Chapter fourteen (Ending two)

She listened. Oh, but how she listened. It was like his voice blocked out the rest of existence; simply diverted the endless stream of time temporarily (if you'll pardon the pun, dear listener). It was hard to decide what she felt, though. Of that she was most certainly not certain, most surely unsure. She had no clue what to feel. She'd cried over this guy, she'd laughed with him, she'd punched him through walls and ceilings more times than she could hope to remember, she'd kissed this guy, she'd…

Well, let's not go there, listener. We all know how shy Naru was, is, and probably always will be, ne?

She recounted every memory the two of them shared while she listened to him pour out his sorely burdened heart.

(and while a part of her felt like he deserved it)

She couldn't help but pity him. He'd lost her through an act of his own inflated desire to please, to placate, to "make better". He blindly groped for support wherever he could, and found Motoko. Naru knew, ever since the first day those two had met that Motoko felt something for him, and the match between Tsuruko and the pair had only confirmed it. Also, though, he now discovers that he screwed up big-time, and now has a child on the way that he has no idea what to do with. She gets an abortion and runs away, unable to take the guilt.

She felt sorry for him. She didn't know why, in a million years she could never tell you. Because of how horrible he was to her, she hadn't felt herself since

(the summer, before THAT happened)

school had began again. She loved him. She didn't feel the same without him; she hadn't felt the same without him since she met him, really. He had grown on her quickly, however slow she might have been to admit it.

And so it came to pass that she stopped really listening to Keitaro's explanation of the events of the past months, and started to think about just that last. "…however slow she might have been to admit it." What did this mean? Think, think. How many times had his overall clumsiness or that desire to please she'd just been thinking about gotten him into a situation that might have looked bad to the midway-observer, but almost… no, always, wasn't? Too many for her to count, anyway. Yet he'd stayed. How many times had she rebuffed all attempts at an apology with a sniff and a sharp one hundred eighty degree turn? As many. Yet he'd stayed. How many times had he forgiven her without even a thought? As many. Yet… he stayed.

Then, something had happened, and it was bad, but she'd left. Dropped everything, and left for real. Halfway across the world, and all (no matter what she might have said, then or later, dear listener) to get away from Keitaro. Yet here he was, calling her and crying like a little lost boy who didn't know what to do anymore. She threw away, then and there, every shred of her resentment for his mistake. He was absolved, as she had been, in the same unspoken manner, of all his crimes against her. She spoke to him, doing her best to soothe his pain.

"Kei-kun… Shhhh, Anata. Just take a deep breath, okay?" His breathing sped up a little, then he inhaled and exhaled three deep, if shaky, breaths. He did not speak. "That's better. Look, Kei… I just want you to know that in spite of everything that happened, I do still love you… I'm just amazed that you can love me." Silence. That was precisely what she'd hoped for. She didn't speak again, but waited. It didn't take long.

"Naru-chan, what are you talking about? I'm a terrible boyfriend; you're a goddess of almost unfathomable stature when compared with me. I'm worthless!"

"No. See Kei-kun, this is where you're wrong. You've always forgiven me. I've done things nearly as bad to you… The abuse and the mistrust, you remember…"

"…I was…"

"No, you probably weren't. I had a long time to think about these things, and tonight I came to the realization that every time or nearly every time I caught you doing something 'perverted,' it would really be a misunderstanding that I hadn't bothered to clear up before punching you. I'm sorry, Kei-kun. I know I probably don't have to say it, but that's why I love you so much. So I'll say it anyway. I'm so sorry, Kei-kun." She didn't cry. He didn't cry anymore, either. He was very glad for that.

"It's… it's all right, Naru-chan. You don't have to apologize, you're right. It hurt when you hit me, emotionally more than physically, being invincible and all, but I dealt. I got along okay, because I loved you. I'm sorry too, you know; I never would have done it, but her eyes… I just… I couldn't…"

"…refuse her," Naru finished for him, smiling a little and feeling surprised that she was doing so in the same instant. "Kei-kun… let's just put that behind us."

"Yeah… I think I can do that. So… how goes the work?"

"Believe it or not, the atmosphere in the schools over here is a lot different. We're not expected to memorize nearly as much information for our tests, and it seems as though the bar's just lower in general." The pleasant conversation and the ease with which it was passing between them was both comforting and smile-inducing.

