Reaching Out

A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fanfiction

Chapter 3 – Settling In/Institutionalised

Disclaimer: Evangelion does not belong to me, nor do I make any money off this, though if you believe otherwise, I'll happily laugh at you.


The little girl with the rough pageboy haircut was crying. Dressed in her elementary school uniform, sitting on the wall under a large tree, she was curled up in a ball of misery. She looked about five, maybe six, though small for her age. An ugly bruise decorated her knee and there were more on her arms. The physical injuries from being tripped up were nothing on the cruel barbs the other girls had been throwing at her ever since she had been in this school.

She never told a grown-up or a teacher about the bullying – what would they do? Nothing, as far as Rei was concerned.

"Hello!" The chirpy greeting interrupted her morose thoughts, and Rei looked up to see a girl her own age stood in front of her. Her hair was long – in bunches, as Rei's own hair had been before she'd cut it off to make it easier to look after. Rei blinked. Didn't the other girls warn anybody off from being friends with her?

"I'm new here, who are you?" The girl enquired, and Rei looked down. Now it made sense. She'd find out soon enough.

"Rei. Rei Ikari."

The girl gave a grin. "I'm Chihiro Satonaka, and we're going to be friends!" She announced. Rei looked at her.

"Friends?"

"Yep!" Chihiro responded, grinning widely. Rei blinked at her openness.

"The others won't like you because they don't like me." Rei said quietly. Chihiro shrugged.

"Then they're just meanies. Big boring meanies. Why is your hair like that?" Chihiro cocked her head to one side.

"Like what?" Rei asked, bewildered.

"All… you know, rough and weird." Chihiro said brightly. Rei put a hand to her hair.

"I had to cut my bunches off because they were hard to look after on my own." Rei responded numbly. It had felt painful at first, to cut them off, and she had slipped and nicked her arms a few times, though nothing serious. It wasn't like Sensei was going to spare the time to do it; he was always so busy. "It's weird?"

"Oh, wow, you cut your own hair? That's soo amazing! But why doesn't your mother cut it?" Chihiro looked confused.

Rei looked back down and sniffled, before wiping her eyes quickly. "Mama isn't here anymore and my daddy didn't want me. I live with Sensei."

"Oh," Chihiro said, looking sad. "Well, I'm sure they would be very impressed." She added brightly. "My mama always says I get into too much trouble to use scissors!"

Rei could believe that.

"So what do you want to do?" Chihiro asked, hands on her hips. "I think we should go and play on the slide. But what do you want to do, Rei-chan?"

Rei opened her eyes and the familiar walls of the darkened entry plug swam back into view. Something seemed to poke at her mind; like synchronisation, but far more subtle. She tried to push it out, when what sounded like a voice spoke in her mind.

~What is this in location/area/place designated memory/nostalgia/importance/past? Why is it important?~

"Who are you?" Rei asked, bewildered. Something swam into vague focus in front of her; a small figure with dark hair and blue eyes. She recognised it as a younger form of herself. The zebra striped dress was something new though.

"Are you the Angel?"

~What/when/who/why is 'Angel'?~ The little form responded. She looked almost shyly at Rei. ~I am/We are/It is Leliel. Not 'Angel'. So much thought/sense/noise boiling from your brain/mind/intellect.~ There was the sound of a giggle. Rei reached her hand out and tried to grab the apparition, but it vanished as soon as she touched it. There was another giggle.

Rei curled up and put her hands on her head. "This isn't real. It is not talking to me. I'm not going insane." She ground out through clenched teeth, and closed her eyes. "It's not real."

On her wrist, the clock steadily counted down towards zero.


Settling In

Rei ran, gasping for breath as the dark green monstrosity dogged her every step. It seemed that no matter how fast she ran it would always be there, not six feet behind her, walking. Implacable.

It stared at her with the beaked bone mask it called a face, then blinked and stared through her soul. And Rei screamed as it reached for her, knowing she had dawdled too long. Her arms felt incredibly heavy, and she could not move them.

