Chapter Fourteen:

Kaoru was in a panic. Not just any normal panic just before test you barely studied for, or the type of panic that creeps up on you as you're making your way through a haunted house. No. This was a different panic. The sort of panic that only showed up when there was so much on the line that there might as well be an apocalypse on the horizon, and to some extent there was an impending threat of company upheaval. It was one day away from the grand affair that would be the Hitachiin Family New Year's Eve Party.

Kana was arriving in Japan with her family any minute now. They were going to show up, check into a hotel and then they would meet up with the Hitachiin's at the mansion for dinner. Kaoru had even gotten permission to invite the Host Club since they were such good friends. How would Kaoru be able to go trough all of this without the support of his twin and fellow hosts.

Taking a couple of deep breaths to steady his shaky nerves before he looked at himself in the mirrow, Kaoru nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw Hikaru watching from the edge of the bathroom.

"You look green," Hikaru said as he stepped into the bathroom. The older twin looked at himself in the mirror and ran a hand through his messy hair.

"What if this is actually a very bad idea," Kaoru said, bracing his hands against the marble counter. He glanced at his brother in the mirror and the two met each other 's gaze. "What if it all falls apart."

"It's not going to fall apart," Hikaru said. "You seem to forget that Kyoya is somehow involved. If you don't have faith in yourself, have faith in the Shadow King's methods."

Kaoru still felt his chest tighten. Why was he feeling like this? Why couldn't he shake the panic? Why couldn't life just slow down a little bit, so that he could take a moment to catch his breath. He glanced at his buzzing phone and saw that it was Kana. He grabbed it quickly only to pause, staring at Kana's smiling face, her purple eyes framed by the pair of glasses she wore most days.

He let out a sigh when the call ended and his phone told him he missed Kana.

"As the more temperate of the two of us, I'm enjoying your panic just a little too much," Hikaru said with a smirk.

"Hikaru!" Kaoru whined as he ran a nervous hand through his hair. He turned away from his twin and started messing with the many hair products he had left behind in Japan. He picked up a box of unopened powder blue hair dye. "You're not helping."

"It's just like any other party we've had." Hikaru said. "We'll be with the host club. Kana will be there."

Kaoru attempted a weak smile and somehow managed.

"You should get dressed." Hikaru said. "Staying in your pajamas all day is not an option."

"It's still morning," Kaoru smiled. His brother was pulling him from his panic mode.

This was why it was so important to have his brother around. The two of them needed each other to stay grounded. They talked every day, skyped when they could and when the time change allowed it. Kaoru was the rational twin, keeping Hikaru's more impulsive nature, while Hikaru's honesty with Kaoru kept Kaoru grounded in his more tumultuous emotional episodes.

Kaoru looked at his phone as it buzzed with a voicemail. He put the message on speaker and listened to it with Hikaru watching carefully.

"Kaoru! I made it to Japan. It's so… I don't even know how to describe what I'm seeing. We're in a car headed to the hotel, and the buildings… They're so modern. San Francisco is a great when it comes to so much history in such a short amount of time, but this... This is... I'm speechless. I've seen photos, but they do not compare. Like at all. I guess I'll be seeing you later today, just let me know if you have to change your plans or whatnot. I'm kind of tired though, so maybe we can just do coffee or something."

The voicemail ended with the sound out muffled voices and Kaoru looked up to see Hikaru smirking. "This should be a good sign right?" Hikaru asked. "Are you going to see her tonight?"

"Will you come with me?" Kaoru asked, glancing at his brother through his eyelashes, chosing to keep his mouth in a simple pout.

"I have to meet her eventually," Hikaru said with a bored sigh, but the corner of his eyes were wrinkled up as he suppressed the smile that was obviously pulling at his lips. "Are you going to get coffee? Or will we show her around Tokyo? We could ask the Host Club if they want to join. Tono would get a kick out of it."

"Kyoya knows Kana, I doubt he'll show up until the party tomorrow." Kaoru said. "But if the others want to come, I'm sure they'll be welcome."

"You're probably right." Hikaru said. "But if you don't invite them, we can have Kana to ourselves before the party." The smirk that pulled at his lips grew into the full Cheshire grin that the two of them were well known for.

