Pairing: Kyouya x Haruhi
Rating: K+, for one swear.
Warnings: No spoilers other than the obvious from episode one. It's AR, set nine years after the end of the series. And may or may not be horribly fluffy.
A/N: Written for the hc-flashfic club on LiveJournal, an Ouran HSHC flashfic community. Probably my least weird fic to date. Eheh.
The only thing he could seem to think through the choking greyness was I don't have time for this.
Ohtori Kyouya was twenty-eight years old, owned his own multi-trillion yen corporation, had long dark hair that he usually tied back with a black band, and dressed fit to kill the streets of Paris at a glance. He had graduated with honours from the prestigious Ouran High School nine years earlier. He was devilishly handsome. There was really very little a person could do to make him more perfect, except perhaps teach him to smile and not to hold other human beings in varying states of contempt. Other than that, his life was wonderful.
Which was why he was so terribly nonplussed to wake up muzzily to too-bright daylight coming from a spot on the wall that should have a painting, not a window, and to the deeply unpleasant smell of disinfectant, and to offensively white sheets.
This was not his room.
Also, he hurt all over with an interesting assortment of agonies, most of which he was fairly certain he'd never felt before. His skin, for instance, felt like it was stretched too tight and would split at any second. His lungs rattled with every breath and his throat felt as though he'd swallowed acid.
He felt utterly miserable, and not a little lost, both of which were sensations he was infinitely against in every way. He was always the one who knew the most, who was on top of the game, three steps ahead, etc. This bewilderment was unfamiliar and unpleasant.
"Ah, you're awake," said a female voice, which he decided after a very short moment was pleasant, at least more so than the pain.
"Where am I?" he rasped, ignoring the yelps of agony his throat made without his consent. He was fairly certain he already knew where he was, but it was always best to double-check.
The female sighed. "The hospital, of course. How much do you remember?"
He nodded to himself internally in satisfaction at having guessed right, then turned his mind to her question. What did he remember?
Smoke. Orange glowing heat. The sick splintering of timbers and the crash of tumbling furniture.
"There was a fire," he said at last. "My house burned down. Is there anything left?"
"No," replied the woman.
He was beginning to be able to make out a faint outline of white, with a dark shock of hair on top. The voice was also beginning to sound weirdly familiar. "Damn," he muttered to himself. Though he kept nothing important in his house and had few possessions he truly cared about, it was still a bit of a blow to lose everything.
"How are you feeling?" the aggravatingly familiar voice asked sympathetically. "I imagine there is a lot of pain, and you're probably quite woozy from the smoke inhalation and from sleeping so long, so you can skip that unless something is worrying you. Anything else?"
"My eyes are starting to hurt," he said. "I need my glasses."
The thin white blob moved over to his right side and took something from the dresser next to his bed. Cool hands placed the familiar metal contraption on his face, then she sat down on the edge of the bed and waited for him to adjust.
After a moment of disorientation, the world snapped into focus. Kyouya sighed with relief.
Then he looked over at the woman, and the disorientation came back tenfold.
She was dressed in a white coat, had a clipboard, and a stethoscope around her neck. Therefore, doctor. It was the face that was wrong. He knew that face, would have known it anywhere. He mentally kicked himself for not recognizing the voice sooner.
"Haruhi!" he gasped, stunned.
She smiled. "You remember. I'd hoped you would."
He opened his mouth to tell her how stupid a thing to say that was, of course he remembered her, how could he not? but nothing came out, just a sort of strangled keen of joy and astonishment. He tried to sit up, compelled to put his arms around her, but his skin screamed in protest and he fell back with an agonized thud.
"Don't!" she chided him. "You have burns all over you. Though most of them are mild and will heal without scarring, that'll change if you split the blisters open. Stay still."
"Good. What have you been doing these nine years, Kyouya? I haven't heard from you in at least four years, ever since that ridiculous letter."
Kyouya thought about pointing out that his throat hurt, but he really did want to talk to Haruhi about his life thus far and definitely wanted to hear about hers.
So he took a deep breath and told her his decidedly short, boring story about how he'd worked his way up to owning his own company within a year, then had expanded at an astronomical rate to end up owning a massive corporate conglomerate that had branches all over the world. He was several times richer than his father, and his brothers worked for him.
Once he had finished, Haruhi smiled and touched his forehead. "I could have guessed," she said fondly. "As for me, I started out in law school but quickly found that it wasn't for me. So I switched to medicine within a year and got my license two years ago. I've been practising in this hospital ever since. I specialize in epidemiology and bloodwork."
