Special Note: I posted a chapter cover for this on my DeviantArt account. Link to my DA account and the cover itself are on my profile.
Warnings: Slash (Kyouya/Kaoru), mild angst, fluff, (eventually) innuendo, and some snogging. Part 1 of 3 (I think). Might tack on more warnings later. Fluff is more for chapter 2.
Disclaimer: Ouran High School Host Club belongs to Hattori Bisuko and associates, of whom I am not one. Written for KaraDragonfire's birthday (Happy 17th!) at her request.
1: To Lay a Wager
It began with a bet. Well, it began long before that, but as far as Kaoru was concerned, the bet was the beginning for him, and no one could dissuade him of this.
For all that Kaoru felt the bet started it all, those who were being betted upon – Hitachiin Hikaru, Kaoru's elder twin, and Suou Tamaki – would say it began nearly one year prior, because they started it. Which meant the entire thing tied back to April the second, when Fujioka Haruhi stumbled upon their club as a first year student. Because Haruhi was involved, and nothing could have happened without her.
That, however, was of no interest to Kaoru. At the time of the bet, he only cared for one thing.
Beating the Shadow King.
Both stood on the sidelines after a meeting of the Host Club. Haruhi was tidying up with Hikaru and Tamaki hot on her heels, trying (and failing) to make themselves useful in that endeavor.
"You know your brother will only be hurt in all of this," Kyouya stated quietly. It was not a statement to bring attention to Kyouya's thought, but rather a statement that he knew that Kaoru must know that Hikaru would not win Haruhi's heart. "You would do better to stop encouraging him."
Kaoru glared. "Hikaru won't get hurt. He's grown up a lot since Haruhi started here," he pointed out. And he had; not only had both Kaoru and Hikaru been drawn out of their little world by the girl, but Hikaru had become less mean, less dependent upon his twin. Kaoru had grown up too, enough that he knew to put aside his own needs for the sake of his brother. "Haruhi can't like Tono like that, not when he hasn't learned a thing and thinks of her as his daughter."
"Would you bet on that?" Kyouya inquired. He had a gleam in his eye, but that didn't stop Kaoru from nodding stubbornly. He believed that Hikaru could defeat Tamaki in the race for Haruhi's heart. "Well then, whichever one succeeds in first obtaining Haruhi's affections –" he didn't discount that they could break up and one day Haruhi might date the other, "- his supporter wins. I support Tamaki, and you support Hikaru. Terms will be decided by the winner when the bet has ended. If Haruhi chooses someone other than our 'champions', the bet ends with no winner and no loser. Agreed?"
There was very little thought involved, only a bull-headed stubbornness that pushed him onward. "Definitely," Kaoru replied, and they shook to seal the deal.
So it began.
It was inevitable that Kyouya would win the bet. Kaoru had realized this only ten minutes after making it, that he had made a no-terms bet that he would lose because it was Kyouya he was going against. Never mind that Tamaki was the real "foe", Kyouya was going to win. Kaoru had been so sure that Hikaru would be chosen over Tamaki that he had forgotten who he was fighting against.
He had forgotten that Kyouya never lost.
It was the weekend following the bet. The Club had been attending one of Mori's kendo tournaments – which he won, of course – because Kyouya said it was a good business opportunity and they had realized that Haruhi hadn't been to one of the tournaments yet. Tamaki asked Haruhi to stay behind a moment, when they were planning to leave, so the rest stayed back to spy, hidden rather effectively for once. Some out of concern, others for a vested interest in the scene.
"Haruhi, I… I don't think of you as my daughter!" Tamaki belted out in a very inelegant manner.
It was pretty lame as far as confessions went, and the location left much to be desired.
Tamaki revealed more, some about his "mind theatre" which made Kaoru wonder how he ever mistook his feelings for the love of a father to his daughter. It was ridiculous!
By the end of it, Kaoru was glancing over at his brother – who had gripped Kaoru's arm so tight that the limb was beginning to go numb – and wishing he hadn't been so adamant in encouraging Hikaru. Because Kyouya was right, Hikaru would only get hurt. None of it had made any difference.
Haruhi accepted Tamaki's feelings, and she looked so… so happy about it that Kaoru knew there was no saving Hikaru's feelings. He had been rejected at New Year's, and Haruhi was accepting Tamaki's feelings so entirely that there was no doubt she reciprocated. Kaoru clutched his brother to him, offering the comfort of I'm still here and Don't let this break you so silent but he knew Hikaru heard him. The grip on his arm loosened some, allowing the pins-and-needles feeling to prickle along the limb.
