The full title would not fit into the space FFN allows!

Disclaimer: Nope, don't own it.

Spoilers: Up until volume 6 of the manga and for the entire anime. Everyone's backgrounds are game. And minor characters abound.

Welcome to Ouran meets a strange combination of "It's a Wonderful Life" and some strange aspects of Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Be warned, the first half has a considerable amount of "Bah Humbug!" in it…but you'll hopefully get the fluffy sugar plum goodness feel at the end.

Dedication: To everyone…Love, Sci. A belated Merry Christmas and early Happy New Years!

It's a Wonderfully Splendid, Exquisitely Splendiferous, Magnificently Elegant, Life

sciathan file

Suou Tamaki never had to be told to count his blessings.

When he discovered that he was blessed with something, he extravagantly acknowledged it - and every other thing - that had graced his existence. In all seriousness, some privately thought he was some sort of Midas, owing to the fact that whatever glanced off his immaculately tailored shirtsleeve gained (at the very least) some bright golden hue of possibility.

But, this is, perhaps, only the very top layer of what made Suou Tamaki…magical.

However, as others with words far more eloquent than the dribble that spills from my pen have noted, those who are the most – and I use this for lack of a better term by which the quality might be described – magical often also are completely unaware of the fact that they possess such traits without, well, intervention.

And Suou Tamaki was never an individual who, in all his twenty-five years, could be accused of having an excessive degree of self-realization. And this, as one Ootori Kyouya will frankly relate, is an understatement in and of itself.

This is a story about magic and infinite possibility in all senses and contexts.

Moreover, this is a story about how Suou Tamaki – despite his mental blunderings to the contrary – is inextricably related to magic and infinite possibility.

Because, you see, magic and possibility are two things from which no one can escape.

Indeed, at the core of every individual one will find a gallery of photos, big and small, clear and blurred, Technicolor, black and white, or dripping with somber sepia tones. It all depends on imagination, a trait that – much as it grieves me to say it – some people are rather lacking in. But, that aside, everyone has at least one photo that represents the people that they live for and the things that drive them forward.

And it is when these images become tarnished that every human being, despite even their best efforts, falters a bit and perhaps - even if it is only for a moment - blunders around blindly for a bit.

Suou Tamaki had two photographs: one showing the happy face of a lovely blonde woman with a gentle smile, blushing and accepting a rose from his father and one displaying five males in blue blazers gathered around a chair occupied by a girl (mysteriously dressed in boy's clothing). Both were enclosed in gaudy frames surrounded by gilded roses…but, I suppose that just speaks to his character.

Although the people of the first photo often meet with him when, after his work in assisting his father, the Chairman of Ouran Academy is finished, he sits in his beloved Third Music Room and dreams, he has not seen the blonde woman for many years.

It is a sad, unfortunate thing when fate and wicked grandmothers prevent you from seeing your own mother.

The story that I am about to tell begins in the Third Music Room – a place which is unofficially an office for the Chairman's Son – and starts with what should have been an innocuous visit by a secretary…

---------- ----------

One of the elaborate double doors to the unused (for the purpose it was meant for, at least) music room cracked open a little bit and a woman walked into the room with more timidity than was, perhaps necessary.

Instead of going over the year-end budget reports for the academy, Tamaki was instead staring out a window at the snow outside, a smile playing on his lips. What he was remembering – or more, what he was imagining – I don't think anyone can actually tell you.

"Suou-sama," The girl said, approaching the corner desk with small, mincing steps. "The Chairman would like to see -"

"Ah, Princess!" he said, popping out of his mind and plucking up a rose from the well-stocked vase on his desk, "I am so glad that you have come to see me this fine Winter day."

The blond strolled confidently up to her and cupped her face sensuously with one hand, "I bet that I know your Christmas wish, Kyouko-san…" he finished, suavely.

The shy assistant merely sputtered and turned increasingly vibrant shades of red before clenching her fists and shouting, with an obvious effort, "I-I-I would like for you to see the Chairman at once!"

Tamaki chuckled and bowed, holding out the rose for the girl. She merely goggled at it and, after opening and closing her mouth and only succeeding at producing incoherent squeaks and squawks, she at last forced out, "But, Sir! You have a wife!" and ran to the doors, hastily pausing only to give a rushed bow and spew out a madcap version of a proper good-bye.

He had always wondered why his secretaries had such a high turnover rate…but, shrugging what seemed to be an absolutely inexplicable conundrum off, he left and walked to his father's office.

The flamboyant greeting that had been about to emerge from his lips was immediately stifled as he observed his father's silhouette against the window. As Suou Yuzuru had always greeted his son with some sort of torment or annoying practical joke, Tamaki immediately took his good behavior as a sign that something was wrong.

"Tamaki," he said solemnly, still staring out the window, hands clasped in back of him.

Striding towards the desk, Tamaki kept half-waiting for his father's mocking voice to come out in some new take on his usually annoying antics.

It did not come.

"She's very sick right now…much worse than any other time."

Tamaki opened his mouth to say something or ask for a clarification, but his father continued on, "They do not know if she will be able to survive this time. Her body is very weak."

Looking down at the ground, Tamaki said, very softly, "…Mother…?"

There was a hesitance on the Chairman's part as if he was measuring the tone that his son had used.

