Disclaimer: Borrowing the characters, setting and scenery from the owners, any Original Characters that spawn from here are mine, although they probably inspired by other fandoms. Please note, I'm not making a red cent off this belligerent attempt at writing, so don't bother getting the lawyers. Comments and constructive critiques are always welcome and encouraged; flames and troll bait will be accepted and recycled for future use.
As always, many thanks to Ordo sorry that I took your original idea and drove it so far off the the deep end, ThreadWeaver for the constant C&C, spelling and grammar fixes; and also to the great injustice dispensing Lord Raa for the inspirational lulz. Thank you and the rest of crew at TFF for your comments, questions, concerns and feedback. My heartfelt gratitude to all the readers on Fan Fiction dot net for your gracious comments and reviews, I hope you all enjoying reading as much as I am enjoying writing this story.
And now, as the peanut gallery has been urging, time to get on with it!.
A Plight of Fancy
Chap. 3 - All The Right Moves
If there was one thing Keitaro Urashima has learned about himself throughout his life, is that his desire to help the people around him had gotten him into interesting situations. Visiting islands in the South Pacific and trips across Japan had become par for the course, although these experiences would have never really prepared him to bury the hatchet with his long time... acquaintance.
'Stay cool Kei... she just wants to be friends again, and we're good with keeping friends... right?' this thought had ran through his mind multiple times throughout the day. Ever since she appeared at the dig, he couldn't help but doubt her intentions, and still after she proved she wasn't going to glomp him or act like they were an item in such a public setting.
Carrying a couple of burgers, he steeled himself as he walked over to the reason most of the guys at his frat house teased him. 'Although, she has been pretty quiet today... I would have expected her to be showing off in some sexy swimsuit by now... No! Bad Kei!'
A few feet away, under a beach umbrella and sitting on a simple beach towel was Himawari. Taking a while to appraise her looks, he noticed that unlike most of the other young women, splashing around the shallow waves in a form fitting one or two piece swimsuit; she had instead swapped her pith hat for stylish sunglasses and ditched her boots so as to dig her bare feet in the sand, calmly enjoying the sounds of the beach by herself.
Taking a deep breath and gathering a little courage, he walked up to her with a bit of flourish and presented her with the humble meal he had prepared. "One Sunshine special... medium well burger, pickles, lettuce, light on the onions on a sesame seed bun."
"You remembered... to hold the tomato?" he caught the surprised look behind her sunglasses which was followed by an earnest smile, making him think this was all worth the little show he had put up for her.
"Unless Lady Sumire finally got you to finish up your veggies" he laughed back munching on his burger.
"Grandmother still holds me to that expectation when we dine together..." she pouted cutely before proceeding to nibble at her lunch. "Hina-sama never got angry about me making you eat my veggies."
"Well, someone had to eat them..." he winked back playfully in between bites, then switching to a teasing smile. "Or we BOTH would have gotten scolded for being fussy eaters back then."
"My hero, the Vegetable Vanquisher!" she replied playfully earning his laugh, but then her face was adorned with a sad smile. "Was I really that bad? To drive you away like I did?"
"We weren't a real couple, Himawari." looking to the beach remembering their childish misadventures. "I didn't mind you chasing me around and pretending I was your Fiancé... but I knew you really didn't see me that way."
"Yes I did!" she put her food down and angrily demanded his attention. "You were MY fiancé Keitaro!"
"I was your friend, Himawari. I never asked you to be my fiancée..." turning to face her, he looked into her eyes "that wasn't fair to me, or to yourself."
An uncomfortable silence hung between them, letting them return to their unfinished meals. The young lady looked more thoughtful, stopping herself multiple times, reformulating her response to his last comment every time.
"I... didn't want to lose my best friend." 'My only friend' eyes covered by her hair and head hung in shame as she admitted to herself her real reasons "but I still scared you away, didn't I?"
"A little, but I know you didn't really mean to." Their 'break up' years ago came to mind, now felt like a lifetime ago "Remember what I told Lady Sumire about the engagement."
"That I deserved someone better... someone great that could go to TouDai." the bittersweet memory made her smile, having taken a positive meaning to his reasoning back then, she had believed he had done it for her.
"That... that was an excuse" he admitted and before she could comment he added "and I apologize for hurting your feelings."
