Sho Business

Synopsis: What if Sho had had to make an honest woman of Kyoko in order to get her to agree to come to Tokyo with him?

Disclaimer: Skip Beat! and its characters are the sole property of the legal copyright holders. This story borrows the characters and is not for profit or professional gain. To support the original artist and enhance enjoyment of this story, it is recommended that readers purchase copies of the manga at their nearest bookstore if at all possible.

Notes: Obviously, from the description, I am taking some liberties with the circumstances surrounding Kyoko and Sho's move to Tokyo. That aside, I intend to make every effort to mold the story to fit manga events as much as possible, though some modification will be necessary.

Chapter One: The End of Procrastinating

The clock ticked very slowly indeed, compared to the rapid tapping of Fuwa Sho's pencil against his desk. His teeth clenched with impatience and his jaw muscles tensed, lending his face a masculine look that caused several of his female classmates to sigh.

As usual, only one girl in class was paying attention to the lesson. While all of the others were drawing hearts and umbrellas in their notebooks around different misspellings of Sho's name, all he could see was Mogami Kyoko's brown hair bobbing back and forth. Annoyed, he pictured her eyes shifting from the blackboard only occasionally, and then just to double check the accuracy of her notes. He knew that they would be neatly written and even more neatly copied for him after class. Kyoko took school very seriously, as if both her future and his hinged on whether she accidentally copied one wrong page number for one assignment. As if it mattered. Sho knew what his future hinged on, and it wasn't a classic haiku or a calculus exam. Today, he'd determined, was the end of procrastinating. He had made his decision and he would give her an opportunity to make hers, but no matter what she chose, their lives would take a different course starting right after this class ended.

Sho looked up at the clock again, his face darkening as his irritation grew. He glared at the little black hands that seemed to be deliberately taking their sweet time to reach twelve. Just like everything in this stupid resort town, they moved slowly and predictably – more slowly and predictably, it seemed, whenever he really wanted to do something. He slammed his pencil down hard and watched with satisfaction as the metal tube at the top broke and the fresh pink eraser went bouncing off the desk and rolled out of site. The teacher turned at the sound and even Kyoko tore her attention away from the blackboard to look over her shoulder and see what had happened. Sho raised his eyebrows innocently.

Just as the teacher opened his mouth to speak, the lunch bell rang and Sho snapped out of his desk. Forgetting his untouched books, he strode to the front of the room, grabbed Kyoko's wrist and headed out the door. Kyoko gave a small squeak of alarm, reaching out her free hand towards her notes and bag as Sho dragged her bodily from the classroom. Female glares followed the pair as they disappeared from sight.

Sho marched straight past the cafeteria entrance, towing a bewildered Kyoko all the way out to the school garden. He skidded to a stop under the branches of a gigantic willow tree and finally released his grip on her arm. She immediately slumped over, panting from exhaustion after running to keep pace with Sho's much longer stride. Her hands were clenched lightly at her knees and her hair swung forward to obscure her expression as she tried to catch her breath. When she finally looked up, her face was pink and shining from the exercise.

"I need to talk to you," Sho announced, shortly. He was irritated by the slight feeling of guilt that he'd felt when he realized she'd been struggling.

"Of course, Sho-chan, you know you can talk to me about anything." Kyoko smiled, looking straight into his eyes with complete love and acceptance, as always. It had been ten years since Kyoko's mother first left her at the Fuwa Inn, but Sho couldn't see many differences between the girl standing before him and the five year old he'd met that day. She still followed him with absolute faith in whatever he did, still went along with all of his whims without question or complaint. Still annoyed him more than anyone else in the whole world.

He turned away from her, watching the willow branches as they moved in the wind, like horses struggling to outrun a carriage they were tethered to. It seemed like a gust strong enough would sever their bond to the tree and they'd be blown out into the world. Finally able to run free.

"It's horrible, I can't put up with this any longer."

Kyoko stood up straight, immediately comprehending Sho's train of thought. "I heard the argument last night," she admitted. It would have been difficult not to hear at least one of the many arguments that had been taking place at the Fuwa Inn on a daily basis recently. It was always about the same thing.

"They have my whole life planned out for me," Sho muttered darkly, leaning back against the tree. "I'm supposed to live my father's life all over again. Just because it makes him happy, it's supposed to be enough for me to follow in his footsteps. Take over the inns, marry some proper local girl, have a kid or two and die without anyone outside Kyoto even knowing that I'd ever lived. " He could feel the anger building and suddenly kicked the center of the tree trunk, staggering backwards a little with the impact. "You've got to be kidding me!" he shouted over his shoulder, barely even registering Kyoko's widening eyes. "I want to live a more exciting life!"

Kyoko was silent, twisting her hands in front of her and biting her lower lip. Sho, absorbed in his own frustration, missed the subtle signs of conflict in the girl behind him. She was, after all, a part of the life he was so desperate to throw away. She had always supported his dreams, always taken his side. Up to this point, she had used every ounce of strength she had to help Sho achieve whatever he set out to do. Now was the first true test of her loyalty and her love; for to support Sho now could very well mean helping him leave her behind. His next words went far towards resolving her dilemma.

"If I stay in that house any longer than necessary, my parents are definitely going to hook me up with some plain, boring local girl! The other day, I heard them making a list of girls to set me up with!" He turned suddenly and faced Kyoko's horrified eyes with the most serious expression he'd ever shown her.

"I'm going to Tokyo right after graduation. The longer I wait, the worse my chances will be of ever making it in the music industry. Youth is everything in show business and if you start too late, it's over before it even begins." He could see her eyes glazing over and this time he was fully aware of the turmoil within her. He knew that Kyoko was on the top of the lists of women his parents would be happy to see him settle down with. She would be the perfect innkeeper and probably a model wife and mother. Somewhere along the line, she had become inextricably linked with his bleak image of the life his parents wanted him to lead. He knew that, but for some reason he didn't understand, he also knew what he was going to do. What he had to do.

"Kyoko..." He refused to allow himself to break eye contact. "Would you.... come with me?"

Her mouth fell open and for a second she just stared at him in shock. Then she smiled, in a way that no one else could ever smile. Sho's throat tightened and he felt an almost irresistible urge to run away. He didn't know why he was unable to leave her behind. "This girl," he thought vaguely "is the most annoying girl alive."

"Yes!" she answered, her eyes glowing. Sho felt some of the tension leave his shoulders and he slumped against the willow again, turning his face away from her. He stared fixedly at the still-swaying leaves to distract himself from the confusion he always felt when she acted this way. This was why he wasn't nice to her. Whenever he was, it always ended up like this.

Out of nowhere, Kyoko gasped. "I mean no! I'm so sorry, Sho, but I can't!" Sho swung around quickly and lost his balance, ending up sprawled on the grass. He looked up at her suddenly tearful face, stunned.