Fanservice:
The Rewrite A Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfiction

By Andrew Aelfwine

Characters and situations of Neon Genesis Evangelion belong to their creators and publishers. The same goes for Ranma 1/2, Oh My Goddess!, You're Under Arrest, Harry Potter, Alf, Star Wars, Tenchi Muyo, and anything else I might have forgot to mention. Moosylvanian Rutabagas are, as best I know, an invention of Dirty Linen: the magazine of traditional, folk, and world music.

The idea of the Rei clones and their relatonship was suggested by Adrian Tymes in response to an earlier version of this story. Many thanks to him, to Suika Roberts, and to everyone else who has commented on any version of this story or its sequel.

Lime Warning
Slash warning, het warning, bi warning, poly warning, mono warning
Gratuitious silliness and fourth wall violation warning
Yours Truly Warning
***

Kaoru was asleep when his door buzzer rang. Last night he'd crawled through every drag bar in L.A. with the Goddess Urd and the Angel Clarence, and only the pure obnoxiousness of the noise managed to get him out of bed. "Nagisa here. Wha'iss it?"

"Angelic Express. Got an overnight here for Kaoru Nagisa. Says it's from Seele Productions."

"I'll be right down."

He fumbled about for his chinos before realising he'd not taken them off the night before. Out the door and down the stairs, two at a time, to the foyer.

"Hey," said the bug-eyed creature in the Angelic Express robes and baseball cap, "you're the Kaoru Nagisa, aren't you? The one who was in Torched by an Angel, yeah?"

"Yes."

"Man, I loved that movie. Y'know, I'm an actor myself-had a part in Star Warts: the Tap Room Menace. Had to learn to talk like a Jamaican and everything, you know?"

"That dreck? You're lucky to get work delivering packages," Kaoru muttered in Japanese.

"'Scuse me?"

Bad move-the creature still had his envelope. "I was saying a, uh, blessing on your career. I'll sign for that, please."

Webbed hands caressed the clipboard. "Y'know, I was wondering... any chance you could give me a pointer or two? I mean, you're an angel, and I'm a mutant amphibian, and we non-humans've got to stick together in this town, right?"

"Oh, definitely. You have a piece of paper and a pen?" The clipboard was offered, and with it a scrap of someone's shipping label. "Thanks." He scribbled a number. "Tell Kermit I sent you, 'kay?"

"Gee, thanks a bunch, Mister Nagisa. Have a nice day, and maybe we'll see each other again, hey?" The creature winked. Kaoru wiped the envelope on his trousers as soon as the amphibian's back was turned. Kermit-kun, he thought, consider this payback for telling Alf I like fur.

Upstairs, he made a pot of coffee and sat down to read the script. "Lovely opening..." he murmured. "Ikari Shinji is fetching. Make love, not war. I like it."

The coffee maker beeped. He got himself a cup and turned back to the script. A few pages later, he crumpled it, flung it across the room and into the bin, and picked up the phone.

"Hi," said the recording at the other end, "this is Ellen. Please leave a message at the beep. Unless you're Jerry Falwell pretending to be the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes again."

"Ellen? Kaoru here. Look, you were right about that Evangelion thing-it's depressing crap. You still want me for the remake of It's a Wonderful Life?"

***

Someone was hammering at his door. Shinji sat up in bed. "Misato? Is it... bad news?"

"Guten Morgen, mein Shinji!"

Impossible. He ran to the door. "Asuka! I'm dreaming."

"No, you're not."

"But... you were ill. In a coma. And-"

"I'm here." She hugged him, hard. "And glad to be back. Missed you, my sweet idiot."

"Impossible," he mumbled. "Too nice. You can't be the real Asuka."

She squeezed once more, kissed him on the nose, and let go. A whip appeared in her hand. "Call me Princess. And beg for my mercy!"

"Sorry. Really, I-- "

Misato's door slid open. "What's all the noise? Asuka? What? How?"

"I'm back." She sprang across the hall, her red hair fanning out behind her, and embraced her guardian, almost knocking the taller woman to the ground.

"What happened?"

"I don't know, but I woke up this morning and they let me out."

"Asuka," Misato said, "I could kiss you. Wait, I didn't say that." She blushed.

Asuka giggled. "I wouldn't mind."

"Gaah!" Shinji pinched his nose and tilted his head.

