Beta'ed By my lovely gal pal: Cassandra Starr

It wasn't supposed to be a typical, angsty teenager move; it was just supposed to be a walk, possibly to that commoner's park and shopping mall Haruhi had showed them the week before (Kaoru had never known he could buy so many items for so little, have them be the same quality and get them sooner than ordering by mail). It hadn't been supposed to rain, either, but the moist drizzle had quickly turned into a full-on pelting downpour in a matter of seconds. And now, Hitachiin Kaoru was soaked, from head to toe, in a mix of murky rain water and sloshed gutter mud that passing cars had sprayed all over his designer jeans.

He was shivering, too, and mentally scolding himself for not bringing a jacket (or umbrella) with him in early September. Kaoru's shirt clung to his skin, making the white fabric transparent and hang down lower than it should with all the extra weight of moisture. He stopped at one corner of the commoner's market place, shaking as he watched mother's usher their children into cars. Why, why had he neglected to bring his cell phone with him as well?

"...Oh yeah..." he spoke into the emptying sidewalk as some shop owners closed up their stores and departed through the downpour. They needed....alone time... Kaoru shivered again, this time having noting to do with the temperature.

He needed to keep walking, find his way out of downtown Bunkyo and home or at least somewhere he could call home and get a ride. Preferably before he caught hypothermia and collapsed in a sewer.

Who do I know that lives close to this street? Not Hunny-senpai or Mori-senpai... Kaoru mentally ticked of the residences as identifying pictures flashed through his mind's eye. Nor Tono...Haruhi's...not there and I couldn't find it anyway—all these commoner dwellings look the same. I'll probably end up getting more lost...So...that leaves—

At that moment a long, black car screeched around the corner, it's tires running directly through a muddy puddle of water, The murky brown droplets sprung out from under the rubber violently, landing all over Kaoru's shirt, pants, eyes and head, a little getting in both his eyes and mouth and making the Hitachiin splutter and stagger backwards. He cursed, hearing the car pull to a stop a couple of feet from him and a door opened. Not opening his burning eyes, Kaoru turned toward the person walking toward him.

"What the hell? Can't you watch where you're driving?" he demanded, temper flaring immediately. He removed his knuckles from his eye sockets, blinking through the tears as the figure came into focus. By the second blink, he knew who it was. "Oh..."

"Is that any way o talk to your upperclassman, Kaoru?" Ootori Kyouya asked easily, opening an umbrella that expanded with a spray of water droplets.

"Well, a second ago, you weren't my upperclassman, were you? You were the jackass who gave me a mud bath." He felt the harsh earth sinking into his pores.

Kyouya ignored the insult and proffered a spot under the umbrella to Kaoru. "What are you doing out here, anyway?"

"I went out for a walk and got lost. Then it started raining, and I had left my wallet and phone at home," the red head explained sheepishly, wiping dirt from his face while stepping under the shelter.

"Would you like a ride home, then, Kaor—"

"No!" Kaoru interrupted, eyes widening. Kyouya gave him an odd look and the boy looked away, shame-faced. "I—thank you, senpai, but I don't want to go home. At least, not yet."

There was silence for a moment as another car skirted around the corner and narrowly avoided the puddle. The umbrella moved overhead, and Kaoru looked back up to see the youngest Ootori motioning toward the open car door. "Come one then."

"To...Your house?"

"Yes." Grey eyes narrowed slightly. "Only to dry off. Yours and Hikaru's ratings would drop considerably if you were out of commission for an unspecified number of weeks due to illness."

Kaoru sweatdropped. "Always with the finances..." But even the cold, miser offer sounded good to him at the moment, and he eagerly followed Kyouya into the back seat of his car, closing the door behind him. The car began to move.

Silence. It was quiet for the entire ten minute drive to the Ootori estate, and when the car pulled into the covered drive-way, both teenagers got out swiftly, entering the main mansion before they could get anymore wet.

The car ride had done little to dry Kaoru's clothing and he followed Kyouya's path to his private quarters, leaving a trail of wet footprints and tiny droplets in his wake. They entered the large room that seemed more like an apartment, and Kyouya left Kaoru at the doorway, pulling open his drawers and extricating various pieces of clothing and tossing them at his underclassman.

"Change. You're dripping on my carpet." He pointed to the bathroom. "You can dry your cloths here, and we'll have them sent to your estate."

"Okay. Thanks." Kaoru retreated to the bathroom, stripped out of his sopping wet cloths and slipped into the loaned clothing. The pants were a little too big, and he had to fold the waist line over several times for it to hang appropriately on his hips. He encountered the same problem with the shirt, but he let it hang, folding the half-arm sleeves up before splashing water on his face and running his fingers through his hair. He then re-emerged from the bathroom.

"Thanks again, senpai. I feel loads better now."

Kyouya was seated on his couch, Powerbook in lap and fingers blazing across the keyboard. He had shed his jacket and seemed more at ease in slightly dressy slacks and a dark green turtle-neck sweater. "Not a problem, Kaoru," he responded without even looking up at him. Kaoru waited, holding his breath for the 'but I don't do this sort of thing for free' comment that usually followed that sentence. "So, are you going to tell me why you were out in a commoner's district? While it was raining, no less?"

The younger of the Hitachiin twins hesitated, twisting his hands and taking several deep breaths. And then the dam that had been bottling up every thought that had run through his head in the last three hours broke, and everything came rushing out like a waterfall.

"Hikaru invited Haruhi over for a sort of pseudo date—without telling me. I mean, I saw this coming, but I always thought she would only dress-up like that—pink short dress over half-shorts (she looked cute) with a new hairstyle that looked girly—if Tono asked her, or else if her father made her. And then, when she showed up, the two of them obviously wanted to be left alone, and it just felt weird being around them—not just in the living room with them, but even in the same house. I mean, I want Hikaru to grow and develop as a person and all, but I can't get use to the image of it actually happening. Also, it can't properly happen with me hovering behind him—that'll just create another type of dependence! So, I got up and left—without my wallet, cell phone, anything! When I was walking, I got to thinking about what they were doing. Were they making out? Having sex? Or were they really just eating their picnic? Can you believe it?!? A picnic—INSIDE!! That's, like, a totally over romantic...a Tono move!! And then it started raining, and I got lost, and I started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the gods were conspiring to make this happen this way, like they wanted Hikaru and Haruhi to be together. And if that was so...What's going to happen?" To me, he wanted to add, but didn't.

Kaoru had taken to pacing, and somewhere along the part of the story where he had left the house, he had launched himself next to Kyouya on the couch and crossed his arms like a brooding child. Kyouya, in turn, closed his laptop and turned to observe his younger schoolmate through prescription lenses. He waited patiently until the Hitachiin was finished (out of breath and red-faced) before exhaling and reclining.

"Nothing horrible is going to come of this new relationship, unless it happens to be public displays of affection during the Host Club," the Ootori responded easily. "In which case, I shall make them both pay heftily. As for you...Weren't you the one who wanted the two of you to gain some sort of newfound independence?"

Kaoru flushed. "I do, but it was supposed to be me who broke that last barrier. If I did it right, he wouldn't even notice, so it wouldn't hurt either of us. But...this just isn't right. And it wasn't supposed to be Haruhi, either."

"Who was it supposed to be, then?"

Now Kaoru looked away. "Tono. When he announced his relationship with Haruhi."

Kyouya 'tsk'ed. "You rely too much on others for your moronic schemes to go down as planned. Tamaki and Haruhi are in no way romantically involved; never were and never will me. You shouldn't assume things, Kaoru. It makes you look stupid."

By now the Hitachiin's face was deep red at the layered insults, and he turned the conversation around easily. "So, what...? Does that mean you and Tono...Are you...You know."

Kyouya glared. "No. We are not. Tamaki is currently far too engrossed in the tutorial program his grandmother enrolled him in for such trivial things as dating."

