BAH. School was so frustrating! I had quizzes every day in my Cog-Psych course, and almost daily meetings for my business course. It's awful. Finals were the 28th and 29th, so I'm fresh out of the horror. I thought I would start my leisurely break from school to write you all another quick chapter. Sorry about it being more than two months, you all know how school is. With summer unraveling, maybe I can have this finished soon? I would really like a beta reader, maybe I should search the archives for one? My grammar isn't bad but sometimes I notice small errors later or people point them out to me and they make me squirm.
Quick projection: The final chapter should be chapter 20 (21 if I feel it necessary). If this changes I'll let you all know.
Let me throw out some notes for you so the references in this chapter make sense:
Remember: the wedding was on December 23rd, so these events take place on the 24th into the 25th.
Le reveillon: Traditional French celebratory Christmas dinner.
Hotei-osho: The Japanese version of Santa. He's essentially a monk who hands out gifts to children on Christmas, he has an eye in the back of his head to watch children's behavior.
"So, how long have you two been together?" Hikaru asked bluntly as he spread jam across his croissant.
Kyouya looked over to Haruhi, who was stirring drops of honey into her tea.
"It's alright, Tono already told us. We're adults now, it's not like it's a competition anymore," Kaoru offered.
"Well--" Kyouya started.
"Competition?" Haruhi asked raising her eyes.
"All of us really liked you, Haru-chan," Hunny offered, speech slightly garbled by a mouthful of cake.
Mori stared down at his coffee.
"I never noticed."
"Well of course you didn't" Kaoru mused, tapping her on the nose with a jam-covered finger. "That was part of the appeal, after all."
As she blotted away the purple smudge, Hikaru asked again, "So, how long have you two been together?"
"Well," Kyouya began, only to stop short at the realization that he couldn't really explain anything without letting too much information go, "that is to say--"
"You two are together right?" Hikaru prodded.
"I'd like to think so," Kyouya replied quickly and passed her a smile. She grinned pleasantly in return.
"HA!" Hikaru shouted. "I knew it! I TOLD you, Kaoru!"
"Well, I suppose you did," Kaoru grumbled, pulling out his wallet.
"Huh?" Haruhi stuttered, looking about.
"Just a little bet, it's nothing really," Kaoru sighed.
"Kaoru and I bet one whether you two were dating or not and I happen to be the winner," Hikaru explained, his hand open to his brother waiting for his reward.
"But you said Tamaki--" Kyouya muttered.
"Well, he probably would have spilled the beans eventually, considering you indicated he knows. So it was hardly any sort of legitimate deception so much as a pre-emptive deduction," Kaoru replied with a shrug.
Hikaru offered, "I suppose that was a bit of a lie, but is it really that surprising? So, where's my twenty-thousand yen, brother?"
"You rich bastards," Haruhi chastised, shaking her head. Hunny couldn't help but snicker. Soon all the former classmates were all laughing so loudly they were thrown out of the posh coffeehouse by an frustrated maitre de.
The day continued on with laughter and joy. The six friends walked up and down the streets of Paris, sight-seeing, shopping, reminiscing of days long passed by. Christmas lights sparkled in the shop windows and the city seemed to be full of magic.
As the night drew to a close the final stop was the airport, where Haruhi and Kyouya bid farewell to their closest friends.
Hikaru offered her a pleasant smile as they embraced, "It was so good to see you, I've missed our little games with Haruhi-chan."
"We'll keep in touch," Kaoru offered as he embraced Haruhi outside the terminal gates, "for real, I promise this time."
Haruhi nodded. Though she knew she shouldn't, she believed him.
When given the opportunity Hunny clutched himself to Haruhi, tearfully declaring his appreciation and devotion. Haruhi could catch a glimpse of Mori over his childhood companion's shoulder, looking painfully awkward. When he noticed her glance looked away quickly.
Morinozuka Takashi turned around, considering wandering away without any words. Kyouya intuitively noted Mori's intentions and approached him.
"I know the situation is a bit awkward for you with what happened this morning," Kyouya offered, "but I really do appreciate our friendship. I know Haruhi appreciates it as well. You should at least say goodbye, Morinozuka-sempai. It's the right thing to do."
Mori recoiled slightly at the remark, only to realize how right Kyouya was. He offered Kyouya a curt nod and a handshake which was gladly returned.
Mori mustered his courage before approaching Haruhi. She smiled up at him blankly and he looked down at her dumbfounded. "Goodbye, Mori-sempai."
"I'll write you," he offered, unable to force a smile to his face.
