Author's Note: This happens to be my first fic on this site, so feedback would be greatly appreciated. Apologies if there are instances of characters not acting the way they normally would; as the characters are not my own, I suppose I don't have the firmest grasp on what they would or wouldn't do/think/say. Oh, yeah, speaking of which, disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. I do not own them, nor do I claim to.

But yeah, that's it. I do hope you'll enjoy.


Endless Date:

Asahina-san's eyes glimmered gorgeously as her face drew near. She reached out for me, grabbed the cup of tea I was holding right out of my hand. For a moment, she looked off into the distance, as if gathering up the nerve to speak. Dressed in her maid costume, she appeared to tremble slightly, possibly with anxiety.

She looks so cute when she's all nervous. Slowly, her gaze returned to me, and my heart pounded against my chest as if trying to escape. Asahina-san opened her mouth to speak, and . . .

"Kyon-kun! Wake up, Kyon-kun! You're going to be late!" she shouted stridently, the wrong voice coming out of her mouth. Suddenly, a rush of cold air washed over me.

At this point in time, my eyelids popped open, and disappointedly, I found myself in my room, no adorable, time-travelling senpais in sight. My sister had pulled the blanket off of me in an attempt to wake me up, which is pretty sad because I really would have liked to have listened to what Asahina-san was about to say.

"Kyon-kun, hurry, hurry! Get up!" piped my little sister, already beginning to toy around with Shamisen. The cat, who had been napping along with me- and possibly dreaming about an adorable senpai, as well- struggled to break free of my sister's clutches, but to no avail.

"What do you want? Go away. It's a Saturday, I think I reserve the right to sleep in for a bit, don't I?"

"You promised to meet up with Haruhi today!" she reminded me. With a groan, I rolled over to face the wall, pulling the blanket off of the ground and draping it back over me.

Haruhi, Haruhi, Haruhi. Why did I have to agree to this? I was more than ticked off, because even on a day when there would normally be no club meeting, on a day when I wouldn't have to suffer through sitting by her in class, I was being forced to put up with that girl anyway. It was as if the world revolved around Haruhi, which, in a way, I guess it did.

Just thinking about her made my head hurt. Briefly, I thought back to the unfortunate situation that had gotten me into this mess in the first place.

. . . .

. . .

. .

.

"Kyon!" Haruhi had shouted in the middle of a Brigade meeting. It was completely out of the blue; Koizumi and I were going to head-to-head in an intense game of checkers, Nagato was in the corner reading a book by an American author- Jonathan Viridity, I think it was-, and Asahina-san- dressed in her usual maid costume- was busy making tea. Haruhi had been quietly staring out the window at the falling rain. It was nice to see her behaving so mellowly, and I was beginning to think that perhaps our wild, wacked up Brigade Leader was finally settling down. It was just too good to be true, I guess.

"Kyon," she repeated. I made my move and took one of Koizumi's pieces.

Maybe if I ignore her, she'll give up and-

Haruhi marched up to me, grabbed me by my tie, and wrenched me out of my chair. She had an annoyed look plastered to her face.

"I'd appreciate it if you responded when I call you, Kyon."

"Sorry. What can I say? I really want to end Koizumi's winning streak."

A glance in his direction- my eyes begging for his assistance- revealed that usual, stupid, potentially phony smile of his. If he had something to say, he sure was good at keeping his mouth shut. If only he could be that way all the time.

"Kyon, I don't care about your game of checkers! Do you know what tomorrow is?"

"Saturday."

"No, you idiot! Tomorrow is the day of our first annual SOS Brigade Dinner Party!"

"How did you expect me to know that?!"

"Do you ever pay attention? It was a couple of weeks ago, remember? I suggested we all go out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate our club's success. Except you were all like, 'No, you're going to make me pay, and my wallet's already empty,' so I moved it to today!"

Success? In what way has the Brigade succeeded? I mean, I guess we do have an alien, a time traveller, and an esper, but still, we never do anything worth calling successful.

I suppose I vaguely remember the conversation you're talking about. However, it's not like I've suddenly become richer over the course of a few weeks.

Suddenly, Koizumi spoke up, and I was genuinely delighted for his interruption. Or at least I was until I heard what he was saying.

"Suzumiya-san, I have a suggestion."

"What is it, Brigade Vice Commander?" Haruhi chirped, a grin suddenly spreading across her face. Perhaps Koizumi was contagious or something.

"Well, you see, since Kyon is so low on funds, I say the two of you go out to dinner alone."

I hate you, Koizumi. I would never wish that much alone time with Haruhi upon anybody. Why do you insist on torturing me so, you bastard?

"But it's supposed to be an SOS Brigade Event! We all have to be there!" Haruhi replied, and I was relieved. I shot the smiling moron a dirty look, as if to say, Stop pressing the issue. He seemed not to notice.

"I suppose you're right, Suzumiya-san, but I actually have some other obligations to attend to, anyway. Apologies." This was completely unlike him; Koizumi always went along with Haruhi and her shenanigans. Trying to be subtle, he glanced around quickly to Nagato and Asahina-san, making brief eye contact with the both of them.

"A-actually, I can't make it either," Asahina-san chimed in.

"I will be busy, too," Nagato stated. My heart sank.

"I guess I can reschedule . . . ," Haruhi sighed, and just like that, my heart floated back up to the surface.

"No, no," Koizumi urged, "you two should go anyway. You already had it all planned out, so not going would be a waste. We can all go together some other day."

This is your chance. Quickly, tell her that you're going to be busy, t-

"Alright! Kyon, it's settled!" our audacious Brigade Leader roared. Her bright eyes were shimmering with an excitement I couldn't understand. "There's no turning back now, we're going to our first annual SOS Brigade Dinner Party for two tomorrow."

"Erm, have fun, you guys," Asahina-san said, handing a cup of tea to each of us one by one.

"Haruhi, I happen to be busy, too, so-"

"Cancel your plans, Kyon. This takes priority," she growled, her expression suddenly serious. I sighed, rubbing my temples to try and rid myself of the headache she had caused.

Why do you get to cancel my plans? Why don't you cancel anybody else's?

