Author: Krys Yuy
Themes: #66 (next door; neighboring; nearby)
Summary: AU. Due to a chance encounter, Usagi is drawn to the mystery surrounding the anti-social twins at her new school. But the strength of her attachment is the last thing anyone expects.
Pairing/Characters: Usagi/? Hitachiin (Ouran Koukou Host Club)
Warning: Spoilers for Ouran if you haven't seen it, especially with the twins.
Rating: PG/K+
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters used. This fic is purely for entertainment purposes only.
Author's Notes: For the community 30houshin at LiveJournal. Alternate Universe because there are no youma, no sailor soldiers, etc. This is meant to be a short chaptered story, at least three parts. This story jumps from scene to scene intentionally – some of the jumps aren't as smooth as others, I suppose. Usagi's background is left deliberately murky in this part (only allusions are made). Hope you enjoy the story. Please read and review. Thank you.

Part 1: Amber

It wasn't love at first sight. She knew that much, at least. But she wasn't sure it was like at first sight either. The clearest thing in her memory were amber eyes boring into hers for a mere second, a soft whisper, and then he was gone.

She had been left to stare after his retreating form, clutching textbooks to her chest, heart pounding. There had been something in his eyes that called to her. An infinite loneliness, a secret desire flickering just beneath the surface. It had been the first time she had ever seen him, and she had no idea who he was.

The next day, amber eyes still fresh in her mind, she plucked up enough courage to ask the girl seated next to her. Being a new transfer student at an elite private school had her usual cheerful-self subdued, and in its place was a nervous wreck. She resisted the urge to sigh in relief when her neighbor gave her a shy, yet encouraging, smile.

"Tsukino-san, right?" she said, cropped hair shining blue in the light. "I'm Mizuno Ami." She held out her hand.

She shook it gratefully. "Please – call me Usagi."

"You can call me Ami, then, Usagi-san."

Usagi hoped there would be a day when they could add '-chan' to the end of their names, but didn't want to push her luck at the beginning of such acquaintances. She wasn't quite sure how the social rules worked at Ouran, but she knew they were definitely different from Juuban. She marveled at the bizarre twist her life had taken, and wondered, not for the first time, if she was really supposed to be there.

"Was there something you wanted to ask me?"

The blonde snapped back to attention as her newfound acquaintance looked at her curiously. "Well, yes. I was just – well, I was wondering if you know the name of this boy I ran into yesterday."

"Boys?" A pink tint appeared on Ami's cheeks as she looked down at her notebook. "I'm afraid I'm not very good with boys. Umm, names or in general."

"Oh." Usagi deflated somewhat, and thought it shouldn't have mattered so much. He was a stranger after all.

Ami, however, must have seen the expression on her face, because she was quick to reassure her. "Well, there's no reason I can't try. Can you describe him for me?"

Usagi smiled. "Well, he was tall." She bit her bottom lip in thought and remembered the Roman numeral pin attached to the collar of his junior high uniform. "A third year like us. He also had cropped brown hair up to here." She brought her hand to the middle of her ear. "There were reddish tints in it." She hesitated as his penetrating gaze flashed in her head. "And eyes… like amber," she finished in a whisper. She looked over at her friend and noticed she was frowning down at her notes. "Something wrong, Ami-san?"

"What?" Ami shook her head and turned. "Oh, I'm sorry! It's just… the person you described sounds an awful lot like one of the Hitachiin brothers."

One of...?

Ami continued speaking before she could ask. "And, if that's the case, I have to warn you, Usagi-san."

Her sudden serious tone had Usagi straightening her back, an involuntary chill running through her. "Wh- what is it?"

"The Hitachiins are from Class A. I've heard they're smart, but they've secured a place in A because the Hitachiin family is very wealthy and powerful in the fashion industry."

She filed away the information. "Is that all?"

Ami shook her head. "The Hitachiin brothers are… cold. I've never interacted with them myself, but I've heard and seen… It's like they're in their own world. It's always been just the two of them." She looked at Usagi as if trying to decide something, and continued forward hesitantly. "Girls who have confessed tend to get their hearts broken."

