Author's Note: I seem to always start off new chapter by apologizing for the delays in updates. So once again, let me apologize. I have no excuse this time, I have simply been lazy. But I'm finally dusting off the cobwebs in my mind and I'm ready to write. And I also apologize in advance for the long, descriptive paragraphs in this chapter, but I feel they are necessary and give some unique insight into Haruhi's mind. So, without much more stalling, here is the 19th chapter. I hope it lives up to your expectations, and please remember to review!

Haruhi's dress looks like this: www . storeappeal . com /images/WineDress.jpg

In the long run, Haruhi knew what she wanted. Because, when it came down to it, she was a teenage girl and ultimately, they all want the same thing. What she wanted, in particular, was security. The comfort in security, in knowing that out there, there is a soul mate who's looking for you, just as much as you are for him.

So when she stepped off the bus outside of Manamo's salon, she knew it was okay to be self-indulgent every once in a while. It was okay if for once she wanted to feel pretty and be deemed pretty by those around her. Maybe, just maybe, she was a little sick of being looked at and perceived as a boy. As someone without feelings. And maybe that was all her fault. Maybe she built those walls for a reason - and the reason was as of yet unknown to her. She knew, however, that it was time to pull back the curtains. Her soul was dusty, because for so many years it had been hidden, afraid of being hurt the way it had been when her mother had passed away.

And what she knew most of all was that, whether or not Kyouya had feelings for her, her soul yearned for him in a way she couldn't explain or comprehend. That, even if he rejected her, he still had the sole power of being able to make her happy, the way no one else in her life could. So she was willing to put herself out there, to dress up like a China Doll and maybe end up looking like a fool, because in the short time she'd come to know Kyouya, she got a glimpse of happiness, a kind of happiness she had never experienced before. She saw the future in his eyes, a future with him. And after everything she had been through, she didn't want her social class - something she had no choice in - to be what stood in the way of the life and happiness she knew she deserved.

Haruhi looked up at the little boutique in front of her timidly. She had never been to a beauty salon in her entire life. The building itself was cozy looking; it had a warmth and familiarity to it. Haruhi imagined that the customers were all regulars and everyone knew one another by first name and they all chatted about their personal lives. It was intimidating, to say the least.

Her hand hovered over the door handle, and before she gave herself the chance to run, she turned it and entered.

A bell rang somewhere overheard to signify someone had walked in.

"Be with you in a minute!" she heard someone call from the distance.

Haruhi looked around, taking everything in. The walls were painted a soft, light pink, and there were plants hanging from the ceiling in ceramic pots. Along two walls there were rows of dressers and mirrors, most of which were unoccupied. There were only a few people in the salon; two getting their hair done and one getting her nails done.


Haruhi jumped, startled. She turned around and came face-to-face with a short, round-faced woman, looking to be in her 30's. She had dark red lipstick on and her hair was tied back in a pretty bun with flowers adorning it.

"You're Haruhi, yes? I'm Manamo," she said, her voice softer than it had been on the phone. "We were swamped earlier, I apologize if I sounded abrupt."

Haruhi's mind was drawing a blank.

Manamo laughed lightly. "You speak, don't you?"

Haruhi blinked. "Yes, I'm sorry. Hi, I'm Haruhi."

Manamo beamed. "Suzume told me you me a little about you; your features," she said, scrutinizing Haruhi's face, "She wasn't wrong. You're absolutely beautiful."

Haruhi blushed, looking down at the floor. If there was one thing she was not used to, it was being told she was beautiful. She was more often told how handsome she was, and this was by the Host Club customers.

"Not used to being complimented, are you?" continued Manamo, proving to be incredibly perceptive. "Come with me, we'll make a woman out of you yet."

She was seated in a chair that swirled, directly in front of a large mirror. Haruhi wasn't comfortable being so close to her reflection. Thinking back, Haruhi had never spent more than two seconds in front of a mirror.

"So, what did you say the occasion was?" asked Manamo as she opened drawers and took out kits of make-up.

Haruhi hesitated. "It's…a dinner."

"Yes, but what kind of dinner?" pressed Manamo.

"Well…I suppose, an important one," Haruhi said thoughtfully.

"Important how?"

"Well, it's at the Otori household. And there are guests coming from abroad…" said Haruhi helplessly.

Manamo's eyes twinkled. "That doesn't sound very fun. Why is it so important to you?"

Once again, Haruhi looked down at the ground, blushing and unsure of what to say.

"A boy?" questioned Manamo lightly.

Haruhi looked into her eyes through the mirror, and Manamo needed no answer.

