Disclaimer: "Love Hina" is the property of Ken Akamatsu and TokyoPop.
I don't own this story and I don't make any money off of it. If you sue me, give me a number and I'll fax you the cash.
C+C is welcome at hawker(underscore)748(at)hotmail(dot)com.
"X" Spoken words
Face in the Mirror
As its many visitors could attest to, the Hinata district could be especially beautiful, especially in early autumn. The leaves were just beginning to transform from the tired green of late summer, to a symphony reds, golds, and oranges. Young children would pick up the most beautiful of the fallen leaves and stash them between the pages of books, while their parents grumbled good naturedly as they attempted to rake them up.
The view from the ground, as splendid as it was, couldn't possibly compare with the view from the air. A fortunate few saw the sight as their planes either arrived or departed from Hinata airport. However, one unfortunate young man, who went by the name Keitaro Urashima, had had far too many chances to see Hinata from the bird's eye view. As such, the majesty was lost on him as he felt the upward portion of his parabola cease, and the final terminal portion of his fall begin.
'Jeez, I'm headed for the park… They were really pissed this time…' Keitaro hadn't intended to offend anyone, especially the hot tempered spitfires Naru Narusegawa and Motoko Aoyama, but when he'd fallen into the girls hot springs, they'd launched him away before he could stammer out an explanation that he'd been trying to make some repairs on the roof when he'd lost his footing. The fact that he'd gotten an unwilling eyeful of Shinobu, who'd run off crying, hadn't helped his case any.
As he approached the ground, Keitaro felt some relief when he realized that he wasn't going to land on anyone. He had no fear of long term injury, but he always worried that sooner or later he'd end up landing on some poor bastard who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He hadn't had a close call on the ground so far, but he had once damn near collided with a traffic helicopter, passing close enough that he'd felt the wash from the tail rotor blades.
Seconds before impact, Keitaro let out a breath, went loose, closed his eyes, and prepared for pain. He hit the ground at about a forty degree angle, striking the earth and tumbling like dice in a craps game, before he dug in and skidded to a stop. He lay motionless for a few moments, before he pushed his head up and shook it, trying to clear away the cobwebs. He eased himself to his knees, feeling sore, but still far better than he had a right to be after his attempt at unpowered flight.
"My-my God! Are you all right?" an incredulous voice exclaimed from behind him.
'Huh?' Keitaro slowly turned his head, and he belatedly noticed a young woman staring at him in open disbelief, her jaw practically scraping on the ground.
"Are you a sky-diver? Did-did you fall from a plane?" she asked, glancing hurriedly at the sky, desperately looking for where he could have fallen from, and wondering if it was literally raining men.
"No, I fell into an outdoor bath," Keitaro deadpanned, slowly rising to his feet and dusting off his clothes.
"Never mind, I'm okay…" Keitaro chuckled, finding the girl's reaction amusing.
"Wait! You're hurt!" the girl insisted.
"I'm fine. Really."
"Your nose is bleeding…"
Keitaro brought his hands to his nose and discovered that his fingers came away bloody. "Aw damn," he muttered under his breath. He hated having his nose bleed, the damn things seemed to last forever, and he never seemed to have any Kleenex when they happened. He was about to use the front of his shirt to try to staunch the flow when the girl gently held a handful of tissues under his nose.
"Tilt your head forward," she instructed. "Hold the tissues, sit down on that bench over there, and keep your head forward."
"Thank you." Keitaro could see the concern in her eyes, as he did as she suggested without hesitation. He was a little surprised when she took a spot next to him on the bench. "I'm okay," he tried to reassure her, the tissue pinched against his nose making his voice a little squeaky.
"Are you? That was some fall…"
"I've had worse," Keitaro replied dismissively.
"No, I'm not. Don't worry about it."
"If you insist, Mr. -?"
"Call me Keitaro. Keitaro Urashima."
"Very well Keitaro." The girl continued to keep vigil as Keitaro held his head forward, before she started suddenly. "Oh dear, where ARE my manners? My name's Sayuri. Sayuri Murakawa."
"Thanks for the Kleenex, Sayuri."
"You're welcome Keitaro, but I still think I should be calling you an ambulance…"
Keitaro chuckled in spite of himself. "I'm pretty durable," he assured her.
"I noticed." Nothing more was said as Keitaro finally got the bleeding to stop after about five minutes. He tentatively reached his hands up, gingerly feeling under his nostrils until he was sure that it had ended. "Say, do you know this area very well Keitaro?"
"Not from around here?" When Sayuri nodded, Keitaro asked, "What are you looking for?"
Keitaro slowly turned his head to look at her, noticing that Sayuri seemed to be in her early to mid twenties. He also finally noticed that she was quite attractive, but she didn't do much to highlight it. Her lovely face was free of makeup, and her long black hair was pulled back into a severe style. Even her clothes were kind of… well… frumpy, Keitaro noted. "Hinata House? You could say I'm kind of familiar with it. Why are you looking for it?" he asked.
"You want to live here?" Kitsune asked in surprise. "Why?"
