Fear

All In Their Name

Shin Seiki Evangelion was created by Hideki Anno, and is owned by Gainax.

Mythos elements were created by H. P. Lovecraft and owned by Arkham Publishing. Byatis was created by Robert Bloch. Ithaqua and Cthugha created by August Derleth. Summanus, Mnomquah and Cthylla created by Brian Lumley. Ythogtha was created by Lin Carter. Mordiggian created by Clarke Ashton Smith. Cyäegha was created by Eddy C. Burtin.

Use of the characters and situations therein are not intended as any challenge of their copyrights.

Toji knelt before the shrine, and placed the picture of Chouko next to that of his mother. He clapped twice, and bowed his head.

I'm sorry, Mom. I couldn't protect her. I have to ask you to look after her now.

Tears welled in his eyes.

I failed her.

He wiped his eyes, then pulled the small box from below the shrine. He opened it, extracted a small bundle, and unwrapped it.

The tanto had been all that his mother had brought to her marriage; her parents had disowned her. He drew the blade, and examined the edge carefully.

I won't fail her again.

Fear

Seven: All In Their Name

School had become a slow torture for Shinji.

His head rested against one palm, the hand covering his ear. At the head of the class, the teacher droned on about Second Impact.

"The meteor struck near a chain of mountains in Antarctica," said the teacher. "The observers who witnessed it fall stated that if it were not for the presence of those mountains, they would all have been killed."

I thought Ritsuko said only one person survived?

"The resulting climate shift caused widespread changes in weather patterns, and the melting of both polar ice caps. Lowlands throughout the world were flooded, great cities such as Tokyo itself were completely submerged.

"Tomorrow, we shall examine the societal changes caused by these events."

Shinji tuned the rest of the teacher's words out. Already, he could tell that the teacher's version of Second Impact did not mesh with what he'd learned from Doctor Akagi. The sudden burst of conversation told him that the teacher had finally left the room.

"All right, keep it down to a dull roar!" Horaki, the class rep, spoke loudly enough to be heard over the din of voices.

A hand fell on his shoulder, and he looked up to see Suzuhara Toji staring down at him.

"Ikari." Toji leaned closer. "I need to talk to you after class."

Shinji sighed. He'd made a habit of avoiding the taller boy; their first meeting had been less than auspicious. "Misato wants me to proceed directly home after class."

Toji's grip on his shoulder tightened painfully. "It is very important."

"Hey!" Asuka grabbed Toji's wrist, and pulled it back. "Leave the poor boy alone!"

Toji scowled at her. "Stay out of this, Red."

"My name is Asuka." She returned the scowl. "Ikari is a NERV Pilot. You will treat him with the respect he deserves."

Toji yanked his hand free. "Don't worry. I certainly intend to do so." He turned, and stalked off.

Shinji breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Asuka."

"Someone's gotta watch out for you," said Asuka. "You're too much of a wimp to do so by yourself."

"Gee. Thanks."

"Why they chose a weakling coward like you to be a Pilot, I'll never know. I can just tell I'm gonna be spending all my time looking out for you." She smirked. "And who knows? Maybe they'll assign me to train you."

"Train?"

"Yep. Who better for you to learn from than the best?"

"Ikari."

Shinji winced. He'd thought he'd gotten away clean, but it seemed that Toji had lain in wait for him. The taller boy stepped out of the alleyway, and stood, arms crossed. He turned to face him, and said, "Yeah, Suzuhara?"

"You killed my sister in your last battle."

"She was already dead, Toji." Shinji had not been looking forward to this.

"You lie!" He screamed the accusation. "I saw her up and walking. I saw her alive! And then you killed her." He stalked up to Shinji, arms still crossed.

"Didn't you see her change? Didn't you see the monster that she became?" Shinji was yelling now. "She was going to kill Asuka!"

"What do you care about her?" Toji's face was dark with rage. "You two can't even stand each other." Tears rolled down his face; he ignored them. "Chouko was worth two of her!"

"She had become an Old One. She knocked out Rei, knocked out Asuka, and was going to kill me! I had to stop her! She would have killed you!"

"Liar!" Toji swung wildly. Shinji stepped back, dodging the shot, then saw the gleam of metal in Toji's other hand. The tanto snapped forward, slashing across his belly. Blood spurted from the wound; he clapped his hand across the cut, trying to stanch the flow.

Toji took a step forward, and raised the blade, levelling it with Shinji's neck. "For my sister."

A petite hand clamped around Toji's wrist; he gasped, and dropped the tanto.

"Attacking a Pilot is unwise." Rei's voice was flatter than normal.

