Part 6: Life as Art as Insanity

Rei and Shinji walked side by side toward Misato's apartment, his arms full of groceries and Rei holding some drinks. He had insisted that she carry as little as possible. She had stared at him blankly and asked why she shouldn't carry more of the load. Shinji had tried to explain the concept of chivalry, but Rei seemed to find it too alien and nonsensical to grasp. Not that Shinji was the greatest at explaining something so complex. He had given up when she had pointed out that she was stronger than him physically, so why should he carry more than her. Rei dismissed the entire episode as irrelevant information. She did not forget it, however. Perhaps this is one of the underlying problems that pilot Sohryu has with Pilot Ikari. Perhaps she does not appreciate this tendency of his to be chivalrous. Perhaps I should ask Captain Katsuragi about this strange custom. Rei mused to herself. The pair quickly reached the apartment.

At the door to his apartment, Shinji found himself in a quandary. With his hands full of groceries, he couldn't open the door with his card. And if he tried to set down one bag, they would all fall. "Um, Rei, I can't get to my card to open the door." He said to the quiet girl at his side. "It's in my right pocket and I can't set one of these bags down without…" His explanation was interrupted by Rei reaching into his front pocket and fishing for the door card. In her search for the elusive card, her fingers brushed against his member, which immediately twitched and started to stiffen. Of all the times! Thought Shinji desperately, why now! Rei's going to think I'm a pervert and probably hit me! Instead, Rei found the card and withdrew it from his pocket, swiping the card through the lock and opening the door. She stepped aside and looked at Shinji expectantly. With a soft sigh, he entered the apartment, wondering what Ayanami was thinking. He heard the door close, and the sound of Rei slipping off her shoes. Well, at least she didn't just leave. Thought Shinji. Maybe she didn't notice. He set the bags on the counter and started to set out the groceries he would need to make the dishes that Misato had asked for. As he did so, he noticed that Rei was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, watching him. "You don't have to stand there, Rei. Have a seat at the table." Offered Shinji, pulling a chair out for her on the off side of the table from where he was working.

"You wish me to stay?" asked Rei, her tone even and flat, as it always was. "Why?"

"Well, I thought that you might like some supper. I got some of this just for you so I could make you some dishes without meat in them. Aren't you hungry?" he asked in response.

"I ate this afternoon." Noted Rei. "However, I have not eaten since. If you wish me to stay, I will."

"Please stay, Rei." Said Shinji. Rei studied him for a moment, then crossed to the chair and sat. She watched him for a few minutes, then spoke.

"Do you require assistance with the food, Pilot Ikari?"

"If you want, but you don't have to." Replied the boy, studying the ingredients and the utensils he had selected, trying to decide where to start the process.

"What do you wish me to do first, Pilot Ikari?" asked Rei, standing and crossing to his side. Shinji was a little stumped, but he knew what she could do while he figured out where to start.

"You can cut these vegetables into sections for me. Have you ever done that before?" he asked her.

"I have never cooked before." Stated Rei.

"That's OK, I'll show you how to do it. Just watch me and you'll see it's easy." Replied the pilot of Unit 1. He selected a paring knife and one of the vegetables, ran it under the faucet, then sliced it into smaller sections. As he did so, he pointed out to Rei the parts to keep and the ones to throw in the trash. Rei confirmed that she understood and he watched her do a couple, seeing that she was excellent with the knife work and very precise. Not that he had thought she wouldn't be; it was her nature to be exacting and a fast learner. Indeed, it was one of the personality traits that had earned her Asuka's tag of Wondergirl. Satisfied that the blue-haired girl was safe with the job he gave her, he returned to the trouble at hand. After another dozen seconds, an idea hit him. He glanced around, and spotted his NERV-issued cell phone on the table, scooped it up and ran through the numbers in the unit's memory. Not finding the one he wanted, he frown, then smiled. He selected another number instead and waited. After four rings, the person on the other end answered.

"Hey, Touji. Do you have Hikari's home number?"

