Chapter 2: The Challenge – Au Revoir by OneRepublic
“Haruhi! It’s been a while since we talked! How are you?”
Haruhi paused before speaking into her cell phone. She did not like taking personal calls during work, but it was close to lunch time, and Renge had called out of the blue. It was usually wise to answer, lest she worry and start to overreact, similar to Tamaki. It had been a few weeks, and Renge had been out of town dealing with business of her own, so no doubt she wanted to know what had happened since she left.
“I’m doing alright, Renge. Work keeps me busy, but I really enjoy it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
“You always knew you’d be a lawyer, and now you are. I’m really happy for you.”
“Thanks, Renge. Did you have a good trip?”
“Yes, it was fine, but I missed you all too much, and I missed another monthly reunion. How’d it go?”
“It was without Kyoya again. He didn’t even call this time. We’re all beginning to worry about him.”
“Wh-at?” said Renge, stretching out the word to raise it several syllables.
“We haven’t been able to get ahold of him since-“
“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him. He just needs some personal interaction. I’ve been meaning to talk to him for some time now.”
“Wait, Renge, you don’t-“
“I know how to handle Kyoya just as much as you, Haruhi. Anyway, I gotta go. I’ve got lunch plans. Toodles!” Renge sing-songed.
Haruhi stared at the phone for several moments after Renge hung up. Now she definitely needed to see Kyoya later that day. There was no telling what Renge would say and do. Renge cared, but she went about it in the wrong way sometimes, just like Tamaki.
As Haruhi put her phone away in preparation for lunch, Kyoya was also getting ready for his food to be delivered to him so that he could eat while working. He had been expecting an email from the Americans, and so far, he had seen nothing. It annoyed him. Then, he heard commotion on the other side of the door.
“Excuse, coming through. I need to speak with him this instant, you hear? Let me in! Excuse me!”
Kyoya knew Renge’s voice anywhere, and he was unsure why she was there, unless Haruhi had talked to her. Actually, yes, that was exactly why, as those two talked a great deal. Him not taking Haruhi’s call probably made her take extreme measures to get in. When Renge wanted to get in, she would, whether by pushing or coming up through a hole in the floor on a large motor.
“Kyoya Ootori, I bet you weren’t expecting to see me today.”
“Indeed, I wasn’t. To what do I owe the honor of your visit?”
As much as Kyoya did not have time and did not want to deal with Renge, he was still a Host and polite. Perhaps his smile was not as large as preferred, but she could hardly expect more, considering that she had just barged her way in without considering what he may be doing.
“I think you know perfectly well what. Three months now. Three months! What are you thinking?”
“That is none of your concern.”
“Yes, it is! You owe it to me after our years of friendship-“
“Which can be summed up as what, exactly? A business relationship that prospered well during high school, and occasional meetings with the Hosts afterward. You were always on the outside, Renge. When did that change?”
Renge spluttered as she tried to figure out how to respond. She had been expecting many things, but not that. She decided to take the plunge.
“It hasn’t changed that much in person, yes, but I’ve wanted it to change for some time now. You are some of my favorite people, and yes, I’ve felt left out in the past. But I know that you all share a special bond. But you can make space for more. You have to, now that Hunny is married, and it’s only a matter of time before Tamaki and Haruhi-“
“But how does this affect you? Do you expect to just jump in?”
“Well, that wasn’t quite what I had in mind. It involved you, to be perfectly honest. I’ve always had a crush on you, and that hasn’t changed.”
“What if I’m not interested in you, though, Renge? Did you consider that?”
“Yes, of course. You’re just being stupid and not listening to your heart. If you’d take a day or two for yourself and spend more time with your friends, then you’d see-“
“That I yearn for something deeper? For a girlfriend? For you?”
Kyoya did not say anything with sarcasm, but his voice certainly showed how much he questioned her logic.
“I don’t think you understand, Kyoya-“
“No, I don’t, Renge. But now is not the time to try to explain it to me. I have other matters to attend to. There’s a reason my secretary tried to keep you from coming in, because I’m in the middle of something that needs to get done. After you just pushed your way in here, I’m not in the proper mindset to entertain what you’re thinking right now. I’d suggest you come back another time and try again. Please go.”
With that said, Kyoya sat back down in his wonderfully cushy leather seat (money is useful sometimes). The hard lines in his face made it clear that Renge should go, and she debated internally about what to do. She had been rebuffed rather bluntly, and he had asked her to go. It hurt, though it could have hurt more if he had laughed. Nonetheless, the hurt was settling in, and she had no intention of letting him see how he had hurt her, with his earlier or later words. Just as fast as she arrived, she left.