"Fuck you, you cold—"

Rei snapped around, her arm extending as she turned. She twisted his wrist, and Toji fell flat on his back. He rolled back to a standing position, and raised his fists.

Rei stepped in, one hand snapping forward, open palmed. The heel of her hand struck just above his nose, and his head snapped back comically. His eyes glazed, and he collapsed to his knees, then face down into the ground.

Belatedly, two security guards burst on the scene. One had his pistol free, but the other had his hand on the gun, forcing it down.

"The situation is under control," said Rei. "I have done your jobs for you."

The bigger man re-holstered his pistol and said, "Sorry we were a bit slow on the uptake. I expect you to report that to Commander Ikari."

"I would prefer not to. Your reaction time was acceptable; I merely happened to be faster." Rei paused, then turned to face Shinji. "How badly are you injured?"

He moved his hand, pulled open his shirt. "Hurts like hell...but I don't think he did any real damage." He touched the wound, and winced.

"I am glad." Rei knelt, and helped him up. "If we had needed to take you to the hospital, it would have delayed our briefing."

"The wound is fairly clean." Rei set down the blood-soaked cloth. "I believe that Doctor Akagi mentioned that you heal as quickly as I."

"I do. Stings, though."

"This will hurt a bit more." Rei picked up a roll of gauze and started unrolling it. She folded it over on itself several times, creating a pad long enough to cover the wound. She pressed it to his belly. "Hold this."

He moved his hands to hold the gauze in place, and his fingers brushed her hand. She jerked the hand back as though burned. She glanced up at him, and he swallowed, seeing the fear in her eyes.

"Sorry."

"Physical contact is unavoidable. There is no need to apologize." She looked away, picked up a roll of medical fabric tape, and pulled a length free. "I must tape the gauze in place."

Her hands worked with quick efficiency, pressing the tape to flesh, her eyes fixed on her work. Finally, she sat back. "This is the best that I can do, and probably will be sufficient."

"Thank you." He looked down at his knees. "I know that you hate being around me. I could've done this myself—"

"I do not hate being around you, Pilot Ikari." She stood, brushed at her knees. "I merely find it...unsettling."

He looked up at her, and grinned weakly. "That's a lot better than it used to be."

"Nothing has changed." The mask slid back into place. "I have merely learned to control my reactions more efficiently." She gestured towards the bathroom door. "We are proving poor hosts."

He nodded, and stood up. She led the way from the bathroom to the living room. Shinji took a detour through the kitchen, picked up the tea set. He'd started the tea just after the three of them had arrived at the apartment, in the hopes that it might help keep the peace.

"About time you two finished up," groused Asuka.

Rei did not answer, merely sat down on the sofa, putting as much room between herself and the redhead as she could. Shinji set the tea service on the coffee table, and sat down between the two of them.

Asuka glanced down at the note on the coffee table. "She said she'd be here promptly at six. Here it is six-fifteen! No German would be so imprecise!" She scoffed. "Don't you Japanese know how to do anything with precision?"

"We prefer manners," Rei said quietly.

"Oh, so they did equip you with a voicebox, eh?" Asuka smirked. "Silly thing to include in a mannequin."

Shinji bowed his head, and prayed that Rei would not retaliate. After seeing how quickly—effortlessly—she'd taken down Toji, he actively feared for the redhead's life.

But Rei did not reply to the taunt, merely sipped her tea.

Asuka stared down at the tea in disgust. "This tea is green!"

"It is supposed to be."

Obviously, his hopes that the tea would keep things calm was in vain.

"And it smells funny!" She looked around. "Is there any beer in the house?"

Shinji snorted into his tea.

"You are underage," stated Rei.

"What the heck does that mean?"

"In Japan, you must be sixteen to consume alcohol." Neither her expression nor her tone was disapproving, but nonetheless, it was clear that Rei did not care for Asuka. "You are not yet sixteen."

"I'm only half Japanese!"

"You are in Japan."

Asuka must have realized that she was doomed to lose this argument, so she changed her tack. "Why the heck am I wasting time here, anyway?"

"Captain Katsuragi requested your presence."

"Thank you." She scowled. "I mean, what's this 'special briefing' all about, anyway?"

"All that Captain Katsuragi told me is that it relates to training."

"Aha!" Asuka made a triumphant fist. "That explains it! I'm here to properly train you two in the operation of EVA!"

"I find that unlikely."

"It should be obvious!" She pointed at Shinji. "He's a weak little boy, and needs training." She then pointed at Rei. "And you were taken out in seconds, by a nine-year-old girl!"

