Author's Note: SPOILERS for the entire RahXephon series, including the last episode. This started as a quick fic to deal with the character I didn't sympathize with at all--namely, Sayoko. I decided to explore a possible explanation for her behaviors, the way Itsuki interacts with her, and also the Foundation itself.

Then what was going to be a quick fic expanded into chapters. There's more coming. If you're interested in these kinds of looks at behavioral interactions, stay tuned.

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Lullaby

At first Itsuki hadn't known what to do with his gift from the Foundation.

"She's model version 7.34. Take pity on her." And Helena had smiled that viper-cold sadism, blue eyes drinking in Itsuki's discomfort. "That is what you most enjoy doing, isn't it?"

To which Itsuki had only the reply of the softest of laughs; apology mixed with a rather deeply-buried anger for the jibe. Obvious to those who knew him, which included Helena, but out of respect for old acquaintances he hadn't said his thoughts out loud.

Version 7.34 had been delivered to the Kisaragi residence with little more than the clothes on her back. She'd been obviously disconcerted, stumbling around while keeping her limbs close to her body lest they come in contact with anything unexpected. Her arms were held up to her chest with the hands couched like a crippled ape. Typical for someone newly decanted from the labs; in an instant of observation, Itsuki had determined that she'd been a subject of accelerated growth rather than simply adapted for assistant's work when it was discovered she'd be unsuitable for her original intended purpose.

Two rejects they both were, then. Left together. Much later after Helena had departed and he'd had the opportunity to fully mull the situation over, Itsuki had decided he didn't like the joke.

He'd introduced her to the concept of pants at first. Version 7.34 had only a shift when she'd been delivered, which was adequate in the balmy climate of Nirai-Kanai, but hardly served as permanent summerwear. She'd struggled into his clothes with the pants on backwards and the shirt half-buttoned. This after several minutes of poking her head out his bedroom door to check on his appearance before ducking back to try and mimic it with her own, so Itsuki had eventually just helped her do it himself.

They'd gone shopping afterwards for things that she could own. Version 7.34 had first noticed the mannequins in the windows and had marveled over their smooth identical faces, their permanently articulated limbs that copied one another in perfect repetition down city blocks. Then she had realized that they were wearing different styles of clothes and that had captured her attention so completely that they both spent the rest of the day with her modeling on slacks and dresses, coats and shawls; springing out from the changing rooms like a series of mannequins all to herself, copied ten thousand times save for the accessories.

During the process of driving her around the shops of Nirai-Kanai, he'd acquired the knowledge that Version 7.34 had been designated as Sayoko Nanamori. She was considered aged to 28 years. Like many of those who had spent extended time in the laboratory vials, Sayoko had been adjusted to retain no memory of her birth. She'd eagerly repeated the same fuzzy details of a falsified father and brother when he first mentioned his own relative, matching Itsuki's commentary of Quon with her own theoretical experiences.

Itsuki had let her talk. Sayoko had created and discarded whole tales from the sparse hints the Foundation had loaded into her installation, settling into a comfortable enough fabricated past that the holes didn't jar her nearly as much as they could have.

In time, she would not even remember the first days with the Kisaragis, and would always believe she had moved to the island to avoid an overbearing--but well-meaning--father and a brother who liked to indulge in karaoke whilst in the bath. She had had an average school career while always hoping for more, enjoyed sports such as tennis, and had the worst problem keeping her hair from tangles in all this island humidity.

She liked fish. At least, she thought she liked fish. Also, she hated lizards.

Maybe.

Everything in the city of Kanai had fascinated her. She'd reached out and run her fingers along the steering wheel of the car when he'd had it set in motion. Itsuki had automatically twitched his hand in a useless attempt to get the controls out of her reach, and had instead caused the vehicle to swerve. That succeeded in keeping her from trying to play with it while he was operating the engine. After they had come to a section of the road with a suitable breakdown lane to pull over on, Itsuki had set the car in park and tried to get her to uncover her hands from a face stricken with embarrassment.

"I can teach you how to drive, if you'd like," he had offered to her by way of apology, and Sayoko had looked towards him with an expression of shocked delight.

"Really?" she'd chimed back, breathily delighted. "I'll drive you everywhere, just watch. I'll be the best driver on the road."

Itsuki had smiled as best he could through his awkward discomfort.

