Disclaimer: See Chapter Two

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"X" Spoken words

'X' Thoughts

Love Hina

Aftermath: Loss and Redemption 2

Chapter Six: Opening Moves

By: hawker748

One of Kanako's traits was her inability to fall back to sleep after she woke up in the morning. For as long as she could remember, she had never been able to sleep in because of this. She'd try, but she would eventually get frustrated laying on her futon, and she'd get up, regardless of the time. On this morning, Kanako managed to make it to just after five o'clock before she snapped awake.

Sighing to herself, Kanako turned on the light and took another look at the room she'd been given. It was nice enough, if non-descript, but Kanako hadn't honestly been dwelling on such trivialities as creature comforts when she'd come to Hinata House. She hadn't even figured on staying around; a quick look around to get familiar with the inn and it's residents, and then exfiltrate to assimilate and analyze what she'd learned.

Getting caught, and learning that Keitaro was married and soon to be a father… That hadn't been in the plans at all.

Kanako had passed out upon learning these little tidbits. Unable to reconcile Keitaro's promise to her, or his inherent shyness around women with what she'd heard, she'd gone into denial. Upon reviving, the story had been confirmed by Keitaro himself, and Kanako had had her fondest wish yanked away from her when it was all but in her grasp. Numb from shock, she had let herself be led to this room, where she'd tried vainly to deal with all that she'd discovered.

She might have sunk into despair, but for the timely arrival of another resident, who brought alcohol and the truth. How her brother had been all but blackmailed into his relationship with Motoko. Kitsune had also mentioned a relationship with Naru Narusegawa, the girl by sheer chance she'd imitated during her initial entry. Kanako wasn't concerned or interested in that relationship, only his current one. 'Poor oniichan must have been so lost and alone without me. I should have expected he'd try to reach out to someone. It's my fault, I should have come back sooner.'

Kanako was still musing on her next move as she gathered what she needed for a bath. It was 5:30, far too early for anyone else to be up, but since it was either have an early bath or stay in the room and wait, Kanako decided to start her day. She left the room, closing the door behind her, and walked through the hall towards the outdoor bath. Upon reaching the bath, she paused to reconsider. Facing the other residents in the bath, especially that girl Shinobu, would be awkward. She'd made a fool of herself yesterday, and it was unlikely that they'd be happy to see her.

'I'll use the landlords bath.' With this thought Kanako walked back upstairs. 'I think I'd prefer the privacy too.' A ghost of a smile appeared as another thought dawned on her. 'Maybe I'll bump into oniichan.' Spirits buoyed, Kanako opened the door and got her first look at Keitaro's private bath. 'So small! He has to use this while they use the outside? Poor oniichan… Well, he won't be alone in using it now.' She checked the thermostat, scowled at the low setting before she reset it to a warmer temperature. While the basin was filling with water, she washed herself, taking great care with her hair. The… woman… that her oniichan was married to could be considered attractive, Kanako reluctantly admitted, but her hair was undeniably beautiful. 'Maybe I should let mine grow…'

Morning ablutions complete, Kanako sighed contentedly as she eased herself into the wooden cistern that was the landlords bath. She arranged herself so that when Keitaro walked in, he would 'accidentally' get a good view of her. 'Gotta make sure he gets a good look, without being too obvious.' She'd lower herself into the water, slowly, and tell him to step outside, but she wouldn't be too forceful about it.

Thirty minutes passed.

Then an hour.

And then, ninety minutes.

By now, the sun had crossed the horizon and was continuing its relentless march across the sky. The water, which had started at near scalding, was now barely tepid. Kanako's hands and feet were wrinkly from soaking in the water for so long. She felt like noodles that had been cooked in the pot and then forgotten. Or perhaps a teabag left in the kettle with the last dregs of water. She'd also heard the other residents in the outdoor bath and figured that she might as well get dressed and eat. Surprising Keitaro by himself could be useful. Surprising him with the other residents there to witness it… not so useful.

Wrapping herself with a towel, which left very little to the imagination, Kanako sauntered back to her room, hoping for a chance encounter with Keitaro in the hall. This was not to be, as Keitaro and Motoko were still dead to the world, neither having even stirred yet. Back in her room, Kanako got dressed, and made herself as presentable as she could. She took a deep breath, and steeled herself before she marched to the dining room to have breakfast with the residents.

XXX

In the dining room breakfast was well underway, with all of the residents present, minus the Aoyamas of course, and the mysterious new arrival. All of the discussion in the bath had revolved around her, with terms like 'Men in Black', 'Vampirella', and 'Devil in a Black Dress', having been bandied about. Shinobu in particular had been the most rattled, and she constantly looked around, as if she was expecting Kanako to spring up out of nowhere.

Upon Kanako's entrance all conversation died off. Six pairs of eyes watched her come to the table and take a seat. Shinobu found herself unconsciously edging away from Keitaro's younger sister. As usual, Mutsumi was the first to overcome the tension in the air. "Good morning Kanako-chan! Did you sleep well?"

"Yes… I did," Kanako replied, making an effort to appear meek and non-intimidating. It wasn't very successful, as the residents continued to keep a wary eye on her. Kanako accepted a plate from Mutsumi with a nod and began eating, scarcely looking up from her food. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, she asked the question that she'd been wondering about since she'd entered the kitchen. "Where… where are oniichan and… Motoko?" The last word was spoken with faint disapproval.

"They usually sleep late," Kitsune replied glibly.

Kanako merely grunted in response.

