The Importance of Being Worthy - A Rurouni Kenshin drabble
Glad to see FFN's line breaks are working again. Here's another chapter of Lacero, since I can't seem to knuckle down and seriously work on my bigger fics. It was written for 100 situations and the prompt was 'worthy'.
I've been playing around with this idea for a while, but I never thought it would work as a proper fic. So, I'm hoping to do a series of drabbles with this theme. I hope you like it!
WARNINGS: Just some pervy thoughts and some adult themes. Don't get a heart attack, y'all!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or any of its characters.
As she stood outside the door to her interview, Kaoru resisted the urge to smooth her hair and fuss with her outfit. It was very possible that she was currently being watched via surveillance camera and she needed to appear as calm and confident as possible, if she wanted any chance at snagging this job. She could only hope like hell that they'd find her worthy.
She'd taken extra care dressing that morning, wearing her usual get-up, but with a few extra touches that she hoped would help her stand out from the other applicants. In this business, standing out was absolutely crucial to one's career. You couldn't afford to be forgettable, or mainstream; you'd simply get passed over.
Kaoru loved to experiment with colour, especially bright, almost fluorescent ones. Currently, she was going through an electric blue phase, so her outfit was completely black with heavy influences of her 'colour of the moment.' Thick blue streaks adorned her long, straight black hair, which was currently piled into a messy bun on top of her head. The colour perfectly matched her eye shadow, nail polish and the lacing on her black corset top and knee high boots. Her black leather pants were strategically ripped to show off her blue fishnet stockings and the glint of silver from the chains around her waist offset her spiked wrist cuffs and collar quite nicely.
One might say that she looked like a Harajuku cosplayer, or a goth/punk wannabe. The truth was, that while she may have started out that way, nowdays, she was the real deal. Kaoru had enough experience in her field to know how to dress the way she did and still pull it off effectively.
As she heard footsteps from behind the door, Kaoru took a deep breath and schooled her features into a cheerful, but not overeager smile. The heavy metal panel eased back with a squeak to reveal a surprisingly average looking woman wearing glasses with her hair pulled back severely from her face. She was holding a clipboard against her chest and the tautness around her eyes and mouth suggested that she was tired, possibly cranky and definitely not in the mood to be messed around.
"Good afternoon," Kaoru addressed her politely. "My name is Kamiya Kaoru and I'm here for an interview at two o'clock."
The woman's face relaxed a bit as she checked her clipboard. "Ah yes, Kamiya-san, I have you right here. Do come in." She stepped to the side and waved Kaoru in. As she stepped over the threshold, the woman clasped her hand in a brief handshake as she shouldered the door closed behind her.
"I'm Sekihara Tae, Kaos' human resources manager," she said as she took off down the long hallway at a brisk pace.
"Pleased to meet you, Sekihara-san," Kaoru told the woman as she fell into step beside her. "You look as though you've been extremely busy all day, I imagine there have been many applicants."
"Oh yes," Sekihara-san answered off-handedly, waving a hand. "I think we've seen about 70 since 9 o'clock this morning."
70. Holy shit. With an effort, Kaoru restrained herself from gulping, but she could feel a fine film of sweat break out on her forehead. If they'd seen that many, there was no way she was going to make it.
"Here we are!" Sekihara-san said brightly as they strode into the large open space at the end of the hall. Kaoru took the room in with a glance and realized that Kaos probably did most of their work here. One corner was taken up with equipment: the drums, mics and amps were all set-up and arranged carefully. Kaoru noticed that there were two microphones, which she took as a good sign. Kaos were obviously expecting to find someone today, and if they were still interviewing applicants, maybe all hope wasn't lost yet.
There was a small recording studio behind that and the opposite corner boasted a couple of long tables piled high with papers, power cords, guitar picks, drumsticks and fast food containers. Kaoru suppressed a grin. Hard core rockers indeed. She was willing to bet money that the rhythm guitarist was the one that had order the Happy Meal.
In the middle of the room, there were a couple of long black leather lounges and a low lacquered coffee table.
Reclining on one lounge, looking totally relaxed, were the four remaining members of Kaos.
Kaos was one of the most popular, most successful metal bands in Japan and they were fast making a name for themselves on the international circuit. They were famous, both for their kick-ass music and for their unfairly good-looking members.
