First fanfic! Hee hee.
BETA'd by asianangelgirl, who has supported me tremendously during the whole process of writing this fic, and even kindly offered to BETA it. If you like Naruto then please check out her fanfics also!
This story has ended up much longer than I expected, and it took forever to write too. (Though that's probably due to my laziness and distractions, haha.) But this idea has been stuck in my mind, so I'm glad I finally wrote it all out.
Thank you for reading and reviewing this story. They're all greatly appreciated!
Disclaimer: I don't own Ouran High School Host Club.
AFTER THE CLOCK STRIKES TWELVE
The shivering cold water became a shock to her skin as she first descended off the bridge and fell in the river. Such an experience was not at all like landing softly on a cloud, no, it felt more as if a strong, heavy wind had harshly pushed her off with great force, and she was crashing through broken glass as she watched Tamaki fade from her blurry vision. The feeling that this had marked the host club's downfall and end tasted bitter in her mouth, and it was then that Haruhi realized she could hardly breathe in the water. She had to help herself out, or else she'd suffocate – and then who would be able to break the news to the host club she had failed to bring him back?
Haruhi is not a damsel in distress, she is independent, self-sufficient, and she definitely doesn't need someone to save her – hugging her in midair, carrying her out of the river bridal-style, those kinds of things were too exorbitant for her. She was a simple person, and as a simple person, she only wanted one thing – so much, she was even reckless enough to boldly chase that car, brash enough to drive a horse carriage at full speed – all because she wanted his presence. His same, cheerful presence that he always has when he arrives at the host club, with open arms and sparkles and charm, ready to entertain his clients. And she truly, truly believed the magic could last even after the clock strikes twelve.
But he wasn't there.
Tamaki did not jump after her.
She emerged out of the river, coughing and gasping for breath as she reached out her skinny arms, searching for some ground to support her out.
The familiar voices became louder as Haruhi turned her head, and she could see Honey, Hikaru, and Kaoru running towards her, with Mori and Kyouya standing in front of the limo in the distance. Haruhi's hands gripped tightly around a rock when they stopped moving, the air becoming dead once they noticed their king's absence.
"Haruhi..." Kaoru spoke, breaking the silence, though his voice was now quiet and soft, as Hikaru stretched his hand out for her to hold on to.
"He didn't come," Haruhi sputtered out in remorse, her hand resting on Hikaru's arm. Her dress was soaked, and her hair was dripping with water, but none of that mattered. "He didn't come back."
Perhaps it was at that very moment, a fear began to build up somewhere in the back of her mind; it frightened her that maybe, at that time – when the world was spinning in slow-motion, when the reins were slipping out of her fingers, when she was toppling over the bridge... and, when Tamaki shouted out her name, sending chills through her entire body – that would be the last time she would hear his voice.
If asked, the former clients would have explained saying none of the host club members appeared at the Ouran festival that night. The club is gone, the members are gone, but they say if you follow the path through the pumpkin field, you'll be able to come across a crashed carriage. There are no noble horses, no ballroom gowns, no Cinderella story – just a wrecked, broken wheeled vehicle that seemed to lost control.
The empty display was just a confirmation that another fairy tale had failed to stay past midnight.
Up the staircase, to the top floor, a student famously known for her scholarship at Ouran Private Academy's footsteps echoed as she walked to the end of the north hallway. The delicate coos of the doves were heard as they flew by the same clock tower outside the window, and the so-called bookworm's steps shortly halted to a sign.
Music Room 3.
"How long has it been..." she wondered, as she turned the door knob in a docile manner, remembering faintly the first day she entered here. The door creaked, and Haruhi couldn't help but notice the lack of rose petals – coming in the room, the strange feelings she had of mystery and enchantment before, disappeared.
Haruhi stuck her head in inquisitively, curious at what the lively classical music playing behind the doors could be. One of the students approached her, gave off a cheery smile and said, "Hello! Have you come here to practice your musical talents in the third music room?"
"Ah..." she should have known; behind the man stood a substantial amount of members, all busying themselves with instruments. They consisted of violinists, vocalists, some even directing the music – and Haruhi spotted a girl, who had once been a regular customer for Tamaki at the host club, playing the piano at the very far end of the room.
"No, thank you. I was just trying to find a quiet place to study, since all the libraries here are so noisy..." Haruhi said. "So I thought, maybe if I tried here..."
