Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nada. I'm just messing around with J.M. Barrie's and Bisco Hatori's brilliance for a short while.
Request: Xaki-kun, unrequited, angsty TamaHaru that never was.
Spoilers: Mild allusions to chapter 54 of the manga. Spoilers for Tamaki's family background in volume 6 and final episodes of the anime.
She told Peter that she had adopted all the other boys, and would like to adopt him also.
"Would you send me to school?" he inquired craftily.
"And then to an office?"
"I suppose so."
"Soon I should be a man?"
"I don't want to go to school and learn solemn things," he told her passionately. "I don't want to be a man. O Wendy's mother, if I was to wake up and feel there was a beard!"
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
In his world, boys grow up, put on suits, and become businessmen and deny, deny, deny that they had ever been otherwise to begin with. Beginning with the lessons – elocution, comportment, acting (an essential), they are trained for their future roles. Then, after the correct period of childhood indoctrination has passed, lessons in finance, world marketing relationships, English (German and French also being highly popular), and politics commence, augmented by a heavy degree of specialization in their family's respective industries.
They are formed into what someone thinks they should be. This is called – by their parents and all the successive generations before them – "growing up."
The boys grow up. The girls don diamonds and silk and designer labels. They grow up, too.
But that is his world. Not hers.
She sees him in the newspaper now, while reading it over morning instant coffee – which she thinks is strangely appropriate and a tiny bit of sacrilege by turns – and he is always looking buttoned up and never quite comfortable. The somber black with the sedate tie don't fit him at all, and each button seems to be repressing something of the whirling dynamo he formerly was like nothing else could have before.
But once a year they go out to dinner and she sees him in person.
He always picks some place that drips with opulence and manners and sleek chic, and she relents as she always does. Despite it all, she still can't help but relent, although he is not the boy she knew back then. Not the boy who…
This time, she wears a white dress and a diamond pendant (it resembles a chip out of some of the enormously gaudy mountains that sit at the throats of the other patrons, but she doesn't mind) that was a gift from her husband. She feels almost guilty and lies with frowning acknowledgment of the fact that she does not belong here (he has now come to recognize this, although he is looking at her with a slightly dazed expression), I'm sorry, I haven't had time to do laundry this week she explains and then has the uncomfortable thought that he is looking at her in the same disapproval that the rest of diners areShe doesn't tell him that this is the most expensive thing she owns anyway, and so uncomfortable that it was not worth the price she paid for it. Uncharacteristically, she always feels the need to apologize very bluntly for her appearance, her comportment…her presence…the cause of which she does not want to examine for fear of what she'll find.
She smoothes out the fabric of her simple dress as she sits, and, sees something she can't identify flick behind his bright eyes. She still marvels – even though he hasn't done anything remotely like it for years – that he's managed to keep his seat and hasn't flown at her with exclamations about her choice of feminine clothing.
He wears his black suit and a smile that is less easy every year she sees him. It never has the same sunshiney brightness it once did. In fact, she might say – if there were someone to say it to that would understand – that it seems permanently muted.
But she doesn't want to ask herself why this is in any detail. Instead, she tells herself firmly that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the way he smiles. He has simply finally grown up and that is the whole truth of it.
There is, of course, small talk. Sometimes she has the uncomfortable feeling that she has become like one of his customers back in high school, but by now he knows that she will (at least half-heartedly) object to his more verbose embellishments. He seems, she realizes halfway through the third course, to have even curtailed his long, rambling – and admittedly, somewhat obnoxious – speeches from his high school days. It leaves a bit of a conversational void she knows she isn't capable of filling.
However, as a good French rosé slowly is drained from his glass, his lips curve with lesser difficulty, and slowly (oh so very slowly), the suit jacket slips off onto the back of the chair only when the candles on their crystal tapers burn down to nubs, casting half-hearted prisms onto the table linens.
When this happens, she feels confident enough that it is a good time to ask him about his life – and he tells her of business meetings, mergers, a friendly game of cards with the Ootoris. Sometimes, with something of a tone of pleasure, he tells her about a luncheon he has had with a French business partner and expresses that he misses the language (but more as a rationalization for his joy than the genuine long-winded longing that he had had all those years ago). Everything in his speech is immaculately ordered and relevant to every single question she asks.
Before she might have said that such a change was refreshing.
When he is done, he turns to her and asks (a bit tenuously), It has simply been eons since I have seen you last, how have you been, my dear?
That form of endearment – sounding oddly stilted from his mouth – never fails to make her blink. It sounds…wrong.
But, he must take this moment of confusion for something else and he never asks (although, to be quite honest, she is not sure that he would ask now. That assumption was based on a boy who asked far too much far too often and has now been encapsulated in a black Armani suit and sensible tie…entombed, more like it, a nagging part of her brain she is stubbornly ignoring quips).
There is an almost smile on his face when she pulls out the pictures of her two children which she keeps in her wallet and pushes them across the table for him to examine. With almost enthusiasm, he praises them both profusely and inquires after them both. Inquires after her husband. Polite and crisp and succinct with a touch of residual verbal flair preserved within the cadence of expression and some vestigial lordly tone.
