To the majority of the Host Club, Kyouya Ootori, the Shadow King, is a man who cares for nothing but the profit other people and objects can bring him. For the most part, this assumption is true. All his moves are based upon plans that lead to the most gain, and he spends little time fraternizing with those who will not ultimately bring some sort of benefit to his family, and thus himself by association.
It would wrong to say that he cares about nothing outside of profit. He cares about his sister, as well as the rest of his family. He cares about Tamaki Suoh, his best friend, and the Host Club. He cares about tea and all its associated health benefits, including but not limited to decreased risk of cancer and increased cognitive function. And he cares for one more thing, though this last is not something he will admit to openly.
“Kyouya-sempai? What do you think about this?”
She holds up a picture frame, an elegant oval rimmed with gold. He takes it from her, careful eyes noting the price tag on the back as he checks the gift for any possible imperfections. The price is low, a number Kyouya hasn’t seen in the past few years, but it is all Haruhi can afford.
“You can buy something more expensive, Haruhi. In fact, I encourage it. The price tag alone would give away the identity of the gifter, and last I checked, the aim of a secret santa exchange is to remain anonymous while the others guess at the identity. I would be happy to purchase something for you if you don’t have enough at the moment.”
She stares at him flatly. “Would it be taken out of my debt?”
The self-satisfied smile on his face is all the answer she needs. Huffing, she grabs the picture frame from his grasp and clutches it closely to her. “I think this is fine. I wouldn’t leave the price tag on anyway.”
“Very well. But the one with the squirrels is approximately the same price, and Mori-sempai is quite fond of woodland animals.”
Her eyes widen at his mention of her secret santa. How he always seems to know everything, she isn’t sure.
He resists the urge to laugh at her, though the surprise on her face is oh-so entertaining. It is always so much fun to mystify and tease her, though he hopes she knows he would never say anything that would deliberately hurt her.
“How did you – never mind, it’s your turn to pick out your gift now.”
“I’ve already chosen a gift for my giftee, but there is something I need to pick up.”
Amused, he heads towards the jewelry section, Haruhi trailing behind him. In the corner is the display he remembers visiting yesterday.
The woman behind the counter bobs her head upon recognizing him and opens one of the cases, removing the thin chain inside and handing it to Kyouya. Sterling silver, the necklace hangs off Kyouya’s fingers, and the two linked circlets of silver dangling off spin idly in the air.
“Haruhi, what are you opinions on this?”
She steps closer, the irritation on her face giving way to curiosity and awe. “That’s very pretty. But wouldn’t you rather get something fancier?”
Never taking his eyes off the necklace, Kyouya proceeds to lecture Haruhi on the benefits of simplicity. “More complexity is not always a better thing. A simple gold necklace can often draw attention more than layers of gold studded with pearls and gems. After all, it is contrast that makes our lives what they are. No sunlight without dark, no cold without heat, no complexity without simplicity.” And the contrast between the two of them could not be greater. “But putting all that aside, I want your opinion of the necklace.”
She stares at the necklace for a good long moment before looking back up at him and smiling that very same smile that has charmed so many others.
“I think it’s wonderful.”
That is all he needs to hear. Handing the necklace back to the shopkeeper, he instructs her to wrap it up.
“Is it for your sister, Kyouya-sempai?”
“It is for someone I care about, yes.”
If Haruhi thinks there is anything strange about the way he phrases his answer, she chooses not to voice it aloud.
Having long since dropped Haruhi back at her condo, Kyouya sits at his desk, taking advantage of the fifteen minutes he has left before his family’s business party is slated to begin to write out a brief agenda for the next Host Club meeting, the first of the new year. They will deviate from it as they always do (with a self-proclaimed king like Tamaki, it is impossible not to), but having the list puts him more at ease, and it will serve as a gentle reminder for the things he will later need to coerce Tamaki into doing.
He is on item number four (setting up a date auction for Valentine’s day) when his phone starts ringing. Without even looking at his phone, he knows it is Tamaki trying to reach him. The ringtone Tamaki gleefully programmed in last year makes it crystal clear.
For a brief second, he contemplates the merits of not picking up the phone (many, to be sure) but this is Tamaki, who will not only call back multiple times if he doesn’t pick up, but would (and had in the past) leave somewhere in the range of twenty voicemails inquiring as to why Kyouya had chosen not to answer.
