LOVE HINA: CHANGING HEARTS
Disclaimer: 'Love Hina' is © Ken Akamatsu. I make no claim of ownership in writing this story. I'm just giving my imagination a workout.
Notes: Well, last chapter for this here story, Changing Hearts. Enjoy!
CHAPTER NINE: Parting is…
The next day Keitaro woke up in an unfamiliar room. Rubbing his eyes to clear the sleep from them, the first thing he noticed was Mutsumi resting her head on her arms beside him. Reaching out, he gently stroked her hair until she stirred. She murmured contentedly for a moment before she realised what was going on.
"Kei?" She whispered hesitantly, not sure if she was still dreaming or not.
"Hey, Mu-chan." He croaked back. Working some spit down his throat, he tried again as her head came up. "What happened? The last thing I recall doing was trying to give Naru our gift."
"Kei-kun!" She squealed, latching onto his neck and squeezing.
"Erk! Ack!" He squeaked as his access to oxygen was cut off.
"Oh! Sorry!" Mutsumi leapt back, allowing him to breathe finally. Bursting into tears, she moved in again and smothered his face with kisses.
Despite enjoying it intensely, Keitaro wanted some answers as to how and why he had ended up in this strange room. Gently holding her head with his hands, he pulled her face into focus and stared into her eyes. "Mu-chan, Where am I? And what happened when I tried to give her our gift?"
"We're at the hospital, Kei-kun. As for what happened, well…" She let out a great breath, thinking back to the night before reluctantly.
Mutsumi was lying under a tree, wrapped in Keitaro's arms and watching the sun go down after a long day in the park. The remains of their picnic were strewn about the blanket. He had just asked her if she would consent to being his girlfriend. Her reply to his nervous request had been enthusiastic. This moment, in fact the whole day felt like a dream. As her perceptions started to shift, she realised that it was a dream. A dream of a memory.
She grinned as she remembered that day. Keitaro had finally worked up enough nerve to ask her out. And about time, too! She had been dropping enough hints for the past week that she was ready for him to do so.
Her grin widened as she felt a hand begin to stroke her hair. Opening her eyes, Mutsumi captured the hand and kissed it lightly. Looking past it, she saw her boyfriend smiling down at her. "We fell asleep again, didn't we." She stated in a dreamy voice.
"Yeah. All of us." He said pointedly, nodding over to the other side of the low table where Naru was resting her head on her arms and snoring softly. Mutsumi giggled at the sight of the normally self-contained girl twitching and drooling onto her books.
The couple stayed in each other's arms for a bit, enjoying the type of silence that only happens late at night when most of the world is sleeping. Eventually, Naru began to stir. The other two took this as a sign to wake her and take their leave. Well, it was almost three AM on Saturday morning. Enough ground had been covered this night, and not just the studying part.
Standing, Keitaro went to wake their study buddy while Mutsumi began gathering up the reference books scattered about the room. Thus distracted, she paid little attention to the conversation going on behind her.
"Sorry, Naru. Are you alright? You looked like you were having a nightmare, or something."
"Hunh? Yeah, something like that. Ow! What do you want?"
"It's late. Mutsumi and I are going to bed. And I uh, I want to give you something."
"KEITARO YOU PERVERT!!!!"
Hearing that dreaded battle-cry, Mutsumi spun around in horror just in time to see Naru punch Keitaro through the window and outside into the night.
Naru, bringing herself back under control, saw Mutsumi reach out and pick up something the pervert had dropped as he flew by. The sound of thundering footsteps heralded the entrance of the rest of the household, brought here by Naru's full-volume scream. Spilling into the room, they began demanding to know where Keitaro was and what was going on all at the same time.
"He-he was going to-" Naru started hesitantly, doubt over what had actually occurred beginning to enter her dazed thoughts. Mutsumi cut her off.
"We all fell asleep while studying." Her voice was crisp and furious. "It happens sometimes. Keitaro was waking Naru up when she punched him." The older woman fixed her with a penetrating glare. "What I want to know from her is why?"
"Wha-what? Y-you saw him! He was-" Naru stammered, unnerved by Mutsumi's attitude.
"WHY DID YOU HIT MY KEITARO!" She screamed in Naru's face. Everyone present blanched.
