Title: Where Angels Fear to Tread

Author: Rowan Seven

Teaser: The Eternally Lost Boy Hibiki Ryouga and the emotionless albino Ayanami Rei go on a

date.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: I own none of these characters and am not making any money off of this fanfiction.

Recognizable characters are the property of their respective companies. I also do not own the songs mentioned in this story.

Author's Notes: This was written in response to the Ryouga Mailing List's pair Ryouga up with a

random character challenge. I threw in a couple of cameo appearances from series that

aren't "Ranma 1/2" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion" to move the plot along. Characters may be a little OOC, and I apologize for that. "Bittersweet Symphony" and "I Got You Babe" belong to the Verve and Sunny and Cher.

******

Saotome Ranma, one of the if not _the_ best martial artist of his generation, was sitting on a park

bench, watching the Tokyo sunset, and doing something that would've scared anyone that knew

him: he was thinking. More specifically, he was thinking about his current problems and how to get out

of them. For someone with 4 'fiancees', numerous rivals, an overbearing father, and a Jusenkyo curse

this was no easy feat.

Currently he was considering the problem posed by one Hibiki Ryouga, the Eternally Lost Boy, and

(though Ranma would never admit it) his practical equal in the martial arts. Hibiki Ryouga was in

love with one of Ranma's fiancees, Tendo Akane, but due to his shyness and an embarrassing and

dangerous situation he'd gotten involved in concerning his own Jusenkyo curse he'd never managed

to tell her how he felt. He unfairly (at least Ranma thought so) tried to take his resulting frustration

out on Ranma.

Now, for reasons he himself didn't quite understand, Ranma was worried that one of these days

Ryouga would work up enough courage to tell Akane the truth about how he felt and that she would

reciprocate his feelings. Even if he didn't, Ranma knew that there could never be any true peace

between them while Ryouga was in love with Akane hence his dilemma. If he could only think of

some way to get Ryouga to give up on her...

As if in response, the wind suddenly blew a paper into Ranma's face. Peeling it off Ranma read the

advertisement.

LOST IN THE WAYS OF LOVE? LOOKING FOR A GIRLFRIEND? CALL

1-800-482-URD FOR OUR ADDRESS! A GOOD DATE GUARANTEED OR YOUR

MONEY BACK!!! (Last part may not apply to all.)

An arrogant smirk crossed Ranma's face. If Ryouga fell in love with somebody else he'd stop

pursuing Akane and possibly leave Ranma alone. "YES! This has to work! I'm a genius!" Now all

he had to do was find Ryouga and set him up for the date.

"RANMA! PREPARE TO DIE!"

^Problem solved.^ Ranma thought as he jumped past Ryouga's umbrella lunge that destroyed the

bench and formed a small crater when it struck the ground.

Not wasting a moment, Ryouga got in defensive stance and glared across several feet at his

opponent. "Ranma, because of you I've seen-"

"Oh shut up P-chan, I've heard it all before. Let's make this fight actually count for something for a

change. If you win," Ranma paused, considering, before he got an idea, "I'll let you go on a date

with Akane without me interfering."

A hopeful look crossed Ryouga's face before it was overshadowed by suspicion. "And if I lose?"

Ryouga finally asked.

Ranma crossed his arms and grinned cockily. "Why, if you lose you'll have to go on a blind date."

Ryouga's thoughts were in turmoil. ^I can't betray Akane with another woman! It would be

dishonorable of me! But...to be able to go on a date with her without having to worry about Ranma

showing up and ruining it...how can I not take this chance? For you Akane!^ His course now

decided, Ryouga nodded at his rival. "Very well Ranma, I accept these terms. Now...PREPARE

TO DIE!"

******

1 long, hard fought, and insurance rates raising battle later:

The park was, suffice it to say, looking more like a warzone now. Trees were bent, split, and

wrecked and craters were scattered all over the place. In the center of this devastation were two

very battered-looking and bruised figures: a red-haired girl wearing a red chinese silk shirt and a

black piglet.

"Ha ha, I win _again_ P-chan! You really should be more careful with that Breaking Point technique

of yours," Ranma-chan smirked arrogantly, looking down at her now transformed opponent.

"Bwee!" P-chan (or Ryoga as he's known in human form) shot back. Translation: Curse you

Ranma! If it hadn't been for that underground geyser I would've defeated you for

sure!

Ranma-chan snorted. "As if, P-chan. Now, let's find us some hot water before-"

"Ah, pig-tailed girl! Come, let us date one another!" Tatawaki Kuno shouted exuberantly as he

suddenly appeared and tried to glomp Ranma-chan.