"Thanks, Mori-sempai, I look forward to hearing from you," she replied. He offered her his hand, to which she raised an eyebrow. "How dry. A handshake?"
Mori wrapped his arms around her (per her criticism) into a firm embrace. She smile into his chest as he had managed to position her in such a way that she couldn't adequately move.
Though Hikaru, Kaoru, and Hunny had managed to encircle him in an attempt to involve him in their conversation, Kyouya still managed to focus on watching Mori and Haruhi with slight apprehension. Though he had encouraged Morinozuka Takashi to say goodbye, be couldn't help but feel insecure by their proximity.
Ootori Kyouya was an Ootori first, and sharing had never been something an Ootori needed to learn.
Kyouya noted with his typical astuteness how Morinozuka shifted slightly as he broke his embrace, the way he clenched his teeth and ran his hand through his hair. He noticed that Mori shot him glances as well, analyzing gazes that seemed to put into question something beneath the surface.
"Let's take a picture together!" Hunny declared out of the blue, grabbing the attention of all his friends, "Come on everybody, Christmas picture!" After dragging Mori and Haruhi over to the rest of the group Hunny managed to recruit a nearby tourist to take a few photographs with his expensive, complicated camera (who babbling on in French something that seemed to indicate dismay or maybe frustration).
The six gathered closely to see afterwards the pictures on the small display screen, critiquing each other and themselves. When their private plane announced it had completed preparations, the twins and cousins said their final goodbyes to Kyouya and Haruhi.
The walk out of the airport felt somber by comparison. Kyouya and Haruhi walked slowly, not drawing their eyes up to look at each other until they reached the door to the car.
"Where to?" the hired driver asked in perfect Japanese. Kyouya was always impressed by the help Tamaki kept on staff, finding and keeping multilingual help was always a struggle at the Ootori household. Kyouya smiled remembering Jie Park, the Korean nanny he had in his early years who would read to him in English one night and German the next per his father's orders. She only lasted a few years before being treated as if she were inconsequential and lowly drove her to quit before Kyouya entered fourth grade. "People are probably having le reveillon so the shops should all have emptied. The lights are bound to be beautiful right now, though."
"Where would you like to go?" Kyouya asked Haruhi, who shrugged in response. "Just drive us into the city, please."
The young man nodded briskly and closed the window between the front and back of the car.
"Are we a couple?" Haruhi asked bluntly as the green fields dusted with snow rolled by. "The lies and reality have become a bit blurry for me."
"Do you want us to be?" Kyouya responded frankly, adjusting his spectacles.
Haruhi tilted her head briefly to think before she replied "In an emotional sense I do, I will admit I've grown quite fond of you. But, logically speaking, we only have a few more months together before you leave."
"You think I'm never going to speak you again once I leave, don't you?" Kyouya's hurt tone took Haruhi aback for a moment. "I suppose I understand, 'logically speaking' that is."
"Well, it makes sense. You're going to be busy at your new job, so you won't be able to travel. You'll be overseas and I'll still be in Tokyo. I've got more than a year left in law school. Time will go by, and even though we might write early on, you'll get busy living your life while I get busy living mine until we just send birthday and Christmas cards at most."
"I don't think you understand the level of which I enjoy your company, Haruhi," Kyouya reassured.
"You 'love me'," Haruhi half-questioned, making little quote marks with her fingers to frame his words.
"You know I don't waste words, Fujioka Haruhi," he said a bit forcefully.
"So then you should have no trouble telling me if we should be together or not, Ootori Kyouya," she retorted calmly, folding her hands over her lap. Knowing she had pushed him into a corner, she offered him a victorious smile.
Kyouya grinned in response, realizing what a good match he had found with this girl. She could best him, corner him, force him to do and say things that no other woman could. She could burn him up then defuse him with remarkable ease.
"I think it's worth it, and that we can make it work. We're two very reasonable people who know our wants, needs, and limitations. I would suggest we just see how things play out."
"Very rational response," Haruhi answered. "So, you're my boyfriend, now?"
"The word will take some getting used to," she mused.
"You're an odd girl." He brushed his lips over hers gently. She quickly deepened the kiss, slipping a hand into his hair to hold him close. She used her free hand to pull off his glasses and toss them casually aside. She plundered his mouth with her tongue, exploring what she had only come to know within the past twenty-four hours.
"You know, the driver could be watching," Kyouya warned when he finally had the opportunity to catch his breath. Haruhi cocked her head to the side. After a moment she knocked on the window to the front of the car.
"Could you take us back to the estate?" She asked pleasantly.
