Underneath her hand lay soft, dark fur.
At her careful ministrations, Noel purred. The sound a low, continuous vibration of contentment. She lay burrowed in Haruhi's lap, the loose v-shaped curve of the girl's body the perfect support.
Soft fabric tumbled over her shoulders. A blanket. Weighted, warm, with a luxurious feel that was undeniably expensive. Baby blue, light and pure, reminiscent of the sweet tinkling of bells. It was clean, carrying that vague scent of freshly laundered clothes.
It was heavenly.
A gentle rap of knuckles against the door had her head whipping around.
Her hand stilled.
A pause, suspended in the space of two heartbeats, but felt more like an eternity.
With the self same difficulty that attempting to run through a swimming pool posed, she forced her mouth to cooperate. "Come in." The words struggled out, the air turned treacle, unforgiving and apparently unyielding to her efforts. Mentally, she threw out every curse in her vocabulary, including a few she made up on the spot. Considering how extensive said vocabulary was, this took quite some time.
Firmer this time.
"It's not locked!" She called out, almost proud at how steady her voice was.
"It's also not open." Low, like the sound of waves against the shore, receding and breaching in a rhythmic push-pull of wills.
Absently stroking a soft ear, Haruhi felt herself smile. It was more of a subtle twitch of her lips, but it was a start, at least. "You can come in."
Permission fully granted, Mori entered the room, all long legs and effortless grace.
"Dinner is ready." Unlike Tamaki, he didn't approach her like a wild animal. Nor did he make any deliberate attempts to tone down his behaviour, avoiding sudden attacks of physical contact like the twins had. Nor did she avoid her completely, a tactic that Honey was apparently utilising to his full extent. He'd throw her smiles and waves and positive energy, but remained an arm's length away, both physically and metaphorically. Instead, Mori crossed the space with the same loping ease as usual, his very presence oozing serenity.
Mori had settled on that very nice balance of acknowledging that she was rather more sensitive than normal, and had adjusted himself in a way that wasn't overwhelming. In a way that didn't make her feel as though she were broken.
She mumbled an acknowledgement, focus captured by the shifting of the kitten, who had scrambled steadily up to greet Mori, little paws braced against her knee.
The tall boy situated himself on the floor, gangly legs crossed beneath him, a hand offered towards Noel. Quickly enough, a calloused hand was extracting an eager purr, long fingers scratching in all the right places.
"Where's Kyoya-senpai?" She ventured, after a long moment.
Dark eyes raised, knowing, and yet still filled with much needed reassurance. "Downstairs. With his father."
"Ah." She said.
"Tamaki and Mitsukuni are with them."
Haruhi nodded noncommittally, finger brushing underneath Noel's chin.
"The twins have been confined."
Honestly, the fact that she remained completely unfazed by this news was testament to the usual shenanigans that her dumbass friends instigated on a semi-regular basis.
A silence reigned, during which Noel almost killed herself trying to step directly off Haruhi's lap and into Mori's, despite the significant height difference between the two. Only the boy's quick reaction saved the feline from an untimely end, even if Haruhi did experience a short heart attack from the near-miss.
With the rambunctious kitten safely caged in his lap, Mori glanced at her, head tilted ever so slightly. His face was all soft lines and deep understanding, observing her with the utmost care.
Slowly, he retrieved a small bottle from his pocket, and presented it to her.
"It's lavender." He explained, as she twisted it this way and that, all innocently curious."It'll help you sleep."
A hesitant smile emerged, warm, yet with that tentative edge of fear. Of not wanting to hope. "Thank you, Senpai."
He nodded, evidently pleased.
Outside, a bird called, melodic and sweet.
"I can bring you your food."
A gentle offer, concealed within a statement.
Haruhi considered him for a moment, before slowly shaking her head. "I'll be fine. I'd like to eat with everyone else."
A second nod, a quirk of his lips, and a strong hand finding her head. Hair tousled and mussed fondly, the worried creases around his eyes had completely vanished.
She stared up at the ceiling, unblinking.
The ceiling stared back.
For a moment, she debated the logistics of that, before abandoning it altogether.
The pressure behind her eyes seemed to magnify, a throbbing ache which seemed to reverberate around her skull, dinging from corner to corner like some shitty windows screensaver of pain. Sighing, Haruhi dug the heels of her palm against the sockets, in a desperate attempt to alleviate the pressure.
Aggravated, she huffed, and rolled onto her stomach.
Her face ended up smushed rather uncomfortably into the literal mountain of pillows piled up at the head of the bed. Funnily enough, she ended that self inflicted suffocation rather quickly, feet kicking out at the mattress with a frustrated whine.
Chest heaving, gaze turned upwards once more, she forced her eyes closed.
Forced herself still.
Remained there, for who knows how long, until she couldn't bear to any longer.
Her mind continued to race, unprompted.
Flashed to hands and teeth and a mouth against her skin.
To warm arms and safety, and her father humming in her ear.
To the glances, awkward, charged. The deliberate silence at dinner. The way everything was carefully avoided, the big elephant in the room wrapped up with a fat bow of bullshit, as though by refusing to talk about the situation, it would cease to exist.
