He tips his glasses up to save the taped-up frame from dipping dangerously down the bridge of his nose, and he sighs as it slides down again. The force of his exhale is enough to make his long and shaggy brown fringe move just a smidge from its place.
He’s tempted to just rip them off and ditch them somewhere, but he’s practically blind without his glasses. It isn’t as if he has the money to spare for a new pair anyway, so he makes do with it; he lifts his finger as he adjusts them again. This time he straightens up his posture, proper body mechanics working its magic as professional awareness awakens within him. Lifting his head while straightening his slumped back helps keep his glasses in place, and Yamada Ryosuke walks on.
“I’m nearly there, huh,” he whispers to himself. “Ouran High School.”
The name of the school sounds so foreign in his tongue, but he gears himself up for a new beginning. Soon enough he finds himself staring up at the grand entrance to what’s undoubtedly an equally grand school building and grounds, the name of the school in large golden letters arranged in an arc. Yamada stops for a moment to gather his thoughts, to stop himself from questioning his choices.
”I did not choose the performer’s life, the performer’s life chose me,” he thinks to himself like a mantra, allowing the words to bathe him in a warmth that has little to do with the summer heat. “This is the right place, this school is where the elite in performing arts started. Yes. I’ll do my best, too.”
The door leading into the third music room opens, and six sets of heads turn toward that general direction, excusing themselves from their customers to greet the newcomer with patented Host Club smiles on their lips. They see a shabbily dressed geek―slumped back and lowered gaze; taped-up glasses sliding down a cute, pert nose; a poor combination of baggy button-ups under a faded vest, which is then made up for by nice-fitting pants; and the shaggiest brown hair they’ve ever encountered―enter the room.
One by one they withdraw their gazes and return to entertaining the guests full-force, as if they’ve never seen anything that is out of place. The conversation in different corners of the room livens up again, save for the one situated in the middle of it all.
Nakajima Yuto stares with his jaw hanging slightly open, his mouth working and failing to form words as he looks at the newcomer.
“Ne, Yuto-kun, are you listening?” a girl asks as she pokes the tall man in the arm, and Yuto shakes his head―a slight movement to get his mind back in the game―because he has a guest and he isn’t the number one Host for nothing.
“Of course, my princess,” Yuto returns smoothly, making a big show of gently sliding his hand down the side of the girl’s face. “I apologize for my momentary lapse. Did you want to do something else?”
The girl shakes her head, adoration in her eyes as Yuto smiles at her. His attentions get diverted elsewhere; her mood darkens for just a moment when she finds Yuto looking at someone else in her presence, and the expression on her face sours up some more when she figures out that a geek―of all people!―has caught Yuto’s eyes.
"Time is up, milady,” another voice gently reminds with an equally gentle tap on the girl’s shoulder. The girl turns her gaze toward one Inoo Kei, his smile benevolent, and the girl happily stands from her seat beside Yuto. She takes her leave, and when Yuto searches for the geek again, all he sees is an empty space where the newcomer stood.
Yuto makes his move as soon as he’s free, rising from his seat like lightning struck near his toes, pacing through the entire room in a span of less than a minute. His search seems fruitless until he gets to another door that leads to the exit, and the next thing he knows is colliding with something (or someone) solid.
“Ow,” Yuto cries, holding a hand to his face. He feels a thin trickle of liquid flow down his nose, and his hand comes away red.
“Aaah!” he shrieks, paling at the sight of his own blood, and he slides slowly down the floor with trembling legs.
Two other members are quick on their feet. Yabu catches him before Yuto hits the ground, while Hikaru helps with gently lowering the younger man into the floor―careful to keep his head raised―and at the same time assessing the extent of the damage.
“Are you okay?” Hikaru asks. “That looks really nasty.”
“Oh, hush it, Hikaru,” Yabu chides, “Don’t scare him. The bleeding won’t stop if you stress him out some more.” He whips out some tissues from somewhere in his person, and he uses it to mop up the blood on Yuto’s face.
“My nose, senpai!” Yuto wails, his voice high and at the same time muffled. Hikaru can’t help but giggle at how funny Yuto sounds like this.
Yabu shoots a glare at Hikaru and the other man instantly shuts up.
“Yuuyan,” Yabu directs, and a dark and attractive broad-shouldered male responds with a silent―almost calm―yes, Captain. Takaki Yuya stands up, leaving behind a tiny guy, to do whatever their captain would say.
