He had never been given much of a choice.

This was why Kyouya had gone to the right school, made the right grades, and—most significantly—made the right friends. One of whom he had done the wrong things with, but still, they were right in that way.

He'd lived in resentment of his situation, frustrated and angry and ready to lash out in any sneaky, back-handed way he could find. He was only allowed to make one choice—to follow the path his father had laid out for him, or to leave it entirely. Kyouya had sometimes entertained thoughts of rebellion, but he knew he couldn't live the life of the commoner. Even if his father would have graciously supported him (financially, of course) in attending a lower school, and then falling off the grid altogether, Kyouya would have still found nothing to love in life.

His hands clenched the pillow tightly as firm hands kneaded his back. He whimpered against the pillow, closing his eyes.

He'd hated living under his father's thumb before. It had made him so numb that even when his father had hit his face in public, Kyouya felt as though nothing had changed between them. It had only been a manifestation of his father's true feelings, feelings he returned but was too powerless to voice.

So why did he enjoy this so much?

He couldn't even speak to Kaoru as the younger student explored his back. If he had opened his mouth, he knew that only vows of submission, of loyalty, would spill out. The same powerlessness he'd felt before had been perverted at the hands of the gentler Hitachiin son.

No, Kyouya knew. He forced himself to admit it, drowning even further in self-deprecation. He doesn't even know what this does to me.

Their friendship had begun simply enough. Compared to Tamaki's lunatic, self-contradicting devotion to Haruhi, Hikaru's passionate feelings for the same girl, and Mori's undying loyalty to Hani, Kyouya's relationship with Kaoru could have been considered normal. Bland, even. They'd starting looking at each other—as far as Kyouya knew—a few months after Haruhi had joined the host club. Kyouya had noticed a change in Kaoru...he had become quieter, more contemplative. He had fallen away from Hikaru, mature enough to let the "older" twin walk away and find happiness elsewhere. Without Hikaru by his side every minute of the day, he seemed different, less...garish than before. Kyouya had never liked the twins' brotherly love act, despite the profit that it brought the Host Club. Rather, the clawing of one boy over another had seemed distasteful, especially when they looked so damn similar. It had seemed...narcissistic.

"Kyouya?" a voice asked gently. Kaoru's hands stilled, then moved to his shoulders. The pressure behind those hands increased when Kaoru leaned forward, not so far as to let his shirt touch Kyouya's naked back, but enough to show that he was concerned, and wanted to see Kyouya's face. "Are you alright? You haven't said anything."

Kyouya rubbed his face into the pillow. "I'm sorry," he answered just as quietly. He didn't even sound like himself, and he understood that this act was most likely disturbing Kaoru. "It feels good. Can you keep going?"

He felt Kaoru's fingers trace ten gentle, parallel lines down his back. "Mm," was the only answer he received. Knuckles began to work along his spine, finding innumerable knots in the firm, tense muscles.

Sometimes, they found themselves looking around the host club—either for crowd control, or out of loneliness, each had his reason—and when their eyes met, they would smile and look away. Out of curiosity, Kyouya had sought out Kaoru when he was alone, and they had found many things to talk about. Classes that Kyouya was taking that Kaoru would take next year. Designer suits. Tamaki's antics. Anything. The act of entering into a conversation with someone for no reason other than the possibility that he might enjoy that person's company, was addicting enough to keep Kyouya coming back. Not long after, Kaoru began to seek out Kyouya. They sometimes met in other parts of the school for a quick conversation, or to let off steam about classes or the Host Club. Kaoru had surprised Kyouya by asking him somewhere else on one occasion—to see a movie. The director was a friend of his mother's, but on the night of the date, neither Mrs. Hitachiin nor Hikaru showed their faces. Kaoru had made a bit of small talk with the director, bringing his eyes to Kyouya's all the while, inviting him to join the conversation, or maybe waiting for a chance to leave with him. Kyouya let the conversation draw out as it would, making no attempt to make the choice for Kaoru.

His feelings for Kaoru, however warm, had been anything but passionate. He found solace in the younger student. Kaoru was such a pleasant change from normal Host Club operation, Kyouya's only previous source of social interaction, that he had found himself unable to let go of his company, yet not sure if he wanted to move forward. Since then, they had danced around each other, and Kyouya found that his mind on the matter changed at least once a day.

Sometimes, they were friends. Sometimes, he told himself that he would one day be stuck with Kaoru, just as any two married people find themselves, in an unpleasant hell—yet a new hell, one that hadn't numbed him yet. They would talk sometimes, ignore each other more often, smile in public, and hopefully not go bald.

Only rarely did he let himself imagine what came in between. Kissing Kaoru, touching him, making love to him had only been a fantasy. He had not expected their friendship, tense and exciting as it may have been, to become much more than that.

What Kyouya had not expected was that Kaoru's budding independence would have lead him to take the initiative in all matters in his life.

He had been mildly surprised when Kaoru had joined the tennis team. The idea of Kaoru wearing athletic clothing was charming, he had to admit. He'd wanted to say something about it at first—maybe, that Kaoru had obligations to the Host Club—but he'd enjoyed Kaoru's transformation so far too much to stop him from doing anything.

