Love Hina - Goodbye Chapter 2

Fanfic by Steven Biggs

A melee breaks out as each of the girls tries to be the first to get to him. Naru grabs his right arm and tries to pull him back down on the couch.

"Come here Keitaro!"

Mutsumi grasps his other arm.

"Oh my! Do we get to make a wish?"

Motoko stands there for a few seconds, unsure if she should get involved. Throwing caution to the winds, she makes a diving leap and manages to wrap her arms around his right leg.

"HA HA! SHINMEI SCHOOL SECRET ARTS, uh, TENACIOUS GRASPING OF SOMETHING OR OTHER!"

Su, tossing the remote control aside, leaps over the table and snags his left leg.

"Tag, you're it!"

Shinobu is cleaning up a pile of wrapping, bows, and ribbons while this is happening.

"Aaauuuuu! Sempai!"

She then realizes that he is completely immobilized, and her target is wide open.

"(Go, Shinobu. Fight, fight!)"

She jumps in and wraps her arms around his neck.

Kitsune, still giggling on the floor, crawls over. She reaches into the fray, tightly clutching at the first thing she can reach.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

Keitaro launches up and over the couch, crashing into the ceiling.

Shinobu, no longer held up by his neck, lands on Kitsune, Motoko and Su.

Naru and Mutsumi are still holding onto his arms and crash into each other before they fall on top of everyone else. Everyone gets tangled in the ribbons and wrappings that Shinobu dropped.

Kitsune looks at her hand.

"Darn! That was a pretty good grip, too. Well, they say it's always the big one that gets away."

Keitaro falls to the floor behind the couch. He rolls on his side, clutching at his injured, uh, injury.

Haruka walks over and looks down at him.

"Hey, Keitaro, you want some ice?"

He rolls onto his other side.

"Oooooh! I think I was b-better off when I was gone. Groan!"

Keitaro grabs the back of the couch and pulls himself up. He sees the pile of girls near the tree.

"Are the rest of you okay?"

He notices that the girls are tangled with ribbons and bows. He smiles at the sight. Then he speaks before his brain can get a warning to his mouth.

"Ha ha! Do I get to unwrap these new presents now?"

His hands clasp themselves over his mouth.

"I, I, I'm sorry! I didn't mean, uh, I, I . . . . . I'm a dead man."

Kitsune giggles and gets up on her knees. She notices the ribbon around her neck and a bow stuck to her ear. She giggles again.

"I'm game!"

Su claps her feet together. Ribbons are wound around her toes.

"Merry Christmas, Keitaro!"

Mutsumi sticks her head up. A big pink bow is wedged between her breasts. She starts to crawl towards him.

"Oh my! Do I get to be the 'booby' prize?"

Naru jumps up. Ribbons are draped over her shoulders. A bow is stuck to the belly of her sweater. She pulls them all off.

"T-too late! There aren't any on me! You should have gotten over here sooner. You might have found a really nice present"

She smiles and blushes.

Shinobu gets up. A bow is stuck to her forehead. She crosses her eyes trying to look at it.

"Aaauuuuu! I missed it by that much!"

"Somebody, please help me!"

They all look at the floor. Motoko is wrapped in the rest of the ribbons. A big red bow is on her cheek. The girls move to help her, but Kitsune stops them.

"This looks like a job for our manager!"

Keitaro looks at her.

"What!"

Naru giggles too.

"Don't just stand there Keitaro. She needs your help!"

Su does a back flip.

"Open the present! Open the present!"

He walks over to her.

"Don't worry Motoko-chan, their just having fun. I'll help you."

Kitsune pulls his arms behind his back.

"Naru!"

Naru grabs some ribbons and wraps his hands.

"There! Now you're ready to help Motoko!"

"But how can I help her like this?"

Naru places her finger against his lips.

"You still have this."

Motoko's eyes go wide. Her cheeks become as red as the bow.

"Naru-sempai! You would not dare!"

Keitaro turns to Haruka.

"Haruka-san, please do something!"

She starts to walk towards the door.

"I think I left the water running."

As the door closes behind her, they can hear her start laughing.

Naru pushes Keitaro. He falls to his knees next to Motoko.

"Well, you'd better get started. We have a Christmas party to finish. And there are other presents waiting!"

