The Main Suou mansion – and in making this distinction, Haruhi wondered just how many impossibly large dwellings a person could have – had a decidedly different feeling from Tamaki's home.
In fact, if Haruhi were to characterize the contrast between the two…houses…she thought that it would be something like the difference between Kyouya's and Tamaki's personalities…well, at least how they each acted when they were outside of the public eye…and even that only really applied to Kyouya.
They both, arguably, shared some similarities. But, at first glance, one of them looked and acted in a much more imposing manner.
Unfortunately, this seemed to be the mansion that embodied Kyouya's daunting persona the most – and she wasn't at all sure that it was only the façade of an imposing figure like the one she knew that the former Shadow King possessed in actuality.
She glanced over at Tamaki, whose eyes were wide in childlike wonderment at seeing the entirety (but again, Haruhi couldn't state that it was in fact the "entirety" with the level of accuracy that she deemed appropriate) of his familial heritage. And, Haruhi, despite her prior misgivings about his behavior, could never cease to admire him for not seeing it all as something that he had been forcibly denied.
In order to demonstrate this unspoken respect, she even indulged him as he pointed out one "admirable," "noble," and "exquisite triumph of aesthetic glory" after another as they drove the long way up the driveway to the main entrance. He continued to extol the building's virtues even as they left the car and began to walk the length of the rather expansive flagstone pathway to the actual entrance of the mansion.
At this point, Haruhi firmly decided that flagstones, heels, and expansive gesturing were quite possibly the worst combination ever…and even as she thought this, she felt the heel catch in a sizable gap between two of the stones and promptly sprawled forward directly into the entrance hall (the butler there opened the door very hastily) and fortunately for her, was caught by someone.
She looked up, knowing that – from the sputtering that she heard somewhere behind her – it hadn't been Tamaki who had saved her from a near face first sprawl into the polished Suou marble. No, she looked up to find the grinning face of the man who would soon be her father-in-law.
"Ah," he crooned in a tone that was just short of gloating, "I seem to have caught a jewel that my silly son has neglected."
Tamaki's protests were generally ignored as Haruhi was pulled to her feet again in one fancifully flamboyant gesture. As soon as she was upright again, Tamaki's father then captured Haruhi's hand and planted a kiss on it, suavely asking, "How in my cute future daughter-in-law this fine evening?"
Haruhi was luckily saved the trouble of answering (in what would have most likely been a blunt and slightly rude manner anyway) the playful inquiry by Tamaki's sudden flailing and physical efforts to push his father away from "his" Haruhi.
When some witticism or another from Yuzuru had once again sent Tamaki to crouch behind some expensive piece of statuary or other, Haruhi took the opportunity to bow politely to the head of the Suou family and say, with her best brand of hosting cheerfulness, "I'd like to thank you, Chairman, for your part in our invitation."
"Chairman?" He chuckled and then assumed a very erect stance, jabbing a finger in her direction, "Call me 'Father'!"
Haruhi should have realized by now that, one way or another, she would never escape that annoying joke…it must be firmly ingrained in the Suou blood somewhere.
Assuming an air of dignity, her future father-in-law continued on.
"And, in regards to the invitation, Haruhi-chan," here he cast a significant look over to his son, who was now being observed by one or two confused and almost disdainful servants, "you may thank my mother for that entirely."
He gave her a serious look that so contrasted his previous demeanor that not even Haruhi could find it difficult to miss the import of the phrase.
"But," he finished, his glib speech resuming, " I am sure that she will be delighted at the presence of my lovely blossom of a daughter."
And, as he moved to put his arm around her, Tamaki finally noticed the interaction and, with lightning fast movements, leaped up and yanked Haruhi away from his father's grasp in a rather violent way, causing the offending arm to instead fall around nothing but empty air. He was then greeted by not only an annoyed and rather insulting remark from Haruhi, but also with a "tsk, tsk" from his father and a lecture concerning the bruising of the delicate flowers that are young maidens.
Haruhi just wondered how on earth she would be able to survive for any length of time between the two.
In a surprisingly uneventful – though it was frequently punctuated with plenty of bickering between the two males at either side of her – stroll through the palatial labyrinth of the house, they finally arrived at a colossal set of polished double doors. She noticed that strangely, Yuzuru grew increasingly quiet (she wished she could say the same for his son) as they advanced farther into the house. In front of them stood two elderly men in smart, crisp tuxedos that stood at almost military attention, much as she assumed the guards at Buckingham Palace that she had read about would do.
