The mangling will happen; oh yes!

First I'm going to kick him hard.

Next I'm going to kick him again for good measure.

And then try out something called a hairflip.

Who am I talking about? A man named Paradox, and my oldest friend. My oldest friend who just convinced three people to BLOW UP PLUTO!

Forgive me right now but I'm distinctly allowing myself to act very un-Mikuru-like.

I suppose I should start at the beginning.

It had been a normal day, as normal as it could get. School was nearly over when there was a prickling sensation at the edge of my senses. Ever since I became one of the Five, I could feel what Kyon called Impending Doom when it was nearly there.

Getting out of my chair in the middle of class and interrupting the lecture, I wandered to the windows, ignoring the request to sit down. I looked out and then I blinked. Paradox stood there with what appeared to be a younger Eon and two Asians, twins by the look of them, and they were pointing… a fancy… gun into the sky?

"Oh no…"

Dashing out into the hall and taking the stairs two at a time, I finally got to the courtyard just in time to hear the twins.

"It's a go…" started the man.

"For BOOM-TIME!"

"Roger, roger!" The younger Eon raised the gun and squeezed off a blast.

"NO DON'T!" I heard myself screaming. But a beam far too massive to come from a single weapon exploded from it, and the twins let out a whoop of joy. By now the brigade had noticed, and were leaning out the window.

And then, the younger Eon aimed to the side and said, "Firing." A second beam of light blasted outwards on a different trajectory than the other.

The first beam traveled up… and up… and up…

"Wait for it…!" chorused the twins.

And then the moon exploded.

"BOOOOOOOOOM!" laughed the trio.

I stared, aghast. They just… blew up the MOON! THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT!

An unholy rage filled me and I stormed over to Paradox who grinned and waved.

"PARADOX, WHAT THE HELL?!"

The scream of rage could be heard all across the school. Many were staring at me, but I ignored their gaze. I kicked him in the shins over and over, even though he would just reset the pain all the time. It felt GOOD to kick him.

"My dear Mikuru, will you please stop that?" he said after the twentieth kick. "If you must, kick dear Ben."

"Me?!" demanded Ben. "Hey, you told me it was all right!"

"And it was totally awesome!" Enthused the male twin.

"Yeah!" added the second. "I mean, it's not like the second beam's hit yet anyhow! And we'll fix the moon!"

Oh right, I forgot about that little detail. Paradox could reset the moon by rewinding events.

"Wait. Where's the second beam headed?" I asked warily.

"Pluto," replied the twins as one.

My expression fell. "You. Just shot PLUTO!?"

"Not just shot, but destroyed it!" exclaimed Ben, holding up a little screen. From a satellite hidden somewhere, it tracked the beam. Closer and closer it inched towards Pluto and then the words "Pluto Destroyed" flashed across it. "Hey, it's just a planetoid."

My hands found his neck and I was making with the choking, so furious at him. It was no use to choke Paradox and the twins looked like they could avoid it. So I was choking Ben.

"Mikuru, dear, let him breathe," said Paradox gently. Reluctantly, I let go. "Now then, this was needed."

"NEEDED?!" I screeched. "How is blowing up the Moon and Pluto NEEDED?!"

"Because it gets the attention of galactic civilization," replied Paradox. "It's been something that needed to be addressed so I just bumped the time-table up a little."

Aliens. Other than Yuki?

My head was starting to hurt. Obviously this was one of the big downsides to being Paradox's friend for so long. "Does Setsuna know you just blew up her home planet?"

"Pish, she was fine with it." Replied Paradox as he lied through his teeth with a wide smile. I just hung my head. Dealing with a frustrated senshi of time was going to be harder than I imagined when she found out about this. "In any case, this action has two major actions. First off…"

And the moon was back. "It gets the attention of galactic society. And secondly…"

"YOU!" roared Ben as Haruhi appeared on the scene with the rest of the brigade. The boy was seething. "YOU were the one who screwed my life over!"

Haruhi blinked. "Wha? What the hell are you talking about?" Kyon was making calm down gestures but they were ignored.

"You denied me the chance to be a hero!" snarled Ben, clearly upset.

Then I realized what must have happened. "The Time Quake!" I squeaked out, realizing what must have happened.

But before Haruhi could deny it, Ben had rolled up the sleeve and twisted the knob of a device before slapping his hand down on it.

"And here we go," said Paradox. "Gem, Gemma, it's time for us to go for now. Do be careful Mikuru."

Before I could protest, the trio vanished and there was a second blast of brilliant green light as Ben rapidly changed form, rising up and up and up into a massive brown-skinned reptile like creature.

"HUMUNGOSAUR!" roared Ben a second before he tried to smash Haruhi who scrambled away.

"BOLLUCKS!" was the only thing I could think of as Ben tried to murder the Brigade leader.

Twenty minutes later and about seventeen aliens later, the watch finally timed out after the rapid shifts and Ben had pinned Haruhi down, panting. "Got… you…!" he snarled, but most of his anger had been spent in the angry attempt to murder her.