"So it's that kind of important," she said, "The most important kind of important there is."

Haruhi bit her lip, feeling a bit exposed.

"I don't…I don't want to come off as, as trying too hard, you know?" she said hesitantly. "It's just, I've never in my entire life felt this way, and I don't want to mess it up."

"If it's true, then it's meant to be," said Manamo seriously, "And if it's meant to be, then there's no messing up. Because chances like these, they only come once. And if we ruin them, we don't get them back. We have to fight hard, Haruhi. In this world, we fight for what we want."

Haruhi thought over Manamo's words as she excused herself to the backroom. It was true, everything she said, and where a hair dresser got such insight from was anyone's guess. It occurred to her then that you didn't have to be a philosopher to understand life. You simply had to love someone.

When she returned, Manamo had brought two younger women to assist her. She combed her fingers through Haruhi's hair, getting a feel for it and for Haruhi's face.

"We can make you look as regal as a queen, but the rest you have to do yourself," she said, "We'll make you beautiful, but you have to fight for him on your own."

Haruhi swallowed hard as the reality of those words hit her. She'd have to fight for Kyouya, because lord knew life wasn't just going to hand over her happiness.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, letting Manamo, a relative stranger, have her way with Haruhi.

When she opened her eyes, she was shocked. She had felt feminine at the twins' party, but this feeling was incomparable. She actually felt beautiful, and she finally understood girls' obsessions with looking good all the time. Looking good and feeling good seemed to go hand-in-hand.

A dark grey, metallic smoky eye with black eyeliner adorned her eyelids. Long, curly fake lashes blended so seamlessly with her real lashes that she couldn't tell the difference. Her skin glowed, and she suddenly wanted to know how, because it made all the difference. She looked rejuvenated, fresh. A slight bronzer blush accentuated her cheekbones and a clear gloss made her lips look full and pouty.

Haruhi felt her hair, surprised at how real the extensions looked. There were soft, black curls cascading just past Haruhi's shoulders, and Haruhi decided immediately that she had to grow out her hair.

"What do you think?" asked Manamo, pleased by Haruhi's awe.

"It's…" Haruhi gaped, staring at her reflection, "Magic."

Manamo raised her eyebrows, looking just slightly smug. "Well that's a new compliment. A good one, for sure."

Haruhi turned around to face Manamo. "You have no idea what this means to me."

Manamo smiled at her. "I think I do. Once upon a time I found my soul mate too."

"And how did it end?" asked Haruhi.

Manamo shrugged. "I didn't have a wonderful salon owner to guide me, so I made some mistakes. But for however short a time, I was part of a whole."

This discouraged Haruhi. "How do I know I won't make mistakes too?"

"You will make mistakes, and that's the beauty of love. Sometimes those mistakes make you who you are, you have to decide that for yourself."

Haruhi sat nervously in the back of the car that had come to pick her up. Every few minutes she would smooth out her dress or tap her foot neurotically. It had dawned on her about ten minutes before that car came that there would, in fact, be other guests at this wedding, not just Kyouya and herself. She had to meet his father, and all of his eloquent, educated friends from abroad. Suddenly her feelings for Kyouya became minute in the face of those other guests.

The car stopped and the driver opened the door for her. She stepped out carefully, not wanting to trip in her heels.

And there was Kyouya, standing casually on the steps, his hands in his suit pocket.

Haruhi's breath caught in her throat. He looked so handsome and debonair.

She walked up the steps slowly, her hands shaking just slightly.

She stopped in front of him, looking him straight in the eye.

"You look nice," she said quietly.

"You look stunning," said Kyouya, looking over her, his eyes moving from her hair to her face, down her body and finally to her feet, and back up again.

She blushed and looked down at the ground, pleased.

"Come in, everyone's sitting in the parlor," he said, offering her his arm.

She took it and gave him a small, nervous smile in return.

It had been two months since Haruhi had been inside Kyouya's house. She remembered every detail, having been in it so many times. Her eyes lingered on the large, ornate paintings and of course, the grand, crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

He led her to the parlor, a room she hadn't been in more than once. It was a fancy room and everything in it was either made of glass or porcelain. Haruhi was afraid that if she touched anything it would turn to dust.

Around two couches, five men sat, all looking rather serious.

Kyouya cleared his throat.

"Everyone, I'd like you to meet a friend, Fujioka Haruhi. She'll be joining us for dinner tonight," he said clearly.

Haruhi was certainly not expecting a round of applause, but at least some acknowledgement. The most she got was a nod from one gentleman.

