[The Haruhi Suzumiya characters are the creation of Nagaru Tanigawa,

etc. No infringement of their rights is intended.]

Come on, come on, think of something. There has to be someway out of this endless summer. "Haruhi, I..."

"Yes Kyon?"

"Nothing."

"Kyon, sometimes it's just so hard to talk to you. I like how you're mostly dependable, but if only there was somebody like you I could relate to better." Haruhi Suzumiya stood and left the cafe.

I had failed.

On Sunday morning I got up, without hope of seeing the next Monday. It would never come of course. I walked into the dinning room for breakfast and stopped. There was an unfamiliar girl of around my age and my sister was missing.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Now Kyon, don't tease your little sister." My mom said.

"Little? I'm like five minutes younger than he is." The strange girl signaled outside of my parents' line of sight for me to sit down.

I sat and put up for the charade throughout breakfast, then headed to my little sister's room afterwards. This was clearly a girl's room, but for a girl who was older than my sister had been.

The girl followed me into the room and shut the door. "What is it Kyon? Has something strange happened again? Haruhi messed with the world or your head?"

"My little sister is five years younger than me, not five minutes."

"What? Let's see, Itsuki could have changed your memories or Mikuru could have messed up the time stream. Do you think Yuki could make such a massive change outside of a closed space?" The strange girl sat at her desk.

"I think Haruhi wished this change."

"That assumes that your memories are correct, and mine are false."

"Yuki!" We both blurted out at the same moment.

I was stunned by this synchronicity, but my strange new sister seemed to expect it and so she continued. "Yuki will have access to information from both timelines. And she can help us with our summer homework."

"My little sister, unlike me, always did her homework on time."

"I blame that habit on your bad influence, Kyon. And call me Kyonko, like you always do."

"Kyonko?"

"Yeah, yeah. It doesn't match as well to your name, but it how you got your revenge for my spreading Kyon around. It's especially pointed because I'm a bit flat chested."

"A bit?" She frowned at that so I changed tack. "I don't see the point of bothering with homework while we're stuck in this time loop."

"What time loop?"

We gathered up our homework, told our Mom that we were off to study with a friend, and set off.

On the way to Yuki's apartment I explained to Kyonko how the last two weeks of August had been in an endless time loop. She related back to me a single trip through the same two weeks with a slightly different series of events that included herself instead of the younger version of my sister.

We explained our versions to Yuki in her room.

Yuki sat back and froze for a moment.

"Looks like she's accessing her network storage again," Kyonko said.

Yuki moved again. "Kyon's timeline is the original. Kyonko was artificially aged five years, three years ago at the moment of the Tanabata event."

"How did having an older version of myself not cause major changes in the past three years?" Kyonko asked.

Yuki turned to her. "You are not a very important person."

"Does that mean I have to go poof?" Kyonko had that same look of fear that Mikuru often had when dealing with Yuki.

"The introduction of the Kyonko element has broken the time loop."

I thought about this then said, "so if we get Haruhi to erase this change then we go back into the time loop?"

"Assuming that it holds. The current time element is under considerable stress and further changes may cause unpredictable effects."

"Then we need to call in the rest of the SOS Brigade and consult them." Kyonko thought for a moment. "Except for Haruhi of course."

"So what else has changed in this setting?" I asked Yuki.

"There are fewer closed spaces and Haruhi is under less stress."

"Why is that?" I asked.

"I think I see it." Kyonko turned to me. "If I wasn't there to handle her complaints about you, then she wouldn't be able to blow off as much steam in my ear."

"So you have fewer 'boiler explosions' than I've had to deal with?"

"Oh, it happens. There she blows again. You call Mikuru and I'll call Itsuki, and get them to come over here. And bring their homework, of course."

"Why call in that order?"

"Because he's my boyfriend, duh." Kyonko pulled out her phone and hit the first speed dial number on it.

Well at least all those times Itsuki had invaded my personal space, he wasn't just interested in my body.

Once the gang was assembled, we compared notes and Yuki and I were the only ones who remembered the time loop. We agreed to leave things as they were for the moment. Kyonko copied down the homework that Itsuki had done, while I merged Mikuru's and Yuki's.

After a while Kyonko's phone rang and she answered it. "Hi Haruhi. Just getting my homework done. I'm over at Yuki's place. Oh, Kyon's here also. The rest of the gang too." Kyonko held her phone at arms length while Haruhi shouted over the phone, then brought it back to her face. "Okay, we'll see you then."

Several minutes later Haruhi rang Yuki's intercom and then just three minutes later she banged on the door (instead of ringing the doorbell).

