-1Summary: He was supposed to be there for the art. He got more, so much more. KyoHaru
Warning: Lime-y, Haruhi OOC (dark). This was supposed to be the original version of my other fic, The Sweetest Sin, so you will undoubtedly find similarities between the two.
This was supposed to be a multi-chaptered fic, but I got bored and lazy, so I compiled it all into one nice, long package that I hope, packs enough punch that would leave you wanting for more…or not. Please ignore me. I just had my second Stella.
The lines are harsh, rough, unruly. It isn't really a painting of the highest calibre, more of a lashing of colour in uncontrollable anger. Yes, that's what it is, I muse. A brush loaded with paint in the hands of an angry artist. Rage in colour.
I stare at the picture more, trying to place myself in the creator's shoes, seeking to feel the same void that had overcome them as they painted this piece. I see anger, I feel regret, I think of pain. The colours blur onto the canvas, its once pristine form overtaken by the savage streaks of the artist's oils. Yet as I begin to feel that this piece is not different from all the other ones in the gallery, the left corner at the bottom catches my eye.
The paint there is perfectly blended, a dark rouge and a bright white coming together in a beautiful rose colour, one that I had never seen before. The little spot of brightness amidst the whole darkness of the painting was so out of place yet so perfectly hidden. It is small, so small that it can be missed if one doesn't look at it too closely. For some reason, it makes me think of a soft cherry blossom petal as it floats serenely in sewage.
I smile at the symbolism. Hidden light, eh?
I glance at my watch, wishing that time would move faster. The glass of wine in my hand is already my third one. That's how long I have been here, in a large, presumptuous gallery that served no other purpose but to display the monstrosities of the art world.
However, this presentation was something that I cannot miss.
It was a year ago when I had heard that the local university had some problems getting funding for their art department. That year they had a promising bunch of young artists and the staff had conceded that most of the students were showing talents unseen for years. There were programs that could have helped the students further yet most of them could not afford the exorbitant fees asked of them.
One of the professors had come to me personally to ask for help in the form of an 'adoption' program of sorts. I was to 'adopt' one student and pay for the advanced art programs that he or she might need. The university was my Alma Mater, and the professor a great friend of mine.
So I had agreed. I adopted one student, and paid for their education. My only stipulation in the agreement was that I would remain anonymous. The university agreed.
Now, the students, in appreciation for the great help souls such as I had kindly bestowed upon them, put up this gala with what they claim are their best works, all products of the difficult yet rewarding university program they had undertaken and we had paid.
Just as I am about to search my pockets for my keys so I can leave this place, a young brown-haired girl comes up and looks at the painting that I was staring a while ago. While I know that I had looked contemplative, she looks absolutely furious and disgusted.
Amused, I ask, "What do you think of this painting?"
She barely glances my way when she replies with contempt. "A misguided savant of things only unrealistic could have painted an abhorrence such as this." Before I can come up with a reply, she turns on her heel and storms off, grabbing a glass of wine from a passing waiter.
I look at the painting again, then at her retreating back. I hastened to join her, forgetting about my desire to go home and sleep the night off.
"That's an interesting analysis of the art," I say, placing my now empty wine glass on a passing waiter's tray. I am sorely tempted to grab another glass but I am at my limit. Any more and I would have to hail a taxi tonight. God forbid that I leave my precious Lotus Elise for one night.
"It's not an analysis," she says after a sigh and downs the last in her glass. "It's more of a…epiphany if you will."
Things click into place. "You painted that."
The corners of her lips twitch for a second and I could not help but smile as well. "Pray tell, then, why you would call yourself a misguided savant."
She shrugs, running a hand through her unruly short locks. She looks like the quintessential university student: harassed and stressed.
"Draw up your own conclusions," she replies shortly.
"Not in the mood to explain yourself, are we?" I give her a small smile. She's interesting, to say the least. "Do you know the name of your benefactor? Have you met them?"
"Nope, don't know a thing," she says flippantly. "When I learned that there was someone out there willing to pay for my education, like everybody else, I was shocked and pleased. I sent him a letter once, but I never got any reply. You're a benefactor, aren't you?"
I nod gravely. "Yes, yes I am." I had gotten a letter from one of the students and it seems that she was the one I had 'adopted.'
"Well, I know your name from the painting," I say. "But I think I would be happier if we were formally introduced."
She smirks at me. "What if I had used a pen name instead?"
I smirk back. "Not possible. The school specifically requested that you use your own names so your benefactors can tell easily which of their adopted students are theirs."
"Knowledge is power, remember that."
She sighs, taking out her hand. "Haruhi Fujioka, not exactly pleased to meet you."
"Kyoya Ootori, the feeling is mutual."
"Ah, now that we are 'properly' acquainted, piss off," she says, turning around. "There's a bottle of wine there with my name on it and I would like to have it in peace."