Kaoru met the Cheshire grin with his own only to frown after a few seconds. "What if she brings her brothers?"

"She's going to be meeting with you, I doubt she'll want to bring her brothers. You said one is a total kill joy."

"He's actually only like that around Bobby." Kaoru moved to his room and stepped into his closet so that he could find something suitable to wear in the cold. He slipped grabbed a clean pair of jeans and shoes. He flipped some hangers to the side as he tried to find a shirt that would match the dark denim of his jeans. He grabbed a powder blue t-shirt and a navy thermal long sleeved shirt.

"You should call Kana and see if she wants to meet for coffee." Hikaru said as he fell back on Kaoru's bed. "We could take her to the cupcake store that Hani-senpai's girlfriend runs."

"Akira-senpai won't be there and if she is, she'll be baking for tomorrow." Kaoru said.

"I wonder if we would be able to distract her," Hikaru said. He sat up and crossed his legs, leaning forward slightly.

Kaoru came out dressed as he tugged on his shoes. He glanced at his phone and started scrolling through his contacts. He tapped Kana's name and tapped her number.

"Henrietta!" Kana yelled into the phone. She was obviously sticking to their fake names so as not to draw attention to herself yelling the name of someone "I'm in Japan!"

"Why are you yelling?"

"Sorry." Kana instantly quieted down. "I'm just so excited. It's been a really long time since I've been here. I wasn't even a toddler. I don't even remember living here!"

"Are you able to get coffee with Hikaru and me?"

"Yes! I just arrived at the hotel. I was going to ditch the older siblings and run around Japan, but coffee sounds great. I should probably stay up and not fall asleep."

"Fighting the jetlag?"

Kaoru heard a loud yawn.

"Yeah. Coffee sounds good. Where should I meet you?" Kana asked. She must have moved away from the phone cause her voice was a little more distant. "I'm talking to a schoolmate. You worry too much, Riku."

"We can meet somewhere really busy, or somewhere quiet." Kaoru said.

"Which would be better?"

Kaoru was looking around and sighed. "I think I know a place."

Hikaru lifted himself up on his elbows and looked at Kaoru with a raised eyebrow. Kaoru could see the curiosity.

"It's a cupcake shop, and I know the girl who runs it. She's dating Hani-senpai. They have coffee there."

"I love cupcakes."

"And she's making cupcakes for the party tomorrow." As Kaoru spoke he realized that the odd sounds in the background weren't coming from Kana's end, but his own. Hikaru was snickering and trying to remain silent. That wasn't quite working out the way it was supposed to.

"Of perfect. I'd love to meet her if she's there," Kana said. "I can meet you in an hour. Do you want to give me the address."

Kaoru smiled and laughed nervously. "I'll text you the address. It is alright if Hikaru comes, right?"

"Of course! I have to meet your twin. I'd bring mine along, but they're talking about wine making and selling. Pretty boring for someone who lives on design not chemistry."

"Riku is talking about wine?" Kaoru asked, pretty sure that Riku would be more at home talking shop with Kana.

"No. He's got noise cancelling headphones on and is currently working on a proposal to get Master's Publishing to hire them as cover artists for some big fantasy series Bobby mentioned. If they can snag the fantasy series, the other artists with Riku may be able to snag future publications."

"I'm surprised Bobby just doesn't give it to him."

"That's favoritism. Bobby told him to come up with a marketing strategy for a fake book. They give it to all marketing firms and see what they come up with. Whatever they like, they take. If Riku's firm got hired, it would be a lot of money coming our way," Kana explained. "It's been well documented that this trial Masters Publishing is having top firms do, so that when Bobby makes the decision, it's as transparent as possible. But with trade secrets and such, if Bobby does pick Riku, it could be blatant favoritism. Riku has to make this the best proposal he's got."

Kaoru nodded, only to realize Kana couldn't see him. "Coffee?" he asked, trying to move back on topic. Even if the deal would mean a lot for the merger of their companies, Kaoru didn't want to talk about the merger. It just made him nervous. He still couldn't figure it out. The secrets were getting to him.