"-something like this happens," Ranma-chan finished with a sigh, dodging Kuno's glomp before

kicking him into the stratosphere. P-chan snickered. Ranma-chan glared.

"Laugh it up P-chan. Let's not forget who won our little fight here." Ranma- chan smiled. "Now,

about that blind date..."

P-chan blanched and shivered. ^Akane, please forgive me!^

******

Elsewhere and elsewhen:

"Come along wonder girl! This is for *pant* your own good!" Asuka Langley Sohyru shouted,

pulling by the arm a seemingly reluctant Ayanami Rei behind her as they traveled along a street,

earning a few odd looks by passersby.

"I do not understand why we are doing this, second. It makes no sense," Rei said in her usual

monotone voice, vainly struggling against Asuka's hold.

"It makes *gasp* perfect sense! You said you do not understand romance. That is something that

I, as another woman, must rectify! Hence our current destination: Urd's dating service. You are

going to go on a date!"

Rei almost frowned, fazed my Asuka's expressiveness. "But if to understand romance I must go on

a date, wouldn't Shinji be the logical choice as a partner? We are close, and he's already seen me

naked."

"WHAT?!! THAT PERVERT!" Asuka yelled, suddenly stopping as her face turned red and

emitting an enraged female aura that would rival Akane's. The wiser pedestrians made sure to stay far, far

away from her. Calming down slightly but with gritted teeth she resumed walking, dragging the

hapless Rei behind her.

"Just trust me on this, okay Rei?! Shinji is definitely not the one you want to date if you wish to gain

any knowledge of romance at all. He'd probably pass out at the first sign of romance!"

"Then what about Kaji? I've heard people refer to him as a lady's man," Rei asked flatly.

Once again Asuka gritted her teeth, this time partly in jealously. "Don't even think about it wonder

girl! Kaji is _way_ to old for you! He'd get accused of being a pedophile if he was caught with

you! Now c'mon! We're almost there!"

Ayanami Rei sighed, silently regretting her earlier conversation with Asuka. The red-haired second

child had been reading a romance novel when she, the blue-haired Rei, curious, had asked her what

it was about. That had led to Asuka going into a rant about love and romance which Rei hadn't

understood a word of. Somehow managing to discern her blank look of puzzlement from her

normal blank look, Asuka had decided that Ayanami needed to gain some knowledge of romance

_first-hand_, leading them to their present situation.

Asuka's, "Ah ha! We're here!", distracted Rei from her inner thoughts. In front of them stood an

old wooden building, in the fashion of pre-2nd Impact Japan architecture, with a pink heart-shaped sign

in front that had written on it in neon red letters, "URD'S LOVE SERVICE!". Rei blinked. She was

somewhat familiar with the street they were now on, and she could've sworn that this building hadn't

been here three days ago.

Her mental train of inquiry was put to an abrupt stop as Asuka entered the ancient and suspicious

building, pulling her along behind her.

***

It should be noted that in the multiverse there is a certain kind of store to be feared and respected

above all others. This store is, among certain circles, referred to as the wandering, story-advancing,

esoteric item ship (WSAEIS for short). Unlike their more mundane counterparts, these stores are

not confined by the boundaries of time and space. They can be 2 blocks down in your own

hometown, and the next day be in a galaxy far, far away a long, long time ago.

Their exact origins are unknown, but rumor has it on the Discworld that they arose because the

shopkeepers ticked off a very powerful wizard by not having the item he desired in stock. Now they

are cursed to aimlessly travel the time-space continuum, playing minor but important roles in legends, epics, and stories of countless races, until they find the wizard and give him the item he seeks. A very tragic tale indeed.

Of course, this all hearsay. Regardless of their start, these stores specialize in selling rare and

magical items: the Philosopher's Stone, the Green Thumb, and Love Potion #9 for example. Many

was the time when a world or life was destroyed or saved by an item sold to an unsuspecting person

by one of these shopkeepers.

The building Rei and Asuka had just entered was one of these shops,

on temporary loan to Urd, one of the three fates. The possibilities for disaster spawned by this

meeting were incredible. Let's watch and see what happens, shall we?

******

Urd was bored. This was bad. Urd was also out of sake. This was very bad. Urd had started her

own match-making service out of boredom and to show her younger sister Skuld that she could hold

down a job. This was very, very bad. She'd rented a WSAEIS to serve as her headquarters. The

probability of an irate and blonde demoness 1st-class interfering put aside, this was incredibly,

ludicrously, build a spaceship and abandon the planet, bad. Unfortunately, both the first and second

child were completely unaware of just how bad this was.

