Several hours later Shinji woke up and saw the sun going down through the large windows. Not wanting to just wait for Asuka to show up, he again went to the bathroom to splash water on his face and relieve himself. Putting on his jacket, Shinji walked outside the room to find Kikuchi sitting in a decorative chair in the hallway. He had been keeping watch as Shinji slept.
“Where's Asuka?” Shinji asked the bodyguard.
“She's downstairs,” Kikuchi replied in a gruff voice. “She asked me to send you down when you woke up.”
Shinji made for the staircase with Kikuchi walking along side. Kikuchi had seemed intimidating at first, but Kaji had well recommended him to the boy, which made him feel a lot better about having someone else along. Shinji found that while Kikuchi was often quiet when he did speak he was quite thoughtful, which for some reason reminded him of Rei.
“Nice place, isn't it?” Shinji remarked to the man.
“I've seen better,” Kikuchi replied.
The boy was surprised at that. “Where?”
“In England,” the bodyguard said. “There's homes there that would put this place to shame.”
“Really,” Shinji mused. “Still, this is a nice house.”
“Where we are now used to be part of East Germany,” Kikuchi said quietly as they walked down the stairs. “Anybody having a place like this in a communist country couldn't possibly be up to any good.” Shinji thought about that for a while as they both continued down the staircase.
The two of them walked a not-so-short distance into a large and elaborate kitchen that Shinji figured could have easily serviced a five-star restaurant. To the side of the kitchen was a dining area that was as luxuriously appointed as the rest of the house, with polished white wood tables and chairs inlaid with gold piping. There was a table setting of the finest china, with teacups and a large pot that was intricately hand-painted with colorful paisleys. Sitting at the table were Mrs. Langley and Asuka. The pilot had changed her outfit, now wearing a white silk blouse and blue pleated skirt with polished red ballet flats. The two of them were excitedly conversing at the table when the two Japanese appeared.
“Hello, sleepyhead!” Asuka said to Shinji in a cheerful tone that he knew to be fake. She got out of her chair and gave him a quick hug, whispering in his ear in Japanese “You took long enough!”
“Sorry,” he whispered back.
Asuka sat him down at the table and poured a cup of tea for him, then sat herself down again and continued her conversation. Shinji tried to follow along but his poor German allowed him to understand less than five percent of what everyone was saying and instead he just sat there drinking his tea and tried to be polite as possible as the other two talked.
“How long will you be staying with us?” Asuka’s step-mother continued.
“Not very long, I'm afraid. We still have piloting duties so we won't have much time here.”
“But I thought everything's now over,” the woman said. “Now that the Angels are defeated isn't that the end of the program?”
“Well, it's not my department,” Asuka said factually. “As long as they need me I'll just keep piloting.”
“The Alliance came to Third Branch, too, you know,” the woman protested. “Things got very...ugly for a while.” Asuka said nothing but just kept smiling, meaning that she intended to change the subject.
Asuka's stepmother changed her tone to a more serious, direct one. “Now that you're here, shouldn't you go see your father?”
The girl couldn't completely hide her discomfort this time. “Of course, Mama.”
“He's in the upstairs study,” mother said and without saying another word left the table to go to the kitchen and speak to a cook that was now standing there.
Asuka got up from the table and walked briskly back to the hallway with Shinji in tow. Once she left the kitchen Shinji could see the look of consternation on her face but didn't ask why. Even in the short time he was at her family's house it was clear she considered herself an outsider in this place.
They both went back up the spiral staircase to the top floor and then Asuka led Shinji down the hallway all the way to the end. There was a single large wooden door that was closed. “Wait here,” she told Shinji as they stood by the door. She then took a deep breath, shook her head a bit to get her hair in place, and knocked on the door.
“Papa?” she called softly with a charming voice. “Papa, can I come in?” she said, speaking in English.
There was a long silence but Asuka did nothing but stand in front of the door. After a minute a low voice came back “Little Asuka, is that you?”
“Yes, Papa. It's me.”
“Come in, please,” the voice softly replied. To Shinji the man's voice seemed tired and disoriented.
Asuka opened the door slowly, motioning to Shinji to stay out of sight, and gently walked through the doorway. She left the door open behind her.
