A/N: As much as I adore Len/Kahoko, I am completely in love Kazuki. And between him helping Kahoko out during her little "music preview" and the little villa incident, I couldn't help it!
(Note: I have yet to finish either the anime or the manga…As I get further along I'll tie in some of the events…which means updates might be a little slower than I would like)
Disclaimer: I do not own Kiniro no Corda (La Corda D'oro)
There were very few times that Hihara Kazuki was rendered absolutely speechless in his life. In fact, he could count the number of times on one hand. Two of them, including this one, had involved her. He would have to remember to add this moment to the tally later.
The soft vibrato of a violin had brought him to the rooftop, and just as he had suspected, he found Hino Kahoko. It had taken a great deal of effort to slowly inch the door open enough for him to slip out and not be noticed. Kahoko, he had long ago learned, had a certain aversion to being the center of attention. Odd for someone with musical talent, especially one involved in the concours.
She was barefoot again, he noted with a grin. Though the first stage of the concours had come and passed, it appeared the second year, general education student had gotten used to practicing without her shoes. Along with her folded socks, they currently rested next to her violin case.
Kazuki let his eyes slide shut as he let listened quietly to the tune of Ave Maria. It was a song he had heard countless times, and yet it felt like a completely different piece when coming from Kahoko. Of course, had she known he was standing only feet behind her, he had no doubt she would be too nervous to continue. He had seen it when she performed Gavotte at the school gate, the fine trembling of her hands and unsteadiness in her knees. It had been too overwhelming for her to open her eyes and find other students clustered about as she played.
As soon as she had hit that awful screeching note in her moment of panic, he had already been on the move, pulling his trumpet from its case. And when he moved beside her to play, he could see the fear and insecurity in her wide-eyed stare. He pushed her forward, pushed her to continue, allowing his fingers to move in the familiarity of the simple song he had known for years.
And just like that, smiling uncertainly, Kahoko's violin joined his trumpet and brought cries of disbelief and joy to all those watching. A violin and trumpet. What an unusual combination. Not impossible, but unlikely.
His thoughts wandered to the night at the villa. The night he and Kahoko had accidentally fallen into an entangled heap of arms and legs. He remembered with vivid clarity the feel of her breath dampening his cheek, her flushed face. She had been unbelievably soft, the gentle curves of her legs pressed against his and the swell of her breasts just barely brushing against his chest. Used to horsing around with his brother, he didn't know that a woman's body could feel like that. Now he knew. In those few precious seconds above her, only Kahoko mattered. Ryoutarou and Keiichi had disappeared and the room smelled wonderfully like pears and wild flowers. Her shampoo, he decided after a deep breath. And then he was being hauled off her by Ryoutarou and she fled. Away from him.
He would be the first to admit he didn't have very much experience with women. Not like his friend Azuma. That night at the villa was the first time his heart nearly beat out of his chest and his palms had sweat; And it had nothing to do with a performance and everything to do with Kahoko. It was the night he finally began to see Kahoko not as his competition or a friend, but as a young woman. In that one accidental moment, with his body pushed flush against hers, Kazuki developed an awareness for Hino Kahoko that up until then had never existed.
He opened his eyes and watched as she swayed in time with the music. Had her skirt always been that short? He wondered idly, maybe he just never noticed it before. Abruptly, the music stopped. For one panicked second Kazuki thought he had been discovered. Then he heard her sniffle. He blinked, sure he was hearing things. There it was again, followed by a soft hiccup that tugged at his heart. Unable to maintain his silence any longer, he stepped forward.
"Hino-chan?" She jumped, startled, and spun on her heel to face the intruder. She relaxed slightly upon seeing Kazuki, quickly rubbing at her eyes with her coat sleeve.
"Hihara-senpai! What are you doing here? Have you…I mean, were you listening?" Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. He smiled, and she was thankful he chose not to address the fact that he had caught her crying.
"I'm sorry, Hino-chan. I heard you practicing, you were great!" If possible, her blush deepened and she quickly turned to busy herself with putting her violin away. Almost immediately she regretted it, having nothing to occupy her hands with. She twisted them anxiously in front of her.
