Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect

[and I don't live to be] but before you start pointing fingers...

make sure your hands are clean!

~Bob Marley


Kaname rang the bell of his parents' house, then strode straight in. How he should have been back in his office, combing through he departments for more ways to cut costs to avoid cutting people, but events wrenched his unwilling attention for another direction.

Before he took another false step, he needed to do some research. There had to be some explanation as to why he, of all the eligible bachelors on the planet had been chosen as a groom to the nephew of Yagari Toga.

When Toga had thrown in that extra clause at the time the contract was all but finalized, the completed designs on the table, at first it had seemed nothing more than a bizaare joke. The cunning old fox had chosen his moment well. With celestrial suddenly adrift in the recession, the market dwindling, the sly operator must have known if he pulled out then, celestrial would make a significant loss in terms of the precious resources already used to develop the bid.

In the gut-wrenching moment when Kaname had understood the eccentric old magnate's demand was deadly serious, he was faced with a grim choice. Accept the man and save his company, guarantee the livelihoods of his workforce, or walok away and face the possible ruin of all he'd built.

But why him? Why not some rich lothario back in America?

Juri, his mother, and Yuuki, his married sister, were ensconced in the kitchen, arguing with the cook over the best method of preparing some delicacy. Juri interrupted her tirade with hugs, and a multitude of solicitious enquiries concerning his diet and sleep patterns. Yuuki listened to all of it with an amused expression and an occasional solemn nod.

Kaname shot his sister a glance. She might have been amused, but he was willing to bet she was soaking up the technique so she'd know how to suffocate her own sons when the time came for them to escape from her control.

'Look at how thin you are,' his mother wailed. 'What you need is a really good dinner. Maria, set him a place. I have a moussaka in the fridge I was saving for tommorow's lunch, but this is the bigger emergency. Yuuki, put it in a box and he can take it home with him. Show that woman how to feed a man.'

He held up his hand. 'No, thanks, Maria.' A really good dinner was his mother's inevitable cure for any disorder from flu to insomnia. 'I'm not staying.' He waved away the proddered dish. 'put it back. I do have a full-time housekeeper, you know. And Seiren is very touchy about her cooking.'

His mother snorted her comtempt. 'cooking? What cooking? The trouble with you, my son, you are too wrapped up in yout satellites to see what's in front of your nose.'

His nephews caught sight of him then and came running with a thousand urgent things they needed to tell him at once.

Kaname listened as patiently as time would allow to all the recent details of their exuberant young lives, while Yuuki looked on, beaming with maternal pride.

Eventually, he detached himself with a laugh. 'That's enough,' he said, ruffling the two four-year-old heads. He waited for a brief respite in the voluble trio of voices, then jumped in with a query of his own. 'Is granny here?'

His mother tilted her head in the direction of the hall. 'In the orangery.'

Kaname approached quietly, in case his grandmother was having a late afternoon nap. He needn't have been concerned.

Dressed in her gardening smock, her hair coiled loosely into a bun, the small, frail woman was up and active, struggling to lift a pot onto a bench.

'None of that,' Kaname said, striding forward and removing it from her worn hands. 'You know what the doctors said, grandma.'

'Oh, pouf. Doctors,' his grandmother exclaimed why Kaname positioned the pot in the miniature rainforest that was her pride and joy, adorning every available space.

'What do they know?'

She peeled off her gloves and reached up, tilting her soft, lined cheek for his kiss.

Kaname obliged, declining to argue, knowing that she worshipped the members of the medical profession as though their words were piped direct from heaven.

'Well, grandson. Now, what are you about ?' She settled herself into a high-backed wicker chair draped with shawls while Kaname sat facing her.

Filtered by leaves both inside and out, the afternoon sun slanted through the glass walls , barthing the room in greenish lights.

Kaname made himself relax, aware that he was being examined by an almost supernaturally astute observer of human frailty. 'Do you remember the Kiryu Family?'

Her elderly brows lifted. 'From LA?' He nodded, and she said,'of course. From when I was a child. There was always a Kiryu in our house. My father and their father were friends.'

'Do you remember Yagari Toga?'

'Ah.' She gave a nod. 'Of course I remember him. He was the one who inherited the shipyard, and the boats. He used his mother's last name instead of Kiryu to pay tribute to his mother's love, not that he hate his father. He married Kaien Cross. He was such a generous man. It was him who helped your father when the stores nearly collapsed back in the eighties.'

Kaname tensed. 'How, what do you mean he helped papa? Are you sure?'

'Of course I'm sure. When the banks wouldn't help, Yagari made your father a loan. To be repaid without interest for a very long time. No strings attached.' She shook her head in wonderment. 'Such a rare thing, generosity.'

Dismay speared through Kaname. Such generosity was rare indeed. But there'd been strings attached, all right. Strings of honour. With grim comprehension he recognized the situation. The Kurans were now under an obligation to the Kiryus. For some reason Yagari Toga Kiryu required a favor, and he'd chosen to collect from the son of his debtor.

A son for a father. A favour for a favour.

He could almost hear the clang as the trap snapped shut around him. Chained to a stranger in wedlock.

In an attempt to break free from the vice sinking its teeth into his gut, he got up and paced the room. Another marriage was the last thing he'd ever intended.

how could he honour Ruka's memory with some spoiled tycoon's puppet?

'There were other brothers too. Three. Atleast three.' grany's gentle voice filtered through his reflections. 'I remember the youngest, but the middle boys...' The old lady sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. After a moment she said, 'I remember young Rido. He didn't care for family business. I think he was an artist. He came out here, and married a japanese girl. Oh, that was a tragedy. Poor Rido and his wife.'

