..The Halloween Challenge..
Note before reading: warning, this is not like my usual writing style at all! If you look through my stories, they are all pretty much the same in their tone. I need to learn how to write all kinds of tones, not just sweet, joking, and lighthearted ones. So, behold the angst challenge. For the sake of spoiler's, I'm saving the author's commentary for the bottom of the page. The topic of writing is quite different from what I'm used to so it doesn't come naturally yet. Please tell me your thoughts on this! This story was the result of PMS and listening to When Christmas Comes to Town from the Polar Express, in case you were interested. xD
All characters © Hatori Bisco
"The Dream passes by the window, and Sleep by the fence.
The Dream asks Sleep: "Where should we rest tonight?"
Where the house is warm, where the child is small, There we will go, and rock the child to sleep.
There we will sleep, and will rock the child: Sleep, sleep, my dear,
Sleep, sleep, my dove."
A Dream Passes by the Window
"Oi, Haruhi, is it alright if we go to your house after the club this afternoon to work on that science project?" Hikaru asked as he slung his bookbag over his shoulder.
"Why do you two always want to come over anyway?" Haruhi grumbled, the three of them exiting the classroom. "I'm sure your house is a lot grander than my two-room condo."
Kaoru smiled coyly. "Ah, but we find your commoner's home fascinating, Haruhi," he added. "Not to mention we'll have the opportunity to score extra points with your father." He and Hikaru slapped each other energetic high fives.
Haruhi sighed and adjusted the strap of her bookbag so that it was no longer drooping down on her shoulder. "Whatever. Let's just head over to the music room already, since your taking so long to pack up's made us late again," she said blandly.
The first thing that Haruhi and the Hitachiin twins noticed upon entering the third music room was that there were no guests present. The lights had not been turned on, allowing the rays of sunlight streaming in through the window to show up as bright patches on the pink carpet. The emptiness of the room seemed to be imbued with a heavy, intangible weight, as if some unknown presence was suffocating them silently. Haruhi swallowed convulsively as she felt a sudden and quivering chill amongst the stale air.
The second thing to be noticed was that Honey-senpai and Mori-senpai were seated side-by side on one of the classroom's velvet rose settees. They did not speak, and Honey held his rabbit plush so tightly to his chest that the whites of his knuckles were clearly visible. His eyes, normally an ebullient, warm chocolate color, were utterly staid. Mori's expression was nothing new…but the lines between his vapid black eyes seemed harder somehow, and the corners of his mouth were turned down grimly. Tamaki had not arrived yet. Haruhi didn't think that even someone like him could be oblivious to this tenebrous mood.
Even Hikaru could not ignore the melancholy ambience. He immediately knew that something was wrong; something was very wrong.
"Kyouya-senpai?" he asked quietly to the figure that stood facing the window. At hearing his name the figure slowly turned around to face the newcomers, and Haruhi felt her heart come to a dead halt in her chest for a second before beginning to beat faster than ever.
Kyouya-senpai's eyes…Haruhi had never, ever seen eyes like those. A kind of fear rushed through her and she actually took an involuntary step backwards. On either side of her she heard two sharp intakes of breath in perfect, unrehearsed unison.
They were eyes like Honey's: dark, staid, but at the same time holding something so terrible underneath that it was hard to believe the eyes themselves belonged on the face of a sane human being. They were ageless eyes, eyes more fitting on some ancient man-thing that had lived to see centuries of crucibles and anguish. It seemed inhumanly and eerily out of place on a high school junior. The irises were two sunken charcoal abysses, bottomless and ageless, with darkened rings underneath the lower eyelids.
But, the main thing that made Haruhi's breath catch in her throat was something else. Kyouya's eyes were red-tinged, the sclera bloodshot and watery. That could only mean one thing.
Kyouya-senpai had been crying.
But this had to be a chimera of some sort, or an illusion. Ootori Kyouya was the official "cool host." He did not show weakness, no matter what the circumstance. The occasions in which he exhibited any genuine emotion were rare. He was impenetrable; with an ever-lasting barrage surrounding his persona at all times to prevent the alluvion of feelings from flooding over. So Kyouya-senpai, shedding actual tears? Impossible.