"Oh, I'm sorry – this room is occupied," the boy explained, examining Haruhi more closely, as he had felt something oddly familiar about the student. "Hey... aren't you that girl who joined a host club, under the false pretenses of a male host?"
She nodded, and he laughed at her stolid response.
"I was really surprised when I found out one of the hosts was a girl. You look very different with a girls' uniform on, too."
"Eh... really..." Haruhi said, looking down at her yellow and white uniform. Hikaru and Kaoru had said same thing, but was she really that different when she wore girl clothes? Or was it because she was no longer a host? "Well then, I'll just go back to the library and study there. Sorry for taking up your time…"
It was strange, how the feeling of desolation began to swell up in her heart as she left the used music room. Haruhi felt that it wasn't due to the minor inconvenience that she couldn't find a peaceful place to study, but rather... well, she couldn't quite explain. Maybe it was because when she opened the door, somewhere deep inside she had wanted a few rose petals to blow gently towards her face, as she was so used to it, and she would see the five of her friends again. Or, what would appear to be five – she'd look again, and see Tamaki sitting on his chair, legs crossed, smiling as if the host club had always been there. Smiling as if he hadn't been foolish enough to disband the host club and leave for France.
And the fact that there was nothing like that behind the third music room... saddened her, somewhat. Of course, Haruhi knew that no such thing could happen. No, it was ridiculous to think a host club could just magically appear, because things are different now.
But she wondered – as she was lost in thought, tapping her mechanical pencil against her chin, ignoring the crowded and chatty library she was in – if Hikaru, Kaoru, and everyone else had ever visited the third music room after the host club was disbanded.
When the club was shut down, the ex-members, even Haruhi, were disheartened, angry, some even blank and inexpressive for a few weeks, for they had lost that special place to go to after school and see their best friends again – after all, not all of them had the same classes. It's funny how she never realized the host club had tied the seven of them together.
"I guess you don't really know what you have until it's gone," Haruhi once said to Hikaru and Kaoru, because every now and then the twins would start talking about the old host club days.
A few days after the Ouran festival, and after a bit of their own personal grieving, the host club members have managed to keep their chins up. Haruhi was relieved their attitudes and personalities haven't changed drastically – "it would have terribly muddled things," she thought.
Haruhi announced to everyone she was a girl, having to host due to the enormous debt after breaking the Rene vase. It was a big shocker, not only to her clients that had always designated her regularly (who seemed to take the news quite well, much to Haruhi's surprise – none seemed appalled or offended at all), but for the host club members as well, as they had not expected her to reveal her veridical gender so quickly. The twins dragged her to the changing room, held up the school's female uniform, and ordered, "Here, put this on!" As a joke, they tried to put it on her themselves, but failed as an aggravated Haruhi kicked them outside the room, a yell of "both of you, get out!" following after.
She gave a tedious huff once she was alone in the room behind the curtains, but then felt an uncanny semblance of déjà vu the first time she became a host.
Hikaru and Kaoru are still, slowly, expanding their world, though Haruhi could tell it has become more difficult now. Honey and Mori have joined the karate club, but Honey has refused to stop eating cakes and liking cute things, much to his brother's dismay. "It takes true strength to admit what you like and face it," he quoted Tamaki, as he was coaching the students in class. "Hiding it will only prove weakness; remember that!" To that, Mori would simply nod as he stood beside the senior.
Besides his older brother still obsessing over cakes and sweets, Yasuchika was ecstatic that Honey had come back to the karate club, but sometimes, when he sees the captain staring off in space, lost in thought as he remembers another certain club that is now no more, there is something about his reminiscing expression that makes Yasuchika almost reconsider.
The last time Haruhi had seen Kyouya was when he told Yuzuru he would rid of the crashed carriage at the bridge. She, along with the host club, was there with him, and the shadow king eyed Haruhi when he oh-so-casually mentioned the word "carriage".
"I-I'll help too," Haruhi quickly offered, for she feared he would devise some pecuniary way to plunge her back into debt. It seems he has not changed after all. Haruhi is not sure what to think of that, but she decides it would be safe to be glad.
After the mess on the bridge was properly taken care of, Haruhi had not met Kyouya since then, though her classmates had assured her he is doing fine and some even say he will surely take over the Ootori company in the future; a growing number of people have thought so ever since Kyouya had ominously purchased the Ootori medical equipment company (and even threw it back in his father's face!) He didn't need it, he said – he had found something more valuable.
