DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Haruhi Suzumiya series nor are these works done for any sort of profit. I am merely dabbling for fun. All rights belong to the original author and various corporations.
"Apples and Oranges, Boys and Girls"
Itsuki waited outside the cafe with such a calm expression, anyone who knew his true state would marvel. The smile had a trace of emptiness in it as always, but to the average person it was hardly noticable, nor would that average person particularly care. He was simply, in that person's eyes, an overly polite kid waiting for his date, or perhaps merely wasting time by lounging on the railing.
It was an image Itsuki employed often, finding it far more useful than his normal expression. No one questioned him or took much interest in him, save for the occasional girl passing by him. It allowed him time to think and sort out things, without having to retreat somewhere quiet as he had once had to do in his youth, before the Organization had come into his life.
In this way, he could be here at the cafe but at the same time be miles away. Today especially, he hoped to make use of that.
Itsuki sighed and checked his watch - 12:20. She was late. It wasn't by much, but it was enough to bother him. He had already been having doubts about this girl, who went completely against all the rules he had set for himself, and she was already proving herself to be the reason such rules existed. Don't go after those you know. Don't go after those Kyon knows.
He had let it go though, just this once, and now she was treating this like an actual date. It couldn't be a coincidence. Not one of the girls before this had done that, except for perhaps the first couple or so, before anyone really knew. The first ones. . . Did he even know who those were?
The very first one had to have been after the closed space incident, he knew that much. Exactly how long afterward he couldn't really say; he found it impossible to force his memory back, it seeming so long ago. But it certainly couldn't have been before, it didn't make sense. It wasn't until a short time before that Itsuki had realized how he felt about Kyon, had even met the boy. Not to mention that back then, he wouldn't have even considered it. Meaningless hook-ups were popular with some of the Organization, but he had always been a more romantic sort. The sacrifice, whether to the Organization by never getting involved with a partner or to a lover by leaving the Organization, was something he wanted to do. It was idealized into something heroic, something tremendous and wonderful.
Until he found himself in a situation he hadn't considered: wanting to do the second, but having to do the first. Suddenly then nobility started to lose its sheen.
When he started, the. . .hook-ups? Trysts? Whatever they were, they had never lasted long. A hour or so, maybe a little more. He had still been so very innocent, so aware of the innocence of others, and after a bite to eat, a clumsy kiss, he went his separate way and never turned an eye on her again. It was easier that way, keeping their faces and names meaningless. It made him feel guilty, but a little guilt over that was preferable over the guilt about using them in the first place, and if they didn't mean anything he couldn't feel that.
Anything that lessened the guilt Itsuki had then considered to be a very good thing. It wouldn't be for a while after all that he wouldn't feel any at all.
The fact he didn't feel any now didn't change the fact he hated this part of himself. He did, and often wondered if he couldn't simply just stop, especially considering the fact he didn't know why he did it in the first place. There were completely different from what he really wanted, yet part of him felt a need the rest of him couldn't control.
The crux of the problem he supposed though was that he couldn't see anymore precisely to whom this part belonged, and whether he could stop depended entirely on that. There was Itsuki Koizumi the Esper, in which case the Organization would clearly consider his actions suitably within the lines of "leisure activities" and to be encouraged over the alternative. Then there was Itsuki Koizumi the Mysterious Transfer Student, who arguably should be prone to this "going down the line" sort of dating as it added to the puzzle. There potentially was the Itsuki Koizumi the One Night Only, if the momentary flicker of the eye when he first approached a girl was anything to judge by, and it was obviously what he had to do. And then there was Itsuki Koizumi, in reality.
He wasn't entirely certain what he would or wouldn't do.
Itsuki also often wondered what would happen if a girl said no. If they didn't feel like letting him claw into skin and tissue and soul and empty everything both bad and good inside of him into them, what would he do? So close to that bliss of emptiness, a beautiful tabula rasa sort of effect, with no need or anger or heartbreak or thought, and then to have it yanked away. . .how would he react?
