15th September 2021 – Early Morning – Kaworu's Apartment

There are several thoughts running through my head as I pick up my phone and try to work out the time in Japan right now. Right at the forefront is what I'm going to say to Rei when I speak to her. I still haven't quite made up my mind about what it is I'm going to do regarding the e-mail, I want to tell her but then if I do that means I have to send the damn thing and I'm still not sure if I should do that.

There is also the ongoing situation with Kaworu to consider. I know I don't have to tell Rei about what happened the other night but I feel like I have to. I feel like I have this duty to tell Rei the truth about it. I feel like I'll be worse off in some way if I keep that from her.

At the same time, I don't even know what me and Kaworu are at the moment. Are we just good friends or something more? Are we boyfriend and girlfriend now? It's not as if we've sat down since we kissed and spoke about it. Yet, I know that we are something because of the way we speak to each other, because of the way we look at each other and the way that I feel about him. I feel comfortable around him, I feel like I can talk to him and tell him anything.

The proof of that was last night when I told him the circumstances of my leaving Japan to come back to Germany. It's a story I hadn't told before, it was a day I hadn't thought about for a very long time. I hadn't even told Rei about what had happened on that day and she is my best friend. So clearly that means me and Kaworu have something.

I am still apprehensive about what that thing might be though. I don't know if I'm ready for that sort of thing or if I can be the person Kaworu needs. I still feel like the only thing I'm good for is hurting him and other people, I still remember clearly that person I was before Third Impact and I worry that she is still there. I still worry that people will remember that person too and realize that I'm not worth the effort. I don't want to be alone, I don't want people to abandon me but at the same time I know what I was and if they did I only have myself to blame.

I wonder if this thing between Kaworu and myself is a good thing. Kaworu deserves someone nice and kind for him, he deserves someone who can provide warmth and comfort and support. Someone like...

I shake my head before my mind travels down that path. Of all the people I can think of who would be perfect for Kaworu it would have to be Shinji wouldn't it? Shinji does fit that bill though, sure he was a bit of an idiot and oblivious but he was kind, he was nice to be around and before things went downhill he could provide support. As Eva pilots we brought out the best in each other, I just didn't want to admit that back then.

Of course, Kaworu would have been perfect for him too. Kaworu is good looking, kind and able to listen. The two of them would actually have been a good couple were it not for the whole betrayal and one having to kill the others. I'm not sure that is a bridge that can be mended now and naturally there is Rei to consider, I dread to think what she would do if Kaworu approached Shinji.

I stop mid thought and shake my head, what the hell am I thinking? Why am I thinking all of this, why am I pairing this guy up with someone else when it's me who likes him and who kissed him. What the hell happened to me? Why can't I just allow myself to pursue happiness for myself? I want to be with Kaworu! I don't to actually try this and prove I'm not that person anymore, that's why I didn't run.

That's why I am still here right now, that's why I kissed him and why I spent last night cuddled up with him. That's why I told him the story of how I left Japan. I like this guy and... maybe, just maybe I actually deserve to be happy too.

I look down at my phone again feeling I can't put this off any longer. I scroll to Rei's name and fire off a quick message telling her to call me. I don't want to risk phoning her first and having Shinji answer, this time I'm doing it as we arranged. A minute later my phone starts to ring and I quickly answer it, "Rei?"

There is a brief moment of silence and I worry that maybe it is Shinji but much to my relief I hear her voice come through, "Hello Asuka, it's good to hear your voice."

I smile to myself, "It's good to hear yours too Rei, I was worried for a moment that it might have been Shinji?"

"Shinji is not here at the moment, he is out with Touji and Kensuke."

"Oh, that's good! He still doesn't suspect anything does he?"

"No he does not, at least he has not said anything."

"Good..." I nod my head, "I wouldn't want him to... find out about me like that. I want him to find out properly. That's... why I'm calling you actually, there's something I wanted to ask you."

"Are you ready to tell Shinji you are alright?" Rei's question comes quickly and I can hear the excitement in her voice.

I let out a sigh, "I... I don't know Rei, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. I've got a few... issues that need working out."

"Yes, I am aware." I can hear the sarcasm in her voice.

"You know Rei, there is a time and place for sarcasm."

"I apologize."

"It's fine, I'll allow it... but only because you're my best friend." I laugh.

"What is it you wished to talk to me about?"

"It's about... Well over the last few weeks a few things have happened and it's made me do a lot of thinking. I mean you came to visit me in Germany and then we found out about Kaworu it just... made me think about the past and why I left Japan... I keep on thinking about what I've asked you to do, to hide the truth about me and I'm wondering if I should... contact them."

"If there is anything I can do to help I will do so!" Rei cuts me off, again sounding very excited by what I'm saying, "I can arrange travel and somewhere for you to stay."

"Wait! Rei... Wait..." I stop her, "I don't know if I'm ready for... anything in person but I... I wrote an e-mail to Shinji. I was going to send it and it was going to explain everything, like why I left and what I've been doing but it was also going to... I was going to mention you. I wanted you to look at it first and... Make sure it was alright I guess."

"I see." Rei pauses for a moment, "That should be acceptable, when will you send it?"

I freeze for a brief moment as I realize the implications of what I've just said. I feel that rush of nerves in side my stomach, there is no going back now.

"I... I'll send it this afternoon."

