A/N: Hello again, my lovelies. Have another chapter, 'cuz I'm feeling rather generous right now. And yes, I know I was being rather evil by making Kaoru keep the secret from Hikaru, but I can't help it. Well, enjoy~
The twins must be up to something. I'm sure of it. They've isolated themselves from the rest of the hosts for the whole afternoon, huddled together at the smallest table in the dining area. I can only come to one conclusion: they were plotting and that did not bode well for me in particular.
Not only that, Haruhi seemed far too concerned for her brothers today which meant she just wouldn't pay attention to her dear old daddy. Her eyes would linger on the pair, sadness emanating for her entire being and I just couldn't figure out why! They were evil! Shady! Demons that carried out the devil's dirty work.
"Haruhiiii! Would you like to share this delicious slice of cake with Daddy? It has strawberries on it! I know they're your favourite." I lifted the plate up to eye level, trying to capture her full attention once again.
"No thanks, sempai. I'm not hungry." She continued busying herself with collecting plates and cleaning the other cleared tables around the room as efficiently as possible.
A mop of blonde hair popped over my shoulder, almost drooling over my slice of cake and, in turn, my shoulder. I shoved the plate out of the small senior's grasp to save it from the waterfall of saliva that threatened to drown the sweet pastry. "I'll share it with you, Tama-chan!"
"Oh, Honey-sempai. You can have it." I handed over the plate in defeat; there was no way I could argue with the sickly sweet persuasion of our loli-shota member. "I merely wanted to share this little delicacy with my favourite daughter but alas, she rebels! What did Daddy do to make you hate me so?!"
"She's not hungry, Tamaki. And she's trying to work. I suggest leaving her be." Kyoya scolded me from across the table, sipping leisurely from a dainty china tea cup.
"But Kyoya! You're her mother! How can you not care about her rebellious streak? She got it from you after all." I crossed my arms tightly across my chest and pouted until he provided me with his full attention. One thin black eyebrow rose as steel eyes glimpsed at my mild-tantrum state.
"I think you'll find I'm far from rebellious, Tamaki. Scheming, perhaps. But not rebellious." He shared something that was between an inconspicuous smirk and a somewhat sarcastic smile with me before turning his attentions back to the cup cradled in one hand.
"She got her total indifference towards me from you then!" I argued further, trying to gain one point in my pointless ambush on my best friend's/mother figure's character flaws. Another smile, although this time it was very reminiscent of a smirk, pulled at his lips.
"That I could agree on."
"Haru-chan! Haru-chan! Would you like the strawberry? I saved it just for you. Strawberries make everyone smile and you're ten times prettier when you smile, ne?" Honey offered the red jewel to my little princess on a spoon, holding it up near her face. She stared at the berry before smiling and gingerly picking it off of the utensil and beaming at Honey in gratitude.
"Thanks, Honey-sempai." She popped the luscious red berry into mouth and chewed it slowly, savouring the sweet treat. My heart dropped down into my stomach. She turned it down when I offered it to her. And when did Honey obtain the right to hit on my daughter!? If he weren't a master martial artist, I would be chasing him out of this damned pension right at this moment.
"See? Much prettier when you smile. Right, Takashi?" Honey was practically bouncing in the spot with glee, beaming with unbridled innocence at his cousin.
"Right." The stoic boy nodded in affirmation before continuing to munch on his own slice of cake.
"They're quite right, Haruhi."
"Kyoya!" I rose in my seat, leaning over the table to angrily wave a fist at the man I called my best friend. He remained unfazed and took another sip from his tea before lowering it back to the table and glaring at me with the trademarked Shadow King glare. Of course I was instantly cowering at the blatant iciness of those steel grey eyes and didn't get to start the rant I had built up inside me, ready to boil over the edge.
"As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted. As a host, you should always be smiling. It's much more welcoming to the guests, both here and in our own host club."
"I'll work on it."
"That's my girl! And if you need some help, I'll import a whole ton of strawberries just for you. Just to see that cute little smile light up your face again!"
"Sempai, you can quit feeling me up now."
"What!? I was not-" I paused, waiting for the inevitable snide comment delivered by the twins, mainly in an attempt to push my buttons, but it never came. All five of us were looking over at the lonesome redheads, watching as they muttering between each other as if they were in their own little bubble.
