Chapter 1: To ask a question
Late one afternoon, the door to unused Music Room number three high in Ouran Academy, opened slowly. Dark brown eyes framed by lush lashes peeked into the room hesitantly, then gasped in delight. Two young women stood framed in the door as a swirl of rose petals framed the sight in front of them.
Seven men smiled invitingly at her and her friend, who'd promised her an experience she'd never forget.
"Welcome, jewel of femininity!" The man in the middle purred at her, throwing one arm out in a gentle gesture that reeked of sincerity. "Welcome to the Host Club! Please enter and choose your djinn, we are here to make your wishes at happiness a reality!"
The young women squealed, their hands clasped and hearts beaming out of their eyes. All the young men were dressed as if from Arabian Nights, they all looked incredibly sensual and inviting. "Oh, oh, oh!" The two young women chanted together. "I don't know who to choose!"
"Then allow my guidance?" The same speaker as before chimed in, his voice like velvet against their skin. "Do you prefer the Wild Type? Or perhaps you would prefer the Lolita-Shota?"
At this Mori just continued in his stance unmoved, but Hunny waved sweetly, the very image of cuteness personified.
The handsome young man continued unabated as he swept up to the two young women. "Or do you prefer your type Cool?" He gestured toward a dark haired young man with glasses. "Then there is always the Little Devil type, dripping with Brotherly Love." The twins posed as the wide eyes of the females fell in their direction.
"Oooooh!" The women both squealed as the twins held hands and gazed longingly into each other's eyes. "It's sooooo beautiful!" Both young ladies turned red in the face with delight.
"Of course there is also the Natural type." At this, both sets of eyes slid over to a young man with perfect skin and the most gorgeous eyes. Hearts beat faster as the girls leaned toward all the young men. Finally the speaker turned away, peeking at them over one shoulder as he posed for them. "Then there is the Princely type, if I might so humbly suggest ..."
"Humble?" The Natural type murmured, drawing a light snort from Hunny and the Twins.
The girls fell into the waiting hands of Tamaki, who chose him. The Host Club King led them over to a small seating arrangement of expensive Arabian carpets in keeping with their theme. The girls looked a bit faint after the grand introduction as Tamaki laid down on plush cushions, posing for them as he charmed them silly.
"Seventy percent request rate for the Princely type." Kyouya hummed happily, making a notation in his ever-present notebook.
Haruhi stopped suddenly. "What are the rates for the other types? You've never said?"
Kyouya shrugged negligently. "The others all share the rest, thirty percent. We're all quite popular, and the profit ...er favorability margin is quite decent." Everyone ignored his little slip, they were quite used to him by now.
Haruhi though wasn't listening as she ran through what she knew of their clients. "Everyone has clients who designate them regularly. And Hunny has cornered the market in cute, while the Twins have their own following. And Mori's fans are actually quite sweet and shy for the most part."
It was here that Haruhi stopped, tilting her head to one side as something occurred to her that she'd not thought of before. "Our types. I get all of our types, except one."
The Twins sighed. "We made you the Natural type because you charm our clients without even meaning to do so, you're the 'natural'." They explained as if to a three year old, in their usual condescending manner. Not that they meant to be condescending precisely, they actually were trying to be helpful, but they just couldn't help their natural inclinations. It's just how they were.
"No." Haruhi shook her head slightly, comfortable with the Twins. "All the other 'types' I understand." She turned to watch as Mori and Hunny sat down at a small table as the smaller boy cut into a small, delicious looking cake. Hunny was currently explaining why he deserved the whole strawberry on the top to a silent Mori, even though the larger young man wasn't arguing.
"Then to what type are you referring, Haruhi?" Kyouya asked, pushing his glasses up slightly on the bridge of his nose.
"The 'wild' type." She said, surprising them all.
Kyouya and the Twins turned to look at Mori as one client shyly approached him. They all watched as he made her welcome with the least amount of words, even though his manner appeared warm enough. Nothing unusual there. Mori was always like that.
"Mori's the Wild type." The Twins shrugged in unison. "You can't compete with him on that one, he's got it locked up. There's nothing wrong with being the Natural type."
Haruhi sighed in frustration. "No, you don't get it. Since I've come to know the lot of you, it has finally occurred to me that I have NO idea why Mori is typed as 'wild'. I mean, he's the most self-contained and almost taciturn out of all of us. He's a national champion in Kendo, for heaven's sake! That's hardly a wild martial arts form, it's all about precision and perfection, not wildness. The only time I've seen him even come close to being clumsy is when Hunny is in trouble, like at the tropical entertainment park of Kyouya's."
The megane character smiled enigmatically. "My family's, not mine."
The Twins looked at each other, then at Haruhi as if she was from another planet. "Well, isn't it obvious? You've been here long enough, you should realize why Mori is the 'wild' type without ever having to ask."
Haruhi's gaze narrowed on the Twins in disgust. "No. I don't get it. Mori is more of a gentle giant than a wild man. His designation makes no sense, I only can't believe I didn't spot this discrepancy sooner." She paused thoughtfully, turning once more to look at Mori and Hunny. "It's because the rest of you are so attention grabbing in comparison, that I overlooked the obvious. Mori is mis-typed."
Kyouya chuckled and shook his head. "Hardly. But since you don't know, we'll explain."
Chapter 2: An Unlikely Response
Kyouya led Haruhi away from the others, so they wouldn't be overheard. The Twins followed, having nothing better to do and this was at least interesting. The Hitachiin brothers weren't much for being bored.
"So?" Haruhi murmured once they were all seated, the Twins lounging on either side of her as they settled on the lush Arabian carpet in keeping with the Host Club's theme of the day. "A little room, please." She frowned down at the encroaching Kaoru and Hikaru. They, of course, responded by scooting closer to her. She sighed and tried to ignore them.
Kyouya smiled enigmatically over at Mori and Hunny as the smaller of the two was now laughing and jumping around in his usual manner. Mori, on the other hand, was sitting quietly sipping his tea as Hunny bounced around him. "You see, the 'wild' designation does not come from his actions. Just as you're naturalness comes not from artifice or calculation, but rather from who you are. Do you see yet?"
Haruhi thought it through, but only shook her head as she shrugged. "No. Everyone else's designation makes sense, but not Mori-sempai's. He's the least wild out of all of us."
Hikaru sighed in disgust as Kaoru looked on her with pity. "It's because you're a commoner, right? You just don't understand."
"Explain it to me then." Haruhi said, getting irritated. Besides, her curiosity level had abated now. The sooner she got her answer, the sooner she could get to her studies. Now she was even sorry she'd brought it up. "I have a test tomorrow."
"We do too." The Hitachiin brothers said simultaneously, as all three were in the same class. Both shrugged negligently as if the matter was completly unimportant to them. "It's not major though."
The one girl there who wasn't a client, but was in fact a host disguised as a male, sighed. Haruhi knew better than to point out that as a special scholarship student, every test was major for her. Her Host Club friends ...whoa, friends? Haruhi thought a moment, then let the moment slide. Yes, they were becoming friends. Who would have thought it possible? But friends or not, she was on a tight schedule. "Just explain it, please Kyouya-sempai?"
Kyouya smiled and he nodded over at Hunny and Mori. "You know of course that they're cousins? But that Mori's family used to serve Hunny's family up until two generations ago?"
Haruhi nodded and waited for the explanation to continue. When it didn't, she looked around at the three who were staring at her as if that explained everything. "What?" She asked, still at a loss.
The Hitachiin brothers sighed and wrapped their arms around her in mock sympathy. "Oh, you poor commoner! You've been here long enough to understand. But your common blood acts as a barrier. It's so sad!"
"Stop it!" Haruhi sighed, not even trying to get away from the Twins as she'd learned already that such actions were usually fruitless.
Kyouya smiled at the Twins as they held onto Haruhi. It always amused him so to see her in their clutches, though he'd never admit it. "Mori's family lineage is not as ...high as Hunny's."
Haruhi shrugged, trying to peel off Hikaru's arm from around her. "So?"
The Twins pulled back in actual surprise, not mocking her this time. "You REALLY don't get it do you?"
Haruhi forbore explaining that she wouldn't have asked if she already knew the answer. "Just tell me sempai's please? I really need to go study."
Hikaru swept one of her hands up in his, as Kaoru mirrored him on her other side. "Mori himself is not wild. But any girl at Ouran who designates him is being 'wild'. Mori's family is actually quite wealthy, they've been very smart with investments and always have been. His wealth is impressive, but his lineage? Remember, family name trumps wealth here at Ouran, though barely in some cases."
Kyouya nodded sagely. "They're telling the truth, Haruhi. The girls who come to see Mori, they're considered 'brave' and 'wild' to be doing so, since his name is beneath theirs."
"Even though his family's wealth is greater than theirs?" Haruhi just shook her head in disbelief.
"Even so." Kyouya and the Twins nodded to her. "Actually, Mori's family wealth has now surpassed even Hunny's family. They're that savvy with money. But it doesn't matter, not here at Ouran Academy."
Kaoru piped up then. "And it doesn't matter to Mori or Hunny either. Mori still attends to Hunny." He shrugged as if to say it was all a mystery to him. "It's just Mori's way."
Haruhi sighed. "That's stupid. Any girl here would be lucky to get Mori-sempai's attention."
Hikaru nodded. "But they don't know that. They think they're being 'wild' by seeing him. And some of their parents would be appalled. Those like Tamaki's grandmother? Bah." He said referring to the cold witch of a woman who refused their King a place in his own family's main mansion. "Some are absolute sticklers for blood lines."
"Tsk. Stupid, but I get it now." Haruhi sighed and tried to get up, to the Twin's protest as they refused to let go of her hands. "Let go, I need to go study!"
Kyouya smiled in calculation as he spoke quietly. "But my dear Haruhi, don't you want to know why Mori is even at Ouran Academy? With his blood line?"
Haruhi stilled, staring at her bespectacled nemesis for a moment. Then shrugged as if to say 'no'.
The Twins goggled and pulled her back down to the Arabian carpet with them, ignoring her refusal, and her efforts to get away. "Yes you do!" They both crowed, refusing to let her leave.
Chapter 3: Of Flakes and Fruit
Haruhi settled with ill grace between the Twins, who openly gloated at keeping her from leaving.
Tamaki peered over one shoulder and frowned deeply to see his 'daughter' manhandled by Kaoru and Hikaru. But, did he excuse himself quickly and graciously from his clients? Hardly. The King of the Host Club squealed like a hurt animal and raced over to wrap his hands around Kaoru's, who was the closest to him.
Unfortunately for their King, the Twins were expecting such a reaction and were ready for him. A rain of soft darts struck Tamaki in the head from the powered guns. He looked shocked and appalled, pulling his Arabian Nights robe around his manly and beautiful chest. "Anachronism! They're not allowed in this theme!"
The Twins looked at each other and grinned maniacally, then answered in unison. "We're djinn, yes? We WISHED for these weapons, and then granted each other's wish! See?!"
Tamaki goggled at them a moment, his face turning red as his mouth opened and closed without saying anything. Finally he made a diving leap for a chest, and throwing it open pulled out a western style hat and six-guns filled with water.
"Oy!" The Twins yelped, diving to miss the fire from Tamaki's water-filled weapons.
"Then I wish for these!" The Host Club King crowed and chased the Twins across the room. As he passed Kyouya though, the Shadow King of the club stuck out his foot and Tamaki went flying. Haruhi winced as Tamaki slid across the expensive marble floor and knocked both of the Twins off their feet as the three ended up in an inelegant heap right in front of Mori.
Hunny looked upset and worried as Mori blinked down in silent surprise at the tangle of arms and legs at his feet. Tamaki and the Twins both worked to get a clear shot at the other, but the Host Club's King got free first. He took dead aim at Hikaru's face at point blank range, but at the last moment, Kaoru pushed his brother away just far enough so that the stream of water missed him and shot behind them all.
Straight at Hunny's cake.
Hunny screamed in horror as the water struck the icing on his cake and the strawberry rolled off the top. The ripe, luscious berry rolled to the edge of the table and slowed, hovering on the edge of the table as everyone held their breaths. The strawberry hung there a moment as time slowed down, but gravity was not to be denied, and the berry fell to the floor in a sickening 'plop'. Hunny screamed again, his hands covering his mouth as he looked decidedly faint.
Pandemonium reigned for a moment and Haruhi started up to help take care of this mess, but Kyouya's hand on her shoulder kept her seated. "Wait just a moment." He spoke calmly, pulling out his cell phone to order replacement cakes, with extra strawberries.
Haruhi turned back to look and found Hunny swaying, looking dazed. Mori was silently patting his cousin's small hand while Tamaki apologized profusely to their diminutive friend over and over again. She shook her head and started up again, but Kyouya applied slight pressure to his hand in an unspoken order to remain where she was.
"What about the clients?" Haruhi asked. "You're always going on about our antics not keeping us from making our clients happy."
Kyouya shrugged and pointed. "Hikaru and Kaoru are taking care of that already."
Haruhi turned and looked, seeing that the Twins were indeed leading the ladies away from the scene of the 'crime' while acting quite solicitous. "I need to help." Was all she said, standing.
Kyouya let her go without a qualm, watching in his calm and calculating manner. "You need to hear the reason why Mori is at Ouran." He whispered to the girl who was already across the room, though she was too far to hear him. "This could prove ...interesting."
Chapter 4: Undercurrents
The next day, Haruhi was running to the third music room, late as usual. She rushed in, and was relieved to see that the Host Club wasn't already set up, she wasn't too late then. Haruhi sighed with relief as she stowed her book bag and went to change into today's theme.
Tamaki was sauntering around already, practicing his swordsmanship with the pirate sword. Taking swipes at imaginary enemies.
"Where's Mori-sempai?" Haruhi asked, wincing as Tamaki whipped around to look at her, his sword swinging around as well. "Watch it with that thing!" She exclaimed, backing away quickly.
"Why are you asking about Mori?" Tamaki asked, glowering at her. Dark clouds gathering behind his head with small lightening bolts lighting the area around him.
Haruhi shrugged and walked away to get changed. "Mori-sempai is the sword master around here, I just thought he could give us some pointers." She frowned, her real thought being that she hoped Mori could keep Tamaki from skewering anyone else in his enthusiasm for this particular prop.
Hikaru strolled out beside her, his chest bare except for a vest with a sash running from his left shoulder down to his right hip. His own sword was sheathed, but she knew that wouldn't last long. Kaoru stepped up beside his brother, his sash running from the opposite shoulder down to his hip. The two looked like mirrored images of each other.
"You're late." Hikaru said casually as he fixed the headband around his forehead.
Not caring, Haruhi shrugged again. "No one else is ready yet. I don't even see Mori-sempai or Hunny-sempai."
"You're asking about Mori again!" Tamaki looked like he was about to breath fire. "Why do you never ask about Daddy like that?"
Haruhi sighed and ignored him as she gathered up her own costume in order to get changed. "You're here, why would I need to ask about you?"
"She doesn't want Daddy around?" Tamaki's face fell dramatically and he scurried over to a corner and crouched in a near fetal position.
"You're still late." Kaoru said, ignoring their King's pout. "Remember, we're opening 15 minutes later today to accommodate the Kendo club's demonstration. Hunny wouldn't miss that for the world."
"Oh." Haruhi nodded and then entered the changing area without further comment. Indeed, what was on her mind was her grocery list for later. Pork was supposed to be on sale today, she hoped that sea bream hadn't gone up in price either. Which would be better for tonight?
Kyouya wandered over to the twins. He didn't sport a sword, instead he had an old fashioned musket and a gun tucked into the sash wrapped around his trim waist. He wasn't bare-chested like the twins almost were, instead he had on a romantic, flowing silk shirt.
Hikaru turned his head to one side, contemplating the look. "The glasses should ruin the effect, but somehow the 'pirate' look suits you, lenses and all."
Kaoru nodded in agreement with his twin. "Yes. But then, all that corporate raiding and stuff. He could be a modern day pirate."
Kyouya ignored them, feeling that was always the best policy in moments like this. "Why is Tamaki pouting again?" He asked, having missed the earlier comment that Haruhi had made. He'd been busy ordering weekly supplies for the Host Club.
Hikaru laughed evilly, while his brother just shook his head. "Haruhi." Was all that was said, and all that was necessary to say.
Kyouya sighed. "He's been so touchy lately."
"And whose fault is that?" Kaoru and Hikaru said in unison. "It wasn't us this time."
Kyouya looked speculatively over at his friend and president. "What sparked it this time?"
"Haruhi asked as to Mori's whereabouts." Kaoru said with a glint of mischievousness in his eyes.
Hikoru's expression matched his brother's. "Probably innocently. She just wants to make sure that his highness doesn't stab anyone with his sword today."
Kaoru nodded. "But after his 'proclamation' the other day, to hear Haruhi ask after our large friend, well..."
Kyouya sighed. "He does have a flair for the dramatic, our leader."
Haruhi stepped out behind them, overhearing that last comment. "If so, you have a flair for the understatement." She murmured to her bespectacled companion.
The Shadow King of the club stepped graciously to one side to allow Haruhi to join them, though he didn't smile. "Interested in hearing the rest of the story?"
Haruhi looked confused, having forgotten about yesterday's small bout of curiosity. So she shook her head 'no' and headed out to make tea and coffee for their soon-to-be-arriving clients. As she left though, the others could hear her mumble, "Why do I have to be the damsel in distress ...again?"
'Because you're so CUTE!', they all thought, though no one said so aloud.
Tamaki, from his crouch, turned his head. Spying Haruhi dressed in long flowing skirts and a lush wig, his jaw dropped. He jumped up out of his pouting pose and debonairly offered her his arm, his upset forgotten in an instant.
Watching, the Twins chuckled and Kyouya remained silent. Finally Kaoru looked over at their club vice-president. "Tamaki gave a direct order not to inform her of certain ...developments."
Kyouya pushed his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose. "I'm not telling Haruhi anything that Tamaki proclaimed off-limits."
Hikoru shook his head in admiration. "You're skirting the line awfully close. What I don't get, is what's in it for you? You can't hide the fact that you 'admire' Haruhi as much as the rest of us. Do you want her to end up with Mori? What's in that for you?"
Kyouya sighed as the door opened and Mori walked inside, Hunny on his shoulder. "Get changed, our guests are scheduled to arrive in about five minutes."
"Okay!" Hunny smiled sweetly, having revived from his shock of the day before. The dozen cakes with strawberries that Kyouya had delivered had taken some of the sting away from the one cake that Tamaki had 'shot'. Mori, as usual, merely nodded.
Kyouya turned, but the twins had wandered away, both drawing their swords as they faced each other. He sighed. Yes, he admitted to himself. They were bound to have noticed his interest sooner or later, yet he would have preferred later. Still, it didn't change anything in the long run.
Mori and Hunny emerged, dressed for the pirate theme and Kyouya ran his gaze over his opponent. One who didn't even know they were as yet at odds. Mori, sensing something, turned to look at Kyouya. His expression was blank, but ...there was something in his eyes. Kyouya stiffened, oerhaps this opponent DID know after all. Hmmmm ...
The Host Club Shadow King sighed. This made it even more imperative that he let the information Tamaki had claimed to be 'off-limits' slip to Haruhi somehow. The Twins and Tamaki seemed to think this would weaken their positions and strengthen Mori's. But Kyouya knew that it could also have the opposite effect, mostly due to Haruhi's unique personality.
So. How to maneuver Haruhi into asking just the right questions when the girl showed little to no signs of basic feminine curiosity? Kyouya mulled over this problem even as he took his position for the opening pose of the Ouran High School Host Club.
Chapter 5: Sworn Promises
"Well?" Kaoru whispered to his twin brother. "What do you think we should do?"
Hikaru glanced around, making sure they could not be overheard by Tamaki or Kyouya, but neither were present now. "I don't know that there is anything to do. Our King has decreed that we can't tell Haruhi about ….well, a certain something. I think he might have been serious."
"Serious?" Kaoru shook his head in disbelief. "That's understating matters. He looked ready to kill us if we told Haruhi."
Hikaru pursed his lips as he tried to think the matter through. "And then there's the matter of Kyouya. It seems he wants Haruhi to know, but to tell her in such a way as to skew the information in his favor."
"So brother, what should we do?" Kaoru stared longingly into his twin brother's eyes, his own gaze limpid pools of need. "Hikaru?"
"Kaoru! You're so cute when you look at me like that!" Hikaru sighed with longing of his own.
"Yu mt ti lt mmm hrm!"
Hikaru looked down at the young woman who he was currently holding down. "Oh brother! Look, we've accidentally spoken out of turn where Haruhi could overhear us!"
The young woman in question finally managed to pry Kaoru's hand off her mouth. "Will you two sempai's get off of me?!"
Kaoru looked shocked and surprised. "Haruhi? What are you doing here?" He said, all innocence.
Haruhi harrumphed and tried to sit up. "I was studying quietly when you two grabbed me and …"
"And innocently let spill some important information by sheer mistake?" Kaoru sighed despondently. "Oh Hikaru, we will be soon under an order of execution if this information comes to light."
"Kaoru!" Hikaru sighed reaching out to stroke his brother's cheek. "For myself, I care not. But I would die to see you hurt in even the slightest …"
"Your brotherly-love act does nothing for me." Haruhi sighed, struggling to pull away from the troublesome twins. "And the only reason you're doing this is because you want something from me."
"Act?" Kaoru looked hurt.
Haruhi sighed. "Alright. Let me get this straight. You want me to know something that Tamaki-sempai doesn't want me to know. So, why the big production?"
"Production?" Hikaru looked confused.
The twins looked a bit lost as Haruhi sighed again. Just another day as a member of the Host Club she supposed. Even if she was only a member in order to work off a huge debt. "Fine. But if Kyouya wanted me to know this, why didn't he tell me himself?"
Kaoru shrugged. "He's someone who likes to maneuver people. He didn't want to say it and break a promise to Tamaki, so he was trying to get you to ASK certain questions that would lead to you getting the information anyway."
Haruhi looked confused. "But didn't you two make the same promise?"
Hikaru's smile gleamed wickedly. "No. Our illustrious King made us both promise, or so he thought!"
Kaoru tsked lightly. "You would think that as the second smartest in his class he would have been able to tell us apart by now!"
"You tricked Tamaki-sempai into thinking he swore both of you to silence. But all he ended up with as making one of you swear twice?" Haruhi winced. "Poor Tamaki-sempai."
Kaoru took her hand in his and no matter how she tried to pull it loose, he wasn't letting go. "I have sworn, twice over, not to tell you of this matter. And I am nothing if not a man of honor, I will keep my promise!"
"Skirt around it, you mean." Haruhi muttered.
Hikaru pushed Kaoru away. "Please brother, step away a few steps. I will not allow you to besmirch your honor by breaking a solemn promise."
"Does this matter have anything with raising or lowering my debt?" Haruhi asked plainly.
"No." Kaoru said, then clapped both hands over his mouth. "I better step away before I slip up. Hikaru, I leave it in your more capable hands."
Hikaru bowed to his brother and when the two straightened up, they looked shocked to see the place where Haruhi had been sitting to be empty.
"Argh!" Hikaru raced to keep Haruhi from leaving as the girl tried to walk away. "Shame woman! Have you no curiosity? Don't you want to know this vital information that we have struggled so hard to find a way to tell you?"
Haruhi shrugged. "It has nothing to do with my debt."
"Go brother! I must speak bluntly and I want no hint of shame upon you!" Hikaru ordered as Kaoru blinked over at him in admiration. Once his brother was a few feet away, Hikaru wrapped his arm wrapped around his only female friend. "Now Haruhi. Listen closely. This is highly important."
"What is this about?" Haruhi asked reluctantly, blinking her large hazel eyes up at him.
"Don't you already know?" Hikaru looked surprised. "Kyouya's been doing his best to illicit a spark in your regrettably nearly non-existent curiosity."
Haruhi thought it through, but then shrugged. "Last thing we talked about was why Mori-sempai is called the 'wild type'. I still think it's a stupid label for him."
"Ah, but then Kyouya offered to tell you a story about why Mori is enrolled here in Ouran Academy." Hikaru drawled out.
"What does that have to do with me? We didn't know each other back then. Both Mori-sempai and Hunny-sempai are older than I am." Haruhi shrugged, wanting nothing more than to finish her studying and to get to the grocery store.
Hikaru looked down at her earnestly. "If you had to guess, why would you suppose that both of them chose Ouran Academy to attend? Think it through."
Haruhi knew that her only hope to get out of here was to humor him, so she sat down on a near by couch and tried to think the matter through. "Given what I know of them, I would suppose that Mori-sempai attends here because Hunny-sempai wanted to attend here."
"Ding, ding, ding!" Hikaru threw both hands up in a sign of victory.
Haruhi stared at him, completely nonplussed. "So?"
"So, if the question isn't why is Mori here. Then the question transforms into…." His voice trailed off leadingly.
Haruhi looked lost a moment, then tried the simplest response. "Why did Hunny-sempai choose Ouran?"
Hikaru's eyes melted into limpid pools of light as he clasped her hands with his. "You're so brilliant! I'll give you a hint, it's not because the cakes here are better than anywhere else."
"I give up." Haruhi said tiredly. "Ouran is a top school and Hunny-sempai is at the top of his class in 3-A. He's the best senior in the entire school. I fail to see why he wouldn't want to come here. Although I'm sure that he could have gotten into any school out there."
Hikaru's eyes sharpened on her face and she realized she must be on the right track.
"Other schools wanted Hunny-sempai?" Haruhi asked. "So what?"
"Takuetsu Technical Prep wanted him." Hikaru told her in a hushed voice.
Haruhi gasped in surprise, her eyes wide. "That's a school based on Math and Science so difficult to attend that they only accept the top twenty students in each year. It's small, but the top school in the country. Money doesn't talk there, only Math scores."
"Even an invitation to tour the facility is considered a high honor. They turned down two members of the Royal family last year." Hikaru's voice lowered and Haruhi had to strain to hear him. "They courted Hunny extensively."
Her curiosity finally caught, Haruhi tried to fathom how anyone could turn DOWN such a prestigious offer. "He said no because they wouldn't take Mori-sempai?" She guessed, her voice lowering to match Hikaru's.
The twin shook his head. "No. They wanted Hunny so badly that they extended an offer to Mori as well, and after all Mori is second to only Hunny in grades. Although his area of expertise lies with history and not in math, like his cousin."
"So why did Hunny-sempai turn them down?" Haruhi asked, still amazed that their Lolita-shota type had been offered such a high honor and had walked away from it.
"Ah now, that is the question, isn't it?" Hikaru's eyes gleamed with wicked intent. "Now, listen closely."
Chapter 6: Prime Rib
Hikaru lowered his voice a bit further, pulling her a few more steps away from Kaoru. "Are you listening?"
"Do I have a choice?" Haruhi sighed, hunching her shoulders a bit. She decided the easiest way to get out of this situation was to listen. Maybe she could still get to the store before the best specials were sold out.
"You act like this means nothing." Hikaru sighed and patted her cheek pityingly. When he opened his eyes to gaze upon her though, he looked just a bit taken aback by her harsh glare.
Haruhi shook her head at him. "Get on with it. I suppose the obvious answer would be out of the question?"
"Obvious answer?" Hikaru echoed.
"That Hunny-sempai chose Ouran so that both he and Mori-sempai could attend a school that met their needs." Haruhi said as patiently as she could manage under the circumstances. "A great math department and a suprior history department as well."
Hikaru shrugged. "Probably, but that's not all of it. What I do know is that …well, you've seen it for yourself and you're the tops in our class. I just don't understand how you've missed the obvious." He whined a bit.
Haruhi sighed heavily and looked longingly at the clock, and then at the door. Escape!
Kaoru saw her look of longing and stepped deliberatly in front of the door, giving her the fish-eye. Haruhi sighed and turned back to the other twin.
Taking the hint, Hikaru hurried to finish up. "You've seen how Mori dotes on Hunny, yes?" He waited for the girl to nod before continuing. "But is that all you've noticed? What does Hunny do for Mori?"
Surprised, Haruhi opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She closed her mouth and looked thoughtful as she thought over the question. "Hunny-sempai lets Mori take care of him, but …I ….Hunny, he …well, he …." She stopped, looked stumped, and shrugged as if to say she gave up.
Hikaru hissed in disappointment. "And you're the special scholarship student, for shame! And you were even there!"
"There? What are you going on about!" Haruhi yelped, getting frustrated with the whole conversation. "And I still don't see how this has ANYTHING to do with me!"
"At Kyouya's family indoor swimming thingy, the one with all the crocodiles and the wave pool, remember?" Hikaru snapped back at her.
Over to the side, Kaoru rolled his eyes at them both. "Get on with it!" He shouted at them both, tapping one foot impatiently. It was killing him not to be in on the conversation.
"What I remember is Hunny-sempai being swept away by the wave pool and having to go find him!" Haruhi grumbled. "Then he turned out to be just fine, and a national champion in both Karate and Judo."
"EXACTLY!" Hikaru jumped and gave her the victory sign.
Haruhi stared at him in befuddlement and Hikaru's face fell as slowly he realized she hadn't 'seen' it yet.
"Mori went to save Hunny, with you tagging along I might add. But did Hunny need saving?" He didn't give her a chance to respond. "No. In fact HUNNY rescued the two of you from the security detail."
The sole female member of the host club nodded slowly as it began to dawn on her. "You're trying to say, that Hunny-sempai protects Mori-sempai as well as the other way around?"
