Ouran High School Host Club Fan Fiction ❯ The O-bento ( Chapter 8 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Sleeping In
by Palatyne
Chapter Eight
The O-bento
Disclaimer: I do not own Ouran High School Host Club. The original manga story, characters and plot belong to Bisco Hatori, Lala, English editions to Viz Media and the anime to Bones, et.al.
Author’s Note: First of all, I cannot apologize enough for the very long break in-between this chapter and the previous one. So many things happen the past years/months that I had to cope with and after that there was my own life to fix. So I sincerely apologize for this very, very, long (though not entirely unforgiveable?) delay.
Second, and more importantly, I cannot thank you all enough for still being patient and still reading and reviewing.
I hope you like this one.
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Chapter Eight
The O-bento
Haruhi watched patiently as the Hitaachin twins once more went through their daily lunchtime routine.
Hikaru sat with his legs on a desk, lazily playing with a new mobile phone by alternately tossing it into the air and catching it. She mentally cringed at each toss, knowing full well that the phone probably cost more than a year’s worth of her allowance.
“Come on, Haruhi! The prize for this game is this new phone. It’s not even out in the market yet, they gave our mother a few samples to match her new line.”
“No thank you.”
“If you don’t want it then I guess I’ll just have to throw it away.”
“It’s your phone so you can do whatever you want with it.” She said sourly – displeased at the idea of such wastefulness but not displeased enough to give into one of their games.
If her obvious irritation bothered them, they didn’t say anything. Yet she caught the questioning glances they exchanged.
It had become a ritual of sorts for the twins to spend the first few minutes of the lunch hour bothering her with challenges or games. Most days they simply tried to persuade her to eat at the cafeteria with the rest of the Host Club. Today, despite her troubled mind, was no exception.
“This is boring, Haruhi, why don’t you eat at the cafeteria with us?” Hikaru whined, predictably.
“I can’t afford it.”
“I will pay.”
“No thank you.”
“So you’re going to let us starve here?” Kaoru asked evenly.
“I didn’t ask you to be here.”
“You could at least show us your o-bento.”
“No.” The last time she did they dissected the box like it was something from an alien planet and both marveled and laughed at the “commoner food” inside it.
“We won’t laugh this time, promise.”
Hikaru sighed loudly and resorted to tossing the phone even higher into air. She usually waited until they grew hungry enough to have to leave her and head for the cafeteria themselves, before opening her o-bento. That way she could eat in peace. She passed the time by reviewing the notes she took of the previous class.
“Haruhi, you never really told us what happened that day.” It was Kaoru who broke the lengthening silence.
“Eh?” She remarked innocently, her eyes on her notes. She had counted on them being too distractible to notice the change in her demeanor these past few days. It worked for Tamaki and Hikaru, but she had always known Kaoru to notice much more than he let on.
“When we sent you to Kyouya-sempai’s hotel, what happened then?” Kaoru prodded.
“I already explained to Tamaki-sempai, I thought he already told you.”
“That Kyouya-sempai told you that he still wouldn’t go and that you left after that? Yes, he told us that.”
“That’s right.” She knew the less she said of the matter, the less likely she would reveal anything.
“That’s it? That’s what happened? He didn’t turn into the Demon Lord in front of you or called the security after you?” Kaoru regarded her fixedly, making her wary.
“How strange…” He replied casually, but his eyes were still on her, as if waiting for her to say anything more.
“Nani, Kaoru?” Hikaru asked, suddenly aware of the strange turn in the conversation, taking in Kaoru’s thoughtful expression.
“I was expecting him to get back at us after what we did, but he didn’t.”
“What do you call banning us from the hotel?” Hikaru scoffed.
“Still, I was expecting some other retaliation on his part. He could’ve used the Club to punish us, increase our designations like he usually does. But he didn’t. That’s a bit unusual for him, don’t you think?” Kaoru mused loudly.
“Unusual for whom, Kaoru?” Came a familiar voice.
“Speaking of the devil.” Hikaru muttered.
It was Kyouya himself, walking towards them from the doorway. He was carrying a large paper bag which he set gently on an unoccupied right in front of Hikaru.
“Kyouya-sempai, what are you doing here?” Kaoru asked, none too politely.
