a.n. Shitsure shimasu: excuse me (when leaving someplace) Haruhi also used it in episode #1 when trying to leave the music room before the whole vase incident.

Chapter 7

Mori lifted Haruhi up by her stomach with one hand and for a second the two of them resembled a figure skating couple… before he hurled her like a javelin. Haruhi just barely caught the ledge and heaved herself up with a surprise amount of umph. She landed on Nekozawa's balcony and sat on the rail to catch her breath while the Black Magic Club president eagerly watched the minotaur duel the Minizilla. Bereznoff had to tug on his robes and point out the intruder. When Nekozawa finally noticed her, he gave a start.

"How did you get up here?"

"I flew," Haruhi said after a final wheeze. "Listen, Nekozawa-sempai, I'm here to get you to stop this madness." Bereznoff fell into a fit of silent laughter despite the president's attempts to shush him.

"And what do you intend to give in order for us to consider your demand?" he asked cordially. Haruhi shrugged.

"Nothing. I just want you to stop this now."

Nekozawa allowed Bereznoff to bust a gut with cackles no one else heard.

"Sempai, you've had your revenge. This is just getting out of hand," she added.

"Where's Haruhi-kun?" muttered Renge, once again wearing her binoculars and leaning dangerously far over the rail of her balcony. "I don't see him…"

Nekozawa visibly twitched. "Now then," he began once he had composed himself. "If this is not going to be a negotiation, there is no reason for you to be on my balcony."

"Wait," she said tiredly. She glared at him through sleep-deprived eyes that seemed to convey perfectly what she was feeling: She had once again been roped into some stupid host club cosplay with silly clothes and no point whatsoever. She had been carried around by the twins like some kind of temple amulet for the past couple of days and had to put up with everyone's extreme drama for nearly the entire duration of the labyrinth. She was cold and hungry and nursing a headache. Tomorrow she had a test on the Tokugawa period in History for which she had planned on studying tonight. Instead, she had been stuck with a pack of bumbling, crying hosts (mostly) in a stupid maze.

Emphasis on the stupid.

And she conveyed all that through one look. (More like shoved it down into his very soul.)

"Listen here, you magician wannabe," Haruhi growled in a raspy voice, "I had nothing to do with your little puppet being stepped on. So for me and my sempais to get punished for this is pointless. We played your tiring game and we want out. If you still have a bone to pick with Kaoru and Hikaru, just do it during normal school hours."

Finally, Renge noticed the host chiding Nekozawa and gave a screech. "Haruhi-kun!" she cried with random hearts appearing around her. The manageress held her arms out wide and looked about ready to jump balconies when Haruhi merely glanced at her long enough to mutter, "Stay out of this, woman." And Renge fell flat on her face.

By now many girls from other balconies had noticed the host out of the labyrinth and were watching the scene with particular interest. Haruhi glanced in their direction and her features grew grim as she realized her only option was the one she had not wanted to use from the start.

The girl hopped onto the balcony railing and stood up for everyone to see. Even Tamaki and the twins, wrestling with the ghosts, Hani, dragging the Doom Bunny by its ears, Kyouya, keeping out of the reach of the monsters' battle, and Mori, standing near the balcony in case he was still needed, could see her, as well as all the ladies in prim yellow dresses.

"Nekozawa-sempai!" Haruhi called in a voice everyone could hear. "If you don't stop this game of yours, I will tell everybody what you've been up to the last couple of days…" she crouched down, beckoned for the boy to come closer, and whispered: "in the reading room."

She could hear him gulp and saw Bereznoff start to shiver a little. Renge bounded over to his balcony and shot to Haruhi's side, pen and paper in hand.

"What? What has he been up to?" she begged scandalously. "You can tell me, Haruhi-kun!" The host paid her no heed; she just gazed into Nekozawa's undecided face, waiting for a reply.

Finally, he returned her stare and sighed, "I never guessed you capable of such… evilness." All of a sudden, he rushed forward and pushed Renge out of the way. "Would you possibly be interested in joining the Black Magic Club?"

"No, sempai." The sudden change in subjects did not throw Haruhi off in the least; she was used to much more illogical changes and she easily stayed on track this time. Her serious gaze brought Nekozawa back, too.

