Authors Chat: Had this idea swimming in my head since yesterday and had to put it down on paper. Please enjoy.

- my usual intro stuffs -

I would greatly appreciate your comments and constructive criticism!

That being said, italics text are direct thoughts of characters, text is in quotes, noises are done with asterisks.

DISCLAIMER: Skip Beat! and it's characters are not my original creation, they are owned and created by Nakamura Yoshiki.

Story Timeline: This Fanfic takes place at the very beginning of Skip Beat, on Ren's 20th Birthday. Just days after his first encounter with (adult) Kyoko.

Blow Out the Candle

"Ren, what should I do with all of these?"

"Well, lets sort through them and get rid of anything edible, then see what's left."

"You really don't like Chocolate Ren?"

"It isn't that Yashiro, you just never know what's in them, and if you eat one, doesn't that mean you have to eat them all?"

"No one person could eat all of this!" Yashiro waved his arm around the room indicating the piles and piles of edible birthday gifts.

"Precisely. So lets get rid of it. Oh, and we'll have to be careful to not let any fans see. It would be rude to insult them like that. I'll go get a few boxes from shipping."

Yashiro let out a sigh. It had been like this last year, it was the same this year, was this how every February 10th was to be from here until Ren retired? If Valentine's day was anything like last year as well, he'd have to hire an assistant just to make it through this one week on a yearly basis!

"Welp… better get started." Yashiro dove into the mountain of work ahead of him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ren walked into the lobby of the shipping department to find a stack of folded boxes nicely piled on the counter ahead of him with a tag on them labeled "Tsuruga-sama". He shook his head lightly and slid the stack of boxes under his arm. It's bad they know to have boxes ready for me. The fiasco last year of trying to find enough boxes had caused the shipping department to save all useable boxes for Ren the following year – this year. Ren realized THIS was why their calendar had a big red circle around the date.

Ren let out a sign and adjusted the boxes under his arm as he headed out the door and back to his dressing room in the next building over of the studio.

Another birthday… still no closer to my goal.

Ren couldn't help but feel a bit depressed. When he was young, his parents had always made a big deal of his birthday, even if they couldn't be there with him. Now, he had no one. Sure, the fans overwhelmed him with gifts and chocolates and pastries, but it wasn't the same.

Everything was growing stagnant. Another year had passed, and still he was no closer to international fame than he was the last birthday. Sure, his work load had increased, but there was no diversity of roles. He was always cast as a young and upcoming detective, or hero of some sort.

There were no roles which really challenged him. The roles he had were intended to draw crowds because of his looks and his appeal to both the younger and the older generation.

His sense of pride as an actor had kept him in high regard to audiences of the older generation while his looks and charisma kept him in good standing with the younger crowd.

He had made himself someone that everyone could relate to and wish for. He was everyone's dream guy, and quite frankly, he was tired of it.

He really only wanted this day to end, so the week would be one day closer to over, and he would get to stop thanking everyone for their gracious gifts.

Ren opened the door to his dressing room with a soft *click*. Yashiro was sitting in the floor in what looked like a nest of chocolate and small stuffed animals.

Either a few boxes were upended over his head, or the mess had grown while he was sorting through a few items.

"Ren! Thank goodness! I need a box! If I don't get some of this stuff put away, they're going to burry me alive! They keep dropping new things off for you."

He had, of course, kept a list of who dropped off what. The year before, when Ren turned 19, he hadn't thought to keep a list, not knowing any better. He felt like a failure as a manager when Ren had to make up excuse after excuse for not remembering what each person gave him when they asked him later how he liked their gift.

Yashiro now had a year and a half under his belt working with Ren and had made sure to never make the same mistake again.

It had taken a while for them to reach a comfortable working relationship, but it was only the mechanics. Their personalities had hit it off very well when they first met. They were both plenty outgoing, but still respected each other's private lives.

No, it was the mechanics of their working relationship that suffered at the beginning. Yashiro was a new manager, fresh from college, and didn't have any experience. He had gotten the job with LME because of a recommendation from a professor at the university who had taken a liking to him as one of the top students.

