Guess what got away from me and is no longer a one-shot.
Kanae stood in front of her best friend's closet. What. The. Hell. Was. That. Dress?
"Moko! Did you find anything that you -" Kyoko bounded back into the room, fresh from the bath and eager to play dress-up - only to stop dead when she saw what article of clothing Kanae was holding. This was not good.
It had been a great night for Kyoko up until that point. She had actually convinced Moko to sleep over! The two of them had run lines for their new jobs, done face masks, and caught up on each other's lives. With one, teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, disastrous exception. She had not been able to tell Moko about her Dangerous Mission. And now she had no idea how to explain the dress. At all. There was literally no reason for Mogami Kyoko to have something like that in her closet.
"Moko, I, um..."
"What the hell is this?" Kanae demanded.
"I... can't tell you," Kyoko whimpered.
"And why can you not tell your best friend why you have a dress like this in your closet?" Kanae held it up, more flabbergasted than actually angry. The dress was more netting than actual fabric, and was certainly shorter than anything she had ever seen her friend wear. Hell, Kyoko wore shirts longer than this thing.
"Moko, I can't. It's not - not my secret." She was doomed.
"Then why is a dress like this in your closet? This isn't your style, Kyoko, and we both know it."
"It's... Moko, I -" Tears welled up in Kyoko's eyes.
"Is... did someone force this on you?" Kanae asked, worried now. "Did that bastard -"
"No, I. It's from a thrift store." Oh, she was so doomed. There was no way to explain this.
"You bought this?"
Kyoko nodded. "It's - it's related to -" She shook her head. There was only one way out of this without losing anyone. She hoped. "Moko, can... can you wait here for a minute? I... I need to make a call. Because explaining that dress... it's not my secret to tell."
"Fine, but I expect a full explanation when I get back."
Kyoko grabbed her phone, dreading what she was about to do. "I hope I can give you one." She headed down into the silent, dark restaurant to make her call.
Kanae counted to forty, then slipped down after her. Kyoko was clearly upset, and she was not going to let her best friend be used by anyone. She watched from the stairs as Kyoko scrolled to a name in her contact list, hit 'call' - and then shifted into a character, one she had never seen before. And one that spoke in English.
"Cain. Is now a good time?"
Kyoko's stance was far from anything she was used to seeing on her best friend. And the drawl in her voice was unusual, to say the least.
The character giggled. "I know, I just wanted to make sure you could talk as you. I need to ask you something."
Okay, that was one hell of a giggle. Sultry, teasing. Confident. Who the hell was this character?
"Welllll," the character said, twirling a finger in her hair. "You remember the dress I got the other day?"
Kanae did not want to know what the voice on the other end of the line said, if it made the character blush like that.
"Aw, come on. It's not like that, you know you're the only one for me."
What the hell?
"Of course." Kyoko's character gave another sultry little giggle, her hips swaying. "It is about the dress, though. Do you remember my friend from here? Kanae?"
Nothing made sense. And Kyoko never called her that.
"Mmm-hmm. I'm with her tonight." The voice said something, and then the character absolutely purred into the phone, "Aw, don't be jealous."
She had so many questions. None of them coherent.
"Welll, she found the dress. And I wanted to know if I could let her in on our little secret." There was a pause while the person on the other end said something, and then she replied, "Of course. I know you don't like sharing me, but she worries almost as much as you do."
There was absolutely no explanation that would make this make sense, least of all the way she said our little secret. This was Kyoko, for crying out loud!
"Aww, thank you. I'll make it up to you next time we see each other, okay?"
Oh, hell no. Even Kyoko had to have caught the implications in what she had just said. But it was her next line that shocked Kanae most of all.
"Alright, I love you, too. Dream of me." She gave another little laugh, and then bid the mystery voice goodnight.
Kanae stood on the stairs, gaping, as Kyoko shed her role - and immediately turned into a tomato. She turned - and locked eyes with Kanae. She swallowed, then said, "I can explain now, Moko."
"Oh, you had better." Kanae said with a glare. "And then I am going to strangle whoever put you in this situation."
"It's… it's my Dangerous Mission, Moko. Can we go back to my room? Because this… this is going to take a while."
Five minutes earlier, Kuon had been having a quiet night. Not a peaceful one, because the picture Kyoko had sent him a week ago - no, Setsu had sent him - was still in his phone, but a quiet one.
And then his phone rang. He picked it up; who would call him at this time of night? He saw Kyoko's name on his screen and answered in a panic. "Mogami-san? What's wrong?"
It was not Mogami Kyoko on the other end of the line. "Cain. Is now a good time?"
His mouth went dry. Oh, gods, she was Setsu. She was calling him as Setsu. "Of course. Any time is a good time for you." He was absolutely not Cain.
She gave one of her sultry little giggles, and he struggled to find Cain. "I know, I just wanted to make sure you could talk as you. I need to ask you something."
"Ask away," he replied. Where. Was. Cain.
"Welllll," she replied, the syllable sending shivers down his spine. "You remember the dress I got the other day?"
"You mean the one you're only allowed to wear when we're alone?" Oh, he was not Cain. Where the hell was Cain? "Where no one else can see you in it?"
"Aw, come on. It's not like that, you know you're the only one for me." She was so, so Setsu. He wished she wasn't.
"As long as you remember that." He was going to hell. "You're mine."
"Of course." "It is about the dress, though. Do you remember my friend from here? Kanae?"
"Not really. You know I don't look at anyone but you." Okay, that was Cain. "Are you distracting yourself from your loneliness with her?"
