Disclaimer: Ouran High School Host Club, its plot and characters, belong to Hatori Bisco, and not me.

Note: Nothing but pure, unadulterated fluffiness, with some humor added as a digestive. Don't even bother reading this. No, really, stop now, you'll spoil your dinner.

Muwahahahaha! They don't suspect a thing! Reverse psychology gets'em every time!


Chapter 1/3

Killing Loneliness

"With the venomous kiss you gave me
I'm killing loneliness
With the warmth of your arms you saved me
I'm killing loneliness that turned my heart into a tomb"

Nekozawa Umehito was a moth. He was a small, relatively harmless creature that flitted about in darkness. He was also inexplicably drawn to light, even though to touch it was certain doom.

This large, awkward, black clad moth currently sat in a shadowy corner of the 3A classroom. The room was buzzing with activity, students laughing and talking and gathering their things to leave for the day. In the opposite corner of the room, a cluster of students, both male and female, crowded around two of their fellow classmates, one deceptively small, the other surprisingly tall.

Umehito watched, chin propped on one silk-draped hand, while Bereznoff glanced about warily from the other, warding off anyone who might wish to disturb the dark boy's thoughts. Not that anyone would—no on ever did. He was a pariah, completely untouchable. Since he had always been that way, he didn't know if it bothered him. It was just the way things were.

He wasn't thinking about that right now. Right now he was watching the girls who fluttered around the two eldest members of the Host Club. Girls, he had come to realize over the years, glowed with their own inner light. They shone brilliantly, especially when they smiled, and Nekozawa, a moth at heart, constantly felt something inside him drawn to that brightness.

It was one reason that he visited the Third Music Room on days when the Black Magic Club didn't meet. Under the pretense of advertising or selling occult paraphernalia, he allowed himself to sidle up against that glowing world and peek inside, stealing forbidden glimpses of the bright creatures that existed at their most brilliant there. It also didn't hurt that Suoh-kun shrieked and cowered whenever Bereznoff's shadow loomed in his path. Mean-spirited? Perhaps, but there was a dark satisfaction to be found in being feared by the King of that illicit world of light.

One girl's face lit up as Haninozuka Mitsukuni said something endearing. Umehito flinched and looked away. Too bright; so bright that it hurt to gaze upon. If this was why he constantly visited the Third Music Room, it was the same reason he always left quickly. He could never approach too closely, because even though he was a moth, he was also a human being with a strong sense of self preservation.

Rising, he collected his school bag and, assuming a suitably ominous stance, lurked towards the exit. The other students eddied around him like flower petals floating on dark water tend to glide apart at the approach of a boat and come back together in its wake, the surface tension never allowing the entities to touch.

"Haaaa-ru-hiiii!" came a familiar complaint in the form of a name. The addressee raised her eyes from the textbook in her lap to meet the dual golden gazes of the Hitachiin brothers. She knew that tone of voice all too well. It was a constant precursor of certain doom.

Upon her acknowledgement, they grinned and pounced, one settling on the couch to each side of her and each slipping one arm around her shoulders. Somehow the book had vanished from her grasp and she was caged between a pair of leering predators.

"We're bored," Kaoru informed her of the obvious as he nestled his head in the crook of her neck.

"Play with us!" Hikaru demanded, nuzzling her cheek affectionately.

"No," Haruhi replied without missing a beat, hanging her head a bit and feeling for all the world like a favorite pet, "I have to study. In fact, you two should be studying as well. You didn't do so well on that last test."

And as she spoke those words, inspiration struck. A dark giggle worked its way out of her chest as slowly, ever so slowly she raised her head to meet their suddenly wary gazes. A small, slightly sadistic smile spread across her face as she imagined the possibilities.

"Now there's an idea. Hikaru, Kaoru, lets study together! We can make flash cards and quiz each other and take turns reading and highlighting the important passages and—"

There was loud whooshing sound and Haruhi was suddenly very alone on the couch. She chuckled at her own ingenuity as she reclaimed her textbook. Those two were definitely rubbing off on her, she realized as she searched for the page she'd been reading, but maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to be just a little bit devious.

Ten minutes later, she began to rethink that analysis when she was startled from her reading by the twins' antics once more; though this time they had a new victim.

She had been so engrossed in her history assignment that she hadn't noticed the entrance of the club's resident stalker, Nekozawa Umehito, a senior in Hunny and Mori's class. He had some kind of love/hate relationship with Tamaki, which, after the incident with his little sister Kirimi, she and understood it a bit better, though he no longer seemed interested in changing his image.

