WAZZZZUP????? Long time, no posting!

I did say I would finish this story. No, I did not expect that I would leave it for three months. Nor do I swear that I will update right away or in a timely manner. What can I say, it's college. But I am supremely glad that you are reading this message right now, because that means that you might still be interested in this story! In which case, thank you so much! It might take me longer than I'd wish, but I promise someday this story will get finished! (Maybe by then a second season of Ouran will be out. That would be awesome!)

Anyways, I am sorry that I went away for a while. Hopefully this breakthrough means I will get into a writing groove again. All right then, finally I shall resolve that cliffhanger I left you with this whole time (WARNING: MUSHY ROMANCE AHEAD).

I hope you enjoy! Thanks again!

Chapter Twenty: Kyoya, the Dark Knight

"GET BACK HERE, YOU LOUSY TWINS! THIS TIME YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR!"

"Geez, Boss, you're so dull," the twins jeered, crossing their arms and eyeing the furious Tamaki coolly. "What are you getting so worked up for?"

Tamaki looked like he has steam coming out of his ears. "You were trying to take Haruhi's clothes off! Admit it!"

"That's where your mind's going?" Kaoru demanded.

"Wow, you really are a pervert!" Hikaru said. Off to the side, Haruhi rolled her eyes and sighed.

"Guys, c'mon, knock it off. We have to finish getting ready-"

"Haruhi, I love you!" Tamaki cried, rounding on her and sweeping her off her feet. "Daddy's never, ever, ever going to let those shady twins touch you like that again!"

"Senpai, I can't breathe-!"

"It was an accident," the twins said, sidling up to Tamaki and the suffocating Haruhi. "We didn't mean to pull her belt loose. We thought she'd tied it tight enough."

"That's settles it! I'm going to tell Kyoya that we're not going to cosplay with robes ever again! Where is Kyoya, anyway?" Tamaki scanned the room for a second, and his eyes lit upon Rini, who was busy placing napkins on all the tables. "Oh, Princess Rini! Have you seen Kyoya come in yet?"

Rini jumped, and then after recovering from hearing the name, shook her head. "I haven't. Sorry, Tamaki-senpai."

Tamaki's face screwed up. "Why isn't he here? Why is this happening? WHY IS OUR FAMILY BREAKING UP? IS THIS THE END OF OUR TENDER GENERATION???"

"Relax, senpai." Haruhi patted Tamaki on the back apathetically. "I'm sure Kyoya-senpai is just taking care of some business. Or he could be getting an update from Honey and Mori-senpai."

Beside the third table, Rini flinched again. She wasn't sure which name it was harder to hear, but whenever anyone mentioned Mori or Kyoya, or even Honey, her body tensed and she strained to hear everything that was said about them. At least for Mori and Honey, she didn't have to worry about being in the same room with them. She hadn't seen Mori since that day in the hospital.

Rini had never been so depressed – even when her Mom had died, she had taken on the role of caregiver quite easily, and it had allowed her to shove her grief to the back of her mind so she could look after her father and Yuki. But she couldn't do that this time. For the past two weeks, she had been completely suffused in grief, unable to deal with what Mori had said. At the time, she had been able to keep it together long enough to cut the visit short, kiss Yuki goodbye, and take the subway back to her house alone. She had only just managed to make it inside the house before she burst into tears.

Then, two days after the visit, Honey and Mori had announced that one of their cousins was getting married in Spain, and so the entire family was flying to Europe for three weeks. Rini couldn't believe that they were missing that much school, but Honey explained that they had a video system set up so that they could watch their classes on the Internet. They had left that evening, and Rini hadn't spoken with either of them since.

Well, perhaps it was all for the best. Rini felt like a part of her had died when Mori rejected her. She didn't even care about the reason anymore. It was bad enough that she had been waiting for him this long, but then for her to actually meet him again, and for him to tell her that there was no way he would ever ask her to be his girlfriend…well, Rini could say that she was grateful for the separation. Otherwise, she would be crying every day instead of every few evenings.

And she also wouldn't be able to face Kyoya. She could definitely sense that Kyoya knew something was going on, but Rini doubted that Mori had filled him in on the details, and Rini was doing her very best to avoid being with Kyoya for more than a few minutes. He acted as if nothing had happened between them, and she pretended to do the same. She wondered if he regretted confessing his feelings to her as much as she regretted hearing Mori's.