"No one picks on my friends! That's a big no, no!" Hikaru mocked Hunny's voice as he took a heroic pose that had Haruhi sighing in embarrassment for him. He just couldn't pull off the Hunny-cute pose well. He was too big, too mischievous for that look. "Anyway, you get what I mean."
Haruhi shrugged. "Okay. The two of them look out for each other. That still doesn't have a thing to do with me and I have no idea why Tamaki-sempai would want to keep this information from me. Now, please let me go. I need to get to the store before the special on pork runs out, they never stock enough."
"What if you could have prime rib instead?" Hikaru asked, a devilish look in his eye as he put his hands on both her shoulders, leaning down to look directly into her eyes. "Lovely, luscious prime rib?"
Haruhi's mouth watered as her eyes grew bigger. "What market has that on special?" She asked in a husky voice.
Suddenly she found herself enveloped in Hikaru's arms as he rocked her back and forth. All she could hear was him saying, "You're so cute!" over and over again.
"HIKARU!" Kaoru yelled from the sidelines.
"Oh yes, sorry." Hikaru's smile was anything but sorry as he let her breathe once more.
Haruhi panted a bit, trying to catch her breath. "Okay, I get it. Thank you. It's all very wonderful and I won't tell Tamaki that I heard anything. Can I go now?" She stood, only to have the twin stop her from leaving.
Hikaru's eyes sparkled as he caught her wrist and spun her in a circle so that she landed on the couch. "Ah, ah, ah! I haven't told you about the prime rib yet!"
"You haven't explained a thing yet!" She pointed out, crossing her arms, looking ill tempered.
"Fine." Hikaru pouted and lazily perched on the seat next to her. "You want prime rib? Hunny will make sure you get only the finest."
"As an answer, that completely lacks any clarity at all." Haruhi finally managed to say after a moment of pure puzzlement.
"Hunny chose Ouran because Takuetsu Technical Prep is 90 percent male." Hikaru said in an almost quiet manner, one that Haruhi instinctively knew meant he was being totally serious.
"But, Hunny likes girls …yet I don't see him stressing about finding the right one …or, basically he just loves their attention. Don't tell me he turned down the finest school in all of Japan for his field so he could eat strawberry cakes with girls?!" Haruhi looked distinctly horrified by the very thought.
"No." Hikaru held up one finger to stop her comment cold. "Remember, Hunny looks after Mori as well as the other way around."
Haruhi shook her head, not really understanding. "Hunny-sempai wants his cousin to meet a girl? So he accepted a place at Ouran to give Mori-sempai a better chance? But Kyouya told me the girls around here look down on Mori's bloodline."
Kaoru wrapped his arms around her from behind the couch, startling her. "True, but there's more of a chance to meet a nice girl here than over at Takuetsu. Those girls are so focused on being the top students they don't care about anything except formulas and equations. You're getting closer, but you're still not there."
Hikaru glared at his brother. "I thought you needed to stay away to protect your promise?"
"And I did." Kaoru slid around to sit on the small couch, shoving Haruhi into the middle to be crowded on either side by the twins. "You've told her the basics. Explaining what you've already told her doesn't break my promise. I only swore I wouldn't be the one to TELL her, and I didn't."
"Oh brother, you are so smart as well as handsome!" Hikaru moaned, leaning across Haruhi's lap to look into his brother's eyes.
Kaoru leaned in, also across Haruhi's lap. "Brother!" He cried lovingly. The girl sighed and tried to get up, only to be pulled back down again by the both of them in tandem.
"Not yet, princess." Kaoru smiled at her in a way that made her very nervous. "Not when you're so close."
Hikaru tilted Haruhi's chin in his direction, meeting her gaze head on. "Hunny chose Ouran because it's the top all-round school, quite exclusive, but also very challenging. Takuetsu Technical Prep was too narrow for him. And too narrow minded. They offered Mori a place only to try and lure Hunny to their school."
"This angered Hunny, you not only don't threaten his friends, you don't patronize them either." Kaoru turned her head to meet his gaze this time.
"Alright, alright!" Haruhi yelped and pulled back from both of them. "I get it. Hunny-sempai wasn't happy with the way that Takuetsu went about trying to recruit him. So he turned them down. Then he came here to Ouran, a school that suited both he and his cousin's special areas. But I don't get the part about what it has to do with ME!"
Kaoru sighed unhappily. "Hikaru already told you. Here's the thing. The males in Mori's family usually fall hard for a girl. A certain girl."
"A special girl." Hikaru nodded sagely. "But Hunny was worried that Mori wasn't meeting enough of a variety of women for him to find just the right one. Remember, Hunny looks out for Mori just as much as Mori takes care of Hunny."
"I still don't get it." Haruhi shook her head.
Kaoru patted her gently on the shoulder. "Hunny vets Mori's clients. You don't notice it, but Hunny is almost always around when someone designates Mori. They say Hunny has a very stringent set of guidelines for any girl he'd consider worthy of his cousin, a cousin he much loves and respects."
"Hunny actually has a list of girls he would find suitable." Hikaru whispered to her.
Kaoru nodded to her as she looked stunned at both of them. "And Mori-sempai allows this?" Haruhi shook her head in utter disbelief.
Hikaru shrugged. "We think he just humors Hunny on this, but as Mori hasn't met a girl he really likes, or hadn't …then it didn't really matter."
Unbelievably, on this note, the twins moved back and gestured for her to rise. Haruhi got up, eyeing the two with deep suspicion. But they didn't stop her this time as she started to head toward the door.
"Will the pork be gone do you think, Kaoru?" Hikaru said morosely, just loud enough for Haruhi to hear.
"Maybe." Kaoru allowed sadly. "But the prime rib is still available."
Haruhi turned to glare at them both, sure they were having her on. She raised one eyebrow in question.
"Prime rib. A special in classroom 3-A." Hikaru said, dropping his little bombshell on the thick skinned special scholarship student.
Class 3-A? That was Mori and Hunny's classroom. Haruhi weaved, then straightened as she regained her balance and her composure. Surely they didn't mean what she thought they'd meant. This whole afternoon was a waste. With a final irritated 'hurmph', she stalked out the door.
Hikaru and Kaoru gave each other weary smiles. "Think she'll catch on?" Hikaru asked his twin.
Kaoru shrugged. "I hope so. Sure is a short list Hunny has though. After three years and all the clients the Host Club has seen, you'd think it would be longer."
Hikaru grinned and pulled out a folded piece of expensive writing paper. "What I wonder is why Hunny would leave his book bag around where it could be rifled through while he took his afternoon nap? Seems careless."
"Took you almost his whole naptime to pick the lock on the bag. Wasn't too careless." Kaoru took the list from his brother's hand and read aloud. "Fujioka Haruhi. At least Hunny has good taste."
"Too good." Hikaru sighed. "Tamaki is still throwing fits about this and despite his cool demeanor, I don't think Kyouya was too happy either."
Kaoru folded the paper back up again. "Short list though. At least Hunny finally found someone to meet his standards. I'm glad he didn't come to Ouran and not find any one at all that he felt would be good enough for 'his Takashi'."
"Only one name on his list though." Hikaru sighed. "Hunny always did want only the very best in everything."
Chapter 7: Out of the Shadows
The next week was a strange one for the Ouran High School Host Club. Everyone watched ….every one else.
The Hitachiin twins kept a weather eye out for Kyouya and Tamaki any time either of them approached Haruhi. They also watched Haruhi anytime she was around Mori. Which was distressingly little. Had they missed their mark?
Tamaki, for his part, watched Haruhi as usual. But he also joined her every time she was anywhere around Mori and Hunny. But since she wasn't going around Mori and Hunny much, it wasn't terribly noticeable unless you were watching closely.
Hunny appeared his cute and loveable self, but the twins noticed that on the few occasions that Haruhi was around, he was trying his hardest to leave her alone with Mori. So far, it wasn't working. But, the twins shrugged, that was mostly Haruhi's fault for not going around Mori as much.
Mori was looking at Haruhi a time or three dozen, but only when he thought no one else was watching. And since Mori was very aware of his surroundings and quite quick, the twins were only speculating that he was watching Haruhi so much. But it did seem suspicious to them that Mori's eyes were always traveling away from Haruhi every time they tried to catch him looking. Every time.
Hikaru sighed and turned to look at Kyouya, only to find that the Shadow King was watching he and his brother. He nudged Kaoru, who also looked. They prepared themselves mentally for the coming confrontation as Kyouya walked toward them with great deliberation.
Kyouya smiled slightly as he saw the twins slouch down into their futon acting as if they had no cares in the world. "Congratulations."
Kaoru's eyes widened and he shot a glance to his brother, who looked equally as puzzled. In unison they shrugged. "For what?"
"A job well done." Kyouya said calmly as he took a chair adjacent to their futon. "I see things are progressing nicely. I knew I could count on the two of you."
Hikaru pointed at himself, then at Kaoru even as his brother mirrored the move. They looked at each other and then at Kyouya. Kaoru spoke up finally, after a long moment wherein Kyouya did not explain himself. "What job was that, oh sly one?"
Kyouya tapped his chin quietly as he pondered for a moment. "So, how did you get around your promise to Tamaki? For I can't see you breaking a direct oath."
BUSTED! Kaoru and Hikaru didn't react, they knew better than to give away guilt. Besides, if they told how they'd done it then that trick might not work the next time they needed it. Still, on the inside they quivered just a bit. Tamaki they could deal with, their King was very straight forward. Kyouya was another matter entirely, he was …tricky.
"Oh come now. I knew that if I hinted around that I had ulterior motives for telling Haruhi, or enticing her to ask, that you two would take matters into your own hands." Kyouya paused for his words to sink in, when both twins dropped their jaws, he continued. "With you thinking, correctly, that Tamaki didn't want the information about Hunny's list known then I knew would want to then tell her. Still, I thought you needed a bit of extra incentive."
Hikaru groaned and closed his eyes wearily. "So you hinted that you wanted Haruhi to know, but to twist the information in your favor. To tell her in such a way that she ran from Mori and straight to you."
"Exactly." Kyouya snapped his fingers with a small, satisfied smile. "So, you two went and told her …I presume without breaking your promise. And it's all working out perfectly."
Kaoru sighed and gritted his teeth angrily. "Tsk. Using helpless underclassmen for your dirty work!"
"Since when were the two of you EVER helpless?" Kyouya asked, genuinely amused by that thought.
Hikaru groaned and grumbled under his breath. "You're a jerk. You got us to tell her and now she's running from Mori. Barely goes near him. That doesn't mean she'll choose you though! You haven't won yet!"
Kyouya tsked them quietly. "Watch closer. She may not be going near him, but she's now aware of him. She's watching him."
Kaoru sat forward, leaning his elbows on his knees to peer at their club vice president. "You sound like that's what you wanted in the first place." He sounded both accusatory and a bit confused.
"It was, and it still is." Kyouya said blandly, still looking cool and confident.
Hikaru shook his head, trying to think through it all from every angle. Finally he shrugged. "I don't get it. You admire Haruhi as much as the rest of us, admit it."
"I do." Kyouya allowed. "But so does Tamaki and Mori, and even to some extent the two of you. Hunny adores her, but not in that manner."
Kaoru and Hikaru looked at each other, finally they turned and spoke simultaneously. "We give up."
Kyouya shook his head in mock disappointment. "You two look on her as a someone you both enjoy, someone you've even asked your mother to adopt. Sometimes she's your toy, and sometimes she's your trophy, but she's also become your friend. Could she be more for one of you in the future, who knows? Possible, but which one would she pick?"
Kaoru looked upset and shocked as he thought of Haruhi and …himself. Would Hikaru accept such a thing? Would he be hurt, lonely, angry?
Hikaru held his breath as he thought of walking alongside Haruhi while holding hands, all while Kaoru trailed dejectedly behind them. All alone. Hurting and ...alone.
"YOU TAKE HER BROTHER!" They both wept and grabbed each other's hands. "I want her to be happy with YOU!"
Kyouya sighed and took off his glasses. He took out a handkerchief and cleaned them, although they were already spotless.
"You! No you, not me!" The twins kept interrupting each other, both saying the exact same thing.
"Troublesome." Kyouya muttered. "See? She can't choose either one of you until you're both grown enough to accept someone between you two."
Wiping their tears, the twins hugged each other and turneed to stare at Kyouya while sitting cheek to cheek. "So? How does her watching Mori help you win her?"
"It doesn't." Kyouya sighed, replacing his glasses on his nose. "Tamaki and I are …friends. When we first met I wouldn't have thought it possible, but we have become real friends. It was he who taught me that I could excel despite my being the third son. It was he that led me to making friends with the Host Club members."
"You owe him?" Kaoru said slowly, unsure.
"No. I like him. There's a difference. And he's the one that taught me that difference." Kyouya said slowly and carefully.
Hikaru stared at him a moment before speaking. "So, why not step aside and let Tamaki have free reign with her?"
Kyouya smiled sadly. "And watch my friend with the girl I admire? No, I'm not quite that good natured."
Both Hikaru and Kaoru settled down at hearing that. Having Kyouya speak of friendship was …unnerving. Having him admit he hadn't turned soft felt more real to them.
"Besides. Tamaki's feelings for Haruhi are jumbled and possessive. Not necessarily a good thing for a positive relationship. He's taking this whole 'father' business way to seriously too. It's getting a tad creepy."
The twins nodded in mute agreement.
"So. If we can't have her." Kaoru counted on his hands. "That's two down."
Hikaru pushed two more of his brother's fingers down. "And you and our King are out, that leaves only Hunny and Mori."
Kyouya sighed, this time his frown looked a bit pained. "Mori watches Haruhi, and he likes her for who she is. He doesn't try to change her. He doesn't try to possess her. And he's protective like Tamaki, but not in that overly crazed sense."
The light dawned on the twins. "You're pushing them together, because …they might actually work well as a couple?"
The Shadow King paused, he didn't admit to having jealous second thoughts. Ruthlessly he pushed those thoughts aside. "Mori really likes her. And Haruhi actually likes Mori, though not yet in the same sense as he does her. So, a nudge was needed to get her to see what was right in front of her nose."
"But she's not going near him." Kaoru protested as Hikaru nodded, falling in line with their vice president's intentions. Just as said Shadow King had always planned.
"Ah." Kyouya breathed out, looking smug. "If she were unaware of him, she'd be around him as much as usual and treat him as usual. Now, she's not avoiding him totally, but she is shyer about being near him. And …she watches him now, her eyes follow him. Trust me. The plan is working perfectly."
"So, what's next?" The twins asked, once again in stereo.
Kyouya smiled. "I believe that Mori has a Kendo exhibition coming up. It will be just the thing for the Host Club to go and watch for support of one of our members."
Kaoru smiled wickedly. "And get Haruhi to see Mori at his strongest. Nice. It's a simple and uncomplicated plan, not like Our Majesty's usual plans." He said in reference to Tamaki.
"Indeed." Kyouya nodded regally.
Hikaru agreed. "Nothing can go wrong with this."
Hunny burst through the doors of the room in a panic, running around and around in circles crying and moaning. His Bun Bun waved up and down as Hunny wallowed in his misery. "They wouldn't let me go! They wouldn't let me go! I've got to go!"
Haruhi looked up from her clients and rushed over to her distraught friend. "Hunny-sempai, Hunny, what's wrong?"
Kyouya quickly pulled out his cell phone to make a call.
Tamaki rushed over from his own clients, anxiously hovering over Hunny. "Calm down, calm down …what's the matter?"
"Haru-chan!" Hunny's eyes were deep wells of tears, his lips trembling as he stopped and looked up at her. "Mori's dying!"
Tamaki's face melted into a look of utter shock and horror. He stumbled a bit and posed tragically against a small side table, one hand lifted to his brow as he moaned. Haruhi watched in awe. She could see his concern was real, but even so, Tamaki couldn't leave off the theatrics.
"He's not dying." Kyouya broke in, speaking even as he listened on his phone.
"He is! He is!" Hunny insisted, tugging on Haruhi's hand. "Mori was not feeling well and so we went to the nurse."
Haruhi wondered if it was only her that was struck by that comment. If Mori wasn't feeling well, why did BOTH of them go to the school nurse? Never mind, she told herself and focused on the matter at hand.
"It's yuboli, or dang fever I just know it!" Yelped Hunny, making the girls in the room gasp in fear while backing away in horror and making sympathetic noises.
Kyouya sighed and ended his phone call. "It's not ebola or dengue fever. It's appendicitis. Mori's on his way to the finest private hospital in the area. He'll be fine. It's one run by my family."
Haruhi felt the tension around her heart seep away, not even realizing how worried she'd been until the relief set in. She thought about Mori hurting though, and her relief turned into worry once more. "Appendicitis can be dangerous too."
Tamaki, now that his tragic pose was no longer called for, patted her on the shoulder. From tragic to brave, he took a manly pose and sighed. "He'll be fine. And with friends like us he can get through anything."
Hunny was still crying, though he was no longer as panicked and had at least stopped running around in circles. "They wouldn't let me go with him! I only asked that they leave the doors to the back of the ambulance open so I wouldn't feel so closed in as they drove. But they wouldn't!" He ended on a wail of misery.
"Those jerks!" Tamaki shouted, slamming one fist into the palm of his other hand even as Haruhi rolled her eyes at the absurdity of the request. "No worries! We'll travel at top speed and get to the hospital before you know it!"
"Puts a spike in our plan." Koaru whispered to Hikaru.
Kyouya shook his head, the cogs in his mind already turning. "No, our plan just got better."
Chapter 8: The New Mori?
"Well, Hunny-sempai? Aren't you going to go in?" Haruhi asked gently, nudging the shorter senior gently.
Hunny's eyes welled up once more as he clutched Bun-Bun closer to his body, he shook his head slightly as he stared up at the door to the private hospital room.
Kyouya pushed his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose. "Mori is still not awake, according to the nurses, although he was stable enough to be moved from the recovery room. They say the surgery was smooth, and since they did everything laparoscopicly, then the incision was quite small."
Tamaki wrapped a companionable arm around Hunny's shoulders, having to kneel a bit to do so though. He looked uncommonly serene and earnest. "Hunny, we had a time convincing the staff here that we should be allowed to visit even before Mori's parents arrived. They were out of town and are flying back as fast as possible, but weather has delayed even their private plane."
"Indeed, since the two of you are cousins, they're letting you visit first." Kyouya half-way lied. His contacts could have gotten them in the room to visit, but that didn't suit his purposes …yet. So he'd told everyone that he'd managed to get only Hunny in.
Hikaru and Kaoru leaned in, as if on cue. "You bought Mori a present, you should take it to him." They pointed at the bag Hunny held, which contained a bright pink stuffed bunny rabbit.
Haruhi sighed and eyed the bunny peeking up out of the bag at her. "At least its not flowers."
Struck by this, the entire Host Club, obviously sans Mori, turned their eyes on Haruhi in shock. The girl held up her hands defensively. "What have you got against flowers, Haruhi?" Kaoru finally asked.
"N…noth …nothing!" Haruhi looked from boy to boy, shaking her head. "Flowers are nice enough, they're great when they're growing."
"Ah." Tamaki sighed, placing one hand over his heart in an ultra-romantic gesture that had Haruhi frowning up at him as he leaned over her. "You are one of those lovely lasses who feels that flowers should not be cut, not be plucked before their time in this world is done. A person who prefers your plants green and living, rather than cut and merely lovely to look at and to smell. You are a lover of all growing things, yes?"
In Tamaki's inner theatre, Haruhi was dressed in a lovely sun dress as she waltzed with him through a field of flowers. A wreath of blooms graced her head and she looked like a sprite of Spring. They danced together in the field, both their feet bare, so they could feel the soft living earth beneath them. Of course, none of the flowers would have thorns and there would be no rocks, pebbles, or sharp things to cut their feet as they ….
"No, it's just that they're a waste of money, I guess." Haruhi shrugged absently. "They never last very long."
Hikaru and Kaoru grinned as Tamaki took her simple comments for a complete dejection of his 'inner theatre'. Their King fled to a corner to assume his pouting position.
Kyouya sighed gently. "Then, if so, a permanent gift would be much more the thing. Like say …a stuffed rabbit?"
Haruhi shrugged. "I guess, but it seems that pink isn't exactly a color I'd associate with Mori-sempai."
Kaoru shrugged, no longer interested in the conversation. "That was the only color they had left in the gift shop. Kyouya, you should note that for your family's organization. They should carry a greater variety of colored bunny rabbits and make sure that no color runs short."
Kyouya nodded stiffly in acknowledgement. "I've already texted the hospital administrator, I too noticed the lack."
Haruhi looked around a moment. "Did Hunny-sempai leave?"
"No." Kyouya gave a small smile. "He went into Mori's room while Tamaki was daydreaming."
"I WASN'T DAY DREAMING!" Tamaki shouted, standing to point directly at Kyouya with a red, angry face.
"If you say so." Hikaru and Kaoru said in unison along with Haruhi. The twins stopped in shock, staring at Haruhi a moment before shooting an unreadable look to each other. They were used to sounding in stereo, a third person talking in synch with them was an entirely new thing. Hikaru frowned as Kaoru gave a sloppy grin.
Kyouya coughed to gain every one's attention. "With Hunny inside, we have serious matters to discuss."
"Does Mori need a kidney?" Kaoru asked anxiously.
"We can spare one of our King's." Hikaru spoke on the heels of his twin brother as he pointed at the still pouting Tamaki. "He's got two and can easily give one up."
"HEY!" Protested Tamaki, putting his hands protectively over his kidneys. "You don't need a kidney to recover from an appendectomy. Besides, between the two of you there are four kidneys! Give Mori one of yours!"
Haruhi tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Sugar-flavored kidney beans sound good for tonight. They're a favorite of my dad's."
"Sugar-flavored?" Hikaru gasped, suddenly looking interested.
"Kidney beans?" Kaoru sighed happily.
"Cooked by my little Haruhi?" Tamaki finished, a look of rapture on his face. "Home cooked?"
Haruhi simply sighed. "No. You can't come over for supper tonight. I fed you two last Tuesday. You're like locusts."
Tamaki's face fell in shock and horror as the twins grinned sheepishly over at him. "We're working on a class project, your majesty. It was a working dinner." The twins said, sounding like they wanted to calm him, but in truth were actually prodding him on. They knew that Tamaki was jealous they were in the same class as Haruhi.
Before things could get further out of hand, Kyouya grabbed 'dad' by the ear and pulled him down the corridor to a small waiting area. Everyone else followed out of curiosity. Or in Haruhi's case, she was dragged along by the twins.
"I said, we have IMPORTANT things to discuss." Kyouya said, only to interrupted by Hikaru.
"No, you said SERIOUS, not important." The twin pointed out ruthlessly.
Kaoru and Haruhi nodded, making Kyouya sigh and cede the point. "Irregardless, this serious matter is important." He clarified for their benefit, making the twins grin happily at the small concession from the club's Shadow King.
"We have to have a contest." Kyouya started, making the twins snap to attention and even Tamaki looked energized at the thought.
"What's the prize!" Hikaru asked eagerly. "I'm not playing unless I know what we're playing for." Tamaki and Kaoru nodded as well. They didn't want to play either, not without knowing the stakes.
Kyouya shook his head. "Contest first. San Sukumi Ken."
Haruhi sighed, wrinkling her nose. "That's just Janken." She muttered. "You even have to use fancy words for Rock, Paper, Scissors."
Hikaru and Kaoru wrapped their arms pityingly around Haruhi as they petted her hair. "Poor commoner. This isn't a mere game of Janken, this is the ancient and proud game of San Sukumi Ken."
"What's the difference?" Haruhi snapped, irritated now. "They have the same rules! Besides, with this many people you need to play Guu Paa Janken."
"Good, Haruhi's in." Kyouya said in his most insufferable voice.
"No, I didn't say that." Haruhi muttered, but was overrun as Tamaki and the twins jumped up to play once they heard she was going to play. Sighing, Haruhi closed her eyes and at the appropriate moment made a hand sign. She lost. Too bad she didn't care.
A few rounds later and it was down to Kyouya and Tamaki. In the end, it was Tamaki running around happily, pumping his fists and making victory signs. "I win! I win! I beat Mom!"
The twins looked confused. They glanced over at each other and then shot a curious glance over at Kyouya. But the Shadow King just looked smug, as in, his normal expression. Hikaru leaned in to whisper to his brother, who nodded. They'd both seen Kyouya change the direction of his hand sign at the last moment. But …if he'd cheated, then why cheat to LOSE a game?
Tamaki slowed and strutted over to them. "So. What do I win?"
"And how is this part of your SERIOUS and IMPORTANT discussion?" Haruhi sighed, bored with the whole thing. She wanted to visit Mori and go home. Wait. She stopped, wondering. She wanted to visit first? Usually she just wanted to go home. It must be because Mori-sempai was sick. That's all. It's not like she was interested in him or anything. At least that's what she told herself for the time being.
Kyouya sighed. "I lose. Ah well. That's too bad. And I really wanted to win this time." He lied smoothly and elegantly. "You win ...all rights to Hunny-sempai. Temporarily, of course."
"Yes! I win! I ….what?" Tamaki's good cheer ground to a halt. "I win Hunny?"
Kyouya nodded as the twins began to catch on. They tried to fight their smiles, they really, really did. Kyouya frowning over at them helped, but only slightly.
"Obviously, Mori-sempai will be out of commission anywhere from 1-3 days here in the hospital and then at least a week at home. More if he doesn't heal quickly, but I doubt that Mori will remain down for long." Kyouya stated most matter-of-factly.
"So?" Tamaki asked suspiciously.
"So. Hunny needs a replacement Mori for at least a week and a half, possibly two." Kyouya said, springing his hastily built trap with ease. "You're the new Mori."
Tamaki's mouth dropped as the twins laughed pointing at him, in their minds they held a picture of their Host Club King carrying a Kendo sword while wearing a dark wig with Hunny perched on his shoulders eating cake. He looked, in a word, ridiculous.
"B…but I won! Surely it should be the loser who has to take on Hunny duties." Tamaki quibbled.
Haruhi got very nervous. "No, you won." She said quickly. She didn't have the time or patience to care for Hunny all day long …for two weeks. "You won." She repeated, almost desperately.
Hikaru and Kaoru's looks turned stern as they stared down their 'king'. "You would want to have Haruhi CARRY Hunny around? But this would take her time away from us, we mean …from the Club."
Tamaki groaned, in his mind's eye he saw an exhausted Haruhi having to care for the energetic Hunny. He 'saw' Hunny perched atop Haruhi's shoulders, kicking her with his feet to go 'faster, faster!' He imagined Haruhi looking like a tragic heroine in one of his melodrama anime shows. Suddenly, he reeled, feeling faint.
"Your majesty!" The twins shouted. They thought about catching him before he fell, but didn't so that they could laugh at him on the ground. Which they did. They pointed at him as they laughed too.
"I win." Tamaki sighed as he laid on the floor.
Hunny peeked around the corner at them. "What did you win, Tama-chan?" He asked softly, his usual exuberance gone. "Why are you on the floor?"
They all looked over at Hunny, who looked strangely haunted. The brightness in his eyes was dimmed and he no longer 'thrummed' with sheer energy. He stood there, clutching his stuffed animal, looking for all the world like a lost ten year old child.
Haruhi looked at him, slightly worried. Hunny didn't look like himself. In fact, while she couldn't put her finger on it, something seemed out-of-place.
Tamaki's heart melted. He jumped up and with a noble bow, held out a hand for Hunny. "I am your replacement Mori for the time he is unable to be with us. Until he heals, you shall look on me as you new Mori."
Hunny quirked his head to one side, then looked over at Kyouya. The Shadow King gave a small smile and nodded. "Go ahead."
"But what about Takashi?" Hunny asked, his eyes still pooled with unshed tears. "He's all alone."
Tamaki looked nonplussed, but then smiled in relief as Kyouya stepped forward. "Just as there is a replacement Mori …er Takashi for you. There is someone to play Hunny for him."
"There is?" Everyone asked in unison, with varying degrees of surprise.
"Haruhi lost, did she not? And playing Hunny for Mori will be simple. She can come here and study in quiet at his bedside. I won't even deduct lost designations from her debt relief."
"Uhm? I understand someone standing in for Mori-sempai, but why does he need a replacement Hunny?" Kaoru asked, only to have his foot stepped on by Hikaru.
"No, it's a fair question." Kyouya said quietly. "Just as Hunny would be lost at Ouran without Mori by his side. Mori-sempai would be lost without someone to 'watch' over. And Haruhi would be the easiest as she'll stay in one place and study. That way Mori can heal in peace."
Tamaki went into spasms of disbelief and started outlining all the reasons why Haruhi should NOT be left here with Mori. Alone. The real reason, of course, was not touched upon.
Haruhi ignored Tamaki completely, and just thought it all over. She felt uneasy about being alone with Mori-sempai, though she couldn't quite put her finger on the reason why. Obviously he wasn't dangerous, not to her. Still, uneasy or not, the allure of having quiet time away from clients or stupid errands called to her like a siren's song. "I'll do it!"
Her announcement dropped Tamaki to the corner in a pout once more.
Hunny sighed, and kicked at the floor with one foot. "I hear cake and ice cream are good for when you don't feel well. There's a great gourmet shop around the corner."
Haruhi shook her head slightly. "I'm afraid Mori won't be up for cake and ice cream today." She said, almost gently. "But it's a nice thought."
