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Universe Roulette - Chapter 14

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: Second last chapter!


Universe Roulette

Chapter 14


There were noises at the door again. He ignored them. Haruhi came around every couple of days, sometimes with the other members of the Brigade, sometimes without. Her visits were becoming a little less frequent – maybe she was finally giving up on him.
The apartment remained dark and empty.
The knocking was awfully persistent. Was it bill collection? He searched through the dusty recesses of his memories, and recalled he’d paid all the utilities at some point, but couldn’t estimate how long ago that had been. Surely not long enough for debtors to be making house calls. He didn’t move - content to ignore it. His mind felt like it was wrapped in dull, grey fuzz.

He didn't react to the voice at first, even though it sounded faintly nostalgic.

"Kyon!"  The voice sounded a little more panicked, now.  Odd, for some reason he hadn't ever expected that particular voice to ever gain that quality.

"Hey, Kyon, look at me!  Are you alright?"  There were hands on his shoulders.  They felt strangely hot - or maybe his skin was just cold.  Still, it was proof enough that the voice wasn't merely a figment of his imagination.  He rolled his head to the side, staring through half-lidded eyes.

Wait... Koizumi?

He started laughing, but it came out more as an inaudible wheeze.

"Kyon?" Uncertainty again.

Cracking an eye open to regard the esper, he replied, "You are real, right?"  It was mildly surprising to his own ears how hoarse his voice had become from disuse.

Koizumi appeared disturbed.  "I assure you that, as of this exact moment, I am quite real."  It wasn't the most reassuring of responses, but it was the exact sort of thing the mysterious transfer student would say.

"Where did you go?" he asked, still not bothering to move from his slumped position.

"It appears that I have been missing for several universes.  Suzumiya has been quite upset of late, apparently - she's gone through quite a few."

"Hn."  Wait.  Kyon bolted upright, though the room spun crazily for a moment after the sudden movement.  Koizumi placed a hand on his shoulder to steady him.  "How do you know that she's been switching universes?"

Koizumi merely grasped him under the arm and pulled him to his feet.  Kyon was too stunned to react, though a distant part of mind was mildly alarmed at how weak his legs felt.  "We'll fix you up first.  I'll explain after. What’s wrong with you?”
“I guess I haven’t eaten for a while,” he mumbled.
“I can tell that just by looking at you,” Koizumi said, leading him to the chair by the table. Kyon slumped down into it while the esper went to the fridge. There was a long silence. “I guess you weren’t kidding. It’s completely empty.”
“Haven’t been outside for a while to go shopping either,” he added.
Koizumi set the kettle on, then proceeded to rummage through his mostly-empty pantry. “Looks like ramen, then. We’ll get you something more substantial to eat later, but this will do for now.” He proceeded to make tea for the two of them, then filled the cup of instant ramen with boiling water, bringing it all over to the table and carefully setting it down. “It’s hot, wait a minute or so for it to cool.”
“So? How did you get your memories back?”
“It was all rather confusing. When I woke up this morning, I quickly realised that this was a new universe created by Suzumiya, but what didn't make any sense was the fact that I was aware of the change.  Upon further reflection, I realised that I could recall a number of universes."
Kyon listened attentively, taking the first few tentative slurps of ramen. His stomach felt a bit weird, but even after the first few bites some of the grey fog lifted.
Koizumi steepled his fingers and leaned back in his chair, eyes glinting in the dim light.  "This was rather distressing.  I was anxious to discuss this turn of events with you, but you weren't at school or club.  Suzumiya was quite upset by your prolonged absence, apparently.  So I came looking for you."

"Who's in the brigade now?" he asked on a whim.  He knew that the universe had changed several times since he'd stopped going to school, but having not stepped outside the apartment for so long he was unaware of what changes the world might have gone through.  For all he could be aware, dinosaurs might well be roaming the streets by now.

"Tsuruya, Asakura and the computer society's president.  I was quite surprised upon entering the clubroom to find it full of so many unexpected faces."

"Hn, so the brigade hasn't changed for a while now," he muttered to himself.  "Why can you suddenly remember all of this, though?  You weren't aware of any changes before."

"I wasn’t sure before, but now… I have a theory that it's to do with you," Koizumi stated simply.

Kyon just stared at him, already knowing that a wordy and likely overly complicated explanation was bound to be forthcoming.

