Author: Random1377 PM
In the spirit of White Day, I present the sequel to Koibito. Enjoy.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Words: 10,865 - Reviews: 23 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 5 - Published: 03-14-03 - id: 1268546
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: ok, I think everyone knows that Studio Gainax owns the rights to Evangelion and I do not, but for anyone that's still uncertain – Studio Gainax owns the rights to Evangelion and I do not. Further, should they request it I will remove this story from the web, or (to put it another way) please don't sue me, Gainax! I'm just doing this for fun!! Oh, and this is the sequel to Koibito. Might wanna read that first, or you might be a bit lost. Thanks.
Koi. Love. The deep, warming sensation that comes from knowing that the person you are with is the one you were meant to be with since you were born. For some in Toyko-3 this feeling is all that gets them out of bed in the morning. Not to say that the city was a desolate wasteland of shattered dreams and lost souls, but in the fifteen years since Second Impact, times were definitely harder.
For those fortunate enough to be in love, an event such as an angel attack could be seen in one of two ways: a minor inconvenience, annoying only in the fact that it kept lovers apart, or a terrifying journey through hell as the subconscious insists on producing images of a loved one crushed under rubble or flattened by a towering monstrosity.
Of course, Shinji Ikari could not claim to be in love at all, so as his Evangelion was hoisted gracelessly out of the dirt he could only speculate about what normal people felt.
"Hope Chidori's not too worried," he murmured, resting his head on the back of his pilot's seat and folding his arms.
He closed his eyes, thinking of the disastrous attack.
"See?" he could hear the voice of Asuka Langley Souryu in his mind as clear as a bell, "A kill should be clean, efficient, and without waste. Were you daydreaming about your girlfriend, Third Child? Or maybe-"
It was then that the angel Asuka had cut neatly in half with Unit 02's axe began moving again. We were so unprepared, Shinji mused disgustedly, only took it a couple minutes to take care of both of us – then the government had to drop an N^2 mine on it. Misato's not gonna be happy…
He sighed, making bubbles in the thick LCL all around him as he thought of his guardian, Misato Katsuragi. No, surely the purple-haired woman would not be pleased by their resounding defeat. He could almost hear her complaining about the paperwork this would produce, and though the angel was not dead yet, he feared her wrath almost more.
The boy flinched as Misato's voice, sounding of grinding teeth and barely contained anger, sounded in the entryplug.
"Umm, yeah?" he said timidly, bracing himself for the worst.
He did not brace well enough.
"Would you mind," Misato asked, her voice holding a decidedly strained quality, "would you mind telling me what, exactly, you were thinking out there? First you let Asuka try to take control of the situation – which, by the way, you should not have allowed, since you're the one with the most combat experience – then you don't even put up a fight when the angel attacks?? What the hell?!?"
"Well," Shinji said slowly, "it... it was fast."
There was a long, cold silence over the tac-net.
"She stepped away for a minute, Shinji," the calm voice of Ritsuko Akagi informed him.
"Oh," the boy murmured softly. He took a deep breath. "Was she… really mad, or-"
A moment later, the line was severed.
Shinji leaned further back in his seat. "I'm doing my best," he whispered.
Closing his eyes, the boy rubbed his temples, a pained expression on his youthful face. I know what Misato would say to that, he thought tiredly, best isn't good enough if you fail… people could get hurt.
Shinji opened his eyes, blinking as he found a small, digital image of Asuka displayed in Unit 01's entry plug. "A-Asuka?" he stammered.
"Next time," the redhead whispered coolly, "back me up better. Next time, we win – got it?"
"Yeah," Shinji mumbled, averting his eyes, "I got it."
When he looked back up, the image of Asuka was gone.
A day later, Asuka was standing in front of the door to Ryouji Kaji's office, her hands clenched into determined fists at her sides. "Alright," she told herself firmly, "the angel's not going to move for a few days, and I've gotta find out for sure… so let's do it."
Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped in the office, finding the man bent over his computer, typing quickly. She glanced around at the printouts strewn about the place, recognizing images of the angel as well as Units 01 and 02, both upended in defeat, and a stack of classical music CDs.
Clearing her throat, she murmured, "Kaji."
"Asuka," Kaji said calmly, his back tensing slightly as he continued typing, "how are you?"
Asuka hesitated. He sounds so careful, she thought, is he always like that, or just with me? She shook her head, trying to dismiss the idea. "I just wanted to see you," she said with forced brightness.
"Ah," the man replied noncommittally. "Well, I've got some work to do, but thanks for stopping by."
The redhead felt her shoulders slumping. He's dismissing me, she thought sadly, same as always. Taking a deep breath, she said, "Can I talk to you a minute?"
Kaji frowned, keeping his head bowed over his terminal. "I'm kind of busy," he reiterated, "can it wait?"
Steeling herself, Asuka bit back a coy reply. Bold, she reminded herself, if that little girl can run around saying whatever the hell is on her mind, damn it so can I!
"It can… but it would mean a lot to me if I could talk to you now."
Kaji slowly turned around. Silently, he studied Asuka's face, looking for the usual love-struck puppy expression he was used to seeing there. Finding nothing but placid blue meeting his inspection, he whispered, "Alright."
Resisting the urge to squeal or giggle, and thereby destroy any real chance she had, Asuka reached into her backpack. "I brought you this," she said as calmly as she could, pulling out a small, wrapped box, "I thought you might be hungry."
"Thank you, Asuka," Kaji murmured, accepting the bento with great care and setting it on his desk. "I am kind of hungry." He looked up into her eyes, still expecting to find that open adoration that seemed ever-present. When Asuka simply stared back, he asked, "Was there something else?"
"Yes," Asuka said immediately, "I like you, Kaji." She raised a hand as the old, familiar exasperation appeared on the man's face. "Let me say this," she said quickly, "then I'll go away… just like you want…"
Kaji grimaced slightly. "Asuka," he said awkwardly, "I don't want you to go away… I'm just very busy."
"I'll tell you the truth," Asuka returned quietly, "so please do the same for me, ok?"
Kaji pursed his lips, thinking about it for a moment before answering, "Ok."
