One Big Happy
In the back of his mind, Kyoya made a mental note to hire a more intimidating assistant who was more guard dog than office decoration as his others tended to be. Perhaps one who used to be a former athlete, a sumo wrestler or a body builder. Someone physically large so that if words alone could not deter an uninvited visitor, he or she could simply stand in front of the Vice-President's office doors and physically refuse entry. If he'd had the foresight to have hired someone like that rather than the delicate, efficient, and pleasant Ms. Nakata—the kind of young, pretty secretary people would expect him to have—he wouldn't be sitting with his older sister and brother at some smoky little commoner restaurant that he didn't doubt Tamaki was responsible for finding.
Resting his chin in his hand, Kyoya listened to Fuyumi give an enthusiastic play by play of her youngest son's antics. It had taken ten years, but marriage had finally settled with her. Her husband was something of a human smear, but Kyoya had made sure he didn't do anything to disgrace his wife. Fuyumi now had children to distract her, and from the healthy flush of her cheeks and the shining brightness of her eyes, Kyoya knew that she was thoroughly enjoying herself. He wasn't overly fond of his niece or nephew, who were three and one respectively, but then again, they were barely old enough to have a decent conversation with, and they had a tendency to run in fear whenever they saw him. He didn't mind that in the least, but it horrified Fuyumi because she didn't seem to understand why her children didn't warm to her kind and wonderfully intelligent baby brother. It amused him that she still saw him as a toddling little boy rather than the fearsome Vice President of Otori Medical.
Then again, Fuyumi still tended to see them all as the brothers who had pushed her into the pool or who fought over toy cars, and no matter what they did in life, the image persisted. Her stubbornness did have its advantages because if not for her, Kyoya was sure he would hardly ever see his older brothers. She was the glue that held them together, and he knew that each of them, in his own way, was grateful to her for that.
Of course, whenever she interrupted them while they were in the middle of a meeting or a business deal, they were a little less grateful than normal.
Next to her, Akito listened with a slight smile dancing around his lips. Kyoya had always found his second brother to be a mystery. He was not smarter than his older brother, and not as cunning as his younger brother; what he was, was moderation. Akito liked his life and had no reason to make it any better or any worse. He fit into his role and he relished it. Where Masahiro was a perfect copy of their father, and he himself was sharp enough to cut his own way in the world, Akito took what the world threw at him with an easy grace that was very rare in their family. Fuyumi, for all her mothering and fluttering, was anything but easy. When she needed quiet advice, she went to Akito. The role the second son filled was of the middleman, the kind messenger who never overstepped his bounds, who could put out fires with little more than a word or two and nary an cutting glance. Akito played his part, accepted his role without question, and, it seemed to Kyoya, was thoroughly enjoying it.
An Otori man enjoying himself was a rare sight; Kyoya heard once that Akito was considered an oddity by their employees because of how often he smiled. He was more like Fuyumi in temperament, though when push came to shove, he could be just as ruthless as the rest of them...only with a smile.
Next to Kyoya, Masahiro sat, his long fingers rubbing against the condensation that had built up on the side of his beer glass. He kept his eyes on Fuyumi, but Kyoya knew that though he was listening, he was also thinking of what had occured in the office today and what had to be done tomorrow. Masahiro was driven and intelligent, but he hadn't quite perfected his poker face the way his youngest brother had...or maybe Kyoya had just gotten good at reading his face. Their relationship had cooled somewhat when their father had announced that Kyoya would be inheriting the company in his place, but during these nights out, Masahiro continued to treat Kyoya the way he always had. It was only at work that Kyoya could feel his brother's ire.
He was worried about what Masahiro might do to secure his position again. Despite achieving his goal, Kyoya couldn't relax, because until he was secure in the President's office, he had to make sure Masahiro didn't wrestle it from him. Kyoya knew better than to underestimate him; Masahiro may have been born the first son, but if he hadn't been, he probably would done what Kyoya had. He hadn't made any moves yet, but Kyoya knew that they were now locked in a game with no rules—and it was going to be more fun than he'd had in a long time. He was sure Masahiro shared his sentiments in that respect for they were more alike than either of them would be willing to admit.
