Speed of Light
In a place far, far away with a culture so far different from Japan, a man cried out after his daughter...
Haruhi had made her way to school, early as always. She had not slept well the night before, in fact, she couldn't even really tell if she had slept at all. It all seemed like a conscious daze that left her exhausted and achy. Today was the 'start' of another new phase in her 'new' life.
The life of a maid at Ayanokoji's house. Haruhi felt sick just thinking of it.
But she trudged to school, mentally turning her focus to her weekend homework. She had made sure it was all safely packed in her school bag before leaving the house. She couldn't lose her scholarship, after all. Hopefully Ayanokoji didn't make her stay too late, considering that she needed time in her day to do homework. Maybe it would be best to start skipping lunch and fill that hour with homework? She'd have to test that out today.
Although she couldn't really afford to skip meals. And that left her grumbling even more as she continued the last little bit of the journey to school. She rounded the corner and spotted the gates in the distance. Sometimes she was really annoyed with how long it took to reach the damn school. Stupid rich bastards and their huge gates and ridiculously large schools that they felt needed to be gated in...
And there was a large crowd milling at the front gate.
There never was a crowd at the front gate. At least, not the walk in gate.
Haruhi slowed her approach down somewhat as she continued on. She was early, she didn't have to rush. She just needed to see what was going on...
Haninozuka-sempai and Morinozuka-sempai were standing at the gates. Well, Morinozuka was standing. Haninozuka was sitting on the taller teen's shoulders and waiting... cake.
There was seriously a small plate with a slice of cake on it... resting on top of Morinozuka's head! And Haninozuka was eating said cake!
Sometimes, Haruhi really didn't know how to feel about this illogical pair of people. They had to be the greatest of friends to be able to do something like that. Haruhi mentally sighed and continued on to the yellow throng at the gate where the girls had amassed around the two hosts. She wondered what the Host Club would be doing today. Haruhi stopped at the edge of the yellow mob with a grimace and she hoped that there was nothing too extravagant going on or her blood pressure would go through the roof.
Well, first thing that would happen today is that she would return the suit like she had been ordered and then...
She would return the suit, and then...
Return the suit.
Haruhi froze in place, her eyes going wide as she stared at nothing. Return the suit. The hand around the handle of her briefcase bag tightened. The fake leather creaked pitifully under the strain as her heart started to pound in her chest. The suit... The suit! She had even gotten new, matching buttons and sewed them back in to place and she had forgotten it at the front door! It was miles away, she would never make it back! No... no! This couldn't be happening... It.. it..
Haruhi distantly knew that she shouldn't even be freaking out about this. It was so small.. so minor...
But how could she had forgotten?
And what more... how would this affect her? She wasn't going to be able to make it back in time. There was little more than an hour before classes but there was no time for a train (even if she was willing to fork over the money for such a thing) or even or running...
This was a terrible feeling. Terrible.
A heavy hand landed on her shoulder and Haruhi jumped. It was impossible for her eyes to get any larger, but she focused on the body in front of her. The blue coat and black tie and up and up... Haruhi blinked.
"Morinozuka-sempai..." Haruhi trailed off. He wasn't really looming over her on purpose. He was just that tall. Maybe it was really just the blond host that was looming, with his suddenly unreadable face.
"Haru-chan, why are you crying?" Haninozuka asked with that serious, not childish at all voice. With a voice that made Haruhi actually believe he was actually a few years older then her. Haruhi blinked, a hand coming up to her right eye. There was water there... She had been crying? She had been.
She was crying over that stupid suit! How embarrassing...
"A.. ah! It's nothing. I think I just got something in my eye." Haruhi automatically responded, flopping the sleeve of her sweater over her hand to swift dab at her face. Out of the corners of her eyes she could see the entranced faces of the girls surrounding them. A circle round the three of them as they murmured and cooed in that vaguely creepy fashion.
Of course, then she realized... "Don't call me Haru-chan!" She couldn't believe that the other was still doing that!
But... well, Haninozuka's face hadn't changed. In fact, he looked even more resolved then before. "Haruhi-kun." He finally said, "why are you crying?"
He obviously didn't believe her. And, well, Haruhi wasn't really the best of liars. And her nose, now that she noticed it, was stuff. Haruhi shifted back, to step away. Their looming over her was suddenly... so intense. It made her heart start to hammer again. But the movement was stifled when Morinozuka's grip merely intensified.
