Heart's a Mess
Flashbulbs went off before the limousine even pulled up to the curb, and Minako instinctively threw her hands up, flinching at the erratic lights. Kunzite reached over her lap and pressed the control button. The tinted window slid up with a muffled click, and the camera flashes faded into silence. Lowering her hands from her face, Minako smiled at him gratefully before she turned to unclasp her clutch, manicured fingers digging in the miniscule space before emerging with a mirror compact. She snapped it open, the tiny plastic baggie within nearly sliding into her lap.
Kunzite flattened the mirror in his hand, providing Minako with an even surface for depositing the baggie's contents. She did so, using the flat edge of her lipgloss tube to neatly cut the powder into lines.
He watched her snort, hard, reaching out to smooth away the errant blonde strands tickling her eyelashes and mouth. Minako leaned into his warm hand, baby blues closing as she breathed out slowly. Her breath smelled of spearmint chewing gum. Moisture gathered in the corners of her eyes, and Kunzite observed that there were still a few little chunks in the coke she had so hastily cut. He let her head rest against the window, took the lipgloss from her lax hand, and flattened the lumps out.
Minako opened her eyes as one of the cameramen got close enough to bump his lens against the window. "Fuck," she sighed, leaning forward to finish the lines off, fast.
Just as the last specks of white disappeared from the mirror, her iPhone buzzed, and she started, hands scrabbling around her seat for the phone. Minako cushioned it between her head and shoulder, using one hand to adjust her slightly fallen bodice, the other to reapply her lipgloss.
"Baby? Yeah, I'm outside Teddy's. Uh, we got here just a minute ago. Voyeur wasn't that great." She listened a moment. "It's fine. They already saw me anyway – my window was open. You take the side entrance."
Minako locked the phone and slid it back into her purse. Her hand was already on the door handle when she looked back.
"Do I look okay?"
Kunzite nodded, and the world exploded into flashing light.
The pieces of your heart
And let me peer inside
"Minako! Where's Ace?"
"Minako? Are you celebrating tonight? How'd it feel to win in court today?"
"Miss Aino! You look beautiful!"
"Minako, who leaked Saijou Ace's texts to those other girls? Did you go through his phone? Minako!"
"Minako, your mother must be so disappointed with the verdict…"
Kunzite cradled Minako close, arm wrapped firmly around her slender shoulders as he cleared a path in the crowd with his muscle. She kept her head bowed, not responding to any questions, occasionally flashing her trademark V-salute.
He walked a little too fast for her to manage in her Louboutins, and Minako clutched at his wide chest for additional support. The smooth sole of her shoe skidded on a trashed newspaper by the sewer, and Kunzite steadied her as they stepped onto the curb. On the front page, one could just make out a stock photo of the idol, the headline underneath blaring, "V is for Victory: Aino Minako wins suit against mom, ex-manager, misappropriated money in the millions."
As they made it to the front, thumping bass muted by the heavy doors, Kunzite felt her shift against his side. He looked over, and saw a flash of cropped golden hair disappearing into the side entrance. Minako peered after it, seemingly entranced.
Seconds later, they were inside, being led to their usual banquette by the speakers. The pop-pop-pop of the quicksilver music and annoyingly dim lights set Kunzite's teeth on edge, but Minako didn't seem to mind.
The idol did not require him to clear a path here; a sea of admirers parted before her, their mouths smiling and kissing her in welcome. Minako laughed, a flash of perfect, sharp little teeth, rapturously basking in their affection. Kunzite had seen her do it a thousand times before, but he still marveled at how she made devotees of everyone, charmed them into sweetest submission.
She was lit up now, words of hello tumbling out on top of each other, effusively squeezing her friends' arms by way of greeting. Still, Minako's fingers stayed curled around his palm with surprising firmness as she dragged him across the dance floor. They reached their table, where Saijou Ace sat on the seat back, reigning their mixed entourage with easy grace.
Ace saluted them with a sweating magnum of Dom '95, and the brunette next to him tittered nervously before jumping up to greet Minako. The others at the table clapped their hands as the idol approached, but her eyes were on Ace, who stared back with equal intensity. She dropped Kunzite's hand. He felt the slightly moist heat of Minako's fingers dissipate. Unbidden, his fingernails dug at his palms in a tightly clenched fist.
