Disclaimer: No, I am not Bisco Hatori. No, I do not own OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB. But I would like to thank her for writing such a great manga series.
Haruhi sighed despondently as she let herself into her small student apartment. She stumbled a a bit as she let her book bag fall unceremoniously on the table, not caring when it slipped off onto the floor. Wearily the young woman, now a second-year law student at a prestigious university, blinked as she looked around her kitchen.
The fever was kicking her butt. It almost felt like she was in a stranger's kitchen, and not her own. Suddenly she wasn't even sure where she kept anything. She had a bad cold, probably because she'd been studying too hard lately and had not been eating right. School was so important to her, getting this degree meant so much, that she'd been neglecting everything else lately. Even her friends, she thought with a small brush of remorse.
Haruhi took a deep breath as she finally remembered where she kept her cups and filled one with cool, clear water. She gulped it down like ambrosia, then went for seconds. Her stomach rolled a bit, but she was to darned thirsty to care. Briefly she opened her refrigerator, but nothing appealed.
"Is it starve a fever and feed a cold? Or starve a cold and feed a fever?" Haruhi murmured to herself as she closed the refrigerator door. It didn't matter. Her stomach was so upset she didn't think anything would sit well right now. In deference for the need to so something constructive, she did set her tea kettle on the stove. But as she blinked at the stove, she couldn't find the energy to turn on the burner.
A tear escaped her eye and rolled down her cheek. Absently she wiped it away in some surprise. Crying wasn't like her at all, completely out of character in fact. So it was with a deep sense of surrealism that three more tears followed the first.
Haruhi sank to the floor right where she'd been standing. The linoleum was new at least. While she'd been adamant not to accept charity from her former high school Host Club friends, they were still 'rich bastards' and sneaky to boot. She chuckled as she ran her hand absently over the floor.
Every member of the Host Club had been horrified that she wouldn't accept a rich apartment paid for by them while attending law school. Tamaki especially had argued the arrangements the longest and hardest. But Haruhi had been determined to have her way. Then again, her friends were no less stubborn. And over the years they'd found ways to circumvent her wishes. Often.
She'd known immediately one day during her first semester that they'd struck with a vengeance. Haruhi had come home to find that not only had her linoleum been replaced, but so had all her appliances and window treatments although they'd looked almost exactly the same. They'd snuck in and replaced everything with higher quality products. Even her linens, which now had thread counts as high as the stratosphere. No word was ever exchanged between any of them on the matter. They pretended not to have done anything and she pretended not to notice. Although sometimes she did wonder if an itemized bill would show up from Kyouya at least.
The Host Club. Any one of them could fix her current situation. All she had to do was make a simple phone call. One call and they'd all descend upon her, ready to fight for her without question. But she'd never called on them before. Never asked them to pull their considerable monetary, political, or social weight and she wasn't looking to start now. Haruhi decided it must be the monster headache pounding behind her eyes, the heavy congestion, or the pressure in her ear making her feel so weak and vulnerable.
This cold was bringing her down. That and the accusation of cheating.
"Cheating." She whispered the horrible word to herself, as if she'd ever needed to sink so low as to cheat. The professor was being unreasonable.
Haruhi knew for a fact that she had NOT cheated on her test. On any test. Ever. But the 'proof' the professor had laid out was impressive looking, even to her. If she'd not known better, she'd have believed it herself. But ...But she hadn't done it! Now, how to prove it? Her head hurt worse just thinking about the effort it would take to disprove this accusation. Was it even worth it? She was so awfully tired ...
Sighing, she pulled her knees up and laid her feverish head on them. For a single moment she indulged in total self-pity. For one small second she actually contemplated just walking away. It was so much trouble and she felt so bad.
"Ah now, why the long face little miss?"
Shocked, Haruhi's large eyes widened even further as she goggled at the stranger sitting on her kitchen counter. The silver haired older man smiled beatifically at her, looking all the world like a Santa Claus. He looked positively sweet, plump, and jovial.
Haruhi gave a small shriek, drawing back sharply. She regretted it immediately as the back of her head connected with the cabinet behind her, making her already sore head pound even more.
"Ah now, you should take better care of yourself young miss." Santa clucked his tongue at her like a grandfather. "Ah, a tea kettle. Just the thing for a bad cold." He nodded in approval, at least until he picked up the kettle and shook it. "Oh miss, you need to put water in it first."
Concerned, but too tired and achy to move, Haruhi watched the stranger fill her tea kettle and place it on the stove burner. "Who are you?" She finally managed to ask.
"Clarence." He smiled gently over at her and she slowly started to relax against all instinct to get up and run, or at least to break something heavy over her intruder's head. "I'm an angel."
Haruhi blinked, her mind a vast wasteland of blankness. Finally she cleared her throat. "I may be sick, but I still know we're in Japan. We don't have western-style angels."
The man looked disappointed. "Everyone always points that out. For once I wish someone would just go along with it. Everyone has to question it. I'm not sure why." He tapped his foot a moment, then shrugged. ""Fine. If you must know, I'm a shinigami."
"Shinigami?" Haruhi frowned. Death god? Her stomach rebelled at the thought. "But I just have a bad cold, I'm not actually dying. Am I?"
"Actually, no you're not." He assured her with a small smile.
Haruhi sighed, wondering what asylum the man had escaped from. "A death god named Clarence. Right." She said with as much sarcasm as she could muster. "If that's true, you can make the tea water boil without having to wait for it."
The man blushed slightly. "Well, I'm not a full shinigami, not yet anyway. Right now I'm just an escort to the other side. I'm still in my probationary phase."
"Of course." Haruhi said, humoring the older man. "Still, I'm not dying."