"My, my, not yet out of university, but already a raging alcoholic," I quip before turning around myself.
Before I can take another step, I feel a hand on my arm, strongly dragging me away to the back of the room and outside into the gardens. For such a small girl, she's pretty strong.
Fujioka lets go of my arm and spats, "Fuck you, you don't know what's happening in my life so I would appreciate you keeping comments like that to yourself."
I nearly quail at the fire in her eyes but instead I raise an eyebrow, an intense show of emotion for me.
"Playing the tortured artist card, now are we?" I drawl, resisting the urge to examine my nails.
She moves fast, but I am faster. I catch the hand about to slap my cheek and forcefully tighten the grasp on the small wrist. She winces but doesn't show any more indication of pain, meeting my glare head on.
"You are such a bastard," she hisses, trying to yank her hand away but I never slackened my grip.
"That's a bold statement to tell seeing as we've only met," I say.
"I don't need to know you for three seconds to know that you are a huge prick," she snarls. She is truly vicious.
"My, what a spitfire you are," I continue to drawl, thoroughly enjoying myself in making her angry. I don't know why, but I feel like I want to see her face go red in pure fury. She looks cute blushing.
I have to slap myself mentally at that one. What am I thinking? They must have put something in the champagne.
Fuck, and now my starved libido is imagining her blushing for different reason altogether.
"My, what an asshole you are," she returns.
"As lovely it is to continue verbally sparring with you," I say, itching to get out of here before Kyoya-devil pops up and demands that I take this girl away and ravish her in my home, "I'm afraid that I have some pressing issues to attend to. I bid you good night, Miss Fujioka."
I receive a glare and a huff in return; nevertheless, the small smile never leaves my face.
Yes, I'll be seeing you again, for sure.
I stare at the keyboard, my fingers no longer caressing the keys as I had a while ago, before a face popped up in my head and I had to halt my writing.
My book is nearing its deadline and I want to finish this right now. But that face is plaguing me, eating away at my rationality.
I have to see her again.
It's completely unheard of, for a man of my stature and age to chase after a girl, one who has lost all hope for humanity and has such a temper.
Moreover, as one who had been on the receiving end of it, may I just say that I truly find it adorable the way she would snipe at me.
Damn, I am so perverted. Thank goodness I haven't reached the stage where I need to stand under a cold shower to take care of problems.
Seducing women has always been easy for me. Give them a saucy smirk, a coy glance, maybe treat them to a martini or two, and they'll be hopping to my bed like a frog in the rain. It does help that I have the looks, money, and connections that make them easy prey.
But this Fujioka Haruhi, she is something different. It's like she's a very interesting psychological subject and I'm Freud, there to determine whether she was feeling is related to anything sexual--and dear God, I hope that it's directed towards me.
Without really thinking, I grab my car keys after saving what I had written a few minutes ago and shut down my laptop. I grab my Mac, throwing it on the empty passenger seat in case I feel the need to write in a park somewhere.
For now, I just need to get out.
My subconscious self chose for me to drive to the gallery where the paintings are still displayed--and will continue to be displayed for the next few weeks until they are bought or removed by the artists themselves. I don't know whether to be pleased or confused about this.
I enter the gallery, my feet taking me to the four-by-four canvas on the east wall. Every time I look at it, I can still feel what I had felt when I first laid eyes on it.
What is stranger is that these feelings have become so familiar.
I suppose I can buy the painting, and hang it up somewhere in my house so I can look at it all day, but something is stopping me.
"You again?" a voice halts my thoughts.
I smirk, not bothering to turn around. "Hello, Miss Fujioka."
"You know, in most countries it is considered common courtesy to talk to people in their faces," she says haughtily, and I have to smile at the blatant duplicity.
I waste no time in voicing my opinions. "Funny, you're the type that strikes me as one who detests hypocrisy." She has moved to my side, staring at her own painting as well. I face her, smug smirk still firmly planted on my lips.
"What do you mean by that?" she asks, her eyes narrowing.
"You tell me I'm impolite but when we first met, you were as rude as a five-year-old with a temper tantrum." I cluck my teeth like a parent berating a child. "Not really becoming of you, Miss Fujioka."
"Why you presumptuous bas--"
"What brings you to the gallery?" I ask smoothly before she can continue with the insult.
"I am not obligated to answer that. My business is my own." She tilts her chin upwards in fierce determination. "And since we have established that I am a rude bitch, allow me to leave without bidding you any pleasantries."
Without another word, she stalks off to a deeper part of the gallery and I cannot find it in myself to follow her.
I am not a believer in fate, destiny, kismet, whatever they call it now. You make your own destiny; your fingers shape your own fate. That is what I believe.
At the same time, though, recent happenings in my life have been leading me to believe that there must be some higher power somewhere orchestrating this sick excuse for a play.
A play of my sick, demented and twisted life which has surely done a complete one-eighty on me while I was busy searching in my drawer for socks this morning.
