Categories > Anime/Manga > Ouran High School Host Club > Almost Home, Country Roads

Almost Home, Country Roads

by scottishfae 0 Reviews

Starting a new job in a new place, Haruhi is forced to deal with a completely new set of rules living in the country. Will she be able to survive living in small town life?

Category: Ouran High School Host Club - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Humor,Romance - Characters:  - Warnings: [!] [?] - Published: 2008/02/28 - Updated: 2008/02/28 - 7671 words

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Title: Almost Home, Country Roads
Author: scottishfae
Rating: T
Genre: AU/AR
Pairings or Characters: Haruhi, Kyouya, Mori, Honey, Kaoru, Hikaru, Tamaki, Satoshi, Chika, OCs
Warnings: AU/AR, OOC?
Summary: As a newly graduated lawyer at the top of her class, Haruhi Fujioka has the world available for her. Then why does she choose to become a district attorney in the small, country district of Toohaku? New faces, and old, Haruhi is faced with new issues, new friends, and a new lifestyle as she settles into her new, country abode. Can she last in a district where all four, small towns are interconnected in the business of the other and where a handful of “eligible bachelors” have decided to vie for the newcomer’s attention?

A/N: This is an ongoing story written for the LJ Ouran community: ouran_contest. This is my first multiple chapter fiction for Ouran, and I’m trying to keep the characters as “in-character” as possible. I do feel, at this point I’m failing, and this first chapter may get rewritten. My goal is to have each additional chapter (all chapters will be “stand-alone” to some degree) be another challenge from ouran_contest.
Theme: Haruhi Fujioka

-----

Immediately she dropped her bags, looking around the large building with a mixture of curiosity and awe. When she had agreed to take the new job offer, including moving to a large, yet country town in the middle of nowhere, she had no idea that it would involve such…splendor.

Well, perhaps not so much splendor, but definitely living in a lot larger space than she was use to. Her family apartment was incredibly tiny, especially for two people. But her dad and she had made it work…

…But this was nothing less than incredible. She walked in further, looking at the slightly aging walls, the smell of decaying tatami mats* making her want to gag, but still, it was a /house/. Four rooms on the first floor, two by two separated by a walkway to the back, and an upstairs with four more rooms. The front yard was small and overgrown, and the backyard looked to be just as overgrown.

She blinked, bringing a worn handkerchief up to her nose to try and blot out the horrible smell. She walked around carefully, listening as the floorboards creaked. The kitchen was old-fashioned but in fairly good condition, considering the realtor had said the house had been empty for almost ten years now. She smiled, her eyes lighting up with excitement. /Perhaps Otousan* will want to come live out here with me/.

She dismissed that idea. He loved city life. Even with all the space she had found herself with, for an exceedingly cheap amount of money, he would never last out here.

“Hello?”

Haruhi jumped, turning around in the kitchen and walking into the hallway. Down by the door, where her bags were still strewn, was a portly woman with a kind smile. “Sorry, the cabbie was worried when you didn’t come back for the rest of your stuff.”

Haruhi’s eyes widened. “My bags, excuse me,” she said, bowing politely.

The woman waved her off. “Don’t worry, I had my boys fetch the bags for you. The cabbie said you paid for the trip in advance?”

“Ah yes, I’m afraid that was the only way I could convince him to take me this far out from the normal routes.”

The woman smiled and nodded. Haruhi walked down the hallway, smiling in return, and for the first time seeing the woman. Her dark brown hair was kept up in a traditional knot at the back of her head. A knee-length skirt hung from her waist and a long-sleeved shirt covered her arms to just past the wrist.

“Good afternoon,” Haruhi said politely, bowing again. “I am Haruhi Fujioka.”

“I know dear, the whole town does,” the woman said, bowing as well.

“Not just this town,” a boy said, coming in with a couple of bags thrown over his shoulder.

“Yeah,” another said, slightly shorter than the first. “The whole district is talking about the woman from the city coming to live in podunk Misasa.”

“Boys!” she woman admonished. “I apologize. Let me introduce myself and these little brats.”

The boys whined at the comment. They put the bags down with the others and waited to be introduced.

“I am your neighbor, Kameko Tanaka. These are my sons, Hiroshi and Michi.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Haruhi replied, nodding her head to both boys in turn.

They beamed at her, shuffling their feet back and forth, eager to ask her thousands of questions. Kameko stopped the avalanche before it could happen. “Are these all of your things?”

“Mostly, yes. My father is going to ship a few more boxes of non-essentials, but for the most part, this is it.”

“But, you don’t have any furniture.”

She smiled at Kameko before reaching down to grab some of the luggage. “I grew up in a small apartment, we didn’t have room for any extra furniture, so there is none to spare now that I’ve left.”