And then a gem on its hand lit up and she screamed again as she knew what was about to come. Searing, blinding-

Rei's eyes snapped open, a scream not-quite wrenching itself from her body, and after a minute of terrified shivering she sat up, trying to calm the hammering of her heart and slow down her breathing. Sweat dripped off her forehead and her sheets were damp from perspiration, even though it was a relatively cool night.

She rubbed at her uncovered eye and found tears there. She wiped them away quickly. A muffled knock came through her door, and she glanced at the illuminated numbers of her bedside clock. Three AM.

"Rei-chan, are you alright?" Misato's sleepy voice came through the door. "Was it another nightmare?"

"I'm… I'm fine…" Rei shouted back after a moment's silence. "Sorry if I woke you up, Misato-san."

She could almost imagine Misato sleepily waving off her apology. "It's okay; I was on my way to the bathroom anyway. Goodnight."

"Goodnight." Rei mumbled, and sighed in relief as she heard Misato's feet thumping along away from her door.

She fell back onto the pillow and stared at her ceiling with one, wishing the nightmares would leave her alone. They'd started the day after she'd woken up, whenever she'd tried to get to sleep. All she'd see when she finally dropped off were variations on the beaked monster attacking her and destroying her eye. She wished she still didn't remember it.

The next day was going to be her first day at school as well.

And training in the use of the Evangelion.

What fun.

School, where no doubt the other kids would be pointing and prodding the new girl and either mocking or worrying about her injuries. All that talking and asking and bothering. No problems there at all. And then there was learning to pilot a two hundred foot tall weapon of death to fight monsters that smashed through tank battalions and shrugged of N2 blasts like a light snowfall. While still injured.

The average day of any fourteen year old Japanese schoolgirl. Poking, prodding and humongous mecha. God, when did my life become an anime?

She opened her eyes again after falling into a doze. She looked at her clock, half past four. She shook her head and stood up. Might as well do something if she couldn't sleep. Cleaning had always calmed her down. The apartment was a mess. Ergo; clean the apartment.

It also really needed to be done. Like, really really needed to be done, and Rei hated mess.

Misato woke up with a snort and sat up groggily; putting aside the bottle she'd been hugging all night. She sniffed; and a delicious smell wafted into her nostrils. Definitely not the normal damp and occasionally rancid smell of her apartment. She took a moment to savour it, before nature called and she stood to her feet shakily. In hindsight, a full bottle of whisky might have been going a tad overboard, especially after six beers.

Not that she'd really have noticed a lesser hangover than this.

Scratching at her stomach sleepily, she opened her door to be greeted by the sight of a clean living room. Not her level of clean – that involved chucking all the rubbish into a bag and maybe lugging it downstairs to where it should have gone a few days earlier. No; this was clean.

Spotlessly clean. Misato blinked and looked at the television stand, which had been dusted. She meandered her way into the kitchen, not noticing Rei at the oven, heading straight for the toilet. After stepping back out, she regarded the teen in front of her. Was the girl wearing an apron?

"Mornin' Rei-chan." She yawned, putting a hand over her mouth.

Rei didn't notice her at first; absorbed in the cooking as she was, so Misato simply chose to sit down at the table (also scrubbed, wiped down, dusted and even slightly polished. How long had Rei been at this?).

Rei turned around as the Captain sat down and gave a start.

"Oh, Misato-san. I didn't hear you there. Good morning." She said politely, and turned back to the stove where she was busy preparing breakfast. Misato blinked as Rei finished the cooking quickly and placed a bowl and plate next to her.

"I'm sorry if I'm imposing, with the cooking and cleaning… I just… couldn't sleep and the apartment was so messy…" That and whatever you cook turns inexplicably to poison.

"It's fine, Rei-chan. I appreciate the help." Misato took a bite of her food, cautiously, and then brightened up. "This is delicious, Rei-chan! Where did you learn to cook like this?"

