Disclaimer: Ouran is not mine.

Author's note: Continuation of last chapter. I feel you can only understand everything I wanted to convey if you see those two chapters as a whole. Besides, that way, there is way more uh… can I call that fluffiness? I think… not.

Again with the worshipping for Verita dea.

Chapter Four

Every single second of every minute of every hour of every day in August was hot.

It was hot when the sun fired the interior of the flat, when clouds covered the sky with sheer mass, when rain made a drizzly attempt at being wet, it was hot, period.

They (Hikaru, Haruhi, Kaoru) kept the windows of the flat wide open, all the time, their clothes sticking to them in a second sweaty skin and they spent hours worshipping the table fan. (Until it overheated from overuse.)

They spent their time doing nothing.

Day after day, they stretched lazily on the floor of the living room, Haruhi with a book or brochure or notes she steadfastly refused to part with, the twins with a game or food or a blank-faced Haruhi they refused to release.

Most often though, the twins were too hot to do anything but wind themselves around Haruhi in a tight coil and suck pieces of fruit dry of juice, sweet-sticky stains dripping on Haruhi's clothes.

So, the twins spent their times doing nothing, really, and it was new and glorious to them (and the twins had never been less bored).

"You don't have to stay," Haruhi told them continuously on the hottest days on which no amount of twin-supplied hairspray could force her sweat-damp hair into a hairdo the twins approved of.

"Nah," Hikaru answered every time, softly dribbling juice stains on her white shirt, "We're too fond of your floor."

"Yup," Hikaru agreed each time, his fruit juice-sticky fingers gliding along her damp-dry cheeks, "Most comfortable cold, hard floor there is."

Like always before, they ended up sharing cake slices of various burn degrees. (The improved results of Haruhi's visits to Hunny and Mori.)

The taste of burned coal and sweet fruit mixed into something awful on their tongue. (The twins loved tasting every grain of ash, every drop of juice.)

They fidgeted, they squirmed, they sweated, together.

When the weather got all too oppressive in the small flat, they escaped to a park nearby. (To a tree the twins had claimed as their property the first time the three of them had wandered around the park nearby the flat, aimlessly.

It was a sturdy tree, middle-sized, a willow, its leaves elongate, soft and crawling with insects of all kind.)

And, as it was too oppressive that day, the tree was where they could be found.

(About them, right then:

Haruhi had her back to the trunk of the tree. Class notes were resting in her hands with the same naturalness the twins' heads were resting in her lap.

Hikaru had his eyes open as wide as his twin's were closed. He was staring up-up-upwards at every stretch of sky flashing between the thick treetop-web of light green willow leaves. At the same time, he was covering as much of the bodies next to him with his limbs as physically possible.

Kaoru was drawn into himself, taking up as less space as humanly possible, the feeling for his own body lost in the heat of the bodies next to his.

He smelt freshly mowed grass, sweat and Haruhi, the left-over taste of something awful on the tip of his tongue.

The comfortable expectations of absolutely nothing made their bodies relaxed, slack, boneless against each other.

"Hey, look," Hikaru said, slightly hyper from all the relaxation and gestured at a vague point upwards, "That cloud looks exactly like tono in ranting mode."

Haruhi swept her eyes up in courteous motion, went back to reading.

Kaoru reluctantly opened heavy-lidded eyes, lost himself some more in the bodies next to his.

"Hikaru," he said, voice deep and throaty from being immersed in his two worlds,

"Everybody knows every cloud looks like a chicken."

Hikaru thrust his arms into the air in quick stabbing motions, mock hurt on his face. "Do not. That cloud is a tono."

"Do too," Kaoru claimed and snickered into Haruhi's short pants, "'sides if you see tono in every cloud, you know you got major issues."

Hikaru blew a leaf from his face. "Not every cloud. Just that one. Oh, and that one to the left."

"Issues."

The twins glared at each other.

Thus, the fourth major tug-a-twin war of the day ensued. (To Haruhi's great delight, she had, again, the honour of supplying the tugging battle grounds.)

After several bouts of tugging, more snickering and having had to rescue her notes from assassination attempts, four in all, two by each twin, Haruhi felt compelled to speak up.

"I'm trying to get some learning down here."

Her words had in so much the desired effect (peace and quiet) as the twins stopped their war game of who could pull the most of Haruhi in one direction in a tug. (And that's about as much effect as she got.)

"You're always learning," Hikaru whined, a note of accusation in his voice and Kaoru contributed,

"If we didn't keep putting you to bed every time you fell asleep in the middle of learning, print letters would be forever imprinted on your face."

"And the brochures," Hikaru went on, definitely on an accusation-making-rampage, "What's up with those?"

Haruhi pressed the notes to herself like a long absent lover. "It's called being concerned about your future," she said, a note of no-nonsense in her tone to oppose Hikaru's accusations.

"Choosing the right university is essential. For you too."

The twins shrugged simultaneously, their bones grinding into her sweaty skin. "We don't have to deal with that. We're going to apply to one university only."

She blinked, face drawing a blank. "One university?"

