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The Better Twin

Chapter Text

Kaoru's POV
"Soo!! Which one of us is Hikaru?" My twin and I exclaimed in unison. For this game, we either talked at the same time or not at all- our individual voices could give it away. I knew that, and we simultaneously crossed our arms, looking at the girls we were to entertain. The three looked at each other, laughing and trying to figure us out. After a few moments, one with a hair bun looked up and smiled. She pointed straight at me and said, "You're Kaoru." My eyes widened, which gave her the confirmation she was looking for. "It's rather easy, now. Kaoru has put on some weight, Hikaru is the thinner twin." She shrugged, smiling at the two other girls being hosted. One of the girls with a long ponytail glanced over us, and nodded. "Yeah, I guess so, it's sort of noticable when you point it out!" The last girl, with a pixie cut, only giggled along with her.

My eyes hadn't moved from the girl, my expression still agape. Was that really true? My eyes whipped down to my body. I felt the same, what was off? My train of thought screeched to a stop as I felt a familiar hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry about it, okay Kaoru?" He titled his head a bit, though he had no discernible reaction on his face.

"Ye....yeah." I sighed, taking the hat off and carelessly dropping it on the table. I took the right side of the loveseat we shared. Hikaru soon joined me, now with a big fake grin on his face. "You ladies are quite the detectives! Looks like we can't play that game anymore, not around such perfect and intelligent girls! Not to mention beautiful," Hikaru grinned and handed a rose to the girl with a bun. The one who told us apart. Guess it isn't a feat anymore, though, if it was so easy for her. I only sat with a fake smile for the rest of the hosting session, the words still bugging me.

The next few days, we continued our twin shtick, but Hikaru had never proposed our game. Not once. It made me feel worse and worse. I've become something of the ugly twin. Of course they'd be able to tell us apart now, Hikaru was damn near perfect when talking about looks.

After a week of not playing the-which-one-is-Hikaru game, we retired to our bedroom and I immediately locked myself in our bathroom. I shrugged the jacket off and unbuttoned my shirt with my tie. I stared at myself in the mirror, to see if they were all right. My body seemed a bit bigger, but I could swear I was just bloated from whatever dinner we had last. And it was always known that I had a bigger sweet tooth than Hikaru, I'd never really refuse an offer of my favorite candies. But it never really had its repercussions, not that I remember. I bit my lip, knowing that it could all be catching up to me now. I pinched my side and groaned in disgust. I'd have to lose this weight in order to restore not just our game, but my relationship with my brother. I was bordering on anger, as I threw my white button up on and the jacket, leaving the tie undone around my neck. I saw Hikaru perk up as the bathroom door unlocked. "Finally, geez." He was lounging on our shared bed, lying horizontally across the entire thing. I joined him, sitting down on the edge. I made a resolve to myself that I would stop eating all my candies, and maybe lunch as well.

Chapter Text

And so started Kaoru's plummeting health, both physically and mentally. He started successfully- he excercised self control to stop eating his candies. As for lunch, he spent it in the lunch room with the host club, making conversation with his friends as a distraction from the empty table in front of him. His routine dropped his weight a few pounds, being around 145 now. Per a request from a personal Hitachiin worker, Kaoru had his own secret scale that he hid underneath the bathroom sink.

After about a week of skipping food, he was elated to see he lost the five pounds, rounding it to an even 140. His grin dropped, realizing he probably shouldn't feel so excited over such a small change. Kaoru knew his twin was probably somewhere near 115 to 120- they were inseparable, even during their physical exams. Kaoru cringed at the thought- he was fine during last year's, but it was coming up in nearly a month. That fact drove him over the edge, as he resolved to skip breakfast as well. He needed to lose his weight as quickly as possible. Kaoru felt sick as the thought of being shirtless in front of anyone was brought to his mind. What kind of host was he, being such a prude? 'Not that anyone would want to see me, anyway,' the redhead figured quietly to himself. He kicked the scale pointlessly before shoving it back in the cabinet storage.

