A/N: You know the drill, the characters aren't mine, but I'll take the credit for the story. Well, my friend will, anyway...
My Angel: Sight Unseen
8:45 am December 20, 2001
Yawning heavily, and audibly, Keitaro stepped out of his room and padded towards the communal sink with a small bucket containing a toothbrush and toothpaste, a bar of soap, and a hand towel. The sound of a feminine giggle caused him to nearly bite his tongue as he snapped his mouth shut in embarrassment. His cheeks flushed red when he realized his newest and undoubtedly most beautiful tenant, Mutsumi Otohime, had caught a glimpse of him at his most vulnerable. At a glance, Keitaro noticed that she was still in her evening wear: a peach-striped button down shirt and silk shorts that ended well above her knees. She was holding a small pink container with items similar to his.
Since Keitaro boarded the young woman in the room next to him in room 203, opposite Kitsune's room (205), he might have known that he would occasionally meet with her in the early morning, but the thought slipped his mind in his weariness, and he was caught off guard.
"Good morning, Keitaro-san," Mutsumi said, giving the manager her usual beaming smile.
Just the way she said his name made him jelly-legged, and coupled with her smile, he had to lock his knees to keep from stumbling over. "G-good morning…Mutsumi-san."
"Did you sleep well?"
"Well, er…" Keitaro's voice trailed off as his eyes wandered from the young woman's eyes down towards her womanly features. He had never seen her in her pajamas before, and seeing her in such attire caused the young man to act like, well, a young man.
"Yes, I did, thank you very much," barked the voice of the drill sergeant standing behind Keitaro.
Keitaro stiffened and raised his eyes up to look at Mutsumi's face. "Yes, I did, thank you very much," he parroted his handler, his voice as dry and shrill as a young private getting dressed down in boot camp.
Mutsumi's smile vanished and she asked with concern at Keitaro's sudden change in demeanor, "Are you okay?"
"Oh, yes, I'm just fine!" Keitaro quickly exclaimed.
"Alright then, I'll see you downstairs," Mutsumi replied.
"Downstairs?" Keitaro asked stupidly.
"Oh, yes, of course," Keitaro replied with a dry laugh. "I'll see you then."
"Okay, bye," Mutsumi smiled and waved at the manager, then turned about and went back to her room.
Once he heard the sliding door to room 203 tap shut, Keitaro exhaled heavily and leaned against the sink with both hands.
"What the hell was that?" Naru asked him, her voice as angry as Keitaro had heard it since she became his spiritual advisor.
Shaking his head, Keitaro replied, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't help it."
"Couldn't help what, ogling her like a perverted old man?"
Keitaro winced at her words. "Was it really that bad?"
"I would think that after seeing Kitsune dressed like that a hundred times, you would be immune to that kind of reaction."
"That's different," Keitaro grumbled.
"Different how?" Naru continued to grill him.
"Because I don't…" he almost said it, but then caught himself. Letting out a heavy breath, he said, "Nevermind."
Naru shook her head and waved her index finger in the air in front of her. "No, you aren't getting off that easily. I want to know how it's different."
"It just is, alright?" Keitaro pleaded with Naru to drop the subject, but the honey-haired spirit was not having it.
"If you can't tell me the truth, how do you expect to be able to ask her out for Christmas Eve, huh? Are you going to sit back and be a coward for the rest of your life? Why can't you just tell me you like her?"
Something within Keitaro snapped, and he whirled around to face Naru, giving her a sharp glare as he spoke. "Alright, I'll admit it. It's different because I don't feel the same way about Kitsune as I do with Mutsumi. And, you know what else? Maybe I am a coward, but I don't care. I learned my lesson with Reiko. I'd rather live with the dream of what might be possible over the reality of being rejected again. I'm done."
"Who are you talking to?"
A sudden voice from behind made Keitaro nearly choke on his own heart as it leapt from his chest. He cursed himself for losing his temper and forgetting himself and his surroundings as he slowly turned to face the owner of the voice, a very wide-awake Kitsune, clad in her pajamas, holding a cup with a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small bottle of face wash, and a rolled up washcloth.