"No problem, ma'am," he replied with a smile.
"Sorry if I made you uncomfortable," she offered.
"You really are an odd girl."
It was late by the time they arrived back. The mansion was empty, the staff all having Christmas day off, and with no one home they had no issue with leaving early. The only man who remained was the estate guard at the front gates, who allowed them in upon their return.
The foyer was dark, and the stairs, covered with flowers and littered with guests the day before were now sparkling clean and bare. The furniture was polished and symmetrically positioned. The grand piano waited silently for attention.
"No one's watching now," Haruhi proposed as Kyouya closed the door.
"Let's go upstairs," he replied with a smile.
She shook her head, "Why bother? No one's watching us right here."
Kyouya felt blessed.
The grandfather clock rang out the hour, the sound echoing up the stairwell. The sound was nearly deafening from where they laid tangled into each other on the ornate beside it.
"Oh hey, it's Christmas, Haruhi," Kyouya sighed into Haruhi's throat.
"Oh," she replied breathily "I have something for you in my room."
Kyouya raised an eyebrow, "You didn't need to do that."
"It's nothing big, just a second," she picked up his shirt from the floor and closed a few buttons before trotting up the stairs.
"I wonder if Hotei-osho watches us in France," Kyouya mused.
"Hotei-Osho doesn't give gifts to mischievous children, Kyouya," Sesuke groaned, peering up from the book he was focusing on. A seven-year-old Kyouya shook his head, holding tightly onto the sliding ladder, "It's not mischief, brother, I'm library more organized so that father can find his books more easily." "Why would you do that? I doubt he'll notice." "It doesn't matter if it makes him happier," Kyouya replied, tossing a medical journal out of what he had decided was the encyclopedia area. "If he doesn't notice how will it make him happier?" Sesuke replied lightly, smiling at his younger brother. Kyouya frowned, his small brow lowering sharply, "Father will come to appreciate small contributions and he'll decide I'm to be the heir." "Alright Kyouya," his brother sighed, returning to his reading. "You'll see Sesuke-san," Kyouya said as he arranged as he placed the final Encyclopedia Britannica volume at the end of the shelf, "Father will pick me and you will have nothing." The the anger in his tone bothered Sesuke, who failed to realize the childish envy that inspired his brother's words.
"Hotei-Osho doesn't give gifts to mischievous children, Kyouya," Sesuke groaned, peering up from the book he was focusing on.
A seven-year-old Kyouya shook his head, holding tightly onto the sliding ladder, "It's not mischief, brother, I'm library more organized so that father can find his books more easily."
"Why would you do that? I doubt he'll notice."
"It doesn't matter if it makes him happier," Kyouya replied, tossing a medical journal out of what he had decided was the encyclopedia area.
"If he doesn't notice how will it make him happier?" Sesuke replied lightly, smiling at his younger brother.
Kyouya frowned, his small brow lowering sharply, "Father will come to appreciate small contributions and he'll decide I'm to be the heir."
"Alright Kyouya," his brother sighed, returning to his reading.
"You'll see Sesuke-san," Kyouya said as he arranged as he placed the final Encyclopedia Britannica volume at the end of the shelf, "Father will pick me and you will have nothing."
The the anger in his tone bothered Sesuke, who failed to realize the childish envy that inspired his brother's words.
"Sorry it took me a minute, it was towards the bottom of my suitcase," Haruhi called as she strolled down the stairs, "why the long face?"
"Nothing, thinking," Kyouya replied, watching he walk towards him holding a small, red package. She extended it towards him, a smile sprawled across her face.
She watched eagerly as he carefully untied the ribbon, unwrap the box, and remove the lid. He lifted out the small, coin-shaped silver keychain. It had a center charm that spun when touched, twirling about the narrow metal beam that ran up the center of the piece.
"It's from the work," Haruhi offered, looking down at her feet, "I noticed when business was slow you'd play with the key chains like this on the display. It's supposed to bring good luck."
Kyouya flicked the charm and watched it rotate for several seconds before it stopped. He couldn't remember fiddling with one at the store, but it didn't surprise him that he could absently manipulate the contraption. It was a sweet gift, simple, pleasant.
"Arigato gozaimashita," he thanked, watching the anxiety in her eyes dissipate into joy. "I'll have to get you something in return."
"I don't need anything," she replied quickly, sincerely unable to think of anything she required.
Kyouya placed the gift back into its box before standing up to embrace Haruhi. She wrapped her arms around him tightly.
She realized that maybe she would never be able to let go.