Disclaimer: I don't own Ouran or its characters, and am making no profit from this fic.
There are one hundred and eight ways to get through a scary situation. That is, if you could believe everything you read. But the truth was NOT ONE of them covered the current situation, and if one did, this situation might have scared the shit out of him just a little less.
It was his own fault, really. For staying behind late after school at the end of the week to study. For sending Hikaru home early, when he could have helped him with his work instead. His own fault for not even looking twice at the faces of the people in his parents' employ, for not noticing – until it was too late, until he was being pulled into his own car, license plates tooled off by the psycho who had shoved him, hands tied, inside with a bruising kiss to silence him, and an 'I-love-you' thrown at him as if it was a reassurance.
One hundred and eight ways to get through a scary situation… Kaoru couldn't call to mind one. That was why he was trying to laugh at it, but there was a reason why the laughter, when it rippled up through his chest and stopped against the gag, was tinged with hysteria. He was petrified.
He wrenched his mind from that thought, tried to breathe, think of something else. A modern version, a rewrite of the old tome Haruhi had borrowed once would carry a few more useful gems. Your elbow is strong: use it. Aim for the crotch if you can. Punch out a tail light and wave frantically – apparently all of those had saved lives.
Commoners' lives. Most of those were pretty defunct if your hands are bound, or if you're stuck in a top-of-the-range vehicle that wasn't so cheap as to make the tail lights easy to get to from this side. His parents didn't buy crap, and just this once, he wished they did.
The car screeched to a stop again and he was slammed into the back seats with the inertia. The engine had stopped and he was actually relieved. It had been an hour, maybe more, he'd started to feel ill from the motion, and although dazed from the repeated knocks he thinks maybe he'd be able to attract some attention if he was fast enough.
The car shook as a door slammed shut, and his mind quickly shifted gear, because he didn't think he'd be able to make it. One hundred and eight reasons to survive measured themselves against the crunch of footsteps, and if he could just keep count, like with paper cranes, it would be over.
To go home. To find safety in Hikaru's arms and never move from them again. To look back on this and laugh, because it had to be some kind of bad joke. The host club. Family. Video games. Tono. Haruhi. Commoner Coffee. Hikaru.
The trunk whooshed open and he blinked against the torchlight shining in his eyes.
The man – man? No, he couldn't be much older than him - behind the torch whispered something that made Kaoru's skin crawl and his stomach lurch from more than just travel sickness. He murmured assurances Kaoru knew he couldn't believe, traced him with foreign hands, his cheeks, his nose, his jaw bone.
"Don't cry, pretty… I don't want to see you cry."
Was he? A blindfold was drawn over his eyes before he could tell, and something rose in Kaoru's mind as he was lifted out of the car, set on his feet and led to god-only-knew where. Haruhi's voice, reading, suddenly became Hikaru's,
"Ways to get through scary situations, number one: Endure it, and it'll be over soon."
Normally, Hikaru and Kaoru would be enjoying their Friday evening playing video games, watching a film, or plotting their latest acts for the Host Club the following week – sometimes all three, and quite often, all three at once.
Hikaru had fallen asleep waiting for Kaoru to get home. He didn't tend to, but he supposed it had been a particularly long week. Kaoru should have woken him when he got back. Hikaru was counting on him to; not to be late, and it was unsettling when it wasn't Kaoru who woke him.
"Hikaru-sama?" He woke up from a stifling dream that made no sense to him and was quickly dissipating, one of their maids standing over him gently shaking his shoulder. "Preparations for dinner are complete."
"Is my brother home?"
"I wouldn't know, sir," She dropped a polite curtsey, but he could see the concern behind her eyes. "My sister is looking for him…"
"What time is it?"
"Seven thirty, sir…" She stepped back as he rolled abruptly off the bed, on edge.
"Has the chauffeur called? Has Kaoru?"
"But the school should have shut… he should be home by now…"
"I'm sorry, sir, we're looking-"
"You can go." Hikaru said a little sharply. She left quickly as he went to find his phone. No messages… Kaoru would have called ahead. If he'd known he was going to be late, he would have. There was no response when he dialled his brother, and he tried to come up with explanations as to why he wasn't answering – why he wasn't calling. He was at a different library. The phone was in the trunk of the car, out of his reach, but he wanted to call, really. He'd forgotten to charge it, it had dropped out of his pocket and it was ringing in a sewer somewhere (He'd got desperate and phoned the host club: the last suggestion was Tamaki's, and Hikaru was about ready to take anything). He was pacing their rooms by the tenth call, and by the twenty-fifth, he'd widened his route to the whole house.
Thankfully, his mother had more sense, grabbed him by the shoulders and sat him down.
"Sweetie, I've called the police. They've started searching and they're going to find him and bring him home, all right? He can't have gone far..." Her voice sounded certain, but she looked petrified. They hadn't got all their acting ability from her, clearly, and Hikaru was conflicted as to what to feel - reassurance, or fear.
He chose fear.
The police arrived, asked their questions, and sat with them as the evening wore on, as Hikaru paced the kitchen and Yuzuha shredded damp tissues on the tabletop. He phoned Kaoru every fifteen minutes, the officers ready with their recording and tracking equipment. It meant Hikaru couldn't cradle the phone close, couldn't say words meant for Kaoru and only Kaoru, but all he really wanted was to hear his brother's voice, bright, at the end of the line.