The professor had talked with Lory Takarada personally, and after interviewing with Takarada, had been paired specially with Ren as his exclusive manager.

Yashiro went into the job expecting to be the perfect manager with a charge who acted perfectly as an actor should with their manager. Boy was he surprised when he got Ren. Ren was self sufficient to the extreme. He read and picked his own scripts and roles, he was always on time, and he was the one to always drive where they were headed. If Yashiro hadn't quickly realized what his purpose was to Ren, he would have been out of a job faster than the speed of light.

Ren needed someone to keep the fans at bay, to manage his schedule, make sure he eat a meal, and to act more as an assistant really than a manager. Yashiro, as it turned out, was okay with this. It certainly made his job less stressful, and they had developed an easy friendship and a sort-of brotherly bond.

They teased each other occasionally, and fought occasionally – silly arguments really, and they were always there to pick up the pieces… okay, actually, Yashiro was always there to help Ren pick up the pieces that his fans all left behind. A flower tucked into a jacket, bits of paper with their names and numbers… anything they could stuff in his jacket if they were ever too close to him.

And for the second year in a row, that included sorting through the mess of chocolates and birthday gifts.

Ren couldn't help but laugh at Yashiro as he sat in the middle of the gift-nest flapping his arms in exasperation.

He set the boxes down hear the pile and folded the box into a usable form then started helping Yashiro place gifts into the boxes and chocolates off to the side to be bagged up right before they slipped out the door to head home for the day.

It took well over an hour and a half just to sort the items between edible, non-edible, and not-sure. The not-sure pile of course wound up beside the edibles to be disposed of once they left, but they still had a rather large pile of non-edibles, and the boxes were running low.

Yashiro volunteered to go get another few boxes and jumped up to stretch his legs and left.

Ren sorted through some of the remaining gifts, seeing what sort of items his fans had sent him this year. It was kind of frightening what some people sent. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but to see your own face stare back at you from a picture you were never in, standing beside a scantily clad woman you never knew was just creepy.

Is… is that a five-o'clock shadow? He looked closer, curiosity getting the best of him before he slammed the framed photo down on the floor and looked to the clock.

Yashiro had been gone quite a long time, but just as Ren stood up to find out what happened to him, he stumbled through the door, tripping over boxes as they slide from his arms.

"Sorry I took so long, the shipping department was closed. I had to find some boxes elsewhere." He held up a banana box. "Fortunately, café LA Hearts just received a shipment of produce."

Ren helped unload the remaining boxes from Yashiro and the two made quick work of packing the remaining gifts into the newly acquired boxes.

There were three large garbage bags full of edible gifts which they snuck to the garbage dump behind the studio under the guise Ren had parked back there for easy access to load the gifts into his vehicle. It wasn't completely a lie, Ren HAD moved his Porche – a birthday gift to himself – to the back door in preparation to load the gifts, and as soon as the three bags were safely tucked away in the dumpster, Yashiro and Ren began stuffing boxes of gifts into all available places. It was fortunate the engine was in the rear of his shiny new red 996 Carrera, or there would be even less space available and not enough room to transport all the boxes.

"This is the last one Ren. If you want to grab your bag, we can head out for the night."

Ren re-entered the building to retrieve his bag while Yashiro got settled in the passenger seat, buckling his seatbelt and pulled a smaller box from under his seat onto his lap to hold during transport.

Ren didn't take long, and as Yashiro was settling back into his seat, he opened the door and slid behind the wheel, never noticing the small addition in Yashiro's lap.

"Ren, lets stop by your place first. I'll help you unload all these boxes, then you can drop me off at my apartment."

"Not a bad idea Yashiro. Okay. Hold on." Ren made a sudden turn to change direction from Yashiro's apartment to his own.

It was, in fact, an excellent idea. Ren appreciated the modicum of help. It would take half the trips back and forth from his car to his apartment, and quite frankly, he was just ready for the day to be done.

When they arrived and unloaded all the boxes, there was no actual count, but Yashiro left the listing of who gave what – if names were attached – with short descriptions of what item on the edge of his coffee table in front of the couch. He would make certain to tell Ren to go over the list, certain he would also see the small box and a card with Ren's name on it.

