DISCLAIMER: I do not own Ouran.
Um. This is, I think, a 45-page chapter O.o So hopefully, this would be enough to make up for the late update. (And because of my inability to plan ahead - inspiration comes sporadically you know – I had to edit the ending of chap3. haha. So much for a plot when I don't even follow it myself. Oh well.)
Beta by catharticdefict (I added some stuff after she checked the first draft. So if you see any mistakes, those would be mine.)
THE CONTRACT: 4
Haruhi's eyes fluttered open, blinking groggily at the ceiling for a few seconds, before she glanced at her side. The sunlight streamed through the open window, the curtain dancing gracefully with the soft breeze that entered. She silently took in this nature's greeting before smiling.
No work today, she thought in relief. She could feel that this was going to be a beautiful Saturday morning. Yawning, she got up and began to arrange her bed. She could hear the birds chirping outside her window and it made her hum softly under her breath. Then, she straightened up and got out of her room.
The kitchen was empty when she walked in. Her father was probably still sleeping. She was glad that he was happy with his new job. It would distract him and that was important. No need to give him more problems than he already had. Besides, it's her turn now to take care of him. She reached up to grab the box of pancake on the top counter when suddenly, the most disturbing and frightening sound echoed in the quiet apartment, breaking the peaceful silence and causing a shiver to ran down her spine.
The cellphone Kyoya gave her was ringing.
Haruhi blinked at the table by the door where she had left the phone last night. Slowly and very carefully, she walked up to it, the insistent ringing echoing in her ears loudly. When she reached the table, she picked the phone up and read the name she had saved on the caller ID: Shadow King.
She stared at it for a moment before deciding on the smartest course of action anyone would have at that moment. She turned her phone off before walking back to the kitchen.
Just as she had just finished cooking four pancakes and placing it on the middle of the table, her father came out of the room, all groggy and yawning.
"Hn," he grumbled as he sat on a chair.
"Morning," she replied. She placed a mug of coffee in front of him. She eyed the bags under his eyes, at his tired and bleary features and frowned. "Did you get drunk last night again?"
Ranka groaned and buried his face in his hands. "Urgh."
"Dad," she said disapprovingly. She turned to a drawer by the sink and got a tablet. She handed it to him which he quickly took in his mouth. Then, he sighed again, massaging his temples.
"Hangover," he moaned in his hands.
For the briefest moment, Haruhi thought back to the time when she last had a hangover and what the consequences of that action were. She shuddered. "Dad," she began in a patient scolding tone, "it's all right to have fun after work. But maybe have a little restraint next time?"
Ranka didn't say anything. For a moment, he lay still, his head resting on the table. "Well. As long as you're fine," she said, sighing.
Then, his head shifted so that he was facing her and he opened an eye to peek at her. "Haruhi?" he croaked.
"Yes?" She watched him, waiting. Ranka opened his mouth, and then closed them again, trying to remember some very important information. Then, he spoke.
Haruhi blinked. "I think you need to go back to sleep," she suggested. He seemed to agree with this because he grunted as he quickly stood up. He staggered a bit, then started to walk unsteadily back to his room.
"I'll be going to the supermarket later," she called as he stumbled inside his room. "Anything you want?"
"Okay." Haruhi heard him close the door behind him as she settled down on the table and reached for the plate of pancakes she had made earlier.
There was a heavy knock on the door.
She wondered who it was as she headed for it. Whoever it was though, he sounded in a really bad mood. The firm knocks that he made caused Haruhi to be worried for their door's safety. "Coming," she called as she unlocked the door and pushing it open.
Haruhi blinked at a scowling Kyoya for a moment, the sunlight behind him causing his glasses to glint ominously at her. The seconds slowly ticked by as they stared at each other, before her instincts snapped and her hand immediately closed the door on his face.
Calm down. Calm down, she thought wildly as she leaned on the door, her heart pounding. She glanced at the calendar on the wall. She was pretty sure it was Saturday, which means no work, right? So why was the Devil-Reincarnate Businessman AKA Ootori Kyoya AKA her Boss doing at her apartment? Why? Her brain twirled. She tried to remember what she did but couldn't remember anything that might have made Kyoya come to her place.
There was silence outside. Haruhi didn't dare breathe as she slowly placed her ears on the door, waiting for a sound. Then, she flinched when he began to knock again, harder this time. She took a deep breath before slowly, slowly opening the door and peeked outside.
Kyoya narrowed his eyes at her and she inwardly winced as she suddenly realized that it was A) early morning (barely a few minutes after nine), and B) everyone who knows Kyoya is aware of his evil-blood-pressure-dark-lord mood and C) she had just closed the door. On his face.
Ugh. She closed her eyes briefly. Haruhi seriously hoped she was not turning into a masochist.
"Senpai," she managed to ask. "W-what are you doing here?"
His eyes narrowed further. "Did you just slam the door on me?" he asked in a dangerously low voice.
She winced. "Erm, no," she lied. "There was just something wrong with the… hinges." She nodded and patted the door. "I'm going to ask dad to fix it later."
Kyoya's lips pursed as he closed his eyes briefly. Haruhi scrutinized him carefully. "Are you awake?" she asked.
His dark eyes flew open and glared at her, causing her to immediately straighten up. "Of course I am. How do you think I managed to get here?" he snapped.
"Okay," she squeaked.
Kyoya glowered at her for a moment before sighing. His glasses became clouded. "I didn't mean to be rude," he said through gritted teeth, and Haruhi blinked at the sort-of apology. "If I had my way, I wouldn't be here in the first place. But –"
Whatever it was that Kyoya wanted to tell her, Haruhi never knew. Because a tall stack of carefully wrapped gifts was shoved in her hands and she could smell a sweet perfume that obviously didn't belong to Kyoya.
"Oh my, Kyoya-kun," said a gentle female voice, tone filled with excitement and curiosity. "You were right. A commoner's apartment is so small. Can they really fit in here?"
Haruhi, hidden behind the pile of gifts, tried to take a look at her surprise visitors. "Erm, excuse me…" she began, her voice muffled.
Then, the female stranger gasped. "Kyoya-kun, look! They have an oven." Her voice shook with amazement. "An oven!" she breathed.
"Um," Haruhi tried again as she shifted the weight of presents in her arms.
"Obviously nee-san, some commoners can afford to buy things like that," Kyoya replied in a bored tone.
Nee-san? "Um, excuse me," Haruhi repeated loudly and sounding a bit annoyed, because this was her house and they were ignoring her like she wasn't even there. And what were these stupid things that she was holding anyway?
"Eh? Really?" The woman sounded surprised. "I thought they still cook by rubbing stones together!"
The heap of gifts in front them twitched.
Kyoya sighed. "You're watching those commoner movies Tamaki sent me again, aren't you?"
Pause. "Don't be silly Kyoya-kun. I am very busy with my work. I don't have time to watch movies."
"I certainly hope not because we both know that I threw those DVDs away. I do not want to find out that my sister was going through my trash," he said meaningfully.
There was another pause. Then: "But where is Haruhi-chan, Kyoya-kun? I thought she lived here!"
Kyoya must have gestured at Haruhi because the woman suddenly gasped again and a pair of black eyes that looked so much like Kyoya's peeked at Haruhi from behind the presents on her arms.
"Haruhi-chan," the beautiful woman greeted excitedly. "What are you doing just standing there?"
Haruhi blinked at her. "Well," she began.
"Never mind. Here, let Kyoya-kun carry it," the woman said as she took the load off Haruhi.
"Excuse me? I don't think – oof!" Kyoya disappeared behind the pile of gifts that were suddenly shoved in his arms.
"Well, let's see." The woman took Haruhi's hands and smiled at her widely. "Uwaa! Tamaki-san was right. You do look very pretty."
"Um," Haruhi said, genuinely wondering who the hell was this woman. "Thank you. I think."
"Can you turn around?"
Haruhi blinked. "Huh?"
"Let's see." The woman suddenly placed her hands on Haruhi's shoulders before gently twirling her around, eyes appraising her body. She nodded when Haruhi faced her again. "You're a bit skinny, but nothing a nutritionist can't fix."
Haruhi stared at her for a moment. "Um. Who are you?" she finally asked.
"Oh I'm sorry. I forgot to introduce myself." She flashed her a sweet smile. "I'm Fuyumi. Kyoya-kun's sister."
Haruhi stared, unable to think of anything to say. What was Kyoya's sister doing in her apartment?
"Nee-san," came Kyoya's muffled voice.
Fuyumi glanced at him before she giggled and faced Haruhi again. "I'm sorry we barged in like this, but you see, it's my birthday," she beamed.
Haruhi waited for further details, but when she realized nothing was coming, Haruhi merely shrugged. "Okay," she said slowly, not really understanding the logic behind her explanation. "Happy birthday." Fuyumi laughed. Whether she read Haruhi's reaction correctly or not, Haruhi didn't know.
