merely, a secret

Warnings: Somewhat dark interpretation of Itsuki's situation and real personality. General spoilers for the anime (but I mean, you must have seen both seasons and a crappy cam-quality version of the movie by now, really).
Pairings: Very much one-sided Itsu/Kyon, nothing else explicit.
Summary: He still has his smiles–but he can't help but feel that the mask is slipping at times. Itsukicentric character interpretation, one-sided ItsuKyon, oneshot.
Disclaimer: It's better that I don't own it, trust me ("The Excessive Angst of the Ambiguously Gay Koizumi Itsuki"). The title comes from the English translation of the title of Itsuki's image song, Tada no Himitsu.
A/N: Cross-posted to my writing LJ, youngisms (link on my profile). It would be fair to call this 'character interpretation as seen through slash goggles,' so if that's not your thing, I guess we part here. If it is, hope you have fun reading.

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"What if I falter?" Koizumi had asked in the beginning, when he was being told what he had to do. It had only been something he had wondered about, rather than something that he had actually worried about happening.

The answer had come, swift and simple.

He would not be allowed to falter.

.

He sits in the clubroom, chin in the palm of his hand, and waits. It feels like he's always waiting.

It's quiet, but for the sounds of Nagato, sitting by the window as usual, turning the pages of her book and Asahina-san pouring her tea. Often times, between just the three of them, it's quiet. Honestly, without Suzumiya-san's loud ideas and Kyon's rambling, at times, monologues, it just feels quiet.

"Koizumi-kun, are you alright?" asks Asahina-san, placing a cup of tea before him. Of course it's her, of course.

For a moment, though, Koizumi just stares at her, wondering, to himself, how she knows. He has the same smile on that he has every day since coming here, he's sure of that. So, how has she noticed that he–

"I-I just thought you looked distracted," she stutters, turning away quickly. "Um, never mind."

A few minutes later Suzumiya-san and Kyon enter the clubroom, arguing about something, and things are no longer quiet. Koizumi smiles, but he's still wondering–

.

He's standing in front of the mirror in his bathroom at home, jacket off and tie loose, like he's trying to catch his reflection off-guard–lull it into a false sense of security.

Every smile falls flat. Looks out of place and over-the-top and wrong. He doesn't know if it's simply because he's become so used to seeing that same smile or if he's become lazy over time. Perhaps it's because he's the only one who can see through the façade, the only one who knows what his real smile looks like.

But, then–

Koizumi tilts his head to the side a bit, and stares into his own eyes before letting his gaze fall to his lips.

When was the last time that he really smiled?

.

But he's can't let anyone else see this. He's not allowed. So he still smiles, even if it feels hollower than ever.

.

It's in class that he takes liberties.

Maybe that's a mistake, but he doesn't see how it can matter much.

He's always been distant in his class, ever since he transferred in. At first everyone had been interested–not like Suzumiya-san, not to that degree, but on some level, they had wanted to know where he came from and why he was here now and those sorts of things.

When he'd deflected every question and made no effort to ask any of his own, that was when his classmates stopped trying to figure him out.

And when it became clear that he was 'friends' (their word, not his) with the likes of Suzumiya-san, that was when they left him alone, for the most part.

Still, he sometimes gets what he supposes are love letters. Girls he hardly knows asking for his affection. Words written softly on paper, things that are probably hard for the sender to admit, but Koizumi always throws them away, hoping whoever sent them sees him doing so.

He has no time to pretend to love someone. To pretend like he knows what love even is.

Koizumi knows a lot of things, but he doesn't know that.

Sometimes others–classmates, annoyances–will ask how his weekend was, how his holiday was, things like that. It's mostly girls, the other boys find him pretentious, find him off in some way that they can't explain. But the girls, Koizumi thinks, are weak.

(He doesn't think, not even for a second, that all girls are weak, because, after all, he has spent time with Nagato and Suzumiya-san, but the girls who come to talk to him are always these type, without fail.)

"It was fine," is his answer, every time, when asked about his weekend, his holiday, his whatever–the words accompanied by small upturn of his lips and not much else.

They always wait a minute or two for him to say, and yours, for him to return the favor.

But he just smiles a bit wider, in a way that necessitates that they smile back, and then they walk away. They always walk away.

.

"Have you noticed it?" Nagato asks him, one early evening as they're leaving the clubroom.

The other three have already gone their own separate ways, but Nagato had pulled on his sleeve to indicate that he should stay. It's not like her to be this direct–or this vague, for that matter, but Koizumi still knows what she means.