"I knew she loved him," Hikaru whispered quietly, "but I hoped she would change her mind."
"I'm sorry," Kaoru said. And he was, even if Hikaru wouldn't understand that Kaoru was honestly apologizing rather than offering condolences. "I thought Tono was too childish…"
"He is," Hikaru nodded, his gaze still locked on the newfound couple that was slowly approaching the other Hosts, red-faced. "But he grew up, just like we did. He's not as much of an idiot, you know?"
Belatedly, Kaoru wondered when Hikaru got so mature that he could accept Tamaki's changes when Kaoru, the supposedly nicer and more mature of the two, had refused to acknowledge they had even happened. "Yeah, I know," and he did. But that didn't mean he had to like it. Kaoru didn't like that Haruhi had fostered changes in the King like she had in the twins, he didn't like that she saw those changes and her heart judged the Princely-type host as being the one worthy of her much-sought affection.
He didn't like that, when he gave up any chance he had with the girl he loved to back his brother's pursuit of her, they still lost in the face of their Idiot King.
"Everyone, I have wonderful news!" Tamaki shouted happily as soon as he caught sight of them. Hikaru straightened his spine, and Kaoru understood perfectly that his brother didn't want to bring down everyone else's spirits, or let on how hurt he was now.
Kaoru despaired for his brother, but he knew it was also in good portion for himself.
The following week, Kyouya informed Kaoru of his terms.
"Three favors, to be paid out at my discretion," Kyouya said. It might have seemed a non-sequitur, but Kaoru caught on quickly. Kyouya didn't do non-sequiturs, and Kaoru had been thinking about the bet since that morning. Besides it was just like Kyouya to be that vague about his terms, ensuring the best pay-out for himself.
After a weekend of consoling Hikaru, his twin seemed to have come back to himself and was doing a lot better, congratulating Haruhi and Tamaki on getting together and acting as usual with Kaoru. And it wasn't like he was just acting either; he had come to terms with things so quickly, and Kaoru realized that he had to get over it too. It was already Wednesday when Kyouya approached him. Fulfilling the bet might help him get over things.
"Fine," Kaoru agreed after a moment's pause. Kyouya was asking for favors, not anything that would get Kaoru killed or put his family to shame. It would probably be a bunch of clerical duty, like –
"Then the first will be for you to straighten out the filing room and fill in some information for me," Kyouya intoned. "I don't know if you noticed, but Hikaru made a bit of a mess in there earlier looking for information on one of your usual clients. I trust you can take care of it?"
... Like that. And of course Kyouya made the entire thing sound like it was Kaoru's fault anyway and it was the least Kaoru could do, wasn't it?
Hikaru exited the dressing room where he had changed back to his uniform from his cosplay – an old Victorian outfit, done in a dark blue to compliment his artificially darkened hair – and Kaoru did his best to explain the situation without revealing that Kaoru had bet on his love life. They were twins, yes, and they loved each other, but Kaoru realized that Hikaru might be mad at him a day or two if he revealed that.
"I'm the one who made the mess though," Hikaru frowned. "Why is he making you... unless you volunteered to clean it? Kaoru, I'm fine now, I promise! I'll clean up my own mess if he refuses to have a cleaning service do it, you don't have to do that!"
"I didn't volunteer for anything," Kaoru quickly stated to allay any of his brother's suspicions and indignity. "Actually, I – lost a bet." He realized he could say that much. Hikaru wouldn't know what the bet was about after all. "This is my punishment, I guess. And Kyouya-senpai mentioned filling in some gaps in data or something too."
He wrinkled his nose in unison with Hikaru. Paper work. Ick.
"If you're sure," Hikaru seemed a lot less reluctant, as he was already heading for the door. Kaoru wouldn't be surprised if Hikaru didn't start planning his funeral by the time Kaoru got home. "If you were dumb enough to bet against Kyouya-senpai, I guess it is your own fault anyway!"
Then Hikaru was gone and Kaoru couldn't help but wish he'd kept that little fact in mind when he'd been making the bet to begin with. But this was his way of getting over Hikaru's failure with Haruhi. Twins share their failures and their victories, after all.
"Well done," Kyouya sounded half sarcastic. Well, not quite sarcastic; Kyouya didn't do blatant sarcasm, but all the hosts knew when he was being sarcastic. Sometimes. Tamaki didn't seem to have worked it out yet, and Hani usually ignored such things in favor of cake, his cousin, his rabbit, and Kanazuki Reiko. The latter was still a fairly new addition.