Motoko looks up at him.

"Urashima, it seems that you m-must. But please, b-b-be careful."

"Motoko-chan."

He leans down and grabs the bow in his teeth. Motoko gasps as he pulls it off. He drops it on the floor.

"I'm sorry!"

He turns away from her. Motoko looks up at Kitsune. She gives her the thumbs up sign. Motoko winks back at her.

"Urashima, please continue. I need your help."

He turns back to her. He blushes.

"Alright."

He looks for the end of the ribbon. He spots it in the last place he dares to look. It is caught on a button of her blouse between her breasts.

"Motoko, the ribbon is . . . . ."

She looks up at him.

"It will be alright, Urashima. Do not worry. Do what you must."

He shakily leans down, pausing just inches away from the ribbon. Motoko closes her eyes and her breathing quickens, drawing her shoulders together. This, of course, places the end of the ribbon in an even more difficult position.

Keitaro tries to grab the ribbon without touching anything else. But, no matter how he turns his head, he can't get a clear path. He decides to make it one quick motion. He drops his head and clenches his teeth. He quickly leans back up.

He has the ribbon firmly in his teeth!

And the button it was caught on!

Keitaro looks down at Motoko. He sees the lace of her bra and the whiteness of her skin through the opening of her blouse. The ribbon falls from his mouth.

Blood gushing from his nose, he beats the ribbon to the floor.

Motoko sits up and gracefully holds a hand out to Kitsune.

"I believe that the correct phrase is 'pay up'!"

Kitsune reaches into her pocket.

"Darn! You win the bet, Motoko!"

She places a 10,000-yen bill in her palm.

Naru looks back and forth at them.

"What bet?"

Kitsune laughs.

"Before Keitaro left, I bet Motoko that he would never, except by accident, place his head between a woman's breasts. I admit that was pretty sneaky though."

Motoko stands up and places a hand on her shoulder.

"Do not feel too badly about this. I have learned from a master."

"Thanks Motoko, I think."

"Aaauuuuu!"

They look at Shinobu. She is covering her eyes and hiding behind the tree. Naru smiles.

"It's okay Shinobu-chan. We were just having some fun."

"Th-th-that's not it!"

"It's not? Then what's wrong?"

Still covering her eyes, she points in Keitaro's direction.

"His r-r-robe is, is open! Aaauuuuu!"

The three of them turn and look down at Keitaro. Su has pulled a branch off the tree and is poking at his, uh; she is poking at him.

"What's this thing? It kinda looks like Tama-chan's head."

Naru's eyes go wide and she starts to blush.

"S-s-su! Stop that!"

Kitsune drops her glass of sake.

"My goodness!"

Motoko drops and leans on the arm of the couch.

"That is a . . . . . I have never . . . . . it is, amazing!"

Naru kneels and pulls his robe closed.

Mutsumi claps her hands together.

"Oh my! Did we just get a free shot?"

Keitaro wakes up and looks around.

"N-n-narusegawa, why are you h-h-holding onto m-m-my robe?"

Naru's hair stands on end. She leaps up and lands on the end of the couch.

"I I I I I I I I . . . . . "

He gets to his feet.

"What happened?"

Su waves the branch over her head.

"We were just looking at . . . . ."

Naru grabs a cupcake and sticks it in Su's mouth.

"We were just looking at, ah, uh, the, all the presents that we still have to open!"

"There are a lot left. It seems like we have hardly started."

"Keitaro, why don't you go, ah, change. Your clothes should be dry by now.

He nods his head and looks at his robe. He walks towards the laundry room.

"That's a good idea. It feels kind of drafty wearing this."

A single laugh bursts from Kitsune before she covers her mouth. Keitaro turns around.

"What's so funny?"

Naru runs over and pushes him out of the room.

"Oh nothing! Nothing at all! Hurry up so we can open more presents!"

Naru walks back and plops down on the couch. She looks over at Motoko.

"You can get up now."

Motoko closes her mouth and goes to pour a glass of tea. As she begins to drink, Kitsune speaks.

"Does anyone else feel a draft?"

Motoko coughs, spraying tea all over her blouse. She looks down. Her hand covers her chest.

"I completely forgot about that! But now I must change also."

As she heads for the stairs, Shinobu stops her.