The sound of faint clicking was heard from the bathroom. Click. Click. Click. The camera on Kaoru's phone flashed. He was taking photos of his body in their full length mirror, a disgusted scowl as clear as day on his face. He took a photo at every angle he thought of, before shoving his phone in his back pocket. He eventually threw his uniform back on and slammed the bathroom door shut behind him.

(Kaoru's POV)
Hikaru was sitting on our bed, playing a video game on his small console. It was bought for both of us, but he definitely seemed to like it more. He was immersed into the game, but he flicked his sharp eyes up to meet mine. "Hey. Took you long enough." I only shrugged in response, taking a laying position next to him. I knew he went back to his game, so I stretched my arm up and looked at the silhouette of my hand contrasted against the lights of our room. I noticed the outline of my hand bones, which showed when I flexed the muscles in my hand. I started moving my fingers up and down, to see how much the bone would protrude. It wasn't enough.

"What're you doing?" Hikaru must have rolled over in my hypnotic trance. I jolted, my hand immediately going to my side. "Just thinking." Hikaru let out a "hmph" at my reply, and set his console aside. The game made a little dying sound, which didn't seem to bother him. He only leaned in closer to me, putting his hand under my chin. I flinched away, impulsively swatting his hand. "What was that for?" He demanded. I was usually good with physical touch, especially with Hikaru, I just felt too gross to be caressed like that. He'd have to wait until I got thinner, and became a better brother. "You don't have to do the brotherly love shtick now, you know. No girls around to scream about it." I used the first excuse to pop into my mind.

Hikaru rolled his eyes at me, which made my lips tug downwards."Whatever." He rolled back around and clicked the 'start over' button. He's just as blunt and inept as ever, I observed quietly. "Oh, and Honey wants us to go to the club early tomorrow. Well, you, but I'm coming with. He said something about you two eating cake together before the meeting." Hikaru was slowly kicking his legs like a teenage girl mindlessly, a little quirk I liked to tease him about. Though, the thing with Honey worried me. Why did Honey want to eat with me, specifically? Did he notice I stopped eating altogether at school? The thoughts nagged at the back of my head as I pretended it was alright. "Yeah, okay." Was all I said before grabbing my bookbag to do our latest schoolwork.

Chapter Text

(Kaoru's POV)
I was in Japanese class, my last class of the school day. My homework was done, along with Hikaru's. He usually paid me back through sweets he'd get me, but that won't work now. I shrug to myself- it won't stop me from helping Hikaru out anyway. I stared out the window, temporarily disassociating from whatever lesson our teacher was trying to explain to us. I saw a bird fly by, and I started to wish I could be one as well. A light, weightless, carefree pigeon. It seemed like quite a life.

"Kaoru!" I heard yelled at me. I jumped, whipping my attention towards the voice. It was Hikaru, staring at me confused. "You haven't answered me for like, two minutes. Just staring out. Class ended, it's almost time for the club." He walked over, offering his hand. I took it after a second, standing up and grabbing my bookbag. There was a sense of dread that washed over me and I realized I'd have to eat with Honey. "Oh, right. Actually, I know the club is important, but I'm feeling really sick. Would you mind doing the host thing alone just for today?" My voice was high pitched and shaky.

"Kaoru! I can't do a brotherly love act without a brother to love!" He yelled loudly, eyes piercing into me for a few moments. "Y'know, you've been acting like a real downer for a while now, what's up with you?" He almost screamed now, louder than before.

That amount of anger directed at me caught me off guard, and it felt like there was a hole in my chest. If it was from anyone else, I'd either ignore them or laugh it off, but this was Hikaru. I opened my mouth to reply, but nothing came out.