Rei narrowed her eyes. "May I remind you that you have failed to destroy the only Old One that you have faced? Whereas I have faced two, and defeated one?"

"Oh, sure! And Shinji had to save your butt against the last one!" Asuka paused, no doubt recalling that she, too, had had to be rescued by Shinji.

Rei did not pause. "Pilot Ikari has demonstrated that he is the superior pilot. Why should he be forced to slow down to your level?"

"I have been trained in the operation of EVA since I was eight years old!"

"Six years wasted."

Asuka's face now matched her hair; she opened her mouth to respond, but Shinji finally spoke up. "That's enough!"

His voice cut across the argument; both girls turned to stare at him, Asuka's face showing contempt, Rei's showing nothing.

"We'll find out what this is about when Misato returns." He picked up his tea again.

"I regret the harsh words I used yesterday," said Rei. "I spoke in haste."

Shinji blinked. "That's all right, Rei. I understand why you did it."

"I should have chosen better words, to properly convey my opinion."

He gulped his tea, hoping it would treat the frostbite.

"I'm home!" Misato's voice floated in from the hallway.

"Welcome back." Shinji and Rei chorused. Shinji jumped slightly, and Asuka chuckled.

"Well, everyone's cosy, I see!" Misato dropped a folder on the dining room table as she passed through, then sat down on an armchair. "So let's get to the meat and bones of the briefing, shall we?

"Commander Ikari has informed me that we can expect an Old One attack in just over two weeks' time. He believes that two Old Ones will attack simultaneously. This is the first time that we've had warning of such an attack."

"How did he find out?" asked Rei.

"He said he found a prophecy in some book." Misato waved it away as irrelevant. "Something astrological or such."

"Two?" Shinji frowned. "We needed all three EVA to deal with one, the last time."

"There's a good reason for that. Training protocols have shown remarkably deficient. We simply didn't know the proper way to handle EVA."

"I knew it!" Asuka jumped up. "I knew it! You need me to correct the deficiencies in pilot training! Right? Well, I'm ready, willing and able!"

"Good! I'm glad you're so enthusiastic." Misato grinned. "Because, starting tomorrow, you and Pilot Ayanami will begin training under Pilot Ikari's direction."

There was a moment of stunned silence.

"Das ist Immoglich!" Asuka shook her head. "You are joking with me, right? This is all some big joke at my expense!"

"I'm afraid not. You were trained as best we knew how." Misato sighed. "Unfortunately, we simply didn't know that we were training you all wrong. Now, Shinji will have to correct that."

"Why him?" Asuka's voice was unsteady. "Why him?"

Rei's voice was perfectly level. "Pilot Ikari managed a thirty-nine percent sync ratio on his first try. He has consistently demonstrated his ability in battle. And he has already assisted me in my piloting."

"No!" Asuka turned, climbed over the sofa back, and stormed into the bathroom. "I refuse!" She slammed the door. "Immoglich!"

Shinji stood on the balcony, staring down over the railing at the ground.

Fifteen stories. Two meters per story, thirty meters total. One point seven five seconds at nine point eight meters per second acceleration, discounting air resistance.

Surely he couldn't change his mind in that space of time.

"What's on your mind?" Misato walked up and leaned on the rail beside him. She held a beer can in one hand, still sealed.

He sighed. "Is the universe out to get me?"

Misato chuckled, and said, "Probably. It's after everyone else; why leave you out?"

"I could handle being engaged to Rei. It's a stupid idea, but by the time we're old enough to legally marry, we'll also be old enough to say no." He wished he had something in hand, a pebble or a bottle cap; he wanted to throw something. "I could handle becoming a Pilot, but I figured I'd be able to be friends with my fellow pilots. But one is my fiancee, who hates my guts, and the other has just been humiliated because of me."

Misato considered his words. "Things just keep getting worse, is what you're saying?"

"Yeah."

Misato was silent for a moment, then said, "I know you don't want me talking about you and Rei. But I think you're being too hard on her. As for Asuka..." She sighed, and cracked her beer. "You're right that this is going to be hard on both of you. But try to see it from her point of view."

"I do see it from her point of view!" Shinji turned to face his guardian. "Her point of view is that I'm a spineless wimp, who has the gall to think I'm better than her!"

"You are better than her."

"And that's going to make her even madder!" Shinji shook his head. "Why me? Rei could probably train her, too."

"You're also going to be training Rei."

"Rei doesn't need my training. And we both know what she thinks of me. You heard her. A weak, worthless failure!"

"Well, regardless, these are your orders. They come from your father, but I agree with him." Misato paused to take a long pull from the beer. "Tomorrow, you will start training the girls. Asuka will be staying here until her training is complete."