But stripped of those things, he might be reciting a stock report, a packing list, a productivity chart.
They eat soufflés in an almost silence with the occasional exchange of one or two sentence polite niceties and say, without meaning it, that they should do this more often – even with both their crowded schedules, they can surely make room for old friends, can't they?
They agree without conviction that a year is too long.
And then he leaves, off to his world – Goodbye, Haruhi.
And she manages to walk in her rarely used and never broken in heels – Good luck, Tamaki – san.
Off to her own world.
As she walks out she wonders if she should call him "Suou-san" for the sake of politeness and to not appear overly familiar.
But it is nice to play the old game, even if she can't dismiss everything else as costumes and props and glittering diversions. Moreover, Haruhi knows that Tamaki no longer can either.
This is a world of grown-ups.
He inks his signature on a particularly advantageous - for his own company, at least – merger deal and, watching the ink glisten on the characters of his name, frowns. The advantage is all for someone else, anyways.
He has privately decided that the vast majority of people have a private penchant for destroying themselves. Especially in this world.
The Hitachiin twins were, by all accounts, committing various degrees of financial suicide as their collective negligence of training to manage their accustomed income had finally caught up with them. He, however, wagered that they both had a few more years of flying off without fear of expense on whims to Milan, New York, Tahiti, Switzerland, Egypt…
The affair between the Haninozuka heir and Morinozuka heir had been nothing short of scandalous. A great red mark splashed across their reputations that few actually believed was the tabloid gossip the corporate media units had spun it as.
A red light flashes up at him, glancing off the polished wood of the desk, a pixilated display of 1 New Message.
Very few people know his private office line. He would wager that this is Tamaki's work.
Ignoring it, he goes through several other thick packets of paper, signing the characters of his name, adjusting figures, internally berating particularly egregious errors on the part of his legal staff.
At the end, he can find no better distractions and, decisively, presses the button.
Kyouya, I've seen Haruhi.
Tamaki's voice says it as if it is a thing of little interest to any of them. Of them all, Haruhi has remained almost unscathed, as everyone expected her too. She was grown up long before she met the former Host Club and was, (is? He wonders) in many ways, like Teflon…the world she had been introduced to had been dumped over her head and dribbled off in large, greasy spurts, not so much as leaving more than the barest trace of its mark.
Kyouya, I've seen Haruhi.
The phrase echoes in his head again.
She had married mediocrity, lived in her 3LDK, had two children according to replacement theory. Done a brief stint in law school before she realized that her mother's dreams were...he doesn't remember what happened with that, in truth. He doubts anyone ever asked her what happened with her life in that regard.
Strangely, he sometimes has the desire to visit her – on a ridiculous whim – and ask her what she felt about Tamaki. Feels, he corrects himself, about Tamaki. Their Peter Pan. The boy who had been exiled from Neverland and forced into a business suit, possible to wake up with a beard to his horror.
Although he doubts any such visit would be treated with anything but the highest degree of skepticism and suspicion. He also doubts that it would be anything but useless.
What could Haruhi do for any of them now?
She could go home with her mediocre husband, her forgettable children, and her complacent brand of happiness and at least not be destroyed. But, he also realizes that this anger at Haruhi stems mostly from his dislike of wasted merit. And, when all is said and done, Haruhi is a case of wasted merit that once could have been more than she is.
He replays the message, having lapsed into the space of his own mind and ignored everything beyond the initial first line.
Kyouya, I've seen Haruhi.
This, however, is a red herring, a deviation, an inconsequential detail. He lets out a breath he isn't aware he has been holding.
I was wondering if your brother might be interested in purchasing a hotel chain in France. My board tells me that such a decision would be quite mutually advantageous to both the Suous and the Ootori group. Perhaps Ichiro would like to meet me?
For a moment, Kyouya is left wondering why he just doesn't call Ichiro himself. The heads of corporations communicating directly with each other would be much more efficient. And the fact annoys him.
He leaves the call unanswered. Tamaki is doing him no favors by going through him…it is too late for such a thing to be…advantageous as he puts it. At least as more than business.
Although, somewhere in him a voice that sounds like Tamaki says, with a distinctive lilt, Weren't you the one saying that people have an excessively grave predilection for destroying themselves in a stubborn and thorough act of the most dubious application of hubris?
He ignores this too and, despite his better judgment, he pulls up his files concerning the Suou Corporation on his computer.
Tamaki is, to the surprise of almost everyone (not to Kyouya, however), doing excessively well for himself.
Since his father died unexpectedly and rather prematurely of a heart attack – Kyouya's more cynical turns of mind blame this on residual guilt and the pressures them come with empire building – Tamaki had chosen.
Tamaki, like everyone else – Including you, who has just given up when all your wheels in wheels of elaborate and extensive plans fell in, continues the voice – has destroyed himself in a unique way for this world.
Usually, people are worn down by the cold, cutthroat nature of the competition that is necessary to maintain position, pedigree, and profit. Usually they betray their youthful ideas when they realize that the manufactured world of school and fairness and rules doesn't quite amount to anything real. Usually, destruction stems from a lack of love.
