Summary: He was just a story she was assigned to write. But the more Makimachi Misao discovers about him, the more she finds herself drawn into something she hadn't completely expected. AU fic with Aoshi/Misao
Disclaimer: Rurouni Kenshin belongs to Nobuhiro Watsuki. Aoshi? Mine? I wish! I am but a humble servant woken up by her muse at 2 in the morning.
Notes: Looking back I've noticed that there may be a few slightly-OOC moments here and there. Hope you will stretch your imagination for me, dear reader. It takes a genius to keep them completely in character in an AU fic, and I have no delusions of being one. Bring your senses to my front door; leave a note on your way out. Thanks.
1- By Definition
She worked with words. She took them, shaped them, made them into her own. She molded them to serve her purposes; she wove them together because that was her way of life.
The day she met him was the day she lost all her power over them.
And there was no turning back.
She knew about deadlines because she lived by them; she didn't need an editor to keep hammering it into her head. Especially when that editor was the one who stuck her with the lousy assignment in the first place.
And especially when that editor was her grandfather.
She was storming out of his office when his parting words caught her. "You'd better be on your way to that interview, sweetheart."
Makimachi Misao gritted her teeth and faced him, matching her grandfather stare for stare. "I. Said. I. Would. Have. It. In. By. Thursday. Don't rush me, old man."
"If only you pursue a story with the same intensity as you go after me," Okina said with an amused grin, his tone softening.
Misao didn't buy his good-guy act. She knew that he was only doing it to get a rise out of her, even if it meant goading her in the middle of a crowded newsroom. But she didn't care what the others thought. People at the Oni Times were paid to be nosy -- hell, she had a reputation for being the nosiest one of all. Instead, she directed all her attention on Okina. Sometimes she loved the man to death. He was, after all, her only flesh and blood.
This was not one of those times.
"What can be so intense about a tight-lipped scientist?" she countered. "If that hermit is your idea of a human interest story, you've been too locked up in your office."
Okina laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. She tried not to bristle at his touch. "Ah, my child, you'll know what I mean once you've reached my level of wisdom and maturity --"
"Wisdom and maturity, my foot!" She took a deep breath. There was no sense wasting her breath with Okina. Grabbing her backpack and tape recorder off her desk, Misao waved him off. "All right, I'll do the interview. Tomorrow. But first I have to go and pick up a few documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for that other story I have to finish."
"Hate to break it to you, sweetheart," her grandfather said in a tone that belied his words, "but your interview has to come first. The professor is leaving for Kyoto tomorrow and putting it off means --"
"—that I won't meet my Thursday deadline," she finished for him. "Fine, you win, old man. I'll set up the appointment."
Okina grinned widely. "I had Okon do that for you. You're to meet Shinomori-san at 2:00 pm this afternoon."
Misao rolled her eyes. He had everything figured out, didn't he? Days like this she wanted to strangle him. "That's an hour from now. Thanks for telling me."
"No problem," her grandfather said cheerfully, handing her a piece of paper before heading back into his office.
Misao glanced at the paper in her hands. It had everything she needed to know about the appointment. Now all she needed was to get the info she had dug up on the professor and she would be on her way. That was the way Okina had always been with her – so carefully manipulative, planning her life with his casual negotiations and friendly deals. She'd figure out his schemes a little too late. Oh, she knew he loved her, and that everything he did was for her benefit. But that didn't mean that what he felt was best for her was what was best for her.
She checked her watch. 1:10 pm. She had a deadline to meet.
Misao sighed. She knew about deadlines because she lived by them. Without them, she had nothing.
He checked the wall clock, making sure that he read the gray numbers properly. He was going to be in Kyoto this time tomorrow, and here he was, waiting for an unwanted appointment. This interview was definitely not his idea. His work spoke for itself; there was nothing he wanted to share with the rest of the world about mitochondrial biogenesis that he hadn't neatly typed up in the reports. But the dean's secretary had informed him of the interview, adding that it was the dean's personal request that he agree to the feature story to boost student interest in the biochemistry department's latest project.
Professor Shinomori Aoshi schooled his features to keep them from revealing any hint of irritation. He knew what the dean wanted. An interview would have been the best way to drum up the publicity, to entice prospective sponsors into the world of academic politics.
But Aoshi wanted none of that. He didn't need to draw more attention to himself. This was precisely why he chose to hide behind the facts and figures of science, so sharply impersonal that he didn't mind being cut off from everyone else.
