Caffeinated Beginnings: A Not-So-Obvious Romance.

By .Canned.Laughter.

A/N: I guess I'm back in the Ouran fandom, eh? Just when I think I've had enough, it pulls me right back in! Dang, this series is infectious.

For those of you who have NO inkling as to what I'm talking about, I'm referring to the Ouran/Furuba crossover one-shot I wrote a few months back. Take a look-see if you're interested!

Anyways, like I said previously, I'm back! I had this idea tinkering in my mind. A year or so ago, I read a story by Skoosiepants (who wrote in the Harry Potter fandom) that was a romance between Hermione and Blaise. The way Blaise courted Hermione was in such a roundabout manner, that I thought it was the perfect way to properly court Haruhi. I mean, the girl is obviously dense when it comes to her own love life. Her suitors failed miserably in that they tried too hard to straight out confess their feelings to her.

Hence, this story. I'm crediting Skoosiepants with the idea and the slight similarities at the beginning, though this has neither a small apartment (other than Haruhi's), or a commune living in it. It's simply a story that starts off with a coffee..."thing". Poor Haruhi, she won't know what hit her.

Also as a bit of a warning, I have set the time for this story to be at the start of Haruhi's second year. Considering Bisco Hatori's blatant remarks that her timeline is hardly accurate (Hunni and Mori never graduate. Hmm.), I am just assuming that some time has passed after all those events that we have read about in the manga so far. And yes, this is taken from the manga, not the anime. Because after that little stunt with the carriage and Éclair, I don't want to deny that the anime clearly ties Tamaki with Haruhi. The manga is more ambiguous at the moment, which lends to more romantic possibilities for us authors who are fighting for another host club suitor other than Tamaki. Tamaki is all well and good, but he's so predictable! Granted, at this point, all of them pretty much are...we won't dwell on that.

I'm rambling. Here we go, a little bit of a roundabout romance hopefully for your reading pleasure. I'm playing with a different writing style here, so please forgive any errors or weird transitions that I haven't picked up on. Reviews and highly welcome; constructive criticism more so!

Disclaimer: This will go for all three parts of this story. I don't claim ownership of Ouran High School Host Club, that belongs to Bisco. The dear, dear sweet thing.

Part I: In Which There Is A Caffeinated Beginning

It was an ordinary spring afternoon, after an ordinary day of school at Ouran High. The host club was in session, with the din of squealing girls and whispered nothings from seven of the best looking young men in the school filling the air.

This would be the third year of the Ouran High School host club's operation. Things were more or less the same, even with the few changes in the club's membership.

Hunni and Mori had graduated last year, though Yasuchika and Satoshi joined to take their respective brother's places. Both had entered high school this year as first year students in class 1-A. Satoshi was more than willing to follow in his revered brother's footsteps, dragging Chika along even though Chika sulked the entire way. He conceded because of Satoshi's threats, though the rest of the host club knew the truth...that Yasuchika idolized Hunni more than he let on.

The two were wildly popular among the female population, Yasuchika's taciturn and driven attitude seen as "noble" while Satoshi's playful personality charmed his customers.

Tamaki, now in his third and final year, was still the president of the club, and as extravagant as ever. However, he had stopped pressing familial roles upon the rest of the host club members on account of the fact that Haruhi rejected him towards the end of last year. It had been entirely accidental, as all of Haruhi's rejections were, but that time had been different from all the other times Tamaki had foolishly pushed his feelings upon his former "daughter". That time, Tamaki hadn't rushed to his corner of woe. The host club knew that he had taken her seriously for once, and since then he had toned down his "fatherly instincts". They didn't talk about "that time" much, in respect for their King. It wasn't Haruhi's fault, of never was. But it had been an awkward time. To the rest of the host club's relief, Tamaki and Haruhi's friendship didn't fall apart. Surprisingly enough, it had strengthened once the blond host club King became less overbearing around the Natural.

