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--
SPOILER ALERT - The following fan-fiction contains spoilers. It is
advised that you see the entire series before reading this fic.
-- 
This fan fiction is adapted from Neon Genesis Evangelion, produced by
Gainax. All characters thereof are the sole property of Gainax. They are
used without permission and no claim on them is made by this author.
--
Previous parts can be found at:
http://wyrmhole.net/abp/fanfic.html



I am Myself, part 2
by Chris Burke
--

Here he comes again,
my evil twin
My friends have seen him hiding
underneath my skin
     --They Might be Giants

--

     The light of late afternoon shown through the window into the NERV
cafeteria, casting long shadows across the floor. The kitchen staff had
already left for the day. Leftovers from lunch were left in their trays
over the warmer, to be thrown out by the janitor if not eaten.

     At a table by the window looking out over the lake, Ayanami sat
across from Commander Ikari. Each had before them a plate of luke-warm
stir-fried vegetables. The expansive cafeteria was otherwise
unoccupied.     

     Rei pushed the vegetables around her plate listlessly, and wondered
why Gendo wasn't looking at her. The dark glasses he insisted on wearing
kept her from knowing exactly where he was looking, but she knew he
wasn't looking at her. If he was, he would have seen the way she tilted
her head down and looked up at him through her long lashes as she
deposited the baby corn sensuously on her poised tongue. He would have
seen her eyes, felt the heat flashing from them like solar prominences.
He would have grunted, or shifted, or done _something_ to let her know
that the light of her corona was beginning to melt away the cold
shielding to reveal his own core of fire. Instead, he just sat there
eating as though there wasn't a nuclear furnace three feet from him.

     She tried again, this time sighing as she closed her mouth on the
vegetable, speaking her heart's desire in wordless breath, but again got
no reaction. It was as though he was deliberately ignoring her, though
what she had done to warrant this she didn't know. Returning to her meal,
she dropped her head, in case the hurt showed on her face.

     When her plate was empty, Rei stood to take her tray to the drop-off
spot by the kitchen.

     "I will see you tomorrow after school, Rei," the Commander said in a
strained voice when she was a table away. 

     "Yes, sir," she responded coldly, turning her head to look at him
out of the corner of her eye as she walked away.

--

     During the trip out of the Geofront, Rei tried to focus on what was
coming rather than what had past. By the time she she reached her
apartment, she was able to be excited again about seeing her Shin-chan.
Moments after stepping into her room, Rei was dialing Shinji's cellular
number.

     "Hello?" Shinji's confused voice said.

     "Hello, Ikari-kun," Rei said. Hearing his voice made her stomach
clench. Instead of the cheerful greeting she had intended, her voice had
come out wooden.

     "Ayanami? Is something wrong?" 

     Rei cringed. He had detected the growing nervousness in her voice.
She forced herself to speak calmly. "No. I need to talk with you
about..." She remembered her plan just in time. "About your father."

     "About my father? What is it?" 

     "I... I can't tell you until you get here. Will you come?"

     "Uh... Yeah... I'll be there soon."

     "Great!" she said, and hung up. Then froze.  

     At that thought she turned and ran into the bathroom. Quickly she
showered. While she toweled her hair dry, Rei considered herself in the
mirror. A face like hers needed no makeup -- a good thing, since she had
none. What did need some work, however, was her hair. She didn't have a
comb either, but that wasn't a problem. She grabbed her hair in her
fists, pushing it around, until it was a tangled, rumpled mess.
 she thought, practicing a coy smile into the mirror, then went
to her room to dress.

     She looked through her rather limited wardrobe.  She left the red ribbon hanging
down in front untied and left the top button of her shirt undone. Then
she thought better of it, and unbuttoned the second.

     Much too soon she heard her named called from the hall outside her
door, causing Rei to jump. Squealing girlishly in excitement, she rushed
to the door. Her stomach was twisting, and she felt blood rush to her
head and throb in her temples as she ran. When she reached the door, she
threw it open with such force that the small note that had been taped to
the inside came loose and drifted to the floor.