"Oh, good morning Kitsune-san. You scared the living daylights out of me!"
Keitaro laughed out loud and scratched the back of his head, trying to play off what Kitsune might have heard as a joke. He became worried when the serious look on her face, something he had never seen from her at such an early hour, did not crack. And the next words she spoke might as well have given him a heart attack.
"It's Naru, isn't it? You're talking to Naru."
10:36 am December 20, 2001
Keitaro slowly approached Kitsune, who was sitting in one of the chairs on the second floor window facing the town. She had asked him to meet her there after the rest of the household had gone about their business so they could talk in private. The look on her face at the time told Keitaro that he had better show up, or the consequences would be disastrous.
"You can't tell her about me, Keitaro. There's no telling what might happen if you do," Naru reminded him as they approached the fox, who was staring out the window, nursing a cup of coffee.
Keitaro nodded his head, both to reassure Naru that he had heard her, and to steel his own nerves. He had a vague idea of how he could explain away what Kitsune had heard in the hallway two hours ago, and he hoped for everyone's sake that she would buy it.
"Kitsune?" Keitaro called out to her.
Kitsune started at the sound of her name, and she motioned towards the chair next to her. "Please sit."
As Keitaro sat down, he could tell Kitsune was just as nervous as he was, taking a sip from her cup before turning it in her hands several times and placing it down on the coffee table.
"I'm not really sure where to start," Kitsune said, then coughed into her hand to clear her throat.
"Kitsune, what you heard today is," Keitaro began…
"Please don't lie to me, Keitaro," Kitsune cut him off. "We all know what's been going on with you lately. We all understand you've been under a lot of stress. We also know you've been talking to someone that isn't there. Don't worry. The new girl hasn't caught wind of this yet."
Kitsune looked towards Keitaro, fully expecting him to deny what she said, but when he remained silent, she continued.
"Kaolla thinks you should talk to a professional about this problem you're having. Shinobu thinks so, too. I thought you were going to be okay, that this was just something you were doing to cope with everything's that's happened."
"I'm not crazy, Kitsune-san," Keitaro said.
As though she did not hear what Keitaro said, Kitsune continued, "But then I heard you this morning. I never realized it before, but the way you talked this morning, it was like you were talking to her."
Keitaro was rapidly losing control of the situation. The more Kitsune talked, the more dangerous this was becoming.
"It's Naru you're talking to. You sounded just like you did when she was still alive. The way you two argued back and forth, you don't sound like that with anyone else. But she's gone, Keitaro."
"No, she's not," Keitaro replied.
"Keitaro, don't," Naru protested.
Kitsune left her chair and knelt in front of Keitaro and grabbed him by the shoulders. By the wild-eyed look in her eyes, Keitaro could tell she was rapidly losing control of her emotions. "She's dead, Keitaro! Dead! You've got to let her go!"
Keitaro smiled whimsically and said, "If only it were that simple."
"What do you mean?" Kitsune asked, still grasping Keitaro's shoulders with her hands.
"You're right, Kitsune-san," Keitaro admitted.
"Keitaro, what are you doing?" Naru asked, her voice rising in panic.
Keitaro looked towards Naru in the presence of another person for the first time and told her, "We can't keep hiding this any more. Everyone thinks I'm losing my mind. What if they decide to have me taken away from here and put in a psychiatric ward, somewhere? Would that be a better alternative to telling the truth?"
Naru tried to rebut, but she could not find a suitable counterargument. Turning his attention back to Kitsune after he felt her let go of his arms, he could see the fear in her eyes. "It's all right, Kitsune."
Kitsune shook her head and backed away from Keitaro. "No. No, she isn't. She's not there. She's gone!" She did not want to believe it. She thought it was just something he was going through to cope with the pain. She thought he would eventually break through and come back to reality. But he had fallen completely into his fantasy world. He had spoken to this imaginary person right in front of her.
"You need help, Keitaro. You need someone real to talk to," Kitsune said, trying to keep herself from panicking.
