Cupid is the Most Marvelous, Amazingly Intuitive, and Incredibly Benevolent Friend A Man Could Have
Tamaki chewed on his lip as he and Kyoya walked back to the car, his brow furrowed in concentration. Haruhi's voice continued to stab into his brain and he wanted to go back to ask her what was wrong, but he forced himself to keep walking straight ahead. Sometimes, he knew he could push her until she did what he wanted, but he knew that this time he might have ended up with his head through a bookshelf. Or worse.
He'd never seen her look quite like that before and it unnerved him. Were her classes really that hard? He'd always had faith in her intellectual abilities and her determination to see herself to her ultimate goal, but maybe it was all becoming too much for her. Tamaki sighed. He thought of her sitting alone in that silent room, in her "studying" clothes—he preferred to think of them as thus, rather than her "rags" as Kyoya described them—and he wanted to put his arms around her. He wanted to tell her that it would all be alright if she just leaned on him a little, but again...he could have had his face smashed into a table. Or worse.
"Haruhi must be under a lot of stress," he thought aloud, tapping a finger against his chin. "I thought she was good at English, but I suppose with all the difficult subjects she's taking, she has finally reached her limit. Poor, overworked, exhausted Haruhi. She works too hard, and I worry about her so much. She needs to take a break...I know! We could go to the beach after her exams are over!"
"She's probably focused on her goal. After all, she has to start applying to law schools next year," Kyoya said in that reasonable way that he had. "She won't have time to go on vacation this summer if she wants to stay on top of her classes next semester. Not to mention the fact that she needs to get a part-time job to be able to buy her textbooks and pay lab fees. Time is yet another commodity she does not have."
They got into Kyoya's Mercedes, and Tamaki rested his chin in his hand, pouting at the world outside the window and the thoughts inside his head. While he understood the logic behind Kyoya's words, he was also very sure that he was right about Haruhi needing a break. He'd seen her light the candle at both ends, then attempt to light yet another candle. She was clearly close to doing that again, and he cared enough to want to stop her from pushing herself too hard. A goal was one thing, but working herself to death was another; he only cared for her well-being and she was obviously pushing herself too hard. Why else would she have treated him like that?
"I'm sure she can make a little time for me," Tamaki argued peevishly. "I'm only concerned for her mental health. My Haruhi is smart and determined, but there's only so much a person can take. Her head might explode, Kyoya! With all that she's trying to put in there, I'm surprised it hasn't already."
Tamaki whirled on his friend, who was lounging on his side of the car, his eyes half-open with barely concealed boredom as he watched the city scenes go past. There were times when Kyoya really was too much of an egoist and this was one of those times. Tamaki thought that after all that they had been through together, Kyoya would have learned the value of watching out for others. He had always treated Haruhi with a certain amount of distance, but this was too much. Haruhi was suffering and something must be done! Tamaki straightened and jabbed a finger at his cold-hearted meilleur ami.
"Aren't you concerned?" he demanded, outraged that Kyoya could be so cool whereas he was seething with righteous indignation.
"As far as I know, there have been no reported cases of cranial explosions due to the acquisition of knowledge," was the maddeningly straightforward response. "Haruhi knows her limits better than you do, so I believe she'll be able to survive the life she's choosing for herself."
"I refuse to believe that. As someone like her father, it's my duty to see to it that she doesn't miss the small pleasures in life. Did you know that she's never..."
"Tamaki. She asked you to leave her alone," Kyoya sighed, looking at him with hooded eyes.
Tamaki's words caught in his throat. He stared at Kyoya, saw the seriousness there, and scowled.
"She always says that," he argued. "If I were to listen to everything Haruhi says, I wouldn't see her at all! I'm her elder and therefore am more wise in the ways of the world and, more importantly, am more aware of the needs of young women."
"She might actually mean it this time. Why don't you use this opportunity to see to the needs of other young women?" Kyoya suggested with a slow, knowing smile that made Tamaki nervous. "Ms. Matsushita, for example. She's been calling your cellphone non-stop for the past two weeks, and not once have you answered."
