Victorian AU. In which Tamaki is an English gentleman (of a sort), Haruhi is his daughter, an English young lady (again, of a sort). And Kyouya? Kyouya is a tourist who is forcibly dragged into the...
i; the throatwart and the water lily
When she first met Tamaki Suoh, she thought he was an angel.
One couldn't blame her for it, truly, as it was winter, and the chill had dulled her senses. Her eyes were blurred by a mixture of grey snow (she had never seen white snow, just as she had never seen a clean blue sky) and tears. His hair was blond and overly bright, and his teeth and skin so white in a place where she was used to seeing black gaping holes instead of a mouth. She remembered that he was wearing a white tuxedo, with a white top-hat. It was memorable; everyone else was wearing black or grey and with umbrellas, but not he. The cloth was silk, that she could tell, and it was impeccably cut and spoke of wealth with just a look. '/It is a dreadful waste,/' she remembered thinking grumpily, '/that such beautiful white silk will be ruined by the snow and rain. How careless, but he is probably a noble, and I have seen no noble who cared for 'trivial' things as such./'
Her mother would be dreadfully upset if she had heard her thoughts, but she wouldn't and she couldn't tell her about it, so it was moot.
He turned to her, and she tensed, holding her knees to herself as she hid underneath the bridge. Greyish-green river water rushed past her, sending droplets into her face and clothes and she shivered at the cold. The angel (or was he a man?) squatted down to her, and his smile was brilliant. She looked up towards him, brows creased and folded like a handkerchief, and he leaned in closer. Backing up, she glared at him under matted bangs and he sighed.
"Little girl," the angel said, voice low and soft and kind, "would you like to visit my house? There is food and a warm fire..."
She blinked, once twice thrice, at the suddenly offer. "Why?" she asked, tilting her head back to stare into his purple eyes. 'Lavender' meant 'distrust and deceit' in the language of flowers, she remembered her mother reading to her once, a large, red leather-bound book on her lap, feeling warmth in every word. She remembered the thick, cloying scent of the pressed flowers taped to the pages, roses, acacias, marigolds, lavenders. She remembered the small illustrations on every page, the vines of the ivy, the thorns of the rose, the soft petals of the hibiscus. The book was an heirloom, but they had taken it away and she hadn't felt the warmth since, not even after three springs and summers of living alone.
The angel had lavender eyes, therefore he was no angel. He was a man. She felt oddly disappointed; she ought to have expected this, truly, for no angels would stop for a bedraggled, dirty child under a bridge on a downpour. Only men were silly enough to.
"Because my house is warm," the stranger said, smiling genuinely, lopsidedly, "and you look cold."
His smile was sincere and white; he was obviously a rich man, and she was cold. Her lips were bleeding; she could feel it when she pressed fingers to her bottom lip. The man reached down a hand, and she took it, staining white gloves. She gasped, staring at the damaged glove and pulling away, and said,
"I'm so sorry! I'll pay for this, sir, please don't send me to the workhouse-"
"Why would I send such a pretty little girl away?" the stranger was smiling, and she could detect no insincerity in his tone. "It's just a pair of gloves, don't worry about it. Come on, let's get to the carriage." he took her hand again, and she watch in morbid fascination and horror as the white glove turned grey and black under her touch.
The coachman gave the stranger an odd look when he led her into the carriage, and glared at her briefly when she seated herself on the expensive red leather seats. The cushion was soft, so soft that it sank down under her small weight. She pressed a hand against it and lifted it quickly, watching the imprint of her hand as it was framed by dirt.
It was oddly captivating to watch. Perhaps it was the stark difference between her brown-grey wool dress and the stranger's white silk, or the dirt under her fingernails and her matted black hair in contrast to his clean, manicured fingernails and his bright blond, or perhaps she liked to make a difference in this strange man's world, even though this was just a handprint on his leather seats.
Maybe she was just being childish and thinking far too much. This was what her father would say, anyway, and he would pinch her cheeks and smile at her. The carriage kept the draught out, and it felt fairly warm, but she was still cold, somehow. It was a cold that wasn't on her skin, a cold that was indelible no matter how much she might rub her arms. She did not understand it, but she knew that it hurt, somewhat, especially when she thought of Father and Mother and Family.
She didn't think of those often now; melancholia and sadness had no place in London's streets, after all. Not when every beggar had a tragedy to tell, and every street child would live tragic lives. She could not compare, she knew, and she did not want to. Competitiveness was not for her, as all she needed was food and clean water and a roof above her head when it rained (or snowed, for the matter).
"We're here," the strange man announced, and she jumped slightly, suddenly aware of his eyes on her. She bit her lip and exited the carriage as carefully as she could, but she still fell, tumbling on the steps that were too high for her small, short legs.
She felt a hand wrapped around her waist as the man caught her before she could hit the ground, and she bit her lip, blushing as she found that she had dirtied his clothing again. The stranger smiled at her as he set her on the ground so gently that she wanted to laugh, but she didn't, for that would be rude, and the coachman was watching her with sharp eagle eyes again, which made her feel so very uncomfortable.
Looking upwards, she gasped, a hand flying to her mouth (a lady, even a common lady, should never be so rude as to show her mouth to a gentleman, her mother had once said), The man's words were misleading, for this was not a /house/, it was a /mansion/, and though she was poor street trash, she could still tell the difference.
She didn't remember very much of what happened next, for she was busy trying to take in everything about the house at once. She knew, however, that she was hustled into a bath and her stained and torn dress taken from her. Her hair was cut and dumped into boiling water (she might have screamed here, but she was too busy staring at the ornate mosaic tiles and the claw-footed bathtub to focus much on the pain or her own reaction to it). The dirt underneath her fingernails was scraped out and her fingernails were ruthlessly cut until they were blunt. She was given clean clothes that were a little too big for her, but she didn't mind and she didn't care, because she now felt lighter than she had ever felt, even before her parents left.
It was the first time in four years that she had felt remotely like herself, and not like an animated doll, just walking through the motions of life in automaton.
She was pushed into a room, a beautiful room with windows from the ceiling to the floor, and saw the man sitting on the large dining table directly in the middle of the room. He grinned at her, a grin so wide that she wondered briefly, in a moment of silliness, whether or not it would split his face into two. But those thoughts were easily chased away when she realised that there was plates upon plates of food on the table, and the aromas of it were making her stomach growl. She hadn't eaten in almost three days, but she resisted the urge to run, and stared at the man (not pleadingly as she would have before the wash and the new clothes).
He nodded and she took it as permission to dig in, and did.
The food was delicious, and she ate as much as she could. Though it was unnerving to eat when someone was staring at her, she found that she didn't mind it so much that she could ignore her hunger. She sent an unintentional glare towards the man, and he chuckled, drawing back and eating his own (much smaller) share. She was relieved, but she didn't show it, for it was hard to have facial expressions when one was stuffing as quickly as one could into one's mouth.
"Little girl," he said once the meal was finished and the maids had taken the plates away. "Do you want to stay here forever?"
"Huh?" she asked, blinking at the suddenly question. Fortunately, she did not choke on her water.
"I want to adopt you," the man said, smiling that odd lopsided smile again. "Would to like to be my daughter?"
