Product of Excellent Breeding
In the days that follow Kyoya's appearance and overall mood improves. The bruising has mostly faded, leaving yellowing splotches that will vanish soon enough. By the time his father and siblings return to the Ootori state there will be no physical evidence of the fight-a.k.a. beating-, at least not on his face. The contusions on his torso are another matter, but since he is not in the habit of walking around shirtless his family will remain none the wiser to his alley brawl.
The security system he develops for the Okama bar takes longer to install than it should; mainly due to the resistance of the owner. He has had to persuade the old, reticent okama to comply with its instalment. The transvestite is reluctant to accept it as an act of good will on the Ootori boy's part. Insisting there is no way he can afford the state of the art equipment and trained personnel. It is only a matter of time before the Shadow King loses his patience.
"As a proprietor you are responsible for the safety of your employees in your establishment and its immediate premises. As okamas the laws barely protect you, but you can protect yourselves. I'm merely giving you the means to guarantee the security of your business and those who work for you," it's his winning argument.
It is a bit underhanded but he is not above subtle coercion and it gets him the compliance he needs. Once the plan is well underway he approaches the affronted okama in hope to smooth things over with him, they will be seeing a lot of each other as of now until the matter of the stalker is resolved and it's best to keep their relations as cordial as possible.
"Please, I just want to do a favour for a dear friend," he insists, willing the older man to understand. He goes as far as to draw up a contract that binds him unable to charge the 'Mistress' for the CCTV equipment or to pay the trained officials of his private police in any way nor under any circumstance. Why is it so hard to accept the sincerity of his actions? He is not trying to swindle the pseudo woman. He is the son of a tycoon not a yakuza. Though many would argue both operate the same, at best case scenario the only difference would be the legality of their business. Still his intentions are legit, even if he can't think of a way of proving it to this stubborn, untrusting man.
However, after that heartfelt plea the tranny gives him an apprising look, whatever he finds in the teen's eyes softened his whole demeanour instantly. From that point on every interaction between him and the okama is permeated with an underlying emotion Kyoya can only describe as commiseration…or is it pity?
As much as it irks him, the teen decides he is not going to puzzle over it. He already suspects what the old tranny saw and he is not willing to scrutinize it in order to confirm or refute it; especially since he hasn't been called on it. He is content with having the security protocol underway and with having convinced the owner to give Ranka a paid leave of absence –to which Kyoya is providing the money and the employer the signature on the check- at least until the place is secured to the boy's standards.
In the meantime daily inquiries to Haruhi that reassure him of her father's wellbeing are the only thing that soothes his brimming worry and frustration and allows him relatively peaceful sleep at night. He really has it bad, he admits to himself; as bad as he's had it for a certain blond for the last three years.
Ranka has mixed feelings when he is called back to work a couple of days later. He is relieved mainly, Ranka appreciates the sentiment of being given time to recover and pull himself together. But there are bills to pay, with or without a harasser in the prowl. Rent is fast approaching and Haruhi is running low in food money and he will be damn if his daughter's needs and comforts aren't met. This need is a bigger drive than the lingering fear of going out dressed as a woman. His own safety is irrelevant, Haruhi is so self-reliant and independent in every other aspect; this is the only thing he is able to do for her and he will not fail her. It's with that thought firmly set in his mind that he tries to ignore the nervous tremors and the queasiness in his stomach as he gets ready for work.
"It should be safe enough, even if the creep does show up again," says the Mistress, his attempt at a feminine tone is a high pitch shrill even through the earpiece of the phone. The man isn't fooling anyone, but it is all part of the okama impersonation, Ranka knows it better than anyone, and it is a comforting familiarity.
The transvestite hasn't been comfortable with dressing as a woman since the night when he first got followed, even less after he was jumped in the alley. This last two days he has opted for wearing sweats and t-shirts, the only gender neutral clothes he owns he realized. It's been years since he went shopping to a man's clothe store. Preferring to improve his okama wardrobe instead; as he is always at work and he figured skirts are good enough to go out in too, everyone in the neighbourhood knows his chosen career anyways. He hadn't felt insecure in a dress before; now he absently makes a mental note to buy at least a pair of jeans, some dress shirts and a pair of shoes without high heels.
