A/N: I do Not own Skip Beat.
Hi readers and fellow FF authors. I was inspired once again. I hope you enjoy the story.
Maria was completely bored. Her tutoring was done for the day and everyone around her was entirely too busy to do anything with her. Most of what they were doing seemed boring anyway. She wondered the halls of LME looking for anything even slightly interesting to pass the time. As she turned the corner on the 14th floor, a tall dark figure was standing casually against the wall talking on a cell phone.
Her eyes widened and glittered as she ran up to the man. She noticed that Ren was talking on the phone, so she approached without saying a word and jumped and waved enthusiastically in front of him, hoping to be noticed. He was smiling on the phone, a smile she had never quite seen before. When he recognized her, it changed to the normal one that she knew.
"Maria-chan is here," he spoke on to the phone and crouched down. "One moment." He smiled at her, and she returned the smile in full force. "Hi, Maria-chan. How are you?"
"I can wait till you're done on the phone, Ren-sama," she told him. He was a busy man, even she knew that.
"It's Mogami-san. I'm trying to convince her to let me buy her lunch. Do you think you can help me?" He tilted the phone to her and gave her a pleading face.
She nodded and took the phone. "Onee-sama," she yelled into the phone. As she spoke, Ren picked her up in his arms and started walking towards the elevator.
"Ah, Maria, how are you?" Kyoko sounded tired.
"I'm great. Won't you come eat lunch with Ren-sama and me?" she asked eagerly over the phone.
"Oh, you're coming too?"
Maria bit her lip and pulled the phone away from her face. "Can I come too, Ren-sama, please?"
Ren laughed softly. "Of course you can."
She beamed at him and spoke back into the phone, "Yup! Please come too, Onee-sama, please? It will be a lot of fun!"
"I'll go. Are we eating here?" Kyoko asked as she started to pack her things back up.
"I don't know." She pulled the phone away and looked at Ren. "Where are we eating?" Maria asked Ren.
"She said yes?" he asked and Maria nodded with a big, proud smile.
"I don't care where we eat. Mogami-san or you can pick where we eat." He always let her decide. It was easier to make sure she enjoyed where ever he took her. Granted, he was sure that she would be happy with anything, as he was.
"He said to let you or me choose. Can I pick? I know a good place to go to!" Maria asked excitedly. She hasn't seen or spent any real time with Kyoko or Ren in such a long time. This was going to be so fun!
After a few moments more of chatting, Maria said goodbye and hung up the phone. She held it out for Ren and he pocketed it.
"So then everything has been decided?" Ren asked as they headed down to the ground floor.
"Yes, and she's letting me pick the restaurant."
"Okay, where do you want to go?"
She told him and it came to no surprise to him. Maria had eaten in the classiest restaurants all her life. She wouldn't know what a family or children's restaurant was like.
"Well then, Mogami-san is in for a real treat." He smiled to himself. He was actually thankful that Maria was coming now. He would never have been able to take her there on his tab otherwise.
The elevator dinged and they stepped out. As soon as he turned the corner, they saw her. He felt Maria pull away and he set her down while he was trying to keep his face straight. Kyoko wore a lilac jersey dress with a very busy pattern of black and white designs. She looked utterly sweet in it and still had his palms sweating.
"Onee-sama!" Maria ran towards her "sister" and Kyoko bent low with a charming smile and her arms opened for a hug. Ren watched the two embrace and then Kyoko smiled as Maria chatted a mile a minute about something. He walked up slowly, not really wanting to stop watching her as she held the little girl's hands.
His heart throbbed at the thought of her with his child. She would teach their daughter how to cook and read her fairytales every night. He could hear her voice lecture their son to hurry up and get cleaned up for dinner then spoil him with a before dinner treat. Then she would look up from the child they created and into his face making his heart stop with her beautiful smile just like she did now.
"Hello, Tsuruga-san." She bowed in greeting.
Maria was holding onto Kyoko's hand with a huge smile on own face. She watched Ren's face change as he looked at her friend. He smiled that smile she'd seen before on the phone.