She swallowed, tilting her head to the side. It was surprising question, she admitted to herself, for not many nobles would care to have street trash for a daughter. But she was slowly learning that this man was unlike any noble that she might have known, for he was far kinder.
"But I don't even know your name yet, sir," she said honestly.
The man blinked, and then he threw his head back and laughed, so brightly that it could almost rival the sunlight shining from the windows. She turned her head away, thinking that he was laughing at her, and opened her mouth to apologise for the question. But he held up a hand, chuckles subsiding slowly.
"I apologise," he said, and she could see him biting his lips to hold back his laughter. "I haven't introduced myself yet, and here I was, asking you to be my daughter!" he shook his head, and she realised that he was laughing at himself and not at /her/, and she smiled in relief.
He stood up from his chair and gave her a small bow, still smiling, and said, "My name is Tamaki Suoh, my dear little lady. May I enquire about yours?"
"I don't have one," she said, quite honestly, "but I will accept being your daughter if you will accept having a nameless child."
"Nonsense!" he cried, stepping forward quickly and gripping her shoulders. "It is almost a crime against God Himself that a beautiful girl like you has no name! You have agreed to be my daughter, child, and I shall give you a name."
He pulled a chair towards him and whipped out a piece of paper and a pen. All of the sudden, he seemed to be filled with a sort of frenzied energy and she could only blink as she was swept up into it. He wrote furiously on the paper, getting ink on his hands somehow, before lifting his head up again.
"I shall call you Haruhi," the strange man, no, /Tamaki/, said, smiling. The smile was bright, but it was a more subtle brightness, and she could see his satisfaction in it.
"What does that mean, sir?" she asked, cocking her head to the side. She had never heard of a name like that before, and it sounded strange and exotic on the man's tongue.
"Call me father," he ordered, flicking a finger across the tip of her nose. "Haruhi means 'spring day'. I thought it to be rather fitting," he pushed the paper towards her. "This is how it is written."
There were three large squiggles on the paper, and below it, in a large, loopy handwriting, was '/Haruhi/'. She blinked at the squiggles, for they seemed to have nothing to do with her name, and pointed to it, "What is that, father?"
"It is a Japanese writing system, named hiragana. Your name is in Japanese, Haruhi, just like mine. Haru means 'spring', and 'hi' means 'day'. 'Haruhi', together, means spring day, and it is a very apt name for you, don't you think so?"
"But it is winter right now, sir, and spring is a month away," she said, confused by his knotted logic.
He broke into a grin so bright that she was, for just a moment, almost afraid that it might blind her, "Winter is just a prelude to spring, is it not?" he tapped her lightly on the nose, and she scrunched it, eyes crossing as she tried to look at his finger. She exhaled explosively, and he laughed.
"And you are my spring sunshine, little Ha-ru-hi," he laughed, loud and infectious, and she couldn't help but smile back brightly. The cold was being chased away, and she was feeling warm again. Warmth from Tamaki's, /father's/, hand surrounding her small one, warmth from his laughter, warmth from the sunlight in the room and the warmth of his eyes. She felt clean inside out, and she laughed too.
Things would be fine now, she knew somehow. She had hit rock bottom, and now she was climbing back up to the top.
ii; the yellow acacia and the hellebore
This was what most people knew of Tamaki Suoh:
He was the only son of Elizabeth Dewing, and his father was Yuzuru Suoh. He was the half-blood, for his parents were a wealthy English lady and a foreign business man. He was the fruit of an affair, conceived out of wedlock. His father had left the family ever since Suoh was six years old, and his mother was ill, supposedly 'recovering' in a countryside cottage. He had an adopted daughter whom he had picked up from the street, a dirty girl who was no lady and who would never be. He was as charming as a Frenchman and just as welcome. He was overly-casual. He was no gentleman, no matter how hard he tried, and he tried too hard.
For most of the world, Tamaki Suoh had a single purpose: to be the subject of rumours, of gossip, of ridicule. They saw him as nothing else.
This was what Haruhi knew of her father:
Tamaki Suoh was a child born from two people who were deeply in love. His mother was a beautiful woman, with long, wavy blonde hair, dark blue eyes and a perpetual smile. Her voice was soft and low and lovely, especially when she sang underneath her breath as she played the piano, her long, slim fingers dancing across the ivory keys. She sang him to sleep every night when he was a child, and he had never forgotten her voice nor any or her lullabies. He had a rather selective memory like this; he would never forget the most important things in life, but yet the small, essential things, he tended to forget.
Tamaki's father was not a business man. He was a Japanese noble, one whose bloodline could be traced back to the Imperial family, and one that any of the British nobility would kill for. He wasn't one to brag about it, however, for it wasn't really important to him; it was simply the unchangeable truth. His father was his /father/, nothing less and nothing more, and that was all that mattered to him. He had told Haruhi once, though, that he wanted to meet his father's side of the family, just once.
His parents met in 1824 when his mother was betrothed to another man. Haruhi didn't know when and where and /how/, as her father had never told her that, or he had, and she had forgotten. But it didn't matter, for the conclusion was still the same: they met, and they fell in love.
It was a whirlwind romance; Tamaki had said, once, a dreamy smile on his lips. She had smiled indulgently then, feeling, not for the first time, that she was the parent and her father was the child. Tamaki was rather naÃ¯ve in this way, she knew. His parents had fell in love, and there was a great scandal when she broke off her betrothal to the man she was supposed to marry and married Yuzuru instead.
The scandal grew to immense proportions when people found out that she was pregnant during her wedding day (a rushed, quiet affair with just the bride, the groom, the priest and the bride's mother), which dragged the Dewing family name through the mud. But Elizabeth didn't care, for she was a woman in love, and such things seemed so very trivial at the time.
The whole family moved to the Yorkshire after the wedding, where they lived until Tamaki was six years old. His father was called back by his family - his father was dying. That was when, Tamaki had said, voice low and almost melodramatic as always, everything had started to go wrong.
His maternal grandmother was apparent extremely displeased with her daughter's choice of a husband and the state of the Dewing name. She had never spoken her thoughts out loud, for it was rude for a lady (and she was a lady) to go against the head of her house. Doing such a thing would only stain the family honour more, and so she refrained. But once her son-in-law had left and she was the head of the household once more, her rage 'exploded like a volcano', to directly quote Haruhi's father.
The family was uprooted again, this time back towards London. Elizabeth was coerced, somehow, into writing a letter to her husband, telling him she was breaking off their relationship, and he was not to try to find her. She was forbidden to leave the house and every letter she wrote was read by her mother before it was allowed to be sent. Tamaki's grandmother restarted the family business, and though the Dewing name had an indelible scar due to the incident, it was slowly rising back up the society again.
Elizabeth was heartbroken, and clung onto Tamaki as a lifeline and as a reminder of his father. She told him many, many stories about his father and of Japan, stories that Tamaki eventually told to Haruhi, who suspected that most of these stories were exaggerated or simply made-up, but she didn't tell her father this, for who was it to say that the tales are untrue, after all? Her father was the one with the fascination with Japan, after all, and he was rather knowledgeable. Haruhi supposed that it came with how he placed his father on an incredibly high pedestal.
