Chapter 33

The Swim of Things | By: | Genre: Humor, Romance | Rating: M | Series: Evangelion | Status: In Progress | Tags: Alternate Universe, Post-Series, Post-TI, WAFF | Summary:

This is a classic Rom/Com staring the Evangelion cast. It has just about everything you would expect, and probably read before, but is my latest personal take on the genre. Hope you enjoy it.

Asuka walked into the classroom on the first day after the end of the winter break with a beautiful golden tan. Her body looked like it was in the height of the summer instead of the dead of winter. This of course caught the attention of the other girls in the classroom. You didn't get a tan like that hanging around Tokyo 4. “Where'd you go?”

“Just to one of the southern islands” Asuka answered. But it wasn't in an egotistical way or anything. More that anything she was understating herself. She wanted the girls to think differently from the real truth.

And they did as they took the southern islands to mean the Okinawa area. “Cool” one of the girls said back. “So what town did you stay in?” Okinawa was a pretty popular vacation destination in the winter so a trip there wasn't even seen as out of the ordinary.

Asuka of course didn't have a direct answer for that but she was able to quickly improvise one. “We didn't stay in a town. The trip was to one of those little fishing resorts.” This wasn't that far of an out there thing as there were many of those types of resorts in Japan. In a nation that consumed many things from the sea, sport fishing destinations were quite popular. Asuka was just leaving out that the one they went to wasn't anywhere near the country.

“Oh, my dad and some of his friends go do that every year” Kotono said back. “Did you like spend the whole time tanning on the boat?”

“Nope” Asuka answered. “They had a small beach by the docks so I laid around out there for most of the week.”

“That sounds so relaxing” Rini said.

“It was” Asuka bragged. “I left all my text books at home and just laid there on the beach and did nothing but read romance novels and daydream.”

“I'm so jealous” Rini said back. “I had to visit relatives the whole time.”

“That sucks” Asuka replied.

“Tell me about it” Rini added on as it wasn't the most fun. “So how tan did you get?”

Asuka pulled the collar of her shirt away a bit and showed off her very thin tan line that was almost non existent. It almost looked like the tan line itself was tanned too, just not as much as the rest of her body.

“What kind of bikini did you wear?” one of the girls asked as that was a pretty skimpy tan line.

“A very little one” Asuka grinned back. “This place was one of those little specks in the ocean and there was no one around.” Asuka then laughed “I could have sunbathed naked and no one would have noticed.”

Kotono laughed at that too as she had gone with her dad on one of his trip once. “So basically you had to do nothing on the beach when everyone went fishing because there was nothing to do.”

“Yup” Asuka chuckled back. But then Rei and Kensuke came into the room along with Shinji. “Rei didn't seem to mind though.”

“Mind what?” Rei asked but also felt a little uncomfortable at all the girls looking at her.

“Asuka said you guys went to a fishing resort and all you did was lie out on the little beach they had there the whole time” one of the girls answered.

You could actually see the smile on Rei's face as she nodded yes to that. “I enjoyed it so very much.”

Most of the other girls giggled at that. It was obvious Rei had liked the experience. And to tell you the truth most of them agreed with her that the experience would be nice, just a nice quiet week of relaxation away from the monotony of school life and studying. That's what vacations were for after all.

Looking at Kensuke you could also tell he went with as he was pretty tan just like Asuka, Rei, and Shinji. “So Kensuke went there with you guys too?”

“Yes” Rei answered. Unbeknownst to the other girls this answer took a fair amount of guts for Rei to give. She was with Kensuke and she wasn't going to back down. Sure she wanted to back down but she wasn't going to because it would be unfair to him and she was tired of feeling guilty over making him hide their relationship.

“So you two are that serious?” one of the girls asked with another asking “Did you share a room with him?” Going on a real vacation with your boyfriend was no little thing.

Rei read these questions exactly as what they were really asking. Were Kensuke and herself intimate with each other? She had to search herself for a second before she answered that question. Was she going to blush and try to deny it or was she going to put a stamp on the relationship as very serious?

The person wondering the answer to that question the most was Asuka. She knew what everyone wanted to know, but she didn't know if Rei was going to admit to it. And she wasn't getting any clues from Kensuke either as he acted like nothing was going on at all. This of course meant that the question of how serious they were, in terms of admitting it to the outside world, was up to Rei. Asuka shot Kensuke a dirty look as she was hoping he would push Rei a little instead of babying her.

But that dirty look got changed to a surprise one as she heard Rei say clearly “We shared a room… In fact we live together now.”

There were a whole lot of “WHAT?”s to that. Not only did Rei put a stamp on the relationship as serious but she put an even bigger stamp and elevated the seriousness of it to couples like Asuka and Shinji and Hikari and Touji.

Asuka just said “Wow!” while Hikari smiled. Rei was not backing down. If anything she was standing firm and pushing everyone else back. The girl had guts.

In another corner of the room Touji patted Kensuke hard on the back and said “Welcome to the big league son.”

Kensuke sort of chuckled nervously at that and said back “What do you thinks going to happen now?”

“No clue” Touji replied. This was huge news and there was no telling what was going to happen next. As far as the school knew the first whispers of Kensuke and Rei being together just started a couple weeks ago before break. Now they went from a new couple status to not only having sex but living with each other. Stuff like this didn't happen in high school.

Shinji though did have some advice. “I like to ignore the world when things like this happen. It's easier that way.”

Both Kensuke and Touji laughed at that big time. That was very much Shinji's style.

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Rei surprised Asuka greatly as she never backed down from what she said in the morning and even confirmed the rumor that Kensuke and she were living with each other every time someone asked her about it. She didn't going into detail about anything but she would admit to being together in most ways with her boyfriend and that it was a very serious relationship. Basically she took a middle ground between Asuka full admittance to the point of bragging and Hikari's we're together but I don't want to talk about us having sex stances. Rei would admit she was intimate with Kensuke but she wouldn't talk about the sorts of things they did.

That part of it wasn't all that surprising to the student body though as they didn't think she was the type of girl to kiss and tell. There were plenty of other girls in school who liked to keep things like that private so it wasn't like she was so different in this aspect. If anything she was pretty normal in her stance on the subject. It's just that no one thought the two of them were that serious or even knew they had been dating as long as they had been. That was the biggest surprise. According to Kensuke they had been secretly dating since summer break.

Obviously it was Rei who wanted it to look that way and in some ways it was true. It was during the summer that both of them got to the point that they started feeling uncomfortable around each other when alone and also when the thought of they weren't necessarily available to date other people first started forming in their heads. Plus for Rei it would make it sound like they were in a relationship longer. This was one sticker thought that still plagued her a bit. Their relationship moved really fast, and while Kensuke and she had no problems with it, she was afraid of what other people would say if they knew the truth. She really didn't want people to think this was a two lonely people just hooked up for some fun type of thing. Kensuke and she were in a very serious relationship and she wanted people to think that. It made her feel good to be thought of that way with Kensuke.

Right now though class was going on so the chatter had died down some. But only some as Rini and Kotono went over to Rei for some help with their studies. “Do we really need to know all this English stuff for the exams?” Rini asked as Rei seemed to be going further with the help than what they learned in class.

“It's better if you know more than simply the basics” Rei told them. “Many of the tests you will be taking put questions that are this complicated on them mainly to see if you know more than the average student applying to college.”

“That's pretty mean” Kotono pouted. It wasn't the first time she had heard that but English was something she wasn't very good at.

Rei agreed with the girl but still pressed on. These two girls were very respectful to her and even though they were big gossips they never pressed her for intimate information. If anything they were friends who only spread information she was comfortable with. Because of this she wanted to help them out the best she could.

But while she helped them they took a little break from studying to let their minds wind back down for a second. And during that time Rini asked “What's it like living with a guy?” She wasn't looking for gossip to spread around but more than anything she was curious about the answer. It wasn't something you could know about unless you had lived with one in that way.

Rei thought for a second and then answered. “Very different from what I thought it was going to be like. When Kensuke first started staying over I was worried I would lose all my privacy. But once you get used to another person being around it's not all bad. Yes, sometimes it's too close for comfort, but most of the time it is relaxing to me to know he's close by. And even though we share a studio apartment there is still enough room for us to be separate inside of it.”

“Really?” Kotono asked. “I would think you two would always be getting under each other's feet.”

