Kyoko woke as the dawn light began trickling through the window. Ren was curled around her, her back pressed against him. Sometime in the night their legs had tangled together so that part of Ren's thigh was nestled between her legs, and Kyoko was acutely aware of something hard pressing against the curve of her ass. One of his hands had snuck its way up underneath the hem of her shirt and was cupping her left breast. Kyoko flinched. She was certain any second he would wake up, and then she would die of mortification. But Ren's deep, even breathing continued. Slowly, centimeter by centimeter, Kyoko extricated herself from the tall actor's embrace, carefully lifting the blankets just enough to slide out. Ren muttered something in his sleep, frowning, his hand flexing absently. Kyoko froze, worried she had woken him up. But when he didn't stir again, Kyoko tiptoed the rest of the way out of the room, softly closing the bedroom door behind her.
She pulled the living room curtains closed and sat on the couch in the dark, feeling overwhelmingly, inescapably, profoundly guilty. Kyoko knew that Ren was a light sleeper. Sure, he was a good actor and could do an impressive job of pretending to be out cold when he wanted to. But during Tragic Marker Kyoko had observed her senpai closely enough to know the difference between Ren's acting and reality. And if the actor was deeply asleep enough that he didn't wake up when she left the bed, there was only one reason: exhaustion. Kyoko had literally drained him. How could she have done that? To her mentor, her friend? How could she. How could she. The shame crashed down over her, each thought relentlessly dragging her further under, into the sea of her own self-loathing.
Up until now Kyoko had been so careful. She felt unbelievably lucky that she hadn't lost her best friend. Kanae had taken everything in stride, continued to support Kyoko, take care of her, offering herself up so that Kyoko wouldn't starve. She had never felt worthy of the dark-haired actress' friendship, and Kanae's sacrifice only made Kyoko feel her own inadequacy that much more. She was painfully aware that she had nothing to give Moko-san back in return. There was no possible way to repay her. And Kanae hadn't cared; she had insisted on helping Kyoko anyway.
So ever since the first time Kyoko had sated her hunger, she had vowed that she would never take too much. She would subsist on the tiniest amount of blood that she possibly could. Kyoko wouldn't be greedy. She wouldn't impose. It was unforgivable. She always held herself back, taking barely a mouthful of blood from Kanae at a time. But last night with Ren… Kyoko tried to estimate how much she'd had. She didn't know. How could she possibly measure? She had completely lost control of herself. He had tasted so good, and she had been so hungry. Women all over Japan found Tsuruga Ren irresistible, and Kyoko was no exception. She wasn't blind. And he had offered himself up to her. It was impossible to say no. He was handsome. And he was kind.
Kyoko had convinced herself that she had locked her feelings away. That she was safe. That she wasn't going to fall for him. But one taste of his blood, and Kyoko knew— she would die if she didn't get to have him again. Just thinking about it, Kyoko felt the press of her fangs as they descended.
The worst part was that Kyoko felt wonderful afterwards. She had fallen asleep almost immediately after, in a deep state of contentment. Ren hadn't remembered to close the curtains before they both fell asleep last night. Normally the sunrise would have given her a massive headache, but Kyoko had felt fine when she woke up. Better than fine. For the first time, she didn't wake up starving. She felt more normal than she had in weeks. Somehow that made it even worse.
When Ren woke sometime later, the morning sun streaming in through the windows, he panicked. He sat up and realized he was alone in an empty bed. He ripped the covers off, staring down at the space where Kyoko had slept. The sheets were a little rumpled, but clean. There was no pile of ash. Ren almost choked with relief as he realized the sunlight probably hadn't killed her. Kyoko had simply left. Probably sometime in the night. He absentmindedly rubbed the side of his neck. The spot where she had bit him ached faintly, like a week-old bruise.
Ren took a deep breath in, and caught a whiff of something delicious. Bacon? His stomach grumbled. Ren looked down at his own body, surprised. He didn't eat in the morning. He wasn't a breakfast person (unless coffee counted as breakfast, which Yashiro and Kyoko were continually reminding him that it did not). But today, he was starving. He padded down the hall, noting the drawn shades in the living room. In the kitchen, Kyoko stood minding the stove. A plastic bag from the expensive grocery store downstairs sat on the counter. Which explained the delicious smells. Ren was fairly certain his fridge had been empty. He made a mental note to pay Kyoko back somehow, waiting until she stepped back from the stove to say good morning.
"Oh! Good morning!" Kyoko smiled at him anxiously. "How are you? Are you feeling alright?"