"How many more forms are there?" wondered Ritsuko as she signed yet another set of quadruplicate forms, initializing, signing and thumb-printing as necessary. The three office type people were busy separating the forms and sorting them into various stacks and files, and putting more in front of her and Airi. Misato sat at the end of the table waiting patiently for them to finish. She had signed a dozen or so forms, and that seemed to be all she had to do, as she had been waiting there for them to finish for the last twenty minutes.

"I have no idea, Rit-chan. I'm getting cramps in my hand from all this signing." Answered the actress. And I'm used to signing autographs by the hundreds. What is so damned important to need all this? She had scanned each sheet put before her and it seemed to her that most of the forms were non-disclosure forms and security clearance forms. There had been one a few back that read like a death warrant if she saw something called Project E, whatever that was.

"At least you're not a Pilot. I had to sign and initial and thumb-print and DNA authenticate for most of week." Offered Asuka. "This is the short version."

"Short version?" asked both women in unison, looking at the mountain of papers before them. Misato entered the discussion.

"You're almost done. Asuka, you can speed things up by going to the Section 2 duty station and retrieving their personal belongings." She said, handing a set of forms to the girl. "Do you know where the duty station is?"

"No, but I can find it." She said confidently. "Unlike some people, I don't get lost in here."

"And what's that supposed to mean, Second?" asked Misato, her tone hard.

"Shinji told me about his first visit here. Need I continue, Captain Katsuragi?" asked the redheaded pilot.

"You need to get going, Pilot Sohryu. I expect you to return with their stuff inside of fifteen minutes." Said the dark purple haired woman. The redhead smirked at her angry tone.

"If I'm late, are you going to come look for me, Misato?" she asked innocently.

"No. I'll have Section 2 toss you in the brig for being AWOL." Replied Misato.

"Yeah, right, and leave you with only Shinji the Hero and Wondergirl? Not likely." Muttered Asuka as she walked away. Ritsuko and Airi watched her go.

"She seems to have some issues with her fellow pilots. As well as authority." Observed Airi in a conversational tone. "Is she as good as she thinks she is?"

"Probably not, but she is the most highly trained of my pilots. Shinji is the least trained and experienced, but he has most of the kill credits. Rei is very proficient, but lacks the initiative and killer instinct that Asuka has trademarked. Still, as good as she is, well…" Misato trailed off. She looked to Airi. "But enough about that! Let's get this wrapped up and get home. I'm sure that Shin-kun has supper almost ready."

Shinji had spoken with Hikari for a few minutes, and then ended the call, telling Rei that Hikari was coming over to help them since she had fixed the requested food before and knew how to make it quick and easy. She had told him how to prepare the ingredients so all she needed to do when she arrived was to help him assemble and cook the meal. She had told him she'd be there in about 40 minutes. Plenty to do until she arrived. He was busy preparing the meats when Rei spoke to him.

"Pilot Ikari." She began.

"Please call me Shinji, Rei. I…don't like the other title that much." Asked Shinji.

"Very well, Pi…Shinji. I was wondering if you find me sexually attractive."

"Wha…what?!" sputtered Shinji.

"When I retrieved the door card earlier, I felt your penis harden. In health class, the instructor stated that it was a sign of male arousal, usually occurring when the male was in the presence of a female he found desirable. The instructor also stated that it can be caused by the need to urinate or by lack of sufficient sexual release. As you have not gone to the bathroom since we arrived, it does not seems to be the need to urinate that made your penis hard. Since you invited me to stay with you, I think that it must mean that you find me sexually attractive. Is this the case, Shinji? Or is it that you have not had sufficient sexual release to avoid such a condition." The whole time, the girl stared at him levelly and unflinchingly. Shinji was not so lucky. He had gone from blushing furiously, to the color of Asuka's Eva, to nearly passing out during the course of the speech Rei had made.

"Wha…I…it's…well…" he stumbled and stuttered, trying to make sense. Rei watched him.

"Do you find me sexually attractive, Shinji?" she repeated. Shinji's brain was nearly overloaded, and his body seemed to take control, speaking where his mind couldn't.

"Ye…Yes." He gasped. Rei considered this for a moment. Then she asked another question.

"Do you receive sufficient sexual release?"

