Chapter 2

At an apartment somewhere in Tokyo, three men bearing dessert arrived, unexpectedly. One of them rang the doorbell.

"Haruhi!" they said, wide smiles on their faces.

The woman that opened the door was 40-something, somewhat flabby, and honestly not expecting the people now on her doorstep. "Who's Haruhi?" she said.

"Doesn't... Haruhi live here?" a somewhat foreign-looking man with blond hair, who led the band, said.

"I don't know any Haruhis," the woman replied folding her arms. "Maybe you got the wrong address?" She smiled, as the men looked amongst themselves for an answer. "I'm Ayako, by the way."

"I'm sure that they used to live here..." the man said, scratching his chin. "Do you know the Fujiokas?"

"Uh... no?" Ayako said, a little miffed that the gorgeous men weren't paying any attention to her. She was a little good-looking, to tell the truth. "Why, did they used to live here?"

"Yeah, in this apartment," a man with orange-ish hair said, pointing to the apartment's name-plate. Instead of Fujioka, it read Manabe. Ayako turned red, finally recognizing who exactly he was.

"Oh, m-my, you're, um... Hikaru Hitachiin..." she said, twirling a bit of her hair absently. "Oh, I watch your show all the time..."

"Thank you for your support!" he said brightly. "Now, do you know anyone that could tell us where the Fujiokas went?"

"I think that the landlady might know..." said Ayako, her face still flushed. "She's owned this building for quite a while."

"Hey, thanks!" said the blond man, grinning. "Thanks a lot!"

And, so, they left, Ayako absently waving as they went. She was kicking herself the next day, when she went to work without evidence that Hikaru Hitachiin himself, along with his brother Kaoru, had shown up on her front door asking for somebody named Haruhi.

Of course, nobody at all believed her.

-///-

Haruhi was, at that moment, driving home from the grocery store. Being in her father's presence always made her feel uncontrollably domestic.

Almost as soon as she had arrived at her father's home in Japan (she had bought it for him one year as a Christmas present, to his delight), Haruhi was preparing a nice cup of tea for herself, and very soon after that, some dinner. Funny as it sounded, it was almost relaxing, busying herself in a way that didn't involve research and questioning.

"I think soba was a great choice for tonight," she said to herself, turning into the driveway. "Oh, Dad's just gonna love it, I thi-"

Why were there two cars parked in front of her father's house, and expensive ones at that?

Immediately, she began to get a little worried, and parked the rental car as quickly as she could. Leaving the groceries in the trunk, she found the front door unlocked, bursting into the house to find...

"Is that Haruhi?"

"Ah, Haruhi-chan! You're home! Come join your papa for a bit, I have a surprise!"

The voices, floating from the sitting room, sounded familiar. Wonderfully familiar.

She had barely entered the room when an unexpected grin cracked on her face. She very quickly lost it, but was happy anyways.

Sitting with her father was Tamaki, but the most surprising part was the fact that Hikaru and Kaoru were there as well, delicious-looking puddings set out in front of them.

She could hardly bring herself to say anything, and luckily for her, Tamaki was already out of his seat and running in her direction.

"Haruhi, Haruhi!" he said, grabbing her hands and holding them tightly. "Finally, you're home! We were waiting for you."

"I told them you were out at the grocery," Ranka said. His hair was dyed and long, concealing the gray that had grown in. He was still very youthful-looking, for his age, and a fresh coat of lipstick was on his lips. "Isn't this a wonderful surprise?"

"How... did this all work out?" Haruhi finally said, gesturing towards the remainder of the guests. Hunny cheerfully waved at her as she did so.

"Well, you see..." Tamaki said, letting go of her hands as he thought for a moment.

The Day Before

"Great hearing from you, Tamaki!" a voice on the telephone, either Hikaru or Kaoru, spoke. "How interesting! Really, Haruhi's in town?"

"Yeah, I think maybe we should visit her," Tamaki said cheerfully. The twins had called him back in the morning, and he had them on speaker phone, as he cut into his poached egg for breakfast.

"And just how, exactly, did you find this out?" another voice, further away, said. Apparently, Tamaki was also on speaker phone. He still couldn't tell whether or not it was Hikaru or Kaoru.

