Author's Note: Hello, this is my second Skip Beat! oneshot. Very exciting. If I've messed up any Japanese words, it's entirely my fault and if anyone wants to correct me please do. My knowledge on these matters comes from the few words I've picked up watching subtitled anime and reading other fanfictions. With that said I hope you enjoy this fanfiction, keeping in mind I own nothing because if I did then I probably wouldn't have to worry about a lot of things XD. And don't forget to review!
Tsuruga Ren was a man who for the most part never lost his composure, but at that moment he was finding the task rather difficult. His body was stiff in the passenger seat of his car. His left hand gripped the bottom of the cushion to the point at which his knuckles had turned white and his other hand was fairing little better, clenched furiously to the safety handle above the passenger door. Ren's gaze flickered back and forth between the road that was whizzing by far too quickly and the unconcerned driver in the seat next to him. He was rather near whiplash due to the intensity with which his head snapped between the two horrifying sights. And all that was going through his mind was, "How the hell did this happen?"
Mogami Kyouko wandered about the hallways of LME blissfully chatting away with her best friend, Kotonami Kanae. "So I was thinking about learning to drive…"
Ren who had happened to be passing by looked up at her words. Kyouko… learning to drive…? Scary. His manager, Yashiro, nudged his arm. "What?"
"You should teach her," he whispered.
"Teach who what?" Ren asked coyly.
"Like you didn't hear," Yashiro snorted. "Fine. I'll handle it."
"Wait, what are you—"
"Oh, Kyouko-chan!" Yashiro said loudly.
Kyouko who had not yet noticed the presence of her other friends perked up at the sound of his voice. She waved happily as she walked over. "Hello, Yashiro-san, Tsuruga-san," she said politely.
"Kyouko-chan, I couldn't help but overhear that you want to learn to drive," Yashiro began, ignoring the horrible aura rolling off of Ren at that moment. "Ren happens to be an excellent driver, as I'm sure you noticed," he continued. "I think he could teach you. And then you don't have to take one of those useless classes."
"They're not useless just because you failed them," Ren whispered vengefully. "Seven times."
Yashiro turned a light shade of pink and muttered something that sounded distinctly like "jerk" under his breath.
Kyouko looked back and forth between the two men trying to understand the tension between them.
"So how about it, Kyouko-chan?" Yashiro said, elbowing Ren to try and make him smile.
"I wouldn't want to impose," she began.
"It's no trouble," Ren said automatically before he could stop himself. He made a mental note to destroy Yashiro before he began doing a victory dance after Kyouko left. "I'll come get you after you're done at your other drama tonight, Box-R right?"
Kyouko nodded silently, wondering how she had so easily gotten roped into spending quality time with Tsuruga Ren.
"Oh, that was how," Ren thought, and quickly turned his attention back to the situation at hand. "The brake!" he shouted, though he tried not to frighten Kyouko.
"What!" she cried back.
"The pedal on the left!"
"Oh." Kyouko slammed on the brake and they screeched to a halt. Ren could smell burning rubber. He was probably going to have to replace the tires on his car if they kept going at this rate. "Uh… what did I do wrong?"
"Hold on. First put the car in park," Ren said, observing her fearful eyes.
"How?" Kyouko asked pitifully.
"Press down on the brake and hold it down," Ren instructed gently, now that his life was no longer in danger. "Now see this lever here?" He pointed to the gear shift in the center console. Kyouko nodded dumbly. "If you hold the button down at the same time you can move the lever to Park."
Kyouko rushed to obey him and found she had difficultly moving the lever. She was panicking.
"Slow down and take your time," Ren said. Kyouko breathed in deeply, trying to relax and this time managed to pull the lever into the proper place.
"Now turn off the car and put down the parking brake." Kyouko had no trouble turning the car off, but looked back to Ren again for instructions. Before she had even opened to her mouth to ask, he said, "Look down next to the door. Push that pedal down with your foot."
She was catching on quickly which was reassuring. Ren just had to make sure she didn't "floor it" next time.
Kyouko felt much calmer now that the beast of a car was silenced. "Are you… are you angry, Tsuruga-san? I didn't mean to—"
"I'm not angry," Ren interrupted. He laughed a little. "I freaked out. I'm sorry I yelled at you."
"But I was so horrible," Kyouko said pitifully.
"Mogami-san, the first time I got behind the wheel I nearly ran over five pedestrians, almost crashed into a tree, and blew out a tire… that was only in a parking lot," he added seriously.
Kyouko tried to suppress her grin but fell into peals of laughter and uncontrollable giggles. Ren laughed along with her. "That's why… I had you… park the car," he said between laughs.
