"Patience is a conquering virtue."

It had been many years since his tutor made him read that particular book, but Ren could still remember how ridiculous he thought Chaucer's line had been at the time. Patience garnered him nothing during his childhood. His father wasn't going to abandon the movie he was working on to go explore the woods with him. His mother wasn't going to miss her show in Milan - and subsequent tour of Asia - to spend an afternoon on their boat. He would be left for yet another month under the watchful eye of the maids and tutors.

On the occasions his parents traveled together, they would bring him along, but he was left to his own devices or to the unwanted attention from other adults - too many of them giving their fake praise and adoration to the 'Hizuri's precious son'. He was shown sides of the world that were never meant for children's eyes. Instead of foregoing the lavish party they'd been invited to, his parents simply brought him along. Hours later, the young child would be left staring vacantly out the window, praying that the night scenery would distract him from the drunken laughter and lascivious moans coming from the next room. Even as the innocence in his eyes sputtered and died, his parents still ignored his attentions in favor of their work.

Kuon learned quickly that waiting for his simple wishes to come to pass was a fruitless effort.

That's why the patience he possessed as Tsuruga Ren astounded him at times.

The actor drained the half empty glass of bourbon before sinking into the plush sofa, his head falling back as a heavy sigh left his lips. His mind wandered to the young woman currently occupying his bed. The very fact that Kyoko was once again asleep in his sheets would normally thrill the actor, but at the moment it sent conflicting, painful emotions through his heart. He knew her slumber was far from peaceful; she'd only succumbed to her body's demands after a long bout of apologetic crying and hasteful explanations. Though it had been difficult to understand, Ren finally grasped the truth behind her words.

And Kyoko held nothing back during her rant.

Thinking of her nearly one sided conversation earlier prompted the young man to lean forward and pour himself another hefty portion of the expensive liquor. She'd barely paused for breath during the ride to his apartment - and even after they entered - so Ren had been able to do little more than listen to her blubbering. He was now thankful she didn't give him an opportunity to speak. The first words that threatened to fall from his mouth were sure to be ones which would only hurt her more. Kuon couldn't stop himself from wanting to blast her delicate ears with harsh words and accusations after the things she'd admitted.

The learned response to cause pain to those who hurt him was still deeply ingrained in his mind.

If anyone held enough power to hurt him, it was the beauty currently curled atop his bed. Another heavy sigh left his lips. Ren hated himself at the moment; he hated the words that even dared enter his head, he hated the anger he felt towards Kyoko, but most of all he hated the split second gratitude and jealousy he'd felt for Fuwa Sho. Pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes so hard he caused himself pain was the only way Ren could keep from destroying every piece of furniture within arm's length.

Damn Fuwa Sho and his entire existence to hell!

Ren despised even the thought of that bastard's name. Why? Why did it seem the universe set out to punish him for every transgression in his short life? Granted, he'd done worse things than most, but at every turn in their tenuous relationship, Fuwa continued to make his presence known. From their first, innocent meeting in childhood to the now, not so innocent, present, Fuwa continued to be an annoying detour down every road they traveled. And the very fact that he felt a nanosecond of thanks to the comfort the singer was able to provide Kyoko during that disastrous meeting with the CEO's lingered in his soul like a foul smell.

Ren knew just how hard Kyoko tried to win her mother's attention and affection, but Fuwa had lived through those years of her life. As much as he didn't want to admit it, Fuwa Sho was much more knowledgeable about the situation than he. The true kink in the entire scenario was Ren couldn't tell Kyoko he knew how she felt. Other than tiny remarks mentioned in passing, she'd not revealed her failure of a relationship with her mother to 'Ren'. 'Kuon' knew of her plight, but unless he was ready to share all the secrets he still held from her - which he was not - he could not console her as he wanted. Even during her tearful explanation of the events, Kyoko only said the president passed on words from her mother that only Sho would understand.