“Hikaru, Kaoru, I need you both to be at the cafeteria right now. I have a designation for you there.”
“Eh?! It’s our lunch break we’re not supposed to be doing any hosting.” Hikaru protested.
“Two very special guests just arrived this morning after classes started. They are student observers from another school and they will spend several days here at Ouran.”
She raised her eyes slightly to glance as Kyouya took out the now-familiar file case which she knew was filled with dossier-like papers on every student of Ouran. She had no doubt that she herself had a file there but had since avoided even considering what was written on it. He was now scanning the page, oblivious to the impending outburst.
“We don’t want to go.” Hikaru proclaimed defiantly.
Kaoru on the other hand regarded Kyouya with a slight look of suspicion. “I think we met our quota for this week Kyouya-sempai. If you were planning to increase it you should’ve told us.”
“I understand that Kaoru, but this is not about your quota. This is about the many payments that were made for the damages you incurred to school and private property during the Festival.” Kyouya intoned smoothly.
“What?” Hikaru gasped indignantly.
Kyouya smiled a mirthless smile at the twins. “You seem to have forgotten that there is still the cost of the restoration of the irreparably damaged 18th century carriage that was loaned to us by the Equestrian Museum. There is also the treatment for the injuries of the two thoroughbred stallions loaned to us by the Equestrian Club. They had to be flown abroad for stress therapy…hmmm, that cost the Club quite a lot.”
“And there is also the matter of the complete destruction of the pumpkin patch maintained by the Gardening Club. Kasanoda-kun is quite…insistent that we pay for the repairs.” Kyouya was now scribbling notes, unperturbed by the twins’ protests.
“Hey, I broke my arm on that patch! They should be paying me!” Hikaru cried.
“Yes, I am aware of that. But I’m afraid your broken arm is not payment enough for all the damages you made.”
“Don’t they have insurance for that?” Kaoru questioned shrewdly.
“Insurance doesn’t cover deliberately using the carriage in a race against a sports car.”
Hikaru opened his mouth to protest, but Kaoru cut him off.
“Send Tamaki then. He can handle them.” Kaoru suggested all too calmly.
“My investigation suggests that these clients are particularly interested in brotherly love.” Kyouya replied easily.
“Really?” Kaoru asked, not without a hint of sarcasm. “Just me and Hikaru?”
“I think Haruhi should handle this. She drove the carriage, she should be the one paying for it.” Hikaru blurted out, no longer bothering to hide his annoyance.
She would have protested just as violently to Hikaru’s comment, if not for the fact that she could sense something was up. There was something about the way Kyouya insisted that they leave that bothered her.
“I assure you Kaoru, that debt has already been added to all her other debts. But I split the total cost among the three of you, since you were all involved.” Once more, Kyouya had a reply ready. “Of course, if you do not want this designation, I can’t force you.”
“No, we don’t want it.” Hikaru retorted.
“It’s just as well…” Kyouya sighed empathically as he closed his notebook. “The brotherly love act is not selling so well these days anyway. With Hikaru injured you have not had a lot of designations.”
Anyone who was paying enough attention could see that it was another one of Kyouya Ootori’s tricks. It was all too obvious.
But the expression of righteous anger on Hikaru’s face left no doubt as to its success.
Not selling so well?!”
Kyouya’s voice echoed with compassion. “I understand perfectly if you think you can’t handle the clients, Hikaru.”
“What?!” Hikaru practically spat the word.
Kaoru on the other hand looked torn between being just as cross as Hikaru and standing his ground against Kyouya’s obvious scheming.
Yet he could only entreat weakly to his twin. “Hikaru, we shouldn’t.”
“The Hitaachin twins not selling well?! Don’t make me laugh!” Hikaru sneered, oblivious to his twin’s protests.
“I’m afraid Hikaru, the numbers are against you.”
There was a pause as Hikaru face registered a range of emotions.
But it was obvious what was about to happen next.
“C’mon Kaoru!”
“Hikaru!” Kaoru cried out, but in vain. Hikaru was rushing past him out the room and presumably straight to the cafeteria.
Kaoru cast a suspicious backward glance at Kyouya before running after his twin. Kyouya Ootori had won the round.
Shadow King.” Haruhi could only mutter as she watched the twins rush out of the classroom.
