After she stepped out of the hospital room, she stared back into the room at the sleeping twin, at the pair of her fellow host club members clustered around the bed. The most frightening thing about the whole situation wasn't that he was lying there. It wasn't that his brother was lying upstairs in a coma the doctors weren't sure he'd wake from, or that the boy in front of her didn't know he was there. It was that she couldn't tell them apart, and that she wouldn't be able to tell them apart until one of them woke up.
She was supposed to know. And for that reason, and that reason alone, she'd kept her distance, flitting back and forth from one room to the other until she couldn't count how many times she'd visited each of them. One of them had woken briefly, uttered a low groan that was likely his brother's name, before he slipped under again.
Upstairs, the other was yet to respond to any attempts made to wake him. She'd been there through the worst of it – through the seizures, through the horrifying moments when his heart faltered, stopped, and was forcibly kicked back into life. She'd held his limp, cold hands and stroked his hair and reassured him that everything would be fine, not knowing whether he could understand her, not knowing whether he could hear her. She wanted to call his name and pull him back. But she was so uncertain, she couldn't get either of their names out of her mouth.
She'd stayed with Yuzuha when she'd finally come off the plane, feeling a bond of fellowship with the woman more than anything else. Her boys were Haruhi's boys. The Hitachiin matriarch had been exhausted, haggard under layers of makeup, but composed herself as she met almost immediately with two different sets of doctors for "Hitachiin Hikaru/Kaoru" and agonised over which son to see first.
It hurt the rest of the host club badly enough – Haruhi knew it by the way they were taking it in turns watching over one twin, then the other. They were the second-youngest of their little clan, after all, and the Host Club was nothing if not fiercely protective of its members. But Yuzuha was their mother, her boys were almost carbon copies of her. Her pain was deeper than Haruhi could ever understand.
They didn't know what exactly had happened, which was the main problem. They could only try to fit together a sequence of events. The Host Club had jetted off to a resort in Okinawa, dragging Haruhi along in the wake of their ridiculous whims – and had been working hard (if it could be called that) entertaining their clients. The twins had been given the day off by Kyouya to spend doing anything they wanted.
The memory of them tilting their heads to one side, and deadpanning, "even each other?" couldn't make her smile. Not even when she remembered the face Kyouya had pulled, and the way they clients had giggled.
They'd settled on heading off to windsurf. An island a little way out caught the wind better than on their beach and they'd gone off together mid-morning with the assurance they'd call for a boat back if the weather turned bad. Storm clouds had drawn in by mid-afternoon and even though it grew suddenly, unexpectedly cooler, there was still no call back. They ought to have got in touch, even if it was to say they'd found shelter and would try wait out the impending storm on the island.
Making desperate phone calls, the Host Club had retreated inside. Huge drops of rain started to fall and even when thunder started to rumble threateningly overhead, Haruhi pressed herself to the windows.
Outside, the sea was heaving.
They weren't inside for long. A few orders from Kyouya and the remaining members split into helicopters to join the search: two separate routes put Tamaki and Haruhi's helicopter a distance from Kyouya's.
By the time their helicopter got to them, one twin was being pulled up. The other had slipped under the water. She could remember how frightened she'd been, how she'd ventured to the open edge against Tamaki's hands trying to pull her back, how she couldn't understand why no one was down there to save him – before her attention had been caught by the second chopper, the technician only halfway back up himself, the other limp and dripping twin in his arms.
Kaoru, she'd thought with some relief. Of course, Hikaru would make sure Kaoru went first…
But that meant…
She could hardly feel Tamaki still holding onto her and she watched as their medic winched himself down. It was taking so long, too long. Why was he taking so long?
His lips and fingertips were almost blue with cold when they got him back up and it took more time still before he lurched and coughed up mouthful after mouthful of water, body convulsing with the sheer force of it. Trying not to make an obstacle of herself, she had slipped to his side on her knees across the floor of the craft. She'd thought she'd known who he was, but she was suddenly unsure.
She touched her hand to his cheek – he was freezing cold. She was shivering. He wasn't, he was past that; only managed to watch her for a few moments before his eyes slid shut again, Tamaki abruptly pulled her away once more as the medic started shouting something –
Haruhi still couldn't be sure which of them she'd been with, only that he'd slipped into a coma soon after they'd got to the hospital. He was stable for now, the doctors said, but that only meant that nothing had changed, nor was anything likely to. His heart was still beating, he was still breathing. The other of the two of them had got off lightly in comparison with a gash to the side of his head and concussion meant he'd likely lost consciousness and only been kept above water by the efforts of his brother.