Kyouya led her to two chairs seated between the couches. She sat on one carefully and folded her hands in her lap, not knowing what to do.

Kyouya went on, "Haruhi is a friend from school. She's a brilliant student, she's at Ouran on scholarship."

One man actually wrinkled his nose at that statement. Now they all knew she wasn't rich, she was attending Ouran on scholarship.

Kyouya cleared his throat again. "Well, Haruhi, let me introduce you to everyone."

He gestured to the couch nearest them, on which three men were sitting.

"Professor Wilhelm Dietfried, a renowned biology researcher for the Humboldt University of Berlin. Mr. Klaus Eberhard, who owns a manufacturing company based in Hamburg, Germany. And this, of course, is my father, Yoshio Otori."

As he introduced each of them, Haurhi nodded and smiled politely. And in return, surprisingly, they smiled at her, though not Kyouya's father.

Gesturing to the next couch, Kyouya continued, "This is Dr. Antonin Didier, a neuroscientist from Nice, France. And lastly, Mr. Colin Wesley, a lawyer living in London, England."

He spoke in Japanese to her, and yet, Haruhi wondered how all of his guests understood what he was saying.

It was then that the man Klaus Eberhard turned to his right and began speaking to Kyouya's father, in Japanese. Apparently they all spoke it as they all listened to what he was saying.

Kyouya took the opportunity to lean into Haruhi and whisper, "You shouldn't be nervous. These men prey on it."

Mr. Wesley turned to Haruhi and said, politely, and in English, "Kyouya tells me you're aspiring to be a lawyer, and he's been teaching you English."

Haruhi, shocked that he spoke to her, nodded slowly, and replied, in over-enunciated English, "Yes, I am. I have very much gratitude for him."

"It's a tough life, a lawyer's," continued Mr. Wesley, "You've got to have a thick skin. You think you've got that?"

Haruhi thought over his question, chewing her lip softly.

"Yes," she said simply.

He chuckled and sipped from his drink. "I can see that, you're steeling yourself already."

Then, a maid came in and announced dinner. Everyone stood from their seats and proceeded out of the room and into the dining area. Kyouya led Haruhi by putting his hand lightly on the small of her back, and she couldn't hide the small smile that crept on her face.

Dinner was pleasant, though slightly awkward. Occasionally Mr. Wesley would say something to her, but other than that the five men engaged in a rapid-fire conversation, sometimes resulting in arguments. They were so cultured. It was fascinating how they slipped in and out of languages, everyone understanding the other. One would say something in French and the other would reply in German, or Mr. Wesley would say something in English and Kyouya's father would respond quickly in Japanese.

Haruhi wanted more than anything to be a part of this life. She didn't so much want the glamour or the riches, she wanted the experience and the knowledge gained from being able to travel the world and she wanted friends from different countries. Ten years from now, she dreamed about hosting a dinner such as this, with friends from around the world, all conversing and, though not showing it particularly, all having a good time.

Mostly, she and Kyouya talked quietly to each other. He seemed somehow more charming tonight. Maybe it was because he was surrounded by such eloquent people, or maybe it was because he himself was eloquent. When he partook in the others' conversations, he too slipped in and out of languages. He was just so smooth and natural about it.

Every so often Haruhi would catch his father looking at her, evaluating. She felt a chill go down her spine each time, wanting very much to know what he thought of her, though she might have an idea. Although he wasn't in any way offensive or abrasive to her, she got the feeling he might not like her.

Mr. Wesley asked, "What are you like, Haruhi? Tell us about yourself, about your life."

Haruhi hesitated. But when she answered, her voice was strong and she looked right at Kyouya's father. "I'm not rich and I'm not cultured like all of you. But I have ambition and I know what I want. I know it will be difficult, but I'm ready for it. I haven't had the easiest or even the most normal childhood, and despite that, or maybe even because of that, I have grown strong."

Mr. Wesley smirked. "You've got a fire in you, young lady. I can't wait to see you years from now, handling a courtroom."

Haruhi was honored by his compliment and accepted it graciously. When she looked at Kyouya's father again, he was looking down at his plate, thinking.

By the end of dinner, the guests had more or less accepted Haruhi for everything she was. Mr. Wesley gave her his card and told her to call anytime, for which she lost her composure for a second and hugged him tightly.

Everyone was dispersing to his own respective hotels for the night, and before retreating upstairs, Kyouya's father gave her a polite nod.

"Come, I'll take you home," said Kyouya, walking outside with her to the limo.

This was the alone time Haruhi had been wanting since the night started. They both sat in the backseat, a big gaping space between them.

