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Black Clouds

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Dear Kaoru,

It’s weird writing this to you when your bedroom is on the other side of this wall. I could go and wake you, but then, I’m not sure I want you to see what’s inside my head right now.

Do you remember when we first moved to separate rooms? D’you really think that Haruhi is the reason we changed so much?

Maybe she is. I was never really that sure.

I called her last night. Haruhi, that is. I was on the side of the road, I was drunk, and I just… called her. She told me to stay put while she called someone to pick me up. How did she know who to call? Did she call Kyouya-senpai and he sent someone?

I dunno. I don’t remember what the guy looked like. He had messy hair-- I think-- and tattoos on his hand. Maybe. I was pretty drunk. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember most of the drive. I remember a glimpse of the guy, and then it was morning.

Did you meet him? Did he ring the doorbell, wake you up, and hand me over to you? Maybe. For all I know, he did. Or maybe he just abandoned me on the porch and you took pity on me before you left for the airport. Maybe I just stumbled through the house. That’s probably what happened.

If I told you, I know you’d just sigh and tell me that I should drink less. You’d use the exasperated voice you learned from Dad, too, and that’d make the whole thing worse.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing this to you. So you won’t fuss.

Don’t worry, little brother. I might do some dumb shit, but I’ve gotten a bit better at pulling my head out of my ass.

Sometimes.

Holy shit, I’m philosophical when I’m hungover. I need a nap.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

I have th guys number now. He said that I shud just call him insted of caling Haruhi and making her call him.

I dont know his name though. Or how he knows Haruhi.

Is it sad that even tho I could cal him next time Im drunk on the side of the road and need a ride―and lets face it thatll probably be soon is it pathetic that Ill probly still call Haruhi?

Im drunk of my ass. Good nite litle brother. Sleep well I guess. I hope I didnt wake you when I triped on the steps. You woodve come to check on me if youd woken up, tho. Maybe. Its hard to tell if you would even notice theese days.

I hope this girl’s worth it.

Love,
Hika.

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Dear Kaoru,

I’m hungover and philosophical again. I apparently can’t spell when I’m drunk, either. That last letter was a disaster. Maybe I should burn it so that you’ll never see it.

I don’t think you’ll ever see any of these, though. Not unless you go through snooping through my stuff like you did during that one year of high school.

That year really sucked, man. First Honey-senpai and Mori-senpai went to college and it became a thousand times harder for the two of us to go to them for advice. We still did it, though. I should write them a thank-you for putting up with all of my shit that year. You confessed to Haruhi, and you forced me to realize that I like her, and then I confessed and got rejected. Boss moved to the main house and the host club closed for a while, and then we went to Boston and I was a jealous bitch about Haruhi and Boss being a couple.

I never really thought about how hard that year must’ve been for you, too. Like, holy hell, Kao, you gave up on one crush in order to force me to pull my head out of my ass, and then you told me about the next one and I brushed you off. I shouldn’t have. I never really thought about how scared you must’ve been when you realized that you had a crush on Kyouya-senpai. At the time, I just kind of laughed and said that it was just like you to fall for someone so closed-off. You could be a bit of an open-book back then, or, at least, you were around me.

You always were the stronger of the two of us. You didn’t obsess over an unrequited crush for years. You moved on. You dated that girl third year, and a whole group of guys and girls during college.

Maybe this is the one thing we’re polar opposites about. I’m too obsessed, and you don’t know how to be.

What are you so afraid of?

If I asked, would you tell me?

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

The driver guy’s name is Hiro. He’s half-Japanese, like Boss. That’s all he really said. He doesn’t talk much, but if I asked him a question, he’d answer. I should ask him how he knows Haruhi, although I probably won’t. I’m usually too shitfaced when I see him to think about much.

The tattoos on his hand are chains. I wonder if they hurt to get.

You met me at work this morning, not over the coffee machine in the kitchen. If you didn’t use a condom, I’m calling Gran to come give you her version of the sex talk again. It was mortifyingly embarrassing the first time, but it’d be hilarious to watch her give you a lecture on different types of sex toys again.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

You were crying last night. You denied it, but you were.