"I was so happy that we found Sempai that I forgot to bring your clothes to your room. They're still in the laundry room. I'm sorry."

"That is alright, Shinobu. We all are very happy that he has returned."

At the door to the laundry room Motoko stops.

"(He is in there. I must knock to make sure he is presentable.)"

"Urashima, may I come in?"

"Yes, I'm almost finished."

Motoko opens the door. Keitaro is just putting his sweater on. He pulls it over his head and notices her staring at him.

"It looks like you had a little accident, Motoko-chan."

She covers her blouse with her hands and blushes.

"Yes, I did. Kitsune said something rather, uh, unexpected."

Keitaro puts a hand on his head.

"She can be pretty surprising at times. Well, I'll let you have this room to yourself."

"Thank you, Urashima."

Keitaro looks at the floor.

"Motoko, I appreciate you always being so formal with me. But, would you do me a favor?"

"What would you like me to do, Urashima?"

He picks up the rest of his clothes and looks at her.

"Could you call me 'Keitaro' once in a while? That is, if it's okay. Being called 'Urashima' all the time makes me feel kind of like an old man. I'm only a little older than you anyway."

"I would be happy to, Ura-, ah, Keitaro."

"Thanks Motoko-chan."

Before he closes the door, he sticks his head back inside.

And b-b-by the way, I think the little p-pink flowers are very cute."

Motoko covers her blouse again, noticing that the tea has made it translucent. She blushes as he closes the door.

He takes his clothes up to his room before returning to the party. Motoko enters just before he does.

Keitaro picks up a glass of tea and sits on the couch. Kitsune clinks her glass against his.

"How's it hanging, Keitaro?"

Naru slaps the back of her head.

"Uh, fine Kitsune-san. Thanks for asking."

Naru moves closer to him.

"Can I ask you something?'

"Sure."

She takes the gloves out of her pocket.

"Why did you buy these gloves for me?"

"Because of how much you mean to me."

"Even after hearing us talk about, about wanting a new manager?"

"Yes."

"But, that didn't leave you very much money to live on, did it?"

He lowers his glass.

"That wasn't important to me. I felt that I had to do it."

"Why don't you ever think about yourself first?

"I guess that studying isn't the only thing that I'm stupid at doing. But I can't help being the way I am."

Naru wraps her arms around him and rest her head on his shoulder.

"That's what we all like about you Keitaro. Don't ever change that."

Kitsune raises her glass.

"Hear, hear!"

Shinobu brings him a plate of cookies.

"I like you the way you are too, Sempai!"

Su jumps up on his shoulders.

"Hooray for dull, stupid Keitaro!"

Motoko raises the hilt of her sword.

"I agree."

Naru looks up at Keitaro.

"I was so sad when you weren't at the exam. Do, do you still plan to try for Toudai?"

Keitaro's face becomes sad. He rests his glass on his knee.

"I honestly don't know. I've missed three weeks of prep school. I haven't had the time to study. And I don't see how I can make that much time up before the entrance exam."

"But you have to try!"

"I will. It's just that I don't know if my best will be good enough."

Mutsumi falls over the back of the couch and wraps her arms around his neck.

"Oh my! This party is so much fun! The excitement is starting to get to me!"

"Mutsumi-san!"

"Narusegawa-san and I will help you study. We flunkies have to stay together. Isn't that correct, Narusegawa-san?"

"That's right. And please stop including me in your flunky group!"

Keitaro starts to smile again.

"Thank you. Even if I fail again, your help means more to me than you know."

Su kicks him on the head.

"I'll help too!"

Shinobu grabs a package from under the tree.

"Sempai, please start opening your presents. Merry Christmas!"

"Thank you, Shinobu-chan. But shouldn't you girls get to go first?"

Motoko points the end of her training sword at him and smiles.

"We must insist that you open your gifts first. Your life has been hard for the past few weeks. You need to enjoy yourself and recover your energy."

Kitsune pours him a glass of sake.

"Yah! Take it easy until after New Years. Our 'ex-temporary' manager can handle things for a little while longer. Right Naru?"

Naru takes his tea so he can take the glass from Kitsune.

"I'll be happy to handle things for the time being. Think of this as the start of your vacation!"

Su tosses Tama up in the air.

