By David 'Psaiyan' Hawthorne
He had been away on 'business' a lot lately. In two weeks, he had shown his face at headquarters exactly three times, staying for a couple of hours to tie up any pressing loose ends that could not be dealt with by phone, then disappearing without any explanation whatsoever.
When he did not answer his phone, Commander Fuyutsuki had called round to his home and hammered on the front door. It was obvious that Kouzou knew enough of his schedule to know that he had been lying, that he was not out of town at all; even though all the curtains were drawn and everything was silent within, he stood outside for almost an hour, waiting for Gendo to show himself.
Yet another Angel attack had occurred which he had left to the capable Major Katsuragi to deal with. He had not even known about it until he read about it in the newspaper the next day.
Everything was sliding. He could not keep this up for much longer before questions would be asked. Questions would be asked by the committee, his competency and commitment to the cause would soon be called into doubt. All of his dreams, all of his ambitions would collapse, all would be unrealised.
Still, compared to Rei Ayanami, nothing seemed to matter.
She could still barely walk to the bathroom and back before becoming light-headed and exhausted. She slept deeply for 20 hours a day, lying listlessly on the sofa and staring into space for the remainder, blinking perhaps once a minute.
Gendo knew that she belonged in hospital, that she needed specialist care. The drugs had dulled her reactions to the extent that she was almost catatonic - her eyes seemed unable to focus upon anything and she had not uttered a word since she had regained consciousness.
His recent behaviour had made him look as guilty as sin. If he were to take her for treatment now, there was a good chance that they would put two and two together to make fifteen. There would be no way to explain or justify his failure to act. At best, he would lose his job; at worst he would be arrested as a child abuser.
The gap in the curtains allowed a tiny shaft of light to illuminate an area of filthy, threadbare carpet, bisecting the room. It found the outline of an empty Jack Daniel's bottle, causing the glass to sparkle like diamond in the early morning.
Gendo inhaled deeply of his cigarette, fighting back the urge to cough and splutter. He held the hot smoke in his lungs for as long as possible, his eyes beginning to water. He attempted to blow a smoke ring, but failed, the strong-smelling cloud swirling nebulously in the beam of brightness. He flicked ash onto the floor beside him and sighed, leaning back in the scuffed leather armchair and closing his eyes.
The slight tremble in his free hand revealed his urgent need for a drink, yet he was unable to motivate himself to walk to the kitchen for more whiskey.
His whole body stank of sweat and booze - it had been over a week since he had bathed - or slept for more than half an hour at a time. His hair was greasy and his beard grew scraggy. Behind his glasses, his eyes were tired, yellowed and bloodshot. He could not remember the last time he changed his clothes.
As he had for the past fortnight, he stared intently at the slow rising and falling of her chest, each breath she took causing a twinge of anxiety within him, a heart-stopping fear that it may be her last.
Rei restlessly shifted beneath the duvet before settling again, the light catching her long azure fringe and making it shimmer like cool, sparkling water. Gendo took one last drag on his cigarette, then stubbed it out on his arm.
The whiskey had warmed his belly and steadied his nerves somewhat. Rei's sleeping head rested upon his lap as he slowly ran his fingers through her soft blue locks. Even in her current state, her beauty was undiminished, her pale albino skin remaining as clean and flawless as ever.
He stroked her cheek with the tips of his fingers, feeling the warmth and smoothness of her skin. The angry-looking bruise was beginning to yellow around the edges and her lip had almost completely healed. As he looked at what this quiet, unassuming, gentle girl had been reduced to - no, what *he* had reduced her to, the desire to gnaw off his own fingers grew.
He had tried apologising to her during her more lucid moments, tried to make her understand just how bad his own actions had made him feel, the guilt that was killing him inside. She seemed happy to let him spoon soup into her mouth for her as she lay on the sofa, run her a hot bath, or wear his old, baggy shirts around the house, but as a man she ignored him completely.
Remembering the look of desire, of absolute want for him that had been on her face only a few short weeks ago made him tremble. Why had he fought against himself? Why had he allowed himself to become so twisted inside? What had happened to him that had allowed him to savagely attack the one person closest to him in the world?
What would have been so bad about going with his feelings of lust for her? It would not have been abuse, he reasoned; Rei clearly desired him and would certainly have come to him willingly. He was a man, she was a woman - he was sexually attracted to her and she to him. Where was the problem? Wouldn't Yui herself have wanted him to be happy?
Yui. Those days seemed a whole lifetime away. It was hard to believe now that there had once been a time when he had woken up in the mornings and not wished for instant night. A time that his heart had once been gladdened by another; that the house had once been bright, clean and airy, the hallways ringing with the laughter of his infant son; that he had faith, was optimistic for the future. What would Yui say if she could see him now?
Surely she would want him to move on, to live again, instead of stagnating in the murky pool of his own memories?
He looked down at Rei as her eyes flickered open. Stunning maroon eyes, wide, sparkling and exotic. Alluring eyes, deep enough to swim in, though now focused on a point seemingly beyond the world.
Every man has a limit and Gendo Ikari had reached his. This was the end of the road. Life had defeated him, there was no more pride left. He was just a dry, empty husk pretending to be a man. His life and career were collapsing, tumbling down around him. His cold and calculating, master plan seemed such a distant memory now. Ahead lay only fuzzy indistinctness, more pain, more alcohol and finally the barrel of his gun pressed against his temple.
At the end of everything, the broken man that was Gendo Ikari cried out for someone to save him.
"Rei... I want you to know..." his voice cracked and a bubble of mucus appeared at his nostril as he shook with emotion.
Rei stared back blankly.
"Rei... let me tell you about my wife..." Tears rolled freely down and dripped from his face, spotting her cheeks as the broken man that was Gendo Ikari bared his soul.