Chapter 19: Flavorlicious

A/N – Only fifteen more pages until I've made up for what I deleted…

Hotel – 11:30 AM

So far, this morning has been… eventful. It started out amazing with her gently waking me up, allowing her face to be the first thing I saw, but that was about the only thing normal. As always, she was the first to take a shower, and I couldn't really do anything until I had a shower myself, so I was currently just on the bed watching some Discovery Channel show about bears… yeah, couldn't really care less about them. The water from inside the bathroom just recently turned off, and I already had my towel in hand ready to take her place. The door opened, letting a puff of steam shoot into the room.

"Hope you saved some hot water for me," I stood up just as she was exiting the bathroom, and my knees instantly gave out at the sight, sending me right back down onto the bed. Obviously concerning the recent conversation about me being comfortable around her, she walked out of the bathroom completely naked outside of the towel in her hands, still drying herself off.

"I did, now hurry up, we don't have much longer."

"Y-Yeah…" I struggle to stand up and force myself to walk past her and into the bathroom, the door of which was of course being blocked by her foot. I look up at her face, which was crowned by strands of wet hair.

"By the end of this little trip, you will get over your nervousness," with a wink, she went about her business of fixing her hair, still not wearing anything. I sigh as I close the door, realizing that she was right; name a guy that wouldn't kill to see that without going to the hospital afterwards. The shower was short lived due to the lack of cold water – which, by the way, solved a very different problem – and I was back in the room, fully clothed, within twenty minutes. When I walked out, I thankfully saw a fully clothed Asuka… God, did I just say that?

"At least you didn't wear a white t-shirt this time," she was in a black tank top with sun-faded jeans.

"Yeah, I made sure of that. This is NOT going to be a repeat of last time…" I walk to the fridge and grab a water, taking a drink from it almost immediately, "So yeah, Gendo was here when you were in the shower. He said to meet him down at the car when we were ready, so let's just get this over with," without waiting for me, she stands up and heads out the door, forcing me to chase after her.

"Didn't you say that you were excited about this?" I see Gendo waiting in the car with Fuyutsuki.

"No, I said I was excited about working with you, not actually competing. I hate all the publicity, but hey, how can you argue with free stuff?" yeah, that's if we win…

"Good point," we head out to that old car and climb in the back, both of us realizing that it's taking us to hell.

"Took you two long enough," in his painfully typical monotone voice, Gendo starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot, "Now listen Asuka; this is a much more formal competition than last time. If you break one rule, even one, they won't hesitate to kick us out."

"Why are you only talking to me?! Shinji's the one that didn't play the challenged right!"

"I was just being smart about it. They never said how to do it, they just said do it."

"So what, now I'm not smart?" oh Jesus Christ…

--

Stadium

We were just entering the giant coliseum-style stadium where the words 'Takeshi's Castle' were painted on banners that decorated the exterior walls. I hear Asuka let out a long sigh as we make our way to the overly extravagant red doors with the two hosts' faces on either side, each with a huge, typical smile on. The doors seemed to open on their own as we approached to reveal the two hosts sitting in large 'golden' chairs on pedestals.

"Ah! Our first guests have… son of a bitch, cut the camera. I said cut it!" the man in blue hurled a nearby rock at the camera man, "Who invited you?! We were promised that you wouldn't be coming back!"

"I quit," the man in red stands up with his eyes closed and walks away.

"Well that's just great, see what you two do?" Asuka plants on a small smirk, "And just what do you think you're smiling at?! There's nothing humorous about this!"

"With him gone, that means you must be playing the role of Takeshi…" his eyes go wide.

"How can there be so much evil in such a little girl…?" with a deep sigh, he stands up and somehow puts on that talk show host persona, "Okay, start rolling again!" after a few moments, he whips out a microphone from seemingly nowhere and looks into the lens, "And we're back! The first contestants of the day have arrived. They're returning challengers with a pas history of doing quite well on the course! Meet your first celebrities, Shinji Ikari and Asuka… I can't read that…"

"Soryu!" she yells from behind the camera.

"Soryu! That's right! You may know them from saving your sorry asses on a weekly basis! We also have their two superiors, Mr. Ikari and Mr. Fuyutsuki!" superiors? He walks over to Asuka and I and puts his arm around my shoulders, "So, how does it feel to be back on the show kids?"

"It feels like a concussion if you don't take your hands off of him," still smiling at the camera, he did as he was told.