"Sorry," Kaoru said sympathetically and held up both hands in a sign of surrender. "I was just...well..." He ran a hand haphazardly through his hair. "I'm just not sure how I'm supposed to be around the two of them when they're together without feeling like a third wheel. I mean, they feel inclined to ask me to join them, and I don't know what to say or how to decline."

"Tell them you have plans."

"Hikaru can always tell when I'm lying."

"Then don't like," Kyouya removed his glasses to clean with a silky cloth pulled from his breast pocket.

Kaoru raised and eyebrow. "What, like get a girlfriend?"

"Or a hobby. Or a friend in general." He replaced his glasses on his nose and stretched his arms behind his head to relax completely. "You see, the way I figure it, if I can handle Tamaki and all his manic emotions for the rest of my life, I can defiantly deal with you in the month or two it takes for your brother and Haruhi to stop asking you to go with them on dates or else break up."

The Hitachiin froze for a second, gazing at the brunette in a mixture of shock and disbelief. And then, ever so slowly, he broke into a grin. "Is that an invitation, Kyouya-senpai" he leered, enjoying seeing the side of his upperclassman that was usually reserved for the could-be-should-be-would-be Suoh heir. "I think you like me more than you're letting on."

And he closed grey eyes, sighing exasperatedly. "Kaoru..."


Ring ring. Ring ring.

The purple and black cell phone that rested on the mahogany coffee table began to dance across the surface. The screen lighting up and emitting an annoying, tinny jingle to signal an incoming call. The song itself made Kaoru cringe and wonder just who Kyouya would choose that stupid of a ringtone for.

"Oh, hello Hikaru." He should have known. "...No, I know you're not Kaoru...Call it intuition...You don't know where he is and you're worried, eh? ...Of course I do..." He began to understand that Kyouya was reiterating what Hikaru was saying for his benefit. "Because he's with me—yes, he's fine, so you can stop yelling...Yes ...No ...Nothing ...Alright... I'll tell him... You're welcome."

"So...What'd he say?" Kaoru asked lightly, pulling his feet up under him to settle back on the sofa backing.

"He's sending a car for you. It'll probably be here soon, so you should get ready to leave." Kyouya relayed, standing up. Kaoru felt obligated to do the same. The borrowed pants nearly fell to his knees, tripping him up.

"Ah, thank you. And thank you for the cloths, senpai—I'll return them to you in a couple of days, okay?" he said cordially, hitching up the pants again as he made his way to the door and slipped in his still-soaking shoes.

Kyouya shook his head. "Keep them—they don't fit me, anyway." His hand gripped the silver door knob and opened the door to reveal the entry hall again. Kaoru breezed past him, looking surprised.

"Really?" he smiled. "Thanks."

They moved toward the front door and opened it onto the front stoop just as the Hitachiin twin's school limo pulled up in the rain and idled. Just before descending the stairs to get into his car, Kaoru paused and gazed at Kyouya for a long time with an expression that annoyed (and confused) the Shadow King to no end.

"What?" he demanded coolly, feeling his eyebrow twitch a bit.

"Senpai," Kaoru's syllables were halting, almost like he had no idea what he was trying to say, but trying to speak anyway. "I—uh...Thanks, Kyouya...Thanks for listening."

""You're easier to ignore than Tamaki." Was that sarcasm beneath the evil mask of Ootori Kyouya's cold indifference? Either way, Kaoru smiled at him again before running into the downpour with his arms over his head and sagging pants that did not fit him but that he liked anyway, and a restful mind, set at ease by his conversation with his upperclassman.

And a week later, when he was holed up—just getting over his wet-cold—the younger Hitachiin twin couldn't help feeling it ease worth it, and later that day (when Hikaru ran out to kidnap Haruhi, stopping only to announce the fact he was going out—alone) he, bored, picked up his cell phone and decidedly called the newest and most interesting person allowed (invited) into their exclusive twin world.

He liked that fact.