The twins made a confirming sound in the back of their throat, gleefully claiming their space on her lap again. "Bunka Fashion College," they chirped, "The very same one mom went to. And like, every Hitachiin before her."

Haruhi stared at their grinning faces staring up at her from her lap. "But what if you fail the entrance exam?"

"We're Hitachiins," they said as if reciting poetry, as if that sentence was self-explanatory.

Her face remained blank.

Feeling strangely satisfied with her obliviousness, they coiled themselves around her in a sigh, pressed her farther into the soft grass, against the solid bark of the tree.

"Even if we weren't such talented genii at fashion design, not letting us pass would be like exempting their style Messiah.

Haruhi acquired not quite an expression. "Mhm," she said.

Wind picked up, swept over the parts of their skin not covered in clothes or each other's limbs.

Someone released a sigh, throaty, deep, at the barely noticeable chill the breeze brought to their heated skin, another started to draw fingertip-circles along skin not his own, the third one took up notes, started reading again.

Into the almost silence of breathing and sighing and paper-shuffling and wind rustling through leaves, between not quite touching and definitely sweating, right into their shared comfortableness, Hikaru shot a question.

"Haruhi," he said, his words bullets tearing through their expectations of absolutely nothing,

"Do you like one of us better?"

The girl went rigid, still, cold.

"No, I don't," she replied bluntly and directly. So utter Haruhi-like was this action, Kaoru, bearing the brunt of the bullets Hikaru killed their comfortableness with, plastered her limbs around his as if she were a band-aid.

Ducking his head, Hikaru looked like he had just discovered a gun in his hands. He grumbled something, went silent.

Then, he sank into Haruhi as well; his movements jerky and nearly harsh. His hand brushed his brother's in a peace offering.

Kaoru took it, entwined their hands.

Haruhi, sandwiched between them, relaxed.

Hikaru didn't bring up the subject for a second time, and the twins never mentioned it among them.

Until that is, the night they did.

"Hikaru?" Kaoru asked into the dark, voice a breath, and pushed the thin blankets further away across the floor, away from his over-heated body.

"Why'd you ask something like that?" (He suspected, of course, but needed to hear it from his brother.)

The darkness shifted, was silent for two breaths ghosting across Kaoru's cheeks.

"Don't you…"

One more breath, a gathering of words.

"Don't you want to know which differences she makes between us?"

Kaoru felt aware of the hard floor beneath him, of the tatami mat imprinting itself into his flesh, felt aware of his own body.

"No," he replied, "Not really."

They each fell into a silence of their own after that.

Kaoru fell asleep that night, thinking about turning his back to his brother.

One day of their vacation at the grand Fujioka resort the twins spent having a pleasant chat with Kyouya.

(It went just about like this:

"Hikaru, Kaoru," Kyouya said by way of greeting. (He seemed generally unsurprised to see them answering the door of the Fujioka household.)

"Kyouya," the twins replied easily enough and made a show of leaning against the doorframe as if belonging there, while continuing to suck on melon pieces Haruhi had sliced for them,

"How's your diary-thingy hanging? Full of angst and drama?" (The twins weren't surprised in the least Kyouya wasn't surprised.)

Kyouya fake-smiled at them.

The twins imitated a grin and stepped back to let him in.

From there on, it all went downhill.)

When Haruhi came home, hands packed with grocery bags, (the twins were supposed to tidy up the flat in her absence. Note the supposed to.), she stumbled upon collateral damage.

"I can't help it. It's like we're stuck," Hikaru was saying when she entered the kitchen to pack away the groceries, "It just makes me so mad."

"Speaking of mad," Haruhi said as she started on stowing the vegetables, then the cans of tinned food.

(The twins stilled at the sound of her voice. When they turned to her they encountered an unfamiliar feeling children caught with their hands in the cookie jar were more familiar to.)

"You… used a bit," Haruhi paused, shook her head, continued speaking, "well, no, a lot more water than you need to scrub the floor."

Brown eyes were fixed on the twins, who shifted from foot to foot. "And generally you hover carpet. You don't drown it."

"Er," Hikaru said the moment Kaoru put forward an, "Uh…"

"We kinda…" they gestured with their hands as if fishing for words in the air, "…had a water fight with Kyouya?"

Haruhi put the last of her grocery shopping, fixed brown eyes on them for a second time.

"And what did he want?"

"A pen for his -"Hikaru started to mutter. He was only stopped by the insertion of his twin's elbows to his ribs.

"He said for you to call him about your debt," Kaoru said over his twin's cry of mostly exaggerated pain.

Haruhi mhm'ed at them.

The twins fidgeted around before they burst out, "We'd have won if he hadn't cheated!"

She rubbed the bridge of her nose and wondered not for the first time just what her father had been thinking when he had handed their spare key to the twins. (Or if he had been thinking at all.)

"Really, he cheated," they cried, pouts on their lips and she suspected them to be one petulant frown away from stomping their feet. "Calling your bodyguards to help you counts as cheating."

"Yes, I guess bodyguards would explain the foot-sized dent in our front door," she shook her head, stopped rubbing, gave a sound like a sigh, "I'll fix us something for supper."

