The Club opened on time, shortly after the end of classes.

Tamaki wasn't there.

Kyouya waited fifteen minutes before calling in the lo-jack on Tamaki's cell phone and tracing it to a room near the West Library.

It was dimly lit with a golden glow, and Kyouya started speaking before he had the door open completely. "If you aren't going to come, call ahead so that I-"

Tamaki sat at a spacious writing desk, books stacked haphazardly. Two of them lay facedown, keeping his place and snapping the spines. His blond hair didn't shine, his healthy tan was thin over a sallow tint.

Tamaki turned around slowly, only vaguely interested. His blue eyes were ringed by red.

Kyouya had never seen him so unpolished.

He allowed himself a moment of shock, and then asked curtly, "When did you last sleep?"

Tamaki's mouth moved as he worked out what the words meant, suddenly letting the fact of his second language show through. "What? Sorry." He waved to the page he had been scribbling on. "Math test tomorrow."

Kyouya corrected him reflexively. "Two days."

Tamaki's eyes drifted to the left, but snapped back when he tried to refocus. "Hm?"

"That test is in two days."

"Days?" Tamaki echoed, as though he couldn't work out what the word meant, and then shrugged and shook his head obviously. "No, it's tomorrow. Thursday."

"It's Tuesday, Tamaki."

The sound of his name bounced around the small room and made the blond tense up, and then reach to pull at pages and pages of notes, distractedly trying to organize or glance through them all. Softly, he said, "Oh."

Kyouya watched him impassively. With his clipped, informing-Tamaki-of-something-he-won't-like voice, he added, "And it's three-thirty."

"Oh," Tamaki repeated, not listening. Then, it caught up. "Oh, Club." He stared at all of his notes in surprise, and tried to stand up. "Um. I'll go."

Kyouya crossed the room in two steps and set a firm hand on his rival's shoulder, keeping his sitting. He wouldn't have been able to stand for long on his own. "Tamaki."

"Really." Tamaki ran fingers through his hair, as though that would restore the customary shine. "Give me a minute. Can't disappoint the princesses," he said with a joking, almost bitter, but mostly just tired tone.

"You need sleep, Tamaki." Kyouya went with Tamaki's next attempt to get out of the chair, holding his shoulder and elbow. He supported the majority of both their weight, in the end. Tamaki was swaying, trying to balance in a tilting world.

Finally, without even moving to take a step, Tamaki closed his eyes and rested his forehead on Kyouya's shoulder, despite their similar height. He chuckled hoarsely, and agreed, "I need sleep."

"Your driver will take you home." Kyouya started to pull away, hand going for his phone.

Tamaki's hands closed, strong and vice-like on his upper arms, to hold him in place. Tamaki mumbled, "I want to sleep here."

"You can't," Kyouya said bluntly, and then needed a reason. "We're at school."

"People sleep at school all the time," Tamaki pointed out wryly.

"Tamaki."

"Just a while." Tamaki held on tighter when Kyouya tried to move. "Kyouya. Please."

Kyouya stopped moving, but his voice was harder, and carried a warning. "Tamaki."

"I miss you." It was sudden, and quiet, and plain. Tamaki was just making sure that Kyouya already knew.

He did, so he said, "I know."

"I hate this."

Robotic repetition. Kyouya's last defence. "I know."

"So can't I just sleep?" Tamaki pressed. "For a second?"

Kyouya pulled back, breaking Tamaki's hold too easily. He turned to face away, pressing his call phone to his ear and speed-dailing Tamaki's driver.

"Kyouya," Tamaki whined, but he couldn't keep standing by himself. He slumped back into his chair.

Kyouya gave the faceless employee – even he wasn't an Ootori employee – directions to Tamaki's den, and on proper care procedures afterward. He made it very clear that Tamaki only needed sleep; for no reason would he be kept at home sick. He clapped the phone shut. "Sleep at home, Tamaki."

"Heartless," Tamaki muttered to himself, shocked at his rival. It was an epiphany. "You're heartless."

"I know," Kyouya said. Robotic repetition.

"Oh, God. Don't say that," The anger had burned out before it truly began. "You're not allowed to say that like you believe it."