"Oh!" Usagi shook her head vehemently. "I wasn't asking because I have a crush. I mean, he was handsome, but –" She took a deep breath. "– no. That's not why."

"Well, it's better for you to know anyway. You seem very kind, Usagi-san. I'd hate for you to get hurt." Ami shifted somewhat uncomfortably. "They're broken a lot of hearts."

"I just –" I just want to what? Talk? Help? She remembered his eyes. Vulnerable. Trapped. Then his expression had shuttered close and he had turned away. "There's something about him." Her fingers tapped along the desk in time with a nameless tune. "Do you know his first name?"

Ami looked surprised. "Well, I'm not sure. Y'see, they're actua–"

She was cut off as the teacher entered the room and called for attention. Ami sent her an apologetic look and Usagi smiled, indicating it was fine. They could talk about it later. Ami returned her smile before turning her full attention to the teacher, taking notes diligently. Usagi hid a sigh and started taking notes as well. Her grandfather, though she had only known him for less than a year, wouldn't take kindly to her keeping up the same lackluster performance she had at Juuban.

Usagi resisted the urge to tug at her brown collar, wishing she had her old blue and white sailor uniform, even though the Ouran junior high one was comfortable. She supposed she just longed for things from her past. She shook her head and listened to the drone of the teacher's voice, trying very hard not to fall asleep.

Usagi had a lot of work to catch up on, having transferred in the middle of the school year, and therefore didn't have time to even think about the mysterious boy that had somehow captured her attention.

It wasn't until later that week that everything came crashing back. She was walking down an open corridor – the building to her right and columns to her left. This area of the school was perhaps her favorite, second only to the garden maze. If she chose to walk out between the columns, she could sit and rest in the courtyard with the grand fountain planted at its center. Usagi resisted the temptation and only hummed quietly to herself, thinking of the lessons her grandfather had planned for her that weekend. It was difficult adjusting to a whole new life, but she had to admit that singing lessons were her favorite part of the week.

"Are you sure you want me to give this to Kaoru? Why don't you just go out with me?"

Usagi's head lifted as she turned the corner. She bit back a gasp and immediately darted back around, out of sight, leaning against the wall. It was him! And if her eyes had taken in everything right, she had very nearly interrupted what looked like a confession scene. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, willing her pulse to slow down.

"I don't know, Hikaru… I've liked Kaoru for so long… couldn't you please give him my letter?"

"What would be the difference? We're the same, y'know. Same height, same eyes, same face."

The couple's conversation drifted easily to her ears and she froze at his last sentence. Twins. He's a twin. She didn't have time to dwell on that as he continued speaking.

"Just go out with me. I think you're cute. And who knows what my brother will think? I'm the one that's here. What do you say?"

The first thing that came to her mind was that his voice seemed different. Softer. No, she frowned. Not soft at all. He's… faking.

Usagi hugged her binder as the unknown girl shyly replied, "O… okay. I'll go out with you."

His voice went an octave lower, and Usagi didn't know why her grip tightened when he said, "Then you're okay with me?" Perhaps it was the seduction in his tone. She could hear the deceit in his honeyed manner and it sent shivers down her spine.

"Yes, Hikaru."

There was a pregnant pause, and Usagi thought maybe they were kissing. Before a muscle even twitched so she could pull away from the wall, he spoke again. And Usagi knew right away that a kiss had not transpired. Gone were the pleasantries – in its place were sharp, ice-laced words.

"Did you hear that, Hikaru? She's calling you."

Usagi's realization had the same timing as the girl's, except she held in her gasp. "W-what?" the unknown girl uttered.

Usagi chanced a look, peeking around the corner to find that the girl had started to tremble. One of the Hitachiins stood in front of her, holding up what Usagi assumed was the girl's love letter. But what shocked her was seeing his mirror image walk up to stand beside him, propping his elbow up on his brother's shoulder. He leaned against him and snagged the letter out of his grasp.

"Thanks Kaoru." He eyed the love letter in distaste as the girl whimpered, eyes darting between the two of them.

