Staring up at the black ceiling, she closed her eyes, but all she could see was Tohma’s back as he walked out of the room, and out of her life. Or so she thought…
….sleep came late that for her, but she woke up early the next morning, sitting up and yawning. Kaoruko dropped out of bed and got dressed without much cause as to whether she looked good or not. She’d been in bed for so long she needed to get out of the house. The doctor had told her to stay in bed for a few days to catch up on rest and to let her body regain strength. She was of course ignoring this order as she grabbed her bag and walked out of her apartment.
Heading to the park, she breathed in the fresh air. It was empty in her lungs though. Even the beautiful morning wasn’t enough to quell the storm raging inside her. Kaoruko didn't really look at anyone or anything around her. She walked right past Ryuichi Sakuma dejectedly, barely registering him in the corner of her eye. Stopping a bit past him, she turned back. “Sakuma-san?” This might be her chance to….what? To make up for what she’d done? Didn’t she do it knowingly and willingly? Kaoruko shook her head inwardly as the boy acknowledged her.
“Hai haaai!” the boy chorused melodically with his ever-famous voice, as he swung his legs childishly from the edge of the fountain he was sitting on. His hand was scribbling down words at an incredible rate on a piece of notebook paper. Kaoruko wondered briefly what he was doing, but she assumed he was writing lyrics.
Approaching him, Kaoruko thought carefully how to word what she wanted to say. As she looked at him, she asked for the interview as slowly and carefully as possible. The way he reacted was not at all expected, and took Kaoruko by surprise. “Free? I’m free!” e responded. He smiled jubilantly and bounced his legs against the concrete fountain-side.
He doesn’t seem to care who I am or what I’ve done, Kaoruko said as she sat down next to Ryuichi on the fountain. Looking at him with dull eyes, she said, “Sakuma-san you do know who I am, don’t you?”
Ryuichi poked her in the nose. “You’re Kaoruko. You helped Tachi-kun with that scandal a long time ago!”
Kaoruko stepped back, surprised by the poke. He says it as if he doesn’t care… “I…” she sighed, coughing a little. “That’s not the way I want to be remembered, but yes…”
Ryuchi just smiled and looked at her, setting down the lyrics. Giving him a tiny undetectable smile, she pulled out a tape recorder and began the interview. By the time she was done with the interview, her face shined and her eyes sparkled with something that she hadn't felt in a long time. She smiled at Ryuichi. "Thank you for taking the time to do this with me," she said, stopping the recorder. "Can I ask one more favor of you?”
“Mmm, whassat?” His blue eyes blinked up at her again.
She sat back, trying to figure out how to best word this. "Seguchi-san...may not be too thrilled when he finds out I've interviewed you. Just..please tell him I didn't ask you anything that could hurt you in anyway..."
“Mou!” he spoke, his eyes shining. "Of course! I promise!" He grinned again and held out a pinky finger like a little 5-year old would. "I pinky promise!!"
Sighing in relief, she indulged the boy and hooked her pinky in his. "Thank you, Sakuma-san. You've been a great help."
Ryuichi nodded effervescently. "You're welcome, na no da~!" he sang, and almost immediately as his finger left Kaoroku's, he began to scribble again upon the lyric sheet. Slipping the tape recorder back into her bag, she bid Ryuichi farewell and made her way back to her apartment. I've missed that so much....everything that's been happening with Bad Luck and ASK, I never realized that I just wanted to write a good article. Smiling again, she stretched in the crisp air. Maybe her life was going to turn around.
A few days later, Kaoruko sat inside the small cafe just outside the building where Tohma worked, eating her lunch. Her article had just been published yesterday, and it was the first thing she was proud of since...well in a long time. The sun shined in the window on this early Tuesday afternoon. Kaoruko felt like a new woman. Not only was her pneumonia gone, but she had gotten back into why she became a reporter in the first place.
Kaoruko glanced up, spotting Tohma. He had both his hands full, one with a briefcase and the other holding a cardboard box. He looked as if he might drop the box at any moment. He passed her by without a glance. Sighing, she figured this would be the best time to talk to him, if at all. Standing, she paid her tab and left the cafe and walked up next to Tohma. "Need some help?" She asked softly.