     Shinji jumped back from the door in surprise. In the doorway Rei
stood, holding the door open, her feet apart, breathing heavily. Her head
was down, and she had her free hand held against the side of it. She
looked as though she had just showered, and hadn't finished dressing. He
stared in shock at her.

     Rei slowly looked up. Her eyes were wide.

     Moments passed, and neither moved. When the sum of moments had
totaled nearly a minute, Shinji finally ventured to speak. "Um..." he
began with his usual confidence. "Hi, Ayanami."

     Rei stood up straight. Her hand dropped from the door to her side,
and her face changed from an expression of shock to no expression at all.
"Hello, Ikari-kun."

     "Is... Is something wrong?" Concern and his not completely
diminished surprise made his voice slightly shaky.

     "No."

     "Really?" Shinji said, puzzled. "It's just that on the phone you
sounded... strange... and just now..."

     "There is nothing wrong," Rei maintained.

     "Th... That's good, I guess." He fidgeted nervously -- partially
because this encounter was starting off strange, even for one with
Ayanami; partially because his eyes, despite his efforts to focus on safe
things like the floor, kept getting drawn to the spot between the second
and third buttons on Ayanami's shirt. "You said... on the phone... that
you wanted to talk about... my father?"

     "Your father?" 

     "Yeah," Shinji said slowly. Keeping with the typical patterns of his
life, surprise had been followed closely by confusion. "You said I had to
come here before you would tell me."

     Rei was silent. Her eyes searched the ceiling above Shinji's head.
At length she said "You should trust the Commander more."

     Shinji frowned. She had said as much before. Had she asked him out
here just to repeat herself? "You make it sound too easy... How can I
trust a man I barely know?"

     "He can be trusted," Rei asserted. "I believe that."

     The frown on Shinji's face deepened. "But..." He trailed off as he
lost focus. "How can you do that?"

     Rei didn't answer immediately, and when she did she ignored his
question. "He does not intend to hurt you." 

     Shinji looked at her, now able to focus entirely on her face.

     "He must do what he does, even if it hurts." She spoke quietly. She
wasn't looking at him. "Sometimes he does not know, until later. He does
not intend to."

     "Ayanami..." Shinji had no other answer.

     "It is late," Rei said. "I must go to sleep."

     "Yeah..." Shinji scratched his head. "It was good to talk to you,
Ayanami."

     "Goodbye," she said simply, and retreated back into the apartment.
Shinji smiled weakly, and walked away.

     Once the door was shut, Rei leaned against it for the briefest of
moments. Then she was upright and moving into her bedroom. With hands
which unaccountably began to shake she opened the bottle of pills. She
shook a number pills out into her cupped hand. A pair dropped from her
unsteady grasp, one skittering across the floor to the center of the room
and the other vanishing under the refrigerator. Those that remained she
tossed into her mouth, swallowing them with a single gulp of water.

     Her whole body seemed to be shaking now. It was all she could do to
strip and get into bed after turning the lights off. The shivers
continued, but under the blanket of soothing darkness she eventually
found sleep.

--

     Rei awoke to pain. A white hot spike of metal had been driven
through her forehead and out the back of her skull.

     Her hands moved feebly to grab at the implement that tortured her,
but could not find it. She could feel it piercing her, its heat burning
her skin, burning her eyes through her eyelids. painfully she opened her
eyes to look at it. She saw nothing but her ceiling, and that she could
only see a tiny circle of in the middle of blackness. Yet that one circle
seemed brighter than the sun itself. With a whimper she closed her eyes,
and pulled the blanket over her face.

     She was not aware of the passage of time She didn't know how many
hours she lay on the bed, trying to remain motionless and silent as her
only methods to cope. The timeless noise of the construction pounded
relentlessly on the spike. The pain reached down into her stomach, making
her nauseous. Time did pass, and the coming of night and darkness to the
room brought some respite. Eventually she felt as though she might be
able to move. 

