Changed

Author: Garasu

"Urashima, how tall are you?"

Keitaro glanced up at the sudden question that his traveling companion, Motoko Aoyama, asked. He blinked a moment, trying to gather his thoughts together .

"About 171 Cm, I think. Why?" He responded a moment later, trying for the life of him to figure out why the young kendoka would ask such a strange question out of the blue. In his estimation, the young woman standing next to him on the small commuter trolley didn't like him very much as evidenced by the frequent sword techniques that she dolled out upon him on any given day. So for her to ask inane personal questions about height momentarily set his mind in a freeze.

"No reason," Motoko answered quickly, then turned her head away and down, covering her expression as she did so. Almost four centimeters shorter than I am, she thought miserably to herself. No wonder people are staring at me.

"Oh, okay."

The pair lapsed into an uncomfortable silence after that point. Motoko could hear the 'click-clack' of the trolley car going over the rails and just above that the din of conversations and whispers going on around her. Probably talking about the unfeminine freak and the weakling male, her sense of paranoia told her. Her physical senses were sharp as ever despite her earlier failings with the sword and she could feel the occasional stare being directed at her back, making her unconsciously shift closer to Keitaro, forcing her depression sink even deeper. The day she had to rely on Keitaro to protect her as he did earlier that day and as he was doing now, even unconsciously, was a day that she had indeed lost everything. If she didn't have the sword, what did she have? Did she have Urashima, the so-called perverted troll of the Hinata House?

Motoko briefly spared a look around her before looking over to the man next to her. Despite all that she had said about him in the past, he really wasn't doing anything that she could classify as perverted. All throughout the train ride and even before that he had merely walked along side her. Occasionally he would attempt to make conversation but it usually always fell somewhere short of meaningless chitchat. In this setting, maybe...just maybe he could be acceptable.

The trolley lurched suddenly, indicating that it was coming to a stop. It wasn't their stop so Motoko barely paid the event any mind, at least until she heard a high-pitched squeal that sounded vaguely familiar.

"Wow, Motoko-chan, is that really you?" The young kendoka cringed when she recognized the voice of one of the three women that hung off of her every word. Those three again, she thought icily, resigning herself to the fact that she would now have to deal with the two younger one's racquet and the older one's not so silent worship. What did I ever do to deserve this? She asked herself as the trio came up to her and Keitaro.

"Motoko-chan, it is you! You look so cute!" The youngest one, Yukari, trilled once she came to a stop to the left side of Motoko. The petite brunette made sure to do a full circle around the taller woman, proclaiming her cuteness every step of the way. "I can't believe you have anything like that in your closest, why didn't you wear it sooner?"

"This thing?" Motoko spared a disgusted look at the dress she had been wearing. It was the root of all her problems in her own mind. The frilly pink thing was on loan from Haruka and as much as she respected the elder caretaker she wondered how on earth the stoic woman had ever come to possess such a monstrosity of ribbons and lace. Though at least it covered her legs and didn't show off any thing too extreme like the other dresses Kitsune had thrown on her earlier this morning. "I'm merely wearing it because my uniforms are in the wash."

"But it's so cute, Motoko-chan, you should wear it more often," Yume put in, pulling the same circle around that Yukari had just completed. Once it was done, she spied Keitaro out of the corner of her eye and looked up at Motoko with even greater awe. "You never said anything about a boyfriend, Motoko."

The young woman's training left her in an instant as she stumbled over the word 'boyfriend.' Who? Keitaro? Boyfriend? Was all her mind could process. As Yume did a full circle on Keitaro, making the boy look as nervous as she felt, Motoko felt it was in her best interest to say something to steer the conversation away from that topic. She never got the chance.

"I can't believe Motoko-sempai would sink to the level of wearing such feminine clothing to attract a male. "The new speaker turned to Keitaro and gave him a withering eye. "Especially a male that looks like a complete looser."

Motoko noticed Keitaro's head sink down at the accusation. She also noticed he was trying to say something to the contrary but couldn't find the words in his state. Once again, though, she never got the chance to add anything before Yukari piped up again.

"Oh, be quiet, Hisui. I think he's kind of cute if he looses the glasses." Yukari smiled at Keitaro suddenly, making the older boy blush. "And besides, if Motoko-chan has chosen him there must be something there. Though now that I think of it, I swear he looks like that guy you took out a while ago...you remember, Motoko-chan, don't you? The guy with two horrible friends that tried to hit on us?" Yukari kept chatting; unaware that Motoko's face had become quite red at all the talk. When all three girls turned towards her at once and began speaking at the same time, she lost control.

