An unparalleled fury stormed up the steps of the Hinata House, guided by a pair of long, shapely legs. Gnashing teeth and clenched, white knuckles painted a grim future for a certain manager of the female apartment complex, just as they had so many times in the past. There were no words to accompany the rage, but instead a series of low, inhuman growls. Truly, anyone who caught sight of the scene could have no doubt that Hell knows no fury such as that of a woman scorned…

…and Hell knew no woman such as Narusegawa Naru.

* * *

Spitting and fuming, she reached the top of the stairs and burst through the front door, letting it slam into the wall's stopper with a loud crack. She didn't care; everyone should share in her anger, as far as she was concerned. She stomped into the living room, her eyes searching with a hunter's lust for her quarry.

Motoko looked up from the couch, quirking an eyebrow at the sight of Naru standing just outside of the hallway, shoulders heaving with deep, irritated breaths. Her outfit was quite the dazzler; a pleated skirt, red sweater, and matching golden jewelry adorning her ears and neckline. "Is everything all right, Naru-san?" she asked calmly, hands folded neatly in her lap and head tilted with curiosity.

"Where is he?" Naru demanded through gritted teeth, seething so badly that Motoko feared steam would literally come shooting out of her ears.

"Urashima?" There was no real need to clarify…only one 'he' resided at Hinata House. "I have not seen him for several hours. Why do you ask?"

It was just the opening Naru had been waiting for. "Why? Why? Ohhhh, let me tell you," Naru spat, pacing back and forth as she tried to collect her anger into some semblance of focused thought. "That little moron…he stood me up!"

"Really?" There was actual surprise in Motoko's voice. After all, it was no secret that Urashima liked Naru quite a bit. The idea of him actually missing a chance at being with Naru in an intimate situation seemed almost laughable. Then again, the idea that Naru would actually give him 'any' chance at all was equally as ridiculous. "You had a date, then? With…with Urashima?"

"What? Date? No!" Naru shifted gears immediately, raising her voice in denial. "That's not it at all! You see, I-"

Motoko lifted a finger to her lips, shushing Naru. "Naru-san, quiet, please." Motoko said quietly. At Naru's confused glance, the swordswoman pointed across the room. Naru's eyes followed quickly, and at once she understood; there, lying on another couch, were two of the House's younger tenants, Su and Sarah. The two blondes had passed out on the furniture, snoozing peacefully in the previous day's clothing. From the looks of things, they had simply dropped into a deep slumber right in the living room without any forethought, or they would have at least changed into pajamas. Then again, considering how often the pair were both at rest and peaceful at the same time, neither woman was about to complain.

Smiling serenely at the pair, Motoko continued in a soft, gentle whisper. "As I said, I have not seen Urashima since this afternoon, when he helped me tire these two out."


"Tonight was my night for Kendo Club at the school," Motoko explained, "But these two wouldn't give me a moment's peace. Urashima was kind enough to help me tire them out so that I could get away without them following me." A small, uncharacteristic chuckle escaped her lips before she quashed it. "It took nearly two hours of running around…I didn't think Urashima had that kind of energy in him."

Naru's anger deflated slightly. So, he had been helping Motoko. Well, that might have accounted for a little lateness, but not all of it. Naru had waited at the café all afternoon and into the evening. Childish games couldn't have accounted for all of that. "Motoko," she asked, a bit more composed this time, "Do you know where he went?"

"Now that you mention it, he seemed quite eager to leave…" Motoko recalled thoughtfully. "But just about the time these two starting wearing down, we heard a scream from upstairs. Urashima offered to investigate while I took care of Su and Sarah."

The brown-crowned beauty frowned, suddenly concerned. "A scream? What happened?"

Motoko shook her head. "I cannot be sure, but it sounded a bit like Kitsune-san."

* * *

"Hmm? Oh, that."

Naru stood in her best friend's doorway, marveling with a mixture of awe and disapproval at Kitsune's incredible alcoholic tolerance. It wasn't even ten o'clock, and already the cunning resident had a pair of empty sake bottles in front of her, and was well on her way to draining a third. Despite the evening of drinking alone, she looked positively stunning; She wore a tight pink halter top and side-tie black pants, with a pink hair clip holding her locks aloft to match. It wasn't exactly the outfit one donned for a bout with alcoholism…

Kitsune grinned, knocking back another drink. "Yeah, that was me…I had a little crisis tonight, and Keitaro came to the rescue…such a sweetheart, really."

