Being summoned to his father's office was never good, especially when Kyouya knew the exact reason he was being summoned. The walk itself seemed like it had taken an eternity. Now, hand halfway to the doorknob, Kyouya paused and wondered how the last five feet of his journey had passed so quickly. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He hoped no one was watching, because it would be mortifying for someone to see him as flustered as he was.

When his hand touched the cold metal of the doorknob, his heart beating violently against his ribs. His wrist turned of its own accord, and the door creaked slightly as it opened. The room inside was lit only by a lamp and a small amount of sunlight streaming through a break in the curtains. His father sat behind his desk, reading over important-looking papers and occasionally signing one. Kyouya knew his father had heard him enter the room, but he didn't acknowledge his son's presence.

After a moment, Kyouya cleared his throat lightly. "You called for me, Father?"

The clink of Yoshio's pen as he calmly laid it down sounded like an explosion in the tense silence of the room. "Yes. I wanted to speak with you about something, Kyouya."

He smiled a little and wondered if his father would be able to hear him over the pounding coming from his chest. "May I ask what this is about, Father?"

"Tamaki Suou." Yoshio let the name fall from his lips in an overly controlled tone, a tone he only ever used when he was infuriated. He formed the syllables precisely, putting much too much effort into saying the half-French boy's name than was truly necessary. It was a method of conveying anger without seeming upset, and Kyouya was more than familiar with it.

"What about Tamaki, sir?" Kyouya asked dumbly.

His father saw through his act, as he always did. Yoshio looked up at him for the first time since he'd entered the room. His face was expressionless. His eyes, however, were filled with a burning rage that made Kyouya's skin crawl and his heart pick up speed once again. Without looking away, Yoshio reached over his desk and picked up a folder. Kyouya spied Tamaki's namewritten on it—strange, that his impossibly long full name was scrawled on the tab in Roman characters. It was a small detail, but one that Kyouya couldn't help focusing on. Anything was better than staring at his father's eyes.

His father opened the file and pulled out a photograph, sliding it calmly across his desk to him. In that same, precise tone, Yoshio said, "Explain yourself."

The picture was a familiar one. Tamaki had taken it several months ago. They had been on a 'commoner' date at an amusement park, with the rest of the former Host Club tagging along as a sort of alibi, and Tamaki had whined for a picture of the two of them at the top of the Ferris wheel. Kyouya finally relented, and a split second before the camera flashed, Tamaki turned both of their heads and kissed Kyouya's mouth playfully. Tamaki had given him a copy later, and Kyouya had stowed it away in the drawer of his nightstand instead of burning it like he'd said he would.

A long and powerful silence descended between the two of them. Kyouya's mind was racing, trying to find the right combination of words to use. He had never been able to lie to his father, so taking that route would be useless. But neither did he want to damage his relationship with Tamaki by openly admitting to his father that they were involved. So he settled with, "What would you like me to tell you, Father?"

Yoshio breathes in and out twice before answering. "That someone is blackmailing you using doctored photographs of you and Suou's bastard. That he took advantage of the situation and the tight quarters to force his attentions on you." Yoshio looked up at him again, directly in the eye. "That you rejected him."

Kyouya held his father's gaze for a long moment. The urge to turn and run away was strong, but he resisted. He was not a coward. "I am being blackmailed. Tamaki took advantage of me. I rejected him."

Yoshio leaned back in his chair with a muttered, "Damn it, Kyouya." He took off his glasses and tossed them carelessly atop a stack of papers.

Feeling unusually brave, Kyouya let his words fly before he could stop them. "Is it my homosexuality you disapprove of, Father? Or merely the recipient of my homosexuality?"

"I certainly hope he is the recipient," Yoshio muttered, his right hand messaging the bridge of his nose.

Kyouya was almost sure that he wasn't supposed to hear that, and that particular brand of snide comment always made him angry. "Because as an Ootori I am above submitting to anyone in any way. Is that what you mean, Father?

"I refuse to discuss this any further, Kyouya," his father said. Rising from his seat, he walked around his desk and came to stand directly in front of his son. "I will absolutely not allow any of my children to ruin my hard-earned reputation by sneaking around having affairs, and certainly not with the illegitimate son of the Suou family. You will stop seeing Tamaki Suou—socially as well as romantically. You will completely sever your ties with him, or else you will never be allowed to step foot in this house again. Do I make myself clear, Kyouya?"

They stared at one another for a long while. Yoshio looked away first and let out a sort breath in frustration. "I don't want to do that to you, Kyouya. You've always been such an extraordinary boy that I was never doubtful you would go very far in this world. I understand that you think this phase you're going through with Suou's boy will make you happy—"


"—but in the end, infatuation can only sustain one for so long. You still have your education to finish, and even though you've had your foot firmly in the doors of many important people for some time now, you need to learn to cultivate those relationships and turn them into something productive. You're barely twenty, my boy, which is far too young to be thinking of settling down. Build your career, your reputation in the business world, and then you can let your mind wander to romance."

Kyouya took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. It would do him no good to be upset at what his father was saying. He and Yoshio had never engaged in shouting matches, and Kyouya was afraid that if this meeting collapsed into one, he would regret it. "I am the third son," he replied evenly. He knew he wouldn't have to explain himself. His father knew what being the third son meant: Kyouya lived in the shadows of his father and both of his brothers, and was all but destined to stay there.

His father's hand came up to rest on his shoulder, and if Kyouya were naïve, he might have thought the gesture was meant to be comforting. "Which is exactly why you need to work hard and make a name for yourself. You're a brilliant man, Kyouya, and you have the potential to make more of yourself than either of your brothers could ever dream of being."

"I am the third son," he repeated quietly, and this time, there was emotion in his voice that he knew he wouldn't be able to control. His fists clenched tightly by his sides. "No one will take me seriously as 'the third son.' If you want me to be anything in this world, you will no longer stifle me. If you want me to be anything, you will let me walk away from you. If you want me to be anything in this world, you will let me live my own life and find my own happiness." He took another half-step closer to his father, looked down at him to the best of his not-inconsiderable ability, and continued in an angry whisper. "And if my finding happiness in a romantic relationship with Tamaki Suou is unacceptable, then I will abandon the Ootori name—the shackles of 'the third son'—and be only Kyouya."

Kyouya walked away then, turning on his heel and excusing himself in the most polite way he could muster. He shut the door gently behind him as he left. He made it a point not to let his emotions surface during the drive back to Tamaki's apartment, and it was only when Tamaki nearly tackled him in a hug that he broke down. Kyouya cried, and Tamaki didn't ask questions, just held him until he had no tears left.

The morning came, and in the light of a new day, he almost regretted his harsh words and impetuous actions. Almost, until he felt a warm arm circle his waist, a warm mouth kiss his shoulder, and a warm heart beat strongly and reassuringly at his back.