The last time Haruhi had seen Kirimi, hand in hand with Nekozawa, she and her brother had been wearing identical black cloaks and the child had been carrying a huge stuffed cat doll that was bigger than she was. It seemed Nekozawa's prayers for Kirimi to accept darkness had been answered, so why the boy continued to frequent the Third Music Room was beyond Haruhi's knowledge.

It occurred to her that he might be lonely. After all, even though he had been accepted by his little sister, he didn't really seem to have any friends his own age. Maybe he wanted to make friends with the Host Club members, but didn't know how to go about it?

If that was the case, he was probably regretting it right about now, because the twins had cornered him and were circling him like lazy sharks. They had a vicious gleam in their eyes, one that Haruhi recognized all too well. The twins weren't really bullies in the truest sense, but they had yet to fully grow up and were still very self-centered. Therefore, when something snagged their interest, they didn't always fully consider the consequences of their actions, something else that Haruhi knew all too well from personal experience.

Haruhi reached into her bag in search of something to mark her place so that she could find it again once she'd broken up the twins' "game". Her hand closed around her school ID, but she didn't have a chance to tuck it between the pages before the devious doppelgangers sprang on their prey. Kaoru produced a flashlight (from where Haruhi couldn't tell) and flicked it on and off menacingly at Nekozawa, who squealed in a rather unmanly way and backpedaled right into a waiting Hikaru.

As the two collided, Hikaru's hand shot out and plucked Nekozawa's prized hand puppet right off his fingers, causing Nekozawa to cry out in surprised distress. By the time he managed wheel around and make a grab at the supposedly cursed cat doll, Hikaru had already tossed it to Kaoru, who began examining it and demanding to know what made it so special. In lieu of a response, Nekozawa tried once again to snatch back the doll, but his heavy black cloak kept getting in the way, constraining his movements and making him clumsy, so that he didn't make it before Kaoru tossed the doll back to Hikaru. Things quickly descended into a sleazy game of keep-away.

Haruhi was horrified for two reasons. One was that Nekozawa seemed to be very upset, shaking slightly from anger or alarm or embarrassment, probably all three. The other was that it was all her fault. If she hadn't been so quick to chase those to two away, they wouldn't have taken out their frustration on someone else.

Their usual victims were used to their tricks, and knew how to counter them: Tamaki was thick-skinned and resilient as rubber, he could take it. Hunny and Mori were both highly trained martial artists and Kyoya had a legion of personal bodyguards just a phone call away. But Nekozawa's only weapon was the threat of his dark arts, which didn't impress the twins in the slightest, and thus he was as good as defenseless against their merciless teasing.

Tamaki had bolted for the opposite end of the room when Nekozawa had entered and was shouting at the twins (and being thoroughly ignored) to stop doing things that would get them cursed. Kyoya frowned at the commotion over the top of his Pineapple laptop before turning back to his typing. Hunny stopped shoveling cake into his mouth long enough to observe the scene, and Mori tensed, ready to jump in if the situation got out of hand.

However, in Haruhi's mind, which was not a little fraught with self-imposed guilt, it was already too much. The poor guy was an oddity, sure, but he didn't deserve to be treated like a plaything. With a disgusted glance over her shoulder at the inaction of her fellow club members, she dashed over to the two instigators, who were too busy running Nekozawa in circles to notice her approach, tucking her school ID into her jacket pocket as she went.

Help arrived too late. Nekozawa, once more in the process of dashing after his pilfered puppet, got twisted in his cloak, stepping on the hem in his haste. As such, when his body turned, his feet couldn't keep up and he landed on his face with a thud.

At last the rest of the onlookers jumped into action, only to be brought up short as Haruhi whacked each twin on the back of the head, plucked the cat doll from the grasp of a shame-faced Hikaru and whirled around, pinning them all with a frozen glare.

"Don't bother!" she snapped.

They all appeared quite taken aback at her tone; Tamaki was particularly stricken, and promptly dissolved into a puddle of misery. Somewhere in the back of her mind Haruhi realized she might be taking her anger at herself out on the rest of them just a teeny bit, but it wasn't like they didn't deserve it for their lax attitudes.

"And you two!" she rounded on the twins who jumped back in alarm, "Grow up! People aren't toys!"

