Disclaimer: Skip Beat belongs to Nakamura Yoshiki. This is fan-fiction for entertainment purposes only.
Big thank you to Raine for organizing this and to all the writers participating!
This was the day. It was finally going to happen. After months and months, he was finally ready to tell Kyoko how he really felt about her and to ask her to be his girlfriend."It's gonna go great!" Shinichi said, clapping his leader on the shoulder."Totally! She's been turning you down for more than a year, but tonight's your lucky night!" Yuusei added, grinning at Hikaru.
"Er,... that's not —" Hikaru deflated. "Y'know, I think maybe next year would be bet—"
"Nuh-uh! We're not letting you chicken out," Shinichi said, shoving the leader forward and smacking Yuusei in the back of the head.
"You totally got this," Yuusei managed, glaring at his friend.
"And don't forget, you promised to treat us to lunch for a month if she says yes," Shinichi added.
"I never said that!"
"Go get her!" With a nod to each other, the Bridge Rock members shoved their leader forward into the party.
Kyoko and Maria had insisted that there was no need for extravagance— the girls wanted a simple affair, nothing too fancy. Lory had acquiesced with surprising ease, which should have tipped both of them off that there had been a miscommunication. Ornate snowflakes made of crystals hung from the ceiling, sparkling white tablecloths shimmered, the greenery wrapped around the banister and garlands hung on the wall all looked like they had been dipped into a vat of snowy white glitter. Two whirring machines blew white fake snow into the air. When the girls had demanded explanations, Lory had held up his hands and maintained that an all white color scheme was the very definition of simplicity.
Hikaru spotted Kyoko was in the middle of a group, chatting with some people he thought he recognized as her Box R coworkers.
"You know what?! Maybe we should do a lap first!" Hikaru exclaimed suddenly, pivoting immediately and going off into a corner to hide.
"Oh no you don't," Yuusei said. "C'mon, I'm tired of hearing you getting turned down for dinner. It's now or never, just ask her!"
"I can't!" Hikaru gestured emphatically. "I mean, she's surrounded by people! What am I supposed to do? Just pull her away?"
"I guess we can't just interrupt," Yuusei said with a frown, "Right, Shinichi?"
"YOOO, KYOKO-CHAN!" Shinichi yelled at the top of his lungs. The clamor of the party was loud, but not so loud that he had needed to bellow. Silence descended as everyone in attendance turned to look at the three stars, including Kyoko. Shinichi barrelled ahead, seemingly heedless. "Great party! Thanks for inviting us!" Yuusei dragged a thoroughly embarrassed Hikaru along behind him.
Thankfully, Kyoko was a gracious hostess. She excused herself from her friends with a small bow and made her way towards them with a smile. "You made it! Thank you all so much for coming!" Kyoko exclaimed. She bowed politely, then popped up, beaming. "I was so worried you'd be too busy."
"Oh, we're never too busy for you, Kyoko-chan," Yuusei said, not at all subtly. He elbowed Hikaru in the side. "Isn't that right, leader?"
"Oh, um, y-yeah," Hikaru managed to stutter out. He was bright red, but if Kyoko was also
Embarrassed by Shinichi's hollering, her face didn't show it. Hikaru supposed he should be grateful, since his friend's trick had worked.
"You know what? I think I need some punch! We'll catch up with you two later!" Yuusei announced, grabbing Shinichi's elbow and dragging him away, leaving Kyoko and Hikaru alone.
"Y-you look really lovely, Kyoko-chan," Hikaru managed to stutter out. He felt the palms of his hands growing sweaty.
"Well, since you normally see me in a chicken costume, I'm sure this is a big improvement," Kyoko said cheerily, smoothing her hands over the fabric of her dress. "You look great, too! I've never seen you in a suit before," she added.
"I— uh, thanks," Hikaru said. He swallowed. "I got you something!" He pulled a small box out of his pocket, holding it out to her and trying not to cringe at how completely un-smooth his transition had been. "I mean, I know you said no gifts, but—"
"Oh! You really shouldn't have!" Kyoko exclaimed immediately. "You three didn't have to get me anything! I'm just so happy that you were able to come!"