"Captain Katsuragi." Rei stepped onto the balcony.

"Yeah?"

"If Asuka will be staying here, where will she be sleeping?"

Misato shrugged. "Probably in your room."

"In that event, may I move my futon onto this balcony?"

Misato grinned. "You don't like her, do you?"

Rei paused, then said, "I find that her overconfidence is abrasive. Especially when it is obviously unfounded."

"Fine." Misato's grin widened. "You can move your futon into Shinji's room."

"Misato!" Shinji gaped at her.

Rei considered then nodded. "That will be acceptable." She glanced over at Shinji. "I trust you will refrain from waking me, should you have another nightmare?"

Shinji knocked hesitantly on the bathroom door. "Asuka. Can I come in?"

There was no answer from within. Shinji glanced over at Misato and Rei, then back to the door, and knocked again. "Asuka!"

Still no answer.

"She is not unclothed." Rei opened her eyes. "If you walk in, she will have no reason to harm you."

"How do you know?"

"Call it female intuition," said Misato.

Shinji opened the bathroom door, and stepped in, closing it behind him. Asuka was sitting on the stool, arms wrapped around her legs. Shinji sat down next to her, on the floor.

"Go away."

"Asuka, this wasn't my idea."

Asuka remained silent, just hugged her knees closer to her.

Shinji decided to take another tack. "Why do you pilot EVA?"

Still nothing. He sighed, and stood.

"Why do you?"

He paused, and looked down at the redhead. "I don't know...Maybe because it makes me feel like I'm needed?"

She shook her head angrily. "Don't lie to me, Ikari! If that were why, you wouldn't be here talking to me."

He sighed, and sat back down. "I don't know if I want to talk about—"

"Don't expect me to talk about it, then!" Her anger was unabated. "You want to talk with me, you're gonna have to actually talk with me."

He hesitated, then blurted out, "I was afraid."

Whatever she was expecting, this was clearly not it.

"It was the first time my father had said anything kind to me in eight years. I was afraid that I'd let him down.

"It was the first time I'd seen Rei, and she was all bandaged up, and they were going to send her out to fight anyway."

"You were afraid that she'd get hurt?"

"No. I was afraid that she'd think I was a coward." His head dropped as he said it.

Asuka sat beside him, quiet again, then asked, "So why do you still do it?"

"Because I'm afraid to let Rei, Misato or Doctor Akagi down."

They sat silently for a while, then Asuka offered, "Wanna know why I pilot?"

"If you want to tell me."

"You told me your story. It's only fair." But she hesitated a long moment before beginning. "My mother wanted me to pilot EVA."

"You're doing this for someone else?"

"Not really." She sighed, and shuffled her feet. "Mutti designed the A20 clips. She helped design EVA-02. She wanted me to pilot it. But..." She paused again, and swallowed. "As I grew older, she...changed. She stopped caring about me so much. I threw myself into piloting, trying to get her attention. But it didn't work, and now she's gone."

Asuka sniffed, and wiped a tear away. "Now it's all I have. EVA, and nothing else. I'm still trying to prove to Mutti that I can be what she wanted me to be." She glanced up at him. "But if you tell anyone this, I'll rip your balls off and stuff them down your throat. Got it?"

He grinned, a bit unsteadily. "Yeah. It's only fair."

Asuka stood up. "All right. Then since I've been ordered to undergo your worthless training, we might as well begin."

"They're alive?"

Misato nodded. "I only found out after the last battle. Without the armour, they're pretty nasty looking."

"The important thing to remember," said Shinji, "is that they have their own needs and wants. They're willing to help us, but in exchange, they want our help."

"Ours?" Asuka shook her head. "Ours as in the Pilots, or ours as in Humanity?"

"I haven't quite worked that out yet." Shinji sighed. "Shogoki calls us the Dreamers."

"So does your father," added Misato.

"Really?" He looked away. "Well, I heard it first from Shogoki, and I trust her more than Dad right now. Zerogoki has only said one word to me." He glanced over at Rei. "Has he said anything more to you?"

"No." Rei shook her head. "Shogoki is more communicative with me than my own EVA."

Asuka scowled, and said, "Zerogoki, Shogoki—You talk as though they're names, not just designations. Why do something that stupid?"

Shinji leaned forward. "I think that part of what they want is recognition. Like us, their Pilots. They want to feel wanted. We have that recognition, but the EVA are treated as...hardware." He pointed at Asuka. "You have to name your EVA."

"Name it?"