“Well then, we’ll have to go shopping for some. The market in Yurihama is open tomorrow, we can go there and, at the very least, get you more tatami. These will need to be replaced.”

“Obviously,” Haruhi laughed.

“Hiroshi, Michi, why don’t you help Ms. Haruhi out. Go around and take up all the mats and stack them in the backyard.”

The boys grumbled in unison but jumped over the bags and ran into the first room, both uprooting the mats. All four of them soon were reduced into heavy coughing as 10 years worth of dust, dirt, and microbes were thrust into the air. Kameko had the boys stop and open all the windows, then put on masks over their mouths and noses, before continuing to rip off the mats. The two women walked outside to the front yard.

“So you’ll be the new district attorney? I’m afraid you won’t find a whole lot of work here and all just small things, at least compared to the city.”

“I was aware of that when I took the job, but honestly, I think this kind of work is just as important.”

Kameko looked over at the young woman, studying her with keen eyes. “Well, Ms. Haruhi, if you want to come and deal with small squabbles of farmers and small-town merchants, then you’re welcome to.”

“In all honesty, I thought this district might need me the most. Nationally, this district rates as one of the highest in wealth, at least of the districts without any major cities, but most of that wealth is distributed between four families and that is quite disturbing to me. I thought it was worth investigating.”

The elder woman laughed, hiding her hand behind her sleeve-covered hand. “You can investigate all you want, but you won’t find much. You’re right, there are five families in the district that contain most of the money, but the rest of us do just fine on our own. We aren’t poor towns, nor are we left wanting for things that we should have. Yes, we don’t have all the luxuries those families have, but most of us are fine.”

“Most?”

“There will always be grudges against people who have from those who have not. It’s the way of the world, but you shouldn’t concern yourself with those people. They’re simply looking for an easy way out, someone to blame that their lives aren’t as glamorous as others.”

“Every place, no matter city or town, has those types of people.”

Kameko stood, patting Haruhi’s hand in the process. “Wise words,” she said. “I need to return home to begin making dinner. You can send my boys home whenever they’re done, or whenever you get sick of them.”

Haruhi laughed, standing as well to look into one of the open windows. “I can’t believe this entire house is for me.”

“I’m sure it is amazing for someone who has lived in such a small place for so long. Though, we have many of very nice, eligible bachelors in the area…”

“Ah, no,” Haruhi said, shaking her head. “I may be able to do many things, but dating was never one of them.”

“No time like now to learn,” Kameko said. “Since your kitchen is unusable at the moment, you must join us for dinner. You can meet my husband and brother at the same time.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude—”

“Nonsense. I’ll be expecting you!”

Kameko leaned into the house to yell at her sons to behave. They echoed responses that were too mumbled to understand. Straightening up, she bowed again to Haruhi before walking down the stairs. She was stopped by Haruhi calling her name.

“I’m sorry. You said there were five families with all the wealth, but my research showed only four.”

“It’s a common mistake. There is the Ootori family in Kotoura, the Suou family in Yurihama, the Hitachiin family in Hokuei, and then the Haninozuka and Morinozuka families here in Masasa.”*

“Two families here, how did I not catch that?”

“The Morinozuka family use to be servants of the Haninozuka but somewhere along the way, the two families intermarried and both retained lands and wealth. While they’re definitely two separate families with influence and power…well, old habits are hard to break, aren’t they?”

Haruhi nodded, noting the new information to be filed away with her existing research later. “The youngest son of the main branch of both families are in the same grade as Hiroshi. The heirs are around your age, probably slightly older. They’re very kind people, if you’d like to meet them, I’m sure I can arrange something.”

“Thank you,” the younger woman said. “I would be grateful.”

Kameko smiled again and turned to go home and start dinner. Haruhi watched her and called once again. “No matchmaking!”

She watched as the other woman began to laugh cheerily walking down the narrow street, just barely paved, into the house right next door. Haruhi turned inside to see how the boys were doing. Michi was sitting in the hallway, where there were no mats, and Hiroshi was still busy trying to pull a mat up. They had already cleared the upstairs.

“You two are really good at this,” she said, going to sit down next to the younger boy.

A ripping noise preceded the tatami mat being violently taken from its holding spot and both it and Hiroshi went flying across the room. Michi started laughing hard, while Haruhi walked over to make sure he was okay. Dazed and confused, the boy stood, with the help of the young woman, and they made their way to the yard to deposit the last of the mats.

“That was a pretty fast job. I think you two need an award.”

This perked both boys up and they looked at her expectedly. “Is there a convenience store close to here?”

“Everything is close by in this town,” Hiroshi said.

“There is a grocery store about two blocks from here,” Michi added.

“Well let me grab my wallet and we’ll walk over there before dinner and grab something sweet.”