"I've heard good things about this place, that it has a special energy… Although I didn't know that it had a male manager," Sayuri added. "How'd you get the job Keitaro?"
"Maybe you'll tell me someday… But anyway, would you all mind if I moved in here?"
"Even though we have a pervert as a manager?" Naru replied.
"If he's a pervert, why do you stay here?" Sayuri asked innocently.
Naru went beet-red. "Uh-uh-lots of reasons…" she answered lamely, unconsciously looking at Keitaro for a split second before her gaze hopped to the floor. "It-it's quiet here, the rent's cheap, and-and it's easy to get to Tokyo University…"
"But that's so far away. Don't they have student housing there?" Sayuri wondered aloud.
"I just like it here, okay?" Naru snapped. "It's nice enough that I can put up with him…"
"I'm sorry, that was rude of me," Sayuri apologized meekly.
"No, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have bit your head off…" Naru countered. "If you really wanna stay here, I've got no problem with that. Does anyone else?" When the others shook their heads, Naru extended her hand. "Welcome to Hinata House Sayuri."
"Please have your sanity ready to hand to the attendant," Kitsune chimed in.
"Ignore her, she's a loon…"
"You wound me Naru," Kitsune replied, taking another sip of her sake.
As Keitaro gestured for Sayuri to follow him as he showed her to her room, Haruka walked in. "Oh, Aunt Haruka, we've got-"
"…a new resident…" Keitaro finished from the floor, as Haruka deftly stashed away her harisen.
"Umm… H-hello Miss Haruka… I'm-I'm Sayuri Murakawa…" she stammered, her eyes flitting back and forth between Haruka and Keitaro's twitching form on the floor.
"It's a pleasure," Haruka replied evenly, giving Sayuri a quick nod, but giving her a longer second look, tilting her head from side to side, before she shook her head with a rueful chuckle. "What was I thinking?" she said to herself.
Haruka waved her hand dismissively. "You reminded me of someone else for a second. It's nothing…"
"Okay, Miss Haruka."
"Just Haruka," she replied.
"Okay Haruka. Be seeing you…" Sayuri followed Keitaro out of the room, no one noticing the faint look of relief that she wore.
"I see… THAT'S how he got this job," Sayuri nodded.
"Yep, Grandma Hina just dropped it into his lap," Kitsune concluded, reaching for a cup of sake as she lounged in the outdoor bath.
"Why would she do that?"
"Beats me," Kitsune admitted. "She musta had her reasons…"
"But-but if you didn't like it, why'd you accept it?"
"Because grandma Hina said so," Naru replied. "She told us to, so we did." The other residents all nodded in silent agreement.
"Wow…" Sayuri breathed. "She means that much to you?"
"She does," Motoko answered solemnly.
"She must be a good person…" Sayuri said, more to herself than to anyone else. "You don't mind having a male caretaker?"
"Nah," Kitsune drawled. "He's easy to con into forgetting rent, and Naru likes studying with him."
"Kitsune!" Naru squawked indignantly.
"You're-you're interested in Keitaro?" Sayuri asked timidly.
Wishing that her cheeks weren't burning, Naru sputtered a half hearted denial. "We study together, that's all… I felt sorry for him, he was a two time ronin."
"Okay," Sayuri replied, sitting back in the bath, a vaguely pleased look coming over her features. She glanced over at the other residents, pursing her lips when she noticed that a few of them had pink tinges on their cheeks as well.
"So, how'd you hear about this place?" Kitsune asked without warning.
"Pardon me?" Sayuri asked blankly.
"How'd you hear about our humble abode?"
"I heard that my parents used to stay here when they were young," Sayuri responded. "Heard that they always enjoyed staying here, especially when they stayed in the annex."
"They stayed there?" Naru wondered. "It's boarded up now…"
"Supposedly, my father proposed to my mother when they stayed there… And they came here for their honeymoon."
Kitsune's eyes opened at that. "Wow, I guess you do have a connection to this place…"
"If you say so…" Sayuri replied quietly.
"What was that?"
"Don't worry about it, it's nothing. Say, you wouldn't mind letting me have a cup of that sake, would you?"
"Why not?" Kitsune filled a cup and handed it to Sayuri. "Welcome to Hinata House."
Sayuri took the cup with a nod, raised it in a silent toast, and drained it. "Oh, that's good. I've missed this…"
"Drinking sake in an outdoor bath," Sayuri answered. "It doesn't get any better than this" She lounged back, savoring the warmth from the sake, a pleasant accompaniment to the warmth from the springs.
Kitsune smirked. "I think we're gonna get along just fine…"
"Come in, it's open," Kitsune called out, not bothering to get up from where she was relaxing.
"Hello Kitsune," Sayuri called out as she stepped into the room. "Thanks for the drink in the bath, I just wanted to return the favor. Care for a drink?"
"Sure, what you got there?"
"That'll do," Kitsune drawled. "Wait… Is that the Ishikawa Bear Killer brew? Where'd you get that? You raid Haruka's stock?"
"Haruka? Oh, you mean Keitaro's aunt? No, this is mine, I do have my own sources," Sayuri reassured her, pouring two cups, handing one to Kitsune.