I tried to remember if Haruhi had ever visited Yuki's apartment in my timeline.

Yuki let her in, and Haruhi bent over for a moment breathing deeply.

Had she run all this way?

Haruhi stormed over to the table and pulled Kyonko and me up by our collars. "Treasonous conspirators! How dare you hold a Brigade meeting without me?"

"But you said you had already finished your homework and -"

Haruhi cut Kyonko off at that point. "That is no excuse! The next time you try to conspire behind my back, I will have you both high dive into the pool from the top of the school building, twenty times, naked!" Haruhi then turned to me. "Come on Kyon, you're treating."

"What?"

"At the cafe. It's the penalty for betraying me like this, and payment for my tutoring. Which you two obviously need if you still haven't managed to finish your homework by now."

When we got back to Yuki's place, Haruhi sat between me and Kyonko and read down both our pages at the same time, gleefully finding mistakes the others had missed.

That evening as we were about to split up, I stopped and stared as Kyonko and Itsuki kissed each other on the lips.

Then Haruhi kissed me on the cheek, walked off a little bit, turned and waved, "Bye Kyon, see you in the morning."

Kyonko waited until we were out of the sight of the others before speaking. "Kyon, I couldn't tell which surprised you more, my kiss or hers."

"How far have you gone with Itsuki?"

"Just that far. Holding hands, kissing, nothing serious. Say, did mini-me have a boyfriend in your universe?"

"Of course not."

"So, Itsuki didn't have a girlfriend either?"

"No." And I wasn't about to tell Kyonko what he had been like either.

"So why the change in him?" Kyonko walked along silently for a moment then snapped her fingers. "It's Haruhi. I talk with Haruhi about my relationship, and this sets out guidelines for how she deals with you. Well, at least I don't have to deal with a hidden rival. I do get complaints all the time about what is the cutest boy in school doing with a dog like me, but each time I just give them permission to ask Itsuki out. He shoots them down instantly of course, and says something like we share a common bond. If only they knew the half of that."

I had to admit, that like my previous younger sister, this changed sister still seemed to be happier in life than I was, and more talkative. Perhaps it was the Japanese expectation that men were supposed to be more reserved that kept me snarking to myself instead of reaching out to connect with other people.

"So, did Yuki or Mikuru change any?"

"What?" I turned to Kyonko. "No, not that I noticed."

"Was Mikuru your girlfriend in the other universe?"

"No."

"Yeah, that old bit about how she can't date anybody from this time period. Hmmm. Why don't we compare notes about the differences in our adventures?"

I started from the day I met Haruhi and I found that in this new world Kyonko had been the one to comment on Haruhi's bizarre hairstyles and had usually been accompanying Haruhi whenever I had a grunt job like looking up student club rules. Kyonko had taken the job of web site designer and seemed to have done a better job of it than I had. However the old me here had still been the one to be attacked by Ryoko Asakura, and had gone back in time to draw Haruhi's chalk pattern, and in each case Kyonko had been talking with Haruhi at that time.

"So I'm actually three years older than you." I pointed out.

"No fair! Three years frozen in time does not count."

"So when did you hook up with Itsuki?"

"Well I guess it started on our first mystery hunt. In the morning we split into three pairs and I got Itsuki at random."

Monday morning I found that, while I still sat in front of Haruhi, Kyonko had the desk to her right. I tried to remember which student had set there in the old timeline. I suppose I had been too wrapped up in Haruhi to even notice. We all sat around Haruhi's desk for lunch and talked about the things that 'we' had done that summer. Most of them matched to my memory.

After classes Kyonko whispered to me, "I'm going to change in the clubroom, as is usual here. So wait a few minutes, or you might see more of your sister than you really want to."

I took my time, and knocked on the clubroom door anyway for the all clear.

Kyonko noticed my staring at her nurse outfit so walked over and whispered to me, "What is it Kyon?"

"You look a bit fuller in that outfit than usual."

"Oh. Haruhi had ordered it in Mikuru's size, and then when I mentioned I was intending to be a doctor one day, we adjusted it for me. I was okay with cutting it down to fit, but Haruhi insisted on padding it." Kyonko raised her voice and said, "what do you think Itsuki? Does this outfit make me look fat?"

"Alas, my dear. I am far too blinded by my love for you to ever see you plainly. It's all those roses that pop into view whenever I look at you. They get in my eyes and I can't see a thing."

Yes, Itsuki hadn't changed at all.

"Smart answer." Kyonko dropped into his lap for a moment to kiss him on the cheek.

