Breaking the Camel's Back

Ok, so confession time. I kinda wrote this story twice over, once from Haruhi's perspective, and once from Kyoya's. I don't really intend on making this a full length fic, but I can post the other point of view. I liked Haruhi's perspective better because I think Kyoya is more fun when he's mysterious, but then again, it's fun to look behind the glasses too.

Sometimes it's the soft touch that wreaks the greatest damage.

There were a lot of precautions Kyoya Ootori had taken in this life. Some were obvious, like minding the ebb and tide of gossip through the school's halls, or networking future business contacts between class periods. Some were less obvious. Today he employed his favorite: the paperwork of the host club.

It really doesn't take a lot of paperwork to run a host club, he mused to himself. His spreadsheets formatted themselves, rendering any report he wished with the touch of a button. He was an Ootori, after all, and Ootori's have no time for waste. No one questioned the hours spent over notes and spreadsheets, they just accepted, which suited Kyoya fine. Very quickly, his computer had become his shield, his – distance from the rest of the club.

And sometimes, like today, that distance was damned necessary. The guests had all departed for the day, but the manic energy of his friends had yet to dissipate. Tamaki had valiantly tried to rally his 'family's' attention to plan the forthcoming ball. It had been going well, or at least as well as can be expected; Tamaki couldn't do anything without theatrics. They'd pulled through the bickering and snark all the way to the theme of the ball, but with one small confession, one little girl threw it all to the wind.

"Uh, Senpai, did you say tango? I have no idea how to tango."

The uproar was so predictable, it bordered on ridiculous. At the best of times, the perpetual one-upmanship between the twins and Tamaki was taxing. Today it was very close to shattering his calm. Daddy's girl, our toy, hold this, wear that, not fair, shady, back and forth, dragging the poor girl in question back and forth like a disputed doll.

Those idiots didn't even see her for what she was until it was waved in front of their faces, though it certainly seemed as though she'd tried to hide. Her short, scruffy hair had only accentuated her fine cheekbones; her glasses only made her russet eyes wider. She was buried in her clothes, a disguise that was sure to work for most, but to his eyes, she'd only been rendered more fey like; the coarse weave of her sweater brought out the fineness of her skin, the baggy hang spoke volumes about her delicate, waifish build.

Ruthlessly, he pushed that unhelpful line of thought out of the way. For what had to be the thousandth time, he told himself that he'd only been surprised by her appearance in the room that day. Ruminations on her lead to questions of attraction – and that path was just forbidden.

He focused instead on his faux work, or tried to… something inside twitched at the sight of Tamaki's fingers on gentle coral lips. He nearly missed her question: "Why does this even matter?"

He could recognize a Kyoya question when he heard one, after all, that was his job, wasn't it? He was the one who threatened, reasoned, or cajoled wayward club members back to Tamaki's crazy plans. "Tamaki-san has decided upon a Latin theme for this year's ball. So instead of waltzing this year, you must tango." He nearly held his breath, anticipating her further dissent. It would be expected of him, the threat of raising her debt. He didn't want to go there; he didn't want to push that button one more time. He was ogre enough to her.

To his surprise, she seemed to capitulate. Whatever pretense he'd been typing away at was forgotten as his attention was inexorably drawn to her. "Can't Hani-senpai teach me?" It was the closest thing to pleading he'd ever heard from her. He forced his hand to stay idle instead of rubbing at the slight tension in his chest. "Surely he knows how to tango."

The blonde teen seemed chagrined, "I don't know how to tango, Haru-chan, I'm not tall enough." Nor would any of their guest want to see the host doing something so… adult, Kyoya added mentally. The addition of, "I don't think Mori knows how either," was no great surprise either.

Naturally, he agreed with Honey.

"Then why do I have to know?" That something in his chest seemed to loosen at the return of her irritation, and once more, he found himself speaking, "Frankly, Haruhi, no one expects the boy Lolita to tango. And it would ill-suit Mori-sempai, the wild type if he were tangoing on the dance floor. Our clients' expectations must be upheld."

Equilibrium reestablished, he turned once more to the cold glow of his screen. Eventually, she'd dance with Tamaki – seemed less likely that anything productive would be achieved if she was forced into the tutelage of the twins. The only thing left to do was wait until this scene reached its unavoidable conclusion.

It was impossible to determine if the cold rush racing through him was simply surprise, or something more akin to panic. The room was airless as his mind replayed Tamaki's surprisingly timid suggestion: Mother could do it.