The redhead nodded, murmuring, "Thank you." Pushing past the butterflies in her stomach, and reminding herself that a little first-year had done this, she spoke.
"I like you, Kaji," she said levelly, meeting the man's gaze head on. "Honestly. I think you're incredible, nice, and really, really handsome. On the boat, when I… showed myself to you," she blushed but continued speaking, "I'm sorry. I wanted you to see me, to know that I wasn't just playing around, and I didn't know how to do it." She lowered her voice. "I still don't know how to do it, Kaji, but I'm trying. I want you to see me – the real me. I want you to see that I'm not just a little girl with a crush – I'm a woman, and I like you." She swallowed, finally averting her eyes. "I like you…"
For a long time, Kaji said nothing, and suddenly his promise to tell the truth seemed like a bad one. It was all so much easier when he could pretend not to see the longing in her eyes, or brush it off as nothing more than child's play. But now… now he was faced with a very risky situation. Now it was clear that Asuka was not simply following an idle desire, and actually had feelings for him. And try as he liked, he could not ignore that.
It just would not be fair.
"Asuka," he said slowly, "I promised to be honest, and I think you deserve the truth." He took a deep breath, speaking with as much warmth as he could and choosing his words with great care. "I think you're a terrific young woman. You're smart, witty, brave, and very pretty…"
"But?" Asuka prompted, knowing where he was going, but needing to hear it.
"But I simply do not see you that way," Kaji said gently. "I'm sorry, Asuka, but you wanted the truth, and the truth is that I don't see you in a romantic light. You're a very good girl, but – I'm sorry – you are still a girl." He turned away, not wanting to see the hurt in the redhead's eyes, and he stiffened as he heard her footsteps approaching him and felt her hands lighting on his shoulders.
"Kaji," she whispered, keeping her voice level through force of will alone, "how can I make you see what's inside of me?"
She can do it, the thought repeated in Asuka's mind, Souske's a little girl – probably hasn't even started her period yet, and she can do it… she can say what she feels, so can I! So can I…
"What do you mean?" Kaji frowned, suddenly thankful that he could not see her face. "I told you, I don't see you that way, Asuka."
Slowly, Asuka's hands were pulled away. "You don't see me because you won't look at me," Asuka whispered bitterly. "All you see is a stupid little girl wrapped up in pathetic, childish infatuation. You don't even want to look past the surface to see if I'm really grown-up on the inside, because you don't want to see me that way."
"That's not fair," Kaji said quietly.
He listened as Asuka's footsteps receded towards the door, and his eyes clenched shut at she whispered, "Neither is refusing to look past the surface to see what's in a person's heart." The door to his office slid open, and Asuka stepped out. "I hope you like the bento," she said softly. "Goodbye."
Kaji sighed as the door slid closed, leaving him alone once more. Shaking his head to try and dismiss the conversation, he turned back to his plan of attack and began typing. After three lines, he pushed the keyboard aside and picked up the bento. "Damn it," he muttered, setting the box down and putting his head in his hands. "Damn it, damn it, damn it."
Chidori Souske sighed as she looked around the bustling streets. "Shinji," she murmured, "where are you?"
It had been five days since the angel had attacked, and she still could not get in touch with Shinji. Since school was out until the angel's final destruction, she could not see him there, and his cell phone kept picking up with a message that said he was 'currently unavailable.' She would have gone to his house, but the topic of where they each lived had never come up, and he did not seem to be listed in the phone book.
She shook her head, muttering to herself as she wandered down Kotetsu Boulevard. "The only Ikaris in the phone book are Midori, who's twenty four and single, and Gendou… and his answering machine doesn't mention anything about a son – or a wife – and he's never there, so that's probably not the right one."
She stopped for a red light, feeling rather downcast. She had even tried to call NERV, thinking that they might know how to contact him, and had received a rather cold, 'That employee is currently unavailable to speak to, good day,' from the operator. At least that was something, she thought, because if he was hurt she was sure that the operator would not have been so cool about it.
It was when she was crossing the street, and thinking about calling NERV again and posing as Shinji's mother, that she spotted –
She hurried across the street as the redhead came to a halt, frowning and looking around.
"Souske," Asuka said coolly, continuing on her way to the store as the girl fell in step at her side. She was not in a talkative mood… not since being embarrassed by Rei, the Wondergirl, in Kaji's synchronization training. It was bad enough that the blue-haired girl worked so well with Shinji, but that on top of Kaji's rejection had forced her to reevaluate some aspects of her life. She frowned, recalling her talk with Shinji on the balcony.
It's a matter of pride, she thought with some irritation, that's what I said… and now I've got to prove that I'm the best, no matter what. Not just to show the First that she's not perfect, but to show Kaji that I can keep my temper, and that I can be mature. He HAS to see, doesn't he? I mean… it's only been four days since I went to see him, but I can show him that I can change. I'm not just a little girl with a crush, damn it – I'm not!
What galled her most about the training, and Rei's demonstration earlier in the evening, was that she knew part of the reason the training had been failing was her own stubbornness. She would never admit it to anyone, but Shinji was not as bad as she kept saying he was, and with the threat of having the First Child replace her as his partner, Asuka knew it was time to stop being childish and show what she could do. She would show them – show Kaji – that was not a little girl.
Asuka blinked. "Yeah?" she asked, casting the girl at her side a questioning glance. "What is it?"
Chidori looked awkward. "Well," she said slowly, wondering if she should not have just let the older girl keep walking, "I'm sorry to bother you, but you said you work with Shinji… right?" She flinched as the redhead came up short, rounding on her.
"Yeah," Asuka snapped, planting her hands on her hips and staring the girl down, "I work with him – big deal!" She felt a brief pang of guilt as Chidori went white, stammering an apology and starting to back away. "Look," Asuka said, forcing a civil tone into her voice, "It's been a long day. What do you need, Souske?"
Chidori lowered her eyes. "I just… wanted to know if you knew if he was ok," she said softly. "I know that he fights… and it's been a couple days since the angel came… I just…" she swallowed. "I wanted to know if he was ok."
Asuka looked the girl over, feeling suddenly foolish for snapping. "He's ok," she told her quietly, "but he's going to be busy for a few days, so he won't be able to talk to you."