"That's great! Do you want me to show him as well?"

"No!" I quickly reply, "No, absolutely not... not yet. I just want you to look at it. I've... explained about you finding me and why I left and a few other things. Just take a look and tell me if you want anything changing, I don't want... to cause any problems for you."

"I understand." Rei pauses, "I am happy for you to tell the truth about our situation though. I am sure that he will understand and there will be no issue."

"I hope not." I hesitate for a moment before moving onto the next section, "Thank you Rei."

"It is not a problem, I am so glad that this is finally happening."

I let out a laugh, "Well... don't get too far ahead of yourself yet. I still need to send it to him and then... well we'll see what happened. Just don't think I'll be flying out there next week okay."

"Don't worry I will be patient but when you have sent it we should look at flying you over here to see him and MIsato and the others. I'm certain they'll all be so happy to hear from you!"

"Yeah..." I want to believe what she is saying but my mind just doesn't let me believe it. After the way I left and all the ways I hurt Shinji before that I can't believe he'd ever be happy to hear from me again. I'm also fairly certain that flying out there like Rei wants is probably out of the question too. Even if Shinji is happy to see me I still have to deal with the likes of MIsato and the others and I know that they'll probably have a less than favorable opinion of me.

Suddenly as I look at the phone in my hand I start to wonder what it is I'm doing. Should I really be contemplating sending this e-mail? Is this really worth it? What exactly am I trying to achieve? It's too late now though, I'd already said I'm going to do it and... I'm sick of running away. I don't want to run away anymore.

"I know you have difficulty believing that Asuka." Rei suddenly speaks, "But they do. Misato speaks about you often, she told us how she regrets the way she treated you and that she should have done more for you."

I shake my head, "She's just saying that..."

"No she isn't." Rei stops me, "She was really upset the day you left, she blamed herself for it all and was ready to do everything she could to get you back. The only reason she didn't is because Fuyutsuki told her about your demands. Even then she still tried to find you for at least a month afterwards."

I sit down on the bed, Rei had never told me that before. I always thought that Misato just accepted that I had gone. I wonder what I would have done if she had tracked me down, would I have gone back willingly? Would I have told her to go away? If she had tracked me down and found me it would have been confirmation that they did care but would I have believed it back then?

"Rei..."

"The others as well, HIkari misses her friend, she was looking forward to going back to school with you in her class. Even Touji and Kensuke missed you."

"Well I didn't miss those idiots!" I laugh, "Look Rei just... don't expect me to be back over there immediately. It's not that easy, even if I wanted to I have commitments here with the book and with... Kaworu too..."

"What about over Christmas then? It would be wonderful to see you over that time and Shinji has a performance with his new group that I am sure he'd love for you to attend." There is a brief pause, "I suppose... if he proves himself then Nagisa would be able to come as well."

"Yeah..." I trial off and think about it. It does sound nice, my book releases at the start of December and then spending time with them in Japan? Would I be able to do it? I'm not sure, I still don't know if I can send this damn e-mail yet and besides I still don't know how people will react. Rei is telling me these things about how I was missed and how people care but I don't know how true that is.

Besides... there is Kaworu to consider as well. Me and Kaworu... we are something now and we probably will be by then. I might be welcome, but would he? How would they react if we turn up as a couple?

"Actually Rei... I need to tell you about Kaworu..."

"What is it? Has he hurt you?"

"No! Nothing like that, it's just..." I sigh, "He invited me to his place for dinner other night for dinner and... it was really nice Rei and I... I kissed him. I... I think I like him..."

"You kissed Nagisa?"

I feel my stomach drop as the tone in her voice gets darker. All of a sudden, I get the feeling that I've just done something very wrong.

"Yes... I did."

There is a long pause from the other end of the line, "Rei, are you okay?"

"I am afraid I have to go. Goodbye Asuka." I can hear the venom in her voice as she speaks to me. It's frightening in a way. I've never heard her sound angry like that before.

"Wait Rei don-"

I try to stop her from going but I barely get halfway through my sentence before the line goes dead. I stare at the device for a few moments and feel my hand tighten around it. I stand up and try to suppress the urge to throw my phone at the wall in anger. Not anger at Rei but at myself, I should have known better than to tell her that.

A moment later my phone vibrates again. It's a message and I know it'll be from Rei. I don't know what it'll say but after hearing her hang up like that I almost dread to think about it. I should have waited to tell her about myself and Kaworu, I should have waited until she had the chance to believe he wasn't the person she thought he was.

Slowly I turn my phone around to look at the message. Just as I expected it is from Rei, 'I do not wish to continue this conversation or speak with you today. Goodbye.'

What the hell is that supposed to even mean? My hand hovers over her contact details ready to call her again and try to work this out but I feel like she won't answer. Maybe I can send her a message but with her like this would she even read it? Instead all I can do is grip my phone tightly in my hand and suppress the urge to scream out.

I can feel my arm starting to drop and get myself ready to hurl the phone at the wall but a soft tapping at the bedroom door stops me. I don't turn around as the door opens and Kaworu enters the room quietly.

"Asuka… is everything alright?"

"Fine…" I reply through gritted teeth.

"What happened?" He asks me as he enters the room.

"I… told Rei about us kissing and I seem to have pissed her off." I keep my back to him and shrug as I speak.