Glancing at the clock, Kitsune added, "But I'm sure they'll be getting up shortly. Five, four, three, two, one…" Just as she finished the countdown, the familiar sound of heavy footfalls came from upstairs, followed by the sound of Motoko purging her stomach.

Kanako looked up in confusion, before she belatedly comprehended what she was hearing, nodding her head. "Morning sickness, right?"

The other residents nodded in reply.

Kanako resumed eating, attempting to remain calm and not reveal how much she wanted to see her brother again. But try as she might, she wasn't able to conceal her surprise at his haggard appearance. "Oniichan! My god, are you alright?"

"Good morning Kanako," Keitaro called out. "I just hate mornings."

Noticing that none of the others had even raised an eyebrow at the pairs disheveled appearance, Kanako turned to Naru and blurted out, "Does he always look like that?"

"We do," replied Keitaro, looking bleary eyed as he ate his breakfast. Motoko gave the slightest nod in agreement. "Don't worry Kanako, we'll be fine after our run."

"Run?"

"Yeah, run. You know, jogging?"

"Every morning?"

"Usually."

"Unless we don't feel up to it," Motoko added. "But that's quite rare."

"I see…" If one listened closely, one could almost hear the gears in Kanako's head beginning to turn.

The rest of the breakfast was eaten in relative silence, comfortable for all but Kanako. There were things she wanted to say, but now wasn't the time or place. Eventually, everyone was finished eating, and Shinobu started gathering up the remnants of the meal for clean-up.

Wiping her mouth with a napkin, Motoko stood up, thanked Shinobu for the excellent breakfast, then turned to Keitaro and said, "Ready for our run Kei-kun?"

"As soon as I change Mo-chan."

"Oniichan!"

"Yes Kanako?"

Swallowing to appear uncertain, Kanako asked, "Would, would you mind if I ran with you and Motoko?"

Keitaro blinked in surprise. "Run with us?" When Kanako nodded in reply, Keitaro asked the obvious question. "Why?"

"I haven't seen you for a long time, and I'd like to spend some time with you. Um, unless that's your special time with Motoko," Kanako added as an afterthought.

Keitaro looked at his wife to see what she thought. Motoko gave him an indifferent shrug. Privately, she disliked the idea of her time with Keitaro being interrupted, but Kanako was his sister after all. One morning wasn't too much of a sacrifice. "I don't mind if she joins us Kei-kun."

"Alright, then meet us in the living room when you're ready to go Kanako," Keitaro called out as he headed upstairs to change.

A thin smile appeared on Kanako's features. "I'll be there," she murmured, as she went to her room to begin the first phase of her plan to 'rescue' Keitaro.

Shinobu stayed in the kitchen to finish the cleaning, while Mutsumi and Su headed off to the gaijin Princess's room, discussing the appropriate use of hot-springs turtles in the home. For no reasons other than curiosity, Naru and Kitsune walked to the living room, interested in seeing what would develop.

They didn't have long to wait. In less than five minutes the Aoyamas were in the room, stretching for their run and waiting for the third member to arrive. It wasn't until nearly ten more minutes passed before Kanako Urashima finally appeared at the top of the stairs.

"You're running in -that-?" blurted out Kitsune, before she could stop herself.

'-That-' was a running ensemble that would have caused any half serious athlete to do a double take. Kanako was wearing black bicycle shorts, very short and very tight, and a black halter top, also matching the same skin-tight description. The shoes weren't stiletto heels, but that was the only concession to sensibility. Even her hair was done, and she was wearing make-up.

Keitaro looked up at his younger sister and was taken aback. "I thought you said you wanted to run with us!"

"What do you mean oniichan?" Kanako asked innocently.

"How do you run in that outfit?"

"I've run in this before, oniichan," Kanako replied confidently. 'I also look great in it,' she added silently.

"Well, if that's what you want… Let's go."

Kanako assuredly followed her brother and his wife out the door. She was no couch potato, she'd show him what she could do.

XXX

Kanako had always taken care of herself, keeping herself svelte and trim, while retaining her feminine curves.

Her loathing of sweets had made it easy to eat sensibly, and she'd always tried to stay active. She'd run a few times a week, and done some light weight lifting to keep herself toned and in shape. If asked, she would have confidently stated that she was better conditioned than was the norm in society.

Just over a mile and a quarter into the run, Kanako was re-evaluating her own fitness levels.

She'd run before, but never at the pace that the Aoyamas had set. They were running faster than Kanako had ever done, even at the end of a jog when she wanted to finish strong, and they'd kept this up for the entire distance. Kanako was gasping for breath, struggling to maintain her co-ordination, and trying to keep from throwing up. The only thing that was keeping her from collapsing was the shame that would result if she let this Motoko woman beat her this soundly. 'She's pregnant, but she's still running me into the ground!' Kanako realized bleakly.

Looking ahead, she was dismayed to realize that not only were her brother and sister-in-law not struggling, they were even holding a conversation as they ran. When Keitaro laughed at something that Motoko said, Kanako was astounded that he'd been able to spare the oxygen, whereas she felt as if she was going to need an oxygen tank when she was finished.

Noticing the perspiration that was dripping off her chin, as well as running down her spine, Kanako began to rue the decision to wear make-up; she probably looked like a raccoon right now, never mind what her hair must have looked like. She was beginning to believe that collapsing in an exhausted heap might actually be less humiliating than trying to keep pace. As if in answer to an unspoken prayer, the residence finally came back into view. 'I made it! Just a few more yards and it'll be all over!'

However, when Keitaro and Motoko reached the bottom of the stairs they bid each other goodbye, and Motoko put on a heart breaking burst of speed as she shot up the stairs towards the residence. Her brother gave his wife a quick wave and kept running down the sidewalk.