Koizumi didn't disappoint.  "You ceased attending school, and by the looks of it, performing most other activities as well.  The Brigade's and Suzumiya's various attempts to reach out to you all failed.  It's my understanding that in her frustration, she started creating alternate universes with elements that might coax you back." That explained why Asahina-sensei had turned back up briefly.  “When even those attempts failed, it appears that her subconscious at least, recognised that the universe roulette could not continue, and indeed the more she tried to change things to her liking the further away from achieving those goals she became.  Many in the Agency have become aware that the world has been repeatedly remade of late, though my awareness seems far more comprehensive than most of theirs.  The higher-ups are already arguing over ways to incite Suzumiya into returning to world to its original form - or rather, the one that you and I remember - seeing as that seemed to be the most sustainable version.  I suppose that perhaps the analogy that we espers are the medicine to soothe Suzumiya's damage was more accurate that I first supposed."
Kyon frowned, staring at the bottom of his empty cup. The noodles were finished. He moved on to the tea instead. That was all very reassuring, he supposed. If they could remember it, maybe, just maybe…
Did he dare allow himself to hope again?
"So, why exactly are you living here?" Koizumi asked, glancing about the apartment inquisitively.  "I tried your house first, but a young family was living there instead.  I had to break into the school records to get this address.  I must say that I am surprised." 

Kyon might have felt defensive of his home if he truly considered it his.  "We already had this conversation, before you disappeared," he reported instead.

"Ah, forgive me.  I can recall the original universe - or at least the one that persisted for the three years following that Tanabata - very clearly, but my memories of the universes in between are fuzzy at best."

"Oh."  He felt vaguely depressed by that, but having Koizumi back at all was enough for him.  "I've been living here for several universes.  Haruhi created one where I was an orphan."

Koizumi sucked in a breath, then leant forward, placing a hand over his.  Kyon normally would have recoiled from such a gesture, but now it felt mostly comforting.  It was reassurance that the other boy was real.  "That's terrible.  No wonder you weren't coming to school."

Kyon just shrugged, averting his eyes. 

"However... even though my recollection is imperfect, I think I can remember... you did still come to school to begin with.  What happened afterwards?  My memory is completely blank in that regard, for some reason."  The esper's brow creased in thought.

The high schooler fidgeted in his seat briefly, before admitting, "You wouldn't remember because you disappeared."

Silence.  Then, "...Kyon?"