Rei shook her head no at that. “We both like to do different things, especially when it comes to relaxing, so while we might be in the same room we aren't sharing the same space and hovering over each other the whole time. I like to read to relax myself and for the most part when I have a book in my hands he leaves me alone and lets me read. And if he's really into something he's doing on the computer or watching a ballgame on TV I don't barge in and try to make him stop doing it.”

“Wow” Kotono said back. “You two are so grown up.”

Rei gave her a questioning look at that statement. She didn't feel all that grown up. In fact she thought of herself as still rather lost and confused and in the process of learning many things.

“I agree with Kotono” Rini though said. “I like to talk to friends online sometimes but I've had boyfriends who got horribly jealous about it and told me to stop.”

“Why?” Rei asked as she couldn't understand that kind of thinking.

“Some of them think that when we're together we always have to be together and devoting one hundred percent of that time to each other” Rini answered. “Sort of like they're really clingy or something.”

Kotono sighed at that and admitted. “I was like that with my boyfriend in the beginning. We almost broke up about it before I figured out I was being too needy.”

“You need space to be yourself” Rei said as she thought about it. She then looked across the room at where Shinji, Hikari, Mai, and Kensuke were studying as a group and smiled. Both Kensuke and she were very individualistic people so they could understand the need for that. And that understanding was what helped them co-exist so well. Maybe they were a touch more mature than normal when compared to their age group.

To Rini and Kotono though Rei's line just emphasized how mature they thought the two were. The concept of space to be yourself in a relationship was not as easy to wrap your mind around as it was to say.

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As you can easily guess the news of Kensuke and Rei's advance relationship sent quite a few shockwaves through the school and was what everyone was talking about through the grapevine to the point that Rei was happy when she had to leave for the college with Asuka. Bit of an escape to Rei as it was. Right now though they were getting some lunch at a café as Rei had another class soon and Asuka stuck around to work on an assignment instead of heading back to the high school to eat lunch there.

“You really surprised me there Blue. I didn't think you were going to go that far” Asuka said while taking a bite out of her club sandwich.

“Neither did I” Rei admitted. While she was ready to admit to being intimate with him she didn't think she was going to admit to them living together. “Do you think it was a mistake to tell everyone that we live together?” She asked this while arranging her tray of sushi from least favorite to most, saving the best for last.

“Mistake or not it doesn't really matter at this point” Asuka pointed out. “You said it and now everyone knows.”

“I don't really know why I said it though” Rei sighed back. “It was almost like it simply slipped out.”

“I know what that's like” Asuka chuckled a bit. “I don't actually mean to brag about what Shinji and I do, it's just that whenever I feel threatened I tend to say more than I should to make sure everyone knows how serious I am.”

“It's sort of like the same reaction you used to have about you two not being together” Rei said as she thought about it. Going too far to prove a point was still a trademark of Asuka's.

“Yeah” Asuka said and then took another bite of her sandwich. There was nothing else she could say really as Rei had her dead to right about that. “Maybe you went that step too far because you felt threatened?”

Rei finished chewing her own food before she answered that. Asuka may have had a point there. “Some of those girls looked at me like they didn't believe it.”

Something like that would certainly do it for her in Asuka's opinion. Asuka smiled at Rei and said “Welcome to the world over reactive women.”

Rei sighed at that. “Is there any way to leave that world?”

“I have no clue” Asuka said back. “But if you figure it out, please be a dear and let me know. I'd like to get out myself.”

Rei giggled at that and started to feel better about the situation. The situation may have been a touch unique but her reaction was probably closer to normal than she figured most girls would admit to. “So do you think anything bad will happen because I said that?”

“Not really” Asuka said back. “Some boys might get depressed to know you're officially taken…” Asuka teased “… but overall I doubt anyone really cares. It's not like either of you were dating anyone else and this is some big scandal. More like just another relationship that's new to everyone that they all want to talk about till it gets boring and they move on to something else.”

Rei could recognize the bit of personal experience in that explanation so she gave it good consideration. Hopefully that's exactly what would happen and before long things would be back to normal. “Oh, before I forget, when you get back to school could you please tell Mrs. Amano I probably won't make it back in time for class. I have an appointment with Professor Fuyutsuki after class today.”

Asuka told her she would and laughed to herself about that. Fuyutsuki was Rei's academic advisor just like he was hers. And when he met with either of them he tended to be quite longwinded.

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During lunch Shinji, Touji, and Kensuke were sitting with some friends in their classroom. “I can't believe the Tigers lost every game” Shinji complained. “I even set the TiVo just in case they won.”

“Man that sucks” Touji laughed. “Well at least you got to watch them lose in fast forward. My dad and grandpa were cussing out the team during every game they watched.”

“Like you weren't right next to them doing the same thing” Kensuke jested.

“Well…” Touji said looking away with a guilty expression. “But man do they suck this year. It's getting to the point that you can't even watch them anymore.”

“Tell me about it” Shinji grumbled.

One of the other guys then asked “Are any of the guys who jumped ship last year doing anything?”

“Not really” Kensuke answered as he sort of kept up on such things. He ran all the fantasy baseball numbers for the guys who were involved in the league they set up so he tended to find out a lot about baseball's happenings. “Kimura and Maeda both got sent down to the minors and Ogawa lost his spot as a starting pitcher and is now a reliever.”

“So even our good players suck ass” one of the other guys groused. It was one thing to lose your best players, but to have them suck on the team you lost them to was sort of a slap in the face. It was like saying your best players aren't even good enough to be our worst player.

“So am I still in last place in our league?” one of the guys droned. He was a huge Tigers fan and when they all selected players for their league he picked a lot of his from that team. He was sure this was the year they would turn it around. In retrospect, not a good guess.

“Oh hell yes” Kensuke laughed. “Your guys suck ass, just give up now and save yourself the embarrassment when the final numbers get tallied.”

“Fuck man” the kid replied. “I thought I had this in the bag.”

“I told you not to pick players from the Tigers” Kensuke said back. “I sure as hell didn't... and that's why I'm in first place.” Kensuke liked to brag about that.

“I thought I was” Touji said back though.

“Nope” Kensuke answered. “I still lead by a couple points.”

“Well, not for long” Touji said as he showed Kensuke the news up on his computer monitor. He was looking over the sports page while they were all talking and found out Kensuke's star pitcher was going to miss a game with a fluke injury.

“Ah shit!” Kensuke cursed. “That's the third time this year that lazy bastard missed a game…” Losing him for even one game was really going to hurt his numbers.

This in depth discussion of the intricacies of fantasy baseball got interrupted by some other guys who walked up to them. Some of these guys were real jerks and the biggest one was the one to start talking as Goto asked loudly enough so everyone in the room could hear him. “So what's it like to shack up with Ayanami?”

There was no way Kensuke could miss the condescending tone that question was asked in but he tried to ignore it as he simply answered “Food's better.”

His friends all chuckled at that joke.

Goto and his friends didn't though as he said “Fuck the food man, is her hair really blue? And is what they say about the quiet girls in bed thing true?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Kensuke asked, avoiding giving this jerk any real answer.

“You know” Goto said back with a stupid looking smirk. “That the quiet ones are wild as hell in bed.”

Kensuke just shook his head at him. “You're a moron.”

“Fuck You man!” Goto yelled back. “You think just because you're dating Ayanami you're too good for the rest of us now!”

“When the hell did I ever say anything like that?” Kensuke questioned as that came out of nowhere. It almost seemed to Kensuke like Goto wanted to yell that at him from the get go.

One of the other boys though had a clue. “Ignore the dumbass. He's just jealous. He's been bragging he was going to ask Ayanami out for a while now.”

“What the fuck do you know?!” Goto bellowed back. “You want to fight or something?!”

“Shut the hell up” Touji said standing up to the kid as he was sick of this. They were having a pleasant conversation and this jackass just interrupted it. And right when he was going to be able to brag about him soon being in first too.

Goto hated this. In every other class he was ever a part of he was the biggest kid there. And he used that advantage to push everyone around. A basic bully. But this class was different as he was only the second biggest. Touji was taller, stronger, and over all bigger than him. And Goto did what all bullies do when they are in a situation like that, he backed off.

