Of Meandering Apologies and Grand Gestures

So, artloife wrote a oneshot for Day 5 of KyokoxRen Week 2019 entitled Of Unwarranted Advice and Bad Behavior and a number of her readers clamored for a follow-up to the story (myself included, though I did not voice it). When she asked me if I would be willing to write a spiritual successor, I honestly didn't think I could do the original justice, but I accepted (she even used the puppy eyes on me and I'm helpless against puppy eyes) and tried my best. Artsy seemed to be pleased with what I did. Hopefully you all will like it too.

Hell, my tryhard self even tried to keep it in the format of a songfic. Enjoy!

~.~.~.~

We were finally changing.
It's our luck, we're a little too late.

The agreement between them was to wait until the event was over to continue their discussion and avoid making a scene. As it was, they'd already made enough of a spectacle of themselves prior to her retreat to the restroom. So they sat beside each other in peaceable silence, ignoring Kanae's frequent suspicious glances in their direction. Kyoko had tried dispel this by shaking her head reassuringly each time, but she seemed intent on checking on the two of them throughout the entire night.

The sound of applause and the scrape of chairs against the floor indicated that things were drawing to a close. Ren slowly leaned forward, carefully unsticking himself from the chair that seemed to want to fuse with his back in the relentless heat. His eyes met those of the woman sitting beside him, who was also shifting in her seat though he couldn't discern if it was from the temperature or their impending chat.

"Did you have some place in mind?" she asked finally.

He wondered if she would invite him back to Darumaya. If he recalled correctly it would be closing soon. However, it would not suit their purposes.

Not tonight.

"I think it would be best if we kept to neutral territory."

The look of relief followed by an accompanying sigh told him he'd made the correct choice. He watched her rise from her seat and confer with her friend, apologizing for cancelling their plans to ride home together. Kanae looked over Kyoko's shoulder at where he now stood behind her; her eyes narrowed once before she turned back to her friend and nodded, pointing a finger in her face and demanding that she call once she is safely at home or to call earlier if she needed help.

The venue was emptying steadily at that point and they made their way out in the midst of the crowd. The urge to hold her hand and guide her through the maze of people was almost too hard to resist, but he managed somehow. He trusted that she would follow behind him at her own pace. Attempting to lead her anywhere had never gotten him very far, after all.

I'd take you with me if there was a way. Sorry, don't cut it so I say,
Take all of your doubts, you can throw 'em out.
You may be unsure, but I know

"I'm not entirely sure where to start with this," he began, once they were clear of the crowd and traversing a mostly unpopulated street.

"You're doing this now? Here?" Kyoko asked in an incredulous tone, throwing an arm out and gesturing to their current location.

"Why not?"

She looked around them at the other people on the street who seemed to take no notice of their conversation.

"Shouldn't we be somewhere more private?"

He stopped walking and turned to her. She refused to meet his eyes at first, but he patiently waited until she slowly turned her gaze to him before continuing.

"If I can embarrass and berate you in the presence of others, shouldn't I also be able to apologize in the middle of a city?"

The neon signs and bright white street lights washed out the majority of the color that rose to her cheeks, but he noticed it nonetheless. She immediately looked away from him.

"I wanted you to understand that I'm taking this seriously. This seemed like the best way to do that."

"Is this your idea of some sort of grand gesture to impress me into accepting your apology?" she challenged. "You're not worried about the two of us making front page news in the tabloids tomorrow?"

She looked back at him just long enough to voice her concern and he just shook his head.

"No," his tone was flat and factual. "And, no, not for this."

When he turned to start walking again she was right beside him, matching him stride for stride.

"I grew up in and around show business and acting for most of my life," he started before he paused to reroute his explanation. "I'm going to preface this by saying that this is not an excuse for my behavior, but maybe some background would be helpful in this instance."

"Nothing in this industry is about being real. Everything is a mask or a ruse or a cleverly scripted situation with cleverly scripted dialogue. And I know you already know all of this, but I've been a part of this world for so long that I don't know how to be real anymore," a sad laugh escaped his lips. "I'm not even sure I was ever real to begin with."

"That's not true," he heard Kyoko murmur beside him.

"It's not?"

"I've seen the real you, I think," her voice was small and she looked at the ground as they walked along. "He shows up when you least expect him to, but I can tell it's really you. I can tell by how comfortable you are when you're him. He… scares me sometimes."

A bewildered sigh left him and his fingers fiddled with the topmost button on his jacket.

"He scares me too," he admitted. "That's why I try not to be him, not entirely anyway. That's not who I want to be."

"So who do you want to be?"

They were about to walk past a small park that was mostly comprised of a few benches, a tiny playground and a few trees that were dwarfed by the size of the buildings surrounding them. Ren turned into the park and promptly took a seat on one of the benches, letting out an audible exhale as he did so. Following his lead, Kyoko smoothed down the back of her dress with both hands before sitting beside him.

"Not this, that's for sure," he flicked a hand in his general direction.

"You don't want to be Tsuruga Ren? Why?"

"I became Tsuruga Ren because I had to. The person I was, the same one you see from time to time, wasn't a viable option anymore. But when I'm around you, I want to be someone better. Someone that doesn't have to hide behind fake smiles, harsh words and flimsy excuses."

He braced his elbows against his knees and leaned forward on the bench. His chin rested against one fisted hand and he stared straight forward, seeing past the trees, the city, the people.

"I don't like who I am around you. The things that come out of my mouth are terrible and my actions are even worse."

Kyoko's hands twisted around each other repeatedly, "Then maybe you shouldn't be around me."

His responding laugh was dry and mirthless. The hand that previously supported his chin flopped downward and his head followed suit, his neck just barely stopping it from crashing into his chest.

