TALES FROM THE WRITER'S BLOCK: I've been having the worst time with the newest chapter of my other story that I had to write this one just to get the idea out of my head. This was supposed to be an alternate ending to 'Criminal' that I'm not planning to use. However, it kept bugging me to turn it into a real story. So I gave it the one-shot treatment and made you guys some sickly sweet fluff for your reading pleasure. I hope you enjoy it... or not; that's cool too.
"I'll bet you paperwork for a week that Tsuruga will have a girlfriend before the end of filming that new movie he's in.", Kanae put her pen down and looked pointedly at Kyoko.
"Moko-san, it's cruel to place bets on Tsuruga-san like that. I want no part of this.", Kyoko whined as she closed the folder she had been working on.
"Oh, does my rival think she's going to lose?", Kanae teased.
"No, I think you're going to lose, but it's not fair to turn Tsuruga-san's love life into a game.", Kyoko folded her arms with a pout.
Kyoko didn't even remember how they got started on this topic in the first place and tried to think back. They were given a large stack of paper and folders by Sawara earlier and set to work on organizing and updating them. At some point, in between grumbling about having to wade through stacks of paper, she must have brought up Ren's latest role in an upcoming movie. She had just talked to him the night before about it when he called her. While it was true that he was working with a very attractive co-star, it wasn't all that unusual for him.
"Why are you even saying this, Moko-san? Do you think he's in love with is co-star? I suppose she is quite pretty…", Kyoko trailed off.
"I could care less about that doe-eyed hack.", Kanae snapped. "All I know is I've been seeing him around here with this lovesick look on his face for weeks. He's got it bad for someone."
In reality, it had been longer than just a few weeks. Kanae was well aware that the tall actor had an extremely noticeable crush on her friend. Ever since Kyoko completed her 'Dangerous Mission', it had gone from extremely noticeable to glaringly obvious. He called her every night when he wasn't working late and regularly took her out to lunch and dinner under the guise of making sure he ate properly. She knew it was only a matter of time before he made his move but she wanted to get some fun out of it too. Having Kyoko do a week's worth of paperwork by herself would just be icing on the cake. After all, she'd be graduating from LoveMe soon after anyway.
"It's not like you have to tell him about it. We can keep it a secret just between us.", Kanae whispered conspiratorially.
Kyoko could not resist jumping at the chance to share a secret with her best friend. She always wanted to have a friend she could whisper back and forth with and share clandestine giggles about some completely trivial subject that was important only to them. Besides, she was fairly certain Kanae was going to lose. She knew about Ren's feelings for that as-yet unnamed highschool girl and he had already decided he was never going to do anything about it.
Not to mention the whole pesky business of her own feelings for him. The thought of him dating anyone caused a twinge in her heart and she felt disgustingly selfish for taking respite in the fact that he remained single. He, at least, deserved to be happy but seemed to be hellbent on not getting that close to anyone. As much as it pained her to make a wager on her respected senior's private life, she knew she had this one in the bag.
"If you promise that this stays only with us, then you're on.", Kyoko decided.
Kanae nodded with a smile and they shook hands. This was going to be amusing. She figured Kyoko most likely did not even consider herself as a potential candidate. Kyoko may be very smart, but she was painfully oblivious to every advance Ren had made towards her so far.
Over a month had passed and the bet seemed completely forgotten. Neither girl had mentioned it to the other but Kyoko secretly thought she was in the lead and was eagerly awaiting the end of filming so she could claim her victory from Kanae. Ren confided in her one night about his frustration with his co-star's recent demands on set. She knew there was no way he would go for someone so unprofessional. This would be an easy win.
On one particular evening, Kyoko was due to meet up with Ren at TBM before going to dinner. He had been nearby doing a promotion for the movie while she was finishing up another night as Bo. While she did let it slip to him that she had a regular job at TBM, she couldn't bring herself to come clean as to what it actually was. She was afraid he would interpret it as a betrayal of his confidence.
He must have finished earlier than anticipated as Kyoko ran smack into Ren's chest as she scuttled down the hallway in full Bo regalia. When she looked up and saw who she collided into, she fought back a yelp and quickly adjusted the tone of her voice before apologizing.
"My apologies, Tsuruga-kun. I wasn't looking where I was going."
"That probably hurt you more than me being jostled around in there like that. Are you alright?", he chuckled as he watched the apparently flustered chicken.
"Oh! Yes! Really, I'm fine. Just in a hurry to get out of this thing, you know. It gets quite hot in here.", Bo's wings flapped nervously.
"I shouldn't keep you, then. Though I was hoping we'd finally have a chance to catch up.", he looked somewhat disappointed.
"No, how rude of me! Of course I can spare a few minutes for you. It's not often we run into each other, literally." A wing nudged Ren jokingly in the side and he laughed.
As they both took a seat on a set of benches in a nearby deserted corridor, Kyoko wondered how long this was going to take. It was only a matter of time before he realized that she was running late. She would need to find a way to keep this short so she could get changed.
"So, how have you been? It's been quite a while, hasn't it?", Bo asked quickly.
"It has indeed. I have actually been quite busy.", he leaned forward, bracing his elbows against his knees.
"Wonderful! And whatever happened with that girl? Have you been too busy for romance as well?", the chicken's head cocked itself to one side.
"She's not really the type for romancing, per se. But, I think—well, I hope at least— we've been getting closer."