Suddenly, his son whirled around and moved towards the door with a fierce sense of purpose, Yuzuru sighed and said, "Please, stop, Tamaki. You can't go to France after her."

"If Mother is dying, do you really think there is anything that will stop me from seeing her?"

His voice was steely and tinged with a fine brushing of anger at the insinuation.

Yuzuru sat in his chair and slumped over, defeated and distraught, "She would."

At that moment, Yuzuru could not bare to use anything but a pronoun. He did not want to admit to having any sort of relationship with the woman who was, by an accident of fate and genetics, his mother. He did not want to admit that the same woman had yet again backed him into a corner.

Tamaki was staring at him, a smoldering look in his eyes.

Yuzuru's voice was very soft and he couldn't bring himself to look up into his son's angry face at all, "If you go there, you know she will pull all of the funding for your mother's medical care without another thought. So, even if she does recover this time, there's nothing even I can do to help her after that." There was an increasing degree of despair and desperation in his voice, "And, at this point, if you do go, it might be too late anyways."

The last sentence was raw and choked. His father's head was in his hands and even Tamaki couldn't say that the man wasn't crying.

"I'm sorry, Tamaki. I'm so, so very sorry."

Tamaki merely looked at him, and for all of his elaborate flourishes and ability to say the proper thing in the right moment, he could find no way to look at the situation and say anything that would make it other than what it was.

His father was right. And now he was reduced to murmuring, "I'm sorry" while sobbing.

Without a word, fighting to control his own tears, the former king of the Host Club left and called for his car. Haruhi wouldn't be home for hours yet and all he could do until then was return home and sit and try not to think.

Aside from Haruhi, he thought that everyone he knew would have probably gone overseas to celebrate the winter holidays elsewhere. He decided he wouldn't even bother calling them. He didn't even know what he would say to any of them.

All that remained for him to do was sit and wait…alone.

---------- ----------

When he arrived in the comfortable apartment he and Haruhi shared, he went straight to the window, where he stared out, cradling a picture of his mother in his arms.

Haruhi had told him not to call at all today. His cute wife had emphasized in a very un-cute manner not to call on her lunch break, on his own lunch break, during the big meeting between clients, after the big meeting between clients…he simply was not supposed to call at any of his normal times lest he arouse her wrath. He was supposed to wait until she got home "unless the Apocalypse comes."

Tamaki knew that this was no literal Apocalypse.

After a half an hour of merely sitting there – which, had anyone been there to witness it, would have amazed all those who knew him –he wandered the other rooms of the house.

He had wandered into one room and sat down at the piano…but his fingers merely found their way to his mother's favorite song. He stood up abruptly on an unresolved chord and, knocking the piano stool over, without another thought retreated absently to another room.

Reaching the bedroom, he flopped down upon the bed and pulled his knees to his chest. He felt unequivocally, wholly, utterly, and completely alone.

But, as Suou Tamaki was a person who rarely thought of himself, his own feelings of loneliness merely turned into thoughts of his mother's feelings and how extreme and complete her loneliness must be.

Yes, Tamaki hated being alone.

But, as he normally was surrounded by people, this wasn't a fair inclination…it was merely him being selfish. For all these years, who had his mother had around her? Who was taking care of her now?

He pulled himself into a tighter ball and tears began rolling down his cheeks at last.

In an utter defeat of his usually indefatigable conviction that everything was for a purpose, his Midas touch failed and the world degenerated into a pile of dross at his feet. In their golden frames, both pictures seemed very dark and far away, the faces in them obscured by the harsh glare of reality.

Tamaki had, at last, found himself in a corner with no one in sight to come and rescue the Prince from Fate's Black Knight. And, it was at this moment that, for the first time in his life, he wished with all of his heart that he had never left France.

Because then he would never have left his mother – and something in him snapped and fizzled out as he thought this – to die alone. She would have at least had him to be with her in her final hours.

A soft, but throaty, laugh interrupted his ruminations.

Looking up, Tamaki realized that the sound had come from a woman with long brown hair, dressed in a nicely tailored suit coat and skirt, who was sitting on the window ledge and regarding him with kind eyes. She looked vaguely familiar.

So complete was the man's despair that it didn't, at first, even strike him as odd that a woman he had never seen before had somehow come into his house and was now sitting in his bedroom. Her gaze, however, was steady and unflinching, as if she were appraising him.

"You do cry a lot, Tamaki-kun. It's just like she said."

The comment made him forget his former train of thought for a moment. Not bothering to pull himself up from the bed or make any effort to make himself more human-like and less ball-like, he sniffed and said flatly, "Who said that?"

The woman laughed again before winking and raising an index figure, "That's a secret. Now, how shall I help you, Tamaki-kun?"

Suddenly, it dawned on him that he did not, in fact, know the woman who was in his house and calling him by his name. So, being a gentleman of the utmost grace, in a display of ungainly limbs and tangled sheets, he sprang out of the bed…only to gracelessly tumble down to the floor the opposite side, completely enmeshed in a heavy blanket.

The woman walked around to him and, stopping directly above him, she cocked her head and said, "Ah!" She hit a fist into her other hand, "I must have forgotten to introduce myself again!"

Tamaki looked up dumbly at her before whimpering, "If you kill me now, my mother really will be alone."

