It's a Romantic True Love Conquest, Haruhi-Chan!


Chapter Twenty-Four:
Bringing about a change


Kissing Itsuki Koizumi wasn't, to Kyon's initial surprise, that much more different from kissing Haruhi. Then again, spoke Kyon's logical thought process- it was amazing he could still think, considering he was doing something incredibly stupid- why should it have been so dissimilar? Koizumi and Haruhi were both human beings, their genders regardless- so he really shouldn't that been that shocked.

Not at all.

Even though the feeling was fairly similar, however, it... was just a little off. For one thing, Kyon couldn't shake the knowledge that the person he was kissing (of his own free will this time) was also male.

It shouldn't have mattered that much, considering Kyon had witnessed aliens and time travelers. The real thing Kyon should have been pondering was 'oh, I'm kissing an esper, a being that should not technically exist', not 'oh, I'm kissing a male esper.' An esper was an esper. Much like a human being was a human being- a-and this was beginning to sound very philosophical and Koizumi-ish, and it was giving Kyon a headache.

Were you meant to get headaches when you kissed people?

Probably not. That doesn't sound very romantic, does it?

Then again, you always had a headache when you kissed Haruhi, too; but that was probably because Haruhi is one big headache.

Moreover, Koizumi... wasn't as forceful as Haruhi. Instead, he seemed taken by surprise; and Kyon kept his eyes open (which was poor etiquette in kissing, he knew) just so he could take in the expression flickering across Koizumi's face.

Koizumi's eyes were wide.

His face looked flushed.

And... he wasn't moving.

Kyon was suddenly hit with the intense, unshakable feeling that he'd done something very, very stupid. He had always known, at the back of his mind, he was behaving stupidly- but the look on Koizumi's face only helped him cement these doubts.

Well, I guess it's just another stupid thing in a long line of stupid things that I've done to add to the list. I guess I can put insulting Haruhi on there, too.

...Why am I so desperate to sabotage my own life? I've got other people who'll willingly do it for me.

I wonder if I should feel flattered people care about me enough to try and make my life a living hell.

Kyon drew away from the Koizumi quickly, breaking the kiss before it could develop into something deeper (and even more confusing). The kiss (a mere touch of lips, really) had been brief Kyon could have forgotten it if he'd wanted it; swept it under the rug- and Koizumi could, as well.

But that was probably wishful thinking.

Koizumi was trembling ever so slightly, like a leaf in the breeze, or some such other delicate thing Kyon normally associated with Mikuru. In an incredibly clichéd motion, Koizumi pressed his fingers shakily against lips.

What? Was he checking to see if they were still there? Did he think Kyon had some kind of face-dissolving venom in his spit?

Yeah. You might be an esper, Koizumi, but I can spew venom out my mouth!

…Get real.

All of a sudden, Itsuki Koizumi didn't look all that self-confident and assured anymore.

Instead, he looked...

Vulnerable.

And Kyon had done that. Kyon was the reason behind Koizumi's widened eyes and flushed cheeks; it was all Kyon. He'd shattered Koizumi's composure (or what little remained of it) with a brief touch of lips against lips; barely lasting a few seconds.

And Kyon knew, even if he himself tried to forget it, Koizumi wouldn't be able to.

That kiss had... meant something to Koizumi.

If Kyon tried to brush it off, or explain it away as 'I wasn't thinking clearly', he'd hurt the esper. And Koizumi was hurt enough already. He didn't need emotional scarring from Kyon's clumsy, awkward 'affection' (if you could call it that), compounded with the bruises all over his usually-pretty face and the dirt-filled sores that crisscrossed his body.

Yeah.

Even if I... don't really understand this... a-and it's... strange... There are lots of other things in this world that are strange and difficult to understand, too. Haruhi, for one.

And it'd be an incredibly asshole-ish move to just leave now.

I don't want to hurt Itsuki. I mean, he gets hurt enough already, what with those blue giants and... Emiri. Gah. It's not like he needs my help.

I guess I can't run away from these things- even if I want to.

...Look at me.

I sound like a self help guide.

This is awful.

What have I become?

"Kyon..."

Kyon was snapped out of his sarcastic train of thought by Koizumi's soft voice. It was probably a good thing, too- because Kyon was reaching the point where he was half ready to slam his palm across his face at frustration.

"What do you want?" Kyon asked- and then he cringed.

Well, that was a stupid question.

Obviously, since you just kissed him, he wants to talk about meteorology. The two subjects are completely related!

...Kyon, you're an idiot.

"U-um..." Koizumi stammered- threading his fingers through his hair in a distracted manner, as his eyes darted about his bedroom. He was having difficulty focusing his gaze. "Why... did you...?"

"I don't know."

Upon reflecting over that answer, it might have sounded a little harsh- but, honestly, Kyon didn't know. He couldn't give an answer to a question that confusing.

"You don't know?" asked Koizumi. He looked hurt by this response, even though he tried to mask it with a small smile- and, damn it, Kyon hated those smiles. "Well... If it was just a one-off, then-"

"No." Kyon's voice was harsher than he thought it would have been when he spoke. It surprised even him.

"No...?"

