Disclaimer: Maison Ikkoku belongs to the fabulous Rumiko Takahashi. Thanks should go to her for creating such wonderful characters.

Voice of a Stranger

Dawn came slowly, much the way it usually did in this part of Tokyo. The air was crisp, the birds were silent, and as the first cracks of light bathed the sprawling city, the casual observer could not have imagined a more typical day. However, as is often the case, great things often announce themselves in the most subtle of ways, and this was no exception to that golden rule.

In a small corner of the magnificent city, tucked away upon a street called Clock Hill, dawn greeted the small yet full world of a comfortably run-down apartment house. Filled with outcasts, misfits, dreamers and mourners, this place was the beginning and end to so many wondrous dreams. The house is called Maison Ikkoku, and it is here, on this average morning in fall that our story begins…

OOOOO

Yusaku Godai opened his eyes blearily as the light shone directly into his eyes. He had been having a pleasant dream, where in the middle of the night, the manager had come into Room 5, dressed scantily in a sheer blue negligee. Her face shining with a heavenly light, he rose to meet her outstretched arms, moving forward to enfold her in a warm embrace. Gazing into her eyes, he leaned his head down to her soft, full lips…

CLONNKK!

Jolted out of his fantasy, Godai massaged the throbbing lump on his forehead, newly made by its meeting with the edge of the stove counter.

"I have to stop this!" he thought to himself. "I'll be sleepwalking before to long if it stays like this."

"Poor young Godai," came a low, creepy voice. "Thy heart remains still unrequited, and comes to torment you even in sleep?" With a quiet rustle, the owner of the voice slithered in to sit beside the young former student, watching him a look of mixed interest and indifference(?)

"STOP DOING THAT!" Godai shouted. Acting purely on instinct, Godai snatched a one of the textbooks strewn across the floor and flung it powerfully at his voyeuristic neighbor. Barely moving, Yotsuya deftly caught the thick tome in one hand, set it beside him, and drew into a kneeling position.

"I do not seen why you are so annoyed. This is hardly an unusual occurrence." And he was right. Yotsuya could be counted on to appear at random whenever it was most problematic for him to do so. He came and went without a set schedule, blackmailed supplies from the other tenants (usually Godai), and derived a somehow dry yet sick pleasure from playing pranks on absolutely anyone he was able to. For some bizarre reason, from Godai's point of view, the freak took most pleasure in making his life a living hell.

"Would you just get out?" Godai said wearily. He looked at his clock, and bemoaned the truth. It was six-thirty in the morning! What was he doing up so early! The college graduate fell back onto his futon, fully intent upon drifting back to sleep. Sunday mornings meant you could sleep in late weren't they?

"You have not seen the bustling activity outside?"

"What activity? Godai asked without much interest.

"A moving vehicle has arrived at our humble abode. The manager seems to be quite pleased to see it." Yotsuya said this a sorrow-filled monotone, designed to elicit a prescribed response. He was not disappointed in Godai's reaction. Jolting upright from the futon, fully awake, he searched Yotsuya face for some clue.

"She isn't leaving is she. Why wouldn't she tell us?"

"One can only speculate as to the whims of our lovely manager." Yotsuya voice was almost wistful, and reminded Godai of some Shakespearean play. Godai jumped out of bed, and ran to the door still in his pajamas. He had to know what was going on!

In Room 5, Yotsuya grinned, and then suppressed a small chuckle. Godai never made him want for entertainment.

OOOOO

As the moving truck backed into position, Kyoko Otonashi, manager of Maison Ikkoku, began to think about what was happening. This was the right choice wasn't it? She had consulted with Father Otonashi several days before, and he had given her a positive answer. Still, this change would be very new, and she wondered if she could handle it.

At that moment, Godai came bursting out the front door still in his pajamas. Startled out of her inner thoughts, Kyoko turned to address the breathless young man. He looked as if he had just sprinted though the entire house.

"Godai! What on earth is wrong?"

"Are you sure about this manager?"