I’d ask why it’s so hard for you to trust me, but then I realize that I’m sitting here writing letters to you instead of actually talking to you about the fact that I might still be in love with Haruhi but maybe I never actually was to begin with, maybe I was only in love with the idea of Haruhi and I need another drink or two or three or ten.

Was whatsherface just looking for sex? Or were you just looking for sex and she wanted more? I hope you’re okay. I know I never say it, but I’m worried about you, Kao. I worried about you during college and I never stopped. If you relapsed, would you tell me? Or would you hide it, again, until we had a repeat of college?

I’m scared. I drink too much and I make you worry and I’ll probably wind up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning at some point in the next year or two or three but God, Kao, I’m so scared. I’m scared that the only thing I could say that I knew for sure during college wasn’t actually real, I’m scared that you’re pulling away from me just like you did then, I’m scared that I’m gonna lose you, I’m scared that I’m out of control and the only person who knows is some random guy named Hiro who drives a blue car and has at least one tattoo and somehow knows Haruhi.

Please talk to me. I love you.

I don’t say that enough. Never did. Probably never will. But I hope like hell you know it.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

You haven’t left your room in two days. You cancelled a meeting, and you go to work even when you’re feverish.

I called Dad. He’s worried, too. He said that he and Mom haven’t heard from you in months, but you told me that you’d called them last week.

Did you lie to me?

I’m worried. I don’t know what to do. Do I confront you? If I’m wrong, you’d be royally pissed and me worrying about you relapsing could lead you to actually relapse. If I don’t confront you and I just keep my mouth shut like I did in college, will I lose you―for real this time?

I’m scared. Fuck, I’m scared. I don’t know what to do. I want to talk to you so badly but I’m scared that you’ll push me away or push your own problems aside because you want to help me and I just don’t know what to do.

I’m gonna go to Tokyo for three or four weeks. I’ll tell you in the morning, but I’m writing it here now so that I won’t back out at the last minute. Boss is already planning to drag me to some commoner’s pâtisserie he’s apparently in love with. I just don’t know where my head’s at right now, and you’re too empathetic. I don’t want my state of mind rubbing on yours.

Stay safe, little brother.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

It’s weird being back in Japan. It’s been what, six months since we last visited? Longer? I dunno. Boss says hi, and so does Haruhi. I’m going to go see Honey-senpai tomorrow. Mori-senpai’s out of town. Apparently Satoshi’s competing in some big kendo tournament and Mori-senpai went to support him.

Gran’s in town, which kinda sucks. She ignored me all day and then promptly smeared cake all over my face while I was asleep. Stupid old hag, always doing dumb stuff and saying that we’re the stupid ones.

I dunno what to say to you, really. Just thinking about you a lot.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

I had dinner with Mom and Dad and Ageha today. It was so weird. Like, holy hell, Ageha’s 2 already. She’s still tiny. Still a little brat. She reminds me a lot of us, although I won’t say that to Mom. Dad probably thinks the same thing I do.

Mori-senpai’s back in town. I’ll give him a day to settle in before I go see him. Hopefully he can help me sort out the mess in my head. He usually can, but… this time I’m more of a mess than ever.

What about you? Are you alright? You’re not answering my texts. You didn’t lose your phone again, did you? Or are you just ignoring me?

Please, Kaoru. I need you.

Is it selfish of me to say that? Why is it that I always need you, always fall back on you, but you never rely on me? I’m your big brother―not the other way around. I’m supposed to be able to keep you safe and protect you and shit. Instead, I’m always the one coming crying to you because I don’t know what to do.

Well, no more! I’m gonna force Mori-senpai to help and… never really thank him for it because I’m a man, damnit.

I’m putting down the drinks before I get more than just a bit tipsy. Gonna go to bed.

Good night, Kaoru.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

Mori-senpai stuck me in an empty room and told me to meditate, as always. He seems to think that this cures everything, and honestly, it does help. I talked a lot with Honey-senpai, too. The last week’s been pretty quiet, now that I think about it. I’ve just hung out with the senpais and gone to work.

What else do I have to tell you? Dad managed to sneak up on me five times today. Satoshi still has no taste buds. Boss and I are going to this pâtisserie of his tomorrow. Did you know that Boss and Haruhi broke up? Apparently they just… drifted. It’s kinda hard to believe; they were head over heels for each other last time we saw them. I guess life just got in the way.

