Skip-Beat: The Morning After

Old, Yet New Beginnings

Kyoko breathed a giant sigh of relief. She never imagined her speculations to be even moderately right, much less entirely correct. Even though his back was to her, she could clearly tell it was Ren. Broad shoulders, wavy brown hair, and a lethargic bow to his head. He sat by the shore of that nostalgic river that held way too many memories for them both.

Kyoko smiled silently. Funny how wherever they went, this very river would always be their utopia, their one and only sanctuary.

For a while, she just stood there. Behind Ren, between the bushes, and simply watched. She wondered why he had done it, ran away. Kyoko wasn't that badly injured, and even if she were, would he have stayed by her side? Take care of her? Or did he simply not feel the same way she long ago began to.

The subtle Kyoto breeze caressed the evergreen trees, swaying them in rhythm with the river's tiny waves.

It was kind of nerve wrecking. She didn't know whether to go or stay. But in the end, she knew what she had to do. Everyone was counting on her back in Tokyo, and, honestly she couldn't wait to see him, to talk to him.

It's now or never.

Kyoko tip-toed next to Ren and sat down wordlessly. He didn't even flinch, or glance up, almost as if expecting her.

"How did you find me?" he said monotonously, not even daring to look at her.

She looked at him. "This is where I used to come when I didn't have anywhere else to."

Hesitantly, she added: " And so did you right?"

Kyoko saw him inch away from her, which made her heart ache a little.

"So you finally found out." He said stoking the ground. "Do you know the whole story?"

Kyoko felt her heart skip a beat. She was right after all. All the suppressing and running away, it had all been in vain.

"No." she shook her head.


They sat in silence for the next few minutes, even though questions spread through Kyoko like a wildfire. She just wanted to shake him, to grab his shoulders and shake him as hard as she possibly could, to yell and plead to know why he hid Kuon from her. Why he refused to reveal he was that sweet little boy she met years ago.

"Why did you run away?" she asked, deciding to keep her anger bottled in a little longer.

"Because I hurt you."

" No you didn't." she pointed at her bandaged arm. "This was my own fault."

"You only did it to protect me. If I wouldn't have been there, you wouldn't have gotten hurt." He seemed to be reciting this to himself, as if assuring that it indeed was his fault.

She shook her head. "I would have taken more for you."

Kyoko was taken aback by her words. Without even realizing it, what she spoke held truth. She didn't really care about her arm, much less her concussion.

"I promised never to hurt you. Physically or emotionally."

"You couldn't have helped what happened."

More than being mad, Ren was extremely sad. He had never felt as depressed as he did, and much less showed it to anyone. He was a strongly willed person, and would never run away from anything. But that accident… too many memories. Too many to even attempt repressing.

True, her injuries weren't fatal, but still. He hurt her, the very same way he had hurt that person long ago. Him being furious, storming out unto the road, they both tried to stop him, and ended up injured. History does indeed repeat itself.

Ren cringed. At least she is alive. Loosing another person, especially one as dear as Kyoko….

He didn't think he would have been able to cope.

"It does no matter. I wouldn't have changed what I did even if you had asked me to." She continued, grasping a single pebble from the ground.

Ren stood up, suddenly exasperated. Kyoko looked up at him in confusion as he grabbed her arm.

They both stood now, face to face. He noted the dark circles under her frail honey eyes, ones that shouldn't be there. He noticed her uncombed hair, a sign that time wasn't on her side. He noticed the large gauze peeking out from her bangs. He frowned at it.

"Regardless, I can't forgive myself. Kyoko, I am not a good person." He continued, honorifics or etiquette forgotten.

" Do you wonder why or how I became 'Tsugura Ren?'"

She nodded, avoiding his gaze.

" I killed someone. The Kuon you used to admire so much killed a man."

Kyoko could literally not find the word to describe her feelings at that very moment. It was shock, but intensified times 100. It was fear, intensified even more. But most of all, it was confusion.

"My Kuon would never do that." She defended simply. "You're lying."

