Skip Beat: The best Christmas present

I know I should be working on all my other projects, but it's that time again. Christmas. And I don't want to leave this holiday without another great story for that Yuletide time. So this one kind of popped in my head. (and just like last year, it probably wont be done in time for the holidays :p)

In the manga, Maria was focused on during Christmas. She needed it and Kyoko helped her. But I was always curious. What were her feelings on the holiday? Not just the fact that her birthday fell on the same day. But the day her mother had her…her mother, that as the manga potrays it thus far, doesn't care and possibly abused her. This is a story of forgiveness and love.

I don't own Skip Beat, nor would I want to I'm better at fanfiction anyway ^v^

Merry Christmas!

-Kate

Chapter 1: another Christmas

"have a Holly, Jolly Christmas

It's the best time of the year

I don't know

If there'll be snow

But have a cup of cheer!

Have a holly, jolly Christmas

And when you walk down the street

Say hello

To friends you know

And everyone you meet."

"this is absolute garbage!"

Kenae quickly shut off the radio and turned to Kyoko in a huff, crossing her arms over the pink jumpsuit she wore angrily,

"have a holly, jolly Christmas? Does this singer actually think that people are like that during this time of year?"

Kyoko said nothing but stared ahead, her amber eyes vacant and empty. Kenae didn't understand what was going on so she continued,

"I mean, nobody really cares for one another like that on this holiday! It's just some stupid commercial holiday to make people buy other people something!"

Kyoko felt a stab go through her as a faint memory appeared,

"you don't matter anymore Kyoko, just because you were born on Christmas. Nobody cares about you. Don't be so selfish."

She clenched her fists and Kenae bent down to her oddly quiet friend,

"Kyoko? Are you alright?"

Kyoko gave no response.

"Kyoko?"

Kyoko heard Kenae calling her. She didn't want her friend to see her cry though.

'it's just another Christmas. Nothing important. I should be grateful…yeah…I don't get all caught up in it like other people do…I should be grateful…grateful.'

At that, she perked up,

"oh! Where's Maria? I'm sure we'll be doing another Grateful party this year."

Kenae was shocked. Her friend's frown was gone, replaced by a beaming smile. Meanwhile, Kyoko was thinking to herself as she flew down the hallway, moving as fast as her LoveMe uniform would allow,

'I can throw myself into it again. It'll come and go before I know it. And once it's over? I'll enjoy my birthday with Moko-san and Tsuruga-san, and all will be right in the world once more.'

'I wont spend Christmas alone. I cant.'

She gave a bright smile and gave a skip toward the President's office, waiting to see the little curly haired girl she'd come to see as her sister,

'Maria doesn't realize that the Grateful party is not just to help her. No one realizes it. and I don't want them too. It's just another Christmas. Just another Christmas.'

Before long, she had stepped off the elevator and into the Presidents' office. She stared in wonder as the entire office bristled with wind and snow. She turned in wonder at the over decorated evergreen trees that sparkled with ornaments of different size and colors. Her amber eyes went wide with wonder at the fairytale set up. She could see small people that reminded her of children that were eagerly hammering on wooden trains and painting them in all sorts of fascinating colors. Her eyes began to glow as her mind approached the fairy kingdom,

"this is incredible! It's like a beautiful factory full of fairies and happiness!"

"actually Mogami-kun…it's Santa's workshop."

She spun around to see the President standing there. he wore a long red robe that trailed down long behind him and her wore a long red suit frilled with white fur. The only thing he was missing was the mustache, deciding that his was better, Kyoko smiled, albeit a little forcefully,

"r-right. Santa's workshop."

Lory couldn't help but notice in the bitter tone which she repeated it back to him, but it quickly dissolved as flowers sprouted out around her and she asked in a bright tone,

"where's Maria? I have some new ideas for the Grateful party this year and would love to discuss them with her."

Lory felt his face drop with resignation. He knew he'd have to tell her, but he was just trying to avoid this to avoid her disappointment,

"I'm sorry Mogami-kun. Maria wont be here this year for Christmas."