"Of course," he says, running a hand through his hair. "It's only because she's a bit bored, though, at least that's what we're assuming. Her arguments with Kyon aside, nothing seems to have held her interest recently, which is certainly troubling, but we haven't seen much to be overly worried about."

"No," Nagato states, pointedly. "The Data Integration Thought Entity has assessed that situation and found there to be no threat for the time being. It is not even worth mentioning. I simply meant your–"

"I know," because Koizumi does.

"–failure to act as you usually do," Nagato continues, barely acknowledging his interruption. "This failure has, likewise, been assessed and has been found to be a threat. If Koizumi Itsuki does not stay within the bounds of his normal character there is a high chance for there to be adverse repercussions."

"I understand," he says, putting all his emphasis on that one word, the only scant amount of anger that he will allow himself to show, and it's barely even there.

He's not sure what he hates more, that he–a part of him, at least–had been hoping for something different than monotone, or that this is the second time in so many years that he's been told to stop being even a bit like himself.

Because if Koizumi was himself, the world might just end.

.

They envy him.

Whenever he gets a call to come and fight, it becomes obvious–that they envy him.

Other Espers, more than Suzumiya-san could (or, perhaps, exactly as many as she could) imagine. They fight alongside another, but he barely knows any of them, and they all barely know him, hardly begin to have an idea of what he does, though they must all think that it can't be that hard.

What does he do, after all, besides smile and agree to everything? What is his job but to be near her, near Suzumiya Haruhi?

And he's just right for the job, too. Just the right age, just the right amount of skill, just the right (fake) personality–and sometimes Koizumi wonders if he doesn't just exist to be perfect for the job.

The other Espers, the other members of the Agency, they all wear strained smiles around him, and every interaction with them all seems plastic and put on for show. He watches them fly away from a fight, early one morning, until they disappear, and then lets his expressional turn blank and empty.

Oh.

He envies them.

.

It's not so much that he's lonely–he can't be lonely, he's very nearly always around other people, after all, to the point where coming home at night and on the weekends always causes him to breathe a sigh of relief. But, he's something.

Everything revolves around Suzumiya-san, Asahina-san gets more attention than she wants, Nagato probably doesn't have it within her to care, and Kyon–

Kyon is the one chosen by Suzumiya Haruhi.

But, Koizumi, he's, well, he's just there.

Which, of course, is perfect for the job. The others will turn to him when things need explaining or when theories need to be thrown out into the air, but not much besides that, and everyone else in the Agency would say–does say–that that's a good thing. That a certain amount of distance from the group is good, is conducive.

It allows him room to breathe.

But sometimes he doesn't want to breathe, sometimes he wants to be fully immersed in everything that this situation has to offer, and so–

And, so.

There's Kyon.

.

He thinks–rationalizes–that it's by process of elimination. Suzumiya-san is, of course, off-limits. Nagato would never give a reaction. And he's long felt that Asahina-san's entire visage is nothing more than an act, so everything she does would be fabricated and, therefore, unsatisfying.

Which leaves him with Kyon. There's no one but Kyon, he tells himself, justifying it all with that fact.

Forgoing personal space, staring for much longer than is necessary, lingering touches. All the sorts of things that he knows will make Kyon uncomfortable. That do make him uncomfortable, even if all he does is make some sarcastic remark that never stops Koizumi from doing what he wants to.

Sure, he runs the risk of Suzumiya-san noticing–though, sometimes, he wonders, if this isn't just something she wants, and he's as much a pawn in these situations as he is in any other–and, sure, there's always the (extremely low, admittedly) chance that Kyon will actually return his advances, but.

He can't sit idly by and do nothing at all. He has to have control over something, at least.

And it means nothing, besides.

Nothing, he thinks as he lies in bed, imagining the way Kyon will smile sometimes at him, sometimes, rarely, always with a sarcastic sort of look in his eyes.

Nothing, he tells himself, one hand over his eyes and the other moving under the waistband of his boxers and, God, Kyon–

Nothing.

.

It comes to the point where even he isn't sure if his smile is real or not, where it feels painted on at all times and empty beyond that–every lie holds some amount of truth, so now it feels like he's not even lying.

"I often wonder," he says to Kyon, one day, "what you think of all this." There's some board game or another spread out between them, but it might as well not even be there. It's only them and Nagato in the room, and she's hardly paying either of them any attention–well, she probably is, without them even realizing it, but it doesn't matter, is the point.

"All this?" Kyon replies, in his usual obfuscating sort of way. "The clubroom, the SOS-dan, the world? You have to be more specific than that if you expect an answer from me, Koizumi." He makes some move on the board, which Koizumi ignores.

