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Universe Roulette - Chapter 10

Title: Universe Roulette

Author:
Sinnatious

Summary: Kyon wakes up one day, and the world is just a tiny bit different.  Koizumi, annoyingly, continues to remain the same.

Rating: PG. 

Author’s Note: Happy Halloween? 


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Universe Roulette

Chapter 10

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He was late to school that morning, so Haruhi didn’t have the chance to chew him out for running out of club all of a sudden, though the repeated kicking of his chair let him know exactly what the girl thought about it. He ignored it, and vainly tried to focus on classes. Anything to just not think about other things for a while.
 
He retreated to the clubroom during lunch. To his surprise, half an hour in the door opened. It was Koizumi.
 
“Ah, I thought you might be here.” The esper let himself in and closed the door. “You left so suddenly yesterday.”
 
“Yeah,” he said tiredly. “Sorry.”
 
Koizumi smiled kindly. “I thought I’d come check on you. Was it what Suzumiya said? You always seemed okay with it when she said things like that before, but when you didn’t come back…”
 
Kyon didn’t really know how to respond to that. He just sighed and rubbed his head, rocking back in his chair to look up at the ceiling.
 
"Kyon, are you alright?"  The high schooler was mildly disconcerted to hear genuine concern in the enigmatic transfer student's voice.

"No," he muttered.  He was exhausted.  After he’d finally pulled himself together the day before, he had to give himself a crash course in cooking, laundry and cleaning.  It was mildly amazing how much more of his evening was consumed when he needed to do those things himself, and it was already late by the time he got the chance to think about homework.  It was past midnight before he got to bed, and then he hadn't been able to fall asleep in the unfamiliar environment with all the horrible thoughts swirling around in his head.
 
He couldn’t believe how much his family had been taken for granted.  Once that familiar environment was swept out from underneath him, he suddenly realised how much he valued that facet of normality.  It wasn't like he and his family ever did much together - unless you counted his little sister trying to follow him everywhere - but their presence alone had been more than enough.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Koizumi asked.
 
“Why do you even ask?” He didn’t shift his eyes from the ceiling. Koizumi would probably be wearing that fake smile he always wore, and Kyon didn’t think he could handle that right then. “Because it made her upset?”
 
Koizumi didn’t answer, which was smart of him. Sighing, Kyon sat forward again, resting his head in his arms. He was finding himself increasingly bitter about his apparent immunity to Haruhi's world-altering ways.  If he were just as susceptible to her god-like powers as everyone else, he wouldn't know any different and wouldn't be bothered.  He wouldn't miss a family he apparently never had and pine for friends that never existed.
 
“Don’t worry about it,” he said eventually. “It’s nothing. I just had an upset stomach. I’ll be at club this afternoon.”
 
“I’ll leave you be then-”
 
“It’s okay,” he interrupted. “You can stay, if you want.”
 
Koizumi paused in the act of standing, seemingly surprised. “Eh?” After a second, he collected himself, and that sunny smile was back. “I suppose I’ve already eaten so… Othello, then? We haven’t played that for a while.”
 
“Sure.”
 
Lunch ended, and they went their separate ways. Classes resumed that afternoon, and Haruhi spent most of club time writing up the script for her new drama, so they didn’t get up to much. Kyon lingered until everyone left, which was apparently normal as nobody even asked him if he’d lock up. He did so, then went grocery shopping – he had no idea where his money came from, something he’d have to investigate sometime soon – did chores, then homework, then fell into a troubled sleep sometime around midnight. The next day, he repeated the process. And then the next day. And the next.
 
It was hell.
 
Kyon didn't want to admit it, but he was lonely.  Horribly so.  That dark and empty apartment was almost as bad as closed space.  He started arriving at school earlier and leaving later, just to reduce the amount of time he had to spend there.  It didn't even matter if he didn't have any friends, because at least there was some noise, some sign of life, and he wasn’t haunted by the constant reminder that now he really, truly, was alone.

Except for Haruhi and Koizumi.  Not that Haruhi counted.  It was hard to feel grateful for the girl's presence when she was the unwitting source of his misery.  Two days previous, he had to physically restrain himself from shaking the girl and demanding she give him his universe back.  It wouldn't have changed anything, and everyone just would have assumed he had gone crazy.

Sometimes, he wondered if maybe they would be right.
 
Frustratingly, the universe still hadn’t changed. Normally it only took a couple of days for Haruhi to grow bored and mix things up again, but it simply wasn’t happening. Exactly one week after he’d woken up in that unfamiliar apartment, Kyon was forced to take action.
 
He caught the esper by the sleeve when he arrived at club that afternoon. “Oi, Koizumi,” he said in a low voice. “Can we talk after club?”
 
Koizumi gave him a curious glance, but just nodded his agreement before Hurricane Haruhi blew into the room, handing out scripts for them to rehearse. “They’re done! Yours, and yours, and yours… take it, Kyon!”
 
“Sorry,” he mumbled, taking the script and skimming it. It was cheesy, and his and Tsuruya’s poor acting would ruin what little charm was there, but it was still impressive that Haruhi managed to write this much in a week.
 