But it did exist.
No amount of denial could change that, could change the bruises on her wrist, her throat, the soreness of her ankle, all wrapped up to heal.
It existed in Kyoya's tired eyes. In the way he could barely stomach any solid food, skin so ashen that nobody had the heart to try coaxing him into a bite.
In the strange tension she couldn't quite put her finger on, one that pulled taunt around her heart and squeezed, leaving her unsettled and vaguely breathless, a kind of sharpness to words and expressions that had her feeling like she'd walked into a movie halfway through and was struggling to piece together the plot.
In the way the others would laugh and joke and create noise, all restrained and awkward angles, sounding stiff and forced and faked in a way that reeked of desperation. A pass at normality, when nothing about this was normal. When normal was something she wouldn't be able to have again for a very long time.
Things were moving, crawling by.
The process was slow, painstakingly so.
But it was over.
Because Kyoya promised it was over, he promised, and she didn't quite know how she'd handle it if it wasn't.
There would be a trial. There had to be a trial. And it would be hard. So, so hard, but she would do it. Kyoya would do it. And the others would, too. Because they needed to. Because once they did, it could be over. Over for good and not just as a whispered concept- an imagined fantasy for two lost, hurting kids.
In and out.
In and out.
It was too tight, so much more difficult than it should be. Each breathe caught somewhere high in her chest, burning.
Limbs heavy, mind screaming, trapped, clawing, so, so desperate and utterly unable to just stopstopstop.
Her hand groped in the darkness for her phone, the sudden onslaught of light almost searing off her retinas.
Haruhi: Are you still awake?
It was late. Far too late, and he was probably asleep.
She wanted him to be asleep, because he needed it.
Needed it so badly.
But a selfish part of her wanted him to be awake, because she didn't want to be alone, and he was the only one she really wanted right now.
She fought back a smile, feeling the hard weight on her chest soften.
Her gut twisted, knotting and tearing and pulling because how dare she be happy about that.
Kyoya: Can't sleep?
Haruhi: Sleep isn't real. They've been lying to us. Don't fall for their mindgames, Kyoya.
A long moment, in which she figured Kyoya was either completely baffled, or more amused than he wanted her to know.
Kyoya: I'll take that as a yes.
Kyoya: Put on something warm. I'll meet you in five minutes.
Considering she had nothing better to do than engage in some truly riveting eyesex with the ceiling, Haruhi threw on a sweater that was entirely too big for her, and definitely belonged to Kyoya.
She spared a moment to splash her face with some cold water, hoping she didn't look as terrible as she felt, before making her way into the corridor, guided by the aid of her phone's flashlight.
Kyoya was already outside, also clad in a sweater, and some flannel pyjama bottoms. Foot propped casually against the wall behind him, one lazy hand raised to protect his eyes from the glare. He too looked like death warmed over, but managed a little smile when he was no longer being blinded.
He led her through the darkened halls fearlessly, fingers loosely tangled with hers.
The balcony they arrived at was large, adorned with plants sprawling from their pots and cosy chairs, set high enough that the backdrop of the Ootori's vast land was a mere sea of inky blackness.
Above, the sky was clear, and the stars were cupped in her hands. The moonlight cast a halo around the boy, smoothing his features, a subtle melody lost in the gentle breeze.
They curled up together on a chair slightly too small for the two of them, a throw blanket Kyoya had salvaged tucked around their shoulders. The ambience of night surrounded them, the whisper of wind between every branch, twig and blade of grass. The soft shuffle of birds, the sound of their breathing.
Haruhi sighed, allowed her head to roll against his shoulder, face almost pressed against his neck. "I'm so tired." She whispered, and even to her, her voice sounded completely broken.
He shifted, allowing her better access to melt against his side. Long fingers found her head, and began threading themselves through her hair.
Kyoya said nothing.
He didn't need to.
The promise of safety, of protection, the achingly fond way he soothed her- it was enough.
When he finally did speak, he talked about the stars. He hated the stars on principle, hated anything that he deemed too vast, too uncontrollable. But for Fuyumi, he would spin tragic tales and facts with grace that glittered in the space between them. For her, he waxed poetry, voice like the sunrise and sunset rolled into one. They rearranged themselves in the sky, stardust coating every precious word, glowing with such warmth that she felt it fill her up from the inside out.
Eventually, her eyelids grew heavy.
She felt herself sagging into him more, felt the way he adjusted her weight and helped her settle, so utterly gentle.
With the backdrop of his soft murmuring, she finally succumbed to sleep.
And not one nightmare plagued her dreams.
A/N: Baby chapter today, I've been kinda losing steam lately- harder to get back into the swing of things than I thought.
Question for the readers: I've been thinking of re-doing this fic from the very beginning. When I started posting chapters I didn't have a completely solid idea of what I wanted, and so the flow feels choppy and awkward to me. Would that be something you guys would want?
The re-write would enable me to fix the little plot holes and edit the unnecessary details, as well as giving more focus to the more neglected characters. Any scenes removed would be re-written and uploaded in a separate fic for moments that I wanted to include, but would otherwise clutter the story.