She stared at the boy who had accompanied her down the hallway. The whole time she had been with her crush? From the start? "You're Kaoru?" she squeaked. "But you said you were –"

The twin called Hikaru cut her off coldly, love letter still resting between two fingers. His hold, however, was tightening and the poor envelope was slowly getting crushed. "You should've known who you were talking to from the start. And by your answer, it doesn't seem like it would have mattered anyway."

"No!" The girl seemed to realize the grave mistake she had made. "I really do! I really do like you, Kaoru," she said earnestly.

"But you were so willing to date my brother," Kaoru replied, cat-like eyes narrowing. "I don't waste my time on liars."

"Same goes for me. Go somewhere else if you want your pitiful affections returned." Hikaru lifted her love letter and ripped it to shreds in front of her. The scraps fluttered to the ground as her eyes filled with tears.

"Cr… uel…" she whispered, hiccupping. "You guys are awful!" She spun on her heel and ran down the way she had come, crying all the while.

Usagi watched the twins' faces and she felt an irrational annoyance as their features remained blank, simply watching the girl go. She felt pity for her unknown classmate. The girl had gathered the courage to confess her feelings, but the twins had effectively crushed her.

"That's another one, Hikaru," Kaoru replied, turning his attention to the bits of paper on the ground. He stared emotionlessly at the pieces he saw with hearts drawn on them, now torn apart.

"They never learn," his brother replied. Mirth entered his tone, but it was harsh for bitterness overwhelmed it. "They never understand." He stomped on the ruined letter, grinding the shreds beneath expensive shoes.

Kaoru touched Hikaru's shoulder wordlessly and the tension in his form seemed to drain away. Hikaru kicked the pieces and watched as they scattered to the wind. "Let's go."

Kaoru nodded and walked side by side with his brother, heading in Usagi's direction. The blonde ducked out of sight, very aware they would happen upon her within moments. There was nowhere she could run. The courtyard was open and they would notice if she darted there. And if she went back the way she came, they would see her running away as the corridor was long and wide and offered no immediate shelter. She almost decided on a course of action when she spotted white material out of the corner of her eye.

Usagi sucked in a breath and froze in panic, face rising without meaning to. She was able to skim the faces of the two handsome teenagers as they passed without so much as a glance in her direction. She exhaled slowly, knowing they saw but chose to ignore her.

"It's like they're in their own world."

How… Usagi watched them go and leaned against the wall with one palm, her knees feeling strangely weak. …sad.

It was almost like the week before, when she had seen the mysterious boy's back retreating; except this time, she was seeing double. A sense of helplessness came over her. She couldn't tell the difference between them.

Who had she bumped into?

Usagi spent the rest of her junior high third year at Ouran running around, attempting better grades and making friends. She had no time for clubs as her studies took up a lot of her time. She complained and whined but in the end, sucked it up. Ouran had higher standards than Juuban, but her grandfather had even higher.

Her newfound friends knew of her habits sleeping in, devouring any type of sweet that came her way, and having a general happy go-lucky outlook on life. What they didn't know about was her daily observations of two certain third years in Class A.

It wasn't an obsession. More like an activity she indulged in during the lunch hours and if she caught them after school or during breaks. If she missed the twins in their usual spot, she didn't actively pursue them. Then there were days her friends dragged her to other activities but she didn't complain. Being in the same school was a reassurance that she would cross the Hitachiins' path once in awhile.

She knew who they were now. Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin. Only heirs to the Hitachiin family wealth. Hikaru was older than Kaoru, and the two brothers stuck to each other like glue. They ignored everyone else unless somehow, someone was deemed worthy of their attention. Then as the interest passed, it would return to just the two of them. It was like they were surrounded in a bubble with each other as their only comfort.

Usagi didn't fawn over them like most of the female population did. Of course, any of the Hitachiin fans were hesitant to approach and only admired from afar as romantic advances weren't taken kindly. It was common to hear a girl converse about how cute they were or how smart. Some of the time though, Usagi noted that the girls mixed the twins up, but didn't even realize it.

She thought of the day she stumbled upon what she deemed as the 'love letter incident'. After hours of reflection, she had reached a hypothesis about their cold and easy to anger attitude. No one could tell them apart and it was killing them, even if they didn't admit it aloud.