When Urd heard the bell signifying a potential customer, she immediately sat bolt upright and turned

to greet the new arrivals. "Welcome, and how may Urd, the self-fashioned Goddes of Love, help

you?" Urd asked the two young women who'd just entered her shop, the one with long, red-hair

pulling the pale, blue-haired one behind her.

Asuka looked at the white-haired, tanned, and voluptous woman greeting them from behind a desk.

With a grin and pointing at Rei, she replied, "My friend here needs a date."

Urd smiled a very cat-like smile. "Does she now? Well, you've come to the right place." Swiveling

in her chair to face a computer, she put her fingers above the keyboard. "Now, I'm going to need to

ask your friend a few questions. Name?"

Rei stopped surveying the store and succumbed to the inevitable. The interior of the building was

what one would normally suspect a dating service place to look like. Pictures of handsome and

beautiful men and woman decorated the walls, chairs with heart-shaped cushions offered

comfortable places to sit, and compatibility quizzes were available. The only odd aspect of the place was the ancient feeling it possessed.

"Ayanami Rei," Rei finally answered, emotionless and cold.

Urd blinked at her flat tone but continued anyway as she typed in the information. "Any

preferences?"

Rei thought about the question for a moment. "None," she finally replied.

Asuka frowned. "Her date must be handsome, strong, and a gentleman," she added, elbowing Rei.

Urd 'hmmed'. "Okay, that ought to be enough. Rei can pick up her date tomorrow at 7 PM sharp

here. I'll take my payment now." She held out her hand expectantly.

Asuka boggled. "WHAT? That's it?!! Just two questions and a 'see you tomorrow?' What kind of

place are you running?!"

Urd shrugged. "A dating service that works. Now, unless _YOU_," she said with a sultry smile, "

also want a date please give me the money. I'm a very busy woman."

Grumbling, Asuka dug into her pockets and handed over the advertised sum. "You just better make

sure Rei has the best night of her life!" She turned to face her silent companion. "Now let's go.

We've got to get you ready for tomorrow!" Alternating between a girlish giggle and a huff the

red-haired terror left, dragging a puzzled Rei behind her.

After making sure the two Evangelion pilots were long gone, Urd pulled a lever hidden behind the

desk she was sitting at. As she called up Heaven's profile of Ayanami Rei on her computer, her shop

(with her inside) vanished from the street. Surprisingly, no one noticed.

******

"Curse you Ranma! This is all your fault!"

"Sheesh, P-chan. No need to shout," Ranma complained, giving his traveling companion and current

source of annoyance a withering look that completely went over Ryouga's head. Where did Ryouga

get off blaming him for not being able to find the building? Here he was, Saotome Ranma, trying to

_help_ Ryouga by getting him a date, and _this_ is the thanks he gets? Granted, Ryouga didn't want

to go on a blind date, but still...he should at least appreciate the effort _I'm_ putting into this!

Ryouga, for his part, was alternating between despair at betraying Akane (at least this is how he saw

it. Akane, if she knew, would almost certainly wish him luck.) and anger at Ranma for getting him

into this situation. Normally he'd have released a ShiShiHoukoudan by now, but he was remarkably

still in Tokyo so he had to refrain from his normal release.

"Ah ha, we're here!" Ranma shouted, sounding eerily similar to Asuka and startling Ryouga out of his

depressive thoughts. In front of them was the same building that Asuka and Rei had just (Just being

a relative term here) left.

Ryouga scratched his head in puzzlement. "Didn't we already pass this place 3 times?"

Ranma laughed. "Like you're one to talk. You can't even find your way out of the Dojo." Ranma

nonchalantly entered. Ryouga, seething, followed.

******

Urd was busily reading Rei's profile with interest when the bell rang, signifying that she had more

customers. Turning in her chair to greet them she saw that they were two handsome and black-haired

teenagers. ^A pity they're so young.^ she thought, admiring their bodies for a moment before getting

down to business.

With the cheeriest smile she could muster, Urd greeted her two newest vict- er, customers. "Hello,

and welcome to Urd's dating service! A great date guaranteed or your money back!" ^If you can

find the place again.^ Urd thought with a smirk. "How can I help you two?"

"I don't need any help. I have enough girl troubles already!" Ranma complained, before gesturing at

Ryouga. "He, however, needs all the help he can get."

"Ranma! How dare you insult me so!" Ryouga yelled indignantly, his ki igniting. Remembering his

surroundings, Ryouga gritted his teeth and calmed down.

Urd, for her part, was momentarily nonplussed but soon regained her composure. A customer was a

customer whether it was human, angel, spirit, ghost, or demon. Besides, she would get her questions

answered when she read their profiles. "So, you want me to find a date for your friend here?" Urd

asked, indicating Ryouga.

