On the final flight of stairs to the roof, as the Football Club is roughly jostling their way to the front, Kyouya discovers the one jeopardizing weakness in his strategy: Kuze--President of the Football Club--will be the first to spot the contest trophy, and if Haruhi is in his path, there's no telling what he'll do. Considering his advantage of size, speed, and pure aggression, she doesn't stand a chance against him.
Gripped with sudden terrible apprehension, Kyouya surges forward, pushing at the rear echelon of football players, but they in turn crush him back into the stair railing. He's kept from stumbling backward by Hikaru and Tamaki shoving him from behind, regaining his balance just as Kuze slams open the door to the roof, and barrels through.
He hears shouting and curses, and the noise of a heavy splash as he clears the final steps, with Tamaki at his side. He knows who's fallen into the pool before his feet even touch the rooftop, but what he doesn't expect is the absolute rage which falls over him, at the glimpse of her small dark head sinking into the water, her hands grasping uselessly at the air. Next to him, Tamaki is already making a beeline for Haruhi, but Kyouya pushes him away.
"I'll see to this! You go for the crown!" He points to the alcove at the pool's opposite end, where a pair of statues (the Virgin Mary and an Angel) flank the winners' trophy: a brightly polished gold crown, set upon the seat of a high-backed throne. Just for an instant, Tamaki wavers in desperate indecision, but Kyouya pushes him again and he explodes into motion, running recklessly, headlong down the length of the pool after Kuze.
With the same unthinking haste, Kyouya throws his glasses aside, kicks his shoes off, and dives into the pool after Haruhi. His ears are filled with rushing water and his own thudding heartbeat as he fights his way downward, grasping towards the vague dark shape below him. He reaches, grabs a fistful of her costume and yanks as hard as he can, wrapping his other arm around her chest, and then kicking with all his might toward the surface.
They breach the water together, Haruhi struggling and choking, sucking in ragged lungfuls of air. Dimly he's aware of furious action happening at the pool's far end, but his only concern at the moment is that he has her, that she's breathing, and safe--albeit frantic--in his arms.
"Don't fight," he urges, catching his own breath, his heart feeling ready to explode. Her saturated robes must nearly double her weight in the pool, and it's all he can do to keep her head above water.
"I've got you. Just be still."
Luckily his words penetrate her blind survival instinct, and she subsides against him, allowing him to drag them both to the shallows. At the pool's edge she reaches for the cement rim, and for a moment he collapses half against her shoulder and half against the poolside, his legs trembling too hard to support him.
"Senpai!" she gasps, clutching his arm. The world is a blur without his glasses; he can just make out her wide eyes blinking at him, the shiny wet hair plastered to her forehead.
"Are you hurt?" he asks between heaving breaths, squinting to try and see for himself.
"I'm--I'm okay. I'm so sorry, Sen--"
"Don't," he interrupts, tightening his arm around her impulsively. "You shouldn't--."
A wild chorus of shouting erupts across the pool, but the purpose of the noise doesn't register with him at first. At that precise moment, his whole awareness is occupied by Haruhi, and this sudden, startling consciousness of her body leaning into his.
Oh, he has time to think. So this is what all the fuss is about.
And then reality falls on him like a slap; he realizes he's standing in a swimming pool fully clothed, and past the other end of the pool, someone has just taken the crown in the Cross Campus Ultra Race. Of course he can't see a damned thing without his glasses.
"Who?" he asks and Haruhi, understanding, murmurs, "Tamaki."
In the next instant, the rest of the Host Club are descending on the pool's edge, jubilant, and dragging them both from the water. There are towels and victory cheers, and Tamaki rushing full-tilt at Haruhi, as Mori-senpai silently presses Kyouya's glasses into his hand. He slides them on gratefully, but he must be in some sort of shock because he doesn't feel anything like he ought to right now.
When the day is done, the awards made official, the applause died away and all the players gone home, Kyouya is left alone with naught but his insomnia and hindsight for company. For most of the night he sits up in bed with the lights out, restlessly shuffling his deck of cards, and struggling to even the balance sheet of the day's events in his mind.
What it comes out to is notable profit against potentially catastrophic loss; the winning outcome against what could've been injury--or worse--to one of the Host Club's own. And in the weighing of each, Kyouya can't help asking himself whether he would have resorted to Kuze's final tactics, had their positions been switched.
He is inclined to think not; shoving a weaker, smaller student into the pool was an unnecessary and brutal act by any civilized standards (and bad strategy to boot, considering how it had motivated Tamaki). On the other hand, how culpable in the matter was Kyouya himself? He had deliberately sent Haruhi ahead of their group, directly into the Football Club's path. And it was his decision, no one else's, that left her vulnerable to Kuze's unpredictable temper.
His was an ambivalent victory at best, he decides in the bleak dark hours before sunrise. His plans had all worked, the Host Club is now celebrated schoolwide, and the Central Salon is theirs for the festival, where every parent and visitor will know that this was the famous top-class club that won the "Ultra-Race". This was the club that bested eighteen other teams, and emerged at the pinnacle.
Everyone has what they wanted, he thinks, tipping his hand, letting the cards scatter in a heap across his lap. I got what I wanted. So when will this start to feel the way winning is supposed to?
The answer, he admits after a difficult moment, is never. Because the things he was supposed to have wanted, are not in the end what he truly desires. And what irks him most, is knowing he bartered too much for an inferior prize, when something of far greater worth had twice been in his arms that day.
And I let her go.
He pulls off his glasses, pinches at the bridge of his nose, and sighs. In the end, what he truly desired most was not an option for him. And it is pointless to resent all the reasons this is so. Childish, to sweep the cards off his blanket to the floor, fling his glasses on the bedside table, collapse miserably across the pillows and succumb to the pang of loneliness twisting through him.
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