Chapter: 3
Fandom: Skip Beat!
It's Christmas Eve, and LME has given all of its employees a couple of days off. Thinking Ren might be lonely, Yashiro sends Kyoko to see him. [Last Chapter It's Christmas Day, and the blizzard has passed, leaving behind only three feet of snow!
Warnings: Makes sense mostly in the context after Chapter 110, but no major spoilers.
Skip Beat! is the property of Yoshiki Nakamura, and a whole lot of other people and companies.
Thank Yous: Alastair Black, once again, for betareading.


Ren awoke to the smell of sizzling sausages, sweet and enticing. "Mmm," he murmured softly into his pillow, rolling over. It had been some time since he woke to that particular smell. He squinted at the red numbers on the bedside clock; it was flashing twelve. He groaned softly into his pillow, cursing himself for having forgotten to reset it last night. He'd been in such a good mood that he'd fallen in bed and slept without thinking of it. Good mood? Maybe giddy would have been a better word for it.

Well, whatever time it was, the sun was shining clearly through the curtains. Time to get up, he thought, willing his body to obey. It took several attempts and momentous effort to even pull his body to an upright position. Sitting up, he rubbed sleep out of his eyes and set his bare feet on the floor.

The coldness of the hardwood floor cleared the fog from his brain. He shook his head once, just to shake himself out of it, before getting dressed.

In the kitchen, Kyoko hummed softly to herself as she threw two eggs into the frying pan. She hoped that Tsuruga-kun wouldn't mind a Western-style breakfast; his refrigerator had been devoid of so many basic foods that she had been forced to improvise. How did the man even survive? She'd used the eggs that were left over from the cake the previous night, and had managed to find some pre-cooked sausages in the fridge. Suspicious of how old they were, she'd fried them just to make sure they were safe to eat. Predictably, Tsuruga-kun did have bread; it was about the easiest thing to toast and eat in the morning, after all.

"What time is it?" Tsuruga-kun's voice was uncharacteristically groggy as he entered the kitchen, running a comb through his hair. "Good morning, Kyoko-chan,"

"Good morning, Tsuruga-kun. It's eight-thirty," Kyoko replied, concentrating as she slid the finished eggs onto a waiting plate. Another plate was already finished, with two eggs, four slices of bacon, and a thick slice of toast. "I hope you don't mind a Western-style breakfast; it was all I could make with the ingredients at hand."

"It's no problem at all," Tsuruga-kun replied, smiling down at her. Kyoko eyed him suspiciously. There had been no Emperor-of-the-Night occurrences last night, but that didn't mean one wasn't coming. Plus, there was something about him . . . "A Christmas present for you," he added, as he fished a small box out from his pockets.

"Oh," Kyoko said, surprised, somewhat distressed. She hid that. She hadn't thought that senpais normally gave presents at Christmas to their kouhais. This was rather unsettling; giving presents seemed like such a, such a . . . romantic thing to do. Like making chocolate hearts to give your true love on Valentine's Day. She shook her head inwardly. Clearly, Moko's words were bothering her too much. "You didn't have to. I left your present on the kotatsu. Could you get the coffee?" She smiled, motioning with her head at the two steaming cups of coffee as she picked up the plates of food, and led the way to the living room and the kotatsu.

Ren slipped the box back into his pocket to pick up the coffee, shaking his head as he followed her to the living room. How did she do it? She could be such a klutz on the set, knocking down equipment and tripping over wires, but given several plates of food, could balance them all without dropping a single one. He wasn't surprised, however, that Kyoko had gotten him a present; it was very like her to get presents for others, but never expect any for herself. He had, in fact, gotten a present for her on this very supposition.

He watched her set the plates down on the table before seating herself across from him, and set down the steaming mugs of coffee. He was glad that she hadn't filled the mugs as full as she could have; if she did, he was sure that he would have spilled. He wordlessly pulled her present out of his pocket and slid it across the table. The atmosphere was tense, awkward.

"Shall I open mine first?" he asked, wishing fervently to break the awkward silence. Kyoko nodded, quietly toying with the green ribbon on the present he'd given her. Ren carefully unwrapped her present, wrapped in red tissue paper.

Kyoko watched him do so, his long fingers gently finding the places where tape held the sheets together, prying it open. Even Tsuruga-kun could not unwrap tissue paper without tearing it, though she noted that he tried. Oh, she really shouldn't have given him what she had; it was going to reflect very, very badly on her.

"A doll?" he asked, amused, raising a plush keychain model of Kyoko herself. "Why a doll?"