Even more shocking news came right before the beginning of this school year. Tamaki began courting another girl from his class on the side, a girl who hadn't ever visited the host club. Her name was Hanajima Kimiko, and she was the second daughter in a family of very old money. Unlike her peers, she was kind and gentle, much less blunt than Haruhi. They kept their relationship out of club activities, so that when Tamaki was at the club he was the ultimate Host King. However outside of club, during school hours, he was the Perfect Boyfriend. This was the silent rule at Ouran High, and so far it had been working nicely. Tamaki's girlfriend earned the rest of the club's approval by understanding Tamaki's importance to the club and allowing him to continue as the host club king. In return, the fangirls kept their distance while Tamaki was outside of the Third Music Room. Sometimes it seemed unreal how reasonable the entire situation turned out. But that's how the host club always operated, teetering on the edge of the absurd.

Kyoya remained the vice president and resident Shadow King of the club. Though Tamaki had the final word, it was Kyoya who remained the one to nudge Tamaki in the right direction. No one in the club, not even Chika, dared to oppose his sugar-coated orders. He kept the customers coming in like clockwork, always on time, always prepared. Not much had changed other than the fact that his father was closer than ever in choosing the heir to his throne. Kyoya worked harder than ever, impressing his hard-to-impress fellow club members with every new cosplay event they put on.

Haruhi was now in her second year, with the twins. Her gender still remained unknown to the rest of the school other than a select few. Their "manager" Renge had eventually figured it out, again accidentally...but has anything ever happened intentionally to the apathetic Natural? Instead of being horrified at having fantasized over a girl, Renge turned Haruhi into her butt-kicking female heroine in her action-packed daydreams, and pushed even harder than Tamaki had in putting Haruhi into feminine cosplay outfits. She thought it incredibly heroic of Haruhi to have "invaded the deep recesses of male-dom for all female-kind".

None of it, of course, made sense to the rest of the host club; however they played along for the amusement factor.

Haruhi took it in stride as she always did; only protesting when things became too chaotic. She had stopped trying to question the absurdity of her friends and her situation, instead falling into a zen-like attitude and flowing with the pandemonium. Oddly enough, this passivity made the host club members adore her even more. She was still the center of their small and elite universe, albeit an unwilling one.

The twins continued to be the hurricane that more or less initiated the chaos by antagonizing Tamaki. Kaoru pulled females in with his act of vulnerability while Hikaru played the role of the dominant male, an incestuous bond of forbidden love. They still loved to tease their Lord, and to play with Haruhi as if she were a doll. However, Hikaru came to accept, or rather, justify his lack of courage to confess his crush for Haruhi. Throughout that first year, Kaoru had watched while his brother blushed and became a flustered school boy around their adorable Haruhi. But it wasn't enough. And even Hikaru had admitted it, when "that time" came and Tamaki gave up on his daughter. The older Hiitachin hadn't believed in himself, and had assumed that Tamaki would be the one to steal Haruhi's heart. Kaoru sometimes thought that Hikaru gave up before he truly had begun.

Haruhi never woke up to either Tamaki or Hikaru's feelings. While both of the young men slowly came to accept this fact, Kaoru wondered. He examined Haruhi, and her obliviousness. He questioned how Tamaki and his brother could simply give up before truly trying. Whether or not they had valued the resident commoner enough. And he wondered what it would take to value her "that much".

That is where our story begins.

Haruhi never understood why her fellow female classmates would spend their hours after class fawning over a group of males. Frivolous, rich bastards of males, no less. But then again, Haruhi wasn't like the rest of the female population at Ouran. She didn't have time to spare, counting on her parents' money to get her through life. She had always worked hard for her goals, combining her own pragmatist personality with her commoner sensibilities. Perhaps it wasn't even the fact that the other girls were so much richer than her, it was possible that Haruhi simply wasn't...girly. Romantic. Soft and emotional and easily wooed.

So on that afternoon, once the screams of the fangirls faded from her ears and Renge left for home ("You must add more tragedy to your character! Girls love tragic heroes Haruhi!"), Haruhi gave a sigh of relief. She always felt one step closer to reducing her debt after another day of club activities, but Kyoya-senpai always managed to pull her right back in somehow. It was getting to the point where Haruhi was a little tired of her "work hard and things will turn out alright" philosophy.