A conflict developed in Kanako's psyche. On one hand, her body was demanding that she head up the stairs and put an end to this torture. On the other hand, her heart was telling her to maintain the pursuit of her brother, both figuratively and literally.

While the prospect of rest was almost irresistible to her, the call of her heart won out, and she pushed herself to keep on running. Fortunately for her, Keitaro happened to look back over his shoulder and he noticed her obvious discomfort. Slowing his pace, he allowed her to catch up with him. Kanako might have thanked him, or at least smiled at him, but she couldn't spare the energy, even at this reduced pace.

"Pace to much for you?" Keitaro asked unnecessarily. Kanako's difficulty was plain to see.

Kanako tried to reply, but she couldn't even croak out a half-hearted denial.

Understanding the pain his sister was experiencing, Keitaro ceased jogging and slowed even further to a brisk walk, which Kanako gratefully matched, even as she tried to regain her breath and composure.

"You're, in, better shape… than I remember," Kanako finally gasped out. "How did this happen?"

"A lot of hard work," replied Keitaro with a smile.

"You, you enjoy this?" Kanako rasped incredulously.

"Of course. You'll feel better in a few minutes Kanako. 'Runner's high', and all that."

Wheezing, and gagging on phlegm, Kanako briefly wondered if her brother was high. "How long have you been doing this?"

"Over a year. Running, sparring, kendo, I try to keep active."

"You aren't upset at having to do this for her?"

"Why would I be?" Keitaro sounded as though the idea was unthinkable to him.

This wasn't lost on Kanako, and she sighed internally. "You weren't like this growing up, you were kinda lazy."

Keitaro shrugged. "I changed."

"Why?"

"I like who I am now, Ka-chan, its as if I finally discovered who I really am." He smiled a genuine smile. "I've never felt so, so… alive." Keitaro gave his sister a sideways glance, noticing that she was only now starting to regain her composure.. "And it's nice to be able to run a few miles without looking like warmed over death."

Inspiration.

A strategy suddenly occurred to Kanako.

"Then why don't you show me?" she asked.

"Excuse me?"

"Show me how rewarding all of this effort can be," answered Kanoko. "Train me."

A flustered Keitaro couldn't think of a response to that as he mulled over what she had asked of him. After a minute of contemplation, he replied, "Why?"

"I want to understand you oniichan." 'And maybe I can use this to get closer to you,' Kanako added silently.

"What kind of training do you mean?"

"Just like yours."

Keitaro pursed his lips. "I, I don't know about that Kanako…"

"Why not? I'm willing."

"I think I should ask Mo-chan about this."

"What for?"

"It's her family school."

"But Oniichan, I'm your sister!" protested Kanako

"And she's my wife," Keitaro reminded her.

Kanako silently grit her teeth and once again cursed her decision to not come back earlier. "All right then. Could you please ask her for her permission to teach me?" She hoped that her oniichan didn't notice how strained her smile was.

He didn't. "Sure, no problem."

Kanako nodded in thanks, and purposely switched subjects as the two of them walked back to Hinata House. She asked him about the past two years or so, trying to learn how Motoko had managed to exact such a tight hold on him, and try to figure out a way to break it.

Upon their return and after climbing the steps to the residence, Kanako told her brother that she needed to rest for a while, so while Keitaro took leave of her to go get cleaned up. He went up to his room, changed into a robe, picked up his bathing supplies, and headed for the outdoor bath.

Once Keitaro made certain that Motoko had hung up the sign, he walked into the changing area, removed his robe, put on a towel and went outside. Motoko was resting in the tub, eyes closed. To the casual observer, she looked to be asleep, but as Keitaro approached her, she called out to him without opening her eyes. "You're a little late."

"Had a little chat with Kanako," he replied.

Motoko opened her eyes and looked at her husband. "And how did it go with her?"

Keitaro chuckled to himself as he entered the bath and took a seat next to Motoko. "Not too bad, I gues. She didn't throw up, but I think she really wanted to."

Motoko smiled thinly. "So you didn't push her too hard?"

"She's my sister, so I went easy on her."

"Don't think she could endure training?"

"Funny you should mention that, Mo-chan."

"What do you mean?"

Keitaro took a deep breath. "She asked me to train her."

Motoko's brow beetled in confusion. "Train her? Why?"

Keitaro shrugged. "She wants to know what it's like, and why I'm so committed to it."

Motoko thought back to the look Kanako had given her husband and frowned. "That's the only reason?"

"That's what she said."

Motoko lowered herself further into the warm waters of the out door bath. "What did you tell her?" she asked after a couple of moments of contemplation.

"Didn't say anything, one way or the other," Keitaro replied. "It's your family school after all, who am I to say yes or no?"

"It's your school too now, Kei-kun," Motoko replied with a faint smile and an affectionate squeeze of his hand. "But it's sweet of you to ask."

"Thanks Mo-chan. So, should I train her?"

"Will she stick to it?"

"I, I don't know…"

Motoko's distrust of Keitaro's younger sister returned to the forefront. "You know how much devotion our school requires Kei-kun. If she's not willing…" Privately, Motoko had a strong aversion to Kanako being alone with her husband, but she knew that she had no reasonable grounds for it.

Keitaro pondered this for a minute before replying. "What about just trying to get her into shape, see what she's willing to do, be before we start training her?"

"We?"

"I can't teach her what you taught me, I won't be able to do it right."

"Kei-kun, you're good enough to instruct others now, beginners at least."

"You're flattering me."

