For several days beforehand, Kyon had been picking up the warning signs. Haruhi stormed from the classroom to the clubroom and would then sit in an obstinate silence, likely brewing over whatever unlikely plan she had in her mind. Every so often he would enquire as to her state of mind, though he knew there little actual point in doing this; every attempt would always end with about the same kind of reply, shut up, Kyon--!
It's none of your business--!
Kyon supposed it wasn't, apart from the part where he knew it completely was. Sat there in the clubroom, Kyon would notice an additional nervous tremble to the way Mikuru stepped around, delivering tea to the respective places around the table (and then to beside where Haruhi sat, where it wouldn't be acknowledged). He would glance over to where Yuki sat and, for a moment, it was as if she was staring at him but by the time he came to think to notice that, she would be looking down at her book once more. Drained of Haruhi's enthusiasm, the mood in the room seemed decidedly cold, and nobody wanted to break the silence.
You didn't have to speak to play chess though, and whenever Kyon looked up at Koizumi to indicate him taking the next move, he only ever saw a smile. Of course. Even with some unknown threat looming over them, Koizumi would only ever smile about it. Likely even once they did find out whatever it was that was bothering Haruhi, he would still smile. They'd find a way out, wouldn't they? Undoubtedly, but, nonetheless...
The loudest sound in the room was Haruhi's deep, irritated sigh. Kyon turned his eyes to where she was sat backwards on her chair and staring out of the window, but she didn't make any move beyond that. Turning back, his eyes caught Koizumi's own for a moment. For that fleeting moment he caught something like a serious expression, before Koizumi smiled once more but apologetic, making a similar gesture with his hands as he made to stand. He spoke in the softest whisper he could manage, not wishing to break the fractured equilibrium of the room.
"... I... have to go to my part-time job, now. We'll have to finish this game at a later date, I'm afraid."
Kyon leant his head against his hand, "You've got to go right now, huh...?"
"Right now." Another sidewards glance towards Haruhi.
"... Have fun."
For a moment, Kyon felt Koizumi had an expression that almost seemed to say '... I wish' in reply, but he said nothing further as he left the room. This left the clubroom in further silence with less method of distraction; Mikuru brought over fresh tea and Kyon thanked her with a smile, but it was impossible to stave off Haruhi's stormy mood. At the same time, they still all remained there. To think about it rationally, Kyon supposed there no real reason why he had to be there and indeed, the list of other places in the immediate vicinity more comfortable than the atmosphere in that room was long indeed, but still Kyon sat and leant forward and stared at the back of Haruhi's head, wondering what it was that was bothering her this time. She wouldn't say, though. Not yet. He knew that much.
After a length of time clearly only significant to Haruhi, she chose to leave the room. She didn't say anything as she went, picking up her bag with a sour expression and slamming the door behind her. Mikuru looked up with her usual mix of worry and concern, but neither she nor Kyon knew any way in which to comment on the situation. Haruhi was angry; that was as much as anybody could deduce.
Mikuru left soon after that. Kyon lingered by the doorway for a few moments, just to see if Yuki wished to stop him for any reason. She didn't seem in any hurry; obviously the Integrated Data Sentient Entity did not yet have anything to say on the situation. Mikuru hadn't had anything to say either, but it was enough to know that Koizumi had had to leave quite that early. Perhaps, come the morning, he'd have come to some conclusion. Perhaps, due to the work of the Organisation, Haruhi's mood might have lifted and she'd be ready and willing to act on whatever was causing her thunderous mood. (Kyon closed the door behind him, leaving Yuki to her own devices.)
This was always the calm before the storm, Kyon thought to himself as he walked home. For him, the evening would involve crashing in front of the television with his sister, maybe trying to get to the next level in that game he'd just bought, maybe maybe trying to do his homework (if he could be bothered). A standard end to a standard day. Except, he knew, the other members of the SOS-dan would likely be spending their evening in a vastly different manner. Perhaps Mikuru would be getting classified information from her classified information regarding the classified information. Yuki would... likely be doing whatever it was she normally did, except in the context of this current situation. Koizumi would be battling the Shinjin with other members of the Organisation. Haruhi would sleep tonight, utterly oblivious of all of this going on on her behalf. And Kyon would be aware of it all, but powerless to do anything about it.
