Love Hina Fan Fiction ❯ Loss and Redemption ❯ Reunions and Realizations ( Chapter 6 )
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This fanfic is based on the manga and anime and borrows facets from both of them.
"*" Spoken words
Loss and Redemption
Chapter Five: Reunions and Realizations
Since becoming the landlord of Hinata House, Keitaro had experienced a number of rough nights and rude awakenings. Having to sleep next to Su when Motoko went to training camp had been difficult; she'd cracked three of his ribs in her sleep. The night he and Naru had shared a room in Kyoto, she had put herself on display in her sleep and he'd been forced to tie himself up to stay in control. Even a study session with Mutsumi, Naru and himself had gone awry when they'd all fallen asleep and the girls had nuzzled against him while they slept.
But this night had been the absolute worst of them all. It had started out pleasant enough, with Motoko giving him a massage that easily ranked as the greatest event of his entire life. The problem was that it had aroused him, and then he'd had to fall asleep afterwards, but in the grip of intense arousal and teeth gnashing frustration, sleep had been nearly impossible. When he had fallen asleep, his dreams had been feverish with desire and he'd woken up about once an hour, sweating and breathing shallowly.
Finally he'd managed to calm himself down and fall into a fitful sleep. This didn't last, as he found himself roused again, this time by something resting on him and a ticklish feeling on his face. He reluctantly opened his bleary eyes and was shocked completely awake by the sight of Motoko's face just inches from his own. The two of them had rolled into an impromptu embrace while they slept, and Keitaro discovered that his left arm was around Motoko's waist and her right arm was around his. He prepared to extricate himself as slowly and carefully as he could.
Then another impulse struck him. Motoko's lips, those soft, warm, inviting lips, were inches from his own. He could feel her breath against his cheek. To kiss her, all he'd have to do is move his head slightly, it would be so easy. It reminded him of the time he'd almost kissed Naru when he thought she'd fallen asleep. 'Naru.' She hadn't approved of it then, and Motoko probably wouldn't approve of it now. He looked at the clock. 5:17. 'Guess Motoko didn't want to train this morning,' a voice at the back of his mind commented.
He wanted to kiss Motoko, but doing it like this went against his philosophy and he was certain that neither Motoko or Naru would be happy about it. Thinking about Naru sent his thoughts into a mess of spiraling confusion. He decided that there was no way he was going to get anymore sleep today, and if he was up, he might as well do something. He carefully pulled his left arm free, getting only a brief fright when she made a move to grab it, which he managed to avoid. Quietly getting up off the futon, he pulled on a pair sweats and a shirt. 'Maybe a run will clear my head,' he pondered as he walked out of the room and quietly closed the door.
If he had waited a moment longer, he would have heard Motoko quietly call out for him in her sleep.
At this hour the streets were virtually deserted and Keitaro was grateful for that. He preferred the privacy, and his only companions were his own thoughts. This wasn't a jog he was on; this was a frustration fuelled run. He was moving at a pace far faster than he had run before and despite his burning lungs he felt no urge to slow down. The run also allowed him the time to sort out the confusing feelings he was having towards Naru and Motoko.
A month ago his romantic situation was a lot clearer, even if seemed that the relationship between him and Naru couldn't decide if it was coming or going. Now he found his thoughts drifting between Naru and Motoko, and he had no idea how to handle this. He had vowed to Motoko that he'd get her reinstated and he fully intended to keep that promise if he could. However after last nights massage and some dreams that were on the far side of steamy, part of him was wondering if maybe staying with Motoko was the better option.
But Naru was still in his life, sort of. When she returned, she'd probably be happy to hear about how hard he was working to get out of the marriage. He did care for Naru, and spending the rest of his life with her was also an appealing option. She had never scorched his dreams the way Motoko done last night, but she was still beautiful and she meant a great deal to him. He had been through a lot with her, and through it all they had maintained a tempestuous relationship that went from tenderness to all out war and back in the blink of an eye.
