And you want to travel with her,
And you want to travel blind,
And you know that you can trust her
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.
-from "Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen
Inordinate wealth had occasional advantages, and as far as Kyoya was concerned, a private beach in Fiji was by no means the least of them. Although he typically preferred someplace a little more cosmopolitan, he had to admit that a deserted beach and a house with nearly invisible staff fit the bill for a honeymoon rather perfectly. Certainly far better than the dilapidated cabin in Shenandoah National Park that his wife had insisted upon for the first part of their trip. No, he strongly favored this setup: a reclining lounger easily large enough for two people, a small table for their cold drinks, and a wife in a bikini rather than ratty jeans and hiking boots.
He shifted his head slightly so he could study said wife covertly. She was absent-mindedly scratching a mosquito bite as she read over an article in the latest issue of the Journal of Cellular Biology. Every so often, she'd shake her head or mutter to herself. She appeared completely oblivious to her husband's presence beside her. He considered her. Elaine Ootori, nee Johnson, had a quick temper and a disinclination to listen when she got angry. She brought out in Kyoya the distinct tendency to put his foot in his mouth and usually offered no help in getting it back out again. She was descended from the some of the noblest of Japanese aristocracy on her mother's side, and from rabble-rousers and Appalachian coal miners on her father's side. Perhaps worst of all in her husband's eyes, she was an inveterate morning person. And Kyoya adored her uncategorically.
Laney scribbled a note in the margin of the journal. "Want to tell me why you're staring at me?" she asked without looking up from the page.
"I can't appreciate my bride's beauty?"
She snorted. "Come off it, Kyoya. I can practically hear the gears turning in that head of yours."
"When do you think you started to fall in love with me?"
She looked up. "Seriously?"
"Just curious," he said lightly. "You don't ever wonder?"
"When I started to fall in love with you? No I don't wonder about that." She turned the page.
He poked her in the side, making her squeal. "Don't be deliberately obtuse. You know what I mean."
"Do you really think insulting me is a good idea when you're trying to get me to reveal the innermost secrets of my heart?"
Kyoya pulled her over on top of him, kissing her leisurely. He let his hands trail down her back, very lightly, playing suggestively with the tie to her bikini top before sinking down to cup her behind, pressing her hips into his. His mouth moved from her lips to her throat, nipping and sucking just until her breathing started to grow ragged. Then he sat up.
"Unfair," she murmured, nails lightly scratching up and down his chest. Kyoya shivered, but didn't relent.
"Why don't you want to tell me?" he pressed.
"Because you'll laugh at me."
"I would never."
"That weekend we drove down to Williamsburg to visit Grandma. When you told me that I was basically a bargaining chip for my father's business, and then you implied you wanted to sleep with me anyways," Laney admitted, looking out at the water, journal forgotten by her side.
"Really? You were so angry at me, I thought I'd blown the whole thing," he said, trying desperately to keep his promise and not laugh.
She smiled at him, the sweet, slow smile he loved best. "It was the first time I felt like you weren't just trying to play me. The first time I actually got a sense that you might let me in, instead of keeping me at arm's length the way you'd been doing up until that point." Laney chuckled. "And then you were so nervous the next morning, worrying about whether I was still mad. You were adorable."
"I was hardly nervous."
"Baby, you were jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof," she said, planting a fond kiss on his shoulder, gliding her fingers down his arm before interlacing them with his own. "Haruhi told me about your phone conversation with her that night, you know. About how you thought you'd screwed everything up, and you were terrified you were going to have to marry someone who hated you. You can't keep any secrets from me."
"Never wanted to," he said lazily, rubbing light circles on her hand with his thumb. "You're the only one with that particular privilege, mind." Then, "I was not terrified. I've never been terrified in my life. At the most, I was mildly apprehensive."
"Of course you were." She rested her head against his shoulder, and he passed her a cold bottle of water. She took a long sip, then asked, "What about you?"
"What about me?"
Laney brushed her lips lightly against his. Kyoya leaned forward, hungry for more, but she restrained him with a hand on his chest. "Two can play that game, sweet boy."
Kyoya lay back down, closing his eyes. He was silent for a minute, luxuriating in the unaccustomed sensation of pure relaxation. There was no place he had to be, no calls to be made, no e-mails to be answered. It was just him and his wife next to him, and the white sand, vast ocean, and endless blue sky, and seven whole days of nothing stretching ahead of them.
Laney waited quietly next to him, and not for the first time, he took a moment to appreciate her patience, her willingness to let him process before answering. Finally, he opened his eyes again, and answered her question. "That weekend. I think it was seeing you with your family, your grandmother and your cousins. You were all so relaxed, so open with each other. I wanted that. I wanted to be inside it, not just an observer."
"So you married me for my family?" she teased. Kyoya caught the consternation buried underneath the joke.