     With supreme effort she dragged herself out of bed. She trudged
slowly across the floor, her body feeling as though it had spent the day
battling Angel after Angel instead of laying in bed. She went into the
bathroom, carefully, not daring to turn on the light, and vomited. Then
she trudged back to the refrigerator, mustered enough strength to open a
child-proof cap, and took two pills. Halfway to the bed her strength gave
out and she fell to her knees. She crawled the last few feet into bed,
whereupon she fell immediately asleep.

     Much to her dismay, Ayanami woke the next morning. The spike through
her skull was still there, but had cooled to only be scalding. With time
it would vanish completely, she hoped. Rolling over painfully, she put
her face in the pillow to block out the already tortuous light of the
early morning sun.

     Before the sun had risen much beyond the tops of the hills,
Ayanami's cell phone rang. The metallic shriek hammered into her skull.
With a moan, she slid out of bed and made her way to her dresser. She
opened the phone, motivated mostly by a desire to end the awful noise,
and held it to her ear.

     The person on the other line didn't wait for a greeting. "Rei? Where
the hell have you been?" Doctor Akagi's angry voice rose from the
receiver to strike at Rei's tender hearing.

     "I am in my apartment. I... have a headache," Rei said softly. Such
was her state that she could felt only minor distress at realizing she
had missed her appointment.

     "A headache? You're an hour late because of a headache?" The doctor
asked incredulously. Then her tone changed to one of concern. "From the
drug?"

     "Yes," she said, though she wasn't certain. "It is worse than last
time."

     "Doubling the dosage was a bad idea. You'll have to cut back until I
figure out something."

     "I did not take two pills."

     There was silence on the phone for a moment. "How many did you take,
Rei?"

     "I am not certain." She tried to remember how many were in her hand
two nights prior, though it seemed to have been long ago. "I believe I
took... six."

     "Six?!" Ritsuko shouted, making Rei wince. "That is insane, Rei! I'm
going to send someone to pick you up."

     "No," she said. "I do not need help. It is receding."

     "Well... fine. Just come in as soon as you can. And don't take any
more until you see me. Understood?"

     "Yes, sir." When Dr. Akagi hung up, Rei set down her phone and
collapsed onto her bed in relief.

     Over the next couple hours, the headache did in fact begin to 
recede. Once it was to the point of being merely painful, Rei dressed 
and headed with speed to the Geofront.

--

     Rei sat stoically in her chair beside the table in the lab of Dr.
Akagi Ritsuko. Her head had cleared up considerably, and now she felt
only an uncomfortable pressure around her temples. She resisted the urge
to rub them as she did her best to describe everything that had
transpired since the last time she had sat in the same chair.

     Ritsuko listened dispassionately to Rei's broken account of what
happened when she lost control of herself. More important to the doctor
were the consequences of Rei's overdose. Getting the albino to accurately
describe levels of pain was like violating the accepted laws of physics.
While the latter was all in a day's work for the scientist, the former
was beyond her. Yet just the fact that Rei had neglected her duties for a
day and a half told Ritsuko what she needed to know.

     "Ayanami Rei, I'm disappointed in you," she said angrily. "That was
a very foolish thing you did. You know better than to alter your dosage
without my permission."

     Rei did not react externally as Ritsuko reprimanded her, but the
words impacted her. For Rei, disappointing someone held in such high
regard by the Commander was the same as disappointing the Commander
himself.

     "It doesn't matter what happened that night. That is less important.
Just as my first priority is the project, yours is to your duties as a
pilot." She turned to face Rei directly. "What if an Angel had attacked
yesterday?"

     "I would have piloted," Rei said quietly, but confidently.

     Ritsuko scoffed. "I'm sure you would have, Rei. But we need you to
pilot _effectively_."

     "Yes, sir."

     The monitor in front of Ritsuko flashed, indicating that the blood
and MRI analysis was complete. Trained eyes scanned the results, and she
glowered. Signs of a fading migraine were ignored when Ritsuko saw the
dangerously high amount of platelets in the cerebral capillaries. Based
on that and the level of drugs still in Rei's system, she guessed that if
Rei had taken just two more pills, she would have certainly had a
stroke.