"Well, uh, actually it's not from—" Hikaru mumbled, beginning his explanation.
"We told people no gifts," Kyoko said abashedly, "But—" She flushed and gestured to a table so piled with presents that people had begun to stack gifts in piles on the floor around it. "I have to go find Shinichi-kun and Yuusei-kun and thank them! Please excuse me."
Kyoko was gone before Hikaru could say anything more. So much for standing out by getting her something special, he thought glumly. Of course other people had gotten her presents: Kyoko was kind and sweet and thoughtful. Not to mention lovely. And she was hardworking and humble and funny, too! When the actress had started on Bridge Rock as Bo, she had been a total greenhorn. Now Kyoko was a rising star with multiple successful projects, but she still willingly donned a rooster costume once a week and threw herself into doing slapstick comedy for the masses.
Hikaru added his gift to the pile. He turned around and nearly bumped into an elderly couple who looked a little bit out of place at the star-studded party.
"Oh, please excuse us," the older woman said with a friendly smile as a stern-looking man glared at Hikaru. "Is this the place to put gifts for Kyoko-chan?"
Hikaru nodded, stepping aside so the couple could add their gift to the pile. The woman was holding a large box with a cheerful ribbon tied on top in a voluminous bow, making the Bridge Rock host feel rather self-conscious about his wrapping job.
"We could have just given it to her at home," the man said gruffly.
"You know perfectly well she would insist on helping out tonight if we didn't close," the okami-san said, scolding her husband fondly. "Let's enjoy ourselves! I'm sure she's made some delicious food. And look! There's a live band. Don't forget you promised to dance with me," the woman said. The older couple wandered off, the man grumbling something that made his wife laugh and link her arm through his.
Kyoko had intended to go find Shinichi and Yuusei immediately to thank them, but she hadn't gotten more than twenty steps from Hikaru when a pastry chef pulled her aside to explain in frantically hushed tones that someone had messed up the pistachio creme anglaise. The actress had followed the frantic chef back into Takarada's massive industrial kitchen to find the entire kitchen staff was lined up and waiting for her.
"SURPRISE!" They all yelled at the top of their lungs, causing Kyoko to jump nearly out of her skin and stumbling back. Two line cooks caught her by the arms and pulled her forward as everyone crowded around the main prep table. Each pastry chef produced a blow torch from the pocket of their apron. Kyoko was surprised — there wasn't any creme brulee on the menu. The head chef had laughed, then explained that Kyoko had been invited to participate in a Takarada kitchen staff tradition. The chefs used their blow torches to light up a row of shot glasses that had already been set out. One server demonstrated by picking up a glass, blowing out the flame, and then throwing the liquid back before slamming the empty glass down on the table, to the thunderous applause from everyone in the room. A flaming glass was shoved into Kyoko's hands.
"Remember, don't do this at home!" a sous-chef reminded her with a cheeky grin, before clinking her glass and downing his own shot.
Kyoko followed suit and the staff around her whooped and cheered. She tasted cinnamon and something dark and smoky, almost like pine. It was like a comforting christmas fire inside a glass. Kyoko thanked them all, then used the hubbub to sneak away while the more seasoned chefs called for another round.
She stumbled out of the kitchen and into her best friend.
"Mo, where have you been?" Kanae hissed, grabbing her friend's arm. "Your stupid Dark Moon coworker won't leave me alone!"
"Kanae-chaaaan! Where'd you go?" A familiar voice called loudly. Kyoko could place it easily — Kijima Hidehito. The teen grimaced at her friend. Kanae was exactly his type: gorgeous, mature, and smart enough to ignore the flirty actor. Kanae cursed under her breath, pushing Kyoko along infront of her like a shield as they snuck around the corner and into the ballroom.
"Sorry about that! He's a good guy and everything, but he can be overly friendly," Kyoko explained to her friend.
"Friendly," Kanae said dryly. "Sure, that's one way to put it."
"Kanae-chan! I found you!" Kijima said cheerfully, popping up behind them and making both actresses jump. "Oh, and Kyoko-chan too! Thanks for inviting me!"
Kyoko tried to smile while her friend glared daggers at her. "O-of course, Kijima-san."
