After two years of high school, Haruhi had finally come to accept that she wouldn't be able to find the fictional entities that she had sought. Regrettably, this realisation only set in after an attempt to create a beacon or anchor for sliders had nearly drowned Mikuru and landed Kyon in hospital. Friendship at last completely won out over dissatisfaction with reality.

What replaced the girl's boundless energy and enthusiasm was far, far worse: a melancholy more profound than that before the SOS Brigade's founding, depression that threatened the world. Occasionally, Haruhi would fail to show up at school for days on end, and appeared completely lifeless when she did. With the time-traveller forced to keep her distance after graduating and Koizumi overworked shutting down closed space after closed space, it feel to Kyon and Nagato to try and elevate Haruhi's mood. Naturally, things were complicated as the interface's master issued instructions to merely watch.

Once again, the fate of the world rested on an ordinary boy's shoulders.

Kyon was quiet as he walked home, preoccupied with his thoughts. They mostly concerned what others saw of his and Haruhi's interactions – most likely a dating couple, not someone acting as a life support machine for what could be the entire universe. Not that seeing them as dating was that far from truth; the normally apathetic youth was just as concerned about the brigade leader's depression as her sycophant and was trying everything to dispel it. Romance had proved impossible and surreptitiously putting pilfered antidepressants into drinks (immoral, certainly, but not as bad as potentially damning the world) had given even less results.

It was after a night of trying to cheer Haruhi through normal friendship, watching an imported parody of various horror movies, that the boy headed home from in failure, alert to every crack of a broken twig as small creatures scuttled through trees and bushes. Perhaps, in hindsight, taking a shortcut through a lightless park after watching a horror movie hadn't been such a good idea.

A louder crack, echoing softly amongst the foliage, made the young man spin around and search for the origin of the sound, his shoulders visibly sagging with relief when a familiar, bishounen countenance was lit by the full moon's light. A small voice in the back of his mind questioned how the esper had located him so late at night and in such a location, but it was ignored in favour of conversation.

"Whatever you and Suzumiya-san did tonight appears to be working, the rate of growth for closed space has dropped by two thirds and the time between the collapse of one and the creation of another has increased by sixty-one percent." Koizumi reported, his recently pained smile replaced by something more natural. Whilst still slightly strained, it looked less of a mask; a benevolent smirk, if such a thing was possible, rather than a sepulchral grimace.

The smile was opposed by the frown covering the other boy's features. "We watched a movie. If escapism is the only solution to Haruhi's depression things are going to get worse without improvement."

"Then it seems that any thanks I have must wait. If Suzumiya-san's abandoning this reality for another is the only way to improve our current situation, we are in a dire position. Whilst you would undoubtedly make it to the next world, it seems unlikely the rest of us would be so lucky." The esper mused, seemingly oblivious to both the way his smile had slipped into a frown and the uncomfortable expression on Kyon's face.

"For a second I thought I saw the old Haruhi towards the end of the movie but she seemed too energetic, which is saying something." Kyon stated, steering the conversation away from his supposed immunity to the end of the world and recalling instead the brief glimpse of a Haruhi who looked too alive even by her standards. The young man fervently hoped it wasn't a sign that depression was going to be replaced by manic depression, since that would be far more difficult to cope with.

Koizumi looked about to respond when his face contorted in pain. Saying something about needing to get a dog bite gained a few minutes earlier looked at, the youth left. Kyon remained where he was, thinking about that last statement. If it was a dog bite, then why hadn't the esper been in any pain before then? The only conclusion was that it was a lie or just a scratch. But what was more important than a discussion which could affect the fate of the world?

Still pondering the meaning of the other youth's actions, Kyon sauntered to within a few streets of his home, only to be interrupted by the cacophony of hurried footsteps behind him. Expecting it to be Koizumi, he turned to stare into the eyes of a girl about his age dressed in too-large, boyish clothing. The clothing didn't draw his attention, nor the curious returned gaze of golden eyes, and not even the blonde ponytail swayed Kyon's gaze from the girl's most captivating feature: her lips. Full, seemingly softer than silk… and a red so vivid its shade was noticeable even bathed in the orange glow of a streetlight. Maybe it was cherry red, or possibly even the ruby shade of fresh blood, damp and sparkling.

Once more Kyon turned, hurriedly apologising for startling her and hoping she hadn't seen his blush. Immediately afterwards he resumed heading towards home, conscious of the stare trying to bore a hole in his head. Within minutes the young man was quietly opening his house's door, eager not to wake his parents and attract their wrath so late at night with such heavy thoughts on his mind. The girl walked past the door seconds before he shut it, leaving a paranoid feeling she had been deliberately following him.

With the door shut, the smell of smoke that had followed him home faded. No lights flickered to life and the quiet susurrus of snores from within remained constant. Confident he wouldn't be stopped; he headed for his room and prepared to sleep.

Even with the chill spring air and thick smell of smoke, Kyon thought nothing of sleeping with the window open.

Right. Well, I wrote something, and it's rather weird. Attempted Gothic Horror, I think, and I get the feeling everything's going to be horrendously OOC. I'll just avoid people's thoughts and see if that helps… anyway, if you want me to continue, say so. Otherwise I'll probably let this die…

For any people from Tvtropes which may come across this, tell me what tropes you spot, please? I'm intrigued. :O