-1A/N: No idea where this one came from, to be honest. Don't take it too seriously, okay? It's really just a bit of fun…
Haruhi was physically and mentally exhausted. Still, at least she was home now; and she knew exactly what would be waiting for her on the other side.
Every morning, she instructed Tamaki that he was not to wait up for her. She was still a relatively junior lawyer really, and between that and her habit of getting caught up in her work, she was often late home. And he would always be waiting there with a meal of some sort, insisting that she ate before he let her crawl into bed. She always told him not to bother, and to get some proper sleep, and always hoped he would; but he never listened. So she opened the door, and waited for the usual emphatic greeting.
It didn't come. She frowned. Perhaps he had actually listened to her for once. Or, given the fact he had been acting strange for the entirety of the week, he might be ill. Only, she'd seen him ill before and that wasn't how he behaved. He'd been acting very oddly. She couldn't quite place her finger on what, but he seemed almost…
Then she noticed the light was on in the sitting room. He was still up, then. She went into the room; and he didn't even notice. He always noticed, but he did not notice. He just sat, hunched forward slightly, with his elbows on his knees and his hands curled into fists under his chin. He was too still.
"Tamaki? What's the matter?"
He jumped, startled. "Ah, Haruhi! I didn't hear you come in!" He ran his hands through his hair. His eyes were red. "And I haven't made dinner either! I'm sorry!"
As he moved, Haruhi saw the suitcases on the carpet next to him. He caught where her gaze was going and fell silent.
She asked again, stonily, after a long pause that seemed to tell her
"I…" He swallowed. "I'm leaving, Haruhi."
He'd managed to get the words out, somehow, but he just couldn't look at her. He began playing with the luggage label instead. Anything to keep his hands busy. Anything at all. "Ah, but, but, I'll give you a fair settlement and everything… you can have the house, and enough money, let's just keep it quiet and out of the courts and… and as painless as possible."
"Painless…?" She echoed, quietly. For a moment he heard the hurt in her voice. Then it was gone again. "I don't want your money, just to know…Do I at least get to know what I've done?"
Nothing. You haven't done anything. Don't ever believe you have.
He forced himself to meet her eyes. "No-one could work such long hours. And you get on so well with that colleague of yours…"
Her eyes filled with anger and hurt as she realised what she was being accused of; but she didn't say anything for a moment.
"I see." She said, after a long silence. "…I thought you trusted me?"
I do. I do, more than anyone else. I would trust you with anything. Except… this.
"If that's really what you think of me, Tamaki," She said, controlling her anger. "If that's really what you want… really something you'd think I'd do… if you really can't trust me anymore… I have nothing more to say to you. Leave, if you really feel you have to."
Haruhi… please, don't look at me like that. Please, don't. I can't stand it. Hate me, if it'll help, hate me if you want to. I want you to hate me. But… but please, just don't look at me like that…
"Tamaki." She said, coldly, forcing him to focus. "Be honest. Do you really believe that I'm having an affair?"
No! No, not for a second! Of course I don't believe that. You would never do something like that. Of course I… I could never believe it.
"Yes. Yes, Haruhi, I do."
She gave him another look of disgust, but controlled herself. "Then… is this it? Is this goodbye?"
"Well, then, Tamaki. Goodbye. I hope you find someone more trustworthy in the future."
She disappeared upstairs. Tamaki's instinct was to follow, to take it all back, hold her and never let her go. But he couldn't. So he took hold of his suitcases instead. Now was not the time to arrange for the rest of his things. He didn't care anyway. How could he? What did they really matter anyway?
He left the house, and shut the door quietly behind him, and walked down the front steps into the darkness beyond. There was a car waiting for him on the kerb that had cost as much as most people earnt in a year. The door opened.
"I see you've done it, then?"
Tamaki gritted his teeth and wiped his wet face with the back of his hand. Had he been crying in front of Haruhi? He didn't know. He hoped not. "Yes." He answered. His grandmother smiled from within the shadows of the car.
"Good. I'm glad to hear it. Now you can get married to someone more suitable and-"
She glared at him. "Impudent boy… just get in the car."
