Author Notes: Well folks, welcome to chapter 10. Things are certainly going well for this particular story. I do once again have to apologise for taking so long with the chapter, but real life is indeed a time consumer when you are at University.
I have to say also that the second half of the pages (5-8 on Open Office) proved a fair challenge to write. There were a few different things i tried but that didn't really flow how I wanted it to; it seemed to get jarred far too much, but the final product is something I'm happy with. (Otherwise it wouldn't be the final product. Hehe.)
Well, I do hope you enjoy this chapter. You've waited long enough, certainly.
I am... dreaming.
I am standing in darkness. A single light shines upon me.
In front of me are two people, also bathed in light from an unknown source.
One is a boy. He stands in front of me, to the left.
I know this person. He fears me.
He fears me... because I am a part of his past, and he has seen me for who I truly am.
The other is a girl. She also stands in front of me, to the right.
I know this person also. She too fears me.
She fears me... because I am a representation of a part of her past that she hates and fears.
And I fear them. I fear them because they are... normal. They represent a life that I have never had, a life of experiences that I desire.
A life of emotion, a life of chaos, a life lived only once.
A life I do not understand.
And... they fear each other. They fear each other because they treat each other as they have desired to be treated for much of their lives, and because they both have something the other wants, yet fears.
We all fear each other.
But we are all bonded.
And we all care for the each other.
I am scared.
Are these tears?
Why are we are crying?
Why am I crying?
I can here them mumbling. I can here myself mumbling.
And though we are all looking at each other, we are saying it to ourselves.
... ... someone...
... ... ... save me.
This is the purpose of living, for those who have no life.
Divided We Stand, Together We Fall
They had been so supportive and helpful yesterday.
But she hated it! She should be strong, she shouldn't need help, she should be independent of them.
Why can't I get this idea out of my head! I don't want to be alone anymore!
And she still hated herself. How she had treated them. How she now looked. How she was once the strongest of the three, and was now the weakest.
Even her best friend and the other two idiots were trying to help her now.
And she wanted it, craved it almost like a drug at this point in time.
But what she hated most... what she hated most was that someone who she had once considered as little more than a human mannequin was now growing closer to her than had ever been thought possible.
Why did she hate it? She wanted it, didn't she?
... It was fear. That was why she hated all of it right now. Fear.
Fear of how fast things were changing, how she was changing.
A whisper in the room. "I don't want your help." A lie.
Another whisper. "Help me." Truth.
She was here, sat against the wall, on the right of the door that lead out to the corridor. She had pretended to be asleep as the First and Third had left for breakfast. That had been a long time ago. She had since gotten dressed into her grey track suit top and pants and all appropriate underwear, and sat against the wall that lead to the outside world with her face in knees and her arms wrapped around her curled up legs.
The door opened.
That damned monotonous voice! "Asuka, how long have you been here?"
"I don't know." She hissed back at Rei, not meeting her gaze. "Go away."
"You are troubled."
"Aren't you just a know-it-all!"
Rei stepped into the room, quietly closing the door behind her and then kneeling in front of Asuka, her school uniform's skirt spreading around her as she did..
The red-headed German did not meet her stern gaze.
"I thought that we had already talked about this yesterday?" The albino asked calmly and inquisitively, trying to think about what the other girl was doing. "If you want to talk-"
"Well maybe I don't!!" Asuka snapped back. "Maybe I want to wallow in my own self pity and be left alone! Ever think of that? So why don't you just leave me alone?"
"You are not alone."
"I said leave me alone!!!"
Before she knew what was happening, Rei found herself yanked towards her fellow pilot by the right strap of the school uniform she wore, while a fist targeted her face. That right fist struck hard, flinging Rei's head to the left, and then that hand grabbed hold of the other green strap of her uniform, and she found herself face to face with the enraged face of Asuka Langley Soryu, her teeth bared and eyes dilated.