"I was a bit drained." Ren replied automatically, his brain not quite awake. Kyoko's face fell and he realized his mistake. Ren backpedaled. "I didn't mean it like that. I'm fine. I was tired, that's all. Whatever you're making smells delicious," He added, blatantly hoping to change the subject. Luckily the toaster dinged, giving both of them a minute to collect themselves. Ren wanted to kick himself, but managed to murmur his thanks in a relatively even tone as Kyoko set a heaping plate of scrambled eggs with bacon and toast in front of him. Ren surprised both of them by devouring the entire plate under Kyoko's watchful gaze.
"There's more, if you'd like seconds?" She offered, as he finished the last forkful of eggs.
"I'm all set. It was delicious. Thank you." Ren smiled genuinely, which made Kyoko frown. "Mogami-san, I'm fine."
"You're not fine." Kyoko huffed. "You ate a full serving of breakfast."
"It seems I was hungry," Ren observed, perfectly nonchalant.
"See!? You're proving my point!" Kyoko leaned across the counter, staring into Ren's face. He raised an eyebrow.
"Would you rather I not eat breakfast?" He teased. "I can go hungry, if you want. You know, for solidarity." His teasing faltered. "Are you hungry?"
"NO!" Kyoko jumped back. "No thank you! I'm fine!"
"Are you sure?" It was Ren's turn to lean forward and inspect her. Kyoko squirmed under his gaze.
Ren was feeling much better than last night. And despite what was for him an unusually large breakfast, he was feeling even better than when he woke up. And the prospect of Kyoko climbing on top of him again was too tempting to resist.
"I'm really fine!" Kyoko insisted, her cheeks glowing red. "I, um… I had a lot last night…." she managed to stammer out before embarrassment caused her voice to stop working. Ren's mouth went dry as he recalled the feeling of Kyoko climbing on top of him, practically writhing in his arms. Fortunately, before he could say or do something incredibly stupid, Ren's phone buzzed. It was almost time for him to leave. He offered her a lift to work, wondering if she would be offended if he offered her a hat and sunglasses. He didn't need the paparazzi snapping photos of her coming out of his apartment. It turns out she had her own hat and sunglasses, but Kyoko surprised him by asking if she could borrow a long-sleeve shirt.
"I seem to burn really easily," Kyoko explained a bit self consciously, rubbing her arms.
"I was really worried when I woke up this morning and you weren't there," Ren confessed. He didn't want to admit that his first thought had been that she had turned to dust. It seemed silly now, not to mention incredibly morbid. Ren fished through his wardrobe for a shirt.
"Sunlight gives me migraines." Kyoko smiled sadly at the carpet. She used to be a morning person. Now the thought of sunrise made her grimace. Ren handed her a shirt.
"Are you sure I can't bring you home?" Ren glanced at his watch. "I have enough time."
"It's fine. I have to be at the office later anyways." Kyoko smiled, cheerfully this time, tugging on Ren's favorite flannel. "Besides, the garage is underground, so it's fine."
When Ren and Kyoko arrived at the LME, Yashiro was already waiting. Kyoko bowed, thanking Ren again for the ride and promising to wash his shirt before she returned it. Ren simply told her there was no need. He didn't elaborate. It didn't feel appropriate to tell Kyoko that he'd rather she returned his clothes smelling like her. And he definitely didn't want to say such a thing in front of his manager, who was already grinning at the pair.
Kyoko hesitated, glancing between her senpai and his manager. Now that she was at work, the impropriety of her behavior last night stuck out like a sore thumb. Kyoko bit her lip. How on earth could she properly apologize for everything? She had dumped all her problems on him. She had bit him. She had slept over in his apartment, in his bed. Kyoko felt the blood rush to her face in deep mortification. She had to say something. "I, um, Tsuruga-san?"
"Mnn?" Ren smiled down at her.
"I'm really sorry!" Kyoko bowed, her eyes shut tight. At least this way, she didn't have to face him. It was much easier to apologize while looking at his shoes. "I—"
"You don't have to apologize." Ren said, stuck between amusement and exasperation.
"I won't do it again!" She squealed, looking up at him with a frantic plea. Then her eyes darted past him to his manager. In the face of both men, Kyoko's bravery ran out. Her defense mechanisms kicked in, and she turned to flee, bowing one more time before scurrying away into the safety of the office.
"Kyoko-chan certainly seemed eager to get away," Yashiro observed slyly. "I think you have some explaining to do." Ren merely climbed silently back into the car. The manager rolled his eyes, climbing into the passenger seat.