"Up until then, you'd intrigued me. I don't think I need to tell you how devastatingly attractive I found you from the very start," he lifted her hand and planted a kiss on her open palm. "But seeing you like that, I started to allow myself to really think about what a life with you might be like.
"I had always known I couldn't afford to fall in love, would certainly never marry for love. Sure, it was fine for romantic fools like Tamaki and Huni, but I had better sense than that. I meant to have bigger things. Marriage meant respect, and if I got really, really lucky, maybe friendship." He pulled his wife to him, needing to feel her solid presence in his arms. "I may have been something of an idiot."
"What changed your mind?" she asked gently, head nestled underneath his chin.
"You did, of course. Seeing you with your family that night was the first time I ever asked myself whether it would be really be so catastrophic to go after what I actually wanted rather than what I thought I should want." He tightened his arms around her, kissing her hair. "Granted, it took a little while to figure out the answer. But that's when I started asking the question."
"And there hadn't been anyone before me to make you think that maybe you might want something more out of your life than what you had planned out when you were 16?"
"14, actually, and no, there wasn't."
She raised herself up on her elbow and gave him a look. "You are not seriously expecting me to believe that you led a life of celibacy and contemplation before meeting me. You are many things, Kyoya Ootori, but a monk? That one I do not buy."
He laughed, trying to hide his discomfort. "No, I was definitely not a monk."
"Cut a wide swath back in the day, did you?"
"I did all right. It's not like I was notching my bedpost or anything."
"They weren't all just hookups though, right?" She looked faintly disapproving.
"No, they weren't all hookups. I was in a couple relationships, just nothing very serious. Although there was this one model," he trailed off with a slight smile.
"A model? Seriously? Baby, you know that is the ultimate rich playboy cliché."
"Yes, well, that was part of the appeal. She was safe."
"There was never any chance of it being anything more than a glorified fling. Any kind of future together would have involved unacceptable sacrifices on both sides. So I could let myself get a bit carried away about her, knowing the relationship wasn't going to go anywhere."
"That's … a little twisted, Kyoya." Laney sat up more, taking another drink of water.
He shrugged. "I've heard that being raised in a family that prioritizes pursuit of power over all else will do that to a guy. If I'm being completely honest, I think part of the reason I fell in love with you is because you're the perfect medium between duty and happiness."
"I thought you just got done telling me that you fell in love with me because it's what you wanted rather than what your father wanted."
"It's complicated." Kyoya leaned down to pick up a handful of sand, letting it run through his fingers. "I'd be lying if I said that your company and your social standing weren't factors in my initial attraction to you."
"Careful. I might swoon if you lay on the romance like that." Her tone was light, but she did not look happy.
"You know those aren't factors anymore, Laney."
He lay back down on the lounger, looking up at her. "I told my father I'd walk away from the family if he couldn't accept our marriage. That wasn't a bluff. You tell me what can be extrapolated from that."
"You knew he wouldn't pull that trigger," she pointed out.
"Yeah, I did. But that doesn't change the fact that I was not bluffing."
Laney sighed, laying back down against his chest. "There is no part of you that's simple, is there?"
He huffed with laughter. "You'd get bored."
She smiled against him. "Probably."
The two of them lay together in silence for a few minutes, listening to the sound of the waves crashing and receding on the beach.
"So everyone before me was just a game for you." Laney evidently wasn't finished with the subject.
"Well. Not everyone," he admitted.
"Haruhi wasn't a game."
"Haruhi? Tamaki's Haruhi?" She sat up again, surprise on her face. "I thought they'd been together since high school."
"No, that's right. I don't think the two of them ever saw anyone else. Very romantic, in a John Hughes kind of fashion."
She raised an eyebrow. "John Hughes? Didn't realize he was big in Japan."
"The model was a fan. Pretty in Pink and all that." He tried very hard to keep a smirk off his face.
"Don't try to distract me," Laney said. "You were in love with Haruhi?"
"That's stretching it a bit," he said, rolling over and shading his eyes from the sun beginning to creep under the umbrella. "But I certainly loved her, and not entirely just as a friend."
"You're not jealous?"
"After what we did this morning? I think I've got you locked down pretty tight," she grinned, leaning over him to kiss him. "Honestly, I'll worry about it more if you don't tell me," she said more seriously. "My imagination can sometimes get the best of me."
"The thing about Haruhi …" He stopped, thinking. "The thing about Haruhi isn't as much about Haruhi as it was about us."
"The two-of-you-us or the guys-us?"
"The latter. Don't get me wrong. Haruhi is, and always was, as Fuyumi once called her, a keeper. But for the four of us, Tamaki, the twins, and myself, she was also the first girl we'd ever really talked to. "
"She was the first girl you guys had an authentic conversation with, and you didn't meet her until you were in high school." Laney's voice was disbelieving.