Then, he'd found the twins split up during Host Club outings. Kaoru would sometimes take a small group of clients to interesting locations that Tamaki found repulsive due to the possibility that he might have dirtied his clothing had he ventured there. When the Host Club went to the beach again, Kaoru took three girls rock-climbing. When the Host Club traveled to a lake to ice-skate in the winter, Kaoru rented hockey gear and encouraged most of the Host Club to take part in a fun, if pathetic, game of ice hockey. And once, Kaoru had taken no clients at all, but stayed with Kyouya during a sight-seeing trip, quietly taking photos for the upcoming calendar.

Kyouya had realized that the pursuit had fully turned on him, and with much greater intensity than it had begun.

He played along, not sure of how badly he wanted this, because it was novel. He liked who Kaoru was becoming, and even more so he liked being around Kaoru. When Kaoru began to make physical advances, he allowed him to do so. Kaoru was not very aggressive, and seemed content with touching Kyouya's shoulder or back every now and then, or holding his hand when they were alone. Kyouya knew that he was cold and aloof, but the idea of chasing after Kaoru was far too distasteful in his mind, so he let Kaoru chase instead. He sometimes found himself playing hard-to-get...and enjoying it.

He let himself fall closer to Kaoru, unable to see what he was doing—what he was asking for.

"I don't think you're enjoying this."

Kyouya started at the statement. He turned over and looked at Kaoru through blurry eyes. Kaoru's face was pink and unhappy, affirming Kyouya's worries. He frowned, not sure of what to say. As soon as his eyes met Kaoru's, Kaoru looked away, trying to preserve his modesty, if only a little.

The massage had been Kaoru's idea. It was not the first, either...but in the past, Kyouya had never taken his shirt off following Kaoru's suggestion. Nor had they been together in Kaoru's room before. That had been Kaoru's idea, too.

He was, pathetically, unable to answer Kaoru.

Kaoru folded his arms and risked a glance at Kyouya's face. "You don't have to let me do this," he said quietly. "I don't know what you want."

Kyouya nodded absently. An answer began to form in his throat—maybe an excuse, as weak as that would have made him seem, or an apology. He didn't want to lead Kaoru on, and he knew that the younger student must have been frustrated, but...

"You know what I want," Kaoru added suddenly, so directly that Kyouya was effectively silenced.

He smiled.

Unable to say anything, to explain his feelings, to share with Kaoru the reason that he couldn't love normally, that he had no idea how to pursue, that the years of powerlessness had made him desire—no, crave—to be pushed down and manipulated and controlled...he smiled.

He wanted nothing more than for the other boy to touch, kiss, and take as he pleased. He wanted to be led to bed, undressed, and given whatever Kaoru wanted to give him. Somewhere, he knew that this was different, that this was his choice, and not someone else's. He knew that there was a difference between losing control, and giving it up. He knew that if Kaoru had forced himself upon him, he would have thrown him out of his personal life, and God forbid, even out of the Host Club. But it felt like submission, so strongly that Kyouya wished that Kaoru was more forceful, to make him feel more at home.

He was using Kaoru. The calm boy's new independence was so intoxicating that he wanted to become a blank canvas just so Kaoru could place his mark on him. He wanted to watch, to participate, to feel, to enjoy, but never, ever to initiate.

Not like this.

He brought a cold hand to the side of Kaoru's face. Kaoru turned back towards him in surprise, but he quickly smoothed over his initial reaction and placed a warm hand over Kyouya's.

Bringing his eyes to Kaoru's, Kyouya answered gently, "Then come get it."

Kaoru stared at him, watching, weighing his options, but as if he'd had no reason to hesitate at all he lunged forward and pushed Kyouya down to the bed, kissing him messily, letting his hands roam over the older student's chest and shoulders. Kyouya's hands shook for a moment before he reached for Kaoru's shirt, pulling it over his chest, unable to get much farther in that position.

With a fuller understanding of where their personal boundaries actually lay, Kaoru sat upright just long enough to remove his shirt. He let Kyouya pull him back down and kissed him passionately, letting Kyouya's hands skim over his back for only a moment before reaching for Kyouya's belt. They opened their eyes and Kyouya nodded quickly. No other permission was given, or requested.

Kyouya woke with Kaoru's arms wrapped around him. He looked over his shoulder to find the younger student watching him carefully.

"Is something wrong?" Kyouya asked. He turned and brought one hand to Kaoru's shoulder experimentally. Kaoru pulled the hand away from his arm and instead covered it with his own hands, kissing the tips of Kyouya's fingers one at a time.

"I didn't think it was going to be like this," he answered after a long pause.

Kyouya tilted his head to the side. "What do you mean?"

Kaoru's gold eyes turned up to him, suddenly wicked. "I thought I was going to have to beat you away with a stick," he replied, a satisfied smirk painted on his face.

"You have the wildest imagination," Kyouya replied coolly. He closed his eyes. A few seconds later, he felt Kaoru's fingers in his hair, playing with the fine black strands so gently that Kyouya put down any remaining pretenses and leaned into the simple touch.

A few quiet minutes passed.

Kaoru studied Kyouya's face. There was so much that he hadn't seen before, and even more that Kyouya would not tell him. He was glad that he was the observant type. Was it wrong, though, to want to probe? To want to know? He wasn't used to secrets. He wasn't used to mental separation.

Two gifts from Haruhi, he thought. The bitter loss of my brother. The sweet attainment of another.

Kaoru laughed gently. "I guess so," he whispered.