potionwine: (Smiling Kyouya)
― 馨物語 ―
KAORU MONOGATARI ARC

In Medias Res miniseries, Part VI of VI

Title: Fairy Tale Romance
Pairing(s): Kyouya/Kaoru
Rating: M
Disclaimer: Ouran High School Host Club belongs to Hatori Bisco and related companies.
Word Count: approximately 30,000 words in 6 parts. [Complete]

Complete summary: Straight 'in the middle of things'. Kaoru has been seeing one of his host club colleagues on the sly. Everything has now come to a head and it's time to decide the course of the future.



FAIRY TALE ROMANCE


"All your tomorrows start here." – Neil Gaiman


"We did it, Kyouya."

Never will Kaoru forget that look gifted to him. Never in this life.

There for a second and gone, not meant to be shared with the others.

So Kaoru lets his lover take his hand and sweep him away to the car like newlyweds to their carriage, and he winds down the window as Aijima starts the engine.

His brother is telling him about having packed his luggage and that they've set a preliminary period of around six months for him to lie low with Kyouya – Hikaru has reorganised their timetable and Kaoru will find everything he needs to know on the dining table of his new home.

New home. Apparently it's a present from the other club members, a well-wish for him and Kyouya. Anyway Hikaru wants him to catch up on sleep and take things easy – to which Kaoru had been vehemently opposed, because their plan had been concocted at a time when Ootori-sama's conditions could not have been taken into account and everyone, even Kyouya, outvoted him without listening to his arguments.

Round the other side of the car, after some quick words with Tamaki, Kyouya gives Aijima the go-ahead to drive to the airport.

"Argentina," Haruhi promises, and Honey blows a kiss.

Lump in his throat, Kaoru waves to his friends and gazes at them until they are specks in the distance.

Cool fingers caress his cheek to capture his attention.

He turns, and it's electric.

For so long he has gone without, and to know that this person is here… it's too much.

He jerks backwards and jams himself into the car door, putting as much space between them as humanly possible. Kyouya will understand – he's always read Kaoru's body language impeccably – it's not that Kaoru doesn't want him, but that they're in a car and they're not alone and they haven't touched each other for ages and all of Kaoru is holding breath.

Those dark eyes foreshadow all manner of sinful things. I'll make it worth this interminable wait.

Kaoru pointedly observes the passing scenery.

Kyouya stays sequestered in the left and attends to other business: calling up one of their previous customers who's the heiress of a media empire to collect on an old debt – Kyouya as club vice-president and Kaoru as club president had covered for her when she had been seeing someone else secretly, and turnabout is fair play.

"Kaoru-sama," Aijima says.

"Yes?"

"Are you injured at all?"

Kyouya's aura instantly plunges into annoyance.

Kaoru smacks his forehead with his palm. "Aijima-san, are you trying to get me in trouble?"

"No, Kaoru-sama, I merely wanted to know if we will need to summon for medical services at the airport, or if it is sufficient for Hotta to tend to your injuries."

"Hotta can do it," Kaoru says carelessly, then cringes when he realises the inadvertent admission… not that Kyouya wouldn't see them later at any rate, ugh.

"Hotta," Kyouya begins pleasantly, and everyone feels a chill down their spines, "I am of the opinion that a stint in the far north of Siberia will be – "

Hotta twitches in fright and dismay.

"Kyouya, it wasn't his fault, it was mine," Kaoru jumps to his aid. "Really, he carried out your instructions to the letter."

"Oh, no. If he had, these injuries should be non-existent. Furthermore, Hotta, how do you explain defying my direct orders by hiding behind the fusuma to eavesdrop with Kaoru?"

"They're not major, okay? And I threatened him, that's why he said nothing. He caught up with me inside the kitchen and I said that if he acknowledges me as your partner then he has to obey my orders too. I made use of the fact that Hotta cares about your relationship with your family and I told him that running won't solve anything – it's all worked out, hasn't it? Leave it, Kyouya, please?"

"I am very upset," Kyouya says through gritted teeth. "How much did you hear?"

"Not much. From the part where you were subtly flexing your business might to your father – why is everyone curious? Was someone badmouthing me? You know, I don't know what to think that all of you have to evacuate me like I'm some – oh! Were you declaring your undying love for me? Does it embarrass you to have me hear it?"

He bats his eyelids at Kyouya flirtatiously, and notes that Kyouya relaxes as inconspicuously as he can manage, the same reaction that Haruhi and Mori had exhibited.