"You don't have to apologize Keitaro, you… you had a good reason to address our relationship the way you did." Her memories gained another component, by absolving her of past misdeeds and admitting his reason wasn't all that noble. "Although you still made good on your word, you entered TouDai; at least that dream came true."
"Actually, it wasn't really a dream of mine..." gulping nervously as he decided to share a little more of his motivations "I ah… made a promise… with someone."
"How could you! You made a promise with someone else, behind your fiancé's back?" she lightly beat on his shoulder playfully; her voice had a tinge of mock anger.
"No no... This was before we met." Replying bashfully as he scratched the back of his head.
"Oh!" any anger, playful or real on her part, was immediately replaced with curiosity "did that person ever find out; that you made good on the promise?"
"I'm not sure, we never met up again." He wasn't quite sure if that response was a lie or not; neither Naru nor Mutsumi were ever able to fully convince him either of them was his promise girl.
"Well, whoever that person is... they're missing out on a great friend."
"Yeah" smiling at her, he extended his hand in a gesture of peace "friends?"
"Friends!" she shook his hand formally, then moments later latched onto his arm and drew circles on his chest with a fingertip, while shamelessly asking "Are you suuuuuure you don't want a beautiful, rich and sexy girlfriend like me?"
"'Mawari..." he frowned lightly at her half-joke. 'definetly worse than Kitsune... sometimes.'
"Kidding!" she grinned not unlike a certain vixen he knew back home 'at least he didn't flat out say No.'
Shaking his head and sighing he couldn't help but smile. "You really love to make this hard for me, huh?"
"Can't blame a girl for trying, Sunshine." she winked back at him.
Feeling a little bold, he looked up to her in a slightly formal tone "You know… I WOULD take you up on the offer" he waiting patiently until her face showed a shocked expression, then he dropped the bomb on her "but the semester will be over in a few months, and I'll have to head back home to Japan"
"Tease! Meanie!" she leaned into him and grabbed onto his arm, enjoying his comforting presence.
"It's about time I get back at you." He rasp-berried back at her, only to share a long laugh afterwards. Being honest with himself, he truly never did mind her attentions one bit. What warm blooded male would; knowing they would eventually be separated again due to their responsibilities, he made a decision. "Look... I won't promise anything... and you're not obligated to accept but, how about we go out?"
"Excuse me?" she looked at him as if he had grown a second head, never had she expected HIM to drop a bombshell like this.
"You, Me, go out, attend events together, catch a game, go to amusement parks, go bar hopping..." then making sure she wouldn't misunderstand, he added "just two friends making up for lost time."
"I'd... like that." A radiant smile coming to her lips, as a previously half discarded plan decided to fall into place without her even trying. "Funny thing you should mention that, Keitaro..."
"I should have just kept my mouth shut," commented the young man as he looked at himself in a full length mirror. His smart reflection in the mirror mimicked his fidgeting motions.
"Is everything alright, Keitaro-sama?" came a reply from a young lady in a form fitted suit checking last minute alterations to the young man's attire. "If need be, we can call back the tailor to redo the pants if they are too tight".
"No, no... everything is okay, Stella-san," he responded with a slightly nervous tone to the steward of the Kanzaki heiress. "Just thinking out loud," he added with a chuckle.
The female butler only nodded in response as she continued to take care of other last minute details for the event that the mistress who employed her and her chosen companion would be attending this evening.
Going through his memories of his talk with Himawari earlier that same day, Keitaro felt he may have rushed to volunteer himself in escorting his newly re-instated friend that evening to a black tie event, which her father had insisted her attendance was mandatory.
Keitaro smiled as he fiddled with a tie that just wouldn't stay properly in place. "I apologize for having you arrange this get up for me on such short notice."
"That's quite alright, Keitaro-sama... Ojou-sama often has more complicated last minute requests." Looking back to him, she noticed his crooked neck piece and barely stifled a giggle.
"I told you, you don't need to use -sama when addressing me, Stella-san," he answered back with a mock serious tone.
"Nonsense Keitaro-sama." The attractive servant walked over to the young archaeologist and fixed his tie for him with a placid smile. "Besides, that courtesy is reserved for Himawari-sama, now that she's back in your good graces."
"While I do admit that we did have a falling out..." he paused to find the right words to explain to himself why he got himself into this not uncomfortable situation, "I guess we both needed some time away from each other, and grow up."
