A/N: A super long last chapter, but I was getting tired of all the angst. :)
Thank you again for all the reviews, follows, and favorites!
The two weeks after the press conference were among the worst that Kuon had experienced in Japan. Kyoko was ignoring him. She didn't return his calls and flat out refused to see him when he came in person onto her set.
He didn't know what to do, but even so he barely had time to formulate a plan to win back her trust because he was moving to the United States in a few days. Could he really leave the country without talking to her at least once?
"Just give her a little more time," Yashiro said hesitantly, when Kuon closed his phone from attempting to reach her again, unable to keep the dejected expression from his face.
"It's been two weeks," he said quietly. "She… she probably is plotting her revenge on me like she did with Fuwa."
"Oh, it can't be that bad," Yashiro said, trying to smile. "After all, you're not nearly as irritating as Fuwa Sho."
It was no consolation, especially since every single time Kuon had ever been condescending, or angry, or doubtful seemed to rise up in his mind, accusing him with their awful truth. Besides, he knew her… Had he shattered her innocence? Her treasured memories of Corn? That was the last thing he wanted to do… but now his cowardice had made things worse: he'd lost her trust.
She, of course, didn't come over to make dinner any more. He found himself checking the door every time he heard a slight noise outside his apartment, hoping that she would be standing there, ready to talk, to at least hear his attempt at an apology.
But she never was.
And it was all his fault.
Kuon stared at his closed phone for a moment then stuffed it in his pocket and stood. "Yashiro-san, cancel everything I have up to the flight."
He nodded. "I have to do something that's more important than my career right now."
Yashiro smiled and nodded, opening his schedule book. "Leave it to me… Kuon."
"I'm sorry," the okamisan said as she arrived back at the main floor of the restaurant, looking a little embarrassed. "Kyoko-chan doesn't… want to come down."
Kuon nodded. "It's okay. I didn't think she would." He resumed his seat at the bar. "Can I have a menu? I have a feeling I'm going to be here awhile."
The okami blinked in surprise and then smiled. "Of course! Would you rather move to a booth or table?"
"No, this is fine. Arigatou."
Across from the bar, the taisho frowned. But then he hadn't stopped frowning since Kuon had arrived. He had the feeling the quiet older man didn't like him much. However, that was the least of his worries right now.
Throughout the evening, he kept one eye on the back staircase, but Kyoko never left the upstairs apartment. He stayed at his seat, ordering as much as he thought he could eat without making himself sick and lingering over a drink, but still she didn't come down.
Finally, it was 10 o'clock, closing time. Kuon paid his bill, adding a generous tip for the bother of his keeping a seat all day. He even helped put the chairs up on the tables. It was his fault, after all, that Kyoko wasn't downstairs helping as usual. The okamisan protested but her husband merely watched with a glower that seemed less disapproving than usual.
But when that was done he had no more excuses. Kuon left the restaurant and stood outside the front, looking up to see the faint light of the windows upstairs. He knew it was her window because the okami and taisho wouldn't have had time to arrive in their room yet. He watched the square of light for a moment then sighed, glad that the night was warm. It was going to be a long wait.
About an hour later, the door to the restaurant opened again, revealing the couple that ran the restaurant.
"Are you going to stand out here all night?" she asked.
"That was my plan," he admitted. "I need to speak with her; to apologize in person."
"Let's leave him to it," said the taisho unexpectedly.
"Dear?" The okami looked up at her husband, startled. "Just leave him here all night?"
The taisho glanced at Kuon's face and nodded. "Some things are worth waiting for."
Once or twice that night Kuon thought he saw the curtains of her window twitch, but he couldn't be sure. He hadn't slept well since the press conference, so this added forced wakefulness made him so tired he thought he might be hallucinating. When he felt himself beginning to fall asleep, he started to pace up and down the sidewalk, reciting memorized lines from scripts to keep himself concentrating on something. This had the bonus effect of keeping late night passersby away from him, assuming he was some rambling lunatic. Which he supposed he was, to an extent.
At one point, perhaps around three o'clock in the morning, he was pacing again to wake himself up, but in his exhaustion he tripped, falling to his hands and banging his knee on the hard concrete.
"Ow." Kuon sat back on the sidewalk, observing with the hysterical amusement of the very tired that Yashiro would not be pleased that he'd ruined his Armandy trousers. The right knee was torn clear through and blood was beginning to ooze out of the scrapes on his knee. He could feel laughter start to form in his chest, waiting to be released to the dark summer night.
