"Shoot the culprit with this", Yuki Nagato, humanoid interface to a galaxy spanning intelligence, pushed the dart gun across her kotatsu, "It will correct the error in her system and return her to normal."

"Unacceptable."

"Kyon?" Woman from the future Mikuru Asahina, of a version a few years older than I was used to, asked from beside me.

"In three years time you will say that the Integrated Data Sentient Entity has many other interfaces. Is that a lie Yuki?"

"No, it is the truth."

"So let them keep all of those. Yuki Nagato is ours. If you so strongly wish to be human then let yourself be human. I won't take that away from you."

Yuki froze for a minute, then she took a breath, "Your conditions are acceptable, but the path you have chosen includes some difficulties."

"If I wanted it easy, then I wouldn't have pressed the Enter key."

Yuki picked up the gun and it distorted again as she manipulated its data space. Finally it settled down to a gold ring which Yuki held in her hand, before dropping it into my palm. She looked at me and said, "Put this ring on her finger and her distortion will be limited to herself. Should she remove the ring afterwards she will return to being an interface. Now I must inoculate you so that you can slip into her distorted space."

I rolled my sleeve back down after Yuki bit me with her fangs and turned to Mikuru, "Don't you need a shot also?"

"The future you have chosen does not include a Mikuru Asahina," She grabbed me and the world spun.

When I looked around it was dark, I was alone, outside, much colder without my shoes. I saw a figure walking up. It was Yuki.

I hid in a driveway as she stepped up and said something in her digital language. Suddenly she was wearing her glasses again and shivered in the cold which her now human self felt.

I stepped out and said, "Yuki Nagato, I can grant your wish with this," I held up the ring.

"Who?" She asked, studying my face.

"I'm Kyon, the guy from the library. Do you want this?"

She held out her ring finger so I knelt down and put the ring on. The world froze for a moment and I felt the flat of a knife blade pressed against my neck.

"Backup unit activated on an as-needed basis," Ryoko Asakura said from just behind me, her breath on my ear, "Call my name when you dare, my precious prey. But if you do make Yuki cry, then I will surely kill you."

The knife and the presence behind me vanished.

"Yes, yes, of course yes!" Yuki threw her arms around me, with tears in her eyes.

I didn't have to ask what question embedded in the ring she was answering. I just said to her, "There are two things you must do for me."

"What?" She asked.

"You must never take that ring off."

"Of course."

"And you can't tell anybody about this yet. We're too young."

"I won't. I promise, as I keep the token of your promise for some day."

"So, do you have any family?" I asked as I stood.

"Just my grandfather from back in the old village. He sends me a monthly allowance to cover my expenses," Yuki reached out to grab my left hand with her right hand as she raised her left hand up to examine the ring on it.

I considered what this grandfather might be as I walked Yuki back to her apartment. She didn't ask how I knew the way. She just leaned against me all the way there, only releasing my hand to slowly enter the entrance code for her building and again to pull out her keys at her own door.

Her hand shook slightly as she opened her door, then she unhooked her door key from her keyring and handed this to me.

"Huh, don't you need that?"

"I have another copy." She took off her outdoors shoes and placed them next to mine, then ran to her bedroom.

I noticed that the adult Mikuru's shoes had vanished, as I picked up and put on my shoes.

Yuki emerged from her room with another key that she showed me, then put on her keyring. Then she saw that I was putting on my shoes. She looked up at me and asked, "Can't you stay for tea?" Then she looked down at my feet, spread her arms to her sides and said very softly, "Or if you like, overnight. It's fine."

"No, my family is waiting for me and we're too young."

She stepped up and looked me in the eyes. "Then please, just once?" She reached up, wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me down for a kiss, as she stood on her tiptoes.

She seemed to lose her balance, so I wrapped my arms around her waist to steady her.

She stood there, with her lips tightly pressed against mine for at least a minute, as I breathed in her subtle scent. Then she slid down and shifted her arms down to encircle my body as she cried into my chest.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I have to let go, but I can't."

I disentangled my arms from around her and gently pushed her away by the shoulders. Then I lifted up her chin to face me. "I really have to go now, but I'll see you tomorrow at school. Okay?"

"I don't know if I'll be able to sleep until then."

"Read a book. You've got plenty here and that always helps you relax. And as for this." I raised her left hand and kissed the ring. "We need to keep this quiet. It's just between us. Promise me that."

"I promise. I can never betray you, Kyon."

"Goodnight, Yuki. Just remember that if you don't sleep, you can't dream about me."

I left her standing just inside the door as I closed it behind me.

I wasn't too surprised at the all too familiar face that greeted me in the elevator. "If you've moved back to the fifth floor, then what are you doing on the seventh?"

"She has to eat." Ryoko held up a covered pot. "Are you sure you can't stay for dinner, Kyon?"

"Is she watching?"

"No, she's still standing by her door, blushing like a newlywed."

"Sorry." I backed up a few steps and Ryoko followed me out of the elevator, which closed behind her. "I just wanted to give her a reason to sleep. For her health."

"How sweet. And your intentions?"

"I accepted the ring she handed me. Anything new in the world I should be aware of?"

"Mikuru Asahina will never be born, so nobody has ever heard of her."

"And my time travel trips?"

"I have and will provide those. You are yourself just data to be cut and pasted in the timestream as needed."

"The brigade?"

"The inner brigade is now you, myself and Itsuki Koizumi, with Yuki and Haruhi kept in the dark."

"Thanks and good night." I pushed the button for the elevator and the door opened, but I couldn't help watching for a moment as Ryoko walked towards apartment 708.

"Careful, Kyon." She said without looking back. "Two girls are watching you very closely indeed."

I stepped into the elevator and hit the button for the lobby.