On Monday morning between classes, I made an attempt to reclaim the monster girl who claimed to be my property. I turned in my school chair and asked Haruhi Suzumiya, "Why not Mikuru?"

"What?" Haruhi didn't look up from the fashion sketch she was drawing.

"You are no longer working for that fashion designer who liked Yuki, so why not use Mikuru, who is far more expressive?"

"She squirms too much. I'll get to her, Itsuki, and myself later, but first I want to get Yuki's look perfect."

I was more relieved than insulted to be left out of a parade of non-humans, dressed in styles that Haruhi would consider interesting. But I was still annoyed at the imposition on Yuki, a young girl who seemed to have suffered enough over the past five decades. I knew it was absurd to put a non-human murderer, with supernatural powers, who was older than my parents, in the same dependent category as my grade-school little sister, but I was putting up with a lot of absurd things lately. Even Haruhi's conceit, that the people of Japan should worship her, was fairly well justified. For a moment the image of Itsuki hypnotizing Haruhi into pretending to dress him as she put her hands all over his naked body popped into my head. That was like the sixth impossible thing I'd imagined this morning, and it was just after breakfast. I struck back to try to clear it out of my head. "Why is Yuki so important?"

"It's not like I want to take away your plaything." Haruhi looked up from her sketch. "Just because she's a sweet innocent girl, who does everything you ask her to, has nothing to do with it. It's her look. It's so unique, like she doesn't even belong with the rest of humanity. Have you seen her in a kimono? She has the look of a Japanese doll. And the way she moves, like a cross between an ice princess who cares about nothing and a hurt little sister. I need to add just a hint of color and design to that, without making her as gaudy as a Christmas tree. Your suggestion that she change from glasses to contact lenses really opened the possibilities for those big eyes on that small body. The only problem is that she's still a little shy, so I may need you to order her to model the sleepwear and lingerie I'm designing."

"I refuse."

"So you do admit that you have some sort of hold over her! Well, I'm going to find out what that is, and then Yuki will be all mine." Haruhi rolled her pencil between her palms for a moment and then returned to sketching as the next class started.

At lunchtime Haruhi grabbed her lunch and sketchbook then dashed out of the classroom. I took mine and went to the clubroom.

Yuki was as always, sitting in the corner by the window and reading a book. Using the natural light allowed her to keep the room lights off, and by sitting in a corner far from the door, she had plenty of warning to avoid contact with those few people who might stumble over an unused and unlit clubroom. Now that she had free access to the public library instead of just the discards from the old Literature Club, she was showing her own preferences, and had taken to reading science fiction novels. An odd, but perhaps predictable, choice for a servant and perhaps creation of a dark god. She had the chance to revel in bright futures and for just a while forget about her dark past. Until Haruhi Suzumiya spotted the available resource and stormed in to usurp Yuki's temporary paradise, of course.

I walked up to where Yuki sat and bowed to her, "I apologize for throwing you under the Haruhi express train like that. She was getting too close to the truth, so I panicked and switched the tracks in front of her."

I heard her standing up, but I remained bowed. I felt her lips against my cheek and then a moment of intense cold.

"Ow!" I stood and put my hand to my numb face.

"I'm sorry," Yuki was bowing, "I'll get you some tea to warm up."

"What was that about?" I sat at the table and rubbed my face.

"I tried to show my thanks, but even though it's been my first weekend when I haven't even thought about hunger, I still can't control my appetite."

"So, you're not upset about Haruhi?"

"At last I'm useful. You, Master, I mean my former master, everybody, you've been working so hard while I was just sitting here. I honestly thought I'd that I could just sit here and watch for my first mission while big sister Ryoko did all the work."

"Any sign of her lately?"

"No, I haven't seen her anywhere."

"As for being busy, I've been sitting this one out. Dressmaking isn't a skill of mine and I don't know what to do about the overall problem."

"As for that, Lord Susanoo has a message for you. Things will be in alignment next month."