"So... just how bad a state did Hikaru leave it in, anyway?" Kaoru asked, a little worried. Like most Ouran students (Haruhi being the only notable exception, aside from a few nouveau riche), the twins had grown up with maids who did absolutely all the cleaning. They never learned to be terribly tidy. Sure, their appearances were always impeccable, but if it weren't for the maids at home, it would be a veritable pigsty rather than the perfectly neat and tidy domicile that it was. Hikaru probably hadn't been thinking that it was usually Kyouya who kept it all in order, either.
"See for yourself," Kyouya led the way to the small room and gestured Kaoru to enter.
It... well, it could have been worse. Normally, it was a room with a desk and a filing cabinet. Haruhi had been known to use the room to study and do homework when she didn't have any designations but was expected to be available in case anyone showed up. The room was relatively sound-proof; due to the club room's original state, a music room, there were quite a few siderooms for solo practice and composition, so this wasn't too outrageous.
The top drawer of the filing cabinet – marked "A through Tsu" – was open, while the middle drawer – Te through Pi – was tilted over on the ground, half the files within scattered on the floor. The desk had a file spread out on top of it, several pages fallen to the chair, and a mug of commoner coffee spreading a stain on the papers.
It could be worse, it could be a lot worse, but to someone with no experience in organization such as Hitachiin Kaoru, it seemed a nigh insurmountable task.
"This... Hikaru did all this?" It was a small mess, Kaoru tried to tell himself. It was a mess far smaller than what Haruhi cleaned up every day after meetings. It was a smaller mess than the one the twins made when they were designing an outfit, far less than when they actually made an outfit, or when they did flower arranging. It was no big deal, he tried to assure himself, but oh it was. Especially since Kyouya would be inspecting, making sure he put each file in the exact right order and that he didn't mix up any of the scattered pages.
"The mug was Tamaki's doing," Kyouya supplied. "Haruhi came in after your brother, and Tamaki forgot his mug when he came in after her."
"Oh," Kaoru wrinkled his nose, then inhaled deeply. "Right. I'll... I'll get this done."
He took a step forward, careful to aim his foot and keep from stepping on any of the papers. If he soiled them, Kyouya would just about kill him, or it seemed as such. He could feel those eyes on the back of his neck, ready to berate him the instant he did anything wrong.
Kyouya's steps clacked behind him, then beside him, and then Kyouya was next to the desk placing the papers on it and the chair in a not-quite-neat stack and setting his laptop on the main surface of the desk.
"See that you do," came Kyouya's belated reply as the computer was opened at he set to typing away at... whatever it was he typed. Probably bookkeeping and the like.
He decided to start by taking the file folders out of the fallen drawer and laying them out on the ground. He then grabbed the other folders and set those out too. It might make organizing easier. The fallen drawer was tilted back right-side up – not placed back in the cabinet though, because then he'd have to get up and down a lot while he was putting the folders back – and he started collected all the fallen pages.
There were... a lot. He ended up making six stacks several inches tall each out of all the scattered pages, with no system of organization yet, just the papers he picked up, discovering more folders buried in what had turned out to be a veritable mountain of paper.
It hadn't looked that bad when he was standing up!
Sitting on his calves was getting uncomfortable, but he bore with it, and started taking pages from stacks and sticking them in folders. Whenever he saw a name that he recognized in particular, he would absently glance over the data while still being as prompt as he could in putting it in the proper file. The amount of data they had on each girl was ridiculous though. Did Kyouya requisition their information from his doctors after each Medical Exam day or something? And hadn't that girl graduated last year?
When he picked up a page belonging to one of the few males who occasionally visited the club, Kaoru wondered just how detailed the information network was.
When he picked up a page belonging to Nekozawa, he really did have to wonder. The fact that he was listed as picking Tamaki as his Host... alright, so it kinda made sense, but did Kyouya need to be that detailed? Really? Yes, Nekozawa had appeared on the dates listed and bugged Tamaki on each of those days... but Kaoru didn't need to know that he had actually signed up for the time.
It added a whole new level to just how... "Cool" Kyouya was. He really lived up to his type, though not in the way girls thought. It was more like cool as in "chilly". Yeah, Kaoru mused as he sorted out a few pages on one of Haruhi's regulars, chilly was exactly it. Chilly like a fall day or the snack fresh from the fridge that Hikaru filched for them without realizing that he had to put it in the microwave or the oven for it to warm up.
Keeping up the mental diatribe of not-quite-insults, Kaoru found the work went faster, and soon he was putting the folders back where they belonged in the drawer. He glanced at his watched – an hour and a half. Surely that meant he'd made good time? There had been a lot of paper, so that was pretty fast, he was certain.