It was after dinner that he found himself staring at his phone. The news played in the background and his sister was elsewhere in the house; Kyon sat on the sofa and stared at the cloud background of his main menu, considering the possibility of opening his address book. Was there anything he could do? Maybe phone Haruhi, see how the evening was going for her. Maybe see if Yuki or Mikuru had anything to say on the situation (knowing, with irritation, that those two were far more likely to go to Koizumi first than they were to go to him). Thinking of that, there was Koizumi himself; when it came to other members of the SOS-dan, he was at least the easiest member to have a rational conversation with. It had been hours since he'd left the clubroom, was his 'job' finished for the night...? Kyon found himself thumbing down to that number in his address book before he really thought about what he was going to say.
The phone picked up, but it wasn't a male voice that answered the phone. "Hello, Kyon-kunnn~?"
The easygoing tone took Kyon aback, "--...?!... H--... Hello...?"
"Sorry~! I was just reading the name on the display. You're a friend of 'Tsuki-chan, right~?"
"He went out and left his phone, I'm afraid~! When he gets back, shall I say that you called...? Shall I take a message?"
"Oh, I'm his mother~! Silly boy, always goes out and never tells me anything. He always does this. He should be back before bedtime, though!"
"U-uh..." Kyon couldn't help a certain mental picture building the longer he listened to the woman speak. He bit his lip for a moment, "Y-yeah, tell him I called. There's no hurry or anything, I was just... wondering... if he'd... done his homework, that's all..."
"He's not in any trouble, is he?"
There was a note so genuine in that question that Kyon found it very difficult to lie in return. "T-trouble? Why would he be in trouble? Ahahaha. No, it just... you know. Homework. It's fine, just... you know, when he gets in, just... say I called."
"Alright then, I will~! Night night, Kyon-kunn~~!"
Kyon stared at his phone after that, considering the exchange that had just taken place. He'd never been to Koizumi's home before, nor had he ever encountered any members of Koizumi's immediate family. It took him long enough to consider this that it wasn't until later on in the evening that Kyon thought about how odd it seemed that Koizumi would go anywhere without his phone. Perhaps there was something about closed space that prevented outside communication, that seemed natural enough, but surely if you left your phone at home and went out without telling anybody, you were going to worry other people? Kyon wondered about Koizumi's family, then. Koizumi's powers had awoken alongside whatever it was Haruhi had caused three years ago, but what impact did that have on your family? Did Koizumi's parents know about his powers and his responsibilities? Did they know the kinds of things he had to do or to them, like to most other people, was it just a matter of the 'part-time job'...? Kyon didn't like feeling out of the loop, and didn't know if he felt better or worse considering such a thing. At least he knew what Koizumi got up to, when he had to leave suddenly...
Calls to Mikuru and Yuki went unanswered. For a short while, Kyon considered calling Haruhi. Was something big happening? Was the world on the brink of disaster again? The clock was ticking towards eleven o'clock and Kyon was awake and sat on the edge of his bed, considering all of the things he couldn't do, when his phone suddenly went. The sound was enough to surprise him, then even further in a different manner when he noted who the call was from. Koizumi? At this time?
"Good evening." Just from that alone, Kyon could tell he sounded tired.
"I got back to a note left by my phone, apparently you called me earlier. What did you want?" Not just tired, but... sharp, almost. Kyon wasn't sure how to react to that.
"I--... I just... was wondering how you were, I guess... you left so suddenly when we were in the clubroom, was just wondering if like... if it was over, or how it'd gone, or... or that kind of thing."
"... I'm quite exhausted. Do you mind if we wait until the morning? There's nothing so urgent I can't inform you of it then."
It didn't take long for Kyon to make up his mind. "... Could I have your address?"
"I'm coming to your house."
Kyon could practically hear Koizumi's expression, "Look, I'm very tired right now. It's really best if I--"
A sigh. "Fine, fine..."