To her surprise, they hung their heads and nodded guiltily, mumbling half-heard apologies. Haruhi surmised that they hadn't meant for it to escalate so far.

Satisfied that the lot of them had been properly scolded, she turned to Nekozawa, who had pulled himself to his knees, and sat on his heels, face pointed steadfastly at the floor. His hands were fisted in his robes and they were still shaking slightly.

"Senpai, are you okay?"

Umehito was used to teasing. All his life he had stuck out like a sore thumb, and being different meant being ridiculed. That didn't mean he liked it. What was worse, it was Fujioka-kun, of all people, who came to his aid.

Fujioka Haruhi was an oddity; he man that shined like a woman. It was this quality that made him fit to be a part of the Host Club; but unlike the others, who mostly put on airs and fit themselves into a 'type', all Fujioka had to do was be himself and people flocked to him in droves.

Whenever Fujioka smiled, Umehito felt the same attraction he felt in the presence of the girls in his class. Not only that, it was a sort of subdued, subtle brilliance, just as appealing as the loveliest girl without being too overpowering to look at. In essence, Fujioka Haruhi was perfect for both Nekozawa Umehito the moth and Nekozawa Umehito the man.

And this made him more than a little nervous, because Fujioka Haruhi was also, in fact, a man, and therefore should NOT be affecting him this way. As a matter of self-preservation, he made a point of not thinking about it too hard—the implications were too overwhelming.

But now Fujioka was kneeling next to him, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder, and tilting his head down, trying to get a look at Umehito's face through the shadows of his hood.

"Senpai, are you okay?"

Umehito felt his cheeks burning with embarrassment. Why, why, why had he come here again?!

His club didn't meet today, nor were there any pressing rites to be preformed on the either the Wiccan or lunar calendar for at least a week; he'd checked twice, hoping to find something with which to occupy himself. No such luck. With nothing better to do, he'd lurked around the halls for a bit before he found himself outside the Third Music Room and decided to enter. The reaction to him was always so deliciously instantaneous, as Suoh-kun went into fits of terror, and usually at least one or two others would have something to say to him—it was one of the few times he was acknowledged rather than being pointedly ignored by his peers.

However, today he'd snagged the attention of the two apparently foul tempered identical freshmen.

"Ah, it's so sad, Haruhi won't play with us today!" one had pouted with a scowl (Umehito couldn't tell them apart to save his life).

At the mention of Fujioka's name, Umehito couldn't help but glance across the room at the brunette boy, who had been studiously ignoring the rest of the world in favor of the text book lying across his lap. He'd felt his face flush and been as thankful as ever for his all-concealing garments. But due to his lack of concentration, he'd allowed himself to be snared. The twins had separated and circled him like predators moving in for the kill.

"Our toy is no fun today, Hikaru," the other had agreed.

"Ah, you know, Kaoru," the first, Hikaru apparently, had then rejoined, "maybe Neko-senpai will play with us instead!"

"Eh?" Nekozawa had intelligently interjected, not at all liking where things were headed.

"You know, that sounds like it might be fun, Hikaru!" Kaoru had grinned viciously and then Umehito had been blinded as a flashlight beam flickered in his face.

It was at that moment that Fujioka had decided to glance up from his book and take note of the unfolding disaster, and all Umehito could think of was getting Bereznoff back and getting the hell out of there before things could possibly get any more humiliating.

Each time Bereznoff had sailed through the air out of his reach he'd felt himself panic just a little more. There was no reason for it, he'd kept telling himself, he should just stop running around like a fool and wait for the two trouble makers to lose interest, upon which he could leave in peace and hex them at his leisure—at least it would have given him something to do with himself for the rest of the afternoon.

But he had been so agitated that Fujioka was watching and he wanted to get away.

And that was how he'd ended up face down on the cold tile, which felt pretty good against his burning face, he had to admit, with Fujioka standing above him shouting reprimands at his friends on Umehito's behalf.

And while he grudgingly admitted to himself that he was pleased Fujioka would stand up for, it rubbed him wrong that he was displaying such weakness in front of this younger boy that had somehow snagged his attention.

He was mortified. He was never, ever, ever going to be able to come back to the Host Club after this. Maybe if he was stealthy about it he could crawl under one of the sofas and hide until everyone left…

"Senpai?" Fujioka repeated, and Umehito jerked his head up, startled out of his morose reverie to find Fujioka's face mere inches from his own, eyes soft with concern. "Here," he said, extending Bereznoff to him, which he took gratefully.

