“Kyouya.” Tamaki shouldn’t talk, he should not, but Haruhi was not surprised that he was trying. She did not try to stop him; these were his last words. “Kyouya, please take care of Haruhi and the baby for me.”
There was a flash of something in Kyouya’s dark eyes, but it was gone before she could recognize it. “Aah.” He nodded, solemn, kneeling beside Tamaki’s bed. “I will. I promise.”
Tamaki smiled, and it would be brilliant if not for the blood speckled on his lip. “Thank you.” He half-closed his eyes, and Haruhi thought that her heart might stop.
‘No, no, not yet,’ she thought, or perhaps she prayed.
Tamaki turned towards her, and Haruhi choked back a sob when she saw how hard he was trying to smile for her. Her heart broke a little more, spider-web lines widening further.
“Haruhi,” Tamaki said, and his voice was strong, so strong. “Haruhi, I love you.”
She closed her eyes when he coughed harshly into his hand, one-twice-thrice, but she could not shut her ears and block the hollow sound of his lungs. She opened them again, blinking away tears as she fought to speak past the clump in her throat.
“I…” She swallowed, biting down on her lower lip hard enough to draw blood. “I love you too, Tamaki.”
The joy in his eyes at those words was a sight to behold, and Haruhi wondered why she did not say them more often. His smile widened, and she did not turn away.
“I’m… really happy–” he coughed again, and Haruhi thought she could hear a choked half-sob from Kyouya, “–to hear that.”
His right hand rose, stroking her cheek once, smearing blood everywhere. Her grip around his other hand tightened, and she choked back a sob to smile a tear-streaked smile at him.
Tamaki closed his eyes.
Haruhi thought she might have screamed his name. Is that why her voice felt so hoarse? Is that why her ears were ringing, so much that she couldn’t hear anything except Tamaki’s last words, repeating themselves endlessly into her ears?
The day of Suoh Tamaki’s funeral is a grey one. The sky is full of dark clouds, heavy with rain, but there is no thunder and so Haruhi does not care about the weather. Her hands are folded in front of her, flat against the front of her abdomen.
The priest is rambling on and on about Tamaki’s various achievements and Haruhi fails to suppress a bitter smile. What does this man know about Tamaki’s accomplishments? How ridiculous.
“He would’ve hated this,” a voice murmurs beside her, low and soft and bland. Haruhi looks upwards to see Kyouya staring at the sky. His face is expressionless, his eyes blank, and Haruhi can’t help but wonder if this is affecting him at all.
She nods mutely in reply, eyes fixed on the black, elaborately decorated coffin in the front. Tamaki would have wanted something simple, not this pompous occasion full of crocodile tears and people who don't know him at all.
Perhaps she is simply bitter.
The funeral ends and Haruhi realizes that none of what was said has registered. Hikaru and Kaoru aren’t there – they are in France, for a fashion show – and she doubts that they have heard of it. Honey-senpai and Mori-senpai are ambassadors, and can’t return in time. Of the now-defunct Ouran Host Club, only she herself and Kyouya are here.
Tamaki would cry if he knew of this. Haruhi closes her eyes and does not smile.
“Haruhi.” A hand lands on her shoulder, and she starts, just a little. “I intend to keep my promise.”
Something cool lands on her hand, and she can only stare. It is a ring, a beautiful one, with a band of gold winding around two bands of silver, tying them together. She looks up into Kyouya’s eyes and meets the impenetrable wall of Kyouya’s glasses, reflecting off the light.
“What…” she starts to say, but Kyouya is shaking his head, a finger on his lips. His gloves are wet. He ushers her into his car and she is too dazed to fight him.
“The best way to take care of both you and the child,” Kyouya speaks the moment the car door closes, and his voice is so calm, so emotionless, “is to marry you. I keep my promises, Haruhi.” Here, he gives her an incomprehensible look, “Will you marry me?”
She wants to laugh and so she does, folding herself into half, loud, hysterical laughter escaping from her lips. She closes her hand around the ring and does not remove Tamaki’s ring from her finger.
“What merit will it give you, Kyouya-senpai, if I marry you?” she asks, still laughing.
“None. This is what Tamaki would have wanted,” he replies, and Haruhi hears the unspoken I’m doing this for Tamaki without any effort. She calms, leaning back against the seat and placing a hand on her still-flat stomach.
“Why shouldn’t I?” She shrugs and ignores the nagging voice at the back of her mind, the one telling her that no, this is wrong and you shouldn’t. “Yes, I will marry you.” ‘This is what Tamaki would have wanted,’ she thinks, willing herself to believe it. She wonders why this is so difficult.