"Don't worry, Misato, I'll help him. Why don't you go back to bed?"

"Bed. That sounds nice." Suddenly, her eyes grew wide. "Asuka, why do you have a whip?"

"Oh, it's just a little romantic custom from Jurai-I mean, from Germany."

"Ah. Have a good time."

"We will." Asuka wrapped an arm around Shinji's waist. "C'mon, studling, don't be afraid. Just say 'I submit myself to your discipline, O Princess.'"

***

"Out! All of you. Now!" Ikari Gendou shouted at the technicians.

"But, sir, we were testing-- " said the crew chief, his thick, oil-stained fingers kneading the cap in his hand.

"It doesn't matter. Out!" Gendou slipped his hand inside his jacket. "You have sixty seconds to clear this hangar. Anyone remaining after the allotted time will be considered a mutineer and subject to summary execution as per U.N. Regulation Number Ten-Thirty-Fifteen-Five-A, paragraph C, subparagraph B."

"Sir, yes, sir!"

Gendou locked the doors behind them. Again he reached inside his jacket, and took out a chocolate bar. Seating himself by Unit-01, he unwrapped the candy. "Oh, Yui, it's all over. The Human Complementation Project, the Instrumentality of Man... decades of work gone down the drain. And all because one stupid angel didn't like his part."

The Evangelion made a low grunting noise. "I know, Yui, I know. I'm indulging in self pity again."

Another noise. "Where did we go wrong, Yui?"

A long sequence of rumbles and crashing sounds. "Yui, you want to come out?"

The entry plug ejected, and he sprang to the hatch. "Yui!"

***

Misato sat up in bed, stretched, and rubbed her eyes. "Gods," she said, "the things I dream... wait, that wasn't a dream. Was it?" She looked down and picked a single long strand of red hair off her night shirt. "Yes. It really happened. But that means..."

She didn't see her phone. Ten minutes' search located it, rolled up in her favourite Harry Potter: The Anime t-shirt-- the one with Hermione and Cho carrying a bound Harry slung beneath a broomstick-- underneath a uniform blouse, two pairs of clean socks, and a very nice Zechs/Duo doujinshi. She punched in the first number she could think of. "Hello, Rhonda's Authentic American-style Pizza. We've all gone back to Kansas City, due to the fact that otherworldly beings haven't tried to destroy it lately. In other words, we're not delivering." Click. She dialed again.

"Akagi here. If this isn't an emergency, I promise to personally-- "

"Rits-chan! Was Asuka acting strange when she left hospital?"

"No, she was actually quite sweet. Wait, that is strange, isn't it?"

"I know. Listen, did she-- "

"Misato, we-- I mean, I've only just got to sleep. Would you-"

"Rits-chan, she had a whip! She was talking about disciplining Shinji!"

"Experimentation with alternative sexualities is normal at their age."

"But-"

"You're drunk, Misato. And the Children have been through enough. Let them give each other a bit of happiness."

"But-"

"God's in his heaven-- it's nothing, darling, just Misato drunk again-- and all's right with the world. Go to sleep, Misato." Click.

***

"Yui."

"Gendou."

They sat atop the great cylinder of the entry plug. Despite her isolation inside the biomechanical war machine, her aging had kept pace with his. Her brown hair was lightly dusted with gray, much longer now, and tied at the nape of her neck with a velvet ribbon.

He held out his hands. "I've missed you."

"There are lots of things I've missed, being stuck in there." She pushed him back, pinned him to the surface of the plug, kissing him, running her hands along his sides, under his suit coat. "And I intend to have my fill of them."

"Yui, my darling? Right here? Right now?" She'd been shy, before.

"Yes, my love." She found what she sought, and took it, heedless of the damage to his clothes. "Mmmm, chocolate. Thanks."

"Did you have to rip my pocket to get at it?"

"Why don't you go twelve years without a fix, and see how you like it?"

***

Half a block from the Geofront's main entrance, Maya and Ritsuko paused on the street. "We'd better walk alone from here," Ritsuko said.

"I know, oneesama. It's all right." They embraced.

"Oh, Maya," Ritsuko whispered. "Parting is such sweet sorrow."

"Um, sempai, wasn't that my line?"

"Errr, well..." She blushed. "Can't we switch once in a while?"