"July? At least that's a timeframe," I sat and watched Yuki make tea, "Something's been bugging me though. You can't touch me without freezing me, but you don't freeze solid much smaller objects like cups of tea?"

"It's not what your human scientists call cold, at least most of it isn't."

I waited for Yuki to set down the teapot to brew and then asked her, "Why did you kill people?"

"Lord Susanoo has commanded that we leave no witnesses. Also the vast majority of a human's lifeforce is extracted at the moment of their death."

"So the reason that you hunt in the winter and live in the mountains?"

"It makes us less noticeable, and our prey more vulnerable."

"That was a thin disguise to change the spelling of Yuki from Snow to Hope."

"My name has always been spelled Hope. Lord Susanoo said I was his great hope and I never saw how, until you did more than save my life, you gave me hope to live on."

"I'll try to not undermine that hope. And as for that, you do not have to let Haruhi parade you around in anything too embarrassing."

"Thank you. I don't have much, uh, 'body hair', but it matches," Yuki blushed as she put an empty teacup next to my bento.

I knew I pushing her to the point of embarrassment, but at least we were alone. "What's with that haircolor?"

Yuki reached up to touch a lock of the short blueish gray hair on her head, "The older a sister of mine gets, the darker and longer her hair is. Ryoko's hair is a much deeper blue and my oldest sisters have long black hair. It's a good thing some human girls dye their hair, or we wouldn't be able to infiltrate a high school."

"Why didn't you dye your own hair?"

"The dyes you use don't work very well for us," Yuki filled my teacup, "Some of it is physical cold."

"Ah ha!" Haruhi threw open the door, "Isn't this a comfortable scene."

Yuki froze in place.

I turned to face Haruhi, "Yuki was making some tea and asked if I wanted some. That's all."

"Well Kyon, I'm afraid I'm going to have to borrow your girlfriend for a while."

"I don't even hold hands with Yuki and the only girl I've walked arm in arm with this year is you."

"And as usual, you don't answer the real question at all, Kyon."

When had Haruhi asked a question? I saw that Yuki had put down the teapot and had turned towards Haruhi.

"Come on Yuki," Haruhi grabbed her hand, "Everybody's waiting," Haruhi pulled Yuki to the door then turned back for a moment, "And Kyon, you player, make yourself useful and bookmark some fashion sites."

"What do I know about fashion?" I asked.

"Yes, good point. Look up a cheap, but good, Internet connection for Yuki's place."

Yuki barely had time to close the door behind them before being dragged away.

I moved my lunch over to the computer and started the search Haruhi had requested.

A few minutes later there was a knock on the door and I responded with, "Come in, we're all decent."

"Well I should hope so," The girl who opened the door wore a sophomore uniform for our school and had green eyes and medium blue hair that extended past her shoulders, "Is this the SOS Brigade?"

"Wow, an actual customer." I walked over to greet her, "They call me Kyon around here."

She reached out her hand to grasp mine. Her hand was warm, then painfully cold, and then warm again. "They call me Emiri Kimidori. I trust that we understand each other, Mr. Kyon?"

"It's just Kyon." I rubbed my right hand with my left then slid a chair out for her. "What can we do for you Miss Kimidori? Find a man for you?"

"Oh, I can find my own, thanks." She sat in the offered chair.

"Can I offer you some tea?" I backed away to the teapot. "I'm afraid we haven't any snacks."

"Tea would be fine."

I poured her a cup then sat on the other side of the table from her. "So what brings you here, Miss Kimidori?"

"My sister seems so much happier than before."

"Yes?"

"Well about that, my Master has a message for you."

"Yuki already told me that something would be happening next month."

"This is a message that my Master thought best to convey through somebody other than my sister, to ensure that you understood it properly. She shall be yours as a gift and the dark powers shall be warned away from you, should you complete the mission ahead of you."

"And if I fail?"

"Pray that you do not survive your failure."

"Anything else?"

"Just keep your schedule open next month."

"But my sister was so looking forwards to visiting the beach."

"There will be a trip of sorts involved. You can bring her along with you, if you think that's best."