And once he was gone Touji sat back down and looked at all the guys. Instead of bragging about what he just did he bragged about something else. “Prepare to pay up boys. With Kensuke's pitcher being a gimp I'm going to clean the floor with you bastards.” He then had to duck, while laughing, as all the guys threw their food wrappers at him for that. It was bad enough knowing that with Kensuke's starting pitching down he had their little competition wrapped up, he didn't have to brag about it too.

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When Asuka got back to class she noticed all eyes were on her. “What?” she asked. She was just coming back from the university like she always did. So she was a touch later than normal, that was no reason to stare at her.

One of the girls though provided the reason as she asked. “Where's Ayanami?”

“Oh, that's right” Asuka remembered. She then looked over at Mrs. Amano. “Rei said she had a meeting with Professor Fuyutsuki after her last lecture today so she's probably not going to make it back to class.

“Okay” Mrs. Amano said back and then thanked Asuka for letting her know. Then she turned back to her class and said “Back to work everybody.” Yes the news about Ayanami and Aida was big but that wasn't an excuse to stop working on your studies.

After checking her email, most of which was rumor mongering stuff about Rei and Kensuke that she deleted without even looking at, she went over to where Shinji was. He was sitting next to Kensuke and they were working on a study book. “Hey Shin-kun, what are you two working on?”

“Japanese history” Shinji answered.

Asuka was about to sit down by them but she promptly halted her actions upon hearing that. Then after quickly looking around she said “I think I'm gonna go help Hikari and Mai.”

Both Kensuke and Shinji snickered a little at that. It wasn't that Asuka was bad at Japanese history but more along the lines of it not being one of her most knowledgeable subjects. And because of that she didn't feel comfortable helping people out with it. But before she left Kensuke stopped her with a quiet “Umm, Asuka. How was Rei doing?”

Kensuke may have been acting nonchalant about all this but Asuka could tell he was worried about Rei. “She's a little regretful about admitting you two live together but over all she's doing okay.”

“Thanks Asuka” Kensuke smiled back lightly. He knew she had talked to Rei.

Asuka simply smiled back and then went over to where Hikari and Mai were studying. “So what's up girls?”

“The speed of things falling down” Hikari playfully answered. Mai and Hikari were studying physics.

“Need any help?” Asuka asked.

“Yes!” Mai quickly answered. She needed all the help she could get and she was starting to feel really guilty about asking Hikari to stop her studying just to help her every five seconds.

“Are you sure you don't want to help out Shinji?” Hikari teased. She knew what Shinji and Kensuke were studying and also that Asuka was not big on helping in that particular area.

“Positive” Asuka smirked backed at the friendly teasing while sitting down between the two girls. “Japanese history is not my forte.”

“I don't like it either” Mai said back.

“I don't think it's so bad” Hikari said giving her opinion.

“Of course it isn't going to be for you, you grew up learning it” Asuka sassed. “Try being good at it when you grow up in Germany.”

Hikari just giggled at her for that and then they all started to work on some physics problems.

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Rei was really late in getting back to school. Professor Fuyutsuki just went on and on in their meeting. Rei still wasn't sure what exactly she wanted to do after she got her degree and that wasn't sitting too well with the professor. He had no problems letting Rei pick her own future but he wanted to make sure that he was the one to guide her down the correct path to that future. Basically he wanted to help her pick the right classes that would benefit her development the most. This led to him giving her a job assessment test much like the one he gave Asuka and Shinji.

Rei was talking to herself as she changed her clothes. She was alone in the locker room putting on her gymnastics uniform as she was so late in coming back that practice had already started and all the other girls were already in the gym. `I don't think librarian is that bad of a job.' In fact that job sounded sort of fun to her. Surrounded by books and in a nice, quiet and calm place. She could see herself enjoying that kind of job rather easily. But that `you can do better' look she got from Fuyutsuki was making her feel guilty. Mainly because she sort of knew that already and also knew Misato would take a dim view of that job selection as well.

And right before she entered the gym she told herself `I can think about all this later' as right now it was time for her to get back into a gymnastic frame of mind so she would be concentrated, could shake off the rust from the long brake, and most importantly not be distracted and fall off the balance beam. It hurt when she did that.

The first thing she did was go talk to her coach and apologized for being late.

Considering the reason was a perfectly legitimate one Coach Ando didn't mind and simply told her to go do some stretching exercises on the other side of the mat first before she practiced her routine on the beam.

And while doing those exercises she looked into the stands. She sighed to herself because the most important person wasn't there. Kensuke and her had talked about this the night before and they came to the decision that it would be best if he didn't come to practice for a little while. Kaede was seriously miffed at him right now and it was better if they let her cool down a bit before he started showing up at practice again. But still, not seeing Kensuke in the stands cheering her on sort of depressed her.

While stretching Rei was blind to what was going on with the rest of the team. Kaede, along with her friends on the team, was giving Rei the stink eye. But the little conceited bitch wasn't even acknowledging it. It was like she was too good for them or something. This was the final straw to Kaede and she stomped away from the pommel horse over to Rei the first second she saw the coach turn his back to talk to another girl. She was going to teach Rei a lesson that the blue haired girl would never forget.

“Lets see how much Kensuke will want you once I beat you ugly!” Kaede yelled while grabbed Rei by her shoulder, spinning her around. She was going to smack Rei down as hard as she could across the surprised girl's face. Once Rei learned what she could do to her Kaede was sure Rei would dump Kensuke. And then she would be right there waiting for him.

From across the gym there was a “Stupid move Kaede.” Asuka was told by both Rei and Kensuke that Kaede's problems were with Kensuke, not Rei, so there was nothing to worry about. Asuka though didn't believe that for a second. She knew exactly how jealous girls acted, she being one, so she went to sit in and watch the practices going on in the gym this afternoon. Like normal when she did that she sat on the opposite side of the gym with Hikari and talked with her while they watched the boys' basketball team practice.

Hikari was about to reach over and grab Asuka to stop the girl from making this much worse than it was about to be. That action, along with all other action going on in the gym, was stopped though by what happened next. Kaede very much went to slap Rei down. And the slap everyone heard definitely sounded painful. But what happened in the split second between Kaede's hand coming down and the sound of the loud slap was not what anyone expected.

Well almost anyone, one person there expected it and used this stunned confusion to get up and walk across the gym towards where the action was. Stopping for a split second only once as she heard a very adamant “Kensuke's Mine!” Asuka walked up to the girl still standing up and she put her hands on that girl's shoulders. “Let her go.”

But that “Let her go” was not a harsh one and in fact was more along the lines of gentle and calming. And the hands she placed on the other girl's shoulders were not gripping tightly but softly holding them. She wasn't trying to stop Kaede from beating up Rei, Asuka was trying to stop Rei from hurting Kaede even more than she already had.

What happened was the exact opposite from what almost everyone expected. Kaede may have been quick to act but Rei was even quicker to react. Kaede's hand never made it to Rei's face as Rei had reached up and stopped it dead in its path. Then Rei quickly grasped Kaede's wrist and twisted it hard sending the jealous girl to her knees. And the slap everyone heard and saw wasn't a simple open palm one to Kaede's face but a hard and absolute backhand by Rei. It was so hard that already you could see the color change in Kaede's cheek along with a small trickle of blood. And Kaede, well she was on her knees crying already. Not only was there an incredibly painful stinging sensation in her cheek but Rei never stopped twisting her wrist. Any further and this girl that Kaede thought was soft and weak would break her wrist.

But Kaede's wrist was saved by Asuka's actions as it disrupted Rei's trance. Everything Rei did was a sharp reaction to the fact that someone was trying to take Kensuke's love away from her. Something her heart, body, and soul refused to let happen as it overrode her mind's sense and she reacted.

Rei quickly became aware of her surroundings and what she just did. She let go of Kaede immediately and the girl slumped down onto the mat still crying in pain. Rei looked over at Asuka and asked a scared “Wh- what did I just do?”

“You stood your ground” Asuka said back softly and then whisked Rei out of the gym and away from everyone. Asuka knew she had to remove Rei from the situation as there was no way her friend would be able to handle the repercussions of it. Quickly she had Rei change out of her gymnastics leotards and into her normal clothes in the locker room.

And just as quickly Rei came to the full realization of what she just did. It was something she couldn't come to terms with and she soon started to cry.