A small tear dropped onto my desk. "Yeah, I'm sorry. Let's go now, we can still probably make it with extra time." My voice cracked at the end, so I decided to stop there. I couldn't bare the thought of facing my brother when I was actually crying, so my gaze was kept firmly on my desk. There was a light pencil engraving in it that had my initials. I hyperfixated on that until I felt myself being pulled. I whipped over to see Hikaru forcefully pulling me out of the class, down the hall. I couldn't see his face, but anger was radiating off of him. Am I stupid for feeling scared? I finally walked behind him at a constant but slower speed, since his arm was interlocked with mine. Before I knew it, Hikaru abruptly stopped and shook my arm off his. Without a word, I pushed past my twin and walked in to the music room.

"Hi, Kao-chan!" Honey greeted me. He was sitting on a small two-person table near the side of the room. I smiled at him and Mori, who was on a loveseat a little bit away. I tried not to let my sniffling be noticed by either of them. I sat down as I heard the door open again- I recognized my brother's footsteps so I didn't aknowledge it. "Hey, Honey-senpai. How are you doing today?" I smiled bashfully. Honey's face tilted upwards innocently as he thought of an answer. "Well, I've been okay. But for the past week, somethings been on my mind. Are you well? You're not sick, are you?"

My eyes widened. What did he notice? And how? "Nothing has been off with me, there's nothing to worry about." I tried to reassure Honey to defuse the situation.

"Kao-chan, I know you haven't been eating."

Chapter Text

(Kaoru's POV)
I guess Honey is more perceptive than I thought he was. He seemed distracted by my empty space at the lunch table whenever I'd ask him about what sort of cake he was eating, or how his practices were going. I certainly didn't think Honey-senpai would be the one to notice.
"I- sorry. Must have spaced out." I forced a laugh that came out dry and not genuine. "I guess I have been feeling a bit sick lately, it's a flu season after all. I haven't thought much of it, my appetite just hasn't been there lately." I added in a grin that was calculated to convey innocence- closed eyes and pink cheeks. It was a skill I'd long past perfected, hosts are always expected to put on a show. I've become quite an actor, whether it was pretending to be helpless and vulnerable for the ladies, or pretending that I'm happy and okay to my friends and brother.

"Oh, okay! That sounds right, I guess that is why the school schedules the physical exam close to this time of year, huh?" Honey thought out loud, which made me smile with relief. He was distracted. "Yeah, but I can't say I'm looking foward to it. They'll probably make me take some medications for the flu, a whole pain." I didn't want to mention the real reason I was dreading the upcoming day.

"Mm, yeah! I had to take medicine when I had a cavity, it wasn't very fun." He grinned. "But I've been saving a piece of cake especially for you, Kao-chan, will you still eat it with me?" A plate with a yellow slice was slid across the wooden table to my end, with a fork and knife already being on the side for me to use. The cake had a small blue heart candy in it, probably referencing when Hikaru and I had different hair colors. I opted for blue, which was definitely one of the more thrilling decisions I've made in my life; all the others were planned or mapped out for me. I frowned at the thought.

"You don't want it?" Honey-senpai clearly felt disheartened by Kaoru's negative reaction. A knee jerk reaction, Mori immediately sensed his displeasure and glared at the younger twin from his seat a couple meters away.

I felt chills run down my spine at Mori's cold expression. How was I supposed to deny Honey-senpai's request without getting hated by the club? My mouth felt dry, and I looked back at my small upperclassman.

"Th...thank you so much for the cake, senpai." I forced myself to say, picking up a fork and taking a bite. It was soft and delicious, and my stomach churned at the vibrant flavor. I wasn't as used to sweets anymore, after cutting it from my diet completely for weeks. But I had to admit that it was absolutely delicious, and my fork dug into more of the dessert. In only a couple minutes, my fork hit the empty plate and made a loud clanking sound. Oh god, did I really eat the entire cake that quickly? It was far from a small piece, and it couldn't have been more than three minutes. I set the fork down quietly and saw that Honey was only halfway through his. I felt disgusting, and a wave of nausea took over my sensations.

