Fandom: Skip Beat!
Genre: Romance/General
[Oneshot New Years Eve was never meant to be spent alone. Follow-up to Snowfall, but may stand alone.
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 for being so kind to edit all my SB! fanfictions, and to snigger02 for inspiring me to write it in the first place.

"Ren's here, Ren's here!" Maria shouted with glee, pulling up the skirts of her little kimono and prancing eagerly to the door. Kyoko sighed. How was she enticed to come to this New Year's party again? Ah, yes; under a combination of Maria's tears, Tsuruga-kun's glare, and the whispered murmurs on the set of Tsukigomori not so long ago, her resolve to spend the New Year quietly with the Okami-san and Taisho-san had died on her lips, and she had found herself agreeing without further protest.

Somehow, she was sure that the president had had a role in the planning of this party. He had been planning something, she was sure of it. She was certain that it was no coincidence that Maria had required traditional dress for the party. The president knew that she had no money, thus he must have known that she wouldn't own a kimono! As beautiful as such things were, they were too costly a prop for Kyoko's meagre budget. Thus, there was only one conclusion: They were planning something and it somehow involved her wearing a kimono.

She smoothed the silk hem of her borrowed kimono, trying to make her nervousness less apparent. Was there any particular reason why theyhad to lend her a furisode, rather than a less formalhomongi or tsukesage? She was worried that she would spill something on it or trip and tear it or something, and besides, she was only sixteen! And anyway, Moko was only wearing a homongi!

A part of her knew that she just didn't want to be seen by Tsuruga-kun wearing a kimono that was traditionally reserved for women available for marriage. She wasn't sure why, but overall it just seemed to be a bad idea.

Kanae eyed her friend closely, sitting beside her on the couch in front of the fireplace . Despite listening to Kyoko's panicked diatribe about wearing a furisode, in which she claimed furiously that she was going to trip on it, or tear it, or spill food on it, she was sure that Kyoko would do no such thing. After all, hadn't Kyoko grown up working in a traditional inn? The way Kyoko moved in a kimono, it showed. Her etiquette and posture were perfect. In her mind she compared notes on her friend's posture and the neat way that she had folded her hands in her lap. It would be useful if she ever had to take on the role of a traditional Japanese girl.

Kanae drew in a deep breath, and glanced nervously at Yashiro, who was seated in a thick armchair across from her. She had caught the manager looking woebegone the day after Christmas at the TBM studio, where she had gone to film a bit role in a drama. Following his gaze, she had spotted a red-faced Kyoko and Tsuruga-san making small talk. She had connected the dots immediately. This man, she had thought, this man had been responsible for the whole "Ren Tsuruga hugged me, what do I do?!" outburst that she had dealt with on Christmas! This man was going to bring hell into the hallways of LME by making Kyoko to fall in love! Oh, she was going to murder him!

And thus, she had gone to interrogate him as soon as Kyoko and Tsuruga-san had entered the set. And somehow, instead she had been dragged into this diabolical plot to bring Ren and Kyoko together! A diabolical plot that had hatched when Yashiro-san had had the supposedly brilliant idea to bring the president into it!

At least, she reassured herself, maybe hell wouldn't be as hellish if she was involved. If she couldn't fight against the tsunami, then perhaps she could exercise some measure on control over their actions and keep Kyoko from being shattered.

In sharp contrast to the dark-haired girl across from him, Yashiro was bursting with excitement. Between himself, Kotonami-san (honestly, he hadn't even known that Kyoko-chan had a best friend!), and the president, they had hatched an absolutely fool-proof plan! The president had convinced Maria to hold a New Year's party for the members of LME who didn't have family to spend it with. He had reasoned with her that it would be a horrible thing to spend New Year's alone, and thus Maria had agreed. Thus here he was, with Kotonami-san, Kyoko-chan, and Ren!

There was no way Ren could screw this up. After all, he'd made half the women in Japan fall in love with him; the man had to have some skills as a lover, right?