Yashiro had expected the ride to pass in complete silence. No, that wasn't quite right. Yashiro had expected Ren to evade, to make incredibly vague, completely useless responses and then not-so-subtly change the subject if Yashiro tried to ask about why Kyoko-chan had come to work with the actor, in the same clothes the manager had seen her in the day before. The manager had been resigned to never getting anything resembling a real explanation. So when Ren voluntarily relayed the events of last night: Kyoko's confession, her medical condition, Kotonami-san's friendship, the mostly-healed bite mark on his neck, all Yashiro could do was listen in stunned silence. 'Kyoko is a vampire' was not remotely on the list of possibilities that he had considered.
The car was silent for a full two minutes as the manager processed. Then Yashiro suddenly leaned over in his seat, practically leering at the actor.
"Ren, you sly bastard!" Yashiro cackled gleefully as he recalled the scene in the Love Me room that they had stumbled in on. He elbowed Ren playfully, completely heedless of driving or traffic safety. "So did you let her bite you anywhere else?" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
"It's not like that." Ren said sternly. "She has a medical condition. That's all. It doesn't mean anything for her."
"You don't know that!" Yashiro countered. "I mean, she told you all this. Doesn't that mean she trusts you? Maybe she's even in lo—"
Ren sighed. "Yashiro, I'm happy to have her as a friend. She's a wonderful person and I'm glad to spend time with her. I'm honored that she trusts me. But that's all there is." Ren forced the proper amount of unconcern into his voice. Yashiro dropped it, muttering resentfully.
Truthfully, Ren did want to talk to Yashiro about it— the man was his closest friend (Ren tried not to think about how pathetic his social life was). As a manager, Yashiro was an excellent career strategist, polite, diplomatic, and excellent at guarding confidential information. But as a friend, Yashiro lost all of his discretion in favor of being extremely supportive of Ren deepening his relationship with Kyoko. Too supportive. She was only seventeen, Ren had to remind Yashiro (and himself). She was a minor. With a serious condition. Last night hadn't been romantic for her at all, Ren was reading too much into it. To Kyoko, it had been dinner. She didn't feel anything special for him; all she was trying to do was survive. The actress was clearly torn up about her newfound dependency on human blood. And instead of being sympathetic or compassionate, Ren had been turned on. He was disgusted with himself. The girl he loved had come to him, opened up about her problems, shared her feelings and struggles, and what had he done in return? Used her desperation to his advantage. Offered himself up as though he was doing her a favor, acting like it was coming from the goodness of his heart, instead of between his legs. The shame twisted in his gut like a knife.
When his manager brought up the subject again at lunch, Ren's patience snapped.
"It's not going to happen again. Let it go, Yashiro." Ren's voice was clipped with anger.
"What do you mean?!" was the manager's baffled response. "Of course it'll happen again."
"No, it won't." Ren said with finality. "It was a one-time thing."
"Are you squeamish about blood or something?" Yashiro asked dubiously.
"It's not that." Ren said. He continued eating his lunch mechanically, ignoring the man sitting across from him. Yashiro was silent for a while, and Ren was beginning to hope he would leave it alone, when he spoke again.
"I just don't get it." Yashiro gave the actor a long, reproachful look. "Really, Ren...I thought you were a gentleman."
"It's because I'm a gentleman," Ren scowled, "that I'm telling you it will never happen again." Yashiro looked at him blankly. Ren let out a small, tight sigh. "It's… intimate, alright?"
"She's literally feeding off you." His manager replied flatly.
"She's seventeen, Yashiro."
"For god's sake, Ren, she's biting your neck, not sucking your—"
"That's enough." Ren stood up from the table.
"So you're going to let her starve?!" Yashiro said incredulously. Ren struggled to recapture his regular, calm demeanor.
"She doesn't need me, she has Kotonami-san," Ren said at last, feigning indifference. "She'll be fine."
For a week, Kyoko felt great. She wasn't hungry at all. The sun didn't bother her quite so much. She slept slightly more normal hours. She even managed to eat a few bites of the Taisho's special noodles and didn't have to throw up. It felt wonderfully, gloriously human.
But eventually the effects of Ren's blood wore off and Kyoko was hungry again. She held out as long as she could manage, but was grateful when Kanae texted to ask if Kyoko wanted to get 'dinner' at the office. They met at LA Hearts so they could catch up and chat while Kanae ate a real dinner and Kyoko pushed some sashimi around her plate. Then they went to the Love Me room, locked the door, and Kanae unbuttoned her collar with practiced ease. Kyoko bit her friend's neck as shallowly as she could manage, allowing herself exactly one sip before she licked Kanae's neck clean. Then Kanae went home, and Kyoko went off to a photoshoot, her stomach still grumbling unhappily.