Everything here seemed so stiff when compared to the frivolous staff at Suou #2.
Yuzuru placed a hand on her shoulder and stated in a calm, almost wary voice, "One of these gentleman will escort you in. Fujioka-san," she realized that he was affecting a more serious demeanor for the benefit of the figures in front of them, "Mother will meet you as soon as your presence is announced."
Despite his solemn speech, out of the corner of her eye she could have sworn that she saw him wink…and quite frankly, she wouldn't be in the least bit surprised.
"You," he said, pointing suddenly to his son and adopting quite a different tone, "are coming with me because," he tucked his arms behind his back and strode by a rather shocked Tamaki, "my very foolish boy is my dinner guest."
Tamaki threw a look at his fiancé that greatly resembled that of a kicked puppy.
"Haruhi!" he whined.
She looked at him blankly and, taking the melon from him, shrugged and stated, "You'll survive."
His father chuckled at the exchange before (quite literally) dragging Tamaki off.
For the first time since early that day, Haruhi found herself without the help of any of the (vaguely) comforting presences of her friends.
The men in front of the door bowed deeply and with a demure murmur of, "Fujioka-sama," opened the heavy double doors. She walked in, not at all impressed by the display, as she was focusing on walking in her accursed shoes.
Inside yet another large foyer, she found a very severe looking woman – most likely Shima's counterpart here at the main mansion – clad in a very traditional kimono.
"This way, Fujioka-sama" she said briskly, with a curt wave for her to follow. Then, eyeing the melon with a touch of disdain she added, "and you may leave…that…in my keeping."
Haruhi merely blinked as the woman took the host's gift from her and passed it off to another shadowy maid who disappeared as silently as she had come.
The unnamed usher then led her down a long hall. Out of sheer amazement at the excess, Haruhi had started to count the doors, knowing that each led off to at least some other room or even an infinite chain of rooms. This house was by far the largest she had ever been in, all members of the Host Club's own mansions included.
Passing several more doors and statues and glittering chandeliers, Haruhi cynically wondered if perhaps she should have left bread crumbs or something so that she would be able to find her way out of the enormous place again.
For many twists and turns her guide had been rather silent, however suddenly she spoke again.
"You will be dining in the Murasaki room with Suou-sama," she pulled up a sleeve to reveal an expensive watch, "we were expecting you promptly at 7:00."
Haruhi looked at her own watch and saw that it was now 7:18. Lowering her head, she mumbled in a way that did not seem very apologetic at all, "I apologize for the inconvenience."
In a haughty gesture, the older woman slightly nodded her head to indicate that the apology had been acknowledged.
They finally halted at a single door, surrounded on either side by two – ridiculous in Haruhi's opinion – alabaster statues of some Greek goddess or another…Venus? Diana?...either way, Haruhi didn't find that she cared too awfully much. Her guide paused at the door to take out a small key and then, with a flourish of sleeves, she opened it and bowed shallowly and very stiffly as a sign that Haruhi should come in.
As soon as she was inside, the woman left the room and closed the doors behind her with a soft click! of the door being locked once again. However, in the further game of rich and lavish Ping-Pong, she found yet another servant – another tuxedo clad gentleman – who showed her to her seat at a table meant for thirty people and set only for two. Haruhi saw, with a bit of annoyance that they were at an unreasonable distance apart for any sort of…conversation.
However, knowing what she did about Tamaki's grandmother, she wasn't entirely ready to discount that as a completely bothersome detail.
And, waiting there in the heavy silence, all the more weighty due to the glittering veneer it had, Haruhi was struck by an exceedingly ironic thought…
All the pomp and swirling around of innumerable servants, the long and seemingly pointless walk through the house, the crisp and expensive clothes, and overly cultured manners were all like another absurd special parade.
That wasn't to say that it, other than very superficially, bore any resemblance to the absurd Host Club special parades she'd had to endure throughout her high school festivals for three years. It had all the extravagant excess and none of the almost noble motives.
This type of parade neither entertained nor benefited anyone.
And, although at the head of this frivolous affair was a Suou – the Suou if there ever was one, in fact – the bothersome spectacle was played out with a cunning self-consciousness that Haruhi knew Tamaki couldn't and wouldn't ever exercise.
It struck her as almost funny that she realized this was the first time that she would be meeting a genuine rich bastard.
At that moment, she decided that she would somehow manage to ask – without actually asking them, of course, because explanations were bothersome – all of the old members of the Host Club over for hot pot sometime. She even generously decided that she would use more meat (than usual).