With that, she vanished out of the kitchen.

"See?" Kaoru whispered into his brother's ears. "We've no reason to be mad. Or jealous. And we'll pay for the dent."

Hikaru brushed his fingers along his brother's, almost tentatively. "I just can't help it," he breathed, but a grin, mirroring Kaoru's, was on his lips.

Their self-satisfied expressions only wavered when Haruhi came back into the kitchen, smiled at them beatifically and handed each of them a bucket and a swab.

They were awfully lazy, they did absolutely nothing, they were utterly content.

Yet, by the end of August (also called the nearing end of their school vacations) expectations of something caught up with them.

The twins, heavy luggage at their feet for the servants to pack away, wore memories of brown eyes, sweat-slicked touches and cold hard floor like clothes.

Their mother, standing on the stairway a few feet away from them, knew that it had never done any good criticizing her sons' impeccable sense of style.

Instead, she had dressed herself in her latest designed fashion, a smile caught between grin and frown and a tang of motherly concern.

"I was starting to think you had permanently emigrated to the Fujiokas," she greeted her sons.

In response, she got a dual chirped "Hi, mom," and all the grand social interaction of being allowed to watch her sons walk past her.

"A business associate of mine saw you while going for a jog," she informed their retreating backs.

"In a park. Willow ring a bell?"

She was rewarded by her sons' simultaneous backward glances.

"He saw you with a girl." They stared at her so innocently, their faces taking on such cherub-like qualities, she just knew something was up.

"One girl," she stressed, drawing her motherly concern with new resolve around herself, "As in one girl for the both of you."

Her sons exchanged barely a look, turned to her nonchalantly. (Which already told her all she needed to know.)

"It's Haruhi," they said, their tone of voice wavering between strangely calm and quite expectedly petulant.

"Oh," their mother said, her lips transforming into a single white line, "Well," she shrugged, "Okay then."

For the first time in all their lives the twins were even thrown off track by their mother's behaviour.

"You're taking this surprisingly well," Kaoru ventured forward cautiously, his fingers winding with his twin's.

"Yeah," Hikaru advanced carelessly, his fingers drilling into his twin's flesh roughly,

"Where's all the drama and disowning?"

Their mother glanced at them and even after eighteen years she had absolutely no idea who of her sons was who. "I most certainly don't approve of this. But, well…" she shrugged again, "It's Haruhi."

She wouldn't even have had time to put the first stitch of the round on a pin, before there were arms around her, crushing, hugging.

"Really," she said when there was enough oxygen in her lungs again to speak, "What did you expect me to say?"

The arms crushed a bit harder, putting wrinkles all over her dress. She didn't care one bit.

"After all, we aren't some stuffy old-fashioned business, like say the Ootoris."

Two more tightenings of their grips, and they released her.

She looked up at them, into amber eyes. "Hikaru, Kaoru," (She glanced at the wrong twin when she said the names. They didn't bother to correct her.) "You were always different from the other children. One girl's more than I ever expected you'd be satisfied with."

Her sons looked back, down the stairs, into eyes of a colour a tad lighter than theirs. "You," they declared ceremonially, "are one wicked mom."

The twinkle in her eyes was frighteningly similar to the twins' grins. "It was mostly a selfish decision," she patted their heads in the way they hated so, "The girl doesn't fall for your oh-so-handsome looks. Or put up with your antics."

Her laugh sounded suspiciously more like a snicker. "She's good for you."

They released her, cheeks painted a darker colour than usual. "Whatever. We're going into our room," they muttered and started up the stairs.

"Don't screw this up, you hear me?" she called after their retreating backs.

"Yeah, yeah," they muttered without turning back and vanished into the corridor leading to their room.

Their mother was left standing there, on the stairs, for a few more moments, her lips playing with a grin, concern drawn around her in an even tighter fit.

September and October were a string of loosely linked day. Everything they did in school was noted, asserted and graded.

(This pushed the three of them into an even tighter connection.

When Haruhi turned to the left, there was Hikaru.

When Haruhi turned to the right, there was Kaoru.

When the twins turned to her, left and right, there Haruhi was, in-between them.)

On one such loose day, Haruhi got silence.

Immediately suspicious, she stopped working on her Japanese drama essay, turned right, left.

Neither twin looked up from the ominous brochures they pretended to be immersed in.

Stuck between the two, Haruhi cocked her head at them.

"Sh," they admonished her haughtily, never taking their eyes off the brochures, "It's called being concerned about your future.

Haruhi cocked her head so far to the side she almost touched the surface of the library table they were sitting at.

Noting that the brochures appeared to have too many pages to be university brochures, she left it at that and concentrated on her assignment again.

Or would have concentrated, if she hadn't felt the nape of her neck crawling with their smiles.

Slightly irritated (more by the general level of stress she was experiencing these months than by them), Haruhi stated without ever stopping to think about it:

"Hikaru, freeze your hand right there. No, Kaoru, you can't have my pen. Both of you, stop grinning. I'm serious, I've to get this done."