This didn't surprise Asuka one bit as she tried to tell Rei that it was all right. Rei was not a girl who was emotionally stable enough to handle what just happened. The realization that there was a very dark and jealous side of her that she didn't even know she had, combined with the fact it incited violence was too overwhelming for the girl who simply wanted peace and tranquility in her life. All that violent stuff was in the past, it wasn't supposed to still be a part of her.

Asuka didn't stay with Rei though, instead she handed the job of getting Rei home off to Kensuke. He may not have shown up at practice but there was no way he was going to go home. In fact by the time Rei and Asuka were finished up in the locker room he was already waiting outside of it for them. Asuka had only sent him a text a minute before so he must have in fact been very close by this whole time.

And as Kensuke took Rei home Asuka walked back towards the gym with Rei's leotards in her arms. The gym was not in a state of mass confusion. Actually most of the coaches had already restored order and everything was going back to the way it was before. This was just a fight and nothing to get overly excited about. There were plenty of times during practices when things got tense and emotions flared even among teammates so this had nothing to do with anyone else except the gymnastics team.

The gymnastics team itself though wasn't quite back to order. Most of the girls were around a still weeping Kaede while the school nurse tended to her injuries. Asuka felt bad about what she was about to do as the coach of the team had one of those `it can't get any worse than this' expressions on his face right now and well, she was about to make things worse for him.

“Sorry Mr. Ando but I need to give these back to you” Asuka started off handing Rei's leotards to the gymnastics coach. “You know there's no way Rei can come back to the team.”

Mr. Ando sighed as he nodded his head yes to that and took the clothes from Asuka. Most of the girls on the team were good friends with Kaede and Rei was still an outsider to this team. She would not be welcomed back at all. That meant Mr. Ando had to say goodbye to one of the best girls he had ever coached on the balance beam. She was even starting to get name recognition among the judges and was winning a lot more this year. There was even a chance of her going deep into the tournaments.

A couple of the girls on the team noticed Asuka doing this and marched over to her. But even before they opened there mouths to demand to know where Rei was Asuka growled at them “Don't even think of touching her. This issue's over or it involves me.” And just to make sure her message was sent loud and clear Asuka cracked her knuckles while making a fist.

At first Mr. Ando was afraid another fight was going to break out but that thought quickly disappeared as he looked over at his girls. Asuka wasn't playing around at all and these girls were scared of that. There was going to be no retribution by the gymnastics team against Rei. The threat of Asuka coming after them was too real.

After that Asuka left that area of the gym and returned to sitting down by Hikari.

That told Hikari something. The fact that Asuka was sticking around meant that this situation wasn't over and she was expecting some else was going to happen. “You are in such big trouble.”

“I am not!” Asuka said back way too quickly. Plus there was a little fear to her voice as well. “I diffused the situation and helped out. There's nothing for me to be in trouble for.”

“If you say so” Hikari said not really believing Asuka. Hikari picked up on the fact that Asuka was more saying that to her red headed self than to her best friend.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

Misato was standing outside the elevator not knowing what to think. She never expected Rei to get in a fight. Asuka yes, but Rei was a very big no. Rei was her good girl. But according to the phone call she got from the high school that was exactly what happened. And not only did her good girl get into a fight and but she did a fair amount of damage to the other girl as well. Unfortunately the school didn't know the whole story of what happened yet so all Misato got out of them was the basics. And all the basics did was make it sound like an unreal story.

She was still standing there tapping her foot outside the elevator when it opened up with Kensuke and Rei inside. Immediately her foot stopped tapping. The look on Rei's face told Misato this issue wasn't going to be solved in the same way she handled fights concerning Asuka. Rei was crying her eyes out and you could tell she was completely lost and even a little bit scared at what she did. In Misato's mind she could think only one thing, this wasn't Rei's fault. And instead of having a scolding look Misato opened her arms and told her frightened charge everything was going to be okay.

After the hug she told Kensuke to take Rei back to their place and just hold her for a while. She would be back later to talk about this some more but first she was going to go to the school. Basically Misato wanted more information. Unlike Asuka, Shinji didn't stay after school and was home so he was put in charge of watching Keiko and Misato took off towards the school.

The first place she stopped by was naturally the Principal's office. “I figured I would be seeing you Mrs. Katsuragi” he said when he saw Misato peek her head around the door to see if he was in.

“I just wish it wasn't for this” Misato said walking in and taking a chair. “Rei's my good girl. She isn't supposed to be involved in stuff like this.”

“That was the same thing I was thinking” the principal said back. “I kept telling myself that Asuka started something and somehow Rei got pulled in.”

“It's not that simple?” Misato asked.

“From what I know, Asuka doesn't have anything to do with starting the fight” the principal answered. “The other girl Rei fought with started it.”

“I'm going to have to speak with Kaede's parents then” Misato stated. She wanted this to be cleared up and to never happen again and that meant she had to deal with the root of the problem.

The principal was ready for this request and gave Misato the phone number she needed to get in touch with Kaede's parents. He also asked “How am I going to handle this? Yes Kaede started it, but Rei went too far.” Normally a principal doesn't have to ask a student's guardian what to do but as you can guess Misato was a very special case. This woman was one of the people who helped get the school back up and running so quickly along with being a part of the group of financial backers. She held much behind the scenes power here.

“Rei went further than she can handle” Misato said back agreeing with that second point. “She's an absolute wreck at home and is having a very hard time reconciling with the fact she hurt Kaede. But that to me is a good thing as I would rather have her feeling bad about what she did than proud of it.”

“This school does not need another Asuka” the principal said agreeing with Misato.

“Heavens no” Misato said right back. That was the last thing everyone needed right now. “I'm thinking I want to handle this personally. You can't punish Rei for defending herself and considering how bad Kaede got hurt I'm having a hard time saying she should get punished. I think the poor girl got punished enough as is.”

The principal nodded his head yes at that. Right now Kaede was at the hospital. Her wrist was fine as Asuka stopped Rei before the blue haired girl did any real damage but the slap Rei delivered was going to require a couple stitches. “So what's going to happen tomorrow?” the principal then asked. That was a very valid question that he needed an answer to.

“Nothing” Misato answered. “Rei's not going to be coming to school for the rest of the week. She's too emotionally unstable right now and I'm simply not going to risk anymore harm by rushing her back. I'll have her go to her college classes but for the rest of this week I would like you to mark her down as absent. I figure a good week should be enough for things to calm down.”

“I don't know about that” the principal said back. “Girls don't get over guy troubles that quickly.”

“Oh, I am well aware of that” Misato said. “But I'm planning a little get together with Kaede and her parents, along with Rei, to talk all this out.” Misato then restated “I don't want anything like this to happen again.”

The principal could see the benefit in that plan and left the rest of this situation up to her. Personally he was thankful she was going to handle this as things like this were always such a headache.

But before Misato called Kaede's parents Misato wanted more information about what exactly happened.

Everyone in the gym heard a very different voice over the intercom system than usual. And it was saying things in a very different way than usual. But who it was saying it too wasn't exactly unusual. “Asuka Langley Sohryu, get your scrawny butt down to the principal's office Now!”

Asuka put her face in her hands and pouted “I am in trouble...”

“I told you so” Hikari said back.

“But I stopped it” Asuka pouted.

“Yes, but not nearly fast enough” Hikari said back as she had a feeling Asuka knew this was going to happen yet still let it play out.

Asuka pouted about that for a second more as she sort of knew Hikari was right. And also she knew she had to get up and go to the principal's office right now as it wasn't a good idea to make that pushy guardian of hers wait.

The second Asuka got to the principal's office she tried to explain herself. Maybe if she gave her side to everything she might not get scolded. “I'm not the one who started this, I'm the one who stopped it. And yes I knew Kaede was going to do something boneheaded like this but she deserved what she got. She needed to learn that it's not just Kensuke who is with Rei but that Rei is with Kensuke too and there's nothing she can do about it. Those two are together and just by pushing Rei away it isn't going to change anything… And Rei needed to learn sometimes you have to take a stand for something when it's really important…”

Both the principal and Misato were snickering at that explanation. It just screamed of a girl trying to get herself out of trouble by offering her own convoluted view of the matter.

Getting snickered at caused Asuka to whine out “…You know I'm right!”

“Guilty conscience much?” Misato teased.

“What good would it have done if I went up Kaede and told her to back off?” Asuka quickly said. “Knowing that dumbkopf she would've probably done something stupid and then we would've got into a fight. Then she really would be hurting right now.”