"And that's why we keep bringing them back folks! Strong willed! They'll need it to go up against the other celebrities!"

"Wait, what? Celebrities?" once again, Asuka speaks to the man in blue, "I thought this was the semi-finals!"

"It is, but none of the other contestants would come back, so we just decided to have the semi-finals include only washed up celebrities! Actually, here's another contestant now!" I turn to see a black man – at least in his fifties – in a solid purple suit with an obnoxious large analog clock hanging around his neck. All of his teeth were gold, as shown by the giant smile, and he walked with a step that just screamed 'clap'.

"Who the hell is that?" Asuka actually looked discusted!

"I can't believe this guy is still alive…" I hear her mumble through her hand covering her face.

"What up little man?" he put out his hand to shake mine, and out of habit, I copy the action, "Gotta say, never thought I'd be back on TV again! Flavor's making a comeback!" flavor?

"Ah yes, and here is our second celebrity of the day; Flavor Flav! He may be pushing seventy years old, but hey, this guy can still pop out illegitimate children like he was back in the eighties! So, how does it feel to be here?"

"Well Host-Man, I got one thing to say…" he puts his hand on the man in blue's shoulder, "Is there a bathroom around here? I really gotta shi-"

"AND we'll be right back after this commercial break!" the camera man put down his equipment, "Okay, listen here you little ghetto rat; this is a family show. The more you cuss, the more higher-ups ride my ass for letting you do it!"

"It's okay, I like a little mustache every now and then myself!" with an immature laugh, Flavor slaps the host's back and walks away, "I'll be back, gotta find me a razorblade and some glass!"

"I hate my life… so very much right now…" Asuka still had her hand covering her face as she spoke.

"I found him amusing. I remember watching his show as an adolescent; Flavor of Love I believe it was called. After that show, an estimated eighty percent of ghettos were filled with his children… quite impressive, I must say," and Asuka calls ME a pervert; look at Fuyutsuki!

"Listen, why don't you go stand in the sidelines for now? We'll be starting in about ten minutes, we just have to wait for the rest of the contestants… oh! Get the camera rolling! We have another arrival!" Asuka and I turn to see a much younger Asian man walking through the gates in a snow-white leather suit with a cocky smile on his face, "I believe Rain has arrived! Sporting his old Speed Racer outfit to boot!"

"Ah yes, the guy that made a bad name for Asians across the United States, how wonderful…" finally, Gendo speaks up.

"Why don't I know any of these people?!" unable to keep quiet any longer, I burst out, "We already have a pimp named Flavor, and now a dude with weather for a name?!"

"I know, calm down…" sarcastically, Asuka pets me on the head, "It'll all be over soon enough."

"I believe I saw Chan getting out of his car, someone might want to go help him," the camera man and host run off to the parking lot to meet up with the only man whose name I actually recognize, "And who do we have here?" Rain puts out his hand in front of me, and upon shaking his hand, he displays just how feminine a handshake can be done.

"Shinji Ikari… I'm sorry, but who are you?"

"Real name's Jeong, but everyone calls me Rain. And excuse me for not knowing you Mr. Ikari! I would like to thank you very much for all you've done!" well, I guess this guy isn't TOO bad… that is until he takes Asuka's hand and kissed the top of it, "And what an honor to meet the beautiful Asuka Soryu!" before I did anything, she met her knee with his groin.

"Back off scumbag, you're more than twice my age," without a word, he limped away and sat on one of the steps that made the podium where the man in blue was sitting, "I'm letting you know right now Gendo, if absolutely anything sexual happens to me on this little game again, you'll be the one to pay," crossing her arms, she walks away, "I'm going to find a bathroom, I'll be back."

"Well isn't she is a great mood…" I overhear Fuyutsuki speaking quietly to Gendo. What did they expect? They were both very aware that she would have rather spend the break in school than come on this damned death wish trip.

"Uh, Mr. Ikari?" a woman walks up to us holding a clipboard, "Is one of you Mr. Ikari?" Gendo walks up and shakes the woman's hand.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm sorry, I've got some bad news. One of the hosts is threatening to sue the department for endangerment, claiming your group to be the cause… personally, I don't see an issue, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave," I see his eyebrows pop up above his glasses.

"Ma'am, we were invited to this by your superiors."

"Yes, well, they're telling you to leave… if we must call security, we will."

"Well then, appears as if you've made up your mind. Shinji, please go find Miss Soryu, meet me back at the car," without another word, he turns around and heads towards the parking lot with Fuyutsuki trailing slightly behind.