"I'm serious. You're not as good as Tsuruko or me, but you've learned much since we started," Motoko insisted.

"But, what do I do?"

"Think back to how you were taught."

"You hit me with a bucket of ice water, and then with the bucket," Keitaro pointed out to his wife.

"You don't have to do that." 'But I wouldn't mind at all if you did,' Motoko added silently. She sighed deeply. 'When did I get this catty? There's nothing to be worried about, she's his SISTER. Damn mood swings. I must be an idiot, letting myself think like this.'

To ease her troubled thoughts, Motoko moved next to Keitaro and leaned against him, sighing contentedly when he wrapped his arm around her. After a few minutes of this, she spoke again. "It shouldn't matter at first, right? You're just trying to get her into shape. Run with her for a while, and if she stays interested, well… we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

"Sounds good me Mo-chan," replied Keitaro, as he closed his eyes and let the hot springs soothe away his cares and concerns.

They stayed in each others arms for about ten minutes, and probably would have stayed even longer, if there had not been an unexpected intruder into their solitude.

"Oniichan, are you here?" called out Kanako.

'Kanako?' Keitaro thought blankly, before the realities of the current situation dawned on him. "Kanako? What the hell are you doing?" he yelped.

"There you are oniichan," Kanako replied, seemingly unaffected by the awkwardness of the moment. She walked out serenely, wearing a pleasant smile, and a wrapped towel that ended at least a foot above the knee. She had removed all traces of the make up that had been smudged and smeared in the run, and her delicate features were clearly visible.

All in all, she cast an extremely striking figure. Unfortunately, neither of the people in the bath were in the right frame of mind to appreciate it.

Motoko sat where she was, stunned into immobility by the absurd unreality of the moment. She even briefly entertained the notion that she'd fallen asleep, and that this was some strange dream brought on by her pregnancy. A discrete pinch put that notion to rest, and forced her to realize that this wasn't some hormone induced phantasm she was seeing.

Keitaro, the target of Kanako's brazen display, did find himself staring at his sister for a second or two, the clinical portion of his mind noting that she was indeed an attractive specimen, before his higher functions regained their control. He mentally stomped on any notion that his sister might be sexually attractive, and attempted to protect his modesty. He immersed himself up to his chin, and covered himself with his hands, even though there was little chance Kanako could see him under the water.

"Are you crazy Kanako? Didn't you see the sign?" yelled Keitaro, when he finally got his act together enough to talk. He was staring intently at the surface of the water, determined not to gawk at, ogle, or even glance at his sister the way she was currently, for lack of a better word, dressed.

"Yes, what about it?" Kanako replied nonchalantly.

"It said, 'Keep Out!'" cried Motoko.

"Oniichan and I used to bathe together when we were younger," Kanako replied innocently.

"We were kids then!" squawked Keitaro. 'You didn't look like…' He wasn't able to finish the silent afterthought. He was keeping his eyes focused on the water, but images of his sister wearing only that towel came into his mind unbidden. The inherent loveliness of that sight was overridden by how disturbing that thought was to Keitaro. Closing his eyes and shaking his head to eliminate any thought of Kanako in that light, he finally rediscovered his voice. "Would you please step out until we're finished?"

"But oniichan…"

"Now Kanako!" snarled Motoko. She was glaring daggers at Kanako, incensed at the interruption of her private time with her husband. The fact that this experience reminded her of the fateful run-in with Naru bothered her even more. She also couldn't explain the feelings of jealousy and possessiveness that Kanako inspired in her.

"As you wish." Kanako turned around and walked back to the changing area, putting a subtle strut in her gait. Her display went unnoticed, as Keitaro was still intently studying the surface of the water. She smiled to herself; she'd had no illusions about just sauntering in and sweeping Keitaro off of his feet, but she'd noticed the faint blush that came over his face before he'd averted his eyes. She now knew that he found her attractive, she just had to figure out someway to get him to see her as something other than his younger sister.

Motoko glared at the younger Urashima until she was gone, before turning on her husband. "What on earth is she doing?" Her eyes narrowed as she considered something Kanako had said. "The two of you used to bathe together?"

"Not since we were children!" Keitaro cried. He looked up carefully, ensuring that his sister was gone. "Not for a long, long time," he reiterated. "She's my sister for crying out loud!"

Motoko bit back a retort and took a deep breath to calm herself. 'It's normal for siblings to bathe together,' she reminded herself. 'Tsuruko and I have bathed together.' This admission eased her feelings of jealousy. 'But Tsuruko and I are both women,' the skeptical part of her mind pointed out.

Mrs. Aoyama turned to look at Mr. Aoyama. He looked like he'd been rattled by the encounter with his sister. Embarrassment was written all over his face, and he seemed unsure about what to do next. Smiling faintly, Motoko allowed some of her vexation to ebb away. "I'm sorry I got upset Kei-kun, but she's too old to just walk in on you when you're bathing."

"I know! I know! I never imagined that she'd do that." Mentally, Keitaro was doing all that he could to purge the brief image of his sister wearing a towel. He found it to be a little more difficult than he expected. "I'll let her know she can't do that," he promised.

Nodding at his reassurance, Motoko stood up, with a little assistance from Keitaro, and the two of them retired to the changing room to get dressed.

XXX

True to his word, Keitaro explained to Kanako that she couldn't join him in the bath anymore, and that when the sign was posted no one was allowed in the bath.

Kanako accepted the rebuke contritely, and promised not to do it again. Privately, she was already coming up with loopholes in her promise to exploit.