Kyoko smiled. "I understand that this may be different for everyone, but I think that after a while, everything should settle into their normal routine. Maybe things will even improve around here."

Godai's face underwent a startling change. First it went white, then red, and then his expression darkened frighteningly. Kyoko began to feel nervous looking at him, wondering what could be so horrific to affect him in such a way.

"So nothing we say could convince you otherwise?" Godai voice was thick with sorrow.

Kyoko was baffled at his behavior. "You think you will have that much trouble accepting a new tenant?"

Godai blinked once, then twice. He stood there dumbfounded, looking ridiculous in his pajamas and staring off into space.

"New…tenant?"

"Yes, we have a new tenant moving in today. He was supposed to be here with the truck, but he seems late. I'm getting a little worried. What did you think was going on?"

"Huh?" Godai came out of orbit and returned to the conversation.

"I asked, 'What did you think was going on."

"Oh nothing at all. A new neighbor? Hey great, that'll be cool!" Godai began backpedaling toward the door. "Well, I have some things to do so I'll be going now!" Things like inflicting slow pain on Yotsuya. He had thought the Manager was leaving, and that deviant knew how he would react. Still walking backwards away from the manager to save what precious little was left of his dignity, Godai failed to see the pitfall behind him. He had walked down the short walkway from the front door, past the doorstep. Never being one too swift on his feet, Godai naturally tripped on the raised concrete, and with arms flailing, collapsed in a heap upon the doorstep, his head striking the ground with a dull thud.

"Godai!" cried Kyoko, rushing to aid the dazed young man. She had watched him back away with a baffled yet amused look, but now she wore an expression of genuine concern. Reaching the doorstep where flat on his back, she fell to her knees at Godai's side.

"Are you all right?" she asked gingerly, reaching out to help him to his feet.

Godai was a bit dazed, but when Kyoko's soft hands slipped behind his bruised head, all thought fled his mind. He stirred and raised himself on his elbows to a half-laying, half-sitting position. Kyoko's hand moved to his shoulder, steadying him. Turning his head, he looked at her, and both their gazes froze. She wore a white blouse today, with a light green skirt which fell to her ankles. Her long dark hair was unbound, and shifted lightly in the cool morning breeze. She was the picture of utter femininity. Godai stared into the manager's blue-gray eyes, the pain he felt in his head disappearing instantly.

Kyoko's breath caught in her throat. As she peered into Godai's brown eyes, kneeling there with him on the doorstep, she felt safe and comfortable. In that moment, images of the past flashed through Kyoko's mind. Here had been where she first entered Maison Ikkoku, where she had first met Godai and the others. They had even shared an accidental kiss here once, though Kyoko rarely thought of it. Somehow, just being there at that moment, taking care of this often hapless young man made her feel better.

The two continued to stare at each in silence, afraid that any sound would break to accidental spell. Summoning his courage, Godai began to move his face forward, and when the manager made no move to draw away, he became emboldened, and continued. He could feel her eyes staring into him, and the rest of the world seemed to fade away. She was so close now, he could feel her breath upon his face, her heartbeat pulsing through her fingertips. Just a bit closer…

"I'm not interrupting anything am I?"

Jolted out of their near embrace, the quiet spell shattered, and both Godai and Kyoko looked up at the tall shadow which had fallen over them.

"Please, don't let me stop you. I know I'm late, but you are entitled to your lives as well." A wide grin crossed the newcomer's face and he smiled at the pair good-naturedly. Kyoko turned crimson and jumped to her feet, while Godai muttered to himself as he rose from his sitting/laying position.

"E-excuse me. I am sorry for not welcoming you. You must be the new tenant, Mr. Seth Roneen?"

"Yes ma'am, that is correct. And you must be Ms. Kyoko Otonashi. Your father speaks very highly of you. I can see that his praise was not exaggerated."

Godai took this chance to get a look at the new addition to Maison Ikkoku's motley crew. He was tall, well over six feet, but lean and wiry. His hair was a tawny yellow, and curled to his collar. He had a long, angular face with a square jaw, dominated by a pair of intense green eyes.