"Be quiet all of you! I can't take this anymore!" Motoko threw herself at the door, thankful that just as she lost control the trolley had come to a stop. She didn't know if it was the right one, but she didn't care. She merely had to get away from those three girls and all their noise. She just couldn't take anymore of her 'friends' incessant babbling, she was getting tired of being weak, of the stupid rags that she was wearing making her feel weak. All she could think to do was run, and run she did as soon as the doors to the trolley opened.

As she stepped through the open doors, she heard her name being called and turned just in time to see Keitaro slip through the closing trolley doors and make his way to her, grocery packages still in hand. Motoko eyed him critically for a moment, took in his grey sweatshirt and nondescript beige khakis and gauged the size about right, desperate for anything to solve her problem even if it came in the form of Keitaro. Kami forgive me for what I'm about to do, she thought, right before she opened her mouth to speak.

"Keitaro? I need you to do me a favor."

---

"But Motoko, where are we going? Isn't the Hinata Sou the other direction?" Motoko closed her eyes for a moment and stopped suddenly, making the young man behind her run into her quite forcefully and almost drop his grocery bags. She took a short breath of air and turned to her companion.

"Urashima, I asked if you could do me a favor, and you agreed, did you not?" At his affirmative nod, the kendoka continued. "The favor that I wish for you to perform is best accomplished by going this way, now will you hurry up and stop complaining?"

"But...you still haven't told me what you want me to do," Keitaro complained quietly as Motoko turned around and began walking once again in her usual brisk manner. Her longer legs and better physical condition allowed her to easily outpace the ronin behind her, but despite his burden he still kept up as best he could. When she spied the destination she had been looking for, she grabbed Keitaro's hand suddenly and yanked him in the right direction. As soon as the young man's eyes gauged their destination his pacifist attitude took on a note on a note of urgency.

"Mo..Motoko, we can't go in there! It's not right, I'm not ready!" With each syllable his voice took on a more panicked note and his struggles against her hand grew more frantic.

Motoko knew that her only chance at pulling this off was remaining firm and in control, not showing any weakness by appearing indecisive. In truth she was fighting the very urge to run and never return, shamed beyond control by the events of the day. But she held firm, convinced that if Urashima could continue to try for Todai despite his obvious disadvantage then she could solve her problem. So she put on her most severe face and continued to drag Keitaro in the proper direction, making her every motion appear confident and in control.

"Suck it up and be a man," Motoko taunted from ahead of him, keeping an iron grip on her hand. "This won't take long and I swear if you get any ideas from this I will make sure that you will not only cease to exist in this lifetime but I will send you to hell without the attributes that make you male."

Once they came to a stop, Keitaro stood beside the young woman and gave her an incredulous look. "But what other kind of idea could I possibly get from this?" Keitaro's voice went up a few octaves as his hand spread to indicate the quaint, clean looking hotel. It was obviously one of the many so-called love hotels in the area merely from the sign loudly proclaiming its two rates: one for rest, one for stay. It was a perfect spot for frustrated lovers to get away from their families and to spend a little 'alone time' together without spending a fortune for a vacation. But why Motoko was now dragging Keitaro into one of them was more than mind boggling to the ronin, it was downright brain freezing.

"This is merely where I can find a proper place to change. To do it anywhere else would be undignified and exhibitionistic," Motoko explained quietly, as she quickly selected the first room that appeared open on the menu and then pressed the rest rate. After inserting the money their key popped out and she drug the now numbed Keitaro over to the elevator.

"I told you not to get any ideas about this, Urashima." Motoko warned, seeing the glazed look in Keitaro's eye.

"But you said, 'change,' I wasn't aware you bought any clothes today." He said hoarsely as the elevator ride to their floor went on interminably.

"That is correct, I did not." Motoko said mysteriously. The elevator dinged, indicating that they were at the proper floor and the kenodka grabbed keitaro's hand once again and quickly found their room. "Now," she said as they entered and she closed the door behind her, "strip."

Keitarou's blood went cold as he heard the last words that he ever expected to come out of the classic beauty's mouth just come out. He stared at her for a second before blinking slowly.

"Come again?" He asked, brain not quite processing her request.

"I asked you to strip, and then hand your clothes to me." She stated simply, a hint of a blush creeping onto her cheeks.

"Okay." Keitaro's mind went blank then, and for lack of anything better to do he merely complied with her request and began to take his sweatshirt off. But stopped at her scream.

"I meant take them off in there you pervert!" She told him indicating the bathroom off to the right, her cheeks flaring a crimson red.

