I do not own Evangelion or any of its characters.
This is a tribute to my favorite pairing of all time: Rei Ayanami and Shinji Ikari, and this fanfiction is written for you, Shanaz. Smile, okay?
Droplets of crystal, falling from the graying, porcelain cheeks of the sky, keening through the twilight wind with a pristine edge. Billowing, silent clouds hung like a canopy of shadow over the skies, puffy and weeping with shimmering tears that spilled forth upon the ground, seeming to go on forever.
Shinji Ikari hated the rain.
Perhaps it was the obsessively neat, compulsively tidy aspect of his nature that was the source of this loathing; there was just something about the way water seemed to get everywhere, seeping into freshly dried, ironed clothes, matting combed, orderly hair, to create what could only be viewed as the definition of untidiness.
The boy hurried along, his school bag held over his head, shivering ever so slightly as goose pimples blossomed into life along the flesh of his arms as they were kissed by the biting wind, his trainers birthing ripples in the puddles he stumbled through, eyes squinted ever so slightly in an attempt to penetrate the falling rain.
It was just typical, the boy thought gloomily, that Rei Ayanami would be missing from school today. Never mind the fact that it was Shinji who would end up bringing her missed school assignments to her house through the pouring rain, as he always did. Not that he minded going to Rei's apartment-in reality, Shinji looked forward to any hint of seeing the crimson eyed girl.
It was just the rain.
Rounding the corner and hastily dodging the shower of water that spat from the tires of a passing car, Shinji breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the familiar shape of Rei's apartment materialize out of the gloom, and picked up his pace a little, the thought of shelter from the rain simply too appealing to resist. Proudly, the boy glanced at his hair, safely sheltered beneath his school bag, pleased with its general tidiness. He hurried towards the entrance of the complex.
And promptly tripped on a step.
With a startled yelp, the boy was sent sprawling, the schoolbag sailing through the air to land in a puddle, and landed face down on the soaking pavement, instantly drenched to the bone, his nose a throbbing welt of pain after its sharp impact with the brick floor. A thunder strike roared as lightning danced amongst the clouds above, gifting the raindrops with shadows for a fraction of a second, and the boy eased himself into a sitting position, prodding his nose gingerly and wincing as a trickle of crimson seeped through his fingers. Casting a look around for his bag, he realized it too was drenched, and its contents had spilled out across the paving.
"Oh no!" Scrambling to his feet, he desperately scooped up the dripping sheets of paper, scrabbling on his hands and knees for the protective, waterproof cover he had taken from school to shield his bag with. The boy hung his head as he surveyed the waterlogged, ruined mess that he had taken so much care to shield from the rain.
"Do you require assistance?"
The voice was strangely close to Shinji, and he started slightly, glancing around to notice Rei Ayanami, clad in her school uniform as always, staring impassively at him, unperturbed by the rain that spilled upon her shoulders and hair. Her crimson eyes, filled with that gaze that was intuitive and somewhat emotionless at once, were fixed on Shinji. Her uniform was saturated with rainwater, and tinges of her skin could be seen where the soaked white sleeves clung to it, droplets of water down her fringe and dripping onto her cheeks, and for a moment, Shinji thought Rei was crying before he realized that she was utterly and completely drenched.
"A-Ayanami-chan!" The boy was instantly on his feet, holding the schoolbag over Rei's head. "What are you doing out in the rain like this? You're going to catch a cold!"
Rei canted her head sideways slightly in confusion.
"But you are wet also. Will you not catch a cold as well?"
"Yeah but-I didn't mean to get this wet…" Shinji mumbled sheepishly as he gently ushered her into shelter of the doorway. "I came over to give you these assignments-you weren't in school so I said I'd bring them over and-"
The blue-haired girl silenced him by holding out a hand and taking the waterlogged mess that was clutched in Shinji's hand and nodding silently. The boy gulped as he struggled not to stare at Rei, who retained every ounce of her loveliness despite the fact that she had walked through a thunderstorm. Her ruby eyes were framed with tinges of shadow that hinted at fatigue, her pale, creamy skin dimly illuminated by the occasional flare of lightning that cavorted across the skies outside. Briefly, he wondered what it would be like to trail his fingers across her skin, before blushing slightly and gesturing to the bundle of ruined papers that was clasped in her dainty fingers with a cough.
"Um-I'm sorry about that… you see, I sort of tripped."
"It is acceptable."
With a sigh, the pilot of Evangelion Unit 01 turned to leave, bracing himself to step through the doorway and back into the chilling embrace of the rain. "I'll see you in school then, Ayanami-chan." He stepped forward.
He glanced over his shoulder. "Yeah?"
"It is raining. You will fall ill if you return to your home through this. Would you like to come in for awhile?"
Shinji stared at her. "W-what?"
