Disclaimer: If I owned Host Club, there'd be more laughs than romance (keep in mind I have no heart)
Rain pounded on the street and sidewalk, and the gale whipped buckets of water into my face. All around was gray and blankness, and the only thing I could see was myself, and that's only if I didn't reach out too far. I furiously wiped the water off, but to no avail.
My hair, so normally unnoticed by me, suddenly became a lead weight trailing down my forehead, cheeks, and into my eyes. I half-heartedly brushed my bangs to the side, knowing it would not result in anything.
I could feel my clothes sag and droop and gather water by the kilograms. It felt like I was walking through molasses. Only I couldn't eat my soaked clothes. Whatever the twins had made my hoodie out of, it was about to encounter its first test. I stopped to catch my breath.
"Since when was it monsoon season?!" I demanded of the sky, but the wind and rain stole my words before I could hear them myself.
I spun around wildly, trying to find something, anything that will tell me where I was. It was no use, the visibility was dead zero.
I sighed, though I couldn't hear it, and plopped down on the sidewalk.
Forget the other ten days, what was I going to do now?! The most I knew was that I was on a sidewalk, and there is a road nearby.
A car zoomed by, sloshing into a mud puddle and give me a thorough coat of the stuff.
"Gee," I thought out loud, "thanks for that." Definitely near a road.
As I spat out a dirt clump (at least I hope it was only dirt), the only reply I received was the beat of rain to pavement.
I sighed again (though I'm pretty sure this one came out as a moan) and pondered the likelihood I would find refuge. I glared out into the blank grey before me. No way. If I wanted to find civilization, I better start walking.
Which is easier said than done when you're sopping wet, your clothes are heavy as bricks, you're still tired from sleep deprivation, and you're absolutely sure your legs will give out any moment from too much weight.
I stumbled forward like a drunk man and felt completely blind and deaf between the all of nothing I could see and the invasive drumming I could hear. I would have collapsed dramatically in exhaustion, panting, refusing to give up against all odds, like a (poorly-made) movie hook if luck hadn't intervened. Bad luck, that is.
After another car side-sprayed for the I've-lost-count-th time, I very soon realized that car had run a stop sign. I learned this through the sheer fact I soon ran into this very sign.
Right in the face.
With a loud clang, I stumbled back, dazed. I staggered to the side and tumbled off the sidewalk, successfully landing on my butt in a huge mud-filled depression.
"Crap!" I moaned, struggling to my feet. I looked up to see with horrified dismay that the sidewalk was at least three meters above me atop the hill. I swore, and tried to brush off as much mud as possible, but it didn't change that my feet were still thirty centimeters sunk into the muck.
No matter how much I twisted and pulled, I couldn't dislodge my ankles, and I was rapidly giving up. I decided to give it one last tug before completely throwing in the towel. I took a deep breath and pulled, turning and bending my foot to try and free it from the mud.
I pulled too hard too quickly. I twisted my own ankle. It was almost on purpose. I would have berated myself for such a fantastically stupid feat if I wasn't in so much pain.
Because, damn, that really hurt!
I fell back down and prodded my ankle to see what I had done to it. I was rewarded with nothing until I tried to put weight on it again.
"Do you need another hospital visit?" I looked up, squinting through the rain, "Or cake! Cake makes everything better!" Hunny smiled down at me as he held his umbrella over where I sat smeared in dirt.
"Hunny-senpai? Did you find him?" I turned my head as Kaoru appeared to stare at him, "Oh wow. Good thing we thought ahead. Dirt ruined your old hoodie, so we tried to make this new one pretty stain-proof…but I'm not sure how it'll hold up to this kind of onslaught…"
He seemed to ponder this as Hunny went away for a moment, then arrived back with the remaining host club.
"Oh no! Puppy-chan's been rolling in the dirt!" Tamaki exclaimed.
"Why are you so muddy, Harding-san?" Haruhi inquired.
"Kibble-kun has an infamous sense of direction," Kyoya commented, "None at all."
I glared, but he continued, "I wonder how we are to pull him up. Even if he stands-"
"I can't stand," I interrupted his third-person review of the situation, "I did something to my ankle."
"Anything to escape working, am I right?" he sighed amusedly as he dialed something on his cell phone.
I sent him a baleful look as he described to the person on the other end about a need to 'fish a pig out of a mud pit it's wallowing in'.
"No, no. Animal control won't be necessary, just send an ambulance, he hurt his ankle some how…Yes, it's best if you do bring the mudslide equipment."
He snapped the phone shut soon after and smirked at me.