He'd nearly missed Tamaki's idiotic rationale behind the call, his mind reeling at the thought of sharing such an intimate dance with her. It was dangerous, being that close to her. The one time he'd allowed himself before, well, his mind was only too eager to tease him with the image of her beneath him, her eyes made into warm chocolate pools by the moon.

Reflexively, he pushed his lenses back up his nose and schooled his face.

Her voice seemed so hesitant in the silence, "Kyoya-senpai? …Would you mind?"

He wanted to laugh at himself. Anyone with ears heard the quaver in her voice, and it certainly didn't take much thought to realize it's source. He was the 'Shadow King', after all - intimidating and damn near omnipotent. The little stab he'd felt, the lance of guilt and hurt, was ridiculous. Trusting his voice would be most unwise, so he turned to yet another old standby, he raised his brow. She'd read into that what she wished.

When she didn't blush, when she didn't turn away, or turn to Tamaki, he felt a strange disconnect. His knees felt like water, and he could feel his pulse at the tip of every finger. It took a great deal of concentration to rise without stumbling. In a near desperate bid to collect himself, he once more adjusted his glasses, hoping to God that no one else in the room could hear the strange staccato his heart had decided passed for a pulse.

So much for being the cool one.

To his eternal relief, no one seemed to notice anything amiss. Tamaki assumed control of the situation, offering instruction and positioning Haruhi's hands on his chest. "Excellent. Now Haruhi, when dancing the tango, as in any dance, one must communicate through the body. The waltz is romantic. The tango is all about unfulfilled desire." Unfulfilled desire – what a horrible choice of words.

As he brought his hands to her, he remembered in vivid detail all of the times he'd avoided touching her: the day at the expo, the night at the beach house, he'd even nearly made an idiot of himself dancing out of her path before a collision in the hall. Now his fingers lay on her shoulders, his palms just above her… her heart.

"The tango is a complicated dance, Haruhi," Tamaki again, still blissfully ignorant, "and we don't expect you to master it in the short time we have until the ball. But Daddy is sure that his little girl can learn the basics. Eye contact is important." When her eyes met his they seemed very determined, or angry. He wondered briefly at the conviction he saw in them. "A proper host cannot cast his eyes around the ballroom while dancing with a beautiful princess. For this first lesson, I think it's enough if you simply practice walking with Mother. Eyes on, and start with the right foot!"

When her leg shot back, he quelled the smile twitching on his lips. Trust Haruhi to attempt to take the lead in a dance she was learning. He stepped smoothly behind her, talking his next step a hair fast to take back the lead.

Her eyes never strayed from his; large, warm, and focused, he felt like she could see every last thought in his head. It was a disconcerting feeling, but not an onerous one.

Step by step, she gradually loosened and it felt… it felt damn close to submission. Tongues of desire danced in his belly at the realization. It was impossible to ignore the intimacy, and the awareness of other. When her hand twitched nervously about his heart, he could have sworn that he felt the resonance of desire in her. He couldn't help but smirk.

He was wickedly delighted when she flushed and her eyes snapped with irritation. It would be tempting, he mused, to walk her all the way into the wall. He'd see the flames dance higher in her eyes, or maybe, just maybe, he'd see a flicker of his own desire there. But alas, there was an audience.

He turned her gently, keeping their pace slow and sedate as they returned. Perhaps she saw more than the Shadow King – maybe she just wanted to, either way, the next few days were going to prove very interesting.

He didn't allow himself to grieve the loss of contract when the dance ended. He'd have tomorrow. He bowed rather deeply to hide his grin at the prospect.

She was flustered, he could tell. She was trying to bury it in her textbook – but just like the clothes that couldn't quite conceal her gender, it only accented the truth. After all, her eyes weren't moving.

He took the liberty the next day to excuse himself from class an hour early. The teacher did nothing but nod in acceptance. He was an Ootori, powerful, wealthy and well connected, he was the top in his class, and the vice-president of the school's most well known club. There was no way and nothing to object to.

His steps damn near bounced with anticipation, thought his pace was steady and deliberate. He had to prep for Haruhi's lesson. Today, there would be minimum interference from the peanut gallery of his friends. Today, he'd have to her to himself.

On a whim he passed by the open door of her classroom. She was scowling slightly at her text, but her hand, ah her hand. Her hand was absently caressing her chest. The exact spot, if memory served, that his hand had rested the day before.

It made him want to whistle his way to music room 3.

