]o[ ]o[

Tête-à-Tête

By Crack Alchemist 2015

Haruhi was bored. She could have been doing her math homework instead of listening to the sweet flower in front of her rambling on about flora and fauna and whatever else flitted through her butterfly mind.

She smiled and nodded, offering her guest another piece of cake, letting her eyes stray around the room for a second so she didn't get tunnel vision. It was a full house today, which meant she probably would not get out of here until just before dusk. Mori-sempai was leaning over the back of a sofa, smoothing a stray hair on the top of Hani-sempai's head. The sigh their guests generated ruffled the potted plants nearby.

The boys, as she like to call the twins in her mind, were their usual effervescent selves, charming their little clutch of girl with their playful antics and innuendo-laden word play. She saw Hikaru whip out the infamous hats and start to play a quick game of catch Kaoru, chasing him around the girl's sofa and mixing up their pretty little heads.

She sought out Tamaki-sempai and inwardly groaned when she found him. Waves of wounded pride emanated from him like a swarm of bees. He looked like he was ready to gnash his teeth and rend his clothes. Well, it wasn't her fault this time. He could sit and stew for the moment, she would sort that out later. Or perhaps, she would let Kyoya fix that train wreck. He was certainly better at doing it that she was.

She looked over in his direction and noticed that, per the usual, he was alone and a table, his ever present notebook and laptop in front of him. Three girls stood nearby, giving him wistful looks. Haruhi snorted and wondered if he was just as bored as she was. Probably not. He was probably too busy tallying up devious little secrets in his great cavern of a mind. She wondered if he would share any of them with her today, shining the tiniest of night-lights into the world of 'The Cool One" of the Host Club.

]o[

Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap. Tap.

"It's time for everyone's favorite game… Which one's Hikaru?"

Tap-tap. Tap-taptaptap-tap.

"Tee-hee-hee!" Because, yes, that's what they sounded like. A giggling flock of baby chicks unable to contain their glee. Kyoya followed the notorious Hitachiin wordplay with only half of his hearing.

"Oh now, do we have to play that game, brother?" one twin said to the other. "It's such as old game, surely they can tell us apart by now."

Kyoya turned his head ever so slightly to consider the pout on that twin's lips. Here it goes.

"Can we just this one more time?" one brother said to the other. He placed a finger beneath his twin's chin, leaned in and batted his big, amber-hazel eyes. "For me?" he finished softly, allowing their lips to come within a whisper of meeting.

Kyoya could smell the smoke from the lace combusting on the girl's panties.

"I think… this one is Hikaru!" one of them bravely said.

Idiot girl.

Kyoya checked his records. That girl – a second year – was paying the premium it took to have coffee and cake with the Hitachiin Twins. He transfer the amount from his written ledger to the spreadsheet on his laptop screen. Brotherly Love was expensive, and he had to ensure that each twin got a reasonable share of the profit. For what, he had no idea. Those two could use yen like napkins at holiday meals, but there it was.

And of course, the girl was wrong. They were always wrong. He shook his head and took a sip of instant coffee, checking something in his peripheral vision, even as he closed the spread sheet and opened the web page for the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

]o[

Haruhi heard her name called and recognized the summoning for what it was. "Haruhi, if you would please."

Haruhi gratefully excused herself from her simpering guest. Normally, she was a good conversationalist, and kept her customers happy, but this one…"Yes, Kyoya-sempai?"

"Why is Tamaki growing mushrooms in the corner again? What did you say to him this time? That doom cloud is doing nothing for his disposition and is turning all the sweet into salt around here."

Haruhi sighed. "I didn't say anything to him this time. Mori-sempai gave me a cake for my birthday before he could. And Hani-sempai kissed my cheek."

"Ah. Well, then I guess I'll wait to take you to dinner until he gives you his gift." Kyoya looked at the calendar pop-up on his screen. "He would never forgive me for upstaging him like that."

All of the birthday hub-bub was certainly flattering but totally unnecessary, and… wait… "You were going to take me to dinner?"

Kyoya looked up at Haruhi's shocked expression. "Of course," he said. He allowed a small smile to turn up the left corner of his mouth.

"What do you think, ladies, can you guess which one is Hikaru?"