Then she watched as swiftly and seemingly with very little effort Kyouya moved a nearby table and slid it right across her own – carelessly he pulled a chair and sat right across from her.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m eating here.”
“It’s our lunch break.”
“You eat at the cafeteria.”
“Today I’m eating here.”
She was about to object when she saw him slowly take out a cloth-wrapped bundle from the large paper bag he had set down. From its wrapping, she instantly recognized what it was.
An o-bento.
“Is that…yours?”
“Do you think I stole it?” He asked, raising one eyebrow.
“Of course not! It’s just…I’ve never seen you with an o-bento before.” She replied tactfully.
She bit back saying that it was more likely that he stole a bento than him actually bringing one from home.
“You’re thinking perhaps I terrorized an unfortunate freshman and demanded that he give his lunch.” He was now smirking at her.
He really does read minds!
“My sister made this for me. She thinks it’s a novelty.”
“Hontou ka?” Haruhi was genuinely surprised. “I didn’t know you had a sister, is she here at Ouran?”
“No, she graduated many years ago. She’s married now.”
“I see.”
She watched as Kyouya placed the bento onto the table. It was wrapped in what looked like a genuine silk cloth, but even she could see that it was knotted haphazardly. He struggled for a few seconds to unwrap it, before finally deciding to just shrug the box out of the cloth.
At first glance the bento looked pretty ordinary, but as she looked closely she could see that it was made of real wood, black lacquer painted with beautiful marshland scenery.
“I believe it’s an antique, a wedding gift to my grandmother.”
She knew Kyouya had an eye for such things, but even she could tell that it was a masterpiece. “It’s amazing.”
“But possibly hiding horrors within.”
Kyouya smiled slightly. “My sister is not known for her culinary skills…”
Slowly he removed the bento’s top cover.
Haruhi bit back a gasp.
The bento that was so beautiful on the outside indeed hid a disaster within.
On the largest compartment of the bento were three giant strips of what looked like a whitish-yellowish blob sitting on a bed of soggy grayish colored rice. All around the blobs were wire-thin strips of what were probably vegetables but looked more like art paper that met a shredder. On two smaller compartments were an assortment of thinly sliced pieces of food shaped into animals – or at least that’s what she thought they were shaped like.
“I don’t think Fuyumi-nesan realized I need the food to be edible.” Kyouya said quietly, still staring at the bento.
“It’s not so bad.” Haruhi intoned, herself staring at the three blobs, trying to figure out what they were.
“Let’s see.” Kyouya rummaged through the cloth wrapper and found a pair of black wooden chopsticks.
Cautiously he picked up one of the three whitish blobs.
“I’m not quite sure what this is…tempura?” He asked, raising his chopsticks to eye-level.
“No I think that’s…”
But before they could figure out what it was, the whitish blob slowly began to slip from the chopsticks, disintegrating into clumps of more whitish stuff before falling wetly back into the bento, leaving the red-orange bit of prawn hanging from Kyouya’s chopsticks.
“So it is tempura.” He said evenly.
She didn’t know if it was because of the look of calm disgust on Kyouya’s face, the way he said the words, the way he stared at the prawn in his chopsticks like he was keeping himself from just dumping it all in the trash or just the utter absurdity of being with Kyouya Ootori – in her classroom, at lunchtime – inspecting an o-bento from hell.
But before she could stop herself she let out a laugh.
Her laughter met with a startled look on his face.
“Gomen, I didn’t mean to laugh at you.” She said after a few moments, still half-laughingly. “It doesn’t look that bad, really. It’s a bit soggy, probably because she covered it before she let some of the steam out.”
Kyouya was now looking at her with calm interest, prawn and chopsticks forgotten.
Then it happened.
He smiled at her.
In all the time she had known him he had seen him give every kind of smile to every kind of girl that came through the doors of the Music Room.
But he had never seen her smile at anyone the way he was smiling at her at that instant. For a second she was stunned, unsure of what to make of what she was seeing.
“I haven’t seen you laugh like that in a while.” He finally said.
She felt the now-familiar blush creep into her face and suddenly, all thoughts of hilarity left her.
“Why are you here, Kyouya-sempai?” She asked.
