title: Coming Up Roses
prompt: 'flowers', at lj ourancontest
rating: K+ (a wee bit o' mild swearing)
genre: introspection, light angst, future!fic, romance
word count: 4,437
pairings/characters: HaruhixHosts, HaruhixTamaki - with special appearances by Mei and Ranka!
summary: Haruhi's getting married. The only problem is how to break this news to the five people who least want to hear it.
a/n: Rush job! But it's gotten finished, and it's in time. :D
EDITED: 10/5/2010; originally posted 7/18/2008
When her father asked her if she was nervous, Haruhi smiled that unwitting, radiantly carefree smile and replied no, she was not. Despite all his fretting over which flowers she should have at her wedding, she was not nervous in the least. She had read enough shoujo manga to know that most brides were nervous, and that she, for her part, should be nervous as well.
After a week of sleepless nights, dozing off at work, and frantic afternoon visits to the shoujo manga section of the bookstore nearest her workplace, she had given him her answer - yes, yes, yes - and had not been anxious since. She left that to her father, who was in turn enthralled with (and stressing over) wedding preparations, bemoaning the loss of his daughter, and threatening the bridgegroom with assorted forms of torture if he ever, ever made Haruhi unhappy.
Which he certainly would not.
And then a series of events had toppled down on her complacence, out of control and heavy as feelings can be. Haruhi found that the color of flower in her bouquet would be the least of her worries (as if it hadn't been already).
They started small.
They started with Hunny.
He was, admittedly, the first one she broke the news to, aside from her father and Mei. And only because they were more nosy than was good for them. Their reactions couldn't have been more different: Mei had laughed, her father had cried. She had not intended to break the news first to Hunny, but there are times when things just happen, and they happened to have a date for tea that afternoon. But really, it was all for the best, and nothing ever happens without reason.
But here was Hunny now, sheeted in the morning June sunshine. It stunned her (as much as anything could stun Fujioka Haruhi) even now to see him. It was not just the lack of that tall, stoic, graceful mass beside him. It was that Hunny himself had grown tall and graceful, if not exactly stoic. He was short for a grown man, but good-looking, with that same childish smile that transcended the years and even still melted the hearts of women and girls. His voice was still high-pitched. He still loved sweets. But he had given up his Bun-Bun to permanent retirement, and now she was no longer seen, only spoken of, like a beloved wife waiting at home for his return.
It was during her lunch break. Haruhi smoothed out her gray pencil skirt, a favorite bought on sale from an inexpensive department store. It occurred to her for one heartbeat that perhaps she should be nervous about breaking such news before she remembered that it was Hunny, only and all.
"I'm getting married," she said over her cup of tea.
Hunny had no need to inquire as to whom. Haruhi didn't say much about her love affairs, but Hunny listened between the lines. He was a very perceptive listener that way.
"Oh, good," he said appreciatively through a mouthful of cake, "Bun-Bun will be happy to hear that. Takashi, too."
Haruhi smiled at this and sipped at her tea. No cake for her. She had never enjoyed overly sweet things. Hunny may have been the only exception.
When she told Mori, he smiled in a way that only she and Hunny were privileged to, and she smiled back in the way only she could repay that smile.
When they spoke, it was seldom through words. They had always been like that, and probably always would be. The world was a quiet place when these two quiet souls met. Conversations were pleasant and private. Not to be tainted with language.
She had not even needed to tell him she was getting engaged. If the extraordinary ease of her smile had not made it clear, the slight pang in his chest and the so-gaudy-it-was-almost-embarrassing ring on her finger had whispered to him the entire story.
Two encounters, now. Neither had made any rift in Haruhi's world. The next three would be different.
Breaking the news up until that moment had not been difficult. It was not hard to tell her father, Mei, Mori, or Hunny. But she had started to wonder how to tell Hikaru. Kaoru, as well. Knowing so clearly (so painfully) their feelings, caring for them as much as she did… She had known all along (she wasn't stupid), even though she had fumbled around the topic as well as her terrible lying would allow. But, I'm getting married, that's a whole other thing entirely.
Haruhi was not a selfish or impractical girl, and nothing would have pleased her more to know that Hikaru had gotten over her unwilling high-school rejection (but, oh, that was so long ago!). Or to hear that Kaoru had found a girl he thought the world of, and who though the universe of him.