"I have to return," Kyouya said, hand on the doorknob. "I left Haruhi in charge of the Club."

"Kyouya!" Tamaki called, too burnt out to give chase.

Outside, before he shut the door, Kyouya said, "Go to sleep, Tamaki." He paused, and added dismissively, "And eat something."

He shut the door and went back to fulfill his duties.


Kyouya stayed at the Club and apologized to the clients he had lined up for Tamaki. He pledged to reschedule them within the week, even though that would push the other appointments around and squeeze the last drop of free time out of Tamaki's working day.

Then, when they understood that Tamaki still loved them, but could not see them today, the clients left and Kyouya was busily trying to fit new appointments in sideways to Tamaki's next-day schedule.

Hunny watched him through two of Mori's clients, and eventually hopped off the couch-turned-Empire-State-Building (Hunny was Faye Wray for this game, and Mori was… well.) He bounced closer, and scaled a moderately priceless pedestal to reach Kyouya's eye-level.

"Tama's not here?" Hunny said, and the inflection fully earned the question mark.

"He's not feeling well," Kyouya answered easily.

"Sick?"

"No. Tired."

"Oh." Hunny pulled a flower out of the careful arrangement in the vase on the pedestal, then jumped down to the floor, then used the water still dripping from the stem to draw a small, surprisingly intricate, sun on a tabletop. He said innocently, "He's looked tired, I guess."

A few quick, finishing touches, and then Hunny was tucking the drying stem behind his ear and beaming. "Less shiny," he explained merrily, and then skipped back to Mori and the girls waiting to give Hunny new sweeties and cakes.

Kyouya watched him go and was too clever to let Hunny manipulate him. He could cut through cute like pulling a petal from a flower.


Kyouya didn't risk it until he was in the car behind – what had Tamaki called him? – Asuka in the front seat.

He said, "I'll be making a call," and Asuka nodded smartly, accepting the implications that he should choose a path inside satellite range and without tunnels and the soundproof divide should be stuck up between them.

Kyouya dialed the number for the first time, though he'd memorized it the day he'd heard about Tamaki's agreement.

It rang twice, and then a dry-husk voice dropped into his ear. "Ootori Kyouya, I presume."

"Hello, Suoh ?," Kyouya said solicitously, because he recognized the power of a name. "I realize that we haven't spoken for many months. Please excuse the interruption. Can you find time to discuss a business proposal with me?"

Kyouya knew that she was retired, that she didn't do anything all day but go over her son's administration of the school with a red pen. That was for her own mollification, no one else was waiting on it.

But it was polite to give her the window, even though it implied weakness on her part if she couldn't reschedule him in on short notice like this.

She said, "If I remember correctly, you signed a missive that implied you would not contact me with any business proposals."

"Yes, I did," Kyouya agreed. "But I believe that the missive also stipulated that I could interfere when the agreement overstepped its bounds and entered the realm of my interest."

"Say your piece and I'll take it into consideration."

Kyouya knew that this meant he couldn't make a difference in her opinion if he wrote a dissertation. He said, "Stop. Now. You ask too much."

"Your own conditions for inheritance have been threatened, you mean," she snorted companionably, because she believed that she understood Kyouya and his priorities.

Kyouya liked it when people assumed that they understood him, because then they stopped looking for any deeper motives. In this case, however, it wouldn't help his argument.

He said pointedly, "Tamaki nearly collapsed of exhaustion earlier today."

"Nearly?"

"He couldn't remember what day it was."

She didn't say anything to that, but the silence sounded sulky.

He instructed, "Repeal the addendum or run your only prospective heir into the ground."

"Who would want a weak heir?" she demanded sharply. "If he can't cope with a little extra effort."

This was why Kyouya preferred dealing with anyone else to dealing with Father. This was a cold, clear, sharp, and safe kind of anger, flooding through and seeping into his voice.

"He's already done more than this is worth to either of you."

"If you wish for a solution to this, Ootori Kyouya," she said, with accusation on her tongue, "why don't you concede?"

"You don't know the effort he is exerting in this," Kyouya said sternly. "You think you understand, but you don't."

You couldn't do half of what he's already invested in this.

That was less diplomatic than Kyouya was willing to appear. He settled on, "There are other factors, here. It would be wise to withdraw until you can investigate fully."