“Wow, she's getting smarter” Misato said joking with the principal. “She knows what to say even before we ask her questions.” Basically both grownups in the room knew that Kaede and Asuka were very similar in some ways. Especially that tomboyish don't back down way. If someone said something like that to Asuka, there would have been a fight. So by the same reasoning if Asuka said that to Kaede a fight would have broken out in that instance too.

Asuka could tell she was losing badly so she pulled out her trump card. With a sad pouty expression she said “I was just trying to do what I thought was right.”

“Enough with the puppy dog eyes already” Misato said putting an end to this. “You're not in that much trouble.”

“Then why you doing this to me?” The way Misato had been acting and the way she got called down to the principal's office by Misato herself made her think otherwise.

“To make you feel guilty about it” Misato simply and unapologetically answered.

“Why?” Asuka whined.

“Because you deserve to feel guilty you prissy little brat” Misato said back to the whiney girl.

Asuka just gave back a disgruntled look. Yes Misato was right but she didn't need to be throwing that fact in her face in front of the principal. Misato could have at least waited till they got home for a lecture.

“Enough with the melodramatics” Misato told her. “Let's get going. I've got a ton of stuff to do now so we don't have time to be dilly-dallying around explaining reasons that only make sense in your mind.”

Asuka didn't like that line either and as they walked out of the principal's office she said “You know if you were in Rei's shoes you would have done the same thing.”

“Of course I would have” Misato said back. “But the whole point is I want you girls to do as I say, not as I do.”

“What's wrong with doing as you do?” Asuka smart mouthed back. Misato was someone Asuka very much looked up to now so it wasn't exactly a bad thing in her mind to be like her.

“Far off in the future are you going to teach your children to act like you?” Misato simply questioned.

Asuka stopped and stood there dumbfounded with her mouth hanging open. The answer of course was hell no, but she couldn't actually say that, she had her pride after all.

“Exactly” Misato said back to the stupefied young woman as she figured Asuka learned her lesson.

\\\\||||////

*********** OOO ***********

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The next day Asuka was showering with the rest of the girls after gym class. They were giggling at her again.

“What?” Asuka cried out as this was getting ridiculous. They did this to her yesterday but she ignored them figuring it would make them stop. She was wrong.

“You have a sun tattoo of a heart on your ass” Rini giggled.

“So?” Asuka said. “It's not like you girls have never given yourselves sun tattoos.”

“Well duh” Rini sassed back. “But I've never had one on my ass. I mean what kind of bikini were you wearing?”

“Well… I was alone on the beach or with Shinji” Asuka said blushing a bit, trying to explain the skimpiness of it. “And when I wasn't I wore a couple sarongs. So it doesn't matter what kind of bikini I was wearing.”

“If that was the case why didn't you just tan naked” Kotono continued on in a teasing way.

“I uhhh…. Wellll…. Leave me alone!”

Hikari was next to Asuka when she spurted that embarrassed statement out. Asuka wouldn't have been this embarrassed if they weren't so close to a probable truth. That's what made it funny and why she was laughing along with the other girls. “Relax Asuka, we're just teasing you.”

“I know that” Asuka frumped. “But it's just a little sun tattoo. It's nothing to make fun of. You didn't make fun of Rei about the one she has.”

“That's because it was on her tummy” Rini said back. That was a much more normal place to have one of those than smack dab on your ass cheek.

“Tummy, ass… what's the difference?” Asuka retorted. “The whole point of a sun tattoo is it's supposed to be sexy and fun. It doesn't matter where it's actually located.”

That was just the typical twisting of logic to suit herself by Asuka and all the girls understood that. They also let her off the hook at this point as they could tell Asuka seriously didn't want to embarrass herself anymore as there was probably much more to this than what she was admitting. Some of the girls were even thinking that if you looked at Asuka's ass with the right combination of light and shadows that it almost looked like she had another very faint sun tattoo in the shape of a hand. Sort of like a tanned area that was just slightly less tanned than the rest of the area. Asuka must have had some fun on the beach she wasn't going to admit to.

Then again none of those girls would admit to having sex on a beach if they did either. Sure if the chance of doing it on the beach was given to them they would probably take advantage of it, but a definite no on admitting to it.

But since Rei had been bought up in conversation Kotono asked as they walked out of the showers to put some clothes on “How is Rei doing?”

That question made another girl ask “Did she get suspended? I mean she's not here today.”

“Yeah” another girl followed up. “It's no fair if she got in trouble. She was just defending herself.”

“She's not in trouble with the school” Asuka answered. “Misato thought it would be best if she didn't come to class for the rest of the week. You know, just to let things cool down.”

Most of the girls could see the advantage in doing that so there were a lot of head nods in agreement. “So she's basically getting the week off to collect her thoughts?” Rini asked.

“Sorta” Asuka answered. “She's still going to her college classes and she isn't taking any time off of work. Just staying away from this zoo for a while.”

“There are days I wish I could do that too” one of the girls said back. Sometimes high school life got to be overwhelming when you combined all the studying, love life, relationships, and politics together.

“But Rei's doing okay, right?” Kotono asked again. Rei wasn't just a simple school friend to Kotono anymore. She was very grateful for all the help Rei had given her in her studies and that moved Rei up the ladder of friendship a step or two. Kotono was genuinely worried about her right now.

“She's doing okay” Asuka answered. If Kotono was that worried about Rei Asuka felt it was okay talking about it to her. “She's still pretty shook up about everything, especially about how she acted, but she's not as bad as she was last night.” That's all Asuka felt comfortable about saying though. Anything else she would prefer Rei to say to someone directly as Asuka felt it would be an invasion into Rei's privacy if she said everything and spoke for her blue haired friend.

And that's sort of what happened as when the rest of the girls left the locker room Kotono held up for a second. She had Rei's number now and was allowed to call her if she ever got stumped on something, but this time around she used that number for a different reason. Kotono called to tell Rei that she hoped she felt better and that everything would be alright.

Oddly enough this wasn't the first, or last, time Rei got called or texted with well wishes. The few people she had given her phone number out to were all thinking about her and the fact that she realized that some of these girls didn't just think of her as a school acquaintance but as a friend was starting to help her feel better. She had more people in her life supporting her than she thought she did.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

Over in the boys' locker room they were changing back into their school clothes after gym class too. Kensuke was sitting there looking a little depressed. He was sort of kicking himself for not knowing that Kaede would go after Rei. He knew the girl well enough that he should have figured out something would happen just like Asuka did. But he seriously thought that Kaede would have enough sense to leave Rei alone as she should have know doing anything to his girlfriend would seriously jeopardize their friendship. In fact it already had.

He sighed loudly to himself as he tied one of his shoes.

“Don't blame yourself for this” Touji told him. “It's not going to do you any good.”

“Doesn't stop me from doing it though” Kensuke said back.

Shinji could easily understand what Kensuke said. Blaming yourself for something that you didn't know was going to happen was sort of a specialty of his. “Just be with Rei and help her out. It's the only way you're going to feel any better.”

Kensuke's current way of thinking agreed with that. All he wanted to do was make Rei feel better and make sure nothing like this happened again. She was someone important to him so he had the desire to protect her. It was as simple as that.

“And I always thought two women fighting over me would be a cool thing” one of their other friends said. But it wasn't a cool thing at all, if anything it was a total downer.

“It sucks” Kensuke said back. There was no bit a bragging when he said that. He truly meant it. “And it's not even that they're fighting over me. There's not even a competition in my mind so I can't figure out why Kaede even did that. She knows we could never be like that.”

“Dude, she's a girl” one of the other guys said back. “Who knows what she's thinking. You can try all you want but you ain't ever going to figure out why chicks do shit like that.”

“I suppose” Kensuke sighed. Considering both Touji and Shinji sort of nodded in agreement with that he figured what he was being told was something of a truth. The worst part was how confused he felt about all this. He didn't know what he should be doing and that just led him back to feeling guilty again. And as the other guys left the locker room he stuck around for a bit longer and pulled out his cell phone. He sent a message to Rei.

