Well, first there is the Literal Translation Project, without whom this fic would be quite different, and take a lot longer to write.
Next we have the FFML, who provide a much needed outlet for this, so that I can know that other people have at least read whatever it is before I send it to RAAC.
Next, we have ADV, who pressed my Eva DVD box set.
Next, we have Mangle, who pressed the Eva movies.
Next, we have my fans (all four of you) who occasionally asked if I'd ever finish this . . . Thanks.
And, last, but definately not least, we have Gainax, and Anno-san, without whom I'd've never started this mess.
'Nuff of that.
A St. Suika Fenderson Roberts
I wiggle myself out of bed, being careful not to wake Rei, and dress in my normal sparring outfit. The t-shirt and shorts are not traditional, but they are non-constrictive and easy to replace, Ranma-chan's key requirements for combat clothing, since bladed weapons will make short work of most types of cloth.
I slip into the main room and check on Asuka, despite Ami-neechan's assurances that she'd be OK. She's deeply asleep, moving fitfully, her eyes fluttering behind their lids, dreaming.
I start stretching quietly, wincing as joints protest their unaccustomed use, gradually moving more fluidly as I work myself loose after three months of not bothering.
Asuka wakes behind me, audibly flinches as I drop into a full sideways splits. I've never understood that reaction, when it is done right nothing gets squashed.
'Un. Ami-neechan said you'd have a nasty hangover, but it should fade by mid-morning.' I turn to face her and she stares at me for a long moment before I realize why. 'Yeah, it's a little weird. Don't worry about it.'
'You've turned into a girl and you tell me not to worry about it? Bad enough you steal my boyfriend.' She turns away from me and glares at the wall while I try to figure out what is going on.
'I don't remember doing anything like that. What is his name.'
'And what was the name you gave him?' Rei asks from the doorway to the bedroom, mostly clad in a sheet.
'Erhart - '
'Reindas. I though you were male.'
'I never said I was!'
'You never said you _weren't._'
'Neither did you.' Asuka's volume keeps inching up.
'It's in my finger information just above my snail address.' Rei looks down, 'I shoulda written an ack of your card, as I really appreciated it, but it arrived while I was in the hospital and I only got around to dealing with my snail mail three weeks ago.'
I blink up at Rei, considering for the first time that the way I saw her quarters may not be their normal state.
'Shin-chan, you up?'
'Good. Best two?'
'Un.' Ranma turns to lead the way to the vacant lot that we practice in, and I sidestep, grabbing Asuka's ankle so I won't have to patch the hole her foot would leave in the wall otherwise. We fall into a pile on the floor, 'If you want you can come watch, but I've not had a chance to spar with Ranma-chan in months, so I don't have time to fight right now, OK?'
'Baka.' We disentangle and Asuka straightens her uniform, quite crumpled from being slept in as well as our fall.
'Armed or unarmed?' I ask. Asuka and Rei hang back, sitting quietly in one corner of the lot. Ranma stands easily, about four meters away.
'You know me. Unarmed.' I smile at her, drop into a waiting stance, feel the way the universe moves about us, and attack, lobbing myself through the intervening space almost without thinking about it. Ranma's dodge requires no thought at all, although her answering strike causes enough disturbance for me to dodge it. I adopt an agressive stance, waiting, the fluxing universe showing me that nothing will happen for a moment as Ranma centers herself, the disturbance she makes fading. In a few moments she will leave no trace of herself in the fields, and I fight to center myself well enough to match her. Rei's faint gasp almost shocks me, almost makes me lose the calm so necessary to rendering myself a neutral presence. I smile faintly, warmed by the acknowledgment of my skill, and any hint of Ranma's intentions fades from the ether. I calm myself still further, leaving only a faint tinge of my plans in the ether, then try something I'd never quite managed to accomplish, although Ranma had successfully pulled it on me more than once in our training.
I let a muffled intent to attack from Ranma's right leak into the ether as I launch myself into a full blown suicide flip, dropping behind her and managing a full-speed strike to the back of her neck, managing to pull the blow almost totally, barely brushing the back of her neck.