Her sober friend groaned in frustration, rubbing the bridge of her nose as she felt her temples begin to throb. "What happened?" she asked again.

"Well, I had a pretty hot date lined up tonight…real great guy. I'd been trying to get his attention for weeks down at the Lucky Dragon."

The mention of the date stirred something in Naru's memory. "That was tonight? How did it go?" she slipped back into 'best-friend' mode, completely forgetting about her own pseudo-romantic woes.

"He showed up with two other girls in tow."

"Oh." Naru cringed.

"And asked me why I was wearing a bra."

"Oh…" she cringed again, hissing with sympathy pain for Kitsune. "What'd you do?"

The trickster rogue blew on her knuckles, offering Naru a sly smile. "Let's just say that he'll be wearing his sunglasses at night." She snickered.

Naru returned the smile. "Good for you!" Then she frowned, remembering why she had come upstairs. "Wait…you said something about a crisis?"

"Oh, yeah!" Kitsune stood up and half-turned, showing the back half of her top to Naru. "I got a little enthusiastic getting into my outfit tonight, and…" She made a ripping sound, pointing to one of the critical seams in the back.

Not wasting the opportunity, Naru poked her friend playfully in the belly. "You've been enjoying Shinobu's cooking a little too much, huh?"

"Pfft. You wish you had assets like mine." Kitsune tapped her chest, sticking her tongue out at Naru. As her younger comrade blushed, she continued, "It was just tied too tight when I tried to put it on. I heard it rip. I got upset. I screamed. Pretty simple, really."

"And Keitaro?"

Kitsune's smile doubled at the name. "He came rushing in like some white knight. Probably expected me to be in mortal danger or something. It was really cute. When he saw the problem, though, he offered to help me fix it. He's pretty good with a needle and thread."

"Humph." Naru put her hands on her hips. So, Kitsune had played a hand in Keitaro's tardiness too. "How long did that take?"

"'Bout twenty minutes, I guess. Plenty of time before my date showed up and pulled that crap, anyway. I had to lay it on pretty thick, though…" she added, rubbing her jaw. "He had this envelope, or something, and he kept going on about how he was going to be late. Wait a minute…" Kitsune's eyes lit up as her brain made a critical connection. "Was he supposed to meet you?"

"Well," Naru grew suddenly uncomfortable, growing red once again under Kitsune's relentless eyes. "Sort of…I guess…"

Kitsune hooted and whooped, laughing at Naru's chagrin. "I didn't know you guys were getting it on already!"

"KITSUNE!" Naru cried, bopping her friend on the head. "It isn't like that at all! You know I don't like that pervert, at least not like that!"

"If it wasn't a date, then what was it?" Kitsune challenged.

Stuttering and struggling, Naru managed a weak reply. "W-we were just…Whenever we take a mock exam, we…Look," she sighed, giving up at last, "Can you just tell me where he went?"

"Oh, sure." Kitsune resumed her bottle-diving, pouring out another glass of sake. She offered one to Naru, but the alcohol was gently declined. "We were just finishing up on my blouse when we both smelled something burning. I still had to get ready for my date, but Keitaro just finished up here and then went dashing down to the kitchen."

"The kitchen?"

"Mmm-hmm." Kitsune nodded, then added, "I think Shinobu had been working on something all afternoon down there."

* * *

Naru crept into the kitchen, surprised that the lights were still on at the late hour. "Shinobu?"

Sure enough, the dark-haired cooking dynamo was still hard at work in the kitchen. She jumped, squirting a small dollop of frosting from the tube she had been working with onto the countertop. Next to the rogue frosting was a beautiful chocolate cake, covered in rich chocolate butter-frosting and adorned with a bright, cheery smiling face that Shinobu was just putting the finishing touches on. "Oh! Naru-Sempai!" she cried, patting her apron-covered chest.

"I'm sorry…I didn't mean to scare…" Naru's gaze drifted over to the kitchen table. There, Keitaro slept peacefully, clothes rumpled and glasses still in place as he emitted the occasional snore. His head rested next to another cake, and next to that, a discarded tube of frosting. Her anger, which had been temporarily forgotten, now resurged to the surface. Fingers curled once more into fists, cracking their knuckles loudly as she approached the slumbering idiot. "There you are," she growled, raising her newly-formed hammers to pound the cud out of him.