Himura Kenshin played the lead guitar and was one half of the vocals team. His long red hair, violet eyes and handsome face made him a hit with the band's female fans and Kaoru was no exception. Personally, she preferred to drool over his awesome vocals first, his hot face and body coming a close second. Especially when it was adorned in black leather. Yum.
Komogata Yumi had been Kaos' female vocalist, but she'd left the band a couple of months before when she'd fallen pregnant. The music world had been abuzz with rumours for weeks as to who was the father, Kenshin being a hot contender. However, all the talk had been squashed when Yumi had married a man named Shishio Makoto in an intimate ceremony on the Amalfi Coast shortly after she left Kaos.
Sagara Sanosuke played the bass guitar. After Kenshin, he was the most popular member of the band, with his tall muscular frame and bad-boy persona. He was a total god on the bass.
Kaishu Katsu was Kaos' drummer. In Kaoru's opinion, he was one of the absolute best in the industry, with an unbelievable talent for rhythm and percussion.
Myojin Yahiko played the rhythm guitar. He was the youngest member of Kaos at 18, but what he lacked in life experience he more than made up for in sheer talent. He'd been with the band since it had formed, when he was just fifteen years old.
Kenshin stopped himself from leaning forward eagerly when Tae entered the room with their newest applicant. Gods above, she was hot. She had a rough, edgy look about her with her blue streaked hair and gothic punk get up, but her huge cerulean eyes spoke volumes about her nervousness. They made him want to tuck her safely into his bed and…
"This is Kamiya Kaoru, applicant 71," Sekihara-san announced, cutting his perving session short. Kaoru. Nice name. It would go well with theirs.
Knowing what was required of her, Kaoru bowed to the four of them gracefully. "It is an honour to meet you," she told them. "Thank you for considering me."
"No need to be so formal, Kamiya-san," Kenshin said, rising from his seat and coming forward. "We try to keep a relaxed atmosphere around here. Please, have a seat." With a light touch under her elbow, he guided her to the empty couch and then resumed his place across from her.
Kaoru knew that she was under the microscope; it was the only thing that prevented her from squealing and getting a nosebleed. Kenshin had touched her! Oh my GOD! Tae sat down beside her, which made sense, Kaoru thought. As the band's manager, she needed to be around for any major decision making.
Once Kaoru had made herself comfortable, Kenshin took his cue to get straight to the point. They's started out that morning making small talk with their applicants and easing into the more serious questions, but that hadn't gotten them anywhere. It had just been a colossal waste of time. He really hoped that wouldn't be the case here, this girl was definitely worth further investigation.
"So, do you have any previous experience with metal music, Kaoru-san?" Kenshin asked, keeping his expression detached. She was everything Kaos needed image-wise, but if she couldn't sing the way they wanted, she would be useless. The amount of women they'd interviewed today that couldn't actually sing had been astounding. Kenshin had a sneaking suspicion that they were simply Kaos fans that had dressed up and pretended to apply so they could meet the band members alone.
"Yes," Kaoru answered. "I was one of the founding members of a little metal band called Equilibrium back home in Hokkaido. We had a male and female vocalist, a drummer and three guitarists. A lot like Kaos' set-up, except we never got anywhere."
That earned a few smiles from the band members. Good Kaoru thought. They know they're good, but they're not totally up themselves.
"And what about performance experience?"
"I used to do guest vocals for a group called Forked Lightning a couple of years ago," Kaoru answered. "Part of their gimmick was that their guest vocalists always had some special talent that they would perform while they were singing, so you had to work really hard if you wanted to perform with them. They were very much into the entertainment factor as well as the music."
She didn't expect any of them to recognise the name. They were a small, little-known metal band originally from Narita. She decided not to mention that one of her ex-boyfriends played bass guitar for the band and had helped her get her first big break by suggesting she do a gig with them.
"That chick was you?!" Sanosuke blurted, earning him surprised glances from the rest of the room.
"Um… you know Forked Lightning?" Kaoru asked tentatively. If he did, things could either go very well, or very badly.
To her acute embarrassment, Sanosuke started digging around in his bag, producing a battered CD case. "This is you, right?" he asked, flicking through the booklet and indicating a small headshot of her.
"Yes," she answered, trying not to blush. She's been going through her hot pink phase then and she'd looked like a bit of a try-hard. Her hair had been cropped quite short with hot pink splices and she'd been heavily into her facial piercings. Out of her eyebrow, nose, labret and tongue piercings, only the barbell through her eyebrow remained now. "I went under the alias of 'Lilith' when I worked with them."