"I… It is understandable given her feelings about me." Kaworu replies solemnly, "I am sorry I have caused trouble for you."

"Idiot! Don't you dare! This isn't you, this is… that stubborn… argh!" I spin around and come face to face with Kaworu, "This isn't your fault Kaworu. You haven't caused any trouble, Rei is just being… an idiot."

"I do not think she is." Kaworu speaks softly, "Rei's fears and feelings towards me are understandable given what I have done in the past. I am… not surprised that such a thing would anger her."

"Well it's annoying!" I bark back, "It's annoying and she's a goddamn idiot!"

Kaworu steps closer to me and brings his hand up slowly to my cheek. I lean into the warmth of his palm and sigh, "I… The last thing I wanted to do was piss her off, she's been one of my only friends Kaworu, the only one who understands."

He nods, "I know and I wish there was something I could do to help, perhaps I could contact her myself?"

I laugh, "I doubt you'll accomplish much with that but… whatever, give it a go."

He smiles, "I will Asuka… I would not like to see your friendship with Rei broken in such a way. I… dislike seeing you hurt."

"Thank you." I continue to stand there letting Kaworu run his hand through my hair and down along my cheek. I reach up with one hand and softly cup his cheek, my hand runs along his warm and pale skin. I allow my hand to reach up a bit further and my fingers meet his soft grey hair.

We stand like this for a moment until Kaworu leans in closer to me. I'm surprised by his boldness and ready myself as he places a hand on my hip and draws me in close. My lips meet his as we kiss for a third time this weekend. I feel Kaworu's hand on my hip slowly start to slide upwards and I wonder for a moment what his destination for it is, I wonder if he would be daring enough for that. He doesn't seem to be as it moves up and then around to my back.

I continue to return the kiss and part my lips ever so slightly to allow my tongue to slide through and meet his. I feel a moment of hesitation from him, understandable considering our previous kisses didn't go that far but he soon gets the idea. At the same time I allow my other hand to explore what I can of his body, I run it up his side and to his back before moving back down to grip his firm backside.

I almost laugh when I hear the soft gasp leave his lips through our kissing. If this is how he reacts to me touching his backside I wonder how he'd react to… actually no, I'm not going to think about that yet. My body might feel ready but my mind isn't and I can't help but feel it's the same for him. For now this is nice, this kissing and light touching is nice.

We continue this for moments before I break the kiss and look up at him, "Shall we… make ourselves more comfortable?"

16th September 2021 – Mid-afternoon – Misato's apartment

"I'm home!" I announce happily to no one in particular as the apartment door swings open. I peer into the hallway and start to try to bring everything I'm carrying into tight space. In one hand is my cello, tucked under that arm are a few papers from the session, held carefully in my other hand is a box and I have a backpack on. I shuffle carefully into the small hallway and almost manage to trip over a pair of Misato's shoes that were left there, fortunately I'm able to catch myself before anything gets damaged.

Now in the hallway I set the cello and other items down and start to remove my shoes. As I begin to do so I'm surprised to hear Rei's soft voice call back to me, "Welcome home!"

I smile to myself as I finish removing my shoes and I snatch up the box from the ground leaving the cello and session papers behind for the moment. As I make my way out of the hallway and into the living room I hide the box behind my back. I look around the room and see Rei is sat on the couch absent mindedly browsing something on her laptop.

I have to admit I'm a little bit surprised but happy to see Rei is back already. Mondays are usually when she volunteers at the school and she generally comes back later in the day. I actually wonder if everything is alright with her, it does seem unlike Rei to have skipped out on something like that and for most of yesterday and this morning she's seemed distracted and... sad I guess? I don't know why, I know she went out on a date with someone the other night but she said everything went well. Unless something has happened since.

As I enter the room and take a look at her I can see she still looked a little bit sad now. It would probably be hard for others to tell but I can. Her expression is one I recognize all too well, it's one I've worn myself on many occasions. Rei... It's weird to think I never saw it years ago but she does look a lot like me and shares a lot of similar mannerisms.

The thing is I know I can't just ask her directly what's wrong. I know that she won't tell me because that's another thing we share, she'll just evade it and pretend everything is okay. Eventually it'll build up inside her and I know from experience that it can only make things worse when that happens. It happened to me a long time ago and it felt awful.

The problem with this is that when I'm down and people can tell they'll stick with me and ask me what's wrong, they'll coax it out of me and I can't do that with Rei or other people. I'm just not very good at it, I don't know how to do that and I'm always afraid of upsetting them or annoying them. It's the same for everyone, I just ask them what's wrong and if they don't tell me I shy away. I've been like that with Rei, I've been like that with Misato and I was the same with Asuka when she was here.

All three of those people though they're good at doing that. Rei can be stubborn, she won't leave my side or she'll just hug me and not let go until I finally relent. Misato doesn't quite go that far but she gives me an opportunity to talk freely and without judgement.

Asuka… I smile as I think of her, she wasn't quite as nice with her method but she had a way of coaxing things out of me. She always had a way of getting me to see the bright side or just feeling better about a situation, she always kinda pushed me. I just wish I could have done the same for her and helped her out.

Whilst I might not be able to find out what is wrong by talking to her perhaps I can try to find out or at least cheer her up in other ways. What I have held behind my box is part of that. On the way home I bought her a cake from a bakery that I know she likes. It's a double chocolate sponge cake with a healthy amount of chocolate cream between the layers and a round profiterole sitting on the top.