"She was on the plane to Tokyo with me," Tamaki replied. "We talked."

"Ooh, how interesting," the first voice said. It was a bit more nasal―probably Hikaru. "So, what do you propose we do?"

"Didn't you hear what I just said?" Tamaki said, putting his fork and egg into his mouth. "We should go visit her house."

"She lives in Tokyo? How come we haven't heard about this?" said the other voice (softer―probably Kaoru).

"Oh, well, she's visiting her father," said Tamaki. He swallowed.

"Ah, the okama," said Hikaru. "I think I remember where that little apartment was."

"So, sound like a good idea?" said Tamaki.

"Sure, we'll come!" the twins said, in perfect unison.

Back to the Present

"So that explains why you two are here," Haruhi said, leaning over to take a look at them. "Father, are you okay with them all being here?"

"I'm perfectly okay with everyone barging in on my house," Ranka said, laughing. "It's so nice to see you boys again, really, it is. Though, I really wonder why Kyoya-san couldn't be here."

"Well, he's, um..." Tamaki began, trying to think of an explanation. Haruhi looked at him, almost worried.

A voice from the threshold spoke. "He's a CEO."

"Oh! So he must be far too busy," said Ranka, and clapped his hands together, hardly noticing the voice was a new edition. "Oh well! It's wonderful having you all here, anyways. My, don't we have catching up to do!"

Tamaki, Haruhi, and the rest were staring at Hunny and Mori, who were standing near the living room. Hunny was bent over cheekily, a box of dessert in his possession.

"Eh?" said Haruhi.

"Ah, it's about time that you two showed up," Hikaru said, frowning. "What took you so long?"

"Traffic," Mori replied.

"Yeah, we were in such a jam!" said Hunny. "But we made it." He bounded up to Haruhi and presented the box to her. It seemed he had hardly grown at all since their last encounter. "Thank you very for having us! Haruhi-chan, you're still as cute as ever!"

"Thank you, Hunny-san, but I really have to go bring the groceries in," Haruhi said, waving the compliment and her surprise off with her hand. "My goodness, so many unexpected visitors..."

"How did you get the word that Haruhi was over here?" Tamaki asked.

Also Yesterday Morning

Following their telephone call with Tamaki, Kaoru and Hikaru found themselves plotting things.

"Do you think it would be a good thing," Hikaru asked his brother, "if we saw that Mori-san and Hunny-san were free? They'd both like to see her."

"I don't see why not," said Kaoru, and they dialed. Hunny was more than excited to pick up the phone and talk to them.

"Of course we'll come!" he said. "Oh, boy, I'm so excited to see Haruhi again! I grew so much since she last saw me."

Once Again, the Present

"He hasn't grown all that much," Kaoru noted, as he and his brother and Tamaki observed Hunny trailing Haruhi into the kitchen to put away the other dessert. The other two nodded in agreement, as Mori followed Hunny.

"Oh, are we eating lunch here? Dinner?" said Hikaru.

"Do we have enough?" Ranka asked. Haruhi sighed.

"I was going to make soba," she said, "and I only got enough for Father and me. But, I suppose I could find something more in here..."

"That would be great!" Hunny cheered. "We can eat the dessert we brought afterward, too."

"Oh, that would be wonderful! Could you, really?" said Tamaki. Haruhi nodded, and... smiled. Tamaki was almost shocked. She wasn't annoyed?

"Sure, I don't see why not," she said, and laughed. "Gee, it's just like how it used to be, huh? I have no idea how I put up with all of you back then..."

"We sure were stinkers, weren't we?" Hikaru said, a mischievous grin on his face, and began laughing.

"I'll be right back," Haruhi said, getting over her laughs and putting her shoes on, returning to the car to get the groceries.

"I think she's happy to see us!" Hunny said, smiling, while she was gone. "I was almost worried that we'd be bothering her, showing up unexpectedly like this."

"Me too," Mori said.

"Yeah, it's just been so long," said Kaoru. "We just sorta barged in here. You two, especially."

"You invited us," Mori said.

"Boys, boys, you're always welcome in my house," Ranka said, waving his hand at them. "No need to feel like you're intruding."

