Author's note: This fanfic contains lines from the song "I know you care" by Ellie Goulding. I do not own those words, but I do love them.
*Edit: thanks to Rutoh-Chan and meow for pointing out a plot hole in this story. It's fixed now.*
(The line breaks separate points of view, jumping between Ren and Kyoko. When I wrote this, I pictured the story portrayed like the manga, so that is why I trail off so much...)
I know you care…
Tsuruga Ren shifted under the sheets. No matter how drained he felt after playing the role of Cain Heel for two days, there was no way he was going to get any sleep tonight. He sat up in his king-sized bed, the silken sheets sliding down his body like water as he cradled his head in his hands.
It was strenuous, when he'd first put on the mask of Tsuruga Ren, to keep up the persona for even a few hours without that self-loathing floating to the surface. Now, although he had years of practice, he was facing the same difficulties that he had back then. The effort it required to smile to Yashiro-san earlier, to talk to Jelly Woods, and to pretend as if nothing had happened was more than he'd put into any role in his entire career.
But he couldn't drive it from his thoughts. He still felt her… clinging to him… as if she was falling. It had felt like she was about to disappear. As if, when she exhaled, that she'd float away on that last breath, thinner than air. There was no thinking. In that moment he'd reached out to her – the woman who kept saving him, who kept bringing him back when he teetered on the edge of the abyss. In the past few days, she'd grown to be more than just a talisman against the evil that threatened his sanity. She was his home. She belonged in his arms. Or rather, he belonged in hers.
Driving home felt wrong somehow, though the pedal still pushed gas through the engine and the car rolled forward, though the steering wheel turned the tires and the car stopped neatly in his parking space when he applied the brakes, something was missing. When he opened his refrigerator to find nothing at all, it was missing. Something… or someone? As he stood in the shower, absently staring at the wall, he half expected the curtain to be pulled open by… Or her voice to ring out, "Niisan, supper is ready!"
Or would it be Setsuka?
Please, don't close your eyes, he had begged himself last night. He didn't want it to end. He didn't want to fall asleep and he didn't want to wake up from that dream. What if it was all part of the act? But… wasn't that what it was supposed to be?
In the end, he couldn't help it. He gave in. He gave it his all. He gave her everything. And when he woke up, she was gone.
It wasn't like he'd had a plan or anything. In fact, he had no idea what he expected to happen after that night. Did he expect something to change between them? But, surely it couldn't not change, right?
Despite her shyness, he knew that she cared. Whether it was just reminding him to eat, or taking care of him when he was sick, or helping him master his version of Katsuki, she'd always been looking out for him. It had always been there.
But… that wasn't the point. That wasn't the problem. No matter how he looked at the situation, there was trouble ahead for both of them. The closer they got, the more he could feel it. Just as surely as he'd pulled away before, trying to pass off his affection as honest concern for his kohai, now she was putting up barriers against him. She was hiding. The way she looked at him, it was like a warning. She was afraid. And why wouldn't she be? After what Fuwa did to her…
So then, wasn't he just as bad? No matter how much he cared for her, he'd been holding himself back, trying to spare himself the shame of taking advantage of his junior, a minor and an innocent girl. He had a reputation to uphold, after all.
It was so easy to fall back into that pattern of self-deceit. To convince himself that it was for the best that he never confessed. That he should never confess. That they should never…
Kyoko shivered under her blankets. Tsuruga Ren smiled down at her with that fake smile that always screamed that he was mad about something she had done. It had been so long since she'd been in her own room at Darumaya that she'd completely forgotten about that poster. Looking at it now, she saw things that she'd never picked up on before. The set of his shoulders, the way his hair fell softly tousled into his eyes, the subtle tilt of his head, all of it was just… work. As a professional actor that does some modeling, he would know exactly what pose would get him the response he desired. When she recognized it, she was simultaneously amazed and disgusted. It was just so… fake.
She turned away, unable to look at his face anymore without losing control of the tears that had been welling up in her eyes. Was it so hard to distinguish between real and fake emotions as well? Two deep breaths later, she was under control again, though her thoughts were far from calm.
In a way she longed for Setsuka's cool head or Natsu's casual indifference. If only she, Kyoko, were like those girls, she'd be able to handle this situation much easier. Slowly, unconsciously, she let herself slide into a role, its confidence easing her inner turmoil to the point that – just maybe – she'd be able to sleep.
A banging on the front door startled her. She ran down the stairs, her heart in her throat. Could it be him? Why? What would Tsuruga-san need that couldn't wait until morning? Her imagination ran wild with possibilities.
Again, she took two deep breaths at the door, using that time to slip more fully into Setsuka.
Without hesitation or preamble, Setsuka yanked open the door to find Fuwa Shou staring blankly back at her. The relieved surprise that had crept onto his face faded like an after image, replaced by something more familiar. Anger and contempt filled his features as he opened his mouth.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded.
Setsuka's raised eyebrow was plainly a threat for violence if he didn't get to the point.
"Your cellphone. Don't you ever turn off your cellphone like that again!" he spouted heatedly. "Though you may not need it for your lackluster acting career, at least keep it on for emergencies!"
Though it looked like Shou was ready to walk right into the shop to continue this fight, Setsuka blocked his path. It wasn't Cain, after all. What did she care what this man had to say?
"What the –" was all Shou managed to say before the door was slammed in his face.
She trudged back to her room, hanging her heavy head. There was nothing she wouldn't give at that moment for Cain to be there, for him to stroke her hair and tell her that it would be alright. Those comforting gestures that Kyoko was so unfamiliar with, they'd become a part of Setsuka. The comfort of us. It felt so good to know that one person couldn't live without the other. That they were both lost. That they both had their demons.
