AN: Right, so this is my first Love Hina fic, so I hope I did a good job. Anyway, this is my attempt to make a tougher version of Keitaro without making him seem like Bruce Lee or Charles Manson or some overly violent loon. The way I figured it would work best was that Keitaro needed someone to watch out for. So here's my take on Love Hina. Also, a big thanks to Cizzymac for reading through this trifle and making it readable.
Disclaimer: Obviously, I don't own Love Hina or any of the associated characters.
"But... no, you're not even listening, Daddy!" the girl exclaimed.
Keitaro gave a long sigh. Talking to this girl...talking to Kanako was like trying to talk to her stupid cat. Neither listened, and both were inexplicable in many, many ways. Inexplicable in this case meant her trying to find a better room for her cat. And it was times like this that he found himself blocking his little sister out, instead examining the room that he sat in.
As it was, the eight-year-old Kanako stood in the middle of their tiny kitchen, which was in the middle of their tiny two-bedroom apartment. It needed to be redone, but there was no rush. The kitchen wasn't dirty or messy...simply old. Gray walls that were once white, a tiled floor that was missing tiles here and there, and a single pea-green circular table that sat in the middle of the floor made up the decor. There was another chair sitting across from him, and normally Kanako would be sitting in it for their early morning talks, but...
She was too busy being nuts.
"Daddy!" Kanako whined, and the floppy eared black cat in her arms gave a loud, wanting mewl, as though it also knew he wasn't paying attention them. "What's wrong with you? You're all staring at me and stuff..."
"I'm not your dad," he pointed out, literally pointing his finger at her, as he often did. "And you're wearing that? Again?"
She giggled, spinning so he could see the flowing black sundress, although she was a bit small for it... but then again, Kanako was a bit small for everything she wore. The girl was a string bean. He didn't even know where she got the damnable thing, only that she wouldn't stop wearing it, and he had neither the patience or the time to undertake that particular campaign.
"So, like I was saying," she started again, rather presumptuously assuming he wasn't going to zone out again. "If we just take all of the trays out of the oven and never use it again, Kuro can have a proper place to sleep!"
"Well... it's certainly better than your last plan," Keitaro mused. Her last plan involved his closet, a litter box, his favorite shirt, and baking soda. At least this time it involved the cat. And fire.
"Hey, what's with that creepy smile? Dad?"
Only the terribly loud telephone broke him from his reverie and saved him from having to explain how much he loathed that cat (He doubted he could ever put it into words that the girl could understand.), so he quickly grabbed the receiver off its base and answered it. It was an older model, and didn't have the politeness or the option to not be shrill and loud in such a small room.
"Urashima residence," Keitaro stated quickly, sounding more than a little annoyed with the person on the other end. Who would call at 7 in the morning, anyway?
"Keitaro, what's wrong?"
Oh. Granny would definitely do something like that.
"H-hello? Granny?" He motioned for his younger sister to stop being crazy and sit down. For some reason, she thought Keitaro pointing towards the ground meant 'Come sit on my lap.'
To which she, of course, obliged him instantly. She pattered across the floor on bare feet, spun and hopped into his lap. And he thanked the gods that she was a tiny, tiny person.
"Hello Keitaro, it's sooo good to hear from you again!"
"Hey. Yeah, it's really good to hear from you, too, Granny. How are you?"
"Ohhhhh, this old woman's fine. Just checking up on my favorite grandkids to be sure they're doin' alright. How's my lil Kanako? Is she okay? Is she around?"
"Yeah, she's right here, and-oof! Cut that out!" Kanako stopped bouncing on his lap, at the sound of his 'Daddy voice.'
"Sorry, she thought my lap was a trampoline."
"She's close then! Tell her that ol' Granny says hello."
Cupping his hand over the receiver, he looked down at Kanako. "Granny says hi." And of course Kanako wanted to say hi too, so she leaned up close to his ear for some reason and yelled, "HI GRANNY!"