     She didn't share this information with the pilot, but her voice was
hard when she said: "I have a new batch made. It is modified slightly.
Hopefully there will be fewer headaches than with the old. The pills are
double dosed, so only take _one_, and I am serious." 

     "Yes, sir," Rei said, taking the bottle Ritsuko handed her.

     "You can leave now," she said, sighing. "And don't worry -- I won't
tell Gendo."

     Without another word, Rei left the lab. She moved through the
familiar halls of NERV automatically, her mind being busy with thoughts
of anger. Anger at /her/ for nearly doing to Shinji what /she/ had done
to the Commander. More than that, though, she was angry at herself for so
carelessly and stupidly jeopardizing her work. She had done it out of
fear of /her/, but that was no excuse. Dr. Akagi was correct: she knew
better, and could not be forgiven. 

     While considering her failings, she remembered that in addition to
missing her appointment with the doctor today, she had missed meeting
with the Commander last night, and was currently late for dinner. Also,
he must have noticed that she had not arrived for the morning tests,
though he wouldn't know the cause. 
she thought. Strangely, she felt no distress at the idea of facing his
displeasure, or even his disgust. 

     It was not long after Ikari Gendo greeted her in the cafeteria that
her distress began. She expected a stern reprimand, but all she received
were the usual questions about her performance in school and work. She
heard no harshness in his voice, no unspoken undercurrent of reproach. It
was as though she had done nothing wrong. Rei was confused for a moment,
but then she understood. If she could not do what was expected of her,
then she was worthless. He would not even bother to correct her.

     When she left the table, it seemed to take all of her strength just
to keep her head up. She was not sure, though, that she should.

--

     It should have been a normal day for Ayanami Rei. It had started out
that way. She had woken, showered, dressed, and left for school as on any
other such day. Now Rei sat at her desk at school and stared out the
window, as was normal. The silent hills and the drifting clouds held her
attention better than the class or her classmates could. Her thoughts,
however, were unusual. As she looked at the blue sky, she thought of
regret.

     She heard the tumult that always accompanied the entrance of
Ikari-kun and Soryuu. Shinji caught her eye when she turned to look at
him, and she quickly turned back to the window. If someone would have
been in position to, they would have seen her face flushed with
embarrassment.

      she thought.  She had been so excited to hear Ikari-kun at her
door. She had been so ready to tell her Shin-chan everything, and to give
him everything. Yet when she had seen his face at the door... She
couldn't remember what she said, but she knew it had just been some
nonsense to get him to leave. 

      Naturally, she worried that Shinji
would reject her love. She had been sure -- was sure -- that he would
not. Shinji had to love her back. Yet, she had been sure that Gen-chan
would never deny her either, but he had. Clearly, that had been what
ruined her confidence. 

     Class had started. Rei sneaked a look back at him, saw him lounging
in his seat trying to stay awake. She looked down at her desk and grinned
surreptitiously. Now that she knew, she could overcome.  It had been a
foolish mistake to send him away, and the only way to correct the mistake
was with action. A plan formed quickly in her mind.

     The quiet beep of his computer roused Shinji. He looked down at the
screen, and saw a message. It read: /I am sorry about last night./ It was
from Ayanami.

     Shinji glanced at the girl, but her head was down. Her fingers were
poised over the keyboard. He mulled over what his response should be for
a moment, and decided on the most natural.

     /What?/ appeared on Ayanami's screen. Shinji's confusion was
endearing even when typed, and brought a smile to her face.

     /I'm sorry for making you come all the way out to my apartment like
that for nothing./ 

     Shinji saw the words, but it took him a moment to put them together.
/You mean last Thursday, right?/ 

     The smile vanished from Rei's face, replaced by a frown. She typed
/What do you mean?/

     /That was last Thursday. You said last night./ Then he smiled
faintly and typed: /You don't need to apologize. I enjoyed talking to
you./ 

     Ayanami looked at her screen in shock. Her plan fled her mind. She
didn't even notice Shinji's positive response.  she yelled
mentally.  Rei granted that she had been forgetful lately; just
that morning she had forgotten her medication. But to think that a whole
week had slipped by and she couldn't remember...