"You know what, we went to the wrong house at first!" said Kaoru. "Some other woman was living in your apartment."

"She thought you were me," Hikaru laughed. "Nobody can tell the difference, still."

"I wouldn't be so sure, Hikaru-san," Haruhi said, popping her head in the room, groceries in hand. Hikaru and Kaoru stared at her, amazed she could tell the difference, and she stuck the tip of her tongue through her lips at them.

"Stop staring!" she smiled. "Though, Tamaki-san, you could have called me in advance about this..."

"That would ruin the surprise!" Hunny cheered.

Haruhi laughed, placing the groceries on the counter in the nearby kitchen. "It's certainly a surprise," she said, just slightly sarcastically.

"Ah, Haruhi, you need any help with that?" Hikaru said, leaning over and watching her unload the food.

"I don't think so..." she said. Hikaru got up anyways, smiling, and unpacking the bags as well. "Hikaru-san! What are you doing?"

"Helping," he said. "What, am I not allowed to?"

"Not exactly..." Haruhi said, her voice a little lower. "You really don't have to."

Hikaru brandished a small box of noodles. "It's fun!" he said.

"Can I help, too?" said Hunny.

"Everyone, everyone! I can unpack the groceries by myself!" Haruhi said, and took the box of noodles from Hikaru's hand. "Thank you very much! Hikaru-san, go enjoy yourself. I'll make some tea."

"I already made some!" Ranka said. "Don't overexert yourself, sweetie!"

"Thank you, Dad," Haruhi said, rolling her eyes. "Oh, what's this? You brought pudding, didn't you, Tamaki-san? Is there enough for everyone?"

"No, we only brought enough for you and your father," Tamaki said. Haruhi sighed, then smiled.

"Hunny-san, would you like to eat your dessert now?" she asked.

Hunny's eyes, still large and childish at his age, lit up. "I thought you would never ask!" he said, and retrieved the box from the counter. "I got strawberries just for you, because I know you like them. I also got chocolate, in case nobody wanted strawberry. I know that Takashi doesn't like them..."

"I want chocolate, too," Hikaru pouted. Hunny gave him a small glare.

"I brought both kinds, didn't you hear me?" he said. "We have cake for you too, Ranka-san."

"Thank you!" Ranka cheered. "Oh, what a high-class affair this is becoming! So delightful!"

"Father, don't make a spectacle of yourself, please," Haruhi sighed, bringing over a small tray of tea to the table. "Here you are."

"Thank you," Tamaki said, flashing her his warmest smile. She smiled back.

"Say, Haruhi, aren't I taller than I used to be?" Hunny said unexpectedly, as he was serving cake. "I've grown a lot."

If his height had anything to reflect on whether or not his attitude had matured at all, Haruhi suspected she was still dealing with very much the same Hunny. He had grown, at most, 3 centimeters.

"Yes, I suppose you have," she said, smiling politely. Technically, it wasn't a lie, and Hunny grinned. She sat. "I suppose this should hold us off for a bit," she said, as Hunny placed a cake in front of her, and she bit into it.

She had almost forgotten how good the cakes Hunny would bring were, and a memory from years back flashed in her mind.

"You like strawberries, don't you?"

"Deluxe Sushi doesn't necessarily mean High Quality!"

"Commoner's Market! We want to go the Commoner's Market!"

"Your mother must have been a very special person."

"You've been keeping in contact with my father?!"


"Daddy just likes to hold shopping baskets, you know?"

"Haruhi? Is there something wrong with the cake?" Hunny asked, looking a little worried. Haruhi swallowed, and smiled.

"No, not at all," she replied. "It's delicious!"

Following Dessert

"Oh, Haruhi-chan! I had just the greatest idea!" Ranka said, clapping his hands together and smiling.

"Hm?" Haruhi said.

"Why don't you make us shungiku sukiyaki? Wouldn't that be just delightful?" cheered Ranka. Haruhi sighed, giving her father a somewhat disgruntled look.

"I was just at the store, Dad..." she said.

"Yes," Ranka said, "but think of the memories! Oh, I can remember like yesterday the first time I met you all in person. The memories, Haruhi-chan, the mem-"

"All right!" she said, somewhat defeated. "Do you all want shungiku too?" Everyone nodded. "Okay. I'm going out!"

