A/N: I know it's a dumb title, but it's all I could think of : p Anyway, just wrote this on a whim-- Happy V Day, fellow Shinji/Rei fans!
Disclaimer: I don't own Eva or any of its characters. Wow, bet you didn't see THAT coming, eh?
Rei sat silently on the park bench, her eyes focused on the copy of "Jane Eyre" she was holding. She remembered reading somewhere that it was 'one of the greatest English novels ever written,' and she had purchased it, willing to try reading it. Yet after 20 chapters, she had come to the conclusion that either the English had a very low standard of literature, or that the columnist who had praised it so glowingly desperately needed to be fired, as he had broken the journalistic credo of honesty. She closed the book with a sigh, frustrated that she was so annoyed over a piece of outdated fiction. The girl allowed her crimson eyes to focus on the couples happily walking back and forth on the sidewalk. The weather had been agreeable today; a warm sun hanging in the sky above, which was an opaque blue. There was a slight cool breeze, which at this time of year would have normally have been freezing, but it was instead rather refreshing.
Rei was familiar with the general concept of the holiday, yet she had never had the opportunity to put theory into practice. It seemed to consist largely of men spending lots of money on women they were only vaguely interested in, usually in order to make them lose grip of their senses and convince themselves they wanted to repay their male counterparts with 'sexual favors'. But that was only how it seemed to her from all the television programs, advertisements, movies and romantic novels she had encountered. As she watched the pairs go back and forth, she noticed that a few of them didn't fit her image of the typical 'romantic couple'-- some of them seemed genuinely...happy. She couldn't quite understand it, but it seemed... She was unable to put what she saw into words-- emotions weren't one of her strong suits, after all.
She sighed, picked up her book, lifted herself off of the bench, and prepared to return to her apartment for the rest of the day. She had somehow gotten a strange feeling in her stomach from watching the couples going by.
Shinji had his hands in his pockets, slowly walking along the sidewalk in a daze. As a couple passed him on the street, he felt a slight tinge of resentment. He hated Valentine's Day-- it was just a reminder of how alone he was. There wasn't a single girl in the world who would want to be with him-- he knew that people only cared about personality as long as there was nothing to worry about in the looks department. It wasn't that he thought himself ugly per se, it was more that he was too plain to be noticed. And that left out his pathetic nature, so even if a girl was crazy enough to think he looked good, she'd just get annoyed with him... Shinji had to concentrate to shake his mind away from that depressing train of thought; it was like a car accident-- you didn't want to stare but you couldn't look away. He tried to think of something else when he saw a girl about his age dressed in a dark skirt and wearing a creme-colored longsleeve top. But the thing that really caught his eye was that familiar mop of light blue hair...
A voice from behind Rei suddenly caught her attention. She turned her head to see Shinji Ikari, her fellow Evangelion pilot, walking up to her.
It took her a second to recognize him, as he was not wearing his traditional attire of shirt and slacks, or his skin-tight plugsuit: Today he wore a pair of slightly worn denim jeans with a dark gray longsleeve shirt, covered by a black windbreaker.
He looks nice, she found herself thinking, but pushed the thought away, wondering simutaneously where it had come from.
"...What are you doing out here? I'm surprised to see you."
Rei was silent for a moment as she held up her book, as though it should have been obvious.
"I was reading."
"...Reading? Couldn't you do that at home?"
"Is it wrong for me to read outside?" she asked with a little bit of accusation in her voice. Shinji got flustered, wondering if he had offended her in some way.
"Well, no...I'm just surprised, is all. Isn't this a long way from your apartment?"
"Yes... but I the book I am reading was not very good, and I hoped that a change of location would help in my perception of it."
"Well, did it help?..."
With that, she turned to a nearby trash can and tossed "Jane Eyre" in its rightful place.
"No, I'm afraid not."
Shinji stared at her curiously for a moment, then broke out into laughter. He knew she wasn't making a joke, but... he found himself doubled over within moments, his behavior making people who were passing turn their heads to look at him as though he were some kind of circus freak.
