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searching for sunshine

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It feels like the opening scene of a romance novel, the way everything begins.

The sky is clear and blue this afternoon and the air is pleasantly warm, enough to go without a coat and enjoy the occasional cool gust of wind tickling the skin. Downtown sees a fair amount of people traipsing up and down the sidewalks, the main street lined with boutiques featuring the latest fashion and trendy cafes with chalkboard signs advertising their specials for the weekend.

Tamaki’s roped Kyoya into joining him at the shops, on the condition Tamaki be the one to pay for lunch. That had been an easy deal to make. The agreed upon restaurant is at the corner of the current block—it’s expensive, Kyoya had made sure of it, but both of them know the price is no issue. Still, Kyoya doesn’t like to make things so simple, but Tamaki supposes that’s just one reason he likes him so much.

There’s ten minutes until their scheduled meeting time and as Tamaki is wont to do, he gets distracted a mere four shopfronts away from his destination. His walk until now had mostly been casual glances into the windows, scanning this season’s collection but with no desire to stop and get a closer look. That changes as he slows to a complete stop, standing before a mannequin donning a gray jacquard cotton jacket, paired with casual slacks and sneakers. Tamaki hums in thought, hand on his chin, and mentally runs through his wardrobe for any outfits he might be able to put together with that jacket. He’d been eyeing a similar jacket from last fall, but the pattern and colors hadn’t been to his taste. This one, however…

Kyoya can wait an extra five minutes, can’t he? Tamaki has walked up to the front door and nodded in thanks to the security guard who pulls it open for him before he can come up with an answer. But in the back of his mind as he walks up to an employee to inquire about the jacket, he’s thinking Yes, he can. Not as if it’s anything new anyway, and Tamaki knows he’ll be left grinning and chuckling sheepishly when he finally arrives, late, and with a shopping bag in hand (because he’s quite sure, now that he’s been shown the jacket for inspection and he’s started to feel the fabric, that he will be leaving with it).

He shrugs off his cardigan and tosses it on the back of one of the plush sofa chairs so he can try the jacket on. It fits him well, shoulder seams lining up perfectly, and it isn’t too long. The material is soft to touch, and he notes to the employee assisting him that this would suited both for colder and warmer weather. I might just buy it then wear it out of the store! he jokes.

Deciding to purchase the jacket had been quick, but he gets even more sidetracked as he starts to inquire about the rest of this season’s editions (he had, admittedly, not been following the collections too closely recently) and it seems Kyoya would have to wait an extra ten minutes instead. Though luckily his patience is spared from any more delay, for Tamaki glances quickly at his watch in the middle of conversation and realizes he should get going. He says he’d like to buy the jacket, and he meanders around the store as the employee takes it to the back of the store to pack up for him.

The shop had been receiving a steady flow of customers in his time here, but now it’s quieted down to just a few others. Your laugh is what grabs his attention, and his eyes find you where the bags are, a quilted leather purse with a little tassel slung on your shoulder, which you observe in the mirror, angling your body to see how it goes with your outfit. He doesn’t catch the context of the conversation with the employee helping you, and thus isn’t certain why you’ve laughed, but that matters little to him compared to the laugh itself and, more importantly, the smile on your face. It stays there, a small upturn of your lips, even after the amusement from the joke or the funny quip wears off, and he’d like the softness of it to lull him to sleep.

And perhaps Kyoya’s patience hasn’t quite been spared.

Tamaki pretends to browse the backpacks, a sly attempt to get closer to you. He wants to say he isn’t eavesdropping, but if he did, he’d be lying. With his gaze on a leather backpack and his fingers tinkering with the zippers, he overhears your hesitation about that particular purse, wondering if maybe the one you’d been considering before would be better. The employee asks if you’d like him to take said bag back down from the shelf so you could compare, and that’s when Tamaki finally looks up. You’re still wearing the quilted leather purse.

“I think that one suits you nicely.”

