Fahye (fahye_fic) wrote,
Fahye
fahye_fic

[Ouran: a wish to assimilate the world]

Title: a wish to assimilate the world
Fandom: Ouran High School Host Club
Rating: R
Word count: 6392
Notes: So... remember this one? No? That's okay, it was a long time ago and I haven't written for Ouran since. But I really liked the character dynamics I set up there, and kept revisiting them in my head, and eventually I knew that I had to offer a peek into what happens next.

It has plot (not really) and scenes during which everyone remains fully clothed and conversing (really) and even some Deep Emotions (really really!). But it’s also full of sex! Often with strong overtones of kink. With perhaps a couple of notable exceptions, I now know more about (this) Kyouya's complex sexuality, and the way he thinks about love, than I do about any other character.

The PLAN was just to dash off a sequel to what remains one of my favourite self-penned fanfics, but you know what they say about plans. Many thanks to myrafur, who provided cheerleading <3

Title from More and More by Margaret Atwood, which is -- apt, I think, for this story.




a wish to assimilate the world


Like everything else in Kyouya's life and mind this is incredibly, impeccably exact. It isn't just feet, it's Haruhi's feet, and it isn't just any shoes, it's the glorious teetering things from the Hitachiin label that the twins press upon her as often as they can get away with. Kyouya likes the way her unpainted toes slide under satin and then reappear at the end, the way a buckle sits snugly against the bump of her ankle, the perfect arch that is created when she stands. Blue shoes, green, silver, white, and on the night of the Ootori group's extravagant end-of-year party Haruhi spends the night balancing equally on Tamaki's arm and the obscenely red shoes that enclose her feet. By the end of the first hour the slow shift of sensuality, from her practical smile down past her less-practical black dress and down even further, to where the scarlet straps snake around her legs like covetous fingers, gives Kyouya a headache. He sips sparingly at wine, keeps track of everyone's movements, and allows himself to glance at Haruhi's feet exactly once every half-hour. It's still almost too much.

When they're back home she sits down with a sigh and lifts one foot onto the seat, already fumbling for the buckle, and Kyouya says, "Let me."

She nods in gratitude and settles back into the chair, closing her eyes, and Kyouya kneels down and slips one finger underneath the widest strap so that it lies on the very top of Haruhi's foot, over the skin. Over a faint warm pulse. When he glides the finger back and forth there's barely any resistance from the soft lining of the shoe; the worksmanship is sublime; he must compliment the twins.

Next he places his fingertips against the rigidity of the heel and pulls his thumbs over the asymmetrical lines of leather, pressing down hard enough for her skin to turn pale on either side. Haruhi lets out a sound that's like a sigh with extra sibilants, and when he glances up at her face, her eyes are open once more. She's not smiling. She doesn't look practical in the slightest.

She says, "Keep going."

~

"No, really," Tamaki's saying, "how many of these light fittings could we manage without?" which is when Kyouya realises that things have started to go too far.

Hikaru makes a rude noise around a mouthful of rice, but at least he swallows before jabbing his chopsticks accusingly in Tamaki's direction. "Now look what you've done, Haruhi."

She drops a kiss against Tamaki's temple as she clears her own dishes. "It wasn't me."

"You're the one who brought home the DVD," say the twins. One of their moments of pure, unrehearsed unison; they exchange a glance like a crackle of amused static.

Kyouya catches Haruhi later that night, just before she disappears up into the second level of the house. "Interesting choice of entertainment," he says.

She looks up at him, calm and unafraid. "You know he's right. There's no excuse for us not to be more conscientious about the environment. I'm not suggesting you abandon air travel on principle --" she tilts her head, rueful, acknowledging the number of miles flown in any given month by the members of their household "-- but there are things we can do. Things we should do."

"Hmm," he says, and then, in his role as co-manager of the household budget, "Show me some figures and we'll talk."

A smile lights her face. "I'll have some for you tomorrow."

"Now, Haruhi, you do realise that you've just undermined all of your protestations of innocence?"

"Hey." She bats his arm, hopping up another step so that she's suddenly the taller of the two. "I don't think I have ever held anything but the moral high ground in this debate."

"Going green is certainly an excellent way to move with the trend of public opinion," Kyouya says, watching her carefully. "Maybe I should look into it for my own company's --"

"You don't fool me," she whispers against his mouth, and then she disappears up the stairs.

The flow-on effect is remarkable: it begins with their house, and then it becomes a challenge, and none of them will ever be too mature for challenges. So the Hitachiin label begins to utilise recycled fabrics, and to make things that last longer than two seasons; their runway show in London and New York is a thinly-veiled awareness-raising campaign, some online fashion bloggers shoulder the message with enthusiasm, and soon they're trendsetters, again. Kyouya's factories begin winning awards for sustainability (he was correct: the share price drops, but then it soars). And Tamaki cheerfully pours half a year's income into installing a water reusage system so that he can enjoy his mirror-fogging baths without the prickings of conscience.

Shoes and ankles are one thing, but the way Kyouya wants Tamaki has its exactitudes as well, and one of them is the single rivulet of water now spending itself in a path between Tamaki's shoulderblades, down and down one side of his spine. Kyouya licks his lips and is surprised that they are dry. The droplet is nothing but a smudge by the time it reaches the towel skewed around Tamaki's hips.

Kyouya shifts his weight with a deliberate scuff of his own bare foot against carpet and Tamaki turns, a smile arising on his face. He says something in French that's too fast and too fluent for Kyouya to understand, inflected as a question; Kyouya catches the word regardez and gambles, "Yes."

Tamaki laughs and shakes his head in a brief spray of damp blond. When he's done his shoulders are wetter than ever and he walks over to inflict himself upon Kyouya's shirt. "Good," he says, continuing their conversation. Whatever it's about. "I've wanted you all day," he says then, as though commenting on the weather. He catches Kyouya's mouth with his own, and Kyouya's hands slide on either side of Tamaki's neck and his mind slides from weather to rain.

From there it becomes -- inexact. Kyouya is aware of himself exhaling, every so often, but somehow the inhalations are lost. Tamaki's energy melts into low-lidded dreaminess as soon as he's pinned down; he looks up through the spikes of his wet hair and he says, with sincere and intelligent awareness: "Anything you like."

"You -- you have no limits, do you?" Kyouya hisses.

"Not really," Tamaki says, "not when it comes to you." And he closes his eyes, waiting, wanting, wide open and warm. It's similar to Haruhi's old attitude of acceptance, but much better, because it only lasts a few moments. Kyouya can't help but act, can't do anything but touch him, and Tamaki breaks.

"Please," he says, "Kyouya, please," and it would be uncharacteristic if it weren't for the sudden pressure of his terribly, wonderfully clever fingers against Kyouya's arms, the pressure that says he has no doubt at all that he will be given exactly what he wants. The boy prince in all his glory.

Kyouya wonders if other people, in his place, might smile. For himself all he can do is hold his own forces in check, hold them both steady; whatever appears on his face doesn't feel anything like a smile but Tamaki's own face changes in response to it, he makes a broken sound of need, and Kyouya would move the world for him if he wanted it, if he asked. Instead he moves himself, and from there it blurs again. This is the only place in which Kyouya allows himself to act without forethought.

As for Tamaki, it's always hard to distinguish his plans from his off-the-cuff whims. He can beg in two languages and afterwards he laughs against Kyouya's shoulder, sleepy. "Who needs limits when we can have that?"

Kyouya frowns. "That's a dangerous way to feel about anyone. Tamaki. That's a dangerous amount of trust to have."

Tamaki is capable of a beautiful stillness that always makes Kyouya think of water, deep bodies of salt stirred superficially by the wind, but cool and serene all the way down. He blinks his summer-sea eyes and says, with affection, "Is it misplaced?"

This is Kyouya's best friend, and always has been. They know each other so well by now, after all these years, that these kinds of questions are barely more than courtesy. Another layer of the games; though as they grow older, games are becoming less important.

"No," Kyouya says.