"Mmm-hmm. I'm with her tonight." Okay, so things had gone to hell and back.
"Want me to come fix that?" Yes, definitely Cain.
"Aw, don't be jealous." She was teasing him, but her tone implied that she would like that very much.
"You know I want you all to myself." Aaaand he was no longer Cain. "But what's going on?"
"Welll, she found the dress. And I wanted to know if I could let her in on our little secret."
Oh, he was so damned. The way she'd said that meant he would not get any sleep that night. And maybe the next night. Hell, the whole week. "If she's good enough for you to trust, then go ahead. I know you love me more than anything."
"Of course. I know you don't like sharing me, but she worries almost as much as you do."
"Then don't let her worry. I don't want you in anyone's head but mine." Yes, good. That was a Cain response.
"Aww, thank you. I'll make it up to you next time we see each other, okay?"
He did not want to think about the promise in those words. "I look forward to it. I love you." No, he wasn't Cain. He wasn't even Ren, not even Corn. That was Kuon talking.
"I love you, too. Dream of me. Goodnight." Hearing her say those words….
"Goodnight," he echoed, and she ended the call.
He would dream of her. If he was ever able to sleep again.
Kyoko sat in front of Moko, hands folded in her lap. "So, my Dangerous Mission."
"Was apparently a hell of a lot more than you picking up some friend of the president's," Kanae snapped. She was going to kill him.
Kyoko nodded. "It started like that. I went to pick up Cain - Moko, you have to swear to secrecy. Please. Swear on your love of acting."
The urgency in her friend's eyes forced her. "I do."
Kyoko looked relieved. "I went to meet Cain Heel. And - I found him. He was terrifying, Moko - looked like he had already killed someone and was willing to do it again. But there was something… off about him. Something way too familiar."
Kanae did not like where this was going.
"He was too close of a match to Tsuruga-san."
And there it was. "A match?"
Kyoko briefly explained about the measurements and ratios, leaving Kanae once again terrified of her friend's abilities, and hoping that Kyoko didn't have that type of information on her. Kyoko continued, "At first, he glared at me - then stepped over me when I fell, because I was so scared I thought I was going to die." She laughed. "He left. Or so I thought. A good while later, when I finally regained feeling in my legs, I walked by an alley, and he pulled me into it."
"And it was him, after all." Correction: There was a double-murder on the agenda.
Kyoko nodded. "So we went back to LME and the president explained that Tsuruga-san is playing Cain so he can portray Black Jack, a serial killer, in an upcoming film. It's supposedly a marketing stunt, but it's mostly… mostly for Tsuruga-san's sake."
"And you were given a character to go along with his," Kanae said, voice hollow.
"His little sister, Setsuka Heel. I served as his manager."
"There is no way in hell that the character you were playing was a sibling," Kanae growled.
"That's the thing - we were supposed to be 'dangerous' siblings, to distract the crew and cast from looking at it too deeply." Kyoko's face was a brilliant red now. "So, that explains what you heard on the phone. And the way Setsu talks."
"I'm going to kill them."
"Who?" Kyoko asked, surprised when Kanae got to her feet.
"Tsuruga and the president."
Kyoko grabbed the hem of Moko's shirt. "You - you can't. I didn't tell you everything yet. It… it makes it more understandable."
"I doubt anything you say will make it more understandable and me less inclined to murder, but go on," Kanae said with a sigh, sinking back to the floor.
Kyoko swallowed. "Tsuruga-san has… a great darkness in his past. I was there more as an anchor than anything else. Someone who knew him, to keep his past from destroying him." Her eyes pricked with tears as she remembered the night he had clung to her as if he was going to disappear. "I don't know why it was me, but… that's why I was there. The real reason. Setsu was only there so I could do that even when we were on set."
"Did he do anything to you?" Kanae asked, at length. "Since you were… dangerous… siblings."
Kyoko shook her head, even as her cheeks grew redder. "No. Not in or out of character." It was all Setsu. I think.
"Why do I not believe you, and why do you have one of her dresses in your closet?"
"Because… because I haven't been her since I got it." She gave a shaky sigh. "I'm her again this Tuesday. So I can put it with her things then. It was 400 yen, Moko, and it has pockets."
"Okay, I can forgive the dress on account of the pockets. But you didn't answer why I don't believe that he didn't do anything when you're blushing like that."
Kyoko gave a deep sigh. "Setsu… only cares about her brother. So Setsu is the one to do things. Cain dotes on her, sure, and acts like a child, and doesn't think that buying ten pairs of pants for her is outlandish -"
"What?" This sounds exactly like Tsuruga. Except this time Kyoko sees his affections, because she doesn't think it's him.
"Setsu got him to return most of them, don't worry," Kyoko replied, not understanding. "But… Cain never initiates anything, not really. It's… it's always Setsu." She said this last bit into her hands, her face burning.
"And… what did Setsu do?"
"She… she gave him a - she gave him a hickey. It was a really weird scene, and -"
"What?" Oh, Tsuruga was back on the chopping block. Effective immediately.
"I know, she got so out of control, I was so stupid! Setsu just does whatever she wants with her nii-san, and that was the only thing I could do in that situation!"
"Where," Kanae ground out.
Kyoko rubbed the part of her neck where she had marked him. "Here."
Well, that explained the new nervous tic he'd had around Kyoko. Rubbing the same damn spot. "Okay. I'm going to go commit a double murder right now."
"NO!" Kyoko's distress was only making her more determined to do something drastic. "It's not his fault! It's not either of their fault! Setsu - she just - I just -!"