'Ah, but aren't you forgetting Mutsumi?' his mind asked. While not as prominent a place in his heart as Naru or Motoko, she was still an important person in his life. The connection the two of them had was almost uncanny, from their love of collecting print club stickers to their similar personalities. It was almost like they were the two sides of the same coin, or cut from the same cloth. While she seemed to be trying to get him together with Naru, he was pretty sure that she would like an opportunity to be with him as well.
While his mind was having this debate, his body, which was being pushed harder than it had ever been, finally threw in the towel. He missed a step and ended up stumbling into a pile of garbage bags. With the last ounce of his strength he got up from where he had fallen and staggered over to a bench and collapsed onto it. He sat there trying to get his wind back and wait for his muscles to eliminate their accumulation of lactic acid.
He glanced at an outdoor clock and was surprised at the time. '6:00? Man, that was a longer run than I thought,' he mused. He was pleased to discover that he'd succeeded in burning off some of the frustrated energy that had built up during the night. 'Time to go home, breakfast should be ready when I get back.'
He returned to his feet and began walking back to Hinata House, his thoughts a lot less chaotic than they had been before. 'For now, worry about the training, I'll deal with the other issues when I have a chance to really think about romantic entanglements.'
'Romantic entanglements,' he snorted. 'Me, having romantic entanglements. Who'd have thought?' He spent the rest of the walk back to the residence watching the sky get lighter and enjoying the morning air. When he finally reached the top of the steps he found Motoko waiting for him. She wasn't openly angry with him, but she wasn't smiling either.
"Where did you go?" she asked with no preamble.
Keitaro grimaced. 'Should've guessed she'd be upset at me leaving, should've left a note,' he thought. "I woke up around five, couldn't get back to sleep, didn't want to wake you so I went for a run."
Motoko's brow furrowed in confusion. "Why couldn't you sleep?"
Keitaro stared at her with an incredulous look on his face. "You're kidding, right? It was that massage you gave me!"
Motoko blushed at his answer. "I'm sorry Keitaro, I didn't mean to cause you such distress. I'll try to be more careful next time."
In a flash the truth came to Keitaro. 'That was the most erotic experience of my life, and could provide fodder for hundreds of fantasies. She had me more sexually excited than I have ever been and she WASN'T EVEN TRYING!?' his mind shouted. He blushed heavily as another thought occurred to him. 'What, what would it have been like if she'd been trying to seduce me?' He realized that some parts of him were hoping he'd get a chance to find out.
"Are you alright Keitaro? Your face is all red,' asked Motoko.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, I just pushed myself a little too hard during the run, that's all," he replied nervously. To his relief, Motoko seemed to accept that at face value. The two of them went inside and had breakfast with the others.
Over the next few weeks Keitaro and Motoko spent as much time as they could in training sessions. She still preferred to be called 'sensei', but she didn't whap him over the head if he slipped up and called her Motoko. The distance and pace of their runs were gradually increased and Keitaro never again had the urge to vomit after running, even after eating. He was starting to toughen up, and his heart and lungs were in the best shape of his life. Physically he was getting into top shape, and he carried himself with a little more pride.
His kendo skills however…
Keitaro wasn't the worst swordsman in the world, but he was pretty close. He had no trouble holding the blade or taking a stance with it, but if he had to move with it, his inherent clumsiness asserted itself. He would trip over his feet or the pant legs of his outfit. Sometimes he got tangled up in the sleeves to the point that it resembled a straight jacket. Even the cracks on the roof could send him ass over teakettle, and Motoko would have sworn that once he tripped over his own shadow.
He was trying as hard as he could, but he had absolutely no inherent martial arts ability. It was so depressing at times that Motoko figured the only chance that they had would be to cut her hair extremely short and hope she could pass herself off as Keitaro. She rejected this idea out of hand, but there were days she caught herself wondering where the scissors were.
While Keitaro was struggling to become a swordsman, Motoko decided that she would try to improve her barely adequate cooking skills. She was able to make simple and nourishing food, albeit terribly bland, but she wanted to be able to make tastier fare. Her first attempt at a western dish, which involved flambé cooking, was obviously too difficult for her, and only quick action by Sarah with a fire extinguisher prevented a disaster.