"Yes," Ranma answered curtly, cutting off Ryouga's vehement protest that they weren't friends.

"I see," Urd replied, turning to face her computer again. To Ryouga she asked, "Two questions:

name and any dating preferences?"

"Hibiki Ryouga, and no preferences. If it was up to me I wouldn't even be- " Ryouga started to say

before he was again interrupted by Ranma.

"His date must be attractive, nice, and preferably blue-haired." As an afterthought, Ranma added,

"Also, it would be better if she wasn't a big pork eater."

Urd seemed curious about the last request, but decided it could wait until after she'd read Ryouga's

profile. She typed in the information. Putting on another smile, she said, "Okay, bring Ryouga back

here tomorrow at 6:30 PM, and I'll have a date ready for him. I'll take my payment now." She held

out her hand expectantly.

Ranma seemed momentarily taken aback. "What, that's it?"

"Trust me, I have a talent for these things," Urd shot back, giving him a flirtatious wink.

Ranma blushed, handed over the money (where he got it only Nabiki knew) and thanked whatever

deities that were listening that Akane wasn't around to see this. Unfortunately for him, Ryouga was.

"Ranma, how dare you cheat on Akane like this!" Ryouga yelled, waving his umbrella threateningly,

and chased him out of the shop, much to Urd's bemusement.

******

Much later:

Urd was, despite herself, beginning to get worried. She'd dealt with several cases of hers with ease,

pairing that Xellos character with the maiden Filia, the blonde-haired Jadeite with the raven-haired

Rei, Gabrielle with Ares, and Heero with Hilde, but she was having difficulties finding suitable

matches for Ryouga and Rei. There just didn't seem to be anyone suitable for them in their own time

and dimension that had come to her.

Rereading Ryouga's profile, however, finally gave her an idea. Maybe Rei and Ryouga would work

together. Going by the principle that opposites attract seemed to validate this. Rei was practically

emotionless while Ryouga could go through an entire range of emotions in seconds. The more Urd

thought about this the more appealing the idea became. Of course, it meant taking Ryouga into the

future of a parallel universe, but with the Hibiki sense of direction who would care or even notice?

And she would have to plan their night for them which would mean going above and beyond the call

of duty, but she was a goddess. Doing all that she could to help people whether they wanted it or

not was in her job description.

Smiling smugly and in a manner that would frighten any that knew her she began planning. ^Ryouga

and Rei,^ she thought, ^are going to have the night of their lives.^

******

The next night:

Ryouga, with Ranma standing beside him to make sure he followed through, hesitantly knocked on

the door to Urd's shop. He was wearing a black tuxedo with a red tie and white undershirt, his

typical black on yellow bandanna affixed around his head, and carrying his red umbrella. He made

quite the dashing figure and had earned many interested female looks on his way here, all which he

completely missed. He was, as usual, depressed. Before he'd left Akane had asked him where he

was going. When he'd answered that Ranma had set up a blind date for him Akane had wished him

luck, reminding him that she still only thought of him as a friend.

Urd answered the door, interrupting Ryouga's reverie, and, after seeing him, smiled. "Please, come

inside," she said. "Your date won't be here for another 30 minutes." She started to usher him

inside.

"Good luck, man," Ranma called after Ryouga, under his breath adding, "You'll need it," before

heading back home to the Tendo Dojo.

A minute later, with Ryouga and Urd both inside the building, it disappeared.

******

"Come along Rei! You don't want to be late!" Asuka shouted, once again dragging a seemingly

reluctant Rei behind her. This time, however, there was just a bit of envy on the red-haired terror's

face. Rei looked incredibly good, much better than Asuka had expected, in the light blue,

form-hugging, and shimmering dress she was wearing. She was also wearing blue high heels and

sapphire earrings that Misato had dug up. All in all, she looked breathtakingly beautiful. Shinji had

nearly passed out when he saw her, and if Gendo ever laid eyes on her like this he'd have a heart

attack.

"I still do not understand why I must do this," Rei repeated for the n-th time. "I have other duties that

are more important than dating. What if an Angel attacks?"

"I can take out any Angel myself, with or without you and Shinji," Asuka boasted confidently. "The

fate of the world is in good hands." Usually at this point something embarrassing would happen to

disprove or cast doubt upon the speaker's words, but Asuka was saved from any such situation by

her timely arrival at Urd's building.

"Now then," the second child started, smirking, "let's see who your date is." Not even bothering to

knock, she pushed the door open and entered. Rei, emotionless, followed.

******

"Do you understand?" Urd asked, after going over the plans she'd made for the night again with

Ryouga to make sure he knew what to do.

