Title: Ouran Academy Guest Lecturers Series- Entertainment Business Practices and Talent Management (Takarada Lory)
Universe: Ouran/Skip Beat
Character/Pairing/s: Host Club, Takarada (appearances by Yashiro and Ren )
Warnings/Spoilers: None I can imagine.
Word Count: 6,500
Summary: (Ouran/Skip Beat crossover) Fifth part in the series- L.M.E.'s esteemed president Takarada Lory-san is invited to give a ten lecture series on the day to day business of being a leader in the entertainment industry. As expected, he makes a production out of it.
Dedication: Ann- Thank you for all the things I may have forgotten to thank you for.
A/N: I always wanted to do a fifth part to this but got stuck on a lot of possibilities as to who the fifth lecturer would be. In some incarnations it was Yumichika (Bleach) and in others it was Yuuko (Holic), but when I got into Skip Beat somehow this just felt all the more natural. Until I actually got down to writing it, anyway. This was totally supposed to be much more fun than it turned out.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.
The first time that Takarada Lory-san visits Ouran Academy's hallowed halls is also the first time in the school's proud history that a shower of rose petals rains down upon the grounds without having the express permission or direction of a member of the Host Club (specifically Kyouya) beforehand.
There is also a parade of elephants, fire eaters, Mardi Gras acrobats, and what Kyouya can only assume are Appalachian cloggers to follow immediately after said shower of rose petals, but that is neither here nor there, because what truly matters is the fact that Kyouya is subsequently forced to make an emergency change of theme in today's host club décor and—more importantly— go over his daily budget allotment as he grudgingly phones all of the local (upscale) florists. From them he orders fifty kilograms of white sakura petals to blow through the air of the third music room instead this afternoon, and has the rose petals he'd prepared earlier taken back and put on ice in the event that they can be used at a later date for something else. Perhaps tea.
It's a bothersome task really, but as a businessman Kyouya also knows that the Host Club simply cannot afford to be upstaged by another party, even if that party is the academy's next esteemed—and famously flamboyant— guest lecturer. To be seen as behind the times or worse, as copycats (even accidental ones) would be a heavy blow to the Host Club's prestige (as well as Kyouya's pride) and thus cannot be allowed happen, regardless of the cost or the trouble.
As such, Kyouya quietly does damage control as the festivities continue around him; his order for the sakura petals to be flown in by Ootori company helicopter is confirmed just as Takarada-san's lumbering spectacle finally comes to a sensational musical halt in front of the auditorium's vast stage.
"Hello, my lovelies!" L.M.E.'s enthusiastic president shouts into the microphone as he leaps up to the podium, making a dramatic gesture involving both hands and the artistic bent of one knee. The king's robe he is wearing slides off of his shoulders as he stands again, revealing an exquisitely made costume of full European military-style regalia underneath.
Kyouya's eyebrow twitches marginally when he sees this, as he finds that he has to make yet another phone call before the morning is through.
"Yes," the host club vice-president says a few minutes later, to a very harried professional tailor across town, "it seems that today we will need the Shinsengumi outfits after all. Please have them altered to specification and delivered to us by four o'clock this afternoon."
In the meantime, Tamaki sparkles obliviously in his seat beside the vice-president as Takarada-san finishes his greetings, the blond pulling eagerly on Kyouya's sleeve with all the excitement of a five-year-old child at the circus. "Kyouya," he breathes, eyes huge and excited as he gazes at Takarada-san's magnificent entourage, "can we have a parade of elephants as well? Can we, can we?"
Kyouya adjusts his glasses. "Not for at least ninety days after today," he answers in all seriousness, and makes Tamaki pout.
Kyouya ignores him professionaly; instead he notes in the margin of his ledger that it looks like next Thursday's Carnival theme is out as well.
Tamaki is very moved by Takarada-san's words.
"Love!" the L.M.E. president shouts vehemently into the microphone, while his dancers and his cloggers and his fire eaters dance and clog and fire eat in emphatic agreement in the background. "The entertainment industry is all about love! Passionate, burning, beautiful love, and the way loving and being loved in return changes the very foundations of our psyches!"