The day continued without further incident until dinner. Everyone had gathered in the dining, and supper was well underway, when Tama-chan flew in, buzzing all the residents, before gently landing on Shinobu's head.

"What the hell is THAT?" shrieked Kanako, jumping to her feet in surprise.

"That's our pet turtle, Tama-chan," replied Keitaro.

"Since when do turtles fly?" Kanako asked in disbelief.

"She's a special hot springs turtle," Mutsumi answered sweetly.

"Very special," added Su. "And probably delicious."

"I see…" Kanako murmured as she sat back down uneasily, keeping an eye on the turtle. Under other circumstances, the sight of the turtle happily resting on Shinobu's head would have been unbearably cute, but Kanako was still trying to accept the idea of a turtle being considered airworthy.

Wanting to put herself back in control of the proceedings, Kanako queried her brother. "Have you decided whether or on you'll train me oniichan?"

"Train you? Why?" asked Naru.

"I want to get closer to him," Kanako replied.

'How close?' Naru asked silently, unknowingly mirroring Motoko's thoughts.

"Mo-chan and I talked it over, and we decided that it'll be all right if I train you."

"Thank you oniichan," beamed Kanako.

"But there are conditions," added Keitaro.

Kanako frowned. "What kind?"

"Are you serious about this Kanako?"

"Of course oniichan."

"Are you willing to do anything that I ask of you?"

Kanako felt a brief moment of giddiness that she managed to conceal. 'You have no idea oniichan,' she thought dreamily. "Yes."

"Good. Before you learn any kendo, you're going to have to get in shape."

"But I am in shape," protested Kanako.

"If running two miles nearly kills you, you aren't in shape Kanako," rebuked Keitaro. "I thought you said you were serious."

"I am serious oniichan. Sorry." apologized Kanako. 'It'll be worth it for you.'

"We'll see. We'll start tomorrow."

"Thank you."

XXX

After dinner Keitaro and Motoko went out for a walk together, saying that they wanted to discuss baby names. Kanako had debated asking if she could go with, but she figured that she'd already pushed her luck for the day and decided to talk to him when he got back.

It was a beautiful night for a walk, and while Motoko found it pleasant, her enjoyment was hampered by how her ankles were swelling. She tried to hide it, but Keitaro finally noticed, and he unilaterally decided that it was time to go home. He wasn't very successful in helping her, as she politely, but stubbornly, refused his assistance for the rest of the journey.

"Kei-kun, you don't have to help me to our room, I can still walk to our room…" Motoko reminded him, as she brushed off his attempt to help her up the staircase.

"I know Mo-chan, but I don't mind. Besides, I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you."

"You're getting over protective again Kei-kun," warned Motoko, although she was secretly thankful for his concern.

"Mo-chan, we can't be too careful."

"That doesn't mean I can't move around."

"I never said that, I just want to make sure nothing bad happens." Keitaro opened the door to their room, lead Motoko inside, and closed the door behind them. "I won't treat you like you're glass Mo-chan, but I want to insure you both are safe."

Motoko found herself shaking her head. Whatever Keitaro's methods, she couldn't find fault with his intentions. "We'll be safe Kei-kun, I won't do anything the book says I shouldn't."

"Will you keep doing katas?" Keitaro knew how much the sword meant to his wife, and the idea of even temporarily giving it up was painful to her.

"I don't think that I can," she confirmed. "No actions that involve sharp, sudden, or jerking movement," Motoko quoted.

Keitaro grimaced. "What's left?"

"Stretching, light jogging, yoga, swimming, and other non-impact activities," Motoko replied. "But even walking is getting difficult. Look at my ankles!"

Keitaro glanced down, and her ankles had swollen even more. "Sit down Mo-chan, let's see what I can do." Keitaro helped Motoko onto the futon, then he sat down in front of her and took her right foot in his hands, removing the slipper and sock.

A wave of self-consciousness washed over Motoko. "It's all right Kei-kun you don't-"

"Shhh… Just relax." Grasping her foot with both of his hands, Keitaro used his thumbs to knead Motoko's heel and his fingers to rub the top of her foot. He kept this up for a few minutes, before he let go with his right hand and moved it to support the ankle. Once there, he began to massage it between his fingers and the heel of his hand.

Motoko felt herself begin to relax, and she closed her eyes and laid back, deciding to just enjoy the moment. Her foot was already feeling better due to Keitaro's careful ministrations. The sensation of him squeezing and kneading her foot was luxuriant, almost decadent, and she felt herself smiling.

Keitaro smiled to himself as he felt the tension ebb away from Motoko, and he redoubled his efforts when she began to hum contentedly. "Better Mo-chan?"

"Hmmm, yes Kei-kun," Motoko purred.

Keitaro continued the massage for about ten minutes, constantly changing the position of his hands, focusing all of his efforts in making his wifes right foot feel better. Once he was done, he gently placed her right foot down and picked up her left one.

Moaning softly, Motoko reveled in the experience of the blissful foot massage. Keitaro had learned well; his technique had improved dramatically during their time together. The first time he'd attempted to rub her feet, all that he'd succeeded in doing was discovering how ticklish she could be. While that had been fun in it's own way, it hadn't been very therapeutic.

Now Keitaro only tickled her if he wanted to, and that was never during a massage. He was sensuous in his touch, and Motoko found herself wondering if he would take it any further.

After another ten wonderful minutes that passed far too quickly for Motoko's liking, Keitaro finished massaging her left foot. "Thank you Kei-kun," Motoko said dreamily.

"Happy to help Mo-chan."

"Take off your shirt and lay on your stomach," Motoko replied without preamble.

