The twins wondered sometimes what would happen if they stopped acting and let people know that they really did sleep together. They'd never actually tell, of course, because it was one thing to be scandalous and quite another thing to have that kind of stigma attached to you. It was one of those brands that would never really go away, and it would end up with them seeing a psychologist to boot.

Hikaru and Kaoru didn't like psychologists. They didn't think they had psychoiatrophobia (they also didn't think that was the right word, but it was the one they'd coined for themselves to use) so much as a healthy paranoia. They also believed that it wasn't paranoia if they really were out to get you. They'd read everything they could get their hands on about multiple births and arranged to meet and talk with as many other twins and triplets and quadruplets as they could. They were more interested in the identicals like themselves, but they'd researched fraternal births as well. And thus far into their data collection, they were fairly sure their situation was unique.

The first time they saw a Venn diagram, it had been like Buddha's own moment of enlightenment to them. There was Hikaru. There was Kaoru. Then there was that vast overlapping portion in which something hadn't ever fully separated, the part where they really were one person, thinking the same thing, instinctively moving the same way. Being together was easiest because that way neither of them had to try to explain away why they'd suddenly laughed at the joke someone had just cracked three rooms over, where the other twin was.

Their parents knew, of course, and in their more compassionate moments the twins felt sorry for them, having given birth not just to twin hellions, but legitimate freaks of nature as well. They'd been overprotected from the moment their parents had figured it out when they were three, taking Kaoru into one room and Hikaru into another and quizzing them on a set of cards with colors and shapes. They hadn't known then that other people didn't see through their siblings' eyes, and they still didn't know what the conversation their parents had had that night had been about. But they remembered what their father had told them the next morning, the four of them in the twins' bedroom with the door shut and window shades closed: "You must never, ever let anyone know. It will make you different, and people don't like what's different."

They thought they'd grown up that day, catching onto the fear in their father's eyes, their mother's arms as she hugged them tight. They thought they'd been acting ever since.

My Brother, My Secret, Myself
by K. Stonham
first released 21st October 2006

When they'd gotten out of kindergarten and started in on real school, the twins had realized that being freaks actually gave them an advantage of sorts. If Hikaru worked harder on math and science and Kaoru worked harder on art and literature, they could each know more with less individual effort. Their grades were persistantly near the top of the class, scores deadlocked, tests identical. It amused them to have their teachers suspect they were cheating off one another and change desk arrangements for exams so they were in opposite corners. It didn't work. They were quite proud of themselves, actually, for sending three teachers to psychologists before they even got out of primary school.

"You're proud of making your teachers need shrinks?" Haruhi asked them.

"Oh, poor soul," Kaoru said dramatically, "who does not know the joy of a challenge, of mischief achieved!"

"You know," she grated, "I think I read a book or two with characters like you two in it..."

"We know!" the twins said, grinning manically as they looked at her. "We read them too. All of them!"

She looked at them curiously, first Hikaru then Kaoru. "How do you do that?" she asked.

"Do what?"

"The unison thing. You always know what each other are going to do. Is that an act, or...?"

"It's a twin thing," they said dismissively.

"Besides, we don't always talk together," Hikaru said, leaning back and waving his hand.

"Even when you don't, you finish one another's sentences," Haruhi replied. She propped her chin on a fist. "Sometimes I wish I had a brother or sister. It'd be nice to be close to someone like that."

They thought sometimes that they might be able to tell Haruhi and she wouldn't stop liking them because they were different and in one another's minds all the time. She was the only one aside from their parents who could consistently tell them apart, after all, even when they sometimes woke up in the wrong body. There were the bodies that were Hikaru and Kaoru, and the two overlapping people within who were Hikaru and Kaoru and ever since they'd hit puberty, they'd been getting tangled up in one another's dreams and once in a while getting up in the morning and finding they were in the wrong body. After the first few panicked hours the first time, they'd decided to just go with the flow, and they always ended up switched back within a few days. Haruhi, they thought, might be able to accept that. But they didn't want to risk it. Hikaru liked her, and Kaoru did as well, though not quite in the same way, and until they were sure that she could accept that they were the same person as well as different people, they didn't want to risk it. So they kept her at arm's length too.