"I…I…guess. Sorta." He managed to get out.

"Do you find Pilot Sohryu to be sexually appealing as well?" asked the pilot of Unit 0.

Shinji was beyond words and was feeling light headed, so his body acted for him. He nodded numbly. Rei considered, then spoke again.

"I will speak with Captain Katsuragi and request that you receive sufficient sexual release so as not to interfere with your duties. If she is unable to provide for such, then I will provide assistance for you." Stated the ice goddess. Shinji's mind screeched into gear at that little statement. He had mental pictures of Rei informing Misato that he needed more sexual release, and Misato dragging him to her room and chaining him to the bed. God, that's all I need! He whimpered mentally. I like Misato just fine, but she goes to extremes too often. Gotta keep Rei quiet.

"I…I'll talk to her, Rei. There's no need for you to waste your time on my problems." He managed to get out.

"Your problems are my problems, Shinji. I promised to protect you, and that includes seeing to your well-being as well as protecting you on the battlefield." Replied Rei.

"Why are you…I mean…why care about my…needs?" wondered Shinji. Rei caught his meaning.

"The instructor also stated that prolonged periods of sustained erection could physically damage a male or lower his ability to concentrate, as well as being uncomfortable. That is not productive in our use of Eva's against the Angels."

Shinji said the only thing he could. "Thank you, Rei." She did something that she had only done a couple of times since the 5th angel: she smiled at him.

"Well, that took long enough!" complained Asuka. She had given the paperwork to the Section 2 agent at the duty station, and he had given her two sacks with serial numbers on them. She had stood there expectantly. After several seconds, she had asked where the rifle and pistol the girl had had on her were. The guard had refused to give them to her, so she called Misato, who talked to the guard, who talked to Fuyutsuki, who asked the Commander, who called Misato, who talked to the guard. Asuka had received a heavy canvas duty sack, and, after a glance inside, she started back to the administration wing.

When she arrived, the others were standing there, waiting. Ritsuko spotted the canvas bag and practically snatched it from Asuka's shoulder, swiftly pulling her weapons belt out and checking the USP, the knife and the radio. She started to sling the belt around her hips, but a glance from Airi stopped her. She sighed, then put the belt aside and withdrew the rifle. Asuka watched, amazed, as Ritsuko cleared, stripped, inspected and reassembled the G36 in less than two minutes with only her hands. Satisfied with what she saw, she lovingly hugged the gun to her. "Well, my ammo's gone, but at least my babies are back with me." She said happily to Airi.

Asuka looked to Misato. "Wait till Kensuke meets her. They're so alike it's scary." Observed the Second.

"No, I think that Ritsuko is the real thing, and Aida is but a wanna-be. Did you see the way she handled that HK rifle? She's no ordinary otaku." Said Misato, her voice low and soft. Asuka barely heard her and she was standing right next to her. Misato raised her voice. "Well, it's done. Let's head home. Asuka, you'll be my co-pilot." Airi wondered why the arrogant, strong-willed girl turned pale at those words. She didn't have to wonder why for very long.

"Thanks for coming over, Hikari." Said Shinji, opening the door and smiling at the Class Rep. Hikari Horaki smiled back and said

"It's nothing. Besides, I haven't seen Asuka today, so this way, I can kill two birds with one stone." She stepped into the kitchen and jumped as Rei greeted her.

"Good evening, Class Representative Horaki."

"Good evening, Rei. I didn't know you were here."

"Shinji invited me to stay for dinner to welcome Misato's new room mates." Replied Rei.

"New room mates? Who are they, Shinji?" asked Hikari.

"It's a long story, and I'm sure that Asuka will want to tell you all about it." Shinji dodged the question. Hikari knew that Asuka would tell her even if Shinji had already told her, so she was willing to wait for the redhead to get home.

"Well, we better get started so it's done when they get back." Said Hikari, taking an apron from Shinji's outstretched hand and tying it on. The apartment's phone rang just then and Shinji answered it. After a brief conversation, he hung up and returned to the kitchen.

"They'll be here in an hour. Is that long enough?" he asked the brown-haired girl.