"Because you're probably not doing anything, anyway."

At that, Koizumi chuckled. I gave up all hope of escaping, and everybody went back to doing what we had been doing before Haruhi's outburst.

After the meeting's conclusion, we all filed out of the room and headed for the exit. Haruhi, Asahina-san, and Nagato walked ahead, whilst Koizumi and I drifted along behind; I was planning on giving him a piece of my mind. However, he took the liberty of speaking first.

"Kyon, slow down," he ordered, tugging on my sleeve. He waited until we were an ample distance behind the others before continuing. "So, regarding tomorrow."

"I'm still pissed about that."

"Ah, sorry," he chuckled. "I wouldn't have done it if there hadn't been more at stake than just a little date."

"Date? Don't throw those kinds of words around, it isn't a date."

I shuddered at the thought of me dating Haruhi, and it wasn't just a quick surface shudder. It was a tremor that shook me down to the core, wracking my entire being with a torrent of both dread and terror.

"Haha, you can call it whatever you want. However, the more pressing issue here is that Haruhi has been . . . She's been becoming less stable than usual."

"Is that even possible?"

"Well, you have to admit that she hasn't been as wild as usual, and I can personally vouch for the fact that there hasn't been as much closed space being created. At least, that has been the case for quite a while now; she's starting to fall back into how she had been before, though, even if it's only slightly."

"I don't see how this relates to tomorrow's excursion."

"See, prior to today's meeting, I had a bit of a chat with Asahina-san and Nagato-san. I asked them to play along with my plan, and they obliged, albeit for different reasons than my own. My reasoning was that a date-"

"Excursion. Hang out session. Outing."

"Er, yes, an 'outing' with you will likely enhance and stabilise Suzumiya-san's mood, if not only a little."

"Why don't you go on a date with her, then? Why does it have to be me?"

Koizumi chuckled, and rather than saying anything, he hid behind that smiling mask of his and shrugged.

.

. .

. . .

. . . .

And that's how this catastrophe came to be.

With a sigh, I let my eyes close and tried to return to my dream of Asahina-san, but every time I closed my eyes, I would see Haruhi's face pop out of the darkness, like a horror movie jumpscare. Needless to say, I was not going to be able to get back to sleep. Still, I resigned myself to merely laying there, staring at the wall.

"KYON-KUN, GET UP!" my little sister shrieked, and she threw Shamisen onto my face and pressed him down on me until I had about a mouthful of fur in my mouth. Gagging, I abruptly arose, turning to the little nuisance to shoot her an infuriated glare. Apparently, my eyes are horrible at conveying messages, because she hardly glanced at me before continuing to torture our cat.

"Shami, Shami, Shami~~" she sang. With a sigh, I stepped off of my bed and looked at the clock.

It's only 8:00 AM. I'm having dinner with her, not breakfast. Why do I have to wake up now?

"Koizumi called. He said to wake you up and tell you that you should get ready for your date."

"Don't call it that. And get ready how? It won't take me ten hours to take a shower, brush my teeth, put on some clothes, and go."

"He said you should go out and get flowers. And a suit."

"Hell no."

"But Kyon-kun, it's a date, you have to!"

"Get out."

I stepped towards her with as menacing a look I could muster, and giggling, she scampered off with the male Calico in tow. Feeling suddenly tired again, I headed to the bathroom to splash some water on my face. Perhaps from there, I would be able to decide on a way to bide my time until I had to go meet her.

I spent most of the day lounging around in front of the television. On occasion, I would begin to take out some schoolwork from my bag, but more often than not, I would put it back immediately, telling myself that there would be time to do it later. Eventually, I ended up falling asleep again, that horrible imagery of Haruhi finally disappearing from the back of my eyelids.

"Kyon-kun, the phone!" yipped my sister, and groggily, I woke up. After stretching and yawning, I reached toward my sister, and she handed me the phone. I put it up to my ear and yawned once more.

"Kyon, have you prepared for your date yet?" Koizumi asked. I couldn't be bothered to correct him again, so I had to hope that my annoyance would reach him telepathically.

"No, I haven't. Why? What time is it?"

I looked at the clock.

"You're supposed to meet her in five minutes."

Shit.

Without any warning, I hung up on Koizumi, handed the phone back to my sister, and hopped out of bed. I headed straight for the bathroom and took in the person who stood gazing back at me in the mirror. My hair was ruffled up and stuck out like the feathers of a peacock. Having no time to take a shower, I dunked my head in the sink and turned on the water, but the sudden coldness made me retreat. In the process of doing so, I hit my head against the faucet. I turned on the hot water, sticking my hand into the flow to check the temperature this time. When I deemed it comfortable enough, I once again slipped my head into the sink and let the water weigh my hair down.

After drying myself off, I rushed out of the bathroom and back into my room. I was still in my sleeping clothes- boxers and a blue T-shirt-, and I couldn't possibly show up in those, so I picked a pair of jeans up off the ground and stepped into them. Again, I checked the clock. Three minutes left. I was in too much of a hurry to change the shirt.

There was no way I would make it in time. Haruhi would be furious, and I'd probably have to pay a fine.

Yanking a pair of socks onto my feet, I stumbled down the stairs and headed for the door.

"Have fun on your date~~" my sister chirped.

I ignored her, put on my shoes, and started jogging.

By the time I arrived, Haruhi was already waiting for me. When I set my eyes upon her, I froze in place. She wore an elegant red dress that, in the light, shimmered like a brilliant flame; it was reminiscent of what you'd witness if you were to use Lithium to conduct a flame test. Her hair was in a ponytail, tied back by the usual yellow-orange ribbon. Maybe I was just imagining it, but I think I saw a glow to her presence, like the one an old acquaintance of mine had described seeing around Nagato once; this particular radiance emanating from Haruhi wasn't caused by the Data Integration Thought Entity, however. I dare say that the way she looked then, her beauty might have come close to matching Asahina-san's. Almost, but not quite.

Soon enough, she caught sight of me, and almost poutingly, she growled,

"You're late. And what's with that stupid look on your face?"

"Ah. Erm. Sorry, I was . . ."