Rei took off her apron and hung it up before sitting at the table herself and starting on her own breakfast. She paused.

"Um, cook books mostly. When I was little, I lived with a teacher. He wasn't very good at looking after himself or me, so I had to learn. That and Auntie Naoko and Uncle Daisuke aren't very good at cooking either."

"I see…" Misato said, looking thoughtful. "Well, this is excellent."

Rei hummed noncommittally. "It's okay. A little spicy for my tastes and I burned the fish a bit."

Misato shrugged and carried on eating. After she'd finished, she went into her room and then the shower room, just as Rei walked out.

She was somewhat taken aback by the fact that Rei was actually wearing the girls' uniform for the Tokyo-3 First Municipal Junior High School, rather than the somewhat more casual boys' uniform. Since she'd moved in a few days previously, Rei had favoured trousers and a shirt in general to be about the house. Misato also knew, from helping to unpack Rei's clothes that the girl owned no skirts, apart from the charcoal grey one she had been given when discharged from the hospital and the standard girls' school uniform.

Even her underwear was plain and boring. There was so little to tease the girl about except for her overwhelming seriousness.

Well, there may have been one thing…

She grinned mischievously and ruffled Rei's hair, the girl only twitching slightly.

"Well, don't you look all nice and spruced up!" Misato cooed, knowing this was a surefire way to tease the girl. "We'll be prising the boys off you with a crowbar before the day is done."

Rei went red but also gave her a venomous glare, the effect being somewhat hampered by the eyepatch covering her right eye.


Insitutionalised

Rei stared at the Tokyo-3 First Municipal High School building in front of her and sighed. She'd ignored any other children en route, uncomfortably aware of the stares people had thrown her for the injuries she had.

The building itself was uniformly grey, and looked almost exactly like every school building she'd ever seen before. Boring, drab and more reminiscent of a cellblock where they kept prisoners than a place where children would gather to learn.

Everywhere children her age were laughing and joking; hanging out with each other. That had always been something she'd felt separated from – she'd never really been able to bond with anyone – barring Chihiro, but then again, Chihiro was all the way back in Tokyo-2. And probably causing trouble for whichever girl she had latched onto this time.

Rei smiled to herself at that thought.

Maybe she'd make some new friends here, maybe she wouldn't. Life wouldn't be much different – all there was, it seemed, was to simply exist. Which was fine for Rei. Existing was easier than living. People didn't bother you if you didn't bother them.

Rei finally found her classroom, limping slightly as she walked, and cursed for the fifth time that day the lack of depth perception caused by the damage to her right eye as she banged her shins yet again.

She put a hand out on the doorframe to steady herself and winced again at the twinge that ran up her arm. She checked the splint and found it intact, and nodded, before walking into the classroom. She was wandering up to a freckle-faced girl with pigtails who looked like she was in charge when she caught the mutterings rippling across the room.

"Hey look, Ayanami finally stopped dying her hair blue."

"Woah, who's that?"

"Didn't know Ayanami had a sister."

Rei shook her head and approached the Class Representative.

"Oh, good morning, Ayanami-san! I thought you were…" The pigtailed girl put her hand to her mouth. "Oh, you're not Ayanami. I'm sorry." Rei shook her head and resolved that she needed a haircut.

"My name's Rei Ikari. I'm…"

"The new transfer student?" the girl almost squealed causing more people to stare at Rei. She closed her eyes for a moment and tried to ignore them. "Oh, it's so nice to have someone transfer in for a change! I'm Hikari Horaki, the class representative. If you need any help, just come to me, okay?"

"Uh… Sure. Where shall I sit?"

"I'm afraid the only seat is near the back, near to Aida-kun, Suzuhara-kun and Nagisa-kun." Hikari indicated where there were two people sat; a boy who looked something of a jock, in his tracksuit, and another who was at that moment moving a model of one of those JSSDF VTOLS, making noises like a child and filming it to boot. The other desk was empty, and was right behind the one Hikari had indicated.