It had occurred to her that perhaps Kyoya would be willing to listen, if Rini wanted to talk about what had happened. He might drop his calm, charming act and show his true feelings again. But Rini wasn't sure if she could make herself that vulnerable to him. Or what if his feelings had changed? Maybe in these two weeks he'd had time to reassess the situation, and upon closer inspection had decided that he hadn't really fallen for Rini after all? After Mori's words, Rini could find absolutely no reason why he or Kyoya would be interested in her.

It's just like I thought…there's no knight. I'm not anybody special.

The door opened quietly. Tamaki whirled around and gasped.

"Kyoya, you're here! It's going to be all right, everyone! The family's coming together again! We're saved!"

"Honey-senpai and Mori-senpai aren't due back for another week," Kyoya reminded his calmly, slipping his cell phone into his pocket. His cool eyes surveyed the group, and he said pleasantly, "Mori-senpai tells me that they're doing fine. Honey is enjoying the exotic sweets, and they've been spending most of their time sight seeing when they aren't involved in the wedding preparations."

Rini and Kyoya's eyes met as he finished. Rini flushed, and turned away hastily, pretending to smooth out a napkin. Funny that he'd looked directly at her just as he'd said "wedding preparations."

It was terribly confusing – Rini should have only been thinking about Mori, and yet she found herself thinking about Kyoya just as frequently. They shared space in her mind, alternating throughout the day. Sometimes all Rini could think about was the hospital visit, and sometimes she would find herself obsessing over some tiny conversation or pleasant smile that Kyoya had given her at the Host Club. She'd figured that Mori would be all she'd be able to think about. Maybe it was because Mori had disappeared so soon after. It had given her some space, a chance to cool off so that her mind wouldn't be completely focused on him.

It was helping her to get over him. Slowly but surely, she knew she had to. There was no point in clinging to the hope that he would change his mind – because Mori simply wasn't the type of person who did that. He was solid, and his words were like stone. That was what made the few words he said so significant. Since he'd said it, it was true – he might have been the one she'd been waiting for, but whatever he was waiting for, she wasn't it.

Which left Rini's thoughts to drift back to Kyoya. Maybe he didn't feel the same two weeks later, but he had openly confessed to falling for her. Did he still feel the same now? Was he holding off because he could sense she was unhappy?

Miserably, Rini felt a wave of despair engulfing her again. Just when she thought she would be able to handle seeing Kyoya, he'd show up, and it would be like a slap in the face. And then he'd glance at her with those eyes, so different from Mori's and yet just as powerful…in a much more subtle, secretive way…

Rini wasn't sure there was a chance Kyoya would ever bring his confession up again. But on the off chance that he did…Rini was sure what she would do. She slipped off into the kitchen, thinking herself unnoticed because Tamaki and the twins were bickering again.

But Haruhi saw her. And so did Kyoya.

***********************************************************************************************************

Rini was changing out of her costume in the dressing room when suddenly Haruhi asked, "Hey, is everything okay, Rini? If you don't mind my saying," she added, trying to sound concerned but not too nosy, "it looks to me like you've been kind of down lately."

Rini laughed nervously. Even she knew it sounded fake. "I-I'm all right. Just a bit tired lately, is all."

"Don't push yourself too much," Haruhi warned her. "Otherwise you'll end up fainting, and we'll have to take you home again."

Of course, that reminded Rini of Mori. He had been soon kind to her then. He'd carried her the whole way himself, laid her down in her own bed, read to Yuki and helped change her Father's opinions about rich people. And she and Haruhi had cooked dinner together, while Yuki asked Mori what shoes he wore and what he ate for breakfast…

"Rini? Hey, what's wrong?" For it was very clear that something was dreadfully wrong. Rini could feel Haruhi's gaze, and she stared at Rini's trembling lip and shaky hands.

Rini could barely squeak, "I'm all right." She bent her head down low, as she grabbed her bag. "Have a good weekend, Haruhi."

"Rini, wait-!"

But Rini dashed out of the room, hurried past the twins who were blowing raspberries at Tamaki, and thankfully didn't see Kyoya in her perepheral vision as she left the club room and closed the door behind her. She had to get outside, where the early sunset had already made the sky dark.

Her mind told her she needed to hurry to get to the subway, so she could take her normal route home. But she couldn't bring herself to go home. Not just yet. Even though she knew she'd have some time to herself before her Father got back, she didn't want to have to face him, to tell him that school was fine, everything was normal, and nothing in her life had changed. Her life had been turned upside down. She wished she'd never come to Ouran Academy.

Her feet led her to the sidewalk. Home was at least ten miles away. She knew it was crazy to be going by foot, and she knew there were only two more chances to take the bus before the route to her house ended for the night. Which meant that if she got too tired, she would be stuck – because she wouldn't call her Father to come and get her. That would definitely let him know something was wrong.

For the beginning of spring, it was still very cold. Rini shivered in her sweater, noticing with dismay that one of her pockets had pulled slightly loose during the day. How long had she been walking around looking like a complete slob? No wonder Mori had rejected her – she knew her sweaters with holes in them would cost her.

That's not it, stupid Rini. He just didn't want you. And that's all there is to it. And you could never be anything that Kyoya needs either.

She was convinced she was right. It made the tears stream even faster. A lone car passed by her on the road, its red taillights glowing, and blurred in her vision. Her fingers felt numb from the cold, and she knew that her feet would start to hurt by the fifth mile. But her heart didn't care. All it wanted was a chance to cry and wallow in misery. She hated that even after two weeks, she was still this confused and upset.

Suddenly, as she crested a slight hill, she saw a car parked on the other side of the road. It looked suspiciously like the one that had passed earlier. It looked big, and it was rumbling loudly.

Rini wrapped her arms tight around her body. It was just because it was dark – that's why she was so nervous. She was sure the person had just stopped to make a phone call, or maybe they were lost and consulting their directions. If she just kept walking and ignored it, the person probably wouldn't even notice she was there.

"Hey, Lolita, you need a ride?"

Rini's head snapped up. The front window was down, and the driver was leaning out the window. He looked like he was in college. His hair was bleached orange and he was wearing a basketball jersey underneath a sports jacket.

Rini wondered wildly for a second why he had called her a Lolita. But then she realized that, because her school uniform was so puffy and frilly, she must've looked like she belonged to that particular trend. It certainly wasn't a normal high school uniform. Ouran could afford to be extravagant.

"N-n-no thank you!" she called nervously. She hoped that a polite response would be enough to make him go away.

"But it's cold out here. You're little fingers are gonna freeze off." To Rini's horror, the guy popped open his door and jumped out of the car, landing hard on his white sneakers. He ran to catch up with her, and grabbed her shoulder to stop her from walking.

"Come on, just get in the car. We'll go to a café and I'll buy you a drink. Unless you'd rather hit the hard stuff," he added suggestively, grinning at her. "Doesn't really matter if you're not eighteen-"

"I'm fine, thank you," Rini insisted. She attempted to back away. "Excuse me, please-"

"Going to meet your boyfriend?" he said, taking a gigantic step toward her so that he was just inches away from her fluttering chest. "I think you should make him wait. And I bet I'm a lot more fun too."

Rini heard another car approaching from behind. Maybe she should try to flag it down – or she could make a dash for the middle of the road and hope that the car would stop so she could ask for help. Or maybe if she went along with this guy and they went to a café like he said she could pretend she had to use the bathroom and then-

"You know, you're pretty cute." The boy's hand reached up and grabbed her chin. Rini started trembling. The boy was still grinning, as if her fear was somehow amusing. "Forget about that guy. Come hang out with me. I'll show you a good time. And if he calls then you can tell him-"

"You can inform him that if the ignorant fool does not proceed back to his own vehicle immedietly, he will be charged with assault, which will ultimately result in prison. Or at the very least," Kyoya added pleasantly, his subtle aura glowing with insidious danger, "A mark on his criminal record and a restraining order. This is, of course, in addition to the measures I will personally take to ensure you never go near Rini again."

The boy's eyes narrowed angrily. "Who the hell do you think you are?" he demanded. He dropped his hand so at least Rini could turn around.

It seemed like Kyoya had just miraculously appeared. Like some kind of night demon. Common sense told Rini that he must've been in the approaching car, and that he had asked the driver to park somewhere out of sight. But the sight of him walking toward her, tall and slim and strong, his glasses catching the pale light of the street lamp overhead, was enough to send a burning warmth scorching through her chest. Somehow, he had known she was in trouble, and he had come here to help her escape.

Kyoya calmly answered, "I am Kyoya Ootori, third son of the Ootori Group. And you are Mizuki Toma, a delinquet, who dropped out of high school and spends his time stealing cars and luring defenseless girls off the street. That license plate," he indicated, ignoring Toma's shock and disbelief, "has a tracking device on it. It belongs to one of my family's employees, and as part of our contract we provide security services for their vehicles and even their own families. You were unlucky enough to pick the wrong person to steal from, Mizuki Toma. We Ootoris do not like what is ours being taken from us."

