Chapter One: The Infamous Recluse
Her footsteps fell upon the industrial stairwell echoing off crisp, white walls. Panoramic paintings decorated the high walls; high end furniture was arranged to perfection, creating cozy seating areas that opened up to a top of the line kitchen. The place had all the right style, all the right accessories. It even smelled of wealth.
And all of these facts were lost on Haruhi. To her, this loft was like any other rich person's house she'd seen since she'd taken this job. The only difference? This wasn't some high-end client she was selling over priced art to. No, this was an artist, a highly sought after and infamously reclusive artist.
Unfortunately for her, Haruhi's boss had set his sights on Hikaru Hitachiin, and he would not rest until he signed with their gallery.
Haruhi sighed, 'What a bother.' She reached the bottom step off the main living area, her eyes trailed across the room, casually sweeping over paintings and sculptures that ran in the thousands at auctions. Most were Hitachiin Originals, some weren't, as an art dealer, she should have been impressed, or at least cared. But she didn't.
'Where is this guy?' she wondered, 'We sent notice weeks ago. Plus, the front door was unlocked. So I just walked in.'
Shrugging her shoulders, she strolled across the wooden floor towards a promising looking hallway.
"Hello?" She called half heartedly, 'If he doesn't show, I'm leaving…'
"Who the hell are you?" a sharp voice demanded from behind her.
She twirled on the balls of her feet, meeting a pair of golden cat-like-eyes slanted in her direction. The auburn haired man they belonged to stared at her with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Mr. Hitachiin, Sir," she greeted politely, extending her hand in a friendly gesture as she walked towards him.
He made no move to accept her hand; instead he kept his arms held tightly to his side glaring at her as if she was a particularly foul piece of garbage.
"I asked you a question," he drawled, his brow raised in accusation.
"Oh, excuse me." She straightened, shrugging off his brisk manor. "I'm Haruhi Fujioka, the art dealer from Ouran Gallery. My boss contacted you about a meeting..."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." He sneered. Uncrossing his arms he paced around her, like predator zooming in on its prey.
Haruhi's brows nit together as she watched him stalk around her, "Are you sure? You are Hikaru Hitachiin, right?"
"That's me," He replied flippantly, stopping to sit on the edge of one of his leather couches. His eyes trailed away from her as if he was bored with the whole situation.
Haruhi pursed her lips in agitation, "So, you didn't speak with my boss about signing with our Gallery?"
"Maybe I did," he replied in a bored tone, examining his nails.
"So, you did."
"As I said: maybe I did and maybe I didn't." his golden eyes flickered towards her, mischief dripping from his tone and expression.
Haruhi couldn't help but notice the mischievous glint in his eye. 'He's messing with me, damn artists…'
"I get it," Haruhi dead panned, "You're one of those artists who like to mess with people because it gives you a sense of control."
For a moment, Haruhi could've sworn he had choked with surprise. That was, until he turned hardened eyes onto her.
"Oh, and let me guess. You're one of those art dealers, who thinks you know everything about artists. Pfft, you people are pitiful," he scoffed standing up, he turned his back to her, his cheeks tinged pink with anger.
"Not at all," she replied, "I actually know very little about artists, and even less about art."
Hikaru glared over his shoulder at her. "Then why are you an art dealer then?" he accused.
"Because, I have to be."
"Whatever," Hikaru grumbled, stomping away from her and towards the hallway.
"Hey! What about our meeting?" she hollered after him.
He turned to face her, a malicious glint in his eye, "There's no way The Hikaru Hitachiin would sign with a tiny, no-name, gallery like yours." He snarled, "I only invited you here to ease some of my boredom. Instead you came here and insulted me. I don't have time for people like you. Now leave."
With one last exaggerated huff, he stormed through a set of double doors and out of sight.
Haruhi sighed heavily, 'It could have gone worse, I suppose. I'm not looking forward to Tamaki's reaction though…'
Back at Ouran Gallery, Tamaki waited, impatiently, for the return of his beloved 'daughter'. He drummed his fingers along his desk, to a tune in his head, his impatience manifesting in his fidgeting. A few feet away, at his own desk, Kyouya meticulously examined the Gallery's expenses. Trying to cover the gap between the money coming in, and Tamaki's overindulgent spending.
Every few minutes, or so, Tamaki glanced up at his office door, with hopeful anticipation that Haruhi would walk through it; after nearly twenty minutes of this routine, Tamaki turned sad eyes towards Kyouya.
"Mama," he whined, "Where is our beloved daughter? It isn't right for her to be out, unescorted, this long. Who knows what shady characters she could have ran into. Why didn't you let me accompany her?"