They ran through a reading, Haruhi barking directions and orders and constantly chastising them for not being as talented as her. Fortunately a good deal of Kyon’s part appeared to involve sitting and staring silently out the window, which he did so with relish. 
 
All he was really thinking about was the conversation after club. Koizumi had been the one factor that was strangely consistent throughout all of the previous universes. At first he’d put it down to sheer luck, but more recently he’d begun to hope that perhaps Koizumi, being an esper, might have possessed some measure of immunity to Haruhi’s god-like powers too. It was a plausible explanation as to why others vanished and changed, but Koizumi never once shifted from his position in the Brigade. The only thing that seemed to alter with each new universe was his memories, and even then, there were signs that his mysterious classmate could at least sense echoes of the previous universes.
 
Or Koizumi could just be playing along to make him feel better. That was the more likely explanation.
 
Kyon shook his head as though to rid it of such troublesome musings. It was foolish to hope that Koizumi might be in a similar position to him, and it was cruel to wish that fate upon anybody anyway. Logically speaking, the esper hadn’t changed in each universe simply because Haruhi had no need for him to change. Why would she? He was a mysterious transfer student who bent to her every whim. There was absolutely no motivation for Haruhi to change her second-in-command.
 
The thought was both depressing and reassuring at the same time. It meant that provided Haruhi didn’t become drastically bored, Koizumi was likely to be reborn in each universe the oblivious god created. But it also thoroughly squashed his unrealistic hopes that he might have a companion who, if prodded enough, could remember the world as it used to be.
 
“Kyon! Pay attention!” Haruhi yelled, throwing a scrunched up paper ball at him.
 
He caught it before it could hit his face and sighed, searching for his spot in the script. “Maybe later,” he mumbled.
 
“More feeling! You’re not trying at all!”
 
“Isn’t it in my character not to try?” he complained.
 
Haruhi glared, then whirled to Tsuruya next. “Okay, now it’s your turn to enter. Take it from the top!”
 
Fortunately, Tsuruya’s incredibly poor over-acting was enough to make Haruhi give up for the day. She decided that they needed to start organising the wardrobe next and dragged the girls off to harass the cosplay club. 
 
Koizumi waited until they’d left the room before asking, “So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
 
Kyon checked the hall to make sure the girls were really gone before muttering, “It’s about Haruhi.”

He knew that he really should have spoken to someone sooner.  But his emotions had still been too raw to fully accept this new turn of events, and talking about it would make it real. A part of him had hoped that maybe if he ignored it long enough, the universe would tick over again and render the point moot.

There was no choice, though.  Even if Koizumi couldn't help him change the universe back to the way it used to be – there had been no successes yet, and he was starting to despair of it - the esper should at least be able to fill in the blank holes in his new life.
 
If the esper was surprised, he didn't show it.  "Very well, then.  Do you have somewhere we can talk in private?" Discussing Haruhi matters in the clubroom wasn’t really a good idea when her holiness could return at any moment. The lack of orders before she left implicitly suggested that they were free to go home, and they’d be fools to miss that opportunity to get away.

"We can just go to my place," Kyon offered.  Never before in a million years would he have invited Koizumi over to his place, but he supposed his opinion of the other boy had changed a little, even if by necessity.  And honestly, just having someone else there in that dark, gloomy apartment would make it a little more bearable for a while.

Koizumi blinked, this time definitely showing genuine surprise.  A second later, though, his visage relaxed back into that unreadable smile, and he responded, "Certainly."
 
They gathered their bags and headed out of the school. The sky was covered with grey clouds, casting a dreary pall over the scenery.  Kyon rubbed at his arms.  It reminded him of closed space.
 
Neither of them talked much on the way, which was a bit unusual as Koizumi tended to talk his ear off with philosophical musings whenever it was just the two of them. Maybe he sensed the heavy mood. Either way, Kyon was grateful for it.
 
Soon enough, they arrived at the apartment. He fiddled with the lock and shoved the door open, fumbling for the light switch.  "Come on in," he mumbled, shuffling off his shoes next to the door.  Koizumi followed him inside, eyes bright and searching, very obviously taking in every detail of the small apartment.

It was small, Kyon realised.  He knew intellectually that it wasn't spacious, but it seemed almost cavernous when it was just him there.  With two people present, it was suddenly cramped.
 
Koizumi was still examining the place with an odd expression on his face.  Feeling strangely defensive, Kyon drawled, "Is there a problem?"

"Oh, no, no problem," Koizumi hurriedly replied, waving his hands in a disarming gesture.  "It's just that - you know... you've never invited anyone over here before.  It's quite the honour to be the first."

Never anyone at all?  He was apparently a bigger loner than he thought. 
 
“It’s no big deal. Just never had a reason,” he muttered, a little embarrassed. “Want a drink?”
 
“What do you have?”
 
“…I have no idea.” Kyon fumbled through the fridge, which was mostly empty. He needed to go shopping again. The cupboards next. Success. “Mint tea?”
 
“That’ll be fine.”
 
