I'm baaaaaaack. I really told myself I wouldn't get taken by another cliche IR au but HERE WE ARE. I really don't have a lot of expectations for this one but I've missed writing steadily for something so I figure if I post here, I'll have motivation to actually finish it. This one will NOT be as long as Shall We Dance, if you read that one, because I don't have time for something that long but it will be multi-chap and probably at least around 12 or more chapters. Also, as you can tell from the rating, this one is sexier than Shall We Dance and isn't quite as slowburn, lol. Hope you guys enjoy! I got a lot of lovely reviewers on my last fic so I hope you guys will stick around for this one! Please, please, please let me know what you think!
"Shit, shit, SHIT," Rukia Kuchiki grumbled, her hands gripping the steering wheel of her run-down sedan so hard they began to turn white. The standstill traffic stretched a seemingly endless distance ahead of her and the young and frazzled twenty-two-year-old wondered if she'd ever make it out alive, let alone to her final destination on time.
"Urahara is going to kill me for sure this time," she commented to herself, just picturing the inevitable encounter with her sketchy and eccentric boss once she told him she'd missed the press conference because she got stuck in traffic. It wasn't her fault the production company's publicists had decided to hold the press conference for their new raunchy rom-com in the middle of rush hour in one of the busiest cities in East Asia. Still, her boss would find a way to pin it on her anyway. As incompetent as he was at his own job he still expected nothing but the best from his reporters.
Stupid, lowly tabloid job I don't even care about is going to make it so I drop further down the journalism ladder, Rukia thought to herself angrily. This would mark the third time she had failed to cover a story her boss asked her to get the dirt on. Urahara was flighty and obnoxious, but he still had standards and she figured she was on a 'three strikes and you're out' basis with him. The first two times were due more to her 'stay out of the way and keep to yourself' personality than her tardiness. A tabloid reporter was, by definition, nosy and willing to step across any boundary to get the scoop. Rukia never felt comfortable doing so. She knew that if the situation was reversed and she was the celebrity with something to hide, she'd loathe any low-life tabloid journalist trying to butt into her life.
"That's just what reporters do, Rukia," she mocked, twisting her voice into a terrible imitation of her boss.
'Poke around, ask lots of questions, and leave the consequences to me' was Urahara's infamous motto. As ridiculous as the man was, that philosophy had given him the most popular and 'relatively' credible tabloid newspaper out of them all. He was legendary in the business, and almost any celebrity with half a brain knew to watch out for him.
But she and Urahara were opposites. Rukia didn't ask a lot of questions. She preferred to listen to her interviewees and write an elaborate story with flourishing language and polished syntax. Of course, that kind of journalism was more suited for a business journal than for a trashy tabloid. And, as much as she hated to admit it, there were a lot of connections in the tabloid industry with higher-level journals and newspapers. Everyone had to start somewhere and unfortunately for Rukia, Urahara's Tokyo Digest was that somewhere.
As the cars in front of her inched along, Rukia had to remind herself why she was doing this in the first place. It may not be glamourous, but this shitty reporting job put the gas in her old car and the microwavable frozen dinners on her table. Ever since her brother practically disowned her for her career choices, she'd been living on her own, taking whatever terrible job she could get to pay the bills. This was the first lowly job that had even remotely anything to do with her future career field. It was a stepping stone to what could be something great. She had to remind herself of that fact almost constantly.
Of course, she thought, it doesn't even matter anymore. The traffic wasn't letting up and the minutes continued ticking on by. The press conference she was assigned to attend would be starting in ten minutes and she was at least twenty away without the traffic. She had to resist the urge to bang her head on her steering wheel repeatedly. At this point she couldn't afford a trip to the emergency room for a concussion on top of being late.
Her phone buzzing in the passenger seat caught her attention and brought her out of her depressing thoughts. She sighed when she read the text message that was displayed on her home screen.
'From: Mr. Bossman
Got word the press conference is going to start late. Kurosaki is stuck in traffic and won't be there for at least another half hour. Hope you brought some coffee! 3'
Rukia rolled her eyes at her boss's flippant way of relaying information, though the sentiment was subdued given the relief that was currently washing over her. Leave it to the celebrities she covered to save the day, and potentially her job. As flighty and random as her boss was, the celebs she was forced to get information out of were even worse.