Suddenly, his hallucinations became reality for he was still sitting on the ground when a pair of small but strong hands pulled at his arm.
Kyoko was wrapped in a yukata, her feet in a pair of flipflops. She didn't look at him, or say a word, but steered him inside the restaurant and took a chair down from one of the tables and ordered him there. He sat down, his knee throbbing, the bubble of insane laughter from the fall dying away as she hurried into a back room.
Kyoko soon reappeared with a first-aid kit and knelt down on the floor next to his torn knee.
"Stay still," she ordered. "There's some gravel in there."
"I'm going to treat you and then you're going home," she said in a stiff voice, still not looking at him.
Kuon lapsed into silence, wincing as she used a set of tweezers to pull bits of concrete and dirt from his torn flesh.
"I… never told you that it was you who helped me love acting again."
Her head jerked up and she met his eyes for a brief second before they quickly lowered to their task again.
Kuon continued. "Ten years old, and I was already jaded to the business. I didn't have anything left in me to try again… I was nearly ready to give up. But then I met you… and you helped me find that love again. You helped me remember how much I loved acting. Your belief in Corn… I'd forgotten how wonderful acting could make me feel."
Kyoko wiped a trickle of blood that was traveling his knee. She didn't look up at him, but she also didn't tell him to stop, which he decided to take as a good sign.
"That… belief you had in Corn; how much he meant to you… I didn't want to break that. That's why I didn't tell you," he said, then added. "Part of the reason, anyway. The other half… well, I'd made a promise to myself a long time ago to not be Kuon because Kuon was dangerous. Kuon was a failure. Kuon…" He clenched his fists against his thighs. "Kuon is a coward." He hissed in sudden pain as Kyoko pressed an alcohol-soaked gauze pad against his torn knee.
"I've been a runner all my life," he said after the first blaze of pain passed. "I didn't know how to deal with some of the adult-sized problems I was given as a child, so I ran from them," he said. "When I first met you I had run away from my father who was trying to console me about getting fired from yet another project. When I was fifteen I ran to Japan and I thought I was going to be able to stop running once I put down roots as Tsuruga Ren. But it's only been these past couple of weeks that I realized I haven't stopped running at all."
She didn't say anything.
"I don't want to run anymore, Mogami-san. It's not fair to you, though I'm afraid I realized it too late."
She busied herself by screwing the cap back on the alcohol bottle.
"Just go home," she said in a tired voice. "Don't you have work to do?"
"This is more important to me than work," he said in a quiet voice. Startled amber eyes peeped up at him and then looked back down to rummage in the first aid kit, eventually coming up with a large adhesive bandage.
"My flight leaves at four o'clock tomorrow morning," he said as she peeled away the paper wrappings. "I didn't want to leave before clearing the air."
She pressed the bandage to his knee. He took a chance and touched the back of her hand. "Mogami-san..."
Kyoko jerked to her feet, face red as if she'd been caught at something indecent. The okami of the restaurant stood at the back where a door led to the upstairs apartments, yawning. She came into the room, her eyes falling on Kuon.
"Hizuri-san," she said in a kind yet firm voice. "I think you need to leave. It's very late… or very early, rather."
"Yes. I'm sorry for waking you up." He glanced at Kyoko, but she hadn't turned around. "Goodbye."
"I'll be glad once they start boarding," Yashiro sighed, slumping in his seat. The Tokyo airport around them was quieter than normal. To decrease the chances of Kuon being recognized, and so that they'd land at LAX at a reasonable time, they'd chosen a very early morning flight. Only a handful of passengers were scattered around the waiting area, most of them asleep or blearily contemplating the lit screen of an electronic device. Of course, most people weren't used to his blond hair and green eyes yet, so maybe he wouldn't be recognized anyway. Even after two weeks of living under his true appearance, Kuon still felt strange to be in public without dark hair and eyes. He felt stripped raw, like a peeled banana.
"Hoping to catch some more sleep?" Kuon asked, his eyes on a magazine. It was an entertainment magazine which happened to have a cast photo of Kyoko's new drama. There she was in the front, her eyes dark and angry, her short black wig flipped over one eye.
He hadn't slept well the night before after coming back from the the Darumaya. It was only a handful of hours since he'd seen her last, but he missed her so much already he almost felt ill. It was silly, he told himself over and over. Kyoko hadn't felt the same about him as he did about her and probably would have spurned him if he had ever told her, but telling himself this didn't seem to help. He missed her, he loved her, and being in another country would only make it worse. Especially with things as they were. Perhaps… perhaps that was why she didn't speak to him last night. She was already cutting the slender ties that bound them.