This way she would also avoid their suffocating, overly affectionate thanks for her efforts…well, except for from Tamaki. But Haruhi took this as a given that such gestures of emotion were an unfortunate reality for him…and she didn't mind them much anymore anyways.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the door opening once more.
A train of figures entirely dressed in black uniforms filed in and moved to hide themselves in the far reaches of the massive room – Haruhi dimly remembered their presence at a long ago school festival – followed by the shrunken figure of the Suou Matriarch herself.
Tamaki's grandmother did not, at first glance, have the same overt severity that the mansion's head usher had had, but still, when the old woman entered (Haruhi, for some unknown reason, found herself rising) she couldn't help but feel her presence.
Haruhi found that the woman simply exuded a sense of command and, very subtly, the pronounced aura of a person who was simply disgusted with something.
Continuing on with the sense of pomp and excessive formality that had thus far marked Haruhi's visit, the old woman bowed and curtly introduced herself. Haruhi returned the gesture with as much formality as she could muster while knowing the actual tenor of the event. They both took their seats.
For a few moments, there was a pervasive silence as hors d'œuvres were served. Haruhi would have found them…to be delicious….if not for the fact that Tamaki's grandmother's gaze on her caused a prickling sensation on the back of her neck.
As much as she hated to admit it, Haruhi couldn't help but feel as if she was some nasty bug that was being looked at under a microscope. But, in order to escape any sort of troublesome conversation, she remained quiet and sampled the rich dishes given to her in what might have looked, to anyone who didn't know her mannerisms, to be polite deference.
After the silent first course had been served and a chilled soup brought out for the second, the old woman finally spoke.
"I suppose you are wondering why you were invited here, Fujioka-san."
Haruhi caught onto the implication that she shouldn't be here otherwise and wanted to answer "not particularly" in her normal blunt manner, but between hosting and her training as a lawyer, she managed to give a politely indifferent answer that neither affirmed nor denied the question.
The Suou Matriarch's eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly before she continued, "I'll have you know that it was my foolish son's wish not to have a formal miai(1) due to your long…relationship…with" there was a calculating pause, "his son."
Feeling an annoyed twitch at the way she even handled speaking about Tamaki, Haruhi nodded in what she hoped would be a non-committal fashion. It was a good thing that her education at Ouran had conditioned her to being inconvenienced by rich people…
"So," she continued, seemingly marking her silence, "I have arranged to meet you in a fashion that I hope you will find fitting, Fujioka-san."
"I am…honored to receive your invitation, Suou-san," she replied formally.
A choked noise echoed from one of the far-flung corners of the room at her form of address.
There was a barely noticeable halt in conversation before Tamaki's grandmother simply responded, "I see."
The women finished the second course in a stubborn silence with a polite veneer.
At the end, Haruhi's hostess calmly waved to one of her ever-present attendants. With a nod and a reply of "yes, Suou-sama," they left and returned with a silver tray. There was a conspicuous absence of any of the rich food on it
Instead, there were two crisp leaflets of documents printed on a very high grade of paper. This, Haruhi somehow knew, would be the end of the social niceties…not that she was found the old woman…or anyone else in the mansion…very nice at all to begin with.
"Fujioka-san," she drawled, fingering through the pages of the top stack of papers. Haruhi guessed that this was probably the report of a private investigator she had hired in the tradition of a formal miai, "You seem to have a very interesting background, indeed."
Every inflection of her voice was refined and even.
"However," she drew her withered lips into a smile that contained no semblance of mirth, "I don't believe that will be a problem."
Haruhi knew very well – ironically, mostly from her early dealings with Kyouya – that she was intimating that there was very much a problem with her background…a problem that wasn't in the least open for debate or discussion. She flipped a few more pages in the packet over.
"However, despite your disadvantageous background, as a compliment to your stature, you seem to have overcome the inconveniences inherent in your upbringing…on an anonymous scholarship you managed to graduate first in your class at Tokyo University…"
Despite the pretty words, Haruhi couldn't say that she felt complimented in the least. Yuzuru, and by proxy, Tamaki, had inherited an aspect of their gift with words from the old woman, but Tamaki's grandmother definitely had none of their almost overflowing sincerity. Normally, Haruhi wouldn't let the thinly veiled insult stand, but she wasn't here to defend herself…and it didn't appear that the old woman across the table would allow her to.