"Thanks, Horaki-san." Rei gave a short bow, and winced at her bruises giving a twinge. Those felt like new ones on her back, or at least ones she'd not noticed yet.

"No problem. I'll have the teacher introduce you when he gets in. Why don't you go and sit down, Ikari-san? Those injuries look painful. I'll call you up when the teacher arrives to introduce yourself."

"I will, thank you." Rei could feel Hikari's stare lingering on the bandages and eyepatch, but gave a small smile to the class-rep and proceeded down to the seat she'd been pointed to, bowing once to Aida and Suzuhara –though they didn't notice- and then sitting down and slumping over, resting her head on the desk. She sighed in pleasure as she closed her eyes and shut everything else out.

"Good morning." A voice startled her out of her reverie, and she turned idly on the desk so she could see the door, where an odd looking boy was smiling at everyone. "Good morning, Class Representative Horaki-san."

"Good morning, Nagisa-kun." Hikari said cordially. The boy walked down the rows of desks, smiling and nodding at everyone as he walked. Rei watched him with vague interest; not because he was good looking - which he was, she grudgingly accepted - but because he had hair that was white, and red eyes. Almost like that other girl; the one with her name.

This one looked just about as creepy, perhaps more because of that disturbing smile. It was like he had only ever read about smiling and was trying to mimic it, Rei mused to herself, then shrugged and turned her head back down so she could close her eyes. Not her problem, just someone else to studiously ignore.

"Oh, good morning, you must be new." A voice said near her ear. She cracked her eye open and saw the newcomer smiling his creepy smile at her. Rei grunted sleepily and closed her eye again.

"Morning, Kaworu-kun." Another voice said cheerfully, and the white haired youth responded, seemingly forgetting her. Which was fine by Rei.

The day passed relatively quickly after she'd introduced herself to the class and sat down. Occasionally someone would try to approach her, but after several years of practicing the art of making people keep away from her, Rei was easily able to put them off, diverting unwanted questions with pointed stares and simple ignoring. Except for the Class Rep, who Rei had somewhat moodily decided would generally have to deal with her, so it was probably best not to antagonise the stern looking girl.

Lunchtime was signalled with a ringing bell and a stampede of feet after the Class Rep's 'Stand, Bow, Sit!' routine, and Rei slumped back to her desk after being momentarily roused by the bell.

The teacher was so boring! That, and Rei had been getting so little restful sleep lately she felt like she'd been hung out to dry. She reached into her bag and brought out her small bento and began to pick at it, glowering. This was such a waste of time. She could be playing cello or maybe having training in not getting her ass kicked while fighting monsters in a giant robot.

Well, maybe she wouldn't go that far. School was infinitely better than the terror she still only fuzzily remembered. She closed her eyes and forced the memory back down, only noticing after opening her eyes that she was clutching the bento so tightly in her hands that her knuckles where white.

She sighed and played with the rice a moment before someone cleared their throat, making her jump. She stared up into the freckled face of the Class Rep, who held up a bento of her own.

"Mind if I join you?" She asked, smiling. Rei shrugged.

"Sure." She said after a moment. No sense in annoying the girl.

Hikari smiled and moved her chair over, sitting down. After watching the transfer student brush off nearly every question or social interaction with at best blatant ignorance, and at worst angry loudness, this was surprisingly good. Hikari took her duties seriously, and making sure everybody in the class was doing fine was one of the unofficial duties she had taken upon herself to perform. Getting to know new students until they managed to find themselves a group of friends was one of the things she tried to do these days.

She opened her own bento and started eating, pausing in between mouthfuls to speak to Rei.

"Well, Ikari-san, how are you enjoying you first day?" She smiled. Rei shrugged and picked some more at her food, absently scratching around the patched eye. There were thin white scars running like cracks from it, as if something had neatly sliced it out.

