A/N: We made it, folks. Welcome to the end. Make sure you scroll all the way to the end for my special surprise for all my loyal readers! On that note, let me take a moment to thank each and every one of you for all the support. You guys truly made writing this story a wonderful, amazing, completely fun experience. I have deep love for each of you, and I'd like to think that through this story, we've formed a little family of our own. Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything. Without you, this story would be nothing but a writer's fleeting fancy. Keep reading, keep reviewing, and stay exactly the way you are; I'm convinced you guys are more wonderful than at least half the world's population.
I do not own Ouran High School Host Club; it belongs to Bisco Hatori.
Even after two years, the coffee shop had hardly changed. The curtains were new, as were most of the waitresses, but the tables were the same, scarred and stained by numerous cups resting on their wooden faces.
Seated in the corner, and nursing a single cup of straight black coffee, a good-looking young man scribbled busily in his black notebook. Every now and again, he would glance towards the door, push up his glasses, and then refocus his attention on his writing. Many of the waitresses sighed over his handsome face, and giggled over the completely cool way he'd ordered his coffee. They debated breezing by his table, coffee pot in hand, in the hopes that he would ask them to freshen his cup. But there was something about that attractive face that held them back; some aloofness that suggested he held himself apart from everyone else.
"He isn't here for romance," one of the older waitresses said with a wise nod. "He's the constant, the watch guard. He's holding down the fort." She gave her ample bosom an idle pat. "But I don't think he's the center of whatever group he's waiting for. His type never is. He's just the one that always watches."
Kyoya knew what the waitresses were saying about him, of course. If he would have cared enough to respond to their hypothesis, he would have agreed wholeheartedly with their diagnosis. He did indeed prefer the shadows; it was the only place where you could move so much more and still keep it hidden.
Kyoya looked up, and had just enough time to heave a resigned sigh, before Hunni, still short and sweet after all this time, but with a face that was starting to suggest his age, launched himself against his side. Kyoya endured the hug in long-suffering silence, and correctly interpreted the sympathetic smile in Mori's eyes over Hunni's slender shoulder. The other boy had finally stopped getting taller, but he was still filling out width-wise. He was starting to resemble one of those American football players.
"Mori," he greeted, rising to meet him after Hunni finally detached himself. He was greatly relieved when Mori seemed satisfied by a manly handshake.
They sat, but barely had time to order Mori's tea.
"Hey guys!" two voices spoke in perfect unison, as always.
Except for Hunni, who couldn't be stopped, there were no hugs this time. Hikaru and Kaoru really weren't comfortable showing affection to anyone but each other, but beaming smiles were offered by both twins as they took their seats. They were finally starting to dress differently; it was much easier to tell them apart, even though all of the Host Club members had finally figured it out a long time ago. Kaoru was dressed against the winter wind in a long peacoat and patterned scarf, while Hikaru preferred a stylishly scarred leather jacket. He didn't have a scarf, but his black turtleneck protected his skin just the same.
"They're late," Hikaru said, popping his elbows on the table. It wasn't a question.
Kyoya's eyebrow curved in a smooth, extremely amused arch.
"Really, Hikaru. After all this time, were you expecting anything else?"
The redhead gave a small laugh, and shook his head.
"I guess it was wishful thinking that one of them might rein in the other," he said ruefully.
"Some things never change," Kaoru said, slipping his hand into his brother's just to prove that indeed, some things never did.
They waited ten minutes before the door burst open, and a red-faced Haruhi scrambled in, her cheeks chapped from the cold. Tamaki pranced along at her heels, radiating so much energy that he was practically carrying his own atmosphere.
"Sorry we're late," Haruhi said, shooting an annoyed glare in the blonde's direction.
Haruhi's dark look appeared to have zero effect on Tamaki's sunny mood. In fact, his grin only widened upon seeing it.
"Yes, my apologies! Haruhi simply couldn't decide what to wear."
Haruhi, who still preferred simple sweaters and jeans, untwisted her frozen fingers from her boyfriend's hand, and used her suddenly free arm to jab him in the stomach instead.
"Whatever," she snapped as he wheezed. "It takes me ten minutes to get ready. I've gotten lost in your closet before."
"Only once!" Tamaki protested, as Haruhi turned away to greet the others. "And I rescued you without delay!"
Haruhi rolled her eyes. Unlike Hunni (and Tamaki) who administered hugs to every member, Haruhi was the only one to be given hugs by all the boys.
"I came with you," she pointed out, as she shook herself free of Tamaki's arms. "You didn't have to hug me."
Tamaki just grinned and passed her to the next boy.
"I saw you guys three weeks ago," she muttered as Mori popped her off her feet.
