A/N: Takes place pre-series.
Because the Goblins Are Singing
There's nothing wrong with his grammar, but every time he opens his mouth you feel an incredible urge to staple it shut. Maybe it's the way he rolls his r's like he's tasting them, like they taste more wonderful than anything else in the world; maybe it's the extension of his vowels, always lilting on the last syllable. Maybe it's because he says your name so often, now, spilling it from his lips thickly and carelessly, brandishing it as if to remind everyone that you-are-good-friends-and-that-is-very-cool.
"Ki-oh-ya!" It is a warble, not a greeting. In your mind's eye you are snapping down a stapler.
"It's Kyoya, Suou." And then you smile so artificially that your cheeks ache, but he doesn't seem to notice.
He likes to touch things. You realize this the first time he throws his arms around you, not caring that you're in the public eye – the hallways – and it's lunchtime, and the girls streaming out from the cafeteria are starting to squeal. One moment you're having a decent conversation, then suddenly your neck is full of his weight and you're staggering against the wall. "You are Buddha!" He shrieks. "You are God!" And he squeezes harder.
It takes some effort, but you manage to pull away. He seems to miss the point, because he continues to wave his hands hopefully in the space you leave behind.
"Suou," and you try very hard not to be condescending, "You're exaggerating."
"But you're willing to install a kotatsu – for me!"
You smile at this, but it's an offhand gesture, directed at the space above his left ear. It is not for him. It is for the importance of his lineage, which you aren't taking lightly, no matter how carefree he seems. It is for his influence, for his trust, for whatever his name can offer in terms of an alliance, or maybe trade. He's the son of a businessman; he should know this. As you do.
You don't see anything beautiful in the familiar.
This is the thought that fills your mind as you pick the guidebooks off the shelves and start to flip your way through them, marking the relevant pages with tabs of sticky paper. There is nothing enchanting about falling cherry petals, nothing exciting about great golden buddhas, nothing awe-inspiring about Fujisan or bean paste or kotatsu. There are no cultural mysteries to the well-bred Ootori bocchan, and this makes tradition boring, almost a chore. Like chanting prayers during New Year's when you all know that luck is a myth. Like folding your clothes yourself because the maids can't seem to tell the difference between blue and navy. Like showing Suou around when you've got exams coming up, just because you need to prove you can.
"But Japan is so wonderful," and his voice is in your ear so thick and cloying that he is somehow beside you again – it's lunchtime, again – why is he always there? If you didn't have any manners you would have accused him of stalking already. "My father would tell me all sorts of things about it, but it's even better than he described!" And Suou laughs. For a brief moment, you think of notes and keys.
Then he talks about the beauty of cold Januaries and knees touching and eating oranges with the family members' toes wiggling under the blankets, watching the TV specials, and he's starting to get tears in his eyes from the sheer magic of himself, so you tune him out again.
The sun is beating down hard upon your back. Your feet are aching and your hands are weighed down with shopping bags. Your glasses need a good wipe, but when you pause to get some breath back he immediately shouts at you to hurry up, because the sight is just so amazing. Really. As if you hadn't seen it all already – the torii glistening in the sun, the shisa sitting on the tiled roofs, the bridges where he loudly shouted, "Oh! A real live monk!" and proceeded to disrupt said monk's meditation. The endless temples. The stone gardens. In the last five hours alone Suou has singlehandedly increased Kyoto's income by ten percent, as evidenced by the trinkets and souvenirs the pair of you are laboriously carrying, and the uncomfortable squelch in your stomach that reminds you how unaccustomed you are to street food.
"Kyoya! Come! I absolutely must have a picture with this new – ah – it's called a torii, right?"
You had decided long ago that you would earn Suou's attention, if not his respect and admiration, and that you would become his friend, in every profitable sense of the word. Lately, however, you have been feeling rather like his babysitter. Is it purity, or is he really just a fool? You can't decide which would be worse. If it were the former, you would be disgusted by his naivety; if it were the latter, his stupidity.
That doesn't stop you from feeling compelled to follow him as he dances up the sharp slope – up and up, with the golden sunshine streaking through his hair.
Through your weariness you realize that this has become habit – that, ugly as it sounds, lately you have been following him, almost unconsciously. Certainly not willingly – not, at least, for any reasons that you would care to understand.
"This is the perfect spot!" He proclaims, and starts to fumble with the embarrassing camera around his neck.
You have already overstepped your quota for kindness today, but one more act no longer makes a difference. You roll your eyes. "Here, let me take it."
"No no! Join me!" He tugs you to his side, and the flash goes off before you have time to fix your face in a perfect imitation of a smile.
You don't like to touch things, but somehow you find yourself livid with rage, and suddenly your hands are on his shoulders and you're pushing him down down down into the floor where he will shut up and not remind you about inadequacy and lack of effort, among other irritating things, because you are supposed to be the smarter one here.
"You know I'm right." His eyes are foreign, and his accusation is unrelenting – he is right. You know it. There is nothing beautiful about your situation. There is nothing noble about keeping yourself held down to a certain level when you know you can exceed every potential; there is nothing beneficial about your sticking to the familiar, like a worthless tradition, like a chore.
You know this; knew it all along.
Why was it so hard to admit?
It's a long moment before your breathing normalizes. The two of you don't stop looking at each other, Suou staring hard and you staring harder. He's right. And it's clear and funny and strange and now you know what you have to do, so you pull yourself upright, then let him do the same. You dust yourself off.
In your mind's eye you are undoing locks and turning keys.
"So I was right, wasn't I?" Obviously he has no intention of letting you pretend that you didn't just lose your cool – but what does it matter? Even if you show him your dark side, no one else will believe it.
This idea makes you feel a lot better. "Suou," and for once you are not doing anything to your voice, or your features, or your actions. "Now you're just being boastful."
"It's Tamaki, Kyoya."
"Hah." You smirk. "You finally got it right."
He laughs, and you are reminded of notes and strings, of the sunshine in Kyoto, of staplers and disgust; then he points at your face and talks about the namahage scaring little kids by asking if they've been naughty, and when is the next festival, and oh yes goblins are very much real, because here is one right now!
You flick him on the forehead, but he keeps talking, and you find yourself listening to every word.
A/N: Written for the travel theme of ouran_contest on lj last year. This is similar in many ways to Only More Stupid, my other Kyoya/Tamaki friendship fic - I worry it might be too similar, actually. orz Thank you for reading, comments would be greatly appreciated.