"It was great, senpai, thanks! I'm going to go use the restroom, but I'll help with the plates later." I offered up the excuse as I quickly stood up, knocking the expensive chair over in the process. Not having the time to care, I just ran out and into the music room's nearest restroom. They were always empty afterschool and I was grateful for that fact as I locked myself in the biggest stall, at the very end. My breathing was panicked as I calculated how many calories were in what I just ate. It was probably around 400, right? Which was basically 500. Yeah, I could round it to an easy-to-remember 500. It was a disgustingly high number, especially since that was usually how much calories I'd eat in a whole day.

"Think, think, think! You idiot!" I hissed quietly. I knew of a way to fix this- to make myself sick and throw it up. My body would still absorb some of the calories, but it was better than nothing. I shakily exhaled as I glanced over towards the pristine white toilet.
(3rd person POV)
Hikaru had watched his twin run out sloppily, with a hard look on his face. He got up and picked up the chair he'd knocked over with a scowl on his face. "Sorry about him." His statement was curt and left no room for a reply. Honey-senpai only nodded, a bit concerned for Kaoru but was taken aback by his almost erratic behavior.
After a few silent moments of Hikaru stalking out, Mori came to take the seat across from his cousin. "Don't worry so much, Mitsukuni." The passive statement held more meaning to Honey, who nodded quickly but couldn't make direct eye contact. He wouldn't say anything, of course, but Mori felt like punching Kaoru for upsetting his cousin.

The bathroom doors slammed open, with Hikaru wondering if Kaoru would be in there. He heard noises coming from the end of the stall, was it vomiting? Hikaru rushed over to duck his head under the stall, to see what was happening. Sure enough, he recognized his twin hunched over the toilet as he reached loudly.

"Kaoru! Kaoru, open this door right now!" Hikaru's voice was louder than Kaoru's gags, and they immediately stopped in fright as he registered Hikaru's presence outside the stall's door. "Please leave me alone." Came a small voice from inside. "Are you stupid? Unlock this!"
"I can't, Hikaru." The voice was hoarse with volume.

The older twin's face contorted with anger as he punched the stall door as he heard another gag. No, it was actual vomiting this time. Kaoru continued to purge the contents of his stomach as Hikaru crawled under the stall's opening in the bottom. It was uncomfortable, but Hikaru couldn't care less. He ripped Kaoru away from the toilet he was over by his shoulders, grabbing him and staring him in his defeated looking face. "What the hell do you think you're doing? Why?" After barely a second of not getting a reply, Hikaru shook him violently. The already nauseous Kaoru had to slap a hand against his mouth and close his eyes tightly.

The two sat in a minute of silence, Kaoru looking like he was going to keep throwing up at any second and Hikaru furious beyond all belief. Soon after, Kaoru nodded. Hikaru understood it was a sign to release his grip, and as soon as he did Kaoru spit discolored food into the toilet bowl. "Ggh.." He gasped for air quietly. "I'm sorry, Hikaru, I just really do feel like I'm coming down with something. I'll let the doctors know when the health exam comes." Kaoru managed to get out.

"You're just going to act like this didn't happen? I can't believe this! God, what the fuck is wrong with you? I haven't heard you cough or sneeze once for the past week, you liar!"

"You just don't pay enough attention, I've had the sniffles for a while now." Kaoru retorted stiffly.

That made Hikaru take a step back. He wasn't expecting Kaoru to say he doesn't even pay attention to him. Didn't he know that Kaoru was the ONLY person he usually paid any attention to? Wordlessly, Hikaru slapped him across the cheek. "Don't show up to the club today." Hikaru's voice was hot with anger. The redhead stood up and left the bathroom, heading back to the music room.

Kaoru was left clutching his left cheek, stinging with pain. It took him ten minutes to even get the will to stand up, and flushed the toilet. He walked out and stared at his red, splotchy face in the bathroom mirror. He knew he shouldn't do it here, but instinctively his hand reached for his phone in his suit pocket. Taking body check photos were second nature now whenever he looked into mirrors. Kaoru had to consciously stop himself, and instead washed his face up with cold water.