"No, no, of course not." Clarence frowned over in her direction. "But you were thinking of giving up."
Startled, she held her breath a moment. How had the man known about that? "What does it matter?" She asked, wondering how her brief thoughts of quitting school effected someone from the 'other side'.
The man smiled down at her gently. "I'm here to stop you from ending it all. I'm trying to earn my wings. Helping people makes me feel good too."
"Wings?" Haruhi asked, racking her brain despite her pounding headache. "Do shinigami have wings? And what's with the name Clarence anyway?" Something clicked behind her eyes. "Oh. Wait. Last year Tamaki made me watch a Christmas movie with an angel named Clarence."
"Right!" The man beamed down at her before bustling around her kitchen pulling out items to make the tea with. "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Great movie!" He blushed a bit and whispered down to her. "My real name is Ryoku, but I really like 'Clarence'."
"Wait. Ending it all? You said you were going to stop me from 'ending it all'. Haruhi mused, remembering his words. "The man in that movie was thinking of killing himself. I was just thinking of quitting school. Besides, it was just a momentary lapse. I'm not quitting anything."
"Physical death, the death of a dream ...they're both pretty drastic, don't you think?" Clarence said, then grinned as the tea kettle finally started to whistle. He quickly made up her tea and handed her the mot mug.
Gratefully, Haruhi blew gently on the hot liquid, wishing she could smell the tea. One sip, two ...and the warmth hit her like a soothing balm. "Thanks, this is just what I needed."
"What you need is something to snap you back into shape, young miss." Clarence told her as Haruhi shook her head. His real name might be Ryoku, but to her he'd always be Clarence. How strange was that? Maybe she could blame it on her cold. As if on cue, her nose started running as the steam rose up off her tea mug.
The older man handed her a box of kleenex from out of nowhere. Idly she wondered about that, but dismissed it. The man was delusional, sure, but hardly other-wordly. It wasn't like he'd made the box of tissues appear out of the blue.
"Your life is important to so many, and will be to so many more as a lawyer. But I don't have the ability to show you the future, only the past. I won't get that ability until I make full shinigami status." The man laughed heartily and held one hand down to her.
Haruhi eyed his hand a moment, then put hers in his and sighed as he pulled her to her feet. "Thanks for the tea, but I don't need a tour of memory lane." She said bluntly, trying to shoo him from her apartment so she could lie down for a few hours. A little sleep and she'd be as good as new. Then she'd figure out how to debunk this cheating scandal. She was innocent and she'd prove it irregardless of what 'proof' her professor produced.
"Oh no." Clarence tutted at her, not letting go of her hand. "We have places to go and people to see."
"I am NOT going anywhere with you." Haruhi asserted. She knew that it was never a good idea to leave for undisclosed locations with strangers. She looked over at him and then nearly fell down in utter shock.
They were no longer standing in her small student apartment. She wasn't even sure they were still in Japan.
Disbelieving, she looked around frantically. They were standing on a strange street, in a strange city, with strangers all around them. Non-asian strangers. Haruhi blinked and swallowed hard as some of the people walked by her. Then she nearly threw up as several walked right through her. Walking THROUGH her! All of a sudden she wasn't so sure she wasn't already dead. After all, she was with a man claiming to be a shinigami, or at least a probationary one. She eyed her companion speculatively.
"No, no, you're not dead."
"Are you reading my mind?" She asked, whispering. Wincing as one shopper walked right through her.
"No, but everyone I help always asks that at this point." Clarence said with what might have been a reassuring smile if she weren't so freaked out. "I'm just going to show you that your life isn't meaningless, not to those who care for you."
Haruhi protested immediately. "But I wasn't thinking of suicide, I really wasn't. I did briefly wonder if fighting back was even worth it. But I'm feeling better now. Let's just go back to my apartment, I'll take some cold medicine and take a long nap. Then I'll come up with an plan of action to prove my innocence."
Clarence frowned and looked away from her as if he didn't like hearing that from her. "No." He finally said. "We're going to do this right. You need to see how your friends and family would have led different lives without you in the world."
"But I wasn't trying to kill myself." Haruhi told him again. "I don't need help like this."
"Sure you do." He said, totally ignoring her protests to the contrary.
Haruhi looked around her, trying to figure out where they were. A European city was all she could tell. No, wait. Was that the Eiffel Tower in the distance? Paris? "I must be sicker than I thought. Hallucinating, that's what I'm doing."
"Oh yeah?" Clarence said, his smile getting bigger. He pointed down the street a ways. "Then let's hallucinate together. Look. Who's that do you suppose?"
Bleary eyed, Haruhi shrugged and sipped her tea, not interested. The tea at least was helping in perking her up. Finally, she gave in and followed the line of Clarence's hand as he pointed. Suddenly she stood up taller in surprise. "Tamaki-sempai?"
Clarence nodded as they both watched the young man climb into the back of a waiting limo. "Aren't you curious to see how his life would be different without you in it?"
The shinigami frowned.
"No." She reasserted, shaking her head. "We're just friends. I doubt I've had that big an effect on his life one way or the other."
Clarence shook his head, his smile never slipping as Haruhi's head began to swim. Suddenly they were off the street and in the back of the limo with Tamaki. Her jaw dropped open, then snapped shut as she glared at her guide. "Stop that. It makes my stomach churn."
"Shhhh ..." The probationary shinigami motioned for her to sit still, then nodded in Tamaki's direction. "Watch, listen, and learn."
Haruhi sighed. She'd either been hijacked by a mythical creature or was hallucinating while lying on her kitchen floor. Either way, she had no choice but to go along for the ride.
Well? I hope you like it enough to want to see the next chapter! LOL