“You like sweets, Ms. Haruhi?”

Haruhi ran in and grabbed her wallet from underneath an old, falling apart school bag. She thrust it into her back pocket and grabbed the keys. She walked out and locked the door. Both boys looked at her oddly as she did that. “No, I don’t really like sweets, but I bet you two do, so we’ll go get them.”

The boys cheered and ran out of the yard to the street. She called them to wait up so that she wouldn’t get lost.

-----

Haruhi stood in the middle of the small room that was now her new office. Compared to her house, this place was exceedingly tiny. It made her appreciate the new house she had found.

“You’re our new ‘big city’ lawyer?” an elderly man asked from the doorway.

She turned to look at him and nodded. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. I hope you’ll stay longer than the last one.”

With that he departed. Haruhi walked to the door to watch him as he walked down the stairs and into the restaurant that was directly below her office. The smells of traditional, homemade food wafted up from both the street and the thin floors and walls of the building.

A small blond boy was climbing the stairs, smiling brightly. His attention was on a tall, dark-haired man who was walking behind the other. The two didn’t look anything alike, but Haruhi got the impression that the taller was looking out for the shorter one, as family often does.

“Hello,” the boy said, finally noticing her. He waved vigorously, smiling at her. The taller man nodded his greetings.

“Hi,” she said, politely.

“Are you the new district attorney?”

“Why yes I am,” she said, motioning for them to enter.

“Hello.”

Haruhi caught herself from repeating the greeting again. She walked to an electric kettle kept on a dusty table in the corner of the room. She opened it, and wrinkled her nose. It would need washing before it could be used. “I apologize, I don’t have any tea to offer you.”

“It’s okay. Ms. Yumi has good tea, and wonderful cake.”

Haruhi smiled, knowing the owner of the restaurant below already. She had held the keys to the upstairs office.

“I’m afraid that I don’t have any spare money at the moment, to purchase some of Ms. Yumi’s food.”

“Did you spend it all yesterday? I heard Ms. Kameko took you shopping in Yurihama. Did you meet Tamaki? I know he was really excited to get to meet you.”

Haruhi shook her head, looked at the blond with a curious gaze. She knew the name Tamaki, he was the half-French, half-Japanese heir to the Suou family, much of the ire of his paternal grandmother. “I’m sorry, but who are you two?”

The blond smiled but apologized for his rudeness. “I’m Mitsukuni Haninozuka, but you can call me Honey. And this is Takashi Morinozuka.”

“Mori,” the other man corrected.

The last names instantly clicked for Haruhi, already having done her research. Except for the small blond who had called himself Honey. “Excuse me, you said your name was Mitsukuni?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, I must have my information wrong. I was under the impression that the heir of the family was named Mitsukuni.”

“Yup, that’s me.”

“But—the records show that…how old are you?”

“ Twenty-six.”

Haruhi froze, blank a few times, then moved over to her desk and sat down in her chair. “/You’re/ twenty-six?”

“Yup, so is Takashi.”

“But—you’re…I mean, you look so…/young/.”

Honey laughed brightly, walking over to one of the chairs in front of her desk and taking a seat. “I get that a lot.”

Haruhi laughed slightly, still a bit dazed at the revelation. “I bet. So you’re both the heirs of the families of this town? I’m glad you stopped by, I wanted to introduce myself to both of your families.”

“If you meet one of us, you meet both of us,” Honey explained.

Mori stood by the door, looking out the window and only occasionally looking over to where the two of them sat. “Is he expecting trouble?” Haruhi whispered.

“Nope,” Honey explained, not hiding the conversation. “That’s just Takashi. Plus, he thinks you’re pretty.”

Both Haruhi and Mori blushed violently and turned their heads. Honey laughed happily, swinging his feet in the chair. “You should come to dinner tonight! My cook is amazing, and he makes the best desserts.”

“Ah, thank you, but I have dinner plans already.”

“Oh,” Honey said, his face falling. “Well, then, you should come now and have some cake. There is always some for lunch too.”

“I really do appreciate the offer, but I really need to work through the day and get this office in…working order.”

“So it’s true…?” Honey asked, looking over at Mori with sad eyes.

“What’s true?”

“You…you really don’t like sweets?”

Haruhi was caught off guard and stood up. “Wait, how did you know that? I only told Hiroshi and Michi that two days ago.”

“Small town,” a new voice explained.

“Small district,” the other corrected.

“Word travels fast,” the both ended.

Haruhi looked over at the door where Mori had straightened to look down at two new people. They were identical, twins obviously, with only slight attire differences to separate the two from each other. Red hair caught the morning light.

“Hello,” Haruhi said, politely.

“Hi,” the two said, skulking in and prowling over to the desk. They circled her, looking her up and down, before declaring their interest.