"Good evening," Ren said as he was led into the room by Maria. He cast his gaze around the decorated sitting room nervously. Ren spotted Yashiro-san dressed in the traditional kimono squirming excitedly in an armchair by the fireplace. He sighed; any fool could see that he was plotting something. Sitting opposite him on a couch, with a foreboding expression was Kyoko's friend Kanae Kotonami. She had chosen a kimono of dark blue silk with slightly longer sleeves, accenting her dark hair and eyes. She, Ren found himself thinking, would be what the Americans called an ice queen. Sitting beside her, Kyoko was staring into the fire. She was nervous.

Well, he reasoned, things had been awkward in the extreme between them of late. Unnaturally normal, he would phrase it. It was clear that the hug on Christmas day lingered in her mind as much as it did in his. It probably didn't help that Yashiro-san and whoever he was in collaboration with had stuffed her into a furisode. The red silk accented her chestnut brown hair, bringing fire into her cheeks that had nothing to do with makeup. Inwardly, he thanked Yashiro; while it had not been the first time he had seen her in a kimono, the result was certainly stunning. Suddenly, he had the irrational desire to ask Kotonami to move so that he could sit beside her.

"Well," Lory cheerful voice from behind broke the awkward silence. "Now that we're all here, what should we all do now?" He directed the question to his granddaughter.

"Play games!" Maria's smile was infectious. "Sugoroku!"

Lory Takarada was pleased with the plan. The New Year was a time of renewal and hope; for himself, he certainly hoped that Ren and Kyoko would finally move past their former trauma and see what was directly in front of them. As the president of LME, it was his honour-bound duty to make all of his actors, singers, and tarentos shine. If the plan was successful, Ren's acting would ascend to a whole new level, and Kyoko's career would be launched. It would be a beautiful thing to behold.

He resisted the urge to laugh as Kyoko rose gracefully from the couch, and with the perfect posture of an aristocrat, seated herself in seiza position on the floor. He wondered momentarily if she had been taking lessons; it was clear that she was practiced in etiquette, at least. But no matter; he could see that she had caught Ren's eye, and at the moment that's all that mattered. Kotonami-san had done a good job of getting Kyoko into that furisode. He saw Kotonami-san carefully watch and imitate the way that Kyoko had moved from the couch to the table; that girl was a born actress. Seeing his opportunity, he pushed Ren to the open spot on Kyoko's left.

In the end, however, Lory Takarada knew that he, Kotonami-san, and Yashiro-san could only push so much. The end result would be produced by Ren and Kyoko themselves.

Kyoko smiled up at Tsuruga-kun nervously. She hadn't expected him to take a seat beside her! She had to admit, he did look good in a kimono. "Tsuruga-kun," she greeted him, her voice unnaturally normal, heat rushing to her face. "Happy New Year."

"Happy New Year," he replied, returning her smile. He turned back to the game board as Kyoko did the same. Maria's personality and obvious delight had restored a sense of calm in the room. He was grateful for it.

Sugoroku, then uta-garuta, then another game of sugoroku passed the time before Maria fell asleep at the table and knocked all the pieces onto the floor. Kyoko was impressed; it was close to four in the morning. When she was eight, she couldn't have lasted that long. The president gathered Maria up in his arms and took her to bed as Kyoko suppressed a yawn.

"Do you want to continue?" Moko asked, picking up the pieces and setting them back on the board. It was just like Moko too, Kyoko thought, to remember where all the pieces had been before Maria had knocked them over.

"We may as well," Ren replied. "It's only another three hours to sunrise."

"Mmm," Yashiro nodded. "I would prefer to play a game of shogi, though."

"I believe there's a shogi board in the cupboard," The president said, as he re-entered the room. He walked to the closet and pulled out a shogi board. "We also have Go, if anyone is interested?"

"I will play Go," Ren volunteered. Kyoko suppressed another yawn as she watched him take and set up the Go set.

"Kyoko-chan, Kotonami-san?" Yashiro shook the shogi set at them as the president settled himself across from Ren. Kyoko shook her head; though she had seen many people play shogi in the inn, she didn't know how to play herself. She would just watch.

"I'll play," Moko volunteered. She was a competent player, Kyoko realized when the game was well underway, capturing several pawns and a rook in the first twenty moves. Yashiro-san, however, was equally competent; he took one of Moko's pieces for every piece that he lost, trading pieces down across the board.

