She opens her eyes and sees the roof is discolored. A tiled roof lies above her, one that was once white, but has now become yellowed with age. There are strange brown circles spotting each rectangle. Water spots? Mold? She can't tell.

The tiled ceiling looks familiar. The entire room looks familiar.

And suddenly she knows where she is.

She turns her head, to the side, wanting to understand why there is a dull ache in her chest. The upper left portion of her body is numb. Not very painful, mind you -- just... numb. As if she's been punched repeatedly in the chest and pain has finally made room for a sick, warm numbness.

She realizes she is in a hospital dressing gown, and she can move her fingers.

She can move her fingers, and her toes.

So she's not paralyzed.

Just in pain.

It's a good day.

And he is sitting there, in a familiar bedside chair, staring at her.

His hair is mused. His clothes unkempt, wrinkled. He's been there for more than a little while.

"My father worked here once," he tells her, not really knowing why. Guilt, maybe, for being the reason why she was in the hospital.

It's not like a sniper was hired to kill Fujioka Haruhi.

She's staring at him. Her skin is paler than usual.

No. Somebody was after him, and she got in their way.

"Sempai, why are you here?"

No hi. No hello. No fake warm smiles and strange swooning about him being in the same room as her.

It's a relief, and he begins to realize his deeper attraction toward her.

But why is he here? Where is her father? The Hiitachins? Even Tamaki?

Why is he, of all people, here?

She's still staring at him, her abnormally large eyes unblinking from her thin pillow.

"Because I can," he answers. Then he realizes how straightforward he sounds. "Be here, that is," he tries to clarify.

She's staring at him again, and suddenly nods.

Then she smiles.

Not fake.

A real smile.

He doesn't do that. Smile, that is. Really smile.

He realizes that he wishes he could.

But he's never had a reason to.

"Thank you, Kyouya-sempai. I appreciate it."

He nods, still staring at her.

Her gaze focuses on the small, white rectangular bandage on his cheek.

"You're hurt, sempai," she states.

He is still for a moment, shocked by what she just said. He tilts his head back and laughs.

He laughs hard. Truly laughs.

He hasn't laughed this hard since he decked Tamaki a few years ago in his room for being a retarded idiot, in his humble opinion.

The woman before him was just shot. By a bullet meant for him. At work, no less. Ripping through sinew, muscle, and breaking bones. Nerves are damaged, displaced. Tissue is broken, to be forever scarred. She could have died.

You're hurt, sempai.

"I take it back," she states, a wry, sarcastic lilt staining her voice as she watches his hysterics.

He wipes the tear making its way down his cheek away.

"You're not hurt," she declares. "You're just crazy, Nelly."

The American pop culture reference is not lost on him.

He smirks, and pours her a glass of water.

----------------------------

"Mission failed. I'm coming back," a voice crackled through. Bad reception.

"Why, what happened?!" Shock. Disbelief.

Black eyes closed, seemingly exhausted. I've never failed on an attempt before.

"It seems an unexpected actress has entered our play."

-----------------------------

"You wake him up."

"No, you wake him up."

"Why do I have to do it?"

"Because you're younger than me, and you're supposed to listen to the elder sibling."

"Not if I'm mentally more mature than you."

"You wish. Wake him up."

"Umm... no. I'm not suicidal. I leave that aspect of the club's personality to Tono-sempai."

Kyouya's eyes snapped open at them both.

"I'm awake. And I can hear you."

He eyes quickly scanned the patient resting blissfully ignorant before them.

"And she is going to wake up if you are any louder." Doubtful. The drugs will knock her out for the next few hours..

The twins shut up effectively.

"We brought flowers?" Kaoru offered sheepishly, motioning to the large bouquet of floral lilies in Hikaru's hands, before taking them and setting them down on the counter nearby.

"How is she?" one of them asked.

"Better," Kyouya replied, all trace of sleepiness leaving his body. He reached for a business magazine that has been left open on the table near him.

A placated look of calm descended on both of the twins' features.

"Good, good," one of the redheads murmured to himself.

The other slid to the end of Haruhi's bed and began flipping through her medical chart enclosed in grey.

