Standard Disclaimer

Well here is one of two new stories I'm starting. Still debating on either an OMG or Love Hina for the next. Have to love the start of a new story…so many venues and options to go. Hope you enjoy. Pool is in full swing and loving it.


With Nothing Else

Chapter – 1

He saw her in pain, and he piloted. He saw her recovering alone, and he felt sorry for her. He questioned her, and she hit him. He walked in on her, and he tasted his first glimpse of sexuality. She protected him, she smiled, and he cried. All these little glimpses of his time with the enigmatic Ayanami Rei wafted through Shinji's mind as he cooked breakfast. The battle with the Fifth angel had been just under a week ago, and the strange girl was going to start attending school again starting today. Shinji wanted to thank her, show she wasn't alone out there in this cruel world.

"Wonder if she'll like any of the food I'm making?" he wondered as he sampled the miso. More courageous boys might try talking to the girl, ask to take her someplace to have fun, nothing romantic but something. Shinji was not brave, found no point in being brave when it wasn't life or death. Bravery just got one hurt, Eva was proof enough of that. But a lunch box, some small and simple, how could that go wrong? Loading not only his box with various foods but a spare for Rei as well, Shinji didn't know what to make of the girl. Piling two plates for breakfast, Misato was due to be up any moment, "Maybe I should try talking to her. Apologize again for that whole mess." He flexed his hands, she had been so warm and soft.

Shuffling into the kitchen, her blanket wrapped around her shoulders like a robe, Misato's disheveled hair and body collapsed into a chair. Blindly groping for the can of beer Shinji was smart enough to leave out, she found it and pressed it to her head. "Oh god I went too far last night. Shinji-kun, never let me make ramen with vodka again. Tasted great but paying for it now," she moaned eyes closed against the can. Feebly popping the top, Misato sipped first then grew into a chug.

"I warned you about it, but you didn't listen," Shinji scolded his superior officer. How Misato thought alcohol was to be used for cooking was unintelligible. He had tried talking her down, but Misato just waved him off and ate it. Had Misato not told Shinji of Rei's release from the recovery ward he might have tried harder to stop her. Setting some toast alongside the breakfast, he waved his spatula at her, "Eat the toast first and try to have some water too. Medication is by it. Do you work today?" He was quickly mastering his role as Misato's support and caretaker outside of Nerv.

Finding the packet of hangover medicine without looking, Misato tore it open and downed it with Yebisu. She didn't even notice the irony. Casting off the blanket, Misato sat in her morning/relaxation clothing with a much recovered veneer. "That hits the spot, thank god for you Shinji-kun," Misato relaxed in her chair. Picking at her food, sniffing the offering like a dog, Misato nodded before digging in. "Little extravagant for breakfast isn't it? It your birthday or something?" she said with a small hint of fear.

Having a nice cup of tea with his breakfast, Shinji sipped it and found it still a little too hot for his liking. Knowing he was in for teasing, Shinji just bit the bullet and confessed. "I made a welcome back lunch for Ayanami-san, and this is the left overs," he gestured to the plates. So how would Misato take it? Tease him about trying to get with Ayanami, being a 'smooth player', or something else. He could feel himself breathing faster in anticipation of her assault. "I never see her eat anything other than store bread, thought it'd be nice. She did get hurt protecting me," he justified to lessen the blow.

With her chopsticks in her mouth, Misato's lips curled up into a wicked grin as Shinji expected. Chewing slowly, creating a real willy of a retort, Misato washed her mouthful down with some water. "So you do have a thing for Ayanami! I thought you did by how you looked at that card. And Ritsuko thought you were just curious. I knew it! Going to have a nice romantic lunch with your girlfriend, find a big bush or a supply closet maybe to see how she's recovered?" Misato wiggled her can at him. Just as somebody who owns a cat can tell when they're about to attack, Shinji winced as Misato suddenly leapt into action. Standing up so fast she sent her chair flying back, Misato's hand grabbed and rubbed the top of Shinji's head, "That's so passionate!"

Giggling despite himself, Shinji fought fruitlessly to knock Misato's hand off his head. As much as it terrified him to live with Misato, he couldn't lie and say he didn't enjoy it. It would end in pain, he knew, Misato's affection was likely fake. But for now, he'd lie to himself and think she cared. "Misato-san, it's not like that!" he cried out and finally got out of her range. When she sat back down so did he. Fixing his shirt, ruffled in the assault, he found Misato eying him expectantly. Grumbling yet smiling, "I just feel bad for her. She's always alone at school, eats poorly, and I-I want to get to know her better."

"So it's not ALL selfless after all. You do have thoughts like that about girls," Misato slurped up more food. A drizzle of sauce trickled down her chin and stained her green tank-top and made it semi-transparent. Reclining in her seat, an all-knowing smile crested her features, she waggled a finger at him. "Now don't push her to fast or hard, Shinji-kun. Girls like her are often delicate or man eaters. And if she did turn out to be the latter, she might hurt herself going after you so quick after recovery," she sounded as if she spoke from experience.

Blushing as the memory of having Rei underneath him came to mind, Shinji's head went light. Banishing that thought to the abyss of his mind, Shinji sagely kept quiet and ate his breakfast. Taking the bait would only make things worse. Thankfully Misato filled the air with inane banter about her work the previous night. She had spent most of the night with Akagi going over repair requests for Unit-00. "Think I should make Akagi-san a lunch too? You don't eat well unless I do, think she'd benefit too?" he collected the empty plates.

"If it's not any more work for you I'm sure she'd enjoy it. She's more a cigarette and vending machine junk food woman if left alone," Misato got out of her seat and picked up her discarded sheet. Folding the cloth she set it where her food had been. "Seriously of the guys at work knew she was such an oddball they'd not be as afraid of her as they are. Ticks me off, them being so…put off by her," Misato polished off her can. Smashing the can against her head, she tossed it into the garbage and snapped her fingers. "Don't be like them, Shinji-kun, don't judge on outer appearance," she sounded softer if not bitter.

He'd not judge people anyway, not until he interacted with them. Which was why Rei was such a conundrum to him as she was a mix of good and bad without reason. "I'll try Misato-san. As for lunches, it wouldn't be a big deal to make a little more. And I won't judge, Akagi-san is nice enough when she visits you," he fibbed a little. Ritsuko was intimidating! She was beautiful, stoic, yet came off as cold and cynical, but he hardly knew her outside of Eva. Eva had the nasty habit of casting most things in Shinji's life in a negative light. Checking the wall clock after he set the dishes in the sink, "I better get going or I'll be late. Can I trust you to finish these?" He knew he'd have dishes to finish when he got back.

Heading towards the bathroom, Misato paused mid-stride and slowly swiveled towards the sink. "Sure I will, Shin-chan, you can count on me," she couldn't fool anybody. Whenever she called him 'chan' it meant she wanted something. Either she wanted to tease him, get him to do something for her, or in this case avoid chores. Walking into the bathroom she shut the door, "I might try and get Ritsuko to come over for supper again. She needs to get out more. Oh and Shinji…"

Taking the bait in a moment of forgetfulness, Shinji found himself turning towards the bathroom door. "What is it Misa-MISATO-SAN! Don't do that!" Shinji yelped and spun away from her almost fast enough to trip. She had a towel around her top and tossed her tank-top at him. When it hit the back of his head, it was still warm, still smelled like her! Damn tease, a big reason Shinji never got his hopes up of getting a girlfriend. Women were teases. Grabbing the lunch boxes, he stuffed them into his satchel and rushed off. It wouldn't do him any good to give Misato additional time to mess with him.

It was surprising chill that morning, an evening rain having sapped a lot of the heat. The smell of wet garbage was potent as it was familiar. An old woman wet her sidewalk to let gravity take the dirt down the hill with it. Shinji just walked by all of this and tried to blend in with the scenery. With the other students few and far between, he was an early riser after all, it made it a little difficult. No matter though, nobody tried talking to him just the way he wanted. Why risk further pain, which was what people offered. However as he approached the school a new conundrum entered his mind. How was he to actually give Rei the lunch?

As Shinji was apt to take notice of the activities of others, he knew vaguely of how Rei's mornings went. Only reason he paid attention was to hopefully avoid people, failing that not offend them, but it paid off. Rei, as he believed, was either going to be at her desk already or she wouldn't be showing up after all. That meant he couldn't put the food in her shoe box, she'd never get it. So he had to either hand it to her now or wait until lunch. Best get it done with now so fewer people saw him and got the wrong idea. Last thing he wanted to do was upset Ayanami by creating rumors about them.

"Maybe she won't be here today, Misato-san could be wrong," Shinji almost hoped Misato was. Opening the door, his feet turning to rubber and his chest pounding, Shinji found fate was not offering him an easy way out. There she sat, staring out the window into some gulf of space only she could. The morning light was captured by her hair making it glow slightly. The room had a few others in it as well, two girls and three boys. They saw him enter and went back about their business, all save the class repetitive, she kept an eye on him. Under his breath he prayed, "Let's hope this just goes painlessly."

