A/N: According to the internet, a decent move takes about 18 months to make, from start to finish. This fic takes place about a month or two after the release of Tragic Marker, so it would be almost a year from chapter 207. Spoilers up to 207.
The woman with the gleaming million-yen smile, grins at her co-host. "And last but certainly not least on tonight's top five movies of the year, Tragic Marker!"
"For those of you under a rock somewhere, Tragic Marker is the little horror movie that could," agreed the woman's co-star, a sleek-haired man with cheekbones sharp enough to cut glass. "Taking the box office by storm, none of the critics expected it to do as well as it did."
"Horror movies usually do decently at the box office," said the woman, reading from the prompter, "but everyone was surprised when Tragic Marker showed enough staying power to compete even with summer blockbusters."
"And what's the mystery about the success of this movie?" grinned the man. "The identity of the actor who played B.J.! I tell you what, Yukiko-san, Director Konoe really knew what he was doing. I have to admit I wondered if the movie would have done half so well if no one was wondering about the identity of the mysterious B.J."
"And Tokyo's Entertainment TV has the exclusive reveal!" said the woman, leaning forward eagerly. "You've all heard the rumors, but see them confirmed or denied… please welcome Cain Heel!"
"Are they still running that episode?"
Yashiro turned the TV down a bit, turning as Ren walked into the dressing room.
"I never get tired of seeing it." Yashiro grinned. "Your first international hit, Ren! Even Hollywood movie critics are taking notice."
"That's true," Ren admitted, settling down into his chair and loosening his tie. He was early. The makeup artist wouldn't arrive for another fifteen minutes. Yashiro turned off the TV.
"I don't think I ever asked," Yashiro said, picking up his attaché and opening it on the table in the room, "but was Kyoko-chan ever revealed as Cain Heel's sister?"
"Not on any of the interviews," Ren said, removing his jacket and hanging it up in the space provided. "She made a private reveal to the cast and crew the same time I did, but requested to be out of the limelight since she wasn't even in the movie. She wasn't in any of the cast photos, so no journalists have even asked to see her."
"Ah," Yashiro said, "that's a shame. I'd hoped that her star would rise a little, even if it was by association with you and not due to an actual part in the movie."
Ren didn't have a reply to that. He wondered now what hadn't occurred to him before: had she declined a public reveal because of the association with him? No… she wasn't that prideful… after all, she'd once admitted to him that one of the reasons she'd taken on Fuwa Sho's Prisoner PV was so that she could use the visual kei musician as a stepping stone.
"I'm happy to have all my doubts about TM unjustified," Yashiro said happily, organizing the stack of offers Ren had received in the mail that day. He'd meant to do it before Ren arrived but had gotten distracted by the TV. "I didn't think TM would be good for your career, but you do know what you're doing sometimes."
"Thank you, Yashiro-san," Ren said in a dry voice. "That means a lot coming from a manager like yourself."
"Anytime," the older man said breezily. He turned his attention to his schedule book for a moment. "Are you meeting Kyoko-chan for dinner tonight as usual?"
Ren glanced up at his manager, suspicion narrowing his eyes, but Yashiro's unusually calm face revealed nothing.
"As far as I know..." He closed his mouth, not wanting to reveal more, though it was a fruitless exercise. Yashiro already knew the extent of his feelings for Kyoko, even though he'd never spoken them directly out loud. The end of Tragic Marker shooting had been a bit of a slump for him and Kyoko. The depression post-B.J. was a surprise for Ren. Black Jack was a murderous fiend—not a particularly deep role and not the best character he'd ever played or his favorite. He wasn't sure why he was feeling the blues like he had the day Dark Moon had ended filming.
Then there'd been a cast party, celebrating the end of principle photography, and Director Konoe had requested that Cain and Setsuka make at least one appearance. The rush of pleasure he'd felt at being able to reprise his character again made him realize what his feelings stemmed from: he didn't miss the role of B.J., he missed the role of Cain Heel.
But most of all, he missed being able to see Kyoko as often as he was used to. They'd gone through several months of filming together, of being able to be together at least once every day. And then for it to be over was… wrenching.