Another wave of anger and jealousy ripped through the actor. The bastard had used Kyoko's fragile emotional state as an opportunity to put his hands on her. The very slight gratitude he held towards the singer did absolutely nothing to detract from the maelstrom of anger he felt at Fuwa's seduction. He'd lost the right to taste her. Goddammit, he'd lost that right the moment he tossed her aside! Ren's hands shook as he ignored his empty glass and simply reached for the now half empty bottle of bourbon. The warmth that hit his empty stomach was much welcomed in his current state of mind.

A dark, humorless chuckle escaped the lips of the half-drunk actor.

Fuwa needed to be removed from her life, but Kuon was focused on only one method with which to accomplish that. Ren struggled against the immense satisfaction the very thought that avenue gave him and focused on other, less violent, ways to remove that stain from her side.

Did she even want him removed?

From the recesses of his tarnished soul that question echoed with a frightening accuracy. Ren had heard the words fall from Kyoko's very lips of her hatred for the singer, but how much truth did they hold? Did she honestly want to be free of his clutches? Was she over her long standing feelings for her childhood friend? Was that confession of love she finally gifted him with even true?

That last question halted the actor's thoughts. Regardless of the recent events with Fuwa, Ren felt no deceit in her words. He may not be sure how much importance the singer still held in her heart, but the love she spoke of and showed through her actions left no doubt in the actor's mind that they were true. This fact was only a slight balm to the searing pain still gripping his heart, but one he repeated numerous times as he tried to drown his feelings with high priced liquor. So involved was he with his thoughts, Ren never heard her hesitant entrance into the living room. Only when her fearful voice reached his ears did he cast his eyes her way.

The question of whether she could approach him was clear in her large doe eyes. Kyoko held her clasped hands before her, knuckles rapidly turning white. She might have been trembling, but taking into account the large amount of alcohol he'd already consumed, Ren couldn't be sure. "Ren?" she whispered, anxiety riddling her voice. He didn't trust himself to speak, but motioned her over with a slight shake of his head. She slowly made her way to stand before him, though Ren could garner no energy to raise his head to greet her. Instead, he contented himself with gazing at her toes as he sat slumped forward, the bottle of liquor dangling from his fingers.

"I'm sorry."

He'd heard the words spill from her mouth time and time again only hours before, but the shaky plea whispered against the crown of his head shook the actor to the core. Ren buried his face into her stomach, arms wrapping around her hips as he fought the pressure building up in his chest. Kyoko cradled his head, whispering the same broken words over and over as her tears fell into his dark hair. Kuon inhaled her sweet scent and refused to acknowledge the burning sensation in his eyes. He held her tighter, forcing a grunt from her throat at the strength in his grip - but he dared not loosen his hold. The question fighting its way from his throat could be held back no longer.

"Do you still love him?"

Her strangled sob was muted against the crown of his dark hair. Kuon felt her tears soaking his scalp and sat back on the couch, forcing her to straddle his legs as he crushed her slender body against his own, refusing to allow any space to come between them.

"I'm sorry, Ren. I'm sorry I made you even ask that question," she managed to whisper through her tears. "I don't love Sho. I swear to you I don't love him." A tiny part of the weight rooted in his chest lifted. "I don't know what happened yesterday." Kyoko released her hold and sat back to face him, but Ren's arms held fast to her body. Kyoko managed to angle herself to look into his chocolate eyes as she spoke; though the pain she could clearly see lurking in their depths pierced her guilty heart once more. "The weakness I thought I'd buried surfaced in that meeting. My mother...," she sighed heavily, wiping the tears that continued to stream down her cheeks. "I thought I was over her cruelty. I thought I'd reached a point in my life that she couldn't hurt me anymore, but that's obviously not true. Sho was there and, as useless as he was in the past, he at least knows everything that went on between my mother and I. Why he chose now out of all these years to finally act like a human being is beyond me." Ren said nothing, simply continued to watch her as she bared her soul. His silence had Kyoko's heart sinking even further and she rushed to explain herself. "I don't know what came over me, Ren! I was hurt. I was confused. Sho was there and acting all concerned and...and I just wanted it to stop hurting. I'm sor...I'm sorry." She dissolved into tears once more, wrapping her arms around his head and mumbling unintelligible words against his skin.