Once upon a time, a part of me would’ve been happy that they’d broken up. That jealous, bitter, stupid part of me would’ve been celebrating even as I got concerned and talked to Boss about what had happened.

I didn’t feel any of that today. If anything, I was mad that Tamaki thought we were too busy with our own shit to tell us.

Is this what growing up feels like?

Did I finally give up on Haruhi after eight goddamn years?

Oh, yeah, one other thing. Hiro texted me last night. He was surprised that I hadn’t called him for a drunk driver and wanted to make sure that I hadn’t died of alcohol poisoning or something.

I’m not exaggerating. The quote is, word for word, ‘Did you die of alcohol poisoning or something’.

The fact that he cared enough to ask made me happier than it should’ve. That seems really weird. I don’t mean it in a ‘oh how sweet he cares about me’ way but I guess it feels nice for someone to just want to know what’s up? It’s been so long since I’ve talked to anyone outside our little group, I’d forgotten what that was like.

Call me back, would you?

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

I’ve been back for a few days now and you still won’t talk to me. You nod when I say good morning, you only open your mouth if it’s about work, and you ignore me completely if I ask about anything besides work. Did I do something wrong? Did something happen that I didn’t think was important?

What’s going on with you? Just talk to me, Kaoru, please.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

We talked. We talked a lot, actually. For a few hours. You cried, and I cried, and we spent even more hours sitting and crying until you fell asleep. Our first sleepover in ages―how ironic.

Fuck, Kao, I’m so sorry. How was I so blind? How did I not see what was going on? I have all of the notes from your consultations, just as you have all of the notes from mine, how did I manage to miss this? How did I not see the signs? How did I not realize that I needed to have stepped in for you?

I’m so sorry, Kao. I was so wrapped up in a stupid high school crush that I couldn’t even see that you needed me, I couldn’t see that I should have stayed by you instead of running away.

I always run. I always turn and run because I’m scared, but it’s when I’m so terrified that I need to run that you need me most and I almost failed you again and I’m so so so sorry, Kaoru, I screwed up.

What would I have done if this was like last time? What would I have done if I got back from Japan and you were on the floor again, only this time, I was too late? What if nobody could have gotten here?

Fuck, Kaoru, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that you were so alone. I’m sorry that I ran. It’s sad, really―I want to tell you that I won’t be so blind again, but in order for me to fulfill that promise, there needs to be an again. And I’d rather leave you and run than let there be an again.

Sleep well, little brother. I have a lot to think about tonight, but I’ll come join you eventually.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

I met that client today. The one you told me about. Not gonna lie, I almost punched her in her stupid face. She was so self-absorbed, she didn’t even look at me more than three times, and she actually called me Kaoru repeatedly. If she doesn’t shut up, I’m going to drop her and let security deal with her whining. She was all “oh, I don’t want to look fat, do you think I’ll look fat?” and “this looks like something you’d see from Koizumi”―um excuse me we can top those organza clouds any day, thank you very much―“I want HIGH fashion, mister Hitachiin,” and she legitimately slurred on our name and I think she was tipsy and oh my god, I want to strangle the bitch.

Were we like that once? So absorbed in ourselves, in our pride, that we actually said shit like this?

Don’t answer that. I already know that the answer is yes.

Well, at least we changed. Or you did, at least. I still don’t know if I’ve actually changed or if I’m just lying to myself and saying that I have.

Time to get back to work. I love you, little brother. If I go to jail for killing this little bitch, let’s auction off all of my old designs from high school, the really shitty but oddly okay ones, and use that to pay the bail. Or we could maybe pull a Chicago, make it look like I’m not completely in the wrong and get the jury to call me not-guilty by pure bullshit.

Love,
Hika

P.S. Yes, I know that I’m hopeless Broadway trash and love almost all musicals, but Chicago is a damn good show and you cannot convince me otherwise.

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Dear Kaoru,

You gave me the stink eye when I got to work today, and I mean, you have every right to. I did miss a 10 a.m. meeting and I was hungover when I got to the office at 2 in the afternoon. And I didn’t come back to the townhouse last night. But before you start, mister know-it-all, I did not hook up with some random chick last night, I just got more sloshed than normal―yes, that’s actually possible―and when I woke up, there was a tiny child screaming at me.