"Hello, Mogami-san. Are you ready to eat?" He asked with his voice soft and almost teasing.
Kyoko blushed slightly and nodded. It took a little bit to get there but once there, Ren was pleased at her reaction. They went to Seryna, a hot pot restaurant but one with very luxurious private rooms, a wide selection of food and the highest of quality cuts of meat. The outside looked simple but the moment they stepped in, there was a very dark red wood desk in front of a wall that didn't let you see into the restaurant.
The host was dressed in a crisp white long sleeve shirt and a black vest. She smiled brightly at them.
"Good afternoon, do you have reser…ah Takarada-ojou-sama. How are you today?" Both Ren and Kyoko were a little shocked that the hostess recognized little Maria.
"I'm happy because I'm going to have lunch with Ren-sama and Onee-sama. Can we get one of the big rooms?" She asked brightly sitting in Ren's arms.
"Of course, please come this way."
Kyoko felt woefully underdressed as they were escorted through the restaurant. There were several tables with a small electric coil in the middle of the table that made up the main part of the restaurant. Yet they weren't going to one of those. Nope, they went past all of the open area tables and into a back room with a thick maroon curtain covering the doorway.
The host held the curtain open for them and Kyoko entered a western decorated room with a dark brown table that sat six in a U-shaped cushioned bench. It was beautiful with paintings of old Japan and soft lighting. The host took away three of the place settings and bowed as they sat. Maria sat between the two of them, right in the center of the bench. She sat on her legs the way Kyoko would on the floor for extra height.
"Your server will be here in a moment. Please enjoy your meal," the professional hostess stated and left.
Kyoko fidgeted around and lightly straightened out her dress. Ren smiled at her discomfort. "They don't care how you are dressed, Mogami-san."
Maria looked over to Kyoko worried. "You don't like your dress, Onee-sama?"
Kyoko blushed and looked at Maria. "It's not that. I like this dress very much. I simply don't think it is proper for this restaurant. I didn't think you would pick someplace like this to go eat."
Maria looked at her confused. "Grandfather dresses anyway he wants and they always let us in. You look very pretty, right, Ren-sama?" She turned to Ren and noticed that he was staring at Kyoko.
"You look perfect," he said softly and Maria turned to find Kyoko's face a dark red. Before anyone else could speak again, their server came in for their order.
Maria actually ordered for them all asking for her "usual."
"Maria-chan, what if Mogami-san wants something different? This is her first time here," Ren gently chided her forwardness.
Maria was taken back and then turned to Kyoko. "It's got a lot of food, a little bit of everything, like beef and crab and lots of carrots. I like carrots but I don't like the green things. Grandfather eats all the green stuff and the pot is really big…" Maria held her arms out wide, "…like this big. Grandfather, Sen-sama and I can eat the whole thing."
"Sen-sama?" Kyoko asked having never heard of that name before.
"Grandfather's gentealman." It took a moment for Kyoko to figure out that she meant "gentlemen" or servant.
Oh! Sebastian. She thought and nodded her undertsanding and then turned to Ren. "I'm fine with whatever Maria orders. I'm sure it will be delicious." The server took their drink orders and left to put in their request.
Maria spoke about the things that were happening in her life to Kyoko as they waited. Their drinks came. Both Kyoko and Ren simply had water while Maria got a Shirley Temple.
"What is that? It looks like a cocktail." Kyoko looked at the reddish fizzy drink.
"It's soda and cherry syrup. Do you want to try it? Ren-sama gave it to me a long time ago." She held out the glass with both her hands. Kyoko looked up at Ren and he nodded.
"It was something I had as a kid and I thought she would like it," Ren tried to answer the question on her face, which he was pleased to see that he was right.
Kyoko took the glass and sipped it. She pressed her lips together at the taste. It was really sweet so she could understand why a child would enjoy it. It was also a rather pretty drink. Still the soda and sweetness was too much for her.
"You don't like it?" Maria asked.