The twins gaped at her not looking at them. (Hikaru's hand was hovering a few inches above her waist, Kaoru's fingers were an incidental brush away from her pen.)

'Did she just-?' Hikaru mouthed to his brother who gave a silent 'I think so.' in a vague shake of his head.

'No silent talk,' Haruhi admonished them casually, with merely a scrunching up of her nose.

Disregarding all her warnings (Most of the time Haruhi looked about as threatening as a kitten anyway.) the twins dropped their brochures, tangled their fingers in her hair, partly to try out some complicated hairdo, mainly just because they could.

"You know us too well," they said, even though they knew they didn't have to speak, even though there was no genuine meaning behind what they were saying, "Where's the fun in that?"

In contrast to their words, Kaoru and Hikaru let their fingers gracing her skin in all those touches not necessary to style her hair tell Haruhi something with meaning.

Haruhi, caught up in assignment question number two and ink on paper, didn't hear.

In the middle of October, Haruhi oddly enough discovered being in the middle wasn't the worst place to be.

It was a particular loose day, the sky clouded, and she was sitting through a parent/student/teacher discussion about the subject of a suitable university for her in her class teacher's office.

(On the subject of her teacher:

He was a fifty-something year old man, who was as thin as a ruler.

His expressions had been drawn fleshless from years of teaching, his eyes had sunken so deep into their sockets that when he looked at his students, he didn't see faces but prestigious last names and varying degrees of talent and potential. )

"Fujioka Haruhi," the teacher was saying, his sockets for eyes fixed on the documents papers on his writing desk, "Scholarship student, has ranked second best of her class two terms in succession now."

Ranka, for once dressed in a suit and the name of Ryoji, made every effort to look like the model suit and birth name wearing parent.

At his side, Haruhi, looked like the model scholarship student without particularly trying to.

"Especially talented at English," the teacher stated, saw potential and the fleshless lines he had for lips stretched into a smile. "There're two universities in particular that-"

"No," Haruhi cut him off, her voice made of determination. "I'd be more interested in Law."

Ranka shifted in his suit and a name from a lifetime ago. "But Haruhi-," he tried.

"No," Haruhi said, lines of her face so stiff as if set in rigor mortis. "A lawyer. I'll be a lawyer."

Ranka shifted.

The teacher stared through her.

"Well," he said and tried on another fleshless expression. "Well. With your marks, Law would certainly be a promising alternative. Just remember, the choice of university is important for your future."

On impulse, Haruhi turned right, turned left, fully expecting to find bored expressions turning to her.

There was no boredom, no expressions. No one who turned back.

Haruhi started. Her face slackened, her determined expression fell apart.

The teacher droned on, about universities and talent and futures.

And Haruhi, Haruhi pulled her face together, all stiff and determined and Rigor Mortis and started to listen.

That evening at supper, Haruhi refused to take a second rice ball.

Her father, comfortably seated at the living room table in a smear of lipstick and the name

Ranka, was chewing on his fourth.

"You realize," he said, lipstick-smeared lips tossing grains everywhere along with his words,

"wanting something doesn't make you less of a person."

She answered with barely a look, neither turning right nor left, and a noncommittal sound.

For the rest of supper, the second rice ball remained on the plated, unwanted.

During November and December days covered them in quiet and restlessness like snowflakes did with the ground outside.

"I hate this, Hikaru muttered not quiet at all, his fingers beating up a restless drum against the surface of the mahogany table he was sitting at.

Kaoru knew exactly what his twin was referring to. There was no need for him to look four tables to their right. (At Haruhi talking blank-faced to a not quite polite Kyouya.)

(This time, the twins had asked to come along on Haruhi's debt discussion chat with Kyouya.

After three times of performing the amazing glasses disappearing from Kyouya's nose appearing in the cake buffet, they had been banned to another table of the café.

Far, far away from a less than happy Kyouya, specks of whipped cream still sticking to the lenses of his glasses here and there like a threat.)

Kaoru slipped his hands quietly over his twin's.

Hikaru quickened his beat, the muscles of his arms clenched.

"Don't," Kaoru whispered.

The beat died. Hikaru stood up, shoving his brother's hands off in the process.

"I'm going outside," he stated, stalked off.

Kaoru did what he had done for years, an action so natural it had never required any thought

on his part. (Twin follows twin.)

Kaoru followed Hikaru.

It was snowing outside, thick, white pieces of cotton-like flakes.

Somehow, the snowflakes raining down on like punches, biting into his skin with ice-cold teeth, served to make Hikaru even angrier.

Snow crushed under his heels with every step, his cashmere pullover was laughable inappropriate for the weather and everything around him was covered in white-cold calm.

Hikaru cursed.

It didn't help.

He stomped his feet, was snowed on, shivered.

But he didn't have to do it alone, because there was his twin, shivering along with him.

Hikaru drew closer to his brother as if Kaoru were an oversized heater.

"I told you," he mumbled, both shivered. "I can't help it."

Kaoru shivered so hard it might just have been a shrug. "Hey, no matter. Where else do I get the pleasure of losing valuable parts of my anatomy to frostbite?"

