By J Luc Pitard
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Really! Well, a couple of cats, but certainly not any of the Skip Beat! characters found herein.
The manga has run away from me as it was started just as the Valentine arc was coming out. So we break by ignoring certain kisses and Lory's missions, etc.
This is a lemon flavored fic, trust me. But it's by me and I just can't write anything short!! They'll be well marked if you want to avoid them. Inspired by a request to do a lemon scene in my other Skip Beat! story where I felt it wouldn't be appropriate. Here? Probably not 100%, but humor me.
Setting: the hallway outside OTC Studio C
Establishing shot: Medium shot of two women sitting
Ramrod straight, the two girls sat on a bench outside the studio door. Both were eye catching, though for different reasons. One was a cool beauty, long dark hair left loose and a beautiful body clothed in designer wear. The other had dyed light brown hair and coveralls so shockingly pink that only the extremely visually impaired could pass by without noticing. For all her horrible attire, if one could possibly have overlooked that, she was cute, cheerful and clearly pleased to be next to the other woman.
"Moko, how did Hiou like his gift? Did he accept them? We haven't talked since the sleepover! Well, not really "talked" talked. Of course we've talked, but not about important things." Kyouko Mogami, aspiring actress and member of the LME agency's dreaded Love Me section barely kept her decorum when she was with her best friend Kanae Kotonami, whom she had nicknamed "Moko." In her fantasy world, they would swing each other by the arms and speak rapturously about how much they missed one another and how they needed to share their heart's desires. Of course, in reality that was one reason both of them were in the Love Me department. Due to different circumstances, they were both incapable of the desire to love and therefore to be loved by their audiences. A serious handicap according to LME president Lory Takarada.
Kanae shrugged almost imperceptibly and said, "It was a thank you gift. He seemed pleased at first, then covered it. He's a kid, really." There was no wistfulness, no playfulness in her tone. Kyouko thought about how Moko could be read on the surface. What you see is what you get with her. It was a nice change from--
"Miss Mogami, I'm done here. Shall we go back?" A girl with medium length black hair, with fringe pulled up by a clip, dressed in similar bright pink coveralls bounced into view.
Kyouko's demeanor shifted just enough that Kanae got the signal. Here was someone to be a bit cautious of. It's not like she can bring herself to outright hate anyone, except that Sho Fuwa, Kanae thought.
"Miss Chiori Amamiya," Kyouko said, standing and smiling warmly. "This is Kanae Kotonami--"
"Oh!" Chiori gushed, bowing quickly as she spoke. "You're the other Love Me member! Please take care of me." She held her hand out respectfully. "This is your set isn't it? Are you on break?"
Kyouko's smile broadened to see them exchanging pleasantries. She might never fully trust the actress, there was that pesky being-pushed-down-the-stairs incident, but with time they could get to be friends. Amamiya had a mean streak but she preferred that it not be hidden where it hurt the girl more than her so called victim. Kyouko could take anything if it came at her head on.
Once the girls had finished speaking politely about their respective shows, she teased, "Miss Chiori is our newest member Miss Moko, so she's below you in seniority." Kyouko hid her mouth behind her hand as if to stifle a laugh. "Of course, I'm the most senior, so you both have to bow to me! Ho ho ho ho!"
Ignoring her, Kanae said, "Mr. Matsushima told me that you asked to be brought into Love Me? Was it the sexy uniforms?"
Chiori looked down at herself with a frown. "Yeah, it is a bit more... vivid than I imagined and the jobs have been pretty pointless so far." She looked at Kyouko, still lost in her daydreams of grandeur then back to Kanae. "But LME opens doors for an actress and you guys are the President's favorites after all."
In unison the two friends said, "EH?!"
"Well, I was getting nowhere with my old manager and if I was going to be serious, it was clear I needed an advantage."
Kyouko and Kanae looked at each other in wonder. Were they getting a benefit for the daily abuse of wearing that pink uniform? Neither one had even debuted yet!