Just gonna say right now that I had no idea where I was when I woke up. The sun was still rising, so it was like 6 or 6:30 or something, I dunno. The weirder part was the tiny child staring at me. Like, tiny-tiny. Older than Ageha, but still too small to be older than 6, if that makes sense. He was cute, I guess. Green eyes. Dirty blond hair. White skin. Light freckles. He was just staring at me, and I stared back because I wasn’t awake, my head was pounding and I wasn’t quite sure if I was about to puke or not, I mean, I went way too heavy on the tequila last night.

But then the kid just screamed. He also threw a crayon at me. It probably hurt more because I was hungover and still am, but like, he threw a crayon at me. He was still screaming, by the way, and my head was pounding even more than it is now so I just kind of started screaming back. In my defense, he threw a crayon at me. So we’re just sitting there screaming at each other, I had no clue where I was, and a dude comes around the corner and whacks the kid―lightly whacks him, I swear, he was fine, no children were abused in this story―on the back of the head.

I’m just gonna say that Hiro’s hot without a shirt on. Fuck he’s hot and I don’t care how gay that sounds, I was staring openly. If he asks then I’ll just say it was the tattoos. Have I written about those before? I’d seen the chains on his hands, but apparently they’re a full sleeve that also covers his shoulder and stretches across his pecs and oh my god I should really stop, you’re staring at me right now and writing this to you while you give me a suspicious look from across the room is just wrong. You think I’m doing paperwork right now, so, well, this is awkward.

I should do that paperwork. I really don’t wanna be here forever, and I owe you some sort of excuse and dinner tonight. I can do that much right, at least.

Please stop giving me weird looks. I’ll work now, I promise.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

Back to storytime―and this time I’m caught up on work so I will definitely finish.

To recap: Hiro just showed up and whacked the kid on the back of the head to shut him up. I’m confused as fuck and I’m not quite sure that I haven’t been kidnapped or something. So I just sit there and stare at those gorgeous tattoos while the snot-nosed brat runs upstairs. Hiro doesn’t say anything, either, he just disappears upstairs.

I stayed put, man. I didn’t know what was going on, and I didn’t know if the brat would attack me again, and I was freaking out. You know what happens when I freak out, I put my foot in my mouth, and I actually kinda like Hiro. Well. I don’t hate him. I hate most of humanity. But I didn’t want to say something to piss Hiro off, and I was freaking out, so I sat still. I did look around for my stuff, though. My phone was there, and my wallet, and nothing was missing, so it’s not like I was robbed or anything.

Now that I think of it, if Haruhi knows this guy, he wasn’t gonna kill me or anything. She tends to be a bit straight-laced about those things, what with her being a big-shot lawyer and all.

Anyway, when Hiro came back, the brat was with him, they were both dressed, and, most importantly, the brat was carrying a baby. A goddamn baby. Hiro took the little thing from the brat, who put on a coat and sat to put shoes on. Hiro was trying to do the same for himself and the baby at the same time, and I didn’t really know what to do, so I offered to take the baby since I know how to deal with those after babysitting for Ageha, and he just handed her over. Baby’s a girl. She was gurgly. Kinda cute, in that squishy fat baby way. I didn’t pay too much attention to her, honestly, I was keeping one eye on the brat and the other on Hiro.

It’s weird. He trusted me super easily. He just handed me the baby and let me get shoes on her, and then he said that he had to get the kids to daycare and he had to go to work, but I could help myself to the food in the fridge and let myself out whenever. Later in the day, he texted me to say that I can come over for dinner next weekend if I want to talk about whatever led to this, so I guess I’ll do that.

I don’t know what to think. Nobody’s ever treated me like this, and I don’t know if I like it or hate it. Mori-senpai would tell me to meditate, so I’ll give it a shot, I guess. Wish me luck, little brother.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

Y’know, I’ve been thinking about everything that happened and I’ve realized that I’m even more of an asshole than we ever realized. Hiro’s picked me up off the street so many times now, at all hours of the night, and taken me home for no legitimate reason and he’s had kids this entire time?? And he’s probably got a wife who I haven’t met??

Like, what the fuck?? I don’t know anything about him besides his first name, he doesn’t really know anything about me―I think―and he’s still doing this. Does he owe Haruhi something? Does she have dirt on him? Maybe she had Kyouya-senpai dig up dirt on him. There’s no fucking way that he’s been dealing with my drunk ass out of the goodness of his heart.