Ranka stares hard at his wardrobe; he really doesn't want to go out in any type of skirt. For the first time he feels vulnerable and at a disadvantage in a dress. He had always felt power and confident in his skills to sway men, now he fears the influence he holds over them. After a while of digging around he finds something that shouldn't make him feel too exposed and he begins to prepare for his first night back at the bar.
Haruhi sits in the living room, her homework spread around her; but she is too distracted to do it. She can feel her father's anxiety at returning to work and she shares the sentiment. It makes her uneasy; her dad has been acting strange since the incident, skittish and subdued. This past two days he has been…well , as sexist as it sounds, he has been a man, he hasn't as much as looked at his dresses, he hasn't done his hair nor put on makeup, he hasn't even shaved the slow growing stubble on his chin and he hasn't fluctuated his voice pass the sweet tenor to the higher pitch of pseudo feminization. It's weird to see him acting so masculine; but before she can make heads or tails out that train thought she is pulled out of her musings by the ringing of the doorbell.
"Who is it?" she calls as she crosses the kitchenette to the door.
"It's Kyoya. I've come to escort your father to work," the teen's voice is muffled by the door but there is no mistaking those clipped tones.
The onabe undoes the latch and opens the door; if she is surprised hearing her sempai is standing at the door; seeing him flanked by two of his family private police officers leaves her dumbstruck.
"Good evening Haruhi, I am sorry to drop in unannounced, I've come to escort Mr Fujioka, is he ready to go?" Kyoya says his tone a little more formal than she is used to hear from him. He hasn't talked to her like that since before they had the impromptu encounter at the shopping expo and the hypotensive evil lord showed his true colours acting casually around her, well as casual as an Ootori can afford to be.
"What? Oh no, not yet he's still getting ready, uh please come in," she stands aside awkwardly, relieved when only the young man enters her home and the officers stay out standing guard at the door.
"I'm sorry if it seems like a bit of a spectacle, but I deemed it necessary at the moment," he didn't sound sorry at all but with the goons outside his tone becomes more relaxed.
"Haruhi, who is at the door?" Ranka's voice calls from deeper within the apartment.
"It's Kyoya-sempai!" she replies, no sooner had she said the name, a door slams open and the okama's feet pad rapidly towards them.
"Kyoya dear, what a surprise!" Ranka greets, he is dressed in a bathrobe his hair bundled up, and a dab of shaving cream still clings to one ear. "How are you?! I was so worried, Haruhi said you were all bruised," he rambles as he rushes the teen, holding him by the shoulders to look him over. "You look fine now, thank goodness!" and before he realizes what he is doing he sweeps up the younger man in an enthusiastic hug.
"Dad, stop that!" Haruhi admonishes, mortified by her dad's exuberant behaviour.
Kyoya doesn't have time to react to the barrage of questions, let alone avoid the sudden invasion of his personal space. So he is caught off guard and is unable to suppress the wince and gasp at the painful pressure of the man's arm around his torso.
Ranka immediately draws back, "You are hurt!" he exclaims. There are equal parts admonishment and concern in his tone. "How bad is it? Let me see," he asks.
"It's nothing…" Kyoya tries to dismiss the tranny's concern.
"You will show me young man," he demands in a very paternal tone that leaves no room for refusal.
With a wary sigh the boy slowly removes his shirt, this time it's Ranka and Haruhi who gasp at the myriad of colours adorning his chest and back. The older man takes a step towards the boy, but Kyoya instinctively withdraws from him and redresses, covering his torso quickly.
"Please, don't concern yourself, I assure you I am fine," he says politely regaining his cool composure. He re-arranges his clothes methodically, the glare reflecting off his glasses hide his eyes making the expression on his features unreadable. "I can see you're not ready yet, I'll be waiting outside. If you'll excuse me," his tone is low and cordial, but there is an edge to his voice.
