A/N: Pre-series Ranka and Haruhi fic, when everyone's favorite homo dad was still calling himself Ryoji.

Pickled Miso

It's because Haruhi doesn't really know what will make him smile that it always turns out like this – Ryoji a puddle on the floor, asking himself if he's an inadequate father, if he can still be categorized as father, and maybe his darling Haruhi is ashamed because he's started wearing lipstick to work and it must be very disturbing for her, or hopefully she wants to try on the lipstick herself? – and while he's weeping all over the tatami she discreetly stirs the soup and wonders if telling him she aced the quiz that day might cheer him up, because all she said was that she couldn't really recognize him with so much blush on his cheeks.

"Dad, here's your miso. I put pickles in it today because the lady gave me some for free. Tell me if it tastes better." She lays the little bowl a few inches away from him just in case, so that he can't knock it over with his theatrics, and sits quietly down to finish her dinner so that she can get to her homework. She decides against telling him about the quiz; it isn't that important, and he looks so worn out, with all that mascara running down his face.

Ryoji crawls towards his bowl and picks it up, without attempting dignity, then slithers to his place on the table, patting his face dry with a napkin, trying not to burst into tears (he doesn't want to appear any more effeminate to his poor daughter, affected as she already is). He watches her with wobbly eyes as he sips the soup, thinking that it would be horrid if his adorable daughter might not appreciate him anymore that he's turned...well...gay.

She notices his discomfort and stops in mid-bite. "You don't like it, dad? I guess plain seaweed's better." She eats another mouthful of rice and bonito shavings. "Sorry."

"Noooo, daddy loves it," he stops himself from throwing in an ohoho just in time, and slurps loudly instead to show his appreciation. "It's delicious, really! But it might be a little too expensive since it won't always be free, so we should only eat it on special occasions. Still, Haruhi," he winks at her from across the table. "Your miso's excellent now, it tastes just like mommy's. She would be so proud."

Haruhi finishes chewing, and smiles. "Is it really?"

"Yes, he says," ignoring a fresh wave of tears – he must seem pathetic, really, but ever since he started work at the okama bar he's had a harder time appearing tough. Haruhi's the only thing that keeps him grounded these days – reminding him to shave in the mornings otherwise the stubble will scare off customers; greeting him at night with her sort-of-smile (she isn't exactly an affectionate child, but he takes what he can get); patting his head and telling him to chill when he's particularly inflamed. He decides, rather unceremoniously, that today is the day they're going to have the Talk.

"Haruhi." Macho voice. Macho. "Daddy needs to talk to you about something."

"Okay." She shifts in her seat, puzzled, then casts her eyes up to her room. "Will it take very long?"

He tries not to freak out about her obvious lack of interest. "No, not really. But you must listen. It's very important." He takes a deep breath, ignoring the way she is plainly thinking about something else. "Haruhi, you're probably wondering why daddy is like this now, and why he looks like a mommy and dresses like a mommy when in fact he is a daddy, and why he works in a place with many other guys who dress like girls, and why he entertains guys when in fact he is a guy too – but, but I've always been prettier than the standard guy, girl even, and I – well, after I met your mother, I thought I could forget that, but now that she's gone, well I –" his lips are trembling and he's obviously not communicating his ideas very well and he doesn't know how to explain the concept of homosexuality to an eight-year-old but he's got to try, otherwise she'll grow up a homophobe and hating him, too.

"I can't like any other girl aside of your mommy, so I just don't like girls anymore."

There is a pause that seems longer than lightyears for him, and he's frozen in place, and she is probably thinking he's a freak and hating him, and daddy will never be daddy again, just a strange man wearing girly clothes, and - "Is that it? It's okay with me if you work in an okama, dad." An offhand tone; is it sincere, or is she just being polite?

Haruhi stands and walks over to him and hands him another table napkin, smiling her sweet smile (and maybe it's just his imagination, but it seems to be telling him she'll love him no matter how gay he gets, and he could choke on his tears, she's too good for him). "I mean, that's who you are, and I know you still love mom, so it's all right. It doesn't bother me at all."

"Really?" Tearfully, he clutches at her skirt and weeps. "Really really?"

"Yeah," she answers, passive and suddenly a little bored. "Now I've got Math homework, dad, and you should rest!" She offers him a little hug as he breaks into wails, then wriggles away and clears up her plate, saying "Thanks for the meal!" before clattering away to the kitchen then the books – brilliant little brainiac, he barely passed junior high and here is his little sweetheart top of her class in elementary, and she's just like her mother, and he loves her.

He clears away his dishes and lights incense and settles down for his Daily Talk with Kotoko, and he tells her about how good Haruhi's miso soup is, and how good Haruhi is, for loving a dad like him no matter how stupid he is, or how late he gets home from work, or how much he puts them in debt because he just has to buy her that summer dress from the newest brand name fashion line ("But you'd look so cute in it!" he insists, although she looks repulsed at the frilly pink thing in his hand, imagining it as a pile of ingredients had the money been put to better use).

"Watch over her, mommy," he whispers to her picture, and then he smiles.

After all, no matter how much gunk he piles on his face or how long his hair grows, for Haruhi, he'll always be the father. Which is perfectly fine by him. "And to make sure you never forget it, Haruhi my dear, I'll wear this every single day to remind you! Ohoho!" And he unfurls the simple white thing with PAPA printed smack in the front, her modest Father's Day Gift, and cuddles her close and tells her she'll always, always be a Daddy's Girl.

-xx-

"Tamaki-sempai," she says one day, suddenly thoughtful and oddly concerned, and his heart races just a little bit faster as he clutches her hands and breathes in and says,

"Yes, Haruhi?"

Well, they do play dress up and awful lot, after all, and Tamaki is more of a narcissist than anyone else she knows. If it's happened to one daddy, it isn't entirely unlikely..."You've never been a bi, right?"

From the way he sobs heartbrokenly in the corner while the twins get stitches laughing, they can all easily deduce that

1. he isn't, and

2. Haruhi should really learn more tact.


A/N: Hope you enjoyed it, despite Ranka's extreme overreacting. Comments would be greatly appreciated. :D