Kanae took a deep, steadying breath. "Look. I know you told me already that you're in love with him. So I won't murder him yet. If."
"You let me see the damn dress on you. Because I need to assess the damage control I need to help you do, since it seemed from your phone call that he had already seen the dress. And I want to understand how."
"Setsu texted him," Kyoko said miserably, standing and stripping off her pajamas. She rummaged in her drawers and pulled out a strapless bra to wear under it. "I'd tried it on in the fitting room, and she just… took over. I didn't get control back until it was too late." She slid the dress over her head. "Okay, I'm switching over."
Kanae was too busy gaping at her friend to register what she meant until Kyoko was no longer standing in front of her. Setsuka Heel looked down at her with mild disinterest. Sure, this girl was a good distraction, but she was no nii-san.
Well, the dress certainly fit the character's aura. "Kyoko."
She snapped back to herself and immediately stripped off the dress and bra, tugging her pajamas back on. "Y-yes?"
"Please tell me you didn't send him a picture of you in that dress."
"I didn't! Setsu did. And she addressed it to her nii-san, because she doesn't care about anyone else. It was honestly out of character for her to have a friend at all, but that was the only way I could think of to ask for permission without wanting to die."
Yeah, she didn't need to kill Tsuruga. Kyoko already had. There was no way in hell that he was able to ignore a picture like that from Kyoko, or brush it off as some character. "You know what? Let's drop it. Just… let me know if you have to do anything uncomfortable again. And remember that your safety is more important than this role. Okay?"
Kyoko nodded, grateful that Moko was letting the subject drop. "I… don't think I'm up to playing dress-up anymore."
"Yeah, no. We've had enough of that. Nails?"
Kyoko lit up. "I want to do yours!"
"Yeah, yeah. Just do something normal." She was going to have an interesting conversation with Tsuruga the next time they ran into each other. And she needed a way to make the president suffer. Or maybe Kyoko would do that one, too, by continuing to be oblivious.
Ren was still Kuon when he met Yashiro the next morning. "I'm going to kill the president," he grumbled by way of greeting.
"Well, you're in luck. You have a meeting with him in ten minutes." Yashiro gave him a consoling pat on the shoulder. He knew, at least in part, what this was about. Ren had been low on sleep ever since that picture.
"Good. Do you have a pipe or a bat or something?"
"That's… probably for the best."
They arrived, and Ren was far too glad to not run into Kyoko. He could not have handled that right now. "Yashiro… let me talk to him alone, please."
Yashiro bowed and left.
Ren entered, and Lory greeted him with a lazy smile. "You look like hell."
"Please don't make her be Setsuka anymore."
"If you remember, you're the one who has to dismiss her. You have to tell her that you don't need her anymore." Lory raised an eyebrow. "Besides, you two haven't been the Heels in at least a week."
"Please," he whispered.
"What happened?" When Ren didn't answer, Lory pressed, "Did you do something -"
"No!" he replied, voice hoarse. "It's… she's been slipping into Setsu even out of our time as the Heels. She's too deep in the character. I can't handle it anymore. I can't sleep."
"Oho?" Now this was interesting. "Have you considered why she might be doing that?"
"I've not come up with anything that makes sense, aside from her getting too deep into the character." There was another option, but he did not allow himself to hope for that one. He had learned that lesson far too many times.
Lory gave a deep sigh. "You two are hopeless."
"Nothing. Come back later today, alright? This afternoon, maybe." An evil plan was forming. A deliciously evil plan.
Kyoko and Kanae were just about to leave the Darumaya when a familiar but unexpected face stopped them. At least, one that was unfamiliar to Kanae. Kyoko let out a delighted gasp and bowed. "Muse-sama! Welcome!"
"Hello, Kyoko-chan," she said with a laugh. "And… Kotonami-san, right? I'm Jelly Woods."
"It's nice to meet you," Kanae replied. "Kotonami Kanae."
Kyoko was off, expounding on Jelly's talents - and then she stilled. "I'm sorry, Muse-sama, I didn't even ask you why you were here! The restaurant isn't open yet."
"I'm here about that, Kyoko-chan," Jelly replied, with an apologetic smile to Kanae. "Could we talk in private for a moment?"
To her surprise, Kyoko splatted into a dogeza. "Muse-sama I'm so sorry…."
Kanae sighed. "Let's go up to her room and I'll show you why she called him and why I know what's going on." She led the way, with Kyoko following at the back, miserable. Kanae pulled the dress out of Kyoko's closet. "I found this. She called him and got permission to explain. So I know what's happening."
Jelly's eyes went wide. That was definitely a Setsuka dress. "Kyoko-chan, where did you get this?"
"It has pockets," Kyoko wailed. "I found it at the thrift store and it was only 400 yen and it fits and has pockets."
Jelly patted Kyoko's head. "It's okay. Really. If darling was okay with you telling her, I'm sure it's fine."
Kyoko shook her head. "Not the president. Tsuruga-san. I had to be Setsu to ask him."
Kanae reeled. This woman called the president darling?
Jelly's lips twitched. She was not going to laugh. "I see. That's alright, regardless. But to business!" She clapped her hands, and bit back another laugh as Kyoko snapped to attention, her posture perfect once more. "Darling said that you need to be Setsu this afternoon. Since you have a dress already, I can transform you in the van."
"Of course! But I thought the Heels weren't needed on set until Tuesday?" Kyoko asked, as she hurried to gather what she would need as Setsu.
"I guess there's been a change of plans. And don't worry, darling had Yashiro-kun check your schedule." She smiled. "Alright, you two. Kotonami-chan, since you're in on it now, would you like to watch the transformation, if you have time?"