"Thank you. Anyway, these are all for you," Fuyumi continued, gesturing at the gifts they brought. Haruhi frowned.
"Haruhi-chan, we're visiting your house. It's only proper we bring gifts," she explained patiently.
Haruhi stared at the tall pile of presents. "I think those are too much."
"Don't be silly. The ones from Europe haven't even arrived yet," Fuyumi told her cheerfully.
Haruhi's right shoulder drooped down. "Europe?" she croaked.
"Yes." Fuyumi glanced at her watch. "But they'll be here maybe this afternoon. I apologize for the delay," she said quickly when she saw the horrified expression on Haruhi's face and misinterpreting it. "I told Kyoya-kun we should have just asked Tachibana to pick it up himself using our private Lear jet but –"
Haruhi closed her eyes and reminded herself that getting angry with Kyoya's sister would be a very bad idea. She took deep, calming breaths, telling herself that Fuyumi-san wasn't to blame. She opened her eyes. No. The one to blame was –
"Kyoya-kun," Fuyumi said curiously. "You're not always this quiet. Are you shy around Haruhi-chan?"
"No," Kyoya's muffled voice calmly replied. "But I do want to take this load off me, if you please."
"Oh right!" Fuyumi glanced at Haruhi. "Where could we place these?"
Haruhi eyed the gifts in frustration before she sighed and gestured at the space behind the couch. Kyoya grunted and headed for that direction and grudgingly put the gifts down. Before Haruhi could say anything, Fuyumi almost-skipped to the kitchen where she saw the pancakes on the table.
"Oh! How wonderful. Kyoya-kun, look at their breakfast! How quaint."
Haruhi stared at Fuyumi. Was she really Kyoya's sister and not Tamaki's? She looked up wearily as Fuyumi called her name again.
"Could we have breakfast with you?" Fuyumi asked hopefully.
Like Haruhi could refuse Ootori Kyoya's sister? She doesn't want to be kicked out of the country yet, thank you very much. "Um," she said, shrugging, "if that's what you want."
"Oh this is so exciting," Fuyumi said happily, clapping her hands once. Haruhi marveled at her enthusiasm while Kyoya merely grunted as he adjusted his glasses.
"Oh no," Fuyumi cried as she broke her fourth plate, her hands full of soapsuds. "Haruhi, I swear I am so sorry! I didn't – It slipped – I am so sorry –"
Haruhi swiftly picked up the broken pieces, a broom on her other hand. She instantly regretted letting Fuyumi to 'help' her clean. "It's all right, Fuyumi-san. These things happen," she said for the fourth time that day.
Fuyumi looked absolutely horrible. "I am so sorry," she wailed again as she watched Haruhi clean the floor. "I offered to help wash the dishes but I didn't realize it was this hard!"
"It's all right," Haruhi repeated wearily. But mentally, she sighed. She wondered if she could still sneak in the supermarket and buy them a new set to use before her father woke up.
Fuyumi bit her lip and turned to look at Kyoya who was calmly sitting on one chair as he read a newspaper. "Kyoya-kun," she began urgently. "We should do something. This is all our fault –"
"Yours," Kyoya corrected absently. "I specifically told you to not 'help out' around here."
Fuyumi ignored him and moaned. " We just broke all their plates, and oh, what would they use to eat? They're going to starve! If only the soap wasn't too slippery –" She froze for a moment, then her face brightened. "Kyoya-kun, could I borrow your phone for a moment?"
Kyoya handed it to her without taking his eyes off the business section. Fuyumi quickly dialed. She waited for a second.
"Hello?" she greeted when the other line picked up. "Tachibana? Where are you?… Oh good. Could you stop by along the way and buy Haruhi-chan a new set of plates?…"
"Fuyumi-san, that's not really necessary," Haruhi began as she threw the pieces in the trash.
Fuyumi ignored her too. "Of course. Charge it on my account… Yes… Yes… Exactly! The gold plates sounds absolutely wonderful –"
Haruhi swiftly turned around. "Gold plates?" she echoed.
"Naturally," Fuyumi was saying. "That's a wonderful idea. Why stop at plates when we can buy them a whole kitchen?"
Haruhi turned to face Kyoya in exasperation. "Senpai, please tell your sister we don't need a new kitchen," she begged.
Kyoya turned a page of the newspaper. "Why not? You obviously need one," he said calmly, barely glancing at her.
Haruhi's eyebrow twitched. She faced Fuyumi again. "Fuyumi-san. Let's not overreact. I could just easily buy a new set of plates from the supermarket. There's no need to –"
"And new tiles too," Fuyumi said sighing, looking down at their flooring with sadness. "I cannot believe Haruhi-chan and her father could live with such an ordinary looking floor - "
"No," Haruhi interrupted. "No tiles. No new kitchen. You just broke our plates, not our house."
Fuyumi's eyes brightened. "A Porsche? Why that's an idea… Hang on…" She covered the mouthpiece and glanced at Haruhi. "Haruhi-chan, do you have a driver license?"
Haruhi stared at her for a moment before she glared at Kyoya. "Senpai, do something," she growled.
Kyoya finally looked up and sighed. "Haruhi. I'm not going to charge you anything for this if that's what you're worried about."
"I. Do. Not. Need. A. New. Kitchen."
He smirked patronizingly. "You just think you don't."
"Haruhi-chan?" Fuyumi asked again, waiting.
Haruhi glared at them. "No cars. No tiles. No new kitchen," she spat. "Leave my house alone please."
Fuyumi's face abruptly fell. "You – " She bit her lip. " You don't like my gifts?" she asked quietly.
Haruhi blinked at the sudden change in her voice and as she stared at Fuyumi's disappointed face, she couldn't help but feel a tiny bit guilty. "Uh. It's not like that –"
"It's her birthday," Kyoya reminded calmly, getting his newspaper again. "Try not to make her sad, at least."
Haruhi narrowed her eyes at him. "Thank you," she hissed. "That's really helpful."
Haruhi took a deep breath. "Fuyumi-san," she said carefully. "I really appreciate all these, but I don't need them. I don't drive. I don't need new flooring. In fact – The… plates would be enough," she said reluctantly.
Fuyumi brightened up at this. "Okay." She took her hand off the mouthpiece. "Tachibana? Just the golden plates then."
"No," Haruhi cut in. "No gold. Just the plain ones would do –"
Fuyumi bit her lip again. "But I really, really want to give you those gold plates. We have a set like that at home and I'm sure you're going to love it," she said, eyes wide with hopeful pleading and Haruhi knew she lost.
Stupid Fujioka conscience.
It was at about this moment that Haruhi decided Fuyumi was indeed Kyoya's sister because if she was this good at manipulating people the same way Kyoya does - only not as scary – then Fuyumi truly is an Ootori. Haruhi sighed in resignation.
"Fine," she said grudgingly. "But I wish you'd buy me those plain ones too. You know, just for ordinary days."
"Okay," Fuyumi said happily. "Hello Tachibana? Get those plain set and the gold set… Yes. Exactly. The one with the diamonds and –"
Haruhi turned around and sighed. She began scrubbing the sink, trying to drown out Fuyumi's voice in her ears.
"Ah!" Fuyumi exclaimed after she handed back Kyoya his phone. "Haruhi-chan, I almost forgot. We need to bake cookies today!"
Haruhi paused from her work. "Cookies?" she repeated.
"Yes! I've always wanted to bake cookies on my birthday," Fuyumi explained.
"Well," Haruhi hedged, thinking. She obviously cannot do her shopping today with these two visitors in her apartment. Besides, her father would love to eat pastry. She nodded. "Okay."
Fuyumi beamed. "Thank you," she gushed. "And don't worry, Haruhi-chan. We'll help you clean up," she promised. "Won't we Kyoya-kun?"
Kyoya adjusted his glasses. "You don't need to include me with your ludicrous plans."
"You are such a spoilsport." Fuyumi frowned.
"Besides, let the servants do the cleaning."
"Kyoya-kun, Haruhi's family doesn't have any servants," Fuyumi said in a loud whisper, as if she was worried that Haruhi might hear and get offended. Haruhi rubbed her temple, muttering about 'rich bastards' under her breath.
Kyoya rolled his eyes. "Then let Haruhi do it," he said, bored. "What's the difference?"
Haruhi rubbed her head even harder. This was going to be a very long day.
Fuyumi sighed and sat down. "Kyoya-kun," she said in a tone that oozed disappointment.
"I am not going to join your stupid commoner's play," Kyoya said calmly, pushing up his glasses. "I 'm not Tamaki. I wouldn't be caught doing something pathetic like that."
"I cannot believe I'm doing this," Kyoya muttered darkly under his breath as Haruhi handed him a plate to wipe dry. He glared at the rag on his hands before he reluctantly took the plate and began wiping it sloppily. Haruhi glanced at him from the corner of her eye.
"You don't have to do this, you know. I can clean up on my own," she said mildly as she handed him a new bowl that Kyoya had asked Tachibana to buy (because Fuyumi had broken all their old ones).