You blink and twist around to see who’s made the comment, and Tamaki’s prepared with a friendly grin. Your confusion melts away and it gives way to that wonderful smile again, and you ask curiously, “You think so?”

Tamaki hums in affirmation, and, taking your continuation of the conversation as a positive signal, leaves the backpacks behind to join you in front of the mirror. He stands off to the side and tries not to crack a smile too big as you strike a couple of poses, giving him varying angles from which to judge just how well this bag matches your style. Of course, he doesn’t know you well enough to say if it truly suited you, but he’s always had a knack for this kind of thing.

“Quilted leather is a sophisticated choice,” he elaborates. “Mature and modern.”

Your eyes narrow thoughtfully as you mull over his words. (You are so cute!) And your smile could light the deepest reaches of space. “You’re right. It does look good.” You undersell yourself. It looks great.

Tamaki chuckles and nods his approval, then tilts his head curiously, glancing at your bag then over at the shelves to appraise the other colors choices for this model. “But maybe get it in antique rose… That is the color this season.” Thank goodness he’d had that conversation about the new collection just a few minutes ago.

The employee who’d been helping him finally emerges, his jacket tucked away in a box, which has been placed into a bag, ready to go. She calls out to him and he tells her he’ll be right there. He turns his attention back to you briefly, hating to have to part ways.

“I hope I could be of help,” he states.

You smile. “You’ve been plenty. Thanks.”

He’d like to be a whole lot more to you. You’ve quickly found a spot to settle down in a corner of his brain, and he thinks about you the whole duration of his walk to the restaurant (“You’re twenty minutes late, Tamaki!”) and then some.

Kyoya gets an earful over lunch, and he doesn’t react the entire time Tamaki recounts the experience but Tamaki doesn’t mind because he knows Kyoya is listening. At the end of his spiel, Kyoya just has one question: Did you get her name?

Tamaki deadpans. “I didn’t…” It’s a quiet confession, as if he’s embarrassed, or more accurately, as if he’s shocked that he’d never asked for it. He’d liked you enough that he really would have enjoyed talking to you more, but the employee had come out with his jacket and Kyoya had already been waiting so long and—!

Had he been flustered? He definitely didn’t feel as though he was, but it was difficult not to be set at ease by your little grin. Maybe it made him forget, maybe you made him forget that he was supposed to be the one charming you and not the other way around. Where had the Tamaki Suoh, king of the host club, been? A club where sweet-talking girls is literally his job. Had you outdone him, to captivate him before he could do it to you and what’s more, to do so without words?

His heart beats quicker at the realization that that is very much what happened and the fluster was merely delayed. He feels it full force now, the disappointment to still not know who you are and the shock to have been caught off guard like this. And he bemoans to Kyoya, repeating miserably I didn’t get her name, Kyoya…! It’s halfway to an exasperated sob of disappointment and Kyoya sighs at the theatrics.

“Who knows, perhaps you’ll run into her again,” he remarks in an attempt to comfort the distraught blond.

“I’d need a whole lot of luck for that,” Tamaki responds, huffing hopelessly.

“You’ve had luck on your side many times before. What’s one more?”

Tamaki purses his lips and acquiesces with a noncommittal shrug. Even if that were true, when’s the next time he’d come across you? Who knows how long that could be! For now, the image of your amiable grin would have to do, to keep him going, to keep him motivated to be on the lookout. He’ll dream that the glint in those kind eyes of yours are glittering from affection and not just the overhead lights of the shop with its carpeted floors and plush chairs and complimentary bottles of expensive sparkling water.

Come Monday, Kyoya’s forced to hear the same speech again as Tamaki recounts his conversation with you, this time to the rest of the club. He’s standing, too jittery with excitement to sit as the memory of you is pushed to the forefront. Everyone else is lounging back on the couches, all with varying expressions of confusion and amusement as Tamaki gestures enthusiastically. The tone of his voice denotes just how taken he had been with you. And in a fit of his textbook histrionics, he brings the back of his hand up to his forehead, eyes closed, like he’s feeling faint.

