. They're fully obsessed."
"But they also managed to have successful careers with a kid," 16-Year-Old Kyoko added.
"Yeah, and fucked him up in the process, like all parents," Mio-sama-chibi growled.
"Doesn't that tell you something?" Yashiro insisted. "Maybe having kids is literally so much more fulfilling than their other hobbies that they pale in comparison! Maybe being a parent is the greatest adventure you can have!"
"That seems like a logical assumption," Violet considered. "And all the parents I've written letters for have been the most loving people I've met. They never regret having their children. Plus, that's almost exactly what Miss Julie said earlier, isn't it?"
"...I seriously doubt that's it," Riley replied stubbornly.
"I'm with her," Setsu agreed. "That's fucking bullshit."
"No, I think he might have something there," Angel-sama said thoughtfully. "I've heard something like that before."
Kyoko slumped, resting her head on her hand, her elbow braced on her knee. "Maybe it is. I mean, people keep having kids for a reason, right?"
"Yes! Raising children can't be all that terrible. Some couples have six or seven of them even!" Yashiro said, a little too enthusiastically.
Setsu-chibi and Natsu-chibi gagged simultaneously. Mio was surrounded by a dark miasma just at the thought.
Kyoko blanched. "God. Seven children? Who would choose to do that to themselves?"
"Fuck if I know," Riley agreed, her faced screwed up into a grimace. "You couldn't pay me to do that shit."
"Obviously, parenthood isn't for everyone," Yashiro said pointedly. "But for lots of people it's the most important and fulfilling thing they do in their entire lives."
"What boring lives they must lead," Riley muttered.
"And what an emotionally empty life you must lead," Yashiro volleyed a little viciously.
"Anyone know when Yashiro started being so baby happy?" Sixteen-Year-Old Kyoko inquired as she absentmindedly swept the floor of her mind in her old pink LoveMe coveralls. "I wonder if working for us has prevented him from living the life he actually wants…"
"Hey, I don't need anyone but Claire in my life to make me happy! Your spouse can be more than enough if you really love each other. But how would you know? You aren't even married."
"Not yet. I'll get around to it. But, what if, God-forbid, Claire died in an accident tomorrow. Then what would you do?"
Riley gaped at him. "I can't believe you just said that."
"It's hypothetical! I'm just saying, if she did, wouldn't you wish you had a part of her still with you? A person who would remember her and miss her with you. Someone else to fill the hole she left behind."
"That's a terrible reason to bring a kid into the world."
"Why? We all die someday, and having children to comfort and take care of those left behind to grieve is a basic human inclination."
"I think that's kind of a nice thought…" Sixteen-Year-Old Kyoko mused, rushing to add. "For anyone else! I swore off love and marriage and kids, so that would never apply to me!"
The other characters looked at her incredulously.
"You do realize you're married now, right?" Setsu asked, hardly believing she even had to go there.
Kuon's Kyoko (AKA new Head Kyoko) just groaned and thumped her forehead against the table. "Don't even bother. I was in so much denial then. There's no way to get through to her."
"I still say that's messed up. You will never convince me that having kids is better than not having them."
"Okay, then, what about just wanting them? What about wanting to see a tiny version of the person you love most, and hugging them, and telling them stories, and loving them? What about wanting to be responsible for creating and raising a new life together? Could there be anything that brings a couple closer together and gives them a purpose to wake up and keep moving on the really hard days?"
Kuon's Kyoko's head popped up from the table, her eyes sharp. She sensed something coming. The elevator behind her dinged, but she refused to turn and look at what had journeyed up from her subconscious. 16-Year-Old Kyoko immediately ran to the other side of the room and sat facing the wall, putting headphones on so she couldn't see or hear what was happening.
"Could there be anything that puts more stress on a relationship or tears more couples apart? Look, I'm not saying no one should have kids. Obviously that would be the end of the human race. For that reason I'm glad there are people out there who want to, because it sounds fucking terrible to me. I'm pretty sure that's why babies are naturally so cute. Since it must be their cuteness that keeps their parents from murdering them when they're screaming their lungs out at 4am on a work night. Evolution at its finest."
Six-Year-Old Kyoko pulled on Young Kuon's hair from still on his shoulders, steering him to the open elevator. "Oh! I don't remember this. It must have happened when I was older."
Violet came to stand behind her. "Who is that with her?"