"Oh." Keitaro numbly walked over t the bathroom and closed the door behind him, leaving Motoko in the room alone. Once Keitaro had disappeared the young woman breathed a sigh of relief and took in her surroundings with an idle curiosity. So this is what one of these places looks like. Strange, I thought they'd be a little bit...gaudier. Indeed, the room she was in was almost, tasteful in its décor. The bed was pretty normal, if a little extravagant in its grandiose, western four-poster way. It was obviously the centerpiece of the room as the rest of the decorations were small, but quite tasteful. The paint was a warm golden hue, and there was a small television opposite the bed. It was nothing like the naïve Motoko had ever imagined.

"Motoko I'm done, now what?" Keitaro peaked around the door of the bathroom, staring at the girl across from him. To her relief he kept his body well hidden behind the door and most of his clothes were piled up just outside.

"Go back in side and wait for me to tell you when to re-open the door." Motoko ordered, shuffling over and taking the clothing , then carefully listenedfor the sound of the door re-latching. When she was sure it was closed she began to undo the many laces and bows holding the dress to her lithe frame.

That pervert better not look or it will be the end of his life, she thought viciously as the fabric of the dress pooled at her feet. Once she stepped out of the circle of cloth, she turned and noticed her figure in a mirror set in the wall behind her. Motoko squarely faced the reflective surface as she coolly regarded her figure. What could anyone find to love about this? She wondered, as her hands traced strong, willowy muscle; the product of a lifetime of training in her family's martial arts. As if that is not enough, I find that these are too big to move gracefully with. And why did Mitsune feel the need to make me wear one of these...these things? Motoko's face frowned in uncomfortable disgust as her hands traced the fabric that held her breasts in check. At least I convinced her not to throw me into one of her sleazy undergarments.

The young woman sighed and gave herself another appraisal. Not good enough to be a woman and not good enough to be a warrior, forever stuck in between. She thought glumly. I wish I had sister's beauty and her spirit; life would be so much simpler if that were the case. Why oh why did she have to get married to that...that man?

A small tear leaked out from the corner of her eye then, tracing a small trail down her cheek and falling to the floor without so much as a sound. She snuffled slightly, ending any further tears that might come before slowly beginning to dress herself in Keitaro's clothing. If anything, they are at least somewhat comfortable, she thought after a brief look in the mirror to see how they fit. Though I think I could do without the smell of him all over them. She took a deep breath, but despite what she thought, or what she thought she should feel, the smell was actually quite pleasing to her senses.

Her mind crushed any further thoughts as quickly as a flame was extinguished by lack of air and she knocked politely on the bathroom door.

"Change into this," she stated firmly, pressing the fabric of the dress through the small crack she permitted him to open the wooden panel.

"WHAT? Motoko this is your dress! You can't expect me to go out in public like this, can you?"

Strangely, rather than getting angry, Motoko leaned against the door and closed her eyes sadly, the events of the day and everybody's reaction to that infernal dress building within her body and taking the fire directly out of her athletic frame. "Keitaro, please. I..I just can't wear it anymore. I asked you to do me a favor and you said yes. Please, please do this for me?" She tried not to sound pleading, and she thought she did a good job of it. But there was still some note of emotion behind it, obviously, because in the next instant she heard no more complaints and the faint rustling of fabric from behind the closed door. A moment later it opened.

"Please don't laugh," he begged as he stepped through the door, crying to himself on the inside at just what he was willing to do for the girl's happiness.

Despite how ridiculous he looked in Haruka's dress, and as much as she wanted to laugh, Motoko retained a straight face at the man across from her and bowed low. A measure of respect she had never once bestowed upon any male. He deserves it, just this once, she justified to herself, for everything I now realize he truly does for us...for me.

"Thank you, Keitaro," was all she simply said and in as sincere voice as he'd ever heard from her.

At a loss at what to do or say in the face of such sincerity, the young man merely scratched the back of his neck nervously and bowed slightly.

"Um, I suppose it was my pleasure...I guess," he finished lamely.

When Motoko gave him a small smile in reassurance, Keitaro had to stop and stare. Even the tiniest upturn of her lips made her face transform from pretty to beautiful! He had to wonder just what she would look like with a genuine smile, and found he liked the mental picture even more. There were times when classic beauty won out over any modern idea of looks, and Keitaro was just realizing that Motoko unknowingly had ever y ounce in her favor.

"Well, shall we get this over with?" He asked, only after a moment's contemplation of his previous thought. He held his hand towards the door and allowed Motoko to stride forward through the door and out into the hallway. Once she was outside, Keitaro took a deep breath, grabbed his groceries and walked out after her dreading every step of the way home. But one final thought did slip to the forefront of his mind as the door closed and locked behind him.

