a/n: This story is very, very long, and was written (a tad late) for the holiday prompt 'reindeer'. It was for the KyouHaru community on livejournal. :D
Enjoy the (slightly late) holiday cheer! And, of course, the KyouHaru.
"You're telling me you've never believed in Santa Claus?"
She's one-upped him. But he realizes that this can't be true – Haruhi was, at one time, a child. And like all children (including him, stupid, stupid him) she has to have believed. She was certainly wide-eyed and innocent enough.
She doesn't notice his musings at all. She shakes her head again and her eyebrows crinkle together. Her eyes sweep across the page in front of her. Her nose is firmly stuck in the book.
When Arata runs across the park to meet them, Kyouya has to lightly take his shoulders to stop him from ramming into an oblivious Haruhi. (He jumps at Kyouya's touch, anyway.)
Haruhi doesn't notice that her charge has rejoined them, and continues to scan the pages. After a long moment and a long sigh, she closes the book. She still doesn't notice Arata's presence. "I should never have taken this job," she admits. The title of the book is Baby Steps: A Guide to Childcare.
Kyouya readjusts his tie and sneaks a glance at his watch. He wants to stay, but he knows that he has a function he has to be at in twenty minutes. This is his last day of work, though, before he takes off for a vacation he normally wouldn't desire. (This winter will be different.)
"Because you've never even been child enough to believe in Santa Claus?"
"That's bad!" Arata jumps in.
He fidgets when his uncle's gaze turns on him. "That's what Mama says," he mumbles.
"Why is that?" Kyouya asks in a clear voice. His words come out as breath in the cold air.
Arata jams his hands, already clad in Italian leather, deeper into his pockets.
(Admittedly, Haruhi has a few things to learn. One of which being common sense. He's never heard of a nanny, even an untrained one, dense enough to take a child to park on a December afternoon.)
"He won't bring you presents," Arata explains, trying to successfully mimic Kyouya's crisp, reasonable tone. Kyouya frowns. Arata glances at Haruhi for approval.
Haruhi blinks at Arata, whose presence has finally caught her attention. "Arata-kun, your cheeks are very pink. Do you think it's time to go home?"
Arata blushes a little deeper. Five years old, Kyouya notes with amusement, and he already has fine taste in women.
His nephew slips a hand into Haruhi's. (Her gloves, Kyouya observes, are also Italian leather; the left one has a charm that marks it as a Hitachiin product). Kyouya walks with them to the limousine that's waiting.
"Really, Haruhi, you may not get any presents this year if you keep saying things like that," he tells her with a haughtiness that a child's ear can't decipher as teasing. Haruhi eyes slit in her annoyance. This expression has only been improved upon since her days in the host club.
"I'm too old for such things, anyway," she explained. "Which reminds me. Please remind Fuyumi-san not to give me any presents. The twins have already showered me with so many frivolous things. As much as I appreciate the thought, my apartment doesn't have room for any more clutter. Anyway, I'm looking forward to having a nice, quiet winter break."
The limousine pulls up right at that moment, three-o'-clock sharp, when Fuyumi will be home from her luncheon to play with her boy (and Haruhi). It takes only a moment for Haruhi to get herself inside and to strap Arata in, all done so quickly that she has no time to see Kyouya's smirk.
It's that smirk, and it quickly mutates into that smile. The one that looks all-too-sweet, that foreshadows all sorts of ominous things to send a shiver down Haruhi's spine. If she'd seen it, no doubt it would have. But she doesn't, and as he waves goodbye to her she's still in ignorant bliss.
"Oh, but Haruhi," he whispers wickedly with a last amiable wave, "Didn't your father tell you?"
"Your apartment is being remodeled, sweetie."
She drops her tote bag on her couch and heads toward the kitchen, but she holds her cell phone closer to her ear. Maybe she didn't hear right. "No, it's not. I think I would know if – excuse me, I have another call." She tries to press the button with one hand while she tries to open a jar of pasta sauce in the other. It doesn't work quite as well as she'd hoped, and the jar refuses to open.
"Hello, Fujioka Haruhi speaking."
"Who is this?" And why are you calling me 'Fujioka-sama'?
"My name is Maeda Hiroshi, and I'm the one scheduled to do the renovations on your apartment this week?"
She leaves the jar unopened on her kitchen counter and cautiously sits down. "May I ask who paid for the renovations?"
