Chapter 16: A day with Kyoya Ootori - Part One

She hadn't let go of his hand for the entire journey into the city.

It was strange, Kyoya mused - glancing down at the space between them where their hands lay on the leather seat, their fingers still interlaced - how this simple act of holding a girls hand had never held any meaning for him on the countless occasions that he had done so before - whether escorting girls from the host club or daughters of his father's business associates to various balls, gala's, or socially advantageous dates. On those occasions it had simply been an act, a gentlemanly gesture to imply affection where none existed, for either party.

And yet, here with Hauhi - her gentle hand entwined with his as she watched the scenery flickering past her window, while he alternated between watching her and allowing his gaze to drift down to their clasped hands, where his thumb was tracing an infinite loop over her delicate skin - he questioned how his imagination could be urging him to believe that he could feel every cell of his skin awaken where it aligned with hers; almost as if the cells themselves were electrified by the merest contact.

Hormones, he rationalised.

His attraction to her was obviously causing an increase in serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin production - all coursing through his system, heightening his emotional and physical response, making the simple act of holding her hand a sudden rollercoaster of sensation; and all the while increasing the attraction he felt for her.

An infinite loop.

He lifted his gaze to regard Haruhi instead. She was smiling as she watched the city sights pass by, completely oblivious to the effect she had on him; but after a moment she must have felt the weight of his gaze as she turned to face him, her smile brightening as her dark eyes met his. They regarded each other in silence for a long moment, Kyoya's eyes tracing her delicate features as if seeing them for the first time, delighting in the faint blush that coloured Haruhi's cheeks as the moment stretched between them; and allowing himself to hope there was a chance she could become entangled in that same loop, with him.

Tachibana cleared his throat, interrupting Kyoya's thoughts and he sighed, reluctantly pulling his gaze away from Haruhi to look towards his driver.

"We're almost there, sir," Tachibana said, glancing back at Kyoya briefly through the rear-view mirror, before returning his attention to the busy city street ahead, "Would you like me to drop you outside, or…."

"No." Kyoya replied, "Thank you Tachibana, but you can drop us at the usual place and we'll walk the rest of the way."

His driver nodded and a moment later pulled over into a small side street, turning off the car and quickly jumping out to open Haruhi's door. She let go of Kyoya's hand as she stepped out onto the kerb, leaving him feeling so suddenly bereft that instead of waiting for Tachibana to come around the car and open the door for him, he slid across the backseat to where Haruhi had been sitting and stepped out beside her, resolutely ignoring the barely suppressed smile that appeared on his driver's face as he closed the door behind them.

"Two hours?" Tachibana asked, glancing back at Kyoya as he pulled open the drivers door again. He was used to this particular weekend outing of Kyoya's, but the introduction of Haruhi to the tradition might impact the usual timing.

Kyoya shook his head, "I'll call you when we're ready to leave."

Tachibana simply nodded, but that strange smile was still lurking on his lips.

"Thanks," Haruhi said, flashing Tachibana such a bright, grateful smile that it had the older man actually grinning as he sat back into the car and drove away.

Kyoya watched the car leave with a thoughtful frown.

"What's wrong?" Haruhi asked, glancing first at Kyoya and then after the car which was just turning a corner and drifting out of sight.

"Nothing," Kyoya said, his frown disappearing the moment he looked at her. He gave a little shrug, "I just don't think I've ever seen him smile before."

"Really?" Haruhi asked, looking up at him in surprise, and then biting her lip in an attempt to hold back a grin, "You must be a real ogre to work for!"

Kyoya opened his mouth to refute that, but then thinking on it he gave a wry smile. "Quite possibly," he said, then he reached down, taking her hand and raising it to his lips where he pressed a gentle kiss against her soft skin, "But it's more likely that the charming company I'm keeping is softening him up."

Haruhi just rolled her eyes at his galant display, but another delightful blush coloured her cheeks as she smiled up at him; and as he lowered her hand she didn't let go, simply wrapped her fingers around his as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and Kyoya felt another spark of hope grow within him.