“These two are Hikaru and Kaoru,” Honey explained.

“Hiitachiin,” Haruhi said, remembering the names. They were the only two children of the main Hiitachiin family, and it seems like they were a handful.

“What brings you over to Masasa,” Haruhi asked.

One of the twins had sat her chair, while the other had taken a seat on her desk. The old wood of the furniture groaned at the added weight. Haruhi eyed it wearily, afraid that it would break.

“Masasa and Hokuei are close neighbors, and we’d thought we step in to see the newest addition to the population,” Kaoru explained from the chair.

“You’re much more…/drab/ than we were expecting. No glitz or glamour. You dress just like an every day commoner,” Hikaru bemoaned.

Haruhi’s face fell to a blank expression. She replied in an equally blank tone: “Geez, thanks. Now if you’ll please leave my office.”

Both men looked up and laughed. Kaoru jumped out of the chair to throw an arm around the woman. “What are you talking about Hikaru, she’s /working/, of course she must dress in a style suiting a /country district attorney/.”

Haruhi picked up the arm around her and dropped it. Kaoru looked surprised as she walked around them to address Honey and Mori once again. They were watching the exchange with a mixed interest of curiosity and humour.

“I apologize,” she said to the wealthy elite of Misasa. “But I’m very busy. May I ask you to come back later in the week, after I’ve had time to settle in?”

Mori nodded, taking the hint that was brewing just below her brown eyes. He and Honey walked over to the twins and each grabbed an arm. The two Hiitachiin knew better than to struggle against the pair and walked out with the others.

“We’ll be back, Haruhi Fujioka,” Hikaru called.

Haruhi rolled her eyes. /It seems that no matter the size of the town, the rich will always be more than just slightly annoying/.

She paused and looked at the now unoccupied door. /Well most of them/.

-----

It was true. They did come back, all of them and with extras in tow. Her office had been cleaned up, though it still needed a desperate coat of paint, and some new furniture. But then, so did her house and that was going to come first, she figured.

Haruhi was looking through some paperwork sent to her by the attorneys at the prefecture level. It wasn’t anything vitally important, but work enough for her to dive into. She had set up her laptop on the old, rickety desk, a few pictures of her family, both living and deceased, taking up some of the spare space, and office supplies taking up the rest. Large, metal filing cabinets had been dusted and oiled so they opened easier. The contents needed reorganizing, again, a project for a rainy day. The table with the electric kettle was now clean and stocked with supplies for herself and for any visitors she may had.

She hadn’t, however, expected so many visitors so soon. Especially ones who didn’t need her services at all. She looked up from her paperwork to see a smiling Honey and stoic Mori. She waved them in, smiling slightly and standing. Before they could take more than two steps into the room, the Hiitachiin twins barged between them and into the office, followed by a blond, taller than Honey, and looking desperately envious at Mori and Honey. Another man walked in, more calmly than the others. He took in the room behind glasses, taking notes in a notebook he carried at his side. This man she knew very well.

“Kyouya Ootori,” she greeted, a hard edge in her tone that hid none of her opinions of him.

“Haruhi Fujioka,” he replied. “It’s been too long. And what pleasure did I have to hear that you would be the DA for this area. How…/suiting/ for you.”

Haruhi eyes narrowed and she looked at him with spite. “Suiting or not, why are you here? I had heard you took a highly esteemed position in Tokyo.”

“I did,” he said, but didn’t expound further.

The others shuffled uneasily at the two until the taller blond finally burst. “Kyouya!” he moaned. “Why didn’t you tell us you knew her already?!”

Haruhi jumped at how high the man’s voice reached and she shifted to look at him carefully. He, Tamaki Suou, she also knew, but only by reputation. It seems the last DA had left after his fiancé had left him…for Tamaki Suou. And the rumours didn’t stop there. It seems, like his father, Tamaki had inherited the natural gift of flattery and charm.

“Hello,” Tamaki said, switching from his childish behavior to a countenance that just oozed charm. It made Haruhi want to gag.

“Good afternoon,” she said, walking away from him to sit back behind her desk. “Is there something I can do for you all?”

“Yes,” Honey said. “Let’s go eat at Yumi’s!”

A little taken by the invitation, she looked at the group who were all waiting for her reply. “All of us?”

“Yeah. It’ll be fun. We can all get to know you better.”

Haruhi sighed. “And of course all of you are already good friends, correct?”

They all nodded. She sighed and sat back in her desk. There was no avoiding the outing. The district was too small and she would need as many friends as she could in such a close-knit community. She looked over to her mum and dad, taken years before she was born. They smiled at her, unknowingly encouraging her and giving her confidence. “Fine. I could use some coffee.”

“Coffee? It’s already afternoon.”

“There isn’t such a thing as a wrong time for coffee, trust me.”