"Yippee! Vacation for Keitaro means all the time in the world to play!"

Naru chides her.

"Okay, but he must spend every morning studying! I promise that I will help him catch up."

Keitaro opens the present from Shinobu.

"Shinobu-chan, thank you! This is a wonderful sweater. Did you knit this?"

"Y-yes, Sempai."

He leans forward and kisses Shinobu on the cheek.

"Merry Christmas!"

Her legs shake so hard that she can hardly stand.

"Aaauuuuu! (He kissed me! I'm so happy!)"

Kitsune hands the next present to Keitaro.

"Here you go!"

He takes the cover off.

"It's a wind-breaker coat!"

"Look on the back!"

It says 'World's Greatest Manager'.

"Thank you, Kitsune-san!"

She leans towards him.

"Don't I get a 'Merry Christmas' kiss too?"

"Of c-c-course you d-do!"

He leans to kiss her cheek, but at the last instant, she turns her head and plants her lips against his.

Keitaro's eyes go wide and then slowly lose focus. Kitsune pulls away, blushing.

"Merry Christmas, Keitaro-san."

Su hands a strangely wrapped package to him. For the first time, he sees her blushing.

"I had my sister send this for you. I, I hope that you like it."

He pulls the object out of the box. It is an unusual shirt.

"This is so exotic! Thank you, Su. I'll be happy to wear this!"

"Keitaro, this is a marriage shirt from my country. You may only wear it on the day you get married."

"M-marriage shirt? It will be a long time before I find someone that would marry me. But when I do, I will be proud to wear this."

Su wraps her arms around his neck.

"Well then, if Naru turns you down I'll be your bride!"

He looks up at the ceiling, his eyes glazing over as he fantasizes about getting married to Naru.

"(A Toudai student marriage! Naru's hand-made lunches! Tennis for two! And, and, and . . . . .)"

"Keitaro."

"Keitaro?"

"KEITARO!"

He opens his eyes and sees Naru's face.

"Uh, what? Narusegawa. Is it time for tennis?"

"Tennis? What are you talking about? Are you alright, Keitaro?"

"Oh, I-I'm fine! I was just, uh, uh . . . . ."

She pats his cheek.

"Why do you keep leaving the real world for fantasies?"

"What?"

Naru whispers.

"Please tell me what you were thinking. I really want to know more about that place where you keep going."

"Narusegawa, it's, it's not something that I think you should know.'

He sees Naru smile, but it is a strange, unreadable type of smile.

"Oh? Were you thinking something perverted about someone? About me?"

She takes his hand and places his fingers along her neck.

"Narusegawa."

Her hair flows like a spring breeze as she lets her head fall backwards. She closes her eyes. One hand reaches up and pulls him closer.

"Keitaro. Keitaro."

"Keitaro?"

"KEITARO!"

SPLASH!

Naru pours some cold water on his head.

Keitaro looks around. The only thing in his arms is the shirt.

Naru laughs.

"I think he's back with us now. This is about the longest that he's been out of it."

He stares at her, his hair dripping over his glasses.

Motoko reaches under the tree for another package.

"Here you are Urashima, Merry . . . . ."

"Just hold on a minute here!"

Her hair shoots up and she looks at Su.

Su sits on Keitaro's knee.

"Aren't you gonna give me a smooch?"

Laughing, he kisses her cheek.

"Is that okay?"

"Um, it'll do! Okay Motoko, he's all yours!"

She hands him another gift.

He pulls a miniature sword set out of the box.

"Motoko-chan, this is beautiful."

He bows to her.

"Thank you very much! This will be a wonderful way for me to hold the memories of your attacks on, uh, I mean your Shinmei technique."

When he doesn't hear anything, he slowly lifts his head. Motoko is kneeling in front of him, looking at her hands on her knees.

Kitsune slaps Keitaro on the head.

"Give her a kiss already!"

Motoko's head jerks up.

"I was n-n-not waiting for Urashima to, to, ah, that is, I was just . . . . ."

"Motoko-chan, its okay. I understand that you wouldn't want a kiss from me."

He holds out his hand.

"Thank you, Motoko-chan."

She takes his hand.

Su kicks Keitaro in the back of the head.

"Ha ha! You're such a wimp!"