Her thoughts drifted away from the board. The warlike setting of the game reminded her; had she finished that essay for her history class? She'd missed a lot of days recently for the filming of Tsukigomori; she was glad that she went to a performing arts high school where they were willing to send her the notes. She wasn't sure anyone in the class would have done so for her, and it really was important for her to keep up with her studies . . .

On Kyoko's left, Ren snapped another black piece into play, capturing one of the president's white pieces. Kyoko wasn't watching him play, he thought, mildly resentful. She was staring thoughtfully at Kotonami-san and Yashiro's extended shogi game. Evidently, they had fought each other to a standstill, for Yashiro had sat back and appeared to be pondering his next move. No, he realized as he saw the arrangement on the board. Kotonami-san had Yashiro-san in check.

"You're not paying attention," the president's voice called him back to his game. The president snapped down another white piece, capturing a group of five stones that Ren had laid down earlier. Ren sighed. Perhaps it was a good thing that Kyoko wasn't watching him. He evaluated the board again critically. The points left on the board would do him no good to play on. He could tell he had lost; he had managed to dominate only a quarter of the board.

"I pass," he said. His mind was preoccupied with by the beautiful girl on his right.

"Pass. I win," the president replied. "Another game, Ren?"

Ren took a deep breath. "Kyoko-chan? Do you want to play?" He tapped the girl on the shoulder, catching her attention.

"Oh. No, you go ahead," Kyoko replied absently, focused on the game between Yashiro-san and Kotonami-san. "What was so interesting about it?" Ren found himself thinking. Yashiro-san hadn't made a move since the last time that Ren looked over.

"All right," Ren agreed. "Another game, then." He cleared the board of his black pieces as the president did the same with his white pieces.

Unbeknownst to him, while Kyoko appeared to be engrossed in the shogi game, she was all too focused on the man behind her, casually putting down black pieces. He wasn't doing so well, she knew; he'd missed about half a dozen opportunities last game to capture pieces, including a rather obvious ladder. She could also tell that he wasn't focusing on the game. She wondered idly what he was thinking about; his eyes were narrowed slightly in frustration, and the way he gripped his black pieces was just slightly too tense. A couple strands of hair flopped down into his eyes, and he brushed them off with a vague movement.

A part of her wanted to turn and watch him toy with the black piece in his hand, tapping impatiently against the table, and perhaps point out a few better places to put his stones that would result in a higher capture, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. No, facing him would bring on a fiery heat to her face as it had done since Christmas, and she didn't like that. Particularly when she didn't know why. While she had been able to face him when Maria was present, somehow she couldn't do so any longer without turning into a tomato. Tsuruga-kun must think she was ill or something.

"Checkmate." Moko said triumphantly, lifting Kyoko out of her reverie.

"I let you win," Yashiro-san corrected her indignantly. Evaluating the board, Kyoko saw that Moko had indeed successfully taken Yashiro-san's king.

"Liar. I had you in check no matter what you did," Moko replied.

Yashiro sighed. "Best two out of three?" he conceded. Moko agreed without hesitation, and they began to set up the board again.

Kyoko's attention drifted back to the man sitting beside her. She could feel his warmth radiating to her, seeping into her silk kimono like a warm drug. She suppressed another yawn and resisted the urge to lay her head on the table and take a nap; she had never been very good at staying awake all night. However, taking a nap here and now was neither polite nor comfortable.

Yashiro-san won the next game, much to Moko's distress. The third game was a pitched battle of wits, and by the time that they had reached a standstill, Tsuruga-san and the President were finishing their second game. Their second game, too, had been painfully one-sided; It was clear from both the board, and Tsuruga-san's expression that he was being soundly defeated.

"I'm going to go wake up Maria," the president said, rising from his seat, leaving Tsuruga-kun to clear the board. "It's almost time for the first sunrise; why don't you all go on ahead to the balcony?"

"Mmm?" Kyoko asked, as she realized what he was asking. "Ah, yes, of course." As stiff as her legs were, she rose gracefully to her feet through long years of practice. Tsuruga-kun rose to his feet beside her.

"Just let us finish this game first," Moko said, her voice preoccupied and determined. Yashiro nodded, keeping his eyes on the board.

