The first time Isshiki heard about Haruka, it was whispered almost. Like a kind of dream. His initial impression of her was that of some kind of unearthly spirit that had descended.

His initial thoughts were hardly complimentary, however.

"So you bumped into her. Literally."

"I know, crazy isn't it?" Itsuki, his best friend in the whole crazy world, had just committed the first of several grievances against him. True grievances, that was. College had made him use bigger words and stop cutting his hair.

"And you two are... seeing each other?"

"Well, sort of, I need to actually formally, you know, ask her out."

Isshiki had committed the first grievance of several against his best friend by saying nothing.

ooo

"Someone looks like they've been plowed over."

He was laying in the grass, near the pond-like thing on the estate. It wasn't a real pond, he knew, but he liked the sound of the water. Bubbles and all that. Isshiki had heard her footsteps on the dewy ground, but had made no real indication he had known of her presence. Not even when she spoke.

"Now, you couldn't see that coming? College girls jump all over that type."

He refrained from answering. Something must have gotten under her skin too about it, or she wouldn't come and pester him. Helena was predictable sometimes. She would be more predictable if there wasn't this undercurrent to her that was constantly changing. If he had any room for sympathy admist all the self pity he was feeling, he would think that being everyone's perfect girl must have been quite a burden.

At the moment, though, he found her grating.

"Can't avoid inevitability, Isshiki."

"They won't let him keep her, you know."

More than anyone, even Helena, he understood The Rules. He'd broken them enough, and kept the conforming veneer about him enough too. Itsuki had clearly been let out in the real world too much, that he'd forgotten them.

He rolled up into a sitting position. Helena had sat down next to him, but without the haughty look she normally had. It was just blank. So he continued.

"Tools, no matter how clever, are not meant to have any dividing loyalties. Yes Helena, I do listen, try not to swoon."

She rolled her eyes at his use of 'swoon'. He could read a few books too. "Unless that is what the Foundation wants."

"Unless that is what the Foundation wants," he repeated. Something that had always been in his head, so much that he wondered if it had been hard coded into their DNA.

In the late afternoon, Helena didn't look so unforgivably chaste. He was naturally in the shaded region next to the not-pond, or else it would feel like his skin was on fire for days. He had to wonder which technician had goofed that part of him up, had fallen asleep while watching the petri dish.

Self pity really left a bad taste in his mouth. He decided that sacriligious actions would be a sufficient chaser.

Isshiki grabbed her by that prudish and annoying high collar. Originally, he had intended on scaring her, like the time she'd been practising her stupid witchcraft and set his sheet on fire and blamed it on him. But he thought about Haruka, that faceless usurper and decided on killing two birds with one stone.

It occurred to him that he'd stolen two first kisses. Though, the first could only been technically catagorized as theft. But from the complete tenseness of Helena and her mouth and the fact that she didn't move at all, didn't even blink when he'd finished, he knew this was complete robbery.

Isshiki could get used to that feeling. Taking something back. Even if it was from the wrong person.

"Speak, Helena."

She got up and ran instead. Mission accomplished.

ooo

"She sounds lovely."

"Oh, she is. You'd like her."

He'd forgotten them. "I'll have to take your word on that."