A/N: This is a prize for Midnameowfries over at deviantART.

I hope you enjoy!


Tamaki Suoh was not jealous.

He was a great many things; some good, some bad, some either or depending on his mood, but he was never jealous.

Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever EVER jealous.

Kyoya could tell him as many times as he liked that he was, Tamaki was pretty sure he knew himself better than anyone else. He knew perfectly well that the boiling of his blood whenever the twins tried to come on to Haruhi wasn't jealousy. It was… empathy! Yes, that's right. It was the indignant rage at being molested by a pair of identical idiots that Haruhi should have been feeling, but never did. She was just too unaware of their true nature to be properly angry. As a loving father figure, Tamaki was both obligated and happy to express it for her.

Well, okay. He'd recently come to understand that his feelings for Haruhi were not in any way paternal and never had been, but that was beside the point. If anything, it further proved it. His deep and passionate love for Haruhi drove his need to protect her honor save her from those who might do her harm. Sure, Hikaru and Kaoru wouldn't actually hurt Haruhi or do anything more than tease. Tamaki wasn't that much of a fool. He would have thrown them out of the club (and the school if he could manage it) a long time ago if that were the case. He only felt anger on Haruhi's behalf, nothing more.

It was NOT jealousy.

And that was the case with Gustave de Salvuterre, a French foreign exchange student Tamaki couldn't believe he'd once looked forward to meeting.

Really, having another person at Ouran from his mother country should have been fantastic. He should have hit it off right away with Gustave, become close friends, traded stories, met after school with the rest of the Host club and maybe head over to Kyoya's indoor beach for a day out. For weeks after the announcement was made, Tamaki had looked forward to meeting him, counting the days until he would finally arrive.

When the day came, Tamaki had gone with Kyoya to greet him. Normally, the male and female Class Representatives would do the job alone, but Ayame-san was out sick with the flu. Not only that, Tamaki's fluency in French made him an ideal choice for Gustave's guide.

Tamaki's first impression of Gustave upon seeing him for the first time was that he was very much in love with himself. It's amazing how much more a person's posture can say about them than their words. Gustave's greeting to Tamaki had been in their native language, and were it all Tamaki ever saw of him, he'd probably never have suspected what lay beneath.

"Good morning to you, Monsieur Suoh. I'm very pleased to meet you and even more relieved to have another Frenchman in my class."

He'd sounded so sincere! So much so that Tamaki was right away willing to throw aside his hesitance and immediately accept Gustave. He offered him the hand of friendship, both figuratively and literally, right then and there.

"The pleasure is all mine, Monsieur de Salvuterre. Though, if we're going to be friends, I must ask you to call me by my first name."

"Well, if you insist."

This, along with the lengthy conversations they had later in the halls, was completely in French. Kyoya had been left to walk several inches away from the two of them, awkwardly pointing out the finer points of Ouran's prestigious education system while Tamaki and Gustave discussed the finer points of cottage cheese for all he knew. It didn't bother Kyoya that much, but Tamaki still felt the need to apologize one or fifteen times for it later.

That had been Day One. Day Two was when Gustave de Salvuterre threw caution to the wind and let his true colors show. After spending Day One getting a feel for the school and it's students, he came in to class on Day Two, strutting for all the world to see and smirking like he owned the place.

"Good morning," he greeted all the girls, but none of the guys. "Beautiful day, isn't it? All the better for such a beautiful girl."

For some of them, he even went so far as to kiss their hand while they turned bright red and giggled and swooned before him. By the end of the day, every girl in class had received this treatment, and every single one of them crowded around Gustave's desk after class as they had once done to Tamaki during his early days at Ouran.

That alone wouldn't have bothered Tamaki, though he couldn't understand why anyone would fall for such a smarmy display. He brought this up during Club hours, and for whatever reason, the question sent Hikaru and Kaoru into hysterics. Tamaki figured they were just clowning around and ignored them.

No, he could've forgiven that. Then Gustave burst into the Third Music Room, right in the middle of one of Tamaki's appointments, and demanded to speak to the person in charge.