"I believe I once told you I was not the most fucked-up member of that particular group. The Hitachiins managed to go until about 13 before ever having a real conversation with anyone other than themselves, and they probably would have gone longer if it hadn't been for Tamaki." He realized his tone was defensive, and he tried to relax. "And Tamaki was always so worried about making all the girls happy. I think Haruhi was the first one he ever really relaxed around."
"She was the first girl I ever bothered to talk to without pretense. She couldn't offer me anything other than her friendship, and it was glaringly obvious that she didn't expect anything but friendship from me in return. It was … seductive. "
"So you're trying to tell me Haruhi seduced you."
"Not in a sexual sense. Although the transgressive element to her cross-dressing was a little hot, especially once she started filling out a bit." He grinned up at his wife, knowing she'd likely take exception to that.
"Gross," she flicked a bit of water at him. "I can't believe I married a man who ogled his best friend's girl."
"It wasn't ogling, it was appreciating. There's a difference. Anyway, I think we were all in love with her, or at least we thought we were." He paused. "Not Huni. Maybe not Mori, although he's always been hard to read. But the rest of us? We had it pretty bad for a while. In the end, though, Kaoru stepped aside for Hikaru, and I stepped aside for Tamaki. And Haruhi made her choice, and never looked back."
Laney was silent for a moment. Then, cocking her head to the side, she asked "Is that how it is between you two? When he wants something, you step aside?"
"No. Maybe. For some things." He flipped again, staring out at the ocean, watching the waves roll in, closer each time. "In high school, yes. That's how it was. That was the clear expectation laid out for me by my father. Arrange everything so it was obvious to anyone who cared to look who the brains of the operation were, but also let Tamaki take the glory. That way, the Suohs would feel indebted to us. It took me quite a while to realize how deeply Tamaki hated that. How much he always wanted us to be on an even keel."
"But not when it came to Haruhi." Her voice was quiet.
He shook his head. "No, it wasn't like that. I'm not sure Tamaki ever knew how I really felt about her. There was so much going on—his mother, his grandmother, his father. He had his hands full. And the Host Club, we were his family, and he was terrified of losing us. I don't think he let himself see the reality of the situation until things were pretty close to the boiling point. And by that time, Haruhi's feelings for him were obvious." He paused. "Laney, he was my best friend, and he had been so broken for so long, and he wanted her so badly. How could I possibly complicate that for him?"
"So you just stepped aside, without ever saying anything to either of them."
"If I'd wanted her that badly, I would have fought for her," Kyoya said in a low voice. "I still love her—she's one of my best friends—but looking back, we were all wrong for each other, and I think I always knew that on some level. It wasn't just the giant gulf between our social stations, or the fact that my father would have disapproved rather strenuously. We're too similar, Haruhi and I. We both live too much in our heads, I think. You and Tamaki both pull us out of ourselves, open us up to new experiences. I think we both need the touch of whimsy you two bring." She raised an eyebrow at that, but he ignored it. "If Haruhi and I had ever been together, things would have gotten stagnant fairly quickly. Besides," he shrugged, "she only ever saw Tamaki. It was a moot point."
Laney was silent.
"I'd have fought for you," he said, still not looking at her. "I don't care whose feelings I would have stepped on, whose life I would have screwed up. I'd have fought tooth and nail for you."
"That's very romantic, baby, but what exactly could you do to change the situation? If I wanted to be with Tamaki?"
"Well, at the very least I would have confessed my feelings to you, and laid out the case for why you should be with me instead of Tamaki. The sheer logic would no doubt have dazzled you, and you would have fallen into my arms. In this particular scenario, I likely would have arranged for us to have this discussion near a bed, or at the very least a comfortable couch. We'd consummate the relationship immediately, and with any luck, I'd get you knocked up. Win-win."
"And if it didn't dazzle me?"
"I'd smile, offer you both my heartfelt best wishes, and promptly move halfway around the world so I wouldn't have to see either of you for at least a decade." He stopped as he realized what he had just said. "Wait, I swear that is not what happened."
"Oh really?" Laney had pulled her knees up to her chest, and now she laid her head down on them, looking sideways at her husband.
"First of all, I'd planned to go to school in America before I'd even met Haruhi," he explained. "Second of all, when I moved to America, it was actually to join her and Tamaki, not to get away from them. They were on an exchange program to Boston, and the rest of us just bulled our way in."
"And then when everyone else moved back to Japan, poor broken-hearted Kyoya stayed in the States, drowning his sorrows in economic theory."
"Okay, now you're just fucking with me."
"I am," she smiled.
"Like there was no one else for you?"
"Well, there was Luke. I thought we were heading for marriage until he decided to go to Duke instead of Georgetown for law school." Laney stretched out, pressing herself close to her husband's side.