Months before, the club had used rice paper room dividers for a traditional tea. Thanks to his own insistence on keeping their supply closet well organized, it took no time at all to locate them and drag them out. He cast a critical eye over the furniture littered about the room. A love seat would be most ideal as it would force them, when sitting, into close quarters, but it seemed rather obvious. The pair of delicate Queen Ann chairs would be the most space efficient, but rather contrary to his goal. It left only the couch as an option. It didn't take much to set the stage.

By the time the last divider was slid into place, Tamaki entered the room, "Kyoya, why are those up?"

"We have only a week until the ball, Tamaki. Haruhi must be brought up to speed quickly. I cannot afford to close the club for her lessons, but it would be unseemly for our guests to see her learn."

Logical, sound, and correct, his explanation left Tamaki nodding in agreement.

At that moment, he had a pang. Surely 'Daddy Dearest' would have something to say if he were privy to 'Mommy's' thoughts. And surely Tamaki, although seemingly clueless, would have something to say about another man setting his cap for the girl who'd shook all of them up. It was more than obvious that Kyoya wasn't the only one with an attraction to Haruhi.

He dismissed it. He was putting the cart way before the horse. He'd certainly thought he'd seen attraction in her the day before, but- but he was the Shadow King, the demon lord – the keeper of the debt – it was best to not get carried away.

She entered the room quietly, her large brown eyes strangely solemn . "Good Afternoon, Senpai." Her voice was even, too even. It was easy to see, suddenly that she was far less composed than she seemed.

"Good afternoon, Haruhi. Shall we continue the lesson?"

He watched her as she stepped to him, her movements overly smooth. Sharp eyes caught the faintest of tremors in her wrists as her hands came back to his chest. He couldn't smother the grin. "Yesterday's lessons were supposed to be for your feet. While I appreciate your" A hundred unsuitable words sprang to mind, "… enthusiasm, I must insist that we take this a step further." Her blush burned from her cheeks all the way to her ears, but he had better things to do than stare. He couldn't help but savor sliding his arm round her waste. His hand spread nearly the entire breadth of her back, driving home exactly how much smaller than he she was. It sharpened his anticipation, this feeling of power his larger frame had compared to hers. Delicately, and oh so slowly, he drew her nearly flush with himself. He allowed himself to trace his fingers down her slight arm to her wrist. "Your hand," he croaked, nearly choking on the tension inside him, "rests on my shoulder." At the flicker he thought he saw in her eyes, we smoothed her fingers flat, relishing the warmth that came seeping through his shirt.

It was too much to resist, the idea of allowing his fingers to learn the subtle curves of her body on their path to her hip. It wasn't wise – he knew that, but it was inevitable. It rested so perfectly there, as though his hand had been custom tailored for her.

"Your left hand should be in the middle of my back." He heard his own desire in his voice, a huskiness that it had never held before.

Timidly, her hand came to its resting place, and the heat from that touched radiated across his back. They were damn near tangled in each other and the proximity was wreaking havoc with his control.

Her eyes flickered again, and a spark lit there that captivated him. When she spoke it was nearly his undoing, "What do we do now, Senpai?" There was a daring in her tone, a hint of a challenge that his body responded to automatically, his hand trying to clutch her closer.

"We use our hands to communicate." He tried to take a breath and regain some composure, but it didn't help. "For a turn, I will press here," it felt sinful, holding her like this. "Do you understand?" There was color on her cheeks once more as she nodded.

As he slid her into the walk, his pulse leapt. She was completely compliant, her movements echoing his own gracefully. The world was suddenly cloyingly small, filled only with her and the roar of his blood. He felt the sway of her hip in his hand, she telegraphed every step to his hand on her back. As the lesson wore on, he became less sure of their boundaries, relishing the oneness in their movements.

It was easy to forget she was just learning, and he could have kicked himself for sweeping her into a sharp turn, but she followed gracefully. He was left in wonder.

It was Honey broke the illusion, "Wow, Haru-chan, you really are a natural!"

They fell apart, and this time it was difficult to quell the disappointment. Desire burned through him, violent at the loss of contact. It was only reflex that kept his face from showing his torment.

"Th-thank you, Honey-senpai." The stutter brought back the strange staccato from the day before. She'd felt it – she had to have. "Kyoya-senpai is a good teacher."

His eyes were glued to hers as he bowed. His jacket was like a suit of armor, a protection for his too sensitive skin. All it took was a small adjustment to his glasses, and he felt more in control. "Did everything go well?"

