Short Stories, Snow Princesses, and Mistletoe

Summary: It was already November, and Tsuruga Ren still hadn't found the perfect gift for Kyoko. What could he give her that would rival his gift from the previous year? Holiday story and first-date challenge fic

Disclaimer: I do not own SkipBeat, nor do I own The Gift of the Magi, or Disneyland, or any of the characters therein.

Chapter 6 – A Grateful Epilogue

"Are you still pouting, Lory," Jelly teased, giving the tall, handsome, distinguished, and often childish man a hug to soften her words. "You'll see them both tonight and then you'll know for sure how things went."

Takarada Lory knew that he had been sabotaged in his attempt to spy on that fateful night, but he still hadn't figured out who had sabotaged him. What he did know was that neither Ren nor Kyoko would provide a single detail about their first date.

He couldn't even get any good information from his own granddaughter, who he had enthusiastically allowed to stay for the night at the Daruma-Ya for the express purpose of getting all of the juicy details! Maria only answered vaguely that Kyoko, "didn't have much to say." That was it! Nothing about dinners, or fun, or kissing, or LOVE! They are both failures! They are truly my biggest disappointments.

His plan for The Gift of the Magi hadn't worked either. First it had been a chance to throw the pair together... he had even insisted on three kiss scenes! But they completed the filming with nary a glitch. Then, when he discovered that Akutagawa Shintaro had a history with Kyoko, he thought that Ren would become jealous enough to act... Lory still believed that the date was a result of that scheme, but since then... NOTHING! He had even thought about encouraging Shinataro instead. There had obviously been something there, or why else would the young director and Fuwa Sho have almost come to blows? But then: NOTHING AGAIN!

The film had been a success. The news media had spread wild rumors about Kyoko and the two combatants that came to nothing. The date had taken place. The news media had gone wild again. Then... silence. Akutagawa Shitaro had already flown home to Paris, where he had accepted the directorship of a promising new drama series. Fuwa Sho was in Sapporo, giving a Christmas concert.

And Ren and Kyoko? As far as he could tell, nothing had changed with them at all. Not even Yashiro, Lory's trusty partner in crime seemed to be able to get any clear information.

But tonight he, Takarada Lory, the King… no, the Emperor of Love, would have his revenge. Because as soon as the Grateful Party began, he would have his faithful minions hanging mistletoe everywhere imaginable. If those two troublesome children wouldn't start things on their own, then he would start it all for them!

The eccentric man burst out in a gale of dastardly laughter, shaking the windows of his executive office. Outside the door, Kotonami Kanae and Amamiya Chiori cringed and then turned to regard Jelly Woods. "He's doing it again," Kanae muttered.

"Don't worry, after tonight he'll be in seventh-heaven," Jelly answered, looking at the thick door tolerantly.

Chiori painted the picture in her mind of the eccentric president in seventh-heaven-mode… and she shuddered, "I'm not sure that will be better. I think that it's time for a vacation."

Kanae snorted, "Easy for you to say! At least you work for Soft Hat. I'm stuck here… and you know what will happen as soon as Kyoko reveals the truth, don't you?" Kanae's expression turned into that of a hunted animal, "He'll turn his focus on ME! So don't you even think about taking a vacation, Amamiya Chiori."

All three ladies jumped as enough fit of insane laughter burst through the thick wooden doors.


"There, finished," Kyoko said, stepping back from her newest chocolate creation.

"Bella! Perfetta!" Chef Nicolai said, kissing his fingers and splaying them out in a gesture of admiration, "You forget about the tall man! You marry me! We go back to Italia, have many children, start a cooking empire!"

Kyoko blushed profusely and stepped back from the effusive, rakish, and very hands-on Italian chef. "The dessert, Nicolai-san, just the dessert! Can you and your people recreate it?" A month before, she might have felt the need to flee the room, but Kyoko's confidence level had increased tremendously within the safety of Tsuruga Ren's affection (okay, safe is relative… at least she was safe from other men… right?).

The dark-haired man sighed dramatically, "You break my heart, beautiful one," when Kyoko scowled at him, he raised his hands in front of him in a gesture of surrender, "Yes, yes: the dessert. She is beautiful too, and yes, we can recreate your newest masterpiece. But just imagine the magic that you and I…" He stopped speaking when he realized that Kyoko was already halfway across the kitchen, walking towards the grand ballroom.

The grand ballroom of the Takarada Mansion was enormous. Which was good, considering that the place was currently being turned into a life-sized reproduction of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory (Choose your favorite of the two movies and fill in the rest yourself; it's more fun that way). Kyoko never ceased to be amazed at what Takarada Lory's imagination (and money) could create. She and Maria had begun with the basic idea, but this year they had both been so busy that they had to allow the consummate party guru to take over in many areas. Maria still reserved the right to coordinate the music, and Kyoko was the unquestionable queen of the menu, but the rest… well, the rest you would have to see for yourself to believe.