"Are you okay Rei?" I ask her as I enter the room fully.

I see her nod, "I am fine, thank you.

I open my mouth briefly to maybe ask the follow up question, to ask her if she is sure or to point out that she is looking a bit sad but I simply can't do it. Instead I just weakly move the conversation along as if I can't tell that something is wrong.

"How were things at the school today? I noticed you're home early."

She looks across at me, "Yes, they were taking the students on a trip this afternoon so I only had to attend the morning classes. It went well. How was your session today, was it more comfortable than the last one?"

"Yeah! It… It was really good actually." I smile, "We got split off into pairs, I was paired up with a violinist and we seemed to get along quite well."

"Did you play anything?"

I nod enthusiastically, "Yeah! We didn't really have time to prepare anything so we decided it'd be best to just improvise. We decided on a key to play in and I just played some basic chords over a metronome, she would jump in and accompany me with a solo on her violin! It was incredible, I think people were actually impressed with us!"

Rei is smiling at this point so I continue, "The others were really good as well. Some of them already had an idea of what they wanted to play. We heard people play some things by Bach, some Mozart and one pair even tried to play some film themes. You should have heard them Rei!"

Rei smiles, "That is good to hear!"

"Yeah! After we each played for the group the conductor gathered us around and told us a bit more about what the performance he wanted to put on. He had this idea to do a history of music from the 18th Century onwards, composers like Bach and Beethoven but also move through to modern day."

I remember what he shown us and smile, "He gave us a potential playlist, I'm not exactly familiar with a lot of it. The classical stuff I know and like because it was what I grew up listening to but I don't know the modern stuff. He played a brief bit of some of it and it sounds quite complicated, I didn't realize the arrangements for some of the songs could be so complex, the time signatures used and the compositions are…"

I look over to see Rei almost grinning at me as I carry on speaking. I feel my face turning red realizing that I'm just talking and not really letting her speak, "Sorry, I'm… Anyway, It sounds quite complicated… I just hope I can do it."

My words seem to draw a faint smile from Rei, "Do not apologize, it is wonderful to hear you speak to passionately and I have absolutely no doubt that you will be excellent. You are extremely talented."

I can feel my cheeks glowing red, "I… I just practice a lot. I'm… not that good really, I still make a lot of mistakes and there are some things I can't play."

"And that is why you continue to practice so that you will be able to play such things and make fewer mistakes. I have heard you and you are very good, you should give yourself more credit."

I swallow down the words I'm about to speak to further downplay my abilities. It's a habit I need to get out of, that I'm trying hard to get out of. Rei is right, I do practice a lot and the reason I practice so much is so that I can play more advanced pieces one day.

I mean in many ways I already do play some complicated material. I also have a good grasp of the theory behind it. I'm able to read music, I can play in a variety of more complex time signatures with ease and I can handle transcribing music fairly well. So instead of downplaying it all I look at say and speak words I'm unfamiliar with when it comes to a compliment, "Thank you."

I shift awkwardly from one leg to another and decide now would be a good time to give Rei the present.

"Rei I… I got you something on the way home."

She looks at me in confusion as I bring the box around from my back and hand it to her. She looks at it for a moment before smiling, "You… I recognize this wrapper!"

"Yeah!" I nod, "You mentioned this place a couple of weeks ago and… well being honest I thought you seemed kinda sad this morning so I wanted to get you something to cheer you up."

"You went into the bakery and got this yourself?" She looked at me in surprise, "You were alright getting this?"

I nod, "Yeah… I mean it was still scary but my session went really well and I guess that helped me not be as scared of others. It was… pretty empty in there too so I didn't have to pass too many people and like I said I wanted to cheer you up, I don't mind doing something scary if it'd help you."

"Thank you!" She begins to untie the ribbon and opens it to reveal the slice of cake I've bought her. I smile as I see her eyes widen, "This looks delicious, thank you Shinji."

"I hope you enjoy it."

"I will." She replies, "Although I must inform you that you have nothing to be worried about regarding me. I am perfectly fine, you do not need to worry about me."

I can tell she isn't telling the truth but I just can't bring myself to say anything else. I'm just not very good at this sort of thing, if people come to me directly and tell me they're upset then maybe… maybe I sort of know what to do but I can't get people to tell me what's wrong. If they're being evasive like… well like I would be then I simply can't do it. I'm just scared of annoying them and them being angry with me.

So instead of saying anything else I just go back into the hallway and bring my cello and papers into the front room. I set them down behind the couch and see that Rei has already made a start on happily eating the cake. If I am going to say anything else then I should probably wait until after this, I wouldn't want to upset her now.

I sit down near to her and pull out my music player and the list of songs the instructor has given us. The idea behind the performance seems to be a brief history of music from the 18th Century onwards. This means some music I'm familiar with from the classical composers through to more modern material. I know a few of the more popular tracks but a couple I don't know, so I want to load it all onto my music player to listen to before next week.

I always feel strange using this player, it's been a constant companion to me since I received it on my birthday several years ago but it's also the only thing of Asuka that remains in this place. At first I refused to use it, looking at it upset me but over time I started to think about Asuka taking the time to buy it and leave it for me. She'd be angry if I didn't use it and so I've kept it close to me at all times.