~

Haruhi goes to America with her father for two months, and almost as soon as she's back she gets into a fight with the twins. Or else she gets into a fight with Hikaru and Kaoru refuses to stay on the sidelines, or else the twins are already brewing something nasty and she trips into the middle of it -- it's never quite clear. Haruhi's rock-solid sense of fairness usually keeps her fights short and contained, but Kyouya is absolutely certain that someone made the mistake of bringing up money, and he's almost certain that the someone was Kaoru.

The fight lasts almost two weeks and Kyouya never tells any of them how close it comes to ruining everything; everything, forever. It throws off their balance, sickeningly, and it's all the worse for the fact that they'd been waiting for Haruhi to come back and fill the hole -- temporary, and therefore manageable -- that she'd left by leaving. Their customary atmosphere of idle symbolism is thrown into stark relief: their insults carry the weight of libel. Their silences hold the crash of stock markets. The danger is immense.

Kyouya gathers all of his willpower and treats everyone exactly the same as he always has, and leaves any room in which conflict starts to bubble, but Tamaki panics at the idea that he might be expected to take sides and then regresses into melodrama, which no longer suits him nearly as well as it once did.

"Tell me about the case."

"Stop hovering." Haruhi nods towards a chair. "You don't really --" She stops, looks at Tamaki's face, and Kyouya exhales when she says, "What do you want to know?"

"Tell me about the people."

As she talks Haruhi's voice loosens up, and so do Tamaki's shoulders. Kyouya turns in response to a low hiss and sees a sliver of Hitachiin twin in the doorway, not enough to identify by name. The green eye rolls pointedly towards the fridge and Kyouya goes to fetch a handful of takeaway menus from beneath their magnets: pizza, bento, that tiny Thai place nearby that has managed to bewitch them all with its pad see iew.

"Don't be idiots. Just come in," says Haruhi. Her voice twangs taut again.

It's only Hikaru who steps around the frame and then slouches back against it with an insolence that, like Tamaki's hysterics, sits uneasily next to his age. "I wouldn't want to be in your way."

A silence. It's a complex one. Tamaki glances from Haruhi to the menus in Kyouya's hand. "I'm hungry. Ramen?" he says, high-pitched.

"Fine," says Haruhi.

Hikaru's spine straightens as though electrocuted. "Fine. "

Kyouya analyses silences for three more days and then he catches Kaoru chopping green onion for breakfast miso soup, alone in the kitchen, and he turns him around with a hand to the elbow. Kaoru blinks at him; he isn't quite awake yet. Kyouya doesn't care.

"Fix it," he says.

"I don't --"

"I don't care." Kyouya uses this voice at work. Hardly ever at home. "Fix it."

Kaoru lifts a hand to rub at his eyes, and when he speaks again he looks wide awake. "I thought I'd make tamagoyaki," he says. "Could you get the eggs?"

They're fluent in one another, and that means: yes.

~

"This television is really too big," Haruhi says, just before Kaoru grabs for the remote and unmutes, flapping a hand for silence.

"You're wrong," Hikaru says dreamily, as a flattering close-up of his own face takes up half of the wall. "It's exactly the right size."

Hikaru was caught in traffic coming home from the shops and threatened to kill anyone who watched a second of the segment before he returned, so they've missed the beginning. Not that this won't be all over YouTube by the end of the evening, and Kyouya knows that the next week will involve obsessive rewatching and analysis on the part of the twins. The only thing they love more than staring at each other is staring at each other via some recorded medium; Haruhi and Kyouya both make occasional sweeps of the house for sex tapes, because Kyouya's PR people are fiendishly good but they can't be expected to weather a potential tsunami of that magnitude.

"You don't mind if we dive right in with a personal question?" The interviewer has bright pink lipstick and enormous, twitching, bird-like eyes.

Hikaru shows his teeth. "Not at all."

"Various models and other celebrities have been linked with the two of you, but nobody has ever managed to produce any evidence, photographic or otherwise. Is romance in the air for either of you?"

"Oh, well," Kaoru says, "I could never love anyone as much as I love Hikaru." He snakes an arm around his brother's neck, and the camera manages to capture the fact that his stance is both submissive and ridiculous.