The woman crouched down next to him and, with one maternal caress, wiped a newly formed tear away before saying, "I know it may seem strange, but I am your guardian angel, Tamaki-kun. And, I know it is hard now, but please trust me that everything will work out for the best. In fact," She suddenly stood up and flashing him a "V" for victory(!) she exclaimed, "I'll be sure to win this one for you Tamaki-kun!"

Mumbling over the finger in his mouth he asked, incredulously, "Angel? You don't have any wings."

"I have to win them first…" she answered, a smile pout in her voice, "And that's not what's important anyways. Ah, I forgot something else! You may call me Kotoko!"

"Kotoko-san," he said hesitantly, "how are you going to help me?"

There was a brief silence before she nodded resolutely.

"You wished you had never come here, right?"

Tamaki stared at the woman for a minute before nodding and, finding that he couldn't look at anything but the floor as he admitted it, said, "She's going to die alone…it would be better if I never left her."

The woman frowned, a deep sadness lingering in her eyes.

"I never thought I would have to use such measures on you…but if it is necessary, I suppose I will. I'll ask again – just to be certain – you wish you'd never left France? Never come here at all? This is what you want?"

Tamaki let out a broken and defeated sigh, "Yes."

"Then I'll grant your wish provisionally," she smiled at him and offered him a hand, "but I want you to see the effects, so you'll have to come…there's a lot to see."

He didn't take the proffered hand and merely stayed staring up at her with a look somewhere that hovered between the poles of profound sadness and flimsy hope.

"You'll let me see her, then?"

The woman's eyes brimmed with compassion, "I guess you could say that."

She extended her hand again, and this time, Tamaki took it.

---------- ----------

In the blink of an eye, he was transported not to France, but to a spacious office.

Tamaki blinked and looked around. There were no traces of his mother or anything that even vaguely resembled something he knew.

Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he whirled around to find Kotoko, attempting to direct his attention towards something in the interior of the room.

For the time being, however, Tamaki felt betrayed.

"You said you would bring me to my mother and nothing in this entire space even vaguely resembles – in fact, the likeness cannot be construed as even having the most very basic of similarities - a space that my mother, in her current state, might occupy."

She looked nonplussed and almost, almost slightly annoyed…but in a way that looked a lot like someone he knew.

"I will. However, there are things I need to show you first….for example, the man over in that corner."

Tamaki did not want to fall for the ploy and tried – for the entirety of maybe thirty seconds – to imitate the woman's own nonchalance until she complied with what she had said she would do. However, as it always did with him, his curiosity finally got the better of him and he glanced to where Kotoko indicated.

Perched behind an enormous mahogany desk was a very short man in an expensive suit and tie. But, apart from the clothing and the setting, there was nothing unfamiliar about him.

It was Hunny. - without Usa-chan, wearing a suit, lacking cake, and sitting behind a desk doing paperwork - but, unmistakably Hunny. That is if, considering all that Hunny was lacking, he could still be "unmistakably" Hunny.

And of course, Tamaki belatedly realized just how strange that Hunny looked with Mori nowhere in sight.

"Hunny-senpai!" he said, running to him, hearing Kotoko mutter something to the effect of "Tamaki-kun, you might not want to do that…" but, by the time what she had said had actually registered within his head, he was already barreling around the side of the desk.

The entire time the older man didn't so much as look up at him. Rather, he kept signing and reading various documents with a look of such extreme concentration that it seemed to want to jump off the normally carefree man's face. So, Tamaki resolutely put a hand out to jostle him a little bit and found, as he placed it on what otherwise would have been Hunny's shoulder, it went straight through.

Tamaki then jumped back and landed with a loud smack against a wall. Neither the countless martial arts trophies above his head nor the multitude of papers seemed to absorb even the smallest vibration of his fall.

"Kotoko-san! Hunny-senpai is a ghost! A mere phantasm! Something that is not among the living! I can put my hand through him – straight through him like I am only cleaving the air! - and the universe seems to not absorb even the smallest, most minor hint that I was indeed here! And, of course, Hunny-senpai does not seem like Hunny-senpai at all!"

She began walking towards him from the other side of the room, and for the first time, Tamaki noted that her heeled shoes made no sounds whatsoever upon the hardwood floor.

"That is because you don't exist in this world. You are somewhere in France at this moment and have never so much as met Hunny-kun."

This seemed to strike Tamaki completely dumb and he stood for a moment, merely opening and closing his mouth.

"I - " he began, only to be interrupted by the door crashing open with a bang! And a flesh colored ball whirled through Kotoko-san (she merely put a hand over her mouth and gave an "oh my!" as if people whirling through her was a daily occurrence). In a fraction of a second, Hunny was no longer seated behind the desk and had somehow managed to drive the flying blur into the floor with a well-placed elbow.

"Yasuchika! I thought I told you not to disturb me when I was working!"

There was no trace of the sweetness that literally oozed from the boy Tamaki had known from his Host Club days, rather, Hunny sounded exactly as he did when he was woken up from his naps. The words were cruel and it was clear from the way that he was pinning his younger brother, he was not holding back whatsoever.

After a moment, the smaller boy let his younger brother go…by throwing back into the wall.

Without so much as a glance back at him, Hunny used one hand to dust off his expensive suit jacket, and returned back to his desk.

Soberly, Chika walked back in and stood before him.

"He came by the dojo again this morning, inquiring after you, Mitsukuni."

"Did you turn him away?" It was obvious to Tamaki, as someone who had known him very many years, that Hunny was trying to sound as if the matter they were discussing was incidental.