There was a long pause, and then she came back with a smirk that leaked through the speaker. "You're bluffing."

The line clicked and died.

Later, the recorded conversation turned up on Kyouya's computer. It cut out after mentioning a business proposal, and Kyouya wondered for a while how she had transferred the call to a secure line without his noticing.

But, right after the call, he didn't know about that. He was busy wondering about other things.


Another day passed.

Kyouya should have been inside, studying for the math test the next day, because Tamaki would have a perfect score and Kyouya needed to have the same.

Instead, he had taken a book outside, and he was sitting on a squat, ornate, stone bench and watching Fuyumi prune her rosebushes.

He skimmed the paragraphs, planning the analytical essay in the back of his mind and occasionally copying down notes and useful quotations. His older sister collected flowers for an arrangement in the basket over her arm, pausing every two minutes to glance openly at him.

Finally, she pushed back her straw hat and huffed, "Is there something I should be pressing you to tell me about, Kyouya?"

He didn't look up. He was about ready to write the essay itself, but he was putting that off until he could get inside to his laptop. "I spoke to Tamaki's grandmother earlier today."

Fuyumi's smile was blinding, even without seeing it directly. "And you asked her to stop this ridiculous rival nonsense."

Kyouya considered telling her that it wasn't nonsense, but it really was, so he just said, "She called my bluff. It wasn't worth anything."

She was snip-snipping at her garden again. "Well, were you bluffing?"

He pressed his lips together and pushed his glasses up his nose. The sun kept catching the lens the wrong way and hitting him in the eye. When he straightened his neck and watched his sister, the angle was better.

"No," she guessed finally. "Whatever you said, you weren't bluffing."

"In physics," he reminded her absently, "the equation for work is force applied times distance moved. No matter how much effort is expended, no work has been done if nothing changes."

"Science test tomorrow?" she guessed.

"Math."

"Oh." She stood up from her hunched crouch, holding her back stiffly, though she didn't crack it like a commoner might. She collected her shears and her basket and hiked across the grass to sit next to him.

"I could give you advice," she said, contemplating the sun as it sank lower in the sky. It would set, soon, and then they would be expected inside for dinner. "But you won't like it. And it'll cost you."

Kyouya was already sitting astride the bench, using the concrete as a low desk, and now he gathered his work and set it behind him. He held his arms out and rolled his wrists, command and invitation both.

She smiled sweetly and shifted so that her back was to him. He started high, thumbs pressing into the knots of her shoulders, careful not to tangle or pull on her hair.

After a few seconds to make sure he wouldn't stop, Fuyumi said, "The fact that you called. It's worth something. It would be, to him."

Kyouya pressed a little harder and started migrating down. He said, "You're right. I don't like it."

She laughed. "I know. But, have you? Talked to him, I mean. About any of this."

"No."

"Right. Sorry. I keep getting him confused for that blond best friend of yours."

He was halfway down her back. Very patiently, he explained, "It wouldn't help anything."

"It might help him."

"Letting him adapt to working alone would help. If he stays so dependent on others-" Kyouya consciously gentled his hands, kept them from pressing too hard.

"He's always been surrounded by people giving him support and encouragement," Fuyumi said, paving over his unfinished sentence. The afternoon heat was fading, leaving the black hair at her temples damp with sweat.

"That's his own fault."

"No, Kyouya. It's yours. You're an enabler. Who was always at the center of Tamaki's support?"

Kyouya finished rubbing the knots out of his sister's lower back. "I was," he admitted. "We should go inside. Dinner will be served shortly."

She climbed off the bench and took up her gardening things while Kyouya retrieved the neat pile of papers and worksheets.

As they trudged through the grounds and up to the mansion, Fuyumi counseled, "Tell him that you tried. He'll know that you're not giving up, at least, so he shouldn't, either."

Kyouya readjusted his glasses on his nose in a gesture that his sister apparently interpreted as noncommittal.

She bumped his upper arm with her shoulder. "You have a very powerful personality, little brother of mine. This will work out."

"In physics, do you know the equation for power?"

"I don't care. Do you know the definition of the word?"

Power is work done over the time it took to do.

And since no work was done…