A/N: I'm so, so, so sorry for the huuuge delay in putting out chapters. School does things to you. Ugh.

Sorry if this chapter seems a little off track. I lost the notes I had for each chapter, so I may have to wing this one. Unless I actually find the notes.

Also, because of parental blocks, I can't see chapter two at the moment (EDIT: I also can't see this chapter, either). Poop.

Thanks for the reviews that continue to come, even though I haven't updated. Reminded me that I needed to do this ^_^;;

Disclaimer: I do not own Ouran High School Host Club or any of its characters – it all belongs to Bisco Hatori.

P.S - Happy 2010 everyone (:


.:5:.

Strength

"Haninozuka-senpai, I know nothing about martial arts, but..."

Hunny sat with two girls at the table, swinging his legs and laughing along to theirs. He chopped a clump of cake off of its body onto a fork and slid it into his awaiting mouth.

"...Have you ever wondered what true strength is?..."

He looked past one of the girls and waved happily at Mori, who sat silently with a couple of other girls as well. Mori looked up and acknowledged the wave by nodding. Hunny giggled, and the girls sitting by him blushed and squealed. "So cu-u-u-ute!" they always crooned. Hunny smiled at the responses he got for small, should-have-been-unnoticeable actions he made.

"...True strength, I think, isn't so much as a physical thing, but mental..."

From afar, at his own table, alone with a group of worried onlookers, Tamaki looked at Hunny drowsily. Hunny stared back with eyes filled with confusion. Tamaki then looked away, at the pale girl in the boy's uniform smiling tiredly at her customers. Hunny looked as well, as did Mori, turning in his seat. Haruhi didn't notice the three males looking at her intently.

"...For instance, a strong man may beat his opponent by using physical force..."

Haruhi put down the tray of tea carefully on the table where three girls sat huddled together, softly admiring Haruhi's gentleman-like stature, but not at all recognizing the faults that had transformed over the three months since the last storm. However, each and every day, the Host Club members had kept a close eye on their flower, and noticed that she was withering slowly. Hunny in particular noticed Haruhi's thinned wrists whenever her sleeves pulled up. It made him wonder.

"...but, he really is only weakening his love for humanity if he is so intent on hurting people..."

It made him wonder, in fact, what was going on in her life that she had gotten so pale, and so thin, and so desperately quiet. He was aware she was already quite quiet, but lately, she hadn't spoken much to any of them. Each time he offered her a piece of cake, she would shake her head, close her dark eyes, and look away from him, back outside of the window or at her hands. It made his heart sink so low on the inside. Denying cake is a crime known to man.

"...I also think, Haninozuka-senpai, that giving up on loving what you truly do like is like running away..."

Haruhi picked up her head briefly from the conversation she was in to look at the three hosts, then shifted her eyes back to the girls before her. Tamaki turned and walked away hurriedly. Mori turned around and frowned. Hunny turned back in his seat quietly.

"...Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world..."

He picked his hand up and pushed his plate of half-eaten cake away from him gently. He wasn't hungry anymore.

"...But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart..."

His stomach, and his heart, felt weak.

"...That's true strength."

...

...

...

Three months ago, Hikaru felt as if everything that made him, him, had loosened and fallen apart.

Three months ago, he was mistaken for his twin brother, Kaoru, by the only person that could tell them apart. And that person, sitting only footsteps away, looked absolutely terrible. Now, he wasn't insulting her in any way -- in fact, he believed they were still close friends -- but, he noticed something about her appearance that all of the other hosts had noticed as well.

Haruhi had been getting paler and paler and paler. Her eyes were sunken in, with dark circles winding around them, like lost roads missing their destination. Even though she smiled to her customers and acted as if everything was just fine, her acting did not fool her friends. In fact, her acting made them question why.

Why was she trying to fool everyone?

Why was she so pale?

Why were her eyes so dark?

Why was she trying to hide it?

Hikaru jumped as a hand was planted onto his shoulder. He turned his head over his other shoulder and sighed.

"Kaoru, don't scare me like that..."

Kaoru wrapped his arms around his brother. "I'm sorry Hikaru! You're just so cute when you jump." Hikaru shook his head and smiled at his brother, but his smile lowered, and he gently broke free of his brother's embrace.

"Kaoru?"

"Hm?"

"Have you noticed anything...different about Haruhi?"

Kaoru lowered his head and his shoulders slumped. "I think everyone has, Hikaru..." he replied quietly. Hikaru sighed.

