Author Notes: Another ouran_contest entry over at LJ. Second Ouran fic ever, so still getting the hang of it. No pairings this time only because I couldn't drop any hints without going over the 500 limit, lol.

Pairings or Characters: Haruhi, Host Club
Warnings: none
Word Count: 422
Summary: As Haruhi discovers the Host Club members' struggles for freedom against family, societal expectations, each other and themselves, she finds a way to free herself.


The lives of Ouran High School students have always been governed by money. They don't dwell on it much, as they are so accustomed to its impact on their lifestyles and behavior, but the fact remains that they live in a world dependent on and centered around affluence and connections.

For Haruhi, on the other hand, its absence means struggle and alienation in a world only her intelligence and effort could gain her access to. She was initially identified only as the "scholarship student," the bright but poor one, alone in her circumstances in a school full of nothing but heirs and heiresses to some of the largest, richest organizations in Japan, and perhaps the world.

Even now, as an accepted and fairly popular member of Ouran's flamboyant Host Club, she constantly feels the disconnection with her peers.

The expensive foods they eat regularly that she has only read about or imagined; the helicopters and limousines that seem to be the only means of acceptable transportation; the fashions and vacations so extravagant it occasionally makes her head spin; and the disturbing reasoning and expectation that everyone everywhere must behave and live the same way simply because it's all they've ever experienced themselves. All of this, compared to her simple, minimalistic life, can sometimes suffocate her the further she finds herself falling into their world.

Yet despite the frequently overwhelming world of Ouran, she finds her experiences with the Host Club oddly freeing.

The discoveries she makes about each member, and the discoveries they make of her in turn, all seem to lessen the crushing weight the wealthy world places on her. Tamaki's heartbreaking family tale and the cruelty of his grandmother; Kyouya's seemingly futile fight for recognition and independence against his brothers and his father; Hikaru and Kaoru's self-discovery and growth from extreme introverts to the two independent young men they became at the cost of their once-impenetrable world; Hani's struggle to accept himself in the face of his father and fellow dojo members' standards of a "real man"; and Mori's incommunicable worry and taciturn penance when he fails to protect his cousin and friends.

Learning of the responsibilities and complications she never dreamed they actually dealt with makes the world of Ouran less like a bizarre, alien world, and its students more like actual people. She is still constantly surprised and perplexed to some degree by the extravagances her friends engage in, but she finds herself no longer alone in the grand, indulgently decorated halls of the school for the wealthy.