"No, I mean for me." Hunny looked at her pleadingly. "I don't feel so good. Like I'm shaky."
Haruhi sighed and nodded. "It's been a shock to you, and a long day." She and the others turned to look at a still pouting Tamaki. "Uhm?"
Kaoru sighed. "If MORI were here, he'd take Hunny-sempai for cake and ice cream." He pointed out.
Hikaru didn't bother with words, he just marched over to Tamaki and grabbed him by the shirt collar. "You have duties to perform, MORI-sempai!"
"What? I'm not Mori …OH! Oh, right!" Tamaki grimaced and held out a hand for Hunny to go ahead of him. "Come on now, we'll go have ice cream."
"And cake?" Hunny said, looking pitiful.
"And cake." Tamaki nodded, feeling sorry for the shorter but older boy. "My treat."
"GREAT!" The twins shouted in excitement. Not that they wanted either cake or ice cream, but rather a chance to bedevil one of their favorite targets. "We're coming too!"
Tamaki sighed and nodded. "I suppose I'm treating the two of you as well?"
"And me." Kyouya said, surprising them all. "What? I'm not one for sweets true, but that doesn't mean I never partake."
"Yes it does." Every one said.
But Kyouya ignored them all as he swept out of the room. He stopped and looked at Haruhi. "If you play 'Hunny' well, maybe we'll bring you back some."
Tamaki perked up at that, having mental images of feeding spoonfuls of ice cream to his grateful and loving 'daughter'. He picked up speed as the rest followed him down the corridor.
Once alone, Haruhi sighed and rolled her shoulders. How long was she supposed to stay? Unsure, she thought it over. "I'll just stay until I get my homework done, do a little studying. Then be home in time for supper."
She walked over to Mori's room, her hand even on the handle, when she realized what had seemed out-of-place earlier. Hunny had not been carrying Bun Bun. He'd been clutching a distinctly pink stuffed rabbit.
Haruhi rushed into Mori's room and then sighed, even her usually stoic heart melting a bit.
Mori was asleep in his bed. And Bun Bun had been tucked lovingly into the bed beside him. Even she had to admit that was a terribly sweet gesture on Hunny's part. Though what Mori would think of it she didn't really know.
Haruhi looked around the rest of the room, and was appalled at its richness even as she was grateful for the space and the nice sized desk provided in the corner. "Rich bastards." She mumbled, even as she set out her school books.
Haruhi was so preoccupied as she checked to make sure she'd remembered to bring the right books for her upcoming test, that she didn't hear the door open. She opened a drawer to look for a pencil, and grimaced as she found an expensive pen set. Haruhi recognized the brand name engraved on the pen and sighed. "Rich bastards." She repeated herself.
"What did you say?" A voice said behind her. "What did you call my brother?"
A snotty voice replied to the first voice. "I think I distinctly heard the word, 'bastard'."
Chapter 9: Strawberries
Utterly startled, Haruhi spun around in shock, the pen set held tightly in one hand over her rapidly beating heart. "Oh! I didn't hear you come in."
"Obviously." Sneered young Haninozuka Yasuchika, a middle-schooler that Haruhi had met only once. But Chika tended to make an impression. And since she knew that Chika had a family tradition of attacking Hunny whenever they met each other, she was glad that the older brother was safely gone. "You're a poor thief not to keep an eye out for the door."
"Th….th…thief?" Haruhi stammered, appalled. That was when she realized what she must look like rummaging through the desk drawers. Although what a person could possibly steal from a hospital room, even an expensive private hospital ….with shock, she glanced down at the costly pen set she still held. "Nooo! I'm not a thief!"
Chika looked at her menacingly, dropping into a karate stance that had Haruhi swallowing hard. She'd seen the boy fight and had no desire to get tangled up with him, even if he was cute as a button and Hunny's little brother. "I don't care if you are older than I am, you have chosen the wrong room to rob ….OUCH!"
The vein next to Haruhi's left eye throbbed as she watched with an open mouth as Chika abruptly fell to the ground. He looked a bit sad lying in a heap like that with a round lump already forming on the back of his head. Haruhi could almost 'see' chirping birds and stars circling the boy as he groaned.
"Idiot!" Morinozuka Satoshi said through gritted teeth, holding a wooden stick menacingly. "Take your glasses off Yasuchika! Your vision is so blurred you don't recognize one of Taka's school friends from the Host Club? You have perfect vision, wearing glasses to deliberately blur your eyesight is stupid and juvenile!"
Haruhi groaned as she remembered that Chika wore his glasses so he wouldn't have to 'look' at his older brother, Hunny.
Chika moaned and whipped off the glasses only to glare at his taller cousin. "Of course I recognize him! That's why I'm mad! That Host Club has ruined my brother and helped him make a mockery of the Haninozuka name!" He rubbed gingerly at his head, wincing. "And you can't carry a shinai into a hospital room, dolt."
Haruhi put the pen set down on the desk and started gathering up her books. It was time to go home. Mori-sempai was still not conscious and his family had arrived. As she was putting her books back in her school bag, the door opened again and a tall, handsome woman walked in, looking worried.
Haruhi stopped and couldn't help staring a bit. The woman looked so much like both Mori and Satoshi that she had to be their mother, but Haruhi couldn't believe that those boy's austere features could be put to such beauty. The chiseled chin was a bit rounder and softer than her sons though. And her face was framed by the most gorgeous dark hair caught up in an old-fashioned intricate twist with hair pins that gleamed. Haruhi swallowed hard, she'd bet those jeweled hairpins cost more than the contents of her entire closet at home.
But her usual reticence toward the ultra-rich was blocked by the out-and-out worry shining out of the woman's dark eyes. The woman came to stand silently by Satoshi, and Haruhi noticed that her hand trembled as she touched her younger son's shoulder. "Is he awake yet? Do you think he's in pain?"
Satoshi shook his head silently and reached up to take his mother's hand in his.
Haruhi looked away, ashamed by the sudden jealousy that pricked her. The jeweled hairpins be damned, it was the simple touch between parent and child that she missed the most about her own mother. She deliberately looked back up, and her jealousy melted away as she saw the beautiful woman lean over Mori and trace the line of his cheek softly. Haruhi smiled and let her momentary pain float away.
"Don't worry so, mother." Satoshi said, confirming the woman's identity. "Taka's spirit is strong and mighty and his heart is loyal! He will be up and about sooner than you can blink!"
The woman blinked, and Haruhi nodded as the woman smiled at her younger son.
"Don't be an idiot." Chika mumbled, having gotten back on his feet, though he still had the lump on his head. "He had his appendix removed. It's not like a Kendo injury or something. He's not some storybook hero facing a dragon or something." He groused as he looked away.
"Don't disrespect Taka!" Sataoshi exploded bringing up the wooden stick that Haruhi finally realized was a wooden practice sword for Kendo. Haruhi winced and closed her eyes, wishing she'd been able to leave before all this started. She waited to hear a second lump being added to Chika's thick skull. But the sound of the strike never came.
Cautiously, Haruhi opened one eye, then the other to stare nearly uncomprehendingly. The shinai was maybe a hairs-breadth from Chika's head, but was stopped. By one finger. Mori's mother looked back and forth between the cousins, her dark eyes snapping with quiet indignation. The woman pushed the shinai away and Haruhi realized that Satoshi had somehow managed to stop his strike in order to avoid hitting his own mother's hand.
"Boys. This is no place for this kind of activity." The woman chided with a soft, but firm voice.
"Yes, mother." Satoshi bowed to her respectfully.
"I told you that you can't bring your shinai into a hospital room." Chika gloated a bit.
Satoshi's mother turned to look at the young Haninozuka and gradually even Chika's sneer faded. "Now. I don't want any fighting. And I know all about your family's ways when meeting up outside of the household. Chika-kun, you and Mitsukuni are not to fight here, as I'm sure he'll be visiting often."
"But!" Chika started, only to be brought up short by the woman's firm gaze. "Yes, ma'am."
"Thank you boys. Now, if you'll …" The woman stopped, having finally realized that there was someone else in the room.
Haruhi had stood very still as she'd held her book bag. She'd been wanting to sidle out the door while everyone else was preoccupied, but she'd been spotted. She smiled nervously at the beautiful woman and bowed politely, just as smoothly as she'd been taught during her tenure at the Host Club.
The woman's eyebrows rose in surprise, but she gave a polite nod of acknowledgement. The kind you give to someone younger, but of unknown origins. "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage young lady."
Haruhi's knees trembled slightly as she realized the woman was not fooled by her male clothing.
The two boys grinned up at the woman, shaking their heads. "Obasan, this is one of …HIS friends from school. Sure he looks feminine, but he's a guy." Chika said, trying to hide his smile.
Satoshi slapped Chika lightly on the back of his head, making the shorter boy snarl for a moment. "How many times do I have to tell you, Yasuchika? Don't disrespect our upper-classmen! And it's alright to say Mitsukuni's name, he is NOT an alien."
Haruhi smiled at the woman, her initial embarrassment giving way to her natural pragmatism. "As you say ma'am, I am female." Haruhi said, ignoring the outbursts from the two middle-schoolers, focusing instead on Mori's mother.
Chika's jaw dropped even as Satoshi's eyes widened and he nearly dropped his shinai in shock having to make a quick grab to keep the practice sword from hitting the floor.
"I am Morinozuka Chiyoko, Takashi's mother if you have not guessed already." The woman smiled, grace personified. The warmth in her gaze put Haruhi a bit on edge, not knowing what to make of this kind of welcome. "As you must be Fujioka Haruhi, the special scholarship student that I've heard so much about."
Haruhi's face blushed beet red for a moment. Being found out as a female hadn't really fazed her, but had …had MORI been speaking about her to ...to his mother? All of a sudden, all the things the twins had told her about Hunny's matchmaking list came back to her in a rush.
"Mitsukuni speaks highly of you." Chiyoko continued with a sweet smile, even as Chika groaned at the name of his older brother.
"Hunny-sempai does?" Haruhi fell over her words, unsure what to think now. There was a rush of relief that it had been Hunny and not Mori talking about her, but there was also a sharp pang of …was that disappointment? No, no …she must be coming down with a virus or something.
"Boys?" Chiyoko looked over at her son and his cousin. "Haruhi's status is a secret. It would dishonor both the Morinozuka and Haninozuka names if you let her secret become public knowledge. Is that clearly understood?" After both boys nodded solemnly, she smiled and touched each boy lightly on the cheek. "Now, please run down to the administration offices and see what is keeping Tatsuo so long."
Both boys bowed to Chiyoko, and then to her surprise, to Haruhi as well. They took their leave just as silently as they'd originally entered the room.
Silence fell between the two women as Chiyoko sighed and pulled up a chair next to Mori's bed. Haruhi looked around, not sure what to do. It would be rude to over-stay during what was essentially a family crisis. But it would be equally as rude to leave without speaking.
"Do you like strawberries?"
Haruhi blinked, taken aback. Of all the questions she might have anticipated, that wouldn't have been it. Unsure of herself, Haruhi stuck with the truth, as usual. "Yes, ma'am."
"So does Mitsukuni." Chiyoko said, and smiled as she softly traced a line from her son's shoulder to his fingertips. Mori's fingers twitched, but that was all. "He doesn't share well with those he doesn't care for. But if you win his friendship, not just surface niceties, then you have an ally for life. Still, there are not many that Mitsukuni would share a strawberry cake with. He's more discerning than he lets on."
Haruhi nodded, recalling how Hunny had allowed her to have her pick of cakes during that first visit from the Host Club to her home. She'd chosen strawberry. Hunny hadn't complained at all, she remembered, he'd taken the strawberry cakes for himself and for her. Then Haruhi caught her breath, and for Mori. The three of them had eaten the only strawberry cakes while the others had split the rest of the cakes among themselves. Had that meant something? Her thoughts were interrupted as Mori's mother continued speaking.
"Tell me of yourself, special scholarship student Fujioka Haruhi." Chiyoko said quietly, with no hint of condescension in her voice. "Ouran Academy is not an easy school in which to gain entrance. Scholarships make your accomplishment even better. Your parents must be extremely proud of you."
Although she wasn't quite sure how it happened, Haruhi found herself talking at length to Mori's mother. The woman was not just polite, but completely gracious and kind. She seemed genuinely interested as Haruhi found herself opening up in ways she'd hadn't for a long time. Chiyoko smiled and nodded, and expressed her sadness as Haruhi spoke of her mother, and then her mother's passing. She asked intelligent questions about Haruhi's desires to follow in her mother's footsteps to law school. In the end, there wasn't much that Chiyoko didn't know as Haruhi wasn't ashamed of anything in her past and was by her very nature, quite straight forward.
"Your father uses the name 'Ranka' at the okama bar where he works?" Chiyoko nodded as she thought about it. "It's a lovely name. But you can tell he's a good parent by how well he's done raising you."
They were interrupted as Mori groaned and blinked before falling back under the spell of the drugs from the surgery. Haruhi smiled, seeing this as a sign he was coming around. She looked up at Chiyoko and caught her breath at the worry on the older woman's face.
"I heard he came through surgery well. And Satoshi is right, Mori-sempai is very strong." Haruhi said quietly, trying to reassure Mori's mother.
Chiyoko looked up, and her worried look melted into one of her smiles. Haruhi had a moment of wondering at how a woman who smiled so much could have a son like Mori, who smiled only rarely. That was when the door to the room opened and a tall, dark-haired man walked inside.
Haruhi figured this must be Mori's father as Chiyoko immediately stood aside for the man to come and look down at the slumbering young man. Haruhi watched a moment, realizing that while the sons might get their face from their mother, they got their movement and strength from this man. While Chiyoko was grace personified, this man actually moved like water. His movements appeared languid, but weren't. In fact, there was a sense of underlying power and strength just beneath the surface. It was like looking into a magic mirror and seeing Mori's future. And that thought sent Haruhi's senses reeling a bit.
Haruhi stood quickly and picked up her book bag. She needed to get out of here. Her stomach suddenly didn't feel so good. She wasn't queasy exactly, but she did feel odd. Flushed. Maybe she really was coming down with something.
"Please stay." Chiyoko said simply, holding out a hand to stall the younger woman. "I've enjoyed your company."
Haruhi shook her head and made polite excuses as to why she needed to get home. They were all true, but she was aware that she was running away, though she wasn't quite sure why. Then with a start she realized that she had to come back. She was the 'new' Hunny! But how to explain that, exactly? Not sure how, Haruhi decided not to try, only stating that she'd be back tomorrow if that wasn't inconvenient to the family.
"No, please come." Chiyoko said, as Mori's father looked on, slightly puzzled, though only quietly watching. Much like his son usually did.
After Haruhi's exit, Morinozuka Tatsuo looked over at his wife, raising one eyebrow. He didn't even have to ask the question, his wife knew him so well.
"Fujioka Haruhi." Chiyoko said as her husband stood and pulled up a second chair next to their firstborn's bed.
"Ah." Was the only response. Then a gravelly rumble of a bass voice. "I thought you didn't like Mitsukuni's choice."
Chiyoko smiled and ran a soft hand over her son's hair. "I think I might have been wrong. That will teach me to judge without meeting the person first. She is …different. And strong. She'd have to be to stand up to Takashi and his friends. We already knew her to be smart, to get where she is. I thought she'd be too ambitious, angling for a rich husband or something."
"No?" Tatsuo's voice rumbled.
"No." Chiyoko said firmly. "She's strong in her own right, and doesn't seem to care for things like that. I like her."
"…un. Good." The voice was deep, but this time it wasn't Tatsuo.
Both parents looked down and watched Mori blink his dark eyes at them.
"How long have you been awake?" Chiyoko chided gently.
"For a while." Was the simple response, then a wince of pain as he shifted in the bed. "Yasuchika can be loud."
"That long?" Chiyoko pulled back, wondering if she'd miscalculated her son's interest in the Fujioka girl. "Why didn't you say something?"
Both her husband and her son just blinked at her, not saying a word. Chiyoko sighed and sat back in her chair. "Right. Morinozuka males. I forgot." Both men kept quiet as Chiyoko spoke at length about their long flight back after they'd gotten word about Takashi's sudden appendicitis attack. She told him of Satoshi's Kendo matches and how he'd pulled out of the tournament the moment he'd found out his brother was ill. She was making a list of things to bring to the hospital from home, when Mori finally spoke up again.
"Hai?" She said, stopping her recitation as she looked anxiously over at him. "Do you need me to call the nurse? More pain medication?"
"No." Mori said simply. "I …I'm glad you liked her."
Chiyoko blinked, then smiled widely. "Me too." She said, and looked over at her husband.
Tatsuo frowned, even as he nodded. He hadn't had a chance to really meet the girl. Yet.
Chapter 10: Public Transport?
The next day the Host Club went on as usual. Sort of.
One of the customers leaned over to whisper to the twins. "What's wrong with Tamaki-san?"
Hikaru shrugged negligently as Kaoru chuckled. "Oh, he's just exhausted. With Mori-sempai out, he's having to be Hunny's replacement 'Mori' today. Apparently, it's not easy being Mori."
All three of the girls sitting with the twins looked sympathetically at their 'prince' as he snoozed while sitting up on the couch. "Don't you suppose we should at least remove the tea cup from his hand before he spills it?" One of the girls whispered helpfully.
Hikaru shook his head sadly. "No, we don't want to embarrass him by even tacitly implying he needed assistance."
Kaoru nodded his head, looking earnest. But inwardly both twins were loving every moment of Tamaki's suffering and exhaustion. Not that they didn't like Tamaki, but that this sort of thing was amusing to them. And they lived to be amused.
Kyouya watched everything, even as he entertained two young ladies himself. He was all that was smooth, sweet, and proper as they sat together. Outwardly. On the inside, he was rather surprised that without Haruhi here today, he was a bit bored. Maybe he'd been too precipitous to push her toward Mori?
The Host Club's vice president pushed his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose and gave a polite laugh to a lame joke one of the girls told, for the third time in a month. She was sweet, but rather clueless. Or was it that Haruhi's dry sense of humor had spoiled him lately?
Kyouya looked around the room, making sure all was as it should be. He frowned as he caught sight of Hunny rubbing his eyes and yawning. It was past time that Hunny took his nap. It didn't phase Kyouya that Hunny took daily naps. Their female customers thought it was cute and fit in with their Lolita-Shota ideals of him. Only a select few knew that Hunny took daily naps because he was up at an unreasonable time, in Kyouya's opinion, every morning to train in the family dojo.
Briefly Kyouya wondered if any of these girls had ever seen the sun rise? And what they would think of their adorable Lolita-Shota to know that he was up every morning long before they were?
Kyouya smiled evilly behind the cover of his tea cup, as he contemplated what Suoh thought of seeing the sun rise this morning. Tamaki now had a more intimate experience of Hunny's schedule, rather than just knowing about it, he was living it. The Shadow King wondered how Tamaki had stayed awake today as long as he had.
Hikaru's amusement ended when Tamaki started snoring and he reached over to poke their 'king' in the side. "Oh Mori!"
Tamaki smacked his lips and rubbed his face, dropping the tea cup that Kaoru was quick enough to grab. Luckily it was nearly empty. "Oi! Mori!"
The Host Club's king blinked wearily, visions of Hunny spinning impossibly fast to take down his sparring partner this morning fading slowly. Tamaki was just grateful he'd only had to watch this morning, rather than participate in activities at the Haninozuka dojo. Apparently, Mori ran through his Kendo exercises before going to collect his cousin for the school day, but Hunny hadn't made Tamaki do that ...for which he was quite grateful. "Wha?"
"Mori!" Hikaru slapped him on the back. While it appeared like a friendly gesture to those surrounding them, the blow was still sharp enough to make Tamaki cough. "Hunny needs you!"
Tamaki sat straight up, instantly all gracious host. "Of course! I'm on my way, Hunny-sempai!"
"He's taking this seriously." Kaoru commented with a sly grin.
"Of course he is." Hikaru said solemnly, turning to his brother with a melting look in his eye. "Do you wish him as a brother instead of I? Our Lord is so attentive and caring. Before you answer, just know that I will always be there for you, if ever the need shall arise. Mori-sempai's illness has me worried about your health. You did cough twice yesterday."
Kaoru blushed and looked away, as if embarrassed by the look in his brother's eye. "You worry too much over me, Hikaru." His brother's name spoken with a barely concealed longing that had all the girl's hearts racing as they clutched their hands beneath their chins. "And I could envision no one else as my brother. Ever."
Hikaru gently put one finger under Kaoru's chin and turned his head back to him. The brothers stared into each other's eyes from barely a few inches away. "Kaoru." The name was a caress.
"Oooh!" Every girl swayed in their seat, feeling faint. "Brotherly love! I can't take it!"
Kyouya just hoped his camera had captured the moment effectively enough for a decent profit. He looked away from the emoting duo as the door to the room opened, lifting one eyebrow quizzically when he saw Haruhi slip inside. "I thought you were at the hospital already?"
Haruhi nodded. "I'm on my way, I just finished meeting with the Class-1A president about a project we're all working on. I just needed to ask Hunny-sempai a question before I left."
Hikaru and Kaoru had abandoned their still simpering clientele to fan each other as they wandered over to their own personal lodestone. "Haruhi! Hunny-sempai is taking a nap, I think My Lord is tucking him in now."
Haruhi nodded. "I meant to stop and pick up a get-well gift for Mori-sempai. But I didn't know if he had any allergies or anything."
Kyouya nodded and opened up his ever present notebook. "He has an allergy to penicillin, but I doubt you'll find that substance in any gift you might purchase. Other than that, he has no allergies at all."
"Oh, right. Thanks." Haruhi smiled, slightly amused and exasperated at the same time. She should have known that Kyouya had files on them all that included stuff like allergies. He really was thorough. A bit scary, but thorough.
After Haruhi had left, Kaoru turned to look at the others. "Kyouya, I didn't think about her buying a gift for Mori-sempai. This has disaster written all over it."
Kyouya shrugged, pulling the twins away from the earshot of their remaining customers. "No, it's perfect. She's a commoner and can't afford much, true. But Mori-sempai would never hurt her feelings and will accept anything she offers with his usual good grace." Hikaru nodded in agreement.
Kaoru, though, wasn't so sure. "Remember, Mori-sempai's in the hospital. Any gift she gives him will be seen by his family."
Hikaru drew in a deep breath. "And the Haninozuka family. What kind of impression will she make with whatever poor offering she can scrape up money for?"
All three of the Host Club members remembered the day that Haruhi had first invaded their territory. She'd been dressed in horrid glasses, with an awful haircut, and sloppily dressed in an oversized, stretched out sweater.
Kyouya's stomach dropped. "We need to intervene."
Within fifteen minutes, the three were tailing an oblivious Haruhi as she headed for the hospital.
"Tamaki is taking care of the remaining Host Club customers?" Kaoru asked as they tried to blend in with the crowd. It was hard to do when everyone kept turning and looking at the toothsome threesome.
"How did you manage that?" Hikaru asked, as he and his brother had been sent off to collect everyone's gifts for Mori. When they'd returned, Kyouya had been waiting at the door for them. "I can't believe Tamaki didn't insist on coming with us."
"Hunny isn't awake yet." Kyouya said dryly. "I merely pointed out to Tamaki that he was free to wake Hunny from his nap early, but I wasn't going to do it. He actually blanced at the thought. And that as the interim 'Mori', it was his duty to remain with his charge until Hunny awoke on his own."
"Yep. He'd go for that." Kaoru nodded happily as they ducked behind a group of people as Haruhi stopped at a traffic light. "But how did you get him to turn over his present? Surely he has no interest in making sure Haruhi doesn't embarrass herself by exposing her commoner tastes to Mori's family?"
Kyouya snorted lightly. "Hardly. I just pointed out to him that Mori would do it for him. And seeing as how he IS Mori today, that makes Mori HIM for the day. So basically, it's Haruhi giving the present to Tamaki, not really Mori. He really liked that idea."
The twins almost fell over laughing as they imagined their Host Club king falling for that line of thinking.
"We have trouble." Kyouya announced suddenly, stopping to pull out his cell phone.
The twins rushed forward to look, stopping in utter shock as they saw Haruhi enter the train station. "Public transportation?" They said it as if were an infectious disease. Hikaru and Kaoru noted all the people heading into the train station with deep unease. That was too many people! Surely the train couldn't hold all of them? "It'll collapse!" They quailed in unison.
Kyouya finished his phone call and turned to watch the twins arguing about whether or not Japan's public transportation system could handle so many people all at once. He sighed and shook his head. "The train is fine, and is built to handle the populace quite nicely, thank you. Still. I am not subjecting myself to being squeezed into a public train like a sardine into a can." The very idea was enough to make him break out in a cold sweat.
"So what are we going to do?" Kaoru said, both twins watching their Shadow King anxiously as they held the bags with the Host Club's gifts for Mori. "You haven't even let us in on your plan to save Haruhi from embarrassing herself."
Kyouya shrugged, not willing to admit he was still working out the finer details of his 'plan', such as it was. It was then that his three bodyguards showed up. Quickly he dispatched one of them to follow Haruhi and to call him on the cell phone if she got off the train anywhere but at the station closest to the private hospital.
After that, all three boys climbed into the back of Kyouya's family car and allowed the chauffer to drive them to the hospital.
Hikaru commented as he settled himself comfortably in the spacious vehicle. "It's a good thing our King isn't with us, or we might have found ourselves on that train after all. All in the name of 'commoner' research."
Kyouya pushed his glasses up once more while shaking his head, glad Tamaki was tied up with taking care of Hunny. Silently he pledged to himself never to let Tamaki nag him into getting on public transport. The instant coffee and commoner snacks were bad enough.
"But Hunny-sempai, we have to hurry to the hospital!" Tamaki pleaded, looking debonairly desparate.
But Hunny just shook his head and continued to eat his cake. "Something's missing." He said in his uber-cute way, looking around the table still a bit sleepy-eyed from his nap.
Tamaki jumped to attention and looked around as well. "Cake. Tea. Utensils. Napkins. I even have a string around my finger to remind me to remind you to brush your teeth. Hunny-sempai, what could possibly be missing?"
Hunny's eyes welled up as he looked up at Tamaki standing over him. "I miss Takashi."
And no matter in how much of a hurry Tamaki was to get to the hospital, even he was felled by the full wattage of the Lolita-Shota look. He knelt down next to Hunny's chair, all sympathy and earnestness. "Mori-sempai is fine. Kyouya has been getting reports and your cousin is recovering beautifully."
Hunny's eyes welled and he looked at Mori's empty seat. "I'm not used to Takashi not being there. He's quiet, but I always know he's there."
Tamaki rushed to take the indicated seat, and was relieved to see Hunny give him a watery smile. He started to speak, then caught Hunny's small shake of his head. Oh yes. QUIETLY sitting there. That's what the real Mori would do. So Tamaki complied, and it nearly killed him to remain so silent as Hunny ate his cake. How could Mori-sempai do it? Even his teeth started to hurt at sitting so quietly.
The Host Club president watched desperately as the senior finally took the last bite of cake. With a happy smile, he started to rise, ready to head to the hospital.
"Chocolate this time, I think. With strawberry filling." Hunny said, holding up his plate.
The King of the Host Club sighed. "But don't we have to get to the hospital?" He asked, almost whimpering.
"But you said Takashi was doing well." Hunny pointed out calmly. "And I always have two cakes after my nap. Takashi would know that."
The Suoh boy sighed, having no idea he was being played and went to get Hunny a second cake.
For his part, Hunny felt a slight sense of guilt. But it was assuaged by the fact that he really did usually have two cakes following his afternoon nap. Still, he really did want to go visit Takashi and see that his cousin was doing alright with his own eyes. But he'd wait just a bit longer, giving Takashi time alone with Haruhi.
Kyouya and the twins arrived at the hospital in record time. They didn't beat the train per se, but since Haruhi still had to walk from the station to the hospital the trio did manage to arrive before she did.
The Shadow King was listening to his guard's report on the cell phone as they entered the private hospital. "Hai." He said before disconnecting the call. "She has yet to purchase a gift and is about half a block away."
"So, she's looking to buy something at the gift store? Here?" Hikaru theorized, then he shook his head. "I don't think she fully comprehends that this is an Ohtori hospital. I doubt she could afford any decent gift at the shop here."
Kyouya nodded, walking briskly toward the shop in question. After a brief conversation with the sales clerk, who had snapped to bone-breaking attention at his presence, he returned to the twins. "I've summoned the manager. I feel that today is a good day for a nice sale. Perhaps ten percent off?"
Kaoru crossed his arms and gave Kyouya a baleful stare. Hikaru matched his brother's cold stare on the opposite side. Finally the Shadow King sighed. "Fine. A quarter off on every item."
Neither twin moved a muscle. Finally Hikaru spoke up. "This is Haruhi. What do you think she's going to do at a sale? Buy out the store? She only wants the one gift."
Kyouya's blood was chilled at how much he was going to have to cut the prices, but for his plan to work, he had no choice. With a sigh, he went to meet with the approaching manager. Slightly taken by surprise that she was so young, and even rather pretty.
Introducing herself was Nodoka Kokoro, the woman bowed deeply and listened with surprise as the young Ohtori laid out his request. A request couched within an order. She was both amused and surprised at his rather austere approach. She wasn't that much older than he, but this young man acted like he was ancient. And in charge. That's why it surprised Kokoro so much that what he was spelling out …was actually a rather kind gesture for a friend. Ignoring protocol, she nodded and escorted all three young men into her office to watch from the two way mirror. Besides, it could be beneficial to do a favor for an Ohtori. Even a third son.
