For two minutes and thirty-eight seconds, Haruhi's world was a whirlwind of color, hallways, and two identical twins that thought dragging her was far more effective (and much more entertaining) than letting her have access to her legs. For two minutes and thirty-eight seconds, she was left without a clue as to where they were going because of the speed that the twins had decided to travel at.
And finally, at two minutes and thirty-nine seconds, Haruhi found herself wondering, once again, just where exactly the indoor amusement park really was on the very eccentric cruise ship.
She had passed by the "gift shop" earlier that day for neither her nor Takashi had held any great interest in dropping by to further investigate. The glass doors had provided a decent enough view as they passed by the shopping complex during their exploration of the ship. Now, as she stood in front of the wide, transparent doors, she was beginning to wonder how it was that she kept underestimating anything and everything whenever those "rich bastards" were concerned.
Two men, both clad in matching white tuxedos, held the glass doors open for the three youngest members of the Host Club. The twins, who seemed to never grow tired of dragging their favorite toy around, proceeded to pull Haruhi through the doorway and into the shopping complex where several other guests were already wandering in and out of the many stores with shopping bags hanging loosely from their arms.
In the center of the "gift shop" was a large fountain spouting water from a professionally chiseled angel sculpture. Surrounding the pricey looking piece of art was a garden full of colorful flowers and some of the greenest grass she'd ever seen. And, being a student at Ouran High School, she had seen a lot of green grass. There were even chairs and tables set up around the area, serving as an "outdoor" café to guests that needed a break from their tedious shopping expeditions in favor of an iced tea or latte.
"Come on, Haruhi," Kaoru said, tugging on her arm.
She looked at him with a dull gaze which was more or less ignored by the two twins as they pulled her over to a store she did not recognize the name of. She could only assume it was a designer's store, but she didn't shop for designer clothing. She didn't even shop for clothes in general. Her father had long ago taken up the duty of purchasing his daughter's clothes and accessories, tired of the unfashionable and drab wares that she would otherwise pick out for herself.
"You don't know the importance of fashion!" her father would claim.
"It was on clearance," she'd reply.
And although he'd buy her frilly dresses and skirts and blouses, she'd never complain because he was right. She didn't see anything important about fashion and she didn't care what she was dressed in.
Unfortunately for the studious bookworm, two twins were currently focused on the task of introducing her to their world which consisted of summer dresses, spring lines, and a whole week dedicated to fashion.
Hikaru and Kaoru dragged their female companion into the store, strutting around like they (the twins) owned the place. Haruhi wouldn't have been surprised if they did.
There were leather couches and chairs placed conveniently around the store. Fur rugs rested comfortably against the wooden floor. There were paintings, no doubt expensive, hanging in different areas around the room; some even located above a lit fireplace. If there hadn't been racks upon racks of expertly designed clothing organized with a professionals touch, Haruhi was sure the store could have passed as a lounge.
"Let's play a game," Hikaru said as soon as he and his brother had deposited Haruhi into one of the wide, leather chairs.
"O-oh," Kaoru grinned in agreement at his brother's suggestion, "I bet I know what game you're thinking of."
"But of course," Hikaru replied, flawlessly matching his twin's expression.
"Huh?" Haruhi inquired. The fireplace had drawn her attention, causing her to miss out on anything the twin's had been saying. She was wondering why they needed to use a fireplace and run the air conditioner at the same time, especially when the temperature was fine without either. Rich people never seemed to make any sense.
"It seems our toy's attention has drifted elsewhere," Kaoru said, zooming in closer to Haruhi's face.
"It seems you're right," Hikaru said, pressing his cheek against his brother's.
Haruhi, who was totally unaffected by their proximity, only looked at them with a bored expression. She really wanted to just go to the library. It's not like she needed any more clothes. With the clothes that she had originally packed for the trip and the clothes that the twins had brought along for her, she was sure that she had enough to last her for at least two months. Deciding to voice her thoughts on the matter, the twins only looked at her with an equally dull gaze.
"We're not here to buy clothes," they chorused together.
"Then why are we here?" Haruhi asked, mentally adding on, 'When I could be doing something that's actually of interest to me.'
"Because," Hikaru huffed, "we're going to play a game."
"...That involves being in a store?"
The twins, realizing that she was starting to catch on, nodded enthusiastically.
Haruhi looked at them for a moment, a thoughtful expression having invaded her features. Hikaru and Kaoru could practically see the gears turning in her head as they waited in anticipation for her reply.