I should know; I could only find one-half of my favourite pair of socks.
I raise my eyebrow in lieu of the hysterical scream trying to rip itself out from my throat. I am an Ootori. We do NOT scream like sodomized little girls when faced with the sole problem of humiliating nights that ended with a fucking cold shower at three in the morning and an aching wrist.
Damn it, I have a book to complete! I can't type like this!
Fujioka Haruhi stands at the pier, her short hair blowing softly with the wind. Unlike the few times I was honoured by her presence, she looked absolutely…serene this time. There is no wrinkle marring her face, and her lips are not twisted in a snarl. She doesn't look indifferent either, just calm and relaxed, as if the answers she had been looking for all her life are laid out in the vast waters of the ocean.
If I were a writer--and in my befuddled state of mind at seeing her like that I forget that I am one--I would have described her as a fallen angel searching for a way back to heaven. I snap out of it and decide that no amount of poetry or witty wording can adequately describe the figure she cut as she stood there.
I loath to destroy that image, that picture she painted with her profile but I cannot stop myself as I saunter to her side, softly whispering, "The ocean's beautiful, is it not?"
"And you just destroyed it, Ootori-san," Haruhi snaps back, her tranquillity vanishing in an instant.
I give her a weak smile. "Come on, don't be such a sour puss," I say, my eyes snapping back to the water.
"Can I help it if I just want to snap at you all day?" she asks. "It's like you bring out the worst in me and I don't like it."
"I barely know you, and yet…I've been acting like a real bitch to you, aren't I?" she continues, her voice growing softer with every word.
"I can't disagree with that," I say just as softly. "Care to tell me why?"
She frowns, and I resist the urge to smooth out the wrinkles in her forehead with a caress. "Can't really say. Maybe men like you repel me."
"Pray tell, then, what are men like me?" I press on, amusement dancing in my eyes.
"Cool, collected, suave, and apathetic," she replies instantly. "It's as if the world existed for you alone and everyone is another project."
I stay silent and she took it as an indication to continue.
"Like I said, I barely know you, but there's something about the way you draw yourself. It's like the world has done a great misdeed on you and now it's paying the price. Like there is nothing that could ever satisfy you in the way you want to be satisfied. Sort of strange, really, because well, your eyes tell me a different story."
I face her, raising an eyebrow. Her eyes, the colour of mud, stare at mine, seeking, delving, understanding. I suddenly feel horribly exposed, yet cannot avert my eyes from hers. It is as if she has me in a trance, and her sullen gaze is trying to burrow in my soul.
"Your eyes tell me that you're as lonely as I am and you want to be with someone who will never leave you."
I break the eye contact, now beyond uncomfortable. I want to lash out, to tell her that she is wrong, and that I don't need anybody. But this lie I have built for myself has gone far enough. I just don't want to think about it, before it eats me up inside again.
I swore to myself to forget the pain, to let it all go. Yet in the face of this young girl, the pain comes back tenfold. My mind wanders back to her painting. Now I know why I was so taken about it.
I shake my head to get rid of the thoughts and turn my full attention back to her.
"Are you hungry?" I ask, glancing at my watch. It's past noon and I haven't eaten breakfast.
She frowns. "I am, but I'm not eating with you."
"Oh, come on, like you said, I am a bit lonely," I cajole, making light of what she had said and refusing to let her see how much it affected me. "What's an hour eating with me? Tell you what, pick any restaurant you want and I'll pay."
Haruhi smirks at me before turning around. "Fine. As long as it's my choice and you pay. I didn't forget the fact that you're a benefactor so you must have money to burn."
I resist the urge to growl. Let's just hope she doesn't have very expensive tastes and has a bottomless pit for a stomach.
To my surprise, Haruhi leads us to a small diner near the residential area of the city. Unlike the hubbub of the metro, the atmosphere here is very laid back and restful. I suddenly feel like a sore thumb as my sleek black Lotus glided on the roads alongside the minivans and SUVs.
She opens the door, a bell chiming to announce our presence to the people inside. It is a modest little shop, a few mahogany tables and what looks like a bar on the corner. Behind the wide counter is a large rectangular hole where I can see parts of the kitchen. Something is steaming and emitting this wonderful scent. I can tell immediately that the cook of this place isn't like those low-class places despite how small the diner is. Some of the staff raise their heads and greet us by the door.
"Haruhi!" one of the waiters call out. I can see the girl beside me light up in joy as she is smothered by two reddish blurs.
I can barely see her brown head under the two large read-headed idiots suffocating her. They are cooing to her, demanding why she never visited them more often.
I clear my throat to get their attention.
The two redheads glare at me for disrupting their exorbitant greetings to their precious friend and casually drape an arm on her shoulders so that she is sandwiched between them.