Kyouya, for his part was impressed with her immediate grasp of the situation and even some of her suggestions to improve the plan.
So it was that the gifts from the other Host Club members where unwrapped and marked at incredibly low prices. And just in time too. As Kyouya and the twins watched as Haruhi entered the shop.
The manager was a bit confused, having been told that a young woman was to be shopping. But the Ohtori youth indicated that the young person in the male uniform from Ouran was actually the shopper in question. Rather than argue, she walked up to the person indicated and offered her assistance in choosing an appropriate gift.
Hunny and Tamaki were in the back of the Suoh car on their way to the hospital. Hunny was hoping he had allowed enough time for Takashi to have some time alone with Haruhi.
For his part, Tamaki was praying that Haruhi hadn't been alone with Mori-sempai at all. How could the tall senior show an interest in the girl Tamaki thought of as his daughter?! No. The very idea left him sweaty and cold.
Kyouya was watching from the two way mirror as Haruhi browsed the store with the manager. He wondered how this Nodoka woman had become a full manager at her young age.
Meanwhile, the twins were busy making a contest out of which gift Haruhi would choose for Mori-sempai.
Mori sneezed, then continued to eat his green jello. Silently. Satoshi sat beside him, chattering on about his day at school.
Chapter 11: Choosing a Gift
From their vantage point, Kyouya and the twins watched as the manager of the hospital gift shop approached Haruhi.
The twins groaned as Nodoka Kokoro, the young manager, steered Haruhi away from the Host Club's opened presents. Hikaru made a gesture toward the office door, but Kyouya neatly cut him off.
"Stupid manager is messing it up!" Hikaru snarled.
"No she's not." Kyouya stated calmly. "Don't be over anxious, when YOU want someone to chose a certain thing ...do you always start out offering the item you want your client to pick first, or do you lead up to it?"
Hikaru paused as Kaoru pulled him back toward the two-way mirror overlooking the store. The more rash of the twins actually blushed a bit. It was true, in his eagerness to 'win' their little contest he'd almost made a rookie mistake. Embarrassed, he glowered a bit as he watched Haruhi and the manager move around the shop.
Kaoru squeezed his twin's shoulder companionably, rather than with the 'brotherly love' that would have had their clientele fainting. "It's Haruhi, she messes up our radar." He said, making an excuse for his twin.
They watched a moment, then all of them cringed as Haruhi pointed at a large crystal unicorn. "She wouldn't." Kaoru moaned, looking utterly appalled.
Hikaru quickly stepped toward the office door again, only to be brought up short by both Kyouya and his own twin. "No, Hikaru! Don't go out there and spoil it all."
Hikaru snarled at them and pointed out the window. "It's not me that will spoil it! We have to get them out of there!"
Kyouya shook his head at the rashness of the move, but Kaoru knew his brother better than anyone else on the planet. He looked. And what he saw almost made his heart stop.
The club's Shadow King found himself looking too as Kaoru blasted past him and grabbed the office door, all while making frantic hand signals to the front of the gift shop. Kyouya blinked then frowned sharply as he saw Tamaki and Hunny standing in the entrance of the store, watching Haruhi. Luckily, the female club member had her back to them and had not yet noticed the duo's arrival.
Tamaki shook his head at them, and instead was starting to step over towards Haruhi and the manager when Hunny grabbed his hand and started dragging him toward the others. Both twins rushed out and slapped their hands over their King's mouth. Tamaki started to turn red, but he was powerless under the onslaught of both twins plus a determined Hunny.
Haruhi felt like something had just happened, but when she turned around …no one was there. Frowning, she turned back to the store manager. "I appreciate your kindness, but like I was saying, I definitely don't want anything like that." She said, pointing at the crystal unicorn once again.
Kokoro nodded, making a mental note. In fact, she guessed she shouldn't be surprised that a girl dressed in a male's school uniform would go for the ultra-cutsie gifts. "You did say this was for a friend? A male friend?"
Haruhi held up both hands with her palms up, almost defensively. "Not a boyfriend, no!" She swallowed hard, a strange burning sensation at the back of her throat as she recalled what the twins had told her earlier. But then, so what if Hunny wanted she and Mori together? That didn't mean Mori-sempai wanted the same thing. Did it? "No, no. This is a male school friend."
Still a bit confused on the exact relationship, which would help tremendously in choosing a gift, the store manager raised an eyebrow. "A school chum, then? Perhaps an engraved book mark or customized pen set?"
Haruhi frowned. Actually, those weren't bad ideas. But. But …they didn't feel right somehow. "No." She said slowly, unsure.
Kokoru pushed a bit more. "So, this is not a boyfriend, but someone you want to see you in that manner?"
"No!" Haruhi waved her hands again, looking a bit shell-shocked. "No, just not a casual school chum either." She said, then her voice firmed. "Closer than an acquaintance, but not …"
"Ah yes." Kokoro nodded, remembering her own days in school. Well, to be blunt, they weren't that long ago! She sighed happily at her recent promotion. But to keep that position, letting down the third Ohtori son would not be beneficial, she'd heard company rumors about him. Straightening up, she mentally ran through the items set out on the special 'sale' table. Items that easily cost more than several month's salary to her. She hoped this client would find something to suit her on that table.
Haruhi looked around her again. Why did having to buy a gift cause so much inner turmoil? It's not like it was that important. Was it?
In the manager's office, a different turmoil was in the making. The door safely shut, the twins let go of Tamaki, backing away from his 'furious' face. They knew that expression, it meant he wasn't posing. He was really upset.
The twins laughed, ignored their King and touched palms in victory. "Haruhi never saw us!"
Tamaki actually growled at them. "What are you doing? I agreed to let Haruhi look over our presents and choose one to buy so that her commoner taste wouldn't embarrass her. But why can't I go speak to my daughter! She needs a more cultured opinion on purchasing an appropriate gift."
Kyouya sighed and shook his head, looking at his first friend. "You can't influence the game."
"Game?" Hunny looked up, his usual adorable self.
The twins shrugged. "The manager has agreed to steer Haruhi to the gifts we all bought for Mori and sell them to her at a reduced rate." The said in unison.
Kyouya sighed unhappily. "A steeply reduced rate." It still hurt to think about the discount.
Tamaki was quick to catch on. "So the winner is the person that brought the gift that Haruhi buys!" He looked so excited for a moment, then his expression crashed. "Wait. But this is a present for …Mori."
"What's wrong with buying a present for Takashi?" Hunny-sempai said, tugging on Tamaki's arm. "I wanted to bring him an entire store full of cakes, but Kyouya told me that they might be bad for him."
"Just until he heals." Kyouya said to the worried senior, almost gently. "Then you can flood him with cakes."
Tamaki sighed, still unhappy. "But I don't like the idea of my daughter buying a special present for …" He paused and looked nervously over at Hunny. "I mean, is it THAT important for her gift to be nice?"
Kaoru sighed and shrugged, Hikaru mirrored him as they turned to face the Host Club's King. "I thought it was a father's duty to keep his child from being made a laughing stock." Neither mentioned their plan to unite Haruhi and Mori.
Tamaki's face glowered at them, but he couldn't come up with a reasonable argument without facing his own inner turmoil. Why would it be so bad for Haruhi to be nice toMori? Hunny's list was troubling, but it didn't make a relationship between Haruhi and Mori a fact. Tamaki only knew that the idea of those two 'together' made his stomach burn and his head hurt horribly. No. This had to stop and he had to be the one to put his foot down.
Kyouya sensed the moment that Tamaki was about to break, and stepped into the breach. "Remember. You're Mori and he's you. For the time being, at least. This is a gift she's picking out essentially for you, not him." He lied smoothly.
The King opened and shut his mouth a few times, but it was obvious he had no rejoinder for that line of thinking. Which only served to amuse the others no end.
"Look!" Hunny grinned brightly and turned to look out the two-way mirror. "Oooh! Look, they've got our presents on display! And Haruhi's looking at them!"
Everyone peered out the two-way mirror as they fell into silence. Whose gift would she choose?
Haruhi's eyes widened slightly at the items displayed on the sale table. She looked up hesitantly at the store manager. "These look too nice to be on sale." She said in her usual straight-forward manner.
Kokoro nodded, her expression giving away nothing. "But the items are the last of the stock and must be sold to make room for the new merchandise. Actually, you've come at a rather good time to get a very nice gift for a smaller price."
Haruhi reached out and traced a wooden sword, which thanks to Satoshi and Chika she knew to be a shinai.
Behind the mirror, Tamaki shivered with delight. She was touching his gift! Hunny leaned toward him to whisper something. "Is that a madake owari shinai?"
Tamaki nodded, not breathing as Haruhi inspected the expensive wooden kendo practice sword.
"Nice." Hikaru smiled evilly as they watched their female club member move on to the next item on the table. "But not nice enough!"
Two seconds later, there was one less club member watching through the mirror. The moment that Haruhi moved away from his present, Tamaki had rushed to huddle in the corner, dropping into his pouting pose.
"Oh, too bad!" Kaoru chuckled darkly with a gleam in his eye. "She's shaking her head at your gift Hunny-sempai."
Hunny sighed, deeply unhappy as Haruhi admired, then put down the vase he'd bought for his cousin.
Kyouya shook his head sadly. "Perhaps we reckoned without Haruhi's commoner tastes. The vase is lovely, Hunny-sempai." He said, referring to the ten inch copper and silver masterpiece by highly renowned artist Hasuda Shugoro.
Hunny sighed and fought the urge to go pout with Tamaki. He gave a watery smile and looked over at the twins. "Nice baskets."
Kaoru nodded. "We couldn't decide, so got both. Mine is a bamboo flower basket by basket master Tanabe Chikauunsi II. And Hikaru got the hanging basket by Iizuka Shokamsai."
"Both in excellent taste and quality. All with the original signed wooden storage boxes too." Kyouya nodded. "Impeccable."
"Not to Haruhi though." Kaoru sighed as she put down one of the flower baskets. "Looks like you may win, Kyouya."
The Ohtori smiled, but mostly on the inside. "Well, you can hardly wonder. I hear commoners are drawn to bright colors. And Takashi Kitamura is a genius pottery craftsmaster with brilliant usage of gold and silver glazes." He said as Haruhi picked up the expensive dish.
"They're all beautiful." Haruhi admitted as she slowly put down the lovely plate. "Even if they must be reproductions, at these prices. Still, they don't …Oh, what's that?" She asked pointing at a different table.
Kokoro looked and nodded. "Oh, but are you sure you don't want one of these lovely items. Those are just snow globes."
But Haruhi wasn't listening as she walked over to the small display of large globes. She picked one up and looked inside. "That's a samurai beneath a cherry tree." Haruhi shook up the globe and watched as cherry blossoms 'snowed' within the globe. She thought of Mori and how he often reminded her of a lone warrior samurai. Not just a strong individual, but a person of deep morality, intelligence, and sensitivity.
Haruhi frowned. She'd not put those words to an actual thought before. But now that she dwelled on it, Mori was all those things. He was second in his school class, and very smart. He was loyal and wasn't sly or manipulative like some others she knew, and although she was fond of the twins, it was nice to be able to count on Mori-sempai when in need. He was calm and dependable and handsome ...whoa. Haruhi stopped those thoughts and turned over the globe to check the price. She nearly groaned aloud. "Oh well."
Kokoro watched with a small smile. Well, it wasn't one of the expensive gifts, but still it wasn't cheap. "Like I said, you're in luck today. We were about to put the 'sale' sign out on this table as well."
"Oh?" Haruhi's eyes widened happily as she heard the revised price. "Do you gift wrap?" She asked, because commoner or not, no gift in Japan went unwrapped lest you cause offense. In fact, sometimes the gift wrapping was more important than the gift itself. With that in mind, she walked over with the store manager to pick out the right wrapping paper.
"A snow globe?" Kaoru said, shaking his head sadly.
Kyouya looked as stunned as he felt, but he recovered the quickest. Sighing, he pushed his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. "That just proves that taste is separate from frugality. Just because something is priced less, it doesn't mean a person's tastes changes correspondingly."
"Uh?" Hunny said, smiling. "I like the snow globe. Any gift from Haruhi would be good."
Tamaki jumped up, looking energized once more. "Hunny-sempai is right! Regardless that she snubbed all of our gifts, at least she didn't choose one of us over the rest!"
"You just mean you're glad none of us won over you." Kaoru sighed as he made his point. "No winner. The contest is a flop."
Hikaru grinned madly and pointed at where Haruhi was looking over the various wrapping papers. "No. I choose the red stripes. I win if she chooses that wrapping paper!"
"White print on the blue paper!" Kaoru called quickly.
"The cute one with the bunnies on it!" Hunny chose with glee. No one pointed out that that paper was undoubtly for pediatric patients.
Kyouya sighed as Tamaki ran over to look wildly through the mirror. "Oh, oh! The one with the red and gold print on the neutral background!"
The Shadow King sighed. "What does that leave me?"
Tamaki gave him a rueful look. "The plain silver."
"Fine." Kyouya nodded. Then actually gave a smile as the others groaned. Haruhi had taken the plain silver.
Tamaki didn't pout at losing this time. Wrapping paper often indicated how you felt about the person receiving the gift. To him, the silver didn't indicate a close relationship.
Kyouya, on the other hand, was pleased. Elegant and tasteful, the silver didn't indicate mere friendship to him.
Morinozuka Chiyoko smiled down at her energetic youngest son. "No, you have to go home now. Dinner, then study. You have a major quiz tomorrow."
"But Taka needs me!" Satoshi said pleadingly, though there was no hint of whine in his voice.
Chika sighed, shaking his head. "Takashi needs rest more than anything. I need your help anyway, I couldn't read my history notes. Did you catch what the teacher said about the Teacup scandal in the U.S.?"
"TeaDOME scandal." Satoshi sighed. "If you'd take off your glasses more, you would be able to read your own handwriting."
Chika sighed. He usually did remove his glasses during class, but had forgotten today. "Let's go get something to eat and go home."
Chiyoko smiled at the boys as they gathered their school things and made their polite exits. "They're good boys."
"Un." Mori said, relaxing a bit now that it was quieter.
Their was a small knock on the door right before it opened just a crack.
"Did you forget something, dear?" Chiyoko said, turning. She caught sight of Haruhi's large eyes and she smiled in genuine welcome. "Oh! Come in, dear, come in! How delightful."
For her part, Haruhi smiled brightly. She really liked Mori-sempai's mother. Despite the fact that the woman was richer than Midas and dressed so stylishly, she didn't act snooty or pretentious. Haruhi found herself drawn out of her polite bow into a small hug.
"Now dear, come sit beside me and visit with us." Chiyoko moved her chair slightly so that her son's friend would have more room. Haruhi brought over one of the chairs Chika and Satoshi had been using.
"Thank you." She smiled blithely, making Chiyoko's smile broaden in response. "Oh, I …this is for you Mori-sempai. Nothing special."
Mori reached out with both hands, as was polite in accepting gifts. He nodded his head in an abbreviated bow. "Thank you." He said simply, his deep voice all rumbly. "Haruhi."
She smiled, though she blushed a bit as he put the box on the small bedside table. When he said her name in his deep voice, it always did something to her. Warmed her somehow.
Chiyoko nodded happily at her son. "Go ahead and open it, Takashi. We're not being formal here, no need to stand on ceremony."
Embarrassed, Haruhi could barely watch as Mori opened her gift. She saw his long, elegant yet strong fingers flip open the edges of the paper without ripping into it. Holding her breath a bit, she watched as he pulled out the box and opened that as well.
Chiyoko patted herself mentally on the back as she watched her son's dark eyes lighten with pleasure as he inspected the snow globe.
"It's nothing special." Haruhi reiterated politely. "It reminded me of you."
"Hai." Was all Mori said for a long minute as he turned the snow globe upside down, then watched as the cherry blossoms 'snowed' around the samurai figure beneath the tree. "Thank you."
The words were his usual politeness, and Haruhi wasn't sure, but it felt like his voice was warmer than normal. Or was she reading far too much into nothing?
"It's perfect." Mori said a moment later, then pinned her with his dark eyed gaze. "Thank you, Haruhi. I …I really like it."
Chiyoko nearly melted as she heard her son speak. For him that was almost a speech! In her inner mind she was already trying to work out ways to include Haruhi into their lives. Perhaps a special tea at the house? Invite everyone from her son's club? Perfect. Instinctively she knew she needed to move slowly.
Mori looked at the snow globe once more, giving it another turn of his wrist to make the cherry blossoms swirl once more. Is this how Haruhi saw him? He wasn't sure if this was good or bad. The figure under the tree was alone, did she see him as lonely? Or was she seeing him as one of the warrior-poets? Regardless, it was a very intriguing gift.
"Uhm, Haruhi?" Mori's voice rumbled pleasantly.
"Hai?" She said, leaning forward slightly as Chiyoko held her breath and wished she could excuse herself without interrupting.
Another knock on the door ended the small moment, making Mori's mother frown sternly until she saw the group standing in the doorway. "Ah! Mitsukuni! And these must be your Host Club friends?"
Mori nodded to his mother without comment, lapsing back into his comfortable silence.
"You just missed Chika-kun and Satoshi." Chiyoko said ruefully. "Am I rude to admit that I'm grateful? Chika did promise not to fight you on sight here at the hospital, Mitsukuni. But he gets so excited when he sees you, that he might forget."
Mori stared in astonishment at the assortment of gifts the Host Club had brought. He especially liked the Rogin vase that Mitsukuni had given him. But nothing compared to Haruhi's gift. It was the only one still sitting on his bedside table.
"What lovely craftsmanship." Chiyoko said, admiring the bamboo flower basket that Hikaru had brought.
Haruhi nodded, as she too liked the basket. Still, she couldn't help but frown slightly in thought.
The Shadow King captured her gaze, reading her small look of confusion. "You look puzzled, Haruhi."
She shrugged and moved away from the bed as Hunny rushed forward to chatter on about how Tamaki had fared as his new 'Takashi' for the day. She moved over next to Kyouya as he leaned against the wall.
"I guess I just didn't expect you …well, okay maybe you, but not Tamaki and the others to be so frugal." Haruhi admitted in a soft whisper.
"How so?" Kyouya asked, genuinely interested.
Haruhi shrugged. "Just from getting to know you all, I didn't think you'd buy anything on mark-down." She said, nodding toward the items the Host Club had brought for Mori. "Or reproductions."
Kyouya broke out slightly in a cold sweat as he had no way to answer her line of thought without giving himself, and the plan, away.
Chapter 12: Checkmate
Haruhi wasn't exactly paying attention to what she was doing, chess wasn't really her game after all. Her focus kept wandering. Her gaze slid over Mori's face, trying not to stare at him. Ever since the twins had told her of Hunny's list, she'd been ultra-sensitive about watching him.
But it was hard not to look at your opponent while playing a board game. However, while NOT looking at Mori's face, her gaze kept falling on other things. Like the snow globe she'd given him. Did it say something that her gift, of all the Host Club gifts, was the only one now remaining in the hospital room? No, surely not, she decided with a small frown.
"Ah." Mori said, more an exhalation of breath than an actual word. He reached out and moved two of his chess pieces.
Haruhi blinked. While it was true she hadn't played chess since elementary school, that didn't look right. "That's cheating." She said softly, her voice more questioning than accusatory.
Mori shook his head at her, his dark-eyed gaze open and sincere.
Haruhi looked back down at the board. "But I thought you could only move one piece at a time?"
"Castling." A dark voice murmured from one side of the room. Mori's father, Tatsuo put his newspaper aside and walked over to look down at the board. He grunted and nodded.
"Is that a special move or something?" Haruhi asked, watching both Morinozuka men nod at her. They had nearly identical expressions, serious but kind. "Oh." She settled down and studied the board more carefully.
A moment later, she touched her own rook, but looked up at a quiet clearing of a throat. Tatsuo caught her eye and shook his head ever so slightly. Haruhi pulled her hand back and moved it over to touch the pawn, but the man frowned at her. With a raised brow, she let her hand continue on to the nearest knight. A satisfied grunt and a flick of his eyes told her she had the right piece, finally. It didn't matter though, when five moves later Mori had her beat.
"Checkmate." He said, looking up a bit sadly at her.
Haruhi smiled reassuringly. After all, losing a chess game meant nothing to her. She was just glad that Mori-sempai wasn't one of those guys who thought they had to let a girl win every time. Patronizing. She always hated the way those guys treated their girlfriends. Girlfriends? Here Haruhi's mind ground to a halt. No, no thinking of Mori-sempai on those terms. They were not boyfriend and girlfriend! No matter what list Hunny made, or what suggestions the twins came up with, they were not a couple!
Not that Mori-sempai wasn't excellent boyfriend material, she told herself, just to be fair. He was. But that didn't mean they were …her cheeks heated slightly, making both Mori and his father look at her discretely.
Misreading the look, Tatsuo patted her shoulder gently and nodded. "You're learning." Was all he said, while his son nodded his own head in agreement.
Haruhi smiled wanly at them both, wondering what they'd think of her if they realized she'd not been thinking about chess! Instead, she'd been counting up Mori's virtues as a boyfriend. He was handsome, kind, smart, and protective without going overboard, strong, sweet and ….
The door to the hospital room opened and Haruhi jumped up abruptly, nearly knocking over the chess board. She was so happy to have her thoughts interrupted! And after today she could go back to life as normal. Mori was being discharged from the hospital today, and she'd overheard his mother talking about taking him on a small vacation to recover.
Away was good. Away meant she didn't have to be confused by his presence for a few days at least. Away meant she didn't have to look into those melty dark eyes and wonder if Hunny's list actually existed, and if it did, did Mori know? And if Mori knew, then what did he think about the whole thing?
"Good news!" Morinozuka Chiyoko said brightly as she swept elegantly into the room, followed by her youngest son, Satoshi. "Takashi? You my son, have finally been paroled. I've had all our bags packed and everything's ready to go. Chika's waiting downstairs for us. We'll be at Lake Mushu before you know it."
Haruhi smiled, ready for the swell of relief now that her tenure as 'Hunny' would soon be over. Except. Except, she didn't feel relieved. Not really. Frowning slightly, she busied herself with cleaning up the chess game instead of looking too closely at what she was feeling. Surely that wasn't ...disappointment?
"You all ready?" Chiyoko asked, looking around the room.
"Ah." Was all Tatsuo said, but Haruhi looked up in time to see the look of pleasure on the man's face. Apparently, other than Satoshi, Morinozuka males expressed themselves with the fewest words possible. And she was learning to read their facial expressions, hidden as they were beneath a stoic wall. Was that good or bad?
"Yeah! Lake Mushu!" Hunny-sempai rushed in, looking utterly adorable, as usual. "It'll be so much fun, right Haru-chan?"
Haruhi smiled at the excited young man, who was actually older than she though he didn't look the part. "Calm down, Hunny-sempai. You don't want to run out of energy before you even get there, right?" She laughed as he danced circles around her, already dressed in expensive casual attire. It amused her that her classmate's vacation clothing cost more than her entire wardrobe at home. "You'll be exhausted and won't have any fun if you use up all your energy before you even get to the lake!"
Mori grunted and Haruhi looked up smiling, knowing that he was saying that Hunny would probably nap on the trip to the lake and be fresher than anyone else once they arrived. His amused gaze caught hers and she stilled, trapped in the moment. Haruhi pulled back slightly, busying herself with tidying up once more. When had she gotten so good at reading Mori-sempai's various grunts and 'ahs'?
"Are you sure you want to take Hunny-sempai?" She spoke aloud, trying to distract herself from the tall silent young man behind her. "He'll wear you out just as you need to rest."
"Ah, Haru-chan! I wouldn't do that. Besides, I have my 'new' Takashi coming too!" Hunny grinned, melting Haruhi's heart just a little bit. Then she blinked, as she registered his last comment.
"Wait? Do you mean Tamaki-sempai is going too?" She sounded appalled, even to herself. Tamaki and Hunny were NOT restful company. How could Mori rest with those two around?
"We all are." Kyouya said dryly from just outside the hallway. "Since the week is a school holiday, we were all invited to come along."
The twins waved cheerfully at her, all the while wearing know-it-all smirks. Haruhi's eyes widened. "Everyone's going?" She breathed, finally feeling that long delayed sense of relief. If everyone was going to Lake Mushu, then she didn't have to worry about the Host Club members dropping by her apartment during the brief school holiday. Yes! Peace for a whole week!
"And you too of course, my lovely daughter!" Crooned Tamaki as he poked his head around Kyouya's side to beam at her.
No! Haruhi's eyes widened in alarm. "No, I'm not. I didn't know anything about this. No."
Chiyoko frowned slightly over at the Host Club's Shadow King. "But I thought you handled all the invitations, Kyouya?"
"I did." He said, sounding almost smug. Kyouya looked down the hallway as he adjusted his glasses. "Ah. There he is now."
He? A rising sense of panic rose up within her as she listened to the 'click click' of high heeled boots coming down the hallway.
"DARLING!" Her gorgeous cross-dressing father, Ranka gushed. He rushed in to squeeze her in an unshakeable hug. Beams of joy and pleasure poured out of his eyes as he pulled back to look at her, full of glee. "There you are! We're all packed and ready to go! Daddy's taken care of everything!" She blinked. Her father was wearing vacation clothing too. The dress was quite pretty and looked lovely with the matching bag and new lipstick he'd gotten last month.
Shocked, Haruhi just stood there looking like a deer caught in the headlights of oncoming traffic.
"We helped pack for you!" Hikaru and Kaoru smiled wickedly at her, their eyes all sparkly with mischief.
Haruhi groaned, dreading what outfits she'd find in her suitcase. The twins ignored her sour demeanor and ran forward to drag her out the door. "We'll meet you all downstairs! The cars are waiting for us."
"No, no, NO!" Tamaki said, stepping stubbornly in front of the twins, his chin set in determination. "My daughter is NOT riding with you two! That is simply not acceptable!"
Chiyoko pretended to ignore the student's byplay as she packed up what little remained in the hospital room. She made sure to collect the snow globe on her son's night table. It all filled one small duffel, which her husband took from her hands with a warm smile and a soft pat on her shoulder. Both parents then turned to watch their oldest son, who was moving around quite well, if a bit stiffly, following his surgery a few days ago.
Mori was watching Haruhi, even as his parents watched him. Sensing their regard, he turned and looked at them. Nothing was said, but then it really didn't need to be. Chiyoko smiled at her son, telling him silently that she would 'take care of it' as Tatsuo gave a small "ah" of understanding.
"Oh my, there's an annoying 'hissing' sound in this room. Kyouya, you might want to mention that to your hospital administration." Ranka said, all innocent as he swung around to locate the source of the 'noise'. As he turned, he 'accidentally' knocked Tamaki into the nearest wall with his purse, which wasn't as light as it looked.
"I'll be sure to do that." Kyouya said calmly, managing not to smile at Tamaki's downfall.
Hikaru chortled darkly. "It's a good think for his highness that we're already in a hospital, isn't it brother?"
"Makes it easier to treat his wounds." Kaoru nodded in agreement, leaning against his brother as they stared with undisguised delight on their fallen King with matching expressions.
Tamaki wasn't so easily cowed though. "Space is limited." He announced triumphantly, sure that he'd managed to find a way to turn everything in his favor. "We only have two limos and a Rolls Royce."
"Don't forget the Haninozuka vehicle." Hunny-sempai spoke up. "Chika and I never ride together. We tend to break too many things when we do." He blinked cutely up at those staring at him.
"Oh. Right." Tamaki said. "Barely enough room for all of us."
Haruhi sighed darkly, muttering under her breath about spoiled 'rich bastards' again. Two limos and two luxury chauffeured cars weren't enough room? Bah.
Tamaki sighed. "I don't want my daughter squeezed in roughly with all these hooligans, so I thought …"
"You're brilliant." Chiyoko stepped into the conversation while smiled so brightly that everyone stopped, staring at her.
Kaoru shook his head and Hikaru just shrugged. "He is?" The twins asked in unison, looking almost sweet in their confusion.
"A nice young lady of worth should not be squeezed into a vehicle with so many young men. It's not appropriate." Mori's mother said, placing her hand lightly on Haruhi's shoulder. "Her father should definitely ride with her."
"That's right!" Tamaki said grinning, loving the sweet taste of victory. "That's why she should ride with me."
Before Ranka could protest, Chiyoko shook her head sadly. "To be chaperoned properly she should ride with me." Mori's mother turned with a welcoming smile toward Haruhi's okama father. "You must be Fujioka Ryoji. I do so apologize for the rough introductions."
Ranka smiled and fell under the warm spell that was Morinozuka Chiyoko. "The pleasure is mine, I assure you." The cross-dresser told her, looking a bit awed at the elegant style of Mori's mother. He hoped to get a chance to ask her some pointers, her make up was so supurbly done.
"I would invite you to ride in the front limousine with my family, you and your daughter both. That way we can properly introduce ourselves. Do you prefer Ranka or Ryoji?" She asked with genuine warmth.
"Ranka will be fine." He said with a genuine smile of his own.
"But ..but …but …" Tamaki stammered, now tasting the bitter sawdust of utter defeat. He slunk off to one corner to pout, casting dark glances over his shoulder as he watched 'his' daughter's real father talk with Mori's parents.