He pauses for dramatic effect.
Tamaki applauds wildly.
"The people who find themselves in the spotlight seek love above all else, after all," Takarada-san continues hotly, "and those who watch the people in the spotlight clearly have excess love to give. My job is to bring the two together— those who need and those who have— so that I can create a holy bond; one of the most pure and fulfilling relationships known to man!"
Tamaki has tears in his eyes. "It's true! It's true! I need to be loved!" he sobs beautifully, unconsciously angling— as only the beautiful people can— so that his tears sparkle like diamonds even under the dim auditorium lights.
In the audience, everyone's eyes are immediately drawn to him like this, his own naturally created spotlight. They gasp in adoration. "We love you, Tamaki-sama!" the girls (and some of the guys) all cry in haste, each of them passionately stirred by Tamaki's tragic beauty and the knowledge that they—just as Takarada-san had said—have extra love to give Tamaki, who so very clearly needs every single bit of it he can get.
It is a beautiful moment of unity (or something).
And in the midst of it all, Takarada-san is gone from the podium and instantly at Tamaki's side, appropriately holding his hand. "You," he breathes, looking Tamaki over intensely, "have the aura of someone who truly desires to be loved. A brave young man bearing his heart in the spotlight like this is absolutely breathtaking! A show stopper!"
"Yes," Tamaki agrees, and is deeply moved by the fact that this stranger understands him so well, "I am."
"Someone with your glow deserves to be nothing less," Takarada-san assesses professionally.
Ecstatic, Tamaki turns to Haruhi, who is reading quietly in the seat beside him. "Do you see, Haruhi?" he asks eagerly, happily, "I need to be loved!" His eyes are full of hope and adoration as he says this, clearly waiting for her to agree before warmly jumping into her papa's arms to declare that even if everyone here loves him, she loves him the most.
At the sound of her name, Haruhi blinks up from her book and— in a way that only commoners can— sees nothing under the dim glow of the auditorium lights but Takarada-san on bended knee in front of Tamaki, holding the blond's hand and looking deeply into his eyes.
"Love?" she asks, and absently wonders what she'd missed while she'd been reading. She's so used to tuning out unnecessary fanfare at this point in her life that it comes quite naturally, whether she means to or not.
"Love!" Tamaki echoes again, nodding emphatically at her while squeezing Takarada-san's hand more tightly in his own as in anticipation of her positive (and effusive) answer.
Then, "Well then I'm happy for you, senpai," she decides with a decided lack of effusiveness, and in looking at the two of them, somehow feels like this will be a good match despite the obvious age difference. "Who knew that in this world there was someone else out there exactly like you?"
Then she calmly goes back to reading, while Tamaki turns chalk gray and dissolves into a fine powder of sparkling dust between Takarada-san's white-gloved fingers.
Everyone watching thinks that the way Tamaki-sama does it is also—or rather, can be nothing but— truly beautiful.
"It's a tradition!" the girls tell him after his first lecture, and lead him down the hallways with a decidedly anticipatory air about them. "All of the guest speakers thus far have come to the host club after their lectures to tell us more about themselves and what they do."
"There is also tea and cake!" another girl adds, because that had been all that was necessary to lure Takamiya into the third music room during his term at Ouran.
Like his predecessor, Takarada genially agrees without much of a fight either, even though he instincts are telling him that tea and cake and the ability to hear more about his work is generally not what is driving these girls to pull him along after them; in his experience, all the times he's ever been invited out to a host or hostess club have involved some wacky attempt at recruitment.
None of which have ever gone particularly well either, as he's discovered that the types of gentlemen most often found in host clubs all seem to look like rejects from Johnny's jimusho in that they can't act (like most Johnnies) but at the same time, don't quite have the fresh-faced flawless looks that all true Johnnies have to make their lack of thespian talent almost forgivable to the general public.
But at the same time he can't say that he's not a little bit curious; host clubs are everywhere in the city but it isn't every day that one gets to see what a high school version might look like. Especially in a place as luxurious as Ouran.