It was a dim, overcast afternoon in August that she finally dialed his number on her cell phone. She had been avoiding both the twins over the past month, and she knew they were wondering why. She stood in the rain outside the entrance that lead underground to the subway. As the phone rang she stared out into the traffic, eyes glazing over the mothers with their children, the boys with their girlfriends, the people, the traffic, the mass of movement.
The ride she took wasn't due for five minutes. Haruhi usually preferred to be prompt, but guilt overwhelmed her. She had held off long enough.
She shivered in the pre-storm chill and waited. She listened to his phone ring three times… four times… please pick up. She hated phone tag. Five… six…
Distracted as she was, something in the street caught her eye.
Her expression, which had previously been absent and worried, softened into wide-eyed surprise.
If she had been a heroine from shoujo manga she would have dropped her cell phone then and there, let it hit the sidewalk with an unpleasant crack.
Haruhi was not a shoujo heroine. But when Kaoru's chirp (with a few comments from his brother) instructed her to 'leave a message', she didn't. She crinkled her eyebrows together and wondered why that limousine, of all limousines, looked so familiar (wasn't it just a limo?). Then, when the answer struck, she wondered vaguely what he was doing back in Tokyo. Before anything more could register, the vehicle was parked. Its drivers slid out and beckoned her to come.
With a small frown (realizing that she had missed her train and would be forced to accept a ride from him, which would let him know where she… but, oh, he probably already knew where she lived) Haruhi snapped her cell phone shut. She slid into the rear seat of the limo and buckled her safety belt.
"I haven't talked to you in months." Her tone was more ironic than annoyed.
He gave her a tight smile. "I'm glad you recognize me. I believe that your fiancé would go even slightly more insane if he knew you were accepting rides from strangers. I hope you're not accepting ootoro, too?"
To Haruhi, he practically was a stranger right now. Just one she knew very well. But… he knows. Of course he knows. She only hoped Hikaru and Kaoru didn't, yet.
"Why did you need to talk to me?" She would have added the old, familiar, 'Kyouya-senpai' to the end, if only to make this discussion feel more like a conversation between two friends. But, of all the hosts, she had never been particularly close to Kyouya, and had inevitably drifted furthest from him.
Look at her - she no longer even knew what to call him! In her mind, he was always 'Kyouya-senapi'. Aloud, 'Ohtori-san' would seem too detached. Not 'Ohtori-san'. Nor 'Kyouya-kun' - that was immature, almost belittling.
He rubbed his fingers together. It was odd to see him make the stalling gesture, odder still to think that he was not sure of what to say. Sureness normally oozed off him.
"Your wedding," he finally said, voice brisk and businesslike.
"I'm willing to get you anything you want - need, rather."
"Oh," she said dumbly, trying to process this offer, and the concept that it was Kyouya who was offering. She thought of the engagement ring that sat, proud and fat and glowing, on the fourth finger of her left hand. "Er, no. We won't need any help." She remembered to add a quick, "Thank you," although she was becoming keenly suspiciously.
He sighed, as though she were being stubborn and simple and he being too generous for his own good. Was he always this condescending? She recalled that, at one time, they had all been close.
"I'll be there," he said, "it will be inconvenient - if that fool wants a December wedding so badly, I'll have to fly in from Europe and come back again after it's over - but I suppose that will be my payment."
"Aside from the wedding present, of course; it wouldn't do to show up without one. But yours is rather nice, if I do say so myself."
"Why?" she managed, "why go through all this trouble? What do you mean, payment?"
He fixed her with a blank, cool stare. "It's expected, really," he said.
"I kept you in that club far too long."
She frowned and tried to puzzle out his response.
"It was selfish. Not just useful, but stupid. And look."
His tone was not angry, nor regretful. It was brusque, and just a little bit annoyed. Very Kyouya, she thought.
She was still confused. Something about this sentiment made her sad, even if she could not understand what he was referring to, but his delivery made her smile nonetheless.
"Well, thank you."
The car jerked to a stop. Kyouya studied her. His eyes didn't move even as he told her that they'd arrived at her house (he had known where she lived!) and offered to walk her to her door.
On her miniscule apartment porch he said formal goodbyes, and apologized in a not-very-apologetic way that he probably wouldn't be in town until her wedding day. There was an awkward length of silence, in which she noticed a bit of lnt on his suit and brushed it off. This made him flinch.
