FORTUNE FAVORS THE PREPARED

In which Yukihito Yashiro makes it quite clear just how much Ren owes him. For literally everything. Canon divergent.


"Ren."

"I'm not doing it."

A sigh. An exasperated clasping of hands. "There is nothing unreasonable about this request. Why are you so against it?"

"Why? Why?!" Ren pointed at the mannequin that stood two paces away from them, bearing silent witness to their argument. "Look at it!"

Satiny, wide, peaked lapels spread out, nearly meeting the bold square shoulders that tapered down into slim, asymmetrical sleeves. The fabric looked heavy but sturdy and practically screamed high quality. His manager looked at the ensemble, his brow knit with confusion.

"What about it? You've modeled pieces equally as adventurous before," he mused aloud. "Is it the hemline you're worried about?"

It didn't look like it would be a problem. Clearly the designer had taken Ren's stature and build into consideration when creating the piece. He thought it would most likely be quite striking on the young man. It was mostly black and accented with gold embossed leather so it's not as if there were any unflattering colors that could clash with his complexion. Ren was usually not this particular. Especially when he had to save face around Kyoko.

Yashiro looked over to where the young woman in question talked excitedly with one of the stylists, pointing to bits here and there on her outfit that she seemed exceptionally enamoured with. He thought Ren would be over the moon when the offer was presented to them. Any chance to work with Kyoko was snatched up with a greed like no other so he tried to facilitate as many as he could. After turning down the role that was offered to Ren in Lotus in the Mire—albeit with good reason—he was sure the actor would have him drawn and quartered. Thus he repented through his actions where he could.

Not like he needed to. There was a far greater deficit on Ren's side when it came down to who owed whom for favors collected over time. But that wasn't important just then. What was important was reminding Ren that he was there to enjoy an afternoon of playing dress-up with his lady love.

Ah, that was a thought. Though it pained him to consider it.

"Is it because it's a dress?" he ventured, eyeing the corset that cinched around the torso of the mannequin.

Ren frowned at him in disapproval. "Don't be ridiculous. I'm not that intolerant."

Pulling at the ends of his hair seemed like it would be an enjoyable activity at that moment.

"Then what is it?!" he demanded, impatient. "Kyoko's already dressed and having her hair and makeup touched up. We don't have time for you to stand here and be a critical diva!"

Ren sighed, long and loud. "But it's a mermaid cut."

He… he wasn't serious. He couldn't be. Yashiro could feel his left eyelid begin to twitch and he pressed the heel of his hand hard against it. "Y-you're objecting to the cut of the dress? Really?"

Ren nodded, seemingly relieved that someone was taking him seriously.

"How?" he asked, using the only word he could manage to get out without yelling it.

"Yashiro-san, this isn't the first photo shoot you've accompanied me to," Ren chided him like he was a child and it only made the twitching worse. "You know what silhouettes look best on my body. I have non-existent hips and an equally absent backside. This dress will do absolutely nothing for my figure."

Now his right eye was feeling a little dodgy and a scream punched at his throat, begging to be released. As luck would have it, Kyoko chose that moment to intervene.

"Tsuruga-san, is there something wrong? I thought you would have started dressing by now."

Yashiro turned to her with a smile that felt pasted on and prayed it wouldn't startle her. "It appears that Ren is concerned with how the lines of the dress will translate when he actually wears it."

Kyoko's head tilted to one side as she considered his words and her eyes drifted between Ren and the mannequin. She nodded and then shook her head. "I don't think you have anything to worry about, Tsuruga-san. The designer told me she strategically padded both of our outfits to create the shape she wanted." She gestured to the sleek and modern navy tuxedo she wore. "I mean, you and I both know my shoulders aren't usually this broad."

Ren appeared to be placated by this, but he could still see the skeptical reluctance in his eyes. "All right," he said, then added in a low enough voice that only Yashiro would hear. "If I end up being right, you owe me."

Yashiro folded his arms and glared up at Ren. "Owe you what, money? Because I sure as hell don't owe you anything else."

Ren scoffed and it was the proverbial straw to the back of a camel. "If you wanted to see an itemised list of everything I've ever done to save your ass for the sake of your career and your character, all you had to do was ask," Yashiro hissed. "Up to and including that weak stunt you tried to pull with your 'missing' necklace the other day."

The satisfaction of seeing Ren's eyes go wide with shock before he looked askance in shame was nigh equivalent to riding the high of some illicit drug. Completely cowed, he slunk off to the curtained area that was set up for him to change. An assistant appeared from nowhere to follow behind him with the mannequin. Yashiro blew out a loud breath and turned back to Kyoko who still stood nearby, having witnessed the entire exchange.

"Sorry about that. I don't know what's gotten into him today. He's usually not like this."

Kyoko shook her head, dismissing his apology. "It's fine. I think he's still a little on edge even though he and I have… talked. I get the impression that he had a lot more he needed to share with me but couldn't for some reason."