They smiled at each other then, for a few forced minutes while they silently skittered around the topic both of them wanted to talk about but had difficulty voicing.
At last, Kyouya cleared his throat and caught her eyes. "...Tamaki?"
Haruhi winced, and pressed a hand to her forehead. "Well, it lasted four years. I was rarely home because of school, and when I was, he was always doing ridiculous things and exhausting me when all I wanted to do was rest and be with my husband. Eventually, I got tired of his inability to remain serious for more than five minutes at a stretch, and made up my mind to leave. It was... really, really hard, Kyouya-senpai," she admitted in a whisper. She drew her knees up to her chest and balanced on the edge of the bed. "I'm still not sure I made the right decision, but I just didn't have the energy to stay with him."
"I understand," said Kyouya sympathetically, wishing with all the will in the world that he could sit up and hold her without passing out. "We grew apart, too. The last time I saw him was when you two split up and he showed up on my doorstep weeping. I gave him wine until he fell asleep, and in the morning I gave him a one-way ticket to France. I heard that he's pursuing a career in fashion design now."
"That was you?" Haruhi gasped. "I'd always wondered. He wouldn't have bought it himself."
"Yes, that was me, and I'm glad I did it. It's better this way."
Haruhi laughed, but there was something sad and wintry in it. "I really miss him sometimes."
"So do I."
They were quiet for a few companionable minutes. Even after nine years, it was still easy to be silent with each other the way only best friends can be.
"Kyouya-senpai," she said suddenly several minutes later.
He made a noncommittal sound.
"Where are you staying once you're discharged?"
Kyouya thought about it. He had few friends, and the ones he did have were not the sort he would ever consider sharing a flat with for fear of having his morning tea poisoned. He could stay in a hotel, he supposed. His brothers had no spare bedroom. His parents were in Europe for a year. "A hotel," he concluded unhappily. He disliked hotels. The staff were so bright and eager to provide service they were nearly robotic, and gave him goosebumps.
Haruhi paused, obviously weighing something within herself. It only took a moment. "Kyouya-senpai... ah, Kyouya... if it's all right with you, I'd much rather you borrowed my guest room. I'd feel guilty if you spent millions of yen on a fancy hotel when I live right down the street from your office and have the space."
Kyouya's mind leaped joyfully. Yes! But wait, there were things wrong with that. For example, she was a woman and he a man, and such an arrangement was terribly impropoer.
Precisely, his deviant mind answered instantly.
Something inappropriate might happen!
Wonderful! He could end up sullying her honour!
As if she would let you if she were against it.
No matter what argument his rational forebrain came up with, his subconscious was even quicker with a counter. He stuttered helplessly.
"Just agree with me," Haruhi said patiently. "It's fine. Trust me."
Kyouya gave up. "All right," he said weakly. "Thank you, Haruhi."
"You're welcome. Now go to sleep. The faster you heal, the faster you can get out of this place. I know you hate white walls."
He didn't ask how on earth she'd remembered his preference for darker colours, instead smiling and obediently removing his glasses to lay them on the bedside table.
"I'll be back in a couple of hours to help you turn over. Sleep well." She closed the door behind her and was gone.
Haruhi cared for him for three weeks and five days, upon which time she declared him in perfect health and let him go with a smile. Before he walked out, fully intending to head for the office and reinstill some discipline (which had in all probability lapsed while he was gone), Haruhi caught his arm and looked up at him earnestly.
"They missed it because of the larger problems caused by the fire, but when you got here, you were exhausted," she said quietly. "If you keep up the pace you must have been carrying at work all this time, your heart will explode. Please slow down."
He stared down at her, at a loss for words.
She sighed and let go of his arm. "See you at home, then," she said with a cheeky wink a moment later. "Don't get lost."
Kyouya snorted. He did not get lost. Ever.
With a secret smile, he walked out and back to his life.
Her apartment was not hard to find. It was small, yes, approximately the size his dining room had once been before being reduced to sulky charcoal pathetically blowing across the street. However, it was impeccably decorated in colourful fabrics and odd knick-knacks from all over the world, and it was very clean and well-lit.
He wandered into the kitchen and found it gratifyingly well-appointed. Glancing at his watch, he estimated that he had two hours before Haruhi would be home from the hospital.
