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Universe Roulette - Chapter 5

Title: Universe Roulette


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: And things change just a little bit more.


Universe Roulette

Chapter 5


Kyon awoke the next morning and headed to school in a sleepy daze, having woken up several times throughout the night. Haruhi was late, so they didn’t really speak before class, but other than that the morning was perfectly ordinary. Well, as ordinary as could be expected when Asahina was teaching the class. It would probably take a couple of weeks to get used to that particular change.
Aside from that one rather glaring anomaly, though, things were normal. Until lunchtime, that is. That was when he first had the clue that things weren’t Quite Right.
As soon as class was dismissed Haruhi wandered out of the room, no doubt planning to stalk the halls during lunch as she normally did, on the lookout for paranormal events or any other forms of weirdness. Reflexively, Kyon stood and let his gaze wander the classroom, automatically seeking out Kunikida and Taniguchi for lunch. It only took a moment to deduce that they weren’t present. Had they gone on ahead to the cafeteria without him?
It wasn’t a big deal, though he was mildly irritated as they usually went to the trouble of waiting for each other. With a sigh, he left the classroom and ambled towards the cafeteria.
His friends weren’t there either. That was odd. He’d passed most of their other usual hangouts on the way, and those had been similarly empty. Maybe they were off sick? The odds of them both being off sick on the same day were slim, and he couldn’t recall any fuss in attendance that morning, but admittedly he hadn’t been paying very close attention.
Lunch wound up being eaten alone in the courtyard. It felt a little awkward, but staring up at the clouds with only silence for company was somewhat soothing. Theoretically he could have gone to clubroom to eat lunch with Nagato, but that would probably have been even more awkward than eating alone. He wound up heading back to the classroom early. Asahina-sensei was there, surprisingly enough, along with a few stragglers who seemed to be vying for her attention.
She nodded hello to him as he entered, but otherwise didn’t react to his presence. Huh. It seemed that she’d forgotten about him being crazy already. But did people really just forget something like that? It was Asahina admittedly, who seemed rather air-headed for someone from the future. Not that he really expected that everyone from the future would be super-intelligent, but surely they would have chosen someone a little more reliable to be their representative to the past?
He wasn’t going to question his good fortune. It was hard enough to get used to having to treat Asahina like a teacher without her being concerned about his mental stability. 
Afternoon classes were rather dull, so Kyon found himself looking forward to club. Learning to play bass guitar wasn’t so bad. He’d toyed with the idea in the past, but possessed neither the funds nor the motivation to bother pursuing it. This whole performance gig thing Haruhi was arranging might even be something to look forward to if he didn’t already know it would likely wind up in him being worked half to death while wearing strange clothes. 
Kyon knocked on the door reflexively and then opened it, casting his eyes about quickly to see who had arrived before him. 
A familiar looking girl whirled around as the door swung shut, smiling radiantly.
"Oh, Kyon, hello!" the blue-haired beauty greeted with a cheery smile.  "Suzumiya and the others haven't arrived yet.  Would you like to play something until they get here?  I promise not to 'cheat'."  She winked at him.

… Asakura?
It took all of his self-control to avoid throwing a chair at the girl and running for it. Where the hell did she come from? Wasn’t she supposed to be dead, or deleted, or whatever it was Nagato had done to get rid of her?
That was when the coin dropped.
Haruhi had changed the universe again.
Twice in a little less than a week? Was that even possible? Was the girl so bored and impatient with her new universe already that she had to impose changes on him again?
It took all of his willpower to calm his thumping heart and keep his legs still.  His mind wouldn't stop racing, though.  Okay, there was no immediate danger – Asakura hadn’t done or said anything particularly strange yet.  Now to take stock of the situation.  Where the hell was Nagato?  It was a bit strange to see the literature clubroom missing its accessory.

Belatedly, he realised that Asakura was patiently waiting for him to say something.  Keeping his expression neutral, he carefully responded, "I think I'll keep my ego intact today, sorry."