“Please get us some ice, both for Yuto and,” he meets gazes with the person Yuto had crashed into, quietly prompting the other man to speak.
“Yamada Ryosuke,” the other person replies. “But, but, but―I’m okay.” He reaches up to touch the top of his own head (where Yuto had hit him when they crashed into each other), and winces just a little. “...I think.”
The pain is the least of his problems, as Yamada goes down on his knees and blindly tries to search for something. When he finds his glasses, the tape job of its frame has completely given up on him. While he tries his best to salvage his glasses, Yuto suddenly gets up from where he lays.
Yuto is soon right up Yamada’s face, shameless in his awe at the shorter male’s beauty. “You,” Yuto starts, “you’re beautiful.”
Yamada almost smiles at the compliment, but then his face falls and hand “slips” when he hears the next words, ”But you’re short―”
The next moment finds Yuto clamping his nose shut again, and Yamada starts to walk away, glasses or no.
“Well, well, Captain,” a tiny voice casually speaks up. “It looks like our number one is going to be out for the count,” Chinen says while looking down at Yuto, and then at the slowly retreating Yamada.
“What are you gonna do, Captain?” Hikaru asks, the mischief in his eyes very much apparent. Whatever plans they may have, he doesn’t need to speak a word of it aloud, because that sense of mischief is the same thing reflected in Yabu’s own eyes. They share a similar upward quirk of their lips as they signal to Inoo.
“Did you know that Yuto is our number one host?” Inoo begins.
Yamada stops in his tracks, something about the delicate-looking young man’s voice making him turn back toward the main room. “Pardon me?”
Inoo continues talking now that he’s got Yamada’s attention. “Yuto is one of our best hosts, and with the damage to his nose, he’ll be out commission for a few days at best―and more than a week to completely recover. Since you were the cause…” He whips out a tablet and starts taking notes, while at the same moment, he’s computing for the costs.
Yamada gulps. He bows deeply without actually saying the words, I’m sorry, “I’ll pay for the damages!”
“Are you sure about that?” Inoo scoffs. It has Yamada raising his head to look up at him.
The gesture seems so out of place with the man’s angelic face, but by now Yamada knows better, and he waits with bated breath for the rest of Inoo’s words.
“How are you gonna come up with 10 Million Yen?” Inoo challenges him.
Now it’s Yamada’s turn to pale, jaw hanging open in shock at the price they’re making him pay. His mouth begins to open and then close, words just failing him and stopping him from making a sound and sensible protest.
“Make him work for it,” Chinen lazily suggests, not even raising his head from Takaki’s lap.
The evil glint in Yabu and Hikaru’s eyes turn brighter than ever, and Hikaru heads up to the pair to pat Chinen’s head. “You’re a genius, Chii.
Chinen absolutely preens under the praise and the petting.
“Nooooooo,” Yuto weakly protests through his broken nose, waving around the ice bag in his hands, but nobody is paying him any mind and he puts the ice bag back to his face when he feels it starting to hurt again.
Yamada somehow finds Yuto’s reactions endearing, and despite feeling the sting of the taller man’s words from earlier, he feels a little bad for him.
And that’s how Yamada Ryosuke found himself working as a slave to the Host Club.
Yamada returns from a short trip to the store, his paper bag huge and filled to the brim with an assortment of snacks and various other drinks.
The group―host club members and guests alike―gathers around as Yamada starts sorting through his purchases, each of them in varying states of impressed and indifferent.
”I wanna try this!”
(Oh, please don’t. It’s mine.)
“Oooooh, what’s this? What’s that?”
(Isn’t it obvious? Please take the time to read the label.)
”These kinds of things exist?! For real?”
(It does. Now if you don’t like it, I’ll happily take it away)
”Would my stomach hurt if I ate that?”
(Idiot. You mix it with water and drink it.)
It’s highly distracting (and at times offensive), all these comments being thrown around, but Yamada’s comebacks aren’t that much better either. In his mind, Yamada is tempted to practice the knife-throwing skills he’d had to learn for a role in an independent film. But he holds back, knowing that actually killing people is not a good thing to do.
Curious hands grab a glass jar from Yamada’s grasp, and it takes all of his patience to not throw actual knives at whoever the culprit was, settling instead for murder intent hidden behind his sweetest smile.
Yuto inspects the jar’s contents, brown granules moving like sand in an hourglass as he turns the jar round and round. “Ne, Yama-chan, what’s this?” he asks, completely oblivious to the metaphorical daggers Yamada’s throwing at him.