As it turns out he isn't disappointed, because once he and the girls enter the doors marked as the third music room a few moments later, there is a burst of fragrant wind and the dramatic swirl of white sakura petals in the air around seven very beautiful people, all of whom are dressed in masterfully tailored Shinsengumi style costumes.
"Welcome," the seven hosts say in tandem, and Takarada recognizes the blond boy from earlier, much recovered from his granular state and now wielding an impressive looking antique sword as he stands at the forefront of the group display, hair suddenly long and tied back as he winks at the young ladies filtering into his domain. "We're here to protect you, princesses," he tells them gallantly, and reaches out with to casually catch one of the white sakura petals between his fingers as it passes in the air in front of him. He brings it to his lips and kisses it before letting it go again. Bows. "So please tell us how we may be of service to you all."
The girls around Takarada all sigh and squeal; one of them tugs on his arm and looks up at him with big, bright eyes. "Takarada-sama," she murmurs, confirming his earlier suspicious, "don't you think all of Japan would love to see men as beautiful as Tamaki-sama and the others on TV all of the time?"
Takarada smiles gently back at her and eventually supposes, as he is led to a table by a lovely young lady who plays a very convincing young man, that maybe the members of this host club have some acting potential after all.
From what Takarada can see as he sits on the couch waiting for afternoon activities in the third music room to begin, Tamaki already has all of the basics down.
The host club president claps his hands over his head decisively as he lines himself and his supporting cast into position in preparation for today's opening scene, the blond in a specially crafted matador's outfit with an appropriately colored rose clutched firmly between his teeth. "Remember everyone!" he declares, with surprising clarity despite the stem in his mouth (Takarada can only assume practice got him there), "Today, we are matadors of love!"
"Does this," the twins begin, after a beat, "mean that tono is calling the guests bulls?" They pause for effect eyes glimmering. "Shocking!"
Tamaki, somehow nonplussed by the twins' willful attempt to destroy his conceptual image (or simply not noticing it), strikes what looks to be more a Flamenco pose than a bull fighting one. "Yes!" he replies hotly, clearly still at the apex of his creative zone, "they are the most beautiful, challenging bulls we have ever seen! Our job is to mesmerize them, to stir their powerful hearts into frenzy until they come charging into our arms!"
"Does he know," Haruhi asks Kyouya in the background, "that they kill the bull afterwards?"
Kyouya adjusts his glasses and calmly hands her a red rose. "Then please think of the bulls as the guests' wallets," he tells her in cooperative addendum to his president, before moving to the back of the formation with his blue rose and dutifully letting Tamaki line him up as only the cool character can line up, with his back facing the front doors and his face in slightly shaded profile.
The twins apparently do know about that little tradition, and have no qualms about being vocal about it. "Right in the heart," they state, tsking, "Tono wants us to stab them right in the heart."
Tamaki simply flutters when he hears, and Takarada-san thinks that no matter what is being said by whom, he is determined to see his vision come to fruition today. "Indeed! Pierce their hearts with your loving gazes, my matadors of love!" he agrees happily, and poses Mori with his hand in the front of his shirt, looking straight ahead with those unwavering eyes. Honey stands at his feet, wrapped up cutely in shimmering red cloth and almost—but somehow not quite—looking out of place as he smiles.
"Good, good, very good!" Tamaki coos in English once everyone is in place, twins back to back front and left of center. He takes up his position at the very center—rose still professionally clutched between his teeth— just as the bells chime to signal the start of afternoon activities and the doors burst open with a flood of girls in delicate canary yellow.
And the minute those girls see the solid gazes of the host club members in their matador's costumes, looking at each and every one of them with eyes that succeed in piercing them straight into their very hearts the freeze, mesmerized just as Tamaki had imagined.
"Welcome," the host club members declare in tandem, amidst a strategically timed breeze that sends their hair and capes fluttering in a picture perfect manner.
Several girls instantly fall to their knees. Pierced through the heart.