After this fiasco, Su installed a fire suppression system in the kitchen that wouldn't have been out of place at an oil refinery. It did need a little adjustment though; Haruka discovered this when she made the mistake of lighting a cigarette in the kitchen and was hit with, in her own words, 'Niagara Falls'. This incident was made even more embarrassing as Haitani and Shirai had been visiting at the time, and the sight of Haruka in soaking wet clothing had caused Shirai to pass out from blood loss due to the resulting nosebleed.
When she was asked why she wanted to be able to cook better, Motoko would say that since she was starting to do more of the cooking, it was only appropriate that she try to do it better. What she didn't tell anyone, except herself, was that she was hoping that Keitaro would like her cooking. She was still self-conscious about her femininity, and she hoped that being able to cook better would make her more appealing to Keitaro.
Motoko hadn't talked to Keitaro about her growing feelings for him mainly because she was afraid of how he'd react. Besides, what they had wasn't too bad; they lived together, trained together, and they were growing more comfortable with each other. She was worried about rocking the boat, and telling Keitaro that she might be falling for him would certainly classify as rocking. It was better to simply enjoy what she had now, and see what happened.
When Keitaro wasn't being taught kendo by Motoko, she would tell him the history of the Shinmei School, and what it had done in the past. She was so passionate and animated when she told these stories that it served to remind him of how much it meant to her, and why he had to work so hard in the face of such daunting odds.
Keitaro was becoming aware of just how wonderful a woman he was married to, and there were times when he wondered if making the marriage official would be such a bad idea. 'But if we do that, is there any point to continuing the training?' he wondered.
Motoko was starting to have similar thoughts about Keitaro. For her the sword was her life and that was the way it had always been. While she may have had some feeling for Keitaro, even he had said the sword was her first love. Despite her better treatment of him, she still longed to be able to call herself a warrior again. But as the weeks had gone by and the two of them had gotten to know each other better, Motoko couldn't explain away the hollow feeling she got when she imagined the day that she was re-admitted to the Shinmei School and no longer married to Keitaro.
Through all of this internal debate Keitaro and Motoko still managed to get a little closer, much to Kitsune and Shinobu's dismay. The two of them always cheered Keitaro on when he was working out and did everything they could to encourage him to work harder. Kitsune's specialty was cheering and moral support while Shinobu always tried to make food that Keitaro liked. Despite their efforts, only one particular event was able to throw a monkey wrench into the slowly growing relationship.
Naru Narusegawa stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at Hinata House. 'Two months,' she reflected, 'have I really been gone that long?' Not wanting to walk up just yet, she recalled what had precipitated her departure two months earlier. Keitaro Urashima, her landlord, study partner, and possible love of her life, had ended up married to Motoko Aoyama, another Hinata resident.
When the two of them were wed, she had been so stunned by what had happened her usual fire had disappeared. She had been like a deer in the headlights while watching the rudimentary wedding ceremony, and when she had finally gotten around to recovering, it was over. It was too late. She was too late. Keitaro was gone. Lost to someone that she had never considered to be a threat. If she had been worried about anyone else getting Keitaro it would've been Mutsumi, but Motoko? No, she'd never seen it coming.
Shaken down to her very core, she'd put up a mask of indifference, lashing out when approached to insure that no one saw how hurt she was. She'd opened up a little to Kitsune, but she'd locked everyone else out. She had also unleashed her anguish against Keitaro whenever possible, for she found it easier to get angry and assault him then to open up to him. 'And it was easier to run away than to face him,' she recalled sadly. What made it worse was that he never attempted to follow her. When she and Keitaro had taken that trip after they'd failed the exam together, the entire house had chased after them.
'But when I went away, no one came after me, not even Keitaro. Especially not Keitaro,' she thought. She had said she needed to be alone, but deep down, she was hoping they'd try to follow her. She sighed deeply, and began to walk slowly up the stairs. 'I lost him. I cared for him, but I lost him. I'll have to learn to live with that, and at least be civil when I see them.'
