we have all the time in the world (to get it right)
Kyon is pretty sure that Haruhi is not actually responsible for the peculiar coincidence and configuration of this year's calendar – or maybe she is and it happened in a way that none of them are aware of the change, in any case the outcome is the same so Kyon does not waste time conjecturing – so he puts down the turn of events to the other primordial force in his life: his own bad luck. Either way this year Valentine's Day falls on Friday, which means they are free after school this year, which means Haruhi might want to do something together.
He is not sure, though, if she wants him to make plans or what; one of the few advantages of Haruhi being a poster-girl for eccentricity is that she doesn't much care for the usual boyfriend-girlfriend stuff and does not have any typical expectations of Kyon in this regard. But sometimes she turns out to be deeply conventional about things, as well, a trait Kyon finds both endearing and troubling.
When Kyon arrives at the school gates that Friday he has the feeling the whole building, nay, the whole world, perhaps universe, is watching him closely.
`Have you prepared something special to celebrate with Suzumiya?´
Kyon is torn between replying “None of your business” or “Haruhi and I don't have that kind of relationship”. Both would be true, in a way. But he takes too long choosing and Koizumi is talking again.
`Who knows what would happen if she ends with her romantic hopes crushed on this very crucial moment of her life. After all, it's the first Valentine's Day she will spend with a boyfriend, it's natural she has certain expectations.´
For some reason hearing Koizumi use the word boyfriend referring to him sends shivers down Kyon's spine, and not good ones.
`I imagine your Agency would like me to be a shining example of the male ideal for Haruhi today,´ Kyon half-comments, half-yawns.
Koizumi flashes one of his perfect smiles, so perfect they are nothing short of horrifying.
`If it's not too much trouble,´ he says, meaning the exact same opposite.
`Maybe your bosses should give me an allowance. If I'm going to keep Haruhi happy and distracted and preventing the end of the world through my romantic endeavours, it's going to be expensive.´
`I don't think we are allowed to give you money,´ Koizumi replies and chuckles.
Kyon is about to protest that Koizumi has always been more than eager to pimp him out to Haruhi so he shouldn't pretend to have scruples now.
`Has Suzumiya give you Valentine's Day chocolate?´ Asahina asks, interrupting, shifting the conversation from the dodgy to the naïve.
Kyon can't help but laughing.
`Haruhi? Giving me chocolate? I guess that would count as the end of the world.´
Asahina looks surprised and vaguely hurt by the answer, her never-failing capacity to think the best of Haruhi making Kyon feel sort of petty.
`I bet she wants to give you chocolate. Maybe she is too embarrassed. I'm sure that she did but-´ she trails off, her cheeks turning pink in that particular way that means she's said something she shouldn't have.
(Kyon discovers, weeks later, upon snooping around Haruhi's desk, that she indeed had intended to give him some chocolate on the day, but had decided against it, and the little heart-shaped box – no points for originality there, Haruhi, and he is surprised and touched – and its contents forever rest hidden among Haruhi's scissors and highlighters and clips and pencils pens)
`Last night I thought we could go to a radio telescope and send Valentines to beings from another planets because humans are too lame as romantic interests and we all deserve better,´ she explains.
`None taken,´ Kyon comments. Haruhi ignores him.
(ever since they have started, oh how would Kyon put this into words, going out? Haruhi has taken to verbally abuse him more often and more desperately than before; even out of the blue and aimlessly – Kyon has concluded that she is probably trying to hide her growing fondness for him underneath layers of lame, blunt insults; Kyon consciously chooses to believe this theory over any other and this, too, says a lot of his own growing fondness for Haruhi)
`But,´ she says, her expression disappointed and pensive. `There's no facility with potent enough instruments nearby. Or they are closed for the weekend.´
She gives it a little shrug, not too bothered by the failure in her plan, and Kyon can just imagine her in her room late at night, using Google to look for “places to send Valentine's Day's messages to potential boyfriends of the alien persuasion” - maybe one day he could search the history on her browser and find such query, but he doubts she'd let him. The thought itself makes him grin before he realizes he is grinning in public and Haruhi is looking at him with a suspicious look on her face.
`So,´ Itsuki interrupts. `Any plans for the SOS Brigade on this special occasion?´
Kyon shoots him a murderous glare.
Haruhi crosses her arms in front of her in that dramatic manner of hers and Kyon guesses she is about to say “Of course! with a satisfied sound.
`Of course not!´ Haruhi states with a satisfied sound.
`N-no?´ Kyon and Asahina double-take at the same time.
Itsuki looks confused too, and Yuki passes one page of her book, the sharp noise filling the room for a moment. Haruhi rolls her eyes at them.
`Valentine's Day is a private matter,´ she explains. `You should all be free to search for love today wherever. You are young, you shouldn't let your bodies go to waste. Specially not yours, Mikuru.´
She gives Asahina's right breast an appreciative pinch as if to make a point. Kyon sighs – although he thinks that the “be free to search for love” line sounds like something he himself might have said and wonders if he and Haruhi are spending too much time together. He does not worry about her picking up his habits – it would do her good – but he is rather terrified he might pick up hers.
Haruhi corners him at the end of lessons, by the school's entrance – oh, dreaded school's entrance, you are pitiless today, Kyon evokes –, and makes sure they are out of everybody's earshot before she starts talking.
Kyon thinks that in times like this, due to this particular expression on her face, Haruhi pretty much like resembles Emperor Nero as he must have looked like when he finished preparations for his banquet and gave the order to set fire to Rome.
`What have you planned for today?´
Kyon is aware of the precision of the subtext in that question, the What have you planned FOR US today?, he is also aware of the dangers of slacking off his Boyfriend Responsibilities (Koizumi would probably phrase that in a more apocalyptic manner) so he decides, for once, to try his best and improvise.
`Do you want to catch a movie?´ He offers.
Not the most elaborated or romantic Valentine's Day plan in the world but, taking into account the unconventional nature of their relationship, maybe Haruhi would see it as something refreshingly normal.
She seems to think about it for a moment.
`Okay, but we are not seeing some silly romantic comedy. And we are not sitting in the last row so you can make out with me, you pervert.´
Kyon soon discovered, right after starting his let's call it more romantic interactions with Haruhi, that picking a movie to watch with her was a tricky business. They've done a lot of non-dates consisting on Saturday afternoons at his place ordering pizza and watching tv, but they are happier playing video-games, something that enabled Haruhi to be competitive and aggressive with Kyon without reflecting badly on their relationship – she isn't very good at games and Kyon would always win. That is, he would be winning until the moment Haruhi decides she is bored with the game (or too embarrassed by her incompetence at it) and she would, not-so-subtly, rest her leg across his lap or something equally distracting that would throw Kyon's game off balance.
Lately Kyon's love life has been a series of unfinished fighting or shoot-them-up games truncated and followed by him taking Haruhi's hand and hurrying upstairs for their usual sessions of making out and dry-humping (which have become more frustrating and heated these past weeks and Kyon ponders, with an old man's nostalgia and no little apprehension – and oh, well, excitement -, just how long it's going to be until Haruhi takes his virginity, aw, the fleeting days of youth, he thinks).
There are very few cinematic genres Haruhi appreciates, Kyon is discovering: dramas bore her, comedies seldom make her laugh and sci-fi infuriates her with low budgets and absurd premises (as if her own demented theories – or her life, in general - weren't more absurd than anything a movie could come up with, but Kyon values his own life too much to point out that bit of irony). One would guess that her own experiences in amateur film-making would have made Haruhi more understanding towards the hardships of low-budget directors but if anything it has made her more impatient when it comes to cheap sets, shady cinematography and B-rate acting. She is equally uninterested in Hollywood films and there are no male stars-slash-hunks that seem to catch her eye; in fact Haruhi's lack of vocal appreciation for the opposite sex baffles Kyon, specially compared to her enthusiastic physical appreciation of, well, of Kyon himself and his body, and one time he even considered the possibility that, since they are “going out” together, Haruhi refrains from commenting other guy's attractiveness out of respect for her “boyfriend”. Then he laughed at himself for thinking Haruhi could ever be that considerate.
They settle – via phone conversation, in which Kyon's part is reduced, as more often that not, to monosyllabic interjections of agreement: also his sister is in a wearisome age and Kyon fears that very soon she'll start passing the phone to him with the scary epitaph of Kyon, your girlfriend, he knows that day is really really close – on gangster movie.
Maybe most people would think that a gangster film is inappropriate for a Valentine's Day date (Kyon, with a healthy sense of historical irony and feeling like a dork, disagrees) but then again Haruhi is not most people. In fact she is so not most people that Kyon hopes there's only one of her.
She arrives first. He was going to pay for the tickets anyway (and the popcorn and the soda and Kyon is hoping they would go have dinner somewhere afterwards or maybe – if he is lucky and Haruhi is not having a psychotic, self-loathing phase today – they can buy takeaway and go back to his house and play videogames and live a romance of eternal quote-unquoting and euphemisms) so there was no need for that. Maybe it's habit. Maybe it's a pattern they have fallen into and maybe Kyon would miss it if it suddenly stopped, even if sometimes it makes him feel like he's been married to Haruhi for fifty years.
