Distant Glimpses

A 'Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi' fanfiction

Disclaimer: The novel series of Suzumiya Haruhi that began with 'The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi' is the creation of Nagaru Tanigawa. No disrespect is intended by the posting of this fanfiction, as I do not own the characters or settings involved. I'm merely dabbling with another set of paints.

Note: This is a direct sequel to At a Glance; there's really no dramatic tension here, just the little WAFFY bits of Kyon/Haruhi interaction from his perspective (because it's interesting to write).

Also, more than a BIT rushed, because I wanted to post it today specifically.


The distant whisper of pencils scratching on papers, interrupted by the occasional soft mutter, or politely muffled coughing fills the majority of the day. But then, that's testing for you; a lot of people working as hard and quietly as possible.

Our math teacher announces that it's time to turn in our tests - behind me, I can hear the sounds of Haruhi waking up and yawning.

"Have a nice nap?" I ask, ejecting my PDA's memory card and holding it up before me.

"Pretty good - you beat level six on your chess game yet?" she shoots back in amusement.

The teacher chuckles as she collects the card from my hand. "No other software runs on those PDAs when they're in test mode," she says, before moving on, taking Haruhi's test.

Haruhi laughs quietly anyway as I stretch. Not long after that, after one more great yawn from Haruhi, the bell rings.

"How do you think you did, though?" she asks me curiously, as the other students begin to rise from their desks and chatter, eager to be heading home.

I think I did alright, actually.

"Good," she says with satisfaction.

My grades were never that spectacular until middle school, when I finally finished adapting to my situation. After that, it turns out that I had some slight advantages over my sighted classmates, at least in terms of not relying on visual cues. After that, with surprisingly little effort, I found my grades slowly improving from 'vastly underwhelming' to 'slightly more than adequate'.

I'm far from a contender for the highest grade in the class, but that's fine by me.

Though ... it doesn't hurt that Haruhi insists on coming over to my house at least twice a week to study with me.

"Ready for club?" she prompts, once I finish gathering my things and slowly rise.

"Naturally," I agree, before she takes my elbow and we walk down the hall.

Then there's the traditional moment of quiet and faint discomfort from the girl walking at my side - which means we're walking past Taniguchi.

I'll admit ... I've actually become closer friends with Taniguchi, a small bit, but it's the literature club that holds the people that I consider my closer friends. No offense to Kunikida, but I think he's glad that I have more friends now, too.

Walking very slightly ahead of me, Haruhi kicks the bottom-most step of the ascending stairway before I reach it. It says something about the last months that I adjust to that faint warning without much thought. When we descend the next set of stairs, she pulls back on my elbow just enough to let me know where it starts.

I wonder if she doesn't think about the help she gives me much anymore, either?

Not long after that, we pass some familiar voices as we reach the literature clubroom. Haruhi opens the door and then releases my arm. Another hidden signal, there; if things had gotten rearranged or my chair was moved, she wouldn't have let go so soon.

"Heya, Yuki!" Haruhi greets our club president. "No Mikuru-san yet?"

"Hello," Nagato answers softly. "She has not yet come by."

"Hello, Nagato-san," I add.

"I'm sure she'll be by soon," Haruhi muses, pacing over to the bookshelf. "Hmm... Hey, Kyon, do you know what tomorrow is?"

I think for a minute. "Is it a birthday?" I wonder.

"Eh ... maybe, but that's not what I'm thinking of," she answers, a bit disappointed.

"Well ... it's the seventh, so... Could it be Tanabata?"

"Aha! You do know it!" Haruhi chuckles happily. "So, you know what it's about, right?"

"Yeah, it's another variation on the Chinese tale of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, right?" I ask.

"Ah- Yeah!" Haruhi's fading cheer is completely restored by this. "That's pretty good! Hey - which version do you like more?"

"I like Orihime and Hikoboshi best," I answer. "Otherwise, well ... the guy usually turns out to kind of be a jerk, keeping the weaver girl there by hiding her robes and lying to her."

"Really?" Haruhi asks after a pause that makes me wonder if I said something I shouldn't have.

"Frequently the masculine aspect of this story takes a dominating or controlling role over the feminine," Nagato contributes quietly. "This is most likely a reflection of the cultures that originally told those stories."

A little overly analytical there, Nagato...

"Hmm, I wonder what that means for Mikeran, then?" Haruhi ponders.

"He lied to the girl he loved, and when she forgave him and gave him a chance to fix his mistakes, he either utterly failed, or failed by the smallest margin, depending on which version you read," I answer. "I do feel sorry for her, though. She seemed to want him to succeed at the task, and really loved him ... but at first he couldn't be honest, and then, he didn't make enough sandals, so, they couldn't be together."

Haruhi doesn't say anything for a while, and I realize after almost a minute that - for whatever reason - I don't hear Nagato turning pages, either. Is this really so thought-provoking?

"That's a little harsh," Haruhi finally says. "They do love each other, don't they?"

"I suppose ... it just seems to me that it's a shame they had a chance for more than only one meeting a year - if it doesn't rain. At least with Orihime and Hikoboshi, they were separated because they were too distracted by their happiness to do their jobs. That feels less like one of them failed the other to me..." I realize I'm rambling, even though Haruhi seems to find my observations interesting.

Nagato still hasn't turned a page since this turn of conversation came up, though.

"I feel sorry for Mikeran," Haruhi responds after another thoughtful pause, her steps tracking to her usual seat before it creaks. "At least ... I try to have sympathy for him. Hikoboshi at least was another god - Mikeran was only a mortal, right?"

That matches what I remember.

"He saw- He was overwhelmed by the goddess's beauty, and did what anyone would to try and keep a hold of that fantastic, amazing thing he encountered! So I can have a lot of sympathy for that!"

"But, you would have made all the sandals," I remark.

"Well, okay, we can agree that Mikeran was probably kind of dumb and lazy about that part," Haruhi allows. "I'd make extra sandals, just in case! If you can make a thousand, what's a dozen more? There was no penalty for going over, right? And who wouldn't take that as a sign of even more dedication and love?"

When she says it like that, it does sound reasonable. "Maybe we wouldn't make the best mythical figures," I joke, shaking my head. "We'd probably be way too reasonable. I can imagine it now... I'd find a robe and not even know what it was."