Tamaki is naturally ecstatic at how precisely his vision had played out today; he flutters around the room happily afterwards, showing off his costume to the guests and declaring that beautiful visions as imagined by beautiful people are the most perfect things in this world.
"Hmmm, how would you ladies like to be rescued by firemen tomorrow?" he poses, imagination already in full gear for next time, and most likely the time after that, and the time after that as well.
The girls as it is, are all for it.
In the meantime Takarada simply laughs to himself from where he is watching on the couch and thinks that more than just having all of his showmanship basics down, perhaps someone like Suoh Tamaki might just have the gift after all.
Because in all his years in his line of work, Takarada has discovered that the most important thing about being—and staying— a leader in the entertainment industry is something that goes beyond mere imagination, that goes beyond simple vision and execution and determination.
It means finding a way to never grow up.
"Being a manager to one of L.M.E.'s talents simply means having the same kind of love for that talent that a parent has for his or her child," Takarada-san lectures hotly during week two of his series, somehow using the hook that is currently where his left hand is supposed to be to emphasize his point as he points to the charts (of rather, murals of parents with their young) behind him. "The care and cultivation of another life as it takes shape and blooms year in and year out is a manager's greatest pride."
"Greatest pride!" the colorful parrot perched on his shoulder echoes, somehow also working to emphasize his lecture points rather than distract from them.
"How wonderful, Takarada-senchou!" some of the audience members respond. "We always thought the entertainment industry was a cold, hard world based on money and competition. It's often that way in shoujo manga, after all."
"Those are also the reasons why," another young man adds, after a beat, "we thought you dressed as a pirate today."
Takarada-san laughs. "Don't get me wrong, my lovelies," he cautions them. "The entertainment world is like that. Which is why we have agencies, where people can surround themselves with other people who are on the same side as they are, who are trying to help each other out! It is for the purpose of building a family network, to aid one another in the struggle against this industry's cruel and unforgiving side!"
"Cruel and unforgiving!" the parrot repeats, and is rewarded with a cracker.
The crowd murmurs again. "Is that why," a shy little slip of a thing starts, pink-cheeked, "that handsome man behind you is all tied up? Is he a hostage you took from another agency?"
Pirate-captain Takarada laughs. "Oh no, this is Yashiro-kun, one of L.M.E.'s talent managers," he explains. "I Shanghai'd him outside the studio not twenty minutes ago!"
Which, everyone supposes, finally explains the costume.
Behind him, Yashiro sighs in a helpless sort of way, bound by rope and blindfolded (if not gagged). "Shachou," he begins after a beat, sounding tired, "I really have to get Ren fed and to his next shooting location, please."
A hand in the audience goes up. "If you're on the same side as Yashiro-kun, why did you kidnap him?" a male student asks, and everyone really does want to know the answer.
"To illustrate to you all," Takarada-senchou explains happily, "the full extent of the parent/child relationship between a manager and his talent!"
Some question marks go up in the air.
Takarada-senchou, having anticipated this, pushes a button on his remote control; the chart behind him instantly changes from its heartwarming reel of parent/child images to real time camera footage of Tsuruga Ren in his dressing room.
There is a general "Kyaaaaa!" of ecstasy from the Ren fans in the audience.
"As you can see!" Takarada-senchou begins, gesticulating with his hook again, "Tsuruga-san without his manager is like a child without the guidance of a parent. Helpless. Aimless."
"Shachou," Yashiro begins again, a little more anxiously now than before, "what are you showing them? What's going on? Is Ren alright?"
"And as you can see here!" Takarada-senchou switches immediately, and brandishes his hook in Yashiro's direction, "Here we have the anxious mother, who has been separated from her young for far too long!"
"Far too long!" the parrot says.
It is all very dramatic.
"So he's really completely helpless without his manager?" one of the students asks after a beat, and sounds skeptical.
"Like a newborn babe!" Takarada-senchou assures them, while Yashiro starts to struggle in his ropes, trying to get out because he can't see what Takarada-san is talking about with the blindfold and what if Ren really is in trouble? With some creative maneuvering (and some slight rope burn), he manages to use his teeth to grab a pen from his shirt pocket; he flips it over his head and into his hands.
From there, he tries to cut his way to freedom.
With a pen.
In the meantime, back at the studio, Ren's stomach grumbles.
He absently wonders why Yashiro is taking so long with lunch.
While the host club—much like the entertainment industry— is very clearly about love and being loved, Takarada thinks that the two are also very slightly different at the same time, in that not everyone who is in the host club is in search of a spotlight.
Today is tea outdoors on the lawn, because the days are growing steadily warmer and longer as summer approaches, and sunlight and fresh air are the natural companions of handsome young men.
The twins take advantage of the heat by brandishing super soakers at one another, and there is first, their sweet laughter and flirtatious words as they innocently chase each other across the grass, spraying water and looking glorious in their mischief.
The host club guests who are watching them turn pink-cheeked and sigh at the refreshing sight of brothers frolicking together in the afternoon sunlight.
In the background, Mori silently holds up a parasol, to ward off any stray streams of water from Honey, who is sitting in the shade of a tree, happily eating strawberry shortcake.
From there the twins' loving water fight turns predictably wicked, as they sight Tamaki on a picnic blanket beside Takarada, the host club president hotly extolling the virtues of a person's true beauty under natural lighting as opposed to the indoor kind to his guests. "It makes the glow of one's skin much more radiant…" is the sentence the blond is in the middle of when he suddenly gets hit with face full of water and the twins' perfectly synchronized giggles.
"Tono," they say, feigning innocence, "tono come play with us!"
Tamaki sputters and is about to say something wise about how beautiful people should not do ugly things, but when he tosses his wet hair back out of his face, he is interrupted again, this time by the fluttering swoons of his many admirers. On instinct, his angry sputtering instantly turns into professional posing. "Well," he declares after a beat, when he realizes the water is good for him after all, "I suppose if I must play, then I must!"
Much to the delight of the girls, he tosses his hair one more time before holding his hand out to Kyouya, who wordlessly supplies him a super soaker all his own. From there Tamaki takes off, while Kouya vaguely gestures to the numerous cameramen he has hidden around the perimeter, telling them via radio to please make sure to photograph every second of this for the host club's photobook, as it goes on sale later in the season.
From there it is the twins and Tamaki gleefully chasing each other around the lawn (Tamaki mostly losing), as streams of water fly through the air around them and catch the rays of sunlight, bathing the three handsome combatants in a wondrous prismatic glow as the host club customers look on in awe.
In the background, Mori senses it when the first stray jet of water is headed straight at him from behind; he fights the instinctive urge to dodge around it and cut through it with the butter knife on the table next to him, instead bracing himself and letting it hit him square in the back, right between the shoulder blades and freezing cold.
In front of him, Honey's precious strawberry shortcake is saved.
Several high-powered shots subsequently follow that first one through the course of the next fifteen minutes; one lands against the back of Mori's head, two hit his shoulders, and the last sprays against the nape of his neck (which then drips down his neck and into his linen shirt).
Honey sits in front of him the whole time, completely at peace. "Takashi," he says, sweetly oblivious, "More cookies, please!"
Mori dutifully puts several more cookies onto Honey's outstretched plate, as the twins and Tamaki run by with water balloons this time, as the innocent battle begins to turn into a full scale war. Mori very quickly shifts to the right of the table to keep the tea sandwiches dry as a blue water-filled grenade arcs down towards Honey's snacks.
It explodes against his back.
And then, "Takashi?" Honey asks, looking at Mori with some concern as the kendoist looms over the sandwich platter.
Mori coughs and sits up straighter.
Honey laughs at him. "You can have all the sandwiches, if you want!" the smaller boy offers next, and looks up at his cousin with excessive fondness as he pushes the tray towards him in offering.
Then, he goes back to eating cookies.
Mori simply smiles in return and refills Honey's tea for him, back and shoulders completely soaked but looking perfectly content all the same.