'One for you.' Ranma smiles at me, and points at the other two, who are radiating slack-jawed amazement. I grin back, pleased by my easy victory, and sure the next one will take a lot more work.
As is usual whenever I let myself actually predict the future, I'm right. Ranma makes a much more active assult, her feel in the ether still the annoying calmness of a rock or an avalanche, without the faintest hint of intent. I still cannot manage that deep, intentless, Zen state, but the very attempt is more wonderful than, almost, anything I've experienced in the last several months.
For short minutes it seems neither of us has the upper hand, for I have nearly Ranma's strength and speed, but my endurance has suffered greatly from lack of use, and I start slipping, making stupid mistakes as my blood sugar starts to drop, barely making my saves. Suddenly my weakness proves a boon, for I sag, unable to manage the kick I had intended, and I take Ranma by surprise, a single rising blow to the gut, and she doubles over, slaps the ground once and bounds to her feet.
'You should have pulled that a bit more.'
I nod, having only managed to remind myself that it wasn't a real, full contact, match at the last instant. Of course, in my current shape I'd have been a bleeding mess within the first half hour if it had been a full-contact bout.
Rei, I note, is staring at her watch. It takes me a moment to reorient myself, to remember how few can manage an hour and a half battle before breakfast, even if it is just a sparring match, and I walk over and drop lightly to my knees in front of her.
'So, what do you think.' Rei looks up at me, an expresion that at first I cannot place in her eyes.
Suddenly she has me on my back, sitting on my hips. 'If you can hold your own against the rock over there, why don't you stop me when I do this?'
I blink up at her, feeling the blue funk spreading slowly off of Asuka, wondering just what she doesn't understand. 'Because I like it when you do that.'
'How can you. I could not . . . cope . . . with someone doing this to me.' her question is asked in the same soft tone that she asked me move that first time I saw her appartment.
'You've read much of the same stuff I have; I'm just not wired the same.'
'Yah, but I just can't really comprehend it on anything more than an intellectual level.' Rei stands up, pulls me to my feet, and I look around, spotting Asuka being dragged off by Ranma.
Breakfast is really quiet, with recriminating glances shooting across the room. Afterwards I excuse myself, slip up to my room and get dressed, then head down to the garage, wondering how I'm going to get the other two home; I don't trust myself to take two people on the Hawk. I lean back against the wall, contemplating whether to try and make Asuka take the Shinkansen back or call about and see if I can get someone to come along for the trip, when I see her.
She was one of the reasons I didn't want to go to Tokyo just then, all that time ago. I'd just bought her, had only had the chance to ride her about once or twice, and then, snap, off I go to NERV. I walk over, check the dust, which is fairly light, fish up under the tank and flip the kill-switch, open the fill-cap and check the fuel level. She's a full tank, so I walk back over to the door, flip on the fans, and pull her keys from the board. She starts on the first kick, and I smile happily. I shut her down again and go in search of the others, stopping to kill the fans on the way out.
'Rei? Asuka?' The two girls look at me, Asuka still in her uniform, Rei in her riding leathers, the zipper partly down to keep from roasting in the warmth of the room. I drop into seiza near them, stare at the floor for a moment. 'As I see it we have two choices: we can send Asuka back on the Shinkansen, or she can ride in my beemu-chan's sidecar.'
'Your beemu-chan?' Rei's voice shows enough interest that I have to look up at her.
'Yeah. She's actually a Ural,' that gets two blank looks, so I explain, 'A Russian clone of the old BMW motorcycles. Mine is a 1998 Tourist model, and most closely resembles the BMW R-50. I'd only had her a couple days when I went off to Tokyo-3.' I watch Rei, and she chooses.
'Asuka will ride in the sidecar, right, Erhart?' Asuka just nods acquiescence, and I head off to see about borrowing a helmet for a few months.
'Let's see if this one will fit, Asuka-chan.' Mako-neechan hands her a helmet, the second one to be tried, and it fits her nicely. Rita, Mako-neechan's friend, nods her approval, her unnaturally grey hair still holding Asuka's attention completely.
Finally she asks, 'Rita-san, where are you from?'
Rita laughs, amused. 'I wasn't expecting that particular question from you. It doesn't much matter, as I'm never returning there.'