Haruhi shuddered at the thought of admitting this, but she had missed those days where she'd come back to the host club, and after jotting down who-knows-what in his notebook, Kyouya would add another fine to her debt for being late. Really, it was just because she had missed seeing and talking to him. She had missed seeing and talking to everybody, actually.
It had become rare for her to see Honey and Mori. The only people she has actual contact with were Hikaru and Kaoru, all due to the fact that the three were in the same class, but even then, it feels different. Something is missing. Something is not right.
Maybe the reason it felt so out of place was because Tamaki Suou was never seen again.
"The number you have reached has been disconnected or is not available. Please hang up and try again."
She sighed, hanging up her cell phone and laying back on her bed. The days had passed too quickly, and already Mori and Honey have graduated. Haruhi made another attempt to call Tamaki-senpai during her solitary summer break at home – she called the same cell phone he proudly showed her long ago, as he pompously pointed out the picture of himself and Haruhi displayed on the front.
"That's nice, but why did you put those hearts around us…?" she had asked, setting the tray of commoner coffee down after a long day of hosting, as she examined the facetious image more closely. It was a small photograph of her senpai, grinning widely, as his hand was patting Haruhi's head. Her face in the picture could only be translated to 'bleh', and had she known there'd be such an overwhelming amount of hearts around them, she'd frown a lot more. Tamaki had probably ordered Hikaru and Kaoru to photoshop those hearts on, she thought.
"Why else, Haruhi? It displays our loving and affectionate father-daughter relationship!" Tamaki had on his usual goofy smile, and added dotingly, "I also placed your number under 'daughter', just like how you have me under 'father/senpai' on your phone, right?"
"I did no such thing," Haruhi said bluntly, sending her senpai over to his corner of woe. That day, and the following days after that, he began calling numerous times, often beseeching her to have him on 'father/senpai' ("but you must put me on there, Haruhi! We're a family, aren't we?! And families will always stick together forever, right?!"), and on other calls, he'd whine to a very annoyed Haruhi that daughters should always look forward to conversing with their fathers, "in this case, your handsome, suave father," and that they should arrange plans to go out and fly kites and eat ice cream and push each other on swings like the commoners do… or, something along the gist of that. Haruhi would usually interrupt sleepily, "First of all, you're not my father, so putting you under 'father/senpai' would be ridiculous. And second, shouldn't you be sleeping? It's much too early in the morning right now and you're making me lose my sleep. I'm going to hang up, and you better not come over my apartment afterwards like you did last time, because lately I've been noticing that you come over my place more than I do." She'd then hang up before her senpai could protest.
And after hearing the dial tone, Tamaki would be struck with a brilliant idea that involved coming over Haruhi's place.
At least, that's what used to happen before he took off for France… Haruhi walked over and took a seat at her table, opening a textbook and flipping out a yellow highlighter.
She isn't sure if he thinks of the host club anymore.
She isn't sure if he thinks of her anymore.
"Haruhi?" her father's voice called, knocking on the door and coming in the room. His hair was messily tied up a ponytail – it was a Saturday, Haruhi figured, and since Saturdays were his day off from work, he didn't care much of how he looked. "Aren't you going to eat breakfast?"
"No," she replied. "You can go ahead and eat it without me."
"You haven't eaten breakfast since you came back from your school's festival," Ryoji said with concern.
"It's nothing to worry about. I just don't feel hungry, that's all," she assured him, turning pages from her English notebook. "Anyway, since it's Saturday today you should take a rest. I don't want you to overwork yourself; I know you've been tired working at the bar all week, so the last thing you need is to worry about me. I'm fine, really."
He stood beside the door, watching his daughter indulge herself into her studies. She'd claim it's because she wants to be prepared for the next school year, but he does not believe so. Is it because you want to avoid something, Haruhi?
"Haruhi…" Ryoji came over to the table and hugged his daughter. He ran his hand through her short brown hair, as she murmured, "Dad?"
"Listen, Haruhi," he half-whispered, half-spoke. "Time doesn't change things. It's not up to watches or clocks, it's up to you to change them… and if you feel like something is missing, then do something about it. Because waiting isn't going to do anything…"
Haruhi listened, lowering her eyes and pressing her face against her father's shirt. She wrapped her arms around him, and gave a muffled sound that were along the lines of, "But how…"
But how could she, when he was 6,000 miles away? It wasn't like she wanted to wait – she'd do anything to march up to that blonde idiot, and yell at him for being so stupid. She'd yell at him for being a moron, and actually believing he was a burden to the host club. She'd yell at him for marrying someone he didn't love, and leaving for France without even telling them.