Kyoya sighed before turning back to his work. While he felt bad about the way he said what he had, he did not regret saying it. Those things needed to be said. Renge had been on the outside for a long time, but she had never tried to do more. It took more than a few dates to make one part of the group.
Reiko would feel like an outsider no doubt for some time to come, and she knew it. But she did not care, because she was still family and friend, depending on who you talked to in the group. She would receive no shortage of help if asked, especially once kids entered the picture, as everyone expected to happen. But it was another matter for Renge.
Renge needed to show more commitment to the group if she truly cared, and if she thought that they would ever have a future together (which he doubted completely), then she would have to try to get to know him much more, even more than Haruhi and Tamaki did. They were his closest friends, and he was still upset with them. Renge would have to keep trying. Her choice to leave was understandable, but sometimes, doing the right thing meant annoying Kyoya more.
Time passed quickly for the rest of the day for Kyoya. It was not until he heard more hubbub outside his door that he realized that his day was not over, as the cavalry had come since the messenger had not helped.
A small smile curled about Kyoya’s face as he listened to the voices. He could hear his loud, persistent secretary talking to Haruhi, who was trying to convince the secretary that seeing Kyoya was needed at this moment. After the bustle of earlier and a stern warning from Kyoya about such occurrences happening again, the secretary was very good about not letting Haruhi in, and not being charmed by Haruhi and her simple, heartfelt argument to let her see Kyoya. Kyoya was on the verge of having Haruhi brought in when he heard another too familiar male voice.
“But you have to let us in! We need to see him! He’s probably been cooped up all day in there, and he needs to see other people, especially his friends!”
Kyoya’s smile increased, as he knew what was coming. In Kyoya’s mind, Tamaki had two ways of getting what he wanted, Host charm and overwrought panic. Tamaki always started with using his charm to convince people of his being the right plan, and it was usually when that failed that the second mode came to be, even if it was not by design, at least by Kyoya’s definition.
Kyoya saw the concern as natural, as people not bending to his whims meant that something was wrong, whether it was evil twins, Haruhi seeing past his flowery phrases, or Haruhi missing somehow. As it so happened, Tamaki made it a habit to visit his good friend at work every now and then, and Kyoya saw Tamaki as a sort of test for each new secretary he had (as most did not survive past one or two meetings with Tamaki).
This secretary had never met Tamaki in person, and she already had Renge’s intrusion on her mind, so Kyoya was curious to see how long she lasted before she gave in Tamaki’s loud cries of concern on behalf of his friend. It always happened.
After about five minutes of Tamaki talking about concerns of needing more fresh air and a bathroom to needing more real people interactions instead of his computer, he escalated. Now, Kyoya needed a way to de-stress with friends, as he had been working too hard, and no doubt, he was going to go crazy doing all that work all the time. Or worse, he would soon forget what real people looked like, or even, he might have gotten stuck in his room and needed someone to go in and save him from himself.
When the secretary refused still, Tamaki’s shrill voice appeared, and Kyoya could imagine Tamaki’s eyes widening as he spoke about how maybe the real problem was that the company just refused to let Kyoya go and that he was being forced to work there against his will. And if that was the case, then he would do everything in his power to help his friend.
“Don’t worry, Mon Ami! I’m here! This servant of your father can’t stop me from coming to save you the same way you came to save me! You don’t have to run away from us, I promise! We know you’re there, and we’re coming for you!”
Kyoya had to pause upon hearing that statement. Tamaki was many things and sometimes oblivious and lost in himself, but sometimes, his words hit close to home.
Kyoya could hear the secretary getting out of her seat, no doubt trying to restrain Tamaki, and it sounded like Haruhi was actually trying to help her. He decided to end everyone’s misery at last.
“Please send them in. We are not to be disturbed for any reason.”
Kyoya did not see the secretary’s shoulders slump as she collapsed into her seat, exhausted from trying to restrain Tamaki. She was no Mori, after all. But, Kyoya did hear her sigh of relief and the slight crunch of the chair cushion being crushed quickly. The door opened, and soon, Haruhi and Tamaki were in front of Kyoya’s desk.
Out of his seat in moments, Kyoya got up to meet his friends. They were determined, that much he would give them. They stood awkwardly for a moment, and then Tamaki was crushing Kyoya harder than the secretary had crushed her chair upon reuniting with it. Only when Kyoya was having trouble breathing did Tamaki let go and stand close to Haruhi again.