Because of that, Kyoya was also sure that he would have Masahiro's support when it came time to leave this sorry excuse for a dining establishment. It was unspeakable that the three powerful sons of Yoshio Otori were squeezed into a booth smaller than the backseats of their cars, but only their sister could get them in this situation. The decor was reminiscent of a child's version of a log cabin, and though the beer certainly came in generous proportions, the owners hadn't given much thought to the quality of the food they offered—that was probably why they wanted their customers to be as drunk as possible.
Eyeing what looked to be mini-cheeseburgers on sticks, Kyoya watched Fuyumi with barely concealed disgust as she popped one into her mouth without a second thought. She caught him staring at her, and at least flushed a little, proving to him that she hadn't completely forgotten who she was.
"Try it," she said, pushing the plate towards him with a finger. "They're really very good."
Akito, who had stared at the little cheeseburger with some suspicion before eating one, smirked.
"It's really not as bad as it looks," he added. "Go ahead, Kyoya. Just drink more beer to sterilize your stomach. You're being a little too squeamish for a man of your stature. Fuyumi's drank more than you have."
Kyoya narrowed his eyes at his siblings. Masahiro gingerly picked up a loaded stick, looking at Kyoya out of the corner of his eye. Seeing the challenge and accepting it, Kyoya did the same. Together, they finished off a stick each, and reluctantly, Kyoya found that he didn't mind the taste.
"It doesn't taste like chicken, does it?" Akito said, his smirk widening to a grin. "That's the beauty of this place. Everything's chicken, but doesn't quite taste like chicken. Makes you wonder what they put in their food to make that happen."
"Goes to show that commoners will do anything to improve their quality of life, even if it means degrading the chicken," Kyoya said archly, after taking a healthy swig of beer. "And you say this is made out of soy, Fuyumi?"
"Apparently, it's healthier than the regular draft beer and since commoners drink themselves to a stupor practically everyday, they're now worried about their weight and have found ways to counter the detrimental effects of their drinking," Masahiro said, answering for her.
"Drinking less would do that as well," Kyoya pointed out.
"When you convince them to drink less, make sure to try your methods on smoking, sweets, and all the other vices people have. They'll be healthier, but we'll be out of business. You wouldn't want that to happen, would you, Little Brother?"
Kyoya's temper spiked. He hated hearing that patronizing tone in Masahiro's voice, a tactic his brother had used since childhood and always managed to rub Kyoya the wrong way.
"Of course not."
Across the table, Akito and Fuyumi exchanged a look.
"Don't worry. We won't be starting a—what is that word—barroom brawl," Masahiro said coolly, pushing up his glasses. "Take my advice, Fuyumi, and stop with two children. You have a girl and a boy, a complete set. Leave it at that."
"Now, Masa, you can't say you didn't enjoy growing up with the three of us nipping at your heels," Akito said mildly. "Besides, when Kyoya takes over the world, you'll always be there to bring him back down to earth by reminding him that once, he peed on you."
Aghast, Kyoya stared at Akito who merely smiled angelically. Fuyumi laughed into her beer and Masahiro smiled.
"I did no such thing," Kyoya sputtered, finding himself experiencing one of those emotions he rarely ever felt—surprise.
"Oh, you did," Akito went on ruthlessly. "Big brother here was trying to be neighborly, welcoming the new baby into the family and all, and you two were getting along great, but then you had to go and pee on his new elementary school uniform."
"True," Masahiro supplied, as he turned to face Kyoya. "I remember it very clearly because since I had to change, I arrived late to school. The teacher had me stay after class to clean the brushes. Then, after that indignity, father lectured me about never disgracing the family again, and made me wash my own uniform. Lucky for you, you were a helpless infant and couldn't be treated the same way."
"Masa never went near you again after that," Akito said, laughing. "At least, not until you could walk. I used to wave you in his face to keep him away from me. You were my first weapon."
Kyoya could only gape at them. Akito was very nearly helpless with laughter and Masahiro was grinning at the memory. Only Fuyumi looked as shocked as Kyoya, but only because she was sympathetic to her baby brother's plight, and that annoyed Kyoya as much as his brothers' amusement.
"Horrific," Fuyumi said, shaking her head at them. "Leave him alone."
"He can stand up for himself, Fuyumi," Akito chided. "The man singlehandedly wiped out our competition in Italy so I think he could hold his own against his own brothers. Right, Kyoya?"
"Drink your beer, Akito. I apologize for that...incident, Masahiro."
"You're forgiven. Just make sure it doesn't happen again."
"I swear on my life that it won't."