It took awhile—a very long while—for them to quiet down. The sun was setting considerably by the time their eyes were dry again. Ren had finally regained enough composure to resume the role of sensei. "You need to be a little gentler with the pedals," he told Kyouko. "The harder you press down the faster you accelerate or decelerate. It's bad for the car, not to mention my lifespan and yours, to slam on the pedals like that."
Kyouko nodded emphatically and Ren could see the determined glint in her eyes that meant she was about to master the art of driving with flying colors.
"Alright," Ren said, "we'll do another trip around the parking lot and then I'll take you home."
"I can't drive home?"
About a half hour later, Kyouko was seated in the passenger seat with a silly smile on her face. She had conquered "Round Two" of her driving lesson and Ren had promised to take her onto some back roads outside Tokyo where should could practice without the real cut-throat city drivers tailgating on her bumper.
"Thank you, Tsuruga-sensei!" Kyouko declared loudly.
"You said that already," Ren said laughing at her driver's high. It had happened to him too back in the day.
"I know, but I'm just so happy," she said grinning ridiculously. "Is there anything I can do in return?"
Ren was about to reply that it was no trouble and that she didn't have to do anything, but his abdomen turned traitor and betrayed him. A horrific growl erupted from his stomach and echoed through the car.
The mood grew noticeably dark. "Tsuruga-san," Kyouko drawled. "When was the last time you ate?"
"Um," Ren said nervously, "I'm… not sure?"
"Drive to the grocery store," she commanded.
"I said drive!"
Even Ren stumbled slightly under the weight of Kyouko's purchases. Three large bags were situated awkwardly in his arms while he handed Kyouko the key to his apartment. It would have been impossible for him to open the door and not drop all the food. And he had a feeling that he would not survive long after dropping the groceries.
As soon as he set down the bags on the kitchen counter, Kyouko shooed Ren out of the room. "You, go watch TV or something," she said waspishly.
"Shoo!" Kyouko looked frightening, swinging a large ladle in her hand.
Ren fled, rather afraid of her ladle, but the smells coming out of the kitchen drew his attention from the TV several minutes later. He struggled with himself for a moment. Whatever it was that Kyouko was making, it smelled fantastic. Not to mention he was getting restless knowing that she was in his home, but not in the same room. But he wasn't sure if she would accept his excuses. She was still angry about his terrible eating habits and she probably still had the ladle.
In the end, Ren decided to be daring and snuck quietly up to the kitchen. Slowly he poked his head around the corner to look through the door. Kyouko had her back to him, standing by the stove. The ladle was definitely still in hand.
Ren shivered and entered boldly. "It smells wonderful. What are you making?"
Her response went in one ear and out the other for he was too busy watching her as she turned to look at him. All the specter-like gloom had left her and a smile danced around her face. Ren could feel her tugging on his heartstrings. He was melting like putty in her hands.
"It'll be done soon," Kyouko said, snapping him back to attention. "Can you stir this for a second?"
Ren looked alarmed for a moment since he was clearly a terrible cook, but he figured he couldn't do much to ruin the meal in one second. He took over the ladle, holding his breath for a moment as their fingers brushed. Kyouko turned away quickly and slid to the other side of the kitchen.
The electric mixer roared across the kitchen and Ren was grateful. The noise kept him from thinking about forbidden fruit. Kyouko switched off the mixer. "Tsuruga-san, can you turn on the oven for baking?"
"Um… how?" he asked hopelessly.
"The dial on the left," Kyouko replied and began rummaging through his cupboards for a cake pan.
Ren did as she said, feeling a strange sense of reverse déjà vu. "How's that coming?" Kyouko called across the kitchen.
He glanced down at the contents of the pot. "Soup-like," he replied.
Kyouko laughed. "I'll be over in a minute. It's probably done but don't touch anything," she said preventatively. Ren didn't get out of her way quickly enough and they brushed arms. He shivered nervously and focused on controlling himself. She turned off the gas stove and took the soup off the burner, blissfully ignorant of his torment.
Ren backed away and watched her bustle about the stove. "Breathe," he told himself. "I can do this." He sat down at the table as she brought dinner over.
They ate quietly. Ren was too busy thinking and Kyouko wasn't sure about what to say.
"Tsuruga-san, what are you thinking about?" she asked softly.
Ren looked up at her and her earnest face. "I… it's nothing," he said. But Kyouko could tell he was troubled by something and she continued to watch him. He could feel her eyes on him. It was making things so much harder. "Mogami-san?"
"Do you… do you like rain?" "RAIN!" he shouted at himself. "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?"
"I guess so. Why do you ask?"
"I think it's supposed to rain tonight," he said lamely. He wasn't even aware of what the weather report was supposed to be, but as if answering his pathetic prayers the heavens opened up and rain began slamming fiercely into the windows on the far wall.