Rei continued to gaze upon him impassively. "Would you like to remain in my apartment until the rain stops?"
Raising his eyebrows in bewilderment at Rei's question, Shinji could only nod and offer a quiet thanks. Deep inside, his heart leapt-she cared about his wellbeing-and he couldn't help but smile broadly as he followed Rei up the stairs and into her apartment.
"You know, Ayanami-chan," Shinji said with a frown as he watched her open the door, "you really should get a lock for your door." Rei did not answer. "I mean, it's terribly unsafe isn't it? Anyone could simply walk in when you were out, or sleeping."
"I do not understand your concern," the girl said quietly as she closed the door behind them. "Why would anyone wish to enter my apartment?"
"I don't know… maybe to steal some of your things?"
"My possessions are inconsequential."
"Well… you could be hurt, you know? People have been killed by burglars before." Shinji watched Rei as she carefully set down the papers on her desk amidst the clutter of bandages that trailed across the wood and into the waste bin on the floor.
"My life is of no importance." Rei straightened and walked into the adjoining room, unbuttoning her blouse as she did so. Shinji, who had been following her curiously, jumped and let out a yelp.
"W-what are you doing?" The First Child looked at him curiously.
"I am having a shower now. Do you wish to have one as well?"
Shinji's face reddened as his eyes lingered over an exposed shoulder, and then deepened in complexion as he absorbed her words. Forcing himself to turn around, he stared furiously at the wall. "I-Of course not! You can have the shower first!" He did not leave his place until Rei had closed the door to the bathroom behind her. Heaving a sigh of relief, Shinji closed his eyes and tried desperately not to think of the First Child undressing and walked back into her bedroom, his eyebrow twitching as he surveyed the First Child's living conditions.
The term 'squalor' would have been a compliment, and a stretched one at that.
The twitching increased in intensity and tempo as he surveyed the piles of dusty, unwashed dishes and utensils that overloaded the sink, to the positive blanket of dirt that coated the floor of the apartment. The waste bin was overflowing with refuse. The bed was unmade.
There were clothes hangers on the floor.
This would not do.
Casting a glance over his shoulder at the closed bathroom door, Shinji delicately dropped his bag in a corner, and grabbed a cloth from an opened drawer.
Showers were one of the rare things in life that Rei looked forward to.
The First Child stood motionless and unblinking under a column of sashaying water, steam billowing around her still form as she reveled in the blissful heat that blossomed amidst her unwinding muscles, droplets of warmth seeping through her azure locks, a long, contented sigh escaping her lips.
Showers were indeed one of the more pleasant experiences Rei had encountered.
Idly, the girl traced the misting on the glass pane of the shower door, tracing an absent design in the moisture as she allowed her mind to wander.
Rei rarely spent her time pondering or debating on subjects that were not relevant to the here and the now. It was simply irrelevant to her purpose as the pilot of Eva 00, and Rei had numerous tasks to complete that she could not afford to attempt with other thoughts on her mind. Furthermore, the cerulean maned girl firmly believed that she should not fill her mind with unnecessary questions and answers that could well affect her synchronization ratio; piloting Eva was Rei's one true purpose, and without purpose, Rei lacked perspective, something she considered essential to fulfilling her duty as pilot of the Evangelion.
But when she was free to think…
What¸ Rei mused silently, is my purpose? It was a common question that recurred to the First Child when her mind was free to wander, a question she had not yet succeeded in discovering an answer to besides the obvious purpose of piloting Eva against the angels. At times, the concept of not having a purpose evoked an odd sensation in Rei, one that she supposed was fear. However, such said emotion was often dismissed.
What is it you fear, Rei Ayanami?
The girl closed her eyes, allowing water to cascade down her delicate features.
"What… do I fear?"
Do you fear that which all fear?
"What is feared by all?"
A perpetual fear… a fear that the self will disappear.
Is that what you fear?
After a moment, the First Child shook her head.
"No," she said softly, opening her eyes, "I find that I do not fear."
"For I am the being who wishes to die."
"I wish to become a nothingness."
Rei Ayanami opened her eyes and blinked slowly as she emerged from her pondering, intuitive state, and realized that she had been occupying the bathroom for a good forty minutes.
Ikari-kun must be waiting to use the shower.
Turning off the water, she retrieved a towel from a nearby cabinet and opened the shower door, stepping out into the cool draft of her bedroom, and stopped.
The bedroom was the image of pristine perfection and cleanliness. The floor shone, all traces of lint and dust all but absent. Her bed was neatly made and done, pillows fluffed up and arranged delicately in a simple yet ornate manner, her curtains spotless and straightened. Her desk was arranged and the drawers closed, her schoolbooks arranged neatly into alphabetical order in groups of subject, stationary suspended in an orderly row inside a stationary pot, and her schoolbag hung from the back-ridge of her desk chair. The waste bin was empty, and the bloodstained bandages gone. Shinji was nowhere in sight.