While Hikari set papers out on students desks, Shinji forced his reluctant body over to Ayanami's desk. Telling himself it was just him trying to thank her, help the girl that had saved him, didn't do his heart any good. Rei was still a girl, and attractive girl, and he was going to interact with her. Never a good thing for Shinji. "A-Ayanami-san, do you have a moment?" he winced at his stupid question. Of course she had time, she was sitting there waiting for school to start, what was he expecting!?

Moving with an unhurried speed, Rei had the apparent air of somebody already expecting the encounter. Her eyes did open just a fraction when she saw who had impeded on her morning ritual. "Ikari-kun, do you require something?" her head tilted to the side akin to a bird. Her rumpled skirt and unkempt hair did more to make her more alive than her emotions. She looked as if she lived a haggard life, had no time for simple matters of cleanliness. Reaching for her phone, she pulled it out and looked at it, "There is no emergency is there?"

Hearing the conversations in the room die down, Rei's comment grabbing there attention, Shinji felt his satchel grow in weight at his side. Lost in those blood red orbs, Shinji found his courage draining into them, she was feeding on his fear. Quickly, before he lost all nerve, Shinji pulled the spare bento out and set it on Rei's desk. "I-I made this for you. A-after you got hurt protecting me…in the last battle, I wanted to do something for you. S-since you only eat store food I-I-I thought maybe you'd like this better," he found he couldn't look at her. Standing at attention, or firing squad, Shinji's mouth dried and his tongue felt to have grown.

Sliding the box over, Rei opened it and examined the contents. She didn't say anything at first, just careful examination followed by the snapping of the plastic lid back down. "It contains meat products. I am a vegetarian. So I will not be able to eat all of it," she said matter of factly. Holding the box back towards Shinji, she lightly touched it into his stomach to get his attention on it. "If you wish to give it to somebody that will eat it all, that is your decision," neither contempt nor warmth came from her only a hint of unease.

Pushing the box back towards her, Shinji sighed in relief. "Eat what you want or can, Ayanami-san. I'll give the left overs to somebody. I made it for you so I'd feel wrong giving it to somebody else. I-if you want a vegetarian meal I could make that tonight," he said to himself yet aloud. He hadn't known she was a vegetarian. Was it tied to her odd skin pigmentation, religious beliefs, or others? Oddly that notion just stuck in his mind as interesting, he'd never meet a vegetarian before.

Putting the lunch in her own satchel, Rei nodded and set her hands crossed on her lap. "As I have no scheduled tests or appointments and have need to confer with Captain Katsuragi, I shall accept. What time would be proper for my arrival?" she asked with fluttering eyes.

"I-uh-wha, sure…four?" Shinji asked completely stunned. Without saying another word, Rei turned away from him and he fled to the safety of his desk. He hadn't meant to extend an offer of supper to Rei, just that he'd make her a vegi lunch that night! But she said she'd come over, she thought he asked her over! While Rei said she wanted to speak to Misato, who knew what evil that would cause. "What do I do now?" Shinji moaned and pressed his head to his desk. He could see them, the other students looking at him and talking behind their hands. Picturing how Misato would take Rei's sudden arrival could go downhill, he missed Touji entering and being summoned by Hikari.

Plopping down, feet up on the desk next to him, Touji thumped his heel loudly. "So Shin-man DOES have eyes for women after all. And to think you said you weren't interested in Ayanami," oh how Touji's voice echoed in the room. That insipid grin was wide and toothy, did Touji not know Rei could hear him? Lacing his fingers behind his head, Touji was oblivious to Shinji's plight, "First day she's back you bring her lunch and ask her out for supper. Can't lie anymore. Guess you do know her better than the rest of us, makes sense you two would hit it off."

Holding his finger before his lips, Shinji hushed Touji vehemently. "Keep your voice down, Touji!" Shinji commanded. Panicking, Shinji saw Rei had in fact heard and was watching them for a moment before going back to her window-watching. Great, just great, now she was going to think he had some ulterior motive! Whispering harshly, "Touji, I just wanted to give her lunch is all. Things got confusing because I was so nervous. I'm not…I want to be her friend. She's always so alone, and I think she deserves better." Even he had his few friends and Misato, why shouldn't Rei have something like that?

"Why not go with it then? I've seen other guys ask her out from other grades, she turns them down. So maybe she has a thing for you instead," Touji wasn't fazed by the news at all. Taking his legs off the desk, Hikari was glaring daggers at him, Touji scooted closer to Shinji. "Tell me the truth though. IF she were interested in ya, you'd go out with her wouldn't ya?" his sidelong grin was infuriating.

It wasn't anything to think about, relationships weren't something he'd have to worry about. Shinji had no desire to open his heart to others, they'd only destroy the fragile organ. Despite his wishes, he found himself looking at that back of Rei's head and the familiar mop of blue hair. "That isn't going to happen, Touji, not at all," noticing their third missing he asked, "you didn't come with Kensuke this morning?"

"That idiot is being used by a bitch of a freshman girl. Bet he thinks the girl would like him or something," Touji picked his nose with his pinky. For the next twenty minutes Touji informed Shinji of Kensuke's relationship with a high school girl by the name Chidori Nagato. Girl grew up living next door to Kensuke and used the geek to her own ends, according to Touji. Fixing her computer, setting up her home entertainment system, and no end of other small school related things. Touji hated Chidori for leading Kensuke along. An attractive older girl could never like a geek like Kensuke, not how Kensuke wanted.

And that was why Shinji was comfortable not thinking about getting into a relationship. He'd just get used and thrown away. Treated like a trophy for being a pilot or something. Maybe Rei would be different, maybe she wouldn't. Best not to think about it, or the other casual gazes he got from the girls in class. Safer to avoid, to ignore it. Eventually Kensuke did arrive and confirmed that Chidori needed help fixing her laptop, to which Touji scoffed. It didn't matter, Shinji was lost in his fears of Ayanami's evening visit now.


Handing over the report on Shinji she forgot was due, Misato felt that little bitter pill of betrayal. He trusted her, she hoped, and was repaid with treachery and lies. Spying, she was spying on Shinji and Misato loathed spies. Sneaky thieving assholes that would shank you in the back while smiling to your face. And here she was doing the same thing to her roommate. Maybe it would have been better if he had left, but every morning she was reminded of how she loved that he stayed. He was quickly becoming family, if he wasn't already, a brother or dare she think son. God knew she was closer to family to him than Gendo was.

"Oh Katsuragi-san! I didn't think you'd be in today. W-what brings you in?" Makoto asked. Nearly dropping his laptop, the man bungled the closed machine from hand to hand before finally hugging it to his chest. He had rounded the corner leading towards Ritsuko's secondary work space, the labs, when he almost bounced into the distracted captain. Fixing his glasses, trying to hide his embarrassment, he asked, "Anything I can do for you?"

Ah her favorite little bootlicker, Misato kept herself from rolling her eyes at him. Makoto meant well, but Misato knew what he was after, promotions. She had her fair share of men and women like Makoto in the past, and all they wanted was either a date or to get that next pip on their collar. Oh she hoped it was promotion and not romantic, he was defiantly not her type. "Just forgot to turn in a report that was asked for a few days ago. Rather not get reamed by the Commander," another terrifying idea. Misato was sure that Gendo didn't have a dick anymore, it withered away from atrophy.

Visually upset, not much just the slight downturn of his eyebrows and a quick flair of nostrils, Makoto nodded as Misato stepped past him. Sucking up his confidence, "I know how that goes. What I'm doing in Akagi's domain, she wants the First Child's readings evaluated and returned an hour ago." He waved a manila folder dreadfully. It was quite established to never let Ritsuko go to long waiting or she'd make those causing the delay pay.

"Well I'll deal with her for now, so you run along before she sinks her claws into you and ruins your day," Misato winked at the man. Snatching the folder out of the man's hand, she shooed him to continue on his way. The longer Makoto stayed around the more likely he'd offer to help or to get her something. "Going to steal the evil old scientist out of here, her shift SHOULD have ended a few hours ago anyway. Shinji-kun's been wanting to thank her with dinner," she lied. But it would be funny to see a rumor get started.

Complexion lighting up, a thousand watt bulb going off behind his eyes, Makoto let out a palpable sigh. "Thanks Katsuragi-san, I owe you one. She'd tear into me for being so late. If you ever need me to return the favor just ask," he waved and headed off much to Misato's relief.

Continuing on her way to Ritsuko's lab, Misato was tempted to sneak a peek at Rei's file. She knew practically nothing about the girl other than her military history. "Nah, I'll just tease it out of Shinji-kun," she wiggled her noise in delight. Teasing him was just to fun, despite its ease, and she felt it cemented their relationship perfectly. Light hearted and caring, serious but in the good way, not the way Makoto likely wanted. That type of relationship, a true romantic relationship, Misato was pretty sure she was done with. They just weren't worth it, the effort and energy poured into them was so oft wasted.

Sliding into Ritsuko's lab, finding the woman hunched over a computer screen oblivious to the world around her, Misato got that tingle as she set the folder down. She got it when Shinji said a leading statement without knowing it, or Makoto had that puppy dog look in his eye. It meant she could play a little, have some fun in a life of boredom or fear. Sneaking over to the woman, as silently as possibly, Misato effortlessly slid her hands under Ritsuko's arms and lifted the woman up. Straining, Misato's muscles bulged as she pulled the faux blond out of her seat, "Surprise Ritsuko!"