They'd grown closer over the course of the Heel sibling routine—not even Ren could deny that, even though he still doubted that Kyoko thought of him the way he thought about her. His reunion with her in Guam as "Corn" the fairy prince had proved that if anything had. But still, she was opening up to him in a way he hadn't thought possible before… and he had hopes that her wounds were finally healing, that he was making progress to cross the line from respected senpai to friend, and someday… maybe someday soon… he could tell her what he had felt for two long years and she wouldn't immediately run away.
The first step he'd taken had been a calculated risk: after the cast party, he could see that she was feeling a bit down as he was.
"I think I'm going to miss your cooking," he said into the night air. They were leaving the party, which was still raging on behind them. Cain and Setsuka, however, weren't the types to stay and socialize and so they'd left early. No one else seemed to mind—though there had been an outpouring of drunken fondness inexplicably expressed for them both as they left.
She glanced at him quickly and then back down, eyes sad. "Yes… I will miss cooking for you." Her cheeks bloomed a little pink.
"Mogami-san…" he hesitated, then plunged forward. "Would it be too much to ask… when your schedule permits…. to come and cook dinner for me? I think…" he added hurriedly, seeing her expression freeze, "that it would help the transition for both of us. Not every day, of course… maybe just… twice a week?" Then he added the finishing blow. "I think I eat better when you cook for me."
It was true, after all. He always felt guilty if he didn't at least attempt to eat everything she put on his plate. Shame alone ensured that he had some bits of a healthy meal in his stomach.
Her face softened then and she nodded, still blushing. "I… I would like that."
That had been two months ago. Whatever transition Ren had used as an excuse had long since passed. Kyoko was at work at her new drama—a bullying role again, but she played the main heroine's sister, a direct foil to her, so her character was actually in some ways a second main character. Ren was happy for her to be in such a good position as an actress and knew that if she continued to embrace her roles as she had done with Setsu and Natsu, then there wouldn't be an end to what roles she could do. Their dinner nights—Ren refused to think of them as "dates"—were the highlights of his week. Whatever stress he encountered, he knew he could count on her to listen with a sympathetic ear, to scold him when he needed it, and to lend an air of cheer to his large, empty apartment.
Yashiro snapped his fingers in front of Ren's face. He blinked, then cleared his throat, avoiding the gleeful expression that was on his manager's face.
"Sheesh, I only have to mention Kyoko's name and you go off into la-la land for good… ten minutes? That's a new record," Yashiro said, chuckling to himself in a self-satisfied kind of way.
Ren willed his cheeks not to blush and walked to the rack of costumes in the dressing room, pretending to look for the one he needed to change into. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said smoothly. "But yes, as far as I know, Mogami-san is coming over to make dinner."
"Good," Yashiro said, closing his book, and returning to the mail. He sat out a few more items then tapped a large stack of scripts, his eyes suddenly serious. "Now, these are the suspense/horror offers, but you're also getting a respectable amount for other genres as well. Just today it looks like you've got a sci-fi action/adventure, more than a few romantic comedies, another historical drama…" His voice trailed off.
Ren looked up from the costume rack. Yashiro was staring open-mouthed at an envelope with swirls of dark post-office stamps all over the front as if the thing contained a confession of love.
Yashiro glanced up at his charge and then slowly offered the envelope to him. "Ren…" he said in an awed voice. "It's from Flagship Entertainment… in the United States."
Ren's heart made an escape attempt through his throat, but he took the script calmly as if he received offers from the entertainment capital of the world every day. Flagship Entertainment's logo—a pirate ship firing a volley of cannonballs—was emblazoned across the top of the cover letter. The offer was short and sweet: they wished him to audition for a supporting role in an adaptation of a book that had been at the top of the bestseller charts in the U.S.: a historical drama about a Japanese family forced into the internment camps in California during World War II. The main character was actually the daughter of the family—a hard-working girl who had fallen in love with an American soldier. The character they wanted Ren to audition for was her twin brother who was very close to his sister and tried to protect her and their aging parents from the cruel guards and her growing infatuation with the soldier.
It was the opportunity he'd been dreaming of ever since moving away from the United States at fifteen.
"I'll stay with this look and style as the Japanese actor Tsuruga Ren, until I return to the U.S. on my own efforts and become a successful actor."
"Ren?" Yashiro's voice made him look up. His manager looked worried. "You suddenly looked so pale… what's wrong?"
Ren felt a slow smile start at the corners of his mouth until it grew so wide it felt like his whole face was smiling.
"Nothing, Yashiro-san. Nothing at all."