"It's school." Rei said after a few moments silence. "Same sh-," Swearing in front of the Class Rep was probably not a good idea, "stuff different day. Except for the boredom. My old school had an interesting teacher at least."

Hikari nodded. "Well, in the morning he doesn't seem to wake up. Hopefully this afternoon there'll be more interesting things going on."

Rei nodded and picked at her food some more. An awkward silence descended on the two of them until Hikari spoke again.

"Ah… Ikari-san?"

"Yes?"

"W-well, I was, ah, wondering…" She halted a second, hoping this wouldn't drive Rei away. "H-how did you-"

"Get these injuries?" Rei finished in an annoyed voice. Hikari nodded apprehensively. Rei put her chopsticks down on the table and closed her eyes, obviously fighting something unpleasant in her head. "In the attack a week and a bit ago." She said shortly, after a minute or so.

"Oh, I'm sorry if I was intruding…" Hikari began, but Rei cut her off.

"No, I'm just annoyed that everyone is asking about them. It's none of their business." She shrugged. "But you're class rep, and it is your business to know the state of people in the class."

"Is your eye… um… gone?" Hikari asked, looking at the patch. Rei shook her head.

"No, it was hurt in the attack. The doctors said it just needed time to heal."

"Oh, that must be a relief." Hikari said with a smile. Rei shrugged again.

"I'll be glad to have proper depth perception again. Otherwise it doesn't really bother me, except that the patch is itchy."

Hikari nodded uncertainly, and Rei seemed to go back into her shell. She cleared her throat again and the short-haired girl looked at her quizzically.

"Ah… Are you related to an Ayanami Rei-san at all?" She asked. Rei looked confused.

"Who?"

"Ayanami Rei-san. She's in this class. You look a lot like her, you know. Are you cousins?"

Rei blinked and then remembered back to the day she'd arrived in Tokyo-3. "About the same height as me? Blue hair, red eyes?" Hikari nodded. "No, I'm not related to her. I don't even know anything about her. I've seen her once."

Her fists clenched. That poor girl had been sent out by her father to pilot that… thing, and most likely die. If she had hated her father before, she loathed him now.

Hikari noticed this and looked worried. "Ah, she didn't do anything… um… strange… did she?"

Rei looked at her hands, surprised. She shook her head. "Oh… no. No she didn't. It was something else I was annoyed about. Never mind." Rei stopped. She'd already decided not to tell anyone that she was a pilot. It would focus too much attention on her, and that was the last thing she needed.

Hikari knew when not to press onwards and nodded, smiling. "Well, she is a little strange, but I think she's a good person at heart. Just… different. You'll see when she comes to class."

Rei shrugged. "Maybe."

Of course, just like her life seemed to have taken a turn into anime somewhere in the last week, did the attitudes of her class devolve into such.

The lesson was actually interesting in the afternoon, being taken by a different teacher, and she was almost beginning to enjoy it when a message box appeared on the laptop Misato had thrust into her hands the other day for school. Apparently the other Pilot had one as well, markedly different inside, yet outwardly the same as the ones the others in the class had been furnished with for school.

The message box simply read "Are you the pilot of that robot?". Rei scowled. Who in their right mind would think that a fourteen-year-old girl was the pilot of some humongous mecha? She took a surreptitious glance around the room. It could have been the military otaku, he seemed he sort to think fantasy ideas turned out well in reality.

She sighed and entered a simple "NO." in the reply box. Surprisingly, the entire class seemed to give an odd noise of acknowledgement, and Rei ground her teeth in frustration. The idiot was trying to get her to confess in front of the entire class. Fuck that.

She stuck another reply in the box. "Why the hell would you even think that?"

Turning her attention back to the teacher, Rei wasn't surprised to see no response to her message pop up for the rest of the class. So much for them thinking life imitated anime. At least the harshness of her reply and her general standoffishness would stop them from bothering her from now on. The boys wouldn't see her as some kind of lust-object like they seemed to enjoy doing here to every other girl, and she'd made it quite clear she wasn't interested in playing the social hierarchy games the other girls seemed to love.