"Never mind it, let's just go inside. Come along, Kyon," she commanded, saving me the trouble of having to come up with an excuse for my tardiness. She grabbed ahold of my arm and dragged me into the restaurant, walking just slightly ahead. Haruhi spoke briefly with the hostess, and swiftly, we found ourselves seated by a window at a table for two.

"Your server shall be here soon to take your orders. Here are your menus. Please enjoy your dining experience," stated the hostess in a sort of monotone that might have rivaled Nagato's. Promptly, she left us to ourselves. I risked a peek at Haruhi.

"I hear they have good teriyaki here," she murmured, her nose buried in her menu.

"I could go for some chicken teriyaki, I guess."

"Alright, I will, too."

"You look rather nice tonight. I like the ponytail."

"Thanks," she mumbled, and I thought I saw her blush. It was hard to tell, though, because the entire restaurant was dimly lit, whether that was for ambience or to save money on the electricity bill. "You look like you just got out of bed," she sighed. Suddenly, she looked a little annoyed.

Aren't you a sharp one?

I didn't know what to say from there, so the conversation ended at that. Haruhi directed her gaze out the window and kept it there until the waiter came to serve us. Once we finished placing our orders, her eyes quickly darted back to the window. She was being oddly quiet, just like she had during yesterday's meeting. If anybody knows how I might keep her this way until I part ways with her, please contact me immediately.

Haruhi yawned. Feeling rather bored myself, I scanned the surrounding area to kill some time. It appeared that all around us, there were couples; men wearing jet black suits mingling intently with their respective dates. Suddenly, I felt self-conscious about my own getup. Perhaps Koizumi had been right; I should have taken more time to ready myself. My eyes flickered onto Haruhi for a moment, and I thought to myself that it wasn't all that important, anyway.

It would be a waste to dress up for Haruhi. All she's doing is staring out the window. Now, if this were a date with Asahina-san, that would be a different story. I spent some time fantasizing about that dream I had had earlier featuring my cute senpai from the future, and before I knew it, the waiter was striding up to us. He balanced numerous plates and glasses on two trays- one for each hand. With a motion as fluid as water being poured, he placed our plates in front of us, flashed a Koizumi-esque smile, and went off on his merry way.

In silence, we ate, Haruhi much more quickly than me. She was perhaps halfway done with her meal when a different waiter than the one that had brought us our food arrived to refill our glasses. Mine hadn't been touched yet, because I was too busy savoring the meal to bother with drinking water. Haruhi's glass, on the other hand, was more or less empty, so the waiter- clearly less graceful than the first- waddled over with the pitcher. Looking back, I don't suppose there was much of anything for him to trip on; the floor was smoothly carpeted with no edges to snag his feet, and if I remember correctly, his shoes were pretty firmly, crisply laced.

Somehow, he managed to stumble nonetheless, and the water came spilling out of the pitcher and all over Haruhi. I stood up just in time to avoid getting wet myself, but the Brigade Leader was drenched. Her dress- which had just been a dazzling, flaming red- had been doused, the fabric clinging to her skin in some parts. She held on her face a look of complete mortification, and I feared greatly for the lives of everybody in the building. I wouldn't have been surprised if by the next morning, Haruhi had erased from the world the existence of pitchers, or perhaps even of water itself. The waiter continually apologised for his blunder, but his words were blatantly ignored.

"Kyon," she called out to me, her voice just above a whisper. She looked just about ready to murder somebody, and I doubted I would be able to stop her if she really wanted to. "Let's go," she sighed.

"I haven't even finished my food yet."

Glaring at me, Haruhi exhaled sharply, so I dug into my pockets to search for my wallet. I did this for about twenty seconds, looking through each and every pocket I had. I even went through a couple of them more than once, as if in denial about the absence of my wallet.

"What is it?" she snarled.

"I forgot my wallet."

"You're hopeless." She started to reach for her bag, but the waiter stopped her.

"No, please, it's fine. I made a mistake, please wait here. I'm going to go talk to my manager about the situation, and I'll see what I can do about picking up the bill for you," he offered, already walking away. Still livid, Haruhi didn't even wait for him to leave our sight before heading for the exit.

"Come on, Kyon," she ordered, and when I tried to wait, she lunged at me, grabbed a fist's worth of my t-shirt, and towed me straight out of the restaurant with her.

"We really ought to have waited for him to come back, Haruhi."

"Argh, I don't care."

"Still, I should go back in there an-"

"Just shut up, Kyon! Ugh, you are such an idiot."

"What did I do?!"

"You . . . I . . . We were . . ." Haruhi looked off into the distance, her bright, shimmering eyes forlorn and plaintive.

"Haruhi."

"What?"

I placed my hand on her shoulder in an attempt to placate her. It was still wet.

"What's wrong?"

"Our date was a disaster," she muttered.

Just then, all of my alarms went off at the same time. She said the word! they wailed, but to correct her then would be equivalent to going into a boss fight in one of those RPGs without healing first; it would be suicide, a death wish. Deciding to put my focus into listening before attempting to put together any words, I allowed her to continue.

"First, you show up late, and you look like you rolled out of bed and headed right over, and then, I forget how to talk to you, and then that stupid waiter spills water on me, and you didn't even remember to bring your wallet, not that I was going to make you pay for it anyway, I was maybe going to split the bill with you, and your breath stinks, and everything just went to hell." She said all of this in one breath, the sentences running together to form one large, barely understandable wall of words. By the end of it, she looked to be on the verge of tears, the light wavering and rippling in her eyes, like water on the surface of a pond.

Have I ever seen Haruhi cry before? If I had, I couldn't recall. She always kept up a strong, energetic front, so I couldn't really imagine an emotional, sobbing Haruhi. Thus, when faced with an unfathomable scenario such as this, I had no idea how to react. Solemnly, I watched as tears streaked down her face, catching the light right before they dropped.

"K-Kyon," she rasped, wiping the tears away and quickly hiding her face from me. "I-I'm going home. I'll s-see you Monday."

Haruhi turned and began walking away, her steps growing quicker and quicker as she got farther and farther away. I wanted so badly to call out to her, to run after her, but as if my heart and mind were on vacation, I couldn't find it in me to take action of any sort.