Kyouya snorts. "I'm not fond of public displays of affection; then again, neither are you. Today, I've had enough for a lifetime, but nevertheless I'm glad at the payoff."

Kaoru laughs. "I thought it would be useful in this context, that's why I didn't hold back. Ootori-sama seems like the type to recognise genuine emotion even if he frowns upon gratuitous displays – I think Ootori-sama just thinks that public displays mean that the people have something to prove to their audience and that's why he distrusts it? Actually we did have something to prove, I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable; poor Hotta must have cried his eyes out so that's his penalty for – "

"Kyouya-sama, Kaoru-sama overheard the row with the Hayashidas."

Stupid Hotta. I defended you less than a minute ago and you sell me out? Kaoru closes his eyes in defeat.

"Forgive me, Kaoru-sama. I couldn't let you rot from keeping something so vile inside."

Kaoru counts the streetlamps, not acknowledging the apology and not looking at his lover.

Great. He hadn't wanted this, to have to get embroiled in a fight or to have anyone feel hurt anymore – he'd wanted the freedom to love Kyouya, and that encompasses having a relationship without the taint of demeaning abuse. Of course Kaoru knows what's false even if several constituent elements of their assumptions are true – lucky shots, really, or stale clichés, for how can they know how Kaoru is like when he's with Kyouya?

So what if Kyouya is manifestly more alpha? So what if the 'legitimacy' of this relationship had been dictated almost wholly by reference to Kyouya's needs and wants? So what if Kaoru had passively allowed himself to lose out? So what if he lets Kyouya take whatever he wants from him? It's nothing Kaoru doesn't want to give.

That doesn't make him cheap. Foolish, maybe (definitely), and incomprehensible to people such as the Hayashidas, who have to be in charge and would do anything – no matter how atrocious – to save face. Of that ghastly altercation, probably only the insinuation of hypergamy got on his nerves and only because it's a slur on his family rather than him personally.

There are a lot of things that Kaoru doesn't mind which are ultra important to other people to have control over, or simply to have. The Ootoris have the same power-tripping kink as the Hayashidas, born out of the unshakeable confidence they have in themselves and the consequent compulsive necessity they feel to make up their own minds. Their rationality wins out over pride whereas it is the reverse for the Hayashidas, and Kaoru gambled everything he had based on his knowledge of Kyouya and by extension his family –

Yes, it's a fact that Kaoru defers to Kyouya more, and therein lies the source of Kaoru's power.

To override someone is but brute force and function. To wield power while submitting is artistry.

Exactly as Akito-san had discerned – Kaoru may have wanted to be Kyouya's strength, but there is no strength that does not betray a weakness, no like that does not correspond with a dislike. Yielding to Kyouya is getting more in return – and on matters of greater import, too. Kaoru's fortes are sensation and body while Kyouya's are sense and mind; he can lure his lover into succumbing to naughty impulses or leave him a flushed, panting, greedy mess, he can titillate and thrill, he can reduce Kyouya to his instincts.

Tachibana and Aijima open the doors and bow respectfully. "Kyouya-sama, Kaoru-sama, we have arrived at the terminal."

The journey had gone by in silence – not atypical for Team Kyouya, Kaoru is sure, yet Tachibana and Aijima are more uptight than usual and Hotta is positively skittish. They aren't accustomed to silence from him, Kaoru – their interactions have always been fairly chatty, if Kaoru says so himself – and as their new master he's an unknown quantity who may or may not be disgruntled at Hotta's out-of-turn transgression.

Before Kyouya steps out on his side, Kaoru leans over to press a butterfly kiss to that strained jaw, a hand propped on his thigh – high enough that it is not innocent, low enough that it is confusing, froth-light fingertips grazing his inner thigh like it's an accident –

– and exits before Kyouya can ascertain his intentions.

The kiss says, don't be angry; the hand says, come and play with me.

Dawn will break in about an hour, judging from the colour of the sky. They will be in the air by then, hopefully; Kaoru adores watching the sunrise on a plane high above – it's spellbinding, the spilling rays of light, the sheet of clouds that stretches on as far as the horizon like the softest cloth in all of creation… Apparently, the four-year-old Kaoru had announced that one day he would make a dress out of that sun-drenched cloud fabric.

He inhales deeply, holds it for five seconds before releasing his breath slowly. Today is a day for future anniversaries. It is the last page in a book that took four years to write, with silly characters that chose a relationship doomed to fail because they couldn't resist each other.