Haruhi looked up from the table she was laying her head down at and raised an eyebrow at the frowning twins. She could only see Kaoru's face, but they were both slouched. Curious, she sat up in her chair and stretched her back, feeling her spine popping. She stood from the table and strode over to the two. Kaoru looked up at her, and, as if he were afraid of her, took a step back. Haruhi frowned.

"Um, is something wrong?" she asked hesitantly. Kaoru stared at her for a while, and she stared back, frowning. Kaoru blinked and shook his head slowly.

"Nah, everything's okay Haruhi," he answered casually. Hikaru didn't say anything. Haruhi looked at him, craning her neck to see his face. Hikaru shifted his eyes to look at her.

"Hikaru?" she questioned. Hikaru picked his head up and looked away.

"Yeah. Everything's just fine," he told her.

...

...

...

Kyouya sat next to Tamaki with his black notebook in his hand, with the pen tucked inside. Tamaki fidgeted nervously in his seat and sweat dropped from his brow, crossing his left leg over his right, then switching, then switching again. He ran his fingers through his blonde hair anxiously.

"Mm, Kyouya! Why is no one here yet?" Tamaki blurted. Kyouya sighed.

"Just be patient, Tamaki. I'm sure they're on their way." Tamaki scoffed and stood from his chair. He began to pace. Kyouya pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

"Why would they be late? What if something happened? Something bad? What if Haruhi's not feeling well? She didn't look too well before! She hasn't been looking to well for the past few months, actually! What if she's terminally ill?" He turned and grabbed Kyouya's shoulders. "What's wrong with Haruhi!?"

Kyouya stared at Tamaki. "I'm sure she's fine and you're just overreacting," he lied. Evidently, Kyouya was still the only member of the Host Club, excluding Haruhi, aware of Ranka's death. Somehow, Haruhi had kept it secret for so long, and Kyouya decided to spare her and not tell anyone else. For now, anyway.

The door creaked open, and Kyouya looked around Tamaki. Tamaki let go of Kyouya's shoulders and ran toward the two redheads.

"Where were you!?" he cried angrily, narrowing his violet eyes.

Kaoru and Hikaru stepped back with their hands up in defense. "Wahh, milord! Calm down!" Hikaru hollered, startled by the angry King.

"We were just trying to find Ha--"

"Hunny-senpai!" Hikaru interrupted his brother hurriedly. "Hunny-senpai, we were trying to find Hunny-senpai." A warning glare was sent to Kaoru, who almost gave them away. Kaoru apologized with his eyes.

Tamaki jumped. "Hunny-senpai? Oh no! He's in trouble, too--!"

"Sorry we're la-a-a-a-ate!" Everyone turned to the high-pitched entrance. Hunny was sitting on Mori's shoulders, waving and giggling.

"Ah! Hunny-senpai, there you are!" Hikaru strained. Hunny looked at him with a confused stare.

"We were looking for you," Kaoru clarified.

"Ohhh! I was eating cake with Takashi!" Hunny smiled, hugging Mori's head.

"Yeah," Mori agreed.

Tamki rushed over to Mori and Hunny. "Have you seen Haruhi?" he asked them worriedly. Hunny cocked his head to the side and frowned.

"I'm not sure where Haru-chan is. Do you, Takashi?"

"No."

Tamaki turned around and ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. "Where in the world is Haruhi--?"

The doorknob turned and the door opened quickly. "I'm here, Tamaki-senpai!" Haruhi sputtered. She was out of breath, her chest rising and dropping heavily. All eyes were on her, the last host to arrive.

"Haruhi!" Tamaki exclaimed worriedly. He pushed past Hunny and Mori and picked Haruhi up in a tight hug, spinning around on his feet. "Haruhi, Haruhi, Haruhi! Where were you? Daddy was worried sick!"

Haruhi only responded in coughing and attempts to push him away from her, even just a little bit to get some air. Hunny clambered off of Mori's shoulders and watched the two spin, a display of blue, black, brown and blonde swirling quickly. Mori took action and stopped Tamaki's spinning and took Haruhi out of his arms, putting his hands under her armpits. As his thumbs ran over the top of her shoulders, he noticed subtly that they were quite bony.

"Hey! That's my daughter!" Tamaki whined as Haruhi was seated in a chair the twins and Hunny quickly grabbed and set next to her. She took a deep breath and slouched. Tamaki stopped his babbling and stared at her. "Haruhi? What happened?"