Arms and legs lashing out in shock and fear, Ritsuko thrashed about to free herself from her assailant. After unceremoniously being dropped back onto her seat hard, "Damn it Misato! Couldn't you just said something rather than try and give me a heart attack." Oh the vein on her temple was gushing as she clutched at her heart. Glaring balefully at Misato, Ritsuko wiped her forehead and heaved a mighty breath. "So what do you want, or are you here just to delay me," she closed her eyes to steady herself.

Grabbing Makoto's file again, she handed it over and made a placating hand gesture. Not good to upset one of her oldest friends and not try to make amends. "Just trying to spice up your life a little. You keep yourself down here alone too much. And as such I'm bringing you home with me to make sure you get a good meal," Misato knew the benefits of bribing others. No heavy drinking tonight, she did have to work tomorrow, but maybe she'd get Ritsuko to relax a little and she could get some adult socialization. Shinji was great to talk to, but Misato did crave friends her own age too.

"Is Shinji-kun cooking? If he's not you can count me out," Ritsuko flipped open the file. Reading quickly as only a woman of Ritsuko's skill could, she frowned and marred her good looks. "She's down a few points, the Commander won't like that. Asked for these readings hours ago. Damn man can't tear himself away from his own work unless YOU ask him," she scoffed and set it down, "Deal with this tomorrow."

Helping Ritsuko up, Misato felt at ease. No additional aggravation for her little stunt, good deal! "Of course Shinji-kun is cooking. He doesn't like mine so we opted to switch some of the chores around so he cooks more now," all the time was the real answer. Should she feel bad that Shinji did nearly all the household chores save for taking out the trash once or twice a week? She should, she knew, but he was so eager to do it. Knowing his psych profile told her why, he was likely afraid she'd kick him out otherwise. So she let him spoil her, and she tried to pay him back in other ways. Teaching him the ways of women, so he could get a girlfriend. Backrubs, shoulder massages, and how to deal with teasing among others.

Sliding her lab coat back on, Ritsuko didn't look to be in a trusting mood. "More like you're guilting him into it or asking him too. With his personality he isn't the type to say no," Ritsuko flipped off the lights in the room. The pair headed towards the parking garage. As Ritsuko had no car and Misato did, it wasn't too hard for the pair to know the routine. "Have you gotten around to getting that sample I asked for? I know it's odd, but we need it for a complete physical work up on him. And you do have the easiest access to it," she asked nonplused by the oddity of her request.

Now it was Misato's turn to be stunned, her leg hung in the air as she smiled unevenly at her friend. "You were serious about that? I thought you were joking!" a half-truth if nothing else. Ritsuko hardly ever joked, and even jokes had half-truths. But to think the doctor wanted her to get a sperm sample from a fourteen year old. "Why do you even need that for this stuff? I mean it can't impact his piloting or anything can it?" Misato had no idea how. It was fun to tease Shinji about girls and the like, but to go THAT extra step was just too much. How'd she ever look him in the eye again?

"I'm not asking you to sneak into his bedroom at night and yank him off, Misato," Ritsuko raised her eyebrow. Either teasing herself or retaliating, Ritsuko's poker face was neigh perfect. Walking past a few of the second shift workers, techs that were to start replacing Unit-01's armor, Ritsuko didn't even acknowledge them. Continuing without fear of judgment, "Just wait for him do it himself, and grab the tissues. He's a normal teenage boy in that respect isn't he?"

Oh if only Ritsuko knew the truth of that guy she lived with. Wanting to give Shinji some privacy, it wasn't Misato's place to start the base talking about that aspect of his life, Misato gave Ritsuko the sign for silence. Once they were in the car and strapped in, Misato let out a frustrated grunt. "You just don't care how people see you do you? Well try to remember some people like to have a good reputation," she started her car and tore off into the streets. "As for Shinji-kun," Misato bit her lower lip, "He's either really quiet about it or he hasn't."

"I'm an adult, Misato, and if other adults can't handle this topic that is their problem," Ritsuko seized the armrest tightly. Unable to look away as the cars zipped by in a blur, fear became evident on her face. "As for the why, it's a way of checking his health. Abnormalities, mutations, or sterility could be the sign he's allergic to LCL or worse," Ritsuko shielded her eyes as Misato whizzed around a truck. A trickle of sweat ran down her check to her neck, she began to hyperventilate. "Not asking because I get off on it, it's a necessity. And I doubt a teenage boy, even one with his profile isn't experimenting," Ritsuko now closed her eyes.

Slamming to a stop in her parking spot, Misato gave herself a high score. Shinji was getting desensitized to her driving, so it did Misato's ego a boost to see Ritsuko react to tellingly. "You don't think that's an issue do you?" Misato got out and locked the doors. "Could LCL be making him some freak or ruining him for life? It wouldn't be right for us to sterilize or get the poor kid cancer or something," a cold spike hit Misato's heart. He was a dear boy, he was a dear friend and she was forcing him to fight for his life. What if his reward was a life ending disease or the inability to have a family? Her hand traced her scar, her own inability to have children found that moment to remind her that wars had casualties.

Rubbing her temples, Ritsuko followed Misato at a distance and was a little piqued. "Next time I'll take the train over. What good is supper if I can't keep it down," she moved a hand to her stomach. After a few dramatic shows of recovery, the good doctor was soon in step behind her host. Not sounding so sickly anymore, "And I'm not saying it's certain, just want to check. Only pilots, hell only prolonged exposure to LCL has been with females. Ikari-kun is quite the exception to the rule it seems. "So don't go scaring him by telling him this. It would only make his score lower," Ritsuko ordered.

More secrets and lies, taking fluid samples from him, well Misato wasn't going to do that. "Sorry Rit, I'm not going to be sniffing the garbage for your sample. If you want it, you get it. It IS your job after all," she took her stand. Let Ritsuko tell Shinji why she wanted him to fill the dish, not her. Pulling her card key out she gave her friend a sympathetic shoulder shrug. "If I stumble upon it maybe, but I'm not going through trash. If he is playing the skin flute I don't want to intrude. He'd never be calm around me again if I saw it! Hell he wouldn't look at me for a day after he accidentally flashed me and he wasn't even excited!" that had been cute. He just looked precious when embarrassed.

"Fine I'll do it myself next physical he has or have Maya do it," the doctor pouted. Groaning, Ritsuko just shook her head and followed Misato into the apartment. Hanging her coat on one of the newly installed coat hooks, she kicked her shoes off as well. "Those aren't your size and they're girls. Ikari-kun has a girl over," she smiled thinly at Misato. Without having to say a word, the two went into silent running. Shutting the door without any sound, they nodded at to one another. Whispering as she was handed and hung Misato's flight jacket, "So I take it he put that up?" she thumbed the coat hooks.

Who else would put up something so simple yet necessary for cleanliness? Misato was at best disorganized and at worst a pig. The week she lived in the apartment without Shinji, Misato could hardly see the floor unless Pen-Pen cleared a path walking through it. Rather than speak and risk spoiling the game, Misato just tapped her nose. But to think Shinji brought a girl over? What was the cause of that!? Did he…did he have himself a girlfriend? Quick operator that girl would be then, Misato knew Shinji would never bring a girl he just started dating over for sex. Tiptoeing with her partner in crime, they rounded into the living room with bated breath.

It was all for naught though as they were spotted by the girl in question the moment they came into view. "Katsuragi-san, Akagi-san why are you moving in such a fashion?" Rei asked from her seat in the chair adjacent to the couch. Clad in her school uniform, seated prim and proper as she always was, the girl just never looked to relax at all. Her head jerked towards the kitchen then back to the two superior officers, "Is my presence unwelcome?"

So he did have a thing for Rei, Misato was going to get Shinji for that oh yes indeed. "You're welcome here whenever you like Rei," somehow Misato had to call her by her first name. An attempt to get the girl to unwind, to not be so blasted formal, so far it didn't work. Finding the television on the news, just as she had left it, she turned it to a drama and sat down. "I take it Shinji-kun invited you over? Are WE intruding on something? You just got out of recovery, I guess I should have expected Shinji-kun to want some loving," she goaded. A tease, she knew it a lie, but would Rei take the bait.

Ritsuko was not in a gaming mood though, and slapped Misato on the back of the head lightly. "Don't mind her Ayanami, Misato's likely still drunk from last night. But what brings you over here. I didn't know Ikari-kun and you were so close as to visit one another," she actually sounded interested. Sitting on the opposite side of the couch as Misato, the scientist relaxed fully on it. With a small yawn, "Or are you here for official business with Misato?"

"I…" Rei paused for a moment and eyed the kitchen where Shinji could be heard cooking, "was invited over by Ikari-kun. He was upset the meal her cooked for me contained meat and he did not know I was unable to eat meat. He invited me over to make amends." Shifting uncomfortably in the chair, Rei alternated between her two superiors waiting for reprisal.

Calling out from the kitchen, Shinji's voice was as broken as a cracked record, "Ayanami-san, is that Misato-san I hear? Is she home?" Oh he sounded like he was pleading, but for it to be true of false nobody knew but him Coming into the room with a kettle of tea and only two cups, he stopped and yelped. "S-sorry, I'll get more cups!" He was about to rush back into the kitchen but was stopped.

