It's been some time since I've updated. Sincere apologies folks. I've been busy with work. I hope you enjoy the chapter as much as my rather evil mind found delight in crafting it.
Chapter 17 // And She Will Be Loved
It was odd. Odd, very peculiar and distinctly out of the ordinary.
He was not smothering her. Instead, he had slid to the floor with her shoulders cradled loosely in his arms and his face buried in the crook of her neck. It was an awkward position since she was bent rather uncomfortably at the waist, but Tamaki seemed to need her there so she remained still.
Haruhi was stubborn, regardless of how easily she could be swayed by puppy eyes, death glares, twin sandwiches and fluffy bunnies. She had been worried when Tamaki had made his way to the kitchen dejectedly as if the entire world had caved in on him. Upon reflection, his reaction was only natural. She had been caught in a compromising situation with Mori after all and her father was on the verge of insisting that her ill-fated suitor take responsibility for something he had not even done.
Curse the elements! She had never intended for this to happen.
She patted his back. The truth was, she had no intention of letting him stumble out of the apartment with tears streaming down his face, to some mysterious location on his own. Not when he was this distraught. Her landlady would probably haunt her for the rest of her life, demanding to know what she had done to upset the handsome, charming young man. She would then truly have to disappear in the dead of the night as Tamaki had imagined during her working stint at Karuizawa. Practically speaking, being run out of town due to an incident such as this was not on her agenda. More importantly, however, it pained her somewhat to see him in shambles. She supposed the previous episodes of gloom were nothing compared to this.
She admitted grudgingly that she did not want to lose him. He was sunny, vibrant, ridiculously dramatic and quite the idiot. Moreover, she really did enjoy his company and could not imagine life without him.
"Honestly, nothing happened."
He raised his head slowly, cheeks flushing bright pink as he gazed into her large doe eyes. "Really? Do you promise completely and utterly?"
Tamaki's smile returned at this and his eyelids slid shut for a moment. She frowned suspiciously. "You're not thinking that sounds like… a marriage solemnisation… are you?"
"Ahhh Haruhi! I do! I do! I do tooooooo!!!"
She smacked his golden head lightly. "Stop that!" Then she started laughing.
His expression softened and he fingered her hair. Haruhi was charming when she was given to mirth. He would relinquish anything to listen to it for the rest of his days. He sobered. There was something on his mind that he had been meaning to ask.
"Haaahh… yes?" She rubbed at her eyes to remove the tears that had somehow accumulated at the silliness of it all.
He grasped her shoulders firmly. "Do… do you…" He swallowed nervously. "D-do you love Mori-senpai?"
She realised belatedly that he was trembling a little. His hands slid to her upper arms and tightened. He was waiting for her response with bated breath. His eyes were glistening with tears and something else she could not quite discern. Did she love Mori? She really had no idea. She would be lying if she said she did not feel anything at all for the stoic senior, but she was certain that she did not love him. How could she when she had no idea what love was really?
She had picked up a trashy romance novel once that her father used to pore over and had been disgusted with its plot development and idealised characters. She had snorted at the absurdity of the notion of a picture-perfect, happily-ever-after romance and attempted to toss it out. Only Ranka's friendship with the garbage collection folks had managed to save it.
"No… I don't think I do," she replied carefully, "I don't even think I know what love is."
Tamaki heaved a sigh of relief then brightened. "I'll teach you!"
"No buts. I don't need distractions from my studies, least of all distractions of this sort."
"I-I suppose not," he conceded, then crushed her to his chest. "But I really can't imagine a future without you in it. Promise me you'll let me stay by your side in any capacity… please?"
She hugged him back and smiled against the soft fabric of his shirt. "I promise."
They released one another and he beamed. "Now let's settle this with Ranka-san."
They returned to their seats by the table with fresh cups of tea.
"I see the both of you have finished your little discussion."
Kyouya had resisted the overwhelming urge to eavesdrop on their conversation although it irked him that Haruhi had willingly shadowed Tamaki without any prompting. He observed the lingering traces of tears on their faces with interest. He had heard some sobbing and laughter and came to the conclusion that there was nothing to worry about. Haruhi was still Haruhi and Tamaki, needless to say, was still the world's greatest simpleton at heart.
Tamaki nodded and leaned forward earnestly. "Ranka-san! We are cognizant of your current apprehension and we applaud you! For it is indeed a father's duty… nay! A father's devotion that constantly propels him to agonise about his daughter's wellbeing! Hence we, the Ouran High School Host Club, would like to allay your fears!" His arm swung forward expansively and clenched his fist at his heart -- an action that would have had their customers squealing. "We exist for the happiness of wom-… of mankind."