"I'm sorry, Ootori-san," she laughs. "These two are my great friends, Hitachiin Hikaru and Kaoru. Hikaru acts as waiter here while Kaoru cooks. Their food is the best anywhere!"
The twins continue to glare at me and I am about to answer them in kind but remember that it is better if I give them the apathetic look instead.
Haruhi detaches herself from them. "Guys, this is Ootori Kyoya. He's a benefactor at the university and has kindly invited me to eat out and I chose this place." She smiles at the two. "You know that I will always come here!"
"You better!" one of the twins--Hikaru or Kaoru?--threaten playfully.
Haruhi grasps the cuff of my shirt and pulls me to a booth. Hikaru--I presume that it is him as he follows us while his brother retreats back to the kitchen--stands by our table, pad and pen at the ready.
"I'll have the usual, Hikaru," says Haruhi, smiling.
"Of course, and with extras all for our dear Haruhi," says the boy, clearly enjoying the attention from the girl. Good grief, can't this guy be more obvious? He's only missing the stamp on his forehead that says 'I'm in love with Haruhi!'. Pure adoration is in his face whenever he looks at the poor girl.
"Thanks," pipes up Haruhi.
"And you?" he demands me, his tone a lot colder.
I'm about to open my mouth to ask what they have on menu as I cannot see one, but Haruhi beats me to it.
"He'll have lunch platter C," she tells the boy. She turns to me. "It's really good, and I'm sure that you'll like it. Trust me, I have eaten here half my life and I know what they serve by heart."
I stop myself from rolling my eyes. But I nod at her, not wanting to look ungrateful.
"Fine, but if I don't like it…." I let the threat hang in the air.
"Oh, where's your sense of adventure?" Haruhi rolls her eyes. "In any case, Kaoru is one of the best chefs in the world and nothing he cooks up is ever bad. Have a little faith, okay?"
"Yeah," pipes up the redheaded idiot. "Please don't compare us to the high trash you obviously are so accustomed to. We may be a small restaurant, but everything here is made of the best, prepared by the best. Our success is not in the number of Michelin stars that we have, but how many customers we have that have left here with happy smiles and full bellies." He stuffs his pen back in his apron pocket and throws a derisive smirk my way before heading to the kitchen.
"Hikaru has always been protective of this restaurant," Haruhi speaks quietly across the table. "It's all they have. I will not tell you why as it is not my business to do so. But I can tell you that Kaoru is a highly trained chef and has studied in France, earning himself a Cordon Bleu qualification. He's worked in places like New York, London, Paris, Rome, and well here in Tokyo for those big time restaurants that only the rich and famous can afford and qualify to even enter. Then he quit it all and set this up with Hikaru two years ago." She smiles and I am taken aback. "There were a few people who wanted this restaurant be featured in those international magazines and such but they declined every one of them, saying that they want this place to be local and prefer if people recommend it instead by word of mouth, not by glossy unrealistic pictures."
I lean back in my seat. "That makes sense. But it would have been good advertising."
Haruhi shook her head. "No, they aren't interested in that. They'd rather have a small yet loyal clientele."
"Well, I suppose if the business makes sense for them," I mutter, "then who am I to question it? If their food is as good as you claim, maybe I'll come here myself sometime."
Haruhi's lips lift up a little, and I can feel some of the ice in my eyes melt like a glacier in the Sahara. While I stare at her face, I cannot help but notice that I have been referring to her as 'Haruhi' all the while in my head though I call her Miss Fujioka outwardly. I'm getting a bit too comfortable with her.
I shift in my chair a little awkwardly as I wrack my brains for some small talk. Small talk has never been my forte, that's why I have been called an antisocial bastard before. For some reason, it has always been my other companion, whoever it is, who would be groping for any issue for us to speak of, be it the weather, or somebody dying in the street five seconds ago. Yet now, with her, it is I who feels pressured to say something to ease the awkward silence.
"Um…so, nice weather we're having," I say awkwardly.
My inner Kyoya is banging himself against a Meralco post, wondering how could years of imbued training of the delicate arts of small talk went flying out the window in the presence of this uninteresting girl? Yet as I stare at her, the more I hold my firm belief that she can be quite fascinating in my eyes…if I squint a little. Probably. Maybe. It's still up for debate, really.
Haruhi smirks at me, clearly enjoying my discomfort. "You don't say," she said shortly.
"So…come here often?" I ask, and this time, my inner Kyoya is committing suicide. The idea of committing hara-kiri after a final meal with her sounds quite appealing.
Haruhi just stares at me incredulously as if she can't believe that she's witnessing my meltdown at all things social.
I blame this lapse of character on my current occupation. As a writer, I can be forgiven for the lack of social aptitude as I have to spend my time cooped up in my office or somewhere private where I can be alone and write without any interruptions. The only 'dates' I have had the past few months while working on my newest book is with my editor and all we ever talk about is work.