The interviewer starts her next question; clears her throat instead. Licks her flamingo lips.

To Kyouya's left, Haruhi gives a light laugh and takes a sip of her wine.

"Hikaru," the interviewer says, and manages to keep her gaze fixed on her target. "Your new tattoo has us all wondering -- is this the beginning of a new direction for your image? And will it become easier for us to tell the two of you apart?"

"Anyone who can't tell us apart isn't trying hard enough," says Hikaru, who has been known to cackle like a witch while jotting down increasingly ludicrous ideas for confusing the press as to their identities.

"And anyone who wants to tell us apart is missing the point," Kaoru puts in.

The interviewer looks for a moment as though she might flounder in the face of their irrational soundbites, but only for a moment. She presses on. "Tell us about the tattoo."

Close-up on Hikaru's hand, which is resting lightly on Kaoru's thigh, and then back to his face. His eyes are wide in a way that promises outrageous things to those who know him.

"Well," he purrs. "I've never revealed this before, but…" A consummate pause in which Kyouya can almost sense the offscreen journalist sitting suddenly more upright. "It's just a little quirk of mine. I find the backs of my hands to be very sensitive, very sensual, almost as much as -- more traditionally intimate areas."

"What!" Tamaki, who's closest, grabs Hikaru's hand, but he's looking at Kaoru. "Is that true? That’s not true. Is that true?"

The real Kaoru smiles, catlike and lazy. "Find out for yourself."

Tamaki glares at Hikaru's captured hand and then strokes his fingers across it, as though the black and white of tattoo and skin are ivory keys from which he might coax some music.

"Ohh," Hikaru moans in a way that sounds nothing whatsoever like the sounds he usually makes during sex. He only lasts a few seconds, leaning closer to Tamaki and rolling his eyes like someone having a fit, and then he breaks into snickering.

Tamaki gives a delighted laugh. "You filthy liar of a Hitachiin --" and tips over backwards, Hikaru's tongue in his mouth. Haruhi's laugh is stronger this time, and fond, as she watches them. There's a true friendship deepening there, and it's newer than might be expected, and it's good for the both of them. If the house were burning down then Hikaru would tear himself in half trying to rescue both Haruhi and his brother, and it's Tamaki's doing, Kyouya is certain, that Hikaru now looks upon this fact as a source of pride rather than guilt.

And Hikaru knows what Kyouya knows, which is that Tamaki would save Haruhi first.

Haruhi, of course, would be the first person to remember to call the fire brigade.

Tamaki makes an oof sound as one of Hikaru's bony joints digs into his body, but Hikaru grins and leans down to kiss him again and completely ignores his own voice coming from the television. Kyouya wonders if he's making a point; it's certainly a very Hikaru mode of expression. Lots of action and no words at all.

Hikaru whispers something close to Tamaki's ear and after a few seconds, Tamaki nods. Instead of standing up, Hikaru slides off and onto the floor; Kyouya feels, rather than sees, Kaoru's attention sharpen.

Then Kyouya has enough time to think: surely not. Surely Hikaru isn’t --

And then the fluid sound of the zip slices into the air, and then Tamaki closes his eyes and tightens his grip on the top of the couch, and then Hikaru is, with a tucked-away smugness and that uniquely Hitachiin flair for performance. It's unsettling, breathtaking, how much is obvious even from this angle: the steady hollows of Hikaru's cheeks, the fast gusts of breath coming from Tamaki, the whiteness of his fingers where they're clenched. Hikaru has a wicked mouth no matter what he does with it.

Haruhi shifts position on her chair as though her limbs are alien and too large for her. Kyouya sympathises; his shirt is tight around his own neck, suddenly chafing. On the television the interview has given way to a blur of advertisement but Kyouya couldn't shift his eyes, for any amount of money, from the way Tamaki's pianist's fingers now move and slide through Hikaru's hair in arrhythmic strokes.

When a flutter begins to build beneath the skin of Tamaki's neck, Hikaru pulls away and curves his glazed lips in Haruhi's direction. He says her name, quietly, and the flutter grows to a shudder as Tamaki's eyes flick open.