She thinks she has a good idea.
"Ohtori Kyouya, Fujioka-sama."
Wait… what is she thinking?
Her reply comes through gritted teeth. "Is there any way that you can call Ohtori Kyouya-sama and cancel this?" Because, really, it's coming from my pocket. I just know it is.
"I'm sorry, madam. Everything's already been ordered, paid for, and signed."
"Don't you need my signature for this type of contract?" I am studying for my law degree, after all…
"Not with Ohtori-sama, madam," he says again, sounding surprised. "He said it was a Christmas present."
She seethes for a few seconds on her side of the phone.
"Um… you are his girlfriend, right?"
She hangs up, and for a moment feels like she might want to hurt someone.
Who, meanwhile, is sipping a cup of hot chocolate with his nephew, petrified, at the other end of the table.
Arata's eyes dart around, desperately searching for an escape route.
"Why did Mama go?"
"Drink your hot chocolate," Kyouya reprimands him lightly. Light, Kyouya reminds himself mildly, you must be as gentle with him as possible. Kyouya is not good with children. Five years ago, when he made this pact, he never realized that it might not be as hard as he'd imagined. "She's gone out to buy Fujioka-san some more presents." This brings a small, evil smile to his face.
Arata looks torn. Would he have preferred to be bored out of his skull for three hours or stay with his uncle, the kind of scary demon lord his mother likes to watch on television?
(Well, it wasn't like he had a choice.)
Kyouya observes him critically as he sips his hot chocolate, aware that he's being watched.
"What is it, Uncle?"
"Call me Kyouya."
"Um, Uncle Kyouya."
Arata falls quiet, giving Kyouya room to think.
"I want a Christmas present for her. And not some trinket that she won't appreciate. The Hitachiins weren't wise, with their gloves and handbags…"
"How 'bout jewelry? That's what Father gives Mama for her birthdays."
"Haruhi wouldn't like it."
"Mama doesn't like it, either," Arata replies agreeably. "She gets a tired of it. She says she wants to go sky diving this year!"
Now, Kyouya didn't like that.
"I doubt that that, as well, would be one of Haruhi's preferences." It sounds like one of Tamaki's…
The quiet returns. Kyouya is caught in his thoughts. What can I give Haruhi… what can I give her…
What can I give her to make her love me?
And Kyouya should know, he realizes, he should realize that no thing will do that. But he's determined. He can't think of any other options, because he's working to take over his father's company, and she's studying law and still ignorantly blissful to the feelings Japan's wealthiest men had (have?) for her.
Arata's voice breaks his train of thought.
"Did Haruhi-san mean it when she said she didn't believe in Santa?"
Kyouya looks up and catches a flicker of anxiety in Arata's eyes, a certain tremble in his voice. Kyouya has to refrain from smirking, or perhaps just smiling. He's concerned for Haruhi.
"Of course she was lying," Kyouya assures him, taking a sip of cocoa. "Everyone believes in Santa Claus as a child."
Arata looks at Kyouya suspiciously. "As a child?" he repeats, and Kyouya sees his error. He puts down his cocoa and sighs.
"Arata, you're five years old. And you may not be an Ohtori by name, but through my sister you are one by blood. It's time you knew: there is no such thing as Santa Claus."
Arata goes through four of the five stages:
One: "But… Santa does exist!"
Kyouya massages his temples. He had no idea lungs this young could be so powerful. "No. He does not. Please stop your frantic crying."
Two: "THIS SUCKS!"
Kyouya only sighs.
Three: "There has to be a Santa, right? After all, I've been good all year. And last year, too. And I got a lot of presents because of that. And that's what Mama always said, that if I'm good I get pre-"
"You get so many presents because you're rich. Fuyumi buys them for you with your father's money. There is no Santa Claus.
And finally (four), Arata dissolves into tears that make Kyouya regret saying anything.
And not just because the noise is giving him a headache.
"Kyouya!" It is Fuyumi's voice, and almost more frantic than he's ever heard it, "Nii-sama, where is Kyouya?"
Kyouya's eldest brother is the one to receive her. (His mother believes that he's home for the holidays, but he's really here to fight with Kyouya's father.)
He must nod coolly in the direction of Kyouya's room, because two seconds later Kyouya hears her trudging along the hallway and his door swinging open and slamming against the wall.