Chiori finally took note of their confusion. "How else did a no talent newbie come in and take my role in Box-R, for example?"
The tone was explanatory and the "no talent" newbie in question didn't rise to the bait, but Kanae wasn't going to let her best friend get trashed by this washed up child star! Standing now to look down on Chiori she began, "Kyouko has more talent than--"
"Excuse me, Miss Mogami?" A man's voice smoothly cut into the argument. A perfectly well mannered man in glasses stood behind the combatants. While he wasn't ignoring the other two, his eyes were firmly fixed on Kyouko.
Her face lit up when she saw Yukihito Yashiro, Ren Tsuruga's manager. He wasn't short, though standing next to Ren for 14 hours everyday made people think that of you. Nor was he unattractive, but again the comparisons didn't help him. Kyouko knew how hard it was even to appear competent next to that man.
"Mr. Yashiro, good evening!" she said before making introductions all around. Even Kyouko took one of his business cards since he had his new cell phone number on it.
"I was passing by on an errand when I saw so much pink, I knew it had to be you all," he said.
"Guilty as charged," she smiled. "How is Mr. Tsuruga?"
"I thought so!" Chiori said. "You're Ren Tsuruga's manager?!"
Kanae and Kyouko looked at her, then at each other. It seemed to register with both of them at the same time that someone from outside might be impressed by that.
Yukihito smiled. "It's not as glamorous as it sounds," he said. "He works amazingly hard and I just have to try and keep up. Anyone could do it."
"Still," whispered Chiori.
Kyouko cringed as Yukihito began speaking again. She was pretty sure she knew where this was going.
"In fact, Miss Mogami has done my job before and arguably did it better." He beamed at her.
Kanae patted her shoulder as if to give support while Kyouko almost wilted under an accusatory glare from Chiori. Kyouko tried to play it off.
"No! It was just work! Love Me work! I had to do it and he got sick- a bit of a baby- really it wasn't a fun job at all!! I just tried to take care of him like Mr. Yashiro does." Her memories of that time were mixed. She was proud of how well she did, angry at him for taking ten points off of the perfect one hundred he'd given her and blushed every time she thought of the soft way he'd smiled at her and said her name so intimately when he was feverish. Kyouko's hands flailed in front of her face to fend off that memory.
Yukihito looked taken aback as he realized another argument was brewing between the Love Me members. Still, he didn't like his charge to be spoken ill of, especially not by the very woman Ren loved! "I don't cook for him like you did, nor do I spend the night studying modeling with him," he said, trying to point out how the relationship went far beyond work.
"No, no! Don't make it sound like that!" Kyouko looked down the hall, half to make sure the man himself wasn't walking up and half to look for an escape route in case Chiori turned into a rabid fangirl and attacked her.
"That's exactly what I'm talking about," Chiori said, surprising Kyouko with her calm composure. "That's part of the benefit of standing out as a Love Me member."
"Ah! True, true," Kyouko said quickly, happy to deflect the conversation's direction. "Ren is our senior at LME. He's helps us along because he's so dedicated to acting."
Chiori began to ask Kanae if she could expect to be privately tutored by Ren when a ring tone blared from the small bag on the bench behind them.
"Oh, it's mine," Kyouko said as she dug through it, pulling out the small phone.
"Speak of the devil, is it my pal, Ren?" Yukihito teased. He leaned close to see the display. Kyouko looked at the phone and a huge grin broke out on her face.
"Nope, better!" she said. Everyone else seemed to read the name at the same time and a hush fell as she said, "Yes, hello?"
Kuu Hizuri's voice was throaty from just having woken up. For a second it reminded her of Ren's sleepy voice.
"My dear Kyouko," he greeted her. "I wanted to catch you before it got too late. Are you working?"