Kyon pulled up to the given address, finding each house in the neighbourhood as dark as the night around them, but noticing the curtains of the room above him looking down onto the roadway twitch just slightly. He wheeled his bike along the pathway to the front door, feeling incredibly conscious when it let out a loud squeak. Did people around here really go to bed so early? It seemed strange that every house was so dark. He leant his bike against the front pillar of the small porch, hearing movement from inside the house. Someone coming downstairs. Kyon had thought he'd message Koizumi once he reached his house to tell him he'd arrived, but it seemed that that wasn't necessary.
The door opened, though it wasn't easy to see in the gloom. A streetlight further along the roadway gave some small illumination, but that seemed to be all they were allowed. When Koizumi spoke it was in a whisper, still sounding as tired as he had on the phone.
"... Good evening."
"You're really that tired, huh?"
"You could tell?" A half-hearted attempt at humour. "Come inside, it's cold."
"... I don't want to disturb your parents or anything..."
Koizumi paused on the doorstep, holding the door open. "Don't worry about them, they're quite deep sleepers. And I can't imagine we're to make too much noise, are we? You know how to whisper, don't you?"
Kyon didn't reply to that, somewhat surprised by Koizumi's manner. He followed him inside nonetheless, listening as the door closed behind him and he realised, now that he was indoors, just how dark it was.
"What is it?" It sounded as if Koizumi was already ascending the staircase, wherever that was.
"... I can't see."
"Here." Kyon felt a hand around his wrist, none-too-gently. Koizumi guided him forward until his foot hit the bottom step, a little louder than intended (as was the sound he made on the collision). From there, Koizumi let go; there was a handrail, and Kyon was able to make his way from there. Still, he kept close to where he heard Koizumi's movement, not wanting to wander into the wrong bedroom. As if sensing this, Kyon then heard Koizumi's whisper, "... This way."
When the door opened, Kyon felt at first that Koizumi's room was as dark as the rest of the house, but realised then that its position at the front of the house let light in from that streetlight further on down. It wasn't bright, but it wasn't pitch black, either; letting his eyes adjust, he could see Koizumi's shape bid him into the room, and then close the door behind him with a soft click. In the darkness, Koizumi's room seemed fairly standard; his bed lay on one side of the room and a desk on the other, a chair pushed underneath. He went over and pulled it out, sitting on it backwards, resting his arms against the backrest; he got the feeling that the bedroom was maybe smaller than his own, but felt neater, somehow. Looking around, he could see the darkness of shelves and bookcases looming over them, far more organised than his own. He looked back towards the door, where Koizumi still stood. He leant back against the door, as if that was all that was supporting him--
"... You are in a bad mood, aren't you?" Kyon couldn't help an incredulous note as he spoke, even while keeping his voice soft. It was barely even a question and more a statement, an observation; Koizumi seemed to be in a bad mood, and Kyon wasn't sure he'd ever seen that before. Not once. Even when Haruhi's temper (or enthusiasm) was at its most rampant, Koizumi only ever upheld his usual smile. That smile that Kyon saw so often that he was practically annoyed by it, that zen state of calm Koizumi seemed to have in practically every situation no matter how dire. Kyon remembered all of the times in the past that he'd felt frustration, felt like Koizumi wasn't taking him - or the situation - seriously. And now Koizumi was serious, or at least not trying to hold that usual mask...
It had never quite hit Kyon until that moment just how much of a mask that had to be. It wasn't that Koizumi had never had the capability to be serious, but those moments were few and far between enough for Kyon to be able to recall them perfectly. Even in those moments, Koizumi still seemed to have an energy that was sorely lacking now. Kyon stared across, noting that Koizumi hadn't replied to his question.
"-- Ah?" Koizumi seemed slightly startled. "Ah--, oh, um... sorry. I'm sorry. A bad mood? I... suppose you might be right." He stepped forward and pressed a hand into his hair, ruffling it with a little too much strength. He stepped across the bedroom and sat himself on the edge of the bed, hunched over and staring at Kyon. "I don't mean to inflict you with such a mood, it's just..." A sigh. "I'm tired. So, so tired." He rubbed his hand across his forehead. "... There's a light behind you."