Work is good, it's something I can control. And clearly, I cannot control myself in the presence of this girl.
It's as if she has me in a vice of my own creation. It's strange, yet it makes sense for me.
How am I supposed to know that I'm slowly digging my own grave and her mere company is my unstoppable shovel?
The food arrives before I can embarrass myself further. Thankfully, our 'conversation' or my oral diarrhoea, shifts to the food. Like hell will I tell her that it's one of the best I have ever had and that she was right.
The food is heavenly, and platter C is actually a plate of medium rare Aberdeen Angus steak with a side of creamy mashed potatoes, and delectable butter-roasted vegetables. It seems like an atypical British Sunday meal, yet I can taste the chef's own personality in his cooking.
I felt as if I am home just by eating this food.
I hardly speak as I eat my food, relying on grunts and the occasional 'Hn' to answer Haruhi's remarks. Not that she's speaking much herself as our food demanded our complete attention--something which I am happy to comply.
"I take back what I said," I babble on happily. The food was that good that it cut off any filter between my brain and my mouth. "This food is seriously one of the best I ever had."
"And this coming from a man like you?" the idiot waiter-slash-co-owner of the diner magically comes to our table and is standing protectively on Haruhi's side. "Oh, what a great honour it is!" he adds sarcastically.
"Say whatever you want, but the praise is for your brother," I shoot back, smirking. "Not for you."
The man boils and pushes his sleeves up to his elbows. "You little pri--"
"Stop it," Haruhi commands and we look away irritably. "You're acting like children. Now, I need to go back to the university. Kyoya, would you consent in taking me for another ride?"
I growl at the hidden meaning of her words but agree. Still scowling, I fish out my wallet and hand over a platinum credit card to the stupid lug.
"I'll pay for our food," I tell Haruhi shortly, refusing to look the man in the eye in case I am tempted and slug him one.
The red-head smirks, takes my card, and leaves for the counter.
"You know," Haruhi says softly so the bastard can't hear. "It would have been a good idea to let me pay. He'll overcharge you for everything. Not that I'm saying that I'm treating you or anything since you said you were going to pay. It's just that you could pay me later or something."
I scoff, clearly insulted. I think my personal fortune won't collapse due to a sudden overcharging by a sadistic waiter whose hair is so obviously dyed.
"Just a suggestion," Haruhi continues lightly though it is evident that she didn't really care.
However, as I glance at our receipt as we head out (with exaggerated hugs and kisses at Haruhi, telling her to come back preferably with no company), I explode.
"He charged me twenty bucks for a glass of tap water?!"
Haruhi snorts and gives me a 'I-told-you-so' look.
I head over to my car, still fuming. She slides on the seat next to me as if she's been doing it her whole life.
For some reason, as I drop her off at the university's gates, I end up asking her if she wanted to meet me accidentally on this great gallery at the outskirts of town and if she was willing, we could end it with a nice meal in this cute café across the gallery.
Haruhi smiles at me, and this time, the sincerity is clear in her eyes as she says, "That would be lovely. Thank you."
"So, tell me again why we're doing this?" I ask, my lips trailing down the smooth column of her neck.
"How…how should I know?" Haruhi breathes heavily while I make short work of her blouse.
I give her another bruising kiss, her mouth easily accepting my probing tongue. She moans into the kiss and the last restraints on my common sense is flung out the window.
Haruhi and I continued to 'accidentally' bumping into each other for a few weeks after that semi-disastrous first date of sorts in her friends' diner. It was fine, and we had some fun. It was really exciting to pick fights with her as she was one to not mince her words. She also had a large arsenal of witty one-liners at her disposal.
We just had dinner on one of the posh restaurants uptown, had more than a few drinks, and due to extreme drunkenness, had 'accidentally' stumbled upon each other in front of my apartment door. Even under gunpoint will I never admit that it was of my own machination that my lips decided to land on hers.
We are now in my living room couch, having just enough sense to make it inside my apartment lest my neighbours find us humping like bunnies in heat at the hallway. I happen to love my apartment and am not looking forward to being kicked out due to my incapacity to hold down my libido.
I shake further thoughts away from my mind as I stare at the girl below me, her face in an adorable cherry blush no doubt created by the alcohol we just consumed moments ago and our present activity. I give her a small kiss on the lips and continue my way on her jaw, before moving on to her chest.
I grin at her lacy pink underwear, finding it unbearably cute. My past flings had always opted for the sexy black lingerie but somehow, the pink scrap she's wearing right now is more of a turn-on.
I fling her skirt aside, not caring where it landed. If it happens to rest at my cactus, well I certainly won't mind her pattering around the flat without it.
"You're beautiful," I breathe, staring at her half-naked form.
A healthy blush spreads from her face to her neck and I chuckle lowly.
"You're embarrassing me," she whines, attempting to remove me from her body. Like hell I will. I've been fantasising too long for this moment. At last I can finally sleep without the help of a cold shower.