"It's a little too sweet for me but you enjoy it right?" Kyoko smiled and Maria nodded taking the straw between her lips to drink more of the sweet soda.
"I heard that you two are acting together again. When is it going to show on TV?" Maria looked to both of them and they both looked confused.
"Maria-chan, we've only done Dark Moon together. The lasts show will be on in about a month," Ren answered and Maria shook her head.
"No, Grandfather was talking about Onee-sama being your sister. She is a good sister, huh, Ren-sama?" Both Ren and Kyoko looked down that little girl stunned. That was suppose to be a secret, yet the own president doesn't even watch his own mouth around his granddaughter.
"Ah… Maria, the role that I'm playing with Tsuruga-san is supposed to be a secret. It's only a LoveMe assignment. It's not a real show," Kyoko whispered quietly to her.
"Ehhh… really?" Maria whined, "It sounds like so much fun."
"Maria-chan, you have to promise not to tell anyone about Mogami-san acting as my sister, okay? It's to help me with my other role and they don't want the people to know it's me and her." Ren smiled charmingly at her and Maria's eyes widened with a sparkle as she nodded dreamingly.
Their food finally came. The server had to go back three times before all the food was there. First was a tray full of different cuts of meat; seafood, beef, pork and chicken were all cut up into small portions. The next was different types of vegetables: broccoli, squash, eggplant, diakon, mushrooms, leeks and there were a larger portion of carrots. It must have been a special order so Maria would eat something besides noodles and meat. Finally, there was large round tray of soba noodles they could mix into the pot.
Maria quickly started dumping things into the pot while Ren and Kyoko sat back and smiled watching her. After she was done more than half of the meat was inside the pot, a quarter of the noodles and only the carrots made it in.
"Maria, you should eat the other stuff too. Have you tried any of the other items on the tray?" Kyoko asked as she started to put in a little bit of everything into the pot.
Maria shook her head. "It's green! You shouldn't eat green food. It's not right." Kyoko sighed and looked at Ren for help. He shook his head, no.
"How do you know that green isn't good if you never had it before?"
"I have! I had this green ice cream that tasted like my toothpaste. Even with the bits of chocolate, it was gross." She made a sour face that Kyoko thought was adorable.
"Oh, well not everything green tastes like your toothpaste. You should be open to trying new things. Tsuruga-san likes trying new things, right?" She looked up at him pleadingly. Maria looked up at him.
"I do," Ren confirmed. "Mogami-san has introduced me to a lot of new dishes that she has made for me."
"You mean at the grateful party?" She cocked her head to the side curiously.
"Uh…" Kyoko spoke and Maria turned towards her. She was blushing and couldn't look at them. "I sometimes cook for him to make sure he eats." Maria watched Kyoko shift uncomfortably in her seat and didn't understand why she was so embarrassed. She cooked for over a hundred people at the party. Why would cooking for Ren be bad?
"And it's all very delicious. I appreciate it very much," Ren chimed in. Maria looked up at Ren and was amazed. Never in her life had she seen him so relaxed, so… happy. He was looking past her to Kyoko so she turned her attention to her "sister." Kyoko was a deep dark red and she hesitantly was taking a drink of her water as a distraction.
"Why do you call each other by your last names still?" Maria asked curious and she felt the room change slightly. Kyoko coughed slightly.
"It's out of respect," Kyoko replied with a dignifed pose. "You shouldn't call your senpai something else unless they give you permission to do so." Maria was about to ask but then Ren spoke.
"I've never asked you to call me Ren?" He looked at her curiously.
"No and I understand. I'm your kohai and until I'm worthy of acting beside you, I should be polite and proper. It was very rude of me to call out to you like that. But then I was either acting or angry at you at the time," she explained.
"You've been mad at him before?" Maria could never be mad at Ren. She didn't think there was a person alive that could be angry at him except maybe grandfather.
"Oh yes, he was mean to me a lot when we first met and still teases me today." She looked at him with a glare and Maria turned to find him chuckling softly.