Haruhi was really the first girl they'd known. Oh, there'd been girls around them all their lives, maids and nurses and fellow students, and of course the butterflies of their own social class who made up the clientele of the Host Club, but despite liking the attention they got because of their looks and their "are they or aren't they?" scandalous behavior, they'd never really paid any attention to girls as a general class. They were there, they were pretty, that was all. Haruhi was there, and Haruhi was pretty, too, but somehow they couldn't consign her into the "everyone else" class after she started consistently calling them on which was which.

"How can we be lonely," Hikaru asked, "when we have each other?"

"Maybe we do need other people too?" Kaoru asked.

"We've been just fine up until now," Hikaru stubbornly answered, leaning his head on his twin's shoulder as they both watched the clouds.

"Would it hurt to have other friends? Real other friends," Kaoru amended.

"Real friends tell each other everything. How could we tell anyone else everything?"

"Hikaru... even if you do kind of like her, do you really think anything could change us?"

"Like we could compete with Milord," his brother replied with just a hint of a snort.

"Milord can be an idiot. I think we can stack up to him just fine." Kaoru's head rested atop Hikaru's. "Do you really want her?"

"I think so."

His brother sighed, then smiled. "Then we'll go for her."

They hadn't once spoken aloud.

What belonged to one twin belonged to them both--thoughts, feelings, knowledge. There were no separate possessions, homework and Valentine's Day chocolate were shared, and the relative concept of a first kiss with someone else generally elicited the bemused inquiry of which of them would go first. They already knew that when they fell in love it would be together. What was Hikaru's was Kaoru's was Hikaru's, and there was nothing to be done about any of it.

They'd once asked a nine-year-old girl how she knew which twin she was and which one was her sister. She'd thought about it for a minute, then answered "I'm always here, but sometimes she goes away." That answer had made the both of them feel very sad, though they didn't quite understand why.

"I'm not scared to die," Kaoru once said.

"I'm scared that you'll die," Hikaru had finished for him, understanding. They had no concept of being alone, not even the fact that they'd always been isolated from everyone they met because they aren't us and won't understand. It was easier to push others away than to like them, to let them get close. If no one knew them, no one could know. No one could hurt them.

They preferred to be alone.

Somehow, they'd never expected it to be Kyouya who called them on it.

"Your hair's parted on the wrong side," he commented to them after the club had closed operations for the day. "Is there any reason why?"

The brothers looked at one another. They'd switched again the night before and were currently Hikaru-in-Kaoru and Kaoru-in-Hikaru, hair parts going as always with bodies not souls because they were mirrors and their natural parts fell that way. "How can you tell?" they asked, looking back at the Vice-President.

"I hadn't noticed it before Haruhi pointed it out, but you do have some distinct mannerisms," Kyouya replied, tallying sums in his ever-present laptop. "Once you know what to look for, you're actually fairly different."

"What mannerisms?" they demanded.

"Hikaru drums his fingers when he's bored. Kaoru just daydreams," Kyouya listed implacably, continuing to type. "There are others, of course. But when someone watches the two of you, the hair parts match the person eighty-five percent of the time. It's the other fifteen percent that interests me."

Hikaru and Kaoru looked at one another and sat down at the table. The rest of the Host Club ignored them, being inveigled by Honey into eating cake with him.

"What would your guess be?" Kaoru asked, resting his elbows on the tabletop and lacing his fingers together. Their nerves hummed cold and tight and hiding that was difficult, but not impossible.

Kyouya stopped typing and looked up at the two of them. "After consideration, I don't know."

"Explain," Hikaru requested, posture and positioning identical to his brother's.

"Ordinarily I would say you switch hairstyles on a whim," Kyouya answered. "That doesn't explain how the two of you have been getting absolutely identical test scores your entire lives, or how you fleece Tamaki at card games."

"So what alternate conclusions might you make?" Hikaru asked softly. They were treading on dangerous ground and they knew it, but he wanted to go just one step further.

"I can postulate that the two of you do share some kind of psychic link," the rational shadow king replied. "It's not unheard of for identical twins."

"We know," they said together.

"We've done a lot of research on twins," Kaoru expanded. "Being rather intimate with the subject, as it were."