He didn't know that either.
A beep from his pocket reminded Itsuki where he was and in seconds his phone was out, the message displayed. . .
False alarm, he thought, sighing. It was only her, sending a text message: "I'm sorry! I'll be there soon. :,)" He hadn't really expected a bout of closed space. Haruhi could only be in one of the best moods she has ever experienced, assuming Kyon hadn't done anything foolish. Considering how much the boy liked to see her smile (though he would never admit it), Itsuki wasn't really concerned about that.
There had been that small part of him hoping though.
This is what brought him here today, Itsuki realized. This was even truly why he had broken the rules; it wasn't an experiment or an accident, but very much intentional. He needed to do it, needed to go the extra mile, to risk being detected. Perhaps even to be detected.
Haruhi and Kyon, after months of pushing and pulling and useless stubborn antics, were on a date. It was everything the Organization could hope for and more, although knowing the pair it was probably far from orthodox. It was what he, Mikuru, and Yuki were all here to accomplish, in a sense.
And it killed him in every way imaginable. He had no reason, really. Surely he could content himself with the idea that Kyon was happy, couldn't he? He could just return to that idealistic Itsuki he had once been, suck it up and deal.
Obviously not, or you wouldn't be here.
He certainly wouldn't have chosen the girl who was running to meet him now either. She was beyond a mere breach of rules.
"I'm - I'm sorry I'm so late! Is Miss Nagato not here yet either?"
She was his.
Mikuru wasn't really Itsuki's type. He realized this, watching her out of the corner of his eye as she whimpered, then tried to keep quiet, tried to keep walking forward but also wanting very hard to ask him what was going on. She was quiet, meek, sweet but weak, and not exactly the brightest child in the world.
It made her feel much more like a victim, and to be fair, that's what she was. She didn't even know his intentions today, although by now she must have begun to suspect that they were not related to Haruhi in the way she suspected. There was no way he could tell her; time travelers weren't supposed to be involved with those from time periods not her own, and in her head, this would certainly count. It was going to be nothing compared to what he had done with more willing girls, but the girl flinched at the slightest little things.
When they reached a crosswalk, Mikuru squeaked, "Um, Koizumi?"
"I didn't want to ask, but. . .where exactly are we going?"
Itsuki didn't answer immediately. He honestly hadn't expected her to say anything at all, at least not quite yet. Perhaps the girl was bolder than he thought? "Where would you like to go?" he asked finally.
She stopped, looking at him with a curious expression in her eye, and, just for a second, he saw a flash of Haruhi in her. "Koizumi," she said softly. "Is this a date?"
He smiled. "Nothing so formal, although I suppose that's what it could be called."
With that, her eyes opened up wide, dispelling the faint resemblance. "Oh no!"
Here she goes.
"I - I can't do this! I'm not allowed to anything like that, well, in this time plane anyway, I don't mean in the other time plane. Not that I do it a lot in the other time plane - "
He touched her, ever so gently on the arm. "Asahina."
She stilled, and bowed her head as red raced up her cheeks.
"It doesn't have to be a date, specifically. Let us just have some fun for today; surely your people can't deny you that?"
It was easily his best performance, he felt. He already knew the response. Mikuru would look up, embarrassed still but also pleased. 'I guess not' would be her line. Blush. Walk stage left. End scene.
"Koizumi, I. . ." She looked up, her eyes pitying rather than pitiful. "I'm sorry. It wouldn't be right. I shouldn't have even come in the first place"
And with that, she walked to his right, through the street, and faced him only to wave goodbye.
Itsuki stood, stricken. That had never happened to him before. There were girls who regretted whatever happened after the fact, and there were girls who played hard to get, but no one had ever flat out said no before to him.