"Did you mean it when you said coming to our wedding was doing to be 'payment'?" she asked suddenly, "I don't believe you did, Kyouya-sen - oh." She paused to swallow her error. "You'd come anyway. This means a lot to you, it's…"
He cut her off with his ironic, cryptic smile and said in an ironic, cryptic, cheerful way.
'I didn't mean it. It's trouble, of course, but it's the kind I'm willing to go through. I'm the best man, after all."
Kyouya had assumed, she realized later. She had made it clear that until she took care of some business (that is, broke the news to all the most important people) there were to be no plans made, and no news spread. So, all right, it wasn't a stretch to imagine that Kyouya had found out. But he should have had no way of knowing he was to be best man.
He had assumed correctly, of course. Bastard.
The call to Kaoru, at any rate, had finally gone through, and she was due to meet him in twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes later, Haruhi walked up and went through the standard procedures. A 'thank you' to the doorman, a 'good morning' to the receptionist, who always asked, with a twinkle in her eye, "Name, please, Miss?"
"Fujioka Haruhi. Hitachiin Kaoru will be expecting me," or, sometimes, "Hitachiin Hikaru will be expecting me." The twins lived in the same apartment building, albeit five floors apart. From the difference in their rooms, even she was surprised they resided in the same building.
The receptionist would invariably take a quick glance at her computer screen, quirk one of her perfectly-plucked eyebrows, and nod. She would press a button, input a code, and the gilded elevator doors granted Haruhi entrance.
Haruhi waited in the elevator. Her palms began to sweat. She put down her briefcase to wipe her hands on her skirt, at which point a pleasant chime sounded and the elevator doors opened. She quickly grabbed her briefcase and walked down the hall to room 723.
Before she'd even raised her hand to knock, Haruhi felt herself enveloped in thin, lean arms scented with something fresh. Kaoru.
"Haruhi!" She told him he'd surprised her, he laughed and said she was uptight.
There were a lot of places that Haruhi loved, but Kaoru's studio (slash penthouse) was one of her favorites. Windows stretched up to the high, vaulted ceiling; the room was empty but for a couple couches, a sewing machine, and tables piled with cloth, patterns, scissors, markers, pencils, photographs, and, of course, designs. The whole room was light and air. It had the unfinished, come-as-you are look of happiness.
Kaoru promptly handed her a cup of tea (he'd brewed it because she was coming) and then sat down and asked her what her news was.
"I'm engaged," she told him, hesitation slipping away.
He was silent. For a little too long.
Then he smiled.
Things still seemed too quiet, until he spoke.
"Well," he said, "I guess I'll have to make you the most gorgeous wedding dress every to be worn by a commoner bride, huh? White. Lots of white would be good. Purity and innocence and everything."
And then he kissed her on the forehead, with far more tenderness than she felt comfortable with, before smiling again and going to get her some more tea.
"… and frills," he declared. "Lots of frills to cover up the fact that you still don't have anything up there." He winked. She sighed.
Kaoru spread out the papers and again pored over his designs. All wedding gowns. All impractical and overdone. But even to Haruhi's artless eye, there was something about the sketches - something in their innate elegance - that made her want to look a little longer.
He looked up and grinned at her interest. "Hikaru and I designed some of these together," he explained, "Although most of them are mine, he really-"
Kaoru's phone began to ring. "That'd probably be Hikaru now," he said, then flipped his phone open.
"Hello?" Pause. Haruhi listened.
"Yeah, she's here. What? Yes. No… she'll tell you herself." He mouthed at Haruhi, 'he wants to know why you're here'.
"Hey!" he said, suddenly, "How about tonight? At six? I'll bring Haruhi!"
Haruhi felt her spirits sink. She loved to go out with the twins but no, not tonight. She needed to tell Hikaru, and she didn't want to do it now. Not tonight.
Hikaru said something. Kaoru cocked his head and smiled mischievously. "All right. I'll dress her up." Haruhi shuddered and imagined Kaoru's dark-haired mirror image on the other side of the phone, smiling in the exact same way.
"Bye-bye!" Kaoru finally chirped (in English) and shut his phone.
"We have to dress you up," he told her smartly.
"I didn't want to tell him yet."
She shook her head 'no.'
"Is he the only one that doesn't know?"
"You mean, you've even told Renge?"
"What? No, why would I do that? I haven't spoken to her since she confessed her love for me in senior year."
"What about Kyouya?" he asked, serious this time.
"He already knew but yes, I've talked to him."
"He already knew he was going to be best man."
"He's the shadow king. Remember? His mind's an encyclopedia of blackmail used to catch us mortals off guard."
"Kaoru," she said, reaching nervously to twist the ring on her left hand - she wasn't used to wearing jewelry. "I haven't even figured out who's going to be my maid of honor, yet."
"Is Renge really out of the question?"
"What about Mei?"
She blinked. "Mei?"
"Sure. She's into that kind of girly thing. Besides, you two are close, and she'd be thrilled that you wanted her to be a part of your wedding."
"Well, she's already teamed up with my father to find me the perfect flowers for my wedding. And the perfect everything else. Actually, my father's also trying to find me the perfect replacement husband. But… you're right."
Kaoru smiled. "Come one. We have to meet Hikaru in an hour and a half at this commoner pub down the street, and you're not even wearing proper makeup yet!"
"I'm not wearing any makeup," she said with a sigh.
The pub was noisy, crowded, and a little bit dirty, but the twins enjoyed every moment of it - even though Hikaru's words and smiles were few and far between. He seemed to be thinking, staring at the wall, pensive and moody about something or another. Kaoru tried to spark up jokes and teasing and small talk over the pub's din, but every attempt was quashed with Hikaru's and Haruhi's respective silences. Haruhi was consumed by wondering. Does he know already? Who would have told him?
"Are you still going out…?" He trailed off. Haruhi didn't realize he was talking to her because he was still staring at the wall.
"Uh, you mean?"
"Yeah." He finally locked eyes with her, then gave a smile that was more like a frown. "Of course, I'm sorry. It's rude of me to ask."
"Oh, er. It's okay." This was part of why it was hard to talk to Hikaru, sometimes. He could get pensive and quiet and both of them started thinking of that time… years ago… when she'd turned him down, and quite possibly put a dent in his heart.
It wasn't like Hikaru was like this all the time. Maybe he'd noticed she'd been avoiding him.
"Oh, look! Sake! Hikaru, do you remember the crude taste of commoner sake? Let's -"
"We're engaged, actually."
The whole place was busy and noisy, but somehow, it was still silent. It was the heaviest kind, the kind laden with humid feelings, unhappiness that was condensed thick and about to pour.
Please don't let him take this badly, she prayed, but the silence crushed the prayer before it made it to the gods.
"Dammit," Hikaru said under his breath. And with that, he slammed his glass down hard and the silence - and the glass - was broken. A few nearby patrons quieted and stared, but the now-distant chatter was still loud.
"I have to go to the bathroom," he said roughly.
"Hikaru…" Karou was ignored as his twin swiftly made his way to the men's room. Haruhi wrung her hands in her lap. She had done nothing, it was no fault of hers. And yet… she hated being the one to do this. She hated being the one to hurt Hikaru, or any of her friends, just because they thought of her as more than friends and she loved them more than the world in that way only.
Kaoru reassured her, but he couldn't stop the thoughts. Is he all right? and It's because of me, isn't it? and, I love him. I really do. Why does it have to be like this?
Finally, Hikaru emerged from the bathroom. His posture spelled defeat.
"Congratulations," he said tiredly. "When is the wedding?"
"You're going to be very happy," he said, managing a weak smile, "I'm sure of it."
"Thank you," she said simply, but it held so much for him: thank you for understanding, thank you for keeping your temper, thank you for caring, thank you, thank you, thank you.
He shook his head. "I'm feeling a little sick. Do you guys mind if I go home?"
"Not at all," Haruhi said softly.
Kaoru excused himself to leave shortly after.
Haruhi stayed at the pub well past the time she should have returned home, drinking maybe just a little bit more than she should have.
The day has finally come.
Is it midnight already?
Her heart wont' stop beating, and all she can think is, I'm really getting married tomorrow. Today.
He's in the other room, still blissfully sleeping, just like a child. If he's a child, then what's she? A bride. For the umpteenth time, she tells herself that she will still be the same person after today, will still be Fujioka Haruhi (she's not even changing her name), but the voice says again, A bride.
For the umpteenth time in the last week, she's snuck out of the bedroom with her wedding dress and is sitting in it, getting it wrinkled, for no other reason than that she wants to feel a little more like the bride she's supposed to be. She still doesn't feel like one. The dress is gorgeous. It's not overly flounced, and the material purrs at her, stroking her skin and whispering to her how lovely she looks. Kaoru - and Hikaru - gave her their best.
In the corner of the room, there's a jar with pink roses crammed in affectionately, as many as the vase can hold. The other holds forget-me-nots. Mellow, drooping forget-me-nots, that don't lose any of their beauty for all their sadness.
Kyouya - he isn't here yet, but she can imagine when he will be – he sent her her present, too. A beachside cottage that she would love more if she wasn't convincing herself he was flashing his wealth, and a clipped note: Fond regards, wishing you the best, hoping you aren't nervous (really, how did he know these things?) Love to you, Kyouya. She thought it was odd he should sign it so affectionately, considering he was Kyouya, but he must have been trying to be nice. And it didn't really hurt to be so kind, considering he'd be just as cool (and Kyouya) at the wedding.
From him, white roses - prim, cool, expensive, sprigged with the deep, rich green of ivy.
Then, there are boxes and boxes of cakes, so many Haruhi has no idea what to do with them or whether she will even eat them all. (Perhaps she'll feed them to their sender, which was probably exactly how he planned it.) With them, a card adorned with rabbits, and a bouquet of cheerful, dependable daisies (Picked them for you, Haru-chan!).
Next to it, a potted plant and a short note: Didn't know what to get you, but please have a good wedding day. -Mori She sniffed the lily and fingered its waxy petals, appreciated the subtlety of the fragrance. She might send him a note back: I enjoyed you present very much. Thank you, Haruhi.
Not a single present was the practical sort of thing you'd expect for a wedding gift, but looking at them all, she felt herself soothed, felt the waves of drowsiness pet at her.
"Okay then," she whispered aloud, "I'll go to bed now."
Much to Ranka's dismay, the issue of the flowers was settled very quickly.
"Red roses," he declared, "Red roses, and nothing else! True love of the highest caliber!"
Of course, her father had been all for red roses to begin with, but now that the Tamaki had to go and favor them… well, they were out of the question. But her fiancé pressed, and her father bickered, and Haruhi finally got sick of it and told them both to shut up, she needed to work on a case, and would her father please just let him have his way?
"Of course," Tamaki gloated, "there are so many kinds of loves, and nothing makes love less true than it is. All love is equal! All love is important love! Love makes the world go 'round! But, Haruhi, the kind of love we have - it's truly the red-rose kind. Gallant princes, fairytales…"
"I have no idea what you're talking about. I let you have roses so you would be quiet and I could work on this case; now would you let it go?"
He looked seriously affronted for a moment. Mei happened to be passing through the room (she was bringing in a very large package, probably a wedding present, from someone named Renge) and happened to hear this well-beaten spiel on love and roses. And Haruhi.
"Better make sure those roses have thorns," she commented dryly.
Haruhi looked up from her papers for a moment to blink and then, quite unexpectedly, blush the color of these aforementioned roses.
Yet again the bridegroom got his way: it was a December wedding, the first day of December to snow, only days before Christmas Eve, a week or so before the New Year. She was dressed in pure white and shivering, but only because she had nothing but a beaded wrap over her sleeveless gown.
The only color in the white was the red, the red of the red roses between steady, white hands.
On the day that Fujioka Haruhi walked down the aisle to be given in marriage to Suoh Tamaki, there were six hearts breaking. Only one was her father's.
As for those other five: they were losing a friend, a soul mate, a girl they could've loved, a girl they did love, and the girl they would never give up.
They caught their breath as she passed, trained their eyes on this vision, smiled to her faint smiles as she walked down the aisle. Haruhi wouldn't have noticed: she only had eyes for the final choice, the one at the altar, her husband to be and forever beloved: Tamaki.
It was impossible to conceive that this bride, so immaculate before them, felt anything other than pre-marital bliss; that this bride was, somewhere deep, feeling just a bit anxiety (or even guilt) about her vows.
But she was also extraordinarily happy, and was only anxious that they should be happy for her.