Perfect Spaces

He liked to coddle her, tried to shelter her like she was his pretty little princess and he her shining knight in armor. In the end, however, he had always let her fall.

AN: Just a little introspective ficlet written during the holidays. Dedicated to Kimberly, who lamented the lack of Tamaki/Haruhi fics that worked for her. Betaed by the delightful starstruck272. Mild spoilers for the end of the anime.

Ouran High School Host Club belongs to Bisco Hatori.

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It was a known fact that the Host Club needed Fujioka Haruhi, but not many people realized how much Haruhi herself needed the host club. It was a strange balance, and most members of both parties were hopelessly oblivious to this fact.

At first, Haruhi was their little secret, a coveted treasure that they wanted to keep to themselves. If no one else knew the truth of her gender, they reasoned, then Haruhi was bound to them, for they were the only ones who had any true chance of understanding her. She's was a curious little puzzle piece, an unknown variable of commoner proportions in an equation usually piled high with the internal politics and hidden facades of the noble and rich world. She was different, she was interesting, and she was theirs.

Later, Haruhi became their little gem, a steady burning spark that brought stability to the high-charged interactions that characterized the boys' lives. Some would say she was the only redeeming factor of the host club – her insights, her uncanny ability to see into their hearts without judging them. She completed them, brought the host club up to the magical number of seven… and perhaps some of that magic had rubbed off on her as well.

Being a host gave Haruhi a freedom she never knew she craved. Necessity and circumstances had made her an independent girl and she was so steadfast in reaching her goals that she never quite realized how much she was giving up in the process. They were sacrifices that Haruhi was willing to make – the memories she would miss making with her middle school friends, for one; always being labeled the "special transfer student," the one who had transferred into Ouran through academic merit alone.

Haruhi had been prepared for the gap between her social status and everyone else's, the lapse of understanding due to her different upbringing and mindset from her classmates. Like the little trooper that she was, Haruhi entered Ouran with her head held high.

The little twist of fate that brought her careening into the host club's service was as much salvation as damnation, Haruhi would later look back and realize.

The host club forced Haruhi to put aside her books. It gave her the chance to interact and eventually become friends with people who most likely would have overlooked her if they passed her in the corridor. Everyday, Haruhi walked into the third music room to be met by Honey's enthusiastic chatter and offers of sweets, tempered by Mori-senpai's quietly indulgent presence. Hikaru and Kaoru's Cheshire grins winked from opposite corners of the room as they closed in on her, and Haruhi would try to keep her equilibrium even as Kyouya watched over them over his laptop, opportunistic and all-seeing.

Then came the girls with their sweet smiles and starry eyes, and Haruhi would dutifully play the part of Fujioka Haruhi, rookie and brilliantly natural host.

And at the center of it all, like a ringleader whipping up his performers into a frenzy, Tamaki was the orchestrator of all madness, guilefully charming the girls and wrecking his own magical chaos upon all present.

It was a testament to the charisma and presence that Tamaki subconsciously wove, that he managed to unite such a diverse motley of personalities into one coherent entity.

It was Tamaki's surprising insight that brought Honey-senpai into the Host Club, a place where the blonde senior thrived in a way he never did as captain of the martial arts club. And wherever Honey went, Mori-senpai came too, silent and looming. It was his tacit approval and his quiet willingness to subject to whatever wild idea Tamaki threw at the host club that reassured Honey the most.

And what other than Tamaki's pigheaded stubbornness could match the Hitachiin twins in battle, battering his will against their iron-clad gates until annoyed and intrigue by turns, they decided to let him in? They opened up their hearts to Haruhi, yes, but it was to Tamaki that they risked opening their world to. Tamaki was their first real connection to the outside world, and for that, they offered him their loyalty, often masked within mischief and devilry, but unwavering and unconditional nonetheless.

Kyouya was the panther lying in wait, watching attentively from the shadows and manipulating all to his satisfaction. He oversaw so much of the host club's mechanisms that if needed be, Kyouya was capable of taking leadership, to become the king in both name and deed. But he wouldn't.

The host club was only worthy of his attention because Tamaki was at its helms. If Tamaki left, well, so would Kyouya.

So intellectually, Haruhi understood just why Tamaki was the heart and soul of their little group – all the signs were there, easily added up like the different components of math equation. And she was beginning to see past his puppy-like naiveté, the artful little facades he put up for the benefit of his ecstatic fans.

Tamaki had all the eloquent charms of flirtation and flattery down pat, was able to dance light-footed into the hearts of millions of girls with a grace that would put an elegant crane's courtship ritual to shame, but he didn't exactly treat Haruhi as a girl. Or perhaps, it was more accurate to say that he didn't treat her like his other customers. He still sprouted his flowery lines of poetry, but to Haruhi, Tamaki was his usual bumbling self and his smiles were infinitely more genuine.

Perhaps the greatest gift Tamaki gave Haruhi was treating her as herself – not as a girl, although he was apt to point out that point at least half a dozen times when there were no customers around – not as another customer and certainly not as a boy, either. Haruhi knew without a doubt that Tamaki loved and appreciated all the members of the host club and knew that his love for her was different.

He liked to coddle her, tried to shelter her like she was his pretty little princess and he her shining knight in armor. In the end, however, he had always let her fall. Haruhi was no princess, a fact she knew too well and accepted far too easily, and Tamaki's life was not as rose-tinted as it originally seemed.

He allowed her to fly and he allowed her to fall.

And he was always there at the bottom, waiting to catch her.

His was the arms she leaped into in desperation as lightning crackled across the night sky and thunder roared in her ears. He was the one who threw caution to the winds and dived after her at the beach, putting her safety even above the anger he must have felt to her assaulters.

And when Tamaki tried to leave, giving up the world he had painstakingly constructed for all of them for his mother's sake, Haruhi had taken up the reins then and chased after Tamaki, trying to express the same emotions that he had given to all of the host club members, trying to make him understand just how much he meant to all of them.

All of them, Honey-senpai, Mori-senpai, Kyouya, Hikaru and Kaoru, had worked together to catch up to Tamaki, but only Haruhi was able to bring him back.

She had reached for him, her hand outspread and her eyes pleading. When the carriages snared with each other and she had been thrown off balance, there was a long moment where everything was suspended in midair, eerily silent, hanging in stasis…

Until Tamaki had once again leaped for her, his arms enveloping her smaller form and enfolding safely in his embrace as she instinctively clung back, a smile of relief lighting her lips, and the world had came roaring back in startling clarity.

And so today, pale sakura blossoms in full bloom in a simple but exquisite bouquet in her arms and resplendent in layers of soft cream and white, Fujioka Haruhi walked down the aisles, smiling at Hikaru and Kaoru's twin bows as she entered between them, at Honey-senpai's glowing face, Mori-senpai silent and approving beside him, at Kyouya, who smirked at her from his place as best man at Tamaki's side.

She stepped into the open space beside Tamaki, aware of his adoring gaze upon her, and slipped her hand discreetly into his, curling her fingers around his, absorbing the warmth from the contact as she did every time Tamaki had caught and held her.

There was a chaotic method in Tamaki's madness, a spiraled route that nonetheless spelt out happiness, and Haruhi was the living proof of it.

..end..

AN: Yes, they did get married… and as always, reviews and con/crit are always much beloved.