"But you don't love him? You don't want to be with him?" Kuon asked.

"No! I love you! I swear to y-you," she hiccupped. "I love you, Ren."

If it was possible, he held her closer while the first inkling of a smile twitched his lips. Kuon received no joy in seeing her tears, but the sorrow she felt over her actions alleviated much of the tension gripping his soul. He could understand the feelings that seized her heart upon hearing her mother's words. Too many times had his own body simply acted on instinct when his emotions flared at a comment or action by another. He could understand it, but he hated it. Hated knowing her pain had been shared by another man; her body had been touched by hands that weren't his. As she continued to cry, Kuon's hands finally released their firm grip and began wandering her slim figure. These were not gentle caresses, but deft strokes that meant to burn away any traces of Fuwa's touch. Kyoko's tears soon slowed to a halt, yet she kept her tight grip on Ren's shoulders as his hands slid under her clothes, his fingers diligently working their way across her body. The actor nipped the tender flesh of her throat, his tongue soon soothing the area. Kyoko could not hold back her moan as his hands closed around her breasts, even as she fought the fear of the unknown rising in her belly. Kuon's ravenous kiss robbed her mind of thought and body of breath. Kyoko's muscles were left limp when he released her lips and she found herself grateful for the strong arms which held her. He placed a kiss to her temple; she shivered as his warm breath caressed her ear.

"Never underestimate the depth of my love, Kyoko."

She merely nodded against his shoulder and enjoyed the soothing hands running down her back. The actress felt his anger had subsided, but her guilt still lingered. Her actions had not only angered Ren, but caused him pain - and for that, she didn't know how to forgive herself. She loved this man holding her, more so than she'd ever felt for Sho and to betray him in such a way...

Kyoko hugged him tightly, trying to convey her feelings through her body. Ren responded in kind and she felt the pain in her heart lessen. The barrage of heavy emotions she'd been dealt over two days had exhausted the young actress. Though she'd only woken a short while ago, with Ren continuing to massage her weary body she succumbed to the darkness once more.

Kyoko paused in the open doorway; hand still on the knob and mouth parted in shock, when she saw who awaited her in the otherwise empty common room. The message she received of a short meeting needing to take place before the press conference seemed innocent enough - she should have guessed he'd have something to do with it. While his cocky, self-assured smile wasn't in its usual place, she had no desire to fight before such an important event and therefore, turned to leave.

"Wait," he called out from behind, yet she didn't halt her departure...not until the whispered sigh of "please" crossed his lips. That single word was one she'd heard only a few times over the many, many years they'd known each other. Still, it was with great reluctance that she turned back, slowly closing the door against her better judgment.

"What is it, Sho?"

"I just wanna talk before the press conference starts."

Her first instinct was to turn around and leave as quickly as she could. To be alone in a room with him so soon after all that happened would surely taint all she had done to assure Ren of where her feelngs lay. Yet, there was something that gave her pause. The confidence that always filled his eyes was gone, leaving behind a curious shadow marring their tawny depths. He was also subdued, something Kyoko would have never expected from Fuwa Shotaro. The decision was difficult to make, but she finally relented - swearing an oath, to herself, to report this meeting to Ren as soon as the press conference was complete. She kept her gaze steady as she made her way to the couch opposite the singer. Sho's face was relaxed, showing no signs of the hidden hostility to be expected after their last conversation only days ago. He made no move as she settled herself upon the edge of the seat, body poised to bolt at the first signs of trouble. Kyoko made herself as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and attempted a nonchalant wave of her hand. "Go ahead then, talk."