Then, it was Haruhi’s turn.
Haruhi was not fond of hugs like Tamaki, but shaking hands in this case did not seem like enough to get across all that she felt. A hand shake was simple and preferred between them, but the situation with Kyoya was not either of those things at present. And, if he doubted their friendship, then he needed to know that she was still there for him. She opted for reaching out and putting a hand on Kyoya’s shoulder instead and looked him straight in the eye. That seemed to do the trick, as Kyoya reacted slightly, despite still being out of breath.
“What brings the two of you here? Did Renge’s interaction with me worry you?”
“I don’t know what you said to her, Kyoya, but she was not happy.”
“Wait, when did Renge come? Haruhi, did she come back already? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tamaki was looking distractedly between the two most important people in his life, outside of his family. He knew they had a habit of getting caught up in conversation with one another, and this was not the first time that he asked to be included, or to be told what was happening so he could keep up. Those two could talk.
“I was going to wait until after this. I wanted us to have a clear head to come talk to Kyoya, as what she had to say would not reflect well on Kyoya,” Haruhi looking back at Tamaki.
“All that I said to her was true.”
Just like that, Haruhi turned back to Kyoya, and Tamaki knew that he was about to lose them again. Ever since college happened and Kyoya took his business law classes, and Haruhi her introduction to business administration classes, they had been going strong. Tamaki had taken his own classes related to business, but with them, it was usually not about what the three of them shared. It usually involved something only the two of them knew. Somehow, it always happened.
“But you could have said it a whole lot better, especially you of all people, Kyoya. You owe that to her if nothing else.”
“I don’t owe her anything like that, as we were never close or truly friends. I respect her as a business partners, yes, but you didn’t hear what she was suggesting to me. It was unreasonable, given our past.”
“She’s trying to help.”
“Then she went about it in the wrong way.”
Like a tennis ball in a championship match, so went the conversation and Tamaki’s head between Haruhi and Kyoya as they fought back, him trying to keep up with them even as the two were ignoring him.
“Hey, guys? When and what did Renge say? I don’t understand.”
“Tamaki, Renge came during my lunch hour. If she wants to tell you, let her. It was personal, and she’s free to do so if she wants. I just don’t feel comfortable saying so without asking her first, and I have no intention of speaking to her right now.”
“I can take a guess what she had to say,” said Haruhi. She knew that Renge still had feelings for Kyoya, and Haruhi had a bad feeling that Renge had brought it up, whether by accident or on purpose. Either way, it did not work out.
“Because you speak to her on a regular basis, but I don’t. She’s almost as bad as Tamaki when she makes leaps about what is going on.”
Tamaki looked ready to protest, but Kyoya stopped him.
“Come on, Tamaki. You know full well that my father has no more control over me. I made this company what it is, and my father knows better than to interfere. You’ve probably confused my secretary a great deal. I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s still wrong.”
“I just wanted to see you! It’s been too long!”
“That it has. You’ve been ignoring everyone, Kyoya. What gives? You have some explaining to do. To us first, and then the rest of those you ignored.”
“I intended to respond back.”
“When, Kyoya? Next week? Next month? Right before the next meeting to say that you can’t make it again? Are we still your friends? Do you want us as your friends still?”
Haruhi was trying not to raise her voice. It was hard, as each impassioned sentence made her want to, but she restrained her voice. Yelling and losing her head would not help her get through to Kyoya.
“Of course I want you as my friends. But do my friends want me?”
Kyoya knew he had said something wrong the moment he saw Tamaki’s face fall. Haruhi quieted and shifted back a step, but Tamaki deflated before turning confused eyes upon Kyoya. Still, Haruhi was ready in a moment and stepping back to confront, even as Tamaki pulled away more.
“Of course we do! Why else would we be here?”
That time, Haruhi did raise her voice a little. His question frustrated her. What had they done wrong?
“Is that really how you feel, Kyo? You…. doubt that we care about you?”
“No, Tamaki, I didn’t mean it like that-“
“I think you did. Excuse me, but I, I need to go. Haruhi, I’ll talk to you later.”
Tamaki plodded along to the door, his face downcast. Haruhi knew that what Tamaki needed then was a hug. She reached out to him as he left, but she was too late. Then, they were alone.
After the silence shamed them both for several moments, both turned angry eyes upon the other.
“I hope you’re happy, Kyoya. You’ve managed to put down two of your three biggest supporters today.”
“You consider yourself the third?”
“Yes. Is there a reason I shouldn’t?”