Haruhi was looking back, messy, dishevelled and her clothing torn from the near-misses. She stared back, brown eyes meeting green.

And then, her arms rose and Ben prepared to retaliate with one last watch-slap but was unprepared for Haruhi's final move.

"YOU'RE MINE!" she howled triumphantly, kissing him wildly and not letting him go.

Poor Kyon. He looked horrified at this outcome. Itsuki almost looked like he was going to bust a gut and Yuki dropped her book, both eyebrows raised.

Poor Ben, come to think about it. Somehow, between the adrenaline and the primal fear, Haruhi had fallen for him as he could literally be anything he wanted to be. Alien, Esper, Time Traveler. The whole nine yards.

Somehow, Ben started attending our school, despite him living in Bellwood. He commuted every day due to Paradox picking him up for classes. He was surly, immature, looked far too out of place in his green jacket with the 10 on it, and he scowled when Haruhi toted him everywhere. Kind of like how Kyon scowled angrily all the time when it happened, but this time she was kissing Ben like she wanted his babies.

"You're jealous, huh?" I said to Kyon one day during the club meeting. Haruhi was absent along with Ben, but the light of alien transformation could be seen from outside the window.

"N-no! Of course not!" protested Kyon. "Not at all, really Asahina…"

"Hmmm…." I replied. "Liar."

"Could we just drop it please?" he asked.

"Now what though?" asked Itsuki. "So now Haruhi knows that people like us exist, but not the three of us. Technically we're still safe."

"We keep watching over her," I replied and Yuki nodded a little. "Because it's all we can do."

"I'm going for a walk," said Kyon and he got up and left without any more preamble.

I found him hours later, swinging on a swing set. It was still a little listless but I sat down next to him. "So?"

"So what?" Kyon sounded horrible, like he was trying not to get mad but failed.

"You're worried that Ben's become the most important thing to Haruhi," I said. "That you've been relegated to second place. I know how that feels."

"How?" demanded Kyon. "She chose me when she almost blew up the world a second time. How could she just…!"

"Because… I've been second place for you, haven't I?" I said, and Kyon went red, ducking his head. "All this time I've passed up opportunity for the sake of our goals. And this time, now that a new player is in the game, you don't know if you can keep going at the same rate everyone has been. Ben is strong and powerful, he has a device that allows him to be everything Haruhi wanted. Who wouldn't be threatened by that?"

Kyon could only nod and I pressed on. "But the thing is simple: Haruhi chose you FIRST. And I think, even if she does like Ben, it's not as deep as something you share with her."

His hands tightened for a moment and then relaxed. "Asahina," he said. "When did you stop stuttering?"

"I… a little while ago," I replied. "Is it that obvious?"

"I just noticed… a while ago actually," admitted Kyon. "Your mannerisms have gotten bolder, stronger, more confident. You take Haruhi's molestation with only the minimal squeaking and flailing but… you're like…"

Oh. Of course. Remind me to hurt myself when I'm older.

"You met up with my older self, didn't you?" I said. "Before the possible reset and cataclysm?"

"How'd you know?" asked Kyon. "She took so much effort to keep you from knowing!"

I smirked. "Paradox."

Kyon groaned, burying his face in his hands. "FIGURES," he sighed. "That man's nothing but trouble. Why are you his friend?"

"Why shouldn't I be? He's made me into what I am; Mikuru Asahina." I smiled, patted Kyon on the shoulder and added, "It'll be all right."

The next day, there was a message from Paradox. He stated that the destruction of Pluto had indeed attracted galactic attention. But also moved up the timetable on an invasion by the strongest enemy our sector of the universe could muster up. Vilgax.

Vilgax would be dangerous, and would come and run roughshod over the world starting with our town. The Time Quake had successfully retconned his invasion three years ago, but in those three years had grown even stronger and powerful. He needed to be dealt with.

But instead of the three months, it was barely a week when the fleet arrived overhead. Haruhi dragged us all out and just in time to find a meteor that hurled to earth.

From it, one of the most terrifying aliens I've ever seen appeared with nary a scratch from his entrance. He was tall and green-skinned with face tentacles. His body was covered in armour and he sneered.

"Haruhi Suzumiya, I have come to kill you and claim what has been mine for years! Is now a bad time?"

I had to admit that Haruhi standing up to Vilgax was quite amazing, but he wasn't going to waste or mince words as he tried to vaporize her. Fortunately Ben attacked head on, using the Omnitrix to become Humungosaur.

But the result of that was very much a bad thing. Vilgax's expression lit up like a kid in a candy store. "The Omnitrix! So it WAS here! Tell me whelp; is your grandfather Max Tennyson?"

"Wouldn't you like to know!" snarled Ben, landing a punch.

The brawl spilled out into the streets, and Ben and Vilgax fought hard, wrecking store-fronts and destroying landscape. Jagged beams of red lanced from Vilgax's eyes and Ben countered it by swapping to Big Chill, letting them pass through him. Freezing blasts tried to keep the alien down, but more and more landscape was wrecked.

