Hi everyone! Well, first off, I want to thank you all for clicking on the link. I didn't think I would start on another story so soon, but I had to get this one down. It's something that came to mind recently, so I'm still working through the kinks. Hopefully you'll like the start of this one and stick with it until the very end. Thanks again everyone! Please Read and Review!
Disclaimer: I do not own Skip Beat or any of its characters.
"Have you had it?"
"Of course I have! Have you?"
"No, but don't worry, I'm not affected by it at all. I'm prepared—had a shot and everything."
"That's good. President Lory won't let anyone who has it or hasn't had it work at all today. He even sent out an email to warn everyone."
"Really? That's good though. After all, I heard it's quite contagious. Better safe than sorry, right?"
"Right. I mean, it can get pretty nasty. I remember when I had it. Let's just say I'm happy that it's over and done with."
"Me too! No need to relive such a horrible memory. I don't think I was ever so splotchy and red in my life."
"You said it."
The girls laughed reminiscently as they grabbed their cups of hot tea from the vending machine and gradually made their way down the corridor. But while on their stroll toward their office, they passed by a young girl in a pink LoveMe uniform who had been listening in on their conversation since the beginning. She had quite a puzzled look on her face while holding a mop in her hand that seemed to be slipping out of her weak grasp. She was so curious about their conversation that she completely forgot she had a task to finish. However, before she could ask them what they had meant, an irritated voice suddenly called from behind her:
At the sound of her name, Mogami Kyoko whipped her head around and saw her best friend/other LoveMe member, Kotonami Kanae, approach her with a scowl upon her face. "What are you doing?" she asked impatiently with crossed arms. "I've been looking all over for you! How could you leave me to clean the bathroom all by myself?"
Kyoko smiled guiltily. "Sorry, Moko-san! I was sort of—distracted."
"I can tell," Kanae replied coldly with narrowed eyes as she stood in front of her. "You just walked out of there with this weird look on your face without telling me anything!"
"Because I heard something really odd, Moko-san!" Kyoko replied hastily to appease her clearly aggravated friend. "Which reminds me, did you get an email from the company about something going on today?"
"Email?" Kanae repeated with a raised eyebrow. "I haven't checked. Why?"
"Apparently, President Lory sent something important to everyone."
"About what?" Kanae asked with all frustration wiped clean from her face.
"That's what I wanted to know. A couple of girls walked by talking about it so I followed them out, but what they said didn't make any sense at all."
Kanae placed her hands on her hips. "So you basically abandoned me to follow a couple of girls to eavesdrop, and in the end came back with nothing?" she asked with a dark glare.
Kyoko laughed nervously while running a hand through her orange hair. "Well, if you say it like that…"
Kanae smacked her on the shoulder and yelled, "MO! You're the worst!"
"I'm sorry, Moko-san! I'm so sorry! I'll make it up to you! I'll clean the rest!"
"No need," Kanae said with a sniff as she turned around and walked in the other direction. "You've helped enough."
Kyoko ran after her irritated friend with the wet mop trailing down the corridor, leaving a trail of soapy water on the clean floor. "I'll help! I promise I'll help!"
"I'll swab the floor! I'll clean the sinks!"
"I'll wipe the mirrors! I'll take out the trash!"
"I'll clean the toilets!"
"Fine. You can clean the toilets."
Kyoko blinked a couple times in surprise at the abrupt change in tone before smiling gratefully. "Thanks, Moko-san," she said in a relief-filled voice.
Kanae didn't reply. She just continued on her way, trying her very best to conceal the sly smile upon her face for getting exactly what she wanted. Although a part of her felt sort of guilty for tricking Kyoko into caving in, the larger part of her knew she deserved it. This was Kyoko's punishment for leaving Kanae all by her lonesome in the men's restroom.
Kyoko eventually fell in step with Kanae and noticed that her friend was no longer annoyed. In fact, she even seemed to be slightly happier than before. So with a pleased smile at the corner of her lips, Kyoko followed Kanae back towards the bathroom without a word of complaint of what she had to do in exchange. After all, Kyoko was used to these types of tasks so cleaning the urinals and stalls were not a big deal to her in the slightest.
However, before they entered the restroom, they suddenly spotted the LME talent manager, Sawara-san, strolling up to them with a friendly smile upon his face.
