Written for the AU Bingo prompt "someone died/didnt' come back". I was really struggling with it until I thought of Esbee's "And Merrily We Go Along" (which you should look up if you haven't read it already, because it's brilliant) and thought about what it would be like from the other side. Title is taken from a Powderfinger song, "Waiting For The Sun", which is good to listen to as you read along if you like having music to match your fic.
"What will we do if they don't come back?"
It had been a long night. After Itsuki and Nagato's last attempts at contact had failed, they had been at a loss for what to do. They were all exhausted, but they couldn't sleep. There was no point in staying awake, in staying there in the club room wondering if the morning would ever come, but none of them could think of anything else to do. And there was no way they wanted to leave each other. They just sat there and waited, too afraid to even talk.
It was Mikuru who asked the question. Nagato had been staring at the cover of a book without reading it for ages, and Itsuki had just been drumming his fingers on the table and staring out the window into the inky black night. They were both silent for a while, but Mikuru knew she'd broached a topic that was taboo to them that night, but she was tired, tired of the night dragging on and the uncertainty and of trying not to think.
"I imagine this world will fade away," Itsuki said, when he turned to face her. "If Suzumiya has created a new world exactly to her liking, then she'll have no use for this one. Of course, she may decide to bring us into her world eventually, but…" he smiled and gave her a helpless shrug. "Who can tell?"
Their chairs were in a semicircle around the window. Even though the room was as familiar and safe a place as they could hope for, it was eerie that the room was full of bright light when the rest of the school was in total darkness, as if the whole world had shrunk to the space between those four walls. At least by the window they could still see the stars, and know that there was something out there besides the three of them.
"What if they don't come back?" Mikuru said, again. "What if they don't come back, but this world stays the way it is? What if we can just go on without them?"
A soft, pained noise escaped from Nagato's lips. Her expression was the same as ever, but there was something different about her, wavering and uncertain. "The Integrated Data Thought Entity would have no use for me in a world without Haruhi Suzumiya."
"So they'd just get rid of you?" Mikuru was surprised by the thread of rage that shot through her. "They can't do that! They can't just take you back!"
Nagato stared down at her book. Her posture was a little different to the way it usually was, her shoulders not so straight and firm. "Perhaps. Perhaps they would prefer me to stay, in the event that Haruhi Suzumiya returns to this world at a later date. They have nothing to achieve by deleting me, either." She paused, gripping her book hard, with her lips just slightly open as though the words were fighting to get out. "They might let me free."
On impulse, Mikuru reached out to touch her hand. Nagato twitched, and for a cold moment Mikuru thought she should pull back, she slowly closed her fingers around Mikuru's.
Itsuki was staring stonily out the window, so Mikuru supposed she'd have to go next. "I could go back to the time frame I came from. To the future. They might order me to. But I don't have to work at the Time Agency forever. I could quit, and I could stay here. It would be bad enough losing Haruhi and Kyon. If I went back home, I'd be missing Tsuruya, too, as well as you."
She looked expectantly at the third member of their group, but he still didn't respond. She wanted to leave him alone, she didn't usually speak first, but there was something different about tonight. She couldn't let him drift away.
"I don't want to think about it," Itsuki said, refusing to look at her. "I can't think about it. It would be the end of who I am. I wouldn't be an esper any more. I'd just be a boy."
"I'm sorry," Mikuru said. "I didn't think about that. Nagato and I would still have our powers, but I guess you would lose them."
"I'm losing them already," Itsuki whispered.
"I'm sorry," she repeated, helplessly. "It must be awful to think you might not be able to do those things any more."
"It's not because I'd miss them. I love Haruhi and Kyon and I didn't want them to go but if we were left in this world, without Suzumiya…" He struggled with himself for a moment and then sucked in a deep breath. "I'd be free."
Mikuru reached out to him, too, but Itsuki shrank away.
"I can't think about it," he muttered. "I can't hope. I don't know what I'm hoping for."
She sat back, her other hand still clasped around Nagato's. She took in the fluorescent light, the dark outside, all the detritus of the SOS Brigade that was flung around the room, building up over time, making it more and more theirs as the days had gone by.
"This could be the last night of our lives."
"Every day could be the last day of our lives," Nagato said. Itsuki and Mikuru both stared, surprised that she'd even spoken.
"That's right." Mikuru said, at last. "Or it could be the first."
Itsuki drew in a ragged breath. "The sun's coming up."
It was true. The darkness was gradually being pushed back from the horizon, with lighter tones pushing through the sky. Not with the grey light of one of Haruhi's other worlds, but with a blush of blue and pink.
"Are they back?"
Nagato shook her head, and Itsuki swallowed, dropping his eyes to the floor. Mikuru suddenly stood up, her hand still gripping Nagato's.
"I want to go to the roof."
Nagato blinked at her before she slowly shifted the book from her lap to the table, and stood up.
Mikuru tentatively offered him her hand, and he just stared at it.
"I just want to watch the sun rise," she said, softly. "It doesn't have to mean anything. Or, well, we don't know what it means. But I want to see it. I want you to be there with me."
Itsuki stared at his own hand as his long fingers slipped between Mikuru's, as though he were in a dream. Maybe he was. Maybe they all were.