"What the hell does someone like you know about me?! How could you help me? Someone like you, who's had such a lovely little life with your precious commander has no idea how I've lived!!" She shook her once to try and get some reaction from the calm blankness in Rei's face. No response. "I lost my Mama, I spent my whole life being carted everywhere in Germany to be trained for that fucking machine, then I got sent off to America just to havemore training in college! Then I lose my status as the best pilot after my life of training; get my mind fucked by an Angel, and get saved by you! YOU!!! A fucking doll!!"
"You are right." Rei replied in contrasting calmness and gentleness. "I am not you. But let me ask you... what do you know of my life?" Asuka recoiled at that, nearly banging her head into the wall yet not even noticing it, but keeping her tight grip on Rei's clothing. "How would you feel when you knew that your only purpose in life is to die? To bring about Instrumentality. That it was the only reason you were created. That you weren't even 'born'? That you can be easily replaced at a moments notice?" Asuka's grip on Rei's clothing loosened. "Why do you keep making yourself out to be the only victim?"
Asuka's arms dropped to her sides as her chest began to heave, forcefully holding back tears as she drank the air around her. She would not give Rei the satisfaction of showing her tears. She wrapped herself up into her original position, arms wrapped around her legs and her face hidden behind her knees. Rei too, assumed her original kneeling position.
"It's all I know how to do." Asuka whispered. "I never got taught anything else. You went to school, you got taught things about life, how to live it, you could talk to people your own age if you wanted to. I didn't have that. I never had anything like that. I never had a choice! It was always scientists and military people and college students." A gasp of air could be heard throughout the room, the said air being sucked into Asuka's mouth as her control finally gave. "My whole life is a waste."
Rei snaked her arms around Asuka's head as best as she could, letting the top of Asuka's head rest against her chest. "Will you tell me what is wrong?"
Asuka remained silent before whispering again. "You were Mama's doll." Rei gave no outward response, but on the inside she cringed violently. "It was the same doll, but it had your face. Just... blank... staring... smiling... It was you. I was scared." She flinched slightly just a second after saying that, realising she had said it to her perceived nemesis, the one she was supposed to hate the most out of all the others.
"A nightmare." Asuka nodded very slightly in reply, another short sob coming out of her.
"Why did it all have to happen to me?" Asuka asked, her voice attaining a more normal volume and whimpering in the process. "I was a good girl, wasn't I? Why does Mama keep hurting me?"
"I do not know."
Silence fell into the room for a few minutes, with only the muffled sobs of Asuka and the movement of Rei's right hand rubbing up and down Asuka's back providing any kind of activity in the room.
"We are connected, in a way; just as you and I are connected to Shinji in our own ways. Our lives have been dominated by the Evangelions and anything else connected to it, whereas Shinji has only truly known about it for the past year." Rei snuggled her face into Asuka's hair a little, trying to provide a little extra comfort to her, but not just physically.
Her first close contact with Asuka was giving her a wash of new sensations that she found exhilarating in some way. Someone who had always seemed so distant was at this place in the time the closest person to her, in both a physical and mental sense. In a way, she actually felt closer to Asuka than she did to Shinji, despite her genetic and other ties.
Asuka found the contact welcome, yet... strangely disturbing. Rei's touch was almost... motherly. It was a touch she hadn't experienced in ten years, it was so long ago that it seemed new, as if this was the first time she'd had this kind of contact. The contact was so craved but so feared that she found herself almost completely frozen besides her sporadic sobbing.
"We know more about each other than you may think. I know what it is like to have your life turned into that of a thing for others purposes." Rei said, her voice thick.
Rei pulled back and once more knelt in front of Asuka, while the redhead didn't move an inch, save for her heaving back as sobs occasionally hit her body.
"Asuka, you are stronger than me and Shinji."
"No I'm not," Asuka retorted in an almost childish way, "look at me. I can't be strong like this."
"But you are." Rei explained. "You are opening up in a way me and Shinji haven't yet. In a way, myself and Shinji are... avoiding our own problems by trying to help you. But you are facing things, even as they are overwhelming you."
"Oh shut up, will you?" The German girl looked up at she used the pointer finger and thumb of her right hand to clear her puffy and red eyes of moisture. "Stop criticising yourself for helping me. It's stupid." Asuka looked to the left as her face softened, not wanting eye contact with Rei. "I'm sorry about hitting you."