"I mean... damn, this is really difficult to explain," Kyon said, his fingers taking hold of Koizumi's shoulders. He wasn't sure why. Maybe he just (gag) wanted physical contact- or maybe he just wanted to ensure that stupid esper didn't try to run away. The latter sounded more likely.

"...I see," said Koizumi, after a small pause. He blinked up at Kyon expectantly. "Well... I'm listening. I don't suppose I really have much choice, haha..."

Kyon closed his eyes, trying to organize his thoughts. It didn't much help. Instead, it made him feel like he was drowning in a pool of emotions- so, instead, he forced his eyes back open again.

Well, that was pointless. What are you even trying to accomplish here, anyway?

Koizumi still looked so... expectant, and hopeful, and perhaps... shy... that it made Kyon's heartbeat speed up just a little faster; just like a line from a hackneyed romance novel (and no, Kyon had not read any of those such novels- really. Not at all. End of discussion).

When Koizumi wasn't smiling his fake smiles, he really was... incredibly handsome. Kyon had always thought that- but he'd never found anything strange about it. It was just an observation, like the moon was in the sky and these glittery things came out at night. Koizumi was an aesthetically pleasing male; that was it. That simple thought didn't hold any more significance than that. Kyon wasn't gay- o-or at least, he didn't think he was...

He still thought Haruhi was beautiful- even when she was scowling. Nagato had an understated kind of grace about her, and if she hadn't been an alien with unspeakable powers Kyon would've felt the need to protect her, given her slight form and quiet nature. Mikuru was drop-dead gorgeous in every sense of the word, and Kyon cherished each and every cup of tea she gave him as though it were a precious gem. Anything Mikuru Asahina touched instantly became precious.

But... what did Kyon think about Koizumi?

Now that was a little tricky.

Koizumi was irritating and he spoke too much and he constantly said 'I'm kidding' at the end of serious statements. He liked to tease Kyon and he always stood much too close, and he willfully followed all of Haruhi's orders no matter how insane. Kyon hated Koizumi- or, if it wasn't 'hate' he felt ('hating' things often required too much energy, and the pay off was rarely worth the bother), it was something very close.

And yet, at the same time... whilst all those statements were true, Kyon still spent the most time with Koizumi than anybody in the SOS Brigade. Squeezing more than two words out of Nagato at a time was nothing short of miraculous, and Haruhi was always busy ordering Mikuru around. That left Koizumi. Kyon and Koizumi, stood at the end of the club's insane activities whilst they played Othello together, and Koizumi always lost.

That was just how things were.

And maybe, after spending so much time together... Kyon had begun to notice certain things about the esper. Like just painful his fake smiles looked sometimes- and just how attractive his real ones were.

But was Kyon attracted to him?

Was he...?

If he wasn't, they why did he kiss him? At the time it felt necessary; something he had to do, because Koizumi was being an idiot who kept talking about Haruhi and Kyon had wanted to prove no, the world did not revolve around Haruhi and Koizumi's feelings mattered, too-

And then Kyon had kissed him.

He'd kissed Koizumi to...

Comfort him?

Make him feel better?

Was it sympathy?

Or... maybe...

Well, let's look at it like this. If you like it when Koizumi is happy- even though you'd never admit that you 'like it' out loud, you'd say something more along the lines of 'I don't feel as annoyed when you're smiling properly', which pretty much amounts to the same thing- and you feel not-so-great when Koizumi is wearing his pretend smiles, and then you kissed him just so you could see more of his real facial expressions... Well.

Either this was a really strange experiment- like completing insanely hard boss battles on a video game to unlock hidden settings for no reason other than gloating- or...

Or you like it when Koizumi is happy.

You don't like it when he's sad.

You want him to be happy- because it makes you feel better, too.

And when you set the facts out in bite-sized chunks like that, it's not that difficult to understand anymore, is it?

"Kyon?" asked Koizumi softly, looking up at Kyon from under his eyelashes.

When Kyon answered his voice was shaky, "W-what is it?"

"You've been quiet for quite some time. I must admit, it's making me feel a little nervous..."

"You? Nervous?" Kyon quirked a brow. He couldn't quite fight the smirk that tugged at his lips. "You've faced those weird blue giants and alien robots with time-distorting powers... and yet I'm the one who makes you feel nervous? I'm not sure if I should feel flattered or insulted."

Koizumi laughed softly at this- and Kyon was surprised to find he liked the sound of that laughter. Had he ever heard Koizumi laugh like that before?

See. I told you so, a smug voice in Kyon's head said.

"Well... When I'm fighting against the shinjin, I know I have my whole Agency beside me. If I die, I can replaced- though it would be a nuisance, I'm sure. But this is... different," said Koizumi; his voice so vulnerable, so honest, it sent a shiver down Kyon's spine. "I-I... I can hardly put it into words, to be honest."

"That's a first."

"Oh no, not in the least. I've been incredibly inarticulate as of late," said Koizumi, still smiling that small, nervous smile. "I think you know why. Haha... B-but it's your turn to tell me how you feel, so, um... Please, go right ahead."