"Somehow I think not."

"Just so long as we understand each other." she put her hand on mine for a moment and it remained warm. "Well I must be going now, but if you make my sister unhappy then I might take it personally."

I sat and watched as Miss Kimidori walked to the door, but just before she got to it, I asked, "You have many sisters. What makes this personal?"

"The look in her eyes, I've seen it in the mirror." Emiri turned towards me and with an ancient bittersweet smile continued, "The Americans killed him when they took Iwo Jima."

"I'm sorry."

"Please don't be. He gave his all for what he believed in. When you are gone, I will be there for my sister. Do you have a message I might convey to her at that time?"

"Not yet."

"Well, until another time then."

the door opened behind her.

"Oh, Miss Kimidori?" It was Mikuru. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Miss Asahina, my apologies. It seems I wandered into the wrong room by chance."

"Oh, you should be more careful."

Emiri seemed to almost frown at this and then walked around Mikuru to get to the door, "Well, I must be going. Thanks for your help, Kyon."

After she left I asked Mikuru, "Is everybody at this school a spirit or monster?

"Don't you feel human, Kyon?"

"Do you know where Haruhi dragged Yuki off to this time?"

"I followed Miss Kimidori from the Fashion Club. She seemed to notice which members of Haruhi's brigade where there and then left suddenly." Mikuru sat at the table, took one sniff of the half full teacup that Emiri had left and then drank it down.

"And are you not required there to move things along?"

"Just as I am not your muse, the weaver of the clothes of the god is the muse for all those who have the true passion for fashion. The humans in that club did not even notice when the other two of us left."

"But how can you leave Yuki there when those girls are going to want to dress her?"

"Amaterasu has skillfully woven Haruhi's irritation towards your relationship with the other girl into a fierce possessiveness over Yuki. Only another toy of hers, such as myself, is allowed to touch her plaything."

"How many times have you done this?"

"Only dozens." Mikuru held up her empty teacup. "It's a very rare occurrence. Don't worry, we should have it resolved next month."

"On Tanabata?" I went to pick up the teapot.

"No, later in the month."

"Then it has to be the eclipse, but the total eclipse is south of here," I refilled her cup.

"The foxes will be moving her to this event. Do tag along please."

As Mikuru predicted, Haruhi easily won over the girls (and two boys) of the Fashion Club. I didn't see Haruhi much after that, except for her constant sketching in class behind me and a few errands I ran for her to gather materials from sponsors. I also helped setup the second-hand PC she found for Yuki's place. (I didn't ask where it had vanished from, of course.)

On Tuesday, July 7th we had a now-rare meeting of the SOS Brigade to write down our Tanabata wishes. Haruhi explained how these would be granted 16 and 25 years in the future. For her first wish she wrote that she wanted the Earth to revolve around her, and for the second she wanted the Earth to revolve the other way.

I took those for subconscious messages that she on some level understood her situation and wanted out. I wished for lots of money, and a house with a big yard for a dog. I made sure Itsuki saw that one. Haruhi wasn't the only one who wanted out of all this.

Without the daily runaround my grades improved a little bit, but I noticed that Haruhi kept near the top on the final rankings.

Finally on Friday the 17th after the semester closing ceremonies, we all gathered for the intervention. We found Haruhi slumped over a sewing machine in the Fashion Club room. Mikuru shook her.

"What?" Haruhi looked up at us, "Is it school closing hour already?"

"You're going to burn out." I said and almost winced at my choice of words.

"No, no. It was a power nap. I'm ready to go now. Yuki, help me get everything and we'll work at your house."

"No." I put my hand on Haruhi's shoulder. "Go home and rest this weekend and we'll take a vacation next week. You can go back to work on your designs the next week after."

"I've got no time for a vacation!"

"That's a pity," Itsuki said, "My cousin had a sudden family emergency and asked if I could take my gang to the southern island he had rented for the eclipse viewing, in his place."

"An entire island?"

"Right in the middle of the eclipse path."

"Well Mr. Koizumi, you have just earned your promotion to deputy brigade leader!"

