The photograph shows a five-year-old Haruhi wearing a pink gingham sundress and a serious expression. As expected, Tamaki and Hunny go into raptures of how cute! The twins, of course, accuse Tamaki of a Lolita complex. Mori ignores the commotion and points to the other figure in the picture.
Haruhi shrugs. She's seen him before, but she can't name him. "Friend of the family, I think."
The man crouching next to Haruhi is as smiling as Haruhi is solemn. His shaggy brown hair is uncombed and he's sporting a crop of two-day stubble. Haruhi doesn't recognize the leather jacket and scuffed motorcycle boots, but something about them is comfortingly familiar. His hand rests on Haruhi's shoulder, and though the picture doesn't show that much detail, she still sees calluses and nails bitten to the quick.
Later, in the middle of math class, Haruhi remembers where she's seen him before--she thinks. Her sudden "huh!" nearly draws the teacher's attention, but the twins cover for her.
The instant she gets home, she goes through every photo album she can find, wondering if she really remembers what her father looked like before the dresses, the makeup, and the manicures.
One day, as he and Mori are deciding where to go for tea, Hunny starts rambling about cake. Not cake in general, but one cake in particular--a sponge cake, dense but not leaden, moist without being soggy, lightly flavored with almond. It had been cut into thin layers, and between each layer of cake was an equally thin layer of raspberry cream, flecked with shavings of chocolate. The raspberry-studded icing was glossy chocolate, dark without being harsh, rich without overpowering the delicate flavor of the almonds and the raspberries.
Mori listens, as he always does, and if he's surprised to hear that this particular cake was one that Hunny had eaten nearly seven years ago, the only clue is a slight lift of one eyebrow.
"It was so good!" Hunny exults, drawling out the last two words reverently.
Mori makes the obvious suggestion, which is to go to the café where Hunny first sampled this Cake of Cakes.
Hunny shakes his head almost violently, then looks up at Mori with big, pitiful eyes. "But what if it's not as good as I remember?"
Mori shrugs. "What if it's better?"
In the end, they go out for ice cream.
Hikaru and Kaoru touch each other constantly, even when they're not flirting outrageously for their guests. Casual brushes of hand against hand, an arm draped across the other's shoulders, a playful shove as they walk down the hall.
None of this is by accident.
There were times when they couldn't touch each other. When they were three, both were sick, but Kaoru's fever soared up past 105 and sent him into seizures. When they were five, Hikaru fell out of a tree and hit his head so hard that he didn't wake up for two days. Their parents think the twins don't remember the incidents, but they do. At least, they remember the fear, and they remember cold, and they remember reaching out to find no one there. Those memories are granite mountains in their mental landscape, looming over everything past and present.
In time, those countless brushes of hand against hand, hip against hip, shoulder against shoulder, may wear those other memories down to nothing. Right now, though, Hikaru remembers the cold. He rests his hand on Kaoru's back, feels solid warmth through the wool jacket, and reassures himself that his brother is still beside him. For now.
Kyouya always calls for a pot of Earl Grey tea when he settles down to business. As with everything he does, there is a reason for this.
For a long time, the citrusy, old-fashioned scent of bergamot evoked memories of the summer trips his family used to take to England. One whiff carried with it a host of memories--an old greenhouse that smelled of jasmine and peat, the neighbor's dog, mellow brick walls, a window seat in the library and the papery, leathery smell of old books. Time actually spent talking with his siblings.
As time passes, and as homework and Host Club business occupies more and more of Kyouya's mind, the scent that always accompanies his work brings less in the way of specific memory and more in the way of a vague and pleasant nostalgia.
Eventually, the scent serves only to remind him that there's work to be done, and he should be getting to it, shouldn't he?
Now, if the scent brings an unexpected pang of nostalgia, he quickly dismisses it as irrelevant to the task at hand. Then, he loses himself in Latin declensions and expense reports while the tea grows cold beside him.
Tamaki reads, writes, speaks, and even thinks fluently in both French and Japanese, but he rarely confuses the two--unless you talk to him first thing in the morning. Then, you're more likely to hear bonjour than ohayo.
It's because Tamaki often dreams about his mother.
He dreams about piano lessons. He dreams about Sunday walks on the Ile de la Cité and the bird market at the Place Dauphine. In his dreams he hears the river, and canaries, and his mother's lilting, laughing voice as she counts time for him in a language that means home. When Antoinette licks him awake, his indignant splutters are interspersed with non! non! and assez! va t'en!
One morning, instead of speaking French, Tamaki slips immediately into flawless, unaccented Japanese. The same flawless, unaccented Japanese his mother spoke in his dreams.
Antoinette whines in confusion as a groggy Tamaki spends the next half-hour desperately searching for Kuma-chan.
Eventually, he spots Kuma-chan sitting on the bed right where he belongs. Button eyes glint in exasperation, but Tamaki just stares at his bear in befuddlement. He has a feeling he's lost something important, but if it's not Kuma-chan, what on earth could it be?