"Oh, it's you, my friend?" he said when Tamaki answered his call. "I should have known. Everyone says that you're the ladies man of the school."

"I'm the King of the Host Club," Tamaki said, bringing a hand to his chest. "I far prefer that title. Now, what can I do for you? I wasn't aware that you were interested in being one of our guests."

Gustave let out a barking laugh. "Guest? Oh man, you crack me up, Tamaki. No, I was hoping to join the club."

Something about that one request suck every happy feeling within Tamaki into an endless abyss. Thinking back, he should have taken it as an omen. He should've known better than to again ignore those cautionary thoughts of his. Instead, he forced a smile and graciously agreed with Kyoya's suggestion to give Gustave a one week trial to test his hosting skills before making a final decision.

After all, he was only going to be at Ouran for three months. What could it hurt?

Gustave was seated at an empty table on the far left, right across from Tamaki and directly in his line of sight. He did well with the girls whose curiosity lead them to request him. He chatted amiably with them, the subject of their conversations a mystery to Tamaki, thanks to the soft tones Gustave used. Tamaki knew right away that he was doing that on purpose, and not just because Gustave was loud and boisterous all the rest of the time. If you speak softly, people will listen to you more carefully, they may even lean closer to you as those two girls were doing right now. After five minutes of this, it was clear that Gustave had them wrapped around his little finger, and Tamaki was feeling more than ever like this was a terrible idea.

Why, oh why didn't he realize it sooner?

It would have saved him, or really Haruhi, so much pain and grief.

Because then the end of the day came, and everyone was doing their part to clean the place up, and Gustave was working oddly close to Haruhi and giving her funny looks every couple of seconds.

Or so Tamaki assumed.

It wasn't like he was purposefully spying on them or anything.

It wasn't Tamaki's fault that the look in Gustave's eye whenever they settled on Haruhi spoke of something far less innocent than friendship.

And then they finished up, and Gustave drew himself to full height, and took Haruhi by the hand, making her stop in her tracks and look up at him.

He kissed it.

Tamaki's stomach dropped.

"It's been an honor working with you, Cherie," he said, this time in his regular voice, though with an added smoothness. "I must say, I was surprised to see a lovely young lady such as yourself participating in this club. I had thought the ladies would be content to be hosted, rather than host themselves. It sets you apart, I like it."

The room went quiet, except for a loud clang when Hunny-senpai's fork slipped out of his grip and hit the floor. Amongst the eight present people, Hikaru and Kaoru were the first to move, choosing to forgo the intimidation of Gustave and darting straight for Kyoya. They were cut off before they could say even a word by Kyoya's finger.

"If he plans to join the club, he was going to find out eventually," the Shadow King said. "We should count ourselves lucky that he chose not to say anything in front of our guests, but if it helps you rest easier, I'll explain the situation to him later."

That seemed to placate the twins, or at least Kaoru. Hikaru made a point to send a heated glare Gustave's way, and for once, Tamaki couldn't fault him for it.

Speaking of Gustave, he was still holding Haruhi's hand. She didn't seem at all bothered by the casual drop of gender terms, and stared blankly at him.

"Erm, thanks. I appreciate the help dusting the tables, Senpai."

Gustave chuckled, patting her hand like she was a precocious child.

"Dear Haruhi, no need for such formalities. Just call me Gustave!"

And that's when Tamaki knew for sure that Gustave was nothing but a lecherous pig out to steal Haruhi's virtue. He was even worse than the twins, because he wasn't just playing. Tamaki knew that look in his eye, Gustave meant it. He meant every word and every implication behind them.

And he wasn't going to stop there.

The next six days were a tiny step above pure hell for Tamaki.

It had absolutely nothing to do with any non-existent jealousy on his part, and everything to do with Gustave constantly flirting with Haruhi whenever club hours ended or they had a moment alone.

