Her breath came in short pants, her cheeks glowing with the heat of her heart as she leaned against the rough bark of the tree. Droplets of rain sank through the leaves and splashed against her already soaked body and hair, but she seemed not to notice them. She gazed into the distance, chewing her bottom lips nervously.
"Haruhi, a simple 'no' will suffice," said a calm voice from behind her.
Haruhi blinked and turned with surprise. "Kyouya-sempai?" she said. "Why are you here?"
"I followed you."
"That much is obvious," she muttered. "I mean why did you follow me?"
"There are chances of thunder," he replied. "If such is the case and you are lost out here, I will never hear the end of it from that idiot."
Haruhi felt a shiver possess her at the mention of Tamaki. "Why didn't he come after me himself?" she asked indignantly.
"I am not in the habit of trying to understand his motives," Kyouya said with a shrug, "but I believe it may have something to do with 'rejection'. When you propose to a girl and she runs away, it doesn't bode well for your chances of success."
"How can you be sarcastic about something like this?" Haruhi asked angrily, bristling. She slumped to the ground at the base of the tree, soaking her clothes with mud.
"It is, in some ways, rather amusing," Kyouya confessed, smirking slightly. "Not because Tamaki will be hurt when you reject him-"
"Who said I was going to reject him?" she snapped.
Kyouya ignored her and continued, "but because you spent so many years oblivious to his growing affection and desire. This really came to you as a shock? How can one so perceptive be so ignorant? Why don't I tell you now that Hikaru is equally as infatuated with you so that it will not be such a surprise when he proposes. Maybe then you'll actually be able to give him an answer."
"Hi-Hikaru?" she whispered.
"Yes, of course," Kyouya said matter-of-factly.
Haruhi looked frustrated. "Why would they...?" she trailed off, glaring at the soggy grass all around her.
"Why?" Kyouya repeated. "I suppose for the same reason I will ask you next Friday on our date."
Her eyes grew wide. "Kyouya, you were planning to propose?"
"Well, why not?" he asked, shrugging. "We've been dating for well over a year."
"That's not a good reason to get married," Haruhi huffed.
"I agree. I had only ever planned to marry for one of two things; status or love. As you obviously do not fall under the first category, I am forced to admit that I believe myself to be in love with you."
"You could say it with a little feeling," she complained.
He knelt beside her and took her hand. "My darling Haruhi, light of my world, brightest star in the sky..."
"Knock it off!" she growled, snatching her hand away.
Kyouya, deeming that he was already wet, sat beside her in the mud. "Am I being rejected?" he asked, one eyebrow raised.
"Baka... I should reject you!"
"But you won't."
"Do you have to sound so confident?"
"Why should I not be?" he asked. "You have made it quite clear that you find me attractive and worthy of your time and I believe I have transmitted similar feelings. I have spoken to you about my father's interest in our union."
"I could still reject you," she said firmly.
"Then do so," he dared.
"Perhaps I'll just run away again," she replied, jumping to her feet. A split second later Kyouya was also standing and had her pinned to the tree.
"I'm afraid I can't allow that," he said in a low voice. "Tamaki may be willing to let you go, but I am not. I will not take no for an answer."
There was a pause in which they heard nothing but the rain falling all around them. They stared into each other's eyes, their damp bodies pressed together, water running down their skin. Their breath caught and mingled in the spring air as they maintained their distance.
"And what will you do if I refuse you?" she had the nerve to say.
He lifted a hand to her cheek, a soft, rare smile on his face, and said, "I'll propose again, and again, and again until there's not an ounce of dignity in my body."
She returned the smile. "That won't be necessary."
And as he lowered his face to hers, his left hand was reaching into his pocket, where a little black box had been waiting, a little black box that held all the promise of their future.
Haruhi gasped when she felt the cool metal slipping onto her finger and pulled away, frowning. "I thought you were planning to wait until Friday," she said. "Why did you have the ring with you?"
Kyouya smirked. "Opportunities exist to be used; it would have been a crime to bypass one as perfect as this, though not even I could have planned such an elaborate scheme, so you can drop that accusatory tone. I merely... took advantage of an interesting scenario."
Haruhi sighed. "You will forever be the shadow king, won't you?"
He let out a laugh-like breath. "Does that bother you?"
She shook her head as their lips met.