"You're not ordinary, are you?" Kyouya inquired softly. "Not even for psychic twins."

"What would you do if we said 'yes'?" they asked together. He was one, they were two... and even the reach of the Ootori family could only extend so far if they had to run.

They weren't expecting him to smile. "Nothing. Except continue to avoid playing cards with you."

"Not subject us to tests, to charts and graphs and needles and doctors?" asked Kaoru.

"Not turn us over to the government or try to make us into some kind of psychic espionage force?" asked Hikaru.

"Have you ever considered," Kyouya asked in reply, fingers returning to his keyboard, "that the two of you may read too much manga?"

They looked at one another, considering. They liked Kyouya, respected him even. He might be a calculating financier-in-training, but they didn't think he would betray them. "I'm always me," Kaoru said softly, "and Hikaru is always Hikaru."

"But even when we're apart, we're always together," Hikaru said quietly. It was more than they'd ever told anyone.

"Thank you for telling me," Kyouya said. He still hadn't started typing again. "I will keep the information in confidence."

"Sometimes when we wake up, we're each other," Hikaru continued boldly, testing limits.

Kyouya's eyes widened slightly. "That must be... confusing."

"Not really," Kaoru replied. "Not anymore."

"How can you tell when you've switched?" Kyouya asked, then caught himself. "The hair parts. Of course."

They nodded together. "We haven't found anyone else like us yet."

"But we haven't met all the twins in the world yet either."

It was strange and somehow frightening to have someone know their secret. They slept curled around one another that night, trying not to worry. If Kyouya did anything, they could run. They could lie through their teeth (they were good at that). They could take revenge. Plots ranging from tossing his beloved laptop into a fountain to shipping him to South America in a crate filled with wood ants danced through their minds until they finally fell asleep. The last, and best, possibility involved social humiliation on a grand scale, but figuring out just what would kill Kyouya's pride was tricky. They resolved to work on the problem in the morning, and woke up switched back.
That Kyouya had been the first person to figure it out, the twins could understand. He was methodical, rational, and apparently his perceptiveness might give Haruhi's a run for the money. That worked out, they would have expected Haruhi to figure things out next.

Not Tamaki.

"You know," he told them privately over instant coffee a few days later, "I'd always wondered how you can pull off your 'brotherly love' act so well. It is brilliant, after all, and the ladies seem to adore it." His tone was solemn, his head tilted slightly to the right. "I honestly can't believe that it took me so long to realize that before one can offer love to the ladies, one must love oneself first."

His sentence was obscure enough that it took them a moment to work through the implications. And it was generous of their Lord to phrase it in such a way that they could laugh it off. He was that way, after all, when he wasn't being a total flake. The brothers exchanged a glance.

"Milord, have you been talking with Kyouya-sempai?" Hikaru asked, fingers tight on the handle of his cup.

"Kyouya? Yes. But not about this. Why?" Tamaki was guileless, and unlike themselves, he didn't fake such things. He was like Audrey Hepburn's character in that movie their mother loved, a phoney but a real phoney because he honestly believed what he said and did. It was the part of his charm that the host club's clients never understood. It was the part that the other club members liked the most. Tamaki was sincere.

"Have you told anyone?" Kaoru asked quietly, wanting to be angry, to be hurt. When had they started slipping up so that two people had pegged them in one month?

"Told anyone? No." Tamaki toyed with the gold-painted handle of his own cup. "It didn't seem like something you'd want anyone to know. To be honest, I'm surprised you told Kyouya."

"We didn't," they said together, then separated themselves again.

Tamaki's eyes were wide. "He figured it out himself?"

"We were surprised too," Hikaru agreed. "He agreed to not tell anyone, though."

"Heh." Tamaki looked down at his hands. "I won't either. I just thought you should know that I knew. In case there's anything you need."

They looked at one another again, surprised. "Thank you for the offer, sempai," Kaoru replied gently, "but there's really nothing we need right now."

"We've always been like this," Hikaru explained. "Even if there was a way to separate us... we wouldn't know how to live apart. If we even could."

"Heh." Tamaki's smile was warm and a little wistful. "It must be wonderful, to have someone always with you like that, someone you can always depend on..."