"Nearly perfect, Shinji. Tell you what, I've got this end of things under control. Why not take a few minutes to do a little clean up?" Shinji glanced around and noted that while the apartment was as clean as it ever got, he could still tidy up some things and make it as good as possible for the new arrivals. God knows what it was like when I first came here. That was…frightening to see. At least they can start with a good impression if I clean up a little. He started to gather up loose articles and bits and pieces of this and that the Captain and Asuka had left around. A few moments later, he saw that Rei was helping.

"Uh, you know you don't have to do that, Rei." He offered hesitantly.

"I will assist you, as I can not cook." She stated calmly. She was gathering up beer cans.

"Ok." Said Shinji. He spotted something between the cushions of the couch and pulled it out, finding it to be one of Misato's bras, in this case a silver/gold lace and lycra number. He heard a giggle from the kitchen, followed by Hikari's voice.

"Why, Shinji, I didn't know you were such a stud. Couldn't you wait to get her in her room before stripping her naked?"

"But, I…" he trailed off as Hikari, still laughing, turned back to preparing the food. He gripped the bra in his hand, and started looking for any other items of apparel on, in or around the couch, knowing from experience that Misato usually shed her clothes as quickly as she emptied beer cans and that she usually left them where she was at. Sure enough, his search yielded a pair of torn pantyhose, a sock, a pair of panties (Shinji tried not to think about why the panties were there) and a pair of shorts Misato had asked about only a couple of days ago. He took the clothes to the laundry room and tossed them into the hamper. He spotted some of Asuka's panties and bras haphazardly tossed near the hamper and added them to the collection.

Returning to the living room, he found that Rei had collected all the beer cans and empty food wrappers and had straightened the loose magazines, straightened a picture and cleared the loose hip pillows away from the floor in front of the TV. She had all the trash items in a bag, as well as the items from the food prep. His nose told him that Hikari was nearly done with the prep and was about to put the food in to cook.

"Should I dispose of this, or is there more?" asked Rei, indicating the bag of garbage. Shinji considered the question. Misato's room is a disaster zone, but I don't know if I should do anything about it. Just then, Hikari joined them.

"Any other areas need some cleaning?" she asked cheerfully.

"The only thing left is Asuka's room and Misato's. And I don't think that Asuka would like me to go into her room." Said Shinji doubtfully.

"Don't worry. I'll check Asuka's room, and you and Rei can check Misato's." decided Hikari, clearly in class rep mode. "After all, we need to make a good first impression." She stated.

"Agreed. Let us do so." Seconded Rei. Shinji sighed and led Rei to Misato's door, hesitating before opening it.

"It might be…a little messy, Rei." He cautioned. Rei said nothing. Shinji opened the door. Both teens stood there.

"This is considered a `little' messy, Shinji?" asked Rei.

"Well, for her, yes." Answered Shinji. Rei was silent. Hikari, her curiosity getting to her, stepped back out of Asuka's room and looked inside Misato's room. She too was silent.

"We have to do something about this room, Shinji. What will her new roommates think? I'll finish up Asuka's room and come help you guys. We might be able to finish this in time if we're fast." Said Hikari. Shinji and Rei entered the maelstrom that was Misato's room. Hikari returned to Asuka's room and began to hurriedly put up loose clothes or toss them into the hall way to go to the laundry room, hanging Asuka's dresses and skirts up and straightening her desk area. It was about five minutes of work for her, then she finished tossing the clothes into the hamper, noting that laundry would have to be run, and so she quickly sorted out a load and hurriedly tossed it into the washer, setting the machine and then joining Rei and Shinji in Misato's room. Rei was swiftly picking up beer cans and empty snack wrappers, while Shinji was shifting and sorting paperwork on her snowed-under desk. Hikari chose to start with the clothes strewn all over the floor. She made an arbitrary decision that all clothes on the floor were dirty and corralled them all, taking them to the laundry room. Once more, the hamper was full, but there was nothing she could do about that. She returned to where the battle for Misato's room raged on.