"Hehe~!" Haruhi giggles, as I hear her elbows thump against the table while she leans closer to me. "Are you comparing us to them? Well, then, I'd think you were flirting and pretend I didn't recognize it- But I'd really know all along, so I think I'd let you get away with it!"

...awkwardness.

In retrospect, I walked right into this one.

My face feels very warm as the door opens, Asahina's gentle voice calling a cautious greeting. "Hello, erm..." She's silent for a long moment, and the feeling of awkwardness intensifies, before she hazards, "Um ... Suzumiya-san?"

The table creaks as Haruhi sits back in her chair properly. "Hey, Mikuru-san! We were just talking about Tanabata!"

"Oh! I read a book about that, I think?" Asahina muses, closing the door behind her and taking a seat at the table, still sounding a tiny bit wary.

"Perfect! What is it?"

"It's 'Bridge of Birds'," the upperclassman answers. "Um, I just finished reading it a few days ago! It's very cute! I think Kyon-kun is a lot like Lu Yu, but..." She pauses to giggle. "I think that sometimes, Kyon-kun can be a little like Master Li, too!"

...now I really want to know what book she's talking about.

"Ah... Yuki, you'll let me check that one out next, right?" Haruhi presses Nagato. "Now I have to read that book!"

There's a pause before Nagato answers, "...not done yet."

I can't keep from snickering slightly, and Haruhi sniffs imperiously. "Well, fine," she says, feigning annoyance. "Once you're finished!"

"Special assignment."

"Huh?"

"There is no Japanese audio book or braille version of this title available."

Damn ... but ... I'll have to remember to thank her for checking.

"Oh! So my 'special assignment' is to read it to Kyon once you're done?"

"Yes."

And evidently I will be in Haruhi's debt, too. Though ... somehow, I find myself looking forward to what should feel demeaning and childish. Really ... spending time with Haruhi isn't ever as bad as it strikes me as it should be. It's consistently much more pleasant than that.

Haruhi laughs at some thought, sounding cheerful again. "Okay! That's fine by me! Now, in the meantime, I was thinking we could do something after we're done with club activities - since it's Tanabata, shouldn't we send our wishes to the heavens?"

"That is fine," Nagato agrees.

Mikuru cheerfully echoes, "That sounds fun! How do we do it?"

"Well, simple - we each record two wishes on tanzaku, right?" Haruhi explains. "That's why I brought that bamboo in!"

"There's bamboo in here?" I wonder. Where did it come from? I didn't catch any scent of it, at least.

"I just brought it in during lunch," she chides me. "And it's behind Nagato's chair. Anyway, I already wrote mine down, so while Mikuru-san and Yuki work on theirs, I can write yours down for you, Kyon! We can hang them up tomorrow!"

"Okay!" Mikuru says enthusiastically.

I hear Nagato shift around slightly, but before I can hear any writing, Haruhi moves her chair next to mine, asking, "So ... two wishes, Kyon! What do you want?"

Heh. Wishes. How long has it been since I made an earnest wish? My last one was granted, if not as neatly as I wanted, so maybe I shouldn't push my luck? I do have friends, now... "Anything I want?"

"The sky's the limit!" she encourages me.

It suddenly occurs to me to ask, "What did you wish for?"

"Eh- Er, well," she says, before I hear the sound of a piece of paper rustling before me. "So ... this one is that we always be together," she explains. "Heh, I haven't made good friends like the three of you in a long time; right now what I want is to be sure that I won't lose them!"

"Oh, that's so nice of you!" Asahina gushes. "I didn't expect to join this club, honestly, but you're right! I hope we can stay together for some time, too!"

I can't quite resist the smile that forms at the sentiment. "And the other one?" I wonder.

"Um, you know, for happiness," she says, sounding somewhat evasive. "But- Anyway, this is about you! So?"

I'm not entirely sure why, but the mood is so pleasant at the moment, I decide to skip the most obvious wishes entirely. Lingering on those when Haruhi offered such reasonable sounding wishes would drag everything down. "I wish my little sister would agree to help me look after a pet," I say after a moment. "That would be nice."

A dog might be too much work for me, if I just wanted one as a pet, not a guide, but I think a cat would be interesting - and they're supposed to be mostly self-sufficient, too. Then again-

"Ah, wait," I muse, "maybe instead, I should wish for a pet so well behaved that even my little sister would agree to help me out?"

Haruhi snorts. "You're thinking too hard," she chastises me. "Are you sure you want to spend a wish on that? Wishes are big!" Then, leaning against me, she adds, "If you really want, I can talk to your insanely cute little sister and try to convince her anyway~!"

"I think I'm okay with spending a wish on a good pet," I counter. "I mean, it's the value of a whole wish, focused on something as small as a pet - so shouldn't whatever law of conservation in wishing there is benefit me more than if I wished for something really grand?"

"If you're going to insist," she allows. "But what else?" Then, after a very brief pause, she blurts out one of the things I was trying to avoid: "You wouldn't wish to see again?"

In all honesty, I would probably be willing to commit crimes to have my sight back. Not against my family or friends, but dwelling on that leads to the mood I want to avoid.

"I see things when I dream, sometimes," I offer. I've even had a dream where I saw Haruhi - though, I know well enough not to tell her that. I know the shape of her face, thanks to her letting me feel it and learn it, and most of the rest of her body because ... well, as she learned from my sister, I don't catch visual cues, so they have to be physical or verbal.

I can remember shapes of things I can touch, anyway - it's been a very long time since I've been able to see an airplane, for example, but I've still got a pretty clear idea of what they're shaped like. I think I do, anyway. Colors, though...

I can't remember colors very well, but shapes I'm okay with. In that dream, Haruhi's hair was the same color as the sun, which is probably wrong, and her skin was the color that I recalled from my pillow when I was much younger, which I also think can't be right; that association must be because she's as soft...

"Oh?" Haruhi sounds interested. "What do you see?"

"Usually some shape or person I've interacted with earlier that day," I answer. Sometimes it's my father, though. "Sometimes they're especially vivid, but I'm always smaller in those dreams ... flashing back to before the accident, I guess. But other than that- I see colors when my synesthesia is triggered."

"What? You're a synesthete?" Haruhi asks, sounding mildly surprised.

"What's that?" Mikuru asks anxiously. "I don't recognize that term..."

"Synesthesia is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway," Nagato explains quietly.