They climb onto the buggy to head to the hangar where Kyouya's (exceedingly luxurious) private jet will fly them to New York. It'd been a gift from the club to their Shadow King, who had to go back and forth from Japan to the US during his college years and often descended into hellishly foul moods as none of the beds on other aircrafts were suitably plush enough for royalty of the underworld with low blood pressure problems.

Although the building is largely deserted and only staff members are out and about, they're acting as properly as before.

Hold my hand, please, Kaoru wants to say, and screw four more years of secrecy until he passes. This time they merely have to keep a low profile – keep out of the gossip magazines and out of public knowledge even if more and more of their friends become aware – why then does it feel like nothing has changed?

"Why didn't we drive straight through security to the plane?" Kaoru asks Tachibana when he realises that they are going in the direction of the executive lounges. "Are we early for our flight?"

Can't be, right? The delay at the Roi Grand could not have been predicted by Kyouya, could it?

"No, Kaoru-sama. We are actually far behind schedule."

"Eh? Then why are we – "

Kaoru cuts himself off. He knows who must be in the lounge.

"Old people shouldn't be up so late," he says by way of greeting.

"I woke up early," his grandmother snorts rudely, "unlike my lazy, spoilt grandchildren."

He runs to her for a hug, which she gives fake-reluctantly and pinches him right after.

"Ow! You old hag!"

"Brainless young punks should not make other people wait for them."

Kaoru looks at his lover apprehensively. "Please tell me you didn't make my grandmother wait for hours."

"I didn't. How do you do, Kazuha-sama. I'm sorry for the delay – it took longer than expected for us to wrap things up. We called as soon as we could."

"Hmph," Kazuha says. "Was it because you allowed this dummy to have a change of clothes?"

"What are you saying!" Kaoru shouts. "You take as much time to change as me! Even more, because you are elderly and infirm! Anyway we didn't have time for anything!"

"Is that why you look so haggard? Do you have the right to call people 'old' when you are a decrepit, wasted skeleton?"

Kaoru gasps in outrage. "You have new wrinkles at the corners of your eyes and your chin is sagging!"

"Is that the best you can do, small fry?" Kazuha sasses. "Your fingernails are uneven like a kindergartener filed them for you, your cuticles are cracked, the bags under your eyes are worse than a zombie's and your skin is dry and unmoisturised. It must be like touching a reptile, isn't it, Kyouya-kun?"

Damn her. She always knows to hit where it hurts. He might have neglected his personal grooming a little in the past couple of months, why did she have to put a glaring spotlight on them?

"What, going to cry, dummy? How are you going to be an adult who can support the heavy weight of managing your own family?"

"Kazuha-sama," Kyouya speaks up, "Kaoru has had a very challenging day – months, to be honest. Please have mercy."

Uncompromising, Kazuha replies, "It's only going to get more challenging from here. Dummy, if you think what you went through is called 'suffering', let me tell you: you have no idea what the word means. Yet."

Kaoru glares at the coffee table, sore and fuming.

"If you're angry at me for wrecking your happy moment, let me tell you also: from now onwards, a lot of people will be trying to take away your happiness. They will swarm over you and Kyouya-kun and attack from every angle. They will shock you and hurt you with their ignorance. They will follow your every movement and make up stories about you. When your relationship goes public, every month you will read about Kyouya-kun having an affair with some person in some other part of the world. You and Kyouya-kun will be submerged in work and not have time for each other, and there will be weeks upon weeks where you don't see each other. It will drive you mad, and in your chest there will be a lonely feeling like sharp claws ravaging you from the inside out. You will question everything you've ever known, you will doubt Kyouya-kun and the strength of your relationship. There will be times when you need him and he's not there for you. You will blame him, quarrel with him, wonder if he misses you like you miss him. You will think of giving up, and you will know that he's thinking of giving you up too. Depending on whether that thought of him leaving you still hurts you, or whether you have then become indifferent to it – only then can you say that you truly know what place Kyouya-kun occupies in your life."

She turns to Kyouya. "The same applies to you. I know that you are an extremely competent child and I'm sure that you're used to winning or sweeping the obstacles aside. This means you are ill-equipped for failure, and believe me, you will be failing at something, someday. You will take that anger and frustration out on my grandson, and you will never be able to take back your words and actions, or your lack of words and inaction. You will wonder about whether your relationship is hurting your business interests and feel indignant because such a relationship would not hurt my grandson in the industries he works in. You will revisit today and question whether it was the right choice to reject Hayashida Erisa, especially when you see my grandson with many glamorous people who won't stop making advances towards him, sometimes even brazenly in front of you. You both will get to the stage where you are in the same house but it feels empty and lifeless like your relationship, and you'd cross each other as trains on parallel tracks, without so much as looking at the other person to offer a smile."

They are struck dumb. Kazuha's words have so much authority contained within them – like prophetic knowledge – and the thought of this future makes Kaoru feel physically revolted and he automatically reaches for Kyouya.

"Takashi-kun has informed me of your father's demands on my grandson. To you, my demands are: one, you conduct yourself as a member of the Hitachiin family and uphold this name; two, you respect my daughter and son-in-law as your parents despite their easygoing informality; three, for every time that you lose your temper at my grandson, or more likely when you treat him coldly, afterwards you put your pride down and apologise; four, you never devalue his work even though we all know that business and finance is more profitable than art and you will earn much more than him; five, do not make him choose between you and Hikaru – my son-in-law and I keep an eye on these things, and if we see that his priorities are poorly sorted, we will scold him on your behalf; six, if ever you find someone new, have the courtesy to tell him and end the relationship before you begin another – don't let him find out from anyone else, especially not the media; seven and last, when you look back on today to review the choice you made, when new people approach you to offer to marry you or give you children, remember the reasons that led you to this decision in the first place… Remember why you are now holding my grandson's hand, instead of somebody else's."

Kyouya had been listening attentively, cogs in his mind whirring away, thumb rubbing the back of Kaoru's hand absently.

He bows to the matriarch. "I agree to honour these conditions, Kazuha-sama."

She nods, and rearranges a flower stalk in her hair. "Now it's time for me to have breakfast. So hungry."

Hit by a ton of bricks, Kaoru yells, "What is with that sudden carefree attitude?!"

Kazuha is already out the door. "Bye, dummy. Your parents are going directly to New York from Paris to meet up with you. I'll take care of dum-dum; we're going to have lots of fun without you."

"Don't bully Hikaru, you awful woman! Hey! You just wanted to unload a bunch of mean things before waltzing off?!"

She seats herself in the buggy, impossibly regal like an empress upon a throne. "The winner is the one who lives the way they want. Don't forget, dummy."

And off she whizzes, urging the driver to race through the building since there isn't anyone around to knock over.

"Argh! I can't believe her!" Kaoru tugs at his hair in vexation. "It's like she came here just to be a jerk! Yes, I won't put it past her – she's despicable like that!"

Kyouya chuckles. "Let's go."

.

-------

.


With bare skin exposed on one shoulder, Kaoru permits Hotta to dab antiseptic on his wounds in the main cabin of the aircraft after boarding.

The other two members of Kyouya's team are seeing to the final preparations before take-off, and Kyouya himself is evaluating the extent of the injuries – not that it's a big deal, really.

Kaoru wants him to watch.

A mixture of ambiguous, contradictory body language from him invariably kindles a fire in his lover – seduction is half in the mind, and stringing Kyouya along is a reliable method to reel him in. Kaoru consciously extinguishes the heat in his eyes even as he maintains his vaguely provocative pose and sustains a blithe obliviousness.

Hotta glances at him nervously.

… Right.

Hotta is Kyouya's most emotionally sensitive servant, and he's either imploding from the thought that Kaoru had taken umbrage or he's aware of the smoldering sexual tension or… both.

"Why is your elbow so badly scraped?" Kyouya asks slightly peevishly. "At what speed was the car travelling?"

"It's not that – I hopped out at the red light," Kaoru soothes, "but I didn't check for other traffic and a car nearly ran me down. Don't worry, I protected your tablet with my life."

"Which part of your explanation was meant to console me?" Kyouya snarks. "The part where you could have been hospitalized, which would have been the cherry on the cake after the events of the night, or the part where you seem to think that a gadget is more dear to me than you are?"

Kaoru winks saucily at him. "Don't lie – I know you'd dump me in a flash if ever your notebook or your tablet transforms into a human being. Or your laptop, that femme fatale, after all it's been sleeping with you longer than I have. I don't know why I let you two-time me."

Beads of sweat glisten on Hotta's head. He finishes dressing the wound and packs up the first aid kit.

Kaoru sighs, uncrosses his legs and rises to his feet. "Hotta, what would you have done if you were one of those feudal servants who had to guard their masters' bedchambers and hear or sometimes even see everything that goes on?"