Takarada supposes that some people just don't need a spotlight to shine.
"It's Tono in forty years!" the twins decry with great mischief that afternoon, upon their closer inspection of Takarada-san within the confines of the third music room. "Or twenty-five years, without money or SPF!" they amend after a beat, because calculating age in poor people years is apparently a matter of multiplying the number of rich people years by seventy-five percent before subtracting an additional twelve and a half percent for skin-damaging ultra-violet exposure in consideration of said poor person's inevitable stint at menial outdoor labor.
Their eyes gleam mischief as they say it, and Takarada laughs a little at the show they are currently putting on for him. "Not bad, not bad!" he delights, and pauses to applaud their timing and showmanship. They must rehearse quite a bit to be able to talk in tandem on the fly after all, and Takarada is all about appreciating the hard work others put into entertaining a crowd. Their technique isn't perfect quite yet of course, but they're still young (and amateurs) after all; he thinks that should they decide to really apply themselves to these roles and give it everything they've got, they ought to have it down pat in the next few years at the very latest. Perhaps even sooner than that, if only they'd realize that the one on the left does things with a little bit more malice than the one on the right.
With a little adjustment, the two of them would be able to play one another so perfectly well that no one would be able to tell them apart ever again. Perhaps not even themselves.
Of course, this is only if they really do want to peruse this kind of thing for that much longer.
But Takarada thinks that always having to be a character actor like that must get rather boring at one point, after X-amount of times doing the same thing over and over again, without being given anything new or challenging or different. It really would be just as easy for the two of them to seek various angles rather than always trying to slither into the same niche.
He imagines the fit can be rather tight at times.
"Have you two ever considered," he begins, eyeing first Hikaru on the left and then Kaoru on the right, "going for the good-twin/evil-twin angle?" He pauses to stir sugar into his tea. "It might be a refreshing change of pace, and Hikaru-kun would really be able to use his range."
In which the twins eye each other, and then Takarada again, carefully. "Maybe not tono in forty years," Hikaru on the left begins, and leans closer towards his brother's shoulder.
"Maybe tono in a million years," Kaoru on the right finishes, and once again, has much less ill-intent than his twin.
Both of them manage to look back at Takarada warily, this time in flawless synchronization.
Takarada is naturally delighted; he thinks that given how different the two of them actually are, they must really rehearse their timing quite a lot, to be able to match as well as they do like that.
"Why did you become a host, Haruhi-chan?" Takarada asks warmly towards the end of his stay at Ouran, as the young woman dressed to play the role of a young man helps him stir two spoonfuls of sugar into his afternoon tea. "If you don't mind me asking, of course," he adds.
"I don't mind, Takarada-san," she tells him after a moment, quite simply. "I became a host because I owe Tamaki-senpai and the other members so much."
He can tell that the words she chooses to use are very carefully vague, but said with such an air of friendliness so as to dull the way they fall on her guests' ears. She smiles automatically as she hands him the cup and the saucer. "I suppose in that vein, being a host simply became inevitable for me."
The two young girls sitting on either side of the L.M.E. president squeal predictably at the implications such vagueness leaves behind—happily filling in the blanks themselves— while he just smiles in thanks and accepts his drink when she offers it to him. "I see." He moves to ask again, except this time he changes the question into the one he'd really meant to ask. "And do you enjoy being a host, Haruhi-chan?"
She blinks. "I don't mind," she repeats again, perhaps a bit perfunctorily, before stopping to backtrack a little when the words don't quite fit somehow.
She thinks about it.
And then, after a moment, Takarada notices it when she finds her answer, because her smile changes very slightly, perhaps without her knowing. "Actually, I'm having more fun working here than I thought I would," she says to him without a hint of vagueness, and makes Takarada feel like he's already seen this story somewhere else before, in someone a lot like her but completely different at the same time.
He laughs a little when he realizes it, and genially sips his tea.
Clearly he is a very lucky man in this lifetime, in that he has had the good fortune of getting to meet more than just one girl who had fallen into a strange new world for all the wrong reasons, without the knowledge or care or desires that she should have had long before taking that first uncertain step.