Kyouya snorted, withholding his comment and, again, following the group out of the office. He closed the door behind them, eyes on Haruhi as he followed down the stairs.

-----

The group sat uncomfortably squished into a booth that should have, at the most, only have seated five. The twins and Tamaki had been wrestling for a position next to Haruhi, but Mori and Honey had other, more kind, plans for her. When they had approached it, Mori had immediately slid into the booth. Honey pushed her in next, he sliding in right after. Tamaki pouted and made a big show of being denied to sit next to the “princess,” a comment Haruhi had felt rather insulted by. Ignoring the commotion, Kyouya took the opportunity and slid into the booth, leaving himself plenty of room, regardless of the table’s size.

“So, Haruhi,” Kyouya said, as they waited for their food. “What brings you here, /really/?”

“I was offered a job and took it,” she replied, dryly.

She took a sip of her water, glancing outside at the passing people on the street. There were never tons of people out there, a fact that disturbed her. In the city, you were never without want for people.

“It seems like a poor position for someone who was so esteemed by her professors.”

“And what about you? You never answered why you came back home.”

Kyouya’s condescending smirk fell into a tight grimace and he dropped his questionings. The twins spoke up for him, however. “Kyouya’s the third son, and the fourth child,” Kaoru explained.

“But the Ootori family is known for being intelligent, devious, and ambitious and everyone, minus the sister, has left for jobs elsewhere,” Hikaru continued.

Haruhi blinked filling in the rest of the puzzle. Kyouya wasn’t the heir of the family, but if the other sons had left, then his presence over the estate was important. It made sense, though Kyouya’s participation in such an antiquidated custom was not.

“It seems odd, for someone who was known for getting what he wanted, for you to settle for a life here in the country.”

The conversation at the table, as small as it was to begin with, stopped completely. Kyouya looked at her, a glare from the sun hiding his eyes behind his glasses. “There are some things in life that can’t be fought.”

Haruhi’s head cocked to the side, studying the man carefully. “Can’t be? Or have you simply lost sight of the path?”

Tamaki smiled, hiding it behind his glass as he took a sip of his own drink. “Beautiful words, don’t you think Kyouya?”

“Shut up.”

The group, minus Haruhi, laughed at the expense of their bespectacled companion. Kyouya returned to looking outside, looking uninterested to what was going on around him, though Haruhi knew that wasn’t the truth. In her experience, there was very little the man before her didn’t notice.

“Ms. Haruhi,” a voice shouted at the entrance of the restaurant.

Moments later a smiling Hiroshi was beside the table with two other boys. “Chika,” Honey greeted, reaching over to attempt to hug the dirty-blond boy to Hiroshi’s right. Chika, side-stepped the move and instantly dropped to a fighting stance. Haruhi watched as the other boy stepped behind and hit the dirty blond over the head.

“Satoshi,” Mori said, making Haruhi jump.

The now named boy smiled and waved brightly. “Hi Oniisan*,” he replied.

“Hello Hiroshi, aren’t you supposed to be in school?”

The boy beamed. “It’s lunch time; our teachers let us out to eat.”

“Oh? That’s a nice convenience. We had to eat in our school cafeteria when I was your age. Or bring our own.”

“It would be polite,” Kyouya interrupted, his voice unusually clipped. “If introductions were made, as it seems that our newest residence hasn’t met everyone here.”

Hiroshi looked over the table strangely. He played with the end of his uniform shirt uneasily, fraying one of the hems slightly.

“This is Chika—”

“Yasuchika!”

“My little brother,” Honey explained.

Chika crossed his arms, turned his head, and thrust his nose in the air. It became quite obvious to Haruhi that the little brother wasn’t too fond of his elder brother, though for what reason, she wasn’t sure of.

“And this is Satoshi, Takashi’s younger brother.”

“Oh yes…” she said, remembering what Kameko had told her the day she had arrived. “Well, it’s nice to meet you both. I’m Haruhi Fujioka, a neighbor of Hiroshi’s and the new—”
“District Attorney,” Chika finished for her. “We know. You’re all anyone is talking about around here. Though…from what Mitsukuni and Takashi have been going on about, I thought you would be prettier.”

Both Hiroshi and Satoshi hit the dirty blond over the head. He moaned and cradled his abused head between his arms. “What? Girls with short hair are ugly. I mean, she could pass for a guy if she wore more manly clothing.”

Kyouya laughed under his breath while Tamaki and the twins turned their attention to their two friends. “You two have been discussing Haruhi?” Hikaru asked.

“And you think she’s pretty?” Kaoru continued.

“Wait—” Haruhi interrupted, turning to Mori.

The tall man was blushing and trying to keep his attention away from the girl by his side. “You talk? Like—/real/, long conversations? I don’t think I’ve heard more than a sentence or two in either instant of our being in each other’s presence.”