"You probably shouldn't go home in that," Ren told her. "You can stay in the guest room if you'd like."
Kyouko looked like she was struggling over something. The truth was it was hard for her to stay over at Ren's. When she did, she tried to justify it as an accident, but this would be so intentional. "He's just a senpai," she lied to herself. He was so much more.
"Thank you, Tsuruga-san. I should call the Daruma-ya couple so they don't worry."
Ren nodded and finished his meal, feeling a strange sense of triumph. Why did it feel like he had achieved a great victory? It couldn't be that Kyouko was staying over. No, that ought to make him horribly nervous. So why could he look on her with a new sense of serenity?
They had argued, but Ren had finally convinced Kyouko to let him handle the dishes. "You cooked for me," he said sternly. "Besides, you need to call home before it gets too late."
Kyouko pouted, but conceded the right to the sponge and dish soap. Instead, she wandered out into the hallway with her cell phone and dialed the Daruma-ya's number.
Ren could hear snatches of her conversation over the rush of water from both the sink and the rain outside.
"…so I'll be staying with a friend…"
"…No, I'll be fine. Don't worry…"
"Yes, I'll be back tomorrow morning…"
Ren scrubbed a plate a little harder than necessary. "Only a friend?" he thought dismally. "But why would she admit anything else to her landlady over the phone, anyway," he countered. He twisted his face in annoyance. It was getting confusing.
"Are you done yet, Tsuruga-san?" Kyouko asked. She had returned from her phone call and now leaned against his kitchen counter, watching him sink elbow deep into soapy water.
"Almost," Ren said ruefully. Part of the reason he didn't cook or eat much was that he disliked the clean up afterwards. She laughed at his expression.
"Yes, see how much I suffer for you?" he teased.
"I must make it up to you somehow."
Ren didn't know what to say to that, so instead he forced himself to look away from her smiling face and gaze serenely at the last dish in the sink. He had almost lost himself seeing her there in front of him, leaning so casually, smiling so beautifully, and various other things he found himself unable to refrain from admiring. Ren was cursing himself over and over in his mind and couldn't stop.
Kyouko had noticed his shift in mood and was about to comment on it, only she was interrupted. A piercing clap of thunder tore over Tokyo and made her jump.
"I think the storm's getting worse," Ren said. "It's a good thing you didn't try to go out in it." He set the last dish done in the drying rack and wiped his hands on a dish towel. "Now I'm done." Boldly, he took her by the hand. "Come with me," he said.
Kyouko blushed mostly with confusion and then with embarrassment as she realized that Ren was guiding her down the hall to his bedroom. "Tsuruga-san, what are you—"
"The best place to watch lightning is through the windows in my room. Why, what did you think I was doing?" One of his eyebrows quirked up teasingly as he met her eyes.
She blushed darker and looked away. "I, uh, nothing," she lied, feeling humiliated. She had thought something sinister was going on. Kyouko continued to feel embarrassed all the way across the room closer to the windows where at last they sat on the floor, leaning against his bed for support. And her nerves hung around like an elephant in the room.
Luckily, there's something to the innate qualities of nature's fiercest spectacles that can get rid of any size of large mammal. Ren and Kyouko were soon both gaping at the jagged light arcing over the skyscrapers against cloudy skies. And somehow they had unconsciously drifted closer. They didn't realize until their arms were touching.
Ren looked over at her in surprise. Kyouko's face seemed to mirror his own, something he never would have expected. The look in her eyes was unmistakable. Pain. The torment of fighting something with no hope of winning. She was just as near to succumbing to desire as Ren was.
Lightning flashed out in the city, sending a splash of light dancing through the room. Ren felt his heart hammering in his chest and his breathing become shallower. He was becoming intoxicated staring at Kyouko like this, but he couldn't make himself break away. And likewise she seemed burdened by a similar fate.
Thunder echoed through the apartment in answer to the lightning and Ren realized that he and Kyouko weren't just close but indeed getting even closer. Their foreheads brushed together. For a moment each of them marveled at the sensation only to be quickly pulled into action.
It was as if a switch had been thrown. Their lips met and seemed quite intent on never parting. And for once, Ren knew that he was not going to regret anything. He had seen it all in the young girl's eyes. Kyouko had changed from the newbie sworn on revenge, from the kouhai who needed help. Somehow, without either of them noticing, her heart had started to heal and she had begun to love again.
Ren pulled Kyouko close. She rested her chin on his shoulder, breathing deeply. Ren bent his head down towards her ear. "I've been waiting for you," he whispered.
Kyouko sighed. "I know. Sorry it took so long."