It seemed to be an appropriate response, as Asakura just pouted - it was still alarming how two alien computers could both show such drastically different levels of emotion - then brightened as the door opened again.  "Good afternoon," Koizumi greeted cheerfully.

Kyon didn't think he'd ever been so grateful to see the esper before in his life.  Even if he'd established that this was most likely a new universe, Asakura's visage had brought forth memories once forcefully shoved to the back of his mind.  He'd been literally seconds from death the last time they met.  She'd tried to destroy Nagato as well!  It all happened so quickly at the time that he had barely had a chance to process it, but for several nights following he'd woken in a cold sweat, raw terror strumming through his veins as he recalled that knife slicing through his tie and barely missing his chest, the horror when he realised he couldn't move his own body, the shock of seeing Nagato impaled and her blood spraying across the room. 
He barely suppressed a shiver as he sat down, nodding an automatic greeting to the other boy.  Having Asakura there was just too creepy.  Even as she flitted about, making them tea and generally acting the part of the ideal girl and class representative, he couldn't relax.  Koizumi gave him odd looks periodically, which seemed to be indicative of him not acting in character, but it was rather hard to act in character when you were no longer sure what your character was supposed to be.  How would he normally react to Asakura if she was in the Brigade and never tried to kill him?  His imagination probably wasn't up to the task of recreating that scenario.

That was, of course, still supposing that Haruhi had re-made the universe again.  But Koizumi's familiarity with Asakura all but confirmed it.

God, this wasn't going to become a regular thing, was it?  He didn't think he could handle that.  He was relatively sure he could get used to almost anything given enough time, but he didn't even have that luxury.  Heck, he still wasn't used to having Asahina as a teacher and Tsuruya in the club, and now he had to add Asakura to that mix?

It was more troubling than even that.  He hadn't even had the chance to work towards potentially solving the problem in the previous universe - if there was a solution.  It didn't bode well for future attempts.
He jerked reflexively when Asakura placed the steaming hot cup of tea in front of him, and hastily tried to cover it up by reaching for his bag. She’d seen him, though, and smiled sweetly. “Daydreaming again, Kyon?”
It was too much. “I have to go,” he announced, standing abruptly.
“Already?” Koizumi asked, looking mildly surprised. Why was he so shocked? The esper was always leaving early and skipping out to work for the Agency, why couldn’t he have something urgent that needed doing? Okay, so he usually lingered in the club most afternoons because he was bored, but did they have to act so stunned, as though he was the sort who would never have something better to do?
He must have been more anxious than he first thought – he was getting off-topic. “Yeah.”
“What shall we tell Suzumiya then? She won’t be happy to find out that you left before she even got back from cleaning duty.”
“Just tell her some family business came up. It’s partially the truth anyway.” Which was actually a bald-faced lie, but Kyon had discovered pretending to tell half-truths made a more convincing lie than telling a whole one. He had the Brigade to thank for that particular skill.
It was only through sheer strength of will that Kyon managed to resist the urge to run from the school like a bat out of hell. 
Asakura was in the club. The universe had changed again. Asakura, the deceitfully nice class rep who had tried to kill him, now apparently served him tea in the club on a regular basis. That mantra wouldn’t stop spinning in his head the entire way home.
“Kyon’s home early!” his sister called when he arrived home, seemingly delighted by the news. Still stunned, he allowed himself to be dragged to the living room where she imperiously insisted that he help with her homework – although his little sister’s idea of ‘helping’ was more along the lines of ‘doing’.
“Do it yourself,” he scolded good-naturedly, relaxing slightly in the familiar atmosphere. The vacuum was humming upstairs, and there was a distant jingle of bike bells as some of the kids in the neighbourhood rode past. 
Here, it was hard to imagine that the universe had turned upside down, that a slightly eccentric girl who sat behind him in class was currently causing a hurricane of chaos around her and he’d been pulled straight into the eye of the storm. He idly wondered how many changes he might not even know about. Did his sister lose or gain classmates the way he did, and was just blissfully unaware of it? Did minor routines in his father’s job change at all without his notice? Had the kids playing in the street he’d passed on his way home always been part of that neighbourhood and he’d never noticed, or were they a new addition to Haruhi’s world? He really had no way of verifying any of the changes beyond his immediate vicinity. How large and complex were Haruhi’s unconscious alterations? Did she only bother to change things in her immediate environment, or was she making similar changes all over the place?
Just thinking about it gave him an immense headache. He excused himself from dinner that night and struggled through only half of his homework before finally giving up and going to bed. Then….
"I'll kill you and see how Suzumiya Haruhi responds."