"What? Oh no, I'm sorry, I'll be done in a moment. Please sit down, would you like some tea?" Ranka offers. Sensing he has somehow upset the teen, the man rushes back into the safety of small talk.
"Dad I've got this, go get ready," Haruhi finally intervenes terminating the awkward and tense interaction, ushering her father to his room and her sempai into the living room.
In a few minutes Haruhi hands the Shadow King a cup of tea. "Sorry about that, dad can be overbearing at times," she excuses her father's behaviour, taking a sit opposite to him; she studies the older boy openly.
"It's quite all right," he replies with a smile. "I can deal with that, I'm just not used to it coming from someone other than Tamaki," he explains his own awkwardness in the situation pretending he is not unnerved by her scrutinizing gaze.
The comment makes her laugh, "I hate to admit it but they really are alike, aren't they," she points out good-naturedly.
"A lot more than either cares to admit," Kyoya concedes thoughtfully.
"Say, are you really all right sempai?" she asks all traces of humour gone; never one to avoid what is in front of her, Haruhi always takes a direct if not tactless approach.
"Yes, it looks worse than it really is," he replies truthfully, readily taking advantage of the fact that she didn't specify as to what aspect of his wellbeing she is referring to, "it's only bruising, bone deep, but it's not serious and already on the mend, it will only take a bit longer to clear up,"
She accepts that with a nod and tackles the next point of concern in her mind. "This is quite a surprise Kyoya-sempai, why didn't you tell us you were coming?" she asks, there is no accusation in her voice, only genuine curiosity.
"Because he is just like you, or more accurately you are a lot like him; by knowing how you would react I can make an educated guess as to what his reaction would be like, it doesn't take a genius to conclude it would've been a repeat of as last time," he replies in all honesty.
The cross-dresser girl looks at him inquiringly, prompting him to elaborate.
"You are both, caring, but incredibly obstinate; so you won't ask for help and have difficulty accepting it when it's offered freely," he says by means of explanation, that doesn't really explain. "If I had let him know I'd be escorting him he would've refused, argued against it, and even left for work earlier than he normally does in order to avoid me. Whereas by showing up inadvertently, even if he is to take offence at my forwardness, he can't refuse my offer," he adds as matter-of-fact, but unable to suppress the smug smirk on his lips.
"As cunning and resourceful as ever Kyoya-sempai," she says without malice, if only a bit wary of his ability to manipulate situations to his advantage.
Ranka dresses quickly, he is surprised and confused about the Ootori boy turning up at his door with an escort; but he'd be lying if he said the company doesn't ease his frayed nerves considerably. He checks himself in the mirror, his somewhat neutral attire and the certainty of an escort makes him a little more confident in his okama role for the first time since the first incident.
"It's not my usual style, but it doesn't look bad at all, right?" the transvestite asks as he steps into the living room where the two teens have been waiting.
Kyoya looks at the cross-dresser appraisingly. The man is dressed in a steel grey blouse with a bateau neck line and cap sleeves; tucked into a pair of high waist, flare dress pants in a dark charcoal grey. A black thin belt matches the kitten heel shoes and small purse. The whole look is finished with his auburn hair piled up in a loose bun, a few straying strands framing his lightly makeuped face. The outfit gave him an air of stylish elegance that made him look more like a high executive than a hosting okama.
"Well, how do I look?" he insists hesitantly at the prolonged silence.
Haruhi can't remember the last time she saw her dad leave the house in something other than a skirt. "You look good dad," she assures him wondering just how much this whole situation is affecting him.
"As stoning as ever Ranka," Kyoya replies, reminding himself that ogling is rude.
The compliment makes the redhead smile and even blush. He hears that every day from his clients at the bar, but it feels different when Kyoya says it; sincere, not just an empty compliment.
"I'll be going now Haruhi, remember to lock up and don't stay up too late," the father says trying to appear as cheerful as ever so to ease Haruhi's worry.
The young man stands and bows slightly to the girl, "I'll return your father home safely tonight," he promises, ignoring the fact that he sounds like he is asking to take her father out to prom night.