"Cheers!" The fox-eyed resident called out, lifting her cup in a toast, then taking a long swallow, and letting out a satisfied sigh. "Haruka's pretty stingy with this stuff…"
"It is good isn't it?" Sayuri mused.
"Can I ask you something candidly?"
"Go ahead. Might not be able to answer, depending on what it is, but go ahead…"
"Are Naru and Keitaro an item?"
Kitsune grinned. "I'll answer that after another cup."
"Extortionist," Sayuri grumped good naturedly, refilling Kitsune's cup.
"You say the sweetest things…" Kitsune emptied her cup and lounged back in her chair. "They should be an item," she replied. "If they'd quit acting like idiots and be honest with each other. Why do you ask anyway? You interested in Kei-kun?"
Sayuri recoiled. "No!" she responded instantly. "Absolutely not!"
"Okay, okay. Jeez, I'm sorry I asked…"
"No, I'm sorry for snapping at you," Sayuri told her. "But I'm just not interested in Keitaro. Seems like a nice guy, but I'm not looking for someone right now."
"Then why'd you ask?" Kitsune wondered.
"Remember what I told you about my parents?" When Kitsune nodded, Sayuri continued. "They almost didn't get together because they wouldn't admit what they felt…"
"How do you know that?"
"Years after they died, I was given some of their old letters. Personal stuff mostly, and it made it pretty clear. It made me want to make sure that that it didn't happen to anyone else, and when I saw how Naru and Keitaro acted around each other, it made me think of my parents," Sayuri admitted.
"So you're a part time cupid?" Kitsune asked.
"You could say that…"
"So, you wanna help Naru and Keitaro hook up?"
"Is that why you really came here?"
"No, I really just wanted to live here," Sayuri explained. "I just feel that Keitaro and Naru should be together." Sayuri emptied her own cup, and then refilled both hers and Kitsune's.
"I was right, we're going to get along just fine," Kitsune remarked with a grin as she brought her cup to her lips. Emptying it, she smacked her lips in satisfaction. "So what do we do?"
"Send 'em out on a date?" Sayuri suggested.
"Worth a try. They haven't had much luck, but maybe with both of us helping, who knows?"
"Okay. But how do we get them to agree to go out?" Sayuri asked.
"Leave that to me," Kitsune replied with a foxy smirk. "I'll have 'em spend a day at the park. Nice and peaceful, nice and romantic."
"That's good," Sayuri nodded in agreement. "Maybe one of those boat rides? You know, the ones shaped like swans?"
"Great minds think alike…"
Sayuri smirked at that, and the two of them continued plotting well into the evening, to match up Keitaro and Naru.
"So what happened then Keitaro?" Sayuri asked, pressing an alcohol soaked cotton ball to a cut on Keitaro's forehead.
"The date was going fine, we were enjoying ourselves, and the boat ride was a perfect end to everything… until I reached out to pick a lily from the water and capsized the boat…"
"And she hit you for that?" Sayuri asked in astonishment.
Keitaro hissed as the alcohol came into contact with a fresh cut on his face. "Not at first. We were both laughing at what happened, but Naru…" He broke off, blushing and casting his eyes downward.
"What?" Sayuri pressed.
"She-she was wearing a white blouse… with a white bra… and when they got wet…"
Comprehension dawned on Sayuri's face. "I see…"
"So did I…" Keitaro replied without thinking, before he paled, realizing what he'd just said. "I-I didn't mean to look, really, I didn't, but she was right in front of me, and-and…" He trailed off, realizing just how stupid he sounded. "That's when she hit me," Keitaro continued softly.
Sayuri closed her eyes and sighed. "You really are unlucky, aren't you…" she murmured softly, before a new sense of resolve came over her. "Well, I guess that means you'll just have to really sweep Naru off of her feet next time…"
"Next time?" Keitaro asked incredulously. "She told me she didn't want to have anything to do with me…"
Sayuri waved her hand dismissively. "Don't worry about that Keitaro, she's just a little upset. When she cools down a bit, she'll be more understanding…" 'Especially after Kitsune and I finish talking to her,' she added silently.
Keitaro took a few seconds to consider that, and then he looked at Sayuri oddly. "Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" Sayuri asked innocently.
"Fixing me up with Naru."
"You like her, don't you?" she asked without preamble.
Taken aback by Sayuri's bluntness, Keitaro found himself stammering. "I-I… we study together… and-and we sometimes get along, and-and she's cute-"
"So you like her," Sayuri interjected, cutting of Keitaro's reply.
Rolling her eyes, Sayuri ignored Keitaro's clumsy attempts at rebuttal. "You like her, she likes you, just admit it. The two of you belong together…"
"How do you know?"
"Just trust me on this, okay? What do you want to try for your next date?" Sayuri asked him, successfully redirecting the conversation.
"Ummm… dinner?" Keitaro answered lamely.
Sayuri rubbed her temples in frustration. "It's a good thing you've got friends who'll help you Keitaro, or you'd be outta luck. Okay, when she calms down in a few weeks, you're going to take Naru to the Velvet Glove for dinner, and then…"
"How on EARTH did you manage to spill an entire dinner on her?" Sayuri asked Keitaro the morning following the dinner date.
