Timelining: This is an AU (Alternate Universe) fanfic however things are more or less the same up to Genesis 0:7. These events are set somewhere between Episode 14 and the beginning of Episode 17 (Genesis 0:9); alas I cannot be more precise than that at this time. All you need know is that the Evangelions have just fought an Angel not seen in the series and won - just...
I don't own Neon Genesis Evangelion. Why do people keep asking me dumb questions like this? I'm just a student, like I own anything!
[Arc 1: A Change of Perspective]
Part 1: The Ties That Bind
"The harvest is the end
of the world; and the reapers are the angels."
~ Matthew 13:39 ~
"Ikari. You look even more troubled than usual." Kozo Fuyutski said aloud as he entered his fellow Commander's office, Gendo Ikari did not budge from his customary position of leaning on his hands and elbows. Fuyutski continued to walk over to the window to look down onto one of the Eva catapults where new circuits and route channels were being installed. A quick glance behind him showed that Gendo's face showed a mixture of fear, hatred and anger though only Fuyutski would have been aware of such changes for they were so small and he knew Gendo so well.
"I have just finished my disciplinary talk with the pilot of Unit One." Commander Ikari announced, "It took some time to... relay my feelings towards his actions."
"So you chewed him out good."
"On the contrary I gave him some advice."
"I doubt that somehow." Fuyutski did not approve of the way the Commander treated his son, knowing his mother Yui so well. He knew it would have broken her heart to see the strain between Shinji and her husband.
"He is my son, he should learn from his mistakes." The older man had to stop himself from scoffing.
"He won't take any notice of you Ikari, not anymore."
"I am his father." Commander Ikari separated his hands and adjusted his glasses, just pushing them slightly further up his nose. The lenses shimmered in the light from the numerous small bulbs dotted around the ceiling and floor. He appeared to be brooding over something; something Fuyutski knew all to well.
"You aren't worried about Shinji are you Gendo? You're worried about the implifications for Rei and that's precisely why he won't take any notice of you. You have pushed him too far, hoping he would push back."
"He needs to learn strength."
"He needs a family."
"That is what Major Katsuragi is for."
"She was here as well?"
"Yes she was." Commander Ikari swivelled in his large chair to face his fellow Commander, "She understood my reasons and happened to agree with me, unlike you it seems. His weakness could have cost us dearly today; he will be receiving further disciplinary action from the Major and myself at a later date. His assignment status is also under review by the Committee."
"I see." Fuyutski sighed, "All you are teaching him Gendo is that he is alone, one day he will take no more and push back. When he does, and it is a when for he keeps so much inside more than a grown man could possibly contain, he might become more powerful than you can cope with. Whether he snaps before he pushes back or not will decide this."
"You seem very opinionated today Kozo Fuyutski."
"You are worried that Rei's bond to him will exceed that bond from her to you." Gendo's eyes narrowed, a sign that Kozo knew meant he had hit the nail on the head.
"You came to see me for some reason other than lecturing me Proffessor, I suggest you tell me your news."
"Repairs to Eva Unit One are on schedule, the strengthening of armour plate 18 is almost completed and Dr Akagi requests a meeting with you to discuss Unit Zero's enhancements and the situation regarding the MAGI at your convenience."
"I will go and see her now. Let me know on the com if there is any change in the repair status of Eva 01." Commander Ikari got up and left the office, Fuyutski could only shake his head as he left.
"You are still too concerned with protecting her and keeping her for yourself. I know these deceptions of your son are necessary Ikari, but that doesn't mean you have to enjoy them..."
"You know something First Child?" Asuka Langley Sohryu and pilot of the Eva Unit 02 said loudly, "One of these days Shinji is going to learn that I'm always right." She didn't expect a reaction from Rei, although it would be nice to get one once in a while. Rei continued to walk, hands clasped in front of her seemingly blissfully unaware of Asuka's presence and if there was one thing that annoyed Asuka is was people not acknowledging her existence. That after all was her raison d'etre, her reason to be, her role in life - why she piloted an Eva. She growled and continued talking, "I told him to use the rifle, but oh no he had to use the Progressive Knife. Eva 01 gets impaled on the Angel's tendril and it's going to be out of action for some time, jeez I've never seen Misato and Commander Ikari so steamed!"
