DISCLAIMER: I do not own Kenshin, nor the title Rurouni Kenshin. I don't own anything. I repeat: I am a broke high school student.
Summary: When Kenshin Himura, a mild-mannered insurance agent, is mistaken for the mob's hit man, he and coworker Kaoru become entangled in a deadly plot. Can kind and innocent Kenshin rediscover his inner strength to save them in time?
A/N: Well, this is my very first Kenshin fic, though I've been writingInuyasha fanfiction for a year and a half now. This one was lots of fun to write, and I really think I captured Kenshin and his relationship with the rest of the cast pretty well. Be prepared for lots of suspense, interesting (and silly) twists, some romance,and good scenes for our favorite red-haired bishie. Get reading, and tell me what you think so far! Thanks!
Chapter 1: Liability
How it began, Kenshin never really understood. That morning was like any other he could have chosen out of his week. Middle of the week; middle of the road; middle aged. That's what his life at that moment could have been described as.
He was satisfied with it most of the time. His life was simple, and he liked it that way. But his life was turned on end with the visit of one simple client. How everything can change in a moment; it's almost absurd.
Kenshin recalled later what that morning had been like. He was sitting at his small desk, in his miniscule cubicle, his small frame still uncomfortable in his small office chair. It was if the square shape of the workspace was an effort to keep the mind of its occupant square and tidy. He hunched over the report in front of him, his ears naturally closing out the incessant ringing of the phones all around him. He was sure that if he had bothered to stand up to look out the window of the thirtieth floor, he might have seen only gray sky.
Everything was just as normal as usual.
His stapler was lined up exactly parallel to his jar of paperclips. His computer keyboard was at a right angle to his mouse pad. Just the way he liked it. He could have said some days that he felt disdain for the banality of it all… but he tried to keep away from those thoughts most of the time.
Kenshin felt that his throat was dry, and stood up to shuffle over to the water cooler at the far end of the hallway of cubicles. His spotless brown pants hung awkwardly over his brown loafers, both of which clashed awfully with his fuchsia tie, bright red hair and violet-tinged eyes. He leaned down to fill the paper cone with lukewarm water, and stood facing the bulletin board full of useless employee notices as he sipped.
When he heard the low voice behind him, he groaned inwardly, scorning himself for not sensing the man's approach.
"Himura! Off duty again, I see?" Even if he hadn't turned to face him yet, Kenshin could just see the sly, wolfish smirk painted on the creviced face.
Kenshin turned, his cheery smile aptly covering up the dry glare that shone in his eyes. "No, Mr. Saitou. Just getting a drink of water, that's all!"
Saitou's smirk continued to grow, as he used his height advantage to tower over the smaller man. "Well, be sure you're back at your desk. You have an important client visiting in about five minutes. I expect you'll take care of everything he needs, correct?" The expectant smile left no room for denial.
Kenshin's smile grew along with the smirk of the man above him, though his fingers twitched over the curve of the paper cup in his hand. "That I will, Mr. Saitou!" he chirped, his teeth grinding together.
"Good man! That's the kind of talk we like to hear at Imperial Insurance!" He left Kenshin with a sound slap on the back, as he swaggered off with his hands dug in the pockets of his blue silk trousers.
Kenshin looked after him with eyes narrowed, the smile forgotten. He crushed the cup in his hand until his knuckles turned white, shaking off the imbalance of Saitou's hit.
Kenshin was a fair and balanced man. He understood well people's motivations and that there were often reasons for them acting cruel and hateful. He had tried always to believe in the power of forgiveness. Kenshin didn't like to use the word hate. It was so generalized and vile.
How he hated that man.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, a part of him was imagining handing some painful blown to Saitou with a sardonic smile. He shook the thought away quickly, knowing that these were the type of thoughts one shouldn't entertain about any person, especially his manager…well, at least they were things he knew he could never act on.
Dropping the ruined cup into the wastebasket beside the cooler, Kenshin made a beeline for his cubicle. With luck and a little more attentiveness on his part, he might be able to steer clear of the manager for the rest of the day. Back in the shelter of the square space, Kenshin slid onto his chair, sighing out all of his frustration.
"Is everything OK, Kenshin?"
His head snapped up at the sound of the sweet voice that so counterbalanced that of Saitou's. The cheery smile returned to his lips at the sight of the girl in the next cubicle, only, this time he wasn't trying to fake it.
"I'm quite alright, Miss Kaoru, that I am." Her blue eyes twinkled at him in worry despite his claim, and he tried to smile wider to prove his point.
He liked Kaoru Kamiya. They had been working side by side for months now, and he tried to speak to her whenever possible. She was young, pretty and very intelligent. He always viewed her as one of the temporary workers, though- the twenty-somethings that moved up the echelon once they realized there were better opportunities to be had. But, nevertheless, she was a much brighter flame than most of the middle-aged workers on the floor, and he enjoyed her company.
"Don't let Saitou get to you, Kenshin. He's just a big bully."
He nodded appreciatively, assuring her that he wouldn't let the manager get the better of him anymore, and Kaoru disappeared again behind the barrier.
Before Kenshin could immerse himself again in the reports, the important client that Saitou had mentioned had stepped up to the opening of his cubicle. Kenshin looked up in mute surprise, seeing a large and strikingly handsome man filling up the entryway. He stood immediately from his chair, extending a firm hand to the client.
The man waved the hand aside dismissively, hunkering his huge yet graceful body into the small plastic chair that Kenshin offered him. He sat back, almost in a bored fashion, crossing one ankle over his knee. Kenshin ignored the man's rudeness, knowing that most high-level clients could care less if they offended a peon. He hadn't even felt intimidated by the man's size. He was used to being the smallest man in the bunch. He turned to the file that Saitou had sent him, reviewing the information.
"So…Mr…Seijuro, is it? What can we do for you today?" Kenshin's smile was nothing if not disarmingly perceptive.
Hiko Seijuro had long, blue-black hair that framed his five o'clock shadow. His was a prizefighter's face- burly but softened slightly by age. The man looked very out of place in the tiny cubicle, as if it were a cage unfit for a wild animal like him.
Hiko leaned back in his chair, fixing Kenshin with an omniscient stare. "Well, I was thinking about going away for a while…disappearing, you could say." His voice was deep and booming to fit his features. "But, I suppose that's nothing an insurance agent could help me out with." He spoke it as if it were some hilarious joke Kenshin should have understood, but didn't because he was stupid.
Kenshin stared at him blankly with violet eyes, waiting for the rest.
"I was wondering how I could get liability coverage, you know- like a business."
Kenshin looked at him quizzically for a moment, his pen poised unsurely over a blank form. "You want liability….for a business? All right…what kind of business exactly is it that you own?"
Hiko stroked his cleft chin for a moment, as if deciding on the right answer. He smiled slyly to himself. "Ah…I work in public health and safety…"
Kenshin raised an eyebrow. "Public…health…" he turned again to scribble it on the impossibly small box on the form, and began shaking his ballpoint pen as he realized it wasn't working.
"Here. Take mine."
Before he could even think about it, Kenshin whirled around to see the pen flying at his face. He snatched it an inch from his eye without flinching, his fingertips balancing the pen. Hiko raised an eyebrow at the quick action, stared at the insurance agent for a long moment, but said nothing.
The red-haired insurance clerk didn't look nervous under the measuring stare, but instead ignored it as he continued to document the information on the form. Hiko spoke up again.
"Have you always been in this job, boy?"
Kenshin shrugged noncommittally. "No sir; not my whole life."
"What were you before you worked this lousy desk job?" He raised an eyebrow at the neat little color-coded stacks of folders next to his arm.
The small redhead didn't meet Hiko's eyes. "I don't think that is your business, that I do not…" He said it quietly.
"Don't you ever feel like you're in the wrong life?" He hadn't even tried to make it sound rhetorical.
Kenshin chose this opportunity to flinch- he didn't know why, but something about the accusatory way the man asked the question made Kenshin stammer out his response. "What do you mean?"
Hiko rolled his eyes. He knew the redhead had to be playing dumb. His smile and his darting, violet eyes were a lot more perceptive than he chose to let on. "Don't be an idiot, boy. You heard me. You don't belong in this cubicle. You don't fit that chair. Don't you ever want to do something more exciting with your life? Don't you wish you could ever tell these snots to go screw themselves?" Hiko saw that Kenshin was brighter than he chose to let on. It only begged the question of why he was stuck in this dead-end job.
Kenshin was very sure that he wasn't liking this man very much. His own reply took on an unusual nasal sound of annoyance that he only ever thought of using against a man like Saitou, and had never dared to use in the presence of a client. "I don't think so, that I don't…" why did he feel like hiding his eyes behind his bangs so that Hiko couldn't see his reaction?
"I said 'no.'" Kenshin's voice was firm now, carrying a tone that very few people could elicit from him anymore. It was hard and steady, and Hiko was surprised to have his eyes met by those that were like blue steel. "And I don't like violence of any kind."