Rei rubbed the spot where Asuka's fist had connected, feeling it suddenly throb under the light pressure her fingers gave, and causing her to wince "It is okay. It is not serious." Asuka looked back to Rei again, a small smile touching her lips. "Would it comfort you to know that I have never been very sociable, and I've never listened to the teacher in class."
"Not really." Asuka replied softly as her gaze dropped to the floor again, still smiling a little. "That's still a more normal life than mine. And you had a choice in that matter." Asuka smiled slightly as she once more hid her face behind her knees again, resting her head on her forearms. She felt utterly exhausted, the rush of adrenaline having left her body.
"Asuka, I understand that you had your... 'birthday' recently." The redhead nodded her head in reply. "I have never seen the value of such dates, since I have never had one. I was not 'born', in the strictest sense." Rei looked down at the small space between them. "And due to our relationship in the past year, I did not get you a physical gift; but..." She looked up again, once more gazing at the top of Asuka's head. "I know it is not much, but... if you would accept it..." Her voice becoming even softer than normal, she raised her right hand and placed it on top of Asuka's left arm, causing the red-head to look up just enough to see what the contact was. "I would like to offer you my... friendship."
The redhead didn't react for a moment. The cerulean blue haired girl let go of Asuka's arm and pulled back a little, looking at the floor in between them, sad and disappointed at Asuka's apparent rejection.
She felt a spike of surprise when two hands placed themselves on her shoulder blades and drew her in to the magnet. Her face clearly stunned, she could still only see the top of Asuka's head before it disappeared beyond her eyes line of sight. Asuka placed her forehead on Rei's right shoulder as both arms snaked around the blue haired girls shoulders, having pulled the albino girl in between her now opened out legs so as to allow her to get as close as possible to the other girl. Rei was quick to respond after getting over her shock by letting her own arms wrap themselves around Asuka's back and neck while still remaining gentle as she held her.
A small whisper was heard. "Thank you."
"Yes. ... Yes, I understand. ... Tomorrow? And you'll want to see him immediately? Okay." As the voice on the other side told her these things, she noted them down. "I'll let him know straight away. Thanks. Bye." The red phone was placed back into it's slot in the control panel, a certain man was looking at her through his glasses."
"That doesn't sound good." Hyuga stated rhetorically as Misato rubbed the sleet out of her eyes with her right hands forefinger and thumb.
"Business." Misato tiredly stated as she looked up and picked up the phone with her right hand. "And hardly the best kind."
In Central Dogma, everything seemed to echo just slightly as it's vastness was occupied by just Makoto Hyuga and Misato Katsuragi. It gave the too of them a sense of just how lonely it could be in here at times. The glowing diagrams and maps that usually hovered in front of the command area having long been turned off to conserve power, giving the whole place a feeling of emptiness, as if in a void.
Makoto turned his vision back to his console as the woman standing beside him in her usual 'uniform' of a black dress and red jacket picked up the bright red phone once more and began dialling a sequence of numbers into it. Her clothes and his light tan brown uniform were beginning to smell somewhat. The different particles tickling the hairs in his nose did not provide a pleasant sensation, so he tried to concentrate on the work he was doing in his console rather than the sensation of disgust his brain was getting from the smells.
"What is it?"
Makoto gave Misato a puzzled look at that. "Germans?"
"The third branch to be precise." Misato began dialling the number's for the commanders office, her conversation with Hyuga distracting her for a moment.
"Oh..." The reason was beginning to become obvious to Hyuga. "I see."
"Tell me about it." She sighed as she took a seat on top of her friend's console, luckily not sitting on any buttons. "I'm beginning to wish I never took them as my kids."
He smiled at the purple haired woman. "That's unlikely."
She winked at him. "You're right there!" As the ringing finally stopped, the major began talking into the phone. "Hi, sub-commander? I have some big news for you..."
A couple of quiet, almost timid knocks at the door provided the first sound in around fifteen minutes to the whitewashed and pure hospital room.
