DISCLAIMER: If I owned Skip Beat! this wouldn't be FAN-fiction. Skip Beat! is the creation of Yoshiko Nakamura, and I use her creation for my own enjoyment only. I make no profit from it, and if asked by someone with the right to do so, I would remove this fiction from the internet immediately.

NOTE: Rated T for language. Not sure what I'm doing; I thought of this late last night, woke up this morning, and wrote it. I can never tell if something is 'good enough' unless I let it sit a few months...but it's January 1 and I thought it would be fun to put something up on the first day of 2009. If it's totally weird, it's my fault for not waiting. To be honest, I wrote it just because I wanted to see Ren do this, because chapter 94-95 made me feel sorry for him. He really has a raw deal, you know? It's not *exactly* a Ren x Kyoko, but it's close, and as usual it is a one-shot. I hope some of you will enjoy it. I put it in General/Humor because I didn't know where else to put it.

Kyoko ran over the crosswalk, slowed to a trot on the sidewalk, and quickly entered the parking lot through the back entrance, glad she didn't have to stop; the security guards on duty that morning recognized her right away. They were nice men, even if they did call her 'Mio-sama'. She hurried through the rear parking lot and glanced at her watch once she reached the first studio.

9:03, she noted. Good, I made up the lost time; I'll arrive ten minutes early, as I ought. She smiled in satisfaction and blew out a sigh, finally relaxing enough to enjoy the beautiful, softly cold weather. Temperature-wise, it looked as though winter was ending; they would have a nice, mild February. The sky was covered in a blanket of clouds, but they were thin, and rays of sunlight kept slipping through everywhere, shining down in glorious, misty golden rays. I pity anyone who has a car, she thought, happy. On a beautiful day like this, walking outdoors lifts your spirits.

She needed to lift her spirits. Sho would be in Studio 3 that day, and though it wasn't supposed to have to do anything with her, just the fact that he'd be in the same building made her back go up. Why did it have to be Sho that Director Ogata decided to consult with on the closing theme for Dark Moon? It was all Sho's fault! If he hadn't been around the Dark Moon set so much, what with the 'ointment incident' and the Karuizawa fiasco, Director Ogata probably would never have thought of asking Sho Fuwa to write the closing theme song. Wasn't there someone better qualified than that stupid Sho? Even if he was the most popular musician in Japan, right now…

Kyoko sighed again, realizing her spirits were sinking. She quickly shook herself, taking a deep breath and fixing her eyes on a ray of sunlight illuminating the tower of the tallest building in the distance. She wanted to walk through one of those rays; she imagined it would feel like magic.

She glanced to the side before crossing the path that vehicles took between the two parking lots, and spotted a familiar tall figure. She trotted across quickly, hopping up onto the main sidewalk, and called a cheerful 'good morning' to Ren Tsuruga. Why was he here? Surely he hadn't walked, too? He was too famous to walk to work! If his fans caught a glimpse of him, he'd be mobbed in the blink of an eye. But then, he'd actually considered taking the subway the day they'd nearly been late for work, hadn't he?

This man… Kyoko thought with exasperation, though for some reason she found herself smiling.

Ren turned at the sound of Kyoko's voice, and smiled when he saw her running to catch up with him. He paused, then fell into step with her when she reached his side.

"Good morning!" she said again, with a little bow.

"Good morning, Mogami-san," he replied. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"It is, but...you didn't walk to work, did you, Tsuruga-san?" she asked anxiously. "You must know that's dangerous!"

"I had business at the other end of the lot earlier and decided to walk rather than drive my car to the Studio 3 parking lot," he held up a hand, reassuring her. "This whole rear area of the studio lot is enclosed and monitored. It's such a beautiful day that I couldn't resist, since I finished my last appointment a few minutes early."

"Oh," Kyoko's look of consternation faded completely, and she beamed that adorable smile of hers. "In that case…it really is too beautiful a day to be inside, even if it's only in a car. What a shame that rotten Sho has to be a part of such a pretty day; he should only show up when the sky is black with stormclouds." She was scowling, now. Suddenly she glanced at him, looking startled and hesitant. He knew she was paranoid about saying anything about Fuwa around him, so he reassured her immediately. After the way he'd behaved at Karuizawa, he had to ease up on his reaction to Kyoko's dealings with Fuwa, or risk alienating her permanently.

"Yes, a rather unpleasant young man, Sho Fuwa," Ren agreed, completely honest. After all, he couldn't stand Fuwa either, even if he had to hide that fact most of the time. "Has he always been so…?" Ren tried to think of the word he wanted, that would sum up the distaste Ren felt any time he was forced to deal with the arrogant young man. Arrogant? Was that the word? No, he dealt with arrogant people all the time…that alone would not make Fuwa as objectionable as he was.

"Evil?" Kyoko supplied darkly. "Heartless? Egotistic? Self-centred?"

"Yes," Ren agreed suddenly. "Self-centred." That was what it was. Other than his association with Kyoko, that was what aggravated Ren the most, in Fuwa. The singer acted like the world only existed for his own convenience. He'd even dared to come to Ren's room in Karuizawa and say "Kyoko is there, right? Bring her out, now," as if Ren were a servant. Unpleasant little bastard, Ren thought, trying to swallow the sour feeling those memories brought up. He was startled out of them when Kyoko laughed.

"Tsuruga-san, selfishness is Sho's defining characteristic," she chuckled. "He's been that way since he was tiny. Some of it isn't even his fault, I suppose…he was raised to believe himself the most precious boy in the world. Everything was done for him. He didn't even have to wipe his own face if he got peanut butter and jelly all over it...which he always did. But he did his best to become ever more selfish, after that…he practised it daily. If there were awards given out for most extreme display of personality characteristics, Sho would definitely win on 'self-centred'. He can't stand anything that makes him feel like the world doesn't revolve around him. That's why he always hated you so much. Augh, a guy like that, how could I ever…!" She was pulling her hair and had trailed off into uncomprehensible…was it cursing? He couldn't tell. It was one of those fits of rage that Kyoko became so absorbed by, at least…he'd seen them enough to recognize them, now. They always came up when Fuwa was nearby…or even just mentioned.

Ren laid a hand on Kyoko's shoulder, just for a moment…but it was enough to shock her out of her fury. She instantly blushed hotly, realizing that she had yet again become completely absorbed in her hatred of Fuwa.

"S-sorry," she apologized.

"No, I understand…but let's do our best to have a pleasant day anyway, alright, Mogami-san? If you let Sho Fuwa affect you this much, it just confirms that he is the centre of your attention, and proves to him that he has good excuse to think the world revolves around him."

"I-I never thought of it that way," Kyoko blinked. "Um…yes. I'll do my best. It is a beautiful day…"

I have to do my best as well, Ren realized. Fuwa got to him, deeply. He had something Ren wanted so much…and kept it without even needing to fight, even though he had never deserved it in the first place, let alone now, after all he had done. He had Kyoko's heart, even if what he filled it with was hatred. Her heart was so full of emotion for Fuwa that there was no room for anything else to develop. Ren resented it so deeply that it threatened to drive him to extremes. He became jealous over the tiniest things, if they had anything to do with Fuwa. The slightest smirk on Sho's face drove Ren to the edge of fury, knowing as he did that Sho really did have the upper hand. Flaunting it like that, right in Ren's face…it made Ren feel murderous. It was so hard to play that off in a manner that was acceptable for 'Ren Tsuruga', the friendly, 'gentle' Japanese celebrity. What can I do? Ren thought helplessly. There doesn't seem to be anything I can do to take something back from that guy. There was no way to take revenge for that smug look Sho had sent him at the bottom of the stairs that day in Karuizawa, no matter how badly Ren wanted it. Oh, how it grated. He was letting Fuwa win, helpless to stop him.