Kunzite made eye contact with the only other bodyguard in the group – Ace's man, Jimmy – and nodded slightly.
Let me in
Where only your thoughts have been
Let me occupy your mind
As you do mine
Minako perched on Ace's lap, queen of the table. "We're celebrating tonight, people," she proclaimed, and everyone nodded eagerly.
As she raised her flute of champagne, a low-hanging chandelier painting the bubbles bronze, a flash went off. Kunzite saw the bearded man behind the speakers, fiddling with his point-and-shoot. He was on the stranger so fast, Minako didn't even notice the intruder.
Kunzite lifted him by the throat, crushing the back of the man's skull into the massive speaker.
The light back here was practically nonexistent, but he could see the skin under the beard going purple. Still, the man held onto the camera, hands flailing a bit. Kunzite plucked it from his fingers and dashed it to the floor, grinding it under his shoe for good measure. He felt parts come loose, dragging under his toes.
He dropped the bearded man, who collapsed to the floor, rubbing his throat. "Hey, fuck you," he croaked. "I'm going to sue the shit out of you and that blonde cunt. Tell her she needs to train her guard dogs better."
Kunzite lifted his foot, alarmingly close to the man's groin. The stranger blanched, and the bodyguard turned at the last second, merely stepping over his hunched form. The memory card lay snapped in half next to the little camera, which whirred weakly.
When he returned, several new shotglasses had appeared, all emptied. Everyone at the table was cheering unintelligibly, and Ace had both of his hands tangled in Minako's fine blonde hair, his mouth pressed hungrily to hers. She enthusiastically kissed him back, although Kunzite noticed that she kept trying to pull his fingers away from her elaborately pinned, artfully messy updo. Ace shifted so that she straddled his thigh, and he rocked her gently against the table. Her dress rode up to just under her rear, and her spine stiffened as she tried to halt Ace's crude undulations by squeezing her legs together.
"Damn, Ace," his manager whistled. "There's a room for that."
Ace fiddled with the hem of Minako's little white Alaia, slowly inching it upward.
"This is the room for that," he drawled loudly against her mouth, and Minako broke away sharply, her face red.
The idol glared at her lover, and Ace gave as good as he got. There was a brief, tense silence at the banquette before he stood, muttering something about the restroom, and stalked away. Jimmy took his cue and melted into the darkness.
"Come on, everybody," Minako chirped, her voice a little shaky. "Let's get another round and dance, shall we?"
You have lost (too much love)
To fear, doubt and distrust (it's not enough)
You just threw away the key
To your heart
Kunzite kept an eye on his charge where she pirouetted on the open floor, conspicuously outshining the girls she danced with, while their boyfriends hung back and checked their phones.
He sipped his scotch measuredly. Although Kunzite tolerated enormous amounts of alcohol about as well as one might expect of a 230-pound professional bodyguard, he drank very little. When he did, it was to blend in or drown some misery, rather than savor the taste.
Minako, on the other hand…had a gin tonic in each hand, both of them looking close to empty, and he could see one of the waitresses heading purposefully toward the idol, shot tray full. Kunzite was surprised when Minako ignored the waitress, gracefully sidestepping her to join her bodyguard at the banquette.
"Hi," she said breathlessly. She didn't wait for his greeting, plopping herself onto the cool leather. Her blonde head settled comfortably in his lap, and Minako fixed Kunzite with those wide, sky-colored eyes. "Thanks for dealing with the creepy camera guy earlier. I know, I know, you thought I didn't see. God! I'm so tired!"
There was a pause.
"Can you give me the rest of it? I could really use a pick-me-up."
Kunzite shook his head. The gold clasp of the locket she always wore had shifted to the front, and he automatically fixed it for her. His fingers lingered at the back of her neck, caressing the soft down on her nape.
"People will see, Minako." His voice was uncharacteristically rough.
"Nobody will see if you take me to the bathroom, Daddy," she teased. " – Oh! I love this song!"
She sat up, suddenly alert, peach-glossed lips already mouthing the words. Minako glanced around slyly before giving Kunzite a stage wink and climbing onto the table.
The lamps gilded her skin, caught fairy lights in her hair as the idol swayed to a resinous, drippy melody, snake-hipped. Dark lashes fanned above those famous cheekbones as she gave herself over, her own hands slowly dragging up her dress's eyelet hem, teasingly releasing, flattening over her stomach, clutching greedily at her breasts, whispering against her pulse, then high in the air.