Kyon grit his teeth together, his fingers digging into Koizumi's shoulders with a touch more pressure. He knew he should have been gentle, given the injuries Koizumi had sustained- but he wasn't able to think rationally at that point.

"This is a lot more difficult than you might think," said Kyon.

"Even after you saved the world?"

"Don't exaggerate or I'll get an ego like Haruhi's."

"Well... I suppose actions are easy to carry out, but words... Words can remain elusive. Perhaps that's why Nagato's race do not communicate with words at all."

"Too many 'discrepancies in the data'?" asked Kyon, echoing a phrase he had heard Nagato speak once.

Koizumi nodded.

"Well, I... I... This is annoying," said Kyon.

Kyon desperately wanted to look away; stare at the walls, the floor, the ceiling... anything. But he couldn't be that cowardly. He kept staring at Koizumi even though every particle of his being wanted to run away or suddenly vaporize.

"Alright..." said Kyon, after drawing a deep breath. His eyes narrowed with determination, even though he didn't know what he was going to say. "To start off with... I-I know you... you like me... At least, I think you do."

Koizumi nodded, his cheeks flushing slightly at this. "Mn. How very astute."

"A-and... To be honest, I've never really given it much thought. I mean- I don't like guys. Really. I think Mikuru's beautiful, and when she's in her maid outfit I can't stop staring at her; my thoughts for anybody else just disappear. And the bunny girl costumes... I mean, seriously, I'm just a regular high school guy. What do you expect?"

"I... see your point," said Koizumi, after a small pause. "Indeed, Miss Suzumiya did choose Miss Asahina for her physical properties. It is only to be assumed that you, like most other men, would... like her."

Kyon raised a brow. "And you don't?"

"I think she's a charming person but... honestly? I don't find her physically attractive at all. I never have with any girl. Hmn... It was quite a bother a few years ago," said Koizumi, blinking up at Kyon earnestly. "My other friends would begin to talk about girls... more about their bodies than their personalities. And I never found it remotely interesting. I began to think there was something strange about me."

"And then three years ago you discovered you had esper powers granted by some unknown deity and you realized there really was something strange about you after all?"

"I suppose so," said Koizumi, laughing. "I'd always thought I was... odd... so perhaps I was less surprised than most when I learnt about espers and the shinjin."

"So you don't like Mikuru?" Kyon pressed. He knew everybody had different tastes. Some people enjoyed oolong tea, others Earl Grey- but it seemed almost inconceivable to Kyon that there existed a man who did not think Mikuru Asahina was completely adorable.

"I like her as a person. I'm just not attracted to her," said Koizumi.

"And yet... And yet you like me?" Kyon asked, his voice slightly incredulous. "That doesn't make any sense..."

"Maybe not to you. Perhaps it would be more expected if I were to find Miss Asahina 'beautiful', as the other boys at our school seem to... But I don't."

"W-well, I think Mikuru's... But, well. You know."

"I know."

"But that's not all," said Kyon- desperate to get his point across, and worrying he was unable to. Maybe Yuki's race really did have a smart idea, not using words to convey ideas. "Even though I do like Mikuru quite a lot I... I still spend the most time with you- and you annoy me, I'm not going to lie, you piss me off so much sometimes, with your fake smiles and... and I always feel like I can't trust you because you're not being truthful, there's something 'off' about you-"

"I'm being truthful now," said Koizumi, his voice strangely serious. "Completely."

"I know that, and I appreciate that and... and..." Kyon sighed. It was practically his trademark.

You should get it copyrighted; then everybody else who sighs will have to pay you.

"I'm confused, alright?" said Kyon. "I never really thought about this before- maybe because I was too busy looking at Mikuru or Haruhi... But... But I hate your fake smiles. I like it when you look truly happy. A-and... I want you to realize Haruhi isn't the only important person on this planet. Your feelings- even if I don't really understand them and you keep pretending they don't exist- have worth. They do mean something- and I'm sick of you being so self-pitying behind that stupid smile. A-and... And..."

Kyon leant forwards- and as he did so, his mind shouted at him. He had no idea what he was doing; he hadn't thought this through; when he sat in the club room playing Othello with Koizumi he'd never even dreamed...

But Koizumi's slightly widened eyes, the hope that flickered across his face, was worth it.

It felt just a little bit like Kyon had 'won'- though he hadn't been aware this was a battle to begin with. But, from the moment Kyon had seen Koizumi with his guarded expressions and carefully crafted smiles, he'd wanted to see what was underneath. It was a childish curiosity, like wanting to tear apart a box marked 'do not open'. Now, Kyon knew what was underneath that smile. And he only knew because he'd persisted in trying to open the marked box. Whatever happened next was his fault, and he had to take responsibility for it- because if he hadn't kept trying to pry at Koizumi's smile, Koizumi would not have told him.

But, if he hadn't kept trying to pry at that smile...

Kyon was sure he wouldn't feel the same way about Itsuki as he did now.

Kyon pressed their lips together again, tenderly- still unsure about what he was doing, even though he'd kissed Haruhi several times before. This was different; not just because Koizumi was male (though that was still a part of it), but because...

It just felt different.