Years of repetition had a snarky comment almost flying from his mouth, but Sho managed to halt the words and stifle his grumble of frustration. Days of little to no sleep were catching up with the young man and the tight control he had over his emotions was worn thin. He wished he could attribute the lack of sleep to excitement or nervousness over the press conference he was about to hold, but even his own strong pride rejected that lie. The only topic running round his mind for days now was Kyoko. Whether it be her tears, her tiny frame clinging to his own, her stubborn face as she dropped that bomb of her relationship - to who he knew was that pretty boy actor or the taste of her lips which would hang in his mind forever, Sho had been unable to get her out of his head. Over and over he'd brainstormed different ways to change her mind, ways to trap her into coming back to his side, guilt her into leaving the too tall bastard, even blackmail her into leaving show business altogether. Days and countless plans later, he'd come no closer to recovering what he'd always assumed to be his. A harsh truth descended on him, leaving an emptiness he'd never felt before. With few acceptable options before him, Sho had waited until that very morning to contact Shoko-san. Whatever else may come, Sho put the only plan he had into motion.

"I'm leaving after the press conference."

A look of incredulity fell upon her face. "That's it? That's what you called me back here for?" She missed the almost imperceptible wince that crinkled his eyes. Kyoko crossed her arms, tapping her foot now in annoyance. "I didn't think you'd be hanging around anyway. Surely you've got another interview or something lined up after this."

The blank look of shock on his face was soon broken by a loud burst of much needed laughter. It amazed him that such an intelligent woman could be so damn dense at times. Her face twisted in offense, but that did nothing to stop his amusement. Tears were leaking from the corners of his eyes as he shook off the last vestiges of humor which put a rare, true smile on his handsome face. Considering the turmoil he'd went through the past few days, a smile was a pleasant surprise to the young man - even under these circumstances.

"No idiot," he said, a hint of endearment coloring the word. "That's not what I meant."

She sighed again in frustration, but didn't follow her first instinct to walk out on his cryptic words. "Fine, I'll just ask. Where are you headed to after the conference, Sho?" she asked, her voice doing nothing to hide her impatience.

"England's the first stop. I'm not really sure after that."

Silence descended on the room as the actress struggled to comprehend what he was telling her. "Wh...what?" she whispered in disbelief.

Sho settled back in the plush cushions, the nervousness and anxiety which tormented him before she'd walked into the room now, surprisingly, nowhere to be found. "I left the travel plans to Shoko-san and Takahashi-san. They've been following the polls for my music globally, so they know the biggest cities we should hit as soon as this release drops."

He savored the look on her face for just a moment more - the silent shock leaving her open mouthed and speechless. Sho felt no shame in acknowledging that part of himself that enjoyed being able to bring her to that place. However, a twinge of regret shot through him as he realized this may be the last time he would do so.

"You're leaving the country?"

"Did I not make that clear enough?"

Her voice rose, arms now gesticulating wildly as she found her wits once more. "Of course you did you ass, I just didn't expected that to come out of your mouth! What do you mean you're leaving the country? When did you decide this?"

"Takahashi-san brought it up a few weeks ago, but I wasn't interested at the time and turned him down." A shadowed look crossed his features. "I called Shoko-san this morning and told her to plan the tour since...there's nothing to hold me back now."

Those words, along with the soft, painful lilt in his voice hit her with a force that dropped her arms into her lap, devoid of the animation she'd shown only moments before. This was what she'd always wanted...right? Though Sho had said as much days before, the chaos the incident created between she and Ren left no room in her mind to reflect on what he'd intended; their meaning hit her deeply now. This was what she'd longed for, what she had screamed at him two years ago in the presence of his manager before being dragged away by the building security. Kyoko had reached her goals and yet...

There was no sense of satisfaction to be had. The joy she always anticipated with rejecting Sho was nowhere to be found. In its place a flicker of guilt and sadness flared to life, pulling the words from her mouth before she could stop them. "I'm sorry I..."

"Don't," he interrupted. "Just...don't."