At the same time, Mutsumi leans against Motoko's back.

"Oh my! I feel a little tipsy right now!"

As they fall against each other, their lips meet for an instant.

Motoko pulls back. Keitaro puts a hand on his head.

"Ha ha ha! I'm sorry about that Motoko-chan! You aren't going to hit me now, are you?"

Motoko raises her hand and touches her lips.

"Oh, Merry Christmas to you, K-keitaro."

A hand held to her breast, she looks away from him and moves to the table to pour a glass of tea.

"(Whew, that was close! I thought that accident would be my last. I've been the manager again for hardly two hours and I've already started to screw up.)"

Motoko takes a sip of her tea. She turns her head towards Keitaro and smiles at him.

"(Whoa! I guess I'm off the hook for that one. Motoko-chan seems to have lightened up a little while I was gone. I wonder what caused that.)"

Mutsumi picks up a bag and brings it to Keitaro.

"Here you are, Urashima-kun! I hope that you like them!"

He reaches into the bag and lifts out a small statue.

"This looks kind of familiar, but I've never seen one quite like it."

"Oh my! That is a good luck totem from Okinawa!"

Mutsumi sits down at his feet. He reaches into the bag again, pulling out a Walkingman CD player.

"Wow! This is fantastic!"

"I thought it would be nice if you could listen to your favorite music while you work."

"Thank you, Mutsumi-san! Huh, there's another present in here."

"Oh my! I thought that was all that I put in there."

He reaches in and comes out with a small pink ball.

"A silk handkerchief!"

He rubs it against his cheek.

"Ah, it's so nice and soft!"

"Oh my! That's where those panties are! You can have it, if you really like them."

Keitaro freezes and his glasses slide down his nose.

"P-p-panties!"

Naru reaches over and takes the bundle from his hand, then hands it to Mutsumi.

"I think this is one present that he can do without!"

"But Narusegawa-san, they were supposed to be for you. Oh my!"

Keitaro still has his hand to his cheek. Blood trickles from one nostril.

"N-n-narusegawa's s-silk p-p-panties!"

Blushing, Naru shoves them into her pocket.

Mutsumi places her hands on his knees and raises herself up. She straightens his glasses and then kisses him.

"Merry Christmas, Urashima-kun!"

She sits back down and rests her head on his knee.

Naru grabs a small package from under the tree and sits next to Keitaro again.

"Here you are, Keitaro."

He takes the gift and opens it. He pulls out a charm necklace.

"Narusegawa, this is wonderful. But it kind of looks like half of it is missing."

Naru shows him the necklace that she is wearing. The matching piece to his charm is on it.

"Put them together, and then you can read it."

He holds his half next to hers and reads the charm.

"May heaven's blessing be upon us whether we are together or apart."

"Merry Christmas Keitaro!"

"Narusegawa . . . . ."

"What, Keitaro?"

He takes a deep breath.

"I missed you so much while I was gone. It's still strange to believe that I am back at Hinata-sou. I believed that I would never see any of you again."

As he looks into her eyes, Naru can see that something is troubling him. She touches his cheek.

"What's wrong?"

He touches her hand.

"This is wrong. All of this is wrong."

"I don't understand."

"I almost think that I am asleep in my apartment, dreaming of everything that I lost. Everyone is being so nice to me, and that's never happened before. Am I really here? Have I come home, or have I slipped so deep into my dreams that they've replaced reality."

"Keitaro. How can you not believe that we want you here; that we need to make up for chasing you away?"

"Because I'm afraid. I'm afraid that any second now, I'll wake up back in my cold, dark room. Please help me! I don't, I don't know . . . . ."

Motoko stands up.

"Weakling male! SHINMEI SCHOOL SECRET ARTS! AIR SPLITTING SWORD!"

Keitaro is flung over the back of the couch and crashes against a support pillar, his arms and legs wrapping around it as he slides to the floor.

All the girls except Motoko run over to him. Naru screams at her.

"What're you doing? Have you gone mad? Are you trying to give him a reason to leave us again?"

Motoko is silent as she replaces her sword.

Shinobu wipes a drop of blood from Keitaro's mouth.

"Aaauuuuu! What's happening!"

Kitsune balls her fists and stomps towards Motoko. Su grabs her remote control. They stop when they hear laughing behind them.