He sighed as he took it. "Like nee-san would let me hear the end of this if I don't help out," he said dryly as Fuyumi whistled on the other side of the kitchen, mopping the floor with such vigor, Haruhi wondered if she would also need a new mop at the end of the day.
After Tachibana had arrived with the new set of plates (gold with diamond-crusted designs and the plain ones Haruhi requested), along with Fuyumi's presents from Europe, Fuyumi insisted that they start baking cookies. So Haruhi obliged.
It was the busiest morning Haruhi had ever experienced, more stressful than working under Kyoya for the past months, in fact. And that was saying something. What Haruhi thought would be a normal baking-cookies session turned out to be a chaotic almost-annihilation of her entire kitchen. This was what happened:
9:40: Fuyumi opened some of her presents for Haruhi, which turned out to be baking ingredients and cooking materials.
9:41: Kyoya called Tachibana to buy a new set of dinner utensils, saying Haruhi would definitely need one after they're through baking.
9:50: Haruhi began to prepare the ingredients they would need.
9:55: Fuyumi broke her first bowl.
10:00: Haruhi taught Fuyumi how to knead the dough.
10:03: Fuyumi broke her second bowl.
10:05: Fuyumi got frustrated with the kneading that she asked Kyoya to help her. Kyoya replied that he wasn't going to help, and that they shouldn't even be bothering to bake at all because they could easily call the bakeshop. Fuyumi ignored him and asked Haruhi to give Kyoya an apron.
10:06: Kyoya glared at Haruhi, as if daring her to obey Fuyumi.
10:07: Fuyumi gave Kyoya a look.
10:08: Fuyumi won. Kyoya stood in the middle of the kitchen, his glasses clouded, as he wore a pink, frilly apron that Haruhi said belonged to Ranka.
10:09: Kyoya calmly informed (read: threatened) Haruhi that if any word of this gets out, she would regret ever being born in this world. Haruhi assured him that she wouldn't dare do such thing. Meanwhile, Fuyumi secretly got a camera and took a picture of him as he kneaded, his face streaked with flour.
10:30: Haruhi prepared the cookie plates.
10:45: Fuyumi broke another plate.
10:46: Haruhi put the cookies inside the oven.
10:50: Fuyumi suggested that they start to clean up. Kyoya tried to get out of the room, muttering about an important meeting, but Fuyumi cheerfully blocked his way, saying that she had made sure he was free of appointments for today. Kyoya frowned before reluctantly asking Haruhi to make him coffee (which he didn't touch after finding out that it was made from instant coffee).
10:51: Fuyumi spent the next 5 minutes marveling at the ingenuity of commoners in inventing instant coffee and offered to drink Kyoya's coffee instead. He impassively warned his sister of unknown bacteria and germs that might have contaminated the water Haruhi had used for the coffee, but Fuyumi laughed at his paranoia and even asked for a second cup later on.
11:17: After a couple of unavoidable accidents ("Oh dear. I'm sorry Haruhi-chan! I swear I didn't mean to break the window!" and "Ack! Haruhi-chan, I am so sorry! But I think your oven is on fire!"), Haruhi suggested that Fuyumi stick with mopping the floor while she – Haruhi – cleaned the dishes. Fuyumi agreed, then asked Kyoya to help Haruhi, because he should be a gentleman and not let their host to do all the hard work, all the while giving Kyoya a very sweet smile. And much to Haruhi's surprise, Kyoya reluctantly agreed.
So. Back to the present time:
That was why after half an hour of cleaning up the mess they made in the kitchen (though it was mostly Fuyumi's), Haruhi found herself standing side by side with Kyoya in front of the sink. She washed the dishes while he dried them.
"Besides," Kyoya continued dryly. "It's her birthday. The least I can do is keep her happy. That includes doing whatever she wants. Even if it meant waking up early," he frowned, "and being blackmailed."
Haruhi eyed him curiously. "I was wondering about that," she admitted. "But why are you two here if it is her birthday?"
Kyoya pursed his lips. "She has a thing with commoners. She finds them and the way they live fascinating. Kind of how Tamaki sees your kind and when she learned that I got you as my secretary, she insisted that I take her here." He paused reluctantly. "She really wanted to meet you."
"That's weird," she commented. "Why would she want that?"
"I don't know. She almost thinks like Tamaki. And if I could never fully understand Tamaki's mind, how could I ever understand my older sister's way of thinking either?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You should have warned me though."
He glanced at her. "I was trying to call you, but it seems your phone got cut off?" He asked this calmly but Haruhi could hear the accusatory tone underneath his questioning inflection.
Oh. So that's why he was calling, she thought. "Oh, the, um, battery was dead," she said quickly. "I think."
He narrowed his eyes. "Doesn't matter. I called your father anyway to inform him. He was grunting all the while but I'm sure he said he would be pleased to have us as guests."
Haruhi blinked as she remembered how Ranka woke up and looked like he wanted to tell her something but almost passed out from remembering. She nodded as she tried to ignore the sound of a loud crash behind them.
"I'm all right," Fuyumi quickly called. "I just stubbed my foot."
The corner of Kyoya's lips turned upward faintly. "Don't worry. I'll ask my men to do the necessary renovations of your kitchen after we go home."
Haruhi sighed, wondering why her father still hasn't woken up despite the chaos. He must have been really drunk to sleep all through this. She made a mental note to talk to him about that when he's awake. "Never mind. It's nothing I can't handle."
"I'm sorry!" Fuyumi wailed. "I'll pick it up!"
"Trust me. You'll thank me for this," Kyoya said.
She sighed again. "Fine. Thank you." They worked in silence for a moment, before Haruhi glanced at him again. "You must really care for her a lot for letting her talk to you in doing all these," she commented.
Kyoya fell silent. Then, after a reluctant pause, he said, "Well. Blackmailer or not, she is my sister after all."
Haruhi stared at him as if seeing him for the first time, and then bit back a smile that wanted to cross her face. She handed him the last pan cheerfully. "Here you go."
Haruhi looked up from the sink and saw her father walking up to her. Ranka, though still looked weary, had mostly lost that drunk-look in his face. He wasn't wearing make-up and had tied his long red hair in a ponytail.
"I didn't know you were going to bake cookies," Ranka said, rubbing his chin. "I could have helped."
Haruhi sighed. "Actually, I –"
"My, my. Are you Haruhi-chan's father?" Fuyumi suddenly appeared beside Ranka, a wide smile on her face. Ranka blinked at her.
"Who are you?" he asked curiously.
Fuyumi offered her hand. "Fuyumi. Kyoya-kun's sister."
Ranka's face instantly brightened as he shook her hand. "Ah. Of course. Kyoya-kun mentioned you were coming. How lovely to meet you!" he gushed.
"I'm sorry for intruding in your house like this. But I really wanted to see your daughter – and you too! Kyoya-kun has told me so many wonderful things about you," Fuyumi gushed back.
"Oh thank you. You are too kind." Ranka looked around and saw Kyoya on the corner, putting his newspaper down. "Kyoya-kun! How are you?"
Kyoya flashed him a brilliant smile. "I'm fine, Ranka-san. Your daughter has been taking good care of me at work," he said pleasantly.
Haruhi rolled her eyes as she scrubbed the sink clean again.
"But of course!" Ranka beamed at the two Ootori before looking at Fuyumi. "Kyoya-kun has always been really helpful to us. He's almost family with him taking care her of my daughter. I don't know how to thank him," he told her.
Haruhi wanted to gag.
"Really?" Fuyumi's eyes sparkled. "I always knew Kyoya is such a lovely young boy. He just needs a little guidance and push to the right direction – "
Like a push out of the window perhaps? Haruhi thought wryly as she scrubbed harder. Damn rich bastard. Sitting there on the corner, not offering to help as if he owns the place –
" – and she's amazing," Fuyumi was saying. "She even taught me how to bake cookies even though we've met just now. Oh wait! Maybe I could bring her along with me the next time I go shopping! We're going to have so much fun –"
"Ooh! That's a great idea," Ranka agreed wholeheartedly. "I've actually been telling her to –"
Haruhi sighed as she listened to them drone on. She put the rag down and washed her hands. She didn't even know where their conversation was going, but she was willing to bet she wouldn't like it one bit. "I think I need to do the laundry," she muttered. Then she turned and swiftly walked past them.
Haruhi shuffled back to her room to get the clothesbasket. When she got back to the front door, Fuyumi and Ranka were seated on the couch, gushing as they exchanged childhood stories: Ranka was showing Haruhi's childhood photos and Fuyumi was reminiscing about Kyoya-kun when he was young. As she watched, Fuyumi laughed at something Ranka was saying.
Haruhi shivered. Seeing her dad all chummy with the Ootoris was a very scary sight. Doesn't he have any self-preservation instinct at all?
"I'll be going now," she called lightly. There was no answer. She stepped outside. She took a deep breath, glad that she was able to get away from the house. She hummed softly as she walked down the outside hallway and down the stairs that led to the basement.