"I'm young, and I need guidance." Maya giggled. "And discipline."

"I know. But..." From some alternate dimension, a vintage pearl-inlaid Gibson guitar appeared in Ritsuko's hands and an oversized white Stetson, its band decorated with rhinestones, dropped onto her head. She flatpicked a short intro and began to sing:

"Sometimes it's hard to be oneesama,
Giving all your love to just one girl.
She's cute and kind of subby
She wants you to be-- "

"Foul parodist of classic country songs!" a mighty bass voice bellowed above the high-pitched scream of an overdriven engine. Brakes squealing, cape billowing, the baseball clenched in his right fist raised on high, a masked man rode from the nearest alley and jumped his motorscooter up onto the sidewalk. "How dare you trample on the glory of Tammy Wynette?! Beware, evildoer, for the Strikeman In Black is-- oof!" He bent double as a hard rubber ball slammed into his gut.

"Villain!" Maya cried, brandishing her hockey stick. "How dare you interrupt my sempai's song?! Unrighteous impersonater of the great Johnny Cash and my honourable uncle Strikeman!"

"Villain, I? Nay, Goal Girl, it is-- ow! In the name of Justice! Run away! Run away!"

***

*Ring-ring* *Ring-ring*

Misato opened one eye and reached for her phone. "Hello?"

"Major Katsuragi?"

"Sir? I..." Bloody hell! She was late for work.

"No need to come in today, Major." He sounded tired. Exhausted, in fact. "We don't have anything to worry about. God's in His heaven, and all's right with the world." Someone was giggling in the background.

"Sir?"

"My wife wants to speak with--ack, Yui, please--" There was a clatter as if he'd dropped the phone.

"Hello, Misato-chan!" A woman's voice. What? The Commander was a widower, right?

"Hello, ah... Mrs. Ikari."

"Oh, no need to be so formal! You're my son's roommate, after all. Please, I'd be delighted if you'd call me 'Auntie.'"

"Err..."

"My dear, I insist. Unless you've reason to call me 'Mother'?"

Who was this madwoman? "Good heavens, no!"

"Well, I'm sure he's just a late bloomer. You'll join us for dinner tonight? Le Cirque 3000, at eight. All three of you, of course. I'm ever so looking forward to meeting Shin-chan's favourite girls." She moved her mouth, but the words wouldn't come. "Bye, Misato-chan. Give my son a kiss!"

***

"Mmm," Asuka said as they neared the restaurant. "Just smell the kitchen. It's not German food, but French is the next best... Hello, Wondergirl!"

Rei ignored her. "Don't kiss me, Shinji! I'm your sister."

He blinked, twice.

"He'd better not kiss you," Asuka muttered.

Misato pinched herself. "Damn, it didn't work."

"I wasn't going to kiss you, Rei."

"Oh. Sorry. Let me try again." She donned a black helmet and lowered the facemask. "Shinji. I am your sister."

"Your voice is kind of high, but it'll do," Asuka said.

"See, I told you Ikari and Ayanami were related," said a nameless extra who happened to be passing by.

Her companion sighed and wiped her eyes with a polka-dotted handkerchief. "Oh, I wish they'd got to hook up."

"Ewwww!"

"Well, it's only incest if they know they're sibs. And they would have been so cute with Souryuu and Katsuragi and the Class Rep..."

"You hentai!"

"Well, you're the one who likes Harry Potter twincest." Arm in arm, cheerfully bickering, they walked out of the scene.

Misato smacked herself on the forehead. "Damn, it still didn't work."

The butterflies in her stomach began a particularly vicious game of quidditch. An older woman, dressed in what looked like one of Commander Ikari's black suits, hastily retailored to her figure, appeared from behind a cluster of potted palms. Huh. She looks kind of like Rei, except for the hair. Kind of like Shinji, as well... Good heavens, no!

"Misato-chan! You naughty girl! Why haven't you kissed my son?"

"Misato-san," Shinji said, "please don't hit your head on the sidewalk."

***

The airfield smelt of salt and jet fuel, and the wind tugged at Shinji's clothes. He stared out to sea, although his parents' flight had long since vanished. An arm slid around him and, a few hearbeats later, another. "C'mon," Misato whispered, "let's go back to our home. Okay?"

Asuka rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. "Your sister's already gone back to her place. Let's head."