The change in the other girl's attitude was immediate, and dramatic. "Thank you, Souryu-sempai," she said openly, her back straightening considerably as she raised her eyes. "I was so worried." Her voice grew timid, and she fidgeted with the hem of her skirt as she whispered, "Can you tell him I said hi?"
"Yeah," Asuka rolled her eyes, turning away and starting for the store, "sure."
Chidori hurried to catch up, walking at the redhead's side with a happy smile.
"Something else?" Asuka grumbled, wishing that the girl would leave her alone, but not quite having the heart to tell her so.
Chidori held her hands behind her back and tilted her head to the side, looking at Asuka's profile as she asked, "I just wanted to know how you were doing with your boyfriend? You said you guys were taking it slow, I just wanted to see how it was going for you."
Again, Asuka stopped. "What business is it of yours?" she asked suspiciously.
Chidori blushed. "Well," she said slowly, "it's not my business at all… I just, I don't know – I think it's great that someone as pretty and smart as you likes to take her time in a relationship, you know? So many of the girls in school – even in my class – are always talking about how far they go with their boyfriends, and when you told me that you're taking your time with yours, that really impressed me." Her blush intensified as Asuka stared at her. "Sorry," she murmured, "I'm being too forward again, aren't I?"
Asuka frowned, finding herself at a loss for words. "We're doing fine," she said finally, starting to walk once more, "it's just…" before she could stop herself, she blurted, "I don't get to see him as much as I want."
Lord, she thought, feeling like a fool, why did I tell this little girl that? Geez… next thing you know she'll be offering ME advice on how I can get Kaji to spend time with me… hell, maybe she SHOULD give me advice…
Chidori was nodding in understanding. "I know what you mean," she sighed, "I could spend all day just holding Shinji's hand, but it seems like I hardly get to see him." She hurried on, hoping the other girl did not think she was stupid. "I'm really glad he's ok, though. It would kill me if something happened to him."
"What would you do?"
Asuka gathered her thoughts, making sure that her true question was properly veiled before she asked, "What would you do if you couldn't see him anymore? Or if he was hurt? Wait… let me think – ok, what would you do if he said he didn't want to see you anymore? Would you just give up and find someone else, or would you try to get him to stay with you?"
Chidori's brow knitted and her pace slowed considerably as she pondered the question. "I don't… really like to think about it," she murmured uneasily, "but I told him when we started going out that I would be happy with anything he gave me, so if he said he didn't want to be with me anymore, I guess I would just…" she trailed off.
"You'd just what?" Asuka prompted.
Chidori stopped walking, meeting the other girl's gaze as she too came to a halt. "I think I'd die," she said quietly, "I don't honestly know, Souryu-sempai, I mean… I told him that I would be his for as long as he would let me, and that I-"
"Wait," Asuka cut in, holding up one hand, "you put the entire relationship – the whole thing – in his hands??" When Chidori nodded, the redhead frowned. And he just took it? she thought, I haven't known him that long, but he apologizes so much, and backs off at the slightest hint of a threat… I'm surprised he even spoke to you, when I think about it.
Chidori took a deep breath. "I wanted to be with him," she said seriously. "That's all that mattered to me. But I didn't want to be a burden, or a nuisance, so I made sure that he knew that anytime he got tired of me, he could say it was over." She shrugged slightly. "Of course I don't want it to ever end… because right now, I can see myself with him forever."
"People change," Asuka warned coolly. They do, she reaffirmed in her mind, I'm going to show Kaji that they do.
Chidori nodded. "I know they do," she whispered, "and if he ever decides to break up, I won't fight it. I mean, I'll do everything I can to make sure it doesn't come to that, but if he chooses that I'm not going to cry and beg him to stay with me. That wouldn't be fair to him – not after I promised to let him end it whenever he wants."
"So," Asuka clarified, "you're willing to be passive, let him do anything he wants, and just take it when he decides to throw you away like a bag of trash?"
Chidori shuffled her feet. "That's… cold, sempai," she murmured, "but I guess you're right…" She smiled suddenly, catching Asuka totally off guard. "But," she said brightly, "we're together now."
Asuka slowly closed her mouth. "Is that all that matters?" she asked softly.
There was a moment of quiet as the two girls eyes met, unspoken words passing between them as one sought understanding and the other sought acceptance. The silence stretched on, the two girls understanding somehow that the answer to this question would somehow shape the future of their relationship.
Finally, Chidori spoke.
"Oh not this again!"
Hikari Horaki looked up from her desk at the sound of Touji Suzuhara's miserable groan. "What's wrong?" she asked with some concern.
The athletic boy shook his head, looking as if he would rather be anywhere but there. "Make it stop," he begged, clutching his head with mock distress, "the pain, make it stop!"
Hikari frowned, but her brow cleared as she caught sight of Shinji's desk. "Oh," she said sympathetically, "I see." The brown-haired boy looked beleaguered – and rightly so, as he was fielding questions from his friend Kensuke Aida and several first year students about the most recent angel attack. Hikari glanced over to where Asuka sat, chuckling to herself as she found the redhead calmly doing her homework.
Figures, she thought with some amusement, she made it pretty clear, pretty early, that she wasn't going to let herself be grilled. She paused in writing her report, tapping her pencil against her bottom lip thoughtfully, Of course, I don't think they're really supposed to talk about it at all, but Shinji… I don't think he knows how to tell people no.
Hikari decided that this felt right. She had not known Shinji very long, but somehow the idea of him saying no to anyone seemed out of character. She wondered suddenly if this was the real reason he had agreed to date the Souske girl.
Makes sense, she thought, smiling at the timing as Chidori walked into the classroom, yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Since the teacher had declared the last hour of the day as free time, other students were allowed to come and go as they chose – so long as they were not disruptive, of course – and the sight of a younger student was not uncommon. However, conversations still died down as Chidori approached Shinji's desk and waited for him to take notice of her.