Stella nodded, remembering when her charge was younger and even more impulsive. However, she could not resist and the urge to tease the young man that had never gone away from her mistress' heart. "That might be a reason... then again, people do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder," she finished with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
'Or go yonder,' Keitaro added mentally, momentarily getting the feeling that he was ignoring something, or someone.
"Anyhow, I'm glad that Ojou-sama will be escorted by a very dashing gentleman tonight, Keitaro-sama," she continued as she placed what appeared to be a small retractable baton onto his hands, seemingly unfazed by his lack of response.
"Huh?" Keitaro responded as he felt the item. "What's this?"
"Something extra I thought you might need if things get rough," she explained while pointing out how to deploy and retract the tool. "Ojou-sama and a group of her peers often escape these events after midnight and head out to local bars and pubs. Regretfully, they tend to attract some... unsavory characters once in a while."
"Ahh... gotcha." The Urashima heir felt a little prouder of himself as the steward had trusted him enough to have charged him with protecting his friend in case of emergency.
"Feel free to whack any annoying wannabe suitor that gets too close to her also." She offered a playful if feral grin toward him. "God knows how much Ojou-sama hates when they get a little too fresh with her."
"Wait... suitors?" He was keenly aware of other guys interested in and hitting on Himawari, as weeks ago one of his smoother Frat-brothers had once tried one of his best pick up lines at a school function they had attended. Said Frat-brother's "hook up" streak crashed and burned when she flat out ignored him just to proceed and glomp onto Keitaro, regaling her prey with her own brand of Public Display of Affection.
She directed a serious if formal glance at him; he could almost see a plea in her eyes. "Did you think a beautiful maiden of her social stature had not piqued the interests of other families... or their unwed males?"
"So... are you asking me to be more than a friend-slash-bodyguard to her?" he queried as he returned the serious look.
"It's not my place to ask you to make that decision," she responded while she shifted uncomfortably, "but as her personal steward, I would be greatly relieved if you would... defend her honor."
"Don't worry Stella-san," he sighed in relief, finally understanding her words and remembering his earlier concession to Himawari, then sharing a knowing smile. "I've been told many times I'm the type of guy that goes out on a limb for his friends."
"Thank you Keitaro-sa-" she was interrupted by the room's phone ringing, then her charge's frantic voice on the speakerphone.
"Steeeeelllaaaaa! heeeeelp! I can't find my lucky eeeeearriiiiings!"
"Go ahead and take care of that delicate flower, Stella-san," he chuckled at his friend's best spoiled brat tone on the phone. "She seems to need the help more than I do right now."
The young steward looked to the young archaeologist and offered a formal and thankful bow before heading off to attend the young heiress' needs.
'I really, REALLY need to learn to keep my mouth shut!'
The sun had set hours before the couple arrived at the event that evening. A light breeze swayed branches of nearby palm trees, but it wasn't strong enough to deter the attendants from showing up at the soiree.
The evening had been quite busy being introduced to many members of the higher echelons of academia, public office and private corporations. He could have sworn he saw a few of his favorite Hollywood celebrities, but he was glad that neither they, nor Himawari met up to chat; else he would have broken his quiet demeanor, which currently came off as formal if not stoic, compared to the social butterfly that he was escorting that evening.
Whenever someone came up to the Kanzaki heiress and her companion, she would present him as a long time friend and confidant. While the title was not completely off base, he would sometimes act a little more zealous toward her, particularly around other men that seemed to linger about her a little too long. 'Stella-san wasn't off one bit with her comments about Himawari's popularity.'
"All Hail the Conquering Hero!" rang a dramatic soprano voice with a slightly teasing lilt, which immediately garnered the couple's attention. The voice belonging to a mature blonde woman with curls in ringlets draping over her shoulders and framing her face. A healthy and elegant dame, very much what one would expect Himawari would look in a couple of decades or so.
"Mo-ther!" Himawari responded, both sounding embarrassed and proud at the statement that was lobbed in her general direction.
"Oh hush dear!, I'm just giving credit where credit is due." The lady in question touched an expensive looking fan to her lips before directing her gaze at her daughter's date. "Ohohohoho… If it isn't young Keitaro Urashima, I am politely surprised to see my daughter's childhood friend make such a triumphant return to high society."