She hated the way it sounded, but Kyoko couldn't deny that Kanae was delicious. Kyoko loved everything about her friend, including how her blood tasted. Moko-san tasted like fresh spring sunshine and lemon-raspberry tarts. But while she was, thanks to her friend, no longer starving, Kyoko wasn't satisfied. It was like getting a piece of candy for lunch instead of a real meal. Sure, candy was delicious, but it wasn't the same. Kyoko closed her eyes, remembering the way Ren had tasted in her mouth: rich, satisfying, like salty bone broth and red wine laced with something woodsy and herbal that Kyoko's palate couldn't quite place. Her mouth watered, Kyoko's stomach and heart teamed up, screaming, throwing tantrums, threatening her mind with mutiny, demanding that she go find Tsuruga-san right now. But Kyoko's mind refused. She had spent most of her life diligently ignoring her own wants and needs, and she could do so now. She had to.
So Kyoko kept herself busy. She booked as many modelling jobs as she possibly could. She got MV offers from visual kei bands who loved her 'haunted, fallen angel' look. She filmed TV commercials. She got cast in a gritty crime drama as a cyber investigator where all of her scenes were filmed indoors on the fake office/lab set. She enjoyed the role, although all the fake blood and gore on set just reminded her of how hungry she was. Kyoko thought about texting Moko-san and asking to meet up, but decided against it. Kanae had a new role in a post-apocalyptic show that was full of action sequences and was exhausted. Kyoko knew if she asked Kanae her friend wouldn't refuse, but she didn't want to be a burden. So Kyoko drank her herbal tea and took her iron supplements and ate as much raw beef as she could stomach (which was not very much), and hoped that her busy schedule would help her forget the empty pit inside of her.
Unsurprisingly, Kyoko's plan did not work. Filling her schedule did nothing to fill the growing void inside of her. So it was inevitable that Kyoko would find herself at LME late one afternoon with time to kill. Kanae was filming on location in Osaka, so the Love Me Room was empty. Kyoko laid down on a bench, her forearm thrown across her face to block out the fluorescent light overhead. She couldn't sleep, but she could at least rest without being disturbed.
Her mind drifted hazily, never staying on one train of thought for too long, constantly distracted by the constant, insistent buzz of hunger that never left her. The only time it ever subsided was when Kyoko thought about Ren. She wasn't sure if her exhausted daze made her honest, or if she simply lacked the energy to lie to herself. She missed being on set with him, the joy and magic of watching him act. She missed the sound of his voice, the soft way he would speak with her between takes as Katsuki or BJ. She missed the constant affection of Cain for Setsu, how he was always petting her, or stroking her hair, or pulling her close. She missed walking into the hotel room she shared and smelling him: cologne and cigarettes and the subtle, enticing masculine scent of his skin. She missed cooking for him, eating dinner together in his apartment.
Of course, those days were over for her. It was absurd of her to think that he would ever invite her into his home again, after she had practically attacked him. He was probably afraid of her. Kyoko grimaced and pushed herself up. Better to be on set than laying around feeling sorry for herself. She dragged herself to her feet, every step costing her five times what she felt it should as her stomach resumed its unending protests.
She had to use both arms to pull open the Love Me section door, struggling to move its bulk, until the door abruptly swung open. Kyoko stumbled backwards, only managing to stay upright thanks to her two-handed death grip on the door handle. She blinked. Instead of the hallway, in front of her was a field of charcoal gray cashmere. Kyoko slowly tilted her back, panning up until Tsuruga Ren's worried face came into view.
"You looked like you were struggling," Ren explained, nodding above her head where his hand easily held the door open.
"Oh… uh, thank you."
"No problem." Ren's smile faltered as his eyes ran over her, clearly not liking what he saw.
Kyoko cringed, knowing she probably looked like hell. But what was she supposed to do? She couldn't remember the last time she'd been able to catch her reflection in the mirror.
The silence stretched out between them. Kyoko leaned against the door, grateful for the support now that Ren held it open.
"Are you headed out?" Ren asked uncertainly. "Do you have a minute?"
Kyoko nodded, waving him in as she staggered back to the bench she had recently occupied. Ren hesitated, then sat down carefully: a polite distance, but not so far that he couldn't reach out and steady her if she started to keel over. Which looked like it could happen any minute. Kyoko was leaning back against the lockers, her head tilted up and her eyes closed. The dark smudges underneath her eyes stood out against her pale face. She was so still that Ren worried for a minute she had fallen asleep.
