Foreword: Just a little something to give you guys an idea of my writing style, since I've never posted anything here before; I've done other stuff before, but it's been a while, and I might be a bit rusty. Since Rei is my favorite character of this series, I figured I'd do a little one-shot from her perspective, set just before and slightly after Shinji wakes up from the aftermath of the Leliel battle, to try and get back in the swing of things before I start on any of the larger projects I've got in mind. This probably isn't that good compared to some, but I still had fun writing it.

Oh yeah, just to make sure I don't get sued: Neon Genesis Evangelion and all the characters contained therein are the property of Hideaki Anno (or whichever manga author you prefer) and Gainax, not me. The only things I own in regards to NGE are my fanfics, and even those aren't being written to make money.

Now that that's out of the way, enjoy!

Introspection

A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fanfic

by Elizar Naki

To the outside observer, Rei Ayanami was as calm as ever as she sat in her current chair, occupying her time by reading while she waited for the room's sole occupant to awaken. But most outside observers wouldn't have stayed long enough to notice that she hadn't turned the page once since she'd arrived, that the illusion of reading was just a mask to hide her inner turmoil. She paused in her attempts to read, looking up to see if Shinji had regained consciousness, but he remained the same as he had when he'd been brought here: no physical injuries, just exhausted to the point of unconsciousness.

Shinji. It was usually only in the privacy of her mind that she referred to him as such, opting to call him more properly by his family name whenever she spoke of or to him aloud, but yesterday…yesterday her control had slipped when she'd been ordered to leave Shinji to die inside that shadow they'd codenamed Leliel. She had no idea if anyone in Central Dogma had noticed her slip-up, though none had mentioned it to her if they had. She was certain that Commander Ikari, at least, had noticed, since he paid her more attention than most. She was fairly sure that Soryu had noticed as well, given the vidlink-relayed look she'd seen on her fellow pilot's face when she had questioned Major Katsuragi's orders and nearly gone after him herself.

Soryu, Rei thought bitterly, her anger rising at the mere thought of Unit-02's pilot. He is here because of her. She had goaded Shinji into action, and while the blue-haired pilot agreed that he should have known better than to fall prey to Pilot Soryu's words, she also believed that Soryu herself should have been punished. Instead, she had mocked Shinji for the position he had ended up in, never once considering that even part of the blame rested with her—and when Shinji had finally returned, her only reaction was to remind Major Katsuragi about the punishment she was supposedly going to mete out to him. What made it worse in Rei's mind was the fact that she had gotten away with it.

Did Soryu ever truly think of anyone besides herself? Did she ever consider anyone else's feelings or opinions beyond how they related to her? Rei seriously doubted it. The Major may have interrupted them before Soryu could give her a straight answer, but Rei had known even before she asked the question that the German redhead's primary motivation for piloting her Eva was the praise of others. Soryu craved attention, seemed addicted to it, in fact. She flaunted her status as a pilot at school as a way to garner more admiration, even though they were supposed to avoid discussing NERV business as much as possible. She had suggested that she and Rei be friends when they had first met for no other reason than convenience; thankfully, she seemed to have caught the unspoken part of Rei's reply: "If I am ordered to, I will," she had said, though she had kept the "But that is the only way we will be friends" to herself.

In truth, she had taken more than a little pleasure out of showing Soryu who the real "weak link" had been during the sync-dance training, though she had been disappointed to learn that she would not be replacing the red-haired pilot for that operation; her Eva still had not been fully repaired, and her sync ratio was still too low for such a precision-based operation even if Unit-00 had been operational. That in and of itself was something of a mystery to her, since a great deal of herself was very literally invested in her Eva. She had heard Doctor Akagi mention once that her sync score tended to suffer because she piloted the prototype Eva, and that its imperfect core kept her score lower than it should have been. Even so, should a flawed core be capable of hindering her ability to synchronize with herself? Or was it due to some sort of mental problem on…one of her parts? She had a feeling she should have been unnerved by that particular facet of things, but she was so used to it at this point that she barely even thought about it anymore.

It angered her that Soryu behaved the way she did when it came to piloting Eva. She seemed to view it as something of a contest, a game to be won in order to earn praise from those around her; saving the world, it seemed, was merely an unimportant side effect to her. Her actions over the past few days proved this theory in Rei's mind, since the problem began with Soryu's jealousy after being "beaten" by Shinji during a sync test. Did Soryu not realize that this was about more than just her bruised ego? The fact that failure to defeat the Angels meant utter annihilation for the human race either had not occurred to her or simply didn't matter, it seemed.

What angered Rei the most about Soryu's attitude, though, was the way she treated Shinji. Having studied rudimentary psychology, it was easy enough to see what her fellow pilot was attempting: she wanted the pilot of Evangelion Unit-01 as little more than a…trophy boyfriend, she believed the term was, but she didn't want the "embarrassment" of said boyfriend being as "spineless" as Shinji was in her eyes. Thus, she attempted to goad him into being the "stronger" Shinji she saw in the entry plug, not even stopping long enough to realize that her constant insults were having the opposite effect to what she wanted—especially after the very public humiliation he suffered after the defeat of Israfel. Rei understood little about human emotion, but she understood enough to know that, whatever she might think, Soryu did not truly love Shinji—not if she could not accept him for who he was.

And having studied rudimentary psychology, it was easy enough for her to recognize the hint of jealousy in her own thoughts, even if she did not fully comprehend the reason behind it. Why did this seemingly unremarkable boy affect her so? How had he managed to throw much of her daily routine into disarray?