Minako threw her head back, lips parting slightly, and Kunzite glimpsed the clear outline of her nipples, hard as pebbles, against the chandelier's diffuse glow.
As the song ended, he watched her come down from heaven slowly, eyes drifting open like a newborn's. They met his knowingly.
He thought her many admirers were fortunate in the distance she maintained. Minako was a radiant sun, generously warming her worshipers from afar. Up close, she burned savagely. Kunzite knew. He had burned a very long time.
"Minako!" the voice of one of her girlfriends, trembling.
She turned to the brunette. "What is it?"
"Oh, it – it's Ace!"
You don't get burned ('cause nothing gets through)
It makes it easier (easier on you)
But that much more difficult for me
To make you see
Minako found him in an unlit booth, a few drinks scattered on the table; it was just how some dark corner of her mind had already imagined. His zip was down, face blotchy as the girl threw her leg over his lap, yanking on his tie to pull his lips to hers.
He shoved the girl aside, ignoring her yowl of complaint. "Mi – Minako?
"Again," she said. "You promised."
"Why are you doing this to me again?"
Ace didn't say anything, his face an ugly, sallow color.
"If – if you want out, why can't you just – just leave me alone? Why did you come back to me after the first time?" Minako's pitch rose with every word, and she vaguely registered Ace's bodyguard, Jimmy, in her peripheral vision.
"I came back because I thought we'd be better!" Ace yelled back, surprising both of them with his vehemence. "Because I thought you wouldn't be the same frigid bitch! Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is when you fucking shut me down in public? In front of my whole crew, like you did at the table?"
"Embarrassing," Minako repeated, and her numb fingers found one of the half-full tumblers on the table.
Jimmy spoke up, albeit gently. "Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Minako flung the tumbler at Ace's head. It hit his temple with a satisfying thump, but didn't shatter. Bourbon dripped from his ear, onto his ivory shirt. What exactly happened next was anyone's guess.
Jimmy took her unresisting arm, no doubt meaning to politely escort her away in a manner befitting her celebrity status. Ace let out a shout of rage, clawing his way out from behind the table, eyes unfocused. He jerked Minako back toward him roughly, his grip bruisingly tight on her other arm.
And then Ace was on the floor, sobbing and clutching his wrist.
Kunzite obviously harbored no compunctions regarding Ace's celebrity status. From what Minako could see between Ace's clenched fingers, the bone jutted out at a gruesomely odd angle, and she turned away, feeling dizzy. Acrid tears that she didn't feel slipped down her face.
Her bodyguard gazed impassively at the smaller man weeping at his feet. Incensed, Jimmy stepped forward, and Kunzite spoke without turning to face him.
The other man looked as though he didn't know whether to throw a punch or not. Minako took the decision out of his hands.
"Kunzite," her voice almost inaudibly faint. "Take me home. Please."
Love ain't fair
So there you are
The idol pressed her forehead to the car window, staring sightlessly at the taillights whizzing by on Sunset Blvd. The glass pleasantly cooled her feverish flesh. She licked her dry lips, euphoria evaporated, water sucked from her sluggish blood.
Minako felt him press a tepid Fiji bottle into her limp hands. When she didn't stir in response, Kunzite uncapped the bottle and held it to her lips. She drank a bit, delicate mouthfuls like a baby bird, before pushing it away and slumping back against the plush leather.
"Kunzite, what's wrong with me?"
Minako didn't get a reply, nor did she expect one.
"I cried when I saw my mother in court today," she continued. "And everyone told me it was okay for me to be sad. But I didn't feel sad, or happy…I don't know…" the idol hesitated, searching for the right words. "I was supposed to cry."
Kunzite remained silent on the opposite side of the backseat, his expression obscured by shadow.
"And…with Ace," she rubbed the handprint on her arm, almost fondly, "Like, here's my boyfriend about to – to fuck this girl, and I kept thinking, what do other girls do when this happens to them? What do I do?"
"So I did what – what I thought I was supposed to do. And I'd figured, I mean, once I was alone…" Minako struggled to accurately convey her bewildering sense of desensitization, of non-feeling. "I'd…thought it would hurt more."
"You don't love him."