They bypassed the station, crossed under the monorail tracks, and took a path through one of the city parks. The grass and bushes had gone untrimmed for months, but returning city workers had cleared the beds of weeds and planted flowers. There were already flyers out for theatre and concerts. Someone was staging a revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with an all female cast.

"What're you thinking, Shinji?" Misato said, after some minutes of silence.

He didn't want to admit that he'd been trying to figure out what one called a girl playing a man who wore women's lingerie. A transtransvestite? A female impersonator impersonator? "Umm... how does my mother know the Angels aren't coming back?"

"I don't know, but she knew Misato hadn't kissed you that time last week."

"Don't remind me."

"Oh, lighten up, sweetheart," Asuka said. "It was cute. Really."

If his face got any hotter, Shinji thought, his eyes would steam.

Suddenly, he found himself looking down the lens of a video camera. "Excuse me, Miss and Sir and Miss, I'm Suzuki Hiroshi of Channel Three and I'd like to ask you a few questions. How does it feel to be among the first brave citizens returning to Tokyo-3? Are you proud? Enthused? Scared out of your wits that you'll be tromped by a giant robot or a squid from outer space?"

Misato snarled. "If you don't get that camera out of my face, Suzuki, I'll have my pilots get in their giant robots and tromp you."

"Hey, no reason to get-- Major Katsuragi? We met at that press conference last year. Tell me, do you believe that the Angels will return? Can you explain the mysterious reappearance of Doctor Ikari Yui? Have you any comment on the rumours regarding your relationship with-- hey! Not the tie! Anything but the tie!" Misato seized the reporter by the aforementioned article, too thin and made of hideous green and yellow polyester. Unbalancing him with a swift tug, she sent him staggering into the nearest pond.

Asuka scrawled the numerals 9.7 on a scrap of paper and held it aloft.

***

"Wow," Shinji said, looking about at the narrow streets and close-packed brick walkups, "I never knew there was anything like this in Tokyo-3." Unlike the broad empty throughfares near their apartment building, these streets teemed with pedestrian traffic. Many were foreigners, wearing their native dress: Scots in kilts, Sikhs in turbans, Tourists in ugly polyester shirts.

"The Angels left it alone," Asuka said. "Maybe they didn't like the architecture in our part of town."

"Pardon, young sir." The tall woman who brushed past him wore leathers covered in small metal plates; her hair was woven into an elaborate knot on the nape of her neck. He'd never heard the odd, musical accent before. Her ears were pierced with multiple small rings and a pair of emerald studs; as she disappeared into the crowd, he realised they were also sharply pointed.

"Asuka," he whispered, "was that an elf?"

"Nah, they're paler, most of them. She's a Romulan, I think."

"Oh."

Something in a shop window caught his eye. "Look at this, sweet." A large light brown rabbit sat on a polished rosewood pedestal; two-pronged antlers of impressive length sprouted from its head. "The sign says it's a 'jah-kah-loh-pu.' Wouldn't it be something to see a live one?"

She shook her head. "Shinji, it's a taxidermist's joke. They stick the antlers on a stuffed -- eek!" The creature rose from its crouch, stretched, and yawned. It glanced at a Mortimer Mouse wall clock and ambled down the length of the window and out of sight, past Shang Dynasty oracle bones, a Tiffany lamp, and a complex of Mayan pyramids cast from aquarium gravel and epoxy.

A few moments later, another antlered rabbit, this one smaller and black of coat, seated itself on the pedestal. "Shift change, I guess."

"Right." Asuka took his arm. "Let's get on with our shopping."

"What are we looking for, anyhow?"

"Sex toys."

He blushed. "Err... can't we get them by mail?"

"Not what I want, we can't."

"Oh dear."

"Don't worry, studmuffin, you'll like it." She tapped her knuckles against his skull. "Ah, here's the place."

Squashed between a Tibetan takeaway and an accordion dealer's, the tiny storefront bore signs in at least a dozen languages, none of which Shinji could read. If he hadn't been told it was a shop, he might have thought it the local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Emus, or the headquarters of the government-in-exile of the People's Democratic Zoroastrian Republic of Southern Indiana. Asuka pushed open the heavy iron-bound door, only the tightness of her grip on his hand betraying a hint of nervousness.

***

"Mail's here!"

