I don't really remember coming back home after that, just hazy images of a long walk on dark streets. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare after that. I awoke in my bed the next morning, groggy from a sleepless night. I felt sick to my stomach, absolutely horrible.

Ugh, just what had happened? What had I done? Was everything back to normal? Well… as close to normal as it ever got for me nowadays.

My sister was just as persistent as ever in dragging me out of bed, and just as annoying. My cereal that morning tasted as bland as it ever did. The phone call from Haruhi, detailing our next crazy misadventure, came at as misappropriate a time as ever with my sister pushing my phone in with me during my late shower.

It was all business as usual after that. Like it always had been. Sigh… Just why am I feeling so depressed, this is what I wanted right? No change. No… progress?

When I met the SOS-Brigade again later that day, all was as it should be. Koizumi was smiling at me like an idiot, there wasn't even a bruise on his cheek (perhaps I hadn't punched him that hard), although he did sort of avoid looking me in the eye. Asahina-san was as cute as ever, doing her best while getting harassed by Haruhi. And the two others I had been most worried about that day…

In the end, nothing had changed about them. Yuki kept to her books, remaining as taciturn as ever, perhaps even more, and Haruhi seemed to have been reinvigorated with the same zeal she had been when she'd started the SOS-Brigade, not caring no matter what kind of objections were made, or who got in her way. Neither one seemed to acknowledge what had happened between me and them. Almost as if a good part of their memories had disappeared. My following interactions with them felt rather empty and shallow after everything I'd been through with them lately.

Once again I was left wondering, whether it had all been another strange dream about the bizarre girls in my life or not. There was a specific reason why I didn't want to risk confirming whether it had all been a dream from Asahina-san or Koizumi. If it wasn't a dream…

There was an even worse alternative: what if I had inadvertently caused psychological regression in both Haruhi and Yuki? What if I had only hurt these two girls? The former was just as aloof and almost as uncaring as she ever had been at the start of everything and the latter was practically as vocal and expressive as a brick wall, perhaps even less now. Both seemed to have regressed to their earlier states of development. Either way, I still felt guilty. For some reason, remaining in ignorance seemed to at least give me some sort of morbid comfort. I was simply too afraid to properly face the consequences of my possible actions. Uncertainty was better than the absolute knowledge I might gain of knowing I'd caused harm to these two special girls in my life. I guess I was just lucky that neither Asahina-san nor Koizumi felt like discussing the past day if it had indeed even happened.

Please, let this all have been a nightmare, please…

Even so, I couldn't help but think back on the possibilities lost and never realized. I wondered just where my fault in all of this was. Had I made a mistake or two?

Where was my error?

Author's notes:

There, done. With motifs (well, at least some repeating elements) and a proper beginning and ending, which I hope leaves the reader thinking and wanting more. One of the best works I've written thus far, I think. And that Mark Twain quote at the beginning? Just perfect for the story as a whole. And although the ending was bittersweet, I like the irony in Yuki choosing not to be human, to not pursue a deeper relationship with Kyon, for the most human reason of all: concern for friends. And of course, there's the wish Kyon made to Haruhi as well… I really think this is a good place for an ending, continuing any further would probably only dilute the story as a whole.

Just so you know, I happen to think happy endings are overrated. They very rarely touch me on the same level as sad ones do, ones with a true sense of sacrifice or loss. A proper dramatic tragedy should be cathartic. I only hope I was able to induce the slightest of an emotional rollercoaster for my readers; from giddy excitement, to genuine laughs, to a sense of loss and possibly anger (then again, the last one's rather easy to garner when fanfic is involved, isn't it?). Sometimes I feel this story might have gotten a bit unnecessarily melodramatic, but the feeling comes and goes. I tried to remain truthful to the original characters and I think I succeeded fairly well, although there were times I found myself questioning whether characterization was being betrayed in favour of the plot, especially near the end. But I'm just such a sucker for sad stories…

This certainly was a fun short story to write. I hope I'm able to return for another piece in this series, something a bit more light-hearted, but still engaging on a deeper level and with plenty of exciting turns (and time travel too!). I already have some plans, some loose scenes, but nothing cohesive. Something where I push the lines of reality back for Kyon, delving deeper into the interesting philosophical aspects the series presents. It'll just take a short while, as I intend collect more data on what happens later on in the series (still a couple volumes to go).

Possibly my only regret concerning this story was a rather short focus on characters, besides Kyon, Haruhi and Yuki, and I would actually liked to have spent even more time with Yuki, but the story just didn't write itself that way. It was more about how Kyon himself felt about Yuki and Haruhi. I'm not entirely sure why I wrote this story in a way that basically ended in a retcon, with everything left like it might never have happened at all… I guess I just like writing stories that could easily fit inside the actual storyline, without causing any major ripples, but adding a rather sad undertone to it all.

Experimenting with the first person narrative sure was a lot of fun as well. Not only does it allow me to merely describe the actions of other characters in a way that leaves room for alternative interpretations, but it also allows me as the writer to offer possible insights on the other characters, all the while remaining as a somewhat unreliable narrator in the form of a character. Writing from Kyon's perspective was easy and came about very naturally, since he is the average guy after all, but he is also a bit of a sarcastic jerk inside his head, just like I am. If I do manage to make another proper story, it'll probably be from his perspective as well.

As a final thought, I would like to thank everyone who reviewed this work. It's nice to hear that there are people who enjoy what I write, and the constructive criticism was much appreciated as well, especially since writing feels like one of the few worthwhile things in my life at the moment. This work is dedicated to all of you. But most of all, thank you for reading. Here's hoping there's still more stories left to tell.

[Edit: I've created a forum for discussion concerning this story (where I've explained some of the subtext behind Nagato's "errors" since one or two people seemed to miss it), so feel free to visit it if you feel like asking something. I'm sure you people can find it more easily than I could direct you to it. I'm still a n00b on this site.]