Ha-ru-hi – spring sun in a snowy night.
Maybe she widened her eyes, bit her lips and clenched her fists.
Maybe Tamaki bowed at her naked feet, covering them with his hands – the same hands that ten seconds ago had been pressing Kyouya’s chest against his indecisive door.
Maybe Kyouya stepped back, careful to put his feet back into their twenty second old snow footprints.
In the end, it didn’t matter what their first reaction had been, because the next thing that happened was that the bottle of wine fell on the stone steps, breaking in green glass and gold spill.
Kyouya managed to stand very still, to readjust his glasses and to meet Haruhi’s eyes over Tamaki’s disheveled hair. But where he had expected to find anger, he encountered an apology, and then (a relief) anger followed. But Haruhi was not pointing her hammer at him.
“What the hell, Tamaki?!” she said, pulling her feet from the cradle that her boyfriend had made with his hands. “What did you think you were doing to Kyouya?” her words tumbled out quick but slurred, and Kyouya stood to attention. Now he noticed her too rosy cheeks and nose, and her glazed eyes.
“Are you drunk?” he asked, surprised.
“No. Yes. A little. The idiots at Taiyo took me out. Beer is stupid,” she grunted, “I didn’t know that you were back in Tokyo,” she said.
“Just passing by,”
“But you did not tell me. Us,” she said, and Kyouya knew that she did not mean “us” as in “Tamaki and I”, but “us” as in “your clubmates, your friends, the people that would have your back in any situation, us, your real family,” and the hurt in her words hit him like sleet.
“Tamaki knew,” he said, pointing at their personal shaking blond special snowflake. Haruhi shook her head. She had pulled her now longish hair in two short braids before going to bed, but it was too layered, and some strands were pointing outwards. “And I told Kaoru,”
Haruhi crossed her arms, and then uncrossed them. “Kaoru is abroad, too,”
She was only wearing a tank top over her pajama pants, and Kyouya saw through the thin cloth that she was colder than she wanted to let on.
“I asked him to come over,” Tamaki said, standing up and dusting off the snow from his hair, coat, trousers, “Because I have a very important thing to tell you, two actually, and I wanted him to be present,” he stepped inside his house, took off his shoes, put on the slippers, and waved at Kyouya to come in. “Please,”
“No. I am leaving now. You can tell her on your own,”
“No, I can’t,” Tamaki contorted his face into the perfect puppy eyes expression. “I need you,” he said.
“You don’t,” said Kyouya, soft and cool, counting the mouthfuls of snow that he would have to swallow to clean his palate Tamaki’s tongue. “You’ll be fine,” he added, reassuring and level-headed, the perfect advisor, the star consultant. Tamaki’s face started to crumble. “You will be fine,” he repeated, backing up, turning around, bowing his head to say goodbye to the boozy bride-to-be. “I’ll call you. Both of you,” he said before he reached the door.
I will leave a very nice message in their answering machine after making sure that they are asleep in this looped time zone.
He heard the snow crunch behind him, and he barely had the time to think she shouldn’t, not in this weather, not barefoot – before a small hand clasped the belt of his coat and pulled him back. Kyouya turned, and parted his lips to issue a warning, but the wine had made him slow just as the beer had made Haruhi bold, and she knocked the breath of his chest when she jumped and clenched her pajama-clad legs around his waist.
He had pulled her in, pushed her out of the way, out of the chair, into a pool, into a debt eight million times before, but he had never dropped her and he was not going to start now, mostly because they might think that it was due to the alcohol and Kyouya wanted the world to know that he could hold his wine.
The pavement was slippery and covered in snow. Her face was just inches away from his. “You are not going anywhere,” she said, “Until Tamaki apologizes,” and just to make her point, she closed the distance between their lips and she kissed him, using her tongue like a scalpel to find his heart at the parting of his lips. Kyouya wanted pulled back, but his hands had already found a balance spot at the very top of her thighs, and it was the wine’s fault if she tasted like dew and light and lilies and clean laundry. Haruhi licked her lips thoughtfully, and Kyouya could read her mind, knowing that she had been searching for the taste of Tamaki in his mouth, and that she had found it.
Tamaki shouted something from the door, and Haruhi tightened the grip of her legs around Kyouya’s waist. The top of her head glistened with powdered snow and her braids were unraveling. He secured his right arm beneath her and used his left hand to slide down the elastics, unmaking her braids and combing the strands with his fingers. “I know you,” he reminded her “I knew who you were before he did. I knew him before you did. I don’t need to get to know the both of you now, again. It’s tiresome,”
“Bring me inside, Cool Type,” she ordered, “Your lips are purple,”
“And your mouth is glacial,”
So he walked back and into the fairytale house, past the bottle of spilled wine, past Tamaki, past their shared memories and his own regrets, and closed the door behind the three of them.