Keitaro winced, and held the phone back up to his now ringing ear.
"Kanako says hi, too," Keitaro grumbled.
"Ha ha! I heard!" The old woman laughed for a moment longer, and he could hear his Aunt Haruka in the background, asking what all that yelling was. "Anyway, does that girl still call you dad? Ya know that can't be healthy for you or her, right?"
"Yes, she still calls me that. Yeah, yeah, I know, Granny." He sighed, and Kanako leaned back against his chest, yawning and closing her eyes. The cat, Kuro, seemed to mime this.
"You know... it wouldn't be so hard if you'd just come here."
For some reason, his eyes darted to the door that led into the living room and dining room.
"Haruka already agreed to help take care of Kanako, and you wouldn't have to spend as many hours working." There was the sound of shuffling. Haruka's and granny Hina's voicessuddenly discussing something. "Hell, you wouldn't even have to worry about paying for finishing High School and starting Cram School..."
Keitaro sagged in his chair, instinctively curling an arm around Kanako's waist so that she did not fall off. He was glad she was such a bad morning person. She was usually on their side, and she loved visiting the Hinata House.
"Granny, I can't do that right now. Things are really starting to look up at work, and Kanako is settled in at school. She's doing really well, and you know that if I'm not here to take care of the old man--"
"Keitaro." She silenced him with a single harshly spoken word. "I understand all of these things, and more than that, I sympathize with you. But you're a 19 year old man who's spent the last four years of your life raising my granddaughter, taking care of my daughter's husband, and making payments on a house that is falling apart."
"Kei, all I'm asking is that you let us help. Kami knows you've done enough, and we're all family. Just...I need you to seriously think about this, all right? Think about what's best for Kanako. Really, think about it."
She listened to him give a heavy, labored sigh. This told her more than anything else he'd said in their conversation.
"Promise me you'll think about it, Keitaro."
"I promise. By the end of the week, I'll have an answer for you, Granny."
"Good. Now put my little Kanako on the phone, hm?"
He jostled Kanako with his shoulder and pressed the phone against her ear.
"Kanako, Granny wants to say hi," he murmured, giving the smaller girl a squeeze.
It was enough for her eyes to pop open. Expertly, she scooped the phone in the place between her chin and her shoulder so as to be sure she did not jostle the still sleeping cat.
Somehow, she managed to keep from sounding groggy, and clambered down from Keitaro's lap when he gave her a small shove between her shoulder blades.
"Hello dear, is Keitaro taking good care of you?"
"Uh huh! Daddy's been taking good care of me!" She yelled into the phone.
"I'm not your dad," Keitaro muttered. And of course she ignored him. She'd been calling him that so long that his response was more out of habit than anything else.
Shaking his head as if to wipe away such thoughts, Keitaro opened the pantry, pulled out a jar a peanut butter, and then moved to the refrigerator to grab a small bag of leftover ham. He bumped the refrigerator door closed with his hip, and held both items up for his sister to see.
She pointed at both spastically, at one item and then the other, keeping Kuro steady under one arm. He wrinkled his nose at the feisty girl.
"I'm not putting both of these in your sandwich."
"Ew! That's nasty! Oh no, not you, Granny Hina!"
He tilted his head, glancing at the two items in his hand. So what was she...?
Kanako began looking down pointedly at the cat, and Keitaro frowned. Of course, she wanted to feed the cat. It made sense, as much sense as that stupid cat made.
He shook his head, setting about getting everything to make Kanako's lunch for the day.
"Okay, bye granny! I love you too!" Kanako hung up the phone, and danced around Keitaro before placing it back on its base.
"Alright," Keitaro started without missing a beat. "So all this week I've got work Kanako, which means I need you to remind your dad-"
"He's not my dad," Kanakok cut in sharply, squeezing the cat so hard he snapped awake, yowling in discomfort. "Sorry Kuro," she apologized, nuzzling his ear with her free hand.