"...What do you find so amusing, Ikari-kun?"
He managed to breathe after a few moments, and looked up to see Rei staring intently at him, not angry or defensive but simply confused.
"I-I'm s-sorry, but the way you just... forget it. It wasn't that funny, I know..."
Yet Rei could tell that he was desperately trying to fight a smile that was playing on his lips. She prepared to walk off, content that their conversation had ended, when Shinji called her yet again.
"Hey Ayanami! Where are you going?"
"I am going home."
"Wait... you mean you're not here with someone--"
He stopped himself before he could finish the sentence. Oh damn...
"...Why would I be here with someone, Ikari-kun?"
Damnit... he really didn't feel comfortable answering THAT question... It was just that, well, he was surprised there weren't boys fighting each other tooth and nail to take her out for Valentine's Day... It shouldn't have even occured to him, knowing how closed off she was, but for some reason he still found it odd.
"Well... anyway, I was just out walking, killing time, you know, so uh... since you're just going home... would you, uh...like to come with me?"
She looked at him calmly, considering his offer. It wasn't as though she was planning on doing anything at 'home,' and she was curious to know what it would be like to be with Shinji in a situation that didn't involve school, the Evas or certain death.
As another couple passed her, an image of her and Shinji walking arm in arm popped unheeded into her head, causing her cheeks to turn a very delicate shade of pink.
After about a half hour, the two children found themselves in the middle of Tokyo-3's so called 'shopping district.' It didn't have the flash or trendiness of Shibuya; rather it consisted of lots of small boutiques and shops crammed together at the street's edge, giving it a distinct, decidedly old-fashioned charm to it. Neither Shinji or Rei were very keen on the concept of 'window shopping,' yet they stopped in front of various stores when they saw something that caught their attention. Shinji had started with some degree of trepidation when they came across a shop containing various carved animals and sculptures, but Rei seemed to pick the concept right up, and soon they were stopping at just about every window as she quietly stared at the wares on display.
"It's strange," she suddenly said as they crossed the street to examine another row of shops, "...But I never knew this place was here."
"Yeah, I know," Shinji concurred, running just a little bit to keep pace with her,"--but neither did I, until a few weeks ago. I guess it's just not a very popular place to be."
"It's a shame. The craftsmanship of many of these items is quite impressive."
It occured to Shinji at that moment how easy it was to have a conversation with Rei, even if it was about something completely pointless like this. He glanced over at her, quietly admiring the gentle features of her face...until she innocently turned her head in his direction, which made him reflexively look the other way.
"Ikari, are you getting sick? Your face is red..."
It took him a moment to force his mouth to start working again.
"Uh, n-no...I was just, uh..." He looked around desperately, looking for something to change the subject.
It came in the form of a familiar sign hanging down about 20 feet away from him.
"...I was just getting hungry, is all." A thought suddenly occured to him and he smiled at Rei without realizing it.
"Just stand here, okay? I'll be back in a minute," and he ran off into the store indicated by the sign, which read "Freshly made chocolates and sweets." Rei's stared at the sign absentmindedly, her thoughts on the smile Shinji had given her...
It was nearly 12 minutes before Shinji returned, a small bag in his hand. When he came up to Rei, he reached inside and handed her a small square of something wrapped in tissue paper. She slowly took off the paper and stared at the small, soft brown shape that now rested in her palm. Shinji had already taken a bite of his and was savoring the taste when Rei suddenly spoke.
"...What is it?"
Shinji was silent, wondering what she was talking about, then noticed her eyes were focused on the confection that she was regarding with a confused, uncertain look.
"It's chocolate, Ayanami."
"...Chocolate." she sounded like she understood, but still looked at it apprehensively.
"...Haven't you ever had chocolate before?"
"No. The Commander never allowed me to eat sweets--he insisted that they were frivolous and unnecessary."
Shinji's face dropped a little bit as he heard this, quietly resenting his father for not allowing Rei to enjoy something as simple as candy. It seemed wrong to him, and he wanted to correct it any way he could.