"No. I am not a boy and I am certainly not impudent." He leant in, and said his next words with perhaps more venom than he had ever used with anyone before. "Just leave her alone, and leave me alone too. I want nothing more to do with you."
"Hmmph. What an odd time to stage a rebellion." The old woman didn't seem particularly bothered by this little drama. "And what do you suppose would happen to your mother if the Suohs no longer supported her?"
"I'll do it myself." Tamaki said with the impression of calm. "She wouldn't want your money anyway. Just leave us all alone."
"You're being foolish…"
"I don't think I am, actually." He said, and took a step backwards. "Goodbye, Grandmother."
He bowed mockingly, and began to walk away down the street. Perhaps he didn't have anywhere to go. But anywhere was better than in that car.
If Tamaki had thought about it, he would have realised that he now had no home to go to, and no job now that he would not work for his family, no company to inherit and no family to rely on.
He was, in essence, a self-made commoner.
And he had no-one left.
…Almost. There was one place he could go. The welcome would not exactly be warm, but he would not be turned away. That would have to be enough. Just while he worked out what to do next.
That night, Haruhi dreamt about, of all things, how Tamaki had proposed to her. She was heading to work, as usual, and pulled into the car park at the front of the building before heading to her office at the back of it. On the way, people kept looking at her and smiling or giggling. She hadn't known why, and nor did she have the energy to care. Probably just some office joke at her expense. She didn't have time to care, either. There was so much work to do that sometimes she felt she was forgetting who she was. But there wasn't time to think too much about that, either.
She had reached her office, opened the blind, glanced at the somewhat unsatisfactory view of the billboard opposite, and turned away- and had to look again.
The billboard directly opposite her office was no longer displaying a burger advertisement. Now it read: Haruhi, you work too hard! Stop for a minute to read this billboard… and then, tell me if you'll marry me. I love you so so much. Yours forever, Tamaki.
To which, when she had managed to stop staring, she replied to in a phone call.
"You're nothing if not subtle, aren't you?" She said, as soon as he'd picked up.
"Well, it would have been more eloquent but they could only get so many letters on the board."
She had laughed. And then she had said yes. And Tamaki had hung up without replying, then burst into her office from his hiding place in the room next door and kissed her and laughed and was altogether too overcome to say anything for almost half an hour.
But now, in her dream, the billboard read something slightly different.
Haruhi, you work too hard. Stop for a minute to read this billboard… and then, tell me if you remember me. I love you so so much; but you never intended to be mine forever.
She read those horrible words through over and over. And then she woke up, and she blinked at the ceiling, and she wondered why Tamaki did not trust her.
"You can't seriously being going through with this!"
not the one who left."
"Please, Haruhi, think about this a little."
"Tamaki didn't exactly give me much chance, Kaoru!" Haruhi snapped, moving around the twins as she continued packing away Tamaki's things into boxes.
It had been a week since he had walked out. He had yet to make any contact, and the divorce papers had yet to come through; but she suspected he would be staying with Kyouya. If he didn't arrange something soon, she would. If he was leaving, she didn't want his things lying around either. How was she supposed to pretend she had never been married to him to begin with if all his things were still in their- her- house?
Today, however, was a Saturday. Which meant that the twins were free to come and nag her. Everyone had been horrified to hear the news. They just couldn't understand it.
Well, neither could she.
"Something's not right here." Hikaru said, disgruntled. "No way he would just walk out on you now."
"Well, he has. He doesn't trust me."
"Come off it, Haruhi!" Kaoru blazed suddenly. "You know as well as we do that he would never, not even if he had photographic evidence, ever believe you were having an affair!"
"I know he wouldn't." Haruhi agreed, calmly meeting his eye. "But he doesn't trust me enough to tell me what is going on. If that's the case, it's a wonder we lasted this long."
aren't you curious? Don't
you want to know?"
"I just don't want to think about it." She replied, in a tone that suggested she had been thinking about it a great deal.
Of course she wanted to know. Of course she wondered. She wanted to know what she had done, or even what he thought he had done. Knowing Tamaki, this could be the result of any twisted noble thought. But then, if he was insecure, why hadn't he just told her? Why didn't he tell her what was on his mind? Why didn't he trust her?