"Um, uh, there's no need to do that…" Keitaro stammered.

"Now, Kei-kun."

"You don't need to go to the trouble-"

"NOW, Kei-kun," Motoko emphasized.

Not willing to argue with his wife when she used that tone of voice, Keitaro immediately acquiesced. 'She doesn't need to put herself out like this, she should take it easy…' Keitaro let out a deep breath when Motoko straddled his hips and started massaging his shoulders. 'Then again…. She said she wouldn't over exert herself.' His resolve faded as Motoko began to work out the stress in his shoulders.

'I can stay active,' thought Motoko, unknowingly thinking along the same tangent as her husband. She heard Keitaro sigh as her hands rubbed over his shoulder blades. 'For someone so worried about me having too much stress, his back is as tight as a drum skin,' she mused. A wicked gleam came over her eyes as she came to a decision. 'Only one way to get rid of all of Kei-kun's worries.'

Keitaro was feeling both serenity and guilt; serenity at what Motoko's efforts were doing to him physically, and guilt that he was taking pleasure from her efforts. It felt wonderful, but he should have been willing to refuse it, or at least cut it short. He was working up the determination to thank her and get up when he felt her hands come to rest on his shoulders. 'Ah, she's finished. Now I won't have-' The rest of that thought was cut off when he felt Motoko's hair drape across his back, followed shortly by two warm, soft, but still firm masses pressed against his shoulder blades.

Motoko saw Keitaro look over to where she had discarded her shirt and bra. She felt him tense his shoulders and prepare to push himself up. In response, she shoved him down hard by his shoulders and placed her lips next to his left ear. "You just relax now, Kei-kun," she whispered huskily.

Keitaro let his head drop back onto the pillow and allowed himself to relax and savour the indulgent experience of his wife massaging him with her body. The feeling of her warm breasts rubbing across his back was beyond description.

Keitaro allowed himself to get swept up in the experience, and soon he and Motoko were lost in the captivating rhythms of physical love.

At the end, the two of them stayed locked together for a few brief moments before they separated. Motoko nuzzled up against Keitaro, kissing him deeply. Breaking the kiss, Motoko reached down to pull up the blankets, while Keitaro turned off the lamp next to the futon. In the enveloping darkness, the sated couple held each other close and both were asleep within five minutes.

XXX

It was almost ironic, if one considered it. Countless times Kitsune had leaned against her wall, or pressed a glass against it, and in at least one case drilled some peepholes in order to get some evidence of Keitaro and Naru doing something sexual. She'd never really considered what she would have done with any photographic or video evidence, although eBay was a tempting thought, but in the end there had never been any sexual activity between those two. But Kitsune had taken many chances, even been poked in the eye by Naru, all for naught.

But now that she had no interest in such things, she had abundant evidence of sexual activity in the landlord's room. She hadn't actually witnessed it, for which she was fervently grateful, but if she'd wanted to, she could have recorded miles of audiotape of Keitaro and Motoko's lovemaking sessions. She'd even gone into Keitaro's room once to have a talk with him, and the lingering scent of sex in the air had caused her to wrinkle her nose. 'That's probably why they got those damn scented candles,' she mused. The cloyingly sweet smell wafted into her room from time to time, and the stench seemed to hang in the air.

Kitsune sighed. Hinata House's expectant couple were at it again. Keitaro was the owner of the residence, and he and Motoko were happily married, at least that's what it sounded like, and it was their right to do as they wished in their room. 'But couldn't they be a little more discrete about it? I thought women were supposed to lose sexual desire when they get pregnant!' raged Kitsune. 'If that's less desire, than they must have gone at it like rabbits before this happened!'

She debated getting up from her futon and kicking the wall to complain, but with her luck it would just punch a hole and that would make it worse. And for some reason she couldn't name, she didn't want Keitaro and Motoko to know that they'd upset her.

'What about you, Kitsune! Where's your man?'

Naru had asked her that once, when she was pissed at one of her schemes to get Naru and Keitaro together. At the time she'd simply deflected that back at Naru by pretending to have harbored some romantic feelings for Keitaro, and even acting like she would kiss him. Her ploy had resulted in Naru vehemently objecting, and being forced to acknowledge the fact that she did care for Keitaro.

But that question echoed through her mind at the present, in counterpoint to Motoko's gasps of pleasure, and Kitsune found herself having to admit that she had no answer for that question. 'Reserved Motoko has a better life than I do. I'm the most outgoing person here and I'm alone!' Kitsune found herself blinking rapidly. 'I'm not crying, it's just too goddamn dusty in here,' she thought to herself.

Kitsune dealt with her feelings in her usual way; she took a large swig from the closest open bottle and held her pillow over her head, trying unsuccessfully to block out the rest of the world. Deep down however, she was wondering just how close she was to bottoming out, and what would happen if and when that occurred.

XXX

'They're at it again,' thought Naru, as the sounds from below drifted into her room. It was all but impossible to sleep with that going on, so all that she could do was lay there, feeling vaguely embarrassed, and wait for them to finish. Even using the pillow as earplugs didn't seem to help; she could still hear it somehow, so waiting it out was the only choice.

The first time she'd heard Keitaro and Motoko make love, the day they'd returned after an absence of nearly a year, she'd come this close to reopening the hole in the floor with her fists. Naru would've jumped down into the room, and exacted a spurned maidens vengeance against Mr. Aoyama. But as powerful as the urge had been, it had passed quickly, replaced by a renewed sense of jealousy and envy. By daybreak, these feelings had faded away like the pre-dawn mist. Sadness reigned, but nowhere near as powerful as it had been when they'd left.