Curiously, Rei wandered into the kitchen, noting the absence of stained dishes from the sink, and stared at the row of sparkling plates, mugs, and utensils that had been organized with the painstaking care with which an artist would gift a sculpture. The apartment was… clean.
There was a crash from the hallway, followed by a yelp and what sounded suspiciously like a hushed profanity. With the slightest hint of a frown on her porcelain features, Rei followed Shinji's voice.
Shinji let out a long exhale of relief as the hanging lamp wobbled precariously but remained upright, his eyes fixated on the shaking piece of furniture. Satisfied that it would not collapse, the Third Child tightened his grip on the broom and returned his glare to his original target; a loathsome, repellant spider that skulked in the corner of the wall. Weighing his steps carefully, as if afraid that the slightest noise would alert his quarry to his presence, the hunter hefted his broom and advanced slowly, eyes fixated on his prey. The wretched thing had deftly sprung off the edge of the lamp the first time he had struck, and Shinji had ended up nearly destroying one of the only pieces of furniture in Rei's sparsely furnished apartment.
The spider seemed to be distracted; it showed no signs of distress as he approached, and a feral, victorious grin began to stretch across his lips. Hefting the broom, he took careful aim, and swung-
Shinji's eyes widened as he lurched forward; tripping in his shock, and the broom sung as it spun in a lethal arc, impacting with the lamp stand and sending the piece of furniture flying. The Third Child flailed desperately for balance, and his hand somehow managed to slip around Rei's shoulder; together, the pair of them landed in a heap on the thankfully clean floor. Fortunately, or unfortunately in Shinji's case, Shinji had been the one to hit the ground first, cushioning the impact for Rei.
Whimpering pitifully, Shinji opened his eyes and saw the wretched spider scuttling along the wall to safety, disappearing in one of the cracks in the corners, and gave a long, forlorn groan of defeat. Turning to face his host, it was at this point that Shinji Ikari realized that Rei Ayanami lay atop him.
A very… uncovered Rei Ayanami.
Shinji's eyes squinted, then bulged, and then squinted again, before widening for the second time as he finally realized that the sight before his eyes was truly real. The Third Child's complexion rouged to a scarlet, and instantly he squeezed his eyes shut, his lips parting and babbling uncontrollably.
"A-Ayanami-chan! I'm so sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to!"
Rei quietly disentangled herself from Shinji and rose to her feet, toweling off her hair before walking into her room again, leaving a bewildered and flustered Shinji on the floor. Stepping timidly after her, Shinji gave a cautious glance into the room and jumped slightly at the sight of Rei dressing before turning and facing the wall.
"What are you doing?"
Without breaking his vigil on the wall's surface, Shinji struggled to control his blushes.
"Are you… decent?"
"I do not understand… am I unpleasant to look at?" The Third Child gaped at this and turned to face Rei, who was watching him expressionlessly.
"I-no! No. That's not what I meant… it's just… it's not… decent-you know?"
There was a pause.
"You reacted in a similar manner when you first entered my apartment. I do not understand your apprehension." Shinji raised his face at this, and gazed into her eyes earnestly, stepping forward instinctively.
"I didn't mean that you were unpleasant to look at, Ayanami-chan…" Shinji trailed off, debating as to whether he should finish his sentence, and decided to risk it. "It's quite the opposite." His heart racing, he raised a hand an, delicately, as if expecting Rei to slap him, traced his fingertips across her cheek. Rei shivered, and ducked her head, a blush forming on her pale cheeks.
What is this… feeling? This warmth..? Rei touched her cheek softly.
Shinji retreated slightly, eyes closed in anticipation of the blow that was sure to come, but strangely, it did not. Opening his eyes carefully, Shinji found himself gazing deep into Rei's crimson orbs, a faintly perplexed expression on her face.
"Ikari-kun…" Rei's hand rose. Shinji winced.
Here it comes.
"Your nose is bleeding."
Shinji's eyes snapped open just as Rei reached forward and touched the edge of his nose with a gentleness that he would not have expected of the First Child. Sure enough as Rei withdrew her hand slightly, Shinji saw that the pale digit was tinged crimson, and he gingerly tapped his nose, wincing as the offended flesh throbbed again.
Without warning, the First Child abruptly turned and strode out of the room, once again leaving a flustered and bewildered Shinji staring after her. Shaking his head slowly, the Third Child fixed his gaze upon the twisted, warped remains of the lampstand and hung his head as he surveyed the damage done. Muttering a curse under his breath, the boy busied himself straightening the fallen piece of furniture and sweeping up the fragments of glass, vowing to set things right.
I'm going to have to ask Misato-san for money for a new one.