That girl seems to know everything... Then again, Haruhi knew it, too.

"In your case, it's adventitious synesthesia, right?" Haruhi asks.

"Exactly right," I agree, only a little surprised that she knew the distinction. "I wasn't born that way; it's a side-effect of my blindness. If I move my head too quickly, for example, I see colors, and they make it hard for me to hear over the brightness."

"T-that time you said you saw stars?" Asahina asks anxiously.

Haruhi stills, even though she's partially leaning against me. I suppose this is the mood I was trying to avoid...

"That was one of them," I agree. "I can't remember what the color I saw was called, though..." I'm fairly sure I remember seeing cars of that color ... and fruits, too.

That really doesn't narrow it down much.

"Eh, well- Haruhi, you had a good idea for a second wish- How about I go with that?"

"Happiness?" she asks, finding some energy again, her excitement fully reigniting. "Um... Hehe- Okay! That's fine by me!"

XXX

Haruhi and I go home together, as today is one of those days we're going to study. With the term end approaching, my mother is absolutely delighted to find me spending time with Haruhi like that.

Ah, yes. My mother.

My mother and Haruhi have an interesting relationship. That is to say, my mother fell in love with Haruhi the instant they met, and except to go to work and sleep, she doesn't really let up on her admiration of my classmate around me.

I get what she's hinting at, but I don't want to go too fast and ruin what's shaping up to be something really, really great.

My mom doesn't get home until we're almost done with our homework, sitting at the kitchen table with my little sister. Haruhi's strange magic worked on her, too, though; I don't think my sister has ever said Haruhi's full name properly, come to think of it.

"Haru-nee-san," my sister asks, as I finish my math, "are you sick?"

"Eh?" Haruhi noises across from me, sounding surprise. "No! Why would you think that?"

"Hmm? Your eyes keep looking far away and your face is red! Do you have a fever?"

"Ah, n-no, I'm fine- Um, say, do you think your mom would mind if I were to stay for dinner?" she wonders. "I wanted to ask her for something."

I get the sense she's hiding something, but considering my sister's presence, well...

"I'm positive she'll insist on it," I tell her.

The woman in question arrives then, opening the door and calling a greeting. When we answer, my mom sweeps past me, and I'm pretty sure she's grabbed Haruhi in a hug. "Suzumiya-chan~!" she chirps. "Thank you for taking care of Kyon-kun for me! Oh, but- Can you stay for dinner? Plea~se?"

...yeah. It's pretty much always like that.

"Of course!" Haruhi responds sweetly. "You'll let me help cook?"

"Suzumiya-chan, if I could, I would marry you to Kyon-kun so I could eat your cooking every day!" my mother swears seriously. "You're much better at it than I am!"

My mother and Haruhi should have a subtlety competition - I think they might just be evenly matched.

My sister can judge.

"Er," Haruhi manages, sounding a bit stunned. "W...well, you work, like my mom does, so you're too busy most of the time, is all." Then she fidgets for a moment, and I can hear cloth rustling before the flap of a sheet of paper. "But, um ... thank you," she finally finishes.

I hear my mother's feet shift slightly, and the crinkle of paper again, before Haruhi asks, "Anyway, what are we making?"

"Ah- Yakisoba," my mother answers, sounding distracted. "Um ... hmm! Kyon-kun, have your sister dial your uncle, won't you?"

"Which one?" I wonder.

"Not my brother - your uncle Akira," she clarifies.

Makes sense; Uncle Keiichi is a lawyer, but he lives out in the country. Uncle Akira lives just over in Kyoto, where his company is still located. Some day, I will probably end up working with Uncle Akira, testing newer versions of the same PDA that got me through middle school and - so far - high school. It's not much spoken about, but there seems to be a heavily implied understanding.

I can't really complain about that, either; most people probably don't have that kind of assurance about the working world before they head into it.

Then she continues, "Could you ask him to stop by with a box I left at his place? It's marked 'spring events'."

Now I'm totally baffled. "Sure," I agree, as my sister is already tromping towards the phone.

After that, my sister presses the phone into my hand, giggling and leading me out of the kitchen. A moment later, I hear the fans over the stove turning on distantly, incidentally drowning out any discussion between Haruhi and my mother.

I sigh and listen to the phone, as the ringing stops and my uncle Akira picks up. He's an odd sort, usually lazy - but according to my mother, unstoppable when properly motivated. He gave me my first computer, before I lost my sight, and taught me almost everything I know about them. "This is Akira," he says, somewhat abruptly.

"Hello, Uncle," I greet him. "How are you doing?"

"Fine, fine," he says lazily in response, the rapid-fire tapping of keys audible in the background. "Now, how's my favorite nephew?"

"Still also your only nephew - but I'm doing well. I brought a girl home from school, and she's devising some plot with Mom in the kitchen."

My uncle snickers, then says, "That Suzumiya girl she's going on about? Well ... if what your mother says is true, that girl's fallen for you hard, you know."

"I suspect the kitchen plotting is centered around that," I say, somewhat dryly.

Uncle Akira snorts.

"Anyway, Mom wants you to bring by a box of things labeled 'spring events'."

"Hmm, I see," he answers thoughtfully. "Alright - I'll bring it by tomorrow while you're at class. You should have something interesting to look forward to after that, hmm?"

"Or, to put it another way...?" I wonder.

"You're doomed, boy!" he laughs. "Your father would be proud. We'll talk tomorrow, alright?"

"Heh, alright, Uncle," I chuckle. "Take care until then."

"You, too," he answers, before disconnecting.

My sister takes the phone and hangs it up, and when I start wandering towards the kitchen to eavesdrop, she catches my hand with a giggle and pulls me to the couch. I could fight back, but she knows well enough that I won't, and so, we pass the time until dinner is ready with me reading one of the books Nagato picked out for me, and her watching television.

XXX

That night, I have a very strange dream. I dream often enough, and sometimes my dreams are a bit strange ... but this one I think I might remember as long as I live:

I wake up and reflexively open my eyes.

My mind is being assaulted with information that it hadn't, quite, forgotten how to process. It somehow recovered enough to let me use the senses I was more used to, but I feel like a computer, overwhelmed with trying to process a file that's too large.

My eyes blink reflexively, and as they do, I'm able to make sense of things.

Somewhat.

