Disclaimer: I don't own Ouran, I'm just a poor starving college student who can only cook pasta.
Spoilers: Tamaki's background. And, due to the characterization of a certain character in here, this is specifically based of the manga canon and not the anime canon.
First and foremost, however, elvaron gets a thousand elaborately worded (just think, a thousand Tamaki speeches…oh noes!) worth of thanks for betaing this hulking monolith of fic. Also, this fic totally goes out to her…because she is the one who encouraged me not to treat Tamaki as I normally do.
This is a one-shot…but one that amounts to some 35 pages. Thus, it has been separated into two chapters so that it is more reader friendly.
He glanced up from his paperwork briefly as the door opened and closed again too discreetly to have been anyone who actually worked for him.
Unannounced, with all semblance of formality left at the door, a woman walked in, crossed the inordinate amount of glittering distance between the door and the overly large desk, set her briefcase down on the floor and slumped down in the client's chair. In one final act of what anyone else would have perceived as insolent liberty, she crossed her arms at the edge of the desk and set her head upon them, glowering slightly at the smirking figure her entrance had interrupted mid-finance report.
Most would not so much as dare to display one unpolished button when they entered this particular office, let alone display such an unpolished and aloof manner as this woman possessed. For, as it was quite well known among certain circles, the head of the Ootori group had an eye for flaws and could, with one ironically refreshing smile, exploit each one revealed to its fullest.
However, when the head of the Ootori group was in the presence of one of the two people who could all too easily see his own flaws, artifice mattered very little to him.
It was, essentially, another game to be played – an intimate, mostly harmless, and only a semi-strategic game – but a game nonetheless. It was a fact simply understood between both the players and had by now dwindled into familiar sets of almost scripted actions.
And, it was understood – much more clearly by one than the other – that they both assumed that the other was equally dangerous and, by virtue of that, there was a strange sort of mutual respect between the two of them.
So, rather than any traditional sort of acknowledgement…or even a greeting…the man behind the desk continued to nonchalantly flip through his stack of papers without acknowledging the woman in the least. Of course, the aforementioned woman also made no effort whatsoever to indicate that she actually had any particular reason for being there and made no apology for barging in.
Between them, pleasantries were optional and the reason for the visit was implicitly understood by both of them from the beginning. They were merely old friends who just treated each other like strangers out of habit. And, strangely, this behavior only occurred in private.
A light lit up on the phone. The man pressed a button on the machine with practiced ease, not pausing to look up from his paper work. The voice of his anxious sounding secretary, small and tinny through the speaker, stated uncertainly, "Ootori-sama…Fujioka-san has arrived – uh, I believe it was something about contracts? – She has no appointment…ah, until tomorrow…and I seem to have unfortunately lost sight of what has happened to her…"
"Fortunately," he replied back, amusement at her hesitation a vague nuance in his voice, "I seem to have found her for you."
There was a startled reply and a muttered apology before there was a slight click of the speaker turning off.
"Actually, I believe I found you, Senpai," Haruhi said flatly, not so much as moving from her relaxed posture.
He returned to his papers, fingering through them and seemingly reading their contents thoroughly, not so much as answering her. Neither seemed the least bit bothered by the lack response from the other.
Placing the last page of the thick packet down on the desk, he signed his signature to it and then pushed the entire neatly aligned stack towards her. She eyed it, registering that it was a contract regarding a minor merger that she had drafted for the Ootori group the previous week.
She blinked up at him. He looked back, unfazed.
"I see you look the part of the lawyer today."
Seemingly irrelevant conversation prior to the initial meaningful discussion was already an established feature of these rare exchanges, but she wore, rather than her still rather androgynous everyday clothes, a smart suit, and had obviously just come from court.
"I think Hikaru and Kaoru bribe my landlady in order to sneak these into my closet."
"Which one designed this one?" It was a small point, polite to put in.
She however merely answered, "Hikaru…it has princess seams in the jacket," Her voice had a touch of endearing annoyance in it, "I think it's his idea of a joke."
Kyouya smiled politely before deciding to broach the real subject matter at hand.
"You are aware that our actual appointment is scheduled for tomorrow, I suppose."
Haruhi opened her mouth to protest or at least quip that she knew that, knowing him, it would probably cost her something to see him on any terms besides business.