"Shall we go, Kyoko-chan?" Ren asked kindly. He had lost the last game even more miserably than before, and Kyoko had looked tired. He had shifted discreetly in her direction, hoping to catch her if she fell asleep at the table, but there had been no such luck. It almost seemed as if the gods themselves were against him.

"Mmm," she replied, eyes on the floor. Ren winced; Kyoko didn't even want to look at him. He didn't know whether to chalk that up to her tiredness or whether it was a result of something he did. Had done? It had been almost a week since their sudden hug; surely if it was a result of that, she would have done something earlier. Though, Ren remembered, Kyoko had been avoiding him lately. They had behaved normally the times they had run into each other at the office, or at the studio, but there had been no long conversations, no late night phone calls as were usual. It had, however, been a busy schedule last week as well, and he knew that Kyoko had been driven hard by the Mio role, and by the Natsu role that she had in High School Hell . . .

On the balcony, they see the first rays of the morning sun cutting through the darkness of night. Stars faded; the moon sank below the horizon. The sky shone first purple, then red, then orange. The buildings of Tokyo, visible even in the wealthiest districts, were tinted orange by the morning light. Almost like a painting, he mused, perhaps something of Van Gogh's; The Sower, maybe, or Olive Trees.

"It's beautiful," he heard Kyoko murmur beside him. Looking down at her, he saw her sleepy gaze fixed on the sky, eyes shaded by long lashes. "It really is nice," she glanced at him, "to see the first sunrise with someone."

"Mmm," he agreed, fighting an impulse to lean down and kiss her. "It really is nice." Kyoko had looked away from him, fixing her gaze once again into the distance. Minutes passed, as he watched the sun drift like a ship from the horizon, and he felt a warm body press itself at his side. Were his frantic, fantastical dreams at three in the morning, in which Kyoko confessed her undying love for him, finally coming true? Hope rose in him, only to burst as he realized that she had merely fallen asleep on him.

He sighed. In some ways, Kyoko was so childlike. Her inability to stay awake for more than twenty-four hours, her fervent belief in the existence of fairies, her tendency to map the world in fairy-tale terms . . . He supposed it was this was the flip-side to her maturity, her persistence and strong will. Her sleeping face was so innocent, he reflected. It would almost be sinful for him to, just this once, give into his desires. No, he corrected himself, it would be sinful. Kyoko was only sixteen, she wasn't an adult by anyone's standards. And yet, he realized, he had never truly thought of her as a child, not when he first met her before the LME audition, not when she was his substitute manager, and most importantly perhaps, not when she acted alongside him in Tsukigomori. He drew in a deep breath, trying to gain some clarity of thought, but the mind wasn't cooperating. He no longer saw the rising sun, no longer felt the cold breeze ruffling his hair in the morning light, no longer heard the dawn calls of the birds. His world had narrowed down to only her; the way the morning light brought fresh colour to her skin, the way the cold breeze blew her hair across her face, the sound of her gentle breathing. She wouldn't remember anything when she woke up. It was this thought that spurred his frozen brain into action.

He leaned down and softly kissed her on the forehead, gathering her light body into his arms. She sighed once, in sleeping contentment.

He shook his head, and picked her up. There was that couch by the fireplace. He would lay her down there, and wait for her to wake up.

Kyoko sat up suddenly, drawing in a deep breath. Something had crashed to the floor somewhere behind her, and voices were shouting. Where was she and what was going on?

"It's an impasse! That's an impasse!" she heard Moko insisting angrily.

"Hey, by international scoring rules, I just won!" Yashiro fired back; while he did not sound angry, his words were stronger than they needed to be. "that gives me best two out of three!"

"If we're playing by international rules, and I thought we were, an impasse is not a win!" Moko replied. "I demand another game!"

"What's going on?" she heard herself ask, her head full of sleep. A soft noise at her feet drew her attention as Tsuruga-kun closed a book. He had seated himself on the floor by the couch, his back level with her shoulders.

"You awake?" he asked mildly, looking at her over his shoulder. "I told them to play quietly."

That's right, she remembered sluggishly. She and Tsuruga-kun had gone to watch the sunrise before everyone else, hadn't they? And, and it was so beautiful, but she didn't remember the others showing up. Did she remember leaving? No, no, she didn't. She must have fallen asleep on the balcony. How rude of her . . . especially because obviously, she could not have come back here herself, meaning that . . . meaning that Tsuruga-kun or someone else must have carried her back in . . .