"He is your dad and he... uh..."
Kanako raised an eyebrow, yet another skill Keitaro wished she did not get from him. "See? Even you don't believe it!"
He sighed, slapping his forehead.
"Kanako, just listen, alright? I have work all week. Make sure you remind your dad to pick you up from school." He heard the sullen mumble of, 'He's not my dad.' from the girl, but opted to ignore her this time. "Work for me is from nine to five, and I should have dinner on the table by six. Lunches will always be on the bottom shelf of the fridge, snacks on the middle. How many snacks do you get after school?"
"One," she muttered. "But Taro at school always gets-"
"Taro-at-school isn't you. And If I see any more than one missing a day, no dessert for you, got it?" A defeated sigh, more under-the-breath mumbling, and he knew he had the girl's ear again. "Great. Did I forget anything?"
"Why is he always my dad? Why isn't he yours too?"
"Because you're 8 and I'm 19." He finished making her sandwich, and placed it in a brown paper bag before thrusting it out to the girl. "Now go to school."
"I'm dumping your whiskey now," Keitaro mumbled as he marched from the kitchen to the living room, where he found his father. Walking from the kitchen to the living room could best be compared to moving from a grassy field to a dumpster. Whereas the kitchen was where he and Kanako indulged in their morning traditions and idiosyncrasies, the living room was where Keitaro tried to find hidden liquor, throw away empty bottles, and occasionally yell at the man that lived there when he was too drunk to remember. "Did you hear me?"
The slovenly man was a cautionary tale on how not to take care of oneself. He had a sloppy beard that was half-trimmed from the ear to he chin, a wild mane of hair that met a receding hairline, a yellow, splotchy t-shirt that was once white, a paunchy belly that pushed that t-shirt to become uncomfortably tight, and sweat pants that bunched in all the wrong places and smelled as bad as his breath.
He lay on the three-person couch, breathing heavily. It was the same place he'd been for the last few days.
"Christ, I don't have enough time to get you cleaned up and still get to work on time," he mumbled, taking the liquor bottle that dangled precariously from the man's hands, placing it on the table.
Keitaro sat rather unceremoniously on the edge of a coffee table that sat in the center of the room. "You aren't the only one that's sad, you know," he told the man that kind of looked like his father. "We went to her funeral too; me and Kanako."
The older man turned his head away, balling himself up.
"This isn't fair to her. This isn't fair to her and it isn't fair to me."
The old man hiccupped and covered his face with a pillow.
"You're not my father." Keitaro stated the words resolutely, with all the calm he could muster.
With that, Keitaro stood up and walked back to the kitchen. Mr. Urashima could hear his son dumping the liquor into the sink. He sobbed even more, not knowing whether it was because of the loss of his alcohol, the loss of his wife, or the loss of his son.
- - - - - - - - - -
Twenty-ton steel engines made of fans and shunts moving in and out of the exit ports roared from high above. The air was toxic, and had it not been for the bulky gas masks that each of the workers wore, they might have easily suffocated from the poisons.
As far as Keitaro knew, the stuff in the air was quite flammable, and if one of the engines hanging up high caught a spark, there was no chance that any of them would escape alive.
"Mrph Mprph!" yelled one of his co-workers. Keitaro knew this actually meant, "Heads up! Spray gun!"
His hand shot into the air, easily catching the spray gun with all the ease of someone who'd been doing been doing a single thing for eight hours a day, forty hours a week, and twenty-one days a month for four years.
Keitaro worked as part of a manual painting line, one of the last in Japan, for a small toy company, also one of the last manually operated in Japan.
There was a loud, shrill whistle, and everything in the murky warehouse came to a sudden standstill as the engines came to a whirring halt, and the conveyer belts crawled to a stop.
"Urashima Keitaro." A booming voice echoed over the poisonous air, and Keitaro winced. "Please report to the central offices for your package."