"Text me the address, I'll meet you two there. I'll check and see if Riku wants to join, but I doubt he'll want to leave the proposal alone."

"Okay."

0o0o0o0

Kaoru stepped into Good Luck Cupcakes with Hikaru and looked around. "Wow, this place looks nice." Kaoru whispered.

"Hi there!" a voice came from the back kitchen as Akira Higurashi skipped out with a pink ruffled apron that was dusted with flour. "Oh! The twins! Hi. I'm just making sure that we have everything we need for tomorrow when we start on the cupcakes. We'll have to be baking most of the day, but I know it'll be a great display. I promise they will taste amazing tomorrow night."

"We're meeting Kana here," Kaoru said.

"That's Kaoru's girlfriend, right?" Akira

Hikaru snorted as he stifled a full on laugh.

"We aren't dating," Kaoru stated quickly. He ducked slightly to hide the burning on his cheeks.

"Oh wait. That's Hikaru dating Bobby. NO! Faye! Bobby is living with Ootori-kun." Akira said as she started to pout, crossing her arms. "I'm sorry, I'm really trying to get these names down."

The bell above the door dinged.

"Wow, you two look alike from behind. Where's my Berkeley Bud."

Kaoru turned around and smiled. "So just you?"

"Can I get you guys a cupcake?" Akira asked.

Kana hugged Kaoru as she glanced at Akira. "Are you the one who's making my cupcakes?"

Akira grinned. "I am! Let me get you a sample of the Lemon and Vanilla," Akira ducked behind the displays and started moving some of the cupcake trays. She came up with a half full tray. "Here, one of each type for each of you. Anything else?" She moved the tray to the counter and grabbed some plastic forks.

"Coffee!" Kana said quickly moving to the counter as she pulled a wallet from her messenger bag.

She pulled an envelope from the wallet and slipped it back into her messenger bag, and Kaoru saw some of the papers he gave her sticking out of a thick sketch book. He couldn't help but smile, Kana had called him Christmas and was so happy about the papers. She told him that she was going to make something special with them, she just had to figure out what that was.

"I'll make a fresh pot." Akira looked to the twins. "What about you?"

Kaoru was thankful that Akira was seemingly ignoring her mistake in saying that Kana and he were dating. But had she made the mistake honestly. He couldn't tell as he looked at the grin that was growing more and more.

"Coffee." they both said causing Kana to giggle. Akira's grin grew even larger. How big could a smile get on such a small girl?

"My brothers do that. Speak in unison. I used to do it with them, not so much now. Missing the link, I guess." Kana said. She handed Akira some money as she looked to the twins. "I can't tell you apart from the back, but I can see it now. I know who's who."

Hikaru and Kaoru looked at each other and smirked. They would just have to test her later.

"You don't have to pay!" Akira said handing the money back, drawing Kaoru's attention back to the interaction at the counter.

"I want to," Kana smiled before she glanced at the twins again and tilted her head to the side as if she was thinking of something. She pushed the money back towards Akira. "I can't take stuff from you for free."

"Mitsukuni pays more than enough for me to give you a few cupcakes," Akira said. "Don't worry about it. We'll close soon and the cupcakes won't be any good tomorrow."

Kana took the money back with a sigh and started folding it up tightly so that she could slip the bills into the secure tip jar. She grinned at Akira whose jaw had dropped slightly. "I don't like not paying for things," Kana said before she stuffed her wallet back into her bag. She grabbed a tray and brought it over to a table. "Do you need any help with baking?" Kana asked.

"She's so much nicer than us," Hikaru whispered.

Akira waved Kana's offer off. "I'm sure you're pretty tired with all the traveling. Just enjoy the cupcakes and I'll have fresh coffee for you soon. Have a seat. I'll be in the back if you need me."

"Thank you, Akira-san," Kaoru and Hikaru chimed in as they slipped onto the bench across from Kana.

Once Kana was seated, she slipped out of her jacket. "So, how were your holidays?" She grabbed a vanilla bean cupcake and started pulling the paper away carefully before she put the pastry on one of the small plates Akira gave her. She looked up expectantly when the twins didn't answer.