"He-he was being a-a pervert. He was going t-to do something to me." Naru replied, scared by Mutsumi's reaction to her accusation. Doubt filled her completely by now, but she pressed on stubbornly. "H-he was reaching out for me-"
"HE WAS GOING TO GIVE YOU THIS!!" Mutsumi sobbed as she lost all patience and threw a small package at her head. Without waiting for a reaction, she sprinted out of the room to go find where her boyfriend had landed.
As everyone scrambled out of her way, Kitsune spotted what had been thrown at Naru. Picking it up from where it had landed, she looked to her best friend for permission before tearing away the wrapping paper. Opening up the box, she gasped at what she saw inside. Scanning the note that was on top quickly, she closed it again. Handing it to Naru, the fox looked at her pityingly. "Oh Naru, you've really gone and fucked up this time." With that, she turned and walked out of the room, brushing tears away as she went.
Before she was out of sight, the rest of them had crowded around Naru. She opened the box and removed the note with shaking hands. Leaning over her shoulder, this is what they all read:
just a little something to remind you that we are still your friends, no matter what fate brings!
Keitaro & Mutsumi XOX
Underneath this was a silver charm bracelet with charms representing all the tenants at Hinata-Sou attached. There was a banana representing Su, a chefs hat for Shinobu, a katana for Motoko, a notebook for Kitsune (she's a writer, remember, not just a drinker), and a teacup for Haruka.
Fastened to it was a nameplate with 'Naru' engraved on it. On one side was a pair of glasses. On the other was a watermelon. The symbology was clear; within her circle of friends, they will always be by her side.
Clutching the bracelet to her chest she slumped to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably as the realisation of what she had just done hit her. The other girls backed out in a subdued manner, leaving her alone with her misery.
She was still curled up there in a pathetic heap when Haruka stormed into the room later on that morning after she had returned from taking her nephew to the hospital.
"-and that was how she found her." Mutsumi concluded her tale. "The others filled me in on what happened after I came looking for you when they visited earlier. Haruka said she would pick us up after the doctors give you permission to go home. "
Keitaro lay there lost in thought after Mutsumi finished talking. Fighting back his emotions, he reached out for her. Positioning herself on the bed, she gathered him into her arms and waited for him to speak.
"Where did I land?"
"Out the front of Haruka's shop."
"How long was I unconscious?"
"About sixteen hours." She replied.
His eyes flew open. "It's almost Sunday?"
"…this can't keep happening every time I go near her."
Again, Mutsumi shook her head.
"But I don't want to throw her out of Hinata-Sou, either."
No movement from his girlfriend this time.
Keitaro put his hands over his face and wept softly. "Why did it have to come to this?"
Mutsumi kept her opinion to herself and focused on comforting her boyfriend.
While amazed at Keitaro's quick recovery from a badly bruised jaw plus concussion, the doctor nonetheless decided to keep him another night for observation. After Mutsumi rang Haruka to let her know the situation, she made herself at home by Keitaro's side. Any attempt to separate her from him was firmly but politely ignored.
Sunday morning arrived, and Keitaro was eventually discharged into Haruka's care. The drive back to Hinata-Sou in Seta's van was quiet. No one wanted to be the first to speak, for different reasons.
Soon enough, Hinata-Sou came into sight. Pulling up at the teahouse, they all got out and took in a deep breath. 'There is just something about this place.' Keitaro thought to himself. 'Just being here can lift your spirits!'
Walking the short distance to the base of the steps, Mutsumi noticed the girls waiting there first. Giving her boyfriend a nudge, he looked up to see them. The smile forming on his face faded slowly as he noted their expressions. He also noticed who was not present after a quick headcount. "Where's Naru?" He asked, not sure how he felt about her absence.
Kitsune stood up and walked over to him. "She's gone. She wanted me to make sure you got this." Giving him a brief hug, she handed him an envelope before stepping back and walking up the stairs. The other girls followed. Seeing him start to tremble, Mutsumi and Haruka grabbed an arm each and guided him up the stairs and into the common room. Seating him on the couch, Mutsumi sat beside him while Haruka took up position in the doorway. The rest of the tenants were scattered around the room, watching him.
After staring at it for a few minutes, he slowly opened the envelope and began to read.
By the time you are reading this, Keitaro, I will be back home with my parents. And before you start running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I want you to know why I did this. Why I cannot be under the same roof as you any more. And why I am so sorry for the way I've treated you for so long.