‘We’re doing this for Tamaki,’ Haruhi thinks, and wonders why she feels like she is lying to herself.
Fujioka Haruhi marries Ohtori Kyouya a month after Tamaki's funeral in a private wedding with only their (few) friends and family. The media goes into frenzy about to the rushed, quiet wedding, but there is no huge scandal, for Tamaki has been rather discreet (he might be the Suoh heir then, but his grandmother disapproved. Tamaki had always tried so hard, so very hard, to please his grandmother), and no one knows of the baby except the members of the now long-defunct Host Club.
She wears a white wedding dress and her evening gown is black silk. Both are the colours of mourning in different cultures, this Haruhi knows, and she half-smiles and half-laughs at how appropriate that is.
Her father leads her down the aisle and gives her to Kyouya, and she tries her hardest not to hear his quiet sobs. He knows why she is doing this, why she is marrying Kyouya (Tamaki would have wanted this), but he tries to stop her nonetheless. Haruhi does not wish to be stopped.
Hikaru and Kaoru look angry and confused at the wedding, and Haruhi can almost see the harsh why are you doing this? and don’t you love Tamaki? in their eyes. She can hear the accusations that they threw at her when she first announced that she was marrying Kyouya, but she ignores them with the ease of practice. She does not wish to hear.
Kyouya takes her hand and speaks his vows like a robot. Haruhi closes her eyes and pretends that it is Tamaki beside her, even though Kyouya’s voice is just a shade higher-pitched, even though Tamaki would be quivering with excitement instead of standing ramrod straight. Tamaki’s eyes would be staring into hers, filled with tears and she would have wanted to laugh at him instead of wanting to cry again.
“With the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife,” the priest says, and Haruhi does not smile. There are no applause, no claps, only deafening silence and stifling disapproval and quiet disbelief as Kyouya cups her face with his hands, pulling her towards him and kisses her gently on the cheek.
She opens her eyes and sees the frustration and displeasure in Mori-senpai and Honey-senpai’s eyes. She sees Hikaru and Kaoru’s clenched fists and tightened lips and glares. She sees her father’s tears and Ohtori Yoshio’s deep frown, his lips pressed into a line. She sees all this, and she wonders idly, bemusedly, what they are all so upset about.
This is what Tamaki would want, isn’t it?
“He looks like Tamaki” are the first words out of Kyouya’s mouth the moment he lays eyes on the child. He is neither looking at her nor the baby; instead, his eyes seem to be fixed on an empty spot of the room, staring so hard as if he’s trying to see something that isn’t there.
“Aah,” Haruhi replies, stroking a hair down the blond fuzz around her son’s head, staring in wonder at his cloudy blue-violet eyes.
Her son cries exuberantly, loudly without holding back anything and she feels her heart break impossibly more. Here, here is what Tamaki has given her, and the gift feels like a thousand knives stabbing into her heart and a blessing beyond words at the same time.
Tamaki should be here, not me Kyouya does not say but Haruhi hears anyway, and she closes her eyes and holds her son closer to her chest. In the blur of her tears, she can almost – almost! – imagine that Tamaki is standing on her right just as Kyouya is standing rod-straight on her left.
Then Tamaki's child cries even harder, and the illusion dissipates even as Haruhi holds out a futile hand, trying to catch it.
‘Tamaki should be here,’ she thinks, dully, and the first liquids into the child’s mouth are her tears.
It is two months after her son's birth that Haruhi finds Kyouya coming home at four in the morning, drenched with rain from walking to the main house from the shrine that he built for Tamaki almost a year ago.
He smells of incense and there is grass on the knees of his pressed business suit, but his eyes and face are as expressionless as they have been since Tamaki died. He places his briefcase on the table and sits, looking at her as she stares at her tea. She cannot sleep, for every time she closes her eyes she sees Tamaki's smile and Tamaki's eyes, and it is like rubbing salt over an open wound.
The shrine does not help. Kyouya goes to it every night, almost religiously, and he comes back smelling of memories and the cloying scent of sandalwood incense. Every night Haruhi thinks of Tamaki, and she mourns all over again.
And suddenly she feels tired, exhausted to her bones. Tired of playing this façade of Ohtori Kyouya’s wife when she is not, not in the ways that matter. Tired of all the whispers, all the stares. Tired of grieving, of seeing Tamaki’s face behind her eyelids whenever she closes her eyes. Tired of feeling a mixture of joy and sorrow whenever she sees her son face – he reminds her too much of his father. Tired of not being able to look at Tamaki's portrait without wanting to cry. Tired of this high-society life that constrains her every movement. Tired of dreaming of Tamaki's touches when she dreams. Tired of… everything.
She does not know what she is doing when she leans forward and kisses Kyouya, hard and harsh, biting down on his bottom lip until he gasps with pain, opening his mouth. Her mind is in a haze when she presses her body to his, hands clenching around his wet silk shirt as he stares at her, confused.
“I’m your wife, aren’t I? Tamaki told you to take care of me, didn’t he?” she hears herself ask, and wonders at why her voice is so choked, so harsh. “Then take care of me, damnit. I want to forget. Forget everything. Just…” she lets her head fall onto his shoulder, inhaling the smell of the rain and wet grass. “I don’t want to think any more. Help me, please.”
Kyouya’s arms wrap themselves around her waist and he pulls her close, “Alright,” he says, and Haruhi tries her best to pretend that there are emotions in that low voice.
He carries her to bed and lays her down to it, unbuttoning her nightgown slowly, gently. It is almost like Tamaki's hands on her clothes, slowly undressing her, but Tamaki's hands were never this cold, never this efficient, never this clinical.
She pulls his head down and kisses him again, and he kisses back, but there is something missing, something so major that kissing him feels so wrong. “Hurry up,” she orders, because she is doing this to forget about Tamaki (just for a while, not for forever, never for forever), isn’t she? She must not make any comparisons, because Kyouya is not Tamaki, and he never will be.
But she can’t help but close her eyes when he enters her, slow and hesitant like Tamaki always was. He moves, and Haruhi clutches one of his sleeves with a hand. It is wet with rain, and she thinks that she can imagine that this is Tamaki, and they’re recklessly having sex in the outdoors, after a light rain, and that she isn’t at Kyouya’s house, in his bed, but instead back at the Suoh mansion, in the beautiful gardens.
She opens her eyes and turns away, refusing to meet Kyouya’s even as her hand slides into his hair, catching wet strands. She closes her eyes again, and, for half a second and half an eternity, she thinks that the hair beneath her fingers is blond and not black, that those flat, dead black eyes staring at her are violet, filled with love and emotion and everything that Haruhi has never bothered to name.
But then she blinks her tears away, and the illusion leaves (Tamaki left), and all she has left are bittersweet memories and a man who is only her husband by name, who is moving in her mechanically, as if he is moving on automatic, whose hands on her breasts are cold. There is no pleasure, no pain, and she can feel nothing no matter how hard she tries.
‘I can’t pretend,’ Haruhi thinks, and she sobs brokenly because this is a mistake, she should not have done this, but she is desperate and she just wants to forget because it is hard to always remember Tamaki's eyes and Tamaki's smile. It’s too much and too little and she is so very confused, so much that she is making excuses to herself when she doesn’t need to.
“I’m sorry,” she manages to choke out, tears coursing down her cheeks, “but can you leave, please?”
Kyouya nods and, without a word, he pulls out of her, dresses and leaves the room for his own, just next to hers. He does not meet her eyes even once.
Haruhi turns and buries her head into the pillow and cries, sobbing as quietly as she can because Kyouya needs his sleep, he has a meeting tomorrow. She feels dirty, tainted, and she wonders how she can face Tamaki's portrait tomorrow, how she can face herself tomorrow. She wonders how any apology, no matter how profuse or sincere, will suffice.
She thinks she cries herself to sleep that night.
It is too late at night (or perhaps it is too early in the morning) and Kyouya has been at the shrine too long, and she knows that he hasn’t slept in days. The house is too quiet, and Haruhi goes to the shrine to find him not because she has any real wish to, but because if she stays in this house any longer, this house where the silence and the grief is so oppressive that she can feel it physically choking her, she will go insane.
‘Well, more insane than I already am, anyway,’ she thinks, and has to suppress a bitter chuckle.
She walks down the open trail, the pointed pebbles pressing painfully into her bare feet. It is almost like walking on a path of knives to see a God, she catches herself thinking, and she smirks at the imagery. ‘Is this why Kyouya had this built?’ she wonders.
It isn’t long before she is in front of the shrine. She doesn’t visit often, though Kyouya visits every day, after working almost thirteen hours a day. The sight of the shrine itself, the walls, the roof and pillars of pure white marble and its windows that are gilded with gold, the sight of the many, many pictures of Tamaki inside, of the lock of blond hair placed in front of the huge portrait, the smell of sandalwood incense that has been burning ever since the shrine is built… everything reminds her of Tamaki, and the spike of memories are always so painful that she feels as if she has been stabbed in the heart repeatedly.
She doesn’t know why Kyouya built this. She doesn’t know why he chooses to visit everyday, sometimes staying up to three hours in that small building, surrounded by ghosts of Tamaki’s memory. She knows that if she goes in there as often as he does she would have gone mad a long time ago.
