Operation Help Our Miserable Friends
Author's Note: Hey there! I'm new to the SkipBeat! Fandom, but here's my first attempt at some awesome RenxKyoko action. Standard disclaimers apply. Enjoy!
Mogami Kyoko felt herself smiling broadly. She was surrounded by almost everyone she had ever known and the mixed sound of their varied singing talent. "Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you…"
Her eyes swept rapidly over the crowd, though it was growing more and more difficult to see with the salty tears that were welling up in her eyes at a record speed. They did this every year, those friends of hers, but they got her every time. A large cake—chocolate most likely—gleamed with twenty-one sparkling candles.
A voice from behind Kyoko whispered, "Blow out your candles and make a wish, Mogami-san." It was her manager, a crisp and practical woman named Matsu Sorata and whom Kyoko respected very much.
"Alright then," Kyoko whispered back and bent over the cake to blow as hard as she could. The crowd of people laughed as the candles flickered back to life instantly. "Trick candles!" Kyoko cried. "Maria-chan!"
The guilty culprit laughed uncontrollably. "T-t-try again, o-oneechan!"
Kyoko blew with an intense ferocity and this time, perhaps sensing that terrible things would come if the did not stay unlit, the candles smoked pitifully from their charred black ends. The crowd cheered and Kyoko broke into a grin again.
"Alright, who wants the first piece?" Sorata called out.
Kyoko looked away, searching the crowd for someone who had thus far been absent from the party. Her eyes settled on Yashiro and he met her gaze. She raised an eyebrow, asking the silent question, Where is he?
Yashiro frowned and shrugged. Worry was written all over his face. Kyoko turned back to her cake and tried to smile, but somehow it was much harder to grin, knowing that Tsuruga Ren was a no-show.
Maria had pushed her way through the crowd and stood next to Kyoko. The girl had grown a lot in four years. Now officially twelve, Maria had let her beautiful hair grow even longer and she had shot up in height like a weed. She was a tall, slender, developing girl, getting lots of attention from the boys at school—and spurning it for that matter.
Kyoko smiled down at her. "What's wrong, oneechan?" she whispered softly.
"Nothing," Kyoko lied. She was still a terrible liar and Maria was as smart as they came.
"It's because he isn't here yet, isn't it?" Maria persisted.
Kyoko seized a piece a cake that Sorata had passed her way. It was chocolate after all. "Would you like some cake, Maria-chan?" she asked, smiling brightly.
Maria frowned and took the plate. "Oneechan, you need to express your feelings. If you're angry or upset—"
"I'm fine," Kyoko said abruptly. "Oh, I think Moko-san is calling me. Moko-san!"
Kotonami Kanae looked over at the best friend she had certainly not called. She noted the tense expression in her face and the annoyed disappoint in the little girl Kyoko was abandoning. In on the situation as just about everyone else, Kanae glanced over at Yashiro, looking rather annoyed in fact.
The spindly, spectacled man faltered under her fierce gaze. Yashiro stared back at Kanae desperately with a look that said, What do you want me to do? It's not my fault! Clearly Kanae still seemed to think it was his fault for she made a noise that sounded distinctly like "hmph" and turned away with a flick of her hair. Yashiro sighed and immediately sought out the bar.
"Happy birthday, Mogami," Kanae said, turning to her friend who had finally reached her through the crowd.
Kyoko smiled at her. "Thank you, Moko-san! Moko-san," she continued taking in her friend's style of dress, "your outfit is wonderful today."
Kanae couldn't help grinning. "Thank you. Are you alright, Mogami? You look a little pale."
"Excited, I think," Kyoko lied. It annoyed Kanae to be lied to so blatantly, but there was little she could do about it. Both she and Maria had failed to make Kyoko talk. But Kotonami Kanae was no failure. She would not accept defeat so easily.
"Excuse me," Kanae said, patting Kyoko on the shoulder. "I have some things to discuss with Yashiro-san. I'll catch up with you later and give you your gift, okay?"
"Okay," Kyoko said, still smiling, though a little more brightly. Kanae always gave her the best presents. It made her feel guilty that she never seemed to get Kanae anything nearly so amazing but her best friend insisted she was happy with whatever Kyoko got her.
Kanae slunk away through the crowd and Kyoko looked around for someone else to talk to. At some point a slice of cake finally made it into her hands and she fell into an ordinary conversation with one of her co-stars from the drama she had recently begun acting in called "Six Minutes to Sunset."
Yashiro felt a dominating and disturbing presence before he had even turned to see Kotonami Kanae bearing down upon him. He swallowed harshly and gripped his shot glass more tightly than a shot glass ought to be gripped.
