Disclaimer: I still don't own any of this, I don't get money for this, I didn't mean to pee on any copyrights, please don't sue me.

Author's Note: I am beyond sorry for the length of time I've made you all wait. I'm deeply afraid this chapter just isn't good enough to have waited so long for x-x But I'd like to thank everybody who read it -- especially those who added it to story alerts, because the enduring hope that I'd someday finish it gave me the motivation to. Love, as ever, to IceQueenRex, who gave me the confidence to show my fanfic to others. There will be an Epilogue to wrap things up in a nice neat anime-style bow.

Chapter Five:

Thunder and Lightning

The two seniors had started off with friendly smiles, but Haruhi had been suspicious all the same. Enthusiasm shone in their eyes a little too brightly for mere small talk, and they'd stayed by her side as she walked through the school. Crossing to the staircase that would lead to the third music room -- that was the moment when she realised she might be in trouble. They'd moved in front of her, blocked her way, their words turning dark. She didn't know why they disliked her so much, but she didn't really care, either. Instead of throwing her book-bag at them, she'd turned tail and left. The Host Club had tried to teach her a lesson before about a girl taking on two lanky guys, and some of it had been taken to heart. Still, it didn't occur to her to simply stop someone and ask for assistance. Fujioka Haruhi had spent too many years taking care of herself to instinctively allow others to do it for her.

She thought she'd lost them on the grounds. The other entrance towards the back of the main building would get her to the Club meeting just a few minutes late, and she could put the seniors out of her mind for a time. But a hand had grabbed her arm from behind, tight enough to bruise it, and they held her between them like a flimsy rag doll. Fear and anger rose in her throat, and then she did ask them why they were doing this. The answer was a backhanded slap, and she fell to her knees. The brown-haired guy had kicked her, but with a terrible, careless snigger, as though playing a game. Despite the pain, she knew that it was some sort of game. If they'd been angry, been vengeful, she would have suffered much worse at their hands.

But the sky was rapidly darkening, and she wanted to get inside. It had been so humid recently, and the approaching clouds were so black, that the tension instilled in her by her attackers paled in comparison to the tension mounting inside her because of the sky. There was another kick aimed at her back, but it caught her book bag instead, and she took the opportunity to clamber unsteadily to her feet, swinging the battered bag into the gaunt face of the observer. The senior behind her shouted with surprise, but before he could act, Haruhi took off like a hare, intending to lose them in the maze to clear her path back to school.

When the rain started to fall, things got worse. Okay, she wasn't being beaten up by assailants unknown, but she'd rather face down the entire senior class than stay outside just then. The thunderstorm was approaching; the static in the air and the gooseflesh on her arms were ominous, obvious signs. The cries of the two attackers had already faded, and she turned to retrace her steps — but she had run propelled by panic instead of intent, and now she couldn't remember which turning to take. It was a stupid, stupid oversight, something she'd expect from Tamaki-senpai rather than herself. The rain sluiced down as she tried to find her way back, heart knocking against her ribs with every breath, as though it too were shivering with fear.

The first flash lit up the world, throwing into stark relief the dark and distant buildings. Haruhi threw herself into the mud, curling up in the middle of the path and covering her ears in the time it took for the thunderclap to boom across the sky. She couldn't even press her back against the hedge -- people were always saying that the smaller you were, the less of a lightning rod you became. Each peal of thunder shook its way through her body, tears mingling with rainwater on her face. Some tiny, logical part of her mind -- logical, but still petrified -- wanted her to just get up, to run for the gazebo at the centre of the maze and take cover. But she was paralysed. Cold, wet, and utterly alone. The fear that thunderstorms evoked in her was primal, complete. With every bright flash and thunderous explosion, her panic reached a sudden crescendo, subsiding only to wait for the next.

Whether it was panic or simply the noise of the thunderclaps — perhaps even both — that masked the approach, the result was the same: Haruhi heard the footsteps, but not the shouts. If the seniors were going to catch up with her, she thought she would die, because she had never been so helpless to defend herself. Besides, it would be just her luck, wouldn't it? Caught in a storm without even a blanket, choking on her own fear -- of course her assailants would catch her right here, right now. Why would the universe leave things bad things alone when it could make them that much worse?

Regardless of this added trouble, Haruhi stayed in her little ball, her arms covering her head to shield her from the almost physical noise, eyes shut to block out the blinding flashes of lightning as best they could. As if she could block out the whole world, and everything in it, if she only tried hard enough. And then a hand touched her head and she flinched, her shaking doubled, waiting for the first blow, when the voices around her finally broke into her frightened reverie. They were saying her name, her first name. Confused, she raised her head, Tamaki's violet eyes coming into view, creased with worry. Behind him stood the Host Club, soaked to the skin, staring at her in silence. She held Tamaki's gaze for another second, but the lightning and thunder rolled out again, and she immediately impersonated a hedgehog.

"We should get her inside," Kaoru said, his lighter, softer voice almost lost beneath the driving rain.

Kyoya answered him sharply. "Too many people. We'll bring her to the gazebo, out of the rain."

Strong, warm arms encircled Haruhi, picking her up with ease. She was afraid to be held like this, by someone — Tamaki, judging by the cologne — so much taller and more likely to be hit by lightning, but the reassuring solidity tempered her worries. Cracking one eye open, she saw Kyoya in the lead with Mori and Honey, and a twin flanking she and Tamaki on either side. Then she shut her eyes tightly against the rage of the storm, feeling just a little braver with her friends at her side.