‘It might explain his work habits,’ she thinks, a mirthless smile appearing on her lips.
The shrine’s door is built to the image of that of the Third Music Room, with the same engravings and the same pure gold doorknob. Sometimes, when she is too tired and has cried too much that day, she will stand in front of this door and pretends that if she opens it, time will turn backwards and Tamaki will be holding a new ridiculous outfit out for her to wear. She pretends that she is fifteen once more, young and jaded instead of twenty-three and miserable, and that her friends have not changed.
The illusions never last long.
She opens the door now, pushing it open as quietly as she can. The silence is oppressive, stifling, but she is afraid of breaking it.
“You don’t have to worry, Tamaki,” Kyouya is saying, and his voice is so flat, so emotionless that Haruhi chokes back a gasp. He is kneeling in front of Tamaki’s portrait, head bowed so that his hair is covering his eyes. “I’m keeping my promise to take care of Haruhi and your son. You don’t have to worry.” Here, his voice hitches a little, and Haruhi is ashamed of her relief. Sometimes, she thinks that her husband is not human, that she has married a robot for all the emotions he has shown.
“I will work even harder to take care of them,” Kyouya continues, “so they will never have anything wanting. I will try my best to fulfil all of their needs and wants, Tamaki, so you don’t have to worry.”
Haruhi steps into the room, resolutely refusing to look at any of the pictures of Tamaki or any of the other mementos. She can’t believe that Kyouya believes that Tamaki would want him to… “Do you really think that Tamaki will want you to work yourself to death, Kyouya-senpai?” she asks, staring at the back of his head. “Tamaki wouldn’t want you to do this.”
Kyouya turns away, staring at a nondescript spot on the floor. She can’t see his eyes; they are hidden by his hair. “Tamaki isn’t here,” he whispers, voice so soft, so low, so choked that Haruhi has to strain her ears to catch it. “It is because he isn’t here that I’m doing this.”
“Is that why…” she starts to say, but she cuts herself off, for there is a voice at the back of her head, a voice that she has been ignoring for a long time now. A voice that is telling her, ‘See this, see it, damn you! Stop being so blind and see!’ and Haruhi blinks.
One of Kyouya’s hands is clenched into a fist, and she looks towards the portrait. The lock of hair isn’t there. He is biting his lip so hard that she can see blood on a corner, and though his breathing is soft, it is harsh, as if he is trying… trying…
Suddenly, Haruhi sees. She sees, and she thinks, ‘Why didn’t I notice? Why hasn’t anyone noticed?’ She takes a deep, shuddering breath, and wonders what she should do. She closes her eyes, and decides to obey her that voice – her instincts – that she has been ignoring for far too long.
“Kyouya-senpai,” she finally says, looking towards him with something like a mixture of sympathy and raw despair. “How long have you been in love with Tamaki?”
Kyouya does not speak, does not move. His hand clenches tighter around that lock of blond hair. He turns away from her, head bowing further so she can’t see his eyes. His body is tense, so tense, and Haruhi knows she is right.
She is smiling, a small, broken smile, and she doesn’t know why. She takes another deep breath, wiping her eyes when she realises that her vision is blurring.
Stepping forward, she speaks again, “'Kyouya-senpai... have you ever told Tamaki that you were... no, that you are in love with him?”
“No,” he says, and his voice isn’t quivering. He sounds curt, flat, and almost – almost – like how he has been this past year.
“Why not?” she asks, and surprises herself by realising that she wants to know, that she does not mind, that she isn’t angry.
How can she be?
“Because he loves you,” he turns to her suddenly, and she can see his eyes now. There is this fierce light in them, an intensity that makes Haruhi wants to smile and weep at the same time.
It’s been too long since Kyouya looked so very alive.
“You don’t understand,” he growls at her. He stands up, stalking towards her, his hands coming on grip onto her shoulders painfully. His nails, though blunt, dig into skin. His head is bowed, however, his hair falling across his face to cover his eyes. “He loved you, Haruhi, and I daresay he still loves you now, wherever he is. The one he loves is always you. I’m his best friend. It’s inappropriate enough of me to have fallen in love with him, much less telling him about this. I…” He turned towards Tamaki’s portrait again, and it is almost as if his eyes are involuntarily drawn towards it.