"Yashiro-san," Kanae began hauntingly, "if you hold your beverage any more tightly you will be bandaging up that hand of yours." She sat down in the chair next to him, piercing him through and through with her dark eyes.
The manager set the glass down before Kanae's prediction really did come true. "H-hello, Kotonami-san," he said, trying to keep his voice even. It was hard to believe that there was a woman out there who could be scarier than Kyoko, but he had certainly found her sitting in front of him in the form of Kotonami Kanae.
Kanae did not return his greeting. "We need to discuss Tsuruga Ren and why he is not here."
Yashiro gulped. "Well, I, uh… I couldn't do anything. I tried, really," he protested. "You don't understand how stubborn he gets. He's so determined to resist and failing so miserably that he's trying to cut her out completely."
"Why resist at all?" Kanae asked, somehow comprehending Yashiro's rambling.
"That's what I don't understand," he said. So far he had managed not to be completely destroyed and he was relaxing in her presence now.
"She's older now and actually capable of understanding love. Why doesn't he make a move?"
Yashiro sighed. "It's more complicated than that. I think he doesn't feel himself deserving of it."
"Pardon my language, but that's stupid as hell."
He had to suppress a laugh at her vehement fervor. "He needs help. And God knows I've tried."
"She's too hurt to do anything. It has to come from him," Kanae said. "I can't even get her to talk about it."
A devious grin spread across Yashiro's face. "I just had a thought."
"On our own neither of us have been able to do anything to help our miserable friends, correct?"
"Yes. Are you suggesting we work together?"
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting. But how?"
Kanae grew a devious grin of her own. "The LME Christmas Party is tomorrow. I believe we can come up with something."
Yashiro extended his hand and Kanae gripped it in her own. "Operation Help Our Miserable Friends begins tomorrow at sundown!"
President Lory had had fun decorating that was for sure. The LME ballroom was covered in tinsel and flowers and all manner of flashy, nauseating glam and glitter. Kanae felt like puking, but there wasn't a reasonable place to take care of that bodily function so she mastered her gut and settled for glaring at a nearby arrangement of lilies and poinsettias. Her cell phone began ringing violently and Kanae tore her gaze away from the flowers to flick open the device.
It's me, came Yashiro's voice through the faint signal. Is she there yet?
"No. Sorata-san is bringing her in another fifteen minutes. Are you two on your way?"
Yes. I'll see you soon.
"Alright then. The signal is bad on my phone. It might be a problem.
"If you say so."
Kanae hung up without a word of good-bye. Farewells weren't her thing. Instead she made a beeline for one of the white-suited waiters that were carrying around various appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. She was a great fan of spinach dip.
Tsuruga Ren glanced sidelong at his manager while they stopped at a traffic light. "What was that phone call about?" he asked. He had a nagging feeling that Yashiro was up to something and it could not possibly be anything good.
"Never you mind," Yashiro told him.
"I will find out," Ren warned him.
"I'm sure you will," his manager replied annoyingly.
Ren was irritated but there was little he could do. They had to make it to the Christmas Party in one piece. The president would never forgive them if they didn't. Or so he told himself. He refused to acknowledge that there was something making him very nervous indeed. Acknowledge his nerves would make it that much harder to control himself. Still Yashiro noticed that Ren was pushing the speed limit just a little too much as they were driving through the Tokyo traffic.
There was only one word to describe exactly what Kyoko felt like: Princess. Her gown for the Christmas Party was nothing short of divine. It reminded her somewhat of the angel garb she had donned for Fuwa Shou promotional video years back. Only better. Pink, sparkling, and flowing. The gown seemed to dance around her with her every step.
Her manager, Sorata, stood in a demure black dress beside her. "You are the one who ought to shine, Mogami-san, not I," she had told her.
Kyoko could not help but smile broadly as she entered the ballroom. President Lory had outdone himself, she decided. Unlike her best friend, she appreciated the decorations and their finite detail.
Kanae found her almost immediately. Kyoko could have sworn it was almost as if her friend had been watching and waiting for her. But that was silly….
"Moko-san, don't you just love this?" she asked gesturing to President Lory's achievement.
"Sure," Kanae lied. She was sneakily looking over Kyoko shoulder, hoping to see Yashiro and Ren enter. They ought to have arrived by now. "Come with me, Mogami. You have to try the punch." Kanae steered her toward the refreshment table and as she glanced behind her one last time, she saw what she was looking for.
Tsuruga Ren had arrived, Yashiro following resolutely behind him. Kanae met the manager's eyes briefly. Operation Help Our Miserable Friends was in effect. Phase One was to begin when the clock struck seven.