"Hello girls! It's nice to see you bright and early. I guess you are both cleared since you're here working."
"Cleared of what?" Kyoko and Kanae asked simultaneously.
Sawara-san stared at them with wide eyes. "You don't know?"
They shook their head, quite irked that everyone seemed to know what was going on except for the two of them. As if they weren't excluded enough by just being members of the LoveMe group, but now they were not even aware of company policy? Kyoko and Kanae were not happy at all.
"Well, I guess it's not that big of a deal since the infection isn't life-threatening or anything, but I'm surprised you two haven't heard."
Kyoko glared and with a stifling, dark aura swirling around her tense stance, she whispered quietly, "Sawara-san…"
"Y-y-y-y-yes, Mogami-san?" he stammered in fear as he stared into her fiery eyes.
"Will you please explain what is going on instead of pointing out the obvious fact of how unaware we are?"
Kanae crossed her arms in agreement.
Sawara-san laughed nervously and made a flailing notion of his hand as he exclaimed in haste, "No! No! It's nothing too big! It's just another outbreak of the chickenpox!"
"Yes," Sawara-san replied, grateful that Kyoko's mood was becoming lighter, "it seems that there are some people infected with chickenpox this week. Therefore, President Lory sent out a notice for those who have it to stay home and those who haven't had it to get a vaccine as soon as possible since it's really easy to get it once someone else has it."
Kyoko made a giant "O" of understanding with her mouth as she said, "That makes perfect sense! Red, splotchy, itchy…that was what the other girls meant!"
"Um…right," Sawara-san replied uncertainly at a complete loss as to what she was referring to. "So have you had the chickenpox yet, Mogami-san?"
Kyoko nodded. "A long time ago though."
She turned to Kanae. "You've had it before, right Moko-san?"
Kanae pursed her lips in thought.
"I don't really know, but I don't think so. So no, I haven't."
Sawara-san and Kyoko froze.
"You…haven't…had it?" Kyoko murmured in a strangely soft voice, but her eyes seemed to grow larger by the second.
Kanae confusedly looked back and forth between the two people in front of her and shook her head. "No," she replied slowly, drawing out the word. "I haven't."
"OH MY GOD!"
Then with a bear-like grip around Kanae's slim wrist, Kyoko bolted down the hall at lightning speed, leaving a very dazed talent manager with her mop in his hand and forgetting everything around her except for the sole mission of getting her best friend out of the chickenpox-infected building. With the intent to save her from impending doom, Kyoko dragged Kanae along like a rag-doll, not even noticing how her friend was barely able to keep up and was practically gasping for air.
After a sprint down three flights of stairs (Kyoko was too impatient to wait for the elevator), Kanae had had enough of all the running and forcefully dug her heels into the floor. Kyoko screeched to a halt, spinning around abruptly and gasping, "WHAT—ARE YOU—DOING? YOU—NEED—OUT OF HERE—NOW!"
Kanae painfully leaned over on her knees as she panted heavily, "WOULD YOU—CALM—DOWN?"
"What do you mean calm down?" Kyoko exclaimed in exasperation. "You haven't had the chickenpox! YOU'RE GOING TO GET SICK!"
"I'm nowhere near anyone who has it!" Kanae yelled back defensively, swiftly standing in an upright position. "How could I possibly get it?"
Kyoko spluttered incoherent noises of disbelief before she said, "The air! You can get it from the air!"
"Since when is chickenpox airborne?" Kanae asked angrily.
"I DON'T KNOW!" Kyoko responded in a pitchy voice. "All I know is that you have to get out of here!"
"I am not going to run around like a lunatic!" Kanae replied adamantly with a shake of her head. "Besides, I'm not going to let this little sickness thingy prevent me from working."
Kyoko froze, not believing what she just heard. When it came to health, Kyoko was the biggest stickler on earth. Therefore, according to this strong-willed girl, there was nothing more important than someone's well-being so with a deep exhale, Kyoko relaxed her tense shoulders and said in the calmest voice she could muster, "You don't care if you get sick?"
"I WON'T get sick."
Realizing that persuading Kanae when she was so stubborn would be impossible, Kyoko decided to take another route—a route she knew that her friend could not ignore.