Though Shinji himself was still baffled by this behavior, Hikari took it in stride. She understood why having a quiet, shy mecha pilot in class had caused a stir when he had arrived, and she understood now why this same, quiet pilot having a girlfriend was a point of interest. She could see the girls in the room reconsidering Shinji, wondering if their initial assessment of him as an impossible to talk to introvert was right or if, perhaps, they had overlooked something. As for the boys, she could see mingled confusion and envy. Why was Shinji suddenly the object of a girl's attention? Sure, Chidori was not a knockout, but she went so far out of her way to make sure that everyone knew Shinji was hers that it gave everyone pause.
Maybe it's not such a bad thing to be forward, she mused, unable to hide a small smile as Shinji looked up at Chidori and blushed, who knows? Maybe when I'm ready to ask a boy out I can be like that.
"Hey class rep?"
Hikari blinked. "Yeah?" she looked up, confused, "What is it, Suzuhara?"
Touji was just rising from a crouching position. "You dropped your cell."
"Oh," Hikari colored, "thanks."
"Don't mention it," Touji shrugged, handing her the device. "Hey, you think I could slip out early? I kinda wanted to see Kimiko today."
Hikari looked up at the clock. "Well," she murmured slowly, "I guess it would be alright, since it's only twenty minutes or so."
"Thanks," Touji grinned, gathering his books, "I owe you one."
Hikari put a hand on her cheek as the boy made his way towards the door. Why am I blushing? she thought. It's just Touji. She considered her cell for a moment, biting her lip. Just Touji, she repeated mentally, just cute, athletic, nice to his sister Touji. She blushed deeper, lowering her head in hopes of her bangs obscuring her features. Wow… she thought with some amazement, why didn't I notice before… hmm…
Thoughtfully, the class representative looked over to Chidori and Shinji, smiling once more as she found the two trying to look as small as possible, as if to avoid the prying eyes of those around them.
She looks pretty happy, though, Hikari observed, but Touji?
Looking back to her desk, she made a firm resolution… to think about it some more. After all, decisions like this were not something to be rushed, and if she decided that Touji was the kind of guy she could go for, she wanted to make very sure that she was the kind of girl he could go for, too.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, I guess, she thought, shaking her head and placing her pencil back on the paper. Interesting…
Chidori and Shinji walked side by side, wrapped in thought as they made their way towards 'their' park. Every now and then, Chidori would steal a look at Shinji and open her mouth, only to close it again and continue walking, leaving him to his borderline brooding.
Are you hurt? she thought, looking out at the city as they arrived at the park and headed up the small hill. What you do is so dangerous… is that a scrape on your cheek?
"Missed you," she said shyly, finally breaking the silence.
Shinji blinked and shook his head, throwing off images of a school in smoking ruins. "Hmm?"
Chidori lowered herself to the grass, looking up at him with open affection. "I said I missed you," she repeated, meeting his gaze.
Shinji sat down next to her and looked out at the city. "Sorry."
"It's ok," she assured him, stretching her back and smiling happily, "I'm just glad you're alright." Her smile slowly slipped away, and she decided to lay her misgivings aside and ask him what was on her mind. "Why was that girl staring at you?" she said quietly.
Shinji turned to look at her. "Who?" he wondered, confused. "You mean Asuka?"
"No," Chidori shook her head, "Souryu-sempai was working on a paper. I'm talking about the girl that sits by the window – the one with the blue hair."
"Ayanami??" Shinji exclaimed, wondering suddenly if his young girlfriend was just that paranoid. "I doubt that she was staring at me," he said firmly, "she was probably looking at the blackboard to see what our assignment was for tomorrow."
"I'm pretty sure," Chidori said uncomfortably, almost reaching out to touch his hand before wrapping her arms around her knees. "I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but when I came in, she was looking your way."
"Hmm," Shinji hummed, "well, I just can't see her staring like that, that's all."
"Ayanami," the girl said thoughtfully, "I know that name… hey! Isn't she a pilot too?" She nodded happily to herself before Shinji could reply, "I thought I remembered hearing about her from someone in school."
"Really?" Shinji asked, surprised. "What did you hear?"
Chidori shrugged. "Not much," she admitted. "I heard that she's a pilot, and she like – never talks, ever."
"She talks sometimes," Shinji said quietly, mirroring the girl's pose and embracing his knees, "just not that much."
"Does she talk to you?" Chidori asked, glancing at the boy out of the corner of her eye.
Missing the sudden look of tension on his girlfriend's face, Shinji replied, "She has before, but like I said, not much. She's kinda hard to get to know…"
Of course, he thought suddenly, I have seen more of her than anyone else, and – ahhh!! Don't think about that!!
Chidori frowned. You're blushing… she wanted to point out, do you like her, Shinji?
Neither spoke for several moments as they each thought of the First Child.
"So," Chidori said suddenly, making herself jump. "So ummm… I was wondering…"
"Yeah?" Shinji murmured, pushing the memory of a naked, damp Rei Ayanami from his thoughts.
"I was wondering if I could see where you live," Chidori said quietly. "Not today, because it's late and stuff, but I just kinda… wanted to see it, if that's ok."
"I guess that would be alright," Shinji shrugged, thankful for a change of subject, "I'll have to ask Misato, but I don't think it'll be a problem – Kensuke and Touji have come over before to bring me schoolwork and pick me up and stuff."
Chidori grinned. "Ok," she said happily, "just let me know when."
They let the silence fill the space between them again and watched the sky, but it was short-lived. Chidori watched Shinji as he suddenly frowned, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his cell phone, which – she noticed – was vibrating and emitting a small, rather annoying chirping sound.
"Shinji," the boy said softly, his lips compressing into a thin line as he listened. "Yes, Misato… no, I'll be there."
"You have to go?" Chidori asked when he hung up.
Shinji nodded. "Yeah," he said slowly, "I guess we need to go over the results of… yeah, I've gotta go…"
As he stood, Chidori smiled, forcing her disappointed sigh back down inside. "See you tomorrow," she said warmly, "I love you."
The boy blushed slightly. "See you tomorrow." He paused for a moment, then asked, "Are you going to go home? I can walk you to the train."
Chidori's smile widened. "Thanks," she said happily, getting to her feet, "I'd love that."