Kyouya rolled up his sleeves.
He rarely had time to cook for himself, but it was something he had come to enjoy doing. Recipes did not get along with him. Instinct ruled his hand when he was in the kitchen, in contrast to basically every other moment of his life.
When Haruhi dragged her tired feet into the apartment, she was greeted by a smiling Kyouya and a gourmet five-course dinner for two. "I could get used to this," she breathed, eyes wide and a smile playing around the small muscles of her mouth.
"I am very grateful for your hospitality," he said with a courteous low bow. "I spoke with Taichi, my aide, today, and he says he should be able to find me a new house within a few weeks. The housing market in this area is very tight, as I'm sure you know."
"Don't worry about it," Haruhi said, threading her fingers through her hair. "It'll be nice to have you here."
Kyouya smiled and moved forward to take her coat, then pulled a chair out for her. She blushed charmingly at the chivalrous move. "I could really get used to this."
Dinner had turned out very well, and Kyouya ate with pleasure. Haruhi smiled the entire time she ate, which made him smile in return, and by the end they were both close to laughter.
"That was really good, Kyouya-sen-- Kyouya," Haruhi said appreciatively. "Thank you."
The awkwardness that Kyouya had feared was nowhere in evidence. Haruhi did not seem to see him as a strange male living in her small home at close quarters with her-- her attitude leaned more towards beloved old friend whom she trusted implicitly and enjoyed spending time with. It was a comfort and a joy.
He bid her a polite good night and went to the guest room, ready to sleep. He could hear Haruhi continuing to move around outside his door late into the night, however, and wondered woozily if she were an insomniac before sleep reclaimed him.
Near two-thirty in the morning, the lights finally shut off and the cozy apartment settled into the quiet.
Three weeks came and passed, and Kyouya never quite got around to buying a new home. Taichi offered several finds for his perusal, but he refused them all, not quite knowing why just yet.
Haruhi staggered in around nine o' clock every night after leaving at six in the morning. Kyouya always had dinner ready for her, and she would eat with weary smiles of appreciation, then restlessly pace about the flat until the dead hours between night and morning. Then she would sleep for perhaps three hours, then begin the cycle again.
He recalled her admonishment to him a month earlier: Keep up this pace, and your heart will explode. He felt unusually relaxed, but he could see that Haruhi was dying of exhaustion while simultaneously so stressed she could not sleep. He saw her trouble cases playing behind her eyes even in the middle of dinner.
It worried him deeply, but there was little he could do about it. It was a well-known fact that the schedules of new doctors were always insane, and that it didn't get much better as they gained experience and seniority. That was when greenhorns started calling one in the middle of the night asking for advice on emergencies. Yes, he worried for her.
Two months came and passed. Still no new house, and he was becoming gradually more and more averse to the idea of parting with the little flat and its perpetually exhausted occupant.
At the three month mark, he called his assistant. "Taichi, you can stop looking for a new house."
"Finally," the chipper little dark-haired intern said with relief. "I was beginning to wonder how long you were going to fight with yourself over this."
"What do you mean by that?" Kyouya said, taken aback at his aide's forwardness.
Taichi heaved a long-suffering sigh. "It means that you like it just fine where you are and don't really want to move again. Fine. Just ask the girl to marry you already and stop sending me on red herring chases."
Kyouya gaped. "What... Taichi..."
"Che," said Taichi, and hung up.
Discipline had clearly gone out the window. Since when had he permitted his subordinates to speak to him that way? He thought about it, then ruefully admitted that Taichi had never shown the slightest sign of being afraid of him and had never held his teasing tongue.
Kyouya shrugged it off as best as he could-- not very well-- and set about making dinner.
Soon after, Haruhi thudded through the door, looking like a thin ghost with enormous blue bags under her eyes. He didn't know how she was even standing up. "Haruhi," he whispered.
"Kyouya," she said, and smiled. "I don't know why I'm so tired. I've been doing this for years and years and I've been fine..."
He doubted that, but ignored it. "I think it's all catching up with you, Haruhi. You can't keep pushing yourself like this. You need to sleep, and I mean more than three hours a night."
She shrugged. "I would if I could, but I can't. I'm an insomniac. It has been getting worse lately, though, I will admit. I don't even sleep three hours straight now any more."
Kyouya sighed and sat her down to eat. She didn't even seem to taste the food. Halfway through, he made up his mind. In the interest of courtesy, however, he waited for her to finish before standing up and moving across to where she sat.