Again Kyouya laughed. “It would be like you to pick up on that.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Kyouya,” Tamaki admonished. “Don’t be so mean to my daughter.”

The group paused and stared at the half-blooded blond. “What?!”

“You have a daughter,” Haruhi asked, flipping through her research in her mind. Did she really overlook such a huge fact?

“Yes. Haruhi is my daughter. I’ve decided. She obviously needs someone to care for her in this new, unknown area, and I’ll make it my life’s goal to make sure she is comfortable and happy.”

“No, thank you.”

“But—”

“No.”

“How can you say—”

“No.”

The twins busted out in laughter at the sudden and quick exchange. Tamaki took up his water and pouted over it, poking at the surface with his fingertips.

“I have a father and certainly don’t need a new one. Thank you.”

“Do you really have a father though?” Kyouya asked.

“Yes.”

“But can he really be considered your father?”

Haruhi sighed. She knew where this was going. If she had done her research on this area, certainly Kyouya had done his on her…and probably a long time ago. “Yes, he is my father and I would ask you not to insult him…no matter what his hobbies are.”

“Hobbies? I wasn’t aware that Okama* was something done as a hobby now.”

“Okama?” Honey asked.

“My father,” Haruhi explained. “is an Okama.”

“He’s gay? Then…how did you—”

“He once explained it to me that my mother was the only woman he had ever loved. When she…passed away…he returned to his normal preferences. He works as an Okama bar,” Haruhi explained, giving a Kyouya a biting smile before continuing. “And he makes a very beautiful woman. Wouldn’t you say, Kyouya?”

He hummed his response, picking up his tea and drinking it without rising to the challenge.

“So your father is really your mother?” Hikaru joked.

Kaoru hit him on the arm, trying to get him to shut up. There was an unhidden animosity between Haruhi and Kyouya, and he was curious as to how it would play out between them. “This is very interesting,” Kaoru whispered.

His brother nodded, leaning closer to the other and watching.

-----

Haruhi sighed, her head pounding. The sun was setting, she had bags in her hands, her briefcase shoved under her right arm, and four boys bouncing around her, carrying the rest of her groceries.

“In two weeks we’re going on our class trip. It’s to Nanbu in the Saihaku district*. We’re going to be camping, and hiking, and fishing, and all these fun things. You should come, they’re looking for more adult volunteers.”

Haruhi smiled down at Michi and ruffled his hair with her hands. The other boys were discussing “high school” things (i.e. girls) while the pre-teen rambled on and on about his school trip. “I would love to, but I don’t think I could take off work so soon after starting. Maybe next year, okay?”

Michi nodded, hoisting his backpack higher on his back. “And what about you three, will your classes be having a trip sometime soon?”

Chika ignored her, as he had the tendency to do, but Satoshi and Hiroshi nodded and answered. “Our trip is to one of the islands off the coast. There is a resort there we’ll be spending time at,” Satoshi said.

“A resort? That sounds expensive.”

“It is,” Hiroshi answered. “But the trip was sponsored by the Haninozuka and Morinonzuka families, so we get to have extra perks. You should come with us instead. We’re actually going to an onsen*, Michi’s class won’t ever get to do that.”

Michi pouted, looking away from his brother. Again Haruhi ruffled the youngest boy’s hair. “No thank you,” she said politely. “I was never one for hot springs.”

“How uncultured,” Chika said. Satoshi promptly hit him for his rudeness.

Haruhi sighed when she saw home. She had a nice big bottle of asprin on her shelves that she was dying to dig into. “Hey, what’s he doing here?”

Haruhi looked at her front porch to see Kyouya sitting there, reading quietly. She sighed, this really wasn’t what she needed. They entered the front yard, still in desperate need of pruning, and walked up the unkempt path to the front door.

“Kyouya,” she greeted dryly. “To what do I deserve this honor?”

“Just a friendly visit,” he said, looking over the boys. “It seems like you end up babysitting this bunch a lot.”

Haruhi unlocked her door and opened it. Standing to the side, she allowed the boys to enter before her. They took off their shoes in the genkan*, before running off to the kitchen to put up the groceries. One of the packages sent to her by her father was a new game console that the boys loved to play, though she was certain that they had their own at home.

“It’s not babysitting,” she explained, entering her own home. She called to him, asking him if he’d like to come in. He took the offer silently, mimicking her as she took off her shoes and walked into her home.

“This place still needs a lot of work,” he commented, more to himself than to her.

Haruhi recognized the tone and chose not to say anything else. “Would you like some tea? Coffee?”

“Tea is fine, thank you.”