Any self-respecting human, famous or not, wouldn't exactly look forward to media attention. Not a single celebrity she interacted with ever appeared to enjoy a press conference or interview. Media appointments were nothing more than a check on their to-do list to rake in their incredible salaries. And, from what she had heard, the new hotshot movie star she was covering today was one of the media's biggest issues.
Ichigo Kurosaki was the typical handsome and dashing up-and-comer who had that mysterious 'bad boy' edge that made any woman within ten feet of him swoon. He was this particular production company's favorite new male lead and had already starred in a number of their hit rom-coms and chick flicks. He was notoriously hard to nail down for any kind of interview other than what was strictly required for the movies he was in. He apparently did an impressive job keeping his private life private. No one knew what girl he was dating or what new trends he was into because he kept most of it behind closed doors. What was really attractive (at least to everyone working in the tabloid industry) were the few times he lost his privacy and let a few juicy snippets leak through of what might be happening off camera.
It was nothing too earth-shattering, at least in Rukia's opinion, but what the media had managed to get from him had kept them wanting more. Leaked photographs of him and a past co-star doing naughty things outside their hotel room in the Caribbean, a few altercations with paparazzi who got a little too up close and personal, and rumored 'diva issues' with past personal assistants and other movie staff. All in all he sounded like any other celebrity, but there was just something about him that made him one of the top new media hotspots.
So, despite the fact that a press conference was hardly the place a lowly tabloid reporter should really be, Urahara had sent her off to try and grab something. Really anything other than his movie business was appreciated, but Rukia was confused as to why Urahara trusted her of all people with one of his new favorite targets.
She wasn't aggressive, she felt uncomfortable asking personal questions, and she just knew that in a room full of reporters with years, even decades, more experience than her combined with a celebrity that seemed to have a vendetta against everything she worked for, she wasn't going to be able to get a word in edgewise, let alone gather 'juicy' information.
But hey, at least now with Ichigo Kurosaki's tardiness she'd have the opportunity to at least say she tried. Unable to get anything out of a notoriously hard to crack celebrity was a much better excuse than 'I got stuck in traffic'.
Now with a new glimpse of hope, Rukia weathered the rest of the downtown Tokyo traffic as best she could, made it to the location of the press conference seemingly before the movie producers, publicists, and the popular male lead had, miraculously managed to find a parking spot and walked up to a small room. She showed the guard her credentials and was ushered inside with an emotionless nod. Inside, dozens of reporters and photographers were milling about. Most of them seemed to know each other or were at least willing to exchange pleasantries while Rukia found one of the last open seats in the middle of the crowd and plopped herself down. At the front of the room was a long table covered in a plain, black cloth with a banner behind it displaying the movie's logo.
Rukia looked around the room at the rest of her 'colleagues'. Some were from reputable entertainment magazines and websites, others she was sure were probably more locally based, and then there was her. The very obvious tabloid newspaper journalist who everyone immediately looked down upon as soon as they got a glimpse of her credentials. She let loose a sigh and tried to ignore some of the more pointed stares. Just a stepping stone, she reminded herself. Most of the people in this room were probably in your spot not that long ago.
A few more journalists filtered in before a rather prim and proper-looking woman in her forties stepped out and announced the stars of this particular press conference. A few men in business suits came out from a back door just to the left of the table set up. At this point, cameras began to flash in quick succession and the journalists surrounding Rukia got out whatever recorder or notes they were going to use to get their information. She too got ready, though her set up was worlds different than the elite writers in the room. All she had was an old, barely functioning tape recorder and her trusted notepad and pen. It wasn't much, but then again, she wasn't expecting any kind of hard-hitting news to surface.
Suddenly the camera flashes became more frequent as a recognizable figure emerged from the door. A rather tall man, with jet-black hair that had an almost deep blue tint to it and wire-rimmed glasses came walking out with his head held high. He looked to be annoyed before the press conference even began. Everyone immediately knew why.
