Disclaimer: I'm only going to write this once. I don't own Evangelion - Gainax, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Hideaki Anno do. Any other chapters are going to ask you to refer to this.

The Notebook by Nathan Yuen


Shinji Ikari stepped out of the shower, reveling in how clean everything smelled after a night in the entry plug. The discomforts of daily life are nothing compared to sitting in a war machine's cockpit that was filled with a blood-scented breathable liquid.

Taking in another lungful of humid air, he reached for his clothes. He winced slightly as the soft cloth chafed like razor wire against his sensitive hands. Then he remembered why they were so sensitive…

LCL hissed into vapor as Shinji's hands made contact with the plug's manual release. In an instant his hands protested painfully from the heat.

But he couldn't run away.

Not this time.

Because inside the plug lay one Rei Ayanami, who had nothing but her EVA and her purpose as a pilot.

The memory of her ethereal face, so devoid of hope, crept into his mind along with her despondent words: "If I had stopped being a pilot, I would have nothing left. That's the same as being dead."

Now, against the fifth angel, she had nearly sacrificed everything – her EVA, her purpose, and her life – so that he could live.

He was not worthy of such a trade.

The tragedy that was Rei Ayanami willed him to grit his teeth and redouble his efforts against the sadistically hot hatch once again.

You can't die, Ayanami! He thought frantically as the manual release gradually surrendered to the boy, You have so much to learn! You need more than EVA in your life!

The sun blindsided Shinji as he stepped out of the apartment, cutting off his reminisces sharply and for a second he wondered why he stepped outside in the first place. Then he remembered.

I wanted to thank Ayanami, he thought. But there was more to it than that, something buried in the corner of his mind. He excavated the thought as he made his way to the hospital where Rei was harbored.

Before Tokyo-3, life didn't have much to offer for Shinji. His mother was dead, his father cold, no one else really cared for him.

But now things were looking up a little. Misato was looking out for him, Kensuke and Toji hung out with him, and he could start thinking of the apartment as home.

The reason why he had these people and things in his life now was because while he regarded life as miserable and the future as bleak, he would not throw away his life readily, especially for whatever ideals his father had.

Without her EVA or whatever causes his father put Rei up to, it was quite easy to see her giving up on life. And Shinji could barely stand that possibility.

So as Shinji crossed the street when the light changed, the question that bounced around inside his head was, how can I help Rei?, trailed by the question, what kind of gift should I get her for the hospital visit?

As he passed the bookstore at that very moment, a small glimmer in the windowsill caught his eye and he knew he found his answer.

Shinji strode into the hospital room, feeling unusually confident. Happily, Rei was sitting up in bed already halfway through a meal, showing signs of a textbook recovery. He sat down at the bedside chair, offering her a smile. "Hi Ayanami," he said gently, "How're you doing?"

She met his soft gaze with a level one. "I am improving." She paused. "Why are you here, Ikari?"

The blunt question chipped away a bit of his confidence, and he hesitated. "I, uh… wanted to see how you were, and…" he frowned. Why was it getting harder to concentrate on thoughts? "Th-thank you for saving me during the fight."

When she said nothing, he reached out and plopped a small parcel on the bedside, withdrawing his hand quickly. "It's a gift," he explained with averted eyes when she looked at the package with a puzzled look. "You can open it if you want," he declared, internally marveling at how little the girl really knew.

Picking up the package, she unwrapped it with delicate precision, gently unsticking the tape and folding back the paper. Eventually she revealed a black notebook, as small as her hand. It was similar to the operations book that she kept, except this book had an elastic band wrapped lengthwise around the cover, a cloth tassel for a place marker, a small compartment along the spine to place a pen, and a metal belt clip attached to the back.

Rei's expression was neutral as she turned from the gift to regard Shinji once again. The chip in his self-confidence turned into a fracture as he fidgeted under the First Child's gaze.

Desperate to break the silence, he explained, "It's a Moleskine notebook. Writers and artists all over the world have used them to jot down thoughts and ideas. They say Picasso, Matisse, and Hemmingway used them…" Thinking of nothing else to say, he trailed off.

"I do not understand," Rei finally murmured, "What is the purpose of this notebook?

"It doesn't have one yet," he said immediately, "but you can give it one. Maybe it can help you find your own."

She gave him a look, and Shinji stammered out, "Ah, sorry. I didn't mean it." Though what "it" was, he had no clue.

Why did he come here in the first place? He could have spent some yen on flowers and a get-well card, sent it off through first-class mail, and then spent the rest of the day with Toji and Kensuke at the arcades. But no, he had to buy some abstract gift and come personally to give it to her, and try to strike up a conversation. All it had resulted in was uncomfortable silence. Ayanami probably takes the notebook as an insult than a gift, he thought miserably. And why not? The gesture could be easily misinterpreted. For Shinji, trying to figure out what the girl wanted was like trying to win a chess game where only she could see the pieces.

And he was dismal at chess as it was.

"I need to go," Shinji said suddenly, cooking up an excuse. "Kensuke and Toji are waiting for me." It was a half-lie, but it got him out of there.

He didn't see the lost, forlorn look she gave his back as he exited, nor did he see her draw the pen out of the spine and start writing…


Notes: I know that Rei-bashers could say that she only risked her life to complete the mission, but that's not really important. Shinji's subjective view of the matter is.

And if you're wondering about the description of the Moleskine notebook, I know it's wrong. I did write the rough draft of the prologue in mine, after all. It's actually a modified version, the pen compartment added so there's always something to write with, and the belt clip because…well, I don't see any pockets on Rei's skirt, do you? So I figure that a belt clip would be good so that she can hang the notebook off her hip, almost like a reporter.

Finally, this story's going to follow the manga version. Because the anime sucks.

…you can put the pitchforks down, I didn't really mean it. (But seriously, the English dub is annoying especially Asuka's voice, Shinji's a wimp, and I'm certainly not going to plop down a c-note for the collection of DVDs.)

Preread by Andrew Joshua Talon, who was generous enough to take time away from chiseling away at his writer's block to read this. For some reason, my old lit professor used to say, "There's no such thing as writer's block – only a lazy writer." But if Talon has a writer's block, I believe 'em! Good luck, Andrew!