What I'm Missing
Sariah Loire

Skip Beat! and its characters, locations, terms, etc, do not belong to me.
This story began on the day of Act 151, February 15th. It follows the first 151 Acts exactly, and is a direct continuation of Skip Beat!'s main story. If you need back info, please read the official story.

Kyoko and Sho were seated in a small tea shop in the outskirts of Tokyo, well away from the prying eyes of the public that had been hounding Kyoko for the last several months. She had received the invitation from Sho the week before, and after talking it over with Ren, she agreed to go. She and Sho were quietly sipping tea, and the silence that her childhood friend was clinging to was unnerving Kyoko, in more ways than one. "Was there something you needed to speak to me about, Sho?"

He cut his eyes to the window above their table, Kyoko worried for a moment that he might somehow catch a glance of Ren. She had no doubts that Ren hadn't stayed in the car like she told him to; in fact, it would let her down if he did. But she was here to talk with Sho, so she tried to focus her attention to the young man across the table from her.

"I… want to apologize, once and for all." Sho leaned forward and bowed his head low, his bleached-blonde hair nearly touching the table between them. "I was an idiot back then, and a fool, Kyoko. I never meant the things I said, I just couldn't see past my own ego." He paused for a second, drawing in a shaky breath. "Is there… any way you could forgive me?"

Kyoko reached her hand across the table and patted Sho's, like she did when they were children. "Yes, I can. I already have, Sho." She pulled her hand back, thinking back to that day almost two years ago, when Sho had effectively kicked her out of his life. "I think I started forgiving you a long time before I even realized it."

Sho raised his head, a small hope burning in his eyes. He looked more serious than before, but also more determined. "I want you to know that I love you, Kyoko. I don't expect you to accept me; I've seen the news and the magazines all these months. But I…" He turned his tea cup listlessly in his hands, dropping his gaze to the table. "I just needed to tell you."

"Thank you, Sho." There didn't seem to be anything else she could say, more talk would only add to Sho's obvious discomfort. They finished their tea in, once again, silence. When they stood to leave, Sho helped Kyoko into her coat and then paid for the drinks. When they walked outside, Sho grabbed her hand with his, gently holding it in his fingers.

"Goodbye, Kyoko." The way his eyes looked in the light, Kyoko could almost imagine him as the young boy she had adored so much when she herself was a child. But when he let go of her hand, the image faded along with Sho's back, as he made his way to the waiting car. They were both 18 now, their childhood memories had to be put to rest.

"Goodbye, Shotaro."

She stood with her back to the tea shop, trying to warm her hands in her coat pockets. She hadn't expected a happy reunion, but she also hadn't expected there to be tears in Sho's eyes as he said goodbye. Even more surprising was that there were tears in her own. She raised a hand to wipe them, but a pair of large gloved hands beat her to it.

"You're going to catch a cold out here, Kyoko." Ren brushed her tears away with his thumbs, leaning in to kiss her chilled lips. "We're going to be late if we don't hurry; the ceremony starts in a half-hour."

"I've got to call Moko, she'll be wondering where I am." Kyoko accepted Ren's outstretched hand, and they walked through the snow to his car. It was a harsh winter, but neither of the two really paid that much attention to the cold when they were together. "Kuon, did you call Father about the ceremony?"

Ren had told her that she didn't need to force herself to call him Kuon; he said he liked 'Corn' better, anyway. But after being teased by Moko, along with several others, about the way she pronounced his name, Kyoko had practiced until she could call him nothing but Kuon. Professionally, he was going by both Ren and Kuon now, but as most of the country couldn't get used to calling him by anything other than Ren, he was content with using his stage name in the Japanese industry. Yashiro was one of those who couldn't get it right. As hard as he tried, he still slipped-up and called the actor 'Ren' when he was excited about something. Kyoko had realized that he was almost always excited lately, ever since Ren and herself had gone public about their relationship.

"Yes, he and Mother will be there, as promised. They'll also keep you company next week while I'm in Hokkaido for filming."

A week after Kyoko made her escape; she had been informed by Lory that Tachibana Young had committed suicide. He was found by Lory's personal security force, not long after Kyoko was rescued from the house. She couldn't bring herself to feel sorry for the man, but she was thankful for the freedom Ren was finally able to experience now that he didn't feel the need to always be looking over his shoulder or worrying about his secret getting out.

After Ren had made his announcement the previous year, telling everyone who he was, his career was in jeopardy for several tense weeks. Many studios wanted nothing to do with him until Kyoko stepped forward, along with Kuu, and told the story of how Ren had sacrificed his own career in order to try and save her. After the story became fully public, Ren's popularity sky-rocketed again, along with Kyoko's. Offers for both of them came pouring in, and Kyoko had found herself with more work than she could handle.

Their first job together had been to finish Promised Dreams. Director Ichihara had been overjoyed by how well it went, and it was scheduled for release later that year. The previews and trailers that were in circulation were drawing so much attention that the movie was receiving attention in America, as well.

Ren had received several job offers for work in America, through agencies that knew Lory. He hadn't rejected them out right, but he had made it painfully obvious that he wouldn't be leaving the country unless Kyoko was by his side to stay. She didn't mind the thought of that, even if it did embarrass her when he said it to a crowd of reporters.

"Do you really have to go?" Kyoko pouted a little as Ren shut her door. She waited until he walked around the car and got into the driver's seat. "It's going to be a whole week; wouldn't you rather stay here in Tokyo?"

"Don't give me that, I know you'd rather spend the week with my own parents than you would me."

Kuu and Juli had both made it clear to Ren and Kyoko that there was not to be a wedding in Japan unless they were there to help with the plans. Ren agreed without batting an eye, his reason being that he would need some of the Hizuri fortune in order to pay for the fairytale wedding he was going to give Kyoko. Kyoko played along, but she knew him better than that, now. He wanted his parents there, even if he was too embarrassed to tell them.

His answer had been enough for the older Hizuris, though, and they had left Japan without too much of an argument. Kyoko got an earful from Kuu almost every day about setting a wedding date so that he could have grandchildren in the near future, though. She told him she would talk to Ren about it, but that didn't stop him from continuing to call.

Maria had been far more accepting than Kyoko expected. The girl had been downright jovial when she heard that Ren and Kyoko were a couple, despite the tears that she shed on Ren's shoulder after he told her. Kyoko had the feeling that the girl was putting on a brave front, but she had given her a new Ren doll on her last birthday to make up for it, complete with blonde hair.

It had taken an entire month before Kyoko had managed to talk Ren into turning his hair back to its natural colour. After enough begging, along with a few bribes, Ren had agreed, and talked Lory into calling Jelly Woods back to Japan. Kyoko fell in love with the tiny woman as soon as she met her, especially after the woman took the opportunity to work a little magic on Kyoko, as well. They both liked the temporary pink streaks, but it couldn't possibly win against the beauty of Ren's natural hair.

Kyoko had let him keep the look for two weeks, but then pleaded with him to go back to normal. Not only was his 'fairy prince' look causing her to have trouble concentrating, it was also drawing the attention of a good many fellow actresses. She learned all too well that the feelings of jealousy were alive in her own heart.

"We're here, Kyoko." She snapped her eyes open, surprised that losing herself in memories had passed the time so fast. Ren had her door open, and was holding out an arm to her. Behind him, the LME building was lit up and shining against the night sky. The graduation for the two first LoveME girls was a big deal, after all.

Once thing settled down, after a few months of observation, Lory and Mr. Sawara had confronted Kyoko about her position in LoveME. They both agreed that it was time for her to move on, and become a full-fledged actress, representing LME to the world. She had been thrilled, but the thought of leaving her best friend was enough to hold her back from accepting.

Kanae had been working hard, trying her best to keep up with Kyoko's own popularity. She was getting there, but the climb was a hard one. The actress didn't have graduating on her mind at the moment, though. Kyoko had been shocked, although happy, that Mr. Yashiro and Kanae had started a friendship during the days she was missing. It turned out that Yashiro had comforted Kanae when she was distraught over the thought of losing her best friend.

In the last two weeks, Kyoko had spied on Kanae enough to discover that she was indeed 'dating' Ren's manager, even if it was little more than friendship at that point. It had been enough for her position in LoveME to be considered as well, though, and she would be graduating alongside of Kyoko that very night. According to Lory, Chiori still needed more working on, but the new recruits in the section would be sure to benefit from the girl's knowledge.

Kyoko and Ren parted ways; she had to get ready for the ceremony. Kanae was waiting on her in their old LoveME room where they had been told that their dresses would be waiting for them. The ceremony was to take place in the main hall of LME, which had been transformed by the newer LoveME members over the past few hours.