"I—I'm fine, Fujioka-kun," he stuttered, a bit more defensively than he meant to. Fujioka, however, seemed to take it in stride and, glancing over at his club mates, who remained in shock from their reprimand, he leaned in conspiratorially and offered him one of his radiant smiles. Umehito toyed with the idea of fainting.

"Don't worry about them," Fujioka assured him, "they don't really mean any harm, they're just big babies sometimes."

"Haruhiiiii!" the twins whined over his shoulder, but a scowl from Fujioka sent them off to mope with Suoh in the corner, albeit far less dramatically. Meanwhile, Fujioka rose and offered him a hand.

"Th-thank you," he murmured, slightly dazed as he took hold and moved to stand, "I—ah!"

A pall of resignation descended upon him as he face-planted for the second time in under a minute, almost pulling the other boy down with him as pain lanced up his left leg. Bereznoff must be punishing him for not taking better care of him; he must have twisted his ankle when he fell.

"Ah, you're not okay!" Fujioka exclaimed in dismay, helping him stand more carefully, then, to his shock, looping Umehito's left arm around his shoulder and pulling him in the direction of the door. "Don't put any weight on it, just in case. The infirmary should have some ice to put on it. Let's go."

A number of voices rose at the same time.

"Haruhi! Daddy told you not to play with dark wizards! I cannot allow my precious dau—oof!" (Tamaki slipped on a banana peel and tumbled over one of the sofas—all the money spent on professional animal trappers and it seemed there were still chimpanzees loose in the school.)

"Haruhi is no fun today. We're always getting yelled at, Kaoru. Do you think it could be something we're doing?"

"Impossible, we're so lovable and meek! Why can't you ever get worked up in the other direction, Haruhi?"

"Haruhi, maybe I should…"

"Takashi, can I have another piece of cake?"

"You realize the longer you're gone, the more I'm going to have to add on to your debt for making our customers wait?"

"D-don't worry, Fujioka-kun, I can make it myself."

This last protest came from Umehito, but was pointedly ignored along with the rest of them by the small, irritated commoner as he yanked the door open and slammed it shut behind them.

As they made their way down the long hallway, Umehito did his best to concentrate on walking without leaning too heavily on Fujioka, though it was impossible to do so completely—his ankle really hurt badly, and he doubted now that he could have made it on his own.

All the while his mind was busy frantically trying to deny the fact that Fujioka's small, warm hand was wrapped around his wrist, as well as the inalienable truth that their bodies were pressed close side by side.

This SHOULD NOT be affecting him so much, his mind insisted, at which point his body told his mind to shut up and mind its own business.

Thoroughly told off, his mind then began working out ways to ease the tension with conversation. This was easier said than done.

"Ano…" Was the best he could do on short notice.

Fujioka, who seemed to have been lost in thought, glanced up at him.

"Hmm? Did you say something, senpai?"

This close, his eyes seemed even larger and deeper, and as he looked down into them, Umehito's mouth suddenly felt like it was full of cotton.

"Ah…" he replied eloquently, and then elaborated with an intelligent-sounding "Um…" before his brain and body decided to have mercy on him and work together.

"S…sorry about this." Not poetry, but he was still inordinately proud of himself for managing to string together more than two syllables in light of his current situation.

Then Fujioka smiled reassuringly again and fainting seemed like a distinct possibility once more. He practically sparkled when he smiled, shimmered even. It was subtle and…inviting…

Scrambling away from those thoughts with all possible haste, he just managed to catch Fujioka's response.

"It's no trouble, senpai. Actually, I feel like I should apologize to you. Hikaru and Kaoru usually play their tricks on me, but I figured out a way to send them packing today, and I guess they took it out on you."

"Those two? How?" he inquired earnestly, taking a real interest. Normally, his cultivated aura of nefarious darkness was enough to scare people away, and when that wasn't, his curses usually did the trick. Those two red-headed devils had proved surprisingly resistant to all his efforts, yet something Fujioka did had been effective. Interesting.

Fujioka chuckled, and Umehito was surprised to hear a note of malevolence in his voice as the freshman recalled the incident.

"Nothing special. I threatened to make them study," he remarked. Then, before Umehito had a chance to delve further into Fujioka's twin-repelling techniques, "I'm sorry about the rest of them too. I couldn't believe none of them were going to do anything…"

Umehito shrugged at the change of subject, grateful that they were talking about something—anything to get his mind off the current situation.