Hikaru's chuckle was more of a sneeze. "You-"

"-Forgot your coat inside," a voice, quiet, even, with just a hint of a shiver finished for him.

The twins, right and left, turned and there stood Haruhi, wrapped in thick layers of mismatched clothes, holding out their overcoats to them in a promise of warmth.

"Kyouya had to take care of something or another. He's already left. We talked more about scholarships than my debt, anyway." Haruhi shook their coats at them. "Now, take this before you get a cold. Or frostbite."

They were on her like ravenous wolves.

Hands pawed her close; frozen mouths nuzzled her throat, their breath mingled in clouds.

As one, they the twins shrugged on their coats, the girl over their shoulders.

"Haru-hiiiii," they whined into her ears, in that tone that told it her they would be demanding something of her, "Let's build a snowman!"

Later, when their fingers were stiff, their bodies numb and their cheeks red, Kaoru leaned into Hikaru.

"See, it's fine," he whispered quietly to his restless brother, "She followed us. Again."

Haruhi looked up then, from where she had been working on the head of their snowman. (It had turned out to be more of a snow… mutant something. Neither of them cared.)

The lower part of her face was hidden mostly by a blue wool scarf, her nose was a glowing red and constantly running, melting ice crystals wetted her hair into spikes.

She looked as plain as ever.

Hikaru had never wanted her more to be part of their world than in that moment.

"Yeah," he muttered to his brother, buried ice-chip-cold hands into his pockets, "It's just fine."

At supper that evening in the Fujioka household, Haruhi (the twins had, under protest, long since scattered off to their home) put a smile on her face and a second rice ball on her father's plate.

"There might be a compromise," she told him and took a bite of her own, first rice ball.

All throughout January Haruhi lived on the pages of her schoolbooks, a lack of sleep, and raw worn determination.

The only moments something got her full attention was when she picked up her pen to write a test or to apply for a scholarship or to take a university entrance exam or to learn, learn, learn.

The twins, on the other hand, died of the sudden shock of having to get actual studying done, of having to take a single entrance exam and of utter Haruhi deprived boredom.

So, merely to prevent their impending deaths of pathological laziness of course, the twins lived to haul off Haruhi any opportunity they got to anywhere, least it was far from school, tests and boredom.

Only, this opportunity, they were still in need of the hostage to their hostage-taking.

For over fifteen minutes, they had been lurking outside the school gates now (and that was fourteen minutes and fifty-nine seconds more than their general attention-to-boredom span), and Hikaru was starting to become restless, Kaoru quiet.

"Perhaps she finished her test earlier. Wouldn't be the first time," Hikaru said as if trying to taste of the words on his tongue. He grimaced. "Right?"

Kaoru didn't think Haruhi had finished earlier. What he said was:

"Right."

Made insecure by Kaoru's easy affirmation and the complex expression on his twin's face, Hikaru filled his uncertainty with words.

"Perhaps someone asked her to help with his studying," he rambled on, tried to make the words fit. "Or perhaps, perhaps, I don't know."

Kaoru heard the implication of anger simmering beneath his twin's confusion.

"She didn't forget us." Kaoru cast his eyes to the floor. "We didn't tell her we would be here."

Hikaru tried to rearrange his features, maybe intended to go for a grin. It came out as an awkward grimace.

"Right," he said, "Right."

It was another eight minutes (of shifting, waiting, rambling, anger quietly simmering) until Haruhi came through the gate, all hurry and flushed face.

"Oh," she exclaimed upon spotting them, purposefully unsurprised. (It wasn't as if she hadn't come to expect to their unexpected hostage-takings, after all.). "I don't have time to play hostage now. Kyouya hold me up too long already. I've to hurry to catch my train."

"Take the next one," Kaoru chirped, voice oddly wavering when his twin failed to join in. He anchored Haruhi to him in a hug. "So, what about Kyouya?"

Next to his twin, Hikaru had stopped waiting, shifting, had stopped rambling, had, in fact, stopped anything altogether.

Kaoru could distinctively feel something start to boil.

Haruhi, too preoccupied with searching her way out of Kaoru's embrace, too ignorant, too oblivious to this particular feeling, didn't.

Instead, she levelled a look at Kaoru, eyes round, face still flushed. "I met him in the hallway after my test, we talked. And no, I didn't even ask why he was there in the first place, "she stated, blank-faced, squirmed against Kaoru's embrace. "That's all. Interrogation finished, now?"

There was a pause, so short it didn't even last a whole glance, in which the twins scrutinized her in half a glance.

Her hair was in dire need of another cut, her tie was hold together more by pretence than knot and there, against the corners of her mouth, a few tiny crumbles were resting.

It might have been any kind of crumbles, sandwich, croissant, cookie crumbles.

To Hikaru though, they were crumbles of burned coal, a confession of a cake not shared with them, him, but with another, with Kyouya.

(It was a completely unreasonable conclusion. But then again, Hikaru wasn't known for being reasonable, didn't want to be reasonable. He had his twin for that.)

In the end, Kaoru believed that was what made Hikaru lean forward, his eyes sizzling, expression on his face boiling over.