"They said I couldn't get dressed until you got here. Why are you so late?" Kanae was always scolding Kyoko, but she didn't mind. She knew the girl was as good a friend as anyone could possibly be, and she loved spending time with Moko, no matter what they were doing. "Did your overgrown 'fairy' keep you out too late?" Kanae might deny it, but even Kyoko could recognize the jealous tone Kanae took on after Kyoko spent too much time with Ren.

"I was meeting with Sho." Kanae didn't answer, but she looked a little apologetic. Kyoko had told her friend as soon as Sho called; Kanae had helped talk her into going, to clear the air once and for all. "Did they deliver our dresses?"

"Yes, and I still don't understand why I had to wait for you." Kanae crossed her arms, glaring at Kyoko. They had been told the day before that their dresses were being purchased by the company, and would be delivered to the room where they were to get ready in. "Here, this one's for you."

Kyoko hooked the bag on the back of the closed door, a little nervous at touching the finery that was sure to be inside. She reached a shaky hand up to the zipper and pulled it down. Her jaw dropped, an identical reaction as Kanae was giving the dress she had just unzipped, as well.

"Kuon, did you get the ring out of the glove compartment?" Kuu whispered a little too loudly, and Juli elbowed him in the side. He ignored it, fixing Ren with a serious gaze. "I know you both have talked about a wedding, but I want to see a ring on her finger. Tonight."

Juli nudged him again, smiling apologetically at the people who were seated behind them. Juli, Kuu, Ren, and Yashiro were all seated in the front row of chairs, where they would have a grand view of the girls when they made their way into the room. "Kuu, if you don't talk quieter, the whole room will know Kuon's plans before Kyoko does!"

"She almost found out on her own." Ren hissed, adjusting the tie that suddenly felt much too tight. "Why did you put it in the glove compartment? You know how she is about cleaning, if I wouldn't have distracted her, there wouldn't be a surprise to talk about."

"You could have proposed to her like that." Kuu was pouting, and he leaned back in his chair with his arms folded. "I don't see the big deal, why did you have to wait all this time?"

"She just turned eighteen last month, Father. I didn't think it was proper to ask a minor to marry me." Ren rubbed his temples; he had gone through this argument more times than he could count. "Besides, we thought the wedding wouldn't be until she's twenty. Neither I nor Kyoko knew that her mother had signed consent papers for a marriage at the same time she signed the papers to make her career be legally sound."

"I knew." Juli gloated, turning in her seat to smile broadly at Ren. "I read over the papers and found that one. I didn't bring it up because you were taking your sweet time in telling Kyoko how you felt, so much that I wouldn't have expected even a proposal before she's twenty."

"Thanks for your support." Ren tried to sound sarcastic, but he had never been able to say anything that might make his mother unhappy. Especially not in the last few months, since he had been working overtime to make up for the five years they had spent apart. Juli had sweet talked him into buying a computer, along with a webcam, and they had video conversations every few days. Kuu joined in several times, especially when Kyoko was around.

"May I have your attention, please?" Lory's voice boomed through the room, startling most of the occupants. Those who were around Lory the most were used to it, and didn't as much as blink at the spectacle. Lory and Maria were on the stage that had been set up; Lory was dressed in Arabian finery. "Our grand LME celebration will begin now, with the guests of honor. Please stand to your feet and welcome our stars of the night, Kyoko Mogami and Kanae Kotonami!"

The crowd rose to their feet, cheering and clapping. The group on the front row was the most enthusiastic at all, especially the older Hizuris. The cheers almost silenced completely when the two girls made their way onto the stage, visible for the first time.

"What are they wearing?" Juli sounded almost sick; her face looked a little green as she surveyed the eye-blinding display that was twenty feet away from them. Ren had the feeling that her modeling and designing instincts were screaming at her to force the girls to go change.

Kyoko and Kanae stood, looking grand and beautiful with their hair swept up and shining diamonds sparkling on their ears and necks. Their luxurious jewelry was a little wasted at the moment, though, because every eye in the room was locked onto their matching, shockingly pink evening gowns.

"I feel a little sad; I can't say I'm dating a LoveME girl anymore."

Kyoko pushed Ren's arm, trying her best to shove him off of the sidewalk. He hadn't stopped teasing and poking fun at her dress since the ceremony had concluded. They escaped to the courtyard, but the celebration party was in full swing behind them. "You should be glad the president didn't get you a pink suit, to match."

Ren paled a little at that, drawing a laugh from Kyoko. She shivered a little, looking up at the sky. It was a cold night, and the snow had just begun falling again. Ren put his coat on her shoulders, leaning against her to wrap his arms around her. "Are you too cold?"