"Ah, ye---" Tohma started to say. He cut himself off. "Hello, Kaoroku-san," he said, his tone changing. He started walking again. "No, I don't think I do."
Rolling her eyes, she caught up with him again. "You look like you're going to drop that box. I'm just offering helping hand that you obviously need."
"I don't need your help, Miss," Tohma repeated to her and kept on walking.
"Why are you doing this!?" She shouted after him. "I don't care if you don't like me. I may not like you, but I was trying to be a decent person and help you out." She stalked past him, muttering something about Ryuichi and Tohma. If he didn’t want her help, fine. It wasn’t the first time she’d been brushed off, and it wouldn’t be the last.
"No, stop," he said out loud.
Kaoruko was tempted to keep going, but she stopped and turned towards him. He was balancing the box precariously on one hip. Going to him, she took the box from his hand and started to walk. "What is it?"
"Not here," Tohma said firmly. "We can talk in private if you're that desperate for it."
Stopping, she looked at him. "I was just offering my help. But.." she paused. Did she really want to talk to him? Yes, she did. "Alright. Lead the way to your car, and then we'll talk."
Tohma headed back to his car. Opening the trunk, he deposited his briefcase in his trunk and moved aside so that she could set the box in there as well. Placing the box in the trunk, she coughed lightly and stepped aside, waiting for him. Tohma shut the trunk, the thunk echoing throughout the parking garage. "The cafe?" he said, raising his eyebrow.
"Sure. My treat," she said, trying to dispel the awkwardness. She was still angry, but she kept herself calm as she walked back to the cafe. Reaching the café, he held the door open for her. She nodded her thanks as she reentered the cafe. Sitting across from him at a table, she occupied herself with a menu, though she'd already eaten.
Tohma didn’t speak until they'd ordered from their menus before speaking with her. "I see that you've been speaking to my band mates?" he said, folding his hands on the table and looking for all intents and purposes like he was having any normal conversation.
"Just one. I didn't know how to contact Noriko-san." It seemed both Kaoruko and Tohma wished to keep this as civil as possible. "And you...well I didn't contact you for the obvious reasons.”
“Obviously." Tohma said calmly. He didn't add any more.
Kaoruko sighed. "Did you read the article?"
Tohma inclined his head in a nod and fixed her with a glare. "Tell me. Why do you push your luck with me so far?"
"I can't answer that," she said truthfully. She didn't know herself. "It was a harmless article, and I don't plan to do anything else with Fujisaki-san."
"That doesn't excuse your actions in the past." Tohma said effortlessly, dismissively. "You've betrayed my trust, and hurt people that are important to me."
"I don't expect it to excuse my actions. I've never asked for forgiveness from you. Frankly, I don't deserve it. I think this article was my way of apologizing to you, though it won't make up for it. Ryuichi was, honestly, the one who made me realize that I'd lost my way as a reporter. Interviewing him…was refreshing. I realized how much I loved doing what I do. I want to do it again."
Tohma shrugged as their food arrived. "At the very least you have the right of it now," he replied, taking a large scoop of his parfait.
Kaoruko nibbled on a fry. "Hn..." she said thoughtfully, finishing the fry off before saying something else. "I wanted to ask you. Can I earn your trust again?"
"I sincerely doubt it," Tohma said, sucking on the spoon for a moment before pulling it back out of his mouth. He pointed it at her slightly, a grin shifting over his face. "I don't trust anyone."
A small smile graced her face. "What I mean is..." Kaoruko thought about what she meant. "Will there ever be a time when I can do what I did with Ryuichi again? With your permission and knowledge that is."
"Let me reiterate," Tohma replied, slipping the spoon back into his strawberry parfait and then taking another long bite. "I don't trust anyone, and you," he paused, "have given me even less cause to do so. If you want to ever work as a qualified reporter again, you're going to have to prove your loyalty."
Kaoruko nodded. "I intend to." Eating a few of her fries, she looked at him. "You wouldn't be willing to do an interview....would you?" She was almost afraid of the answer. She wasn't sure if he saw she was starting to change.