Fuyumi was nice and all; beautiful, even. But she and Kyoya have the same eyes. And seeing those eyes to be all bright, gentle and Tamaki-like was too much for her stomach to handle. It was really a mystery how Fuyumi and Kyoya were related.
"Sometimes, even I wonder about how nee-san and I are related," a low, amused voice said thoughtfully behind her.
Haruhi yelped. She grasped the railing and regained her balance as she swiftly turned around. She instantly regretted it, though. Kyoya was already too tall for her. But now that she was standing two steps down from him on the stairs, he looked even more ominous and menacing than ever. It didn't help her feeling of anxiety when his mouth turned up in a smile.
"Senpai," she hissed, clutching her chest. "You shouldn't scare me like that."
"Sorry," he said in a tone that was not sorry at all.
Once Haruhi's heart was beating normally, she glared at him. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be inside poisoning my father's mind about how wonderful the Ootori family is?"
Kyoya adjusted his glasses. "There's no need to do that. Ranka-san already adores me and frankly, there's no reason why he wouldn't. Besides, nee-san is actually doing a pretty good job."
"Hmf." Haruhi frowned before she let out a sigh and turned around. It wasn't until she reached the door of the basement that she realized – very annoyingly – that someone was still following her. She turned around again.
"Kyoya-senpai," she began patiently, "why are you following me?"
"Nee-san asked me to accompany you."
She stared at him. "I'm going to do the laundry."
"I know. I reminded her that."
"But she insisted that I be a gentleman and offer to help you." He raised an eyebrow. "Is this going to take long?"
Haruhi rolled her eyes. "Are you really going to come with me?"
"Of course," he said nodding, although the way he said it told her that he wasn't going to like it one bit. "Anyway, she's going to pester me later on how you do the laundry. She's going to want a long and descriptive explanation of how a washing machine works so I guess I better come with you."
"You guys have those at home," she pointed out.
"Yes," he agreed. "But we're not the one who's washing our clothes. We haven't even been to our laundry room yet, which is a shame because from the design plans I've seen, it's practically bigger than the Fujioka apartment."
Her eyebrow twitched slightly as she adjusted her grip on the clothesbasket. Damn rich bastards. She cleared her throat. "Fine," she said reluctantly. "But don't touch anything unless I tell you to."
Kyoya looked vaguely amused at this. "If you say so."
Haruhi narrowed her eyes at him before she opened the basement door. There was another short flight of stairs that led downward, Kyoya just behind her.
"Haruhi, why do you have your laundry room in the basement?" Kyoya asked as they walked. Haruhi glanced at him briefly before shrugging.
"I don't know. This is the only room available left, I think."
Under the bright light bulbs of the room, Haruhi could see the piles of dry clothes that sat in baskets and on the table in the corner. There was water dripping from a leaky faucet at the corner of the room, making a soft drip-drip sound. It was a windowless room, but the air inside was not suffocating. Haruhi's gaze fell on the dryer machines on the left side.
Standing in front of one of machines was a short, portly middle-aged man with a balding head, who was about to finish in stuffing his clothes back in his basket. Haruhi stiffened.
"What's wrong?" Kyoya asked. He followed her gaze and blinked at the man she was staring at.
The man looked up upon hearing Kyoya's voice. He frowned at Kyoya before his eyes fell on Haruhi. Then, the corner of his mouth turned up in a twisted smirk.
"Fujioka-san," he greeted, nodding.
Haruhi nodded, albeit a bit stiffly. "Inoue-san." Inoue's gaze flicked at Kyoya and there was curiosity in those eyes. Haruhi cleared her throat. "This is my… employer."
"Employer?" Inoue looked at her again, the smirk getting wider. "Oh yes. I remember now. You stopped being a civil lawyer and became a maid of some sort for a rich bastard. Very wise, if I may add. Those wealthy people surely pay a lot more than the cases you've been handling."
From the corner of her eye, Haruhi could see Kyoya raise an eyebrow at Inoue but surprisingly, the Shadow King didn't say anything. "Actually, not maid. I'm his secretary."
Inoue snorted. "Same thing. He orders you around, doesn't he?"
There was a short pause.
Haruhi took a deep breath. "I'll see you around, Inoue-san," she said politely and turned.
She walked over to the washing machines on the other side of the room and started to separate the white clothes from the colored ones. When this was done, she dumped the white clothes in one machine while the rest in another. She reached up to get the detergent in the cabinet but when she couldn't reach it, she had to stand on her tiptoes and stretched her hand – only to feel Kyoya's arm brushing slightly against hers as he took the detergent for her.
"Thank you," she murmured. Kyoya didn't say anything, and instead, he glanced down with undisguised interest at the washing machine. She sighed and began to work.
"So, I heard your father got a new job," Inoue began again behind her. She glanced at him over her shoulder before pouring detergent into the second machine.
"Yes," she replied as she put the box of detergent away. Kyoya was beside her, his eyes narrowed as he watched the clothes go round and round inside the machine, the sound echoing loudly in the quiet room.
Inoue smirked as he took his basket. "That's good. This means I'll be waiting for him to pay me back – " he sneered, " – real soon."
Haruhi swiftly turned around and crossed her arms. "I think we already talked about this," she said. "I'll be the one to pay you back. You don't need to pester him about it."
He nodded solemnly. "Oh but of course, Fujioka-san," he said in a too-polite tone, "I just wanted to remind you."
"I'm well aware of it until now," Haruhi cut in. Inoue glanced at Kyoya who had his turn back at them before smiling at her.
"Of course," Inoue repeated. "I'll be – seeing you around."
"Yes. See you." She remained still, her arms crossed. Inoue smirked again before he turned on his heels and left. There was a moment of silence as she listened to his fading footsteps and the sound of a door being closed. Then, she breathed a sigh of relief, dropping her hands to her side.
Haruhi glanced at Kyoya who had finally raised his gaze from the washing machine and was staring at her, eyebrow slightly raised. She shook her head.
"I'm bored. You can tell me about it," he said.
Haruhi paused but shook her head again. "No, it's nothing," she said vaguely. And before Kyoya could ask her again, she pointed at the colored socks that were left in the basket. "Could you please hand me those?"
Kyoya adjusted his glasses and did as he was told.
After more than half an hour of waiting ("Interesting. And the clothes come out cleaned?"), drying ("So, do all commoners know how to do this?"), and folding clothes ("Don't you get bored doing that all over again?"), Haruhi and Kyoya walked up the stairs, each carrying a basket (Haruhi had asked Kyoya to carry the colored clothes so Fuyumi won't be too mad at him if she found out that all Kyoya did was stand and ask questions).
"Are you going to go home after this?" Haruhi asked, as she reached for the knob of the door.
"I don't know," Kyoya said blankly. "Who knows what other nefarious plots nee-san has in store for me."
She snorted. "That statement is more appropriate to refer about you, senpai," she said lightly. She turned on the knob and pulled.
"How rude," Kyoya mused. "And here I am offering my presence to make you feel better."
"Oh. That's what you were doing? I didn't notice," Haruhi said distractedly as she tugged at the door again. Then, she frowned. Kyoya raised an eyebrow with her hand motionless on the knob.
"Is there anything wrong?" he asked.
Haruhi looked anxiously at him. "I think we're locked from the outside."
"Don't be ridiculous," Kyoya said calmly. "Who would dare do such thing?"
Inoue's sneering face quickly flashed through Haruhi's mind. "I don't know," she hedged.
"Let me try." Kyoya moved forward as Haruhi took her hand away. He gripped the knob tightly and began to turn it, firmly and determined.
However, his determination didn't do anything except for the mechanic clicking sound it made as his efforts to open the door turned futile. And when the door gave a final click after one fierce tug, the knob suddenly came loose in his hand.
Kyoya and Haruhi stared.
"Uh senpai, please tell me you did not just break the door?"
"I think I just broke the door," Kyoya said impassively as he blinked at the detached knob on his hand.
"Ugh." Haruhi closed her eyes.
"Well. There's no need to worry," Kyoya said as he threw the knob on the floor. "We just wait then. Ranka-san and nee-san are just upstairs. They'll realize we're missing and will go down here to look for us. Tachibana and my men are probably on the way from the airport too. So there's really nothing to worry about."
Haruhi considered this before nodding. "You're right. It doesn't take me more than an hour to do the laundry. Dad will be worried about me soon."
She sighed quietly. And here she thought this day was going to be a good one. But then again, since when did life turned out to be the way she wanted? She barely survived the almost-obliteration of her kitchen; she had an unpleasant run-in with Inoue-san, and now she got trapped in the laundry room. Worse, she was trapped in the laundry room with Kyoya. She seriously hoped this day would not get any worse than this.
As if on cue, the lights in the laundry room simultaneously went off. The basement was suddenly filled with eerie darkness and the silence echoed against the walls. Haruhi blinked in alarm.
