A/N: Written for the LJ community 31_days based on the prompt "topical monologues." KuraiArcoiris posted something (that you should read, if you haven't - The Meanings of Emotions, it's called) recently that reminded me that I had this piece posted over on LJ, hence the mini crosspost ficspam I'm uploading right now. (There are only three...) I personally think that this is practically canon - I might even write Nakamura-sensei a piece of fanmail about it. What do you think? Reviews and concrit are love!

Patterns in Tangents

Ren had grown used to, if not exactly inured to, his manager's constant nagging regarding Kyoko. On a car ride of any length worth counting, the conversation inevitably turned to her. Whenever they caught a meal in a hurry, or, extremely rarely, at leisure, he found a way to bring her up. Even when discussing potential jobs, Yashiro always skillfully wedged the girl into their dialogue. For the longest time any mentions of her were categorically accompanied by a verbal elbow nudge about Ren's relationship (or lack thereof) with her. So it took awhile for Ren to bother thinking about it.

In fact, it wasn't until he turned a corner in a filming studio one day and heard Yashiro mentioning her to the assistant director that any flags went off. Yashiro threw her name into the conversation without any connection to Ren – it was almost offhanded, a passing reference to a young talent he had noticed, and Ren would have thought nothing of it but for the fact that it was Yashiro talking the assistant director. His current project was a high-profile series of commercials for an even higher profile international brand name, and the preliminary footage was looking auspicious indeed. The assistant director would probably quite a pretty chunk of cred out of it, and Yashiro was easily (obviously) adept enough a talent manager to know what he was doing by mentioning a new actress to him. Ren raised an eyebrow, but he smoothed it back out before joining the conversation, whose topic promptly changed.

On a separate occasion Ren overheard Yashiro and a few other managers griping about their talents during a shoot. (Ren wasn't needed for the immediate scene and had gone in search of the scripts his manager was carrying.) To his credit, Yashiro made little complaint about Ren – at least not while Ren was listening – but he did, for mystifying reasons, mention Kyoko. One manager (whose client was a young woman attempting to transition from pop idol to serious actress, and not doing an especially good job of it in Ren's opinion) had made a blanket statement that all girls in the Japanese entertainment industry were miserable little glory-hounds, veritable hellions, interested in nothing other than the size of their fanbase and the attention they could get from their male costars, and were in general nightmares to work for.

She concluded with, "Next job I take will be for a retired salaryman who wants to try something new in his old age."

This was greeted by peals of laughter, but when they subsided Yahsiro stepped in with, "I'm sure I've met more than enough cute little divas to put me off the genre," (Ren wondered at the use of genre to describe people, but figured it made enough sense to not bother with), "But I do know a few girls who don't fit the stereotype. Kyoko-chan for instance."


"From Dark Moon? And Box R? She played Mio and Natsu…"

"Oh, yes, her. I wouldn't really call her the "diva type" though…"

"Mmm, not really idol material."

"Oh, you'd be surprised. I mean no, I wouldn't call her a diva either, but whether or not she becomes a pop idol will be entirely up to her preferences, I think. Don't be misled by Mio, she's plenty cute, and more than talented enough. And definitely not a high maintenance queen bee." There was a defensive edge to Yashiro's response that even a deaf man would have caught.

The company laughed lightly, agreed that if Tsuruga Ren's manager thought so highly of her she must be something else, and the conversation moved on. Ren returned to the set without retrieving his scripts.

After that he paid more attention to what Yashiro was talking about when he rejoined him in hallways or lounges. And he noticed a distinct pattern. Be it the swanky cafeteria in the LME building or a rented closed-set shooting location, Okinawa or Manila, seven times out of ten Yashiro was talking about Kyoko. (He wasn't always speaking of her in a specific fashion, didn't mention her name so frequently that Ren knew instantly who he was talking about as soon as he walked up, but if he pressed his manager for the background of the conversation, it usually came back around to everyone's favorite orange-haired, pink-clad kouhai.) This made the corners of Ren's mouth twitch down (or at least made them want to – he could usually control what his face actually did), for reasons he understood but did not at all like.

The straw finally hit the camel's back one day when they were climbing into Ren's car after a morning meeting with President Takarada (during which Yashiro had alluded to Kyoko at least twice). Yashiro reviewed Ren's schedule for the rest of the day, sighed, and then continued on with, "Kyoko-chan's going to need a manager of her own soon too, you know. Her work schedule isn't as busy as yours, but between school and those ridiculous assignments the President is constantly sending her on, she probably can't take on much more real work without going completely insane. You should mention it to the President at some point, Ren. I'll do it myself, but it'll mean more if it comes from both of us."

He seemed to have more to say but Ren interrupted him. "Yashiro-san," he said, and Yashiro paused patiently. "I have a question I'd like you to explain to me. Why is it that every time you get going on a tangent, it invariably includes Mogami-san?" He pulled up to a (conveniently timed) stoplight and turned a glinty face at his manager.

Yashiro regarded his client with what Ren recognized (with a mild mixture of surprise and dismay) to not be fear. Rather, it was a sort of understanding, an acknowledgement of challenge, perhaps the facial-expression equivalent of the removal of a crisp white glove, and he replied with a certain glintiness of his own. "Well," he began. "She is quite young. But barring that, if it were anyone other than you, Ren, I think the man would find himself with some healthy competition."

They continued the drive in honorable silence, but for the rest of the day cast and crew on various sets around Tokyo would remark on an abnormal drop in temperature whenever the two walked into the room.