“She was mesmerizing.”

Hikaru raises a brow. He’s never seen Tamaki so caught up on anyone, at least not genuinely. He’s played up this act when on the clock for the club, dazzling girls left and right and professing them to be the apple of his eye, the forbidden fruit in the garden he would gladly partake of. To be honest, it’s a bit… strange to see it now, real and unrehearsed. “I bet.”

It’s only partly sarcastic, but before Tamaki gets the chance to be annoyed, Kaoru interjects. “Then ask her out.”

Tamaki’s hand goes from his forehead to clutch at his chest and he looks offended at the proposition. “Are you out of your mind?! She’s gorgeous, and when I say gorgeous, I mean traffic collision-causing gorgeous.”

Honey tilts his head. “Wow, she must be really pretty for you to say that, Tama-chan!” Mori grunts in agreement.

“You never have a problem talking to girls,” Hikaru states. “She’s really got you hooked, hasn’t she?”

“Well, yeah, but also…” Tamaki sighs, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I can’t ask her out anyway because I may not have… exactly… asked for her name.”

Kaoru’s eyes widen. “So you don’t even know who she is?”

“Then how will you ever see her again?” Hikaru asks.

Tamaki groans, the panic setting in once more as the twins remind him of his initial doubt. He laments that he has no idea if he’ll ever see you again and he really messed this up big time and how could he be the president of something like the host club if he missed something so simple and maybe the charm’s only good when he’s the one in control because it’s clear that with you, you were the one with the reins and he was letting you steer by no will of his own. Is that what it felt like to be at the mercy of his own allure?

“Now now,” Kyoya interrupts before Tamaki digs himself into a hole of self-pity, finally looking up from his accounts book. “We all know Tamaki’s got a fair amount of luck. Who’s to say he won’t see her again?”

“Me,” Hikaru mutters. Kaoru lightly elbows him but he’s cracked a small smile, unable to be contained.

Tamaki glares at them, brow twitching. “I heard that.

“Don’t worry, I think you’ll run into her!” Honey reassures. “Maybe even soon!”

Tamaki sighs, still not entirely convinced but grateful for at least some consolation. Keep dreaming he tells himself, and typically such a statement denotes cynicism and a warning not to hold one’s breath, but he says it with an optimistic authenticity, a reminder to keep the thought of you close, because maybe it’ll bring you closer to him, and he would indeed have the pleasure of crossing your path again.

Murmurs of a second-year transfer fill the halls one day, and the atmosphere is buzzing with excitement at the prospect of a new student. She’s coming from another prestigious academy outside the country. She moved here after her father, one of the higher-ups of an investment bank, was moved to the local branch. The girls gossip and giggle, hoping she’s nice and exclaiming they can’t wait to meet her. The boys wonder if she’s cute.

Tamaki flips to a new page in his notebook in preparation for the following lecture and smiles a little as he picks up bits and pieces of the chatter in the classroom. The new student is in his class, so they’re more excited than the rest. He’s looking forward to meeting her, just the same as everyone else, and he ponders if he could persuade her to visit the host club. He knows just the trick—he’d sweep her off her feet, pull her in with sweet words and the suggestion that her sweet company might be better enjoyed with sweet treats. And so why not stop by to see him? He’ll serve her tea, admire the gloss of her lips once she takes a sip and admit that he yearns to taste the remnants of the rose tea still settled upon them.

He’s too busy smiling to himself at what he considers to be a very well-thought-out plan, to notice that the teacher has arrived and the rest of his classmates have settled into their seats. It’s only when the teacher begins to speak and alert them of the arrival of the newest student that he looks up.

Either luck truly favors him or he’s done so much fantasizing that fate could ignore his desires no longer and conceded to his pleas. His eyes widen at seeing you at the head of the classroom, and you also seem to have noticed him right away, as you’ve already been watching him. He can’t hear the teacher introducing you over the buzzing in his ears, and he’s paranoid this is actually a dream, and he fell asleep at his desk, and you’re not the one who’s joining his class and he’ll just wake up later to find out who it is.