I have told you loudly what I think is wrong with you, on many occasions. What I never considered was that there might be a problem with me. The way I treat you is wrong. And it's finally been rubbed in my face in such a way that I can no longer ignore it, or say it's your fault somehow.
I wish I had the courage to say these things to your face, Keitaro. To apologize to both you and Mutsumi for my childish behaviour. Because that's what it was, me behaving like a child.
Maybe I was jealous of you for deciding to grow up and move on, leaving me behind. Maybe I felt abandoned by someone I had come to consider a friend, possibly more. I don't know. Or maybe I'm not ready to admit it to myself yet.
After I attacked you the other night, Haruka nearly killed me when she found out. (I have a nice shiner over my left eye as I write this. Don't be angry with her. I deserved it, and worse.)
When she calmed down enough to talk without biting the ends off her cigarettes, she chewed me out for a few hours. The end result being that she finally hammered home what a total bitch I've been this past year or so. And not just to you.
After she was done with me, Kitsune came in and had her turn at working me over verbally. (I got the feeling later that they ALL wanted a piece of me, but those two pulled rank.)
When I finally got a word in edgeways, I agreed with all the names she was calling me and asked her to help me pack. I was running away. I was going home.
I can't do this anymore. I can't ignore how I feel about you. And I don't want to try and force myself between you two. Which I feel that I would attempt, sooner or later. I've tried once already. Ask your aunt.
I love you, Keitaro.
There, I've admitted it. If only in writing. Despite your faults, you are the only man I know around my age who ever wanted to get close to me for the right reasons, not just to get into my pants. And I found I didn't know how to deal with the emotions you stirred within me. So I lashed out. You know the rest.
I love you, and I want you, but I can't have you. Not now. And I can't be around you until I sort this out within myself. Otherwise, what happened will happen again. And again.
Do you understand? I need time away from you, from here, to sort myself out. If I stay, I will cause everyone pain by causing YOU pain. Because we all have feelings for you Kei.
ALL of us.
I am still going to try for Toudai. That hasn't changed. But I am going to transfer to another cram school. And I ask you not to come and visit my parents place, looking for me. When I am ready, I will come to you and beg for foriveness from the BOTH of you. Because I have wronged Mutsumi also by my actions.
So, this is it. I'm sorry for treating you like shit Kei. More than you may ever believe. Because you were always there for me when I needed you. And I never said how much that meant to me. When I see you again, I will be ready to do that. Because I will stay away until I AM ready.
With all the heart that I never showed you Kei, I say again…
I love you. And I will accept whatever level of friendship you wish to grant me when I see you again, If any. Goodbye.
P.S.: When you finish reading this, I left something with Kitsune. Ask her for it. N.
Reading it twice through and noting where her tearstains had warped the paper, Keitaro felt he had been granted access to Naru's true feelings towards him at long last. Sighing, he refolded the letter and slipped it back within the envelope. Fighting to contain his emotions, he looked expectantly over at Kitsune. Heaving a sigh of her own, she got up and walked over to them. Stopping front of them, she reached into her pocket and withdrew something small. Grabbing Keitaro's hand first, she placed it in his palm before folding his fingers over it. She repeated the action with Mutsumi.
"She told me that when she comes back, if you still want her to be your friend you will know what to do with these." Kitsune fought hard to keep her expression neutral. This would have to be their decision. She did not have the right to interfere. Not this time.
Keitaro and Mutsumi looked at each other for the longest time, before exchanging an understanding smile between them.
In their hands were the charms they had given her, representing them both.
Time flowed. Seasons passed.
Shinobu was out sweeping the front steps when someone cleared their throat behind her. Squealing, she spun around to see who had startled her. She squealed even louder when the identity of her visitor became apparent.
"Hi Shinobu. Is he home?" Naru Narusegawa inquired nervously. Facing her mistakes was going to be rough, especially after all this time. Swallowing uneasily, she followed an excited Shinobu inside Hinata-Sou to face her former housemates. Whatever the outcome, she was prepared to accept it.
She was ready.
Notes: once again, my inability to end a damn fic decently has come to the fore. I plan to come back to this once more ideas occur to me. Having said that, the people awaiting movement on my Evangelion stuff can attest to my ability to be distracted easily. So, no promises. Plus I want to watch the specials before I make any decisions about this fic. Thanks to those who decided to follow this, you all make it worthwhile. T