Disclaimer: Ouran is not mine.
Summary: Ranka knows all about layers. About that and oranges, as well. (Ryoji. Kotoko. Haruhi.)
Rating: M, just to be on the safe side.
Author's note: First fanfiction. Reviews welcome. Constructive criticism appreciated.
And um… On with the story.
One day Ryoji Fujioka met a girl.
Then he tripped, lost hold of the glass in his hand and spilt orange juice all over her.
His terrified mind instantly supplied him with the situation at hand:
He was a low paid waiter (waitress to be precise; the tip was better and no one had yet complained) in some supposedly classy restaurant with extraordinary expensive dishes for outwardly refined guests.
One of which he just drenched in sticky fruit juice.
It was one of those moments where he just knew only his inborn natural charm and witty conversation skills could save him and his job.
"Eh…" he said.
The girl stared at him. The hem of her dress seemed determined to provide the freshly scrubbed floor with his fair share of juice.
"Eh…" he repeated.
For a second he only stood there. The next second he panicked quietly. The second after that he begged his mind that this please, please was just the dismal beginning to a grand way of elaboration to make everything work out because he really, really needed the money from this job.
'Eh,' his mind echoed back at him.
'Ah,' he answered mentally. After a moments consideration he added: 'Well fuck.'
Now, after having already been dismissed from five and a half jobs (He had gotten sacked before he even got the 'whole' job. The incident had involved slippery floors, a tear in his skirt, exposed body parts, stuck-up would-be employers and oddly enough a hamster.), he considered himself quite the expert on how to handle another imminent dismissal in the most graceful way.
He covered his ears with his hands and began to hum in the hopes of drowning out the screams of rich bastard standard outburst #2 (loud and screechy; with a professional demeaning edge to it), which was sure to come.
And did not.
Instantly suspicious of this no drama reaction, he took a step backwards. Just to be out of direct hysterical hitting or throwing range.
It had taken two stinging cheeks, one black eye and five and a half barely survivals, but he had learned.
Only then he decided to deem it safe to ease his hands from his ears and chance a look at the girl.
She still stared at him.
The orange puddle at her feet grew.
And she was smiling.
The tune he was humming died on his lips.
The boy took another step back.
One of her hands followed and almost touched the skin of his right arm.
He breathed in.
She breathed out.
Suddenly he was terribly aware that he was a twenty year old male dressing like a girl dressing like a waitress and wished he had thought to put on some lipstick.
"You," the girl told the boy, "Are an awkward boy, aren't you?"
Her hovering hand patted his arm as one might pat a favorite pet.
The touch was cold, clammy and quite sticky.
The smile never left her face.
Ryoji noticed that she had very thin lips and very dark eyes and a very ruined dress.
There was an uncomfortable moment or two.
He shifted from foot to foot and coughed.
The eyes left his form, the cold left his arm and she stepped around him obviously intending to leave the restaurant.
He stared at the girl's retreating back, at dark hair and blemished dress swishing back and forth and then there was feeling.
The touch was hot, unsteady and quite dry.
Ryoji stared at the girl's wrist he had snatched in his hands as if he wondered how exactly it had come to be there.
"Um…" he started to say without his mind's consent as it was still too busy screeching like Ryoji occasionally did when he discovered he was fresh out of hair spray and all the shops were already closed.
She gave him a backward glance over her shoulder.
His gaze fixed on the stains on the dress he could see from his position to her side; eight big stains right under her small breasts when she breathed in, seven stains when she breathed out.
He felt his throat tighten and realized he would just maybe perhaps possibly like to apologize to her the tiniest of bits. (Even though it was partly her fault, really.)
Of course, the apology had to show off all of his long established maturity and natural charming wittiness and at the same time it had to be the most sophisticated, most refined, most charming apology ever been listened to by a victim of orange juice misuse.
"Marry me!" Ryoji blurted out.
Or he could do that.
"What?" the girl asked, her smile turning nervous.
'What?' his mind took the time to echo, equally nervous, before it took up a new bout of screeching.
His hands let go of her wrist and abruptly engaged in the task of combing wildly through his perfectly fine hair. "You know… um…"
He shifted from foot to foot again.
"So I can…make up… for your dress?"
She cocked her head to the side. Her smile vanished. Instead she laughed.