"Her French is flawless, and she doesn't need my help. I'm surprised you didn't know that about her," Tamaki replied haughtily.
"Then take her out for French food and converse in your mother tongue," Kyoya suggested calmly, though his eyes flashed at Tamaki's jibe. "You're always complaining that there's no one here you can talk to, and that Japanese is too restricting for you to say what you really feel. Frankly, I find it terrifying that you can be even more verbose in another language, but that is why I never bothered to learn French. You should take advantage of Ms. Matsushita's enthusiasm to be in your company. You might enjoy it seeing as you both come from similar backgrounds since her father sits on many of the same boards as yours does."
"I am a romantic, Kyoya, and what you are suggesting is quite possibly the least romantic reason to take any woman out," Tamaki protested. "I don't distract myself with the details of her background or her bank account. What I want in a woman are a beautiful spirit, and a poetic soul; eyes that sees things as they are and carry the wisdom of the generations before her; and most importantly, a heart that always has room for those that she loves, to warm them and keep them close for as long as she lives."
Tamaki smiled dreamily at the thought of this woman and he peeked at Kyoya's expression to see if he was the least bit touched by the idea.
"You'll be sure to inform me when you meet this goddess of a woman so that we can alert the news media that the perfect woman has finally been found," Kyoya intoned.
"She exists, Kyoya," Tamaki assured him with all the confidence of a true romantic. "She's real."
"If you're talking about Haruhi, she's far from all those things," Kyoya said warily, pushing his glasses up. "In fact, she's as flawed as...well, as flawed as you are."
"You're wrong—on both counts. Haruhi is strong and passionate...intelligent! She reminds me of Joan of Arc, except without the ill-fated destiny, and she'll let nothing stand in the way of her goals. Whereas, I am perfectly happy where I am in life, surrounded by my art, my music, and my friends. Flaws we both may have, but they are far less than the average person, because we are inhabitants of a higher-plane of consciousness."
"Oh, really? Then why is it that are you currently having to hunt down your Flawless Model of Womanhood and then consequently, being batted away like you were nothing more than a fruit fly?"
"She did not bat me away like a fruit fly!"
Tamaki crossed his arms and slouched down in his seat, the picture of ill-temper. He glowered at the back of the driver's seat as Kyoya's description of Haruhi's actions conjured up images of her holding a big fly-swatter and himself flying away on wings too small to escape her.
"Haruhi has always been a difficult person to deal with," Kyoya went on relentlessly. "You're both reaching points in your lives where your priorities are not only mismatched, but in some ways, work to counter each other as well. Perhaps it's time to give her a little more space, and to transfer your attentions to women who are more welcoming of them."
"I don't want to," Tamaki mumbled sourly.
"Why is that?"
Tamaki stared at him. Kyoya arched an eyebrow in response, his eyes taking on that gleam that meant Tamaki was about to get a piece of his ego sliced off or be served a generous helping of a very salient, yet very painful truth. He'd been on the receiving end of that look enough times in the past to recognize it for what it was—it was Kyoya's way of showing he cared. Other people weren't so lucky to have his voice of reason in their ear, cutting though it may be, but Tamaki knew that Kyoya only had his best interests at heart. That was why he sat and took it, though more often than not, he wanted to close his ears to whatever it was Kyoya had to say.
"I suppose you don't want to let Haruhi go because a father-like figure would never abandon his pseudo-daughter to the cruel realities of the world," Kyoya answered for him, his tone mocking. "Or something like that."
"Of course," Tamaki said, wondering where he was going with this. "Why else wouldn't I want to?"
Kyoya shrugged, a small smile playing around his lips that annoyed Tamaki.
"Hypothetically, a man who admired Haruhi as a woman and not as a...daughter, would feel the same as you would but for more...romantic reasons," Kyoya said. "You share the same desire to want to be with Haruhi, but your reasons are quite different, since your relationship with her is on a different level—a lower level, even, since you're not truly her father. It's a very interesting comparison, I think. Whose emotions run deeper: yours as her surrogate father or an admirer, who wants to share his life with her?"