Usagi thought it was rather tragic, and she would have liked the chance to befriend them. However, whether it was their arctic attitude or her sudden loss of courage around them, her usual cheerful demeanor left if she took a step in their direction. Or maybe she was just a coward.

Of course. What else would I be?

From observation and the rare times classes mixed for a shared subject, Usagi liked to think she could tell them apart. She had caught on rather quickly that their bangs were usually parted different ways, except for the days they styled it to deliberately confuse people.

But it was the nuances that she paid attention to. While both twins had a temper, Hikaru was quicker to anger. Kaoru, though younger, was there to pull his older brother from the brink before he did something stupid. Kaoru indulged in reading, but Hikaru liked to solve problems that had a clear answer, rather than discuss abstract theses or plot points in novels.

It was her own personal opinion, but Usagi thought Kaoru was slightly softer than Hikaru, who seemed constantly defensive. But then the two would blend together as almost one personality and Usagi wasn't sure if her observations were right at all.

And despite her attentive study, Usagi still had no idea who had been the boy she encountered the first day of her transfer. She never once caught the twins by themselves – they were always together. Something significant must have happened that day she bumped into one of them, for she remembered clearly he had been alone.

Usagi doubted, whoever it had been, even remembered her. It would do no good to ask them. She toyed with the idea of giving up her fruitless quest. After all, she did have other things to worry about.

But every time she seriously considered moving on, the image of amber eyes burned in the back of her mind, and she left the decision for another day.

Usagi stopped as she passed by a 2nd floor window and backpedaled slowly before looking outside. She could see the twins talking heatedly with a blonde teenager – Tamaki-senpai her mind supplied as the blonde's profile came into view when he turned his head. The twins looked both frustrated and angered with him. This wasn't his first visit crossing over from high school grounds, and she wondered what the popular first year wanted this time.

Tamaki wasn't put off by their distance and attempts to humiliate and insult him. She knew that was what they were doing; the matching scowls and clenched fists unmistakable for anything else. Then their anger gave way to something else, and they looked down, suddenly looking very alone. Usagi's fingers touched the windowpane and she imagined she had the ability to comfort them.

Tamaki remained relatively calm in the face of their chaotic emotions. He said something and whatever it was must have hit home because both twins stilled in a way Usagi had never witnessed.

Surprise shot through her as something akin to smiles flitted across their faces – but no, that couldn't be right – before they were gone and their haughty masks were donned. Tamaki, however, would have none of that and he was upon them the next second.

The twins laughed, the sound so carefree and light that Usagi felt the corners of her own lips turn up involuntarily. She watched as Tamaki continued to tickle them ruthlessly and they tried to escape his hold, calling him all sorts of names but not really resisting even if they put a big show of it.

Usagi paused as the hair on the back of her neck rose. She felt someone watching her and looked up. Across the courtyard in the next building, standing behind the window opposite hers was a black haired youth she had often glimpsed with Tamaki.

Kyoya-senpai, she thought just as his shrewd gaze shifted away from her.

She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. There was no reason he would want anything to do with her, she assured herself, and so continued on her way. But not before one more look at the twins' laughing faces – it had her smiling all the way back to her classroom.

"We have to check it out! Come on, Usagi-chan!" Minako pleaded with puppy-dog eyes. The budding young actress was pulling out all the stops. "It's a host club, for cryin' out loud!"

Oh, Usagi knew. It was all the school had been talking about when the new academic year started. Having gone away for the entire summer to Europe and America, Usagi had returned to Japan to find the latest and juiciest Ouran gossip was that the chairman's son himself had established a host club on campus. The first year of high school had certainly started off with a bang.

Three weeks into the semester and it was still all the girls could talk about nowadays. There was a waiting list and a strict schedule by appointment that one had to adhere to. It seemed like she and her friends were in the small minority that hadn't at least attended the club once. Her curiosity was peaked, but she didn't feel like vying for the attentions of the handsome upperclassmen or be one of the nameless many gawking either.

Getting no reaction from the pigtailed blonde, Minako turned to her other friend, whose head was stuck in a book as usual. "Ami-chan?" she asked hopefully.