"Uh?" Kyon turned around, looking over what he could make out of Koizumi's desk. A pen-holder, full of pens (and some elastic bands hanging off the end). The closed shape of what seemed to be a laptop. Then indeed, in the corner, a small desk lamp; Kyon felt around the base of the bulb and then further down, locating the switch. He narrowed his eyes at the sudden change, despite the light not being that bright; it was still a little more than he'd expected. He looked over Koizumi's desk now he was able to see, noting nothing that jumped out at him as being surprising or unexpected. He pulled himself around, leaning again against the chair's backrest, looking back towards Koizumi and then surprising himself. "K--... Koizumi--!"
A smile, though not one Kyon could bring himself to believe in. "It was a difficult battle."
Under the dim lamplight, Kyon could see that Koizumi was clad in lavender pyjamas. Also that, in the places the pyjamas didn't cover, Koizumi's words certainly seemed to ring true. He sat with his fingers netted together, and Kyon could see a dark bruise covering where his wrist met his sleeve; to look there further indicated the crust of dried blood. The collar of his pyjama top was pulled slightly lopsided, revealing a kind of curved wound; Kyon's first thought was a bite to the shoulder by some kind of beast, but for how neat it seemed - the skin was cut and bruised, but with an eerie sense of precision. Looking up further, Kyon was quite sure that some of Koizumi's hair was matted with blood, though he didn't seem to be bleeding as of this current moment. His expression was heavy but to see what he could of Koizumi's body, Kyon didn't blame him in the slightest.
"Are you surprised?"
"K-Koizumi--!... You're, you're really hurt...! Don't we have to--... do you have a first-aid kit? Shouldn't we get an ambulance? That's--... god, Koizumi, how can you just sit there--?!" Kyon found himself standing, found Koizumi indicating for him to sit back down.
"Ssh, ssh, you're getting too loud. You don't need to worry; the Organisation has the capability to deal with such things. It was ascertained that I was in no immediate danger, so I was deemed safe at least to return home and rest for the night. In the morning, I'll go in for treatment. By the afternoon, it'll be like nothing ever happened. I'm a priority case, of course; during the course of the school day, I am expected to encounter Suzumiya Haruhi. During that time, I should not appear in any way that may cause her curiosity or distress."
Kyon stared evenly across at Koizumi, "She'd probably think you got into some kind of fight. Probably think it's really cool."
Kyon narrowed his eyes, "... You'll be treated that quickly...?"
"Wounds incurred through battle with the Shinjin are not quite your standard wounds... it would be too complicated to explain this late into the night, but I suppose to put it succinctly... you could say that since they are beings not of this world, so too do we have similar technology capable of combating it. You remember the battle I had you witness? During an actual battle, we are not in our usual human form, therefore any injury we might sustain is also not like that a normal human being would sustain. The Organisation is most advanced when it comes to understanding that other form; if I as a normal human were to take these wounds then yes, I imagine I would have to be taken to hospital quite quickly. Fortunately, this is not the only form I can take; there is a method in which that can be induced, for medical purposes. It's quite straightforward, and very quick. I'm thankful for your concern, but you don't need to worry." Again, an insincere smile. Kyon could only stare, once again faintly sickened and awed by all of the things that were beyond him.
"Does this... happen every time?"
"And you've never mentioned it."
This seemed to surprise Koizumi slightly. "... I never thought it worth mentioning. Does Asahina-san mention every time she has to contact her people, or Nagato-san whenever she speaks with the Integrated Data Sentient Entity...?"
"Do they end up maimed every time they try that?"
"You have a point. Still, I... suppose it never particularly occurred to me. Would it have helped you to know? What would you have been able to do in response to that knowledge?"
Kyon wanted to reply to that, but found himself distracted by the way Koizumi closed his eyes; he'd leant forward to begin with, but the moment he closed his eyes, something about his body seemed to fall limp, as if he'd fallen suddenly asleep (or worse). It was that which convinced Kyon over to Koizumi's bed, sitting against the edge and putting one arm across Koizumi's shoulders to shake him awake.
"Ah--...? Ah, you're... you're still here..." (Something about Koizumi's voice sounded quite distant, and Kyon didn't like that at all.)
"Of course I am, where would I have gone? Koizumi, are you sure you're alright...?"
Koizumi seemed, at that point, to notice that Kyon's arm was still around him. He leant back into that, smiling and turning away to stare across the room. "To think, you're finally in my bedroom and it happens to be under such unfortunate circumstances. What bad luck I seem to have..."