"You're so easy to tease. I can't help it sometimes." He smiled that smile again.
"Bully!" She pushed his shoulder slightly and he smiled humorously. She picked up her chopsticks and checked the food. "We should eat before it over cooks."
The three of them started to pull out the food on their respective plates and put in more to cook while they ate. Maria still focus on the one item she still enjoyed and noticed that Ren only picked out a few of the ones he liked, compared to Kyoko who had more of the vegetables and noodles than meat.
"Ugh, you are both the same. You shouldn't focus on only the meat and Tsu…"
"Ren," he interrupted.
"Eh?" Both of them looked up at him.
"Please, call me Ren. I have given you a formal invitation to please call me by my first name. Now you have no excuses." Maria looked between both of them. He was smirking as he prepared his first bite and Kyoko was starting to turn red again.
"I can't call you that and you call me Mogami-san. It wouldn't be right," she countered.
"Then may I call you Kyoko?" He looked at her and his smile widened. Her flush was rushing back to her ears and she tried to hide her face behind her hand.
"Y…y…. yes, you could have always called me w…w… what ever you like," she stuttered in embarressment.
Maria felt like she wasn't in the room. Which for any normal 8-year-old child would be inconceivable but she was confused yet curious about the expressions between the two next to her. She watched Kyoko blush at the simplest comments that Ren made. She even blushed when he complimented her dress. She didn't blush when Maria had said she was pretty.
Kyoko also never minded Maria calling her sister either, so why would she get flustered with Ren called her Kyoko? It was even her stage name. Everyone called her Kyoko-san or chan. What was one more person?
Kyoko started asking questions to Ren about his day and what he has been doing, which he answered with an exuberance Maria hadn't seen before.
"Maria, aren't you going to eat?" Kyoko's voice drew her attention but not out of her thoughts.
"Yes. I was just… waiting for it to cool down." She picked up a piece of shrimp and ate it. They ate with mild chatter, most of which was from Ren and Kyoko. Maria really enjoyed being with each of them but thoughts plagued her mind. After her mother's funeral, she learned to be quiet and listen to what adults said. They often hid their true feelings behind their words.
Then being in LME, she was often ignored or simply not seen because she was a child, so the adults will talk about things and she learned to listen. That was how she found out about Kyoko playing Ren's sister. It was also how she found out how many women would mistreat Ren because he was a star.
Kyoko has always had the highest of respect or fear for Ren. Maria has never heard her talking about him like the other women did. Ren always seemed to avoid Kyoko as the topic of conversation whenever he was with Yukihito-sama, yet he always enjoyed talking about her. She always thought that perhaps Yukihito-sama liked her big sister.
Before she knew it, most of the food was gone and the server came in asking if they wanted dessert.
"I don't think I could eat anymore. If I can't, I doubt you could." Kyoko smiled at Ren and he laughed as he nodded in agreement. Maria watched the humor shared in their eyes and then Kyoko looked at her.
"Maria? Do you want any dessert?" she asked and Maria shook her head. Normally she saved room for it but in her absent minded thinking she'd eaten her fill from the meal. Ren asked for the check and Kyoko continued to talk to her.
"This was very good. Thank you Maria for this." Her hand played with her gold curls and Maria shook her head.
"Ren-sama is the one that wanted to eat," she corrected her and Kyoko looked at Ren, then flushed.
"Yes, of course. Thank you, Tsu…Ren-san," Kyoko said in a soft sincere voice and bowed down slightly. Maria turned to Ren and had her breath stolen away.
By the time Maria's mind started to function, she was already back in LME holding Kyoko's hand with Ren waving goodbye.
Maria started to look around in disbelief and Kyoko smiled down at her. "Welcome back, Maria."
"What…what happened?" she asked, scared.
Kyoko laughed. "You got a full dose of Tsuruga Ren's true smile." She paused for a moment. "It's blinding, isn't it?" Kyoko added with a sigh. Maria was looking up at her and saw Kyoko's face soften in thought and then gave an equally blinding smile herself.