Rei floated in absolute silence, all sound from the outside world drowned out by the thick amber fluid all around her. She had learned patience at a very young age, and unlike most people deprived of their sense of hearing, she felt no panic or agitation. It was simply another sequencing experiment to her.
Outside of the tube she could easily make out the forms of Doctor Akagi and her commanding officer, Gendou Ikari. In the event that she might need to communicate with them, there was a sound amplifying system built into the metal bars on the cylinder that would allow for communication. Though this system was deactivated and she could not currently hear them, she had actually become quite adept at reading lips... a fact she suspected neither of them were aware of, as they were engaged in a rather intimate discussion.
"Did you like it?" Akagi was saying, her facial expression indicating that she was not paying the readout in front of her the slightest attention.
"It was enjoyable," the Commander replied, glancing up at Rei with a small frown.
Rei kept her face calm and unreadable, as always, allowing her eyes to focus on a point between the doctor and the commander until he brought his attention back to the blonde. She did not think that he suspected her of 'eavesdropping,' but she felt it better to ensure this fact. After all, it was he himself that had taught her a person should never reveal all of their abilities.
It was simple, tactical sense.
"Oh come now," Akagi said, her face displaying a trace of petulance, "you could at least admit that you had a good time, Gendou… you know I don't ask much, so would it kill you to-" the rest of the sentence was lost to the blue-haired girl as the doctor turned her attention to the keyboard in her lap.
The Commander, Rei noticed, was not amused by whatever the woman said.
"I've told you before," he said, his lips barely moving, "I do not the have patience to stroke your ego, Doctor, if you would rather end this affair, please, just let me know."
Even through the LCL, Rei could see the woman pale.
"I didn't mean it like that!" she protested quickly, almost reaching out before catching herself and casting a nervous glance at the sequencing tube. "I just want to make you happy."
Rei could not help shivering as the Commander replied simply, "Noted."
So strange, the blue-haired girl thought as the two turned their attention back to their work. Is being alone so bad that she must debase herself like this?
Her lips thinned to a narrow line – the closest she generally got to a frown – as another thought occurred to her.
I did not see it when Ikari first arrived, but now that he is involved with Souske, his behavior has grown to be similar to the Commander's. He allows his lover to be close to him, but he does not seem to let the relationship advance, nor does he nourish or encourage…
She smoothed her face as the Commander looked up at her, and a moment later the sound amplifying system within the tube came to life.
"Rei," the Commander said quietly, "we're done here… let's eat."
"Yes," Rei replied simply, noting Akagi's dour expression from the corner of her eye.
Not quite the same, she mused as the LCL began to drain from the tube, as Souske seems calmer and less prone to agitation than the Doctor, but there are definitely similarities.
As the tube opened, the First Child concluded that further, subtle observation of both couples was in order. There were undeniable corollaries, and there was only one word that she could think of to describe an analysis of two complicated, seemingly one-sided relationships.
Shinji paced the length of the living room in slow, measured strides, wondering what, exactly, Misato would say when Chidori arrived. When he asked her if he could have a girl over to watch a movie, the woman had very nearly choked on her beer, and the next three days had consisted of almost endless teasing and offhand comments about a proposed 'Misses Ikari 2015' contest.
What unnerved him more than the good-natured, almost boyish heckling was the fact that the woman was now silent. She's been like that since I got up, he thought, nervously glancing in to where Misato sat at the kitchen table, reading some report or another. The teasing I can take – I'm used to that – but she must have something BIG planned.
He frowned, stopping in the middle of the living room. "She was on the phone this morning," he mused, resuming his quiet march and ignoring PenPen as he waddled into the room, "maybe it was bad news – but if it was bad, wouldn't she tell me? Or at least say I couldn't have company?"
PenPen tilted his head to the side, yawning expansively as the human he considered 'the provider' trudged around the room. Though his avian mind could not quite fathom the boy's distress, he still wished him well. After all – his mistress was not precisely quick on the draw when it came to breakfast, and it would not do to have this person so distracted that the morning sardines were late.
A bird had to have priorities.
"I just hope she doesn't make Chidori uncomfortable," Shinji murmured, finally sitting on the couch and holding a hand out to the small bird. "She kinda confused me with that, 'Summer and Fall only last so long before Winter gets here,' bit she muttered last night," he shrugged, "I think she was trying to make a point about childhood, but all I got out of it was that I need to buy long underwear…"
PenPen considered the outstretched palm for a moment before waddling closer and allowing his beak to be scratched. This, he found, calmed the boy, and a calm provider was a productive provider.
In his experience, anyway.
"Hey," Misato called, "you gonna get that?"
Shinji shook himself, standing up so fast he nearly bumped into PenPen. "S-sorry!" he called, sidestepping the ruffled bird and heading for the front door as a second hesitant knock sounded.
As he passed through the kitchen, he noticed Misato checking her watch and rising to her feet. "Get that," she said quietly, nodding towards the door as Shinji hesitated.
Hurrying to the door, and fighting the sense of foreboding raised by Misato's serious expression, the boy straightened his shoulders.
"Hi," Chidori greeted him, bowing formally.
"You don't have to do that," Shinji said uneasily, opening the door wide and ushering her in.
Chidori stepped into the apartment, unconsciously reaching out to steady herself by placing one hand on his shoulder. "Sorry," she said absently, slipping her shoes off one at a time, "I kinda had a little trouble talking my mom into letting me stay. At first she wanted me home by seven, but I told her that by the time I got over here it would be five, so…" she trailed off, slowly raising her head and staring with wide eyes at where her hand was on him. "Sorry," she said quickly, yanking her hand away and putting it behind her back to join the other. "Wasn't thinking…"
"It's alright," Shinji told her, wondering how he should feel about this little act of confidence.
Not confidence, he thought, leading the girl towards the kitchen, comfort. I'm her boyfriend… period. I bet she wouldn't have even noticed if I put a hand around her waist to support her.
"Hey," Chidori caught his arm, stopping him just outside the kitchen and lowering her voice to a whisper. "Do you think Katsuragi-san will like me?" she asked nervously, her eyes darting towards the door. "I didn't even bring anything for her – I didn't have time… do you think she'll be mad? A guest should always bring something on the first visit, even if it's just tea…"
Shinji frowned slightly at the girl's old-fashioned sensibilities. "I don't think she'll mind," he said confidently, "she's not too big on… well, on anything, really." He shrugged. "Don't worry," he muttered, "she'll probably be too busy asking me when the wedding date is to notice anything else."
