Subject: [FFML] [Fanfic] [Love Hina] Divided Attentions, Chapter Two
From: "Ben Jernigan" <selfemployedninja@gmail.com>
Date: 12/4/2006, 1:28 AM
To: ffml@anifics.com

Divided Attentions
A Love Hina fanfic
By Exar
__________________________________________
Love Hina belongs to Ken Akamatsu, not me. I'm just
playing around with his characters a bit. I promise
I'll take care of them and put them back when I'm
done.
__________________________________________

Chapter Two
__________________________________________

Keitaro's heart shattered like glass. Tears burst
from his eyes as he stared at his teacher and his
former love.

"I don't understand," the Todai student whispered.
He fell to his knees, the broom clattering to the
ground beside him.

"Naru, why? I thought you gave up on Seta a long
time ago. I thought you liked me?"

Naru looked ready to start crying herself, and
Seta slipped an arm around her waist in silent
support.

"I thought I did, Keitaro. For a while, I might have
for real. But it was just a shadow of what I felt for
Seta. He's the measure I've been judging men by since
middle school. You..."

The brunette paused, her throat thick with emotion,
then continued. "You were just the man who came closest
to being my Seta. I'm so sorry, Keitaro."

Su and Sara stood off to the side, completely
overwhelmed by the drama playing out before them.
Uncharacteristically, they stood silent, watching.

Keitaro sniffled quietly and Naru stepped out of Seta's
embrace. She walked forward and wrapped her arms around
Keitaro's shoulders. He clutched at her like a drowning
man at a lifeline and started sobbing loudly.

The other residents came outside, drawn by the strange
noises and Sara's cry. They stood shocked at the sight
of Keitaro's breakdown and Naru comforting him physically.

Kitsune said, "What the hell is going on, Seta?"

The Todai teacher scratched the back of his head and
looked sheepish.

"We'll explain more in time, but the short version is that
Naru and I found we had more in common than we thought,
and we're kind of dating now. The part-timer, no, Keitaro
is taking about as hard as we were afraid of."

Kitsune's face fell at the word 'dating'. She'd never
even told Seta how she felt! Even though she held her
peace for Naru's sake, it was still hard to swallow. Feeling
guilty for her selfishness, Kitsune looked to Keitaro, still
sitting on the hard ground, crying. He seemed to be winding
down, having downgraded from his deep, gutteral sobs to a
more refined sniffling.

Shinobu ran up and all but shoved Naru off of Keitaro. She
threw her arms around the manager and held on for dear life,
stroking his hair and whispering soothing words. Naru stepped
back, the first beginnings of anger on her face, before she
seemed to remember herself and her features drooped with
grief. She walked back to Seta and leaned into his shoulder.
He wrapped one arm around her again.

Motoko strode towards Seta and Naru, clearly pretending not
to notice the display of weakness going on beside her. She
schooled her expression to one of neutrality and asked,
"Would you like to come in and have some tea. Perhaps we
could talk more openly in more comfortable environs. I'm
sure all of us have questions."

Seta frowned. "Actually, Motoko, I'm not so sure that's a
good idea. I think it would be better if we gave Keitaro a
little space and some time to come to grips with things. He
might have a hard time doing so with us here. We'll head to
my apartment in the city, and come back tomorrow. Sara, do
you want to stay here, or come home with Naru and I?"

Sara piped up, "I wanna go with you Poppa, I've missed you!"

Su could tell that the other girl's voice was a bit subdued.
She did like Keitaro, after all, and it was hard seeing him
hurt this bad.

Sara turned to Su. "Su, you wanna come stay at my house? I
have a lot of toys there we've never played with."

Su favored her friend with a thin smile while Kitsune
groaned and thought to herself, 'Yep, definitely Seta's kid.'

"I don't think so, Sara. I feel like staying here now.
Keitaro's my friend. I should be here." With that, she vaulted
over the other girls and joined Shinobu in holding the weeping
manager, though in her own inimitable manner.

Motoko cleared her throat and said, "You may be right, Seta.
In that case, be safe in your travels. You too, Narusegawa."

Naru's eyes narrowed. Motoko only called her that when she
was EXTREMELY displeased with her. Why did the Kendo girl care
so much about Keitaro?

Keitaro finally stopped crying and climbed to his feet,
flashing a sickly but still grateful smile at Shinobu and Su.

"Naru, I still don't understand how this happened, but I
suppose if you are certain you want this, I can try to be
happy for you."