"Shall we?" Kyoya turned, smiling as he held out his free hand in the opposite direction to the one that Tachibana had taken.

"Sure," Haruhi replied and came to walk by his side, but Kyoya didn't miss the curious glances she cast his way, and at the buildings surrounding them, obviously wondering where he was taking her.

One block later, just as they were entering a part of the city where the skyline was completely overshadowed by towering sky-scrapers on every side - each building emblazoned with the logos of the largest financial and business corporations that ruled the economy of Japan - he stopped.

On the corner where they stood was a small restaurant called Miazaki - an old fashioned structure in the midst of all the glass and steel buildings that surrounded them. The large carved wooden sign above its door - which clashed almost laughably with the more stylish and modern counterparts nearby - was the original, and still bore the proud adage that they served the best coffee in the city.

"The coffee must be really good if you come all this way for it," Haruhi said, a bemused expression crossing her features as she regarded the sign above them.

Kyoya gave a low chuckle, "It is, but it's not the whole reason I come here."

Haruhi turned her confused gaze on him, but instead of elaborating he simply pushed open the restaurant door, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and baking bread wafting over them as he let go of Haruhi's hand, allowing it to rest gently instead on her lower back as he ushered her into the pleasantly cool interior. There were only a few other customers seated within, but thankfully his preferred table by the window was still free. He greeted the barista with a familiar nod as they passed the counter, ignoring the look of surprise on the young man's face as he saw Haruhi with Kyoya.

It was, in truth, the first time he had brought anyone here with him. Even Tamaki, with his almost preternatural ability to stalk Kyoya and turn up where least expected, hadn't found out about this spot. But now, guiding Haruhi on a winding path between vacant tables on the restaurant floor, he found himself feeling strangely unsettled; afraid that she would find it odd that he would choose to come here so often.

Perhaps, he should have taken her somewhere else? He could have booked out the finest restaurant in Tokyo so they would have it all to themselves. Could have had the best chefs cook for them at their table. A string quartet to play…

No. He almost laughed as he imagined the look on Haruhi's face if he had arranged something like that. While most girls might be delighted to be taken to such a place, Haruhi would be more likely to turn on her heel and walk straight back out. That was part of what made her so intriguing to him.

What a strange situation - this almost-first-date between two people who had already spent so much time together and yet still had so much to learn about each other. But wasn't this what he had promised Haruhi? To let her see his life outside of Ouran and the Host Club. And if he was to have any chance to convince her that a relationship with him could work - despite her rational misgivings - he couldn't afford to take half measures, or try to manipulate the outcome.

He led her to the small table by the window that looked out onto the busy city street and pulled out a chair for her to sit, smiling widely as she eyed him askance for the gentlemanly gesture - but she sat anyway, taking off her bag and hanging it from the back of her chair while he moved to sit opposite her.

Her intelligent gaze was flitting around the room as he took his seat, no doubt taking in the simple decor - the colourful, if slightly faded tiled floor with wooden tables and chairs evenly spaced upon it, only a few occupied at this early hour on a weekend. High metal stools lining the counter, where some other customers sat chatting with each other and the barista as they enjoyed their breakfast. A woven folding-screen depicting Mount Fuji in springtime occupied one corner, while simple woodprints and monochromatic kanji art decorated the white walls here and there. Soft music from the radio behind the counter mingled with the clamor of the chefs at work and the customer's low chatter, filling the room with a pleasant background noise.

A puzzled smile formed on Haruhi's lips as she returned her attention to him, but he could tell from the look in her eyes that she liked it here, and he felt himself relax back into his chair a little.

"How did you find this place?" She asked curiously.

It was a reasonable question, it certainly wasn't somewhere that an Ootori would be expected to frequent. In answer Kyoya gestured out the window to the distant skyline and Haruhi looked back over her shoulder in the direction he was pointing - to where the Ootori building towered over the other skyscrapers on a nearby street.