"Hmmm?" Ikari Gendou said, not quite yet roused from his nap. Last he'd seen, the Meridá Cubs had been administering a sound thrashing to the Tokyo-3 Giants in the third game of the World Series. Now the television was tuned to a Metropolitan Opera production of Max Furioso.

"Our son sends his regards," Yui said, perching next him on the arm of the sofa. "He and Asuka-chan are getting along very well, but I'm a bit worried about him. He's hardly said a word about that lovely Major Katsuragi."

"Yui, he's not yet fifteen. She's, what... twenty-eight?"

"Well, she certainly acts like a teenager."

Gendou rolled his eyes. The tenor singing the part of Max looked oddly familiar.

"And how could I show my son's wedding pictures to Nodoka-sensei if he only has one wife?"

"I'll be," he said, "so that's where Ryouji Kaji wound up." The former double agent had a surprisingly good voice for opera, although Gendou thought one of the Pavarotti clones would have been a better choice for the part. Ryouji didn't have the stage presence to pull off the motorcycle chase scenes.

"Naughty Gendou," she said, "you've not been listening to me at all, have you? Just for that, maybe I shouldn't tell you that my Mountie uniform came today."

"Oh?"

"And so did your bunny suit. Want to try them out before dinner?"

***

The interior was a mad jumble of boxes and bags and bits of furniture from six centuries and at least a dozen regions. The closest parallel might have been the combination of a dynamited antique shop and grocery with the hold of a wrecked tramp freighter. A month before, Shinji might have fainted; now he only thought how much this reminded him of Misato's ancestral village.

"I don't see the owner," he said. "Maybe we should come back tomorrow?"

Asuka ignored him and called out a greeting in some foreign language.

A pile of knitted afghans and felt rugs shifted, and a pair of green eyes glittered in the dim.

Asuka uttered a string of melodic syllables. The figure beneath the mound straightened, becoming an elderly woman, her face as rough and ancient as the surface of the moon. One word, an incomprehensible question. Her voice was thin and androgynous, like a broken accordion crossed with an outdated voice synthesiser.

Asuka gestured at Shinji, and the eyes bored into him; the feeling, he was sure, was not far removed from that of being abducted and probed by extraterrestrials. A long moment, and the old woman held up a fan of small paper packets labeled in Chinese and Sanskrit.

Asuka asked a question. The old woman shrugged and pointed towards the corner of the room. "Take this," Asuka said, handing him a bucket. "There's a sink in the back room. Bring cold water."

Her warning proved unnecessary -- there was only one tap, and a touch of the pipe left his finger momentarily numb. Three plucked ducks hung drying in a stained plastic shower stall, alongside bunches of unrecognisable herbs. He had a bad feeling that at least two of the birds posessed four legs.

The shopkeeper set an electric kettle to boil and mixed the contents of a packet with the remaining water. Reaching beneath a battered steel desk bearing an heraldic eagle gripping a pair of golf clubs in its talons and the legend in English, "Seal of the Vice President of the United States," she produced a terry cloth robe and a caged piebald mouse.

At her direction, Asuka arranged the robe on the floor and placed the mouse within its folds. The woman poured the cold water over the mouse, who promptly became a young man.

Sharp-featured and long-nosed, with streaky black-brown hair and a blonde mustache dangling past his chin, he stared about the room, eyes bulging. His expression turned from confusion to horror and he reached behind himself with both hands.

The old woman emptied the kettle over his head, and a desperate scream shrank into a squeak.

Seconds later, the mouse struggled free of the robe and twisted round to stare at his tail. For a moment he knelt, paws clasped before his face, before scurrying away beneath a moss-covered parlor organ.

"Asuka," Shinji said as they made their way back up the street, "when did you learn Chinese?"

"I didn't."

"Wasn't that what you were speaking in the shop?"

"Oh, no. That was Norwegian. I spent summers there when I was little."

"Why is a Norwegian selling Chinese herbs in Tokyo-3?"

"I don't think she was Norwegian. Her accent sounded kind of Finnish to me."

"So, why is a Finn selling Chinese herbs in Tokyo-3?"

"I don't know. Why did my mother give me a middle name like 'Langley' when she was German-Japanese?"

"Best not to question why?"

"Exactly."

"Anyhow, what is that stuff?"