The maids came in to clean up after that, always half an hour after the host club was finished for the day. The boys, and girl, would sit and relax until then. It was on this one particular afternoon that Haruhi chose to spend her time flopping on the couch and rest her head against the plush back. She felt another weight sink onto the cushion right next to her.

"Haruhi, Haruhi, I'm bored."

Prying open one eyelid, Haruhi eyed Kaoru with irritation. He didn't cling to her like Hikaru sometimes did, but he did lean forward so that his cheek was just barely brushing her own. Sometimes Haruhi wondered why, out of all the rich young men in the world, she had to be stuck with the ones who didn't understand the concept of "personal space".

"Where's Hikaru? Surely he can keep you entertained."


Haruhi opened her other eye. "Out? Without you?"

Kaoru straightened in his seat and gave her one of his chesire grins. He winked, as if letting her in on a big secret. Frankly, Haruhi wouldn't have minded if he kept his secrets to himself. More often than not, the twins pulling her into their own private world was a bad thing. But seeing as the Hiitachin brothers never paid heed to how she felt, Haruhi sighed and sat up as well. Kaoru jerked his head towards the door of the Third Music Room.

"He cut out right after the girls left. Try to guess why."

"Will it cost me anything if I guess wrong?"

"Do you think so little of me, dear Haruhi, that you'd honestly believe I'd charge you?"

Haruhi stared at him, nonplussed. She took some amusement to see that Kaoru wilted, just a little.

"With you and Hikaru, I withhold any assumptions."

"Fine then, ruin my fun." Kaoru sat fully back and crossed his arms, pretending to pout. But after two seconds, he shook off the disappointment like water. Haruhi was always amazed at how hard it was to disgruntle a Hiitachin. "He's got a crush."

Haruhi blinked, thinking she misheard. "Who? Hikaru?"

"Who else?" Kaoru smiled. "He went to watch her at choir practice."

"You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"

"Nope, on my honor-"

"-Which doesn't mean much-"

"-I'm telling the truth." Kaoru finished. "Mou...Haruhi, why are you so mean?"

Knowing that he'd only pester her more if she answered in her normally blunt manner, Haruhi simply shrugged and veered back on topic. "What's her name?"

Kaoru grinned. "Why? Are you jealous?"

"You say the most ridiculous things sometimes."

In response, Kaoru gave a satisfied grin. "Just checking. Her name's Daidouji Tomoyo. She's in class 1-A. I think her mother owns a successful toy company." He waved to Tamaki's significant other, Kimiko, who had just walked in straight from orchestra. Kimiko was a nice girl; Haruhi respected her ability to withstand Tamaki's over-exuberant nature for long periods at a time. They sat down at one of the tables still set up, Tamaki bursting with chatter. It was the boyish side of him that didn't go on display during hosting duties, the side that wouldn't concede with his suave, "princely" persona. Haruhi lost herself in this thought, and smiled when Tamaki chuckled at Kimiko's conversation. She was only pulled out of it by the clinking of porcelain next to her.

"Blech, this stuff tastes nasty. How can you stand it?"

Haruhi gave a start and turned back to Kaoru, who was putting down a cup of coffee. "What?"

"Do commoners have less advanced taste buds? Can you not tell that you're not getting your money's worth?"

"Excuse me, but I believe you guys were the ones who insisted I buy the instant coffee for you."

"My dear Haruhi," Kaoru scooted closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, "Sampling proletariat coffee is merely an adventure, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy the taste. Honestly, how can you stand it?"

Haruhi frowned, and picked up the cup that Kaoru just put down in distaste. She sipped at the lukewarm liquid. "It tastes fine to me. As long as it wakes the person up...isn't the function of coffee the most important thing?"

"Horrible!" Kaoru swept the back of his hand to his brow, appalled at Haruhi's indifference. "The taste is everything! All those poor unfortunate workers who painstakingly grow beans worthy for our hired staff to grind! Are you belittling their very purpose in life?"

"What, to make your life easier? You're beginning to sound too much like Tamaki-senpai, Kaoru."