The feelings that flickered inside Kyon's body when Koizumi gasped so softly was... difficult to describe. There was a bit of shock, a bit of pride (he had broken Koizumi's false smile; him) and a bit of... something else... that Kyon couldn't even begin to give a name to.

When Kyon drew away, he noticed Koizumi's face was still stained a very light pink.

Kyon couldn't help but smile- ever so slightly.

"You've been honest with me, so it's only fair I should return the favor," said Kyon, his dropping to a whisper. "Honestly... I would much sooner do this with you than with Haruhi."

Koizumi's eyes widened.

"I-is that true?" he said. He was fighting to keep his voice calm- but it was a losing battle. Kyon could see that clearly.

Kyon nodded.

"I'm still really confused... and I don't know what I'm doing. But..." He ran a hand through his hair; sighed again. "When I shouted at Haruhi, I... I was doing it partially with you on my mind. I think, at some point, I realized- irritating though you are- that you were sacrificing everything for me; when you fought with Emiri-"

"Tried to fight," Koizumi corrected, smiling bitterly. "I didn't get much real fighting done. It was embarrassing."

"I guess. It was pretty pathetic, seriously," said Kyon, his voice deadpan.

"Hey..." Koizumi frowned at this, hurt flickering across his face. "T-that's a little harsh-"

"I'm just repeating what you said," Kyon replied. He rolled his eyes. "I didn't really mean it. I thought you were... well. Like a character from a sci fi show, or something I used to watch when I was a kid. It was amazing. And you shouldn't be so judgmental of yourself- because I appreciated it. I'd be dead without you. You almost died to save me. And that made me realize... that I never really gave you enough credit. I just thought you were the smiling idiot in the corner- but... I never really thought that you were another person who could get hurt. And you did. For me. I-I know I'm phrasing this badly, but..." Kyon sighed. "You understand. When I was arguing with Haruhi I started to think... that, though I liked her, I didn't really love her- and if we started dating again, that would be unfair on her... But also, on you. After all you've done."

"Kyon..."

"Even though I don't know what I'm doing, and this is... impossibly confusing-"

"Even more so than aliens, espers and time travelers?"

"I've become accustomed to those things invading my life," said Kyon. "So... I suppose I can become accustomed to this as well. Maybe."

"D-do you not think Miss Suzumiya will be angry?"

Kyon paused. Then, he shook his head, and smiled.

Kyon wasn't really an optimist; especially not when, at the tender age of seven, he began to learn his favorite anime superheroes didn't really exist. From that moment on Kyon had grounded himself in reality, refusing to believe in impossibilities- because it was a waste of time praying for something to happen that, logically, never could. Kyon wasn't an optimist, because hoping for the impossible was a waste of time- and Kyon didn't like wasting his time (which was partially why he had resented Haruhi for making the SOS Brigade).

However, Kyon's sense of realism had been altered slightly when he first met Haruhi Suzumiya, with her sparkling eyes and stupid ideas and cat-like smiles. Kyon learnt from her that, maybe, it was alright to hope for the impossible, even if, at times, it seemed unreachable- because Haruhi never gave up. She was steadfast in her beliefs she could make the world a more interesting place; and her perseverance in the face of defeat after defeat after disappointment was inspiring. Haruhi had, through her sheer willpower, created aliens and espers and time travelers- and, apparently, in Tsuraya's case, sliders.

Even if something seemed impossible you had to keep hoping; and Kyon had now seen his fair share of impossible things, like looping endless summers and blue giants and evil killer camel crickets.

Haruhi, despite her rapidly changing moods and short temper, was an optimist. She always hoped for the best. And Kyon was sure- though he, himself, was a 'realist' (it was difficult to be such a thing whilst surrounded by so many bizarre events, but he tried)- Haruhi would be able to recover. She would be able to move on with that wide smile across her face as always; because there was always something mysterious in the world to uncover.

Kyon might not have shared Haruhi's enthusiasm for everything, and he might have disagreed with her on many things- but he did trust her.

He had faith in her.

He was sure Haruhi would do the right thing.


Haruhi Suzumiya stared up at her bedroom ceiling, her favorite stuffed toy- a ratty old lion she'd had ever since childhood- pressed against her chest. She knew it was a little strange, a straightforward, no-nonsense girl like her clinging on to reminders of the past; especially when she'd strived for so long to be different from that normal, boring, ordinary girl she had once been. However, even Haruhi Suzumiya felt nostalgic sometimes, and she simply couldn't throw that lion away.

Haruhi had just awoken from a... rather strange dream. Generally her dreams (when she could remember them at all- which was very rare) involved finding espers and aliens and, true to the slogan of her Brigade, 'hanging out with them'. This dream, however, had been different.

Maybe it was a nightmare.

She'd been talking to Kyon in a dark space of repeating side walk and street lamps- and, though Haruhi couldn't remember all of the dream, she did remember shouting. She remembered a cold, piercing feeling driving through her chest; feelings of hatred and anger and betrayal, because Kyon had...

He'd left her.

And yet, all this time, Haruhi had...

B-but... had Kyon ever truly liked her? Had she blinded herself to his true feelings because she wanted to create a 'happily ever after' scenario? Haruhi could have laughed at herself. She always hated movies with cheesy endings like that, were the threads were all tied up and everybody save the villains were cheerful. That wasn't realistic at all! Emotions didn't work that way!