Shinji gave a forlorn sigh as he swept, feeling a familiar feeling of disappointment rise through him as he contemplated his interaction with Rei Ayanami of late. He had known her for a total of just over a year now, and still she remained closed and introverted towards him, despite his best-albeit clumsy and improvised-attempts to socialize with the blue-haired girl. With increasing occurrence of late, Shinji Ikari came to the unhappy conclusion that the First Child hardly seemed to take any interest in him, despite moments shared between them that Shinji deemed as important, such as the smile that graced her lips for the first time after he had broke down in tears of relief at her wellbeing after scalding his hands whilst forcing open the port to Unit 00's entry plug.
It was odd, the boy mused thoughtfully, that the First and Second Children were so forcibly contrasted. After a lengthy period of residing with Asuka Langley Sohryu, Shinji had become all too familiar with the flame-maned Second Child's lethal, not to mention explosively instantaneous, temper, and certainly had the scars and bruises to brag about having survived the brunt of her… enthusiastic manner of dealing with situations. At times, Shinji found himself contemplating on just how different Asuka and Rei were. Plainly put, Asuka was loud, outspoken, flamboyantly overconfident-and rather verbal about it too-and ostentatiously proud. It was evident in her social life; constantly surrounded by giggling girlfriends and desperate-or as Shinji preferred to think of it, frothing-boys, Asuka was perpetually at the center of attention, loudly declaring her priorities concerning the opposite gender and setting new trends in terms of fashion.
Rei, on the other hand, was quiet to the point of muteness, speaking only when spoken to or when necessity forced the words from her lips. She hardly spoke to anyone, and was constantly gazing silently out of the classroom window, an emotionless expression settled on her delicate, porcelain features. To Shinji's dismay, Rei Ayanami constantly voiced her opinion of how inconsequential and meaningless her existence was whenever he had expressed concern at her wellbeing or mood, her facial features hardly changing. Whilst Asuka openly engaged Shinji in conversation, albeit conversation that typically resulted in the boy scurrying for cover whilst the Second Child swung some manner of solid, heavy object at his skull, she at least engaged Shinji in conversation. Rei would only speak to Shinji or even acknowledge his very existence if he asked a query of her that she deemed important enough or relevant enough to answer.
The boy tipped the fragments of glass into a container and carefully wrapped it in a plastic bag before disposing of it down the garbage chute.
Sometimes, I don't think Ayanami-chan really likes me at all, he thought gloomily.
Shinji was roused from his musing with a start as he turned to find himself staring at Rei again, who had quietly entered the room without his noticing. Opening his mouth to offer an explanation for what he was doing, the boy's attempt at conversation was promptly silenced as Rei raised a cloth and delicately pressed it to Shinji's nose, dabbed at the trickle of blood remaining after he had carelessly rubbed it away. The cloth was soft, damp, and soothingly cool, and the offending appendage instantly ceased in its throbbing. Shinji's eyes widened for a moment and he nearly backed away in fright at the close proximity between them before realizing what Rei was doing; perplexed, he simply remained still and observed as the First Child stepped closer and gently wiped away his blood, a faint look of concentration barely evident in her eyes.
"… Is this not acceptable?"
Shinji blinked as Rei continued to dab at his nose, her eyes focused on her task instead of him, before realizing she had spoken to him directly. Without moving his head, he mumbled a reply.
"N-no… it feels much better…" Seemingly satisfied, Rei lowered the cloth and inspected her handiwork before backing away slightly. "T-thank you, Ayanami-chan." The girl did not reply as slowly, she raised a pale hand slowly, and, before Shinji could react, brushed it across his cheek softly, mirroring his actions a few minutes before.
Shinji stared, before flushing a brilliant rouge as warmth blossomed through his skin.
"It seems," Rei's eyes were now gazing over his shoulder, peering out of the nearby window intently, "that the storm is getting worse." True enough, when Shinji followed her stare, he saw thicker, increasingly opaque clouds that literally spat forth torrents of rainfall. He groaned.
"How am I going to get home now?"
"It would be… inadvisable to attempt to walk through these conditions." Rei's voice was soft.
"Um… Rei?" Shinji's voice was timid.
"Would it be all right if I stayed here?" When Rei gave him a vaguely perplexed look, Shinji blurted out swiftly, "O-only until the storm stops! Then I'll go home, I promise!"
"… I did not refuse." Rei's crimson irises were confused.
"Why do you apologize?" Her eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly.
"Sorr-um, I mean, could I use your phone? I think I should tell Misato-san where I am." Shinji chewed on his lip nervously as Rei simply blinked and nodded her assent. Grateful for the reprieve, the Third Child ducked his head and swiftly slipped back into Rei's bedroom, hesitantly touching his cheek that still pulsed with warmth following Rei's soft touch, and making a beeline for the phone unit. Quickly, he dialed the number for Misato's cell phone. She answered on the third tone.
