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The Secret Everyday

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The air indoors hung heavy - stuffy and unmoving - accentuated only further by the silence between the two figures sat at the table. This was a recent occurrence; minutes beforehand, five of them had been crammed around the table, listening to Haruhi's plans (and demands) for the immediate future. They'd agreed to meet there. They'd met there. However, life had a habit of getting in the way of plans made; a call from Kyon's mother asking for some shopping-related favor had sent him scurrying from the table, clapping his hands together, making his apologies. Mikuru, too, had had some other commitment that had to be taken care of. Yuki hadn't said much of anything, but had, also, made her exit.

Itsuki sat with his fingertips pressed to the glass sat in front of him, running them up and down the condensation, appreciating the cool sensation against his skin; the temptation was to press his fingers then to his neck, his forehead, but he refrained. Melting ice clinked in his glass. Haruhi had finished her drink - had done so while the others had been there - but seemed to be in no hurry either to leave or to order another. (Of course, Kyon's absence means having to buy her own...)

"I'll buy you another."

Apparently lost in thought, Haruhi glanced up on being addressed, evidently somewhat surprised to be disturbed in that fashion. "Huh?"

"Another drink. If you want."

Still somewhat distracted, she shook her head. "I'll be going soon." She glanced towards Itsuki, briefly down to the amount left in his glass. "You didn't have other plans, then?"

A dangerous thing to ask. Her irritation on (almost) being left alone seemed quite evident, and where Haruhi's irritation came, a call from the Organization usually followed. The summer holiday gave no guaranteed rest from that occupational hazard. Itsuki knew he was ill-equipped to deal with the situation; all he could offer was his presence, and it was very clear that that was by no means enough to shift her mood. Nonetheless, an attempt to placate didn't hurt; he gave an easygoing smile in response to her question.

"Knowing we'd be meeting up, I made sure to keep my diary free." Good work from the Deputy Chief of the SOS Brigade, don't you think? (Itsuki held his tongue on that latter thought.)

"Hm. Be nice if the others followed your example, right?"

"... Sometimes circumstances conspire against us. We were merely unfortunate today."

"Right." Arms folded, Haruhi drummed her fingernails against her elbow. "But if this happens again, there'll be consequences--!"

"Oho. Perhaps I should let Kyon know that he's in danger."

"He should know that himself--!"

I feel he might be aware of that fact. Mikuru and Yuki could escape Haruhi's wrath by virtue of not being Kyon; that much was obvious. And if the situation was different, and I'd been called away, and it was Kyon sat here currently--. (That situation would be different once again, and Itsuki knew that.)

Deflating somewhat, Haruhi's anger calmed down to a sulky expression. "... Really though, you've got no other plans?"

"That isn't to say my summer is completely empty, but the SOS Brigade is, of course, always my first priority."

"No, like, plans with girls, or anything like that?"

"What an exciting life I should lead were that the case. No, nothing like that."

"You hear it a lot, you know."

"What's that?"

"Girls in the school corridors, wondering what you're up to. Whether you're dating somebody, or if you'd be open to dating somebody, or if you've been seen with somebody... useless gossip like that."

"They flatter me. I'm sure it must be entertaining for them, in some way or another." (This wasn't to say that Itsuki had never been on the receiving end of a confession, but he'd gently rejected each and every one. The sheen of brand-new transfer student faded quickly, as the whispers of his association with that Suzumiya got louder. The general impression that she was strange, and her club was strange, and anybody who would join it and stay within it was strange; that included brand-new transfer students as much as anybody else, and so the frequency of confessions diminished.)

"Is that sort of thing really interesting?"

"To some people, I'm sure."

Haruhi took a moment to contemplate this statement, her expression not improving as she spoke further. "There's no-one you like, is there?"

A question asked casually, but that cut immediately and deep. A question asked in half-boredom, lidded eyes expressing her contempt for the very concept as Itsuki kept his fingers wrapped around his glass, eyebrows raised slightly in surprise, adjusting back to a smile as his mind raced desperately to craft the most inoffensive answer in reply. You can ask something like that so easily, can't you?

"Well... I like you, of course. I like Kyon. Asahina-san, Nagato-san... I like them, too." He laughed softly. "I'm quite spoilt by the company that I keep. Some might call me fortunate. I might even describe myself in that way, if asked."

That disdainful expression, aimed squarely at Itsuki, didn't dissipate; if anything, it only intensified. "... Totally boring. I don't get it." (She glanced to the side, seemingly no longer considering Itsuki worthy of direct attention.)

"I apologize."

"No, I mean--..." (What you meant was quite obvious. Again, I apologize.) "... It doesn't matter." Unceremoniously, Haruhi stood up from the table, stepping away and pushing her chair under. "I'm going. But we'll be meeting back here again tomorrow, so don't forget--!"

Itsuki gave a reverent nod of the head. "I would never. Oh--... I could accompany you home, if you wish?"