He hated feeling helpless. He took another deep, cleansing breath…and caught a soft waft of…was it strawberry? He looked around, knowing there were no food shops nearby, and puzzled over where the scent could have come from. His eyes fell upon Kyoko. She looked as she usually did, with one exception. Her lips were…dewy.

A new lip-gloss? he wondered. No matter their age, women seemed more infatuated with lip-gloss than any other cosmetic in existence. Is that where the scent is coming from? Strawberry lip-gloss? Ren stopped in his tracks.

Inspiration had struck.

But…was it feasible? He could make Kyoko believe it, of course…Kyoko was extraordinarily gullible for someone over ten. Fuwa, however, was one suspicious little bastard. For good reason, of course…Ren always had to conceal his true feelings around that guy. He'd believe it, Ren realized. He might confront Kyoko about it later, but even if he did, I'd just apologize to her for the 'misunderstanding'. As long as she doesn't learn the truth, I don't care if Fuwa sees through me…later.

Even a momentary triumph was above diamonds in worth to Ren, these days.

"Tsuruga-san?" Kyoko was ahead of him, now, and had stopped to turn around and look at him in puzzled concern. "Are you okay? You stopped, suddenly."


"Ah, Mogami-san," Ren touched his mouth, carefully. "Sorry. That last breeze made me realize that my lips are getting chapped, and I have a shoot this afternoon." He patted his pockets. "Damn, I don't have any on me…it'll get worse. How irresponsible. Mogami-san, would you happen to have any kind of lip balm?"

"No…" Kyoko said slowly, but she looked in her purse anyway. "No, sorry, Tsuruga-san, I only have lip gloss."

"Gloss…" he said slowly, as though considering it. He made a slight face, then shrugged. "I'm sorry to ask something like this, but…could I borrow it? I know it's a little outrageous to ask for something like that, but I'll replace it…"

"Tsuruga-san, it's gloss," she said firmly, pointing to her mouth as evidence. "It's shiny. And it's got a faint pink tint, too, which might not be very noticeable on me but would look pretty out of place on you."

"I'm desperate," he said, equally firm. "It's work, Mogami-san…and I'm sure when I meet up with Yashiro-san at the studio, he'll have the proper lip balm. Anyway, it's my own fault. I'm always supposed to have these things, especially in winter, but…" he looked into his bag and shook his head. "What could have happened to it? Please, I really will replace yours…I'll have Yashiro-san buy you a replacement at lunch. Is it okay?"

"S-sure, of course," she reached into her bag and pulled out a tube of sheer, very softly pink gloss. "No need to replace it; it would be wasteful, since you'd never use it again after this even if you had it."

"You don't mind?" he asked, and took it, immediately applying just a tiny bit…a very thin coat. He felt a little foolish, but this was for a good cause. He capped the strawberry-scented tube and offered it back. "Are you sure? It's just a lip-gloss…it's easy to replace."

"Unless you have some deadly germs I don't know about, it's not necessary," Kyoko said, and smiled awkwardly with a shrug, taking the gloss back and dropping it in her purse. She glanced at him, and sighed.

"That bad?" Ren asked sheepishly. He did feel like a twit, but…

"No," she said. "I was just thinking that it looks better on you than it does on me."

He laughed; that actually made him feel slightly less idiotic.

"It looks cute on you; no man looks good in lip-gloss. Especially pink lip gloss."

She cast him a doubtful look, but didn't bother to argue. They chatted inconsequentially the rest of the way to Studio 3, Kyoko obviously trying to build up some kind of 'good spirits' barrier against Sho. Though she wouldn't know it, Ren was doing something similar.

He's not going to win this time, Ren thought grimly. Not even if I have to make an ass of myself. With luck, I'm the only one who will be aware of how foolishly I've been behaving…

"Here we go..." Kyoko said as they opened the doors to Studio 3, as if she were going in to face a lion bare-handed.