She needed space.
Haruhi trembled just for a second before blurting out—"I felt the suit at home. I just realized it and Ohtori-sempai told me to bring it in today..." She cut herself off.
She had actually said that. She could even feel the blood rushing to her face... how embarrassing!
"Ne, Takashi! Lets give Haru-chan a lift back home real quick." The little host sounded immensely pleased. And it took Haruhi a moment to realize what the other had said. And she trailed her gaze back from the ground to stare up at the two. She barely even noticed when Morinozuka had let her 'go'.
"Haninozuka-sempai—!" Haruhi started, but then the little host just leaned forward, grinning... and...
"Call me Hunny-sempai!"
"Hunny-sempai!" Haninozuka cheerfully cut her off, and then there were hands on her shoulders and the crowd was parting and suddenly she was inside the back of a limo and she had no clue how she had gotten in. Settled carefully on some seats with Haninozuka (and his pink bunny) sprawled along a seat all to himself and Morinozuka sitting across from her.
In her daze, she must have told them her address, because they were already moving.
Haruhi mechanically turned her head and looked to the blond host again, "H.. Han..." She started before stopping when the other turned his steely gaze on her...
"Hunny-sempai..." She trailed off, correcting her title for him before he could speak.
She got a brilliant smile and a return to his childish demeanor as the result of the change. "Yes, Haru-chan?"
Haruhi suddenly just felt so tired of it all of the sudden. Why should she fuss about names anyway? It wasn't even really an insult, coming with Haninoz... from Hunny-sempai. But at the same time, such a change in name spoke of familiarity and that... well, that scared her, just a little bit.
"You don't have to do this. I'm sure you and Morin—"
"Mori-sempai!" Hunny-sempai once again cut her off.
"—Mori-sempai have better things to do. And I can't pay for the gass and—"
Haninozuka merely grinned and said in probably one of the most cutesy voices that Haruhi had heard the boy make, "I just want to help Haru-chan! This is what friends do, ne?"
Haruhi, well... she couldn't even find it within herself to go against that. Were they friends? They hardly spoke, and they watched her constantly. And the way that they looked at her, like something was wrong and they didn't understand... They were dangerous to her and her condition. She had never had friends before...
"Aa..." Haruhi mumbled and slumped in to the cushion behind her. She was bone tired, and this ride was far more relaxing then the one with Ayanokoji.
Haninozuka started up some conversation with Morinozuka and Haruhi merely let her eyes bounce back and forth between the two and stayed quiet. Hearing the occasional word from Morinozuka was more then enough surprises for the day.
The limo eventually pulled up to her neighborhood and Haruhi clamored out and ran to the right house. Well, 'jog' was a more apt description, but she hurried anyway. The front door popped open and she reached in and grabbed the plastic bag she had left by the front door. With that in hand, she pulled the front door shut and locked it and turned to hurry back to the car...
And promptly smacked right in to Morinozuka's chest and bounced back in to her locked front door.
… these two needed to stop scaring her!
Haruhi took in a shuddery breath as Haninozuka tilted his head back to stare at Haruhi's 'home' with wide eyes. "Haru-chan lives here?" He sounded so excited, but Haruhi was starting to think that it was just a default way that he spoke. And maybe it was the steel-eyed Haninozuka that she met from time to time that was the real thing.
"Aa... yes. I do." Haruhi checked her watch, suppressing any trembles that she still had, "and we need to get to school, sempai." Haninozuka seemed to want to protest, but Morinozuka turned on his heel and moved back to the limo. Haruhi was quick to follow him and Haninozuka trailed behind them, almost dragging 'Bun-bun' on the ground.
The way back was filled with chatter, and Haninozuka pulling some kind of foreign sweet out of the small refrigerator in the limo and munching. They didn't pull up to the walk-in gate, but to the drive in area where limos stopped to drop off their occupants. Haruhi never came this way, so she suddenly felt reluctant and shy to be coming this way... all the same.
"Sempai.." she started, and when both of the Third-years turned to look to her, she bowed slightly in her seat, "thank you." She added, holding her position for a moment before sitting up again. Morinozuka merely nodded his head to her, his face indifferent. Haninozuka had the largest ear to ear grin she had seen on him to date.