"Glass embedded in abdominopelvic cavity removed? Post surgery recovery?" the twin read unfamiliar words aloud, his voice hitting an incredulous tone with the final words. He suddenly snapped the binder shut and leveled a burning glare at the Ootori. Kyouya could feel it without even looking up from the pages of his magazine.

"It was a minor procedure. The real problem is the wound in her chest."

"About that..." Kaoru trailed, the room becoming a few degrees chillier .

"So Kyouya-sempai," began Hikaru in a decidedly aggressive manner.

"Do you mind telling us how Haruhi was nearly killed--" Kaoru continued.

"--while shopping--"

"--with you--" one added, as if the next line wasn't as disbelievable as this one.

"--by a sniper of all possible things?!" they hysterically finished together, pointing at Kyouya accusingly.

"Hikaru. Kaoru." He stated calmly. They both shot him burning stares, intent on some answers.

"Right now, I can't answer that." His tone became edgier and the angry sparks leaping from the twins' eyes calmed, if but for a moment with his next statement, "But when I can, someone is going to pay."

----------------------------

"Hikaru and Kaoru visited you earlier today," he immediately said as he noticed the signs of alertness in her eyes. She roused from her afternoon nap, fighting the urge to stretch out her arms in fear of accidentally putting strain on her injuries. He continued to work into his laptop, finishing his typing. Draft letters. Affidavits. Legal documents.

Business, business, business.

Is visiting her every day just part of his every day business?

"Why didn't you wake me up?"

"The doctor said you needed to rest. The anesthesia from the surgery needed to wear off."

"How long did the twins stay for?" she asked, beginning to sit up. She tried to hide her wince as she pulled the stitches in her abdomen, and Kyouya tried to pretend it didn't happen.

"We're not leaving until you tell us everything that happened," the twins declared as they pulled two stools out and sat directly in front of him, glaring and waiting for him to begin. He resignedly sighed, and began to tell the greatly revised story sans Haruhi working at The Lingerie Store and sans him telling her to come to dinner and sans... well, most of the events that preceded the shooting, actually.

"Just a few minutes." he lied. More like an hour. "They left when they figured out the only person they'd be able to speak with was me." And after giving me an earful of their mind and panicked concerns.

"Oh."

"You're father finally returned my calls," he began. "He'll be here in the morning. Why didn't you tell us he was out of town?" he asked, curiously. Usually Renka informed Kyouya of the happenings and going in the Fujioka family without Haruhi knowing. But this information he had not been privy to.

Haruhi sighed, rolling her eyes. "Because the twins and Tamaki would have invited themselves over the instant they found out."

"You're very smart, did you know that?" he teased, catching himself at the last moment. Amazed. At himself.

"So people tell me," she nonchalantly shrugged, before laughing lightly.

"Oh, they brought you some snacks by the way," Kyouya added, lifting the silver lid to a large, filigreed platter a fraction of an inch. "But we have to be careful. You're not allowed to have solid food right now, but we can plan for tomorrow."

"Oooh! What did they bring?" Haruhi asked with a little excitement. Food was always a high point in her life.

"Otoro."

Her eyes widened considerably.

"But since you can't eat it, I guess I'm the only one who can," he said deviously, lifting the lid clean off and exposing the fair amount of fatty tuna sushi before the patient.

"SEMPAI! That is so unfair!"

"Nothing in this world is ever fair, Haruhi. You would do well to remember that," he said casually, before popping a roll into his mouth.

He looked down at Haruhi after he began chewing and suddenly his mouth went dry. The look of want and dismay on Haruhi's face nearly made him drop the tray in his other hand.

He closed his eyes, and stated something that went against all his beliefs and morals.

"But I'm sure one wouldn't hurt," he stated softly, before taking a piece of the sushi and delicately slid it into her mouth. Her lips lightly touched his fingers, and the sensation of her soft lips on his skin made him stiff all over.

"Mmm..." she moaned, deliciously happy.

Kyouya enjoyed that more than he knew he should have.

------------------------------

He hasn't visited her in a week.

His pace speeds up as Italian leather shoes snap along the aged, tiled floor.

It seems this place has gotten cleaner since the last time he's been here.