She is wearing lipstick – a pale shade of pink, that seems childish and full of effort at the same time – and a green cardigan – it's sunny but cold – and she looks almost normal, waiting for him, shifting her weight from one feet to the other in one nervous but shy gesture. She looks almost good-normal. “Normal” is not usually a good look on Haruhi, because she is not, and deep down (very deep down, maximum-security-bank-safe deep down) Kyon has no desire for her to be normal; if Haruhi were normal Kyon wouldn't be here, on this day, on a date with her. And yet it's considerably charming how much she looks like an average girl on a date with the boy she likes right now, with that pretty pink lipstick and those ordinary clothes.
And he is not late, by any means, but seeing Haruhi in her just-a-girl-on-a-date attire makes him feel a bit bad for having her wait for him.
He holds her hand and, though Haruhi rolls her eyes dramatically at the corny gesture, she doesn't let go off his all the way to the cinema theater.
If it's Haruhi's subconscious desires or the movie's own lack of popularity what makes them the only two people to buy tickets that afternoon, Kyon will never know – it will remain of one of those mysteries that he is getting used to, in his life with Haruhi. But the thing is, they are alone for that particular screening.
It's not really a gangsters film as much about a film about a gangster, a yakuza man escaping from the hitmen of a rival boss and journeying to China in what he doesn't suspect it's going to be a journey of self-discovery and redemption through breathtaking landscapes of mountains and rivers. It's a drama. Kyon rather likes it. Haruhi doesn't. She is unusually tense during the movie, sitting all straight, knees pressed tightly together and a frown of concentration on her face. Yes, she looks inexplicably tense (ironic, considering she is not the one being conned into believing the fate of this universe rests on the success of this mission, er, date, oh how Kyon hates when Koizumi's voice gets in his head). And she is Definitely Not indulging in Kyon's American-media-fuelled fantasies about what goes on in empty cinemas between two young people with strong sexual drives.
That is a disappointment, really.
They end up buying take out and it's a bit awkward, having Haruhi in his bedroom with that lipstick and those clothes, all of the sudden is awkward, because during their relatively brief but considerably solid (although understandably undefined) relationship Kyon and Haruhi have been better at being... well, Kyon and Haruhi than at the rest of the stuff young couples (ie. people who are not Kyon and Haruhi) are supposed to do.
`Should we go downstairs and have dinner?´ Kyon offers.
(as if functional, everyday words like those could ever serve to any purpose when it came to Haruhi, yeah, big chance, and when Kyon is being a normal insecure teenager – as opposed to his normal-bickering-teenage self that is forever arguing Haruhi is a complication he could do without – he cannot help but wonder why Haruhi finds him so damn interesting)
Haruhi nods agreement to his plan of going downstairs and awkwardly eating re-heated spring rolls; they both make a go for the door, predictably and movie-like bumping into each other in a comical and painful (but adorable, to the distant, unsuspecting observer) way, her forehead to his chin at the moment when Kyon was opening the door for her.
Haruhi stops, rooted to the spot where she stands.
Kyon rubs his jaw in pain.
Haruhi he lets out a long, miserable breath.
`What now?´ Kyon enquiries.
`Would you make out with me already, you idiot?´ She says through gritted teeth, face red and hot.
Sometimes, Kyon muses as he pulls Haruhi against him and sighs as if it's a chore, he has to admit Boyfriend Responsibilities with Haruhi are not so bad.
(Kyon wonders if Nagato knows if that thing about sending Valentines to other galaxies is actually workable somehow; he thinks he might like to send some out, on behalf of Haruhi - but maybe saying "it's okay, no need to hurry, aliens, Haruhi is spoken for, for now")
It's one month later and Kyon should have seen this coming, really.
Haruhi is waiting for him at the door of the club room, not even sitting at the computer, musing on his punishment for being late. Kyon can just about see Koizumi and Asahina over her shoulder and they are looking at him with... yes, it's pity Kyon sees in their eyes. He shudders, What now?
She is standing in front of him with her hand outstretched and open-palmed, with the same look of impatience and pre-emptive disappointment Hera and Athena must have had while awaiting the judgement of Paris, tapping her foot against the floor. Kyon tries hard to think if he owes Haruhi money and that's what her frantic gestures with her fingers mean. Behind her Koizumi is shaking his head slightly and sadly, as if in a final farewell to Kyon.
`What?´ Kyon is bold enough to ask.
Haruhi sighs in a “Do I need to draw you a diagram?” manner.
`My gift!´ She demands. Kyon's mind goes blank. `How dense can you be? It's White Day, come on, hurry, give me my gift.´
It takes Kyon a couple of moments to comprehend the situation. Words come out Haruhi's mouth and though he understands them, individually, the whole of it doesn't make sense. When it finally dawns on him Kyon can hardly pick one of the two thousand complains he has about her demand. Finally he settles for the obvious flaw in her non-reasoning.