Camera crews captured the fighting pair and I bit my lip in worry. How much more could the world take?

Haruhi was almost swooning and she cheered Ben on with every blow. "Kyon you should get in there," said Haruhi. "You're the Brigade's new enforcer!"

Kyon looked at her like she had grown a second head. But when a stray red beam hurled at us, Yuki was the first to act.

Lines of code were chanted, and the beam impacted with considerable force. Yuki actually staggered under the beams.

At the same time, Itsuki's powers flared to life, possibly a side effect of the events and he sighed. "We'll help," he said, floating up in a golden sphere and he darted in, landing blows on Vilgax who swatted him aside.

The fire fight that followed was more or less one of the most intensive things possible. I did my best to shield Kyon and Haruhi from the blasts, though Kyon got some nasty wounds on his back from flying shrapnel. Then, the unthinkable happened.

Ben had swapped to Chromastone and had poured everything he had to kill Vilgax, but Vilgax got to him first, shattering Ben into a million pieces. For a long moment I thought it was the end – no one came back from death. But then, the Omnitrix rose up and beeped rapidly, forming up the remains of Ben into a green-crystal form.

"DIAMONDHEAD!" yelled Ben as he was reborn. There was a look in his eyes and he fought even harder than before, before switching to Swampfire and then Heatblast for added power. Itsuki and Yuki fought too and together they finally defeated Vilgax.

Broken and battered, Vilgax swore vengeance and was forced to limp away before Ben could finish him off.

The news had a media frenzy, but Yuki was able to jam the transmissions and erase information before most of it could get out. But the headline was clear "Alien Hero Saves Our World From Invasion" and under it was written "Who Is He?"

Ben and I visited Kyon who was in the hospital, and I wheeled Ben there from his own room. The pair stared at one another and then Ben said, "Hey Kyon? I want to thank you for protecting Haruhi. I know I've been moving into your territory and all but…"

Kyon cut him off. "Ben? I'm not mad. At least not anymore. If anything this has taught me that nothing happens right with Haruhi in the midst of things. Not even an Alien Invasion." He chuckled and Ben joined in. "HOWEVER! I am not giving up."

I grinned and poked Kyon on the nose. "Kyon? Is this an admission of love~?" I singsonged.

Kyon sputtered but nodded. I giggled. "All right, have fun you two."

"Hey, Mikuru?" said Ben. "Thanks for putting up with this. And with me."

"Apology accepted," I replied with a smile. "We'll go hurt Paradox later for this, okay?"

"Count on it," said Ben and Kyon nodded.

Somehow, I figured things were actually going to be for the better. Walking out and cupping my hands, I looked at the V inscribed on them. Haruhi passed by, looked at me and she smiled.

"You're all right, Mikuru," said the girl. She was carrying two sets of flowers. "One of them's for Kyon, the other is for Ben."

"They're both in Kyon's room," I replied.

Haruhi smiled, and it was the most honest expression I've seen from her. "Great! Then I can tell them they both owe me for the flowers."

I laughed. "Just like you."

Haruhi grinned, poked me in the shoulder and said, "Tomorrow, you're telling me ALL about Time Travelers. Okay?"

I nodded, classified be damned. I was finally able to be myself. "Count on it."

Stepping out into the sunshine, Paradox stood there along with the other four. "You made it," said Paradox cheerfully. I kicked him in the shins. "I deserved that."

"You did an amazing job, Mikuru," said Setsuna, tousling my hair like the way she did so many years ago.

"Yes. To help overcome such odds is commendable," added Clockwork, the ghost standing there with a happy expression. "We would be honoured to have you as one of the Five."

"That is, if you'll accept," said Eon. "Granted you already are but it's sort of a ritual…"

"I accept," I said. "It can't get much wilder than this."

Setsuna held out her hand and it glowed with the Roman symbol of One.

Clockwork placed his on hers and it glowed with Two.

Three was Paradox's.

Eon's hand joined the pile and it glowed with Four.

And I rested my own, and Five glowed from it.

"Three becomes Five. Power eternal, time like a river," intoned Setsuna. "I lay the path…"

"I watch it from above," said Clockwork.

"I meddle in all things," added Paradox.

"I bring change and ruin," said Eon.

"And I… I bring the Promise of a new tomorrow."

"We are the Five." We chorused as one, and our marks glowed before fading.

"Now then," said Paradox. "Now that natty bit's out of the way; who's up for dinner? I'm famished!"

"Only you," replied Setsuna. "Milliways?"

"I was thinking more of something the Doctor frequents," replied Paradox. Eon groaned.

"You want to risk running into Daleks?" groused Eon. "Remember what happened last time?"

"How was I supposed to know that stairs were no longer their foil?" retorted Paradox.

"Enough you two," said Clockwork. "Let Mikuru decide."

I smiled. "There's a wonderful burger place down the street. Let's go."