"You know what I mean," he sighs, but only just barely. He's still smiling–makes sure he's still smiling, as Kyon eyes him from across the table. "All this, the things I've shown you, that you know now. Does it–bother you, ever?"

There's a brief silence, during which Koizumi's eyes never leave Kyon's–and during which Kyon's avoid Koizumi's as much as is possible.

"Oh, good grief, Koizumi," he says, finally turning his head away and closing his eyes–closing out the boy across from him, "you choose now to be vague? And you wonder why I can't stand you."

Koizumi's only got a shrug and a smile to offer to this, but were Kyon to take the time to look closer he might notice how dull the Esper's eyes are, and how real his smile isn't.

But Kyon never takes the time, and Koizumi can hardly blame him for it.

.

He looks through records when he gets bored. Reads charts and numbers. Reads three years ago. Reads Suzumiya Haruhi and Asahina Mikuru and Nagato Yuki and–stops when he gets to Kyon's, always.

Oh, sure, the other records are more interesting on a banal level. Suzumiya-san's is full to bursting and then some, and Asahina-san's is intriguing in its own right and Nagato's is paper-thin and telling, but Kyon's is the only one that he really pours over.

There's nothing out of the ordinary in it. Copies of school transcripts and medical reports, pictures that were obtained by various methods, reports on what Kyon has done, what he does now and what they speculate he will do–but it's all ordinary, all bland and simple. Nothing that sticks out, and, yet.

He can't get it out of his mind,

"–is, by all accounts, a completely normal and typical human being–"

and he never stops thinking about it. Doesn't understand how Kyon can go through these things, learn about these things, deal with these things, day in and day out and still be nothing more than ordinary.

From time to time he allows himself to wonder what the two of them might have been like if their lives were normal in every way–but it doesn't matter, because they aren't, and to entertain such a notion is a waste of time.

Besides, if that were the case, they never would have met, and some part of him cannot stand the thought, even on a hypothetical level.

.

Suzumiya-san has, recently, been obsessed–well, nothing new there–with the idea of parallel universes. He would say that it's ironic, but then everything Suzumiya-san finds herself engrossed in is ironic. And then he gets to wondering if it really is ironic if she's the reason for these things existing–and that's a train of thought better left to someone else.

She drags them around on a Saturday, lauding her theories and her ideas and, as per usual, finding absolutely nothing that supports any of them.

"This is pointless," Kyon mutters at some point, in such a way that it's relatively obvious that he hadn't meant to say it out loud.

"Pointless?" Suzumiya-san is indignant as ever, stubborn in her beliefs. "Don't be ridiculous, Kyon. Nothing is ever pointless unless you give up on it, and we're not giving up until I say so!"

Typical banter between the two of them, Koizumi thinks, as he stands off to the side with Asahina-san and Nagato.

"This is good," Asahina-san says, softly, with a small smile on her lips. It seems genuine and he hates that. "I would worry more if either of them were actually angry, but it's been a while since Suzumiya-san has been interested in something like this, so it's for the best, I would say."

"The Data Integration Thought Entity concurs," Nagato says, her eyes fixed on the two they're discussing. "Though more Closed Space may emerge from this interest, it has been decided that this may proceed."

"Easy for you two to say," Koizumi sighs, thinking to himself about how he'll probably get a call soon to take care of things.

Asahina-san looks at him, worried by the tone of his voice. His only response is a small, reassuring smile.

She can't help but notice that it doesn't quite reach his eyes–but perhaps she's just imagining things.

.

He's standing in front of the mirror in his bathroom at home, again, and inspecting the dark bruises on his shoulder from the fight in Closed Space earlier that day. Wonders absently, self-deprecatingly, perhaps, if anyone would even notice, if he didn't try to cover them up. Thinks, probably not.

When he smiles it looks insane.

He splashes water on his face and now even he can't tell if he was actually crying or not.

.

It gets mentioned to him at a briefing, nothing serious, but just enough for him to know that it could get serious very soon.

"We have noticed that you are not performing to the levels that you are capable of."

Nothing more than that, only the pointed reminder that he is–he is–capable of this. More than capable. Is not allowed to falter and should have no reason for doing so. Personal feelings are hardly an excuse, should not even matter by this point.

Sitting in the clubroom and Suzumiya-san is talking while Asahina-san serves tea before returning to her knitting and Nagato reads one of her books and Kyon glares at him when he leans in too close and it's all so normal, in a way that isn't very normal at all–and he hates it.

He keeps telling himself, though, that he can do this–has to do this, is the only one who can–and he smiles, always, and no one questions it because that's who he is.

.

That's who he is–even if he's someone else entirely.

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