"Sure," she replied. Unfortunately, she didn't have enough work yet to keep her busy. But at least this would let her get an idea of the damage control that would be necessary. Having a best friend was such a pain, she told herself.
The three of them headed down to the van, since all three had already had breakfast. Kanae watched as Jelly worked her magic. Kyoko pulled on the dress; Jelly accessorized. Last, the wig was added. And Kanae found herself looking at a girl she had seen only last night - but this time, in her full form. "Yeah, I definitely don't need to bother killing Tsuruga. That outfit is going to do it for me."
Kyoko snapped out of Setsu. "Moko! Don't say things like that!"
Jelly laughed. "Alright girls, buckle up. You're not walking to LME like that."
"Thank you for the ride!" Kyoko said, bowing.
Kanae, who was standing behind her, got a face full of things she didn't want to see. Namely, the fact that Kyoko was not wearing Kyoko underwear. "Mo! Don't you know not to bow in a dress that short?"
Kyoko squeaked and straightened up, tugging down the hemline. "Setsu doesn't bow! I never thought about it."
"Well, today you don't either." Kanae flopped into a seat and buckled her seatbelt.
"I'm not being me in this dress outside!" Kyoko protested, doing the same. "But it doesn't make sense for Setsu to be in this car right now! I want to talk to you! And Setsu only cares about Cain!"
Jelly suppressed another giggle as she slid into the driver's seat. No wonder darling had made an entire section for these girls. They were far too entertaining. She listened to them banter and bicker all the way to LME - right up to the moment that she parked. And then Kyoko became Setsu.
"Alright, girls, let's go see darling."
Setsu sighed. "When do I get to see nii-san?"
"Soon, Setsu. You have to talk to darling first."
Kanae had no idea how to feel. It really wasn't fair that this girl was such a chameleon, especially when she'd not been acting as long! But she couldn't envy her this role. And she had a score to settle. "I'm coming, too."
Setsu shot her a disgusted look, but kept walking without a word. Kanae hurried to catch up to her, sending glares at the various men who had stopped to ogle. Her glares did not stop them. The three women stopped in front of the elevator, and Setsu lifted a lazy finger to press the 'up' button.
The elevator dinged, then opened to reveal Ren and Yashiro, the former looking considerably worse for wear. Ren went absolutely still. That dress was so much worse - so much better - in person. The netting wasn't over other fabric; it was on bare skin. Setsu stepped into the elevator, a slow smile growing on her face. Ren stepped back; his back hit the wall. Kanae and Jelly stepped in after her, understanding that this was happening now. Jelly hit the button for the president's floor.
As soon as the elevator doors closed, Setsu reached up and tugged off the Tsuruga Ren wig, revealing Cain's hair underneath. "Nii-san," she breathed. "Nii-san, come out to play."
"...Setsu," he said at last, managing Cain's growl, "what did I say about wearing that dress in public?"
Yashiro's eyes were wide. Oh, poor Ren. Poor, poor Ren. Just a picture of that dress had been haunting him, and here it was in the flesh. On the flesh - hiding very little of the flesh of the girl it was on. He averted his eyes.
She giggled, walking her fingers up his chest. "But nii-san, I wanted to show off for you. Especially since I didn't think I'd get to see you today."
Kanae was watching with disbelief. How the hell was Kyoko doing that? This was the girl who blushed at the thought of touching a man, and here she was draped all over the one she was mad about! What's more, he definitely wasn't in character. And Setsu knew it, too.
"Nii-san, you're acting weird." She stuck out her bottom lip in a pout, the chain attached to her lip ring jingling.
Mercifully for Ren, the elevator doors opened to the president's floor. He took Setsu's hand and led her out of the elevator, finally slipping into Cain. Or at least Cain's anger. Either way, it was good enough for Setsu, who smiled. The other three followed behind, Yashiro being careful to keep his eyes away from Setsu. He didn't want to see Kyoko-chan like that. Poor girl must be crying inside.
"Ah, both of you are here. Interesting. And… we have an unexpected guest." He raised his eyebrows at Kanae.
Setsu drawled, "She found the dress I got to surprise nii-san, and he said it was okay to tell her what was going on."
"Which explains why you look like you're ready to murder me, Kotonami-kun," Lory said, looking more amused than worried. So Setsu had gotten that dress on her own? He glanced at Jelly, who nodded in confirmation. A smile played around his lips. "To clarify: Setsuka, have you ever felt unsafe during this mission?"
"Of course not," she spat back. "I'd feel unsafe if I didn't know that nii-san was okay."
"And the one whose body you borrow agrees?"
"Duh." Setsu rolled her eyes. She felt Cain's grip on her hand tighten. "Nii-san?"
He shook his head, giving her one of Cain's soft smiles - the ones preserved for Setsu. "Nothing. I'm just glad that my adorable little sister isn't afraid of me."
"Why would I be? You're mine." She said it baldly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Yashiro had to stuff a fist in his mouth to muffle his squeal. Oh, he hoped the president was recording this. He had to be. Kanae glared at him. Kyoko was going to be a pain to deal with later.
"Was that all? Can nii-san and I go now?" She looked up at him. "Poor nii-san. You look like you haven't been sleeping. Did you miss me that much?"
"You know I always do." Boss was going to roast him alive.
Setsu nodded. "C'mon, nii-san, you need a nap." She turned and started walking, tugging him along with her. "If any of you disturb his nap, you answer to me." She glared daggers at the rest of them, and then the pair disappeared into the elevator.