Kyoko blushed furiously. "It's a good luck charm," she informed him defiantly, well aware that her present made it look as if she was a crazy fangirl in love with him. "It'll eat any bad luck or curses that people put on you."

"I . . . see," Ren replied, as much amused by her reaction as he was by the present itself. Her fairytale tendencies had not changed a bit. It really was a very cute keychain, though Ren wished she hadn't dressed it in that eye-watering uniform of the Love Me Section. "Your turn," he said, motioning at the small blue box he had slid across the table at her. He watched as Kyoko unwrapped the present with trembling fingers.

"It's pretty," she said, an odd note in her voice as she pulled out the necklace. A tiny four-leaf clover hung from the delicate silver chain, the design simple and elegant.

"A good luck charm," Ren hastened to reassure her. He was aware that he was encroaching upon what he liked to call 'dangerously romantic territory.' A push too strong in this direction would have Kyoko fleeing from him, and erasing him from her mind.

She relaxed visibly, a sheepish smile spreading across her features. "Thank you," she said, before digging into her food.

Ren reached over to grab the remote control and turned on the TV before doing the same. While he would have liked the break the awkward silence that ensued, he couldn't think of anything to say.

". . .And so last night's freak blizzard has left in its wake three feet of snow," the announcer was saying, the projector displaying several pictures behind him. "Snowplows are out on the streets, but citizens are encouraged to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary" the announcer laughed, "not that it is of any importance to any romantic couples out there who would be more than happy to spend some time with that special someone this Christmas. On another note, the storm has left behind it a large high pressure system which is likely to dominate the weather patterns the next few days, so plenty of sunny clear weather to look forward to into next week. . ."

Kyoko frowned at the TV as she meticulously dipped her toast into her egg yolk. The reason she hated Christmas was that it was such a romantic holiday; really, only Valentine's Day was worse. Or was Valentine's Day worse? At least on Valentine's Day, she could make and give chocolate to Moko and Maria, and celebrate that. There was no need to go into hiding on Valentine's Day. On the other hand, she would be surrounded by girls talking about confessing their love on Valentine's Day, which she didn't get at Christmas. Why were people so love-obsessed anyway? What was so great about it? All it led to was a broken heart.

Speaking of such things, what was Tsuruga-kun thinking, getting her a present? And such a gift it was. Yes, he had said (rather glibly, in her opinion) that it was a good luck charm, and she knew that four-leaf clovers were considered lucky in the West, but still . . . Why would she get a gift at all, really? It didn't make any sense to her.

Actually, it did make sense. It was all building evidence that perhaps, just perhaps, Moko was right. But she didn't want to think about that.

"Sunny days," Tsuruga-kun said, dispelling those dark thoughts from her mind. She looked away from the TV. "I guess the crew isn't going to be too happy about that."

Kyoko laughed. Indeed, tomorrow they were counting on cloudy skies. "How do you think they'll cover it up?"

"Well, we only need a dark sky; at least it doesn't have to rain or anything." Tsuruga-kun smiled, toying with his fork, thinking. "They could have us to the scene inside and add the background using CG later, but I think they'll only do that if it absolutely can't be covered up. If we can angle it so the sun isn't in the way, we'll be able to do the scene outdoors, and they'll fix the lighting later. Or maybe," he smiled down at her, "Or maybe the weather report will be wrong and we will have cloudy skies tomorrow. That would be preferable."

Kyoko smiled in return. "The weather report is wrong half the time anyway," she said, finishing up her breakfast. She sipped at her coffee, watching the variety show that had come on as she waited for Tsuruga-kun to finish.

"I'll give you a ride home." Tsuruga-kun said as he finished. He gave his empty plate and mug to Kyoko, who held out a hand for them. She piled them neatly onto her own dishes and took them to the kitchen to wash.

"Are the roads cleared yet?" she called out from the kitchen. Tsuruga-kun was already at the window, checking. There wasn't any real reason why it wouldn't be; Tsuruga-kun lived in a very well-to-do area, close to a major road. His roads would be one of the first areas to be cleared. She wasn't so sure about her own area though.

"They should be," Tsuruga-kun replied, as Kyoko put the plates on a dish rack to dry. She couldn't reach the cabinets where they belonged anyway. "Are you ready to go?"

To be quite honest with himself, Ren was more than reluctant to take Kyoko home. There was something about her being in his apartment that felt oddly right; that she belonged in this setting, in this apartment . . . with him. But if he did not take the time to drive her home, he knew that she would have set off on foot back to Darumaya anyway, and any attempts to convince her to stay would likely scare her off. He would feel better about driving a girl home than simply letting her walk the whole way.