"It looks bad for the Haninozuka Clan if he continues to show up. People will talk."

"I'm aware of that, Yasuchika," there was an imperceptible tremor in his voice that Chika didn't seem to notice. It was the same one that Tamaki had heard in high school when he had seen Hunny trying so desperately to be tough. Hunny sighed and continued on, the tremor increasing, "I will tell Takashi tomorrow – again – that I don't need him. The Haninozuka heir needs to stand on his own, without anyone else."

Tamaki yelled, "That's not true, Hunny-senpai! You don't have to stand on your own and be that person!"

Kotoko put her hand upon his shoulder, shaking her head. Realizing that this was a reminder that his yelling would do no good, he merely watched the rest of the scene unfold with an increasingly horrified expression.

Because the Hunny that Tamaki knew would have died had he said those words and, more, he knew that somewhere Mori was dying as well.

There was a note of Chika's eyes as he stood before his older brother. But, as there was no more to be said, the younger Haninozuka merely bowed and left.

Hunny did not return to work and instead, leaned on one elbow and said in a voice akin to the childish one Tamaki was accustomed to, "I'm sorry, Takashi. I'm so sorry."

He remained staring at the trophy filled wall for a very long time, his expression inexpressibly sad. Tamaki found it even sadder that he lacked even Usa-chan to comfort him. Now, he was just a man in a suit who took care of the accounts for his dojo.

Hunny-senpai, it seemed, was no longer Hunny-senpai.

Gently, Kotoko patted him on the head. "You see why I only granted your wish provisionally. I left you with a loophole. But we have to see the rest, now."

"They can't all by like Hunny-senpai, perhaps this is just some extravagant tear in the collective fabric of the universe conspiring against us! That's it, a veritable global conspiracy!"

"It isn't just Hunny-kun, you can see his cousin outside of his window. He spends at least an hour everyday watching him from the same spot."

Tamaki looked and saw the stoic man – whom he was so accustomed to seeing a cheerful Hunny-senpai perched on – merely staring up at the window, his stature somehow diminished by cares beyond his control.

The woman who said she was his guardian angel merely looked out, calmly and stated, "It's the closest he is able to come since Hunny-kun's father said that Hunny needed to stand on his own…no one ever told either of them that it was alright for them to be selfish and that it was better that they become their own people."

Earnestly, Tamaki grabbed her hands and said, "They can't all have turned out like this. Certainly some of them would have been okay without me!" He thought for a moment before saying, "Hikaru and Kaoru should be fine…they would have met Haruhi even without them. They didn't need me."

She sighed and with a wave of her hand they were out of the office and in another place entirely.

This new location was absolutely desolate…there were no people around at all.

Tamaki looked around and saw neither of the twins. Just rows and rows of…graves.

His companion sat down on the lip of the raised pathway and said wearily, "I was hoping you wouldn't ask about them just yet. They got the worst – well, I'm not sure I can actually assert that it is the "worst" - of the fact that they never met you."

As if it were some sort of a defense, Tamaki – still looking for the figures of the twins somewhere on the horizon line – mumbled, "But if they had Haruhi there's no reason they needed me."

"Ah, but how did they meet Haruhi?"

Tamaki paused for a moment as if he was struck before stuttering out, "The H-h-h-h-ost Club…but they were in the same class."

He looked about all the more frantically before Kotoko pointed at a monument labeled "Hitachiin" a few stones down. It did not appear that anyone had visited in a very long time because it was dirty and unkempt.

Tamaki just stared.

"Haruhi-chan never talked to anyone in her class, because she never felt the need to. There was no Host Club to make her come out of her shell…and there was no way for people such as the Hitachiin twins to think of associating with someone, particularly a Commoner, outside of their world. There was a closed door firmly between Hikaru-kun, Kaoru-kun and Haruhi."

"So…what happened to them? What calamitous catastrophe led to them both being…here?" It was a whisper that wanted comprehension, but at the same time wanted to deny the basic facts that led to his need for such understanding. The color had completely drained from his face as he stared at the name carved into the stone.

Kotoko spoke very quietly.

"It wasn't any accident. They wanted to keep their own world because there was nothing on the outside that could lure them out and make them stay there."

Tamaki looked up at him dumbly.

"Do you think that, without the support of the most bizarre student organization to ever grace Ouran Academy, they had the strength to stick up to the world alone?" She paused, putting the tip of an index finger into her both in a gesture of contemplation, "…You said so yourself, their world was very small. Without the Host Club it remained just them. They really were very fragile boys."

With an effort, Tamaki wrenched himself away from the frozen sight before him, feeling utterly unaffected by the chill air around him.

"I…I don't want to see this anymore."

Tamaki buried his face in his hands, too horrified to find his Corner of Woe as usual. It didn't seem to be able to contain all of the sentiment that it needed to be able to.

"Do you understand yet…?"

"Haruhi…she should have been able to help them."

"But, dear Tamaki-kun, even without the Host Club, who ever told them to open a door to a world outside their own?"

But, as far as Tamaki was concerned, there was not a viable answer to that question that was within his power to give.

Taking his hand, he felt the world blurring again and Kotoko's gentle words of, "She was very right about you…you don't know what you do at all, do you?" rushed by him and in the midst of everything they had seen lost any sort of greater mystery.