'You look somewhat like Rei, so I was wondering.'
'I am quite different from her.' Mako-neechan smirks a little at that, and again I wonder about Rita, for I've seen a lot of indications that Rita isn't what she seems over the years.
Asuka sure flusters easily, 'I know that! I just meant that perhaps both of you are descended from the same people or somthing!'
'Mako-chan?' Mako-neechan lays a hand on Rita's cheek, and they stare into each others eyes for a moment, then Rita turns to us again. 'We trust you not to blab this about too much, but I'm not human.' Her feet leave the floor, and she hangs lightly in midair.
'Rita-san, that is not the best proof of non-human status,' I say, centering myself before I lift into the air.
She smiles at me, 'I know, but I figured it would help dull the shock when I do this,' she grabs her right wrist in her left hand and there is a terrible rending noise as she twists it firmly, ripping her right hand loose. She drops to the floor again, and I wince in sympathetic pain, slipping up to her, as, I note absently, are Asuka and Rei. She holds her hand out, and the flesh revealed is definately not human, metallic bone protruding from faintly magenta muscle, a few drops of red blood dripping down her hand, the skin split across the bone, but holding her right hand to her body three quarters of the way around.
'Seems like good proof to me.' Asuka says in a queasy voice, staring at her own hand.
'Yeah.' Even Rei is affected, I note.
Rita opens her left hand and clenches her right, which draws the bones back together, straightens her wrist, and pulls the wound closed. Intertwining her fingers she pulls, and a few grating noises later lets go, rubbing the faint scar firmly.
'Don't worry, the scar'll be gone by Monday when I need to go back to work.' She smiles, and Mako-neechan rubs her neck lightly. Rita leans back into the carress, and suddenly I have Rei pressed lightly to my side.
Rei has Asuka's face cupped lightly in her other hand, and I'm shocked by the lack of jealousy this engenders.
'You'd better be going if you aren't going to miss another day of school. This is your third, right?' I nod, and Rei leads us out the door. We all pile back into Miria, Asuka's borrowed helmet clutched carefully in her arms as Rei pulls the seatbelt carefully over both of them. I climb into the right seat and start her up, let her warm as I get my seatbelt on, then pull her carefully back into the street, keeping carefully to the limits as I make for Ranma's house.
We pull in, pile out, and I slip into the house to put Miria's keys away while Rei helps Asuka dress. A few moments later we store the little bit of cruft we need to take back behind the seat in the sidecar, and I open the garage door and try to kick my beemu-chan over.
*Ka-chumph* *Ka-chumph* I stop, go through the whole check again. Stand, up. Petcock, on. Neutral, engaged. Run-switch, on. Ignition, on. Kill switch, off. Oh. I flip it. *Ka-chumph Umble umble* I back her out of the garage while the motor warms, close the door after the other two have exited. I pull my helmet on while the engine smooths out the rest of the way.
'Climb on,' I tell Rei. 'You too. I'd put on the seatbelt, but that's just me.' Asuka nods, climbing in and getting the belt right on the first try, which is better than I did.
With a final mental check I pull out of the driveway, fairly sure I've not forgotten anything this time.
A few moments later we are on the highway. After a quick check of traffic I risk a glance at Asuka, and note that she's finally zipped up her jacket. Rei's arms about my waist feel, safe. I let just a little bit more of my attetion wander to her, keeping the rest on the Beemu-chan,since this is the longest trip I've taken her on.
Rei picks up on my mood, so not much is said during the ride, although I notice Asuka doing a great deal of looking around.
My Beemu-chan meets my expectations of Japanese-modified Russian-made German engineering, and we arrive in Tokyo-3 without incident and a half-tank of fuel, which indicates to me that I've got her pretty well in tune.
We stop outside Misato-san's building, and I shut her down, run-switch, then ignition. 'Asuka,'
She interupts me, 'Erhart. If you're gonna be Miyuki and she's Lantis-sama, I'm Erhart.'