"You were the only person left I could rely on," he whispered, more to himself than anyone else.  "...And then she took you away too."
The silence this time lasted for what felt like an eternity. When Kyon risked a glance, Koizumi smiled gently. “I never expected to become the crutch of anyone’s sanity.”
Kyon glared, then threw the empty Styrofoam cup at the esper. “Don’t make fun of it! I’m being serious here!”
“My apologies. I didn’t intend to.” The smile disappeared. “It was passive suicide, wasn’t it?”
Kyon was left momentarily speechless. Averting his eyes, he muttered, “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I don’t think I am.” He gestured around the apartment. “Just looking around here… you haven’t taken out the trash, you haven’t bathed, you haven’t bought food or eaten… you’ve just stopped. You haven’t even done the bare minimum to stay alive. Looking at you, I’d say I arrived just in time.”
“Shut up,” Kyon grumbled. “It’s not like that.”
“I think it is. It’s quite reasonable. You’ve always taken stressful situations rather well, but you do have a breaking point. Every human does. But rather than confront it, and take an active role in your death… so much easier to sit back and just let it happen, correct?” Koizumi’s eyes glittered in the dim light, and his expression was as serious as he’d ever seen it.
Kyon’s mouth opened and closed for a moment. He eventually settled on closed.
He didn’t have anything to say to that. Koizumi was right. He knew that. But he didn’t want to acknowledge it.
Koizumi leant back, smile reappearing on his face. “It’s okay. You don’t need to be embarrassed about it. From what I can tell, you held out remarkably.”
Kyon didn’t respond. He was still humiliated that Koizumi had seen through him so easily, so quickly… he’d seen him at his very worst. A change of subject was in order. “But you’re back, now. How do we fix it?”
Koizumi tapped the side of cheek. “While I don’t approve of the method, I think you actually stumbled upon the right idea. Suzumiya wanted you to spend more time at the Brigade, and by stopping…”
“Wait, what?”
“My memories – and existence too, apparently – only returned when Suzumiya started to get desperate to have you return. With that in mind, it only makes sense that should you persist in your absence, she might be enticed to return to the world to the one you and I both consider the original. It was the most sustainable version, after all.”
It made a twisted sort of sense. “So I just keep on ignoring the door and everything else?”
“Yes. I’ll be sure to tell Suzumiya that I haven’t been able to get through to you either. In the meantime, though, I think we need to get you fed. I’ll go get some proper food.”
Kyon rubbed the back of neck. “I guess I should go take a bath.” He probably stunk. It had been a while since the last one.
“I’d rather you wait until I get back. In your state, it might be dangerous.”
“What, but-”
Koizumi stood and walked around to his side of the table, placing a hand on his shoulder. “You could drown.”
His face burned. “I’m not going to commit suicide, okay?”
The esper smiled. “It would ease my mind some. While I’m relatively confident that in the case of your death Suzumiya should be able to at least exert enough influence over you to bring you back to life, I’d rather not take the risk.” He paused, then added, “I was actually more worried about you fainting.”
If anything, Kyon felt more awkward. “Oh.” Just great. He was happy Koizumi was back, he really was, but did the esper have to make him feel like such a fool? He sighed. Either way, the esper had a point. He wasn’t so proud as to not admit that fainting was a very real possibility. He hadn’t been exactly lucid for the past… however many days. “I’ll clean up or something then.”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Kyon looked around the apartment as the esper headed out to the shops, and started tidying up. He still felt woozy, but his head was clear. It was a little irritating how exhausted he was just from cleaning the kitchen and tying up some of the garbage bags, though.
He jerked awake to Koizumi shaking his shoulder a while later, apparently having fallen asleep at the table. He tried not to be too embarrassed at having a bath with the door open and having to constantly respond to the esper to prove he hadn’t fainted, and was then mothered through a meal he had trouble keeping down. By the time the Koizumi left, though, the apartment didn’t seem so dark and cold and lonely anymore. 
He had hope again. It was impossible before, but there was a solution now. For all the trouble he caused, Koizumi was competent at dealing with matters related to Haruhi. He went to sleep that night reassured and faintly optimistic.
Monochrome worlds and suffocating stillness filled his nightmares, but this time he was eager to open his eyes.
It was still the same apartment.
Kyon flopped back down onto the bed. It was stupid to be impatient. These sorts of things generally took time, and only an optimistic fool would expect things to happen instantaneously. It would probably be a gradual shift back to his original universe, he reasoned. Maybe Nagato was back now, or Asahina again, or even Taniguchi and Kunikida. If he was really lucky, one of them might come visit after school. He was even briefly tempted to go see for himself, but that would probably be detrimental to their plans. If he wanted to get his family back too, being patient was the only course of action.
Still, with the hope of returning to a normal life he found the motivation to dig up his textbooks and try to catch up on some of the missed work. He even took the trash out and cleaned the place up some more so that it looked a little bit more presentable. He was still feeling poorly, and eating made his stomach churn, but he was doing pretty well overall.
The sun started to sink in the sky. Haruhi was probably keeping everyone in the Brigade late. Kyon prepared some tea, then flicked on the television for some background noise. The apartment was much too quiet.
Twilight arrived.
Where was Koizumi? He had promised he would come over straight after club, and as whimsical as the esper was, he was never late without good reason. There weren’t any divine giants running around, were there? 
Only one way to find out. Kyon flipped open his mobile phone and keyed through his address book.
Koizumi’s name wasn’t in there.
Dread seized him. Maybe that wasn’t such a big deal. If that were the case…
He quickly dialled the numbers in. 
‘This call could not be connected. The number you have dialled may be incorrect, or no longer available.’
In a fit of anger, Kyon threw the phone at the wall. It hit with a dull thwack and clattered noisily to the floor.
Impossible. No, not impossible.
“It’s too cruel,” he said, panting. “This is too cruel, Haruhi!”
Koizumi had brought him back from the brink of suicide. He would admit that to himself, at least. And his reward was to vanish from the universe once again?!
His knees felt weak as he slid to the ground, back braced against the kitchen wall. What had gone wrong? Where did they miscalculate?
Kyon’s head thudded against the wall. 
He couldn’t wait any longer.