Someone stifled a groan. Great, thought Haruhi dryly, all of mankind indeed.
"THEREFORE, you have my WORD that Morinozuka Takashi did not perform any indecent acts towards your daughter!"
"And that word alone is sufficient."
He silenced Kyouya with a wide-eyed glare. "Yes! I am the King! The epitome of perfection and as one very astute subject declared… a genius!"
Ranka had arisen from his seat at the ludicrous display and was rapidly turning a mottled red. Before Tamaki could cause any further damage, Kyouya placed a reassuring hand on the okama's shoulder. "Please, Ranka-san. Have a seat."
He turned towards Haruhi and smiled. "Now, Haruhi-chan… would you please regale us with your version of the story?"
She was not the least bit taken in by the pretence of friendliness afforded by the suffix he had used. The twinkle in his eye was bone-chilling. He was seething. She gulped.
"Ah, actually… I was asleep the entire night." She rubbed the back of her head and shrugged. "I woke up to find Mori-senpai holding me."
"Is that so."
She stared back defiantly. "Yes, it is so. Trust me, if something happened I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to sleep through it. Isn't that right, Mori-senpai?"
The perpetrator coloured a rich crimson immediately and bobbed his head.
She had no concept of delicacy whatsoever. Kyouya found himself fiercely torn between laughing and throttling her. He schooled his features to impassivity despite the muscular tick that was threatening to erupt near his lips. Tamaki had withered into an ungraceful heap in the corner.
"Well, Ranka-san. There you have it. The word of your daughter and the heir to one of the most prestigious families in Japan. I sincerely hope you believe them."
Haruhi peeked at her father. He seemed calmer, though not sufficiently convinced. The next thing that emerged from Kyouya's lips, however, was the icing on the cake.
"In the event that anything untoward happens to Haruhi as a result of last night's affairs, I, as well as the Ootori family, am prepared to take full responsibility which includes marrying your daughter, accepting the child into my family as my own and handling any media furore that might arise. Rest assured that Haruhi will be safe in my capable hands." And she will be loved, he added silently.
Haruhi knitted her eyebrows, having been plunged into deep thought by the abrupt proposal. There were a few choice things she wanted to say to Kyouya, but it was, unfortunately, not the time. Ryoji, distinctly out of Ranka mode, was patting the Shadow King on his shoulder, smiling like the potential father-in-law, no doubt providing him with gems about his daughter that he might otherwise not have shared.
She grimaced at the sight and watched as Kyouya disengaged himself from her father's grasp and made his way towards Mori, who was coolly sipping on the piping hot tea she had served a few minutes ago. Tamaki, unlike the pinnacle of stoicism, was out cold in the linen closet.
"A word, Mori-senpai."
The icy tone of his voice had her cringing. She stepped between them. "Wait, Kyouya."
"I suggest you move, Haruhi. This is something that needs to be settled between men."
She dug in her heels even further. "You should know it's pointless to use that argument on me. I'm staying here whether you like it or not."
His eyes narrowed. "Are you protecting him?"
"Not really. Just ensuring that neither of you get carried away and hurt one another in the process."
He sighed, exasperated. "You never learn do you? You're just like Tamaki in this regard."
"He would resent that if he was awake."
"He's used to it." He leaned in, closing the distance between their faces considerably. Haruhi refused to budge. It was a matter of principle, something she would steadfastly cling to regardless of the extent with which his invasion of her personal space unnerved her. "You're just begging for another one aren't you?"
She cringed inwardly and tilted her chin up in defiance. "Another what?"
Haruhi was temptation personified on a regular basis even though few viewed her as such. It was merely a testament to their imbecilic natures that they missed what Kyouya had noticed the moment she stumbled into the Third Music Room. What she said, did or even wore was completely immaterial to him. But when she was glaring at him, eyes blazing like this, it was incredibly difficult keeping his hands to himself. They itched to grasp and hold her close. "I'll have you know, Haruhi," he murmured for her ears alone, "that I'd very much like to kiss you senseless at this point."
She took a step back, fingertips unconsciously brushing her lips, eyes wide in surprise. He chuckled in victory. That had certainly stopped her in her tracks. "Now if you'll excuse us, Mori-senpai and I have something of great import to discuss."
Mori watched the exchange between the two with mild interest.
There was a thump. "NO." Haruhi had stamped her foot in protest, an uncharacteristic action that proved that her frustrations were increasing as the conversation progressed. It was amusing for both males.
"In that case…" Kyouya reached for her, snagging her by the elbow and dragged her through the small hall to her bedroom. He slid the door shut.