"He was successful." Was all Rei said, her gaze never shifting from the end of the corridor, Asuka beamed.
"My word the most serene girl in the world speaks." Asuka laughed, yet Rei's face was still emotionless - her immovable, unwavering mask. Both were still wearing their plug suits, Asuka scratched her left forearm. "I sooo need a shower. The way these things cling to you it gets so sweaty and then this latexy stuff starts to itch. Yeah, that's right a long.... long shower."
"Water is agreeable." Rei nodded, not missing a stride. "And Shinji was successful."
"Shinji's method may have caused damage to Unit 01-"
"A lot of damage!" Asuka interrupted,
"- And even to him, but the end result is that the Angel was defeated. It is our purpose to defeat the Angels. Shinji did just that."
"Yeah but he's not supposed to get his Eva skewered now is he? I mean that's just stupid."
"In the end all that matters is that we were successful. Nothing else means anything." Rei's voice was pure monotone; there was no warmth in her words. No emotion. She seemed to speak in statements never giving an opinion on what she was saying - just saying it.
"Now listen here Wonder girl..."
"I will change and see you in the debriefing room at the appointed time." Rei suddenly did a ninety-degree turn to the right and disappeared into a changing cubicle never breaking stride or stance walking at exactly the same speed. Asuka raised an arm, pointing her index finger outwards at Rei as though about to say something but she was gone, the door closing silently behind her. Asuka's eyes narrowed and went off to find another cubicle. Eventually she found one nestling in a secluded corridor of the NERV complex, why they had not thought to have a large changing room in specific part of the base Asuka wasn't sure but it would be a lot easier than having to walk all over the place to find the individual rooms and hope one was available. Of course there was one that she and Rei used before the 'remodelling work' to the interior of the base, rooms were changed and more offices and labs were created out of the old offices, labs AND changing facilities. Their plug suits were now kept with the Eva's in a separate part of the cage. It seemed rather daft to move something that was essential as she saw it, to the pilots of the Evangelions.
The shower water was hot and wonderfully refreshing, soothing out numerous aches and pains from her muscles. She sighed contentedly and applied an extremely generous amount of shampoo to her silky smooth hair. The previous battle had been long, longer than anyone had expected. Asuka frowned remembering when her Eva had it's external power cable sliced, her battery had run flat not long afterwards and it had been up to Shinji to rescue her - again. She scowled, then wondered why Rei had not mentioned that fact, if it had been the other way around Asuka would have mentioned it at least five times by now. She stopped lathering her hair and pursed her lips together, why did thinking of Rei make her feel so insecure, so negative about herself? She tried to concentrate on remembering the battle; she remembered the howl of pain and determination as the tendril pierced Unit 01. Where had she been when that happened? Eva 02 was slumped against the remains of a building but Unit 01 was... right in front of her. She gasped, inadvertently letting some soap suds get into her mouth, which she coughed and spat out. The tendril had been meant for her, in fact judging by the position her Eva was and where Shinji's Eva was impaled if it had connected with her. She swallowed; it would have hit her entry plug dead on.
She changed, rather disturbed by her realisation and made her way swiftly to the debriefing room.
She arrived to find Rei already there, not in her school uniform as usual but a cream coloured blouse and pale blue trousers. She blinked at the transformation and wondered what had brought it about, this train of thought was derailed by Misato's entrance to the room. She sat down on the largest and most grandiose chair and beckoned the two Eva pilots to do the same on the nearby smaller pieces of furniture. Misato closed her eyes and brought her palms together in front of her, the fingers opening to their full span. Her chin nestled in the crook between her thumbs and index fingers while her elbows rested on the dark polished table.
"Now we're all here it's best we begin swiftly." Major Katsuragi began, obviously keen to get on with business.
