A reference to The Vanishment of Haruhi Suzumiya is included in this story. But it is small and shouldn't impede your overall understanding if you haven't seen the film. Enjoy.

Heart-Shaped Words

February 14th.

It was that day. That marvelous day when every human male in Japan has a greater chance of discovering which girl(s) has a thing for him – not necessarily deemed by who the giver of candy and gifts is, but by the quality or individuality of the gift itself. If one is lucky, the giver will be some nice, cute, funny girl that one has already had his eye on for a while. If unlucky, then at least a guy has a month to find a mild White Day present that will gently let her down. In my case, I can remember quite a few instances during grade school and junior high when a cute girl would approach me shyly yet determinedly and present me with a package of homemade chocolate.

Well, one or two, anyway.

However, this year, in addition to this tradition that was still in effect outside the clubroom door, I was being made to recognize Valentine's Day the SOS Brigade way.

Actually, it could have been a lot worse. What Haruhi came up with was relatively harmless; after all, it's not like she could just find an alien, time traveler, and ESPer and ask what their opinions were on the holiday, right? So what she did, the day before, was command Asahina-san and Nagato to each buy a bag or box of candy from the store and bring it in for us to share. She made a point of letting Koizumi and myself know that on White Day we would be the ones buying candy for everyone.

"And what about you?" I asked dryly. "Are you taking part in the buying, or simply the eating?"

Haruhi scoffed. "Of course I'm bringing something in! I really shouldn't have to, since I do so much to run this brigade already, but I have a candy recipe I want to try out. And it was going to be a surprise, too! Thanks a lot, Kyon."

You didn't have to give away your surprise if you didn't want to, I thought with accustomed exasperation. Yes, it so happens that Haruhi enjoys messing around with food, so long as she thinks the dish is interesting enough to make. I hope whatever you come up with doesn't poison us all.

"And just so we'll have variety – Mikuru-chan! You bring chocolate! Yuki! You bring something that's not chocolate!"

"Yes, Suzumiya-san."

Nod.

I sighed.

Haruhi on sugar could not possibly be a good thing.

And now, approximately twenty-four hours later, I was walking toward the clubroom. Hoping, as I did every day, that things would not get too out of control. How had my Valentine's Day been up to that point, you ask? The usual – I'd gotten a few things from some female classmates I'd worked with in the past, but then again, they were the ones who gave candy to almost all the guys. You take what you can get, I suppose…but still...some years it can be downright depressing.

From what I observed in class, Haruhi hadn't given anything to anybody, but somehow I wasn't surprised. She watched me like a hawk when the other girls approached me though, and once they were gone, told me that I hadn't acted grateful enough. Which I most certainly had.

The hallway was as quiet as usual as I arrived at the door and knocked. No one answered, which meant that Nagato was most likely the only one inside. She's always the first to arrive; in fact, I don't think I've ever seen her walk into the room; only out of it. When I opened the door, she was, as expected, sitting in her spot by the window, reading. What caught my attention was the lumpy red bag lying on the far end of the table.

"Hi, Nagato," I greeted, putting my bag down in a corner. She looked up for a moment and gave a simple, "Hello" before returning to her book.

I walked over to the item on the otherwise empty table. It turned out to be a bag of conversation hearts, no doubt Nagato's contribution to Valentine's Day as per Haruhi's request. "You brought these, Nagato?"

"Yes."

I smirked. It was really very fitting that she bring those – the messages on the hearts were very short, and Nagato herself was (usually) of few words. Sitting down, I idly wondered what her thoughts were after observing the holiday. I had a pretty good feeling that she hadn't participated in any way. She wouldn't; it wasn't part of her mission, and though I wasn't completely sure, I figured she had a tough time comprehending feelings, let alone romantic ones. I was about to ask her what she thought of Valentine's Day when the door was flung open and the Queen of Randomness and Chaos, otherwise known as Haruhi Suzumiya, strutted in.

"Hi!" she shouted, then blinked and looked around. "Oh. Not everyone's here yet." She lowered a plastic bag she had slung over her shoulder to the table's surface, and took out what looked like a cookie tin. "Your candy?" I asked, trying to appear disinterested.

"Yup! It came out really well! But you can't see it 'til everyone's here." Then she noticed the candy hearts. "Ah! Good job, Yuki! We can totally eat these! Between the five of us we can probably finish the whole thing." Do you really think we're all willing to rot our teeth that fast?