But he preempted her complaints.
"But since you have never had any issues concerning your work – "
"- and you should relate."
"-I would assume that this is of a personal nature."
Haruhi merely sighed, signaling a confirmation that Kyouya didn't need in the first place. Putting the pretense of his work aside, he turned to face her, casually folding his hands in front of him and reclining in his chair.
"Or should I simply ask…what has he done now?"
But, as usual, she didn't see fit to actually answer one of his rare direct questions, rather she just answered with a question of her own.
Lifting her head and glancing out the window she wondered out loud, "Why on earth does he always insist on elevating every single person he knows to the level of some beloved member of his family?"
Kyouya's amusement was palpable. He merely stated, "I became a god on the second day I knew him," and despite the look of credulous annoyance he received, he refused to elaborate.
She sighed and sank back down and said, "He's so troublesome that he doesn't want to recognize when people actually want nothing to do with him…of course, he probably thinks that everyone can't help but have many things to do with him."
"It's not as if this is a surprise to you."
"I actually thought that you quite liked that aspect of Tamaki."
She frowned at him and stated simply, "It's not as if I don't like it – well, most of the time – but…sometimes it would be better for him to leave some of them be."
Kyouya looked thoughtful for a moment, contemplating her words and the sudden visit. Considering all that had happened, it actually surprised him a little to think that she still would go out of her way to come and inquire about Tamaki's quirks. But then again, it was Haruhi, and the only one who didn't realize the extent to which Haruhi understood Tamaki was…Haruhi herself.
At the thought, he smirked in amusement, as she frowned and meticulously clipped together his copy of the contract he had given her and put it into a thick manila envelope that contained one of multiple sets of hardcopies of the files.
"You could simply tell him that yourself," Kyouya said pointedly.
She gave him a look that stated that they both knew very well how he would react to that. Both knew very well that it was really in both of their interests to keep the melodramatics at as normal of a level as possible. Thus, there was only one response Kyouya could possibly give her.
Shrugging, he moved to grab another stack of documents that needed his perusal before saying, "Tamaki is Tamaki."
With an odd expression on her face she turned towards the window and answered, "Yes, and I hope he always is. But sometimes I wish he wouldn't be so, well, Tamaki."
Kyouya leaned forward, balancing his chin on one elbow on his desk.
"So now we have arrived back to my earlier question, what exactly did that idiot do now?"
She pursed her lips and leaned back into the expensive leather chair.
"Surprisingly, it hasn't actually been him doing anything this time."
"That is rather surprising."
"He's just allowing other people to do things to him."
"That," he said, once again beginning to rifle through the impossibly large amounts of paper that formed his chosen reading material, " is hardly surprising."
"You see," she took a deep breath, as if she was about to give her closing address to a judge, "I've been invited to dinner at the Suou Mansion."
For a brief second, Kyouya found that he had been caught utterly off guard. One dinner was hardly something that Haruhi would seek (or hazard, in her terms) his advice for. He knew for certain that Tamaki had already invited her for dinner more than a few times. The differences in class were something she noticed but took in stride anyways. In all, Kyouya had not seen any cause for alarm in the statement whatsoever.
He told her so.
"I don't see why that will be a problem. Yuzuru-san probably requested it. It only means that you will have to deal with two, perhaps three, fathers again for an evening."
Haruhi slumped down on the desk again, utterly unconscious of the fact that her expensive jacket was quickly becoming rumpled.
"It was not Yuzuru-san who invited me…and the invitation was not to Tamaki's mansion."
Suddenly the entirety of what Haruhi had been relating to him was clear and the sudden visit did not seem so odd at all. He had come to her to ask her about an area that everyone knew Tamaki was completely blind in.
But, her questions were not, indeed, directly about Tamaki at all.
"I presume that Tamaki didn't receive the same…invitation, then."
Haruhi didn't meet his eyes.
"I haven't asked him yet, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he didn't and I certainly haven't heard anything about it. That most likely means that he hasn't. All that considered.…I'm not sure I'll go."
Kyouya answered her with unhesitating certainty, "You should and you will."
Again, she blinked up at him, a small bit of annoyance in her eyes that told him that, despite her words she had already arrived at the same conclusion.