The twins cackled evilly as they watched their King be outmaneuvered by the stylish dark-haired woman.
Satoshi scratched his head absently. "But will there be enough room?"
"Yes, yes!" Tamaki recovered from his pout to stand up and pose manfully. "It will be too crowded, even with the stretch limo, what with the whole family. I can watch after my daughter Haruhi in the other vehicle and …."
"Satoshi can ride with Chika in the Haninozuka vehicle." Kyouya stated rather matter-of-factly, interrupting the King. "I will ride in the Rolls Royce with Tamaki. The twins can take the other limousine with Hunny, thus keeping the Haninozuka brothers safely apart."
"Nooooo!" Tamaki wailed, looking bereft. "That leaves …"
"The stretch limo should carry Mori and his parents, I think you'll agree that as the patient he needs the room to stretch out in. He might need to sleep a bit on the way to the lake. Ranka and Haruhi will ride with the Morinozukas, as is proper." Kyouya said, sliding a distinctly cold look toward his Host Club president.
Haruhi sighed, resigned to the fact that no one asked her opinion. No, they just put her where they wanted her to be. Rich bas….
"Is that acceptable to you, dear?" Chiyoko asked, looking at her with a soft smile. Haruhi's eyes widened a bit. The woman looked like she was serious. Like she'd rearrange everything based on Haruhi's answer.
"That's fine." She finally responded, some of her pique melting away at being included in the decision making. Besides, riding the Morinozuka family would be quiet at least. Oh, wait. Her father was going to be there. Maybe not so quiet after all.
Mori smiled slightly, catching her eye. Haruhi smiled back before she could stop herself. It was always like that with him. He was always so genuine, she found herself responding without thought. She'd have to watch that.
"Now that everything is settled, why don't you change out of your school uniform?" Ranka cooed at his daughter. "Go on, no uniforms on vacation!"
Tamaki watched Haruhi mumble and grumble her way into the bathroom with the overnight bag her father had brought along. Ranka and Chiyoko started chatting, while Mori's father just nodded here and there as he listened to their conversation. While the others were distracted, Tamaki sidled over to Kyouya, peering at his friend with a most unfriendly look. "We have to talk."
Kyouya nodded, knowing that this moment was unavoidable. "It will be just the two of us on the ride up to Lake Mushu. We'll talk then."
Tamaki nodded, all seriousness now.
The twins sucked in a breath at their King's sour look and determined expression. Then they broke into wide grins. Oh, this trip was going to be so much fun …for the two of them at least!
Chapter 13: Travelling Companions
Haruhi stepped out of the hospital bathroom feeling self-conscious. The pinafore dress was a soft coral, not quite pink with sprigged flowers of ivory. In her suitcase it had looked like a dress for a very young girl, but on her, it looked …different. The ruffled top gave her small bosom the illusion of more heft than nature had gifted her with thus far. And while the skirt was loose and full, it brought attention to her legs which were outlined perfectly with the matching knee-highs.
She stepped out of the bathroom hesitantly. Tamaki saw her and dropped his jaw immediately even as his temperature shot up into the stratosphere. Red-faced and shaking his head he grabbed the blanket off the bed and tried to wrap it around her. "No! No, no, no! That dress is too revealing for my precious daughter!"
Ranka calmly stuck out one high-heeled booted foot and tripped Tamaki, sending him skidding past Haruhi's feet and into the wall with a solid "thud". "Oh! My little girl looks so beautiful!" He exclaimed, batting his long eyelashes as he beamed at the sight of his daughter. He reached out and tweaked the matching hair ribbon in a maternal manner.
The twins smirked at each other, having helped Ranka with the packing and outfit selections. Still, their eyes weren't on their female friend at the moment. Hikaru nodded toward their fallen friend instead. "That was beautiful."
Kaoru nodded, though looking worried. "But brother, what if our King injured himself? That would spoil the fun for the whole week."
Hikaru put a comforting arm around his brother, leading him out the door. "No, no. He just hit his head. No loss. It's not like he needs it." He said, walking away from the groaning Tamaki.
"You look beauty-mas Haru-chan!" Hunny said, spinning around with his eyes twinkling. "See you at the lake!" He called out and hurried after the twins. "Wait for me! Dibs on the cakes!"
Chiyoko frowned slightly as she watched Hunny leave. "Tatsuo? I know we have plenty at the lake house, but did you remember to order extra cakes for the trip to the lake?"
Even as the elder Morinozuka nodded silently, Kyouya interjected. "I hope you will excuse the impertinence. But I took the liberty of instructing the chauffeurs to transfer all the cakes and sweets to Hunny's transportation."
Mori's mother nodded happily. "Not impertinence, young man. Splendid forethought and planning. Just what we've come to expect from you." Tatsuo grunted his approval as well. "Well, if that's it, we should go. Takashi?"
But Mori didn't hear his mother. From the moment that Haruhi had stepped out of the bathroom, his eyes and his mind had been glued to her.
Haruhi, for her part, couldn't move. She didn't even notice Tamaki's downfall, or his struggle to climb to his feet. It never dawned on her that he was weaving dizzily. Her eyes were wide and transfixed. Mori's melting gaze held her still as she forgot how to breathe.
"Takashi?" Mori's mother called again, then smiled as she saw where her son was looking. And who was looking back. Then she spied Tamaki. "Watch out!"
The Host Club King weaved right into Haruhi, knocking her toward the built-in desk. Tatsuo dropped the luggage, but he was at the door and too far away to catch the falling girl. Ranka called out a warning and reached out for his daughter, but was too late.
"Oomph!" Came a harsh grunt.
Haruhi opened her eyes, surprised she hadn't struck her head or hit the floor. Warm arms tightened around her and she looked up in shock. Mori looked down at her, having put himself between her and the heavy furniture, and possible injury.
"Thank you, Mori." She whispered breathlessly.
"Ah." He said, but Haruhi frowned to see lines along the side of his mouth.
Her gaze narrowed on his as she read his expression. "Oh no! I hurt you!" She sprang back, but his arms held her against him a moment before he reluctantly released her. Or was she merely imagining his reluctance to let her go? Surely she had to be wrong about that.
Embarrassed, and afraid she'd torn open his staples, she reached for his shirt. Blind to the fact that they weren't alone, nor was this entirely proper, Haruhi pulled up the tail of his shirt from his slacks, baring the surgical wound site. The white gauze was still white. She let out her pent up breath. "It's not bleeding."
"What?! What are you doing?" Tamaki quivered with rage and shock as he grabbed Haruhi and pulled her away from the handsome young man. "You shouldn't fondle strange men like that!"
Ranka reached out and snagged his daughter from Tamaki's grasp. "She certainly shouldn't!" He told the young man, then bent down to whisper in Haruhi's ear. "Good job."
"I was not …." Haruhi stiffened, letting her expression turn utterly blank as she sighed deeply. "I'm going downstairs. With the SANE people."
Kyouya coughed and followed her out the door smiling as he wondered how the twins would react to the insult of being called the 'sane' ones in the group? Hunny would be fine, but the twins would probably see that as a challenge.
After a few moments chatting with Hunny and the twins, the others finally joined them. Haruhi was relieved to find there was no more talk about her 'fondling' Mori. Like she ever would! She'd just been checking his incision, that was all! So what if his stomach muscles rippled and his skin, although not feverish, had been pleasantly warm? And the scent …Haruhi sighed and shook her head despondently. This was all Tamaki's fault for even bringing up the word 'fondling'!
"Everyone ready?" Chiyoko laughed as Hunny ran circles around them all. She looked around anxiously for Satoshi and Chika, but before she could ask Kyouya stepped up.
"I've already sent the younger two on, while we were heading downstairs." He held up his cell phone and nodding toward the energetic Hunny. "Thought it would save time and propery damage."
Tatsuo grunted in approval once more and didn't bother to wait for the chauffeur to open the door of the stretch limo. He opened the door himself and held it gallantly for his wife. Haruhi was pleased to see that no one seemed surprised by this move, apparently the elder Morinozuka didn't stand on class ceremony overmuch.
Though her eyes did widen a bit in appreciation as Tatsuo held open the door for her father as well, ushering the okama into the limo second. Ranka looked pleased though. Then the man looked expectantly over at Haruhi.
Haruhi couldn't move. Suddenly, the aspect of a long car trip next to Mori-sempai seemed daunting somehow. She hadn't felt like this at the Host Club. Nor had she felt like this in the hospital room. So why now? Her eyes watched the opening to the stretch limo as butterflies ruled her stomach.
A set of hands, no four sets of hands, help push her forward as the twins bracketed her on either side. "We'll be at the lake soon!" Kaoru grinned. "Lake Mushu can be dull, but WE can't." He laughed as Haruhi narrowed her eyes on him.
"Be sure to get a lot of rest, because we're going to have FUN!" Hikaru announced as he held up her hand as his twin turned her bodily to enter the limousine.
"Yeah!" Hunny yelled. "FUN!" He announced and ran over to the vehicle he'd be sharing with the twins. "Loser gets to eat all the cakes!"
Blinking in confusion, Haruhi stared at the faces of the twins as they blocked her exit out of the luxury vehicle. "Loser?"
The twins smiled evilly. "There's a top notch gaming system in the car. Hunny knows he has no chance against as, as our dad knows the designer and we helped test the system. He's just making sure we don't steal any of the cakes."
"But you two never play video games." She sputtered, looking confused.
Hikaru shrugged. Kaoru smiled. "It's a SIMS game. Fashion designing complete with fashion shows, temperamental models, diva designers, and bitchy reviewers. Hunny has no interest, but he IS competitive."
"We love it!" Hikaru nodded.
Kaoru winked at her. "Course, it was designed with us in mind!" He blew her a kiss then stepped away from the car to allow the others to get in.
Only it wasn't Mori she was suddenly blinking at. "Tamaki-sempai? You're not in this car." Haruhi looked confused as she pointed at her erstwhile and self-proclaimed 'father'.
The inner-theatre of Tamaki's crumbled at her words. Part of him had been hoping she'd cling to him and say she couldn't possibly be separated from her dearest father. "A..are you sure?" His eyes fairly begged her to say something else. "If you're uncomfortable, just say the ...OUCH!"
"Come along." Kyouya interjected as he pulled his Host Club president away from the limo, even as Tamaki pled with the Ohtori to let him go.
Then the opening to the vehicle was blocked once more, this time by Mori. Haruhi blinked. Mori blinked. She watched him. He watched her.
"Ahem, Haruhi?" Her father called cheerfully from the other side of the long vehicle. "You need to back up to let him in the car."
Feeling suddenly stupid, Haruhi stood and backed away. Then she looked puzzled as she realized she was standing in the car. "This thing is tall too?" She said, looking up at the roof of the car.
"No." Commented Mori brusquely as his father grunted in agreement.
Haruhi turned and nearly giggled as she realized that even though she was standing almost normally, Mori and his father were not. They weren't completely bent in half, but still, the limo was not nearly tall enough to accommodate Morinozuka males.
She turned to look at the interior of the limo, her eyes widening at the long bar and entertainment consol along one side of the vehicle. Haruhi automatically stepped aside to allow Tatsuo to pass her as he took a juice drink and settled next to his wife, who was chatting amicably with Ranka about the various techniques in blush application and the best colors to compliment differing seasons.
Haruhi slid over next to her father, who patted her knee absently, giving her a swift smile before returning to his conversation with Mori's mother.
She listened for about half a second before growing bored with all the talk of cosmetics. Tatsuo turned on the television, tuning it to the business and market station. Haruhi knew it would be a long trip to Lake Mushu, suddenly she wished she'd brought along her school books.
Haruhi looked up in surprise and found that Mori was handing her a few books. Her eyes widened comically before she realized with a smile that they WEREN'T school books. "I don't really read popular novels much."
He nodded and held out the books again.
Haruhi took them, sorting through the three books. Her eyebrows shot up. "These are on the second semester reading list."
Mori nodded as Chiyoko chuckled over at them. "Takashi insisted, I'm sorry about that."
"No, no it's perfect!" Haruhi smiled brightly, taking the top book. "I'd love a chance to get a head start on these!"
Tatsuo looked away from the business editorial on television and gave her an approving nod. Even as Ranka sighed dramatically. "She never just relaxes!" He complained.
"This is relaxing." Haruhi smiled at her father, comfortable in this familiar argument. An argument without heat as her father patted her shoulder proudly. "But what about you, Mori-sempai?" She asked, worried he might be bored.
She grinned as he held up a book of his own on Japanese history. It was thick, dog-eared and obviously well-read and used.
Tatasuo shook his head at the book even as Chiyoko smiled at her eldest son. "Again?" When Mori only nodded and opened his book, she turned to Ranka to explain. "My son has a love of history. I do believe he may be able to write his doctoral thesis even before starting at university."
Mori snorted and shook his head, then he peeked up at his mother. "Soon." He promised quietly, then looked over at Haruhi. "Need more research."
Chiyoko and Ranka's discussion slid from blush to purses, and purse sizes in proportion to the event being attended.
Haruhi gratefully opened her book and sat companionably next to Mori as he too lost himself in his own reading. For a moment, she just sighed happily and was grateful she wasn't in the car with the twins, or Hunny, or …Tamaki. Much as she'd learned to care for them all, none of them would let her sit quietly and read. Although they were fun, they never let her get a moment's peace. Kyouya might, but he was never the easy companion that Mori was. While he'd go out of his way to make sure her needs were met, he'd never offer this comfortable togetherness. And she'd be forever wondering what Kyouya wanted from her, or from their time together, what profit was in it for him. What benefit for him or his family.
With Mori, there was never that worry. Never any worries, really. She slid her eyes over to where he was sitting and was surprised to find him peeking at her. They both blinked and slid their eyes back to their own books.
Neither blushed. But both fought not to smile.
Tamaki growled at his traveling companion. "It's been over an hour since we left. Don't you think we should stop for a moment?"
"Haruhi is fine." Was the cool response.
"That's not why I want to stop!" Tamaki said quite loudly.
Kyouya shrugged, knowing it WAS why Tamaki wanted to stop the caravan for a moment. "She's fine. She has not only her own father, but Mori's parents as well."
"I'm her father!" Tamaki whined, sliding down in his seat.
"And I'm still her mother, is that right?" Kyouya waited for Tamaki to nod. "Then, as her other responsible parent I gave our daughter permission to ride in the other car. You should not undermine my parental responsibilities. It's rude."
Tamaki's mouth opened and shut a few minutes, completely amusing the Ohtori third son. He waited to see how long it would take the Host Club King to recover.
"That's illogical." Tamaki finally commented.
"Thee minutes and 47 seconds." Kyouya commented. "That threw you, did it?"
"Did not!" Tamaki commented petulantly. "Father overrules mother, we need to call the other cars and schedule a stop. Then do some reshuffling. Bring our daughter back here where it's safe."
"If I'm mother, and you're father, then what are the twins?" Kyouya asked, already knowing the answer.
"Her brothers." Tamaki answered suspiciously. "But you know that."
"I do." Kyouya nodded. "And what does that make Mori and Hunny?"
"Our close neighbors and friends." The Host Club King said quickly.
Kyouya nodded. "Next door neighbors?"
Tamaki nodded,wondering where this was going.
"So in essence, our little girl is dating the boy next door. What could be better?" Kyouya stated calmly.
"We're stopping?" The twins called back to the chauffeur on the intercom. "Why?"
"It seems someone passed out, sirs." The chauffer responded.
Hunny's eyes went wide, his fork stopping in mid-bite. "Takashi?" He squeaked, suddenly concerned.
"No sir, one of the other cars."
Chapter 14: Heart Condition
Mori blinked as he gingerly climbed out the stretch limousine. He peered anxiously over at his cousin who was even now racing toward him at full speed. "Mitsukuni?" Out of habit, Mori braced himself for Hunny to go airborne.
Hunny ran at his cousin, his eyes watering and his arms flailing out in agitation. "Yeah! You're okay!" The shorter of the two boys wrapped himself around the other and attempted to climb him in relief that his cousin wasn't the one currently "passed out".
Mori grunted in pain, but didn't say anything as he was just relieved that Hunny wasn't the one who was sick or injured.
"He WAS okay." Haruhi commented dryly up at Hunny, now perched on the taller boy's shoulders. "Mori-sempai is still recovering from his surgery, I don't think it a good idea for you to climb…"
Hunny's hands covered his mouth in horror as his lips quivered. "I'm SORRY!" He choked out, then leapt off his cousin's shoulders and landed neatly in front of Haruhi. His expression was filled with remorse and unshed tears. "Takashi! I'm so sorry!"
She sighed and shook her head at him, once more surprised by how graceful and athletic the young-looking Hunny could actually be even in the throes of emotional turmoil. Tearing her eyes away from Hunny's repentant pleas, she turned to the tall young man by her side. "Mori-sempai? Are you alright?" She asked as the Lolita-Shota turned wide eyes on his cousin, pleading with Mori not to be hurt.
"Uhn." Mori grunted, reassuring Hunny into a quick smile.
Haruhi's eyes narrowed dangerously on Mori, sure he wasn't telling the truth. Reading her expression, he spread his hands innocently and shrugged as if to say 'I'm fine' without actually opening his mouth. It was Haruhi's turn to grunt as she turned to watch the twins saunter up to them all. Her soft grunt told Mori she didn't believe him, but she'd let it pass for now.
"You two are alright?" Haruhi asked the twins as her father and Mori's mother joined them. "Who's sick?"
The twins grinned in unison, then shrugged in the same manner Mori had just done so. Haruhi crossed her arms and stared them down. The body language may be the same, but Mori was a bit more trustworthy than the twins. And they didn't carry off the 'innocent' act very well. "What's going on?"
"You're looking in the wrong direction." Ranka said coolly, then pointed over to where Kyouya and Tamaki were walking up to them. Well, Kyouya was walking anyway. Tamaki was sort of stumbling and looked nearly incoherent.
Chiyoko looked worried as she hurried over to the young man. "Oh dear! Are you ill?" She asked, looking a bit flustered and out of her element. "Tatsuo, call an ambulance!"
Mori's father nodded and turned to give a look to the chauffeur.
"I'm sure that won't be necessary." Kyouya interjected before Haruhi could protest, sliding his glasses farther up on the bridge of his nose. "I don't think Tamaki is ill really, but he was so excited about the trip I don't think he ate breakfast." The Ohtori third son lied smoothly.
"Maybe milord has a fever." Whispered Hikaru, his eyes wide an anxious. Kaoru nodded, his rapt gaze never leaving their Host Club King as he stood, barely holding on to his balance.
Hunny sucked in a shocked breath. "A …fever?"
Mori's brows knitted in concern, he looked over at Haruhi his face clearly showing he hoped she knew what to do in such a dire moment.
Ranka sighed. "Don't you know how to tell if someone has a fever?"
Haruhi shook her head. "Don't bother, Dad. They probably call their family physician to come out to the house and check to see if there's a fever."
Tatsuo, Hunny, Mori, Kyouya, and the twins all nodded. Chiyoko fanned herself, uncertain. "Of course I know how to check on a fever. But I don't have a thermometer on me. Perhaps there's one in the first aid kit?" The beautiful and stylish woman's eyes sparkled just a bit at the end of her comment, making Haruhi's gaze tighten. Was the woman being serious …or not? She couldn't tell.
"You're blocking my store!" An old woman hurried out of her shop shooing at them with her hands. "You have expensive cars, but if you don't buy anything then what good do looking at your shiny vehicles do me?"
"We have an EMERGENCY!" Hunny breathed, all horrified seriousness. "A fever!" He said, as if mentioning a natural disaster.
Ranka shook his head and marched up to Tamaki, slapping his hand over the young man's forehead. "No fever." He announced.
"No?" The twins asked, looking crestfallen and utterly disappointed. "Are you sure? Check again!"
"Move on or buy something!" The old lady shook her bony fist at them. "You may be pretty on the eyes, but I have bills to meet!"
Chiyoko looked over at her husband. "Go buy healthy things. For the boys." She said softly and without the slightest indication that it was an order, even though it was. "Haruhi? Would you be a darling and help him? Men are helpless at this sort of thing."
Wide brown eyes blinked. Men were helpless? From what Haruhi could see, her father was the only one with a functioning brain right now and while he dressed like a woman, he was still a man. Still, no telling what Mori's father would consider 'healthy'. But before she could agree, her father stepped up. "I'll go too." Ranka announced, marching off toward the store with Tatsuo at his side.
Haruhi stared after the departing men in a state of surrealistic bemusement. Her father's long hair gleamed under the light of the late afternoon sun as his high-heeled boots clipped along on the pavement. You know, her father really was pretty, she thought to herself as she watched him.
The old woman sniffed triumphantly. "They look like a nice couple." She said, and started off after the two without anyone bothering to explain that the two men weren't a couple, nor was one of them the woman he appeared to be.
The twins clung to each other as they laughed themselves silly. Kyouya smirked as Hunny giggled.
Chiyoko chuckled after the old woman. "Wait until I tell that to Tatsuo!"
"Maybe he should sit."
The husky voice startled them as they all looked at Mori. But Mori's attention was on the still dazed looking Tamaki.
"What happened to him?" Haruhi asked, watching the Host Club King, puzzled. She hadn't seen Tamaki this bad since last month when she refused to hold his hand while crossing the street. Personally, she was getting a bit weary of the whole 'father' image he kept trying to foist off on her. She already had a father, even if he didn't always look the part.
"Reality." Kyouya said succinctly, but without enlightening them to any specifics. "Reality is what happened to him."
His explanation didn't enlighten Haruhi one little bit. Still, it looked like the twins understood. Haruhi raised an eyebrow as the twins gave each other knowing looks and smug grins. Then they actually slapped Kyouya on the back, both at the same time, though it didn't look like the Ohtori appreciated receiving the gesture as much as the twins liked giving it.
Still, she didn't ask for any further explanation sure that she either wouldn't get it, or wouldn't understand it. So it was too bothersome to ask. Instead she turned to look to see if there was anyplace that Tamaki could sit down for a moment. But her eyes were caught by the clenched jaw of Mori. She looked up at his eyes, not liking the tightness she saw there.
Drawing in a sharp breath, worry shook her deeply. "You ARE hurting!" She accused the tall, silent member of their club. Mori started to shake his head, but she interrupted him. "Don't you deny it! It's written all over your face."
Hunny looked up, alarmed. "Oh Takashi! You're supposed to tell me when you're hurting! Remember? You promised me while I visited you in the hospital. If you'd only told me sooner when you were hurting at school, your appendix wouldn't have been so close to bursting." The young-looking senior student chided his cousin. "You PROMISED!"
Mori's eyes widened as he shook his head down at Hunny. The twins nearly giggled to see their tallest club member cowed into submission by their two smallest club members. "I'm fine."
"You only think you're fine. Hunny-sempai's right, you need to speak up when you're hurting!" Haruhi scolded, drawing surprised looks from everyone except Kyouya and Tamaki. The Shadow King didn't look surprised because he wasn't. While Tamaki was still in a daze and hadn't heard her uncharacteristic outburst.
The twins 'ooohed' at each other as Haruhi escorted Mori back to the stretch limousine. "The doctor sent you with pain medicine and I'll bet you've not taken your dose on time. If it were Hunny, you would have made sure HE took his medicine instead of trying to be all stoic."
A bemused Chiyoko followed Haruhi and her son back into the vehicle, followed by Hunny. The twins merely watched from the open door as the women and the Haninozuka bullied and pushed Mori down onto the long seat and made him take his medicine. Then they scolded and nagged until he accepted a pillow and laid down along the seat.
Kyouya watched with a smile that did not really reach his eyes. While he was happy that all his plans were coming to fruition, he still felt a pang of hurt. Of wishing it were he that Haruhi was actually fussing over. The first such fussing those in the Host Club had ever witnessed from their more blasé female member. He looked over at Tamaki and sighed.
"Be glad you're still dazed and not able to witness this. I think the shock alone would kill you." The Ohtori told his first friend.
"I'm not that out of it." Tamaki's eyes cut toward Kyouya, though his balance was still not the best. "And don't think I don't sense your hand behind all this nonsense."
"Ah." Kyouya nodded, having been pretty sure Tamaki was more with them than he'd looked.
"Why?" The Host Club President hissed, his face turning red as he watched the open door of the limousine as the twins hung over the door.
The third son of the Ohtori family pondered his answer a moment, wanting to phrase it just so. "Is Mori so bad a choice?"
Tamaki fumed. "That's beside the point. She's too young! As her father …"
"You are not her father."
"I am LIKE her father. She said so herself." Tamaki ground out between clenched teeth.
Kyouya didn't belabor the point, though he felt Haruhi's words and her intentions behind those words were not exactly as Tamaki saw them in his inner theatre. "All children grow and leave the nest. This isn't seedy or anything. A match between 'our' daughter and the heir of the Morinozuka clan is not to be sneezed at."
That shut Tamaki up, as Kyouya had intended.
"If you want to arrange a better, or higher, attachment for our child," Kyouya couldn't keep the sneer out of his voice or off his face. "You'd be looking at either royalty or nobility. Neither of which would easily accept a girl of her background, no matter how exceptional she may be."
Tamaki growled low. "Haruhi is a pearl beyond price!"
Kyouya nodded in all seriousness, which deflated some of his friend's anger.
"There are others, of high station that would accept her. Those with both money, prestige, and clear vision of her worth." Tamaki insisted. "And I don't mean the twins!"
"I can think of at least two such individuals off hand." Kyouya said dryly.
Tamaki just looked at him, suspicious.
"Me and you."
"Oh my!" Ranka rushed up to see Hunny fanning a wilted looking Tamaki. "Maybe he really is sick!"
Tatsuo reached for his cell phone.
"Love sick." Kyouya stated firmly, blatantly ignoring his fallen friend. Hey, he'd kept Tamaki's head from striking the ground, that was as far as he was willing to exert himself. Well, actually it had been his chauffeur who'd caught Tamaki's head, but Kyouya had shouted for the guy as the Host Club President had weaved and started to fall.
Tatsuo put away his cell phone, sighing as he nodded to Kyouya. "You sure?"
The Ohtori nodded sharply. "Only too sure." He said blandly, then nodded over to where Haruhi was climbing out of the limousine. "Coming to terms with losing someone can be a hard growing experience."
"Uhn." Tatsuo grunted, making Kyouya smile as the father and the son sounded remarkably alike.
"Oh well, I have just the thing to perk him up!" Ranka crowed, digging through the shopping bags that Tatsuo had carried out for them. "See! Cod liver oil! It's healthy and perfect."
Haruhi drew up sharply, her eyes narrowing on her father. "That's for people with arthritis, or young children." She said, unsure as Ranka found a plastic spoon.
"Arthritis?" Hunny whispered, appalled. "I just thought Tamaki had a fever."
"It's good for all that ails you!" Ranka stated firmly, with a definite gleam in his eye.
Kyouya pursed his lips. "Cod liver oil? Well. Cod is definitely healthy, and I know that the oil is rich in vitamin A and has a good effect on the heart. But I don't think Tamaki's 'heart' condition is curable with fish oil."
"Heart condition?" Hunny and Haruhi looked over at Kyouya. "What heart condition?"
"Broken." Kyouya told them bluntly.
Hunny firmed his lips and nodded, though Haruhi still looked puzzled.
"Dad, wait a moment. That stuff tastes nasty." Haruhi said as the chauffeur helped Tamaki sit up, the young man blinking owlishly at them all.
"No it doesn't." Kyouya said blithely. "High quality cod liver oil tastes mildly like sardines."
Ranka shoved the oil laden spoon into Tamaki's mouth and the boy's eyes widened in alarm as he started to choke. "Swallow!" Ranka spoke loudly and with authority.
Tamaki swallowed as his eyes started to water, he coughed and sputtered and jumped up in alarm as he shook his hands helplessly.
"See?" Ranka said proudly as Tamaki glared at them all, his gaze promising death and mayhem. "He's good as new."
Kyouya peered over at the bottle Ranka was holding. "That was an extreme response. Are you sure that was cod liver oil?"
Haruhi shook her head. "Yes. But do you really think we'd be able to find the 'high quality' oils you're used to at a roadside store?"
The Ohtori sighed as he eyed the store, then Tamaki as he tried to wash his mouth out with juice he'd grabbed from the shopping bags. "I guess you have a point."
Hunny's eyes were huge as he watched the alarming redness in Tamaki's face. "What does common folk cod liver oil taste like?"
"Rotten fish." Haruhi made a face as they all watched Tamaki shudder and shake in horror.
Chapter 15: Guest List
It was just past sunset when the convoy of expensive vehicles turned onto a winding lane. Tree limbs hung over the road, but the full foliage didn't look ominous, instead the fresh air and whispering leaves seemed to welcome the travelers. "We're here." Mori's father said gruffly, reaching out to turn off the television set in the back of the limo where he'd been watching market reports and the news.
"At last." Morinozuka Chiyoko breathed out wearily. "I can't wait for a long hot soak."
Ranka nodded his heartfelt agreement, stretching as he stifled a groan. Comfortable ride in luxury or not, it had still been a long trip.
Haruhi nodded and put down her book and though she tried hard not to look at Mori, she couldn't help it. His head was in her lap after all.