The limo stopped, and they all climbed out. Haruhi was the last to reluctantly step out. After all, the two hosts had a hoard of girls hanging around to cheerfully welcome them to school. She had hoped that they would go on without her... but the moment she stepped out, Haninozuka yanked her arm down a little and dragged her forward.
Well, if he hadn't dragged her, she would have frozen like a deer in headlights.
She clutched her school bag and her borrowed suit to her chest with her free arm and didn't fight the surprisingly strong host as he pulled her along through the crowd. He freely greeted the girls around them, although the girls themselves were making a point of just... staring!
Everything just... blurred.
And by the end of it, the two hosts left her outside of her classroom door with a cryptic, "we have a lunch meeting for the club, Kyoya said to be there!"
And they were gone.
And the girls were still staring, so Haruhi went inside of her classroom and huddled down in her seat... and wished that the day would end already.
Haruhi wanted to yell and scream and hit something. She was even giving her lunch time to this stupid club and they didn't even bother to show up! Haruhi focused on deep breathing as she set up bag down on the couch that she had picked. The suit was left on the tiny table across from the couch and then she just... sagged.
She let her body fall heavily on to the couch, and sighed when it formed around her body. She had never let herself sit on these posh pieces of furniture before. But it felt heavenly to her aching body.
She reached up and pulled her glasses off. She didn't even bother to open her eyes as she pinched the bridge of her nose in exasperation. Haruhi could really be doing anything at this moment. She could go eat something, she could be doing the literature assignment she had just been given...
But suddenly she was just too... too exhausted.
It was a Monday, and she was exhausted already. Today's Host Club was going to be hell.
She probably shouldn't have closed her eyes—the next thing she knew, there were two hands cupping her face, angling her head up and toward a shouting voice. What... what was all the noise for. Haruhi blearily opened her eyes, her fingers finding her glasses in her lap as she focused on the voice—and one of the Hosts, who else would be here?
"And look at him! Just look at him! Look at poor Haruhi-ku.. kun.."
Haruhi registered that as Tamaki Suoh.
"Suoh-sempai?" She asked as she raised her hand to push away whoever was clinging to her face with a sleepy nonchalance. She raised her other hand, the one with the glasses. She needed to see, after all.
Tamaki (that was who was in front of her, she could squint all she liked but it was only the audio cue that told her so) shifted and there was a hand that grabbed a hold of her wrist. And she was waking up. There was a reddish blur on either side of Tamaki's head.
Someone snapped their fingers.
"Whaaa!" Haruhi shrieked when suddenly she was being hauled up by bother of her arms. There were those red blurs at both of her sides—the twins!
She could hear Tamaki screaming for a tailor and contacts and cake as she was bodily hauled away. She didn't know where she was going, they were just... dragging her! For such skinny weak looking boys they were easily hauling her around!
Which, distantly, wasn't surprising considering that she was rather underweight...
"Let me go! Oi!" Haruhi barely kept her voice from reaching girlishly high pitches as she kicked out her legs and tried to wrench her arms free. "What are you doing!" What the hell was this!
Curtains, she felt curtains fluttering around her and there were hands—hands on her sweater—!
Haruhi lashed out, her arms were free after all. She struck. Her left hand sweeping out in front of herself to swat any hands away from her sweater... and the next, she brought the other hand up and smacked the twin on her left soundly on the back of the head. It was so loud it almost rattled her head. The twins froze at the sudden violence and Haruhi inhaled—ignore her previously rapid breathing..
"What the fuck are you two doing!" She snarled—she had had enough of this shit! She was tired, achy and she just... hated these two being so close to her!
She shoved her glasses back on. Having almost lost them.
Haruhi got her glasses on soon enough to see their fish impersonations. The twin on the left was holding the back of his head and staring at her. The other was holding one of his hands with a pitiful expression. They were just staring.
Haruhi scowled—"well?" She straightened her back and did her best to look bigger then she was.
"Tono told us to get you in to this." One of the twins (the hand one) motioned to a hook off to the side. A spare Ouran uniform. And Haruhi looked around the room. There was a posh chair. A small table and other little things. She had never been in this cubicle before. But she realized after a moment what it was. It was a changing room.