"That…that's great! So you've changed your mind about telling her how you feel?", Kyoko gulped.
She did not want to hear what he was going to say next. It wasn't just losing the bet; it hurt her heart to know that Ren was leaving her behind. Kyoko wanted nothing more than to be happy for him but any enthusiasm she tried to generate felt hollow.
"I think I owe her at least that much. Of course, there's no guaranteeing that she feels the same way."
"About you? How could she not? You are only the most eligible bachelor in Japan.", she tried desperately to hide the cracking in her voice.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence but, if you knew her, maybe you would understand my apprehension.", a wry smile formed on his face as he spoke.
Kyoko was rendered speechless. One one hand, she was devastated that she had to be having this conversation and all she wanted to do was go home, curl into a ball and cry herself to sleep. On the other, she was mad at Ren for having such little confidence in himself. It was the oddest turmoil of wanting to push him away but also to comfort him.
"Actually, maybe you do know her.", Ren continued.
"I-I'm sorry?", she broke out of her reverie.
"You see, the whole reason why I'm even here tonight is to meet up with her. I was going to tell her tonight."
"You mean… she was a guest tonight?", she was confused. Wasn't she the one he was supposed to be meeting tonight?
"No, she works here. Fairly regularly in fact. I wondered if maybe you two have met.", he pensively tapped at his chin as he spoke.
"Well I do see a lot of faces when I'm here. W-would you describe her to me?", despite the aching in her chest, her curiosity got the better of her.
"Easier said than done. She…she's pure energy and determination with a smile that can brighten the darkest corner of any room. But she's more than just a brilliant smile beneath an adorable mess of orange hair and golden eyes. She's beautiful and kind and considerate to a fault.", there was a far away look in his eyes as he spoke.
"That doesn't really—", she stopped when she realized he was still talking.
"And even when she's down, she always finds a way to pick herself back up and move on and she can talk anyone else into doing the same. If I could only be half as strong as she is, maybe then I'd feel worthy of someone like Kyoko.", he sighed and put his head in his hands.
"Well, she sounds wonderful but… I'm sorry… d-did you just say Kyoko?"
"Yes. She works for LME and is here regularly for some job or another. I'm supposed to be meeting her here after she gets off work. Do you know her?", he lifted his head and looked hopefully at the chicken.
Kyoko removed her arm from the costume's wing and touched her face, feeling the path of tears as they cascaded from her eyes. There was just no way that he could be saying all of that about her; that he could be in love with her. It had to be a dream. Maybe she passed out from exhaustion before changing out of the costume and she was laying unconscious in a room somewhere. None of this could be real.
"As a matter of fact, I do know her.", she made no effort to conceal her voice in her response.
Her hands were shaking as she unsteadily lifted the wings to the head of the costume and slowly lifted it off of her. Damp hair clung to her face and tears continued to fall as she raised her eyes to meet Ren's.
"And you're not the one who should feel unworthy. If anything, I could never feel worthy of someone like you.", her voice was almost a whisper.
"Kyoko?! Has it really been you this whole time?", he barely managed to choke out the words as he stared dumbfounded at her.
"I'm sorry. I never intended to hurt you and I never knew it was me you were talking about until now. I only wanted to help. You looked like you were having such a hard time back then.", she searched his face for any sign that he was upset.
And then, he did something she did not expect. He laughed.
"Tsuruga-san, this is really not that funny.", she wiped at her face with a wing-covered hand.
"I'm sorry. But, of all of the odd coincidences to happen, I unknowingly confessed my feelings to the girl I love while she's in a chicken suit."
"Okay, maybe it's a little funny.", she smiled softly.
"Wait a minute…", he suddenly stopped laughing.
"You haven't run away. I told you how I feel and you're not running away.", he looked genuinely puzzled.
"I'm sorry. Was I supposed to? That would be a bit rude."
"What I mean to say is, are you okay with all this? With what I've said?", he clarified.
"I… don't know. This is a lot to take in all at once.", she looked away as she collected her thoughts.
"Please, don't let me rush you. You probably need some time to process before you can respond properly.", he wanted to hold her hand, but settled for placing his on the wing closest to him.
"It's fine, really. You tried so hard to be honest with me, I owe you the same in return."
"You don't have to—", he tried to stop her.
"Just let me do this!", she interrupted him, unintentionally raising her voice in frustration. "It really shouldn't be this difficult because I feel the same way… about you, I mean."
"You do?!", he squeaked his surprise.
"Yes. And you are a far braver person than I am since I decided I would never tell you because I assumed there was no way you would ever return my feelings. And yet, here you are telling me everything I never believed about myself.", her face felt hot and she was sure she was blushing profusely.
"Believe it. Because all of it is true.", he reached up and held her face with one hand as he looked her squarely in the eye.
"I'll try.", she shrugged uncertainly.
"I apologize for being horribly unprepared for all of this but… where do we go from here?", it was his turn to look oddly at Kyoko as she laughed.
"Well, for starters, I owe Moko-san a weeks worth of paperwork."
BECAUSE THE AUTHER JUST WON'T SHUT UP: And this is where my alternate ideas go to die. Hope it was a fun ride. Maybe now I can finish my third rewrite of the remainder my other story. I'd like to get at least one more chapter up before I'm out geeking it up at a con at the end of the month. In the meantime, be excellent to each other!