by J Luc Pitard
A Skip Beat! Manga fan fic.
(just to get back into writing again)
Disclaimer: Skip Beat! belongs to Nakamura Yoshiki and not myself. Please buy the manga, available from Viz and watch the upcoming anime, to be released in Japan/Taiwan in October 2008.
Spoiler Disclaimer: I've read the manga scans online and incorporated details through chapter 128.
Her mouth tingled where his perfect lips had ghosted gently over it. Kyoko felt rather than heard his accompanying sigh. Her eyes wide, she had watched him kiss her, staring directly into his beautiful milk chocolate colored eyes. She was grateful she wasn't facing the dark, lustful eyes of the 'Emperor of the Night' nor had her stiff reaction called up the hard, angry eyes of the 'Demon Lord.' The calm gaze in front of her was the regular, pleasant mask of the actor Ren Tsuruga.
"You alright?" he asked in a half whisper.
Kyoko didn't trust her voice as the demons around her screeched that "No, she is not alright!", "You idiot!" and "What does he think he's doing!" Her heart was pounding a mile a minute and the protective armor around it seemed to be weakening under the strain of beating so hard. She wanted to pull away. One of his large hands splayed along her back just behind the cage her heart was slamming against. He had to be able to feel that, feel how nervous she was. His other arm held her around her slim waist.
They were standing in his kitchen, only feet away from where he'd held her once before, clutched at her, teased her with sultry talk and sweet gestures as they'd role played during the filming of 'Dark Moon.' That was many months ago now and she still hadn't forgotten how scary it had been. But this time, she reminded herself, this time she'd asked to be here, asked him to do this to her, for her. She had to remember that. She nodded slowly in answer to his question.
This was a favor, a lesson, a learning experience and he was teaching her, as her mentor and... Oh my God, he was leaning down close again! She could smell his skin- tea and cologne and something enticingly manly. Skin rubbed lightly, cheek against cheek as he slowly made his way along her face. How can a nose be sexy? His was as it nuzzled hers while he tilted his head. His arm tightened slightly across her back as her right leg shifted to take a step away. He took the step with her, keeping her body close to his. Kyoko braced herself for his second attack.
She squeezed her eyes shut at the last second, feeling his warm breath against her mouth, then gentle movement and light pressure. His lips formed a smile before pulling away again. Now it was her turn to sigh at the loss of contact. She opened her eyes, looking up at his face, just catching as it shifted from a sad smile to a more guarded look.
"Is that enough?" The deep voice held concern for her. His hand left her waist to move hair off her forehead, then continued down her cheek. She resisted the temptation to lean into it. Instead she looked down and moved slightly away from him. She needed space, even a few inches of space, to regain her thoughts.
"Um..." Kyoko knew she was lucky to have such a mentor. Hadn't he always guided her as an actor? Didn't he help prune her harshly to shape her growth? Never holding back his criticisms, but also cheering her on, coaching her? And now she'd come to him with this troublesome request!
She knew she was selfish really. He was sure to have work he could be doing instead of this. His manager had given her tomorrow's schedule and it was packed with interviews, shoots and the first of his martial arts classes for an action series he was in. Her hands, which had dangled uselessly since he moved to her, now crossed in front of her. Gripping her upper arms she tried to marshal her strength. The hand on her back clenched into a fist. Kyoko hugged herself tighter as he pulled her to him, resting his chin lightly on her head while she thought of how to face him.
Today's shoot had been a lesson in humiliation, however unintentionally. It was her own fault, but she'd ended up pulling Tsuruga and others into it anyway. A month earlier she'd been cast in a series of commercials for a line of cosmetics called 'Princess Kiss.' It was all her dreams rolled into one and she'd been happy that the series director was Asami. She couldn't imagine anyone else who would've cast her as a lively princess, but that woman had already backed her as an angel in Shotaro Fuwa's promotional video. That showed a vivid imagination! This time Asami cast her against a handsome young idol "prince" who was polite enough, but not overly gifted with acting ability. That was fine since the commercials centered on her and she'd enjoyed each day of filming up to the last which she'd been secretly dreading. In the end of each commercial, the princess somehow manages to miss the hapless prince's attempts to kiss her, but in the last one he finally succeeds.
Him, a man she barely knew.
Kyoko kept pushing off her worry until Tsuruga directly confronted her over it a few days ago. Apparently his concern for her led to a call to the president of LME Pop Productions and a subsequent one from Lory Takarada directly to Asami. When Kyoko arrived for the final day- today- her costar sheepishly apologized and the director pulled her aside to say they'd changed the last kiss to a shot where she turned to give the camera a large smile just as the prince moved in, resulting in his kiss landing on her cheek. Everyone on set laughed when they filmed it the first time and although it took several tries to capture it perfectly, Asami and the producers said they were happier with the change.
