Ouran is the creation and property of Bones, Square Enix and Hatori Bisco. Spoilers ahead!
(And really, if I had any rights to Ouran, do you think I'd be writing fan fiction about it?)
"I would define my love by things of which no language is aware."
There is the beat of a hammer, thumpthumpthump like a metal heart. Mori watches them over one shoulder as he fixes the door.
He watches Mitsukuni hold the injured arm out, Haruhi ready to accept it.
"Ah, but this isn't too bad."
Mitsukuni, wincing at the sting of antiseptic. Haruhi, opposing it with careful hands.
"It's alright, Mori-senpai. Just a scratch."
Mitsukuni, sniffling bravely.
Haruhi, smiling brightly.
Both looking over at him.
And Mori knows not express any thanks, of course, because Haruhi would not want it. A protector never does.
(But he smiles back anyway.)
Kneeling there in the mud, Mori listens to them discuss tradition and duty.
He figures it would take too many words to explain: that he did not choose to be a son or a brother or a cousin, that those are things he is by blood.
But he chooses, every day, to make Akira Morinozuka proud. To help Satoshi with his kendo, to carry Mitsukuni if he is too tired to walk. Chooses, and that makes all the difference.
He feels a brush of fingers against his arm.
It sends a jolt through him, even if Haruhi's voice is reassuring against the background noise.
"Mori-senpai... Hani-senpai will be safe."
There is no confusion in her expression, just understanding.
"He's a lot stronger than he seems," she adds.
An understanding that choice is what separates duty from devotion, and which it is that drives him.
He gets to his feet and lays a hand on her head. His palm covers it almost entirely.
(In protecting her, too, he chooses.)
She has such nice eyes.
Big, dark, honest, taking everything in and giving everything back.
And Mori decides that he would like to buy Haruhi strawberries every day - if that was what she wanted- because of the way her eyes reflect the little happiness they cause her.
'You're welcome' almost falls out.
(He adds more strawberries to her plate instead.)
Self-containment is something Mori prides himself in.
He has always preferred to speak with his actions, enjoyed the reflection that silence allows for.
"So when you refused that girl earlier...you did that to punish yourself?"
It is a question, but it is not a question, and he looks up at her. A dull ache is still worming through his shoulder where Mitsukuni threw him to the floor.
Self-containment is something Mori prides himself in.
So being looked right into -just like that, like it is the easiest thing in the world- is almost embarrassing. There's something so solemn and intense about they way Haruhi does it.
But in spite of the embarrassment, Mori is glad. Glad there are people they can help together -even if it's themselves- and things that connect them.
That make it so he does not have to put things into words, so that he does not have to say 'yes' or tell her that he feels responsible.
(She already knows.)
"Takashi and I will punish the bad guys."
Speaking for the both of them, Mitsukuni's words are childlike.
The voice he says them in, though, is not childlike in the least.
The news of Haruhi's kidnapping sends them reeling; after all, she is their classmate. She is their friend. She is in danger. But the anger he feels is still startling, even unnerving.
Because Takashi Morinozuka has never wanted to punish before.
To reprimand, save, guard, discipline, retaliate... He is familiar with all of those.
But there is something viciously personal about a want to punish. A want to return some deep, true hurt done to yourself: or to someone more important than yourself.
(Even after Haruhi is safe, it is that last part that bothers him.)
Haruhi is standing there with hands behind her back, eyes expectant while he unwraps the graduation present. There is no card or tag on it, just plain white wrapping. ('Good luck!' all the other gifts piled next to him say.)
The paper crumples with one more pull, and he turns the book over to study its title.
'Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan.'
It is written by Eiko Ikegami, second-hand and dog-eared from use; her book, he realizes. A book she has poured hours into, smoothed the corners of with curiosity.
He opens to the flyleaf.
And finds, written in a familiar and efficient script:
Do your best, Mori-senpai. I know you can!
He is very still. The silence is so pure that it feels pressurized.
"Do you like it?" she finally asks.
Briefly, Mori pictures her at her desk.
Book opened in front of her, chewing on a pen. Bringing her nose almost to the page in consideration. Smiling as she writes. Forming clean words that speak more through what they do not say -through the careful hand that forms them- than anything else.
Drawing a few lazy circles on scrap paper to make sure her ink won't run dry.
(And he imagines Haruhi's pen curving too steeply upward for one loop, sighting a trajectory further-reaching than the page will accommodate.)
Do your best.
There is no containment to his smile this time; the warmth of it spreads through his chest like a cup of tea.
"Mori-" she starts to ask again.
It comes out more rushed than he had meant it to, and Haruhi straightens in surprise.
"Please call me Takashi."
And then a private smile, one that reflects from her eyes and back into him.
"Well, okay... But you're always gonna to be 'senpai' to me, right Takashi?"
She says it with ease, and the name suddenly becomes hers: hers to write, hers to say, hers to think.
Given over freely as a choice, accepted as a choice.
(Thumpthumpthump, and the door is in place.)
A/N: As always, please let me know what you think.