At that point his mind stopped its screeching, briefly entertained the idea of fainting and in its place opted for taking an infinite leave as it was obviously not going to be used anyway.
Ryoji's make-up free face flushed and he turned his head to the side, her laughter loud in his ears.
His legs and ears proposed to run off; however, his eyes caught sight of a face gone soft around all the edges and a slim body shaking in a stained dress and he stayed rooted to his spot.
Already her laughter subsided again and her eyes met his.
"Thank you." She told him as softly as her face now looked, even though neither of them was sure for what she was thanking him. And then: "My name's Kotoko."
"Ryoji," he retorted in trained response, even though the syllables felt strange and heavy on his tongue.
She nodded, a touch on his arm, cold and sticky, the scent of oranges in his nose, too sweet for his taste, and a calm whisper stung his ears in an almost unpleasant way: "You are really an awkward boy."
Then she was walking away from him, and he let her, since he had a choice.
He saw black hair and a slim frame and a blemished dress and the scent of oranges lingered and his ears still tingled.
And Ryoji, as his mind was on vacation and therefore not there to warn him, impulsively decided to just fuck it all and fall in love.
Exactly 268 and one day later Ryoji Fujioka kept a girl.
He went up to her, dressed in jeans and a nervous twitch, no make up and a white t-shirt, and asked something.
She looked up at him, dressed in a stain free dress and soft laughter, dark hair and a red hairclip, and answered something.
His bride had a dress in her wardrobe she refused to get rid of, although orange juice stains ruined it.
For some time that should have been forever life was not perfect, but he was happy. He loved and laughed and cried and his smiles were so real they stretched his lips so far they hurt.
His make-up utensils lay in a corner of their bedroom, forgotten and abandoned, and would have collected at least three layers of dust already if his wife (His!) wasn't so strict about cleaning.
And then, one day he was late for a girl.
He was at his eleventh and a half job, his shift just over.
He had been the last to know. Now, he was the first to enter the room; a plastic bag clutched in his fingers.
His shirt, hair and trousers made him a colour blot of red and black, when everything else was painted white.
The walls, the floor, the windows, everything; even his wife lying on the hospital bed.
He halted in his steps and pressed the plastic bag against his chest.
She opened dark eyes and spotted him.
His first reaction was to look for the exit.
But then she smiled at him, all the hard edges gone from her face. So, he stayed. And when her free pale hand beckoned him closer, he followed. (After all, he always did.)
Her other hand presented him with a very red, very tiny thing.
"Um," he said and his gaze went to the bag in his hands. "I brought you oranges."
She sighed and rolled her eyes. "I hate oranges." Her eyes shifted from him to her preoccupied hand. "Besides, isn't there something you want to do?"
"Um," he repeated and his gaze shifted to said hand. "Can't it break?"
She sighed again. "You awkward man." With surprising force she grabbed one of his hands and placed it on a red and tiny thing.
His mouth formed a silent Oh-sound.
"Meet Haruhi," she told him in her 'no-nonsense from you, Ryoji Fujioka'-voice and he knew better than to argue back.
"I am sorry I wasn't there," he whispered and Haruhi made some weird baby noise.
"No matter," his wife informed him.
He knew it did matter. Yet, right then and there, he couldn't bring himself to care. His daughter (His!) had just snatched his thumb in her tiny, tiny hand and he was too busy falling in love all over again in a completely different way.
For some more time that should have been forever life was not perfect, but he was happy and now he knew how to be content, too. He loved some more and learned how to make Haruhi laugh and never figured quite out what it meant when Haruhi cried (Which she didn't very often. She was an oddly calm child.) and he slept more than he had in all his life, falling asleep with Haruhi in his arms, Kotoko at his side.
His make-up utensils were discarded without a second thought into their cupboard and made room for toys, fairy tale books and catalogues full of baby clothing.
And for all the dreams he had in that time, one day he dreamt of a girl.
Unexpectedly he became aware that he felt a lot of limbs.
Expectedly he was unaware for some minutes until he had sorted out they where his, Kotoko's and Haruhi's.
After counting them all, two times, he realized he was awake. There were two blankets and two human bodies covering him and he also realized he was cold. Once or twice he shivered while his gaze wandered to their cupboard.