A few minutes later Asahina-san and Koizumi came in almost both at once. They were both smiling. I guessed that their day had been going pretty well. Depending on how today's meeting went, who knew if it would stay that way.

Koizumi and I promptly removed ourselves to the hallway while Asahina-san was changed into her maid's dress. Amid her cries of struggle I shook my head. If only she had arrived before Haruhi. It wasn't one of her luckier days.

Once back inside, I got to see what Asahina-san had brought: an assortment of small milk and dark chocolate bars, each wrapped in appropriately colored pink and red foil. And then Haruhi unveiled the big surprise.

Homemade chocolate mints. They didn't look like anything special on the outside, but…they were actually pretty good. Upon seeing that she'd won our satisfaction and having received our compliments – even (one) from me – Haruhi proudly proclaimed Valentine's Day to be a success.

Of course, Haruhi. Of course.

And then she proceeded to rip open the packages that Nagato and Asahina-san had brought.

The rest of the time was spent sitting around eating candy and drinking tea. Koizumi brought out a deck of cards and all of us but Nagato played a few rounds of Hearts (irony included). In the middle of the last game I looked over at the silent extraterrestrial, who didn't seem to be paying any attention to us. She had declined playing when I'd asked her, but that was Nagato for you. Somehow she seemed so far away over there.

After the game was over (everyone had won a round but me), I grabbed a candy heart from the half-empty bag and went over to her. We still had a fair deal of candy left, and she hadn't touched any besides one of Haruhi's mints. "Hey, Nagato." She looked up at me. "Here, have one," I said, offering the small pink heart to her. "You've never tried them, have you?"

For a second, I thought she wasn't going to take it. But then she raised a hand and lifted it off of my palm before carefully inspecting it. I watched, waiting for her to eat it.

For some reason, Nagato's face took on that look it does when she's caught off guard – it's like her equivalent to being surprised, though I don't think many people notice it. "I'm sorry," she said, "but I am not prepared for such a transition. It would be very inconvenient at this time, as well as inappropriate, and would involve an emotional state I do not possess. I must decline your request."

I stared. "…Nagato, what are you talking about? Why is it inappropriate to eat candy?"

"That is not what I mean. I cannot marry you."

I think just about all of my vital organs threatened to stop functioning when she said that. I'm honestly lucky that I didn't have a heart attack right there. "What?"

The others, who'd been half-listening to our conversation while Koizumi gathered up the cards, now turned toward us in shock. At least, the girls were shocked; Koizumi merely looked briefly bewildered before grinning and letting out a chuckle. For a moment, it was the only sound in the room.

Haruhi rushed over and was up in my face in an instant. "Kyon! What did you do?"

"Nothing!" I retaliated fiercely. Well, as fiercely as possible while being completely overwhelmed. My nerves were on fire and I could feel my forehead growing moist with sweat. "Nagato, where did you get that idea?"

She held up the piece of candy; the printed side was facing me. Haruhi and I both leaned forward to get a better look. Printed on the heart in dark pink letters were the words "Marry Me".

I took in a huge breath and exhaled it, relieved that this was such a simple misunderstanding. Haruhi, on the other hand, turned and glared at me. "What is the meaning of this? Are you secretly some sort of Romeo or is this your idea of a sick joke on poor Yuki?" She jabbed a finger dangerously close to me; I had to lean back to avoid losing an eye. "Well? Answer me or your penalty will be the worst you've ever faced!"

"It's neither!" I insisted. I quickly looked back at the one who was in danger of being mistaken for Juliet. "Nagato, I wasn't asking you any such thing," I explained hurriedly. "The messages on these candies aren't meant to be taken seriously – at least, not among friends. That's why I didn't even look at what that piece said when I picked it up." Though from now on I probably will. "So don't take it that way, okay?"

Hearing this, Haruhi seemed to calm down. "See, Yuki? That's all there is to it!"

"I see," Nagato said simply. Haruhi turned around and plopped down in front of the computer, the storm quelled. Asahina-san sighed audibly and reached for a piece of chocolate. When I glanced back at Nagato, she was raising the candy heart to her mouth. I watched her chew and swallow. "How is it?" I asked, my nerves beginning to return to normal.

"Fine," was her reply. She lowered her gaze down to her book once again.

And that was the end of that.