Shinji leaned over very slightly through the doorway to get a view of who Asuka was speaking to. Sitting in the middle of the room at an ornate mahogany desk was a middle-aged man that he guessed was about fifty years of age. His hair was red as Asuka's, but was graying at the temples and thinning out. His face looked like it was handsome once, with a square jaw and large blue eyes, but there were deep wrinkles now set in. The man sat at the chair, his head leaning back and his shoulders sloped downward. His expression was one of lifelessness, staring out the doorway into nothingness.
Asuka gently walked up to the desk, holding her hands together in front of her as she spoke to him. Her bright eyes and smile betrayed none of her true feelings for the man across from her.
“So, Little Asuka,” the man slowly began, “you've returned home.”
“Did you defeat the Angels?” he asked.
“Yes, Papa, I did. Although I did have some help.”
“That's good,” he said in a distant tone. “You worked so hard to become a good pilot. I'm glad that you were able to come back.”
The two were silent for a while, Asuka standing there in front of him and smiling while Mr. Langley determined what he wanted to say next. His mind was drifting, and he looked in front of him without really seeing what was in front of him.
“Now that the Angels are defeated will you be living here again?”
She allowed herself a bigger smile. “No, Papa. I live in Japan now, with Miss Katsuragi and Mr. Kaji.”
“I see,” he said. “But the Angels are defeated. Surely you can come home now?”
Asuka stood her ground. “No, Papa. I'm still a pilot. I will stay with my EVA.”
“That's a shame,” he said slowly. “I've... neglected you for so long. I'd like to see you live here again.”
“I'm sorry, Papa,” she replied. “They still need me over there.”
“Then I'm sorry for it,” he said, now in an even sadder tone. “When will I see you again?”
Never, if I can help it. “I'm afraid I don't know,” she said, still smiling. “I'll let Mama know when I can come back.”
Her father resigned himself. “Very well, then. Please take care of yourself, Little Asuka. It's what you do best.”
“Thank you, Papa.” She then turned herself around and went back out the door, quietly shutting the door behind her. Shinji looked at her as her facial expression went back to her honest one, which was one of disgust.
“Bastard,” she said underneath her breath as she took Shinji's hand. “Let's go.”
Much later that evening Shinji took out the satellite phone that Misato had given him before the trip and made two calls. One was to Misato, mostly to check in and let her know everything was OK. Misato asked Shinji how it went today and he gave a brief recap. She then wished them well and asked for Shinji to check in again in a couple of days. Shinji's next call was to another satellite phone. That phone answered on the fourth ring.
“Ayanami!” Shinji said. “Good morning!”
“It's early...” Shinji smiled at that, as even the stoic Rei had trouble getting up in the morning.
“I know, but I just wanted to check in and see how you were.”
More awake now, Rei sat up in the bed. “Everything is good. The smell of the ocean is very unique.”
“Good, I'm glad. No trouble then?”
“How is Patrick?”
“Forrestal-kun is OK. We drank tea and talked last night.”
“How is Germany?”
“Interesting, like nothing I've ever seen.”
“Is the Second OK?”
“She's fine. She introduced me to her family today.”
“It's good that you're there. It's best she not be alone.”
“Yeah, well anyway please go back to sleep. I'll talk to you later.”
Rei said nothing, disconnecting the call. Despite the abrupt end, Shinji felt very relieved after speaking to her. At least she seems to be enjoying herself, he thought.
Shinji found no trouble again falling asleep in the very comfortable poster bed, but has it happened every night, he was awakened around midnight when he heard a “thump” next to him. Small arms wrapped themselves around his waist and he felt her pull herself against his back, squeezing tightly. Nearly every night since the battle at Tokyo-3, Asuka had sneaked inside his bedroom to stay with him, holding onto Shinji like an oversized teddy bear. He didn't mind at all, and held her hands in his as they both drifted asleep.
The next morning Asuka's step-mother informed her that one of Asuka’s college friends was organizing a party in her honor, to welcome her back to Germany. The party was to be that evening at the friend's own mansion. Upon hearing the news Asuka protested to her step-mother that she “simply had nothing to wear,” and insisted on taking Shinji back into the city to go shopping for them both.