---------- ----------

When they arrived at their next destination, Tamaki found that he was seated in the back of a large auditorium that was filled with an applauding audience. Up front, a man in glasses stood silhouetted in front of a screen that displayed a number of pie charts and figures detailing growth.

Tamaki recognized the person immediately, and forgetting that he had no volition whatsoever in the world, shouted, "Kyouya!" and jumped up from his seat and immediately scrambled down to his best friend.

The flying hug sent at him, was of course, met with no physical resistance and Tamaki fell over and did a bizarre little smack and roll on to the stage.

Despite all of the sober situations they had faced so far today, much to his chagrin, he could hear Kotoko's hearty laugh float down to him from one of the side aisles of the auditorium.

She shouted down, "Just watch the show and follow Kyouya-kun after his speech is done."

So, Tamaki seated himself on the auditorium's stairs and simply observed and listened.

"-and as the president of the Ootori Group, my brother, Ichiro-san, has told me, we are expecting a marginal increase in profits for our shareholders due to the implementation of several new facets within our health care branches."

His smile was wide and resoundingly hollow to Tamaki's knowing eyes. It was the same one that he had seen on the day that Kyouya had invited him to Hokkaido.

It was the kind of smile that Tamaki had hoped that he never would have to see again…anything was better – his conniving one, the placid one he wore when he was satisfied with some positive increase in his accounts, even the "you annoy me to no end at this instance, idiot" smile - than the one that so clearly said that he had given up doing anything with his life and his talent.

The meeting ended with another ripple of polite applause and Kyouya bowed and made his way off stage. In an inhuman flash, Kotoko had somehow appeared next to Tamaki (causing him to jump with a shriek), and whispered, "Before you follow him, listen to what these, erm, gentlemen have to say."

Then she pushed him unceremoniously towards a group of heavyset middle age businessmen who were discussing the details of the meeting.

"I see President Ichiro designated his brother to handle the year end meeting again this year."

"It is too bad to see the boy's potential wasted like that…anywhere outside of his family business, he might be a president of some other company. His talent – especially with that Fujiyama merger – is evident."

"But he is Ootori Yoshio's third son."

"Yes, quite the pity…had he the drive and a venue to prove himself, he might have succeeded. Perhaps he just has no spine."

The tallest one scoffed at this suggestion, causing the companion who had just spoken to argue, "They say he was a top student from high school on through graduate school."

"And so were his brothers. The third needed to do something that made history if he wanted to do anything more than support his brother – you knew the last Ootori head, nothing less than that would have sufficed. Believe me, Masumoto-san, he was out of the picture before there was a picture."

By the end of the man's comments, Tamaki's hands were both balled into fists at his sides, and if he hadn't been pulled towards the backstage corridor by his companion, he might have launched into a long and flowery "ode of vindication" on Kyouya's behalf.

But turning around, he saw a familiar face.

Kyouya's sister, Fuyumi, happened to be listening in on the conversation while unsuccessfully pretending to read the financial report packet that had been provided to all of the shareholders at the meeting. The knuckles on the hand that gripped the report were very white.

After a moment, she seemed to collect herself, take a deep breath and then quietly and discreetly disappeared backstage. Tamaki, his guardian angel in tow, quickly followed after her.

They found that Kyouya was sitting back there, nonchalantly gazing out on the crowd, that fake smile still plastered to his face.

"Ah, Fuyumi-neesan," he said upon spying her in a mock pleasant tone, "I see you have graced the shareholder meetings with your presence. Once again, I can undoubtedly assure you that it is unnecessary – though kind – gesture and that you would be better suited at home with your own family."

"Kyouya-san," she responded, with a frown and a touch of a whine in her voice, "I know what they say."

"It doesn't matter what they say, as a third son it has always been my duty to support my older brothers. You should know that by now. Now," He snapped the ledger he had been looking at closed, "Go home to where you belong."

She made a clucking sound with her tongue and put on a brave face that was strained and hardly believable anymore.

"You're sounding more and more like Father these days, Kyouya-kun."

His smile became all the brighter and accommodating in response.

"I suppose it is about time I accept his point of view…now, Fuyumi-neesan, if you'll excuse me I have to call my wife so I can tell Ayame-san that I will be working late and finishing up something that my brothers have both thought suited to my unique talents."

The tone of his voice and the expression with which the words were conveyed were nothing short of diametric opposites.

Fuyumi stood up, her eyes conveying the sadness she felt every time that she saw her younger brother these days, and gave an apology before leaving. Not even seeming to notice this act, Kyouya turned back to some menial task designated to him – as the meeting had been – and looked his schedule over before standing and calling for his driver to take him to his office for the night.

Tamaki watched him leave and, forgetting himself again, tried to catch him and talk some sense into him…to tell him that he needn't have given up, that being an Ootori didn't mean that he couldn't be Kyouya as well…that all of this didn't mean that he should never smile again.

But all that managed to blunder out was, "Kyouya…"

Watching at the door close as Ootori Yoshio's third son slipped out, Kotoko stated, "His father is very proud of him, you know. He's become a fine Ootori and done exactly what has been expected of him."

Tamaki nodded dumbly.