"... Nevermind." He pushed himself away from Kyon's arm and stood up, taking a few paces before seeming to consider this a bad idea. He sat back down on the bed, about a foot away from where he had done previously. He patted out his pillow and pulled the sheets to the side. "... I was sent home to recuperate. I don't mean to sound brusque, but... I really am..." He fought back a yawn. "... Very tired."
"You seem like you're about to pass out."
"As I said."
"What is it?"
"Do you ever tell your family where you go, when you're out late at night fighting figments of Haruhi's subconscious?"
"That's--..." He looked to the side. "There's a kind of Secrets Act. Whatever doesn't quite match up, the Organisation will compensate for."
"Why don't you just tell them?"
"I can't." Koizumi sounded more alert saying that than he had for half the conversation; Kyon supposed that this wasn't the kind of thing Koizumi had a choice in.
"... Isn't that kind of sad?"
"I'm not too sure I'd be happy for them to know the truth. Also, for them to know would be to try to explain the existence of Suzumiya Haruhi, and to try to explain that to an outsider of the concept would be... problematic."
"Even when it's your own family?"
"Especially because it's my own family."
"Is it the same for Asahina and Naga--" Kyon cut himself off, realising the situation at about the same time as Koizumi felt the need to lay it out for him.
"And who would they have to hide themselves from? Nagato-san lives by herself. Asahina-san lives, presumably, somehow by the will of her own people. They are, I fear, quite free to do as they like."
The silence that descended between the two of them felt, at least to Kyon, quite claustrophobic. Koizumi seemed to realise this, smiling that disingenuous smile once more. "You don't need to worry about me, I'm quite used to all of this. If I really wished for things to be different, I'm quite sure there is somebody I could find to consult on the issue. This, at the moment, seems the most immediate way of dealing with Suzumiya Haruhi. Whatever wounds I incur will be gone by tomorrow; I can bear it for that long. Ideally, Suzumiya-san may be in a better mood tomorrow, too... though I think that we should both work to discover the root of her current difficulties. My work with the Organisation has the capability of reducing whatever tumultuous emotion she is currently experiencing and if we're lucky, it may evaporate by itself... but given current evidence, I would not think that too likely." That smile lessened somewhat, but for that, seemed to become somehow more sincere. "... If you think yourself anything other than utterly invaluable to our predicament, then I fear you would be doing yourself a disservice. You, too, are needed."
"I--..." Kyon stared down at his hands. "I guess I was pretty obvious, huh."
"I thought you had to have come here for a reason. You want to feel like you're helping, don't you?"
Kyon looked up, frowning somewhat. "... That makes it sound kind of selfish."
"Isn't it? If you weren't here, you'd only be at home thinking over the situations of myself, Nagato-san or Asahina-san..."
"... I think you're the one being selfish, Koizumi."
That seemed to take him by surprise. "... Oh?"
"... Look. Koizumi. Just--... when something like this happens, tell someone, okay? Yeah you can't tell your family, I don't know about the others at your Organization, but... I guess what I'm trying to say is, you should tell me about these things more. If you're hurt or whatever. It's just... kind of depressing, thinking of you hurt all on your own like that."
Koizumi put one finger to his lips, "You can be quite charming, sometimes."
"I mean it, Koizumi...! Don't keep this to yourself."
"And what can you do about it...?" Koizumi didn't seem to mean this as any kind of barbed comment, only as a genuine enquiry. Kyon sighed, not knowing the answer. Koizumi seemed to expect this however, shuffling up on his bed so he was sat against the pillow. "... I'm sorry. I must sound quite ungrateful. I'm not used to people being worried about me... although, I'm rather flattered that you would be the one to show such concern."
"Are you an idiot? Of course I'd be worried--! You look like you came off badly against a shark, or something."
"... It is quite painful."
"Looks it. You really don't have any bandages or anything? Don't you keep some spare for this sort of thing?"
"If it's only overnight, it doesn't seem worth it."
"Where's the closest shop? I could go get something..."
"It's past midnight."
"You really are quite determined, aren't you...?" Koizumi pressed his palms down against the mattress, seemingly in deep thought for a moment. When he looked up, it was with an openly curious expression. "... Perhaps, then, I could ask a request of you."