With a gasp, Kyon sat up in bed, eyes wild.  For one terrifying moment he had no idea where he was, but seconds later his eyes started focusing properly and he caught sight of his desk.  Right.  Home.  He was in bed.  It had been a dream.  Although in this case nightmare would be the more appropriate term.

With a groan, he flopped back down onto the bed, trying to calm his breathing.  Ugh.  Seeing Asakura again brought that whole horrible incident back to the forefront of his memory.  For a few moments, he'd been sure that he was going to die, and then after that, certain that he was going to bear witness to Nagato's demise.  It wasn't the sort of thing that really left you that easily.  It had only been a couple of days later that Koizumi had shown him enclosed space, and the day after that Haruhi tried to recreate the world for the first time; both events were spectacular and shocking enough to shunt the incident with Asakura into the dark recesses of his memory.  It wasn't pleasant to suddenly be reliving it in his dreams.  Was this what you called post-traumatic stress disorder?  He heard stories about people who went through shocking experiences but seemed to fine for weeks, months, even years, but then when they least expected it everything would catch up with them at once.  Wasn't it mostly war veterans that dealt with that, though?  Kyon wasn't sure - it wasn't something he'd ever particularly thought about before.  Still, how many people effectively had the dead come back to life to haunt them?  Not that Asakura was a ghost, or deliberately haunting him, but the situation had clearly upset him more than he'd first supposed.