She enters his room, and her face is streaked with tears and mascara. Kyouya feels deep regret for the second time today, because such tears are more than Fuyumi's general melodrama.
"What did you do?" she says, again in that voice that's bordering on manic, the kind of voice only a terribly upset and fanciful mother could use.
"You mean, telling your son the truth?"
"Yes, tha – no, not that!"
"What do you mean, then?"
"I mean that, but, it's not like that! I mean, Kyouya, don't you see?"
"See what?" he said, frowning slightly and betraying his inner discomfort.
"You've corrupted him!" And now she's gesturing wildly with her hands, another unusual thing for Fuyumi to do. "You've spoiled Christmas! You've – you've – " She looks at Kyouya and then hesitates, and her arms come down to her sides. She plunks down on the couch. While she slowly takes in breathe, he carefully sits down on the couch across from her.
"What have I done?" he prods softly.
"You've ruined his childhood," she says, far more reasonably then before.
"It's best that he knows," Kyouya reminds her.
"How isn't it?"
"You only get to be a child for so long," she points out with that same rationality. (Actually, this kind of calm is creepy for Fuyumi. Almost cold.)
But, wait - here is a certain implication which causes him to frown and furrow his eyebrows.
"I believed in Santa Claus when I was a child," he defends, remembering his conversation with Haruhi.
"Only because you were stubborn." She opens her purse, which she's been clutching until now with white knuckles. She opens a compact and surveys her appearance. The mascara stains don't seem to bother her much. She smiles at her reflection, cheerful at the memory.
"You thought that they were lying to you, though you'd never say that. And then, that one year, when you were seven, you had a stakeout complete with high-tech gadgets you'd saved for and bought with your allowance. You know, I still don't know how you got your hands on them. It was one of the few times I've caught you crying. That Christmas when you caught poor Tachibana putting our things under the tree."
Kyouya scowls, not enjoying the memory nearly as much as Fuyumi is.
"What do you want me to do about it?" Kyouya asks with an exasperated sigh, lounging far back into his chair.
Fuyumi stares at him for a second.
"I guess there's nothing you can do," she says, again with the freakish calm. "Well, goodbye, Kyouya."
She smiles. It's sweet enough, but Kyouya feels chilled.
After all, that smile is the Ohtori signature.
Kyouya is with Arata (again), watching some cheesy claymation film that his parents surely would never have been cruel enough to expose him to, when he hears the doorbell.
"Kyouya, will you please get the door?" Fuyumi calls in a sing-song from the next room over.
Kyouya honestly doesn't understand why she's being so cryptic about the whole thing. She's been humming in a less-than-pleasant way all day, and now she's asking him to get the door. When she knows very well that the maid could answer it.
At any rate, he stands and shrugs, leaving Arata magically bound to the screen.
A smile seeps across his face as he walks out of the room, down the stairs, to the door. It has to be Haruhi, who's probably furious. But her presence is necessary to his plan. The plan he convinced an unwitting Fuyumi to be a part of. The plan to, of course, spend more time with Haruhi and possibly win her heart.
He opens the door, and his knowing grin is washed away by the tide of affection that rushes forth.
"Ky-ou-yaaaa!" And, now, Kyouya is glomped violently and subjected to many French endearments.
"Tamaki," is Kyouya's only reply. His eyes travel swiftly to the doorway.
"Tamaki-kun kindly agreed to stay with us for the holidays… and on such short notice!"
Kyouya glares at his sister.
He would never have thought her capable of it, but his sister, when out for revenge on behalf of her firstborn's innocence, was merciless.
And, he thinks, as he disdainfully stares down at the cookie he holds, she can't bake.
"France has been lovely," Tamaki says for about the seventeenth time in the past twenty minutes, "and it was lovely to revisit some of the memorials of my youth. But, ah, there's no place like one's true home for the holidays, and Kyouya, my home will always be with you and the rest of our family!"
Fuyumi offers Tamaki another (slightly burned) Christmas cookie, which he takes with delight. Arata sits stiffly next to his uncle, unsure of how to act around this strange creature.
"Oh, Tamaki-kun, shouldn't you visit your father, too, while you're here?"
"Father won't have time to see me for a bit. But he says he'll see me tomorrow, and definitely on Christmas day so I can see what Santa's brought me." He winks, not-very-subtly, at Fuyumi.
"There's no such thing as Santa," Arata says out loud.