"I'm afraid that I give far too many interviews as it is, Miss Kaoroku," Tohma answered with a wave of his hand. "I'd have nothing to say that has not already been reported."
That was a better answer than she had expected. "I suppose so." There was another pause. "Seguchi-san?"
"Yes?" Tohma said, finishing his parfait. He licked the last of the ice cream off of the spoon, bringing his eyes back up to her.
"I didn't do anything for you," Tohma replied easily. "I trust this meeting is over?"
"Yes." She said with a sigh. "I was thanking you for at least listening to me. I'm aware of how angry you are with me." Standing up, she put some money on the table. Starting to walk away, she thought of something and turned back. "Seguchi-san, do you believe I'm going to change?"
"Everyone changes," was the only thing that Tohma offered in response, a light smile touching his lips. He didn't offer anything else, just folded his hands on the table and waited for her to leave.
Kaoruko headed towards the door, stopped by another coughing fit. This was the hardest one she’d had since she got out of the hospital. Her legs getting weak, she moved to a table near the door and sat down, resting her head in her arms. I shouldn't even be a reporter....I'm not decent enough.
Regaining her strength a moment later, Kaoruko stood and left the cafe. She trudged down the street, not noticing she was behind Tohma, as she kept her eyes on the sidewalk. Sighing, she moved into the garage to cut a lot of time off her trip. She was still staring at the ground as she walked through the darkening garage.
Kaoruko almost ignored the sounds of struggle that she heard in the row next to the one she was walking in. But something tugged at her and she glanced over. Her eyes widened as she saw Tohma being grabbed by a foreign mugger. Darting over to him, she rammed her entire body weight into the mugger, hoping it didn't cause the knife to slice into Tohma's neck. She didn’t see the outcome of the mugger or Tohma, for stars exploded behind her eyes as she fell to the ground, dazed.
She blinked, pushing herself into a sitting position and rubbing her head, not looking at Tohma yet. Bringing her blurry gaze to Tohma, she saw he was now kneeling beside her. “You weren’t hurt?” She said softly, her eyes concerned. She must have cared, for she did save him, but she couldn’t admit that to herself.
"No," he said, sounding concerned. "Are you hurt?" he countered, softly.
"Just dazed is all." Standing up slowly, she offered 2 hands to help Tohma stand.
Tohma didn't take them, rather helped himself up, and then regarded her quietly. "Thank you for your help," he offered
Kaoruko nodded. "Good thing I decided to cut through the garage." Kaoruko rubbed her head again, still dizzy. She put her hand on Tohma's car to steady herself.
"That's so," he replied quietly. "Are you sure you're alright?" he bent down slightly, looking up into her face.
Looking at him, she nodded lightly. "I think I'm alright. I’m still a bit dizzy from hitting him so hard."
"You didn't have to do that," he said with a slight chuckle. "You could have hurt yourself."
"Considering my options, I didn't have much choice but to hit him with my body weight. I'm not much for hand to hand combat with a man twice my size and weight," She said, chuckling a little herself. "Plus...I.." She wasn't sure she could say this. "I..." another hesitation. "I didn't want you to get hurt," was what she was trying to say, but when she finally did say it it was said very quickly.
Tohma offered her a ride home. Though it was awkward, she decided to take it. The ride was long, and silent. Neither one of them spoke to each other. What was there that could be said between two people who disliked each other, yet one owed Kaoruko his life? Not much. So the ride was silent.
Tohma looked at her as they arrived at her apartment complex. “Thank you again for your help…If you would like an interview, please…call my office.”
Kaoruko looked at him, hiding the shock that she felt. She smiled lightly at him. "Thank you, Seguchi-san. I hope you are alright." Stepping out of the car, she shut the door and headed towards her apartment.
Kaoruko sat in her living room, rummaging through her bag a few days later. She was just now realizing something was missing. She figured she'd have to call him, and she didn't really want to burden him with this. Fidgeting for a second, she finally got up enough courage and picked up the phone, dialing Seguchi Tohma's office number. I don't want to do this...
