Ren's Birthday

A/N: *peeks around the corner and quietly leaves the new chapter at each reader's door*

Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, followed and favorited this fanfic. My motivation to keep writing this is always recharged by the fact that there are people who actually enjoy reading what I write.

Dedication: To every reader who has ever smiled because of this fanfic

Disclaimer: I do not own Skip Beat! That honor belongs to Nakamura-Sensei the Great. ^^

Chapter 45

Kyoko looked down at Ren's hands with misty eyes, her face flushed with heat. She watched his hands wrench open the cap in one smooth motion, with only the slight tension in the leanly muscled arms surrounding her giving away the fact that any effort had been exerted at all.

'The king is strong.' Kyoko thought, awed at Ren's strength, even as her mind fell into a daze. 'He felled the infallible Sir Cap with a single twist of his mighty fingers.' Kyoko absentmindedly took the open ointment bottle out of said mighty fingers and murmured a quiet thank you to Ren. A fond smile crossed Kyoko's face, the color in her cheeks fading to a gentle pink, her expression turning sweet and soft. 'As expected of my king...' A feeling of guilt and horror shot through her and Kyoko shook her head furiously, trying to empty her mind of such atrocious thoughts. 'No, he's not my king, of course not! He's... our king, right soldiers?' Kyoko threw a glance over her shoulder, expecting to see her army of soldiers nodding as one in agreement... only to find the king himself silently watching her every move.

Kyoko let out a silent scream and snapped to attention, keeping her eyes on the table directly in front of her to avoid seeing the bloodcurdling sight of Ren's true nature on display directly behind her. 'No, that's not the king! Why did the Emperor of the Night show up here of all places?' Kyoko squeezed her eyes shut and sucked in as much oxygen as her shuddering lungs could handle, desperately trying to maintain her composure.

"Tsuruga san." Kyoko choked out the Emperor's name in a tight voice.

"Yes, Kyoko?" Ren replied languidly, fighting the urge to simply wrap his arms around Kyoko's waist and hug the girl tightly to his chest.

"Y-you're a bit too close. Could you please move back a little?" Kyoko gripped the ointment bottle so tightly Princess Ointment became a bit teary from the pressure.

"Hmm." Ren's light laughter belied his narrowed eyes. "Is that so... but wasn't I even closer to you when you were playing with my hair?" Ren set his right hand on the table in front of Kyoko, his right arm serving as an insurmountable wall that even General Kyoko could never hope to overcome. "Besides, with my hand directly in front of you, wouldn't it be easier for you to apply the ointment from this position?" Before Kyoko had a chance to protest, Ren sighed dramatically, taking the ointment bottle from Kyoko's hand. "Of course, if you dislike having me near you that much, I'll just apply the ointment myself." Lowering his voice to a loud whisper, Ren murmured quietly, "So it doesn't matter how close I am to her if she's playing with my hair and having fun, but when it comes to treating her senpai's wound, all of a sudden she needs space?" Ren sighed again and shook his head in disapproval. "She was even hugging my head to her chest and burying her face in my hair and she thinks this is too close?"

Kyoko's face turned crimson red, mortified at Ren's lecture, her entire body shook in deep embarrassment.

"Tsuruga san, I can hear you." Kyoko briefly closed her eyes, "I'm truly sorry that I invaded your personal space in such an egregious manner earlier." Kyoko's eyes shot open, daring to turn her head to glare at Ren. "But, Tsuruga san, I never thought you would deliberately trap me like this to get back at me. I can barely move!" The longer Kyoko spoke, the more her heart filled with rage, indignant at the injustice of how Ren was treating her.

Ren raised an eyebrow, looking down at the ball of anger in his arms with amusement. "And you thought I could move with you holding my head hostage against your chest?"

Kyoko's mouth opened and closed in shock, clearly remembering exactly what she had done to have put Ren in such a predicament.

Ren smiled, the corner of his mouth quirking upwards at Kyoko's reaction. "I'm really not trying to get back at you Kyoko. I simply believe that it would be easier for you to apply the ointment as well as take whatever you need off the table from this position." Ren shook his head in disapproval once more. "I didn't realize you had such double standards though. To even go as far as accuse me of trying to get back at you after I had told you multiple times that I took no offense at how you played with my body to your heart's content..."