She knew that Tsuruga-san cared. That it had always been there. Sure, he tried to cover it up with his flimsy excuses, but after that last time at the Dark Moon party she realized what he was doing. Hiding behind his clever words and slick moves was a predator. The way that he stared at her… those bright smiles he gave her, almost too bright to face... it was hard to ignore. But that kind of thinking led to trouble, without a doubt.
She'd promised herself not to be used like that ever again. She wouldn't be played and she wouldn't play the fool. No matter what, that feeling – the one that robbed her of concern for herself – had to be suppressed. It had to be stomped out and destroyed. It had to be stopped.
Though, it wasn't always wrong…
Again his mind flashed on last night, how fragile Setsuka had been. He'd led her by hand to bed and, without either of them bathing or even taking off their shoes, he'd cradled her in his arms. She'd been trembling so softly, he wondered if she was crying. All he could do was rub her back… over and over… stubbornly trying to provide her with the comfort she needed.
And then, she'd relaxed into his embrace. At that moment, he'd felt so relieved. Because if she hadn't… if he'd pushed her too far… It didn't matter if it was Setsuka or Kyoko anymore, he just needed this girl to be okay. He just needed her. He'd fallen asleep like that, both of them in strangers' clothes… unaware who they were lying beside.
But to wake up alone… had he ever known a winter so cold?
The next few days were a blur. Thankfully she was busy with work, having to catch up with her scenes on "Box R" that she'd postponed for her "other job". And when she wasn't acting, she was studying for her advancement test for school. Whether it was Natsu or Mathematics, Kyoko threw herself into it completely, aware that if she didn't, she'd be stuck thinking about him.
Normally, when she'd have free time between shootings she'd head back to LME's main branch. She was still a member of the "Love Me" division, despite her already budding career, and felt obligated to fulfill her duties as such. So, the second day after her return to Kyoko, she biked over to LME in her pink overalls. She didn't intend to hunt for more stamps, and she prayed that the president wouldn't want to talk to her. All she hoped for was to study quietly in the office. Or that's what she told herself.
She couldn't deny that the possibility of seeing Tsuruga-san was on her mind. Though she didn't know what she wanted from him right now, just seeing him would be enough. Having lived together for two weeks now, off and on, she craved his presence more than anything.
And then… just as she was walking through the LME lobby, he was there, like an apparition. Kyoko froze, afraid to move and afraid to breathe. He was riding the escalator up, talking happily with Yashiro-san. It wasn't Cain and it certainly wasn't that death god. It was Tsuruga Ren, the most beloved actor in all of Japan. She smiled unconsciously, relieved to see him acting as he always did. But as she watched, his hand made its way up to his neck and rested there, where it should have been. Kyoko felt her face grow hot as she looked away. Was it still there? How long do kiss marks last?!
He used the days ahead to organize his thoughts. Yashiro-san seemed to pick up on this and filled his schedule with meaningless interviews and commercial spots. If he was working, he didn't have to think about it…
Because so many times, he found himself reaching for his phone, about to call her. And then he'd remember that she didn't have a phone… not anymore. In those moments, he'd feel his mask slip. The only thing that kept him clinging to the façade was the knowledge that the Heel siblings weren't dead yet. There was still months of production left to shoot in "Tragic Marker". As long as the president didn't call it off, he'd be with her again in a matter of days. And then there was that promise he made…
"I won't do anything out of character like that anymore… As long as I'm alive, I'll live as 'your me'."
He had to keep it together. For her.
Gathering her courage, she looked up again at Tsuruga-san, wondering if he'd covered it up with make-up. The memory of it brought shame and embarrassment to her now, the moment when she'd let Setsuka take over. Her mind flashed back to the image of his naked torso... and the need to claim him as her own.
The shame! Had she gone too far? Did the muse see it? Did Yashiro-san?! Death would be more merciful than his teasing!
But... she was glad it wasn't visible now, regardless of whether he'd covered it up or if it had healed on its own. As worried as she'd been for him at the time, she hadn't done that to Tsuruga Ren. After all, he was her senpai! It would be inappropriate, wrong, borderline sexual harassment...
Her heart constricted in disagreement. That feeling again. And his words...
She shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. As he walked away, his hand dropped reluctantly back to his side. She had to make sure of it, she told herself as an excuse, because her eyes wouldn't leave him until he was out of view.
Nothing was there. But... she still hoped...that her mark remained.
And then… it was time. The Heel siblings were born again.
Cain was surprised to see Setsuka already in the hotel room when he arrived. She was pacing, back and forth, her arms crossed over her chest. When he stepped into the room, she froze. Then, as if she hadn't flinched at all, she turned to him, smiling.
"Niisan, you're back!"
And she ran to him, surprising him with a cheerful hug.
It made sense that Setsuka would hate to be separated from her brother. It was right for her to crave his touch. Everything she did was spot on. Everything but the way she clung to him…
This is how things ought to have been.
When she was not herself… and he was someone else… she could say so much. She could tell the truth, even though it was all supposed to be an act.
"I missed you."
Cain shuddered slightly before hugging her back, his hand stroking her hair.
"I missed you, too."
Though her mind had been in turmoil these past few days, the memories of what she'd done as Setsuka tormenting her constantly, she felt reassurance wash over her when he held her back. She didn't want to disappoint him. She knew the worst of it wasn't all that it seemed. It was an act! It was all for the sake of the role! Tsuruga-san, can you feel my passion? Can't you see that I'm growing into a real actress?
As much as she tried to separate her feelings from Setsuka, a part of her resisted.
Why can't I dream? she asked herself.
Though he knew it was Setsuka that missed Cain, Setsuka that jumped into his arms, but... he believed the desperation of that embrace, the pressure and need that held him and made his heart beat faster was all Kyoko.
Why can't I dream?
'Cause I know you care…
And I know you care…
I know it's always been there.