A slight pink tint was the only indication Ami had been paying attention to their conversation at all. "I'm afraid I'm not comfortable with that sort of thing," she admitted. "Besides, I'd rather be practical about my free time."

Minako was clearly exasperated and gestured wildly with her arms, steadfastly ignoring the stares coming from other students passing by the gazebo they were seated under. The garden was their favorite spot to hang out after the school hours ended. Usagi focused on the rose and vine covered roof as Minako rambled.

"– and it's not just 'cause everyone's doing it. I mean, there's Mori-senpai, Hunny-senpai and Kyoya-senpai. Haven't you always just wanted to talk to them? And then there's Tamaki-senpai –" Minako let out a little sigh here, her eyes glazing over. "If you don't want to sign up for an appointment, then at least come with me for the eye candy!"

Usagi was all for looking at cute guys, but she didn't know how she felt about one focusing only on her for a set amount of time before he turned his charm on someone else. She preferred sincere conversation rather than pointless small talk. She liked to think that if she were with a guy, that he would be spending time with her because he genuinely wanted to, not because she was a name to be crossed off on a list.

"And I just heard from a girl in Class C about the Hitachiin brothers! Apparently, a lot of girls were afraid to approach them when the club opened, but they're 'absolutely charming now', she says."

… then again, what would one little peek hurt?

"Hello, Tsukino-san. Aino-san. Are you here to set up an appointment?" Kyoya asked, smoothly pulling out his binder and pen in one move. He had been lounging at the table nearest the club entrance, apparently client-free, when they entered. Upon seeing them, he had gotten to his feet and made his way over with a grace that spoke of his high pedigree.

"Yes, we are!" Minako chirped. She almost bounced on her toes, but reminded herself that definitely wasn't the action of a dignified lady.

"Yes," Usagi echoed, only vaguely wondering how he knew their names. Then again, he was Kyoya Ohtori. She supposed he had his sources. Her thoughts wandered on that subject, but her gaze, however, had traveled to the insides of the host club where she could see the other members entertaining their clients.

Tamaki seemed as smooth as ever, having the girls hanging on his every word. Others were fawning over Hunny and his stuffed bunny, or seemed to be in deep conversation with Mori. Her eyes widened as she happened upon the act the Hitachiin brothers were displaying for the world to see. Hikaru cupped Kaoru's chin and their faces were so close that they could almost be kissing. She heard the girls squealing something about 'brotherly love' and her brows furrowed. Her attention was drawn back to her friend and the host club vice president as the two began discussing which host was preferred.

"Umm… I'd like to make an appointment with Tamaki-senpai, please," Minako requested. Her eyes were so bright they were almost shining.

If Kyoya noticed, he didn't make any sign of it. He nodded at her comment and in a pleasant voice, warned, "Well, Tamaki is our most popular host. I'm afraid he doesn't have another open appointment for a month."

"Really?" The excitement in Minako's eyes died, but she shook her head. "I can wait," she said firmly. She turned to her uncharacteristically quiet friend. "Usagi-chan? How about you?"

"Shall I make an appointment with the Hitachiin brothers?"

Usagi's head snapped up at this and she could have sworn she saw a gleam in the older boy's eyes before it disappeared. "No," she answered softly. "Actually, if you don't mind, I would like to make an appointment with you."

Kyoya didn't show any outward signs of surprise and Usagi imagined he must have spent his whole life perfecting his control. She herself didn't know why she requested him, and dimly recalled a sharp gaze watching her from across a courtyard.

"It would be a pleasure, Tsukino-san." He gave a short bow before writing her name in his black binder. "Does next Friday after school fit well with your schedule?"

Usagi's eyes were once again trained on the twins, their easy-going attitude foreign to her. But it was a welcome change.

"Yes. It's perfect."

"I suppose I should be jealous, Tsukino-san."

Usagi started, glancing at her tea companion. "Why is that?"

"For every appointment we've had so far, you've spent most of the time looking in the twins' direction."

She flushed, having not realized she was doing such a thing. She scrambled to remember the last thing she had said to him, and came up empty. Her etiquette lessons came rushing back to her. "I'm sorry, I did not mean to offend –"

"No worries about that." He sipped at his tea delicately. "I just wonder why you bother with me when you very much want to be somewhere else."