I nod acknowledgement, 'Erhart, if you want you can come along on the search for a NERV parking permit, but it probably won't be that much fun.' I stretch out a little, shifting joints and unkinking muscles. Rei lets go of me and I can feel her stretch out her fingers. Asuka looks at her fingers, then undoes her belt.
'I'll tell Misato where you two are.'
'Good.' Rei answers, and I restart the Beemu-chan, on the first kick this time.
Rei wraps her hands about my waist again as I pull back onto the street, pulling down my visor after about a block.
Finding the correct people takes longer than obtaining the permit, as expected, the entire process taking just a little over four and a half hours. I don't mind too much, for it gives me a chance to just be with Lantis-chan, and reaquaint myself with city driving. I only have to bail myself out with a touch to the Force once, when I didn't pay adequite attention to a speeding car. It slows a little, the Beemu-chan jumps forward with preternatural ease, and none the wiser. Applying the sticker is a matter of moments, carefully placing it under the ones for LANL, KGD, and the Imperial Household. Rei is a bit taken aback by the array.
'How many owners did this bike have before you?' She sweeps her hand over the Imperial Household parking sticker, not touching it.
'One. She bought the bike while she was a college student in the US, worked on some supercomputer project at Los Alamos in late 1999, then moved to Japan after Second Impact. She's currently a proffesor at KansaiGaiDai, and is involved in some hush hush project with the Imperial Household. She sold Beemu-chan to me 'cause she's apparently obtained an Imperial exemption from the speed limit, and has a new insane monster of a sportbike to take advantage of it with. Beemu-chan wasn't getting ridden as much as she'd like, so she told Ranma about it, who told me.' I stroke the clean line of her fender, the swoop of her rear suspension, but manage to keep myself from rubbing my face against her as I'd done when I finally paid for her. Her previous owner had smiled and said she'd done the same when she first got the bike, almost seventeen years earlier.
'Is this monster British Racing Green?' I nod, 'and she wears some sort of rigid armour?' I nod again. 'I saw her blow through town about two weeks ago. She must have been doing almost four hundred down the street; I had trouble believing anything human could cope with that kind of . . .' she trails off, at a loss for words.
'Insanity? I got a chance to try on her helmet for a moment, she's got a HUD with traffic conditions twenty minutes out on it. Apparently it is Genom made, and about ten years old, she got it surplus.' I smile at the memory, wondering again if the bike and suit were consiously copied from BubbleGum Crisis, since the suit in particular is way too close a match. The right hand was modified from that version, probably due to her being a Dark Kingdom citizen, and thus not needing robotic augmentation, but the rest is too close to be coincidence.
'Impressive.' Rei gets to her feet again, motions towards Beemu-chan.
Quickly I check through, then kick her over. One kick, again. I check my helmet straps, then Rei is on behind me, her arms about my waist.
'We're going home, I assume.'
'Un. Do you want me to take you to your apartment, Lantis-chan?' She clutches me tighter.
'I would prefer to go to yours. I could gather my cruft, however.'
'Hai.' The trip to Rei's apartment is short.
Entering I'm struck by both how similar and how different her house is this time, still so bare as to appear sterile, but clean this time, neatly arranged. She moves quickly, gathering a box from somewhere and quickly sorting stuff into it. Her eyes sweep the room once, then she speaks, 'Ready.'
'That's it?' I point at the box with my chin.
'All of my backup data is stored elsewhere, only the incidentals are stored here, Miyuki-chan. This is all I will need before we will have a chance to gather the rest.' She sweeps from the room, pauses outside the door. 'Close the door on your way out.'
'Shouldn't I lock it?'
'Around here locking the door indicates there's something worth having inside. Don't bother.' I pull the door shut and follow her down to the parking area. Setting the helmets down I help her stuff the box into the sidecar, which isn't as easy as it might seem. I hand her her helmet and run my preride check again, finishing by kicking Beemu-chan over. Again, one kick. She climbs on behind and tells me, 'Go a little faster if you wish; I won't mind.' Although phrased as a comment, it has more the feel of a request, so I oblige.
I pull into the space next to Misato's car with a final gunning of the engine and sliding of the rear tire, the sidecar in the air, the front brake keeping the front wheel in place as I spin the bike the final ninety degrees in a move that is not good for the tires, but is very flashy.