I don’t care how “good” a person you are, not even Mori-senpai would be willing to leave two kids at home to pick up some alcoholic he didn’t really know. And if I actually told you about this―actually told you, not just write the question in another letter that’ll get buried in my desk drawer under piles of sketches―I know what you’d say. What you’d do.

You’d roll your eyes at me; you’d give me that soft, gentle smile that you save for only our family and our closest friends. You’d poke my cheek, right where that stupid dimple is, and you’d tell me that some people are just… good people.

After everything that you’ve been through, you’re still able to see the good in people.

How?

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

I dropped that bitchy client, the one you’d handed off to me. Sucks to be her. Somehow I don’t think you’ll mind that much.

We’re having movie tonight for the first time in months. I’m going to dinner with Hiro tomorrow and I’m really stressed about it, but maybe this’ll take my mind off of it.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

I’m going to Hiro’s for dinner tonight. You think I have a date, and I’m definitely not telling you otherwise, because I honestly don’t know how to explain this. Out loud, I mean. I don’t know how to actually tell you about Hiro and everything he’s done and what happened last week without having an eraser for when I change my mind about wording.

Erasers are great. Is that why texting is so addicting? Because we can erase without all the eraser shavings?

Meditating didn’t help. It just made me think about things in a fucked-up, existentialist manner.

Y’know, maybe Mori-senpai’s the trick to enlightenment, not meditation. He’s pretty chill. That may be it.

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated. I know that you’re not actually aware of what’s going on, but the naggy little voice in my head that sounds like you is being supportive, so I’ll say thanks anyway.

Love,
Hika

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Dear Kaoru,

It’s the morning after dinner at Hiro’s. The food was good. It was kind of awkward at first, honestly, but I did learn a lot.

The baby’s name is Aly. She seems to like me, she kept reaching for me, even when Hiro was holding her. I didn’t mind that much, really. Babies aren’t as bad as adults can be, even if they puke on you a lot more. To be fair, I’ve puked on you enough times that if I get puked on, it’s probably payback for that.

The brat’s name is Quinn. He apologized for the crayon thing. I didn’t really want to apologize for screaming back, because I’m a stubborn little shit, but Hiro kicked me really fuckin’ hard. I think I’ve got a massive bruise on my calf. Apparently not apologizing to five year olds when they try to be nice is a dick thing to do. He still clearly doesn’t like me. He would scowl every time Aly grabbed at my face or my hair, which she did a lot. He almost cried when she fell asleep in my lap. It was kinda cute.

Hiro’s a high school teacher. English lit. He’s got books all over the house, and not for decoration, either. Some are obviously Quinn’s but there’s a ton of mysteries and fantasies and sci-fis and books of all kinds scattered all over the place. The most active he got all night was when he was talking about books, although Quinn started bragging about how jealous his friends are that his dad helps him with reading homework and the conversation turned to that.

American schools are weird. Like, really weird.

Hiro told me after the kids went to bed that they’re not his biologically, but their mom was one of his closest friends and he took them in after she died a year ago. It explains a lot, actually―Hiro’s at least part Japanese and the kids are clearly not. Aly’s got blue eyes, and she doesn’t have much hair, but Quinn’s definitely blonde. They’re as white as you can get. Is that racist of me to say? I dunno. Don’t really care, either, since nobody’s gonna read this.

I asked how Haruhi knew him, too. They’re related on her mom’s side, so they didn’t talk much after Kotoko died, but they reconnected or whatever when we all came to Boston in high school. She complained about my drunk calls and he offered to give me a ride, and he has been ever since.

He’s pretty low-key. Not like Mori-senpai, because he’s not as quiet, but he’s got that same air of comfort around him. Like, I was expecting tonight to be super awkward, but it was actually kinda fun. Different from what I was used to. I didn’t have to wear the mask, if you know what I mean. I didn’t have to think about my reputation, or sucking up to people to win clients, or wonder how many people were whispering about us behind my back.

Honestly? I’d go back another night if I could. Talking with no strings, no baggage like the two of us have, it was liberating. If that’s the right word for it. Does anything I said make sense?

Love,
Hika