It was no more than he deserved.
"No, I shouldn't sleep when there's so much work waiting for me once we land," Yashiro replied, sighing as he closed his laptop. "I think we should…"
When his manager didn't finish the thought, Kuon looked up, but found the other man staring at something to the side. Kuon followed his gaze.
Kyoko stood at the edge of the boarding area in a simple summer dress, her hands clasped in front of her.
Kuon was out of his chair before he knew what he was doing.
"Kyoko-chan," he said before he could stop himself, coming to a halt in front of her, barely restraining himself from pulling her into his arms. His heart was beating loudly in his chest, he was surprised that she couldn't hear it.
She flushed crimson, bending into one of her perfect bows. "Tsu—I mean… Hizuri… san." She trailed off, looking uncertain.
Afraid that she would run away like a frightened rabbit, he jumped into the silence.
"Can I… " he started, clearing his throat, "Kyoko-chan…" Her expression twisted and her hurriedly amended his address. "Mogami-san, I realized that last night I never apologized. So I would like to do so now. I didn't try hard enough to tell you the truth. I should have told you a long time ago, and I'm sorry. I… don't deserve your forgiveness… and I understand if you want your revenge on me… just… just please, don't quit acting."
At that her eyes rose from contemplating her shoes and focused on his face. "It never crossed my mind to quit acting," she said simply. Then she fell silent, so did he. He'd never felt so awkward or anxious before. He had a brief flash of memory: of waiting with his father on Christmas morning for his mother to unwrap a present. His father had been fidgeting and anxiously pacing, unable to hide his fear that she might not like her present. Was this the feeling his father got at that time? The feeling of wanting to jump out of his own skin with nervousness?
"Do you hate me?" he asked quietly, not sure if he wanted to hear her answer.
Incredibly, she took a tiny step closer to him. His breath caught in his throat as he looked down at her flushed face and luminous eyes.
"I did," she said with her usual honesty, "right after the press conference… and maybe even when you showed up at the Darumaya. I was… very sad and hurt for a long time." She bit her lip. "I am still hurt, but… I remembered… that I also deceived Tsuruga-san—I mean, H-Hizuri-san—and… and I didn't think I had a right to be as angry when you should be angry at me as well."
Kuon cocked his head. "How have you deceived me?"
If it was possible, her face turned even more red. "IamthechickenBo!" she said in a rush.
He blinked. "Come again?"
She took a deep breath, looking frightened but determined. "I. Am. The. Chicken. Bo. From TBM."
Kuon's mouth fell open.
"The whole…" He ran a hand through his hair. "How… how long?"
"Since the first time that you and Bo met, and he—I—helped you with understanding that line in the script you were having trouble with." Her hands were twisting in front of her, the tips of her ears—the only part of her face he could see—bright crimson.
"Well…" he said, then paused, not sure what he was going to say. "I guess... we both kept secrets too long."
She nodded, peeping up at him shyly.
"Now boarding flight 208 to Los Angeles," said a voice over the intercom.
"I wish… I wish I wasn't leaving just now," he said with a glance back toward the boarding area. "I would have liked to sit and talk with you about this for awhile. I owe you more than just a last minute apology."
"Well, I've been saving for a plane ticket to visit sensei," she said with small smile. "I guess you'll be there too, huh? The real boy Kuon..."
"Will you be happy to see me again?" he asked.
"Yes... but I'm still angry with you," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "You didn't even tell me that you were leaving."
"I'm sorry," he winced. "It… well, it was all connected to my true identity, so I clammed up about everything." He cocked his head smiling. "Would it help if I dogeza?"
Kyoko's eyes widened in horror. "You… what? No! What are you doing?" she hissed as Kuon obediently knelt down in front of her, pressing his forehead to the cool tile floor.
"Mogami Kyoko-san…" he said, breathing out so that his breath fogged up the shiny tile in front of his eyes. "Please accept my apology," he said, his voice somewhat muffled. He felt her tugging on his arm but refused to budge.
"Okay! Okay! As long as you get up," she said, sounding mortified.
He let her pull him to his feet, taking a chance to reach out for one of her hands, rubbing his thumb along her knuckles.
"You…" she shook her head, pressing her free hand to her heated cheek. "I can't believe you did that." She looked up at him, seeing his quizzical expression. "What?"
He let go of her hand. "If you're Bo… you know, then…"
Kyoko blinked. "Know what?"