Haruhi's cheeks are coloured, her hair mussed at the back where she has been rubbing at her neck, and she bites at the side of her lip before standing up. She tugs her underwear down from beneath her skirt and steps out of them, neatly, as though in a changing room.

"Condom?" she says. Sounding her own pragmatic Haruhi self. After a moment she smiles -- "I’ll get it?" -- and wanders away on her bare feet. When she returns she's holding it up between two fingers, like a winning card.

Haruhi's never settled on an oral contraceptive that suits her; she objects to the mood swings with some and the weight gain with others, which surprised Kyouya for the short time it took him to catch on to her reasoning. None of them realised how much she values her relatively flat chest, her continued ability to pass as a boy whenever the fancy strikes, until the daily dose of hormones began to change it.

"Why is it important?" Kyouya asked her at the time, honestly curious rather than doubting. He understands yearnings and control of the self, but not in this arena.

Haruhi, staring at herself in the mirror, rubbed the side of her thumb against her nipple where it strained to emerge above the cup of her bra. "I like having the option of allowing people to draw their own conclusions. Or allowing them to meet me without putting me in that mental box." Her reflections's eyes met his. "It's a privilege," she said. "I know that. I know a lot about that. But it's something I want to keep."

Want, not need. Fujioka Haruhi is Kyouya's perspective. And her limits are clear, always, drawn up and signed in her deliberate lawyer's voice. With Haruhi they all know where they stand.

The hitching sigh she gives as she lowers herself down onto Tamaki is strangely, obscenely loud against the held breath of everyone else in the room. One of the twins has turned off the television, Kyouya realises. He looks over at where Hikaru has sat back down again, leaning back against his brother's chest. They look like a strange being with two heads and a large number of limbs, two of which are holding two more of them down -- Kaoru holds his brother's arms still, and Hikaru watches with hungry eyes as Haruhi sets her knees on either side of Tamaki's thighs, pressing into the couch, and Tamaki undoes the buttons of her blouse.

"I --"

"Mm," Kaoru says, a soft assent, and lifts a hand to rub his thumb back and forth against the angle of his brother's jaw. It looks automatic, soothing, but Hikaru leans his head into it and lets out a low moan that sounds completely real. Kyouya stores that away for the future. The twins shouldn't be thought of in terms of limits, but rather in terms of negotiation, and any ace is useful.

"Come on," Haruhi whispers, and -- Kaoru's hand moves lower, seeking, and -- Tamaki's jeans are mostly still on and Haruhi's skirt is a curtain that hides their skin, but every time he pulls down on her hips she gasps, and -- Hikaru's dirty jade eyes are focused on the two of them and then lose that focus as he rocks forward, trapped and rewarded by Kaoru's deft touch, and -- Haruhi slips one hand beneath the curtain and touches herself, her lips clumsy with need as she bites at Tamaki's mouth and misses it again and again and --

Kyouya holds his hands very still by his sides and opens his mind like a decanter and just lets it all pour in.

~

Haruhi stands with the note in her hand, the twins trying to read over her shoulder; she'd tried to read it aloud and failed after two sentences.

"I don't --" she says, sounding lost.

In the face of her despair Kyouya feels like a piece of flimsy paper struck hard by a fist: massless and helpless, lacking the ability to create an equal reactive force. This lasts a few seconds, and then fury ignites his papery self and he lifts a steady finger to adjust his glasses.

"Excuse me for a moment," he says, and leaves the room.

He tells himself that the most frightening thing is not the fact that Tamaki has been abducted, but that they knew to send him the ransom note. He's told himself this six times and still doesn't believe it. He toyed for eight manic minutes with the idea of keeping it secret before he came to his senses and told the others.

He makes a couple of phone calls, the words sharp and automatic, and only then notices the change in the weather: outside it's raining like a soundtrack, a deep drumming against hard surfaces. It's raining and Kyouya thinks about Tamaki's wet mouth, and he refuses to dial the next number on his phone until his thumb stops trembling.