Kyoko looked at him, her eyes going wide and misty. She fought back tears as she hesitantly asked,

"why?"

Lory fought back tears of his own, as he remembered the little girl who would run around and cause mischief and mayhem everywhere she went. Then he smiled as he remembered where she was now.

"her dad finally got settled in America. Now that he's secure, Maria went back to live with him. she's going to school and is actually becoming interested in the acting school there. she told me to give you this letter, to open when you "finally understand"

At the look Kyoko gave him, he raised up his hands in defense,

"don't ask me! I'm just following orders. Here is her new e-mail. You can e-mail her anytime. I'm sure she'll be happy to get a letter from her older sister?"

Kyoko nodded, her face and body mechanical. She was happy for Maria, but…

"what'll I do now? I can't throw myself into anything to keep myself from thinking about…that holiday."

She choked back the tears in her throat and bowed slightly to the President,

"thank you."

She turned and walked out of the office, not daring to look anyone in the eye. She found herself a small cupboard and crawled inside, her stomach twisting in knots and the lump in her throat becoming unbearable. She closed the door tightly and when she was sure she was alone, she cried.

"what am I going to do now? that holiday approaches faster and faster, and without work (because we leave for holiday break in three days) or Maria to focus my attention…what am I going to do? there's nowhere for me to hide! When Christmas comes…I'll have to face it."

"nobody cares about you Kyoko. Nobody wants you. You're just some stupid Christmas present that I wish Santa could take back!"

She pulled out her Corn stone and held it tightly in her fists,

"Corn. I need you now. please take away these feelings. It's coming again! And without Maria, I cant focus on anyone or anything to keep from these sad feelings I always feel! Please take them away! Please!"

She cried even harder as she held the Corn stone tighter in her fists.

Now she thought she was alone, she thought no one could hear her. But it happened that a certain actor was looking for his favorite kohai and actress. He had originally gone to the LoveMe room to hear from Kotonami-san that she had gone to see the President. The President told him that he told her of Maria's moving away and she left. He walked down the hallowed halls of the office until he heard it.

Quiet, soft sobs that wrenched at his heart. They shot through him like bullets, tearing his heart and soul. Only one cry could do that.

He had first heard a cry that desperate long ago. Back in a forgotten old forest of Kyoto, where he had first encountered the young girl crying that same cry because of her mother. He sprinted down the hall in the direction of the cry, wanting franticly to find her. He needed to find her. His soft shoes barely made a sound on the marble floor. He passed by an old storage closet when he heard her,

"Corn. I need you now. please take away these feelings. It's coming again! And without Maria, I cant focus on anyone or anything to keep from these sad feelings I always feel! Please take them away! Please!"

He wanted to do nothing more than jump in the closet and wrap her in his arms, comforting her. Stroking her soft hair with his hands and letting her cry so she could cease her tears naturally. That was what always calmed her in the past. But he couldn't. she rejected love. If he showed it to her, she'd be scared and he'd do more harm than good. But as another cry wrenched at his heart, he couldn't help it.

He threw open the cupboard door. Kyoko was shocked but could do nothing as she felt a pair of strong arms wrap around her. It was too dark to see the face, and too dark to see the person, but the feeling she felt in the arms told her she was safe. She tried to stop crying, knowing nobody liked it when she cried. She held it in her breath until she heard a soft voice in her ear say quietly,

"its okay Kyoko. You can cry. I'll be here for you. Don't hold it in. it's okay."

Kyoko clenched the mans shirt and breathed in his soft scent of evergreen pine trees and slight peppermint. She felt comforted by the smell of this man and she cried until she thought she could cry no more. She hiccupped, her tears becoming more erratic.

Ren waited patiently until she finished. He knew that she needed to cry it all out. He remembered her once telling him when she was young that no one liked it when she cried. Her mom used to hit her when she did, and Sho-chan (her prince) would freeze up like a statue. So to satisfy them, she wouldn't cry until she was alone. It hurt more, but it didn't inconvience anyone.