“Kyouya-senpai,” she says again, smiling at him gently, serenely, despite the pain on her shoulders, despite the pain she feels just standing in this room full of memories. She wonders if this is how he feels, every single time he visits. “Kyouya-senpai, have you ever tried to grieve for your own sake? We must move on, and I’m trying my best to.” Her breath hitches. “I’m not saying that we should forget Tamaki, never that. But, senpai… Tamaki wouldn’t have wanted this,” she sweeps her arm out, indicating towards the shrine, towards everything that has happened ever since Tamaki died. Towards everything that has fallen apart after Tamaki’s death.
Kyouya lifts his head and she can see that she has been wrong, so very wrong. His eyes aren’t expressionless now, they are filled with something that Haruhi has never tried to give a name to, something that she knows is in her own eyes when she thinks of Tamaki’s eyes, Tamaki’s smile, and perhaps even how he used to wake her early in the morning so she can take him to this place and that. Something she feels whenever she thinks of Tamaki.
Grief. Despair. Love.
“Kyouya-senpai…” she whispers, stepping closer to envelop him into a hug. She wraps her arms around his chest and he does not pull away. He clutches her like a lifeline and Haruhi can feel him shake, can hear him whispering “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” into her shoulder over and over again and she does not say ‘I forgive you’ because those words are not hers to say. She feels tears soak into her nightgown, feels her own chest tightening painfully and she closes her eyes, burying her face into Kyouya’s chest.
‘We must look pathetic,’ she thinks cynically, and she laughs, just a little, at the thought. She laughs and she weeps, and Kyouya is staring at her as if she is mad, as if she has lost what little remains of her sanity. Haruhi simply shakes her head and smiles, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand even though she knows it is a useless effort. She can’t see him properly through her tears, but she thinks that she can see a smile in there.
Kyouya, beside her, suddenly leans forward, placing that lock of hair in his hand back on the mantelpiece. He is smiling, Haruhi finds, a small, genuine smile that looks so very strange around his lips.
It has been more than a year since she has seen him truly smile, since Tamaki was taken to the hospital for the first time.
She lets Kyouya go, releases him and steps back. He nods at her, gratitude in his eyes, before he walks towards to the portrait. Haruhi can hear him, even though she doesn’t try to, and he is saying, “I’m sorry I did such a bad job of keeping my promise, and I’ll try my best to do a proper job this time. I’m sorry for never telling you that I love you – I think that you already know anyway –” he steps forward a little more, and his voice lowers into a whisper, “–but I’ll never be sorry for falling for you.”
Kyouya closes his eyes, and Haruhi can see his shoulders shaking as his hands clench into fists. She walks forward and hugs him again, pressing her forehead between his shoulder blades, “You don’t have to apologise for that, Kyouya-senpai,” she whispers. “Nobody ever needs to apologise for loving Tamaki.”
He turns to her and meets her eyes, and there are no shields, no masks, and she knows that this, this is the real Kyouya that Tamaki was always allowed to see. She smiles at him, unhesitant, and Haruhi tightens her grip on him, half-afraid of falling into an abyss if she lets go. One of his hands covers hers and they turn to Tamaki’s portrait in concert.
Behind the veil of her tears (when did she start crying again?), behind her intense relief (maybe, maybe, they can be happy now. They can move on now), she imagines that the painted smile widens, and that those seemingly-lifeless eyes sparkle and Tamaki is smiling for them and only for them once more.
It is almost as if he is saying goodbye.
Haruhi sees Kyouya closes his eyes, feels him choke back a sob before smiling. He sees it too, she realises, and she tilts her head to her side and smiles the way she used to. Kyouya’s hand tightened around hers and she presses herself tighter to him unconsciously.
Together, they let Tamaki go.
They burn the shrine down the next day (or is it that morning?).
“Fire is a purifying agent,” Kyouya says, idly, as he sits down gracefully onto the wet grass, watching flames escape from the windows and broken door.
Haruhi hums noncommittally, nodding. The marble and the metals will not burn, but the workmen will be here to take those away this afternoon. After today, it will be as if the shrine had never existed.
There is a weight being lifted off her chest as she watches everything burn and she feels as if she can breathe again. But there is still something…
She stands and takes off Tamaki’s ring, a beautiful ruby set into a band of gold, and raises her hand, about to throw it into the fire when Kyouya’s hand comes up and lands on her arm, stopping her.
“What are you doing?” he asks, and he does not sound accusing, merely curious.
“I don’t need this to remind me of him,” Haruhi tells him matter-of-factly. She thrusts her right hand to Kyouya’s face, showing him the wedding ring he bought for her. “He’s here, isn’t he?” she taps the gold band that is entwined around the two silver ones. “And here,” she presses a hand to her heart.
Kyouya releases her arm and leans back, watching as she draws her arm back, throwing the gold ring into the roaring fire.
When she sits back down beside him, he smiles.