Kitsune's eyes just about popped out of her head. The former
ronin was always incredibly forgiving, but this? And so soon?
'Naru, you idiot,' she thought. 'Keitaro is such a good guy,
how could you do this to him?

Naru was silent for a long moment, fresh tears running down
her face.

"Keitaro, I'm so very, very sorry. But yes, this is what I
want. What I have wanted for years. I didn't want to hurt
you like this, but I had to follow my heart. I had to..."

She trailed off, sobbing quietly, then tore herself free
from Seta's arm and ran down the stairs.

Seta scooped up Sara, then paused for a moment. He looked
Keitaro dead in the eye and said, "Sorry's not a big enough
word, part-timer. I just hope you can forgive me someday.
I give you my word, though. I will take care of her and
love her."

Keitaro and Kitsune both snapped at him, "You better!"

Seta rushed down the steps, carrying his daughter, their
angry remark nipping at his heels.
__________________________________________

Seta and Naru piled out of Seta's van, blood dripping slowly
down the teacher's forehead. Sara leaped out, catching Naru's
head with her shoe on the way. Blood began running down Naru's
forehead as well, making the couple sanguine twins. Naru took
Seta's hand and they walked together into the building, up half
a dozen flights of stairs and finally reached his tiny apartment.

Inside was a desk covered in papers, a small couch, a kotatsu
and a tiny tv. There was a bookshelf full of archeology books
and speculative histories of the Turtle Empire. A goodly amount
of cupboards adorned the walls. All in all, it was a fairly
average Tokyo apartment.

They walked in and Naru collapsed onto the couch. Sara dashed
past and ran to a corner cupboard where she pulled out a set of
building blocks which she promptly began playing with. Seta
walked into the small kitchen and turned the fridge back on, a
gentle hum filling the silence of the apartment. It gurgled a
few times as the pump started up, then quieted down.

He took off his coat and hung it up. "There's no food here. I
clean out the cupboards when I'm going out on a dig. We'll have
to eat out or order in tonight."

Naru grunted noncommittally and Seta set about puttering, dusting
various objects, tidying up his desk and putting a pot of tea on.

After about 10 minutes of quiet, Naru said in a near whisper, "How
could we have screwed that up so bad, Seta?" She choked up, tears
welling up in her eyes. "There must have been a thousand ways we
could have told him that would have been less painful. We didn't
even try to soften the blow, we just ripped his heart out."

Seta sat down beside her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder.
She crumpled into his body, molding herself to him and burying her
face in his shoulder.

"We couldn't have know he was standing out front like that. Naru,
Princess, if we had, we could have stopped holding hands and tried
to break it to him gently, in private like we meant to. But since
he saw us together like that, we didn't have a lot of choice."

Naru's voice was muffled by his shirt as she said, "I know, but I
still didn't want to hurt him like that."

Seta stroked her back soothingly. "I know, Love. And he will
realize that in time. What's done is done. We can't change the
way things happened, no matter how much we may wish to. We just
have to do what we can in the future to minimize the hurt we do
to him."

He wrapped his arms around her middle and held her close. "Honestly,
there's some benefit to the way it went. if nothing else, it was
quick and decisive. He won't spend days wondering if you might
change your mind, or uncertain how you feel. He knows the truth,
and can only grow from accepting it."

"I don't know. He looked so... so broken."

Seta lightly grasped Naru's chin in his hand, and lifted her head
so she was looking him in the eye. "You know Keitaro, sweetie. He's
tough. Bends but never breaks. He'll be fine."

He leaned down and gave her a brief kiss. She put her head back
on his shoulder, seeking comfort and strength, but inside, she was
slightly discomfited by Seta's cavalier attitude toward Keitaro's
feelings.
__________________________________________

The residents of Hinata house attempted to continue their normal
patterns, but it was hard. They all felt varying degrees of
betrayal and hurt, and they all wanted very badly to comfort
their beleaguered manager. But after the initial comfort that
Shinobu and Su gave him, he ceased being receptive to it, or even
really cognizant that it was being offered. He simply sat on the
couch in the main hall with a terribly blank look on his face.
Kitsune worried that the young man was catatonic.

Shinobu tried to make tea for him, and later coerce him into
coming to dinner, but he mostly ignored her, too caught up in
his internal struggle. He belatedly drank the tea that was left
in front of him, but it was nearly cold by then. He didn't really
seem to notice. Su took up position on the couch opposite him,
aiming a handful of scanners at him. She claimed she was gathering
scientific data on Keitaros, but the other girls saw her totally
ignoring her instruments frequently in favor of staring at Keitaro
with a worried expression.