'Very nice.' Misato says, grinning, as we climb off. I finish the post-ride, check the petcock again, and join her and Lantis-chan in the attempt to pull Lantis-chan's box from the sidecar. I should have expected that reaction, having seen her park in a hurry. I don't think I'm cool enough to pull a 180 into a parking space without cheating, however, especially in a cage.
Upstairs I pull Misako out of my pocket, wake her up again, and log onto my stereo, calling up Jethro Tull's 'Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young To Die' before cranking the volume up. The speakers are quite capable of shaking small items off shelves, so I am glad I do not possess any. I lean back against the wall, singing along with the condensed story of a bike wreck, as Asuka, Rei, and Misato stare at me, flabergasted.
'How long what?'
'How long have you been hiding this?'
'What? The archive server?' Misato shake her head, so I continue before she can clarify, 'The motorcycle fascination?' Again a shake of the head, 'The propensity for playing Tull at high volume?'
She just clarifies this time, 'The relationship with both Rei and Asuka.'
'Oh.' I'm a teensy bit disappointed, but answer, 'I had nothing to hide with Asuka, and I hadn't realized that I had anything to hide with Rei until yesterday. She's been my Lantis-chan for about a year, though.' Rei smiles her normal small smile, and Asuka presses herself closer to her. Misato looks at them oddly.
'Just what is going on here?' Misato sounds honestly confused.
'Anou,' Rei starts, 'About two and a half years ago I got into the 'net, and discovered a place where I was _me_ rather than Rei the vampire girl. It was nice, and I chose a name that I felt represented me better than the one I was gifted with by NERV. A few months later I met Ichijo Miyuki-chan in the anime newsgroups. She got me interested in Archive, got me to come farther out of my shell, and after a while I realized we were flirting. A couple months after that I met Erhart, and started flirting with him, too.
'We continued, getting more and more serious as time went by; both Erhart and Miyuki-chan were dropping hints about possibly arranging some face-time, but nothing firm. Two weeks later I was involved in that activation accident with ZeroGouKi.' Asuka looks shocked; I guess she hadn't made the connection.
Misato, however, looks confuzzled, 'Um, which of you is Miyuki?'
'Me.' I stick two fingers into the air for emphasis.
'And who is Erhart?'
'Erhart Reindas, douzo youroshiku,' Asuka bows deeply, flourishing her hand, a move that probably would have looked better with a large plumed hat.
Misato shakes her head and looks away. I double-take when I realize she's blushing.
'Shouldn't Rei be going home?' Misato pokes her nose into my room.
'I am.' Lantis-chan doesn't look up from her place on my futon, scrawling another answer in her untidy hand.
'I think, Misato-san, that she meant she is home.' Erhart's amusement shows easily on her face.
'Oh.' Misato blinks, taking in Erhart's state of dress, 'Are you moving into Shinji's room too?'
Misato just walks off, muttering, 'The commander's gonna kill me.'
I wake to the almost familiar sensation of Lantis-chan curled posessively across my chest, and the unfamiliar one of Erhart sprawled on my right side. Erhart has her head on my shoulder, , one hand somehow slid under my neck, her breath stirring Lantis-chan's hair and tickling me slightly. I'm a little surprised that my right arm isn't asleep, since it got under Erhart, my hand resting on her cotton nightshirt at the small of her back. Lantis-chan has one hand curled about me, the other draped lightly across Erhart's shoulders. I stroke Lantis-chan's back softly, hoping to wake her gently. My fingers brush Erhart's, and she stirs, waking Lantis-chan.
I face the teacher, hand over a copy of my note, and sit back down again, glad that I don't have to say anything about the 'incident' yet. No one seems to have noticed anything different, although I keep catching glances, both directed my way and at each other. Someone will notice soon, I'm sure.
*What does the note say?* Whoever's asking is hiding their identity again. It isn't much work and makes for real messes sometimes.
*Something that happened before the last Shito incident.* Someone else, probably Lantis-chan, types.
*That is for Miyuki-chan to tell you about.* There is a sudden flurry of noise as Rei drops that little bomb.
