A Pain in the Heart - a Love Hina fanfic
Disclaimer: None of the characters of Love Hina belong to me; they belong to Ken Akamatsu. This is a work of fanfiction.
It was a bright winter's day at the Hinatasou. A new coating of snow covered the ground, and the sun was glinting off of it cheerfully. Shinobu Maehara was standing out on the deck, hanging laundry to dry in the sunlight. She whistled softly while she worked, happy that it was just warm enough so the wet clothes wouldn't freeze when she hung them. She patted a wrinkle out of one of Keitaro's shirts before she hung it carefully on the line.
"Wai! Narusegawa! I didn't mean to, I promise!" Keitaro came running out onto the deck, with Naru in hot pursuit. "I didn't know you were there! I mean it!"
"BAKA!" Naru screamed. She was dressed in only a towel, indicating that the scene of Keitaro's crime had probably been the hot spring. "CHIKAN!" She picked up a nearby hachiue and hurling it at him. He dodged it skillfully; he'd been putting up with this for three years, after all.
Shinobu sighed. She'd just about had enough of this. She watched the two of them, chaser and chased, running back and forth across the deck, like she had so many other mornings. She hadn't stopped them before, so why was she so eager to do so now? She was just sick of it; she liked Keitaro-senpai more than she'd ever liked any other boy, but Keitaro liked Naru-senpai. It was obvious that Naru liked Keitaro, too, so why wouldn't she show it? What was so wrong with loving the person you loved?
"STOP IT!" Shinobu shouted finally, her small voice louder than either Keitaro or Naru had ever heard it. The small girl held her hands clasped in front of her, worried. Naru and Keitaro just stared at her, frozen in the midst of their pursuit.
"Stop it," Shinobu repeated, in a smaller voice. "Don't you realize how silly this is? You're chasing each other around like you're still ronin. You're at Toudai now. Shouldn't you have more respect for each other?" She felt tears in her eyes, and she ran from the laundry and into the Hinatasou to her room.
Keitaro and Naru looked at each other. "Someone should go check on her," Keitaro began.
"I'll go," Naru said quickly, already beginning to walk inside.
"No, Narusegawa," Keitaro interrupted, putting his hand on her shoulder to stop her. "Let me." He walked past her, ignoring the scowl on her face, and headed up to Shinobu's room.
The door was closed when he got there. He knocked softly. "Shinobu-chan?" he called, not even sure if she would let him in. To his surprise, the door creaked open when he knocked, allowing him to see inside. Shinobu was sitting on her bed with a rather large stuffed Liddo-kun that Keitaro had won for her at a fair. She was hugging it furiously, tears running down her face. She looked up and saw him there and hid her face in the stuffed toy, embarrassed to be seen this way.
"What's wrong, Shinobu-chan?" Keitaro didn't even think about waiting for permission to come in; he just headed right over to the bed and sat next to her. Knowing Shinobu, she wouldn't really mind. "You know Narusegawa and I fight all the time. I would think you'd be used to it by now."
Shinobu looked up at him, tears glistening in her eyes. "But I'm not, Keitaro-senpai," she said, a hint of anger in her voice. "You love Naru-senpai, don't you?"
Keitaro blinked, surprised at how forward she was being. "Ano.. I suppose so, Shinobu-chan."
"And she loves you," Shinobu pressed, looked up at him eagerly.
He shrugged. "I guess so. You never can tell with Narusegawa."
Shinobu was silent for a moment. "Does it hurt when she's mean to you, senpai?"
Keitaro scratched the back of his head. "Well, she does punch really hard," he replied, not understanding Shinobu's meaning.
She smiled softly. "No, I mean.." She paused. How could she explain it so she knew he would understand. Finally she pushed Liddo-kun aside and moved a little closer to Keitaro. "Does it hurt here?" She pressed a small hand to his chest, over his heart.
He blinked at her gesture, then looked at her with a somewhat awed expression. "Hai, Shinobu-chan," he finally said quietly, looking down at her hand.
She removed her hand from his chest, putting it back in her lap. "It hurts me there, too," she said. "It hurts me when Naru-senpai hurts you. Because.. because I lo-" She stopped short. "I care about you, senpai," she finished instead.
Keitaro tilted his head to look at her face. Comprehension finally dawned on him. "You love me, Shinobu?" he said quietly, using her name without the endearing childish suffix for the first time since they had met.
She blushed and turned away, but nodded just the same.
He reached out impulsively and put his hand over hers. "I love Narusegawa, Shinobu," he admitted. He felt her tense up and hurried forward. "But I don't love her the same way I used to. You're right, Shinobu. It's silly to love someone but treat him like dirt at the same time." He paused for a moment. "I'm fed up with Narusegawa, too. I can't be with someone who still, after three years, won't even admit that she loves me for a period of time that's more than five days." He scowled. "Maybe she really does love me and just doesn't know how to show it. But.." He leaned over and looked into her violet eyes. "I need to be with someone who knows how to show it, Shinobu."
Her eyes widened. "You don't mean..?"
"I'd like to take you out sometime, Shinobu," Keitaro said quietly, as if afraid the others would hear. It wasn't that he was embarrassed, but that he wanted this moment to be just between the two of them. "Just you and me. Do you want to?"
Shinobu's face had a look that resembled that of a deer in headlights. "But.. Naru-senpai.."
"Forget about Narusegawa," Keitaro said, making a gesture with his hand as if to indicate just how little she mattered. "It's been over between us for a long time, Shinobu."
She bit her lip, then looked up at him. "Okay."
He smiled and stood up. "I'll take you out tomorrow night, Shinobu-chan," he said, slipping back into the old standard suffix. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. "Don't worry, I'll take care of the laundry." He headed out and closed the door behind him.
Shinobu sat on her bed quietly for a few minutes, blinking. She absently reached out and grabbed Liddo-kun, putting him back in her lap. Then the whole of the situation finally hit her, and she gave Liddo-kun an excited squeeze as she fell back onto the bed. "Sugoi," she breathed, a smile spreading across her small lips.