As he stepped into the school's hallway, he could hear the faint screaming and cooing of the Host Club's clients. The meeting must have started as soon as Hikaru got back to the room. Must have explained away his absence. And from the amount of adoring voices coming from the room, they must have been okay with it. There was a pit in his heart as he walked the other way, the long way around to the front of the school where he would call their personal driver. It took only five minutes for a familiar black limousine to pull in front of the private school, and he silently got in for a tense ride back to his mansion.

Chapter Text

The Hitachiin driver noticed the vague smell of bile when Kaoru had gotten into the car, but out of respect said nothing to the high schooler, who was leaned against the window. He was staring out, words from his brother replaying in his head over and over again. It was unbearable, and Kaoru and taken to scratching his left wrist violently. It was hard, leaving angry red scratches, but Kaoru's empty stare didn't reflect any pain as he continued to subconsciously harm himself. His nails dug deep into his pale skin until the moment he was snapped out of his thoughts. "We've arrived, sir." The driver said politely before exiting the car to open the door for his employer's son. While the driver was on the other side of the limousine, he realized what he had been doing to himself on the ride home. Grimacing, Kaoru pulled his uniform's sleeve down. He hoped that the blood wouldn't stain his white undershirt, no matter how little it may be. The door was opened for him and the younger twin was silent from the car to his room, despite multiple formal greetings from his family's workers. He slammed and locked the door and exhaled softly as he took off his uniform. He tossed his jacket on the floor and inspected his undershirt. There were a few smudges of blood on the inside of the sleeve, which made Kaoru's nerves rampant. He quickly took it off and ran into the connected bathroom, running the ruined white under the hot water. "Hot water is supposed to get blood out, right? Maybe it was cold water?" Kaoru whispered to himself desperately. He rubbed at the blood stains with the hand soap on the counter, thankful to see the water run down slightly stained pink.

"It's working. It's working, there's no need to worry. I'm fine." His voice was forced and high, ready to crack despite the content of his own words. It took ten minutes of the Hitachiin's vigorous effort to get rid of all of the blood on his shirt. It was barely noticeable at all now, which took a weight off of the boy. He looked down at his fingernails- he hadn't trimmed them in a while, it never occurred to him, so they were a bit longer than average. His arm really did ache when he came back down to his senses. Setting his uniform shirt aside, he decided to take care of his arm. Since the twins are expected to just let a staff member know when they get a cut, they didn't have any medical equipment or kits in their room. Kaoru knew that he couldn't let anyone know what had happened, it was obviously self inflicted. After taking a minute to evaluate his options, Kaoru grabbed the toilet paper that was set under the counter and ripped it open, holding the start of the wrap with his leg, and wrapping it around his arm from there. It took him a couple tries, since it broke easily, but he was eventually able to get a makeshift bandage out of the toilet roll. Holding it in place with his right arm, he shouldered the bathroom door open and grabbed tape on his desk. The janky bandage was held firmly in place with the overzealous use of the tape.

Letting go, Kaoru smiled hesitantly. "This works. I just can't let anyone see my arm until this heals on its own." The words sounded easy enough, but with such an invasive twin and a rather large friend group he knew it would be difficult to put into practice.

(Kaoru's POV)
I shrugged a regular long sleeved shirt on from our closet, a pale green button up. It was loose, and I didn't fully understand how. All the signs were pointing towards the statement that I'm losing weight- lower numbers on the scale and looser clothing. But whenever I stare at myself in the mirror, I just see an even more disgusting body than the last time I've checked. My thighs still touch, and I can't see my ribs. It both infuriates and takes all the fire out of me. It's a wretched feeling, being deflated and devoid of any self worth while still wanting to scream at the top of your lungs. I've tried it before, and yelling barely helps me manage my emotions. It does piss off everyone near me, though.