Traveling alone for two months gives one a great deal of time for reflection, and Naru had certainly done a lot. She had come to realize that Keitaro had been the most important person in her life and she'd been unable to keep him. Now Motoko had his companionship, his love, even his name. All things that she had finally been able to admit that she'd wanted. 'I've got to move on now, I can't go on pining away for him, he's gone. I'm, I'm going to have to let him go,' she thought morosely.
By this time Naru had reached the top of the steps and was heading for the entrance. She stopped, took a deep breath to steady her nerves, idly wished she had a flask of alcohol to drink from, and then walked into the residence. "I'm back," she called out tentatively.
"Naru? Is that you… Naru!" Kitsune cried out upon seeing her friend in the living room. She ran up to her and gave her a bear hug that left Naru gasping for breath.
"Good to see you too, Kitsune," Naru wheezed as she struggled to free herself.
Realizing that her friend would need a doctor if she didn't let go, Kitsune released the hug and called out, "Hey everybody, Naru's back!"
"Within seconds, Shinobu, Sarah, and Su were converging on the living room with all possible speed. "Heyas Naru, didya bring me something to eat?" Su asked her as a way of greeting.
"No, but it's good to see you all again," Naru replied as she hugged each of the girls in turn. She was so elated to be with her friends again it took her a minute to notice that there were two residents absent. "Where, where are Keitaro and Motoko?" she asked.
There was a moment of silence before Kitsune answered. "They're out training, they should be back shortly. Listen Naru, I've got to tell-" Kitsune didn't get to finish the sentence as two new voices were added to the room.
"Very good Keitaro, that was your best time yet."
"Thanks Motoko, but I really don't like running in this hakama, it's just not comfortable."
"It is tradition to wear them. For centuries they have been worn by some of the greatest swordsman."
"It also used to be tradition to use leeches when you were sick. Why can't I wear a track suit or something?"
"You're comparing my family history with leeches? How dare you, you…" At this point Motoko had noticed Naru standing in the living room and any further comment died on her tongue.
"Hey, what's goi…" Like Motoko, Keitaro was at a complete loss for words upon seeing Naru again.
Naru looked at the two of them in their matching outfits and felt a new knife lance into her heart. She resolved to not break into tears but to stand firm and move on with her life. 'I won't cry now, I did enough crying on my own.' "Hello Keitaro, Motoko. It's good to see you again." She made an effort to put on a façade of civility and calmness.
Those efforts were put to their limits when Keitaro broke into a wide smile and cried out, "Naru! It's so good to see you again!" This earned him a relieved look from Kitsune, a look of shock from Naru, and a narrowing of the eyes from Motoko.
Naru just looked at him with an expression that was full of barely suppressed sadness and longing. "If you'll excuse me, I need to get settled back in,' she said as she headed up the stairs to her room.
"Let me help you with that!" Kitsune called out as she followed Naru up the stairs.
Keitaro was left feeling upset and confused by Naru's quick departure. He didn't get much time to think about it as Motoko, who seemed less than pleased with him, seized his attention.
"Urashima!" She hadn't called him that in a month and a half. "You dare besmirch my family history by comparing it to leeches?" she hissed. "You'll have to run again for that, and this time push yourself!"
"Yes Motoko, I'm sorry!"
"That's sensei!" she barked, clouting him on the head with her sword sheath.
"Yes sensei, I'm sorry." 'I'm going to regret that,' he mused as he walked back out the door in preparation for the run.
After Keitaro passed her, Motoko's face very briefly took on an expression of sorrow. But after less than two seconds, it was replaced by cold indifference and she turned and followed him out.
Back inside, Su and Sarah decided that the show was over and they ran off to resume exploring Hinata House. Shinobu would have gone back to the kitchen, but her mind was racing at what she had witnessed. She was glad that Naru was back, but she was also delighted to see that maybe her chances had improved. 'Naru didn't seem to be happy with him,' she recalled, 'and Motoko was definitely mad at him. If, if I can have a cold drink and some kind words for him when he gets back, maybe he'll take some notice of me!'
