The ball has been going spectacularly. Everything’s gone off according to plan without a hitch - the flowers, perfectly placed in each vase, none wilting or drooping; the live music, each note singing into the next in plangent harmony; the guests, happy and chattering amongst themselves as they wear their frivolous gowns and go about their frivolous lives. Kyoya checks his watch (Vacheron Constantin, he wouldn’t sully his wrist with anything less) and steps out onto the balcony.
Below, all seems well. People of all Ouran social standing are mingling and dancing. The daughter of a grocery chain mogul and the son of a governor are standing by the drink table, and an eco-friendly clothing retailer CEO’s son is pulling out a chair for the progeny of a wealthy doctor. Two worlds colliding. The filthy rich and the even filthier rich.
That’s always been the point of the Host Club, though, hasn’t it? To connect people? Kyoya smiles to himself. Even in its very foundation, the club brought together six people from vastly different walks of life to entertain the countless masses; he supposes that was part of what drew him to the idea in the first place. Service was always where his life would have led him. This kind of service, though… he has to say it’s not bad. Something about bringing smiles to people’s faces makes him feel a deep-seated stirring of content, fulfillment, gratification.
A loud peal of laughter shakes him from his thoughts and he looks down to see Honey-senpai twirling Haruhi around by her wrists. He’s so small, yet strong enough to nearly lift her off the ground. Even from his vantage point, Kyoya can see the wrinkles she gets by her eyes when she smiles, and in the circumstance he couldn’t see, he’d know anyway - it’s all Tamaki talks about when he’s trying to get a rise out of her. He watches as she’s passed from Honey to Mori to the twins, fighting each other to cut in, and decides to make his way down himself. He’d hate to miss all the fun.
He descends the grand staircase just in time to see Tamaki eagerly awaiting his turn for a dance. Hikaru and Kaoru each have one of her hands, trying to spin her in opposite directions and quibbling over whose “turn” it is to twirl her, even though she’s probably laughing too hard to turn in any direction. He likes seeing her have fun. He’s known she was never truly miserable at the Host Club (it was written in her eyes), but it’s nice that she’s finally accepted that this is where she belongs.
And then she’s twirled over to Tamaki.
As their hands connect, Kyoya feels something discordant in him, a harp string wound too tight, a piano key hit at just the wrong moment. He’s never been quite sure why he doesn’t like Haruhi and Tamaki showing signs of intimacy - they’re all friends, aren’t they? - but lately, he’s been able to narrow down a general pattern of Things He Doesn’t Like and Things He Does Like.
He doesn’t like when Tamaki puts his arm around her shoulder tenderly.
He does like when Haruhi wiggles out of his grasp and admonishes him.
He doesn’t like when Tamaki waxes poetry about her (in public or in private), writing her name in his notebook in every alphabet he knows like some lovestruck idiot.
He does like when Tamaki praises him, even if he doesn’t like the way he insists on rubbing their faces together. They’re not animals. The words are nice, though.
He likes it when Tamaki pulls out his chair at Host Club meetings, or comes to him for advice, or calls him at three in the morning when he can’t sleep and needs someone to bounce increasingly stupid ideas off of.
He likes when they both reach for something at the same time and their fingers brush, and then Kyoya pushes him off his chair to obtain it first.
He likes it when they wrestle together, no matter what started it. It’s ridiculously easy to pin Tamaki down. Kyoya’s no master of the martial arts, so Tamaki is probably just weak and delicate and too proud to admit it.
As he watches them dance (a trainwreck he can’t tear his eyes from), he notes all the ways in which Tamaki is delicate. The curve of his jawline, which appears sharp and strong from a distance but if you got too close, it transformed into ice. Beautiful and easily breakable. The way he carries himself, standing tall and straight but with a certain melancholy weariness infused into his spine. The way he holds his arms, carefully restrained because if he wasn’t paying attention, he’d lose his form. Dancing comes naturally to him, but more for the enjoyment of it; he’s good at waltz, but enjoys himself so much his form gradually becomes sloppy if he doesn’t watch himself. Watching him, it’s easy to lose yourself too.
His hands, holding Haruhi’s (a sharp twang of the harp strings), slender fingers perfectly suited for the piano and bony slim wrists. Kyoya doesn’t pause to consider them much longer and instead moves to his face.
His face which is steadily growing closer to Haruhi’s.
Is he going to kiss her?