"It-it was an accident! I swear I didn't mean it!" Keitaro yelped desperately.
"How did it happen?"
Keitaro slumped his shoulders and held his head in his hands. "We had both sat down, and I even had held Naru's chair out for her, and we ordered our food," he recalled. "I took my napkin and tucked it in - you know, so I didn't spill anything, cuz I'm clumsy sometimes… but I accidentally tucked in the table cloth as well."
"You gotta be kidding…"
Somehow, Keitaro managed to look even more humiliated. "I wish… Halfway through the meal, I needed to use the washroom, and when I got up-"
"Never mind," Sayuri interrupted. "I can figure it out."
"It gets worse," Keitaro added weakly.
"I-I didn't have enough to pay for all the dishes I broke, so I had to wash dishes the rest of the night to pay for them. Naru stormed off in a huff, saying that I ruined her best outfit."
"Jeez, you really were born under a bad sign weren't you?" Sayuri asked him sympathetically.
"How'd you know I was a Capricorn?"
"I didn't" Sayuri replied. "But I'm not surprised, given your bad luck. This isn't going to make things easier…"
"Why are you trying so hard?" Keitaro wondered.
"My own parents had this kind of trouble before they got together," Sayuri explained. "If they had just given up, I wouldn't be here…"
Keitaro took a long look at Sayuri before he replied. "You really feel strongly about this, don't you?" he asked rhetorically.
"I guess I do," she admitted.
"That's kinda romantic."
"Thanks," Sayuri replied with a faint smile.
Keitaro slumped even further. "But I don't think you'll be able to do anything about me and Naru…"
"Now, now, now, don't just give up Keitaro," Sayuri admonished him. "This isn't over yet. In anticipation of just such a thing, I got these for you and Naru," she announced, handing him an envelope.
Taking the envelope from Sayuri, Keitaro opened it to find: "Neverland tickets? How'd you get these? They're harder to get than an audience with the Emperor…"
"I have a few secrets," Sayuri replied cryptically. "Wait for a week or two, and then invite Naru to go with you to Neverland."
"I'll try," Keitaro replied, slipping the tickets into his pocket. "Don't know if she'll accept though."
"Leave that to me," Sayuri replied without concern.
"Thank you Sayuri, for all of your help," Keitaro told her, a gentle smile on his face.
"It's nothing," she responded demurely, a smile of her own in place. She then got up and left Keitaro's room, the smile falling away after she closed the door. "I have to make this work," she murmured in quiet desperation in the hallway. "They can't just give up on each other. Why can't Naru realize that he's only clumsy, not malicious?" She felt herself blush suddenly, recalling the smile that he'd given her.
She shook her head roughly, trying to clear the surprisingly vivid, but not unpleasant memory. "I can't let myself think of him like that…"
'Why not?' a quiet voice at the back of her mind asked Sayuri.
Sayuri methodically stomped all over that thought, but she couldn't completely make herself stop wondering about it.
"You've got to be kidding… It went WORSE this time?" Sayuri asked in abject disbelief. "What happened?"
"It didn't go all bad," Keitaro admitted. "Naru was excited about going to Neverland again… and I was thrilled that I wasn't extorted for the tickets this time."
"Extorted?" Sayuri asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Never mind, long story," Keitaro replied with a shake of his head. "We were both having a good time," he continued. "You know, walking around, trying to win a stuffed animal, cotton candy, a few rides… It was great… right up to when Naru needed to use the washroom."
"What happened then?"
"When I was waiting for her, this foreigner, a blonde, blue eyed girl over two meters tall, with long legs, a tight, short dress, and a huge rack…" Keitaro blushed when he realized who he was talking to. "Sorry…"
"…Don't tell me you hit on her…"
"NO!" Keitaro practically shrieked. "She walked up to me, and in terrible Japanese, asked me how to get to the train station. I told her as best I could in English, and she thanked me for it. Then she smiled seductively, got right in my face and asked if I wanted to be her 'private' tour guide… And that's when Naru came out and saw her."
"That's what I said," Keitaro remarked candidly. "The girl saw her and walked away, so I had to try to explain it to Naru."
"That couldn't have been fun."
"It wasn't, but it worked. I managed to convince her that I wasn't flirting with that gaijin, and for once, she believed me."
"So what's the problem?"
"We went to get something to eat, and after that, we decided to go on some rides."
"Whoa. Back up. You went on the rides AFTER you ate? Are you insane?" A look of horrified realization came over Sayuri. "Oh my god… Don't tell me… Please don't tell me you threw up on Naru…"
Keitaro merely slumped his shoulders in shame.
"How could you be so stupid?" she berated him. "Going on a roller coaster after you ate?"
"It… It wasn't a roller coaster…" he whispered.
Keitaro shook his head.
Keitaro murmured an unintelligible reply.
"What was that?"
"The Ferris wheel," he whispered softly.