The long months of separation had allowed her to come to terms with her feelings, and at breakfast she hadn't even mentioned being disturbed. She was even a little surprised when Kitsune had made a not very subtle remark that everyone seemed to miss.

'I'm over Keitaro,' Naru told herself as the sounds from the landlords room reached their peak and faded away to silence. 'I may have carried a torch for him in the past, but not any longer. He's Motoko's, and I'm happy for them. Really, I am!' She knew this was mostly true, but there was still some very small part of her that still needed some closure. 'Motoko's pregnant, and he's the father. How much more 'closure' do I need?'

Naru shook her head in disgust. This was ridiculous. She couldn't go on thinking about what might have been, she had to move on with her life. 'I need to talk to them,' she decided. 'I need to say what I need to say, and after that, maybe, maybe I'll be able to put this all behind me.' She briefly imagined herself talking to the Aoyamas. 'Say Keitaro, did you know that I still have feelings for you?' Naru let out a cynical chuckle. 'Oh, that's brilliant. Sleep on this Naru, before you stick your foot into your mouth.' Naru spent some time staring at the spot on the floor where the hole had been, before she finally feel asleep.

XXX

Of all the people who happened to overhear Keitaro and Motoko's encounter, none were as affected as Kanako. She'd been outside his door, hand raised to knock, when her eyes had gone wide when she'd suddenly realized what she was hearing. She'd stood there, motionless, incapable of movement, unwillingly listening to her brother and his wife celebrating their love. When she'd finally regained the use of her legs, she'd quietly and quickly hurried back to her room, tears streaming down her face.

'Damn that woman, taking oniichan like that?' she raged silently. Kanako was sure that there was nothing between her brother and that Aoyama woman, but she couldn't deny that there wasn't some physical chemistry between them. A little voice in the back of her head questioned her assessment, but she menaced the dissenting voice into silence.

'I know he finds me attractive, I just have to get him to think of me as a lover, not a sibling Once I do that, everything else will just fall into place,' Kanako concluded. 'Now all I have to do is figure out how to get him to fall in love with me,' she added soberly. 'Maybe during our training…'

Kanako spent the rest of the evening plotting how she was going to become the most important person in her brother's life.

End of Chapter 6

OMAKE! OMAKE! OMAKE! OMAKE!

Dr. Naoko Akagi MD OB-Gyn

Dr. Akagi was craving a cigarette. This wasn't unusual, as the cravings never went away, even after six years without a smoke. Her job was both a help and a hindrance; the constant parade of expectant mothers reminded her why she'd given up the habit, but the stresses of the job would have been easier to deal with if she'd been able to light up a Lark or two.

She was mostly able to resist the lingering urges, but when she had woken up this morning, an intense craving had gripped her, almost prompting her to buy a pack and light up. Fortunately the sight of her daughter Ritsuko at the breakfast table had been all the reinforcement she'd needed. 'She's why I quit in the first place.'

Her day at her practice had brought the craving back a little, but she'd worked through more intense cravings than what she was experiencing. After washing her hands after using the bathroom, she walked into exam room one, absently picking up the file from the slot on the door. "Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Ikuhara."

"Good morning doctor," The young man replied. The young woman merely nodded. There was nothing unusual about the boy, save for the fact that he appeared to be about high school age, but the girls appearance gave Naoko pause. She was unquestionably attractive, but she had long sea-foam green hair pulled into three strands, and piercing blood red eyes.

Unconsciously, the doctor found her hands clenching into tight fists before she realized what she was doing and relaxed. 'Where did that come from?' she wondered. Belatedly, she also noticed that the girl was wearing a collar. 'Some kind of cosplay?' "Have you had any difficulties so far?" she asked.

The woman shook her head. "Ren has not had any problems with master's child."

The young man blanched.

Naoko felt her eyebrow twitch. "Excuse me?"

"Master's child has not caused Ren any problems."

The man jumped across the room and clapped his hand over Ren's mouth. "No, no, no, Ren, you can't call me that!" he yelped.

"Ren is sorry mas-, I mean Takeya," she apologized.

Takeya nodded and slowly turned to look at the doctor. He flinched at the look of disapproval on her face. "She's a foreigner, she got some words wrong learning the language and she sometimes calls me master but that's all there is to it!" he babbled.

'He wouldn't make up something that stupid,' Naoko reasoned. 'Still...' The situation was odd enough to kick-start her cigarette craving. "Was this a planned pregnancy?" she asked, trying to maintain her professionalism.

"No," the young man replied. "It wasn't planned. We were in Hokkaido, on vacation. Ren wanted to see where the melon for melon bread comes from."

"Why?" Naoko inquired, curious as to the reason.

"Ren loves melon bread," the girl replied. She slipped her arms around Takeya and continued. "Neither Ren or master knew that fresh melon worked like aphrodisiac for Ren." She hugged him affectionately as Takeya looked like he was embarrassed beyond belief.

"I see," Naoko replied. "Fill out these forms and I'll be with you shortly." She walked out of the room shaking her head in disbelief. 'It's gonna be one of those days…' She was mentally calculating the time it would take to walk out to a buy a pack of cigarettes as she walked into exam room two, picking up the file as she entered. "Good day, Mr. and Mrs. Masaki…" The rest of the statement died as she realized how many people were in the room.

"Hello doctor," replied the young man, also about high school age. He looked as if he was carrying a burden. The burden seemed to be the four women who were in the room with him. Three of the women were gazing adoringly at him, while the fourth woman- 'No, she's only a girl,' Dr. Akagi realized. She grimaced. If this was a case of statutory rape, this would get unpleasant.