Afterward, Koizumi began spouting off facts about the history of Valentine's Day and how it was celebrated in various cultures. This prompted Haruhi to hunt around the internet for any tidbits she could find, which led to her discovery of a bunch of corny Valentine jokes. Even she had to admit that they were pretty lame, but she recited them all anyway. Half of them were dirty, but still unimpressive. This is when I began absently flicking some scattered candy hearts around the tabletop. Asahina-san, sitting across from me, noticed and began doing the same. Not long after, we were shooting them back and forth to each other, and then came up with something of a game that involved flicking them into the empty teacups. Koizumi seemed content to watch.

Then a flick more forceful than I'd intended sent a piece flying over my cup and sailing a considerable distance, where it landed…right on the page of Nagato's book.

For a second I was frozen in alarm as I watched her pick it up and look at it. Oh dear God, what does this one say? But Nagato's far from stupid or forgetful; she had to remember what I'd told her earlier. With that thought to guide me I stood up and walked over to her.

"Sorry about that; I didn't mean for it to go over here," I apologized. "Do you want it, or should I get rid of it?"

Her eyes slid from the candy to me and back again. I was aware that Asahina-san and Koizumi were watching us, while Haruhi, whose back was to us, was pretending not to be suspicious. Nagato shook her head. "Disposal is not necessary." She put the candy in her pocket. This baffled me, but I decided to leave the matter alone for now. "All right." I returned to my seat. Koizumi and Asahina-san were looking at each other oddly, but I couldn't tell what they were thinking.

At last Haruhi stood up and said, "I'm going home now. You can all divide up the leftovers however you want." She took a few remaining chocolates and put them in her bag, then took the empty cookie tin. "See you tomorrow!" And she left.

There was a short period of stillness as we all sat and surveyed the mess on the table. Pieces of foil from the chocolates were everywhere. "Had a good Valentine's Day?" Koizumi asked, sporting that annoyingly cheerful and occasionally distrustful smile.

"More or less," I grunted.

"Mine was pretty good," Asahina-san agreed. "What about you, Koizumi-kun? Did you get a lot of candy today?"

"Ah, I got the normal amount, I suppose."

Exactly how much is normal for you? I don't even think I want to know. I started cleaning up, sweeping my hand across the table to gather up the wrappers. "Thanks for bringing in the chocolates, Asahina-san."

"Yes, thank you."

"Of course." She smiled at us. I couldn't help smiling back.

The three of us split the remainder of the candy (Nagato didn't want any) and threw out the trash. Koizumi said his goodbyes and departed, Nagato right behind him. I checked to make sure the computer was off, then said goodbye to Asahina-san and left her to change her clothes.

The sun was clearly ready to go down, casting the school grounds in faint orange light. Another February 14th come and gone. Or so I thought. As I exited the front gate, there was Nagato, standing off to the side.

I blinked and took a step toward her. "Hey…um, is there something you wanted to talk to me about?"

She approached me, stopped, and held out her hand. "Take it."

I looked down. She was holding a white candy heart. Presumably the one I'd sent flying onto her book.

I was a little tired of looking at candy hearts by this time, but that was beside the point. "You're giving this back to me? Why?" I'd already offered to throw it away for her, if she didn't want it.

"Because it is rightfully yours." Her gaze, straight into my eyes, was unwavering.

All because I had been the one to accidentally flick it at her? And wasn't Nagato the one who had bought these to begin with? I wanted to point that out, but I knew that this really wasn't worth making a fuss over.

I took the heart, glancing at the words on it quickly. "U R Kind". Nothing extreme there. "Thanks. You really didn't have to, though."

"I did," she replied, a bit more softly. She stared up at me for a few more heartbeats, and I stared back, hopelessly wondering why this had to be so cryptic. The look she held made me think she might still have something to tell me, or that she was waiting for me to do something, say something. But then she looked down again, and moved around me, walking away.

I turned and fleetingly watched her lone figure retreating before I slowly headed in the other direction. Well, this was Nagato, after all. I couldn't expect to understand everything. But I felt that in this case, I should. I fingered the piece of candy as I walked, then brought it up to my face and looked at it again, pondering. Did this possibly have something to do with the heart's words? I hadn't given it much thought before, but…

U R Kind…U R Kind…

I stopped walking, feeling my heart grow heavy. That was it, wasn't it? Maybe? That was what she wanted to let me know – that she saw me as a kind person. But I couldn't be the only one – from what I'd seen, people were always kind, or at least civil, to her (I wasn't sure about Haruhi, but whatever). Okay, so maybe I am the one whom she seems to trust the most, and the one who talks to her the most, but I wasn't aware of how much she might have valued our…friendship?...

It must be nice to have someone talk to you after you've spent three years alone.

