:cries: I can't believe this is the last chapter. This fic has been the focus of my creative energy for almost a year, and I don't know what I'll do without it. I'll write more fics, but I'll miss this one. It's been quite an experience. I want to thank all of you guys for reading and or reviewing. Your heartfelt comments and the fact that you could stick with this story for so long even when it got boring or it got sad has really made me happy for all these months. I think, because of all you guys' feedback, that my writing has had a chance to improve, so I want to say thank you, really. I appreciate it so much! I love all of you, even if we don't know each other well enough for that XD I love you anyway.
Anyway, don't forget to listen to Taylor Swift's "Crazier" while you read this chapter (especially toward the ending paragraphs X3) because it really adds something. Oh, that song. And this is the chapter that gives away the real meaning of the title XD it's not really... piano related, even though that works too. Double meanings, right?
And also, don't forget about the fanart contest (the link is in my profile).
Now get out there and 'ship TamaHaru... hard XD
At the end of the northern hallway, on the top floor of the south wing, the door opened to a crowd of guests who had been hustled in from the central salon, all waiting patiently. A great number of them applauded when they saw Haruhi and Anne-Sophie enter with the missing prince between them, and there was a feeling of bright festivity in the air. Tamaki had stopped to change into his outfit for the party before they came to the music room, and he looked rather dashing in a cream-colored suit with a pale pink undershirt and a tie made of the same patterned satin as Haruhi's dress. They matched perfectly and were an odd spectacle.
"There are a lot more people here than I expected," he said happily, squeezing her hand a bit.
"Most of them are here because it's your birthday," Haruhi told him. "Though I guess the fact that there's a ball going on helped too. Happy birthday."
Tamaki laughed and bent to kiss her gently on the lips and then together they walked farther into the music room, Tamaki greeting guests with all the bursting joy and politeness that had gotten him a seventy percent request rate.
"Tamaki," came a voice beside them, and Haruhi caught sight of Shizue standing and looking like she wasn't entirely sure what to say.
"Grandmother," Tamaki said, smiling. "You made it. I'm glad you came." the fact that he could be so kind to the person who had nearly driven him out of the country was surprising, but it simply reminded Haruhi why it was that she loved him so much.
"I want to apologize…" Shizue said. It was surprising to watch the old woman swallow her pride, and Tamaki looked as astonished as Haruhi felt. "All of these years, I've been cold to you to try and make you a strong person who could handle anything, and somewhere in between I lost sight of how to treat you the way you deserve to be treated."
"You don't have to apologize to me," Tamaki said gently, smiling. "I know you never really meant it when you said harsh things to me."
"But I feel I do need to," Shizue told him. "I feel I've made your life too hard. When you left the family, I fully expected you to come back. I didn't think for a moment it would get far enough that you would have nowhere to go. And when I drove you out of the country… I did so so that you could see your mother, but it was wrong of me to fill your head with lies to make you leave. I suppose I have not been very honorable."
Tamaki's eyes were moist, and Haruhi wondered if he was actually going to cry. The joy she could feel radiating from him was almost enough to blind her, and she couldn't stop smiling. "I forgive you," he said softly.
"There are going to be some changes," Shizue said in a businesslike manner. "At the soonest possible convenience you are to move into mansion number one. Your father made it clear to me that your mother will be joining you. He has also made it clear that you are to succeed the Suoh family after his time as head is over, so we will begin your training for the future as soon as possible."
"Thank you," Tamaki didn't look like he knew what to do himself, and to his credit he held it together quite well, without screaming and jumping in circles and tackling anyone. Instead he bowed low and gentlemanly, a hand to his chest. "But… I know how much you care about the image of the Suoh family, Grandmother. Are you alright with someone like me… being head of the family?" the word 'illegitimate' wasn't spoken but it was there.
"It's not my decision to make," Shizue said, sounding a little put out by her sudden lack of authority. "It is your father's, as head of the family. And besides, despite your birth, I admire your strong sense of will. You follow your own morals when those around you reject them, and I think that is exactly the kind of person that should be running the family."
Tamaki had remained so calm before, but now tears were streaming down his cheeks and he leaped forward to embrace his grandmother. She looked more than a bit irritated but she put up with it, silent and bothered. "You're proud of me!" he shouted before letting her go and smiling mildly. "I always knew someday you would be proud of me." he bowed again and then turned to his father, who was waiting patiently beside his mother. "Thank you," he said simply with a smile.
"Why are you thanking me?" Yuzuru asked, his eyes sparkling with mirth.
"For sticking up for me," Tamaki grinned. "And for fixing all your past mistakes."