Uryuu Ishida was one of Japan's leading movie directors. In the past few years, he had spit out hit after hit. In Rukia's opinion, his movies were nothing more than the usual cheesy and cliche chick flicks, but they made him an unimaginably large amount of money and she could understand that. After the director, came a beautiful young woman with long, auburn hair and a beaming smile. At first Rukia wondered if she was the new movie's leading lady (she was certainly pretty enough for the part), though she didn't remember Urahara telling her about any of the other actors or actresses being in attendance, but then she heard some of the reporters sitting closest to her whispering about the woman being Uryuu Ishida's personal assistant.
Though new in the tabloid part of the journalism industry, Rukia could still recognize a juicy scoop when it was presented to her, so the whispers about this 'Orihime Inoue' woman being more lover than personal assistant to the prolific director were jotted down on her notepad and filed away for future reference.
A few more movie staffers exited into the room chock full of journalists before the real star appeared. The sound of cameras flashing and reporters already trying to grab a comment or two filled the room as Ichigo Kurosaki finally made his appearance. Rukia had to hold herself back from laughing at his expression. He looked just about ready to murder anyone who so much as looked at him the wrong way. They weren't kidding when they said he didn't much care for the media. Rukia had to wonder if he was late because of the traffic or because someone had to literally drag him here.
The well put together woman from before just managed to quiet down all the reporters, who clearly weren't going to get anything out of Ichigo Kurosaki without a fight, before each of the movie officials said a small statement. Uryuu Ishida proved to be the most eloquently spoken out of all of them, to no one's surprise. He didn't get tons of backers funding his movies without some kind of charm. Finally, the statements came to a close and it was time to open the floor for questions. Despite the fact that he hadn't spoken up until this point, everyone in the room knew Ichigo Kurosaki couldn't stay quiet anymore. Rukia readied her notebook and made sure her tape recorder was at least trying to function. This was what she was here for after all.
As soon as the go ahead was given to the reporters, the room erupted into a barrage of questions. Rukia was honestly rather surprised at how quickly almost everyone in the room found something to say. She knew that if she had been on the receiving end of all of that, she'd have crumbled. Ichigo Kurosaki, on the other hand, weathered it with a straight face like a pro.
Eventually one of the more forward reporters was able to make his question heard above the others. "Mr. Kurosaki! Can you tell us about your experience on set so far?"
Finally, the orange-haired movie star spoke. "The experience has been great. My director and all the producers have us working efficiently. I think it will turn out to be a good movie," was his simple and rather bland answer. Rukia couldn't help but lift an eyebrow at that. Still, she jotted it down.
Another reporter, this time a woman with long brunette hair, got her question in next. "Can you tell us what's it's like working with your co-star, Rangiku Matsumoto?"
"Rangiku is great. She's an excellent actress and we've worked well together so far." Another boring answer. Rukia just knew all the journalists in the room were trying to get something more out of him, but he wasn't biting.
"Is there anything going on off screen with Ms. Matsumoto?" another asked.
Ichigo deadpanned. "No," was all he said and Rukia's eyebrows rose even higher.
"Mr. Kurosaki! Can you tell us about your altercation with the photographer last month? Have any charges been filed?"
"That question isn't relevant to what we're here for," he said, and Rukia could tell he was getting angrier and angrier with each successive question.
The journalists continued like this for the next twenty minutes. Some asked questions about the movie and the experience filming it, others asked about future projects, and still some tried to get out more personal info from the movie star, but as was evidenced by the answers to the earlier questions, Ichigo Kurosaki was giving them nothing. Rukia sighed at that. There was no point in her being here. Urahara didn't care about future movies or what it was like working with the director. He wanted dirt and no one was getting anything today.
Still, as the press conference started to wrap up and the last few questions were being asked, Rukia felt as though she should say something. Clearly he wasn't going to answer any kind of question about his personal life, but everything else was generic garbage that every celebrity would say in the same situation. If these people were all professional writers, shouldn't they want something interesting for their stories? Shouldn't they ask him more meaningful questions? If that were Rukia up on that platform, she knew she would appreciate a question about why she was doing the movie. What was motivating her? What kind of legacy did she want her acting skills to leave on the entertainment industry?