Colour flooded her cheeks as she jumped off the couch, almost tripping over him, and bowed at him. "I'm, I'm sorry for the trouble!"

Tsuruga-kun laughed. "It's no problem. You may as well sit down; it looks like Kotonami-san is getting her way. They will be playing another game." Indeed, Moko and Yashiro-san were picking up the pieces of the set from where Moko had apparently tossed it in frustration, and were setting up for another game.

Kyoko obeyed, slowly sitting down on the couch as Tsuruga-kun stood and fetched another book. "Wagahai wa Neko de Aru(1) all right by you?" he inquired. Kyoko nodded, wondering if he meant anything by that. Surely he didn't; the book was a classic. She noted with surprise that his book was Genji Monogatari(2).

He passed her the book and seated himself on the couch beside her. "Happy New Year," he said simply, before opening Genji Monogatari to the page where he had been before Kyoko had woken up.

Kyoko suddenly got the strange feeling that something had happened, something important -- Tsuruga-kun was behaving oddly. No, not oddly. He was behaving as he always did. But there was something off, just slightly amiss.

"Well, it's the New Year", she thought as she opened her book. She was probably just imagining it.



Author's Notes: Holy crap, there are a lot this time! I actually did a surprising amount of research for a lot of the small details for this fic (I work way too hard), so if you want more information, you can look up most of this stuff on Wikipedia. You can ignore everything I've written here except for the usual "please review" comment if you don't want to read it, but I've explained a lot of stuff here, including some things you may have missed or didn't get when you actually read it.

Furisode : a formal kimono with long swinging sleeves worn by unmarried women. They are extremely expensive and signify that the wearer is available for marriage. Thus, the idea is that Kyoko doesn't want to present herself as someone who is 'available for marriage,' but Kanae and the others have essentially tricked her into it. That's why Ren takes particular notice of her, even though he would anyway.

Homongi : translating as "visiting wear", a kimono that is worn by either married or unmarried women, and may be worn to formal parties. Unmarried women wear longer sleeves. Kanae, unlike Kyoko, is wearing one because she also doesn't want to present herself as available for marriage. Lucky for her, she doesn't have her best friend and other people plotting to make her fall in love.

Tsukesage : a less formal kimono than the homongi, shorter below the waist.

Sugoroku : a Japanese board game similar to Snakes and Ladders.

Seiza : position a formal way of sitting in Japan. It is very, very uncomfortable for anyone who hasn't practiced it, and most Japanese can't actually sit in this position for long periods of time. Since Japanese etiquette is so extensive and important, that Kyoko has learned it all is impressive. Essentially, Kyoko's behaviour in a kimono is very much that of someone high-born.

Uta-garuta : a Japanese card game played mainly on New Year's.

Shogi : Japanese chess. One of the major differences is that you can "drop" pieces, i.e., use one of the pieces that you captured on your own side. Also, it is possible for the game to end in impasse, where no player can hope to check the other. The entire scene where Kanae and Yashiro are playing represents their argument and battle with each other; Kanae doesn't want Kyoko to fall in love with Ren because she thinks that would cause a lot of trouble and ruckus, particular for Kyoko. She's only involved in their plot because she sees that the president and Yashiro can't be stopped, so she's basically trying to mitigate their effects. The scene overall represents Kanae's and Yashiro's conflict with each other.

Go : a strategic board game of Chinese origin, made famous by the anime Hikaru No Go.

(1)Wagahai wa Neko de Aru or I Am A Cat, a novel written in 1905-1906 by Natsume Soseki. It's not really an important reference, but essentially, Ren is calling Kyoko a cat because she unintentionally teases him. This is also a reference to the fanfic Whispers of Daybreak, which was originally written in Chinese but is translated in English by snigger02 on LJ, in the Skip Beat! community.

(2) Genji Monogatari or The Tale of Genji,A classical novel written by Murasaki Shikibu in the eleventh century. This is actually an inside joke on my part, for the book is actually centred on Genji's romantic life. Ostensibly, Ren is trying to figure out how to make Kyoko fall in love with him.