Chidori blushed, nodding to herself as she followed him into the kitchen. "Hello, Katsuragi-san," she managed, bowing formally. "It's very nice to meet you, Shinji's told me a lot about you."
This, sadly, was a lie. About the only thing Shinji had told her was that his guardian was also his superior at NERV and that she was a terrible cook. He didn't mention anything about her being beautiful, she thought, stealing a guilty look at the woman's bosom, or being so… big. She let out a soft, sad breath. God, she thought, taking another quick look before the woman zipped up her red flight jacket, half, ok? Even just half that much and I'll never ask for anything ever again, I swear!
Misato nodded. "I got the movie you wanted," she told Shinji briskly, pressing a plastic case into his hands, "I'll be back later."
Shinji simply stared. "You're not… not staying?" he asked incredulously.
"I have something I have to take care of," the purple-haired woman replied flatly. She turned her attention to Chidori. "It was nice to meet you, Miss Souske," she said quietly, "have a nice evening."
Shinji watched her all but dash out the door with an exceedingly confused look on his face. "Huh…" he scratched his head, glancing from the movie case to the door.
"Something wrong?" Chidori asked nervously, "Shinji?"
"I guess not," Shinji said slowly, leading the girl into the living room and gesturing for her to sit on the couch. "It's just…"
"Just what?" Chidori prompted, smiling reassuringly as Shinji slid the movie into the player and sat next to her. "I think it's pretty nice of her to let us be alone – she must trust you."
Yeah, Shinji thought, grabbing the remote and clicking the TV on, but she barely even looked at you – and I thought for sure she would tease me for bringing a girl over. She teased me for an hour when I asked if Chidori could come over, but when she gets her, Misato just runs out the door… weird. Whatever she had to do must be really important.
Chidori took a surreptitious glance around, ensuring that they were indeed alone. "Shinji?" she whispered, waiting until he pushed play and leaned back. "Can I hold your hand again?"
She knew she should not have to ask – he had been the first to suggest holding hands – but it had been some time since they had watched the sunset and he had held her. Better to ask than to risk messing things up.
For a moment, Shinji did not reply. Then, when Chidori had decided that she would just be quiet, he stretched one arm up and carefully wrapped it around her shoulders. Happily, the young girl scooted a bit closer, smiling as the movie began and containing the triumphant 'yes' that she longed to let loose.
As the opening credits began scrolling across the screen, Chidori lay her head on Shinji's shoulder, replaying that afternoon in her mind. This is nicer, she decided, nestling a bit closer to his side and reaching up to put her hand lightly on his, no bugs, no grass, no car horns, we're all… all alone…
"Hmm?" Shinji hummed, keeping his eyes on the screen.
We're alone, Chidori thought, staring at the side of his face, do you want to kiss me?
Shinji turned to face her, blinking as he realized how close they were, and how quiet things were in the apartment. Turning quickly away, he cleared his throat. "Do you want a drink or something?" he asked awkwardly, wondering if she even knew how close to him she had been leaning.
Chidori shook her head, blushing faintly and thinking about what it would be like to have his lips pressed to hers. "No, I'm ok… thanks."
Stop! she thought, touching her cheek to try and cover her blush. Stop thinking about stuff like that… geez… I'm a pervert! Forcing herself to stay focused on the movie, she took a deep, calming breath. Ok, she thought reasonably, it's not that big a deal – I can want to kiss my boyfriend. I just need to be sure I don't SAY I want that. I can't be greedy, or I might-
She nearly jumped off the couch as the doorbell sounded, covering her heart with the hand and gasping, "Oh! Oh that scared me…"
Shinji simply looked confused. "Who could that be?" he wondered, taking his arm off of Chidori's shoulders and rising to his feet. "I'll be right back."
Chidori stood also, standing by the couch as the boy headed to the door. Oh, please don't let it be Aida-sempai… she prayed, he hasn't talked to me for days, but if he sees me here he'll be mad – I just know he will!
A moment later, the sound of conversation floated to her from the front of the apartment. "That sounds like Souryu-sempai," she mused, sitting back down and trying to relax. She frowned as the conversation continued, seeming to grow closer.
"…wasn't my idea!"
Chidori's eyes widened as Asuka swept into the living room, a large dufflebag on her shoulder and a frown on her face. Shinji followed a moment later, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Well," he said uneasily, "where are you going to stay?"
Asuka rounded on the boy, throwing her hands in the air. "How the heck am I supposed to know?" she cried, "I guess probably that crappy little 'guest room' I've slept in for the past few nights, but I don't know for sure – all Misato said was that I was going to live here from now on!"
The two Children froze. "Souske?" Asuka muttered, casting a narrow glance at Shinji, "What, is she staying here too?" She grinned, feeling a bit better as both of the others fell all over themselves to make it clear that Chidori was only over for a couple hours. "So," she mumbled, glancing around at the living room, "guess I'll start bringing my stuff in…"
This isn't happening! Chidori told herself as the redhead dropped her bag and headed back towards the front door, She's got a boyfriend, but… but she's so…and she's got those… and she… this can't be happening! What if Shinji decides he wants to be with her? She said she's stayed here for a few nights, and he told me she was staying here when they were getting ready for the angel – but now she'll be LIVING with him!
"This isn't happening…"
Chidori blinked. "What?"
"This isn't happening," Shinji repeated, closing his eyes, and rubbing them with his fingers, "she's already mad at me for the last angel fight – now she's going to be living here? She's going to hate me." His shoulders slumped. "Great…"
Tentatively, Chidori put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey," she whispered, waiting until he opened his eyes before sliding her arms around him and resting her head against his shoulder, "it'll be ok. Katsuragi-san must have had a good reason to want her here, right?" She closed her eyes, fighting her own misgivings and adding, "I'm sure it'll be ok. You can, umm… call me and come over to my house for a few hours if it gets too bad, ok?"