Hikaru's hand found Kaoru's beneath the table. "Yes," he agreed with a look at his brother.

They admitted that Tamaki had a point. Self-love, which was different from narcissism, being much healthier and more respectable, was vital. And they knew they loved who they were, both as individuals and as a collective. They also knew they weren't in love with one another.

They did have sex together, but if it was a taboo they broke, it wasn't the one their clients thought. It wasn't too uncommon for twins to know when each other were hurt, or safe, or happy. When you were a set of twins who spent fifteen percent of your time in each other's bodies, though, and a hundred percent of your time in a Siamese mind meld with one another, sex with each other ended up being something more akin to two-body masturbation. Sometimes they burst out laughing as they each lost track of whose hands were doing what, or caught the blurred edges of the fantasies that drove one another on. More often, though, it was just pleasure and heat and release and feeling better afterwards. They both knew that they should be more disturbed about it, but (point one) they were both healthy red-blooded young men, and (point two) there was really no way for them to sneak around the other's attention, which (point three) made trying to hide or not share sex absolutely ridiculous. They thought about it sometimes afterward, about how a girlfriend or wife (in the abstract) would and couldn't change things. If they got lucky, they concluded, they'd end up either in a threesome. If they didn't get lucky, they supposed, they'd be working their way through a series of girlfriends for the rest of their lives. The issue of (potential, theoretical, way down the line) offspring didn't bother them much either. They were genetically identical, so how exactly did it matter which of them would actually father a child anyway?

When they weren't in their school uniforms or host club costumes, they didn't bother dressing alike. No one could miss the fact that they were twins anyway, so what was the point of advertising it? Besides, past a certain age (nominally the age when one began to pick out one's own clothing) they thought that twins dressing identically was stupid. Then, too, was the fact that wearing different outfits gave them twice the opportunity to coordinate and look good.

They blamed their fashion designer mother for their keen sense of style. When they remembered, they also thanked her for it. Other babies had learned colors and shapes from wood blocks or picture books. They'd learned from scraps of silk, of linen, of wool. They'd been playing dress-up in her studio, draping larger scraps around and on one another, until their father had become concerned that his sons were perhaps becoming too effete and gotten them a soccer ball and a field to kick it around on. They still went into their mother's studio, though, and pulled out bolts of fabric to figure out what colors and styles they wanted to wear. And they were still the models for her young men's line.

"What I don't get," Honey said to them one day over tea and cake, "is how the two of you hide in plain sight."

The brothers glanced at one another, then Kaoru sighed in resignation and Hikaru propped his head on a fist, looking off to one side. The thought ran through their shared mind that they really should be getting used to the other Host Club members talking to them about who they really were. Because if Honey knew, Mori knew as well, and that left only Haruhi. Renge they dismissed out of hand; amusing as she was, the "moe" fangirl was only a butterfly like other girls, and not going to look beyond what she wanted to see.

"Do we want to ask how you knew?" they asked.

"You move together," Mori answered, setting a new slice of cake down in front of his cousin, who beamed up at him.

"Uh-huh!" Honey agreed, nodding. "When you're in front of people, you move differently, but when you think no one's looking, you don't bother." Pastel flowers seemed to bloom around him as he dug his fork into the strawberry atop his cake.

"Ah," Hikaru breathed in realization. They'd thought they'd long since gotten the hang of moving separately; it was almost instinctive by now. But their sempai were top-notch martial artists, so it made sense that they could see that kind of thing.

"People expect twins to be somewhat alike," Kaoru said. "As long as we act kind of normal,"

"they don't look closer and figure things out," Hikaru finished. "Most of them, anyway."

"People aren't very smart sometimes, are they?" Honey asked brightly. "They don't look at me very closely either."

Contrary to what might be expected, they didn't actually feel what one another did. If Kaoru got a papercut, Hikaru didn't feel it on his own finger. He did experience Kaoru's sharp wincing of pained surprise, though, and the minor flare of surprise/aggravation every time the cut was irritated. Pleasure was shared in the same hazy way as pain, but the bright sense of mischief came from both of their cores, emotions welling upward and outward where sensations seeped down and in.