He held her tighter as he told her it was okay for her to cry. Since then she'd yet to stop. When she began hiccupping, her breath becoming sporadic and harsh, he rubbed her back in a circle to regulate it once again. He didn't know how long he held her there, but he sat there, in that cramped closet, just holding her there.

When she was done, she felt uncomfortable. She had cried all over this man, and he had asked for nothing from her. Surely he'd want an explanation? She opened her mouth to explain when she heard his soft voice say in her ear,

"you don't need to explain yourself. If you want to, I'll listen, but only if you want to. Don't feel like you have to do anything Kyoko. I'll be here whether you tell me or not."

He wanted to know. He wanted to know what was making her this upset, and he knew if he asked, she would tell him. But he couldn't. She was far too precious for her to think that she had to tell him.

Kyoko gave a soft smile, her first of the day as the pressure of another person around her fell away. She clung to him tighter and said quietly,

"I want to tell you."

His heart soared. He wondered briefly if she could hear it pounding and flying through his chest, but if she did, she made no indication as she stuttered and finished,

"I want to tell you. But I cant see you, so I don't know if I know you. Can you tell me who you are?"

Ren was shocked to find the closet dark. It didn't seem that way to him, but most of the time his eyes were shut anyway, he didn't want to push himself on her, so he kept his eyes shut to keep himself under control. She needed him now. He gave a small laugh and whispered to her,

"I'm your friend Kyoko-chan. You can tell me anything. It's Ren-san."

A quick flash of fear shot through Kyoko as she realized who was holding her. But as quick as it came, it evaporated. He was here, for her. If she jumped away, he'd surely be upset and think that she was ungrateful.

"thank you Tsuruga-san for your kindness."

A genuine smile graced her lips and even in the dark, Ren could sense it. he was still a little annoyed that she refused to call him anything but 'Tsuruga-san' but…that smile that she held more than made up for it.

"you're welcome Mogami-san. Now, what is it that's bothering you?"

Kyoko turned to him,

"Christmas."

She answered simply. Ren was shocked. She never seemed to have a problem with Christmas before…what was she hiding?

"Mogami-san? Can you be more specific?"

He could hear the strain in her voice as she responded,

"Christmas…is never a happy holiday. My mother used to call it, the day she received a present she never wanted. That's why I spent it at the ryukon on Christmas Eve. Because when day came…mother would pick me up…and…"

She cringed as she remembered the distinct smell of alcohol that would linger on her mother's breath as she dragged her away from the Fuwas. Then her mother would…she didn't want to think about it.

Ren thought about this for a minute feeling the small girl cringe beneath him. She never talked more about her mothers abuse, not even to Corn. But he would always remember the haunting words what little Kyoko had told him of her mother,

"I'm so stupid! Mother will never love me! Maybe that's why she hurts me, it's my fault."

He tightened his grip on her,

"she's wrong."

He said, keeping the spite that he felt for the woman out of his tongue. He didn't want to let Kyoko think he was mad at her as he clenched her tightly, trying to lock them away in a world where her mother could do no harm.

Kyoko felt a blush creeping up on her neck and she suppressed the feelings that were daring to rise in her. She choked back a dry sob and said glumly,

"I wish…I could believe that."

Ren didn't know how to respond. He waited until Kyoko said that she was okay and that she was ready to go home. He led her to the car, and she climbed in the back. He figured that Yashiro was probably long gone by now and confirmed that as he looked at the neon clock in his car that said

10:00

He was shocked that he had spent over three hours consoling Kyoko. He watched her from the corner of his eye as she laid her head down on the seat. She told him of how she wished that Maria was still there, so she could help her celebrate her birthday and Christmas by the Grateful party,

"it feels better on Christmas, when I help others. I can push away my feelings and feed off of their happiness. I'd rather not even think about my own Christmas. Christmas Eve is nice…but Christmas…was…never a happy day."

He clenched the steering wheel as he heard her softly begin to sigh behind him. He could see as she curled herself in a ball.