"See? Dignified to the very end," Akito said, drinking his beer as ordered.
"So cool and collected. You always know the right things to say!" Fuyumi said, clapping her hands.
"You're his biggest fangirl," Akito teased.
"I am," Fuyumi said, tilting her chin up.
"You were my first weapon, but you were her first toy," Akito explained. "Hence, all the unfounded favoritism."
"You'd be a wonderful prime minister, Kyoya," Fuyumi said, smacking Akito's arm.
"Politicians don't make nearly enough money," Masahiro remarked.
"My sentiments exactly," Kyoya said, with a nod. "Father makes ten times that of the prime minister and is just as, if not more, powerful."
"If we need political favor, there's always the private police, and the many connections our family has made throughout the years," Masahiro put in. "Don't forget, we also have a cousin in the Diet."
"Or perhaps we can put Akito up for elected office. He is the more personable one out of the three of us," Kyoya suggested.
"What about Fuyumi?" Akito suggested. "She's pretty personable. I'd have to have a camera-ready family, and frankly, that's not going to be happening any time soon."
At that, all three brothers looked at their sister. Fuyumi's eyes widened and she waved her hands at them.
"Absolutely not," she protested. "I'm a housewife. It's what I was trained for, and if I wasn't home, who would take care of my precious children? This is ridiculous. You three need hobbies instead of coming up with ridiculous plans..."
"We were kidding," Akito chuckled, but when he realized he was the only one laughing, he glanced at his brothers. "Or maybe only I was kidding."
"An Otori in the Blue House. The first woman prime minister at that," Kyoya muttered.
"The prestige that such an achievement would bring us," Masahiro pondered. "The public may be ready for a female leader, especially one from such a respected family."
"You're both insane," Fuyumi squeaked. "Drink more!"
Kyoya smiled without humor and Masahiro sat back in his seat.
"Think about it, Fuyumi," Kyoya said.
"One day Ouran's PTA will have a new president, and you'll find yourself with more time in your hands than you know what to do with," Masahiro said.
"I liked it better when you two were fighting," Fuyumi groused, staring into her beer.
"Terrifying, aren't they?" Akito said with a proud smile.
Masahiro and Kyoya exchanged a look. Masahiro arched an eyebrow at his brother and Kyoya pushed his glasses up, clearing his throat.
"When were we fighting?" Kyoya asked him.
"They seem to have mistaken our rivalry for...fighting. How quaint," Masahiro sighed.
"What were we thinking, Fuyumi?" Akito said, shaking his head as he lit a cigarette. "They're refined and civilized men. They wouldn't never resort to fighting."
"I remember them getting into a fight once," Fuyumi said thoughtfully, tapping her chin. "You were in it too, Akito. I remember because when you three hit the floor, your bodyguards came running from all over the house."
Akito snapped his fingers.
"That's right. I picked a fight with Masa because he started dating a girl I'd been interested in. He pushed me through Kyoya's door, we woke him up, and he jumped into the fray just because he was cranky. You always were lovely in the morning, baby brother."
Kyoya's expression darkened.
"You broke my glasses. I remember that. Father made me walk around without glasses for a week for punishment. That was the first time I'd gotten a migraine."
"A twelve year old with a migraine!" Fuyumi exclaimed, her hands on her cheeks. "That's awful."
"It made you stronger," Akito assured him.
"After all that, I kept the girl," Masahiro said with a satisfied smirk. "Married her even."
"I'll steal Mari away the second your back is turned."
"As if she would let you," Masahiro snorted. "And you'd never settle down with one woman, in any case."
"I would," Akito protested, but after a beat, added, "As soon as Kyoya does."
"I'm fine on my own. Your concern is touching but unfounded."
"That's right. You're still pining over Suo," Akito teased.
"That would be a very auspicious union," Masahiro agreed seriously, his expression like granite.
"You're both demented," Kyoya said, glaring at them. "When I find out who started this rumor about me and Tamaki, I'm going to throw him or her out of Japan myself. Maybe even off the planet."
"And now he's homophobic. Kyoya, I thought you were more open-minded that that."
"You're an idiot, Akito."
"When was the last time you went on a date, Kyoya?" Fuyumi asked curiously.
Kyoya rolled his eyes.
"Why do we always have to come back to that? Why don't you bother Akito about when he's going to settle down?" he said, hating how petulant he sounded, but it seemed to occur every time he was in the presence of his older siblings.