In his last stride, Kyoya stepped up behind Rini and, with a firmness that contrasted his pleasantries, swept his arm around Rini's shoulders and pulled her close to his side. Rini cowered there, willing herself to stop shivering, feeling the pulse of his heartbeat through the contact of their bodies. Toma was backing away slowly, his head whipping left and right, as if he expected armed gunmen to leap out from behind the houses and ambush him.

"You should go home." Kyoya's suggestion didn't leave room for argument. "I believe your mother is ill, and she is in need of your care. I will have someone pick up the car tomorrow morning. If we find that you have destroyed it, please be assured, you will not enjoy the consequences."

With a squeak of his white sneakers on the pavement, Toma turned and sprinted back to his car, flying to the seat and slamming his foot onto the gas. Without bothering to fasten his seatbelt, he tore off down the street, still looking left and right to make sure no one was going to shoot at him. Tires shrieking, he turned sharply to the right and in a matter of seconds he disappeared. The sound of his erratic driving gradually faded into the distance.

Meanwhile, in Kyoya's arms, Rini was sobbing. She was sure that if he hadn't come something terrible would have happened. Toma would have locked her in the car, and driven out of Tokyo to a deserted back alley or an empty warehouse and then…and then…

Kyoya held her tight, his long arms completely encircling her. "Rini, why were you walking alone after dark?" he demanded. "There are dangerous people who would not hesitate to hurt you. I was only able to locate you because of the tracking device that's implanted in your cell phone-"

"K-K-Kyoya-senpai," Rini said miserably. "I'm so s-s-sorry for everything! I-I couldn't give you an answer or anything b-because I thought M-Mori-"

"I know, Rini. You were in love with him."

Rini gasped. Her head jerked up, exposing her tear stained face. "H-how did you know?"

"It's enough that I know." His grip tightened on her, pressing her into his warm, pounding chest. "As it is enough that I have seen the unbearable sadness you have felt since he left." He almost sounded angry, as if he blamed Mori for making Rini unhappy.

But all Rini could think about was that he had noticed. He had been watching her. He had rescued her. He cared. He wanted to hold her in his arms. She meant something to him.

And of course, Kyoya Ootori meant so much to her. From the moment she'd first his name, he had slowly revealed himself to be everything she'd hoped he would be. Impossibly brilliant, exceptionally gifted, and yet buried deep beneath the surface, so raw and emotionally human that it was as if his feelings could reach out and intermingle with hers. As if they were bonded, and it transcended all that had happened between their families.

"Let me take care of you."

Rini's eyes widened. The angle was such that no light could be reflected. She could clearly see Kyoya's face. The pleasant expression had long since melted away, and his calm had given way to charged emotion. He held her as if she were his most prized possession, and stared into her eyes as if he wanted to touch her soul.

"Allow me to make you happy," Kyoya said earnestly. "I will do everything in my power to give you whatever you wish. And I will make sure that your Father doesn't know about us."

"Kyoya-senpai…"

"Please, just Kyoya. I am not your superior in this matter." His hand moved up her back, and his fingers slipped into the silken wisps of her hair. The warm skin of his palm touched her neck. Rini's back arched.

"Kyoya." She tasted the name on her tongue. It felt like a kiss. "I…I would be…so…so happy…if we could be together. If you could always hold me…just like this."

It seemed to take a moment for Kyoya to accept what she was saying. Then, suddenly, without any warning, Kyoya started to laugh.

"Rini!"

He laughed loudly, happily, as he picked her up off the ground and spun her through the air. "I am strangely unable to inhibit myself in your presence! My Father would be ashamed of me. Well, I suppose now both Tamaki and I are a couple of idiots."

"I won't tell him you said that," Rini promised. Her arms had somehow gotten wrapped around his neck, and she couldn't believe it felt so wonderful. She snuggled into Kyoya's chest. "Will we keep this a secret from the rest of the Host Club too?"

"Yes," Kyoya agreed. "We don't want to give the twins any leverage. However…" And here, Kyoya gave Rini another gentle, loving squeeze, "a few extra sojourns into the back kitchen could prove to be quite…interesting."

...so then, will Rini and Kyoya stay together in a blissful relationship? Phooey, this is only the middle of the story! There's more to come! I would love reviews, but then again, you might be so mad at me for not posting in so long that I could understand. :)

Much Love to All,

*~Suki~*