"Oh wow, that's actually pretty cute," Natsu squealed, purposefully bating Kuon's Kyoko to turn around and look. With a sigh, she did, reluctantly getting up and walking over to see what her subconscious thought she needed to see.
Inside the elevator was a room in the Shougetsu-tei, the tatami mats and sedate green walls in between the rice-paper-panelled sliding doors a dead giveaway. And in the room sat a young Kyoko. She must have been twelve or thirteen at most, dressed in the yukata uniform of the inn and kneeling submissively on the tatami as she was taught. It could have been any day in her youth except for what was in her arms, and the light shining in her eyes.
"You're very good at that, Kyoko-chan," Yayoi-sama said as she quietly knelt next to her. "The guest is very grateful to you for caring for her baby while she bathes in the onsen. She asked me to tell you that she will not be too much longer."
Kyoko tore her eyes away from the tiny bundle cradled gently in her arms and smiled dreamily at her boss/guardian.
"Let her know she can take her time. I don't mind looking after him. He's such a beautiful baby." She looked back down into the blankets, grinning when the round, chubby face crowned by dark, fuzzy hair cooed up at her and spit out a bubble. "Someday, I want one just like him. But with blue eyes...or maybe...green."
Kuon's Kyoko nearly swallowed her imaginary tongue. The memory that she had suppressed (probably during her post-Sho revenge phase) came flooding back to her: the incredible heat that radiated from the child in her arms; the adorable little sounds he made when she made faces at him; the complete look of trust and joy on his face; and the feeling of absolute bewilderment as she tried to figure out how her mother had been able to hate something as adorable as him.
"Well, there's that too. Babies are freaking adorable," Yashiro agreed.
"They really, really are, aren't they?" Kyoko thought to herself in the once again empty void of her head, her characters and flashback giving way to vast, calm emptiness.
Kyoko wondered if her head had ever felt so miraculously clear before. "Yukihito, where is Kuon after we're done here?"
Yashiro Yukihito did a double take, not used to hearing both of his charges use his first name in one day. Looking back, the only other time he could remember them doing that was at their wedding reception.
So...he had no clue what that could indicate.
"He's scheduled to film until about six, but should be home after that. He was actually asking me earlier if you had some free time this evening. Do you want me to order some takeout for us to pick up on your way home?"
Kyoko didn't need to think about it. "No, thank you. We'll stop at the grocery store on the way home instead. I'm going to cook tonight."
Yashiro's eyebrows crept into his hairline. "Oh? What's the occasion?"
"What? I cook all the time. Why does there need to be a special occasion?"
"...you don't actually. You've been so busy, I'd say it's been weeks since you last cooked dinner. Since before Kuon's birthday," he corrected her.
Kyoko's hand immediately went to her waist, the rest of her body frozen in a cold sweat by the memory of just what exactly had happened on that particular weekend. "H-has it really been that long? Wow. I need to cook more often."
"You know, most people in your position would have hired a personal chef a long time ago," Yashiro teased, sharp eyes noticing that something was amiss, but unable to identify exactly what it was.
"Don't be silly," Kyoko said, as she always did when the subject came up. "It's not like Kuon would eat their food anyway."
"He's a grown man, surely by now-" Yashiro was cut off by the arrival of an assistant.
"They're ready for your Ms. Hizuri."
Kyoko rose to her feet, her perfectly straight back and squared shoulders relaxing and shifting until she was hunched over, her glasses sliding to the end of her nose as she naturally looked to the floor and her rounded back spasming nervously with every word said around her. Twitching fingers pushed the glasses back up and smoothed out the threadbare calf-length skirt that just barely brushed the tops of her neatly turned white socks sticking out of beat up leather loafers.
In an instant she became a different person and, as the character demanded, blended into the background, even her voice hard to distinguish from the general noise on set as she replied toward the floor.
"Okay. I'm c-c-coming."
Riley grinned her face off as she watched her friend go. "That never gets old, does it?"
Yashiro smiled back. At least they could always agree on one thing. "Nope. I could watch her do that for the rest of my life."
"So what the hell was that all about? You get somebody knocked up or something?" Riley commented in a disinterested voice, easily flipping back up onto her feet without the use of her arms.
"Of course not!"
"Okaaaaay. Because I know you don't want kids either. Claire told me about the conversation you guys had at the Halloween party last year."
"...I could have changed my mind since then."