"He goes on dates," Fuyumi answered. "Lots of dates."
"Is it really called a date when you pay for it?" Kyoya asked innocently.
"As if I would need to do that," Akito said, affronted.
"From what I understand..."
"Don't make me get up. I will put out this cigarette in your hair and with all the gel in there, you can be sure something will ignite."
"Stop it," Masahiro said, waving a hand at them. "You two are causing a scene."
"How anyone can hear us over this din is beyond me," Kyoya observed. "Just so you know, Fuyumi, we're never coming back here. I'm going to have to discard this suit because I don't think the smell can ever be washed out."
"Have the Hitachiins send you a new one," Akito suggested. "I've seen their latest line. The lavender pinstripe suit they've designed would suit you."
"Sounds more like something you would wear," Masahiro remarked.
"Only on my dates. I suppose that's why you wouldn't need it, Kyoya."
"He's going to die next to his money and his ashes will be resting next to father," Masahiro said.
"Is this equal opportunity verbal abuse?" Kyoya asked him with a frown.
"As the eldest sibling, it is my responsibility to keep a level playing field and not play favorites," Masahiro said pompously.
"How noble," Akito said dryly.
"Very inspirational," Kyoya agreed.
Fuyumi sniffling drew their attention to her. Kyoya noticed that her beer had been replaced with a second and she had very nearly finished that.
"Beer tears," Akito said unsympathetically, though he patted her back. "Easy, Fuyumi."
"I can't tell you how happy I am when we get together like this," she sobbed, taking the handkerchief Masahiro held out. "I miss you three sometimes, and the way you were always around, even when I didn't want you there. Growing up...growing up isn't as fun."
"Here we go," Masahiro mumbled under his breath. "Next time, I'm choosing the restaurant."
"We'll end up going to some pretentious, exclusive restaurant with waiters standing at our elbows," Akito protested. "That's not exactly the kind of place where we can tell 'Kyoya peed' stories."
"There is never an appropriate place for those kinds of stories," Kyoya interrupted.
"See!" Fuyumi exclaimed. "You three might snap at each other at work or...or...fight over who's going to be the king next..."
"President," Masahiro and Kyoya said in unison.
"But in the end, we're all Otoris and we stick together."
"We're not the Musketeers, Fuyumi," Masahiro said.
"I didn't say we were. I said we were Otoris."
Kyoya sighed, not at all surprised that Masahiro joined in his sentiments. For his part, Akito looked ready to explode into a fit of laughter, but he gallantly held it in for the sake of their sister.
"I think that's enough for tonight," Masahiro said, waving at one of the servers to bring the check. "Akito, it's your turn to pay."
"I'm sure I have some change in my pocket that'll cover it," Akito said.
They stood and Kyoya and Masahiro helped Fuyumi out the door while Akito paid. The warm spring air circled around them as they stood on the curb, waiting for their various chauffeurs to arrive.
"Another culinary adventure for Otori night," Masahiro observed.
"Never again," Kyoya assured him. "Do you hear me, Fuyumi? Never again please."
"Okay. I think Akito liked it though."
"Akito's easy to please," Kyoya said.
Akito came out to join them, his hands in his pockets.
"Another good night and no one's too drunk."
"Let's go to karaoke!" Fuyumi suggested.
"No," her three brothers said in unison.
"We have a merger to plan tomorrow," Masahiro said, his expression shuttering as he met Kyoya's eyes. "Isn't that right, Kyoya?"
"That's right," he said. "I'll see you in my office at eight then?"
"How about my office? It's bigger."
"How about the conference room?" Akito suggested dryly. "I'll have my assistant set out breakfast for us there."
"Fine," Masahiro and Kyoya agreed.
Four black cars of various makes pulled up. With a slight nod, Masahiro got into his car, and Akito waved before getting into his. Kyoya helped Fuyumi into her car, letting her give him an exuberant hug before he extracted himself from her iron grip, and shut the car door. He watched the three cars blend into the passing traffic before getting into his own car.
Another fine night indeed. After a night with his siblings, Kyoya always had a vague sense of losing a little dignity, a little face. They always knew how to keep his ego in check—for one night, anyway. Idly, Kyoya wondered if they would treat him differently once he owned their livelihoods.
Smiling, he shook his head. He wouldn't put money on it.