"Well ain't that a bitch?" the host in Red walks up to me with a large, arrogant smirk on, "Looks like your little lover just screwed your chances of winning so much as a ride home!"

"Neither of us really wanted to be here to tell you the truth," his smile quickly fades, "Actually, you're doing us a favor."

"But… but what about the prizes?!"

"We work for NERV, remember? If we pushed hard enough, we could get a car just for payment."

"I hate you two… so very much…" he walks up to his chair and sits down, looking too much like a four year old than necessary. Right on cue, I see Asuka walking up to me through the crowd.

"Where'd they go?" she looks back at the man in red for a moment, then simply shrugs it off.

"We have to go home, something about him being scared of you," her eyes lit up with a glimmering anticipation.

"That's great! Damn, I've been regretting coming here since I got in the hotel!" with a sarcastic wave to the man behind her, we make our way out to the old car in the parking lot, "You know, I wanted the car and all, but after I got thinking, they would probably come up with some crappy excuse as to why we couldn't have it… you didn't want to stay, right?"

"Well, I didn't want to stay HERE, but I did want to do something. I just know that we're going to be bored to tears this break," she just shrugs and takes my hand.

"I'm sure we can find something to do…" with a wink and a smile, we continue walking towards the car.

--

Toji's House

"What the hell is this?!"

"How… disappointing…"

--

Three Hours Later – Rei's Apartment

Oddly enough, Gendo didn't seem too upset about the whole issue. In fact, he seemed completely fine with it. Asuka, even more strange, didn't just fall asleep this time. While she did keep quiet most of the time, she did start and end conversations every now and then. When we got home, we were met with an empty apartment with a few random clothes thrown on the floor.

"Rei's at NERV with Ritsuko having a few tests run," Asuka throws her bag on the bed and begins unpacking.

"How'd you know that?" she points to a note on the dresser without turning around, "Oh…" copying her action, I place my bag on the bed and unpack a little less gracefully as her. I've never really been one to organize clothes according to type…

"I wonder why she's having tests run. I mean really, what could possibly happen at this point? All of the angels are dead, so… oh screw it, like NERV ever made sense in the first place," holding something in her hand, she entered the bathroom and shut the door behind her. I lay back on my bed next to a now empty bag and close my eyes… which was extremely short lived, "Hey Shinji, come on," throwing a piece of cloth onto my stomach, she walks over to the dresser and fumbles around inside of it, "Might as well do something. Let's go to the lake, I could use a decent tan," so that's what she was doing! She was still in her normal clothes, but I could see the top of her two-piece sticking out of her shirt.

"Oh, okay…" still a little flustered, I grab the swimming shorts she threw on me and decide to just carry them down there, "Told you we'd get bored quick…"

"Oh shut up, we'll find something to do. Let's go," I grab a normal towel, not having enough time to find a beach one, and follow her out of the apartment, "Why didn't you just change in the bathroom?"

"Like I need to display my chicken legs to the world – I'll just change behind a tree or something, thanks," I force a short lived laugh out of her.

"You don't have chicken legs, you're just really lanky," I just shrug it off – doesn't really matter to me, "It's been a little while since we went down here, hasn't it?"

"A couple of weeks I guess… we're only going because we'll be bored to tears otherwise…"

"Jesus Shinji, can't you ever make small talk without being so negative?" I don't think I'm negative, I'm just a realist, "You know, you better shake this whole 'boredom' thing. The more you say it, the worse it'll get."

"Well yeah, but-"

"What did I just say? No buts!" she sounds exactly like Misato right now, "Look, I promise we won't get bored, okay? We'll find something to do!" after her empty promise, we idly chat until we finally rounded the hill that revealed that huge manmade lake, "I have to admit, I missed this place," she grabbed the towel from me and flipped it out onto the shore about ten feet from the water line, "You gonna get changed or what?" without looking back, she speaks to me as she disrobes to reveal a black bikini.

"Yeah," following her indirect command, I take my place behind a fairly large tree and quickly change, knowing that she had something planned – there's no way she just decided to come to the lake simply to get a tan. With my clothes in hand, I walk out to see her already lying on her back, one leg bend at the knee into the air, "Well you didn't take long to get comfortable."

"What? I'm not allowed to relax every now and then? Come on," she patted the spot next to her, "We both could use some R and R."