I know that I'm lying on my side on something hard, my face in a comfortable enough pillow. Someone giggles then, and my eyes open again.

What a strange dream... With a few minutes to sort things out, I realize what's going on. And what's going on is that I'm having a dream where I can see again - but the colors aren't what I had expected.

More importantly, I find I'm laying on my side on a bench, my head pillowed in someone's lap. Someone who smells clean - very reminiscent of Asahina, in fact. I slowly sit up and look at her askance ... but I don't really know what to make of what my eyes are telling me, here.

I can see, but it's been so long that it's a struggle without touching, which I am sorely tempted to do, here. "Um," I manage.

As tempting as it is to feel the warm, soft, nice-smelling person on the bench next to me, this dream is just too much to pass up. I gaze around, trying to remember what all the sights around me are. Trees ... so, that's what color leaves are?

I had forgotten.

"This is a bit abrupt," the woman says, her voice ... similar to Asahina-san's, but more refined - more mature. "I am sorry for that ... but while we're here, would you let me show you something interesting?"

"That sounds like quite an invitation," I reply, unable to keep from smiling.

She smiles back at me, and suddenly I remember - that's what smiling looks like. I know what it feels like to smile, and how the shape of someone's lips feel when they're smiling. But actually seeing it...

She gestures towards me, and I almost flinch away before I realize she's reaching for my hands. I feel almost feeble, stunned by my newly regained sense, but give her a grateful smile as she leads me to my feet and we begin walking down the road.

I can't help but stare at everything, feeling like a gawking child as she leads me along. We've been walking for a while in comfortable, companionable silence before I realize that it's late afternoon, moving towards evening. That color means the sun is setting.

I freeze atop a hill, prompting the woman to turn to me with mild curiosity. From here, I can see the glowing ball of light, drifting towards the horizon. The clouds in the sky towards the sun are lit a brilliant color that I can't name... I can't name any of these colors, I realize with dismay.

The sun is yellow, right? Golden, maybe? Is that what that color is?

I sigh, and the woman at my side giggles apologetically. "It's pretty, isn't it?" she asks.

"Yeah," I agree. I don't know what else to say, so I don't - I just watch.

"Now, you shouldn't look directly into it," she chides me shortly, turning my face away with one hand. "Anyway ... we have somewhere to be."

I blink a few times, amused by the afterimage that lingers in my gaze. The woman at my side hums happily, leading me back down the road.

"Where are we going?" I wonder after a while, still taking in the sights.

"You have a task here," she explains, gesturing ahead a block, to where I can distantly see some bars crossing an opening in a wall. A gate?

"What kind of task?"

"I'm going to trust that to you!" she says brightly. "Once you're alone again, I'll find you. Okay?"

"I suppose so," I allow, somewhat bemused as she winks at me.

She waves, and I watch her leave for a while, marveling that I can hear her steps fade long before she vanishes around a corner.

I turn back around, not particularly concerned about this gate that seems to be my goal, or assignment. As I reach it, I spot a small, shadowy form scrabbling up the gate.

It freezes, and I realize that it's a child, though my visual recognition skills aren't keen enough to determine if it's a boy or a girl, yet. "What's going on here?" I wonder, glancing to one side and seeing a plaque covered with kanji that I can't remember how to read.

Now that's an odd detail for me to see in a dream... But then, I guess I've seen enough strange details, haven't I?

"It says 'East Middle School'," the child tells me, giving me a look with narrowed eyes, lips twisted almost into some sort of grimace. I can't help but think that, as refreshing as it is to see, it's somewhat cute. I can tell by that tone, though, that this is a girl, now. "Can't read?"

"I'm a literature club member," I tell her. "What about you, then? I have a task to do here."

Still atop the gate, she raises her eyebrows and gives me an appraising look. Something about this child's energy seems very familiar, somehow... "Okay," she says dubiously. "Hang on a minute, minion!"

Minion?

A moment later, she climbs down the back of the gate and opens it, letting me in. Just as well - I don't trust my ability to climb over it myself. Though, I guess since this is a dream...

I follow her in and give a mocking bow, since I'm so out of practice. "What is thy bidding, my dark master?" I intone.

She gives me an odd look, her cheeks twitching before she gives me that same look. "Here," she explains, leading me over, across a large yard and to a shed of some sort. After a few judicious kicks, she forces the lock, revealing a wealth of unfamiliar looking shapes. I don't think I've got any idea what over half of these are. Giving me a mistrustful look, she pulls one out with careful deliberation, as though expecting me to recognize it.

I don't even know where to begin. It's got handlebars, wheels, some sort of ... bin ... thing... I can't even remember what to call the various other parts on it.

"This is a line-marker," she explains authoritatively. "You're going to help me, okay?"

"Evidently," I allow. "What do you need me to do?" After a pause, I remember to tack on, "My dark master," which gets her to give me that look again. I can't help it. She's so adorable I have to grin at her, which makes her quickly look away.

"If you even think of trying anything..." she warns me.

"Never, my dark master," I assure her. She snorts, giving me a look I can't remember how to read before the two of us begin the difficult task of actually filling the line-marker. Once it's prepared, she shows me how to use it, which is somewhat novel, and then proceeds to shout directions at me for a very, very long time until we've managed to make some complex symbol that I don't know the meaning of.

Admittedly, I don't recognize a lot of visual symbols.

Still, I would have expected somehow, in a dream...

Once it's over, I huff over to the steps that the little girl was directing me from. She's got her fists on her hips, surveying her design, while I sink to sit and catch my breath. Strangely wearying, for a dream... I almost wish it wasn't - this strange fate of being bossed around by some child to do things I couldn't understand the meaning of...

It's a small price to pay to enjoy having my sight back once more.

And then, in a fit of introspection, it occurs to me to try and analyze my dream - while I'm still having it. What does it all mean? This familiar seeming girl, this strange scenario...

What does it symbolize?

In a sudden flash of insight, I ask the child, just as she's drawing in breath, seeming about to say something, "Are you, by chance ... Suzumiya Haruhi?"

Something flashes across her face then, and she stares at me with wide eyes.

"How do you know my name!" she demands, taking a half-step backwards.

"How could I not?" I wonder.

She thinks about this for a moment, and then relaxes a little, giving me a doubtful nod. "Hey," she says suddenly. "Do you think there are any aliens?"

