Second-place winner for the prompt "Ideal" at ouran_contest on Livejournal (link on my profile - we can always use new participants!).
This oneshot is dedicated to every OHSHC fan; to every fanfiction reader and writer; to my best friend, who introduced me to the anime last summer; and most of all, to Bisco Hatori for creating this brilliant, beloved story.
Sometimes during the night, Haruhi would wake up and forget. She would listen for her father's whistling breath, or the patter of the tallow tree brushing the building. She would feel for the cool hardwood floor beside her, and be startled by empty air. Her home in Japan smelled like citrus and her father's perfume; the new one in Boston smelled like linen.
It was the little things that got her down the most. The culture shock, she could deal with. The bustling streets of Boston were like a fantasy, with beautiful brick buildings and sea salt air. There were so many new things to try, so many new places to see. Each day was like an excellent daydream. But at night, when she got back to her dorm and looked for her mother's shrine and came up empty... that was when it all hit her.
Winter came early that year, and on a Saturday afternoon in early November Haruhi found herself trudging home from the supermarket in blinding snow. The stark filtered air of the dorm lobby made her cough, and when she finally arrived at her apartment door her nose was running freely.
"... want to go. She hasn't seen her father in like a year-"
"Two months, Boss."
"Same difference! Now come on, just find somewhere to hide them."
"How about the refrigerator, Tama-chan?"
"How about her pillow? That would-"
A smile growing on her tired face, Haruhi turned the brass knob and sighed as the smell of pasta and pesto reached her nose. The boys were cooking something, but she did not stop to imagine what. There they were, hovering around the kitchen table, looking very much like children caught in the middle of a naughty act (with the exception of cool, collected Kyouya, who just smiled and adjusted his glasses).
"What are you putting on my pillow?" Haruhi asked, setting her grocery bags down on the kitchen counter. No sooner had the brown paper touched the faux granite than she was nearly thrown off balance by two lanky, fox-faced bullets.
"Happy November the third, Haruhi!" Hikaru cheered, his arms wrapping tightly around the girl.
"What's so special about November the third?" Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion, Haruhi looked past the twins' shoulders at Tamaki, who exchanged a hurried glance with the other guys.
"Well," Tamaki drew out the word, his face red as a rose, "you know how you didn't have enough money left for a plane ticket home for the holidays?"
"I told you, Tamaki, money wasn't the problem. I need to study." Haruhi extracted herself from the twins' arms and began to take the groceries out of their bags.
Tamaki frowned childishly. "Don't be ridiculous, your father misses you! And we already bought you a ticket, so you can't say no now."
For one long moment, the boys all thought that Haruhi was mad. Her back was turned to them as the fiddled with a container of eggs, and the room was dead silent.
"Haru-chan?" Hunny, the dear brave, boy, broke the silence. Just in the two months since the move, something about him had changed. He had cut his hair shorter, and dressed in an MIT sweatshirt and jeans he looked more like a handsome teenager than a cute child. "We knew we should have asked for your permission first, but you seemed like you wanted to see your father so badly. Please don't be upset with us."
"If I'm not mistaken," Kyouya said, something like frustration in his dark eyes, "you were talking just last night about wanting to celebrate New Years in Japan."
"You were," Mori offered.
But when Haruhi turned to face them, tears in her brown eyes, she was not sad. Her shoulders shook with gentle sobs, but there was a huge grin spread across her face. She was laughing. "You big goof!" she exclaimed. "I'm not upset. I'm crying because this is the nicest thing you have ever done for me!"
The tension broke like a fever, and Hikaru pulled Haruhi into a tight hug. "She's just so adorable! Let's keep her."
"Let go of my Haruhi, you lecher!"
"Hey, we've never all been on a plane together before, right Takashi? This'll be fun!"
"I know what you're thinking, and you don't have to worry about paying us back. It will be our present to you." Kyouya's smile, for the first time, was not hiding anything. It was genuine joy on his reserved face, and somehow this made Haruhi smile harder than ever.
Later that night, when all of the boys had fallen asleep in front of the flickering television, Haruhi lifted herself up from between Tamaki and Kaoru, and tiptoed into her bedroom. She pulled the ticket, white and glowing in the orange light from her window, and tucked inside her nightstand drawer. Then, releasing a wide yawn, she pulled the fleece blanket off of her bed and dragged it back into the living room. Careful not to wake up anybody, she settled back into her spot. Kaoru's knee was tucked beneath hers, and Tamaki's soft hair tickled her cheek. Hunny's head rested against her bare feet, and he clutched a throw pillow like the beloved bunny he had left in Japan. Hikaru muttered something indistinct in his sleep; Mori shifted, and the couch creaked slightly; Kyouya had fallen asleep with his head tipped downwards towards a schoolbook, and Haruhi reached over to remove his glasses.
They were one big tangle of limbs and clothing; Haruhi could smell caramel, and ivory soap, and cologne, and that sandalwood scent that was so distinctly Tamaki. And no matter how she tried to worry about her paper due on Monday, or the roar of traffic in the busy street below, or the rapid speech of the English comedy show on the television, she just couldn't.
She had been lying earlier, when she said that the plane ticket was the nicest thing anyone had done for her. Because it wasn't. The boys had given her a present, but not the kind that Kyouya spoke of. They had given her themselves. Their presence. They had given her a family, a home away from home, and a sense of unity and togetherness that she thought she had forfeited when she left Japan. Here, in a strange city in an even stranger country, life had become unexpectedly perfect. The best thing she could ever dream of having.
Because when she woke up in the early hours of the morning, her mind reaching out for the comfort of her old apartment, she instead found the soft fabric of Hunny's sweatshirt, the angular bones of Kaoru's elbow, Tamaki's soft breath on her neck. And she smiled sleepily.
This was the ideal.
After writing this, I realized that Hunny did bring his bunny to Boston. Let's just pretend for now that he didn't.