Part of her decided that she owed it to Tamaki – really, for the sheer number of times that her father had quite literally walked all over him – to not give the troublesome woman her actual thoughts on the matter.
She decided to think of it as merely another waltz at another dance party, and Haruhi, despite her unique training was not leading at the moment.
Even if she had wanted to, she could not have said anything because the old woman continued on, picking up another thick packet of papers gingerly, with the ghost of some sort of satisfaction, and said, "my son tells me that you are a fine lawyer."
Haruhi answered that she was a lawyer, but didn't know about the "fine" part. She was beginning to feel more and more as if she was in court at the moment…but she most definitely wasn't the lawyer.
"Indeed," Tamaki's grandmother flipped another page in the rather ample packet, "the Ootori Group, both branches of Hitachiin Enterprises, the Suzushima import company, and even – interestingly – the Nekozawa Corporation, all had exceedingly positive recommendations of your work."
The old woman pursed her lips and lifted her head to look at Haruhi.
"Quite an impressive résumé for a woman whose primary area is non-profit welfare work."
Blinking, Haruhi didn't know if this was a compliment or not, however, she doubted that it actually was considering the person who gave it. She thought, with more than a touch of annoyance, that it would almost be a miracle if there was an actual woman behind the pretenses.
So, in response, she merely gave a stilted, "Thank you."
Then, suddenly the interview changed gears with a wave of her wrinkled hand.
A servant, bowing slightly to her employer, picked up the tray and silently brought one of the packets of papers over and set it in front of Haruhi. Much to her own chagrin, Haruhi found that she couldn't help but be curious at the odd gesture.
Mostly because it seemed to be the cue for an entire other series of events. As soon as the tray touched the table in front of her, another maid came in and consulted in a low voice with one of the butlers, who, in turn, strolled over and bowed to the Suou Matriarch before whispering something in her ear.
The old woman nodded at him, as if it was expected, and during the entire bustle of starched uniforms, she did not take her eyes off of Haruhi as the significance of the document that was handed to her dawned on her.
"Fujioka-san," she said in a deceptively calm voice, "I have been informed that, most unfortunately, there was a small incident in the kitchen that will somewhat delay the arrival of the main course."
She gave a delicate cough and adjusted the sleeves of her kimono.
With increasingly strained politeness and a growing air of confusion, Haruhi found herself responding, "Uh, it's really not an inconvenience."
Even if the courses that had been served to her were, in her own opinion, delicious, thus far the meeting hadn't left her with an inordinately large appetite and the document sitting next to her annihilated any lingering hunger that she may have had.
She didn't think that even ootoro would be capable of reviving it because, for completely mystifying reasons, Tamaki's grandmother had handed her a copy of her own will.
"Now, Fujioka-san," her voice was still flat and calm, "I hope it won't be too presumptuous to ask that, in the lull that has unexpectantly developed, that you might attend to an article of business for me."
The placid looking woman reminded her of what the Hitachiin's mother had warned her about the first time she had accepted (well, been dragged by the combined efforts of Hikaru, Kaoru, and two of their maids) one of their dinner invitations.
"Careful what lurks in the brains of those two," the twins' mother had said, wagging a finger at her and winking, "When their faces look the dullest they're at their most dangerous."
Haruhi already had known this well before, but ever since then, the phrase had become a kind of adage and inside joke for the "friendly classmate trio" which, of course, irritated Tamaki to no end.
Unfortunately, at the moment, looking into her hostess' face, she found nothing whatsoever amusing about it…between the woman and her will, it was frighteningly applicable.
"I apologize, Suou-san," she replied, her patience with the unnecessary spectacle fraying and her tone taking on more of its characteristic bluntness, "I didn't realize that we would be discussing business matters."
She waved a hand.
"It's really only a trivial matter, and then we shall assume or previous conversation," Haruhi didn't think either option sounded particular enticing, "But I would really find it helpful if someone – a lawyer – of your caliber looked over some alterations I have just made in my will."
She made a gesture with her hand, bidding her to open the packet before her.
"I believe the passages of interest are on page eighty three…clause two."
Haruhi flipped through the pages with clearly visible irritation and looked at the parts that Tamaki's grandmother had mentioned.
The section began, "Concerning Suou Tamaki – "
Haruhi's well-trained eyes noted that the name had no context.
The names up until this point had been marked with labels that distinguished how each of the beneficiaries related to the Suou Matriarch. There was "Board Chair Matsumoto," "My son, Suou Yuzuru," and "Dear friend Yamazaki Sayako"…but Tamaki remained only a floating name.