Inside, Kyoko was panicking, had been panicking since Setsu took over. And now she was interrupting Tsuruga-san's day! He hadn't been Cain yet! She had pulled off his wig! He was going to be so angry with her… but he did look exhausted. She let Setsu pull Cain to one of the lesser-used rooms in the building, one she knew had a couch. She didn't bother to turn on the lights. Setsu sat down and patted her lap. "I'll be your pillow, nii-san."
Kuon laid down as she instructed, doing his best to ignore the fact that his head was on her mostly bare thighs. And that he had a close-up view of her torso, the skin not covered enough by the netting of the dress. He was going to hell. And he would burn happily.
She dropped a kiss on his forehead, leaving a burgundy print. "Close your eyes, nii-san. Get some sleep."
He obeyed. Closing his eyes was safer, even if it let him focus more on the feel of her lap, the scent of her skin. Then her fingers found his hair again, petting him, and he stopped focusing on anything at all.
Setsu - or was she Kyoko now? - smiled as he drifted off to sleep. Good. He looked so tired that this was worth the scolding she would get later. And she was glad she had locked the door - doubted he had even noticed, given how exhausted he was. This way he could sleep longer, without anyone bothering him. Setsu pressed another kiss to his forehead. Work be damned, her nii-san needed sleep. She leaned her head back against the couch, her fingers still stroking his hair.
And that was how Lory found them, two hours later, when he used the skeleton key to unlock the room. Yashiro had cleared, with great difficulty, Ren's schedule for the next few hours. They knew he was somewhere in LME, since Setsu was unlikely to make her tired nii-san go far, but where in LME was a different matter. And Kyoko, thanks to her LoveME tasks, knew the building almost as well as Lory did. Thus, it took two hours to find them… and he wanted to leave them where they were. Kyoko had fallen asleep, too, her hand resting on the couch as if it had been in Ren's hair.
Lory smiled, turned on the light, and took a picture. Kuon opened his eyes slowly, taking in his surroundings. He smiled when he realized whose lap he was in, but his smile faltered when he saw who was standing in the doorway. Lory played the sound of an alarm on his phone - and then shut the door behind him. Kyoko snapped awake. She'd fallen asleep! Again! Wait… Setsu. She was Setsu. She fixed her face and looked down at her brother with a soft smile.
"Feeling better, Cain?"
He smiled at her - what was his heavenly smile doing on Cain? - and reached up, caressing her cheek. Her eyes closed at his touch. "Much. I take it this was your way of thanking me for letting you share the secret?"
She opened her eyes again. "It could be, unless nii-san wants something more."
"So my adorable little sister just did this because she was worried?"
"Of course!" She looked offended that it would be anything else. "After all, if I don't take care of you, who will?" Her hand found his hair again, stroking it, playing with the soft strands.
He let out a chuckle that was more than half sigh. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"You'd be a miserable wreck," she replied, her voice soft. "And so would I." Was she still Setsu?
"You need someone to scare and spoil you?"
"Stupid," she murmured. "The spoiling's nice in moderation, but you've only ever scared me when I thought you were vanishing. I'm scared for you, not of you. You know that."
He was Kuon in that moment, staring up into the eyes of the woman he loved, wanting desperately to believe that her words were for him, not Cain. But he knew he had scared her before, as Ren - she called him the Demon Lord for a reason, after all. He wished that the conviction in her eyes, the care, the love - he wished it was for him. For Kuon. "I know."
She smiled, satisfied, and dropped a third kiss on his forehead. "Good," she murmured against his skin, staying like that for a moment. Then she sat up so she could see his eyes. "Don't forget that. Ever."
"I swear to you," he murmured, lost in her. "I'll love you forever, so you never have to be scared again." He couldn't bear to call her Setsu. Not now. Because he wasn't talking to a character any more than he was one in that moment.
And neither was she when she replied, "Forever and ever. You're mine."
On the other side of the door, Lory wanted to cry. These two were such idiots. He'd bet his costumes that neither of them were in character right now, but both thought the other was. And he was right. Unfortunately, he was so, so right.
He knocked on the door, then unlocked and opened it. "Alright, Heels, nap time's over."
Setsu looked up at him, slowly, murder in her eyes. "You are so lucky that nii-san already woke up."
Lory chuckled. Both of them were glaring at him as if they wished a painful death on him. They really were a perfect match. "And unfortunately, you both need to get back to your days."
"Days?" Setsu echoed. "We share a day. Nii-san's day is my day."
"Mogami-kun, Ren, it's time for the Heels to leave." Lory watched with amusement as his order sunk in.
Ren sat up slowly, pretending to come back from Cain but really putting a leash on Kuon. As soon as his head left her lap, Kyoko bolted to the other side of the room, put her back against the wall, and bowed deeply. She started spewing out apologies, which Lory grinned at. Ren tried to soothe her, but was stopped when she said, "- and I'm sorry I can't do a dogeza right now but Moko told me not to even bow in this dress which is why I'm against a wall but I can't not bow right now and I'm so sorry but I was so worried and -"
Lory watched as Ren schooled his face to keep it perfectly blank. "Mogami-kun," he said, cutting off her rambling apologies.
"Yes," she whimpered, not looking at either of them.
"That was very in-character for Setsuka. Good job." He smiled at her. "You did exactly what was needed today. That was why Ten came to get you in the first place. We couldn't get this fool to sleep otherwise, and we knew that Setsu would be able to force Cain to."
She straightened up and looked at Ren. "Tsuruga-san, you haven't been sleeping? For how long?"
"I've… slept. Some," he replied, not ready to meet her eyes.