"Kyouya-senpai," she said, carefully, meeting his unwavering gaze, "Why does he allow her to say and do things like that to him? I would hate someone like that."
"She is his revered grandmother."
Haruhi took note of his careful word choice and even more careful tone. The question was more rhetorical than one that had been actually seeking an answer. Between them the answers were understood.
"And you," Kyouya continued, holding her gaze, "are his beloved fiancé."
There was a lilt of amusement that colored his voice. At this, Haruhi simply frowned and quipped, "I don't see what that has to do with anything."
Still maintaining his incisive gaze, he casually used one finger to adjust the bridge of his glasses before saying impishly, "Haven't we been over this already, Haruhi?" He smiled at the look of annoyance that greeted his comment, "Tamaki is Tamaki."
"And Tamaki is almost as troublesome as you."
He ignored her and went on, as was their custom, "And because that idiot is the way he is," he looked at her with a look of seriousness that was not lost on her, "you will just have to be you."
She nodded slowly and cautiously at his words, trying to discern their enigmatic meaning. While they might be even in their Tamaki game, Haruhi had no idea that Kyouya could win the Haruhi game any day of the week against her. But, then again, the only person that he really considered a worthy opponent in that game was Tamaki.
"You're saying…" she said, slowly and carefully, deliberating upon each word. "that I should protect him?"
"It's obvious he is not going to do so himself."
Haruhi frowned at his words and stood up, taking her briefcase in one hand and trying to smooth out her wrinkled suit jacket with the other, looking back over at him. When she was certain that he had his attention, pretense of reading through the thick packet of documents aside, she responded quietly, "Tamaki is himself after all."
She had almost gone the entire distance to the door when Kyouya spoke up, "Oh, and Haruhi…I trust I'll still see you tomorrow before I go off to Berlin."
There was a curt, but wary, nod of affirmation on her part. However, she continued towards the door without so much as a verbal thank you or gesture to indicate she was departing. It was not as if the other party was expecting one, however.
Rather, when she clasped the handle to exit, she heard his voice intoning what she had initially expected it would, "I do hope you will not be charging your normal fees for tomorrow's consultation as fair exchange for the personal time you have used today."
Haruhi mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like "rich bastard" and opened the door to leave the room, not bothering to acknowledge what her friend had just said.
Haruhi should really have known better than to open the door to anyone when she had an appointment of such a magnitude scheduled for later in the day. They inevitably did this to her every single time.
And, except for her last guest, everyone who arrived reeked of Kyouya's brand of…help.
Indeed, ironically, a knock at her door had interrupted the enormous stack of papers that were apart of the documents sent by the private Ootori courier in the morning as a follow-up to her business appointment with Kyouya. Since their delivery, she had been grumbling over every page and marking up various passages. And, when she had heard the doorbell, still in sweat pants and an oversized t-shirt, she opened the door only to be rushed by identical blurs carrying what seemed to be…suitcases…?
As each streaked by her, Haruhi could feel herself reluctantly pulled from her feet as they linked arms with her and lurched her forward with their combined enthusiastic momentum.
She realized, belatedly and in an entirely confused manner, that the table was right in the center of the path that she was currently hurtling along. The practical voice that often saved her in situations that required a healthy dose of self-preservation – events perhaps solely linked to the former members of the Host Club – simply told her that the only thing she could do was brace herself for the impact.
However the expected painful crash never came. Instead, she collided with a much softer object…well, softer than a table, at least. Looking up, she discovered the stoic and impassive face of Mori before turning to see the twins in two heaps at either side of the heavy wooden table, the things that she had now certainly determined to be suitcases haphazardly thrown, and pages of the Ootori Group contracts she had been reading floating down like snow in every direction.
In all, the day looked as if it would be nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.
And, one that had the help of Kyouya's intervention at that…So it was liable to be quite an expensive disaster, as well.
Once he was certain that she had sustained no injury from her unexpected trip, Mori released her and she looked around, contemplating exactly what they all were there to actually do. However, her train of thought was interrupted by a very familiar intonation.
"Haru-chan! We brought you cake!"