I suddenly thought back to that long-ago prank that had been pulled on me by Asakura Ryouko ... well, Nagato really pulled it - it was just Ryouko's idea. Then again, Nagato seemed to have been forced into it. I'm not certain about that last part...

"They're probably smart enough not to let us know they're around," I sigh. "The real ones. If they're here, they'd want to study us, or they'd have announced themselves, wouldn't they?"

"Hmm... Espers?" she prompts.

"Could be ... I don't think I've met one - but maybe that's just what they want me to think."

She gives me that look again. "Time travelers?" she wonders.

"Hiding with the rest of 'em," I decide, nodding, crossing my arms over my chest. "I bet they can't afford to get caught and change history. One of my own club members could be a time traveler, for all I know! But let me ask you a question, now - what does Tanabata mean to you?"

She stares at me for a long moment, her cheeks coloring slightly as her eyes narrow. I still can't help but think any expression she makes is adorably cute, though I'm starting to realize she's trying to scowl. That only makes me grin wider, though - this is hilarious!

"That ... is where Mikeran and Tanabata have a chance to meet, one day out of the year," she says with a frown. "It's a magical connection! Two beings use a bridge that forms once a year! That's what this all is, don't you see?" She gestures at the symbol we worked on.

"Anyway," she continues, shaking her head, "I wanted to try and send a message to Tanabata while she was looking down. I want to let them know that even if they're worried about just each other, there are others, too! I'm also tired of being alone, so why can't I join them?

"Now - you tell me who the hell you are, or I scream rape!"

My smile goes into full-blown laughter at that. It's a struggle to breathe for a long minute, I'm laughing so hard. That? From me? Still - this seems somehow very like Haruhi after all!

She looks surprised, a bit taken aback by my reaction. "H...hey!" she protests, crossing her arms over her chest, managing the tiniest of pouts. "What the hell! You jerk!"

Once I catch my breath, I shake my head at her. "Let's not be silly," I chide her, snorting, forcing the hilarity down to a grin. "Really, though... Anyway. A message for Tanabata - is she the only fit company for you?"

"Everyone else is boring!" she counters immediately, almost a yell.

I say nothing in response, just closing my eyes. As much as I appreciate being able to see in my dream, it's good on occasion here to go back to what I'm used to - what's more comfortable for me. I can hear her tiny soft steps as she gives me a cautious berth, walking around to stand in front of me, instead of higher on the stairs.

"Who taught you how to take orders, anyway?" she mumbles.

"I always ask myself," I say, opening my eyes and meeting her gaze, "what would I want my minions to do? How would I want them to behave?" I shake my head and sigh. "Good minions are hard to come by, though... That's why I left them in the clubroom - back at Kitago."

She nods very slowly at that, her unreadable eyes peering into mine before she rises and declares, "Well! I'm off."

Still amused, I turn to look at the unfathomable splatter of brightness across the school's field. Hmm, didn't Taniguchi mention something like this happening once? That Haruhi, at her middle school...

Yeah, that must be it. I must have remembered and brought that detail into this dream.

"Did you enjoy yourself?" the Asahina-san-like woman asks from the darkness behind me, startling me with her ability to sneak up.

"It was more work than I expected, but it was interesting," I allow. "Did I do it right?"

"You did it the way it was done," she agrees, her smile turning a bit wistful. "Hm... Kyon-kun, do you think I'm pretty?"

How would I know? "I trust my hands more than my eyes, but as far as I can tell, yeah," I agree, wanting to be friendly.

"Ah ... heh. Hum, I want to show you a picture, okay?"

"Sure," I agree, thinking it's too dark to see pictures well, now.

She produces a phone from her pocket and turns it to me, showing me a glowing screen with a picture of... It takes me a minute, but I put the shape of her face together with my memory of it; this is Haruhi!

I was mostly indifferent to her hair, but being able to see it, I suppose it is cute ... and now, absolutely reminiscent of that vanished child. Huh.

"What next?" I wonder.

"I ... am personally sorry about this next part," she mumbles apologetically. "But, come with me?" She offers me a hand again, which I accept with a shrug. It's only a dream, after all...

There are worse things to dream of, and she takes a path that leads through a small downtown area, so there's a vast variety of people running around, and lit up shops to stare at. I see a newspaper and think to glance at it - but I don't remember how to read any of those characters anymore, so it's quickly moot.

After that visual treat, we reach a taller building, where she leads us to an entrance and then dials a number on the intercom before an eerily familiar voice answers, "Come up; I'm ready for you."

It's not until we're in an elevator headed upwards that I think to remark, "I really would have expected it to start with her, and then to lead to Haruhi."

The woman at my side gives a smile at that. "Maybe it still does," she suggests, as we exit, and a young woman with hair the color of the late evening sky stands there outside of her apartment doorway, giving me a bright smile.

"For various reasons, I wish to explain that I think it's unfortunate that things turned out the way they did," she offers, letting me hear that this is Asakura Ryouko. "It's also unfortunate that things must turn out the way they do, here ... but in the end, this is for the best, hmm?"

"I don't really understand," I admit, as the woman at my side uncomfortably releases my hand and gives Ryouko a look I can't read.

"Don't worry," Ryouko assures her, taking one of my hands between her own. "I won't hurt you. I didn't last time either, did I? Well, that's next for me, but..."

Just as I'm wondering what this means, she lifts my hand to her face, and kisses my palm before biting my wrist - her teeth sinking in ... surprisingly painlessly. Well, it shouldn't be a surprise - this is just a dream, after all. Strangely, not long after her teeth sink into my wrist, I feel my vision fade, almost as though the dream were preparing me to wake up...

XXX

I wake up to the twin distractions of my sister gently shaking me, and my alarm. "I'm up," I groan, sitting up as my sister turns off my alarm clock.

"Kyon-kun is too sleepy!" she chastises me.

I open my eyes like I always do ... but there's nothing to see.

Of course ... as pleasant and strange as it may have been ... it was just a dream.

"I had a long dream," I tell her.

"Did you fly? I always fly in my best dreams!"

"Oh, just talked to some people I knew," I answer. "No flying."

She makes a thoughtful noise, then gives me her usual hug to make the morning official before she hums and her footsteps hurriedly pad down the hall towards the bathroom.

That dream distracted me from something... I check my PDA, but didn't leave myself any notes. Must not be that important...