Haruhi looked at Tamaki as if he were too serious. "Huh? Nothing, I just had to rush here because I got stuck in the library looking for a book." That was a huge lie. She was in the girl's bathroom stall, trying to get herself together before she had to face anybody. But, why in the world would she say that? She did not need anyone to be worried about her. She could do this on her own. She has been ever since...

"Oh! Well, that's unacceptable! You were twenty minutes late! The latest you've ever been!" Tamaki cried. Haruhi sighed irritably.

"I know, Tamaki-senpai. It won't happen again." Tamaki stared at her with a look saying "you-better-promise-to-me-right-now-or-else-I'll-follow-you-and-whine-for-the-rest-of-your-life". "I promise," Haruhi concluded.

Tamaki's lips instantly turned upward in a grand smile. "Good! Now, the meeting!..."

The meeting consisted of what every meeting always had -- Hunny's nap, Tamaki and the twins fooling around whilst trying to kill each other, Mori keeping watch, Kyouya calculating prices, and then Haruhi, stuck in the middle of it all. She wasn't in the mood for any of it, and she hadn't been for a long time. Instead, she found that she could have been spending her time catching up on sleep, which was lost due to nightmares and lengthy homework assignments. Some nights, she just couldn't sleep at all, regardless of how much homework she had or the good dreams she had. So she would stay up and look through her father's old things, still not taken away by anyone. She would look through old love letters he wrote to Mom, old trophies, old photographs - she loved the photos the best. The photos were mostly from his teenage and college years, with old friends and concerts. Some photos were of him and Mom, before they were married, but possibly dating or engaged. She kept those photos, of her parents, close to her, and made sure she would never lose them in the mess of things that was her Dad's old belongings.

Finally, during the meeting, Haruhi got a chance to sit at the table Kyouya also sat at, just to get away from the antics of the trio. Kyouya paused his research for a moment to look at Haruhi, then started again. He didn't speak to her, only because he had one question for her that he couldn't say in front of the group; "Is everything alright at home?"

Haruhi crossed her arms on the table and rested her head on top of them, inhaling deeply. She closed her dark dreary eyes, exhausted. This was it. She was done for the day.

Or, so she had hoped.

Time seemed to fly by in seconds. She was woken up by Hunny tugging on her shoulder, nearly screaming in her ear to wake up. She jumped, the first words coming from the small senior's mouth jolting her brain from its sleeping state. By doing so, she nearly elbowed him in the face by accident.

"Haru-cha-a-a-a-n!" Hunny cried, raising his arms and wrapping them around her. "You're awake!"

"Ehh, huh? Yeah, I'm awake Hunny-senpai..." Haruhi mumbled drowsily. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. When she opened her eyes, squinted, and let them focus, she realized she and Hunny were the only ones in the room. "Hunny-senpai, where did everyone go?"

"They're all getting ready to go home! I can't believe Tama-chan forgot about you, but I didn't! So I came to get you so you wouldn't be alone."

So I wouldn't be alone, she thought. I thought I was already alone.

"Thanks, senpai," Haruhi thanked as if it didn't mean as much as it really did to her. She wondered if he even noticed what he did. He saved her from being completely alone in a large building, with nothing but darkness and empty classrooms and unread books. With only large windows showing the dark, breezy outside world.

If that wouldn't make her feel more alone than being home alone, then she didn't know what would.

He tugged on her hand, his other hand occupied with Usa-chan. "Come on, Haru-chan!" He pulled her out of the room, without a response.

After he had dragged her down the long flight of steps, Tamaki pounced on her, pulling her into another air-tight hug.

"Haruhi! My daughter!" he cried, as if she had been missing for the past four months. Tamaki looked at Hunny, who was giggling at the 'father-daughter reunion'. "Thank you, Hunny-senpai, for rescuing her!"

"Of course, Tama-chan!"

...

...

...

Papers scattered and fluttered mid-air as Haruhi's hand came into harsh contact with them.

"I can't believe I'm living like this!" she cried hysterically. Her hands trembled as she knocked things over in frustration. Her jaw was tight, and her teeth ground together. She pulled her hair with her hands and fell to her knees, crying, nearly hyperventilating. She shook her head, closing her eyes frustratingly tight. The tears squeezed out from the corners of her eyes.

She let her hair go with one hand and pounded it against the floor. "Dad, why did you have to leave me here like this!?" she screamed at nothing. Her Dad was to blame for this. He died and left her all alone. Alone with frustrations and mood swings and memories. "Dad, I hate you!!"

"You don't really mean that, do you Haru-chan?"