'Hey, Shinji, what are you talking about? Who is Miyuki-chan?' I look up at Kensuke's questions.
'He wasn't typing.' Touji points out, 'Who was?' He asks me directly.
'A friend.' He scowls.
'Who is Miyuki?'
I smile back at him in my most annoying manner, 'Me.'
The room goes silent.
-Shiiiiin- [the sound of silence -S]
The teacher looks up from the note again. 'So this isn't a joke on Akagi-hakase's part?' I blink at him. I would never have even considered that as a possibility.
'No, it is not a joke.' Rei speaks up for me, and everyone turns to look at her. She looks at me and smiles a tiny smile, so I smile back. Everyone goes silent for a moment, half of them seeming to no longer breathe.
Asuka starts laughing.
'More tests. Always more tests.' Erhart mutters beside me, her bag flopped over one shoulder as she walks on Lantis-chan's other side.
'Do you know what the point of these tests is?'
'No. They tell me no more about things than they tell you.'
'Then how do you manage to put up with it?' Erhart's voice is curious, more than upset.
'I perceived that it would be bad for me to ask.'
'I thought you were their pet.' Erhart looks over at both of us.
'Pet is a good word for it, I think.'
'Oh.' Erhart wraps her free arm about Lantis-chan's shoulder at her bleak words.
'Miyuki-chan also.' I oblige, shifting my school bag to my other hand, then wrapping my arm over Erhart's and Lantis-chan's shoulder.
'How has the commander taken this?' Akagi-hakase asks as I step out of the changing room.
'I don't know. I haven't told him, has anyone else?'
'I don't know.'
'We will be doing a full activation test today. The Eva will be launched into the geofront, where they will engage several practice targets. Understood?'
'Launch.' The acceleration doesn't last as long as normal, popping us out about 600 meters from the pyramid-shape of the headquarters building itself.
Remembering how long it took for them to get everything together last time I start a flowing water-technique kata. I'm halfway finished with it, the Eva's limbs too long, too thin, when someone finally notices.
'Shinji-kun, what are you doing?' Ibuki-san's voice, showing curiosity rather than censure.
'A water-form kata.' I finish the kata, my movements too harsh, jerky, not flowing like they should. I start on a simpler one, careful not to force it, just letting it flow.
Several minutes later I finish it, pleased to have done better. I cop a feel, noticing everyone running around like heads with their chickens off still, and start the first one again.
It is better this time, and they are finally almost ready for the exercise when I finish. I drop into a ready stance, face forward, warmed by both the faint amusement Lantis-chan is leaking, and the exasperation Erhart is broadcasting. Ibuki-san is too far away for me to feel, but I expect she is also amused.
'Targets will be launching in a moment. Ready yourselves.' Ibuki-san is indeed amused about something.
'You may attack the targets as soon as they clear the revetments.' Misato's instructions clarify things, and start me searching. The targets are well hidden, at least to conventional means, making me glad for my training. I shake my head, amazed at how centered I feel after only a couple days back in training.
I hold my peace until the targets launch. 'Rei, 2:30, Asuka, 5.' A moment of shock as they parse the directions. The first target I've chosen clears it's revetment, and I leap for it. It drops, six inch thick steel plating shredded like ricepaper, the full spin kick staving in its left side. I leap for the next target, and the axe kick literally rips it in two. I drop into a ready stance as Erhart finishes her target.
'This was good.' Lantis-chan's voice is soft, the amusement almost unnoticable. I smile at it.
'Um.' Misato's voice shows her confusion. 'We expected it to take longer to deal with the targets, so.'
'You have allocated funds for a longer excursion than this would be if we head in now. Right?' Erhart is definately amused.
'Then we'll stay out here and Ikari-sensei can try teaching us martial arts for the next hour or so. Does that sound,'
'Fine. It will provide excelent data.' Misato sure cut Erhart of fast. I grin to myself as I turn towards the other two.
My, it sure took them a long time to figure this out. We haven't been doing anything to hide it, so. Guess the lot of them are just clueless. I suppose it shouldn't be such a surprise; the reaction the first time I showed up at the girls locker room for PE . . . that was a sight.