No doubt due to his increased presence in the hospital.

No one wants to disrespect the son of Ootori Yoshio, the man who basically made this hospital what is currently is.

But if Kyouya had simply been the simple son of a simple man... no one would be waxing the floors for his approval.

He slides open the door, and there is a man in her room.

A man who is not him. Or her father. Or anyone from the host club.

Competition?

And she's awake, upright, and laughing.

Kyouya is not jealous. No, he is not.

It's the man she hugged from the Lingerie Store.

His eyebrows narrow for a fraction of a second, before he pushes his glasses further up his nose and smiles with fake warmth. She turns to him, and waves. Haruhi's smile falters for a fraction of a second, but she beams as she introduced Kyuoya to the newcomer.

"Kyouya, let me introduce you to Dante. He went to the same junior high school as me."

"Not to mention I'm the son of your boss, so you have to be nice to me." And then he smiled, and all Kyouya could see was whiteness and teeth. Real. A real smile.

"You wish, you spoiled brat."

"Hey! I thought we agreed on no more low money blows?"

"Well, I don't have much to fall back on with all your teasing."

This light banter was hurting Kyouya's head.

Not to mention I'm the son of your boss. His eyebrows narrowed by fractions of a centimeter.

Tenoh Dante. Son of CEO and Chairman of World Textiles Incorporated. Son of Tenoh Ren, world renowned exporter of Asian textiles and fabrics. Establisher of many luxury clothing chains, including one called The Lingerie Store.

Son of your boss, indeed. Haruhi's father clearly knew how to pick his boyfriends.

He pasted on his best smile. First impressions always mattered.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Ootori Kyouya."

The handshake was firm. Strong. Powerful.

Competition.

And he doesn't appear to recognize the Ootori name. Perfect.

"Nice to meet you as well. I'm Tenoh Dante." I know.

Haruhi doesn't like Kyouya's smile.

Business, business, business.

----------------------------

"Did you hear about what happened to Ootori's children?" Ester Thomas said excitedly to her companion dressed in blue pinstripe. Tenoh Ren shook his head, taking a large mouthful of white wine from his glass.

"Someone tried to kill them!"

Ren fought to keep from spewing the liquid in his mouth all over the ballroom floor. He tried to swallow, but instead sent out several hacking coughs as it tricked down the wrong pipe.

"I heard one of them died," Ester whispered eagerly.

Ren's eyes shot open. "No. You're kidding."

"That's what I heard. I'm shocked though."

"Shocked at what?"

"Well, to go against the Ootoris, you may as well be dead. Ootori is pretty big in the national defense department. They have eyes everywhere. The party involved in this will probably get tracked down easily." Ester squeezed the napkin in her hand tightly, the small appetizer on her plate forgotten. She was giddy with delight. To be the one with all the details.

"When did this happen?" Ren asked, nearly shaking her for more information.

"Early afternoon. Umm, a few days ago I believe. There were two shootings. One was on the university campus and the other one was in Century Hill. They're trying to keep it low profile, but how low profile can you get if the most exclusive places in this area were practically war zones. But I heard that the son in shopping incident escaped practically unharmed."

"I thought you said one of them died?"

"Yeah. I think it was the second child. The one in medical school."

"What about the first one?"

"I haven't heard anything about him yet."

"Wow, that's simply unbelievable. I can't actually believe someone tried to assassinate Ootori's offspring."

"Why wouldn't you?" Ester questioned, surprised at Ren's ignorance.

"What do you mean?" Ren replied, his gaze curious.

"Well, just between you and me," Ester gaze a quick glance to either side of her before continuing, "I heard that Ootori's been dealing more heavily with the Japanese government. He's monopolizing the industry -- and other companies are getting angry. He's downsizing greatly the cost it needs for medical aid and equipment and much of the government health administration is passing through his company to deal with health concerns throughout the county."

"Wow, business for Ootori-san must be amazing right now. I've been out of touch with Ootori-san for a while, but I had no idea how great his ties were with government officials."

"Well, it's not everyday that Minister Kawamurata appears to social business gatherings." Ester gave a pointed stare to the government official surrounded by a throng of business men and woman intent on conversing with him.