Ryouga tried to refrain from rolling his eyes. "Yes, I do. You've explained everything in crystal clear

detail. You really didn't have to do all this-"

Ryouga was cut off by the sound of the door opening. A young, red-haired girl entered, pulling an

equally young and dressed up, aqua-haired girl behind her. Ryouga took a good look at the latter

and blinked.

Asuka, meanwhile, took a good look at Ryouga and blinked herself. ^Urd really outdid herself.^ she

thought, sizing up Ryouga's appearance.

Urd made the introductions. "Hibiki Ryouga," she said, beckoning at him, "this is your date for the

evening, Ayanami Rei." She gestured at the first child.

Ryouga nervously bowed. "H-hi Rei." His shyness had kicked in.

Rei, emotionless as usual, responded with, "Hello."

Urd chuckled. Now that the introductions had been made the romantic night she'd planned could

proceed with earnest. "Now, you two have fun. I've made several suggestions to Ryouga about

where he should take you, but since he doesn't know his way around you'll have to guide him.

Bye!"

Before anything earthshattering or disastrous such as the Third Impact or Mara appearing in a puff of

smoke and brimstone could happen, Urd pushed Ryouga and Rei together and hurried them out the

door.

"Ah, young love. Now if I could only get Keichi and Belldandy to tie the knot already." Urd trailed

off wistfully.

"Hello, I'm still here you know," Asuka pointed out, not liking being ignored.

Urd snapped out of her plotting and wishful thinking. "Huh? Oh yeah, you should head home. It's

almost closing time."

Asuka smirked. "I don't think so. After seeing who you dug up for Rei, I think I'd like to give this

dating service a try."

Money signs appeared in Urd's eyes. "All right then. That's a different story entirely!" She walked

back over to her computer. "Now, I'm going to need to ask you two questions."

******

Ryouga and Rei walked (with Rei leading) the city streets in silence. The night sky was surprisingly

clear and full of stars, but the atmosphere did nothing for Ryouga's current state of mood. Myriads

of emotions passed imperceptibly across his face as he thought and doubted, wondering whether he

should try to enjoy himself or remain 'faithful' to Akane. Rei simply remained quiet, not for reasons of

deep thought but because she had nothing to say.

Finally, something that could qualify as a decision was reached in Ryouga's head. He would be polite

and nice, and then see what happened. This was more a compromise than anything else, but at least

it was something.

"So, nice night, eh?" Ryouga asked nervously, his poor social skills coming into play.

Rei looked at the night sky for one moment as if it was her entire world and studied it with disturbing

intensity before replying, "Yes, it is."

Ryouga waited for her to continue, but when she did not and the quiet stretched into minutes, he

attempted to fill the void. "I love the stars," he said, gazing up at them again.

Rei, emotionlessly, asked, "Why?"

Ryouga shrugged, cheered a little by her response. "Why not? The stars, they're my one constant. I

do a lot of...traveling, and it's reassuring to know that no matter where I am the stars will always be

there. They'll never change in my lifetime. In a life filled with chaos and uncertainties, when every

day could be your last and you have no idea where you are or where you're going, the knowledge

that they are there is comforting."

Rei nodded, processing his statement. She re-evaluated her opinion of him. "Indeed," she replied

after a pause, this time with the tiniest hint of an emotion present. "I...often look at the stars myself,

when I can afford to, and wonder." She did not elaborate, as if this small confession had consumed most

of her energy.

Ryouga, deciding not to press the issue when she seemed even more inept at social interaction than

him, allowed the silence to re-engulf them, but he unconsciously sidled just a little bit closer to her.

Rei, if she noticed, did not comment. And so, left alone with their thoughts, walking in companiable

but uneasy quiet, they arrived at their first stop for the night: a combined karaoke/restaurant.

******

Yugi had been many things in her centuries of existence: science experiment, destroyer, prisoner,

villain, friend, puppetmaster, but most importantly of all she'd been a child. After a failed attempt to

get revenge on the descendants of those that she felt had wronged her and a long sleep of reflection

in the Masaki Shrine Cave, she'd finally woken up and decided to grow up. It had been a difficult

road at first, but all the members of the 'Tenchi family' had helped her, especially Sasami. Now she

was back in Tokyo, her body that of a young teenager, as something that would've shocked her

creators and servants if any of them had still been in the land of the living: a waitress at a karaoke

and restaurant joint.

For someone of her power and talent, this was a rather odd choice of employment unless your name

happened to be Luna Inverse, but for reasons she herself didn't quite understand she found this job

enjoyable. It allowed her to meet a slew of interesting and different people almost everyday. Plus

there was the interesting (to say the least) request that had been made of her by Urd, the woman

radiating power that rivaled and possibly surpassed her own and claiming to be a goddess. She had

asked her, Yugi, to make sure that a certain two people had a delightful time at this place tonight.