"Come in." Asuka stated calmly.
The door opened to reveal Shinji stepping into the room, his plain black pants that were a single size too small and white shirt that was a size too big giving him a somewhat comical appearance. In his left hand he held a disposable paper plate, with six sandwiches of unknown make and type sitting on top of them in stacks of two, and cut triangularly.
Shinji quietly closed the door the behind him, his eyes squinting slightly at the white room. The white colour of everything only amplified the light that was fed in via the other side of the room from the large window. He peered down to his left to see Asuka sat quietly on the floor, legs stretched out in front of her and opened partially, and arms resting on her legs. Beyond that was Rei, sat quietly in more or less the same position as Asuka, except with her stretched out legs closed together and her hands neatly folding on top of her lap.
"I thought you both might be hungry," he stated with a polite smile, "so I brought you something."
Asuka eyes flicked to the sandwiches then back to Shinji's face. "And what are our choices?"
"Two egg, two ham, and two lettuce and tomato. They were all pre-made and packaged, so they might not taste that great." Shinji told them truthfully. This was all that was available in the cafeteria, most of the other food having already been raided by the refugees from the LCL sea in the past days. "Would you like some?"
Asuka patted the spot next to her that wasn't occupied by Rei, and gave a thankful smile. "Care to join us?"
"I've already eaten earlier, thanks."
"Take a hint, Shinji." The red haired German said playfully, a small smidgen of an annoyance coming through as well.
Shinji carefully sat down where Asuka had patted, being sure not to nudge her at all. He stretched out his legs, opening them just a little and offered the plate to Asuka.
Rei was surprisingly quick to acquire the two lettuce and tomato sandwiches, leaving Shinji and Asuka to have one of each of the other options. Shinji put the disposable plate next to him, and the three former pilots proceeded to eat quietly holding one sandwich in one hand and using the other to hold the one they were eating. Rei was the last to finish the austere meal, Asuka finished hers first since she was hungry and had not eaten breakfast.
Shinji had eaten earlier, but that had been breakfast. He had planned to return the cafeteria to get his own food, but things had quickly changed.
A huffed sigh was heard from Asuka. "I need to get out of these clothes."
"Why is that?" Shinji asked, turning his head to get a better look at her.
"Isn't it obvious?" Asuka stated in a whiny tone, dropping her gaze onto her grey tracksuit and looking like a child who'd lost their ice cream. "Their starting to stink. I haven't been able to change them since their aren't any other clothes in my size besides a uniform; and I'll be damned if I wear one of those ugly things."
Shinji gave a small smile. "At least you've got something that fits you properly." As Asuka looked at him his gaze turned to his shirt and pants. "I mean, look at me."
"I see what you mean." The red head chuckled. "Though I do think the pants show you off rather nicely." She gave Shinji her best seductive look as his flushed face shot to stare at her.
"W-well... ..." Shinji was rather quick to recover, his face taking on a calm look.
"Don't you like being teased?" The German asked him with mock concern.
The chestnut haired boy quickly retorted in his normal tone, adding to it's sting. "No, it's just that those clothes do nothing for your figure."
Asuka was quickly taken aback, but responded with her usual fire. "Pervert! What do you know about my figure?" She struck the top of his head with her fist, just hard enough to get his attention.
The two stared at each other for a few seconds. Asuka took a breath and leant back against the wall, having a small laugh escape her lungs. Shinji leant back against the wall after that but didn't laugh, but did smile. He got the feeling that Asuka just wasn't in much of a mood for a good verbal war right now. He was quite disappointed, he rather enjoyed the last one where he and Rei and launched a two-pronged attack on Asuka. This time she hadn't joined in.
They were beginning to return to normality, but only beginning, and at the same time their relationship was transforming, Shinji was now less reluctant to fight back, and Asuka was inclined to make sure that her jesting remained as that rather than attempting to be insulting at the same time. Even so, that didn't mean that she had to stop teasing him like she had. Back then there were times when he'd snap at her and tell her to stop, or worse; and other times he would tease back, though that normally led to her getting in a huff and shouting at him, perhaps even giving him a particularly painful strike if he said something seriously hurtful.