"Good," they both said causing Kana to giggle. She looked towards Hikaru and held out a hand. "Hi Hikaru. I'm Kana. It was so rude of me not to introduce myself."

"I figured it out," Hikaru said taking her hand. "Not many people can tell us apart?"

"I have twin brothers, grew up around twins, I figured out little tells," Kana smiled. "Plus, you have a slightly deeper voice. Almost more broodish. Kaoru's voice is gentler."

The twins looked at each other, and Kaoru could tell that Hikaru was thinking about the time that Haruhi listed out the ways that she could tell them apart. Kana's words echoed some of the same sentiments that Haruhi mentioned.

"I wonder if Faye will be able to tell the difference," Kana mused aloud.

Hikaru coughed and didn't meet Kaoru's eyes as he smirked. Kaoru thought about testing it out at some point. But that would actually require having Faye nearby. Would she pass the test? Kaoru hoped she would given how Hikaru felt about Faye. Would she see the more mischievous glint in Hikaru's eyes.

"So have you guys found out what Kyoya has been up to?" Kana asked biting into a cupcake. "I've been hounding Bobby for the entire break and she's keeping her mouth shut."

"We haven't been around Kyoya too much. He sleeps a lot more than any of us, and has been spending some time with his father to help with the family business. I doubt we'll get anything from him. He's the secretive member of the Host Club," Kaoru explained.

He had tried in vain to get Kyoya to open up, even Hani-senpai was trying to help by playing up the cute factor. Still Kyoya wouldn't answer as to what he was doing to help

"I guess we'll find out eventually," Kana mumbled. She seemed to immediately brighten up. "I can't wait to meet the rest of your friends! Tomorrow is going to be really exciting."

Akira walked over with a fresh steaming pot of coffee with three mugs on a tray. "Mitsukuni hasn't stopped talking about it for a few weeks now. He's really excited because of the cupcakes and the entire host club is back."

Kana smiled. "I wish that the others could come, but this holiday trip has been in the works for months. I'm sorry you guys won't get to meet Faye."

"Seems pretty weird that they're your best friends and they aren't here," Kaoru said suddenly. He sat up a little more. He had met Bobby and knew that she was super protective of Kana and the Tolemei family. She was doing something to supposedly help, but she wasn't going to show up for the main event. "Faye is your best friend and Hikaru's girlfriend and she isn't here."

"Faye is also Bobby and Spencer's cousin," Kana said narrowing her eyes. "She has been through a lot, and with everything her family is trying to do, the twins are trying to give her a great vacation, Kaoru," she said leaning back in her seat as she crossed her arms.

Kaoru felt Hikaru squeeze his thigh. "Faye deserves a good vacation," Hikaru said in a warning tone.

Akira giggled and looked at the door as the bell jingled. "Hi there!"

"Hello."

Kaoru looked over and saw a mother with a small child. "Japan could be a nice vacation."

Hikaru squeezed his thigh again.

"I told them to go on the trip," Kana said. "I told them to take Faye to Scotland and to do the trip. They wanted to come but I didn't want them here."

"Why?" Hikaru asked leaning forward. This was his girlfriend.

"I don't want them to see me if something goes wrong," Kana whispered. "They were going to cancel the trip and come to support us, but I kept feeling like something bad was coming, so I told them to go on the trip. I didn't want them to get the backlash of anything. My grandparents here aren't good people."

Kaoru tilted his head to the side and watched Kana for a moment. "You're protecting them from something that may not happen," he said. "Shouldn't they decide if they want to get involved. Bobby is already doing something."

"Just leave it alone Kaoru," Kana said. "I asked them not to come. They wanted to, but I don't want them to get hurt if this goes south."

There was a chiming of phones, and all three reached for their phones.

"How did Bobby get my number?" Hikaru asked.

"Faye, probably," Kana said as she laughed.

All three of them got a photo of the Masters twins and Faye making silly faces. Faye's hair now has pink highlights mixed in with the purple. Bobby was sporting a new nose piercing and Spencer's glasses were askew.

"Well it looks like they're having a lot of fun." Kaoru sighed.

"They always do. They may be mellow, but they know how to have a good time."

"Well they're missing out on the real fun here," Kaoru said. "But I guess they can do whatever they please."