"We're home, Shinji-kun!" called Misato, opening the door and breezing in, Asuka behind her, keeping a sympathetic eye on the pale women following her. Airi was definitely pale as a sheet, while Ritsuko seemed be a little green around the edges. They knew now why Asuka had paled when informed that she was to co-pilot with Kamikaze Katsuragi. That woman will be the death of me yet. Thought the Second Child. How is it even possible to take a ninety degree corner at 120 kph and on one wheel to boot? It goes against the laws of physics! Her mental traumas were interrupted by the smell coming from the kitchen.

"What's that smell, Shinji Baka?" called Asuka.

"Supper is what that smell is, Asuka." Came the voice of one Hikari Horaki. She stuck her head around the corner. "Welcome home, Asuka, Misato. Are these your new roommates?" asked the girl.

"What are you doing here, Hikari?" asked Asuka.

"I kind of invited her over because she has cooked this kind of dish before." Interjected Shinji. Asuka turned toward him, and saw a blue head next to him on the couch. She frowned.

"Let me guess, Wondergirl is here for dinner as well?"

"Is there a problem with that?" asked Shinji. Asuka glowered, but answered,

"No, I guess not. But there better be meat!"

"Plenty of meat, Asuka." Assured Hikari. She looked to the two standing behind Asuka. "Aren't you going to introduce me, Asuka?" she pressed.

"Hikari Horaki, Class Representative, meet Airi Komiyama and Ritsuko Inoue. Airi, Ritsuko, this is Hikari, my best friend. And she doesn't work for NERV." The two women nodded as Asuka called their names. "Ritsuko got tossed into our zoo, so you'll be seeing her in class." Added Asuka, heading for her room. "I'm gonna get changed."

"Me too. Make yourself at home, you two." Called Misato, heading for her room. Shinji and Hikari stepped into the hallway by the door and closed their eyes, placing their hands over their ears. Sure enough, there was a surprised shriek, followed by a crash as Misato, upon opening her door, saw the clean room and cried out in dismay. "We've been robbed!" she yelled. Asuka stuck her head out of her room.

"What are you talking about, Misato? Baka was here and so was Wondergirl. Who would have robbed you? And who could have found anything in your room anyway?" Asuka ducked back into her room and a few moments later, she emerged in a pair of loose green shorts and an oversized tee shirt. Misato was still sitting on the floor across from her open door.

"What happened to my room?" she asked in a stunned voice. Asuka walked over and said

"Let's see this. It can't be that bad, Misato." She looked into the room. She looked at Misato. She looked back at the room. She turned to Misato and squatted down next to the stunned woman. Taking Misato's hand in hers, she patted it and spoke clearly and slowly, like one would to a child. "It's all right, Misato. That is what is called a floor. I know you aren't used to seeing one in your room, but it is not going to hurt you. The other strange thing you see is called a bed and a desk. I know, you're not used to seeing them either. But it's OK. Shinji and I will help you get through this." Her tone was patronizing and very superior. Misato snapped out of her shock and glared at Asuka.

"Funny, Second Child. Funny." She stood and stalked into her room, muttering and shooting Asuka dark glares. Asuka smiled as she stood. Looking to Shinji, she gave him an appraising look.

"I didn't think you had it in you, Shinji. You actually cleaned her room." Her expression darkened. "You better not have touched my room, baka hentai Shinji!"

"I didn't! I swear!" he cried, stepping back from her angry face. "Hikari did your room. Rei and I took care of Misato's."

"If I find any of my underwear missing, it's you ass, Third!" she threatened. "I won't have you looking at my panties and fantasizing about me, you little jerk-off!"

"Why would he need to take any of your undergarments, Pilot Sohryu? He does the laundry far more often than you or Captain Katsuragi, so he has plenty of opportunity to see your underwear." Pointed out a helpful Rei.

"Perversen Mench!" yelled Asuka, her fists balled.