"Don't worry, they're on their way," he said in mock consolation.
I bore my teeth in a snarl.
It was only five minutes before the ambulance arrived, but already the rain had begun to let up.
"You'll have to drag him out," I heard Kyoya tell the paramedics, "he can't get out on his own."
It was amazing how those guys could dredge a water-logged 'pig' three meters uphill through mud without a mark on their white uniforms or slipping once. Once they did pull it off, however, I realized what Kyoya meant by 'mudslide equipment'.
The entire interior of the ambulance was lined in plastic. Charming.
They hauled me in and closed the door, despite Hunny's (and thus Mori's) insistence on riding. There seemed room enough in the front, however, enough that Kyoya could sit up there and antagonize me for twisting my own ankle all the way to the hospital.
Apparently the crew had been informed of the lack of emergency medical treatment by someone (I wonder who) so there were no lights or sirens, and the whole experience of riding in the ambulance was ruined when I was made to sit up and be seated in a plastic-wrapped chair next to the little window Kyoya was talking to me from. It appeared that they got another call, obviously more urgent, because they turned around to pick up someone who had fallen off a roof or something. (So I did get to see the lights and sirens. Sitting in a steel box directly below mechanical shrieks made to be heard a freaking mile away is less exicting and far less pleasent than I had thought. The lights simply made me feel like I was at a stupid American retro rave.)
Kyoya assured them it was no trouble, so I was shoved to the side to allow room for the new occupant. They arrived at the destination, and everyone rushed out to wheel in a guy on a stretcher. He didn't look too bad, but I definitely heard the chant of 'That was so stupid, that was so stupid' coming from him. Then again, it was probably a good sign. If you're stable enough to curse your own stupidity, you'll survive the consquences of it.
Imagine my surprise when they shut the doors and I come face to face with Kyo.
"That was so-Kid?!"
I stared shocked, then I recalled why they had driven off-course.
"You fell off a roof?"
Kyo winced, "Yeah…that was so stupid." I gathered as much. "See, the tube went out and we thought we just needed to wiggle the antennae a bit, so I kinda crawled out on the roof…"
"And fell off," I finished for him, "So did you fall in a mud puddle too?"
"Well, no," Kyo looked away sheepishly, "I kinda broke some stuff…You see, none of us were really, um…sober. In fact, I was pretty sloshed."
Oh. Well where was your plunger, idiot?! You could have brought something for balance!
"In its sheath," he replied amusedly, probably figuring out I hadn't meant to say my thoughts out loud.
"Someone you know, Puppy-tan?" I don't know why Kyoya has felt the need to give me more nicknames, but he better lay off.
"Yes," I said carefully. I can't let Kyoya know how I knew Kyo, but at the same time, I can't let Kyo know I went a snob school. "He found me that navy hoodie."
"Who's this, Kid?"
"My brave rescuer," I said sarcastically, "Though you will always be a greater knight than he."
Luckily, we were nearing the hospital, so no one got to reply to that. The ambulance dropped us off at the front, and took Kyo to Urgent Care.
The moment I limped in, however, I realized how different this hospital visit will be.
"I'm going to get agoraphobia," I muttered as I was escorted from a stadium sized lobby to a very plush hospital room right after they hosed me down and gave me a change of clothes. (Even the changing rooms are big!) I don't know what happened to my clothes afterwards.
"Stop complaining Pepper-Jester," Kyoya told me, "Mud-covered C-classers don't usually get care from this hospital." That's when I realized it wasn't just 'this hospital' but rather 'his hospital'. That explains why we weren't kicked to the curb the moment a real emergency came up.
"Gee, I'm honored. What do I owe this blessing to? To gain the favor of Ootori-dono," I sighed dramatically, hand to forehead, "Unbelievable!"
"Your storyteller's showing," he commented, smirking.
"Where?!" I looked urgently at my sleeves and arms before I realized what I was doing. Damnit, he's right.
"I was charged with our club dog's upkeep," he said after a moment, in response to my previous sarcastic question.
"Does that include a kennel?" I asked sardonically, "So what will my rent be should I cave in and realize this idiotic deal is my only hope?" I asked, dropping the dog metaphor.
He smirked, "That-"
The door opened and in came the doctor.
"I am Doctor Motomi and I will be examining your foot today, Harding-sama."
Harding-sama. I can honestly say there have been few times I have been called that.
But for all his great first impressions, Motomi-sensei did not end on my good side.
"If I could see your foot for a moment?" I ignorantly lifted my foot so the doctor could see it. He prodded the joint a bit, pressed here and there and finally took the foot and bent like it was walking.