-You want to meet for lunch?-

A couple seconds later he got a reply. -You can't leave school for lunch-

-I can sneak out and be back in time for class-

As wrong as that was for Kensuke to say it was just as wrong for Rei to reply back -I'll meet you at the café by campus-

Rei knew what they were doing was something they shouldn't be but she needed Kensuke by her right now. His presence would help her feel better. If they got in trouble for doing this she didn't care. In fact if they got caught she was ready to say it was all her fault and take the total blame.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

During lunch Kaede walked into classroom B. She was seriously lucky most of the girls in the classroom ate in A as if they were around she would have had more than one or two get in her face and tell her to get lost. While Kaede was getting a lot of sympathy from her friends and classmates this room wasn't full of her classmates and a lot of the girls in it were Rei's friends. There wouldn't be anyone siding with her in here.

Fortunately for her the only people around was a group of boys talking baseball. That was what Kaede was expecting as she knew who Kensuke hung out with and where he ate lunch. But what she wasn't expecting was that Kensuke wasn't with these guys. She ended up asking Touji in a very unsure of herself way “Where's Kensuke?... I want to talk to him…”

“He's not here” Touji said back. “He left school to eat lunch with Rei.”

“You can't leave school to eat lunch” Kaede quickly said back as Kensuke could get in big trouble if they found out he did.

“He did anyways” Touji answered back and then took a bite of his sandwich. This conversation was over as far as he was concerned.

Kaede could tell that as well and she turned and walked out of the room with a sad look on her face. There was more to this than Kensuke just simply skipping out for lunch with Rei. This was about him choosing Rei over her to the point he was putting himself at risk of getting in trouble. That wasn't something she was so sure he would do for her.

After Kaede left the room Touji grumbled “I hate doing shit like that.”

“Ahh… does the big tough guy really have a heart of gold under all those muscles” one of his friends teased.

“Shove it” Touji groused back. Yes it was true he hated acting like that to Kaede because he knew it would make her sad but he had to do it anyway. The choice was between her and his friends, and as bad as it felt to squash Kaede like that he had to do it for Rei and Kensuke.

“He better have a heart of gold” Shinji added on. “He's going to need it with all the kids Hikari wants.”

“Asuka already told you about that?” Touji asked.

“Yup” Shinji answered. “That's a lot of kids.”

“How many is a lot?” one of the other guys asked.

“Five” Touji answered.

“That's a butt load of kids” he laughed back and then teased. “You sure you're up for the task.”

“I think I can handle it” Touji said back with a smirk. Sure, taking care of and supporting five kids would be hard, but making them would be pretty fun.

\\\\||||////

*********** OOO ***********

////||||\\\\

A couple days later Rei was sitting next to Misato in a restaurant booth. Misato was doing the same thing with Rei that she did with Asuka when the temperamental redhead got into fights. A short time afterwards she got in touch with the opposing person and one of their parents and met with them so they could talk everything out. The whole goal of this was for a compromise to be worked out so no more fights would happen.

Across the table from them was Kaede. But Kaede wasn't with her mom, she was with her older sister. Kaede's mom knew where this conversation would eventually end up and she wasn't sure if she could handle that place. It was better if Seiko handled this one as her mother knew she could depend on her to have a much calmer mind about such matters. But it wasn't like Kaede's parents didn't show up all together. Kaede's dad had driven them there and was waiting out in the car for this little talk to be over with. He had another reason too but he didn't tell either of his girls it.

Seiko was up to date with everything that happened because Misato had already called her earlier and explained what she wanted to happen. She did this with Kaede's mom as well. Mainly because Misato didn't want to overstep her boundaries, it wasn't her place to force her on views on a child that wasn't hers. She very much knew she needed permission from Kaede's mom first. And sadly for Kaede, her mother gave it. The situation with Kensuke had gone too far and Kaede's mom wanted it to be done and over with now. It was too hard emotionally to keep dredging it back up.

Worse yet for Kaede, Seiko was getting to be just like their mother now that she had a kid too. And adding on to the problems was that Seiko wanted to know the truth about what happened. The story she heard over the phone was not the same as the one she got from Kaede.

Misato was the first one to speak though as she laid down the ground rules. “There will be no yelling, no screaming, no threatening, no trying to kick the other person under the table, no trying to get back at the other girl, no lying, and I will also allow no pussy-footing around the issues. We are here to solve the problem between you girls, not just sweep it under a rug for the time being.”

Kaede gulped as she thought to herself `This woman is a domineering bitch.'

Seiko smirked as she thought to herself `This woman has dealt with difficult children before.'

Misato said that mainly for Kaede to hear. Basically she was treating Kaede like she would Asuka. Well, not exactly like Asuka as Misato didn't want to come off as overbearing and she wasn't giving Kaede nearly the credit she would Asuka. For Asuka, Misato would have added no throwing eating utensils, no throwing your drink, no throwing any food, no staring down the other girl, no flipping your hair in the other girl's face, and about a half dozen more no's. Basically she would have to try and cover anything Asuka could think up because if Misato didn't tell her not to do it, Asuka would take full advantage of the missed no.

As for Rei, Misato already laid down the ground rules for her earlier and she knew what was expected of her. She also knew Misato would force her to live up to what she wanted. Rei needed to say some very clear things and she wasn't going to be allowed to wuss out on it. Whether or not this was going to be a trying thing for Rei didn't even matter to Misato. Love meant you sometimes had to do things you were uncomfortable with.

“Before we start though” Seiko interjected. “I would like to know exactly what happened.”

“But I told you what happened” Kaede quickly said.

“But Mrs. Katsuragi told me a different version over the phone” Seiko said back just as quickly. “I want to find out which one is right.”

Kaede let out a very disappointed sounding “You don't believe me?” But then quickly followed that up with a little “Ouch!” as her big sister gave her a pinch. Apparently big sister wasn't going to fall for any routines like that today.

Misato though wanted to hear Kaede's version of what happened so she asked for it. She figured she might as well let this girl explain her side of everything.

Kaede was rather nervous about giving it all of a sudden though. That “Let's hear you side of it” was very straight forward and direct. This woman was way too serious for Kaede to feel comfortable around. “First of all” Kaede started “She knew I liked Ke-kun and she still stole him from me.”

“I did not steal him” Rei said back calmly. “We are together because we fell in love with each other.” Rei wasn't finished though as she added on “And he prefers if you simply call him Kensuke. Ke-kun was his nickname in elementary school but he feels he has outgrown that name.”

`That was almost bratty' Misato said to herself. Sure Rei was speaking in a calm tone but the words did not match the tone. Either she was living up to Misato's pre-stated expectations or Rei was not backing down. She would prefer if it was the second option.

Kaede though didn't hide her brattiness behind any subtle tone as she said back “Shows what you know. I've been calling him that forever and he's never said anything.”

“Yes he has” Rei said back. “Many times in fact. You just failed to ever listen to him.”

“I have not!” Kaede yelled while glaring at Rei. She then got pinched by her big sister again for that misbehavior.

And it wasn't because Kaede yelled or anything like that, but because Rei was right. “I have personally heard him say to you to stop calling him that silly nickname.”

“Sure, take her side” Kaede snipped while folding her arms and glaring at her sister.

“I'm not taking sides” Seiko said staring straight back at her little sister. “You know that's the truth whether you like it or not. I know when you were little it was always Ka-chan and Ke-kun but when was the last time you heard Kensuke call you Ka-chan?”

“I… Uhhhhh…” In fact it was so long ago that Kaede couldn't even remember.

“Don't you think that should have been a clue?” Seiko questioned.

Yes it should have been but that didn't mean anything to Kaede. Kensuke was always going to be Ke-kun to her whether he liked it or not. Ke-kun held special memories for her, Kensuke did not. “Well sorry if I don't notice everything the second it happens like Miss Perfect over there.”

“I am no where near perfect” Rei said back as she knew that name was very much meant to be an insult. “I just choose to pay attention to people around me. Especially those I care about the most. He does not like that name so I will not call him that. It is as simple as that to me.”

“See, what'd I tell you, Miss Perfect as always… You always think you're so much smarter and better than everyone else!”

“I do not!” Rei said back sharply, losing the calm demeanor she had been showing up till now. If she got teased at school a lot of the times it was about this sort of thing now. Her advance placement made her the prime subject of this sort of bullying. Hell she even got it at the college as that place was a competitive world and people were always whispering behind her back when she did well in class.

This was getting a little too heated so Misato stopped it with a controlling “That's enough out of the both of you.” Misato then directed her attention back towards Kaede “I want to know what Rei did that made you think you should attack her.”