Kyoko however, was furious at herself! Why had her personal hang up resulted in a script change? To have bothered her mentor and everyone else with something she knew she would have to deal with someday ? Unacceptable.
She expected Tsuruga to be annoyed with her when he picked her up after filming, but he made no mention of it. His remarkably cheerful behavior throughout dinner had given her the courage to make this demand of him.
"Kiss me," she'd asked after they finished the dishes.
It had been a modest celebration of the end of her gig and the beginning of the publicity surrounding his new drama role. She'd cooked up a small feast for him in his apartment. It always set his manager, Yashiro's mind at ease to know that Ren was eating home cooked meals.
He'd looked at her quietly for what felt like hours, but must've only been a few minutes before nodding. "You'll encounter this more as you get more roles," he'd said in an even voice. When she asked him if he'd had to kiss for work, he'd looked almost hurt that she'd had to ask. "Of course," he said quietly.
"Can you really kiss someone you don't love?" she'd asked although she knew the answer as well as he did.
"As an actor I can," he said, each word sounding deliberately chosen. He stood with his arms folded across his chest, leaning against the sink as she moved away from him.
She couldn't question him further; she only knew about his love for a high school girl through 'Bo' her chicken costumed persona on 'Totally Wild Rock.' Ren had never told her directly. But even with that secret love, hadn't he kissed Itsumi in 'Dark Moon?' Kyoko hadn't been there that day, but that scene had drawn cat calls and wolf whistles from the other actors when they screened it at the wrap party. Kyoko did sneak a look at the actress seated on the couch next to her and had seen a dreamy look cross Itsumi's face before she shrugged. "It's just a job, Kyoko," she'd said patting her on the knee. "You'll probably be doing that, too."
In Tsuruga's kitchen, Kyoko turned her back to him. Itsumi's words echoing in her mind as her face flushed red.
"Then, would you? Help me, I mean?"
She bit her bottom lip, worrying it while she tried to decide where and how to stand. Maybe they should go to the living room where they could sit down? Her face turned from embarrassed to determined and then to shocked when he suddenly hugged her from behind, his long arms crossing her chest and enveloping her waist. Her heart nearly leaped out her throat, but his strong hold on her kept her from running out the door.
"Relax," he'd whispered directly into the shell of her ear. Kyoko had shuddered at a fleeting memory of the Beagle stalker kissing her neck and whispering in her ear once upon a time, but she took a deep breath and tried to relax into his arms. A few minutes of comforting silence later, he'd slowly turned her to face him and took her first kiss.
Now here she was after her second kiss, being held against his chest as he repeated himself, saying into her hair, "Relax, Kyoko." It wasn't the time for it, but her mind registered joy that he'd called her by name, with that gentle tone he'd used only once, in a fevered state. She felt as if there was a tiny window in her heart and little angels were trying to pull it open, but her demons were fighting like... well, demons to keep it shut. She swayed as her knees buckled and he moved his hands to support her shoulders. "It's alright." He tried to catch her gaze, but she stared at the floor. His hands rubbed lightly at her upper arms. "Kyoko?"
That seemed to draw her out of the internal battle long enough to look up at him. "I'm sorry," she said. The pained honesty in her look was met with shock from his. She easily pulled away from him.
"Sorry?" he murmured at his empty hands before collecting himself and following her out into the hallway. She was gathering her belongings quietly and quickly. His look and voice hardened. "Kyoko."
She tilted up while in the awkward position of sliding on one of her "rich girl" shoes. "Mr. Tsuruga?" If she could play this off, if she could stop her emotions from spilling out, she'd be fine. There was no way she could risk falling in love, not with him! Her lips had tingled, her skin still burned with his touch, but she knew she shouldn't, couldn't and wouldn't read too much into this. It was just a kiss, he could kiss anyone really. He'd just told her and demonstrated that. Who was she to confuse that attention for real affection?
He stood with his hands clenched and gave her a smooth smile. Anger radiated from him, basking her tired demons in its darkness. "I'll take you home then, Ms. Mogami."
Kyoko flinched, but nodded and smiled back at him. She could cry later, she reasoned, once she was alone. For now she'd have to use her acting abilities to get through this car ride.
Part one of four, because love doesn't go smoothly for the ones who feel they don't deserve it.