The Secret Desire of Ayanami Rei By Daniel Snyder Day's ends came, even for NERV. If there were no Angels to fight, nothing to imperil the new Eden in the East, then its people were not needed. Time was available for tests, maintenance, bureaucracy, and public relations such as any institution like it might have. People busied themselves or braced themselves. But if there was no threat to fight, then NERV's central dogma floundered. People grew tired. They wanted freedom to do as they pleased. It was 17:07 on a Friday evening. Debriefing had ended a few minutes earlier. Katsuragi Misato and Sohryu Asuka Langley were talking by the sinks in a women's bathroom somewhere in the Geofront. "He's not that guy your friend set you up with, is he?" said Misato. "Who? That idiot? Uh-uh!" replied Asuka. She was busy brushing her hair and looking at her reflection in the mirror. After her twentieth stroke she put her hair up again. "She does know the guy, though. He works in the garden of that temple near where we live, and he saw me walking by now and again, and got the heart to ask me out this past week." From out of her purse she drew mascara, eye shadow, blush and a lipstick. She spread them out on the counter top in front of her. One of the toilets flushed. "I don't know anything else about him, though. But he'll probably tell me his whole autobiography." She leaned forward and got to work with the mascara. "Boys always do." Ayanami Rei joined them at the sink. She reached to turn on the water, but held off. She leaned around Katsuragi's backside as far as she could and swept her eyes across Langley's pretty things. Then she began to wash. "Why do they do that, Misato? Always drag their own history out for us to see?" As Asuka peered into the mirror, fluttering her eyes but trying to sound serious, Misato lost her self-control and laughed. "Sometimes, to show off; and sometimes, because they hope we'll share." "How weird!" Several things happened in very quick succession. Asuka turned to face Misato. Her hip jarred against the counter. Asuka's lipstick leaned to one side, then the other, then fell and rolled with a rattle past the farthest sink, where it came to rest beneath the crumpled-up brown paper towels that were overflowing from the trash container. And underneath the running water, Ayanami Rei's hands began to tremble. She had witnessed it all in the mirror. Abruptly very far away from her, Katsuragi said, "What makes you say that?" Asuka didn't reply immediately. She rested her weight against the counter and scowled as she thought. Then she found an answer. "Nothing, really. I guess I just hadn't thought about it before." Rei dried her hands on a brown paper towel, over and over again. Asuka's attention shifted back to her cosmetics. "Hey! Where did my lipstick go?" Misato joined Asuka in glancing around the floor. "I don't see it...are you sure you packed it?" Rei said nothing. Inside, her body was full of noise. "Of course I'm sure! I wouldn't forget something like that! Shoot, and it was brand new, too." "I don't see it," said Misato. "Do you have any others with you?" "One. But it isn't as bright." It was a rusty terra cotta color. Asuka yanked a paper towel out of the dispenser, traced the stick across her lips, then puckered down twice onto the paper. She set her hand on the eyeliner, paused, then swept it and her other cosmetics into her handbag. "Never mind these. Let's go." The two women turned for the door. Rei remained frozen, unnoticed. "What time did you say you were meeting him?" "Five o'clock. But he can wait a couple..." The door swung closed. Finally, Rei was alone. Timidly, timorously, awkwardly, she walked to the scattered paper towels on the counter. She held her breath, refusing to believe; but it was still there, still in its clear plastic case, untouched and begging to be used: a scarlet lipstick that no one in the world but she knew about. Red was the color of blood, of heat, of passion. It was the color she hated...had learned to hate. Rei wanted to listen to her heart and hate everything the color stood for; but Langley wore red, and Rei didn't hate Langley. Langley had a high synchronization ratio, a production-line Evangelion, and... Her hand flew out, seized hold of the lipstick, and pressed it to her chest. Unable to wait, she spun on her heel and ran, ran as fast as she could, through the empty halls of the Geofront. -- Rei caught her breath again inside the changing room, alone and daring to be forevermore invisible to prying eyes. The room was filled with lockers, more than the three that were needed. There was plenty of empty space. Langley had taken over another locker, for a reason Rei didn't understand. Ikari hadn't needed to. She herself hadn't... At least, it wasn't hers to call her own. If other Children came, they could use the locker, and she would take away what she had put there. They could even use the one she kept her clothes in. There was no reason to be self-centered. But there was a secret, hidden away there. She opened up the locker furthest from the door on the girls' side of the room. Inside, pressed against the farthest corner, was a plastic sandwich baggie. Rei took it out and, clutching it in one hand and the lipstick in the other, seated herself on the cold cement floor in front of the locker. She straightened the folds of her dress as they fluttered around her calves. The first thing she took out of the baggie was a small travel mirror. It had been left behind by a former invalid in a hospital room Rei had later stayed in. It was her first find. It was small, 7 by 12, but smallness was a good thing. Its best feature was the hole punched through the top. Rei had tied a loop of string through that hole, and so she could hang the mirror from anything. She slipped the loop around the hook in the locker door. Rei saw a face in the mirror. She knew it. It was hers. A face anyone could have. But she knew what nobody else in the world understood, that the face she saw stood for Ayanami Rei. Her face was the real uniform she wore for NERV. Next came a small stiff plastic comb. Dr. Akagi hadn't wanted it. She had brought it back with her from a hotel, not intending to, and