"Tsuruga-kun, Kyoko-san!" Director Ogata called, waving at them as soon as they entered. He was standing with a handsome young man in black leather, who turned to look at them immediately.

"Good morning, Director! Everyone, let's work well, today," Kyoko called her greeting, too. She even gave Sho a bow of her head, though it was the frostiest acknowledgement Ren had ever seen. He got no greeting…just a single cold nod of the head. "I'd better go get my make-up on right away!" she said cheerfully, and ran off to immediately.

Good strategy, Ren thought. She doesn't control herself well around him…getting out of his sight as fast as possible is probably the best thing she can do. And it was what he'd been hoping for. He casually ran his thumb across the corner of his mouth and up, over…disarraying the gloss slightly. He stuck his thumb casually in his pocket, then, and walked over to greet the director properly.

"Good morning, Director Ogata," Ren gave a nod of his head. "And to you, Fuwa-kun," he added, with another nod, noticeably more congenial than the one Kyoko had given.

"Ah, Tsuruga-san…" Director Ogata said hesitantly, pale cheeks flushing delicately pink. He leaned closer. "You have, er…some sort of lipstick…" he whispered, embarrassed. Fuwa, standing so near, looked sharply, and grinned faintly at Ren's apparent 'embarrassment'. It was all Ren could do not to grin as well. "That is, um…something...on your mouth…"

"Oh," Ren said, quickly touching his mouth in alarm. He let a light of understanding come into his eyes slowly. "Oh, Mogami-san's lip-gloss…" he said, looking just a little embarrassed and quickly wiping it off.

Sho's face had instantly been wiped of all amusement, to be replaced by a very dark look. Director Ogata's eyes were wide with surprise.


"It's nothing," Ren quickly waved a hand, dismissing the matter. "Heh, this is a little embarrassing…I wasn't paying attention. I'm sorry. Excuse me, I have to find Yashiro-san…I'll go get ready right away. There aren't any changes, Director?"

"N-no, everything is as scheduled," Director Ogata confirmed, flustered. Ren nodded and walked away smoothly.

"You!" Sho hissed at him, following. "There's no way that Kyoko would…"

"Fuwa-kun, is your business with Director Ogata finished?" Ren asked in surprise, glancing back to poor Director Ogata, who was looking embarrassed and unsure. Ren felt a little guilty for involving him in this charade. "I look forward to hearing what you've come up with for the closing theme…I've never listened to your music, before, but I've been hearing a lot in the news, lately. I'm glad I'll finally have a chance to see your skills myself. Sorry, but I really do have to get ready…" he raised a hand in farewell and lengthened his stride so that Fuwa, who was half a foot shorter, would have to trot ungracefully if he wanted to keep up with him.

"I saw that!" hissed a new voice, and Ren started before realizing that it was only Yashiro. His manager fell in with him, looking up at him with narrowed eyes, though there was a slight smile on his face. It made him look really devious. "Was all that true, or an act you put on for Fuwa's sake?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't give me that! The lip-gloss, Ren…the fact that you had Kyoko-chan's lip-gloss on your mouth! Was that something innocent, or did you actually…?"

Ren considered telling Yashiro the truth, but in the end remembered all the teasing and mockery he'd undergone at Yashiro's hand, and decided that his manager could remain in the dark.

"Oh, that. I said it already, didn't I? I was just careless…" he continued to walk briskly in the direction of the costuming department.

"R-Ren, that's not an answer…" Yashiro said, his breath catching slightly in his effort to talk and keep up with Ren's pace at the same time. "Heeeeeyyyy!" he called again, but Ren just cast a smile over his shoulder at him.

"I'll be out again in ten minutes," he said casually, raising a hand in farewell and shutting the door of the change room firmly behind him.

Thinking back on Fuwa's outraged face and Yashiro's thwarted curiosity, Ren grinned. Along with the majority of women worldwide, lip-gloss had become his favourite cosmetic, too.