"What on earth are you doing?"
"Getting you out of my way," he peered at her through his lenses. Her cheeks were pink and he could tell by the way she was breathing that she was close to unleashing her anger. He steeled himself for an apocalyptic outburst. "I'm going to talk to Mori-senpai whether you like it or not."
"If you're going to warn him away from me through some underhanded means, using your private police force and societal pressure, you've really got another thing coming."
"So we're back to square one again, Haruhi?" The soft timbre of his voice startled her. He sounded… hurt.
Her eyelids slid shut. "No. That's not what I think of you, Kyouya. Not really. I just think that you tend to retreat to old habits when you're upset."
"What could I possibly be upset about?"
She sat on the floor and hugged her knees. "Well, that Mori-senpai spent the night. Again. You were furious the first time. Furious enough to… err… never mind that. You're probably livid now."
"And why do you suppose I might feel that way?" He sat next to her, gaze trained on the smooth skin of her cheek.
"I don't know."
"But you do."
He pondered his options. There was only one reason he had broached the idea of marrying Haruhi should events turn awry. He loved her, regardless of how altruistic it might have seemed to rescue her from her troubles. The thought that someone else had touched her intimately did not sit well with him. It was downright gut wrenching. He flinched. Nonetheless, it was of little consequence. He would embrace her in his arms for the rest of his life if she would have him.
He was waxing lyrical, the result of fraternising with that Suou.
"Why did you say you'd marry me Kyouya?"
"Because I want to." He arched a brow. "Please tell me you aren't going to ask me why I want to. That would be an extremely pitiful display of ignorance, even for you."
"Oh, shut up."
"My, haven't things changed, Haruhi. You would never have dreamt of telling me to 'shut my trap' as you commoners are wont to say a few months ago."
"Your threats don't have any leverage over me anymore."
"I allow them not to," he responded with a sinister grin.
"Why are you doing all this?"
"You know, Haruhi, when I have my mind set on something, I see like to it through to the end, even though things may not work out as I had intended. However, when I have my heart set on something… all bets are off."
"All bets are off?" she echoed quizzically.
"Exactly. That's when I defy rationale thought. Think of it as a power-up state."
"I'm shocked. I didn't know you had that sort of foolhardiness in you." It was true. While she knew Kyouya had in his possession the fortitude of a ruthless businessman when need be, she had definitely not expected this… abandonment… of his logical reasoning faculties.
"I haven't displayed it at all, believe me. If I did, you'd know, Miss Observant." He inched closer. "Besides, I've only had my heart set on one solitary thing."
It was awkward. She was cognizant of what it was that he was referring to and for the life of her she knew she should not even turn to look at him for fear that the palpable discomfiture in the room would leap at their throats, but she could not resist a glance. His hand slipped past her forearm and seized her fingers, stroking them.
She sensed some vulnerability in his tone.
"I… I just want you to be cared for." He brushed his lips over her fingertips then released them. "Naturally, I want to be the one that does it."
"Aa-aahh." She paused, collecting her scattered thoughts from the events that had transpired moments ago. "Well, you're insane."
"Crazy about you." He dazzled her with a dashing quirk of the lips.
"Oh have it your way. I don't suppose I can do anything to stop Ootori Kyouya once he's set his mind on something."
"Heart, Haruhi. Heart. You're not paying attention." He tapped her nose and rose, straightening the creases in the fabric of his pants.
"You're turning into Tamaki-senpai. You really need to do something about that."
He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I thought you liked Tamaki."
He walked towards the door and slid it open. "Actually, you probably need to attend to him."
"I can imagine. After your shocking announcement, I'm surprised he's only nursing fungi with my bedding." She massaged her temples nonetheless.
"Better rescue your linens then, Haruhi. I don't think a musty smell would go down well while we're in the midst of coit--…"
He laughed as she sputtered. It had not occurred to her that he would not permit partaking of such stimulating activities next to Ranka in her very own apartment. He silently congratulated himself on a job well done. She was easy to derail if one really got down to it. It was merely a matter of identifying her buttons. Judging by the virgin stain of indignation on her countenance, he had stabbed at the right ones, in a manner of speaking.
As he stepped out, he spied Mori out of the corner of his eye,
He adjusted his glasses briskly. "Mori-senpai."
I'm probably quite mean smacking my readers back and forth between these awesome bishounen, but I can't seem to do anything about it. And it's a shorter than usual chapter than my recent ones have been... only because I felt it was appropriate to stop here while I ponder my next move.
Current mood: Loving Kyouya. I'm sure you can tell.