He wanted to ask her more about it, but she seemed discomfited by admitting what little she did, her hands touching her neck once before dropping to fidget nervously with the pleats of the mint and gold cummerbund around her waist. He hadn't the heart to push the issue so he changed the subject instead. "Are you excited to model for the collection?"

She nodded happily, clearly pleased that he left well enough alone. "Yes! I loved the whole concept of 'a dress for every shape; a suit for every body' that the designer envisioned. It's really fun and interesting!" Her voice got quieter and she leaned closer to him. "The designer said she was inspired by the style of Grace Jones and I was a little embarrassed that I had no idea who that was. I did look her up on my phone afterwards. I can definitely see the influence."

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of a curtain being nudged aside and he looked over to see Ren's head peeking out as he looked around for someone. Having worked with the man for so many years, he could tell in an instant what he needed. He nudged Kyoko with an elbow and directed her attention to Ren.

"I think he needs some help with his dress. I bet it's the corset. Do you think you can lend a hand?"

"M-me?" Kyoko's face went pale and then immediately flushed with color. "I've worn one for a role before, but I've never put one on another person."

"Well, that makes you more experienced than he is at this point, so I don't think it would do any harm." He pushed her towards the changing area, stopping when he felt her move forward on her own.

He watched her murmur in quiet tones to Ren before the man pulled his head back behind the curtain and parted it to let her inside.


"I don't know how they expected you to put this on without assistance." Kyoko clucked her tongue as she pulled the laces taut, starting from the top of the corset and methodically working her way down.

It ended up being much easier to help Ren than she thought it would be. All in all, it was basically like tying the laces on a large sneaker. The fact that she only had to look at his back instead of his face made it even better. Facing him still required too much energy and she was loath to expend it all before the photoshoot even started. Their exchange upon her entering his dressing room was stilted right up until she maneuvered the only chair in the space to climb atop it and get a better angle.

"Are you sure you want to use a chair?" Ren had asked, one eyebrow raised. "That didn't go so well for you last time, if I recall correctly."

All pretense of awkwardness vanished in an instant and she haughtily reminded him that she had something to hold on to this time instead of trying to maneuver a pot from his impossibly high cabinets. The memory of his retort caused her to yank the laces a bit more forcefully than she had been, eliciting a sharp gasp from Ren. She grinned in spite of herself. Served him right after accosting their poor manager earlier.

Tug.

Served him right after cornering her in an elevator.

Pull.

Served him right after he left an obscenely expensive piece of jewelry in her care with the explicit instructions that she wear it at all times. Really, who does he think he is to make demands like that?

She'd reached the bottom and had the two ends of the lacing in her hands. Stepping down from the chair, she pushed it to one side so she could give everything one good, final heave before tying off the ends. What a shame it was that the pants of her tuxedo would probably rip were she to try it, but she almost wanted to brace a foot against his back while she did it. Instead, she wrapped the laces securely around her hands and offered only a few words of warning.

"You might want to hold on to something."


The photos came out beautifully. Everyone agreed that Kyoko and Ren looked absolutely stunning. Profuse thanks were shared between the models and crew before Yashiro escorted both of his charges to his car. The drive was blissfully silent as he took Kyoko home first. It gave him ample time to plot.

The young starlet bid the two men a good evening, clutching tightly at the collar of her blouse as she bowed. Once they were back on the road, Yashiro casually asked Ren to extract his phone from where it was tucked inside his briefcase. He gave succinct instructions to navigate to a certain file within a particular folder and told Ren to open it.

"What—"

"That is a list of every favor I have ever done for you," he explained. "Please add that I convinced Kyoko to help you in your dressing room today even though I could have easily asked an assistant to do it."

Ren grunted in dismay. "I never took you for someone this petty, Yashiro-san."

He shook his head. "Sometimes I have to be when it comes to you, Ren. Anyway, I take it you've noticed just how long it is, yes?"

He watched out of the corner of his eye as Ren's thumb pass over the screen of his phone multiple times as he scrolled through the list and smiled. He wanted to laugh in triumph, but he decided he would save that for later. First, he had a request.

"I want to cash them in."

"You want to—wait, did you seriously get sick on purpose so that Kyoko would have to be my manager?!"

"Not entirely on purpose, but that's beside the point." He shook his head. "Every single favor, I'm cashing them in now."

"Cash them in for what?" Ren asked, his voice quiet and shaky.

Yashiro's smile stretched into a grin that threatened the structural integrity of his cheeks. "I want you to tell me why Kyoko is now in possession of your necklace. Why she keeps it hidden."

He spared a glance at Ren to see the expression of abject panic on the man's face.

"And I want you to tell me the truth."

END


WRITTEN BEFORE THE RELEASE OF CHAPTER 285... but just barely. I literally wrote it the night before. Mentioning this now before whatever happens in canon decides to invalidate this. But, dammit, I just wanted to put Ren in a dress.

Is that so wrong?

AUTHOR OUT