"I know you will sempai," she says calmly, apparently impervious to the unusualness of the situation, knowing the promise to be true and much more reassuring that her father's attempt at flippant normalcy.
The third son follows the okama to the door and helps the older man into his coat.
"Ciao Haruhi, remember daddy loves you," he calls with a final wave.
"Take care dad," the anxious daughter replies closing and locking the door behind them.
In the car Kyoya and Ranka ride in the back seat, the two officers at the front. The trip is filled with an awkward, uncomfortable silence, both men at a lost as what to say.
"I must apologize Ranka," the brunette is the first to speak. "I didn't mean to intrude upon you so brusquely, I hope I didn't come off as too forceful; but otherwise you wouldn't have accepted these arrangements," Kyoya says truly contrite, hoping he hasn't cross the line and offended the older man.
"You are probably right, but I'm grateful that you've gone through all this trouble. It's very reassuring to know someone is there to keep the creeps away, I'm sure all the other girls feel the same way," the redhead concedes.
"I'm afraid I stepped on a few toes and twisted some arms to get this arranged. I'm not in the good graces of some of your co-workers," he replies with a wry smile. "But regardless of that it's my honour to keep you safe,"
Ranka is taken aback by the sincerity in the teen's voice and the seriousness in his eyes. It's an open expression he had never associated with the younger man. It's as oppose to the usual polite, calculating façade as hot and cold. The older man can't help but feel he has been privy to a glimpse of the real Kyoya. That the Ootori's third son has exposed some private part of him even if unintentionally, it shows the boy is comfortable around him, it makes the older man feel trusted and that he can trust in turn. An inexplicable feeling of safety suddenly rushes through him. However, they arrive at the bar before he can mull this occurrence further.
The okama looks nervously out the window, unease returning with a vengeance, "Well thanks for ride, you are dear," he says, but I doesn't sound as carefree as he had planned, trepidation seeping into this tone regardless of his attempt at bravado.
"Don't be afraid," the Ootori boy takes one of the okama's hands in his own. "I've got security on every door, officers around the perimeter and the car will be here when you clock out. I promise, you are safe," he reassures the older man, giving the larger hand an encouraging squeeze.
"Call me crazy, but I believe you," and he truly does, with that he winks at the boy and exists the car.
Kyoya watches Ranka, with one officer in front and one at his back, the transvestite swaggers into the bar as if his confidence wasn't wavering and falling apart at the seams. At that moment the Shadow King feels a surge of admiration for the strength of character displayed by Ranka, no, by Rioyi Fujioka.
The bar is still pretty much the same; save for the stealthily installed mini cameras that are monitored from the Mistress office and from the Ootori private police headquarters. There are bouncers at every door, leaving the inside security to the already haired personnel, while a few Ootori officers make patrol rounds in a circuit that encompasses the entire block. There's not a dingy alley unlit, not an angle of the bar that is not being caught on tape, inside or out.
The changes are subtle but effective; he notices there is a difference in the atmosphere. There is the same lively buzz of pleasant conversation, but the girls seem more relaxed and comfortable than he has ever seen them before, which in turn makes the patrons feel more welcome and therefore more willing to spend their money on the various refreshments and more importantly in tipping the okamas generously for their pleasurable company. A good increase in business may be on its way.
After a brief talk with the Mistress, Ranka realizes that the toes and arm Kyoya had referred to are none other's than the old okama's. Who kept complaining saying 'your rescuing prince is as shrewd as he is charming,' but he really had nothing bad to say about the third son of the Ootori group.
The rest of his night passed in a flurry of pleasant conversations and interactions with his co-workers and regular clients all clamouring that he had been missed, that they had been worried for him, asking about the dashing hero who rescued him and expressing how happy they are now that he is back.