At first Mrs. Langley offered a car and driver, but the pilots explained that Kikuchi could drive quite well and would prefer if he took them. This was done partly to be sure that anything they said or did out of the house would not be relayed by the driver back to Mrs. Langley. Asuka's stepmother reluctantly agreed, and loaned a white BMW 7-series sedan to the three of them. The group promptly took off, with Kikuchi quietly indulging himself at the wheel of the BMW driving the autobahn on the way into the city.
Upon reaching central Berlin they went to Kurfürstendamm, which was one of the most trendy shopping areas of the city. Asuka took Shinji to the giant KaDeWe department store to buy clothes, but also to talk privately.
In the trendy young women's section, Asuka quickly pushed through dress after dress, looking for something that would fit the event. Shinji was already holding onto two other outfits that she quickly grabbed while she went looking for the evening gown she wanted.
Not wanting to break Asuka's concentration but also trying to break the ice regarding her family, Shinji tried to think of a way to start things. He had known her long enough to know her frustrations and knew the shopping trip itself was mostly a ruse.
“So, what does your dad do for a living anyway?” Shinji asked her. She was silent for a bit, pretending to ignore his question until she found what she wanted.
“Ah!” she said, holding up the gown. “This should do!” Asuka showed him a red evening gown with bare shoulders, a long silk skirt that was split up to the higher thighs. “Here, let me go try this one!” Happy to have found something she liked, she raced back to the dressing rooms with the gown.
Shinji waited patiently in front until she came out wearing the dress. She walked over to him and turned around. “Zip me up, will you?” He gently complied, fastening her zipper so that her dress fit firmly. Asuka then spun around for him, showing the dress. “Wha'cha think?”
The boy's eyes went wide. “It looks really good!”
“It better, for the price,” she said. Asuka quickly slipped back into the dressing room and changed back. Shinji figured he should just give up on getting the backstory today.
The redhead came out again and quickly went to another section of the store. As she went looking for another outfit she started talking. “Damn! They don't have it anymore!”
“Don't have what?”
“My dress! My favorite one!”
“You mean the yellow one?”
“Yes! I lost that one when the apartment got destroyed and now they don't have it anymore!” She pouted for a bit then looked and found something else. “Here, this looks nice.” She showed a pink sundress to Shinji, who nodded in approval. “I'll go try this one on,” she said and then ran back to the dressing room.
After a minute she came back and showed him the dress, which Shinji rather liked. It was pink and feminine, with spaghetti straps and a short, frilly hemline. She saw his smile when she wore it in front of him and decided that this was her new favorite.
Can I trust him with the rest of the story? Considering how his family is messed up, he'd probably be the only one to get it anyway...
“Come on,” she told him. “Let's get you something and then I'll tell you the rest.”
“I don't really need anything,” Shinji said.
“Yes you do. These people don't give a crap what you wear, just as long as it's expensive.” After changing out again she took him by the arm to the men's section and started working on him from there.
After their shopping spree, which Asuka conveniently paid for with her family's credit card, the two of them had lunch inside a small cafe next to the department store. As they sat on the outside porch Shinji worked on his wienerschnitzel as Asuka sparingly ate her petite steak. A few minutes into the meal Asuka finally started to answer Shinji’s questions about her family.
“My father's family is in the arms trade,” she began. “They've been doing that for over a hundred years. They were suppliers to all different types of countries, depending on who was fighting who. He works at NERV Third Branch here in Berlin, one of the senior management types in charge of buying all of the stuff they needed to build the EVAs.”
“Wow,” Shinji said. “They must pay a lot.”
“Actually he gets bribed a lot. Other companies wanted the NERV business so they pay him under the table to get inside deals. A lot of crap like that.”
“His wife,” Shinji noted that she didn't use the term 'mother', “is actually a doctor. She also worked at NERV in Berlin, at least until they got married.”
Shinji shifted the subject slightly. “When did you meet Misato?”
“I was eleven. I had started university by then. She was my controller for my pilot training at NERV at the other part of Third Branch at Hamburg. I had been living on my own there already for a few years before she arrived.”
At this point Shinji was quite curious. “Was she like she is now?”
“Oh yeah. When I first met her I so hated her. Bossy and then so freaking lazy. After a while though I guess we found a way to get along. We had fun, too. Then she got posted back to Japan and then I got a new controller.”
“Who was that?” Shinji asked. Asuka's eyes went up in surprise. “Kaji-san, of course!!!” She sighed deeply. “Everything was wonderful after he showed up!”
