Author's Note: I looked around for more Oedipus Rex-themed Eva fics but could not find any, so I wrote one. If there are others out there, I offer an apologetic nod to their authors, and any similarities (besides the obvious) between those stories and this one are completely unintentional.
To be safe, I'm going to rate this M, primarily for the (hopefully) sheer creepiness of the Oedipus story, but also for language and some violence. There might be sex scenes but this is not a lemon.
I'm also posting the first three chapters at once, just to get things going. So much of the content in the beginning will be borrowed from the series, I felt I should do this just to get some original stuff out.
Disclaimer: Of course I don't own Evangelion or any of its characters. I'm doing this for kicks and will happily stop if asked.
Upraise, O chief of men, upraise our State!
Look to thy laurels! for thy zeal of yore
Our country's savior thou art justly hailed:
O never may we thus record thy reign.
"He raised us up only to cast us down"
Uplift us, build our city on a rock.
Thy happy star ascendant brought us luck,
O let it not decline! If thou wouldst rule
This land, as now thou reignest, better sure
To rule a peopled than a desert realm.
Nor battlements nor galleys aught avail,
If men to man and guards to guard them tail.
- Sophocles, Oedipus the King
Chapter One: Accidental Words
The door closed with a soft click, leaving the apartment in a silence broken only by the ever-present noise of construction, machine tools and shouting men, muted through the walls. Late afternoon sunlight filtered through sheer curtains, leaving warm bars of fitful amber slanting through countless floating motes of dust. Stifling air swirled sluggishly, agitated by the disturbance of recent movement.
Rei stared at the door through which Ikari and Suzuhara had just departed, then shifted her gaze to the floor, a much cleaner surface than it had been mere hours before. He cleaned, she mused. Why did he do that? It did not bring him any benefit, or assist him in reaching any goal. Furthermore, he'd apologized for it, as though he'd expected her to be upset.
Turning, she stepped to her unmade bed and flopped down upon it, lying on her stomach. He cleaned, and I thanked him. The words had just... slipped out. Not that they had been dishonest, by any means, just unexpected. Words of gratitude. I've never said them, even to the Commander. Why?
Twisting to her side, she regarded the cracked glasses gathering dust in their place on her dresser. They were a token, a treasured reminder of the Commander's care for her... but Pilot Ikari had done the same thing, later, likewise burning his hands in the process, and now had cleaned the floor up for no apparent reason. A memento from the Commander, but there are no glasses from Pilot Ikari. Why not? He must have nothing to give. If he had, it would have been on the dresser as well.
With a frown she rolled back to her stomach. Was he just trying to get me to smile again? He could have simply asked; I'd have done it. Only a jackhammer's staccato report answered her wondering.
Shaking her head, she stifled a sigh. The Commander had told her that much in life was irrelevant, things to be ignored or discarded, but it wasn't true of everything. Some things held value; the glowing bonds between individuals mattered, concern or... she did not know the name for it, but it was important.
Rei let her eyes slide shut and waited. Waited for the sun to finish its cycle and start a new one, waited for all the battles and noise and empty time to float past into memory. Waited for the day she would die.
"Eva pilots are weird. You know that, don't you?"
Shinji smiled at the sidewalk beneath his feet as he and Touji strolled through Tokyo-3. "Ayanami's not that weird," he protested mildly. She's just... quiet. Sheltered.
Touji barked a laugh, thrusting hands into his pants pockets. "I was talking about you, man, not her. Seriously, cleaning a girl's room when she's not even there? Weird. Though Ayanami's a few meters short of a full field too, now that you mention it."
Shaking his head, Shinji concealed another smile. Low sunlight snuck between nearby buildings to assault his eyes, and he squinted against the golden aura to the west. "I was just trying to be nice," he explained, speaking loudly to be heard over the fading construction noise. "You should try it sometime."
The other fellow grunted dismissively. "Eh. Be nice too often and people think you're a softie."
People think that about me anyway, sighed Shinji. They're right.
"Course," continued Touji sagely, staring off into the distance, "some girls are into the nice thing, I suppose. Ayanami might be one of those. You saw her blushing, didn't you? Never thought I'd see the day."