At least that answered her question for one of the four people assembled. Frowning, she looked from one face to the next. One thing, at least was clear, their expressions (with the exception of Mori's, but he was, as always, the notable exception) were all in deadly earnest about whatever they intended to do. Haruhi blinked at them for a moment before offering a stilted thank you to them for the cake and shuffling away to the kitchen to put it away for the time being.
When she had returned, bringing a tray of hastily brewed tea, they were all more or less seated at the table and – rather suspiciously – all appeared to have halted mid conversation.
Setting the tray down, she picked up the pile of contracts that someone – most likely Kaoru or Mori – had gathered together again. She glanced at them with an annoyed frown on her face, thinking that it would really be bothersome to reorder all of them before she returned them to Kyouya. However, the image of his glasses glinting as he shifted all of the papers into their proper order with one hand while making seemingly innocuous entries on his accounting software with the other hand reminded her that it would be necessary to do so.
She shivered, wondering just how expensive his help would end up being.
Sitting down, Haruhi spied the guilty faces of her friends before sighing and saying, "I know Kyouya-senpai sent you all here."
With the exception of Mori – who blinked – every one of them shifted in their seats and tried to look everywhere but at her.
It was Hikaru who broke the silence, hooking his arm behind his head and laughing nervously before saying, "We only had to come from a fashion show in Milan-"
"- but it's not a long flight when we take our private jet."
Haruhi didn't think she'd ever get use to the sheer excess that all of them indulged so readily in.
Hunny looked thoughtful for a moment before adding, "We only had to push back out appointment with the JSDF for a week."
Mori grunted in agreement.
So the entire country's defense was being held up due to this. What had Kyouya told them all? …And, of course not a single one of them acted as if it was any sort of inconvenience at all. At this realization, Haruhi could only sigh and think, once a rich bastard…always a rich bastard.
Rather than verbalizing this out loud for the umpteenth time, Haruhi, in her usual deadpan manner, stated that she would now serve the cake. When she returned again the same abrupt end to a seemingly clandestine conversation occurred again. They each received their slice of cake with a word of thanks and then were strangely quiet.
Even though the period of almost silence might be explained away merely by the fact that they were eating, the lingering quiet was a strange phenomenon for the assembled party. The Hitachiin twins seemed to latch onto this unnatural occurrence and instead attempted to create as much noise as possible by scraping their eating utensils against their plates as loudly as possible as they inhaled their slices of cake at the fastest speed possible.
Haruhi had only finished half of her own slice of cake and still had the majority of the strawberries that had adorned the expensive western dessert (with the exception of the one decorating Hunny's cake, which had been promptly eaten when he had received it) left to consume.
However, when the twins began giving each other furtive looks out of the corners of their eyes, a familiar alarm bell began to go off in Haruhi's mind, and it only clanged louder when the two of them scooted over and each draped an arm on her shoulders.
For a moment she wished that Tamaki was there simply so that he could draw their attention away from her. However, in his absence, she merely ignored them both and proceeded to put a large strawberry in her mouth.
"Haruhi!" They intoned in unison, voices dripping with deceptive sweetness.
"We were wondering – "
"If you had something to wear for your event tonight?"
They finished their little display with an evil snicker.
It wasn't even necessary to ask how on earth they had found about the…"event."
Haruhi merely blinked and realized that, amidst the hustle and bustle of work in the last three days and her initial qualms over her appointment at the Suou Mansion in the evening, she needed to wear something that would be suitable for rich people.
Something that she most likely did not even own.
All for of the males that were gathered around the table exchanged knowing glances and nodded.
Hikaru and Kaoru said in the same tone of mock disappointment, "This girl…"
With a burst of seemingly impossible speed, both Kaoru and Hikaru sprung up and seized the discarded suitcases, Mori and Hunny acting in tandem as impromptu assistants. Haruhi stared dumbfounded as they erected and clothed two mannequins and then performed a strange and complicated exchange that ended in the designs being covered with showy cloths to hide them.
Finally, grinning mischievously, they all stared at her.
Haruhi blinked at them. They smiled back, expectantly.
She sighed in defeat and finally asked, "Now what?"
The twins gave her that hauntingly familiar look and whipped out hats from their suitcases – there was an entirely discomforting feeling of déjà vu.
Their faces produced identical smirks and they said, each wagging a finger in her direction, "Now it's time for the 'Which one is Hikaru-kun game two!'"