"But," said Kotoko casually began, "It is not an entirely bad future…"

"Yes, but he is not Kyouya. That person was about as like to Kyouya as…as well, Santa Claus would be if you gave him glasses and a private police force – well, at least turned the elves into one…certainly you can't say that the utter and complete absence of anything that is even vaguely reminiscent of the atoms and quarks and elementary particles of some essential Kyouya-ness is anything less than utterly tragic and a catastrophe on par with the destruction of Atlantis at the hands of vengeful gods! It certainly is a horrific mentally scarring future!"

She calmly responded to his torrent by asking, "And why is that, Tamaki-kun?"

This was not a matter of Haruhi recognizing the twins and rescuing them from their suffocating small world. No, the Ootori hotel chain that now spanned twenty-five countries worldwide, Kyouya had once said was a result of Tamaki having shown him something outside of his father's point of view. Tamaki had laughed at that and, most likely gave a long speech, but by the next day brushed it off as merely a product of too much celebratory saké on both their parts.

"It is because…" he responded slowly, "I gave him something that no one else could."

Kotoko smiled and, seeing it, there was no doubt in Tamaki's mind that she was, indeed, the angel she claimed to be. Although, Tamaki also thought this was an incredibly odd response to his comment.

"We have two more places…let's go."

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In a whir of color and blacks and whites, Tamaki made a less than graceful entrance into a pile of…coffee entrails.

The small space in which they had landed was filled with old coffee filters, cans of highly caffeinated beverages, disposable drink containers…which all covered stacks and stacks of thick books.

In the see of enforced sleeplessness, Tamaki managed to right himself only to be knocked over again by his sheer surprise at a shrill "beep!"

Rubbing his throbbing backside, he looked around for the source of the unearthly racket and found a blinking alarm clock perched on an even more cluttered desk.

Seated at it was a girl with excessively oily, limp, brown hair that had seemingly fallen asleep with her face in the binding of another incredibly thick tome. When the woman lifted her head groggily and groped wildly for the alarm clock's sleep button, with a drop of his jaw, he realized exactly who he was looking at.

And this time, he most definitely had something to say about it.

"Haruhi! In my absence, you have given up all manner of personal hygiene and regressed into an unsavory Bohemian lifestyle that is completely unfitting of my flower of a lovely wife! Your - " he looked her up and down as she blundered over to a bag by the bed and started throwing in a varied mix of objects before putting on some water and putting some instant coffee in a mug that he wasn't sure was clean. However, he evidently couldn't decide what was the worst aspect of her to comment on, "Everything! Haruhi!"

Unlike the other scenes where she merely stood looking at the scene with a mixture of calm and pity, Tamaki noticed that here, Kotoko's eyes seemed to have flared with a small mix of anger.

Carelessly, Haruhi pushed aside a huge volume and put on a sweat suit that smelled like it hadn't seen the inside of a washing machine in a very long time.

She grabbed the cup of coffee and sat back in the desk chair, opening the book and reading it again. She didn't seem to have any of her usual concentration.

Tamaki went up behind her peering at various books with a look that alternated between disgust, horror, and alarm.

"They're law textbooks, in case you are wondering."

The calm tone that seemed to pervade her tone seemed to have slipped just noticeably.

"Is this how you intend to leave your wife, Tamaki-kun?"

"If they're law textbooks then she is just trying to follow her dream…maybe, it is only taking her a bit longer due to a number of small – mishaps? - no, well, not wholly advantageous events!"

Kotoko looked him directly in the eyes and said, "Do you actually believe that?"

If Tamaki had been an ostrich, he might have buried his head straight into an ample pile of coffee cans and Styrofoam cups on the floor to escape the look that his companion was giving him. But, knowing he had to answer, he responded slowly and evenly, "No…Haruhi always goes out and gets the things she wants and sees how far she can go. This…this is not Haruhi. This person has no will."

"And no money with which to pursue her dream."

"But she must have done well enough at Ouran to garner a scholarship to go to whatever fine educational institute she could have possibly wanted to! We," his voice became very quiet and childlike, "We weren't even there to bother her…"

Kotoko frowned. "Top grades are one thing, responding too bluntly to interviewers for prospective colleges because one has not developed any bonds with anything outside of textbooks in three years of high school is quite another. Besides, you know where the money for her Oxford scholarship did come from."

"From….all of the families within the Host Club…but presented as a subsidiary of her Ouran scholarship by my father…"

"You're half way there. Who arranged it?"

From the expression on his face it was evident that the machinery that operated his brain was working on overtime.

"Kyouya did."

"Yes, but it was not something Kyouya did on his own, even if he let everyone think so."

Tamaki glanced over at Haruhi, noticing that her long hair would have been lovely if it had only been on the woman who had become his wife and not the waif of a person before him who obsessively drank her coffee.

"I…asked him to. For Haruhi. But I didn't want her to ever feel like she owed me anything."

"You've taught her many things, Tamaki-kun, she is proud of you and admires you, you know…even if, in the stubborn way that girl has, she won't acknowledge it directly at all."

There was a very meaningful silence.

"She tells me that."

Tamaki blinked at this statement but didn't have a chance to question it.

There was a sudden pounding at the door followed by an angry shout of "Fujioka-san! I need your rent money!"

Seemingly jumping out of her skin, Haruhi made sure that the door was firmly bolted and opened it a crack. Every movement she made reeked of hesitance and uncertainty.

"I'm sorry, you'll have to wait a few more days until my job gives me a check."