Setting his pen down roughly, Kyouya glanced up from his work, "Because, you have work to do. Which you're not doing, I see."
"How can I possibly work when my little girl is out on the mean streets, possibly fighting off a band of vagrants!" Tamaki stood up, slamming his hands onto his desk, "Mama, what if she's been kidnapped? I have to save her." Tamaki jumped out from behind his desk charging for the door, intent of 'rescuing' Haruhi, when the door to his office swung open.
"Har-u-hii!" he squealed with delight, wrapping his long arms around the brunette, dragging her into the office. He brought her to his chest in a crushing hug. "Daddy was so worried about you, my darling."
Pushing off his chest, Haruhi disentangled herself from Tamaki's embrace. "I was visiting Hikaru Hitachiin, like you asked me to," she replied mildly, by now, she was more than used to her over-exuberant boss.
Suddenly switching to business mode, Tamaki strolled back over to his desk. Taking a seat, he rested his head in his hands. He looked up at Haruhi with shrewd violet eyes. "And?" he prompted.
Haruhi sighed heavily, taking a seat in a leather chair across from him. "It didn't go well. He told me he wouldn't sign with a "no-name gallery" like ours." She conveniently left out the part where she had insulted the reclusive artist.
"I see," Tamaki said pensively. He examined his hands for a moment before glancing up at her with an all too familiar glimmer in his eye. "Well, you'll just have to go back and convince him otherwise," he continued, regaining his usual zeal.
"What?" Haruhi gasped, "Tamaki, he said no. Since when do we hound artists whom say no?"
Across the way, Kyouya watched with calculated interest.
"My dear Haruhi, how do you ever plan on becoming a great art dealer if you don't try? We never take 'no' for an answer. This is Ouran Gallery, though we may be small now, with a name like Hikaru Hitachiin we'll be sure to make our mark. I cannot have my gallery without his talents. Now go and don't come back until you have him signed with us." Tamaki jumped to his feet pointing towards the door in a kingly fashion.
Haruhi stared at him blankly, "No way."
"What? What do you mean 'no way'?" Tamaki whined. "Mama, our daughter is being rebellious!" Tamaki tossed his head in Kyouya's direction, preparing to disintegrate into a full blown fit.
"I'm not forcing someone to join us. If he doesn't want to, that's the end of it, as far as I'm concerned." Haruhi replied with finality.
The sound of a chair scraping over carpet caught both their attentions. Kyouya stood behind his desk, his glass gleaming in the florescent light, sending a chill of apprehension down Haruhi's spine.
"As I remember it, you still owe a debt to us, Haruhi."
Haruhi stared back at Kyouya, "Yeah," she said slowly.
"Well, if you get Hikaru Hitachiin to sign with us, I'll cut your debt in half."
Haruhi cast her eyes to the floor, "Well, I suppose one more visit couldn't hurt," she mumbled under her breath.
"That's better, my darling daughter," Tamaki cooed. "Now, why don't you head out. Mama and I will prepare all the paperwork for when you return."
Grudgingly, Haruhi stood back up. "Sure, I'll be back later."
With shuffled feet, Haruhi stalked out of the office. Kyouya watched her go with mild interest. He settled back into his seat, once he heard the front door of the building open and close. The pair off them worked in silence for a few moments before Kyouya cleared his throat.
Tamaki glanced up at him through a curtain of blond bangs, "Yes, Kyouya?"
"Hikaru Hitachiin, he's someone you consider part of our 'family', isn't he?" Kyouya remarked dryly.
"He is," Tamaki returned quietly, "I think he needs us just as much as we need him."
A smile pulled at the corners of Kyouya's lips, 'I thought so.'
Haruhi rapped on the large, metal door, grumbling under her breath about being tricked by the 'shadow manager'. After a few seconds the door swung open, Hikaru leaned on the door frame wearing a white wife-beater and a low pair of khaki shorts; he was covered in flecks of paint.
"Oh, you're back again, didn't get enough last time?" He asked with an evil grin.
"I'm here to make you an offer," Haruhi said plainly, "May I come in?"
Hikaru glanced at her up and down, "You must be some kind of masochist," he shrugged his shoulders "come on in."
Haruhi shrugged off the masochist comment and followed him down the metal stairwell into the main living area. If she knew one thing, it was when Tamaki really wanted something; there was nothing she could do to change his mind. No matter how much she didn't want to; she'd have to put up with this rude artist. Haruhi sighed at the thought.
"I was in the middle of painting. Give me a moment while I change," Hikaru said over his shoulder, as he led Haruhi down the main stairwell.