And...

Maybe Haruhi hadn't been realistic, either.

Had she been selfish?

Kyon constantly said she was selfish- but Haruhi didn't see what was so terribly wrong with that. If you wanted something and nobody would give it to you, you had to force them, or the world- or both. You couldn't sit idle and let life pass you by. It was better to regret something you'd done than something you hadn't done. Haruhi believed in that philosophy whole-heartedly.

She'd never tried to be a 'bad' person. She just wanted fun, exciting things to happen to her. She just wanted to have a life that wasn't boring or ordinary- and if she had to be selfish to get that, then so what?

But maybe...

Maybe she'd gone too far this time.

Especially when her feelings involved Kyon.

Haruhi sighed. Then, she crushed her lion stuffed toy closer to her chest.

If Kyon had never truly been in love with her, as her dream suggested- then maybe it was selfish that she still liked him. And she did. She... she cared about Kyon.

But if she truly cared about him, didn't that mean he should be happy, too? Generally, Haruhi could satisfy herself by acting selfish to get what she wanted- but, in this case, she couldn't force Kyon to love her (she didn't really want to), and making him miserable would not make her feel better. She had to... let Kyon do what he wanted.

If he was happy- maybe Haruhi could be happy, too.

She hadn't been feeling very good for a long time.

However, with this revelation... she couldn't help but feel lighter. How had she not realized it before? Her own happiness didn't just depend on herself anymore. It was related with Kyon, too- and maybe, in a way, her happiness hinged on other people's opinions and other people's feelings. Haruhi had never really given other people much thought- but maybe, if she had, she wouldn't have been so miserable.

Haruhi smiled.

She'd been blind for a long time- but she wasn't anymore.

Not now.

She was going to try and change.


Yuki Nagato, a humanoid thought interface for the Data Integration Thought Entity, was sat cross-legged on the bare floorboards of her apartment, a sizable book held in her lap. Strands of silver hair fell before her eyes, but she brushed them away with ease.

She had felt a great disturbance running through the earth some two hours ago- but now, everything was calm. There had been a minor earthquake measuring about 3.2 on the Richter scale that shook the twenty mile radius around Kitaguchi Station which could only be related to Miss Suzumiya; not faulty plate tectonics, as it would be announced at approximately 7:45 a.m. on the news the next morning.

Nagato, even despite her limited emotional capacity, had known to be somewhat... affected by the earthquake. Whilst her composure did not shift and her fingers did not tremble, Nagato noted her reading speed increased by approximately x100- perhaps in an attempt to course through her book more quickly, should the world collapse and she was unable to finish.

However... Nagato, despite her concerns, was able to finish her book. She set aside the heavy volume on astrophysics and then, with her lily-white fingers, selected another novel off the pile stacked beside her; a pile so tall it dwarfed her own diminutive height, and she had to stand to pick it up.

Nagato managed to read that novel, too.

The bodies of the humans 'Kyon' and 'Suzumiya Haruhi' disappeared from the planet known as 'Earth' between the times of seven twenty-three and eight fifty-two p.m. However, despite the earthquake- a warning sign that perhaps Kyon had not managed to placate Haruhi- they returned.

Nagato was able to finish her book on astrophysics.

And life went on.

Nagato's head remained bent, her eyes trained on her novel- though, for perhaps the first time in her life, her eyes were not processing the words properly. There were minor errors in the transmission of data; errors that could be easily rectified with closer reading, but it was still strange.

Was Nagato feeling...

Relief?

It was a strange emotion. Then again, emotions were strange, full stop.

Nagato did not put her book down; not even when the slight tremors of the earthquake (most likely undetectable to the other inhabitants of her condo) disappeared. Even so, she was not focusing properly on the knowledge displayed before her.

Instead, she was thinking.

She should congratulate Kyon when he returned to school the following day.

He... had done a very good job.

Nagato did not fully understand what function 'praise' served. However, if it would make Kyon happy... then she supposed she could indulge in an alien activity every once in a while.


When Mikuru Asahina released her hold of the TPDD, she found she was sat in her own small little apartment once more. There was a cup of stone-cold tea on the table which she had abandoned in her haste to escape the past (or 'present', as it were) given how volatile the situation with Haruhi had become. Everything in Mikuru's apartment was exactly as she had left it, right down to the smallest details. It was as though she'd never left at all.

However, there was quite a large accumulation of dust on her work surfaces. It was strange how much it could build up, even after only one or two days.

Mikuru looked round her apartment in awe, her eyes lighting up. Then- with the eager nature of a young child in a candy store- Mikuru ran forwards through the rooms of her apartment, almost skipping with happiness and relief, as she took in each and every detail. It was there- the past was still there! Her kitchen with the dirty dishes still in the sink (Mikuru didn't like washing up; she was clumsiness personified, and often tended to drop things), her bedroom with her clothes lined up neatly in color-code going down the rainbow in her closet, the stuffed toys on her bed- everything. It was all there. And she had worried, for a few horrible hours, she would never see it again.