She could clearly remember the incident just after the defeat of the seventh angel. The two of them in a crater, her Evangelion flopped over his. She calls him via the phone and they get into perhaps the most wonderful shouting match they ever had. Yes, there were times when Shinji did snap and other times when she was hurt by him because of some of the things he said. But things always went back to normal after a few days. And other times she kept respectfully quiet; even if they were very short periods.
What time they did have free from the endless data collections, tests and the battles against the Angels was spent as how children would normally interact, as if they were boy and girl. Homework, talking about random things, all the standard teenage stuff.
Now that she thought about it, the two of them were friends in the strangest of ways, making out that they only tolerated each others presence as part of their job, but they did consider each other friends during those times; and it really all started on the carrier and as they grew more confident in each others abilities from that point on.
Shinji glanced over at Rei, who was knelt sat quietly and staring almost unblinkingly at her hands resting in her lap. He noticed what looked like the start of a bruise on her right cheek as she gave him a short look and smile.
He pushed off the wall, curious to this development. "Rei, are you all right? Did you fall out of bed last night?"
"My face?" She touched her right cheek with her right hand's fingertips, wincing mildly at the pain she got, and returned the hand back to her lap. "Asuka and I were... talking."
"Talking?" Shinji blinked then gave Asuka an incredulous glare. "What happened?"
"Please, do not push the issue." Rei requested quickly but calmly, looking at Shinji. Her eyes looked almost pleading. "Rest assured that Asuka and I have settled our differences."
Asuka thanked Rei with a quick nod then looked at Shinji, who was now more understanding of what had happened. "A lot happened between us this morning. But she did tell me it wasn't serious." She yawned, using her right hand to cover her mouth as it opened.
"All right." He leant back against the wall, reluctant to leave the room or the presence or either of the girls.
The room fell into silence, the bright light in the room seeming to illuminate everything within it. Asuka was thinking about what to say next, she didn't like the silence. It wasn't a comfortable silence, it was one where no one knew where to go next. Trust Shinji to send the conversation to a topic that had no follow on and then kill it.
She could really only think of one way to start things up again.
"I know I've already said this to both of you more than enough, but thanks for everything." Both of the other two occupants of the room looked at Asuka, who closed her eyes. "A lot really has happened."
"Asuka..?" Shinji began but was nervous of where to go. He could only think of closing the distance between them causing their legs to come into contact with each other.
"Shinji, do you still hate you mother?" Shinji would've sputtered onto her if he'd been eating. She looked at him with an enquiring face, only pushing her question onward.
Shinji looked down slowly, only to look out of the window and into the sky. "Part of me wants to, but I can't, not anymore." He felt Asuka lean back against the wall, and guessed she was looking out of the window as well. "I feel like what she did was wrong and that she made some bad choices, but I also understand why she made those choices. Plus, she didn't have much choice to begin with. She tried to help me as best as she could."
"I know what you mean." Asuka replied, her eyes lidded as her bad night of sleep began to make it's effects known to her. "Mama did what she could for me. The fact that I shut her out didn't help, so part of it's my fault. But she still tried." She closed her eyes. "... I love her." She opened them and smiled as she remembered what she had seen inside the Eva. "And she loves me too." She blinked a couple of times.
Shinji nodded his agreement.
"I did hate her as well." She noticed the two of them look at her from the corner of her eye. "The one who could be considered my mother, I mean."
"And who is that?" Asuka asked.
"Shinji's mother." Rei answered plainly. "I am... was a clone of her, though I still share much of what made her, I am now my own being. But I hated her... I have hated both her and Asuka's mother these past few days because you seemed so hurt by them. What they have done to both of you is wrong, but I can also see that they love you." She looked at the two of them, taking in their inquiring expressions. "They both wished happiness for either of you."
Both Asuka and Shinji looked down at their legs. The room went quiet for only a moment before things began again.
"But..." Shinji said to himself. "Why did she have to go?"
Rei looked away from both of them as they began to break down once more. And she could feel herself in pain as well, something she couldn't explain. It was inside her, squirming and hurting.