Haruhi stared before moving to pick up the cake plates in an act of proactive evasive cleaning. However, looking around she noticed that Hunny and Mori had conveniently barred all her possible avenues of escape.
The smirks on the faces of the twins had taken on a quality that was nothing short of demonic. She fought the urge to run away and avoid the trouble that was sure to come.
As usual, they knew just how to preempt her.
There was a flurry of sheets being dramatically thrown off of mannequins and both of them said – with great relish – "Haruhi, guess which one is Hikaru's design!"
Oh, she thought looking at them, is that all…
With no theatrics whatsoever she pointed to the right most one – spying the princess seams in the dark fabric. Hikaru and Kaoru looked at each other in vague shock.
"That girl…is not human."
Hikaru looked at her and said, annoyed, "How do you do that?"
The other three in the room nodded at her in rapt interest.
Haruhi figured it was time to give them a taste of their own medicine. So, flashing them one of the winning smiles that she had cultivated for her customers back in her hosting days, she said cheerfully, "It's a secret."
Rather than the tide of annoyance that usually erupted from her more than spoiled friends, everyone – again with the exception of Mori – gave exclamations as to her level of cuteness.
She could, in fact, only sigh as they latched onto her and praised her. After this had continued for longer than she liked, she finally stated, "so now what?"
Only then did they seem to remember that they had some odd semblance of a mission to perform.
"Mori-senpai! Hunny-senpai!" stated Hikaru imperiously, fulfilling the position of commander in Tamaki's absence, "We need to decide which design is most fitting for Haruhi's dinner engagement."
Hunny looked up at them briefly, "I thought Kyo-chan assigned that to you."
They exchanged knowing glances and shrugged.
"We got bored and couldn't decide."
After a moment, Mori pointed to one of them – a simple black gown with a purple wrap – and said simply, "elegant."
There was a shocked silence that followed the pronouncement, before the twins unquestioningly dismantled and stowed the other mannequin away in one of the suitcases.
Hunny looked over the remaining dress and said, "Haru-chan will definitely look cute in this!"
Haruhi could feel a headache coming on and muttered a very unenthusiastic, "Thanks…"
Unexpectedly, Hikaru let out an annoyed sounding noise and reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and pulled out what looked like a wad of large bills, before shoving them into Kaoru's hand.
Kaoru smiled and took them without comment.
Hikaru mumbled something to the effect of, "Next time I'll win the bet."
Noting this strange exchange, Haruhi noted that the chosen dress lacked Hikaru's characteristic princess seams and laughed.
Hikaru glowered at her while the others looked on with a little confusion.
"You guys never change."
"No," mumbled Hikaru, "but if you don't change, Kyouya's going to make us his slaves for the rest of eternity."
At this comment the atmosphere of the room grew considerably darker, leaving Haruhi to wonder exactly what Kyouya had done to get them all to come. It was more than vaguely unnerving.
In fact, she was glad that the courier had assured her just this morning that Kyouya was safely out of the country.
Thinking it would be best to cooperate in order to save them from whatever threat they were working against – she could sympathize with them, having essentially been in Kyouya's debt for the entirety of two years of her life – she decided to be uncharacteristically cooperative during their attempts to dress her up.
Suddenly, somewhere between foundation and eye shadow, she asked, "Have any of you actually met Tamaki's grandmother?"
There was a sort of awkward silence that descended over the room. Haruhi realized that this was probably the exact thing that they had been avoiding discussing with her.
At last Hunny ventured, "I think Kyo-chan is the only one who has been introduced to her…but that was at a business dinner."
"Our family businesses don't overlap with Tamaki's family's for the most part," added Kaoru, indicating the assembled members, "Even Kyouya-senpai has only been introduced to her but hasn't had any extensive business dealings with her directly. So, we can't tell you much about her as a person….besides the obvious."
"Sorry, Haru-chan," concluded Hunny almost tearfully.
"It's alright," she said, giving them a smile, "I'll simply have to get to know her on my own."
They all nodded and, much to her dismay, pulled her into a large, supportive hug. She never quite got used to being squeezed by far too many arms from far too many different directions at one time.
"Haru-chan will just need to take care of Tama-chan for us," said Hunny, finally, a glimpse of something quite beyond his usual cuteness flashing behind his words.