"Well, you should try it, Ayanami. It's really good--especially the kind they have here."
She then narrowed her eyes slightly at him, giving him a suspicious look. It worried him that she was so untrusting of things that were new to her, but he supposed that she had been raised that way. This thought didn't comfort him much.
"Ayanami, come on! If you don't try it, you'll never know if you like it or not."
Rei sighed as she lifted the fudge to her lips with the other hand, willing to at least try it if it would make Shinji happy. She bit into a corner and slowly chewed it.
Shinji stared at her in anticipation, deflating a bit as she didn't seem to react.
Just not a sweets person, I suppose.
But then Rei took another bite. And another. And soon all that remained of the small edible brick was tiny chocolate crumbs, which Rei licked from her fingers to prevent them from being wasted. When her focus on the chocolate had faded, she looked up to see Shinji staring at her looking a little surprised.
"That was...wonderful," she said sounding amazed herself, and a smile formed on her lips at the last word. She looked so cute that Shinji managed only barely to tear his eyes from her face.
"Well, uh... See, Ayanami? I told you this stuff was good."
She didn't know why, but she felt the urge to slap him for using such a plain term to describe what she had experienced just now. She had never eaten anything like this before. It melted in her mouth, filling it with a sweet, yet bitter flavor, and afterwards she felt a wave of euphoria as her taste buds seemed to actually be working for the first time in her life. It was every good feeling she'd never had made tangible and given to her in a humble wrapping of thin paper.
Shinji turned around and kept going, still chewing on his chunk of fudge. Rei stood perfectly still, staring at the sweets shop with a far-off look in her eye.
"I'm glad that you liked it Rei. You know, there are a few places that have good food further up. Maybe if you want to, we can--"
He suddenly turned his head and realized that he had been talking to thin air. He made a complete 360 just in time to catch a flash of blue hair heading into the shop.
He walked up to the chocolatier's door and pushed it open. There was a mob of people waiting in line but they all seemed to move, groaning and complaining, as someone pushed past them, saying things like, "Excuse me, this is an emergency situation..." "Pardon me, sir..." "...NERV personnel, please step aside..."
Shinji's eyes widened as his worst fears were confirmed-- Rei had forced her way to the front of the line, by means of requests and threats of punishment. He hesitantly pushed through the angry people to get to where she was, illiciting more angry moans and protests from the patrons.
"Not another one!"
"How about a little curtoesy?"
"Wait your turn, you little punk!"
"I'm sorry...Sorry...She's with me--"
He finally managed to get to where Rei was standing, calmly giving her order to the perturbed looking cashier, not noticing or caring that everyone in the shop was staring daggers at her.
"...and 5 pounds of dark... another 2 and 1/2 of the peanut-butter swirl... Oh, Ikari. Are you here to help me carry this?
He stared at her, ready to laugh at the absurdity of seeing Rei in a chocolate shop, looking as if she were a drifter who had finally found their life's calling, oblivious to the fact that everyone she had gotten past was fervently wishing her a painful death.
"Uh, Ayanami...you shouldn't have cut all these people. Maybe we should just get to the back of the line..."
The look on her face scared the living daylights out of him-- he'd seen her angry before, but never to this extent-- her eyes were wide and lit with a strange fire he'd never seen there, and her expression simply bled I'm-doing-this-no-matter-what-and-don't-you dare-try-to-stop-me. Rei didn't care that there were people in front of her either-- they'd probably had chocolate since they were children...she'd bit into one and fourteen years of emptiness had disappeared in the blink of an eye. She'd never realized that there was something so simple and wonderful in the world, and she suddenly hated the Commander for denying it to her for so long.
Shinji lost any spine he may have grown over the last few months in an instant from that withering look of Rei's. She turned back to the cashier and prepared to speak when the manager came out of the back room, looking annoyed.
"...So you like chocolate, do you, little girl?"
Rei nodded fervently.
"...Then I'll tell you what: Since it's Valentine's Day and I'm feeling generous, let's make a little deal."