A smile that would have more appropriate on Kitsune, or perhaps Sarah, appeared on Shinobu's face. 'I may have a chance yet! If sempai has both Naru and Motoko angry with him and neither wants to be with him, I could win him! As long as I don't upset him, and just act kindly to him he'll notice me… won't he?' this doubt gave her conscience an opening that it tried to exploit. 'It's wrong to do this, you know. He does care for them, and he'd be unhappy if anything happened.'
'But I love him!' her heart replied. 'He's so wonderful, and I can't compete with Naru or Motoko. I, I have to do this if I want to be with him!' Shinobu's conscience didn't reply to this argument, but she had the sinking feeling that she hadn't heard the last from it.
"What the hell were you doing Naru?" raged Kitsune. "Why did you push him away?!"
"He's Motoko's now, I have to let him go," Naru replied softly.
"What do you mean…, that's right, you don't know, do you?"
"Did you notice their outfits?"
Confused by this apparent non-sequitur, Naru replied, "Yes, so what?"
"Motoko is teaching him kendo."
"Aren't you curious why?"
"I'm in no mood for games, get to the point Kitsune!" Naru growled.
"Alright, alright. A day after you left, Keitaro apparently went after Tsuruko and asked her to end the marriage."
"He, he did?"
"Yes, he did. Tsuruko gave him a bag with a sword and some letters. To make a long story short, if Motoko teaches him kendo for a year and he impresses Tsuruko, then the marriage ends and Motoko gets back into her family school."
Naru just sat there for a few minutes, not having any clue about what to say. When she finally spoke, it was in a voice so low that Kitsune had to strain to hear it. "I, I don't know…"
"Whaddya mean 'I don't know?'" Kitsune asked incredulously. "This is your best chance to get him back!"
"It's not that easy Kitsune," Naru replied. "While I was gone, I had a lot of time to think."
"Me. Keitaro. Us. Everything. Part of what I decided was what I should do about him. He was married to Motoko, he didn't come after me, and he's still living with her."
"I let him go Kitsune. I decided to let him go. I spent weeks trying to forget about how I felt about him. I grieved for the end of our relationship. I did everything that I could to get over him and move on, and now you're telling me it was for nothing?" Naru's voice had been steadily rising in pitch and was now on the threshold of shouting.
"We tried to tell you, but you wouldn't listen!" Kitsune responded while making 'quiet down' gestures. "You never answered your phone, e-mail or anything! What else could we have done, used carrier pigeons and smoke signals?"
Naru opened her mouth to respond to that, but ended up closing it as she realized that her friend was right. She had had tried to cut herself off from her friends and had completely succeeded.
Kitsune saw that the truth was sinking into Naru and she decided that now was the best time to let the other shoe drop. "It's lucky you came back when you did. Another month or so and I think you'd been outta luck."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, they've been living together, sleeping in the same room, although I don't think they've had sex, and they're starting to get closer."
"They're not at the 'Kei-kun' or 'Mo-chan' phase yet, but it could happen soon. If you'd stayed, not much would have changed, but Motoko is beautiful, just in case you haven't noticed, and they spend a lot of time together."
"But, but Keitaro and I worked together for a long time to pass the Tokyo University entrance exam…" Naru stammered.
"And right now Keitaro and Motoko are working together to impress Tsuruko," Kitsune shot back. "Don't worry though, how much could two people learn to care for each other in a year?" Kitsune saw Naru flinch at that, and she knew that her words had cut her to the bone. 'I hate having to do this Naru, but if you don't do something, you'll lose him!' Deciding that now was the right time for a gentler approach, Kitsune said, "Listen Naru. Keitaro isn't Motoko's, but he may not be yours either. If you want him, you're going to have to try to win him."
"How?" Naru replied softly.
"How? How'd you do it the first time?"
Naru rubbed the back of her head and chuckled nervously. "I'm, I'm not really sure…"
"Then just be yourself."
"Good. I should warn you though, I'd be careful around Motoko now."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember that slap you gave her before you left?" When Naru nodded, Kitsune continued. "Well, she might not just stand there and take it like she did then. I'd say she's becoming attached to him, which means possessiveness and jealousy may be a factor from now on."
Naru thought about what Kitsune had told her, and what she had done during the past two months. After a few minutes she sighed and said, "I've really screwed up haven't I?"