"I'm sorry, Kyoya-senpai," she only repeated, clenching her hands in her lap. She looked down, embarrassed beyond belief.

"What's this now? A downtrodden flower?" a smooth voice whispered in her ear.

Usagi barely managed to keep from squeaking as she found Tamaki suddenly very close, leaning over her shoulder. "Oh, I'm fine," she reassured.

"But you look rather frightened." He frowned. "Why is that?" He cast a suspicious glance at his best friend.

Kyoya's eyeglasses glinted in the light. "Perhaps it's because a certain someone is taking too much of her personal space."

"I am doing no such thing!" Tamaki picked up her hand and in one fluid motion, brought his mouth down to kiss her knuckles. "Right, princess?"

Usagi blushed deeper and opened her mouth to reply, but found no words would come out when she realized the twins were looking right in her direction. She locked eyes with them, disheartened to see no recognition at all, and berated herself for feeling even the slightest bit of disappointment. What did she expect? They weren't friends. They weren't even acquaintances.

"… take," she mumbled.

"What was that, princess?" Tamaki leaned closer, genuinely concerned at the troubled look that spread across her face.

"… mistake," she repeated. "This was a foolish mistake."

She rose quickly, backing away from the ornate table as an irrational anxiety bubbled underneath her. She stumbled and stiffened when Tamaki reached out to steady her. She could feel the stares of other students on her, and imagined twin amber gazes burning into her back.

Closing her eyes, she pulled away from Tamaki and breathed in shakily. "I'm sorry. I'm not feeling very well," she said, the half-lie spilling from her lips.

Tamaki's brows furrowed. "Then let me escort you to the medic–"

"Oh no, that's fine," she interrupted hurriedly, everyone's stares weighing her down. She chanced a glance at the Hitachiin brothers and swallowed a hysterical giggle, seeing them entertaining their clients without so much as a thought for her. "I'm really very sorry." She bowed slightly to Tamaki and Kyoya, and made her way to the exit before the host club king could stop her.

And when the door closed behind her, she broke out into a full run down the hallway, chasing away the reasons for why she bothered to care at all.

Usagi avoided the host club after that, wondering if it hadn't just been an obsession after all. An unhealthy obsession, she reminded herself sternly.

"Excuse me."

Usagi turned to find a male student standing just behind her. He was roughly her height with short brown hair and brown eyes. "Do you know where I can find the admissions office? I have to drop off some applications and I'm afraid I lost my map."

"Oh, are you a new student?" she asked.

"Yes. I haven't quite gotten used to the largeness of campus. I tend to get lost now and again," he admitted ruefully.

"Why don't I take you to the admissions office myself? I have no club activities anyway." Usagi inwardly wondered why he winced at the mention of 'club activities', but brushed it off. She held out her hand. "I'm Tsukino Usagi. It's a pleasure."

"The pleasure's mine. I'm Fujioka Haruhi."

She didn't like to believe in destiny or fate. She liked to think she had the ability to shape her own future.

Then why did it suddenly feel like the heavens were toying with her?

She stared at the teenager who had rushed around the corner and into her, and she had the oddest feeling of déjà vu, even though the roles were now switched.

Usagi waited with bated breath, knowing what was coming, and yet even when his face lifted to reveal amber eyes, she was still blown away by the emotions she saw simmering underneath the surface. And just like last time, the window of vulnerability shut down upon seeing her.

"Are you okay?" he asked sincerely, voice quiet and a touch hoarse.

"Watch where you're going."

His voice had been deceptively soft then, belying an annoyed tone, and she marveled at how much had changed. She nodded dully in response to his question, all manners of speech having left her in the face of those bewildering amber eyes that had flitted in and out of her dreams.

He helped her up without saying anything else, murmuring an apology before walking away. She wanted to call after him, stop him from leaving again because she finally knew.

She knew which twin had bewitched her with a simple look.

Usagi was sure it couldn't have been more than a whisper when his name escaped her lips, but it must have been enough because he froze then, turning slowly to pierce her with a calculating gaze.