"Kyoya-senpai?" she cautiously called out. She stretched out her hand and began to fumble in the darkness. A warm hand caught hers.
"Haruhi. That's my foot you're stepping on."
"Oh. Sorry." She stood still, squinting in the darkness. "What's happening?"
"Power blackout, I think. Or someone outside is really having fun with toying with us. Hang on…" Kyoya began to pat his pocket, and Haruhi barely realized that he was still holding her. There were a few shuffles and Kyoya sighed in relief, finally letting go of her hand.
Haruhi blinked at the sudden brightness that came from Kyoya's cellular phone. Kyoya held it in front him, the faint light giving his face an odd glow.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
She nodded. Kyoya glanced at the closed door.
"We have to stick together or we'll fall off the stairs," he said, frowning. He stared at his phone for a moment before his lips pursed tightly. "There's no signal. Is there any emergency alarm in here, or something?"
She thought about it. "I don't think so."
Kyoya sighed. "This is why I detest second-rate apartment buildings. They don't have the necessary equipment for their tenant's safety."
Haruhi didn't bother to refute his comment. She looked around the darkened room. "So… so we just have to wait here then," she said slowly as she leaned back.
He pushed his glasses. "Looks like it."
Haruhi exhaled sharply. Great. Just great.
Kyoya sighed as he put his basket down and also leaned on the wall beside her. "Then we wait," he repeated. "At least I can trust nee-san to come through for me when it comes to these things. It doesn't sometimes show, but she's a really responsible sister."
"My, is that Fujioka-san?" Fuyumi gushed as she pointed at a middle-school picture of Haruhi that Ranka was showing her.
"Yes, that's my very cute daughter," Ranka said proudly.
"Shame she had to cut her hair in high school," Fuyumi said longingly, as she glanced at Haruhi's photo with the Host Club. "She looks so beautiful with long hair."
"I know," Ranka agreed, looking devastated. "I couldn't eat for a month when I saw her looking like a boy!"
Kyoya glanced at his watch. "We've been here for fifteen minutes. Why aren't they sending people down here?" He frowned.
Beside him, Haruhi sat down on the floor and hugged her legs to her chest. She gave a long sigh.
"… and this is when I took Haruhi to her first amusement park," Ranka was saying, presenting a picture of Haruhi on the Merry-Go-Round. "And her first snow angel - " he took another picture, "And her first bike ride –"
"Aww," Fuyumi cooed. "Haruhi-chan looks so cute!"
"Thirty minutes," Kyoya gritted his teeth. "For a woman who is married, she's supposed to be responsible enough to be looking for her younger brother when he is missing for thirty minutes."
Haruhi groaned as she placed her forehead on her knee and closed her eyes.
Kyoya exhaled sharply.
Ranka's hand froze midway to the plate of cookies in front him.
"Is there something wrong, Ranka-san?" Fuyumi asked worriedly.
"I think – " Ranka hesitated. "I think I've forgotten something important." Fuyumi's forehead crunched in worry as she watched him. Ranka fell silent as he stared at the mug on his hand. Then, his eyes widened.
"What?" Fuyumi asked anxiously. "What's wrong?"
"I forgot to put sugar in your coffee," he said, looking sheepish as he stood up and headed for the cabinet. Fuyumi glanced at her own mug and giggled.
"Oh," she said chuckling. "And here I thought it was something terrible!"
"I think they've forgotten about us," Haruhi said, an hour later since they were trapped in the basement.
Kyoya pushed his glasses.
"I'm going to have a very long talk with my dad after this," Haruhi muttered darkly.
Kyoya grunted in agreement, Fuyumi clearly visible in his mind's eye.
Haruhi shifted her legs so that she was hugging her knees as she sat down on the floor. She glanced at her watch. It had been exactly an hour, fourteen minutes and thirty-five seconds since they've been stuck in the laundry room. Shouldn't someone have passed by at this time? And what were her dad and Fuyumi doing for them not to realize that they had been gone for quite a long time? Haruhi sighed.
At least Kyoya wasn't dropping any snide comments anymore. Otherwise, being trapped in the room with him would be more than stressful. She eyed him.
"Kyoya-senpai, why don't you sit down?" she offered, patting the space beside her. "You've been standing the whole time."
Kyoya glanced down at her, glasses clouded.
"We'll be out here in no time," she assured him. "Relax."
Haruhi watched as emotions flashed on his face – irritation, annoyance and finally, resignation – and she wondered if he would rant on her instead. But he merely frowned and slid down beside her. Haruhi glanced at him for a moment before staring straight at the wall across.
"But I'm glad you're here, senpai," she said lightly, leaning back on the wall behind her. Kyoya gave her a look. "At least, I wouldn't be alone trapped here if you and Fuyumi-san didn't drop by," she explained.
"I wouldn't be here in the first place if it weren't for my sister," he said dryly, narrowing his eyes at the last word. Haruhi gave a soft smile, then suddenly remembering what Kyoya had told her earlier.
"How did she ever manage to blackmail you?" she asked curiously. "I never imagined someone was capable of doing such thing to you."
His face darkened. "She hid my office key."
Pause. Haruhi blinked. "She hid your office key," she finally repeated after a moment. "That's… really tough. I guess."
Kyoya narrowed his eyes. "I couldn't do any work because of her. And I couldn't exactly ask Tachibana to open the door because, apparently, he was still in Paris shopping for her. So she promised she'll return the key to me after I accompany her here."
"Oh," she said again, nodding. "Wow. That must be… hard for you. Not being able to work on a weekend, I mean."
"I have four documents waiting to be read and signed," he said, irritated. "Just because of some stupid whim to see you – " He stopped abruptly.
"Ah yes, you mentioned that," she said, remembering. "Did Tamaki-senpai talk about me?"
He glanced at her. "Sort of," he said slowly. "Your name just came up. I don't even know why."
She nodded. "I see." She rested her chin on her knees thoughtfully. "I like Fuyumi-san."
He grunted. "Now that's a surprise," he muttered.
"She's such a wonderful person."
Kyoya also stared at the wall in front them. "Yeah she is," he finally said.
Haruhi glanced at him. "I didn't even know you have an older sister. I always thought the Ootori were all males."
"She married early," he explained.
"Ah. Childhood friends?"
"No. Arranged marriage."
Haruhi blinked. "Oh. That's too bad."
"Not really." He raised an eyebrow. "Her husband is a good man. He owns a chain of hotel and they are starting a new one in America. He adores her. She's very lucky."
"And she wanted to marry him?" she asked, blinking.
Kyoya shook his head. "At first no. But she… had to."
"Hn. Like I said, it's too bad." She shrugged. "And here I thought rich people can have anything they want."
"We might have all the power and influence in the entire world, but that doesn't mean we will all have a happy ending. Our lives are not made of fairytales, contrary to what most people believe."
"Oh I know that." She nodded. "I just think it's such a shame that you people are so wrapped up in what others would say that it makes you miserable when you don't even have to."
Kyoya glanced at her from the corner of his eye. Haruhi wondered if she said something offensive because he suddenly fell silent. She opened her mouth to ask him, but he beat her to it. "Haruhi, what does someone like you look for in a man?"
She blinked at him. "Huh?" she asked, looking confused at the sudden change in topic.
"What do you look for in a man?" he repeated. She frowned and tilted her head to the side, a finger resting on her cheek.
"Well. I suppose I want someone who is not annoying," she said thoughtfully. "Because sometimes I can't help but feel that the males I've met are just plain bothersome." She paused and quickly glanced at Kyoya, unabashedly. "Sorry."
He gave a small smile at this. He nodded. "No offense taken. And?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Just a simple man, I guess."
"That's a pretty wide range of choices," he mused.
Haruhi frowned. "It's just that I don't really expect too much from others. I can't ask them to change just because of me." She paused, and a wistful smile crossed her face. "My dad always said my mom was the best thing that happened to him because she accepted him despite everything else. I just want to be happy like them."
She stared at him curiously. "So what do you want in a woman?"
Kyoya smirked as he lifted a hand and started counting off his fingers. "Intelligent, because I do not want to have a conversation with someone who does not even know what 'logistical assessment' is. Comes from one of the top twenty most powerful families in Japan. Holds at least 12 percent of her family's stocks. Graduated from a prominent school because educational background matters, no matter what other people say. And she has to be between 5'4 to 5'7 – enough to be just the right height and preferably, with any foreign blood. In that way, it is easier to expand to international market."
Haruhi stared. "Well," she finally said. "That's, uh, really… detailed."
"An Ootori deserves nothing but the best," he agreed solemnly.
"I just want to make sure but," she squinted at him through the dim light from his phone, "we are talking about what you want in a woman you're going to marry here and not a business partner?"
"Naturally." He chuckled as if she said something funny.
She blinked. "Well. I guess that explains why you don't have any fiancée at the moment. No one is that perfect to fall in your standard." Haruhi rolled her eyes at him. "No really. What are you looking for in a woman?" she insisted.