Their father was away on business, and he couldn't get a flight back for several hours. On top of that, travelling back to Japan, getting back into the country, would take time. Yuzuha begged him to hurry, and in his absence their twin maids flanked her, identical statues at her side, the way her sons should have been.
A phone call outside their established check-in times lifted their hopes and dashed them immediately. It wasn't Kaoru. The chauffeur that had been assigned to wait for him had been found unconscious in one of the high school dumpsters. The license plates from their car had been thrown in after him: he'd been sent to the hospital with a police guard ready to question him and, if he proved violent, provide restraint. But unless he had knocked himself out and had someone else drive Kaoru away… he didn't look to be the aggressor.
The unexpected phone call put them behind their scheduled check-in with the police force, working with the private police whose services Kyouya had volunteered. This, in turn, made them late for their calling Kaoru, and they thought perhaps by throwing off the pattern, they might manage to catch him.
They didn't. There was no response.
In fact, it was long past midnight before they finally got a call through.
…the way he'd been tied up showed off his ribcage. Exposed it to the moonlight – that's what he said – cast a pallor over his skin and threw the soft contours of his chest into relief. Twenty nine. Show Hikaru.
He wasn't thinking straight, he was playing his mind like his hands played his rib bones. He couldn't squirm, he could hardly even breathe, but he was still counting off the reasons. Thirty. Air.
"Sweetie, your phone's ringing."
It was? Yes. It had been ringing since before, since the trunk, days ago, hours, somewhere inaccessible but always so close, just not in the uniform that had been cut off him, not in the ropes, all the ropes that he'd been strung up with. Was it better breathing with his head lolling against his chest? No, worse. Made the ropes cut. He was pushed gently back, it didn't help, and the hands left.
They'd be back.
He whimpered as what felt like blood slid down his legs – Thirty one, shower, clean, clean, clean – but the gag stopped the sound before it could go too far. If he slipped he'd hang, he knew from the way the rope pressed against his throat. His arms wouldn't support him, the rope around them was slacker and he was tired. He couldn't see, couldn't speak, couldn't breathe, there were times when he couldn't hear, times when he could and those were often worse. The sense of touch he still had, heightened by the loss of the other senses, sometimes dulled by lack of oxygen, but not as much as he thought it should be. That would be a kindness – Thirty two? He didn't want to feel any more.
"Oi, nii-chan." The ringing had stopped. He jerked at the voice, too casual, too normal for what he'd just been doing. "Yeah, he's here. We were just having a private moment…" Kaoru felt his eyes on him – was that still touch, or something else, something beyond it, something like vision. They were hungry, oh god, not again, please… "Eh? But he's safe with me, nii-chan. I wouldn't do anything to hurt him, you know that. I hate to see him cry- oh pretty thing, please don't. Shhh…" The hands were back and he was trying, he was trying not to because it was hard to breathe even without crying, and when he cried he saw black, saw black and floated in it. "It's your first night away from home isn't it, pretty? I'm here, don't cry, shhh…" He was close – oh god, he was close, and he could hear Hikaru's voice obscured by static and shouting. "Shhh… I'll let you talk to him, how's that? But I'll have to turn the phone off after. I hate to see you cry…"
The gag was pulled out and air… he tried to take his first breath of it but was cut of by a pair of lips and he wanted so badly to breathe that he couldn't bite. And biting might have been why he was gagged in the first place, but he wasn't sure, he just wanted the mouth to move. It took forever, and all he could do was hang there, his feet barely under him and his brother's voice calling in his ear – too much to focus on, and not enough air.
"Kaoru, Kaoru, I'm here, talk to me, please…" He couldn't. Couldn't get any words out past the shaky breaths, choking breaths, and hysterical desperate sobs, and he mangled them when he tried.
"Kaoru, where are you?" He broke into sobs again, and somewhere in the background he heard his mother, both trying to comfort him by the sound of their voices alone.
"Hikaru, Hikaru, please…" He tried to speak again, make it stop, Hikaru, please, but could only twist his mouth open and release what little breath he had left in a silent scream. They were talking, he couldn't make it out, the words washing over him and away, tearing a cry from his throat, "N-no… bring them back!"
"Shhh, Sweetie… you're homesick, but you can get through it. You're safe with me…"
Safe meant no one would find him, not even Hikaru. That he'd made sure - wasn't going to let Hikaru find him.
He whimpered and cried and thrashed against the restraints, kicked out his legs to try to catch him but couldn't get them back. He was really hanging, there wasn't enough air, and he'd lost count again.
"You've got him agitated now… I'm going to have to settle him again. I'm turning off the phone now…"
"No! Don't you DARE lay a hand on him you- Kaoru! KAORU!"
He didn't know when he ended up on his knees in front of the table, screaming at the telephone and clinging to the tabletop to keep himself upright. But it must have happened. The phone disconnected with a click, and the words dried in his throat because he knew Kaoru wasn't going to hear them.
"Oh god…" Yuzuha choked out from across the table. "Oh god, oh god, my baby…" She was reaching for him and he should have gone, but his tears were pooling on the tabletop and for some reason that fascinated him. She was barely visible for the arms of their maids anyway, clinging to each other as much as they were clinging to her.
He looked at the officers and their equipment, the still-working recorder, finding more than horror in their expressions.
"Oh god…" he repeated his mother's words. "…you couldn't track it, could you?" He didn't need the answer, and buried his head in his hands as tears filled his vision.
There was no one there to cling to him.