Tamaki's chuckle grated, "Mother, you fret too much; every princess was well tended."

There was nothing to say, or at least, nothing that wouldn't be too telling. "Hm. Then it is time to go. Good night." It wasn't precisely retreat, but it was close enough.

There was no sleep that night. Kyoya found himself tossing and turning the night through, plagued by skin that was far too hot. All he got when he closed his eyes was a slow motion replay of the day's lesson. He watched and rewatched every small moment, from the tantalizing way Haruhi's tongue had darted across her lips, to the mercurial changes in her eyes. His hand blazed with the memory of her hip. With a frustrated groan, he threw himself out of bed.

He'd been right all along, his first impression had been sound. It was entirely too dangerous to be so close to her. If he had half a brain left in his head, he'd make whatever excuses he could to get out of being her tutor.

But the thought of her dancing with any of the other hosts was enough to make his blood boil and his fists clench. His traitorous mind was only too willing to show her entwined with the twins, or her sweet response, the one he wanted only for himself, being shared with Tamaki.

He was too far in to back out now.

And just what did he think was going to come from this. Did he expect flustered confessions from her? Did he think, for one minute, that she would look at him and see anything other than the supposed 'dark lord' of the host club? If he did. He was an idiot.

What did all that preparation amount to now, eh , Ootori? So careful to keep up walls, so keen to keep any threat of connection away outside of what was useful. So clever, weren't you? You recognized Haruhi right away for what she was – a danger to your composure, a chink in your armor, but you couldn't resist. You did everything you could to keep her close, didn't you – saddle her with a crushing debt. But you couldn't let her get too close, could you? Threaten her with more debt, try to terrify her at the beach house, anything to keep some breathing space. Clever little boy thought he could have it all, but what were you doing but dancing on a razor's edge, unable to let her go, but unwilling to let her in.

You tripped, asshole.

He ran his hands through his tousled dark locks. It was useless. All of it. His heart lurched with he remembered the flashes of passion in her eyes. God, even if they were real, they wouldn't amount to much. Every one flirted with the darkness, no one wanted to stay in it.

But more than likely, what he saw in her eyes was just reflections of his own damn pride and vanity. He was Kyoya Ootori: first person you went to when something needed to be taken care of… but last person you ever considered needing something himself.

He didn't go to class that day. Instead, he took the time to set up the host club for the evenings cosplay - and to torture himself. Every memory that made him burn, every flash of feeling he'd thought he'd seen from her, he prescribed away to something else. Pity, disinterest, shame, and most painfully, fear. It clenched at his heart, but it was needed.

The day slid by in a haze of work and sweat. The turmoil of the night before still roiled in his belly, he knew it was for the best if he stayed away from the lesson. Eventually he'd find a way to piece himself back together and be fit to go out in public, but not today. Today was too volatile.

The clock struck. An hour before lesson time. He lurched to his feet. It was dumb, it was stupid, and perhaps, worst of all, foolish, but he knew he couldn't leave. He slipped quietly into the partitioned area. He heard the nonstop chatter of the arriving hosts. It faded as they went to the changing rooms.

He heard her enter next- it had to be her. He felt paralyzed. There was no way to get her to look past the niche he'd created for himself. He himself had taken every precaution to be sure it was seamless and secure. And what girl in their right mind would want to be with the Kyoya Ootori he'd shown Haruhi?

"Kyoya-sempai?" There was a dose of concern to her voice. A hint of feeling that ignited a blaze he hadn't known he'd been building. The Shadow King rose.

After all, that's what he was. He was dangerous, cold, and calculating. He never did anything without profiting. He took what he wanted and damned the consequences.

Her eyes were impossibly wide as he prowled toward her. He latched on to her hips, dragging her closer. He let his hands wander as he shucked the coat from her dainty frame- never out of line, but also not appropriate. He circled her then, clasping her arms in his hands. Unfulfilled desire- he wanted to leave her weak with it. He brought her hard against him. "Tamaki said that the tango was unfulfilled desire." The whispers dripped from his lips, his grin fatalistic as he watched the hair on her neck rise.

Surrendering to impulse, he forced her legs apart, her weight fell against him, and he gloried in the feel. "He was right." When her left knee gave out he molded himself to her. "The body communicates the need in angles, in tension" He engulfed her in his arms, capturing her arms to her chest, "and in contact."

Ruthlessly he whirled her out by her wrist. Her feet fumbled under the onslaught. "Mind your feet, Haruhi."