He thinks of it as fortunate because to be able to see a person grow and change from that most basic of all emotional states is like the culmination of a great love story; it has the power to move you to the very core of your heart.
Because when he watches Haruhi smiling just like she's smiling right now—much like he'd seen that other young woman do yesterday actually, in front of the camera— it tells him that despite the reasons that brought her here being all the wrong ones, she is beginning to discover that there are things about being here that are fun and meaningful as well, things that are slowly pulling her further and further into this world everyday, perhaps without her knowing it. Whether she is playing this role or that role or a combination of the two depending on who's looking at any one time, she is falling in love with her characters and in return, discovering the hearts of the other characters around her.
He thinks it shows.
Right now she is fully immersed in her role as Haruhi-kun the boy-host, Takarada believes, watching her as she laughs naturally with the girls in the third music room, exactly as one would expect of such a boy in such a place. He sees her pour their tea for them and encourage gentle conversation and thinks that he hasn't seen such a well-played young man as performed by a young lady since the last time he'd had the pleasure of having a chat with Shouhei back in Japan.
Haruhi-chan, he believes, is enjoying her role almost as much as Kyouko-chan had enjoyed being Kuon.
And when Tamaki twirls into the picture and peers over Haruhi's shoulder with a broad, emphatic gesture of his pride at her ongoing development as a proper host club member, Takarada realizes—again, for the thousandth time— that these sorts of great transformations are only possible because of one thing and one thing only.
It is indeed, a story that he's seen before in his line of work.
But luckily, it is also a story he could watch all day, from now until forever.
Because, he thinks, as Haruhi laughs with her guests and looks warmly at her hosts without knowing she's doing it, even if this story has similar elements to all the ones that came before it, Takarada is certain that it is building towards the type of ending that will always win his heart of hearts.
All you need is love.
If Haruhi-chan is the leading lady and Tamaki-kun is the doting parent, Takarada can't help but wonder what's become of the leading man in this story, if he's even made an appearance yet.
Maybe, he thinks, it simply hasn't been decided yet.
Perhaps Hikaru-kun will disentwine his arms from around his brother long enough to fill the role (but then again maybe not). Or Mori-kun will stop being satisfied with standing in the background and step forward to take the spotlight; Kaoru-kun could just as easily want to stop playing the subservient role to Hikaru's dominant one someday and honestly, Tamaki-kun could just as easily switch from "Otousan" to "Anata" if he'd just stop to think about it all seriously first. As far as Takarada is concerned, even Honey might decide to bring out his inner power more permanently on a whim sometime in the future, and then where would this story go?
Then of course, there is one more person left, and Takarada stops for a moment to eye Kyouya-kun, who is off in the corner with his laptop, sipping coffee and very coolly crunching numbers for the most part, while the others entertain their guests.
He looks up every once in a while though, when he hears Tamaki's bubbling laughter or Haruhi's exasperated sighs; his features are very expertly schooled the entire time except, Takarada thinks, down in his eyes. It might be why he insists on glasses instead of contacts; Takarada has been in this business long enough to notice that despite the seeming perfection of Kyouya-kun's façade, there is still a weakness, somewhere underneath that cold, businesslike demeanor.
If Haruhi-chan's story is one that he's seen already, perhaps Kyouya-kun's is as well.
Because it seems like there are always young men out there doing their best to prove something to someone, even as they try to convince themselves that the things they sacrifice along the way are acceptable losses.
From Takarada's experience, love has a way of pushing through anyway, whether it is in the ringing laughter of a dramatic host club president warmly calling "Okaasan, okaasan!" every five minutes or the sweetly innocent eyes of a girl who just doesn't know—or doesn't notice— the effect she has on a man who adores her quite yet.
Of course that doesn't mean Takarada has set his hat for Kyouya as the male lead; it really does vary moment by moment he thinks, between Tamaki's doting, clueless attentions and Mori's silent watchfulness, between Hikaru's temperamental teasing, Kaoru's calm smiles and Honey's sweet, effusive hugs.