Haruhi had thought that to be the nadir, but then Kyouya spoke. His voice was even worse than his eyes, and she felt afraid.
"Tamaki will not be joining us today," he murmured hoarsely. "Nor will he be joining us any other day, for that matter."
"S-senpai?" Kaoru averted his gaze from the tortured person in front of him, and when he did he noticed that his arms were covered in huge white knobs of gooseflesh. What did he mean? The younger Hitachiin twin almost felt compelled to speak again when Kyouya did not answer. But, after a pained and taut silence, the Ootori continued in barely more than a whisper.
"As of last night, Suoh Tamaki is no longer alive. He has ceased to exist."
The stunned silence was broken only by the twins, whose reactions were just as Kyouya had predicted them to be.
"No, no," they replied, shaking their heads frenetically. "We just saw Tono yesterday," Hikaru said with unease.
"Yeah," his brother added. "He was perfectly fine then. You must be…" pulling our legs, was what Kaoru was going to say, but something in his senpai's face told him that this was no joke. The words died in his throat like anaerobes after hitting oxygen.
Haruhi tried speaking once, twice. On the third try she finally managed to produce something audible. "...How?"
Kyouya turned away, looking back out the window into the autumn garden that lay below. The brown, wizened leaves tumbled over themselves on the ground in the small breeze.
Honey-senpai spoke for him then, and although his voice was child-sounding and small, it held the somberness of someone much, much older.
"He died like any other kid," Honey said with flickering brown eyes the color of frozen mud. "Tama-chan was being driven home from his father's hotel last night when another car hit them."
"An accident," Mori said gravely.
Honey gave a slow nod, cradling Usa-chan even closer to his body. "Shiba-san called us three last night. Kyou-chan cried."
"H—" Hikaru had to clear his throat dryly before continuing. "How come we didn't receive any calls?"
"You're underclassmen. She didn't have your numbers," Mori replied. Honey stroked his stuffed rabbit's pink ears, his small face finally scrunching up.
"Tama-chan…" he whispered.
It finally hit Haruhi then, and she felt her knees tremble and buckle suddenly. She dropped her bookbag and grabbed the nearest table for support, taking deep breaths in through her nose. It couldn't be…Tamaki-senpai was only seventeen. He had not even finished high school.
Kaoru and Hikaru did something then that contradicted their usually childish and immature mein. Wordlessly, they walked over to Kyouya and each placed a hand on the upperclassman's shoulder. Then they took a seat in a settee by Honey and Mori, troubled hazel eyes flickering.
Haruhi cautiously approached Kyouya as well, knowing that her senpai had been the closest with Tamaki. She didn't want to repeat the twin's action, so in a comforting gesture she hugged Kyouya lightly from the side. Subconsciously, Haruhi realized that this was the first time, since her indoctrination into the Host Club, that she had ever made any real physical contact with the Shadow King.
She had never acknowledged how thin he was, hugging him. Although half his size, her arms went easily around Kyouya, feeling the bony ridges of his shoulder blades and the hardness of his torso. He seemed unfazed by the gesture and made no effort to remove her. Haruhi remained like that for a moment, sharing his sorrow. Soon after, she began to feel a warmness on her forearms that were wrapped around his chest. Her brown eyes looked up, and filled with their own wetness as she saw. Tears had fallen from Kyouya-senpai's eyes and had landed on her arms.
He closed his eyes silently and Haruhi let go, unsure of what to do. It was more than she could bear. She went to sit, moving as if underwater, and was distracted by Kaoru's dry sobbing after a moment.
"T-Tono's gone," he hitched, finally understanding. His elder twin tried to console him, fighting tears of his own. "He's not coming back!"
At this Mori let out a choked, saturnine sound, and Honey placed his tiny hand on his cousin's lap. "It'll be alright, Takashi," he sighed softly. Haruhi looked at them from the couch with her hands in her lap, feeling her heart ache for them.