"I'd do it again, you know," Yuzuru said, ruffling his son's hair and then pulling him forward to hug him fiercely. And then Tamaki was being embraced by both of his parents at once and he was smiling warmly, laughing with joy and contentment and crying just a little. Haruhi stood back and watched with a sense of almost crushing satisfaction, seeing Tamaki so happy and knowing that finally, finally, things were the way they were supposed to be.
"I don't mean to interrupt such a touching moment," Kyouya said finally, stepping out of the crowd. "But it's after two o'clock and I believe you're late for a piano recital, Tamaki."
The blonde stepped out of his parents' arms a little reluctantly and turned to Haruhi, smiling. "Are you ready?" he asked, and she nodded. Tamaki took her arm and led her over to the piano as Kyouya announced they were about to begin and people gathered on the closest velvet couches and chairs, forming a crowd around the piano. Tamaki lifted the seat of the bench and pulled out the piece they would be playing from the stack of music inside before sitting down and beckoning for Haruhi to join him. It was a familiar sight, seeing him sitting on the bench and patting them empty space beside him for her, and she smiled and sat beside him.
There seemed to be no fitting words that they could say to initiate the event, and so Tamaki smiled at Haruhi and she smiled back, feeling like she could take on the world with him by her side, and almost as though they knew each other's thoughts, together they began to play. They crashed into the piece with all the passion he had taught her to play with, and Haruhi played the familiar part that she had spent weeks perfecting with more skill than she had expected before a crowd, her fingers moving to shape the notes easily, almost automatically, as though she had been doing it for years.
Tamaki's part, which she had never heard played at the same time, wove through hers in just the right places, creating a cheerful melody that was perfectly in tune and pleasant to the ear. The part she had chosen was a bit more mellow than his, a bit calmer and more serious. His was a bit louder, a bit faster, a bit more out of control. It was crazy and too fast and not at all serious, but somehow, though the two parts of the song were so wholly different, they laced together in perfect harmony and beauty. There was something almost spiritual about playing this piece with Tamaki, as though their souls were interconnected in the music. She could feel them in the song somehow, as though the notes were words that she spoke desperately, yearningly, and his answered with a warm purity assuring her of all things she questioned. The finale was fast and intoxicating, their parts growing more and more enthused as they crashed together toward the ceiling and then fell, fell, ending together on a perfectly harmonious chord and then fading slowly into nothingness.
Applause rippled around them, and Tamaki looked excited as he smiled down at her tenderly. They stood from the bench and Tamaki took her hand, and together they bowed to the crowd. It was a strange but somehow exhilarating feeling, and though the thunder of applause wracked music room three, Haruhi could barely hear it; Tamaki was smiling at her, and she back at him. Their eyes connected and blocked out the rest of the world.
The doors to the central courtyard opened to the party, and inside the guests filed, laughing and talking and filling the air with merriment. Delicate music rose through the air from the orchestra that was positioned by the doors, and the whole effect was a bright elegance that was infectious. Tamaki held fast to Haruhi's hand as they sampled the dishes, gazed with the customers at the cherry blossoms that were full and fragrant and filled the spring air with their innocent perfume. Haruhi tasted fancy tuna for the first time and the world seemed to stop spinning for just a moment as Tamaki pressed it past her lips.
"What do you think?" he asked happily, watching her chew with all the joy and hope that she had harbored for this moment over the past year. The taste seemed to spread out through her entire body, and it was a nearly zen experience.
"It's amazing," she told him, and he whooped a little in excitement, having Kyouya snap a photograph to commemorate the occasion. He snuggled close and they smiled for the camera, simply happy to be together.
As they enjoyed the ball and worked, many people approached them for warm and happy conversation; Shima, Momoka and Kazukiyo, Kasanoda, far into the afternoon. In her rather fitted dress, Haruhi was sure that her secret had become apparent at this point, but few people mentioned it and she couldn't really bring herself to care anymore. As it was the event of his birthday, everyone seemed to have something kind to say to Tamaki, even Renge, who told him he "wasn't such a phony after all." They made small talk with customers, fulfilling their obligations as hosts together, and after a time Tamaki turned to Haruhi and gazed at her alone, bringing both her hands up to his lips.
"Will you dance with me?" he asked her gently, pulling her toward him in the air that smelled of cherry blossoms and heavy white lilacs in full bloom.
"Don't we have an obligation to our guests?" she asked, and Tamaki smiled.
"You're such a host," he said with a soft chuckle. "They can wait for a few minutes, can't they? Come and dance with me and forget about everything else for a little while."
