A/N: I had the inspiration for THIS story while replying to my reviews from the last chapter of a Day Indoors, the one from ArmorOfGeddon to be precise. Sometimes ideas just sort of pop into my head at random moments like that which is bloody inconvenient if you ask me. Anyway, I don't own Negima, but otherwise life is good.
Negi sat at his desk in the classroom and shuffled through his papers. It was getting close to finals and with parent teacher conferences well underway he was anxious to get the Baka Rangers on their way so he could continue with his appointment schedule. Thankfully today he only had to worry about Mr. Yukihiro, Ayaka's father.
Negi scribbled away grading papers from the portion of his class which hadn't required special tutelage like the girls in front of him. Negi was just about to call for their papers when a quiet knock came at the door.
"Come in." Negi called, not looking up from his papers. He suspected it was probably Nodoka or possibly Konoka waiting for Yue to come to a club activity, or maybe Setsuna looking to go train with Asuna.
When a shadow passed over his papers, Negi looked up to see Ayaka looking down at him. "Ah, class rep, I'm sorry if we're taking too long. If your…"
"I'm sorry Negi-sensei. I regret that my father will be unable to attend the parent teacher conference today. His secretary will call the headmaster's office to arrange for a more convenient time that the two of you can meet." Ayaka interrupted with a very formal sound to her voice. "I apologize if this is an inconvenience to you."
"Inconvenience? Sounds like a reprieve from another boring meeting to me." Asuna said bluntly leaning back in her chair to stare at the ceiling.
Negi was about to say something to head off the fight that usually ensued when Asuna and Ayaka pretty much said anything to each other, but a sudden sob stopped him short. Everyone looked up at Ayaka as she tried unsuccessfully to hold in the tears as she stared at Asuna before she turned and bolted from the room.
"Ayaka-san!" Negi called after the class representative. "Asuna, I don't know what's going on, but apparently you upset her."
Asuna appeared stunned at her reaction and then began to look guilty as she grimaced. "Negi, I think I know what the problem might be. You better go after her."
"Shouldn't you be the one going after her to apologize for being so cold to her?" Negi reprimanded.
"Actually, if it's what I think it is nothing I say is going to help her. She needs someone like you right now to go talk to her. The best thing I can do to make it up to her is to make sure that the two of you aren't disturbed by the rest of the class." Asuna explained.
"I see. Well, you girls go ahead and turn in your tests and I'll go look for her." Negi said quickly gathering his things and taking off after the young heiress.
Negi thanked his foresight when he got clear of the classroom. Since having to track down girls from his class had been an issue in the past he had taken to studying tracking spells which he could use to locate his students in a hurry. Even then it took him a while to find Ayaka. The girl had apparently not stopped running for a while after leaving his classroom. Negi had to take to the air twice to catch up to her.
Finally, Negi landed near the world tree and slowly circled the base until he found the small bench that looked out over the campus. As he approached he could hear quiet sobbing. Ayaka was alone and was crying as he crept up behind her.
"Want to talk about it?" Negi asked quietly reaching out to lay his hand on her shoulder.
"He forgot me again." Ayaka said in between sobs. "He forgot all about the conference and he left on a business trip this afternoon after he promised me he would be there."
Suddenly Negi began to understand what was bothering her. "I take it that it happens like that quite often?" The mage teacher said as he sat down on the bench next to his student.
"Do you know how many birthdays of mine he's missed? Nearly all of them since I was old enough to remember. Every time he would promise me that he'd make the next one extra special, and he'd send me a bunch of presents." The class rep whispered as she sat there trying to wipe away her tears.
Negi pulled out his handkerchief and gave it to the distraught girl to wipe her eyes with, and then put his arm around her shoulders. "I'm sure he means well…"
"Please don't patronize me." Ayaka spat bitterly. "I've had all kinds of servants telling me how much my father loves me and how I should be thankful for all that he gives me. Even Asuna says I should be thankful to have parents. But what use are parents when you never see them, and what use is it to have everyone telling you that someone loves you when that person has never told you themselves?"
"You're right, I'm sorry class rep. I was just hoping that I could make you feel better." Negi said sadly. He had no idea that life was like this for Ayaka. Here he was searching for a father that he believed was still alive while she was chasing after a father that might as well be dead.
"I'll get over it. I'm a daughter of the 'proud Yukihiro family' after all." Ayaka said sarcastically.
"I guess we're just two of a kind you and I." Negi said staring out at the buildings of his campus home.
"How do you mean?" Ayaka said looking at him for the first time through tear streaked eyes.
"We both keep hoping to turn around one day to find our father standing there. I've always wondered what it would have been like to have him there in my life and to be like normal boys who got to do things with their parents. It sounds like you've been living the same way." The ten year old said looking back at her and seeing tears begin to trickle from her eyes afresh.
Ayaka briefly nodded as she tenderly reached out and took his hand. "How do you handle it? I mean there were times when I would wake up scared from a nightmare and want nothing more than to have my daddy come and tell me it was going to be alright, but he was never there."