Ren scanned the room and gave an appreciating glance toward the numerous attending guards dressed in black suits, flesh coloured earpieces stringing from their heads. Their careful attendance of the party was quite observable from the guests. But despite that, Ren felt more alert than put at ease.

"But can you believe Ootori-san is out there, greeting guests, if his son just died?" Ester said, blatant disgust on her face. "I know that man is cold as ice, but still, his family should come first before all else."

"Maybe his son didn't die," Ren tried to reason. "It might have just been a rumor."

"Well, I only see his eldest son up and about. Where's the youngest one? Kenji, right? I can never remember that third son's name..."

-------------------------------

"I haven't seen you smile like that in a while, you know," Haruhi says, staring directly into grey eyes. Accusingly, as if he's done something wrong.

"Smile like what?" he replies, already knowing what she's referring to. But she's mistaken. He hasn't done anything wrong.

"You juxtapose your smile. It's large, warm -- but so cold, sempai. And fake."

Stop calling me sempai.

He pushes his glasses up farther from the bridge of his nose.

"I think you're mistaken," he says softly. The sunlight through the window is reflecting off his lenses, and Haruhi can't see his eyes.

"How am I mistaken?" she asks softly.

"I smile the way I've smiled all my life, Haruhi."

He doesn't know how to smile any other way.

"You're wrong. You smile differently here. When we're alone. Or when it's just the host club. It's not fake."

His tone is dangerously cold.

"You don't know what you're talking about."

Haruhi suddenly realizes that she's treading on thin ice. She doesn't care.

"I know exactly what I'm talking about. Why are there so many walls, sempai?" she asks forcefully, fists tightly bunching her sheets.

"Walls?" he parrots, testing the word on his tongue.

"Yes, walls. You're surrounded by a fortress of bricks. And we're constantly banging on the only door available to us. It hurts... you know? But sometimes, just sometimes, you'll open up that door and let us just peek in. For short moments at a time. But not long enough," she says, her analogy hitting him like a bag full of the bricks he's cemented around himself.

"You barely know me. How dare you presume to think you understand my life at all?" He is angry. Scared. Troubled by the fact that he hasn't heard them knocking at his door at all.

"I don't, sempai. I don't presume to know you at all. But I'm learning about you. Small bits and pieces. And I'd like to know more."

He's struck dumb for a moment, uncomprehending of what she's asking from him.

"I want to know more than this wall always before me. But when you're with me here, I feel as if I've finally found a window in your expanse, Kyouya. And I'm finally able to see a little bit into you."

He feels uncomfortable, as if he should suddenly switch into his "host" mode to fulfill her wish.

His host mode. A fake. Full of fake smiles, fake laughs, and empty, fake promises.

But that's not what he wants.

That's not what she wants.

He gets up slowly from his seat, straightening his tall, lean legs.

Haruhi is forced to crane her neck back to stare at him, pulling on her wound, making her visibly wince.

He walks towards to door to the room and slides it open.

"You don't know what you're asking for," he says loud enough for her to hear him as he leaves without even a backward glance, doesn't realize that the ice has cracked and she's slowly drowning underneath the frozen water.

It's only later that evening that he realizes she didn't call him sempai.

-----------------------------------

"You didn't come to the gala," his father mentions over dinner. Casually. Coldly. As if he's forgotten the fact that his son was almost killed.

"I apologize," Kyouya says monotonously, slicing with more force into his chicken breast than he'd care to admit.

"Father. He was in the hospital." Fuyumi seethes through her teeth, glaring at her father with disbelieving eyes. "For almost being shot." Because of you and your work.

"But he wasn't shot. Only an employee at the woman's underwear store he was shopping at was injured heavily. Not him." The embarrassment Kyouya was feeling that his father had discovered where he had nearly been killed was overshadowed by the coldness his father showed him at the fact he almost died. He was angry. He rarely became angry.

But what did it matter anyway? He was only the third son.

"And this shooting was during the afternoon a few days previous," Ootori Yoshio continued. "He could have made it to the evening events if he chose to."

"But father. You can't really be angry on the fact that he--"

"Fuyumi." Their father interrupted suddenly, his voice booming. "Don't you dare speak back to me ever again." His voice is as effective as a slap against her face.