"Oh, Mogami-san, please allow me to explain just how impossible that would be."

I'm always coming back, you can bet on that.
You're the only place I call home.
Near or far, where you are is where I want to be.

"What do you mean impossible?"

"I had no idea just how I felt about you until I had a… rather strange conversation with a man in a chicken costume," he noticed her stiffen beside him but she said nothing, so he went on. "I never mentioned you by name, of course, but he helped me understand how I felt when I couldn't put a proper name to it. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced before and I swore I'd never let it get the best of me. I couldn't allow it to."

He looked over at her to find her looking straight back at him, her eyes wide and glowing with the reflections of the city lights around them. The gauzy material of her dress created the illusion of a dream-like mist around her body and he wished for all the world that he could preserve that moment and stare at it forever.

"But it did and I became a slave to my own jealousy. The memories of the things I've said and done to you make me sick to my stomach but I can't stay away from you," he looked away, running a hand idly up and down the sleeve of his jacket. "I don't think I could even if I tried."

"Tsuruga-san…" Kyoko began, but failed to follow it up with anything.

She looked like she was about to apologize before she stopped herself. He recognized that he'd almost caused her to think it was somehow her fault and it ate at him, threatening to devour him whole and mash him into the useless puddle of shame and regret that already he felt he was.

No, he could do better.

"As you so aptly put it earlier, this is on me. None of this is your responsibility. You shouldn't feel the need to apologize because I've been steadily losing the fight of controlling myself around you."

"No, it's not just that but —" Kyoko interrupted herself, her voice dropped to a whisper and her eyes lowered, "I know."

Every lonely night, every drunken fight, couldn't make it right, I know.
If it hurts you bad, put it on my tab. I can pay it back tenfold.

She wrapped her arms around herself, giving him a moment to notice the tiny bumps dotted along her skin. The air had cooled considerably since they left the venue and he failed to notice. A quiet curse was muttered before he could stop it and he swiftly unbuttoned his jacket, shimmying it past his shoulders and off his arms before placing it around the woman sitting beside him.

"I should probably get you home soon," he said, wrapping the jacket around her as tightly as it would go. "There's a lot more to explain, but it's probably not a good idea to go into all of that here."

Kyoko snorted and raised her eyebrow at him.

"Oh, you're worried about the paparazzi finding us now? Where was that kind of concern ten minutes ago?"

"The rest of what I need to share with you is for your eyes and ears alone. But it doesn't have to happen today. Not until you are comfortable with accepting everything else I would tell you. I've already selfishly imposed my feelings on you as it is," he punctuated his sentence with a slight shrug. "Regardless, I've little distress over anyone finding out about this."

He stood up from the bench before turning back towards her and held out his hand.

"The majority of what gets publicized in the media about celebrities is fake, you and I are both very aware of that," he gave her a pointed look to which she responded with an embarrassed nod. "But you and I also know the truth behind it and isn't that what's most important?"

"So you don't care about what they'll say about you?"

She got up from the bench and timidly placed her hand in his. It was warm from where she'd tucked it in the pocket of his jacket, which now swamped her tiny frame. The sight of her wearing it warmed him well past the capacity of what her hand could manage. He gently tugged at the tie still knotted tightly at his throat.

"If I did, I would never be cut out for working in this industry. I think I'm more concerned about whatever story they concoct about you," he frowned. "Though, this would probably seem innocuous enough to an onlooker that they might not have enough material."

"Is that the only reason you haven't tried to kiss me yet?"

Her lips were tilted in a teasing smile but there was something else he noticed in her eyes. She seemed almost… disappointed? That one look from her stoked a fire that rivaled the sun in intensity and he wrestled to keep it at bay. Instead, he let out a laugh. A real one that pulsed through his entire body.

"I think they've captured enough photos of us kissing other people. I'd rather we save that for when we're both sure that it's what we want. Besides," he added with a grin, "you wouldn't be the only one accusing me of being a playboy then."

"So you're not sure you want me?"

Of course that would be the question she chose to ask. His laughter began anew and he squeezed his hand tighter around hers. He nearly jumped when she squeezed his in return.

"I couldn't be more certain of that but, unlike my recent abhorrent behavior, this isn't just about me," he reminded her. "You have a say in this too and it is just as valid, if not more so, than mine."

Kyoko closed the distance between them, her hand still wrapped in his. Reaching out with her other hand, she gently pat him on the arm, the smile on her face from before still stretching her lips.

"Well, I'll be sure to keep you posted."

His own smile widened and his cheeks began to ache.

"See, this is why I don't care about the tabloids. They can take a million pictures of this because this," he gestured between them "this is real."

Kyoko nodded in agreement before she began to make her way out of the park, pulling him along with her. He marveled at how his long legs nearly tangled trying to keep up with her pace. It was an appropriate metaphor for their relationship thus far.

She called back to him over her shoulder

"Well, Tsuruga-san —or whoever it is you want to be —welcome to the first day of the rest of your real life."

You're the only place I've ever called my home.


I HAVEN'T WRITTEN A SONGFIC IN A HOT MINUTE. And this only happened because I was actually listening to this song (it's Only Place I Call Home by Every Avenue - yes, I love listening to angsty songs whenever I get a chance; don't judge) when Artsy asked me about writing a continuation. Thus, this oneshot-that's-kinda-sorta-not-really-part-two-of-a-twoshot was born.

Well, I hope you fans of Artsy's stuff are satisfied. I really did try my best to make this a proper spiritual successor to her piece but, I'll let you all be the judge of that.

Besides, who wouldn't be happy about an EXTRA fic during Kyoko X Ren Week?! I know I'd be ecstatic.

AUTHOR OUT!