Kyouya came over, straightening his spectacles and looking rather naked without his black notebook in hand. "Funeral preparations begin tomorrow," he stated flatly and recovered, succeeding in masking is emotions, like always. "That is all."
Hikaru and Kaoru glanced up at their senpai, troubled by his prosaic manner. "Will you be okay, Kyouya-senpai?" Kyouya gave a single, weary nod.
Since there was nothing more to say, the six hosts glided out of the music room like soundless ghosts. The twins walked with Haruhi for a while in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, eyes haunted. They were only jolted out of their stupor when a female student they recognized to be one of Tamaki's customers approached them in the hallway.
"Sorry for bothering you," she began in a fluster, "but I was going to make Tamaki-sama another cake for the club tomorrow. Can you—I mean, would you—"she broke off, blushing and fiddling with the ends of her dress, unaware of their expressions—"would you ask him what flavor he likes for me?"
The designator was greeted with silence for a moment as Haruhi and the twins simply stared at her. She didn't know yet. Kaoru and Hikaru's mouths were slightly ajar and didn't look as if they would utter any words soon, so Harhui found her voice and replied, "Um, sure, w-we'll ask him for you."
Her face brightened. "Thank you so much, Haruhi-kun!" she exclaimed happily before dashing off. No one spoke for a few minutes until one of the brothers broke the silence in a strange, detached voice.
"…Haruhi…what will we do now?"
She did not respond, for the answer to that question remained unknown to her as well.
Outside, the first patters of rain plopped onto the sidewalk.
Ootori Fuyumi knocked tentatively on her younger brother's bedroom door. "Can I come in, Kyouya-kun?"
"Yes," he responded through the wood, and Fuyumi entered to find him already in bed, propped under the covers. He had removed his glasses for sleep and a thick tome lay closed and bookmarked by his bedside. Fuyumi, clad in a lima-green nightgown, made her way over to his bed and lightly sat down next to him.
"I know you're going through a hard time right now," she began. "I just wanted to see if there was anything that you needed." A sisterly hand placed itself on his bed.
Kyouya looked up and smiled a pale smile. "Thank you, Fuyumi nee-san. I'm fine."
"Are you really, Kyouya-kun?"
He gave a nod. She rose and said, "Well, good night then; sleep well. No bad dreams, okay?"
Fuyumi left, sparing a final, troubled glance at her brother. She knew that he was strong in more ways than one, but even Kyouya had to be grieving over the loss of his best friend. That boy, Tamaki…she remembered when he had come over and played the piano for her. She recalled how, after spending more and more time with him, Kyouya-kun had begun to change. He had started to open up more, and to occasionally smile. Yes, he had been one of a kind, that blonde boy. He had been Kyouya-kun's first true friend.
Once his sister had left, Kyouya turned off the lights in his room and closed his eyes. He threw a darkling glance to the window. It had been a few days since the funeral…the sound of the knells still rang in his head, their echoes mingling with the wind. They had all cried, even Mori-senpai, as the casket holding Tamaki was lowered into the earth. Since then, Kyouya had lost weight. He slept maybe four hours a night and had begun to regard people with a callous manner, curling slowly into the recidivism of his previous self.
There hadn't been a single Host Club meeting all week, and he hadn't called any of the others since their confrontation. Kyouya supposed that he was finally living up to his self-proclaimed "egoist" nature, but he found that he was too empty-feeling to care.
Turning over in his bed, Kyouya closed his eyes as sleep began to finally catch up to him.
"…Kyouya, let's start a host club…"
"…Oh, what a scary face! So that's your true form…"
"…The one who isn't giving up…is you…"
He opened his eyes at the voice, fumbling sleepily for his oval glasses. "Who is it?" he mumbled, the words tumbling from his mouth groggily.
"Why, it's me, of course."
Kyouya blanched, blood freezing. He knew that voice. Those cadences, the slight but mellifluous French accent, that tone only belonged to one person.
It's not possible…
"No," Kyouya said, shutting his eyes once more. "It can't be you."
He felt rather than saw the person lean in closer. "Why not?" was the question.