Tamaki looks as though he's been punched in the stomach.
"It's Kyouya," explains Fuyumi.
Tamaki looks at Kyouya as though he has been deeply betrayed.
Kyouya lets out a strangled hiss of air.
After another twenty minutes of hearing how lovely France is, Arata has gone back to watching his movie and Fuyumi has enthusiastically put another batch of cookies in the oven to be burned. The doorbell rings again, and Kyouya jumps to his feet before anyone else can get there.
"Haruhi," he greets suavely, opening the door wider to allow her entry.
First, she drops her (stuffed) duffel bag and suitcase, which land with a muted thud. Next, she takes two steps into Fuyumi's hallway. Finally, she gives him her patented death glare.
"I don't know what you're up to," she begins, "but I just got a call from Fuyumi saying that she would love my company for the next couple of weeks, but only," she finishes, spitting a sort of poison in, "if I don't have anything better to do. Or should I say, anywhere better to stay."
"Obviously, Haruhi, it was only an invitation, and you're here, aren't you? My sister merely wanted you to enjoy the holidays with her family. After all, you've become fairly close, your father will be busy for most of the next week, and she could use the extra help with Arata during this busy time."
"This has nothing to do with you?" she questions, with a tone that suggests she knows the answer.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he replies breezily.
"My apartment doesn't need remodeling, you know."
He chooses to ignore her.
"Where's Arata-kun anyway?" she asks with a sort of weary resignation.
"He's upstairs watching some mentally lacking film about talking animals, some outcast reindeer with a mutated nose."
He takes notice when her eyes light up, just the slightest bit. "Rudolph."
"I tell Fuyumi frequently that at five years old he should be watching more stimulating material, but she insists that talking animals are age-appropriate." He shakes his head.
Haruhi is already ignoring him and trudging up the stairs with her bags.
"You could've left those for the maids, you know."
He sighs and follows her.
When he has traveled up the stairs, he finds that she is not searching for her designated room, but has found herself in the second floor theater, where he can hear a Christmas carol on the speaker system.
She stands in the back of the darkened room, and he noticed with a thump in his chest that her rather-too-large-eyes are trained on the screen.
Nearer to the screen, he dimly hears conversation of a different kind.
"It's all lies," he hears Arata's painfully bitter, cool child-voice from the huge couch.
"That isn't entirely true – you mustn't give up hope!" He hears Tamaki's just-accented Japanese. "Arata-kun, you mustn't lose faith in Santa Claus! He understands the trials that a young boy today goes through! He knows! Don't let cynics like your uncle lead you astray!" (Arata probably doesn't understand most of what Tamaki says, despite the high vocabulary level he has for his age.)
Arata goes on, but Kyouya has tuned them out in favor of further observing Haruhi. Her behavior right now is so strange, so unusual for her.
She looks almost…
As fluidly as possible, so as not to create ripples, he reaches out and touches her arm. She looks over at him, startled nonetheless, wondering what Kyouya is doing.
"You like these kinds of movies?"
She actually smiles in return.
She's about to reply when there's a cry of, "Ha-ru-hii!" followed closely by "Haruhi-san!"
And in a second, the lights have un-dimmed, the misty look has disappeared from Haruhi's eyes, Arata gives up his sniffling to hold fast to Haruhi's leg, and Tamaki almost gets close enough to glomp her before she gives him a (milder) death glare and he stops a couple feet away.
"What a pleasant surprise!" Tamaki is beaming so brightly it almost burns to look at him. "Mommy and Daddy and Daughter and Arata-kun all in one place!"
Yes, it certainly hurts to look at him.
"Kyouya-senpai… um, Kyouya-" Haruhi usually tries not to directly address her former senpais, because she has so much trouble figuring out exactly how – "I do like these kinds of movies, a lot." She pauses, deliberating. "I watched them with my mother when I was really little."
And, again, she treats him to that radiant smile.
Tamaki, at this point, has difficulty restraining himself and throws his arms around her. She rolls her eyes but goes along with it, now with two bodies clinging to her.
Kyouya wonders, for a moment, why he can't casually touch her like that. But the answer is obvious: he is not a five year old, nor does he have the intentions of one.
Shido is not home, but, Fuyumi assures them all with an especially significant glance to Arata, that he will be home soon.
Arata just picks at his rice, which is not burned because Fuyumi allowed the cook to do her job that night.