"Oh, yes," Kyoko replied instantly. She dried her hands on a dishtowel which she had hung on the oven door, and dashed off to grab her winter coat, hat and mittens. She pulled her shoulder bag over her head so it hung neatly by her side.

"You almost forgot this," Ren passed her her gift as he pulled on his own winter jacket and grabbed his car keys. Kyoko was already waiting at the door when he pulled on his shoes.

The car ride back was quiet. For once, Ren wished he had not imposed a strict no talking rule in his car, but he knew he would not be able to handle Tokyo's rush hour traffic without it. Looking over at her, he saw that she was staring out the window, a pensive look on her face. Was she staring at the mountains of snow on either side of the road, at least five feet high? Every now and again, she would pull out the necklace and just stare at it, before putting it away again. Ren sighed inwardly, wishing as he often did when she did things like this, that Kyoko would confide in him more. There was no use pushing her, as knowing her, she would just clam up about it.

Pulling up to Darumaya, he got out as Kyoko did. "Thank you for coming to keep me company yesterday," he said, rather formally. "and thank you for the cake."

"It's no problem," Kyoko replied, smiling. Somehow, it looked that much sweeter, surrounded by mountains of snow, a pink knit cap keeping her hair tame. She stared down at the ground, nudging a bit of snow with her foot. "Thank you for letting me stay the night," she said softly. "And for, for listening to me about the nightmare." A light blush coloured her cheeks.

"It's no problem," Ren returned as she looked up at him. Why did she have to look so, so utterly kissable at this moment? A couple strands of chestnut brown blew across her face. Her eyes, brown as well, were warm and inviting; her expression uncommonly shy. He wanted nothing more, at the moment, than to lean down and give her a kiss, just one kiss, on those pink lips.

Just one kiss would be okay, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it?

Kyoko stared up at the older actor, whose dark brown hair fluttered in the breeze, his brown eyes unreadable. He looked enigmatic, powerful,handsome in the clear winter day. "Well, I'll, I'll see you tomorrow at the Tsukigomori filming," she stammered, turning away. She didn't like these feelings in her at the moment, not at all.

"Kyoko-chan," he said, and it was her only warning before he enveloped her in a tight hug. "Merry Christmas."

To her surprise, she hugged him back. "Merry Christmas," she murmured into his coat. He had a musty smell; like old books in a library. Old pages and ink . . .

He let her go as suddenly as he had hugged her. "I'll see you tomorrow," he smiled, before getting back into his car and driving away. He was gone before she could say anything else.

Kyoko turned mechanically back to Darumaya, and forced her legs to make the short walk up to the doors. The Okami-san and Taisho-san welcomed her back easily, wishing her Merry Christmas, as she knew they would; she automatically smiled and wished them Merry Christmas in return. In her room, she dropped her bag on the floor and shed her coat, hat and mitts, before collapsing onto her bed.

What on earth just happened? Her mind shrieked at her, as she buried her head under her pillow. What the hell?!

Unbeknownst to her, Ren had only driven a couple blocks before pulling to the side of the road. A giddy smile spread across his face as he dropped his head into his arms, resting on the steering wheel. He was glad that his windows were tinted, for no one would be able to watch the giddy breakdown of Ren Tsuruga.

In her bedroom, Kyoko lifted her head out from under her pillow, taking in several deep breaths. This was an emergency. This was nothing short of an emergency. That meant that she had to call Moko. Moko would know what to do. She pulled out her cell phone and dialled the familiar numbers. Moko picked up on the second ring.

"Oh, Kyoko," she said, surprised. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas," Kyoko said, before breaking down. "It's a disaster! I don't know what to do, Moko!"

"Wait, wait," Moko replied. "What's a disaster? What's wrong?"

"And then he hugged me, Moko! I don't understand! What do I do?" Kyoko babbled on.

"Who hugged you? Calm down and start from the beginning!" It was lucky for her that Moko had dealt with her in a panicked state several times before, and knew exactly what to do. "I'll hang up if you don't calm down, breathe, and start from the beginning!"

Kyoko sucked in air, following her directions. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Repeat until calm. After a few moments, she recounted to her friend all that happened since the previous night, when she had received a phone call from Yashiro.