Tamaki's world narrowed to a point and he blinked several times as the idea of this faceless man forced him to push back an indescribable sense of darkness? Of...fear? Of...something else he refused to recognize as an emotion belonging to him.
"Yes. Interesting," Tamaki said woodenly.
They fell into a heavy silence. He started to feel slightly nauseous, his mind whirling with possible scenarios in which he could keep Haruhi by his side at all times to avoid the hoards of charging Haruhi-admirers. In his heart of hearts, he knew that he would one day lose Haruhi to her heart's desire, and he always told himself that he would be strong when that happened. That was why he wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. Wasn't it? Dizziness joined his nausea and he put a hand on his forehead, checking to see if he had a fever.
"We're at your house. Get out of the car."
"Oh. Sorry. Thank you for the ride, Kyoya."
His feet heavy, Tamaki got out of the car and started to close the door, but Kyoya put out a hand and caught the handle, stopping him.
"Do me a favor," he said, this time kindly and that was enough to give Tamaki pause. "Try to stop thinking yourself as Haruhi's...guardian. It only complicates matters. If you stop thinking of yourself as her last defense against the cruelties of life, you might be able to have more time for the things you want."
"All I do is do the things I want," Tamaki said vaguely.
"Not everything," Kyoya said cryptically. "Good night, Tamaki."
He pulled the door shut and Tamaki watched the car drive off. He mounted the steps to Suo Mansion #2, his hands in his pockets and his head bowed.
The phone rang for the second time that day and Tamaki picked it up, hoping against hope that it was Haruhi. He sighed in disappointment when he saw it was the very persistent Ms. Matsushita yet again. With his thumb, he silenced the ringer and went back to reading the biography of Camille Pisarro. He wasn't getting very far, his imagination interrupting his reading as he imagined himself traveling the countrysides of his mother country, losing himself in the beauty of simple nature.
He couldn't help imagining Haruhi there as well, as dazzled and as appreciative as he. He'd always wanted to take her to France, to show her the life he had before he came to Ouran, but out of all the outrageous things he'd done for her, he was never able to do that...nor was he was ever able to figure out why that was.
Lost in his imaginings, Tamaki didn't notice when the doors to the sitting room opened, and a slender figure walked through. Only when he heard the firm, familiar footsteps come towards him did he turn his head, his eyes wide with joy.
His words caught in his throat when he saw that she was wearing a simple white sundress, its hem falling to just below her knees, and its neckline high enough to make the nuns who'd seen to his early education proud. It suited her though, that kind of chaste and proper attire, and Tamaki thought he'd never seen anyone more beautiful in his entire life, save his maman.
"Hi, Tamaki" she said, her voice unnaturally loud and unsure. "I hope I'm not bothering you."
"No, no," he said hurriedly, nearly falling over himself as he got up off the couch, and he made his way to where she stood. "I was just reading. It's so good to see you. I've missed you! Are you finished your exams? Is it alright for us to spend the afternoon together, catch up on each other's lives since we were so cruelly separated by academics and the written word."
She smiled, but there was something on her face that unsettled him, a sort of unease that lurked behind her eyes. A knot started to form in his gut, and he got the impression that she was about to do something out of the ordinary—certainly something that was making her uncomfortable, and that something went beyond wearing a dress.
Was she going on a date?
Did she just stop by to say hello on her way to meet some other man?
Tamaki felt his knees turn to jelly.
And his nausea was back.
"Would you like to go on a picnic today?" she asked, her words tumbling out so quickly that he nearly didn't catch what she said.
"A picnic?" he echoed dumbly, reining in his panic as he staring down at her. "Today?"
She blinked several times, looking like she would rather be anywhere else but here. Recovering quickly, Tamaki grabbed her hands and smiled at her.
"Of course, I would love to go on a picnic with you!" he answered. "Did you cook all the food yourself? You know how I love your cooking. If you weren't so smart and well-suited to the life of an lawyer, I would say that you would make a fine living as a chef or a patîssier."
His efforts to appear normal seemed to do the trick as she relaxed and fixed a careful expression on her face. In reality, he was a little unnerved that she'd come dressed up and bearing food—unnerved, but not ungrateful.