"People are usually afraid to come near me," he confided airily, "Although, you don't seem to be one of them." Reflexively, he grinned eerily at the younger boy. "Aren't you frightened of this cursed doll Bereznoff?" To underscore the point, he raised Bereznoff on his free hand, who leered at Fujioka menacingly.

Fujioka turned his level gaze on him.

"No," he answered simply, "I don't really believe in that sort of thing. I believe a person makes his own luck." His gaze turned thoughtful and distant, as though he were seeing something larger and farther away than most could, and Umehito wondered what it might be. "A curse is just someone else's ill will towards you. So if you don't rely too heavily on what others think, it can't affect you."

Umehito cocked his head curiously. "I never thought of it that way," he admitted, impressed by this insight, partly because there was truth to it, and partly because it surprised him that a person so obviously ill-acquainted with the occult had thought puzzled that out.

"Besides," Fujioka added, eyes refocusing on Umehito's shadowed face once more, "you forget that I've seen you without your robes on. You're not very scary under there, senpai."

Unable to decide whether he should be flattered or offended (Not very scary? Was he losing his touch?), Umehito simply smirked and evaded.

"Suoh-kun is still frightened of me. Though it must seem like I haven't changed at all, even when he worked so hard to help me change myself. You all did. I guess that's something else for me to apologize for."

Fujioka shook his head, turning his eyes back to the hallway in front of them. "You are who you are, senpai. Its up to you to be who you want to be, so don't let anyone ever make you feel ashamed of your choices."

Umehito could only stare down at the small, radiant creature than was forgiving him for being a dark, untouchable monstrosity without even knowing it.

Not untouchable his brain reminded him Fujioka is touching you right now. He felt his treacherous cheeks flair with heat again as something in his chest clenched violently and sent shivers along his spine. Thankfully, the obstacle of the stairway presented itself just in time to take his mind off the curiously powerful sensation.

It was a strenuous task, making their way down the staircase in tandem; Fujioka's lack of height and Umehito's lack of grace (not helped by the weight and bulk of his robes and having only one useful leg) made it a clumsy, dangerous affair. Finally they agreed to take a break and settled next to each other midway down the stairs.

The halls had been deserted, all the students tied up in club activities or gone for the day, and the building seemed exceptionally quiet. They lapsed into a comfortable silence. At least, Fujioka seemed comfortable, his eyes taking on that distant quality once again as he lost himself in thought.

Meanwhile, Umehito fidgeted. He moved his ankle experimentally. Nope, still painful. He plucked at a string that had come loose on the sleeve of his robe. It began to unravel and had to be abandoned. Bereznoff twiddled his thumbs, a real feat, considering he didn't have thumbs.

Truth be told, he wanted to talk to Fujioka some more. They had been conversing almost normally, a new and novel experience for a loner like him. On top of that, the younger boy had gone out of his way to help him on numerous occasions and had been kind and patient towards his little sister. He had even stood up for him against his own friends, and was missing out on his club activities to help him.

Umehito found himself entertaining some absurdly unrealistic hopes.

He was about to throw caution to the wind and strike up some more conversation (about what he couldn't be sure, he hadn't managed to plan that far ahead) when he noticed a white square of plastic on the step below them. Curious (and certainly not looking for excuses to put off struggling for a topic), he bent and picked it up.

It was Fujioka's ID card. He must have dropped it when they sat down.

His eyes grazed the contents briefly as he turned to hand it back to its owner.

Name: Fujioka Haruhi; Age: 16; Gender: Female; Height: 5'0"; Weight: 108; Home Address…

There was a distinct screeching sound as reality ground to a halt.

Umehito did a fierce double-take as he re-read the card. He then re-read it again, just to be absolutely sure that he wasn't seeing things. Bereznoff peeked in to see what was so interesting, then glanced sideways at the oblivious person sitting not two feet away, who seemed to be completely unaware that the world had been picked up and dumped on its head.

"Ano…Fujioka…san…" he muttered, slightly dazed, "Are you…maybe…possibly…a girl?"

"Hmm?" Fujioka's head turned and his (her?!) eyes focused on him, then on the little square of plastic he was holding in his hands. He (she?!) smiled knowingly, as though Umehito were a child that had just deduced some obvious truth.

"Yeah," was his (her?!) simple response as he (SHE?!) plucked the ID card from his hand and tucked it into his (HER?!?) jacket pocket and resumed staring into space.

A girl?!

The first thing that occurred to Umehito, after his mind stopped juggling pronouns, was to be incredibly, unequivocally relieved. Because if Fujioka was a girl, that made these increasingly scrappy and hard-to-fend-off feelings a lot less confusing. But while lots of uncomfortable questions were answered, plenty of new ones sprang up to take their place.

There was another long silence between them during which Fujioka continued to space out and Umehito fidgeted some more. If Fujioka had been purposely hiding the fact that she was a girl, she sure didn't seem all that bothered to have been found out. So why…? Curiosity winning out over any anxieties he was harboring, he forged ahead.


Those large doe eyes focused on him once more. "Eh? Sorry, senpai, I wasn't paying attention. Are you ready to keep going?"


He had completely forgotten about the injury that was the reason he was sitting alone on an empty staircase with a (very pretty, he decided he could admit now that it didn't point to any possible subconscious homosexual tendencies) girl who was once again shining at him in that alluring way that girls do without even realizing it.

"Oh," he commented, as his ankle twinged and returned his memory to him, "Er…I suppose…but that's not…I mean…you're a girl?"

Her steady gaze made him nervous. She was so calm and sure that it made all his anxiety and uncertainty seem far more acute. Yet at the same time, it was reassuring. It said 'yes, you're crashing and burning, but I'm not holding it against you'.

"It's a long story," she informed him, "But the short version is that I have an 8 million yen debt to pay back to the Host Club and working as a host is quicker and a lot more pleasant than doing odd jobs for the rest of my high school life."

Umehito didn't know what to say to this, so he didn't say anything. Fortunately Fujioka continued without prompting.

"Not that I don't enjoy the host club. Life would be rather dull without it at times. I just wish I wasn't forced to do it under threat of punishment. It sort of undermines the enjoyment when you're constantly being reminded of overwhelming responsibility of meeting impossible expectations." She smiled forlornly. "I don't mind being taken for a guy, but I'd still like to have a choice, you know?"

Umehito stared, azure eyes wide through the dark locks of his wig, mouth slightly parted in amazement.

"Yes, I do."

He did know. He knew all too well. Nekozawa Umehito was a moth, a creature of the night. He enjoyed the darkness, reveled in the occult, savored the ability to draw on people's terror. But because of his phobia of light, because couldn't choose to go out in the sun even if he wanted to, it seemed more like a constant burden. Even though he preferred the darkness, he too would have liked the opportunity to choose it, rather than having it thrust upon him out of necessity.

"I suppose you would. We're very much alike, you and I," she rejoined thoughtfully.

She was smiling that smile at him again, and once more he felt that pull, like a moth driven to immolate itself on an open flame. It was radiant, soft, like the glow of a candle in the darkness, a warm, gentle blaze shining right past his layers of shadow and igniting something inside him. For the first time in his life, though still unutterably terrified, Nekozawa Umehito did not want to run from that light. Not even a little.

In fact, if he were to be completely honest with himself, he wanted to move closer. And he was moving closer, he realized a little belatedly. He felt like one flower petal on dark water gliding towards another. Momentum carried him forward. He couldn't stop. Maybe he really didn't want to.

"Senpai?" she inquired as the shadow of his hood fell across her face; curiously, her eyes still seemed to shine in the darkness. They were the last thing he saw before his own drifted closed, full of questions, then surprise as his lips brushed timidly against hers, gentle as a feather.

His other senses seemed to shut down in deference to sensation, and all that was real was the gentle graze of her soft lips. As expected, Umehito felt like he was on fire, like his body was engulfed in an inferno, or like the sun was shining full in his face. But for once there was no pain, only a tightening in his chest that made his limbs feel weak and tingly. It was strange and frightening. It felt very…nice.

Fujioka's shoulders had gone quite rigid, and her eyes had somehow managed to get even wider, so that when he pulled back, she seemed to be gaping at him, or perhaps through him or past him, shocked. He felt a little bad; not for kissing her, because he had wanted to, for a long time he realized, but because he had just sort of blindsided her. What if she was angry, or disgusted? What was she feeling? What could she possibly be thinking?

Her eyes focused on him at last, her lips parting as though she were trying to say something but had forgotten how. Blushing furiously under her intense scrutiny, he opened his mouth, intending to fumble through an apology in an attempt to salvage something of their previous amity.

"I…er… I'm sor—mph!"

He never got a chance to finish as a small, soft body launched itself against his, so that he was pinned against the wall of the stairwell, and suddenly a hot mouth was pressed to his.

It was his turn to be shocked and his hands flew to her shoulders, intending to push her back and gain some perspective on the situation, but somewhere between his head and his hands, the message got lost in translation, because he found his arms folding around her as he did his level best to return the kiss.

His last coherent thought was that at least she probably didn't hate him…

Impossible as it seemed, there was an interested party with an even sketchier grasp on the situation than him.

If Nekozawa Umehito was a moth, Fujioka Haruhi had probably always been a cousin of the three-toed sloth: she was slow moving, seemingly unmotivated, did absolutely nothing unnecessary if she could help it and one of the few things in life that could make her move was food. She was a plain, simple girl, with straightforward goals and opinions.

Anyone who knew her would never have guessed there was anything more to her.

In fact, right up until she saw that look in his wide, mesmerized eyes as he loomed over her, so shockingly blue through the layers of black he'd wrapped around himself, and felt something inside her stir and twist in response, Haruhi had never much considered such a possibility herself.

But the moment she felt the feather-light touch of his lips, so gentle it was almost a tease, something wild and restless started awake inside her and began crawling around under her skin. It was the only rational description her startled mind could find to explain the tingling sensation that was creeping along her spine to settle in her abdomen, making her chest tight and her limbs itch to do something.

Poor Haruhi's utilitarian, logic-based mind was at a complete loss, leaving her wide open for this new, irrational creature that was wearing her skin to take advantage of her inattention. In the bare seconds before conscious thought was overtaken completely, she regarded it critically. It was a creature of sensation, she decided; it reveled in what the five senses could give it, minus all that pesky analysis.

Thought was unnecessary; awareness was enough.

The concept was alien. But then again, as the Zuka Club had forced her to admit, there were many interesting ways to live. In an effort to convince herself that she had a choice in the matter, she decided to give it a try.

This verdict was handed down about three seconds after she all but tackled him, though just in time for her to be pleased as he wrapped surprisingly strong arms around her and leaned into her.

The kiss was awkward and clumsy; it was clear neither of them had any idea what they were doing, or it would have been if either of them felt compelled to care. They were, however, rather too preoccupied to mind as her hands slid up his chest to wrap around his neck.

When she felt tentative brush of rough wetness against her suddenly sensitive lips, fireworks exploded behind her eyes. She decided there was definitely something to this whole kissing thing as she cautiously darted her own tongue out in response. As it brushed foreign flesh for the first time, the arms around her tightened like a vise and he surged against her, opening his mouth and deepening the kiss eagerly. What he lacked in skill and experience he more than made up for with enthusiasm. Haruhi, in a similar situation, found she had no trouble reciprocating.

The creature of sensation that was currently Fujioka Haruhi was in its element. The solid warmth of his body pressed against her. The smell of some kind of spicy, exotic incense that clung to his clothing. The taste of something strange and slightly sweet on both their tongues. The sound of approaching footsteps…

Footsteps? Uh-oh…

They leapt apart, Haruhi backpedaling until the opposite wall of the stairwell stopped her, and stared at each other with identical expressions of genuine surprise.

Had that just happened?

Wet, slightly swollen lips, heaving, oxygen-deprived lungs and adrenaline-drenched pounding hearts said 'yes, definitely', even if rationality said 'no, no, don't be silly, because that's Fujioka Haruhi over there, and that's Nekozawa Umehito over there,' which seemed like a perfectly reasonable explanation until their bodies once again reminded them that yes, that definitely just happened, rationality be damned.

The unreality of the situation seemed to hit him at the same moment it hit her, because suddenly they were smiling at each other, and then there were some quiet giggles and all of a sudden they were laughing together.

It must have made an interesting sight for the two unsuspecting second year boys who rounded the corner then, on their way out of the school for the day. They stopped to stare for a second, their discussion dying on their lips as they took in the spectacle before them.

"Um…Fujioka-kun, what's up?" one finally found his voice.

Checking her hilarity through sheer force of will, Haruhi, wiped a tear from her eye as she turned to the newcomers.

"Hello," she greeted them; they were in Tamaki and Kyoya's class, she remembered, though she couldn't quite remember their names. "Sorry if we're in the way. Nekozawa-senpai twisted his ankle, and I was helping him to the infirmary. We were just…" she paused, and met Nekozawa's cautious gaze before she continued, "…taking a short rest."

From the corner of her eye, she saw him deflate slightly, though from relief or disappointment she honestly couldn't tell; his hood had fallen lower and his face was invisible in the shadows. She wondered if she had said something wrong, or right, or if perhaps that creature of sensation that had woken up inside her (which her rational mind was currently beating into submission with the lead pipe of willpower) had set her up to start over analyzing things (heaven forbid) like every other hormone driven female in this crazy school.

"Oh, that explains a lot," the other laughed quietly, then stepped forward, "Suoh is upstairs running up and down the halls looking for you, Fujioka. I think he was shouting something about the seventh seal of the apocalypse…in fact, you should probably go let him know you're alright. We'll um…" he glanced at his companion, who suddenly seemed torn between friendship with the popular younger boy and apprehension of the creepy older boy, then threw caution to the wind, "we'll take Nekozawa-senpai to the infirmary."

Haruhi sweat-dropped and a pall descended on her as she thought of the borderline-psychotic glomping that awaited her. She sighed, but her irritation couldn't quite overpower the excited contentment that was still thrumming through her nervous system.

"I guess letting him meltdown would only mean more work for me in the end," Haruhi commented uncharitably. The two newcomers laughed uneasily, unable to decide whether or not she was joking or not. She didn't bother to elaborate as she levered herself to her feet.

At this, Nekozawa's head rose and Haruhi was looking into his deep blue eyes again. There was a thin make-shift barrier erected there, built with caution and insecurity, but peering at her from behind it was something else entirely. It was a question and a hope; an honest feeling and an earnest desire. He wanted to know. Wanted to know what? He didn't seem quite sure himself.

Haruhi hardly knew how to answer him. The creature of sensation paused in the process of being strangled with a garrote by Haruhi's iron-clad self-control to interject a suggestion, and since her rational mind couldn't come up with anything more accurate, she smiled a gently at him. His eyes widened fractionally as hope crowded out apprehension.

"Feel better, senpai," she entreated, her eyes lingering on his a bit longer than they might have before she turned and headed back up the stairs, nodding her thanks to the other two boys in passing as they tried to work out how to get Nekozawa to the infirmary without getting too close to him.

As she made her way towards the uproar coming from the general direction of the Third Music Room, a warm glow settled in Haruhi's chest. Her face felt hot, and she realized she was blushing. Well, no wonder, since her heart had not stopped racing yet. She pressed cool hands to her face and took a few deep breaths, doing her best to concentrate on mundane, neutral thoughts. Think homework, think chores, think sales at the supermarket. Her Zen began to resurface.

She still wasn't completely sure she knew what had just transpired, and whatever it had been made no sense, but maybe that was okay. The creature of sensation had been shocked back into submission by the tazer of Haruhi's single-minded resolve, but it was still there, lurking just the other side of self-control and she had to wonder if she'd ever be the same again. It occurred to her as she was flattened by a curiously Tamaki-shaped steamroller that a similar creature probably ruled the Host Club King twenty-four hours a day. Did this mean that she had she found a way to relate to him?

Fortunately, she was saved from these disturbingly empathetic thoughts by the shouting, fidgeting, wailing, snuggling, scribbling, blinking, tugging and cake-offering that met her as she opened the door to the Third Music Room, which seemed to be some form of group apology and/or attempt to exorcise her of any lingering evil spirits.

As she looked around the room at the six handsome, popular men currently engrossed in varying forms of falling-all-over-themselves-trying-to-keep-her-from-being-angry-ness, she pressed her palm to her forehead, and for the second time today burst into earnest, helpless laughter.

The creature of sensation snuggled superciliously into a comfortable nook in her subconscious, where the torture devices of her conscious mind couldn't reach, and made itself quite at home.

End Chapter 1

Note: Ah, one down, two to go! Most of this story so far, like all my stories, was written late at night, fueled by sugar and caffeine and my twisted imagination, so I apologize for any errors. There is never enough Nekozawa love floating around the fanverse, so I had to have Haruhi give him some. Hopefully the characters weren't too OOC, I tried to explain away their weirdness, but I'm never quite sure if I did an adequate job or not.

That's where you come in! Reviews make me write faster! So if you want to know what will happen to our awkward hero and heroine, tell me what you think. Comments and constructive criticism are encouraged! Flames will be used to light firecrackers!