“Attack her!?... I'm the one who had to get three stitches in my cheek!”

“Don't raise you voice to me young lady!” Misato immediately scolded, putting Kaede right back into a defensive position. “I don't care what the end result was. Everyone in that gym said you went after Rei first. It's not her fault for defending herself. Yes she went a little too far but that doesn't change the fact that you started the fight.”

Kaede gulped again while slinking down in the seat, Misato was scaring the living daylights out of her.

Seiko on the other hand sort of admired the ability she was seeing. Mrs. Katsuragi was obviously a woman who either had or still did have much authority and power. She didn't know much about this woman but she got a real high ranking employee vibe from her. This woman clearly had the skill to control difficult and tense situations.

Eventually Kaede was prodded again to give her side of the story. “Well it started because some of the girls were saying she skipped out of class. Then she even came to practice late. But all she did was bat her eyes at our coach, like always, and got away with it. She thinks just because she's the coach's pet she can get away with anything. Then she threw all that in our face as she snubbed us as she walked by and acted like we weren't good enough to even say hi to. She even turned her back to us and didn't even bother to start practicing.”

There were so many things wrong with that statement that the brattiness used in delivering it wasn't even worth acknowledging. “I did not skip class” Rei tried to explain. “I had a meeting after my last college course with my academic advisor. And at that meeting he gave me a job assessment test to see what fields of study I should be pursuing. The reason I was late was because of that. And when I did get to practice Coach Ando approved the lateness and told me to go stretch by myself first before I joined everyone because he didn't want me interrupting practice.”

Seiko was amazed at how Rei said that. It wasn't in the calm demeanor she was using before, but in a sort of confused way about why Kaede would even think what she said was what was happening. In fact it sounded to her that Rei was completely flabbergasted by the sequence of events explained by Kaede. Obviously her little sister had twisted the situation to make it sound like she was justified in her actions and make it suit what she really wanted to do from the very beginning. This was something Seiko knew her sister did a lot.

“Like I'm supposed to believe that story” Kaede said back snidely.

“Well you better” Misato said back putting Kaede back into her place. “Because that's the truth. I talked to everyone involved. Professor Fuyutsuki, her academic advisor, called me first to make sure it was ok of him to give Rei that test. Yesterday I talked to Mr. Ando and he told me exactly what Rei said and that he told her to go stretch out by herself first because he didn't went her to pull anything or disrupt the rest of the team as practice had already started. And I know for a fact that Rei was not ignoring you. She is very good at doing what she's told, to the point of being a bit of a space cadet to her surroundings.”

That was kind of a dig at her character and Rei could have felt a bit insulted by it. Unfortunately she was too busy feeling guilty about it to feel insulted. As much as she tried to observe everything around her she still missed a lot when she was put to a task. It was what made her seem standoffish sometimes even if that wasn't what she was trying to be, it just happened to be she was prone to one tract mindness. This may have just been one of those times.

Of course Kaede reading the situation completely wrong didn't mean anything to the girl. The overall problem had nothing to do with the straw that broke the camel's back. “Like any of that matters anyways. She still stole my boyfriend!”

“I did not!” Rei said back quickly and with some emphasis. All the emotions she had screaming around inside of her was causing Rei to get very flustered and she was finding it difficult to keep a calm demeanor. That fact caused Rei to sort of lay into Kaede with reasons why that wasn't true, several of them were severely harsh even. “First of all, Kensuke and you were never dating. You may have teased him and tried to but he always said no. That meant he was single. Secondly, we fell in love with each other without any guilt. You were never a factor in any of it and he never belonged to you. If he did he would have felt guilty about it, but he didn't. Third, if you really cared for him, you wouldn't have dated all those other boys you've been with.” The next one was so mean it shocked everyone and almost made an already stunned Kaede cry. “And finally, if you really loved Kensuke, like I do, you would still be a virgin. You would have waited for him instead of sleeping around with other boys.”

“Just because Kensuke was your first doesn't mean anything!” Kaede screamed back. “Who you lose your virginity to and who you really love isn't always the same person!”

“Kensuke wasn't only my first but I was his first. And that means everything.”

“Shows how much you know” Kaede said back snidely. “He told me he lost his virginity a long time ago.”

“You are right, my statement does show what I know” Rei said back. “I know he lied to you about that. I know he told you that while chatting online. And I know he said he lost it before second impact.”

“H-how do you know that?” Kaede said sort of freaked out. Rei was absolutely right about those last two points.

“Because Kensuke and I are honest and truthful to each other. He has told me everything about his past and his relations with you. The Kensuke you thought you knew was not the real one, it was only the image he wanted you to see. The Kensuke who is real is the one that lost his virginity to me at the same time I gave him mine.”

“That's a lie!”

“No” Rei said back in a very straight forward manner. “The fact you say you love Kensuke Aida is a lie.”

It was at this point that Seiko grasped her little sister's hand under the table. She knew what was about to come out of that adamant blue haired girl's mouth. It was the truth. And not only the truth but the truth explained to Rei by Kensuke himself. It was what gave the normally calm girl the upper hand the whole time in this conversation.

“The person you love is Ke-kun. He is the boy from your past that you share some of your best memories with. He is the boy you grew up with. He is the boy you played with. He is the boy you had your first crush on. And most importantly he is the boy whose mother was Amelia Aida, who you still deeply care for and desperately want back in your life. Kensuke has even told me that his mother is the person you truly want back more than him. But being with your Ke-kun won't make that happen. She's gone and she will never come back… And neither will Ke-kun. There is no such person as Ke-kun anymore. Now he is Kensuke Aida. And there is a very big difference between those two people. Who Kensuke was and who he is now is not the same. I do feel sorry for you because you not only lost Amelia but also Ke-kun when she passed away. But the person Ke-kun became afterwards and the true Kensuke as he is now is not someone I will give back to you because Kensuke Aida is the man I am in love with. I will allow you to be his pleasant memories of the past but the present and future Kensuke Aida belongs to me, because I belong to who he is now.”

Misato felt horribly sorry for Kaede when Rei said that but it was something the girl on the other side of the table needed to hear. The truth sometimes is very ugly.

It was also something that struck Kaede harshly. She didn't even know how to respond to that. And worse yet Rei brought up Mama Amelia, something Kaede felt Rei had no right to. “You're not allowed to know about Mama Amelia.”

It was hard for Rei to miss how sad sounding that was. Kaede said that sounding almost like she was crying softly. Kensuke really was right about who Kaede truly wanted back in her life. “I know about her because Kensuke has told me everything about her. I know about the nicknames Tulip and Bellflower. I know it was because of Kensuke's mother that he still calls Seiko Ane. I know how close Amelia was with your mother. And I know how close she was to the both of you.”

“That's not fair” Kaede said almost sobbing at that truth.

“That's perfectly fair” Seiko corrected her little sister. “Kensuke has been very honest with her and told her everything because he loves her. That's what people in love do. They listen to each other and don't keep big parts of themselves secret.”

“But Mama Amelia doesn't belong to her… she only belongs to us.”

Misato was fascinated by this intense reaction. She'd always wondered about whether Kensuke was right about his statement that Kaede didn't want him but wanted his mother. But it was impossible to argue that point anymore. Just bringing up her name radically changed the conversation.

“I am not trying to take her memory away from you” Rei said sounding completely truthful. “She will always belong to your memories. They most I can do is visit her grave and pay my respects while thanking her for the precious gift she has given me.”

Seiko knew this was the heart of the matter. Her little sister probably was mad at Rei for taking Kensuke away but she was probably even more frustrated over what looked like an attempt to take the only living remnant of Mama Amelia away. Kensuke was the bond to Amelia and now Kaede was afraid Rei was trying to sever it.

Misato let out a sigh as this was a much different issue than two girls fighting over the same guy. And not only different but much more difficult. This was going to take a long time now as she realized this conversation had just got started. There was so much more they had to talk about now.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

It was late into the evening before this talk ended. And even though it ended there was really no friendly compromise. Kaede said she wouldn't try to attack Rei anymore but she also said she would never forgive Rei for stealing Kensuke from her and would never acknowledge their relationship because that would mean many other things to the girl struggling with ghosts of her past. Kaede simply wasn't ready to move on yet and accept that Mama Amelia was gone from her life for good.

Kaede needed to stop at the restroom before they all left and Misato took this chance to ask Seiko something. “Just who was Amelia to your mother?”