"Instant Nannichuan. Spring of Drowned Man."

"I thought we were shopping for sex toys."

"We were."

"How..." his eyes went wide. "No. I'm not doing this."

"Shinji, don't be silly. It's the twenty-first century."

"But-- "

"Haven't you ever wondered what it feels like for me?" He blushed. "I thought so," she said. "Next time we'll get Spring of Drowned Girl. Wouldn't you like that?"

"Ummm, well..."

"And we're not talking slashing you with some random guy. I'll still be me, just with-- "

His face turned crimson. "Eww."

"A mustache. I've always thought it'd be interesting to have one."

There was a burst of cheers and clapping from behind them. Shinji turned to glare at the source. He thought he recognised the four girls from school, although he couldn't remember their names. Presumably that was why they were carrying spears.

***

They made it to the Geofront fifteen minutes late for their scheduled Evangelion drill. Misato sat outside the closed doors of the hangar, reading a romance manga.

"Sorry we're late," Shinji said.

"Don't mention it," Misato said. "Maya and Ritsuko have been snogging for the past two hours, eighteen minutes, and "she glanced at her watch, "forty-three seconds. I think it's a new record."

"Oh," he said. "So, where's Rei?"

"I don't know. She came by a while ago, and when I told her we were locked out she said something about being bored and going exploring."

"You're sure she's all right? I've always thought Wondergirl didn't know the meaning of the word 'bored'," Asuka said.

"Of course she does," Shinji said. "She's my sis-- wait a second, you're right. Maybe we ought to go look for her?"

Misato rolled her eyes. "I'm sure she's fine. Anyhow, what were you two up to this morning?"

"Oh, just a little shopping," Asuka said.

"Get anything interesting?" She waggled her eyebrows.

"Nothing," Shinji said.

"Really?"

A bead of sweat dripped from his nose. Misato laughed. "Don't worry, Shin-chan. I won't pry." She ruffled his hair. "Besides, I'm sure Asuka will tell me all about it later."

"Hello."

"Rei?" Shinji said, "When did you start talking in stereo?" He turned. "Oh. I'm seeing double. Wait a second, that's quadruple. Ummmm, is there such a thing?"

"No," said one of the Reis. "I found the others in a tank on the lower levels. Aren't they just adorable?" The four clones wrapped their arms about each others' shoulders.

Asuka shook her head. "Mein Gott, and I thought I was kinked."

"Jesus and the Amida Buddha drinking whisky in a third-rate nightclub," Misato muttered.

Shinji simply fainted.

***

She looks like a Viking warrior, Shinji thought. Asuka was normally a few centimeters taller; in male form she topped him by nearly a head. She really did have a mustache, long and full and the same bright red as her hair, which she'd left loose to spill down the back of her leather jacket.

Every eye in the club was on her. Every male eye, at least. Shinji took another sip of his mocktail and tried his best not to grin nervously. "Asuka, did we really have to do this part?"

"Yes." She laid her hand on his arm and looked him in the eye. That was a comfort; her eyes were the same as always, a soft blue and full of affection and wicked merriment. "Isn't it fun?"

"Um, well..."

"C'mon, let's dance." She pulled him out onto the floor, beneath the flashing fragmented light of the half-blackened disco ball. "Maya said there was a good band on tonight."

He looked towards the stage; the bandmembers were humanoid and dressed alike in suede kilts and silk shirts, but otherwise bore each other little resemblance. The drummer might have been two meters tall and a hundred-fifty centimeters wide, while the guitarist was built like a willow tree, with arms down to her knees and wild green hair down to her ankles. The fiddler appeared to have antennae, while the hammered dulcimist... surely that wasn't really an extra pair of arms. The cellist had six fingers on each hand, purple braids with white beads, and a furry tail decorated with silver bangles. The mandolinist looked quite ordinary until he noticed her pointed ears, half-veiled by loose spaceblack hair, and recognised her as the Romulan they'd passed that morning.

There was a whisper of percussion, a handful of ringing notes from the hammered dulcimer, and the Romulan stepped up to the central microphone. The instruments fell silent as she sang a long, slow, elaborately decorated phrase in a tight, throaty voice, and a hush descended on the room.

Only to be broken as her song rose to a shout and the drumbeats came on like the four thousand hooves of a cavalry charge. Asuka spun him in a circle, and he lost track of the rest of the universe.