Initially Mori had protested when Chiyoko had urged him to lie down and rest, saying there wasn't enough room. Haruhi had laughed, saying that it was a limo, of course there was room! She'd even insisted that her schoolmate lie down as well, adding her voice to his mother's. Haruhi had only been thinking of his well being, seeing as how Mori had just gotten out of the hospital that very day. She didn't like the tightness around his mouth or the pallor in his face.
It wasn't until he stretched out along the seat that she realized that what she'd thought of as 'plenty of room' …wasn't. Mori's feet were nearly in her lap and his head just about hung off the end of the seat. Haruhi had chided him for being silly and told him to turn around. The idea of having him put his head in her lap hadn't meant a thing to her. She'd sat that way with Hunny plenty of times. Her father hadn't looked alarmed and Chiyoko had only made sure that Mori took his next dose of medicine. It was no big deal, to them or to her. A pragmatic solution all the way around, she'd thought.
So, when she'd first looked down and saw his eyes looking up at her, and felt the heat of him in her lap, it had come as quite a shock to her system when her breath had caught and held. She'd actually tingled and had to look away before being able to breathe again. Embarrassed and unsure, she'd turned back to her book. Hiding in the pages of her reading.
During the rest of that trip, several hours, Mori had fallen asleep. And Haruhi had managed to read maybe three pages. And she didn't remember a word of them. Not one word.
The whole trip to the lake had been spent trying to figure out her reaction to Mori's closeness. She'd been this close to each of the Host Club members before, but this was …different somehow. The closest similar reaction she could recall had been when Mori had picked her up and carried her that one time, at the Ohtori' indoor recreational facility. She'd put her odd feelings at the time down to just being worried about Hunny, as they'd been searching for him. Now …now she wasn't so sure anymore.
"We do have time for a soak before dinner, I hope?" Chiyoko was saying when Haruhi finally realized the others were still speaking normally, carrying on a conversation as if nothing were out of the ordinary. How was it that they didn't notice she was having trouble focusing? Listening? Breathing?
"Haruhi?" Her father's voice interrupted her stupor, it took her a moment to realize that he'd been calling her name for several moments now. "I asked if that was alright with you?"
Haruhi nodded, having no clue what had been asked of her.
Ranka smiled. "We're all tired, so an hour to rest and maybe soak in a bath will be heavenly. Morinozuka-sama has been kind enough to push back dinner for us all."
She managed to nod again, looking over at Mori's father as he closed his cell phone and gave her a pleasant nod.
"Good. That's good." She managed to say, then lost her breath again as Mori started to stir. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach as she looked down to see his dark eyes open slowly. He blinked once, twice, then focused on her own eyes. A moment passed as they held each other's gaze. Suddenly, he flushed slightly and sat straight up, startling her.
"Takashi?" His mother called out. "How are you feeling, son?"
A soft grunt was his only response, but she seemed satisfied as her son sent her a look.
For her part, Haruhi felt like she should be celebrating. Mori wasn't snuggled into her lap anymore and she could breathe again. But …but if she should be happy, why did she feel like she'd just lost something ….important? Taking a moment, she stiffened her spine and lifted her chin.
This was nothing. All this was nothing major, merely left-over concern for an ill friend. That's all. Haruhi repeated that to herself over and over again as the car wound its way up the long road. She hoped that by the time they arrived she'd even believe that. Trying to force her mind into more mundane matters, she peered out the window at the dark road. "I thought we were there? How long does this road go on? Obviously it's not a major thoroughfare."
"Oh!" Chiyoko smiled gracefully. "This isn't the road, dear. This is just the driveway to the house. It'll be just another five miles or so."
Ranka's mouth dropped as he considered the size of the estate if the driveway was over five miles long. Haruhi merely groaned and kept her mouth shut. She should have known. Rich bastards. At that moment, Mori turned and gave her a look, having heard her groan. He gave her a look of concern and suddenly the butterflies in her stomach were back in full force.
"You cheated!" Kaoru hissed loudly at his brother.
Hikaru merely shrugged diffidently. "Just because my show was presented first, that's not cheating. That made my line original, and yours a pale copy."
"You stole my entire color scheme!" Kaoru insisted as Hunny stood between the twins, looking up at them as he turned his head from one to the other almost as if watching a tennis match.
"Hardly. My shades were more golden while yours were definite … lemons … shall we say? Not the same at all." Hikaru's words obviously stung as Kaoru sucked in a harsh breath, his eyes promising retribution.
Kyouya sighed and shook his head. "And here I thought it was Hunny and Chika we needed to keep separate."
Tamaki nodded in agreement from beside him, but didn't say anything as he was no longer speaking to the club's Shadow King. His only annoyance in this tactic was that it only seemed to amuse Kyouya. But what did the Ohtori third son expect after saying such an awful thing? Haruhi date either he or Kyouya? No! Blasphemy! But ...but Mori was out of the question as well. Good thing he'd made plans before ever starting out for the lake. Now, wouldn't Kyouya be surprised when he found out he'd been outmaneuvered?
The President of the Host Club tried not to gloat and instead sighed despairingly, drawing yet another smirk from the dark haired young man at his side. "Come up with anyone better than Mori yet?" Kyouya goaded him.
Tamaki shivered and stalked away, almost quivering with triumph. He was going to win and he couldn't wait to see Kyouya's face when he did! He just had to keep up the 'gloomy' facade a bit longer.
"What's with him?" Haruhi asked from behind them. "Is he still feeling bad?"
"More than you know." Kyouya told her, being deliberately vague. "But he'll mend once he sees that my logic holds no errors." He looked at Haruhi who had her eyes narrowed on him. He pushed up his glasses and gave her a disarming smile before glancing behind her. "Is Mori trying to carry his own luggage?"
Haruhi whipped around and hurried over to stop Mori from picking anything up in his still healing condition. Kyouya smirked as she scolded the taller young man for something he'd had no intentions of doing in the first place. Mori held up both hands, backing away from the luggage he'd only been standing next to. Haruhi grabbed a bag, only to have Mori's face darken. The chauffer took the bag from Haruhi and collected the others as well. Mori then escorted Haruhi inside.
"Good one." Hikaru said quietly, also watching.
Without turning, Kyouya responded. "What happened to your 'fight'?"
Kaoru shrugged. "Tamaki stalked off, it was for his benefit anyway."
"To keep him busy trying to patch up things between you two so that he'll stay out of the way of my matchmaking?" Kyouya guessed, having seen right through the ploy from the outset.
Hikaru shrugged. "Kaoru's color scheme was better than mine, the computer game didn't take the sheen of the fabric into consideration when scoring."
"No, brother." Kaoru's face melted at this admission. "You won fair and square, that cornice pleating was genius. Beautiful silhouette."
"Oh! Do you really think so?" Hikaru sighed, staring into his brother's eyes longingly. "I admired the dress you did with only the one seam, brilliant design!"
"I didn't believe the fight, so spare me the reconciliation." Kyouya sighed and started to head toward the house. "Save it for our clients. Or at least until I have my camera."
"Wait!" Hikaru's voice hardened. "Here comes our esteemed majesty. Ready brother?"
"Ready!" Kaoru straightened, preparing once more to 'fight' his brother and cause a distraction.
"There's no need for that." Kyouya interjected, pinning the twins with a glance. "I've taken care of everything."
"Oh do tell!" Cooed Kauro with a falsetto and flutter of his long, dark lashes. "Why is your plan better than ours?"
"Yeah." Huffed Hikaru as he watched Tamaki approach. "Hey, he's not alone."
Kyouya took off his glasses and methodically cleaned them. "No, I didn't think he would be."
Hunny's eyes widened as he finally recognized the figure of the person next to a grinning Tamaki. "Miss Kanazuki? Reiko?"
"Hello Mitsukuni." Her voice was like dark velvet in the gloom of the night. Eerie and yet beautiful at the same time.
Hunny stared at the girl he'd recently started sharing time with. Not quite dating, but not a client either. His smile lit up as he greeted her properly. "I didn't know you were vacationing out here at Lake Mushu too! I thought you had plans in Switzerland?"
"I did." Reiko stated baldly. "I changed them when I heard where you'd be."
"Now Miss Kanazuki, I thought you were over 'stalking' Hunny-sempai?" Kaoru said plainly. "We explained how Hunny didn't steal your soul, you just have a crush on him."
"I'm not so sure my soul isn't stolen, but that's beside the point." Reiko said in her forthright manner. "No, I was invited."
All eyes flew to Tamaki, who was whistling and looking off into the distance as if completely innocent. No one bought his act.
"Tamaki?" Both twins spoke in unison, they're eyes narrowing on their club president.
"Reiko! Hunny! There are cakes in the kitchen, please go help yourselves!" Tamaki ignored the twins.
"Do something! I thought you had everything under control? Remember how your plan was supposed to be better than ours?" Hikaru hissed at Kyouya. "Now Hunny will be preoccupied and a certain couple will be under assault! They'll never be alone."
Kyouya merely smiled and waited.
"I'm glad you arrived after dark." Reiko was heard saying as the duo headed for the house kitchens.
"So you don't have to step into the sunlight?" Hunny asked quietly.
"No, I don't have a problem with sunlight. It's because of him, of course." Reiko responded just as they rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.
"Him?" Kaoru asked. Hikaru shrugged.
Tamaki gloated and stared at Kyouya. "You lose."
"You talked to me after swearing you wouldn't, seems to me like I won." Kyouya pointed out coolly.
"Who's him?" Hikaru scratched his head. This time Kaoru shrugged.
"Mori will see Reiko with Hunny and feel the need to protect him. She did stalk him after all." Tamaki's smile grew even wider. "And I can take my daughter out by the lake and show her the finer points of the area. No need for anyone to date her. She's too young."
"Who is?" The voice was gloomy, dark, and very loud right next to Tamaki's ear as the Host Club president jumped three feet in the air screaming as Nekozawa spoke. His Beelzenef cat-puppet brushing against Tamaki's other ear. "Who is too young? For in the ages of the world, there are very few who are truly 'young'."
Tamaki stood shaking, pointing a finger at the president of the school's Black Magic club. "I …I …I invited Miss Kanazuki, not you!"
"No need to pretend that I wasn't invited." Nekozawa swept out his dark cloak in a surprisingly cavalier gesture, then drew Tamaki's arm through his as he followed Reiko and Hunny to the house kitchens. "The writing on my invitation matched the one on Kanazuki's I assure you."
Kaoru shook his head grinning as the two disappeared. He held up a hand in acknowledgement of Kyouya's superior planning skills. "You guessed Tamaki would invite someone to 'threaten' Hunny and Mori would leave Haruhi's side to protect his cousin. So you invited someone to distract and annoy Tamaki? But how did you get the handwriting to match both invitations?"
"I used his Suoh family secretary of course. She thought the order came from Tamaki. Easy." Kyouya nodded haughtily. "With Nekozawa and Tamaki around, there's no need for Mori to 'protect' Hunny and all will continue as planned."
Hikaru though didn't congratulate the Shadow King. "So. We now have Kanazuki and Nekozawa on the premises?"
"Weren't you watching?" Kaoru teased his twin brother.
"Sure I was, but I seemed to notice something you two didn't." Hikaru sighed deeply, then shook his head at Kyouya. "You're not as smart as you think."
"Oh? What did you see that I didn't?" The Ohtori asked bluntly.
"Haruhi." Hikaru grinned suddenly. "In a dress."
Kaoru's face fell. "Oh no! They don't know she's not a he! If they find out, this will be all over the school by the end of vacation!"
Kyouya swept an imaginary piece of lint off his casual jacket and smiled. "Like I said, what did you see that I didn't?"
Hikaru's grin faded. "You thought of that already?"
"Indeed, it's crucial to the whole idea." Kyouya intoned and turned for the house.
The twins hurried up on either side of him, bracketing him in. "Wait!" Kaoru asked anxiously. "You don't mean to let everyone know that Haruhi's a girl?"
"Do you?" Hikaru asked with wide eyes.
"Of course not." Kyouya gave them a mysterious smile and said no more, no matter how they threatened, bribed, or pleaded.
Chapter 16: Something Fishy
"What do you mean that I can't have dinner?" Tamaki's eyes plead with Kyouya for an explanation as he whispered to the Ohtori third son.
The Host Club's Shadow King pointedly looked over Tamaki's shoulder at the dark cloaked individual currently inspecting the sitting room. Reminding him that they weren't alone in the room.
"Too many windows in here, and the shades are sheer. No, during the day I can not be in this room. Too much light." He smiled and looked down at his puppet. "Beelzenef doesn't like it either." Nekozawa announced. "The feel of the room is all wrong."
"Haruhi will be at dinner." Kyouya said calmly, for Tamaki's ears only.
"So?" Tamaki growled, clearly not making the connection.
"In a dress." The Shadow King reminded him coldly. "As her …well, as her 'father' it is up to you to protect her reputation at school. Remember, they think she's a male student." Ruthlessly he used Tamaki's own reasoning to trap him.
Tamaki drew back in shock as the possible ramifications of the influx of Black Magic Club members became suddenly apparent to him.
Kyouya nodded slowly. "Don't look to blame this on me. I wouldn't have brought in Nekozawa if you hadn't invited Miss Kanazuki." He paused a moment in order to drive his point home. "Both will be at dinner, of course."
"We have to warn Haruhi off!" Tamaki hissed in distress, his arms flapping as his face turned an alarming shade of purple.
Nekozawa ran his hands over the fireplace mantel, but found no dust. Still, he sneered. "This hearth is merely here for looks. It is not functional."
Kyouya quirked an eyebrow at him as he studiously ignored Tamaki's continued near panic attack. "I believe it's used for heat."
"Useless." Nekozawa drew up his lip in disgust as he discounted any practical uses for the fireplace. "No spells have ever been performed here, it is such a shame." He looked over at the other two young men. "Don't you agree?"
"Not really." Kyouya said without any judgment in his voice while Tamaki continued to escalate into full panic, pulling at his hair. "But it looks like Tamaki feels as you do."
"He does?" Nekozawa smiled with excitement and looked over at Beelzenef. "Perhaps we can come up with something then, something special. I'll have to consult with Kanazuki of course, it is fortunate that she is here with us."
The Host Club President stilled, going cold. His panic abated as he stared in shock at Kyouya. "What are you doing? What are you up to?!"
"A spell? In here?" Kyouya continued ignoring Tamaki and instead answered Nekozawa. "I don't know that the owners would approve. Still, you might be able to do something while everyone else is at dinner. We're having fish I believe."
"Fish?" Nekozawa nodded. "I don't mind missing dinner as a sacrifice for pursuing the dark arts." He smiled. "We can always beg a tray for later."
Tamaki's stomach dropped as he realized that the president of the school's Black Magic Club was completely serious. He was already formulating a 'spell' to be performed. He smiled wanly. "I'm sure that you and Miss Kanazuki don't need us for your ….craft." Tamaki paused, his mind racing. "We would only bring negative energy."
"Perfect!" Nekozawa laughed evilly, pleased with the sound. He'd been practicing that evil laugh in the mirror for a month now. He really liked it.
Tamaki didn't. The sound of Nekozawa's laugh sent shivers down his spine. "It's all settled then, we'll head to dinner and I'll make sure trays are sent to you both and …"
"No." Nekozawa interrupted as he grinned at Beelzenef. "Negative energy is EXACTLY what is needed for the spell I have in mind. We need you Tamaki!."
"And ..and Kyouya too, right?" Tamaki stammered, shocked. "No one is nearly as negative as he is."
"Thank you." Kyouya replied caustically. "But I am not negative, I'm merely pragmatic."
But Beelzenef shook his head, controlled by the dark-cloaked young man who held him. "No, Kyouya has a distinctive lack of energy, either positive or negative. He's too controlled. For this spell to work properly it needs real energy channeled into it, negative being better than positive." Nekozawa smiled sadly. "I'm sorry Kyouya, but I must ask you to stay away from this room during dinner."
"My apologies for not being conducive to your endeavors." Kyouya bowed politely, not admitting aloud that he'd had no intentions of being included in the first place. No need to insult a possible future client or business associate. After all, he was indeed a pragmatic soul and Nekozawa's family was well placed in society despite their sometimes odd behavior.
Nekozawa headed over to a desk and pulled out some paper and an expensive pen. "Let me just jot down a few ingredients and suggestions." He paused a moment, then nodded. "Rosemary we can beg from the kitchen, luckily I brought the black candles."
Tamaki turned pleading eyes on Kyouya. "Why?" He whimpered.
The Ohtori third son shrugged negligently. "Haruhi's reputation must be protected. Who better than you? No one else would take it as seriously as you would. Nor would Nekozawa miss the opportunity to bedevil you. No one else could keep him away from the rest of the group at dinner." He paused a moment, then sighed. "Forgive the pun."
Snapping to attention, Tamaki gave a brief nod of agreement. "As her father, I will do everything necessary to protect my Haruhi. I will always put my duty first!"
Kyouya turned and headed out the door. "Just as I thought."
"Fish?" Ranka's eyes widened as both he and Haruhi stared at the serving platter in abject captivation. "This is beyond mere fish." He breathed out with no little awe.
Sitting next to her, Mori pushed the platter of Ootoro toward Haruhi.
"Takashi insisted." Chiyoko said with a warm smile. "He told me that you'd enjoy it. I do hope he got that right. Our family chef arrived earlier, as he didn't have to wait at the hospital with us. Do you like tuna?" Not getting an answer, she looked up. "Haruhi?"
But the young woman couldn't answer, her huge eyes were fixed raptly on the marbled and pinkish sushi made from the highest grade of fatty tuna in the world.
Mori's lips quirked slightly as he picked up her chopsticks for her and handed them to Haruhi with a soft "uhm".
The Hitachiin twins nudged each others elbows and watched with indulgent smiles as the only female member of their club took a deep breath, drawing in the scent of the perfect piece of sushi. They knew she longed for this treat, having never tasted it before. Both didn't want to miss a moment as they watched her enjoy herself.
Slowly, reverently, Haruhi took the chopsticks without a word and slipped them around the first piece of ootoro. Mori watched intently as she opened her mouth and slid the expensive morsel into her mouth. His gaze met hers as the flavor of the high grade tuna literally melted in her mouth. Her eyes closed with rapture as he watched, pleased.
Chiyoko chuckled and turned back to her own meal. "Yes, I suppose you do like tuna."
Tamaki was feeling distinctly uncomfortable, and he wasn't someone to suffer in silence. "Why do I have to wear a dark cloak? Is it part of the spell?" He asked, flapping the excess material almost like a bat trying to fly. "It's too big for me anyway."
Kanazuki Reiko shook her head and with a ritualistic flair, dropped ashes into the still water in her copper bowl.
"Shhh. It's actually a black tablecloth, but we have to make do." Nekozawa held Beelzenef up as if to scold Tamaki. "And no, it's not for the ritual. It's for atmosphere."
Hunny grinned from the corner as he cheerfully watched and finished off his cake and tea. "It's for their entertainment." He still wasn't comfortable with 'spells', but at least this one wasn't aimed at him.
Reiko turned with a serious smile and nodded toward Hunny. She started to stir the mixture in the bowl counterclockwise.
Nekozawa held up one hand and stopped her. "This is not a love spell, stir correctly if you please Miss Kanazuki."
Thus chastised, Reiko returned to her task and began stirring clockwise. After the fourth turn of her spoon, she handed the mixture over to Nekozawa.
Swallowing nervously, Tamaki watched with trepidation. "If it's not a love spell, what is it?"
"A spell to aid in finding lost things." Reiko murmured as she watched Nekozawa complete the 'spell' and toss the contents along with some mysterious herbs into the cold fireplace.
Tamaki waited, holding his breath. But nothing happened.
The door slid open suddenly, making everyone in the room jump. Anticlimatically, the Hitachiin twins stepped into the room.
"Ah! The return of lost friends." Nekozawa smiled beatifically. "The spell is fruitful already."
Tamaki nearly fell onto his face as his jaw dropped. "But …but …Hikaru and Kaoru weren't lost!" He protested.
But the two Black Magic club members were too busy congratulating each other to listen. From his perch to the side, Hunny merely laughed.
Kyouya was next through the door, and Tamaki stiffened. Surely they weren't going to have Mori and Haruhi come in next? The whole point of this farce had been to keep Reiko and Nekozawa away from Haruhi and discovering her secret!
"Relax." Kaoru smiled as he bent over the still seated Tamaki. "Haruhi went for a walk."
"Oh, is Haruhi with you all? How delightful." Nekozawa said lightly, once again holding forth Beelzenef. "Perhaps we can gather the whole of your Host Club and perform a good luck spell for the rest of the school term."
"Not necessary, but we appreciate the offer." Kyouya said smoothly. "I prefer that we make our success with our own abilities. Relying on the mystical is not without hazard." He improvised on the spot, having no interest in closer ties to the Black Magic club.
Reiko smiled solemnly and took the seat next to Hunny. "Very wise. It is unhealthy to attempt to use the powers of magic for your own gain."
Hikaru scratched his chin in confusion, then pointed at the young lady. "But you tried a lot of different love spells on Hunny."
Kaoru pursed his lips. "That's right you did, how is that healthy for you?"
Nekozawa stood, sweeping his cloak to the side in a dramatic fashion. Unfortunately nailing Tamaki in the face with the dark fabric. "Ah, but Miss Kanazuki is trained in these matters and is no mere novice. We know the risks, and we know how to best handle them as well."
Suddenly, Tamaki stiffened as he looked around the room wildly.
"Here it comes." Hikaru smiled as he saw that their own club president was finally catching on.
"Where's Mori?" Tamaki sputtered, standing quickly, then falling as he tripped over his borrowed cloak which was far too long for him.
Kaoru shrugged and didn't answer, instead choosing a comfortable chair. Hikaru parked himself on the arm of the same chair. Both just smiled mischievously at Tamaki.
The Host Club King looked around wildly and made a wild guess. "He's walking with Haruhi?! Alone? No!" He screamed, running from the room through a sliding set of doors leading toward the lake path.
Reiko stopped what she was doing, holding her tea cup poised midway to her mouth. She shot a look at Hunny. "Mitsukuni? Is he alright?"
Hikaru yawned and stretched. Kaoru was the only one who bothered to answer. "Our esteemed leader is worried about Mori and went to stop him from walking along the lake."
"He goes to seek a LOST friend." Nekozawa said with pride. "The spell was potent indeed."
Hunny's eyes widen in awe.
"Why is he so worried? Is it a haunted lake?" Reiko perked up, her eyes shining.
"Hardly." Kaoru answered, looking almost smug. "But Mori did just get out of the hospital today after all. Tamaki is just ensuring the health and well being of his club members. He takes his position as president quite seriously."
"Oh." Reiko settled down, looking disappointed. Hunny reached over and patted her hand and she perked up, smiling at him.
"I hear that there is a haunted lodge nearby though." Hunny spoke up with a small smile. "It's abandoned despite the high property values in this area."
Both Reiko and Nekozawa started grinning happily, gathering together to start making plans for the haunted lodge. Hunny sighed and shook his head. He didn't much care for such things, but he did like seeing Reiko happy. As the two magic users chatted, he reached for the last tea cake on the platter. "Do you think Takashi is overdoing it?" He asked the others of the Host Club. While he was sure Takashi could take care of himself, it had been daunting to see his usually stoic cousin in the hospital.
"No." Kyouya said, leaving the room. He gave a sharp, long look at the twins before closing the door.
Hikaru chuckled, looking down at his brother. "He is the Shadow King." He said to no one in particular. "But he should never discount us."
Kaoru nodded. "We told Tamaki that Haruhi was taking a walk. Our club president merely jumped to conclusions. Just because Mori isn't with us now, doesn't mean he's walking with Haruhi."
"You are so right, my brother." Hikaru gloated. "Just as we planned."
Kaoru grinned smugly. "We can't let Kyouya think he's the only clever one around here."
Hunny frowned slightly. "So, who IS Haruhi walking with?"
Tamaki frowned, his vision blurring as he clutched his head.
"What's the big idea?" Ranka snarled down at him, holding the walking stick he'd just used to clobber the younger man with. "Why run down here screaming and scaring the tar out of us?"
Haruhi sighed as she peered at her friend from around her father.
"I was just trying to protect my daughter." Tamaki mumbled, looking dejected.
Ranka sighed and turned to Haruhi. "Go on back up to the house. My rival and I have a few things to discuss."
"Rival?" Haruhi echoed, unsure of the choice of words.
"Apparently he wants MY job." Ranka sneered, making Tamaki draw back a bit at the vicious look on the okama's otherwise perfectly made up face. His look softened as he turned back to his daughter. "Go back and check on young Mori. He looked utterly exhausted and I would rest better knowing he's not overdone it with this trip to the lake."
"No!" Tamaki scrambled up in a hurry, only to get knocked on his ass once more as Ranka ruthlessly stood over him. He tried to get up again, only to have the okama step on his hand. In high heeled boots. "OUCH!"
"Don't go anywhere." Ranka smiled nastily, clenching his walking stick as he tossed back his long and perfectly conditioned hair. "We have MUCH to discuss."
Chapter 17: Taking Your Lumps
Haruhi hesitantly stepped into the spacious lake home that in her opinion was big enough to be a resort all on it's own. She turned to peer back out down the pathway where she'd left her father and an ...agitated Tamaki. Nothing, it was now too dark and she could see nothing at all. Perhaps she shouldn't have left them by themselves?
Kyouya silently lowered his book from where he was sitting in an overstuffed armchair and peered at the young lady. His glasses glinted slightly from the reading light, catching Haruhi's attention as she turned wide eyes onto him. Kyouya stilled and didn't let a sigh escape him, though his heart did actually seem to miss a beat. How uncharacteristically romantic of him, he thought before standing up and moving smoothly over to stand by Haruhi.
Ruthlessly the pragmatic youth pulled his gaze from his schoolmate and looked out into the darkness, he too could see nothing. A secretive smile passed over his lips before disappearing. "Tamaki found you?"
"Hai." Haruhi nodded briefly. "He was in a state."
An understatement, Kyouya was quite sure. This time his smile stayed a little longer. "So why is our esteemed president not with you?" He cocked his head arrogantly to the side and nodded once. "He's talking with ...your father I presume?"
Something about Kyouya's smile and his manner had Haruhi eying him cautiously. "What are you up to?" She suddenly pointed at him.
The young man's smile grew and he gave her an appreciative nod. "Special scholarship students are nothing if not brilliant." With a small flourish he bowed slightly and closed the book he was still holding. "Early day tomorrow. Goodnight Haruhi." He looked behind her and pointed his chin in the direction of the pathway. "Some ice might be a good idea."
Mouth dropping open slightly to say something, she looked behind her through the sliding glass doors and saw nothing, turning back it only surprised her slightly that Kyouya had already left. Silently. Snapping her mouth shut, Haruhi muttered. "This special scholarship student doesn't feel brilliant, she feels like a fly in a spider's web."
Just what was the bespectacled student up to, she wondered? In the back of her mind she recalled a certain conversation with the Hitachiin twins. Something about Mori. And her. Together. Something completely ridiculous about Hunny choosing her for his cousin. But the whole idea was ludicrous to begin with, and secondly, she doubted Kyouya would ever stoop to involving himself in something without numbers or profit. So it had to be something else, but what?
The sliding glass doors opened behind her, making her spin around, startled. Then she froze, dropping her mouth open in shock.
Tamaki was there, being supported and helped along by her father. The Host Club President looked like a pair of socks her next door neighbor had knitted. Lumpy.
"Some ice please, Haruhi?" Her okama father asked nicely, his make-up still perfect but his hair looked a bit ruffled. Tamaki looked a hundred times worse and she winced at the swelling around his jaw.
Kyouya stood in the darkened but well furnished and sumptuous guest chamber assigned to him and wondered about the scene being played out downstairs. A scene he'd helped design. He went over each and every reaction that all the players may have and possible scenarios thought could come about as well as how to counter them.
But part of his mind wasn't doing as it should.
Kyouya sighed and removed his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose for a moment. He put his glasses on his dresser.
Putting his glasses back on, Kyouya turned on the lights and turned to look at the Hitachiin twins who waved at him like they had won something that he had lost. "What are you two up to?"
"No." Hikaru grinned.
"It's what you're up to." Kaoru finished his brother's thought and sentence.
"We've been thinking." Hikaru continued.
Kyouya sneered. "Dangerous." He commented dryly.
"True." Kaoru lounged in his seat and looked up at the ceiling in studied nonchalance. "But you told us your reasons for getting Mori and Haruhi together."
Kyouya raised one eyebrow, but didn't respond.
Hikaru leaned forward, staring at their club vice-president intently. "And you never explain anything. Until it's all over."
"Which means." Kaoru held up one finger. "You weren't telling the truth, or not all of it." Then held up two fingers. "You've changed the game ...or ..." He held up a third finger.
Kyouya said nothing.
Hikaru sighed. "You were supposed to answer us before we hit number three."
Tamaki sighed and winced as Ranka placed the pack of ice over the largest bump on his forehead. "Your plan backfired. Haruhi will swarm all over me to ease the wounded warrior and you can't keep father and daughter apart."
Ranka pressed a little harder than necessary making Tamaki groan, before letting up on the pressure. "It wasn't a plan. You came running at us tonight, screaming." He leaned forward menacingly. "And I distinctly remember reminding you that she is NOT your child."
"Not biologically, of course." Tamaki conceded with ill grace, taking the ice pack from Ranka and holding it himself.
"Not in any way." Ranka sighed, his earlier anger fading. "Boy. You've got a crush on her a mile wide."