"I'll keep that in mind," she said. "I did make a picnic basket for us, and I thought we could go to the park to enjoy the day. You should bring your book, in case you feel like reading."
"No," he said, barely sparing the biography a second glance as he placed a hand on her lower back and steered her towards the doors. "I'll be with you so I won't need anything else. I want to hear about all that you've been doing."
"There isn't much to tell," she said, frowning slightly.
"Tell me anyway."
Haruhi tilted her face up to look at him, her expression unreadable. She studied him long enough to make him wonder what it was she was looking for or what it was she was expecting to find. Tamaki smiled, curious.
And then she smiled back.
"Haruhi came over today!"
Kyoya was silent long enough for Tamaki to know that he was just as surprised by that development as Tamaki had been. That in itself was yet another surprising development for the day because few things surprised Kyoya—he seemed to know all, and sometimes before it even happpened.
"Oh?" he said.
"We went on a picnic. She made the most delicious bento for me!" Tamaki said gleefully.
"Just like you'd always imagined," Kyoya remarked dryly. "Tell me. Did you enjoy the picnic as her guardian or..."
"As her friend," Tamaki said firmly. "I'm her friend."
"Haruhi came over again!"
"She wanted to take me to this ice cream shop she found near her school. It was full of college students, not university students, and I got to talk to a few of them. They're a whole different breed of commoner, Kyoya. You must come with us and meet some for yourself."
"I hope you didn't abandon Haruhi to talk to a questionable group of people who are not committed enough to enter a four-year institution rather than a two-year one."
"That's cruel—most of them just can't afford university," Tamaki explained slowly as if he were speaking to a five year old. "When I take over my father's position, I want to set up a scholarship to help intelligent, but poor graduating high school students reach greater heights. What my father did for Haruhi and those other special students at Ouran isn't enough. And no, I did not abandon Haruhi. In fact, she told me a wonderful story about how her mother used to take her to get ice cream every time she brought home a perfect quiz from school. It was a wonder Haruhi wasn't a rounder child. She would have been cute though. Can you imagine a cute little five year old Haruhi, Kyoya? Soooo cute!"
"Very. How is your friendship coming along?"
"Perfectly perfect. There aren't two better friends in the world—except for us, of course."
"If you ever compare our friendship with what you have with Haruhi again, I will make you disappear," Kyoya said, his tone dangerously flat.
"Tamaki. If you continue to scream into your phone like an old woman, I'm going to lose my hearing and will be unable to listen to your inane stories for hours on end."
"I'm sorry. But, I am just so excited. Haruhi came over..."
"Yes. She said she wanted to get some exercise so we took a walk in the park."
Tamaki's eyes grew unfocused as he thought about the day he'd just spent with her, and he nearly forgot that he was still had the phone up against his ear.
"She looked beautiful today, even though she was only wearing jeans and a t-shirt," Tamaki said vaguely, more to himself than to Kyoya. "There was something about her that was...I don't know..."
"Maybe sunlight flatters her. You're a good friend for noticing it," Kyoya said, a strange tone in his voice.
"Maybe," Tamaki said, feeling as if his friend was laughing at him, but wondering why he would be.
"You should go pick her up tomorrow rather than making her go all the way to your house."
"Good idea, Kyoya! Where should we go? She did mention wanting to see a movie. I'll take her to a big commoner theater of her choice. We can share a tub of popcorn and maybe even a big cup of soda with two straws..."
Kyoya's sigh was audible enough to snap Tamaki from his reverie about sharing a soda with Haruhi.
"Two straws!" he crowed.
"Enjoy yourselves," Kyoya sighed again
It came to be that without even having to plan it, Tamaki saw Haruhi nearly everyday during the summer holiday. They explored the city together, going to movies, shopping, new restaurants, and the various festivals that were going on in the little corners of the city. Sometime between the day she'd shown up at his house in her white dress and today, Haruhi had taken to looping her arm through his as they walked...or maybe he'd taken her arm. He couldn't remember.
He had caught their reflection in a shop window on one of those occasions, and thought that he'd never seen friends look quite the way they did.