"He-ello, Katsuragi here!" Shinji winced as his legal guardian's unnecessarily cheerful voice flooded his ear.
"Oh, hello, Shinji-kun. What's up?"
"There's a storm outside, and it's really bad-"
"Storm?" There was a shuffling of papers followed by the sounds of the drawing of a curtain. "Damn! It's really pouring out there, eh? Where are you?"
"Um… I'm at Ayanami-chan's apartment-" Shinji winced as he was cut off by an instant flow of questions concerning his current state of soberness, number of contraceptives in his possession, and choices of who were to be the godparents of the expected baby. "N-no-I-we're no-NO! That's disgusting!"
"Well, you never know what kinds of positions are popular nowadays. So, what do you need?"
"I was trying to ask whether it'd be okay if I could stay at Ayanami-chan's until the storm stopped."
"Oh. That's it? Yes, it's fine. Tell you what, after I finish my paperwork, I'll come pick you up in the car, but it might take a couple of hours. How's that sound?"
"Thanks, Misato-san, take your time."
"All right, kiddo. Don't be too rough with Rei-I'm not sure how much that bed of hers can handle-"
"MISATO-SAN!" Shinji spluttered as he blushed even deeper at the sound of his guardian's laughter.
"Okay, Shinji-kun, I'd better go now, I'll see you later okay? I think Ritsuko put some birth control pills in the second drawer of her desk, just so you know! Bye!"
Before Shinji could offer his heated response, Misato had hung up. Shaking his head, the Third Child hung up and wandered into the adjoining room, frowning in puzzlement as he searched for Rei. Hearing the faint noises of wind, he followed his ears to the balcony door, which was slightly open, and stepped outside.
Standing motionless before the balcony railing overlooking the waterlogged districts of Tokyo, Rei Ayanami breathed slowly and steadily, her eyes unfocused and gazing dreamily into the rain, strobes of lightning illuminating her slight, delicate form as the wind kissed her cerulean hair, her pale skin, her soft lips. Her school uniform, damp-why did she dress in her wet clothes after her shower?-clung to her body like a form-fitting bodysuit, swaying shadows dancing from beneath her feet as tendrils of light pirouetted across the skies.
Rei looked… like an angel.
Not one of the bestial monstrosities that had nearly caused the deaths of the Children many times over known as ANGEL-but a divine, pristine being that the term was less commonly attributed as of late.
Rei turned slightly to face him, and Shinji swallowed audibly as he surveyed the damp, shaped contours of her form.
"Why are you wearing wet clothes..?" He whispered.
"I do not possess any additional articles of clothing save my plug suit, which is not… appropriate." Shinji sighed.
"Ayanami-chan, you're going to get a cold. Come on." Taking her elbow, he guided her out of the biting wind and into the warmth of Apartment 402. Once they had entered her room, he stopped, wondering how to continue.
"E-erm… C-can I have your clothes please?" The First Child stared at him.
"I'm-" again, Shinji cursed as he felt himself flushing, "I'm going to dry them for you." Turning, he faced the wall. "P-please put them on the bed-I'll dry them in the kitchen."
There was a silence.
Shinji was about to ask what was wrong before he heard Rei undressing slowly, and squeezed his eyes shut as he tried not to imagine the First Child's pale skin. After a torturous moment, he heard Rei walk forth to place them on her bed before opening her drawers, presumably to retrieve a dry pair of underwear. Sighing, the Third Child edged sideways and retrieved the soaking articles of clothing whilst maintaining his furious stare at the wall.
"I'll be in the next room. I-I'll try not to take too long okay?" With a gulp, the Third Child hurried out of the bedroom and closed the door behind him, leaving a faintly confused Rei staring after him. Staring at the clothes in his hands, Shinji Ikari looked around him at the barely furnished kitchen.
Now how the hell am I going to dry these?
Rei Ayanami lay on her bed, face down, a pillow sandwiched underneath her chin as she absently gazed at the floor, curiously wondering about the strange and unnecessary actions of the boy who even now busied himself with drying her clothes in the next room.
The First Child was often puzzled by the actions of Shinji Ikari, and intrigue usually accompanied this confusion. Throughout the approximate year in which they had become acquainted, Rei had found herself increasingly mystified at the gratuitous, open manner of the Third Child.
He seems… to care about others a great deal more than himself.
Shinji Ikari was a troubled child, of that Rei Ayanami had no doubt. It was evident in his manner, his posture, his behavior, even his voice, that he was plagued with a conscience that was unlike that of most humans. From observation of his actions and responses, Rei had come to the conclusion that Shinji was simply afraid of contact with other humans.
She did not, however, understand why.