The sun was still rising – did he really sleep a full eight hours? He didn’t remember actually falling asleep. It was far earlier than when he normally dragged himself out of bed, but Kyon got up and got dressed anyway.  As if he'd get back to sleep after that
His little sister was confused that morning when she darted down the hallway, clearly intending to wake him up, only to be stopped by the sight of her elder brother stepping out fully dressed and ready for school. He raised an eyebrow at her as she scuffed her foot on the floor and sulked, having being denied her fun. 
The commute to school was more leisurely than normal, and he arrived before Haruhi for once. It gave him the time to finish his homework neglected the night before – at least, until her highness arrived.
“Where were you yesterday?” she demanded, slapping her bag down onto her desk with a bang.
“Didn’t Koizumi tell you?” he asked.
“He just said you had some sort family crisis come up,” she muttered.
“I wouldn’t go so far as a crisis,” he retorted. “It was an obligation.”
“The Brigade should come first!” Haruhi insisted. “It completely messed up the afternoon’s plans!”
Kyon just rolled his eyes. Probably best to take the path of least resistance in this case. “Sorry. I would have told you myself if I had more warning.”
Asahina-sensei arrived then, cutting the exchange short – and not a moment too soon. His excuse was a flimsy one, and probably wouldn’t hold up under Haruhi’s prolonged questioning and detective skills. Hopefully she’d forget about it during classes. 
Either way, there were more pressing matters on Kyon’s mind. The day before he’d been complacent. Now he listened to role call carefully, the worms of suspicion fully rooted in his mind.
Asahina completed attendance. No one was absent. 
She hadn’t called either Kunikida or Taniguchi’s names.
Haruhi had conjured a universe in which his friends didn’t exist.
Maybe not, he reasoned with himself, a little desperately. They might just be in a different class. Or maybe even a different school.
If they were in a different school, they weren’t his friends, were they? It was practically the same thing. He could hardly just call them up and act familiar. He’d lost contact with most of his other middle school friends who’d gone to different schools – there was no reason to think that he’d keep in contact with Kunikida under the circumstances, or that he’d ever meet Taniguchi at all for that matter. 
Suddenly he realised what made him uneasy the day before – there was a slight vibe permeating the air that made him uncomfortable. He was a loner. Well, not entirely a loner, since Haruhi technically counted as a friend by other people’s standards, but by the looks of it he kept to himself in this new universe. Surely if he’d made other friends in Taniguchi and Kunikida’s stead, they would have approached him at lunch the day before or something. But no one – other than the club members – had spoken to him at all the day before, and no one so far today either.
It was a little depressing to think that he was that socially awkward. Social awkwardness had never been a problem for him, though his association with Haruhi inevitably damaged his reputation significantly. But a friendless anti-social loner? 
Had he taken on Nagato’s role in the club in her absence? Was that the real reason why Koizumi was so surprised by his sudden need to leave the day before?
Maybe not, but how was he supposed to tell? It wasn’t like he could just go up to any old person and ask. That was a one-way trip to crazy town.
At least Asakura hadn't been reinstated in his class in this universe.  Kyon didn't think his nerves could have handled that – he might have really gone crazy after all.  His paranoia was almost enough to skip club that afternoon as well, but he needed to talk to Koizumi and didn't particularly want to track down the esper during lunch.  No, lunch would be spent looking for Nagato.
Unfortunately, it took most of lunch to even find the girl. It was a miserable affair, too – without his usual friends to ask, he was forced to resort to classmates he spoke to less frequently, and most of them were less than helpful. Nagato seemed to have a similar reputation to the one she had back in ‘his’ world, but apparently that reputation didn’t mean that anybody actually knew where she went most of the time. Eventually, he wound up stalking the halls and checking all of the classrooms, hoping to catch sight of the girl – if it was Nagato, she was bound to be reading in a corner somewhere.
After it felt like he’d checked every possible classroom in the school – and received more than a few odd glances for it - Kyon finally had one last, bright idea. He headed towards the computer society’s clubroom.
Just as he reached the door, however, the bell rang, indicating it was time to return to classes. Mentally groaning, Kyon was about to turn on his heel when the clubroom door opened. And there she was.
It was a huge relief to see that stoic demeanour again. Kyon was briefly surprised to see that Nagato was still wearing glasses, but supposed that if she and Asakura never fought then she wouldn’t have lost them in the first place. 
She gave him a brief look, but since the Brigade clubroom was right next-door, apparently didn’t think anything was unusual about his presence. Without any sort of acknowledgement, she walked past, heading back towards class. After a moment, Kyon realised that he ought to be doing that too.
At least he knew where she was now. He consoled himself with the knowledge that it would be easy enough to track her down tomorrow, even though he was reluctant to put it off for another day. 
Afternoon classes were over in what felt like the blink of an eye. Kyon was intending to go to club that afternoon to talk with Koizumi, but halfway there found his feet frozen in the hallway. Eventually, he turned and left the school, starting the long commute home. 
Haruhi would be furious that he dared to skip club two days in a row, but she would just have to deal with it. Kyon was sure he’d get used to Asakura quickly enough – after all, her demeanour was so peppy and pleasant that it was hard to take her as a serious threat, even after she tried to kill him. For now, though, the memory of his nightmare the night before was still a little too fresh. He could talk to the esper tomorrow.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2008 11:27 pm (UTC)

...also. He was loner.

there should be an "a." |3 ;;
Oct. 26th, 2008 05:21 am (UTC)
Good find! Thanks. :D

(Deleted comment)
Oct. 26th, 2008 05:24 am (UTC)
I LIKE THE WAY YOU THINK. ;) Also, fixed, thanks for that. Always miss something. Sometimes several somethings.


Oh, it's good that you're happy about angsting. Angst only gets worse. This is entirely an angst fic, with no other real point.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )