"You gave me the wrong box!"

Kuu Hizuri looked up from the heart-shaped ruby, surprised to hear his thoughts echoed at the other end of the counter.

"I didn't ask for earrings," the blond youth fairly snarled at the attendant as he flicked open the blue velvet box. "I commissioned a bracelet charm. Where is it?"

The boy, either knowingly or unwittingly, was making a spectacle of himself. There were not many customers inside the upscale jewelry shop, but the wealthy few that were there could not help but be intrigued by the commotion that was currently taking place. The princely face that graced half the billboards all over Tokyo was twisted in a forbidding scowl and was being very vocal about his displeasure over some missing trinket .

"Pardon the intrusion," Kuu smoothly insinuated himself into the conversation and sent a reassuring smile at the girl. "I believe I could be of some help."

"What do you want?" The young man's brown eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"It seems that we share the same predicament." He explained genially, raising a hand to indicate the pair of diamonds sitting in an identical box, "Those look suspiciously like my wife's Christmas present."

The box containing the earrings was suddenly in his hand even before he finished his statement.

"Gomen! Gomen!" The attendant bowed low thrice in rapid succession - the last one brought her forehead frightfully close to hitting the counter-top. "Gomen, Hizuri-san! We deeply apologize for the mix-up."

"No harm done, so it's okay," Kuu said, patting her shoulder as he pocketed the earrings. "I would also like to extend my gratitude to this honest gentleman here."

The 'gentleman' snorted indelicately and dared to give him a once-over that was nothing short of derogatory. "Seriously, I don't understand how ANYONE could possibly mistake me for this old man."

"And here I was being polite." He raised a leveling eyebrow the impertinent boy. "Though I, myself, cannot fathom how this rocker-yarou can even begin to compare to me."

"Rocker-yarou?!" The miscreant fairly sputtered in anger, "I'll have you know: my latest single topped the Oricon charts!"

"Well, this 'old man' just happened to be the best actor Japan has to offer the world!"

The attendant whimpered, fervently wishing she was somewhere else. The enraptured audience was more than happy to follow the live drama to its conclusion.

"Hah! I'd like to see you prove-"

A rumbling sound, not unlike that of an old car engine, cut off the rest of that statement. The rocker-yarou was left speechless, but Kuu could practically hear the gears in his bottle-bleached blond head shift and click into place. He could tell when the young man finally recognized him the moment his left eye twitched.

"Not until after dinner." Kuu cleared his throat and declared as he pushed off the counter. "And you're buying."

"Wha-what?!" A look of comical horror flitted across the young man's face at being told to feed Japan's bottomless pit. "The hell I will!"

"Of course you would." He held up his hand, a heart-shaped ruby charm winked between his forefinger and thumb. "Unless you don't want your little heart back..."

***

Kuu found it hard to hold on to his anger, especially with a full stomach. It simmered down somewhere between the last entree of a seven-course meal and the second serving of dessert. The sugar helped to soothe tempers and bruised egos.

He realized that he had a lot in common with the young man. He smirked at the memory. Ah, yes - he was just as overbearing, overconfident and arrogant when he was around the same age. By the time he decided to buy drinks, Kuu had somewhat graduated from calling him 'rocker-yarou' to 'boy' in his head.

"So, what do we drink to this time?" the boy asked as he poured each of them another glassful. "Other than your beautiful wife and your estranged son"

Remembering the ruby charm he held for ransom, Kuu fished it out of his pockets and placed it on the table. "How about a toast to the girl you'll be giving your heart to?"

His statement hung in the air; the weight of his words echoed painfully in the silence that stretched far too long for comfort.

"Let's not," his companion tersely bit out. "It would be a waste of good alcohol."

"My apologies if I presumed too much."

The young man downed his drink before continuing. "This type of industry is never kind to personal attachments. Besides, I'm still young," he declared, spreading his arms wide. "There's a lot of me to go around. Why bother tying myself down to one girl?"

"Narcissistic, yes," Kuu said, unable to keep the disappointment from coloring his voice. "But I never figured you to be the type to have groupies."

"Hey, at least THEY want me!" the boy countered defensively, bringing the glass down sharply against the tabletop. "She's not exactly my biggest fan, you know." Shoulders slumped in defeat, he sighed, his white-knuckled grip on the glass easing a bit. "Well, she used to be. But that feels like a lifetime ago."

"What happened?"

"The usual drama story." Bitterness dripped from his tone as he sing-songed, "Boy meets girl. Girl loves boy. Boy uses girl. Girl finds out. Boy dumps girl... No, wait, that's wrong." His face screwed up in a self-deprecating smirk. "I never dumped her. She walked out on me."

"Sounds like she got smart," Kuu stated, but not unkindly.

"Yeah. She did." The boy took out a platinum bracelet and attached the heart charm, along with the other two dangling from the chain. "And I'm an idiot for wanting her back."

Kuu raised an eyebrow in silent inquiry. He was fairly surprised to find the boy more than ready to elaborate on his story regarding the trinket.

"The clover originally came with the bracelet. I wanted to give her something for good luck on her 17th birthday."

"How long ago was this?"

"Two years ago."

Kuu did not even bother to comment.

"She's not exactly all-smiles whenever I drop by for a visit! I just didn't want to cause trouble for her on her special day." The boy hedged... and failed spectacularly.

Kuu snorted and called it out as he saw it: "You chickened out."

"OK. Fine." The boy scowlingly confirmed, "I chickened out."

"When did you get her this one?" Kuu pointed at the diamond star in the middle.

"She won an award for her debut movie last year." He smiled with pride as he touched the sparkling stone. "I had this star charm made back then."

"Didn't you ever TRY giving her the bracelet?" The situation was not so much as pitiful as it was exasperating.

"Of course!" He took another swig from his glass. "Made damn sure she gets it on her birthday by courier. I even personally delivered her gift right at her doorstep-"

"Wait. You're not making sense." Kuu frowned at the younger man as he backtracked through the story. "I thought you had it delivered by courier."

"I did."

"Then, you're telling me you were there in person."

"I was."

Kuu gaped at him uncomprehendingly and solemnly declared, "I think you're too drunk to tell this story."

"No, I'm not. I paid the messenger 5000 yen to lend me his overalls and helmet."

Kuu was laughing so hard at the boy's statement that he doubled over, clutching his stomach, eyes tearing with mirth.

"Here's to you, boy," he said as he finally sobered up and managed to lift his glass in mock salute. "You are one crazy piece of work."

"Well, it wasn't so funny anymore when she sent the gift back by courier the next day." The boy frowned at the memory, tossing back a mouthful of alcohol to drown out the bitterness. "It was unopened. But she did stick a pink memo note to it."

"What did it say?"

"Quit being a coward."

"And when do you plan to take that good advice and start growing a spine?" Kuu gestured at the heart-shaped ruby, "This ought to mean something, right?"

"It's her birthday tomorrow." The young man took a deep steadying breath. "I figured I might as well make up for all the years I've missed."

"From what you've told me, it won't be easy."

"I know." The boy's smile was a strange mix of confidence and dread. "But she's worth it. The view from the top isn't that great without someone to share it with."

Kuu figured the idiot still got a long way to go, but at least got his priorities straightened out. He finally raised his glass in a toast: "To second chances."

Shou lifted his scotch and silently agreed. 'May it not be too late.'