It was not hypocritical or unjust of her to have such a view of Shinji's timid nature, she reasoned. Firstly, Shinji was undoubtedly human, and thus subject to the normal views and psychology usually attributed to humans. Rei was not wholly human at all-a point that had been kept secret to all but a few of the higher up in the echelons of NERV, and thus she did not view her lack of social awareness on the same level as Shinji. Furthermore, Rei had difficulty expressing her feelings; feelings and emotions were still a new phenomenon to her that she constantly struggled to understand. Anger, she understood easily; the peculiar sensation of increasing temperature and indignation along with her senses tingeing red had been difficult to misinterpret. Rei had even openly expressed her anger after some particularly unjust words had been uttered by Pilot Sohryu following an incident with an ANGEL that had placed the Third Child's life in considerable predicament.
Joy was slightly less understandable; at first, Rei had attributed the warmth that swelled in her heart as anger, but that emotion had seemed unsuitable to the situation at hand; when Shinji had hurt himself whilst attempting to save her from Unit 00's entry plug. The fact that he had hurt himself had not provoked Rei's content; alternatively, it was the concept of another being concerned at her wellbeing that had touched her heart. With a degree of hesitancy, Rei had learnt that the correct form of expressing this particular emotion was smiling. But that did not alter the fact that it was still a concept Rei was getting used to.
Other emotions, such as sadness, loneliness, confusion, relief, and the like held similar positions in Rei's mind; she felt them, but she was simply unsure of how to express herself. However, there was one particular feeling of all that continued to mystify her.
It was a subtle sensation that she could not find a logical solution for; mainly, it tended to manifest when Rei's thoughts or attention were focused on the Third Child. A strange, unfamiliar warmth would blossom within her, and her eyes would focus only on him. A paradoxical problem that resulted in her thoughts constantly drifting to him, and Rei found herself filled with these thoughts at rather inconvenient times, such as when she was attempting to sleep, or as she synchronized with Unit 00. It was only through her mental discipline that she was able to clear her mind of distracting thoughts. The sensation was even unpleasant at times; Rei often found herself feeling particularly discontented at times when Shinji was unhappy; for example, after his brief interactions with his father. The First Child had never understood the reasons for these feelings within her.
Indeed, it was an emotion that Rei found neither appropriate nor reasonable. But it was a feeling she had come to enjoy.
But in the end, it was, in its entirety, inconsequential. As well as any other attachments or emotions that she had experienced or would ever experience.
It had long ago become common knowledge to the First Child of her true purpose that had been bestowed upon her by Commander Gendo Ikari. Rei was not ignorant of her ultimate destiny as the instigator of the Third Impact and reunion with Adam. Of course, it had occurred to Rei that such fulfilling such a destiny would probably result in her death, but as always, the notion of a lack of perspective if purpose was cast aside was undesirable to the First Child. There had been a time when Rei had contemplated, albeit briefly, sharing this information with the Third Child-the only individual who had strangely attempted to establish some form of rapport with her-despite the fact that it was heavily classified, but she had swiftly decided not to. After observing about what kind of a person Shinji Ikari was, Rei had decided that telling him would not be the most fruitful of choices; particularly after observing the ties between Shinji and the Commander.
It was a burden that Rei would have to shoulder alone, so to speak.
Rising to her feet, the girl gazed into the crimson stare of her reflection in the bedside window, her expression unreadable.
"My life is of no consequence."
But every life should be cherished, should it not?
"No. Such endearments are relevant only for humans and those who care for them. There are no such individuals who care for me, besides the Commander, who has granted me my purpose."
The girl peered out of the window curiously, watching the traffic that continued to pierce through the biting rain, and focusing on the people that bustled along the streets, despite the howling wind and the chill. Briefly, her ruby gaze lingered on a pair of people that huddled beneath a single umbrella waiting for the green walking light on the traffic sign; a young man and woman. Rei noted with curiosity that the man's arm was casually wound around his companion's shoulders, and that she rested her head on his, neither of them seemingly uncomfortable with the closeness of their proximities. On the contrary, they both seemed content, and the man tilted his head to plant a soft, quick kiss on his companion's lips before smiling at her. Momentarily, Rei wondered what it would be like to experience such contact with another human.
Perhaps Ikari-kun would be such a companion?
The First Child was mildly surprised to feel a warmth flourish throughout her body as she pictured the not so distasteful image of her and Shinji, huddled together under an umbrella, a strangely attractive lack of distance between them.
Watching as the couple made their way across the pedestrian crossing, Rei blinked slowly before shaking her head slowly.
Such a notion was irrelevant. She would be gone long before such an opportunity would present itself.
Quietly, with a vaguely downcast look in her eyes, Rei returned her gaze to the rain outside.
Shinji was rather proud of himself.