Hiko, instead of backing off, smiled. He chuckled to himself as if he again had experienced some private joke. "You don't say…" The space was silent for a long moment, the only sounds being the hummed breath of Kenshin, and the scratching of pen on paper. "You know, I never understand when people say things like that." He studied his fingernails over the bridge of his nose. "Violence is a natural, if disgusting, human instinct. It's the only way anything can be changed. Remember- 'the strong live while the weak die.' It's futile to want to be weak. It might be time you learn that."
Kenshin struggled to regain his cheerful attitude, but he instead found the hand he had been writing with curling tighter around the pen. He didn't agree with the man, wished he would stop talking on the subject. He couldn't help that when he turned to Hiko to speak again, his voice was harder-edged than before. "Now, about you wanting liability for a private business…I'd like to know what division of health and safety you-"
He was swiftly cut off by Hiko standing up from his chair, his heavy trench coat swirling around his legs. Kenshin was again struck by how unfitting the mundane atmosphere was to the regality of the man. He opened his mouth then closed it again like a trap, not sure what to make of the man's actions.
Hiko suddenly turned and exited the cubicle, moving swiftly towards the exit on the far end of the busy room. Kenshin watched him go in confusion, suddenly leaping up to stop him. "Wait, where are you going, Mr. Seijuro? Didn't you want to finish with the insurance form? You can't have liability insurance without it…!"
The large man didn't bother to turn around, but instead looked over his shoulder at the red-haired man. "No thanks, boy. I've found what I need… Just do me a favor and think about what I said…" He raised a casual hand in a salute of goodbye as he headed towards the elevator.
Kenshin stood blocking the narrow hallway between the cubicles for a minute or so, gaping at the retreating figure. What was that supposed to mean?
He dazedly returned to his desk, depositing the half-finished form in his shredder with a long sigh. On top of everything, he could imagine Saitou lecturing him for not being able to hold on to any clients. Saitou always accused him of being too "wishy-washy" and had berated him on countless occasions for being to easy with the customers. Kenshin watched the document being shred to thin strips. Today was no exception, he supposed.
But, from that point on, Kenshin couldn't get Hiko's words out of his mind- no matter how hard he tried.
Little did he know that his life was about to change- drastically.
Agent Sanosuke Sagara leaned as far back in his squeaky, unrelenting desk chair as physically possible. As his lean frame stretched gracefully, he unceremoniously plopped his gangly legs across the top of the desk. His large feet on any other body would have looked out of place, but for his tall frame, they fit perfectly.
He glanced at the clock on the wall, which always seemed to be running a few hours behind. She was late. She was supposed to have contacted him by 6 PM. But, he supposed he could forgive the little devil this once. It was, after all, a dangerous outfit she had gotten herself into. Who knew what kind of trouble she could be in at this very moment?
He shrugged the thought off dismissively, as he casually drew a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from his breast pocket. Sano wasn't a chain smoker by any means, but when it came to his partner, he sometimes felt the need to open a pack. He took a long drag on the cigarette, watching as the smoke rose lazily to hang right below the ceiling. Where the hell was she?
Just as the thought struck him, the telephone by his hand practically flew off the hook with the force of the ring. It was an attest to the ancient technology he was forced to work with. Sanosuke flipped the phone up to cradle it between shoulder and ear, pulling the end of the cigarette from his mouth.
"Yeah?" he said unceremoniously into the receiver. There was no use in formality, after all. Anyone who was calling this line knew who would pick up on the other end.
"It's me." It was hushed.
Sano sat up straighter, smashing the smoking end of the cigarette butt into his ashtray, and removing his feet from the table. "Where are you?"
The smooth, naturally husky voice paused for a second. "I'm on a payphone. I can't talk for long."
"Spill, then. What's the news?" He snatched a pad of paper and ballpoint pen from the corner of his desk with a sweep of a long arm, and prepared to write down what she told him.
"Nothing except for this: the hitter is static. He's been pinpointed to one area, and they've been told that he's planning to lay low for a while."
Sano nodded to himself, jotting down the information. "Shishio's man? He's still in action, then?"
"Still in action." She sounded distracted, as if she were checking for anybody tailing her.
"Good work, babe. Keep in touch."
Feminine indignation lifted her voice as she forgot the situation for a moment. "I told you not to call me that!"
"Sorry, babe." He grinned to himself, imagining her fuming on the other end.
"Shut your face, rooster-head. Once I get back, I'll wipe that smug smile off…."
"Megumi?" he said, quietly, interrupting her.
"Be careful." He dropped the receiver into the cradle, and knew that she would follow suit. They both understood that it was best to make as little contact as possible.
He looked down at the pack of cigarettes on the desk in front of him. Maybe he should have just one more for good measure…
A/N: So, Saitou as a general manager….? Hehehe.
Please review! The next chapter shall be up very soon!