Kyoya stopped chuckling and looked at her in surprise. "I just told you."
She shook her head. "You told me what your society expects you to marry. What are you looking for?"
"I don't understand." He blinked. "What's the difference?" he asked, confusion evident in his voice.
"Because obviously, there is a great difference in between what an Ootori son should marry and what Ootori Kyoya truly wants. I know you deserve better someone than what you've just described," Haruhi explained. She paused wearily as she raised her hand to brush a strand of hair that fell over her face. When she looked up, Kyoya was staring at her with a strange expression on his face, making him look unnatural with the lack of light. She blinked. "What?" she asked suspiciously.
He continued to stare at her. Haruhi leaned slightly away from him, feeling uncomfortable. "Are you all right, senpai?" she asked uneasily. "You don't have to look at me like that."
Kyoya looked like he was about to reply but thought better. He adjusted his glasses for a moment, the lenses clouding as he frowned. "I don't know," he finally said, and Haruhi knew he was referring to her question earlier.
"Well, take your time," she assured him. "Just don't forget to introduce me to the woman you want to marry so I can warn her of what she's getting into."
The tension in his face broke and he gave a wry smile. "You know what's strange? I think you're actually serious about that last part."
"I am," she said startled, silently wondering why he would think otherwise.
They fell silent for a long time before Kyoya turned at her inquiringly. "Haruhi, who was that man earlier?" he suddenly asked.
Haruhi glanced at him. "Who?" She blinked as her mind tried to process what he was asking. "Oh. Inoue-san?"
"Yes. What does he want from you?"
She hesitated, still a bit bewildered at his question. "My father… owes him a large amount of money."
"Ah. A Fujioka in debt," Kyoya deadpanned. "Why am I not surprised?"
Haruhi glowered at him. "He's been threatening my father before," she finally continued. "I didn't know of it before until I came home early from work one time and caught them arguing." She frowned at the memory. "Apparently, Inoue-san added a five percent interest and Dad didn't like it because that wasn't part of their agreement. I didn't tell my father I heard them, though. But that night, I went to Inoue-san's apartment and made a deal. Inoue-san agreed and he told my father that he didn't have to pay him anymore." She paused.
"And the deal is you're the one who's going to pay for your father instead?" When Haruhi nodded, he continued in disbelief, "How brave, knowing you do not earn that much. Or should I say stupid?"
"As long as my father is safe, it doesn't matter." She shrugged. "Besides, it's not like we can do anything about it. Inoue-san is…" She hesitated. "He comes from… well, a criminal background. And even if I am knowledgeable about the law, I don't want to put my father in danger."
"Criminal background," Kyoya mused. "Like, an underground association of thieves or illegal dealers?"
Haruhi nodded reluctantly. "Yes, something like that. And anyway, it doesn't matter. After I pay off what I owe you, my salary would be enough to pay Inoue-san in no time."
Kyoya's glasses clouded. He fell silent for a moment as he considered what she had said. "Haruhi," he began. "If you want, I could – persuade him not to harass you anymore."
Her head snapped up. She blinked at him. "Persuade him," she repeated slowly.
The cellphone light caused Kyoya's glasses to glint ominously. "Yes. I am well gifted in that area of human psychology."
Haruhi blinked again. "Um," she said carefully. "I doubt Inoue-san would be easily convinced. Especially since we still owe him a lot."
"Well. We could always resort to unconventional methods until he agrees," he said thoughtfully.
Haruhi stared at him. "What unconventional methods?" she asked suspiciously.
"Oh, the usual." Kyoya calmly adjusted his glasses. "Blackmail, coercion, and sometimes, termination of some bodily functions. There are a lot of ways more, actually. But really, it depends on the mood or which one works faster." He smiled disarmingly at her. "Personally, I always want everything to be clean, thus the first option. But then again, maybe that's just me."
There was a sharp, cold silence.
The air around them suddenly dropped to zero, and Haruhi found herself scooting away from him. She shivered. Kyoya flicked his gaze at her.
"I was joking," he deadpanned.
He didn't look like he was joking, she thought darkly as she squinted at him but decided not to voice that aloud. She cleared her throat. "Right." She nodded rapidly after a short pause. "I knew that," she added quickly.
The corner of Kyoya's lips twitched upward. "Of course you did." He glanced at his watch and his frown returned. "They really should be searching for us by now. I cannot believe–"
He broke off as they heard a clicking sound outside of the door. Haruhi was on her feet immediately and rushed to the door. She knocked loudly.
"Is anyone out there?" she called, banging on the door. There was a pause outside. "Hello?"
"Haruhi-chan?" came Fuyumi's anxious voice. "Is that you, Haruhi-chan? Is Kyoya-kun there? Are you both all right – "
"Haaruuhii!!" Ranka wailed. "I'm so sorry! We didn't realize you were trapped in here! I've already called the supervisor and –"
Kyoya looked up and rolled his eyes. "Finally," he said. Haruhi glanced at him before chuckling. He eyed her warily. "What?"
"Oh, I just can't wait to see my dad," she said casually, stretching her lips in a forced smile. "We have so much to talk about."
Kyoya stared. Then, he grinned too. "In that case, I can't wait to see nee-san either." And they both stared expectantly at the door as it was slowly being unlocked from the outside.
"We'll be taking our leave," Kyoya said as they stood outside the Fujioka apartment. "Thank you for taking care of us while we were here."
"No problem," Haruhi replied.
"You can always come back anytime, Kyoya-kun," Ranka said from inside the house. "We would love to –"
Haruhi swiftly glared at him and Ranka immediately shut up. Kyoya smiled. "Thank you Ranka-san."
Ranka squeaked as his daughter's gaze was on him still.
"Have a safe trip home," Haruhi finally said, looking at Kyoya again. "And say goodbye to Fuyumi-san for me."
"I heard you, Haruhi-chan," Fuyumi called cheerfully as she sat inside the limo across the building. "I'll come visit you real soon –" Kyoya turned and frowned at her. Fuyumi rolled her eyes as she rolled up her window and disappeared behind the tinted glass.
"Don't be too harsh on her," Haruhi reminded. "After all, she wasn't the one who was too busy showing his daughter's childhood photos to realize that she's trapped in the basement."
Ranka winced. "Haaruuhii –"
"I'll try," Kyoya said. He nodded at her. "I'll be seeing you at work." Haruhi nodded. Kyoya turned around but suddenly stopped. He glanced at her over his shoulder. "Haruhi, if you change your mind, the offer to persuade him still stands."
"Um," Haruhi said, blinking. "Please don't."
Kyoya smirked. "Whatever you say." Haruhi watched as he walked away. Then, she closed the door.
"So," Fuyumi began as their limo started to move. "Haruhi-chan is a nice woman."
Kyoya took a newspaper beside him and opened it. "I don't know why you're talking to me. I'm still mad at you," he said calmly.
"No wonder father is really interested in her," she continued, not listening to him. "She's very bright, she can cook, her father is devoted to her and her credentials speak for itself. And she doesn't seem to be affected by your rudeness – which for a commoner, is a first."
Kyoya didn't reply. Fuyumi fell silent for a moment as she surveyed her youngest brother. "Kyoya-kun? Do you think you –"
"No," he cut in. She frowned.
"I haven't even finished my question.
"I know what you're going to ask."
Fuyumi sighed. "But I like her," she said wistfully. "I like her better than those other women – "
Kyoya noisily turned a page of the newspaper. Fuyumi glanced at him, smiling sadly.
"I just think," she said slowly, "that maybe its time to finally give yourself the happiness you deserve."
He finally looked up and met her concerned eyes. "And you honestly think that Haruhi would give me that?" he asked, not bothering to hide his amusement. Fuyumi sighed again at his indifference.
"Kyoya-kun, I just –"
"Haruhi is just a friend. Besides," Kyoya sighed. "I'm still mad at you," he repeated, but his tone was gentler.
"I already said I'm sorry," she reminded, sighing. "Are you going to sulk all the way until we reach the mansion?"
"No because I am just going to drop you off there."
She brightened. "Oh? Are you going somewhere? Could I come?"
"You can't," he said patiently. "I have an important person to meet. You can just stay at home and rest." Fuyumi opened her mouth to insist on coming, but Kyoya raised the newspaper until it covered his face and she frowned, vaguely wondering if she could clean his room while he's gone instead.
Inoue was lounging in front of the TV, his feet propped up on the table where the empty popcorn bowl was also placed on. He yawned as he pressed the remote, switching one channel per second, eyes not really watching. His mouth opened in a yawn again.
There was a knock on the door. He glared at the wall clock and saw that it read 8:25pm. He growled as his visitor knocked again, louder this time. He scratched his face, obviously annoyed at the interruption of his otherwise exciting night.