Usually, as time passes, your dreams fade. This one doesn't, haunting me for some reason, but thinking it over, I decide even before finishing breakfast that I won't tell Haruhi. I don't know if it's because I don't want to hear her thoughts lingering on a dream where I could see again, or because I don't want to tell her I dreamed of three girls - and she was the only one I saw as a child the entire time.

Just as I've decided that, there's a knock at the door, and after my sister answers it the voice of the girl in question calls out, remarking, "Good morning, Kyon!"

"Good morning, Haruhi," I reply. Hmm... "Isn't it out of your way to meet me at my place?"

"Today's Tanabata!" she cheers. "So for today, well, this is no problem! Don't you want to walk to school with me?"

Do I?

"I wouldn't mind that at all," I admit, before really thinking about it further. Maybe a little space would be nice to think about that dream, or try to get it out of my head ... but what good could come from sending her away?

"Ooh!" my mother chirps, slipping back into the room from wherever she was hiding. "Ah, Suzumiya-chan, take good care of Kyon-kun for me, won't you?"

"Absolutely!" Haruhi promises brightly. "We'll be back later, anyway!"

The two of them laugh about whatever plot it is they've hatched. Maybe that's what my dream meant; I may not make sense of what Haruhi's always doing, and being able to see wouldn't really change that. It'd be nicer, but really ... wouldn't it all work out the same anyway?

I suppose I'd take the opportunity if it arose, but I'll leave it to Haruhi to chase after things. That thought in mind, we step outside of the house. I can feel the warmth of the sun on us as Haruhi, humming to herself, takes my arm in hers again.

Yeah, that seems somehow fine.

XXX

After school lets out, Haruhi takes my elbow and leads me to the shoe-lockers, explaining that we're skipping club today - but that it's fine, because Nagato and Asahina will be meeting us later. By the time we reach my house, my uncle is there.

Probably he's taking time off work for this, which is kind of nice. He does so much for the family I can't help but feel bad...

"Uncle Akira," I call out, after announcing that I'm home, with Haruhi. "How are you?"

His footsteps and voice draw closer, and stops a step away from me, one hand on my shoulder. "Oh, you know me ... just playing around with computers, hacking world banks, that kind of thing," he offers with a shrug. "I came by to bring you something, but ... I think I'll leave it to these ladies to explain that to you."

"Truly, Haruhi's trap is devious; it will undoubtedly snare even council of evil members such as ourselves," I reply.

Haruhi snorts, stifling a giggle, and I can hear my mother's somewhat amused sigh as well, before my classmate asks, "So, he's the one who started you on the 'council of evil' jokes?"

"Akira-nee- Ah, that is... Kyon's uncle Akira-san was a slacker most of his life," my mother explains, mildly reproving, but letting the affection in her voice through. "The first time we brought him in to meet what was going to be his venture capitalists, and the others who were going to help with the company..."

"Mm, you're leaving Kyon's unreasonably hot classmate out of the context," Akira manages, before there's the loud sound of his head being swatted. And, yeah, I do happen to know exactly what that sounds like... "Ow! But, seriously ... I was just playing around. Until Ototou... Well, that day, I had to step up.

"So, yes ... I hadn't met any of the people who were going to be on 'my' new company's board yet, other than one or two. When I found myself in a suit, at a table with twenty other men in similar suits... It was solemn, it was grim, and ... well, we'd just lost Kyon's father.

"It felt like, even if it wasn't funny, I should say something silly - so I opened our very first official meeting with this speech!"

"Oh, not again," my mother groans. "Nonoko, don't pick up this habit!"

Clearing his throat, Akira adjusts his feet, drawing in a deep breath, deepening his voice slightly. "Gentlemen ... we are brought here today to answer one question. How ... to destroy ... Superman," he intones.

"...you said that in a real company meeting?" Haruhi asks, sounding both amazed and approving. "That's awesome! No wonder Kyon always makes those jokes!"

"I know, right?" Akira agrees in his regular voice. "So, yeah, Kyon and I always joke about that."

"Ah," she allows, squeezing my arm once, but not roughly. "Though ... Kyon, isn't Superman a comic book?"

"Actually, I have all of the old Superman radio dramas," I admit. "Uncle Akira started me on the jokes, and then he found a site to download all the old recordings. That's how I learned English, in fact."

"Perhaps you can listen to one later," my mother suggests. "In the meantime, Suzumiya-chan, why don't we get you ready for tonight?"

"Oh, right!" Haruhi exclaims. "Yeah, let's!"

I hear them step away as my uncle snorts. "Alrighty, Kyon, let's get up to your room, I'll help you get dressed," he says quietly.

I can get myself dressed. Unless... "Some costume?" I wonder.

"Yep!"

"And ... you're not going to tell me what I look like when I'm done?"

He snorts at that. "It's just a yutaka, but you've never worn one before," he answers.

Well ... that sounds alright, then.

XXX

After I'm finally dressed in strange clothing - I guess I'm just used to having more between my knees - Akira and I go downstairs to sit in the living room. Hearing no sign of my sister, I surmise she's badgering Haruhi and my mother.

Akira yawns, and then the television turns on. It doesn't take him long to find a baseball game, though he asks me about how my PDA is working. We both quickly forget the game as the discussion turns to how well it's been working so far, and what features the next version is going to include.

I didn't really catch it until this point, when my uncle remarks, "And we expect that as long as the department of education doesn't have any unreasonable objections, we'll be able to expand support all the way into the college system! Well, at least a few schools - there should be two sites trialling the new PDA by the end of next year.

I feel a little bad, being the center of so much positive attention. Do I really deserve it?

Uncle Akira must have worked very hard, and all of this is ... really ... just for my benefit. I wanted to go to school, so he made the machine that made it possible. And now he's fighting to make sure I can get into college?

In a solemn moment where I can find no words, I wonder if I should have made a much more selfless wish for Tanabata. Saying 'something harmless' was all well and good ... but wouldn't it be great if my uncle's advances in science resulted in more than just me benefiting?

That would be a much more worthwhile wish, I realize.

What a strange time to feel melancholy... Despite all my complaints, I believe that Haruhi has something interesting - hopefully pleasant - planned. I really shouldn't be so down.

"What do you think about doing some work for me this summer?" my uncle suddenly prompts. "You won't need to come in, but if we've got a prototype ready, it'd be great if you could help test it."