“—so make sure you help her feel welcome here!”

At the end of the teacher’s little speech, you bow slightly in respect, enunciating your words so everyone can understand as you say thanks, and remark that you hope to be a worthy addition to Ouran Academy.

Tamaki still can’t wipe the shock off his face even as you proceed down his row, to the empty desk two spaces back. Your gaze momentarily finds his again and you smile, small and imperceptible but one of recognition and his heart will probably burst out of his chest any second now. He catches a whiff of your perfume, vibrant and refreshing—it reminds him of Biarritz—and it’s only now that he registers the bag on your shoulder, fashioned with quilted leather and colored an elegant antique rose.

Sure, fate’s made it simpler by pushing you together, but it didn’t make it completely easy. Tamaki’s not the one to sweep you off your feet first. It’s the gaggle of girls who swarm around you during every break period that sweep you away. You’re occupied with them the remainder of the day, and Tamaki spares occasional glances in your direction, checking for any opening to insert himself but finding none.

By the end of the school day, he hasn’t said a word to you, and duties to the host club have him in music room 3 directly after his last class. He gushes about you to the others again, but he does so even quicker than before due to the short time allotted before the club opens its doors for the day. I can only hope that those girls convince her to come here! he states, desperation apparent in his voice. She’s so close yet so far away!

Hikaru shakes his head at Tamaki’s woe is me dramatics. The fact you’ve ended up at the same school was already a lot for him to process. It seems too ridiculous to be true that the very girl Tamaki had run into has come here. By this point, you stopping by the music room had to happen at least once. He addresses this to temper the president’s distress. “If she’s already at Ouran, she’s bound to end up at the host club eventually.”

“Yes, eventually…” Tamaki assents with a sigh. “But I would prefer sooner rather than later.”

They’re not left to linger on the conversation for longer than that, as Kyoya announces it’s time to open. The boys are always booked straight through, and the first appointments start coming in almost immediately. Tamaki take a deep breath, then dons his kingly smile and gets to work.

He tries to imagine each girl is you, and it pushes him to layer on the extra charisma. When they melt at his words and his proclamations of love and devotion, the pride he feels comes from fantasizing that it’s you who turns into a puddle before him. If your charm was at 100 percent, he would just have to increase his to 200.

The room always smells like roses and Tamaki hasn’t kept count of how many he has given today. The scent is gentle, beautiful like all the girls he has the privilege to entertain, but deep down he’s longing to take in the fragrance of that French seaside town and pretend that the warmth of the sun shining into the music room is washing over him as he sits on the white-sand beach and listens to the lapping of waves on the shore.

Before any of the host club members know it, they’ve run down their list of appointments and the day’s activity is at an end. None of them is ever cognizant of the time and it always comes as a surprise when the crowd dies down and Kyoya announces they’re done. The tea sets clank quietly as they clean up the space in preparation for tomorrow. The tables are put away, leaving most of the room bare save for a couple of couches which are too large to bother moving every day.

Hikaru and Kaoru are discussing the last girl they had as they stack saucers, and how adorable she had been, trying her best to guess which twin was which with a deep blush on her cheeks. She had it right the first time Hikaru recalls. Kaoru chuckles. But she’d been so flustered, she kept changing her answer!

Once the room is cleared and they’re about to make their leave, a knock on the door interrupts their conversations. They look to the entrance and watch as the knob is turned and the heavy door is pushed back. Your head peeks through the gap, curious eyes double-checking the room you’re at before finding the group of boys standing in the middle.

“Oh, um…” you start quietly. Remembering that trying to speak while halfway hidden is no polite means of conversation, you step fully inside, but remain by the door. “Some girls told me I should visit the host club, but I didn’t get a chance until now. Music Room 3 right? Though it looks like you’re done for the day…” You chuckle nervously, motioning to the almost empty space.