Kyoya turns his back sharply to a symphony of dissonance. He shouldn’t care whether or not Tamaki kisses Haruhi.
He does care, though.
He strides off into the crowd, pausing to ask a few guests if they’re enjoying the evening. He’s all smiles and cordiality until he reaches the music room, where he knots his fingers into his hair and lets his head thunk into the heavy wooden door. He wants to scream so badly it hurts his throat in anticipation.
He doesn’t, though. Someone would hear and come looking for him and then someone would see him like this . And because Tamaki is an idiot with a big heart, it would probably be him, and then Kyoya would have to explain why he’s like this , and then Tamaki would curl his lip in disgust and return to Haruhi’s embrace and -
“Stop,” he says aloud, quiet and cool. It’s necessary for him to self-talk through intense emotions sometimes, because who gives better advice than him? Hearing it aloud does the trick, though. He takes a deep breath, in through his nose and out through his mouth, and picks his head up from the door. His hands excavate themselves from his hair and he takes a moment to collect himself, then turns around and makes his way to the piano bench. The second his weight settles on the dark mahogany, he feels exhausted. He doesn’t want to stand up ever again. In fact, he might just grow old and die right here. He has a few hours until the end of the ball.
Or so he thought, until there’s a slow and steady knock on the music room doors.
Kyoya’s facade is back on in a second as the door creaks open - cool, friendly, but always thinking a mile a minute. Blonde hair peeks through and Tamaki is bursting in in his usual exuberant fashion.
“Kyoya, you’ll never guess what -” Tamaki stops short and his eyes turn from puzzled to knowing ( pitying ) in half a second.
“What will I never guess?” Kyoya forces a wry smile.
Tamaki shakes his head. “I’ll tell you later. What’s going on?”
He hates how smart this idiot is. “What do you mean?” When in doubt, always ask more questions.
“I saw you leave, and I thought I’d find you here. The party’s going amazingly.”
Kyoya raises an eyebrow and nods slowly. What’s his point?
“So… why do you look so sad?”
“Why do you assume I’m -” Kyoya’s about to deliver this question so smoothly, and it’ll fool Tamaki absolutely, and everything will be fine, when he gets cut off, and Tamaki’s voice is so sure and strong that he falls silent.
“Cut the crap, Kyoya,” Tamaki says, not unkindly. He motions for him to scoot on the piano bench and Kyoya shifts over a few inches, allowing Tamaki to sit. Their legs are touching. (Consonance.)
Kyoya doesn’t know where to go from here.”I assure you, everything is fine,” he replies. He hates how Tamaki is looking at him. However, to look away would be to signal defeat, so he keeps his gaze, raising his eyebrows in challenge. The businessman’s fight me .
Tamaki shakes his head. “Dammit, just tell me. You can’t keep a secret from me if you tried, and if you don’t tell me, I’m gonna wear it out of you.” Kyoya knows from experience that that’s a promise Tamaki is fully capable of keeping.
There is a way he can spin this around, though. It might taint their friendship, but not destroy it irrevocably. Kyoya sighs and looks down at the floor before looking back into Tamaki’s eyes. “Did you kiss her?” he asks plainly.
The look of instant guilt that falls over Tamaki’s features is enough answer for Kyoya, but then he speaks. “I tried,” he admits, “but she said no. She doesn’t think of me like that.”
Kyoya breathes a sigh of relief without meaning to.
“You like her.” It isn’t a question. Tamaki speaks as though he’s reading from a history book, and Kyoya is infinitely grateful for the misinterpretation. Tamaki doesn’t have to be convinced; this gives him a lot less work to do to pull this off.
“Yes,” he lies through his teeth.
Tamaki shrugs. “Well, you can ask her out, probably. I don’t have a chance.”
“Well,” here Kyoya takes a moment to think, “I suppose that’s true.” His heart is playing a noble rendition of Berlioz’s Grande Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale , fanfare pounding like the blood in his ears. He should feel sympathetic towards Tamaki, he knows - it’s hard to be rejected by your crush, especially in such a pointed way, and that might be him in ten minutes if this lie fails - but he’s just so selfishly happy.
“Aren’t you gonna?”
“Ask her out,” Tamaki supplies, looking at him like maybe he’s not the idiot after all. “Aren’t you gonna ask Haruhi on a date, or at least confess to her?”
Kyoya shakes his head. “Maybe when the time is right.” The time won’t ever be right. Tamaki doesn’t need to know that.