"I guess you're right," Kyoko admitted thoughtfully.
Kanae stared. "I am? I mean, of course I am! It's just a little chickenpox!"
Kyoko smiled brightly. "Right, right, just a little chickenpox. What harm can it cause?"
Kanae crossed her arms triumphantly. "Exactly."
"No harm done at all," Kyoko continued slowly as she averted her gaze. "Well, except for your face."
And to her utmost satisfaction, she heard Kanae's sharp intake of breath.
"What do you mean my face? What's going to happen to my face?" she demanded in a pitchy voice.
"Nothing! Nothing!" Kyoko said with her hands raised as she turned back to her now-pale friend. "Except that it might be covered with itchy, red pimples that could leave scars."
Kanae shrieked at the top of her lungs with her hands on each side of her face.
"Exactly!" Kyoko urged on, dropping her fake tone when she realized how Kanae was finally able to understand the seriousness of this problem. "That's why you can't have the chickenpox!"
"MY FACE!" Kanae moaned in horror. "I CAN'T HAVE THAT HAPPEN TO MY FACE! I'M AN ACTRESS!"
Kyoko nodded vigorously. "Right! Right! How can you go on television with all those bumps?"
"No, you can't! And you don't want to ruin your career, do you?"
"So you have to get of here, right?" Kyoko pressed, nearly jumping up and down from excitement. "For the sake of your face?"
"Of course!" Kanae agreed quickly as she began to walk towards the exit. "I have to get out here!"
"Well then, come on!" Kyoko exclaimed enthusiastically as she began to run to the lobby. "We can't waste any time!"
So with Kanae willingly running after her, Kyoko dashed down the very last hall before entering the lobby. And with the front doors of the building in plain sight, Kyoko frantically ran towards what she deemed to be safety. They were only a few feet away! Just a couple of more steps and they were home free! Just—!
And as if life wanted to spice things up a bit, a tall figure suddenly appeared from what seemed to be out of nowhere right in front of the moving door. Before she could even think about stopping, Kyoko ran right into the person, hitting him squarely in the chest. But when she was about to bounce back from the impact, two strong arms suddenly wrapped around her waist and held her upright.
"Where's the fire?" an amused voice asked with a soft chuckle.
Kyoko whipped her head up and gasped in surprise as she found herself staring into the brown eyes of none other than Tsuruga Ren!
"I'm so sorry, Tsuruga-san!" she exclaimed in horror at her mistake.
Ren laughed. "It's okay, Mogami-san. Is everything alright?"
And right on cue, Kanae came huffing up with her dark hair all ruffled and messy as she leaned over on her knees once again in exhaustion.
Ren stared down at her bent figure in surprise. "Hello, Kotonami-san," he said with wide eyes.
She weakly waved a hand in greeting without even bothering to raise her head.
"What's going on?" Ren asked with a raised eyebrow as he turned his attention back to Kyoko, who was still safe in the embrace of his arms.
"That's what I wanted to know," another male voice replied. And with a pleased smile, Yashiro Yukihito walked up from behind Ren. "I leave you alone for a couple of minutes and I find you like this," he pointed out as he looked at the intimate stance between Ren and Kyoko.
Blushing profusely, Kyoko jumped back in shock. She could feel her heart thumping loudly against her chest and her thoughts becoming fuzzier by the second just from the memory of his scent. Kyoko shook her head vigorously.
"I'm so sorry!"
Ren only laughed in response, all the while making a mental note to kill Yashiro later.
By now though, Kanae had finally caught her breath and was now standing in a proper position. When Ren saw her breathing normally, he asked in a casual tone, "In a rush, Kotonami-san?"
"Tsuruga-san," Kyoko said in surprise at his nonchalant inquiry, "you don't know?"
He turned back to her. "Know what?"
"The chickenpox," Kanae replied in shock at the fact that the number one actor in the agency had no idea what was going on within his own agency.
"Oh!" Ren said in understanding. "That's why you're running around? Yes, I know about it. I'm guessing you haven't had the chickenpox then?"
"I have," Kyoko answered. "But Moko-san hasn't."
"And I NEED to get out of here," she replied firmly. "I will not jeopardize my face."
Yashiro laughed. "Your face?"
"Yes, my face!" Kanae said indignantly. "I can't ruin my face!"
