Note: Yes, this reads very, very strangely at the start. Just bear with me for a page or two.

If they didn't know better, Kyon's teachers might have mistaken him for a victim of bullying. He had no friends, ate alone at lunchtimes, arrived at school just before the first class began and bolted home the minute the last one ended. But Kyon was no victim. He was simply cold and aloof, spurning human interaction entirely of his own free will. Occasionally classmates tried to get through to him, and there were even a few girls who secretly liked him, but after a few rejections everyone accepted the unwritten rule that nobody talks to Kyon. To them, he barely existed.

A transfer student, however, takes longer to learn the unwritten rules. To Koizumi Itsuki, Kyon was fascinating.

"Enjoying the view?"

Itsuki was jolted out of his reverie and tore his eyes away from the mysterious boy by the window to see three girls standing in front of his desk, looking amused.

"Don't even think about it," one of them said, as she pulled up a chair and plonked her lunch box on top of Itsuki's desk.

For a brief moment, the boy felt a flare of anger at the interruption, and he gripped the edge of the desk as he fought the temptation to snarl at them to leave him alone. But it was only a split second before he forced a welcoming smile onto his face and gestured for the other two girls to sit down as well. He even resisted the urge to glance behind him to see the fascinating Kyon just once more.

"What do you assume I'm thinking about?" he asked, pleasantly.

"Er… well, Kyon, obviously," the first girl said, after a pause. She seemed to be the only talkative one. "You were just staring at him."

"And what makes you think I was watching him and not the delightful view from the window?"

"Well…" one of the others said, "You do look that way a lot. In class, I mean. I sit behind you," she added, hurriedly, lest Itsuki think she spent too much time watching him.

"And I heard you asking people why he's called Kyon," the third girl whispered.

"And none of them could remember! I don't suppose one of you ladies could tell me?"

They looked at each other. "It was a nickname in middle school," said the first girl. "Now everybody calls him that."

Itsuki decided to risk a look and twisted his head to look at Kyon, who sat right at the back of the classroom. To his surprise, Kyon was staring straight at him. He whipped his head straight back around, only to be confronted with three faces wearing varying degrees of amusement and sympathy. Damn, he was even blushing.

"Whatever you want from Kyon," the first girl said, carefully, finishing off her lunch, "You'd best forget about it, because anything you do to try to get close to him will be a waste of time. He just doesn't talk. Not to anyone."

Her warnings didn't do much good. Koizumi spent the rest of the day thinking about Kyon and trying to figure out ways to get him to talk. But as it turned out, he didn't need to do anything at all.

As soon as the last class of the day was over, Kyon bolted out of his seat like he normally did. But instead of heading straight for home, he rushed to clamp a hand on Koizumi Itsuki's shoulder before he could leave.

"We need to talk," was all he said before he stalked to the back of the classroom and stood staring out the window while he waited for the other students to leave. It wasn't until silence had fallen that he looked away from the window and saw Koizumi Itsuki standing right in front of him. They were alone.

Kyon cleared his throat, his mouth suddenly dry. "Why do you keep watching me?"

"I don't know."

Kyon just watched him.

"Because you're interesting, Kyon."

"Don't call me Kyon." He put up with the it from everyone else, but for some reason he didn't want to hear the silly nickname from Itsuki's lips.

"Everyone always calls you 'Kyon'," Koizumi said, staring out the window. "It can't be your real name, though, I knew that. I just called you that because, well, I'm a transfer student who doesn't know any better. I'm just trying to fit in, you know, and go along with what everyone else here does."

"I know that," Kyon said, gruffly.

"I'm sick of it, though. I'm sick of doing things I don't want to do for the sake of fitting in. I want to do things the way my way. I don't fit in here, anyway, no matter how hard I try."

"You do better than I have, and I've been here since the beginning. You're so cheerful and friendly. You always seem to be happy."

"Oh, no," Koizumi shook his head, taking a step towards Kyon, and then another. "That might be how it looks, but it's all an act. You have to try to be happy and approachable to make friends – that's one thing I've learned from moving so much. You have to pretend to be like that to get along with people. But it's not who I am, and I'm sick of pretending all the time." He was now almost uncomfortably close to Kyon, standing face to face.

"Your face is too close," Kyon murmured, but he didn't move away.

"I want a chance to be myself. I want to show someone who I really am. And of all the people in this stupid school, I feel like you're the only one I can trust. You have secrets, too, I can tell it. You know what it's like to live in pain, too. So tell me, Kyon, what's your real name?"

There was a long pause while Kyon licked his lips and tried to force the words out of his throat. There was something about the proximity of the other boy, the warmth and comfort of having him so close, which made it impossible for him to think. Finally, wearing down under Itsuki's piercing and sympathetic gaze, he found his voice again.

"Kyoichi," he breathed. "Kuramoto Kyoichi."

"A beautiful name," Koizumi said, with a smile. "It suits you."

His arms found their way around the other boy's waist, and Kyoichi suddenly found another body pressed against his, and a face far too close for comfort. And yet he couldn't seem to step away, he couldn't tell Koizumi to stop and when their lips met in a passionate kiss…

"What the hell is this?"

"Kyon, you idiot, isn't it obvious?" Haruhi sniffed, and then pointed her finger at me. "That's the storyline for the SOS Brigade's new movie! For this year's Culture Festival!"