"It's been about a week, according to Yashiro," Lory answered for him.
"A week?" Kyoko asked, peeling herself off of the wall. "Have you gone to the doctor?"
"No, I don't need to. I promise, I'm alright." He looked at her now, standing there in her Setsuka garb, but he could only see Kyoko. Kyoko, standing there, hands clasped together in front of her chest, eyes full of worry - worry for him. "I'm okay," he said, softly this time. "Really."
"You're not! If you haven't sleep in a week -"
"I've slept some, just sporadically -"
"Children, please," Lory chuckled, holding up a hand and silencing them both. "Mogami-kun, Ren is really alright. He just needed some sleep. And Ren," he looked at his godson, an evil twinkle in his eye, "why don't you tell her why you couldn't sleep? I'll give you this room for a little longer. Yashiro cleared your schedule until two."
Before either of them could say anything, Lory shut the door and locked it. And turned around to see a furious Kanae striding down the hall towards him. She had been looking all over the building for two hours, and had finally heard Kyoko's panicked apologies through the ceiling of the floor she had been on. "Let them out."
"They need to talk."
"Not while she's wearing that! I don't trust him around her in that!"
Inside the room, Kyoko stared at the door, confused. Why had Moko said that? It didn't make any sense. Was it because she knew how much Kyoko messed up and needed to apologize, and didn't want her to forget about the bowing thing?
"I'm sorry," Ren said, slumped on the couch. "I'm really sorry, Mogami-san."
She blinked. "Why?"
"You got dragged into this, when it's my own problem. I'm really sorry."
"It's my problem, too!" she insisted, surprising herself. "Especially when you're Cain. This is about that, isn't it? Can you… would it help you to tell me?" She walked over and went to sit in seiza in front of him. He grabbed her arm as she made to sit down.
"No - please, sit on the couch." His voice sounded strangled. She did as he asked. "I… I'm sorry, Mogami-san. I don't think I could tell you this. Not yet."
She should let it drop, let him go on with his day - but he looked so pained. "Then could Cain tell Setsu?"
The question hung in the air between them as Kanae's yelling grew louder. "I don't give a damn! I don't trust him with my best friend when she's wearing that! He'll devour her!" Lory said something soothing, something they couldn't quite hear, and Kanae responded, "Him being at a breaking point makes it worse! How do you know his self-restraint isn't going to snap in there?"
The gears in Kyoko's mind ground audibly. Okay, there was no way to deny that Moko was talking about her. She was Moko's best friend, and she was wearing a very Setsu dress. And it was true that Tsuruga-san was at some kind of breaking point. But the rest of what she was saying didn't make any sense. Tsuruga-san wasn't a cannibal - he wouldn't eat her. The Demon Lord might eat her grudges, but he didn't seem to be anywhere near that point right now. And as for self-restraint… there was nothing to restrain himself from in here, she thought. And even if she made him angry, she knew he wouldn't hit her - he wasn't that type of person.
"Setsu…" Kuon said at last, with a sigh. "I… don't know how to say this."
Kyoko slipped back into Setsu and scooted over to sit next to him, taking one of his large hands in both of hers. Her world shrunk, as it always did with Setsu, to just him. "Take your time, nii-san."
"I've… been okay. Really. You being with me through all of this has helped. I don't think - no, I know I couldn't have done this without you. I don't know how many times now you've pulled me out of the darkness, even when you're not you." He leaned over and tucked his head into the crook of her neck, closing his eyes. "I… need you with me. Always."
"You know I am. I'm yours, after all." She pressed a kiss into his hair, then leaned her head against his. His grip on her hand tightened, and she kept herself from saying more, letting him talk as he needed.
"The thought of something happening to you… it kills me. Wipes away any rational part of me left. And what scares me most is thinking that I might be the one to hurt you." He forced himself to relax his grip on her hand. "I'm… I'm not safe for you to be around. But I need you to be with me."
"I know you won't hurt me on purpose," she replied. Hearing him say these things… he was talking to Setsu, right? He had to be. He had someone else, after all. "Besides, I'm tough, nii-san. I can handle you if you get a little rough." She slid one of her hands out of his and touched the spot on his neck from the night she had flipped the scene. "Remember?"
"I don't think I could ever forget," he replied. She couldn't tell what was in his voice - it was low, and familiar. But he was Cain right now.
"Good. So won't you tell me what's bothering you?" She left her hand where it was, cupping his neck, and felt his pulse quicken. "Cain?"
"It's… that dress," he forced out.
"But you said you liked it," she said with a pout. Why wouldn't he be serious? Did he really only tell his secrets to a chicken?
"That's the problem. I like it. On you. Way, way, way too much." He shouldn't be touching her right now, breathing in her scent. "So much that I've barely been able to sleep thinking about you in that dress. Worrying about what other guys might do to you if you wore it out. Worrying what I might do if you wore it when we were alone. But mostly, thinking of you. What I want to do to you." His voice was raspy now. "How I'd never leave your side, if you let me."
"Nii-san, I was being serious. Stop teasing and tell me what's really wrong!" she demanded, pulling back from him and forcing him to look at her.
She went perfectly still. Those were not Cain's eyes. Those were the Emperor's eyes. The ones he'd had when Katsuki had offered to teach her how to kiss on his kitchen floor. The ones Ren had at the Dark Moon party, when he'd asked if she wanted him to have his way with her. The eyes she sometimes caught in passing, but never let herself acknowledge. Eyes that promised to devour her.