Every host club member but Kyoya turns his gaze to Tamaki, who hardly seems to notice, for his attention is solely on you. He stutters, some incoherent words leaving his mouth like he’s forgotten how to speak. You purse your lips, staying where you are and unsure if you’re able to venture in farther. You’re smiling as you look at them (but Tamaki can swear you’re looking right at him), though as the seconds tick by you wonder if maybe you should leave.

“I mean I can always… come back tomorrow?” you suggest, now a little confused.

“Nonsense.” Kyoya pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and steps forward. “Miss [Name], how have you been enjoying Ouran so far?”

Your smile is more at ease now that the conversation is going somewhere, and you tell him you love it here. Everyone is so nice! He follows up with questions as to how your father is settling in at his new location, and how his own father is looking forward to doing business with yours. You nod, mentioning how your father has also expressed interest in working with The Ootori group.

The clearly familiar air between you surprises the others, but Tamaki most of all. He has already blocked out the business talk between you and Kyoya, and interrupts it with an exclamation, equal parts shock and betrayal to discover Kyoya knows, and apparently has already known, who you are.

“You know her?!” Tamaki yells, stumbling forward and clutching Kyoya’s shoulder to shake him to and fro.

Kyoya is nonplussed by the action, and instead seems inconvenienced to be treated in such a manner in the presence of the child of another noteworthy businessman. “Of course I do, Tamaki. You know I like to get acquainted with notable people such as [Name]. We met a couple of weeks ago, during dinner with her and her parents.”

Tamaki slowly stops shaking Kyoya and stills, but his fingers are still curled into the fabric of his blazer. He considers the timeline with this new piece of information, and weakly, he voices the revelation which has come to him. “So you already knew it was her…? When I talked about her that one day?”

“You talked about me?”

Tamaki’s eyes shoot to you at your question, and his cheeks heat up at inadvertently admitting that to you. But you don’t appear to be weirded out or put off, judging by your smile, flattered that you had stuck with him as much as you had that he felt the need to share his experience with his friends (he would yell it from the rooftop too if you wanted him to). Still, he can’t help laughing nervously, spluttering and shrugging that yeah, okay, he did, but he wasn’t being creepy about it he swears and it’s just he’d really enjoyed the conversation he had with you even if it was just two minutes and about something so bland as bag colors

“I can hardly recognize him,” Hikaru murmurs so only the other three host club members with him can hear. They’re all still standing in the center of the room, unintentional spectators to the situation unfolding in front of them.

“Yeah, who knew Tama-chan could be so awkward!” Honey exclaims, and he doesn’t try to lower his volume the way Hikaru had.

Tamaki looks mortified as Honey’s words hang in the air, but those following few seconds of silence are broken by your laugh. Everyone looks at you, though you’re hardly bothered, and Tamaki would like to hide away. Was the club just out to embarrass him? At this rate, you might not take him seriously!

“Well, [Name], while the host club is closed for the day,” Kyoya states, “I think we have the space for one more.” He turns to Tamaki, brow raised expectantly.

Tamaki, even for all his nerves, thankfully catches on quickly. “Yes, of course!” Then he turns to you and your little grin, and he’s a snowman on a warm, sunny day. “That is, if you’d have me?”

Your grin grows. He’s melting at an exceptional rate. “I would.”

Kyoya ushers out the rest of the host club members, who smile and wave to you in greeting as they pass you on the way to the doors. As soon as they click shut, and the two of you are alone, Tamaki ushers you to one of the lone couches. Internally he’s sighing with relief that there’s no one else here anymore. Now the others can’t embarrass him further.

“We usually give every girl a rose, but I’m afraid we’re all out for the day. If you’d like some tea, however, I could make you a cup.”

You smile but politely refuse, not wanting him to go out of his way. They’d already clearly been prepared to leave when you got here, and you don’t want him to do extra work after you have also left. Tamaki nods, says All right, and his chest blooms with warmth at how considerate you are. We can just talk then.