     Shinji watched the blue-haired girl hang her head and cover her
face. He was confused. She seemed bothered by his answer, and he didn't
know why. The whole electronic conversation hadn't made much sense to
him. He had noticed that Ayanami had seemed more withdrawn recently, and
he wondered if this was why.

     The morning passed otherwise without event. Rei could not account
for the missing week, and this deeply troubled her. She didn't think she
could approach Shinji again until she understood. Confusion and doubt
threatened to paralyze her. Recognizing this, she decided she needed to
take some positive action. If the Third was too difficult, then perhaps
she could go after the Second.

     When the class was dismissed for lunch, Rei stood and walked out,
shortly behind Asuka and Hikari. She followed them at an inconspicuous
distance, but within hearing range. Before they left the building to eat
outside, Hikari broke off, saying she had to bring a lunch to her younger
sister who had left hers behind.

     Asuka went outside alone, and sat at a table with her lunch. Seeing
a perfect opportunity, Rei made her way deliberately to the same table.

     "Hello, Asuka," she said cheerfully, as though they were already
best friends.

     Asuka looked up from her lunch in surprise. Then she narrowed her
eyes. "What do you want, Wonder Girl?"

     Rei ignored the moniker. "Oh, I just wanted to talk." She sat down
across from Asuka on the bench.

     "You, talk to me? The world must be ending," Asuka said
sarcastically, but Rei had her complete attention now.

     "I can see why you'd say that," she said. She brushed her bangs from
her eyes, and looked at the table. "I know I haven't been very nice to
you, Asuka. I guess I just didn't really know you, and you're kind of
intimidating... That's no excuse, of course. I'm really sorry, and I want
to start over. I think I can do better this time. So please, Asuka, can
we be friends?" she finished hopefully, and smiled at Asuka.

     Asuka stared at the first child, her eyes wide and mouth open. Her
face was pale. If Rei had spontaneously combusted in a shower of fiery
albino-bits, Asuka would not have been more shocked. Slowly, though, her
expression changed to one of suspicion. Her hard eyes studied Rei's
smiling face. Her mouth twisted, and began to twitch between a smirk and
a snarl. "Well, First Child, I'm impressed with your acting skills. For a
moment there I thought you might have become a real human being."

     "Asuka?" Rei queried, frightened by this unexpected reaction.

     "So, someone finally ordered you to be my friend." Asuka's
contemptuous voice slithered around Rei's hope and crushed it.

     "What are you talking about?" Rei choked.

     "Who was it? The Commander?" Asuka leaned over the bench, her face
close to Rei's. Her voice was low and menacing. "No, not him. It must
have been Misato. This sounds like one of her stupid ideas."

     "But... Asuka... really..." Rei tried, but Asuka wasn't listening.

     "Well, I see right through you." She stood and pointed at the
terrified pilot. "Whatever makes Misato think I'd be friends with someone
who was _ordered_ to pretend to like me, she's dead wrong. Maybe you'll
go along with it, but I won't! I'm not a fucking doll like you. I'm my
own person, and I choose my own friends. So fuck Misato, and fuck you!"
she screamed, then turned and ran into the school.

     Silence reigned as the other students stopped their conversations to
watch. Asuka pushed past Hikari, who had just come out the door. The
Class Rep looked back at her friend, then flashed a dirty look at Rei.

     Rei just stared at where the red-head had ran. She couldn't get a
grip on what had just happened. She couldn't get a grip on anything, as
nothing made any sense. When she added up all recent events she got the
square root of negative one. Which made one thing clear:

     Something was very wrong.

--
end part 2

first posted 6/8/2000
wyrm@engin.umich.edu
http://wyrmhole.net/abp
--
This part is dedicated to all the people who read part 1 and asked,
suggested, or demanded that I write more.