The president gave a sluggish nod. "Fine." He turned to the labyrinth, raised his arms (as did Bereznoff), and began reciting the same strange language as before. Haruhi watched as a darkness seemed to recede from the maze like a tide washing off a beach. When it was done, the monsters— including the Minizilla— were gone and everything, even the sky, seemed much brighter. The hedges stopped their incessant rustling and the hosts inside breathed a sigh of relief.

Nekozawa turned back to the girl perched on his balcony. "This hasn't changed our arrangement, has it?" he questioned cautiously and Haruhi just chuckled and shook her head. Before another move could be made, Renge pounced between the two, grabbed Haruhi's jacket collar and shook her.

"WHAT? WHAT DID HE SAY?!"

-----

"Thank you, Haru-chan, for saving us!" Hani cooed, hugging her before jumping into his cousin's arms to be taken home. Mori smiled— smiled – at her before saying, "Yes, thanks."

All the hosts were in the Third Music Room cleaning up a bit before returning to their respective homes. It surprised just about everyone that it was not that late outside and that the hosts had not even spent two hours inside the labyrinth. The twins were now flopped on one of the nearby couches, Kaoru complaining about how Haruhi had gotten his jacket so dirty that he didn't see how it could possibly be cleaned. Before Haruhi could retort, Tamaki interrupted.

"So, what did you do to make Nekozawa let us go?"

"We reached an agreement." The twins' heads jerked up and stared at her as they waited for her to say more. But she did not. So they prompted.

"Meaning what, exactly?"

Haruhi remained mute, even when all the eyes of the hosts fell expectantly on her. Kyouya, who had been tacking away at his computer nearly the entire time he had been in the music room, suddenly looked up.

"Meaning she wouldn't divulge their little secret to the entire school," he informed them casually. The twins sprang up in to sitting positions, leaning forward attentively, while Mori and Hani, who were on their way out, stopped dead in their tracks. Tamaki, growing whiter by the minute, slowly, mechanically turned to face Haruhi.

"Se… secret?" he questioned in a strained whisper. "You're keeping secrets from d-daddy?" Haruhi retained dignified silence and the remaining hosts immediately turned to Kyouya.

The Shadow King allowed himself a subtle smirk before swiveling in his chair to better face the club. His glasses were once again firmly in place when he explained: "You see, for the past couple of days, Haruhi has been meeting with Nekozawa before our club in the second reading room. Their… tete-a-tetes have been lasting nearly an hour at least."

Only the twins and the seniors reacted to this; Tamaki was already on the ground with his soul barely hanging onto him. For nearly five full minutes, Hani, Kaoru and Hikaru peppered her with questions, though all she really told them was that she could not talk about it. So they turned to Kyouya.

He was shutting down his laptop and apparently getting ready to leave. "Don't get all excited. Haruhi has been Nekozawa's math tutor since it was apparent he was close to failing. Of course, since he is the heir to his father's prestigious international business, if word got out he had to have help from a younger, female commoner in a subject integral to the company, well, that would incur negative attention at the very least."

Haruhi's shoulders slumped (Well, when you put it like that…). The twins and the seniors simultaneously fell silent to ponder this new information (Tamaki was still out cold and nearly soul-less) and Kyouya took this opportunity to slip into an adjacent room. Haruhi, forming some questions of her own, followed.

The room was about the size of Haruhi's house with poles running down the length of the room on both sides. On one wall hung the blue Ouran jackets of various sizes and on the other hung the white dress shirts. On the far wall were many indents for pairs of shiny black shoes. She had walked in to a closet. Most likely the ties and pants were in the drawers along the wall under the hanging clothes. And it should not have surprised her that there were several tables and chairs in here as well.

It was only then that she noticed Kyouya in an undershirt, only his forearms in the sleeves of his dress shirt, his jacket and tie draped over the back of a chair, and the Shadow King staring right at her.

"I never thought we'd have to discuss this, but I don't appreciate an audience when I'm changing," he suddenly spoke up. Immediately Haruhi whirled around to face the door, her cheeks a growing tint of red.

"I-I'm sorry!" she cried. "I didn't know this was another changing room." Haruhi heard Kyouya shuffling through some hangars.

"Actually, it's not. It's just a room for extra uniforms. I happen to be changing because I didn't expect anyone to rudely barge in to stare at me."