Sea of Japan
That evening as it is custom in many navies, the ship's captain had his dinner on a private table not far from the bridge of the Liberator. Seated at the table were his senior officers as well as important guests. Wearing white or khaki uniforms the group of officers at the table relaxed a bit, eating away and trading stories of adventures past and present, and waiting for their guests to arrive.
Patrick entered the private dining room wearing a t-shirt with a logo of the Liberator and blue and green camouflage pants. He quickly took his place at one of the two empty chairs at the table as one of the other officers poured him water.
He had dined with Admiral Gato and the others for three nights now and while at first intimidated by the officers Patrick had become more at ease over time, as they had a great many questions about Evangelions and other matters that he and his fellow pilot could answer. In return the officers gave both of the children tremendous hospitality and made them feel quite welcome.
Just as he was about to start on his dinner the other guest quietly entered. Wearing a simple white sundress with matching sandals, Rei Ayanami walked to the table and silently sat down next to Patrick.
“Hi,” Patrick said to her, smiling. Rei didn't say anything but just nodded a little and turned her attention to the rest of the group as they ate and talked.
Admiral Gato addressed the boy. “Mr. Forrestal,” he said, “how did you like that little game from yesterday?”
“I was pretty nervous for a while,” Patrick said. “We're used to fighting big targets, not knocking down lots of little ones. It would have been helpful to know how many missiles they were going to shoot!”
“If you knew that, it blows the test,” the admiral replied. “You used up way too much ammo on the first few salvos.”
“Next time I think I can just use the AT field and cover the whole fleet that way. It seems much better.”
A steward came in and served the main course , which was lobster. Everyone at the table received a generous portion except for Rei, who by her request was served soup instead.
“Is this the first time you've seen the EVAs in action, admiral?” Patrick asked as he worked on cracking open his dinner.
“No. When we were still with the UN fleet our battlegroup escorted Unit 02 to Japan. We were nearly there when we got attacked by that Angel.”
Rei and Patrick looked at each other in realization, and then back at the admiral. “Sixth Angel,” Patrick said.
“That's right. That bastard took out half of my ships before those two kids stopped it.”
“I saw video of that battle,” Patrick said. “It was quite nasty!”
“Yeah. Unfortunately we were not informed ahead of time about the nature of the enemy, otherwise I would have asked that the EVA deploy as we got closer to Tokyo-3. I had some choice words for the UN high command after that and then they promptly threatened me if I didn't shut up. Admiral Vinson and I were once classmates at the academy, and when I told him what happened he gave me the rest of the story I wasn't getting from the UN about EVA and the Angels.”
Admiral Gato changed the topic, and spoke to Patrick's companion. “So young lady, are you enjoying your stay on board?”
Rei looked up at him with a stoic expression. “Yes. It's very relaxing.”
“You don't seem to do much other than read up in the conning tower,” the admiral said. “If you like we can take you up on some of our aircraft here and go for a ride.”
“No thank you,” Rei said. “I'm quite content.”
Strange girl. Gato winced at Patrick but he just smiled back at him. “Well, tomorrow is just a naval exercise so there's no need for the EVA, and we head back to Japan in two days. Would both of you like to go on an excursion?”
“Where to?” Patrick asked.
“There's a smaller island in the Keramas that is close by here, called Tokashiki. It's quite nice: the beach is very beautiful with crystal-clear water. There's also a small village on the other side of the island. We can drop you off in the morning and then pick you up that night. I think you'll like it.” Gato winked at Patrick at the last part, and the boy grasped his meaning. A romantic getaway.
Patrick looked at Rei. “That sounds nice. Are you interested?” Rei didn't say anything but looked back and nodded.
“Count us in!” said Patrick.
“We'll arrange it, then,” the Admiral confirmed. “We'll have a chopper and escort take you there at 0800 hours.”
After dinner ended Patrick and Rei both stood up to go to their staterooms. Patrick looked at Rei. “Can I come over again tonight?”
“Of course. I'll be ready at Eight o'clock.”
“Thanks,” he replied. They both then went to their separate rooms.
Sixty minutes later Patrick stood in front of Rei's cabin holding a tray with a pot of hot tea and two cups. Carefully balancing the tray with one hand he knocked on her door with the other. She opened the door a moment later, her hair and skin were still wet from the shower and she wore a white bathrobe provided by the ship.