Kyon had succeeded.

Kyon had calmed Haruhi.

Kyon had-

"E-eep!"

Mikuru gave a short squeal of pain as, in her excitement, she misplaced her foot in a crumpled fold of carpet that took her quite by surprise. Mikuru's body went flying through the air, almost weightless, and she landed in a graceless pile in the hallway with a small thump.

T-that really hurt…

Tears began to well up in Mikuru's eyes. Slowly, she pulled herself off her tummy into a sitting position, nursing her swollen ankle with care. Maybe she could put pineapple on it to soothe the ache? A lot of people scorned home remedies like that, but they could be quite effective…

It seemed even time travelers were susceptible to tripping over their own feet when they got a little too carried away- but Mikuru would not make that mistake again! Not at all!

Even despite the pain, Mikuru couldn't help but smile.

She liked the SOS Brigade, despite the humiliation she suffered at the hands of Haruhi, and she enjoyed living in this time plane more than she had expected she ever would. When she saw Kyon tomorrow, she would have to thank him, deeply, from the bottom of her heart- b-but not right from the very bottom, of course. Mikuru didn't want to upset Haruhi, or provoke another end of the world situation with her clumsy thoughtlessness.

Mikuru giggled softly to herself, still pressing down gently on her bruised ankle.

She could easily imagine herself ending the world over stupidity, just because she didn't think hard enough about something. T-that would have been so embarrassing… and such a pain for Kyon.

Kyon.

Mikuru smiled.

Regardless, even if she couldn't find the words to properly express her gratitude or her face turned bright red, she would have to say 'thank you'. It was the proper thing to do.


"Heyyy, Miku~ruuu~" said Tsuraya cheerily. She had the house phone (an ancient relic indeed in this crazy modern world! …Not that cell phones were all that 'modern' to Mikuru, of course) pressed in the junction between her head and shoulders, whilst her free hands tried to work sticks of pocky out of their box and into her mouth.

"U-um… Hello, Tsuraya!" came Mikuru's hesitant voice on the other end of the line.

Tsuraya grinned. If she didn't know any better, she would have assumed Mikuru was in pain. It was, of course, sadistic to laugh at another's agony, but… Well. Tsuraya laughed at anything. She had this really cute image in her head of Mikuru returning to the 'past' (or present. Whatever), and then skipping round her house in excitement to see everything was in its right place- only to fall over like a clumsy ox.

Tsuraya snickered.

Mikuru might have been cute, but graceful she was not. Anna Pavlova could rest easily; she didn't have any competition from Mikuru Aashina.

"I was just calling to see if you're back!" Tsuraya said, crunching on sticks of pocky as she spoke. "I thought you vanished because of some trouble, right? Wasn't that omegas scary! To be honest, I was kind of worried about it, too!"

"Y-yes. As was I…" said Mikuru hesitantly. It was obvious she was a little reluctant to discuss the finer details with Tsuraya. "But I'm happy it came to a good conclusion."

"Yeah~ Me too," said Tsuraya, smiling. "Do you think we should all find Kyon and corner him tomorrow? Me an' you an' Yuki. We could be all 'THANK YOU, KYON! WE LOVE YOU!' Gyahahahaha!~~"

"W-well…" Tsuraya could practically hear Mikuru's blush through the other end of the phone. "I-I don't know about that! Maybe… maybe not…? I-I wouldn't want to cause any trouble…!"

"Nah. I'm just teasin'," Tsuraya joked, crunching another stick of pocky between her teeth. "It was worth a thought."

"M-mn…"

"But… I'm still, like… omega happy that it worked out this way. And we're all still together," said Tsuraya, her voice unusually serious. "I wonder what Kyon said to Haru-nyan."

"I wonder about that, too."

"Totally!~ And I wonder what'll happen to poor Itsuki!"

"E-eh?" Mikuru asked, her voice laced with confusion. "W-what about it…?"

"Welllll~" Tsuraya giggled. "If you don't know I want tell you. But- Haruhi, Kyon and Itsuki… This is all like a big soap opera! I feel like I should be eating a bag of popcorn as I wait for the shocking conclusion!"

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about," said Mikuru, after a small pause. "Eheh… I-is this a 'slider' thing?"

Tsuraya could only laugh at that, until her sides felt like they would split.

Mikuru was so naïve it hurt sometimes.

Literally.


Kyon had faith that this- whatever 'this' was- between him and Koizumi (no, Itsuki) would… work. Maybe. Kyon wished he could return Haruhi's feelings because he felt a little guilty, remembering her hurt expression; as though she'd been gutted. But hadn't Koizumi worn a similar look of pain when he pushed Kyon out of the way, allowing himself to be impaled by Emiri's spears?

Haruhi was the type of person who could recover from life knocking her back, over and over again. Haruhi was strong. Kyon wasn't too sure about Itsuki. Itsuki appeared strong on the outside- but wasn't that all an act? In reality he hated horror movies, he felt crushingly lonely, he had never felt 'normal' and- ever since his eyes had met Kyon's- he'd been in love.

There was more to Itsuki Koizumi than met the eye. Kyon knew that Haruhi could pick herself up off the floor and dust herself down- but he wasn't sure Itsuki could.