"Oooow!" There was a sadistic chuckle from the Kyoya area of the room.
"Ah, I'm afraid you twisted your ankle, Harding-sama," Motomi-sensei ever-so-gently let my ankle fall back to hanging over the edge of the table like a piece of china, but I had seen his bad side, he couldn't fool me.
"The good news is," he continued, "You did not sprain it. You should be able to walk it off, ranging from a few minutes to even days. However, your twist should not take more than an hour to heal."
Walk it off?! As in put pressure on this foot?! Like hell.
Before I could voice my, ah, colorful opinion, Kyoya thanked Doctor Motomi, who bowed and left us alone.
"This totally sucks! Argh!" I slammed a fist down on the examination table, then whipped around to Kyoya, "Lemme guess. I was supposed to be your dog for rent. So I'm useless now and have to nowhere to go."
"Not necessarily," he replied, "I'm sure I can find another way for you to pay rent and the bill."
That's right, the medical bill I remembered, "So basically," I glared, "It's not about renting a room. It's about repaying a debt."
"Several, in fact," he said with a cheerful grin, "There will be your rent, but there's also the dry cleaning cost on your clothes, but the twins may not hold you to it. They're just glad their sweatshirt proved durable for the kind of escapades you get into. Tamaki isn't one to charge for services of a full search party as long as he gets to be in it, and Hunny-senpai just wants an excuse to purchase baked goods. Mori-senpai's is happy as long as Hunny-senpai is, and Haruhi-san knows too well about debt to put you in it. Me, on the other hand; I believe in equal payment for equal service."
"Meaning…?" I stared. It sure sounded like I was drowning in debt. But at the same time it sounded like no one cared. For some reason I got a distinct feeling he's pulled this kind of ambiguous crap before. He had said it with an almost practiced air.
"Meaning tomorrow is the first day of break. Haruhi-san is visiting relatives, so everyone is going on vacation elsewhere." Don't ask me why where Haruhi was going was so important to the others' plans; all I knew was they were all strangely fond of him. "Work for your rent over holiday, and you're clear the rest of your stay."
I was silent a long time. It was a generous deal (suspiciously so). Only a few days work for a week and a half stay? Not very Devil-sama-like to me. There had to be a catch. He would probably make me do something horrible. Like slaughter puppies or something. Maybe make me go without food.
Surely even Danna-teme's not that evil?
"Okay. I'll regret this, but okay. A week in hell is better than a week with Obee-baba."
Motomi-sensei came back to ask if we were ready to go. I nodded and as we walked (in my case, attempted to discreetly limp), Kyoya whispered to me, "A week and a half in hell."
I decided to visit Kyo before I left, just to get the full story.
At first they didn't let me in. They said something about a list of visitors they can let in, and I couldn't get them to let 'Taylor Harding' in. It took me a few minutes to ask about someone named 'Kid'.
They gave me an odd look, but fortunately looked at the sheet nonetheless.
"Oh, well, go on in," the man seemed truly shocked someone could list anyone by a noun alone.
I limped in and burst out instantly, "How plastered were you?!"
Kyo grinned, despite the arm cast on his left arm, wrist cast on his right, and leg cast on his right leg.
"Wasted enough to climb on a three-storey roof in hard rain with nothing more than a beer to keep his balance," explained Kei, who was leaning on the opposite wall. I leaned against the door.
Of course, my instant (oh so tactful) response to this was, "Your hangover will crack your skull tomorrow."
"I know," Kyo sighed, "but at least I barfed most of it up waiting for your ambulance."
"Good thing too," Kei commented, "He's what we call a con drunk. You could never tell he was anything but sober, except for the eventual barfing. But once the buzz dies down…"
"Wow," I said, "and I thought what I went through was bad."
"What did you go through?" Kei asked.
"Kyo-kun didn't tell you? I was a walking ad for mud. They had the ambulance covered in plastic because of me."
"Come to think of it, you were in bad shape. But to cover the entire ambulance for a twisted ankle? No offense, but…"
I stiffened at Kyo's words. The real reason they had done so much for me wasn't why I was called in, it was who called me in.
"Beats me," I shrugged, "maybe because they thought a lot of people would be covered in mud. You had your fair share if I recall."
"Mud aside," Kei persisted, "why exactly were you at the bottom of a three meter ditch in the middle of a maelstrom?"
They just kept me dancing around the questions, don't they?
"Being severely distracted," I admitted, "I didn't realize what I was walking into until I, well, had."