Intrigued, she'd agreed, and now they were here.

"Hello and welcome to Starlight, restaurant and karaoke bar extraordinaire. My name is Yugi, and

I'll be your waitress for tonight. Urd called ahead and made reservations. If you'll follow me I'll

show you to your table," Yugi recited to Ryouga and Rei, ending with a polite bow before leading

them to a small table fit snugly along the right side wall and near the stage. Handing them the menus

she performed a quiet scan and blinked in surprise. Ryouga possessed an enormous amount of dark

spiritual energy, much more than a human should have. A quiescent mystical power permeated his

body as well. As for Rei, she was even more interesting. Her aura was very odd, almost as if it had

been sewn together from bits and pieces of something else. She was human and yet she was more

than human.

"I'll be back to take your order in a few minutes. In the meantime, feel free to get up on stage," Yugi

spoke, leaving to check up on another table. When she felt she was a safe distance away she

shrugged. Urd had told her that these two were unusual. Besides, she'd had strange customers

before. Remembering a certain incident involving two men calling themselves Q and Picard she

smiled. She'd had strange customers before indeed.

******

Ryouga and Rei, sitting down, both looked around the establishment they now found themselves in.

Rei was memorizing the layout, size, structure, and exits. Ryouga was estimating the building's

strength. One never knew where Happosai would show up, after all. The building itself was very

modern, metal tables and comfortable chairs arrayed in small numbers across the rectangular room.

On the side opposite the entrance was a stage spotlighted by yellow lights with 5 microphones and a

jute box. A large bar was positioned against the left wall with a swinging door on the far end close to

the stage leading to a kitchen. Waiters and waitresses went to and from tables, serving a moderately

sized crowd. Currently on the stage was a young woman who'd looked like she had a little too much

to drink and was singing "Just Communication."

"So," Ryouga began, "what are you going to order?"

Rei looked up from examining her menu with scrutiny. "Uncertain," she replied, going back to her

systemic perusal of the choices.

Ryouga took this opportunity to inspect the menu himself and let out a quiet sigh of relief when he

saw that there wasn't much in the way of pork products available. Scanning it further, he decided on

ordering a plate of noodles with rice. Rei, too, seemed to come to a decision, and she put down her

menu.

They looked at each other across the short distance that separated them, both uncertain how to

proceed. Rei, however, did have some ideas based on the talk Asuka had given her while preparing

her for this experience. A lot of it had seemed silly or contradictory, but it was someplace to start.

"Tell me about yourself," Rei spoke suddenly and curtly. On stage the young woman's date, also

appearing to be a little tipsy, took a microphone and started singing "Zelgadis Song."

Ryouga thought about how to answer this in a way that wouldn't make him sound crazy. A moment

later he responded, "Well, I'm a martial artist for starters. I've been training since I was a child and

consider myself to be pretty good. I also do a lot of traveling. I've seen a lot of the world and speak

over 50 languages, some better than others. I have a heated rivalry going on with a fellow martial

artist over in Nerima." Not wanting to go into the many embarrassing details Ryouga changed the

subject. "What about you?"

"That's a secret," Rei replied monotonely. "My personal history is strictly confidential."

"I see," Ryouga said, not seeing at all. Silence once again existed between them, this one prevented

from becoming a long one by Yugi's timely return.

"So, what will your orders be?" she asked politely, taking out a notepad and pen.

"Noodles with rice," Ryouga answered.

"Salmon with rice," Rei told her.

Yugi scribbled it down. "Anything to drink?"

"Milk," Ryouga and Rei said in unison, startling Ryouga.

"Okay, your food should be ready in 20 minutes," Yugi informed them, putting her notepad away. Smiling, she added, "Don't forget. You have to sing 1 song before leaving. Duets do count." She headed off into the kitchen.

Rei blinked. "I have never tried karaoke before," she admitted tentatively.

Ryouga tried to smile reassuringly. "I've done it once or twice. Really, it's not that hard. You just have to choose a good song."

Rei looked intently at him. "Show me."

Ryouga gulped, but looking into her deep eyes found that he couldn't refuse. He always did have problems dealing with the opposite sex. "I'll be right back," he told Rei, standing up with some reluctance and heading to the stage, amazingly getting there his first try. Scrolling through the records in the jute box he found one he knew and selected it. The previous singers had managed to drag themselves off the stage by now. The beginning chords of "Bittersweet Symphony" drifted out of hidden speakers.

"Cos' it's a bittersweet symphony this life..." Ryouga began, letting his despair creep into his thick, deep singing voice.