With a small sigh, he picks up his phone. “Yes, Tamaki?”
“KYOUYA~!” Even through the phone, Kyouya can hear the sparkles that Tamaki is radiating. “Kyouya, we’re all here!”
The full implication of that sentence takes a moment to settle in and make itself understood. We’re – Tamaki is not alone. All – Presumably, the people accompanying Tamaki are the other five members of the Host Club. In the background, Kyouya can hear the faint voices of Hikaru and Kaoru, so he considers his assumption to be correct on that count. Here – ‘in, at, or to this place or position.’ The place Kyouya is at currently is his house. Thus by definition, the place where the rest of the Host Club members are assembled is also…his house.
His eyes widen, just a fraction, but that margin of an inch for him is the equivalent of a full-on jaw drop for just about anyone else.
“Kyouya, are you coming to get us? It’s freezing out here!”
“Tamaki, why are you here?”
“You said your family’s business party was today! I thought it would be exciting if –“
He hangs up, and sits very still for a moment, trying to breathe out his anger instead of taking it out on some poor inanimate object. As appealing as it might be, violence is not the answer in times like these. After a minute – a blessedly silent minute, Tamaki having been wise enough not to call back - he gets up, walks down the stairs, and exits his house, not bothering to put a coat on over his classy black suit.
And there they are, a group of six, four of them waving enthusiastically, one of them standing casually in the back, and one in front slouching with a combination of exasperation (due to Tamaki’s antics) and fear (due to his glowering) written on her face.
Kyouya remembers, right then and there, why he likes Haruhi best out of all of them.
“Why are you here?” It is a repetition of his previous question, but the answer last time had been unsatisfactory.
Tamaki, the idiot, runs up to him, arms outstretched in excitement. “I had the grandest idea this afternoon! Since you mentioned that your family was having a party, and since we’re going to be having a party, I figured it would be wonderful if we combined the two of them into one big party! That way everyone can get to know each other and we can truly experience the spirit of Christmas and –“
Tamaki continues rhapsodizing, but Kyouya has long since stopped listening. He wants to throttle the idiot blonde, wants to march forward and push his best friend into the snow, but such acts of violence are unbecoming and in any case, his eyes have already latched onto one small, but very significant, detail.
None of them are dressed.
Oh, they are dressed in that that they have clothes on, but they are far from dressed appropriately for a formal business party.
Before he can open his mouth, Tamaki pipes up again. “Oh, and we brought presents for everyone!”
Kyouya blinks and adjusts his vision. When he sees what Tamaki is exuberantly motioning to, he regrets having done so.
There is a shape vaguely resembling a small mountain with sharp corners looming at him. It is a mountain, but a mountain of boxes, all of varying shapes, colors, and sizes. Some look as though they have been wrapped professionally, some look as though a two-year-old has taken them and used them as chew toys, but it is clear that the pile is comprised entirely of gifts.
He wonders how the six of them managed to transport all of those to his house. It must have been extremely complicated. Everything the Host Club does is complicated.
“Kyouya, can we come in now?”
The third son of the Ootori family stares at the faces of the six teenagers before him. Their (mostly) excited faces shine back at him. He looks at his watch. 6:51 PM.
There is really only one path he can take from here.
Despite the horrors he had expected upon first allowing the Host Club members to step foot into his house, Kyouya is pleasantly surprised – and just a bit relieved – to see that the party hasn’t become an utter disaster with the arrival of his unexpected guests. Outfits had needed to be ordered, and there had been a flurry of activity as Tachibana, Honda, and Aojima had sped to and from the tailors, but, like all of Kyouya’s carefully made plans, this one had been executed to perfection, and now the Host Club is living up to their name. Tamaki, as usual, has mustered up all his Host Club charm and is dazzling the guests as only a true Host Club king can. The twins are doing as they usually do, carefully treading the fine line between close and too close. Honey-sempai and Mori-sempai are the perfect team, Honey captivating the ladies with his wide brown eyes, Mori winning the approval of all the men with his loyalty and dedication to the other senior.
And Haruhi…well, he hadn’t classified her as the Natural type for nothing.