This is ridiculous even for her. "What happened to the Adventures of Asahina Mikuru II?"

"Oh, we can still film that," Haruhi said, with a shrug. "Of course we can do another Mikuru movie. It was so popular last time that we have to do another one – we'll sell hundreds more DVDs and the hit counter on the website will skyrocket!"

I never understood why she cared so much about the hit counter. The website doesn't do anything.

Anyway, why are we doing this movie? Why would she force Itsuki and myself into such demeaning roles? I fear I already know the answer.

"It's so obvious even Shamisen could figure it out! Having Mikuru as our mascot attracts many boys to the website…" - there's that website again - "And the Adventures of Asahina Mikuru sold copies to almost every boy in the school! It was a perfect success! But Mikuru is not attracting any girls to the SOS Brigade. We need an alternate plan to attract the female audience!"

By violating our bodies on film? Didn't she consider how Koizumi and I felt about this?

I turned to Koizumi, looking for support, but I should have known better. He smiled and shrugged. "If Suzumiya-san wishes it, then I have no objections."

It seems that nobody else is on my side. Nagato hasn't even noticed that I'm here. I fear I'm fighting a losing battle. There must be some way I can maintain some dignity!

"You could have at least gotten my name right, Haruhi."

"You never told me what your real name is! I had to make something up!"

"And of course it didn't occur to you to ask me."

Haruhi ignored me. "A steamy shounen ai romance between two beautiful young boys, each with a dark secret! They can confide in each other in a way that they cannot with their other classmates, and by their forbidden love they shall heal the pain of each others' pasts! There will be such a flood of girls to the SOS Brigade that we'll need another three clubrooms! The website will collapse under the traffic!"

I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead – this movie was already giving me a headache. I am definitely not going to be in any romance movie, especially with Itsuki. And I don't care if the others tell me I need to do it for the sake of saving the world. There is only so much of my dignity that I'm willing to sacrifice for such a cause…

Suddenly I felt a weight on my shoulders. I opened my eyes and almost jumped out of my skin when I realised that Itsuki had stood up and put his arms around me from behind.

"I'm really grateful that you've given me this opportunity, Suzumiya-san." His breath was hot on my ear. I tried to shift my head away, but Itsuki just took this as an opportunity to rest his head on my shoulder. "I've wanted to work more closely with Kyon for a long time. I'm looking forward to the start of a much closer relationship with him as we work together on this new movie project."

Haruhi was watching us, frowning. Of course, Haruhi spends much of her time frowning, so no the average observer, this might just seem like Haruhi being Haruhi. But after months of watching Nagato to decipher the hard-to-read changes in her expression, it seems I'd become attuned to the finer points of Haruhi's moods, too. This wasn't the frown she wore when she was annoyed with me for arguing with one of her, or with the school administration for telling her she couldn't go through with one of her ill-advised plans. This was the frown that I had only ever seen when Haruhi caught Asahina and I being too friendly to one another.

This was how Haruhi looked when she was jealous.

"On second thoughts," she said, after a minute, "The SOS Brigade doesn't have enough time to make two movies for the culture festival."

Is that so?

"It's not that I'm not dedicated enough as a director to pull it off!"

"Of course not."

She'd rolled the script into a cylinder and was tapping it against the palm of her hand as she paced up and down. "It's just that if things become rushed, our work won't be as good. If we work on two movies, we run the risk that neither of them will be up to the high standard we've set for ourselves with the Adventures of Asahina Mikuru. And the SOS Brigade doesn't stand for substandard work!" She stopped pacing and pointed at me with the rolled-up script. "And after the success of our first film, we'll have to create another Mikuru film. We'd be fools not to capitalise on the brand we've already created! That's right, we've got to make that sequel. And besides, I need Kyon to operate the camera in order to keep our filming up to its high quality. Mikuru-chan!"

Asahina's head shot up from where it had been bent over the teaset. "W-what is it, Suzumiya-san?"

"We need to get to work on your training for the next film role right away?"


"Yes! The next movie needs to have even bigger and better stunts for a more dramatic plot! We'll need some acrobatics in the fight scenes, for sure, and we have to get you on a wire for flight training..."

"Flying?" Asahina clutched the tea tray to her chest in fear. "That's not safe!"

"It will be if you practice! Come on, let's get to the acrobatics club and ask them what equipment we can use!"

With that, Haruhi dumped the script in the wastepaper bin, grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her out the club room door, with Asahina stuttering protests all the way. When the door shut behind her, I let out a sigh of relief that I didn't realise I'd been holding in.

"I thought you were looking forward to starring as my love interest in a film?"

"Mmm, it's a shame that Suzumiya-san changed her mind," said Itsuki. "But if that's what she wishes, I have no choice but to comply."

I'm sure Itsuki knew exactly what he was doing. "Well, thank you for convincing her to drop the movie idea. But Haruhi has left the room now, so feel free to let go of me whenever you feel like it."

Itsuki just squeezed his arms tighter around my shoulders for a moment, and let out a low chuckle that seemed to vibrate through my ear and down the side of the neck even though I tried to twist away from his mouth. "You're welcome, Kyon. Just don't forget, you owe me one."

Then he finally let me go, and I rubbed my neck to try to get that shivery feeling out of it. The next thing I knew, Itsuki was sitting on the other side of the table, smiling innocently as though he'd done nothing untoward at all.

"How about a game of chess?"