"Really? So how are you doing? I bet you're in the top five."

"Actually… I'm top of my class."

"In what class?"

"My entire year, baka!" She clenched the phone a little tighter with the shout, giggling afterward with the familiarity of the action. It was reassuring, to slip back into the old way of things so easily…

No, wait. No it wasn't. The old way of things was what had brought her here, in part. She spoke again, quickly.

"Sorry, Kei… Old habits die hard, ne?"

"It's all right, Narusega—"

"Please stop telling me it's all right, Kei… I know you don't really feel that. There are lots of things about me I know you wish were different… I'm starting to wish they were, too. I kept my affection for you in the closet, and I put my mistrust and hot temper right out there for everyone to see. I shouldn't have." She paused, meaning to berate herself some more, but he cut in.

"Well, sure I do, Naru. I mean, nobody's perfect, right? I admit, I do wish you'd shown a little more affection towards me in public; I am a touchy-feely kind of guy, or at least that seems to be what I've become." Keitaro inwardly giggled at the memory of his old self… scared to even touch a girl in private, let alone in public. "I know that's not how you are, though. That didn't bother me as much as you might think. The hitting, though…"

"…needs to change."

"I don't want you to change your whole life for me, Naru."

"I want to change some of my life for you, though. I want to try again, Kei… I want it to work better this time. Maybe if I'd changed sooner, than this wouldn't have happened in the first place."

"Naru, I don't want you blaming this on yourself!" He sounded almost angry, now. "What I did wasn't your fault, and I don't want you thinking it was, okay?"

"…Okay, Kei-kun."

Silence. They sat and listened to the other breathing. Neither spoke, neither cried, neither did any of the things that one would expect them to be doing in this situation. They just sat. Sat, listened, and breathed. Heavily, deeply. Each took comfort in the other's almost-presence. They were thinking the same things, they knew they were thinking the same things, but still; neither spoke, neither wanted to speak. When someone finally did, it was Naru.

"I haven't even told you where I am yet, have I?"

"…No, I don't think you have."

"Want to know?"


"I'm in London, going to the University of Middlesex."

"…in England, right?"

"Yes, baka. Is there another London?"

"Actually, there is. There's a London, Ontario in Canada."

"Huh. Learn something new every day, don't you?"

"I guess you do." He giggled. She sighed.

"Kei-kun… I love you so much."

"I love you too, Naru-chan. I've decided to do something, too. I can't take being here anymore. I need to get away, and I think I know exactly where I'm going now."

"Kei? Where are you—"

"Don't worry about that, Naru. I'll see you soon."

"See me soon? Kei, what are you talking about? Are you going to—"

"Yes. Yes, I am. 'Bye for now, Naru." The phone went dead in her hands, and she stared at it for a while. Was he…? He must be. She didn't think he'd ever sounded more serious in all the time she'd known him, except for that one night, the first time they'd…

(Hinata-sou, Manager's room, two years ago)

It was almost completely dark, and Keitaro was hunched over his books, studying dutifully. He had an important test coming up the next day, and there were still a few aspects of the history of archaeology that he really wasn't clear on. The rest of the house was still abuzz with noise from the party that was going on downstairs. Kitsune, ever the celebratory gal, had thrown it in recognition of he and Naru's one-year anniversary of being together. Funniest thing about it was the fact that neither he nor Naru had really been able to stay long, or at least that was what he thought. He had milled about for an hour or two, had a few glasses of sake, some sashimi, and then had bid everyone else goodnight and gone upstairs to study.

So here he was. It was dark, and he was alone. It was okay, though, because he wasn't really alone. Today, he'd been with Naru for a whole year. They hadn't… Well, they hadn't gone all the way yet. She wasn't ready; she'd told him so every time they ended up almost there, panting and sweating and both of them needing it and not being quite there yet. He was all right with that; he'd never been a pushy guy, so he waited. His thoughts wandered as he studied… he thought of her, and of their times together. Their first date, their first kiss… the first time she'd stopped calling him pervert long enough to let him touch her. All such pleasant memories, all of them coming back to him now, as he…

He stopped upon hearing a noise. It came from above him, and he knew it well. The sound of the plywood panel connecting his and Naru's rooms sliding over, and a call from the same woman he'd just been thinking about.