"What-" Hikaru fought with himself over words, captured Haruhi's face in his hands. "What do you think we are?"

('I can't help it.' was what Kaoru heard, and judging by the blankness of Haruhi's face, the hard set of her mouth, she might have as well.)

Hikaru leaned in on her, because he had said something he couldn't, didn't want to take back, because all he could was rush forward, head on.

('I can't help it, I'm sorry, I can't help it,' echoed around Kaoru's head in a hiss of static noise.)

Haruhi didn't budge an inch, because she was Haruhi, self-reliant and unflappable and in a hurry to get her train and oh so oblivious.

(Kaoru remembered a calm voice stating a fact; a promise. 'I. Know. You.')

Without reason, without because, Kaoru suddenly felt very, very lost.

(He felt the mutter of 'It doesn't matter' on the tip of his tongue like a soothing prayer.)

"What do you think we are?" Hikaru demanded again. (He was fully aware he was causing a scene. He also didn't care one bit.)

She stared at him, eyes impossible wide. He fought down the urge to shake her.

"You. I. We," he said, slowly, stressing each syllable, whatever patience he might have pretended to possess long since spent.

She stared.

He cursed. Muttered something that could have been an apology or another curse, turned his back on her.

Then, Hikaru walked off, burning, sizzling, boiling. (Fled, more like.)

"What we're?" Haruhi asked. There was real puzzlement, true bewilderment in her voice. "I don't understand."

She looked up at Kaoru, so serious, so determined, all the time and never stopping, and he noticed how tiny, frail, she was compared to him.

"We're friends," Haruhi said, firmly, asked, not so firmly: "Right?"

And Kaoru realized serious, determined Haruhi was just as lost in this as he was.

"Yes," he whispered, "Yes, we're," and brushed lips across her mouth, "And that's where we're more."

Haruhi blinked, expression caught between firm and frail, this nothing she could be ignorant of, nothing she could be oblivious to.

Kaoru hesitated, brushed a finger along her line of her jaw, as if he had to think about an action that had always come to him without thought before.

(Twin always follows twin.)

Kaoru followed Hikaru.

Haruhi was left behind standing before the school gates of Ouran High School, very determined, very serious and very, very lost.

For the next few weeks they tip-toed circles around each other, the twins by stealing peaks at her discreetly, Haruhi by openly staring at them in blunt observation.

As days passed, their circles drew narrower. Kaoru (tactfully) pick-pocketed a brush there,

Hikaru (less tactfully) sneaked a touch here, Haruhi (with no tact whatsoever) sometimes turned left, sometimes right, every time to say frank words to them. (The twins avoided listening)

Truth was, aside from play-pretend the twins didn't know how to keep being angry, how to exclude someone that was an integrated part of the triad of their world.

So, when, one day in February, Haruhi sauntered over to Hikaru and Kaoru (and they didn't want to avoid listening any longer) and said, frank as ever: "I've to think about this." the twins agreed easily enough: "You should."

And Haruhi thought, hard and long, she thought about it with the same fervor she tackled a particular different question in a test with.

When she had considered every angle of the problem, every possible variable, trice, (and still arrived at the same conclusion.), she sat down for supper with her father and announced:

"I think I'm in a relationship with two guys."

Ranka managed to not choke on his soup.

After that his reaction was dramatically undramatic.

He simply put his spoon and need for an outburst down and said: "The twins, I assume."

Haruhi made a motion, somewhere between nonchalant nod and helpless shrug.

"They're brats, the both of them," Ranka sighed, twirled a lock of hair-lacked hair round his fingers, "But I suppose it's better than that declaration of love for your calculus book I was expecting any day now."

He pursed flamingo-pink lips. "For that matter, I think the brats would prefer you to books anytime."

Haruhi heard the concern in the accumulation of lines around his heavily mascaraed eyes.

"I preferred them to ootoro," she answered in response to his silent question.

Ranka waved perfectly manicured fingers at her, his unspoken question not completely answered.

But there was a smile tempting the corners of his mouth, while he lilted: "That, cute daughter of mine, is what it's like to want someone."

Haruhi slurped a large spoonful of soup down in a decidedly not cute way. "I wish I had stuck with my calculus book."

Large hands ruffled through her unruly hair. "I do too," Ranka murmured. "Are you going to tell them?"

Another slurping of soup disappeared down Haruhi's throat.

"It wouldn't be fair to them." She laid down her spoon, rubbed at her temples. "Or would it?" She sighed. "I need more time to think."

Ranka smacked his lips together in a clap, tapped fingertips against fingertips in a crunch. His voice though, rang out barely above a murmur (and that was what made his daughter listen so intently).

"Please, Haruhi, just promise to be a good kid and do the selfish thing."

His daughter cocked her head, considered.

That evening, Haruhi took a second rice ball.

For the rest of February to the beginnings of March, an unspoken understanding build the base of Haruhi's encounters with the twins.

She didn't say anything about what had happened, the twins didn't mention it, all thought about it.

They slipped into an awkward routine, standing close to each other but not that close, looking at each other briefly but not that briefly.