Yashiro and Ren once again climbed into the car and headed toward Yashiro's apartment.

Once there, Yashiro opened the door and got out, then leaned back over looking in and said an honest, "Ren, Happy Birthday," before closing the door and heading up the walk to the building entrance.

Ren let out a sigh and pulled into traffic. Finally, he could go home and celebrate his birthday how he wanted. Alone, doing nothing.

Ami had split up with him the previous weekend, and though it did not really trouble him, it meant he indeed was truly alone. He was hit with a sudden melancholy, but it was a feeling he was used to. Empty home, empty heart. He didn't truly deserve happiness on his birthday anyway. Not since… Well, not since he left America, and didn't leave a clue to his Mother and Father where to send the gift on his birthday. He knew though, that wherever they were, they would be celebrating for him, and if he knew his father, it would be over a very large cake and two hot-toddies.

He was a bit bitter about it really, but he would never admit it. His head was as empty of thoughts as his mask was devoid of real emotion.

Ren parked in his spot at his own apartment complex and headed upstairs to his empty and lifeless apartment.

He opened the door, turned the light on, and kicked his shoes of before closing the door behind him and shuffling tiredly into the living room to plop down on the sofa.

He moved to place his feet up on the coffee table, and noticed a box with a card leaned against it unopened, that he hadn't seen before. If he was right, that was Yashiro's handwriting. Just to be safe though, he carefully picked up the box and walked it to the kitchen, set it on the counter, and very very carefully pried back the lid.

Inside was a small cake and a wrapped gift. Ren was certain they had thrown out all edible gifts, so he opened the envelop and withdrew the card.

It read: ------

"Ren,

I know birthdays aren't your favourite day. I figured since you throw out all the chocolates and cakes your fans send you, that you don't usually eat your own birthday cake. There is no need to thank me, but please, enjoy this little something I picked up for you (Don't worry, I didn't cook!).

Place the candle in the cake and light it before you cut into it.

Yashiro

Oh, and make sure you make a wish before you blow out the candle!"
------

Ren smiled a little. Yashiro was wrong and right. Usually he loved birthdays. Just not since he had left America. He was right though, that Ren usually did not eat any birthday cake, again, since he left America.

Ren opened the gift to see a fine crystal decanter, and it was already filled with – he opened the lid and sniffed – with a pungently smoky scotch. He set the gift aside, pulled out the small cake, opened the lid and lifted the cardboard base out. A book of nondescript matches and a single blue candle rolled around in the now-empty box.

Feeling nostalgic, Ren lifted the candle, righted it, then placed it in the cake and lit it.

He stared at the flame for a long minute, thanking Yashiro silently and thinking of what to wish for.

I wish…

He felt a little silly, smile to himself, then closed his eyes and started again.

I wish…for something good to come into my life and stir things up with my career.

Ren ate half of the small cake, pushed it into the refrigerator, then went to bed wondering if wishes really do come true.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Two days later, his wish came true as Kyoko Mogami smashed into his shoulder, and her new-comer audition registration form went flying in the air and slowly fluttered to the ground.

Ren looked down at her reprovingly, then bent and picked up one of the papers, scanning it's surface.

"The newcomer casting? I see… so Sawara-san gave in after all."

Ren looked down at her again and met her gaze. He felt a tingle in the back of his mind, begging for attention. He could not help himself as he exhaled hard and shook his head in dismay.

"I BEG YOUR PARDON!! …Wh…What's with this why stress yourself, in the end she won't pass and she'll regret it sigh?!!!"

He couldn't help but goad her on. "Hey, Amazing! Do you have second sight?"

She let out a harsh growl, rising to the occasion.

Ren never realized that at that moment, his birthday wish had in fact come true. While he hadn't wished for her, it's what he got. She was the catalyst to cause things in his life to change, and found he could not get her off of his mind. It was aggravating and irritating and there was no reason but he couldn't just NOT think about her!

It was, in fact, his own wish that brought her into his life once more. The little girl in the woods who made him want to return to Japan had once again brought life and desires into his heart, and his world would never be the same.