"Trying to make ends meet, you're a slave to the money then you die.

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down...

You know the one that takes you to the

places where all the pain lives, yeah."

Various customers stopped what they were doing and started listening. Ryouga was actually pretty good.

"No change, I can change, I can change, I can change,

but I'm here in my mould, I am here in my mould.

But I'm a million different people from one day to the next...

I can't change my mould, no, no, no, no, no, no, no"

Rei observed Ryouga's every move, making notes of his inflection, rhythm, and beat.

'Well I never pray,

But tonight I'm on my knees, yeah.

I need to hear some sounds that recognise the pain in me, yeah.

I let the melody shine, let it cleanze my mind, I feel free now.

But the airwaves are clean and there's nobody singing to me now."

Ryouga was really getting into the song now, pouring more emotion into his words.

"No change, I can change, I can change, I can change,

but I'm here in my mould, I am here in my mould.

And I'm a million different people from one day to the next

I can't change my mould, no, no, no, no, no, no, no"

Just about every head in the place had turned to watch Ryouga sing now.

"Well have you ever been down?

I can change, I can change..."

^That doesn't look hard.^ Rei thought to herself, watching Ryouga approach the crescendo.

"Cos' it's a bittersweet symphony this life.

Trying to make ends meet, trying to find some money then you die.

You know I can change, I can change, I can change,

but I'm here in my mould, I am here in my mould.

And I'm a million different people from one day to the next.

I can't change my mould, no, no, no, no, no, no, no"

"Dat kid, he got da groove," commented Dee-Jay from Street Fighter, adding yet another cameo appearance to this fanfiction.

"I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down

It justs sex and violence melody and silence

Been down

Ever been down

Ever been down"

Ryouga finished and took a nervous bow. His audience applauded enthusiastically. Smiling, he looked around for Rei, found her, and never took his eyes off of her so he could find his way back to their table without getting lost.

"Interesting," Rei commented when Ryouga returned to his seat.

"Thanks," Ryouga said with a weak smile, revealing his fangs.

Another moment of silence between them until, "Seeing as how I have never done this before, I believe your assistance would be a great help. I propose a duet." Rei regarded Ryouga, waiting to see what his reaction would be to her proposition.

"That's a great idea," Yugi spoke up, suddenly appearing from behind them and cutting off whatever Ryouga was about to say. "And I know just the song."

5 minutes later:

Ryouga and Rei looked across at one another. "Ready?" Ryouga asked.

"Yes," Rei replied simply, not leaving any room for doubt.

"Okay then. On three. 1...2...3."

"Rei: They say we're young and we don't know

We won't find out until we grow

Ryouga: Well I don't know if all

that's true 'Cause you got me, and

baby I got you

.

Ryouga: Babe

BOTH: I got you babe I got you babe

Rei: They say our love won't pay the

rent Before it's earned, our money's all

been spent

Ryouga: I guess that's so, we don't have a

pot But at least I'm sure of all the

things we got

Ryouga: Babe

BOTH: I got you babe I got you babe

Ryouga: I got flowers in the spring I got

you to wear my ring

Rei: And when I'm sad, you're a

clown And if I get scared, you're

always around

Rei: So let them say your hair's too

long 'Cause I don't care, with you I

can't go wrong

Ryouga: Then put your little hand in mine

There ain't no hill or mountain we can't

climb

Ryouga: Babe

BOTH: I got you babe I got you babe

Ryouga: I got you to hold my hand

Rei: I got you to understand

Ryouga: I got you to walk with me

Rei: I got you to talk with me

Ryouga: Igot you to kiss goodnight

Rei: I got you to hold me tight

Ryouga: I got you, I won't let go

Rei: I got you to love me so

BOTH: I got you babe I got you babe

I got you babe I got you babe I got

you babe"

This time the applause was enormous. Both Ryouga and Rei took a deep bow. Ryouga spared a glance at his partner and was about to congratulate her on a job well done when he saw something amazing: Rei was smiling. Just the sight of it filled him with a warm glow of satisfaction, knowing that he was partly responsible for this angelic vision.

As for Rei, she was filling oddly and inexplicably thrilled and happy(?). Usually only Gendo and Shinji could make her feel this way. Somehow, knowing that someone else could bring forth these emotions from her was comforting(?).

The rest of their time at the restaurant was spent singing songs, eating their meal, and talking. Yugi smiled in delight as she watched them. It was obvious to her that both of them were enjoying themselves, though with Rei it was sort of hard to tell.

******

"Ghost in the Shell," Ryouga read, turning to face Rei. "Have you ever seen it?"

"No," Rei answered, "I don't get out much." She didn't elaborate.