A heavy silence hung in the room for a few moments, before Sayuri spoke again. "You lost your lunch on a Ferris wheel? I don't believe this…"
"That-that's never happened to me before…"
"Oh Keitaro," Sayuri said, her voice thick with pity. "I-I don't know what to say about this…"
"Please, don't say anything. Naru said more than enough on the way home."
"What are you going to do?"
"I think I'm going to get a drink…" Keitaro sighed deeply, then appeared to consider something. "Say, would… would you like to come with me?"
"For a drink?" Sayuri squeaked in surprise. "You and me?"
"I don't wanna drink alone," Keitaro confessed. "And I-I… like talking to you…" he added hopefully, before his face fell when he noticed the complete shock on her features. "Never mind, that was stupid of me to ask, I'll just go now."
"What was I thinking. An attractive girl like you..."
"I mean, I just puked all over Naru on our date, I'd probably end up dropping you in the sewer."
"I-I wouldn't mind having a drink with you…" Sayuri replied softly.
"You look like you could use some cheering up…" Sayuri winced when she noticed the hurt look on his face. "This isn't a pity date!" she added hastily. "I-I like spending time with you too…" 'You can't spend time with him like this, it's wrong!' the voice at the back of her mind admonished her.
'Look at him,' the more practical part of her psyche replied. 'If he doesn't start feeling better about himself, he'll never get together with Naru. He HAS to do that, and if this helps him, then it's a good thing. Besides, he IS kinda cute when he isn't flailing around and stammering…' Sayuri instantly broke off that thought, surprised at its strength, even as she felt her cheeks get warm.
"Is something wrong Sayuri?" Keitaro asked, curious as to why she'd been silent for a few moments.
"No, nothing at all," she reassured him. "Lemme get my coat…" the two of them stood up and walked out of the landlord's room, Keitaro feeling a little better that he had someone to share his misery. Sayuri was waging an internal battle, knowing that spending time socially with Keitaro wasn't right, but unable to explain the faint feelings of excitement that were starting to take root in her.
"Naru, you can't possibly still think that he did that on purpose…" It had been three weeks since the utterly disastrous date of Keitaro and Naru at Neverland. "Keitaro couldn't possibly have planned to throw up on you on the Ferris wheel."
"I don't question that," Naru acknowledged. "I knew it was an accident, but really, what difference does it make?"
"Then-then why don't you forgive him, and go out on another date?" Sayuri asked.
Naru sighed, and let herself sink down into the outdoor bath, until her chin was level with the waterline. "Because if I do, something will probably go wrong," she admitted. "Every time we've gone out together, trouble happens. Maybe he's a chaos magnet, maybe he's unlucky, or maybe he just pissed someone off in a previous life. I can only put up with so much…"
"But Keitaro's a nice guy…"
"I know. But with his luck, maybe he's more trouble than he's worth…"
"The two of you seem to go so well together," Sayuri protested.
"It can be nice to be with him," Naru allowed. "Really nice, but it never lasts. He does something stupid, says something wrong, or his bad luck jumps out and bites him on the ass. It isn't easy, knowing that when you're with him, you might end up flashing a group of perfect strangers."
"But, but you like him…"
"Yeah, I do," Naru replied candidly. "But I don't know if I could take being with him, or if he could keep forgiving me when I react."
Sayuri didn't say anything for a few minutes, going over what Naru had said, desperately trying to think of a way to rebut her surprisingly concise arguments. "What if he finds someone else?" she asked. "Could-could you accept him being with another woman?"
Sayuri went ghostly pale. "Me?" she replied incredulously. "That-that's impossible, completely out of the question. I-"
"Is it?" Naru pressed, looking Sayuri right in her eyes. "You've done nothing here but talk him up to me since you got here, so I'd say it's obvious you like him…"
"He-he's a nice guy," Sayuri replied honestly, "but believe me, there's no way we could end up together."
"Well, why don't you try?" asked Naru. "You've been telling me that for months, so why not take your own advice?"
Sayuri opened her mouth to reply, but she couldn't make any words come out. She sat there dazed, her head spinning from Naru's candid admissions and suggestions. 'Keitaro and I cannot work. It can't…' she thought to herself, before a new idea came into her head.
'If Naru sees me and Keitaro getting closer, maybe her jealousy will make her try to get him back. Yes, Kitsune did say that pressuring her like that would be the best way to get her to admit her feelings to Keitaro. It's… drastic, but if it works, it'll be worth the trouble.' Deep down though, Sayuri was a little disquieted when she realized that the idea of spending time with Keitaro was no longer as disturbing to her as it once might have been.
Taking her leave from Naru, Sayuri left the outdoor bath, dried herself off and got dressed, heading to her room to change into some nicer clothes, before she marched purposely to Keitaro's room. She knocked on the door, entered when she was told it was open, and without preamble, told Keitaro: "Get cleaned up and changed. We're going on a date."
Once Keitaro had stopped choking, and set down his now mostly empty cup of tea, he managed to croak out: "I-I beg your pardon?"
"A date," Sayuri repeated. "You and I are going on one. Right now."
"When an attractive girl comes up to you and says she wants to date you, the correct response is, "Yes ma'am!"
"Err… yes ma'am!" 'What brought this on?' a flustered Keitaro wondered silently.