If her sudden boldness surprised him, he did not show it. Instead he replied to her as calmly as ever.
“I wanted to have lunch.”
“In my classroom?”
“With you, Haruhi.”
“Why?” She asked again, she felt her brows furrowing together with an emotion she could not yet place.
“Why not? Is that so difficult to imagine?”
The true answer was a resounding `yes’, but she could never win an argument with Kyouya. He was far too witty, far too blunt. It unnerved her, this facet of his character that he rarely showed. She knew then that if she were brave enough to ask the difficult questions, she would get all the answers she needed. He would not lie.
And perhaps, that was precisely what she did not want to know.
She decided to let the matter rest.
“They are probably finding this strange.” Small talk was not one of her strong points.
“What is?” He asked, looking genuinely confused.
« I don’t think any of them have ever seen you eat outside the cafeteria before, let alone see you eat from an o-bento.” She explained.
“Where I spend my lunch hour is my business.”
“Still, this is not normal.”
“Is this uncomfortable for you?”
“No.” She answered automatically.
“You don’t lie very well.”
“You never fail to remind me.” She sighed.
“I understand that in commoner school life, eating lunch together is seen as a sign of a romantic relationship.” There was amusement in his voice.
Where did that come from?
“So they say.” She intoned flatly, hiding her surprise.
“Perhaps you are worried that others would see our eating together as something else?”
“I am not worried about that all.” She answered honestly, there were other things she was worried about.
Like the fact that despite their unnerving exchange earlier, somehow his presence was not as unwelcome as she had expected it to be.
She was more worried about why all of a sudden she felt that eating lunch with him was somehow perfectly all right.
“Good.” He smiled his teasing smile. “Because you are after all, at least in their eyes, a boy. To them, this is nothing but lunch between a sempai and a kouhai.”
“Of course, they can always interpret this the other way.”
“What do you mean?”
“That we are having a romantic relationship.”
“What?!” She sputtered.
He smirked at her. “Why do you think The Host Club is so popular?”
She was caught off-guard by his words. For some reason there was a running joke of this theme in the Host Club. She didn’t completely understand what it meant.
“Okay.” She replied flatly, feigning understanding.
“That’s our selling-point.” He smiled broadly.
“Rich people and their idle lives.” She mumbled under her breath, hoping to end the strange conversation by keeping quite.
Then a sudden thought crossed her mind.
“Wait! Are you…are you starting a new act?” She gasped.
It made sense to her. It was the one answer to her doubts about his motives. It was the kind of ingenious but drastic plan that he could come up with.
She looked at him expectantly.
He simply stared back, a look of astonishment replacing the smile on his face.
“I don’t think I heard you correctly.” He replied haltingly, as if he was unsure of what to say.
“For the club. Are you trying to…to…turn us into an act?”
“You – you said earlier that the twins weren’t doing so well with their designations…and we do have a lot of debts…so this must be your plan…”
Her words trailed off into silence as she saw his expression change from surprise to bewilderment.
“You think that’s what this is all about? You think I’m creating a new attraction?” He asked, an edge irritation lacing his words.
“Are you?” She answered, defensively.
For a moment he said nothing. For moments more a tense silence stretched between them. She saw his face once more take on a mask of calm.
Then he raised his hand to his glasses seemingly to adjust them as was his habit, but instead he took them from his eyes completely and laid them on the desk.
He looked straight at her, holding his gaze until finally he spoke quietly.
“The only thing I’m after, is you.”
She heard the sincerity in his voice, in the tone she barely heard him use anywhere else, to anyone else. He was looking at her again with that peculiar blazing expression. It was as if they were once more in that sun-streamed bedroom, away from the entire world, with only each other and the kiss they shared.
“Kyouya-sempai, I don’t understand you at all.” She whispered, more to herself than to him.
“Haruhi.” He sighed exasperatedly, taking his glasses from the desk and putting them on again, obscuring his eyes. Slowly but efficiently he started packing up his o-bento.
She made no protest as she watched him prepare to leave. She was still taking in what he had said. She felt a strange urge in her to say something, to say anything in reply. But she could not find the words.
As he stood up to leave, he looked at her once more and smiled.
“At least this time, you didn’t run away.”
to be continued…
Sleeping In – Chapter Seven – Two Mornings After