He wouldn't meet her eyes, but the pain that flashed across his face was apparent. Why dammit? Why did she have to feel this guilt over his leaving? Why couldn't she laugh in his face like she'd dreamed of doing so many times? Blunt nails dug painfully into her palm as she clenched her hands atop her thighs.

"I never wanted it to be this way." His low voice rang out in the quiet room, startling her from her thoughts. "I know you won't believe that, but it's true." Sho let loose a humorless chuckle. "Even when I would argue and get mad at you for not leaving me alone, I would always make up some excuse to find you later. Regardless of what happened or how I acted when we first came to Tokyo, I wanted you to come because I didn't...I didn't want to be without you."

Kyoko fought the tears desperate to come out. Her chest heaved as she fought the tightness robbing her of breath. Harder and harder she clenched her fists, willing herself not to breakdown before him once more. All they'd been through, the years of pain, laughter, love, and misunderstanding...it was ending. She could see the unspoken words lingering in the air between them. She thought Sho had thrown her away two years ago, but he'd simply changed the nature of their association. He'd set fire to her soul, breaking her from the pitiful shell she once was and letting loose a force that had only grown stronger over time. They'd battled one another from that moment on. Even when away from each other, the passionate hatred and monopolizing desire had kept them connected. Kyoko was watching those ties unravel, slowly freeing the pair from their tangled knots.

The sadness left in its wake was nearly unbearable.

Sho ran a hand over his handsome face. "Too little too late," he mumbled. Kyoko opened her mouth to speak, but Sho stopped her with a shake of his head. "Don't bother. You don't need to say anything." He cocked an eyebrow at her, pulling forth that cocky smirk she was well accustomed with. "Hell, I think you said enough the other day didn't you?"

"Ha, ha," she retorted, amazing even herself with such a steady voice. "So, England huh?"

"Yeah; with finishing up the conference and packing and whatnot, we should land there sometime early tomorrow morning."

"And you don't know where you're going after that?" she asked, a curious eyebrow lifting.

"Nope," he said without a care. "I'll get a list later. I did kinda spring this on her after all." Kyoko chuckled and sent Sho a smile he hadn't seen in a very long time; a soft, almost loving turn of her lips. He openly stared at her face, committing the sight to memory.

"I told you long ago that you would be great and I was obviously right. You probably don't need it, but I'm going to say it anyway. Good luck, Shotaro." She graced him with that same smile once more before rising from the couch and leaving the room.

As he watched her walk away, Sho thought of the paper tucked away in the bottom of a box in his closet. A paper that had once been crumpled and thrown in the trash, only to be removed, carefully folded, and placed out of sight.

A song covered those narrow lines - one which was written with shaky palms and watery eyes. That page wouldn't see the light of day for many years. It would stay locked away in that box as it traveled across the world - a few times over. It would grow thin and frail as time moved on for the owner of those heartfelt words. One day a young man would find that box and, with great curiosity, search through its precious contents. The beautiful yet solemn words would move the man to tears, but bring a smile to his face as he remembered his beloved father. The world would never hear the melody written so many years ago, but the family would pass the moving tune down through the generations.

The impact of his words would never be known to Sho, but he would not mind. Those words had been written for one woman.

And he could do nothing but watch her walk away.


Quote from The Canterbury Tales - The Franklin's Tale by Geoffery Chaucer

Well hi there. For those of you still speaking to me :)

Of course there's been so much going on but first and foremost let me say to those of you who live in areas that are subject to things like wildfires, tsunamis, or the horrible hurricanes I admire you for simply continuing to live in - what can be such beautiful - areas. A horrible storm ripped through my area months back that felled 3 trees right onto my house. The nightmare of dealing with insurance comoanies, mortgage companies and the contractors has been one I never want to go through again . Just knowing some of you have been through this more than once astounds me. I know you love your hometowns but wow...it's been an ordeal.

Anyway, I know it's been a while since you've read the last chapter but I hope you enjoy the latest one and drop me a line or two.

(Anybody feel bad just a little bad for Sho?)