I paused for a moment. The more I think, the more I realize that's all I ever do. I just anger people with my existence. Hikaru got angry when he found me throwing up. The staff and my family here get angry when I release my feelings through yelling. Kyoya got angry when our request rates dropped- because of me. I was the one to ruin our game, after all. Honey senpai got upset when I tried to deny his sweets. And there is barely a moment when Tamaki ISN'T angry at me- either for a comment I made or an action I took.

All I do is ruin people's days. Recently, there hasn't been a single thing that I've been doing right. With all of my focus on when the next time I can purge be, or how much food I'm going to have to eat, my thoughts have been completely taken over. My brain has no time to think about studying anymore, whenever I do our homework I feel like I'm breaking apart. Maybe it's the lack of nutrients, that makes my brain fog get progressively worse. I wouldn't even mind that, if it meant I could look better and handsome enough for the club. What good am I there? Nobody attends for me, that much was proven by how little the mood was affected by me not being there now.

If I stopped attending altogether, would it improve the lives of the people I care about? The request rates for Hikaru would probably skyrocket since they wouldn't have a childish annoyance with them. And I know that would make Kyoya happier, with more money to be made out of it. Tamaki just wants the club to succeed, and that would help. I clenched my fist at my sides. "DAMN IT!" I cried, dropping to my knees and punching the floor as hard as I could. The carpet rubbed against my closed hand, giving me mild rug burns as I drove my fist deeper into the floor. Why couldn't I benefit the people I care for? I lifted my fist and hit the floor again, even harder than before. I heard a thudding sound come from it this time, which I paid no mind to. I was a nuisance, a dumbass, a hindrance. My emotions felt like acid burning my heart, but for some reason I wasn't crying. No tears were even developing, which was unusual for me. I'm known as a crybaby, how is this any different? I leaned back into a sitting position, purposely throwing my head back to hit the large wooden bed frame. With that amount of force, if felt like my brain was bounced around my skull. Everything was numb and blurry, which was actually a relief. I realized I couldn't feel any emotional pain through blunt physical pain like this.
I remembered the first and only time I've tried to self harm with a razor blade. I broke apart my manual shaver to get the thin blades from the plastic. I dragged it across my thighs, and the sharp pain sent a chill down my spine. I had to clasp my hand over my mouth to stop myself from yelling. It only increased the emotional weight I felt, even watching the blood pour out of the wound I felt like my heart was being stabbed.

Sharp pain doesn't work for me. But blunt force does, as I've learned. Scratching seemed to be my alternative, almost like a backup plan. The dizziness had mostly worn off, and I was surprised to realize I'd been smiling at this feeling. The numbness made me feel happy. It was something I rarely felt genuinely, these days. I must have been swimming in my own thoughts for at least half an hour before I heard someone jiggling the door handle. "Kaoru, open up already!"

My eyes widened as I stood up, albeit shakily. Was I spaced out enough to not hear him until now? I quickly unlocked the door, and Hikaru shoved past me. "You prick, I've been calling for you for the past five minutes. What have you been doing?" He demanded.

"Sorry, Hikaru. I was ah, busy doing my homework. I guess I was too concentrated on that, y'know?" Hikaru scowled for a second, before dropping the sour expression. I could tell he was holding back what he actually wanted to say. It took him a moment to compose himself before he stepped close to give me a hug.

"What's that for?" I asked instinctively.

"I'm sorry for slapping you. I just didn't know what to do. Seeing you all bent over the toilet bowl like that, throwing up so much, it sickened me. I know I was wrong, Kaoru." Hikaru's words were slow and calculated, as if he didn't want to tread too heavily.

My hand trembled despite my attempts to prevent it as I wrapped around Hikaru. "It's fine. You've never been one for emotions, we both know that." I smiled into his shoulder. Before I knew it, he pulled away and was looking at my left arm. It was covered by my shirt, but I still felt vulnerable and defensive. I pulled back, maybe a bit harder than necessary. "What?"