In the process of turning away from the table, Haruhi paused, again seeming slightly surprised to be asked such a question. She shook her head, seemingly unsure on how to respond. "No, it's--... it's okay. I've got to--... there's some things I should probably--... shopping, you know. Groceries. Super dull. Doesn't matter."

Not all that different from Kyon, then. Perhaps you hope to meet him there? "I could carry them for you. It's no trouble."

"... I'll be fine. Don't worry about it. Take the rest of the day off, Deputy Chief--!" The enthusiasm she injected into those words sounded strange; Itsuki felt it, and could see that Haruhi did, too. Correcting herself, she gave an awkward half-smile before departing with no further word spoken.

Itsuki sat there for a short while longer, until the ice in his glass had melted almost completely. Downing what little of his drink remained in one gulp, he then leant back against the hard padded backrest of the seat, staring up at the ceiling for a few moments before taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. Even then - or especially then - he couldn't shake the thought of that look Haruhi had given him, nakedly scornful for both the question asked and the answer given, burnt into his memory. Of course that sort of thing isn't interesting. You knew it wouldn't be when you asked, and yet--

Itsuki stood from his seat, paid for his drink, and then left the establishment; from the moment he'd woken up that morning, the weather outside made no pretence of how it was going to be for the rest of the day. From the restaurant interior, the bright sunlight at the windows had seemed practically blinding. This remained the case on stepping outdoors, met by shimmering heat and the relentless beat of summer all around him. Hottest day of the year so far, they'd said on the weather report. Set to continue throughout the week, and beyond. Itsuki walked from the restaurant, supposing there was little else to do but to head home. To the end of the month, they're saying.

It wasn't a lie.

He took the way home slowly, pausing under the shade of trees, stopping off to buy a drink, choosing the way that would take him by the river. On days like that, large bodies of water always felt tempting - what if someone jumped in there? That didn't seem like a good idea, but so long as it remained an idea, it didn't hurt as a fantasy. Of course, there are other options for swimming--. (They'd go before long, Itsuki knew. Haruhi hadn't said anything in regards to that just yet, but it felt inevitable.)

I wasn't lying.

All things considered, it was a pleasant walk home. Itsuki returned to his apartment undisturbed, wondering (as he unlocked the doors that would lead him inside) if that was so much of a surprise. He didn't know where the others had gone, after all - Kyon and Haruhi, to the shopping district, probably. Asahina-san and Nagato-san... unknown. Itsuki was content to let that remain a small summer mystery. Perhaps they'd wonder the same of me. The interior of the apartment foyer felt pleasantly cool, enough so that it almost felt like cheating. He rode the elevator to his floor, letting himself in and flinging himself down against the couch as soon as the door closed behind him, moving only to reach up with the remote control for the air conditioning of his own room. He let his arm fall and the remote fall the handful of inches from his hand to the carpet below, and closed his eyes.

Locked away in the safety of his apartment, Itsuki could let the terror of his words rip through him, even those spoken in - mostly - jest. It was dangerous to say anything like that. Anything that would disturb or confuse her--. Chosen for this job because they trusted him to do it, and trusted him not to do things like that--. The whole point of the SOS Brigade was to hide in plain sight; he knew that, he'd always known that.

She thought you were deflecting. Thought you were patronizing her. Of course she'd be annoyed, who wouldn't be?

Perhaps a call would come through from the Organization; if so, Itsuki was ready to take full responsibility. Or perhaps she might run into Kyon in the shopping district. Perhaps her mood might take a turn for the positive. Perhaps they'd spend time together, domestic and unimportant, the small events that made up a summer holiday. Kyon would carry her groceries, Itsuki knew that much. He'd complain, but he'd do it. That was always how things seemed to turn out. (The weight of desire hung as heavy about him as the summer heat outside had done - but the air conditioning was strong, and the room was cooling nicely. Desire couldn't be shaken off so easily, but Itsuki was used to that.)

He moved only to bring his phone out from his pocket, reaching up to place it on the table beside the couch - the prime location to be noticed on the next call from the Organization. (Or from anybody else-- any one of them--.) Again, he closed his eyes, allowing himself to fall into a half-slumber rather than confront his feelings any further--

--but then disturbed by the trill of an email. (Not the sound alert associated with the Organization.)

"Koizumi. You still in town? Haruhi found me. There's a LOT of groceries. You want to help?" A few seconds later, another email. "I mean obviously you don't want to, right. Who'd want to? What I mean is, it'd help me out." And another. "I don't want to be demanding or anything. That's Haruhi's job. Sorry. You're probably busy too. Don't worry about it."

Sitting upright on the couch, Itsuki quickly thumbed out a message in return. "I'll be there immediately."

"... Thanks. I'll make it up to you."

Making a noise of amusement as he got up from the couch, Itsuki stared at that one email for a moment longer before putting his phone away and gathering up his things to leave the apartment.

You don't have to. ...But perhaps I'll hold you to that, regardless.

(He turned off the air conditioning, and stepped outside once more.)