Yuto’s eyes brighten up, a grin spreading across his face, and it grabs the attention of the other host club members. Hikaru grabs it from Yuto, and Yabu holds it in his hands just to present it for Inoo’s own inspection. Takaki looks on with mild interest, but his curiosity is not enough to make him leave Chinen’s side.
“It’s instant coffee,” Yamada patiently explains instead as a small circle forms around him, the curious eyes and eager smiles somewhat encouraging Yamada, and he begins to show them how instant coffee is prepared.
“Instant coffee?” Chinen says, directing the question to Takaki. “Ne, Yuuyan, do you remember? We had that in France, right?”
Takaki nods, the memory it triggers bringing equal parts of fondness and bitterness. His smile turns just a smidge dumb as he replies, “Yeah, we got lost in the countryside and we couldn’t find a place to stay. It was extra-cold outside so we had to stay awake. Then a kind soul gave us instant coffee and let us stay the night in their home.
“I still remember the burn of the liquid on my tongue, and the taste of bitterness in my mouth.”
From the corner of his eyes, he sees Takaki and Chinen share a special smile. Yamada is only half-listening, his focus spent on explaining to the others the idea of putting a teaspoonful of coffee granules into a cup and dissolving it in hot water, but he stores that piece of conversation between Takaki and Chinen in the recesses of his mind.
“...and there, done,” Yamada lifts the teaspoon off the cup with a muted flourish, finished with preparing cups of instant coffee for everyone.
Yuto gets one cup and offers the drink to one of the girls within his range of sight. The girl hesitates, shaking her head as she says, “Um, I think I’ll pass.”
The girl’s answer doesn’t deter Yuto’s stride. “Yama-chan made coffee for us, it’ll be a waste if we don’t make the most of it,” he begins. Some bright idea flashes through his mind and he brightens up considerably. “If I drink it and let you have a taste through my mouth, will you drink it?”
It captures the girl’s interest, her nod quick and a little over-eager at Yuto’s proposed method of sharing the drink. “Yes, yes!”
Yamada sighs as the other girls begin to crowd Yuto, all of them wanting in on the fun, too. Having Yuto share his drink with a kiss means one more step toward heaven for these girls. He shakes his head at the taller man’s antics, belatedly realizing the force he’s using with the cups and utensils he’s putting away, until...
“I wouldn’t use that much force, if I were you,” a bush puppet enters Yamada’s line of sight, the person holding the puppet easily invading his personal space. “I won’t be so obvious with my jealousy.”
Yamada almost throws the tray in his grasp, surprised as he was for a strange fellow’s presence. The first thing that catches Yamada’s attention, aside from the bush puppet, is the multitude of scarves wrapped around the young man’s neck. The other thing that does is his ridiculously long legs covered with a cloak. In midsummer.
“Who are you?” Yamada asks, backing a little away, only to collide with something warm and solid.
Yamada turns and finds another broad-shouldered young man with deep-set eyes, a foreign accent in his tone when he replies to Yamada’s question.
“That’s Morimoto Ryutaro, leader of the Nature Club,” he says. With a small smile, he introduces himself, too. “I’m Okamoto Keito, born in Osaka but raised partly in London. Pleased to be of service.”
Yamada acknowledges the introductions with a bow. “Yamada Ryosuke,” he returns.
Eventually, curiosity gets the best of him and he turns to Ryutaro, “Aren’t you hot with all those scarves? I mean, it’s summer,” Yamada asks, casually pulling at one of them to wear around his own frame as though to accentuate his outfit.
Ryutaro shrieks, shivering crazily. "Murderer!" the young man shrieks some more as he points an accusing finger at Yamada. Keito just comes to Ryutaro and wraps him up in his embrace.
They leave just as quickly as they came, Ryutaro mumbling to Keito about it being too cold in the summer and returning to Hawaii.
"Ryuu, please," Chinen scoffs at the retreating duo. "You love us. Which is why you came back."
“I heard that!” Ryutaro bellows from outside. The rest of the host club doesn’t hear the, yes, I do love you guys too much.
He belatedly realizes that he’s still wearing Ryutaro’s scarf, and he takes them off with tremblings hands. Yamada collects himself, nerves frazzled by Ryutaro’s accusation.
Yuto comes up to him, embracing him from behind, and Yamada twitches in barely-restrained annoyance. But the annoyance is a welcome change in his current feelings, so he just takes it all in―Yuto’s warmth and the comfort he’s giving off in waves.
“It’s a heavy thing to hear from someone you just met, right?” Yuto says.