Most of my class is staring at us, I don't know why, it isn't like, well, I guess it is. Lantis-chan did just kiss the both of us. On the lips. At lunchtime. In the middle of the yard. Erhart is blushing so bad. She's not moving away from Lantis-chan, just holding her hand and looking at the ground. It was kind of amusing the way Erhart stormed up to us, Lantis-chan having plopped herself in my lap and kissed me, thoughroughly, to the amazement of all the onlookers. Lantis-chan just looked up at her, took in the flaring emotions on Erhart's face, then reached out one hand and pulled her down by the waistband of her skirt, wrapped the other around the back of the taller girl's neck and pulled her down for a kiss.
Erhart looked like she was going to faint for a moment there. She probably never would have lived that down, and it is unlikely she would have forgiven us for that.
Glancing at her again I'm suddenly not so sure. I use my free hand to provide support as I shift over a little closer to her. Erhart takes the hint, shifting a little as well, then pulling Lantis-chan a little closer to herself. I lean over against her shoulder, one arm still around Lantis-chan, and drop my free hand about her waist. She tenses for a moment, then shifts to wrap her right arm about my shoulders. I keep my face lowered, but look around under my eyelashes. Everyone I can see is still staring at us, rather slack-jawed. I almost laugh.
'So, my student, you have taken up your training once more.'
'Bell-sensei!' I bounce, spin, throw myself into her arms. She catches me with no apparent effort, but I can feel her tweaking the Force for support.
'I take it you would wish me to train your friends, as well? For, as they say, "The Force is strong in them."'
'That would be good.' "An untrained sensative is a danger to herself and others," or so the quote goes. Keiichi-san waves from where he stands, looking up to talk to Misato-san. Erhart and Lantis-chan are watching with intrest.
'Lantis-chan, Erhart, this is Belldandy, my teacher in the art of Zanji, and her friend Morisato Keiichi, who's talking to Misato.' I let go of Bell-sensei, stepping back. I smile happily, sure that before long I she will have me pushed to my limits again, but for now I can just bask in the anticipation.
I moan softly, muscles aching. Bell-sensei pushed me hard today, and I can barely move. Only the knowledge that Kasumi survived this training keeps me from thinking it's impossible.
An answering groan prompts me to turn my head, the effort far more difficult than it should have been. Asuka looks rather like someone's been chewing on her, and I manage a small grin.
'Really hurts, doesn't it?'
Asuka manages a small nod, so I force myself up, slowly start to work over her abused muscles, and she relaxes quickly, nearly falling asleep.
I look for Lantis-chan, noticing the tell-tale signs of strain about her eyes, the stubborn pride that won't ask for anything, mixed with the powerful fear that nothing asked for will be given.
I murmor, 'sleep,' to Erhart, and she closes her eyes, burrowing into the covers. Lantis-chan arcs up into my touch, a faint contented moan shivering through my hands.
'Shinji-kun? What have you been up to recently? It's like you're a different person.' Kensuke's voice is concerned, so I smile at him. His eyes get very big of a sudden.
'It's not much. I just got kicked out of the rut I'd let myself fall into. I should be OK now.'
'So you weren't before?'
'Nope, not at all. A way of describing that is "severe clinical depression."'
'Really?' Kensuke looks down, 'I thought you were just, quiet.'
'That's what I wanted everyone to think,' I smile again, throw myself into a backflip onto the desk behind me, a move that, standing as close to the desk as I am, only a Dark Kingdom trained human could accomplish, 'But that accident helped me get it back together.' I smile as I recognize the figures coming in the door. I raise an eyebrow at them, getting a broad grin and a tiny smile in responce.
Lantis-chan moves with the careful attention of the remarkably tired, and I slip a hand under her elbow. She smiles slightly, dropping her head against my shoulder for a moment.
1998 April 27:started
1999 May:picked up again.
1999 June 3: log added
1999 June 16:added more.
1999 July 5:added more.
1999 July 13:another two sections.
2000 December 25:Editted slightly for continuity.
2003/Sep/13:chopped a scene for continuity porpoises.
2003 October 3: Title block and acknowledgement.
2009 August 2:mauled for posting to ff.n