"Ha ha ha ha ha! Ow! Ha ha ha!"

Keitaro pushes himself up and leans against the pillar. He touches his lip.

"Ha ha ha! Ouch!"

He staggers past Kitsune and Su. Motoko backs up against the tree.

Naru calls out to him.

"Keitaro stop! What are you doing?"

Still laughing uncontrollably, he stops in front of Motoko.

Everyone watches as Keitaro raises his arms and lunges at Motoko.

He hugs her.

"Motoko-chan! Thank you, thank you! Now I know that I'm really home!"

Keitaro steps away from Motoko. He wipes the tears from his eyes and then turns around and lies down on the couch.

"I feel a lot better now. But did you have to put so much behind that strike?"

"I just wanted to make sure that all of your doubts were removed."

He closes his eyes.

Naru sits on the end of the couch and rests his head on her lap.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'll be fine."

"Shinobu, could you please bring Keitaro a damp towel?"

"Y-yes, right away!"

Kitsune grabs a bottle of sake and pours a fresh glass. She hands it to Naru.

"This will help calm him down."

Naru gives him a sip of sake and then places the glass to the side.

Shinobu hands her the towel.

"Is Sempai going to be okay?"

"Yes, he's fine."

Mutsumi looks at Motoko.

"Oh my! That was such a sweet thing to do for him."

Su hops over to Motoko and pokes at her sword.

"Sweet? I thought that hit was gonna kill him for sure. You sure are tough, Keitaro!"

Naru picks up the charm necklace and fastens it around his neck.

"There you go Keitaro, Merry Christmas!"

She gives him a quick kiss and helps him sit up.

Shinobu picks up another present from under the tree, but Keitaro stops her.

"Please, let me pass out a few presents."

Keitaro kneels by the tree and rummages through the pile of packages.

"Let's see, uh, here it is!"

He holds out a box to Shinobu.

"F-for me, Sempai?"

"Merry Christmas, Shinobu-chan!"

Shinobu takes the package and carefully begins to unwrap it. Kitsune stomps her feet on the floor.

"C'mon Shinobu, rip into it!"

She takes a deep breath and tears the wrapping off. Inside is a 'Puchi Panda" backpack.

"AH! It's so cute! Thank you Sempai!"

Keitaro picks up a gift and holds it out to Su.

"Here Su, Merry Christmas!"

Su slides across the floor and grabs the box. She pulls the wrapping off in one swipe.

"Yippee! I got a first edition, model CXP-483, remote controlled, Gonddamn battle figure! I can't wait to make adjustments to this baby. You'd better watch your back, Keitaro!"

Keitaro laughs nervously.

"Ha ha, I was afraid you'd say that!"

He hands the next present to Kitsune.

"Merry Christmas, Kitsune-san!"

She kneels next to him and snatches the gift.

"Oh goody goody goody!"

She rips the package open.

"Wow, a sake serving set and a bottle of vintage Ryuku-no-Kaze Awamori!"

Kitsune rubs against Keitaro.

"We'll need to have a private little party with this stuff!"

Keitaro's mouth drops open and he begins to drool.

"Aaahhh!"

He shakes his head clear and reaches for another present. Handling it tenderly, he gives it to Motoko.

"This one's for Motoko-chan."

Motoko opens her gift. Inside, carefully padded, is a wooden sculpture of a shrine inside a glass case.

"HISAKI-GA-AYUKO SHINMEI DOJO! Where, where did you get this?"

"I wasn't sure what to get you, so I called the Shinmei School, and your father suggested this. I hope you like it."

"This heirloom has been in our house for hundreds of years! It was hand- carved by my seventh generation great-grandfather Aoyama Hisaki as a wedding gift to his wife Terikawa Ayuko. I have always desired this, but was afraid to ask my father if I may have it."

She gently moves it to the side. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she bows low, placing her forehead upon her hands.

"Urashima Keitaro! I thank you very much. This is a most wondrous gift!"

"I'm glad, Merry Christmas Motoko-chan!"

He sips some tea then gets the next package.

"Mutsumi-san, here is a present for you."

She claps here hands and sits next to him.

"Oh my! I've always wanted one of these!'

"You haven't opened it yet."

"Oh my! You're right!"