"Yes, you have," Kitsune replied in a matter-of-fact voice. "But it's not too late, and there's still a chance."
"Thanks Kitsune," Naru replied with a faint smile. "I think I'll start tomorrow."
"Why not now?"
"Let me get settled first," Naru replied as she walked out and headed for the bath.
"O.K." 'Naru's been through a lot hasn't she?' Kitsune mused. 'She's not as driven as she used to be, and I hope that doesn't hurt her chances.' Privately, Kitsune figured that it was a dead heat, and if she'd been asked to make a bet, she couldn't have decided on either Motoko or Naru.
The second run of the afternoon, Motoko's 'punishment' run, had been the hardest physical thing that Keitaro had ever done. Crumpled on the ground outside Hinata House, his muscles almost audibly screaming for oxygen, he reluctantly recalled the death-march Motoko had forced on him. The distance hadn't been too bad, about five miles, but it had felt like fifty. She had run harder than she ever had before, to the point she was struggling, and warned him what would happen if he didn't keep up.
He had managed, barely, to keep pace, but it had resulted in his body's present state of physical devastation. He was wheezing, unable to get his wind back no matter how hard he tried. He wanted to get up and walk around to alleviate some of his discomfort, but his exhausted leg muscles weren't having any of it. He had to accept just laying there, gasping for air like a freshly landed fish, only without the energy to flop around. As he lay there, he recalled what had lead to this symphony of pain.
'I guess I shouldn't have compared her family legacy to leeches,' He thought bleakly. 'I said that, and then Naru was there and…Naru?! I forgot all about her!' he realized. Keitaro figured that this was because his mind had been focused on keeping him alive during that run.
As his mind dealt with his body, it was able to place more of its resources into insuring that he never provoked that reaction from Motoko again. 'After I said hello to Naru, Motoko reverted to her old teaching style, only even worse.' Keitaro had suspected that Motoko was probably developing some feelings for him, but this was the first time she'd demonstrated any jealousy towards him. 'Then again, until Naru came back, she probably had no reason to feel jealous,' he mused.
Motoko was also reviewing her own thoughts. 'Why did I do this? We were getting along so well, and I go ballistic at an innocent 'hello!'' she raged. 'I keep doing things like this, and I'll drive him back to Naru!' She gasped audibly as she completed that thought. 'I, I am jealous, aren't I?' she reluctantly admitted. 'I like being with Keitaro, and I'm afraid of losing him to Naru.'
'Why don't I just tell him? Yes, that's what I'll do,' she vowed before her shyness took over. 'But not here and now. Maybe tomorrow, yes, we'll go out, maybe a picnic, and I'll tell him then.' She nodded to herself, pleased at her decision. 'With just the two of us, there will be fewer distractions and interruptions.'
Keitaro was finally getting his wind back and sitting up when Motoko sat down next to him, her face not showing anger, but instead a mix of sadness and regret.
"Are you alright Keitaro?" she asked.
"Yes Motoko, I'll be fine shortly. Listen I'm sorry about the… leech comment," he finished.
"No, no, I over reacted to the comment and lashed out. I'm sorry. To apologize, would you like to sleep in tomorrow?"
"Sure!" he responded enthusiastically. Then he had a second thought. "What's the catch?"
"Just one," she replied.
"What is it?"
"Join me for a picnic lunch," she said softly.
After a moments thought, Keitaro said "O.K." He noticed how Motoko's face lit up at his answer. 'Maybe we should talk tomorrow,' he mused.
"Alright Keitaro, sleep late tomorrow, and we'll leave at eleven."
"Isn't that early for lunch?"
"I have a particular place in mind."
"Alright then, let's do it," he said as the corners of his mouth curled up.
"I have things to prepare then. If you'll excuse me, I'll see you later Keitaro!" she called out as she practically floated inside.
In spite of the pain he was in, Keitaro couldn't stop a smile from breaking out on his face.
End Chapter Five
Coming Soon: Chapter Six: Confessions and Consequences
And once again, Thanks to Harvey Bautista for the pre-read.
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