"Um, dinner's ready, Asuka." Offered Hikari. "Hungry?" she asked the two women, who had sweat dropped at the exchange between the three teens and odd behavior of the captain. Ritsuko's stomach growled at the mention of food. Misato took this opportunity to exit her room. She wore her customary short cut off jean shorts, tank top and had her hair in a ponytail similar to Ritsuko's. She walked to the refridge and opened it to reveal her life sustaining secret weapon: dozens of cases of beer. She took two out and tossed one to Airi without asking. "Trust me, you'll need it." She said to the other woman, then downed hers in one shot, grabbing another as she tossed the empty can into the trash. "Ah! Much better. Let's eat, everyone!" she called happily. The people found their way to the kitchen and Shinji and Hikari set the food out. Asuka surveyed the food and smiled.

Baby back ribs, coleslaw, grilled vegetables, beans and rice and buns greeted her eyes. "Ah, real food for a change." She sighed, grabbing a plate and several napkins, filling the plate with the ribs and some coleslaw. She noticed that the ribs were well marinated and perfectly cooked. She dug in as did the others, Rei sticking to the bean and rice, adding the grilled and seasoned vegetables to her plate.

"This is truly good. Did you cook this, Shinji?" asked Airi of the boy.

"Hikari helped me. I've never done ribs before, and she had, so…"

"Don't listen to him, miss Komiyama; he is an excellent cook." Interrupted Hikari. "He has some great recepies."

"Well this sure beats elf food. Remember that pizza in that town when we bumped into Rapier? The stuff that tasted like pastries?"

"Yes. And the rice curry that was a dessert. Don't remind me." Murmured Airi in response. The others looked at them strangely. Ritsuko ignored the looks and dug in. Soon, the meal was consumed and the party was in the living room. Shinji started to do the dishes, but was interrupted by Misato.

"Shinji, stop that and come out here. Dishes are Asuka's job tonight, as well as the laundry."

"That's OK, I don't…"

"That's an order, Third Child." Called Misato. "And bring me another beer."

Shinji sighed and took three beers from the refridge, knowing that Misato would drink them all before they got warm. Asuka was curing under her breath. She knew she had forgotten something important. Looking into the kitchen, she saw the stack of dirty dishes and pots and pans, and knew that Misato had planned this from the start. Her instinct told her that the laundry was running over as well. The group sat in the living room as Asuka worked and cursed, talking the stiff, polite conversation of strangers getting to know each other. Airi and Ritsuko edited their stories, and knew that the others were careful what they did and didn't say. Hikari excused herself to the bathroom and before she returned to the group, she switched the laundry over, wanting to help her friend as much as possible.

After another hour had passed, Hikari excused herself and headed home, telling the others that she would see them in school in the morning. Asuka made a date to go shopping with her the day after, as it wasn't a school day. Rei stated that she would walk home. Misato over ruled her on the grounds that it was too late and her apartment was in a dangerous neighborhood. "Stay here tonight, and after school tomorrow you can head home. Besides, the more the merrier." She smiled a strangely dangerous smile and looked at Shinji. His spine tingled at the look she gave him. "OK, for the time being, I think that Ritsuko should be with Asuka and Airi can room with me. Rei can spend the night on the couch; or, if you prefer, Rei, I'm sure that Shinji would let you sleep with him."

"Misato!" yelled Shinji and Asuka together.

"I'm sorry, Asuka. Did you want to sleep with Shinji tonight instead?"

Asuka drowned out Shinji's protests with very loud, very fast cursing in Japanese, German, English and possibly some French, but no one could be sure, as she was firing too rapidly to be distinct. As she ranted on, Rei looked to Shinji.

"Do you wish me to sleep with you, Shinji?" she asked quietly. Airi and Ritsuko heard the exchange and tried not to show that they were listening. Rei ignored them, her attention on Shinji.

"Ah, tell you what, you sleep in my bed, I'll take the couch." Said Shinji.

"I would not mind sharing a bed with you, Shinji." Offered Rei.

"Ah, thanks, but I wouldn't want to disturb your sleep. I…sometimes get nightmares." He said in a quiet voice. Rei considered this.

"Very well, I accept your offer, Shinji. If, however, you choose to sleep with me, I will not mind." Shinji just nodded his head, his entire body beet red. Misato gave up her attacks on Asuka and went to work on Shinji. The two new women had one thought in their head:

What the hell have we gotten into this time?