Those first few days had thrilled him, and then when days turned into weeks, and then those weeks turned into the entirety of summer with her by his side. He slowly began to see her as something more, as someone bigger than the space he'd put her in in his life. It made him feel things he hadn't acknowledged before, and still shied away from, but he knew they were there...and while he was terrified, he was also happy. She made him happy.
Not that he was an unhappy person, but this kind of happiness didn't make him want to jump up and down the way he usually did, or to throw his arms around her and swing her around the room. This kind of happiness made him want to bask in its warmth in complete stillness, in perfect silence, so not to mar its shiny surface. It soothed him, gave him rest, and quieted the thoughts that usually ran rampant in his overly active brain, allowing him to just enjoy the moment for what it was. In all its simplicity and honesty, this happiness was Haruhi.
Tamaki studied her now with eyes half-opened, as she sat and listened to his song, even though she pretended to read the book she was holding in her hand. He reflected that he'd never had a friend who could make him lose his place as he played or forget several bars of his precious Mozart sonatas. He couldn't help thinking that as he watched her, while he played for her, that he hadn't felt this way in a long time. Not since he'd played for his maman.
She looked up from her book to find his eyes on her and he realized that his hands had stopped moving over the keys.
"Why did you stop?" she asked. "You were just getting to the good part."
"You know the song?"
"I've heard you play it enough times," she said with an easy shrug. "It'd be a shame if I didn't."
Tamaki blinked several times as the room began to spin slightly. He gripped the piano bench with suddenly nerveless fingers.
"Are you alright?"
He must have looked far from fine, because Haruhi stood and went to stand at his side. She peered into his face, her brow furrowed with concern, and she put a hand on his forehead.
"You're not sick," she stated. "Maybe you're hungry. Let's get something to eat. I found this pasta restaurant that you'll probably love. The food's nothing special, but they decorated it with old American junk..."
He kissed her.
All he had to do was lean forward. It was easy. Easier than he'd expected. His hands came up from the piano bench to frame her face as he gently pressed his lips against hers, parted them with his, and became a part of her that she would never be able to erase. He barely felt it when she put her arms around him, when she stepped closer to tighten her hold on him, and to show him that she wasn't his friend after all.
When she lifted her head and looked into his eyes, he saw that her own were hazy and unfocused as she slowly relaxed her grip on his shirt. Tamaki ran a thumb across the soft line of her jaw, and she leaned into his touch, her expression thoughtful as she looked at him. Even though his heart was thundering in his chest, he'd never felt more sure of anything. This wasn't a mistake, nor was it a whim.
"I've loved you for a long time, haven't I?" he asked wonderingly, too shocked and needing her too much to think about what it was he was saying.
"That's what Kyoya says, but we were both too stupid to realize it," she answered, sliding onto the piano bench next to him.
Tamaki could only listen in mute disbelief as Haruhi told him how Kyoya had warned her away, had opened her eyes to what had been there all along. She told him how she'd come on that first day, knowing what it was she was trying to do, and only hoped that it wouldn't take him another seven years to realize his own feelings and hers.
Putting an arm around her shoulders, Tamaki pressed a kiss against her temple, remembering the conversation he'd had with Kyoya the night they'd stalked Haruhi at the library. How like him to use underhanded means to do a good thing.
"Then I owe him even more now," he said. "Although, I have been wondering why his bodyguards have been following us around all summer."
Haruhi laughed. Tamaki smiled down at her, kissed her again just to make sure she was really there.
"You do realize what this means, don't you?" he said, deciding he liked that slightly dreamy look that came into her eyes when he kissed her.
"No. What?" she asked suspiciously, and just like that the dreaminess gone—then again, she wouldn't be Haruhi it it hadn't.
"Every Friday we're going to have a date night!" Tamaki exclaimed, filled to bursting with the idea of date nights with her, his most precious, beloved Haruhi. "Every long weekend, we'll go somewhere romantic. Maybe a ryokan in Kyoto in the Fall so we can see the leaves change. Then, a snow lodge in Hokkaido for winter vacation so we can curl up in front of a fire and drink hot cocoa..."
