Title: Detour

Author: Avelynn Tame

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, but I do own the plot (it owned me for a while, but now... mwahaha, the tables have turned).

Summary: 'In the back of her mind she feels a small twinge, as if she has forgotten to do something. For a split second, she is convinced that she is supposed to be somewhere else.' All roads lead home, as Haruhi discovers when she takes a detour. AU

Author's Notes: First things first – thanks go to my wonderful beta, Krys Yuy, who patiently puts up with all the junk I toss in her direction. I don't really know what I was hoping to achieve with this; basically I was re-watching episode one the other day, and it was the bit where Haruhi finds the Host Club for the first time. They were all standing together in a group… but I thought 'this is wrong, someone is missing' – the someone, of course, being Haruhi. I wanted to do a study of 'what would have happened if Haruhi had never gone into the music room', and it became this.

20/07/07 Edit: No new content, sorry - just updated the disclaimer (since the previous one would probably not have been sufficient to get me out of any legal... unpleasantness).

Haruhi is looking for a quiet place to study; she mutters to herself, annoyed, as she walks down the corridor, checking each reading room… they are all filled with noisy chatter. She cannot understand why they don't talk elsewhere – God knows, this place is big enough.

She is about to walk up the richly-carpeted staircase to check the next floor, when out of the corner of her eye she catches a rough shadow.

She turns; it is a doorway, hidden in the shadow of a large trophy cabinet. The door is slightly ajar, and when she pushes it gently, she discovers a wasteland of costumes and props from the drama department. These must be the ones they have used and discarded, she thinks, because surely a school like Ouran wouldn't consign such expensive things to a cramped hole of a room like this.

Still, it has a desk, buried under a mountain of delicate masquerade masks and priests' robes. She pushes them back to clear a space, and sets to work, laying her books out in front of her.

In the back of her mind she feels a small twinge, as if she has forgotten to do something. For a split second, she is convinced that she is supposed to be somewhere else. But then it is fading, and she shrugs, taking her pen and beginning to write…

Some time after the Christmas break, Haruhi is coming back from lunch when she hears a strange sound coming from an empty classroom.

She ventures in cautiously, and finds that the sound is sobbing, and it is coming from a pretty girl with brown hair. After some gentle persuasion, she tells Haruhi through her tears that she is called Kanako, and that her fiancé has left the country. The engagement, Haruhi determines, was arranged, but Kanako does in fact love the man she is destined to marry.

She is crying because she fears that he doesn't feel the same way, and because she didn't have the courage to tell him before he left.

Haruhi, ever the pragmatist, suggests bluntly that she write to him.

Kanako, although initially unsure, warms to the idea. It is when she asks Haruhi to help her write the letter that Haruhi blanches, and stammers that she has to be in class soon. Despite this, Kanako is still cheered up, and she kisses Haruhi on the cheek as she skips out of the classroom.

For one instant, Haruhi feels annoyed that no-one else noticed how Kanako was suffering; she is sure that this could have been avoided if people were paying attention. But she isn't entirely sure who those 'people' should be. She shrugs – it was an interesting interlude, but she really does have classes to get to…

Sometime after spring, the school carries out their physical examinations.

Haruhi has been peripherally aware that people seem to assume that she is a boy, but hasn't really cared one way or the other. She doesn't stop to think what having a physical examination might mean…

"Please remove your shirt, Fujioka," the nurse says sweetly, and Haruhi steps into a dressing room. She is just shrugging the garment off when the nurse whips open the curtain again a minute later.

"Hey…" says Haruhi, aware that there are people beyond the nurse. She holds up her shirt as a thin cotton barrier.

The nurse, realising the truth, squeals and yanks the curtain shut again, but it is clearly too late. Haruhi hears whispers, and then someone says loudly, "Haruhi-kun is a girl?"

She sighs, puts her shirt back on, and steps outside. "Look," she says in a voice that carries over all the surprised mutterings, "you have only yourselves to blame – I never said I was a guy. You just assumed I was."

There is a moment of silence. Then a tall girl steps forward and takes Haruhi by the hand. "You," she says with delight, "are my new project."

The other girls shriek with happiness. "Ooh, Ruri-senpai, are you really going to make Haruhi blossom?"

Ruri just smiles down at Haruhi. "First of all, we need to get you a new uniform."

Ruri is a third year; she isn't stunningly beautiful like some of the girls at Ouran, and she isn't top of her class either, but she is kind to Haruhi (apart from when she scolds her sharply for being sloppy), and her hobby appears to be giving people makeovers.

Haruhi is given a uniform, new contacts, a hairbrush ("Use it," says Ruri threateningly, "or else.") and tuition on the subject of being a 'true lady'.

Haruhi listens to all the bits about posture and politeness, but forgets the rest, which is why Ruri slaps her hand as she reaches for the wrong spoon for the ninth time in a row.

"Haruhi," Ruri sighs, "how do you expect to impress people if you can't even master a simple thing like this?"

Haruhi has never been particularly interested in impressing people, but she bites her tongue anyway, and tries again.

There are moments in the day when Haruhi has the strangest sensation of… wrongness. She is sure that she should be somewhere else, with someone else…

She doesn't mention these feelings to Ruri in case she is offended, but they begin to preoccupy her mind. She worries that maybe she made a mistake in coming to this school, but at the same time, she is certain that it isn't the school itself giving her these feelings.

In the afternoon, after school, she usually does some work in one of the libraries, or if they are busy, in 'her' props room. Then she goes home. It is at this time of the day that her senses are heightened, and she can detect something in the air… Her intuition is trying to tell her something, but she cannot decipher its meaning.