"I often passed this way whenever my father summoned me to his office." Kyoya said with a shrug, "It intrigued me, how a place like this could survive for so long, with so much competition, eventually one day I decided to check it out.

"And? What was so special about it?" Haruhi asked.

"Nothing!" Kyoya said with a quiet laugh, "It survived so long, precisely because it never really changed. As this area became more prosperous and built-up, other restaurants began upgrading and competing to attract the higher-class clientele. Some of those restaurants survived, but most didn't - Miazaki's on the other hand, never tried to compete, and therefore retained the type of customers it had always catered for."

"But you stayed coming here," Haruhi said, with another puzzled glance around the room "There must have been something?"

"Well the coffee really is very good," Kyoya said, but when Haruhi raised an eyebrow in disbelief he laughed and conceded, "But, if I'm to be honest... The day I came here, a number of junior assistants from a rival company of my father's just happened to be having lunch. They were gossiping so loudly that I learned more of that company's operations in thirty minutes than I ever would have with a week of actual research."

He wasn't able to hold back the smirk that grew on his lips as he recalled that day, "It seemed to be a regular gathering spot for local office workers, so, because no one recognised me here, I started coming on a regular basis, as an exercise in information gathering."

Haruhi closed her eyes and shook her head slowly, "Why am I not surprised?" she muttered.

Glancing around at the familiar surroundings, he gave a minute shrug, "But I have to admit, over time, this place just grew on me." As he caught Haruhi's puzzled expression, he explained, "Sometimes it can be too quiet at home, especially since Tamaki can't come round anymore to distract me. I found it easier to concentrate on my school assignments and other work here, so it became my defacto study."

Then Kyoya gave a low chuckle as he admitted. "It also has the added advantage that neither my father or brothers would ever set foot in a place like this; so at least I can avoid them here."

He regretted it the moment he said it as he watched a look, a strange mix of pity and trepidation, sweep over Haruhi's features. She leaned towards him slightly, eyes full of concern, hands betraying her nervousness as she toyed with the edge of the folded menu on the table in front of her,

"I've only seen your father once, when he came to the school. He seemed kind of…" Haruhi swallowed, glancing down at her hands as if unsure what to say, "...intense…"

Kyoya couldn't help but laugh at the description. Intense was certainly one way to describe his father - definitely one of the kinder ways. At the sound of his laughter Haruhi's gaze flickered back up to meet his, her cheeks flushing red with embarrassment and she raised her hands placatingly, no doubt worried she had offended him.

"I'm sorry, Kyoya, it's just that you don't speak about your family very often, but when you do, you seem a little unhappy…" she gave a little shrug, "I guess I just wondered what they were really like?"

Kyoya knew that Haruhi would want - would need - to know about his family, but the thought of trying to explain the inner workings of the Ootori household - a family that prided themselves on being cold and ruthless in business. Parents that only judged their children by their accomplishments. Siblings who were raised to put achievements and merit above love and friendship - how could he explain a family like that to someone like Haruhi - who was honest and selfless, and who, despite losing her mother at such a young age, came from a family filled with love. He could feel a tightness forming in his chest, like a metal band winding around his ribcage as he drew a breath, striving to think of something nonchalant to say.

"Ah, delving into the deep dark Ootori secrets already?" he asked with a forced smile, picking up his menu, "We haven't even eaten yet."

Haruhi was not to be deterred however - all traces of hesitancy fading from her features as they settled into a moue of obstinacy that Kyoya might have found charming, if it wasn't directed at him.

"You were the one that implied that your family might not approve of me, so don't I deserve to know what I would be up against?" She asked pointedly, throwing the words down as a challenge, "And you did say if I came with you today that I could ask you whatever I liked and that you wouldn't hide anything from me. Or are you reneging on that?"

Of course not, but he would have liked to have spent a little more time enjoying Haruhi's company and convincing her of his own merit, before discussing his family and their elitist behaviour - which held the distinct possibility of turning her off the idea of being with him at all. But as distasteful as that thought was; he was a man of his word, and he had promised her the truth.