Shinji swallowed. He had noticed, of course -- what else was there to look at in Ayanami's apartment besides Ayanami herself? -- but had been at a loss for words. Like his friend, Rei blushing was not something he'd expected to see. It was cute. Made her seem more... I don't know. Approachable.
When he did not answer, Touji spared him a sidelong glance but kept walking. "Could be that she likes you, eh?" His voice was blunt, almost absent, lacking any hint of teasing; he was just speaking his mind, as always.
"I... don't know," managed Shinji. "She might have just been embarrassed." He paused, trying to think of a way to deflect the question. "What if you'd cleaned too? She would have reacted the same, probably. Doesn't mean she likes us both."
"You got a point," conceded Touji. "Who knows?" He fell silent briefly; as they walked, the mechanical racket behind them continued to fade into the distance. "What are you doing tonight? Wanna hit the arcade?"
Shinji grimaced at the ground. "I... can't," he sighed. "I still have homework from the last time I missed school for training."
"Training," mused the Osaka kid. "What kind of training do they even give you for piloting Eva? Doesn't seem like running laps or lifting weights would help."
"There are tests," he explained tiredly. "Always tests. Drills sometimes, too, reflexes and target practice. I don't... I'm not supposed to talk about it, really." That had always bothered him, the barrier between himself and his friends, imposed by NERV and its obsession with secrecy. By his father, ultimately. Eva is the worst part of my life, but I can't even talk about it with them. I can only talk about stupid things, girls and video games.
"Doesn't sound too bad," shrugged Touji. "You gotta lighten up, man."
What is there to lighten up about? wondered Shinji darkly. He chose not to answer, and together they walked through Tokyo-3's sparse streets, each one perfectly straight wherever the ground allowed, a silent reminder of the planning behind it all, the industry, the power. NERV, again.
Eventually he slowed, adjusting the backpack straps on his shoulders. "My place is this way, Touji. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Seeya tomorrow, Shin-man. Remember to lighten up."
As she approached, the boy turned slightly, glancing behind him. The expression of curiosity on his face quickly fell to its usual blankness. "Oh, it's you, Ayanami," he greeted, turning back around to stare at the trees beyond the school grounds; leaves danced in a breeze that failed to reach the school. "If you are looking for Shinji, he isn't here."
Rei slowed and stopped, uncertain how to proceed. Obviously Ikari is not here, she agreed silently, staring at his back.
"You know about me," continued Suzuhara conversationally, still not looking at her. "Sohryu seems to know about it too."
"Yes." She was still curious how the Second Child had learned.
"Shinji is the only one who doesn't know," concluded the new pilot, his voice lightly touched with some emotion she could not identify. After a moment he spared her another brief glance. "It seems strange that you'd care about others."
She blinked. "Really?" Care? "I... I don't understand."
The Fourth Child's lips curved in a faint smile. "You are worried about Shinji."
Worried about Ikari, she frowned. Is that what it is? Cold hollow fingers tickled her heart when she thought of Ikari and Suzuhara. The Third Child did not enjoy piloting; would he be pleased that one of his friends would now be doing so as well? "Perhaps you are right," she murmured. Worry.
"Yep," agreed Suzuhara pleasantly. "Kinda surprised no one's told him yet. I suppose I could, but..." He trailed off. "Not yet," he sighed. "I don't wanna make a big deal of it and then go to the test and find that I can't really do it or something." He chuckled.
That will not happen. The boy would not have been chosen as a pilot if he were not suitable material.
When Suzuhara merely continued staring off into the trees, Rei turned and left, winding her way through the school alone. It was lunch, and the other students were everywhere, it seemed, clustered in the hallways or near doors, eating in the lunchroom, kissing in secluded corners. Rei ignored them all. In truth, she disliked the school; it was a noisy, chaotic, unpredictable place full of people she didn't know, and as such it made her uncomfortable.
In moments she reached the door to the highest roof level and pushed through it, glancing around for the person she sought and easily finding him. Ikari was over by the edge of the roof, eating with Kensuke Aida some twenty meters away.
For a moment she studied her fellow pilot. He doesn't know, she reminded herself. Someone needs to tell him. He would want to know, I think. The now-familiar sensation -- worry -- arose again in her middle, tingling. Nodding to herself, she made her way to where the boys sat.