"You're… you're not Cain," she breathed. And she was not Setsu. Where was Setsu? She needed her, now. She needed any character. But none came. Not when he was looking at her like that, his eyes now full of pain and longing. Full of fear.
"I haven't been all day." His breathing was ragged; his heart was going wild. Not like this. He had not meant to tell her like this - never meant to tell her at all. "I wasn't when we talked on the phone, or when you texted me."
Her eyes grew wider; she paled. But… that made no sense. He had to have been Cain. There was no way that he would say those things outside of the character. "Please, no more jokes. Just… just tell me what's wrong."
"What's wrong is that I'm in love with you, Kyoko," he said, eyes stinging. Was it from sleeping in his contacts or tears? "What's wrong is that I've been in love with you since Dark Moon, and I don't know how to fight it anymore. Because I… I…" He lowered his eyes, the sting in them definitely from tears.
"...you can't afford to have anything precious in this world," Kyoko finished. Her mind was reeling. None of this made sense, but she knew that tortured expression. Had seen it before as Bo. Had seen flashes of it in his Katsuki, and seen it in his Cain. Had felt it that night, when he clung to her as if he would vanish otherwise. Her eyes dropped to his watch. She had seen the way he gripped it, time and time again. She reached out and traced its face. "Because of this."
He was shaking now, and a tear fell, splashing on her wrist. "How? How do you always know? Why are you still here if you know? What will it take to make you run from me?"
"I don't know. I don't know what happened." Her voice was shaking now, but not as much as he was. "But I know you… I know you need me here. And that I need you." She should not be saying this. She shouldn't. "You know how stubborn I am. It takes a lot for me to give up on the people I care about."
"Don't - don't say that." Another tear dripped off of his face, splashing on her hand this time. "You can't need me. I'm dangerous for you."
"You've never hurt me," she whispered.
"You flinch every time I smile at you." He was a mess. She didn't need a mess. Why was he still talking? "I tease and trick you, constantly, to try to keep you from getting too close. To keep you from trusting me. To make it so you think I'm just a playboy, so you would never realize I was serious. But still, you're there. You're always there. Any time I'm about to fall over the edge, you catch me." Shut up, Kuon. Shut up. You can't burden her with this. With you.
"That's… that's just how we are," Kyoko said in a small voice. "You tease me. Just like how Moko says she doesn't like my hugs, but was ready to kill you and the president when she found out about Setsu. That's… that's just how we've always been." She didn't understand what was happening, didn't know what to say. "I've not been hurt by it."
"How?" he half-demanded, half-sobbed. "What will it take to make you realize that being near me is dangerous? What more do I have to do?"
"Tsuruga-san, you know about as well as anyone how I am. You know what… what my mother was like; you know how Shotaro treated me. What have you done that would make you think you're anywhere near what it takes to scare me away?"
"You saw - you saw how I smiled as BJ. You saw what I would have done to those thugs, that night we went to get you pants, if you hadn't stopped me." His voice was thick. Tears fell from his eyes as if he had been holding them in for years, and the dam had finally burst at this moment. "How much more darkness does it take?"
"But you stopped. Both times, you stopped. Because I asked you to." She took a shuddering breath. "And even then, I wasn't afraid of you. I was afraid for you. Afraid the darkness would drown you. Afraid that I'd lose you to it. Afraid that I wouldn't be enough to pull you out this time."
"I'm a murderer, Kyoko."
The words hung in the air; her hand still rested on the face of the watch. "Explain."
"I killed my best friend when I was fifteen." Why? Why wasn't she running? Why wasn't she pounding on the door to be let out? Why had Lory locked her in here with a murderer? Why was her hand still on his wrist?
"I - I'd gotten in another fight. They jumped me, but I managed to fight them off, knock them out. Rick," he said, choking on the same, "my best friend, my mentor… he came to stop me. He asked me if I was going to kill the guy I was hitting, that he was already unconscious, so I should just let him go. While we were talking, one of the others got up and ran. I - I chased him. I didn't care about anything else; I just wanted to hurt him. Rick chased me across the street, and… and got hit by the car meant for me. His girlfriend was there, saw it all happen. There… there was so much blood. She was yelling - screaming. It was all my fault. My fault. My fault." He was hyperventilating now; he couldn't see straight.
Kyoko did the only thing she could, the only thing that had helped the last time the darkness had come. She lifted herself onto her knees and held him, wrapping her arms around his shaking frame. "Breathe," she said. "Breathe."
He clung to her, fingers gripping the netting of her dress. His fault. It was all his fault. And she would be next, if she stayed close to him. His fault. She needed to run, but his arms were stopping her. He couldn't let her go. His fault. But she was here. She was holding him. Why, why, why wasn't she running?
Slowly, his breathing steadied. She held him there, like that, until the shaking stopped. Until he pulled back from her. "Tsuruga-san," she began softly.
He looked at her. Why wasn't she afraid of him? Why was she putting her hand over his watch again?
"That… you're not a murderer. You made some bad decisions, and were in a bad place, but your friend's death… that was him being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. You weren't driving the car. It's not your fault that he died. And I know I didn't know him, but…" Her eyes were shining, bits of gold peeking through Setsu's contacts. "But I don't think he would want you to blame yourself, to punish yourself. Especially not for so long. It sounds like he was trying to help you, back then, with what you were going through. I think… I think he would want you to be happy." A tear rolled down her cheek. "And so do I. You're not a murderer, Tsuruga-san."
"What?" Did he just say Corn?
"My name. It's Kuon. I changed it when I came here, running away from what happened. Desperate to escape." If this doesn't make her leave, nothing will.