Their home (her home?) was just as tiny on the inside as it seemed outside. The slipper space led directly into the smallest kitchenette that Kyouya had ever seen, which led into the living room – dining room – studio, where Haruhi’s futon was already unfolded, looking warm and soft. A rackety ladder, gilded with gold flakes, led upstairs, to the bathroom and toilet.
“That looks very unstable,” said Kyouya, before dropping Haruhi on the futon without much ceremony. A handful of feathers flew up – domestic snow, warm but it could get up your nose and throat and make you cough. Some people were allergic to duvet. He took off his boots, not bothering with the slippers, and arranged his coat on the stair’s handrail. Tamaki had joined Haruhi in the futon and was speaking urgently in Frenchonese, the language of bad doramas, while she looked at him quizzically and rebuffed his explanations. Tamaki touched her lips and Haruhi slapped his hand away.
Kyouya’s toes were defrosting, and he found the tingling delightful. He tried his newly sensitive feet to take himself to the tiny kitchenette, where he tried to locate, and failed to, the water boiler. He settled on unrolling a roll of tinfoil, which shone like the world’s sharpest blade before wrinkling and crinkling. Now it looked like sunny water.
He heard giggling, and turned around to find Tamaki and Haruhi gently laughing at him. Whatever they had been arguing about, the tinfoil had stopped it.
“Are you drunk?” ask Haruhi.
“I’m experimenting,” said Kyouya, showing them the roll, now naked cardboard, devoid of magic, its shiny coat lying on the floor, the silvery skin of a great snake.
“He never got to play in the kitchen,” explained Tamaki, walking up to him and taking the cardboard roll off his hands, turning it over, putting it over his left eye – Tamaki the coeursair, the Corsair of Hearts, one of his imaginary roles in the past - “Even green tea – his maids prepared it and gave it to him so that he could carry it to the kotatsu,”
“Like you played a lot in the kitchen,” said Kyouya, knowing that Tamaki Richard, a spawn of the finest French tradition, had started to walk in a vineyard and had learned the names of the finest cheeses from the people that made them, tasting the first cut of a camembert wheel and the raw juice of unfermented grapes. “Shut up,” added Kyouya, before his friend could say back exactly what he had thought. “I’m tired. This is tiring. Stop it. Just ask her to marry me – I mean you. Marry you. Ask me to marry you. Oh, hell -- ” Kyouya took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, frustrated with how stupid his tongue had become, bitten by the wine and the poison at the tip of his friends’ tongues. “You know what I mean,”
In the startled silence that followed –how could they be surprised, though, were they that dense?- Kyouya considered the three possible scenarios that lay ahead through the rosy glass of wine.
He could tackle Tamaki into the futon, using his whole weight to pin him down and take back the control. Tamaki would laugh like a child, and Haruhi, he knew, would slip into the sheets with them, first acting as a bridge to him and as an anchor to Tamaki. She was good and she had a smart mouth and even smarter skin, and she was generous and she would share all of his fiancé because the more she gave away the more that came back to her. Because she knew, just as Kyouya knew, that she was Tamaki’s home and would always be.
He could also take Haruhi first, and show his friend just how deeply he knew her, his bride to be, how well their bodies worked together, the ripples of her pleasure an earthquake, his own oblivion an ice storm. That might make Tamaki walk away from the wedding, but he would also walk away from him. And Kyouya needed to be the one doing the walking, not the one left behind.
Or he could just go to sleep. Feign exhaustion – that shouldn’t be difficult, unless Tamaki’s curious hands wandered south of his waistline – and drop like a bag of coffee beans on their bed. Let them stay up and fend for their own solution in tonight’s cold equation.
But Tamaki robbed him of his preferred path with another kiss, and Haruhi stepped on his self-destructive revenge plan by straightening the sheets, the duvet, the pillows, by taking off her clothes as casually as the snow frosted the windows, by staying Tamaki’s hand when he reached to turn off the lights – so that the last thing that Kyouya saw that night was Tamaki’s forget-me-not eyes closed with pleasure, his back arching into his pelvis and pushing into Haruhi’s, the waves of the white sheets arranged around them like a snow country.
“Weddings are expensive,” said Kyouya, warming his hands with the ink-black coffee cup.
“They don’t have to be,” Haruhi was brushing her hair into a practical ponytail. “Technically, we only have to sign some papers. We could register today,”
Kyouya blew into his cup. “Please, make sure that I can watch when you tell your plan to Ranka. Or the twins. Or your fiancé,”
“I can be frugal, you know,” said Tamaki, descending the very thin ladder, fresh from his shower and with only a towel wrapped around his waist. “We will make do without the Cirque du Soleil as entertainment. I’m sure that I can pull a few favors with the Zuka Club, that way we will be going local. And the international guests will have to fly on business, not first – if they want an upgrade, they will have to pay for it themselves,”
“It might be cheaper to buy the plane and fill it with your guests,” Kyouya wrapped himself tighter in the duvet and risked burning his tongue for a sip of scalding caffeine. “How many people are you flying in from France?”