Keitaro chuckled in response. "Oh, believe me; she is very, very real."
"She's gone, Keitaro. We buried her in the ground, don't you remember?"
"Listen, Kitsune, I don't know why I'm the only one that can see her, but that's just the way it is. What can I do to prove to you that I'm not crazy?"
Kitsune stood up and dusted off her knees. "I don't need any convincing, Keitaro. I know what I can and cannot see and hear. Look, I don't think I should talk to you about this anymore. Just try to think about who's still here and what this is doing to us, all right?"
This is bad, Keitaro thought, as he watched Kitsune walk away. "What do I do?" he asked Naru, who stood still and stoic as a statue.
"Tell her to stop," Naru said.
"Wait, Kitsune-san. Narusegawa wants me to tell you something," Keitaro blurted immediately.
Kitsune stopped, but did not turn to face him. Keitaro quickly relayed the information Naru told him. "That night, when we celebrated Narusegawa's coming of age party; you told us a story about her in middle school. About the day she forgot her glasses."
"What about it?" Kitsune asked. She remained in place and did not turn around.
"There was something else that happened that day. Something you didn't tell all of us. Something only the two of you knew about."
Kitsune turned around, a puzzled look on her face. Keitaro took this as a hint that something did happen after all. "Go ahead," Kitsune said after Keitaro paused for length of time.
"You didn't say it because you didn't want to hurt my feelings," Keitaro continued. "The truth is the most embarrassing part of the story wasn't just all the people in the hallway that saw her in just her underwear. Someone else was there, too. The last person in the world she wanted to see her like that."
"The man that I was in love with…he was there," Naru stated softly.
Keitaro's face puzzled over as he repeated Naru's words. "His name was Seta."
Kitsune's face fell upon the mention of that name. It was a name Keitaro had never heard before, so it was impossible for him to know who Seta was. Moreover, Keitaro continued to give intimate details about him that Naru had shared with her and her alone. There was not another soul in the world that knew about her and Naru's relationship with that man.
Keitaro felt a sting in his chest as he told Kitsune about the man Naru had been in love with until the moment of her death. He felt as though he was not telling Kitsune about this special relationship she had with this man. After all, Kitsune already knew all about it. Naru and Kitsune were the very best of friends that never hid anything from one another. Of course she would know about Naru's secret lover. No, Naru was telling him directly.
However, as he continued to relay the story about Seta, Keitaro felt no anger, or pain, or bitterness upon learning about Naru's first love. It was only natural, after all. Why shouldn't she fall for with a handsome, intelligent man that was helping her to reach her life's greatest goal? If anything, Keitaro felt relieved. He had learned something about her that he had never known before. In his mind, Naru was an idyllic figure that no man could reach. But even she had been smitten with someone when she was alive. She was just a normal, healthy teenage girl infatuated with an older man. And by the time Keitaro finished telling the story behind Naru's unrequited first love, he was smiling.
In contrary to Keitaro's smile, Kitsune was looking back at him with a whirlwind of emotions on her face: anger, fear, sorrow, trepidation. Her eyes were wide, misty with newly formed tears, and her lower lip quivered. Her breath was heavy and ragged, and she was on the verge of hyperventilation.
"Are you okay?" Keitaro asked Kitsune, his voice rising in concern as he took a step towards her.
Kitsune shook her head in response as she began to sob. "No, I'm not okay."
"What are you doing, you idiot?" Naru asked angrily. Keitaro turned to Naru, nonplussed. She furrowed her brow and gestured with her two open hands towards Kitsune.
"Oh," Keitaro exclaimed, the proverbial lightbulb above his head springing to life. He rushed over to Kitsune's side, and she clutched on his shirt, crying heavily into his chest. They stood there for several minutes as Kitsune emptied the last of her tears onto Keitaro's shirt and he ran his hand over her head. After she had calmed down, she pulled back, sniffed loudly and asked, "She's really here, isn't she?"
With a smile, Keitaro simply replied, "Yeah."