“Amelia was the other half of my mom” Seiko answered. “I have thought about this many times and that's the only way I can describe it. It was a bond beyond even being sisters and sometimes I wonder to myself if in some emotional way they were lovers.”

“So when Amelia passed away so did a big part of your mother” Misato said back as she understood what Seiko was trying to say.

Seiko nodded her head yes to that. “She really did want to be here today but she knew she couldn't handle it. Not even therapy has helped her get over Mama Amelia's death and I'm afraid Kaede may be too much like mom for her own good.” When Kaede left to go use the restroom Misato had sent Rei up to the front to go pay the bill, so because she wasn't around Seiko asked about her. “Ayanami seems very mature for her age, but I can't help but wonder if that may not be true.”

“Oh, it's not” Misato said flat out. “About some things Rei is very grown up and understanding. About many other things, especially stuff that involves intense emotions, she's still quite immature. That's why I am very happy Kensuke is in her life. He will help her to grow up into the beautiful woman I know she's capable of becoming.”

Seiko simply smiled at that. She could tell the woman she was sitting with wasn't simply Rei's guardian, but was someone who cared about the unique girl quite a bit. She could see a definite parent/child bond between the two women. Kensuke being a charge of this woman was a good thing.

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

Kaede saw something else when they left the café they were at. Kensuke was out in the parking lot the whole time talking with her dad. And when she came out she saw her dad pat the boy on the back. And it wasn't one of those `nice to see you again' pats but more along the line of `it was nice to know you and good luck' pats. And what hurt the most was seeing Kensuke walk over to his moped and Rei get on the back of it with him. She could read the handwriting on the wall, Kensuke had chosen his path and it was one leading away from her family.

Kaede looked at her dad with desperation. “Why are you letting him go?”

“Because it's the right thing to do” her dad answered. “That boy's got his own life to live and we have to let him do it.”

\\\\||||////

*********** OOO ***********

////||||\\\\

Shigeru Aoba used to hate cold weather but now he very much enjoyed this time of year. He could hide his long hair under his winter jacket, put a stocking cap on to cover the rest, and wear a pair of shades to hide his eyes and no one would think he looked strange. It was the only way he could get out of his place and wander around the city unnoticed. Anonymity was a luxury in his life now. Sure it was nice being a rock star and all but he really missed the old days when he could walk down the street freely and lose himself to the music in his head. Music was his passion in the old days, but now it was his job. He wasn't so sure he liked it that way.

And while thinking about that he let out a sigh and watched it hang heavily in the cold air while sitting down on a bench waiting for a bus to show up.

A pretty girl sitting on the other end of the bench half smiled and half sighed herself “Not having much fun either, huh?”

He looked over at the girl, who he thought looked sort of familiar, and said “You ever get what you wish for, only to find out too late that it was a bad wish?”

“That describes my last boyfriend” the girl answered sounding awfully depressed. “Smart, handsome, headed for success… but so not with me.” She then looked at this guy sitting next to her a little closer, she couldn't shake the feeling she knew him. That is why she began talking to him in the first place

Shigeru let out another sigh. He knew the look on this lady's face, it was one of someone just figuring something out. Most likely she recognized him and things were about to get crazy. If he was lucky all the girl would want was an autograph and some pictures, if not a scene was about to be created. And he really didn't want that as he was hungry and the bus he was waiting for had a stop near his favorite restaurant.

But Shigeru was luckier than he thought as while the girl did recognize him she didn't do anything other than ask “So will you be dinning with us again at Shin Seiki's Mr. Aoba?”

That sort of scrambled his mind for a second as he couldn't figure out how this girl knew that. But then he returned the favor of a close look and figured out who he was talking to. He should have recognized this girl earlier as she had served him his food on several occasions. “I thought you looked familiar.”

“That's the same thing I was thinking when I sat down on this bench” the girl said in reply. She then introduced herself “Hi, I'm Hatoko Misaki.”

“Misaki… Misaki…” Shigeru said to himself a couple times trying to figure out if he remembered that name.

“Don't worry if you don't recognize the name” she smiled at him. “I've only served you a couple times and I'm sure you get inundated with people's names constantly.”

With a big breath Shigeru nodded his head yes to that. “Everywhere I go I get introduced to people, and they all expect me to remember them. Then I get in trouble with my manager when I don't.”

“So even rock stars have their share of problems” Hatoko said back.

“I have no clue” Shigeru though answered. “Sometimes I wonder if I really am a rock star or just someone pretending to be one.”

“I think you are a rock star” Hatoko said back trying to cheer him up. “I mean I have all your CDs and I like listening to your music.”

“Thanks” Shigeru said back. He also added on to that with “And thank you for not making a big fuss about me.”

Hatoko was surprised at how Shigeru sounded when he said that. There was no hint of ego in that and if anything she found herself genuinely believing he was happy she was talking to him normally. “I don't think my boss would have been too happy if I created a scene. She really likes it when you show up at the restaurant. You're one of our better patrons and it's good publicity.”

“I just go there because the food's good” Shigeru replied. He didn't go there to be seen or to hobnob with the elite, he just wanted some good food and this was the place he knew he could get some.

“Especially the desserts” Hatoko said agreeing with him.

“I like the chocolate cake they serve” Shigeru replied.

“That one's my weakness” Hatoko sighed. “I actually ate a whole cake when I broke up with my boyfriend about a month ago.”

“Been there” Shigeru said. “You try to drown out your feelings but just end up doing something you regret… that's how I wrote The One That Got Away.”

“Really?” Hatoko asked. “I mean I have read that you wrote that song about a girl but I always thought that was just said for publicity.”

“Both” Shigeru admitted. “I did write that after getting dumped but the rest of the stories you hear about it are just crap made up by spin doctors. Personally if I had my way I would never play that song again.”

“A girl really dumped you?” Hatoko questioned. She couldn't believe that, Shigeru Aoba after all was rock star, a cute one too in her opinion. Who in their right mind would dump him.

Shigeru though nodded yes to that. “Can't really say I blame here either. It's hard to date someone who's never there for you.”

“I know that feeling” Hatoko said sounding depressed again. “My old boyfriend was finishing up his MBA when we first started dating and I was starting my Masters in Ecology. At first things were fine because we spent all our time at school and we both worked at Shin Seiki's. But the further he got into his degree the further away he became. He had to stop working at the restaurant to go do his internships. Then when he got his masters the company he was interning at hired him to be a branch manager up in Hokkaido.”

“Couldn't make the long distance thing work out either, huh?” Shigeru said back feeling her pain as her story was much like his, except he was the one who went away.

“We really did try” Hatoko replied. “But with me still a year to go till I get my masters and no guarantee of him coming back to Tokyo it started to fall apart. Then he met another girl and it was over.”

“Love sure can be a fickle thing” Aoba said back. “One second you think nothing can separate you and the next, Splitsville.”

Hatoko nodded her head at that one and then sighed while saying “All you can do get back up afterwards and keep trying.”

While that was very wise advice Shigeru had his own interpretation. “That or just hide behind your music and avoid the issue entirely.”

Hatoko looked at Shigeru strangely for that one. If she didn't know better Shigeru just admitted to having no love life. That simply could not be true, after all just about every week he was being paired up with some pretty model or celebrity in the rag mags. “I thought you were dating that one model chick who does all those swimsuit calendars?”

“Nah” Shigeru said shrugging that off. “Everyone just says were dating. Hell, I haven't even seen her since the publicity shoot the band had with her for our album's next cover.”

“Really?”

“Honest truth” Shigeru answered.

Just then the bus showed up and both Hatoko and Shigeru got up from the bench they were sharing. But that wasn't the end of the conversation as they sat together on the bus as well and continued their talk. Even though what they were talking about was sort of depressing Shigeru was enjoying it. It was the first time in a very long time he was able to have a normal conversation with a girl. And because of that he gave a little thank you to the girl later on that night. He ordered two pieces of chocolate cake. One for him and another for Hatoko that she could enjoy during her break.

Author's Notes: 

(A/N: And that is the end of this chapter. Rei finally came out with the truth and learned that love can make you do some down right mean and unsettling things. A rather important concept I thought she needed to experience in my opinion. Sometimes it can rattle your psyche in ways not even you yourself can predict. But I think she is handling it okay for the most part. Have fun till the next chapter.)

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