I watched until she disappeared off into the horizon, and then I stood there for five minutes before coming to grips with what had just occurred. Promptly, I headed home and upon arrival, I immediately crashed face down onto my bed.

. . . . .

Bored, I sat in the club room taking short, swift sips of Asahina-san's freshly brewed tea. The taste was just short of heavenly, and as I put the cup down on the table, I felt soft, delicate arms wrap around my shoulders from behind. Startled, I turned and saw that the arms belonged to none other than Asahina-san herself. Briefly, my eyes flicked around the room, revealing that I was completely alone with my captivatingly sweet senpai. She donned her usual maid outfit as she leaned in. I could feel the warm, gentle tickle of her breath as her lips hovered less than an inch away from my ear.

"Kyon-kun, we have the club room all to ourselves," she whispered, and I grew tense. Her right arm suddenly rested on my thigh. Her words sounding like the melody of a love song, she continued on to say,

"If you want to . . . We could maybe . . . WAKE UP! KYON-KUN, WAKE UP! YOU'RE GOING TO BE LATE."

And just like that, I was awake, and instead of gazing longingly at my beautiful, time-travelling senpai, my eyes met those of my little sister's as she turned for a moment away from Shamisen to shoot me a mischievous smile.

"Kyon-kun, Koizumi called! He said that you should get ready for your date with Haruhi."

"It's not a date, we're just having dinner together."

"Sounds like a date to me~~!" She paused. "Hey, hey, Kyon-kun!"

"What?"

"Do you like Haruhi?" She stretched out the 'like,' putting a sickening amount of emphasis on the word. I chose not to dignify her question with an answer. "Not just like, but liiiike. Like, like-like," she continued, despite my clear disdain regarding the topic. My sister opened her mouth to push the subject even further, but before she could, I caved in and replied.

"No, I don't like Haruhi, far from it! She's annoying! Liking her? Me? That would be just plain stupid!"

"Teehee, Kyon-kun's tsundere~~" she giggled, picking up the cat and rushing out of the room. I let out a groan, and a few seconds later, a sigh. I shut my eyes and made my best attempt to pick up where my dream had left off, and I thought it had worked, too. However, to my horror, when I turned around, the Asahina-san I was expecting had been replaced with Haruhi. Suppressing a scream, I opened my eyes and hopped off my bed immediately.

Clearly, my little sister was right; it was time to wake up. Briefly, I thought back to the situation that had gotten me into this mess in the first place.

. . . .

. . .

. .

.

Koizumi can go die in a hole.

.

. .

. . .

. . . .

And that's how it happened.

I was still standing beside my bed, trying my hardest to purge from my mind every last shred of that nightmare when my sister appeared in my doorway, without Shamisen for once.

"Kyon-kun, the phone!" she shrilled as she ran over to hand me the home phone. I took it, pressed the button, and pressed it against my ear.

"Hello?"

". . ."

"Nagato?"

"Yes."

"Er, what's up?"

"Have you realised yet?"

"Realised what?"

"Is that so? . . . I see."

"Is what so? What do you see? I must be blind, care to point me in the right direction?"

". . ."

"Nagato . . . ?"

Click. Without so much as a good bye, she had left me hanging on the other side of the line. I suppose that was to be expected, though. I was still quite confused, but I decided not to bother thinking too hard about it. The most thought I gave it was a bit of inner dialogue that went remotely like this:

If it were really all that important, she would have told me what it was, so I shouldn't worry about it.

But doesn't the fact that she called mean it was probably important anyway?

That's possible, but-

The phone- still in my hand- rang again. I thought it would be Nagato again, but surprisingly, it was Koizumi's voice that greeted me.

"Kyon, have you prepared for your date?"

"It's not a date, and why should I prepare so early?"

"Hm, I thought you'd say something along those lines. You really should start getting ready, though. Maybe you ought to go out and purchase some flowers, rent a tuxedo, get your hair done."

"You're kidding, right?"

"Haha, I'm being completely serious, Kyon. It's vital that you please Suzumiya-san."

"Vital for who? You and your Organization?"

"Mm, I suppose you could say that. Anyway, I have some matters to tend to, so I suppose I'll leave it at this: Just let it be a nice night. It doesn't have to be perfect, so long as the two of you enjoy it."

"I'd much rather be dragged across a bed of hot coals than spend an entire dinner sitting across from Haruhi . . ."

This time, I was the one to hang up. For the rest of the day, I lazed around the house and sat in front of the television. I flicked periodically between some old anime reruns and a game of baseball, just to keep track of the score. Sometime along the way, I had fallen asleep, and I only awoke when my little sister ran up beside me and shouted into my ear.

"KYON-KUN, THE PHONE!" she howled, and my eyes opened despite all attempts to keep them shut. Groggily, I took the phone from her hand. It was Koizumi again. I glanced around, looking for a clock.

"Kyon-"

"What time is it?"

" . . . Kyon, you're supposed to meet Suzumiya-san in five minutes."

". . ."

". . ."

. . . Crap.

"Ah, it's a good thing I predicted this to happen. Hurry, put on your shoes and step out the door. My people are waiting to assist you. I'll talk to you later."

The call ended and I headed outside. For a second, it seemed as though Koizumi was lying, or that perhaps his people had gotten the address wrong, but as I was about to go back inside, Mori-san and Arakawa-san stepped out from behind a shrub.

"Kyon, come this way," Mori-san ushered, flashing me an ageless smile. Arakawa-san appeared to survey and surveil the surrounding area. They were dressed in business attire, which had thrown me for a loop, but I suppose I didn't have enough time to act too shocked.

Arakawa-san placed his hand on my shoulder and softly nudged me off behind a fence. Looking utterly absurd and out of place, a rack of suits stood there waiting for me.

"Don't worry," Mori-san called from the other side of the fence. "I won't peek!" I could picture her grinning that same smile, the one that simply refused to reveal her age.

Before I even knew what was going on, Arakawa-san had removed my shirt and pants, replacing them briskly with a jet black suit with dress pants to match. With a machine like precision, he wrapped around my neck the beginnings of a tie, and suddenly, I was being shoved into a car. Mori-san got in next to me whilst Arakawa-san took the wheel.