"You know the band, Sano?" Katsu asked, looking mildly interested.
"Yeah," Sanosuke answered with a grin. "They did a lot of experimental and industrial metal, which is why they aren't as well known as some other metal bands. They were actually pretty good though and their guest vocalists were always extremely talented." He looked up at Kaoru with a mischievous expression. "If I remember correctly, Lilith's special talent was doing kenjutsu kata while she sang."
Kaoru suddenly found herself on the receiving end of five very interested looks.
"Is that so?" Kenshin asked, smiling despite himself. This girl just got better and better. "Sano, would you mind putting the CD on for us?"
Kaoru tried her hardest not to fidget, but Kenshin's gaze was unnerving, especially given her rather massive crush on him. She'd done an admirable job so far of hiding it, she only hoped that she could continue to do so if God granted her a miracle and she made it into the band.
"What track would you recommend, 'Lilith'?" Sanosuke asked, his tone light and teasing.
The fact that they were actually interested in hearing her sing was both exhilarating and terrifying. Oh my God, she prayed, please let me be worthy, please!
"The instrumentals on track 17 are pretty good," she responded after a moment's consideration. "It's always been my favourite song to perform. It was lots of fun to do a sword kata when Shuici was going mental on the bass. He used to try and mirror my moves."
"'Manifesto of the Manic Depressive'? Good choice," Sanosuke agreed, slotting the CD into the player and selecting the track.
Kaoru held her breath as the intro played. She heard her voice start to sing, smiling slightly at how young she'd sounded back then. Her voice had matured quite a lot since her time with Forked Lightning, as a result of a combination of intensive vocal training, cigarettes and alcohol. Her overall sound was more well-rounded; sultry and dark, less nasal and piercing.
Sneaking glances at the Kaos members while the song played, all the signs were encouraging. Sanosuke was grinning and tapping his foot, Katsu had his eyes closed and an expression of calm concentration, Yahiko was staring at the CD player and Kenshin's eyes were focused inwards. It was obvious that all four of them were busy deconstructing the music.
There was a brief, tense silence when the track finished.
"So, um, what did you think?" Kaoru forced herself to ask. "My voice was a little higher-pitched then than it is now, but I still sound fundamentally the same."
"That's actually surprisingly good," Yahiko said thoughtfully. "Lend us the CD Sano, will ya?"
"Get yer own!"
"It was good," Katsu said casually, leaning forward to address Kaoru and ignoring the bickering that continued behind him. "Your sound is similar to Yumi's, without being so alike that people will think we hired a carbon copy to replace her."
"I guess all that's left now is a live demo," Kenshin said, looking around at his band-mates for confirmation. When they all nodded, he turned back to Kaoru. "I assume you can read sheet music?" He reached forward and gathered the stack of music sitting between them on the coffee table.
"Uh… yes," Kaoru answered. At Kenshin's raised eyebrow, she hastily continued "I've… ah… played the violin for ten years."
Yahiko laughed. "This one's just full of surprises huh?" he remarked, recognizing Tae's calculating glance for what it was. If she was any good, a violin could add some much-needed dimension to Kaos' music, perhaps put them into the same kind of league as some of the more popular operatic metal bands.
Sano plucked the sheets out of Kenshin's hands and presented them to Kaoru with a flourish. "Here's a little something we've just finished," he told her. "It's brand spanking new and it should get released… as soon as we find a female vocalist that works."
"All right!" Katsu announced, standing up and stretching. "Let's get set up and do this. I've been gagging for my drums all frickin' day!"
The music looked interesting. More than interesting. The vocals were well-written and the harmonies had fantastic depth. She was looking forward to hearing this.
"How do you want me?" Kaoru asked, her eyes fixed on the paper. She completely missed the slight amber glint in Kenshin's eyes as he looked at her.
How do I want you? Well, on the couch would be good for starters, then up against the wall, bent over that amp maybe…
"Pardon?" he asked instead.
"Sorry," Kaoru looked up at him, her expression sheepish. "I meant, how would you like me to sing? I do a few different styles depending on what suits the music best."
"Ah," Kenshin nodded. "Well, I'll be doing a ballad sort of vocal style for this song, it's a fair bit slower and lighter than most of our earlier stuff. We're trying something different."
"So… slow and 'soulful'?" Kaoru asked with a smile.