Shinobu interposed herself quickly, arms akimbo. "Wait, Naru-Sempai!" she cried, waving her hands as she pleaded for a stay of execution. "I can explain! Sempai told me about your date tonight, and-"

"It wasn't a date!" Naru snapped, quick to be defensive. Then she blinked, halting in her tracks. "Wait…what did he tell you?"

"Well…he didn't call it a date either…" Shinobu admitted. She led Naru over to the table, offering the ronin a seat. Wisely, the girl made sure to keep herself between Naru and the slumbering Keitaro, lest there be another angry outburst. Reaching beneath Keitaro's head, Shinobu drew out a pair of small, white envelopes and handed them both to Naru. "These came in the mail for you both today," she said, hoping it would be a start to some explanation.

Naru nodded. "They're the results from our latest mock exam. Keitaro was supposed to meet me in town today, so we could both open ours at the same time. It's sort of become a tradition for us…" seeing a dreamy look enter Shinobu's features, she added, "It 'wasn't' a date!" with enough force to stop a bull elephant in its tracks.

"I-I-I didn't say it was!" Shinobu said quickly, becoming flustered. "I just…I wanted to apologize."

"What? You? But why?"

Looking down with shame, Shinobu said, "I was in the kitchen all afternoon, working on my Home Economics homework. We were supposed to bake something for the class to sample, only…I had a few problems with this new recipe."

"Let me guess." Naru leaned her chin on her palm thoughtfully, regarding the young chef. "It started to burn."

Shinobu nodded. "Sempai ran in to see if anything was wrong. I knew he had to be somewhere, but I couldn't stop crying, and…" She looked down again, unable to meet Naru's gaze. "Well, he must have felt sorry for me, or something, because he stayed here and helped me bake another cake."

Naru glanced over at the counter, then at Keitaro. "He did all that?"

"Yes. And we got to talking while he helped me." Shinobu murmured, still unwilling to look Naru in the eye. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, recalling the subtle, muted passion that Keitaro's voice had held whenever he spoke of Naru outside of her presence. "He said he was already going to be late in meeting you, and he needed to come up with something to make it up to you. He…he asked me to help him bake a cake for you, too."

Leaning over, Naru was able to read the lettering on the cake, which was upside down from her vantage point. Keitaro had used the frosting to spell out "Congratulations and Thank You!" in large, sloppy text, enclosing the message in a wobbly heart outline. Curious, she checked the envelopes, and found that they had both been opened. She withdrew both exam results; Naru, of course, had gotten an 'A.' No surprise there. But Keitaro's grade was nothing short of breathtaking. In fact, when she saw it, she had a hard time even gasping the result out loud.

"He got a 'B.'" Shinobu supplied. She rose, picking her cake up off of the counter and placing it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for the next day. "He said it was all thanks to the help you've been giving him lately, and that he felt awful about standing you up today."

"A 'B'…" Naru muttered, staring at the paper. She was so intent on the grade, she did not hear Shinobu bidding her good night, nor did she notice the other girl's exit. It was only several minutes later that she returned to the real world, where the restful ronin was her only companion left. The rest of the Hinata House was caught in the deafening silence of the night, with most of its inhabitants already turned in for a well-deserved rest.

Naru changed seats, sitting next to the unaware manager. "You did all that for Motoko, Kitsune, and Shinobu…" she said to him, fully aware that he couldn't hear her. "You wore yourself out goofing around with those two troublemakers, and playing seamstress, and chef…and then you go and make me a cake, too…"

She shook her head, laughing softly. "You didn't have to go to all that trouble, you idiot. I would have forgiven you…eventually." She rose from her seat and started for the kitchen door, then stopped and thought better of it. With a quick glance around to make absolutely certain no one was watching, she leaned over and gave Keitaro's sleeping form a warm, tender kiss on the cheek.

"Goodnight, Keitaro." Naru whispered, running a gentle hand through his hair before leaving him to dreams. She saw a small, peaceful smile spread across his sleeping lips before she disappeared through the door. Walking up the stairs to her room, she allowed herself one very brief moment in which she forgot that she was not in love with the worthless, perverted idiot…a moment in which she allowed herself a brief glimpse at the truth in her heart before locking it away, a secret to be treasured by her and her alone…

…for the moment.

=Author's Notes=

I wrote this during a bout of insomnia. Please remind me that I wrote this tomorrow. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pass out now.