In Haruhi's personal opinion, Elizabeth had spoiled him and overindulged him, and it was a wonder that he did not turn out to be an arrogant brute. Perhaps it was because he saw his mother slowly grew ill and lose her will to live, and he had never learnt to be selfish for his grandmother ruled the household with an iron fist, looking down on him as 'that foreigner's son' and never accepting him as a 'grandson' or even 'my daughter's child'.
This was what Haruhi also knew of Tamaki Suoh:
He was far too kind, far too compassionate, for his own good.
His grandmother died two years after Haruhi was adopted of an illness she could not remember and her 'uneducated tongue' could not pronounce. There was a funeral, a quiet, solemn affair, and Tamaki was the only person who cried. His grandmother had taken his father away, had taken his mother's health away, and she had refused to acknowledge him as her grandson even when she was in her deathbed.
And yet, he was the only person who visibly grieved for her. Not even his mother, who had sat, pale and silent, beside the coffin during the priest's eulogy, had cried.
Haruhi had asked why.
"Does it really matter?" her father had said, dabbing at his tears with a handkerchief as he sniffed discretely. "She was family to me. Even though she decides not to think of me as her grandson, I think of her as my grandmother. Isn't that reason enough to grief?"
There were certain times that Haruhi wondered if Tamaki was real, for he was too kind, too gentle and too dramatic. Sometimes she felt that he was more of a character in a play than a man, but this was not one of these times. Watching her father as his tears soaked the white silk handkerchief until it was grey, she smiled, feeling relief in her heart at the realisation that he was very, very real. He was not perfect, far from it, but it was his faults were what made him so /real/.
For the first, and certainly not the last, times in her life, she was so very glad that Tamaki was real and himself, and that he was her father. After all, if Tamaki was not 'Tamaki', then she wouldn't be 'Haruhi', would she?
iii; the coreopsis arkansa and burgundy rose
The year was 1851 and the location was the Crystal Palace, England's Queen Victoria's gift to her husband, Prince Albert.
'/Only the royalty,/' Haruhi thought wryly as she exited from the coach, ignoring her father's offered hand, '/would think that a building would be a nice gift./'
They toured the Palace, and Haruhi marvelled silently at the high, domed ceilings and sheer amount of /glass/. She knew precisely why, now, that it was named the Crystal Palace. There was nothing except glass, reinforced by black grids of iron that managed to complement the glow instead of dulling it. There were technological marvels that she knew not the name of, huge, black machines that seemed to hum with some sort of strange, alien energy. There was a massive loom, the plaque in front of it boasting that it was an automaton, and Haruhi couldn't help but worry slightly for the sake of the weavers when she saw it.
The sight of the sun when she exited the Palace was a relief. The high ceilings and the glass did nothing to alleviate the heat caught by the large amount of people crammed into a small exhibition room. In fact, Haruhi was sure that they have aggravated it, for greenhouses were made of glass, and the heat inside one was intense.
"Father, may we take a walk in the park?" she asked, fanning herself with a rather flimsy paper fan as she dabbing lightly at the sweat that had gathered on her face and neck. "The heat is killing me, and there is shade there."
"Of course, that is a good idea," Tamaki replied, smiling down at her as he pulled the brim of his top-hat lower. He took off his gloves and stuff them in his pocket, and waited for her to start walking before he followed, wiping his forehead and head.
They had entered the park located right next to the Palace and had just seated themselves under the shade when Haruhi heard a voice, growing louder as the owner walked towards their direction.
"/Hikaru to Kaoru wa doko da? Ware-ware wa.../" It was the same language she had noticed her father speaking sometimes, but it sounded completely different somehow. Perhaps it was because when Tamaki spoke, it was in a halting tone, but this voice carried confidence, and Haruhi could tell that he was intimately familiar with the language.
She turned towards her father, opening her mouth to speak. He wasn't there, and she only blinked once before her eyes followed blond hair as Tamaki strode over towards the direction of the voice. Her eyes widened, and she stood up hastily and followed, lifting the hems of her skirts as she did so.
"/Ano.../" her father was heading straight towards a group of three men, and Haruhi quickened her steps as he bowed towards them before speaking, "/ano sa, gomen nasai, demo kimi-tachi wa Nihon-jin desu ka?/"
"Your accent is atrocious," one of the men said in clear, fluent and unaccented English. "And to answer your question: yes, we are Japanese. Why do you ask?"
Tamaki laughed sheepishly, "Ah, I'm sorry, but my Japanese is rather out of practice... But, really, you're a Japanese?" here he leaned forward, grasping the man's hands tightly. Haruhi's eyes widened slightly in horror (she was, however, completely unsurprised, for she had came to expect such casual, and rude to most, behaviour from her father). "You are really Japanese?"
"Yes, I am quite authentic, I assure you," the stranger said dryly, and she had the feeling that he was laughing at both of them - Tamaki for his behaviour, and Haruhi for her obvious helplessness. He did not seem to mind Tamaki's hands on his wrists, though, for which Haruhi was relieved.
"Sir," her father said, smiling earnestly as he leaned forward. His smile brightened even more, though how it had eluded Haruhi. "Sir, will you accept an invite to my house for tea? I profess to be truly interested in the Japanese culture and, well," he shrugged, smile turning sheepish, "I have never seen any Japanese before, so..."
The stranger raised an eyebrow, "I see. I will accept your invitation, but on a single condition."
He nodded, his mouth set into such a firm line that Haruhi was sure that he was trying very hard not to laugh, but she didn't blame him. Tamaki's exuberance was sometimes like a puppy's; hard to refuse, but rather amusing in some ways.
"I would like to know your names first, please," he said, eyebrow still raised even as he chuckled softly into his hand.
"I'm so sorry!" he exclaimed, blinking in confusion before he raised a hand and rubbed at the back of his head in embarrassment and... Haruhi blinked.
Was that a /blush/?
"I'm Tamaki Suoh, and this," he held out a hand towards her, and Haruhi took it to be her cue to curtsey. She managed not to wobble as she had, but since it had been over nine years since she had been adopted, this was surely expected. "This is my daughter, Haruhi Suoh."
"Pleased to meet you, sir," she lowered her head.
"Suoh?" the stranger said in a tone so odd that Haruhi jerked her head up, staring at him. But he simply shrugged as he returned Tamaki's bow, "My name is Ohtori Kyouya... no, I suppose I should introduce myself as Kyouya Ohtori, no?" he smiled slightly, a side of his mouth quirking up in amusement. "Please to meet you, Suoh-san, Haruhi-san."
He straightened himself and waved a hand towards his two companions, "And they are my friends, Haninozuka Mitsukuni," the shorter, blond one nodded, smiling widely, "and Morinozuka Takashi," the taller one inclined his head towards them.
"Pleased to meet you," the two chorused. Morinozuka's voice was low and soft, almost like the sound of a great bass, while Haninozuka was chirpy and high-pitched, like a flute's.
'/What a strange pair,/' Haruhi thought idly as she curtseyed again and murmured her courtesies.
"Please hold on," Ohtori told them, smiling congenially at her father before he turned towards his friends. He spoke in rapid-fire Japanese, so fast that Haruhi could catch nothing except certain words; 'Hikaru', 'Kaoru', '/gaijin/' and '/omoshiro/', in particular, and that were only because she had heard these words before.