But it was too late already. No matter how much she would open her cell phone, locate his number under Father/Senpai, and call him, he would never pick up. Haruhi hugged her father tighter.
Tamaki-senpai, what are you doing right now that's so important you can't even answer the phone?
"Here," Éclair said, the usual trenchant tone in her voice, as she placed a cell phone on the grand piano.
"Eh…?" Tamaki stopped playing his song, analyzing the silver cellular phone with curiosity. "What's this…?"
After visiting his mother today, the drive back to Éclair's place had been notably quiet; the somber silence was much like the time Haruhi Fujioka descended off the bridge. Back then, Tamaki had watched in horror, his face a petrified expression, as the car sped on.
Tamaki did not speak a word after Fujioka and her raggedy dress fell in the river.
Today Tamaki did not speak a word after having a private talk with his mother.
It annoyed her, his avoidance of words. Obviously his mother must have talked about a troubling matter, for he had a distressed look on his face. His eyebrows were furrowed as if he was concentrating on something outside the car window. When they arrived back at the Tonerre mansion, he quietly went into his room and played the piano.
He has played that song every day since the bridge incident. It was a never-ending tune, unless someone interrupted, and it would seem fresh and new each time he played it. But there was something about this music, some dysphoric vibe it was giving off that Éclair did not like…
"Your new phone," Éclair answered, "since your other one is no longer in your possession." For a moment, she had a brief flashback of the cell phone sinking in a water tank.
"Oh…" Tamaki skimmed his thumb across the phone, brushing the blank gray spot meant for a picture to be pasted on. "Thank you…"
Éclair twirled her opera glasses around her fingers. "Tamaki."
Her glasses stopped rotating in circles. "What did your mother say to you earlier?"
She put her hands behind her back, waiting for his response. The binoculars felt cold against her palms, as she stared heedfully at the blonde until he opened his mouth. "That…" he finally spoke, "… I can't tell you. I'm sorry."
Éclair scoffed, as she had expected that sort of answer. "Fine. I'm going to take a shower."
What she didn't expect, however, was for him to suddenly speak up as she began to walk to the bathroom. "Éclair-san," he said.
"What?" She looked back at him, and he placed his fingers gently on the white piano keys, his back facing Éclair but his face staring down at the picture-less phone.
"… Do you ever think this decision was a mistake? I mean… coming to France, marrying, and spending the rest of your life with someone you hardly even know?" he asked.
So that's what his mother said.
Even when he was trying to be subtle, it was typical of Tamaki to make it so obvious. Éclair spun her opera glasses back and forth with her thumb and forefinger as she considered the question. She decided not to say 'yes'… because she didn't want to admit he was right.
So instead, she asked: "Do you regret it?"
To which Tamaki did not respond.
Éclair curtly left the room, leaving her husband alone with the piano. She twisted the shower handle in the bathroom, turning the water on.
She would never admit it, because she was never, never, in her whole life, wrong. But when the car drove on, and they left Haruhi Fujioka alone with nothing but the river and her tattered dress, there was a bad feeling in the pit of Éclair's stomach. It wasn't guilt, no – she wasn't able to pinpoint it down, until she lowered down her binoculars.
It was dissatisfaction.
She had fallen in love with Tamaki. She had wanted to marry him. She knew it was unrequited, but she thought he'd love her once they were married… which is not so. It seems she had been looking through rose-colored glasses after all…
Éclair should've been happy when they left Fujioka. She should've been happy when they boarded on her personal jet plane to France. She should've been happy when they settled into their new home. But she is not. She does not feel content as she thought she would be.
Éclair's hand made a firm grip on the handle as the hot water poured on her hair. This was inexplicable.
After the clock strikes twelve, the story becomes too dull to unfold. So the hours are crawling slowly, and Tamaki is sitting alone in his empty, hollow room. He is seated on his piano bench, and plays the song he always plays. His eyes are closed as his fingers gracefully dance across the keys, and the piano produces a melancholic aria. It is the same sorrowful melody that is looping and playing through everyone's minds, as they recall fond memories of host clubs, of friendships, of love.
No matter how much they've all moved on, they still cannot forget…
Perhaps the saddest piano song ever played is the one where the keys and notes seem to sing a story of what could have been.