"Usually, I would go climb into bed with my cousin Nekane. Then after I came here I started crawling into bed with Asuna. I get nightmares if I don't." Negi said remembering the first time he'd woke up screaming at the memory of the people of his village petrified and how Nekane had slept next to him until he went back to sleep. He loved his cousin and it had helped, but part of him still longed for the protection of a strong father figure to come protect him. And Nekane couldn't always be there either.
"I remember Asuna saying something about you latching onto whoever you sleep next to, but I had no idea why." Ayaka confided.
"Well, she doesn't know about the nightmares. I've never told her." Negi shared with the girl.
Ayaka let out a soft snort. "For once I know something she doesn't apparently."
Negi immediately regretted bringing up such a sore topic. For some time now the perceptive class rep had begun to notice that the girls that he'd made pactios with had been spending a lot of time around him. She had kept her peace when Asuna had explained that she couldn't tell her what was going on, but Ayaka was no fool and she knew that Negi was at the center of it. Seeing her like this now, alone and forgotten just like he had been all those years made his heart ache for the girl until he could stand it no longer. "Ayaka, are you free tonight."
"Just dining alone at the mansion as usual." Ayaka said miserably without really thinking.
"Would you like to eat with me then?" Negi asked seriously.
Ayaka sat up as if kicked. She looked at Negi in shock for a moment before she leaned in cautiously. "You mean eat with you, Asuna, and Konoka, right?"
"No Ayaka, just me. I'm asking you out on a date." Negi said watching the slightly older girl as she blinked several times. "That is alright isn't it?"
"Oh yes. I'm just trying very hard not to squeal right now." Ayaka quickly agreed. Then her face seemed to grow depressed again. "But I wouldn't want you to feel like you had to just to cheer me up."
"That might be part of it." Negi said seriously. "But I think it's time I told you a few things and that we sat down alone and talked. You've been such a great help to me in the past that I feel I owe it to you to tell you the truth."
"Then just say the word sensei and I will have the greatest feast set out at the finest restaurant…" Ayaka gushed with happy tears for once reaching her eyes.
"No Ayaka." Negi said firmly.
"I said 'no'. Tonight, I'm taking you out. All I want to know is where you want to eat." Negi pressed. "You can think about it on the way to the dorm. I need to change, and I'm going to get a few things."
Ayaka held Negi's hand all the way back to the dorm, and when he stepped into the room Asuna, Setsuna, and Konoka were sitting around waiting. Negi walked in with Ayaka in tow and quickly disengaged himself to slip into the bathroom and change. When he stepped out, Asuna was eyeing him as he jumped up into his loft and quickly packed a few things.
"You're eating with her tonight?" Asuna asked jerking a thumb in her rival's direction.
"Yes, and don't wait up, I expect this is going to take a while." Negi said as he jumped back down. "Have you decided where you want to eat?"
"Yes sensei." Ayaka said meekly. "I'd like for us to eat at my house."
"Forget it!" Asuna roared standing up. "There's no way I'm letting you…"
"ASUNA!" Negi bellowed. The single word banished all sound from the room. Even the sounds of breathing couldn't be heard as it seemed like everyone held their breath waiting for what he was about to say next. It is said that looking into someone's eyes can convey volumes, but in this case Negi's steady glare at his primary partner conveyed only two words. Zip it.
Wide eyed, Asuna backed down quickly as Negi turned his gaze back to Ayaka. He wasn't really angry with the girl, but he wasn't about to change his mind about what he was going to do tonight. "Ayaka I don't mean to be unkind, but I need to speak with you alone without servants around."
"That's fine sensei." Ayaka said quickly. "I'll send them all away for the night so that it will only be the two of us. Please, come and I'll make you something to eat myself, though I admit that we might only be having sandwiches."
Negi nodded. In truth, the discussion he was going to have with Ayaka didn't need anyone hearing and an empty mansion would be better than a crowded restaurant. Still it was a long way to Ayaka's family home. Even if there wasn't class tomorrow, he would still be getting back very late even if he flew. "Then since we are headed there, do you mind if I stay the night with you?"
Negi thought both girls were going to break their necks. Ayaka from shaking her head 'yes' and Asuna from shaking her head 'no'. To her credit, Asuna had managed to pick up on what was going on. "Negi you can get angry with me if you want, but too many people know already. You can't be about to go tell her what I think you are about to tell her."
"My mind's made up Asuna. I'm telling her everything." Negi said seriously as he finished gathering a change of clothes and putting them in his bag. "I'll be back in the morning."
A/N: This was originally going to be a chapter for 'A Day Indoors', but I simply couldn't convey everything I wanted to in one or two chapters. Therefore I plan for this to be the first in a series of short stories that are longer than my one-shots and shorter than my full length works. I expect they'll probably run about four to five chapters each. Hope you guys enjoy them!