"What was so important that you didn't notice the beginnings of a typhoon?" Kyo asked amusedly. At least it sounded that way. But I was starting to feel that cornered sensation that usually is reserved around Kyoya.
"Um, my current…housing situation." Let them think I'm talking about Obee-baba.
"Tyrant aunt?" Kyo nodded knowingly, though I can't figure out why. I never got into details explaining why I called my great aunt Obee-baba.
Something started to feel definitely off about this whole conversation, it seemed a lot like talking to Rin; the innate sense of being led on, but at the same time seeing no evidence to prove such a notion until it was too late.
"Yes, but ah-"
"Wicked stepmother," Kei added, a smirk I've never seen before appearing on his face.
"Quarrelsome handsome prince," Kyo agreed, smiling in mock pity.
"No happy ending in sight, wouldn't you agree?" Kei asked Kyo.
"I'd have to," replied Kyo sadly, though it was obvious he wasn't, "perhaps milady princess wishes not for one."
The twins, I thought, there just like the Hitachiin twins.
"Surely not, noble knight," Kei said in mock aghast, "every princess wishes for a happy ending."
"It was you two!" I burst out in shock, to which they just grinned.
"Your princes are all killed," Kei said.
"and your princesses all perish," Kyo continued.
"but we think a happy ending,"
"is exactly what you wish."
"Knights most honorable?" Kyo inquired teasingly.
"Bastards in sheep's clothing?" Kei suggested.
"Perhaps…" they exchanged looks, "mercenaries?"
I couldn't believe it, "You were hired to send me stalker-esque notes?"
They nodded in unison.
"Who?" I glared, "How long? How much?"
"No, no, Lady Kid," Kyo shook his head, "we're under orders. But if you figure it out on your own…"
"You'll tell me?" I finished.
"Yes," Kei said.
There were actually quite a few people, who I was at the time unaware of, that would hire two guys like them to pull this kind of crap. But I didn't know that and I couldn't call up any names that would want me to find true love or some other mushy crap like that.
"…Can I have a clue?"
They laughed uproariously at that and I was suddenly reminded of the fact they had at least four years of the most educational part of life's experience on me, likely more. I wasn't pleased with the notion they really saw me as 'kid'.
"No way!" they said, "you're getting nothing from us!"
"Don't take it too hard though," Kei said reassuringly, "now that we're blown, their only option to confront you directly."
"Or indirectly," Kyo amended cryptically, "as the case may be."
"Fine, one more question," I looked hard at them, making sure they know I won't leave without a straight answer, "Did you know I would dye my hoodie that gods-awful pink?"
"No," Kyo grinned, "you just got very lucky that day. We weren't employed until after our acquaintance was established."
"It was memorable nonetheless," Kei remembered fondly, "I think if we hadn't seen your dust mop head blowing chunks into that dumpster, we would have never taken an interest. After that, you didn't cease to entertain."
I tried to recollect what had happened when I went to the Laundromat that fateful day, but it took a few moments to remember all of it. Thinking about it from their point of view, I was a riot.
I definitely recall planning my eulogy too.
"I am an entertainer after all," I said, "I live on the laugh." It was the first time I admitted to anyone outside my family that fact. Even at my most sarcastic, I aim to amuse.
If only the one who hired Sir Kyo and Steed Kei would figure out I hold no love outside laughter, things would be going my way, if only for a moment.
If only for a moment…
My life seemed to recently comprise of short bursts of good fortune interspersed among long durations of appalling luck, hasn't it?
The door opened, knocking me to the floor.
"Are you prepared to leave?" Kyoya asked amusedly.
"Sure, whatever," I growled as I got up, then looked back at Kei and Kyo, "I will find out who hired you. Be prepared."
As I closed the door behind me, I heard them both indulge in a duet of the Lion King.
I smiled as I left.
Author's Note: If you can guess where I got the name for that doctor from, I'll give you a cyber cookie. Clue: Mangaka. Unfortunately, on another note, Kyo and Kei will begin to take a backseat. Why?! You ask, aghast, well I'll tell you. If they keep appearing, I'll have to make them real freaking characters with real freaking flaws. I love them for the fact I don't have to do that. But every time I'm dead set on that idea, one of you comes along raving about how much you adore them and I can't help but sympathize. They really are fun characters.
As for those wondering when the romance will come, look hard, be patient, and keep in mind I'm no romantic. Just a dirty pervert. - But in a 'mind always in the gutter' okay kind of way. Not 'StareAtJ00WhileJ00InTheShower' creepy kind of way. Okay? Okay!