He cares for me, she thought as she returned her gaze to Shinji's unconscious form. That fact was plain enough to see, though it also placed him in a rather small minority, as far as she was concerned: Shinji and the Commander. Both Ikaris had shown their affection for her, but in different ways and for different reasons. Commander Ikari cared for her, had raised her in both her incarnations to date—but only, she had begun to realize recently, because she served a purpose in his plans. He had provided for her, given her a place to stay and food to eat—but even in that, he only provided her with the bare minimum of what she required. And up until now, that had been enough. She had never cared much about her own personal upkeep; it mattered little to her if her food tasted good or not since it would have no effect one way or other on her ability to pilot Eva—and what difference did it make if something life-threatening, be it an act of violence or some sort of sickness, befell her in her home when her very being could be transferred into another vessel almost on a whim? What did it matter if her showers were warm or her accommodations comfortable when she was destined to return to nothingness eventually anyway? She was, after all, replaceable, completely without value beyond her ability to pilot and…serve her other purpose.

And yet…

The ramen she had eaten with the Major and her fellow pilots after successfully defeating Sahaquiel had been quite flavorful to her taste buds, even if her companions considered it nothing special.

And if Shinji had considered the status of Major Katsuragi's apartment to be nearly unlivable when he'd first arrived there, how much worse must he consider her living arrangements?

Shinji.

The Commander cared for her because he had a use for her, but Shinji cared for her simply…because he cared. Because he valued her life. Because he believed her existence was worthwhile.

Do I care for Shinji, as well? As unfamiliar as she was with her emotions, she had no real way of knowing. She did know, however, that she felt…warm when he was with her. She was more comfortable in his presence than anyone else's, even Commander Ikari's. And she knew, even though the order had technically only applied during Operation Yashima, that she would always do what she could to protect him. Is that love? Perhaps it is; I do not know.

Would his affection for me remain if he knew the truth about me? As little as she wanted to consider that facet of things, she knew he would find out eventually. If nothing else, she would eventually tell him herself; assuming that she did care for him in return, it would do no good to enter into a relationship with him while hiding a secret of that magnitude from him. She wanted to believe that his affection for her would remain unchanged even in light of where she came from…but what if it didn't? What if he found out and became afraid of her? What if he wanted nothing more to do with her after that—or worse, shifted his affection to Soryu in her stead?

And beyond that, what sort of life could they have together when her fate was bound to the medication she required from Doctor Akagi in order to survive? Even if Shinji accepted her, both for who and what she was, would he be willing to accept that their days together might be numbered by something other than the impending destruction promised by the Angels' arrival? If she became unable to receive her medication anymore, would he be willing to stand by her and watch her die? Even if he was, she was unsure if she was willing to put him through that pain.

Yet even as her logical mind dismissed the idea of a relationship between her and Shinji as too risky, part of her imagined what things might be like if he accepted her entirely, if she somehow grew beyond her need for Doctor Akagi's medication…

She was drawn out of her internal reverie by a slight gasp from the nearby bed. He is awake, she quickly realized, putting her book back in her schoolbag while she watched him sit up to better take in his surroundings.

"Ayanami?" he asked, seemingly surprised to find her there. The formality with which he'd addressed her hurt slightly, she discovered, though she betrayed no outward sign of it. After all, she addressed him just as formally. What room did she have to be hurt when he addressed her the same way?

"You are awake," she said in response. "I will inform the doctors."

"Will you…come back later?" Shinji asked, surprising Rei somewhat.

"Perhaps, if my schedule allows."

"Ayanami—"

"You just rest for now," she interrupted him as she rose from her chair. "We'll take care of the rest."

"But…I feel fine now," he protested, probably just so he could be released early. She had to admit, she couldn't really fault him for that; she, too, had spent much more time in these rooms than she wished to.

"Well," she told him, "that's good for you." Her tone and expression remained as seemingly emotionless as ever, though she hoped she had managed to convey her relief that he was indeed alright.

She was surprised, and more than a little confused, to hear him gasp at her words. Had her reply been colder than she'd meant it to be? Warmer, perhaps? Or had it merely reminded him of something else? Whatever the reason, Rei would have to wait until later to find out, since someone still needed to inform the doctors of the change in Shinji's status. Without breaking stride, she reached the door, hit the controls to open it…

And found Pilot Soryu on the other side of the door, attempting to open it from her end. The redheaded pilot froze in shock, retreating around the corner when she saw her fellow pilot leaving. Unfazed, Rei continued on her way, though not before she saw Soryu fuming against the wall and heard Shinji giggle slightly at the other girl's reaction.

Once she had informed the doctor on watch that Shinji had regained consciousness, she allowed herself a small smile and a quiet laugh of her own. Based on Soryu's behavior to date, the German pilot was likely irritated that someone else—especially Rei—had been the first one Shinji saw after waking up. Well, she decided, unconsciously mirroring her parting words to Shinji, that's just too bad for you.

A/N: and there ya go! Hopefully that wasn't too terribly bad, or didn't stray very far into OoC territory; I tried to stay as close to the original character as I could. Also, this, like any future works I post here, was written without an on-site beta; that honor belongs to my wife, to whom I'm eternally grateful—and for the inspiration behind this particular fic.

Anyway, read and review, please—so long as you keep any criticism constructive. 'Til next time!