He looked at her. Was she being coy? But… no, her eyes were wide and guileless as always. It had been awhile since he'd spoken to Bo. Had she forgotten?
"How I feel about you," he said, heart thumping. "I mean, you haven't run away from me this whole time… Does that mean…? No, sorry, that's stupid of me. I understand if you don't feel the same way… especially after what just happened, but maybe someday…"
He trailed off. Her face was becoming so red he started to become worried. "Kyoko-chan?"
She began shaking her head, wrapping her arms around herself. "No, no, no… it's not me… it was another girl…"
"Kyoko-chan?" He hesitated. "Did you… have you thought this whole time that it was someone else I was in love with?"
Her tear-filled eyes lifted to his and he saw, he understood, and his joy seemed to well up inside him, filling that black hole of misery that had been sucking on his soul since the press conference, filling it to overflowing, and he knew he was about to burst with the light that was inside him. He was going to do something stupid like kiss her or laugh out loud, something uncharacteristic of Tsuruga Ren, but something that Hizuri Kuon completely approved of—
"Last call, boarding flight 208 to Los Angeles," said an announcement.
Kuon cursed under his breath and grabbed her hands again. "We need to talk about this… about everything. Will you start answering your phone when I call now?"
She choked out something between a sob and a laugh, nodding as her chin wobbled.
"I'll call you when I land, okay?" He did a quick mental calculation. "It's a ten hour flight so, it'll be around one o'clock in the afternoon here, I think."
She nodded again, apparently too woozy to speak as she swayed on her legs.
Kuon reluctantly left her where she stood, hurrying back to Yashiro who was literally bouncing with glee at the scene he'd just witnessed, and grabbed his carry-on.
He stopped on his way to the gate, looking back over his shoulder. She ran up to him, and threw her arms around him. Kuon sucked in a breath of air in surprise but held her tightly.
"Ask me to stay and I will," he murmured in her ear.
She drew back slightly. "No," she said, searching his face. "I won't be selfish… I won't make you hate me by becoming a stupid woman who only needs her… a boyfriend to be happy."
"Boyfriend, hmm?" he said, grinning down at her.
She responding by burying her face in his shoulder again.
"Please be careful," she said softly.
He pressed his lips to her temple and to her cheek, knowing she wasn't ready for anything more—especially in public—and released her.
"I will," he promised, and turned back to the gate and the impatient airport attendant.
Kyoko stood watching as the plane beyond the window taxied past until she could no longer see it. She pressed her hand against the glass in a static wave, imagining that Ren—no, not Ren and not Corn either, she reminded herself, Kuon—was also looking out his tiny airplane window and could see her.
He had seen her before he left; truly seen her in a way no one ever had before. For the first time, there had been no lies between them, no masks, no roles. It felt… terrifying. And wonderful. She tucked those conflicting emotions back into her heart for later when she had the privacy to examine them. For now, she would just enjoy the warm feeling that had spread through her when he'd hugged her. Her fingers reached up to her cheek where the imprint of his mouth still tingled.
A light step behind her. "That," sighed the President happily, "was nearly as good as I hoped it would be. If only that blasted gentleman hadn't restrained himself… true love's first kiss would have been a better parting gift."
Kyoko blushed, turning to bow slightly in her employer's direction. "Thank you for paying my way to get here. I didn't even think about needing a ticket to get past the gate. I… hope it didn't cost you very much… I can pay you back."
Lory waved a hand, brushing aside her offer, still smiling happily. "No need, no need. Seeing my plans come to fruition is payment enough, Mogami-kun."
Kyoko raised her eyebrows, mouth forming a small "o".
"Plans?" she repeated. "You mean…" She thought about that awful confession he'd wrested from her before the Tragic Marker shooting in Guam, and the unexpected way he had appeared with a ticket ready for her when she'd shown up at the airport, though she'd been too frantic at the time to question it. "You knew about Tsuru—his … his…"
"His love for you?" finished the President happily. Kyoko blushed. "Yes, I knew. But the harder part was getting you two to admit it to each other." He rubbed his hands together in glee. "And it's finally, finally happened! I need to throw you a graduation party, Mogami-kun! But," he interrupted himself, a frown suddenly appearing on his face, "what are you going to do now that Kuon has left Japan?"
Kyoko turned back to the window, her face settling into a determined expression that Lory knew signaled the advent of something truly remarkable.
"Well, the only thing I can do is become a better actress so that someone in Hollywood notices me too."
Lory glanced at the fire in her eyes and folded his arms across his chest, smiling.