"Kyouya. I'm glad you called, Honey has been thinking of having you all over for dinner again, perhaps next week --"

"Now," Kyouya says, "would not be an ideal time."

He'd nearly forgotten that there are people outside of this house who know him well; Mori's voice shifts and he says at once, "What's happened?"

Kyouya takes a breath in, holds it, and manages to speak calmly on the exhale. Mori doesn't interrupt him once.

The phone is passed to Honey after a while, and his voice is exactly the same as ever, layered in that sweet unflinching strength. His forces are at their disposal. He has some contacts who could be of use. He would very much enjoy breaking the jaws of the responsible parties. He's glad Kyouya asked for his help,

Kyouya, who's never asked for help in his life, but knows the power of a well-aimed statement of fact, realises that there isn’t a single remaining thing that he can do for the moment. He goes to his room and sits in bed reading financial reports with a ruthless concentration, while outside the weather gets worse and worse.

"Kyouya."

Haruhi stands in his doorway, looking unsteady and small in a man's T-shirt that comes halfway down her thighs. She hoists a paperback novel in one hand and gives a shrug that encompasses the rain being tossed sleekly against the windows and the heavy crack of thunder above their heads. "Do you mind?" she says.

She doesn't usually come to him, during storms.

Kyouya flicks on the other bedside light and moves sideways, creating a space. "Not at all."

He returns to his own reading and politely ignores the fact that Haruhi stares at the same page for almost three minutes, her eyes focused nowhere in particular and her body flickering tense with every flash of lightning. Finally she closes her book again with a sigh and scoots herself closer, her head dropping onto Kyouya's shoulder.

She's silent until his arm is around her and she is curled against him, her warm bare legs lying across his. And then she says, soft and assured, "We'll get him back."

They've always called each other out when it comes to emotional manipulation, that's the way they work, so Kyouya could easily tell her that she didn't have to lull him into a sense of protectiveness before he would accept her comfort. But it would be a lie.

So he tightens his arm, pulling her closer in, and he thinks she probably understands.

~

There are people Kyouya keeps on hand for situations like this, and he keeps calling them. He calls Mori often. He calls and calls until his ear is hotly red and he has to steel himself to march into Tamaki's room and snatch up his own hands-free set from where it's lying on Tamaki's desk; speakerphone is too public, too much of an admission. The room traps him, though, and he stands with his hands on the wood trying to keep his breathing as even as possible. When someone enters the room behind him he's so sure that it will be Haruhi that he says, "This wasn't the plan."

"I'd already gathered that," says Kaoru, and Kyouya spins around. For a moment anger breaks in him like a wave, even though he'd thought himself all wrung out of anger. Or else so full of it that no more could be added.

Kaoru looks at him and says, slowly, as though it's very important that Kyouya hear him correctly, "What do you need?"

As a question it sounds -- large. Kyouya tries, as a general rule, not to reach within himself and start tangling his hands in the complexity of his needs; he lets them surface one by one according to the context, and then he acts on them. When his company is stagnating he needs to spend four days in meetings and then merge two divisions and create another, and when Haruhi's ankles are flirting with him he needs to encircle them with his fingers, and when Tamaki is wired up with energy he needs to hold him down. All of these things will slow his heartrate, clear his head; tug the world back within normal limits. Right now the serpent of need rising from the writhing nest within him is for something, anything, that will have this effect.

"I need to be able to take overt action," he says tightly, "without it being construed as a declaration of priority. This is still Japan. Any excesses on my part could create the assumption of a professional connection that doesn't exist, or a personal one that -- shouldn't."

"Declarations aren't always a bad idea," Kaoru says, and Kyouya remembers the interview on TV -- Kaoru's graceful posturing and fearless eyes.

Then he thinks, with an irritating stab of shame: perspective. Want, not need.

What he wants in this moment, what he is getting in this moment, is some sort of validation. A recognition of how much this is hurting him; he who has long forgotten how to show pain. And this pain is everything. Kyouya is not so blind as to be ignorant of his own reasons for talking to Kaoru.

"This can't happen again," he says, brutal and abrupt. Ceding something, and casting his terror out onto the world in the form of a command. "It simply cannot."