He'd expected to see the fear in her eyes. He was even prepared for tears, but the one thing he'd not considered was acceptance. Her arms came around him, she squared herself to match him. The very whisper of challenge charged the air.

He set the pace fast, forcing her body to follow his. He wanted to feel her ease, that loose feeling in her back that meant surrender. He needed it. She matched his step for step, her feet flying to keep pace with his own. Once more, his world grew small, he only knew her and the roar of his own superheated blood.

And then a hand pressed softly on his chest. It was gentle, but insistent. He body, so used to reading the signals from hers, stepped back of its own accord. She followed closely, having wrested the lead from him with grace and efficiency.

Her eyes were unreadable.

He hit the wall and stopped before he even knew what hit him, but the instant his overheated back made contact with that wall, he saw it, it clicked. Her eyes. There was passion there, a smoldering heat that he recognized. But it was tempered with fear, and he couldn't bear to see it in her eyes.

His lips found hers. He needed her. When her lips parted he invaded eagerly and groaned when she returned the kiss. He pulled her to him fiercely; he'd die without her body pressed to his own. The feel of her fingers caressing his scalp sent shivers down his spine and warmth pooling in his middle. It was as though she weighed nothing when he scooped her up.

He stumbled for the couch. The overwhelming need surged through him and he sent their possessions scattering to the ground. He was consumed by her.

He froze the moment she stiffened. He'd gone too far. He'd misread her eyes. He'd misunderstood everything. With a cold and empty heart, he pulled away. She hadn't wanted this.

Large brown eyes met his and all he could see was regret. The self-castigation came easily. So prideful, Ootori. So sure of yourself you are that you assault a young woman in your hubris. A friend.

But the voice was rendered mute at the delicate touch of fingers on his scalp. Haruhi was adjusting his hair. An ebullient lightness blossomed in his chest. The host club was sure to investigate the cacophony he'd made, but she was wasting the precious few moments she had straightening him. When the other hosts made the scene, she handled them adroitly, pouring the blame on herself. No one even looked at him. In a sudden rush, he realized that this is what it was to be protected. She was sheltering him.

She cared.

Somehow, through it all, Tamaki's whine pierced his thoughts, "But how is Daddy supposed to kiss and make it better when his little girl won't tell him where she hurts?" There was a flash of something writhing, something red in his heart- jealousy, but in the crashing tide of his recent epiphany, it seemed ephemeral.

Hikaru looked uncomfortable. "Uh, boss, I think you took the 'daddy' thing too far."

"Yeah, that was weird, even for you," Kaoru.

Even Tamaki seemed to realize he'd gone too far, "Well, if you're sure you're fine, we were going to leave…"

"I'm fine, Senpai, I'm just embarrassed." He heard the relief in her voice and it made him want to smile.

"Well alright then, if you insist. Have a good night."

The boys left, but Kyoya was far away. She'd worried about him. She'd worried about what they would think about him. Gratitude was a word that didn't even encompass the range of turbulent emotions bottled inside.

His gaze fell on her hand, her delicate, graceful hand. He succumbed. He pressed his lips to the flesh so tender it couldn't cover the racing of her pulse. He wanted to smile when he heard the lovable confusion in her voice, the nerves, "Uh, Kyoya-senpai?"

The honorific had to go. After all this, after the gift she'd given him, it seemed so silly, "Kyoya" he wanted to hear his name as it should be. He wanted her to say it right.

When their eyes met, he saw hers dilate. She was intoxicating, "Kyoya, I, uh"

Her inability to string two words together was delightful and endearing. "Yes, Haruhi?"

"Wh-what are you doing?" The stutter skipped with the rhythm of her heart. This was not a woman terrified of a Shadow Lord. This was a woman struggling against passion, a passion he had awoken. It was a powerful, uplifting feeling. Nothing in the world could touch him now, "I'd think that was obvious, Haruhi."

Her neck called to him, a long column of untasted flesh. He acquainted himself with it. He chuckled at her helpless, "Huh?"

For once, it was a prideful thing, "My job, Haruhi. Don't you remember? 'After all, to whom does a little girl turn when she is in need and Daddy can't help?'"

She was his.

Oh my god, I had a lot of fun cleaning this one up for you guys. Thank you so much for the review, they meant a great deal to me!

P.S. I really need to learn how to post and not drink. One teeny glass of wine and I'm spelling names wrong... Embarrassing.