It was awkward. It was uncomfortable. It was safe.

(The twins hated it with a passion, Haruhi was merely put off.)

Then, one day in March, the realization overwhelmed them that not even a week was left till their graduation ceremony.

Haruhi looked always tired in that time, tired and plain and battered like damaged goods and suddenly the twins found it imperative, crucial even, that she spent graduation night with them.

"It'll be great," they told her, sneaking a not so brief glance at her, "You'll see."

She threw them a brief dubious look.

The twins caught her in an embrace full of gangly limbs and clinging need. (With complete disregard for not that close.)

Trapped in body parts and closeness, she had caved in just a tad more easily than she might have if she hadn't been so preoccupied weighing what was fair and what wasn't.

Hence the reason why, on the night of her graduation, she wasn't mingling with the other graduating students in the warm, brightly lit ballroom.

Rather, she was standing on the rooftop of the west wing. The night sky was clouded, goosebumps were riding rampage on her exposed forearms (the twins had force-persuaded her into a dress) and Haruhi had yet to see anything 'great' about this.

"Well," she remarked, looked round the roof, a grinning twin at either side of her, "It's a roof."

"Geesh," Hikaru exclaimed, partly irritated, mostly amused, while Kaoru hauled the girl up (he was sure to keep some distance to their touching). "I'd never have guessed. Such a brilliant observation could only be made by this year's top graduate."

Haruhi rolled her eyes, Hikaru snickered, Kaoru felt light-headed.

The world was good, and if not then their own at least, a good, breach-less, perfect world.

"See," he tittered, drunk on half a glass of champagne and Haruhi's weight against him, "We found you our own cold, hard floor."

He put her down on a blanket Hikaru had spread on the ground, next to a large picnic basket they had had their kitchen staff prepare in advance.

Sitting there with bended knees atop folds of red-black-checkered fabric, Haruhi, in her blue dress and serious face, looked horribly out of place. Still feeling light-headed, he told her so as Hikaru handed her a glass of cranberry juice.

Haruhi smiled at him, just like that, bluntly, bordering on beautiful.

They sat down next to her, as close as they could without being that close, cranberry juice filled glasses in all their hands.

Someone made a remark about cranberry juice and getting drunk, another snickered, the third one grumbled something.

This came easy to them, this banter, and they felt almost more comfortable than awkward.

A quarter of a bottle of juice emptied, and there was only the comfortableness of touch and laughter and familiarity left between them. Half a bottle downed had the twins feeling especially giddy and daring.

Their heads were resting in Haruhi's lap, their limbs strewn all over her like a body hazard.

"Let's play a game," They chirped up at her, "The share-a-secret-game."

Haruhi didn't even bat an eye at them.

Skin brushed skin, touches were enforced casually, limbs covered limbs. "It can't be anything you shared with anyone else, though." The twin's voices contained all the enthusiasm of a child talking about his favorite toy. "It has to be a secret secret."

There was a rolling of eyes, a sigh, a collective sip of juice.

"We can start off," Hikaru amended, gulped the contents of his glass down, as Kaoru pulled on his more contemplative features. "When we were children, really little…"

"…like really, really little…" Hikaru continued, entwined hand with hand with hand. "We wished…"

There was this smallest beat of pause in mid-talk, in which the twins shared a look out of the corners of their eyes and an understanding.

"We wished," they repeated in unison, their one voice strong and unwavering, their limbs a united front around Haruhi. There was another pause, of a different nature than the first.

Someone trembled. Another shared look. Then, their voices chorused in complete synch, "We wished we had been born an only child."

Haruhi mhm'ed. She didn't protest when they pulled her so tightly against them it looked as if their three bodies had been molded into one.

"Do you want another glass of juice?" she asked instead, refilled their glasses before they answered.

They all took a sip and then Haruhi whispered into someone's ear and someone else's arms, "I didn't always want to be a lawyer."

The ear twitched, the arm tightened. Hikaru was about to mutter something for which he earned himself a look from Kaoru.

"So," Hikaru grumbled in place of whatever he had been about to say, "And what did you want to be?"

Haruhi's face acquired a new edge, firm, hard, plain. She shrugged nonchalantly. "I don't remember."

Finger explored the lines of Haruhi's face until they discovered a hint of softness.

"Why did you decide to become a lawyer?" Kaoru asked.

Haruhi shrugged again, just as nonchalantly. "At some point, nothing else seemed appropriate anymore."

The twins made a vague noncommittal sound in the back of their throat. They didn't protest when Haruhi seemed to declare the game finished.

Instead, they asked her to refill their glasses.

The remaining contents of a bottle later, Hikaru reclaimed his own limbs from their tangle, stood up and declared he would fetch them a new bottle of juice from the buffet in the ballroom downstairs.

Haruhi watched Kaoru watch Hikaru vanishing behind the doors, down the stairs.

"We'll wait for him before starting on the food," she remarked, frank as ever, gestured at the picnic basket.

Kaoru appeared startled there, for barely a moment, before a small smile crept unto his lips.