Shinji frowned. "I doubt your parents would want me to just drop by," he said quietly.
"Mother," Chidori said softly, hugging him tighter and slowly rubbing her cheek against his shirt, "I live with my mother… my father's gone."
"I'm sorry," Shinji sighed, finally returning her embrace. Always putting my foot in it, he thought disgustedly, maybe I should just shut-
"Hey, Third Child."
He glanced around, blushing as he found Asuka standing behind him with a small parcel under each arm.
"Think you can stop being sorry for a few minutes and help me get these boxes in?"
"Yeah," he said quickly, letting Chidori go and hurrying over to the redhead, "sorry."
Chidori pursed her lips as Asuka rolled her eyes. Well, she thought to herself, I guess things just got a little more… interesting. She closed her eyes for a moment, reminding herself, she has a boyfriend, she has a boyfriend, she has a boyfriend. Shaking herself, she opened her eyes and tried on a smile.
"Can I help?"
Asuka shook, her slender frame trembling with tension and fear as adrenalin ripped through her bloodstream. "Got you," she gasped, watching the angel break apart, "I got you…" Unit 02 lurched again as another of the perforated coolant tubes gave way, leaving only one.
Hot, she thought, swallowing as she assessed her situation, God, it's hot…
She was not sure how deep into the volcano she was, but she was fairly sure that she would not live to see the surface. The D-type equipment was proving to be a burden, stopping her from reaching up to grab the fraying tubes, and even though they were reeling her in, she held no hope that they would be fast enough.
"I killed it," she whispered, wiping sweat off of her face – and frowning as more immediately replaced it. "Shinji couldn't have… Wondergirl couldn't have… but I did it…" She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath to try and calm down, "I did it."
With her eyes closed, it was easier to avoid thinking about what was going to happen to her. She smiled, allowing her body to relax. No point in fighting, she thought tiredly, too late to do anything about it.
She sighed, thinking suddenly of Chidori standing in the living room and hugging Shinji five days prior, when Asuka moved into the apartment. Thoughts of the younger girl always led to thoughts of, "Kaji…"
Imagining that she could hear the last tube creaking, Asuka opened her eyes.
"Did I do ok, Kaji?" she whispered, briefly considering turning on her com system. "Better not," she murmured to herself, looking out at the roiling lava all around and flinching as a sharp, metallic clink echoed through the plug. "If I try to talk to you," she said, flinching again as another clink (sounding suspiciously of buckling metal) sounded, "then I might start going on and on about how I did this for you – just so you'd take me seriously." She grinned to herself. "Then you'll start to cry, and tell me that you'll never forget me and that you're sorry you didn't take me seriously, and if you start to cry, then I'll start to cry, and then-"
She cut herself off abruptly.
She gave a short, involuntary cry as Unit 02 shuddered, the last coolant tube giving way with a snap.
"Guess… this is it…" she gasped, closing her eyes and feeling nauseous as her mecha seemed to go weightless for a moment, then began sinking, picking up speed at a terrifying rate.
She might have screamed, given enough time, but bare seconds after the red machine started its decent, it stopped.
Breathlessly, she looked up – and found herself staring into the leering face of Unit 01. The huge, purple machine was suspended in mid-lava, with one hand wrapped around the severed bundle of cooling tubes and the other clutching the top of Unit 02's bulbous helmet. Entirely stunned, deliriously happy, awash with relief, Asuka laughed out loud.
"Show off!" she shouted, clapping her hands together with delight.
She sighed, covering her face with her hands as elation gradually gave way to shock. I could have died, she thought seriously, wondering what she was going to say when she had to face him, oh, he's going to lord this over me… and Kaji! Thank GOD I didn't start blubbering over the communications system! That's all I'd need to make sure he NEVER looked my way again.
Slowly, the two machines began to rise. Thankfully, due to the damage to the various systems, it took another hour to get Asuka to the surface and out of Unit 02. By that time, the redhead was prepared for any eventuality… and later in the afternoon, when they returned to NERV and she saw Kaji in the hallway, she was able to face him calmly and without any sign of weakness and tell him coolly that she was not afraid for one second.
Just like an adult, she thought proudly, bowing politely and turning away, now just walk away, don't look back, and for god's sake – do not giggle!
Had she been facing the man at that point, her pride might have been given an added boost, because at that very moment – Kaji was gaping at her back, his amazement growing with every step the girl took without a backward glance, forcing him to think that maybe he had misjudged the girl.
Chidori fidgeted with the ribbon on the small box she was holding and waited for the door to Shinji's apartment to open. "I brought you this, Katsuragi-san," she whispered, practicing what she would say, "I thought you'd like it, and… oh man, I suck at this! What'll I do when I meet his father??"
She kept meaning to ask Shinji why he didn't live with his father, but there never seemed to be a good moment to say, 'Hey, does your father just hate you, or what?' He had mentioned, several times, that his father also worked at NERV, but the sound of his voice suggested that the two of them did not get along terribly well.
Chidori could definitely relate to that.
"Katsuragi-san!" she blurted, bowing her head and thrusting the box out in front of her as the door began to open, "I thought you'd like… I brought… this is… here!"
Oh, I'm such a loser! she thought miserably, waiting for the box to be taken.
"You should try to calm down… you'll hurt yourself or something."
Chidori blinked, looking up. "Souryu-sempai?"
Asuka was standing in the doorway with a faint smile on her lips. "Unless that's beer," she said dryly, nodding towards the box, "I doubt Misato will want it. Come on…"
Feeling even more foolish than before, Chidori followed the redhead into the apartment, slipping her shoes off and heading into the kitchen. "Hi," she said timidly, giving Shinji a little wave when he looked up from his textbook. She reached into her pocket, pulling out a small package. "Here," she said proudly, "I remembered that you said you liked wintergreen, so I brought you some Lifesavers."
"Thanks," Shinji murmured, avoiding Asuka's piercing gaze and taking the roll. "Do you want some?" he offered, popping two of the rings into his mouth.
"No thanks, I'm out of here," Asuka said smoothly, turning back towards the door, "Hikari asked if I wanted to hang out at her place today and meet her sisters and stuff."