Yashiro's silence was enough confirmation for her.
"So, I ask again, what the hell was that song and dance for? I played along, since you were so insistent to go there, but I'll out you to Kyoko right now if you don't clue me in."
It took all of five seconds and only a step in the direction Kyoko had gone to break Yashiro's resolve. "Okay! I'll tell you! But you absolutely, under no circumstances, can tell Kyoko, or Kuon, that I told you this."
Riley's lips immediately pulled into a sly smirk. Her love of gossip was notorious. "As long as I'm allowed to tell Claire, my lips are otherwise sealed!"
"Okay. So, Kuon has been acting really oddly for the last couple of weeks, so I finally demanded to know what's wrong, since he's intentionally had me schedule him and Kyoko apart."
"What? That's bizarre. Usually he's even clingier than she is. Especially when they're lucky enough to be in the same country at the same time."
"I know! That's what I thought! So, anyway, he finally told me it's because he's discovered that he really does want to have kids."
"And they both-"
"So what about-"
"That's the problem!"
"Damn," Riley finally said. "So you were just softening the ground for him? When's that all going down?"
"Do you think there's any way she could have also changed her mind?" Riley asked hopefully, for Kuon's sake.
Yashiro looked off in the direction she'd gone, his face falling. "I doubt it. Not unless she's already pregnant or something."
"Ha!" Riley shook her head. "Yeah right. No one is more careful than that girl."
"Yeah. You're right. It would take a miracle for that to happen."
Kuon pulled into the garage and turned off his car trying to work up the courage to go inside.
He knew Kyoko was home, and he knew he had to tell her everything tonight while they had the time together, because pretty soon she too would notice his weird behavior and think he was cheating on her.
But maybe, before he did that...he'd just go get the mail first.
He walked down the long cobblestone driveway to the mailbox and then started slowly back, flipping through the envelopes in his hand as an excuse to take his time. There was an invitation to an ex-costar's birthday party, an advertisement for a landscaping company, the advance copy of People that would go out next week with his face on the cover touting his sexiness to the world, a baby shower invitation, and big shiny envelope with Japanese kanji and a familiar logo on the return address.
He shuffled the baby shower invite to the bottom of the pile with a little pang of sorrow, and mindlessly tore open the big envelope to distract himself, not noticing right away that it was addressed to Kyoko.
The letter inside was from LME, letting Kyoko know that they had been contacted concerning her nomination as one of Time Magazine's Most Influential People, and that she had been the only Japanese national who was already confirmed to make the prestigious list. He couldn't help smiling when he saw it. Kyoko would be thrilled. It was the perfect validation that she had finally reached her goal as an actress.
He could still remember her sixteen-year-old face as she told an interviewer that her dream was to one day represent all of Japan as an actress. He knew even then she was capable of incredible things.
His legs naturally lengthened their stride on the way back to the house, the part of him that always missed Kyoko when they weren't together finally taking over for the part that still dreaded their conversation to come. Because nothing said they had to discuss his issues immediately. After all, there was no reason to ruin one of their few open nights together with his needy bullshit, right? So, instead of brooding any longer, he decided to forget everything for a couple of hours and just enjoy being with his gorgeous, talented wife.
Kyoko was only half done with dinner when Kuon came in, hearing him call out for her over the news she had running on the kitchen television as she sauteed and stirred.
"Hello my beautiful wife?" he called, in the cutesy way they had fallen into greeting each other when they managed to eek out an evening together alone.
"Here, my dashing husband," she replied, right on script, already turning and lifting her head for the kiss she knew was coming without taking her eyes off the stove.
But that was where Kuon decided to go off script, kissing her neck instead, his hands slipping under the loose tank top she'd changed into when she got home. They were already seconds away from discovering her lack of bra when she yelped and jumped away, utensils still in hand.
"Hey! You know the rules! Not while I'm cooking! Neither of us need to add third degree burns to our head shots!"
"Then turn off the stove. I feel like I haven't seen you for days." His hands were already seeking out her skin again as she struggled to find a good reason to stop him.
"That's because you haven't really. We should talk to Yashiro about that. This week's schedule was all kinds of wonky," she said, just to have something to say as she backed away again. Her butt hit the cabinets behind her and she realized he had her cornered, his toned forearms easily caging her in.
"I'm sure he was just having an off week. It's bound to happen occasionally. He's only human after all."