"Stop right there," she said, holding up a hand. "I'm a serious student and I cannot go traipsing around Japan on a whim."
"No buts. I still have a goal to reach, and I'm not going to be derailed just because I have a boyfriend..."
Tamaki threw his arms around her, squeezing her hard enough to make her gasp in his ear.
"My precious Haruhi, I will be the best boyfriend a girl could ever have! I will take you out on romantic dates, bring you flowers, be thoughtful and listen when you want to share your feelings about our relationship. I will buy you jewelry, chocolates...otoro! Anything you want, anything at all!"
"Tamaki, I don't want all of that," she said dismissively, giving him a frank look. "I just want you, so don't even try to fill my apartment with things I don't need."
"Oh..." he would have gone into a dark corner if she hadn't said she wanted him. "Okay."
They smiled at each other.
Then, Haruhi stood and brushed herself off.
"Come on," she said. "Let's go to that restaurant so that Kyoya's bodyguards can give him an interesting report tonight."
"How interesting?" Tamaki inquired innocently.
Haruhi gave him a look.
"Never too interesting," she said sternly.
Tamaki grinned and she sighed, threading her arm through his.
"Things are going to be pretty interesting no matter what I do," she muttered, more to herself than to him.
"Naturally, mon cherie. It's us."
Nearly a year later, Tamaki sat in Kyoya's suite, lost in his thoughts as was his usual style. He could hear Kyoya's pencil scratching the surface of his notebook as he scribbled whatever it was he scribbled, and Tamaki considered that sound one of the most comforting sounds in the world. It annoyed the twins to high heaven, which was another bonus.
Haruhi was locked up in the library, as was her usual style around exam time, but they'd already received news that she was going to law school in the Fall so there was less pressure on her now than before. Not that she relaxed in the least. Still, he was proud of her, so proud that he'd thought of offering her the one gift he'd yet to give her. Despite her protests to the contrary, he bought her everything she wanted anyway—as well as what he thought she wanted.
"Kyoya," he said, turning his head to look at his friend. "I'm going to ask her to marry me."
"It's about time," Kyoya said coolly, but he smiled as he snapped his notebook shut.
Tamaki laughed. He hadn't seen Kyoya look that pleased since his father announced that he was going to be the heir to the family business. Kyoya cared about only a handful of people...rather, a thimbleful of people, but when he cared, it was with all his heart and with all the power in his artillery. Of course, Tamaki would never say that for fear of being summarily attacked by icy words that would go a long way in proving otherwise.
"I guess we have you to thank," he said instead, his tone light. "Haruhi told me that you had a talk with her."
"I meant every word," Kyoya replied nonchalantly.
"I don't doubt you. I'll be happy as long as I'm with Haruhi. I'll get used to living in commoner's apartments..."
"Don't be a moron," Kyoya interrupted, scoffing rudely. "I made some investments in your name, as did your father, and you'll be able to continue living comfortably whether or not your grandmother recognizes you."
Tamaki thought he was going to burst with joy. He leapt from his seat and threw himself bodily at Kyoya before he could control himself.
"Mon ami!" he exclaimed.
Tamaki heard Kyoya sigh and felt him struggle, but he eventually gave up, as he always did, letting Tamaki have his way. A jumble of words crashed around inside Tamaki's head, but he didn't know which ones could properly convey his feelings. Kyoya was the most marvelous, amazingly intuitive, and incredibly benevolent friend a man could have, but he wasn't one for fancy, flowery words. He was direct, and so to make sure he was understood, Tamaki decided that he, too, had to be direct.
"Thank you, Kyoya," he said, his tone serious. "I never knew cupid wore glasses, but then again, there were a lot of things I didn't know before I met you. Thank you."
When Kyoya smiled again, a real smile that wasn't a step above a sneer or a veneer that hid his disdain, Tamaki knew he'd chosen right.
"You're welcome...mon ami," he said.
"Excellent accent, Kyoya. We'll make a Frenchman of you yet."
Kyoya arched an imperious eyebrow at him.
"Don't be ridiculous."
Tamaki laughed, and gave him a look as if to say that there was nothing else he would rather be.