His nightmares consisted of his brother's frantic breathing and the persistent motion he associated with being in water.
Occasionally he would feel the beat of his brother's kicks as he lost the coordination of his tread and fought to regain it again, would open his eyes and see the grit of his teeth in concentration as he tried to shiver and breathe and swim all at the same time, all the while keeping his arms tight around him.
When the dream faded back his brother's breathing was replaced by his own and suddenly he was struggling to keep himself up, struggling to break out…
"Kaoru?" It took him a few moments to identify where the voice was coming from, a little longer to understand whose it was, and even more time to force his eyes open, bring the speaker into focus. "Kaoru?"
"No…" He swallowed, trying to bring his voice back too. He was regaining clarity with each successive step, just had to keep trying. "Not Kaoru."
"Hikaru? How are you feeling? What happened?" He groaned, turning away from the ecstatic blond and trying to find someone quieter. If his whole body wasn't aching as it already was, he'd have tried to sit up.
"You're in hospital. Kaoru is upstairs." Kyouya surreptitiously crossed out one of the names on the chart, his lips pressed into a thin line. "Your mother was here a while ago, but she went back to the hotel to get in touch with your father, and get some sleep."
"Is he all right? How long have we…"
"He's okay." Kyouya could have used so many other phrases, but at this point he thought the best idea was just to skim over Kaoru's condition. "You've been here a day or so."
"…don't remember what happened," he murmured one hand rising to touch the side of his head where it hurt the most, "I think I slipped and then…" his eyes narrowed, focussing on a narrow tube leading from a bandage on his hand to… he couldn't see where it was going. Was it making him sleepy? "Kaoru can probably tell you…"
"Maybe later," Kyouya glossed carefully.
"'m going back to sleep."
"That's probably a good idea." Across the bed he caught Tamaki's eyes and silently willed the blond to say nothing.
He didn't. But he was glaring all the same.
To his credit, he managed to hold in his outburst until they were a fair distance from Hikaru's room, and Honey and Mori had come to take over their watch.
"Why did you lie to him about Kaoru?" He hissed halfway down the corridor.
"You might have noticed that he wasn't entirely with us." Kyouya replied calmly, hitting the elevator call button, "Do you really think letting him know the severity of Kaoru's condition would have been the best idea? He'd have done himself more harm than good."
…true. Tamaki slumped against the elevator wall, envious of his best friend's ability to hold his composure so well. The elevator began to ascend - they were going to let Yuzuha and Haruhi know the good news – and that they finally knew which twin was which. Then Tamaki would head back to the hotel they had moved into, once Kyouya had ousted Haruhi from Kaoru's room. He threw him a few sidelong glances. He knew it worried Kyouya too, to see their family this way, but he was always able to stay calm - he and Mori-senpai both, leaving the rest of them to do the majority of the worrying.
Right now, Hikaru was blissfully unaware of the situation upstairs, but at some point they'd have to tell him. And he'd out-worry the lot of them.
He pouted, frowning a little.
"I still don't think it was a good idea to say what you said. You were acting like everything was fine, and it's only going to be harder on him when–"
"It was better than putting him through unnecessary stress." Always with the perfect response at the perfect moment. Kyouya had been only slightly leaning against the wall with him, barely even slouching, but he straightened as the elevator pinged and slid open. "Come on."
The problem for Kaoru was that he was trapped, without even realising he was trapped. He couldn't tell whether he was awake or asleep from one moment to the next because everything spooled out in his head like some surreal dream.
There were moments when the dream became a nightmare. When Hikaru's head slipped under the water and he had to dive to find him, moments when he wasn't even sure their heads would break the water again. They were going to drown, he knew they were going to drown, that he was the only one who could keep them afloat. That he had to keep trying, even if his legs were aching and cramping and seizing, even if he could barely keep a thought in his head before he lost it to his focus on just keeping going.
But it wouldn't stop. The events just kept cycling themselves through in his mind, there was never a rescue. Just swimming and swimming beyond what he believed he could endure, Hikaru's cold body clutched to him and praying, praying, for help that wouldn't come.
He couldn't wake up. He didn't even know that he was asleep.