"Hey, Kotoko?" his voice cut through the silence of the room.
There was some mumbling into his chest where his wife's head rested, hidden under one of the blankets, which might or might not have been an answer.
His large hands cradled tiny Haruhi to his chest and slender Kotoko into his left arm. The cupboard loomed in his vision.
"Forever?" he asked of his wife.
He felt some more mumbling into his chest. He couldn't make out what it was, except that it didn't feel very complementary.
Limbs rearranged themselves.
Breath trembled across skin.
Suddenly, one dark eye peered at him from beneath a blue blanket, the rest of Kotoko lost somewhere between his body and blue fabric.
"Okay," she told his chest. "Forever."
"Okay then," he said to one dark eye, turned his gaze away from the wardrobe and entangled his limbs some more.
Forever turned out to last for six years, 288 days, eleven hours and 24 minutes.
So, at the end of forever, which spitefully dared to be one day like any other day, he had to visit a girl.
He was currently taking care of Haruhi, which by then already translated more into Haruhi taking care of herself and he had made her wait outside with some strict looking woman.
This time around, he had been the first to know. He was the last to enter the room.
With him he brought a too ripe fruit and the too vibrant colours of his hair and washed out clothes into a room where everything was white.
The walls, the floor, the windows, everything; except for his wife reduced to a blot of dark hair, dark eyes and grey-tinted skin on stark white hospital bed.
"Hi," he said in the only way he knew how, loudly and shrilly, and clung to the fruit in his hands as if it was his new favorite hand bag.
She didn't respond.
His first reaction was to not react at all.
Instead, he took slow steps closer to the bed until he towered over her shrunken form.
"Hi," he repeated just as loudly and shrilly as the first time and in lack of a better topic he added: "They only had oranges left over. I had to charm some old lady to get some. Only it worked too well, and Haruhi and I had to run for it, after paying of course and now, I tell you, if the old lady is going to stalk me I will-"
Dark eyes cracked open and gave him a completely normal, completely Kotoko, completely annoyed look.
"-Stop babbling right about now and just shut up," Ryoji wisely concluded and presented her the fruit. It was turning brown around the edges and here and there fingertips seemed to have broken through the skin.
"'Hate them," his wife explained to him very matter-of-fact.
He laughed and it left a bitter taste in his mouth.
When he was finished pretending he found his wife staring at him.
"I will pull through. Now, stop worrying," she told him. The words were as colourless as everything in the room and their hands found each other.
The touch was neither cold nor hot, it simply wasn't there.
And Kotoko smiled, thin lips stretching grey skin and he could smell anaesthetics, oranges and sickness.
Ryoji left the orange at her bedside and fled.
One day not much later, Ryoji Fujioka lost a girl.
Haruhi was six, all big brown eyes and question marks behind everything she said.
It was dark outside and a light bulb dyed the kitchen of their new flat a sallow tint and he and his daughter were buried in formal attire.
Currently, they were having a funeral at their kitchen table.
"Never again?" asked the small girl seriously (Always so serious.), her legs swinging back and forth under the table.
"No, never again," answered the man loudly (Never quietly.), his gaze on the light bulb.
This caused a frown, ever so slightly, to etch onto the girl's face and she pondered.
"That's not very fair," she said eventually in the voice of a child with the intonation of an adult.
"No, it isn't fair," he answered in the voice of an adult with the intonation of a child and his attention went back to the light bulb.
Silence put a hole in the ground between them from then on and indicated the end of the conversation.
If she ever noticed him taking his make-up utensils out of the cupboard and putting them to use (and she did), that was just how her daddy was.
Light bulbs went on and out, were bought and changed, until one day Ryoji Fujioka almost left a girl.
Haruhi was seven, her skinny legs long and her arms full of books and chores.
He was not too old, but tired all the time and most of his smiles were so fake they didn't even lift a corner of his mouth.
He was in the living room, Haruhi was out grocery shopping, the day was bright and before him on the table there was placed a one-way ticket for the eight o'clock fifty-two train to Yokohama.
Ryoji stared at the ticket.
The ticket didn't stare back.
The clock at the far corner of the wall went chime; chime; chime and he knew that time had passed.
Two more chimes and he watched passively as his right hand reached for the ticket and put it into the balm of his left hand.