"As in, Hizuri Kuon."
"As in Corn."
He nodded again.
"Father's hands were too big," she breathed, as piece after piece of the puzzle fell into place. "You kept getting fired. So eventually, you got angry. You fought. Father couldn't be there, didn't know what was going on - he couldn't help. And then you lost Rick," she said, her voice softening, "and came here. Changed your name, your looks - everything. Started over. And then a piece of your past came crashing back into your life."
"You," he whispered. "The stone I gave you - when it fell down the stairs. But I couldn't tell you. Not without telling you everything. Not without tainting your memories of a fairy."
"So you kept hiding it," she continued, her hand finding the band of his watch. Moving it. "You tried to scare me off, so I wouldn't find out. But fate, or the president, or Yashiro-san, or something kept making sure you couldn't avoid me."
"And then I fell in love with you," he whispered. "And tried twice as hard to avoid it. But you were the missing piece. I couldn't have done Katsuki without you."
"But you were confused, so you talked to a chicken," she said, fingers still moving his watch. "And didn't realize that it was me in the costume, because the first time we'd met, we hated each other. And so I disguised my voice. And when you wouldn't let anyone else in, you told a chicken that you were in love. That you couldn't have anyone special, no matter where you go."
"And you never knew I was talking about you," he added, voice hoarse.
"Never. But you made Katsuki, a better Katsuki than Father's. And we were… closer then. Close enough that I showed up and demanded to be taught how to walk like a model, even though it was late at night. And you did. And you just kept helping me, no matter how stupid my requests were. Or how much other people tried to interfere. You helped me recover from Valentine's Day. Kept me safe from the Beagle. And then, finally, it was my turn to help you."
"You became Setsu, my shield, while inside was Kyoko, my lucky charm. The only one able to pull me back from the darkness."
"And now, after everything, I'm not running. I tried. Believe me, I tried. I tried to run from what all of this… from everything. Even made a stupid, heat-of-the-moment promise." She shook her head. "No matter what, I'm here. I'm here until you don't need me anymore. Because I need you as much as you need me. I have since I was a six-year-old crying about her grades in a forest, and you came back to me. You can't taint my memories of Corn, because you're still him. And I… understand why you didn't tell me. Even if I'm going to be pissed at you for laughing at me when I told you about Corn, once all of this sinks in. Even if I… if I don't know what to call you right now." She gave him a ghost of a smile, her eyes full of tears.
"Whatever you want. Anything," he croaked. She wasn't leaving. He had to be dreaming. But his dreams never went this well.
"I love you, too, Kuon." And finally, she slipped the watch off of his wrist, hand shaking. "And I'm not running. Not from you. Not anymore."
He had to be dreaming. He watched as she slipped his shackle into her pocket. His body felt lighter than it had in years. Than it had since before he flew for her the first time. She loved him. Even after everything. This was a dream. There was no other explanation. But she was never warm in his dreams. And her hand was warm as she reached for him, wiping away a tear he didn't know had been falling. Her lips were warm when they brushed against his, just long enough for him to melt, but her lip ring was cold.
"So this really wasn't about the dress, huh?" she asked, a soft smile on her face.
At last, he smiled. "Yes. No. Both. I - this has to be a dream. I'm still asleep. The president never came in and woke us up. This… this can't be real. I can't… I can't be this lucky."
"Well, you said I was your lucky charm," she replied, her cheeks coloring. "You're okay now?"
"Better than I've been since… since I can remember. Kyoko, may I… may I hold you?"
She nodded, and he scooped her into his lap, holding her in his arms. She looked up at him and giggled. He tilted his head, and she replied, "You've still got Setsu's lipstick on your forehead."
He laughed. He threw his head back and laughed. Not because it was really that funny, but because he was so relieved. He laughed until his already raw throat felt like it would rip, the sound reverberating through Kyoko. He laughed until the president unlocked the door and saw the pair of them, tear-stained but happy. He laughed until the moment that a still-fuming Kanae forced her way past Lory and yanked Kyoko off of his lap, demanding answers.
"We're okay," Kyoko said, hugging her best friend who, for once, allowed it. "I'm okay. I promise."
Lory raised an eyebrow at the mess of a man on the couch, the man who had come into his office three hours earlier all but begging him to keep her away from him. The man with tear stains on his cheek. The man who was no longer wearing a watch.
"You were right," was all Kuon said. Lory beamed at him.
Kanae was trying and failing to salvage Setsu's tear-streaked make-up, but only succeeded in making her look more like a panda. "I hope you're happy with yourself," she grumbled, scrubbing harder.
"I am, Moko." No stupid apologies. No shame. Just relief and joy.
Kanae stopped scrubbing and looked at Kyoko, then at Kuon. Her eyes narrowed. Kyoko nodded, a blush spreading across her face and to the tips of her ears. "Mo! About damn time."
"Indeed!" Lory proclaimed, sweeping his arms out grandly. "Now," he said, turning back to Kuon, "it's almost one. Can you pull yourself back together enough to be presentable to the public in an hour?"
"I can try," he said, a most un-Tsuruga-Ren grin on his face.
He could not. He had that same grin on his face for the next week - except when cameras were rolling, of course - before he could figure out a way to control it. And that included his time as Cain, which confused and terrified everyone else on set. Everyone except Setsu, who had decided to keep that dress for later. Only nii-san could see her in it, after all.
Rick's watch stayed tucked in Kyoko's purse with Corn the stone. Two things that had brought them back together, no matter how hard they had both tried to run.
They were done running.
Well, that was a lot less fluffy than what I usually write. Thoughts?