Once they reached the bottom floor, he disappeared into -what she could only assume was- a bedroom a few feet from where she was standing. While she waited, she let her eyes roam around the room. Taking in details she'd over looked on her previous visit. Beside her was an ornate vase, with whirls of blue and orange, intricate details carved into its surface formed blooming roses twisted with vines and thorns. She leaned over to inspect it closer, trying and failing to understand how people would pay thousands of dollars for something like this.
"What the hell are you doing?" Hikaru accused from behind her.
Her head snapped up, meeting an angry scowl. "Sorry, I was looking at this vase. I didn't touch it or anything," she replied plaintively.
"That's not what I meant. I mean what are you doing here?" Hikaru demanded.
Haruhi's brows knit together, "I told you five seconds ago. I came to make an offer to sign with our gallery."
Hikaru's features darkened with confusion before he stomped down to her from the loft above. It wasn't until he was on the ground level that she realized he hadn't been upstairs the last time she saw him.
"Is there a stairway in that room?" She pointed to the room he'd disappeared into moments before.
Hikaru glanced over to the room, a Cheshire grin dancing across his lips. "Oh yeah," he offered. "So, what's this offer you have for me?"
"Well, my boss is desperate to have you be part of our gallery. We want to know what it will take to have you sign." Tamaki hadn't given her any specific instructions, not that he ever did, but she'd been doing this long enough to know what her limits were.
Hikaru stroked his chin thoughtfully, "let me see…" he glanced over his shoulder, "Hold on a moment."
Hikaru turned on his heal and disappeared into the room, he'd left for originally. Haruhi shrugged her shoulders. 'Damn artists.'
A few seconds later, Hikaru remerged with a mischievous grin on his face.
"So, I can have anything I want?" he taunted, slinking over to Haruhi, he leaned onto the railing of the stairwell beside her.
"Within reason, I suppose," Haruhi purposed.
Hikaru stroked his chin thoughtfully, when Haruhi noticed a dab of paint on his hand. She wouldn't have taken note of it until she noticed his arm was covered in small drops of paint. 'That's weird.' She realized when she'd come in he was covered in paint, but when he come from up the stairs he was paint free…
"How did you get paint all over yourself?" Haruhi asked.
Hikaru paused to look down at his hand, "painting, duh." He said matter-of-factly.
"But, you didn't have paint on your arm a second ago," Haruhi insisted.
Panic flashed across his golden eyes, "You must be delusional. I've had paint on my arm all afternoon, since I've been painting," he said adamantly, wavering slightly in his conviction.
Haruhi gave him a disbelieving glare, "if you say so."
"Fine, if it bothers you so much, I'll go wash it off, take a seat, I'll be right back," Hikaru stomped off to the room across from them, waving his arm in the direction of the couches.
Hesitantly, Haruhi sank into the couch nearest her. 'This isn't going much better than the last time. And call me crazy, but there's something off here. He seems different somehow, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
Hikaru emerged a few moments later, plopping himself unceremoniously onto the couch across from her. Spreading out like a cat, he rested one arm lazily over the couch arm.
Haruhi waited a few moments for him to speak, when he continued to act as if she wasn't there she cleared her throat.
"So, will you sign with us?" Haruhi asked tentatively,
Hikaru glanced over at her with a dangerous smirk playing on his lips. "I've thought about it, and I'm going to say…no."
"And why not?" Haruhi demanded, standing up abruptly.
"I don't like the way you dress," he offered simply.
Haruhi looked down at her baggy shirt, and Khaki shorts, "What's wrong with the way I dress?"
"Everything. Your hair cuts awful too," he added, "hasn't anyone told you the shaggy hair look is out?"
Haruhi ran a hand through her cropped brown hair, "Well, you're entitled to your opinion, but I don't know how that affects you signing with us."
"It just does," he replied in a bored tone.
Haruhi could feel a little vein of agitation throbbing at her temple, "Well, if you really feel that way," she ground out, "I suppose there's no changing your mind?"
"Nope," he yawned stretching his arms dramatically, "could you go now, I'm bored and I think I want to take a nap."
"Fine," Haruhi snapped, "I'll see myself out."
"Thanks, that would be great," Hikaru called sliding down the couch, he cover his eyes with his forearms listening as she stomped up the metal staircase and out the door.
He waited for the tell-tell click of the front door lock before opening his eyes to stare at the ceiling.
"Did he leave?"
"Yeah, he's gone…"
"I'm surprised he came back."
"Do you think, he knows?"
"How could he know, no one knows, it's our secret to keep."
'It might be nice if someone else knew about us.'