Melodramatic

The room, normally neat and perfect thanks to a tiny legion of staff devoted almost solely to task, lies in utter disarray. Bookshelves and bureaus stand half-empty, their contents piled carelessly in the middle of the room where several bewildered servants are hastily packing cardboard boxes to the brim. At the heart of it all is Kaoru, a blue Ouran jacket in each hand. He scowls in concentration, eyes going back and forth between the identical items.

“Hikaru’s” the young man finally mutters after a few moments. One of them has a loose thread on the hem of one sleeve, and it is always Hikaru (though he will deny it, if you were to ask) who always forgets to send his clothes for mending. He returns the left-hand uniform to the closet and tosses the other to the floor behind him, where it is quickly retrieved by one of the maids and hung on a portable rack with the rest. Move to the next matching set, and repeat.

A half hour later the closet door slides closed with a dull thud and Kaoru drifts to the bathroom. Fidgets. He’s almost finished, but it’s still taking too long. Hikaru will be home from his not a date in an hour, maybe two, and if it’s not over by then Kaoru is not sure he’ll have the strength to see it through. He’s terribly weak to the tremor in his brother’s voice when he’s nervous and frightened, when he doesn’t understand why.

Towels, toothbrush, comb, the soap he likes so much because it smells the way he feels in the morning, bathrobe he hardly uses anyway, all shoved into some overpriced canvas bag he found buried underneath a stack of old comic books. Kaoru doesn’t need to take these things, really; there’s hardly anything he can’t replace with a wave of his hand, snap of his fingers, call to the right butler, but leaving them here is like saying he’ll be back. That’s not an option he wants to leave himself; he’ll take it.

Kaoru looks in the mirror as he turns to leave. Hikaru stares back at him. Hair-part left, hair-part right. Kaoru moves his right hand and Hikaru moves his left. Kaoru breathes, Hikaru breathes. Hikaru starts to sob and Kaoru realizes he is doing the same, tears dripping softly into the white porcelain sink and all over the marble countertop. He wipes them away on his bare wrist like a child, smears snot down his arm and laughs at himself. Across from him, Hikaru giggles silently in sync. Kaoru smiles. Hikaru smiles. Kaoru turns off the light, and Hikaru disappears.

No matter what the mirror keeps telling him, Kaoru is not Hikaru.

While his brother eats cheap ice cream from a street vendor across town with a girl whose name is unimportant, Kaoru has his things moved to the spare bedroom down the hall.

***

Kaoru is barely startled when his twin bursts into the room, slamming the door behind him. Hikaru has never been one for knocking, even in the most normal of circumstances. Neither is he one for observing the personal space of others (though Kaoru is hardly one to talk); Hikaru stumbles across the room and falls into the chair his brother occupies, latches onto him and squeezes hard, just short of real pain. Kaoru inhales sharply and drops his book. His brother smells like the summer breeze blowing through his open window.

“What did I do?” Hikaru asks, tears on the edge of his voice. “Whatever it is, I’m sorry. Okay? So stop it.”

“Stop what?” Kaoru clasps his brother’s hands and gently disentangles himself from the desperate embrace. “We’re third year already, so I thought it was time we had separate rooms, that’s all. Don’t you think so, Hikaru?”

“No.”

“Well, it’s weird to be sharing a room when we’re this old, isn’t it?”

Hikaru won’t let go of his hand. “No.”

“Well, I think it probably is. We’re not like the commoners that have to share their rooms with each other or anything. It’s kind of silly.”

The grip tightens. “You would have told me before,” Hikaru says, “if that was all. But you just left.” He looks his brother in the eyes. “I did something, right? I made you mad so you left.”

“Don’t be dumb. I felt like moving, so I did. It wasn’t anything to do with you.”

Hikaru’s face ducks down and he hugs his brother again, presses close. Kaoru makes no move to push him away this time, lets fingers dig painfully into his back.

“You’re such a liar,” Hikaru says. Sobs. Tears dribble down Kaoru’s bare skin where Hikaru rests his head, dripping down the line of his shoulder blade and drying into nothing along the curves of his back. “I hate when you do that.”

“When I do what?”

“Pretend like it’s okay.” Or that’s what Kaoru thinks he says. Hikaru’s own heavy breathing drowns out his words. His voice has gone so quiet.

Hikaru continues to sob, and Kaoru realizes he is doing the same.

***

It hits him hardest when he crawls under the covers that night. He switches off the light and the shadows all seem wrong, too long and stark and not where they’re supposed to be. Things creak when they shouldn’t. His bed faces the wrong way. The absence of his brother’s breathing is the loudest sound he’s ever heard. He twists the sheets anxiously between his fingers and the shadows shift around him.

There are several times over the course of the night where it is almost too much for him. He wants to bolt down the hallway, third door on the right, to where the world is how it’s supposed to be and everything makes sense and Hikaru snores sometimes. Once, he makes it as far as his own door, hand resting on the smooth brass knob, before he takes a breath and slinks back to his bed. Twice he rolls onto his side and stares into the dark where Hikaru should be, sprawled out, feet hanging off the edge of the bed. At three in the morning he finally falls asleep with a pillow clutched over his head to keep out the silence.

He wakes up in a tangle of sheets on the floor, Hikaru looking down at him from the bed with a sense of impending doom.

And Kaoru laughs.

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