In her cozy apartment, Kanae pulled the phone away from her ear, staring at it. Kyoko's voice was still perfectly audible, her tone escalating as she reached the climax of her tale. At that moment, she knew exactly what had happened, and she knew that her friend would not take well to it. And she knew that telling her friend that "Ren Tsuruga is head over heels in love with you," would not bode well; Kyoko would panic again, and that would do no one any good. And that was just the least of it; certainly she couldn't say "Kyoko, you're in love with Ren Tsuruga too." Kanae shuddered at the very thought.

Oh, they were so utterly hopeless, those two. So utterly, completely hopeless. At the moment, it was probably best to suggest an alternative explanation; Kyoko herself must suspect that Tsuruga-san was in love with her now.

"Maybe," she heard herself say, "It was just the mood of the holidays. Hugging isn't a very big deal, after all. And Christmas is full of holiday cheer; it makes sense that he would hug you, and you would hug back, right?"

"Of course!" Kyoko's voice echoed the relief she obviously felt. "So it really didn't mean anything, did it?"

"No, not at all," Kanae was glad that Kyoko couldn't see her face, for she wore an expression that completely contradicted her words.

"So it was all just caused by holiday cheer!" Kyoko was happy, that much was clear. "Thank you, Moko, you're my best friend ever! Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas," Kanae returned, before hanging up the phone.

Disaster averted, but she knew it was only a matter of time. Oh, they were soscrewed!

Kyoko hung up the phone in a much better mood. Of course it was all just a result of holiday cheer; after all, all those couples kissing out on the street yesterday, all the TV programmes today focused on love, it only made sense that it would rub off. A hug on Christmas Day didn't mean anything at all! She skipped down to the kitchen to help the Okami-san make lunch.

Ren eventually drove back to his apartment, and pulled out his stack of books again. Life of Pi, where was he again? Oh, it didn't matter. He couldn't concentrate on the words anyway; the English words were slithering away under his fingertips. He tossed the book onto the coffee table, leaned his head back on the couch, and stared at the ceiling, thinking back. Her soft body, warm even through her winter coat, the knit texture of her hat, the lingering flowery smell of her body wash in his mind . . . the way that she had wrapped her own arms around him, returning his embrace. For him, that was heaven in a nutshell.

The only thing left to see was if Kyoko would talk to him tomorrow.

The next day, Yashiro was eagerly awaiting the results of his genius plan. If all went according to plan, Ren and Kyoko would be a great deal happier, and the women of Japan, disappointed. And really, it should have gone according to plan; how hard could it be? Seeing the weather report, he sent Kyoko to Ren, supposedly to keep him company, and the storm had indeed struck. Furthermore, he knew that Ren's apartment was in one of the districts of power outages, so Kyoko should have been forced to stay the night. A perfect opportunity for a love confession, a realization of feelings, and on the most romantic night of the year. . .

"Good morning, Yashiro-san!" Kyoko was, as usual, on set early. The scar did take three hours to put on, he recalled. And she had a large role in one of the scenes to be filmed today. She seemed happy, but no happier than usual . . . "Here's your present!" She passed him a wrapped box.

"Thank you!" He smiled down at her through his glasses. "May I open it?" he asked, untying the ribbon that held the whole affair together.

"Of course," Kyoko laughed. "What else are presents for?"

"I was being polite," Yashiro excused himself. "A tie! Thank you!" He brandished his gift, a plain red tie, one that would match most of the suits in his wardrobe. "How was your holiday?"

"You're welcome," Kyoko replied. "It was good, Tsuruga-kun and I baked a Christmas cake."

Tsuruga-kun? Surely over the weekend, she had been stranded at his place, andsurely they would have made more progress than that?

"Were you hit badly by the blizzard?" he asked. Maybe his information had been bad, and Kyoko hadn't been forced to stay the night?

"Oh, yes," Kyoko replied. "Were you? I had to stay the night in Tsuruga-kun's apartment, it's a good thing he had a spare bedroom. And we did lose power, but it came back on around two in the morning, so it wasn't too bad."

"Oh, no, my area didn't lose power or anything, it was fine," Yashiro replied. Had Ren really made as little progress as Kyoko was indicating?

"That's good," Kyoko said agreeably. "I've got to go get my makeup done; you know how long that scar takes." She smiled sheepishly and disappeared into the makeup rooms.

"Good morning, Yashiro-san," Ren appeared behind him. Yashiro whirled, furious at his friend.

"You damn failure as a lover!" he snapped, berating his charge.


Author's Notes: Yay, it's done! Now, there aren't any more chapters after this, but I might have a couple oneshots kicking around for Valentine's Day and White Day. Please review/comment! We didn't reach 50 last time, but I can still hope. . .

Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, everyone!