"K-Kaoru-sama!" Hotta stutters in a fluster.

Blandly, Kaoru says, "But of course nothing of the sort is going to happen because Kyouya and I are going to have to fight about what the Hayashidas said and discuss why I lied to him. I accept that you did what you did with good intentions. The outcome of the argument decides whether or not I forgive you."

He strides straight into the bedroom, knowing that Kyouya will be right behind him. The shades of the windows are up; at the line where land meets the sky, the colour is beginning to gradate – patiently Kaoru stands with his arms folded, looking out as nature paints her art.

The lock clicks shut.

Being attuned to his lover, he doesn't need to catch a glimpse to know where Kyouya is – propped sideways against the door he'd closed, hands casually in his pockets.

Kaoru had not bothered to shrug on his shirt; the sleeve hangs off him precariously. The tie that he'd removed earlier is still looped with a knot, and without hurry, he untangles it by pulling at the silk material and deliberately drops it to the ground.

Next, the shirt slides off soundlessly and he turns to fix Kyouya with come-hither eyes.

Kyouya takes a step towards him; Kaoru takes a step back purposefully.

Kyouya pauses where he is.

Kaoru makes to remove another article of clothing and senses that Kyouya is about to protest –

He silences his lover with a haughty tilt of his head.

A small smile plays around Kyouya's mouth.

Kaoru proceeds to undress completely, and abruptly halts when Kyouya screens his eyes using the glare off his glasses.

"Take off your spectacles."

His recalcitrant partner remains immobile, not wanting to disarm himself before he's had the opportunity to lecture Kaoru.

"Take them off." Kaoru is more than willing to stalemate him and he knows it.

After a soft exhale, Kyouya complies.

Kaoru feels his pulse quicken at those wonderfully mesmerising eyes and struggles not to lose his mind. He accomplishes what he'd set out to do, and when he is utterly unclothed and vulnerable, he pads across the floor lithely and presses his entire body into Kyouya's.

"You see," he whispers, shamelessly trailing open-mouthed kisses on his lover's neck, "I am one of two people on this planet to truly know this relationship inside out, and in the past few minutes alone you have ceded to me at least three times."

Kyouya laughs with a hint of breathlessness.

"Do you think I'm easy?"

"No," Kyouya says sharply, arms curling round his waist.

"Then, believe me when I say that it didn't affect me. In the span of four years I've thrown myself at you countless times – if you don't think of me that way, why is it an issue? I understand why all of you were – are – infuriated; if it had been directed at Hikaru I would be plotting and orchestrating their demise, but I'm going to make it clear that I lied only because I knew it would hurt you to know I heard it and not because I feel humiliated or cheapened in any way. Although usually I would say that your problems are mine too, in this case it really is your problem – if you want to take them down, it's fine by me. If you don't want to, it's also fine by me. I won't think you're not defending my honour or something stupid like that, and even if it had been horrible, you've given me the ultimate victory. Does this adequately answer everything you wanted to know?"

"Most adequately," Kyouya murmurs, backing him towards the bed and pushing him onto it. "This has expedited things considerably."

To rile him up, Kaoru stretches into an indolent sprawl after helping to untuck Kyouya's shirt, waiting for his partner to shed his clothing as if he isn't burning up inside from heart-stopping need. Kyouya knows what he's doing and he's falling for it anyway, taking on something dangerous and predatory and so delicious, climbing on top of him to pin his wrists to the sheets. Everywhere that they are in contact, it is scalding his already superheated flesh.

Pliant body with insolent eyes – again to show his lover what he can have but persistently spurning him until he cracks, until he is torn apart, until he is consumed by the mindless desire to claim to possess to mark physically

Kaoru hooks a leg around Kyouya's hip and leans up to scatter a few aggravatingly light kisses on his collarbone, stroking his abdomen with splayed fingers like he wants to go sweet and slow instead of hard and frantic and destructively passionately – before he will let that happen, he must see the Kyouya from earlier, the one who'd been powerful and defenseless, smitten and addictive, the one on the brink

There he is.

Kaoru barely has time to register it before he is obliterated by a searing, commanding kiss, and he thinks no more.

.

-------

.


He wakes up alone, with a fluttery warmth in his body that lets him know that he had been held all throughout his sleep, and experiences a moment of agonising panic.

The whirr of the plane engines orientates him in the present, and he flops back down on the pillow trying to calm down.

It's real, it's real, he repeats to himself like a mantra. It really happened and Kyouya is yours now.