Maybe that's the answer. "That'd be really nice," I agree. "It'd be great to give something back."

"Ah..." Akira sounds slightly pained. "Really, Kyon ... you and Ototou have given enough."

I don't really agree, but settle for saying, "Well, I'll be glad for the opportunity anyway."

"That's the spirit," he approves, just before the footsteps of my mother, my sister, and Haruhi sound on the stairs. "Oh-ho, are we ready?"

"Yep!" Haruhi chirps, in tandem with my sister.

"Alright, follow me to the car," my uncle orders.

XXX

After a short enough ride in my uncle's car, my little sister between Haruhi and I in the back seat, we reach some unfamiliar spot and climb out. I can smell engine exhaust briefly before a breeze carries the scent of fresh leaves and cooking food.

I can hear distant music, and much closer, many people in discussion. My little sister takes my hand before Haruhi reaches me and leads me to her. "Here you go, Haru-nee!" she cheers.

"Okay, you two have fun," my mother encourages. "We'll meet at the southern gate at nine o'clock, alright?"

"Understood!" Haruhi replies. "Now come on, Kyon, Mikuru-san and Yuki will be waiting for us!"

"A festival?" I wonder, as Haruhi takes my elbow and leads me along, her habitually loud signature kick warning me of a set of stairs just as we reach it.

A second later, she mutters, "Ow..."

It sounds like we're walking on stone.

"Yeah," she says, recovering. "Um... Lemme see if I can remember this..." She coughs once, clearing her throat, and as we walk up the staircase leisurely, she sings:

"The bamboo leaves rustle,
"shaking away in the eaves.
"The stars twinkle;
"Gold and silver grains of sand."

As she finishes, I hear quiet applause, and Asahina's familiar giggle. "Very nice," Nagato contributes quietly.

"I don't think I've heard the Tanabata song in years," I muse. Haruhi's singing voice is - though I probably shouldn't be surprised - superb. I'd just never heard her sing before. "That was very pretty."

"Ah- Eh, hehe, heh," she manages, sounding like she was going to say something else, but suddenly lost track of it.

So ... Haruhi's surprise is to take me to a Tanabata festival?

Most of it's lost on me, but the food smells good. My wallet's back at home, though, since my yutaka doesn't have any pockets. I don't think I'll bother with any of the games, either ... but I can hear more distant singing, and different strains of boisterous music in a few different directions. "Asahina-san, Nagato-san - that's you, right?" I ask, even though I'm fairly sure it's them.

"Ah!" Asahina yelps. "Oh, yes- I'm sorry, Kyon-kun. It's good to meet up again!"

"Yes," Nagato agrees.

"Um ... you look very striking in that outfit!" she adds.

"And I was trying so hard to get it on inside out," I return, feeling my half-smile come to my lips.

"Yeah, I don't think you'll be able to pull off 'not looking good', Kyon," Haruhi says with a soft sigh, though I can hear her amusement at me. "It's probably for the best, though - there's nothing more annoying than a guy who knows how hot he really is!"

Asahina gasps softly, and I feel somewhat unbalanced myself. Or, I suppose I might if Haruhi weren't holding my arm. "Agreed," Nagato contributes.

"Um, you look very nice in that outfit as well, Suzumiya-san," Asahina quickly offers.

"Mostly because I've got the best elbow-decoration at the festival," Haruhi says, giving my arm a squeeze. "So! Where should we start first? I'd like to get something to eat, but what does everyone else want?"

Somewhat embarrassed, I explain, "I left my wallet at home, so I'll be content to follow you around."

Haruhi snorts at that. "Your mom knows that outfit doesn't have pockets - she gave me some money for you, silly," she chides.

"Well, um ... I saw something I've never tried before that I'm curious about," Asahina offers. "Is dango very tasty?"

"It can be!" Haruhi says brightly. "Let's see if there's any good stuff here!"

XXX

After wandering around for a while, listening to the music, occasionally one of the girls describing something to me, we finally found our way to the source of the delicious smells. "Ah, wait here a moment, Kyon," Haruhi insists. "Hold my bag for me, will you?"

Without really waiting for my answer, she presses the straps of a small handbag - or a purse, I guess - into my free hand.

Her voice is no longer directed at me when she says, "Hey, two of those, and ... two of those, alright?"

"Sure thing," an unfamiliar male voice answered.

Haruhi hummed to herself, then said, "Here, Mikuru-san, and for you, Yuki." She then took my arm and said, "So ... you two wanted to look for a good place to watch the fireworks, right?"

"We-" Asahina begins in a confused, questioning tone.

She's cut off by the usually very quiet Nagato, who says very softly, "Of course. We will meet later. I hope that you enjoy the festival."

"Huh? Are they... I thought we were going to hang out together?" I ask.

"Well... Did you really have much interest in the fireworks?" she counters.

Hmm... Distant, unconnected explosion sounds and the scent of gunpowder, while all around me people make amazed noises. I actually have no interest in that at all.

"You've got me there - I just thought we'd stick together," I say, shrugging. "I don't really mind waiting while you enjoy the show. I wouldn't get as much out of it, but this is about all of us having fun, right?"

"I've seen enough of the kind of display they've got set up here." She takes my elbow again, still leaving me holding her bag, then says around a mouthful of something, "Hey - what do you think of taking a walk for a bit, maybe?"

"Sure," I agree. "Maybe we can find some place to sit for a bit? I still haven't gotten a chance to eat anything."

She giggles again. "Alright," she agrees. "Come on."

Her pace is confident and quick at first, but she slows down once we travel somewhere ... I guess outside of the festival ground proper? It's quieter, and the ground is uneven. After a little while, just when I'm starting to get nervous, she stops me. "Here," she announces, turning me around. "Sit!"

Cautiously, I do. Inspection reveals that I'm sitting on the trunk of a fallen tree, and very shortly, Haruhi is seated next to me. It's quiet and still. I can make out the sound of the festival, but closer, I can hear Haruhi's breathing. "Open your mouth," she prompts.

"Eh? What for?"

"You wanted something to eat?"

"Well, yeah, but-" I cut myself off before pointing out I can feed myself. She's not questioning my competence, here ... reading between the lines, I figure out what she's after. "Ah ... okay," I say, instead, opening my mouth.