About time too, as I'm running out of cold medicine.
"Why should you be?" I ask her huskily, my fingers kneading her supple flesh. God, her skin is so smooth and creamy. Does she exfoliate every damn night to make it this soft?
I plant another kiss on her lips. "You know that I never bullshit. I mean it; you're beautiful."
She frowns at me before grinning and pulling me down for another deep kiss. I can't get enough of her taste.
I smirk into the kiss as her hands come up to my chest, intent on removing my shirt….
I stare at the paper in my hands, before letting it fall from my limp fingers onto the carpeted floor. I sigh, leaning back on my leather chair, and felt as if the room's temperature dropped more than a couple of degrees.
It's what I've been fearing most: my past is coming up to bite me in the ass, apparently.
"Kyoya?" says Haruhi softly behind me. An arm winds on my shoulder and I feel her soft lips pressing a kiss on my temple tenderly.
"Is that coffee I smell?" I say hopefully and she laughs, perching herself on my lap.
"Freshly brewed java," she replies, shoving a mug in front of my nose. "Just the way you like it."
I smile at her fondly as if she were a precious goddess sent for me alone. "You are an angel," I whisper huskily, grabbing the mug and taking a large gulp. I barely notice the scalding temperature of the liquid as it slides down my throat easily. With the news I just had, I need a full jug of the stuff just to cope.
Apparently, Haruhi senses my despair as she takes the mug from me and places it in my desk (on top of a coaster of course; no need to stain the expensive mahogany). She cuddles in my chest, knowing that I love to cuddle with her--not that I ever said it verbally of course, but it warms me to think that she remembers even the most inconsequential things just to comfort me.
"What's wrong, Kyoya?" she whispers worriedly, cupping my cheek. "You look…strained."
I sigh, not wanting to discuss it at the moment. I grab her other hand, planting a kiss on the centre of the palm.
"It's just…I don't know what to tell you of it, really," I hedge. I don't want her to feel as if I'm hiding anything from her. I stare at her directly in the eyes.
"Try me," she demands, a hint of steel behind her caramel eyes.
I try to smile to reassure her yet it comes out as a grimace.
I fidget in my seat, my thumbs caressing the slope of her waist as if it would help me think. "My editor wants me to go on a trip to Europe and America," I blurt out, mentally slapping myself for the blatant lie and hoping--praying--that she won't catch on. "My new book is set to be released this autumn, and the various publishers across the world want to me to be present for book signings and things to promote it."
Haruhi looks dejected but smiles my way. My grip on her tightens.
"Well, that's nice, I suppose," she says lightly but she can never fool me. "Your books are getting international acclaim. You should be happier."
I frown at her forced tone. "But it means that I'm going away for a while--a long while," I point out.
She shrugs. "Look, this is a wonderful opportunity. I know that you'll miss me--I'll miss you too. But I also know that you'll hate yourself if you let something this good slip by." She smiles at me and I kiss her softly before I can stop myself. "How long will it be?"
"Months," I ground out, defeat in my voice.
"Oh." Her eyes are downcast, but she snaps back to a melancholic happiness for my sake.
"Well, things would be a quieter without you here," she tells me. "Just promise me that the first thing you do when you come back is see me, okay?"
I embrace her fiercely, letting her know that it is a vow I would have surrendered my soul to the devil for. What has become of me? This tall, arrogant man of long ago making such a promise to a girl nearly a decade my junior. Yet as my eyes caress her form, and my hands worship her as no man should and could ever to do to a deity, I realise that I would have happily made any oath as long as I could stay in her arms forever.
Damn, I'm talking Shakespeare here again.
I must really like this girl.
And as she throws me her sweetest smile, I lean over to catch her rosy lips.
At this point I'm happy to quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning if only to describe what I am feeling for her at this time.
She was three years my senior and yet worked for me as an intern. I was the youngest resident in that hospital at twenty-three. She told me that she had a degree in Social Sciences and when she had graduated, wanted to go into Medicine. Hence, the reason why she basically worked for me though I was younger.
She was sweet, and kind, and most of the patients loved her. Even in great times of stress, she was not one to crumple and I admired her. It didn't take long for that admiration to grow into respect, that respect grow into like, and that like to progress into love.
I loved her. I truly did.
She was unlike any other. We had a beautiful relationship, and I felt that I could die if she was not in my arms at any given time. But it was against hospital policy for two doctors to have such a relationship. They said that it was highly unprofessional and might lead to certain complications. Complications which still baffle me today. I had never heard of such thing.
Nevertheless, as soon as her internship was over, we had planned to move to another city, where the hospital there had no such rules against our relationship.
But it greatly angered my father, who half-owned the hospital we worked on. I was threatened to be cut off from his will and from his life should I continue with the transfer.
I didn't care and proceeded on with my resignation from his precious hospital to be with my fiancée in the other hospital.