I felt like somebody was watching me and turned towards Haruhi (who was dressed in her bunny outfit), but she looked away.

On the way back to our house I said to Kyonko, "you really seem to be the glue that holds the Brigade together."

"What? No, you are. Or at least the old you was."

"How so?"

"My Kyon was the only one who was really comfortable around Yuki. I've tried, but I've always wound up thinking of her like an ATM machine for wishes, rather than a person. Also Mikuru seemed to trust you the most. She picked you to go back in time and to reveal her older self to. Kyon would run the secret meetings and he'd decide on what I should tell Haruhi and then my job was to go to her and make that sale."

"Sounds like you were the one who got the crap jobs."

"Are you sure you're my brother?" Kyonko elbowed me. "But, that reminds me. Itsuki has offered to turn me into an esper."

"Huh? I though all espers were created by God, not Man."

"Ha! Good one Kyon. He said that this will allow us to share an intimacy beyond anything physical bodies allow."

"What?"

"Yeah, it's exactly the sort of line that made me question if everything I'd ever felt for him was something he put into my head. If I was by myself, I would have responded by running away as fast as I could. But with you to support me, I'm tempted to try it."

"Why?"

"Well, look at the various groups. The goddess herself has to be kept from knowing herself, so she's actually the most repressed captive around. The interfaces are just shells for strange alien creatures. Mikuru has to have her brain wired so she doesn't accidentally blurt out something that will destroy her own conception. Only the espers appear to be free to think and act on their own."

"Yeah, but what if it's all an act? I've never trusted Itsuki's fake smile. I'm surprised that any sister of mine would fall for it."

"That's just the point. The espers are not perfect actors. You've seen the mask, but you've never bothered to look behind it. Even my Kyon was never this down against Itsuki. So you must know something about him that I don't."

"Damn, Little sister. You're as sharp as always, but in this world you're at least my equal in all ways. So fine, you really want to know? It'll break your heart."

"Spill it. I'm a big girl."

"In my world, Itsuki hits on me."

"But he's still a boy?"

"Yes."

"Heh. He seems like just the sort of pretty boy to be a switch hitter. So your concern is that here he's switched targets to me because his entire focus is to gain control over whomever is closest to Haruhi, right?"

"Right."

"Yeah, yeah. So Kyon, are you ordering me to turn him down on his offer and possibly dump him?"

"It's your life and your mind on the line. But I do have a piece of brotherly advice, if you don't mind."

"Lay it on me."

"Let's go to Yuki first and see what she has to say about this."

"You would trust the life of your only sister to an alien creature, which you can never see the true face of, over a hidden conspiracy of human beings from your own time?"

"Yeah. After Ryoko I will never trust another interface, but so far Yuki has played it level with me."

"It's late, so let's go by her place tomorrow evening. I have a condition for you on this, before I'll agree to become an esper."

"Lay it on me."

"You must forever stay out of the espers. If you in any way sense that I've lost my objectivity, and especially if I start gushing about how great it is to be an esper and that you should join, I want you to run to Haruhi and tell her over and over that you are her John Smith until she gets it. Then use her power to shut down the espers. Agreed?"

"Yeah. And speaking of relationships, what is that with Haruhi?"

"I suspect she's noticed a change in you, and since she has no rational explanation for how you could have been replaced, she may think you've gone sour on her. I suppose our cover story will be that you're still in shock from going back to school after the most awesome summer you've ever had or something, but that won't last long."

"So what was Haruhi's relationship to the Kyon who was here?"

"You can't expect him to have told me everything, but one interesting moment was that once Haruhi and I were talking while Kyon was tagging along. We came to a park and I sat down in the shade of a tree and Kyon lay down next to me. Haruhi saw that the best spots were taken, so she sat down on top of him. Haruhi and I talked about many things and then she started asking me questions about Kyon. I answered these as best I could, while Kyon looked at me with this annoyed expression on his face. Finally Haruhi hit on something about Kyon that I didn't know, so I asked him and he answered. Haruhi looked down at him, at how Kyon had his arm around her to steady her and how she was running her fingers through his hair. Then she jumped up beet red, as if he had just suddenly appeared underneath her. I laughed harder than I ever had in my life. She waited for me to recover, and then made us promise never to trick her like that again."

"So I'm a chair here?"

"It's more like... Have you heard the story that Queen Victoria would sit down wherever she was at any time and there would always be a chair behind her?"

"Yeah?"

"That's the kind of support she expects from you. If anything, she's annoyed that we didn't go to her for homework support."

-HJC