Tamaki jumped up in shock, his face flushing. "That's disgusting! She's my daughter!"
Ranka cracked his knuckles, the sound recalling Tamaki to himself as he backed away slowly with wide eyes, remembering the pain from earlier.
"She's like my daughter!" The young man amended quickly.
The older man sighed and smoothed a wrinkle in his skirt while flipping back his long hair. "Look. Kid. My daughter is a smart girl. Very smart, smarter than her father by a long way."
Tamaki stilled as he smiled fatuously. "Haruhi is brilliant, and lovely, and her intelligence ..."
Ranka waved a hand at the young man to cut off the list. "Yes, I'm aware. She is my kid after all, better ...she's her mother's daughter."
At hearing this, Tamaki settled down a bit, nodding vigorously enough to make his new bruises hurt but not interrupting.
"And she's been blind to young men." Ranka continued. "Which as a father, I don't discourage. But when she is ready ...when SHE is ready, she will choose and I'm sure she will choose wisely since she is so smart and down-to-earth."
Tamaki's nodding didn't stop.
"And it looks like she's starting to become more aware. Of others, especially young men."
Tamaki's head stopped nodding abruptly and he started shaking his head negatively this time.
Ranka sighed and shrugged. "And with her head on straight, and her intelligence ..."
The shaking head turned back into vigorous nodding.
Wincing, Ranka frowned. "You're going to hurt yourself doing that."
Tamaki shook his head again, then stopped, nodded, then stopped again as he shrugged his shoulders to shake off the soreness.
"Look. I won't mind ...much ...if she chooses you." Ranka smiled gently. "But your possessiveness will have to go mind you."
Tamaki nodded, frowned and shook his head. "Not me ...I'm her ...fa ..."
Ranka eyed the young man with a glare so fierce the student gulped. "Don't finish that statement." He watched as the youth closed his mouth. Nodding, he continued. "I like all of Haruhi's young friends. But let me spell this out clearly for you. She will choose and you will honor that choice."
Tamaki frowned sharply.
Ranka stepped forward, looking down into wide eyes. "And you will let her choose." It was not a question, but a statement of parental fact.
Tamaki shook his head more gently this time, but with no less conviction. "She's too young." He whispered earnestly.
Ranka shook his head sadly. "At her age? I'd been dating for well over a year. And her mother had suitors all through school."
"No." Came the whispered denial.
The okama reached up and pressed down on the ice pack Tamaki was still holding to his head. Slowly he started to apply pressure until Tamaki winced and stepped back. "Yes."
"And if you do feel ...protective ...of Haruhi." Ranka said, replacing the word 'fatherly'. "Good. But don't keep her from exploring her life and growing up."
Tamaki frowned slightly.
Ranka sighed and gave in. "As a person like a father ..."
Tamaki smiled, looking up eagerly.
"Then it is your duty to be a good parent, and let your child find her way in life." Ranka paused. "Do you think it was easy letting her study so hard for Ouran? Do you think it's easy not having her in a closer school? One that isn't so demanding?"
The young man's smile faded into thoughtfulness ...and suspicion. "What are you saying?"
Ranka leaned forward and pinned the younger man with his gaze. "That if you want to be a good father, you won't interfere unless someone is dangerous."
Ranka frowned. "Wait. Let me clarify. Dangerous as in unsuitable, which none of her classmates seem to be. Not dangerous as in you simply don't want Haruhi dating."
Ranka nodded. "Yep. That should do it."
Tamaki's frown deepened.
"Oh good! Found you!" The loud voice interrupted the moment.
Ranka smiled and waved at the newcomers before politely dismissing himself.
Nekozawa held up the black tablecloth from earlier. "We are all ready now!"
Reiko held up a picnic basket. "I've got the candles, ingredients, and the bowl for mixing spells!"
Hunny held up his stuffed rabbit. "I've got Bun-Bun!"
The Hitachiin twins grinned and held up two baskets. "We've got the cakes and other food!"
"Cakes?" Tamaki asked blankly.
Hikaru shrugged. "Hunny did the packing, it might all be cakes."
The shorter young man simply smiled.
Tamaki blinked over at Kyouya, who looked back with calm detachment. "I'm not going." The Ootori third son stately baldly. "I have a lack of energy."
Nekozawa nodded as he grabbed Tamaki's hand and pulling him out the sliding glass doors that Kaoru held open helpfully. Hikaru helped by pushing their club president's back and assisting in getting Tamaki outside.
"Wait!" Tamaki pulled away with some effort and walked back inside to look at Kyouya. "What is going on?"
Kyouya shrugged negligently. "Nekozawa and Miss Reiko are wanting to visit the Haunted Lodge. And you want this too."
"Of course." Kyouya nodded. "Otherwise our guests would stay here and sleep, being up in the morning ...where they could see Haruhi who will also be up and about during the day." He paused dramatically, letting that comment seep in. "Or ...they could be out tonight and sleep in during the day. Helping to keep Haruhi's gender under wraps."
Tamaki turned to look outside where Nekozawa and Reiko were discussing spell ingredients. "You do it." He almost pleaded.
Kyouya smiled and smoothly slid his glasses up higher on his nose. "I have the wrong type of energy for these things. Nekozawa said so himself. And as her father I'd thought you'd jump at the chance to protect Haruhi's reputation."
It wasn't like they could let her identity as a girl be bandied about school like a common rumor. No. That couldn't happen. Tamaki sighed and shook his head. "Ranka informed me that I was NOT Haruhi's father."
Kyouya paused, for once surprised. Hmmm. Tamaki wasn't following the right script. His eyes narrowed behind his glasses, but then his friend spoke up first.
"But as someone LIKE her father ...it is my clear duty!" Tamaki drew up to his full height and marched out the sliding glass doors to join the others.
Kyouya let out his breath. For a moment there Tamaki had actually made him worry!
Suddenly the doors slid open again and Kyouya turned to look, spotting Hikaru. "We're not done yet. We're not sure what you're up to just yet, but don't think we're dropping this."
With that the whole group left cheerfully, with a reluctant Tamaki trailing along behind them with a melting ice-pack on his head.
Chapter 18: Wildlife
Haruhi stopped mid-motion as she ate, her bacon half-way to her mouth. She cocked her head slightly to one side. It was Hunny though who asked the obvious.
"What happened to you?" The young man asked, his bright smile dimming as he looked Tamaki over.
Their Host Club President looked awful. He still had a small lump on his forehead and his jaw was discolored with bruising. His usual elegance had given way to rumpled clothing and a bleary eyed look.
Tamaki frowned sharply as he eyed the bright eyed group at the table. Mori looked well rested and though still moving carefully since his surgery, didn't look worse for wear. Hunny was the very image of brightness and vitality as he ate his breakfast. And Haruhi ...his little Haruhi looked so cute sitting there in her pink and white sundress. Tamaki nearly melted on the spot.
"Did you get in a fight?" Hunny persisted, Mori too watching with worried eyes.
Tamaki sighed. "You were with us all night Hunny, how are you not tired?"
"Because he curled up and slept the sleep of the innocent while you were busy with Nekozawa." The twins came in, yawning though they perked up at the sight of the large breakfast spread out before them. "Nice!"
Tamaki growled. "You two disappeared last night!"
Kaoru shrugged. "We came back here."
Hikaru passed the plate of steamed egg dishes to his brother first, before serving himself. "We were tired."
"So was I!" Tamaki raised his voice, looking perturbed. How come everyone else had gotten some sleep while he'd been forced to entertain Nekozawa and Miss Reiko all night.
"Any ghosts?" Hunny leaned forward, whispering.
"No!" Tamaki frowned deeply. Why was no one being sympathetic?
"Nekozawa is here?" Haruhi asked, a bit surprised.
Kyouya put down his papers. "Nekozawa retired for the day, sleeping off his exertions of the night excursions."
Haruhi looked a bit confused, so Hunny leaned forward. "Ghost hunting." He supplied.
Mori turned and stared at Hunny. The blonde reached for another piece of toast and spread some jam on it. He peeked up at his cousin and then took a bite of toast. Mori kept staring.
Hunny hunched his shoulders. "You were asleep." He explained without the question being asked.
Mori's eyes narrowed on his cousin.
Hunny sighed. "Alright, I won't go and stay out all night again."
Mori grunted and reached over to refill Hunny's juice glass.
"You should get some sleep." Haruhi said quietly, looking at the distinctly rumpled Tamaki.
The Host Club President sighed happily. She'd noticed! She'd seen that he needed tending. His inner theater took over and in his imagination Haruhi led him upstairs and tucked him in, checking his temperature and reading quietly by his bedside was he slept peacefully.
"Are you ready?" Haruhi asked.
"Yes." Tamaki said dreamily, ready for her to take care of him.
"Hai." Hikaru grabbed a muffin as Kaoru grabbed a piece of fruit from the table.
Tamaki watched in total confusion as the group headed for the door. He nearly hyperventilated on the spot. "Where? What? Huh?" His inner theater burst into flames and turned to ashes as he saw Haruhi leaving.
Kyouya adjusted his glasses. "We're going for a morning walk down to the water."
Tamaki's face went red, then white. He looked over at Haruhi in her pink and white sundress. He looked over at Mori, tall and silent. The two weren't standing next to each other, but in his fevered imagination he pictured them walking arm in arm. Without him. Gritting his teeth, he shook his head. "No!"
"Why not?" Haruhi asked reasonably.
Tamaki looked around and realized that every eye was on him. Haruhi, Mori and Hunny looked genuinely puzzled. Kyouya looked blank and unreadable. And the twins were smirking at him. With as much dignity as he could muster, Tamaki drew himself upright and grabbed an orange from the table. "Now we can go." He announced.
Haruhi frowned. "You should get some sleep."
"I'm fine." Tamaki vowed, lying through his exhausted but determined lips.
The group walked down the pathway toward the water, enjoying the day. Only Tamaki glowered and growled as if under a black cloud.
Haruhi looked around eagerly. "This area is so beautiful!"
"It's been in the Morinozuka family for years now." Hunny, fairly radiating energy, bounced on his toes next to her. "I love it out here."
Mori grunted in silent agreement, his hands in the pockets of his shorts.
Haruhi looked at him, checking out his color. "You're not overdoing it? Are you Mori-sempai?"
"Yes! Yes he is!" Tamaki ran up to stand in between the duo. "He should go back to the house!"
Mori shook his head, indicating he was fine.
"It's good you're worried." Kyouya said quietly. "Perhaps you should go fetch Mori some tea or lemon-aide or something."
"Yes! Of course!" Tamaki bounded away about half a yard and stopped, spinning to glare at the other young man having almost fallen for the ploy.
Kyouya smiled at him. "Well? I thought you'd kindly offered to fetch something refreshing for Mori. It's what a good friend would do." He needled his friend, sliding a covert glance at Haruhi.
Tamaki stiffened, torn. If he went to get the drink then he'd look good in Haruhi's eyes ...but he'd have left her with Mori. If he didn't get the drink then Haruhi wouldn't be left with Mori ...but he'd look bad in her eyes. He had no clue what to do! Salvation came from an unexpected source.
"Not necessary." Mori spoke up, his voice a deep rumble.
Kyouya frowned slightly and Tamaki grinned, he turned to smile at Haruhi but found she'd moved on. The young man looked around frantically and saw her off to the side of the tree line standing with the twins and Hunny. And Mori was walking toward them!
Tamaki took off at a run, getting there before a confused Mori and an amused Kyouya. Out of breath he looked at what had the twins' attention. "That animal is dead!" He pointed in horror.
Haruhi nodded, frowning. "A squirrel. From the looks of it some animal got to it and it died of wounds."
"Well don't touch it!" Tamaki screeched, pulling Haruhi out of the way. Looking around for whatever had killed the squirrel. "Whatever killed it may be back!"
Hikaru shook his head. "Probably a raptor of some sort."
"Raptor?" In Tamaki's sleep-deprived mind a picture from "Jurassic Park" burst into his imagination, the creatures teeth covered in blood. He jumped in front of Haruhi, his arms out protectively.
"Hawk probably." Mori grunted.
Raptor. Bird. Oh. Tamaki's face flamed. "How do you know that?" He barked, embarrassed.
"Ah look!" Hunny pointed, his cute face crumpling into sadness. "It's a mommy squirrel!"
Mori looked at Hunny's dejected face and looked over at the tangle of branches and things, clearly a nest. He looked up at the tree and sighed. The nest must have fallen in the attack.
The twins picked up sticks and were prodding the nest as Hunny hovered anxiously.
"You should leave that alone." Haruhi spoke up, Kyouya nodded. "It's nature."
But it was clearly too late. Hunny had found a baby squirrel and was cooing at it even though the baby had been stunned in the fall. He looked up, his wide eyes filling alarmingly with tears. "Save it!" He pleaded.
Tamaki's inner theater sprung back into action. He'd save the baby squirrel and win Haruhi's undying respect. He'd become a famous wildlife saver and she'd be his faithful assistant as they went from country to country saving poor defenseless creatures from dinosaurs.
In the meantime, Kyouya looked at Mori who nodded and handed the Morinozuka a handkerchief. Hunny and the twins held their breaths as their resident 'wild type' gently scooped up the baby squirrel.
Tamaki came out of his semi-trance to help only to find out he was too late. He nearly fainted as he saw Haruhi standing next to Mori as she looked down at the squirrel he was holding.
"It needs to be kept warm. Maybe your shirt pocket?" Haruhi suggested. "Though I don't know if this is such a good idea. Squirrels aren't really pets and this one may not survive long without it's mother."
Kyouya took out his cell phone and started calling for a veterinarian to meet them at the house.
The twins kept making suggestions. "Do vets have ambulances?" Kaoru wondered.
"Does anyone know CPR?" Hikaru shook his head. "I haven't taken it yet!"
"How about a helicopter?" Kaoru called out to Kyouya. "It might be faster!"
"It's a squirrel." Haruhi sighed to herself. "You don't need a helicopter for this ...rich bastards."
Tamaki jumped forward, eager and brave. "I'll carry the baby squirrel! How about my shirt pocket?"
Haruhi looked at him and blinked. "What shirt pocket?" She asked point blank.
Hunny wailed and flailed his Bun-Bun as he watched Mori hold the baby squirrel. Mori slipped the squirrel into the shirt pocket of his short-sleeved button-up top. "He'll be fine." The taller youth said in his deep grumbly voice, eager to calm his cousin and equally as worried about the squirrel now. It was awfully small, and rather cute.
Tamaki slapped his hands onto his shirt, his mind stalling as he realized he didn't have any pockets in his casual dress pull-over.
He looked over at Kyouya who did have pockets. The bespectacled young man crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head. "I'm not carrying that thing."
"We need to get back to the house." Kaoru interjected. "I think the vet that Kyouya called will be meeting us there!"
"House calls from veterinarians." Haruhi muttered under her breath. "For squirrels." She sighed as she followed the frantic twins back up toward the main house.
Kyouya stepped forward to follow as well. But Tamaki's hand on his chest stopped him. The Host Club President glared at his friend. "Did you set this up so Mori could play hero?"
Kyouya smiled and waved an arm around the area. "I did not cause Mori's appendicitis. I did not arrange for his parents to pick Lake Mushu for his convalescence. And I did not arrange for the twins to find an orphaned squirrel. Nor did I hire a trained bird of prey to hunt down and kill a squirrel."
Tamaki paused, feeling rather silly for having suggested any of that.
"My plan was for the twins to find an orphaned bunny rabbit instead." Kyouya's face gave nothing away. "The squirrel was just plain nature."
Tamaki's eyes widened comically as he sputtered. "B...b...bunny?"
"They are cuter than squirrels according to my research." Kyouya said simply.
Tamaki's mouth snapped shut. "You're making that up!" He accused.
"Of course." Kyouya allowed. "But I have stalled you here long enough for the others to get a good head start." He leaned in. "Without you."
With a shout, Tamaki raced up the gentle slope toward the house, yelling for Haruhi to wait for him.
Kyouya laughed and leisurely walked back toward the house himself. All he'd had planned for the morning was a simple walk. But Tamaki didn't need to know that.
Tamaki ran full out, but he'd been up all night and had maybe lost a step or two from exhaustion. He did however, finally reach the house. He ran inside and stopped cold. His draw dropped in shock at the tableau before him.
Mori was standing to one side, holding out the front of his shirt away from his chest looking worried.
Haruhi was scolding Chika and Hunny though neither was paying attention as the brothers rolled around on the ground, the older brother caught in a choke hold. Satoshi, Mori's little brother, was trying to hit Chika with a wooden kendo practice sword but seemed worried that he might hit Hunny by mistake.
The twins were trying to help. Or not. Tamaki winced as Hikaru threw a glass of cold water on Chika though the younger boy only sputtered and didn't stop. Kaoru was running back to the kitchen to get more water.
With a blindingly fast move, Hunny broke free of the choke hold and spun to face his little brother. Chika picked up a nearby chair as a weapon.
"Enough!" Morinozuka Chiyoko didn't raise her voice. But everyone stopped. Well, everyone but Chika. He stepped forward brandishing his expensively upholstered chair.
But now he was no longer in close contact with Hunny and Satoshi had a clear shot. THUMP! Chika howled and clapped his hands on top of his head, glaring at Mori's little brother. "That hurt!"
"Good!" Satoshi shot back. "Stop fighting with your brother!"
At the mention of his brother, however, Chika turned and fell back into a fighting stance. Hunny sighed. "Not now! We have a medical emergency!"
"What? Medical emergency?" Chiyoko turned wild eyes on all those in her house and settled on her eldest son. Morinozuka Takashi. Mori's eyes widened and he shook his head to indicate he wasn't the one with the emergency.
But ...he did look odd standing there holding out his still buttoned shirt away from his chest like that. In the silence everyone heard a growl.
Haruhi turned to stare. "Was that the squirrel?"
"Squirrel?" Chiyoko mouthed, looking horrified. "Is there a wild animal in my house?"
Hunny rushed up to Mori. "Is he alright? Is he hurt?" His large eyes looked pleadingly up at his cousin.
"Ah." Chiyoko sighed. "Hunny has a squirrel."
"It's an orphan!" Kaoru pointed out.
"Terribly cute!" Hunny whimpered. "Poor baby!"
"It's a rodent." Haruhi sighed, then went still has Hunny glared at her. "But a cute one." The older classmate nodded as he turned back toward his cousin with a worried expression.
"Kyouya called a veterinarian." Hikaru contributed.
"Wildlife expert, actually. Most veterinarians don't deal with wild animals." Kyouya spoke up, finally having arrived at the house.
"It's growling." Tamaki pointed out. "I didn't know it could do that. It looked so small."
Mori nodded, still holding the shirt out away from his body.
"Someone get it out of his pocket!" Chiyoko said, worried. "He can't let go or it might scratch him through his shirt!"
"I'm not putting my hand in there. It's awake now." Hikaru said solemnly. "Do squirrels bite?"
Everyone fell silent except for the baby squirrel. It was still growling.
"Well?" Chiyoko said pleadingly. "Someone DO something!"
"Take off the shirt." Haruhi directed in a practical tone of voice.
"WHAT?" Tamaki's head nearly exploded.
Kaoru shook his head. "I'm not going near it!"
Haruhi looked around the room and was fascinated and repulsed by the helplessness of people who didn't know how to deal with ordinary life. She sighed and walked over to Mori.
Tamaki gasped as his Haruhi unbuttoned Mori's shirt and helped him slip it off without dislodging the passenger in the front pocket. He started to turn blue from holding his breath.
"See?" Haruhi held up the shirt. "Easy."
Tamaki started breathing again. Mori was wearing an undershirt. It was all going to be fine. Nothing scandalous really. Nothing to lure his Haruhi to the Morinozuka at all.
Haruhi took a breath and deliberately didn't look back at Mori. She'd thought nothing of helping him. But ...the soft cotton of his t-shirt was molded to his chest. Now all of a sudden, she was feeling a bit over-heated.
Mori stepped up behind her to look down at the shirt holding the baby squirrel. "Will he be alright?"
Haruhi nodded, unable to speak all of a sudden. The quiet rumble of voice was very masculine. So was the strength radiating from someone she shouldn't be thinking of in those terms! And the worry in his voice? She deliberately stepped away, avoiding his gaze. Suddenly TOO aware of a certain person. Why? What had changed? Why was Mori now so disturbing when he'd never been before?
Suddenly the doorbell peeled and Hunny went running to let in the wildlife experts. Five of them. Kyouya nodded in appreciation and checked his watch. "Nice timing."
Haruhi sighed with relief to turn over the young orphaned squirrel to the experts and watched Mori move to watch as they inspected their new charge.
Tamaki moved over to watch as well. Satisfied that Mori was over here and Haruhi was over there.
Kyouya though smiled. Haruhi looked ...flustered? Good. This was better than a walk to the lake. He was watching when the only girl in the Host Club gave a quick peek toward Mori, and then away again.
He frowned. His plan was working. So why did it feel like he was losing something?
Chapter 19: Roller Coaster
This was new. Haruhi frowned slightly as she quietly watched what was going on around the table. She was used to feeling confused by her fellow Host Club members, as well as exasperated and sometimes even frustrated. Friendship certainly and even lately a sense of comfortable belonging she'd never expected. But suddenly she felt truly uncomfortable for the first time.
Haruhi absently watched the five wildlife specialists as they taught Mori and Hunny how to keep the orphaned baby squirrel warm having finally having pronounced it disease free earlier. The twins were watching too, but not participating while Kyouya was on his phone. Mori reached into the box to make sure the rags covered the baby squirrel entirely, even it's little head, and that it had enough room in the box to get away from the small hot water bottle in case it started to get overheated.
Looking around the room her eyes passed over Tamaki gently snoring with his head down on the table, having finally succumbed to exhaustion. He was really out of it, sleeping through all the conversations going on over his head.
Haruhi closed her eyes a moment, then decided she wasn't going to play coward. Her eyes moved back to where they'd wanted to be the whole time.
Morinozuka Takashi. Mori.
His focus was still centered on the baby squirrel, thank goodness. Safe to look, Haruhi let her gaze travel over him, noting the strong lines of his back and profile. His whole attention was on the little orphan and concern was written in every line of his body. What would it be like to be sole object of his attention?
Haruhi's gaze dropped away. This was so unlike her! She wasn't some moon-eyed host club fangirl. She was a special scholarship student at a very exclusive and difficult school where she could not allow herself to be distracted. Still ...she could see what it was that attracted Mori's fans to request him. She was only confused that more of the Ouran schoolgirls weren't madly falling all over themselves to get his attention.
"What this little fellow needs is a full belly, now that he's all warm." Wildlife expert #1 smiled, while the other four nodded quietly.
Hunny snapped to attention and ran to the kitchen before the man could explain what nutrition would be best. The twins were right at his heels. Kyouya didn't move and, still asleep, Tamaki started to drool slightly. It was Mori who listened intently to the wildlife expert, nodding as he took mental notes.
Hunny burst back into the room carrying two cakes. "I didn't know if strawberry or cream-filled would be better!"
The twins came back in carrying a variety of items including soy sauce, mustard, bread, an orange, and a container of pepper. "Something stimulating?" Kaoru asked, putting the items on the table.
"Vitamin C!" Hikaru attested, throwing the orange into the air and catching it neatly with one hand.
The Wildlife experts all sighed in unison and shook their heads. "Pedialyte. Unflavored. From an eye-dropper. No cakes or condiments."
Hunny stopped and nodded, then scrunched up his nose a bit in confusion. "What's pedialyte? Does it go well with strawberries?"
That was when the door from the kitchen slammed open hard enough to make Haruhi jump and even Kyouya looked up from his telephone conversation.
"I saw you! Alien being! You are not my brother!" Chika was pointing right at Hunny, who was still holding two cakes. "Sneaking sweets in-between meals! This is not the action of someone who takes their training seriously!"
Hunny sputtered. "The cakes were for the squirrel!"
Chika sneered. "Squirrels don't eat cakes!" He yelled and attacked, running straight at his brother then going airborne with his feet out to plant them solidly on Hunny's chest, knocking his older brother back into the table.
This set off all sorts of events all happening at the same time.
First Tamaki, asleep with his head on said table, screamed as he was unceremoniously dumped onto the floor in a heap, hitting his head rather sharply on the tiles for good measure. "Argh! Whaaaaaa ...!" Then saw stars as the mustard bottle slid off the tilted table and striking him on top of the head while a cloud of black pepper went wafting upwards from where the container fell and broke open.
Kyouya stepped out of the way of the scrambling wildlife experts as they tried to avoid the fight but got tangled up with each other and collapsed in a jumble of arms and legs.
Haruhi stood frozen while at the same time everything else was happening the Hitachiin twins tried to grab the shoebox containing clean rags and with a small hot water bottle containing the orphaned squirrel, but only ended up on top of a wailing Hunny while all three squished the cakes beneath them.
Mori alone stood by the toppled table, holding up the rescued shoebox with a surprised look on his face. Haruhi smiled. Of course Mori would save the baby squirrel, it was simply who he was. Her smile stalled though as a strange look came over Mori's face.
First his nose wrinkled, then he coughed. Then sneezed. Once, twice ...and then a third time. Haruhi reached out and pulled on his hand to get him out of the toxic cloud of black pepper.
"CHIKA!" Satoshi roared his cousin's name in horror, looking at the mayhem around him from the kitchen door. "Mother warned you! No fighting this week and NOT IN THE HOUSE!"
Hunny's brother, his fist cocked back to attack his downed brother, ignored everything except his prey when someone else entered the room by way of the foyer.
"What?" Morinozuka Tatsuo looked upon the scene with wide eyes just as his wife moved to join him, her jaw dropping at the sight before her.
Chika's fist slammed into the floor tiles, cracking two of them as Hunny rolled out of the way of the strike. A large hand came down and took the younger Haninozuka up by his collar and whipped off his glasses. Chika, now able to see clearly gulped as he saw the stern look on the elder Morinozuka male's face.
"Sir?" He looked down and winced, finally seeing the destruction he'd caused.
Tamaki stood up, rubbing his head gingerly.
"Mori?" Haruhi's voice sounded worried. The young man's face was pale and his he was holding the shoebox with one hand, the other one on his incision site where they'd removed his appendix. "Mori-sempai? Are you alright?"
"Achoo!" Mori's eyes watered while his mother swayed slightly.
"He's in pain!" Chiyoko pushed at her husband's shoulder to get him to do something about this!
Hunny sucked in a shocked breath and yelled over to Kyouya. "Call the surgeon!"
The twins ran upstairs toward Mori's suite. "We'll get his pain medication!"
Haruhi's mind went blank, seeing only the pain on her usually stoic friend's face. Her stomach sank, unsure what to do to help.
It was from the most unlikely source that help came. Tamaki scooped up a chair cushion and gently pressed it to Mori's chest. "Hold this to you, it will keep the sneezing and coughing from pulling on the incision."
Mori nodded gratefully even as the sneezing fit started to ease. Haruhi took a full breath, wondering how come she hadn't thought of that. She looked up at Tamaki, her dark eyes showing her relief.
Seeing genuine admiration in her gaze, something softened in Tamaki. He looked at her and stepped back next to Kyouya. Quietly and without fanfare. The bespectacled youth looked over at his friend, a bit surprised. Tamaki returned his glance and shrugged, as if to say 'later'.
Haruhi took the box with the baby squirrel, holding it out to the wildlife experts who had finally regained their feet and their composure.
"Here!" Hikaru ran in and passed the bottle of pain pills to Haruhi. The scholarship student frowned and shook the bottle as Mori's mother hovered over her son in worry.
"I'm fine." Mori grunted.
Chiyoko shook her head and sent Satoshi for a glass of water. Haruhi opened the bottle of pills, and frowned as she counted them. "Mori-sempai? You're supposed to be taking one a day. You haven't touched these."
Mori frowned and shook his head. "Not needed."
Both Haruhi and Chiyoko frowned at that, looking at him sternly. Mori's eyes widened and he held up both hands as if in surrender. "Really." He promised them both.
Hunny gave a small wobbly smile up at his taller cousin. "Mori doesn't like taking medicine. Says it makes his mind feel all loopy."
Mori nodded and pointed at Hunny as if to agree with him.
"And I don't like seeing you in pain." Chiyoko's gaze narrowed dangerously on her eldest son. She took the glass of water Satoshi had brought and handed it to Mori who reluctantly, but obediently swallowed one of the pain pills.
"Sorry for the mess." Chika sighed.
"Yes you are." Chiyoko took a deep cleansing breath. "You will clean it up, not the servants. They didn't do this, you did. Satoshi? Will you make sure Chika cleans this up?"
Mori's little brother grinned darkly, putting one fist into the palm of his other hand. "Of course, mother. With pleasure." Chika grumbled, but didn't comment.
"Good." Chiyoko smiled.
"Hello mother." Tamaki stood on the large balcony overlooking the breathtaking vista of Lake Mushu.
Kyouya grunted, standing next to his friend and breathing in the fresh air. After a few minutes of companionable silence he turned and leaned his back against the railing and looked at the Host Club President. "The twins have gone on a shopping 'hunt' for something called Pedialyte to feed Pudgy."
Tamaki smiled. "Pudgy? That baby squirrel is far from fat."
"Hunny named it. You talk to him if you want to change it." Kyouya commented evenly.
But the self-proclaimed 'father' of the Host Club merely shook his head.
Kyouya let the silence trail along a bit more then frowned slightly. "You really helped out Mori back there."
