Author's Note: Just wanted to let those who have been receiving alerts for this story know that this is the last chapter I'm going to be posting, for now. Sorry for flooding your inbox!
Haruhi stood just inside the entrance of the cafeteria, holding her bento box before her as she scanned the crowded lunch room in search of Miku Hirosaka. Normally, she would have preferred to eat her lunch in the quiet solitude of the classroom, but Hikaru and Kaoru had dragged her along with them to the cafeteria at Tamaki's request.
"Now, let's go over this one more time," the Host King said as he stepped up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You will go talk to Miku-chan and smooth things over concerning her earlier argument with Kyouya."
"I still think Kyouya-senpai should be the one doing this, not me," Haruhi grumbled, casting a sideways glance at her companion.
"You saw how well that worked out last time," Hikaru and Kaoru stated simultaneously as they brought up the rear, shrugging helplessly.
"You suggested before that Kyouya-senpai should be the one to apologize to her," Kaoru reminded her.
"And he just ended up making things worse, in the end," Hikaru concluded.
"But why me?" Haurhi complained. "Why do I have to be the one who has to clean up this mess?"
"Because," the twins answered, "she's inexplicably immune to our charms."
"And what about you, Tamaki-senpai?" she asked, turning to the man in question. "Why don't you do it, since you're the president, and all?"
"Because I must observe your interaction with the subject," Tamaki replied with an authoritative air. "In the case that you are unable to fulfill your duties, I will have to step in and attempt to rectify the situation myself."
"Then why not just go over there and take care of it yourself, to begin with?" Haruhi argued.
"Just go," Tamaki replied, giving her a gentle push forward.
Haruhi tripped slightly on her feet and turned back to glare at him, only to find that he and the twins were nowhere to be found. She knew better than to think that they had actually left, however. They were likely hiding somewhere nearby so that they could spy on her as she made an attempt to bring peace to a situation that she, for one, didn't feel they had any right to intrude in.
Sure, it had sort of been her idea all along to try to fix Miku and Kyouya up, but she had heard all about the incident in the hall that morning from the twins, who had happened to catch the blow-up on their way to class that morning. Quite frankly, Haurhi felt Kyouya had it coming and that Miku was right for putting him in his place where so many others simply fawned over him or trembled in fear at standing up to him because they didn't want to hurt their business relations with his family. For as nice as he was at times, at others he could be a selfish jerk who only looked out for his own interests and thought nothing of the feelings of those around him. Perhaps she could use her dislike of that particular trait of his as a means of getting a foot in the door to negotiate peace with Miku.
"Hey, Miku," she greeted the girl as she approached her table, offering her a friendly smile. "Mind if I join you?"
Miku looked up from her lunch, fork halfway to her mouth, and craned her neck in order to check behind Haruhi and see if any of the other Host Club members were there.
"Just you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow as she returned her attention to the girl standing before her.
"Just me," Harhui assured her, offering her a smile as she nodded her head.
"Okay, then," Miku agreed, and she began moving her things in order to make more room for Haruhi to spread out her bento.
"Thanks," Haruhi said as she sat down, glancing over her shoulder. She finally spotted Tamaki and the twins hiding behind a large pillar nearby, and she rolled her eyes as the three of them gave her a thumbs-up.
"I heard about what happened this morning," she told Miku as she turned back to the table and began unpacking her lunch.
"Don't tell me," Miku groaned. "You're going to lecture me about what I did, too?"
"Why would I want to lecture you?" Haruhi asked, blinking in confusion.
"Because it seems to be all I'm hearing from people today," Miku told her, violently stabbing at a piece of chicken on her plate with her fork. "I even had two girls tell me I should write a formal letter of apology to Kyouya."
"Well, I'm not here to lecture you," Haruhi informed her as Miku shoved the piece of chicken into her mouth and began viciously chewing. "I was actually going to praise you."
This time it was Miku's turn to look confused. She suddenly stopped chewing, eyes wide, and swallowed after a moment of stunned silence.
Haruhi sighed a bit, propping her head in one of her hands as she picked up a piece of omelet with her chopsticks and pointed it at her.
"You had every right to be angry with him, Miku," she said, her voice holding a slight edge of its own. "Kyouya-senpai thinks he can get away with invading people's privacy just because of who he is. And the only reason he does get away with it is because everyone's so afraid of losing their connections to his family by standing up to him. I'm glad someone finally put him in his place, for once."
"Wow, " Miku said, surprised. "I thought you two were friends."
"We are," Harhui replied, nodding, "but that doesn't mean I like everything about the guy."
Miku nodded in understanding, and a comfortable silence fell over the two of them as they continued eating. Miku asked Haruhi what she had brought for lunch, then lamented having to buy the school's overly extravagant lunches every day, saying she missed the days when she used to bring her own bento to school.
"Why don't you make one and bring it tomorrow, then?" Haruhi suggested. "We could eat them together in the courtyard."
"I'm afraid I'm not very skilled at cooking," Miku sheepishly admitted. "My mother used to make them for me when I was in middle school, but she's too sick now."
"I see," Haruhi said, the wheels in her head already turning.
"Haruhi," the twins whispered loudly from their hiding place, drawing her attention toward them and Tamaki.
"The Renaissance Faire," Tamaki whispered just as loudly. "Get her to come to the Renaissance Faire."
"I'm not going," Miku said, loud enough so the three of them would hear. Her eyes turned in their direction and they immediately looked guilty at having been discovered. Tamaki was the first to recover, stepping out from behind the pillar and around the twins, his most charming smile playing upon his lips.
"And why ever not, princess?" he asked, coming to stand by Miku's chair, taking her hand in his and bringing it to his lips as he gave her a seductive look. "It would not be worth having such a gallant affair if a woman of such beauty were not present."