Her voice was raspy with disuse and sounded soft. None of her accustomed bluntness was in it at all.

"Fujioka-san, you don't have any sort of job. I haven't seen you leave your house in a week and a half!"

Kotoko stood by her, as if protecting her from something.

"You may not be a prince to her – but Haruhi-chan has never needed a prince, as you know – but you are there for her when she needs you."

The man at the door was yelling by now, the façade of politeness he had begun with completely dissolved into accusations and threats of eviction and statements that, from the way this person lived, she would never see a single yen of her deposit ever again.

Haruhi, drawing farther and farther back from the door just repeated a flat and desperate, "I'm sorry" in response to everything.

The man gave an ending bout and stomping loudly off, Haruhi went back to the door and closed it. Dazedly, she shuffled her feet through the waste of cans, and took up residence in her chair, curling her knees to her chest and cradling her head in her hands.

The only time Tamaki had ever seen her that way was during a thunderstorm. Because, with that one exception, Haruhi wasn't afraid of anything.

Tamaki looked up at Kotoko, whom remained looking at the haggard woman in the chair. He didn't ask any questions; he merely stated, "I don't know what could have mad her like that."

The response was prompt and blunt, "Her naivety."

"But Haruhi's not that fragile…she's the strongest person I know."

"Yes, but you have also been there to make sure that she has no illusions about her strength. Once, there was a group of men who didn't see it your way...when she called for help, do you think anyone answered her?"

"But, I promised her…" There was guilt dripping from every word.

Kotoko's response was fierce and blunt, "You don't even know her, here, and she's never so much as heard of you. And because there was no you, none of her others are here either. So is this really what you want?"

"But…my mother…"

Tamaki had curled into a ball on the floor, sobbing, by now.

The woman leaned down, and in a maternal gesture mussed his hair, without saying a word.

When he opened his eyes again, he was in a small, cramped apartment and the first person her saw…was himself.

There was a pat on his shoulder, "This is the last one, then I will let you decide."

The woman reached out her hand and helped Tamaki to his feet. "Go see her."

Directly to the side of, well, the other him, was a small figure in a bed. She was so small and slight and…wasted. Even in the worst of her sicknesses his mother had never looked like that. However, the other him didn't look much better off.

His other self looked gaunt and worn and tired.

"Maman, I found a café who needed a pianist today in Lourdes." The figure stood up and gave a halfhearted gesture with one hand before kneeling down next to her at the bedside, "It was the most delightfully quaint cottage one had ever witnesses. I know that the tourists will simply be enchanted…the money in tips should cover expenses for at least a brief period of time."

"Mon Cherie…" She trembled violently, "What about you?"

The other him brushed the comment off.

"We'll both be okay, Maman."

For once, Tamaki doubted the sincerity in his own words, even if they were something that he – as himself - hadn't said. His double stood and kissed the woman on her forehead and left.

The woman in the bed turned with a great effort over to one side and became wracked with hacking sobs.

"Tama, Mon Cherie…what have I done to you? What…have I done?"

His mother did not stop crying for a very long time when she fell into a fitful sleep, tears still upon her cheeks.

Tamaki looked at her, something imperceptible and dense in his eyes.

"She's not happier. I haven't made her happier at all."

Quietly, Kotoko said, "No. Your mother understands why you left…she was sad, but she's understood that she's also given you a gift. A life…even if it is far away from her. What she is now isn't just because she's ill."

"She…" he said looking that the sleeping woman, "feels guilty. Only guilty."

"Tamaki-kun," his companion said from somewhere behind him, "Do you know what has kept your mother alive all of these years that you've been gone?"

Her charge was uncharacteristically silent.

"She made a wish - a long time ago – that she would live to see you happy. Something she knew that you would never be wholly able to do with her in France as circumstances stood," she paused, seeing as Tamaki's eyes widened, "And, her angel granted that wish with no loopholes and no escape clauses…"

She smiled at him.

"Your mother won't die now, Tamaki. Someday all of the impediments will be removed and you'll both get your wishes….your real wishes."


She shook a figure at him, "There are no 'buts' only cases you've won or lost." She flashed him the sign for victory, again, "Let's keep winning, Tamaki-kun!"

Tamaki had something to respond to that with – no doubt long and flowery, but no less inspirational – but in a bright flash of light, he found that he was back in his own apartment, comfortably tucked beneath the covers, his mother's picture set back on bedside table and a cup of what smelled like his favorite tea waiting for him.

He looked up and saw Haruhi – in one of her Hitachiin business suits – frowning down at him worriedly. In his mind he was dimly aware that she looked somewhat like Kotoko…or rather, Kotoko looked somewhat like her.

"You should have called me."

Tamaki blinked dumbly at her as she sat down on the bed next to her. His wife took his hand and looked over at the wall.

"Kyouya-senpai" she said, to a miniature – but by no means anything short of elaborate – portrait on the wall, "The idiot who never calls anyone when he is in extreme amounts of duress has finally woken up."

Immediately there was a laugh and a response, "You know, Haruhi, when you are stressed you sound a good deal like said idiot."

She glowered, "Shut up."

The Shadow King's laughter filled the room and there was a small click of multiple phone lines being connected. There was a collective cry of "Tono!" "Tama-chan!" and a grunt of acknowledgement.

…Immediately followed by a flurry of accusations with variations on, "You didn't tell us!"

"H-h-h-h-h-ow did you know?"