One of their proudest pranks was making Haruhi (and everyone else) think they were fighting. They'd made the decision in a split second and the verisimilitude it had required had been both exacting and exhausting, but managing to pull it off had been a rush like no other. In retrospect they realized they'd probably tried a little bit too hard, but then they'd had no experience with the subject. The very idea of the two of them fighting was not only alien but completely incomprehensible. And they'd frankly never been interested enough in other people for it to be worth their time disliking them.

Tamaki had been the first exception in their "us and other people" existence. For whatever reason, shortly after he'd transferred into Ouran Academy in middle school the upperclassman had taken an interest in them (Hikaru thought it was because he had wanted good-looking twins in his newly-formed Host Club; Kaoru thought it was because Tamaki felt sorry for their anti-social behavior) and, smiling, dragged them along in his wake into the company of his other friends, where Honey had offered them cake, Mori had nodded wordlessly at them, and Kyouya had written something in the file he held and asked them how they would feel about being the "devilish twins" of the club. A few months of "intensive Tamaki host training!" and a set of new haircuts later, they'd been in business shocking and titillating the club's clients. They'd slowly warmed to the flighty, good-hearted club president, to the point where Kaoru (the slightest bit more bisexual than Hikaru) had commented that Tamaki would be good boyfriend material. But neither of them had ever been serious about the matter, and besides, the concept of being Tamaki's boyfriends they calculated out to being more of a headache than it would be worth. Not, mind you, that the scenarios they'd run through of how to introduce Tamaki to the idea hadn't been riotously hilarious.

When they came to the realization that since the other members of the Host Club knew what they were they might not have to act around them, it was something of a revelation. They were always acting. Even when they were at home, they still performed in front of the servants and before their parents, trying to behave like less of what they actually were so as to not worry their family. Normality, they realized, was an unattainable goal, but that didn't mean they couldn't try to provide the illusion of it.

The idea of not acting, though, of being the same in front of other people as they were when they were alone... it was like a giant hand had lifted the roof off their house and left them staring up at a terrifyingly wide endless sky. There was a possibility of not having to be conscious of each step, each gesture. They wouldn't have to engage in useless vocalizations to one another. They might not have to hide where they were one and two and one. It was a paralyzing thought.

There was what they were, and what they were not. There was what they feared, and what they did not. Hikaru's hand curled around Kaoru's as they lay awake in bed that night, staring up at the distant ceiling, drifting in and out of one another's thoughts. To not have to be afraid of being themselves...

"We should never, ever let anyone know," Hikaru murmured.

"But if it's them, it's probably all right," Kaoru replied.

"But Haruhi," Hikaru said.

"Doesn't know," they finished together, and that was the crux of the dilemma. To tell, or not to tell?

They didn't, not right away. It was one thing to have your friends figure out things on their own. It was another to let the girl you liked know that you and your brother and yourselves were freaks. Not when she liked you and laughed with you sometimes and had the desk between both of yours. They wanted to... they just couldn't. It felt like being in kindergarten all over again, wanting to go play with the other children but being frozen by sure knowledge of difference and rejection. The open door of possibility could shut itself by the implications of what might be on the other side, leaving them alone together again.

Kaoru said that telling her didn't have to include a confession as well. Hikaru replied that if they were going to tell her, they should tell her everything. Kaoru didn't see why. Hikaru replied that it was the principle of honesty. Haruhi just looked back and forth between the two of them and remarked that she felt like they were having a conversation behind her back. That shut them up and started them vocalizing a conversation about a different topic with her.

In their more honest moments they admitted to themselves that they were hoping she would be like the other Host Club members and approach them about the subject. They also knew that smacked of cowardice. So in the end, they settled on a compromise. They didn't tell Haruhi per se, but in-club they did drop some (though not all) of the pretenses they kept up around other people. Tamaki still hadn't twigged to their card-sharking him, though, and grabbed Haruhi to be his partner after all the other club members refused. She kept looking at the twins more often than her cards, though, and while the puzzled look on her face was close to the cutest thing ever, Tamaki's jealousy was even more amusing.