Though admittedly, there is a little something extra about Kyouya-kun's sidelong glances and quietly stubborn resolve that intrigue him so. Perhaps it is the not-so-secret shoujo manga fan in him.
He looks forward to seeing how the rest of this story pans out.
On Takarada-san's last day at Ouran the final festivities include snake charmers, a caravan of camels hauling silks and spices, and an entire line of veiled belly dancers wiggling sinuously down the academy's front drive towards the iron gates. "Farewell, Lory-chan!" the cheerful overhead banner reads (as provided by L.M.E.'s marketing department), while Takarada-san rides in full sheik cosplay atop a flying carpet that must have cost his special effects department thousands just to figure out the logistics behind.
Kyouya walks alongside the procession in mild irritation and takes notes here and there on the things he'd personally try to improve if he were the one running this show, as well as mentally debating on alternative color versions to Takarada-san's white robes for Tamaki when the Host Club uses this desert prince theme for their own outdoor party later in the year. Kyouya has found that white often seems to wash out Tamaki's already pale features in direct sunlight and thinks that perhaps a royal purple or a dark blue would suit the club president much better.
He is so focused on the task at hand that it is with some surprise when the fanfare ceases for a moment—right in front of the school gates—and Kyouya has the privilege of receiving the L.M.E. president's personal business card, along with a smile that is only (by his calculations anyway) thirty percent showmanship and seventy percent something else entirely.
"I would be honored to be your contact within the Ootori group, Takarada-san," Kyouya responds perfunctorily as he takes the card, and for the moment is all courtesy and demure smiles despite all the trouble Takarada-san has thus far caused him during his short time here. "If there is anything our company can do for you, please don't hesitate to call me."
Takarada-san laughs, revealing the mirth lines around his eyes and mouth, signs that he has been doing this for much longer than Kyouya has been alive. "This," the older man clarifies wryly, with a nod towards the business card, "is not out of any interest in dealing with the Ootori group, Kyouya-kun."
Kyouya blinks. "Then I'm afraid I don't understand," he responds, still unfailingly polite on principle despite the perceived slight to his empire.
Takarada-san simply seems amused. "I would like very much for you to come and be one of L.M.E.'s talents," he clarifies eventually, in all seriousness.
Kyouya isn't quite sure how to respond. "Why is that, if you don't mind me asking?" he manages eventually, and adjusts his glasses out of habit. "Tamaki would be much better suited, don't you think?"
The seventy percent something else entirely on Takarada-san's face shifts into an even one hundred. "Tamaki-kun is a wonderful boy," the older man assures Kyouya, eyes glinting. "But in all my years," he adds, perfectly poised on his magic carpet even under Kyouya's challenging scrutiny, "I am convinced that you are one of the most gifted actors I have ever had the pleasure of meeting."
"Well, you don't have to answer me now," Takarada-san twitters. "Call me when you think you're ready."
And then, as if on cue, the front gates burst open with a shower of confetti and two roaring towers of flame, as Takarada-san leads his entourage out of the school, all smiles and showmanship again. "Farewell, Ouran Academy!" he calls after the waving, cheering students, and addresses them all with the warmth and regard of a longtime friend.
Kyouya remains standing beside the gates until the last camel is out of sight some ten minutes later; he looks down at the business card in his hand and feels something a bit like amusement well up in his chest.
"An actor?" he murmurs to himself thoughtfully, and for a moment, his eyes are completely hidden behind the gleam of afternoon sunlight against his glasses lenses. He is fairly certain that there is nothing in the world that would anger his father more than having a son who decided to pursue the arts.
The corner of his lip curls upward— just a little— at the thought, before he adjusts his frames and calmly deposits Takarada-san's business card in the trashcan on his way back inside.
Because despite the L.M.E. president's high praise just a moment ago, Kyouya doesn't think he's quite cut out to play any role as dictated to him by someone else.
Really, his rather poor rendition of a dutiful third son should be proof enough as it is.