"Calm down, Shin-chan, calm down. Set the kettle down and sit with us unless the food will burn," Misato patted the seat between Ritsuko and her. All the evidence she needed that this little home visit wasn't expected was all over his face. A typical Shinji escape mechanism, talk through the wall to avoid eye contact. The moment his rump hit the couch, Misato's arm was around his shoulder and giving him a good shake. In as sultry a voice as possible, "So your first attempt to woo Rei failed so you invite her over huh? And I thought a man's heart was in his stomach not a woman's." Real or not, Misato would help as she could. Shinji would need it.

Pinching Misato's hand off of Shinji's shoulder, Ritsuko came to his rescue. "Misato, don't tease so hard or the food will burn as Ikari-kun has a breakdown. Ikari-kun, it's a nice thing to cook for Ayanami. With her recovery she should eat better than reports state she eats. Now why don't you go SHOW her how so she can do it herself and not rely on you for lunches and suppers," she shooed the teens out of the room. After a moment of browbeating Misato, the woman burst into laughter, "He looked ready to pop. You're going to give HIM a heart attack Misato."

Joining Ritsuko in that laugh, Misato felt her side splitting. Just the start of a good evening. "If I didn't push him he'd just sit in his room and rot. I won't stand for that. I might not be on the look for a man, but I won't stop Shinji-kun from looking for a woman. Even if he's not really looking," but that look on his face was priceless.

Over the course of the evening, Misato noticed Rei and Shinji occasionally looking at one another. Never when the other was paying attention. Rei said hardly anything unless asked but she did to ask if she was to return to fulltime duty. The food was great, even the non-meat stuff Shinji made, better than he normally made. After a good number of drinks, more than she should have, Misato got Shinji to slip and offer to cook Rei lunches until she was fully healed. In the end, Ritsuko offered to get a cab to take Rei and herself home. Moment the door was closed she fell asleep, and woke up the next morning in her bed and found more hangover medicine next to her breakfast. God bless Shinji for helping her.


"Alright Ayanami-kun, that is all for today. If you hurry you should be able to get to school before noon," Maya said with a smile.

The LCL drained around her, leaving Rei damp from the noxious fluid that clung to her like a jelly. Coughing out the little that lingered in her lungs and windpipe, she brushed what she could off in the test plug. She had received a complaint from Katsuragi a few days ago. The janitorial staff was upset with her trailing LCL all over the base unnecessarily. Such ordered, Rei cleaned off as much as she could before getting out. When the dim light of the chamber greeted her eyes, she blinked fast. Even that weak of light was harsh on her after three hours in darkness. From darkness to light, it took adjustments.

Shaking like a dog one last time, Rei climbed out of her chamber to the slight nod of the woman with the mop. Not worth talking to, Rei just headed past the tired looking woman to the changing room. Nobody was there, not surprising as it was mid shift. Rei preferred it like this. No people, no sound, no confusion. Confusion was settling into her daily routine, and it was unsettling her. Discarding her plugsuit, she tossed it into a waiting receptacle and headed to her locker nude. Cold, the normal for her, ate at her flesh and made her chest point out achingly.

Her lip curled up in annoyance at the pain her nipples caused her. Grabbing a towel she dried her hair free of the orange fluid, then let it pool over her shoulder. The thickness and weight of the towel pressed against the pain and dimmed it. Pain, nothingness, and now that new thing she was unsure of pleasure. It was unnecessary, it was a distraction, and she craved it. It was the dim light waiting for her after the darkness. Something other than the endless parade of oblivion and hurt, but it was different. What did she make of that, what COULD she make with it?

Sitting on the bench before her locker, Rei found her hand pressing the towel against her left breast and hold. An image, a face, flashed before her mind like a phantom. A young man, the Third Child, had accidentally instilled in her body the first and so far only taste of physical pleasure. It was not to say Rei didn't have any joy in life. Hearing rain, feeling the sun, the occasional meal with the Command, and a few others occurred to break the monotony. But those were very few and far away, illusions in the night that she wrote off. But this was different; the sensation could be almost replicated. Her hand didn't spark that same sensation, no it came from him. Why had he done it?

Slipping into her undergarments, Rei tried to put motive to Shinji's actions and could not. A wet slap of pooled LCL splashed out as she sat back down. She hadn't dried herself enough, no matter the fluid would dry and be only a minor nuisance. That was just life for her. No heated water without using the stove to boil, bland tasteless food, military or school books to read, and little to no human interaction. She had no reason to talk to them, they had no reason to talk to her so they passed each other like ships. For the last week though that had changed. First was that insufferable sensation of his hand against her bare skin, and now the meals.

Buttoning her pleated skirt and donning her top, Rei found the mirror in all lockers staring back at her. Plain and empty, those eyes gazing back at her were void of emotion. The commander was always quick to remind her that emotions were worthless and only would hinder her. Yet she felt anger when Shinji spoke poorly of the Commander. Her hands stopped tying her bow to look at the offending fingers. A slap, a quick touch of flesh to flesh and a flare of emotion. Why had she reacted that way? The commander gave her life, had a reason and purpose to keep her alive for now, but had the Third not had a valid argument? She had read Shinji's history and saw that the Commander had abandoned him, giving rise to Shinji's ignorance.

But it wasn't just anger she felt for that boy, not any longer. Maybe she slapped him simply to have an excuse to touch him, to have that sensation of touch again. Her readings, mandated and provided for her by Sub-Commander Fuyutski, had pointed out physical contact was against the norm and to be avoided unless agreed to. A rule broken, a thrill she hadn't even noticed at the time, she had done it. And then after seeing him crying over her body, saying how he was glad she was alive. Nobody had told her that, not even the Commander when he burnt himself during the accident. A strange sensation, one she coveted above all others, welled within her and she smiled. Try as she might that sensation never came back on her own. Just moving her lips in that manner didn't have that same sense of electricity.

"Oh Ayanami you're faster than usual," Maya chirped out as she walked into the changing room. The petit woman slipped on a footprint of LCL Rei left behind and nearly fell. She caught herself on a locker and clung to it. After blowing her mussed hair out of her face, "Was going out for lunch, thought I'd offer you a ride to school if wanted. Maybe even pick you up something?" Kicking her toes against the ground, LCL flicked off in a Rorschach image.

Shaking her head, Rei pulled out her satchel and the cloth wrapped box Misato gave her that morning. "Ikari-kun has provided my lunch for me as per Akagi-san's request," Rei was careful. It wouldn't do good to spoil the meal. It was different, it had taste that dazzled her tongue. Whenever she ate the food he provided her cheeks tingled, her mouth alive with flavor she wasn't used to. Just thinking about the food, what most would think normal, made her salivate. "If you are heading in the direction of the school however, I would not decline," she saw Maya look away. Nobody but the commander and the Third looked at her for long.

"Oh that's sweet of him," Maya's voice pitched high as she clasped her hands together. Leading Rei down the corridors to her small car, the girl tried a few times to start conversations but Rei wouldn't respond. Strapping in, and checking her mirrors, Maya was getting a little desperate. "So are Ikari-kun and you an item?" she asked with a hint of pleading. Maya just wouldn't stop asking insensate questions!

Rei didn't know what Maya was really asking, but she was able to make logical leaps. "I do believe Ikari-kun's efforts are purely out of concern for my health," Ritsuko had mentioned it as such. While she wasn't oblivious to the world around her, of men and women seeking one another for reproduction, she didn't understand it. Emotions confused and dulled the logical mind as she felt now. All this effort being wasted in understanding what she felt and why Shinji acted could be used for more productive things. Though she did want to maintain that warmth she felt when she saw him. "Katsuragi-san says I should do something to thank him. But I feel she is more interested in sighting embarrassment," the odd lip smacking Misato did was proof enough.

"Well that is something Akagi-san said she likes to do. Well It's still a nice thing for him to do for you, and it does show he cares about you as a friend," Maya's disappointment was clear in her sagging shoulders. Turning the radio on, finally out of potential conversation starters, Maya hummed and swayed with the music. Slowing down as she approached the school, "Well you have some time to eat. Say hello to Ikari-kun for me and have a nice day Ayanami." Giving Rei more than enough time to get out and shut the door, the young technician waved jovially and sped off.

Walking past other eating and chatting students, Rei walked past all of them. She liked to eat in the grass in view of Shinji. She vowed to protect him, and she couldn't do that with him out of sight. Several students tried to address her, but she just walked past them to her tree. Whatever they wanted, it didn't matter to her. Thankfully nobody was in her spot, it happened from time to time, so she sat down and opened her lunch. Various food items she'd never had before several were quick favorites that were making repeat performances. Taking up the provided chopsticks, Rei sunk into the meal.

Delicious, a word Rei knew but didn't think qualified the sensation working in her mouth. The cantina food at Nerv was only a little less bland than her normal fair, this was almost overwhelming. "What is…" Rei noticed something different in the box. It had been larger than the previous box had been, but she hadn't really noticed. After finishing food the other students took for granted, Rei found a second level underneath the first. Setting the empty portion to the side she found a small note, a bag of juice, and a simple stuffed croquette.