Usually the lingering memories captured within his body are not given the opportunity to ripen into this hazy contentment – either one of them would have had to crawl out of bed to sneakily return to their own rooms in the middle of the night, often having to dodge their friends on the same 'host club reunion' vacation with them; the handful of times they had both dozed off had been excruciating upon their return to lucid reality, the pain equaling the stolen pleasure, yet nothing, nothing matches the loss of falling asleep to Kyouya and waking up without.

Kaoru finds a suitcase that contains his things, grabs a change of clothes and has a quick shower. He slathers on moisturizer while thinking ill of his grandmother and uses the static to style his hair, giving it volume and spiking the ends such that it is apathetically bed-tousled and effortlessly polished.

Lifting the shades unveils a black sky outside – the flight time from Tokyo to New York means that they'll arrive at their destination at basically the same time they'd left – pre-dawn, that is, and this must mean that they're close.

Kaoru enters the main cabin amidst the drone of pragmatic voices and verifies his speculations: Kyouya had had to leave him because there is so much unfinished business and life rolls onwards inexorably. Otherwise, there would have been no way sleep-deprived Kyouya would plough through documents that must have a whole tree's worth of paper contained in just one folder. The purplish discolouration underneath his eyes causes a wrenching twist in Kaoru's chest – how can he bring himself to blame Kyouya for the past three months or for not accompanying him until he'd awoken?

He is openly gazing at Kyouya with what he suspects is a lovesick expression when Tachibana notices him. Kyouya swivels his head in response to Tachibana's reaction and Kaoru smiles.

"We are about two hours from New York," Kyouya says. "You could have rested more."

"Are you in a position to say that?" Kaoru laughs lowly, mindful of Hotta napping in a darkened corner.

"I had every intention to rejoin you, preferably before you became aware of my absence," Kyouya informs him dryly, and Kaoru feels a rush of validation. "Are you hungry?"

Aijima had risen to fetch some food for him even before he nods.

Kaoru toes off his shoes and brings his legs up on the seat, enjoying his unhindered view of Kyouya as he eats his fruit salad where he wouldn't disturb them. They are talking about other shareholdings that Kaoru hadn't heard a peep of in Haiku just now – Kyouya really has outdone himself and Kaoru wants to do more to be able to stand beside this person whose achievements had and continue to demolish Kaoru's misconceptions about what is possible and inspires him to perform similar feats. Every time he'd thought he would cave from the stress of doing two degrees, from managing CI, from pandering to anyone and everyone who would be advantageous to have on side, from the chain of internships that he'd thought would crack his brain in half to multitask the multi-disciplinary projects – sometimes he'd pace like a caged feline, sometimes he'd cry, sometimes he'd trash his project, but always he'd remember Kyouya and that amazing work ethic… and it puts everything in perspective, giving Kaoru the strength and willpower to carry on.

How is it that someone like that had risked everything to be with him?

After his meal, Kaoru unearths his sketchbook to ponder over and formulate his plan of action for the foreseeable future, to meet or exceed the targets set for him, to be an asset and not a hindrance – he looks at his draft outline, slightly alarmed at what a crazy ride it will be.

He can do it, he can.

He will become someone deserving of this person.

A hand through his hair snaps him out of his reverie.

"I fear," Kyouya asserts, taking a break from his work to exercise his habitual omniscience, "that you may be thinking something extremely silly or harmful. This particular face always unsettles me and makes me anxious to ascertain what is running through your mind in order to correct the errors that can potentially grow into something damaging."

"What face?" Kaoru flips the book to another page and grins cheekily. "My face is very pretty, is that why it unsettles you?"

"The one where you look sombre and determined and a little bleak, with eyes that glower seemingly at yourself," Kyouya sighs, sinking down beside him. "And 'pretty' is not the word I would use to describe you either generally or specifically."

"Did your team rest at all?" Kaoru asks, concerned. Tachibana and Aijima have gone into the galley, presumably in search of breakfast for themselves.

"Yes, they did. Don't change the topic."

"You want to talk about how beautiful you think I am?" Kaoru rests his head in his lover's lap.

"I want to talk about what you were thinking about, and despite being a better choice than 'pretty', 'beautiful' is not the word."

"Now I'm really curious. What's the word you'd use?"

"Perhaps I may tell you someday. Hotta, since you're awake, you may as well join your colleagues for food rather than pretend to be unconscious."