"Ka-Karin-sama, it's a pleasure to see you again after so many years." He greeted the Kanzaki mother, remembering their last meeting years ago at his 'breakup' with her daughter. Hoping she would not make a scene about his attendance that evening. 'I'm doomed! There went what little social standing I had.'
"Let me take a good look at you young man… I did not expect you to grow up so handsome." She eyed him carefully, seemingly taking in not just the cut of his suit, but the overall image he presented, "or to be so successful. I hear congratulations are in order… Mister TouDai student."
"Ah! Th-thank you, Karin-sama. I guess I finally made good on that promise." He blushed but couldn't think of anything else to say, hoping she would be appeased with what he had become.
"Still ever the shy one, huh?" A purposeful and almost evil grin spread across her lips as she walked over to the nervous young man and linked arms with him. "I believe I will borrow your date for a bit sweetie, for tonight Karin Kanzaki shall dance."
"Mouuu… don't hog him all night Mother, Papa might get jealous!" fumed the heiress, feeling gypped as her mother walked away with her friend and date for the evening.
"But sweetie, you KNOW that is EXACTLY why I do it!" shot back the elder Kanzaki with a jubilant laugh.
Once on the dance floor, they danced arm in arm in silence while Keitaro gathered both his courage and thoughts, as to what to talk about with the elder Kanzaki woman.
As the current song slowed down, he started, "Um, Karin-sa-"
"Okaa-sama," she quickly cut off before he properly began, "you are almost part of the family, Keitaro-kun. Don't be so formal and stuffy!"
Keitaro couldn't help but groan at her response, but waited until she allowed him to speak as they continued to dance to a slow waltz played by the musicians. 'I'm definitely not going to get a word in edgewise, might as well face the music…'
"The fact that you are here, with her, tells me you two decided to work together through some of your issues," her serious tone calmed his doubts about Himawari's family, "and for, that I'm thankful that you've let her back into your life."
He was expecting to get an earful, about how he had let her little princess down or how he had ran away from the heiress. The cordial and frank words were refreshing and very welcome to him.
"She took the separation very hard back then, but it was a bitter pill that needed to be swallowed," she kept his attention with her admissions as the band continued with another song, "but, now you're back and she seems happier than ever."
As Keitaro was about to reply, he felt a tap at his shoulder. He stopped dancing as they looked to a gentleman older than him, Himawari's father if memory served right. After a few pleasantries and an almost extorted promise to visit the Kanzaki family home, he presented the young Archaeologist with his daughter and took his wife back to continue dancing.
"Make sure to have our princess back at her tower before it gets too late, Keitaro-kun!" admonished the elder Kanzaki woman, eliciting the groan from the young couple. Just before her husband whisked her away she followed up with a parting shot, "But know that you have our blessing if you intend to steal her away to your castle."
"Mo-ther!" cried the younger Kanzaki woman, embarrassed at the public teasing by her mother.
Her date on the other hand, smiled and decided to go with the flow and return volley at the elegant Kanzaki elder, "We'll get back to you on that last one, Okaa-sama!"
"Kei-Keitaro!" her shocked response was all she was allowed to comment before her date for the evening decided to give his good friend a night she wouldn't soon forget.
He had been awake for the past thirty minutes or so, taking stock of the unfamiliar ceiling and trying to make heads and/or tails of his alcohol laced fragmented memories of the night prior... and the very healthy young lady holding him not unlike a child would an over-sized teddy bear.
"Could someone please turn off that light?" inquired a voice belonging to the head of blonde curls nuzzling against his chest. "People are trying to sleep here."
"Can't turn off the sun, 'Mawari," replied his slightly parched voice. That earned him a sweet snicker followed by a languid hug from his bed mate. ''Remind me to buy black out drapes next time, Sunshine."
He nodded quietly before he voiced his current main concern "Part of me is already regretting saying this but... why aren't I on the floor, another room or my frat house porch?"
"Because you're comfy!" She snuggled into him a little more. "Besides, Stella will be bringing in a hangover remedy once she notices we're not snoring."
Laughing at her initial response he pressed forward "I'm pretty sure we both have some questions racing through our minds right now so, ladies first."