“May I come in?” he asked. Rei nodded and he then walked into the cabin.
Patrick carefully set the tray down on the small desk that was in her stateroom. While their cabins were small they had one notable luxury in that there were cramped but private shower units in each of them. Besides the shower there was a small bed that doubled as a couch, as well as a desk that folded up. Patrick sat in the solitary chair in the room as Rei gently sat down on the bed. He couldn’t help but notice that as she sat down her bathrobe split open up to her thigh, giving him a considerably good view of her legs.
The tea service was the result of Patrick's brainstorming on ways to converse with Rei more often. While it was true that after Third Impact Rei was somewhat more open and expressive with him and everyone else, many times she was still very inward, and Patrick found that starting a conversation with her was still not at all easy.
Observing Rei within the previous two weeks Patrick noticed that she had an affinity for hot tea. She often had it in her temporary room in the NERV hospital, and also noticed that in the few times she sat down with Shinji they nearly always drank hot tea together. Not knowing if it was just a Japanese thing, on the first night on board Liberator Patrick came over to her cabin uninvited and brought her hot green tea to drink. Then as she sat silently and drank Patrick proceeded to try to discuss every topic he could think of with her.
It had not been very smooth the first night, but on the second he directed the conversation to his life in the California mountains and that had piqued her interest. She asked him several questions about the wildlife he encountered while living in a cabin, of which he was quite happy to tell her of his many encounters with creatures large and small including one frightening incident from his early youth with a mountain lion. That night he felt that they had both enjoyed the time together and tonight Patrick figured the tea service was clearly worth another try.
“So,” he asked her as he poured the tea into the two cups. “How did it go today?”
“Three books today,” she said. “Dolphins, sea life in coral-based tide pools, and naval engineering.”
“I was curious about the construction of this ship. The ship's library has several books about this ship and about engineering as well.” She took a sip from the teacup after Patrick poured it, licking her lips slightly afterward. “This is more sweet.”
“It's polynesian fruit tea,” Patrick answered. “One of the stewards is from Taiwan and suggested it.”
“It's very different from green tea.”
“But do you like it?”
She thought for a moment as she licked her lips to further analyze the taste. “Yes.”
Patrick changed the subject. “Just out of curiosity, have you ever read Shakespeare?” he asked Rei.
“All of the works,” she replied. “Plays and sonnets.”
“What do you think of him?”
Rei was thoughtful. “Understanding them is difficult. For some of them I didn't see the point. The characters don't behave in ways that make sense.”
“You mean in that they're screwed up like everyone else.”
“I can grasp why they act in irrational ways,” Rei replied, “but I'm not sure why others put such value on the stories.”
“What did you think of Romeo and Juilet?”
She was matter-of-fact: “They were stupid.”
“What they did made no sense to me,” she explained. “If they had such love for each other they would have been able to communicate better and read each other's intended meanings. Instead they have no idea what each other is doing, and then do highly irrational things based on assumptions that were incorrect.”
“And then they each kill themselves at the end.”
Patrick laughed at her unique observation as Rei watched him. “It’s called Irony. Oh well, your take on it is clearly honest.”
“Do you like the plays yourself?” she asked him.
“It's sort of strange but I like the histories better than the dramas. Stuff like Hamlet just bores me but the histories like Henry V or Julius Caesar are more interesting. Was there a Shakespeare play you did like?”
“The Tempest,” Rei said.
“Ah! His last work. Way out fantasy compared to his other stuff.” That's an interesting choice, he thought to himself. She's Miranda compared to the Commander's Prospero, only Ikari was nowhere near as nice. Would that make me Ferdinand, then? “Is there someone you prefer that's better?”
“I don't really have a preference,” she said. “I read as long as it interests me.”
The boy put his hand on his chin and smiled at her. “Truthfully. Besides the three books you read completely today how many others did you put down after reading, say, one page?”
“Is that how it usually goes?”
They sat and drank the tea for a bit longer, as Patrick worked up what he wanted to ask next. To him Rei seemed more relaxed this time, and he felt possibly she might respond to questions that were more personal.
“My father told me things...things about EVA and the program. I'm not sure what to believe of what he said, but he also talked about you.”