She was startled to hear her taciturn bodyguard say it so plainly. Kunzite inclined his head slightly, and his eyes glittered like mirrors. Minako did not wish to see herself reflected in them, afraid of what unkind judgment her secret-keeper might pass.
Kunzite's mouth continued to move. Deafened by her own absorbing thoughts, Minako realized this might be the most anyone had ever heard him speak in one go. She had always found his resonant baritone reassuring, maybe a little hypnotic.
"You love what you do, and yourself for doing it. You don't have the capacity for anything else."
His charge stared at him, wide-eyed at this revelation. She saw how Kunzite noted the details without meaning to. Watched him watch her fidget with the gold locket between her breasts.
Minako leaned forward. "How do you know so much?" she asked softly.
Her hand rose unselfconsciously to caress his cheek. Kunzite neither gravitated to nor retreated from her touch.
The limousine stopped, and she pulled her hand back. The driver made to get out, but Kunzite waved him off. Her bodyguard exited on his side, coming around to open Minako's door. As always, she let Kunzite help her from the car, guide her with a firm hand at the small of her back.
The concierge nodded deferentially as they passed, Minako's heels clicking fitfully on the lobby floor. "Welcome back to the Chateau, Miss Aino."
Your heart's a mess
You won't admit to it
It makes no sense
But I'm desperate to connect
And you, you can't live like this
Kunzite let his hand fall from her back as they stepped into the elevator, and he maintained his usual distance as they entered the penthouse, eyes methodically scanning the living area for any signs of intrusion or disturbance. Minako kicked off her crystal-strass heels with a girlish sigh, digging her abused toes into the soft blue carpet. Finding nothing in their quarters suspect, Kunzite stepped into the kitchen and opened the fridge. Nothing but Minako's half-eaten chai cupcake from Sprinkles, cranberry juice, and a 6-pack of Stellas. Shaking his head wearily, he closed the refrigerator door.
He followed her voice out onto the terrace. Minako had already shed her dress – a forgotten white heap on the chaise – and she leaned her goosefleshed arms on the balustrade, clad only in a champagne silk slip. Kunzite instinctively averted his eyes; he was used to his employer undressing frequently in front of him, but he tried to keep the double takes to a minimum.
"I never notice how beautiful it really is," Minako's voice was carried to him on a cool wind that smelled of magnolias. Kunzite joined her by the balustrade, and Los Angeles lay spread before them, a sparkling, hard-faceted jewel.
She moved closer him, shivering a bit. Kunzite pulled off his suit jacket and draped it around her shoulders. "You'll fall sick," he said, almost into her hair, inhaling the familiar scent of her shampoo. Minako didn't say anything, uncharacteristically introspective.
Without warning, she boosted herself onto the balustrade, simultaneously pushing Kunzite away as her legs kicked out for balance. She laughed at the startled look on his face.
Sudden fear made him shout, something Kunzite never did. Minako wasn't acting like herself, and faced with her capricious mood, he instinctively knew he wouldn't be fast enough if she…
Kunzite's eyes narrowed furiously.
"Get the fuck down."
She swung her feet like a child on a swing; Kunzite's jacket slipped off her shoulders and dropped into the black night below them. "Or what?"
"You're drunk," he snarled. "Down, now. Or you'll fall."
Minako's expression remained neutral for just a split second before her face crumpled completely, tears pouring hotly from her eyes like a faucet had turned on.
"You'll catch me. I know you will."
He made it to her just as Minako's hands lifted from the balustrade, but she didn't fall back; rather, she threw her entire weight against Kunzite, her arms and legs wrapping tightly around his torso. He felt her mouth push inquisitively at his, flavored salt and spearmint. Kunzite took a few hesitant backward steps, torn between supporting her weight and firmly setting her down. He couldn't begin to count the number of times he'd wished to taste her, like this, effervescent on his tongue.
Once they were inside, Kunzite managed to disentangle her arms and legs from his body, depositing her struggling form on the couch. Bodyguard and idol stared at each other, both breathing heavily; Minako wiped her tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand. The other pushed the straps of her slip over her shoulders, baring her breasts. She stood, silk pooling at her feet, and pressed her nakedness to him.
Kunzite was undone.