"The food is going to burn." Kyoko mentally weighed the pros and cons of doing what he clearly wanted to do right before dropping the biggest bomb their relationship had ever experienced. If he didn't take the news well, it could be some time before they would be like this again. The selfish part of her demanded at least one more hot, sweet moment of ecstasy for the both of them before everything imploded. That and her body, which was already demanding she rip off all of his clothes.
"Who cares? I'll eat you for dinner instead." Kuon was not going to take no for an answer. Thinking about her being pregnant pretty much every moment of his day had made him want to be inside her to the point it almost hurt.
"Seriously, Kuon," she murmured faintly into his short, soft hair as he sucked on her neck again. "If we don't shut off the stove, we could burn our lovely, perfect house to the ground."
Without breaking away from her neck, he reached out expertly with one long arm and flipped off all the gas burners. "There, happy?"
Of course now. You just ruined an hour's worth of prep work. You're going to need to make it up to me."
Kuon smiled into her skin and gave her a little nip. He knew what that meant. With one smooth movement, he lifted her up onto the counter and pulled off her shirt, humming happily when he realized he was saved the trouble of removing her bra and that her perfect skin was free of the angry-looking red marks it always left behind.
Kyoko responded in kind, unbuttoning his shirt and shoving it over his shoulders so she could enjoy his flawless body too. After a silent moment of checking each other out, their eyes met and they smiled, Kuon pulling her to the very edge of the counter to kiss her firmly on the mouth, his hands already teasing at the elastic waistband of her designer sweats.
"Hi," he murmured against her lips.
"Hello," she replied quietly, nipping at his bottom lip and then leaning forward into him to deepen the kiss. They kissed languidly for a few moments, before Kyoko pulled away, her hands grabbing the waistband of his pants and tugging him forward until they were pressed together. "I'm pretty sure I told you to make it up to me."
The Emperor (she couldn't help but still think that every time he looked at her that way) took over his face as her dominance turned him on, just like she knew it would.
"Aren't you bossy tonight, darling..."
"Don't pretend it didn't make you hard as fuck, dear," she replied with a smirk, leaning forward more so she could push on his shoulders, nibbling his ear. "Get on your knees until I'm satisfied."
Kuon didn't have to be told twice, sinking to his knees on the cool tile floor and expertly sliding off everything else she was wearing in one go while she supported her weight on her hands. Then he roughly pulled her to the edge of the counter and settled her thighs over his shoulders. He wondered for the briefest moment why she was intentionally hitting all his favorite buttons (Kyoko playing dominant and dropping curse words at the same time was a rare occurrence she usually saved for when she wanted to butter him up) but quickly forgot that in the face of the pleasant task ahead of him."Yes, ma'am.
Kyoko sighed in relief at the familiar heat of his tongue, only aware just how much she had wanted him where he was when he started doing what he did best (in her opinion). But in only the span of a moment, that relief turned into a wave of pleasure more intense than anything she'd felt before.
"Holy fucking CHRIST!" she cried, already feeling herself unravel. Kuon flicked his tongue and sucked hard on her clit, eyebrows raised in surprise as he watched her mouth drop open and felt her fingers grasping in vain for his long hair to hold on to. "Kuoooon, I think...I'm…"
He barely touched her swollen bud with his tongue just one more time and was shocked to feel her already orgasming, her trembling thighs clamping onto his head as she rode it out, panting hard.
Kyoko's eyes fluttered open and looked down into his own bewildered ones, unable to fully focus for a few seconds.
"What the hell just ha-" Kuon wasn't even able to finish his question before she had pulled her legs off his shoulders and was diving off the counter, her bare legs straddling his waist as her tongue plundered his mouth.
"God, I need you so badly right now," she mumbled into his mouth, her hands clumsily going for the button on his pants that was now behind her back.
Kuon tried his best to think straight enough to figure out what the hell was going on with his wife, but came up empty. Partly because he had never seen her like this before, and partly because she had already made it through both layers of his clothing and was fondling him in a way that made it hard to keep his eyes from crossing. Usually Kyoko lost every ounce of energy she had after climaxing, needing at least a minute or two before she was ready to go again, so her unprecedented ten second turnaround had him perplexed. And turned on.
Really, really turned on.
It wasn't until she had his rock hard length poised to enter her, sliding tantalizingly against her wet slit that he came to his senses. He immediately grasped both of her wrists and used all the strength he could muster to freeze them both in place.