"Apologies, Kyon, we're in a bit of a crunch for time, here," she said, as she finished tying my tie. We were travelling so quickly that it was impressive how crisply and cleanly she worked. It was also fairly impressive that we hadn't yet died; I genuinely feared for both ours lives and the lives of those around us. Just as quickly as we had driven off, we came to a sudden halt, and I was pushed out of the car.

"Have fun on your date!" Mori-san chirped, winking at me. She threw a bouquet of flowers at me, shut the door, and they were off.

Gathering my surroundings, I found that I was about a block away from the restaurant where Haruhi and I were supposed to meet. Still feeling the adrenaline coursing through my veins, I broke into a sprint and headed for Haruhi.

When I arrived, I took one good look at her, and I have to say, she didn't look that bad. She wore a glimmering, shimmering red dress that danced like embers leaping from a flame. Her hair was tied back into a ponytail. Straightening my tie and letting out a sigh, I walked forth to meet her.

This is going to be brutal.

Haruhi, with an anxiety hiding behind her eyes, flashed me her most devious grin.

"Kyon!"

"Hey."

"You're sure looking spiffy tonight. Nice suit!"

"Yeah."

I handed her the flowers.

"For me? You didn't have to, you know."

I didn't have anything to say to her, really. Without a word, I headed for the door, Haruhi trailing along behind me.

Long story short, the night wasn't anything special. Haruhi mostly stared out the window looking kind of bored. I took a nap until the food arrived. Haruhi finished her plate and water almost immediately. I took my time. By the end of the night, after all was over and done with, I paid with the money I had found in my pocket and we departed.

Outside the restaurant, Haruhi stood quietly staring off into space.

"Are you going to be alright getting home by yourself?"

". . ."

"Haruhi."

". . ."

"Hey, Haruhi!"

"Wha-! Oh, hey . . ." She sounded sort of down. Probably just bored.

"You'll be alright getting home on your own, right?"

"Ah . . . Yeah . . . I'll be fine . . ." She started to walk away. I watched as she did so. Only once did she turn back to look at me, and even so, she almost immediately returned to looking straight ahead. Perhaps I was imagining it, but it seemed that she had started to walk a little faster, and soon, she had disappeared off into the darkening horizon.

I returned home, crashing onto my bed and falling asleep, suit and all.

Hopefully, I can get back to my Asahina-san dreams tonight.

. . . . .

Dressed in her maid costume, Asahina-san approached my table and placed before me a cup of freshly brewed tea.

"Tell me how it is, Kyon-kun," she tittered, her voice sounding like a choir of angels. I took my time, sipping the tea tentatively, letting the taste melt onto my tongue.

"This tea is amazing."

Looking pleased, she strode up to me and took the cup gently from my hand. She put it back on the table before leaning in and speaking softly into my ear.

"Kyon-kun," she whispered seductively. "Usually, I'd keep this classified, but if it's you, I think it'll be alright."

Asahina-san took a step back and reached for the buttons of her uniform. Her hand hovered right above the first one teasingly, and there was a playful gleam in her eyes.

"Kyon-kun, promise me something first," she pleaded, suddenly sounding serious.

"Anything for you, Asahina-san, I'll do whatever you want."

"Mm, perfect. Kyon-kun . . . KYON-KUN, WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP, YOU'RE GOING TO BE LATE!"

Suddenly, a rush of cold air washed over me. I nearly had a heart attack as my eyes popped open and I instinctively sat straight up. Standing over my bed was my little sister, who had stopped spazzing out as soon as she was sure I was up. Immediately, she started to play with Shamisen, who put up a valiant fight, but ultimately lost to my sister's will and whims. As if mourning a lost loved one, I lamented the loss of that dream; I really would have liked to have listened to what Asahina-san was about to say. And to have seen the "classified information" she was about to show me, for that matter.

Thinking about that dream starring my time-travelling senpai, a strange feeling welled up within me, like a sort of déjà vu. Perhaps I had had a similar dream before, but had long since forgotten about it.

"Kyon-kun, hurry, hurry, get up!"

"It's a Saturday, what do you want?"

"Kyon-kun! Koizumi called, he said you have to get ready for your date with Haruhi!"

"What? I'm not going on a "date" with Haruhi! We're just . . . We're just hanging out, okay?"

"Teehee~," giggled the little annoyance, running out of the room with the cat in tow.

Haruhi, Haruhi, Haruhi. Why did I have to agree to this?

There was a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, but I had no idea why. Was the idea of going out with Haruhi really that dreadful to me? Briefly, I thought back to the unfortunate situation that had gotten me into this mess in the first place.

. . . .

. . .

. .

.

Man, Koizumi's an ass.

.

. .

. . .

. . . .

And that's how I was forced to go on a "date" with Haruhi.

There was an unnerving sense of apprehension drilling away at the back of my mind. In a way, it was sort of like thinking that you're hearing your name being called out in a crowd; my attention would be caught, and I'd look around blankly for the source of the call, but never would I actually end up locating it. Likewise, it felt as if a thought, a repressed memory, or perhaps something else was trying to catch my attention and reach out to me, but whenever I tried to figure out what it was, my searches came up fruitless. It was really troubling, and I was still attempting to solve the conundrum when my sister appeared in my doorway with the home phone in her hand.

"Kyon-kun, the phone," she piped, handing it to me. I grabbed it from her and didn't put it to my ear until I was sure she was gone.

"Hello?"

". . ."

"Uh . . . Nagato?"

"Yes."

"What is it?"

"Have you realised yet?"

"Realised? Realised what?"

Nagato didn't reply. I waited, but all I got was silence; I couldn't even hear her breathing.

"Is that so?" she finally asked.

"Is what so? I'm sorry, could you perhaps be a little less cryptic? I'm not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, Nagato."

"We have been trapped in a time loop created by Suzumiya Haruhi. This is the forty-third time that this day has happened."

I nearly dropped the phone. It was now my turn to be the silent one, as I no longer had it in me to carry our conversation any further. I thought back, then, to the endless summer Haruhi had forced us to go through a countless number of times, and filled with an irrepressible dismay, I shuddered profusely.