"We'll keep things together while you're away!" Hikaru called, as Haruhi put on her shoes and drove off.

Once she was quite far away, Tamaki glanced at everyone conspiratorially, and almost by instinct, the rest of them followed.

"Ranka-san," he said gravely, "this is quite a tragic situation."

"What is?" Hunny said.

"Your daughter is unmarried!" Tamaki said, in full melodrama. He was feeling fantastic, his old self. He felt alive.

Ranka gave a bittersweet smile. "Yes, I know," he said. "It's what Haruhi wants now, I guess. And she's happy. But..."

He broke into sobs. "I just want to be able to see my daughter's wedding day!" Hunny offered Ranka a comforting pat on the back, which calmed him down some. "It's just so... it is tragic!"

"It is quite fashionable to be single these days, though," Kaoru noted. "Then again, being married is just as desirable."

"Yeah," Hikaru agreed. "And Haruhi does have a rather large career, too. She's very independent."

"But someone as cute as Haruhi doesn't deserve to be single!" Tamaki said. Everyone stared at him.

"Are you okay?" Hikaru said, and Tamaki realized just what he had been saying.

Really, what was he saying? Wasn't this the sort of thing that would drive everyone away?

"I'm fine," Tamaki said. There was an uncomfortable silence for a while.

"Ah, I have an idea!" Hunny said, suddenly, pointing upwards. "Ranka-san, you want to find a husband for Haruhi?"

"Hunny-san, I don't think that's quite appropriate," Kaoru said, but was interrupted by Ranka nodding, to their surprise.

"Then, why don't we have a contest, and see who can win Haruhi's heart?" Hunny said, tilting his head and smiling. "It's just like how you and Tamaki-san and the rest used to do all the time! Don't you remember when we all went to the beach and tried to scare Haruhi? Just like that."

"Haruhi, if you're going to throw the bugs around, you could do it a little more gently..."

"Wah! It's so dark in here, Haruhi! Aren't you scared? Aren't you scared?"

"It's a sword."

"It was fun," Tamaki admitted, smiling. The Twins did as well, almost dreamy looks on their faces. Hunny noticed.

"See, now you're smiling!" he said. "You all think it's a good idea, too! Don't deny it."

"It's not particularly fair to Haruhi, though," said Tamaki. "I mean, a contest over who she's going to marry?"

"Yes, but... well, think about it, m'lord," Hikaru said. Tamaki had to fight back the urge to smile at the familiar nickname. "It could be just a dating game, too. We don't have to marry her."

"Though it would be best if one of you did turn out to be her husband in the future," Ranka said, holding his elbows.

"We'll try not to do that, though," Kaoru said. "It wouldn't be fair to Haruhi."

"Right," the rest of them agreed.

Hunny smiled. "Then, we have a contest. Whoever wins the heart of Haruhi first, wins!"

There it was. The thing that they all desperately wanted to say, yet held back. As they looked at each other, thinking over the situation, they began to smile.

"It's a deal!" Tamaki and the twins chorused, and with Ranka's loud support, the contest unofficially began.

"Then let's decide what we're going to do," Hunny said. "One date per day, for each of us. So we can each try our best."

"We should have a schedule for the week she's here," Mori said.

Simultaneously, Tamaki and Hikaru declared that they would be going first.

"I was the first to agree to it," Hikaru argued.

"I was the one that called us all together, though!" Tamaki protested.

"Hey, stop fighting!" said Hunny, waving his hands at them. "We'll have Takashi go first."

"Why him?" everyone else chorused.

"Inconspicuous," Mori replied.

"Ah, that does make sense," said the dissenters.

"I'll go next, then," said Kaoru. "Then you, Hunny-san?"

"Sure!" said Hunny. "Then you and Tamaki can decide who goes last, Hikaru-san."

The two of them eyed each other, before deciding on, and shouting loudly, "ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS!"

Hikaru was the victor. "I'll go last," he declared.

"My, so many wonderful possibilities," Ranka said, clapping his hands together. "I wish you good luck, boys!"

And all of them smiled.

Haruhi returned about a half hour later, completely oblivious of the fact.

But the competition was absolutely, and utterly, on.