If Tamaki could say anything somewhat nice about Gustave, it was that he could keep a secret well. He had no trouble swearing to them never to reveal Haruhi's true gender. His eyes shined with obvious intent as he made his pledge. Tamaki knew exactly what was going through his mind. As long as he could spend time around Haruhi, Gustave wouldn't say a word. Tamaki wondered if Kyoya could sense it too, but if he did, he said nothing about it later.

Day Two turned into Day Three, which then became Day Four, Day Five and Day Six. Every day that passed, Gustave became bolder.

"Haruhi, dear! You're looking especially beautiful today. I never thought a boy's uniform could be so flattering."

He sought out Haruhi more.

"I hear you take several advanced placement classes. I'm impressed. You have so much going for you, it's astounding."

Not just during Club hours, Tamaki had more than once caught him cornering Haruhi in the halls between classes.

"You seem very well-read. Have you read T.S. Elliot? He's my favorite poet. I'd love to sit down and discuss his work with you one day."

Whatever opportunity Gustave had, he took with both hands and never let go.

"You know, it's fortunate that you choose a regular table by the window. The backdrop of the setting sun is perfect for you."

It went on for days.

"You have the sweetest speaking voice."

On…

"Oh, you like Otooro? So do I!"

And on…

"You've lead an amazing life thus far. Tell me more about your home life, Haruhi."

And on…

"Lovely-"

And on…

"Beauitful-"

And on…

"So pretty-"

And Haruhi was completely oblivious to his dark purposes! Sure, she didn't flirt back and paid compliments on her appearance no mind, but she didn't try to stop him either. She just thanked him or gave a friendly smile like nothing was wrong. It encouraged Gustave, egged him on.

And Tamaki was not jealous. Not jealous. Not jealous. Not jealous.

NOT JEALOUS

"Tamaki."

He blinked twice. The world came crashing down around him, silent and still. The roaring in his ears vanished the instant Kyoya's voice cut through. He found himself staring into the apathetic grey eyes of his best friend, who nodded at the pillow Tamaki had been rearranging. Tamaki looked down and blanched.

"Oh…" he fingered the mountain of cotton that had erupted from the giant split in the seams. He thought about pushing it back down, but it would be worthless with Kyoya watching.

"Tamaki," Kyoya said with a sigh. "I think we need to talk about this Gustave situation."

"What situation?" Tamaki said in between a very loud and very fake laugh. He brought his hands to his hips, ruined pillow still in his grasp. "There's nothing wrong with Gustave. He's been… a very useful asset to our club this past week."

"Hmm…" Kyoya gave him a once over. "Because I was referring more to this animosity you've developed towards him."

Tamaki froze, his arms refusing to move no matter how much he willed them to. Kyoya's gaze was penetrating, and stronger than Hunny-senpai on a bad day. There was very little Tamaki could hide from him.

"Don't bother telling me you haven't," Kyoya went on. That was another thing, he seemed to be a mind reader. "This is the 3rd pillow you've ripped in half since his arrival, and this is in no way normal behavior for you."

"I'm fine," Tamaki said forcefully, throwing the pillow aside. "Nothing's wrong, I'm just… having a difficult week. A lot of homework and events to attend with my father, it's very stressful."

He turned and walked away before Kyoya could say more, because knowing him, he already had some inarguable response lined up that would only make Tamaki angrier. That was the last thing he needed right now. Tamaki stalked to the other side of the room, to the small kitchenette where a sink full of teacups waited to be cleaned. It normally wasn't his job to wash them, and admittedly, Haruhi was far better at it, but Tamaki needed a distraction right now. What better than something that would help her out? That's what you do when you really love someone after all.

He grabbed the first cup, holding it in the air as he tried to remember everything Haruhi did while cleaning them.

First… she turned on the water!

Tamaki's free hand went for the faucet, pulling it up slowly. Water started to pour in a gentle stream, not enough to do any cleaning. Tamaki pulled it a little more, ignoring the way his hands still shook with simmering rage.

"Hey, Tamaki!"

His hand jolted, bringing the faucet up as far as it would go. The resulting burst of ice cold water shot off the cups and onto Tamaki's jacket. He gasped, a harsh chill running up and down the length of his body. He tried futilely to wipe the wateroff with his hands, while behind him, Gustave laughed. That's another thing Tamaki couldn't stand about him: that damn laugh.