But I think it's worth it, just to see her smile.

---

"What a day." Hours after he had arrived home, Keitaro finally was able to collapse on his futon and take stock of everything that had happened during the last twelve hours. First, finding and helping Motoko with her clothing problem, only to be punched on arrival by Naru as soon as he got home wearing Motoko's dress. Then there was whole Mecha Tama incident and the subsequent pain of him being punched again as well as eaten by the giant robot turtle. Though, the way he figured it, it seemed to be business as usual for him: another day another punch. Though strangely, Motoko had been rather polite to him after the first part of the day, and even defended him to Naru earlier that afternoon. That was a pleasant surprise.

As if the mere thought of the female's under his care summoned them, he began to hear their voices ringing clearly from the bath.

"Well, good, now that they're out of the way maybe I can get some work done around here," he said to himself just before forcing his aching body to sit up and walk out of his bed. He slowly went about gathering a few cleaning supplies from the nearby storage closet and set about to his tasks.

Once making it up to the next floor, though, he caught the idle sound of cloth rustling from Motoko's room that brought him up short.

"Motoko?" He called out softly, surprised to find her in her room rather than down in the hot springs with the rest of the girls. He knocked on her door just to make sure she was in there and he indeed heard something rustling around . "The rest of the girls are down in the bath, you should probably join them soon so I can try and clean the springs before dinner."

He heard some muffled cursing and a bit more rustling that piqued his curiosity to the extreme. Just as he was about to inquire again, though, he received a reply from a harried sounding Motoko.

"I'm aware of that Urashima," she said, with a slight edge to her voice. Then, inexplicably, it softened a bit. "But, maybe...I could have your opinion of something?"

Keitaro blinked. Motoko was asking for his opinion? The violent kendo-girl sounding unconfident? Something strange was going on, and it was for that reason that he answered with a slightly cautious 'okay.'

A moment later her door opened and for a moment he could quite honestly not recognize the person that stood in her doorway.

"M..Motoko?" He asked, still not quite sure if the beauty in the kimono before him was the tomboyish sword girl or not. Still, he couldn't help but stare almost to the point of rudeness. It was true, he did sort of have a thing for women in kimono, and he generally agreed that most of the girls he knew looked quite ravishing in them. But to say that Motoko was simply 'ravishing' was way too much of an understatement. The way the light lavender of the fabric accentuated her skin, the tone of the deeper purple obi contrasting with the stark black of her hair, the unsure look in her eyes and the small circling of the foot all combined to make her into the single most beautiful person he could name.

"It...it was my sister's," Motoko explained quietly, suddenly and very uncharacteristically shy in front of the young man. Especially so because she was showing him a side of her that she had never shown anyone before, save for her older sister, though she still was not quite sure why she was doing so.

Honor demands it, she told herself a moment later. Keitaro had surpassed her opinion of him as a lowly male this day by taking all the laughter and snide remarks about his dress this afternoon without a single complaint. Not a single negative word was uttered from his mouth the whole way home, though his face looked quite resigned to the fate he was suffering by wearing a dress in public. In fact, as he continued to stare, and as she watched his mouth move up and down in apparent attempt to put thought to voice, she found that perhaps it was a bit more than honor. Perhaps he was not as spineless as she made him out to be. Maybe somehow, someway he had changed in his course of managing the inn.

Then again, she thought, as a small chuckle escaped her lips and she covered it politely with her hand. Strangely, she found that she was beginning to enjoy the fact that she could quite effectively tongue tie the ronin, perhaps it was I who changed in the course of one day.

End

Author's End Notes: Well, here we are again with another sweet little one shot. This is a nice little AU shot in the dark that happened when I got to thinking just how Keitaro was convinced to change into Motoko's dress and WHERE in the world she would consider it at least...seemly to do so. I just can't imagine her walking over to some bushes and changing right then and there, nor can I imagine her doing it in a public restroom because it would be too obvious (not to mention Keitaro would have to sit outside, naked, and wait for her. ::laughs:: ). So in comes those wonderful little 'love hotels.' They have 'rest' rates and some of them I suppose can be decorated more like a normal hotel rather than a train wreck of cupid's tram. I hope you have fun reading it and look for more again sometime soon. I think I might want to continue this little one. Well, leave a review.

Changed. Begun October 15th 0000 Hrs; First draft finished October 25th 0027Hrs. Final Draft finished October 26th 1533 Hrs.