Unaffected by her lack of enthusiasm, the twins launched into their explanation of "The Bad, The Ugly, and The Needs To Be Burned."
"First," Kaoru instructed, "you pick an article of clothing."
Hikaru demonstrated by selecting a leopard-print coat.
Kaoru continued, "And then you point out everything wrong with it."
Haruhi looked at the coat and found nothing wrong with it except for the price tag.
The twins, however, found everything about the coat to be wrong, wrong, wrong.
"The buttons are disgusting," Hikaru said.
"Horrible," Kaoru agreed.
Haruhi looked at the buttons. She didn't care about the size, shape, color, style, or anything else about the buttons. They were buttons. They were meant to keep a person bundled up. Who cares if they were overly large and square-shaped (which was so last fall)?
"Leopard-print went out of style two years ago," Kaoru added.
Haruhi wondered what her chances of sneaking off without the twins noticing were.
"The stitching on the sleeves is poorly done."
She gazed longingly at the store's exit.
"Who would use cuffs with leopard-print?"
She even considered faking an illness.
"Maybe my lord could use this for that zoo cosplay he had in mind."
And it went on. And on. And on.
And when they were finally done insulting the coat, and Haruhi thought she was finally free of their nonsense, the twins had merely selected another item to further degrade.
"Would you like to model this for us?" the twins asked with a wild grin as they held up a shockingly see-through dress.
"No," Haruhi replied.
"Aw," they pouted.
Haruhi rolled her eyes.
After scrutinizing a pair of pants, another three dresses, and two more coats, Haruhi noticed that the twins had drawn a considerable amount of people with their game. She heard murmurs of "Hitachiin" and "good eye" and "their mother would be proud."
She also heard murmurs of "girl friend (girlfriend)," but was oblivious to the pointed fingers directed at her and the identical grins that had crept up onto the twin's faces.
After having insulted a blazer and another pair of pants, the twins decided to drag Haruhi out of the store and towards the "outdoor" café. As they passed, the crowd that they had drawn parted for them with wide eyes and curious glances (mostly directed at Haruhi who was oblivious all the while.)
The café, thankfully, wasn't crowded. There were a considerable amount of unoccupied tables and chairs still available and a handful of waitresses and waiters rested idly against the counter of the café, wearing white aprons over pressed suits.
Hikaru, Kaoru chose the table farthest away from everyone else, placing Haruhi in one of the chairs before scooting their's closer. Satisfied with the new proximity, the twins beckoned over one of the waitresses to take their orders.
"Hi," the waitress greeted with a blush, having found both the twins to be exceptionally cute, "can I get you anything?"
"Three orange juices," Hikaru said, flashing her an extremely charming smile. The waitress almost tripped over herself as she turned away to fulfill their orders.
"I thought this was supposed to be a break from Host Club duties," Haruhi said dryly.
Hikaru shrugged his shoulders, "Just wanted to see her expression."
"Is Haruhi jealous?" Kaoru cooed.
Haruhi looked at him.
"Don't worry," Hikaru put in, "we love you more."
Kaoru stiffened at his brother's comment.
Hikaru froze, having realized what he had just said.
Haruhi, who didn't seem to notice the tension between the two brothers, merely smiled politely at the waitress as she placed the three glasses of orange juice in front of each of them.
"Thank you," Haruhi said to the waitress. The waitress was once more focused on the two twins that sat next to the girl, ignoring her comment and her in general.
"Can I get you anything else?" the waitress asked, directing the question at the twins.
"No," the twins said coolly, more or less dismissing the waitress with the word.
She cast one last look at the brothers before joining her coworkers at the front of the café. They were, without a doubt, talking about how lucky she was for being able to speak to the two cute twins and also trying to figure out which brother the girl was dating.
"Are you two alright?" Haruhi inquired, having noticed that the brothers had yet to touch, let alone acknowledge, their orange juice.
"Uh, yeah," Kaoru covered, immediately grabbing hold of his drink and taking a sip.
Haruhi continued to drink her juice, looking around every so often at the wandering guests and giggling waitresses. She missed out on the looks that the twins were sending each other above her head.
While she had always been oblivious when it came to feelings and emotions, the brothers didn't know whether to be insanely grateful or incredibly frustrated as they finished off their orange juice and paid for the drinks.
Hikaru was beginning to believe it was the latter.