"Where is Shinji?" The voice was Rei's surprising both Misato and Asuka. Rei's eyes seemed to hold a vague glimmer of concern, something that Asuka couldn't help staring at. She was right. Shinji was not there. He was never late, the only times he was late was when he had run away and then obviously he hadn't shown up at all.
"Shinji will not be present at this meeting."
"Why?" Asuka asked in a slightly whining voice, Misato didn't answer. "Where is he Misato?"
"I do not believe you." Asuka looked at Rei as though she had grown an extra head, she was questioning Misato's statement - accusing her of lying. She didn't believe her either, and she could have sworn Rei had glanced over at her to see her reaction. But to actually accuse Misato of lying... This was REI we were talking about here.
"Neither do I." Asuka suddenly announced, not realising what she was saying until she had actually spoken the words. She looked over at Rei and nodded at her, Misato flexed her hands against each other, the fingertips touching their opposites.
"That is all you need know." Misato said, sidestepping the distrust. "The meeting is to do with the two of you... and... him."
"Well that's a shock." Asuka snorted, "We after all being the only three Eva pilots."
"That's not what I meant." Misato said. It was clear from the look on her face that she was not looking forward to this conversation, whatever it was. "You might have wondered why it was exactly that the Commander Ikari and I dressed him down today." Misato got up from the chair and began to pace, she flicked a strand of hair away from her face with a hand and grimaced. She paused and looked over at the two Eva pilots who exchanged glances with each other, Misato sighed. "The reason he was disciplined was because he got his priorities wrong."
"He got his priorities wrong? Ha! I knew it, it's because he should have used the rifle like I told him to isn't it." Asuka smiled smugly, "So the awe inspiring Third Child got it wrong - big deal."
"No. Not exactly."
"What do you mean?" Asuka leant forward to the jug of water and poured a glass, she poured some for Rei and Misato as well. Whether or not the pilot of Eva 00 would drink it didn't matter, Misato walked around to her glass and picked it up, downing the liquid in one. Rei was eying up the contents of her glass but did not take it, Asuka looked at the concerned face of her guardian. "It's not about the rifle is it?"
"Then what is it about?"
"As I said - priorities." Misato was beginning to wish she had one of her beers with her; Rei looked at her impassively and yet still managed to convey some kind of distrust. She seemed to know where Misato was going with this 'meeting', Asuka was beginning to look impatient.
"Just give us a straight answer Misato."
"It is to do with Shinji's actions in the battle today, more specifically his responsibilities as an Eva pilot." Misato walked over to the window and pulled down a segment of the horizontal blinds. The chink of light exposed a number of engineers boarding one of the NERV subway trains to the EVA chambers, presumably to begin repairs to Unit 01. Another row of windows opposite her revealed the Commander in deep thought studying some kind of schematic; he barked an order down the intercom and looked over for a second in Misato's direction. Not that he could see her of course.
"What is the main responsibility of the Eva pilot?"
"To defeat the Angels and protect Mankind from a possible Third Impact." Rei said on cue, the metal blind returned to its previous position with a clink.
"Hellooooo?" Asuka waved a hand at the Major, "That's what we did. That's what we do."
"Shinji did not follow that responsibility today."
"Excuse me? He knifed the Angel, Angel go boom, Tokyo-3 no go bye-bye." Asuka snarled. It was one thing for her to belittle Shinji that after all was her. It was another for Misato of all people to accuse him of not fulfilling his duty as a pilot when he had clearly just saved the day! Despite her shirgrin at not being the hero of the hour she wouldn't stand for it!
"His priority out there today may have started with killing the Angel, but it shifted half way through the battle." That beer was looking better all the time.
"What to?" Asuka asked puzzled, Rei looked down at the glass again and wrapped a hand around it, just holding it, not raising it from the table. The major paused, not quite sure how to phrase it, thankfully for her Rei answered.
"It changed to protecting us."
"What?!" Asuka screamed, "You chewed him out because he saved me?"
"He protected both of us." Rei said, lifting the glass cautiously, as though it might bite her if she raised it too fast.
"Did I miss something?" Asuka asked her, "When did he save you First Child?"