Haruhi's head sank down to her shoulders and a silence followed, awkward for her but Kyouya did not seem to mind. However, he finally asked, "Well, out with it. What do you want?"

"I wanted to know why you told me to come up with a plan in the labyrinth. I'm sure you had your own."

"I had eight. But I thought you would hold more sway over Nekozawa since it was your affair. It seems I was right." There were more sounds of hangar shuffling from the other side of the room before he said she could turn around. Haruhi did and saw Kyouya buttoning up a new blue jacket. His old jacket and shirt haphazardly occupied a nearby table and chair set.

"So how long have you known about the tutoring?"

"Since you started," he replied with a shrug. "I make it my business to know what goes on in the lives of the club members." (A chill ran down Haruhi's spine.) "But I had been following Nekozawa's declining grades for some time because they were of special interest, considering his position in the financial world and the dealings with my family."

"I didn't know one class could be so serious," Haruhi said with an innocent expression. "But Nekozawa-sempai seemed to take it very importantly."

Kyouya, hands in his pants pockets, sauntered closer. "So you at least figured some part of it out and used it against him."

"No," sighed Haruhi. "He told me that he didn't want anyone else knowing about this, even you guys. I just thought he was embarrassed." Kyouya smirked, stifling a chuckle.

"Then that as a reason sounds far more terrible."

Haruhi's head sank again. After a moment of silence, she looked back up at him. "What would you have done?"

"I would have utterly destroyed him." His quick reply made one of Haruhi's eyes twitch. She turned to leave with a muttered "Shitsure shimasu" when the Shadow King spoke up again.

"I know Nekozawa made you help him by threatening to curse your friends and family, but that's not true. And if he ever tries, I'll make sure he fails."

Now it was Haruhi's turn to smirk. "I didn't do it because of the threat. I knew he'd never follow through with it, anyway." Her absolutely assured expression made Kyouya second-guess arguing with her. He checked his watch before expertly changing the subject.

"Well, you're probably the dirtiest out of all of us, so why don't I leave you to find a change of clothes." He passed her by and had almost reached the door when Haruhi spoke up this time.

"You should take a jacket for Kaoru— he might not know about this."

"He does," Kyouya said simply. As he opened the door, he called over his shoulder, "Oh, tonight has been, if anything, a waste of time. And obviously, that takes money to correct. So any damages we have to pay for will be added to your debt."

Somehow she knew that was going to rear its ugly head sooner or later. So this time, to Kyouya's surprise and maybe even slight disappointment, Haruhi did not protest.

"Sempai," Haruhi began almost cautiously as she browsed through the line of blue jackets, "if Nekozawa-sempai had asked you to help, would you have?" He did not even take time to think it over.

"No. And neither would the other hosts who actually succeed in math." ("Aww, Kyouya!" sniffled Tamaki, "you're so mean!") The Shadow King looked at her seriously. "Nekozawa noticed you were different from us. He hasn't found out you're a girl— unless you've told him— which I sincerely hope you haven't— but he noticed you treat people differently than we do."

Haruhi, measuring a jacket to herself, muttered, "You mean like I treat our customers like actual human beings and I don't act like a spoiled, rich--"

"I can hear you, you know." Haruhi quickly cleared her throat and busied herself with finding another jacket.

"But I hope you never change," Kyouya suddenly said, tightening his tie, "that you keep your character." When Haruhi looked up at him with wide, quizzical eyes, he added, "Because that's how you attract so many customers, whom you will definitely need after tonight." And with that he left, closing the door behind him.

Haruhi stood staring after him even after he had gone, clutching an extra jacket to her chest. Kyouya had been smiling as he exited the closet, but it was not the regular, conniving, Shadow King smile. It was genuine and mirthful, and because Haruhi had only glimpsed it, she wondered if it had really been there.

Maybe this had been the crossing of another barrier, like in the mall so long ago. As cold and introverted as Kyouya could be, Haruhi wanted to be friends with him, too, but she had to wonder: if they continued to cross these walls, where would it take them?

-----

Nekozawa made his way to his limo after having cleaned his balcony and club room of anything suspicious and had sent his underlings to make the spotlight not look tampered with. He had told his driver that morning to come late to pick him up.

The president had held snippets of conversation with Bereznoff since the end of the labyrinth, and only when they were walking down the grand stairs to the second floor did Nekozawa pluck up enough courage to ask the puppet, "What… what do you think of… Fujioka-kun?"

Bereznoff scratched his chin before shrugging and gesturing like he was talking. Nekozawa nodded.

"Yeah… he's a nice guy and all… but don't you think he's kind of… feminine?" A second later the cat puppet pounced on Nekozawa's head and began pulling at all the hair he could get his paws on.

"Ow, jeez— sorry! It was all that time spent with Renge," he mumbled, rubbing his head. In the silence that followed, they were suddenly aware of voices. They leaned over the banister and saw the Host Club on the staircase below heading for the first story. Tamaki was wailing and carrying on about something while the twins laughed at him. Mori, with Hani on his shoulders, and Kyouya were on either side of Haruhi, the small senior chatting perkily with her.

"Is it just me, or do they seem… closer somehow?" Nekozawa questioned. He could not fathom how all the hosts were able to smile after being in a labyrinth for hours, but they were. And they were all smiling at Haruhi. Nekozawa had to admit as he watched them that it was a cute scene… even though they were all guys.

…He really was spending too much time around Renge.

The two followed at a respectful distance, keeping out of sight. However, they were not keeping out of earshot and could not help overhear them as Tamaki rambled on about his "daughter."

Nekozawa and Bereznoff exchanged looks. "I knew that club was sketchy, but…"

By the time they got to the limo, to their surprise, all the hosts were still there. All of them (except for Kyouya and Mori) were arguing over whose limo Haruhi would take, while Haruhi argued that she would walk, like normal. ("That's out of the question," Kyouya said— his only interjection. "It's too dark; unsafe.") In the end, she just gave up and let them fight.

"Excuse me," a dark voice broke in. Everyone turned to see Nekozawa standing next to the open door of his limo. "I can take Fujioka-kun home. It'd be no trouble."

Instantly the guys started shaking their heads, but only Tamaki shouted, "Over my dead body!"

Bereznoff commented to the Black Magic president on how protective everyone was being and was about to suggest they just leave.

But Haruhi titled her head and smiled. "I would really appreciate that, thanks!" Tamaki dropped to his knees as she headed for Nekozawa's limo.

"Think of what he's done! He might curse you! No, my darling daugh—" The twins clapped their hands over their lord's mouth then and watched with grim faces as Haruhi climbed into the vehicle. Nekozawa followed and revealed his driver standing there to close the car door. All the hosts glared at the limo as it drove off.

"Well," remarked Kyouya. "This is certainly interesting."

"We don't like sharing," the twins drawled darkly. They nearly jumped when Mori added, "Yeah."

"We should keep an eye on Nekozawa for awhile," Hani muttered with narrowed eyes. "And make sure he's not up to no good."

And Tamaki and the twins took a step away from him.

-----

"I wanted to apologize about the maze," Nekozawa said almost sheepishly. Haruhi seemed to shrug it off.

"It's fine. But you should be careful next time not to unnecessarily involve others." Bereznoff gave a nervous cough as one ear bent down.

When Nekozawa thought of how much Haruhi's scolding reminded him of his mother, he cringed. All of a sudden he stifled a gasp, his mind flying through the past few encounters with the host club. In that brief moment, things were coming together.

"Uh… Fujioka-kun, can I ask you a question?"

"Yes?" Haruhi replied, smiling a sweet (totally unmanly) smile. Bereznoff's eyes grew wide and he began pulling on the president's robes in an attempt to dissuade him.

"Now, if you don't want to answer, that's fine, but…"

"No, go ahead."

"I'll understand if you don't want to…"

"You can ask me anything." There was that smile again.

"Um… Fujioka-kun… are you… a girl?" He was a little surprised when Haruhi's grin turned into a knowing kind of smile.

"Yes."

-----

Kyouya was about to duck into his limo when he straightened and looked around.

"Ootori-san, what is it?" his waiting chauffer asked.

"Oh, nothing. I just thought I heard someone scream."

-----

a.n. Wow. This was incredibly long…. I just couldn't stop writing! LoL And yay, an update in two weeks! That's great for this fic. (Which is also pretty sad.) I hope you liked the HaruhixKyouya-ness in here… I was going for subtle, because I like that so much better in fics. And I hope you liked it too. :) Thanks to everyone for reading and sticking with Labyrinth for all seven chapters!