She nodded at them realizing that they had all entrusted him solely to her and, although it had taken her years to truly understand it, she knew exactly how much faith it took for them to entrust someone that important to anyone.
As if he had some ability to read her thoughts, at that moment, Tamaki came barreling through her apartment's door, without so much as knocking, while shouting, "Haruhi! I have come to take you to your desired destination in luxurious style, virtually unknown to Commoners!"
He walked in, a package under his arm, and saw her in the dress and make-up and then registered that she was not alone in said dress and make-up…and, sadly, he seemed particularly torn as to which one he should act upon first.
"H-H-H-Haruhi," he began in lieu of a resolution to his inner conflict.
"Why didn't you tell me that everyone was coming to your apartment?"
"I didn't know…and then I suppose I forgot to call you."
He froze for a second and stuttered, "F-f-f-forgot?" before promptly crouching in her closet. Haruhi rolled here eyes as the rest of them merely watched their former club president with a sort of fond amusement.
The more cynical portion of Haruhi's brain wondered if all of them were just fondly pushing him onto her to deal with.
She heard distinct snatches of Tamaki mumbling phrases such as, "My cute Haruhi doesn't even remember her handsome fiancé and has fun without him..." and something like "Traitorous doppelgangers."
Behind her, another glance laced with meaning was exchanged between the other men. Silently, they all agreed that it was up to others – well, Haruhi - to complete the final stages of the plan.
They had done what they could.
"Haru-chan, Tama-chan, Takashi and I need to attend to our evening training sessions, but good luck!"
Mori grunted a good-bye at her before they both departed with Hunny perched on his shoulders.
The twins quickly followed them – one citing a mild case of boredom and the other a need to return to Milan for the last days of their fashion showcase. The last glimpse she caught of them as they left her apartment was identical conspiratorial winks.
Suddenly, following a few hasty goodbyes, Haruhi found herself alone with a pouting Tamaki.
Even if they had left him and all his vaguely troublesome tendencies to her, she knew that he was the one she had chosen. Even though she still sometimes questioned this decision when she saw him crouching in the corner, or behind light posts…or pretty much any location. But, all annoying antics aside, Tamaki was an unquestionably a good man and – when she was feeling in a particularly charitable mood – a very admirable man.
Haruhi considered Kyouya's words again. Tamaki would always be Tamaki…and Haruhi secretly knew that she would change very little about that, and so she had decided she would help him to stay who he was.
But, to say that explicitly would have been rather troublesome…consequently, she would save it for a time when the Corner of Woe was not entirely adequate to contain all of his rather overflowing…sentiment.
Now was clearly not the time.
So, she instead decided to examine the round package that he had brought with him and promptly forgotten – in the "throes of his passion," or something like it – upon the table. It was, Haruhi discovered, a very high quality melon…the kind that cost half of her month's rent.
"Tamaki-senpai-" she said by force of habit, intending to ask the reason behind the melon. However, at this he immediately sprang up and began lamenting, "My cute Haruhi seems to have forgotten about every last bit of everything concerning her sinfully handsome fiancé today."
In attempt to make her feel guilty (she supposed), Tamaki put so much stress on the word "forgotten" that Haruhi thought that his voice might simply snap from the strain. However, he continued on, wagging a censuring finger and lecturing her as one might a dog, "Tamaki-kun, K-U-N…"
She fired back in an annoyed tone, "I know how to say it."
Tamaki, of course, completely ignored this and instead it seemed to fully dawn on him that she was dressed rather more…feminine…than usual. In order to show his apparent appreciation for this, he launched himself at her and began a hugging ordeal with more exuberance that Haruhi thought she could ever even think of possessing.
"Tamaki, you're going to wrinkle everything."
"And," he said, still ecstatically embracing her, "You've finally come to understand the sublime beauty in maintaining yourself as a pristine object to be worshipped!"
He broke off his speech and bent down into an extravagant bow before gallantly stating, "Ah, my beautiful goddess, I shall fall down in impassioned ecstasy at your alabaster altar."
Again, coming back to her conversation with Kyouya, Haruhi rationalized that deification by Tamaki was, at some point, inevitable.