Kaoru grinned, his amber eyes lighting up in laughter. "It was a good impression, wasn't it?"

"One Tamaki-senpai is enough, thank you very much." Haruhi turned back to the coffee and took another sip. She swirled the dark liquid around in its no doubt more-expensive-than-her-apartment cup and watched the little hurricane that followed. The whirlwind was stopped short when Kaoru's slender fingers plucked that cup out of Haruhi's hands.

"Hey! Kaoru, don't waste food!"

"It's not like it's gourmet coffee, you can buy pounds of it at that commoner grocery store." Kaoru stood up and brushed off the imaginary lint from his jeans that probably also cost a fortune. He ran a hand through his stylishly-messy auburn hair and turned dark amber eyes towards Haruhi. Jerking his head towards the door, he grinned. "Toss that crap away and let's go get some real coffee. Hikaru's not going to be done for at least another hour; our driver can pick him up later."

"Wait a min-"

But Kaoru was already heading out the door, ignoring Haruhi's protests as she was dragged along by her wrist.

"At least let me walk on my own, Kaoru!"

Part II: In Which There Are Crepes

Haruhi had thought it a little odd at the time, for Kaoru to be so assertive. But Haruhi being Haruhi, she didn't pay much heed to it. She figured that with the host club, nothing would surprise her anymore. The coffee had been exquisite the day before, though Haruhi had been reluctant to admit Kaoru had been right and that taste mattered. Kaoru teased her most of the way home, because Haruhi rarely admitted to being wrong.

The next afternoon found Haruhi sighing once again, smiling as the last of the girls left the music room and towards their limos. She adjusted the tie to her uniform and swiped at a stray bang before turning around from the door and almost bumping into Tamaki.

"Ah, gomen ne, Tamaki-senpai."

Tamaki, still in his Roman soldier uniform, nearly glowed with accomplishment after having reached his record high in number of designations in one afternoon. He swept an arm around Haruhi and gave it an affectionate squeeze.

"It's quite alright, my dear Haruhi! The light of my ravishing figure must have blinded your poor proletariat eyes!"

"Er..." Haruhi gave a weak smile and attempted to nudge Tamaki's arm off her shoulder. "I don't think..."

"Fear not little sparrow! For though I have let you leave my humble nest, that does not mean I care not for your unfortunate vision complications! Oh dear, dear Haruhi, your vulnerability is simply adorable!"

As he spun her around, Haruhi fought the dizziness and grunted in her attempts to free herself from his surprisingly strong grip. She was relieved that he had toned down his "fatherly" act some time ago, but every now and again he was prone to go into "Father" mode once more. Tamaki let her go and stared into her eyes, bending down to match their heights.

"Of course, dear Haruhi, your eyesight is of the utmost importance to me! Tomorrow we shall not use so much shining jewelry. Kyoya! I declare tomorrow to be a Commoner Laborer day! We shall wear that which Haruhi is most used to seeing in her everyday whereabouts! Police! Mailmen! Waiters!"

Kyoya didn't even look up from where he was typing away at his laptop. The light from the chandeliers glinted off of his glasses. "I don't believe commoners visit restaurants enough for seeing "waiters" to be an everyday occurrence."

Haruhi frowned in irritation. It was just like Kyoya-senpai to mention that just to rub her own commoner blood in her face. Tamaki-senpai ran off to argue the merits of commoner labor with his supposed best friend, leaving Haruhi a little bewildered. Though that came as no surprise, even after spending a year with the excitable Chairman's son, Haruhi never got used to Tamaki's ability to rush in like the wind and leave just as quickly.

Two arms slunk over her shoulders from behind her, wrapping themselves around her neck in a loose hug. Haruhi could feel short spikes of hair rubbing against her ear, scratching against her cheek. She recognized the scent of fresh strawberries that seemed to waft off of him naturally.

"Haruhiiii...I'm bored..."

"We went for coffee yesterday, go find someone else to bother."

Kaoru paused. "How did you know it was me?"

