a/n: This is turning out way long. I feel like I should've just made it its own story, but since I've already started under Debts I think I'll keep it here. Enjoy? Review? I love reviews. Especially long ones.
Also? Tense. It hates me. As does this format at the moment.
What's a man to do? After all, Kyouya has to eat.
(Well, he's not really a man anymore, but he overlooks this. He has never felt less alive, but he is still going, and the fact remains: He has to eat.)
The scholarship girls are always poor, sweet things and some of them remind him of Fuyumi. Except for the 'poor'. He's kicked to the curb the part of him that feels bad, that insists that he could hire a prostitute for less money than these earnest, hardworking girls who have tried their best to succeed by the rules. Perhaps it's for that that he enjoys machinating their deaths. Innocent, stupid girls. Playing by the rules – maybe they deserve it.
If his wife deserved it, he, of all people, deserves this existence, deserves to kill, and deserves the punishment that awaits him in hell (if he ever gets there).
He is informed one year, by e-mail (how things have changed, and how strange that he has embraced it) that this year's scholarship student goes by the name of Fujioka Haruhi – or Haruhi Fujioka, if he prefers. She is coming to New England, his newest place of residence (he migrated to America from England fifty years ago), to study at an Ivy League school and become an attorney. All the way from Japan – my, my. He immediately pens her a letter in his old-fashioned, cramped scrawl, inviting her to visit with him at a good restaurant. Some of the girls are resistant to his charms, but it usually starts this way. Sometimes he meets their friends, instead, and eventually preys on them or their friends or their friends' maids' nieces; after all, it wouldn't look good to make a pattern out of the girls he takes. Someone would start to notice. All the disappearances, all the pale, drained corpses – that they were all scholarship students who were aided by Kyouya Ohtori.
That would do him no good. He does not think of himself as a, well, whatever they call it nowadays – serial killer. He doesn't want his face plastered over televisions; he doesn't want to spend life in prison. He's a simple man. No, fame doesn't suit him. Wouldn't be practical for him. It would be to be found out, either way. Even with a good attorney and a not-guilty verdict, disappearing would be a headache that no newfangled painkiller would ease (not that he literally gets headaches, anymore, being as they are related to the bloodflow).
He writes the last line of his note in katakana, if only to impress her:
I hope to see you soon.
And then, his flourishing scrawl, with the capital letters large and cramped and looming over the little strings that form his name:
Haruhi Fujioka brushed her untidy brown bangs out of her face. Her right contact shifted in her eye and she had to blink rapidly to get it set again. She scrunched her eyebrows and tried to concentrate once more on the piece of paper – it was parchment, really – that she held.
She knew her scholarship had something to do with a Kyouya Ohtori, some wealthy, foreign, well-traveled man. She had never expected to speak to him or see him. There had been no stipulations made, and she expected that money would be given to her education and that would be the end of their interaction.
In fact, she was more than perplexed – she was a little bit wary that he had sent her this letter. From the rich, creamy paper, the blotty black pen, and the mysterious nature of this man, she felt vaguely repulsed. Was he flashing around his wealth, trying to paint himself as some modern-day Daddy Longlegs?
Or maybe she was jaded. About men, about people. About people with money. Maybe it wasn't too out of the question that he really just wanted to meet with the student he gave this scholarship to.
She sighed, brushing her bangs out of her face again with her free hand. She had to get them trimmed.
She put down the letter. Dinner, tomorrow night, at some restaurant Haruhi had never heard of. She knew she'd only been in America a couple of months, but she still knew about the Pasta House and the Olive Garden and she knew this was not one of those. Judging from the rich paper, that said, ever-so-subtly I am Rich and you are not, they were probably meeting at the flashiest resturaunt in town. She read the name again. She was fairly confident it was French, and that she would be unable to pronounce any of the food on the menu.
Haruhi wanted to kick at one of her mostly-unpacked suitcases .
Kyouya lightly traced the rim of his wine glass with his thumb. In the restaurant dim, chic lighting, it shone red as blood.
He sipped it, now scanning the room with his dark, spectacled eyes. The taste of the wine was nowhere near as satisfying as the liquid it resembled, although even he, with his dead taste buds, could tell that it would have been a nice '52. That had been a good year for him. He indulged in a moment of fond remembrance for the dear girl he'd taken that year – she'd been a girl impressed with wine, from a good French family, and when he drank her, he thought he could almost taste it in her veins.