Haruhi and Kyoya both turned and considered the twins. Each was wearing a floppy cap over their copper-gold hair, hiding their identifying mark. Matching eyes twinkled above matching smirks. Matching arms draped over matching shoulders. The girls seated before them were cooing like little captured doves.

"How can they keep getting away with that game?" Haruhi grumbled. She flopped into the seat across from Kyoya.

]o[

She'd invaded his personal space, but he didn't mind this time. Her birthday was in two days after all. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. "Because the girls always fall for it."

"How is it so hard to tell them apart?"

"Because most of them only manage to scratch the surface of the Hitachiin twins." Tap-tap-tap. He ignored the silence from the other side of the table, knowing it to be Haruhi's habit of deciphering something she believes is important. He allows her to do this occasionally. Their relationship remains fresh and interesting this way.

"Sempai… can you tell them apart?"

Tap-tap-ta—Damn. "Of course I can."

"Humph. Says the Demon Lord," Haruhi chuckled.

Relief tripped down Kyoya's spine. He'd forgotten for a second that Haruhi was much requested for her scintillating and insightful conversation. He closed the laptop and gave her his full attention, holding his words close to his chest.

]o[

Haruhi sensed she had touched a nerve with her question. Or perhaps someone had just turned down the air conditioner in the room. Or a snow squall had just blown in from the frozen tundra of the North Pole. She was never sure with Kyoya.

As much as it used to, his tone didn't scare her anymore. Nor did the fact that he had bestowed his entire attention on her, waiting for her next word. She tilted her head a little and gave it to him: "How?"

Kyoya blinked at her for a full ten seconds then leaned forward, hands clasped and index fingers steepled under his chin. The game was on. She knew she was going to lose, but she mentally took notes anyway, wishing once again that she had been given a brother like this to grow up with.

"Hikaru is on the right. His eyes are a little narrower than his twin's. His nose a bit wider, his lips thinner. He is the taller one, the brash one, the unrepentant one, the one who will put tacks in your chair and laugh even as he's sticking Ootori bandages all over your wounded dignity."

"So far so good, tell me more," Haruhi murmured.

"Hikaru is harsh. He's loud. He doesn't know quite when to quit." The smile flashed for a moment. "He will love you for long time. He will love you deeply. He will protect and cherish your heart like a precious treasure. He will love you hard."

The heat from her cheeks bounced of Kyoya's cool shell and she could practically see the steam rising from the contact.

"I've heard the girls say that he smells like sex and candy. My advice would be, for anyone of a mind to step into his light that they had better hang on for dear life. That will be a ride that will flip your world upside down."

Now there was no heat, no ice, nothing but a barren wasteland in her mind, with tumbleweeds and cacti and a little creature that gibbered madly in the corner. He said sex and candy. Sex. And Candy. Kyoya uttered the word sex. It almost made the world stop turning. And furthermore, how had he known? She kept her gaze riveted to her tablemate's, not daring to move her gaze to the object of her affection. She cleared her throat a little and sat straighter, putting that question aside for future dissection. "A-and Kaoru? Tell me how you know."

Kyoya suddenly leaned back, his eyelids shuttering his gaze.

Retreat. Interesting, Haruhi thought.

"Kaoru is obviously on the left. His is the narrower face, the more pointed chin. One eyebrow is slightly higher than the other, and his lips are fuller. He is also mischief but is the kinder of the two. He'll help Hikaru put tacks in your chair, but he'll give you a gift to say he's sorry. He holds his brother in check when he can. He is the keeper of their secrets. He plays the seme because it makes the girls happy, not because he's so inclined. He will also love you for a long time. But his is a soft love, a love like cool water flowing from a fountain."

Haruhi followed Kyoya's voice, as smooth as ever, as rich like crushed velvet as ever, the words barely penetrating. Kyoya had a habit of doing that, lulling you into a false sense of security with his voice before knocking you flat with a single word. She was one of the lucky ones. It usually took more than one word to knock her out. And, of course, right on cue, she was given two sentences that would make her feel like a mere phantom of her regular self.

"Kaoru's skin tastes like sweet milk and strawberry ice."

A trick of the light made Kyoya's glasses flash bright for a moment, then he pushed them up the bridge of his nose.

"And he's mine."

And the lightbulb clicked on in Haruhi's mind.

fin