"If it were Hikaru," Kaoru says, and nothing else.

"Precisely."

A glance, acknowledging Kyouya's strategy. This is not the only reason they have grown close, but it is perhaps the most important: of everyone living in this house, they are the only two who know what it means to exist so constantly and unashamedly for one other person. "Whatever is necessary."

Kyouya thinks about his name and his success and the pristinely aligned future he is building. And then he thinks about Tamaki's laugh and Haruhi's bare legs and how hollow and misaligned they all are, now, already, and he feels that same pricking shame. "I suppose if I --"

Kaoru lifts a hand; speaks in that quiet, unfinished tone of his. "The less I know, I think…"

"That is wise," Kyouya says, and then, after a silence, "Thank you."

Kaoru's eyes glitter with understanding, and something angrier that Kyouya knows is not directed at him. "You're welcome," he says, and slips out of the room.

It's only two minutes later that Kyouya's phone rings, a tired voice on the other end; tired and full of relief, because not a single person who works for Kyouya wants to be the bearer of bad news at a time like this. Kyouya listens without speaking as the report is given. After about a minute he realises, to his surprise, that he can't feel his own legs, and he leans against the wall.

"Thank you," he says finally, the words still warm on his tongue, and his man says, "Orders?"

"Make an example of them," Kyouya says. He can hear his own icy voice as though from a distance. "A clear example."

There's only a very short pause before the man on the other end of the line says, "Acknowledged."

Underneath Kyouya's skin is an urge that he though he had shed by the age of fourteen, an unpleasant hot-sand feeling, animalistic, calling out for violence. He has people to do anything he could require of them, and he has never wanted so badly to do something with his own two hands. He steadies himself now on the window ledge and leans his forehead against the cool glass, once more forcing a calm into his own breathing, shaken. What he told Tamaki about the dangers of refusing to define limits, that was true, and he feels the proof of it now in his unaccustomed desire to tear the world apart. Because when it comes to Suou Tamaki he has no limits -- none at all.

~

Hikaru can never believe something unless he has it in his hands -- not the texture of a raw silk sample, not the length of Haruhi's hair whenever she feels like swaying towards the boyish end of the gender spectrum for a while, and not the presence of Tamaki in the room now. He pulls up short a few feet from Tamaki, remembering his manners just in time, and his hands curl up like shy ferns.

"Welcome back, milord," he says, with a bow that turns him sixteen again, and then he throws his arms around Tamaki with a tightness that looks painful. Kaoru moves in from the other side and for a little while Tamaki is just a blond head bracketed by two red ones.

"My turn," Haruhi says. Her voice is shaking. When she hugs Tamaki it lasts barely any time at all, but her eyes are screwed tight shut and she whispers something in Tamaki's ear as he lifts her half a foot off the floor.

"I know," Tamaki says aloud, and keeps his hands on her shoulders for a moment. His eyes have a deep-sea shine, and he moves them to look at Kyouya.

For his own part Kyouya does believe his own eyes, and is happy to go on believing them without the tactile reinforcement, so he doesn't move. But there's an odd pause and then Tamaki is standing in front of him looking tired and brimming with life, and then he leans forward with his unique grace and kisses Kyouya, soft-lipped, fingertips light on the underside of his chin.

"Enough adventuring for now," he says, gently. "I promise."

"No," Kyouya says. "I promise."

"Hey." Eyebrows up. Another kiss, this one abrupt and hard. "You can't take the credit for everything around here, Ootori. Some things aren't your fault."

"He can have all the credit for bringing you back." Haruhi, leaning against Tamaki's arm. She smiles and it morphs into a yawn. "Is it terrible that I'm too tired to celebrate? Tomorrow. Lunch. Somewhere as expensive you like." Her hand is twining around Tamaki's and she's still smiling at Kyouya, so she could be speaking to either of them.

Kyouya yawns too, a belated reflex. "Tomorrow," he agrees.

Tamaki's bed is not quite big enough for five people, but nobody cares.

~

Suou Yuzuru insists on some kind of celebration, thinly disguised as a fundraising ball.