Horrified, Hotta springs up with an apology and scoots off.

Kaoru shakes with quiet laughter.

Out of the blue, Kyouya says, "I'm sorry that you are saddled with the burden of my father's expectations."

Kaoru stares at him incredulously. "Who's thinking silly thoughts now?"

"It can sap the joy out of everything. That is not something I ever wish to happen to you, not least because you channel your emotions into your art."

Dead serious, Kaoru replies, "It would have been easier to elope, but everything of value has to be fought for. I don't mind paying the price for this if it means that your family accepts me. Frankly, I'm falling over myself to thank them for giving me the chance at all. I'll never be nasty about Akito-san again."

"I was surprised," Kyouya concedes. "Then I realised why he agreed. Akito-niisan doesn't know which he would pick in my place – the inheritance, or a loyal lover. He doesn't have the iron-cast confidence of Yuuichi-niisan; in fact he tracked my actions because he was wary that I would surpass him – that is to say, he'd felt insecure. To him, the idea of a person who would do for him what you did for me must be exceptionally appealing, even if he's resigned himself to an arranged marriage. In a choice between an inheritance that will likely never be his, versus a companion who can transform that insecurity into courage, who will infuse his life with meaning and provide a reprieve… that is why he understood."

"I think Akito-san would choose the companion," Kaoru offers.

Kyouya smiles and says nothing.

"And, given that you chose me, why should it be a hardship to me to have to conform to your family's expectations? I know that it seems cool to be uncaring about what other people think. I know that epic romances always have to beat out all the other relationships otherwise the love between the parties must not be deep enough. I could be that stereotypical Hitachiin daredevil and say that I don't care about gaining your family's acceptance, but that doesn't really sound like love to me. We wouldn't be here without the host club, so that's a debt that I cannot forget. You owe your family your life, and for all the competition amongst you and your siblings, you've never let anyone badmouth them. If I don't care about the people you care about, you'd never have found me attractive from the start, would you? There's no excuse that will justify me treating our friends or your family poorly – and if I claim that I only need you or you only need me, that's idiotic."

Kaoru lifts himself to almost-straddle his lover.

"You were born an Ootori, and it's part of your identity. You will be one until the day you die – even if you had been disowned, that blood still runs in your veins. I understand this. That's why, because I want to be with you, I want to be part of your family. I will meet Ootori-sama's expectations; please believe in me."

"I never doubted you for a second," Kyouya replies in a lush voice.

.

-------

.


"On second thought, this fairy tale romance involves too much work," Kaoru says mere hours later. "Where is my happily ever after?"

"Giving up so soon?" Kyouya smirks from the archway of the front entrance.

Kaoru thinks of glaring at him, then reconsiders when he pictures the image of the dashing villain that dark chuckle indicates he will be.

"When Hikaru said 'you can't miss the files, they're on the dining table', I didn't think he meant that the house only has a dining table," Kaoru grumbles, meandering through the empty, undecorated penthouse to explore its rooms. The location is admittedly fabulous and the interior is spacious and light-filled.

"You're the design prodigy and my partner," Kyouya points out reasonably. "Whyever would I endorse any other designer for our home? I shudder to imagine how you would have reacted if I'd let someone else do it."

"Mm, yes, you'd better not," Kaoru says distractedly, engrossed in his study of the layout. A vision is forming in his head – this house, no, home, is going to be grand by the time he's done with it.

Kyouya wanders around behind him indulgently, not getting in the way and not rushing him.

"Oh, bed too," Kaoru comments when he comes across the furniture.

"Yes, it is my sole input to the design aspect of our home. The dining table is a gift from Hikaru – he says you've had your eye on it for a while. You have plenary power over everything else."

Kaoru snorts and tests out the mattress that is still wrapped in plastic. Of course Kyouya gets to select this item – a side-effect of sleeping with the Low Blood Pressure Evil Lord, who only deigns to slumber in custom-made beds.

Wait…

"Everything else?" Kaoru echoes.

"Everything else," Kyouya confirms.

Try as he might, he can't suppress the wide grin creeping across his face. "Even your study?"

A long-suffering sigh. "… Even my study."

You must really love me, Kaoru thinks, richly amused.

"Tomorrow, we have an appointment with your parents for dinner. We'll be staying at the Roi Grand on Park Avenue in the meantime."

Appreciatively, Kaoru says, "Tono's so useful."

"Where there are pros there are cons," Kyouya pronounces, tongue in cheek.