Yet tomorrow he was going back to Kyoto.
Back to 'everyone else.'
One last time, he told himself. And then every last bridge will be burned.
The drive to the University was short, courtesy of her best friend Kaoru, who was bringing her only son Kenji to the pediatrician. Misao cuddled the one-year old in her arms, feeling all the afternoon's tension slip away.
"I thought you said you were headed for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Kaoru commented.
"Okina sent me to this interview instead. I'll get those papers tomorrow," Misao replied, smiling for the first time since her conversation with Okina. He had assigned that story a few days earlier, just enough for her to get all the info on Shinomori, but what frustrated her was how Okina would refuse to let the topic go. Now, with Kaoru and Kenji, Misao smiled away the last shreds of her anger, enjoying instead the quiet company of her friends.
As a reporter, she prided herself in her ability to charm her way into a confidence and get the story she wanted. She had a whole phonebook of contacts that she can prod for leaks and interviews. She had a smile that sugarcoated her stubborn streak. She was genki personified.
But that was work. When the presses were shut down, all she had to go home to was an empty apartment.
Sometimes it was better to immerse herself so fully in her work, to ignore the void in her life. Of course, there was Okina, but recently all they ever talked about was the Oni Times. She was thankful for Kaoru and her husband Kenshin, who have been her friends since high school. They brought her to dinners and family outings, but in the end, they went home together – and she still went home alone. She kept the smile on because that's who she really was – positive, optimistic. Some days, though, being alone was just a little harder to take.
Misao focused on Kenji, who had begun drooling on her arm. "You hungry, big boy?"
"He thinks you need a bath," Kaoru teased.
Misao's hand flew self-consciously to her hair, touching her long black braid. It had always been a running joke between them that Misao needed to take more pains with her appearance. Misao claimed it was one of the hazards of the job. "Hey, I just had one this morning!"
"Can't tell from here."
"That's because the toxic fumes from your cooking have clogged up your nasal passages."
"Hey!" Kaoru laughed. "Is that any way to treat your driver?"
Misao brightened up as she saw the University looming ahead of them. "Yes, since here we are!" She fumbled around in the back for the baby carrier and carefully deposited Kenji there before alighting from the car. "Thanks, Kaoru," she said.
Her friend grinned. "Anytime, Misao-chan," she replied, before driving away.
Alone, again. She knew the routine, as she consulted her slip of paper. "Shinomori Aoshi," she murmured out loud. But this time she put on a smile and went in search of the good professor.
She got there with just five minutes to spare, because she had such a rough time finding her way to Shinomori-san's office. When she did, she was surprised to see the dean's secretary waiting for her right outside. She was a much older woman with a lumpy figure and a pair of warm eyes.
Misao flashed her Press ID and an apologetic smile. "Gomena--"
"It's okay," the woman cut her off as she ushered her in. "Please, follow me. It's always a pleasure to have a member of the Oni Times here. Shinomori-san is waiting for you inside."
Misao hid a smile at the woman's eagerness, following her into the office. Her eyes surveyed the length of the room, trained to take in detail at a glance. Not that it helped her in this case; the sparsely decorated room told her nothing significant about the scientist. There was just a large wooden desk, a file cabinet and a low bookshelf. But all that faded into the wallpaper as the man behind the desk stood up.
He was tall, dwarfing Misao with the lean yet muscular frame emphasized by his stark white lab gown. His hair fell in long bangs across his thin, wire-rimmed glasses. Behind those frames his eyes were a deep piercing blue.
Misao opened her mouth. She knew she was supposed to say something.
Only, she forgot what.
End of Chapter 1: By Definition
More Notes: My decision to make Misao a reporter is born of two things: a) it's one (only?) profession that I know; and b) her fiery, go-getter attitude would be ideal for someone who is paid to go after a story. Which brings me to Aoshi. True, he'd be the poster boy for the cold and calculating businessman, but my experience with business has taught me that a large majority of these people are extroverts/people persons. I just can't imagine Aoshi in the whole "Let's talk stocks while we do lunch and golf" scenario. Enter the biochemist. I felt that ol' Ice Blue Eyes would be perfect as someone who had to deal with the cold hard facts of science on a daily basis. Besides, just imagine his white trench coat as a lab gown, and you'll do fine. Naturally.