"You weren't conscious for the whole of the fight after Unit 02 was neutralised."
"I... wasn't?" She saw no reason for Rei to lie, and Misato wasn't correcting her. "Then what happened to you?"
Rei lowered the glass back down onto the table, and without saying anything got up and left the debriefing room.
"Rei?" Asuka called out after her, the blue haired girl paused in her stride but only for a second. Asuka rarely called her by her name except when issuing or assigning orders in the Eva. The door swung to and Rei was gone for the second time that afternoon. "What the-" Asuka began, but Misato pulled a chip out of her pocket and placed it on the table in front of her.
"Watch it." Was all she said, and then she left as well.[Practical Impracticalities]
The music from the piano was heavenly.
Rei couldn't remember anyone ever saying to her about a piano in the social area, being a bar and impractical for her she avoided it. After all it did not accomplish anything that would help her and her Evangelion unit, nor did it or would it help her physically. She could cope without it therefore she need not rely upon it, that was the way she saw things. It was purely by chance that she had been walking past the door when she had noticed the sound coming from inside. Baring in mind the majority of NERV personnel had left to go home, and that the sign clearly read 'Closed' she had decided to investigate. The bar was supposed to be empty - it clearly was not. Rei tentatively moved forward, wondering who could be making such marvellous music. It was a strange piece, compellingly soft yet with an amazing power behind it that seemed to contradict the melody. Yet the piece was perfect, Rei closed her eyes and allowed herself to take in fully the wondrousness of it all. She could see a field of green grass, a clear blue sky and a crystal clear lake - she had never seen this place before and yet she could make out every texture, every smell like she was really there.
The birds flew in the sky, a light breeze blowed through her hair making it bob and bounce. Everything here was at peace. Then the music began to get more deep and booming, flats and low notes giving a sense of power, of the sky clouding over and growing dark and yet Rei still felt at peace for the underlying refrain remained. It seemed so sad when once before it was happy, whoever it was that was playing they seemed to portrait a lot of warmth and yet a lot of sadness and pain. It was all most confusing to her.
Suddenly the piece began to slow down, getting quieter and quieter. More subdued and gentle notes were played, sharps mixed in with the occasional flat to add a dramatic tinge to it. The clouds cleared to show it was now night, the full moon and the stars lighting up the sky, fireflies danced in the moonbeams. Rei opened her eyes finding herself back in the bar and moved forward again, seeking out the piano player whoever it was. She needed to know. Maybe it was Dr Akagi, it made sense, she was a doctor - quite intelligent in human terms. Naturally someone that smart could play an instrument. She was surprised however as the last few magical bars faded away to be looking at the back of a fourteen-year-old boy in a white shirt and a somewhat wet mop of brown hair.
It appeared Shinji had not long come out of the shower, or it had been raining outside. The music finally finished and she actually sighed in disappointment, she'd never heard such beautiful music. Speaking of music, where was the music? Rei looked at the stand to see there was none, for such a piece to be played from memory was quite a feat baring in mind how complex it was. There were so many notes and changes in speed even she probably could not have performed it, not that she actually knew how to play the piano but then it wasn't necessary to her life. Or was it?
Rei doubted that anyone knew Shinji could play the piano, not even his father Commander Ikari. She knew he played one other instrument though she was so caught up with the music still she couldn't remember it's name. It certainly wasn't this one. Rei opened her mouth to speak but found she didn't know what to say as the Third Child stood up from the piano stool. Shinji gathered his things and walked out of the room by the opposite entrance that Rei had entered, apparently not noticing her. She stepped forward and looked at the piano keyboard, then slowly she closed the lid, letting her hand brush against the smooth mahogany wood. Shinji always seemed... emotional to her, to everyone, and yet he never seemed to let those emotions out. He kept everything in, restricting his feelings, his anger, his pain. Yet here in this room she had just born witness to him perform a piece of music that was simply breathtaking - she didn't know what to make of it.
Alas the questions that now plagued her would have to wait until tomorrow, or whenever she next saw him so she left for home also.
To Be Continued...