Instantly looking across the quad to the trio of boys, Rei found the provider of the new dish. They didn't notice her, not surprising as Suzuhara was so animated in whatever he was doing. The drink was just a fruit punch, but the sweetness was almost painful to her teeth yet she gulped it down. Aside from tea, water, and milk Rei had nothing to compare it to. Her jaw actual twitched due to the influx of energy she felt, it almost scared her. Vitamins and health additives had provided her for her supplementary nourishment, others were so lucky. But Akagi said she was to eat Shinji's lunch, so that meant it was ok for her to break the unwritten rule of avoiding unnecessary things.

"So what did you two do last night?" a shorter girl asked a larger who came up on the other side of the tree. It was near the wall, away from the other students so an ideal place for solitude. "Akito is telling all the guys that you two went all the way," the girl was beside herself with enthusiasm.

Great, another one of these situations, people talking amongst themselves but not noticing her sitting there. It happened from time to time, mostly boys trading illicit adult materials. On rare occasions it was drugs or like now information. What to do about an unwanted pregnancy, how to pick a lock, or something as simple as who put the thumbtack in the teachers shoe. Rei heard all this and more as she was overlooked. But today was different, today it wasn't something she tuned out.

The taller girl squealed yet quickly covered her mouth. Gushing as only a girl in love could, "We did! His parents were gone so we started with a movie and ended up in his room!" She went on to describe it in more than glowing terms. How her beau started with his fingers moving to tongue only asking her to use her hands on him. When it got to the actual act, well the narrative broke down into her just bashfully saying, "As for the rest…well those books don't say the half of it."

Holding the croquette between her fingers, Rei's cheeks flushed as the imagery she heard played in her mind. She had taken sex-ed so knew all the mechanics of things, but suddenly it wasn't just pictures in a health book. The crumbling friend skin felt greasy against her skin. Banishing her unease as she did most things that bothered her, she opened her mouth and took a mighty bite. The half-finished dessert fell from her hands to the ground and rolled away. It would have been too much for her to eat the whole thing anyway. Taste so vivid and alive was almost too much, she almost spat it out. After letting it sit and melt on her tongue she swallowed it and licked the juices off her lip.

Rei blinked fast and hard, her pulse spiked as she was literally rocked by the surge of sugar into her system. Why had she been denied so much in life till this point a small part of her raged? But she did not question the order, did not question the Commander. He wrote such extravagances off as distractions and unnecessary. Only Akagi, Fuyutski, or he could change that order and Akagi had. But Ritsuko hadn't provided it, Shinji had. He was the source of this sensation, this joy in her life, one hoped not end. Other than his touch, food, and infrequent attempts at talking to her she had nothing really in her life outside of that pain of Eva and nothingness of existence.

The bell rang signaling time to go back to class, yet Rei found she didn't want to. But as the other students headed in, Rei forced herself to comply. It was an order after all, to abide by the rules of the school unless Nerv business supersedes. Gathering the empty boxes and her garbage she hustled off back to the classroom. Walking over to Shinji, finding him smiling softy at her as she approached she found herself at a loss. What could she say, what did she know of this situation. "It was enjoyable," was all she could think to say as she handed the box back over.

"Ah, Ayanami-san, I didn't see you outside. Glad you liked it…hope you didn't mind the extra dessert and drink. Thought you might get tired of tea all the time. Didn't know if you like sweets though, not everybody does," Shinji gushed. Holding the box to his chest, the lad examined Rei's shoes with great interest. They spoke more often now, well Shinji spoke to her and she would make small replies, but he wasn't normally this flustered. "H-how was the testing this morning?" he finally stole a fugitive glance in her eyes.

Being keen on observation, Rei wasn't used to this type of reaction from Shinji. "You appear to be suffering a unique emotional state. Is there a problem?" had something happened while she was at Nerv? Normally he would stutter a little before calming, but never this deluge of words. He was calming, soothing, and at the same time a distraction of positive she had no defense or immunity to. Thinking it potentially an illness, "Perhaps a trip to the nurses office?"

"He ain't sick, Ayanami, unless you talking lovesick," Touji looped an arm around his neck and gave Shinji a tug. A quick noogie and Touji sat in his own seat only to find Rei staring expectantly at him. Waving his hand top to bottom, he had the pomp of somebody speaking to infants. "Rumor has it Tachibana Sakura is asking about him. We think she's going to ask him out, but he thinks it's something else. Dumb lug won't take a chance and talk to her," Touji flicked a wad of paper at Shinji's head.

Batting the ball out of the air, Shinji lost his bashfulness and his standard neutral expression returned. "It could be anything Touji. A lie, Nerv business, or any other number of things. No reason to get excited over nothing. I don't even know her, so why think otherwise?" Shinji pulled his books out of his satchel and replaced them with Rei's lunch box. Address Rei a small light of hope in his eyes, "So nothing is wrong Ayanami-san, just have all their lies filling my head right now making it hard to think."

"Understood," Rei had nothing else to say so she went back to her seat. A female she knew nothing of, likely in a grade level above or below hers, might have interest in Shinji. That was not her concern. Going back to staring out the window, she didn't let the oddity bother her. Clouds moved by, just like her thoughts did, wafting in and out. Before she knew it the class was let go and the class representative and her had cleaning duties. An annoyance, but one she would have to do.

Waiting for the escaping students to leave and fill the room with blessed quiet, Hikari handed Rei a cloth. "If you clean the board I'll take care of the chairs and garbage. Seem fair?" Hikari was cordial and open. When Rei took the cloth and grabbed a bucket she took that as a yes. "So how are you doing today, Ayanami-san? Not upset with the rumor about Ikari-kun are you?" she started setting up the desks.

Tilting her head questioningly as she started wetting the board, Rei had her interest piqued. "Why would rumors of Ikari-kun upset me? His life is his own to live," she had no inflexion in her speech. It wasn't as if Shinji was leaving, not like the threat after the Fourth angel. If he sought a relationship with this woman, it would happen. It wouldn't change anything, right? A small pinch, an unknown pain caused her to scratch her chest. Maybe she should see the nurse if that pain persisted.

The chair she was holding fell to the ground, Hikari was quick to pick it up and hide her shame. "A-aren't you and Ikari-kun seeing each other? Y-you talk to him, he makes you food…I thought you two were a couple," Hikari examined the chair for damage. Finding none she put it on top of its desk.

"We are not. What gives that indication as you are not the first to infer that," Rei wrung out her rag. The processes of lovers was to complex and frustrating for Rei to pay attention too. She heard of couples forming then breaking apart days later. Knew of the process and reason why they sought one another, but knew not why. "We are colleagues," she ripped the rag I half accidentally. Curious, why had she done that?

Gingerly touching Rei's hand, Hikari's face was marred in worry and confusion. "So you'd not mind if he stopped talking to you or making you lunch? Because if he starts seeing somebody…girls get jealous about things like that. She'd likely ask him to stop, and Ikari-kun seems the type to go along with that," she didn't seem to want to pry. No, the class representative just seemed to be curious, wondering if the odd girl knew what was really going on.

Gone? The food, the brief conversations, and maybe another one of those touches…gone? No, that wasn't something Rei wanted. She needed more information on this, needed clarification. Dropping the rag in the bucket, "I must leave. Something must be attended too." She left the girl to finish the work on her own. Rei would find books, maybe hunt one of those girls she overheard during lunch. A tiny bud of greed of want entered Rei's being. She didn't want those tiny things gone, those good things that filled her dark life with even the tiniest of light. Going back to utter nothingness, the idea brought a new emotion to Rei's spectrum, fear.


It was shaping up to be a very long day, but Ritsuko was used to those. Yesterday's sync scores had to be analyzed, the repairs to Unit-00 had to be prioritized, and she had some work on the Magi to do. Work never seemed to end for her, and yet she was privy to others just lazing about. The smart and hard workers got abused while the slackers go to play and get rewarded. Maybe if she wore tighter tops and flirted like Misato she'd get to slack off too. No, Ritsuko couldn't do that to herself since she had a sense of shame!

"Alright Maya, start a diagnostic on the Magi. Let's see if we can't find that performance lag we're getting between them and Unit-01," Ritsuko sipped her fourth cup of coffee. It wasn't even lunch time yet and she was ready for sleep. Not that she'd get any, insomnia was a bitch in that regard. Worries of not being good enough, of failing to live up to the expectations set on her, and a growing loneliness and depression were making sleep hard coming. Damn she hated cold coffee but she drank it anyway, "After that we can run the connection test between Unit-00 and them."

A raucous laugh broke the working duo out of their rhythm. On the other side of the command bridge a rather jovial Misato joked with Makoto and Shigeru. It must be nice to not have much work to do, so you could just talk and joke while waiting on others. Oh they couldn't work while the Magi were down being worked on. Maya and Ritsuko shared a knowing glance, a common irritant, end users were just unsympathetic jerks that couldn't fix a problem if they had a step by step guide!