"I imagined that we would have started with something a little easier," Kyoya said dryly, dropping the menu back onto the table and folding his arms over his chest, "Like favorite colours or some other normal dating trivia."

For some reason Haruhi's face lit up into a triumphant smile.

"What?" he asked, startled by her sudden change in demeanour.

"You always cross your arms like that, just when you're about to give in." She said, her smile widening as he glanced down at his folded arms in consternation.

"I most certainly do not." Kyoya retorted, hastily unwinding his arms and resting his hands on the table instead.

Although, now that he thought about it, he may recall falling into that posture on the many occasions that Tamaki had nagged him into agreeing to some ridiculous event or other, despite Kyoya's overwhelming lack of interest in it.

He threw Haruhi a half-hearted glare of acknowledgement, "And you say you don't know me," he grumbled, annoyed that he had such an obvious tell and yet impressed that Haruhi had spotted it.

Haruhi simply grinned, her brown eyes focused solely on his, and alight with curiosity, and for a moment Kyoya's breath caught in his throat as he regarded her, marvelling at how he could have been so oblivious for so long, not to have seen how beautiful she was. It seemed so obvious to him now. He sighed, ruefully succumbing to the knowledge that he couldn't keep any secrets from her, even about his family, not if he wanted her to keep looking at him like that.

But, how to begin?

They were interrupted at that moment, to Kyoya's relief, by the arrival of the waiter, who stood hovering by their table with a polite but expectant smile on his face and a notepad and pen in his hands.

"I will have an espresso, and some okonomiyaki," Kyoya said absentmindedly, giving the same order he always placed when he came here, then he gestured to Haruhi, "and please get the lady whatever she would like."

Haruhi didn't even glance at the menu, too busy trying to read Kyoya's expression, "Um, I'll have the same but with tea, please?" she said, smiling gratefully up at the waiter, who was scribbling the order down.

Once the waiter left she returned her attention to Kyoya and an awkward silence grew between them, until a slow smile dawned on Haruhi's lips.

"How about a deal?" she asked, mirroring Kyoya's posture as she lay her hands on the table's edge and regarded him speculatively.

"What kind of deal?" He asked cautiously.

"If you answer three of my questions about you or your family, I'll answer one of yours about anything you like." she offered graciously, in a manner completely befitting her title of "the natural" in the host club.

"Three for one? That hardly seems fair," Kyoya replied, but he couldn't deny that he was intrigued.

"Ah, but I'm already at a disadvantage, as you've been getting information from my father ever since I joined the host club." Haruhi argued with a grin, and in that moment Kyoya could almost envision the lawyer she would become, "So, surely this just evens the playing field?"

She had a point, Ranka certainly had been very forthcoming with information about his "precious little girl" when she had first joined the club. Although, now that things had changed between Kyoya and Haruhi, he doubted that Ranka would be quite so candid in future.

"Fine," Kyoya said with a defeated sigh, "Ask away."

Haruhi grinned, "What's your favorite colour?" she asked quickly.

Kyoya gave a surprised laugh - trust Haruhi to try to put him at ease, "Right now? A very particular shade of lilac," he replied, relaxing slightly even though he knew what was coming next.

"What's your family like?" Haruhi asked in the same breath.

"Complicated," Kyoya said, with a grim smile.

Haruhi rolled her eyes, "Everyone's family is complicated, Kyoya. You don't hold the patent on that." She leaned back in her chair, regarding him carefully as if conducting an interview. "Okay, what's your father like?"

Kyoya took a deep breath, staring out the window towards the highest floor of the Ootori tower, where his father's office looked out over the city. He could picture the man clearly in his mind's eye, almost as if Kyoya were standing before his imposing office desk, receiving one of his many lectures on why Kyoya was not living up to his expectations.