My teeth catch the edge of a bit of dango, and Haruhi giggles again as she pulls the skewer away and I actually get a mouthful of food. This particular dango is pretty sweet - not bad. After I swallow, Haruhi sidles a tiny bit closer to me.

The evening is maybe a little cool, but far from cold. Even so, her warmth is hardly unwelcome.

I still don't really know what else to do, but she has a pretty good idea, and I'm enjoying it enough to follow along. We sit together quietly, with her occasionally feeding me bits of dango, or nibbling on her own.

"That's the last of it," she says softly, as I hear a distant pop, followed by a smatter of slightly quieter crackles. "Ah - the fireworks..."

"Can you see them?" I wonder.

"Eh? Oh- The trees are kind of close here, so not really." There's another pop, and she adds, "Hmm, I could see a little more of that one, but the view's nothing to write home about. It's actually really dark here - I can't see much except for the glow of the festival lights and the stars overhead."

So ... we're almost on equal footing? Wait ... was that something she wanted? Not just to spend time with me, but for us to spend it in ways that at least felt similar?

My eyes start to sting a little, so I rub at them with the sleeve of the arm that's holding Haruhi's bag.

"Hmm? Are you alright?" Haruhi asks in concern.

"Just happy," I answer.

She sighs in relief, leaning against me even more closely, and I summon the courage to move the arm pinned between us around her back. She stiffens, and I wonder if I've gone too far ... but then she scoots closer and rests her head on my shoulder. "Um ... Kyon ... I think you should probably already know this by now...

"W...well... Maybe you don't, and that's okay, too. But, what I'm trying to say is ... um ... I r...really ... l...like you," she manages, the warmth from her face increasing. "I...it's okay if you say no, but-"

"I like you too," I interrupt, before she can continue. "To be completely honest ... even if you frustrated me at times, when I was still being stupid, I always thought you were very interesting. No one asked me to try and talk to you ... you got my attention on your own, and were just so..." What's the word I'm looking for? "Well ... I mean... I kind of got the impression after you met my mom that you really liked me, but ... I just think that this is so great, I want it to last forever.

"I mean ... I don't want to rush things and ruin them. Still ... none of my other friends really even try to understand me like you do. I know I'm just a regular guy with a disability ... but if you can connect with me, well... You probably could really make friends with aliens, time travelers... Who knows?"

"Connect, huh?" Haruhi murmurs. "Heh, well ... thanks, Kyon. That makes me pretty happy, too." She tenses a bit, pulling away from me, then sighs. "Okay, though ... I won't rush things, if that's what you'd rather like."

Being totally honest, I think we probably both know how things are going to work out. And they're probably going to be fine.

Just leaving things as they are now, well ... that would be okay.

"You can see the stars?" I wonder, still hearing distant fireworks.

"Hmm? Yeah, a little," she allows. "I guess my eyes adjusted a bit..."

"So it's clear? Orihime and Hikoboshi can meet?"

She laughs at that, voice filling with cheer. "Yeah ... yeah! You're right!" She whoops in laughter, then calls out, "Go on, you two! It's only one night a year - make it worthwhile!"

I have to laugh at that, too.

After a moment, she settles back onto the log at my side, one last happy sigh escaping as her laughter trails off.

For a strange moment, I wonder if I should change my wish again. Certainly, a pet wasn't the greatest choice. Just some offhanded thought... Being together with Haruhi and my other friends is a much more worthwhile wish.

"Hmm, what are you thinking?" she wonders.

Instead of telling her the truth, thinking about all of the things I could have wished for, I ask, "Hey, Haruhi? I know ... this may be stupid after what we just talked about, but... Well, would you get mad at me if I wanted to kiss you?"

"...I might like that," she answers, very, very softly.

My hand finds its way to her shoulder, and the slides up her neck, gently cradling the back of her head. She tilts her face up slightly, and I draw close enough to press my lips to hers, managing not to smash my nose into hers while doing it. At first, the awkwardness is the most overwhelming sensation, but very quickly, as she kisses me back, and then I don't really care about anything as the distant explosions of the fireworks show reach their peak.

XXX

It's not quite official yet, at least as far as letting anyone else know is concerned, but it's a foregone conclusion at this point that I'm going to ask Haruhi out. Realistically ... we may as well be dating anyway, considering her 'ambush date' at the Tanabata festival.

And with my mom on her side, well...

At least to myself, I may as well admit it and call her my girlfriend.

I think I'm finished complaining, though. Really, at this point it feels as though I've gotten everything I've ever wanted, and things I didn't even know I want are waiting for me, if I work at them in the future.

So when we stroll into the clubroom the next day, acting nonchalant, I'm a bit taken aback by Asahina musing, "I found this tanzaku on the floor ... is it yours, Nagato-san?"

"No," the quiet girl answers.

"Eh?" Haruhi starts.

"Well, it says, 'I want to kiss Kyo-'"

The shrill squeal of alarm from my girlfriend drowns out the rest of it ... not that it wasn't clear enough anyway. "T...that, uh, that-" Haruhi starts. "Ah! Ignore that! You can't just read other people's wishes!"

I can't help but smirk anyway, Haruhi shaking slightly as she holds onto my arm.

"Congratulations," Nagato offers into the awkward silence.

Asahina draws in a gasp of realization. "So that's why you sent us away last night!"

"Urg," Haruhi groans. "This is so embarrassing..."

"It'll be okay," I assure her. "They'll assume we were making out, instead of visiting the council of evil headquarters. It's a great cover!"

She sputters for a moment before breaking into laughter. It doesn't take the rest of us long to join her, and I can't help but wonder if both of her wishes will come true.

Somehow, I think that'd be just fine, too.


Author's notes: I use Bridge of Birds constantly because it is both awesome, and a variation (itself!) of the Tanabata story. It's the classic tale of an ancient China that never was, but should have been. It's brilliant, and you should read it.

Otherwise... Rushed this to get it out by Tanabata. It's largely pointless, and I admit that - was going for something slice-of-lifey, and to show a slightly more definitive bit of closure than the main story offers. Yeah, Koizumi doesn't appear. I couldn't come up with a role for him that wasn't at least slightly antagonistic ... but I also don't really know what he could add to the story. Even Nagato is pretty much just there for effect, this time around, and Mikuru's just a foil ... outside of the surprisingly irrelevant adventure!

Well, anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. Happy Tanabata!