Tamaki's own downfall came from too much love. Keeping ideals that made it impossible to compromise. Too much selflessness.
He may be the only one in years to have been destroyed by things so pure.
He may be the only one that doesn't understand how very wrong it had been for him to try to love both his grandmother and Haruhi (although he still, perhaps, has all his artificial constructs to keep him from such a realization that one day he did, in fact, love Haruhi) without compromise.
Tamaki had made the mistake of loving dross and worthlessness and his own bad blood. He had made the mistake of not loving himself beyond superficially glorying in his good looks and brains.
He had wanted that old bitch to love him even a bit and bent over backwards to do it until he snapped. So she could finally be happy when she had destroyed the undesirable element in her family.
Dross and worthlessness and business suits and highly caffeinated beverages and waste. Self-destruction of a unique and nuanced form that only Tamaki could bring about.
Savagely, he erases the message, not intending to do anything about it and makes up more work to do rather than going to his sterile home and typed notes of sterile thanks from his older brother for his hard work. No wonder Akito had finally had enough of all of it. No wonder he had…
In the end, he thinks that Haruhi may have been right when she scolded them for being too free then. That life, those dreams, couldn't have lasted anywhere other than Tamaki's manufactured Neverland.
He signs his name at the end of another long contract, watching the ink glisten and then go dull and flat.
Tamaki comes home from dinner and rubs his eyes, wondering whatever has occurred to make him feel so very tired all the time. He barely has the energy to make it to his bedroom.
There is another feeling within the tiredness that has been dormant for as long as he could remember, but he has long since given up trying to solve it and understand it, finding it impossible for all of these years and not thinking that tonight could possibly be a night for revelation.
Whatever it is, it feels sharp and prickly and thoroughly uncomfortable tonight.
Instead of pondering it, he calls for a pot of highly caffeinated tea and sinks into a sitting position at the size of his king sized bed, a small squeak in the spring and even the oh so quiet rustling of the sheets seeming to echo ridiculously off the far away walls of the master suite of the first Suou Mansion.
The maid comes in, bustling with apologies and bringing him a tray of tea. It, however, does no good and its barely noticeable buzz is thoroughly defeated by a large helping of seemingly perpetual exhaustion that overcomes him at last.
Business suit, tie, shoes, and all, he drifts off to sleep and dreams.
The images that come are fractured, hazy, and blurred – no definite angles and lines to be found. An overlay of piano music colors it all, played by stark white fingers that fade in and out of perception. His mother's voice accompanies the images, singing "Greensleeves," quietly and to herself, as if it is a private lament. The chords grow progressively louder in his head until they rattle the very windows of the room that encases his mother – still softly singing, with a sob in her voice – in a tempestuous thunderstorm. The chords of the song continue to explode on and, as if half forgotten, he feels a small hand pulling on his jacket in fear. Pulling it so hard it might come off.
What do you want to do, Tamaki-sama? You should take time to think about such things. A voice says, softly. Almost accusingly.
I – he begins. It is a promise he has already broken, though.
And suddenly, he is pulling the hand closer and closer to him, but it is evaporating and he doesn't quite know why and doesn't quite remember where it has come from, even though he has stretched his arms wide to accept the girl that the small hand is attached to. She evaporates through a set of double doors.
Tamaki, is this what you want your life to be like? This world has no place for emotion.
He feels his throat tighten and he can't quite explain why.
Suddenly the images come painfully into focus and are too stark and too glaringly bright. The sky just behind the curtains and windows is too impossibly blue and there is a sense he can no longer quite identify calling to him from the top of a very long staircase.
Tamaki thinks, I have been here. This is almost like home. He dashes up the staircase, taking the steps two at a time, suddenly not tired at all.
The scent of roses and tea and the feeling of warmth rises with every step and, at the end of a hall, he sees the doors again, the very same ones that girl from earlier disappeared behind. They are open and the petals come streaming out and litter the carpet. Welcoming voices shout at him with bizarre familiarity and, in a detached manner – as if he is quite floating out of himself – he understands that one of those voices in his own.
As he does every night – now he remembers having been here before – he plummets forward, muscles burning with the effort. He is always trying to gain entrance, because he knows that this is where he wants to be. This is where he wants –
And the doors, on their golden, well-oiled hinges, silently shut upon him and he is left on the outside. A soft babble of voices and laughter and the soft clinking of antique Jinori teacups from the other side of the polished wood are his only compensation.
He has left that place and told it good-bye and no matter how much he beats his fists against the door, he cannot go back.
Tomorrow he will go back to his office in his suit and tie and speak solemnly.
He has said good-bye to his Neverland and its loss is numb within him.
A/N: Wow, Sci, angst much? See, when people ask for melancholic, it gets real melancholic. Actually, this idea has been floating around in my head for about a year (with an outline attached that was, in fact, a lot more depressing than this).
Also, continued stylistic experimentation and strange avoidance of proper nouns for much of this piece.
Everyone go eat chocolate now. You probably need it after reading this. :0