Sayuri gave him a brilliant smile. "Very good Keitaro. I'll be waiting for you in the living room. Don't leave me waiting too long," she purred, as she sashayed out of his room. 'Once Naru hears about this, she'll come to her senses and realize that she has to get serious about Keitaro.'
Sayuri waited in the living room for Keitaro, disappointed that no one was there to see the two of them leave together when Keitaro made his way down the stairs nearly ten minutes later. Taking him by the hand, Sayuri all but dragged a flustered and nervous Keitaro out of the door, not having any set plans, but deciding that she'd make it up as she went. 'Doesn't really matter where we go, as long as Naru finds out about it. That'll give her just the little push she needs…' Sayuri thought confidently.
With that last thought, Sayuri tightened her grip on Keitaro's hand, causing him to blush heavily, and lead him towards the lights of Hinata, for a night on the town.
It was a very reserved and pensive Sayuri that returned with Keitaro to Hinata House about four hours later. She found herself smiling absently at another of Keitaro's observations, but her mind was feverishly reviewing everything that had happened between them. The 'date' had gone spectacularly well; no other words seemed appropriate. Keitaro's clumsiness, and his 'foot-in-mouth' syndrome had been dormant the entire time.
There hadn't been a single groping, panty flash, or other embarrassing mishap that had ruined dates between Keitaro and Naru. Sayuri had expected to have to run damage control all evening, but when nothing had gone wrong, she'd let herself get swept up in what they'd been doing. Over dinner, they'd had a long and honest chat, Keitaro telling her everything about his life at Hinata House, while Sayuri had found herself telling him that she'd been an orphan, and that she'd always had to rely on herself. The look of concern and sadness this had prompted from Keitaro caused all sorts of unexpected and unintended feelings to well up in her.
'I-I can't be feeling like this for him, I just can't…' Sayuri reminded herself, even as she found herself sneaking another look at his face, his smile warming her heart, and stirring feelings that she hadn't dealt with in ages. 'Naru should be falling for him, not me. I-I have to make sure that the two of them get together,' she thought, even as she took off her shoes and followed Keitaro through the empty halls of the residence. 'Where is everyone? Why haven't we met up with anyone? The whole point of this was to have Naru see us going out…'
"That was fun. I really enjoyed spending time with you Sayuri."
Keitaro's statement cut through Sayuri's musings like a scalpel. "I enjoyed it too Keitaro," she replied honestly.
"Maybe we could do this again sometime?" Keitaro asked hopefully.
'It's time I broke this off,' Sayuri decided. 'I can't let this go any further, and I'll just let it slip to Naru what happened. That should be good enough.' She was intending to simply tell him she'd think about it, probably letting him know that it wouldn't happen again, so she was astonished when she heard herself say: "I'd like that… a lot." The open look of surprise and delight that bloomed on Keitaro's face at that made her heart beat faster and a flush come to her cheeks.
"Would you like some tea?"
Sayuri heard herself say 'yes,' and she found herself following Keitaro into his room. Sipping tea in silence in the landlord's room, Sayuri tried once again to refocus on her original goal. "Keitaro, what do you think of Naru?" Asking him that was surprisingly difficult for her now.
Keitaro paused in sipping his tea, closing his eyes and sighing. "I like her," he replied after a few seconds of silence. "I've told you that. She's beautiful, witty, and funny; what guy wouldn't be interested in her?" He took a sip of his tea and set his mug back on the table. "Doesn't matter though, she's not interested in me…"
"Of-of course she is!" Sayuri instantly replied. "You-you've just had a few mishaps, that's all. My parents went through that, if they just given up…"
"I thought you said you were an orphan…" Keitaro wondered.
"They-they died when I was less than a year old…" Sayuri replied nervously. "But… but you and Naru belong together, anyone can see that."
"Yes!" Sayuri exclaimed.
"But-but what if I've started to like someone else?" Keitaro replied quietly, unable to look Sayuri in the eyes.
Sayuri stared at Keitaro uncomprehendingly for a moment, before she understood, in a flash of realization, who he was referring to. Unsuccessfully willing herself not to blush, Sayuri stammered, "You-you can't, it, it wouldn't be right…"
"Why?" Keitaro asked softly, rising to his feet. He was using every iota of his courage to keep from bolting in panic, desperate to see things through.
Sayuri got to her feet, the maelstrom of emotions she was feeling confusing her, causing her to question what had once been so clear. She needed to get away, to regain her center and her focus, when Keitaro's clumsiness, which had been waiting all day for such an opportunity, pounced.
As Keitaro came around the table to talk with Sayuri, he tripped on a floorboard, falling forward and sending him and Sayuri to the floor, his hands, predictably, on her breasts. He paled when he realized what had happened, and he tried to push himself up, inadvertently squeezing Sayuri's breasts in the process.
For Sayuri, the feeling of a man touching her again after so long, even if it was Keitaro, was almost unbearable. She felt her nipples harden reflexively, and she was aware of a sudden warm, slick feeling between her legs. Her cheeks burned with a fierce blush, and she looked up into Keitaro's face, and saw fear and concern there, but no small amount of affection and desire as well. Feelings and hungers she hadn't faced in so long overwhelmed her, and before she could stop herself, Sayuri reached up and pulled Keitaro's head down, crushing his lips against her own.