What he’s not expecting is Tamaki to flash annoyance. “Why not? We only have so much time before we graduate, and who knows, something might happen before then.” Kyoya barely opens his mouth before Tamaki is continuing. “My engagement to Éclair taught me that everything you’ve worked hard for, everything you’ve built and everything you take for granted, could be gone in an instant. You should appreciate what you have now, and go for what you want even if you’ll fail!”
“How well did that work for you?” The words come out of Kyoya’s mouth before he can stop them, and he knows in an instant he’s gone too far. Tamaki is hurting, and trying to cheer Kyoya on in his own way, and Kyoya’s just thrown it back in his face. He winces inwardly.
“At least I’m not sitting up here all by myself and missing the party we’re throwing,” Tamaki counters.
“You’re right. You’re sitting up here with me and missing the party we’re throwing.” He’s wrong, he’s so wrong, but he can’t back down now. The air feels sour and wrong all of a sudden and he doesn’t know how to fix it. All he can do is make it worse until it pops like an overinflated balloon, because that’s all he knows how to do, and probably all he’s good for. He’s such a dumbass.
“Because you got jealous and left!” Tamaki stands up as if the passion of his statement has lifted him into the air. Kyoya rises to meet him. This is a stupid argument, but Tamaki’s indignation is getting Kyoya riled up, too. It’s how they work - a vicious cycle of feelings, leeching off each other until someone goes too far and they laugh off the ridiculousness of it all.
“You think I’m jealous?” He laughs derisively.
“Just because you’re jealous of me doesn’t mean you can be an ass! You’re supposed to be my best friend!”
“I’m not jealous of you!”
“You totally are, just admit it! You like Haruhi, and you can go confess to her now because she doesn’t want me!”
“Haruhi isn’t the one I want to confess to, you idiot! It’s you!”
Everything stops. Kyoya freezes, panic carved onto his face; Tamaki looks dumbfounded. He’s not sure how long he’s holding his breath as he watches his friend process the words, waiting for the disgust, the scorn, the rage.
It never comes.
Tamaki deflates and gives Kyoya that look again. “Me?”
Well. Now he can’t back down from that, either. He steels himself and nods wordlessly.
“As in, you… like me?”
“As more than a friend?”
“Yes.” Kyoya looks away. He’s not sensing any of the negative emotions he was expecting, and Tamaki is a painfully open book, so he might be in the clear. He absolutely wants to go die in a hole regardless.
Tamaki takes one baby step toward him, then another, and then the next thing Kyoya knows, Tamaki’s beautiful slender fingers are taking gentle, almost reverent hold of his chin, forcing him to meet crystal-clear blue eyes.
“Can I try something?” he murmurs. Kyoya isn’t sure what to do, so he gives the barest of nods, and then he notices Tamaki’s eyes flickering to and from his lips.
The nod he gives now is a little more firm, more decisive, and that’s what Tamaki needs. He leans in a little farther and their lips brush together delicately. It’s the ghost of a kiss, not anything proper; Tamaki is probably waiting on Kyoya to seal the deal.
And so he does. He pushes forward, ignoring everything in every fiber of his being that tells him this is a terrible idea (he’s used to that around Tamaki, though) and connects their lips firmly, his arms held stiffly at his sides.
They break apart a moment later. It’s not a big, dramatic kiss, nor is it hesitant and halfhearted. It’s dumb and ill-advised but sure of itself.
“Why did you kiss me?” Kyoya’s voice is thick in his throat.
Tamaki shrugs. “I wanted to see if I want to kiss you as much as I do Haruhi.”
Kyoya quells the flare of rage at being used for that purpose and forces himself to hear Tamaki out the rest of the way. “The verdict?”
“I think I liked kissing you more than I would like to kiss her.” His words are chosen carefully, which is unusual, but Kyoya appreciates it more than he could - or would - ever express. Tamaki has never played with anyone’s feelings, but the added care around Kyoya melts something inside him. Maybe it’s his heart. He wasn’t sure he still had one of those.
“That’s good to hear.”
“So, um… are we… together?” Tamaki asks hesitantly. “Should we tell people?”
Kyoya shakes his head. “Let’s figure that out later,” he tells him. “For now, we should go back to the party. I think our absence may be noticed by now.”
Walking three feet apart, they head back to the ball, but this time Kyoya doesn’t feel as guilty when he stares.