Despite the whisper of her shoes on the roof surface, they failed to notice her approach until her shadow lay between them. Aida glanced up first, holding a hand up to block the sun; Ikari quickly did likewise, noticing his companion's reaction.
For a moment they said nothing, perhaps surprised to see her there. Rei avoided the urge to shift her feet; she hated it when people did that, when they expected her to know what to say or do. There were... rules of etiquette... apparently completely arbitrary ones, that other people had made up, and which she did not know. So, like most of the other students, and like other things she did not understand and which were not necessary, she ignored them.
"Ayanami," greeted Aida eventually, his manner bland and nonchalant. "Have you come to eat with us? There's no shortage of room."
"I... need to speak with Pilot Ikari," she explained.
The two boys exchanged unreadable glances; Ikari swallowed. After a moment he nodded, standing and patting dust from his uniform pants. Blue eyes regarded her uncertainly, not quite meeting her gaze.
Turning her back on him, she walked a short distance away, far enough so that the prying Aida would be out of an earshot. A faint breeze stole away some of the heat, ruffling her hair and skirt as she faced her fellow pilot once again and tried to order her thoughts. Should I just tell him straightforwardly? Which way would be least unpleasant for him?
Ikari stood there mutely, staring at her and blinking. Shortly he shifted, clearly uncomfortable.
"Have you--?" Rei caught herself as a new question surfaced: was he allowed to know? The Commander had not forbidden her to tell him about Suzuhara, but had also not made any effort to ensure that his son knew anything. Perhaps the Third Child was not intended to know about the Fourth yet? I don't know.
"Ayanami?" Confusion colored his voice.
"Why did you clean my apartment?" As the words came out, she blinked; she hadn't even thought of the matter for an hour or two. So why did I ask?
Ikari sagged slightly, perhaps in relief, though at what, she could not say. A weak smile grew on his face. "It was dirty," he explained.
Rei frowned. "Many places are dirty." Some parts of Tokyo-3 were extremely dirty.
His lips thinned at this and he shifted again. "Well, you... I mean, that's true, but I can't help most places. I just... a girl shouldn't live in... live like that."
What does my gender matter? she wondered, watching him fidget. "Why?"
He blinked, jerking his head up to make eye contact with her. "What do you mean?" he asked, confused again. "It's not sanitary, for one thing."
"NERV has excellent medical staff," she pointed out reasonably. "If I fall ill, I will be treated. If I die, I will be replaced."
Ikari's face scrunched up. "If you... don't you care, though?" he asked helplessly. "Doesn't it depress you to live in a dirty place?"
Why would it? As long as her apartment served to fulfill the basic need of shelter, it mattered little how clean or cluttered it might be. Still, his words triggered... something. Heat, somewhere, like she'd felt immediately after the incident in the first place. "There was no reason to clean."
His features went blank at this. "I... I thought you were glad I'd helped," he answered quietly. "I'm sorry." His eyes dropped to the rooftop once more. "It's just... if it were me, having a clean place would make me happy. I just wanted... anyway, you shouldn't talk like that about dying." He finished with a sigh.
There it goes again. Warmth, sparkling for all of a heartbeat inside. This is... it's like worry, she observed, but... opposite? "Ikari?"
He grunted an acknowledgement, idly scratching the back of his head.
"Do you worry about people?"
He laughed, a sound lacking amusement. "I worry too much, or so people tell me." When she didn't respond, he chanced a glance at her, then sighed again. "I always worry," he explained, almost whispering. "I don't like it when people get hurt, and there is always danger around to hurt them."
Hurt. Worry is the fear of another's potential hurt. She nodded; this confirmed what she had expected. "That is why you pilot," she recalled. He worries because... because he cares about people. Worry is care, disguised.
Ikari nodded as well. "I think so."
Motion caught her attention to one side, a flock of dark birds erupting from a tree and taking flight. Her eyes slid in that direction to follow their skyward ascent. Do they worry? A silly question.
Turning, she made her way back to the door to the school. It felt odd, having talked so much with someone who was not the Commander, but Pilot Ikari was... unthreatening, and had answered her questions with apparent sincerity. I must see if he can be told about the Fourth Child. He would want to know.