Title. Architects of Alteration
Project Start. circa March 2008
Applicable Genres. Action/adventure, mystery/suspense, drama
Warnings. Manga spoilers; violence; questions that are not to be answered immediately, unspecified age modifications, unidentified flashbacks, and anything else that may come with an alternate universe situation
Parings. Nothing concrete, and nothing to be afraid of
Summary. AU in which the contents of the safe wasn't all the Hitachiin's maid took. Twelve years later, Hikaru wonders why he feels incomplete whenever he looks in the mirror.
Inspiration. The desire to write something in which Kyouya is a criminal, and yet, still Kyouya. Watching The Daughter of Twenty Faces helps to get me in the mood, too.
Credit for the title goes to an anonymous friend of mine.
He says he looks in the mirror and he can't tell anymore
Who he really is and who they believe him to be
And he says he walks a thin line between what is and what could be
And he's getting closer to something he can't understand
- Lifehouse, "Fairy Tales and Castles"
"There's a rumor," Hikaru began with an air of mystery, "that one student here became a criminal after he graduated because he didn't get picked as the heir to his family's company."
"A criminal?" repeated Kaoru, raising his eyebrows in mock surprise. "Like the Japanese mafia?"
"Something like that… Though I heard he's even worse than the mafia." The corners of his lips then twisted pensively. "Or better, since he's supposedly killed a bunch of them."
"Yeah; it depends on your point of view," Kaoru pointed out with a half-hearted shrug. "What else has he done?"
Crossing his arms, Hikaru gained a pensive yet genuinely interested pose. "You've heard of the 'Shadow,' haven't you?" Kaoru nodded slowly. "And how he kidnapped somebody several years ago? They're still looking for him. Isn't that right, Haruhi?" he prodded the girl at his side for agreement.
"I have better things to do than to listen to silly rumors like that," she complained, annoyed at being interrupted in her reading. "Besides, do you really believe a normal student like us is capable of becoming a criminal mastermind?" She raised a doubtful eyebrow.
Hikaru shrugged. "They have to come from somewhere," he and his twin replied simultaneously. She rolled her eyes, having momentarily forgotten that Ouran students were far from normal. Bored with the topic of conversation, Hikaru turned back to his lunch. Although his similar, nonchalant motions spoke otherwise, Kaoru could not distract his thoughts from how "They're still looking for him" here in his birth country. But a few days ago, oblivious to this reaffirmation of only a supposition, he had pleaded to hear the aforementioned tale himself:
"Dad," Kaoru half-wined as he turned over on the bed, "tell me a story."
"No, you need your rest for tomorrow," the addressed one replied.
"I'll sleep on the plane."
"You're too old for bedtime stories."
"That's what you always say. Please, just this once?"
When the puppy-dog eyes emerged, the man was subtly forced to turn back on the light and sigh, "Very well." He stepped over to the bed and sat down beside the boy. "What story would you like to hear?"
"The one about how you found me," suggested Kaoru, pulling the edge of the blanket up to his nose to hide his triumphant grin. Meanwhile, the other rolled his eyes – they both knew that this particular story had been told far too many times by now for it not to have been memorized.
Regardless, after a gaining a more comfortable position against the headboard, he capitulated. "In German or Japanese this time?" he specified.
"Japanese," Kaoru instantly decided.
The other nodded as his mind switched languages. According to instruction, he began, "About 12 years ago, in Tokyo, Japan, there lived a set of identical twins..."
The alarm blared, waking Hikaru from his sound sleep. His eyes shot open and immediately noticed the vacant spot on the bed next to him.
"Kaoru, where are you!?" he screamed, sitting up straight. The piggy bank lay smashed on the end table, coins spilling out over the surface. Amongst the broken shards lay a single piece of paper. Hikaru jumped out of bed, ran into the safe room, and rushed to the window. Unfortunately, by the time he reached the ledge, the maid had already disappeared into the night; all that was left was the empty rope ladder swinging in the wind. His young mind instantly conjured up the fear that his twin had gone with her. Soon after, Yuzuha came dashing into the room, pulling her son away from the window and into a tight embrace as soon as she could.
"Where's your brother?" she asked hysterically. When Hikaru could only turn his terrified, hazel eyes up at her in response, the tears began rolling down her cheeks.
"Hitachiin-sama," one of the servants spoke up, tapping the lady on the shoulder. She glanced up and was faced with a folded piece of paper. "This was on the nightstand." With shaking hands, she took the note and unfolded it. Inside lay a message in crisp, neat handwriting:
I don't have any other choice, right? I just can't tell the two apart. If I left the situation as is, perhaps there would never be someone who can tell them apart. Now, everyone will be able to tell them apart. I have one twin, and you have the other. Don't you think this is for the better?