Why hadn't she ever just told me that she thought I was nice? That would have saved me the trouble of wondering if this theory of mine was even correct. And I'd told her not to take the messages on the candy seriously…guess she did anyway. Then again, this was a harmless one; there were no proposals or anything of the sort involved. Just thinking back on that fiasco made my face burn.

Maybe she hadn't told me what she thought of me because she couldn't. Nagato never gave opinions, only hard facts. Always.

I too individually want you to return…

Almost always.

I started walking again, slowly putting the candy in my mouth. That's what she meant when she said it was rightfully mine.

Nagato…you have your own brand of innocence.

/

The next day after classes ended, I stuffed my books into my bag in a hurry. I wanted to beat everyone else to the clubroom so I could talk a little bit about yesterday with Nagato. Unfortunately, today Haruhi was ready to go right then too and we ended up walking over together. Damn. All I needed was one minute alone with Nagato…

And then I got my brilliant idea about halfway through the meeting.

After Haruhi declared the day over and made her exit, Nagato abruptly stood up, picked up her bag, and headed for the door. I waited until Koizumi had walked out too before casually getting up and following. When we'd all made it outside and Koizumi was finally out of sight, I dashed down the road I knew Nagato had taken. Half a block away, I spotted her, and half a minute later, I caught up.

"Hey, Nagato," I panted, coming to a halt. She stopped and turned around, and waited as I paused to catch my breath. When I was ready, I looked her in the eye.

"Um, listen. Yesterday, when you gave me that candy heart out here…were you just trying to tell me…what the words on it said?"

A second went by, and then she nodded.

I knew it. "You just wanted to let me know that…you think I'm a kind person?"

"Yes." No hesitation this time.

"How kind?" I heard myself ask. An unplanned question that had come to mind without warning and tumbled out. In the back of my mind I asked myself what I was doing – but now I really wanted to hear her answer.

She turned her head to the side. "Very much so."

My heart suddenly gave a powerful thump. I think I get it now. Yeah, I do. I was right. She is grateful.

"Why didn't you just tell me before?"

She continued looking away. "I was uncertain of the implications of such an action."

"Oh…" Are you serious?

"But when the indirect opportunity arose yesterday, I realized that the implications would not be harmful after all."

"Of course not!" I exclaimed, nearing exasperation. Then I let it go, and smiled. "Thank you. I'm glad you decided to tell me." As I spoke, she finally turned and focused her eyes on me again. Just for an instant, I thought I saw something inside them flicker.

"You are welcome."

"I don't know how well you understand friendship-," I began tentatively. "-I mean, I don't think we ever talked about it – but I think it's safe to say we're friends, aren't we? I mean, I consider you one." However different you may be.

"It would seem…suitable." Nagato had that caught-off-guard look again. It appeared that this was some sort of revelation to her. "Going by definition, it appears we have moved past, and wished to move past, being mere acquaintances." Well, she didn't have to put it that way, but if that's the only way she recognized it…

"Yeah," I agreed.

Wait. Did she just say she had consciously wanted to be friends?

…she was learning and changing, however slowly and subtly.

I knew I didn't have to do what I was about to do next, but being the kind person I am, I figured I should, at least once. The last time, with the other Nagato…I didn't feel like it quite counted. "Do you mind if I walk you home?"

She only stared at me. "That is unnecessary."

"I know it is. I just want to."

A pause. "Very well."

The walk to Nagato's apartment complex was silent, but we've grown so used to each other that it was pretty relaxed nonetheless. Maybe it also had something to do with the events of yesterday and today.

As intelligent as she was, Nagato lacked so much understanding of the human experience. It was pretty sad that she hadn't even known friendship up until now. But sometimes I could see that part of her really wanted to know things the way we do, and if there was any way I could help her, this seemed like a good place to start.

/

March 14th.

"Hey, Nagato."

She looked up.

From my pocket I took out a purple candy heart – the most fitting one from the entire bag which I'd brought in as my service to the SOS Brigade's White Day – and laid it on the page of her book. She gazed down at it for a moment, then back up at me. "I am?"

"Yeah." I nodded, and gave her a small, if not slightly awkward smile.

Too Sweet.

And this message, I meant.

Inspired by a half-empty bag of conversation hearts I found lying around the house. It's about time I wrote something for my OTP. Really can't get enough of Kyon and Yuki. :) And bah – can't write Haruhi. Not that I'm all that thrilled about her anyway, but I still tried. And Yuki is tricky. I'm sure that anyone who has written about her knows that.

A review of some sort would be appreciated!