At last, giggling and out of breath, they made their way back to the bar, arms round each other as much to keep from falling as anything else. "See, that was cool, wasn't it?"

"Yeah." He liked her male face, he realised. And....mmph, she was still a good kisser. Even if the mustache did tickle his nose.

Suddenly the mustache was gone, and she shrank in his arms in mid-snog. "Hot water, dammit," she said. Sure enough, there was a tipped-over teapot on a nearby table. "And I left the other packet at home."

"Should we leave?"

"Heck, no." She grinned. "As long as you don't mind people thinking you're a cute girl in drag."

***

"Misato! Long time, no see."

She turned. "Skuld! How are you?" Her old friend hadn't changed a bit since college. Same robes, same long, long black hair. And the same sledgehammer slung over her back. She'd always assumed it was a religious symbol of some kind, like the facial tattoos.

"Not bad. Business has finally settled down a bit since those 'Angel' things stopped coming round."

"You're still a programmer?"

"Ja. Family company, you know. I'll be a bughunter 'til Judgement Day."

"Doesn't it get boring sometimes?"

"Do you get bored with giant robots?"

"Oh, not really. But that's mostly because the pilots are cute, and their battledress is skin tight."

"Really?" Skuld raised her eyebrow.

"Good heavens, I didn't say that."

"No worries, I'll not tell. Think of me as your confessor, if you like."

"Funny, you don't look like a priest."

"Goddesses have a different dress code."

It was too much. Misato snorted. And giggled. And cackled. And doubled over, laughing until she could barely breathe.

Skuld pounded her on the back. "Misato? Are you all right?"

"Fine. Fine. It's just... you've still got the same weird sense of humour."

"But I wasn't joking."

"That was what you always said in college."

***

The elderly Finnish shopkeeper hadn't any Instant Spring of Drowned Girl. But she had a friend who might. Unfortunately, the friend didn't have a telephone or a fixed address. Which was why Asuka and Shinji were about to launch a paper airplane from the roof of her building.

"Asuka," Shinji said, "would you mind explaining to me one more time just how this thing is supposed to work?"

"Well, these runes are Mrs Kaukkonen's friend's magickal name. And this is the symbol for flight. And these runes call down the blessings of Flossi, the old Nordic god of... dental hygiene. And this..."

"How is this going to do anything other than get stuck on somebody's roof and made into a pigeon's nest?"

"Magick."

"With a 'k'? Even though we're speaking Japanese?"

"Yes."

He shook his head and snapped the plane into the air. The wind took hold, sending it into a spiral. Halfway across the block, it vanished in a flash of light. "I didn't just see what I think I saw, did I?"

"You did."

"Damn. So, what happens now?"

"We wait," she said, just as a passing seagull dropped a recently deceased squid. Which landed on her. "Batège! Que le diable t'embrasserait Samedi le soir, emmerdeur!" She pulled the mollusk off her head, threw it down, and stomped on it.

"Asuka? Why are you cussing in French?"

"Translator's error."

"Oh." He prodded the squid with a toe. "What's this? There's a bit of paper taped to a tentacle."

"It's an order form." Asuka unfolded the note. "We need an envelope, two hundred Moosylvanian Rutabagas in small bills, and a bag of seagull treats. Oh, I hate magick."

"Don't you mean you hate obnoxious magick-using shopkeepers who don't have telephones?"

"That too."

***

The park smelt of grass and pine resin, the air was hot and muggy, and Asuka was sick of reading the Times-Picayune de la Troisième Orléans, which was the only international paper the local newsstand bothered to stock. She eyed Shinji's neck and contemplated nibbling on it. No, too hot, and there's no one here to be shocked but the Wondergirls. Who are unshockable.

"Fascinating," one of the Reis said. Asuka still couldn't tell them apart.

"Oh?" said another, looking up from the latest issue of Clone Awareness.

"Lieutenant Ibuki is chasing someone." The first Rei pointed, and far up the street Asuka made out two tiny motorcycle-riding figures.

"She's wearing her mask and her cape," said a third Rei. "We're supposed to call her 'Goal Girl.'"

"Damn enhanced vision," Asuka grumbled. The Reis ignored her.

"Why?" said the first Rei.