"Yes, father. I apologize, father." Fuyumi said quietly. Submissively.

I apologize. That sentence was such a staple statement in this household.

"The only one that needed medical intervention was your brother. And he's going to be fine. He has only the best working for him." Working for him. Not on him.

"You are no longer an Ootori. You are married, and under your husband's claim. But I am your father. I am your absolute."

Money can buy everything. It brought Kyouyas brother back from the edge of death.

The Ootori family finished their dinner in silence.

-----------------------------------

He can't get her out of his thoughts. And he can't believe this regret panging through him every time he remembers the last words he said to her as he walked out of her hospital room two days ago.

"You don't know what you're asking for."

Kyouya gazes over the wreckage of the place where he could have possibly died. Despite his close encounter with a bullet and his head, his heart doesn't beat furiously nor does he have a very flustered mindset.

He is calm.

Too calm, for a person who has almost been murdered.

Although, under the current circumstances involving his father and the recent endeavors they had negotiated with the Japanese government, it wouldn't be a far cry to term this as a failed assassination attempt either. He needs answers, and his father will never tell him. He needs to do some digging.

But Kyouya hates getting his hands dirty.

So he goes back to St. Patrick's hospital.

With regrets.

And for once in his life, he's sorry about what he said.

But he knows he was not in the wrong.

And he won't change for another person.

He doesn't believe that change will help him very much.

But he'll show them to a window. Even if it's only enough to let them peer into his life. To see what they are getting themselves into.

"I'm sorry, Ootori-sama. But the patient you're looking for was discharged two days ago."

-----------------------------------

The sunset has painted the sky in colors of soft orchard, and the air is warm and heavy as he steps out into the evening setting. The car door behind him quietly shuts as his driver stands off to the side, paid to do nothing but drive and open doors.

With money that could be used to do other things.

Aid world hunger. Contribute to the search for a cure for a cancer. Buy a prosthetic limb for a young family that can't afford one for their child.

Money that Haruhi would give up in a heartbeat to do exactly all that.

But not tonight.

Tonight he would like to lavish in his wealth, and bathe in its luxuries.

He is young, talented, and good looking. But most of all, rich.

Money has gotten him very far in a world that publicly proclaims riches can't buy a man everything.

But only a fool in this world would refuse any offer he would propose to them. Because Ootori Kyouya, despite his young age, has the power to make dreams come true.

And he can even buy happiness, if the person plays their cards correctly.

He climbs up the flight of old, rusted stairs in the condominium complex and knocks on the third door down without a second thought.

The beige coloured metal door opens and reveals her in a loose shirt and drawstring pants.

A far cry from his dream with her in nothing by rouge lingerie.

"Have dinner with me," he says, repeating the demand he had said to her moments before a bullet came screaming through a display room window, sending glass flying everywhere and screams to fill the streets. Before a bullet had entered the body standing before him and physically flung her off her feet and into him, simple from the force of the impact. Seconds before he had breathed in her scent and told her red underwear made the wearer a tease.

Only a fool would accept any offer blatantly proposed by him without a second thought, and with that fact in mind, the smartest woman he had ever known in his life closed her front door in front of his face without saying a word.

End chapter.

----------------------

I started writing this chapter in present tense without realizing it, but after going through it a couple times, it fits the new mood of the story. I feel like this originally fun, comedic piece has hit a more serious note, and I feel that a more serious tone is needed to be able to make this story grow. To allow the characters to grow.

I played with the feelings that present and past tense can create. Tell me how you guys liked or disliked the present tense in this chapter.

I hope you guys enjoyed the latest chapter, and please continue to support it. Your reviews have really inspired me to keep this story going. Like, really. I enjoy the reviews that have a bit more substance and flavor, so thanks to everyone that gave me longer input and comments in the reviews.

I'm a first year nursing student with a lot of studying to do, so if you feel like this story hasn't been updated in a while, feel free to hassle me on my LJ. I enjoy it.

PS: This chapter is dedicated to ficcingwitch from LJ. The fact that you asked me to finish was actually a big push to make me put out this chapter.

Kolinshar.