Tamaki waited for him eagerly, almost bouncing as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. He looked akin to a puppy that was waiting for his master to take him out for a walk, and Haruhi had to stifle a giggle at the sudden mental image that the comparison gave her. It was certainly a very suitable comparison.
Soon enough, Ohtori bided farewell to his friends and Tamaki hustled them all towards the coach, grinning widely all the while. They received a few odd stares due to her father's enthusiasm, but Ohtori didn't speak, and seemed to be contenting himself with watching Tamaki.
'Children should be seen and not heard,' her great-grandmother had reprimanded her once. She usually thought this piece of 'advice' to be old-fashioned, but it came in true usefulness sometimes, and this was such a time. She decided not to speak during the whole ride back to the manor, and tuned out the voices of both her father and Ohtori. She watched them silently, and they did not notice her gaze.
Ohtori was obviously affluent and, Haruhi supposed, he was attractive. She placed him in his late twenties to early thirties at the very most, in the same age range as her father. His black hair, so dark that it almost gleamed in the sunlight, was combed neatly. He had a pair on thin, wire-framed glasses seated on his nose, and when he tilted his head in a certain manner, the sunlight would glint off the glass, hiding intelligent grey eyes. His coat and trousers were starched and pressed, and there wasn't a wrinkle to be found on his grey waistcoat either. A silver-topped black cane was held in his hands, and Haruhi was completely sure that it was simply for the effect, for Ohtori did not look like he needed the cane for anything else.
Except for his pale skin and slanted eyes, he seemed very much like a normal Victorian gentleman and not like Japanese or a foreigner at all. But Haruhi knew that physical appearances are deceiving. Living with Tamaki for years had taught her this, at least.
There was a lilting, somewhat musical rhythm to Ohtori's words, as if he was used to speaking another, more harmonious, language. He was also constantly, discretely, shifting his position on his seat, and Haruhi could tell that he was much more used to sitting in another, very different, position than this. It was the little things, more than his physical appearance or his knowledge of the Japanese culture and language, which convinced her that he was indeed a foreigner and not a con-man who had decided to take advantage of her father's fascination.
She shifted her gaze to Tamaki, and her eyes widened.
He looked happier and more animated than he had ever looked in this past year. Her father was not made for the strict societal rules of the Victorian society, and living in England was obviously chafing him. Haruhi knew that he was constantly suppressing his wanderlust and his need to visit Japan, and that he was growing sick and tired of the various hypocrisies of the Victorian court. But he couldn't leave England for Japan, and now...
Well, she could say that Japan had come to him, but she thought that was just a part of it. There was more, but what this 'more' was, she couldn't tell. Not yet, anyway.
Tamaki's eyes were animated as he spoke, hands waving around haphazardly, but he managed not to smack Ohtori in the face with them, so she remained silent. His eyes had a strange sort of glow to them when he was excited about a new prospect; the purple darkened to violet, and they lit up, almost like candles. How this was possible, Haruhi didn't know, and she didn't care enough to find out. There were certain mysteries about her father that she need not know.
Tamaki looked alive again, expression open instead of closed, and he was wearing his heart on his sleeve proudly once more. It relieved her more than anything to see his emotions almost literally flowed from him, for he had been trying to hide them for the past year, and it was truly unhealthy for him.
'/Well,/' she thought, leaning back to her seat with a small smile, '/this trip wasn't the waste that I had thought it would be, after all./'
iv; the oats and the purple lilac
Haruhi didn't know just how exactly Tamaki had managed to convince Kyouya-san to play the biwa to accompany the piano, but he had managed to do it, and here they were now.
It was three months after they had first met Kyouya-san, and he was staying at a guestroom here in the manor. Haruhi had no idea how her father had managed that either, for Kyouya-san was usually too polite, and she knew that he despised charity.
Quite obviously, Tamaki was a force of nature that couldn't be ignored even by the most stoic of men. Mori-san was the proof of this.
Tamaki was seated behind the piano, his hands resting on the ivory keys as he watched Kyouya tested his biwa. The Japanese instrument reminded her somewhat of a cello, but it was very different at the same time. The biwa had four frets (if that was what they were called, Haruhi wasn't sure), and four strings. The most obvious difference, however, was in the elaborately carved back. She could clearly see a phoenix, which was the representation of Kyouya-san's family name, and thorny vines climbing up its sides. The engraving were coloured with a whole palette of colours, and it was so beautiful that it took Haruhi's breath away. How much it had cost, she wondered mentally, to make something this gorgeous?
"This is called a 'Satsuma biwa'," Kyouya-san had explained, voice low as he strung it with careful hands. "I've had it since young. It is an old friend of mine..." his voice trailed off, and he smiled a soft, gentle smile. It was oddly uncharacteristic for him, and Haruhi couldn't help but wonder if there was a story behind that smile.
He seated himself on a high-back chair, and nodded to Tamaki. They started to play.
Haruhi gasped, and her hand flew involuntarily to her mouth as she listened. The melody they played was something that was almost impossible to describe and she, for one of the very few times in her life, was speechless. It was the soft press of the piano keys against the low thrumming of the biwa strings, something that looked so simple that they were no recognisable beat, no obvious rhythm, but it was so much more than that. It was... it was...
It was a haunting song, like a half-forgotten memory that you dreamt about and have forgotten the next day. It was like a lullaby that your mother had sang to you when you were a child, and that you found yourself humming for no discernable reason. It was something like an 'I love you' that had went unheard. It was something of all those combined, mixed together and stirred to form a song that tugged at her relentlessly, and she found herself afloat being pulled involuntarily by the tune.
Her vision blurred, and Haruhi felt the tears in her eyes overspill down to her cheeks. She wiped them away, half-confused, for it wasn't a sad song. It was melancholic, wistful, and it spoke to her of everything that should not be left unspoken, but /was/. It honestly wasn't something she would cry about. This was completely unlike her.
But she lifted her eyes and wiped them, clearing away the tears, and she smiled to see her father and Kyouya-san looking in each other's eyes. Tamaki was smiling, a barely noticeable lifting of his lips that was so completely different from any other smile Haruhi had seen. And Kyouya-san was smiling back too, a crooked smile, and she could sense, somehow, that they had found something they never realised they had lost.
Haruhi smiled and caught Hani-san's eyes, and he nodded to her, his grin a subdued version of its usual brightness. Mori-san did not turn to her, and his eyes remained glued to the pair playing, but Haruhi fancied that she could see the tears in his eyes as he listened. The music continued, rising to its crescendo and she turned to gaze upon the players again.
'/When,/' she wondered as she watched them, '/will Father notice?/'
Only Time will tell.
v; the foxglove and the gillyflower
Haruhi wished Hitachiin Hikaru and Kaoru, Kyouya-san's second cousins, would leave her alone. Really, was she so fascinating that they couldn't stop badgering her with questions about Britain and its people? Maybe it was possible that she was the first foreigner - '/gaijin/', they had called her - who was willing to indulge them in their various idiosyncrasies, or perhaps it was the fact that she could tell them apart barely two weeks after knowing them or it was something else entirely. But, quite honestly, she wished they would stop draping themselves on her in public during a rather prominent dinner party; it was indecent.
"Haruhi-kun," Hikaru said, coming to her left shoulder.
"Haruhi-kun," Kaoru echoed from her right.