She kept watching them for the better part of two weeks, and Hikaru and Kaoru wondered what was going through her head. They were "normal" in class and while entertaining clients, but before and after hours of operation, they peeled back a few of the defensive layers they kept about themselves. They didn't bother as much with the studied differences in their ways of speaking and moving, letting their voices become more similar again. They sometimes sat conversing silently instead of making noise so that others felt more comfortable. They leaned against one another, shoulder to shoulder, back to back, instead of standing or sitting at an enforced difference and touching only in a "brothers and best friends" manner. Personal space, in fact, disappeared. And they stopped "accidentally" bumping into one another entirely, releasing the illusion that they didn't always know exactly where one another were. For some reason, the two of them letting down their guard seemed to make the rest of the club relax a little as well. Mori smiled a little bit more. Honey's cuteness wasn't quite as hyperactive. Kyouya sent fewer raised eyebrows in their direction. Tamaki just seemed happier in general. It wasn't that they hadn't wanted real friends, they finally concluded, it was that they'd always thought that they couldn't have them. But somehow none of their sempai really seemed to mind either knowing or seeing that they were different than everyone else.

...It felt good to be accepted for themselves.

They were doing a Victorian theme day when Haruhi finally asked. They admired her pearl-gray suit and they liked the way her large eyes peeked out from beneath the top hat. "Why have the two of you been--" she started.

Hikaru hushed her with a finger on her lips. Kaoru glanced around and made sure Tamaki was elsewhere, discussing final plans for the theme with Kyouya. They agreed it was the right moment. "You said once that the two of us might look alike but we were really completely different people," Hikaru reminded her.

She nodded. "Yes, but..."

"We are and we aren't," Kaoru said. Her eyes were confused. He leaned in close from the side and whispered a secret into her ear. "What one of us knows, we both do. What one thinks, the other does as well. What one feels, we both feel."

"Even when we're apart," Hikaru murmured to her, watching shades of expression cross her face.

"That's not possible," Haruhi refuted.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, my dear Haruhi, than are dreamt of in your philosophy," they informed her together.

"But that's for you to discover," Hikaru said blithely, straightening her hat.

Kaoru tugged at the tails of her mourning coat, adjusting the lay of the garment. "Watch and see," he agreed.

They both took a step back and examined their handiwork. They grinned and gave a thumbs-up. "Perfect!" they said together. Her eyes were still bewildered, but this was Haruhi and she had certain passive-aggressive tendancies. Still it felt like a cold lump of fear in their stomachs as they went to Kyouya to get their client listing for the day. She knew, and while they were giving her time to absorb the information, to let it click into place with their behavior of recent weeks...

For the first time, they realized that liking someone the way they liked Haruhi meant handing them the power to hurt you.

They slept in tangled dreams that night and woke up as each other. They tied each other's ties that morning, as always, because anything I can do for myself I can do for you as well. They were mirrors before their mirror, and their mood was heavy and depressed, like the humid air before a summer rainstorm. There was an English test that day and they stumbled through it with less than their usual verve, identical marks on identical pieces of paper even with Haruhi's desk between them, and they did think that had been a clever bit of positioning on the part of the teacher when they'd been assigned desks this year. It wasn't obviously separating them but it was still an attempt to stop them from "cheating" off of one another. Too bad it was doomed to failure.

Haruhi stopped them for a moment as they were on their way out of the classroom to get lunch in the cafeteria. She already had her commoner's lunchbox out on her desk, of course, and her English textbook as well. She looked back and forth between the two of them, then simply asked "Why are you switched today?"

"It happens sometimes," Hikaru bluntly answered.

"We don't know why," Kaoru agreed.

"I see," she said, and went back to her studying.

They thought about it as they walked down to the cafeteria. They didn't know what she really thought yet (Hikaru thought she was still processing the information), but at least she hadn't jumped up, shrieked "Ew, you freaks!" and fled the classroom.

...Not that she would, Kaoru pointed out. Haruhi wasn't a very girly girl and certainly not the type to have that reaction even if the thought did disturb her. Still, they wanted her to like them. Even if she ended up with someone else, they thought they could deal with it. As long as they were still at least friends.

When had they ever wanted someone's friendship so badly? Hikaru mused.

When they fell in love, Kaoru answered.