"All right already, you idiot," Inoue growled as he got up and shuffled towards his door. He scratched his stomach as he opened the door with obvious force. "What the hell do you –"
"Good evening, Inoue-san." A tall man in a black suit bowed slightly in greeting. Inoue gaped as he let his eyes roam around and saw that less than a dozen men also in black suits were standing strategically outside his apartment, and even by the cars that were parked in front of the apartment building, all poker-faced and alert. He stared at this sight for a moment before he narrowed his eyes at the man who stood in front him.
"Who the hell are you?"
"I'm Tachibana," the older man said politely before he gestured at the men around him. "And these are my men."
Inoue eyed him warily. This man, although he looked intimidating, didn't seem to be police. He relaxed a bit. "Did he order you to come here? I told him I'll bring the money tomorrow –"
"I think you misunderstood our intention," Tachibana said. "We're not from… your group."
"I see," Inoue said slowly, pausing as he eyed them. "Are you from a new organization or something?"
A low chuckle made Inoue turned his head to the left. A tall, young man walked up to him, his glasses glinting under the light of the moon. Inoue blinked.
"Hey, I know you," he said, squinting at him. "You're that rich bastard earlier with Fujioka." He paused, remembering, oblivious at the stiffening of Tachibana and his men. "Kyoya, wasn't it? So. You've gotten out of that room, huh?" he chuckled.
"Inoue-san," Tachibana cut in coldly. "I advise you to stop calling the young master a rich –"
Kyoya waved a hand dismissively. "It's all right, Tachibana. I've been called many times before that too by a certain young woman, so really. It's not much of an insult anymore," he said, sounding vaguely amused rather than offended. Tachibana frowned at him.
"But sir –"
"It's all right," Kyoya repeated. He adjusted his glasses before flashing Inoue a charming smile. "Inoue-san. I was hoping we could talk earlier, but like you said, we couldn't get out of that room for quite a while."
Inoue frowned. If they weren't police and they're not from the group either, then what the hell do they want? "Just get to the point," he said impatiently and crossed his arms. "Why are you here?"
Kyoya raised an eyebrow. Then, he nodded. "Tachibana," he said, extending a hand towards the older man. Tachibana quickly placed a thick, small book on Kyoya's palm, along with a pen. Inoue watched with rapt attention as Kyoya opened the checkbook and started to scribble something. "Very well," he said as he ripped a page from the book.
Inoue blinked as Kyoya handed him a check. His eyes widened as he read the amount written on it. Do rich people really have too much money that they were willing to give it away to strangers? Then, he paused as the sum on the check looked awfully familiar. He glanced at Kyoya. "This is –"
"The remaining amount of what Ranka-san owes you," Kyoya finished. "I suppose you know what this means?"
"You want me to stop bothering Fujioka." Inoue said it as a statement, not a question.
Kyoya looked pleased. "Very good. It seems we understand each other now."
Inoue made a sucking noise as his face crumpled in a frown. "What if I don't want to accept this? What if I still want the Fujioka lady to pay me personally?" he asked shrewdly, a slow smirk crossing his face. "She's a pretty girl, you know. I like seeing her face."
The pleased look on Kyoya's face did not waver. "In that case, we're going to have a problem."
"Problem. Right." Inoue snorted. "Look kid – " Tachibana and his men stiffened again, "I'm used to dealing with rich people like you. You're just wasting your time. Most of my clients are from your kind."
"Perhaps, you're right," Kyoya agreed smoothly. "But then again, you haven't met an Ootori before, have you?"
There was a short pause.
From the corner of Inoue's eye, he could see Kyoya's men shifting closer to his apartment. Two men were talking on their earpiece. One man who was standing across the street stared at him intently. Armed shadows flitted in the night. Tachibana and the rest were standing too still, as if just waiting for any signal to attack from Kyoya.
Inoue doubted Kyoya would actually ask his men to do such thing, especially since they were in a residential area. But based from his experience, this scene was supposed to scare the hell out of Inoue. There's just one problem: he was far used to this shit to be scared anymore. But then again… he glanced at the check on his hand once more before he squinted back at Kyoya.
"Are you threatening me, Ootori-san?" Inoue asked mockingly, touching his chest. This statement, however, made the men in suits to smirk simultaneously, as if what he said was something funny. Inoue sneer faltered. That wasn't the reaction he was expecting.
"Ah, but Inoue-san. We Ootori never make threats," Kyoya said calmly. He pushed his glasses slowly before he smiled at him. "We make promises."
Inoue was a smart man. Oh, maybe he wasn't the kindest person one would ever meet in this world, but he was raised to be a practical man, thus he always made smart decisions. And despite Inoue's callousness due to years of working illegally, somehow the sight of Kyoya's angelic smile made the older man shiver a bit.
"Why are you doing this?" he finally asked, dropping his façade as he stared at him. "They're supposed to be nobody for someone like you."
"Ranka-san happens to be a very good friend of my sister and myself. I hate to see him being pestered by someone like you."
"Oh right. And I suppose the Fujioka lady doesn't have anything to do with this," Inoue said sarcastically.
Tachibana made a soft coughing noise and Kyoya swiftly flicked his gaze at his right-hand man. Tachibana bowed abashedly. "I'm sorry, sir," he apologized.
Kyoya adjusted his glasses. "Of course Haruhi has something to do with this. As you know, she's working for me now, and as her employer and –" he paused slightly before continuing, "friend, it is my responsibility to help her. Besides, it wouldn't be good for my family's reputation if they found out that my own secretary couldn't even pay her debts and is being bothered by some nameless underground person."
In spite of the situation, Inoue looked affronted. "I am not some nameless underground person. Just so you know, I work for one of the most prominent criminal mastermind in Tokyo right now and – "
"Ah, you mean Sabano Yuki?" Kyoya asked innocently.
Pause. Inoue narrowed his eyes. "Yes. And I suggest that you leave right now or I'll call him and make sure your miserable pack dogs –" he sneered at Tachibana who stared stonily back, " – will be sorry that they ever set foot in this building."
For some strange reason, Kyoya looked awfully interested. "I see. Then go ahead. Call him right now."
Inoue blinked at him distractedly. "What?"
"Call him right now," Kyoya repeated. When Inoue didn't move, he pushed his glasses in a thoughtful manner. "Oh right. Now I remember. Sabano-san doesn't give his number to insignificant underlings. Perhaps… I should call him for you instead?" he asked as he took out his phone.
Inoue's mouth dropped open. "Impossible," he hissed. Kyoya looked amused.
"What's impossible? That I have Sabano-san's number or the fact that I know you're bluffing about you being some hotshot criminal?" Kyoya's smile widened when Inoue couldn't reply. "Perhaps, I should call him and inform him of what you have been doing. By the way, does he know that you betrayed one of his clients before?"
"You – I – I cannot – " Inoue's face turned puce.
"We'll be taking our leave. I do hope we have an understanding of each other now," Kyoya continued conversationally as he turned around. He paused and glanced at him over his shoulder. "Oh yes, before I forget. This conversation didn't happen. I did not come here and you are to tell no one about this. Trust me," he smirked. "I'll know if you do." Then, he walked away, Tachibana and the rest followed after him silently.
Inoue found his knees weak under him and he had to lean back on the door for support. He took a deep breath, calming his nerves. Damn rich bastard. How the fuck did he knew about his past? No one should have known about his treachery against that –
"Inoue-san?'" Kyoya called as he paused from the end of the hallway. "I think it would be better if you inform Haruhi about your change of heart and how you're not going to bother them anymore. That would make her really happy. And me, of course." Then, Kyoya smiled at him.
Inoue might have made a squeaking reply; he wasn't sure of himself anymore. There is one thing he was sure of though – rich or not, Ootori Kyoya is one scary bastard.
Kyoya turned a page of the document he was busy reading that he should have finished if Fuyumi hadn't asked (um, blackmailed) him into visiting the Fujioka household. He sighed as his eyes ached and he leaned back on his plush chair, massaging his temples. He glanced at the clock on the wall and frowned when it read 12:30pm.
Kyoya stifled a yawn as he reached for his mug of coffee. Unfortunately, it was already empty. He was about to call Tachibana to bring him another cup when the door opened and a pair of soft black eyes peeked inside.
"Kyoya-kun, why are you still awake?" Fuyumi wanted to know.
Kyoya frowned. "Because I wasn't able to do any work the whole day, I had to do it tonight."
Fuyumi frowned back as she entered the room. "The reason why I took you with me was for you to relax."
"Oh yes. I had a lot of relaxing time while I was trapped in the laundry room."
She rolled her eyes. "I already apologized. Besides, how were we to know that you guys were trapped down there? We had no idea."
He blinked. "We've been gone for almost two hours."
"So? We thought you two were just enjoying each other's company," she protested.
"For two hours?" he repeated. "Inside the laundry room?"
"Well," she hedged. "Yes."
"What were we supposed to be doing in the laundry room for two hours? Wash clothes all over again just for fun? We could have been kidnapped while you were exchanging childhood stories."
"I thought you were playing cards!"