She stared blankly at the tall man. "Explain."
"We've got a record for most number of pieces eaten at once here, and no one's ever broken it--not in six years. If you and your friend here can do it in ten minutes, I'll let you have that mountain of chocolate you ordered for free. If not, you've gotta pay for every last piece you do manage to eat--and you can't show your face here again. We got a deal?"
Shinji shook his head, waving his arms in a desperate effort to prevent trouble.
"Uh, don't worry about that, sir...we'll leave quietly--"
"Very well. I accept your offer."
Shinji did a double take. Did Rei just...?
This'll be the easiest troublemaker I ever got rid of, the manager smiled to himself as he set out a mountain of various chocolate flavors on a small table to the side.
"Rei, what are you thinking! If we can't eat that--"
"Then we shall simply charge it to NERV," she reasoned. "Either way, this is a no-lose situation."
The boy stammered something about not making trouble, but Rei only continued to stare at him with that determined look on her face. He let out a sigh of defeat.
Either way, I'm going to be sick afterwards...
The record had been capped at 187 pieces in 10 minutes.
Shinji ran out of energy around number 43, but Rei had managed to get to 200 and still going strong before the bell rang.
"I...think...I may have eaten a bit too much..." she sheepishly admitted as they made their way back to her apartment, both doubled over from their protesting stomachs and the weight of the sweets they were carrying.
"...You read my mind..." Shinji groaned tiredly.
How did all this happen?
Oh, wait...it's my fault.
It was dark and the stars were out by the time they reached Apartment 402. After a few minutes spent helping Rei haul her winnings inside, Shinji sat down on the bed, worn out and stuffed to the point of sickness. Rei's soft voice suddenly snapped him back to reality.
"I apologize Ikari-kun."
"...I, well... forced you into a situation that made you uncomfortable."
He stared at her, then suddenly started to laugh again. She tilted her head, looking at him curiously. This was the second time today that she had seen this odd behavior, and it made her feel strange.
"...Are you serious? This is the most fun I've ever had in my life! And I'm really glad you found something you liked--even if it did nearly kill me..."
Rei looked at Shinji wide-eyed, then, to her own surprise, started to laugh as well. It may have just been the aftereffects of all the chocolate, but neither of them cared. They just sat there, letting the absurdity of everything that had happened that day come out in their laughter.
It was another five minutes before Shinji finally put his coat on and opened the door.
"...Well, it's late. I'd better get home before Misato starts to worry about me."
Rei's face dropped ever so slightly as she watched him get ready to leave.
She felt her feet carrying her to the door, until she was standing right next to Shinji. He stiffened slightly, but did not move from where his feet were planted. He stared Rei straight in the eye, feeling himself get lost in her gentle red pools.
"...Thank you, Ikari-kun."
He tried to make his mouth work, but her proximity was like an electric surge, shorting out his higher brain functions.
"W-well, uh...i-it wasn't any problem, a-and I enjoyed, uh..."
She leaned in closer, her small blush surprisingly easy to see with her face only a few inches from his own.
"No, Ikari...thank you...for everything..."
Shinji was still trying to speak when Rei closed the distance and pressed her lips gently to his own. Within moments his struggling stopped, and he surrendered to her completely, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close.
It felt like hours had passed when they finally let go, but it had only been about five minutes. For the longest time, they just stood there, not saying a word. Then Rei smiled at him, and all he could do was smile back as he gently closed the door. It was only a few moments later that he noticed it.
...Her lips tasted...like chocolate...
Rei made her way back to the bed in a daze, her finger running across her own lips, the warm feeling still there.
She suddenly realized why she had loved the chocolate so much. Why it had warmed her so completely when it had made contact with her mouth.
She smiled to herself. Maybe Valentine's Day wasn't overrated after all...
A/N: Holy Crap! You read all the way to the end! I didn't mean for it to be so long, but you know what happens when you get wrapped up in stuff... ; )
P.S. Anyone who was pissed off about my "Jane Eyre" slamming, I don't hate British literature--just that book. Tough.