He scoffed at her. "That's because you only knew him for, what, a week?"

She blinked at him in surprise.

He wasn't wrong. She hadn't known much about him, but he was a fairy prince. Princes don't kill. They wouldn't.

"True. I didn't know him for that long, but one thing I am sure of." She stood tall.

"That boy, to whom I cried my pains until I couldn't any more, that boy, whom used to be so caring and sweet to me…that boy would never kill a person. The only way he possibly could, would be by mistake."

"So what if it was a mistake!?" He shouted. "That doesn't erase the fact that they are dead!"

"How can you control something you didn't even mean to happen!?" she yelled back. "You can't, You just can't"

She felt a single tear drop from the corner of her eye.

"Do you think I didn't blame myself for not pleasing Sho? Never has a day gone by since then when I don't ask myself, 'If I would have just been better. Prettier. More appealing. Then, he wouldn't have left. It is all my fault. Could I have stopped him?'

But I now learned that I couldn't have. No matter what, I can't change who I am. I wouldn't have been able to change. And it is not my fault he hurt me as he did.

We move on. That's all we can do now. I spent the past year and a half hating him with all my guts, but I have come to realize it really wasn't worth my time."

She got closer to him. " Lingering over the past isn't worth yours either, Kuon."

She felt as if she stood on a cliff; one that led into a dark, lonely abyss. She knew that she could only stand on the edge for so long before the rock begins to crumple. She knew that; she knew she had to make a choice. A choice between falling into loneliness, or running to safety. Safety with a price, of course.

Slowly, she could feel her chest tense, her heart repressing and shielding itself with numerous steel chains. It knew what was coming; it knew it may already be too late. But it had to do something, anything, to protect itself.

Ren bowed his head, clutching his sleeve. "Don't call me that." He whispered. "Don't do it…"

Ren could feel himself shaking.

"But I do want to know why." She said. "Why you kept it from me."

"You didn't have to know." He said simply. "It was irrelevant."

"But you knew who I was, didn't you!?" she yelled. He looked up at her, surprised.

Kyoko's frail eyes were filled with tears, making Ren want to stop. Just stop everything and hold her, apologize, tell her it was O.K. but he obviously couldn't. He wasn't going to let his guard down like that ever again.

"You knew I was that girl you met, yet you didn't bother to tell me?! I was worried sick about you! I even talked to you about yourself! And you didn't even…didn't even…" Kyoko trailed off, her eyes obtaining a sudden glaze.

She had taken her medicine. Right? Or had she forgotten. She remembered buying them, but drinking them? She didn't remember. It didn't really matter. All she knew is that it hurt; her head. She felt it pulsate and ache all in one, making her weak.

But as she began falling, his strong arms caught her, holding her tightly.

"Kyoko-chan?" he looked down at her, his breath quickening with worry. "What's wrong?"

She knew she should say something, but being there, in his arm, against his warmth…listening to the steady beat of his heart… she stayed silent.

And he held her. The bittersweet feeling of having her there overwhelming him. He knew he should stay away, leave and never come back. But how could he possibly do that to her? He didn't think she could come find him in the first place, much less in her current state. Ren didn't dare leave her alone like this. Not again.

"I don't care." She whispered. "I don't care anymore. Just…" she looked up at him. " Come back to Tokyo."

Her gaze was steady, though Ren knew she was in pain. He could feel it. She might have been able to fool a nation, but not him.

"You should have stayed in the hospital." He told her, taking a hesitant step back.

Inconspicuous clouds slithered over the luminescent moon, making their faces take a shadow to them.

Kyoko steadied herself, looking at the ground for a moment. He looked at her, feeling a little guilty.

"You are right. I should have. But we were all too busy looking for you." She snapped back. As soon as the words left her mouth, she immediately regretted them. No matter the circumstances, he was still her sempai, and disrespecting him like that made her heart ache.

She bowed her head slightly. "I am sorry…I didn't mean that."