For the first time in my life, I felt absolutely free and I loved every minute of it. But I knew that everything was too good to be true.
Karma bit me in the ass good just a few short weeks after she and I moved. I was sick, and couldn't go to the hospital. She offered to stay that day and nurse me back to health; she reckoned that she could do the graveyard shift instead.
I should have argued, said that she was needed in the hospital more. There was a crash in the mountains, and the hospital was in dire need of staff. Yet she wouldn't relent. She took the greatest care for me that day.
Before she left, I told her over and over again how much I loved her. She just smiled, said that she loved me back.
I didn't know that it was to be our good-bye.
They told me that she had done a sixteen-hour shift in the ER just to cope up with the large number of patients being wheeled in due to the accidents. She had been awake for more than twenty-eight hours and they said that they practically forced her to go home. She had ten cups of espresso since she came in, the nurses confided.
The roads were slippery; she was exhausted. She never saw that turn coming.
Her car was discovered five hours later in a ridge. She was barely alive.
I stayed by her side the whole time she was admitted to the hospital. She was comatose, they said. And I bloody well knew that. As a doctor, I was naturally against prolonging a life artificially, but this was my fiancée! I couldn't just step back and let them end her life with a push of a button! There might still be some hope, I argued.
Then I heard of a doctor in America who had dealt with similar cases before. I took the chance and started the long and expensive transfer so she could get the best care possible.
The operation, they said, was a success. But she refused to wake up.
I became frustrated, blamed myself for it all. When I couldn't take it anymore, I left and went back to Japan, leaving her there. She had a sister who works in New York so I thought that maybe I should take the break, and try to forget the hollow feeling inside my chest every time I look at her prone form in the hospital bed.
That was when I acquired a phobia of hospitals. Everything reminded me of her as she lay there. I couldn't stand it. I quit my practice and moved again, this time to a small town outside Hokkaido.
I never went back to America. I just wished to forget her.
Three years later, I found another calling as a writer, and with the release of my debut novel, lived a pretty comfortable life.
I forgot everything, including her.
It was then that I met Fujioka Haruhi, and then I knew my past would come to haunt me again for one last time.
I stand before her tombstone, my hands in my pockets to stave off the cold. The crisp autumn air bites at my face and blows my coat around. I ignored it; I can't care less. All that existed now is me and the large slab of marble in front of me.
Kaede, my beautiful Kaede, I chant in my head, knowing that I have no right to call her mine. After all, I am the one who abandoned her when she was there trying to fight for her life in an antiseptic hospital room with my engagement ring hanging from her neck.
Kaede's sister was the one who had written to me about her decision to pull the plug. She said that she couldn't take it anymore as well. All the doctors said that it was a lost cause and she clearly didn't want to wake up.
She said that she didn't blame me for deserting Kaede though it didn't stop her from landing me a blow the minute I showed my face to her.
"I met another girl in Japan," I tell Kaede as I squat before her gravestone, my hand caressing the cool marble as I would have done to her face years ago. "Her name's Haruhi. She' s a nice, pleasant girl and an artist. You'll like her, I think. You're the same in some ways, yet completely opposites in another."
I let my forehead touch the top of her stone as I plead to her brokenly, "Please let me go. This is all I ask of you. I left you when you needed me. Hell, I needed you more at that moment." I can't stop the trail of wetness that left my eyes and rolled to my cheeks. "You're being unfair. I did everything to get you back but you never heard my voice. You remained where you are. I can't…I'm sorry if I left you but you left me too. Just…just…."
I take a deep breath, trying to control my emotions. The last thing I need is for people to see me crying over my dead fiancée's grave like a lunatic.
"Just please, leave me alone. I don't want to be broken anymore. I found what I had lost, and I found it in Haruhi. But your memory won't let me love her the way I want to. And I can feel her slipping away from me too. Because she can feel that I'm not being offered to her completely as well.
"Kaede…if you really loved me, let me escape. Just please. I'm tired of blaming myself for losing you, tired of seeing your face haunt my every time I close my eyes, tired of imagining your eyes every time I kiss her. I don't want to lose another one. She is not you, and you are not her."
I kiss her name for the last time. My lips feel weird against the coolness of the stone.
I lay a rose on her grave; it is a small bud, its petals just starting to blossom.
"And now, I can never come back to you again."
I turn on my heel and run from the cemetery as fast as I can.
I open my front door, hoping that Haruhi wouldn't tackle me to the ground and beat the shit out of me. My European and American tour had lasted for three months, and I missed Haruhi terribly all the time. I think I broke a few hearts in Paris and London when I admitted that I had a lovely girlfriend waiting for me back at home.
But Haruhi is nowhere to be seen. I search the kitchen, my study, and the bedroom but she isn't there.
However, as I enter my study a second time to find a clue about her whereabouts, I spot a letter on my desk.