And… and, some small doubt in the back of her mind whispered, what if he did believe it after all…?
Tamaki didn't believe it. Of course he didn't. Just as Kaoru had said, he could never believe that. But he could never have stayed. He couldn't have done that to her.
He stared down at the table and the divorce papers in front of him. He had to sign them. Now. So they could be sent to Haruhi. He had to sign them, just pick up a pen and scribble his signature.
He stared at them.
"You know," Kyouya remarked, irritably. "That's not going to help anymore than it has for the past week."
"…I just have to sign them, Kyouya."
"I think we both know that you're not going to. Why don't you just go back to her and out of my house?"
"I can't, Kyouya, we both know that, too!"
"Of course you can." Kyouya barked. "Do you have any idea what this is doing to her, leaving without explanation; yet alone what it's doing to you? You keep saying 'you have to', and if you really believe that, why are you guilt-tripping yourself like this, hmm?"
"…I hurt her."
"Probably, yes." Kyouya sighed. "Tamaki. We've been friends a long time, despite my best efforts. You've never once listened to me, but you must have noticed how much better things would have turned out if you had; so now might be a good time to start. Go home to your wife, Tamaki, burn those papers, and deal with the consequences when they come."
"I…" Tamaki wavered, staring at the papers before him. "I…" Suddenly, his moves quick and desperate, he grabbed a pen and scrawled the final signature across the space. "I can't!"
With that, he stood up so quickly and violently that the chair fell over behind him, and a moment later, he was out of the room. Kyouya watched him leave in some surprise, but then sighed and shook his head. He was tempted to burn the papers himself, but this was not his decision- or mistake- to make. He left the documents on the table, to gaze accusingly back up at the ceiling.
When the final agreement arrived in Haruhi's hands, she didn't even read them. She always read every document she was given as a matter of course, but these… she felt sick even looking at these. She flicked through, putting her signature where required, and shoved everything back into the envelope, putting it down on the small table in her hall while she put on shoes to go and put it straight back in the post box.
Before she left, she took off her wedding ring, and left it on the table. Her finger felt bare.
Haruhi had been a divorced woman for three days when Kyouya came to see her. At least, she assumed she had been officially divorced, there was a letter from the solicitors sitting in her hall waiting for her to be brave enough to open it. She still hadn't spoken to Tamaki since he had left. The twins and Honey and Mori had all come to see her, as had her father, but really, what was there to say? She felt some small gratitude to them as they did not believe she had been having an affair, or were outraged on her behalf or had tried to lobby Tamaki for her. She guessed it hadn't worked. Then, late on evening, she opened her door to Kyouya.
"The fool's going back to France." He said, as soon as she opened it. She felt her face harden, the expression carved from granite, even as she stood aside to let him in and gestured towards the living room.
"With respect, Kyouya-senpai, that is no longer anything to do with me." Haruhi replied, though inside she felt like screaming. What she said was true. So why did she still hate the idea of him being so far away…?
"It is everything to do with you." Kyouya snapped. "It is everything to do with you because you are the only one who can make him stay."
"And why should I make him stay?"
"Because you are also the reason he's leaving." Kyouya stated matter-of-factly. "Alright, Haruhi, he hurt you, fine, we all get it- now, get over it. I am going to tell you something I swore I wouldn't because that idiot won't listen to anyone but you."
She stared at him. Hadn't she been coping well? Hadn't she been doing everything exactly as normal? She hadn't even cried…
But Kyouya clearly didn't have the time or patience for moral debates. He had, in effect, been driven mad by having Tamaki in his house. He had always found his friend's apparently irrepressible optimism and cheeriness irritating, but surprisingly, his black mood was worse. Tamaki did not bounce anymore, just… drifted. And then he had announced he was going back to France, to get a new job and a new home and a new life, and to take care of his mother. And he still hadn't told Haruhi why.
"Did you know he quit his job and 'left' his family?"
"He told his family he would have nothing more to do with them. And he's stuck to it, too."
"But he-" Haruhi stopped herself. "I don't see what this has to do with me."