Yours truly, Shadow.
Immediately, Yuzuha and her husband sent all available men on a frantic search, but they would find no trace of the missing Hitachiin or his kidnapper. Remaining undetected due to expert organization, said pair of individuals entered into an apartment on the opposite side of the city.
"Shadow-sama, I brought you what you requested," the maid stated, politely at first, then: "Can I go now?"
"Excellent." After standing up from his seat on the couch, a slender young man stepped over and handed her an envelope. "Your payment and instructions are in there. Enjoy your time in Vegas." He smirked, and she mimicked the gesture.
"Believe me, I will." And with that, she took the envelope and what was once in the Hitachiin's safe along with her leave. Meanwhile, the man crouched down to get a better look at the shorter prize with which he had been presented.
"Which one are you?" he asked, taking the boy's chin in one hand and scrutinizing his features.
"K-K-Kaoru," the twin sobbed after a moment. Terrified tears welled in his hazel eyes.
"There's no need to be afraid, Hitachiin Kaoru. I'm going to take good care of you. My name is Kyouya, but most people just call me Shadow."
A small smile drifted across Kyouya's face as he brushed back the strands of dyed auburn that had fallen over Kaoru's closed eyes. The sleeping figure gave a low moan in approval, bringing the other to chuckle just a little.
"Good night, Kaoru," he whispered, leaning down to plant a kiss on the other's forehead. On his way out, he shut off the light and closed the door behind him. Once outside the room, he made his way past a pile of suitcases to a computer console whose screen flashed with a completed virus scan. With a few, quick clicks and a handful of keystrokes, he extracted all the data from the desktop computer and transferred it to a laptop nearby, leaving the desktop void of a signature. After storing the laptop safely in his briefcase, he double-checked the multiple locks on the front door of the apartment before heading for the other bedroom. Once there, he removed the revolver attached to his hip before sliding into bed.
The next morning – though far too few hours later for Kyouya's liking – Kaoru was found frowning at his reflection in the mirror. "I don't look like me anymore," he complained, leaning in to examine his now-blue eyes more closely.
"That's kind of the point," came the voice of Kyouya from the doorway. Somehow, he managed to make the half-asleep mumbling sound sarcastic.
"I know." Sighing, he tossed the empty, plastic contact lens cases into the trash. "It's just that…" As he trailed off, he felt a hand being placed on his shoulder, telling him that he didn't have to finish the sentence.
"Come on; we should go if we want time to grab breakfast before the flight," Kyouya said above his mug of coffee. Nodding, Kaoru followed him out of the room. After zipping up his jacket, he picked up the wallet that lay on top of one of the suitcases in the living area. Between the folds of the leather he found a passport marked Deutschland, with a portrait of the brown-haired, blue-eyed version of himself inside. He exhaled in dry amusement at the picture and the text beside it.
"Something wrong?" prompted Kyouya at the sound.
"No, it's just ironic," the other replied, "that in Germany, I'm Japanese, but in Japan, I'm supposed to be German."
"Amazing how one can change nationalities so easily, isn't it?" Kaoru laughed wryly, placing the wallet and passport in his coat pocket. From behind him, he heard footsteps, followed by an arm around his shoulders. "Just remember, wherever you go, you'll always be my son." A glance over the shoulder revealed a warm smile.
"And you'll always be my dad. No matter what," he emphasized, returning the smile. An so, with forged documents proving this relationship, they boarded a plane for Tokyo, Japan.
True to word, Kaoru slept through most of the flight. Unfortunately for Kyouya, he had no such luck. His gaze was constantly sent warily back and forth across the plane. The counterfeit secret police badge in his breast pocket may have gotten them past an explanation for the handguns, but in his many years of experience he had learned that it was far better to be safe than sorry.
When at last the cityscape of Tokyo floated into vision within the small, Boeing windows, Kyouya allowed himself half a sigh in relief, and half in dread. He prodded the sleeping boy next to him in order to announce their arrival, but received only an annoyed groan in reply. However, by the time the plane landed, the noise was enough to wake him; quite fortunately, because Kyouya himself was on the verge of collapsing out of exhaustion. As soon as they reached the reserved hotel suite, he sank onto the plush couch.
"Here, take this," he said tiredly, outstretching a hand with the room keys, "and this"—he handed over one of the pistols—"and buy us some groceries." Accepting both gifts, Kaoru nodded in amused acknowledgment.
"Good night, Vater," he called on his way out the door.
"Hmm... Don't get shot."
Rolling his eyes, Kaoru locked the door behind him.