"He's….Ingenious. Focused. Ruthless when it comes to business...," he said, and after a moment's thought he added quietly, "...and unrelenting when it comes to his family."

Haruhi must have seen some of his discomfort as she leaned towards him slightly, one hand reaching out as if she was going to rest it on top of his - but Kyoya suddenly felt too exposed, unused to speaking so openly like this. He lifted his hands away, straightening his jacket unnecessarily, before resting them back on the tables edge a little further out of Haruhi's reach.

She, of course, saw straight through his actions, simply lowering her hand again as she smiled apologetically at him, and suddenly he felt like an idiot for his reaction. Why did his composure always seem to forsake him when he was around her lately?

"He has a brilliant mind," Kyoya continued quickly, to cover his embarrassment, "When my grandfather died, my father hadn't even graduated university - but he took over the Ootori Healthcare business nonetheless, and built it into the empire it is today. He works harder than anyone I have ever met…" he chuckled darkly, "In fact, I think he much prefers being at work than being at home."

Haruhi winced, and Kyoya smiled wryly, "Honestly, I think we all prefer it too." He assured her, "He is a consummate perfectionist and expects nothing less from his family, especially his sons." He sighed ruefully, "It can be tiring, constantly striving to meet his standards - more so when we're constantly pitted against each other."

Haruhi's expression had paled, the sympathy in her eyes now almost palpable, and Kyoya bristled to see it there; his pride stung as if she might consider him weak. He gave an indifferent shrug, "There's no need to look so concerned, Haruhi. I'm used to it. It's a game we Ootori's are born to play."

"Why do you do that?" Haruhi asked, a frown creasing her forehead as she shook her head in frustration, "Why do you act like nothing bothers you, when I can see that it does? Is it a crime for an Ootori to show he has feelings?"

Kyoya swallowed thickly but didn't answer, unsure of what to say. He was so used to hiding his true thoughts and emotions that it was unnerving for someone to see through them so clearly. The Ootori family was one that was to be envied certainly, even feared, but pitied?

The waiter returned with their order, but seemed to read the tense silence between the pair seated there, expertly placing their food and drinks on the table before them, and then silently melting away again without a word.

"I believe it's my turn." Kyoya said, more than eager to change the subject, "What made you want to come to Ouran? After all, there were plenty of other elite schools that had open scholarships; so why only apply to Ouran Academy?"

Haruhi shrugged, "Lots of reasons. The teachers and facilities were excellent, plus more graduates from Ouran get into the law program at Tokyo university than any other academy."

She toyed with her chopsticks for a moment before admitting, "But it was really for my Dad. Ouran is still really close to home so I can be back in time to make dinner for him and make sure he gets some rest."

She blushed as if this were something to be embarrassed about, but Kyoya was once again amazed at her selflessness - and thankful that circumstances had worked out the way they had. Otherwise she would not have wandered into the host club on that fateful day, and he might never have met her.

Haruhi picked up her tea, a thoughtful expression on her face as she blew gently over the surface to cool it, before taking a sip. "What about your Mom?" she asked as she rested the cup back on the table, and separated her chopsticks to taste her breakfast.

"Ah my Mother," Kyoya said with an admiring smile, "She's beautiful and charming, and far smarter than most people think she is. In fact, I think that's why my father married her." He sipped his own coffee, relishing the jolt of caffeine it gave before continuing, "They make a formidable team - while he runs the company, she socialises and entertains his business partners and their spouses, gathering all the little tidbits of gossip that fall from careless lips and relaying it back to my father."

Haruhi's eyes widened as she picked at her food, and Kyoya felt his heart sink as he realised that he had just described his own mother more as a business partner to his father than as a parental figure to her children. He scrambled to think of some anecdote that would paint her in a more maternal light, but before he could even admit defeat, Haruhi had her next question lined up.

"You have two brothers?" She asked, taking another bite as she regarded him thoughtfully.

Kyoya sighed, feeling as if this interrogation was going badly enough without having to discuss his brothers too.