Curious, I pick it up and read it. My blood runs cold at what I read.
No, not now, damn it!
I slam the door open, the whole decrepit building rattles at the force of my violent anger.
As I expected, Haruhi is at her old studio apartment, an easel propped up in front of her while she holds a brush and a palette in her hands. She doesn't even turn around as I made my noisy entrance.
Breathing deeply to calm myself, I ask, "I read the letter." A pause. "Are you going?"
She doesn't seem to hear me as she continues to paint a blot of the deepest scarlet on the white canvas. Her brushstrokes are clean and precise, just as I remember. I hold myself in check in case my temper get the better of me. Sighing, I kneel down on the tatami mat beside her, watching her patiently.
Finally, she finishes a section and puts down her brush.
"You had a chance to grab your dreams," she speaks. "Now, it's my turn. That art school in Paris was apparently interested in my work and they asked if I wanted to learn with them. I agreed. I'm going."
I sigh again, this time out of sheer frustration. "Well, a little warning would have been nice! We were e-mailing and calling each other back and forth and you didn't even tell me about this!"
Haruhi shakes her head, her auburn tresses bouncing slightly.
"I thought that we could discuss it when you return instead," she says softly yet her voice does not betray any other emotion.
"Damn it, Haruhi! You already accepted! You're going! What's there to talk about now?" I refuse to look down on the floor in defeat. "I know you, Haruhi, and anything I say cannot change your mind."
She shakes her head, and pulls me closer to her. I don't resist, letting my tired form slump on her small frame.
"You know that I'll stay if you ask me to," she whispers and I can hear the silent plea there.
But as I kiss her, I know that I can never ask her to do that. Not even for me.
So I choose to let her go. Because this is what she wants, what she needs, what she has built her whole life for. I cannot take this away from her.
And as I release her, a great shackle that has been holding me for far too long disappears between our whispered sighs.
It been five years but she still looks the same. She has aged quite well, and like fine wine, her beauty only greatened instead of lessened with the passage of time. Her face is more mature, yet held that same innocence and girlishness I fell in love with so long ago.
She drops her bags at the sight of me and runs to my arms.
I can only hold her as her familiar scent drugs my senses.
"Welcome home, Haruhi."
"I'm home…at last."
A/N: It's my first time writing in this particular style, so I'm nervous about it. :doki-doki: Like it? Loathe it? Wanna crumple it up and recycle it? Please do tell. I worked fairly hard on this and I might revise it sooner or later. Two one-shots in one day and this one hella long. Give me a medal, people! Or at least a lot of reviews! :winks:
Disclaimer: I asked Kyoya to marry me and be mine for the 347th time and he shot me down for the 347th time. Haruhi asked him to marry her and he said yes before she even got the sentence out. I knew that I shouldn't have proposed using a gumball ring.
Omake: Alternate Ending -- This was the ending I wanted to put up, but felt that it was too dramatic and I didn't like it. I'll just add it in here anyway for your enjoyment.
I find Haruhi at the same place by the docks where it began for us all those years ago. The years have been good on her. Her tawny hair is cut short (a style that is no doubt fashionable in Paris) yet still held the same lustre as I remember years ago. Her brown eyes still holds a spark of innocence that I find myself falling for all over again. She holds herself differently; more strongly, like an adult who has seen what the world has to offer and yet still chiding it to bring everything it got.
Even though we have been apart for more than five years, I am sure I still feel the same way every time I look at her.
Yes, I am utterly smitten, and undeniably in love.
"Hey," I say quietly, standing beside her.
"Hey," she says softly back.
"How was your flight?"
"It was good. I still have a bit of a jet-lag though."
"It'll pass in a few days."
We let the serenity of the scene wash against us as we both stare at the wide ocean, as blue as the eye can see.
"Haruhi," I ask haltingly. "May I hold you?"
She smiles, and tugs me close. I nearly stagger in her arms, so overwhelmed am I to be able to hold her again after all these years. It feels like coming home and more.
"What's in your hand?" she inquires, and she loosens her hold on me far enough for me to show her the small ring I hold in my hand. It's Kaede's engagement ring. Her sister had given it to me years back, saying that she didn't want it buried with her. I understood at that time. What I can't understand was why I still had it, and why I am holding it right now.
"It was my fiancée's," I tell her. Haruhi nods, by now familiar of my past.
She holds my hand in both of hers and blows softly on the ring, as if praying for wish.
"I want a new future."
I grin at her and without warning, I throw the ring as far away into the ocean as I can, the small sapphires twinkling against the dusky lights of sunset.
Neither Haruhi nor I hear the small plop it makes as it lands and sinks to the ocean floor when I gather my love in my arms. The only sound I hear is her breath against my ear, the only think I smell is her scent again my nose, and the only thing I feel is her heartbeat so close to mine.
"I'm home," she tells me softly.