"Kyoko! What are you doing?! Why are you acting like…" he trailed off as her eyes met his, dilated and glazed over, but also somewhat desperate. He'd thought she was just pretending to be more turned on than she was (for what reason he hadn't quite figured), but her overwhelming lust was clear as day. He knew his wife well enough to tell she was definitely not acting. "Are you on drugs right now?!"
That seemed to get through her haze, her eyes widening and her pupils shrinking a bit.
"What? No! Of course not! I'm just really…" Her eyes roamed his torso and her hips pushed her more firmly against his cock, still erect between them held firmly by her hands, which were being held by his own. He groaned. "I just really, really want you right now."
"Then we need to go upstairs. I don't have any condoms down here," he tried, closing his eyes as he tried his hardest to keep his hips from thrusting up into her like he desperately wanted to. The despair he'd felt at the thought of getting her pregnant without her permission was the only thing holding him back from impaling her right there on the kitchen floor.
"That doesn't matter! Please, Kuon...just…" Kyoko's words failed her as she tilted her hips again and began forcing her way onto his shaft with a gasp of pleasure.
"Kyoko!" Alarmed, Kuon's hands left hers to grab her hips instead. "Of course it matters!"
"No, Kuon, it really doesn't!" she practically shouted back, hips straining against his hands. "It could literally not matter less right now! Please! Please..just...let me…"
"Why?" Kuon started to lift her off of him, every cell in his body protesting as he started to slide out of her hot, clenching muscles. "Why doesn't it matter? Kyoko, stop trying to use me as a freaking dildo and talk to me!"
"Because I'm already pregnant!" she cried out, the muscles in her legs quivering as they fought against his arms.
"WHAT?!" Kuon let go of her in shock and she slid smoothly down onto him, encasing him as she had a million times before.
Kyoko nearly cried with relief and started rocking against him as he tried to think through what she had just said.
"It doesn't matter because you can't get me more pregnant than I already am!" She let loose a laugh that was almost delirious, not even noticing that she was spilling her biggest secret as all of her focus narrowed to the suddenly super sensitive nerves inside her.
Kuon would have been embarrassed that her words sent even more blood into his already close to bursting erection if he hadn't been so completely unable to process anything, his mind repeating the same thought over and over.
Kyoko is pregnant.
Kyoko is pregnant.
Kyoko is pregnant.
KYOKO IS PREGNANT! WITH MY BABY!
With a huge smile he couldn't have suppressed if he tried, he flipped them and railed into her, funneling all of his immediate euphoria at her words into his actions. He felt her come at least twice more around him before he relented and climaxed, spilling his seed directly into her and secretly enjoying it far more than he should have.
He rolled off of Kyoko and collapsed onto the floor beside her, panting for breath as he chose the easier of two paths and pulled his half removed pants and boxer briefs back up instead of off, not bothering to button them.
"Holy shit...that was seriously great sex. Quick. But great."
Kyoko cracked an eyelid, turning her head to look at him, as always struck by how inhumanely beautiful his cheekbones were. "Yes. Yes it was."
He turned his head to her too, eyes bright but serious. "Is it true?"
Kyoko resisted the urge to look away. It definitely wasn't how she'd planned to tell him, but at least it was out in the open now. For better or for worse, Kuon knew everything except the most important thing: what she had decided to do about it. Her eyes teared up, making his face go out of focus. What if he left her? What would she do if he did?
"Yeah, it's true."
Kuon reached over to wipe the tear coursing down her face with his thumb. "Are you okay? When did you find out?"
"My period was supposed to come last week. I took the tests this morning." Another tear coursed down her cheek and Kuon turned on his side so he could hold her face in both his hands.
"Why are you crying?"
"I don't know!" Kyoko sobbed, tears coming fast now. "I'm just...so scared of what you're going to say!"
"Oh, sweetheart…" Kuon drew her close to him, wrapping his arms around her as his heart broke for her. He had never been able to stand seeing her cry, on screen or off. It made it feel like someone was stomping on his chest with Cain's boots. "Why? You never have to be afraid of me."
"Because I...I think I want to keep it, and I know you don't want kids!" she sobbed into his chest, letting all her hormones provide a path to release all the anxiety she'd been building up since she realized Shark Week wasn't broadcasting in its typical monthly timeslot.