"What are those old women doing, loitering around the one of the refreshment tables? Didn't you tell us that it's more polite to just choose a cocktail and go?" they chorused, their voices low as they whispered into her ear. Kaoru pointed discretely.
Haruhi blinked, her eyes drawn automatically into that direction. It wasn't like the twins to notice little things like that, especially not when it didn't concern them in any way... Ah.
Those 'old ladies', as Hikaru and Kaoru had christened them, weren't old as much as 'middle-aged'. But, more importantly, Kyouya-san was directly next to them, and he seemed to be rather interested in what they were whispering about, though he did not show it. Haruhi was barely able to tell herself.
Normally, she wouldn't be worried about Kyouya-san listening to a pair of married ladies who were chit-chatting. However, this particular couple were frowning heavily as they snuck ill-disguised glances towards her father. They were also two of the greatest gossips Haruhi knew of, and that said quite a lot, given how many Victorian ladies were given to gossip.
She shrugged; oh well, it wasn't as if Kyouya-san would take any gossip to heart, and, besides, she had enough trouble without having to court for more.
Such as the group of girls descending on her, for instance. And just where had the twins gone?
"Miss Suoh," one of them said. /Judith/, if Haruhi remembered correctly. "Who are those handsome boys you were speaking to?"
"They're identical twins, aren't they?" another said. '/Philomena, most likely,/' Haruhi thought.
"How odd, we have never seen them before!" a third exclaimed. Edith.
She sighed softly, and then turned towards them, meeting their expectant gazes.
'/It is very strange,/' she reflected, '/that young ladies like them are willing the approach this 'street trash' just for the names of handsome boys. I wonder if their mothers approve./'
"They're foreigners, here for business and the Great Exhibition," she told them, holding back a slight, immature grin as their faces fell visibly. "Their names are Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin, and yes, they are twins. Do you wish to speak to them? I can help you call them-"
"They can't be foreigners!" Edith cried, interrupting her. She looked so downtrodden that Haruhi almost couldn't stifle her laughter. "They have red hair!"
Haruhi shrugged, eyes narrowing impatiently, "Do you want me to call them over?"
"No, no," Philomena, who was probably the leader of this little operation, shook her head frantically, dark blonde curls smacking against her cheeks. Haruhi wondered, idly, if that was painful. "There's, there's no need to, Miss Suoh. Please excuse us."
The third girls curtseyed slightly to her, and Haruhi stifled a sigh and a laugh as they left. She could distinctly see their mothers scolding them under their breaths. How very ridiculous.
Sometimes Haruhi felt like she was older than her sixteen years, and this was one of those times. It was hard to believe that these girls were the same age as her, because she couldn't see how they could gather up so much energy to gossip about people and to obsess over certain gentlemen or boys. It all seemed so very tiring to her; couldn't they find something else better to do?
She supposed not, for they were most likely pampered from birth. Haruhi knew her jadedness came half from her life before Tamaki found her and half from the fact that her father had no idea whatsoever how to manage the household accounts. It was hard to relate to others your age when you couldn't care less about marrying and men because you were worried that your adopted father would bankrupt himself without you.
But Haruhi knew that even if she had a chance, she wouldn't change a single thing. It was better this way, really, for most men she knew of bore her.
She preferred having her father to any man, any day, though other men not make her worry so much about them. This was a fact.
It wasn't exactly proper for a lady to be without a chaperon in public, but eavesdropping wasn't exactly proper either. Haruhi was doing both.
The fault was hers, she admitted to it freely, but she placed all the blame on her overabundant curiosity. Surely an effect of spending too much time with Tamaki, she thought wryly.
Scooting closer, she took care to hide herself behind the many bushes and trees that surrounded the spot. She was at one of the many public gardens nearby the mansion, and it was quite honestly an accident that she had come across this conversation.
It wasn't an accident that she had decided to stay and eavesdrop, however, but that point was moot anyway.
"Is he Suoh's son, or is he not? It is truly frustrating to have to guess, instead of having a definite answer..." Kyouya-san was saying, and Haruhi blinked.
'/Suoh... Is he talking about Father?/'
Hani-san hummed softly, non-committal, and Mori-san didn't speak.
"But does that really matter?" Kyouya-san continued, almost as if to himself. Haruhi would have thought he was having a monologue if not for his companions beside him. "Whose son he is, I mean. He is still himself, after all, before anything else."
"You don't usually think that of people," Mori-san murmured, and Haruhi caught herself smiling at the words.
"Do you really think so?" Kyouya-san tilted his head, his brow creased.
"Kyou-kun usually judges people by their reputation and first impressions, but you don't do that with Tamaki-kun," Hani-san chirped, large blue eyes glinting with an intelligence that most did not expect of him, for he looked very much like a child. Haruhi knew he was not, however, just like her father wasn't an idiot no matter how much he liked to act like one.
"True..." Kyouya-san admitted, voice so low that Haruhi had her strain her ears to hear him. She edged closer, careful not to step on any branches or dry leaves so as not to alert them of her presence. "I have been acting very differently, more so than usual, in all of my dealings with him. For one, I consider him a good friend, even though I have known him for just over three months."
Haruhi smiled and almost laughed, for Kyouya-san seemed to have fallen into Tamaki's natural charms. There was no one who was immune to his smile and his eyes, Haruhi knew. She had tried to resist countless times, and had almost always failed.
"I have heard rumours, though, of his rather... unsavoury reputation. I wonder if I should believe them; they did come from rather legitimate sources, after all," Kyouya-san said, voice calm as always, though Haruhi could note the hint of doubt beneath the usual confidence. It was as if he couldn't believe his own words, and she held her breath.
"Do you trust him?"
"Do you trust Tamaki-kun?" Hani-san persisted, blue eyes narrowed and intense.
"Well, I...." he paused, and Haruhi could see him visibly chew the question over, "yes. Yes, I trust him."
"Then you don't have to worry about any rumours or anything, Kyou-kun," Hani-san stated. "You trust him, don't you? If there's anything necessary for you to know, I think he'll definitely tell you about it. You don't have to rely on the words of a few obaa-sans who have too much time on their hands."
"Even if you don't trust him that much yet," Mori-san said, "you can trust your heart and your instincts. He doesn't seem to be the type to lie."
Haruhi blinked rapidly. Did Mori-san's eyes just shifted over to her in that instant? She pressed herself closer to the tree, away from his line of sight. Just to be cautious. It wouldn't do for her to be found out, after all.
Kyouya-san chuckled quietly, shaking his head, "I guess you two are right. You always are, aren't you?" his tone was fond. "It was a good decision on my part to talk to you two about this."
"You can always depend on us, Kyou-kun," Hani-san smiled, bright and cheerful, and Mori-san nodded his affirmation.
His eyes shifted, and landed on hers directly. Haruhi nearly jumped, and, seeing the questioning and slightly disapproving gaze, curtseyed the best she could and left quietly, tiptoeing her way through the undergrowth and ducking her head so as not to knock into branches. Her dress had suffered; there were several small leaves and branches decorating it now, but that was a trivial matter.
'/Well, I suppose it should be Father's turn soon... hopefully./'
Haruhi didn't have to hope, or even wait, for very long.