Keitaro froze, completely shocked by what was happening. Sayuri's kiss was so desperate and so longing, that after a few seconds, he let himself rest against her, answering the kiss with equal vigor.
What happened next was an intoxicating mix of heat, desire, and exploration, both tempered, and heightened, by the need to remain undetected. There was a close call or two, but they ended up collapsing onto his futon, tired and sweaty.
Breathing heavily, slick with perspiration, and hoping that Sayuri didn't ask for more, Keitaro felt his heart rate slowly return to normal and he started to shiver as the sweat on his body began to evaporate. Fatigue and drowsiness weighed heavily on him, when Sayuri snuggled into an embrace, pulling the blankets over the both of them, before she peppered his face with kisses.
"Oh Keitaro, that, that was wonderful!" she gushed, before she claimed his lips for a longer, deeper kiss.
When Sayuri finally released his lips, Keitaro replied as best he could. "Glad, glad you liked it, Sayuri-chan…" he said softly, fighting a losing battle to stay awake.
Sayuri laid her head on Keitaro's chest and embraced him, sighing contentedly as he wrapped his arms around her. She was tired as well, but before she surrendered to sleep, she softly murmured one last thing. "You've grown into a fine young man Keitaro…"
Had Keitaro been a little more alert, he might have wondered about her choice of words, but they simply didn't register with him, and he would not even remember them when he woke up, Sayuri and him locked in a warm embrace.
It was the middle of the night when Sayuri woke with a start, momentarily disoriented, and trying to recall where she was. In a mad rush, all of what had happened came back to her, and her eyes widened in shock, as she was no longer in the throes of heat and desire, she was forced to face the cold, stark truth of what had happened. She felt herself go pale, and start to shudder, a wave of nausea crashing over her, and she carefully extracted herself from Keitaro's arms, hastily pulling on her slacks and blouse, not bothering to retrieve her underwear, and headed for the bathroom as quietly and rapidly as she could.
Once there, she locked the door, dropped to her knees and vomited, completely purging her stomach, heaving for minutes even after she was empty. When it was over, she flushed the toilet, feeling no curiosity about it's contents, as she knew that the bowl contained bile, everything she'd eaten in the past six hours, and most problematic, a significant amount of Keitaro's semen. Sayuri went over to the taps, turned on the cold water and rinsed her mouth out a few times to get rid of the sour taste, and splashing water on her face, before taking a long look at her reflection.
"How-how could this have happened?" she asked herself morosely, her eyes red with the promise of tears. "It wasn't supposed to be like this…" Sayuri's reflection had no answers, not that she'd expected them. The person staring back at her was still a bit of a stranger. 'Sayuri Murakawa' looked to be about twenty-five years old, but in reality, she'd only existed for about a year.
The woman who was resting her hands on the vanity, feelings of both happiness and shame dueling inside of her, was far older. She'd been born in the Hinata district in the second decade of the twentieth century, and her name had been Hina Takayashi. When she was sixteen years old, she'd married Saburo Urashima, and had taken his name. They'd run the Hinata Inn for most of their lives, and it had survived good times and bad, political upheaval, natural disasters, and the Second World War.
When Saburo had died about twenty years ago, Hina had taken to running the inn by herself, and she'd done well enough that she'd been able to look after her grandson Keitaro from time to time. It was here that he'd made that promise with Naru Narusegawa to go to Tokyo University with her. Keitaro had grown up, and he was on the verge of attending Tokyo University, but instead of being closer to Naru, he was resting after the two of them had made love.
'You didn't 'make love,' you fucked him,' the voice in her mind accused her. 'You fucked your only grandson.' She learned to swear to better deal with drunk and rowdy patrons, and she still remembered how to use obscenities.
'Sayuri' blinked away tears as she forced herself to remember how she'd gotten in this situation. Tough times had forced her to turn the inn into a rooming house, and it had been successful enough that she could finally take that tour of the worlds hot springs that she'd always dreamed of doing. Leaving Haruka as the house mother, she had gone globetrotting, exploring hot springs at all four corners of the globe.
One of those springs was located on a mountain in Nepal, and this spring was rumored to have magical properties. Hina had even heard whispers about it being a fountain of youth. She hadn't believed it of course, but she'd wanted to soak in those waters, for if nothing else, it wasn't very well known, and she'd be in a select group who'd done it. The caretakers of the spring had told her that strange things could happen to people who'd bathed in its waters, but she'd dismissed that as an attempt to make the rather modest springs more impressive to visitors.
Of course, that was before she'd entered the water, felt a tingle which had started small, but grew to feel like she was being electrocuted, and the waters glowing a brilliant white before she'd passed out. When she'd awoken, she'd discovered to her great shock that she was a young woman again. Once she'd calmed down, and quit pinching herself in a frenzied attempt to wake up, the caretakers had told her that on occasion, the springs would give someone their youth back, but that there was no way to predict who it would bless, and that she'd simply been in the right place at the right time.