As I search through the store and start to download each track I glance quickly at Rei and see her sat and quietly focused on eating her cake. It's so obvious to me that something is wrong, it's the same expression that I have when something is bugging me and my inability to just say something keeps eating away at me. Why do I find this so damn difficult? Misato doesn't have this difficulty, Rei doesn't and Asuka certainly didn't! What am I afraid of?

'Being hated and abandoned by them. Losing friends and family due to saying the wrong thing. Pissing her off so she yells and leaves.'

I hate my brain sometimes.

"You are still concerned about me aren't you?" Rei suddenly speaks.

I nod, "Yeah… You just… You look sad Rei."

"As I said before I appreciate your concern but I am perfectly fine." Rei smiles at me, "Tell me more about the performance."

She's being evasive, I know she is because it's the exact same thing I'd try to do. I open my mouth to protest or counter it but I just can't, "Well… He wants us to learn and play tracks from classical composers through to modern artists, he seems to like a lot of rock music so I'm interested in how we're going to perform those."

"Well it just be your group or will you have others accompanying you?" She asks.

I shrug, "I think it'll just be us but I'm not sure."

"Then that should be interesting, I was not sure if you would be playing with an actual band or not for the songs."

"I don't think so but I think he might get someone to sing the songs." I reply, "Hey… If this does happen you and Misato will attend right?"

"I would not miss the opportunity to see my brother play for anything. Of course we will be attending."

"Thank you." I smile, "It's a shame that…"

I stop myself immediately from finishing that sentence. She's been on my mind a lot recently so I guess it makes sense for me to think that. I guess with finding out about Kaworu being back I've been wondering about her as well. I wonder where she is right not, I wonder if she is happy and doing well for herself.

I look over to see Rei frowning, "I know Shinji, I would have liked that too."

"Do you miss her too?" I ask.

Rei nods, "Yes I do."

"Is that what has been bothering you?" I ask, "I know hearing about Kaworu being back probably brought… certain things back."

She looks over at me, "As I have said, there is nothing bothering me."

"Are you sure? You just see-"

Rei suddenly stands up and snaps at me, "Yes! I am absolutely certain! There is nothing wrong with me at all, you do not need to keep on asking. I am going to go and shower now, thank you again for the cake."

I am given no chance to reply as she moves swiftly past me and into the bathroom. I consider following her and saying something else but I know it'll only make things worse. Instead I simply sit there and silently curse myself for trying to press her further. Maybe I was wrong about the whole thing and nothing was wrong, I should have just said nothing. I guess I'm just not very good at this sort of thing.

The best thing I can probably do now is apologize to her when she comes out. If there is something wrong then Misato can probably deal with it, she's so much better than I am. I should have spoken to her first. What did I ever think I was going to accomplish with it?

I let out a sigh and stand up to take my cello into my bedroom. As I do this I hear the sound of Rei's phone going off, I turn around to see it sat on the coffee table and wonder if I should leave it or take it to her. I listen out for the sound of running water, I can't hear anything so it seems safe to take it to her now and maybe I can apologize as well.

I grab the phone from the table and the screen lights up immediately in my hand. I take a quick look at the top of the message preview just to see who it's from and I see that it is from a private number. It's likely to just be rubbish, in which case I probably shouldn't bother Rei. I quickly check the top of the message to make sure,

'Rei. It's Asuka, please call me. I know you're angry at me but you have to let me explain. I'm free all day today so just call me.'

I feel sick. My stomach is churning as I read over the message again. My head starts spinning and I feel my body start to break out in a cold sweat. My vision goes blurry as I slow my breathing and try to process just what it is I've read. That… can't be true, it has to be some sort of joke right? That can't actually be a message from Asuka.

It just… It can't be! Why would Asuka be sending Rei a message? How could Asuka be sending Rei a message? Asuka isn't… Rei doesn't… They aren't… No… No No No No No, this doesn't make any sense damnit. This has to be a joke because if it isn't then it means something I can't believe. It means that Rei is in contact with Asuka, it means that Rei has been lying to me and Misato and… Rei wouldn't do that, would she?

Questions rush through my mind about the situation. Is this why Rei has seemed out of it for the past day? What did Asuka do? What did Rei do? How long have they been in contact? Why didn't Rei say anything to me or Misato? Rei knows how I feel about Asuka, she knows how much Asuka leaving hurt me so if she knew where Asuka is or that Asuka is alright then why didn't she tell me?

"Shinji?"

I hear Rei's voice from behind me and my grip tightens on her phone. The churning in my stomach hasn't ceased and I start to fear that I might throw up. I slowly stand up straight and turn to face her. She shoots me a look of concern but then looks from my face to the phone clutched tightly in my hand.

"What are you doing with my phone, is everything alright?"

"Y-Your phone… You… A message, I didn't mean to read it. I thought it was junk but…"

"A message…" She looks at me directly in the eyes and immediately I see a look of fear spread across her face, "From who?"

"Asuka…" I reply as I feel the tears start to well up in my eyes, "I-Is it really her?"

Rei looks at me and opens her mouth halfway before closing it. She looks terrified and stands silently for a moment before lowering her head, "Yes… It is."