Tamaki came to her that night, wringing his hands and frowning as if he was afraid that his world had ended when he slept. Haruhi smiled at him and bookmarked her book; she knew she wouldn't be able to do any more reading tonight.
But she didn't mind, not this time when she knew that he honestly had something on his mind. It wasn't one of those rather ridiculous 'father-and-daughter bonding sessions' that he sometimes got into his mind to have, and she was thankful for it.
"Haruhi," Tamaki started, and then paused. He bit his bottom lip and chewed on it, fidgeting with his hands again. Haruhi didn't sigh, though she wanted to, and instead she prompted him,
"Haruhi," Tamaki said again, hesitantly. "Is it... right to wish to court a man?"
"Not by society's rules, it isn't," she replied honestly, "but I believe that 'right' is a subjective word. Does it feel right to you, to want to love him as more than a friend? If so, then it is right, no matter what society says. Though I do discourage you from trying to court Kyouya-san, Father."
He looked at her, expression askance as he stood, staring at her with wide eyes, "How did you know that it's Kyouya? And... and, why shouldn't I court him, my dear daughter?"
Haruhi sighed, but she was smiling. Really, her father was so dense sometimes. "Who else could it be?" she cocked her head to the side, and her smile widened. "And you shouldn't because Kyouya-san is a /man/, Father, as you have said. Courting is mainly used for English ladies, and Kyouya-san is neither English nor a lady. I daresay that he would be quite insulted if you tried."
"Ah," her father said, sounding disappointed, "I suppose that roses and tulips are out of question then, and I'll have to return Mother's necklace to her jewellery boxes..." he pouted, brows creased into a frown. "Is courting really out of the question?"
Haruhi laughed, and shaking her head, half-frustrated, half-amused. Why did he bother to ask her those questions if he was already picking out the bouquets and jewellery already? His heart had already given him his answer, he didn't need hers.
"Yes, it is out of the question. I don't think he would have understood the significance of the flowers anyway," she wouldn't put it past Kyouya-san to know, but Tamaki didn't need to know that. Things were already complicated enough to explain. "Grandmother's necklaces are very much unsuitable gifts for Kyouya-san, Father. I think all you need to do is to tell him how you feel. That will be the greatest gift of it all, don't you think so?"
His expression cleared, and he laughed, "Right! You are so very right as always, Haruhi," he smiled at her, and leaned forward to kiss her forehead. "I was correct to ask you, my dear spring sunshine."
Haruhi blushed slightly, involuntarily, even as she smiled. Tamaki's joy was infectious in this way. "I don't think I helped very much, Father. Everything I have said is what you already know, after all..."
"You might be right," he said cheerfully, and pecked her gently on both cheeks, "but you are a great help to me, more than just tonight. I know what to do now, and it's all because of your words. So let me thank you properly, yes?"
She nodded, grinning as her father drew her into a tight hug. She buried her face into his shoulder, her grin softening into a smile as he squeezed the breath out of her.
'/It's only fair for me to help when you have done so much for me, Father, and I wanted to help as well. You should know that by now./'
vi; the red tulip and the ambrosia
Here is an excerpt from Kyouya-san's journal:
21st September 1851
I have miscalculated.
This is surely the first time I have written these words, in this journal or otherwise, but the truth remains the same: I have made a miscalculation. Several of them, in fact.
All of these have to do with one Suoh Tamaki.
Fact: I considered Tamaki to be an idiot when I first met him, and that opinion has remained the same even till today. Rather it has simply been... added upon.
Fact: Suoh Tamaki looks, acts, and sounds like an idiot, and I think him as one, /most of the time/.
Fact: At first glance, he seems to be a typical gaijin who is thoroughly fascinated with, and yet utterly ignorant of, the Japanese culture.
Fact: He has an extraordinary ability of making any venture, no matter how absurd or far-fetched, a success by a mixture of overwhelming charm and charisma, a small amount of skill, and a majority of pure, dumb luck.
Perhaps it had been somewhat... impulsive of me to call on Tamaki this evening without an advance call, but I gambled that I will be well-received, and I was correct. However, I did not plan the events which follows; rather, they were taken out of my hands. This is part of Tamaki's extraordinary charisma - to sweep anyone he is talking to off their feet. Not even I am immune to it. Quite the contrary, in fact.
This evening's events were just tantamount to that fact.
It had started off normal enough despite my sudden appearance, small, useless talk that is deemed 'polite' by this society while I ponder how to approach the topic I wish to talk about.
"My mother is of English nobility," Tamaki said, all of the sudden. It was sudden, for we were on the subject of teas (Earl Grey and Darjeeling, in fact, but these are trivial facts).
"I beg your pardon?" I asked, and my confusion must have been plain on my face for he replied thus,
"This is what you've came to find out, right? My heritage, I mean," he is very matter-of-fact about it. "I don't mind telling you."
I nodded, and oh, here is another fact on Tamaki: he is a surprisingly insightful person when he cast off his mask of an idiot. This is the fact that had shock me the most when I realize it, though it should not be so. In hindsight, much of what Tamaki had done showed his insightful nature - a casual phrase here, a word there, all of these had gone past my notice until now. I wonder why.
"Father's name is Suoh Yuzuru," Tamaki continued, "and Mother had always said that he is an Imperial noble. I don't know how true that is, though." he laughed, and he seemed embarrassed for some reason. "I mean, I don't think it is right to not believe one's /mother/, but I have my doubts..."
"No," I interrupted him, though I had, and still have, no idea why I did. "Your mother is correct; Suoh Yuzuru is of Imperial blood. I can vouch for that..."
"You know my father?" Tamaki's hands grabbed my shoulders, and he looked as if he wanted to shake me.
"I know of him," I said, looking straight into those large, violet eyes he must have inherited from his mother, for no Japanese I know of have eyes this striking. "It is, perhaps, the first reason why I befriended you."
I looked away, unwilling to meet his eyes. His hands left my shoulders, and he sat down beside me. I did not turn. "My father... I am sure you haven't heard of the Ohtoris, but we are quite a prominent group amongst the lesser nobility. My father had heard that Suoh had a son in England, and he asked me to look out for you when I come here for business. It is for the family's sake, he had told me, and..." I took a deep, shuddering breath, for I have never confessed this to anyone, not even this journal until today. "If we can gain leverage on Suoh-san, we can better our position among the Imperial court. And what better way than his son?"
He did not speak, and I took it as encouragement to continue. It is as if I was driven by a compulsion to... what was the phrase? Yes, to 'come clean' to Tamaki. Is this one of his abilities as well?
"I had heard that you were in London, and so I decided to visit the Great Exhibition in London, despite my personal lack of interest in it. It was pure luck that I met you, even though I had doubted that you were Suoh-san's son, until now, that is."
"Why?" Tamaki asked, the first word he had spoken ever since I started.
"Although you are rather like him in temperament," I admitted, half-wry, "you look almost nothing like him. There might be a chance, no matter how small, that there are other Suohs, and Suoh Yuzuru is not your father."
Tamaki nodded, and then he gave a wide, bright smile, "I'm like my father? Really?" his eyes had widened, and he looked so much like a puppy that I was sure that he would wag his tail if he had one.
"Yes," I confirmed.