She was even in a vaguely good mood as she began walking towards the school gate, book bag held onto one shoulder. She should have known it wouldn't last.

"Hello." An oddly agreeable voice spoke in Rei's ear. She jumped and twirled to see the boy with red eyes and white hair from class smiling in a friendly way at her, far too close for her liking. It would have been a nice smile if he hadn't been wearing it for the entire time that she'd seen him about during the day. How on earth did someone manage to get a smile so wrong?

"Hello." Rei said coldly. "What do you want?"

"I'm Kaworu Nagisa." The youth said, still smiling, seemingly unfazed by her attitude. The others behind him –Suzuhara-the-jock and Aida-the-nerd, she mentally noted- shook their heads as if disbelieving their friend's idiocy. "Who are you?"

Rei considered him for a second. "Rei Ikari." She eventually ground out.

"I'm very pleased to meet you." His grin widened, if that was possible. "We should be friends."

"Why?" Rei asked, starting to look annoyed. Kaworu shrugged. It seemed to be an oddly practiced gesture. Too perfect a shrug to be otherwise.

"Well, because." He laughed, and like everything else the boy seemed to do, it seemed fake, hollow. Rei twitched.

"Right. Whatever. I don't have time to deal with…" She turned around, but was grabbed from behind in a sudden hug by a grinning Kaworu. "…You?"

He was still smiling when they pulled him out of the nearby bush. No one could quite figure out where she'd learned to throw like that, but it had been impressive. Touji brushed him down.

"You okay dude?" He asked. "Sorry, she seems like a real bitch."

Kaworu's grin grew even wider.

"I like her." He said. "She's going to be fun." Then his smile dropped. "There is something… wrong about her, though." He mused. "Gender for a start…"

Touji and Kensuke looked at one another as Kaworu seemed to slip into another language that Kensuke recognised as German.


Rei's bad mood lasted all the way home and for most of the time she spent limping towards NERV HQ. "Stupid fake smiling idiot grabbing me." She grumbled under her breath and winced as her arms and legs still felt sore - she hadn't meant to throw him so far, he was far too light for his size. Still, judo-throwing someone bigger than you as a bit of a strain on a good day, on an injured arm and leg, well.

At least Uncle Kozo let me have a good instructor.

Getting lost for the fifth time that day in the maze that was the HQ, she finally found her way to where Misato and Doctor Akagi were waiting. Rei strode into the room and stared at them for a moment, still visibly riled up.

"Good evening Rei-chan! How was your first day at school?" Misato beamed. Rei sat down nearby with a 'humph'. Doctor Akagi raised her eyebrow.

"It's nice to see you two are getting along so famously." She commented idly, receiving a glare from both parties involved. "Still, now you're here Rei, we can start training you in the use of your Evangelion, and start building your synchronisation score up."

"Okay." Rei nodded. "How do we do that?"

Doctor Akagi raised an eyebrow. "Interesting. I'd have thought you reluctant to even step into an Evangelion, given how badly the first battle went."

Rei looked down. She tried to say something, but couldn't. Eventually she gave up and looked back at the doctor. "I have no choice, Doctor Akagi." She said coldly. "My father and you have seen to that."

Misato blinked at Rei's tone and then put a hand on the girl's shoulder. "It'll be okay, Rei-chan. You'll have backup when we can get Unit Zero working, or Unit Two transferred from Germany. It's… not quite finished yet, though."

Rei shrugged. "Can we get this over with as soon as possible, then? I'd rather not suck as badly as I did in that fight if I have to do it again."


A/N: Ugh. I'm sorry this took so long to get up, and that it's so short. This chapter really kicked my rear, and real life intervened and everything kinda just went explodey for a while. Hopefully next chapter will be along soon, and longer/higher quality. It'll also involve the Shamshel fight, which is going to be more visceral than the series' one. That's a promise.

~Myriad