"Oh my, sorry I startled you," Gustave said. He offered Tamaki a handkerchief, which was reluctantly accepted. "I thought dishes were Haruhi's job."

"She's busy," Tamaki said curtly. He made sure to wiped off as much water as he could to get the handkerchief soaking wet before handing it back. "I thought I'd help her out by doing it myself."

"That's very kind of you," said Gustave.

'What do you care? I'm not trying to impress YOU, you pompous, perverted, lowlife, overstuffed, kiss ass-'

The rest of Tamaki's thoughts became a garbled mess of half formed insults and as many nasty French and Japanese words as he knew. Later on, he'd be surprised at himself for the sheer number that had come to mind.

Then Gustave leaned in closer. Tamaki fought to stay perfectly still and not back up all the way to the opposite wall like he wanted to. He didn't like where this was going. He liked that sly smile on Gustave's face even less.

"Speaking of Haruhi," he said. "I think I'm finally going to make my move today."

Tamaki's fist clenched, and thankfully he wasn't holding a cell phone or anything else this time. He thought he could hear something creaking when he turned his head, so slowly and jerky the movement was. Gustave didn't seem to notice, he wasn't even looking Tamaki's way anymore. Something over his shoulder had all of Gustave's attention, and Tamaki had a sinking feeling he knew what (or rather who) that was.

"You uh…" Tamaki coughed. "You want to ask out Haruhi."

Gustave gave him a look, and even Tamaki could recognize the 'well, duh,' message it sent.

"I've been dropping hints to her all week," he said. "Why do you think I'm even here in the first place?"

Tamaki started, his feelings of rage and hate diminishing if only for a few seconds.

"Wait, what?"

Gustave chuckled, low and very unlike anything Tamaki had heard from him thus far. He wrapped a loose arm around Tamaki's shoulders, and Tamaki felt bile rushing to his throat.

"Well, no offense to you guys, but this Host Club thing isn't really my style," Gustave said. "Far too dry for my tastes. Can't even flirt properly when all the girls think it's just a game. I don't know how you stand it."

"It's not about getting dates," Tamaki answered, his whole body shaking. "It's about making the girls feel special and good about themselves."

"Hmm… cute," Gustave said with disinterest. "I guess I shouldn't complain, though. I just wanted Haruhi's attention, and it's safe say I got it."

"From what I've seen," Tamaki was now struggling to control the volume of his voice. "All you really have is a tentative friendship. I know Haruhi, and I can tell you right now, she isn't interested."

Gustave scoffed, and it was the absolute rudest thing Tamaki had ever seen him do outside of shamelessly hitting on Haruhi at every waking moment like a dog in heat (not jealous, not jealous, not jealous).

"What are you, a mind reader?" He moved away from Tamaki. That, at least, was a positive development. That he inched more towards Haruhi, who had finished straightening up her area and was now packing her bag in preparation to leave for the day, was not.

"I'm her friend," Tamaki made sure to hit that last word hard, about as hard as the truth of it hit his heart.

Being just friends with Haruhi was like torture now that he knew how he truly felt about her. Once this Gustave situation had been rectified, he'd have to start thinking about how to confess to Haruhi himself. Putting it off was just going to make things worse. Who knows how many Gustaves there were out there, ready to come between them and split them even further apart.

That was one thing Tamaki could never allow.

In the time it took him to come to this resolution, several things happened.

Hunny-senpai almost spilled his tea on Usa-chan's face, and in his haste to save the poor bunny from a night in the washing machine, knocked a half-eaten plate of upside-down cake to the floor. While he sniffled and hugged his beloved toy to his chest, Mori-senpai cleaned up the icing and shards of porcelain. Hikaru went to grab a wastebasket for him, while Kaoru worked on the dishes Tamaki had abandoned. Kyoya was coming towards him, notebook open and business talk in mind.

Haruhi was gone, and so was Gustave.