"Yeah, go on, Haruhi," Hikaru said rather mischievously, and Haruhi rolled her eyes. Suddenly they were surrounded and Haruhi had no idea where the five had some from at all, but somehow they were there. They had a nasty habit of sneaking up on her.
"What could it hurt?" Kaoru asked, and Kyouya nodded.
"You have been working very hard tonight," he agreed. "You deserve some time off."
"Take some time to unwind," Mori instructed.
"We'll take care of the guests!" Hunny promised, giving her a little push toward Tamaki.
"Ah!" she gasped, stumbling, and Tamaki caught her and kissed her hard, his eyes narrowing as they gazed a little too intimately into hers, making her feel safe and vulnerable and loved all at once.
"Come and dance with me, princess," he whispered, his lips just barely apart from hers. "And I'll show you a world you've never even imagined." It usually irritated her when Tamaki used his host charm on her, but tonight she supposed she could make an exception. Almost immediately her resolve was shattered as easily as the vase that had brought them all together, and Haruhi sighed. It was impossible for her to refuse him and she let him take her hand and lead her to the cleared area of the courtyard where couples were dancing, close and slow to the sensuous throb of the orchestra's melody. Tamaki's hand crept gently to her waist, his other hand taking one of hers, and carefully she placed her hand on his shoulder and they began to dance, twirling easily through the perfumed air.
"I want to thank you," Tamaki told her, pulling her a bit closer. "For everything you've done for me."
"What do you mean?" she asked, and Tamaki's eyes sparkled at her, his expression deep but still happy.
"Well for one, I know you had all of these white lilacs planted for me. But more importantly, you made me feel better when I was lonely, you gave me a home when I didn't have one, you loved me more than I've ever felt I've been loved before, and you made it possible for my mother to be here today. You've changed my life in a lot of ways, Haruhi, and I don't even think you know it."
"But you've changed my life, too," she told him, and he looked puzzled. "You've shown me how to feel passion and make me have fun even when I think it's pointless. You've challenged me and made my world a little bigger every day and most of all… you've shown me what it was like to really love someone."
"And you've shown me the same," Tamaki said, kissing her gently on the temple and drawing her a little closer. "Because I love you very much."
They danced in silence for a few minutes, Haruhi occasionally stepping on Tamaki's feet, him laughing at her clumsiness, and both generally enjoying their closeness. It was an almost magical feeling to be here with him this way, like something out of a fairy tale. But, if this was a fairy tale, Haruhi mused, it was a very strange one indeed, and one she wouldn't rewrite for the world.
"I'm happy you get to take over the family," Haruhi said finally, and Tamaki smiled. "I know it's something that's very important to you."
"I'm glad too, but it means I don't get to live with you anymore," Tamaki replied, looking a little sad. "I'm going to miss it."
"You can still come over," Haruhi reminded him. "Whenever you want. You can keep your key and as long as it's not the middle of the night you can come and see me."
"I'd like that," Tamaki said with a smile. "But if you don't think Ranka-san would mind… could I live with you for just a little while longer?"
Haruhi sighed, but she was not really annoyed. "Well alright," she replied in a businesslike way. "I guess you staying for a little longer couldn't hurt. But then it's straight to the main mansion with you, okay?"
"Alright," Tamaki agreed, kissing her hand. "I'll be good, I promise."
"I doubt that," Haruhi muttered, and Tamaki laughed, twirling her in a circle and then pulling her closer to his chest, gazing into her eyes.
"I love you," she whispered over the sound of the orchestra, her heart doing cartwheels in a way that used to scare her, and Tamaki's already soft eyes softened even further as he pecked her lips, his hand on her waist squeezing her gently.
"I love you too," he replied, resting his forehead against hers, and Haruhi could feel the strength of those words and the feeling they expressed somehow as clearly from him as if he was shouting the things his heart was thinking. The strength of this love that Haruhi felt throbbing warmly in her heart made her smile, and he smiled back with all the gentleness she loved in him, telling her without words that this was the start of forever.
As they danced together in that sunlit courtyard amid the scent of cherry blossoms and the sight of all their friends, the song their hearts played together struck up a deeper chord and made them smile at each other, gentle and loving and absolutely happy for the first time. Because though their heart song would reach crescendo many more times in the future; on the day of their wedding, after the birth of their first child, on their fiftieth anniversary, even now, young as they were, it was loud and clear. The song rose up between them and into the sunny blue sky, filled with promises and with the whisper that tomorrow would be even better. It was warm and it was loving and it was a melody that would carry on for the rest of their lives in all its strength…
This perfect duet they played together.