Haruhi flipped around, startled beyond anything. The door, she remembered, wasn't locked, much less closed. Mori was leaning against the door way, his hands in his pockets. Hunny stood on the 'Welcome' mat, hugging Usa-chan close to his chest. Haruhi's chest tightened up, and she stopped yelling.

"H-Hunny-senpai!"

"Haru-chan." Hunny stepped inside, slide his shoes off, and walked towards Haruhi. His eyes showed fear. Haruhi looked away from him, and decided to look at her hands trembling in her lap. He sat on his knees in front of her. "Haru-chan, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, senpai," she lied quickly.

"Then why are you crying?"

Haruhi rubbed the heels of her hands against her cheeks. "I...I guess something got into my eyes when I was cleaning up."

Hunny was silent. He looked around Haruhi, at the papers on the floor. "Then, why did you say that you hated your dad?"

Haruhi panicked inside, trying to find a reason. "Um, because he was making me clean everything up! And it got me mad?"

"You're lying." Mori's voice startled her. Hunny stared at her with a hard look.

"Why are you lying?" Hunny asked. The bottom part of his eyes began to brim with tears.

"I-I'm not lying!" Haruhi cried. She stood up and picked up the papers on the floor she had knocked over. "Can you two please leave? I have things to do."

Hunny stared at her for a little longer. He stood and walked over to Haruhi, switching Usa-chan into one hand. With the other arm, he wrapped his arm around Haruhi's, and muttered, "I think, if you told someone what was wrong, you'd feel better. Or, eat cake."

Hunny then let go, slipped his shoes back on, and left with Mori. Before leaving, Mori looked at Haruhi briefly, then closed the door.

Haruhi put the messy stack of papers back on the counter and stared at her feet.

"Maybe...Maybe I should go get some cake."

...

...

...

Kyouya waited in the Third Music Room for Hunny. Earlier in the school day, he had mentioned to Hunny that he had something important to tell him, but couldn't do so at the moment. After a short amount of time thinking about it, he thought that Hunny and Mori (Mori, because he never leaves Hunny's side) were the next most dependable people.

Soon enough, Hunny arrived with a lollipop sticking out of his mouth and Usa-chan held with his other arm. Mori was behind him, one hand in his pocket.

"Kyou-chan!" Hunny greeted. Kyouya smiled a little at him.

"Hunny-senpai, Mori-senpai," Kyouya greeted. Mori nodded at Kyouya. Hunny wandered over to the table and slid in the seat, placing Usa-chan in another chair.

"Kyou-chan, what did you have to tell us?" Hunny asked, licking his lollipop and swinging his legs. Mori sat down in a chair next to him. Kyouya took a seat across from the two.

"Well, as I'm sure you two have realized, Haruhi has not been looking too well these past few months." Hunny and Mori nodded. "I know you two went over to her apartment yesterday." At this, Hunny stopped swinging his legs.

"How did you know that, Kyou-chan?" Hunny asked in amazement.

"I passed by there to ask Haruhi a few questions, but I saw you two and decided not to interrupt." Kyouya pushed his glasses up his nose. "Anyway, there is a reason why she has been acting strange and looking deteriorated."

"What's wrong with Haru-chan?" Hunny asked anxiously. Kyouya sighed a little bit.

"About three months ago, her father, Ronka Fujioka, passed away. He was hit by a speeding vehicle and died two days later at the hospital he was sent to."

Hunny's eyes glazed over in thin tears. "Poor Haru-chan!" Mori was silent, although his eyes widened a little bit at the news.

"Haruhi does not want anyone in the Host Club or the school to know about his death, so I ask that you two keep quiet about it, especially around Tamaki, Hikaru, and Kaoru. I trust you two to do so," Kyouya finished.

"But, why does Haru-chan want to keep it secret?" Hunny asked.

"That I'm not sure about. It's possibly because she doesn't want anyone to worry about her. Although, that has gotten out of her hands already."

Hunny pulled Usa-chan into his arms and hugged it tight to him. The bunny smiled, but he didn't.

So that's why she yelled at her dad.

She didn't want him to go.

...

...

...

Today is a winding road

That's taking me to places that I didn't want to go.

Today in the blink of an eye

I'm holding onto something and I do not know why.

I tried to read between the lines,

I tried to look in your eyes,

I want a simple explanation.


A/N:

Thunder (c) Boys Like Girls

Sorry this chapter may seem a little off track. I made it a little lengthy to make up for my absence.

Hope you enjoyed this chapter ^_^