Flinching her head towards the group, Maya set to work. "Take a break Sempai, you look tired. I can handle this much without you over my shoulder," Maya came off as only a little self-assured. Fingers and hands moving about at a speed that most would think amazing, but was still slower than Ritsuko, Maya was an able bodied assistant. She sneered when another unheard joke from Misato got a laugh, "Maybe remind them that they CAN work while we do this?"

Patting the tech's shoulder, Ritsuko thought she saw the girl jump but wrote it off as her own fatigue. "Will do Maya, I could use some fresh coffee as this sludge is only suitable for cleaning LCL off the floors," Ritsuko balked at the noxious drink. Popping a kink in her back, the tired woman set her papers and clipboard down and approached the others. As she got behind Misato she saw the two males lock on her instantly and their smiles dim. Sorry for not being a nymph like Misato was, Ritsuko had more important things to do than entertain. "Any coffee left, I'm dying for another cup that's hot," she waved her mug at the trio.

"Sorry Akagi-san, I got Katsuragi-san the last cup about twenty minutes ago," Makoto didn't sound sincere at all. Ever the apple polisher, Makoto was all smiles for Misato but timid and skittish around Ritsuko. Scrunching under Ritsuko's intimidating gaze, "I didn't put another pot on either since its lunch time. Figured if anybody wanted some they'd just hit the break room's machine."

Figures, Ritsuko clutched her cup harder and her fingers hurt under the strain. "Guess I'll just go there then," she wanted to enact some revenge though, "Got some time Misato?" That would be the worst she could do to the men right now, take away their source of fun. Maybe they'd actually get back to work and not just gawk. A spike of pain in her gut reminded her of the fact she hadn't eaten since yesterday, and the rumble was loud enough for others to hear. "It is lunchtime isn't it. Damn it, I hate cantina food," she'd just eat junk food from the vending machines.

"Hold up, I got the remedy for that," Misato gave the thumbs up and waved at the guys. The irritation on their faces was almost comical at having their idol removed. Sauntering over to her normal seat, Misato pulled two wrapped boxes from under. "I got the medicine you need right now, Rits. But you will have to get your own coffee as I'm out of change," she handed over the parcel.

A lunchbox, in this day in age, seriously? Ritsuko couldn't believe Misato would make such a thing for herself let alone others. Misato likely needed to borrow money or something and was trying to bribe her. "Well you seem to be in a good mood. Or are you just trying to keep those two under your thumb," she'd risk eating the meal. Misato was a dangerous cook, if memory served. In college they sampled one another's cooking on more than one occasion. Misato ran the gambit of being passable to being toxic, while her own was just bland and passable.

Leaving the dim grey and green of the command deck for the even less interesting break area, Misato ground her foot into the ground. "Those two are idiots at times, but I'd rather bother them than you. You are at least doing something important, while they'd just be reading manga or listening to music. And I am in a good mood, maybe," she bought herself a can of soda after finishing her coffee. Misato could pound fluids back better than most.

A simple coffee or splurge and get something more decadent? A cappuccino it was! Who said she couldn't live dangerously or spoil herself? Making her selection, adding a bit more cream as she secretly favored sweets over bitter, she bounced on her feet waiting. Moments like this made her feel childish, getting excited over something so simple as a dessert drink. Actually a little moved by Misato's consideration, Ritsuko hadn't thought of that. "Well I guess I should be grateful. Maya and I are making good progress. Should finish on time today for a change," she felt giddy as the cup filled and she grabbed it. "So, why only maybe?" she savored the anticipation before taking her sip…it was normal coffee they messed up the machine.

Finding a corner of the room devoid of others, Misato popped the top of her soda and took a long draught. Opening her food, Misato leaned in conspiratorially close, "It's about Shinji actually. He's been a little odd for the last three or four days. I finally annoyed him enough to tell me what was bothering him." Oh that swell of pride went from Misato's face, her puffed out chest, and she sat up taller while sucking in her gut. Whatever it was, Misato felt damn proud of her work. Nibbling on her lunch, she twirled her chopsticks in odd patterns in the sky.

"Does this have to do with my request for that sample? I really don't want to ask about that," Ritsuko opened her own box. Trying her best not to feel depressed about her lack of treat, she had initially wanted coffee anyway, she was impressed by the spread. Being adult about getting Shinji's semen sample was odd for her. He was a fourteen year old war veteran, and she was having an on again off again relationship with his father. Relationship…ha…she was a body for him, but if she degraded herself enough…proved herself to him, maybe he would come to love her. Picking up some of the food, she eyed Misato skeptically, "Don't look at me like that. I just find it boorish that I need it that's all."

Lifting the box off the table, Misato shortened the gap between her mouth and the food. Shoveling it in, she got off words as she could, "Sadly no, you'll still have to do that yourself. Hell if you offer to 'help' him get it, I but he'd just go in his pants. My first boyfriend did and he was twenty!" Her face vanished behind the box as she tilted it to let the food pool. "As for what I learned. He might have a girlfriend soon. He said those two boys from the Forth are telling him some older girl has her eye on him. I told him to go for it and talk to her," a very lady like belch echoed in the room.

A black flag waved in Ritsuko's mind the instant Misato's sonic attack dulled. "Misato, kids like Shinji," Ritsuko jumped as Misato slammed the box down and glared at her…oh yeah that. Misato had started taking offense to people putting Shinji down, calling him a child. Anybody that faced eldritch monsters for the safety of humanity, Ritsuko had to admit it would mature you fast. "Sorry, men like Shinji don't have a history of good relationships. Hope this doesn't make things worse rather than better," Ritsuko spoke from experience. She was a person like Shinji, that was how she identified his little social stigma so easily. But Gendo was different, he spoke to her and recognized her brilliance and supported it! What did it matter that they didn't do normal couple things? He made love to her the other night. Painful yes, but some men had kinks, Kaji was proof of that.

The anger vanished back into that blissfully ignorant smile she used to dull the senses of men, Misato had moved on and forgiven. Going back to eating in a more civil manner, "Oh don't be so worried. I'm sure it's a school girl crush or something. Shinji-kun is a hero after all. I'm sure it will be fine." Ever the one to go with the flow, Misato truly didn't seem to be worried.

Her hunger overtaking her fear of Misato's odd sense of culinary art, the tired woman took a bite and then another. It was good damn good! Eating with relish, her mood instantly increased, Ritsuko was willing to try seeing things from Misato's point of view. "Maybe you're right, maybe not. Kids have those types of relationships all the time. His score is higher than Ayanami's so even if it goes bad and he drops a bit," it wouldn't be the end of the world. Who knew Misato had the potential to cook something not toxic to others.

Crushing her empty can with her left hand, Misato tossed it in a large arc over Ritsuko's head and into a recycling box. The techs in the room cheered her small victory. Getting back up, Misato leaned against the table and let her distracting elements entertain those techs. "Don't be so down! Who knows maybe this will be a great boon to him! Give him something to fight for or something. But I wonder how Ayanami would take that. She seems to be a little different since the last angel. She's been over the apartment twice since you were last over. 'Learning how to cook' as you ordered her too," Misato stole a piece of sausage from Ritsuko's box.

Pitching herself over the assaulted food, Ritsuko defended her little unexpected relief for the day. "You ate yours already, Misato, leave mine alone," she didn't move until Misato backed away. Once her food was secured, Ritsuko took a few quick fugitive bites just in case. "As for Ayanami, I wouldn't worry. I did tell her to get a few lessons, and she is all about doing what she's told," Ritsuko wondered about that. How far would Rei go for an order, all the way? Knowing far more about the strange girl than others, Ritsuko wouldn't put absolute loyalty out of the realm of possibility. Aside from Shinji, the girl only really spoke to Gendo. Ritsuko didn't like that, her relationship was still fledgling, a month of talking privately and one brief bit of coitus. He hadn't lasted long, she attributed that to years celibate.

"You have a point. Girl is neutered like a five year old," Misato had that glibness to her. Proving she had a bottomless stomach and ungodly metabolism, she bought a candy bar and opened it. "Guess I should head back to make sure those two aren't harassing Ibuki-kun. Wouldn't do either of us any good if they get a sexual harassment suit filed against them," she said with the chocolate bar between her teeth. Oh how the techs watched her leave, and Ritsuko watched the techs. Popping back in, catching those dregs by surprise, "Oh and make sure you give me that box back to me before you leave or Shinji-kun will have my head. He did cook it after all."

The rice on her chopsticks fell off and back into the nearly empty box. Guess the kid could cook after all. Having had supper over at Misato's a few times, it never had been bad, but she never put much thought into it. Guess hunger was the best spice as it opened her eyes to the reality of it. A damn kid was better suited for living alone than she was, how funny was that? Well no reason to not enjoy it despite who cooked it, "Maybe I'll pay him to cook for me. Be cheaper and better for me than junk food."

Finishing her meal in peace, the techs left after Misato did, Ritsuko enjoyed the privacy. With nobody around she let out a belch and scratched her now full belly. Feeling the onset of a food coma setting in, Ritsuko gave herself a pinch. Wouldn't do her any good to pass out on the clock. Maya needed her help to get things finished so they could both leave. Maybe she could try visiting the Commanders office and seeing if he wanted supper or something.