Kitsune was notably absent, and Motoko assumed that she was out
seeking answers in the bottom of a glass. The kendoka thought
disapproving thoughts until she remembered what she had done for
the last hour. High speed kendo kata on the laundry deck. Everyone
has their own way of coping.

Finally, late in the evening, Keitaro roused himself from his
stupor.

He found Shinobu in the kitchen, washing the last of the dishes. Her
eyes widened in surprise when he walked in, and she rushed to him,
enveloping him in a spine-crushing hug with a squealed "Sempai!"

He smiled at her and said, "Shinobu, thanks. I needed that."

She looked up at him with watery eyes and a big smile. "Anytime,
sempai. I'm so glad you're okay."

He grimaced. "Okay is probably a strong word right now, but I'm
getting there, Shinobu. Thanks for caring."

His stomach growled. 'You have any dinner left over?"

She grinned and said, "Of course! Just have a seat and I'll bring
it out to you."

He tore through the reheated dinner she served him, thanked her
and went to his room. He grabbed a coat and his wallet, then
walked out to the foyer. Keitaro saw Su asleep on one of the couches,
and threw a blanket around her shoulders.

He saw Motoko walking by on the level above, and called out to her
quietly, "I'm going out Motoko, in case anyone asks."

She smiled to see him up and around again. She nodded and said, "Very
well, Urashima. Please come back this time."

He nodded in return. "Of course, Motoko. I may stay out a bit late,
but I will be back. I'm not running this time."

The kendoka continued on her path with a parting, "Be safe," and
Keitaro went out, shutting the door behind him.
__________________________________________

Keitaro wasn't normally all that much of a drinker. Sure, he had
his share at parties and holidays, but by and large he avoided
fermented drink, as it made him even clumsier than usual. But
damn it, the occasion seemed to merit it. No, demand it!

So he found himself at a reasonably nice bar in the hot springs
district of Hinata. It wasn't as seedy as the places he'd gone
with Kitsune when she was buying, or as nice as the places she'd
taken him to when he was buying, but somewhere in the middle.

He was nursing his fourth gin and tonic, feeling low and listening
to the radio in the bar. He almost spit out his drink when he heard
Naru's voice come over the radio. It was her single, from her brief
career as an idol singer. He broke into tears, salty drops falling
into his drink. Suddenly he heard a familiar voice shout out, "Turn
that shit off!" He looked up to see Kitsune storming up to the bar
and leaning over it, trying to reach the stereo controls.

The bartender came over and pushed Kitsune away from the controls,
but switched the station anyway. Keitaro let out a relieved sigh
and finished his drink.

He had only just put down the glass when the cocktail waitress
came to his table.

"Can I get you a refill, sweetie? You look like you've had a rough
day."

"Sakura, you have no idea. Good to see ya here, sugar."

Kitsune sat down and slapped a bill into the waitress' hand. "Give
him another of whatever he's been drinking, and a Tokyo Tea for me."

Sakura smiled and said, "Oh, a friend of yours Mitsune? I hope you
feel better, you're too cute to wear that sad face all the time." With
a smile and a swirl of ruffled miniskirt, she was off to fetch their
drinks.

Kitsune smirked and prodded Keitaro's shoulder. "Man, Keitaro, you
sure are a fast mover. Got her eating out of the palm of your hand
already."

The manager of Hinata House lifted his head and looked at Kitsune, a
tiny smile twitching the corners of his mouth.

"I appreciate what you are trying to do, Kitsune, but I'm really not
up for it tonight."

She pouted, but relented. he reached across the table and squeezed her
hand.

"Thanks, Kitsune," he said in a quiet voice. She had to strain to hear
him over the hustle and bustle of the bar. "Whatever for, sugar?"

"Just being here. Caring a little." He smirked, "Getting them to turn
off that song."

She gave him a big, heartfelt smile. "Anytime, Keitaro. I gotta look
out for my friends, right? Don't have that many to go 'round."

Her smile wavered at the end of her statement, but she held it
regardless.

Keitaro looked deep into her eyes, what little he could see of them
through her slitted eyelids, anyway. He stared for a moment, then drew
breath slowly.

"Are you very mad at Naru?" He asked, giving her hand a slight squeeze.

She flipped her hand over to lace her fingers among his.