"Because she's a superhero," said the fourth. "It's a custom, or perhaps an old charter."

Asuka leaned close to Shinji. "Your sisters are weird."

"And proud of it, as near as I can tell." A paper-wrapped package dropped into his lap. "What's this?" A pelican circled overhead.

"Our order," Asuka said, holding up a pink and green twenty rutabaga bill. "Keep the change." The bird squawked cheerfully and headed for the harbour.

Maya and her quarry ripped past in a cloud of dust. "Insult to the name of fangirl! Villainous writer of Mary Sues!" she trumpeted over the roar of the engines. "You shall not escape the neverending wrath of my hockey stick! Justice is good grammar! Justice is believeable characterisation! Justice is Goal Girl!"

"Is it just me, or is the superhero business kind of slow in this town?" Shinji said.

Asuka shrugged. "Maya spends too much time on the net when Doctor Akagi's out of town. I'm sure she'll be back chasing jaywalkers and unlicenced mimes by the end of the week."

Shinji opened the package. "Hey, there's a bottle in here. I thought this stuff was supposed to be a powder, like the other."

Asuka hefted the bottle. "Feels like water. I guess it's premixed."

***

"I'm home!" Misato called.

"Welcome!" Shinji sounded tired, but happy. She stepped into the living room and found him sitting on the sofa, and Asuka asleep with her head in his lap. "How was dinner?"

"Lovely. My friend Skuld's sister Belldandy is still the best cook in town. And their other sister was visiting from Norway, and she brought the most _incredible_ homebrew. They said it was a family recipe. I swear I feel like writing poetry."

"Misato? Are you all right?"

"Never better. Let's see: "There once was a girl from Nantucket
"Who drowned her man in a bucket
"For she found him a bore
"And he loved 'Smurfs of Gor'
"And I need another rhyme for 'Nantucket.'"

Asuka stirred. "That was bad."

"I didn't say I was inspired to write _good_ poetry." She pushed Asuka's feet aside and plopped down on the end of the couch.

"Hey!" Asuka pulled a squirtgun from her pocket. "Take that!"

Water dripping down her face, Misato reached for a squirtgun of her own. It was only as her finger squeezed the plastic trigger that she realised she'd plucked it from out of thin air. Huh. I guess that's how anime characters get their mallets. "Feel my wrath, Souryu Asuka Langley!"

*Sop* Oh dear, she'd hit Shinji. Poor boy.

"Oh no!" he said, looking down at his chest. Misato's gaze couldn't help but follow. Why was his shirt suddenly so much... tighter? "Asuka," he said, "I thought it was only supposed to work the one time." His voice was a clear soprano.

Misato gasped. "Spring of Drowned Girl. How?"

"We got it mailorder. They told us it was Instant. Premixed."

"Good heavens." Misato shook her head. "Oh well, it could be worse. Lots of very successful people have gone through life as aquatranssexuals, Shin-chan."

"Really?"

"When I was at university, my advisor's husband had the Drowned Girl curse. He was a very handsome man, and he made a beautiful woman."

"Just like our Shinji, ne?" Asuka said.

"Exactly."

"Maybe this isn't such a bad thing. We can take her shopping, and go to Takarazuka plays and girly movies."

"And we can go to manga conventions and do cosplay!"

"Help!" Shinji cried. Misato and Asuka ignored him.

Misato tugged at Shinji's hair where it curled down to the collar. "We'll have to grow her hair out so we can play with it."

"I think she'd be lovely with a pigtail, and it'd be sexy when he's a boy as well."

"Cool."

"Help!"

Misato poked him in the nose. "Don't be a whimp, Shin-chan. Most guys would kill to have two pretty girls spending so much time with them."

***

"Good news, Gendou!"

"Please, Yui... let me go back to sleep."

"Shinji got splashed with water from the Cursed Springs of Jusenkyo! Now he turns into a girl, just like Nodoka-sensei's son. He'll attract twice as many pretty girls this way!"

"Poor kid." Using the Instant had been bad enough.

"I think he did it to make Asuka-chan happy. Isn't it sweet of him?"

Merciful Amida Buddha, Gendou thought, my son really is whipped, isn't he?

"And he says they're spending lots of time with Misato-chan! I'm sure they'll be engaged in a few months. Isn't it wonderful?"

"Yes, dear." Just like his father.