(Hikaru's POV)
My apology was stiff, I know that. But how was I supposed to know how to do that kind of thing? I told Honey senpai a vague idea of what happened and while it gave him a troubled, deep look of concern on his face, he only said I should apologize for the bit of violence. Since we hugged, I think it worked, but something was off. Kaoru's left arm felt weird and puffier, like there was another layer of clothes on his forearm. But it was clear he wasn't layered up like usual. So what was that?

He must have caught on, since he pulled away quickly.

"What?" He said, but I wasn't really focused on that anymore. I only grabbed his wrist, and he yelped in surprise. Or maybe pain? He refused to make eye contact, but his eyes conveyed hurt. I threw my hand upwards to lift up his sleeve, and there was toilet paper covering his wrist to mid-forearm. I knew my voice would be steely and cold, which might scare him more, but I needed an answer. "What is this?"

Chapter Text

Kaoru's POV.
Not like this. Please, don't let Hikaru find out like this. He was tugging on the thin sheets, agitating my arm enough for more red to soak through. It was obvious what had happened. I didn't have the strength to pull my arm out of my brother's iron grip, which only made me grimace in pain.

What was he going to do when he saw the deep clawing scratches, etched into my arm? There must have been dozens of them, but mostly concentrated around my wrist. The movements made the makeshift bandages spark friction against my arm, slowly rubbing the skin raw. This was too much pain for my brain to process, and something more instinctive in me overrode my desperate attempt at control, ripping the thin paper off, revealing my skeletons to my brother. My breaths were jagged and shallow, and the feeling of light headedness from before had come back tenfold. I glanced down to see my open wounds red and angry, just begging to get infected. I held my arm near my chest and used my right arm to hold it firmly, my nails digging into it the places I held. This can't be happening.


Hikaru's POV.
I'm not a fucking therapist. I don't know how to control my own emotions sometimes, let alone someone else's. But this is Kaoru, and I had to help. Would distracting him be the best bet? I regret using force to try to convince him, because he obviously doesn't respond to it well. I've never been one for emotions. People just hurt us. And now Kaoru is also a part of that group. Getting hurt and now getting me involved. He's such an idiot to be so emotionally vulnerable with others. He lets words and people still get to him, something I try to shove back. I may still come off as mean and closed off, but at least it means I'm not going to inevitably get hurt. It used to be Kaoru and I against the world, but it feels like he's already lost. Looking down at my pale, shaking brother, I resolved that this is what emotions render us. And I'm not letting either of us get hurt again like this. After I've calmed him down, I'm not leaving his side.


Kaoru's POV.
How do I calm down like this? I screwed my eyes shut tightly enough to see stars. Counting to ten never worked for me. My body was too unstable for steady breathing now. What do I do?

"Open your eyes." The voice I heard sounded far away, almost like they were in shallow water. I didn't move for a full minute, but I was able to work up the strength to open my strained eyes. I was met with Hikaru, who didn't seem angry like I had thought he'd be. His face seemed deathly calm, which I didn't like much. I rarely saw him like this. "Name five things you see around you." Oh. So this was his tactic. We learned this at the same time, doesn't he remember that? Our aunt noticed we were inept, to say the least, and tried hiring a psychiatrist to fix us. The lady ended up just spitting up all of her limited knowledge, including this grounding technique. He's really an idiot. I must have been shaking harder, because I felt Hikaru wrap his thin arms around my incomparably worse body. His touch instinctively made me hug back, my arms digging into the back his uniform. I realized it stung, but it was a welcome sensation. Hikaru took to sitting on my lap, staring me directly in my eyes. If I hadn't been crying so much to ruin my eyes and skin, it probably would have looked like a fun house mirror reflection. I was just a distortion of him. Just that much uglier, worse, fatter, more damaged. With an exhale, I responded his stupid and tedious method.