Once in her bed, Kunzite took the time to explore her body thoroughly, to examine the hidden places he had only seen and not touched – for years. Nonetheless, he sensed and obliged Minako's urgency. Kunzite's teeth dragged mercilessly over her nipples, two long fingers testing her wetness, her readiness for him. Every little twitch of her muscles, every sharp cry was a revelation. Minako attempted to touch him, deftly working at his trousers, but Kunzite smoothly pulled her wrists above her head and left them there. She had set something in motion that he intended to finish, his way. Minako did not resist; her fingers curled into the pillow under her head as she voiced her incoherent approval.
Kunzite withdrew from her briefly to strip himself of his shirt, pants, and underwear. He could feel her eyes roving his body, and when he faced her, Minako's expression was one of such starkly intense desire that it robbed him of all coherent thoughts save for one. He strode to the bed, seizing her legs and pulling so that they dangled off the edge. Standing between her parted thighs, Kunzite took her with one deep stroke.
Minako did scream then, white sheets bunching in her fists. He worked himself against her vigorously, holding her slick thighs so that she didn't slide backward with the force of his thrusts. She gasped in rhythm, her hands slipping down to cup her breasts, her legs wrapping around his hips and pulling him deeper into her. Kunzite climbed onto the bed, locking Minako's ankles behind his neck and lifting her hips high; he saw how her breathing sped up, her eyes going round as she watched him bury himself in her.
Her release came seconds later, convulsing in quick butterfly ripples around him. Kunzite let her ride it out, not slowing until her cries did, and then he eased her legs off his shoulders. As her breathing gradually slowed, Minako wordlessly tugged him close, and Kunzite rolled over so that she lay atop him, bodies flush. She kissed him, lazy and open-mouthed, and Kunzite's palms curved her backside. They both knew that they were nowhere near finished. He had all the time in the world, and never enough.
Love ain't safe
You won't get hurt if you stay chaste
So you can wait
But I don't wanna waste my love
He awoke early, while it was still dark out. Minako slept deeply on her side, blonde head cushioned on her slender arm. Her tangled hair no longer smelled of shampoo. Kunzite remembered how she'd let him pull the pins out one by one, dropping them soundlessly to the carpet as he kissed her, stole the breath from her lungs. His palm trailed over the curvature of his lover's body, from hip to shoulder, and the bodyguard's eye was caught by the glinting gold locket she still wore.
In all these years, he never saw her open it, had no idea whose face might be inside. It seemed unbearable to him, that he could not know such a thing.
Barely daring to breathe, Kunzite lifted the locket from her throat with fingers unused to gentleness. He wedged his thumbnail into the clasp, and heard the welcoming snap, felt the metal give.
It was empty.
The trinket fell to the pillow, still open, still gold-leashed to its mistress. With a soft rustle of sheets, an imperceptible creak of mattress springs, Minako was once again the sole occupant of her bed. She sighed softly and rolled over, occupying the space he had left without agitation.
Kunzite packed quickly and efficiently. They traveled so often, he rarely carried more than one duffel bag for his belongings. He had no real personal effects; the bag was filled with an endless array of T-shirts and dark jeans. Toothbrush. Razor. Soap. The expensive cologne and suits she had given him were left behind. It was difficult for him to stop thinking, to stop worrying that he did not know where he would go.
He tried, though. Kunzite understood – the moment Minako threw her arms around him – that his remaining time with her would be short. His confident assessment of her in the limousine haunted him now with its truth.
"You love what you do, and yourself for doing it. You don't have the capacity for anything else."
Kunzite paused in the doorway to her bedroom, just before he stepped out. Minako lay sprawled in the middle of the bed, one dainty hand flung outward, her dreams pleasant. Last night, he'd thought he'd burned for her a long time. Today, watching her sleep peacefully, Kunzite knew what it was to be utterly consumed.
There was a thin, gray light on the horizon when the bodyguard quietly walked into the elevator, fog rolling in over Marina Del Rey. The staff was already audibly bustling on each floor as Kunzite rode down, getting busier as the guests woke. Minako would not rise for some time, given their late night exertions, and she would find no trace of him when she did.
It was a sunless, windy morning, and he recalled the smell of magnolias on the terrace only hours before. As Kunzite waited for his taxi, utterly motionless where he stood on Chateau Marmont's whitewashed porch, he thought again of what she had said.
"I'd…thought it would hurt more."
It hurt more than he'd thought.