Ren smiled widely, clearly amused.
"What about you, Tsuruga-san? Yashiro-san? Have you guys had it?" Kyoko asked curiously.
"I have," Ren replied, "when I was nine."
"And I'm going to get a shot right after this," Yashiro said, motioning to his arm.
Kyoko nodded, happy that these two were prepared for the outbreak.
"Well," Kanae said with a fluid toss of her hair over her shoulder, "since you guys are protected, I'm going to go. So I'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay, Moko-san," Kyoko said as she gave her friend a hug. "Get a lot of rest!"
"Mo, I'm not sick!" Kanae answered irritably as she shook out of the awkward embrace. "Don't jinx me!"
Kyoko smiled sheepishly and nodded.
Then with one last farewell to Ren and Yashiro, Kanae calmly exited the building. Kyoko watched her friend safely walk away, feeling a wave of relief wash over her. At least now Kanae was going to be far from the chickenpox and that was all that mattered.
Then from what seemed to be out of the blue, Yashiro suddenly reached into the front pocket of his suit in one swift motion and exclaimed, "Oh Ren! Before I forget, here's the cream you wanted."
Ren glared darkly. "Couldn't this have waited, Yashiro?" he asked in a voice that sounded polite enough, but clearly had a menacing tone underneath. He was absolutely humiliated—talking about an ointment in public was practically taboo and to make it worse, it was in front of the girl he loved!
Yashiro smiled cruelly as he grasped the tube in his hand. "I told you; I didn't want to forget."
"Cream?" Kyoko piped in. "For what?"
"He has a bug bite," Yashiro answered with a smirk.
Kyoko raised an eyebrow. "You have bugs in your apartment?"
"Of course not!" Ren replied defensively. "I probably got it from walking outside. Mosquitoes or something."
Yashiro nodded. "Right," he said sarcastically.
"Mosquitoes? There aren't any mosquitoes around this time," Kyoko pointed out. "That can't be it, Tsuruga-san."
He chuckled with a shake of his head that seemed to imply as if he was chiding a young child. "Of course it is, Mogami-san. What else could have bit me?"
She frowned, obviously doubtful of his reasoning. "Where is the bite?"
Ren blinked in surprise at her extremely forward question. Wasn't she aware of the fact that it was going to be on his body? His flesh? His naked skin?
But pushing that promiscuous thought to the farthest part of his mind, Ren reached a hand up to his collarbone and answered, "It's right around here."
"Let me see," Kyoko pressed.
Yashiro's eyes bugged out of his head as Ren said in an oddly shaky voice, "Y-y-y-you want to see?"
"Yes," she replied, evidently confused by their reaction. "I want to see what kind of bite it is."
"Well, what are you waiting for, Ren?" Yashiro urged quickly, giving Ren an encouraging push from behind. "Show her."
With a heart that seemed to be on the verge of jumping right out of his chest, Ren raised a trembling hand to the top buttons of his navy-blue shirt and began to un-loop the first two. Pulling down the fabric, he revealed a part of his collarbone to Kyoko who was already leaning in to get a closer look.
Ren watched her eyebrows furrow in concentration as she gazed at the red pimple-like lump on his skin. He was nearly hyperventilating when he saw how close her face was.
And as if he wasn't going crazy enough, Kyoko suddenly ran a slender finger over the bump, giving Ren an electric shock right to his heart (and making him feel slightly itchy).
"What do you think, Kyoko-chan?" Yashiro asked with a wide grin, amused to his very core at how things were unfurling with his favorite soon-to-be couple—not to mention Ren's edgy stance.
But Kyoko didn't respond. She just stared at the supposed "bite" with eyes that seemed to have frozen over.
Quite worried, Ren snapped himself out of his nervousness and lowered his head just a tad to stare at her face. "Mogami-san, what's wrong?"
She slowly shook her head.
"You're wrong," she murmured.
"Wrong about what?"
"This," Kyoko whispered, running a finger over the bump again.
Ren's heart throbbed painfully from her touch. "The bite? What about it?" he asked in a strained voice, starting to feel a little itchier.
"It's not a bite."
"It's not?" Yashiro asked in surprise.
Ren stopped. "Then what is it?"
Kyoko raised her gaze and stared at him with wide eyes.