Rei's eyebrows went up. “What did he say?”
Patrick swallowed a little bit and gave her a serious look. “He told me what the...relationship was, between you and Shinji's mother.”
Upon hearing that Rei didn't flinch, but she looked pensive for a little while. Patrick knew that he had struck something deep.
“Did you know?” he asked her.
“Not at first,” she replied. “I was never told of this by the Commander.”
“Then how did you find out?”
“The first time I saw Ikari-kun, I knew there was a connection of sorts but I did not know why. When he touched me it was as if I was touched by something familiar, as if I already knew him.”
“When did you know?”
“Some time later Dr. Akagi performed a cross-sync test. I was entered into Unit 01's entry plug and attempted to synch with her. I was immediately successful in doing so.”
Patrick was keenly interested. “And then what happened?”
“For the first time, “she explained carefully, “I felt the void that was inside of me be filled. I could touch her, the one inside the Evangelion. Then at that point she gave me knowing, of who and what I was.”
“How did you feel?”
“I couldn't describe the feeling, except that when you solve a puzzle that is very difficult. At that point I reached a conclusion, and I was happy and sad for it.”
“Happy and sad?”
“I was Happy that I had an answer to my being, but also sad as the reason for my being was to be a placeholder for someone else. I felt I was less of myself after that day.”
“Did that happen before or after I met you the first time?”
“I don't see how someone like you could ever feel less of yourself,” Patrick said. “You're definitely one of a kind.”
“But at that time I wasn't,” Rei replied. “The body that I had then was just one of many, and all of them were exactly the same.”
“But that's not true anymore, is it?”
“No, and...” she paused for a moment as she considered how she felt now “it is quite an unusual experience. Before I was disposable, able to be replaced by another. Now am I so invaluable that others will go to great lengths to ensure that will live on and that no harm will come to me.”
“You were always invaluable,” Patrick told her.
“Do I seem different to you than before?” she asked him.
He thought about her question. “Yeah, there's some differences. You're a little bit more relaxed now. You smile more, talk a little more. Back then you seemed like you were wrapped in this cone of silence. But despite all that, you're still the you I met before. Do you feel different?”
“I do,” Rei replied as she looked out the window of the stateroom. “I can...feel things more now, sense the people around me. I have knowing.” She turned to him. “It's the same with you.”
“You're different from before, when you first came to Tokyo-3.”
“I don't really feel different...”
“It's true. Before you always seemed very nervous.”
“It was my first time in Japan! I was so worried I wouldn't be able to talk to anyone!”
“That wasn't it,” she said. “You were very anxious then. You are not like that now.”
Patrick scratched his head a little. “I guess I was really trying hard to make a good impression on everyone. Back then I didn't really know what was important and what wasn't.”
“Do you know now?” she asked him.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling a little. “I think I got that down pretty good now.” They were both silent again for a while and drank their tea.
For the next few minutes the two of them spoke about less important subjects until Patrick excused himself to go. He slowly got up and picked up the tea pot and glasses and then moved to go out the door. Turning around he faced Rei as she stood in the doorway, still wearing her white robe.
“Have a good sleep. Tomorrow will be another adventure.”
“I will. Thank you.”
“Don't mention it,” he replied. “Good night.”
“Good bye,” she replied and gently shut the door.
After returning the tea set Patrick returned to his own stateroom at the opposite end of the hallway. He plopped himself on this bed, looking up at the ceiling and thinking about the last hour.
Catching Rei is like catching that missile wave, he thought. I don't know how many missiles I'll have to knock down, but to get her I have to get every one. Patiently, methodically, one by one by one...
Once the boy left Rei moved the chair over by the small window and watched the world go by outside the ship, seeing the reflection of the crescent moon on the ripples of the ocean water below her. She felt a new presence in the room and quickly glanced behind her, then went back to watching the ocean go by.
“He likes you, you know,” the voice said.
“I'm aware of it,” she replied.
“Too bad you won't be able to give him what he wants.”
“If what he wants is for me to fill a need,” she said in turn “then he'll be disappointed. But if what he wants is to make a connection, then all things are possible.”
“Good luck, then” the boy said with a humph. Rei just kept looking out the window, wondering what the possibilities really were.
“Oh, brave new world, that has such people in it...”
Go on to Chapter Three