It was strange. He couldn't deny that in the beginning, he had hoped for a girl to do just that. Yet he found himself enraged that she had dared. Or rather, it wasn't because she had. That just meant he would have to find another girl or other means. It was because it was her, the girl Kyon so doted on and adored.
It had been a slap at Kyon to go after her. Getting rejected by her felt far too much like a harder slap back.
He ran after her. It wasn't exactly the smoothest thing he had ever done, but he didn't particularly care about how he looked at the moment. He cared only about finding her, and then finding her wrist, and then clenching his fingers around it just the right way so that no one suspected but she couldn't leave, and then. . .
"What the hell are you doing?" She stopped, and pulled back with such strength that he very nearly let go. All thoughts of revenge were wiped from his mind, and her eyes suddenly opened, realizing her slip.
"What did you say?" Itsuki asked, astonishment not quite completely drained from his tone.
"Nothing! I - I was just surprised!"
"I believe I heard you swear," he continued, ignoring her as a slight glimmer went into his eye. This was better than anything he could do to her, if what he suspected was true. "Rather out of character for you, isn't it?"
She was pleading now. "I - I didn't!"
Mikuru continued struggling, then slowly stopped. He watched her, as she began to stand differently. She became taller almost, standing with her back straight and bold for once, and her eyes were quietly stern as she asked, "Just please don't tell Kyon, okay? I don't care if you know, but don't tell him."
"What precisely is going on?"
She turned away, but said, "There's a restaurant nearby. We can talk there."
The difference was really astonishing. Itsuki couldn't help but stare at Mikuru, the very picture of elegance and maturity as she smiled and asked the waiter currently staring at her breasts to get them some water, and marvel over how this was indeed the same exact person who cried like a baby when Haruhi got her a costume. He couldn't help smiling either, as that part within him felt unnaturally satisfied for some reason. This was simply far too perfect, he guessed. Kyon's goddess of purity and beauty and light, and yet it was all just an act. It was just too utterly perfect.
The waiter walked away, and Mikuru's voice dropped. "Pervert," she muttered, the smile becoming forced, and she turned to him. "Did you see that guy?"
"I did, indeed."
"I mean, I'm used to it, but it's still annoying." She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and her hands closed together on the table. "I guess the first thing I want to do is to apologize to you. The truth is, I knew what you wanted when you asked me here, and it was wrong to pretend like I didn't. I suppose you could say I was feeling guilty about coming, so I tried to make it your fault if anything happened. So, I'm very sorry."
She bowed her head and stayed there, steadily growing impatient after a few moments. She was waiting for him to speak, but he didn't really know what to say.
Except, perhaps, the obvious. "I must say, I don't think I'd believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes."
"I'm not that different, am I?" she asked with a slight grimace.
He thought about this before answering. "Not drastically, I suppose, but I had never thought you were putting on an act."
She sighed. "I didn't mean to. Really. But that's what Miss Suzumiya wanted. It was more fun for her to have an unwilling doll to dress up, so I pretended in the beginning. I always thought I would get the chance to develop myself later but. . ." she trailed off and her cheeks reddened a little. "I didn't get the chance."
"Why not? You've certainly had the opportunity. By now, I don't think Suzumiya would mind."
She hesitated, and welcomed the break allowed by the waiter (this time a female who mumbled an apology when she arrived) who came to give them their drinks. Mikuru smiled at her kindly and sipped it for a few seconds, still seeming to be forming the words, until finally speaking. "I guess I have a. . .certain reason. But it's for the reason you do it too."
Itsuki continued to smile. "I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean."
She leaned in, her face serious yet accepting, almost maternal. "Koizumi, look at me. I'm being honest with you. Can't you even, just this once. . ."She trailed off.
It's not that simple.
He thought this, but didn't say or do anything. She waited, then sighed and took another sip of water.
"Well, you know what I mean. It's true there's a chance Miss Suzumiya won't mind, but there's always a chance she might. She'll at the very least get suspicious. It's just easier."