"Sure, what do you want? I don't know first aid or anything, but I'll do what I can."
"May I be selfish?"
"Don't see why you should break a habit."
"Would it be unreasonable to ask if I could borrow your back?"
"As I said, I'm not... too used to people showing concern over matters such as this. It's quite a novelty. Your presence is indeed quite soothing... and it is quite late, after all. Would it not be easier for you to stay here overnight?"
"Wa-- wait, K-Koizumi, what--... what are you asking...?"
Koizumi's next smile seemed... quite warm, somehow. "Nothing untoward. I was just thinking, perhaps I would sleep better in your presence." A light shrug, "Of course, you don't have to indulge me in my selfishness. It was only a thought."
Kyon was in two minds about such a request; on one hand, it seemed a little weird, but on the other hand, Koizumi was injured and Kyon was worried about him...
"Um... s-so, I could... take the floor, I guess..."
"I think my bed is quite adequate for the two of us."
"... T-two guys sharing a bed is kind of... weird, though..."
"Is it impossible for two persons to platonically share a bed together, is that it?"
"N-no, of course not--! It just--... I just--... I--..."
In for a penny, in for a pound. "Okay, okay--!" Kyon pulled the sheets away and lay down on the left side of the bed. "Happy now?"
"... Actually I would rather you were the other side. Like that, I would have to lean against my damaged shoulder..."
Koizumi leant back as Kyon shuffled himself over to the side of the bed facing the desk and the light. "That fine?"
"You sound so grumpy~!" Koizumi slipped out of bed and went over to the desk light, flipping the switch on the cord. The room fell into darkness, but Kyon could still make out Koizumi's figure in the gloom. He seemed to stand by the desk for a little longer than expected.
"Ah--? Ah, yes, I'm... yes. Sorry. I'm just... not too attentive at the moment."
"You don't have to be. Get to sleep."
"Yes, yes." Koizumi stepped back over to the bed, pulling the sheets back and kneeling over Kyon's legs, settling himself down on the right side of the bed. There was indeed room enough for the two of them, albeit in quite a snug fashion. Koizumi smiled again, this time to himself, while he knew that Kyon wouldn't be able to see him.
"O-okay? Going to sleep now."
Koizumi said nothing as he slipped his arms beneath Kyon's own, taking him in a light embrace around his chest. He could feel, amongst other things, the rather immediate way Kyon's entire body tensed on that movement.
"I asked if I could borrow your back, did I not?"
A long pause.
"... D-... Don't tell anybody at school about this."
"Is there any reason why I would?"
"N-no, but... j-just don't, okay?"
Another pause, long enough for Kyon to think that Koizumi had fallen asleep (and for him to wonder how the hell he was supposed to sleep like that, with Koizumi's arms still around him). Koizumi did speak however, pressed against Kyon's back and muffled through that and exhaustion.
"... C-calling me by that nickname while w-we're in b-bed together is really creepy you know that right?"
A small noise of amusement. "... What should I call you when we're in bed together, then?"
Kyon felt a shudder run right down his spine, all the more for wondering if Koizumi, in such close proximity, would be able to sense such things. "Just get to sleep...!"
"Right. We'll have to be up early so that I can go to--... so that I can leave early."
"Okay, okay. Night."
Kyon felt the arms around him tighten as Koizumi shifted around against him, finding the optimal position for his comfort. Kyon tried to swallow his nervousness, supposing that that signalled an end to the conversation and that maybe, now, he could actually attempt to go to sleep. While in another man's bed. With that another man's arms wrapped around him. Auughhhh.
Kyon wondered if Koizumi would finally drop off to sleep if he didn't reply. He couldn't bring himself to try to sleep while Koizumi was still awake, and so stared across at the desk on the other side of the room instead.
Koizumi didn't seem put off by this lack of response. Again, he smiled. That smile that Kyon wouldn't see.
"... Thank you." (His voice was a muted whisper, but Kyon still caught it. That's alright, he thought to himself.)
After that, Koizumi did at least, at last, seem to fall asleep. Kyon couldn't bring himself to. And as Koizumi's breath slowed to a steady rhythm against his back, he couldn't help but feel that it was going to be a long night.
22nd August 2009