"What...?" she began blurrily.
Kyouya buried his fingers in the iron muscles of her shoulders, working by intuition to loosen the vicious knots that had clearly been building for years. He ruthlessly pushed her thin cotton blouse aside to work directly with her skin, moving up and down her neck and slaying knots wherever he found them.
Haruhi moaned under his fingers, obviously in some pain but also obviously enjoying the release of muscles that had been solidifying in their positions for years. "Ahhhhh. That hurts very nicely."
"I apologize," he said formally, "but it's no wonder you can't sleep with shoulders wound up like this." Carefully, over the course of half an hour, he coaxed her into the living room, where she spread out on the couch and submitted ruefully to his ministrations. He spent the next two hours working over her spine completely, until she was limp as lettuce in the summer sun.
"I can't move," she whispered dreamily. "I feel wonderful."
"Leave it to me," he murmured with a satisfied smile, then carefully gathered her sagging frame off the couch and carried her into her bedroom. Once there, he tucked her in and turned on some soothing night music. "Sleep," he ordered her.
"Mmmm. Sure." And just like that, she was out like the most exhausted light in the world.
Kyouya went to work.
"Shit!" Haruhi shrieked.
Kyouya sat lazily upright and smiled. "It's all right, Haruhi. Sit down and have some breakfast."
"It's nine-thirty! I'm already late for work and I haven't even gotten dressed yet! How could you let me sleep in?" She was furious and sick to her heart by the sound of her voice, and he felt a momentary pang of guilt for not warning her.
"Haruhi. Please, sit down and eat. Trust me when I say it's fine. Sit."
She sat, compelled by his Executive Voice. He had never used it on her, but it was obvious she would not succumb to anything less this morning.
"You probably did not know this, but I own a large portion of the hospital you work for. I made some phone calls last night. You have today off." Kyouya smiled, inordinately pleased with himself.
He became aware within moments that Haruhi was not as happy as she should have been. She was breathing in deep, calming breaths, and he got the uncomfortable feeling she was trying not to strangle him.
"Kyouya. Why did you do that?"
"Because you're exhausted and clearly need a day off," he replied, perplexed.
Her fists tightened on the table. "You don't get it," she whispered. "You just don't get it! Did you think they overworked me out of some sadistic hazing ritual? Did you think it was unfair? I work insane hours because there aren't enough doctors and because there are people in that hospital who need me. If I'm not there, everyone else has to work even harder. It's incredibly unfair to them to pull strings to get me off while they pick up the slack for me."
Kyouya stared evenly back at her. "And is 'everyone else' this close to dropping from exhaustion? Keep this up, and you'll end up as one of their patients. How much harder will they have to work then?" He met her glare without blinking. "Doctor, heal thyself. You won't be any good to anyone when you can barely make yourself put one foot in front of the other."
"There's no one to cover for me," she returned flatly, unimpressed. "Either I go, or no one goes."
"Fine," he said at her, low and furious. "And what if you make a mistake because you're tired? You can't think clearly in this state, Haruhi, so don't pretend you can. Caring for others when you're this unwell yourself is dangerous. I've already spoken with the head of your hospital. He agrees with me. I didn't 'pull strings' or bully him, Haruhi, I simply told the truth and let him make his own decision. You need to rest before you take the lives of others into your hands."
She stared at him, pale as a sheet. Tears welled up in her eyes, which she angrily dashed away immediately.
Kyouya's chest ached, but he was not lying and knew he couldn't back down on this. "I've applied for temporary medical leave on your behalf. You can be angry at me all you like, but you'll thank me for it later."
Then Haruhi swore at him, something she never did, and slammed the door behind her when she ran into her room (something she never did either).
He quietly made tea. She had locked her door... he picked it without the slightest qualm and walked in to her sanctuary without so much as a by your leave.
"Leave me alone, Kyouya," she said in a soft and dangerous tone. "I am very, very angry with you right now. You have no idea how many people are waiting for me to help them, but I can't because you took my business into your own hands!"
He said nothing, only set the tea down on her bedside table, touched her shoulder with gentle fingers, and left.
She cried a little, and then fell asleep.
He let her sleep for eighteen hours before waking her with soup and bread. She was predictably ravenous, and too lethargic to be actively angry. He made sure she ate everything he gave her, then turned the music on again and let her sleep.