Kyoya was right in front of him now, saying something about budget cuts and next week's big zookeeper cosplay possibly being pushed back until next week because one of the exotic animals might not be delivered on time, and everything else was just a giant blur as Tamaki stared at the double doors. The gentle click of the doorknob echoed in his ears, even though he hadn't actually heard it. Everything else was drowned out, unimportant.

He could see just what would happen so clearly in his mind's eye, he might as well have been right there. Haruhi would exit the building first, having been the first one to leave the music room. Gustave would follow her out, catching her on the stairs and meeting her in the middle. With the sunset on their backs and the wind blowing through their hair, Gustave would greet Haruhi with another sugary compliment. Haruhi would thank him, not knowing any better, and then make small talk. Gustave would go along with it for a minute or so… and then he'd go in for the kill.

Down on one knee, with tears in his eyes, he'd take Haruhi's small hand in his feather light grip. He'd look deep into her eyes, her brown ones finally lighting up with understanding.

"Haruhi, darling Haruhi… would you be my girlfriend?"

And Haruhi would gasp in shock and hold a hand to her mouth as she began to cry as well because she's dreamed of this moment.

"Oh Gustave, I thought you'd never ask."

Then he'd straighten back up and pull her close and capture her with his heated gaze and lean in close, so close that their lips were almost touching, and then-

"NOOOOOOOOOO!"

Tamaki fought for air, taking in hard gasps that hurt his chest and did nothing for his lightheadedness. Everyone left in the room was staring at him, reactions varying between shock and bemusement. Someone was snickering, probably one of the twins. On a better day, Tamaki might have shouted at them for it.

For his part, Kyoya was not amused.

"Well, Tamaki, I'm sorry if having the floors waxed over the weekend upsets you, but it's the school's decision, not mine."

"Wha-" Sweat was pouring down Tamaki's brow. His eyes saw right through Kyoya. Only that door mattered to him right now.

Without another word, he charged at it. Kyoya may have tried to call him back; Tamaki couldn't have cared less. He burst into the hall, ignoring every obstacle in his path, be it person or object or natural disaster, all of which were secondary. His feet squeaked against the floor, and he almost slipped several times before the entrance came into view. Hadn't Kyoya said something about the floor being waxed?

Tamaki threw open the doors. Wind slapped him on the face and blew in his ears as he ran. Standing at the top of the steps, he could see everything.

The limousine parked right in front.

The lights of the cars and city in the distance.

Gustave speaking to Haruhi… stepping closer to her… reaching for her hand.

Tamaki ran.

"Wait!"

Gutsave's and Haruhi's heads snapped around to face him. Tamaki didn't hesitate, even under such sharp gazes, to place himself firmly between them. His back was to Gustave, and his body covered him from Haruhi's view. She was left to stare bewilderedly at him.

"Senpai, what are you doing?" she asked.

Pain shot up Tamaki's arm, like it had been caught in a clamp that was now stabbing him with numerous minuscule knives. It took a moment for him to realize that it was Gustave's hand, and his nails dug into Tamaki's skin hard enough to almost draw blood. Tamaki bit the inside of his cheek so not to make a sound. Haruhi was still waiting for him to say something, but he was unable to come up with a single response that didn't make him look like some kind of jealous idiot.

And the way she was looking at him right now…

'Keep it together,' he told himself harshly. 'Don't worry about Haruhi right now, she's not the one who deserves scorn. She's not the enemy.'

He looked out the corner of his eye, and though he couldn't see Gustave, that hand on his arm hadn't let up and he could hear heavy breathing like that of a bull.

"Tamaki, can I talk to you for a second?"

It was more a command than a question, but Tamaki complied if only to get Gustave as far from Haruhi as possible. Ideally, that would be back in France, but Tamaki would take what he could get for now.

"Just wait right there, Haruhi," Gustave said to Haruhi as he half-walked, half-marched Tamaki away. "I'll be right back."

"Actually, Haruhi," Tamaki called out over him. "This might take some time, a lot of time, in fact. Might be best if you just went home."

"Don't be silly, this won't take long at all!" Gustave was speaking through grit teeth at this point.