Kyouya went over to where a low table was placed with pillows around it. He walked around the pillows to open the shoji screen to the outside. A cool breeze wafted into the house, bringing in fresh air to a house that still permeated with the putrid smell of disuse and mold.

“Thank you,” Haruhi said, putting on the kettle and walking to sit a plate of cookies and crackers on the table.

Moments after the plate hit the hard surface, four boys came running in, grabbing the food, and going back to the living area where the TV and playstation were set up. “You feed the mongrels too, I see.”

“Mongrels? Polite as ever.”

“Kids aren’t really my thing,” he said.

The silence between them was awkward. An uncompetitive rivalry had always existed between the two and by the end of their university careers, they had nearly been at each other’s throats. It was very weird, at least for Haruhi, to be near him again—especially when on his home turf.

“Anything interesting coming in the district, or are they still sticking you with the dregs paperwork for the prefecture?”

“You already know this, so why ask?”

Kyouya snorted, looking outside. “This is why you and I could never have a pleasant conversation.”

“I refuse to waste time answering questions that you already know. It’s pointless.”

“Always so frugal.”

The kettle began whistling giving Haruhi the needed escape from the current discussion. She prepared the tea cups, pouring the hot water over the tea leaves to steep. She brought a tray with tea and the needed accessories over to the table. “Would you like anything else?”

Kyouya shook his head, motioning with his hand that she should join him. They sat in silence, both enjoying their tea and listening to the catcalls of the boys from the other room.

“For what it’s worth,” Kyouya said, interrupting the silence. “I am glad to see you again.”

The words took Haruhi by surprise and she nearly spilt her tea on herself. “E-excuse me?”

He didn’t repeat himself, as Kyouya was known to do. Haruhi sighed, it was always so hard to deal with him. “It isn’t unpleasant to see you again.”

Kyouya laughed, taking a sip of his tea. “Blunt and inelegant as always. Thank you.”

Haruhi chose to remain quiet. It was hard to distinguish his insults from his compliments, in most cases. Instead she concentrated on listening to the boys in the other room, barely taking note of the hot liquid that she systematically sipped at.

“There are bets going on, you know?”

“Oh?”

“To how long you’ll be able to last out here in the country.”

Haruhi laughed to herself, putting her cup down to concentrate on the man in front of her. “And how much did you put down?”

“And why would you think I would bet on something like that?”

She gave him a dry looked that spoke for her.

“Do you really think you could live so far from the city? You and your father may have lived simply, but it’s completely different from living in the country.”

“Is this really about my survival here? Or yours?”

Kyouya stood up slowly, allowing his shoulders to relax, as he rarely did. He walked out to the outside porch, looking over the backyard that had long since seen better days. Haruhi got up and walked to stand next to him.

“As always,” he said. “You have very selective awareness but always intelligent insightfulness.”

“Was I wrong?”

Kyouya turned to her, taking her shoulder so she too would face him. “No, you hit that nail on the head too.”

“There are other bets going on about you, as well.”

“Oh? Such as?”

“One is about what will happen at your first meeting with the “local” yakuza group.”

“The Kasanoda-Gumi? I was wondering when they were going to be brought up.”

“And another is…” he paused, looking inside the house before returning his attention to the woman in front of him. He pushed his glasses up on his nose, leaned forward and claimed her lips. He pulled back to see her surprised look, her hand coming immediately to her lips. “Of all the men who have already taken a liking to you, Ms. Haruhi Fujioka, which one will first be able to sweep you off your feet.”

Haruhi’s eyes looked up at him in surprise and her brows knitted. “It’s not a game,” she said in a harsh whisper.

Kyouya smiled his usual smile; one that hid its true meaning and left everyone guessing his sincerity of the given situation. “You’ll soon learn, everything around here is a game…a dance, if you will. You just have to know the right steps.”

“Sounds stupid.”

Kyouya looked at her and nodded. “It is.”

“Ms. Haruhi,” Satoshi’s voice broke through the quiet that had fallen upon the two adults. He ran out of the kitchen a few moments later to stand a little bit too close to the woman. He sent a glare that could pierce towards Kyouya. “Ms. Haruhi, do you want to come to dinner at my house?”

She looked down at the teenager and smiled. She shook her head and walked back into the kitchen. “Sorry, Satoshi, but I have a lot of work to do. I’ll fix something simple and eat here. Do you know when you four are needed home?”

Satoshi walked into the kitchen, making sure to stay between Haruhi and Kyouya. “Oniisan will come to pick us up.”

Kyouya smirked. He bent down to grab his notebook from the table. “I will excuse myself now. It’s not a very long journey, but I still don’t want to get back to Kotoura too late.”

Haruhi nodded, putting down the pots she was dragging out to walk him to the door. She stood at the top of the genkan, watching him as he stooped to put his shoes on. “Be careful going home,” she said.