Kuon closed his eyes and released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Relief flooded him. He drew back, pushing Kyoko's hair out of her face and tilting it up so she could see the smile he didn't even want to try and hide. "You're not going to believe this, but I was actually planning on telling you over dinner just how much I want kids."
Kyoko's eyes went wide. "Liar."
"No, seriously. I've been a mess all week, trying to figure out how to tell you."
"You're just saying that so I don't feel bad."
"No. I'm really not. You can ask Yashiro. I finally broke down to him about it earlier today."
Kyoko gasped. "Oh my God, that's why he was arguing with Riley!"
Kuon didn't know what she was talking about, but he didn't need to. "I can't even begin to describe to you how ridiculously, fucking happy I am right now."
He leaned over her body, intending to place a simple kiss on her belly where their baby had already achieved the incredible task of existing. In the process, his arm brushed against the side of her breast and she gasped, the clenching of her abdomen and thighs obvious from his convenient vantage point right above her navel. Kuon looked back up at her face to see her eyes closed and her bottom lip between her teeth. Ever so lightly, he reached out and ran his fingertips around her areola, eyes widening as she let out a little moan and rubbed her thighs together.
"Are you…?" he trailed off as her eyes popped open, molten pools of black rimmed in gold. "Fuck. You are."
"I think it's the hormones!" she blurted out a little desperately. "Everywhere you touch me is like 500 times more sensitive than before. It's driving me crazy!"
"Do you want me to…?" Kuon wiggled his fingers and started moving his hand down her body. "You came so fast earlier, it hardly felt like I made up for your ruined dinner at all."
Kyoko quickly grabbed his hand and shook her head. "N-not yet. We need to talk first."
"Okay," Kuon agreed compliantly, smiling at the 'yet' and 'first'. He could already tell he was going to like pregnant Kyoko a lot. At least until the morning sickness inevitably hit. "What do you want to talk about?"
"You really aren't upset about this baby at all? This is going to change our lives forever. We agreed not to have kids, and you've always been so careful and now...well, it's just not what we planned."
Kuon let out an amused puff of air through his nose. "Well, apparently we weren't careful enough. Speaking of which, when do you think this little miracle occurred anyway?"
"...your birthday. I think."
Comprehension dawned in Kuon's eyes. Best birthday present ever. "Ah, yeah. That would make the most sense. God, we fucked so much that weekend, I can't remember if we even used protection half the time..."
Kyoko turned bright red. "The alcohol probably didn't help you remember."
Kuon grinned. "True. Although, there are a few positions I remember quite vividly."
His hand started hovering over certain parts of her again, so Kyoko smacked it back.
"Kuon! More talking, less fondling!"
He laughed. "Okay, okay! What else did you want to know?"
"How do you really feel about this? This is a huge commitment, and our lives will never be the same," she insisted again. "I want to keep it, but I don't want this to ruin our relationship."
Kuon made an effort to sober up, using all of his acting skills to hide the giddy joy still bouncing around inside of him. "I've been thinking about this for the last month and I couldn't be more on board. I want our lives to change. True, everything is going great right now, but...I honestly think this is the one thing that might make it even better. I've been trying to talk myself down from wanting kids for a week now, because you've always been so against it, but it was making me really sad thinking that I might never get to see your beautiful babies."
"Babies?" Kyoko squeaked, sitting up and grabbing her shirt off the floor to hug to her chest. "Just how many are you wanting?"
"As many as you'll give me," he answered honestly. "I would prefer at least two, I think, because a lot of my childhood issues came from being an only child, but anything after that is just icing on the cake. However if, after nine months of pregnancy, decide you never want to do that again, then I'm okay with that too. One is still vastly better than none."
Kyoko felt tears leaking uncontrollably out of her eyes again just listening to him, and tried to hide them by putting her clothes back on. "How are you always so fucking perfect? It's really hard to believe this all isn't a crazy dream when you say things like that."
"What should I say instead?"
"I don't know! Some mean comment about how it's only a matter of time before I turn into a whale?"
"Okay...um...damn. Sorry, I seriously can't think of a single mean thing to say right now. You're gonna look so fucking adorable as a whale."
More tears squeezed out of her eyes as she dove forward and clamped her arms down around him as hard as she could.
"This is so scary, Kuon. I don't want to get fat. Or stop working."