Sealing the now empty and rinsed out bento, Ritsuko would have to thank Shinji. Odd boy, nothing she'd expect the son of that man to be. Finding Maya thankfully unmolested by the jibs and jab of the other command staff, "You want to get yourself a little break now Maya? I could finish off whatever you're working on." Misato wasn't around, Ritsuko couldn't help but notice and wonder the reason.

"Yeah I could stand for a little walk if nothing else," Maya patted her belly. Excusing herself from the console, the timid woman covered a yawn with her hand, but couldn't hide her eyes closing. "S-sorry, I had a late night myself," a pinkness crested her cheeks. Shuffling past her superior, the woman tried fleeing without further details.

Oh Ritsuko could venture what Maya had been doing, it helped her get to sleep when booze or exhaustion didn't do the trick. "A visit from your boyfriend Hand-sil or was it Mas-tif?" she teased the woman. Misato had been on to something, teasing timid people was fun and enjoyable. Maya was just adorable to watch flustered and embarrassed, far cry from the bitter and withdrawn creature she had become. So what if Maya was up late with her fingers or any number of aids, Maya was human and humans had needs. "Get going Maya, before they overhear and get the wrong idea," Ritsuko wouldn't prolong the joke. That was Misato's thing.

Twenty minutes after returning to work, she had finished Maya's work on connecting the communication antenna that was going to be installed in the new Unit-00 and the Magi, Ritsuko got a call. Reading the number, the Commander's, Ritsuko's heart skipped a beat! Silly she knew, getting so excited at just the idea of hearing from Gendo. Who knew what he was calling for? Eva, project, other work, or maybe just maybe it was personal. After three rings, she knew there would not be a fourth, she filled her phone open, "Akagi here, what did you need sir?" he did have a thing about power and control.

"The group has contacted me. The timetable for Unit-02's arrival has been advanced. It will be here in a month," Gendo's voice was stern and without delay. Without waiting for confirmation or further explanation, "You will not attend the recovery effort but prepare for a surgery. You know what I'm talking about," he went silent.

Was that all, another disappointment for the day? Ritsuko wanted something else! Wanted some form of love in her life damn it! "W-was that all sir? D-did you need me for anything else?" did she have to degrade herself? Was that the cost of love, degradation? Was it worth it if it were, she wasn't ugly just socially inept! But Gendo seemed to care, if only a little, where the others were scared off. Having no other alternative she clung to what she could, "Nothing at all sir?"

The line was silent, leaving Ritsuko to think he had hung up after all. Then he said a single word that sent her heart aflutter, "Tonight." He did care, he was just bad at showing it! Ritsuko was walking on air the rest of the day and worked doubly hard. She wanted to give him good news before she saw him.


"Oh I'm terribly sorry, Ikari-kun was it? There seems to be a mistake. I wasn't t-talking about y-you, I've been wanting to confess to Ikuraki Shinji. He's in the American Football club and a year older than me," Sakura said reluctantly. Taking a step back from him, closer to the door to her classroom, the older girl bowed apologetically. She remained bowed for a few moments before straightening up, other students walking out to head home for the day. "I hope this doesn't hurt your feelings. It wasn't my fault though," with a shrug let the air hang empty.

He should have known, he HAD known but let Touji and Kensuke talk him into this stupidity. But days of constant antagonizing finally forced Shinji to act. Fighting to contain his disappointment, "It's no problem at all. I figured it was something like that, but my friends were so sure it was the contrary." Heaping more bitterness onto his psyche, Shinji found he was not angry at this attractive woman he was livid at himself. A pain in his stomach burst in, but he didn't show his agitation. Why bother this woman anymore? "I hope things go well for you with Ikuraki-san," he did mean it too. With a slight bow of his own, Shinji spun on his heels and walked off.

They made weak waves at one other, a small fidgeting and a half smile crested Tachibana's face lighting it up with all its youthful vigor and beauty. While Sakura's appeared genuine the smile on Shinji's face was wholly fake. He didn't feel like smiling, didn't feel joy at all just his growing anger. Hadn't he learned by now that pain was the only thing that came with acting like this? Now he had to go tell Kensuke the outcome. Thankfully Touji had track try-outs so he didn't have to face both of them.

Students laughed and chatted all around him as he ventured down the stairs towards his homeroom. Better than him, they all were. Taller, smarter, more charming, and they all outshined him. No matter, he'd not make the mistake again, give into the reality he'd be alone. It was oddly soothing, to accept he was doomed to venture alone through life. He'd not have to worry about adultery, failing to live up to expectations, or the inevitable break-ups. He'd have himself, have his music, his cello, and Misato-san as long as she let him stay.

Leaning against the door, his bag hung limply over his shoulder, Kensuke's glasses reflected the light perfectly to obscure his eyes. "So how did it go Shinji? Get yourself a date with that lovely specimen?" Kensuke asked in a frenzy of excitement. Pushing himself away from the wall, his stride broken and uneven, he fell in stride with Shinji. Leaning forward to get a solid look at his friends face, Kensuke's jovial attitude crashed against Shinji's dower one. Tone plummeting down from its heights just moments ago, "It was a mistake wasn't it. Ah man, I'm sorry. We pushed you into it."

Waving his hands, Shinji didn't blame Touji or Kensuke either for his current state. They had only meant well, hard to be upset with people for that. "She was taking about Ikuragi-san not me," Shinji didn't know the man personally. It still hurt though, it always did to get rejected even by somebody you didn't intend. A maelstrom of events lead him to unrealistic hopes, rumors believed true was folly. Walking out into the quad, the afternoon sun glared its red light across everything. Blood, everything had a hint of blood, "Oh, I forgot some of my books back in the room. I'll see you tomorrow alright?" He pointed back at the school.

"Oh, y-yeah sure man. Talk to you later. Maybe I'll call you tonight or something," Kensuke understood. Giving Shinji's arm a supportive punch, lacking the fury Touji's had, Kensuke gave Shinji one nod and walked off. A woman, the one Shinji oft noticed walked off with Kensuke when Touji wasn't around, approached the geek and the duo headed off together.

Both boys knew the truth, there was no missing books, no reason to go back inside, only the want to be alone. Shambling over to an empty bench overlooking the path to the school and the lush vegetation the school yard maintained, he sat. Finding the trees, swaying in the moderate breeze, the leaves danced and sounded like music to the depressed lad's ears. Foolish, hopes were for others, relationships for those braver than he was. It was better this way, safer.

Setting his school satchel between his legs, he gripped the back of the bench with his fingers and leaned against his locked arms. "At least this way it's over and I don't have to think about it anymore," he was good at that. Finding the silver lining to the disappointments of life. He'd not have to listen to Touji and Kensuke prattle on about some fictional relationship, or let his mind wander of it too. Nodding as his self-debasement ended and his rationalization kicked in. With less bitterness, "Maybe it is better. I mean I really didn't know her. Just a passing fancy." He had them before, he wasn't immune to his emotions, he just buried them in fear.

For fifteen minutes the river of students continued to flee their incarceration and enjoy the few scant hours of freedom before the process started again. Laughing, yelling, the whole spectrum of teenage emotion played out. They all passed the unknown boy watching the trees, they had other more important things to do than care about some unknown. Slowly the wave of students became a trickle, then mere drops as students that had cleaning duties finished and left.

"You are still present. Is there an issue?" Rei asked over Shinji's shoulder. When he just shrugged a little, she sat down on the bench with a healthy distance between them. Sliding the box of today's lunch over to him, she set her hands on her waist. Slowly and uneasily, "According to Akagi-san, I have fully recovered. If you so wish, you may stop providing me meals or attempting to teach me to replicate them."

It wasn't that he disliked Rei, far from it, but right now a girl talking to him wasn't necessarily on Shinji's wish list. Women were an elusive and forbidden thing, they were the source of his depression. "I just wanted to be alone for a little while. Nobody bothers me here, I don't stand out if they don't know about…you know," he'd not mention Eva again at school. Hoping Rei would take the hint, Shinji just scooped up her box and set it in his satchel. Despite himself he found that damn lingering hope still alive, "I-if you want I can still make lunch for you. It's easy enough as I use most of what I make for you in my own lunch." He just added more meat to his, so it wasn't any extra work. And, he wanted to know Rei better, but was too afraid to talk to her.

Not knowing that Shinji's statement of wanting solitude was a request, Rei didn't move. "Was there a cause for this change? Earlier in the day you appeared in higher spirits," straight and to the point as normal. Her feat swayed back and forth off the ground kicking up dirt. When the emptiness between them stretched on further she ventured, "If it is no further trouble. I would continue to eat them."

"Then I'll keep making them," Shinji actually was relieve to hear that. It was a connection between himself and somebody. He cooked and cleaned for Misato and she repaid him with company and jokes. Misato was a great woman, when not expected to do house hold chores or having a bout of drunken teasing. Lost a moment in the sight of Rei, the sun again capturing and illuminating her body making it glow. Maybe he shouldn't stew so much on some girl that until the rumors started he didn't even know about. He did have a girl, a strange yet beautiful one, at his side. Suddenly as it dawned on him, his lips went thin and his breath shallow, "A-any requests?"