But it has been nearly three hours since the party has begun, and even with her Host Club training, Haruhi is clearly struggling with needing to entertain so many upper class families. She is taking a break now, standing by the fireplace with one hand curled around a glass of punch, the other tugging at the tie encircling her neck. As much as Kyouya had wanted to see in a dress, there are too many guests in attendance today with children at Ouran to risk putting Haruhi in a dress again. She has pulled it off once, and with flair, but her identity had also been kept a mystery, an impossibility this time.
Next time though…next time he will see her in a dress of blue silk, with roses in her dark hair and a smile on her face.
Politely excusing himself from conversation with the head of the leading automobile company in the city, Kyouya makes his way to where Haruhi is.
She looks up at him, not surprised that he’s there. “A little. I was planning on staying home with my father today but –“
“-Tamaki came sailing in, kidnapped you, and forced into helping out despite all your protests?”
She rolls her eyes and nodded, shoulders slumping in exasperation.
“I’ll see to it that Tamaki understands that such behavior is unacceptable in the new year.”
Haruhi smiles a little at that. “It’s okay. It’s been fun so far, to see how rich people celebrate Christmas.”
At her words, he looks at the scene before him: the ladies dressed in crushed velvet and shimmering satin, the crystal glasses and delicate china plates that sit on the table, the gleaming ornaments and fresh sprigs of mistletoe that transform the room into a picture out of a storybook. It is what he is used to but…he is beginning to think that he would be happy with something else.
“Nonetheless, you should be spending time with your family and those you care about during Christmas.”
“I am spending time with people I care about. You know, you should do the same, Kyouya-sempai.”
He looks down at her, genuinely surprised at her comment. There are few people who can knock Kyouya off-guard. Tamaki has always been one. Haruhi is another.
“I am.” And it is true. His family, while distant sometimes, are people he loves. Though he is often stern with them, he cares for the members of the Host Club. And he cares for Haruhi, but those are feelings he is not sure she will reciprocate. Even the Shadow King has his moments of self-doubt.
She watches him for a moment with those perceptive eyes, and there is a moment of silence before:
“Oh!” Beside him, Haruhi suddenly starts. “I almost forgot – Tamaki-sempai says he wants to do the gift exchange in a few minutes.”
In a few minutes, his father is slated to make a speech to all those guests in attendance. While the rest of the Host Club is not required to listen, his position as his father’s son means he is required to be there. His position as his father’s son is what has been dictating his life since the moment he was born, and of late, it has begun to chafe at him more and more.
“Tell Tamaki I’ll be late in arriving. I need to be present for my father’s speech.” Before he leaves, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small rectangle, wrapped in glittering paper. He passes it to Haruhi, who takes it, somewhat confused.
“From your secret santa.”
Before she can ask him why he has been holding onto her secret santa gift, Kyouya is gone, his tall form blending in amongst the crowd.
Kyouya’s bedroom is loud and festive. The secret santa exchange is well underway and though there are only six people in the room, four of the six are loud enough for a party of ten. Tamaki, as usual, is the loudest, now that Hikaru and Kaoru are shamelessly attempting to snatch his gift out of his hands. It is times that these that Haruhi wishes she hadn’t been roped into the Host Club. Her eardrums are suffering.
None of them are paying much attention to her, and so she undoes the ribbon and carefully peels away the glittering paper. She opens the lid, only to stop and stare in disbelief.
Nestled amongst folds of tissue is a simple silver necklace, the very same one she and Kyouya-sempai were looking at earlier. Tucked away in one corner is a slip of paper, folded twice.
Slowly, she removes it, unfolds it, and silently reads the message written in neat script.
“Merry Christmas, Haruhi. I’m sure you’ll agree this suits you. Simple, elegant, and always beautiful. Just like you.”
She smiles at the message and clutches the box close to her heart.
Outside the door to his room, Kyouya stands silently, a small smile on his face. Judging from the merriment inside, the gift exchange is nearly over and he has missed his chance to see Haruhi’s face as she opens his gift. But a quick glance inside puts him at ease, the sight of her smile all the proof he needs to know that he has been successful. She will never know that he rigged the event so that he ended up with her as his recipient. But what she did know now is that he cares, and that, in the end, is all that matters.
Sometimes, even his life can be simple as well.