"Knowing Mother, she probably ordered Stella to keep us locked in here while we were mostly drunk." she looked up to him, her chin lightly digging into his chest and sporting a Chesire cat grin "She's probably expecting us to need a priest by now... disappointed we didn't go at each other like rabbits?"
"Glad we didn't-" he aborted his response half way as he noticed her slightly hurt reaction. "It would have been a shame to have been too drunk to remember my first time, especially with a beautiful young woman."
"Flattery will get you everywhere with me Keitaro... speaking of which," she smirked at him saucily, "are you really this healthy or are you just that happy to see me first thing in the morning?"
"Healthy, although that 'Property of UCLA Athletic Department' t-shirt isn't helping one bit..." he responded with a blush normally seen on a cherry tomato.
She beamed proudly at getting a rise out of him, then sighing as she went back to a more serious tone, "Might as well get the obvious one out of the way... are we married?"
"Unless this isn't your room, I don't remember anyone saying anything about going to Vegas last night, so I'll hazard it and say… no." He snickered at a barely audible jeer he got from her. "Should I be worrying about and/or preparing myself for a shotgun wedding?"
She took her time to respond, "As much as I loathe to admit it, Yes; I'm still a maiden, and you ensured that my chastity was well guarded all night… even from myself." She snickered and poked him in the chest teasingly, "I thought you hated fighting, where did you learn how to fight?"
"Seta-sensei's been drilling me on some Jeet-Kune-Do during our down time at dig sites the past year or so... he says it's good to know a little self defense." As memories from the past night started filtering in, he remembered drinks. Lots of them. "Just how much alcohol did we put away?"
"We barely touched the wine at the soiree, but we really cut loose with the hard liquor at the after party, although we stopped by the time we got to that bar on the Sunset Boulevard..." She trailed off as she fondly remembered how doting and zealous her 'boyfriend' acted all night. "Where did you learn to hold your liquor?"
"I have a friend that's been educating/drinking me under the table the past couple of years." A few stray memories of wild parties at the Hinata Dorm came up, with a certain platinum haired vixen waking up next to him in similar situations to his current.
"What about using that broken pool cue like a makeshift Katana? I didn't know you took up Kendo." Her memory of bar room brawl and how he made sure she came out unharmed became very present and very meaningful.
"I'm not really a student, but I've picked up a few moves." His fond reminiscing led him to remembering a duel or two with a raven haired swords-woman, then he caught himself from proceeding. "Hey! it was my turn to ask a question!"
"Oh, Come on!" she whined cutely as she nuzzled into his shoulder. "You make your time away from me sound so much more interesting and exciting, Archaeologist-san!"
"I'm not gonna give ALL my secrets away, you know..." he said with a wink back at her before deciding addressing one concern he had been nursing since their meet-up with her mother the previous night. "Did you mind me acting like a jealous boyfriend last night?"
"Mind? Silly... I LOVED it!" She snuggled into his chest a little more hiding a deep blush on her cheeks 'It's the little things like this that make me wish you really wanted to be my boyfriend.'
An hour later and after various questions had been answered, the unresolved-slash-ambiguous couple decided to go out on a picnic and enjoy each other's company for what was left of the weekend.
The fact that Keitaro enjoyed himself immensely for the entirety of that afternoon, while relaxing on a hill overlooking the California coastline, somewhat surprised him. He had half-expected his date to be all over him, but she held herself back and was the picture of the perfect girlfriend.
Himawari would never tell him how much she was holding herself back, for that very effect, with results that made her happier than she had felt in a long while as they watched the sun set into the ocean together.
'I guess not all guys like women throwing themselves at them...'
Toward the early evening, as she drove him to his Frat house, she decided to keep their small talk going thus extending those last few moments of their weekend together. She seemed to wait patiently for the right moment, also ensuring most of his frat brothers had seen them arrive and park outside. At the moment he was about to head in for the night, she decided to send her beloved off with a searing kiss good night before driving away with a winning smile, leaving him dumbstruck.
Once the shock wore off, he was assailed by his rowdy frat brothers, pestering him for all juicy gossip about his 'Legendary Weekend Rendezvous with his Girlfriend'. Being the gentleman he was he would, halfheartedly, contest that claim until the end of semester and day he left for his homeland.
All in all it had been a good weekend to be Keitaro Urashima.
Editor's Note: It's good to be the king!