"please Mother. I promise I didn't mean to. Please don't."

She cringed and Ren had no doubt she was experiencing a bad memory of Christmas. He clenched the steering wheel tighter, trying to keep a reign on his emotions,

'I don't know what this woman did to her. But for someone to have that type of view of Christmas? I just wish there was someway I could help.'

He thought and pondered on this before he noticed the small stone she clenched tighter,

"Corn."

She muttered. His heart soared with hope and he pulled into the vacant lot of the restaurant where she stayed before putting the car into park and staring at her restless face. he placed a hand over hers and noticed immediately how cold they were. He was about to pull away when he noticed that she had taken his hand and was holding onto it tightly, her knuckles white from the strain on her muscles.

"don't let me go. please, don't let me face her alone Corn."

He knelt down and whispered to her,

"never Kyoko. I wont let you go. you wont be hurt by her again, I promise."

He heard her respond softly,

"I just don't want this to be… just another Christmas."

He nodded. He didn't want to be "just another Christmas" either.

"you've taken care of everyone else on Christmas Kyoko. Wont you let someone take care of you?"

He asked, struggling to keep the break from his voice,

She responded in her sleep once more,

"no. I'm too scared. My mother never cared about me on Christmas. Most of the time, she'd go away and leave me by myself or lock me in my room after hurting me. Shotaro's family never cared about me on Christmas. They would celebrate Christmas Eve with me, but when she returned they did nothing but let her take me away. They celebrated my birthday, but I never heard "Merry Christmas." from them. I cant trust anyone on this day. If they hurt me…I don't know what I'll do."

His heart broke. Well, more like shattered. He couldn't imagine the rejection that this girl had gone through. At that point his heart bled for the young woman and he rubbed his other hand on her arm.

"I promise you Kyoko. I will give you the Christmas a perfect girl like you deserves."

He climbed out of the car and gathered the young woman in his arms. He knocked on the door and was shocked (and a little frightened) as the Taisho opened the door. He glanced at Ren before turning his attention to the sleeping girl in his arms. Ren paled as he noticed the knife that he held close to him and he rapidly explained the situation.

The Taisho kept himself from laughing as the boy took the tired young girl upstairs. He could see the young man before him shaking with fear and he gave a small smile at his back,

'I really like this one. Hopefully he'll be good for her. I just have to make sure he knows his place.'

Ren tucked the tired and emotionally exhausted girl into bed. He slipped the small stone from her hand and placed on the desk next to her. He gave her one more smile and squeezed her hand before leaving. At the bottom of the stairs he met Taisho's glare.

'I've an idea to give her the best Christmas…but I need his permission first.'

He mustered up all the courage he could and looked at the man's cool dark eyes,

"may I speak to you for a second Taisho-san?"

Taisho had to give the young man credit. Most people wouldn't dare look him in the eye, especially when he had a knife.

'first points. You look me in the eye. That shows that you have courage and you really care. Keep impressing me Tsuruga, and I'll give you my permission.'

Ren followed the older man into the kitchen, where a small table with pillows for chairs were set up. The Taisho turned to gesture to the man to sit down, but was surprised to see Ren had already sat down and was waiting for him, watching him with every movement. The Taisho was once again impressed (though at the same time disconcerted) at the man's straight-forward ness.

'second points. While most of the time, people would wait for me to tell them to sit, you understood already that because you wanted to talk, you took the first initiative. That shows a great sense of responsibility. However, I must give him a glare. He must understand that most of the time, you wait until the host gives you permission to sit.'

"did I say you could sit Tsuruga?"

The Taisho asked coldly.

Ren immediately noticed his blunder and stood bowing his head in apology,

"I'm sorry. Forgive my rudeness."

'quick to apologize. Third points. Two more, and whatever is you're asking, I'll give you permission.'

The Taisho held up a hand to show that he accepted the apology as he sat down at the table. Ren followed suit and watched the man directly. The Taisho waited before giving a sly smile,

"so…you wanted to talk Tsuruga? Or are you just going to keep staring at me?"