Tamaki raves about Fuyumi's household's fine cuisine and Fuyumi allows herself to smile.
Haruhi eats seconds of everything.
Kyouya enjoys the company of the four people he cares about most, even if one of them had been coerced there, one had made trouble with her revenge, and one was a hindrance to his master plan.
It is at this dinner that Tamaki announces his intentions.
"I called my father earlier today, and he said he wouldn't mind postponing our visit until Christmas day. Tomorrow is the Eve of the Eve of Christmas Eve, and so I believe that, in accordance with this holiday, we should have a festival of sorts right in Fuyumi-san's very own home!"
Fuyumi claps. Arata and Kyouya give him funny looks. Haruhi scrounges around her plate for overlooked tidbits.
"What kind of festival?" Kyouya presses.
"A Holiday Film Festival! A showing of Yuletide classics!"
Kyouya groans. If it weren't for Haruhi, he would protest, but he notices that she raises her head at Tamaki's suggestion.
And what a suggestion it turned out to be.
The next day, Tamaki came in from the cold, from the softly falling snow, with red cheeks and shining eyes.
And a whole lot of commoner snack foods.
Melon flavored chewy candies, chocolate covered sticks, anything that Tamaki laid eyes on seemed to have been bought.
And now, Kyouya is reduced to going to get popcorn for their movie viewing exploits.
He's heard of such a thing, but why would anyone even want to eat something that was heated in such a cheap way?
Wait… how did the microwave work again?
"You can just press 'popcorn' to get it started quickly," the cook suggests. Kyouya gives her a look, considers the microwave for a moment, and then takes advice.
Finally, after almost burning his fingers on the damned bag of popcorn, Kyouya stands triumphant with a warm tub of popcorn.
He looks around.
Oh, no. She has that look about her again…
"I would like it very much if you could please make things up to Arata."
There's no 'please' in her voice.
Kyouya actually feels himself swallowing, and his voice coming out cautious.
"Oh, I don't really mind how, exactly. I just think that maybe, if Christmas can't be as pleasant as we all had originally hoped, I should call the Hitachiin twins. After all, the more the merrier, ne?"
Kyouya now glared down at the tub of popcorn, not wanting to look up at his (now freakishly threatening) older sister.
"I was planning something already," he explained reluctantly. It's not in his nature to play the hero.
Her voice is still intimidating, but the edge has become softer.
"I was going to make Tachibana work as Santa for Christmas night."
"Kyouya, Arata is a smart boy. Too smart, really. Too much… too much like an Ohtori, sometimes. He'll know."
She walks out but, at the doorway she pauses, considers, and says:
"I know you can do it, Kyouya."
After an hour, Kyouya, doens't feel like watching movies.
He knows that Fuyumi is right, and whenever he blinks an image of Arata comes back to him: he frowns, he mimics Kyouya's speech, he wears sleek, expensive clothes that are excessive for a child. Kyouya is almost more a father figure to the boy than Shido – he is certainly around more often, and therefore easier to imitate. Kyouya has to do right here. It is Arata who's teetering on the brink of where sunshine meets ice.
And whenever he opens his eyes, it's not the horrid movie that he sees – it's Arata, smiling slightly. And it's Haruhi, who looks like a child again.
And it's Tamaki, who's taking Haruhi's hand in his and laughing like this is the happiest moment of his life. And how Haruhi will blush a little when this happens in the dark, residue from Ouran.
His heart warms, his heart thumps, and then it feels like its being ground up.
Tamaki is always happy, he rationalizes, but, anytime he's with Haruhi he's happiest. After what had happened in high school, the two could have had the happiest relationship imaginable.
But Haruhi had put any feelings on hold, and moved on to study law, and Kyouya had believed that this might have been the heaven-sent chance. If her feelings for Tamaki cooled, she might be able to see what he could offer her.
What could he offer her?
His eyes slip to his phone. He closes them. He tries to block out all thoughts and just think.
Nothing has become a problem quite yet, but with a little time these things could grow and grow and become monsters he can never face.
(How will he feel if he ends up attending Tamaki's wedding, when he never even gave himself the fair chance of confessing to the bride?)
(How will he feel if someday, when Arata is all grown-up, Shido Inc. buys out Kyouya's own company?)
Christmas Eve is in only two days.
Kyouya is on the brink of insanity, and not quite in a typical last-minute shopping sort of way.