"It will be okay. We'll get through it. In the grand scheme of things, nine months is nothing. And you won't really start showing for a few months anyway, right? So, we'll let your directors and the brands you model for know as soon as possible and you can work so much now, you'll welcome the time off when you have to take it."
Kyoko sniffed and nodded. "Okay."
"But please quit crying. It makes me want to go buy you things that you won't accept anyway."
Kyoko tried her best, tilting her head back and blinking repeatedly. "I swear it's not like I'm trying to. And you absolutely have to stop buying things now! Babies cost a lot of money!"
"...Kyoko, sweetheart, you have seriously got to stop worrying about that. Combined, we brought in more than five million dollars last year. We could have thirty kids and still not worry about our finances. Hell, you could take a year off and we could still afford ten children comfortably."
"WE ARE NOT HAVING THIRTY KIDS, KUON!" Kyoko yelled, latching onto the most alarming thing he'd said and ignoring everything else.
Kuon just grinned. "Aw, really? I was thinking we could build on an addition to the house with a gym and just start our own basketball league…"
"Shut up! The thought of shoving that many babies out of my body makes me feel like I'm gonna puke."
"Chillax, babe. You're pregnant with one baby, not thirty."
"Okay, now I know I'm dreaming. Since when do you say chillax? Or babe?"
"Damn, I was hoping that was 'not perfect' enough it would convince you that you aren't dreaming. I give up. You'll just have to finally accept that all of this is real and someday soon you're going to have to squeeze at least one Hizuri baby out of your body."
Kyoko raked her eyes up and down his six-foot-three, broad-shouldered body and wrapped her arms around her still flat belly.
"Oh my God, it's going to be huge. Why did I marry you? I'll be dead nine months if I have to birth your huge mutant baby!"
Kuon rolled his eyes. "Stop, you're starting to sound like my mom."
"Because now I get it! It's a miracle she survived your birth, so she's just living on borrowed time!" Kyoko made her eyes wide and haunted, seeing how far she could push it before Kuon groaned and started putting the moves on her to shut her up.
Which totally wasn't a ploy by her sexed-up pregnancy hormones to get him in bed.
Actually, yeah it was. It so, SO was.
Because fuck dinner. Fuck everything but fucking.
"Oh come on, it's not going to be that ba-mmm!" Kuon didn't get to finish his sentence because Kyoko's lips were in the way.
And continued to be in the way for another solid five minutes. When he finally pulled away, she was straddling him topless and they were both panting.
"I'm sorry Kuon, but I seriously can't think about anything but fucking you right now," she apologized before sucking on his earlobe.
"Okay, why are you sorry?" Kuon asked, wickedly, standing up and taking her with him. "I'm sure as hell not."
Kyoko barely heard him. "Shhhhhhhhh. Less talking, more walking Mr. Sexiest Man Alive.
Kuon picked up the pace as ordered.
Yes, he was definitely going to like pregnant Kyoko a lot.
And their baby.
And everything about the future of their newly minted little family.
Because as long as he had Kyoko, everything else would be fine.
"Yes ma'am, Mrs. Sexiest Man Alive."
Kyoko laughed. "I prefer Mrs. Japan's Most Wanted."
"Yeah, me too."
Alright, there it is. Finally done! This story is so hard to quit that I just keep thinking of more and more time skips, so I'm cutting myself off. I've got other things that need a-writing! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.
This is my first completed multi-chapter story (which will hopefully be shortly followed by PAPI), so I would love to ask a favor of you all. If you didn't leave a review on any of the other chapters (or even if you did) could you drop me a line and let me know how you liked it? I read each and every one and sometimes come back and reread them when I'm having a bad day, or can't get up the motivation to get going on that next illusive chapter. If it helps, think of it as investing in new overlong chapters for the future!
As for future projects, I do have a few chapters already written on another RenxKyoko fic, but I'm going to buckle down and try to finish out the last chapters of Passive Aggressive Post-Its before releasing it. Because, you know me, I'm terrible at concentrating on more than one story at a time. After that, there are a few stories I have in mind, including a crossover story between Yona of the Dawn and Snow White with the Red Hair (both GREAT mangas and animes if you haven't seen them yet), and an original novel about dragon riders. I hope to see all of you again sometime in the future, even if it is just to get your RenxKyoko fix when the manga just REFUSES to let them be together yet!
Hope everyone's 2021 is going 1002 times better than their 2020, and as always, I love you all!
Riot over and out.