"No, just finished." She turned away from the others for a touch more privacy. "What are you having for breakfast?" She laughed as he provided her with a laundry list of foreign dishes.
"Saw your new bully role," he said. "The Boss sent the dailies over with some DVDs. I wanted to call and tell you how proud I am of you, my child. It's a well thought out characterization. You really made Natsu your own." His words made her eyes burn with unshed tears. He couldn't know what those words meant to her. Then again, maybe he could, she realized with a tug on her heart. Maybe those were the words he longed to tell his real son.
"Thank you," she choked out. "Thank you, Daddy." Her body language had slipped back into the character she'd played of his son Kuon. Once she'd heard his compliment she'd pushed her chin out, gritting her teeth, determined not to give in to her emotions.
There was silence on the other end and for a second she wondered if he'd gone back to sleep. Just before she asked if he was still there, a woman's voice came on the phone, speaking too rapidly in English. Kyouko wasn't quite sure, but she thought she'd heard the words for "Mother","to come"and "dying" before some scuffling noises and Kuu came back on the line. "Julie wants you to come as soon as you can. She's pushing me to buy you a ticket today, but if you're anything like our boy, you'll want to come on your own, when you're ready."
Tears trailed unnoticed down her cheeks. A father figure she already respected and a mother who wanted to spend time with her? Was such a thing really within reach?
"Ah!" she swallowed. "Please tell her thank you but you're right. I'd like to come when I have more to share with you. I'll let you get back to your breakfast and... Dad? Thank you for calling." They said their goodbyes in both English and Japanese. She stood, soaking in the last few moments of warmth from his call before she felt three people staring intently at her. She wiped her face before turning around. "What?"
Chiori put on her most innocent smile. "Oh, nothing. The great Hizuri adopting you? Ren giving you all night loving attention? I really did join the right work group, ugly uniforms be damned!"
Indignation rose in Kyouko's heart. "Don't you speak that way of Mr. Tsuruga! He's overly generous with many people. Isn't he kind, Mr. Yashiro?"
She nodded and he joined her to show solidarity, but couldn't help needling her anyway.
"Yes, he really is quite kind. Although... I seem to recall you didn't always think that way?"
Kyouko immediately felt contrite. That was true enough. She'd realized early on that he didn't share his angry sides with anyone but her and he used to share them frequently. Only a few times had his demonic aspect been shown to others and then they always thought he was just acting. She didn't know of anyone else who'd seen his scarily seductive side. A shiver ran down her spine but she ignored it to put her focus back on the conversation. Kanae had jumped in and was defending Kyouko- sort of.
"... her fault if he's in love with her!"
"Eeeeep!" Kyouko dropped her cell phone at that. She knelt, scrambling to pick it up in suddenly numb fingers, grateful for any distraction to hide her red face.
Love? As if! She was still just a high school student to him. A kid! Beautiful women threw themselves at him on a daily basis! Shoutaru had accurately described her as a plain, boring girl. Ren just took pity on her, that was all! He liked it when she put effort into her acting, so she wouldn't shame him as her mentor. Love?
"Well," Yukihito started, pleased he'd been handed such an opening. He could pass the blame for letting the secret out. When it came to interfering, Ren wouldn't go easy on him. "There's one way to find out if he's being kind to you as a new actress or if he has real feelings for you- ask him. He's free tomorrow and I don't know of anything on his agenda after a morning run. He always eats junk, so maybe you could take him a healthy lunch?" He faked a look at his wind up watch. "Look at the time! Goodbye, my dear Kyouko, Miss Kotonami. Lovely to meet you Miss Amamiya." He whistled a jaunty tune as he waved and walked down the hall.
Kyouko finally raised her head, but couldn't meet the other girls' gazes. "Um, if it's okay, I think I'd like to just go back now."
Kanae fumed silently at her own mistake and Chiori grinned to herself before bouncing after Kyouko; two streaks of shocking pink on their way back to LME.
Please let me know what you think.