"We have time for one more question, if anyone has anything," the woman running the press conference said, and surprisingly enough it looked as though most people either had given up on getting more information or felt they had enough to put in a story for their editors. Rukia knew this would be her only chance. She had no courage to try and speak up earlier because she knew everyone would look down upon her if she did, but there was just something about the way Ichigo Kurosaki spoke that got to her. He looked exhausted and uninterested. He was the star of a movie for Christ's sake and he didn't even seem excited about it! As someone who had to fight tooth and nail to get what she really wanted, that didn't sit well with Rukia.
Just as it looked as though no one was going to say anything, Rukia took a deep breath and raised her hand. "I have a question," she declared, immediately regretting her choice of words. Almost instantly, everyone's eyes were on her, including the deep, molten amber of one Ichigo Kurosaki.
Ignoring everyone's condescending stare, she locked eyes with the frayed movie star. She had to stop herself from getting lost within the depths of his beautifully colored eyes. She couldn't let his looks get the best of her, she had a job to do. And, at this point, it was less of a job as a reporter and more of a job as a human being.
"What kind of impact do you want this movie and the rest of your movies going forward to leave on your fans?" was her question. Her voice wasn't as steady as she wanted it to be but she at least congratulated herself for getting it all out. As a young journalist with a job that made everyone in the room scoff in disgust, the atmosphere before her was intimidating, to say the least.
Ichigo Kurosaki's eyes widened, almost imperceptibly, at her question, though she still caught it. He tried to reign in his surprise but she could tell she took him off guard. That fact alone irked her. Had no one ever thought to ask this man anything of substance?
Ichigo leaned toward his mic and spoke. "Can you repeat the question?" Rukia wondered if she was unclear, as reporters surrounding her began to chuckle. She felt like an idiot as she looked around at them, but she started this and she was going to finish it.
"Well, you do these same kinds of movies over and over again. You gain tons of fans and recognition and fame, but have you ever thought about why? What is it you want to gain by starring in a movie? How do you want to impact the entertainment industry?"
As Rukia continued refining her question, Ichigo Kurosaki's eyes grew more and more until eventually he looked dumbfounded. And then, much to her surprise, he did something she hadn't thought him even capable of when he first walked into the room.
It wasn't much of a smile, but it was a smile nonetheless. And then, he began talking. "Well, I'll admit I've never been asked something like that." Though she didn't let it show, that statement alone made Rukia feel happy. She might not have gotten the dirt and she may very well be fired as soon as she gets back to Urahara, but at least she did something no other reporter had done before. "Just like everyone else in the industry wants, I'd like to have a positive impact, of course. My movies may not be on every single Oscar ballot, but they make people happy and that's all that matters. I want someone who's getting over a breakup or something to watch one of my movies and believe that that can happen to them, despite everything. I want people to think that they can find happiness and love and all that sappy shit whenever they think about me and my acting. That's the kind of impact I'd like to have."
At his words, Rukia couldn't help the small smile that appeared on her face as well. As the press conference was called to a close and the ones sitting at the long table began to make their exit, security guards in tow, Rukia kept her eyes glued on Ichigo Kurosaki's as he was still fixated on her, right up until he turned to leave through the back door he had entered through.
Rukia shook her head in disbelief at that rather strange turn of events. Some of the others around her started whispering and giving her confused looks as she got up and gathered her stuff to leave, but she ignored them.
Maybe this job wasn't as awful as she had originally thought it would be. Interactions like that were exactly why she wanted to be a journalist in the first place. She wanted people to be open and honest with her. She wanted to write about why people did what they did. Humans were awesome, for the most part, and that's really all Rukia ever wanted to write about.
Of course, working for a tabloid newspaper certainly called that belief into question more often than not, but nevertheless she continued to hold to it. Maybe, just maybe, someone would stop and appreciate her outlook on life somewhere down the road.
Though she had a teeny tiny feeling that that wouldn't happen when she showed up at her boss's office empty-handed the next day.