It isn't until it's time to leave that the unpleasant fear returns to the forefront of his mind. He and the other okamas who have closed shop are preparing to leave, since the assault on Ranka they had agreed on leaving together, feeling it's safer to travel in packs. The moment they step out of the establishment the two officers are at their side, including all of the girls into their protective periphery. The okamas coo at their guardians in teasing approval and some whistle impressed as they see the large expensive car that awaits their red headed co-worker, the infamous rescuer himself standing next to it holding the door open for him.
"You lucky girl," "You get the red carpet treatment," "Oohoo nice chariot Cinderella," the okamas comment, shoving their friend forward playfully.
Kyoya watches amused, then with a genial smile says "Then it must be all of you beautiful ladies lucky night, can I offer you transportation back to your lodgings?" he asks with a courteous bow. "And I assure this one won't turn into a pumpkin," he adds with a flirtatious wink.
The okamas squeal in delight and the ones that didn't drive to the bar themselves readily agree and clamber excitedly into the spacious vehicle. They all fit in comfortably, the transvestites all ooh and awe at the space, the slick leather upholstery, the plush carpeting and the minibar. The young man humours them, and offers them to partake on the assorted refreshments available. As they make their rout to drop them all off at their respective houses Kyoya engages them in small talk, in full host club mode he entertains the group of trannies as a professional host would. So expertly that not even the okamas realize they are being played at their own game.
Finally all of Ranka's friends are dropped off; he is the last one to be delivered safely. "I'm sorry you had to put up with them, they can be quite a handful," he says apologetically as they arrive at his apartment complex.
"It's no hassle; it would be unfair to leave them unprotected," Kyoya points out coolly. "At least I thought you'd feel that way if I had left them standing on the side walk to fend for themselves. I don't mean to sound cold, my priority is your safety but I am also aware that any of them could become a victim. My efforts are aimed to spare them that misfortune if I can help it,"
Ranka stares at the boy; his tone, almost dismissive, clashes in stark contrast with the warm friendliness he had been displaying but a few minutes ago. If he hadn't known that neither façade holds true to the boy's true motives and actions he would've been offended. Instead he chuckles, causing the Shadow King to look at him, a brow delicately arched in inquiry as to what the okama finds to be so humorous. Ranka, however, refrains from telling the teen exactly how unconvincing his cool detached act is. He knows the boy genuinely cares, 'why can't he just admit it?' he silently wonders.
"Thank you again for everything Kyoya," Ranka says, he leans over the sit and places a chaste kiss on Kyoya's cheek.
The boy's eyes widen a fraction, heat rises to his face and he is grateful for the dim lighting least Ranka notice the red on the tip of his ears. "You are welcome, sleep well," he manages to push pass his suddenly dry throat.
The okama smiles amused, 'he looks cute blushing like that, I would like to make him all kinds of flustered' the thought sneaks up on him out of nowhere, his mind screeching to a sudden halt and he knows he is blushing now as well. "You too, good night," he says awkwardly, struggling to push the thought out of his mind. He is glad the driver chooses that moment to open the door and help him climb out of the vehicle allowing him to escape the suddenly uncomfortable situation graciously. The two officers accompany him all the way to his door and don't leave until he slides the latch home.
Kyoya watches as the two officers accompany Ranka all the way to his apartment. Only when the okama is securely locked in his home and the surrounding area scouted for potential danger that Kyoya allows himself to be taken home. On the way the driver drones on chastising the teen for the late hours, bemoaning that he is sure that his young charge won't be going to bed when they got back to the estate, but would stay up even later into the wee hours of the morning to catch up on piling homework and studies that he had neglected since taking up this new endeavour of escorting dubiously reputed okamas.
The less than polite comment passes unchecked. Kyoya is too distracted to reprimand the servant, any other time the young man would've verbally flayed the skin of the daring driver for his unjust slight against Ranka's virtue. But the teen is lost in imagining the ghost touch of the okama's lips lingering on his skin, the warmth that coloured his cheeks has now seeped down to his chest and expanded even farther down. Buffering the perception of his surroundings; his hormone idled imagination proves to be as excitable as his pubescent body and just as distracting. Through the entire trip home Kyoya doesn't consciously register a single word of the man's diatribe.