One more chime and he watched further when his left hand seemed to weigh the slip of paper.
He still watched as the finger of both hands neatly ripped the paper into three scrapes of roughly the same size; ripping and chiming heavy a sound in the air.
For some time there was smashing and retching and finally, there was silence.
He was surprised to come to and find himself clutching the toilet, the taste of bile stuck in his mouth and throat; everything he had eaten that day emptied in more or less liquid form into the toilet.
The remains of the ticket were still clutched in his hands.
Ryoji flushed them down with what was already in the toilet. After that, he pressed his forehead against the bathroom mirror and concentrated on remembering how to breathe, until he became aware of the absence of noise.
A look over his shoulder into the living room and pieces of broken glass filled his vision.
He wasn't aware anymore that time had passed but he watched in the mirror as with shaking hands he applied the first layer of red lipstick to his lips.
When Haruhi came home, large plastic bags in tiny hands, and no one was at the entrance to greet her, the girl simply went into the kitchen, put away the groceries and then went into the living room.
She looked around and saw pieces of broken glass.
"The clock is shattered," the small girl commented and her gaze came to rest at a stranger wrapped in layers and layers of colours upon his face.
"I didn't like it," explained the stranger's mouth, painted a perfect cherry red, and the voice was her father's. "We will get a new one. A better one." (They never did.)
The stranger watched the girl consider and finally walk up to him.
Then his arms, the sleeves of his dress simple and blue, were full of Haruhi and his eyes, his lashes voluminous and his eyelids tinted lucky hazelnut, were full of an earnest young and tiny face looking up at him. "Daddy," she said and one of her hands touched his cheek and his pink flamingo blush came partly off.
Her face didn't get soft around all the edges and her touch was neither cold nor hot, but Haruhi smiled a smile hidden at the corners of her mouth.
"Daddy," she repeated, this time more certain, and attached a sentence to that word. "You are so awkward."
He felt like crying, yet that would only smudge his layers of colours, and so he laughed.
She didn't laugh with him.
In place of laughter she put on a serious face and he could feel her brown-eyed stare on him and the shattered clock. Her arms went around his neck, her head to his shoulder and her mouth to his ear.
"Don't worry, daddy. I am going to take care of you," she told him in her 'no nonsense from you, daddy'-voice and he knew better than to argue back and let her.
If he ever noticed her putting her toys and fairy tale books into the cupboard that night and locking them away (and he did), that was just how Haruhi was.
He lost jobs and got new ones and at his seventeenth and a half job, it looked like he would be able to keep that one permanently. It was at some cross dressing bar. And if there was a day he felt particularly lonely, there was always some very willing hot skin and a lot of hasty almost guilty touches.
So, one day, amid skin and touch, he forgot about a girl and arrived home later than he usually would have.
Haruhi was thirteen by now and her hair was long, her eyes big and boys started to notice.
Closing the front door, he calmly put his umbrella away to dry. He not so calmly noticed that Haruhi wasn't in her bed sleeping. He was positively not calm when he couldn't find her in any of the rooms.
As a first reaction he expertly added extra volume to his lashes and a new layer of pink satin to his lips and found he still couldn't think.
Then there was a noise and Ryoji had never before been so grateful for a whimper.
And he found her. Not in one of the rooms, but cowering in the cupboard, amid abandoned toys and forgotten fairy tale books.
He took in her tightly closed eyes, the massive stream of tears flowing down her cheeks and his first reaction was to slam the cupboard door shut again.
He didn't close the door. As a replacement he closed his arms around her.
"Eh," he said and looked down at the mass of whimpers, wetness and shivers in his arms and further elaborated: "Um."
Big eyes looked up at him. The tears stopped. The shivering ebbed. "It's okay, dad," she whispered and he started at a voice that was undoubtedly his own daughter's.
"It's only a silly thing. I do this every time," she continued and he started at a tone that was undoubtedly not his own daughter's.
"Every time?" he wanted to ask, however there was a flash and a roar and a weight clinging to him and he realized Haruhi was afraid of thunder.
His mouth formed a silent Oh-sound.
He tightened his hold around her.
"I am sorry," Ryoji said, his face dipped in hard coloured lines, even though neither of them was sure for what he was apologizing. "I am sorry, sorry, just sorry, please, Haruhi."