"So… how did you two meet?" Kijima said, with what he thought was a charming smile.
Kanae's eyebrow twitched. "We met at the LME audition."
"Ah, and you instantly became best friends? That's so touching," the actor guessed.
"I called her a pygmy hippopotamus," Kanae corrected the actor. Kijima blinked, waiting for her to say she was joking. But Kyok was nodding along fondly, smiling at her friend.
"That's… certainly special," Kijima said at last, trying to fill the silence. "So Kanae-chan, are you dati—"
"Hey old man! Quit bothering her," A voice cut in and all three actors turned to see Hiou.
"I'm not old!" Kijima protested, sounding horribly offended. Nobody seemed to hear.
"Oh, Hiou-kun, you made it!" Kyoko beamed. "Thank you so much for coming!"
"Yeah, yeah, I know, you're super grateful, whatever," the child actor said gruffly. "Gramps came too. He's in the other room." Hiou motioned and both Kyoko and Kanae followed the middle schooler, leaving a baffled Kijima behind.
"Word of advice?" Yashiro offered. "You should leave Kotonami-san alone, unless you want your ass kicked by Uesugi's grandson."
Hikaru had finally managed to run into the actress once again, and he was determined to find his chance to confess his feelings. Hikaru led her around the Takarada mansion, looking for a private spot to talk. But around every doorway and in every corner another couple had already beaten them there, causing both Hikaru and Kyoko to blush. After the third time, Hikaru muttered, "what is it with this party?! Is it also a goukon?"
"The President insisted we hang mistletoe everywhere," Kyoko explained with an embarrassed wince. She glanced away. Hikaru followed her eyes and sure enough, through another doorway was yet another couple mid liplock, a bundle of greens hanging over their heads. "Since, 'love knows no season'," Kyoko quoted. Hikaru laughed.
"If only I had brought some of my own," Hikaru had said, "We could have had a lot of fun, holding it above people's heads."
"Shinichi and Yuusei," Kyoko suggested, her eyes sparkling.
"I would pay money to see that," Hikaru said with a laugh. "We should suggest it to the President, for next year."
Kyoko giggled as she protested. "You can't give him any ideas! Maria-chan and I already had to convince him not to turn the front hall into an ice skating rink."
"Fair enough," Hikaru conceded. Then they turned the corner and Hikaru looked around. He wasn't sure how far they had wandered — the Takarada mansion was as large as it was confusing. Truthfully, he was worried about getting lost. The noise of the party had faded away and the hallway was quiet. They were alone.
In his bravest move of the evening, Hikaru reached for Kyoko's hand. She looked up at him nervously, her cheeks turning pink.
"Happy 18th birthday, Kyoko-chan," Hikaru said. He looked seriously at her for a moment, then glanced up. She followed his gaze, and surely enough, hanging above their heads was a small bouquet of mistletoe. Kyoko looked back at Hikaru, her eyes wide as he leaned forward, placing a soft kiss on her cheek. Then he pulled back immediately.
"Sorry! I—" he pointed up, embarrassed. "I mean, it is tradition,"
"N-no, it's okay!" Kyoko stuttered out in reply. Her face had gone from pink to red, and then she looked down and saw they were still holding hands and steam almost came out of her ears. "It is Christmas, after all!" She said brightly.
"CORRECT, MOGAMI-KUN!" Lory's voice boomed, and he leaned around the corner. Both stars jumped at their boss's sudden appearance. Lory did not seem to notice, coming forward to shake both of their hands. "I'm so proud of you! I see you finally understand the true meaning of Christmas— LOVE!" Lory was gesturing wildly, as if he was putting on a show for a chorus of invisible angels. "This calls for a celebration! Ruuto—" Lory whipped out his phone and Kyoko and Hikaru were aghast to see that President Takarada's personal assistant was standing by on video call. Lory grinned. "RELEASE THE REINDEER!"
"What?!" Kyoko said, flustered. Two seconds later, she heard shrieks from the main hall and the clamor of hooves against tile, as Lory laughed madly, disappearing with a final cackle, the bells on his costume jingling merrily as he went.