"Mother had always said that I don't look like Father, that I look very much like her," he said, and started to swing his legs, unintentionally kicking me on the ankles a few times. "She's always sad about that, and I always feel vaguely guilty about it even though she has never blamed me. That's why..." he trailed off.
"That's why?" I prompted, unsurprised at the sudden turn in the conversation. This is simply how Tamaki is, I know that now.
"That's why I have never left England, not even for a vacation," he shrugged, and played with his teacup, turning it in clockwise. The sound of porcelain scraping against porcelain wasn't pleasant. "Mother got very ill, you see, after Father left. She has never been in the best of health... so I've never left. I'm always afraid," here he bit his lip, "I'm always afraid that she might die while I was away, so... so I never tried leaving, even though I really want to go to Japan to try to find Father. It's selfish of me to want to, but..."
"It is not selfish," I interrupted him. "It is every son's wish to see their Father after he left, is it not?"
"Yes," he nodded, decisively. "You're right..." he brightened up considerably, and almost seemed his old self again. This must have been weighing on him for quite a long time. It is an unreasonable thing to feel so pleased that someone has decided to unload their burdens on you.
"What is your family like?" Tamaki asked, and I obliged him.
"I have two older brothers and an older sister... all three of them are married to spouses who give our family a better position in politics and in society both. Father had orchestrated all three, and I believe he is searching for a wife for me when I left Japan," I clenched my fists, "I.... I do not wish to get married, as illogical as this sound. Out of all of my siblings, only my sister is truly happy with her husband, and I am happy for her. My brothers have taken to the companies of geishas in order to escape their wives. I don't want to share their fate.
"Father is strict, and though I will never have a chance to be heir," here, I have to choke back to bitter laugh, "he expects very much from me. I am the third son; I must be able to meet Father's expectations and hopes without crossing the line and outshining my brothers. I found this a challenging game in my youth, but it has gotten tiring and old of late. But I am unable to."
I lean back into my chair, picking up the cup of cold tea and staring into its surface, "These few months here with you, Tamaki, is possibly the longest respite I've had of this 'game'. Strangely enough, I have no wish to go back," I sighed. "It is ironic, isn't it? That I wish not to go back home to Japan and wishes to stay in England, while you want to leave to go to Japan. How contradictory..." I shook my head, hiding my bitter smile behind the teacup.
"Why can't you be heir?" Tamaki asked, as guileless as ever. "If your Father expects so much from you, why can't you outshine your brothers? I believe that you can do it, Kyouya, if you try."
"I can't try," I said, and placed the cup back on its saucer. My hands did not tremble. "It is unseemly," I paused and took a deep breath, "to step beyond one's station. My station is to be the third son, to work under my brothers when my eldest brother is named heir. I should not, could not -"
Tamaki's hands grabbed my shoulders again, and I wondered why I didn't notice that he had stood, "Those are boundaries you set for yourself, Kyouya. You can always try, even though the 'rules' said you shouldn't. But I believe the rules are just /guidelines/, and they can be bent. Just because you are born third doesn't mean that you can't be the head of the family!" he leaned forward, earnest and optimistic. I simply sat there, dazed, as I stared into his eyes. No one had ever told me this before, but that is no surprise, for no one had ever noticed my unhappiness at my own situation.
"Kyouya," Tamaki continued, "you can be heir, just as Haruhi can be my daughter and a lady even though she was born from commoners. You can always change your own station, and you can succeed. I believe in you."
"Why?" I asked involuntarily. "Why do you believe in me so much when we have only known each other for just a little over four months?"
Tamaki shook his head, smiling, "Time is not a measure of friendship, Kyouya. I feel as if I have known you forever, and I would like to beg your pardon in advance for this." I blinked, opening my mouth to ask when 'this' was when he leaned in.
He kissed me.
Shock is quite an understatement to describe what I felt, what I still felt, even now. It is the only reason why I didn't respond to his kiss and only sat there like a statue. It was purely surprise, and a sudden realisation, that disallowed me from responding.
Tamaki soon pulled away, looking uncertain and hurt and crushed all at the same time. He opened his mouth, presumably to apologise, and I could only smile as I pulled him down, wrinkling his shirt in the process, and kissed him.
The satisfaction of watching those violet eyes widen, astonished and pleased, was almost overwhelming. I had to choke back a laugh.
Was it really so surprising that I would return his feelings after all we had just shared and what we had experienced together over the past months? Perhaps he is really as oblivious as I first thought him to be.
He pressed his lips to mine firmly, licking along my bottom lip and I gasp. This is beyond any of my experiences, though it obviously isn't beyond Tamaki's, thus I let him take the lead.
This is the beginning of something. Something significant, something important, but I am not sure /what/.
Oddly enough, I do not care. Not when Tamaki's lips were on mine, even though it was barely half a year since they had met. I tried to care, for I am a meticulous person by nature, when I am right here, recording my thoughts and experiences into this journal, but I find that I cannot. It is the beginning of something/, and that /something doesn't require a name. I am, admittedly, reluctant to call it love. There are too many meanings to that word.
Still, if I am one of those English 'maiden', I would describe Tamaki's kiss as being swept off my feet. It certainly felt like it, this airy, light-headed feeling I had, when even the dirty, polluted London air seemed so much clearer and it was easier to breathe, just because of Tamaki's proximity in that moment. The description is very much romantic and impractical, completely unlike myself, but it is the truth.
It is proof of how much Tamaki had changed me over the past four month, I know this.
That knowledge was far from unpleasant, however. Quite the opposite.
vii; the cinquefoil and the harebell
The letter came a week after Haruhi had smiled after she was told of the change in her father and Kyouya-san's relationship.
She did not remember the exact words, but she knew it was bad news the moment she saw Tamaki's widened, shocked eyes as he scanned through the letter. He shoved it into her hands before rushing out of the room, slamming the door behind him. It was then that she knew something was very wrong. Her father had never, not in her knowledge, slammed the door as hard as he did then. The sound echoed throughout the room like an ominous welcome.
The letter's sides were crumpled from his clenched hands, and she read through it as fast as she could. There was a single line from it that she could remember, and it was imprinted in her memory to this day:
'Please hurry, sir, for we do not know if your honoured mother would be able to live beyond three days...'
"What's wrong?" Haruhi turned and saw Kyouya-san, now a permanent resident of the manor, at the door, looking as calm and unruffled as ever. She walked towards the door, handing the letter to him on her way out. She tried her best not to crumple it as her fists clenched.
The hallways rushed past her as she ran to her room, shutting the door behind her. As quickly as she could, she took the first dresses she saw from the closet and shoved them into the nearest suitcase she could find. Still, she had the presence of mind to choose only the simple, practical ones; she would be travelling a rather long distance, after all.
Her father was waiting for her when she went back to the entrance hall, suitcase in one hand and her hand on the other. His clothes were mismatched - a navy blue hat with a dark grey suit and a black waistcoat - but he did not seem to notice. Kyouya-san was at his side, speaking to one of the maids, but he turned towards her the moment she entered.
"I've informed the coachman and he's readying the horses now," he told her quietly. Haruhi wondered, at the back of her mind, how he could be so calm.
Tamaki nodded, and Haruhi saw his hand reach down to grasp Kyouya-san's in a grip that she was sure was painful, but Kyouya-san didn't complain.