"Kei-kun? You there? I'm coming down!" This was followed by a scraping noise, and then a gasp of surprise from Naru as she missed her tenuous footing and slipped. She fell, on a direct course for impact with his table, it seemed, before she landed in her man's arms, safe and sound. She looked at him; he looked back at her, smiling warmly.

"Hi there, Naru-chan."

"Gomen ne, Kei-kun. I missed the step." She sounded a little odd to him… he couldn't put a finger on what it was, though. Her speech was the tiniest bit slurred, and she was whispering. Her voice was a full octave lower than normal, and her body was very, very warm. It clicked. She was drunk, or at least halfway there.

"Naru, how much sake did you have tonight?"

"Huh? Oh, not so very much," she said, giggling, "although I sort of lost count after Kitsune and I played quarters…" Keitaro sighed. Playing quarters with Kitsune was a concept that would have made a wino queasy, so he figured she'd had quite a lot.

"Maybe we ought to get you to bed, anata." She pouted at him, and wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace, pressing her face into his chest.

"Awww… I want to stay with my Kei-kun, though. I hoped you'd… keep me warm tonight." She dexterously (although he didn't quite know how) undid a couple of his shirt buttons with her teeth, and then licked the spot of his chest that she'd exposed. He drew in his breath and shuddered, for a moment nearly losing his grip on her. He looked down at her, and saw that she was grinning. "Can I, Kei? Please?"

"Naru, you're drunk. We can't do this right now." Her face screwed up at his words, and a tear dribbled from the bottom of each eye, tracing symmetrical paths down her cheeks.

"Kei-kun doesn't want me around… I understand. I'll just go to bed, then." She attempted to free herself from his arms, and failed. He spoke again, his voice soothing, syrupy and slow, meant to placate, to make better, all those things he was so good at and didn't even know it.

"Naru-chan, Anata… I always want you around. I just don't want you doing anything you'll regret because you've had too much to drink."

"Oh, we don't have to do anything like THAT, Kei-kun," she said, sing-song, "can't we just… lie around for a while?"

"Of course we can, Naru. Come on over to the futon with me. Careful, now… don't let go of my arm." Naru obediently took hold of his upper arm, just above the elbow, and allowed herself to be led over to Keitaro's bed. A small, seductive smile was on her face and a gleam was in her eyes as they went, something Keitaro failed to notice, until they reached his bed and sat down. She looked over at him, then, and he caught her gaze, realizing at the last second before she pounced him what was about to happen and suddenly, not minding so much.

All in an instant, she was draping over him like a curtain; her hair, freed from all constraints, enveloped his vision and tickled his exposed skin. He felt his shirt buttons ripping as she pulled his shirt open and nuzzled her face into his neck, giving gentle nibbles.

He stopped her before he couldn't stop himself, but only just. He put a firm hand on each of her shoulders and pushed her back, gently. He began speaking as soon as he could see her face, to get it out as quickly as he could before he lost his nerve to do it at all.

"Naru, I don't want to do this if it might mean that you regret it tomorrow. I want this to happen when we're both ready, not just me ready and you drunk. I love you – I don't want to take advantage of you."

"So… you're saying that you're ready?" Naru asked him, the confusion and slur almost immediately leaving her speech, "I thought… I thought you weren't ready either." Keitaro was surprised, to say the least. All in an instant, Naru was nowhere near as drunk as he thought she had been.

"Naru… why aren't you slurring your words anymore?"

"Ara? Oh, shit…"

"NANI! You're not drunk! What… Why… Narusegawa, what are you doing!"

"Honestly, baka, do you think I would get drunk on a test night! What kind of slack-ass do you think I am? And asking me what I'm doing…" Naru blushed, and turned away from him, angry tears creeping into her voice. "What do you think I'm doing!" She burst out, "I… I don't know how to ask for this kind of thing! I've never done this before! I thought if I…" She trailed off, and got up from her seat, walking towards the door.

Keitaro stopped her. "Wait, Narusegawa!"

"Nani?" She spoke without turning. Her voice was still shaky, and he had an idea she was crying now.

"I… I've been ready for quite some time… but I too don't know how to go about this kind of thing… asking for it just seemed too sleazy, and I'm too dense for innuendo. I know this isn't going to make you feel better, really, but… I know what you're feeling. It's like… extreme awkwardness, where there shouldn't be any."