But that certainly was only the beginning of the anomalies. Whereas the rest of the will's beneficiaries had multiple clauses and provisions, Tamaki only had one…contingent upon two conditions.
The conditions instantly made Haruhi forget about maintaining what little social propriety that she still possessed.
"In order to secure the position of heir to the legal holdings and property of the Suou Estate detailed in Article I, Clauses 1 – 358, following the death of my son, Suou Yuzuru, Suou Tamaki must comply with the following stipulations:
i. Strict compliance to the prior agreement set forth in the appended Article 32 is required."
Haruhi had just arrived at the mysterious "Document 32" and began to read and understand the article's significance when the older woman interjected, "Do you find anything objectionable, Fujioka-san?"
Haruhi remained reading the document that legalized the separation of Tamaki from his mother rendered in the phrases "herein by referred to as," "in so far as compliance with the terms," and "provided that the secondary party."
Turning back to the will's original stipulations, Haruhi responded in the tone that she reserved for cross-examination, "I can find nothing legally objectionable."
At this response, the older woman's eyebrows rose.
Haruhi re-read the clauses again to assure herself just how vindictive the woman was.
But the words "The above mentioned beneficiary's state of inheritance shall additionally be contingent upon my direct and explicit approval of the party's choice of spouse" as well as the presence of "Document 32" remained a reality.
Satisfied in her assessment of the woman's character, Haruhi returned the stack of papers to the tray and stiffly rose, ignoring the butler that immediately rushed to her side to perform whatever assistance she required. All of the black figures – most likely trained bodyguards – tensed as she approached the Suou Matriarch and returned the tray to her with little ceremony before plopping back down in her seat.
She then did something that few people in her position would have dared.
Haruhi unflinchingly met the old woman's eyes and stated frankly, "You're wrong."
The normally imperturbable head of the Suou Empire showed uncharacteristic surprise at what she saw as the pure gall of her guest.
"Tamaki doesn't care about any of this. It doesn't matter to him what you do to him."
There was a hanging, pregnant silence. Haruhi thought she heard the nasty woman's rasping breath
"I see that he has already spoken to you about me and influenced your opinion prior to my intervention."
Haruhi looked down at her clenched hands. Her knuckles were white. Somehow she kept her voice steady as she responded.
"The first time I saw you with him, I thought I saw," she took a deep breath and continued deliberately, "a soap opera."
The Suou Matriarch's expression darkened at this uncouth appraisal. There was a swell of whispering among the assembled staff that was very soon quelled.
"But Tamaki cried because he thought he had upset you. But then," the silence about her was ringing, "he told me that you were a beautiful woman."
Both women held each other's gaze as if they were equally steeled to some purpose.
The wrinkled mask of her face showed a momentary crack but, with age, comes an innate sense of steely self-control. She frowned and stated, "He's still a fool."
Haruhi frowned and said, quite seriously - much to the surprise of the assembled audience - "Yeah, a lot of the time."
"But," she continued, "although he's troublesome, he's a good, admirable man."
Tamaki's grandmother let out a derisive snore and spat out, "Admirable? The fool wants nothing more than to gallivant wherever he pleases and sleep around with whatever pretty face he finds." Haruhi's gaze steeled even more, "It's in his blood."
Looking down at her plate, she decided that it was useless – especially in light of the slight to Tamaki's mother – to even attempt to bite back her anger, The loathing she felt for the woman across the table from her rested in the pit of her stomach like a heavy weight.
Tamaki deserved so much better than this woman…even if he didn't curse his own fate and he didn't care…she did. Her thoughts clearly stood out in her increasingly cold expression.
"You don't like me."
Haruhi nodded. The other woman's expression was blank and incalculable…in Haruhi's mind, it contained a bit of perverse amusement.
"I don't like you and I don't see why that matters. It doesn't even matter if you like me or not. I can't help what you've already decided," Haruhi continued in a cold voice, "but, as your grandchild, Tamaki has your blood, too."
The old woman's eyes narrowed at the impertinent reminder. Haruhi didn't care.
"And he's a fool because he wants to make everyone happy – including those who don't deserve it from him – and I admire that."
She stood up, causing the black suited figures in the room to become uneasy again.
"You can disinherit him – that isn't my decision – but Tamaki is Tamaki. He'll still be your grandchild regardless and that won't change because you sign a piece of paper. In fact, if you'd just smile genuinely at him once, he'd forgive you, because that's all he wants and…that's all I want from him," the other woman looked livid at this indictment, "But you have never taken the time to learn that."