The plan turned out to be simplicity itself. On the morning of the 22nd, we set out from the lodge on the island to the best viewing spot, with lots of spicy snacks and we 'accidentally' brought sake instead of tea or water. We had Haruhi passed out in less than an hour and as the time for the eclipse approched we put welding goggles on her and ourselves. As we clapped and sang, Mikuru danced naked. I looked the other way.

At the moment of the eclipse there was a brilliant flash and it felt like I was getting sunburned all over.

Mikuru stayed with Haruhi in her room for the rest of the day while she was passed out, and the next day Haruhi was violently ill, only joining us at dinner. She pledged to never touch alcohol for the rest of her life. On the boat trips back the next day she still seemed a little green, but didn't hurl.

That Saturday I walked over to Yuki's apartment at noon. I rang her number and said, "Hi, may I come up?"

"What are you doing here?" Haruhi responded, "Well as long as you're here you might as well go get lunch for everybody. Come up so you can write down the orders."

Mikuru let me in the apartment door, and I froze at what I saw.

Haruhi was holding a piece of fabric against Yuki's body and adjusting the angle to see how it looked. She looked over her shoulder at me and said, "I've written down the orders. It's on the table."

I removed my shoes and walked over, "Isn't this a bit much for me to carry all by myself? It's like lunch and dinner for all four of you."

"You're always such a whiner, Kyon." Haruhi put down the fabric and made some notes. "Okay, I'll go with you also. I've been stuck in here all day. Just let me freshen up." She walked around the many items she had brought to Yuki's place as she made her way to the bathroom.

I waited for Haruhi to close the door behind herself then turned to Mikuru. "How did she do that? I thought we cured her!"

"She is cured." The goddess inside Mikuru replied. "Our queen has returned to the heavens. But, just as I shall soon leave only a tiny fraction of myself behind in Mikuru, Haruhi still has a connection, that Amaterasu may choose to use later. Now Kyon, last chance. Are you sure you don't want to try this?" She indicated the body she wore.

"Mistress!"

"Just kidding, Yuki." Uzume moved Mikuru's hand to play with the hair of the snow monster.

"And what's your story Itsuki?" I asked our resident fox, "Why are you still here?"

"There remains the matter of who it was that set Haruhi onto this in the first place and Haruhi herself is our only lead." He turned as the bathroom door opened.

"Okay you three." Haruhi said as she returned. "You've still got a lot of things to try on and I want to know what needs adjustment when we get back. Now come on Kyon, enough idling around!"

At lunch that day I started to get to know Haruhi better. We developed a reasonable relationship. With her and Yuki's constant help I just barely managed to get into the same college as the two of them. We had our wedding right after our college graduation. When Haruhi invited Yuki along on the honeymoon, I assumed that it would be entirely a business trip. I could not have been more wrong.

"Uh, am I interrupting something?"

"Kyon, get in here and close the door."

I knew better than to refuse Haruhi's orders, so I complied. "But, uh this?"

"Yuki's told me that she was born sterile. Does that sound fair to you?"

"Uh?" I had wondered exactly how all that worked with the yuki-onnas.

"Of course not. So I've told her it's only fair that she share in everything about our family. Don't you see that's the only way she can have a family of her own? So Kyon, take off your clothes and join us in bed."

By this point Yuki had managed to learn to control her appetite so this was safe. The pattern we set that night (and continued for many decades after) was that Haruhi would pull out a box of toys to use on Yuki, while using myself for her own pleasure. Afterwards we would snuggle together on either side of Haruhi. That was the safest way of doing things, because Yuki had the least control of her powers in her sleep.

We kept on the move to follow the fashion industry around the world, so I never did get the yard, or the dog. Haruhi kept the Suzumiya name herself, but insisted the kids have my name. Her reasoning was by having the name of a nobody, they wouldn't be caught in the undertow of fame. Of the three of us, the kids seemed to always favor 'Aunt Yuki' the most. And that was okay, just so long as she didn't look at them too hungrily.

-HJC