The aura of both anger and despair emanated strongly from their tiny rickety table. You could almost smell the desperation as Hikaru gritted his teeth while putting together a coherent sentence. I felt as though I was butting in on a very private family moment and averted my eyes. The only one who allowed their eyes to linger was Haruhi. She was focussed on Kaoru mainly. A strange pain surged through me, almost making me want to clutch at my chest as it ached. Apparently I wasn't the only one that had noticed as Kyoya's eyes flickered casually between the two before landing squarely on me. I avoided his gaze at all costs and stared down at the plate that had previously held the slice of strawberry cake I'd been looking forward to share with my daughter.
"Kaoru, tell me what's wrong?" My fingers tapped incessantly against the wooden table top as my frustration grew second by second. Ever since the other hosts had arrived, he has seemed more and more melancholy as the minute dragged by, until he refused to even sit at the same table as them all. It wasn't as though I was going to leave him by himself but this was becoming tedious already.
Blank eyes rose to stare through me, barely acknowledging I was sitting across from him in some form of ignorant display of dramatic depression. "I told you, it's nothing."
"Nothing, my ass. You look as though your puppy just died. Now out with it." The tapping was louder, drawing his eyes to watch my hands as they rattled and shook the table.
Eventually he sighed, leaning forward and resting his face on an open palm. He managed to look indifferent and irritated at the same time, despite hardly changing his distant expression. "Keep your voice down. I can't be bothered with the boss getting all dramatic around us today. I'm not in the mood."
I leaned in, mimicking him in the usual mirror image fashion and attempted to keep my voice to a low whisper. "I will, if you just quit the depressed act and spill it. Are you still upset about how I treated Haruhi? 'Cause I'm sorry, alright? I was a jerk, I admit it. But if this is how you're punishing me, then that just makes you an even bigger jerk."
"You think I'm trying to punish you?" Eventually, some emotion shone through that stony mask. Although I wish it weren't those confused, dejected eyes looking up at me. If I could switch them for a pair of cheerful or mischievous ones, I'd be more than grateful right about now.
"Why else would you lie to my face? You're clearly upset about something and I don't appreciate you keeping it from me." Both of us dropped our eyes to stare at the same notch in the wooden table at the exact same time, inspecting every scratch and dent in the wood.
"I made a promise." I barely made out the mumble, distorted by the hand that partially covered his mouth.
Amber eyes met, staring intently in a battle to break the other. My interest was piqued and I definitely wasn't going to back down now. "A promise? To who?"
"I made another promise not to say who."
"Oh, c'mon." I probably said that a bit louder than I should have. I'm very aware that the eyes of the host club were watching our every move so I lowered my voice to a near inaudible whisper and tried to hide the side of my face that was visible to the group by leaning heavily against my hand, much like Kaoru was.
"Believe me when I say that you don't want to know, Hikaru."
"Did you get in trouble? Was it some yakuza dudes? If it was, I'm sure there are plenty guys in the school that would help you out-" I'm well aware that I'm babbling, but I wasn't sure what else to say to him. His answers were rather vague at best.
"You sound just like Tono. Of course it wasn't yakuza. The reason I'm so upset is because I can't tell you."
"That's it?" I blinked, once, twice. That's all it was? That he has to keep a secret from me? Now I was even more intrigued to figure out this huge secret but I highly doubt it's quite so serious that Kaoru has to get depressed over it.
I break our eye contact finally, staring intently down at the floor as I allowed my mind to wander all the possibilities that would lead my own brother to withhold information to me. Maybe he was being blackmailed. Or really was involved with some gang. Or maybe Tamaki's putting him up to this. Nah, that can't be right; Tamaki doesn't have the guts to manipulate a Hitachiin. Maybe it's Kyoya. Maybe even Honey, he can be pretty dark for a cute little loli-shota character after all. I'm just giving myself a headache. "I think I get it."
"I'm sorry, Hikaru." His deep amber eyes expressed much more appreciation than his monotone voice.
"It's alright, Kaoru. Just… promise me that you'll be alright? I don't like it when you're all miserable like this." I reach out and grasp his hand firmly under my own, giving a subtle squeeze to which he smiles back weakly in return. We both lean back in our chairs to sit properly again and returned to the comfortable silence we would often share.