Title: Tokyo: A Study in the Classics
Pairing: Eventual Hikaru x Kaoru x Tamaki
Summary: Three cities. Three stories. In the second of these, Kaoru sneaks home in the early morning, shares his kitchen and a little culture with Tamaki, and is resolutely no longer in denial (just despair).
First Part - Paris: An Experiment in Gravity
Tokyo: A Study of the Classics
They don’t make it back from the museum until late—so much so that it’s almost early—and the Hitachiin mansion is silent and dark.
Kaoru takes his time pulling his shoes off in the entrance hall. There is always something comforting about returning home, even when he’s had an enjoyable night. Some foreign tension in his back eases; he breathes fully. He puts the shoes aside for the maid in the morning, shucks off his coat, and turns to Tamaki. “Do you want something to drink?”
“Oh, don’t wake anybody.”
“I know where our kitchen is, Tono.”
That obviously merits some reevaluation. Tamaki furrows his brow and then nods. “My throat’s dry.”
Kaoru smiles and holds out his hand for Tamaki’s summer jacket. “It’s the wine. It’s always bad at these things, but they must be trying to force people to retire early.”
“It didn’t work very well,” sighs Tamaki, and begins to unbutton at his neck. Kaoru puts their things on the entrance hall dresser, glancing at himself in the mirror: hair skewed from his fingers and a tired sort of appreciation greet him. He spares a wistful thought for Hikaru, who must be sleeping like the dead up in bed, and who will probably find it incredibly disturbing that anyone could manage to spend eight hours at an art gallery opening.
Kaoru isn’t going to tell him that it’s the company that matters, not the art.
They pad down the rich imported carpet, Kaoru leading them through a twist of corridors to the kitchen. Kaoru has to struggle to find a light switch. He might know where to find the room, but actually using it is going to take a little more work. “If I don’t find the glasses,” he whispers to Tamaki, “you’ll have to drink water out of the sink faucet.”
Tamaki snickers. “Will not.”
“You will if you want to drink.”
“I’ll get tetanus.”
“What are you saying about our furnishings, Tono?”
“Isn’t that what happens when you drink directly from a sink?”
Kaoru, as usual, isn’t entirely sure he’s not joking.
Tamaki, perhaps spurred in alarm by idea, finds the cupboard with some of the glass dishware first. They dig in one of the iceboxes until they find milk, for Tamaki, and some fruit juice for Kaoru. There’s no one to bother with their talking, even if they cared, but when they do speak, they do so quietly and with hushed laughter. In the stillness and frozen quality of the early morning, there is a feeling like being encased—they are hardpressed to break the box with a loud voice.
These are some of the good nights.
Kaoru pulls himself up on the counter, legs dangling. His feet don’t reach the floor. Tamaki grins up at him and says, “You said a lot of things there. What did you really think?”
Kaoru considers. “Pretty good,” he says. “For complete garbage.”
Tamaki tries not to laugh and consequently sputters in his milk.
“You thought the same thing,” challenges Kaoru. “You had no idea what half of the sculptures even were. You spent more time hovering near the cakes and trying to figure out if you knew anyone well enough to monopolize them.”
Tamaki brightens. “I knew Inagaki-san!”
“You scared Inagaki-san,” Kaoru corrects him.
It’s true, so the worst Tamaki can do is sulk. He brings himself out of it soon enough, glancing at Kaoru sideways. “So…”
“So thanks for letting me monopolize you,” says Tamaki, in the half-serious, half-warm way that only Tamaki can achieve. He makes compliments and endearments out of sentences that have no business being either, and Kaoru has learned over the years that the only thing to do is accept them with the grace they’re given. He does so now, and nods. Really, though he won’t say so, they’re probably monopolizing each other.
“Don’t mention it,” Kaoru dismisses, shutting the matter entirely with the wave of his hand. He sips at his juice, tongue curling at its tartness, and then smiles. “The theory behind it was good, you know. Even if the actual craftsmanship wasn’t. A lot of the busts were from classic Japanese and Korean literature.”
“Yeah. I caught on to that. After The Holy Man of Mount Koya.” Tamaki shudders.
Kaoru thinks back and recalls the unsettled, wild expression set in stone by inexpert hands. “Not my favorite story.”
“The commoners were wonderful!”
“Do you know what they were from?”
“You’re going to tell me,” says Tamaki with confidence. Kaoru grins wide and leans forward, sharp elbows digging into his thighs, as if he’s going to impart some secret.
“From The Wild Geese. Mori Ogai.”
“Mori,” giggles Tamaki.
Kaoru settles back, pleased. “I bet Mori-senpai has a flock of geese somewhere. I bet he’s their mother.”
They contemplate that image for a few minutes, the soft tock of a clock following a tick in the silence. Tamaki is close enough to touch, a thoughtful and eager expression leading him into daydream. Kaoru abandons his own prematurely in order to study the color change that signals it; the pale blue dawns into a deeper, bruising indigo, intimating a submersion.
He is quiet, and watches, and takes in all.
It can’t last long. Nothing ever does. Tamaki blinks slowly and then turns back to Kaoru, a quirky grin telling him that the daydream had indeed been humorous and sweet. “Can’t you see it?”
“Yeah,” says Kaoru.
They make no more noise for a while longer. The glasses are half full; they sip at them languidly, feeling the length of the day and night and day.
“You know…” says Tamaki, finally.
“We go to these kind of parties all the time and it’s a lot of fun.” He pauses, obviously uncertain. Probably, Kaoru guesses, not with what he wants to ask, but how to ask it. “But what about Hikaru?”