`But that's not how it works. You didn't give me chocolate on Valentine's Day! Why would I-?´
Haruhi is looking at him as if she couldn't possibly imagine how one thing would be related to the other, but then again Kyon only has himself to blame for expecting something like Earthian logic out of Haruhi. But that's when - OW! What are-? - Koizumi kicks him in the back of his leg.
`Can we borrow Kyon for just a tiny moment?´ He asks Haruhi and before Haruhi can protest (and she looks like she wants to) he and Asahina grab Kyon, one arm each, and drag him out of the club room.
Kyon rubs his leg, pained.
`What was that about?!´ He lashes out at Koizumi. `You're going to pay for this.´
Koizumi waits until the door is closed behind them and he is sure they Haruhi can't hear them to proceed. He snaps his fingers and Asahina, on cue, produces a little plastic bag and hands it to him.
`Here,´ he passes it on to Kyon – the bag is light blue and glittery and the handles are tied with a knotted red ribbon.
`Your White Day's gift to Suzumiya, of course,´ is Koizumi's reply. `We bought it for you. Don't worry, it's nothing expensive that might compromise you and give Suzumiya the wrong idea. It's the conventional white chocolate choice. Anything more elaborate and she might get suspicious.´
It's the “we” that bothers Kyon. A lot. He conjures up the image of poor, innocent Asahina being dragged by this creep across bakeries and shopping malls, including her in his amoral plans to (supposedly) save the world. He very much doubts they would take Nagato on this particular mission, no, they would be alone. It makes Kyon's blood boil, the idea of her spending any kind of time alone with Koizumi, and not because it's pretty, naïve Asahina but because no human being deserves to be left alone in such company. He crosses his arms, offended.
`No way. She didn't get me chocolate on Valentine's. Why should I give her anything? And anyway she doesn't even like-´
`I was hoping you would really help us out here,´ he says in that dangerous honey-like voice of his, full of delusions of camaraderie. `The consequences of denying Suzumiya her desires when they are unconscious have been proved grave enough. What do you imagine would happen if she gets disappointed when she consciously wishes for you to give her something?´
Kyon hates to admit it but Koizumi has a point there. He has no idea why but obviously Haruhi wants him to give her a White Day gift. She has said so in a straightforward manner. Kyon looks down at the bag in his hand. Well, it's not as if he had to spend any money on it.
He sighs. Once more unto the breach, he thinks and opens the door, finding Haruhi standing in the same position they left her, the same baffled expression on her face.
Kyon presents her with the bag.
`I was joking before. Of course I got you something,´ he says half-heartedly. `It's just chocolate. Don't make a fuss.´
He watches Haruhi turn suddenly red, and look shocked, and, unsurprisingly, annoyed. It's like, much as she demanded the damn gift, she couldn't in a million years imagine Kyon would actually give something to her and now she is embarrassed by it. He guesses that's how most of her plans end up in chaos and general destruction – she comes up with some outrageous proposal and then she herself is surprised if it comes true. Can't the girl decide what she really wants, Kyon mentally protests.
`Idiot,´ Haruhi says, and Kyon tries to come up with the statistic of how many times she's used that particular expression as a line-opener when she is talking to him. He doesn't even notice it anymore, her insults are like white noise by now. `Why would I make a fuss? Why would I want chocolate from you? Eek!´
She tosses the bag of chocolate across the table.
Kyon decides, not for the first time, that what the girl really needs – not aliens or time travellers, and definitely not guys with special powers and absurd plans – is to have her schizophrenia treated by well-trained and caring professionals. There must be some kind of experimental drug they can give her.
Haruhi snorts and takes her preferential seat in front of the computer, hunching her shoulders and looking sideways at Kyon with a suspicious glare, as if he had done something wrong, as if she considered him the principal suspect of a hideous crime but she had not enough proof to openly accuse him. My, my, he thinks as he falls into his chair and closes his eyes, waiting for Asahina to turn on the kettle and Koizumi to set the next ridiculous board game between them – he hopes it's something adequately mindless today, like checkers or a game of Goose.
After a moment of basking in adolescent self-pity Kyon half-opens one eye and catches Haruhi looking at the bag of chocolates with a soft expression on her face. He grins. Their eyes meet. Haruhi immediately screws her face into a frown that can't hide the heat on her cheeks.
`Shut up!´ She screams at Kyon.
Kyon puts his hands behind his head and leans back on the chair, rather smugly, that's true. But he is also thinking that maybe next year he'll actually go and buy Haruhi a gift himself, in person. A proper gift, and not a ploy to save the world. That'd be nice, yes. He can't wait to see her face then.