It was almost a week later before Haruhi approached them about the matter again, and it wasn't like they hadn't all been talking and studying and hosting together, but she'd been keeping a certain subtle distance that they could appreciate. They still hadn't switched back and they didn't know why but theorized it was related to their emotional state. The whole week their hearts had been cold and wet and heavy, like a gray winter's day, and while the clientele of the Host Club certainly hadn't noticed, the twins knew that their set pieces had taken on a quality of melancholy. They knew where the source lay, but they certainly couldn't blame Haruhi when the faults were in their own heart. They shared a bedroom but had separate beds, albeit ones that had always been pushed together. Recently, though, they'd taken to sleeping on the same mattress together, curled up comfortably together like a pair of nestled spoons. They thought none of this spoke well for them, and were beginning to get somewhat desperate about Haruhi giving them an indication of what she thought. But they refused to push her.

She packed her books and notes into her (cheap; not even real leather) satchel and smiled at them. The Host Club was meeting a little early that day to go over the quarterly business plans (boring, but they had to keep Kyouya happy and at least pretend to listen, otherwise he'd seek revenge and Kyouya could be scary) and brainstorm for new theme day ideas. They had an idea for an Arabian Nights theme but hadn't worked out a sketch yet for Haruhi's costume. While they thought she'd look adorable as a harem boy, an open front vest was right out and a closed front vest just wouldn't be the same. Maybe something with tassels? they idly wondered.

"You know," Haruhi commented as the three of them meandered toward the third music room, "it really doesn't matter."

"What doesn't?" Hikaru asked.

"That you're different," she replied, swinging her satchel slightly. Her head was tilted down; she looked at the carpet instead of either of them. "I like you both anyway."

"So you don't think we're freaks?" Kaoru asked softly, even though there was no one else in the hallway to hear.

She laughed, a bright skipping sound, and looked at each of them where they flanked her. "I've always thought that," she confessed. "Come on, you can't tell me that you think anyone in the Host Club is normal."

They blinked, not understanding what she meant. She was the only odd one, with her poor background.

She sighed, seeing the confusion writ large across their faces. "Never mind. But I do like you guys, regardless of whether you're different or the same."

And it wasn't quite as good as a confession of love would have been, but it still felt like a breath of fresh air gusting through a room, sweeping out all the stale emotions that had been laying dormant in their hearts. Slowly they relaxed, previously unnoticed tension flowing out of their shoulders.

"You know, Haruhi," Kaoru said, "if you ever wanted to know what we mean by being loved simultaneously by tightly-bonded twins being 'a maiden's ultimate romantic fantasy'..."

"I am not one of your customers!" she retorted.

"We know," Hikaru said, carefully laying one hand on her shoulder just as Kaoru did so on her other side.

"You're special," they breathed together, and brushed identical light kisses on her cheeks. She blinked as they drew back. One hand touched the cheek that Kaoru had kissed.

"I'll keep it in mind," she said, looking confused.

It was the best they could do, the closest they could come to an outright confession without the risk of being turned down and having that change things. If she was ever ready and interested, she knew they were there and willing. If not, at least they still had her friendship.

"We'd better hurry," Kaoru said. "Kyouya-sempai'll be mad if we're late today."

"He's scary when he's mad," Hikaru added.

She laughed. "I can believe that."

They slept with their hands curled together in one another like a yin-yang symbol that night. Where one ended the other began. Their dreams were bright and wide open. Maybe the real reason people went to school was not to learn math and languages, but to learn about other people, their dreaming minds thought, opening the door to the third music room. Inside, Tamaki lounged on his chair, golden and smiling. Kyouya stood behind him, an efficient shadow writing in his ever-present file. Honey perched on Mori's shoulders, the cousins a yin and yang in a way that the twins never would be. Haruhi stood off to one side, looking far too good in her cross-dressing school uniform.

"Welcome to the Host Club," the five greeted them.

Hands linked, Hikaru and Kaoru smiled in their sleep and stepped forward into the room, the door closing behind them.

Author's Schism

When it comes to Ouran High Host Club, I adore the twins. That said, I have no idea where this story came from. I do apologize for the twincest to those who are squeamish about such things.