Ren looked at her. "No, you are right. I have caused an inconvenience for everyone." He turned around.

"No, you haven't," She grabbed his shoulder. "We were just worried."

"I am not going back to Tokyo." He said.

She dropped her hand. "You have to."

"I won't."

"Why not?"

"Because I can't."

Kyoko frowned, stepping in front of him so that they were face to face. "What are you running away from, Tsuruga-san?"

He looked at the floor.


He looked at her, his green eyes focused. "Don't call me that." Ren turned away, once again giving Kyoko his back.

Exasperated, Kyoko walked in front of him again. "Why are you being so childish!?"

"You just don't understand!" he snapped. " I can't go back now!"

The river flowed behind them, its silent lullaby filling the chilled air. It began getting completely obscure, the sun disappearing completely from view. Kyoko shivered at the scattered noises amongst the bushes.

"Yes, you can," she whispered. "You have to."

"Just go back to Tokyo, O.K.? I have to go."

It hurt Ren to say that. To just shoo her away, dismiss her like that. But he didn't have much of a choice. Even if he did go back with her, who knows how scolded he will get? Who knows how many unanswerable questions will get bombarded his way?

So, he, again, turned away from her and began to walk way. Where? He didn't know.

Kyoko grabbed his arm, tightening her grip. "Will you stop turning away!?" she yelled.

He turned back toward her.

"I want to see your face." In the dim light, he could see she was looking at the ground, her eyes closed. But he had to inch closer to see the moon light ricochet off some stray tears.

"Please, stop running from me. I've been waiting to see you for almost a week."

She didn't regret saying it; it was the truth. She had been desperately waiting to see him literally since the day after the accident, and for him to keep pushing her away like that, it hurt her.

"I'm sorry I left you."

She looked up at him, releasing his arm.

"I wanted to stay by your side. To be there when you woke up, to get after you for what you did." He smiled. " Even though I knew it wouldn't change a thing.

But I couldn't bear it. When I was you on that hospital bed, I panicked. I had to get away."

Ren tightened his fists. "I couldn't see you like that."

Instinctively, she grabbed his hand, then almost immediately released it.

Kyoko, you're an idiot.

"I..I'm sorry. It's an instinct."

Wordlessly, Ren embraced her into a hug.

His arms wrapped tightly against her, cradling and supporting her aching body. His hair brushed her ear softly, his breath gently caressed her neck. After a few moments, she leaned against him, laying her head on his chest.

He could feel her soft, tired breathing, and could feel her relax against him. Ren tighten his grip, burying his head deeper between her neck and shoulder and pressing her even more against him.

Even though that was the closest they have ever been, (Apart from Cain and Setsu,) he couldn't get close enough. He never wanted to let her go, simply hold her and protect her and care for her. That is all he wanted.

"Hey, Tsugura-san?" she whispered.

"Hmmm?" he mumbled.

"Please come back to Tokyo." She said, wrapping her arms around him.

Ren sighed a troubled sigh. "I…I.."

Kyoko knew his answer remained unchanged. And she wasn't going to take it.

There was a sea of people waiting for them both to return, her included. She needed him by her side. She needed his guidance and care, no matter how he showed it.

Think, Kyoko,think….making him agree.

"I can't, Kyoko-chan."

"Yes you can, Ren-san."

"No I can't."

"Yes," she pulled herself back and held his gaze, their face inches away. "You can, …Ren."

He slid his hands between her velvet-soft hair, drawing her closer.

"I can't."

His intoxicating scent made her almost dizzy. Slowly, she slid her hands to his neck, an uninvited blush spreading across her cheeks.

The wind blew harder now, almost knocking them both off balance. The weather had gotten much colder, making Kyoko inch even closer to him.

"Please come back with me," she whispered softly.

Ren sighed, his breath caressing her lips.

"Please don't do this to me." He whimpered.

You know that I have to.

It might have been her, or it might have been him. But, regardless, her tender lips slowly pressed against his.

And he knew, there was no way he would ever leave her again.

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