Tamaki shrugged. "He's my friend."
"Friend." Tamaki insisted. "I think I forgot that for a moment, but I didn't like seeing him in pain."
Kyouya nodded thoughtfully, then took a shot in the dark. "Does this mean that you will let him ..."
"No." Tamaki smiled calmly and looked at Kyouya straight on. "Let him? No. But if that is where my little Haruhi wants to go, I ...won't stop her." He sighed. "I'll try not to interfere ...much." He amended.
"It's hard being a parent." Kyouya said with deep sarcasm.
Tamaki nodded, in utter sincerity and no sarcasm at all. "Yes it is."
"No, don't leave. Come in."
Haruhi stopped, nearly staring as she looked into the well-stocked library. Yep. That had been Mori speaking. More than two words too.
"You don't have to though, you could go for a walk. It looks nice out."
Haruhi blinked three times quickly. "You're being ...talkative." She pointed out the obvious.
Mori shrugged. "Medication makes me loopy." He reiterated Hunny's comments from earlier.
Remembering earlier, Haruhi stepped into the room. "Any more pain?" She asked, not having liked how pale he'd looked, though he definitely seemed better now.
"No." Mori said simply and pointed at a bookcase to his left. "I think some of my old schoolbooks are there, from when I was in your year."
Interested, Haruhi moved over to look at the shelves he'd indicated. "I still haven't finished the ones from the reading list." She told him. "Thank you for bringing them along for the trip."
"No problem." Mori's voice rumbled pleasantly. "It was definitely my pleasure."
Haruhi suddenly smiled, turning to look at him. "You really are loopy, aren't you?"
Mori smiled and nodded. "As a roller-coaster." His fingers traced loop-the-loops in the air.
Haruhi shook her head gently and looked around the library. It was a big room and yet she felt almost claustrophobic being in here alone with a talkative Mori. She licked her lips, drawing his gaze there. Unsure of herself, she started to step away.
Mori stood quickly, graceful as water and was at her back, blocking the exit. Standing there, looking down into her face. Her gaze tilted up toward his, his chest a few inches from her back. Haruhi's mouth went dry and her fingers trembled slightly.
One strong arm rose next to her, his bicep brushing her shoulder and his chest coming closer and closer to her back. Her breath caught harshly as he reached ...past her toward the books and picked one, holding it out to her. "Here." Again with the deep voice, she wondered idly if he were a baritone or a bass. Then nearly fainted at the thought of silent Mori deigning to sing!
"Th...thank you." Haruhi straightened her spine.
"I think you'll find it helpful for next semester. Not that you need help, as smart as you are."
Semester? Huh? Haruhi nodded absently as Mori looked down at her. Oh yes, school. The most important thing in her life. Except, he was so close and she was having trouble focusing. Suddenly her eyes went wide as he touched her shoulder, letting his fingers slide down to her back, and then down her spine.
"You are remarkable, Haruhi."
"Huh?" Was all she could manage.
"I still have some of my old notes." He offered quietly.
Haruhi nodded and turned to flee, getting to the library door before she knew she was going to move. She turned and unable to meet his eyes, said something inane to thank him and nearly ran up the stairs to her guest room.
Haruhi snuck downstairs much, much later. Long after a dinner she'd skipped to supposedly 'study', though the truth was she was avoiding a certain someone. And how he was making her feel.
She stuck her head into the kitchen looking for a snack, and caught Hunny with a bite of cake in his mouth. The two stared at each other a long moment, then Hunny pushed his cake toward her. "Want a bite?" He offered sweetly.
"No." Haruhi moved toward the twin double-front refrigerators. "Just looking for a sandwich or something. Sorry I missed dinner."
Hunny shrugged and ate another bite of his cake. "No problem, though a lot of people missed dinner."
The scholarship student made herself a quick snack and joined Hunny at the table. "Oh?"
Nodding, Hunny wiped his mouth with the cloth napkin. "Kyouya had a phone call, an important one. And Nekozawa grabbed Tamaki and Miss Reiko for a dinner out at the haunted lodge. And poor Chika was ...indisposed." He grinned. "Which is code for Satoshi gave him a few lumps while supervising Chika's cleaning efforts."
Haruhi nodded, biting into her sandwich with surprise. Rich people's deli meats were better than anything she'd had before! She grimaced slightly but took another delicious bite. Rich bastards, she thought without much heat.
"And Mori of course." Hunny finished his milk and sighed happily.
"Mori missed dinner?" Haruhi stilled. Did that mean she could have come down and had dinner with everyone else? She wondered what they'd served. She mournfully wondered if she had missed more high-grade tuna?
Hunny shrugged. "He really doesn't react well to pain medications. They make him say all sorts of things and then he sleeps for hours. Mori hates taking medicine." The young Haninozuka confided. "I'm heading up, are you alright down here by yourself?"
Haruhi nodded absently, but deep inside her mind was whirling. How much of what had happened earlier between she and Mori had been a result of medication? Would he even remember? Probably not. He'd been so out-of-character, of course it was all because he'd been feeling the effects of pain pills. Haruhi sighed. Tomorrow things would be normal again.
And that was good. Right?
Then why did her chest tighten at the thought of Mori not meaning anything with his touch? His words?
Chapter 20: Confession
"You need to do something."
Tamaki opened his eyes and blinked against the bright sunlight, holding one hand up to shade his face so he could see. "Mother?"
Kyouya sighed and sat down in one of the elegant chairs on the boat dock. "The week is almost over, another day and a half and we'll all be back at Ouran. You need to do something."
With a soft grunt, Tamaki closed his eyes and settled back in his lounger to enjoy the sunshine. "Everything is perfect."
"Not so oh El Presidente!" Hikaru stepped in, standing right in the way of Tamaki's light, casting him in shadow.
Kaoru nodded, slouching as he stood on the other side of Tamaki's chair. "My brother, is as usual, completely correct!"
Hikaru looked over Tamaki at his twin. "You flatter me brother, you are far more often right than I am!"
Softly, with a gentle gaze solely for his brother, Kaoru moved closer while Hikaru mirrored him. Tamaki looked up in alarm as the Hitachiin twins entwined fingers right over him as they gazed with forbidden love into each other's eyes.
"Stop that!" Screeched Tamaki. "We're not in Ouran yet, you can save that for the clients who actually appreciate your act!"
"Don't move." Kyouya snapped a few quick photos and nodded at the twins as they moved back to slouch against the wooden boat house. "These photos of the twins will sell quite nicely."
Tamaki settled back down with ill grace, grumbling as he eyed his companions. Almost everyone was there, even Hunny was sitting in a bright yellow and blue polka-dotted horsey inner-tube, floating gently in the water. Only Mori and Haruhi were missing. Tamaki smiled. Oh yes. Everything was perfect.
"You have do fix this." Hunny said, his cute face looking utterly serious. "Mori looks miserable and Haruhi is avoiding being around him!"
Tamaki whistled gently and shrugged. "Perfect."
Kyouya sighed, taking off his glasses and cleaning them with an expensively monogrammed handkerchief. "So. This is how it ends. I myself will be sorry."
Waving one hand negligently in the air, Tamaki waved away his vice-president's words. "I had nothing to do with those two not ...being together." He said calmly. "And I see no reason to step in now. My daughter is ..."
"Yes, yes." Hikaru interrupted sourly. "Well. I'll miss you all this next semester. But it was fun while it lasted."
Tamaki blinked open one eye and turned to stare at the twins. "What?"
"The end of the Host Club, of course." Kyouya said baldly.
Sitting up slowly, Tamaki stared at each member of his club gravely. They all stared back. "You will all quit if Mori and Haruhi don't ..." His voice caught, unable to complete the thought much less the sentence.
Kyouya shrugged, as if he didn't have a care in the world on the outcome of this conversation. "Quit? Never."
Tamaki started to relax, then stiffened as Kaoru spoke up.
"Haruhi will quit, rather than be around Mori right now. Not sure why, but she's been diving into closets and hiding out to keep from seeing him." The twin shrugged. "And I don't know how to fix it. She won't talk about it at all."
Snorting, Tamaki shook his head. "Haruhi can't quit. She still has a debt to repay. Kyouya would never let her go."
"On the contrary. As my friend, I would pay her debt for her if it would make her happy." Kyouya lied quietly, well maybe he was lying. "And right now she is less than happy."
Tamaki stirred uneasily. "Nonsense. That would never happen."
Hunny sighed deeply. "You're right. Mori would leave if it meant making Haruhi more at ease. But I won't be there if Mori won't be there."
Lose two members? Tamaki's eyes were wide with shock.
Kaoru scuffed his toe against the smooth wood planks of the dock. "Haruhi is our classmate. We would have to show support if she leaves, stand by her side."
Lose four members? Tamaki's gaze flew to Kyouya, then he suddenly sneered. "This is a ploy."
Kyouya shrugged. "Maybe. But if Mori leaves so does Hunny. If Haruhi leaves, so do the twins. Either way, the Host Club as it stands will end."
Tamaki stood up, full fury shining from his over-bright eyes. He glared at his vice-president. "I will never bow to blackmail!"
Kyouya slowly stood up, looking very calm and utterly bored. "It's not blackmail. Haruhi is unhappy. Fix it."
Smirking Tamaki shook his head. "Mori should just confess to her and let nature take its course."
Hikaru frowned. "This is Mori, he doesn't talk enough to confess! Besides, you know as well as we do that anyone that's ever confessed their feelings to Haruhi has met with a brick wall!"
"Exactly!" Tamaki smiled nastily.
Hunny leaned forward earnestly. "That's why we all think you need to fix it."
Kyouya nodded. "Indeed."
"Why don't you fix it?" Tamaki yelled, his face turning red.
"Because I can't." Kyouya admitted simply. He blinked slowly and shrugged. "I don't know how."
"Us either." The twins sighed. "We've tried to talk to both of them, but it doesn't work. They both get this wild hunted look in their eyes and take off running!"
Hunny nodded, looking miserable. "Mori let me come to the lake today. Without my swim floaties! Said Kyouya would keep me safe."
Tamaki opened his mouth, but no words came out ...his mind stalled. That didn't sound like Mori at all. And Haruhi? Avoiding someone? That wasn't like his daughter. Should he ... "No!" He turned to point at each of them one at a time. "I will not give in to this! No way!"
Hikaru smirked as he watched their club president storm off toward the house. He shook his head. "Hunny, I thought you over played that."
The upperclass man shrugged. "It was only a little lie. Mori really didn't make me wear the swim floaties see?"
"Because he didn't know you were coming out here." Kaoru snickered, then sobered as he looked at their bespectacled friend. "You sure about this?"
Kyouya nodded and then shrugged. "Haruhi looks miserable. Let that sink into Tamaki's mind and he'll come around."
Hikaru nodded. "And if he's busy putting them back together, then he won't be hindering the relationship. He'll accept it better because he'll be the one to push them in the right direction."
Nodding, Kyouya stood and headed back toward the house. "That's the plan." He said coolly, though inside he wasn't so sure it would all work out well. People didn't always react as logically as they should when it came to romantic nonsense. He just hoped all of this didn't backfire and really cause the end of the Host Club.
Haruhi caught her breath as she turned the hall corner and saw Mori entering the library. Unfortunately, he heard her. She saw him stop and look at her. Butterflies erupted in her belly.
Oh goodness. He'd only said her name in that deep rumble of a voice that he had, but it made her feel all strange. She frantically searched her mind for something to say, anything at all that didn't have her sounding like an idiot. Haruhi pointed at him, his head actually. "The baby squirrel ..."
Mori nodded slowly, so as not to dislodge the squirrel currently sitting on his head. "Pudgy."
Oh great, that didn't sound like an idiot! She grimaced on the inside. Point out the terribly obvious! "I thought he was living in that box."
Mori's eyes widened. He knew that the wildlife experts had said the baby squirrel was to be kept warm while it was still in shock. But little Pudgy was over six-weeks old since his eyes were already open and letting him climb and play was fine. "He's good." Was all that came out though.
"Oh, well ...that's good." Haruhi nodded. "Well ...I'll just head outside."
Mori nodded and gestured for her to go first, startling her a bit as he joined her out on the porch.
"Oh. Were you going outside too?" Haruhi sounded nervous, even to herself. She felt stiff and uncomfortable as she watched him nod at her. How to get out of this?
Tamaki, having stormed off toward the house, caught sight of the awkward duo and slipped behind a tree as they passed. He could feel the tension and misery coming off both of them as they passed. He frowned as he moved to watch them disappear down toward the lake.
Had he been blind? Had he been so happy that things weren't working out for Mori that he'd missed how badly both of them were feeling? How terribly selfish and rude of him. Tamaki's mouth firmed. The rest of the club was right.
Things were broken and it was up to him to fix it and fix it fast!
Much later that evening, Haruhi padded down the hallway to the library. Again. But this time holding a note in her hand. As she entered the room, a big yawn overcame her and she shook her head. "Hikaru. I told you before, you shouldn't turn in papers late. This was due before we went on break."
Mori looked up in shock.
Haruhi turned and saw Mori, her brain grinding to a halt. She looked at him and he looked at her, they both turned to look at the rose petal strewn table with romantic candles.
Embarrassment turned to anger. "Did you set this up?" Haruhi held up the note supposedly from Hikaru.
Mori shook his head wildly, this time no squirrel sitting up there. He held up a note of his own. Haruhi stalked over and grabbed the note, reading it quickly. "Kaoru says he needs your help?" She turned the note over but saw nothing else. "It doesn't even say help with what."
Mori shrugged, as if to say it was a mystery to him as well.
"Ahem." They both turned to see Tamaki in the doorway looking entirely too pleased with himself. "Talk. Get together, or better yet don't." He frowned slightly. "But make up and don't let the Host Club fall apart."
With that, Haruhi watched in horror as Tamaki made a show of holding up the key and then shutting the double doors. A click of the lock could not be mistaken.
Haruhi's jaw dropped and it took a few breaths before she turned and looked at Mori. "Well ..."
"We can get out through the window." Haruhi suggested, moving toward the side of the room.
"Alarm." Mori said quietly. "Sirens and guards will come running."
Haruhi paused, looking unsure. It was plausible, these were very wealthy people. Did she want everyone running in here while she was wearing her scroungy sweatpants and t-shirt? Her cheeks flamed, she didn't even want Mori seeing her like this!
She peeked up at him, relieved to find him examining the table. Rose petals? What was Tamaki thinking of? He'd said 'get together' too! Surely he didn't mean ...
Mori held up the bottle in a clear invitation, gesturing toward the crystal glasses. Haruhi frowned, still not having found her mental balance. "We're underage!"
"Cider." He told her simply.
"Oh." She sniffed. Non-alcoholic. "No, we need a way out of here!"
Mori looked at her and she felt he looked ...hurt? No, but that wasn't right. She frowned. "Don't look at me like that!"
He held up his hands in surrender.
Haruhi snapped. "We need your pain pills, that's the only way you seem able to talk!"
"I can talk." Mori rumbled, his expressive face showing his confusion. He paused, thinking.
She waved him off. "But then you'd be loopy and wouldn't mean anything you said."
Mori's face darkened and he put down the bottle. "I always mean what I say."
Haruhi sighed and shook her head. "I ...I just don't know."
He looked at her and shook his own head, as if to say he didn't either.
Haruhi felt like screaming. How to ask him if he meant what she thought he'd been intimating? Because if he hadn't she was going to be deeply embarrassed. And hurt. She admitted to herself. Definitely hurt.
Haruhi scratched her head and turned to look at the window. "Maybe I can make it to my room before the guards come running in."
Mori gave a deep rumble of a laugh and shook his head. "Tried when I was six."
Picturing Mori at six made Haruhi melt a bit, but then imagining him surrounded by guards as he tried to sneak away had her actually smiling. "I'll bet that was a mess."
Mori nodded emphatically, giving a rueful shrug of embarrassment.
Haruhi let the smile fade as she stared at him for a long moment, finally she shook her head. "You make me so confused." She admitted.
"I'm sorry." He actually apologized even as he stepped closer to her. She stepped back, but he stepped into her space again. Haruhi felt a chair behind her and sat down rather quickly, having no where else to move. She watched with wide eyes as he knelt down next to her chair, making them eye to eye. "You've avoided me."
Haruhi reluctantly nodded.
"Why?" He asked, looking genuinely hurt at the thought.
Haruhi caught her breath and reached out without thought, touching his hair as she moved it out of his face. He held his own breath as she touched him, something softening his gaze.
"I won't do it again." She promised, not even sure if she could deliver on her word. "I just don't know how I feel. Or how you feel."
Mori smiled slowly, making her heartrate speed up dangerously. "Then we'll take it very slowly." He promised.
Haruhi looked down and then back up at him, giving a shy nod. Then a small smile. "Is there really an alarm on the window?"
Mori grinned. "But the lock on the library door hasn't worked since I was six."
Kyouya leaned negligently against the porch railing, letting the soft lake breeze tease his dark hair slightly. In companionable silence he watched the duo down walking toward the lake shore while holding hands.
Tamaki cocked his head to one side. "I do good work."
A small sardonic smile briefly graced Kyouya's lips, but the bespectacled young man refrained from pointing out that the Host Club president had been maneuvered into match making. He only nodded and said, "Yes, you do."
They both watched until Mori and Haruhi moved out of their sight and toward the calm waters of the beautiful lake.
"We leave tomorrow." Tamaki said quietly. "Back to Ouran."
Kyouya gave a soft snort.
"The Black Magic club members left yesterday." Tamaki commented.
Smiling, Kyouya nodded. "Which means you finally got a good night's rest."
Tamaki chuckled. "They seemed put out that they couldn't find any ghosts at the abandoned lodge."
"It's quiet." Kyouya stood up and looked around with a falsely casual air.
"I know." Tamaki grinned, stretching as his eyes sparkled. "Isn't it grand?"
Kyouya shook his head. "I mean it's too quiet." He turned to look at his friend. "Where are the twins?"
Haruhi was still a bit uneasy. It was lovely walking with Mori and he ….he was nothing if not nearly perfect. She stole a sideways glance at him, only to find his warm gaze on her. His lips tilted up gently.
She looked away, toward the lake, sure that she was going to blush.
"Have you finished reading the book for your report?"
See now. Haruhi smiled and shook her head. "Only two more chapters to go though." This was why Mori wasn't actually a PERFECT boyfriend! If she hadn't been thinking about him she would have finished the book and half the report by now! "You distract me." She said, almost accusingly in a soft voice, sneaking a shy glance over at him again.
He smiled and squeezed her hand. "I don't mean to." He told her.
And that was just it! Mori probably didn't mean to distract her, but he did! She turned to him, facing him squarely, but still unsure what to say. All of this, all of these feelings …were so new to her!
"It's only for one more semester." He said, in a roughly sensual rumble that made her toes curl slightly.
Then his words registered. One more semester? Her eyes went wide. "Oh!" Her blood stopped flowing. "Graduation."
Mori nodded silently.
Haruhi shook her head in denial, though she'd known for a while that both Mori and Hunny would be graduating at the end of the year. Only ….now it meant separation. She opened her mouth to tell him congratulations, but what came out was, "I don't want you to go."
The soft confession melted Mori completely. He stepped closer to her, taking her other hand so that he held both. Haruhi, drawn in spite of any misgivings, stepped in closer to him, looking up at the tall young man as his head moved down toward hers.
His dark gaze held hers as he bent toward her. Feeling fuzzy and a bit shivery, Haruhi's lips tingled in anticipation. Her eyes fluttered. Their first kiss! Really? Time stood still as her mind imprinted the moment on her memory forever.
The heat of the day, the sound of the trees in the breeze and the smell of Mori, clean and masculine as he moved in closer. The sound of the water and the motor ….
The thought hadn't even truly registered when the wave of cool water washed over them both and the sound of laughter rang in their ears.
Haruhi sputtered and coughed, shaking her head as water dripped down her nose. She looked at an equally surprised Mori as he flicked his hands to shake off excess water as well. His dark hair hung limp and wet in his face and Haruhi was sure she didn't look any better.
Both of them turned to stare at the departing back of one of the twins on water skiis. The other twin was driving the boat with Hunny on the bow, waving madly at them.
Mori's eyes narrowed.
Haruhi frowned slightly. "I thought Hunny was napping."
Mori nodded silently, then tugged her hand so she was standing next to him. He nodded toward the main house. Obviously offering to take her back to clean up and get dry clothing.
Suddenly Haruhi felt better, aborted kiss and all. Leaving the serious behind her she pulled away toward the edge of the lake. She didn't want to think about Mori and his pending graduation from Ouran, not now.
"No." Haruhi shook her head and grinned suddenly. "Last day? And we're already wet." She kicked off her sandals and waved jovially.
Mori smiled as he watched her jump off the boat dock into the water. He pulled off his sodden t-shirt and kicked off his own shoes before running to join her.
Tamaki smiled, looking around the sitting room. Mori's parents were sitting with Ranka and sipping wine. Kyouya was watching the Hitachiin twins play backgammon. Mori and Hunny were sitting at a small table with him chatting about Pudgy the squirrel's return to the woods at the instance of the wildlife experts.
"But what if he starts to miss us?" Hunny was NOT happy with the squirrel leaving the house.
Mori shook his head, but looked sad as well. It was obvious that it wasn't only Hunny that would miss the orphaned squirrel.
"You heard the wildlife expert. Actually, you listened to all five of them. They all agreed this was for the best. And Pudgy is going to a wildlife center first, it's not like they're just tossing him out there."
Tamaki looked around for Haruhi, she would agree with him. He frowned. Where was she?
Mori read his look and grunted. "Finishing her book report."
"Ah." Tamaki nodded, then frowned slightly. "You could help her."
Mori blushed, making Tamaki's eyes widen as Hunny laughed. "She won't let him help, says he's too distracting."
Tamaki nodded, but inside he felt a bit odd. Haruhi never told HIM he was too distracting! Then he took a deep breath and let it go slowly. He was the one to put Mori and Haruhi together and that was that! Conveniently forgetting he'd been the one most opposed to the couple at first.
"It's going to storm." Mori's mother said from across the room.
Tamaki looked over at the adults as they peered out the window at the lake. Even he could see the flashes of lightning from over here. Something tickled at the back of his mind, something he should remember.
"I've got you now!" Kaoru announced, shaking the cup with the dice as he grinned over at his frowning twin. He threw, and then groaned dramatically as Hikaru broke out in a wide smile of his own.
"Who has who, brother?" Chortled Hikaru as he picked up the dice for his own turn. A far away roll of thunder punctuated his words. "I'll win yet!"
Tamaki wondered what was bugging him all of a sudden. He looked around and then nodded, he'd figured it out. "Where are Chika and Satoshi?"
"They went to see a movie." Hunny announced. "I think Pudgy would have liked to see a movie too." He frowned, thinking the orphaned squirrel was losing out somehow.
Mori shook his head.
Kyouya looked over at them. "Bad night for the boys to be out. Or do you have a private theater?"
Hunny nodded. "It's on the east side of the lake house. Small, since this isn't the main Morinozuka household."
Tamaki nodded, though he wondered how a commoner like Haruhi would view having a private theater. Even a small one. Haruhi. Tamaki paused, what was it he was forgetting?
"We added it to the house because Mori did so love historical samurai movies." His mother gave her eldest a pat on the shoulder as she passed them. "We're heading up, you boys don't stay up too late. And the storm is moving this way, so don't be alarmed if the power goes out. We do have an emergency generator which will automatically kick in."
Tamaki and the others all nodded, yet the Host Club president frowned. Storm? Oh that was no problem ….all of a sudden his eyes went wide. "Haruhi!"
Ranka paused at the door to the sitting room. "What about my daughter?" He turned to look at Tamaki, who even he had to admit was behaving better these last few days.
"Uhm." Tamaki shrugged. "I don't think she likes storms." Which was an understatement, as he knew his female club member to be terrified of storms.
Ranka shook his head. "I'm sure she's fine, I've never known her to be afraid of anything."
Tamaki watched Haruhi's father leave and wondered how the man couldn't know just how scared of storms she could be. He decided it was because Haruhi wasn't frightened when her father was around.
Which meant ….Haruhi was all alone in the library, and a storm was approaching. Did she know? Or was she too wrapped up in her homework? Tamaki straightened his shoulders and in his inner mind began a daydream wherein he was the Hero and she the Damsel in distress. She would cling to him ….and …..
Tamaki turned and his eyes fell on his friend and the twins, who were paying him no attention at all. As they were unaware of Haruhi's weakness. Only he knew. Only he could ride to the rescue!
"I wonder if there is any cake left in the kitchen?" Hunny asked plaintively.
Mori shook his head and shrugged.
Dilemma! Tamaki's mind ground to a halt.
Did he go to rescue his little Haruhi or did he send Mori on the task? The taller youth was well capable of playing the hero. But …that was HIS role? Wasn't it?
The Host Club president turned toward Hunny, who was standing next to Mori at the door. "Are you coming to the kitchen with us?"
It would be so easy. Let them go to the kitchen and then he'd excuse himself to the library. But ….that wasn't the "heroic" thing to do. It didn't suit the image he had of himself.
"Yes." Tamaki said, before he could change his mind. "Only Mori? You might want to check on Haruhi."
The taller young man's eyebrows shot up, questioning.
Tamaki shrugged and motioned to Hunny. "We'll go cake hunting. But Haruhi really doesn't care for storms."
Mori nodded, then looked at Hunny before nodding again.
Kyouya watched silently from over by the twins. Outside the thunderclap was louder, as the storm moved closer.
Mori frowned. Haruhi wasn't in the library. He looked around, but didn't see her at all. He walked over to the desk and found her book still open and her nearly finished report still there.
Mori picked up her work, out of curiosity and smiled as he read. She really had a well organized mind. She was going to make a terrific lawyer, just like she'd always wanted.
Light flashed outside the window and Mori waited, counting before the thunder rolled over the room. The storm was definitely moving toward them.
He was half out the door when a soft sound stopped him. Mori stopped and looked around. Bending, his eyebrows shot up in surprise.
Kneeling down next to the desk he looked into Haruhi's blank face. She was beyond frightened. "Haruhi?"
Another soft sound, clearly in distress.
Mori reached out gently and took her hand, frowning that her hand was so cold. "Haruhi?"
Her head turned toward him, but he wasn't sure she was actually seeing him. "It's alright." His voice rumbled comfortingly.
Haruhi was lost inside her own fears.
Gently, resolutely, Mori took her hand and pulled her slowly from underneath the desk until she was standing right in front of him. "It's alright." He repeated gently.
Another crack of thunder and suddenly she was in his arms, clinging.
Mori stilled, then wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly. "Shhh …."
Slowly he pulled her over to the couch and sat, pulling her down beside him where she immediately buried her face in his shoulder. Quietly he held her as the storm rolled over them.
Despite not speaking much in general, Mori spent the next hour gently talking to her about nothing and everything. He told her about how he'd always liked samurai history and how her snow globe gift had meant so much to him. He told her about his little brother Satoshi and how he was pleased with the boy's Kendo moves. And he told her about his university plans and how proud of her he was, how much she'd impressed him since arriving at Ouran.
Through it all, she sat quietly, only squeezing his arm tighter about her when the thunder rolled over them. Until finally the storm started to move away. In the end, she was wrapped in his warmth, with her head on his shoulder as she became aware that he was talking to her.
She turned her face up to look at him and he stopped talking, looking down into her face. The fear was leaving, and in it's place was something incredibly intimate between the two of them.
They stared into each other's gaze for an untold amount of time, then her chin lifted and his head bent down nearly at the same time. Their lips nearly touched, their breath mingling together before they finally closed the distance and they shared their very fist kiss.
Warmth flowed though her, chasing away any chill from the storm. Fear was forgotten as his lips moved softly over hers. Mori rumbled deep in his throat as he tasted her sweetness, her fingers tightened on his shirt then let go to move up and cup his cheek.
Still under each other's spell, they separated then leaned in again for a second kiss just as sweet as the first. A third and a fourth followed before they really took the time to sit back and look at each other.
Haruhi's thumb moved to trace the line of his bottom lip. "I don't want you to graduate."
Mori nodded, his eyes telling her clearly that he didn't care for the separation either.
"But you're going to go to university." She said.
Mori nodded. "So are you. Then law school."
"Actually, I'd been thinking about studying abroad for a year." Haruhi said, then held her breath.
Mori stopped, stared, then nodded. "I can do that."
Haruhi sat back, shaking her head wildly. "You don't have to go where I go. In fact, you're going to school first."
Haruhi's eyes narrowed. "You can't just plan your life around what I do. That's not normal."
"You forget." Mori's voice rumbled, tugging at something deep inside her heart.
"What?" She asked, suspiciously.
"I'm a rich bastard." He looked smug as her eyes went wide. He knew she said that? "And I love you."
Haruhi's heart melted all over the place as she could not argue with the simple truth shining in his dark gaze.
Mori leaned in toward her and she shut up. "Yes?"
"I never expected to fall in love with you." She confessed starkly. "You weren't supposed to happen."
Mori looked at her and kept quiet as she thought it through. She finally shook her head. "Now I can't image life without you."
Kiss number five differed from the first four. It was still sweet and still gentle, but this time his mouth opened on hers and she followed his lead. It was long minutes before she could think again, much less speak.
"Wow." Was the first thing she said. He smiled, and then leaned in to make her say it again.
Thank you for reading my foray into Ouran's hallowed halls, I truly hope you enjoyed!