She unwraps the gift, carefully folding the paper and placing it to the side. Finally opening the box, she lifts up a watermelon carving set. She kisses him on the cheek and then trots over to a shopping bag that she left near the table. She lifts out a watermelon.

"I'll make some for us right now!"

Naru stares at her.

"Where in the world did you get a melon? Aren't they out of season?"

"Oh my! My family can grow them year-round on Okinawa!"

Keitaro stands up and gets a snack from the table. He sits on the couch.

"This stuff is really good!"

Naru stares at him. He stops eating.

"Do you want some?"

"Uh, no! That's okay. But . . . . ."

"Is something wrong?"

"No! no. I'm alright. (He forgot about me, why?)"

"Don't you want me to check to see if I have a present for you?'

"Yes! Uh, I mean, if you happen to have something over there for me."

"Narusegawa, do you really think that I forgot your present?"

"But, you already gave me these beautiful gloves."

"Gloves are nice, but I think there might be something here that will go with them."

Grinning, he pulls a large package from under the tree. He sits back down next to Naru.

"Merry Christmas, Narusegawa!"

Naru opens the present. She finds a tan leather coat with fur trimming around the neck and wrists. It has a matching belt with a silver clasp.

"Oh Keitaro! This is a darling coat!"

She hugs him.

"Thank you!"

She puts the coat on, snugs the belt, and spins around.

"How do I look?"

Shinobu's eyes go wide.

"Wow, you look so pretty!"

Su jumps up and down.

"Pretty Naru!"

Kitsune grabs her chin.

"Hmm, it sure accents your figure. Sexy!"

Motoko nods her head.

"That is a fine coat!"

Mutsumi walks around the table.

"Oh my! How lovely!"

Naru grabs Keitaro's arm.

"Let's all go outside for a while and watch the snow fall!"

Shinobu rushes to the kitchen.

"I'll get some hot chocolate for us!"

A few minutes later, everyone is outside sipping hot chocolate. Su is already making a pile of snowballs and smiling at Keitaro.

Motoko helps Shinobu and Mutsumi make a snowman.

Kitsune and Naru stand next to Keitaro. Kitsune pulls on his sleeve.

"You know, after everyone else gave up hope, Naru still kept searching for you."

"I'm happy that you all cared so much."

Naru slides her foot in the snow.

"I'm sorry for acting so strict to make you come back, but I didn't know what else I could do."

"I thought that I would die walking up the steps. I wanted to turn and run and not stop running."

Kitsune scratches her head.

"I don't understand how Naru could have forced you back here. She didn't tell us that part of the plan. But she seemed to think it would work. Just what did you do, Naru?"

"I knew that I couldn't drag him back by force. So, and I'm very sorry Keitaro, I made him p-promise me a favor. I knew that once he made a promise, he would never, ever, break it."

"That was a little low, using his honor to trick him."

"I know, but I was desperate. Once I found where you were, I didn't want to, to lose you again. Can you forgive me?"

Keitaro takes her hands.

"What is there to forgive? I'm back at Hinata-sou, where I've been so happy. I can face all of you again with my heart freed of its guilt. And I'm near you again. This is everything that I kept wishing for, and more!"

A snowball crashes against his head. Su yells to him.

"Even that?"

He takes his glasses off and scoops the snow off.

"Ha ha ha! Yes, even this!"

He puts the glasses back on and turns. Motoko, Shinobu, Su and Mutsumi are behind a Tama-shaped snow wall, snowballs in hand. Su packs a fresh snowball tighter.

"Then you three had better prepare yourselves!"

Kitsune ducks behind Keitaro.

"But we don't have any ammo!"

"We'll give you thirty seconds before the bombardment begins!"

Naru drops and starts packing snowballs.

Keitaro tries desperately to build a quick wall.

Kitsune looks over his shoulder.

"What? Am I crazy? This guy's the main target!"

She scrambles across the snow and hides behind Naru. Naru looks over her shoulder.

"Hurry and help me make some ammunition!"

"Sake! I want my sake!"

"Times up!"

Snowballs go arcing through the air, most are on a direct intercept course with Keitaro.

For the next few hours, screams of happiness and delight are heard echoing across Hinata-sou.

Oh, and by the way, Keitaro swallowed the button.

The End