Keeping this thought to herself, she practically moved to stop the current rumpling of her dress. She sighed at his enthusiasm and mumbled, "Actually, I don't want all of their work to become worthless because of you."
Especially, she added in her head, because they did it for you.
Tamaki, swept up in his own rose adorned world, failed to take notice of this and was still spouting something about porcelain love goddesses who ruled from ivory towers when Haruhi interrupted and asked pointedly, "Why did you bring a melon?"
He halted mid purple prose and looked thoughtful.
"I thought," he said after a rare silent pause, "Grandmother might enjoy it."
The moment of ephemeral seriousness passed and was almost flawlessly replaced by his usual indomitable cheerfulness. He must have then realized what time it was because, with a swift glance at the clock, he flashed a surprised look at her and immediately began dragging her towards the door, scooping up the melon in his free hand as they passed the table. Having gone out of the door, which he then deftly locked with the key Haruhi had given him (rather the key that had been awarded to him in exchange for peace and quiet), Tamaki perkily stated, "Grandmother insists upon promptness – or so Father tells me – so we should definitely be off."
Haruhi could have told him that it appeared they were already going despite any protests on her part. However, she allowed herself to be pulled – barely managing to avoid tripping completely on her black-heeled shoes – with an air of resignation about her.
"Tamaki-kun," she managed to choke out, using what he considered to be the proper honorific to avoid any further melodrama, "How did you know to come and get me? And – " she tripped and almost fell before her tone altered considerably, "Let me walk on my own!"
He stopped before turning around to look at her apologetically, his grip relaxing considerably.
"Father told me that Grandmother wanted me to escort you there," he smiled brightly at her, "Isn't it a surprise that she's requested you personally?"
There was a completely innocent look about him that was visible despite the fact that the only light sources around them were the small bulbs of light that marked each apartment unit. Sometimes it seemed to Haruhi as if Tamaki was equipped with his own luminescence. Honestly, she wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if he had somehow managed to install something to make him glow as he did. But, she firmly reminded herself that now was not the time for such silly thoughts.
Feeling a bit guilty due to the expectant and innocent look on Tamaki's face, Haruhi responded, very quietly, "No. She invited me last week."
Instead of the expected doom and gloom, his smile became impossibly brighter and he said with pride, "Grandmother must think highly of my cute Haruhi to extend her such a personal invitation. I hear that she rarely does that for anyone."
He then gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek and bowed formally, with a ridiculous smile, and offered her his arm.
Maybe, she thought, he really doesn't care.
She took the proffered arm, more for the fact that he gently held her steady in her uncomfortable footwear than because she thought of it as a romantic gesture. Like this, they arrived without incident at the black limousine.
Once inside, they sat in comfortable silence for a while, Haruhi watching the world outside of the tinted windows and Tamaki watching Haruhi, his arm about her shoulders.
"There's something bothering you," he stated mildly after a few minutes had passed.
She turned her attention away from the window and back to him.
He seemed to study her for a moment, a grin playing at the corners of his lips. It was almost as if he knew to wait for something….Haruhi recognized it instantly as that annoying look that he had when he knew that he was right.
"But," she said carefully, not entirely sure that she wanted to ask the question, "Doesn't it ever bother you…how your grandmother treats you…?"
Tamaki blinked at her in surprise, evidently not expecting that particular question. For a brief moment she thought that he might gloss over the question entirely and instead scoot over to her and exclaim something to the effect of "Haruhi's worried about me!"
Instead, he took one hand from her lap and whispered, "Let me remind you, 'I'm me before I'm a Suou.'"
Haruhi finished for him, "And I'm proud of that."
However, from her tone, it wasn't clear who the "I" referred to because, at the use of that memorable phrase, she gave him one of her very rare smiles – calm and bright and genuine.
"Besides," he said, leaning in very close to her ear so that his words almost tickled and using the sultry tone from his days as the winner of more than 70 of the female population of Ouran Academy, "You've already fallen for me."
Annoyed at that particular characteristic phrase, she forced his head away from her with one hand. Frowning deeply she said with feigned disinterest, "You fell much harder."
He laughed, knowing that, coming from Haruhi, such a retort amounted to "You know I love you, idiot."
And, for once, Tamaki didn't even mind the "idiot" part.
End Part 1