"You handled yourself really well tonight," said Kyouya after a few minutes.

Haruhi smiled down at her hands. "You wouldn't believe what a wreck I was before I came."

"Why's that?" asked Kyouya, genuinely curious.

"I was so nervous," Haruhi admitted. "They're all from a different world."

Kyouya shifted just slightly closer to Haruhi and looked at her as he said, "I would have never guessed that."

Haruhi raised an eyebrow questioningly.

He continued, leaning into her a bit, "You're always so composed. You're always serious and thoughtful and you never lose your cool. You're quiet and sometimes hard to comprehend, and it drives me absolutely insane trying to figure you out. But I would never, ever imagine you being anything other than headstrong and determined."

Haruhi opened her mouth, but she couldn't think of anything to say. Her mouth remained slightly open as she looked deep into Kyouya's eyes. Without any volition, Haruhi's body leaned towards his of its own accord.

Then suddenly the car stopped, and the drive opened the door for her.

She let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding and blinked. She stepped out of the car, about to say goodbye when Kyouya stepped out too. He walked her up the stairs of her apartment building, and they stopped outside her door.

"Thank you for inviting me tonight," she said, wanting to prolong this moment, not wanting to go inside quite yet.

He leaned casually against her front door, hair falling in front of his eyes.

"These things are usually a bore for me, I'm glad you came," he replied.

They stood in silence for a minute, each second that went by had Haruhi more worried that he was going to leave.

Finally she started, "Kyouya, I -"

But he cut her off. "I've wanted to do this since you stepped out of the car at my house."

And with that, he straightened up from the door and gently grabbed her face, his lips crashing on hers.

Even though Haruhi had already had her first kiss - with a girl, no less - she felt like this was the first time. His lips were so soft and warm against hers.. She reacted to his lips and pushed back, moaning slightly. When her lips parted, his tongue surged through, playing with hers. She was surprised that she enjoyed the sensation immensely.

His hands moved from her face, through her hair, one settling on her lower back and the other across the expanse of her shoulders, holding her tight. Her arm was around his neck, bringing him closer, her other hand caressing his face.

She sighed in his mouth, forgetting everything but the feel of his body and his lips against hers.

After a few seconds, Kyouya pushed her into the wall, making her moan again.

Haruhi had absolutely no experience when it came to romance and physicality. She was, in most respects, just a little girl when it came to these things, even though she was almost a grown woman. She wasn't going to lie, she had never felt anything to good in her entire life.

Of its own accord, her leg wrapped itself around his waist, bringing him closer. She hugged his neck as his hands felt her body, moving from her stomach upward. His lips left hers and were kissing her neck now.

"Kyouya," she breathed, her head resting against the wall.

"You're beautiful," he whispered in her ear.

His lips were back on hers, kissing her fiercely, almost possessively.

They heard a dog barking in the background and they broke apart, though Kyouya still had her pinned to the wall.

"I've got to go," he breathed, almost panting. He straightened himself up, fixing the wrinkles in his jacket and regaining his composure.

Haruhi was speechless.

He leaned in, his nose nuzzling her neck, and kissed her cheek quickly before leaving.

Haruhi stood outside for another few minutes, her mind absolutely blown, before going inside.

Back at the Otori house, Kyouya was just coming in through the front door.

He had kissed many girls in his life, but no kiss had ever been as passionate or as pleasurable as that.

His father was having a drink by himself when he came in.

"Kyouya," he called.

Kyouya sighed. He'd been hoping to slip into his room unnoticed.

Entering the parlor for the second time that night, Kyouya faced his father.

"Your friend…Fujioka," he started.

"Father, I know she's not -" Kyouya tried to cut her off.

Kyouya's father said loudly, "She's not rich, that's for certain. She's not in any way what we've raised you to go after."

Kyouya squared his shoulders, waiting for the big blow.

"But she's a hard-worker. She's got ambition. You can't choose the family you're born into, but you can sure as hell choose the life you'll live. She's chosen an upstanding life. And some would say, money earned is more respectable than money received," said Kyouya's father cryptically.

Kyouya understood, however, what he was really trying to say. In his own way, he approved of Haruhi. Better than that, he might even like Haruhi.

Out of all the girls Kyouya had brought home, none had ever received praise or even acknowledgment from his father. His father had distaste for all the shallow, unintelligent girls who Kyouya slept with.

Praising a girl of no social class, however, was something not only never done before, but something previously deemed impossible.

Kyouya smiled slightly.

"Yes, some would say that, father," he replied.