She looked at him, but didn't comment. Time passed in silence as she continued to drink her water and pretended to ignore that he hadn't touched his. Finally, Itsuki leaned back and crossed his arms and, staring at nothing in particular, asked, "So it's entirely a conscious thing for you?"
"The change, or the act. Whichever word you prefer," he explained with a forced smile at her, then looked down at his cup. "You just choose to do it, whenever you want?"
She thought about it, nibbling on her straw, then answered, "I guess you could say it that way, but I wouldn't. It sounds too manipulative."
"If it's not manipulation," he shot back, "then what do you call it?"
"That's not fair, Koizumi. I told you, it's a necessity. You do the same thing."
"No, I don't!"
He was standing now, but he couldn't recall getting up. Vaguely, he realized he was being stared at, and not just by Mikuru. People at other tables were leaning and twisting their heads, some surprised, some scared, and a few excited at the prospect of a fight. Had he yelled?
Itsuki sat down and pretended nothing had happened. He took a gulp of water, but for some reason his throat still felt incredibly dry. When was the last time he had done something like this? Not since an incident with Kyon a year ago before Christmas, possibly. He was more or less used to such things with Kyon however. The boy got to him like nothing else. But this girl was nothing like him, hardly worthy of serving as a replacement if it hadn't been for Kyon's fixation on her. Why was she bothering him like this?
Because she thinks she's like you. The girl has the right to choose, has the ability to act and not become, and yet she thinks she's like you.
He looked up, surprised by the warm tone of her voice.
"You. . ." she trailed off, then smiled. "Nevermind. I won't ask if you don't want to talk about it."
That smile. . .It was such a Mikuru smile, yet different. Itsuki coughed and uncrossed his legs, hoping it would go away if he didn't pay it any mind.
"You said you had another reason," he said some time later, breaking the silence. "What was it?"
She frowned. "I'd rather not say."
Her cheeks exploded in red, and she did something Itsuki couldn't really ever remember seeing her do.
"You can call it that if you like."
That night, Itsuki thought he had figured out what Mikuru's other reason was. After all, the only reason he himself had gone after her was because of Kyon, because of how much the boy practically worshipped her. The only reason the date had been saved from being a complete disaster in one way or another was because she had proved to not quite live up to the image Kyon had created for her, and the very idea of how Kyon would respond to that had left him giddy.
It was odd. Itsuki supposed he had always vaguely known that Mikuru liked the boy, but he hadn't ever given it much thought. He had been too busy minding his own feelings, and the girl provided as much interest to him as a water flea.
Still, he couldn't help but feel a tinge of regret for yelling at her. It wasn't her fault; she couldn't have known. And, if he was perfectly honest, she had been right to a certain degree. They were similar, to some extent. Two sides of the same coin.
And yet they weren't. And yet comparing them would be like comparing apples and oranges. They were both fruit, but one couldn't honestly say they were anything alike.
But from her viewpoint, how would she know?
For the first time in his life, Itsuki wondered what it would be like to choose.
The next day passed on as normal. Kyon and Haruhi yelled at each other as always from morning till dusk, Itsuki smiled at nothing in the corner, and Mikuru whimpered and cried in her maid outfit. No one on the outside would never have predicted that among the groups two dates of extreme importance had been made just the previous day, unless they managed to catch the few odd times where the respective pairs met each other's eyes when they thought no one was looking.
For Kyon and Haruhi, it had been the first date, a beginning in more ways than one.
For Mikuru and Itsuki, it had been the last, the end in more ways than one.
Neither pair could say they minded.
Again, many thanks to my beta, Audley. I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending to this one, but she said it was fine so I am bowing to her supreme judgment. This fic mainly came about for two reasons: my intense fascination with Itsuki's act, and the incredible appeal of Itsuki sleeping around with girls. Also something to note is that originally, this fic had Tsuruya, but in the end I think this worked out much better.
Until we meet again.