"I do. Both older than I am and already working for my father." he said finally, "Yuichi is the eldest, he's just graduated medical school and works at the Ootori private hospital here in the city." He waved vaguely out the window in the general direction of the hospital, "Akito is a year younger than him, he studied medicine as well, but works directly for my father."

Haruhi smiled softly, "I always wanted siblings. Are you and your brothers close?

Kyoya felt his heart squeeze at the wistfulness in Haruhi's voice, and wished he could tell her that they were.

"Not really." He said reluctantly, "Yuichi is okay, if perhaps a little boring to talk to. I guess he annoys me a little - he's so confident of inheriting the corporation when father retires, but he shows little interest in the business itself."

"Akito on the other hand..." Kyoya shook his head, grimacing slightly, "Akito is a pain. Perfectly content to be second in command, he lacks any ambition to try to take on the mantle of leader. But he certainly loves scrutinizing everything I do, just in case I might forget my place as third son."

"Oh, I see," Haruhi said faintly, and then to Kyoya's amazement she smiled brightly at him, "Then I'm glad that you found Tamaki and the others in the host club. That you've each had someone to support you and cheer you on."

"Well Tamaki is like a one-man cheerleading squad." Kyoya laughed, "But I have my sister, Fuyumi, too." He shook his head despairingly, but a fond smile played on his lips, "She and Tamaki are like two peas in a pod. Infuriating, overbearing and overly enthusiastic about the most ridiculous things! And both equally determined to organize my life for me, whether I want them to, or not."

Haruhi smiled softly, "She sounds nice,"

"She is," Kyoya nodded, "and I think she would really like you."

In fact Kyoya knew she would. Fuyumi was the one Ootori who had never held any elitist views towards commoners - himself included, he thought with a twinge of chagrin - but more than that, Fuyumi would love anyone that made Kyoya happy, and Haruhi definitely fell into that category.

Now, if only he could tell if Haruhi felt the same.

"And that's it, the whole Ootori clan," Kyoya said, with a sigh of relief, "The good, the bad and the shadow king."

Haruhi giggled, and Kyoya felt as if a weight had fallen from his shoulders. The worst was over and Haruhi was still sitting there, calmly eating her breakfast. So if telling her about his family hadn't sent her running for the hills, then perhaps she hadn't completely dismissed the thought of going out with him?

They sat in silence for a little while, Haruhi obviously enjoying her breakfast while Kyoya merely toyed with his food as he watched her, wondering what thoughts were running through her head and whether he featured in any of them. He was still owed a question for all the ones she had asked, but the only one he was interested in, was how she felt about him, and somehow his pride refused to let him find the words.

"Do you miss the host club?" He asked eventually.

"Of course!" Haruhi said, looking up in surprise, "Don't you?"

"Not especially." he said, Haruhi regarded him in shock and he held up a placating hand, "Don't get me wrong, I certainly miss hanging out with everyone, I even miss the music room and organising the events. But I don't miss dealing with the "princesses" and all the drama that came with it."

Haruhi nodded in acknowledgement; she had certainly been drawn into enough of that drama herself. "I had just hoped that if Tamaki was formally accepted as the Suoh heir, then he might be allowed to have the host club back. It is his last year in Ouran after all, yours too. It would have been nice to have the club back together, even if it was only for a little while." she said with a rueful smile.

Kyoya nodded, surprised at the sudden sadness that filled him at the thought of leaving the academy.

"Where are you planning on going, when you leave Ouran?" She asked, as if she could read his thoughts..

"I'm not quite sure yet." He said hesitantly, "I have applied to a number of universities. Tohoku and Kyoto of course, but I had also considered studying abroad, perhaps in Harvard. They have excellent business courses there."

"Harvard? That's amazing!" Haruhi beamed, "With your scores, you'll definitely get in!"