He joins you on the couch, watching as you set your bag on the coffee table, and he compliments the color. “It looks cute on you.”  

“Thanks,” you respond. “I did have a little guidance from someone.”

“Whoever it was guided you well,” Tamaki teases.

Your eyes twinkle, and he wants to go stargazing with you. “He did.”

Then you turn the tables on him, bringing back up the topic of him having mentioned you to his friends. He smiles sheepishly and confesses, more easily now that you’re alone, that yeah, he had. But I just couldn’t help it, he elaborates. I had the passing thought that you were pretty, but then I got closer, and we started talking, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about you.

Even now, you blow him away, and it doesn’t matter that you’re in the same floor-length yellow dress as all the other girls at Ouran. You wear it so well to begin with, but what you wear better than the rest, and what he cares the most about, is that smile. It has found a home on your beautiful face, and you’re the sunshine cascading over him in Biarritz and the cool ocean breeze and he is overwhelmed but in all the right ways.

He has no dramatics, no acting to exaggerate his feelings. In this moment, he isn’t host club Tamaki. He is raw and unfiltered, just Tamaki. And everything feels backwards, that he is the one who’s quiet and shy, and his skills at waxing lyrical, as though fed the words by the gods themselves, have gone out the window. He doesn’t want to mess up in front of you, to make a fool of himself, but as you duck slightly, to slide into view of his downturned gaze, a fond smile on your face, he thinks he must be doing something right.

“I went to a jewelry shop after I bought the bag,” you say. He’s looking at you now so you sit back up straight. “I saw a pair of amethyst earrings and it reminded me of you.”

“It did?” he breathes out, like he can’t believe what he’s hearing, and to be honest, he almost doesn’t.

You nod and hum. “They reminded me of your eyes. They’re the prettiest I’ve ever seen, you know. I couldn’t get them out of my head.”

His heart wrenches to learn he has been on your mind, and it almost hurts how hard it twists. Never once had he anticipated it might be the same for you, that your seemingly inconsequential conversation about what purse you should buy would stick with both of you. To the point that perhaps you too have been longing for the time to come when you saw him again, and you watched the sun rise and set and rise again, all the while longing rife in your little sighs as you wonder when that might be. He would have searched for you all the way to the end of the galaxy, and maybe, maybe, maybe, you would have done so for him too.

He slowly cracks a smile, cheeks reddening, and he doesn’t know what to say but you don’t need him to say anything as you giggle at his lack of response. You’ve not seen him in action in the host club, so you don’t have any reason to tease him for acting so uncharacteristic. To you, this is how he always is. But you’re fine with taking the lead as you ask him questions about the school and about the city, wanting to know more about your new home, and he is happy to answer and tell you stories, and even offers to show you around.

If he falls into the bottomless pools of your eyes he’d like to stay there forever. Do they feel as warm as they look? The more you two talk, the more Tamaki realizes that what charm you had pulled him in with, had entranced him wholly and utterly, had been just a taste of your true potential. You had much more in store, and he realizes he is no match for you. Not that he minds being the one to be swept off their feet.

By the time he walks you out to your car, pulled up to the front gates of the school grounds, which are much quieter now that everyone has left, you’ve made plans to go back downtown on the weekend. He pulls open the door for you.

“Don’t forget to stop by the club tomorrow!” he reminds you. “3:15 sharp!” You aren’t in the schedule for tomorrow, but Kyoya would make an exception. (If he didn’t, Tamaki would make him.)

“Sharp, yes, got it!” You give him a thumbs up. “I’ll see you, Tamaki!”

You tuck your hair behind your ears so you can see clearly when you slide into the backseat, and as you do, Tamaki catches a glimpse of the amethyst earrings you’re wearing. You don’t notice his smile, which stays there even after your car has driven off, even as he stands on the sidewalk and watches as it disappears around the corner. And he knows confidently that yes, you would have ventured to the edges of the galaxy to find him again too.