A maid rushed into the room, hair flyaway, and gave a small curtsey, "Sirs, Miss, the coach is ready," she seemed to be struggling with her words. "Godspeed, Master Tamaki. Please hurry."
Tamaki nodded to her, giving a watery smile even as he rushed out of the door, dragging Kyouya-san behind. Haruhi followed at the same hurried pace. The coachman was already holding the door open, and they clamoured into it.
The carriage started to move, and her father was practically bouncing on his seat in anxiety. In his hand, the one not gripping Kyouya-san's, he was clutching the letter, reading it over and over again.
Haruhi shut her eyes into slits, pretending to doze. There was an uneasy, tense silence between them, full of unspoken fears, and she had no idea how to break it. She had no idea what to say to comfort her father, and she was too close, much too close, to this situation to view it objectively even if she wanted to.
She watched them: Kyouya-san squeezing Tamaki's hand, whispering to him quietly. He plucked the letter from her father's hands and folded it, tucking it into his pocket, and Tamaki did not protest. They spoke softly, voices so hushed that she was unable to catch it even though she was seated less than a foot from them. She watched as her father slowly calmed down from Kyouya-san's words, his breath evening until he no longer looked as if he was running. Kyouya-san kissed him chastely on the lips, and Haruhi's lips stretched into a small smile despite her worries.
'/Kyouya-san will be good for Father,/' she thought, eyes slipping close as she dozed off. '/And Father is good for Kyouya-san... it is a win-win situation, as Kyouya-san will say. They can take care of each other. God knows that they can't take care of themselves./' Her smile widened unconsciously, and she fell into an uneasy doze to the background noise of hoof beats on pavement and Tamaki and Kyouya-san's soft voice.
Her sleep was plagued by nightmares that she couldn't remember.
Haruhi was awoken by Kyouya-san's hands on her shoulder, shaking her, and the abrupt stop of the hoof beats.
They had arrived.
The sun had set, and there was only a single light to be seen - the light from the windows of her grandmother's cottage - and the surroundings were pitch-black. They had driven for hours, it seemed, for it was early morning when they had gotten the letter.
The nurse, her face drawn and tired, ushered them into the cottage. She led her father and Kyouya-san into a room, and motioned for Haruhi to sit. She left, and Haruhi could vaguely smell the slight odour of alcohol and coffee on her.
Dawn, the sun's rays lightening the sky into blue, and the door opened. Her father and Kyouya-san stepped out of the room and Haruhi nearly gasped. Tamaki was crying into a kerchief, and Kyouya-san's arm was wrapped around his waist, holding him close as they walked towards her. What struck her most, however, was that Kyouya-san's eyes were dry, but they were rimmed red - he seemed to be holding back tears.
"She asked for you, Haruhi," her father whispered and gave her such a small, broken smile that her heart clenched. She stood and went in without a word.
Her grandmother looked like a wraith on the bed, pale and wan with heavy dark circles under her eyes. She was thin, so very thin that Haruhi was sure that if she had the capability to go outside, she would be blown away by a light gust of wind.
'/Is this what death looks like?/' Haruhi thought, biting her lip as she inched nearer to the bed. She bowed awkwardly before she remembered that she should curtsey, and tried to do both at once. Stumbling, she caught herself, straightening up before she could fall face-down to the floor.
Elizabeth was smiling, a pale ghost of her usual brightness. She spoke, so softly that Haruhi had to strain her ears to hear her, "There's no need to be so formal, Haruhi. You're my son's daughter, therefore you are my granddaughter. There's no need to stand on ceremony with your grandmother, child. Come closer."
Haruhi stepped forward, coming to kneel on the side of the bed. Now that she was closer, she could see the bright blue eyes, so much like her father's, still full of life.
"Take care of your father," Elizabeth told her, her voice frail but, somehow, Haruhi thought that it sounded like an order. "I don't exactly approve of a man, but my son has always bypassed these society rules even before he was born. That man, Ohtori, will be able to take care of him, but men are useless, aren't they, Haruhi? You have to take care of him for me. I beg this of you."
"You don't have to beg me, Grandmother," Haruhi felt tears prickling in her eyes, and she closed them, turning her head away so as not to meet Elizabeth's gaze. "I will take care of Father. I think Kyouya-san can do a better job of that than I ever can, but I will try my best to take care of them both. I won't fail you, Grandmother."
"Good," Elizabeth replied, sounding peaceful. Haruhi blinked her eyes open to find a faraway look in those blue eyes, "I'm glad... so glad that Tamaki is able to find people who can take care of him. God knows," she raised her hands, shaking, to cross her heart, "that he can't do that himself."
Haruhi managed a shaky smile as tears overflowed and spilled down her cheeks, leaning forward as her grandmother lifted her head and pressed thin, dry lips onto her forehead, "Thank you, child. You have no idea how much that relieves me. Now please call your father and Ohtori in, would you? I want to see them again."
Her father's eyes were filled with tears, but he held them in, like a gentleman should. Kyouya-san's lips were trembling ever so slightly, and their hands were interlocked in each other's tight, so much that Haruhi could see the whitened knuckles. They gave her grandmother shaky, unsure smiles, and she smiled back. Haruhi choked back a sob as she closed her eyes.
'/At least,/' she thought, half-numb with pain. She had never thought that the loss of a person could hurt so much. Not when she barely knew her grandmother, not when she knew she would die one day. '/At least... she died surrounded by her son and loved ones. At least she died in peace, with all her affairs taken care of. This is what matters, isn't it?/'
viii; the marigold and the forget-me-not
For Haruhi, the rest of the week was passed in a remarkably grey, colourless haze. The funeral and the wake were a mass of memories that she was unwilling to unravel, but the one thing she clearly remembered was thinking that her father's eulogy was beautiful, and she had shed tears during it. The rest of it was an emotional blur and receiving murmured, mostly insincere condolences. She had no wish to think of them.
Two weeks after the funeral, Tamaki announced that they were migrating to Japan. Kyouya had taken care of the papers already, he had said, fumbling with his hands nervously, and it would be a new beginning for us, and... Haruhi had cut off his explanations by kissing his cheek quickly, and she told him "yes, why not?'.
She had never placed much on patriotism, no matter what the Queen and the majority of England had said. To her, what mattered was not the country nor the /location/, but the /people/. She never had many friends in England, and all of those she had were merely acquaintances. Most of her friends (her /family/, she knew the twins would correct her) were Japanese. She would be leaving nothing behind here.
So here they were, on this great steamer ship today. She had never been on one before, and everything was new to her. The heat of the boiler room, the chatter of the passengers, the card games played in the 'recreation room', the bunk beds, the view of the sea from the deck, the seafood that was newly caught from the sea in the afternoon... everything. She took a deep breath, inhaling in the salty sea air, and smiled.
Kyouya-san had told her about finding Suoh Yuzuru (their names were spoken this way in Japan, he had said, and told her to get used to it) and Haruhi had agreed, especially when she saw her father's face, the large, bright grin, so familiar and very much missed.
He had not smiled like that ever since her grandmother's death.
'/This is an end of the first story,/' Haruhi thought, and smiled as she held onto her sunhat to prevent it from being blown away, '/and the beginning of the next./'
the end of spring should
not bring grief, for it is just