Giving another pointed sigh, Haruhi wearily pushed Kaoru's long arms off and turned to face him. She shrugged halfheartedly. "Your voice. Your smell. I don't know, I just did."

The younger Hiitachin smiled and cocked his head. Haruhi could never quite tell what he was thinking. It was getting easier and easier to guess at Hikaru's mind; he wore his heart on his sleeve and had a very open face. Kaoru was different. Though he played the weaker sibling in their "brotherly love" act for the fangirls, Kaoru was a little less brash, a little more thoughtful and a little more cautious in displaying any emotion outside of what was expected of him by the rest of the school. Without Hikaru there to act as the leader in their hi-jinks, Haruhi noticed the Kaoru preferred to step back and observe rather than participate.

Kaoru finally spoke. "You didn't think I was Hikaru?"

Haruhi's voice grew flat. "Honestly, you're not entirely identical, though the rest of the school may have trouble believing that." She noticed the absence of the older Hiitachin. "Where's Hikaru?"

Kaoru's grin grew wider. "Can you guess?"

"I'd rather not."

"Haruhiii..." Kaoru grabbed the commoner and squeezed her tight, pressing his cheek gently against hers as if bringing her into his own perspective. "Don't be so boring. How will you attract suitors with that drab attitude of yours?"

"That hardly matters. Get off, you're heavy."

"No. Play with me."

"No way."

Haruhi managed to shrug Kaoru off for the umpteenth time, and exhaled exasperatedly. Tamaki was still going off to Kyoya about the benefits of the working class, but Kimiko had just walked in. No doubt she'll calm him down with those magical powers Haruhi suspected she possessed. Satoshi and Chika had left only a few seconds ago, Hunni had invited them out to try out that new pastry shop that opened up a few streets down. Chika was reluctant, but Satoshi was insistent that they go in respect of their elder siblings. Mori would obviously be there, when was he not within a few feet of Hunni? Haruhi was jealous; she had heard that they made wonderful strawberry cakes. But she had homework to do, and dinner to cook for her father.

Kaoru's voice came up from behind her as Haruhi gathered her things together. "Where are you going?"

"Home, where else?"

"I'll walk you!"

Haruhi stopped and turned back to face Kaoru, giving him a scrutinizing stare. She assumed he'd only pester her the entire way back. "Please don't."

"Now, now, Haruhi dear, don't be like that. What if someone attacks you on the way? I couldn't let a horrible villain hurt our poor commoner pet!"

"No really...please don't follow me home..."

"I wouldn't be a gentleman if I didn't escort the lovely lady home, now, would I?"

"I said..."

But she knew it was too late, so Haruhi groaned in defeat and walked down the hall towards the main entrance of the building, pointedly ignoring the laidback whistle of the younger Hiitachin behind her. They walked a block that way, Haruhi doing her best not to acknowledge he was there and Kaoru casually strolling just a few steps behind her as if he didn't have a care in the world. Finally, Haruhi had enough. She had been friends with the Hiitachin twins long enough to know that they were both stubborn as mules. Even without Hikaru, Kaoru would follow her until she bent down to his will, even if that meant coming into her home and generally being a headache. Sometimes Haruhi wasn't sure why she had put up with the twins for this long. Perhaps having a passive personality had its downside.

Haruhi stopped, and allowed Kaoru to fall into step with her before continuing on. It was a silent walk for another block before Haruhi spoke up.

"You must be lonely, ne, Kaoru? To come to me, of all people, for company."

"Eh?" Kaoru squinted down at Haruhi, his eyes blinking in surprise. "What makes you say that?" His arms were bent behind his head, hands clutching at his book satchel as it dangled precariously over the sidewalk.

"Well," Haruhi smiled a little wistfully. "You and Hikaru, you've been together your entire life. You said so yourself; you were in your own little world up till recently."

They entered into a park. Haruhi liked this large expanse of greenery, it made the tall buildings and gray streets seem tolerable. She crossed through it as often as she could, even if it was the long way home. There was a playground several feet off, and Haruhi stopped to watch the little boys and girls playing in the sand. Sometimes she missed those days, when it was so simple. All your concerns lay in whether or not you could exhaust yourself playing before night came.