"You. My bookbag. Our bed. My... school supplies. Our old piggy bank." My eyes flicked around the bedroom to scout for a reply. It was spacious, but barren of many personal objects, so it took a few moments to find five appropriate answers.

I caught Hikaru nodding out of the corner of my vision. "Now, four things you can touch." My brain went blank for a moment, before slowly starting to resume. "My shirt, the floor," I slammed my right hand onto the cold tiles. After a beat of thinking, I outstretched my arm to my left. "My homework." Pulling it to me, I couldn't care that the papers were obviously incomplete, rendering my prior excuses useless. The paper felt smooth until I jammed my fingers into the sharp corners. It felt relieving. For the last thing, I positioned myself back towards my brother and ran my fingers through his hair. It was thicker than my own, now. Hikaru got the message and moved on.

"Now, three things you can hear."

I squirmed a bit, head feeling dizzy having to focus on small noises. "Your voice." That was the obvious out of the way. Hikaru didn't reply, so I kept listening as intently as I could to the background noise. It made my eye twitch. "The air conditioning?" I clutched my scalp firmly, both hands tugging on my hair. I couldn't think, it was too quiet.

I felt Hikaru rush back, giving me space. "Stop that! We can move on to the next one, this place is always quiet anyway." His voice sounded firm, but I think I heard him swear under his breath. "Two things you can smell."

I didn't realize I'd hunched over myself, head near the floor and arms strained, but I managed to prop myself up. "Blood and our conditioner." I spat out. Hikaru seemed to flinch, but I couldn't tell for sure.

"I... forgot the last one."

I looked up at him. He looked pretty angry, so I knew he was telling the truth. I rubbed my eyes, "One thing you can taste." I finished the instructions for him, before licking my own cheek. It was salty and dry, making my tongue recoil slightly. "Tears."

Hikaru hesitated a bit before nodding.
"Do you feel better?"

"I think you just being here helped." I exhaled, noticing my breath was a lot more stable than it was before. I guess I shouldn't have thought this was stupid, at least it worked for me.

"I'm gonna go tell a worker here that I fell on something, and when I come back you're letting me clean those." He pointed at my arm and I nodded quietly. Hikaru left me and I stood up to crawl onto our cold bed. The sheets were made, neatly under me, but I couldn't care as I disregarded our keeper's work as I kicked the sheets to one side and pulled it over me. How did I let this happen? I really was an idiot if I couldn't even keep a secret from one person. It was laughable, really. Hikaru didn't seem as mad as I'd expect, but maybe it was just to calm me down, and he'll start being cold to me later. It wouldn't be the first time, which stung me to know. It wasn't like our play fight we acted out for Haruhi- none of this was planned or scripted, just anger and hurt being exchanged through each other. It tore my heart apart to know about the pain I cause my brother. I was sure he lives his life to avoid all difficult emotions, and I seem to be causing them more and more frequently. I grabbed my pillow and let out a quiet groan that just sounded like a gasp of air.

"You better be holding up." I heard the door open again, showing Hikaru holding a med kit. It was large and seemed heavy. "You didn't have to bring back such a large one. Its all barely scratches." He rolled his eyes at me. "I asked the keeper if she'd give me supplies, but she probably caught on. Once she figured it had to do with you, she didn't let me leave with anything but the biggest one they have." He tossed it onto the bed next to me and sat on the opposite side.

Hikaru held out his hand expectantly, which I complied with. I outstretched my arm and looked away, so I couldn't see any remaining disappointment in his gaze. The process was dead silent, which I was half grateful for. I knew Hikaru wasn't trained and prepared for first aid, so he was probably winging it. Nevertheless, his antiseptic use was generous and the bandage wrapping was firm so there wasn't much of a problem. Hikaru finished up and cut the bandage where it needed to end and tucked it back into the rest. "There." His tone was hard to read, even for me. "I appreciate it, Hikaru." I decided on.

"Yeah. Wash your face and come out with me to return all this to her."