“It’s not your fault, Yama-chan,” he begins. “Ryuu has always been so easily cold, has a big fear of freezing to death. So he wears a cloak topped with lots of scarves, even if it’s summer.”
“Why does it feel like it is?‘ Yamada asks, his voice to low for anyone to pick up on, his eyes landing right back to the piece of clothing in his hands.
“What is that look in your face, Yama-chan?” Inoo comments from somewhere in the room, and Yuto loosens his embrace to whirl Yamada around so he can see the other man’s expression.
“Waaaaa, Inoo-chan is right,” Yuto laments. He shakes Yamada up a bit, then he frees one hand to hold three fingers up. “There are three golden rules in being a member of this host club, and even if you’re our slave, you should do well to understand these rules―”
“That’s the point, right?” Yamada cuts him off. “I’m at this club’s behest, and that’s all I need to know. Whether I act like a girl or a boy, it doesn’t matter.”
Something begins to spark in Yuto’s eyes, a little like awe and a lot like love, but he shakes it off for the sake of talking some sense into Yamada. He begins talking, and he doesn’t stop.
“Troublesome―?” Yamada shakes his head, mind reeling from Yuto’s very extensive and extremely obnoxious explanation about host club rules that suddenly led into cameras and photography, while trying to gather his thoughts. “There has to be a better word for this―person.”
Then it dawns on him, the Eureka! moment complete with lightbulbs going off in his mind, but all he does is simply blurt it out, “Annoying!”
Yuto’s extensive commentary suddenly comes to a grinding halt, Yamada’s words piercing right through him and driving him into the wall.
The customers stare on in surprise while Yamada is maintains an air of being unimpressed―despite his initial shock―and the Host Club members gather ‘round to assess the damage made by Yuto’s impromptu crash, their number one host knocked right into it with the force of Yamada’s words.
Takaki stood the closest, peeling at the words with a mix of awe and a budding fear, while Chinen clung leisurely to him. The shorter boy shook his head, the simple motion laced with the curiosity of a child marveling at something he has seen for the first time.
“Sasuga, Ryo-chan,” Chinen speaks from the comfort and warmth of Takaki’s arms. “Only you.”
The school bell rings, and a flat droning voice announces something over the PA system for all first-years to gather in the assembly hall.
Yabu and Hikaru work their hardest to pull Yuto from the wreckage, “Come on, Yuto, off you go.”
Yamada’s just waiting for Yuto to be dug out of the wall, stalling for time because, who actually wants to go? But then Yuto is flung toward him, and useless as the other man was at the moment, Yamada just carries him princess-style to the assembly hall, making sure to use empty hallways so that no one will see. Chinen cheerily waves the pair goodbye.
Moments later―when the assembly is in full swing―Chinen waltzes into the room, taking the empty seat next to a very surprised Yamada.
“Wait, what are you doing here?” Yamada asks. “Aren’t you supposed to be with Takaki-senpai?”
Chinen just giggles, enjoying Yamada’s slack-jawed surprise and offering no answer.
“He’s our classmate,” Yuto stage whispers. “He never really leaves Takaki-senpai’s side, but sometimes he has to make an appearance so that he won’t repeat the year.”
“It’s Yuuyan’s last year with us, I just want to make the most out of our remaining time,” Chinen finally explains. Yamada nods in understanding.
The assembly ends with the announcement of an inter-high film festival. Each school is given one slot for a production of their own, and the administration has entrusted the project to the entire student body, having announced it to the seniors in smaller quieter circles before gathering the freshmen.
A few days later finds them all in various stages of production; from planning and concept-mapping, to storyboard and character-building, to casting... and soon enough the film and camera crew are on standby.
Transfer student, and film expert, Arioka Daiki signals for the filming to begin. The cameras start rolling as the basketball game begins, and it captures Yabu as he passes the ball to Hikaru. Hikaru makes the shot, and the extras that are made part of the crowd cheer.
They both flash a cutesy peace sign. With near-identical grins, they face the camera. ”Kami ang pabebe girls at walang makakapigil sa’min!”
“Cut, CUT, CUT!” Daiki yells, shaking his fist at Yabu and Hikaru. “That’s not in the script!! What alien language is that, even?”
“Sorry, Dai-chan,” Hikaru says, not sounding the least bit apologetic. Yabu just flashes him a cheeky grin.
Daiki presses the bridge of his nose. Inoo pats him on the head. Production moves forward, even if it’s slow-going.