In spite of his resistance in knowing anything about the Kiryu man's history, Kaname's attention was arrested, and he turned to watch his grandmother's face. 'What happened?'

'A boat accident. Night-time on harbour. You may not remember. Haruka, Juri, your grandfather and me, we all went to the funeral. They said it was a collision. Silly young people out skylarking. Rido and Shizuka didn't stand a chance.'

He frowned, unwilling to feel sympathy. Unwilling to feel.
'They left children?'

His grandmother's face lit up. 'That's right, there was a child. A boy, I think. I'm nearly sure the poor thing was taken back to America with one of the brothers.

Kaname grimaced and resumed his chair. After a smouldering moment he made a curt acknowledgement, 'Yagari.'


A pregnant silence fell.

Kaname wondered if by admitting he knew that one fact, he'd given away something crucial. Sooner or later, if he went through with this charade, they would all have to know. What would they think of their brilliant son then, snagged like a greenhorn in a duty marriage? Forced up the aisle with a man he hated?

A flash of the Kiryu man's drawn, anxious face at the last stirred a sudden unaccountable turmoil in his chest and he had to rescind the thought. No, he didn't hate him, exactly. He just felt-angry. What man wouldn't ? To have his partner, his life, decided by someone else.

In the first flush of his outrage Kaname had blamed- he allowed himself to use his name- Zero. He'd imagined him as a spoiled little despot, winding his doting uncle around his little finger. How had he come to choose him? Had he been listed in some cheap catalogue of eligible males?

Now, after hearing his grandmother's words he began to see it was almost certainly instigated by Yagari himself.

His grandmother studied his face, her shrewd pale violet eyes revealing nothing of her thoughts. After a long moment, she said, 'You have met him? Rido's son?'

Kaname hesitated, then shrugged and said without expression, 'I have had that pleasure.'

The wise old eyes scanned his a moment longer, then closed, as if in meditation. 'I don't think Yagari and Kaien were blessed.'

Kaname knew what she meant. Other people might be blessed with brains, beauty, talent, wealth or health, but to her, children were the most worthwhile of life's gifts, so blessings referred only to them.

'They'd have wanted to take on the little one,' she continued. 'I guess they'd have been overjoyed. Kaien had nothing else to fill his heart. That Yagari liked the business. He was the right one to take over the shipping because he had an eye for money. Clever, but not always very smart. Rido, now... A thoughtful boy, I think. Sensitive.' She shook her head and clasped her lined hands in her lap. 'Oh, what a terrible shame. The young shouldn't have to die.'

Was she thinking of Ruka now? 'No,' he said shortly. 'They shouldn't.'

Again, her wrinkled lids drifted shut. She remained silent for so long Kaname thought she must have nodded off to sleep. He was about to get up and cover her with one of her shawls when her eyes opened, as clear and focused as ever.

'Is he good looking?'

Kaname's gut tightened. Resistance hardened in him to the notion of Zero Kiryu's beauty. He opened his mouth to growl something, biut nothing would come. Anyway, the less said the better. Regardless of how he felt, whatever he said now could come back and haunt him.

'Do guys have to be good looking, grandma?' he hedged. 'Wasn't there an entire generation of people who rebelled against that notion?'

The old lady made an amused grimace. 'People usually are, though, aren't they, dear? To the person who love them. A person needs something lovely to rest his eyes on.'

Again, he guessed she was thinking of Ruka. And it was true he'd loved her as much as it was possible for a man to love a woman. People in his family rarely made referrence to her now, not wanting to remind him of the bad times, all those losing battles with hope after each bout of surgery, the radiation treatment, the nightmare of chemo.

Even after three years they were still exquisitely careful of his feelings, even his grandmother, tiptoeing around him on the subject, as if marriage were a sacred area too painful for human footsteps.

Sometimes he wished they could forget all about that and remember his wife as the person she had been. He still liked to think about thosr easy-going, happy days, before he and Ruka were married, before he'd started Celestrial.

A stab of old remorse speared through him. If only he'd spared her more of his time. In those early days of the company...

With an effort he thrust aside the useless self-recrimination, thoughts that still had the power to gut him. Too late for regrets, now he'd lost her.

No one would ever replace her in his heart, but often he was conscious of the hollowness that his work, exciting and challenging as it was, didn't fill. He hardly spent any time at home now, even sleeping on the settee in his office at times. He could imagine his parents amazement if he ended up marrying this American guy, after they'd long since hope and become inured to the prospect of his ongoing singularity.

The reality was, he might as well admit it, one way or another a man still need a woman. Somehow, against his will, against all that he held decent, meeting Kiryu Zero in the flesh had roused that sleeping dragon in him.

Though he wasn't his choice, he was no less lovely than any person he knew. If he'd met him at some othet point in time, he might even have felt attracted, but...

Resistance clenched inside him like a fist. He wasnt the man to be coerced.

He became aware of granny's thoughtful scrutiny. What was it she'd asked? Good-looking. Was he?
'He probably is,' he conceded dryly. 'To anyone who cares for his type.'

'What type is that?' granny inquired.

Defensive, scared, fragile. Beautiful. Sexy.

hi everyone!

i deeply apologize for the slow update.

As much as i would love to update, i was just so busy during the holidays.

but hey! here's a chapter to make up for the three mos that i wasnt able to update.

pardon my capitalization, spelling & other errors. i used my phone to update this chapter.

im really really sorry for the long wait..
this is a Kaname centered chapter and I hope you guys give me some love and shower me with reviews. pretty please...

happy valentines day everyone!