Without a word, I lay next to her on my back, staring up at the same blue sky she was. The soft sounds of the water breaking against the small rocks on the shore along with the mild rustling of trees in the wind put me in a euphoric state almost immediately. I actually almost fell asleep within the first five minutes, but the feeling of her hand gliding into mine woke me up and put a small smile on my face. We were like this for quite awhile until she rolled onto her side, facing me. I followed the action to see her with closed eyes, a few strands of red crossing her face. Deciding I could relax, I close my eyes along with her, scooting in slightly towards her. After a few minutes, I feel her squeezing my hand slightly, and I open my eyes to see her two powder blue orbs staring right back at me. Purely out of coincidence, we both move in closer at the same time, forcing half a smile out of the two of us. Our foreheads were touching, and I could feel her breath beating against my lips. We stared at each other for awhile, never loosening the hold on our hands, until she finally put her other hand on my cheek. Moving in, I peck her on the lips; nothing more, but it was more romantic than any other kiss could have possibly been. With a gentle smile, she once again closes her eyes.

While I didn't exactly fall asleep, she definitely did. It took her about ten minutes after rolling onto her back again to do so, leaving me copying the action, simply staring at the sky. For the first time in I don't even know how long, I was able to just let my mind relax. Not necessarily thinking about anything, I have to admit, is pretty nice after awhile.

"You asleep?" okay, so maybe she was awake…

"No, I thought you were," a few moments of semi-awkward silence pass, simply because neither of us knew what to say next, "Were you disappointed about not competing at that show?"

"Doesn't really matter to me one way or the other. Sure, I could have gotten a car out of it, but it's not like I just can't call my stepmother and play the pity card. She may not like me too much, but for some reason she does spoil me… that and she's LOADED," then why were we even there?!

"Yeah, what about her? You've never really told me about any of that… come to think of it, you've never told me anything from when you lived in Germany," the most she's ever said is that she wouldn't see her stepmother as the real thing.

"There's really nothing to tell, you already know everything. My father got re-married almost right after my mother died, and then I lived with them for awhile before moving here. I never really enjoyed either one's company, but hey, it's not like they neglected me or anything. She calls me every now and then, but my father never does – I think he's made it pretty clear he doesn't want anything to do with me. Frankly, I'm fine with that, he was just a playboy anyway," she lets out a small laugh, "You know, the only reason he still has the same wife is because – by her own words – he's good in bed. She knows he cheats on her, and she doesn't really care, not like they spend time together anyway. I have to say though, I don't miss that place at all. I thought it was great while I lived there, but after I moved here and got used to the sun… it sucked! Cold all the time, every store reeks of alcohol, and… did I mention it was cold?" she once again laughs.

"You always spoke so highly of it, I assumed it was Eden to you," she rolls her eyes with a smile as my phone rings from a few feet away in my pants pocket, "Hold on," forcing myself to my feet only to realize my arm was asleep, I stumble over to the loose cloth and force the plastic rectangle from it, "Hello?" I had a slightly annoyed tone, but not intentionally.

"Yo, Shinji, I need you to meet me at my place, we need ta talk about somethin'," Toji, who had a worried sound thrown into his voice, was stammering on the other line… probably something about Hikari again…

"Can it wait? I'm kinda busy here."

"Nah, just come here. I promise it won't take long," with a sigh, I take a few moments to consider it. On one hand, he's a friend – sort of – and he needs my help – sort of. On the other, there's a half naked girl five feet away from me who I know for a fact is ready to do something… what that thing is, I'm still not sure, but it's something…

"Are you SURE it can't wait?"

"Just come on!" he hangs up immediately afterwards. With a sigh, I throw on my shirt and grab my pants.

"What are you doing? Don't tell me we have to go to NERV!" she props herself up with both elbows and emphasizes the last word with a whine.

"No, I just have to go talk to Toji. Apparently something's wrong, I don't know, but he just won't let up. He said that it won't take long, I'll be right back," she rolls her eyes at me as she lies back down and relaxes her eyelids.

"Whatever," I look down at my cell phone to see the time was three, and I silently promise myself to be back here by four, four thirty at the very latest.

A/N – Sorry that took so long guys, but my computer was down for awhile, and then even when it was back up I just sort of lost the incentive to write. Well, here's the long awaited chapter, and the next one is coming up fairly soon… no promises on a date though. Check out the next chapter, The Game; until then, keep on keepin' on!

A/A/N – Saw IV was a major let down.