Kyoya stared. "In the laundry room?"
"I've watched commoners do that in a movie before and they had a lot of fun doing that," she said defensively. Kyoya raised his gaze to the ceiling and sighed. He should really have a talk with Tamaki. These two sharing commoner movies would be the cause of his death.
Fuyumi waved her hand dismissively. "Anyway, Haruhi-chan is such a sweet girl. Of course I didn't think anything was wrong when you two were gone for a while. Besides, any normal man would be enjoying her company a little longer, you know." She paused. "So wait. If you weren't playing cards, what were you doing all those time you two were alone?"
Haruhi's face flashed through his mind. He could still remember their conversation very distinctly. Kyoya adjusted his glasses, quickly clearing his thoughts. "We talked about how responsible our family members are," he said calmly.
Fuyumi made a face. "Fine. I get the hint. I'll go to bed now. I have something important to do tomorrow anyway."
Kyoya immediately stiffened. "I'm not coming with you again –"
"I'm not going to ask you to," she said smugly. "You just have to stay here and do the boring things you always do."
He raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And what are you planning?"
Fuyumi wagged her finger at him. "It's a secret." She turned around and reached for the door. "Go to sleep, Kyoya-kun. You had a long day."
Kyoya was about to retort on how it was all her fault when his cellular phone rang. He glanced at it instead, barely noticing that Fuyumi had left and closed the door behind her. He stared at the name on the caller ID for a moment, briefly reflecting about the irony of thinking about her just seconds ago, before he picked it up.
"Haruhi," he greeted politely.
"Kyoya-senpai," Haruhi replied. "I'm not bothering your sleep or anything, am I?"
"No. In fact, I'm still working." Kyoya used his free hand to grab a pen and signed his name on the lower part of the paper. "Why are you calling at this hour?"
"Oh well." She paused. "I just wanted to thank you."
Kyoya put the pen down. "For what?"
"Inoue-san came by a few minutes ago. It was weird. It was almost as if he didn't want to be heard or something…" she trailed off. Kyoya pursed his lips. He should have known that man would delay the task he ordered him to do. "And – he said a strange thing."
"What strange thing?" Kyoya asked calmly.
"That we don't have to pay him anymore," she said, sounding genuinely bewildered. "And that we can expect nothing from him in the future."
"I see. And?"
Kyoya felt relieved. At least Inoue knew what was good for his life. It would seem that he didn't mention his interference to her. He paused. "So what are you thanking me for?" he asked, frowning.
"Well," she hedged. "I was just thinking. He wouldn't change his mind like this easily if no one, um, you know, persuaded him to."
Somehow, he couldn't help the corner of his lips from twitching because of this. Kyoya took off his glasses, placed it on the table and leaned back on his seat. He closed his eyes wearily. Maybe Fuyumi was right about him going straight to bed. His shoulders were already aching.
"So naturally you thought it was my doing?" he asked.
"Yes. You're the only one I know who can do that."
For the briefest moment, Kyoya wondered what would happen if he admitted that he already paid the debt they owe Inoue. What would Haruhi do? What would she say? But then again, there's no merit in doing that, right? Besides, she would just think he did that so she would owe him instead anyway. Which was not that far from reality, if Kyoya was to be frank about it.
"I don't remember talking to Inoue-san about it," he finally said.
"Really?" she asked doubtfully.
"Yes." Which was true. Sort of. He didn't exactly persuade Inoue. He paid him to stop bothering the Fujioka family. There's a difference. Kyoya opened his eyes and straightened up as he put on his glasses. "I appreciate the fact that you thought I would do something like that Haruhi, but I'm not that nice."
She laughed quietly. Kyoya frowned. "What's funny?"
"You," she said simply.
"You're laughing at me," Kyoya said, raising an eyebrow even though he knew she couldn't see him.
"Well, now that I think about it, you're right senpai. You wouldn't just persuadeInoue-san. Maybe you'll do something worse, like," she paused thoughtfully. "Like pay off our debts so he won't have to bother us anymore or something. Then, you would tell me that I owe you again because of it."
Kyoya paused. Again, he wondered what she would say if he admitted to her that he actually toyed with that scheme for a while. "That's an idea," he deadpanned. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Ugh," Haruhi replied stiffly, sounding instantly regretful that she ever mentioned it. He chuckled.
"Is that all?"
"Yes. I'm sorry to bother you," she said.
"Don't worry about it." He paused. "Haruhi, I'm glad your problem is solved. I hope this means you can concentrate on your work now."
She sighed through the phone line. "I know. I'm glad too," she said quietly. "At least dad is safe now."
"You are safe now too," he reminded.
"Oh, right. I guess that's good too."
Kyoya leaned back, silently marveling at how much Haruhi could still think of Ranka despite her financial situation. There was something frustrating about how he could never fully understand Haruhi despite all the folders of records he has about her. It still baffled him how she could be so different from the other women he had known before when she was just supposed to be a simple commoner.
She hesitated. "Senpai? Thank you again."
"Haruhi, I told you I didn't – "
"No, I was talking about the conversation we had in the laundry room. You know, your concern – even though you showed it in a really twisted way. And though I didn't approve it, I really appreciate the fact that you would be willing to help us out."
"Well. That's it. Bye," she said.
"Oh wait. Senpai?" she said again.
Kyoya was wary. "Yes?"
"I know you're working, but you really should go to sleep now. It's late."
And Haruhi hung up before Kyoya could reply. He stared at the phone a little longer before he put it down. Why do people keep on telling him to sleep? He's not an eight-year old kid, for crying out loud. The door opened again and Tachibana stepped inside. Kyoya looked at him questioningly.
Tachibana bowed. "Fuyumi-sama asked me to check whether you went to bed yet."
Kyoya sighed. "Tell her I will, only after she stops spying on me."
"I'll pass on the message," Tachibana said.
Kyoya nodded as he signed his name in one of the documents. He paused as he realized that Tachibana was still standing by the door. He glanced at him. "Yes?"
"Forgive my impertinence, Kyoya-sama, but I was wondering why we did that to Inoue-san. Not," he quickly added, "that I disapprove of it. In fact, I'm glad we were helping Haruhi-san. But we just can't help but wonder –"
Tachibana hesitated. "I and the rest of your men, sir," he admitted. "We were just wondering why you went out of your way to talk to that –man…" he trailed off.
Kyoya blinked. "Nee-san likes Haruhi. She would be devastated if she finds out that her favorite commoner is in debt with a dangerous man." He stopped and looked amused at what he had said. "Of course since I'm her brother, she doesn't need to count me as one," he said, mouth twitching at his own joke.
"And that's the only reason? Sir?" Tachibana asked politely.
Kyoya stared at him. "What could possibly be any other reason?" he asked blankly.
Tachibana bowed apologetically. He turned and opened the door. Kyoya suddenly remembered something. He called Tachibana again.
"Speaking of which, I was wondering whether you could get me the real number of that Sabano Yuri," Kyoya said thoughtfully.
"That wouldn't be a problem," Tachibana promptly assured him. "We have a lot of contacts we can ask…" He paused. "But why do we still need to call him?"
"Just a little precaution. It would be better if we make ties with the head. That would prevent any unwanted retaliation from Inoue against the Fujioka family." Kyoya paused, adjusting his glasses. "Besides, I've been thinking about it ever since Haruhi mentioned Inoue-san's occupation and having a contact like Sabano Yuri would be very – valuable."
Tachibana hesitated. "I apologize again Kyoya-sama, but surely you're not thinking of getting into the black market and –"
"Tachibana," Kyoya said dryly. "Do I look like I would want to start an illegal Ootori venture?"
There was a short pause.
Kyoya raised his eyebrow in amusement. "You don't need to answer. I'm already amazed with the trust you people have for me," he deadpanned. "But don't worry. I'm not going to do anything like that. Especially when I have a brilliant humanitarian lawyer as my secretary. She'll be all over me if she finds this out. No. I just think it's time to… broaden our horizons, so to speak. Not all powerful and influential people are well-known, after all."
Tachibana deliberated this reason before nodding. "I'll get into it right away."
Kyoya nodded dismissively as Tachibana quietly got of the room.
A/N: And this is the moment where I would rant again and thank everyone who took time to read and left a review for chap3. Reading those comments all over again finally made me get my lazy ass off the bed and write this chapter. And… wow. Just wow. You guys rock. THANK YOU SO MUCH. And though I haven't replied to everyone, as I usually only reply to those who have questions (lack of time and internet access, see), let me just tell you that you made this girl very, very happy (sniffs—WipesSnot). (Although, I would have to say, the pressure to update is... qwertyalkdsfloieuoldsajewiorkd) –grins--.
And if you would be so kind as to leave a review again for this chapter, that would be amazing. It's nice to hear from other people. Gives me new ideas to work on (cause I think I mentioned my inability to plan ahead, even a solid storyline for every chapter? Yeah. I think I did). So again, thank you and I apologize for the random ranting. :)