Kyoko shook her head, leaning against Ren's chest. "We'll have to go back in soon, or else they'll come out here looking for us."

"Let's sit down for a minute; we'll be mobbed as soon as we go back in." Kyoko nodded, and Ren led her to a small bench that overlooked a frozen-over fountain. Ren held Kyoko's left hand in his own, kissing her fingertips. She blushed, trying to pull her hand away.

"Kuon, if anyone looks out the window, they can see us!"

He didn't let go of her hand, but he enclosed it with both of his. "Okay, then, all you have to do is answer my question and I'll let you go."

Kyoko was still struggling to get her hand away, but she didn't really want him to let go. "What question?" He looked so serious, Kyoko's heart skipped a beat as she considered that maybe, just maybe, he was about to ask her…

"Do you rather Tsuruga, or Hizuri?"

It took a moment for her to process what he had said. 'Did he bring me out here just to ask which of his names I like better?' Kyoko fought against her laugh, but a small giggle escaped. Within a few minutes, she nearly had tears in her eyes, and Ren was looking at her in indignation. "I-I'm sorry, Kuon, you just looked so serious, I-"

Ren held up a small black box in front of her face, and flipped it open with his free hand. "This is why I wanted to know."

Kyoko gasped, looking from the ring, to Ren, and back to the ring. "K-Kuon, y-you mean…?"

He pulled the box back from her outstretched hand, and slid off the bench. Turning on his knees to face her, Kyoko saw the same look in his eyes that she had been so afraid of only a year ago. His eyes were lighter now, but she could see the same love in them now that she didn't want to see before. He pulled the sparkling ring out of the box, sliding it onto Kyoko's finger. "Kyoko, whichever name you choose is fine, as long as you'll agree to marry me."

Kyoko couldn't stop her tears at that moment, and she let herself fall off the bench, into Ren's arms. He had just caught her lips with his own when the courtyard's floodlights were switched on, illuminating them. They looked up to find the entire party gathered in the hallways surrounding the courtyard, watching them through the windows. Kuu and Juli were pressed against the nearest window, with Yashiro squealing at their side. Kuu had his eyebrows raised, as if to ask a question.

Ren looked back at Kyoko, her face was flaming red, but she was still smiling. He leaned close, so that his words couldn't be heard through the now-open windows. "So? What do you say?"

Kyoko looked at the ring on her hand, studying it as if she had to ponder her answer. She heard Ren holding his breath, so she took her time before she looked back up to meet his eyes. "I want them both."

"Both?" Ren looked so confused that the crowd grew quiet, worried that Kyoko had turned him down.

"Both names. And that causes a problem." She crooked her head, studying the man who was kneeling in front of her. Eleven years before, he had been the boy who changed her life, who gave her hope in the times when she was too afraid to move forward. Two years before, he had been the man who pushed her ahead, and made her want to challenge herself to look beyond her revenge to find a real reason for living. And now, he was the man she wanted to spend her entire life learning everything about. "Unless… I changed my stage name?"

"To what?"

"Kyoko Tsuruga."

The cat-calls and cheers began, and Ren sat in silence for a few precious seconds, until Kyoko's words really hit him. Then he stood up, pulling Kyoko up after him. He lifted her off her feet, so that their faces were on the same level. "Kuon Hizuri, Kyoko Hizuri, Ren Tsuruga, Kyoko Tsuruga, Mio, Katsuki, Natsu, Nobu …how are we supposed to keep track of all of these names?"

"Don't forget Corn." She whispered, her golden eyes meeting with his blue.

"And Bo."

That night stayed in the minds of all of the guests for many years to come. Long after Kyoko had won the award for 'Best Actress', not to mention winning the close poll between Mio and BJ for 'Best Villain', and after she was considered the second-most popular celebrity in Japan. Even after they moved to America, and Ren was presented with an Oscar for his leading role in an American film, the couple still remembered that night.

Once they began raising a family of their own, their children were often told the story of their parents' troubled lives. Kyoko had spun it into a fairytale of sorts, and the children asked to hear it almost every night.

Many directors wanted rights to their story, to make it into a movie. After much consideration, Ren and Kyoko turned them all down. Their story was too special for them to make money off of it. But they did tell their story to any magazine that asked. A favorite question that the reporters liked to ask Ren was if he ever regretted what he grew up missing because of the events that happened in his life. His response?

"Why should I feel sorry for myself? What I missed can't even begin to compare to what I've found."


Thank you all for your support, and for your critique that has helped make this story so much better than it could have been on my own.