Wetting her lips and trying to moisten her suddenly dry mouth, Naoko managed to ask, "Which of you is pregnant?" She breathed a sigh of relief when the girl said nothing, but her head spun when the woman all nodded serenely. "Who are you the father to?" she asked the man.

"All of them," he mumbled almost unintelligibly.

"All of them?" Naoko asked numbly.

"That's correct," replied a regal looking woman with purple hair. "Lord Tenchi blessed us all with his noble seed."

"Took him long enough didn't it, Ayeka-chan?" asked the woman with spiky cyan hair.

"How true Ryoko-chan." the woman replied.

"But it was so nice of him to do it," added the third woman with a tan complexion and light blond hair.

The boy, one Tenchi Masaki according to the file, stared at the top of his shoes in response. "Why did you father three different children?" the doctor asked incredulously, in spite of herself.

"Couldn't make up my mind," he mumbled in response.

By now Naoko's craving was back with a vengeance. "Why are you here?" she asked the only not pregnant female in the room, besides herself.

"I'm curious about the strange way that they've been behaving," she replied.

Naoko smiled thinly. "That's just hormones at work. After the pregnancy, their hormone levels will go back to normal and their usual behavior will return."

"Oh no! Can't you make it so the hormones stay unbalanced?"

Naoko goggled. "Why?'

"They're never this well behaved!" she answered. "The way it is now, only Washu disturbs the peace. It's never been so quiet at home!"

Naoko noticed Tenchi nodding solemnly in agreement with that. The room began to spin for the doctor. "Fill out these forms, and I'll be right back," she said numbly as she left the room. 'Perhaps two packs of cigarettes would be better,' she thought blankly. "Please tell me there are no more appointments," she asked her nurse hopefully.

"Just one doctor," the nurse answered.

'Just one. Can't be worse than that one, can it?' Naoko wondered. "Where are they?"

"The waiting room."

"Why didn't you put them in an exam room?"

"Not enough space," the nurse deadpanned.

With a sinking feeling, Dr. Akagi walked to the waiting room, and nearly fainted from shock. There were at least two dozen girls in junior high school uniforms waiting for her. Naoko counted to about fifteen before she gave up, figuring that the exact number didn't matter right now. Her mouth was once again bone dry as she rasped out the name on the file. "Sp-Springfield?"

"Yes?" replied every single girl.

The urge to faint, or run away screaming, grew even stronger. "All of you?"

"Yes," they replied in unison.

"And, and the father?"

"Here," answered a faint, accented voice.

Naoko looked down and for the first time noticed a young man. 'No, a boy,' she mentally corrected herself. "You?" she asked disbelievingly.

"Him," hissed a girl with bells in her hair, and one eye of blue and the other of green.

"Negi-sensei is the father!" gushed a haughty looking girl with long blonde hair.

"I'm having your baby Negi-kun!" squealed a girl with pink hair and ribbons as she glomped him affectionately.

"See? I told you you'd get him Nodoka," said a girl with glasses and twin hair antenna.

"I didn't think that I'd have to share him with the entire class, Paru," the girl replied.

"Negi-sensei? You're a teacher?" asked the doctor.

"Yes," the boy replied weakly, looking like he was on the verge of tears.

"It's all that vermin ermine's fault!" snarled the girl with bells in her hair. "Make a 'Truth of Heart' potion, Aniki. What's the worst that could happen?" she savagely mimicked. "I'm gonna turn him into set of furry handcuffs!"

'Ermine?' wondered Naoko. 'What's that about?' She then noticed a weasel on the boy's shoulder. That in itself was odd, but odder still was the fact that it appeared to be dancing a jig, and waving a Japanese flag in one paw, and a British Union Jack in the other.

"My grandfather's going to turn me into a gerbil," the boy sobbed miserably.

"Don't worry boya, I won't let that happen," replied a girl with blonde hair and well manicured nails, who looked to be about twelve years old.

"Mistress is correct, we will protect you," added a woman with green hair, an odd set of ear decorations, and a emotionless face.

"We've got you covered Negi-bozu!" declared a petite girl with light hair done into buns on each side of her head. A tall woman with an impressive figure and squinty eyes, an exotic looking woman carrying a guitar case, and woman carrying a sword on her back all nodded in agreement.

Dr. Akagi looked around desperately, hoping to see a hidden camera, hoping that this was an elaborate practical joke. No such luck. She let out a deep sigh and turned to her nurse. "Clear my appointments for the rest of the week, this could take a while." After a seconds consideration, she took some money out of her pocket and gave it to the nurse. "And when you get the time, go get me a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of sake," she added.

"But doctor-" The glare that Naoko gave her brooked no argument and silenced any criticism.

Doctor Naoko Akagi turned to the circus that had entered her practice. "Okay, how do you want to do this, by student number or alphabetically?"

End Omake

Omake Disclaimer:

'DearS' is the property of Peach-Pit, Tokyopop, and Geneon. 'Tenchi Muyo' is the property of Pioneer and AIC. 'Negima! Magister Negi Magi' is the property of Ken Akamatsu and Del Rey.

Author's Notes: I know, I know, it's been a while since I updated. I appreciate your patience, but I'd hit a wall. I think I'm back on track now, and I hope to have the next update out well before Christmas.

D'OH! I can't believe I posted this without thanking my prereaders, dennisud and Kylaran Aeldin. I'm sorry guys, my bad! Without their help I'm screwed! Thanks!

Thanks for all the feedback and comments.