Getting a hold of Tohma, she explained what had happened that day. He told her she could come in anytime to pick up her purse. Hanging up the phone, he left most of her things there before getting up and leaving, heading towards NG.
Kaoruko headed into the parking garage that she always cut through. Just her luck, she was attacked by the muggers that just seemed to populate the area. He grabbed her around the neck, wrenching her arm behind her. She couldn't suppress a cry as the man demanded for her money. A wince on her face, she pulled the last of her cash out and tossed it down in front of him. He threw her to the ground and snatched up the money, running off and disappearing around a corner. Her shirt and stockings torn now, she stood up and limped towards NG productions, heading inside and waiting outside Tohma's office after telling his secretary why she was there. Kaoruko looked at the floor, closing her eyes and trying to keep in the tears that were fighting to get out.
Kaoruko heard Tohma’s voice a moment later, "You can send her in now, Li-san." Li peered over from his desk and announced the fact loudly.
Standing up slowly, Kaoruko took a deep breath and headed into the office, shutting the door quietly. "S-seguchi-san," she said, unable to keep the tremor from her voice.
"Ah, Kaoroku-san…your purse," Tohma didn't look up, rather started fishing around in his desk and produced it for her. Moving forward, she took the purse, the top of her hand scraped raw from her fall.
"Thank you," she said softly, turning and heading back to the door.
She didn’t get very far before Tohma’s voice stopped her. "Did something happen to you?"
Stopping, she looked at him. "Lost the only cash I had in that parking garage..." she rubbed her sore arm, looking down. "I'll...leave you to your work now.."
Tohma looked up at her. "No..." he said quietly, "you're going to sit down while I get someone to look at that nasty scrape."
"I..Alright..." Slowly, she lowered herself into one of the chairs, not saying anything else.
Tohma picked up the phone on his desk and dialed, and then hung up, becoming quiet once again. Kaoruko stared at the floor. This was incredibly awkward, and there wasn't a damn thing she could to about it. She rubbed her shoulder, as it was still sore from the attack. The soreness seemed to spread to her entire body. She knew she was about to cry, but she swallowed hard, trying to keep the tears in. Of course, this caused her to shake some, which she hoped went unnoticed by Tohma. He came over to take a look at her.
Kaoruko's eyes flicked up to look at him. "It's just my hand and knees that are hurt," she said very quietly.
"What happened?" Tohma asked, stooping down slightly and taking her hand in his. He looked at the back of it.
"I wasn't as fortunate as you to have anyone nearby. Some jackass attacked me from behind....yanked my arm almost out of its socket...and demanded to have my money..."
"Have you ever thought of taking a few self defense courses?" he said, dropping her hand and sitting near her.
Looking at him for a moment, she shook her head. "No..I never thought I'd be attacked like that."
"Perhaps you should, then," Tohma said carefully.
"I might," she replied and looked down again, one or two tears falling from her eyes before she was able to stop them.
"Ara…cheer up," he said quietly, just as the secretary let himself into the room bearing bandages.
"Just a little shaken is all," she replied, the evidence of the tears no longer there. She turned to Li slowly as he entered. Li took care of her hands and knees, excusing himself when he was done. Tohma was quiet the whole time. Kaoruko stood up when he was done. "Thank you for keeping my purse. I'll be going now," she said quietly, rubbing her shoulder as she once again tried to make her escape.
"You're welcome, Kaoroku-san.." Tohma said, his customary smile back in place. He felt bad that she was hurt, but he still didn't trust the woman or really desire her presence at all.
Stopping at the door, she looked at him. "Seguchi-san, I--" She wasn't sure what she had to say, so she just shook her head and left, heading down the hall. Tohma waved idly to her as she left.
Despite her hurt foot and leg, she avoided the garage completely, taking the long way home. Heading in to her apartment, she flopped on her bed, exhaling deeply as she let out everything that she had held in around Tohma. The sobs wracked her body. That entire attack terrified her, and she wished she had someone there like Tohma did for him. Succeeding in at least partially quelling her thoughts, she fell into a fitful sleep.