Kyoko stared at Ren in astonishment. 'What kinds of shameless things is this man saying? Does someone usually call making a mess of someone's hair and accidentally almost suffocating them "playing with their body?!" The only part of Tsuruga san's body that I messed with was his head, which is usually considered separately anyways. Saying something so outrageous gives the impression that I had forced myself on Tsuruga san!' An image of Ren pleading for mercy as she mercilessly tickled the man with ostrich feathers while laughing maniacally flashed through Kyoko's mind, eliciting a ferocious scowl. 'I would never do anything like that to Tsuruga san. Even if what I did could be considered harassment, he should at least classify the harassment correctly!'

"...To be blunt, I'm disappointed in you Kyoko." Ren breathed out a heavy sigh, as if the weight of his disappointment was more than he wished to bear.

Kyoko froze, Ren's words echoing in her brain. Color slowly drained out of her face, leaving Kyoko ghostly white.

"To be blunt, I'm disappointed in you... disappointed in you... disappointed in you..." Kyoko cowered before a gigantic Ren with cold and angry eyes. "How dare you insinuate that I tried to harass you as revenge for what you did to me? I see you have zero trust in me as a senpai." Kyoko shrunk even further under the weight of Ren's demonic aura. "I have no use for a kouhai that thinks so little of my character. Goodbye."

Kyoko's eyes widened in horror, 'Nooooooo!' A silent scream escaped her lips at the thought of Ren abandoning her. She swiftly turned around and tried to bow to Ren, only to slam her head against Ren's chest due to their close proximity. Undaunted by this minor inconvenience, Kyoko straightened her back and performed a stiff tiny bow, her head now a comfortable two millimeters away from Ren's chest. "I'm so very sorry Tsuruga san! I never meant to demean your character. Forgive me for believing that you had decided to harass me in retaliation for messing up your hair until it looked like you had flown through a hurricane at Mach II speed and for accidentally suffocating you. It's understandable that Tsuruga san would get angry that I complained about how close you were standing behind me after what I did. I promise Tsuruga san that I will do my best never to become a hypocrite that employs double standards ever again." Kyoko's determined stare bore a hole into the ground, her hands balling up into tight fists. "I truly am very sorry, Tsuruga san." Kyoko finished quietly, bracing herself for the harsh reprimand that was sure to come. Instead, she felt Ren's hand softly cup the back of her head, gently pressing her forehead to his chest.

"Does this bother you?" Ren asked quietly.

Kyoko thought for a moment, then shook her head. "No, not at all."

Ren smiled, a combination of relief and exasperation showing in the tilt of his eyes and the quirk of his eyebrows. "Then, how about this?"

Ren gently ruffled Kyoko's hair, the feathery sensation forcing Kyoko to bite back a giggle. 'It tickles!' "N-no." Despite the stammer, Ren heard a tiny smile in Kyoko's voice.

Ren smoothed down Kyoko's hair, returning it to its former glory. "It was the same for me."

Kyoko stiffened slightly, tilting her head back to meet Ren's eyes. "Eh?"

Ren's smile grew wider, humor warming his gaze. "Just as me ruffling your hair didn't bother you, you playing with my hair didn't bother me at all either." Ren let out a tiny laugh. "It was fairly amusing to see you play with my hair."

Kyoko's eyes narrowed, color once again flooding her pale cheeks. 'That's right, I forgot. Tsuruga san did say he was having fun being harassed.' Kyoko mentally rolled her eyes and sighed, tension leaving her limbs. "I'm sorry that I misunderstood your good intentions earlier, Tsuruga san. I should have realized you were only trying to make it more convenient for me to apply the ointment to your wound."

Ren nodded formally. "As long as you understand now, it's fine."

Kyoko broke into a relieved smile, startling Ren into briefly tightening his hold on Kyoko's head. The momentary pressure on her head shocked Kyoko into remembering something fairly important. "Ah!" Kyoko shrieked, causing Ren to wince in pain at the noise level. "The ointment!" Kyoko raised both of her hands to eye level, only to find them empty. 'Did I drop the bottle on the ground? Princess Ointment, I'm so sorry!' Kyoko mentally wailed that she had done a terrible disservice to the poor princess who had already been forcefully torn away from her loyal knight. About to drop on her hands and knees to search the floor around them, Kyoko breathed a sigh of relief once she spotted Princess Ointment safely cradled in Ren's left hand. 'Thank goodness she's safe.' "Tsuruga san, will you please hand Prin- uh, the ointment bottle to me, please?" Kyoko asked, barely catching her mistake in time.

Ren's eyes twinkled in amusement. "Here you go." Ren dropped the ointment bottle into Kyoko's waiting hands.

Kyoko tried to turn around, only to be held in place by the hand on the back of her head. "Tsuruga san... I need to turn around." Kyoko's request was spoken stiffly, as if she was afraid that Ren might once again take offense.

Without a word, Ren loosened his grip and slid his hand down, softly kneading the nape of Kyoko's neck before letting go. Ren set his hand back down on the table behind Kyoko. "Go ahead." Ren whispered, his voice barely audible.

Kyoko nodded once and successfully turned around, taking Ren's left hand hostage along with her. "The ointment might sting, but please bear with it, Tsuruga san."

Ren's eyes filled with mirth. Not trusting himself to speak without laughing, Ren merely gave a noncommittal "Hmm."

A tiny tremor that made its way down Ren's arm to the wounded hand she currently held captive caught Kyoko's attention. Kyoko's brow furrowed in concentration, 'Tsuruga san... is he afraid of Princess Ointment?' Kyoko silently laughed off the ridiculous notion that the king who had made Sir Cap surrender through brute force could actually be afraid of such a weak and frail opponent. 'But wait...' Kyoko looked down at the ointment bottle in her right hand. 'Tsuruga san did seem strangely adamant about having my back to him while I apply ointment to the wound. Maybe...' Kyoko's face lit up, looking as if she had finally solved a question that had been endlessly torturing her poor frazzled brain. 'Maybe Tsuruga san insisted on this position to hide his reaction to Princess Ointment!' The thought of Ren shaking in his boots before Princess Ointment while ordering his men, "Don't look!" sent shudders of laughter and horror running down Kyoko's spine.

"Is something the matter Kyoko?" Ren's voice forcibly dragged Kyoko back to the realm of reality.

"N-no." Kyoko replied weakly, suddenly focusing all of her energy on completing the task before her in order to put a safe distance between herself and the man behind her. Kyoko quickly applied ointment to the tiny wound, noting in passing that Ren's hand did not convey so much as a quiver of apprehension when faced with the mild sting of Princess Ointment. Pushing the observation to the back of her mind, Kyoko surged forward to reach the band-aid on the fair side of the table, unwittingly pulling Ren's hand, and Ren himself, along with her.

Ren reflexively wrapped his right arm around Kyoko's waist, preventing the girl from slamming her stomach into the edge of the table, the height of which was a mere inch below Kyoko's diaphragm. "Are you okay?"

Having had the wind knocked out of her, Kyoko only nodded silently. This time, Kyoko very carefully picked up the band-aid, conscious of the fact that by making a panicked attempt to complete her task as quickly as possible, she had caused Ren to actually decrease the amount of space between them.

Kyoko breathed a sigh of relief as she finally, finally finished her impromptu treatment of Ren's wound, running her fingers over the band-aid now stuck on Ren's hand to smooth out any air bubbles and to reinforce the adhesive. A wave of accomplishment washed through her and Kyoko happily announced, "All done." Momentarily forgetting exactly why she had wanted to finish so quickly, Kyoko cheerfully turn around to face Ren, only to find her face buried in his chest, with all hope for a quick escape lost. Ren's arm now rested lightly against the small of her back, his grip on the curve of her waist gentle, but firm.


Kyoko stiffened at the sound of her name, her head slowly creeping up until her face was fully exposed. "Y-yes, Tsuruga san?" Kyoko squeaked faintly as Ren tightened his grip around her waist. 'W-w-what is Tsuruga san doing?'

Ren slowly lowered his head, the intensity of his gaze rendering Kyoko unable to move or look away. Kyoko's anxiety shot through the roof as Ren drew closer and closer until the only thing Kyoko could see was the expression on Ren's face.

Kyoko mentally flinched at the light pressure of Ren's forehead resting against her own.

After studying Kyoko's eyes for a few seconds, Ren's expression melted into the sweetest heavenly smile Kyoko had ever hoped not to see, a gentle whisper washing over her. "Thank you."

A/N: Uwah, this chapter was really difficult to write due to Ren and Kyoko not cooperating, haha. Thank goodness my second try at this chapter was a lot better than the failed mess I made of my first draft. As some of you might have noticed, this chapter is out less than a month after the last chapter... I don't think I've done that since 2009, ahem. Well, I will be trying to write chapters at a more regular pace from now on, so hopefully this will become the norm, and I will eventually finish this fanfic (I have an idea for a new KyokoxRen fanfic, but I'm still working out the kinks in the backstory at the moment.)

Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, followed and favorited this chapter, I really do appreciate it. I hope you all have a very nice day. ^^