"We'd be delighted to attend," Kyouya says.

The man is sitting bolt upright on one of the couches, tea steaming untouched on the table. It's the first time he's set foot inside the house; watching him cast efficient and wary glances around, Kyouya feels a stab of something that is almost respect.
"Thank you," Suou says, then clears his throat and looks Kyouya straight in the eye. "Thank you."

"Not at all."

Suou relaxes subtly, mission fulfilled. "The house is very nicely decorated," he offers. He glances around the room again, at Tamaki's choice of wall colour and a bright fabric collage that was a gift to the twins from some magazine editor or other, at a wall clock that Kyouya picked up in Munich and a calligraphic print that belonged to Haruhi's mother. For the first time Kyouya realises that their home must look young, that this man does not understand his son's life and never will, but is trying to do so anyway.

Kyouya visited Ouran High School a few months ago to discuss scholarship endowments, and he felt exactly the same: too old, too alien, for his own past. There's a new Host Club now and he wasn't even curious about them. The school principal worried her hands around her Armani glasses case and politely asked after Kyouya's family, handing over her own photograph as a prompt. Her husband and solemn son stared out at Kyouya from the frame, and all his small talk deserted him for a full ten seconds as he wondered how his family came to be the way it is. This accidental entity of balanced needs.

He's thinking about that balance, as they step out of the car at the Suou ball. There's a soft merciless rain blurring the air and forming puddles, and everyone gets their feet wet except for Haruhi. She's wearing platform heels under her neat trousers, blue shining heels, but they lack the lethal edge of sex that would mark them as Hitachiin. Kyouya's glad; he hasn't gathered the energy to spare on their games, not yet.

Balance grows from Hikaru's twinned priorities, and Kaoru's guarded generosity, and Kyouya's own galaxy-drowning love for his best friend. The reason it works is because Haruhi's strongest allegiance is, if anything, to herself. Her affections for all of them are completely equal, albeit differing in their fundamental natures.

"You're thinking too hard," she says, hands on hips. "Planning a speech? Perhaps a takeover?"

Kyouya lifts two small cups of sake from a passing waiter's tray, and hands her one in place of a smile. She laughs.

"People are looking at you," she adds. "More than usual."

"Apparently," Kyouya says, watching heads half-turn and then flick away, "my reputation has expanded since I last appeared in public."

"-- for his friend," he catches, from behind them somewhere, "imagine how far he'd go for --"

Kyouya does smile, now. This is still Japan. He says, without looking at Haruhi, "If you married me right now, you'd probably be the safest woman in the country."

Haruhi snorts a laugh through her nose, unladylike. "You're going to have to do better than that," she says, and Kyouya blinks.

"Haruhi," he says, cool and deliberate, teasing. "Will you --"

"Shh. To unexpected joys," she says, raising her cup.

He does the same, and they drink in unison. Whispers wrap around them on every side and Kyouya feels the alcohol as a soft gravity, holding him right where he's meant to be.

Haruhi nudges him and nods towards Tamaki, who is holding court with a group of nervously overdressed teenagers. As they watch he makes an expansive gesture that sends champagne sloshing over the rim of his glass, and he catches their eyes as his own sweep the room. He pauses, and then he smiles at them, that beautiful fluorescent smile that turns the rest of the world into just so much background noise.

"Sometimes I can't quite believe he's ours," Haruhi murmurs, and Kyouya takes it as the gift that it is. She doesn't usually broach these subjects. She loves them wordlessly, and sometimes it's easy to think that she may not wake up as Kyouya does, speechless and paranoid with the shocking knowledge of his own good fortune; all the more so now that he knows how easily it can be changed. He was right: it's dangerous, extraordinarily so, how completely they have fitted their lives together, how they are bulletproof together but wrecked as soon as a single piece is removed. It's far more danger than Kyouya ever intended to put himself into, and he understands Tamaki perfectly now, because he still thinks it's worth it.

Haruhi takes his hand, her eyes still on Tamaki, her lips parted with artless affection.

"Just think," she adds, "I might never have broken that vase."
Tags: ouran high school host club
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