All distance between them was quickly lost, as was normal for them. Haruhi was not afraid of Kyoya and his aura, and Kyoya knew the only way to get through to Haruhi was with bluntness up close and personal, as she could be just as oblivious as Tamaki in certain situations. Tamaki may be the subject of their conversation at the moment, but he was only a figurehead, disappearing as the real situation made itself known. This was a battle, and both intended to win.
“Perhaps the last three months have made you question that, Haruhi?”
“You have a lot of explaining to do about that.”
“I did what I had to.”
Kyoya did not want to think about the way his insides felt when Haruhi had said that she considered herself a supporter of his. His gut twisted, and it did not sit well with him. She had a strange way of showing it. At least he could distract her from that line of thought easily.
“I know the company is new and growing, and you have your concerns for it. It’s important to you, and everyone knows that and gave you space. But how much space do you want? Are you trying to build walls again? If so, I’m here to tell you that you should stop for a moment. You’ve stayed away long enough. Even if you want to continue, then you had better have a good reason to do so, and not string all of us along in the process. Do you know how much you’ve hurt everyone with your disappearance from the group?”
“No, I don’t know. I’m not there to see it. But I feel as though I don’t contribute all that much anyway. The two biggest voices are Hunny and Tamaki, and everyone ends up agreeing with you. We all play our part.”
“We don’t have to stay in those parts forever. We can change, just like we’re not a family anymore. We can grow. For goodness sake, Hunny’s married now! The dynamic is going to change. We accommodate. If you feel left out, then say something. We can only do something if you tell us that something is wrong.”
“But why haven’t you said or asked anything up until a week ago? There’s a concern now, but how long will it last?”
“Kyoya, we’re confused and hurt, just like you. Tell me what is happening. Don’t be a cold, unfeeling Shadow King, hiding away everything. Take the leap and tell me something, anything. I’m your friend.”
Haruhi’s words hurt. The group had been hurt, but so had he. He was not trying to hide (strictly speaking, as it had been for work), but he almost wanted to now. The idea of telling Haruhi something did not appeal to him as it seemed that she did not understand him.
“You of all people should have realized that I was going through a hard time after I disappeared the first time. Tamaki gets these moments of realization, but I think you understand me better than him sometimes. And yet, you did nothing.”
“I was going through my own life’s troubles. I assumed, wrongly, that you would come to me when you were ready. Are you going to hold it over my head indefinitely, just like another debt?”
It was not the right thing to say right then, but it was interesting in its own way.
“Then why not tell me?”
“There’s not much to tell. Work is consuming my time. What little personal interaction I’ve had was with Tamaki complaining and worrying about you. You have no idea how much he talks and worries about you.”
“I get glimpses,” she said with a wry smile.
“That’s all fine and well, but it doesn’t solve the problem between us.”
“Then forget about Tamaki for a moment. What can I do to make it up to you?”
“Do you still want to be a part of my life, in all of it?”
After a moment’s hesitation at the phrasing of the question, she said, “Yes.”
The pause gave both a moment to think, Kyoya more so. He almost felt like his father, asking for loyalty to be proven. But he was not like his father in how he treated those people that mattered most, so that comforted him.
“Then join my life. Just try. Try to keep up with me. It’s a challenge for even my family.”
“It won’t be a challenge for me.”
“Then let’s see you live it. Make yourself necessary in my life, redefining and growing yourself in the same way that you want me to do with the others.”
“Why me? What about the others? Shouldn’t they be a part of this challenge?”
“My faith in the group was hurt most by you. The others I’ll talk to, and we’ll deal with it. Tamaki is another matter entirely. We’ll talk, soon.”
“Don’t be surprised when they all come talk to you about asking me to do this.”
“I’m hoping they do. Then we can have an honest discussion. Phone calls don’t cut it with me, and you know it.”
“Why else do you think I’m here now?”
Kyoya smiled slightly, if only for a moment. Haruhi did understand, even if some assumptions had been made that had led to more hurt than necessary, on both their parts.
He needed more personal interactions in his life. Having someone from the group in his life, especially in the work scene, would be a welcome relief. He would not make it easy for Haruhi, because he wanted to know what lengths she was willing to go to for him. She had jumped off a bridge for Tamaki.
How did Kyoya stack up? Was he important? He did not always feel like it, just like all those years ago, and that ushered in many feelings that he did not want to think about untangling. At some level, he needed to know, and wanted to know that. He was human and had his insecurities, just like anyone else. He did not like showing them, but they reared their ugly head from time to time, in odd ways.