"You were the cause of the argument."
"Let me guess." She snorted. "Divorce is too shameful?"
"No," Kyouya surprised her by answering. "You were too shameful. But he loved you anyway, and married you anyway, despite what they said."
but he didn't stay with me…"
"He couldn't." Kyouya told her, quietly. "They told him to leave you from the beginning. He went this far, and when he still said no, they said they would cut him off from the family. He still said no."
Haruhi watched him and waited for the end of the story.
"So they decided to get him to do what they wanted in the only way it would work. They told him if he did not leave you voluntarily, they would find other ways to come between you… they said you would be meeting with various fatal accidents. They gave him a week to decide. He decided."
"…No!" Haruhi shook her head. "What are you talking about? Are you just lying to me so I'll ask him to come back? Stop covering for him, Kyouya! I don't deserve to be lied to right now, however well-intentioned they are!"
He just looked at her. And he looked more sincere than she had ever known him.
"You're lying." She repeated, with far less conviction. "…Oh, come on, I know his grandmother doesn't like me, but why would anyone be so dramatic…?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Bearing in mind this is the gene pool that spawned Tamaki…"
This was true.
Haruhi thought about it for a moment. It didn't make much sense.
But, given what she knew about Tamaki, it made plenty.
And wasn't it just easier to believe this anyway?
Perhaps he did trust her. Perhaps he loved her, too.
"Kyouya. When is he planning on leaving?"
Kyouya gave a thin smile. That was more like it.
Tamaki was in the taxi to the airport. It was certainly different to the chauffeurs he'd always had before. For one thing, this taxi driver didn't seem to realise that Tamaki didn't really want to talk. Actually, he seemed to take it as a sign to tell Tamaki everything about himself instead. So far, Tamaki had found his driver's name was Tatsu, he had two sons and a daughter named Phillipa who was going to study dance in New York, that this cost a great deal more than a humble taxi driver could hope to earn, so Tatsu was using his adept skills at fence building and general DIY to help out, and that the best materials for fence building was pine because it was cheap and relatively resilient. Tamaki nodded and made vague comments in reply. He was normally a friendly person and only too happy to make conversation with strangers.
But today his mind was elsewhere.
He tried to keep it on France, and the future. Now he was nothing to do with the Suohs, how could they stop him going back? He tried to keep his mind focused on France.
It remained stubbornly in the past.
"It won't help, you know." Tatsu said, suddenly.
Tamaki's head snapped up. "Pardon?"
"No-one goes to an airport with a face like that unless they're trying to run away from something." Tatsu elaborated, not unkindly.
"…Not running away. Moving on." Tamaki said, resolutely.
He chuckled. "Is there a difference?" He paused for a moment, then eventually asked. "Left you, did she?"
"No." Tamaki shook his head. "…I left her."
Tatsu was so surprised that he actually turned around, facing away from the road. "What?! Then what're you looking that for?!"
He turned back around, cursed, and dragged himself back into the proper lane before they drifted across the centre line.
"I had to leave." Tamaki defended. "She hasn't done anything, it's just… complicated."
"And don't you trust her to sort it out?"
"She can't." Tamaki answered, sadly. "No-one can. I just hope… I hurt her. So she wouldn't worry. I didn't want her thinking she'd done something wrong. So… I let her think… I hurt her. So she'd give the blame to me."
"Very noble of you and all, but I bet she'd prefer having you there." Tatsu shook his head, then shrugged. "Sorry, it's none of my business. I'm just here to drive the car."
"I have to go." Tamaki said, more resolutely than he had ever managed before. Somehow, explaining it to someone impartial had helped strengthen his conviction. He'd hurt her, but Haruhi was strong. She'd get over it.
And she'd have a whole life to live. A life that would not be cut short because he had fallen in love with her.
The car remained silent. Tamaki went to France.
Almost. In his mind, he was already there.
And then, five minutes from the airport, the billboard.
It was not the one he had hired for Haruhi. But it made him jolt forward and demand that Tatsu stopped. It made him throw open the car door and jump out and stare at the letters to make sure they said what he thought they did.
Tamaki, you worry too much. Stop for a minute to read this billboard… and then, tell me if you remember me. I love you. Didn't you intend to be mine forever? Please. Come home. Haruhi.
"…Is that you?" Tatsu asked, shattering the silence. He chuckled. "I think there's a little girl out there somewhere who kinda wants you back, my friend."
Tamaki stared at the billboard a moment longer, storing the memory safely away where it could never be eroded. Never be touched. Then he turned his back on it, got back into the car, and sat in silence. Tatsu waited. And waited.
"Where to?" He asked, eventually.
"…The airport." Tamaki said regretfully, shutting his eyes and drawing a shuddering breath. Kyouya must have told her he was leaving- what else did she know now? He couldn't let her make him stay. She would die. He couldn't let himself be convinced.
"…Are you sure?"
Tatsu licked his lips thoughtfully, and turned the car around. "No." He said.
"W-what are you doing?!"
"Something that might cost me my job," Tatsu answered, grim but determined. "But might save you from making a terrible mistake…"
"No!" Tamaki yelled at him. "You don't understand!"
"Maybe you don't understand, mate." Tatsu said, firmly. "Whatever it is, you have to talk about it with her at least. I think she loves you and I think you love her, and I think that means no-one and nothing can come between you."
Come to think of it, he had told his family he would have nothing more to do with them.
And, if he left, they might have blamed her.
So he had to stay. To protect her.
To love, honour, and protect her.
Tatsu smiled at him in the mirror, sensing the change in attitude. Slowly, reluctantly, Tamaki smiled back.
"Tatsu, my man, you're going to need to take me to a different address."
"Ah, but…" Tamaki suddenly faltered. "We'll need to stop at a jewellers."
"Yes." Tamaki nodded firmly. "I need to propose to my wife."
Haruhi had known a few things about Tamaki.
Everything he did was done dramatically. And, he was stubborn. And he had a strange sense of nobility. So, now that he'd convinced himself he was protecting her, it would take something dramatic and overblown and very romantic to stop him.
Dramatic and overblown and very romantic was not really Haruhi's style at all. But she'd tried. What if he just drove right past it without noticing? She would never know. That would drive her mad. A phone call would have been so much easier…
But it might not have worked.
This might not work.
No. She was sure it would work. As long as he saw it.
He had to see it, her logical mind pointed out. You couldn't really miss a billboard.
But she still had to wait. Wait a terribly long time, and even then, she wasn't sure that she wasn't just imagining the sound of a key in the lock.
She wasn't imagining it. She didn't open the door. She didn't quite dare. She just stood in the hall, and waited.
He opened it, and for a moment, they just stood and looked at each other.
"I know." She interrupted. "Kyouya-senpai told me everything. He had to."
"No, I was going to say…" He smiled sheepishly at her. "That I got your message."
"Oh." She answered, trying to stop herself smiling. "Good." She couldn't stop the smile. "…You're an idiot."
"Sorry." He said, so abashed that he dropped to his knees in front of her.
Then she realised it was not shame that had sent him to his knees. He pulled a ring box from his pocket.
"…I don't have a billboard to hand." He said, lamely.
"Um, Tamaki-" She began.
"No, no, I will do this properly… Haruhi, you… you're so…" He sighed and gave up. "I love you. Will you marry me… um, again?"
"Um…" She looked sheepish. "I guess you couldn't look at the letter either, huh…?"
"…We're still married." Haruhi said, calmly. "I… forgot to sign one of the boxes, and it couldn't be validated."
He stared. Then he smiled. "Haruhi…!"
"Don't look at me like that, you forgot to sign four."
"I shouldn't have signed any." Tamaki replied, and would have kissed her, had she not spoken again.
"…Do you still want to go to France?"
"What? No, Haruhi, no, I do want to be with you, I really, honestly, do…"
"I know." She said. "I'll come with you."
Tamaki didn't have an answer to that. He didn't know what he wanted, really. For the moment, he just wanted her, and he just wanted to think about her, and he didn't want to think about the future anywhere beyond the fact he would be able to spend it with her.
He wondered if she would disapprove of his thought processes.
Then he kissed her.