Her gaze fixed on some unknown space in the far distance, Rei's profile was exquisitely outlined. Without looking at him, "As most of what you make is new to me, anything is agreeable." Standing up suddenly, her stoic and fierce visage now towering over Shinji, Rei took one step closer to him. "Were you going to stay here longer? If you've no reason, I recommend returning to your residence where we can continue with teachings," she walked past him in a circle back onto the path out of school.

Sitting here and brooding wouldn't solve anything, Shinji had to accept that. Slapping the stone bench with both hands, he got up and felt better. It wouldn't do to get his hopes up for Rei like he had Sakura. She was just a girl that didn't have much exposure to things and he was helping to change that. Maybe in time they'd be friends, if she could be arranged to talk to him more. But if they spent time together, maybe they'd become friends. He'd like that. "Well I'll have to make you enough things to get you to actually ask for something," he was smiling. It wasn't the end of the world or anything, just another day.

Following what he hoped was acceptable actions, the recovering young man proceeded to join Rei on the path. If nothing came of his making food for Rei aside a few broken bits of conversation, then so be it. The memory of her brilliant smile would remain as token, not everything had to grow into something greater. Just let life come as it did, people would come and go. Just as he was putting the embarrassment of the day behind him though, Shinji saw the source leaving the school with a cluster of her friends. Best not to make eye contact, not to draw her attention less he see that uncertainty or was it fear in her eyes again.

"Oh Ikari-kun, you didn't wait for me did you?" Sakura was wiping a few stray tears from her eyes. The girls at her sides who had been offering her words of comfort just moments ago shifted to Shinji with vindictive glares. The older girl was gifted with a natural beauty and silky waist long black hair with bangs that went forward and low as if to frame her pale face and emerald eyes. She was, according to Touji, quite the sought after prize considering her passive and tranquil nature. She had let Shinji down very gently considering. Batting her eyes free of tears, "Oh and y-you, Ayanami-san. G-good day." The two girls made eye contact for a brief moment, and Sakura rushed off with her gaggle of friends in tow.

Gently gasping Shinji's shoulder, Rei forced the stunned boy to start moving. "You were not waiting for her I assume, or you had lied to me," Rei was just a step ahead of Shinji, voice passive as always. Though she walked fast, with a purpose, and her shoes slapped the concrete hard and loud. "Were we needing additional food stock?" she asked sharply.

Bumped out of his bewilderment, Shinji rushed to keep up with Rei. "N-no I didn't lie, and we should have enough for whatever we choose to make. Do you know Tachibana-san, Ayanami-san?" Shinji had noticed the odd interaction. Sakura had noticed Rei, commented on her, and then ran off. "People don't…don't bully you do they Ayanami-san?" it was the first thing he could think of. With her complexion it wasn't impossible that some would mock her. He had a bully in his early school years until the girl had transferred, such things left scars on people.

"Good," Rei slowed her rapid pace from a semi-jog to normal. The group of older girls having went opposite of them, the duo was quickly alone in a sea of unknown people. Passing over crosswalks and down warmed sidewalks, Rei just walked in silence, every so often her mouth would open but nothing came of it. Slowly though, possibly accidental, she walked closer to her partner. "As for Tachibana, we have spoken only briefly. There is no need for concern, much as yourself I am left alone," she graced him with a barely noticeable upturn of lips.

Even if they didn't speak much, Shinji did enjoy walking with Rei. Though he'd have said the same for anybody, but he'd never ask for it. To ask would allow the person he asked to turn him down, to lash out and mock him. No, this was better, safer. "I'm glad," he warmed to her, "I'd hate for anybody to cause you trouble, Ayanami-san." She was a co-worker, she vowed to and did protect him, and…even if others didn't see it…she was nice. Damned if he didn't feel his heart beating harder as he again noticed her gentle features, the nape of her neck, the swell of her chest…best to stop that thought before it hurt even more than the silliness today.

Walking into the apartment, Rei showed her lack of understanding again by just dropping all her unnecessary items on the ground. If it had no value, Rei just seemed to not care about it. "Captain Katsuragi is not present?" Rei asked as she dropped her satchel against the wall. She bent forward to take her shoes off giving Shinji a full view of her backside.

Blushing hard, Shinji wasn't one to steal peeks at girls, but this was different. He wasn't trying to do a dirty thing, Rei just shoved it in his face without care. "A-Ayanami-san you shouldn't do that. Bend over like that. I c-could…if I was…" he continued to gush and flub. She stood back up and looked at him questioningly, that face so blank yet inquisitive as to give the most confusing reacting. "Guys at school would try to steal peeks at you if you bend over like that. They-they'd might tease or try something," he heard Touji talk of such before.

Tossing her shoes against the wall with a small thump, Rei only tilted her head to the left in acknowledgment. "Ibuki-san has told me the same. Why is that an issue?" she headed into the apartment as if it was her own. Stopping for nothing, no lights, no sounds, the girl headed straight to the kitchen and the promised teaching.

Frantically ripping his own shoes off, the laces still done up and cut off circulation as he did, Shinji nearly fell. Didn't she know how things worked between men and women? That men would gawk and stare are attractive girls, and some lesser ilk would try to blackmail for even a little thrill? Flipping on the lights in the living room, he stopped to pet Pen-Pen. The bird was a fiend for attention, so he gave it when he could. Turning on the news to hopefully fill the air with noise and drown out the quiet that would invariably follow.

They had done this little cooking training on a few occasions since his first half-eaten lunch to her. While Shinji was getting slowly more comfortable with teaching her, what she learned by words and what required demonstrations. But talking to her not at her was still hard. Shinji's mind worked over time. Was she here because of Ritsuko's small suggestion she learn to cook or was it more? He'd not put money on either less he tempt the devil.

Putting on the apron Misato got him, a pink 'kiss the cook' frilly thing, he tied it behind him. "W-well Ayanami-san, guys will do strange things to a-attractive girls. They might try taking pictures of you, or touch you inappropriately if they think you're leading them on," Shinji couldn't even look at her. Standing by the stove, a few ingredients already out, he shuddered waiting her question. Nothing, she just held one hand on a box of croutons. Voice warbling between too high and too low, "M-Misato-san and I saw a report on it last night. Girls being forced…c-cute girls…"

"You find me attractive, Ikari-kun?" Rei took a step towards him. A small hint of apprehension touched her, not the focused and non-hesitating action she normally took. Standing on the opposite side of the table from him, using the wooden stand as a shield, "You mentioned twice that females that were attractive are the victim of this type of assault. You bring it to my attention, logically it means you find me attractive and should fear this event."

Oh how Misato would have died laughing if she saw this, Shinji's inner mind tweeted in. He couldn't deny it or he might hurt Rei's feelings, but to tell the truth would expose himself to further disappointment. He'd not hurt her though, he was used to dejection so why not continue the trend. Had the events early today with Sakura not happened and his mood already slashed he'd have flubbed or made an excuse. But already beaten around once for the day, why not twice? "I do, Ayanami-san, I think you're b-beautiful. Different than the girls at school. S-sorry if that makes you uncomfortable," he walked to the food and started working. He had to move or he'd run away.

Joining Shinji at the stove, Rei stood closer than normal, almost atop of her teacher. "I am not uncomfortable," was all she said at the moment. Shinji began his lesson, Rei the ever attentive student. While she didn't cut right or season, she'd never be a good cook, she did what she was told amicably enough. Shinji again tried making small talk, non-personal stuff, 'did you get your homework done', 'what do you think of the weather', and other gems such as 'any plans for Sunday' were quickly answered but no questions asked. Though as they finished eating and Rei headed to door to head home, "I am pleased for Tachibana's actions."

Had it been any later Shinji would have walked the girl home, but as the sun hadn't yet set he didn't risk it. Too humiliated at being forced to confess he found her attractive, Shinji just wanted to climb into his bed and hide. But hearing Rei enjoying his pain, he couldn't help but exclaim, "You're glad she…you're happy that things…you're happy I was sad today?" Wasn't she different than them, wasn't Rei at least not hoping to see pain in his life? He had thought she was enjoying this time, she didn't have the stress lines in her eyes and face, stood more relaxed, had he been wrong?

Shaking her head, Rei swung her satchel before her. "No, your pain does not please me. Had she not spurned you, we would not have met today. You would not have told me your opinion of my appearance," she was coquettish almost shy. With a slight bow, "Perhaps we could have another lesson Sunday, after our sync tests?"

"S-sure," he said without even thinking. And like that, Rei stood back up and left without another word or gesture. Shutting the door in a haze of confusion and bewilderment, Shinji just went back to the mess of dishes and cleaned them. " it going to be a date or just?" they never did this food thing on days off. Don't think of it like that, don't even consider it. Just two…friends? It was hard not to think of her has a friend if only a distant one. "But better not let Misato-san find out or I'll never hear the end of it," he was sure of that. Of course Misato teased it out of him when she got home an hour later, and he was right it was a teasing fest. By the time he went to sleep, Misato was already asking if he wanted her gone that day in case Rei and he took things further. It was a long sleepless night.


Author Notes

Trying to keep start things off with a good set of pacing and set the mood for the story. I've got my plan and we'll have to see if you grasp it which means I'm doing my job right or I'm failing he he…hope you enjoyed

Ja Mata