"Oh, but I have so much to discuss with you, Gustave!"

"I'm sure we can make it fast!"

"Might take hours!"

"He's kidding! Stay right there, Haruhi!"

"You'd better hurry, Haruhi, or you'll miss your train!"

"If you miss it, I'd be happy to drive you home, Haruhi!"

"NO- no. No, best not take the chance. I'll see you tomorrow, Haruhi!"

"See you in a few minutes, Haruhi!"

"Uhh…"

That was all Tamaki heard from Haruhi before he was pulled out of range. Gustave didn't let go of him until they were all the way across, and then he shoved him.

"What is wrong with you?" he demanded. "I was this close to getting a date and you ruined it!"

"Is that all you care about?" Tamaki shot back, his clenched fists shaking. "Just a date? Haruhi is worth so much more than that."

Gustave sputtered. "Seriously? I'm not marrying her, I just want to take her out. Didn't I just get through telling you about how I've been working on this?"

"Yes, and I should have spoken up before," Tamaki said. "Haruhi doesn't know you nearly well enough to be your girlfriend. Do you really think a week is all you need?"

"There you go jumping to conclusions again!" Gustave slapped a hand to his head, running fingers up, down and across and walking in a circle. "I just wanted to go out with her, I have no idea if the whole 'Boyfriend- Girlfriend' thing is going to happen. Why? Do you want to date Haruhi?"

"No! Don't be ridiculous," Tamaki said, fast and loud so as to avoid having to actually think about what Gustave had asked him.

It was the biggest lie he'd ever told, and no one, especially not Gustave needed to know that.

Not that he seemed to believe it anyway.

"Really?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Because you seem pretty obsessive over me dating her. Would you feel better if I let you have a shot when I'm done with her?"

Tamaki saw red.

He closed the small distance between himself and Gustave and had him by the collar in the time it took to breathe. Gustave was eyelevel with him now, and Tamaki could see every trace of shock and confusion and even fear. His currently sidelined rational side could hardly blame him.

"Don't you ever say that again," Tamaki hissed. "If I didn't know before how unworthy you are of Haruhi's affections, I most certainly do now. You don't even realize how amazing a person she is, do you? You don't even care."

"And you're taking this way too serious," Gustave shot back. He put his hand on Tamaki's wrist, but for the moment, applied no pressure. "Look, maybe I should have worded that better. I meant that if things don't work out between me and Haruhi, then you could give it a shot. I do like her as a person, I wouldn't be trying to date her if I didn't! Now could you please let go of me?"

Tamaki didn't answer, nor did he comply. He was having a hard time staying under control. He burned with the desire to wrap his hands around Gustave's skinny neck and not let go until his face was blue. It was as strong as his anger, and just when it seems nothing could stop it, a little voice rang out.

"Uh… Senpai? Gustave?"

They both froze. Gustave glanced over Tamaki's shoulder while the latter turned his head. Haruhi was right behind him, not two steps away. She was looking over the scene with clear bemusement; it was only a matter of time before she asked. Tamaki's grip weakened, allowing Gustave to slip away from him, then push him aside before he could do anything about it.

Tamaki yelped. Gustave covered it with a laugh.

"It's okay, Haruhi, we're just roughhousing," he said. "You know, guy stuff!"

Haruhi cast a glance at Tamaki, who was momentarily distracted trying to keep from tumbling down the stairs. In that time, Gustave apparently decided that it was time to stop beating around the bush. He cleared his throat and put on a suave smile and took Haruhi by both hands.

"But I've been meaning to ask you, would you be so kind as to accompany me on a date?"

Tamaki could feel the color draining from his face. With it went his breath and his strength and possibly his soul. He was left a powerless, miserable husk of a man, sitting against the metal banister waiting for Haruhi's joyous exclamation.

"You're asking me out?"

…that didn't sound joyous. Actually, that just sounded surprised. Not the good kind either.

"Uh- well, yes."

"Oh," Haruhi said, shaking her head. "Well, thank you, but I'm afraid I don't like you that way, Gustave. I hope we can still be friends."

"Huh?" Tamaki looked up, and he was pretty sure his neck gave a literal squeak from the effort. Or maybe he just imagined that part.

The first thing he noticed was Gustave, stock still with his smile gone. A tiny 'o' replaced it. He had his arms at his sides, elbows slightly bent, like he was about to raise them to the sky and implore Haruhi to give him a chance. He did nothing; he said nothing. If Haruhi expected a response, she was disappointed, and soon turned her attention away from Gustave. Her eyes found Tamaki, who could do nothing at the moment besides shrug his shoulders.

Haruhi paused to say a quick good-bye to Gustave, then walked to him. Tamaki stood tall to meet her, forcing a small smile that spoke of nothing but serenity.

"So, what were you two talking about?" she asked.

Tamaki swallowed. He could still see Gustave at the top of his vision, and reflexively focused on him. He was watching them, looking rather like a cat that had just been drenched in water. His shoulders were slumped, his posture terrible. Any etiquette teacher would have him by the ear if they saw it. Tamaki watched him take a long, deep breath. He said a few words, quietly so that Tamaki almost didn't catch them. It sounded a bit like, 'I guess you really can't win them all.'

Then Gustave climbed the remaining, walked off towards the other end of the building, and was gone.

Tamaki didn't see him go, but the lack of hairs on his neck standing on end told him enough. The danger had passed and Haruhi was safe and he was alone with her.

He was alone.

With her.

And he still hadn't answered her question.

Tamaki sucked in a breath.

"Why, it's just as Gustave said," he said, going straight into Host persona and ready for Haruhi's non-reaction to it. "As fellow countrymen, we enjoy animated discussion of our culture and home lives. Why, it's how we bond!"

Haruhi looked thoughtful. "Really? Because I could have sworn you guys were fighting."

"…psh- No, we weren't fighting!" Tamaki shouted. Without thinking, he draped his arm loosely around Haruhi's shoulders, and somehow she didn't protest. "Silly Haruhi. We- we have nothing to fight about, Gustave and I. He's my friend and we like to tease each other and I'd never be jealous of him!"

A pause.

"I didn't say anything about being jealous."

Tamaki's eyes widened. His arm slipped off and hung at his side.

"I… I meant to say, I'd never fight with him. That's it," he said slowly and with an apologetic grin. "But enough about that, how about getting you home?"

Haruhi looked down at her watch, humming to herself.

"I can probably make it to the train station if I walk really fast," she said. "I think you were right before, Senpai. I shouldn't have stuck around so long."

"It's not your fault," Tamaki said. "But if you like, I can give you a lift. To the train station, that is."

"Well, it's only two blocks away," Haruhi said. Then she shrugged. "I guess it's okay tonight. I don't want to risk being late."

Tamaki laughed. "If that happens, I'll just take you the whole way home!"

"I don't know, Senpai, these limousines of yours aren't the most inconspicuous."

Indeed, the long black car that waited for them stuck out like a sore thumb in her neighborhood. They'd never again taken them after the first time, and Tamaki wondered if they would attract another crowd of commoners should Haruhi miss her train.

She let herself in on the far side, and Tamaki slid in next to her before instructing his driver to head for the station first. The engine came alive, and they pulled away from the school and out through the front gates.

Tamaki found it much easier to talk once they were out on the street. He started with this new cosplay idea that Kyoya had run by him earlier that day, and somehow ended up on a joke that had Haruhi laughing and his heart singing. He loved the sound of her laugh.

He thought of all the times Gustave make some kind of witty comment in an attempt to impress her. Haruhi laughed then too, a subdued chuckle that could never match the sounds she made now.

'Ha! Clearly, I can make Haruhi happier than Gustave ever could. I knew I was the better man.'

Tamaki cracked a triumphant grin. He was on top of the world, sitting beside the woman he loved and knowing once and for all that he was utterly superior in every conceivable way to that foolish, hopeless suitor of hers.

Then, Tamaki really thought that through and his face fell.

'Wow, maybe I am jealous.'