He set the kettle boiling. “You can sit down, you know. Actually, wait, I’ll get the chair from the desk.” There was only one stool at the table. He dragged the chair from his room and then served the tea. 
 
“You didn’t have to go to any trouble,” Koizumi said, even as he took a careful sip of the still-steaming tea. “You really do live alone?”
 
“You didn’t know?” There wasn’t some mysterious guardian he didn’t know about, was there?
 
“Oh, I knew… it’s just, you never talk about it, so…”
 
“Am I really that bad?” he asked.
 
"Well, you've never exactly been forthcoming with information about yourself," Koizumi explained, as though it were obvious.  And it probably would have been if he had the right set of memories to accompany his current life.  "I confess that I was aware of your background, since the Agency went to some trouble investigating you, but hearing about it and seeing it for yourself is..."
 
“You live alone too. And so does Asakura. And even the computer society’s president.”
 
“Does he? I wasn’t aware. How did you find that out?”
 “Don’t dodge the point.”
 
Koizumi shrugged with a smile. “What you say is true, but you’ll agree that our circumstances are a little different. I’m still fortunate enough to have both parents, even if they’re living far away, and Asakura, well…”
 
"How did they die?" he asked quietly.

“Pardon?” Koizumi looked briefly confused.
 
“My parents.”
 
That was clearly a question the transfer student had not been expecting.  "Excuse me?"

"You said you looked into it, right?" he asked, looking away.  "You should know.  How long I've been living like this, whether I ever had a sister, what happened to my parents...”

Koizumi suddenly stood, hand reaching out.  Kyon recoiled automatically from the unexpected movement, but the esper's hand merely felt his forehead.  "Hm, you don't seem to have a fever... are you sure you're feeling well, Kyon?"

Slapping the hand away, he snapped, "I feel fine!"  Wait... "Actually, no.  No, I don't feel fine.  This is just so messed up I don't even know where to start."

"You said it was something to do with Suzumiya earlier," Koizumi prodded.

Right.  He'd been through this conversation a dozen times before now, it should be easy to do it once more.  "Yeah... yeah."  He paused, sorting through his thoughts.  "See, the thing is, Haruhi's been remaking the universe."

As always, Koizumi merely raised an eyebrow in response, waiting to hear more.  The fact that his reaction barely ever changed was reassuring.  "She's been remaking it again and again recently, and I'm apparently the only one aware of it.  You told me... well, I don't know if you've told me in this universe yet or not, but in the original universe... that I was sort of immune to her power, which was why she kept me around even though I'm supposedly a 'normal' human.  So she's been changing the universe over and over again, and I keep waking up in a new world with all of these little changes."  Koizumi was still silent, so he continued, "Instead of Asakura in the club, it was Nagato... she's... not quite human the same way Asakura is.  And instead of Tsuruya, we had a time-traveller named Asahina."

Koizumi was staring at him with an unreadable expression.  "...I see."

Kyon barely resisted the urge to punch the table, but clenched his hands a little tighter.  "It's like being stuck in some twisted version of Groundhog Day.  We keep trying to find some way to reverse things back to the original universe, but before we can get anywhere Haruhi changes things again and I'm back right where I started."  He slumped, running a tired hand through his hair.  "Argh, I just sound crazy."

"I believe you," Koizumi stated quietly.

Kyon gave him a somewhat wonky smile - he had the sensation that it probably came out more of a grimace.  "I knew you would."

"Oh?"

"Yeah.  You've believed me in every universe so far.  I really need to thank you for that.  Asahina thought I was insane.  Though I think you said that was... 'cognitive dissonance', or something."

"Hmm, yes, that would fit that criteria.  Fortunately this is the exact sort of thing the Agency worries about, so it does not seem so impossible to me."  Koizumi was staring at him with that odd expression again.

"Right."  He'd heard it before, but the repetition was slightly reassuring in this case.

"You mentioned your parents?"  The esper gestured vaguely at the apartment around them, but his eyes didn't once leave his face.  "I take it your memories are different?"

"Yeah.  I..."  His throat was closing up.  Swallowing, he forced the words out. "Last week, I was living with my family in a proper house.  I had a little sister.  Now... I don't know what.  I've figured out that I'm an orphan, but that's all I really know."

Suddenly, Koizumi stood, and in two short strides was pulling him into a tight hug.  Kyon gasped, shocked by the unexpected gesture.  "Koizumi, what-"

"It must be so hard," he murmured into his ear.  "I can't even imagine how lonely that must be."
 
Kyon blinked, surprised at how blurry his vision had become.  Was he crying?

Almost involuntarily, he wound up burying his face in Koizumi's shoulder, hands fisting themselves in the fabric of the esper's shirt.
 
“It’ll be okay,” Koizumi murmured soothingly into his ear. “We’ll figure something out. That’s what we do.”
 
Kyon really, really wanted to believe him.
 

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
yusahana6323
Oct. 31st, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
Awww Kyon! D; Poor boy.
skibalovesya
Sep. 14th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
Toss out what I said last chapter, I am crying. ;^;

I... Koizumi. Oh my goodness.

That hug was like, everything ever. I can't even imagine being in Kyon's position there.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )