AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published under the nom du plume of "Val Kyrie" and finds itself reproduced in an effort to cheer some people up. Please note that my sense of humour back then (circa 2006) was quite concise and possibly very British. I have not amended the content, though I am in the process of re-formatting the chapters. Thanks for your smiles in advance.
CHAPTER I:"Curse of the 'Flu"
From a distance it seemed that the hand of Kyouya was casting spells on the notebook in front of him. So precise and systematic were its movements from left to right, from up to down, that no person other than Haruhi, due to her unique vantage point opposite, could have correctly guessed what the vice-president was doing. However, in the imagination of Tamaki, who should have known the habits of his classmate more intimately than this, Kyouya appeared to be in a great and silent wrath that quietly spent itself on cursing those around him. Only Tamaki could misconstrue such a basic chore (the crossing out of invalid engagements and obsolete expenditures) as a consequence of his tragic experience with Nekozawa's puppet; and though the truth of the matter came out with a simple glance over Kyouya's shoulder, Tamaki preferred to exorcise the demon by inviting it in and letting it get the better of him.
A pause later and Kyouya's eyes rested on the sulking blond, then on the floors and walls draped in the abnormal shadows of his inner mood: like moths to a flame, customers of the Host Club were drawn to its darkness, asking what was wrong and whether there was anything they could do to help alleviate his doubts…?
Slowly, Kyouya smiled. `I would give me those back,' he said, `if I were you.'
`I'm just looking,' said Hikaru, nonchalantly flicking through the notebook before holding it out, and just as Kyouya reached for it, withheld the item and asked him slyly, `But are you sure that I'm Hikaru?'
Kyouya studied the twin for a second. `Notebook,' he said, `now.'
`Boring!' said Hikaru (or was it Kaoru?), and returned the notebook without further delay.
Haruhi, a witness to such rare interaction, sipped her cup of tea and sighed.
`What's wrong, Haruhi?'
`Just a good cup of tea,' she replied, bringing a deep flush to her client's face and effectively putting the girl in a coma. As the girl tried to recover, Haruhi watched Kyouya methodically checking his notebook and could tell that the absence of half the school was beginning to grate on his nerves.
Like every school in Japan, Ouran was having its own case of the 'flu; and contrary to popular belief, everyone was susceptible, regardless of income. Even though the illness was not mortally contagious, parents were quick to withdraw their children and have them study at home instead - drastic, some would say, but that was the insensitivity of commoners for you.
Thus, fewer and fewer customers were coming to the Host Club; a trend that was reducing the club's output by over 1000% (according to calculations), which meant less for each host to do and far less to enter the treasury and even less for the vice-president to manage in the columns of his notebook – this just couldn't be!
Haruhi's neck creaked away and watched Hikaru return to Kaoru across the room, where they resumed the "brotherly love" act that made the both of them so famous. Whilst reclined on the divan in front of a client, Hikaru took Kaoru by the chin and murmured sweet nothings into Kaoru's ear. Yet the loving grip of Hikaru seemed especially delicate this afternoon and the warmth of Kaoru's face too genuine.
`Are you feeling okay, Haruhi?' said her client, worried by her vacant stare. `I hope you aren't falling ill; it's terrible getting the 'flu.'
`Yes,' agreed Haruhi, and soon advised the girl to go home, were she to catch the 'flu herself.
Had a different host uttered these words, the girl may have suspected him of trying to get rid of her, but Haruhi's expression was so tender and sincere that the girl suspected nothing and actually did the Host Club a favour: she stood, and one by one, as if psychically linked, the other clients followed suit and wished each of their hosts a unwilling "good-bye".
`Well,' said Tamaki, dusting his hands, `that went splendid.'
`Though you did nothing,' said Kyouya.
Tamaki sulked in a corner.
`Designation rates are at an all-time low,' he continued, referring to his notebook, `so tomorrow we'll have to work over-time in order to make it up.' He smiled specifically at Haruhi and Tamaki - both cringed at the prospect.
`I hope Mori's well,' said Hunny, cutting a lonely figure now that his silent guardian was ill at home, as he had been for the past few days.
Tamaki proffered a slice of cake.
`I hope Kaoru is, too,' they heard Hikaru murmur above of the joyous "thanks" emanating from Hunny. They examined Kaoru, who lay against the divan, head resting heavily on one of its arms. His eyes, usually alert, were drooping with fever, while his face still retained the shade of a blush. When Tamaki knelt beside the divan and placed a palm on Kaoru's forehead, it came away fast, as if it had been burned. Turning to Hikaru, Tamaki questioned why Kaoru had even come and why he had not sensibly stayed at home?
Trees sway in the breeze: Tamaki in a corner.
Hikaru squeezed his brother's hand. `Come on, Kaoru,' he urged gently. `We're going home now. No more hosting for you.'
`Is a car coming to pick you up?' asked Haruhi.
Hikaru nodded, his eyes fixed on his brother. `Can you walk? I'll carry you down…'
`I'll walk,' mumbled Kaoru, though he could do no such thing. With the help of Tamaki, Hikaru managed to bring him beyond the music room and down the grand staircase. Corridors and stairs that were previously facile and pleasant became Kaoru's worst journey ever: the colour of the carpets and the endless flights tortured him, and as soon as he stepped outside, he trembled and broke free of Hikaru and Tamaki.
He threw up on the pavement.
Close behind were Hunny, Haruhi and Kyouya. Unheeded, they discussed what was to become of the Host Club for the remainder of the week. Hunny favoured the idea of suspension, as suggested by Haruhi and pondered silently by Kyouya. With Mori and Kaoru ill, it seemed less and less likely that Hunny and Hikaru would keep on attending the club. So far Hunny had been very benevolent (effectively bribed by Tamaki with cake), whereas Hikaru, still dependent on Kaoru, would definitely stay at home since "brotherly love" didn't quite work with only one twin available.
`I guess we have no choice,' said Kyouya at last, erasing yet another list of would-be arrangements. `We should close the club for two weeks, Tamaki. That's the best thing to do.'
The president sidled over, a fan in his hand and looking faintly perturbed. Just to the right, Hikaru had a fan of his own and cooled his brother as he listened.
`Adjourned,' said Tamaki. `And while we are thus, I suggest we all study at home instead of sacrificing ourselves to the scourge of these germs!'
`Good idea!' squeaked Usa-chan.
Kyouya straightened his glasses. `I'll be in touch.' Then he said kindly to the twins `take care' and went his separate way.
`Come along, Haruhi,' said Tamaki, herding his innocent daughter away and interrupting her personal thoughts.
`But Kaoru and Hikaru…' she said.
`Don't worry, Haru-chan,' Hunny reassured her with a cute and wide smile. `Hikaru will take care of Kaoru - you'll see!'
`Yes,' said Haruhi, giving the twins one more glance and then focusing on Tamaki.
Dolphins and whales.
`No! Haruhi, are you ill? Have you fallen ill, Haruhi?' exclaimed Tamaki, ill himself with an immediate image of nursing Haruhi back to good health via gallons of leek soup and loads of hot baths and a peacock's worth of fans when the temperature of the bath happens to grow too hot… hot… too hot…!
Usa-chan waved a paw.
Tamaki's face twitched. `I'm going this way now,' he pointed.
Hunny and Haruhi cocked their heads, perplexed; nevertheless, Tamaki marched bravely on into the maze.
`And I have to go this way,' beamed Hunny, meaning out of the school gates and into the open doors of a white limousine. `See you, Haru-chan! Take care of your health!'
`See you! Give my best to Mori!' And as the limo pulled away, she sighed - damned rich people! She had to walk to the train station now…
And off she would have gone, were it not for the sight of Hikaru still fussing over Kaoru on a bench. The car that pulled up for them was a silver Mercedes Benz - no less impressive than the limo belonging to Hunny - and the chauffeur, knowledgeable of the delay, popped out and removed a stretcher from the boot and went to assist Hikaru. They placed Kaoru on the stretcher in a clean and efficient manner, trotted to the Mercedes and tipped him in. With the stretcher back in the boot and the chauffeur revving the engines, Hikaru climbed into the car, though not before he caught Haruhi watching by the gate.
Hikaru forced a smile.
Haruhi smiled back and carried on walking.