"Soldiers give their rifles names. Pilots give their airplanes names. But the big difference is that unless your EVA wants to help you, you will never be more than just a Pilot. You will not Dream."

"...I have dreams." Asuka shuddered. "Bad dreams."

"It's not the same." He jabbed at her with the finger. "Give him a name."

"How do you know it's a him?"

"Shogoki calls him her Brother."

"Okay. You got a simple thing going on, I'll follow it and call him Nigoki." Asuka smirked. "That was easy!"

"Do you think of him as Nigoki, or still as Unit Two?" Rei asked quietly.

Asuka's silence was answer enough.

"Captain Katsuragi."

"So formal." Misato giggled. "You're letting this instructor business go to your head. What do you need?"

"A20 clips. Can we use them here?"

"I suppose so. Why? They aren't much use outside of LCL."

"I am thinking that we should wear them to bed. I've learned some stuff, from dreams." He snorted. "Ended up with more questions than answers, though."

"What will A20 clips do for you?"

"They let us talk to the EVAs, let us...merge with them. Maybe it'll help us understand our dreams better." He shrugged. "I don't know how, or even if, they'll help, but..."

"Well, I'll see what I can do. Probably won't have too much trouble."

Asuka reached into her purse, and pulled out four. Shinji gaped.

"Where did—"

"These are the prototypes." She grinned weakly. "I've kept them since before Mutti died. There's only four, but one apiece should work for what you have planned."

Rather than the T-shirt she was wont to wear to bed, Rei had pulled on a man's dress shirt. It did not make her appear any more modest, but he doubted that that was her goal. Modesty was a non-issue to the albino girl.

Shinji dropped her futon next to his, careful to leave at least a half-meter gap between the two.

"That is an inefficient use of space."

He glanced over. "If it's all the same to you, I don't want us to accidentally touch in the night." He winced. "It's obvious that you would prefer I don't touch you."

"And it is obvious that you do not want to touch me, either."

"That's not it. I mean—" He sighed. "Whenever I touch you, you panic. I don't want to hurt you."

Rei stepped up to him, and wrapped a hand around his wrist. He flinched slightly, then looked up at her face. It was still calm.

"It is not I who is panicking," she pointed out. "It is you who retreat." A change came over her face, one that he would never have seen a month ago. "You fear me."

"I guess I do. I'm sorry."

"There is no need to be sorry. I have not been kind to you." The mask slipped back on, and she released him. "There has been no reason for me to be so."

Before him stood a squalling monstrosity. Hundreds of ropy tentacles thrashed about, dozens of eyes stared from the mass, and many gaping mouths filled with sharp teeth gnashed randomly.

Before the creature stood three people. Rei. Asuka. His mother.

He took a step towards his mother, but before he could take another, a tentacle gently wrapped around her, and she was absorbed into the creature.

"Mom!"

Rei turned to look at him. "Ia! Shub-Niggurath!"

A second tentacle descended, wrapped around Asuka. She leaped for it, almost joyously, and dissolved into it as well.

Shinji ran for the creature, tears welling in his eyes.

A third tentacle now dropped down, and Rei turned to the creature. She lifted both arms, as it wrapped around her.

"Ia...Zy'tre Shub-Niggurath..."

Her voice was quiet, but it awoke him nonetheless. He opened his eyes, looked blearily in Rei's direction.

Sweat beaded her face, and her head shook spastically. She trembled, kicking off her sheets.

"Rei?"

"Shub-Niggurath itchulhath nathram bigor'a..." Her voice rose, cracking. He shuddered. The words had no meaning, but he could see tears in the corners of her eyes. He reached for her, then paused.

A nightmare...it's not just me or Asuka. She has them, too. She shared one with me before...

"Zy'tre Shub-Niggurath itchulhath!"

His indecision faded; the girl's face was screwed up, as though she was about to scream. He shifted over to her futon, and put an arm on her shoulder. "Rei. Wake up."

She rolled towards him, and threw an arm over him, pulling him into her. Her face buried in his shirt, she held him close as sobs wracked her frame. He hesitated again, then put an arm around her and held her until her sobs faded.

She looked up at him, her eyes unshielded. Pain and fear sang in those eyes, and a deep loneliness. And for one brief instant, he felt as though they truly were connected, as though he could truly understand her.

She pushed him away suddenly, retreating to the far side of the room, and huddled against the wall, shuddering.

"I'm sorry, Rei." He looked down again. "You were having a nightmare."

She looked up at him. The mask was still off, and he felt a stab of shame. She composed herself, and moved back to her futon.

"Thank you."

She reached out, and put a hand on his.

"You did not retreat."

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