"It doesn't matter," she confided to the cleavage of his chest and tried to disappear between his limbs.
Yet, he knew it did matter. But right then and there he couldn't bring himself to care. He was to busy trying to take care of Haruhi in the only way he knew how, by being loud and shrill and awkward.
Ryoji tried and tried some more and tried very hard and one day he missed a girl.
Haruhi was fifteen and determined and cute and even her smiles were a serious thing.
He took longer in the bathroom than her and his hair was shinier than hers and his lips were painted apricot glaze everyday.
It was summer and hot and bright. They sat in the living room every day, were lazy (as lazy as Haruhi would allow herself to be.) and at ease.
Conversations were limited and initiated by Ryoji and most often went like this:
"You never tell me anything anymore, Haruhi," Ryoji whined.
His daughter looked up from the book she was reading, cocked her head to the side and smiled the smile hidden at the corner of her lips. "I am going to take the Ouran entrance exam."
"See, now I told you something," she said and went back to her reading.
He went back to whining. (Mostly about dresses and being girly and Haruhi's lack thereof.)
What he didn't whine about though was that Haruhi was still so tiny that he feared that one day he might lose another girl.
To avoid this, one day he instead schemed for a girl.
At that time, most people only knew him as Ranka and Haruhi never told him anything of relevance and he worried and applied a raisinberry tint to his lips and he was troubled and brushed ivory powder over his foundation.
Haruhi was sixteen and single-minded and wore her hair short and her glasses thick.
But one day Haruhi met the Host Club.
Then she tripped, couldn't get hold of a vase and spilled very old and very expensive rubble all over the floor of the Host Club clubroom.
Genders were confused or had been oblivious to and Haruhi was in debt.
Moreover, Haruhi was sixteen and slightly distracted and wielded blunt words and natural practicality.
And Ranka schemed.
When Kyouya contacted him, he was only too happy to supply him with pictures of his ever so cute daughter.
'You,' he wrote him in one of his not so many e-mails. "Are not an awkward boy."
And he was sure the boy would attribute this to one of Ranka's very many eccentricities and think nothing of it.
But Ranka did.
"This Kyouya seems to be a very well-mannered boy," he commented one day to a girl at supper and watched.
Haruhi made a noncommittal sound in response, concentrated on the school book in front of her and took another bite from her sandwich.
He was not quite disappointed.
By then, Haruhi was bordering on seventeen and beautiful and free with her smiles and completely oblivious to desire.
When Tamaki invited Ranka to a Christmas party housed in the Host club clubroom, Ranka was only too happy to attend and supply Tamaki with an endless stream of insults and keep him apart from his ever so cute daughter for the whole night.
"That Suoh boy is a vile womanizer," he ranted at Haruhi, like he had all night, and made sure his enemy was in earshot.
Haruhi gave him a free smile and a thoughtful expression. (In the background, Tamaki wept loud melodramatic tears in his little corner of overdramatics.)
"I think," Haruhi pointed out to Ranka, "the two of you are a bit alike."
"No, we are not," he grumbled with vehemence and downed his glass of champagne.
But we are, he knew.
And so, he schemed some more.
"That French fiend is completely unreliable, I know his sort," he commented one day to a girl at lunch and watched.
Haruhi made a noncommittal sound in response, ate the last of her meal and stood up.
"I am going to mother's grave today," she announced.
He felt not quite satisfied.
Pouting with bittersweet nectar coloured lips, he reminded his daughter. "Take some oranges with you. Kotoko liked them."
Haruhi, never one to disobey, grabbed two oranges from the kitchen counter and gave him a warm touch and another free smile, her face just a bit on the soft side.
Then she was walking away from him.
And he didn't let her, since he had a choice.
Before she could get too far, he hugged her tiny frame close to him from the side, at an awkward angle, and their position was extremely uncomfortable.
He also didn't care.
"Go another day," Ryoji said to Haruhi. "For now, just stay."
His daughter responded with more warm touches, a turn to make the embrace more comfortable and a mumble of "Awkward.".
He tangled their limbs some more and smelt oranges and Haruhi and life and possibilities and learned how to be content again.
One day, he knew he would have to let go of a girl.
But that day was not now.
So, for one day more Ryoji Fujioka held onto a girl.