"Nagato . . . Is there any way you can stop it?"

"No."

"You can't work something out with the Data Integration Thought Entity or anything like that?"

"I cannot," she deadpanned. "My connection with the Entity has been temporarily severed. Only you can stop it. In order to end the loop, you must satisfactorily appease Suzumiya Haruhi's desires."

"But what can I do? What does she even want? What if I can't please her?"

"I do not know what she wants, but if you fail, the loop will continue indefinitely."

The pressure was mounting, and it felt as if an enormous weight had begun to bear down on me; it was as if somebody was piling textbook after textbook into a backpack strapped to my shoulders, and soon, my knees would give in, and the ground and I would become one and the same.

"If I fail, Nagato, then the next time we go through this loop, I'll wake up not remembering the situation, right?"

"Right. However, I will call you again if I must."

"When did you start making the calls?"

"After the thirty-third loop." That's ten loops ago, according to her count.

"But why?"

"Because I got bored." Again, I nearly dropped the phone in pure astonishment. To think that those words were coming out of Nagato's mouth, to think that she was becoming so attuned with her own emotions and free will. A sense of pride welled up within me, and somewhere between the growing anxiety for my dinner with Haruhi and the petrifying fear of being trapped in the loop forever, I felt genuinely glad to be acquainted with Nagato Yuki-san.

"I'll call you tomorrow, Nagato. On Sunday."

". . ." Click. She hung up, and I put down the phone and immediately went to work. Or at least, I'd like to say that I did, but in reality, I mostly just sat around and pondered what it was that Haruhi would want from me. Quite clearly, it had something to do with the dinner, but I couldn't be sure what until I tried it out. And even then, say I did try it, and it failed. How would I know the next time around that I wasn't just trying the same thing that I was going to try this time? How could I know if this loop's attempt wasn't exactly the same as the last ten?

With my nerves driving me nearly to earthquake level tremors, and with my circling thoughts about to cause my head to implode, I was thankfully relieved to hear the ringing of the phone. Perhaps it would be Nagato again, and maybe she would have some advice to aid me in my loop-ending endeavours. I pressed the button and spoke into the receiver.

"Hello?"

"Kyon, have you prepared for your date yet?"

"No, why? What time is it?"

I glanced at the clock.

"You're supposed to be meeting Suzumiya-san in five minutes."

Shit!

I had no time to explain my circumstances to Koizumi. Where exactly had the time gone, anyway? Could I really have been mulling over what to do for that long?

"Kyon, is it me or does this whole situation seem kind of famili-"

I hung up on him and rummaged through my closet for some sort of suitable clothing. Snatching a button up shirt from the top of a pile of clothing, I quickly smoothed it out against my leg and shot my arms into the sleeves. Hastily, I stripped off my pants and dug around some more until I struck oil. On my closet floor, beneath a few spare pairs of boxers, there was a single, seemingly-untouched-by-human-hands pair of black dress pants that would just have to do the trick. I swiftly tried to shove myself into it, but alas, the find had been too good to be true; these pants must have been from years ago, because they were far too tight (especially in certain regions) and just too short for my legs. Not having the time to search again, though, I fit myself into them the best that I could and proceeded painstakingly and painfully to the bathroom.

Oh, the things I do to save the world from Haruhi. I blame her if I no longer have the ability to produce offspring.

I didn't even bother to look in the mirror as I wet my hands and ran them through my hair to lay my bed head down to rest. I brushed my teeth for much less than the recommended two minutes, then ran back to my room to grab a pair of socks. I tried to get the longest black socks that I had, as to perhaps balance out the shortness of my pant legs. Hurriedly, I rushed to the door, put on my shoes, and burst out of the house sprinting.

"Have fun on your date with Haruhi~!" my little sister rang out, her voice singing with an incomprehensible glee. I would have corrected her, and perhaps scolded her for her lack of concern about the impending, never-ending loop that loomed menacingly above us, but I was short on time. Plus, she didn't know any better, anyway.

By the time I arrived, I was hyperventilating, and Haruhi was already waiting outside the doors of the restaurant. In the pale, yellow glow of the streetlights above, Haruhi was illuminated in such a way that left me even more breathless than I already was. She wore a stunning red dress that I can only describe as what fire would look like if some master weaver had somehow managed to turn it into fabric and spin it into a dress. Her hair- which had a luminous sheen to it in this light- was tied back delicately into a ponytail by a yellow-orange ribbon. I dare say that in that very moment, her beauty might have even rivaled that of Asahina-san's; however, even if my senpai was the star of my dreams, it appeared that, at least tonight, Haruhi was the bright and burning star guiding my reality.

Looking rather nervous, Haruhi reached into her purse and took out a phone- likely to check the time- before immediately putting it away again. Feeling anxious myself, I took a breath and strode up to her, trying to appear as confident as humanly possible.

"You're looking pretty nice tonight."

"Thanks," she said, making brief eye contact with me before quickly looking away.

"Am I late?"

"Only by five minutes." She smiled, although she still refused to look my way for more than a second at a time. Since the fate of mankind rested in my hands- and only because of this, I remind you!-, I reached out for Haruhi's hand and intertwined my fingers with her own.

"Let's hurry in. I'm hungry."

"Mm," she mumbled in apparent agreement as I led her towards the door. I let go of her hand to open it for her, allowing her to walk in first. I followed her in and we waited as the hostess checked for our reservations. Like clockwork, we danced past and around all the tables until we finally adjourned to our own seats by a window. The hostess- wearing a smile that only Koizumi could put to shame- told us that our server would be with us soon. With that, she left us to look through our menus.

"So, Haruhi."

"Hm?"

Suddenly, I found myself at a loss for words. What could I talk to her about? Surely, there would have to be something. Think, Kyon, think!

"Have you eaten here before?"

"Only once, with my family for my mother's birthday." My mind started to wander as I wondered what it was like to be the mother of an all-powerful girl that could bend and reshape reality on a whim. Remembering the situation I was in, I shook myself out of that line of thought.