Her admission makes me feel like I've been punched in the gut. So it really was Asuka who sent that message, it really was her. I feel like I should be delighted that she is alright but all I feel is anger and sadness.

"H-How long have you been in contact with her?" I ask trying to keep the tears at bay.

"Just over three years…" She admits, "I… The first time I went to Europe was to track her down and I did…"

"Track her down! You mean you've actually met her?" I raise my voice as I ask her, "For over three years you've been in contact with her and not said anything to me?"

Rei simply nods her head, I can see a tear rolling down her cheek, "Yes."

"Why? Why would you hide that from me Rei? Y-You knew…" My voice starts to crack with emotion, "After what happened Rei, you hid this from me? Why?"

"I… I can explain Shinji, it isn't…" She almost sobs as she speaks, "I didn't want to hide it from you."

"But you did! Why?"

Rei seems to hesitate for a moment, "She didn't want me to tell you… It's…"

If the admission before felt like a punch to the gut this felt like a punch and a kick. I stare at Rei blankly and try to take in what she has just said. I wait for her to maybe add something else but she seems unable to do so as she stands there sobbing. I feel tears rolling down my own cheeks and anger within me, "She… didn't want you to?"

Rei shakes her head, "I wanted to but…"

"Then why didn't you?" I yell back at her, "I'm supposed to be your brother! You knew… You knew how I felt about her and you hid this from me! All those times you spoke about missing her and how bad you felt about her leaving and you were speaking to her all along."

"I-I know…"

"I trusted you Rei… I thought I thought I could trust you but you… You betrayed me, you're… you're just like him!"

"Shinji please!"

"No!" I shout back at her, "Just… Leave me alone."

I barge my way past her and back into the hallway. I have to leave, I have to get out of this apartment, I don't know where but I just know I have to get far away from here. Behind me I hear her call out and sob but I ignore it as I shove a pair of shoes on and rush out of the front door. I wipe away the tears from my eyes and run from the apartment as quickly as I can. I rush down the stairs and out onto the street, I jog onto another street and into a nearby alleyway to stop for a moment. My stomach is still churning and I worry for a brief moment that I might throw up but I manage to stop myself.

I look back towards the alleyway entrance to see if anyone has followed me. No one has, at least not yet. I take a moment to try to think about what has just happened. Rei found Asuka three years ago and has been in contact with her ever since. I still can't believe she would do that and not tell me, I think about what she said about Asuka not wanting her to tell me about it. Why would Rei agree to that?

I just don't understand and I don't think I want to. I just want to get away from here. I check my pockets and see I've got my transport cards and phone with me. I have to get away from this place and this. I need to be alone where no one can find me and work this out. I need to get away from Rei.

16th September 2021 – Early Evening - Kaworu's Apartment

This is a situation that I never expected myself to be in. It isn't even because of the person who I'm sat with but just because I never saw myself doing something like this. I could never see myself being the sort of person who would be sat cuddling with someone on a couch. I was so convinced that I was best off being alone, that I isolated myself from even pursuing that sort of thing.

The idea of it, well I guess it appealed to me. I've never really longed for closeness, I don't think I'll ever be an especially touchy-feely kind of person but I know how nice it can feel to just be hugged by something. I suppose that's why I always appreciated seeing Rei, she is someone who enjoys hugging people and it always felt nice, it was that confirmation that someone cared.

Strangely though I'm not the one being held right now. Instead it is Kaworu who I'm holding in my arms and who is cuddling up to me. I'm the one running my hand through his soft silvery hair whilst he lies on the couch. To someone more traditional it probably looks weird but I don't care, I'm not a traditional person and it's just nice to have him close to me regardless of who is cuddling who.

Unfortunately, this moment of bliss is broken when I begin to feel my phone ring in my pocket. Kaworu immediately lifts himself up off of me and smiles at me, "You should answer that, it could be Rei."

I nod, "Yeah... I know, I'll take it in your bedroom."

I get up and leave the comfort of the couch and the warmth of Kaworu behind and slip into the bedroom. I pull out my phone and see that it is indeed Rei and my chest tightens in anticipation. I know I asked her to call me so I should have expected it but I have no idea what she or I am going to say. The way in which she hung up yesterday and the tone of the message she sent me, she seemed so angry and a small part of me can't blame her for that.

I know exactly how she feels about Kaworu and her need to protect Shinji from being hurt. I know she sees Kaworu as an enemy and someone who caused nothing but pain and so the idea of me being a friend to Kaworu was bad enough, never mind me kissing him or being more than friends.

At the same time, I can't help but feel some annoyance with Rei. She didn't give me a chance to explain what had happened properly before hanging up. She doesn't seem to understand my side of things in this, does she really think that I'd be friends with or kiss someone who causes her and Shinji so much pain? She knows I care about Shinji and don't want to see him hurt myself. If I had even the slightest suspicion that Kaworu might not be what I say he is does she really think I'd be doing this?

I realize though that I should tread carefully regarding the subject. From now on I should probably not mention the fact that we kissed or my feelings for him. I certainly shouldn't mention that we spent most of yesterday afternoon making out with each other on his couch, nor should I mention that that is pretty much how we've spent this evening.

I ready myself to answer the phone and wonder if her anger will have subsided. As I mentioned before, Rei can be stubborn. I've never really seen her angry before but I know she can hold grudges against people who hurt her even if it is something simple. I remember a time she refused to speak to Misato for a fortnight after some of Misato's cooking made her ill.