She paused to let the words sink in before adding, quietly and in a much different tone, "Tamaki will always be Tamaki…and neither of us can change that."
The defense of Suou Tamaki rested and Haruhi walked to the door.
One of the butlers hurried to unlock it and tried to open it in frazzled uncertainty, however, Haruhi simply opened it herself and went out, determined to ask directions out of the ridiculous labyrinth from one of the maids. She would wait outside for Tamaki.
But, she decided she wouldn't apologize for anything that she had said. Haruhi never apologized to anyone for telling the truth.
Haruhi stripped off her uncomfortable shoes and walked down the broad corridor in search of a maid. At that moment she deiced that Suou #1 was filled with far too much excess for its own good.
Tamaki, in her opinion, didn't need all of that anyway.
The heavy door closing marked the end of the dinner like a punctuation mark.
As if responding to a prompt, unspoken cue, a cart rolled out – suspiciously carrying only a single serving of food. The maid who pushed it bowed with a respectful "Suou-sama" and placed the plate in front of her mistress and proceeded to pour her a glass of red wine.
Haughtily, she picked up the glass, and with a perfunctory swirl and sniff, took a sip, ignoring the air of tension that still lingered in the room after her guest's departure.
"At least," she said very softly, addressing the contents of her wine glass before taking another sip, "you are not as much of a fool, Fujioka-san."
The old woman began to deliberately cut her meat in decisive fluid movements before spearing each small piece with her fork. She chewed on it pensively for a few moments before waving to the nearest servant and commanding impatiently, "Fetch my fool of a son here for me. If his foolish son is still with him, tell him that his fiancé should now be waiting for him somewhere near the main foyer."
She put another piece of meat in her mouth contemplating that, without the virtues of her distinguished blood and social refinement, she might have resembled that girl…If only that Fujioka-san didn't have such inescapably flawed taste in marriage prospects.
But at least she wasn't a complete fool. It was all that could be hoped for.
Then, more quietly than anyone could possibly hear, she mumbled with an edge of irritation, "Beautiful?...Hardly."
Yuzuru entered the room, wary of what he might find there.
Unfortunately, he found that his cute daughter-in-law was no longer eating with his mother…or even in the room for that matter.
Perhaps she had – unfortunately for both Haruhi-chan and Tamaki – designed the event to proceed in that manner. It was, sadly, something that he had rather come to expect from his mother in matters concerning Tamaki.
As he entered, his mother did not so much as look up from her plate. She merely commanded, "Sit, Yuzuru."
Seeing as she went on chewing a wad of meat and looking rather hard at a section of elaborately dressed table somewhere in front of her, Yuzuru found himself opening the conversation.
"How did you find Haruhi-chan, Mother?"
She frowned severely at the tone of endearment in his voice and remained stubbornly chewing for a while before finally answering.
"I found Fujioka-san to be impertinent, rude, uncultured, and generally obnoxious."
She mopped her mouth was a dainty napkin.
So, Yuzuru thought with a touch of apprehension, it did not go well at all.
"However, for all her absolute failings in the social graces, she is not such a fool as your son – and he, perhaps, has…too many social graces," she took a sip of her wine, "their faults compliment each other nicely."
That, in Yuzuru's experience, was an interesting comment for his mother to make. It was about as complimentary of "undesirable elements" as she was likely to get.
And, with a gush of fatherly pride he noted that she had once again referred to Tamaki as his son rather than her customary epithets of "that fool" or "that idiotic boy" (He ignored the fact that it was his "foolish" son entirely). However, he didn't dare let his detection of this victory show.
Yuzuru knew much better than to do that.
"And, unfortunately," she gave him a chillingly severe look, "you have given me little in the way of heirs with which to work with."
"Mother-" he began defensively, rising from his seat slightly in an attempt to escape the old argument. She simply ignored him and went on.
"But," she said sharply, "Continuing on with the matter at hand, Fujioka-san can seemingly control your son's idiocy."
She let this comment hang as a challenge to him to disagree with her. It was the same old game of cat and mouse, it seemed.
Yuzuru, after a period, just stated in a dead serious tone, "I'll just have to control Haruhi-chan, then."
Giving him a penetrating look, after a brief moment, his mother gave him a curt nod of agreement that made Yuzuru want to laugh. In his experience, Fujioka Haruhi was as uncontrollable as Tamaki was in her own stubborn way.
It was sometimes beneficial that his mother forcibly blinded herself to certain details.