"Luke went to Duke."
"He did," she confirmed.
"Please tell me you dumped him for that alone, because I cannot see you maintaining anything resembling a straight face while introducing people to your boyfriend Luke who went to Duke." Kyoya slid his hands up his wife's back, playing again with the knots of her bikini top.
"No, actually, it was Luke who cut the cord on that."
"Idiot." He found a loose string, and pulled. "Not that I'm not profoundly and eternally grateful to be the prime beneficiary of his idiocy, but still. Who could leave you?"
"He didn't so much want to break up as to take a step back and stop being exclusive while we were long distance." Laney moved slightly to give him better access.
"You know that's guy-code for I want to fuck other women while still maintaining the emotional benefits of a steady girlfriend, right?"
"Well obviously, darlin'. And Mama Johnson did not raise her baby girl to be played like that."
Kyoya stilled his hands. "I'm not ashamed of my past, but I need you to know I never did that. Every girl I was ever with knew she could expect from me. You know that, right? I might play that game in business, but not in my personal life."
"I know that, love." Laney's smile was soft.
"In fact," his grip on her tightened, "I think you were the first girl I ever kissed without a clear goal in mind."
He made an impatient noise. "That's not the right word. But with everyone else, there were always set parameters. This was a one-night stand, this was a fling, this was someone I wanted to get to know better, be with for a little while. With you?" He shrugged. "I couldn't figure out what the end-game was supposed to look like. All I knew for sure was that if I didn't give whatever was developing between us a chance I might regret it for the rest of my life."
"That's unusually dramatic, coming from you."
"I'm a newlywed. I think I'm allowed a little leniency."
She turned, picking up her journal and pretending to write something in it. "Breaking news: youngest Ootori pleads for leniency," she teased, "full story at eleven." Her top was enticingly loose, and Kyoya was now completely out of patience for any more discussion of their previous love lives.
"I didn't plead for leniency. I claimed it as my due," he said, leaning over and trying to take the journal away.
"That's an extremely subtle distinction." She moved away from him, laughing.
"An appreciation for subtle distinctions is part of being an Ootori," he replied.
Laney turned her back to him, leaning down to pick up her pen.
"What are you writing?" Kyoya took advantage of the position to further work on the knots of her swimsuit.
"I'm keeping a list of all the things you tell me are involved in being an Ootori," she said. "I think the other night you told me 'An Ootori always knows when to hold them and when to fold them.'"
"That was Kenny Rogers, not me. Though I can see how you might be confused." He pulled the last knot free, smiling as the bikini top fell to the sand.
"Now look at what you did," Laney scolded, turning to face her husband.
"Love, please believe me. I am definitely looking." Kyoya leaned back, hands behind his head, letting her make the next move.
"What am I going to do with you?" She tried to keep a stern expression on her face, but was failing rather spectacularly.
"Anything you want. But I do have a few ideas, should you need them."
"I think …" she put her finger to her lips and wrinkled her brow, feigning concentration, "I think I might have an idea." She suddenly dashed away, running for the water. "But you'll have to catch me first," she called back over her shoulder.
"Pretty sure I already did," Kyoa murmured to himself. He settled back down in the lounger to watch his wife play in the waves. He had little intention of chasing after her like a dog in heat, and besides, there was something to be said for the simple pleasure of voyeurism once in a while.
Soon enough, they'd be back to the real world, back to balancing graduate school with subtly undermining his brothers in his father's eyes. He'd executed a coup with forcing his marriage to Laney, despite his father's disapproval, but he knew it would be foolish to let it rest there. He had to demonstrate he could use his new wife's connections to his, and by extension, the Ootori Group's, best interest. There was considerable planning to be done. But all of that could wait for a few more days. He closed his eyes, succumbing to the heat of the day and the lulling sound of the surf. He knew she'd come to him sooner rather than later, body wet from the sea, and they'd likely make love right on the beach, not bothering to go up to the house. But for the moment, he relaxed, half-drowsing, and, for once, thoroughly content.
Author's Note: Wow. I did not expect such a great reception to that first chapter! Thank you so much to Existiert Nicht, ImperialMoonBeing, Juli Mckeltar, Levi Hechiou, MagicMythMayhem, RiderPhantomhive, avaflava1, bookworm118, ktmyldy28, lizzycullen1994, luzartisan, mutemuia, and quirkyquartz for the favorites, and to luxartisan, Shattered Deception, Juli Mckeltar, Existiert Nicht, quirkyquartz, badgerlock, ktmyldy28, TheExtraStudent, Chalice13, and mutemuia for the reviews. This will probably be the only OC conversation in the bunch, just FYI. But I felt like it did need to follow and wrap up some threads from the last conversation. I hope you all enjoy it. :)