"Your father called Kyouya after he wasn't able to reach Haruhi." Explained Hunny, helpfully.

"I was in a meeting, but you still could have called, Tamaki." Said Haruhi.

"Stupid King thinks he can handle everything alone – "

"-Yeah, Hikaru, next time we'll make Tono handle our travel plans when we have to go see him on such short notice by himself."

"By the way," they said in unison, "We'll be on your front door step in about six hours. We know your wife has missed us."

Tamaki could picture the devilish grins on each of their faces. For once, he didn't mind at all. In fact, even hearing the insinuations against his wife's honor didn't send him into the tizzy that it normally did. He just chuckled.

"Tamaki, I hope you know I'll be sending you the bill from this extra trip…the flight to Japan from Berlin is not exactly cost effective."

"And, I know you'll be taking first class, Kyouya."

"I'm borrowing the hotel chain's private jet, actually."

Out of the corner the corner of his eye, he saw Haruhi cringe and then begin to tally up the expenses in her head and with her fingers. The cost most have been overwhelming because when she finished, she bowed her head and let out an enormous sigh.

"Tama-chan, we'll be there as soon as we get back from Switzerland! And, I've found some new kinds of cake!"

Mori grunted and said simply, "It will be less cold in Japan."

At this point, it was hard from him to suppress a smile even through their partings and promises to meet with him as soon as they touched down – Haruhi rolled her eyes at the suggestion to take helicopters…and the fact that they all immediately decided was an efficient course of action.

With a couple of quiet clicks, they were gone and all that remained was Haruhi, pursing her lips and quipping, "Telephone calls from airplanes are really expensive…Kyouya will charge you for that as well, I suppose."

But even as she made the comment, she seemed to be studying him and looking for the signs of some latent emotional trauma that hadn't manifested itself and might ostensibly spill out at any other moment in the form of a bout in the Corner of Woe or a melodramatic, teary-eyed speech.

Tamaki noted that she was surprised that she found none of that.

What she found was something infinitely deeper and strange for her husband…a bit of what seemed like perspective on life. And, what's more, she had no idea what it could possibly be attributed to.

Perhaps it was just one of those unknown aspects of him - ones that were mostly pleasant - that cropped up at the most bizarre times almost, she thought while feeling a bit foolish, like magic.

At that moment she decided that Kyouya was indeed correct and she did become frighteningly Tamaki-like under moments of stress.

She took his hand in hers and said, "I'm sorry about your mother….you know, that would have counted as the Apocalypse."

There was a tiny bit of wry humor mixed in with gentle censure.

Smiling, he picked up his mother's picture and said, "I know she will be alright, Haruhi. My angel of a mother will not take flight tonight."

"I hope not, although-"

Although, as every gentleman was supposed to be, Tamaki usually paid excessive attention to his wife's words, the photo that stood quietly next to his mother's caught his eye and diverted all of his attention span away from whatever Haruhi was saying.

It was a woman in a smart business suit, with long brown hair…Haruhi's mother, Fujioka Kotoko.

"Haruhi," he said, his tone seemingly illustrating a great degree of mental absence on his part, "What do you remember about your mother…? How did she laugh?"

Mystified by the abrupt change in topics, she gave a small "huh?" and blinked at him. Recovering and pondering the question, she finally answered, "If I remember it at all, it was very…I don't know that the word does it justice, but 'hearty.' Why did you want to know that?"

Tamaki froze for a moment when he realized that if he were to tell Haruhi that her mother – who was coincidentally also his guardian angel – had shown her what every one's lives would have been life had she granted a selfish and ill-advised wish to remain in his former residence rather than coming to Japan and acquiring all of his present company and that she would have had excessively poor hygiene, social skills, and be utterly poverty stricken and reduced to a coffee addict…well, she would think he was absolutely insane or so completely emotionally unstable that, as a result, she might dissolve into a tiny pool of Haruhi in utter despair and worry.

So, he leaned in to give her a kiss upon the cheek and said, "I think my mother would have liked to meet her."

In the barest flash of something, he thought that he saw Kotoko again – this time with a beautiful pair of the most heavenly wings. He smiled at her.

Haruhi leaned onto his shoulder and said, "Now that you're not being an idiot, I'm glad you're okay."

The smile he gave her in return was simply beaming, and he declaimed, "I'm better than okay! Why, it's a wonderfully splendid, exquisitely splendiferous, and magnificently elegant life that I have!"

Half-heartedly she responded, "I think that's a bit excessive, Tamaki." But her normal bluntness was mitigated by her smile.

Because, she knew, with all his heart, Tamaki believed every word he had said.


Excessively Random Author's Notes:

Please excuse the strange experiment in narrative voice at the beginning…I wanted to use an "I" to lend it that old sentimental movie type quality, but I don't think I really pulled it off. And, I felt it was much stronger to leave the ending in the hands of the characters themselves.

Uh, well, I don't rightfully know where this all came from. But, it is here nonetheless. I hope it gave you the warm fuzzies at the end and also because, all along, you should have known that things didn't turn out the way they did within the story because of Tamaki's intervention.

And, I got to use like 18,000 side characters, oh happy day! Also, I hope maybe some of you were surprised by the identity of the angel…but I dropped a number of hints throughout, so it might have been kinda obvious.

Uh, yeah, belated Merry Christmas! Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!