He couldn't say he appreciated Helena's fostering of a newly-hatched model to his doorstep. It wasn't that he minded having a chance to help someone discarded by the Foundation--quite the opposite, really. That organization mangled far more than was healthy, did not grant freedom to those who failed their tutorials. It only managed to persist through the centuries because it tolerated the reapplication of its creations to more suitable roles.

Their patriarch's benevolent cruelty allowed for everyone to have a second chance to win his doting approval. If you failed the second, you could have a third. Expectations lowered each time, however, until the occupation you were determined most compatible with was that of raw meat. Lab technicians would finally cluck their tongues over your body while marking down your genetic tags.

Then your structure, type, and version would be filed under M, for Mistake.

Itsuki's work with Dolem Arias was meant to compensate for his own lack of achievements. He had found his Ixtil in a human before he'd awakened to the transcendent, and so he'd provided a valuable lesson to the Foundation; don't let your Ollin be exposed to the human world for any great length of time, not unless you wanted your Ollin to imprint upon the wrong object of affection. Don't allow your Ollin freedom of choice. Limit your variables, or you will have an Itsuki Result.

Years later, when Itsuki had been entrusted with Quon, he'd belatedly tried to correct his error by doting as much of his heart upon her as possible.

It had been too late. His ears were filled with the noise of the human world by then, and no matter how hard Itsuki tried to hear the heartbeat of the world in Quon's own breath, there existed only sighs. They were not like Haruka's. Sometimes he could confuse the two, but it wasn't good enough.

Bahbem had been patient with him regardless. So long as the doctor maintained his readjusted duties, Itsuki knew that faint approval was earned. The Founder played the part of the indulgent father with his many creations--indulgent even when those same beings tested the limits of their leashes. Even Makoto had been allowed to pursue a field that was more suited for his aggression, rather than being registered as one of the usual obedient soldiers of the mass production models.

None of them cared for Bahbem.

He was simply the only law they knew.

Which made it all the more awkward to find Version 7.34 left to follow him around rather than their mutual master. Itsuki was no trainer. He was not reared with the proper skills to be a suitable tutor for future generations produced by the Foundation; he served his purpose as being an example, an experiment concluded which described the corrosive influences of the human world. An experiment could always prove useful despite the initial results.

Because of inherited talents, Itsuki could continue to add to the volumes of research that the Foundation built its advances upon. Should his twin also fail and be lost in combat, Itsuki was the reserve for the male genome structure that would usher in their improved descendents. It was not a legacy to be ashamed of. Bahbem had lectured him as much on the day that Itsuki had been handed the packet of falsified credentials along with a last name.

An unawakened Ollin was also the safest company to keep possession of Quon. Itsuki was flawed. His heart returned again and again to the human no matter how many times he chased the Mu-dream branded on his stomach, but he was still the most neutral influence that the Foundation retained.

These were his duties. Being a figurehead was not; being an instructor that anyone sought praise from was most definately not, and it made Itsuki fidget all through lunch when he'd introduced Version 7.34 to the concept of sandwiches.

The doctor did not understand why he had been given someone so untempered by the Foundation's maturation programs. No documentation had been delivered along with the gift, no operating manual that would shed light on either Version 7.34's original purpose or her reassigned. Eventually he decided that Helena had only decided to play a cruel jest; she had recovered subject matter that was meant to have been deconstructed and then dropped it on Itsuki to remind him daily of the past.

Helena never did understand his tolerance of C's and below.

But she enjoyed mocking them, and him, and Itsuki usually allowed it so long as others weren't involved too directly. Helena was family in a twisted way, just like Makoto and their Trainer and even Bahbem himself. All united through their common bond of being tampered with and built for a purpose, or at least recycled into one.

And now, Sayoko.

No one escaped the touch of the Master. Whatever Helena's pettiness with Version 7.34 was, it could not have been approved without Bahbem. Itsuki could not rightfully send Sayoko away without knowing it would be registered as a failure on the newborn's part. Her fate afterwards could be far less pleasant than Nirai-Kanai. The Foundation claimed its punishments were stern, yet loving, but that only made them all the more cruel.

So instead, Itsuki taught her how to butter the bread before you tucked it in the toaster oven, and tried to ignore when she asked if she'd done it wrong. Afterwards, they'd made tea to drink on the veranda. Sayoko had splashed the liquid from blowing on it too enthusiastically to cool it, so Itsuki had mopped up the spill while promising her that it was only water in the end.

Her expression had revealed that such an answer bothered her.

Reaching for the sugar bowl, she had then dumped in five spoons before stirring and drinking it all in one gulp.