As soon as all the folders were back where they belonged, including the one that sat on the desk at Kyouya's elbow, and the top drawer had been shut again, Kaoru picked up the middle drawer from its place on the ground.
Or rather, he tried. Paper was... heavy.
Frowning, Kaoru repositioned his hands, digging his fingers into the plush carpet to get a better grip on the drawer, and pulled up again, but it did nothing but hurt his arms. He almost growled at the inanimate object, but refrained, barely. He stood at his full height and stared at it, thinking. With Hikaru he could lift it, certainly. Twins were stronger together after all, weren't they? (He discounted the fact that having anyone help would probably make it easier.)
Deciding on what he thought his best chance would be – the actual lifting would be the most difficult after all, so if he could do that he'd be fine – he place one foot at either side of the drawer. He dug his fingers under it, ignoring the pain of having that much weight on the delicate digits, and, after making sure his grip was as secure as he could make it, tried to lift it up.
He could feel a vain in his temple throbbing, and the neglected muscles of his neck strained unsuccessfully. His arms, while not noodly, fought without any chance of success. Oh, sure, Kaoru worked out, he was healthy and fit just as any of the Host members, but that didn't mean he was especially strong.
Eventually, when he found he could only lift one end – which resulted in the file folders sliding the other way and almost falling out – no matter how hard he tried, Kaoru dropped the drawer back on the floor and collapsed backwards. His back hurt.
"You're supposed to lift with your legs," Kyouya commented. Kaoru turned his head on the floor – for some reason lying on the floor felt good, though he found it plebeian – and found that Kyouya had stood from the desk, was rather nearer than expected. "Get up."
Kaoru obeyed, a little cowed. How did one lift with his legs, anyway? Legs don't have hands; feet can't be used to pick things up unless one is a monkey. Kaoru was not a monkey.
"You take the far end," Kyouya ordered. Kaoru was confused, for a moment, before he saw Kyouya moving to the end that would go into the cabinet. He wasn't – but apparently he was intending to help. Kaoru was almost embarrassed.
Rather than give in to such things, he picked up the one end enough for Kyouya to lift the other. Kaoru suspected he was still taking more of the weight, but it was his task, he was the one doing Kyouya a "favor", so he knew better than to complain. He lost the bet. It was his own fault.
The drawer was fairly easy to get back to working after Kaoru figured out there was a track he had to sit it on.
Of course, he never wanted to see another piece of paper again, but that was the kind of trauma one suffered in these instances. He refused to make a big deal of it and go to the zoo or the stables like Tamaki (1).
He would just do all his homework via computer now.
A phone ringing broke him from his not-quite-musing. It wasn't his. He turned a bit and saw Kyouya pull his cellphone from his pocket.
"Hello Akito-nii-sama," polite as always, Kyouya said into the phone. There was a faint buzz of conversation on the other end as the other person, apparently one of Kyouya's older brothers, spoke. "I stayed late after the club meeting ended." More of the quiet, indiscernible buzz. "We're done now." Buzz buzz. "No." Buzz? "Hitachiin Kaoru-kun." Buzz buzz buzz buzz, buzzbuzz! "I will return home shortly. Good-bye."
The phone clapped shut.
"We're done here," Kyouya stated evenly. Then he left the small room, already calling for Tachibana to bring the car around.
Glad to be let off without having to fill out any paperwork, Kaoru called a car to come pick him up. For a moment, he wondered what the next "favor" would be. Probably more paperwork.
He shuddered. Paper… he hoped not.
Author's Note: This is just part 1 of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (title picked by KaraDragonfire when multiple options were presented to her, don't blame me (I preferred Cash In Hand, which is the title of the second chapter now)). I was going to do it as one monstrous one-shot, but y'know what? This is one of the sections, and it's near on to 4 thousand words. So it's a three-shot, chapters centering on each "favor". No way in hell am I going to sit here and write a one-shot that I'm sure will be more than 10,000 words. I might do that sometimes on chapters... but it doesn't seem right for a one-shot.
Sorry Kara, you'll have to wait on the rest. (You'll get chapter two at your party)
(About the filing cabinet – the Japanese "alphabet" goes "a, i, u, e, o, ka, ki, ku, ke, ko" etc etc through s (z), t (d), n, h (b, p), m, y, r, and w)
(1) Referring to an instance in the manga where Tamaki wanted to see tigers and horses when he was traumatized by Haruhi not seeing him as a father and not realizing his own feelings for her. The basis of this joke is that in Japanese, Tiger is Tora and Horse is Uma. Together they are Torauma, which is how the Japanese say "trauma" (lacking a word in their own language for it, they borrowed from English and put it in katakana)