Of course he would. Getting accepted to Harvard was hardly the issue. It was more the fact that the thought of studying abroad wasn't quite as appealing as it had been only a few months ago, not if it meant leaving Haruhi behind, just when she had come to mean so much to him. But Haruhi seemed completely unaffected by the thought of his leaving for a foreign university - could that mean she had already decided against a relationship with him? Or had hearing about his family affected her more than it seemed?

Suddenly his pride seems to melt away as the need to know how she felt surpassed everything else.

"Haruhi," he said quietly, and she looked up in surprise at his serious tone, "I know that you said you wanted some time to think on things," he smiled ruefully, "And I know that my family may sound a little daunting, and that I will be leaving Ouran next year - but I just want… I need... you to know that I really do care for you - quite a bit; and I was hoping that you might have reconsidered…"

Haruhi was biting her lip against a smile that was struggling to break free and Kyoya fell silent, feeling as if she was about to laugh at him. His fears soon came to pass as her hand snapped up to cover her mouth, a giggle bursting free from her hidden lips, and Kyoya felt the strange and unwelcome feeling of a blush staining his cheeks.

"Oh Kyoya, I'm sorry!" Haruhi said contritely, letting her hand fall as she pressed her lips together to suppress her laughter. Kyoya felt his heart sink, an unfamiliar sense of defeat washing over him, but then she pushed her dish to one side and leaned over the table, placing her cool hand against his heated cheek, and meeting his eyes with a soft gaze that left his heart standing still in his chest.

"I'm sorry," she repeated, all signs of laughter now gone, but a gentle smile still playing on her lips, "I've thought about it so much since last night that I felt as if it had to be written all over my face," She said quietly, "but I guess I'm a bit of an idiot when it comes to actually telling people how I feel." Her eyes met his steadily, and suddenly Kyoya felt as if he had been blind not to have seen the emotions that shone there.

"I like you, Kyoya Ootori...quite a bit." she laughed gently, echoing his words, "And yes, some of your family do sound really intimidating, and they will probably hate me." She grimaced a little at the thought, but then her smile shone through again, "And of course you will be leaving for university - but wherever you go I will be rooting for you... because I care about you... and I'm willing to take a chance on us, if you are?"

Kyoya felt a strange lightness spreading throughout his body as her words washed over him. Her hand still rested against his cheek, her skin so soft he couldn't help but lean into her touch as if to ground himself against the cascade of relief flooding through his system. His eyes never leaving her dark gaze, he raised his hand to rest it over hers, holding it against his cheek for a moment longer, before wrapping his fingers gently around her wrist as he turned his face a little to press a kiss against her palm.

That simple gesture was enough to reduce Haruhi from the eloquent creature she had been a moment before, to a flustered mess. Her cheeks flamed scarlet as she pulled her hand away from his, and sat back in her chair. Someone at another table gave a muffled snort of laughter, and, although Kyoya wouldn't have believed it possible, her blush darkened further as she glanced around the room, ducking her head in mortification as she realised that a few of the older customers were watching them with knowing - but indulgent smiles - before politely looking away again.

For once in his life, Kyoya didn't care who might be watching him, as he reached across the table, cupping his hand beneath Haruhi's chin and tilting it gently up till her eyes met his once more. She could barely look at him, her cheeks still flushed with embarrassment as she bit her lower lip nervously, but in that moment, she had never looked as beautiful.

He traced the line of her mouth with one fingertip, gently freeing her trapped lip as she stared at him in consternation. Then unable to help himself, he closed the distance between them and pressed his lips against hers. He had thought to claim just one brief kiss, but as always, Haruhi surprised him, her hand coming up to cup his cheek as her lips moved in concert with his for one long blissful moment, before she pulled away, pressing her fingers against her lips as if surprised by her actions.

Kyoya smiled widely as he regarded her while an answering smile grew behind her shielding fingers, and suddenly Kyoya felt restless, eager to spend more time with Haruhi away from the confines of their little table, and this restaurant with it's somewhat nosy patrons.

Glancing out the window at the sunny day outside, he turned back to Haruhi with a smile.

"How would you feel about a walk?" he asked.