But, this conversation did make him wonder what exactly Haruhi had said to her, especially if his mother considered her to be "rude" and "obnoxious" among other things and yet somehow managed to unequivocally impress her as "not a fool." Quite an achievement indeed.
She, strangely still did not look at him directly. That surely meant that, after all these years she was finally conceding something.
"At least she's not the brainless French whore I'd thought he'd marry," Yuzuru stiffened in well-controlled indignation, "But make sure that you amend her background – particularly her rather unsavory father – for any press announcements. But, other than that, she'll have to do. Because, as you know, Yuzuru, carrying on the Suou name with as much dignity as is still possible is of the utmost importance."
Yuzuru took that to mean that what she was conceding wasn't, in her mind at least, due directly to either Tamaki or Haruhi. It was strictly a business arrangement to her.
But, Yuzuru had also had enough skirmishes with her to on the same subject to know that the stubborn old woman wouldn't change her mind lightly…even if the decision represented the only way to carry on the Suou name in what she considered to be a diminished capacity.
He knew that he had tried that argument himself over the years more than once.
Maybe Haruhi had merely just said what everyone else was too bound by formality to say. From what he knew of the girl, she certainly would.
"So, Yuzuru," she said, looking somewhere off to a corner, "As long as that idiotic boy manages to keep a hold of Fujioka-san, I will confirm him as heir…because the only foolish thing about her is the fact that she loves your foolish son…and," she added as an afterthought, "the unsavory matter of her father."
She put an elbow on the table, a stance that clearly intimated that she was done with the present conversation.
"You're dismissed, Yuzuru."
Even if, after all these years she still addressed him as if he was some kind of toy poodle, it couldn't be said that he was unhappy to leave his mother's presence.
But, with a mischievous smile, he decided that he would keep the news from his sinfully handsome son and his oh-so-cute future daughter…just for a little while.
And, as a passing thought, he decided for himself that Ranka-san wasn't a discredit to Haruhi at all. He, in fact, seemed to have more control over Tamaki than even Haruhi did.
Haruhi found that, in the world of rich bastards that she so often – and mostly rather unfortunately - in her own opinion – found herself in, she was always opening one door or another.
So far, even though she had asked directions from three different maids (and received odd stares as well, perhaps because she was now barefoot), she still found herself lost in the big house.
No, she firmly reminded herself, "big" wasn't even the half of it. Maybe large enough to house half the population of one – maybe even two – third world countries did it justice.
Currently, according to the last maid, she was now supposed to be looking for a door on the right that led her to some hallway that apparently led her down another hallway and into the entrance hall.
Such large places were definitely more troublesome than they were worth.
In her quest for her escape route, she had only found one music room, two linen closets, and a room with a few embarrassed maids looking over something that – from the very brief glance she got of it – reminded her of Renge's doujinshi. She had apologized and decided to knock first from then on.
Ever since blundering into the Third Music Room so many years ago, she knew that she should be cautious opening doors of any kind.
But, even with this is mind, she couldn't find the troublesome hallway. She passingly thought that, if Tamaki's grandmother had any security cameras (and if she knew these rich types at all, she most likely did) than she was probably amused that her guest had walked out as she did.
At least, she mused with a vague sense of relief, it wouldn't be nearly as bad as that time that she had gotten lost in the Hitachiin Estate. That had been nothing short of a humiliating experience.
She opened another door (revealing the single most impractically large broom closet that she had ever seen) when she heard a very familiar – and at this point, very welcome – cry of "Haruhi!"
Half in relief and half in residual annoyance, she turned around to find Tamaki literally bounding through a door farther up to her right and directly towards her. Remembering where he was, at the last moment, he stopped himself from delivering one of his bone crunching hugs and somehow slid into a somewhat graceful stop (how he managed this time and again Haruhi could never figure out) and, instead, dipped her into a quick embrace that resembled a flourish at the end of a waltz.
Whatever it was, Haruhi found it annoying. She found that she liked to be solidly upright unless her permission was given to be otherwise. However, he had such a look on his face that she stored away the comment she was about to make for another moment of annoyance.
Tamaki just looked so very…happy.
And, when he looked like that, not even Kyouya and his accounting book conscience could deny him what he wanted.
Tamaki's smile was nothing short of a force of nature.
Because Haruhi liked facts, she had been resigned to this long ago and now merely gave into it without pausing to think. Because, although she might never admit this to anyone, despite the somewhat troublesome results that smile often had, Haruhi wouldn't want him to lose it for the world.