"Well, I've heard that it's supposed to be great, but I guess we'll be finding out for ourselves soon enough." With a weak chuckle and his arm wrapped around Rei's so he wouldn't wander off he entered the old-fashioned movie theater the two found themselves at, Rei matching his pace and walking alongside him.

Later:

The two exited the theater with Ryouga looking a little pale, the result of blood loss(See the movie and you'll understand. *g*). Rei was no longer just smiling, she was grinning and fighting to hold back laughter.

"That was certainly...interesting," Ryouga finally said, beginning to recover.

"Indeed, though I still do not understand why you passed out so many times," Rei replied, hiding her smile behind a hand.

Ryouga looked distinctly embarrassed. "It's...sort of hard to explain."

"Understood," Rei said, having pity on her date and saving him from further embarrassment.

Ryouga looked relieved and grateful. The two began to walk down the street, the stars shining brilliantly overhead, their destination Urd's shop.

"So, did you understand the movie?" Ryouga asked. He himself had managed to get the gist of it, but there were elements he was uncertain of.

"Yes. I found it very...enlightening," Rei commented, her eyes seeming to glow for just an instant.

The rest of the trip was spent in comfortable silence with spots of conversation every now and then. Ryouga and even Rei found, much to their surprise, that they'd both had a good time and weren't eager for this night to end, but like all good things it had to follow the same course. Before they knew it they were in front of Urd's shop.

"Well," Ryouga started, his hand going to the back of his head, "I must say that I've had a great time tonight. Being with you was a lot of fun, and if I ever find you again we'll hit every karaoke joint in town, all right?" He smiled at her.

"..." Slowly, Rei began to smile too. "Of course." Something Asuka had told her earlier popped into her mind. "One more thing Ryouga."

"Ye-" he began but was cut off as Rei grabbed him, bent him over, pressed her lips against his, and kissed him with wild abandon. Ryouga's eyes widened in shock. He began to return the kiss, but soon his mind registered what was happening and in an attempt to protect itself initiated the normal response.

THUD.

Ryouga, blood dripping out of his nose, lay unconscious on the ground, having passed out. Rei contemplated his fallen form and went over a mental itinerary.

Requirements for a romantic night:

Dinner - check.

Entertainment - check.

Walk under the stars - check.

Movie - check.

Goodbye kiss - double check.

All requirements met. Processing data...Mission accomplished.

Rei was snapped out of her processing by the sound of clapping. Turning, she saw a grinning Asuka and Urd, the former the source of the clapping.

"Way to go, Rei!" Asuka cheered.

"I think you killed him," Urd commented with a smirk, going over to examine the collapsed lost boy. "I'll bring him home. Asuka, I'll be seeing you tomorrow at 6. Till then." With a mighty grunt of effort she hefted Ryouga up and carried him inside the building. Rei watched him disappear inside, an almost undetectable amount of melancholy on her face. Somehow, she knew that she'd never see him again.

"Now, you've got to tell me all about your night," Asuka whispered excitedly, pulling a nonprotesting Rei behind her as she headed home. When they were long gone Urd's shop once again disappeared.

******

The next day:

Ryouga was meditating in the woods, trying to organize his thoughts. He still loved Akane, but his night with Rei had shown him that he could be happy with someone else. Somehow, he knew that his odds of ever seeing Rei again were slim to none, but there were other fish in the sea, to use an old phrase. Should he temporarily give up on Akane and try dating other people and maybe find happiness with one? Ryouga didn't know what he was going to do, but he felt that his future options in life had grown greatly. A genuine smile crossed his face. He didn't know where he was or where he was going, but right now...it didn't matter. He was here, he was alive, he had a future, and that was enough for now.

******

Stunned silence greeted Shinji, the Third Child, as he entered his classroom. Every student seemed riveted by something. When he spotted it he too was shocked into silence. Sitting at her desk wearing her usual school uniform was Ayanami Rei, and she was reading a...romance novel?!!

Rei, seemingly oblivous to the stares she was receiving, continued reading. If one looked real closely they might've seen a smirk on her face, or they might not have.

******

Asuka had her date's arm in a deathgrip and was guiding him around town, explaining the buildings and talking about herself. Her date sighed. When Urd had come to him and offered him a second chance at life if he went on a date and acted nice he'd jumped at the opportunity, his desire for revenge great. Now it was all he could do to maintain the fixed smile on his features and nod politely. Moons, how he wished he could call down the Rains of Destruction right about now.

"Ramirez, are you listening to me?" Asuka demanded.

"Of course," the silver-haired youth replied, silently cursing fate. ^When this is over and I return to my world, you'll pay Vyse. Oh, you'll pay indeed!^

The End.