Maybe Itsuki… needed somebody.

And, without realizing it, Kyon had (somehow) volunteered to be that person.

It was probably when you kissed him.

You just can't kiss people and pretend it's 'nothing', you know? You should think about it more carefully next time you kiss somebody, Kyon, or the world could come to an end.

Chh. And I thought romance plots in soap operas were unrealistic.

This transcends that. This goes beyond 'Life' and 'Boys Over Flowers'. This goes right off the deep end of the Earth.

And yet, despite these thoughts, and despite Kyon's confusion, and despite his unchanging sense of realism, Kyon was sure… that everything would work out.

If it doesn't it would be incredibly unfair, considering the amount of times Itsuki got beaten up. Oh yeah, and there's the fact the world nearly ended.

I think I… deserve a happy ending? Maybe?

Does that sound entitled?

Well, I'm sorry if I sound entitled, but I think I have a right to at this point.

I guess this ending isn't so much 'happy' rather than 'confused'- but I guess I'll take it.

Beggars can't be choosers. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Etc, etc.

…I really need to stop spouting these proverbs at myself. It's not helping, and I'm beginning to sound a little like my grandma.

I'll start thinking tea cosies make good birthday presents next, and then where will that leave me?

"I'm not sure if Haruhi will be angry. I think it's safe to say she'll be a little upset," said Kyon, voice pensive. "But… I have faith in her. And, if she's your 'God', then you should have a little faith, too. I don't think Haruhi's a vengeful deity. Rather… She's a normal high school girl who suffered a serious disappointment. But Haruhi wouldn't be Haruhi if she let things like that knock her down, right?"

"Yes… I suppose you're right." Itsuki nodded. Then, he smiled- a dazzling, disarming smile that would have turned the heart of even the strongest person to marshmallow. Kyon himself, though he was fairly unmoved by Itsuki's good looks, felt his cheeks flush.

Then, shakily- his body trembling, his skin pale with pain- Itsuki reached forwards-

And pressed his lips gently against Kyon's.

The kiss was soft and fleeting, lasting only for a few moments. Kyon gave a small gasp in surprise… or maybe he wasn't surprised at all. Maybe he was, unwillingly, allowing Itsuki to deepen th-

No.

For know, Kyon would say he gasped in surprise. Nothing more, nothing else.

Itsuki's mouth was soft and warm, and whilst there was a slight metallic tang of blood on his tongue (not Kyon's favorite flavor in the world; then again, he couldn't afford to be too fussy. It wasn't like he was going to rate Itsuki- nor did he have much experience to compare this kiss too), the touch of lips was… somehow soothing.

Comforting.

Not at all like Haruhi's demanding kisses. This was quite different- and Itsuki's gender had little to do with it.

Maybe it didn't matter all that much.

Kyon tried to imagine kissing Mikuru like this- but he felt guilty for even imagining such a thing. Mikuru was beautiful, yes, but she was like a porcelain doll (Kyon winced at the terrible comparison). Kyon felt… unclean, somehow, imagining kissing her- as though her violating her. Kissing Haruhi had been different because Kyon never felt like he was going to 'break' her- in fact, it had been the other way round. But Kyon had never truly loved Haruhi.

He thought Mikuru was attractive, and though he had dreamed about it from time to time, he didn't really want to imagine Itsuki as the wide-eyed, softly-spoken girl, either.

In the end, after running a quick scan through all the attractive girls he knew, Kyon realized something. Whilst he wouldn't have minded kissing some of those girls- he didn't much want to think about then whilst he was with Itsuki. Kyon still found those girls attractive, of course he did; his entire perspective had not shifted from a few kisses, and Kyon did not doubt he still very much preferred attractive girls to handsome men.

But Itsuki was…

Well.

Itsuki was Itsuki, and though kissing Itsuki was… completely bizarre, Kyon did not want to mentally substitute the irritating, always smiling esper with anybody else.

…That was perhaps even more bizarre.

Itsuki was kissing him, and Kyon was leaning into it, and Kyon did not want to pull away- and that was the truth.

Tch. The truth hurts, I guess.

I wonder if I'm going to start getting jealous of all the girls who give Itsuki Valentine's Day chocolates. Then again, I doubt Itsuki would get himself impaled full of spears on their behalves, so-

Now I sound like a jealous psychopath.

Nice going, Kyon.

After, what, four or five kisses?, you've turned into a yandere. All you're missing is the hatchet.

Although…

I wonder if, all this time, whenever I looked at Mikuru or made comments about her… Was Itsuki jealous? He's always acted a little strangely around Mikuru; never bothering to intervene when Haruhi torments her. Then again, that could be part of Koizumi's 'yes-man' nature, and not necessarily out of spite. I wonder. I'll have to ask.

I'm probably thinking too much, given I'm being kissed. I should just shut up and turn off my mind.

Why do I have to keep a constant, cynical narration of my entire life in my head?

For the first time, Kyon let his eyelids flutter shut. No longer could he revel in the sight of Itsuki's flushed face- and no longer did he feel as though he'd accomplished something. Instead, Kyon could only feel. He felt strangely bereft when, mere seconds later, Itsuki drew away- and Kyon inhaled heavily, taking in a breath he never knew he'd been holding.

I suppose you could breathe through your nose while kissing, but honestly, who does that? It doesn't sound very romantic.

Itsuki's head fell against Kyon's shoulder, his fair hair poking into Kyon's cheek. It seemed he was too exhausted to remain sitting- and Kyon, too, was feeling slightly dazed.

"So…" said Itsuki, his voice soft. "Is it okay if… I do that…?"

"Y-you just did. It's a bit too late to ask now," said Kyon, trying to keep his voice steady. "And if I didn't want you to, I would've just pushed you away."

"E-even whilst I'm… in quite a bit of pain?"

"Even then."

"Haha…" Itsuki laughed softly, his breath ghosting against Kyon's neck. It made him shiver. "You're a horrible person."

"Now you sound like my little sister."

"Hmn? Do you want me to call you 'big bro'?"

"N-no, that's fine," said Kyon, his face flushing slightly. "I-I'm already a little… confused… by this. Y-you don't need to make it worse."

"Haha~ Of course. Sorry. I'm just teasing you."

"I-is that so…?"

"Mmn~ It's fun to make you flush."

"Watch it or I really will hit you."

"Huh. How romantic. I wonder what Miss Suzumiya saw in you."

"I wonder what you see in me," said Kyon dryly.

"Mmn. Now that is a tricky question. You'll have to ask me later- when I'm not feeling so sleepy…"

Any other time Itsuki invaded Kyon's space like this, Kyon would have pushed him back- pushed him away. This time, however, Kyon didn't. He couldn't. He almost welcomed the personal contact now- it was proof the world hadn't ended despite Haruhi's heartbreak, and Itsuki was not dead and maybe, just maybe, things were going to start to change. Whether it was for the better or worse, Kyon didn't know…

But he was still hoping for a happy ending. Or, failing that, a normal one.

I think I might have avoided the bad end already.

That's something to be thankful for. And I was never even that good at video games anyway- which makes this long, convoluted metaphor kind of pointless. Just like most of my other long, convoluted metaphors.

Oh well.

"Y-you know what, Kyon?" said Itsuki lightly, lifting his head from Kyon's shoulders. He stared at Kyon directly in the eyes; his face earnest, completely unmasked.

"What?" asked Kyon, trying to swallow a lump in his throat.

Itsuki sighed.

Then, tentatively… after a small pause… Itsuki said- his voice fragile, hopeful, horribly truthful;

"I-I… I…"

Another pause.

"I… love you."

Kyon wasn't sure how to respond.

Maybe he didn't need to.

After all… words really were quite pointless in scenarios like this.

Everything was going to change- Kyon was sure of it.

But…

That wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

It might even be an improvement.

It couldn't possibly be worse.

And even if it wasn't a happy ending… it was still… fairly okay.

Perhaps it was more, even, than that.

But hoping for more would have been selfish; and Kyon was fairly content with what he had. Even if what he had was, at the end of the day, a pounding headache, a flurry of confused thoughts, a few shards of hope, a confession of love from Itsuki Koizumi-

And a small smile on his face that just wouldn't go away.


The End


a/n: And then... This is the last chapter... I-I guess… o:
This fic was originally going to be just a tad longer, but… Well. I thought this was a really nice place to end it, with a vague sense of 'what will the future bring?' and some stuff left ambiguous. I wanted to add a 'Haruhi and Kyon make up' scene somewhere, in the real world, but they already had that really long chapter devoted to them settling their differences, so maybe such a thing would not be needed.
Haruhi's a strong girl, she'll be okay ^_^;

When word gets out Emiri Kimidori has 'transferred', I'm sure Haruhi will find lots more fun things to do with her time (I was also going to write this an epilogue, but I just liked how this chapter ended)

Mmn there were lots of things I wanted to fit into this chapter that I didn't or couldn't, like a scene with Kyon interacting with his little sister, and maybe some more Taniguchi and Kunikida… but they weren't necessary scenes and they didn't add to the plot. I just really wanted to write about them, that's all. I'm a little sad I didn't get to do that, but… That's life, I guess.

At the moment I'm not sure whether I'm happy or displeased with the ending, as it's so ambiguous and I could have developed some things more… But did I really need to? I mean, Itsuki and Kyon should be the main focus of this fic, and if their feelings have been given some closure then… that's what should really matter, yes?

I don't know. I kind of hate knowing so many people read this story, because I'm afraid I'll disappoint everybody with my ending. This might be why I prefer working on fics in smaller fandoms, because I don't feel like I'll disappoint as many people if it doesn't end decently… -sweatdrop-

Anyway, I really hope you liked this story, and I hope you enjoyed the ending (this fic was actually meant to end like a chapter after the Emiri incident, which was supposed to be the climax…) and… I'm really happy you stuck by this story and kept reading, despite my erratic updating times. Honestly, you people who've read this mean a lot to me (apart from the people who got angry with me over it… That wasn't nice ;A;), and I hope this ending wasn't too disappointing…

Thank you so much ^_^~

~renahhchen xoxoxo