It'll be tough, having to reshuffle his study and work commitments to construct a whole new life. Kaoru calculates the amount of things he has to do while strolling through the kitchen space – it is really overwhelming. Each day will be crammed full; there'd be hardly any time left for Kyouya. Does Kyouya already know this – know what it entails to meet Ootori-sama's standards? How will they survive four years of as-good-as separation? Wouldn't it be ironic if Kaoru lost Kyouya in the process of solidifying their relationship?

How very bittersweet.

Idly, he checks out some of the papers on the dining table and enters the drawing room once more, standing in the middle yet a million miles away, worrying about the future that awaits them.

Arms encircle him from behind; a ring box is held out in front of him, an exquisite and highly unorthodox engagement ring encased within.

Kaoru covers his face with a hand and laughs. "… Really?"

Wordlessly, Kyouya nuzzles his neck.

With the padded bit of his index finger, Kaoru touches the large, vibrantly coloured, intensely hued gem surrounded by swirls of platinum and pavé diamonds – the delicate swirls are the tail feathers of a phoenix, its beak and small wings discernible against the blaze of the centrepiece jewel. The ring has an otherworldly feel to it – ethereal, the term that commonly characterises Kaoru's masterpieces.

"This size is essentially a cocktail ring, you know," he sniggers slyly, feigning ignorance, "but I guess one can't have too many party rings. I'll wear it for the next ball I attend."

"You're meant to wear it all the time on the fourth finger of your left hand," Kyouya tells him.

"Really. People do that with their engagement rings, but I was not aware of any such question being asked."

Kyouya shoots him a hilariously unimpressed look.

"Anyway, purists will totally balk at this ring. How much did Tono harass you?"

Kyouya raises his other arm from where it had been coiled snugly around Kaoru, unclenching his fist to reveal another ring box, traditional brilliant cut diamond set in a slim, elegant band.

"Nooo!" Kaoru hoots with mirth. "That much?!"

"Actually, he acknowledged that the phoenix ring is precisely to your taste," Kyouya discloses. "He was very good about it – that you are unconventional and that I will oblige you. It's our relationship, after all. He did, however, incessantly bring up the significance of diamonds in our conversations, and it was as talking to a brick wall to explain to him that these romantic associations originated from marketing ploys and/or established practice, or that the stone in the phoenix ring is a diamond, albeit coloured, and at any rate we agreed that you are fond of collecting accessories. They can be worn stacked on the same finger, or one on each hand, or interchangeably as suits the occasion, therefore I saw merit in his logic."

Kaoru is doubled over by the end of his sentence, dying from laughter.

"I – I see," he wheezes, supported upright by Kyouya. "Yes, I can switch between bold and subtle – I can see you've put a lot of thought into their design; in fact, even the traditional ring is to my tastes. Thank you, they're lovely."

"Kaoru," Kyouya brings them toe-to-toe, "I did not wish for a four-year engagement."

"I know."

"The following four years will be worse than the previous four."

"I know."

"It's likely we will spend half or more of that time apart."

"I know."

Kyouya falls into a hush; they do not exchange trite, trifling promises that may be defeated by time and tide.

Tenderly, Kaoru combs through his lover's fringe. "But at the end of four years, you'd like to marry me."

"I would. Irrespective of whether you pass my father's tests."

"Will you exert all your effort to make it happen?"

"Yes."

"So will I. I will have faith that we can live through this; I will have faith in you."

Kaoru extends his hand for Kyouya to slide both rings onto his finger.

"And I, you. If we weather this storm and our relationship stays alive, we will have a certainty that ordinary people can only dream of."

"That's enough for me, for now," Kaoru says, and lets himself be kissed senseless.

.

– fin –

.



Previous: Chapter 5: The Price You're Paying For It

Comments

I don't actually know why Yoshio was being so reasonable. HAHAHA. It's manga!Yoshio, I guess. He just resisted all my efforts to make him reject the star-crossed couple, being all "excuse me I am more reasonable than this thank you very much I can see the merits and I am a parent and pride is not worth more than concrete benefit". I want to continue writing the next four years so badly – poor Kaoru, he has no idea what he's in for and Kyouya doesn't yet realise that he's going to utterly fail at protecting Kaoru – because it totally turned out more bittersweet than I'd intended it to and I want them to be happy TnT. Anyway, if you dislike reasonable!Yoshio, I could always write an alternate version where he disowns Kyouya for your angsty pleasure. Anime!Yoshio, lol.

06/05/2012

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