had thrown it away out of her purse. Rei had dared to reach into the trash can and take it for herself. She felt very, very bad about taking dirty things out of the garbage; but it was hers. She had wanted it, and she had gotten it. She bent her neck, fitting her whole head into the frame of the mirror, and awkwardly positioned the comb over her bangs. The tension was frustrating. After a half a minute of experimenting with angles and poses, Rei was ready. Grasping the comb from both sides, she slipped the teeth into the hair on her forehead. She gently pulled down. The plastic caressed her rumpled blue hair, laying it out into parallel rows and easing apart knots. The scalp below it tickled. A moment later, the comb came free again. Rei could see the oil from her hair and some flecks of dead skin on it. She raised her eyes to the mirror again. Her frontmost hair was no longer in the disarray her last shower had left it in: it was now in a series of azure rows, geometrically pleasing and... ...pretty. She cringed at the thought. She wanted to swat away the mirror, to put it back, to throw away the comb and never use it again. She looked again. In the mirror--Rei's mirror--was the beginning of the face she didn't dare show off to anyone. A pretty girl's face, the face the woman who cut her hair complemented her on, the face that she desired above anything or anyone to be looked at for. Rei drew another stroke through the hair, and then another, until her bangs were distinct from the rest of her head. Then she shifted her attention. She used a tooth at the tip of the comb to mark off a line along the middle of her scalp, from just behind her bangs to the top of her head. She parted her hair on either side of the line, pulling her hair into a satisfactory order. Three minutes went by before she was done, and she could reap the fruits of her labor. The mirror showed a full head of blue hair, clean and shiny; two large eyes with black irises in seas of white; a small and feminine nose; smooth white skin, pink where she was blushing; a round chin; and thin rose lips in the center. The lips...they were moving, spreading. Two rows of immaculate white teeth appeared behind them. The smile grew and gained force. The young woman stared at the reflection in the mirror, amazed and happy for what she saw there. Ayanami Rei. She lingered over the image of herself for some time before she grew satisfied and took another step. Rei fingered the lipstick, intimidated by the thought of actually using it. She removed the plastic cap and twisted the base around. The stick rose up and slipped back down again, all redness and full of color and magic. The tip was rounded on one side and flat on the other, which was confusing. Rei presumed she'd use the flat side, but she didn't want to make a mistake, either. Not with her lipstick, not now. Rei jerked the stick down away from her mouth, gasping for breath. She stared sightless in front of her and took a half-dozen deep breaths. She was trembling. Her eyes fell to the lipstick again, red and captivating against the dark blue of her skirt. Rei labored again to lift the lipstick to her lips. Almost home, at her neck level, Rei remembered that she didn't have any paper towels to blot her lips with. The thought slowed but did not stop her. She touched her upper lip. It was incredible--so simple, so literally mindless an act. But the face in the mirror was now so different. Rei's eyes were arrested by the single red dot on her lip. Skin as white as a cloud looked even whiter, black eyes shone. The newly-combed hair had a counterpoint. "Pretty" was left behind. Ayanami Rei looked beautiful. She felt the greasy rub as the tip ran against her upper lip, then her lower. Thin red lines were visible against the rose background. Rei rolled her lips together and rubbed them back and forth; and she was amazed to see an even, almost uniform, skin of red around her mouth. _Her_ mouth? Rei brushed her right fingers' tips against her right cheek. The girl in the mirror raised her left hand to her left cheek. Rei held out her hand and touched the beautiful girl's against a surface of metal. They both smiled in unison. Neither had a trace of makeup on their teeth. The girl on the far side of the mirror distorted into a blur. Rei heard a strange, irregular rhythm resonating off the walls, and she wiped away something damp that was running down the side of her beautiful nose. "It's me," she gasped. "It's me. It's me. It's me. It _is_ me. It _is_ me." -- Walking through the halls of the Geofront, Kaji Ryuji was surprised to meet Ayanami Rei coming out of the ladies' room. "What are you doing here at this hour?" he asked her, but she walked past him as if she hadn't heard. "Rei?" he said sharply. "Look at me." She stopped and turned around, and looked. Her hair was more rumpled than usual. Her entire face was damp. Her eyes were bloodshot, quite red. "Are you OK?" "Yes." "Is something the matter?" "No." "That's good," said Kaji. "I just wanted to make sure that you were all right." "What a strange thing to say, Kaji," she replied. ---------------------------------------------------- Copyright 1999 Daniel Snyder. Permission granted to duplicate in any digital, binary, or e-mail format; however, any physical printout is strictly prohibited. Based on characters created by GAINAX. Shin Seiki Evangelion/Neon Genesis Evangelion is the intellectual property of and copyrighted by GAINAX, adapted by AD Vision and Viz Comics for North America. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental. OK, I know what you're thinking--Rei Ayanami, Closet Beautician??? The idea for this story developed in conversation between myself and Chris Burke, the essence of which was, which was more responsible for Rei's psychology, her unique origin or her unique upbringing? I think that the latter is the much more interesting notion, don't you? Thanks, Chris! I dedicate this story to you. Also, thanks to prereaders Zhou Tai An, Andrew Huang, Scott Sandwick, Gavin Drake and Mark Engels. |~ |~~ _ __ __ _ |College Graduate ~| | | |\ | | 7 |_| / |_ |_||Will Work for Food. ~ |_| | \| ~~ | | /_ |_ |\ |Or, email@example.com |Pretty much anyone.