"Shinji..." Asuka sniffed, putting on a commanding voice as possible, her voice strained from the effort. "Next time we get the chance, we're going back to that beach."
"Yeah." Shinji nodded slightly. "But, Rei..." He wiped his eyes with the back of his right hand and looked up at Rei. "You have it worse than either of us, in a way."
The blue haired girl looked confused. "I do not understand."
"You've never had a real mother." He gave an apologetic smile. "Or any parent. Or even a proper life in any sense. Doesn't that hurt?"
"... It..." What could she say? She truly didn't know herself.
She had memories, vague memories of the past lives of the other three Rei's who had preceded her, but she could only remember the most intense of the memories. Those memories were of primarily of her deaths, and she only had a few other pleasant memories, Shinji being in nearly every one of those.
She'd found herself in another situation where she didn't know how to react. Never before had she even considered this and what it could mean to not have a parent or a true life because she knew how she was created and she knew that she could be so easily replaced that it didn't really matter.
Droplets of moisture fell onto the hands into her lap. Are these tears? She was crying. Why am I crying? She knew why.
She was alive.
Her life was not ever meant to be.
She was alive.
The lives she had experienced were horrible.
She was alive.
Arms were encompassing her, coming around her shoulders and pulling and turning her towards the other two children that for some reason she did not want to look at. A second pair of arms came to come around her lower back. She found knelt and turned towards them, looking into two pairs of eyes, one pair crystal blue and looking into her right eye, the other pair a dark blue and staring into her left eye. Her right arm flung around the lower back of the red haired girl, and her other arm went around the shoulders of the chestnut haired boy. Then she noticed two arms leave her, and that the other two beings were re-arranging themselves, the left arm of the boy coming around the lower back of the girl, and the girl's arm snaking over the shoulders of the boy.
To be suddenly shifted from helper to the one being helped was as unusual experience for Rei as many would be. She had become accustomed to her own role, but now found herself being comforted by the two she had been helping. And what only added to her feeling on comfortable unease was that she had discovered that she valued her own existence. She was now the only Rei who would ever be again. She was now unique; and in a sense she always had been perhaps the most unique human on the planet. Now it was for far better reasons than for being merely a product.
This was what it was like to feel secure in another's arms. This was how they had felt.
She was crying. Happy.
Five minutes later she had stopped crying, having gradually regained her composure. Half way through she had realised the others had been extremely close to crying as well, though she knew that they had cried plenty throughout the past few days.
They slowly separated, the cool air providing a sudden and pleasant counter to the pleasant heat that radiated from each of the areas that had been held. Shinji and Rei were kneeling but Asuka returned to her original position, stretching out her legs from their bent position.
"Guys." Asuka began slowly. "I've was thinking just now. A minute ago." She looked first at the chestnut haired boy and then to Rei. "There are no more angels, not to mention no more EVA's, correct?"
"That is correct." Rei affirmed.
"We... don't have to pilot anymore." Shinji's voice was a strange melting pot of realisation and happiness, and perhaps even a little sadness.
The fire that had been so absent from Asuka's form had apparently begun it's return. "So... why the hell are we still here?"
Author Notes: Part of this chapters focus was on Rei and Asuka, obviously. But what I wanted to do here was, again, something different from what I perceive as 'the norm'. Many Evangelion fanfics I've read seem to focus on the contrasts and differences between Rei and Asuka,; but I wanted to touch on some of the ways in which they are similar to each other, something almost everyone seems to miss, it would seem. (Good lord, I'm such a fanboi. But I love it, so I don't care what you people think of me. Hehe.)
What I also wanted to do for this chapter was to give Rei a bit more humanity, and I hope I succeeded in that. Obviously I'll continue with that line of thought. (So many lines of thought...)
One final, quickly made out point I wanted to bring out was that before Third Impact, Shinji did not just put up with everything, he did break during those times as well. And Asuka did let up from time to time as well.
And yeah, the title is a little play on the little saying of 'Together we stand, divided we fall.' I think the title fits the pilots quite well, don't you?