"Thanks. But I'm not nearly good enough." She smiled, though it didn't quite reach her eyes, and moved to sit on a bench. Kazuki hesitated only a moment before joining her. They sat in silence for a few moments before he opened his mouth to speak. Surprisingly, Kahoko beat him to it.
"Hihara-senpai, do you ever feel…Nevermind, this is stupid. Of course you don't." She laughed nervously, brushing her hair behind her ear. Kazuki was so intent on watching the gesture that he almost forgot to respond.
"Do I ever feel what?" He pressed, hoping she wouldn't shy away from him now. He wasn't disappointed.
"Do you ever feel like you don't belong? Like you shouldn't have been chosen? I mean, there are so many others out there…So many music students that deserve this spot. Not me." She chewed on her lower lip, something she did when nervous that Kazuki found to be strangely endearing. Once again he almost forgot she was waiting on a response.
"Of course. I think we all feel like that sometimes. But just remember this…There will always be someone out there better than you, but you will always be better than someone else." He grinned cheekily and was rewarded with a laugh. At least she wasn't crying, because that made him uncomfortable. Laughter he was used to.
"I never thought of it like that." She mused, taking his words into consideration. It was something his old trumpet teacher had always told him when he doubted himself. They fell into another easy silence before he found himself asking what he had previously been holding back.
"Hino-chan, why were you crying?" He could feel her stiffen from her spot next to him. He was about to tell her to forget he had even asked when she surprised him (and by the looks of it, herself too) by answering.
"I don't belong in the concours. I don't have that ability Tsukimori-kun has for the violin, or the grace of Yunoki-senpai. I don't have the years of experience like Tsuchiura-kun. And I don't have the passion that you have." She shrugged her shoulders helplessly, her eyes searching his for answers. In truth, he was surprised that she felt that way. He had always thought she played wonderfully, even if she wasn't up to par with the rest of the participants.
"I think you're too hard on yourself, Hino-chan. You may not have the same ability, grace, or experience as everyone else, but those all come in time."
"No, let me finish." He held up his hand and she quickly closed her mouth and nodded.
"If you didn't have any passion for the violin or music at all, you wouldn't be able to play the way you do. So you get nervous during performances, that's natural. What you need, Kaho-chan, is confidence. Confidence in your ability."
"Shhh, don't say anything. Just think about what I said." He pressed a fingertip to her lips to silence her and immediately wished he hadn't. They were just as soft as the rest of her had been, and he had to fight against the urge to lean forward and press his lips to hers. She looked startled by the unexpected contact, but made no move to push him away. Boldly, Kazuki moved his finger until it was brushing against her cheek and he could feel her breath on the back of his hand.
He could smell pears and flowers again, though not as strong as it had been that night at the villa. When again she didn't shy away from his touch, he moved his hand down until it rested on the pulse point in her neck. She let out a shuddering sigh. Her pulse quickened, thumping wildly against his touch. Was he the cause of that?
"Kazuki." He murmured, his eyes darting to her lips again. She caught the movement and before he could blink she was out of his reach, standing at the end of the bench.
"Ah..I'm sorry Hihar-Kazuki-kun. I should go, it's getting late." She fumbled to gather her bag and violin case and was already half way through the door when Kazuki stopped her.
"Kaho-chan…I believe these are yours?" He was holding a pair of shoes in one hand and socks in another, looking highly amused. Kahoko wiggled her toes and looked down. Heat filled her cheeks as she hurriedly snatched them from his outstretched hands. She shoved her feet into the shoes and her socks in her bag before hurrying through the door again, this time without interruption.
It was at that exact moment, watching as she fled down the stairs, that Hihara Kazuki decided he had a crush on Hino Kahoko. And although he knew very little about women, having spent much of his time in the company of guys, he knew he would make her his own.
A violin and a trumpet. Unlikely but not impossible.
A/N: So this was originally going to be a one-shot deal…but as it turns out I'd like it to be a bit more. Please excuse any mistakes!
The comment Kazuki makes about there always being someone better/worse off than you was a comment my music teacher always used to say to me.