"It's weird when you do that," he let her know. She lifted cranberry-juice coloured lips, looked at him shrewdly with big, brown eyes. "You two do it all the time."

(It was that moment both realized they were on the roof together, alone. Strangely enough, aside from a blush from Hikaru and Haruhi's blank expression, it didn't change a thing.)

Simply as that, he felt all distance that may have remained between them drain way. He exhaled two breaths.

Plain, she looked there in the dark, plain and covered in seriousness and not even all that pretty.

Kaoru exhaled one more weak breath, the sound of a man drowning.

It didn't matter, he figured and with the third breath, he sunk into her, around her skinny frame, his muscles going lax as he molded himself around her. He breathed her in like his last breath, like a shot of oxygen and she let him.

Cranberry juice breaths mixed, arms entangled waist, forehead pressed against forehead.

The tips of their noses sporadically touching, all of him full of closeness, warmth and Haruhi, Kaoru decided to share a secret secret with Haruhi.

"I never did," he murmured, "Wish that I were an only child, that is."

She turned those big, brown eyes on him.

"A teacher. An architect. A doctor," she said, snorted, a very Hikaru-esk sound. "A ballerina."

Despite himself, Kaoru snickered. "A ballerina? You wanted to become a ballerina? Hikaru would love this."

She deadpanned. "I'm sure he'd." (Both knew the other wouldn't mention anything to anyone, not even to Hikaru.)

They were like this a bit longer, relaxed, comfortable, at ease with the world in general and with each other in particular.

Surprisingly, Haruhi was the first to speak up, brown eyes turning on him again, a look of outmost concentration on her face. "You never told Hikaru this," she stated. It was a fact, no discussion, and they both knew it. "That doesn't seem very fair."

A rumble or a tremble went through Kaoru at that. "For Hikaru and me it never was about fair or unfair."

Haruhi didn't go completely still against him, but there was a tangible pause in her breathing.

"Oh," she said, "Oh," and nothing more.

"Haruhi?" Kaoru whispered into her silence in an unsteady rasp, because he didn't want to, had to know, "Do you like one of us better?"

It was one of those rare occasions Haruhi initiated touch.

She fit her head under his chin, her arms around his waist. "No," she stated, a fact as well, no compromise.

"Good," Kaoru said and entwined their hands.

They were silent, together, alone, after that.

Kaoru huddled against her, for warmth, for touch. She squeezed his hands, ever so often.

Both were waiting for Hikaru to come back.

When he did come, it was in a slamming of door and a stomping of feet.

"Man, you better appreciate this. I had to knock out a waiter and escape a horde of squeal-ready fangirls to get this bottle."

He dropped down next to them, spoils of war (in this case cranberry juice) in hands.

Haruhi took an unblinking look from him to the bottle. Afterwards, she dodged out of Kaoru's arms, stood up and started to wander a few feet away from them.

(They let her.)

Hikaru frowned. "Yeah, thanks, Hikaru, that you went through all that trouble," he grumbled,

"What's with her anyway?"

"I believe she's thinking," Kaoru replied. He considered his twin before him. "Was it really so difficult to get a bottle of juice, you got abrasions on your hands?"

"I don't have-"

Kaoru took one of his twin's hands, squeezed.

Hikaru squeaked. "Okay, yeah, abrasions." He crossed his arms before his chest, lifted his chin.

"I did some of that emotional maturing business. You're not the only one who can set up a date. We're even for Karuizawa now." He flexed his hands, winced. "Doesn't mean I've to like this maturing thing."

"Now you know what I had to deal with for all those years," Kaoru replied wryly. His eyes, though, remained on the wounds, not once looking away. "I think I prefer you throwing temper tantrums to you hitting walls."

Hikaru shrugged indifferently. His eyes, though, remained downcast, not once looking up. "The wall deserved it."

"Deserved what?" a soft voice piped up closer to them than they had assumed Haruhi to be.

They startled. The innocent looks they plastered instantly on their faces managed to make them look positively guilty.

Haruhi rolled her eyes at them. "Forget it."

She came to a halt immediately before them. Shifted in her dress, irrationally wished for a pair of practical trousers.

The twins never received any warning.

Haruhi simply donned seriousness, determination and something new and wielded words at them with all the delicacy of a spiked mace.

"I'm done thinking."

The twins were caught flat-footed by the attack.

Hikaru fidgeted, Kaoru shivered, stuttered, tried to talk through clenched teeth. "It's okay, you, um, we understand-"

Haruhi went blank-faced, blinked. "Idiots," she told them, softly, breathy, like a confession.

Next, it was all about feeling and trying to keep in mind which body parts were actually yours.

Hikaru clung at her, to her. "That was a yes, wasn't it? About what we're," he rasped, claimed anything of her he could reach.

"Say it again," he demanded.

Haruhi turned to them then, a strong willed eighteen years old encased in unfamiliar clothes and familiar touches, her eyes full of something as she told them:

"I depend on you more than on anyone else."

Underneath a starless night sky, amidst all the entangling and sighing that followed, Kaoru could remember thinking that Haruhi had the strangest way to say she was in love.