"Ah, that sounds nice. So, do you recommend anything?"

I was skimming the menu, but nothing seemed to particularly interest me; my appetite must have been forty-three days away, continuing on without me into the future.

"Well, I'm getting the teriyaki."

"Hm, I guess I'll get that, too, then."

There was a slight reprise of my inability to reasonably go about creating small talk. Desperate, I defaulted to something solid and well-established.

"So, do you still believe in aliens, time travelers, and espers?"

"Don't be stupid, Kyon! Of course I do!" The topic seemed to spark something within Haruhi, I could see a passion burning in her eyes. "If I had given up on them, why do you think we still have SOS Brigade Meetings?"

"I don't know, it's just we don't seem to do much in them anymore."

"Well, Kyon, if you search and search for mysterious things and can't seem to find them, then sometimes you just have to take a break and wait for them to come forward and find you!"

"But still, isn't it kind of boring to just sit around and wait?"

I could have sworn that there had been a time before when she had preached the very opposite position on waiting for mysterious things, but perhaps this was just a sign of change.

"Then what do you suggest we do, Kyon?" Her face seemed to emanate a challenging sort of aura. Personally, I suppose that I had grown quite accustomed to doing nothing with everybody; without meaning to, I always tended to gravitate towards that same little Literary Club room whenever I was free to roam my own way, be it after school or during lunchtime.

"I don't know. I guess I wouldn't mind it that much if we went on another trip together, or maybe even if we went on another city-wide search."

"A trip would be nice. But I just got through explaining how we should just wait for the mysterious things to come to us for now!"

"What if they're already here, Haruhi? What if you just haven't realised?"

"Don't tell me you're about to give me some bologna about how Mikuru-chan's actually from the future, and how Yuki's an alien, and how Koizumi's an Esper, again."

"Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't. But how do you know I'm not something mysterious? I could be a slider, you know. Or maybe I'm a vampire. What if I'm only here so I can suck your blood after this?"

Haruhi gave me a strange look, blinked a few times, then burst out laughing. Many heads turned to shoot us some very disdainful glares.

"K-Kyon, ahahahaha! You're hilarious! Ohohoho, God, you're too much." I couldn't suppress the grin that fought to spring up as I watched Haruhi's delight.

"What? I'm being serious, you know. You better watch out, Haruhi, I'm totally much more than I seem. Legend has it that if you lock yourself in the bathroom at midnight, turn off the lights, and say my name three times, I'll appear in the mirror and steal your soul."

Giggling, she replied,

"Your real name or your nickname?"

"Real. Why do you think everybody refuses to call me anything but Kyon? It's not just because I hate it. My sister was actually doing the world a service by spreading the usage of that stupid nickname. Many a person has had their soul spared because they know not of my actual name."

"Oh, alright, sure," she laughed. She pointed towards the window, which faintly held our reflections. "It's not midnight yet, and this isn't a bathroom, but-"

Before she could even say my name the first time, the waiter's reflection appeared beside ours, so sheepishly, we quieted down and placed our orders.

"Kyon," Haruhi sighed, looking at me for the longest amount time since our arrival. She hesitated to speak any further, but I merely waited silently until she worked up the nerve to continue. "Kyon, do you . . . Uhm, do you think that maybe . . . ."

Surprisingly, I found my heart beating violently against my chest, and in my head, I thought, Go on! Go on!

"Kyon! I think that I maybe lo- li- lo- HOW ARE YOUR GRADES THIS SEMESTER?"

The sudden outburst startled me, and it also left me feeling a bit funny. On one level- the one closest to the surface-, I felt extremely relieved. However, deeper down, I think I felt a slight twinge of something; what was it, though? Sorrow? Remorse? Regret? Immediately, I dismissed the notion and attributed it to simple hunger; I hadn't eaten all day because of that How-Do-I-End-The-Loop trance I had fallen into earlier.

"My grades? They . . . Well . . . They could be better, I suppose, but I say it's good enough."

"That's no good, Kyon! You have to put more effort into this kind of stuff, or else you won't get into a good college!"

"Yeah, I guess. I'll try harder next year."

"But by then, it'll be too late! You'll have already decided to put it off for the year after that, and then next thing you know, you'll be a hobo living in a cardboard box with an imaginary pet dog named Rufus and no left arm! And I can't let that happen to one of my beloved Brigade Members!"

". . . I don't exactly follow your reasoning behind this, nor do I understand how procrastination would lead to the loss of an arm, and if I ever did have an imaginary dog, I surely wouldn't name him Rufus, but . . . Okay, I'll try harder. This year."

"That's the spirit, Kyon!" Haruhi's trademark grin revealed a hidden plan behind those glimmering eyes of hers. If anybody knows how I might go about preventing that look from overtaking her face again in the future, please contact me immediately.

Gracefully, our waiter glided across the room, balancing on each of his hands a silver, circular platter. He fluttered to a stop in front of our table and placed the trays down in front of us, removing from them our plates and retreating quickly to wherever waiters wait when their customers dine.

As always, Haruhi dug straight in and finished ¾ of her plate in the same amount of time it took me to even lift the spoon. With no regard for the need to breathe, she began to chug down her drink until the only water that remained was the ice at the bottom of glass. As if sensing the empty glass, a waiter from across the room- who was definitely much less graceful than the one who had brought us our plates- waddled towards us with a pitcher of water in tow.

Out of nowhere, a horrible foreboding sensation surged up within me, and as the waiter approached, I stood up suddenly.

"Kyon?" murmured Haruhi.

As if out of instinct, I met the waiter right before he reached our table.

"May I?"

He looked rather confused as I reached for the pitcher and brought it the rest of the way. I refilled Haruhi's glass, then carefully returned the pitcher to its original holder. To be quite frank, I was just as bemused as he was. Perhaps even more so; it was my body moving of its own volition, after all.

The rest of the date went off without a hitch, and eventually, we found ourselves standing awkwardly outside of the restaurant, back where we had started. Inwardly, I hoped that this had been enough to satisfy her, but studying her expression, I thought I found a look of longing in her eyes. She was acting awfully spacy, just like she had during yesterday's Brigade Meeting; her eyes seemed to be fixed on one point, far off over the horizon, but even then, there was a feeling that she wasn't looking at anything in particular, but rather, past it all.