"I haven't seen you in a while," Ren ventured, hoping he sounded calm and polite instead of how he felt: jilted and hurt. "I came by because…" Ren cleared his throat. "I wanted to make sure you're doing alright."
"I'm fine. Great." Kyoko croaked, not opening her eyes. She knew she was being rude, but she simply didn't have the bandwidth to care. She couldn't afford to squander precious mental energy on manners. Every ounce of her will was needed to fight the roiling hunger inside of her.
Ren did not agree with Kyoko's assessment of her current state, but thought better of saying so outright. "I heard that Kotonami-san is filming out of town," Ren said softly.
"You should go."
"Only if you look me in the eyes and tell me you're alright." Ren said, lying through his teeth. There was no way he could leave her by herself when she clearly didn't even have the strength to open a door. "Please, Mogami-san. Let me help you."
To Kyoko, Ren's voice sounded like honey spread on top of warm bread. She clenched her fists. Ren wasn't trying to torture her, he was trying to be nice. It wasn't his fault. She should be grateful for his kindness. If only his very presence didn't make her every fiber of her body scream at her to sink her teeth into him. Kyoko forced it all down. "You should go."
"Won't you look at me?" Ren pleaded.
"I can't." Kyoko's voice was raw. "Tsuruga-san, please. You need to go. I can't—it's—" Kyoko clamped one hand over her mouth.
Ren's polite smile faded. Her entire body was trembling like a dried leaf in the wind, and yet she refused to let him help her. Ren wanted to shake her. He slid off the bench, kneeling in front of Kyoko so that her face was almost level with his. He cupped her cheek, his fingers threading into her hair and touching the soft skin under her jaw, cautious but insistent.
"Mogami-san, look at me." He commanded, his tone completely at odds with the gentleness of his hand as he brushed her fingers away from her mouth. Kyoko obeyed, meeting his gaze for the first time. Her irises were the dark, rusty crimson of old blood as she looked at him with unmasked, predatory desire that made Ren's heart thunder. Kyoko could hear his blood pounding. She was frozen, and Ren used her momentary hesitation to pull her face down and closer. The proximity roused her, Kyoko finally processing his intention. She brought her hands up to his chest, intending to push him away. But somehow her fingers curled, desperately clutching fistfuls of his sweater, even as she shook her head.
"It's alright," Ren murmured soothingly against her hair. "Kyoko, it's okay. Use me." He brushed her hair back from her face, turning his own head away to expose the smooth, strong column of his neck. Kyoko felt tears clinging to her lashes— from hunger or fear, she couldn't tell. With a hiccuping sob, Kyoko broke. She sank her teeth into his neck, feeling him instinctively tense underneath her for a second before he forced himself to relax with a shuddering breath.
For one blissful moment, Kyoko let herself feast. Her grip on his sweater tightened, pulling him closer, until her arms were crushed between her chest and his. She wanted to stay like this forever. She wanted to devour him. The thought frightened her, and Kyoko immediately released him, but Ren tugged her down onto the floor and into his lap. She scrunched herself into a tight ball, her body shaking as she sobbed, heedless dampening Ren's sweater with her guilty tears. Ren just held her, one hand rubbing up and down her back in a soothing rhythm, the other cradling her head, running his fingers through her smooth, short strands.
That was how Yashiro found them when he poked his head around the Love Me section door. The manager took in both the stars on the floor, Kyoko huddled in Ren's lap, and gave Ren a sympathetic look before glancing meaningfully at the clock. Ren nodded, holding up two fingers, and his manager slipped out of the room.
"Kyoko," Ren said softly. The actress stirred, but didn't move to get up. Ren kept his arms around her, shifting them both, placing Kyoko back on the bench, himself still on the floor so that they were face to face. "Listen, I have to go now. But I want you to promise me that you'll come over. Tonight." He paused, waiting for a response. Kyoko sniffled and nodded. "Do you have work?"
She nodded again, wiping her eyes. They were a little red from her tears, but otherwise back to their normal golden color. Her lip wobbled slightly as she tried to give Ren a smile. In response, Ren leaned forward to brush his nose against hers. It both tickled and thrilled her. He pulled back, and then nodded to himself, satisfied with the color and alertness coming back into her face.
"Then I'll see you later this evening." Ren stood. Before he could stop himself, he leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. Then he straightened and was out the door, leaving a dazed Kyoko behind him.