He smiled to himself and nodded, not saying much else to her. “I will.”

He stood, watching her, noting that all four boys were peering out of the living room to watch them. “Don’t forget to kick the mongrels out if it gets too late. We wouldn’t want our new DA to be sleep deprived so early in the game.”

The boys protested, coming out in the hallway. “I’d like to see you say that to my face.”

“Okay, you’re a brat.”

Satoshi jumped forward, fist ready to connect with a bespectacled face. It was halted by another hand and the younger boy found himself colliding with his elder brother. “Please excuse my intrusion,” Mori said, his tone deep and quiet.

Haruhi smiled at him, bowing and welcoming him. She looked around to see Honey but found him suspiciously absent. Kyouya noted that fact as well and laughed. Haruhi frowned at him.

“Satoshi,” Mori said to his brother, an unspoken warning as the younger boy sunk to the floor.

Chika kept his mouth shut as he walked down into the genkan and collected his shoes. He bowed politely to Haruhi and walked outside, not liking how crowded it was getting. The other three boys mimicked their friend and soon the boys were running around the front yard.

Haruhi watched as Mori shifted uncomfortably in front of the door. He would glance at her then Kyouya and then down at his feet. She decided it was unnatural to see the powerful and tall man slouch like a schoolboy with a crush. “Would you like to come in for some tea?”

Kyouya laughed. “Excuse me. I must leave.”

Haruhi nodded, once again bowing. He returned the gesture with a nod of his head. He hummed to himself, mumbling about her being oblivious as he left.

“I have to get Chika and Satoshi home,” Mori said, his voice low.

She understood. He had been sent on a task, as an elder brother. “Next time then? You can come over earlier, you know. I guess that is if you can be spared. Where is Honey, anyway?”

“The cook was giving him samples of tonight’s desserts.”

She laughed, nodding that she understood. From her limited time here, she already knew that the blond heir couldn’t resist sweets. His brother, however, seem to hate them. She and he had enjoyed teppanyaki dango* together, most recently.

“Hey, Takashi, isn’t it time to go yet?” Chika called from the front yard.

Neither adult could see them but a thump followed by a loud groan told them both that Satoshi hadn’t approved of the dirty blond’s attitude. “Chika’s so different from Honey,” she stopped and looked over at Mori. “Well, I guess you and Satoshi aren’t so very similar either.”

“Not so different,” Mori quickly interjected.

Haruhi cocked her head to the side, taking in the other man. Again he began to shuffle his feet in an obvious sign of discomfort. Her attention returned outside when she heard Kameko call for Michi and Hiroshi. “Looks like it’s dinner time,” she said.

Mori nodded. “We should be going.”

“Thank you for coming over,” she said out of habit. She added quickly, “You should come over more often. I never really liked a lot of company back at home…but I don’t know, either the house is too big or the town is so small, and it’s just…”

“I will,” Mori said, not making her finish her thought.

She smiled at him, relieved. He walked to the door, pausing slightly as he watched Haruhi jump down and slide into a pair of shoes. They walked outside together. Chika and Satoshi were arguing at the edge of the property. They looked up when the two adults exited.

“Time to go?”

“Yes.”

Mori walked down the stairs of the front stoop and to the other boys. Satoshi was waving animatedly. Chika nodded before turning to the street. Haruhi waved back. She watched as Mori turned around, stared at her, nodded much the same as Chika, then turned back to follow him. Satoshi watched the exchange then caught up with his brother. He immediately began speaking to him and Haruhi couldn’t help but feel that in some way, the younger brother was scolding the elder. She laughed at the idea and turned to enter her home.

Walking into the living room, she turned off the TV and straightened up the area. Returning back to her kitchen, she sighed as she looked around. It hadn’t even been a month…but this place was growing on her.

She did miss her father though.

-----

Legend:

Otousan: Father, respectful

Tatami mats: Woven, straw mats, stuffed with rice straw and used as traditional flooring in Japan

Houkei, Kotoura, Misasa, and Yurihama are all real towns in Japan. They are found in the Toohaku district in the Tottori prefecture. However, the descriptions being added to these places are completely fictional. In no way are they being described truthfully through this story and none of the facts should be considered truth.

Oniisan: elder brother, respectful

Okama: Term, sometimes derogatory, used for homosexual men; most often men who cross-dress.

Onsen: hotspring, usually in a resort fashion.

Nanbu in the Saihaku district: Also in the Tottori prefecture but, again, being used as name only. Descriptions are only based in fiction.

Genkan: Traditional Japanese entryways where shoes are removed and stored.

Teppanyaki dango: Dango are Japanese dumplings made from mochika. Teppanyaki dango are served on skewers with a tangy taste and cooked on an iron griddle. Most dango are sweet, this particular type isn’t over the top so.
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