She slept for days, interspersed with short periods of eating and reading. He would not allow her to do anything more strenuous, and she gave up trying to object soon enough.
She was strong-willed, but he was stronger.
Two weeks later, he was sitting on the edge of her bed and supervising while she ate her stirfry, when she reached up with a thin hand and grasped his hand.
"I don't know if I'm cut out for this," she whispered, eyes welling. "None of the others had to take two weeks off from exhaustion."
Kyouya wrapped both of his hands around hers. "I really don't think the others work as hard as you do, Haruhi," he told her firmly. "Even when you're off, you're pushing yourself. Now, you have two months off, so you've still got six weeks left. Rest, or I'll make it more, I swear."
She grinned wryly at him. "Yes, Boss Kyouya. Whatever you say."
"Good. What do you want for dinner today?"
The thunder roared. It was a real Tokyo storm, the kind that made the buildings quiver and made rivers out of streets for a few hours. The sky was shuddering with the force of its own fury.
Kyouya had never been bothered by storms. He was shirtless and ready for bed, and halfway under the covers when he remembered something from their school days. He pressed his palm to his forehead, relieved that he'd remembered in time. She would never say anything, he knew, and would swallow her whimpers. She was obstinately proud like that.
Pulling on his bathrobe, he went out and across to Haruhi's room and nonchalantly picked the lock again. As expected, upon entering he found her curled up in the far corner under a messy pile of comforter and pillows. She was shivering fit to slough her skin off.
He knelt next to her and put his hand near where her shoulder should be.
"Haruhi," he called gently.
"Get out of my room," she tried to snap, but terror had her voice in a strangle-grip and the end result was thoroughly unconvincing.
Kyouya settled in next to the shaking pile of blankets and put his arm around it. "It's all right, Haruhi. I already knew you were afraid of storms. I know Tamaki's not here this time, but I'll gladly sit here and keep the lightning out."
A muffled sob escaped the pile, and suddenly a hand shot out and grasped the front of his bathrobe. "You aren't Tamaki," she said in a low, intense voice that was at odds with her fear.
"I know?" he replied, baffled.
"Stop comparing yourself to him. I know you do it, all the time. Knock it off. I like you because you're you, not because you were Tamaki's friend."
He caught an unexpected lump in his throat and smiled crookedly. Trust her to say something so melting when she was terrified. "Haruhi, that isn't it. I wasn't comparing myself, I was just making it clear that I'd be happy to fill the same capacity... in my own way."
"...Oh," she said in a small voice. The hand that still held his bathrobe pulled insistently, and she emerged from her shelter like a wan earth-sprite, cautious but determined. Then she leaned forwards and pressed her face into the line of Kyouya's neck, just between his chin and shoulder. "Promise you'll stay until the storm is over," she whispered quickly, as though embarrassed to say it out loud.
He felt a swell in his chest and smiled helplessly. "Of course. I won't move an inch, I promise."
"Well, actually, it would probably be good if you'd move a couple feet. The floor isn't very comfortable."
Without ceremony, he scooped her off the floor and deposited her on the bed with a thump. She squeaked, but she was smiling and no longer visibly afraid, which was the most wonderful thing he'd seen in ages.
Carefully, he rearranged the disorderly comforter and pillows on the bed, then crawled in next to her and pulled her in to rest on his chest.
"You have a good heartbeat," she noted after a moment. "Very steady, and healthily slow. Nothing to fix there."
"You can stop looking for things to fix for now," he chided her gently. "You're on hiatus. Take advantage of it."
She laughed softly and turned her forehead into his throat. Her steady breath swept rhythmically across his chest, and he tried not to shiver.
"How is this?" he asked after a few minutes. The storm shrieked ragefully outside, but he ignored it.
Haruhi was apparently managing not to notice it either, an impressive feat. "This is great," she admitted, then paused. "Umm... if it would be all right..."
He waited patiently. He knew her. If it was important, she would say it.
"...would you please stay?" she whispered at last.
"Stay?" he repeated, unsure what she meant.
She nodded against his chest. "Yes. For... a long time. You know, permanently."
His heart gave a great, frightening leap in his chest and he convulsively tightened his arms around her. "You mean...?" he croaked, unable to summon up any form of composure in the face of her innocent, heart-blowing question.
"Yes," she replied even more quietly. "Just like that."
The lightning splintered the wind above their heads, and the thunder roared in its wake. They didn't even hear it.
A/N: Hee. They are so cute.