At some level, Kyoya knew that Haruhi had hurt him most. Her disappearance from his life had made him feel as though she did not care, but more importantly, if Kyoya was being honest with himself, then he would say that he missed Haruhi and her common sense approach to life, without all the drama. Everything seemed easier when she got involved, except for maybe dealing with Tamaki. He had gotten used to ignoring her and Tamaki for a while (especially when Tamaki waxed romantic), but the friendship he had was still something he valued and wanted, even if he did not know how to deal with it.
After a few moments of staring at one another, the straight backs returned as Kyoya regained control of his thoughts from Haruhi, and he went back to his seat.
“I’m glad we had this discussion, Haruhi. It shall be interesting to see how many more we have in the upcoming months.”
“What do you have planned, Kyoya?”
“There’s a gathering down the street this coming Saturday. I believe your firm was invited to attend.”
“So I’ll see you there.”
“Yes, you’ll see me if nothing else.”
“We’ll talk, too.”
“I’m a busy man, Haruhi.”
“And I’m a stubborn friend, Kyoya. I assume there’s more of these afterward?”
“Of course. You may want to talk to my secretary about other socials of that sort. I don’t know how many you’ll have access to-“
“You’ll see me around. Good bye, Kyoya. I’ll see in a few days.”
“Until then, Haruhi.”
Kyoya removed his glasses and pressed his hands against his face after Haruhi closed the door. The meeting had not gone as well as he hoped, but it was a start. He would see Haruhi again, and then he would call Tamaki and explain himself better. He owed Tamaki that. He tried calling, but Tamaki did not answer. Kyoya did not leave a message, as he figured Tamaki would call when he was ready.
What he forgot about was the fact that Tamaki was going out of town soon, and would not have good service there. But, he would remember later on and take that comfort, giving him more time to have a proper explanation ready.
Meanwhile, Haruhi spoke to the secretary for a few minutes about social engagements, and she soon had a list of the various charitable and other social events happening in Kyoya’s life. He was not lacking social events, to say the least.
When Haruhi got outside the building, she was surprised that Tamaki was not outdoors, waiting for her. Usually, Tamaki waited for her so they could walk and talk. It was their way of dealing with things. But not today. Perhaps he was hit harder than she realized. Once at home, she called and left a message with him that she made it home and that they should talk before he left in a couple days.
What neither knew was that Tamaki was not moping, but in fact, talking. The reason was simple: Renge had found him sitting on the steps in front of Kyoya’s building.
“Tamaki, what are you doing here?”
“I’m thinking about what Kyoya said to me, and waiting for Haruhi.”
“Yes, Haruhi and I went up to talk to him a little while ago, and the discussion got heated right away. I left when Kyoya questioned whether I was still his friend anymore.”
“No! He wouldn’t!”
Tamaki was surprised when Renge leaned toward him and squeezed him tight. That little bit of support was done so naturally, and Tamaki wished that Haruhi would do that more often.
“I can’t believe that Kyoya would say such a thing to you, of all people! I bet Haruhi is talking his ear off, telling him how much of a terrible friend he is.”
“I have no doubt, Renge. Haruhi was upset when I left, so it was only a matter of time before she unleashed.”
“She’ll make everything right.”
“Do you really think so? What if Kyoya doesn’t trust me anymore? What did I do?”
“I’m asking myself the same thing,” she said, uncertainty lacing her words.
“And you talked to him earlier, didn’t you?” he asked, turning fully to face Renge and putting an arm around her. She smiled sadly at him as she saw the concern in his eyes.
“Yes, we did speak. Neither of us said what we should have.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Tamaki was not trying to pry, but he knew that he needed to discuss what had just happened with someone, and maybe Renge did, too.
“Only if you’ll tell me what you talked about.”
“I can do that,” he said, getting up and helping Renge up as well. It was time to walk away from this scene of hurt and disappointment, and do something about it.
“Okay, great. Let’s go to my place and talk there. It’s more private. We can eat, too, if you’re hungry.”
Tamaki’s stomach growled in response, and he grinned.
“Food would be lovely. I’d eat anything you make.”
“You say the sweetest things, even if it is over-the-top sometimes.”
“But you know I mean it.”
“Yes I do, Tamaki. Yes I do.”
As they talked, phones rang and were ignored. Tamaki would call Haruhi later, and he still was unsure what to do about Kyoya. It was good-bye for now, and there was much to do and think about while in Paris.
End Chapter 2. Next Chapter: Weight of the World by Evanescence