Some nights she cannot sleep for thinking about it, and then she is irritable and moody the next day.

In her dreams she imagines that something is coming, but these are vague, restless dreams, and they are half-forgotten even before she wakes up.

One rainy day, Haruhi is walking along the corridor with her head in a book when she bumps into someone. She glances up and sees a boy she recognizes from her class. "Sorry, Kaoru-kun," she mutters, and carries on.

"Hey," he shouts after her.

She turns around, curious. "What?" Ruri would kill her if she heard her say something as coarse as 'what?', but then Ruri isn't there, is she?

Kaoru looks at her, frowning. His brother Hikaru stands next to him, wearing an almost identical expression. They are both very wet, their hair flattened to their heads. "How did you know I was Kaoru?" he asked. "Was it a guess?"

Her face contorts in confusion. "What do you mean? You," she points, "are Kaoru, and you are Hikaru. What's to guess?"

They glance at each other, obviously wary. "Our hair is too wet for you to use that to tell the difference," says Hikaru, "so how did you know?"

She shrugs. "I just do. You're not the same, after all. I mean, maybe you look the same, but that's just genetics, isn't it? Genetics doesn't account for your personalities, and in that sense… you're different." She glances at her book, eager to get back to where she left off. "Is that all?"

They are silent, and she decides to take that as assent. But the look of worry mingled with fear on their faces stays with her, haunting her until she crawls into bed that night.

The next day, the boy and girl who were sitting on either side of Haruhi in her class have moved, and in their places are the Hitachiin twins. Haruhi gives them a look and says, "Um… why?"

They grin and say, "Because we like you."

She pauses for a moment, because her gut feeling about this is that it's right, and she hasn't had that feeling for a long time. She shrugs. "Ok."

And so they first become thorns in her side, and then her friends – and thereafter a combination of both. She usually eats lunch in the cafeteria with Ruri – who is finally having some success with her etiquette training – but one day Ruri is off, so she eats with the twins.

And this is how she comes to meet the rest of the Host Club.

"We told them about you," Hikaru says unapologetically when four total strangers sit down at their table and smile winningly at Haruhi.

"I see," she says carefully. "Told them what, exactly?"

"Everything," says Kaoru with a devilish grin.

The one called Tamaki is examining her bento with interest. He reaches out to take one of the little pieces of fish, but she slaps his hand away. "That's unhygienic," she comments. "If you want a bento so badly, you should make one of your own."

He reacts as if she's just told him to go and throw himself off a cliff. "But… yours looks so delicious…"

She sighs, and turns to Hikaru. "Is he always this annoying?"

Tamaki looks as if he might cry.

The other second year, Kyoya, says, "I believe you managed to convince most people in the school that you were a boy until recently."

She rolls her eyes. "You're talking as if it was deliberate. They assumed I was a boy… I never agreed with them."

"But you didn't disagree, either."

"Kyoya!" Tamaki hisses. He smiles at her, having apparently recovered from his funk. Haruhi wonders if he is manic-depressive. "That's no way to speak to a lady. Princess Haruhi, please forgive my callous friend. He does not appreciate the refined female nature."

"Oh, that's ok," she says, smiling brightly – Tamaki chokes, and turns a funny shade of red, "because I'm not very refined, really. Ruri-senpai does her best, but it's probably a lost cause. Oh, and please don't call me 'princess'. I'm definitely not royalty, and besides, it's irritating."

There is a moment of silence as the color drains from Tamaki's face. Then one of the third years, apparently known as Honey-senpai, says, "Cake, Haru-chan?"

She thinks she can live with 'Haru-chan', even if it is coming from someone two years older than herself. Besides, it seems rude to reject two nicknames in the space of a minute. "I don't really like sweet things, thanks, senpai."

The other third year says nothing. He is Mori-senpai, and right now he is her favorite – a tall statue of peace and quiet at an otherwise noisy, crowded table.

She glances at her watch. "I'd better go. I want to get some work done in the library before class."

"We'll come too," say the twins, and she huffs impatiently.

"If you come, I won't get any work done, and it will just be wasted time," she says in exasperation. "Look, why don't you stay here, talk to your friends for a bit longer, and come get me before the class starts?"

They are not happy, but reluctantly agree with much grumbling. As she is leaving, Kyoya clears his throat. "Miss Fujioka –"

She frowns sternly at him, and he remembers what she said to all of them when they were introduced.

"Haruhi," he amends, "perhaps you would like to come along to the club one afternoon?"

"Oh," she says, startled. "Um, I don't really know if it'd be my kind of thing…"

"Kyoya, stop trying to drum up business," Hikaru says, glancing at her. "And don't invite Haruhi as a customer, either."

"Yeah," continues Kaoru, "she should just come and hang out with us. You know, bring some homework, and talk to us in between customers. How about it, Haruhi?"

Haruhi is taken aback. For such a long time, she has been plagued with nagging feelings of having misplaced something… her instincts have been telling her that she is doing something wrong, or that she should be somewhere else… they have been so persistent, so invasive, that she has become used to them. And yet, when Kaoru asks that question, and they all sit there, looking at her with expectation… all of those feelings and sensations just disappear.

Haruhi likens it to going on a long car journey with her father… she sits in the passenger seat, and the dull thrum of the engine slowly lulls her into a stupor. When they arrive, and the engine stops, the noise replaced with silence… she wakes up instantly. It is a noticeable change.

She takes it to be a good sign – maybe this is what she's supposed to be doing. And he had said she could bring homework… "Sure," she replies casually.

And so, not long after this, Haruhi becomes an honorary Host.

Author's Notes: I glomp all reviews with extreme enthusiasm.