Kyouya frowned through his eyelids. "Well, you're dead, Tamaki. You can't be here."
An airy chuckle. "Really, I'm dead? Why ever would you think that, Kyouya?"
Turning his head away from the voice, Kyouya sighed and replied tiredly, "If you're a ghost, please go away. I have no need to be tormented any further."
After a hovering silence, the voice said quietly, "Kyouya, open your eyes."
And Kyouya found that no matter how badly he didn't want to see the face behind the voice, he wanted more than anything to open his eyes. So he did slowly, coal-black irises coming to rest on the person at last.
It was Tamaki, just as he had remembered him. It was no longer dark outside, and the light of the daylight sun gleamed angelically off of his resplendent blonde hair. His blue eyes were wide and naïve as ever. Kyouya stared at his friend, expecting to see the rest of his room through the boy. If Tamaki was a phantom, he was a pretty solid one at least.
"T-Tamaki, is it really you?" Kyouya asked in a thick voice that was not like him at all. He tried to sit up, but was pushed back down by Tamaki's hand.
"You shouldn't move," Tamaki said with a smile. A figure tentatively peered out from behind him; Kyouya had not seen her up until now.
"How are you feeling, Kyouya-senpai?" Fujioka Haruhi asked him. Kyouya blinked incomprehensively.
Tamaki gave a toothy grin. "You've been out of it for almost two days," he informed the somewhat confused raven-haired host in the bed. "Your doctor said he hadn't seen a fever that high in years."
"You don't remember, senpai?" Haruhi blinked. "During the club this week you collapsed, and we brought you here."
"Now, what were you saying about me being dead?" Tamaki inquired happily. Haruhi playfully slapped the side of his head.
"He was obviously delirious, senpai!" she snapped.
Kyouya brought a hand up to brush dark hair away from his brow. "Where are the others?" he asked, grimacing at his voice, which sounded weak and unused.
"Oh, they came earlier," said the Host King dismissively. "I'm here with our daughter now," he added, gesturing to an annoyed-but-relieved-looking Haruhi. At this Kyouya managed a small smile.
"Don't be including me in your deluded mamagoto family, idiot," he sighed, relieved himself that it had all been just a horribly lurid fever-dream. Seeing Tamaki here beside him, alive and well, filled Kyouya's heart with a pleasant, warm feeling. "You didn't need to come and visit, guys."
Tamaki laughed brightly again, blue eyes crinkling up at the corners. "Poor Kyouya," he chuckled.
Haruhi smiled as well. "Yeah, senpai got sick just in time for Halloween!"
"Halloween?" Kyouya glanced over at the desk calendar that Tamaki had given him a few months ago (that Kyouya, regrettably, still had not thrown away). Sure enough, it read October 31st. What a morbid coincidence.
"You know, Kyouya," Tamaki began casually, and as he spoke Kyouya suddenly noticed that something was…off about his friend. It was something he couldn't place it at first. The tone itself was strange, but it was more than that.
"Halloween is a wonderful occasion. For a whole year the dead lie quiescent in their graves, waiting for the last day of October to finally awaken and visit their loved ones."
Kyouya blinked, then frowned. "The dead?"
Tamaki smiled a clownish leer. "Kyouya, it's so great to see you again," he said. And as he spoke, his right eye filled up with blood and a red tear slowly meandered down the side of his face.
Author's note: It wasn't until I got to Fuyumi's part that I realized I wanted the whole thing to be a dream...or is it? That's what's so fun about writing: sometimes things just happen. I wrote this for Halloween, and gave it a purpose of messing with the mind. You don't know what's reality and what isn't, which can be pretty creepy if you're reading this for the first time.
The title is from a Ukrainian lullaby. I don't think links work here, but I'll post it anyway (with spaces) because the song is so beautiful: www. umka . com . ua/ sounds/ kvitkapisnizukrajiny/ kvitkapisnizukrajiny 05. mp3
I'm not really happy with the first part--not used to writing such pure grief/angst/melancholy. It's quite different from what I'm used to so it doesn't come naturally. Please tell me your thoughts on this!