Slowly she brought her eyes back to the twins, who were no longer nursing their tiny hurts.
"And you two couldn't have asked?" Haruhi hissed.
The twins watched her, looking down at her side by side for a moment before they grinned. And goodness, that just about stopped Haruhi's heart. Those were not the twins' 'not-smiles'. There was something calculating behind their eyes.
"Nope!" They threw an arm around each other's shoulders. "Where would the fun be in that?" The one of the right asked.
"No fun at all, that is what." The one of the right answered.
Haruhi resisted the urge to throw a punch at them. They could easily overpower her now that they knew that she could lash out in such a fashion. She no longer had any surprise on her side. So she mentally stomped her foot in to the ground, breathed...
"Well, get out of here, you idiots!"
Well, they looked startled for a second, and Haruhi merely stomped forward and chased them out. Waving her arms like she had learned that you had to do to chase of certain wild animals. Even then, they reluctantly fled. That calculating light hadn't left their eyes as they did so.
It left Haruhi alone in a changing room, with a spare Ouran uniform...
What was happening?
Haruhi rubbed the back of her neck and watched the uniform for a second before prowling around the perimeter of the room. She searched for anything technological. Any cameras, anything that could record her for humiliation. When she came up with nothing, she came to a stop in front of the uniform once again. She looked down at her sweater and ran her fingers through the material.
The uniform... what did it mean?
Eventually, Haruhi brought it down off of the hook and gently pulled off the jacket. She took the uniform apart and laid it on the table. The twins were told to put her in to it... and well, she knew they had left the area. She had heard their shoes, after all. Haruhi frowned down at the uniform and then decided to just not fight this.
She was starting to feel like the Host Club was merely a force of nature. To struggle against it was futile.
So, Haruhi, for all of her mettle... for the first time in as long as she could remember... gave in.
She switched out the pants first, and then pulled off her sweater and comfortable t-shirt. It left her in just her bra and old undershirt. She pulled on the starched uniform shirt. She could see the outline of her undershirt... and it wasn't nearly as baggy as her other clothes. She glanced to a mirror that was off to the side and analyzed.
It was easier to see.. a more feminine form like this. Haruhi almost yanked it off. But stiffly, she pulled on the tie (poorly done, she didn't actually know how to do that) and then the jacket. She buttoned the uniform all the way up. The jacket was large, made for someone with broader shoulders then her and a thicker trunk. It sagged a little.
It made her look flat like a tree. So she relaxed for a moment.
Haruhi folded up her clothes and sighed to herself.
Before she could leave the room, Tamaki popped in. His face practically gleeful. He shoved a box in to her hands, demanded that she 'put them in' and was up and away.
… he had put a pair of disposable contacts in to her hands.
Haruhi felt like she was dangling from the roof of an extremely tall building. The strength in her arms was swiftly fading and there was no one there to grab hold of her when she slips. Haruhi didn't really know how to put contacts in, but she eventually figured it out after a few tries and a few pokes to the eye. She wiped her face free of eye-poke tears, straightened out her hair and then...
And then she didn't recognize herself in the mirror.
Haruhi blinked and waved her hand slightly. She watched the pretty-boy in the mirror do the same.
She dimly remembered the deal she made with Tamaki, about her becoming a 'Host'. Somehow, the thought didn't bring her joy. Instead, she calculated the cost of these items, mentally sighed to herself and felt a hundred times more tired then before.
Still she heard them amassing outside of the 'changing room'.
Instead, she fixed a polite smile on to her face and drew aside the curtains and stepped out... stepped out to see tears and self-satisfied looks on their faces.
".. Sempai, what is this all about?" Haruhi was actually a little hesitant to ask. Tamaki had real tears on his face before he swept her up, grabbing her face again as he loomed over her.
"This is simply wonderful! Haruhi-kun, you could almost be a girl!"
"You should have warned us about your face!"
… Haruhi felt like something horribly irreversible had happened. And that there hadn't been anything she could have done to stop it anyway.
A/N: It was kind of inevitable that this happened. It wouldn't be the same, The Host Club without Haruhi. But things are already different, and Haruhi will find her equilibrium again in a moment. Did anyone get the reference of the first line? Ah, the things to come! Please review if you get the chance. :D