So, I'm apprehensive as I answer the phone wondering if this is the phonecall that ends our friendship. I take a deep breath, "Hello?"

What I'm greeted by surprises no, no it actually frightens me because it isn't Rei's soft voice that I hear replying to me, it isn't the angry sounding Rei that hung up on me yesterday. Instead I'm greeted by a loud sob followed by a hysterical sounding Rei, "A-Asuka... Asuka..."

My chest tightens some more, "Rei? Is everything alright?"

I silently curse myself for asking such a stupid question. I can almost hear my older self-taunting me. 'What are you, stupid? Of course, she isn't alright, she's sobbing down the phone at you!'

As I hear another sob I realize there is something about hearing Rei cry like this scares me. Rei doesn't express emotion like this, her expression is slight and quiet. Subtle shifts in tone or the way she looks, she isn't outward like this. Many might mistake Rei for being emotionless but of course being her friend and knowing her like I do I can notice things. It's not like I haven't seen her cry before, she cried when I showed her my book and the character based on her for the first time and she cried when she confided in me about a former partner.

So, I'm frightened right now because I don't know what could have brought this on because this is not a subtle shift, this is a full-on torrent.

"A-Asuka... I... Something... Something bad... I... I don't know what to do... Shinji... He... He saw and... I did something bad... I'm a bad person Asuka... I'm sorry... I couldn't... I'm sorry... I'm Sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry."

Shinji... She said Shinji's name! My heart leaps into my throat and that feeling of fear grows. I rise up from the edge of the bed slowly. Has something happened to Shinji? I can barely make out what Rei is saying through her sobs but she said she did something bad. She couldn't have hurt him, could she? No, that's stupid, she isn't capable of that.

"Rei, please slow down, you're not making any sense." I try to calm the poor girl down and figure out what the hell has happened.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"REI!" I raise my voice to try to stop her from apologizing.

I'm sorry!"

"WONDERGIRL!" I raise my voice again and this time it seems to get through to her and she stops, "Will you please calm down and tell me what the hell has happened!"

I hear a small sniff from the other end of the line as she seemed to try and compose herself. It's at least a minute of hearing her sniffing before she speaks again, "I... Yes... Yes I... I will try, I'm sorry."

"Yeah, you've made it quite clear that you're sorry!" I say sternly, "Now, what has happened Rei?"

I hear another sniff but she at least seems to have composed herself now and can speak to me. I wait for her to tell me what has happened with some apprehension. I fear to think about what could have causes Rei of all people to be in such a state.

"Me and Shinji… Had an argument. I was out of the room and your message came through, he… saw it when he went to give my phone to me."

Shit.

"So… Shinji knows about me?"

"Yes."

I let out a sigh and shake my head, so that must be what has caused all of this. Shinji found out that Rei knew about me. I wonder just how much he knows, I wonder what she has told him and how she told him. I can only imagine how the poor idiot has reacted to all of this. I know he hates the idea of people lying to him and this… this is one hell of a thing to keep from him.

"I am so sorry." Rei speaks again, "I know you wished for this to be kept secret and I have failed to do that for you."

"No." I shake my head again and for some reason I actually smile, "It's okay Rei, you didn't fail. It… Wasn't your fault, now tell me what happened, from the beginning."

"Okay." I hear her take a few breathes of her own to steady herself, "After I… got angry yesterday I had been unable to shake that. I had been questioning whether I was right to be upset and the entire situation. Shinji… noticed that something was wrong with me. He… continued to ask if I was alright and so I got annoyed with him."

"Understandable." I nod.

"Perhaps but… he was right to be concerned about me. Yet I could not tell him because of what it was regarding."

"Of course." I agree, "So what happened after you got annoyed."

"I went to take a shower but I realized I had forgotten my phone to listen to some music. When I went back into the front room to get it I saw that Shinji had it in his hand. I had just received your message and he was going to bring the phone to me but he… had already seen the message at that point."

"I see."

I hear Rei start to cry softly again as this entire scene runs through my mind. My own carelessness has caused this. I put my name in the message thinking that only Rei would see it. I went against what we agreed again. I am the reason for Rei being so upset right now and also the reason that Shinji is… doing whatever Shinji does when he is upset.

It's weird but whilst I feel bad for Rei and Shinji I also feel a strange sense of relief that Shinji knows about me. I was always putting off getting back in contact with them, waiting to say the right thing or compose the right message. Perhaps even waiting for them to seek me out first. I was always putting it off though and stretching this lie out. It happening this way seems sort of apt for who I am and it feels like this weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

At the same time that weight has been replaced by a new one. The weight of guilt at what my actions have caused. This situation is my fault, I have no doubt about that. If I hadn't have asked her to keep that stupid promise, if I had have sent the e-mail sooner and not been a coward then this could have been avoided. I have to put this right, I have to fix this.

"I am so sorry that I have let you down Asuka."

"Rei… You haven't let me down. Don't worry about it, this is… this is all my fault. I should never have asked you to do this in the first place and… well I have been careless recently. Something was bound to go wrong wasn't it? I mean… this is me we're talking about, when doesn't it go wrong?"

To my relief I actually hear a small chuckle from Rei, "Please… do not say that. You do a lot of good things and deserve to have good things happen to you as well."