“Only Paris, about a hundred guests, between family relations, business partners and my HEC friends – but if I bought a plane then some of them might have to fly on coach,”
“I see how that could be a problem,” Kyouya nodded. “Unless you decide to make it into an experience. You could - ” Kyouya run the numbers through his head, and they seemed sound “You could do away with the central rows, because you won’t need that many seats, and use that space to hire actors – maybe someone that will teach your French guests about Japanese wedding customs,”
“Such as the money envelope?” said Haruhi, staring at him from the mirror. Kyouya didn’t care about her death stare. In any case, he could not properly appreciate it due to his glasses being somewhere under the pile of discarded clothing instead of on his face.
“Among them, yes,” he nodded, and sipped, and assimilated the coffee inside.
“If Tamaki is buying a plane exclusively to fly his guests from Paris to Tokyo, we are going to sound ridiculous asking them for the money envelope. We don’t need the money envelope. We don’t need any of this,”
“No. Tamaki doesn’t need any of this. You do,” said Kyouya, pointing at her with one finger, the other four curled around the coffee cup. Tamaki pulled on an orange sweater with the serigraphed face of a French singer. “Ironically, if Fujioka was a household name, you could afford a very modest ceremony and reception,”
“I don’t care how people perceive me. It doesn’t matter,”
Kyouya leant back on Tamaki’s chest. His head was still lightly hooded with the duvet, his legs stretched in front of him, loosely wrapped in the soft covers. The coffee was working. “Then you will be entering into a contract with one of the most influential families of Japan with your eyes willfully closed. How dangerously naïve for a lawyer,”
“I don’t follow,”
“I just want to throw a wedding as beautiful as you are, that makes our guests as happy as you make me –“ said Tamaki, showing his palms. Kyouya pushed them away from his face. He could not see Haruhi’s body language properly, his vision being blurry and all, but the hand on the hip and the crossed legs tapping were not conveying joy at Tamaki’s love. Once again, she would only be won over with ice-cold logic.
“You are marrying the only heir to the first luxury hospitality conglomerate in the world,” Kyouya addressed the soft brown ovals of her eyes. “How do you think that the press –and not the best press, either- is going to say if you two go through with your quaint plan of signing some papers followed by a shared bowl of ramen,”
“They are going to say that we are being fiscally responsible in these times of crisis,”
“No. They are going to wonder why the Suoh heir practically hid his elopement with a girl with a scandalous father, a squalid bank account and a very ambitious career track,”
“Kyouya, I am not a gold digger,”
“I know, I know. Tamaki knows. Everyone who knows you and loves you, which is practically the same thing nowadays, knows. The problem here is that not everyone knows you. Unlike us,” Tamaki rested his chin on Kyouya’s shoulder, “You were not raised under the strict rhythm of press rehearsals and PR communicates,” Tamaki nodded. “And as such, you have no idea of how to groom your public image, because thankfully, so far it is inexistent. But what is visible is not very favorable. And if you go your way, it will not only hurt you, but also those around you,”
“Let me put it this way: what do you prefer? A few hours at your wedding, in a controlled environment, spent with selected photographers and handpicked reporters chosen from the best –and most amenable- journals in the world, or years of paparazzi following you around publishing everything they dig up about you and your father?”
Haruhi turned her back to them, and, her spine straighter than a cadet, checked her reflection one last time before leaving for work. In doing so, she came closer to the bed where Tamaki and Kyouya rested, and Kyouya could see that her dark business suit was at least a size too big for her, and an unflattering shade of beige. Then Kaoru had really been abroad for a while now –he was the one who was concerned with how her clothes fit her, as Hikaru was much more interested in taking her out of them and setting them on fire. He wondered what had specifically driven him away.
Kyouya caught her wrist as she passed by, and pulled her in bed with him and Tamaki. “This marriage proposal has upset you-“
“Kyouya!” protested Tamaki.
“Sorry – perturbed you – more than you realize. You are not thinking straight,” he pushed her shoulders around softly, so that she faced Tamaki’s blondness in all his clean, scented, casual morning glory. “He was afraid of bringing a ring in case you would send it back because it shone too much, and he knew that you were going to react this way regarding the wedding preparations. That’s why he brought me instead,” he set the empty cup of coffee on the table, cueing Tamaki.
Tamaki laced his fingers behind Haruhi’s neck and kissed her softly on the lips. She sighed, a grumpy “I don’t have time for this – my train is coming,” sound. Kyouya recognized himself in it, and smiled, hidden in duvet hood.
“He is going to be my best man. Let him take care of this,” Tamaki said. “S’il te plait,”
Haruhi turned her face away from her fiancé, so that her profile and her ear, found her way unto Kyouya’s lips. He barely traced the outer shell with his tongue, meeting Tamaki’s eyes, all dark purple and huge black pupils, before repeating, “You are not thinking straight,”
“I have not been more clear-headed in my life,” replied Haruhi, pulling away and failing to stand up, this time due to Tamaki’s palms sliding up her legs. “Unless you two, I have to be. I have to go to work,”