The words should be an accusation, or maybe a note of guilt. They’re neither. Tamaki is only wondering out loud in the way that he so often does. Kaoru sits up. He crosses his ankles together, tapping his heels against the cupboards, and considers the best way to answer that.
Finally, he says, “This isn’t Hikaru’s kind of thing.”
“Oh, I know,” Tamaki chuckles. “He’d complain the whole time.”
Kaoru laughs, a private little thing. “He’d have a great time. But no one else who came near him would.” His brother’s sense of appreciation for art, history, and various other cultural endeavors tends to rest on the twisted side. As in, Hikaru isn’t afraid to let his opinion be known, and his opinion is a devious and often embarrassing thing.
Tamaki understands that. Kaoru had known he would; it’s their Tono. “Did it bother you?” Tamaki asks, leaning against the counter. He’s chewing on the rim of the milk glass and Kaoru hasn’t the will or heart yet to scold him for it.
“Not really.” Kaoru had liked it. “But… I felt bad.”
“He’d have fun if we all went together, I bet.”
“We could ask him next time. We’ll find a history museum with a lot of cool-looking old weapons and science stuff.”
“We could,” hedges Kaoru. “I think I’d like that.”
A half-tilt of his head sends Tamaki’s bangs falling into his eyes. “If that’s not it, then what’s wrong?”
Kaoru thinks about the many ways he could answer that, and the equally many ways he shouldn’t. Instead, he takes the milk glass from Tamaki’s hand with gentle care. “You shouldn’t gnaw on our dishes,” he says, smiling.
“You shouldn’t avoid questions! Kaoru,” whines Tamaki, “that’s so rude.”
“So is asking questions that might not have comfortable answers,” points out Kaoru reasonably, and he’s relieved when Tamaki answers with a contrite flush.
“Is it not very comfortable?”
I don’t want to share you yet, thinks Kaoru.
No, that’s not quite right. Kaoru doesn’t mind sharing at all. He’s been doing it his entire lifetime thus far, and if he’s going to be bare bones honest, nothing sits exactly right with him until Hikaru has taken up part of the burden, too. Besides, this Tono has always been theirs, in a sense. Even now, he looks at Tamaki, and he sees Tamaki beam at him, and he thinks that Hikaru should be pressed against his ribs watching this. It’s more so that—that really, when Kaoru goes in for a pound, so does Hikaru, and he shouldn’t have to, not if it’s just Kaoru and Kaoru’s heart doing stupid things in his chest and—
Tamaki takes the glasses of milk and juice out of his hands, a white and red stain respectively circling the bottom of the cups. He puts them in the sink next to him and then turns back to Kaoru to take his hands.
“Forget I asked,” Tamaki tells him, squeezing Kaoru’s fingers. “I’ve forgotten.”
Tamaki’s hands are long—piano fingers, Kaoru thinks—and warm without being oppressive. They smell of subtle, pleasing lotion. Kaoru presses them in return automatically and finds their foreignness in his own to be more comforting than they should be. “Okay,” he says.
“Good.” Tamaki smiles at him, teeth perfect, and then pulls away. He turns on the sink faucet and rinses out the glasses briefly. Kaoru looks at the strong curve of his back, and his straight hips, and the delicate way his ears are created. He thinks, Akutagawa. Stories about identities changing, and doppelgangers, and forces beyond your control, and people who aren’t man or woman, just something you don’t understand until it’s too late.
Kaoru understands, deeply, Akutagawa.
“I’ll head home,” Tamaki is saying, pulling his sleeves back down by his fingernails, fussing at the inevitable wrinkles. “You look like you’re going to fall over on the floor.”
“I’m tired,” Kaoru admits. He thinks on Hikaru, sprawled in the vastness of their bed, and feels the longing curl in his belly. Warm, safe, same-as Hikaru. But then, what he feels for Tamaki is all about comfort, as well. Sometimes Kaoru marvels that so few years can change so much about how he feels about everything.
“I’m still buzzing. Call me to tell me how your new project goes? Kyouya says if you market right, you’re going to cause a whole shift in the fashion industry.”
Kaoru has to smile at the pride he hears, as strong as what gathers in his own body. “It was Hikaru’s idea.”
“It was your idea, and you just let Hikaru think he had it first.”
The morning has become actual morning. Tamaki holds out a hand to help Kaoru down from the counter, and he takes it, thinking about what that means and how that means nothing. Kaoru thinks too much. It’s why he’s in this mess.
He walks Tamaki back to the door because that’s what is polite. Even if every inch of him is thrumming for the cool relief of bed, and Hikaru’s muffled breathing nearby, and a ceasefire from the effects that Tamaki has wrought out of him. Through the glasswork in the door, the sun is a blurry accident of pink.
Tamaki buttons up his jacket.
“Thanks for coming,” Kaoru tells him. It earns him a friendly hum.
He thinks about taking a step, wrapping his arms around Tamaki, and closing his eyes while he holds on tight.
He’s got to stop this.
“Have a good morning, Kaoru.” Tamaki pauses, fingers curled around the golden door handle, and looks at Kaoru for a second. “You know, I think if you just asked Hikaru, you’d be surprised.”
Kaoru has his arms around himself. He hadn’t realized it. He asks, “You think, Tono?” Not because he believes it, but because he wants to.
Tamaki simply gives him a gentle smile and pushes open the door. It closes, and leaves the impression he was never there at all.
Next - Florence: A Bicycle Built For Two