Kaoru came to stand beside her, eyes also trained on the jungle gym and swing set.

"We...Hikaru and I...we're not completely inseparable."

"Sometimes you give off that impression."

"Blunt as ever, aren't you Haruhi?"

Haruhi looked up at Kaoru and smiled. It was the smile that gave her the title of "Natural Rookie" last year, the one that compelled people to sit and listen to what she had to say.

"Aw, come on. From what I've heard, you two wouldn't let anyone in until Tamaki-senpai managed to force himself through. But then again, Tamaki-senpai has the strangest ability to get his way no matter the obstacle."

"...We let you in."

"Dragged me in, more like."

"Same difference." Kaoru shrugged. Haruhi caught on to his façade of indifference. He was like Hikaru in some ways, unable to face truths he didn't like.

"Either way, you must miss Hikaru. Now that he's got something that...doesn't include you."

Haruhi turned back to watch the kids. A little boy was rampaging through the jungle gym, holding on to a stick and swinging it about like a sword. He kicked at the sand, ruining a little girl's castle. To which the little girl stood up and kicked the boy in the shin. Haruhi commended the little girl silently. Her ears perked when Kaoru came up with a response.

"It started awhile ago; I've had time to get used to it."


"When he got a crush on y-" Kaoru paused. "...Never mind."

"What? When he got a crush on who?"

"It doesn't matter. He doesn't like her like that anymore. The point is; it's not like this is sudden. I'm not lonely."

"If you say so..."

"I'm not. I've had time for myself to think about what I want, for a change."

"Is that a good thing?"

"You don't have to sound so suspicious."

"I didn't mean to."

"...Yeah. Right. And it's just different, I'll have you know. I'm adjusting."

"Well, good." Haruhi smiled again, directly at Kaoru. "Have you figured it out, then? What you want?"

Kaoru cocked an eyebrow at her and frowned in thought, not answering Haruhi right away. He looked around the park, scratching the back of his head. Pointing a little ways down from them, he said, "I know I want crepes right now."


"Crepes." Kaoru gestured to the small wagon that was set off one of the pathways. "I want crepes. Let's get one!"

He took off down the path before Haruhi could register that he was gone. Hurriedly, she picked up her pace, cursing her short legs and inability to move faster than a snail's pace.

"Hey, wait a sec-Kaoru! Wait!"

They had crepes together before Kaoru finally walked Haruhi back to her house. Haruhi was still a little irritated that Kaoru left her running like that, but she didn't mind. Not if she got free food as an apology. It had strawberry filling too, which almost made up for the fact that she didn't get to try those strawberry cakes with Hunni-senpai.

Kaoru later showed up at Haruhi's door that weekend, dragging her to the new pastry shop she hadn't had the chance to go to. They had strawberry cakes and iced tea sitting outside watching people pass them by. A few days later he managed to convince her to join him for ice cream at a store Daidouji had recommended to Hikaru. Haruhi complained that Kaoru was trying to get her fat with all these desserts. Kyoya would just make her pay for a larger uniform, and that would be a hindrance more than anything to her debt.

Kaoru laid off the sweets, but made Haruhi promise to get hot dogs with him that weekend. He had heard about the American delicacy from a girl in their class who had just traveled to New York. Haruhi stopped complaining after awhile, because Kaoru was obviously paying. No commoner gave up free food.

A/N: So...what did you think? Part one of three is finished! I wanted to separate this story into two parts only, but this section got so long with all that dialogue that I just cut it into three. I don't know why I didn't do that initially either, since with the timeline it just works SO much better as three parts rather than two.

I apologize for the possibly lengthy exposition at the beginning of the story. I wanted to make sure the changes in the club were fairly clear.

And yes, these sections are a little shorter than I'm normally used to writing. But I'm trying to write in a much more blunt style, a passive style that suits Haruhi. This tale is mostly told from her perspective, after all.

There are two references to other series here, can you guess at what they are? Hint: Hanajima and Daidouji. They should be fairly obvious, I would think.

See you soon! Hopefully I'll have the next section out within the week.