"Not entirely unexpected," he mumbled to himself, unable to keep the knot from choking up his throat. A few of his fellow painters mumbled a few words to him under their breaths, and a few more gave him pats on the back.
- - - - - - - - - -
"He always forgets," the small girl scoffed, her voice rose in a surprisingly spiteful tone for so simple an action. She danced her fingers through the short hair of the kitten in her lap. "Isn't he stupid?" she asked the cat, who merely yawned in reply.
It was a rule of theirs (Or Keitaro's, anyway). Whenever Keitaro got off of work too late to pick her up, he wanted her to wait for either him or her real father to arrive. Keitaro did not like for her to walk home alone after afternoon classes. Unfortunately, this often hinged on the drunken man that chained himself to the living room actually coming to pick his daughter up. Until then, she was forced to sit on the front stairs of the school, watching as other parents corralled their children.
The cat opened its mouth wide in a yawn, causing it's long, floppy ears to flail backwards against it's body.
Kanako clutched the cat closer to her body, rubbing her cheek against its head, briefly enjoying the sounds of its purring. "I hope we don't end up sitting here as long as last time, huh Kuro?" She remained seated on the stony stairs, her backpack lying against her leg. She gave another labored sigh as she closed her eyes, burying her face into the cat's fur. "I miss mom."
With a low creaking noise, a bike pulled up to the stairs, coming to a slow stop. Someone stepped off and came to sit beside them, and Kanako instantly smiled when she looked up at the person that sat down.
"Me too, Kanako," Keitaro admitted.
Kanako looked Keitaro over, noticing he was wearing his street clothes: his ratty jeans, a simple button up white shirt, and his ever-present thick, round glasses. A bag hung heavily in his hand, tightly wound by its drawstring. She leaned to the right, resting her head lovingly on her brother's shoulder.
"You got off work early to pick me up?"
Keitaro shrugged off his sister's question. Better she think that he did it for her, rather than the much more realistic reason. "Yeah. I'll be spending a little more time around the house this week, too."
Kanako frowned at his answer, because it sounded so similar to what that man…that is, her father, used to say. Keitaro looked down at her, and just shook his head. "Not what I meant. My hours got cut this week." Seeing the young girl's questioning gaze, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "I'm not gonna be making as much, because they don't need me as often any more."
The diminutive girl nodded and snuggled against him. "So...what are you gonna do then?" Keitaro leaned over, giving her a kiss on her forehead. He then leaned his head against hers, and she laughed in response.
"I don't know yet. Job hunting, maybe?" Closing his eyes, Keitaro thought about a simpler time when he was not so concerned with getting a job, paying the mortgage, or getting Kanako ready for school. "Maybe we'll take granny Hina's advice and move to the Hinata House?"
He was half kidding. Moving to the Hinata house would certainly be a great relief on him... and especially on Kanako. The young Kanako just shook her head against him. "If you say so."
He swallowed hard and kept his eyes closed. She had made his decision for him, and didn't even know it. "Alright Kanako." He wrapped his arms around his sister, clutching her tightly. "Alright."
AN: So, kind of a long Authors Note, just for the sake of actually explaining things.
1. There will be absolutely no romance between Kanako and Keitaro. I just felt that I needed to make that crystal clear.
2. Yes, Kanako is 8 in this fic. Yes, she'll be sticking around. Her calling Keitaro "Dad" is kind of a play on her getting their relationship all wrong, much like she does in the anime. (She's probably right in this case though.)
3. The romance... I'm actually kind of torn, so it'd be kind of helpful to hear what you all think. (Currently torn between Motoko or Mutsumi. For reasons that will be explained later; Kitsune, Su, and Shinobu could NOT be involved with him.)
4. Finally, yes. Keitaro kind of has an irrational dislike of Kuro. There is a reason for this, I promise to get into it.
Alright, so with that out of the way, I'm gonna go ahead and say thanks much for reading this, and pleeeeease leave a review on your way out and tell me what you think, okay? Thanks!