"Haruhi?"

"Huh?" She snapped out of her trance and looked at me with a grin, but something about it felt off kilter.

"It's getting kind of dark. Come on, I'll walk you home."

It wasn't like I actually wanted to walk her home, and it wasn't as if she couldn't handle doing it on her own. If anything, really, I'd be going along in order to protect anybody that dared to attack Haruhi from her retaliation.

With me gently nudging her along by the small of her back, we headed in the direction of her home, Haruhi slightly ahead as to lead the way. Every so often, she would look back at me, as if to make sure I was still there before quickly returning her gaze to the path ahead.

"K-Kyon," she mumbled out of the blue, perhaps a couple of minutes after we started walking.

"What is it?"

"G-give me your hand!" I remind you that- just like before-, I only let her have my hand because the fate of the world rested in it. Complying by her wishes, I pulled a Koizumi and flashed her a smile that I promise was less than genuine.

"I'm only asking because you walk too slowly and I need to get home by a certain time," she huffed. Hypocritically, however, as she wrapped her fingers around mine, she slowed down to match my pace. She didn't appear to be in any hurry.

"So, Haruhi, I like the ponytail. It's looks so good that it's criminal."

"Mm, thanks," she said before letting out a sigh. "Haha, this reminds of a dream I once had . . ."

Oh, does it now?

"What was it about?"

"Well . . . Uhm . . . Well, " We came to a stop in front of her house.

"It's okay, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

"No, no, it's just that we're already here and I don't want to keep you too long."

"Oh, don't worry about it, I have plenty of time. It's not like I had anything to do after this, anyway."

I took a seat on the curb, and she plopped herself down next to me.

"So, what went on in this dream of yours?"

I had a feeling that I already knew which one she was talking about.

"Well . . . I dreamt that I woke up in front of the school, and that you were passed out next to me. I woke you up and we tried to leave through the school gate, but there was a forcefield of some sort blocking us in. Then, we started running until we reached the other side of the forcefield. Realising that we weren't going to be able to get out, we broke into school and I tried to use the phone, but it wouldn't work. We ended up in the clubroom before I told you to stay put and went off on my own to investigate."

I thought back to the night myself.

"I was standing in one of the classrooms when all of a sudden, there was a bright, blue glow streaming through the window. I turned to see what it was, and get this, it was a huge, blue, glowing monster! I was so excited to see something so out of place, something so different, something so . . . Wah, I don't know! Something so weird! Instantly, I knew I had to run back to you and made sure you were seeing it, too, that I wasn't just imagining it."

I thought back and recalled how a red, glowing manifestation of Koizumi had flown in and floated before me, leaving me the SOS Brigade's final messages.

"On the way back, I think I might have tripped or something, but soon, I burst into the room and found you staring out the window at the same thing I had seen. You grabbed my hand and we started running again. The next I knew, we were outside, running away from the glowing giant, and you were yelling something about wanting to stay in the 'old world.'"

I recalled how prior to when Haruhi had burst into the room, I had been typing away on the computer with Nagato, how she had bestowed upon me the key to escaping the closed space and keeping the old world from being erased.

"I yanked my hand out of yours, and we stopped running. You turned to face me, and I said, 'I don't understand you . . . Weren't you sick and tired of the boring world we were living in?! Didn't you want something really weird and interesting to happen like I did?'"

Even to this very day, I remember the hint Nagato had given me.

"Then, you put your hands on my shoulders, and you told me that the world revolved around me more than I thought . . . And . . . And then you said that ponytails turn you on or something stupid like that . . ."

Only two words.

"And that you remembered a time I had worn a ponytail once, and that it looked so good that it was criminal . . . And I called you stupid right before you . . ."

I put my hand on hers, wrapped my fingers around hers.

"Right before you . . ."

I leaned in, our faces were but inches apart. Haruhi's glimmering eyes gazed back into my own, a look of wonderment streaming out from them.

The two words flickered in my mind as we closed the gap and I kissed her:

Sleeping Beauty.

. . . . .

"KYON-KUN, WAKE UP!"

This feels familiar.

"WAKE UP, KYON-KUN! WAKE. UP." A deluge of cold air washed over me as my sister plucked the blanket right off my body. Rather than budge, I rolled over to face the wall. Still yowling at me with that shrill, bothersome voice of hers, my little sister grabbed hold of me by the arm and pulled until I was on the ground.

"It's Saturday morning and I'm tired, please just let me sleep in."

"But Kyon-kun! You have a phone call from Haruhi~! And silly Kyon-kun! Today's not Saturday, dummy!" Giggling uncontrollably, the girl dropped the phone onto my forehead and ran out of the room before I could scold her for it.

"K-Kyon? Is that you?" Haruhi muttered through the phone.

"Yeah?"

". . ."

"Hello?"

". . ."

"Uh . . . Haruhi?"

"Wh- . . . WHAT THE HELL, KYON?"

"Wha-"

"You kissed me! Argh, Kyon, you idiot! You can't just kiss your Brigade Commander like that out of the blue! Argh, you owe me a fine! You owe me community service hours! You deserve the death penalty! Your stupid move kept me tossing and turning in bed all night! I was afraid that if I closed my eyes, I'd have a nightmare!"

"Er, sorry. I promise I won't do it again, then."

"Wait, wait!"

"What is it?"

". . . Uhm, never mind! It's nothing!"

"You sure?"

"Argh . . . Just . . . I-if you ever do get the urge to try something stupid like that again . . . I w-won't stop you, b-but give me a warning first, next time!"

Click. Haruhi hung up before I could respond.

There welled up within me the sudden urge to throw the phone across the room. It felt as if my face and the back of my neck were on fire, and I couldn't stop myself from squirming around on the ground to try and vent out my irritation.

What the hell was that?

Letting out a groan that dripped with annoyance, I picked my blanket up off the floor, wrapped it around myself, and curled up into a ball on my bed.

When I closed my eyes, I saw Haruhi's face and suppressed a scream.

I suppose it was time to get up, anyway.