"Yeah," Kenshin answered. "Work the angst angle."
Kaoru watched uncertainly as the guys got settled into their places. It was a delicate situation. If she simply walked over and positioned herself behind a mic, it might look as though she was barging in and trying to take over. If she hung back, however, she might appear overly aloof.
Thankfully, Kenshin took care of the problem before it even started. "Call me superstitious, but I always take the right-hand mic," he told her with a grin, indicating that she should take the microphone on the left.
Relieved, Kaoru took her place. As the boys warmed up, she couldn't stop the smile that curved her lips. It felt like forever since she'd last done a gig. When she thought about it, it had been three months since she'd done any musical work. And what a bleak time that had been.
Moving to Tokyo from Narita had been risky, and there were many times when she'd contemplated packing up and going back home again. Her total lack of success in getting a gig so far had forced her to get herself a job as a waitress at one of the hippest new restaurants in Tokyo to make ends meet. She rented a crummy little bedsit nearby and generally only went there to eat and sleep.
So far, it hadn't been a terribly glamorous life, but Kaoru was getting by. The necessity to maintain her image in order to stay musically marketable meant that she had lived on ramen and instant miso in order to save money for clothes, makeup and having her hair maintained.
To keep her ear to the ground, Kaoru had ingratiated herself into all of the grunge and metal circles she possibly could, her work with Forked Lightning giving her enough street cred to be more or less welcomed onto the Tokyo scene.
The opening for a female vocalist in Kaos seemed like a sign from the heavens. She'd been sitting in Black Light one evening, sipping her Malibu and orange and contemplating (yet again) whether it'd be more financially viable to just bugger off to Narita and see if Shuici was still single, when Miaka, the bartender that night, had called her over.
"Check this out, Kaoru-chan," she'd said, sliding a magazine across the bar. Kaoru had nearly fainted when she read the article.
"Kaos. Oh my frickin' God," she'd squeaked.
"Yeah," was Miaka's answer. "I thought you'd like that. You can take it with you if you like. Just don't forget your old pal Miaka-chan when you're hitting stages around the world with the likes of Himura Kenshin as your supporting vocalist!"
The music was fantastic. Kaoru loved it immediately, this song would definitely be a hit when it was released. The possibility of her vocals being included in it was enough to make her dizzy with excitement.
As the song finished, the male vocals stopped before the female's, with Kaoru having to hold the closing note for two straight counts of eight. Kenshin took the opportunity to glance over at Kaoru to see how she looked as one half of the front of Kaos.
He couldn't help grinning at the picture she made. She had totally gotten into it. She'd grabbed the mic off the stand and was currently leaning right back to open up her diaphragm, eyes closed, with her free arm in the air. He shared a quick, amused exchange of looks with Katsu, Sano and Yahiko and knew that he had their approval.
As the last notes died, Kaoru opened her eyes and realized that the boys were all grinning at her.
"Eh heh," she said, rubbing the back of her head, "I haven't been in front of the mic for a while, I'm probably rusty…"
"You're hired," Kenshin told her warmly, his smile growing wider at the poleaxed expression on her face.
"Really?" she squeaked. "Me?"
"Yes, idiot, you," Yahiko answered, looking exasperated. "Unless it was your evil twin that applied for the gig."
Okay, Kaoru. Don't faint. Don't faint. That would look really, really bad, now that you've been hired and everything.
Kenshin watched the emotions flicker across Kaoru's face with amusement. It was obvious she was trying extremely hard to suppress how excited she was. How cute. That meant she was probably a fan of Kaos. Well, if she kept singing like that, he wouldn't care if she was the band's number one stalker.
As she talked animatedly with Katsu and Sano, he allowed his eyes to drift over her again. No doubt about it, she had a fantastic body, although she looked a little thin. No matter. Being around Tae and her cooking would put a bit of weight on her.
Lingering on the curves of her backside and chest, he let the lecherous thoughts take over momentarily. God knew it had been ages since a woman appealed to him like Kaoru was seeming to. He'd wanted to toss her on the floor and take her as soon as she'd walked in. Something about her called to his darker instincts, probably the fact that she managed to look so innocent, despite the way she dressed and acted.
She was definitely interesting, no doubt about it. Everything she'd told them just had him wanting to know more about her.
But now that she was a Kaos member… he had the time to find out.
And he would be finding out. Everything.
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