"Well what I do and deserve doesn't matter right now, this is about you and Shinji. What did he say to you when he found out?"

"He asked me how long I had been in contact with you and how. I told him what I could but he did not give me the opportunity to explain. He… did not take any of it well, he left but before he left he said that… I was just like our father."

I feel something snap inside of me as I hear Rei speak those words to me. Shinji… he actually said that to her? He actually accused her of being like that? The idiot! How dare he compare Rei to that bastard! After all she has done for him, after all the times she has been there for him, all the night she has spent caring for him! After all she has been through herself how dare he say such a horrible thing to her!

"HE SAID WHAT?" I yell and instantly regret it, Rei is upset enough without me yelling.

I hear Rei sniff again, "He said that… I was just like our father. I… I deserved it, he is right… I hid…"

"NO!" I cut her off immediately, "You listen to me Rei… You are nothing like that pathetic excuse for a human. I don't care how mad Shinji is or was, he had no right to say that to you. You are a good person and you have done absolutely nothing wrong. This thing… it's my fault. So… I'm going to put this right."

"H-How?" She asks me.

Good question, I think to myself and try to think about what, if anything I can do. Eventually an idea forms in my mind, I didn't quite expect to be doing this but… to hell with it. Going to have to go all in at this point.

"Did Shinji take his phone with him?"

"Yes… I believe he did."

"Okay…" I sigh, "Send me his number and I'll call him and speak to him. You… You go and calm yourself down okay. Go and have a bath and a cup of tea, go and do whatever it is you do to calm yourself and I'll sort this out. When does Misato come home?"

"Not until later this evening."

"Okay good, I'll get this sorted before she comes home." I sit myself back down on the bed and idly play with the edge of one of the pillows, "I'll speak to him, I'll calm him down and explain the entire thing. I'll sort this out."

"No… You do not need to. This is my fault! I ha-"

"Rei!" I cut her off sternly. It's perhaps inappropriate but I realize with some amusement just how much she actually sounds like her brother when she is upset, "Believe me… I do have to do this, I should have spoken to him a long time ago. I shouldn't have asked you to do any of this so just… let me speak to him. I'll put the idiot straight and get him home to you."

"Do you think you'll be able to?" She asks me, her voice still trembling as she speaks.

"I'm Asuka Langley Soryu! Of course I'll be able to!" I speak confidently, admittedly I'm not completely confident I will be able to but I have to try.

"Okay… Thank you Asuka. Thank you so much, I'll… send you the details."

"Good, I'll talk to you later then, you… just go and releax."

"Yes. I will."

"Goodbye."

I hand up the phone and sit for a brief moment in silence trying to think about what I'll say to Shinji. I'm given barely any chance to think about it before Kaworu enters the room with a worried look on his face, "Is everything okay Asuka, I heard shouting?"

I shake my head at him and let out a laugh, "No… Everything isn't alright…"

He looks at me in confusion, "I do not understand, how come you are laughing?"

"Because it's… absurd." I shrug, "Because… despite it being alright I also feel relieved I guess. Shinji… Knows about me now, he saw the message I sent to Rei and… she told him about us being in contact for the past few years."

"Oh… I see." Kaworu kneels down in front of me and reached up to cup my cheek with his hand, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah… Well… Sort of, I feel relieved that he finally knows but the way he found out has… caused them to argue. So I… have to sort that out."

"They argued?" He asks.

"Yup, Shinji… didn't take the news well. Not entirely unexpected, he saw it as Rei lying to him and didn't really give her a chance to explain. I can't exactly blame him but he said something pretty bad to Rei, he said she was like their father."

Kaworu lowers his eyes at me saying this, "I see… I can understand why that would be upsetting. I would also dislike being compared to those who might be considered my parents. It would be… very hurtful."

"Yeah… Bring up parents for any of us is a bit of a no go area." I bring my own hand up at his point and run it through Kaworu's hair and cup his cheek, "So I'm going to speak to him."

"What are you going to say?"

"I'm not sure yet. I guess I'll just have to explain it all to him and fix this thing between him and Rei." I frown, "I kinda want to yell at him for what he said but… I don't think that'll be a good idea."

Kaworu smiles, "No, Shinji is… fragile and likely to be in a lot of pain. I do not think it would help."

I smile back at him, "I will however have to be honest with him and tell him that he shouldn't have said that. I'll remind him of how much Rei cares for him and what she has done for him. I think… the problem is that Misato and Rei have gone from ignoring his issues too much to being afraid to push him and be tough with him."

"And you do not fear that?" Kaworu grins at me.

"Of course not, I wasn't afraid to be tough with you… was I?" I pull his face towards me and kiss him softly on the lips. As we kiss I feel Kaworu's hand slide down to my shoulder and gently start to push me backwards onto the bad. I let him guide my body as he brings himself up onto the bed and positions himself over me.

Our tongues dance as I feel the warmth and weight of his body on top of mine, I feel his hand go from my shoulder and run itself along the side of my body. I feel my body react appropriately to his passion and I can also feel his body reacting to it. I let my hands explore his body, one running along his back and the other firmly on his backside.

Unfortunately our impromptu make out session is broken when I hear my phone go off. I break the kiss and push him away playfully, "Guess it'll have to wait Angel Boy, I've got a phone call to make."