She turned around. She didn't speak, she just went to him and was held. They sat down on the futon again, and after a brief period of sitting side-by-each, not saying anything because it seemed that, for the moment, nothing remained to be said. Then, an idea was born in the mind of Naru Narusegawa. (He knows you're not drunk now. Why bother not doing it anyway, after you've gone to all the trouble? No, no I can't, I'm too… Scared? Pathetic. Keep thinking that way and you'll lose him. Why would he stay with someone afraid to touch him? I'm not afraid to touch him! Then show him that.) "That" echoed in her mind for a moment or two, and then her mind was made up.

Keitaro found himself being pounced again, and this time, though he didn't know what had made her do it, he didn't care. He loved it. His hands, no longer frozen at his sides as they had been before, the word "DRUNK" looming across his mind like a vulture, roamed and wandered over her body, which was warm (and, as a more observant party might have noticed earlier, dear listener, did not smell of sake) and soft and receptive. She kissed him deeply, a new passion (something that had previously been held back, so you can imagine it was quite the something, listener) behind her lips and, after a moment or two, his as well.

Clumsy, inexperienced hands fumbled with clothing, and, as piece after piece of the other's skin was revealed, each felt warmer and stranger than they had ever felt before. A realization was lying unsaid in the same back closet of each of their minds, saying to itself over and over again that "This is it." The end of their virginity, and the end (or so Keitaro had hoped, at the time) of the yellings of "Hentai!".

As she slid her thighs apart to allow him inside, she whispered (half-moaned, really) a final plea to him, the last words either of them spoke that night.

"Kei-kun… Be gentle…" He was. He loved her slowly and tenderly, and when it was over, they were panting with exhaustion. Sleep stole over the pair within minutes, and they were left that way to be discovered the next morning.

(5623 Beech st. Apartments, flat 201, 6:12am local time, present day)

You can imagine what happened next, dear listener. Naru sighed, looking out her flat window on a mostly-empty street, just starting to get filled up with the morning traffic. She sighed, and went to bed, hoping to get some sleep before classes in the morning (Sleep through morning classes, you mean,) her brain corrected her, (never thought I'd say this in my life, but I can afford to miss a class or two).

She lay there, trying to sleep and perchance to dream, but in the end, she could only lie there, thinking of her one love, the one that she knew would be arriving here sooner than later. Keitaro could always be counted on to follow through on his word.

(Mountains near Kyoto, 3:12pm local time)

Motoko climbed. She climbed and climbed, heedless of the tiredness she felt. She would become strong for him, for all of them. For everyone. She reached the top of the cliff. (Good,) she told herself, (Now, I suppose it's time for a little meal and some rest. I've finally reached it. The place I can spend the rest of this time I've got left).

She went into the small hut perched there on the edge of the cliff, and was shocked to find her sister Tsuruko sitting there. A fire was burning, and there was a pot of tea (just that moment freshly made, dear listener – Tsuruko will forever be known for good timing) and two cups sitting on a table in the middle of the room. A conveniently placed chair, empty, was directly across from her sister.

"Ane-ue! What are you doing here?"

"Well now, Motoko-chan, considering that you're supposed to be at the Hinatasou and going to school, I think I should be asking you that question." Motoko meant to reply, she really did, but found, in the end, that she couldn't. Tears poured forth instead, along with garbled pieces of what, as she calmed down within the healing confines of Tsuruko's warm, sisterly embrace, would become the story of her and Keitaro. Lovers found, lost, and never really found at all – she told her everything.

End chapter thirteen (Ending two)

((Hey all, Minh here. It's been another while, and I apologize to everyone who enjoyed my story but was sorely disappointed when they saw it was one of THOSE i.e. one of those stories that hasn't been updated in eight bazillion years. :p. I'll try and finish this with semi-regular updates, as I'm taking a break from my novel a serious writing project, which I intend to publish. Speaking of which, thank you very much to my latest reviewer – I do indeed have plans to publish my original work once it's done, and it is, like this one, a romance. :p Anyway, I hope you all like the latest chapter – the second ending will close with another two chapters plus the epilogue.

Review if you like. It'd be greatly appreciated. 3

Minh out.))