"Stop complaining," Hikaru and Kaoru suggested, as they each chose a side and sandwiched her into an embrace.
Haruhi allowed it for a moment, before shoving them away. They settled at the table, and ordered coffee all around.
Once the waitresses got past the stunning beauty of the five men occupying their shop, they started to notice that what they secretly hoped was a traveling harem (preferably one out for hire) was actually more like a family. The little mannerisms, probably unconscious ones to them, shouted out their mutual affection for all the world to see. The way that the little blonde leaned into the tall one's side, or reached out during an excited diatribe to latch onto the girl's hands. The way that the two redheads kept in constant contact. The way that the tall one bumped his shoulder against the cool one's in a silent show of solidarity. The way that the overexcited blonde reached out the clap the leather-clad redhead on the shoulder, and the way the redhead returned his smile with warm hesitance. The way that the shorter blonde laughed uproariously at something the taller blonde said, and then gave him a slap on the back that nearly sent him face-first into the table. The way that the one in glasses gave the redhead in the scarf a fond and faintly evil smirk before scribbling something in his book. The way that the dramatic blonde hooked an arm around the cool boy's neck, and the way the cool boy's eyes shone in spite of his annoyed scowl.
The way that the girl reached out to each of them in turn, and gifted them each a smile that brightened the room around them.
"Hey guys, remember when-"
"Are we doing this again?" Haruhi asked, cutting across Kaoru's question.
"Yes, haven't we exhausted this by now?" Kyoya added, raising his eyebrows in polite interest.
"Well, this one is fairly new," Kaoru protested. He leaned forward with a huge smile. "Remember Haruhi's totally stupid stomach ulcer?"
Haruhi's face flamed.
"Come on!" she sputtered. "That was two years ago!"
"Kaoru," Hikaru said, shoving a playful elbow into his brother's side. "You can't call your family members stupid."
Haruhi blinked away the barest vestiges of guilt and surprise, and smiled at Hikaru instead. Rather than blush, as he would have once upon a time, Hikaru returned her wide grin. Tamaki caught the interaction and heaved a smile of his own, although his was smaller, and filled with contentment.
"Kyo-chan calls Tama-chan an idiot all the time," Hunni pointed out.
Kyoya snickered quietly into his coffee cup.
"Pick a different memory," Haruhi said, scowling in Kaoru's direction. "That one shouldn't be important."
"Yes, it should."
Haruhi jumped at Mori's voice, and then turned an incredulous face in his direction.
"It is important," he continued quietly. "It brought us back together."
Haruhi's brown eyes went wide, and warm. Tamaki smiled at the older boy, and squeezed the fingers laced so comfortably in his.
"Very astute, Mori-sempai," he said softly, his voice absent its usual drama. "Indeed, it did. And it kept us together."
"Because nothing can break us," Hikaru said firmly, and he and Tamaki shared a quiet look.
"Of course," Tamaki agreed. He raised his coffee cup and held it out. "To our family."
"To our family!" Hunni echoed cheerfully, raising his cup right away.
"To our family," Mori rumbled, following Hunni, as always.
"To our family," Hikaru and Kaoru chorused, squeezing hands under the table.
"To our family," Kyoya said, quietly enough that it almost went unheard.
Haruhi rolled her eyes because it was expected, but she couldn't stop the lump from forming in her throat.
"To our family," she finished, cursing herself for the faint blush that rose in her cheeks.
They clinked their cups together. They shared a quiet moment of acknowledgement, and warm looks passed around the table. And then a still flustered Haruhi turned to Tamaki.
"Corny," she declared.
Her boyfriend grinned, and caught her chin in his long fingers. He planted a soft kiss on her lips, stretching it out just long enough to leave her brown eyes blurry when they pulled apart.
"Love you," he whispered.
Haruhi rolled her eyes again, but her lips curved with pleasure.
"Hey!" Hunni chimed in, his giant eyes filled with a wicked kind of mischief. "Remember when Tama-chan tried to kiss Haru-chan for the first time in public, and she punched him over the head?"
The table erupted in hearty laughter and embarrassed squawking. The sound echoed around the restaurant, unconsciously brightening the moods of the other patrons. It whispered around the doors, curling briefly against the warmed glass panes, and then stole its way out, to be carried away by the snowflakes dancing on the frigid air outside.
A/N: And so it ends. My apologies if you found the ending too sticky sweet...I'm (mostly) a big believer in happy endings. Are you ready for your surprise?
Are you sure?
Okay, here it is!
Remember When 2: Ties That Bind
It won't be nearly as long as the first, but I realized that there's a little bit more story to be told, and I couldn't think of a better gift to give the fans of this story than a continuation of it. If I've held your interest, make sure you watch for updates starting in August. So stay tuned, and Happy Reading!