The school uniform in his hands was dry, and appropriately warm so that it would be comfortable in the considerable chill. With a satisfied smile, the Third Child eyed his apparatus that he had used to dry Rei's garments; an improvised clothes line and the stove that sat innocently and unused-Ayanami-chan hates meat, right?-in the corner of the kitchen. Frowning as he realized how cold she would be after waiting so long for him, Shinji picked up the clothes and hurried to the bedroom door. He was about to knock, afraid that she might have fallen asleep, but halted as he heard her voice, softly but surely, sifting through the crack under the door.
"…Such endearments are relevant only for humans and those who care for them. There are no such individuals who care for me, besides the Commander, who has granted me my purpose."
The Third Child blinked as he absorbed this information.
Is that… truly what Ayanami-chan thinks of herself? As inconsequential..?
That… wasn't true.
With a start, Shinji realized that he was swiftly being filled with sorrow, and an emotion that felt suspiciously like indignation.
I… care about her, he thought quietly. It may not mean much, but I know I do.
This thought seemed to act as a catalyst for a stream of questions that flooded through his mind.
Does she care for me too?
I… don't think so.
…but… I wish she did.
Shaking his head, Shinji gingerly knocked on the door.
"U-um… Ayanami-chan? I've finished drying your clothes."
There was a silence, and then, after a moment, the door opened, exposing a seemingly shameless Rei Ayanami who was clad in only her underwear. For what seemed like the hundredth time that day, Shinji paled, and then flushed a violent crimson before spinning on the spot, standing at stiff attention, and staring furiously at the wall behind him, his hand thrust out with the clothes clenched in his fist. A pale hand gently accepted the clothes, and the sounds of Rei quickly dressing filled the room. Shinji gulped.
"Ikari-kun." He turned slowly, ready to spin back if she was indecent.
Rei was frowning at the floor, taking an odd interest in her feet as she seemed to struggle with what she wanted to say. Finally, she looked up again and met his gaze, her frown melting and her lips curving into a slight, barely noticeable, smile.
Shinji's jaw dropped before he broke into a wide grin. "You smiled!"
Rei stared at him, confused. "You said this was the manner to express myself in this sort of situation, did you not?" Shinji gave a soft chuckle and nodded.
"Yeah, I did." His gaze turned thoughtful for a moment. "Um… what exactly are you thanking me for anyway?"
Rei looked at him carefully. "You have expressed concern at my wellbeing, despite my assurance that it was not necessary. You have taken the time to dry my clothing and ensure that I did not fall ill in conditions that may have well affected my synchronization ratio-I believe this is the source of my gratitude towards you…"
Shinji couldn't help but smile broadly. "It was nothing. Anyone would've done the same."
"… No one has ever… cared about my wellbeing outside of NERV headquarters before…" Shinji's smile died.
"B-but… Ritsuko-my father-" he trailed off, before glancing at his feet. "No one..?"
Shinji raised his eyes and observed Rei again. She was blushing, albeit very faintly, and he couldn't help but feel a surge of warmth swell up in his chest despite the sorrow and indignation provoked by her words. With a surge of inspiration, he decided that the best he could do at the moment was take Rei's mind off the current subject, despite the fact that she did not seem entirely bothered by it.
"C'mon, Ayanami-chan, let's get something to eat. You are hungry… right? Because I know I am…" As if on cue, his stomach rumbled. It had been almost six hours since their school lunch break.
Rei's response was a simple nod. "That would be acceptable."
"Great, I've got some biscuits in my bag, and I found tea leaves in your cupboard. I, uh," he added nervously, motioning to a steaming pot that sat on the counter, "I already made some tea whilst drying your clothes… I hope you don't mind..?"
Rei gave another nod, which Shinji took as acquiescence.
Taking the pot, Shinji followed Rei into the bedroom, and, realizing that there was nowhere to sit aside from the bed, carefully set the pot down on Rei's desk before nipping out to his bag and retrieving an unopened pack of biscuits, thanking whatever divine presence there was that they were not waterlogged. Returning to the room, Shinji perched himself on Rei's bed, pouring two cups of tea, before opening the packet and offering a biscuit to Rei, who slowly took one. Taking a biscuit for himself, Shinji settled back before realizing that Rei had begun to eat whilst still standing.
"Ayanami-chan? Is something wrong?"
"I do not have a chair, so I will remain standing."
Shinji stared at her, and then looked at the bed, before returning his gaze to her as well. He gulped as an idea flourished in his mind.
It… is her bed after all…
"Um… Ayanami-chan? Do you want to sit next to me?" He swallowed nervously as Rei looked at him wordlessly, seeming to have some manner of mental debate. However, to his surprise, she gave a small nod before moving and settling down beside him on the bed, their backs resting against the wall, nibbling on her biscuit as Shinji shifted to make sure there was an appropriate amount of space between them, the closeness of their bodies filling him with a hesitant discomfort, but at the same time, a sense of satisfaction. Shinji shook his head to no one in particular before finishing his biscuit with a healthy bite.