After the shock had worn off, and getting reassured that the effect was real, and not an illusion, and permanent, so she wouldn't have to worry about one day suddenly aging in fast forward, Hina had decided to take a more active role in her grandson's future. She'd created the identity of 'Sayuri Murakawa' and had headed back to Japan, plans for helping Keitaro match up with Naru swirling in her mind.
She'd taken six months to plan out her strategy, sending Haruka the occasional fax to make her think she was still touring the world. The time was put to good use, and when she'd reentered Keitaro's life in the park that day, Hina was confident that she'd thought of everything, and planned a way to deal with every obstacle.
The only thing she hadn't planned on, was falling in love with Keitaro…
Before meeting up with him, Hina had isolated herself, a single minded devotion to matchmaking driving all of her thoughts. She hadn't considered how she would react to the presence of others her own age, especially young men. It had been so long since she'd been this age, she'd forgotten what hormones could be like, and Keitaro didn't look at her the way he'd looked at his grandmother. He only saw a young woman he'd apparently be interested in, and Hina hadn't expected her own reactions to be so strong.
Hina had tried to remind herself of who she really was, and Keitaro's relationship to her, but she didn't look or feel like that dried-up prune she'd once been. She'd underestimated the power of physical longing, and it had been so long since she'd done what had happened earlier this evening, that she hadn't been able, or willing, to stop what happened. And the end result was that Hina Urashima had ended up sleeping with her grandson Keitaro.
Hina wasn't surprised to feel shame, but what startled her was the strength of it, or perhaps more accurately, the lack of strength. She wasn't feeling dirty, or suicidally depressed, she only felt a mild twinge of regret. The experience had been wonderful, and she was disturbed to realize that she was hoping that it would happen again. 'But I can't! It's wrong! I'm his grandmother! I can't love him!'
Sayuri would always swear that someone else had spoken those words, but a quick look around confirmed that she was alone. He looked into the eyes of her reflection. As far as anyone else knew, she was Sayuri Murakawa. Even Haruka didn't know who she really was, and that had been her greatest worry before she'd arrived.
If everyone thought that's who she was, who was she to say otherwise? Only she knew the truth, but she realized that she's have no trouble keeping it to herself. It was perfect. She wanted to be with Keitaro, and only she could say that she couldn't, and she wasn't about to do that. She almost laughed out loud at the brilliance of it all, but she checked herself. No point in making others question her sanity.
But before that could happen, there was one last thing she needed to take care of. Reaching into her pocket, Hina pulled out a gold locket on a chain. She stared at it fondly; it had been an anniversary present from her late husband, and it held pictures of them both when they were young. In a moment of sentiment, Hina opened the locket, smiling at the photo of Saburo, and noticing once again just how much her face staring back at her from the locket looked like the way she did now.
The locket was her most treasured keepsake of Saburo, and she'd never been without it, but now it was a dangerous link to her past. Haruka would recognize it, and she'd have no way to explain why she had it, so it was safer to dispose of it. But this made her pause. She'd loved Saburo, and she'd spent the best years of her life with him, and getting rid of the locket would be the ultimate betrayal. Blinking away fresh tears, she closed the locket, brought it to her lips and kissed it softly. "Goodbye Saburo. I love you," Hina whispered as she shut her eyes, extended her arm and opened her hand, a soft splash reaching her ears as the locket fell into the toilet. Hina flushed it, keeping her eyes closed, until the toilet finished its cycle. When she opened them, she half expected the locket to still be there, Saburo's face staring defiantly at her, but it was long gone.
Sayuri Murakawa took a cloth and used it to clean her face up as best she could, before she made her way back to Keitaro's room, re-entering it, removing her clothes, and slipping back into the futon. Keitaro murmured her name in his sleep and reached out for her, and Sayuri let herself slip into his embrace, sighing in contentment at the feel of his body against hers. "I'm here Keitaro," she whispered softly, not wanting to wake him. "I've always been here for you, and I always will…"
With that, Sayuri closed her eyes, and feel back into a deep sleep.
Within eighteen months, Keitaro and Sayuri were married, Keitaro giving her his name, and unknowingly helping complete a circle he didn't even know existed.
Keitaro loved Sayuri deeply, and he never had any regrets, but there was one time, when he'd accidentally walked in on Sayuri when she'd been in the bathroom staring at her reflection, as she caressed her swollen stomach which held their child. He'd never be able to understand, or forget, the look she was giving herself, as if she didn't recognize the face in the mirror.
End of Face in the Mirror.
Special thanks to Rx7 for pre-reading this, despite throwing up when I first mentioned the pairing to him.
Thanks also goes out to:
SimmyC: for making an innocent typo that started this all…
Genocide Heart: for pointing out that typo…
Fatuous One: for turning that typo into PMTAK!, prompting me to first consider this pairing in response, and giving me encouragement when I mentioned this idea…
Dreamer: whose pleas that I not do this story, merely encouraged me to continue…
And to everyone else who's read this far…
Reviews would be most welcome, and yes, I AM anticipating flames for this one too… I would ask that the reviews not have any spoilers though.