Despite giving the bulk of the design work to the President, the two girls were still very much in charge. At the moment little Maria was on a high-lift, supervising the completion of the minor details for the seven-meter chocolate waterfall. She saw Kyoko and waved enthusiastically before switching back into superintendent-mode. Kyoko smiled adoringly at the little girl whose golden curls drifted out of the back of her safety helmet. She gets more beautiful every year. It's a good thing that she isn't closer to Ren's age…

Kyoko blushed at the thought of her tall sempai… turned boyfriend. Since that first date they had gone out a total of ten times, not to mention the fact that Ren seemed to always find time in his busy schedule to swing by her work location, or the Daruma-Ya. She giggled as she thought about all of the effort that he had put into winning the Taisho's approval, even sweeping the restaurant's yard and climbing on the roof to clean the gutters. What made it all even more funny to Kyoko was that she knew that the Taisho had given his approval for more than a week before he finally informed Ren of the fact… just to make the tall actor squirm.

It warmed Kyoko's heart to think that anyone would go to so much effort just to be near her. No flowers, or dates, or presents could have ever accomplished what that simple act had accomplished. Perhaps the Taisho knew that too, and that was why he was so harsh on poor Ren. Regardless, what mattered now was that Kyoko was finally open to the possibility of a lasting relationship… and perhaps, just maybe, she was open to reconsider her stance on that most dangerous of emotions.

By mutual agreement, however, they hadn't told Takarada Lory, or Yashiro Yukihito, anything. Having been made aware of the two men's attempts to spy on their first date, the couple decided to take their revenge in the most profound manner possible… through silence. And so, even though their date had made the news channels and more than half a million blogs, tweets, etc., they refrained from going public.


The party was going full-swing at 11:45pm and Kyoko's greatest enjoyment was in watching Maria having such fun on her birthday. This year she had invited a schoolmate for the first time… a boy… who was bewildered by the extravagance of everything, but clearly enamored with Maria.

Kyoko and Ren had deliberately kept away from each other throughout December 24th, despite every attempt of Takarada Lory to trap them together under a sprig of mistletoe. Kyoko wanted to be close to her handsome boyfriend, but she agreed that it was fun to watch the president squirm. In a way, she felt bad for him… but not as bad as she felt when she saw this girl or that girl trying to capture Ren's attention.

Kotonami Kanae stepped up beside her and muttered, "If you keep staring, you'll give everything away, Kyoko." Kyoko jumped and turned, but Kanae held up a commanding hand before her friend could hug her, "If you think that I'm going to allow you to attack me after you tricked me into eating all of these ridiculously good desserts, you have another think coming!" She took another bite of chocolate mousse to emphasize her point.

Kyoko grinned, "That's okay, Moko-san. Now that we both have memberships at the health spa, we can spend even more time together. Why don't we meet there at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning?"

Kanae blanched, and then glared… though the effect was somewhat lost due to the dollop of chocolate that had melted at the side of her mouth, "Don't even think about waking me up at that time of the morning, I…"

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of all ages," Lory's deep, disembodied voice could be heard all around, "We are almost at the conclusion of the first half of our night, but now we prepare for the countdown for Christmas Day, and also the birthday of one of our most beloved LME members." Everyone looked up as a light illuminated Takarada Lory floating down from high above, dressed in his finest Willy Wonka suit.

"That's it," Kanae said hastily, handing Kyoko her empty dish, "Once he starts that, you're on your own. Otherwise he'll turn on me next." Kanae began to fade into the crowd. Kyoko was prepared to give chase, but then a spotlight illuminated her and she froze.

"MOGAMI KYOKO, please step forward as we prepare to celebrate this momentous occas…" Lory stopped speaking when a long arm suddenly reached into the light and yanked Kyoko into the darkness. Several women screamed and the searchlight began to scan the room, but no trace of Kyoko could be seen. Lory completed his descent to the spot where Kyoko had been and promptly ordered, "Turn on all of the lights!"

Nobody complied.

But from the stage where the band had been set up, a rich, melodious music-box played "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Faeries." The spotlight illuminated a large, ornately made snow-globe music box. In the center of the globe, spinning slowly in the falling snow, was an amazing replica of Mogami Kyoko, dressed in all white, with an almost-angelic expression on her face. It was an remarkable piece of art, but it wasn't what made Takarada Lory's eyes fill with happy tears.

Because behind the music box, under the mistletoe, Tsuruga Ren and Mogami Kyoko were kissing… and from the look of things, they weren't planning to stop anytime soon.

Merry Christmas to all; God bless us, every one.

Notes: This concludes my late Christmas gift to the romantics out there. I hope that I have fulfilled all of the requirements of the First Date Challenge, and I hope that all of you will enjoy a wonderful 2012.