Ren shook his head and said with confidence, though his voice was shaking,

"I wish to spend a couple weeks with Kyoko. To give her a real Christmas."

'you ask with confidence, so you're sure of this decision. You affirmed it with yourself before talking to me. yet, you still ask with a little bit of nervousness, knowing that I could say yes or no. Fourth points Tsuruga. Now the final test.'

"why do you wish to spend those couple of weeks with her?"

'here goes.'

Ren and the Taisho both thought as Ren took a deep breath. He recounted the story to the Taisho from start to finish. Never daring to move his gaze from the man in front of him; he was determined to show his seriousness to this man. He would definitely earn his respect…for Kyoko's sake (and his own). As he finished the story he took another deep breath and explained the plan to the Taisho. Seeing the look on his face, Ren calmly said,

"in the car, I made her a promise that I would make it her best Christmas. I think this would be the best way."

The Taisho hid his astonishment very well. Most men that asked him about his pseudo-daughter and if they could take her out, would have no other reason besides "I want to." To hear this man say that he was going to try and help her get past harmful memories…it impressed him.

'fifth points. Full score. You win Tsuruga. But I need to make sure first that you respect not just her, but her friends and family before I consent. She's been controlled enough. I won't let it happen again.'

"so what makes you think you can make a promise you don't know for sure you can keep?"

He was waiting for him to stumble. He was surprised when Ren gave a gentle smile,

"sir. If you do not consent to this plan, then it's alright. I'll understand; I will still do my best to give her the best Christmas I can. Because…"

He leaned forward and stared the Taisho in the eyes,

"I don't break my promises."

The Taisho met his gaze and could see the sincerity in his face. Then to Ren's surprise he gave a smile,

"then…go forward. We will do as you say and tell her nothing. We don't want to scare her off, just like you."

Ren breathed out a huge sigh of relief as the Taisho cracked a smile and shook his hand. But as quickly as it was there, it was gone as he gripped Ren's hand tighter and pulled him close,

"however, there is a condition."

Ren gulped and asked, trying to keep the fear from showing in his voice,

"yes sir?"

The Taisho smiled a gentle smile,

"you must reveal your feelings for her."

That was on Ren's mind as he left the Taisho's house/restaurant. He sat in the car and gave a long sigh.

"reveal my feelings for her? I've been hiding my feelings for two years! I don't want to scare her away! She is the number one LoveMe member!"

Then she remembered what the Taisho had said after Ren had let the hesitation show in his face,

"Tsuruga, if you can't reveal your feelings for her…I see no reason to ever let you take my daughter out again. Do you understand?"

He did. He gave a dry chuckle in the car,

"if I was the Taisho and a guy who was in love with my daughter (albeit adopted) but refused to tell her, I'd demand that he would too…but how am I supposed to do that?! If everything goes as planned…Kyoko will be learning more than I want her to right now."

Then he remembered as she laid in the back of his car, softly whimpering as she remembered each bad Christmas. Then he remembered how desperately she had called for Corn,

"I need to do it. If I don't, I'll not just lose the Taisho's respect…I'll lose her. And I can't lose her."

With that he drove to prepare for the plan. As the nerves began to shake him in the car, he turned on the stereo to listen to music to calm his nerves…probably not such a good idea,

"I really can't stay…

But Baby it's cold outside…

I've got to go way…"

He immediately shut it off as images of him and Kyoko singing this danced in his head,

"one things for sure…"

He chuckled dryly to the blackness of the car,

"it certainly wont be 'just another Christmas.'"

One day, one day I will get out a holiday story on Christmas, in the meantime…oh well . Okay this one is still going to be Christian, so please keep that in mind. I don't write Christmas stories without giving credit to the original reason we celebrate it to begin with. You'll see it a lot more later on. Okay, so that should be it here's the rule. I love reviews. I live for them. They're what makes my stories much better. So you review, I thank you profusely because I really appreciate it. thanks and have a Merry Christmas!

-Kate