He leaned back in his chair. The wine sloshed in his stomach, but he carefully masked the unpleasant, near-nauseous sensation.
A waiter said something, and he heard. He felt tempted to look over his shoulder, almost salivating at the thought of the girl to come. He could imagine her – long hair, perhaps, dark eyes, pale skin. It had been a long time since he'd been to Japan. He'd confined his tastes to the West for far too long.
When she sat down, he sat up a little straighter, staring and trying to place where he'd seen her before.
She had large, brown eyes – not dark, but light, like her brown hair. Her skin was pale, but its tint was more pink than gold. As for clothing, she wore clothes more suited to a business interview (a severe pencil skirt and heavy shoes) than for an evening at the city's finest restaurant.
He quirked an eyebrow.
She didn't so much as blink.
"It's nice to meet you, Miss Fujioka. I'm glad you could take time out of your day to meet with me."
Still she did not smile. Her big, big eyes expressed doubt at his actual gladness.
He warmed to her. All the naïveté of these scholarship students – their frenzied handshakes and mega-watt smiles – began to wear on him. This one was, at least, wary. Not the first of her kind to know sense, the first to recognize danger, but he marveled at her for her rarity.
"It is a habit of mine to meet the students I aid in scholarship. A good way, I think, of constructing a connection between the human and the investment." He smiled coolly at what would normally be perceived as a joke. Fujioka Haruhi looked put-off. Good for her.
"It's nice to meet you, too," she said, in a voice so hollow that even an idiot would recognize it as a lie.
Kyouya caught the waiter's eye and nodded at him. The waiter asked what he might get for him.
"Lamb," Kyouya said, "rare. And another glass of wine."
"For the lady?"
Kyouya opened his mouth to order for her, but she cut in, almost nervously:
"A salad," she said, "and water, please."
Kyouya smiled a little to himself. She's cheap, he thought, and careful.And it amused him. The waiter screwed up his nose, almost imperceptibly.
"Japan is lovely this time of year," Kyouya says, making small talk, all the while taking a sadistic glee in her discomfort – not at him, for she is only wary of him, but at her surroundings.
"Not as beautiful as in spring, though."
He takes another sip of his wine as he examines her, trying – wanting, for some reason – to wrench words from this blood pool's pink mouth.
"You must be well traveled, Mr. Ohtori," she says, obviously straining for something to throw into the ring. "You have a British accent and you seem fluent in written Japanese."
He is unable to hide his vanity. "I'm from Hungary, originally."
A long moment of a pause, then another strained piece of talk: "Is it nice therethis time of year?"
He remembers the fall of his homeland, his wife at his side, the gardens and the reds and colors. Most vaguely, he remembers the smell of fall before the coal chimneys of England and the metal of America and the overwhelming tang of blood in gutters took away his sense of smell entirely.
And then: his wife.
His eyes may widen imperceptibly, or else, his lips may part a millimeter, because it strikes him like a blow to the head:
The delicate bones of her jaw, the doubtful quirk of her polite smile, the small, thin fingers – all his wife's. From her coloring to the way she fidgeted, she stood before him, incarnate.
She fidgets, then, at the way he stares. He blinks and takes another sip of his wine.
Now that the glaring recognition fades from his eyes, he sees about as many differences as similiarities. She's Oriental, with thin, short hair. And she looks at him with a kind of determination that only a twenty-first century woman could possess, the kind his wife displayed only infrequently (though, it nags at him, the determination had always been there).
He smiles at her determination and decides that she will be a good meal.
The food arrives, and she eats her salad in silence. He tries to choke down a few pieces of meat. It's not nearly rare enough.
She looks enviously over at his lamb, just for a moment, but he catches her glancing and she looks away.
He knows now that this petite thing is a glutton – her downfall - and it irritates him because he realizes it is another similarity. His wife loved food. Until she took
After the meal, they both reach for the bill. His hand falls on her warm one.
"Don't concern yourself with paying. I'm the one who insisted you come here. Allow me."
She looks conflicted, seeing logic and benefit in his argument, but also seeing a trap. "I'll pay my half."
He looks on, amused, as she scrapes up all the coins and one-dollar bills and counts them carefully, conscientious when it came to the foreign currency. An idea comes to him, and he fights to hide a smirk.
She pushs the pile toward him, wrinkling the linen table cloth as she did so. The jingling calls the eyes of nearby patrons to them, and Kyouya feels torn between a sigh and another smirk at her behavior.
Either way, he smiles, he's got her now.