Rei watched the Third Child devour his snack, her ruby eyes curious and inquisitive as she cautiously chewed, taking in his more relaxed posture as compared to her dignified pose. Rei had always been taught that etiquette was an important factor of life.
Watching Shinji, however, and noting her closeness to him, prompted Rei to recall the couple she had seen on the street earlier, and their postures and comfort, as well as her curiosity regarding the whole affair. Slowly, hesitantly, watching Shinji for any signs of discomfort-as any action that would cause the Third Child considerable discomfort was really not appealing at all-Rei edged closer to Shinji and settled in a more comfortable position beside him, their shoulders making contact. Instantly, she felt Shinji tense, stiff as a board and as aware as prey caught in a hunter's gaze. Expecting him to shift away, Rei readied herself to edge back.
However, it was Rei's turn to be surprised as, after a moment of deliberation, Shinji raised his left arm and slowly wound it around Rei's shoulders, snugly embracing her to him, a nervous shiver coursing through his body. The First Child halted for a moment, before carefully resting her head on Shinji's shoulder, mimicking the position she had seen the couple in previously.
"… Is this acceptable, Ikari-kun?" she intoned softly, carefully. Shinji tilted his head ever so slightly, his eyes betraying how surprised he was that he had ended up in this position in the first place, before nodding, astonishment fading into affection, as he gave a timid smile.
I never thought that a simple touch could feel so… comfortable, Shinji thought as warmth flourished throughout his body, so… right.
"Y-yeah… I mean, I don't mind…" Looking down, he noticed that Rei had finished her biscuit. "Do you want another one, Ayanami-chan?"
Her response was a blink followed by a nod. Shinji reached into the packet, withdrew another biscuit, and was about to give it to Rei before another concept occurred to him. Carefully, he ignored Rei's expectant hand and gently raised the biscuit to her lips, waiting for a reaction. She blinked, and her hand slipped back down to its position on her knee, and, after a moment, inched forward and took a small bite, nearly overwhelmed by the warmth that flooded her from within.
It is curious… Rei thought, I had no idea that a simple touch could mean so much.
The car screeched as it tore down the already precariously soaked road, music blasting out of the speakers, droplets of crystal rainwater spattering and shattering against the windshield.
Misato Katsuragi floored the brake pedal as she skidded to a halt outside Rei's apartment block, hurriedly hopping out of the car and scurrying indoors, shaking her head at the rain.
Days like this should be spent comfortable at home, Pen-pen in my lap and a beer in my hand, she thought wistfully.
No matter. The kid was in for one hell of a teasing session after she got him alone in the car. Misato's lips curved up in a gleeful grin as she bounced out of the elevator and past the doors of the various apartments as she contemplated just what repartee would result in Shinji becoming flustered and embarrassed.
He was her ward, after all. Why not treat him like family? He had certainly lived with her for long enough.
However, even Misato gave a little shudder as she considered the reaction of a certain redhead if she ever found out Shinji spent the evening with the Rei Ayanami… Asuka's possessiveness of Shinji despite the fact that she claimed to never be interested in an 'idiot' like him was a formidable force indeed.
Reaching the door to Apartment 204, Misato noted with surprise that the letter slot was not crammed with mail as it had the previous times she had visited Rei's apartment.
The kid must have cleaned her apartment! The Major thought gleefully as she added this piece of information to her considerably lethal repertoire of verbal armaments. This is getting better!
Cautiously, a sly smile etched upon her features, the Major silently crouched and surreptitiously lifted the letter slot flap, peering curiously through the gap into the apartment, expecting to see Shinji bustling around with a mop or attempting to engage the frostily silent Rei in some manner of conversation, but the ensuing sight stunned the Major.
Sitting on the bed in Rei's bedroom, their backs to the wall, were Shinji Ikari and Rei Ayanami, Shinji's arm draped comfortably over Rei's shoulder, Rei resting her head on Shinji's. Both had a look of utmost content on their features, expressions that seemed all the rare on their faces as of late, after the ensuing horrors and cruelties they had been through. Misato's lips parted softly as she saw Shinji carefully feed Rei a biscuit and smiling warmly at her, and her eyebrows rose even further when she saw the First Child mirror his expression, albeit with a much less pronounced and wide smile, but a smile nonetheless.
Touched, the Major broke out in a wide grin, all thoughts of teasing and playfulness purged from her mind instantly as she watched the two Children. Carefully, she allowed the letter flap to silently fall shut, before backing away from the door, her eyes filled with a mixture of warmth, and intense, sudden, sadness. She shook her head.
"The world doesn't deserve them," She whispered softly, quietly turning and walking back down the hallway towards the elevators, leaving the two Children to their precious moment of comfort in a world of anguish and cruelty.