"You're American?" Godai asked, his tone a bit edgier than he intended. If the newcomer noticed, he gave no indication.

"Yes, I am. I've wanted to come to Japan for a long time, and now it seems my dream has come true. I need a place to stay while I work, and this seemed the most pleasant for my price range."

Inside, Godai couldn't decide whether to smile of grimace. Maison Ikkoku may have been cheap, but he didn't hesitate to use the term, "shabby." He had moved here five years ago with the intention of moving out as soon as a better place was found. Now it was five years later and he still lived there, but it had nothing to do with improving situations. This individual must be similar to the other tenants, in the sad fact that monetary wealth was not one of their descriptive factors.

Kyoko had dropped back into her "hostess" demeanor, and was the epitome of good housekeeping.

"I was surprised to hear that we would have another tenant." she stated cheerfully. "This will be the first time we have ever had a full house. I haven't even informed the other tenants you would be coming."

"That is quite all right, Miss Otonashi. I will meet them in due time I am sure. The owner told me the other tenants were rather…unique."

"Did he? Eh heh heh…" Kyoko trailed off, with a bit of a pained and sheepish expression. She wondered if this man knew exactly what was in store for him. Welcoming parties at Maison Ikkoku always tended to be mildly chaotic. Even she had trouble ending them at times, and rarely succeeded with any real lasting results.

"No worries, Miss Otonashi," he said with a grin, "I am well prepared for any behavior that may come my way."

Turning to Godai, Mr. Roneen's face never faltered. He fixed the same good-natured grin on Godai and spoke kindly.

"I think that you have woken up earlier than you intended to my friend." he said with a short chuckle. He stepped closer, and in a voice that only Godai could hear, he added, "Though considering how I found you both, I don't think that you are so distressed." Godai said nothing, but his ears turned a bit pink.

"Anyway," Roneen continued, stepping back and addressing Kyoko once more, "If I could be shown to my room, I will start unloading my things immediately. I don't wish to be in anyone's way."

Slightly flustered fast conversation style, Kyoko regained her composure and directed him inside.

"Right this way Mr. Roneen. The water and electricity have already been connected. Room 3 hasn't been used in some time, so I spent some extra time cleaning it before you arrived."

"You are too kind, Miss Otonashi," replied the American, following Kyoko through the door, followed by a baffled Godai.

"Perhaps you should go back to sleep, Godai." said Roneen, as he once again acknowledged the dazed graduate. "I am sure I will be in good hands."

Godai turned back to look at the cheerful American. He still wore that kind grin, almost as if his face was frozen in that friendly smile. Godai couldn't help but smile back. The American's good cheer was infectious.

"Thanks Mr. Roneen," Godai replied, "it was good to meet you." As an afterthought, Godai added with a tone a bit lower. "And welcome to Ikkoku."

Hearing no reply, Godai trudged back up to his room. Upon entering, Godai found that Yotsuya had left, and his room had started to brighten with the growing light of the sun. Godai was no longer tied, but he fell onto his futon nonetheless to think. He had awoken this morning to the fear that the manager was leaving, only to find out that another unusual tenant had been tossed into their midst. And the American certainly seemed unusual. Then it hit Godai like a revelation, and he recalled his last exchange with Mr. Seth Roneen.

"Perhaps you should go back to sleep, Godai."

Godai thought back the entire conversation between Kyoko and the newcomer. At no time could he remember himself or Kyoko mentioning his name. How then did Mr. Roneen know who he was? Who was this American, and why did he seem so sure of his decision to come to Ikkoku?

And there you have it!. I have wanted to write an Ikkoku fanfic for a long time, but could never find a way since the story was summed up so wonderfully. This is of course a self-insert, changing a bit of the original story just to allow for a bit of flavor. Still, the end will be the same. This story idea might pan out or evaporate, I haven't decided yet. But it is something different, and there aren't enough Ikkoku fics out there anyway. I hope you enjoy it.

-Seth