Chidori bowed. "Have a safe trip, Souryu-sempai."
Asuka rolled her eyes. "Ease up," she grumbled, "we're not at school."
As the girl left, Chidori sighed. "She looked pretty happy," she said after a moment.
"She killed the last angel on her own," Shinji informed her quietly, finally closing his book and rising to his feet.
"You wanna watch some TV or something?" he asked, slipping the Lifesavers into his pocket for later and crunching thoughtfully on the two in his mouth.
"Sure," Chidori nodded, "or we could just talk for a while."
Together they headed into the living room and sat on the couch. Shinji blushed brightly, though, as Chidori slowly leaned over and embraced him, resting her head on his chest.
"I'm glad we're alone," she told him softly, thankful that he could not see the uncertainty on her face.
And I'm glad you let me hold you.
"Yeah," Shinji replied after a minute, carefully putting his hand on her back. "It's quiet…"
Chidori pulled back slightly to look up at him. "I've been thinking about what to get you for Valentine's Day," she said shyly, "but I don't really know what you like, so I was wondering if you would tell me?"
"Isn't Valentine's Day in February?" Shinji asked, frowning slightly.
"Yeah," Chidori said happily, blushing faintly as she added, "I can't wait! It'll be the first time I've given honmei."
"What's wrong?" Chidori asked, cocking her head to the side. "Did I say something wrong?"
"No," Shinji assured her, shaking his head, "it's just… I dunno, it's weird to me to try and think that far ahead."
"Really?" the girl blinked. "How come?"
"Well," Shinji said slowly, "I don't think too much about what's going to happen, I guess. It's kinda hard to even think about homework when you know that any day-"
"What?" Chidori prompted as he abruptly stopped talking, "What is it, Shinji?" She hugged him briefly. "You can tell me, really," she assured him, "anything, Shinji… you know you can talk to me about anything, don't you?"
Shinji offered her a halfhearted, slightly sickly smile, then glanced down at her head and thinking of all the kind things she had said and done for him. I need to do something nice, he thought guiltily, she said all I had to do was be her boyfriend, but shouldn't I do something too? It's not fair for her to have to do it all.
"Go on," Chidori whispered. "Anything."
I will, Shinji promised himself, closing his eyes, after I tell her this, I will…
"It's hard to think about doing homework when you know an angel could attack at any time and destroy everything."
Chidori raised her head and looked up into his eyes. "That's the first time you've talked about what you do," she told him quietly. "It must be hard for you… really hard…"
"It's ok," Shinji said lightly, "I just try not to complain… avoid talking when I don't need to… and always do what I'm told." He paused for effect before adding, "Misato says I'll make a good husband."
Chidori smiled, giggling, "You're funny," and laid her head back on his chest, "funny and cute and smart and…" she trailed off as Shinji brought his right hand up and cradled her cheek in his palm. Curiously, she looked up, studying his neutral expression for some indication of what was on his mind. She felt her pulse quickening as Shinji used the hand resting against her cheek to slowly urge her closer.
Willingly, she let herself be guided, slowly reaching out and putting her left hand on his face. She wanted to close her eyes as he stopped, holding her less than three inches from his face, but she could not make any part of her body cooperate. She could feel and taste his breath blowing gently against her mouth, smelling of the mints she had shared with him… a thousand years ago.
A thousand years sounded about right – surely they had been locked in that moment, staring into each others eyes, for at least a hundred.
Finally (finally) Shinji closed his eyes and drew Chidori's lips to his.
Time did not stop. Fireworks did not go off. Chidori's heart did not burst from pure love. It was a simple, quiet, gentle kiss – the soft meeting of two pair of barely-parted lips, without even having the passion or heat of intermingled tongues or tentative, exploratory touches. It was nothing more than a kiss between two young people, silently affirming a mutual feeling of closeness.
Chidori pulled back with much reluctance, waiting until Shinji opened his eyes, a questioning expression on his features. Making sure that his eyes stayed open this time, Chidori drifted closer once more, running her lips softly over his as she whispered his name.
Slowly, she pulled away, leaning her head down on his chest and smiling contentedly as she slipped her hand into his.
Shinji gazed down at her for several minutes, noticing how her face was limned by a warm shaft of late-afternoon sunlight peeking through the blinds. He studied every facet of her, from her gently tilted eyes, currently closed, to her healthy-looking, peach hued skin, he took in every aspect of her.
Was that enough? he thought. Was that enough, Chidori? It wouldn't be right for me to just sit back and let you be the one that's always trying to be nice. I needed to do something nice for you, so was it enough… or will you need more, some time? Because I don't know if I-
He blinked as Chidori wriggled against his side, her brow furrowing slightly and a small, discontented sound issuing from her throat. A slow smile graced the Third Child's features as realization struck: Chidori, his lover… had fallen asleep. She stilled, her brow clearing as Shinji wrapped his free hand around her shoulders, murmuring softly to her that all was well.
Watching her sleep for a minute, Shinji could not help but feel at peace. Even if it was only temporary and she woke in that minute, confused and angry and saying that he had taken advantage of her affections – in that very moment… he was content.
He watched her sleep for five more minutes, then closed his eyes and drifted off himself.
Author's notes: Yes, this is somewhat of a series… but since I don't know how long it will be between chapters, I feel that it's safer to use 'the end' instead of 'to be continued' at the end of each segment – keep my options open :P I'm doing my best to keep character changes slow and continuous, which is why I'm trying to avoid getting too caught up in series events right now. As far as the series goes, not too much has changed… yet. Obviously, Shinji being involved would create change, but I'm trying to have it be subtle changes over time. The biggest noticeable change at this point, of course, is in Asuka's behavior. I just figured that if she had kind of a role model for relationships in Chidori, and she knew that Shinji would not be 'interested' in her, she just might focus a little more of her energies on trying to win Kaji over.
Pre-read on this was by Ryoma and Lord Malachite… and for the last time, you two, NO! Asuka is not going to try to steal Shinji from Chidori! Sheesh!!! :P Also pre-reading for me for the first time is Lisa Eggleston, so thanks to her as well. ^_^
Feedback is always welcome at email@example.com