Kanae glanced at the large clock on the far wall as she nodded to something Kyoko was saying about her new role as a shy executive assistant in "Six Minutes to Sunset." Ironically it was six minutes until the clock struck seven. If there was one thing being around Kyoko had taught her, Kanae knew that coincides and signs meant everything.
From across the ballroom, Yashiro and Kanae locked eyes again as the clock began to chime out seven long tolls. A subtle nod and silent exchange. It was time.
"Mogami," Kanae said softly, turning to her friend with a gentle expression pasted on her face. "I need your help with something… delicate… would you come with me?"
Kyoko crumbled under her sweet gaze. "Of course, Moko-san!" she cried.
On the other side of the room…
"Ren," Yashiro said, "I just receive word that the president wishes to speak with you. Will you come with me?"
Having forgotten all about Yashiro's devious plans in the face of work and duty, Ren nodded and followed his manager blindly.
They fought through the crowds towards each other. The room was so congested with people that despite Ren's massive height, Kyoko and Ren did not notice each other until they were immediately upon one another and, more importantly, being forcibly shoved into a broom closet.
Despite Kyoko's cry, the door slammed shut followed by the unmistakable scrap of a lock being turned. "You can come out when you've learned your lesson," they heard Yashiro explain through the door.
"And don't even bother shouting," Kanae added. "No one can hear you through the music… as if we'd let anyone get by," she scoffed.
Kyoko shook herself free from Ren, whose grasp she had become entangled in during the tumult. She crossed her arms stubbornly over her chest and likewise Ren buried his hands in his pockets.
Ren closed his eyes, trying to ignore the highly desirable princess before his eyes. He shunned the thoughts that were creeping unbidden into his mind concerning her beauty. Their relationship was much as he had predicted. Even though she was older, twenty-one to his twenty-five, he was still putting up chains between them. It had just gotten harder, so he had started avoiding her. He had even convinced himself that it was a good thing she was mad at him.
Silence burned unbearably between them. Ren could feel Kyoko's glare on his face. At last, "You've been ignoring me," she hissed. "I want to know why you didn't even bother to show up for my birthday."
Ren struggled in the silence.
"Don't you care about your kouhai?"
It took all his strength not to cry out in pain and Ren was sure he was at least breathing harder for his efforts. There was that dreaded word again. Kouhai. And he was the senpai. It was still so wrong!
"Don't you care about me?" Kyoko continued. "I thought you did, but I guess I was wrong…"
"No," Ren said in a strangled voice.
Kyoko sniffed. "You have a funny way of showing it."
Ren had never been on the receiving end of her anger for so long. It was painful. It literally torn him apart. And there was nothing he could do unless he wanted to lose control and he swore he wouldn't do that. He couldn't do that to a girl who was so… so innocent.
"I'm a big girl now, Tsuruga Ren. If you hate me and you're sick of me, then come out with it. Don't string me along like an innocent little puppy," Kyoko said angrily. The intensity of her words stung.
"Not innocent, huh? Are you sure?"
His words took her aback. "I'm twenty-one as you know full well. I'm not a school girl. I know about the world and show business. Five years! I think that makes me less than innocent."
Even in the dark, Ren could see her eyes flashing. Her skin glowed in the dim light. How he wanted to touch it. "I don't hate you. I could never be sick of you."
"Then what the hell are you playing at, Tsuruga Ren?" She sounded like a mother scolding a bad child. When did that happen? "Tell me the truth!" she demanded.
He sighed again. "I was protecting you."
Kyoko gazed at him blankly. "What on Earth would you do to me?"
Ren couldn't bear it anymore. His resolve was fading. His desire was too strong. He wanted her, no needed her, now. "This," he said simply and gently took her face in his hands and applied his lips to hers.
She gasped at the contact as he pulled fervently at her lips. "I've wanted to do this," he murmured in between soft kisses, "for four and a half years… at least."
"You idiot," she declared and he grew frightened of her fury. "I've wanted you do that for at least three and a half!"
Ren smiled hopelessly. "I'm sorry." He pulled her tight against him and kissed her again, more fiercely than before. "I'll make it up to you," he added as an afterthought.
They were interrupted before long, however, as Kanae and Yashiro burst into the closet crowing with delight. Kanae flung her arms around Yashiro in sheer joy. "I knew it!"
Ren glanced away from Kyoko briefly to look at them ruefully. "Get your own closet," he said smartly.
Kanae's mouth dropped open and Yashiro grinned. "You heard the man. Let's go, woman!"
"Oh don't you dare!" Kanae began shrieking.
Kyoko wondered if she ought to be concerned for the poor manager's safety, but she was quickly distracted by Ren. "Wait, wait, Ren," she said, breaking away for a moment.
He moaned in frustration. "What?"
"I think they didn't unlock the door before they closed it again!"