"Then don't have it," Miku told him sternly as she pulled her hand out of his grasp.
"It would mean a lot to me if you go," Haruhi interjected before Tamaki could go off on one of his 'woe-is-me' rants in a vain attempt to gain Miku's favor. The Host King looked at her, blinking in surprise. She had been quite vocal about not wanting to force Miku into going to the Renaissance Faire, so it was a bit of a shock for her to change her tone so suddenly.
"I would hate to be the only sane person there," she added, casting a glance at him and the twins.
Miku sighed softly, then quietly considered the other girl's request before nodding in agreement, causing the three boys to cheer loudly.
"You won't regret this, Princess!" Tamaki promised, grabbing both of her hands in his and leaning down to put himself at eye level with her. "I promise, it will be an event to remember for the rest of your life."
"I'm not planning on participating in any of your club's little shenanigans," Miku informed him, pulling her hands out of his. "The only reason I'm going is to visit Haruhi so she can have a brief reprieve from your insanity."
"That's what you think," Hikaru muttered under his breath, earning a sharp jab in the ribs from Kaoru's elbow. He looked at his brother to find him giving him a warning glare as he brought a finger to his lips to remind him that their plan was supposed to be a secret.
"What did you just say?" Miku asked, and Hikaru turned to her with a beaming grin on his face.
"Just that it's a shame you won't be taking part in any of the special events we have planned," he lied, pushing Tamaki aside and taking his place before her. He gently grasped one of her hands and bent down to place a kiss on the backs of her fingers, then looked up at her and smiled once more – ignoring Tamaki as he complained that he was being a copycat. "We were so looking forward to seeing you in one of the dresses our mother made for the ball."
"In fact," Kaoru added, draping his arm across the back of her chair as he leaned down to whisper in her ear, "we had already decided which one would suit you best."
Miku cringed as the sound of high-pitched, girly squealing assaulted her ears, and she looked around Kaoru to find several dozen girls milling about, watching them all intently. Rolling her eyes, she pushed back her chair and stood from the table, then began gathering up her eating utensils and placing them on her tray.
"I'm sorry to eat and run, Haruhi," she apologized, "but I suddenly have a splitting headache."
"Oh... Alright," Haruhi said, nodding slightly. She watched as Miku quickly retreated from the table, then sighed as she turned her attention back to the three boys standing before her.
"See what you three did?" she accused them, her eyes narrowed into slits.
"What?" Tamaki asked with wide eyes, as oblivious as ever.
"If you keep making her feel uncomfortable like that, you'll never get her and Kyouya-senpai together in the same room," she informed them as she gathered her bento and stood from her seat.
"Ye of little faith," Hikaru said, grinning confidently.
"It's only a matter of time until she breaks down and gives in to our charms," Kaoru added, identical smile in place.
"Newsflash," Haruhi told them, tying the cloth around her bento into a sharp knot, "it's not you who should be worried about charming her. In fact, I doubt your 'charms' will ever work on her. Kyouya-senpai is the one she's interested in, not you."
"That's why we have to make her fall for us," they stated, in unison.
"So that she'll do whatever we say," Kaoru said.
"Then we can easily get her to confess to Kyouya-senpai during the ball," Hikaru concluded.
Haruhi rolled her eyes. "Like I said, it won't work."
"Why not?" they both asked her, defiantly crossing their arms over their chests.
"How can you be so sure?" Tamaki asked curiously. He had been sure the twins' plan to charm Miku into confessing her feelings to Kyouya had been solid and foolproof, but now he was beginning to have doubts.
"Because when you have feelings for someone, you only have eyes for them," Haruhi blurted out as her eyes turned to him, then she immediately blushed and averted her gaze away from his face.
"Trust me, I know," she added quietly before clearing her throat a bit and returning her attention to Hikaru and Kaoru. "If you want to make her confess to Kyouya-senpai, you're going to have to come up with a different plan. One that doesn't involve using one of the other Host Club members to manipulate her, because I guarantee it won't work."
Tamaki blinked as he watched her walk away. Had she just... sort of confessed to liking him? No, it wasn't possible. Her embarrassment was likely just due to having an outburst like that in public. Haurhi was a rather private individual, after all, and she had been the one who constantly stressed the importance of secrecy in their current matchmaking operation. She was probably just mad at herself for doing something that might cause any number of the group of girls who had been watching them from afar to gossip about their conversation. That had to be it.
Speaking of which: It was time for him to do a little spin control.
"Ladies!" he cried out, turning to them with arms wide, a beaming smile in place. "I have wonderful news!"
Time to go to Plan B, he thought to himself. Since Haruhi had shot down the twins' plan, it seemed he was going to have to take matters into his own hands. And while he wasn't as skilled a manipulator as Kyouya himself was, he had learned a thing or two from his best friend over the years in the art of coercing others into doing what he wanted.
"There is going to be a very special contest during the Renaissance Faire," he announced once he had all of the girls in the room listening in rapturous attention. "Seven very lucky princesses will win the honor of being escorted to the closing ball by their favorite members of the Host Club, while dressed in gowns created exclusively for the event by none other than Madam Hitachiin!"
Hikaru and Kaoru smiled and bowed at the mention of their mother's name, turning to each other and whispering as the girls in the room erupted in cheers and applause at Tamaki's announcement.
"Did he say anything about this to you?" Hikaru asked his brother.
"No," Kaoru replied. "I think he's just winging it, now."
Tamaki went over to the two of them, still grinning, and put his arms around their shoulders as he leaned down to speak to them.
"I know what we're going to do to get Miku and Kyouya together, don't worry," he told them in a low voice. The twins couldn't help but exchange a look with one another, each of them knowing exactly what the other was thinking in that very moment.
Easier said than done.