"Haruhi," he whispered sensually with a strange thickening in his tone that usually meant that his incoherent imagination was at it again, "Did you miss your sinfully perfect fiancé and pine away for me in the excruciatingly long hours between our last ephemeral – though poignantly memorious – clandestine meeting in a bitter love-worn ecstasy of cruel, insatiable longing?"
"Tamaki-kun," she deadpanned in the wake of his verbal torrent, "the blood is rushing to my head."
He blinked at her uncomprehendingly. Much to Haruhi's chagrin, nothing was done to rectify the situation.
"Put me down."
Recognition dawned slowly on him before he hurriedly complied. When she was safely upright again, he changed tactics and slipped his arm around her back. After the stressful evening, Haruhi had to admit that his closeness (that is, when she was properly perpendicular to the floor) was comforting.
Finally, it occurred to her that he should still be in his dinner. With no pretense she asked, "What are you doing here anyways?"
An almost sly smile spread across his face and he replied, "Finding a little lost kitten," before touching a finger to her nose. She smacked it away in gentle annoyance.
"I would have found my way eventually," she grumbled.
He beamed at her, "I know, I just thought you'd like some company while you found it."
Haruhi made a dismissive noise and said, "Better than the company I've had today."
Although the comment would usually have sent him to mope in some corner in years past, he now just laughed, realizing that such blunt comments were simply a part of Haruhi.
Absently he commented, "Father says that Grandmother has been holding business meetings for too long."
"I think he's right."
He turned to her, the smile still on his face…but it seemed a bit blunted, as if a hint of something else lingered beneath it.
By now they had reached the door – which Tamaki gallantly opened for her – and began walking the length of the front path to the car.
"Tamaki, she may disinherit you for tonight."
He brushed the thought away like it was a mere fluttering rose petal. He didn't even ask her what she had said that could lead to this. But his smile had returned.
Giving her a significant look he said, "I have things that are more important than that."
Haruhi, being Haruhi, did not immediately comprehend his meaning.
"Because," she said, thinking it over for a moment, "You will always be Tamaki."
Before he could respond with either a rare short affirmative or a long unnecessary speech accompanied by flamboyant gestures that pointlessly used up more energy than Haruhi could even fathom having, she walked up and kissed him square on the lips – a gesture she rarely made even in private.
An innocent blush quickly spread across his cheeks. Somehow he managed to stammer a response.
1. Miai – is a tradition that has to do with arranged marriages where a formal engagement is held between the two parties which is mediated by a neutral intermediary party – the one time I have heard of it occurring this party was a private detective. But since miai takes place only in an arranged marriage and not in a love match, Tamaki's Grandmother has her own sort of denial going on…That and the miai gives her firm control over the matter.
I must say, this was the hardest piece I have ever written. Even though there's a fair degree of fluff in here and romantic interaction, that was by no means the point of the piece.
It all started with the idea that Haruhi actually meets Tamaki's Grandmother and sprouted uncontrollably from there.
In my head, I subtitle this piece "An Exercise in Exceedingly Odd Character Dynamics." And all throughout it are simply…strange…combinations of characters. The Kyouya and Haruhi interaction is strange because of the fine line each treads around the others….and to me, they have a pointedly distant but familiar at the same time…a bit more intimate look at the interaction they had at the mall. The Host Club minus Tamaki and Kyouya was hard to get anything actually done in…Tamaki and Kyouya move a fair degree of the plot, which is why things only got underway with Hikaru imitating Tamaki's commander routine.
Suou-sama was just all around difficult…with Haruhi, especially, and with Yuzuru as well.
And…I always find convincing romantic interaction between Haruhi and Tamaki…really, Haruhi and anyone because of her personality to be difficult to capture.
However, in case anyone is wondering why I didn't go for the all out happy ending where Tamaki becomes heir and everything works out nicely…I didn't think it was necessary. That is an agenda important to Tamaki's grandmother…and while it is a factor for them, it is by no means the most important thing. I, in fact, thought that the all happy shiny ending would have a more hollow ring to it…perhaps, however, you are not of my opinion…and that is perfectly valid.
But, thanks to elvaron (with a little help from Yuzuru), Tamaki was not disinherited as usual. 3 See it's happy and he has his inheritance! world crumbles and falls down
Anyways, all that said, I hope you enjoyed! And, even more so than usual, comments will be most appreciated…and will be answered (via review reply, sorry anons!) as per the usual.