"Some. I had feelings for Seta too, even though I stepped aside for her.
But I'm really mad about the ruthless way they told you. They didn't
have to hurt you that bad, and right out in front of everyone? That's
cold."

"Naru's always been pretty cold to me. Maybe it's what I deserve,
being such a loser."

Kitsune's hand clenched Keitaro's tightly, her fingernails digging
into the back of his hand.

"Don't you say that. Keitaro! Don't you ever say you deserve to be
treated like that, or call yourself a loser. You got me, Urashima?"

"But why not? I've never had a real girlfriend, I'm a 22 year old
virgin, I failed the Todai entrance exams for 3 years, and I have
pretty minimal skills. No redeeming qualities at all."

An angry cast came over Kitsune's features.

"Keitaro, if you don't stop saying such mean things about yourself,
I'm going to hit you harder than Naru and Motoko combined. No one
gets to say bad things about my friends. Not even them, sugar."

She reached out with her other hand and stroked his cheek.

"You're the nicest man I've ever met, Keitaro. You help people who
need it without complaint or even asking what's in it for you. You're
kind, and support us when we need it. You've made all of our lives
better at Hinata House. And as far as girls go, you're cute. That
waitress wasn't just trying for a better tip. You're a Todai student,
and what's more you had to work harder at it than most, but you did
it. There's a lot of girls out there for you, trust me, okay?"

Fresh tears welled up from the corner of his eyes, and he took
Kitsune's hand in both of his.

"You, you really think that of me?"

"Yes, Keitaro. I do, and so do the rest of the residents at Hinata
House. Trust me."

The waitress chose that moment to return with their drinks. Keitaro
silently mouthed 'Thank you.' to Kitsune. She just smiled and yelled,
"Kanpai!"
__________________________________________

Keitaro stumbled up the stairs to Hinata House, weighted down by an
undisclosed number of kilograms of ash blonde woman.

Kitsune was singing something off-key which seemed to only have a few
words, but she was belting those words out with volume and panache.

"Relax, JUST DO IT, Relax, JUST DO IT!"

Keitaro thought he recognized the phrase from a shoe commercial, but
wasn't certain he'd ever heard that jingle before. He managed to get
to the top step with Kitsune draped halfway across his shoulders. He
could feel her considerable assets rubbing against his back and side,
but was too drunk and tired to get really flustered about it.

He levered the door open and slipped inside. He grinned when he saw
Su still asleep on the couch and did his best to shush Kitsune. She
continued singing in a stage whisper that, while quieter, made
Keitaro glad that Su was a sound sleeper.

He wrestled her up the stairs and to her room. He had mostly got her
arranged on her futon and had decided to leave her totally clothed.
Any minor discomfort she may experience from sleeping in clothes
would be preferable to the merciless teasing he would get for disrobing
her.

He was just reaching down to pull her blanket over her when Kitsune
whipped her arm out, grabbing his shoulder. In a very smoky voice
while her eyes were locked with his, she sang out, "When you wanna
come..." Roughly, she pulled him close and mashed her lips into
his. Keitaro hadn't had too many kisses to compare it to, but he was
fairly sure this wasn't Kitsune at her best. It was sloppy, and she
was slobbering on him a bit. She tried to poke her tongue into his
mouth, but her kept his lips pressed together. He reciprocated the
kiss, but only just.

Finally, she broke the kiss and glared at him. "Whass the matter,
Keitarooo? Don't you like me? Aren't I pretty enough?"

He smiled sadly and said, "I like you just fine, Kitsune. And you
are very pretty. And I'm flattered. But you are also drunk. Very
drunk. And even if you were sober, I don't think I could do this
tonight. I still love Naru. It wouldn't be fair to you."

He leaned down and wiped off Kitsune's lips and chin, then gently
kissed her. It was sweet and light and made her toes tingle.

She bobbed her head drunkenly at him, trapping him with her gaze.
"Why are you so nice to me Keitaro?" She said in a small voice.

Without hesitation, he answered, "Because you're my friend. I
gotta look out for my friends, right?"

She gave him a fierce hug, then let go and laid down. "Good night,
Kei? Can I call you that?"

He stroked her shoulder calmly, and said, "Sure, but only if I can
call you Kit."

Sleepily, she said, "I liiike iiiitt, Keeei. I liiiike."

Very shortly, she was letting out tiny snores.

The manager got up and let himself out, before going to his room
and passing out himself.
__________________________________________

To Be Continued!
__________________________________________



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