Time for another shift in fandom, readers. If you haven't seen Melancholy, first off, you should, and secondly, why're you reading this fic, hm?

So, yes. This fic's set about a month after The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, but don't expect any references to Intrigue or Trembling, as I haven't read them. Therefore, it's novels 1-4 compliant only.

Enjoy!


It had been almost a month.

Kyon sat in the darkness, listening to his travel clock tick away the seconds. It was impossible to see the hands; it would be another two hours before even the gray light of predawn filtered in through the shades. Still, he knew what time it was. 4:20 AM, January 18th. Nearly a month to the minute.

It wasn't like he'd waited up for this, but after waking up from yet another nightmare it was just too much trouble to get back to sleep. It was always the same nightmare, which he supposed made sense; the reality of it – though the irony was that it had never happened in this world – was unforgettable. Pain like he'd never experienced, a tearing and pulling sensation, liquid heat cooling to nothing on his skin. And through it all, her eyes watching him. Smiling.

4:21 AM. Kyon sighed, rubbing a hand through his hair. It had been worst right afterward, when he'd woken up in the hospital after being dumped by the future Asahina-san at North High. The first week he'd wake up convinced that it was happening again, and not even his own smooth skin under his hand – uninterrupted even by scar tissue – was enough to convince him otherwise. That week had been the worst he'd ever lived through.

4:22 AM. He looked around the room, feeling its size despite the darkness. The door was over there, to his left; a crack of light from the hall shone through, missing his head as it cut across the tatami mats on the floor. Koizumi was a dark lump to his right; the esper boy had fallen asleep almost immediately after the ryokan staff had laid out their futons, much to Haruhi's disapproval. Still, there was no noise from the girls' room on the other side of the thin walls. Even she had to sleep sometime, it seemed.

4:23 AM. One month exactly. Kyon sighed again and stood, feeling a sudden need to move around. It was silly to expect anything to happen, but for some reason his body felt tense, and the familiar dull phantom pain in his side was back. He slipped on tabi and geta, pulled his yukata closer around him, and stepped out into the hall.

The inn was silent. It was so quiet that Kyon could hear the candle wax dripping into the holder; it made a little hiss-fizz as it hit cool metal and hardened. He wandered, letting his feet take him along only half-remembered paths until he reached the covered doorway with the large kanji painted on it in broad strokes: ofuro.

The onsen had been the reason Haruhi had insisted they visit the inn; she seemed eager to discover some sort of curse on the spring, but they had only been there a day, and Kyon was willing to take his chances with the water for now, especially with Haruhi asleep. Placing his shoes in a nearby cubby, he pulled a towel from the rack and stepped outside.

The full moon was out, which was by no means a coincidence. Either Haruhi had planned it that way, or – more likely – the universe had contrived to have a full moon for Haruhi the day she decided to visit. The remnants of the light snowfall on the way up were transfigured in the light, coating the rocks and bare branches in diamond dust. The cold air nipped at him, but the rocks underfoot were sun-warm from the heat of the onsen. It was an interesting sensation, and it sufficiently distracted Kyon that he didn't notice the other person in the spring until he had sat down.

What the moonlight had done for the snow was nothing compared to what it did for Nagato Yuki. Her hair shone like liquid silver in the pale rays; the skin of her exposed shoulders and of her elegant neck was made fine china. The rich chocolate brown of her eyes gleamed as she looked up at him, showing no surprise whatsoever. Small silvered waves from Kyon's entry lapped at the gentle swell of her breasts, and he looked away, feeling his face heat from more than the water.

"S- sorry, Nagato," he stammered, standing. "I'll – " He paused as Nagato inclined her head ever-so-slightly, a mere fraction of an inch to one side. Permission to stay.

To be honest, the onsen was already helping the pain in his side. After an agonizing moment, Kyon sat back down, shifting on the rock seat to face away from Nagato. There was silence; even the waves Kyon had caused had vanished now. After a minute, Kyon took a breath.

"So, you're out late, Nagato," he said. Somehow, the quiet in the air – that feeling that came with snowfall – felt unbreakable, and he found himself speaking in almost a whisper. "Couldn't sleep?"

Actually, he wasn't sure if Nagato slept at all. It would take up valuable reading time, after all… Nagato shook her head, very slightly.

"So, uh…" Kyon began, scratching his head. Nagato watched him silently; she blinked once before Kyon found the words to continue. "I'm surprised you aren't reading."

Nagato's eyes flickered upward for a brief instant. "It would get wet," she said, after a moment. That's never stopped you before, Kyon thought, with a mental shake of his head. He stretched his arms over his head, then let out an explosive breath as the stab wound flared up. "Are you in pain?" Nagato asked.

Kyon managed to control his grimace, pressing one hand to his side just above the water's surface. He waved a hand dismissively, forcing a smile until the pain vanished. "Nope, it's nothing," he said. "Whatever adult Asahina-san did, it…" he trailed off as his eyes met Nagato's. There was… something different about them. A tilt to her eyes he hadn't seen since…

"Sorry, Nagato… it looks like I'll have to give this back," he said, holding out the creased sheet of paper. Her eyes behind their glasses met his, and betrayal and hurt flashed across her face, to be replaced with an overwhelming sadness. She reached for the paper with a trembling hand, missed, tried again. When she had it, she moved away; she never met his eyes again.

"Nagato…" he said quietly.

"I am sorry," she replied, and she did not meet his eyes. "The reconstitution of Asakura Ryoko was unintended, a side-effect of rewriting my personal data. The manifestation and actualization subsets of my datalink were acted upon by –"

"Nagato," Kyon said suddenly. She broke off, and anyone but Kyon would have missed the millimeter-high raising of her eyebrows. He stood and clambered out of the onsen, making sure the towel was tight around his waist. "Sorry to interrupt you, Nagato, but what are you reading right now? It's not some super-complex computing manual or something, is it?"

"… Between Planets. Robert A. Heinlein, published 1951," she said. "It is –"

"…Unique?" Kyon guessed, smiling at her. She blinked.

"…Yes."

"What page were you on?" he asked, stepping lightly across the warm stone to the dark bundle of Nagato's clothing. The book was resting on something lacy, and Kyon did his best not to look at it as he picked the thin volume up. Nagato watched him as he crossed back to the onsen and sat down on the edge near her, dangling his feet in the water.

"…Page one hundred thirty-four," she answered, after a long moment. "To be sure –"

"To be sure, all these people knew about Dr. Jefferson, knew about the ring, seemed to know about his parents – but so had… ah… Bankfield." Kyon picked up the quote, stumbling a little over the foreign name. "He needed –"

"What are you doing?" Nagato asked, turning slightly to look up at him. A strand of silver hair fell over her eye; she ignored it.

"You were lying earlier, weren't you?" Kyon asked, ruffling the pages. He kept a hand under the book, making sure the spine didn't rest on his wet towel. "When you said you didn't want the book to get wet. Well, not about not wanting it to get wet," he corrected himself, "but about your reason in general."

Nagato turned a little on the stone bench to look at him, but said nothing. Kyon, feeling accomplished, continued. "You didn't want to read," he said, "because you were looking at the moon and stars instead, right?"

Nagato held his gaze for a moment, then let her eyes slide away. I knew it. "I thought… I could help you out," Kyon said, gesturing with the book. "Let me… do something for you, Nagato, for a change. I'll read for you - if you'll let me - while you look up at the sky." He sat, suddenly unsure of himself. What if it's only the actual reading she enjoys…?

"I… " Nagato began, speaking so quietly that the few waves Kyon's feet had caused nearly drowned her out. He held his breath, watching her closely.

"…I would like that," she said. Kyon smiled, then, on impulse, leaned forward and brushed the errant strand of hair back out of her eyes.

Nagato reached up, slowly, to touch her forehead. "What was that for?"

"Ah—nothing," Kyon said hastily, looking back down at the book. "Uh, let's see - …but so had Bankfield, right. Bankfield. He needed proof, not words. He knew enough now, enough had happened now…"

As Kyon read, slipping now and again on unfamiliar names and terms, Nagato raised her eyes, but not to the sky. The moon and the stars were… beautiful, yes, beautiful, but there was something else that merited much more observation. Something – someone, with a unique, inexplicable quality.

As Kyon read, slipping now and again on unfamiliar names and terms...

As Kyon read, he made her feel human.


Official stuff down below. Fun stuff up here.

Glossary: Ryokan: A traditional Japanese inn, with futons and tatami and all that fun stuff. Generally built with open-air baths, and generally expensive.

Tabi, geta, yukata: Japanese clothing items. Tabi are socks bifurcated so they can be worn with geta sandals. Yukata are light cotton robes worn in summertime or to bed.

Ofuro, onsen: The aforementioned open-air bath, heated by water from an onsen, or natural hot spring. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably for the actual establishment, but an ofuro is an artificial bath filled with water from the spring rather than a bath directly in the spring.

First off, yes, I'm aware that there's a lot of purple prose in here, especially when Yuki first shows up. This is what happens when I write for Kyon describing women. This is the Yuki variant of his 'Asahina-san is an angel' spiels.

I absolutely adore Yuki, but she's damn hard to write for. Any other stories I write for her will hopefully be set after the later novels, but we'll see.

It's also hard to write Kyon in third-person. I have a novel-style story kicking around that I'm working on, so please look forward to it.

-Boring stuff-

All quotes are taken from:

Heinlein, Robert A. To The Stars. [Mechanicsburg, PA]: SFBC, 2004. Print.

So, there you have it. This was written for my sister, Verg Of Towels, who you can also find on this site.